Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Top Reviews of 2014

In the past year, I've had the great privilege to sample and review some truly amazing brews. Here are the five favourite beers that I have reviewed in 2014. Note that these aren't necessarily the beers with the highest scores I awarded. Rather, they're the brews that, after reflection, I enjoyed the most, and would most like to have again.

5. Nebuchadnezzar Imperial India Pale Ale
4. Jewbilation Sweet 16
3. Hellwoods Imperial Stout
2. Prison Break Breakout Pilsner
1. Kåååd Spring IPA

Happy New Years from the Stout Man!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Vedett Extra White

Vedett Extra White comes from Puurs, Belgium, where it's cranked out by Duvel Moortgat. This light-bodied wit is sold in green 330mL bottles that sure have a lot going on. There's a cool stubby shape, and on the back label, are black and white photos, seemingly all of hipsters, with information about a website where you can submit your own photos. Down the side are instructions for pouring a witbier. Also, there's a logo with a polar bear inside a 10-pointed star.

 Vedett contains 4.7% alcohol and has the yellow-white colour of fresh butter. The brew pours with a bright white head that faded disappointingly fast. A very yeasty aroma has a bit of a tang. Despite the strong aroma, the mouthfeel is extremely thin, verging on watery, and there isn't much flavour for me to write about. There are some yeast notes, a touch of orange, and not much else.

Almost no aftertaste and a low alcohol content make this an extremely guzzle-able beer, and a thirst-quenching one, but the aroma promised a rich flavour that just wasn't delivered. I don't really see myself buying this stuff again, though if crisp, light beers are your jam, you might like it more than I did.

Rating: 5.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Princess Wears Girl Pants

The Princess Wears Girl Pants is a curiously named brew out of Gravenhurst, Ontario. It's brewed by Sawdust City Brewing Co., though according to the bottle it's actually brewed and bottled by Etobikoke's Black Oak Brewing Co. The lime green label on the 650mL bottle invites the drinker to "enjoy this beer and remind yourself just how lucky you are!" This brew is billed as a "hoppy, Belgian inspired golden ale". It contains a chunky 9% alcohol, as well as 35 IBUs.

This dull, pale gold ale is hazy and poured with a very thick white head; though within a brief time, the head thinned to a manageable level. There is a very citrusy aroma with some tropical notes and a whiff of yeast. Like its quirky name, this beer has a decidedly unusual taste. It starts with heaps of fruit flavour--particularly grapefruit and passion fruit--delivered with a lively, though understated, yeast quality. The finish has a pretty fierce hop presence and is quite dry. The alcohol content is deceptive.

I expected this beer to have more of a Belgian tang, but I guess it does only claim to be "Belgian inspired". Fruitier than anticipated, this is a pretty fun beer. Easily one that I'd revisit.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Grimbergen Double-Ambrée

Happy Holidays from the Stout Man!

Let's talk about Grimbergen Double-Ambrée. There's 6.5% alcohol in this little number that's billed as a bière d'abbaye and a double-ambrée. I picked up a sixer of these guys--330mL bottles festooned with a phoenix and the righteously badass motto "Ardec Nec Consumitur", which, as the label informed me, means "burned but not destroyed". The label also refers to Grimsbergen Abbey, though this beer is actually brewed by Kronenbourg in Strasbourg, France.

It's a dark ruby ale that poured with a bit of cream head, but which vanished quite quickly. Its engaging malt aroma has lots of fruit notes, particularly a slightly sweet cranberry essence. The label mentions that the flavour has "subtle hints of caramel", but that's not what I found. I got fruity, malty, and ever-so-slightly tart.

Not a bad little dubbel-style beer from one of the big players in French brewing. A bit on the sweet side and a bit lacking in depth, but otherwise quite enjoyable. I really like the cranberry notes--something a little different. This six pack languished in my fridge for an unusually long time before they were all consumed--several weeks. Make of that what you will.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Detour is a surprisingly hoppy session ale from Bracebridge, Ontario. It's lovingly crafted by Muskoka Brewery, the proud parent of a stable of quality brews with a hoppy bent, such as Mad Tom and Twice As Mad Tom. Sold in 355mL bottles, Detour contains an easy-drinking 4.3% alcohol and, according to the website, it has just 30 IBUs, though it tastes much more bitter than that.

It's a foddy golden ale topped with a thick layer of off-white head that fades quickly. Detour has a forceful citrus aroma that I found really delightful. It's heavy on hops. This is a dry brew with a slightly wispy mouthfeel--the thin feel is the only clue, other than the numbers on the bottle, that this stuff contains only 4.3%. For a session beer, there's a gorgeous flavour. It's amply bitter, with considerable grapefruit and passion fruit notes.

When I first glimpsed this stuff at my local liquor purveyor, I was put off by the low alcohol content. I wrongly presumed that Muskoka was working its way into light beer territory. I persevered long enough to read the back of the bottle, and the words "dry-hop brewed" and "sessionable IPA" were enough to convince me to buy a sixer. And I'm glad I did. This is an admirable session beer. It's flimsy by IPA standards, but really quite enjoyable. Since my first six pack, I've had occasion to buy several more, and I don't imagine that I'll be giving it up anytime soon.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Vulcan Ale

Vulcan Ale comes from Calgary, Alberta's Pluto's Moon Beer Co. This beer contains a reasonable 5.4% alcohol, 33 IBUs, and comes in 473mL cans that make a solid commitment to the Star Trek theme. I took part in a joint review of this Irish Red Ale with my pal Ryan.

According to Ryan, a beer drinker of few words, the nose had a crisp, fresh lightness. There was a solid onset with a weak finish. He called it the kind of beer that you'd drink on a hot day.

My own take was that there was a malt-driven aroma, with rich notes of caramel, brown sugar, and biscuit. It had a very smooth texture and a round, malty flavour. There was considerable sweetness, cloaked in caramel, and a touch of breadiness. The finish kept up the breadiness, and also had a faint dusting of hops edge. This wasn't a bad brew, but other than the odd Vulcan packaging, it wasn't particularly memorable.  Also, the label declares this stuff to be "mind-melding good". Why not "mind-meldingly good"?

Rating: Ryan--7.0 out of 10, Stout Man--7.0 out of 10


Friday, 19 December 2014

Robohop Imperial IPA

For this, my 30th birthday, I wanted to review something that I really enjoyed. It's no secret: I love Imperial India pale ales. And I have a weakness for whimsical cinematic puns, too. Great Lakes Brewery's Robohop Imperial IPA has both, and a badass 8.5% alcohol buttressed with an almost unwholesome, outrageous 100 IBUs to boot. This beauty comes from  my home of Toronto, Ontario, where it's brewed by one of my city's elite beer builders. The 650mL bottle features a pretty badass hop-bodied and visor-sporting dude. This is another entry in GLB's extremely excellent Tank Ten Series.

As soon as I cracked this tub o' suds I got nose-punched by a mammoth hop scent. There was lots of grapefruit, supported by a serious coniferous backing band. This beer had an extremely dry mouthfeel. The brew is very bitter, but there was more to it than that. There was some sweetness in the form of a boozy passion fruit vibe. It was a aggressively hopped brew, and an agreeable one too. Strong bitter notes of citrus are its defining feature. This beer wasn't just brute strength--it had character to spare.

If you like your beers hopped to the rafters and stuffed with booze, Robohop is your ticket to paradise. Just remember: "Robo says drink this 2xIPA fresh".

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

St. Terese's Pale Ale

St. Terese's Pale Ale is a product of Asheville, North Carolina's Highland Brewing Company. Sold in 355mL bottles, the alcohol content isn't listed, though Highland's website tells me that it contains 5.1% alcohol and 24 IBUs. Additionally, the website explains that the beer is named after the patron saint of headaches.

St. Terese's is a sunny golden ale topped with an almost white head. My bottle poured with a tiny amount of floating sediment. There is a healthy aroma of citrus hops, wearing a malt scarf. A coppery malt flavour recedes into a tangy citrus bitterness. The finish is quite satisfying and refreshing.

This is a very easy drinking and enjoyable pale ale; however it's a little bit on the thin-bodied side for me. For a beer with 5.1% alcohol, it's quite sessionable. Pleasant, though less robust than I was hoping for.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hops & Bolts India Pale Lager

Hops & Bolts India Pale Lager comes from Creemore, Ontario. It's built by Mad & Noisy Brewing, which appears to be related to Creemore Springs Brewery, which in turn is owned by Molson. It's sold in 473mL cans, contains 5.3% alcohol, and tips the scale at a muscular 60 IBUs. "Not for the faint of hops", says the can.

H & B is an almost clear copper lager topped with a thick 'n' creamy off white head--it looks a lot like an English ale. The nose has considerable metallic hops notes, as well as a waft of spicy grain. This beer is initially malty and grainy, but only for an instant before it veers sharply toward bitter. It finishes dryly with emphasis on hops--though it's also a bit tinny. The can had me prepared to taste grapefruit, nut, chocolate, and caramel. I can't say I found all of that. I definitely tasted some citrus notes, and also some caramel. Nuts and chocolate were beyond the range of my feeble palate.

All told, this was a reasonably enjoyable little concoction. I'd buy it again, though it'll never be a refrigerator staple in my house.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Polestar Pilsner

While on vacation in scenic Nashville, Tennessee, I had occasion to pick up a few bottles of Polestar Pilsner, built by the Left Hand Brewing Co., out of Longmont, Colorado. And since I was drinking a pilsner, my charming wife agreed to contribute her two cents.

This brew came in a 355mL bottle. It contains a slightly heightened 5.5% alcohol. According to the Left Hand wesite it contains 33 IBUs, though they say "IBU's", with an unnecessary apostrophe. It's a very clear, very pale, sunny straw lager with a luscious white head and tonnes of carbonation. It has a crisp and crunchy grain aroma.

According to my wife, this beer has a strong metallic taste on the front end, conventional pilsner flavour through the middle, and the aftertaste has a slight, hoppy kick. She says that she'd buy it, and, always one for evocative turns of phrase, described drinking this beer as "like kissing a mustachioed robotic bunny". I am deeply in love with my wife.

For myself, I found Polestar to have a thin body, but with substantial flavour. It starts slowly, with grainy malts, but really picks up steam with a well rounded and pleasing lager finish. It's dry and slightly boozy, with a bit of a metallic crunch. A pilsner with some balls, if we're being crude. I'd have liked a bit more presence early on, though.

Rating: My wife says 8.0 and I'm saying 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Fat Bottom Brewing Co.

During a 2013 visit to Nashville, Tennessee, I had the pleasure to visit the Fat Bottom Brewing Co. with my beautiful wife and the inimitable, unbeatable K.C. Fat Bottom is situated in East Nashville, a very cool part of that city and not to far from K.C.'s house at the time.

I ordered myself a flight of four beers, since they were unfortunately sold out of their red ale. My flight was comprised of:
  • Ida--A Belgian-style golden ale at 6.2% and 27 IBUs;
  • Knockout I.P.A.--At 5.9% and a hearty 80 IBUs;
  • Black Betty India Black Ale--A 5.1% brew with 56 IBUs; and
  • Bertha--An oatmeal stout at 4.5% and at 55 IBUs.
Of these four, I found the Knockout to be the strongest offering. All four were pretty good, though none were truly remarkable.

The brew pub had a very cool setup. You walk in through the brew house and into a nice little barroom. Out back, there was a beautiful open courtyard with tables around two sides, some trees and greenery in the middle, and a beanbag tossing zone at the back. The beer was nice, but not life-changing, but the ambiance was memorable and relaxing. If you're in Nashville and looking for a chill place to sip beer, eat some chow, and catch your breath, you could be a lot worse than Fat Bottom.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Bulldog Amber Ale

Another offering from Winnipeg, Manitoba's Half Pints Brewing Co., Bulldog Amber Ale is a saucy, hazy, orangy amber beer. It came in a 341mL bottle, contained 5.4% alcohol and a mere 20 IBUs, and poured with a flimsy off-white head.

Bulldog has a very bready, malt nose with just a touch of confectionary sweetness. Its flavour is composed of toasted barley and biscuit elements, as well as a mild metallic shadow. There is just enough of a hops presence in the home stretch to give this ale some balance and shape, though I'd have liked a touch more by way of IBU count.

This was a solid effort--an amber beer with a nice toasty, bready bod and very little sweetness.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Simcoe Spruce

Simcoe Spruce is sold under the aegis of Winnipeg, Manitoba's Half Pints Brewing Co., though according to the label, this stuff is brewed by Dean Kelly and was the Best in Show winner of the 2013 Half Pints Pro/Am Brew Challenge. Sold in 650mL bottles, Simcoe Spruce contains 5% alcohol and 35 IBUs. The label also informed me that this stuff is brewed in an American Pale Ale style using Simcoe hops, as well as spruce tips.

It's a meagerly hazy copper ale that pours with an inviting off-white head. There's a sizable hops aroma that is evergreen heavy--aided, not doubt, by the use of spruce tips. There is also a significant malt waft and a slightly metallic bent. The beer's glorious flavour tastes deeper than the 35 IBUs listed. There is a malty structure, but the outer workings are all woodsy hops and spicy spruce.  It definitely isn't the dry spruce of the holidays, either, but a fresh, fragrant spruce of damp spring.

I downed a bottle of this impressive ale during a thrilling autumn thunder storm, and it contributed to a pretty swell show. I would call this a great beer. I'd have liked a touch more booze, but that's pretty much my only complaint.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Angry Fish Pilsner

Named in honour of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team, Angry Fish Pilsner is brewed by Fort Garry Brewing Company operating out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's a hazy, amply carbonated, and sunny pale lager. It poured with a disappointingly thin layer of white head that faded into oblivion very quickly.

For a pilsner, I found this beer to have a sharp bitterness to its aroma that nicely compliments the grainy base. The flavour is not too shabby, with considerable cereal flavour that builds to a gently bitter Teutonic hoppiness. There is a bit of a sweet corn note that didn't really agree with me, though.

While I enjoyed this beer well enough, I think that a bit more crispness in the mouthfeel and a little less initial sweetness would have made for a better brew. I also wish that it tasted as bitter as its aroma promised. It is, however, the kind of beer that I can easily picture downing ice cold and in copious quantities at the ballpark on a hot July afternoon.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Little Scrapper I.P.A.

Little Scrapper, an adorably named India Pale Ale, comes from Winnipeg, Manitoba's Half Pints Brewing Co. Sold in 341mL bottles, Lil' Scrap contains 6% alcohol and clocks in at 50 IBUs.

This is a murky orange-gold brew that features a quickly deflating eggshell head. It has fairly bitter and boozy aromatics with an undercurrent of caramel. I found this beer to have a bit of a muddled flavour. It's hop-driven, but not quite citrus and not quite spicy. Spitrus?

A decent IPA, but not a remarkable one by any stretch. I wish that it was hopped consistently and vigourously in one direction. Also a bit more of a malt spine might be nice. I found Little Scrapper to be a tricky beer to review, because I wasn't wild about many of the constituent elements, but the overall product was not at all disagreeable. I haven't had the pleasure, but I strongly suspect that this beer would be quite enjoyable fresh on tap.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Farmery Premium Lager

Farmery Premium Lager is born of the Farmery Estate Brewery out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. I had a 355mL bottle of this 5% alcohol lager. It was a hazy, amply carbonated golden lager that poured with a very thin disc of white head that vanished quickly.

F.P.L. had a nice pale lager aroma--grainy, with a breath of dry hops. It was decently flavourful and quite well balanced between initial malt and late bitterness. The label calls this a "Prairie-style" lager, which I think is kinda cool.

For a craft lager, I'd have liked a bit more of an assertive flavour and a slightly crisper mouthfeel, but I really enjoyed the balance. Also, I'd really like to have seen a bit more in terms of head. I learned from the Farmery website that they successfully pitched their estate brewery idea on CBC's Dragons' Den. Pretty cool.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.