Currently viewing the tag: "Beer of the Week"

Photo: Michael Macaulay

We had just finished with Pitchfork’s Peoplelist and compiling a list of the best albums from 1980 – 1995 with some friends when we cracked this beer. To say we were hugely nostalgic for the ’90′s would be an understatement. This was the perfect compliment!

This is an interesting beer on many levels. First, it was brewed by Seattle based Elysian to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the cities Sub Pop record label which rose to fame in the Seattle grunge scene as the first home of Nirvana, Mudhoney and Sound Garden but has also been home to recent acts such as the Shins, Fleet Foxes or Iron and Wine. At times in their careers Sebadoh, Dinosaur Junior and Sonic Youth have also called the label home. They’re kind of a big deal and we’re sort of fans! We originally thought the name of the beer was actually a reference to the Beck song but it turns out that Odelay was put out by Geffen (not Sub Pop) so we are not really quite sure where it came from. The ‘90’s were a bit of a blur.

Second, this beer is a might unusual as it uses the incredibly hard to find (but amazingly delicious) Sorachi Ace hop to create a very unique pale ale (the only other beers we can think of that use Sorachi Ace are the Brooklyn Brewing saison of the same name a couple of companies that have used it as part of a single hop IPA series). Elysian beers tend to have a signature malt base that is sweet and syrupy. Strong maple and peach flavours. That is still present here but the Sorachi ace provides an interesting twist. There is a hint of lemon citrus to counteract the sweetness and an overwhelming creamy or buttery taste that means the beer goes down really smoothly and lingers on the tongue for a while. It’s nicely carbonated which helps to keep it light.

Definitely a beer that is worth trying because it is wildly different! Put on that old copy of Nevermind gathering dust on the shelf (OK, use your iPod if you must, but that really is selling out) and relax with this easy drinking pale ale. The slogan Corporate Beer Still Sucks, originally Corporate Beer Sucks when Loser was first bottled in 2009 is a reference to a shirt Kurt Cobain wore when Nirvana first graced the cover of Rolling Stone which pronounced “Corporate Rock Sucks” (shout out to #pdxbeergeeks for that tit bit).

Lagunitas Brewing Co. : Hop Stoopid

The IBU’s are 4U.  Just in case you were worried they were for somebody else.

This hop-laden beer from Lagunitas is certainly interesting.  Not interesting like “Huh, the covers on my TPS reports didn’t print right” interesting, but actually interesting.  Like finding out that because Garfield was black and orange, and the gene for black or orange fur in cats is found on the X chromosome, that in order for him to be black and orange, he either had to be a she, or he was a XXY trisome and therefor very likely sterile.  We also just found out, while “researching” this opening bit, that Nermal was a dude.  Who knew?

Childhood cartoon belief-crushing genetics aside, the really interesting thing about Hop Stoopid is that it is proudly brewed using a lot of hop oil and extract.  GASP!  It also uses a truckload of different hop varieties to hit the 102 IBU’s that this beer packs (at least 5, if not more).  And boy oh boy can we tell.

The minute we cracked the cap on our bottle, the room smelled like a warehouse full of fresh hops, it really was quite incredible.  Tipping this golden liquid into our glass only made it more prominent, like someone had plucked two ripe, oily hops right off the vine and very carefully crammed one up each of our nostrils (Mmmmm… hoprockets…).  Frothing up through the thick white head we get all kinds of lively, fresh, sweet, grassy, piney aromas and some honey smoothness.  Above all we can’t get over how much this smells like fresh hops, which all seems so contradictory given that is exactly what they’re telling you is not what is in this beer.

The taste brings much the same, like liquefied fresh hops, yet unexpectedly smooth for all the IBU oomph.  At 8% it comes with a nice little alcohol tingle, and a silky mouth feel from beginning to end.  The beer fronts a short, spicy sharpness offset almost in parallel with smoothing malty sweetness.  Middle notes move towards some floralness and more prominent bitterness, where the beer finishes, strongly bitter, but still smooth.  We even noticed the next day that the head was so thick that we could see the residue of dozens of dried out little bubbles on the glass.

Overall a pretty well compiled hop-bomb, even if it was missing the new TPS cover sheet (don’t worry, we’ll send you another copy of the memo).  In comparing notes with a fellow Hobbyist, we had notably different experiences with this beer.  Given that ours had been cellaring for a few months, we wondered if this contributed some rounding out of the flavours.  Only one way to find out – cellars ahoy!

Ah, ah, I almost forgot…I’m also going to need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too.

 

Dogfish Head Brewery : 90 Minute Imperial IPA

Is it ready yet?  It has to have been 90 minutes, I gotta get back to my exhaust portal.  … Wha… What?!?  What do you mean they blew it up?!??  Awwww F*&@.  Vader is going to be sooooooo mad at me!

Proof that amazing things can come in small packages, this week’s beer comes from the town of Milton, Delaware, population about 2,600 people (thank you Wikipedia).  In stark contrast relative to the size of their home-town, Dogfish Head Brewery has a reputation of continental proportions.  Sadly, the crew at DFH announced in 2011 that they were pulling their Canadian and UK exports, but they’re doing it in the name of planned, balanced growth that will allow them to stick to their beliefs and brewing philosophies, so, it’s hard to fault them for that, and hopefully they’ll be back soon.  Plus, if you live within a stone’s throw of the 49th parallel (as roughly 80% of us Canucks do), they’re just another beauty to add to your cross border shopping list!

DFH are well known for experimental, wild, crazy beers, including a line of “Ancient Ales” for which the recipes are based off of chemical analysis of archeological pottery residue, including pottery found in King Midas’s tomb and a recipe from central China dating back some 9,000+ years (no, seriously.  See this is why science is awesome), and Pangaea, a beer that boasts ingredients from all 7 continents (yes, even Antarctica).  They are equally well known for their year-round brews, especially one 90 Minute Imperial IPA (a series which also includes a 60 Minute IPA, a 120 Minute Imperial IPA and a 75 Minute cask-conditioned blend of the 60 & 90).

Taking the time to pull 90 Minute out of the fridge a little early is worth it – you’ll get several fingers of great frothy off-white head on your amber-orange beer and the flavours really shine as the beer warms a touch form cold to cool.  Founder Sam Calagione recommends this beer in a snifter, but any big-bowled glass will do (something that will contain and concentrate the aromatics), a timely suggestion to get the most out of this deep floral, sweet fruity, toffee nose with subtle round piney traces.

The flavour profile on this beer is really something, uniquely created by the continual addition of hops for a full 90 minutes during the boil, and further dry hopped during conditioning.  The explanation is how they basically designed the system after an old-school vibrating football game is pretty awesomely MacGyver (see the video on the 90 Minute page - Science is Awesome #2!).  The first flavour we pick up is a gentle coffee / dark chocolate bitterness, then rich sweet malts with further suggestions of pine, toffee and burnt sugar, followed by a deep, dense floralness you don’t seen the likes of in too many beers.  Accompanying and likely influenced by the strong malt is a round, mango-like smooth sweetness, which helps to balance out the heavy hops, but even brandishing 90 IBU’s this isn’t just a bitter hop blast, it is a well-crafted, balanced IPA experience.  At 9% this brew packs a fair wallop, but the flavours only get more interesting as it warms so it is a beer you can feel free to take your time with, and the alcohol gives a pleasant warming as you sit and sip your beer and ponder the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything….

As we mentioned, currently not exported to Canada, but worth a pick up if you happen to leave the Great White North to spend a little time with our cousins to the South.

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel! : Péché Mortel – Imperial Stout au Café

 

Shhhhh, set your super-secret Imperial decoder rings to “mirror”…

J’ai eu l’idée d’écrire ce billet de blog entièrement en français, mais j’ai réalisé que peut-être c’et un peu d’un problème pour la plupart de nos lecteurs régulier; donc, je vais continuer en anglais…

Where were we?  Oh right, the beer – whenever friends are headed chez Montréal dans la Belle Province and float requests for recommendations, we tell every one of them “You have to go to la Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!  You can’t go to Montreal without going to DDC, it’s pretty easy to get to if you’re near McGill, just head up Saint-Laurent (you can pop into Schwartz’s en route) and hang a left on Laurier, but keep your eye out, it’s easy to miss.”

Like many of our early brilliant beer discoveries, we have an older sibling to thank for introducing us years ago to a wee little hole-in-the wall brewpub called Dieu du Ciel! (roughly works out to “God in Heaven!” but it loses a little in translation) that changed the way we looked at brewpubs.  A trip for us to Montreal simply does not happen anymore without a few nights exploring beer heaven chez la Brasserie Dieu du Ciel!; it is, simply put, our favorite brew pub on the planet.  We don’t know how more glowing we could make the recommendation – if you are ever in Montreal, you must go to DDC.  Period.

Suffice it to say when we stumbled across their beer, in bottles(!), on the shelves(!), in Vancouver(!) right there for us to buy without having to go all the way to Montréal(!)… well, it was a guaranteed Hobbyist post.

This beer floods the glass black as sin, even when held up to the light (Péché Mortel roughly translates to “Mortal Sin” – see what I did there?), like someone combined coffee, molasses and crude oil.  Then put a black hole in the glass just for good measure.  The head is something else, rich dark brown, fine and silky on top and self-sustaining throughout our long savoring of this treat, continually replenished by an under layer of slightly larger bubbles, like thousands of glass marbles stacked up and waiting for their turn.

The nose is incredibly enticing; earthy, rich heavy coffee and espresso aromas; vanilla, dark chocolate and roasted malt, brought about by the fair trade coffee infused during brewing.  The flavour follows suit, dense coffee and molasses bitterness, which brings with it dark chocolate characteristics, roasted flavours and vanilla.  As the beer warms the complexity of the flavour ramps up; touches of dry roasted hazelnuts appear and hints of cherries.  You know there is 9.5% hiding in here, but there are still wonderfully smooth drinking stout characteristics, it feels like silk across the tongue.  This Hobbyist doesn’t even drink coffee and it is always a go-to beer whenever we’re lucky enough to be on-site.

Now, we have to be honest, we’ve tried a bunch of their bottled beers and they don’t quite stack up against getting it fresh poured and set down on the small round wooden table you’ve occupied for the evening in Montreal, but that’s probably a little unfair as that is somewhat of an experience in itself and fresh beer is hard to beat; they’re darned close and damned good though and we’re stoked to have them available in BC.

Monsieur Lafontain et Monsieur Audet, merci pour la bière.  Santé!

Tree Brewing : Hop Head IPA

 

Once again, no trees were harmed in the making of this photo. But it did have to stand around afterwards and watch us drink this beer, which probably kind of pissed it off.

Okay, first off, we love the fact that these guys were sitting around one day, trying to come up with an awesome name for their new brewery, and they came up with “Tree”.  Something about it appeals to the baser instinct in us; it’s very central, core, simple, yet deep.  It’d be like calling your brewery “Sun”, or “Earth”, or “Rock” (or Stone even); so simple, yet not at all.  Think about where life on this blue speck we call Earth would be without trees (or heaven forbid, beer!).  Or, broadening your scope a little, plants in general, both vascular and non-vascular, terrestrial and marine, complex and single-celled.  Life as we know it would likely be wildly different, and homo sapiens may not have evolved or advanced the way we have without the sheer diversity and biomass of plants that cover our little globe careening through space at breakneck speeds, happily doing us all a huuuuuge favour converting tons of CO2 into O2 so that us oxygen-loving creatures can thrive (never mind photons into consumable energy, but that’s a whole separate rant / tangent) – it’s like the great cosmic balance, but on a more terrestrial scale.  Seriously, if you ever stop to think about how fast we’re moving, it makes all the Ferraris and Porches in the world look like a bunch of expensive metal slugs.  If you’re suddenly feeling a little silly about that costly toy in the garage, never fear – Einstein and relativity to the rescue!  All those fancy, “fast” expensive cars are still going that much faster relative to the rest of us. But still, the earth has you whooped, she’d smoke you off the line any day like Vin Diesel behind the wheel of a 1970 Dodge Charger.

And without plants like barley and hops, things like beer might not even be possible (GASP!).

No seriously, that would suck.

Right, uh…. sorry, our day job doesn’t exactly provide us with regular opportunity to nerd-out on the wonders of life on this planet… back to the beer.  Kelowna’s Tree Brewing has long been on our list of “beers to get onto the blog again”, partly because Hop Head was one of the first IPA’s we really fell in love with, but also because our “Beeralytics” spreadsheet (things our work skills do allow us to nerd-out on) says it has been a long time since we last touched base with Tree.

Hop Head pours a nice deep amber with a short white head that is quick to retreat like early cetaceans back to the oceans once they realized that this whole “land” thing was a whole lot of work, all that gravity and such and such. Hops we find on the nose to be floral with a strong piney resinous backing, with citrus notes leaning more towards orange than grapefruit.  The flavour has a slight ESB quality at first but then dives into floral roundness, an interesting back-of-the-throat piney blossoming, and a dry grapefruit pith finish, away from the orange suggestions on the nose.  The round floralness of this beer is helped by malty sweetness then cleaned out by dry pith, but bitterness is left to linger under your tongue, leaving you to think about the next sip.  We found it quite interesting that the floral and pith bitterness seem to shift relative to each other from sip to sip, sometimes longer floral and sometimes earlier pithy bitterness, but overall striking a firm balance.  Definitely a beer we’re happy to rediscover.

And remember what your mum told you kids, talk to your plants.  Delude yourself all you want about them loving the attention and your awe-inspiring solo conversation (ironically says the guy writing a beer blog…); that blast of carbon-rich CO2 that you uncerimoniously spew out is what they’re really after…

Parallel 49 Brewing Company : Seedspitter Watermelon Wit

 

No melons were harmed in the making of this photo. Though we did get some funny looks at the grocery store…

A Battle of Wits? To the Death? I Accept!

Ooooooor how about we just have a beer. Then talk about it. Wit-death-battles just seem a little over the edge, but hey, I suppose it worked out for Westley… still. Let’s stick with beer.

Introducing one of the newest additions to the Lower Mainland Craft Brewing scene, Ladies & Gentlemen!  (insert drum roll) ….. Parallel 49 Brewing Company! (cymbal splash!). Right here in East Vancouver, practically in their own backyard according to their story, the boys from St. Augustine’s, who already hold title as one of the esteemed craft beer bars in town, have done something else that so many of us dream of.  They started a brewery.

Mingled in with their initial trifecta of core brews, an India Pale Larger, a “Classic Ale” and a Ruby Ale, we find Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, a curious conglomeration of Belgian-style Witbier with a summer-synonymous sweet snack, the watermelon.  The first thing we notice about this beer, and all of their beers, is the playful, carnival-style artwork, pretty cool!  Excited to see what a watermelon beer is all about, we pour, and sure enough, this beer has all the looks of a Wit – cloudy, yellow-orange in colour, a quickly dissipating head and a nose full of citrus orange and coriander.

Every time we try to explain the flavor of this beer, we get stuck on “lively and bright”.  It goes down nicely clean, refreshing, with bright wheat malts, a little lemony zip and slight astringency met well with a little sweetness, but not stickily sweet as you might think from a watermelon beer.  We sessioned this beer one night with a buddy, and even at the end of our 6 we found the crisp, balanced sweetness enjoyable.  Similarly, the watermelon flavor is nicely subtle, coming to the fore as you get to the middle of the body and on into the finish.  This beer really is like a watermelon, thirst-quenching, not too sweet and perfect on a hot summer’s day.

With the carnival-style art, we can’t help but think the character on the bottle would be a performer, some sort of seed-spitting phenom.  He’d have to be pretty good though to beat the current world record, which depending on your source (we couldn’t find it in the online GBoWR’s) is either almost a full 69 feet, or an astonishing 75 feet!!  That’s nearly 100 SeedSpitter bottles laid end-to-end, or, like some infinitesimally small percentage of the distance to the moon (roughly 2.9729061227596179458883519159785 x 10-6% if you must know…).

Anywho (nerd over).  Parallel 49 – check ‘em out!  Definitely keep an eye out for future posts on their other creations!

Lighthouse Brewing Company : Switchback Pacific Northwest IPA

 

Photo: Craig Kalnin

As a brewery sorely missing from the annals of our beer bloggery, we thought we’d crank it up this week with a joyride through Lighthouse Brewing Company‘s Switchback IPA.  Like many of the brews we feature, Lighthouse hails from the heart of BC’s craft brewing scene – Victoria – and has been producing there since 1998.  Seriously, we’re starting to think a CBC special on Victoria’s craft brewing scene ought to be coming down the pipeline, there are so many quality brews coming out of the provincial capital.

Easy does it getting this beer into the glass, you never want to do just do the dump pour; if you’re not an anxious angry pirate, you’ll get a nice short, dense Frommey head.  Once liberated to an air supply, ninja cougar noses will pick up an upfront TNT blast of Cypress / Pine hops, which is quickly followed up with a bevy of full rich floralness and skinny suggestions of some malty sweets to come.

Tipping this beer back (if you’ve got a squeaky elbow you’re either not following our blog often enough or you need an oil can) we find an easy to follow A-line from the nose to the flavours.  A bitter, piney heart of darkness lies in wait (hopheads rejoice!), but this 80 IBU IPA is more than just a flying circus of hop craziness.  We can immediately Seymour depth; good citrus plus bright, sweet malts to support and balance the power house plunge of Citra, Zythos and Falconer’s Flight hops.  This isn’t a beer for the bookwus in the crowd; strong in hops, this beer provides a long, sweeter finish, which carries with it some wonderful, subtle-yet-clearly-present peach and apricot chords.

Don’t think this beer is all shore play and no follow through; at 6.5%, a few of these could make you teeter-totter around like a floppy bunny on two wheels; any ill-advised riding afterwards could leave you in the boneyard.  Heck, a couple of them were enough to make burying 25 mountain biking references into a beer post seem like a great idea!

…can you find them all?

(Hint: there are 20 trail names, 2 trail features and 3 world famous North Shore riding regions)

Deschutes Brewery : Chainbreaker White IPA

 

Photo: Craig Kalnin

Having previously educated ourselves to the existence of such wild things as White IPA’s, we’ve been on the lookout for another example to check out.  We’d heard good things about Chainbreaker White IPA from Deschutes Brewery, another of the Pacific Northwest’s great craft breweries that you really should know all about.  Also hugely beneficial, Deschutes beers are a heck of a lot more available north of the 49th than some of their American craft-brethren; their Hop in the Dark Cascadian Dark Ale is currently available at many of your favorite beer spots, well worth checking out, we’ve been through more than a few bottles already!

Deschutes have been brewing beer in Bend, Oregon since 1988, a great little town with a lively downtown pub & restaurant scene, as well as a couple of perfect weekend-getaway-with-the-husband/wife-as-long-as-you-don’t-let-on-that-this-is-actually-a-beer-cation boutique hotels.  Seriously, as long as you keep your Deschutes brewery tours down to 1 a day, you’ll probably be okay.

Chainbreaker certainly looks the part of a white beer in the glass; lemony-white in colour and cloudy as a Vancouver summer.  If the pouring instructions (conveniently located on the label) are followed, a solid multi-finger bright white head appears, then gradually fades to a thin top, leaving you clear access to the goods in your glass.  Wafting up we get coriander, herbal freshness, and subtle Christmas oranges & cloves, but not a lot of hops on the nose, which seems to be a trending theme in this beer category (at least in our statistically insignificant sample size thus far).

The flavour journeys us towards the IPA side of the beer’s personality, delivering rounder, more floral hops than we’ve seen in previous examples and a touch of smooth sweetness, but with an undercurrent of edge, spice and grapefruit that plays well with the spice and citrus notes in the nose.  At 55 IBU’s, this beer isn’t going to overload your hop-o-meter, which is a good thing (even if it’s hard for us heavy hop-heads to admit!); this beer is more about mature subtle balance, which Deschutes have found.  Chainbreaker finishes smoothly between the gentle ride of the white balanced with nips of an IPA’s bite.

Overall, Chainbreaker is another exciting example of this unique combination of two distinct beer types; well rounded, enjoyably complex and highly drinkable.  It is also a great example of a fine beer from a brewery known for more than a few fine beers.

Stone Brewing Company : Arrogant Bastard Ale

 

Photo: Craig Kalnin

After a few rounds of slightly more available beers, we’ve fallen right off the wagon again into the realm of harder-to-find, less outright accessible beers.  Sorry, they’re just so damned good (and we happened to be in the US last week)!

Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale certainly fits the bill; hard to acquire for those of us north of the 49th parallel, less accessible (they proclaim flat out that “You probably won’t like it” on the back of the bottle), and damned good.  Drinkers beware, this is far from “pop a few cold ones in the fridge for the boys” beer; this requires some serious flexibility from your taste buds to appreciate.  This beer reminds us a bit of the time we offered up a cask-strength Islay whisky to the boys after a long night of drinking; we were really excited about it, them, not so much.  We got a lot of strange faces and half-finished glasses (lesson learned…).  As an added bonus, the rant on the back of each bottle is downright awesome.  Lucky for you (and saving us on word count) they have the complete text on the beer page.

Everything about this beer is intense.  Poured out into the glass at first it looks dark as sin, but as the foamy beige head thins, a little light illuminates a deep blood red-brown ale.  Letting the head settle (it never disappears, leaving thick traces along the glass all the way down) the nose is somewhat pine-hoppy, but there’s more toffee, caramel, and malt sweet to the nose than we anticipated.  Even more unexpectedly, we find faint rounding out of more floral hops towards the end, probably helped a little by the sweeter malty notes.

Diving in, this beer starts off throwing haymakers with powerful coffee grind / pure cocoa bitterness, then transitions into a deep abyss of rounder malts (more prominent as the beer warmed a little), but with little of the sugary sweet notes found in the nose, and finishes off with a surprisingly late blast of outstanding astringent citrus pith bitterness that leaves our mouth a little dry and looking for the next ride.  This beer is intense.  It has more sharp, edgy bitterness than the significant other you broke up with right before university because the playing field was about to get way bigger.  They knew why; if you like this beer probably because you told them as much; and they were pissed.  Like we said, this certainly is not a “for everyone” brew, it smacks you in the face like a sock full of pennies.  Delicious, bitter, hoppy pennies.

For those of you groaning about the title, you can thank our regular author for that (one of his favorite jokes).  For those still scratching your heads… try mouthing the words as you read it.

Central City Brewers : Imperial IPA

 

“What?! Someone else can guard the exhaust port for like ten minutes, I need a beer, Vader's been on my case all week. Geeze, it's not like anything could happen." - Photo: Craig Kalnin

Central City has been producing excellent beers for some time now with their Red Racer series (we’ve previously covered their ESB and Seasonal Pumpkin Ale) and have dabbled in special releases along the way, but previously they were only available on tap.  Their most recent offering, the Imperial IPA, won a Gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards.  Oh, and they also took home the 2012 Canadian Brewery of the Year award, you know, no biggie… proof positive that Gary Lohin, who’s silver signature graces the Imperial IPA’s label, not only knows his stuff, but is darned good at it too.

With the twitterverse abuzz on the release of the Imperial IPA, we ran out and picked up a couple bottles (plus one for a fellow Hobbyist, aren’t we nice!), and were immediately impressed.  The labeling speaks to the quality of the beer within; sharp, sophisticated and almost regal in its simplicity.  It took us a little while to figure out how photograph this one, but then it hit us like 1.08 quadrillion tons of steel.

Don’t be mistaken though, there is nothing simple about this beer.  Poured almost straight out of the fridge, we find a thin but persistent head of fine bright white bubbles, starkly contrasted to the surprisingly deep amber colour of the beer itself.  The complexity of the nose took us a while to tease apart, and we’re still not quite sure we’ve got it all figured out (good thing we bought more bottles!).  We found deep, dense floral hoppiness, with strong currents of spruce, juniper, some grassy sweetness like hay cured just right in a clean barn, definite citrus but rounder and sweeter, and a melody of other sweet notes that kept slipping between our fingers, perhaps ripe tropical fruits?

The beer provides just as much complexity on tasting.  The 90 IBU’s are clearly there, starting off as solid, robust, almost creamy bitterness that fills the mouth and coats the palate, also providing a wonderfully long linger which seems to end off with just a dash of sharper, grapefruit pith bitterness.  The sweet malt aspects are woven into the central weight of the bitterness, helping to give this beer a wonderfully full, round body, and the 9.5% ABV provides some warmth as it goes down.  As it warmed, the malts become a little more prominent, as do sweet oranges, but still retain their balance with the strong, complex hop profile.

Overall, a very impressive beer with plenty of aspects to explore, so run out and grab some while you still can, we know we’ve seen a few bottles hanging around very recently in some of our favorite beer spots.