Monday, September 27, 2010

Kronenbourg 1664

This is actually my second Kronenbourg 1664, and my third Kronenbourg (based in Strasbourg) product, but my first time reviewing one. This one is actually available on PEI now. I recall 1664 being pretty good, so I had no problem testing it again.

This one looks pretty good. Very nice, clear, golden colour. I like how the head has a bit of foaminess to it, and isn't just bubbles without substance. The head lowers to just a few islands of white, with some sandy lacing (looks like I'm feeling poetic tonight).

The smell is fine. I find lagers rather plain in general, but for a lager, this is nice. No skunky smell. There's something almost fruity to it.

The taste is similar. It's fresh, and has something fruity about it, but only subtly so (no jokes about my writing on this one, please).

The feel of it is quite good, really. It's refreshing, with a slightly dry and even more slightly bitter finish.
This is a beer that's very easy to put away a fair amount of... it's quite drinkable.

For the record, the other two Kronenbourgs I've tried were Kronenbourg, and Kronenbourg Blanc, both in Paris. As far as I can recall, I like this one above both of those.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

San Miguel Premium Lager

Like some of the beer I get, this one was purchased due not to its quality, but its other traits. This is another one that falls into the category of "I've never had one from there before..." San Miguel Premium Lager is from the Philippines, and, hey... it comes in a stubby!

Pretty much everything about the beer is average.

It has a very bright, clear yellow colour, with a little bit of head that leaves nothing on the sides of the glass.

Its smell is a little fruity, but has that whiff of corn or rice in it, too. Not bad, but a little cheap.

The flavour is pretty much the same as the smell. It has some fruitiness to it, but you get a bit of the cheap rice/corn in the finish.

It has a dry finish, and feels fine in the mouth. Oddly, the alcohol comes out a bit at the end.

It's a pretty refreshing plain lager, but is just fair. No thrilla from Manila.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer

Kingfisher was one of those beers that I knew wasn't well-regarded, but had to try since I had never had one from its country of origin before: India.

It is a very pale and clear lager, with a little bubbly head (no substance at all) that vanishes quickly, leaving no trace.

The smell? Well... the first one I had in March had me saying "holy green-bottle skunk!" By chance, I had another one last night, and it wasn't quite so pungent. Aside from that standard green-bottle smell, there is something decent to it, though... almost like an amber hidden in there. Perhaps some hops that push through.

The taste is better than the smell (thank goodness). There is something nice or fresh in the nose / after-swallow. Still, it's a pretty run-of-the-mill lager. Not bad, but nothing great. It'd be fine on a hot day, in the shade of the sun.

As for how it feels, it's pretty average. Not too fizzy.

It is drinkable, but after drinking one, you might be thinking that Commonwealth Games preparation isn't the only thing people in India can't get quite right.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Garrison Harvey's Bitter

This is another Garrison Brewery offering I picked up in Halifax this summer. I picked it up partly because I generally like Garrison's stuff and I hadn't seen this before, as well as partly because my wife's uncle's name is Harvey (who isn't bitter... he's a Blackhawks fan, not a Leafs fan).

This is the winning beer from Garrison's 2009 Ultimate Brew-off competition.

The beer pours a nice amber colour, with some copper / red. It doesn't have much head, but leaves tons of lacing on the way down. It's clear, and pretty bubbly.

In the smell is a bit of hops as well as a bit of toffee.

The taste is nice, and kind of hard to peg, exactly. It has some woody / earthy notes, with some toffee or caramel, and maybe hint of orange from the hops. It reminds me a bit of beers like Innis & Gunn, Doom Bar, and Greene King IPA.

The mouthfeel is nice and changes as you drink. At first, I found the carbonation a little strong, but by the end of the glass, it had pretty much fizzled out to that of a flat draught. It's a little watery, but smooth. The bitterness is definitely there, but it's not too strong.

Overall, especially for a beer with only 3.8% alcohol, it's a nice little quirky beer. Fresh and yet complex enough to keep it interesting.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Garrison Blackberry Wheat Ale

Overall, I'm not a fan of fruit beers. The first one or two I had were way too sweet, and I was turned off from the style a bit. However, when I saw this at the Garrison brewery this past summer, I thought I would give it a try. I figured they might do a nice job of it.

The head was nice and foamy, yet dropped pretty quickly. At least there was lots of lacing. The colour was a deep gold, with a hint of orange.

There was a fairly sweet smell of berry; not overpowering, but it's about all I got from it.

Flavour-wise, this one wasn't too bad. It was a little too sweet for me, and almost a little soapy, due to a bitter finish I found kind of surprising.

The carbonation was OK, but it was a little thin/watery and a bit bitter (I don't think fruit beers should really be bitter at all, especially when they're pretty sweet).

The drinkability is OK, but I wouldn't want more than one or two. There are other much better fruit beers around. I'd start with St. Ambroise's Apricot Ale or Fruli.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Festa Brew West Coast IPA: The Home Brew Idiot Test

A couple or three years back, I got a start-up kit for home brewing. I was given a can of Brew Canada Canadian Red Beer to get me started. In the end, I didn't much care for the taste, and the carbonation didn't really work. Needless to say, I was disheartened.

When I had my IPA epiphany this summer with a few beers, I thought... I wonder if there is such a thing in town as a good, hoppy, west-coast style IPA home brew kit. Well, I went to a local brew shop and asked if he had such a thing. To my happy surprise, he said he basically had exactly what I was looking for. Now... I don't think it will be as hoppy as I want, nor do I think it will be as bitter as I like an IPA to be (I know it won't be, from the specs on it), but it was the best I could get. Apparently, Festa Brew kits are fantastic. The press online about 'em is pretty glowing. The fellow at the store makes them sound idiot-proof-dead-easy to make, and says they only form about 5% of the sediment other products do, because it's an all-grain kit. On all fronts, I can't wait to see if he's right. The stuff is sold out in different places in the Maritimes, and he has less than half of what he did last week, so... that should tell me something. Plus, this West Coast IPA kit only comes out
once a year, so... talk about lucky timing.

Anyhoo... wish me luck. I'm all paranoid and anal about it, thinking I'm not doing everything right, or sanitizing right, or that I'm contaminating something, or that I'm too careful about it, or not careful enough... I just hope the friggin' thing works. I'm looking forward to my first good batch of home-brewed beer.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rogue Mocha Porter

Oregon's Rogue Brewery makes some interesting and, volume-wise, large products. I have already tried their Smoke Ale (not on here yet), and have a Dead Guy Ale waiting in the basement. Tonight, I thought I would try their Mocha Porter.

Rogue's Mocha Porter is a deep, dark, chestnut-brown... only hints of light gleam through at the bottom of the glass. It has a nice tan head, about three thick fingers tall, that doesn't last too long, but leaves lots of lacing on the way down.

Its smell has a bit of alcohol, which gets mixed up with the sweetness of chocolate, cherry, and molasses. Also, of course, is the coffee and dark chocolate, and some rye bread. A pretty nice balance of hops and malt.

The taste, at the start, is mostly of coffee. There is some sweet chocolate, almost like a ganache. A bit of bitterness and sweet taste from the hops gets stronger about halfway through the drink as it warms up. Near the end, the mocha flavour dominates.

The feel is a little watery, but that may help to make the large bottle (or more than that) more easily drinkable. The finish is slightly sticky/chewy, and a bit dry.

Overall, an easy-to-drink dark beer, with some nice traits.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dieu Du Ciel's Aphrodisiaque

Dieu Du Ciel (Sky God) is a Québec brewery that just celebrated their 12th anniversary two days ago. This is only the second beer of theirs I've had, but they sure seem to make some good and interesting things.

Aphrodisiaque pours like less viscous molasses, but looks just as dark and thick. The head is massive! It couldn't be poured all at once, not by a long shot. It's very thick and creamy on top, and more bubbly underneath. It lasts forever, with peaks, lumps, holes, and gaps forming in it along the way. It laces pretty well on the way down.

The smell is like sharp dark chocolate with that alcoholic vanilla. Some rye bread & molasses is also there.

At first, I taste more coffee than anything else. It has the flavour of chocolate-covered espresso beans. It reminds me a bit of Old Rasputin, or stronger beers, without as much alcohol. The vanilla and bourbon flavours in it give the illusion of a higher abv, though.

It's a little more watery than the appearance would lead you to believe. The finish is a little chewy, and not very dry.

Overall, a complex and great sippin' beer! Pretty impressive.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am a Craft Beer Drinker

I saw this today on the Brookston Beer Bulletin, and thought it was great.

Le Merle Saison / Farmhouse Ale

Today's review is Le Merle, a 750ml offering from North Coast Brewing Company. Saison, or farmhouse ales, are an old style, meant to be brewed in the winter and enjoyed in the summer. I couldn't resist this one when I saw it on the shelf. Tall, corked beers are hard to resist, plus the bottle said "exotic aromas of tropical fruit". I was sold.

Le Merle pours a cloudy, apple juice-yellow. A nice bit of fast-popping white head forms. It lowers quickly, but a mostly full film of it stays the whole drink down.

The smell has a bit of green apple, a bit of dough, a "creamy" smell... perhaps like porridge & milk, and some plantain (more plantain than banana, I think). Hmm... nothing too exotic or tropical.

The taste is pretty much the same as the smell. Unfortunately, I was expecting something fruitier / hoppier, and ended up getting something that is one of my least favourite flavours of beers.

The feel is very smooth and creamy, but with lots of fizz, too. It leaves a chewy yet dry kind of feel in the mouth. It also leaves a bit of sharp sweetness (it feels/tastes more sweet than bitter) that lingers for a bit that I don't care for... probably one of the main things I don't like about this kind of beer.

It's not a bad beer, and it's pretty drinkable. It's just not my type of thing.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

BrewDog Hardcore IPA

BrewDog is a Scottish brewery, run by some younger gents who are looking to make quality, interesting beers. They always seem to be doing something new or pushing limits.

This IPA of theirs is 9.2% (assuming this is what they think makes it hardcore?) abv, or alcohol by volume. It pours a medium, reddish amber. The head starts off fairly creamy and lowers somewhat quickly. It keeps about a 2mm layer of head on top, though, with only light / sparse lacing.

It gives the usual family of hop scents: evergreen, florals, and citrus (grapefruit especially). My wife said she smelled strawberries in it. The smell is a bit more subdued than other IPA's like Hop Stoopid or Red Racer IPA.

The taste is similar to the aroma: evergreen, florals (wild Alberta roses, I think), the citrus I mentioned, as well as a bit of a light malt flavour... which makes me think it has a bit of an amber ale / Irish red quality.

I didn't find it as bitter or as refreshing as the other beers I mentioned above. The 9.2% is hidden well, but does come out a bit near the end of the bottle. I think that's what gives it a slight sharpness, which is mostly masked by other things going on. The aftertaste rests mainly in the middle of the back of the tongue rather than the sides.

Overall, it's pretty drinkable. If I was looking for a refreshing IPA, I'd pick something else. If I was looking for a good, average IPA to have at a pub or some such place... for something a little warmer, I may go with this. It might make a good beer for those who want to start exploring real IPA's, due to its familiar malt / amber / red traits... since some people give me looks of shock when I try to explain how great IPA traits are (flowers, citrus, evergreen). Plus, perhaps its 9.2% and "Hardcore" name may make it seem more beer-like and manly.
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Orval Trappist Ale

Orval Trappist AleImage by Pepino1976 via FlickrFor those (OK, one person so far, plus me) who want to see something that's available on PEI, I give you Orval Trappist Ale. I had one from off-Island back in March, and am pasting my old notes for it here. The pic is a free-use one.

The fact that PEI is stocking this beer is rather important, I think. First of all, it's world-class beer, but more importantly, it's a Trappist ale. In the whole world, there are 171 monasteries of Trappist monks, and only seven of those make beer. This is one of them. We've never had such a beer on PEI. In the past week or so, I have seen a pretty huge stock of it at a couple of different Island liquor stores. I just hope that they haven't brought in too much, and that it succeeds, so it validates bringing such things in. But enough chit-chat. On to the beer!

Well, the head wowed me. As soon as I popped the cap, it foamed out of the bottle a bit, and I had to pour it in stages. So much head! A very firm, light, creamy head, like beaten egg whites. It does die down, but it takes a few moments. The colour is great. A nice, foggy amber / orange-brown.

The smell is also good... I picked up some citrus in there... maybe orange or even a little grapefruit... apple. A hint of spice. Luckily I didn't pick up the advertised smell of "horse blanket".

The taste is akin to the smell. It's very understated & mellow. I like that, but at the same time, I was hoping for something a bit more distinct.

In the mouth, it's good. Carbonated just enough, smooth and creamy... dry finish.

For a Trappist ale, which can be hit or miss for me, I thought it was quite drinkable. It wouldn't be hard to put a few of these away if they were cheaper. At less than $4.50 at our stores, it's worth a try. Let me know what you think if you try it out.

(For extra reading, the label comes from an interesting legend.)
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Monday, September 6, 2010

ACME California IPA

I really got onto hop-heavy beers this summer... kind of by accident, too. This ACME brew by California's North Coast Brewing Company is from one of my visits this summer to Premier Wine & Spirits in Halifax.

It has a nice golden copper colour that clears after a couple of minutes. Its white head is decent. It keeps a 2mm skim of head on top and an inch or so of lacing follows it down to the bottom.

I was expecting more from the smell, given previous brews I had on my recent IPA kick. It's not very fragrant. I get a bit of orange and malt / caramel.

The taste is less than I expected, too. It tastes like a bit of orange, and a little of something like peach/mango/papaya, added to an amber or red ale. Not as refreshing and light as I thought, but pretty good. Aftertaste has a bit of apricot.

The feel is good. It's not as bitter as its fresher counterparts, but it's not as refreshing either. It has a bit of a dry, sticky finish. It feels and pours a little viscous.

Overall, its drinkability is good. It's a tad more refreshing than an average beer, but not by a lot. If you're looking for an IPA that's tops on hops, there are other better choices.
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hop Yard Pale Dry-Hopped Ale

In case you didn't know, no trip to Halifax is complete without at least a quick swing by the Garrison Brewing Company, down by the waterfront. They make some pretty good beers (some better than others, of course), plus, buying at the brewery is a little cheaper than other places (selection is better, too).

Today's review is their Hop Yard Pale Dry-Hopped Ale. A dry-hopped ale is a little different in that the hops are added after the beer is done cooking. It's supposed to add more flavour and aroma, without the bitterness.

As you can see, it has a foggy amber / honey colour, with a finger or two of fast-dropping head. There is a bit of light lacing as it goes down.

I expected some tropical smells, given the style, but it was a little nicer than I thought it would be. For whatever reason, I thought that west-coast IPA's would have the beat on this. This competes fairly well. It has a fresh smell of grapefruit, papaya, and mandarin oranges.

The taste isn't quite as good as the smell. It's got the bitterness of other favourite hop-strong beers (which is surprising, being dry-hopped), and the feel, but not quite the taste. It's more subtle. As soon as you sip, you get the nice flavours from the smell, but they're gone with the gulp, just leaving the bitter aftertaste. As an American pale ale, I was expecting a little more of that malt flavour. I think the Acme California IPA I just had had more of that character than this.

The mouthfeel is pretty good. Smooth, a little viscous, with a dry, bitter finish. I could lose a bit of the bitterness since the flavour fades somewhat.

A very drinkable beer. It's nice to see a good hop-strong beer brewed locally. I may even like this one more than their Imperial IPA (I'll have to have another to be sure).

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Red Racer India Pale Ale

Although I plan on doing regular reviews on Fridays, I couldn't wait to get started now that things are rolling. To start us off well, I give you what is one of the best beers I have ever had: from British Columbia, Central City Brewing Company's Red Racer India Pale Ale.

IPA is a beer style that was originally created to survive the long boat trip from England to India during British colonization. Check the beer styles info on the right to learn more about the style. IPA's have become just about my favourite style of late, due to this and another beer to be reviewed later. It's nothing like what many of you may know, Keith's IPA. That's because Keith's IPA is nothing like an IPA. And, frankly, let me just throw down the gauntlet now... although I have drank a lot of Keith's in my time... it's bland stuff (sorry, Tim!) compared to a beer like this.

It has a great cloudy appearance. It's nearly apple jelly-like in colour... kind of a mix of pumpkin, honey, and amber. The head is foamy and creamy, and leaves lots of lacing (or trails of head on the glass), right from the very rim of the glass to the very bottom.

The smell is incredible. I didn't expect such scents from this little can. It's very hoppy / floral / fruity (like an IPA should be). Its smell is very reminiscent of Hop Stoopid.

This could be the best beer I've ever had from a can. It tastes very much like it smells... some juniper / pine, grapefruit, and a bit of lemon. There is a slight pepper (or spice/grain) taste in its bitter finish.

It feels great, too. There's an airiness on the exhale... the back of your throat opens up. The carbonation is just right, and not sharp when held in the mouth. Its body is a medium one that is both smooth and quenching.

Very drinkable, and I can't wait to try more Red Racer varieties.
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Locator map for Prince Edward IslandImage via WikipediaIn the last few years, it has been an unwritten (but well-known, and thankfully wife-supported) goal of mine to have as many different beers as I can. That's about as far as it went. I liked beer, and I liked the bottles and cans. I didn't do it aiming to expand, consciously, my beer palette, or to learn a lot more about beer in general. These things, among others, though, have come along with it.

My simple beer-related goal has some challenges, though. I live on a place called Prince Edward Island. It's a beautiful spot. Great food, scenery, and pace of life. There isn't much beer variety, though. I think I can count on two or three fingers the number of pubs in town that make their own beer. The liquor stores here also have a selection that is much less diverse (understatement) than what is available on the mainland. I know this is due to population, sales, and whatnot... but it's still sad. They have made strides in the last year, bringing in such good beers as St. Ambroise's Oatmeal Stout, and Orval this past month, for example. As long as they keep changing selection, this is a good thing. Mainly, though, I am forced to buy interesting beer in other provinces or abroad.

And here we are. I have been reading the reviews of others, taking pictures, taking notes, and have some material to get me going. The blog plan is simple: post simple reviews with just enough info to sum up a beer. I'm not going to get all technical and haughty about it. I don't think that's what beer's about. I will also post (and link to) things that help the average beer drinker graduate from mass-produced brews to finer things. This is a record of my own selections, but I also want to help give better beers some momentum around here.

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