Sunday, January 30, 2011

Traquair Jacobite Ale

Scotland's oldest inhabited house, Traquair House, which dates back to 1107, it was "originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland. Later a refuge for Catholic priests in times of terror the Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite cause without counting the cost." This beer, Jacobite Ale, is one of the ales brewed at the house. The beer's profile at their site says the beer was first brewed in 1995 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Jacobite rebellion. It is based on a recipe from the 1700's, and spiced with coriander.

The beer poured with a finger of creamy-looking head that reduced to a solid ring with some patches in the middle. It's quite dark... all brown earth, with very little red to it. Lacing is sparse / light.

The smell is interesting. I haven't had too many like this before. It's got some hops to it, but the malt comes through more (just like in the taste). You can pick out alcohol (something like bourbon, maybe), earthiness, dark molasses, dark chocolate, and maybe cherries.

In the taste is hop flavours like cherry & berries, but it's mostly malt flavours that come through... rich, sweet, earthy flavours. Peat. Scotch. Molasses. Dark, bitter chocolate. Nothing jumps out at you - it's all balanced evenly, and not too rich. In some ways, I would prefer them to be a little richer.

Like with many dark ales, I expect something rich and meaty, feel-wise. This one, in terms of feel, is pretty medium all-round. Its carbonation is light to medium, and beer is medium as well, verging on watery. It's a bit of a detraction in some ways... I want something strong and thick to sip on. Then again, its easy-going (down) nature makes it a very drinkable beer.

Overall, this ale is an accessible yet complex brew... a very good scotch ale / wee heavy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Pilot House

I've eaten at the Pilot House several times in the past. As far as I can remember, the food's always been good. My usual favourite is the prime rib sandwich with boursin cheese. Tonight, I had a pulled-pork sandwich, which was very good. Sandwich and a beer came to just under $25, including tip. A bit steep, but the ambience (for one, the subtle "Habs" decor, since Doug Harvey's son owns it), food, and drinks were all good, really. Now that the food part is "out of the way", on to the beer.

I met fellow BeerAdvocate Chris there last night for some eats and a test of the beers. He was over for some work, and the next day looked like it was going to be a day off of sorts for me (and it was), so the trip to town was a no-brainer, really.

We had an assumption that The Pilot House may not do the whole brewing process on site; that they may get their wort from some other place, and then take it from there. We asked our friendly server (who I know I used to work with at a Rodd's... I'm sure of it... just can't recall his name), who informed us that the basement was like "a mad scientist's lab", and that, indeed, they did brew their two varieties from start to finish. Chris asked for a couple of samples, and our server obliged, giving us each one of each.

The Pilot Red, which I have had before, was, in a word, "meh". It was over-carbonated, had a somewhat similar smell to the pale ale, I think, and, really, no distinct flavour. Nothing to write home or online about.

The Pale Ale (pictured), however, was better. I would almost describe it as 10-20% of an IPA. It had a nice, subtle, fruity / hoppy smell. The body was decent - medium - and the carbonation was fine. The flavour of it could have used a little more interest, but at the least the smell stayed strong throughout the glass.

My advice to The Pilot House? Brew more memorable beers. Rotate them, and make them bold. Perhaps develop a strong, hoppy IPA, and rotate the other beer with interesting experiments... make it an every-two-months thing, perhaps. Get known for it, because you won't get as much of an impact in terms of recognition for what you have now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Hart and Thistle

A couple of weeks ago, my Mrs. and I ventured to Halifax. One place which I really wanted to try out was The Hart & Thistle. I was drawn, as you may well expect, by their own beers that they have on tap. I looked at the brewer, Nash's, blog, and he had a couple of beers that were described as being "hoppy as balls", which is something that sounded great in my books.

Food-wise, I got to taste a few things. I had a bite of a prosciutto-wrapped Digby scallop, on a Pecorino peashoot purée and balsamic gastrique. It was good, but a bit squishy for a scallop. My mom's bacon-wrapped scallops were better in my opinion. My wife had a beet and goat cheese salad with baby spinach, pecans & balsamic fig dressing. It was most excellent. My main was the Thistle’s Bigger Burger. It is a beef patty topped with a BBQ’d Sweet William’s Italian sausage, peppered Havarti, lettuce, tomato, red onion & dill pickle. Overall, it was good. The burger itself was outstanding... fall-apart juicy and flavourful. We ended off with a sampler tile for dessert... it had homemade vanilla ice cream, a chocolate wedge the consistency between a ganache and a mousse. It was the favourite. It also had a great whipped cream that tasted like it had some peach juice or something mixed in. There was also a brownie on the plate, as well as a bread pudding, with some mint leaves and strawberries thrown around for good measure. Not a bad deal at $12!

What about the beer?

First, I started off with a glass of INK'D, an India Black Ale or Black IPA. It was, indeed, very dark / black. Towards the bottom, it had a brown, port-like hue. The head was creamy and somewhat tan in colour, with good retention. It laced from the top to the bottom. The smell was very fruity, like my favourite IPA's. There was orange peel, grapefruit, and date in the nose... and a bit of evergreen. The taste was more of the same... orange peel, and especially the grapefruit. There was a bit of a roasted quality to it. It was as bitter as some stronger IPA's, but the bitterness didn't linger too long. It drank smoothly with a medium body and light carbonation. Overall, very good! Easily drinkable, and pretty light.

I finished off with a glass of 90 Degree IPA. It pours a foggy amber (just like the Halifax Harbour outside the window), with a bit of a rose tint (don't let the dark pic fool you). The head is low and white, and is gone fast. However, lots of solid lacing is given. There are smells of grapefruit, orange, and, if I'm being honest, a hint of something funky. The flavour is bright and citrusy, with flavours of grapefruit, lemon, and orange. There is a bit of a "burn" from the bitterness, but it's not overwhelming (84 IBU). It's airy, and has a nice aftertaste that doesn't linger for too long of a time. It was a very drinkable brew!

I got a preview sip of this, too, which was tasting pretty great. I hope it's still around when I'm back in March!

My Halifax acquaintance in beer, Chris, was there, as we arranged to meet up. I also ended up meeting his friend Brian, who won Garrison's first brew-off with "Harvey's Bitter", another chap, who he got the Garrison Spruce Beer from for me, and the H&T's brewer himself, Nash (also once brewer for Garrison, Pump House, etc.). A nice bunch of coincidences.

Overall, I was pleased with the bill, the food, and especially the beers. I can't wait to go back.
(Hart and Thistle image from

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pilsner Urquell

This beer is the beer that lends the pilsener/pilsner style its name. A style being named after one beer? Surely, it must be stellar.

It's dark gold in colour. It has a finger of head that reduces to a ring with some film in the center. Eventually, there is no head. It's clear and bubbly.

The smell is a bit malty, actually. I get a bit of sponge toffee. Honey, grains, and fruits like apricots and plums are also present. There's a questionable whiff of rice there.

I find it a bit too bitter for the style. That's just my opinion, or what I expect / what I'm used to, though. It's fairly highly carbonated and leaves the mouth dry.

Overall, it's OK. There are some nice things about it. It's fuller in flavour than other pilseners, but I found it to taste a bit cheap.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 Beer Haul #1

The last "haul" was Christmas. This is the first "official haul" of 2011. Have a look!

First off, I wanted to find myself some nice, stemmed glasses, preferably something close to a tulip / snifter. I chose this pair of Spiegelau glasses for $20 at Liquid in Halifax. I also got some bombers (650 ml) of Propeller's Porter, IPA, and Extra Special Bitter.

In a previous trip to Halifax, I got a bottle of Gavroche I hadn't drank yet. When I noticed the glass at Premier Wine & Spirits for $3.99, it was a no-brainer. Next up is Garrison's "sold out in two days" Spruce Beer. Luckily, a very helpful Chris managed to find me a bottle after the fact. Many thanks to him for this. Then, there's Dominus Vobiscum Triple by the Microbrasserie Charlevoix, a Caracole Troublette, and a Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale.

Finally are my first Lost Coast beers - a Tangerine Wheat and Indica IPA, a Red Racer Pale Ale and a White Ale, a BrewDog Punk IPA, and a Corne du Diable (horn of the devil) IPA from Dieu du Ciel in Quebec.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Garrison Black IPA

This summer, I really got turned on to IPA's and hop-strong beers. As much as I like Garrison's products and IPA's, I wasn't entirely won over by theirs (I'm sure something must have gone wrong... a second try would yield better results, I'm sure). Having never tried a black IPA before, I couldn't wait to get my lips on this one. It's supposedly a blend of the Martello Stout and their IPA.

I had to pour this one in a couple of stages. Lots of cream-coloured head sits on top with a creamy and dimpled surface. Retention of the head is solid, and so is the lacing. There are just hints of reddish brown at the bottom of the glass. It really is dark/black.

The smell is all hops. Pineapple, some grapefruit and orange peel... bitter fruits. Only just a hint of anything malty.

Taste-wise? Whoa... it's all hops and IPA. You get that open, airy feeling in your throat from the flavours and bitterness. Some undertones of roasted/malt flavours, perhaps some coffee, but it's a stretch.

The feel is great. Bitter, with a medium body. Subtle, but ample carbonation. It's much lighter and like their original IPA than the colour would suggest.

Overall, this brew's pretty fantastic. It's light enough to be refreshing... with strong flavours, but not so bitter as to stun your taste buds.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout

This was my first beer of 2011, and my first beer from the Microbrasserie (microbrewery) Charlevoix.

The head is large and fast-forming. It's lumpy, creamy, and dimpled. The impressive head forces a pour done in stages. It's very dark in the glass... pitch black/dark brown. No light gets through. As the beer goes down, the lacing is sparse.

In the smell is chocolate, milk, oranges, and alcohol. Perhaps even some wet/musty wood.

The taste is very fruity and alcoholic - not quite what I expected. It's bright and light in some ways, but strong. You can taste cherries, chocolate cream wafers / mousse. There's also a chocolate liqueur flavour... almost like chocolate Grand Marnier. Just a hint of coffee, as any roasted flavour comes out later (and in he aftertaste).

The carbonation is OK. The mouthfeel isn't too thick or thin. There is a sharpness of the alcohol (& fruit flavour). I don't like what I taste/feel as an imbalance in alcohol / tartness / bitterness / sweetness.

Overall, for me, this beer is decent. It's too sweet / strong for my liking. It's not quite medicinal... more like the syrup of a really sugary drink. A bit much to want to finish.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yellow Belly Wexford Wheat

This is the third - and final :( - of my three beers brought to me from Newfoundland by Chris.

First of all, I love the bottle... who wouldn't get excited by a one-litre swing-top? The beer is a bit of a cloudy, golden yellow. The head is pretty decent (more than a finger), and some of it stays around the top and sticks to the sides (spottily) on the way down.

There is lemon in the scent as well as a faint whiff of papaya or mango (something tropical anyway). A bit of spice.

Wow... pretty fruity for a "plain" wheat ale. Lots of lemon, and the mango/papaya/tropical fruit come out behind its initial punch, dominating the rest of the sip's flavour and aftertaste. The spice in the smell isn't really there in the taste, which I think is fine given how the rest of it tastes.

The "afterfeel" could have you thinking it was a little flat, but another sip reminds you that the carbonation is fine. There is a bit of a tingle from the carbonation at the start of each sip, and that's it. It's light (could be a little heavier/fuller), smooth, with a low-to-mid body that has a slightly sticky finish, yet leaves your mouth refreshed.

Good stuff! I didn't know what to expect, but this beer left me with a great first impression of the Yellow Belly Brewery in Newfoundland.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Storm Irish Newfoundland Red

This is one of the brews brought to PEI for my by my new acquaintance in beer, Chris. This beer from Newfoundland's Storm Brewing Company is my first made-in-NL beer.

First off, the cap came off so easily it had me worried. The beer came here horizontally, though, and didn't leak, so it must be OK. It is marked as being brewed in the first week of December.

My first few impressions look-wise? It's dark. The carbonation forms and acts just like pop fizz (and vanishes just as fast)... it's not enticing to me when the fizz acts like that... makes me think of my first homebrewed red (which was a failure). The deep dark red has me interested, though, so my initial thoughts are neutral, I guess.

The smell is quite nice. It's smokey, and sweet / malty. There's notes of mellow honey / chocolate. It doesn't smell like a weak red. It smells pretty enticing. Almost like some stouts.

The taste is different compared to most reds I've drank, and I'm not so sure I like it. It has that smokey note (kind of like stale smoke in a bar), and something vegetal... like it was based on beans or something. There isn't much of a lasting aftertaste.

The feel is not very good. It could have gone one of two ways, based on how the fizz acted: really aggressively fizzy or flat. It's mostly flat. And rather watery. Disappointing. If the feel was better, it might have upped this beer to being really good.

Overall, this beer has some promise in its flavour, and especially its smell. Maybe it would be good on tap. Is it is, though, the slack, thin feel - like flat draft - holds it back, and leaves it somewhere below par.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What Did I Get For Christmas?

I never would have thought, even just a few years ago, that a large portion of my Christmas presents would be beer. Thankfully, that is now the case for the last couple of years (it seems people are starting to learn).

I got a couple of books, Tasting Beer, and Beers of the World. I also got a Hopside Down glass, which I'd wanted for a couple of years. You'll see it in a post or two in the near future. Still looking for a good Belgian glass / snifter / chalice, though... any economical suggestions?

So... what beers did I get?

BrewDog's 77 Lager and 5 A.M. Saint, VB - Victoria Bitter, Red Racer ESB, Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer, and a Sam Adams Octoberfest.

Propeller Revolution Russian Imerial Stout, Garrison Black IPA, Westmalle Dubbel, Caracole Nostradamus, Tripel Karmeliet, and a Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale

Innis & Gunn Highland Cask, La Vache Folle ESB and Imperial Milk Stout, Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and a Fuller's 2010 Vintage Ale.

Finally, I got some nice corked 750's of: Unibroue's Don de Dieu, Blanche de Chambly, La Fin du Monde, and Noire de Chambly. Also, a bottle of La Trappe Tripel.

I've had a couple already.... one very unique and good, the other wasn't quite my thing. Can't wait to "work" my way through them!