Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sea Level Rojo Mojo Red Ale

My first brew from Sea Level Brewing went well, so I'm hoping this one will be, too (although I was warned their bottled products can be inconsistent).

I popped the top off this one, and I think it poured with fewer bubbles than my well water. I never like that. A partial skim of lasting white is all there is. When I poured the rest of the bottle out, in a really hard pour, I got a finger+ of some creamy-looking head. Unfortunately, I got some sediment, too. Now, I don't usually mind sediment at all. This stuff, though, came out in some pretty big lumps that had a jiggly, jelly-like consistency to them. Some of them just wouldn't sink to the bottom, either. Just wiggling the glass in your hand made them look like little flatworms or something. Gross. I (almost) couldn't drink the rest. Other than that, the beer itself is clear, and the colour is a very deep chestnut red. There is some sparse webby lacing on one side of the glass as the beer lowers.

At first, the smell reminded me of the Storm Irish Red I had from Newfoundland a few months ago (uh-oh), with some differences. The aroma is a combination of smells... a somewhat light "roasted earthiness", sweet brown sugar or toffee-like smells, and just a hint of fruity hops, perhaps.

As for flavour, I'm braced for the same disappointment from the one (must have just been a bad one... I hope) Storm Irish Red I had... I'm expecting stale smoke and veggie flavours. Well, it's not that bad. I'm not won over by it, but it's not terrible, either. It's got a mix of flavours... caramel sweetness with a bit of a bready character to it. There's an earthiness... nearing peat flavours... at the end of the sip and on the exhale especially.

The killer for this beer, for me, is the feel. I find it much too flat. I don't want a billowing head, but I would like some carbonation here to lift aromas, brighten the feel, and add to the beer overall. It's just too flat. If it was meant to have low carbonation, that's too bad, because it's not helping matters. There is a bit of a bitter finish to it. Overall, the body is medium and the feel is a bit slick (a quality I don't relish in a red).

So, overall, this is a beer I'd try at the brewery / Port Pub, but I don't think I'd ever pick it up in bottled form again. There is really nothing overly good or bad about it. It's just fair.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale

Second beer from Howe Sound Brewing Company in BC, even though this is the first review of the two I have actually finished and posted.

The look of this beer is a slightly hazy, golden honey-yellow (what a shock). There is a nice bit of head that has a bit of creaminess and dimpling on top as it goes down over the first few minutes. Just a few random dots of head stick to the inside of the glass.

Maybe it's because I have a cold, but I find that its aroma reminds me of a few different styles in different ways. It smells a bit like a weizen or wheat beer. It also reminds me of some pale lagers, without the slightly sulfuric, or what I have called in the past, "Euro lager" smell (think Heineken or Grolsch). Honey's in there, but I find it subtle. I also get a bit of apple. It brings up memories of things like some saisons & triples, in that it has these bright, natural flavours, but the reins on them here have been pulled back - they're muted.

In the flavour is honey (a bit in the feel, too). It gets stronger the more you drink of it. A yeasty finish brings up the mentality of a weizen/triple/saison again.

The carbonation may be a bit on the sharp side, but it's nice and bright at least, for this light ale.
The finish is on the strong side of lightly bitter, which is kind of nice. It's got a bit of a stickiness to it in the finish, but overall, it's dry.

Overall, this was just a good beer. Nothing about it wowed me, but it was pretty solid. Admittedly, I am at the tail end of a cold at the moment. So... maybe there are some things I'm missing... but cut me some slack! I've been on March Break, a time when I thought I could really dig into some new brews, and ended up unable to enjoy any of the beer I recently added to my basement. I figured I had to dip into something before my "break" was up, whether my sniffer & taster were at 100% or not.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Caracole Troublette

This Belgian Belgian white ale / witbier is the first of two beers I recently got from the Caracole Brewery / Brasserie Caracole. It is advertised as having 100% organic Pilsner malt and raw wheat, as well as Styrian and Saaz hops. It was also awarded a gold medal at the 2002 World Beer Championships, with a rating of "exceptional".

The head of this beer is pretty impressive, but it doesn't have a lot of stamina. The bubbles within it start to combine and pop soon after pouring, leading to a modest covering on top of the beer. It's still a nice-looking head, though - fluffy-white like beaten eggs. There is no real lacing of note. The colour is like a slightly cloudy version of a muted apple juice. Golden, with a flatness to the colour.

The aroma of it is similar to the Dominus Vobiscum Triple I had a couple of days ago - yeast, a hint of wheat, as well as fruit notes thrown in like apple, or sharper citrus (maybe a bit of mango as described by a review or two I have read, but it could be several different tropical fruits). The fruit notes lean on a bit of the sour side.

The taste is a bit of a surprise compared to the smell. It's a bit of a departure, and lighter than I thought. There is something to it that gives me thoughts of "unripe". Perhaps it's its slight acidity. It does have a fruitiness to it. I would describe the fruitiness as a mix of toned-down wild apples from my parents' yard and something like green grapes - maybe not quite green grapes, but darn close, whatever it is. There is definitely a bit of spice or coriander in there as well.

The body of it is somewhat light, and is smooth. I found the carbonation a little strong.

Overall, a decent beer. I wouldn't go out of my way to get one, but I wouldn't turn down the chance to try one, either.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

I have had several different beers from the Brasserie McAuslan / McAuslan Brewing Inc. in Montreal, but never have I reviewed one on here yet - time to revisit one for the ol' blog!

I first had this St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout over a year ago, and must say I loved it. I am glad that the liquor stores now stock it as a single (for $2.29, I think). McAuslan's site doesn't list PEI as having it, but we do. So... how is it the second time around, more than a year later?

This beer pours so black. It's very dark, even coming out of the bottle. There is less head this time - next to none, really (maybe it's the glass' fault). So... the lacing I got last time is non-existent this time.

The smell of it is as I remembered. It's strong, with notes of espresso/coffee, dark, bitter chocolate, and almost a bit of smokiness or earthiness.

The flavour is about what I remember, too. You definitely get the essence of oatmeal in it, but what dominates the flavour is the chocolate and coffee. I find it a little sweet this time - more milk-chocolaty than it was before, giving the feeling under the tongue that something like that does. It tastes and smells very nice on the exhale - like a mix of the coffee and a bit of chocolate, with some notes of wood in there, too.

The first time I had it, I found the carbonation a little sharp. This time, I found it to be more balanced. Since the body is a little light, the carbonation suits the overall feel. As a stout, I'd still rather something a little thicker or more chewy, but its lightness keeps it very drinkable and more accessible to new drinkers, I'm sure.

Although it's only 5% abv, its flavour and feel are strong strong enough to remind me of something stronger, like a couple of Russian Imperial Stouts I have had. Its flavour is a little closer to something like Young's Double Chocolate Stout, though, without getting too sweet (like a milk stout brewed with lactose). So, overall, a very good beer. I don't think I liked it as much as my first one, but it was still well worth coming back to.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Garrison Raspberry Wheat Ale

First drink in the new Garrison glass! Not the best glass for this beer, perhaps, but who cares? I'm not that much of a beer snob.

The beer is very clear, and has a golden colour, with a bit of depth to it (I swear it's reddish - suits the fruit!). There is next to no head. All that remains before drinking is just a ring of white with a flat cloud in the middle.

The aroma does, indeed, have a nice raspberry quality that isn't too strong. It reminds me of a dessert that uses raspberries sparingly - like raspberries and whipped cream or ice cream blended over a graham crumb base.

Hmm... pretty tasty. The raspberry ales I have had in the past have not won me over - they're often too sweet. This one is more restrained. At first, the flavour of each sip is 3/4 the raspberry - it has a sweet, yet light beginning. Once it's down the hatch, the raspberry fades, and the traits of the ale come through. There is some raspberry in the aftertaste, but it has more of an aftertaste of a pale ale or lager - malty & mellow.

The carbonation is fairly crisp. If anything, it may be a little undercarbonated, but it borders on being just right. Too much in a beer like this, and it'd come off feeling too light and girly. Too low, and it would fall flat. It's just about right. The body is fairly light, and the finish is rather dry.

Overall, a well-done raspberry beer. I could see this one going down easily on the deck in the summer - maybe with some fish & a salad.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sea Level Blue Heron Extra Special Bitter

This is my first-ever beer from the Port Pub / Sea Level Brewing in Port Williams, Nova Scotia. I've heard good things about it, but that the bottled stuff has not always come across well in the past. Still, when I was at Bishop's Cellar a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't resist getting the four offerings they had (more on the rest later, of course).

The beer has a deep amber colour (as it should!) - but still clear and bright. The head you see in the picture is from a hard pour, and that's all I could coax out of it. Once that fizzled, a little bit always stuck around, especially in the form of webby lacing on the glass. Carbonation in the glass is minimal and slow.

The smell is quite nice - a nice balance of pine and citrus, with the citrus being a mix of grapefruit and a bit of lime, actually. Other whiffs give a bit of orange. Whatever way you whiff it, it's bright and fresh. I don't really pick up any of the malt in the scent until it starts to warm up a bit. Even then, it's slight.

The taste is also very nice. Comparing it to other beers I have had, it's more like IPA's than ESB's in its dominant hop aromas and flavour. There's a lot of pith in the flavour. It's bitter (duh), with some flavours of grapefruit / citrus as well some smoother notes from the malt - just a bit of a caramel backbone.

The feel of it is a bit odd in one way; I find the carbonation almost completely skips the front of my tongue. It seems to focus where the bitterness hits, on the sides and a bit at the back. It's a little odd, as, at first, each sip feels a little flat, and then ramps up a bit. The body is on the light side of medium, and has a bit of a mixed finish - mostly dry up the middle, and stickier on the sides.

Overall, I was very pleased with this beer. It was fresh, tasty, and didn't really disappoint in any way. Well worth the $4.50 for a 650 mL bomber.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Young's Double Chocolate Stout

As it pours, you can see that it has a clear, but deep, dark-brown colour with a reddish tint. It's very dark in the glass. A small head lowers down to just a creamy brown film on top. There is some sparse, spread-out, webby lacing.

In the aroma are roasted notes, as well as sweet smells of milk chocolate and dark chocolate.

The flavour is sweet, but not overpoweringly so (like the Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout). The sweetness is somewhat fruit-like, especially on the exhale. It does, indeed, have a creamy-smooth chocolate flavour, although I thought it might be stronger.

The body is slightly on the heavy side of medium. The mouthfeel is creamy/smooth, and it's just slightly bitter.

Overall, it's more than just a good beer. It's not fantastic, but it's easily enjoyable.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Haligonian Beer Haul

Just when I thought I was running low on variety (I was getting down to only beers I'm trying to age a little), my wife and I had to make another
trip to Halifax. Luckily, Halifax has way more variety than PEI, and always has a few new things to pick from. We went to an NSLC store, Premier (of course), Bishop's Cellar (for Sea Level's beers), and a new one to me, Harvest Wines & Spirits (well worth the stop - and buy something in the seafood side first... you'll get 10% off!).

So... what did I get to fill up the basement for a while and keep the ol' blog going?

Top Row:
Garrison's Imperial IPA, Jalapeno Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, Pils, branded glass, 2011 Ol' Fog Burner, Glenora whiskey barrel-aged 2010 Ol' Fog Burner (#'s 141, 142, and 143 of 500), Sea Level Brewing's Blue Heron ESB, Rojo Mojo Red Ale, Port in the Storm Porter, and High Street Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

Middle Row:
Flying Monkeys NetherWorld, St. Ambroise Citrouille (Pumpkin Ale), Mill St. Belgian Wit, Innis & Gunn IPA, Chimay Grande Reserve, Jamaica Stout, Howe Sound Brewing's Rail Ale Nut Brown, Devil's Elbow Inida Pale Ale, Bailout Bitter, and Garibaldi Honey Pale Ale, Primator Premium Dark, and Rogue's Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Brutal IPA, Juniper Pale Ale, and Chipotle Ale

Bottom Row:
Unibroue's Maudite and Trois Pistoles, Dieu du Ciel!'s Charbonnière, Route des épices, Rosée d'Hibiscus, and Dernière Volonté, Dominus Vobiscum Blanche (Why two? A mistake... I didn't know I got two. Had I noticed it, I would have gotten the Double instead!), Harviestoun's Bitter & Twisted, Old Engine Oil, and Ola Dubh 30, and an inexpensive Stella Artois glass & bottle combo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maritime Beer Prices To Rise

According to an article on CBC today, beer prices in the Maritimes (and elsewhere, I assume) are expected to rise in the coming months. The bad news? Ingredients like malt are up 30% in cost, and oil to transport goods (or run a brewery) isn't exactly going down these days. The good news? With Garrison, at least, they expect to add a surcharge of 25 to 50 cents per six-pack in the near future (could be worse!). As much as the news is rotten, I'd much rather give good breweries a fair chance of maintaining profits and current operations rather than see them scale back or go bust.

I wish my big bottle of Howe Sound's Bailout Bitter was in the fridge instead of just the basement... it would feel pretty appropriate drinking it now!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bavaria Red

Despite the name on the can - the large 8.6 - this currently-available-on-PEI beer has an abv of "just" 7.9%. First of all, I should give the disclaimer here that I was given this beer by a friend, and its original blond cousin is, I think, the worst beer I have ever had. So... going into this one, I tried to keep an open mind but was prepared for the worst.

This beer has a very small head, but the colour, I thought, was actually quite nice. It has a nice, deep chestnut-red hue. During the pour I noticed that the beer had "legs" - it clung to the sides of the glass like a wine.

In the smell are some sweet, malty notes, corn, and a bit of alcohol. Some bready smells come out later as it warms up.

The flavour is not what I thought it would be. There is almost a sense of a light medicine... or a strong fruit drink, like a robust cherry something or other. It is way too sweet, or as many beer reviewers like to say, "cloying". A few sips of this was enough.

The feel was not what I expected, either. The carbonation level is fine, but this one feels like a runny gel or warmed-up, runny Jell-O. It coats the tongue and some of the inside of the mouth. It's sticky and rather gross. It reminded me of that scene in Anchorman where Steve Carell's character says, "I ate a big red candle."

I fully expected this to be the worst or next-to-worst beer I have ever had. It may not be the worst, but it's right up... or down... there. Ugh. Can't wait 'til it gives up its shelf space for something else!

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Bro-in' Down With Your BFFs"

This blog, thus far, has not been a blog that deals with things like news about beer-related things; it's only been about beer reviews. Every now and then, though, I come across something worth sharing. Perhaps I should do it more often. So... without further adieu, I give you the "koozie" by Columbia:

It is clothing made for drinking: a stain-resistant hoodie with drink-holder pockets and a sewn-on bottle opener. Sure, it looks pretty cool, and is perhaps even useful... but I don't know if I could ever buy this hoodie. Mostly, that's due to the description, which includes:
  • like wrapping yourself in an instant party
  • born for beer drinking and bro-in’ down with your BFFs (what man would say or write this?!)
  • (pockets to) safely stash your beverage while you high-five your buddies or hold hands with your lady
  • (don't worry) if you spill a little bit when you let excitement get the best of you at the end of a fierce foosball match
A gem of ad writing, to be sure.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tripel Karmeliet

The look of this beer is great - a slightly cloudy, apple-juice or honey-yellow colour, with a very tall head. The head is decently maintained by lots of bubbles in the glass. There is no lacing, but I find that is often the case with these Spiegelau glasses - they're just too smooth for the head to stick!

Out of the bottle and glass are classic, bright, triple smells... also some reminders me of some saisons I've had. There is apple, spice (coriander, I suppose), and fruits. Some people mention smells of bubble gum. I looked (OK, smelled) for it, but it wasn't very obvious. As the beer warms up, some hints of alcohol come out, as well as a more malty, sweet scent that reminds me of something in the honey-caramel-pineapple-maple glaze (like on a ham) family.

The flavours are nice. The smell coming out of the glass as you drink almost clears your nose out, keeping things fresh. In the sips, you can taste some fruit like mushy ripe apple, spice - not quite cinnamon - maybe it's the coriander again, and perhaps more of a sense of bubble gum here, as it's sweet.

There is very active carbonation in the mouth - lots of strong sensations all over the tongue, but mostly on the sides and very tip. The finish is sticky on the middle of tongue.

Compared to the Dominus Vobiscum Triple I just had, it has some similarities in looks, smells, and flavours, but I must say I like the DVT better.