Friday, April 29, 2011

Dieu du Ciel! Charbonnière

This bottle of Charbonnière (French for something like "coal" or "the area of charcoal burning") is only the second smoked
beer (not a traditional rauchbier) I have had the chance to try. The first one, from Rogue, got to be a bit much by the end of the bomber. It was cool, but it was just too much campfire and beans in beer form for one sitting.

This one pours darker than that counterpart; a very dark brown with sediment set a-swirling by the carbonation. Some lighter hues of reddish-orange manage to peek through its murkiness, under a thin head that didn't want to stay for too long.

In the smell is a lot of smoke. It's not off-putting, but it's pretty strong. Underneath or alongside are aromas of glazed ham, malty sweetness, charred wood, wet wood, and maybe a bit of peat.

Taste-wise, it's lighter (and perhaps more easily quaffable) than my prior smoke ale experience. There's a bit of watery sweetness up the middle of the tongue that's nearly like a cola. Out the nose, it's great (the exhale, not actually snorting the stuff out) - smooth, smoky, savoury. In the mouth, though, it disappoints a bit. Mostly only lighter things register like those cola notions - maybe some beans and something lightly caramel-like. This lightness in the mouth makes it pretty easy to drink, while still getting the nice smoked notes / effects, but it seems like my mouth is missing whatever's going on in the aromatic exhale party upstairs.

Feel-wise, it could be a bit more robust. The carbonation is OK, and the finish is fine (just a tad bit sticky), but it feels, to me, to be a bit too watery. I would like it more, I think, if it were a bit more viscous and smooth in the mouth.

Overall, a cool beer. Not exactly smokin', but nice and memorable enough to go back to at a later time if I'm in the mood for something like this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Red Racer Pale Ale

This is my fourth Red Racer variety from the Central City Brewing Company. I've got to say that the quality of all these canned beers has been high - outstanding in some cases. So, my hopes are high for this one.

This beer has a deep yellow colour - not completely pale. Perhaps it's that Mariss Otter barley giving it some character, colour-wise. There was an average, creamy white head on it that lowered slowly to just a film on top. The lacing starts out solid and clears / vanishes on the way down.

The smell - which I could pick up at arms' length when I opened it, is nice & hoppy. It's mainly citrus, with some slight evergreen, and a bit of malty, slightly toffee-like sweetness. It's kind of like a toned-down version of their IPA's scent in most aspects.

I find the flavour a bit mixed up. Don't get me wrong - it's a tasty beer. But, to me, it tastes a bit like a pale ale that is perhaps too much like a lighter version of their IPA (not necessarily a bad thing, since it's so good), and a bit too much malt? I don't know. It just seems to be a bit out of sync. The citrus is strong in the taste, especially a peel / rind taste at the end of the sip, near the back/sides of the tongue. Some honey, and maybe some grasses, too.

The finish is a bit sticky, and bitter (but not overly so).

Overall, a good beer that I think could use a bit more balance. Definitely worth a try, but this pale ale does "pale" or blend in with too many other hoppy beers I have had, particularly from Lagunitas, or Red Racer's own fantastic IPA.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Garrison Pils

Ahh... 14+ degrees (57 to you nutty Americans) today... after a long Easter Monday of basement renovations, a beer on the deck was in order. On today's menu: Garrison's Pils, their first pilsner / lager.

Pils pours a clear, medium-gold colour. A bit of head (advertised as long-lasting) is gone quickly. There is no lacing to speak of, but there are active bubbles in the glass from the carbonation.

The aroma out of the bottle is surprisingly fruity... almost like a a faint, malty, orange peel aroma... it reminds me of a light version of an American pale ale... perhaps it's the 2-row pale malt that's doing this (I wouldn't expect what I'm getting from the Saaz hops). The fruitiness eventually gives way a bit to grass and some hints of wet straw / dog.

In the flavour is a bit of the fruitiness as well. That faint fruit starts as the dominant flavour, and then it progresses to a bready / biscuity finish that is almost lemony - nearly like a muted lemon shortbread.

The feel is a bit sticky on the sides of the tongue / mouth, and mainly dry up the middle. The bitterness is obvious, but it may be a bit strong for the style (although it matches this brew's pale ale leanings). The body is, of course, light. The carbonation is crisp, bordering on sharp.

Overall, this was a nice pilsner of strong character. I liked its surprising traits. Too bad they're all sold out at the brewery for this year, but I imagine they'll be returning next winter / spring.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Steam Whistle's Retro Electro

It's Earth Month, and, more specifically, it's Earth Day. What better way to observe Earth Day than with an environmentally-conscious, beer-related story?

The good folks at Toronto's Steam Whistle, who have a pretty nifty fleet of unique delivery / serving vehicles (check out The Steam Machine), have added a 1958 Chevy Apache to their fleet. Saved from the scrap heap, Retro Electro was fixed up and modified to use an AC electric motor. Keeping it green (above and beyond the colour), the energy used to power the truck is BC wind energy from Bullfrog power. Not just for show and casual cruising, the truck is capable of generating 465 foot-pounds of torque, and will actually sometimes serve as a delivery vehicle.

After browsing around their site at some of Steam Whistle's other information, I was surprised at just how green the company is in several ways, and what they have done with the environment in mind. It's pretty commendable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat

This, one of my first two bottles of a Lost Coast Brewery product, pours a hazy orange / topaz colour. A modest head is pretty well all gone in no time. Drips of yeast from the bottom of the bottle slowly spread throughout the glass, like dense cobwebs held in a gel. Lacing-wise, there are just a few random dots of bubbles.

The smell is instantly there as soon as the cap is popped. It has a really sweet aroma - an orange, tangy-tangerine smell, like a powdered orange drink, chewable vitamins, or the coloured coating on those white-centred Easter egg candies.

The taste is of tangerine, and that sugar candy coating mentioned above. It tastes like an orange sugary drink / punch, almost similar to less-watered-down version of that "McDonald's drink". There's nothing very beery about it - only slight hints of wheat beer beneath. As you get to the bottom of the glass, it does get slightly more bready / wheaty (thanks to the yeast, I'm sure).

The mouthfeel of it is a bit flat. It needs a bit more crisp carbonation. The body is light, but isn't really watery. With some tweaking in how it feels, it could be more refreshing than it is.

Overall, it's pretty good - just be aware of what to expect!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Steam Whistle Pilsner

Steam Whistle's motto is to "Do one thing really, really well." In today's flavour-of-the-day beer market (among the craft beer converted... and that's not a bad thing), that's rather daring... or smart. Considering most beer drinkers haven't had that craft epiphany yet, focusing on an approachable beer, done "really, really well" is probably pretty smart. A couple of years ago, I had my first (and only) Steam Whistle in a can - I do remember thinking it was pretty good. Now, I am faced with Steam Whistle in a bottle, to give it an "official" taste test.

It pours a very clear, pale, golden colour. There is some white head, but not a lot of it. Most of what I got out of the pour has already disappeared, before I can even taste it.

Smell-wise, it's a pretty standard pilsner smell. I must admit
it is, for me, usually not a very "exciting" style, as there
aren't many significant / daring positive differences between one pilsner and another. On the plus side of things, it does have a fruity / hoppy character to it that I do enjoy in this style. Also in the smell is some straw / grass, and some faint bread notes. Thankfully, this green-bottled pilsner doesn't come with a sulfur / skunk smell.

Taste-wise, it's more of the same - no surprises. Some grass / straw, maybe a bit of honey, and a hint of corn. Pretty clean and balanced.

Feel-wise, it is light and has a mostly dry finish. Carbonation is actually fairly light as well.

Overall, a solid pilsner - a great beer for a hot summer day or an evening out. It's not exactly going to get your thoughts flowing about all of its ins and outs, but that's not the point. It's just an accessible beer for anyone to enjoy without any fuss, bells, or whistles... OK, maybe just a steam whistle.

As a side note, if you like that shnazzy bottle opener in the first pic, it's available at Steam Whistle's online store. It comes with screws to mount it on a wall, and it also comes with some uber-strong magnets to help stick it to your beer fridge. The cap bucket is also held on by magnets.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bicycle Beer Holder

Every now and then, but especially when I lived on Great George Street, I used to see a guy riding his bicycle down Sydney Street (the wrong way on a narrow one-way, mind you), carrying his case of beer in one hand and steering with the other. He could use this.

Someone has ingeniously re-purposed an urban bicycle polo mallet holder to act as the perfect 6-pack carrier for bikes.

But... urban bicycle polo, you say? What's that? I had no real idea, either, until I saw this.

In related news... this, of course, is not the first bike to move beer:
  • This one has it beat by age and volume.
  • This one takes the mini-cake with a sidecar.
  • This one wins for style and volume.
  • This one takes the overall title, for volume, population, and danger.
  • A simple Google search will reveal many more interesting examples of when beer and bicycles collide.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Gahan House - 1772 IPA

Tonight, my Mrs. and I ventured to The Gahan House to sample their entry in the PEI Burger Love promotion, the "Holy Cow" burger. Long story short, it was the best of the three that I've had so far, and two dollars cheaper. Can't go too wrong when you put panko-crusted fried pickles, chorizo sausage into the beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, roasted red peppers, chipotle ketchup and tomoato mayo into a cornmeal bun. Alright. Enough about the burger. Time to move along to the meat of this post (ba-dum-bum).

This 1772 IPA was a nice rosy-orange colour, with a bit of creamy-looking head on top. A ring of lace was left at the top, with no real lacing anywhere else.

In the smell... not too much in the way of hops. This is more of a Brit-style IPA... more malty. Most of the smell was malt, a bit of nut, cream, and to be honest, something like sourdough bread or sour milk.

The body was fairly light, and it had a dry finish (wrongly advertised as very bitter). The carbonation was also fairly light, but had a nice little lifting effect in the mouth.

Flavour-wise, it reminded me a bit of their cream ale. It was malty, but not really sweet. There was some (I'm stretching, here) citrus/orange, but it's pretty light and mellow. Again, to be honest, the burps had more citrus/floral hop notes than the beer itself.

Overall, a decent beer. I wish it was more in the style of an American pale ale / IPA (more hops, please), but it went well with supper at least.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale

This long-named Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale pours a mostly clear, medium amber that has some red/rose tint to it. A hard pour gives a modest finger or so of head. It doesn't stay around for long, but what remains is surprisingly sticky / creamy. Lots of it sticks on the way down.

The smell is pretty fantastic. At first it comes off as almost only the Amarillo hops. It's got a great IPA-like sweetness that brings to mind pineapple & plum (more like plum sauce, really), and a bit of the "standard" grapefruit or even lemon. There is definitely a malt sweetness in there, too, but the way the malt blends with the hops brings an overall smell of something like a red candy apple. It's that sweet.

The taste is a neat combination of styles, really. It doesn't have any "staleness" that I have found some of my recent reds had. This is very fresh and bright. It's got a smooth, malty backbone, slightly hidden under the brighter, fruitier hops and bitterness. As it warms up, the malt and bitterness strengthens. Lagunitas' site says it's "smoky", but I don't really pick that out. It's got an abv of 8.3 %, but you'd never guess it. It's "sneaky strong".

The carbonation might be a little on the sharp side, but I like my bitter, hop-heavy beers like that, so I won't fault it too much. The body / mouthfeel is medium or perhaps a bit better, with a sticky finish - it coats fairly well. The bitterness, although rated at about 77 IBU's, doesn't come off as very in-your-face, especially at first. It's balanced well.

Overall? Pretty much loved it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sea Level High Street Wee Heavy Scotch Ale

This is my third of my first four brews from Sea Level Brewing, purchased from Bishop's Cellar. I was pretty pleased with the Blue Heron ESB, but a bit disappointed with the Rojo Mojo Red Ale. So, I wasn't sure what kind of quality I'd get out of this bottle.This one is a special seasonal brew. Let's crack 'er open!

The cap basically fell off when I went to pry it open - not a good start. But, everything after the fact sounded, smelled, and looked normal. The beer itself poured out a clear, dark brown. In the glass, it's nearly black in the shade... in the light, it appears to be something between an ESB and a stout, colour and transparency-wise. That's about where a scotch ale / wee heavy should be, I reckon. The head was a nice surprise - fairly tall and creamy, with a good deal of staying power. Some slow, but ample carbonation in the glass keeps it going. There's lots of pretty solid lacing all the way down.

Smell-wise... not too much going on. I get some "standard" aromas for the style - light roasted notes and a bit of caramel or toffee. Some lighter, fruitier aromas come out as it warms, instead of anything earthy, peaty, or woody.

Taste-wise... pretty nice! Oddly, the comparison to the ESB / stout in colour carries through to the taste, too. It reminds me a bit of the flavour of the Red Racer ESB I had - just slightly acidic or sour... almost fruity. More dominant, though, are the other flavours - mostly roasted malt with a bit of that caramel / toffee coming through. A little chocolate, and some faint thoughts of coffee. Taste-wise, it's like you think it might be... not heavy, but "wee heavy"... like a light stout, or a thin porter. It's pretty good, and suits the style.

Feel-wise, it's fully medium - nothing too light or heavy about it. It's fairly smooth and gets much more so as it warms up. By the time the last of the bottle is being drank, it is so smooth. There's a light tingle from the carbonation, but the rest of it is just as silky smooth as milk. Its bitterness gives a bit of a dry feeling in the finish, but overall, especially by the end, it's more slick and a little sticky.

Overall, I like this one. It's a tasty, solid brew. There's nothing challenging about it, and that's alright - there's nothing wrong with it either! Easy to enjoy, and pretty tasty.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stephen Harper & Keith's Light

A few days ago, TAPS - The Beer Magazine posted a wee picture contest on their Facebook wall. The object was to come up with a caption for a picture from Stephen Harper's visit to Nova Scotia last week. The best caption would earn the winner a one-year subscription to TAPS. Of course, since I'm posting about it, you probably figured out that I won.

The winning caption?

"With an inventive effort, Harper finds a way to technically say he has 'pulled a head' early in the election."

Now, your challenge: what would you have said?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pump House Brewery

Recently, I made my first visit to the Pump House Brewery in Moncton. I had just begun the bad part of my March-Break-ruining cold, but I wasn't going to let some damn cold get into the way of me trying some ales and eats.

Food-wise, they have some good-looking stuff. I nearly went for one of the brick-oven pizzas, but I'm a sucker for pulled pork sandwiches (not G.I. Joe Pork Chop Sandwiches), and went with one of them. It was pretty darn awesome. The mayo was a little odd, but, luckily, there wasn't much of it. The fries were average.

As for beer, I just got a sampler. At first, I only got 8/9ths of their offerings, which you see here, as their IPA was getting switched. L-R, top to bottom, you have:
  • Cadian Cream Ale - a little better than the bottled version. Still not quite my thing, and still average.
  • Pail Ale - fine, nothing stood out
  • Fire Chief's Red Ale - decent; a little better than I remembered, maybe because it was on tap
  • Scotch Ale - probably my favourite of the lot, as it was so memorable. It's a light-bodied ale that doesn't completely overpower with what it has. Mind you, all I had was a mini-sample. The scotch notes in it - the peat, the wood... they were pretty strong and lasting, even from a wee sample (look, I'm even talking Scot, here). I wonder if it might get to be a bit much, even after a full glass or bottle. Still, it was a bonny beer in that it was so memorable and had a lot of character.
  • Blueberry Cream Ale - hadn't had one of these since Pump House made a push at the St. Peter's Blueberry Fesitval trivia years ago. I thought it was decent then, and liked it a bit more now - maybe it was the blueberry floating in this one. Tastes like they use the same base for this as the Cadian Cream Ale.
  • Muddy River Stout - a light stout, advertised as "sour". Well, it wasn't really sour in flavour. It was an easy-drinking light stout with a bit of character, though. I'd try a full-size one another time.
  • S.O.B. (Special Old Bitter) - this one was OK. I think I expected something more. I'd like a full-size shot of this one.
  • IPA - I asked about my missing sample at the end, and got it. The server warned me it was pretty bitter and that it would be like drinking unsweetened grapefruit juice. I love bitter IPA's, so he needn't have warned me... I can see how someone new to the style might be put off, though. It was one of the three most memorable beers of the bunch. There was a lot of pith in the flavour. There was a good deal of bitterness and grapefruit character to it. I'd have this one again sometime, too.
  • Seasonal / Special - I think it was a Rye Pale Ale. I forget. It didn't stand out, anyway. Just came across as a pale ale with a bit more of a malty backbone to it.
I bought my pint glass, was given a "Save the Ales" sticker, and was out the door. Next time: full-size tests!