Monday, May 30, 2011

Hart & Thistle's Hop Mess Monster V2.0

As soon as Greg Nash, brewer at The Hart & Thistle, mentioned on his blog that this beer was being released on May 27th, I was elated. I just happened to be in Halifax that day for something unrelated, and, what's more, a foodie friend of mine was in town for a convention to share the experience with my Mrs. and I.

For more information on the beer, you can check out Nash's blog. For just a bit of information, though, it is most likely the hoppiest beer ever produced in Canada, and one of the biggest (if not the biggest... I think one by Mikkeller may be the only one to beat it... correct me if I'm wrong, please) the world has ever seen, due to "being mash-hopped, first-wort-hopped, bitter-hopped, flavour-hopped, aroma-hopped, hop-bursted and dry-hopped again and again". How hoppy and bitter was it, on an IBU (bitterness) scale of 100, was a theoretical bitterness of 1066 units. From 18.5 pounds of hops per barrel. Holy crap.

The bright orange colour and creamy head are the first things you notice... that colour of a great IPA or Imperial IPA like this one just hints at the flavours every hop-head loves. There wasn't much lacing to it.

I literally could have smelled this all night long. I mentioned at the table a couple of time that I wanted to take some of it home in some kind of container and use it like smelling salts. It had aromas of grapefruit, pith, nectarine, peach, and was a bit flowery. It had a bit of malty mellowness to round / smooth it out, but this one was all about the citrusy hops. As it warmed, the maltier notes started to emerge a bit more.

The next thing you notice with this one is the feel. It's a bit thick, sticky, and resinous. By the second or third sip, I realized that it wasn't the carbonation that was tingling my tongue, it was the bitterness! The carbonation was fine, and not really in play in terms of what you noticed. The bitterness literally set the tip of my tongue tingling at first touch, and then the rest of the tongue (especially the sides) would go all tingly once the beer was in. The tingliness was akin to when your sister uses five times the amount of garlic she should on a bruschetta, or when your foot's waking up. Eventually, it does dry the tongue out a bit. Despite being very bitter, it was still very drinkable... at its own pace.

The flavour was a bit sweet, and really nice. Essentially, most notes from the aroma were echoed in the flavour, which showed no signs of its 9.2% alcohol content.

All in all, an unforgettable beer - an experience, mostly for the aromas and feel. It's like the addictive properties of loud music - it's bright, fun, a bit bold, and potentially harmful in large amounts, but it's just so good and hard to resist.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Twisted Mist Mojito - Phase Three

When we returned from Halifax last night, it was time to deal with the third step of brewing this mojito kit. The gravity was right in the middle of the range that was acceptable, so I did the steps as ordered; mixing two packets with water and adding it to the carboy, stirring the heck out of it for two minutes, then adding the isinglass (still can't get over the fact it's made from the swim bladders of fish) and stirring for two more minutes.

At this point, I had to check that the beer was degassed enough to continue. I took a sample, shook, and I got the pressurized "pssh" that I didn't want to hear. I tried it a couple more times - stir like mad, take a sample, "pssh". The instructions are fairly vague, and just say I may need to do a significant amount more of stirring to degas it if the temp was too cool. Well... I stirred the bejeezus out of the stuff for, I bet, twenty extra minutes in total at least. After all was said and done, I was still getting a "pssh". I said "Frig it," and capped it off. My father had a good idea today about cutting the end off a spoon and putting the spoon into a drill rather than buying the stirring attachment. I may do that next time... if there's a next time.

The second pic you can see is the rapid dropping out of sediment after I stopped stirring. Basically, things lump up inside like crystallized honey and fall gently like snow. I'll be interested in seeing how well this clears after my vigorous and lengthy (yet apparently insufficient) stirring session.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hart & Thistle 2.0

What a great way to cap off a week of reviews of IPA's I have had from the past few months - a just-tapped (not even served for six hours yet, as I write this) MONSTER of an Imperial IPA and a solid smoked porter to serve as its appetizer.

Without giving the whole thing away, let's just say that the Hop Mess Monster V2.0 is just about the best beer I have ever had - maybe the best. Yeah, the more I think of it, I think it was...
It was so good, a leaving patron thanked me for the beer as I was talking to Greg Nash, the brewer (clearly, this is powerful stuff).

I wonder if the Hart & Thistle does breakfast... I could go for visit 3.0.

More on these two later...

Lost Coast Indica IPA

Another IPA for my IPA mini-week, before I wrap up with a "special report" on Sunday (should be a doozy!).

I poured this one into my Gavroche tulip - hey, it's a nice glass, and it's great for drinking from.

This IPA is darker than I thought it would be. It is a rich, bright, orange. It is clear, with a few flecks in it. There is a finger or more of head; I had to wait for it to lower to finish pouring it, but the wait wasn't long. The head became creamy and dimpled on top, but, again, it didn't last long. There is lots of lacing.

In the smell is pineapple, orange, grapefruit, as well as some toffee and caramel which mellows it out a bit (which I'd rather not happen). It's not as intense as I would like it to be.

The taste reminds me a lot of other recent IPA's I have had in some ways. A bit of alcohol is identifiable, which is too bad. The taste isn't quite as bright as the smell, but both are mostly the same otherwise.

The carbonation feels a little sharp going in, but settles quickly. The body and bitterness are both medium. Even though the abv is only 6.5%, it feels a bit like a beer with a higher alcoholic content.

Overall, it's good... but just.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dieu du Ciel's Corne du Diable

Literally translated, this is the "Horn of the Devil". Something devilish in IPA form from a quality Quebec brewery? Sounds like a winner to me, and a great way to continue my IPA theme this week.

The beer looks like a hazy, pale red or a dark amber ale... it's somewhere in between. The head has great retention. A finger plus of cream-coloured head lowers a bit and then stays at around a few millimeters. That's right, American readers - millimeters. There is lots of lacing on the way down.

I could smell it as soon as I opened the cap; citrus - like grapefruit, some malty caramel scent put into the mix, a hint of evergreen... it reminds me of some of my favourite IPAs, and I can almost taste and feel that bitterness already.

For some reason, I expected this to be on the lighter side of IPAs. Thankfully, it's better than I expected. Even though it was bottled a couple of months ago, it has retained its hop flavours very well. That hint of malty caramel is there from start to (mostly in the) finish. It plays well as a nice, smoothing balance to the hops' bitterness. It's quite subtle, and as such, is still dominated very much by the hops. This is a more-bitter-than-expected IPA, which I am happy to say. I love the way that fresh bitterness opens up my throat and gives that fresh, airy feeling. The fruit flavours come out as mandarin oranges and grapefruit.

The mouthfeel, really, is great. It's bitter, but it should be. The finish is a little resinous and sticky, which I like in an IPA.

This beer was "sneaky good". I thought, being a Dieu du Ciel! product, that it would at least be decent, but I didn't expect it to be as good of an IPA as it was - with a slight malty twist. I'd go back to this one again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Innis & Gunn India Pale Ale

This beer, for me, should be a winner. I'm a bit of a fan of Innis & Gunn, and a big fan of IPA's. I especially like American IPA's, but I like the milder, smoother, maltier British ones (like this should be), too.

The colour of this beer is a bright copper - like you took the sheen from a new panel of copper, liquefied it, and poured it into a glass. A nice bit of head forms - a finger or so, and settles to a couple of millimeters. The slow carbonation in the glass keeps it up (and makes me think the beer may be a little viscous). There's a bit of webby lacing as the drink lowers.

The bottle says there should be some orange aromas from the hops. My first whiff smelled like the heart of every other Innis and Gunn - mellow vanilla and oak. After a minute or so, as I got the ol' blog started up, some really faint orange aromas did come into play - kind of like a Terry's chocolate orange (but without the chocolate, if that makes any sense).

The bottle tells the ol' story of IPA's and how they originated from storing strong beer in barrels with hops to keep 'em fresh during voyages between India and Britain. They say their version should have fruity flavours as well as the beer's usual oak barrel characteristics (this version was barreled for 55 days, by the way). Well, you know what? There are some fruity flavours. I didn't really expect there to be, from the smell, but there are. For the most part, though, it tastes just like the original I&G, with just a hint of some bright orange thrown in there.

It does, in fact, feel a bit thicker than a "regular" I&G (which I found to be a bit watery the last time I had one). The alcohol by volume on this is 7.7%, so maybe that's part of it. The feel is a bit odd, actually. It's kind of tangy on the sides of the tongue, and a little more wet. Up the middle, it's drier, with an almost chalky finish (maybe that could be whatever else is going on in my mouth... which is nothing that I know of... but who knows?). At the back, in the aftertaste, I can pick out just a hint of the alcohol, with a bit of stickiness. Interesting. I'd like it to be more uniform, or at least more refreshing or dry overall. The feel doesn't put me off, it's just a bit unbalanced, perhaps. The carbonation is fine.

Overall, it's just a slightly-amped-up version of I&G Original, with some faint, bright orange notes. It's a good beer, for sure, but I get a little disappointed in some of I&G's stuff in that it's all too similar sometimes. It's nice to have your signature traits, but there's something to be said for variety, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Twisted Mist Mojito - Phase Two

Day ten - time to rack to the carboy! Nothing too much of note here. After I started the first step, fermentation was said to start within two days. After two days, I saw no action in the airlock and got a little concerned. I pulled the lid up and saw many bubbles rising (phew!), and took a reading that confirmed things were under way. After that the bubbling / fermentation was pretty steady / active, right up until tonight.

A few other notes:
  • it smells a lot like cider at the moment
  • it leaves the primary fermenter much cleaner than beer does (see for yourself in the pics)
  • specific gravity reading today was 1.004
Phase Three coming up on the 28th!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Visit #4,000

Mere moments ago, I received my 4,000th blog visitor (and page view 6,702). I know it seems a bit vain to toot my own e-horn, but I think it's kind of fun to celebrate the increasing use / growth of this blog as it ages. I wonder how much faster the next 1,000 will come...

A bit more about my visitor:

From Drummondville, Quebec, they entered by searching up Dominus Vobiscum Triple on Google. It was a fleeting visit - just a search hit, perhaps - but it counts nonetheless.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why Should PEI's Liquor Prices Rise?

Unrelated to the earlier piece on how prices in the Maritimes will soon rise (that's a brewery-set thing) was the news that taxes on liquor on PEI will also be going up soon as well. Now, in the new budget which came out last month, all that was said was "tax increases would bring prices in line with the rest of the region." That got me to wondering how far off we were, if at all.

Now, by "region", I must assume that "region" means New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, since they are our closest two provinces - the other two thirds of our Maritime musketeers. So... to figure out how we compare, let's take a few samples of beer products we all share... and make a chart!
So, what's it all mean? Well, in this small sample of foreign and domestic beers of varying quantities, PEI already has the most expensive price in three of the five. With the other two, we're right in the middle. Hmm. Wouldn't one think that... to increase prices here to match those of our region... that we should have the lowest prices around? Apparently, we're not the Bargain Harold's of liquor that our government would have you believe we are. Should our taxes / prices rise? I say nay nay.

Now... this is only a small sample, and I have only looked at beer, and not wine or spirits. I would wager, though, that if I did a similar comparison in those categories I would find similar relationships. That's just a guess, though.

The next time you see the budget mentioned, or that prices will be put "in line with the rest of the region", don't just ignore it. Leave a comment on the article, send an email, ask a question or two. It just doesn't seem to add up.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

St. Ambroise Citrouille (Pumpkin Ale)

For a few years now, since I knew it existed, I have been wanting to try this pumpkin ale. I figured it would be a pretty interesting beer, since, at that time, I had never had a pumpkin beer, and the other St. Ambroise / McAulsan brews I had quaffed were pretty darn tasty. So... this one had a lot to live up to. Even though it wasn't as fresh as it may have been, I was awfully glad to find it in March at Harvest Wines and Spirits in Bedford.

The beer has a deep tint to it, giving a reddish-orange hue. A little bit of head in the pour is gone to basically nothing in a very short amount of time. You can see some bubbles in the clear ale, though.

The smell is really familiar but hard to fully peg - I think it's mainly ginger with a bit of clove, and some really light cinnamon in the background - like cinnamon sugar. It almost has a brown sugar / maple quality to it. I think it's the brown/maple with the ginger combining as the dominant smell that made it hard for me to peg at first.

There is definitely some pumpkin in the flavour, but I find the flavour to be more dominated by a subtle blend of the spices that accompany it.

The mouthfeel is OK (maybe a little flat), and the body is on the heavy side of light. The finish is fairly clean - not too dry and not really wet or slick either.

Overall, even after all the waiting, I'm still pretty pleased with this beer. It still seemed plenty fresh, even a month or so before its best before date. I can see how it would be even better in the fall / with a Thanksgiving-type meal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Twisted Mist Mojito - A Home Brew Kit

The summer season is approaching, and it's nice to have a little variety in terms of drink options for those warm days - if not for myself, but for visitors, too. Now, you may not know this, but, as much as I love beer, I am a bit of a rum fan (among other drinks, too). In the summer, I have been known to have the odd mojito out on the deck. So, it was a bit of a nice surprise when a rep. from contacted me and offered me the chance to brew one of their new Twisted Mist products. Now, despite what Mr. Loupelle said at the local brew shop - that the two margarita flavours outsell the mojito five-or-six-to-one - I knew I wanted to try the mojito kit. I wondered, "How well will a wine kit simulate a good, rummy mojito?"

Well, today, I finally got a bit of time to start the four-week brewing process. The instructions on this $83, 30-bottle-making kit look pretty good, but have a couple of unclear spots. For one, the packet that should be #4 by its contents is
labelled as #5 in my kit. Also, there are two packs of
unlabelled liquid that must be the "F" ones as referred to in the guide... I'm assuming this, as there is no "F" on either one. Also, there are two yeast packets (odd). According to the instructions, there's something about putting every multiple of an item into the mix when its name gets brought up in the instructions. The "F" pack / bag I can kind of see (although, won't that really boost my volume? We'll see, I guess), but two yeasts? I have my doubts, but the instructions say (but not explicitly for any one item) to add all multiples/extras, so... in they went tonight. Well... they will, once the mix cools down (takes hours when you don't have a chiller / heat sink, and I don't want to heat it up again).

Ten more days, and then it's phase two!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mill Street Wit

I was glad to see this at Harvest Wines & Spirits when I was there over a month ago. Out of the bottle, it pours a slightly foggy, pale, yellow colour, with absolutely no head within a moment after pour's end. In this way, it reminds me a bit of Mill Street's Lemon Tea Ale (I wonder if this one is the base or close to the base for that one...). There are active bubbles in the glass, rising to the top, and leaving nothing behind.

There's a nice smell to it, actually - a bit of wheat, yeast or spice, and orange.

Taste-wise, it has all of the above traits, with a hint of some clove / spice in there, too. It comes off as a bit custard-like, in a faint way. This reminds me more of a couple of saisons I have had recently more than some of the other wheat ales I have had. It's got some character.

In terms of feel, the carb is crisp and prickly on the tongue at first. The rest of it is smooth with a bit of a sticky finish. The body is heavier than I expected, but still no more than a "light medium".

I thought this beer would be good, but I was a bit surprised that it had the character and flavours it did. A nice little beer anytime, but especially as these days warm up.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted

This blond beer, also referred to as an English IPA (more of a low-abv American slant thereof, I think), is my first beer from Scotland's Harviestoun Brewery.

The colour, as you can see, is a somewhat deep, clear yellow. Only a little head forms, and doesn't stay for long, leaving only a few spots of webby lacing on the glass.

When I popped the cap, inside the bottle, it smelled like a spicy wheat ale - it had a peppery character, and smelled of wheat. After I poured it into the glass and got things stirred up, its pale ale traits came through moreso - citrus like grapefruit and lemon, with just a hint of that spice, whatever it is (not tasted it yet), and no strong malt notes. Most everything about it is subtle, but it smells bright and fresh enough.

Taste-wise, it's good. I'm not won over by it, but I am not put off or really disappointed, either. Lemon and grass seem to be at the forefront, literally at the leading edge of the tongue (and a bit at the back edges later). It almost has a "stale hop" taste to it, but I think it could be better described as a mix of something like a bit of citrus pith and lychee fruit. It's just that the bitterness / pith / fruitiness is so much more subtle than a strong IPA or even a more hop-forward pale ale, that this perhaps seems more muted or subdued than you may expect. There is some spice to it, but it is so subtle, that if you're not thinking about it, it's pretty much not there.

In terms of how it feels in the mouth, the carbonation is pretty crisp, its body is rather on the heavy side of light, actually - almost medium, and the finish is a bit sticky. In terms of bitterness, I find it just pleasantly / lightly bitter.

Overall, a pretty solid / decent ale. It is not terribly memorable, but its traits are subtle enough that it would work well in many situations (hot day, with food, having a few at a pub). Worth a try.