Friday, September 30, 2011

Samuel Smith's Organically-Produced Ale

Each time I have a bottle of anything from the Samuel Smith brewery, I really look forward to it now. Every one I have had has been a winner, and I expect nothing different from this one.

There is some great cascading head action in the pour. It ends up tall, creamy, and slightly amber in colour. There are lots of bubbles popping in it, leaving it looking like a slow-falling cake and eventually just a skim of bubbles & lacing on the glass. Th colour is a lovely slightly hazy amber.

This ale has Smith's characteristic smell... I would swear the water's going to be a star again here. The beer smells a bit more like a hoppy pale ale than I expected it to (some subtle fruity esters), but, overall, I find this beer smells just like them... like a British ale... subdued smells of grain / toffee, earthy hops, and that mineral-y water.

The flavour's great... mellow malt notes like toffee, followed with a slight acidic tang - fruit notes like orange alongside honey and wheat. The aftertaste is mellow, a bit earthy, and yet a bit bright and fruity. At times, it almost reminds me of a light bread pudding.

The feel is medium & smooth, and the carbonation a subtle blanket of minute tingles. The finish is mostly dry, and a bit sticky.

Overall - love it... such a great British ale. It's fairly light and very drinkable, but has lots of subtle character that doesn't beat you over the head. This is a well-balanced, quality brew in every aspect. Samuel Smith is fast becoming one of my favourite breweries.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Barnone - Summer Sessions, Pale Ale, and IPA

At this weekend's first annual PEI Beer Festival, PEI's new brewery, Barnone, unveiled their first three beers and their brand / company in general. Available were samples of their Summer Sessions, Pale Ale, and IPA. In the text-heavy picture you can read about each in more detail. What did I think of them? Well, I was fortunate enough to get two or three samples of each, and here's what I thought:

Summer Sessions
A pretty refreshing summer beer, and not really a lightweight for the style. In the aroma were some hops and wheat. The flavour is bright, a bit bready, and has almost a tang to it. The hops in this one make it a bit more bitter than expected. The body is pretty much medium (fuller-feeling than expected, too), with some tingly carbonation. The finish was fairly bitter and quite dry. A nice beer.

Barnone Pale Ale

The first thing I wrote down for this one was "Yes". The middle beer in the pic below was quite hoppy in its aroma and taste - mostly citrus / pith (grapefruit, especially). There was also some nice malt in there to balance it out, in the form of a light caramel flavour. The body on this one was medium, with lighter carbonation than the Summer Sessions. The finish was also very dry here, but also had a bit of stickiness. I thought this was a very well-rounded, flavourful, drinkable beer. I thought it was the best one of their lineup and the festival as well, bar none (sorry, couldn't help it).

Barnone IPA
This brew was just a tad hoppier than the pale ale in aroma. Although a little more grapefruity in flavour, and a bit in aroma, the nose was arguably more floral - almost rose-like (could be that Rose Valley influence?). I found the medium body to feel a bit lighter than the pale ale, actually, but, oddly, it was definitely stickier at the same time. It was bitter, more than the other two, but not overly so - still very quaffable. A quality IPA, to be sure.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

PEI Beer Festival - A Review

Well, I returned home a few hours ago from the first session of PEI's first-ever beer festival. I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of set-up and attendance, as the organizers were rookies at this, too. On their side, though, was a keenness to do it right and to listen to and learn from those attending. So... how was it?

I arrived only fifteen minutes early, and had two options: I could vote in the wrong riding of an advance poll, or I could wait in line for the beer fest. I chose the latter, and was Guest #1. Waiting for me was a fancy shmancy media pass, helping to make me look all official-like.There was a healthy line-up looking to get in, and I thought that the crowd was pretty decent. For the afternoon session of our first beer fest, where there was almost only beers available at the liquor store, the crowd was pretty good. It was a mix of old and young, and everyone seemed to be in a jovial, relaxed mood.

I was happily surprised at how "smart" the crowd was overall. The mass-market companies didn't have many visitors to their booths, especially compared to a few others. I'd be curious to hear how they did at the night session. People, in general, flocked to, and waited for, beers from our local breweries, and returned for their different varieties.

The most popular brewers would have to be PEI's new Barnone, Picaroon's, and perhaps Garrison or the table with Pump House and a few others. I think Picaroon's had the steadiest line-up the whole time, but that was partly due to the fact there was only one person there opening and pouring bottles - who just happened to be their owner/brewer Sean Dunbar. I'm not sure how many in attendance knew about their recent wins at the Canadian Brewery Awards this month (including brewery of the year), but that definitely couldn't have hurt. I was a little surprised at the relatively little attention Garrison seemed to get in comparison, as I think their reputation among beer folk is generally better. The fact there were two servers there didn't hurt, in terms of moving people along, though.

In terms of the beer, I had one main focus: Barnone. I had sampled every other beer there before except for a couple of Molson / Labatt's products, and I wasn't about to fill up on those. As soon as I went in, I went to Barnone, and started my sampling. I'll save my pics of the beer and notes for a later post, but I can honestly say their three beers were the best of the fest. Their Summer Sessions, Pale Ale and IPA were the best beers available. The fact that they were probably the freshest beers there, and the only ones on tap, and not out of a can or bottle didn't hurt. My other general thoughts on the beer was that Picaroon's tasted OK, but that I'd liked what I'd had of theirs more in the past. Known to have some diacetyl (some say "issues", others would say "character"), I found the couple I sampled to be a bit more buttery than in the past. Dunbar said he likes beer making to be a bit "dirty" and has diacetyl in there on purpose to mix things up a bit. Garrison was fine, although I found their Hop Yard to be not as good as I have had in the past - same goes for the Oktoberfest, which I quite enjoyed last year. I tried a couple of other things around the fest - two I'd had before, one I hadn't, and that was that. I just returned to Barnone a couple of times - not so much as to deplete their stock (they were a bit worried about running out of one or more beers before the second sessions would be over) - but enough to keep me in good beer & happy.

While everything was pretty smooth and the venue fine, there were a few things I thought would be some good ideas next year:
  • improve the variety of beer - bring in more stuff not available here already
  • the few munchies were OK, but some plain crackers or some such thing (to help reset the ol' taste buds) would have been nice. Those peppery Triscuits kind of messed me up for a beer or two. A food vendor or two wouldn't be out of line... maybe soft pretzels or something similar.
  • have some water available for folks to hydrate / reset their taste buds - even if it's just bottled stuff for sale.
  • maybe look into getting labeled souvenir tasting mugs that people could use - it reduces waste, and gives someone something to take home. I thought some of my cups had a bit of a plastic smell. Water stations may be needed to do some mug rinsing between tastings, though.
  • a place or two to dump some suds if you got something you didn't like.
  • the venue was decent - downtown, bathrooms right off the main room, etc. Something more upscale would be nice, though, too. How about the Rodd Charlottetown's ballroom? Or one of the rooms at the Delta?

Overall, cheers to Campbell Webster Entertainment for kicking this event off. I get the impression from them that they are keen to keep their eyes and ears open for ways to improve and make things even better for next year. This was one small step for some beer drinkers, and perhaps the (co-?) beginning of one giant leap for the Island beer scene.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

I reviewed this one a while ago, but just never posted it. Now that it's seasonal again, and will be available at the beer fest tomorrow, let's finally have a look at it.

The colour of this Sam Adams seasonal beer is just about what I thought it would be - a rich, reddish brown. The head is not what I thought it would be - basically nothin'! Some bubbles formed on the pour, but they didn't last too long.

The smell has a nice, light hoppy / fruity character along with the expected malt sweetness. The mix of scents brings to mind the apple and candy coating of a candy apple... maybe with a bit of caramel. As it warms up, it takes on a bit of a bread pudding vibe.

Its flavours brings to mind things like toffee & candy. Each sip starts sweet and finishes with an exhale that is full and smooth / mellow. The aftertaste, I found, might be a bit too bright.

The body or overall feel is almost watery, but due to the finish isn't. It's light, but has a slight viscosity or slickness to it. Despite the lack of any head, the carbonation for it is fine (albeit a bit low). It's only slightly bitter.

Overall, a decent seasonal. It would be easy to have a few of these sometime, although I much preferred Garrison's.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barnone's new logo(s)

 Just received today, hot off the e-press, are two versions of Barnone's new logo. At first, I liked it for its simplicity, but wasn't sure of the thumbnail of the version with the colour background - I thought it might obscure it, and not let it stand out, like other breweries (Sea Level) or look like something printed off at home (Green Flash). Maybe it won't even be for a label - just ads / posters, etc. Either way, upon full-res inspection, I think it'll be alright. It's definitely growing on me. Overall, I like the not-too-obvious literal interpretation (a bar of wheat over the zero / "none"), as well as just the overall look and link to beer.

Once again, I can't wait to sample their brews on Saturday. Even better is knowing that a Double / Imperial IPA is in the works for a near-future brew. Thank Jeebus, the beer Gods are finally starting to smile on PEI.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Barnone To Debut This Weekend

Fantastic news. I just received word today that PEI's new brewery, Barnone, has been approved to participate in this weekend's beer festival by our LLC. Barnone's beers will use hops and barley from their farm in Rose Valley, PEI. At the beer fest, Barnone will be premiering three new beers:

-Summer Sessions
-Barnone Pale Ale
-Barnone IPA

I can't wait to try all three, especially the third in the list. I'm as giddy as a beer-drinking schoolgirl.
When I receive Barnone's logo, I will share it.
Check out the PEI Beer Festival's site for a now-complete list of featured brews, ticket info, and anything else you'd like to know about it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And The Cellar Grows...

Thanks to Chris, the variety of brews in my beer room grew a little this past week:

We have:
Le Bilboquet's MacCroken Flower
La Vache Folle Yeoman Double IPA
Tree Brewing Co.'s Cutthroat Pale Ale
Tree Brewing Co.'s Hop Head IPA

And eight selections from the Brasserie Dupont in Belgium:
Bière De Miel Biologique
Moinette Biologique (AKA Foret)
Moinette Blonde
Moinette Brune
Bière De Beloeil
Saison Dupont
Avec Les Bons Voeux

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Half Pints Stir Stick Stout

This is my first brew from Winnipeg's Half Pints Brewing Company - I can almost taste the excitement! Well... I guess I'm about to. It's you who will be able to almost taste it, I guess.

Even being a stout, I was surprised at how dark this was coming out of the bottle. It was like a deep mahogany. In the glass, it's nearly black with just traces of reddish colour and light at a couple of edges. The head is of a decent amount (as you can see), light brown, and is fairly creamy.

In the aroma is a healthy dose of coffee beans and chocolate - it reminds me of chocolate-coated espresso beans.

The taste? Pretty much the same as the nose! I've got to say that this beer utilizes the coffee component about as well as any other beer I have had. It's a bit rich, a bit malty-sweet, a bit woody, & it has lots of coffee flavour (with a bit of cream, no less - perhaps that's coming from the lesser chocolate notes).

The feel is rather what you'd expect, perhaps - it feels just like a cold coffee with some light carbonation. A fairly light and watery (yet smooth) mouthfeel finishes off with a bit of dry bitterness in the mouth. Normally, I like my stouts a little heavier, but this one's lighter traits seem to suit it.

A great little coffee stout. I wouldn't hesitate picking this one up if it ever found itself in front of me again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dogfish Head's Namaste

Finally. A Dogfish Head beer has made it to my hands. This one is Namaste, a witbier with coriander, dried orange slices and lemongrass. I was hoping, when I had it last night, that maybe its summeriness would help to eradicate the chilly fall-like day outside, complete with risk of frost.

Namaste seems to pour with a bit of a haze at first, then goes completely clear (I don't think it was just chill haze... could be things settling out). It is a pale yellow wheat ale. It has a very white head that comes across as quite dense at first. It lowers after a bit of time, of course, and leaves just a thin white ring. Lacing is minimal. There's lots of yeast / sediment in the final pour.

The aroma is solid. Not impressive, not disappointing. You get the yeast, coriander, and wheat more than anything else. Bright & Belgian.

The taste is more of the same. At first, I was a bit underwhelmed. I had been eyeing this thing in my fridge for weeks, anticipating what it would be like. First sips were pretty standard - just a good witbier. Oh well. Then it does get a bit more interesting. There's a bit of bite from the orange peel, over top of the lemon, coriander, and base flavours of the beer. It's tangy enough that it almost comes across as sweet... like a mild (yet tart) powdery orange candy. Oddly, there's almost a hint of cream-of-corn flavour in the aftertaste at the beginning... it morphs to more of an orange one by the end when the sediment comes into play a bit. Overall, a decent flavour with a nice little / subdued orange twist.

The feel of it is light, with a mostly dry finish. There is a lingering acidic tartness / twang to it on the sides of the tongue (and a bit up the middle) that also reminds of the aforementioned orange candies. The feel of the final glass (with sediment) was much smoother.

Unlike my wife, who said "It smells like pee, and it doesn't taste much better," I thought it was decent (I'm thinking she's just not used to the style yet). Unfortunately, though, decent as it is, it's not overly memorable.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

CBA Winners to attend PEI Beer Festival

The Canadian Brewing Awards were handed out last night, and it just so happens that some of the winners will be appearing at our beer fest here in two weeks. If you've never had them before, the medal-winning local brews you can expect to find are:

Picaroons' Best Bitter (Gold) and Yippee IPA (Bronze)
Garrison's Hop Yard Pale Ale (Silver) and Irish Red (Bronze)
and, if they show up,
Gahan's Sir John A. Honey Wheat Ale (Gold)

Also of note, Picaroons took home brewery of the year honours.

For more info on the beer fest, including ticket prices, times, etc., check out their site.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2011

This Innis & Gunn offering pours a very clear, dark, reddish-copper. There is lots of head that lowers slowly, and leaves semi-solid lacing as it slides down with the beer.

The fuggles hops add to the base I&G aromas here: there is some earthiness, woodiness, and some malt notes like toffee. The aromas are, overall, subtle, and it takes some deep inhales to get what you can out of it.

The 8.3% alcohol content is hidden fairly well, but it does come out somewhat in the flavour. The bourbon oak barrels as well as the vanilla play their parts a little more subtly than in other I&G beers. What you'll taste are a bit of alcohol, wood, & vanilla. A fig-like flavour comes out in the aftertaste / finish, and there is also a slight spiciness present.

The carbonation is a slight tingle. The alcohol comes out a bit in the feel as well - some heat / a bit of a burn, that lingers. As advertised, it does "mellow on the palate" a bit. It's slightly resinous, smooth, and has a somewhat wet finish

Overall? Pretty good - could use a bit more balance & masking of the alcohol. This beer stays in the Innis & Gunn flavour range, but doesn't really shine or stand out from the pack.