Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last-minute Christmas Beer Shopping

I know, I know. I've been conspicuously quiet and absent. I've been busy, OK? Rest assured, though, I've still been drinking great beer - check my Untappd if you don't believe me. At any rate, I thought I'd crack my silence and mention a couple of things. Some of these things may even be useful to you if you're a last-minute shopper and need something for the beer-lovin' friend on your list.

  • Last year, PEI got its first-ever Utopias (four or six of them, I can't remember which). One or two were still around within the last couple of months. To my surprise, there are more of this year's that have surfaced. Oak Tree has at least one, and Stratford had three as of today - not sure on the total count province-wide. What to expect? Nothing like "regular" beer... clocking in at 28%, this year's Utopias blend (including the brewery's wild ale, Kosmic Mother Funk, as well as other beers as old as around 20 years) should come off tasting more like a brandy or barley wine. In the US, it retails for $200. On PEI, it's a relative steal at $130. 
  • In the next day or so, a new beer will be released by the PEI Brewing Company / Gahan Pub. It was originally going to be a dunkel, but came out a bit sweeter - more like bock territory. It's had vanilla and bourbon added, as well as oak chips. It's part of their new "Chef's Series" of beers, and will be paired with a dessert at the pub. Pick your beer buddy up a growler and stick it in their fridge for Christmas. I'll probably do the same for myself. There may also be some bottles of Lobster Ale at the brewery to buy - a bright saison that's worth picking up. 
  • Barnone's latest batch of IPA turned out really well. The smell is fantastic. The flavour almost borders on being a bit too bitter or grassy, but, when I had it two weeks ago, wasn't. It's really worth trying, and is definitely PEI's best IPA / hoppy beer at the moment. Get it in a growler at the brewery on their next growler night, or luck out and find it at one of the places that carries Barnone in the province (not sure who has this latest batch on tap yet). 
  • My wife and I have been testing several recipes from a book that was sent my way a while back - it's a beer cookbook called The Craft Beer Cookbook by "The Beeroness", Jackie Dodd. In short, there are lots of recipes in it that are really worthwhile, super-tasty, and easy to follow. It's not a slam dunk, but I think it's the best beer-related cookbook I've personally come across yet. 
  • At liquor stores, aside from a few good singles, there are some variety 12-packs from Pump House and McAuslan / St. Ambroise that are fairly fresh, and each have a couple or few beers that are worth having. 
  • If you know someone in Halifax, Garrison's seasonal Spruce Ale is also out again - I haven't had this year's yet, but I love having it every year. If you're OK with tasting liquefied molasses Christmas tree, go for it. It's unique locally, and, although it puts some people off, I quite enjoy it. 'Tis the season!
There. Now I'll have at least one post in the last three months! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gahan Pumpkin Ale

Due to so many people on Untappd posting pictures of seasonal pumpkin ales, I don't think I've ever been craving this autumnal release so much. It's the only pumpkin beer we can get commercially on the island! The Gahan House / PEI Brewing Co. has done a different pumpkin ale in each of the last two years (two years ago was good, last year's not so much), so I was curious to see how this year's turned out. I made sure to buy a couple on the day it was bottled - still bubbles in the bottles from the bottling process!

This brew pours a deep, reddish orange, with a tall head that's gone pretty fast (but has great lacing).

There are light aromas of spice (cinnamon... maybe clove, maybe nutmeg), and pumpkin. 

In the brew are nice-enough flavours of the spices & pumpkin, too, but they are rather light. The flavour is fairly bright, almost on the citrus side of things... it kind of reminds of the their John A. Honey Wheat 's brightness. It's an almost lemony brightness that I can't decide on whether it helps or hinders the whole brew yet. I would like it to be a bit more smooth, with a slightly fuller body. I want a pumpkin ale to be slightly more warming / comforting, like a pumpkin pie. That being said, this brew goes down clean & easy with a bit of a lingering pumpkin pie aftertaste. It also has a bit of sweetness from brown sugar, but it's restrained, for sure. It has a light body and a clean finish.

This is a very easy drinker... the brightness balances the pumpkin & spice very well... it's got seasonal flavours, but they are subtle. I enjoyed my second bottle more than the first, and I bought two more bottles yesterday, so take that as an endorsement!

Uncle Leo's IPA

I've shared a bottle of this once, not long ago (thanks, Hogie), and now I have my very own bottle, straight from Pictou (thanks to Michelle & her dad!). The first time I had it, I found it came off more as a wet-hopped ale. Things were reminding more of grassy / spicy flavours, more than I like in an IPA. Still, it had pretty good aroma and flavour. Let's see how this one is.

Lots of pretty creamy head on this one which leaves lots of lacing on the way down. The brew itself is a quite-clear medium-orange.

The nose is a bit better than last time (could be due to something as simple as the glass). Aromas in the orange/tangerine family dominate, with a bit of toffee or caramel.

The flavour is about the same as last time. Although I'm almost sure it's only a dry-hopped ale, something about it gives the flavours a wet-hopped ale gives (that grassiness / herbal spice I mentioned). Also, there is something semi-dank & buttery in this semi-wet flavour / aroma that gives a hint of diacetyl that I'm pretty sure isn't really there (at least I hope not... could be something in the malt bill playing with my mind). At any rate, it tastes pretty good, but there's something about it that pushes it out of my preferred range.

Everything about the feel is pretty much fine... good carbonation, a smooth light-to-medium body, a fairly bitter finish (that, by the end of the bottle is much too grassy for me).

Overall... to each his own. There's nothing wrong with this beer, but it's lean towards the grassy / spicy side of things keeps me from wanting to return to this one. I'm sure it would suit lots of other folks just fine. Between the two beers, Leo's Red Ale is the one I'd willingly come back to (which I will, thanks to Michelle & her pa!).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Birra Moretti

This is a brew I had about three years ago, and haven't had since. My folks placed it in a mixed six-pack of cans for my birthday this weekend (at least they try!).

The brew is quite pale, with a bit of head, that goes down with little lacing.

It smells like an average average Euro pale lager... not skunky, but a decidedly "Euro smell". It tastes like a Euro pale lager, too... a little grain / bread, just a hint of something sweet & corny.

It feels fine in the mouth... it's light / not too thin, with a slightly bitter & slick finish.

There's nothing wrong with it. It's pretty drinkable overall, but
also pretty bland. No need to try this one if given other decent options.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nøgne Ø - Imperial IPA #500

First impression? Total American barleywine in aroma and a bit in appearance. It smells strong, & very sweet (that barley toy sweetness), with the addition of some hops that give it a moderate citrus / pith slant. It's a deep, cloudy brown-orange, like stream water in our local area. There isn't much head or carbonation.

You know, after smelling this & having the first couple of sips, I expected this to be hot / strong in alcohol, and for it to be rather sweet & a bit of a sipper. As you go on, however, that heat & strong sweetness never really pops its head out. It's a little juicy, & the tropical & citrus hops come out more. The bitterness starts numbing the ol' tastebuds about a fifth of the way through. There is also a doughy component to the taste & aftertaste. The body is medium to full, and the finish only a bit slick.

I wasn't given a "wow" impression at first, but this is definitely one serious strong ale. It's got a punch, but it's very drinkable for a 10% DIPA. I'll remember this one for a while.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Brewmaster's Dinner

As part of Fall Flavours, The Gahan House is once again putting on a Brewmaster's Dinner. The date is this Thursday, September 19th. Tickets can be bought here.

Their description:
Enjoy a unique three course meal at the Gahan House Pub and Brewery and tour of the NEW PEI Brewing Company. Your evening starts at the Gahan House Pub where chefs will incorporate their local fine handcrafted ales into three courses, giving you a culinary sampling of the "local" flavour of the Gahan beer. After your meal, you will be transported to the PEI Brewing Company where the beer is brewed and bottled, for a tour.  The tour will include the story of the Gahan beers and the PEI Brewing Company, along with a chance to sample the beers firsthand. Transportation is provided. 
What's on the menu: (as posted on Facebook today)

Beef and Scallop
Stout & Apple Braised Island Beef, Seared Scallop, Arugula Lettuce

Beer & Chicken
Pan Roasted Chicken, Island Red Tomato Chutney, Iron Bridge Brown Ale Rosti Potato, In-Season Vegetables

Blueberry Ale Chocolate Cake, Stout Chocolate Glaze, 1772 IPA Ice Cream, Sir John A Honey Wheat Ale Pistachio Brittle , Gahan Root Beer Cream

Beer Gelato

Yolks n' sugar
Back in the summer, my Mrs. picked up an ice cream machine, which, for an ice-cream-lovin' guy, was a great idea. The first thing either one of us made in it was that beer ice cream I posted about in July. My next challenge was something I like even more than ice cream when it's done well - gelato. After a trip to Italy several years ago, and having sampled some fantastic flavours in several towns and cities (my favourite was saffron and pine nuts, by the way), my love affair was on. Years later, now that I had the means to make the stuff, I knew what I had to do: IPA gelato. I mean, come on.

The only real hurdle I had was finding a good gelato recipe that used a liquid as the flavour, especially a recipe for beer gelato. The only way I found what I was looking for was to actually start searching in Italian.... and checking Italian food / cooking sites for "birra gelato" or some such search terms. Well, I happened upon a few different recipes, and settled on one that sounded pretty straightforward after running it through Google Translate. Hey... maybe my site will become the #1 go-to place for English searches on beer gelato. Well, without further adieu, here's what I did:
Ready for the machine!

200 mL cream
150 g sugar (I used cane sugar for some darker sweetness & actual flavour)
150 mL of whole milk
200 mL of beer (I put in a generous splash or two more than this)
2 egg yolks

Mix the yolks with the sugar - use a hand mixer, and expect it to take a while to make it smooth & fairly even.  Add the milk and beer. Mix well. For this, I think I just whisked it. Whip the cream and add to the rest - fold and mix it in gently with a spatula. You don't want to lose its creamy consistency / air. Then, add it to the ice cream maker. It took, I believe (but check your maker's instructions), around 20 minutes. If you don't have an ice cream maker, the site suggested you could put the mixture in the freezer, and stir the gelato every 15 minutes for at least two hours.

Leftover ingredients?
Not an issue.
In the end, I must say it came out really well. There was still some IPA aroma to the gelato (although more the malt side of it now), but I was happily surprised at how the hop flavour and bitterness was retained. The taste was spot-on (and was enhanced by the sugar), and the bitterness kicked in smoothly at the end. A great summer (or whenever) treat.

Next? I think I'm going to try a candied bacon stout ice cream...

It looks a little grainy here... but it was nice
& smoooooth after hours in the freezer.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Uncle Leo's Red Ale

This brew almost looks dark enough to be a brown ale, but... put it up to the light, & it's good & red. Tons of head on this one. It looks a bit coarse, but starts to look creamy as the tan bubbles start to pop.

In the aroma is a caramel / toffee sweetness, bread, & maybe something lightly fruity.

You know what... I typically do not like most red ales unless they're quite hoppy ('Merican red ale style), but this one is pretty enjoyable. It does have some caramel sweetness, but it's got a wonderful roasty quality as well. A slight nuttiness. It comes across very much like a hybrid between a brown or nut brown and a red ale.

The carb feels fine, the body's light, and the finish is a little creamy.

Overall, one of the best straight-ahead red ales I've had in a good while. Well done! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Barnone Pale Ale #2

A week ago Thursday, the good folks at Barnone invited patrons to come out to see the hops before they were picked, as well as to taste a new version of their Pale Ale, one whose recipe was altered just in terms of hops (correct me if I'm wrong, Don). Now, I don't know if you've been able to tell from my posts in the past, or from following their progress over the last two years or so, but... Barnone's pretty coy and careful. I am 99% sure* that the difference is the addition of Galaxy hops - I'm not sure if anything else was pulled out or lessened, but Galaxy was the addition. 

So... how is the new beer that 25% of the standing-room-only crowd in Rose Valley preferred in the challenge two Thursdays ago? 

It's good. Better than the first one this summer, which was good, too, but... for me, this is noticeably better. It's crawling its way towards how excellent I remember their Pale Ale being at the first PEI Beer Fest two years ago. 

It's an extremely-clear golden brew, with a great head, retention, & lacing.

The aroma is the biggest difference in this one. It has a tropical fruit & pith aroma... think orange, pineapple, and tangerine. I'd say there's a good amount of Cascade in there, too, but that's just a guess (by the way... I'm a rookie when it comes to hop crop inspections, but I checked out one of the cones on the ground outside in the hopyard, and there was lots of lupulin in it... smelled great!).
Big change since July!

In the flavour, there is more pith & bitterness as well... a better hoppy bite. I'd like to see the malt side of things stick its neck out a bit more to balance things out, perhaps. It's bright, citrusy, & slightly cutting right now.

It has a clean, bitter finish, a light body, & the carb is a little prickly (but just fine, really).

A good beer. Still room for improvement, but good & getting better!
What remained of my
Summer Sessions pint.

As a side note, I was surprised to see (and loved) how busy it was, for a place that is a bit in the middle of nowhere, and only sells beer. The crowd was a mixture of young & old, but the sight of a gent on the church pew next to me, growler in hand, who looked like a jolly overall-ed farmer in his 70's (or so) warmed the heart. 

FYI, if you happen to venture out, pints are $5, growler fills are $15, and the growler deposit is $5. Taxes included, cash only for the moment. No word on how permanent this Pale Ale experiment will be. 

*Not a scientific percentage calculation. Just guts. And non-solid, playful, semi-confirmations from Don.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 PEI Beer Festival - How Was It?

Good. It was good. Saying this, I know I'm a liar, since I told you I was going today, but I decided I'd go last night instead - more fellow Aleanders to enjoy brews with!

The Space - The new-ish event grounds at the edge of downtown Charlottetown. Lots of parking nearby with a spacious pick-up & drop-off area. The fest was inside one large tent, with some outdoor seating (complete with propane heaters and The Big Orange Lunch Box's food trailer). The tent was set up well, with two rows of breweries up the middle, and the rest around the perimeter. A bit of nice lighting, some seating near the live music in one corner, the odd corn stalk... the mood was set. There were lots of rinsing / dumping spots, and many porta-potties outside for the people with wee bladders. It definitely got busy, but not so crowded that wait times for brews or tempers ever got high. Even the premier & his Mrs. along with several other folks that serve as PEI's "who's who" in gov't, business, & restaurants were there enjoying themselves.

The Food - Yes, food. I only used one of my four free food samples (didn't feel like eating), but there was some good stuff to be had - some sort of pulled chicken in a red ale sauce on a ciabatta bun from The Gahan House, massive beer-battered onion rings from The Big Orange Lunchbox, calzones from Castello's, and a soup from the Island Stone Pub. The free food samples (using beer) from local restaurants was a great touch.

The Beer - There was some good beer to be had, for sure, and I was encouraged by seeing folks ask for things like Unibroue's beers (that are in our stores and I hope stay), and try things like a couple of different cask ales. Anything that broadens the minds of local beer drinkers is great.

For the most part, I stuck to my plan / list, but made a few adjustments. If you want to see everything I had, check me out on Untappd. For now, though, here are a few items of interest:

Mmm... cedar-y.
The beer of the festival, for me, was Bryan's 1772 IPA aged on a Spanish cedar spiral. It was flat compared to the normal IPA, but I like cedar's woody and spicy addition to the style. A bit strong for some, perhaps, but tasty. I was also surprised to find that Sleeman's Fine Porter was, indeed, pretty fine. May have been a bit metallic, but it was mostly a nice, roasty, chocolatey, medium-bodied porter.

Revisting a few beers was nice, like St. Ambroise's Apricot Ale, which was there on tap. Still bright & summery. I also had McAsulan's Pale Ale on tap, which was better than when I had it in bottle from the last couple of times. Pump House's Red came off as chocolatey to me for some reason, which I thought odd. I also re-tried a couple of Picaroons. One was a butterbomb, but the other, the Yippee IPA (which was bad when I had it in bottle and on tap this summer) was actually pretty good - even picked something spicy & woody out of it I didn't remember from before.

Casks! It was nice to see Moosehead bring their Cask Ale in. It was also served by the chap who brewed it. Also, the PEI Brewing Co. had a couple of specials on. One of them was a dry-hopped version of the Island Red which was pretty good - amazing for me, since their red is really the only one I don't normally like at all.

Disappointments? Well, there were a couple for me. Amsterdam's Oranje Weisse didn't make it to the festival, and I didn't get to try the Blonde. I tried the Don Valley Bench from Mill Street, and thought it was a bit of a confused beer (tons of banana, some wood in the finish, and, I swear, something light like margarine... the Curious Parrot wasn't bad). I was also hoping to be a bit more wowed by Amsterdam's Boneshaker IPA. It was bitter, for sure, but was missing a strong hop aroma & flavour to balance that out.

All-in-all, a good fest for my fellow Islanders and future Aleanders(?). Well-organized & planned... even had their own open & strong Wi-Fi signal. Hopefully, if you didn't make it last night, you might think of stopping by today between 2-5 or 6-9. Cheers, and looking forward to even more beer variety next year!

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 PEI Beer Festival - What To Do?

Well, the one & only beer fest the province we'll have this year (thanks for the complaints, PEILCC) is fast upon us - this Friday and Saturday, Sept. 6th and 7th.

There aren't that many beers that I haven't had before / are super-keen to try, but there are a few... and I guess that's enough. I'll be going. I won't go on about sessions, entertainment, food, and ticket prices. You can find that easily at the fest's site & make your own choices:

What I will do, however, is just give you my own personal spin on what you should try to sample first (at my own peril, since I'm not going on Friday - I'm going for an easy-going Saturday afternoon), brewery by brewery. Just my own two cents, just in the order they appear on the fest's site.

PEI Brewing Company
Feel free to try them all (the only one I avoid is the Island Red), but, if you're an Islander, you have them available to you all the time. Go for the Spanish Cedar IPA, a one-off for the fest. If it's anything like Flying Monkey's Matador - an Imperial IPA on cedar (I'm betting this is what it was inspired by), it could turn out really well. Once listed was the Pumpkin Ale (which will be in bottles and on sale soon), but it's no longer there.

Mill Street
I'm curious to try the Curious Parrot & especially the Don Valley Bench, given what Jason Foster's been saying (that it's like a Chardonnay). I'd rather try a sample than buy the seasonal six-pack.

I'm very keen to try the Cask Ale, as I've heard good things. I might also try the Boundary Ale, just to see if it's much different in the bottle vs. from a keg.

Near the end, I may try the Blonde & a Dark & Stormy Night, just because I haven't had them for a couple of years. I'll avoid the Yippee IPA as the last bottle & pint I had of it were both butter bombs.

McAuslan Brewery
I'll probably have an Apricot Wheat, as it's an old fave, and I haven't had it in a while. I'll probably also have the Pumpkin Ale again (it's been a while), and would like to retry the Pale Ale - others say how good it is, and the last time or two I got it in the variety cases here, it wasn't worth commenting on.

Might sneak in a Hop Yard - been too grassy / spicy in the last couple of years, though. Not as much citrus / evergreen anymore.

I might try the Fine Porter, just because I never have, but you, if you've never tried them, should try the three Unibroue beers we have in stores: the Blonde, Blanche, and Noire de Chambly. The first beers to be sold in non-novelty large format here, and all good ones at that.

Amsterdam Brewery
Quite eager to try the Boneshaker IPA & the Oranje Weisse, as we don't have them here. Also looking to sample the Natural Blonde, because, even though we have it here, I haven't tried it yet.

I've heard about people going back to the red recently and being pleased. Might have to retry it myself.

As a closing note, you should try the Mort Subite Kriek if you haven't yet. It's the only lambic / sour beer ever sold on PEI, and I'd love to see more of this style come in. Expect it to be fruity (kriek = cherry), a bit tart, and slightly woody. Others we have that you should try if you haven't: Affligem Blonde, Paulaner's Hefe-weissbier, Erdinger's two beers, the Creemore Lager, maybe Amsterdam's Big Wheel, and, heck... even Keith's two single-hop beers to see how different hop varieties can be.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Temptation Red Ale

Ah! There's carbonation in this one, unlike the DIPA I just had from Boxing Rock. This brew's a deep, clear red (go figure).

The aromas on this one are actually pretty nice. A lot of malty caramely sweetness in there... reminds one of a barleywine's aroma much more than most red ales. There is a fruity, hoppy side to the aroma, playing second fiddle to the malt scents. I'm getting really ripe pineapple and perhaps some peach.

So far, this brewery has released three beers, and I've gotten to try all three thanks to a fellow beer pal (thanks, Hogie). Their trademark in their flavour seems to be some level of a dry grain / cereal flavour. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but it may make one think that a beer's gone stale or isn't as fresh / refreshing. Thankfully, I think it's least noticeable in this beer. There are also some juicy fruit flavours

The body is medium, actually - I expected it to feel thinner. It has a rather smooth, full feel to it, but it goes down easy with a clean, fairly bitter finish. Great fruity / hoppy burps.

Overall, pretty nice. It's my favourite of the three. If the flavour were tweaked a bit, and the aromatic hops upped a bit, this would be really a very solid American-style red ale. As it stands, I like it way more than most "regular" red ales. I'd drink this again, for sure. At the end of my first one, I want another to keep the good flavours and aromas going.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Boxing Rock's Hunky Dory Pale Ale

This brew is one from one of Nova Scotia's new breweries, Boxing Rock. This pale ale is supposed to have floral and fruity hops, and is brewed with green tea and citrus zest. Sounds intriguing... let's dive in.

It's a very clear beer, with a fairly deep honey colour. There isn't much head, but what is there leaves some solid lacing on the way down.

I was expecting floral and fruity hops in a significant amount, but I don't get that in the aroma. There's some light floral / perfume-
y hop action, but not much in terms of fruit. The aroma has a strong dry grains / cereal component.

It is a bit pithy - perhaps from the hops, perhaps from the zest, but not very citrusy (esp. at first). If I drank this without knowing there was tea in it, I probably wouldn't have pegged it, but it's in there, playing around with those cereal / grain flavours hinted at in the aroma. As it warms up a bit / the more you drink of it, the citrus notes start to build a bit, making it a bit more bright and refreshing.

The finish is pretty clean, & ever so slightly bitter. The body on this one is fairly light.

I couldn't say I'm disappointed. It's not a bad beer at all. I'm not wowed in any way, though, either. I'd definitely try this again some time, to see if there are any differences / changes. Love the packaging.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Gouden Carolus Classic

This brew, as the style would suggest, is a dark brown (a deep garnet or chestnut, really), with a solid amount of creamy tan head that leaves solid lacing.

It has great aromas of toffee, vanilla, fruit (actually lighter ones, like orange), some slightly woody notes.

Fantastic flavour... I'm digging this. It tastes like a Christmas ale or another of Belgium's great dark beers (to which I prefer this to most it seems). You get the toffee and light candi sugar sweetness first, but once that fades a bit, the flavour morphs into caramelized sugar... think the top of a crème brûlée or the outside of a marshmallow roasted over a campfire. It's light and thin enough to be very drinkable, especially for being 8.5% ABV, but its heft really kicks in once you've swallowed.

The finish is really clean, the body medium and smooth, and the carb gentle.

What an excellent brew with a lot of character. One of those beers whose flavours actually outpace its other aspects. I just went online and ordered two more.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Corps Mort

For my seventh & final beer from À l'abri de la Tempête, we have, perhaps, their crowning jewel. A salty barley wine called Corps Mort. Translation: dead body... good name for a barley wine, which is actually named after a local rock /island that looks like a dead body.

This is a bit paler than I thought it may be. It's a brilliant slightly-pale garnet colour with a couple of fingers of head that leave solid lacing. It's clear, with no carbonation in the glass.

It is not as sweet as most barley wines... the sweetness from the barley is there, with some salt. Something like... sundried tomato or dried peppers... different! There's something herbal in there... cumin? Strong, earthy, dried fruit, semi-floral. The finish on this beer is incredible - very salty with a slight smokiness as well (perhaps it's the smoked herring the bottle says it may contain traces of?). It smells and tastes like some sort of casserole or edible dish...

The body's medium, the carbonation is low, and the finish feels clean. Smoke and a mellow sweetness linger.

Totally amazing beer. So multifaceted, layered, and complex. It's like a powerful, easy, steady hand. Much like a dead body in some ways. Hmm.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Palabre de la Rameuse

For me, the translation is tricky... and correct me if I'm wrong... but "palabre" is "words" in the sense of having a conversation, and "rameuse" means "rower", so the translation is something like "words of the rower" or "conversation with the rower".

My original thoughts on this beer were from over a year ago, when I had it first, but I also got to try again this week, so my thoughts are pretty fresh.

This brew is a clear, richly-coloured amber with a reddish tint. It has lots of quickly-gone head, and there is a lot of active carbonation in the glass.

In the smell is toffee, honey, and a nagging suspicion that the salt could actually be identified.

It has a nice taste... almost like an amber gose. It tastes of smooth toffee a small added amount of salt. Sweet, mellow, and smooth. Perhaps some wood / vanilla hints.

It has gentle carbonation, a clean finish, and a smooth, medium body.

This one has character... the first time I had it, it reminded me of Innis & Gunn's ales, but this, especially due to its salty slant, is distinct from that. A nice, somewhat memorable brew.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Terre Ferme

Translation: firm or solid ground / earth.

Tons of deep head on this one, leaving sticky, lumpy lacing. It's slightly cloudy, and medium-amber in colour.

The aroma has ginger in it, with some floral notes (thinking Cascade?) that grow as it warms.

There is ginger in the flavour, too. Honey. Bitter citrus pith. It's similar to Palabre de l'Intendant in that way, but stronger.

The body is a light medium, and has a clean, bitter finish.

This is a very different interpretation of an American-style IPA. It's quite enjoyable, summery, and fresh.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Translated: sea foam, or sea scum.

This brew is extremely clear and pale. It has a minimal, pure-white head that is gone in no time. (Shouldn't it have more "scum"? But I digress...)

It has a rather plain, American lager smell (might even be hints of corn or something in the aroma).

According to the description, this should be at least somewhat earthy, robust, herbal, and salty. It isn't very herbal or robust, but it does have (in its mostly-normal lager flavour) a noticeable salty finish and is a bit more bitter than expected.

The carbonation is tingly. The body is light. The finish is dry and bitter with a bit of a sticky saltiness... almost a bit like a mouthful of water at the beach, but turned down several notches.

Light and fairly refreshing. I liked the salt aspect, but wish the rest of the beer had some of that herbal, earthy robustness I was looking for.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Palabre de l'Intendant

Ah... this beer is an interesting one. There is a movement in Quebec to create a beer style that is unique to the province. The style was initially called Annedd'ale, but is now more commonly called Anneda, I believe. You can find info on it here, but, it's essentially a style that uses annedda / balsam fir and a yeast strain obtained from within the first commercial brewery in Quebec.

For me, the translation is tricky... and correct me if I'm wrong... but "palabre" is "words" in the sense of having a conversation, and "intendant" is basically a royal civil servant, comme Jean Talon, a senior official of New France when it was first formed. So... roughly translated, words with a royal civil servant (like Jean talon), which makes a lot of sense, given the thoughts behind the style.

This brew is darker than I thought it would be - for whatever reason - and has tons of head that lingers for ages, leaving sticky lacing on the glass.

It has a very enticing and interesting smell... herbal / mint & evergreen with ginger bread, and some bright hop notes.

The aftertaste is a little soapy from its ginger side... maybe would be better if it was more on the gingerbread side than ginger. It has a very fresh herbal / evergreen aftertaste / feel, too... leaves your mouth feeling refreshed. Very interesting, unique flavour.

There's a bit of bitterness mixed in with that soapiness in the finish. It's pretty clean & slightly dry / airy, after some light stickiness. The body's light, but on the full side of light.

A memorable brew, a nice little beer experience, and one of my favourites from this brewery.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

La Belle Saison

Translation: the beautiful season / summer.

This brew uses - as the bottle says - wild herbs from the island and gentle flower notes.

It is super-clear and pale, and has next to no head. There are a fair amount of bubbles / carbonation coming out in the glass, though.

It smells a bit of pumpkin spice... some light gingerbread with... cardamom? Chamomile, for sure. It reminds me of Dominus Vobiscum's Blanche, which also uses chamomile well. It has tons of complex, bright, spicy aroma, especially for something that looks so "clean".

The taste is more of the same. It reminds me a lot of a pumpkin ale, to be honest - a light, refreshing one. Perhaps it is more of a fall beer than a summer beer. The aftertaste and feel, unfortunately, lean towards mass-market lagers.

The feel is gentle but has obvious carbonation, has a finish that's slightly sticky, and a body that's on the heavy side of light.

This brew has lots of character, especially when compared to its appearance - really enjoyable.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Corne de Brume

The English translation: foghorn.

This beer is a dark red-brown, with a finger or so of reddish-tinted head, which lowers to a skim.

I read someone say that they smelled ketchup chips in this beer, and I can see that... it's got a bit of vinegar, & some woodiness - it reminds me of Rodenbach's Grand Cru a little bit.

The flavour is roasty... coffee notes, a bit of chocolate, salt... the 9% is very hidden. It almost comes of like an espresso stout or dry Irish stout in some ways... some dark fruit sweetness... starting to make me think it's an abbey double... tastes a bit like there candi sugar is in the mix, with some dark fruits like date... like a date square.

It has a med-to-full body, the carb's a little prickly (but not too sharp), and the finish is quite clean and a bit bitter.

Overall, a nice beer - it didn't really wow me in any way, but it had no low points, was solid & tasty; mid-pack for their beers.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beer Ice Cream

So... the other day, my lovely Mrs. came home from the Paderno sale with a Cuisinart ice cream maker. Of course, as with all my wife's purchases, I was supportive and accepting of it... especially in this case, as I like ice cream (it's genetic) and I knew I had some beer-related recipes / ideas kicking around. The first batch, then, of course, was one with beer. I used a recipe from Paul Mercurio's Cooking with Beer, one for a chocolate jalapeno stout. I used St. Ambroise's Oatmeal Stout, a milk chocolate Lindt bar, & one jalapeno pepper (that gets taken out along the way. Other than that, it's just an egg, whipping cream, milk, & icing sugar. Pretty simple, I must say, & it came out pretty tasty - not too much heat, smooth, & tasty... the beer in it's pretty light, but it's there. Next time, I think I'd add darker chocolate... and maybe a bit more stout or a stronger dark beer.

Barnone now in Charlottetown

By the way, as of the tail-end of last week, both of Barnone's beers are now on tap in Charlottetown, at Cedar's Eatery & Baba's. I thought the Pale Ale was a little better than when I had it last, while the Summer Sessions maybe wasn't quite as bright & citrusy. Take a trip downtown & try 'em for yourself. I was glad to see the others at the bar were.
The dimly-lit Pale Ale
Summer Sessions
Edit: Summer Sessions is also at The Old Triangle now!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Big Mouth Tap Room Pale Ale - AKA - Happy Hour Pale Ale

I'm assuming the Happy Hour name got them into issues somewhere along the way?

Saw this at the LCC... had to try it, as it was new to PEI.

Really clear, copper colour. Lots of head, and a tornado of bubbles in the glass due to the nucleation sites at the bottom.

The aroma's all Cascade hops - very floral with some bright citrus (lemon/lime/grapefruit, without the pithy slant).

The flavour's fairly malty... not very bitter or citrusy at all (though there is some citrus there). A definite toffee / almost caramel slant. It reminds me a lot of Corte-Real from the brewery La Naufrageur, but it's not quite as strong.

The feel's light, and the finish is slightly sticky, but pretty clean.

Overall, it's OK. Nothing stellar, but nothing off-putting. A little light for me.

Beach Chair & Basement Chair

On the right, we have the regular Beach Chair Lager, and, on the left, we have the same beer, less filtered. They're calling it a ''brewer's beer", or what the tap handle says, "Keller Bier". I'd be more prone - like one of the brewers suggested - to call it a zwickelbier, as a kellerbier (or cellar beer) is usually a little darker & more strongly hopped. So, with its "cellar" connection, and the fact it's the same beer, just less filtered, I will call it "Basement Chair".

The Beach Chair's pretty good today, actually. Bright, crisp, & the hops are coming through in their own wee way. Even a little acidic zip or brightness.

As for the Basement Chair - you know, I was expecting it to be pretty much identical, but it's not. It's got a smoother & slightly fuller mouthfeel, is less crisp & bright, and trades some of its brightness / zip for some really light fruit / banana character. I think Beach Chair's a slightly better beer, but at least this turned out to be less of an ill-conceived gimmick than I thought it would be.

Cheers to changing things up every now & then, even just a lil' bit!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Picaroons Best Bitter

This brew's a nice reddish-brown, and has solid, webby, sea-foam lacing.

In this glass, no aroma, really, at first... just really light toffee. As it warms, though, it starts to perk up.

The flavour has a bit of an acidic brightness to it, really. Overall, it's a nice & smooth toffee & lightly burnt caramel flavour... a nice light roasted quality.

The bitterness is nice, and not very strong. Good & mild for the style. The body's fairly light & smooth, and the finish a little sticky.

You can actually get this on tap on PEI now, at the newly refurbed restaurant at the Delta, called Water's Edge. Hooray for local variety!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Two-year Thirst - Barnone Has Been Released!

The rolling hills and growing hops of Rose Valley
After letting people taste their goods almost two years ago, the local brewery Barnone had gone really quiet. Notoriously quiet. Now, after a long wait and a public thirst for their brews (as well as information as to how things have been progressing), Barnone is finally, actually for sale on PEI. Beer fans rejoice. 

Inside the tidy little brewhouse
Barnone is a new, small, family-run brewery in Rose Valley, PEI, with an interesting backstory. It is mainly owned and operated by Don and father Hugh Campbell, with some help from John Mullins. The site is not quite ready yet for drop-in visitors, but they do plan on hosting some private events in the near future. 

Their brewing capacity is 5 hectoliters - about 500L a week, or 25,000L per year is the plan for now. In the future, if the family is allowed to work less on other things, the system could be pushed to as much as 125,000L in a year, with some other add-ons like some in-ground storage tanks. 

Grow, hops, grow!
One of the most interesting things about the family and brewery is their agricultural background and that they grow their own grains and hops. At the moment, they grow Cascade, Willamette, Nugget, and Mount Hood hops, and they are able to dry them on-site. A high percentage of their own hops are already incorporated into the beers that went on tap as of this week. 

At their beer fest launch two years ago, they had three brews: a light, sessionable ale, a pale ale, and an India pale ale. The two they are going with at the moment are the Summer Sessions and their pale ale. Both beers should be both approachable by the "everyday" beer drinker as well as more "seasoned" beer drinkers like myself. They won't surprise with anything overly strong or unexpected, but they won't disappoint in their quality, either.

At the moment, the Summer Sessions (classify it as a wheat ale or a blonde) should have an ABV between 4.5 and 5%. It has light aromas of  lemon, spice, and wheat. Its flavour has a slight tartness (which builds as you go) or acidity along with its wheaty backbone to make it quite refreshing on these hot summer days. It's not quite as bready or hoppy as it was two years ago, but it's quite bright and refreshing as it is now. 

As for the pale ale, it's also not quite as hop-forward as it was two years ago, but that will probably make it more approachable to more people (I'm secretly hoping it will increase in hoppiness over time once people get hooked on it, thereby helping to adjust locals' palettes to the hoppy side of things). It should be around 5% ABV. It's definitely hoppier than the Sessions - it's more bitter. Its hops give it a citrus character, as well as (to me, at least), a spicy slant (don't think heat, think dried grasses or your spice drawer). I liked the finish on this one. It got better as I had more, and it had just a hint of that bright tartness that the Sessions had as well. Plus, since some people care about this - great lacing. 

At the moment (although the "official" release is Friday), both beers should be available at The Landing in Tyne Valley - a place that wants to be the beer tap capital (I call it the Beer Tapital... they should use that, it's gold) of western PEI. Their motto is "Eat, Drink, Live the Island", and they want to support local producers, so good for them for supporting Barnone. I hope more businesses follow (and I have it on good authority that a couple of locations in Charlottetown should have their brews on tap in the very near future). If you are wondering about growler fills, they have received their shipment of growlers, and should get some other needed equipment this week as well - I will keep you posted! 

If you'd like to follow them as they grow, look them up on Facebook at or on Twitter: @BARNONEBEER 

Friday, July 12, 2013

"The" IPA Glass

Earlier this year, Dogfish Head & Sierra Nevada co-created a new beer glass, made by Spiegelau. What makes this glass interesting is that it is designed specifically for India Pale Ales. Some scoffed, but many styles (heck, individual beers for that matter) have their own glass, so why not this uber-popular style?

Well, thankfully, my wife knows what I like, and she supports my hobby... and when she saw the 2-pack of these at a local jewelry store for $20 (a pretty normal Spiegelau price), she picked them up.

The verdict? I think it works. Like any Spiegelau glass, it feeIs fairly delicate, but sturdy enough. It has a balance almost like a wine glass or snifter. Its narrow, curved base feels nice in your hand, & also helps to minimize how much your hand warms it up. The curves also probably have a hand in creating head & releasing aromas. The top of the glass is nice as it helps to contain the head and aromas, but it's still wide enough to let your nose in and enjoy as you sip.

I'll be making continued good use of this, especially on IPA day!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Founders Centennial IPA

This one pours a dark / medium-dark amber. Two to three fingers of head lower to mostly a creamy skim. It's slightly hazy & has a few bubbles in the glass. There's pretty solid grainy, spotty & rings of lacing.

It starts smelling better with a bit of warmth, actually. Pineapple is the main aroma, with some orange & maybe some other tropical notes like blood orange & mango. Fairly luscious, but not the most aromatic or exotic IPA out there by along shot.

Flavour has a good malt backbone. It's a little spicy, but mostly grassy, with lots of fruit up front (some as the aroma). Burps & aftertaste are nice.

It's nicely bitter - not numbing or overpowering, just strong, nice, &... "polite". There's a bit of heat near the end of the glass.

Very solid - liked it quite a bit. Better than mid-range, but not up at the top for me.

Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus

Froth monster! This one starts out as almost all head, with tons of lumpy lacing. underneath that sparkling beaten-egg-white covering is a pale golden brew with ample, lazy bubbles.

Smell is bright - honey, green apple, a bit of yeasty spice, some hops in there, too... slight grass & hay (some noble hops in this?).

Bitterness & heat both come through in a rather tongue-numbing and enjoyable way. There's a little citrus in the aroma & taste as it warms. Honey. Hay. Light spice. Reminds me a bit of a higher-alcohol Hommelbier.

The carb is quite sharp & prickly if it lingers in the mouth at all. The body is actually fairly light.

Great burps, clean, hoppy, honey-sweet, bitter, smooth, strong. Nice

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bière Darbyste

There's an interesting story to this one:
Darbyste is named after John Nelson Darby, preacher of temperance and father of Dispensationalism. His parishioners were said to be oddly moved by a ‘soft drink’ they insisted was just fig juice. A variant of the Belgian “Wit” or “Blanche” style, but a little drier and considerably more flavorful, Darbyste is a saison made with wheat and fermented with fig juice.

This brew is a crystal-clear tangerine colour, but there's lots of yeast in it, so it clouds up as you go. There is lots of fluffy white head to top it off. There's lots of fizz in the bottle once you pop the cork.

In the nose is some light fruit... grape and maybe fig, which could be just my mind forcing me to think it's there. 

The taste... almost next to nothing! It's got more of a lemon slant and a bit of cracker / wheat than anything fig-like. There may be some light fig in there, but, if so, it's pretty subtle.

Feel-wise, it's a carbonation attack on the tongue! The body's light to medium.

Overall, this brew is OK... bright & refreshing, but overcarbed and a bit bland... it didn't live up to what I was hoping or expecting.