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.