Category Archives: Beer Review

Torque – Fake News

The beer scene here in Winnipeg is exploding. Oxus has officially released it’s first beers with more on the way. Kilter has announced their location at 80 Sherbrook Street adding even more awesomeness to that neighbourhood, Trans Canada announced it’s first core beer with an Amber Ale (still hoping that Brett Pale Ale will make it to the list of cores) and breweries keep pumping out fun beers I want to try like Strawbarian Milkshake IPA coming out today from Barn Hammer.

I also want to take a quick opportunity to highlight a couple of upcoming events.

First, Joel Carleton of Bee’s Knees is partnering with Winnipeg Tasting Tours for a Beer and Chocolate tasting. It sounds delicious, so if you like those things and are curious about them being paired together, consider checking it out.

If you don’t have plans for this weekend, you should check out the Brandon Beer Festival. It’ll have a bunch of local breweries as well as others from outside of the province. It’s been growing as the years go on and it’s a fun event. Check out details here.

Now with that, to the main reason for this post. I’ve written about Torque on many occasions and feel that they are really pumping out some fun and unique beers. I wanted to take a chance to write about their Russian Imperial Stout.

Fake News – Russian Imperial Stout

Torque has become a fun brewery here in Winnipeg. From their start they’ve focused on producing a variety of beer options and have always made sure to keep their taproom stocked with some new small batches for people to try out. This Russian Imperial Stout is a different recipe from last years’ Konstantine but still brings the same rich, velvety approach to a Russian imperial stout. It also pokes a bit of fun at our neighbours to the South.

There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite Imperial Stouts.  Russian Imperial Stouts are a style that I’ve really started to enjoy and appreciate.  These beers age incredibly well and change over time.  This style of beer was originally brewed in the 1800s by Thrale’s brewery in London England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. This same beer is brewed today now under the Courage brewery name and is called Courage Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).   Ranging between 8%-12% alcohol with strong malt notes of coffee, caramel, chocolate and dark fruit (plums, prunes or raisins for example), it is a perfect beer for a winter night.

ABV – 10%
Appearance – Pours a deep dark black with a nice tan head.
Smell – Smell roast malt, cocoa and some subtle vanilla.
Taste – There is a nice roasted malt flavour here as well as some of that cocoa and malt sweetness. The flavours are a bit disparate right now. The beer was good, but I think it will get better with some time.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation with a velvety mouth feel.
Overall Thoughts – Overall it was a pretty good Russian imperial stout. I’m a fan of this style and I wasn’t disappointed.
Do I like it? – Yes, I did enjoy this beer. As I said above, the flavours are all there but they don’t quite work with one another yet. I have more than one bottle and I am going to let the others sit a bit. I look forward to trying it with a bit of age.

I am a bit late getting this out, so I am not sure if you’ll find this anywhere. They only produced a limited number of bottles. If you got some, good on ya. If you got more than one, I’d set one aside.

I’ve got some more posts lined up and look forward to getting them up. Thanks for following along.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Torque – Borealis Gruit

Well, it’s official, there are a ton of interesting beers being made locally. I am having a hard time keeping up. The amount of new stuff happening in Winnipeg is truly awesome. Today I want to take an opportunity to do a write-up of a unique local beer. Torque Brewing brewed a Gruit. This is a unique and interesting style of beer and I want to write about.

I’ve written about Torque on many occasions and feel that they are really pumping out some fun and unique beers.

Borealis – Gruit

Gruits are an ancient style of beer that finds it origins somewhere around 700 CE. The Gruit reached the height of its consumption between the 9th and 13th centuries. Like many other ancient beer recipes, it was the women from whom this ale was produced. The recipe would be passed down through the generations. As time progressed, it shifted to being a task done within monasteries. The monastic communities gained economic prowess, having the best harvests, the best fabrics, etc… and they soon moved into producing beer.

During this time the gruit was a lot different than what we find today. Being made of an often-top-secret blend of herbs and spices. During the height of its popularity, the Gruitier was held in high regard and often had body guards to help protect the recipe. Holding positions of high regard and often luxurious houses, gruitiers all proclaimed their recipe to be the best and often boasted healing or medicinal properties. The use of the herbs and spices had a more practical reason, to keep the beer from spoiling. As hops were not used, these beers needed some other means of keeping for longer periods.

Today, a Gruit is a top-fermented ale that will still use blends of herbs, spices, or citrus. Most gruits produced today do use some level of hops but do so in a way that it imparts no hop flavour on the beer itself. Rather, these beers focus on being clean and imparting flavours from the use herbs, spices and botanicals. The Borealis gruit from Torque that we are trying today uses spruce tips (I love spruce tips), bog myrtle, yarrow, and juniper.

ABV – 6.5%
Appearance – Pours an amber with a slight haze, with a small bit of white foam that dissipates quickly.
Smell – Easily identifiable notes of spruce tips. Juniper is present on the nose as well. I am not familiar with the aroma of Yarrow or Bog Myrtle.
Taste – Malt sweetness on the front of this beer with a nice taste of those spruce tips and some juniper. The beer is clean and finishes nicely.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation with nice bubbles and a dry salt finish.
Overall Thoughts – I’ve had the opportunity to try several gruits due to the availability of many this international gruit day. I found this one to be right up there and brought a lot of nice flavours to this unique style. When using botanicals over hops in a beer you rely on them to bring the balance, and this certainly was nice.
Do I like it? – Yes, I did enjoy this beer. I found the use of spruce tips and juniper to be really pleasant. I feel a need to get more familiar with yarrow and bog myrtle after drinking this and am overall impressed.

This beer is available at liquor marts, the Quality Inn Craft Beer Store, and at the brewery itself. Get out there and pick it up (along with a few others to try out). I hope that this write-up was informative. I encourage you to get out and try as many new beers as you can. Broaden your horizons and your palate.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Merry Christmas – Beau’s New Lang Syne is Perfect for New Years Eve

Beau’s keeps sending new beers out our way and I’m happy about that. While I am mostly focused on what’s happening here locally, and what beers we can get from our local folks, I do enjoy reviewing these beers from Beau’s.th.

I did a pretty in-depth write up about Beau’s when I met with co-founder Steve Beauchesne, but I do want to reiterate a bit about the brewery. Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. They are also the official beer of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

This New Lang Syne is already available in Liquor Marts and beer vendors around the city. So now is the perfect time for a writeup of this beer.

*Writer’s Note: I did receive this beer review free of charge. *

New Lang Syne

The style of beer we are drinking today is a Beligan Tripel. The name Tripel comes from the brewing process of this beer.  Essentially it means you are adding three times the malt as you would in a Beligan “simple”.   This increases the sugar content in the beer and results in a highly alcoholic beer.  The best Belgian tripels hide this strong alcoholic flavor making them delicious but dangerous.  They have a surprisingly light color, typically bright yellow to golden, which is a result of the addition of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose).  Tripels are the most brewed of the Belgian styles and are highly adored due to their deep color, soft maltiness and unique yeast flavors.  Even with their high ABV (usually 8-12%) they are highly approachable when done right.  Let’s get to the beer.

What’s unique about this beer is that it has been aged in pinot gris wine barrels for 4 months and then blended with an unaged batch of the beer to provide an interesting meld of beer. It is a bottle-conditioned beer and has been described to me as bridging the gap between beer and wine. I’m excited to give it a try.

ABV – 9%
Appearance – Pours a slightly hazy golden with a nice frothy white head.
Smell – The nose brings some citrus zest, some nice sweet malt notes, along with an interesting white wine character and some oak.
Taste – This beer has a lot going on. With the use of a Belgian yeast you are getting some nice yeast esters bringing some bubblegum, apricot and pear. This works incredibly well with the white wine character which compliments these notes. There is a candied sugar sweetness that is slightly cut by the oak on the finish. The finish is a blend of this oak and yeast spice along with some tannins from the wine.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied, nice carbonation, and very little sign of the 9% alcohol.
Overall Thoughts – Nice beer. It makes a good representation for the Tripel and brings a lot of those characteristic notes including a unique yeast character, nice maltiness combining with the white wine and oak notes from the barrel aging.
Do I like it? – I did enjoy this beer. It was unique and did bring some wine characteristics to the beer. I felt it could be described as bridging the gap between beer and wine. Overall I really enjoyed this beer and think it would make an excellent beverage for you on New Years Eve!

I hope that this write-up was informative. I encourage you to get out and try as many new beers as you can. Broaden your horizons and your palate.

Keep following along as I keep doing what I can to write about beer, breweries and brewers.

To those who celebrate – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

And, to those who will be celebrating it, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Beer Winnipeg

Nonsuch – Saison

Nonsuch-Logo-on-Water

Local beer business is booming. We are seeing more in the way of beers being brewed, distributed and consumed. So, I’m pretty excited that Nonsuch has gotten their first beer into their beautiful bottles.

For those of you who don’t recall, Nonsuch is a local brewery that is made up of some pretty talented people. Take a read through my write-up on them here. They’ve run into some bad luck along the way and have had a difficult time finding a space of their own. Thanks to the amazing camaraderie of the local beer community, most especially Barn Hammer who has provided Nonsuch with space to brew, they’ve still managed to get beer out the doors. This bottle release represents the first beer they’ve packaged and sold at such a large volume.

Saison’s are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer. Originally brewed in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was a beer brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common.  It had to be sturdy enough to be able to last but also not too strong so it would quench your thirst in the summer months.

This style of beer is very complex with a lot fruit notes, spices, and earthy yeast notes to the beer. They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness. Usually lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness. At one point in time Saison’s were an almost extinct beer style but they have seen a great resurgence and are commonly brewed by a number of craft breweries across Canada.

Nonsuch has brewed what could easily be called an “Imperial” or “Double” saison in that it comes in at a whopping 8.5%. While the style traditionally was one to have on nice summer day to refresh and quench your thirst, I wouldn’t recommend drinking many of these or your day probably won’t be very productive. I’d also forewarn folks that their beer is highly carbonated. The two bottles I’ve opened immediately started foaming from the top and so I’d suggest opening them in the kitchen sink so as not to make a mess.

Nonsuch - Saison
Courtesy of beercrank.ca

ABV – 8.5%
Appearance – Pours a hazy straw coloured with an incredibly active and vibrant carbonation. The head filled 90% of my glass did not dissipate. Pour slowly or let it expend some of its excess energy before pouring.
Smell – Nice fruity esters, notes of bubblegum and dried fruit.
Taste –It has a very nice fruity character to it with yeast esters coming through nicely and bringing a bubblegum note along with some pleasant sweetness. Alcohol is noticeable and has a warming character.
Mouth Feel – Highly carbonated, light bodied, alcohol warm on a dry finish.
Overall Thoughts – While I certainly don’t feel that this is what you’d expect in buying a saison (more a dubbel or a Belgian strong) it did bring some typical saison notes in the smell and taste. If you typically like other lower alcohol saisons, this is not like those.
Do I like it? – Yes. I like this quite a lot. Whatever you choose to call it, or however you choose to try and classify it, it’s a solid beer. The two bottles I opened, despite having ridiculous carbonation, were tasty and I enjoyed them both.

I’m really excited that Nonsuch has started bottling their beer. Not only does it mean they are moving forward, it also means that I can now start drinking it. The bottles are beautiful and I’m excited to see what else they come out with. They’ve got a Tripel on down at the Forks, and their Oud Bruin was stellar.

Congratulations Nonsuch. Well done.

Surly – Furious Black IPA

It’s been a busy month, that’s for sure, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. My daughter turned one, new beers have been pumping out from the local breweries, we are seeing more announce they are looking to open, and it’s almost advent calendar season. I hope you’ve been enjoying my Friday Beer News and if you have anything you’d like included in that, let me know on twitter, in the comments, or via email @ beerwinnipeg@gmail.com

For those of you not familiar with Surly, I did an in-depth write-up of them <here> when they first announced their coming to Manitoba. This is big. They have a waiting list for expansion and have chosen to come to Manitoba. What’s more, we are going to be seeing some of their seasonal offerings, including Furious Black IPA, Damien, and both the 2016 and 2017 vintages of their Russian imperial stout Darkness.

The beer I am reviewing today is their Furious Black IPA. This beer is currently available at Liquor Marts and some beer vendors around the city. Furious Black was originally introduced as a Darkness Day beer for the 2015 release. Building on the Furious IPA’s citrusy hops, it also brings a deeper malt character with roasted malt notes and, obviously, the darker colour. Black IPAs aren’t new to the Winnipeg beer scene. Black Galaxy has been a favorite from Half Pints for quite some time and we will be seeing Torque’s Rabbit Punch Black IPA coming to liquor marts this week.

Black IPA is a variation of the American IPA style and was first commercially produced by Greg Noonan as Black watch IPA around the 1990s. It’s become popular around the Pacific northwest and southern California and is also known as a “Cascadian Dark Ale” or CDA. Typically, a drier beer with a hop-forward balance and a darker colour. The roast from the malt is not expected to be overwhelming but rather play a supporting role to the hops. You can read more about the style here or, as always, in the BJCP guidelines located here.

ABV – 6.60%
Appearance – Pours a deep dark colour with a subtle red hue when held up to the light. Nice medium brown head.
Smell – Citrus and pine notes as well as a subtle malt roast. Nice aromatic hop on the nose that stands out from the malty notes.
Taste –The taste if very like the smell. There are good citrus and pine hop notes that are certainly up front and centre. You can certainly taste the malt in this beer, it brings a subtle roasted malt characteristic that is a bit more forward than on the nose but does not detract from the hop characteristics. Less sweet than the regular Furious IPA but still with citrus forward hops.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied with a hop forward front and a bitter finish.
Overall Thoughts – An overall tasty Black IPA. It is not just an IPA that has been darkened using Carafa 3 (although that is a malt in the beer). It brings a nice hop forward character that is supported by a subtle roasted malt character.
Do I like it? – Yes. I like this quite a lot. It’s a strong Black IPA that I rather enjoyed. This is a style that I find to be very tasty when done right, and this certainly was done right.

There are still more beers coming our way from Surly. We’ve Damien, son of Darkness, coming on November 18th and the final beer in the “Embrace the Darkness” run, the 2017 vintage of Darkness on December 2nd. Watch for those.

Thanks again for following along. Beer News is out this Friday.

– Beer Winnipeg

 

Beau’s/Half-Pints – Killer Kvass

Killer Kvass
Huge thanks to http://www.beercrank.ca for permission to use this SWEET picture.

Beau’s keeps sending new beers out our way and I’m happy about that. While I am mostly focused on what’s happening here locally, and what beers we can get from our local folks, I do enjoy reviewing these beers from Beau’s. Luckily, this beer is both! It’s a beer brewed in collaboration with Half-Pints Brewing Co. as part of the nationwide collaboration brews Beau’s is doing for Canada’s 150th.

I did a pretty in-depth write up about Beau’s when I met with co-founder Steve Beauchesne, but I do want to reiterate a bit about the brewery. Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. They are also the official beer of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The Killer Kvass from Beaus is starting to pop up on shelves in Liquor Marts and beer vendors around the city. So now is the perfect time for a writeup of this beer.

*Writer’s Note: I did receive this beer review free of charge. This did not influence my write-up. *

Killer Kvass

The Kvass has been a common drink in Europe since the middle-ages. It is comparable with other grain based fermented beverages, like beer, but was invented by the Slavs and became a popular drink among this group. The word “kvass” first appears in 996 C.E. following the Christianization of the Kievan Rus. The first mention of Kvass in an English text wasn’t until 1553. In Russia, under Peter the Great, it was the most common non-alcoholic drink in every class of society. In Russia, the Kvass has been touted as a more “patriotic” alternative to drinks like Coke or Pepsi.

A Kvass is a style that I had never heard of before Beau’s and Half-Pints announced they’d be brewing one. A Kvass is a traditional Slavic beverage that is typically made using Rye Bread. The colour of the chosen bread will affect on the colour of the beer. Much like other fermented beverages like Kombucha, a traditional Kvass is classified as non-alcoholic typically having between 0.5%-1% alcohol content. In many instances, the Kvass is flavoured with fruit or herbs.

This Kvass is a “Killer” Kvass. The folks at Beau’s and Half-Pints have amped it up and produced a whopping 2.5% alcohol. This Kvass was brewed using 70kg of organic rye bread croutons, organic lemon peel and organic raisins. A portion of the sales of this beer will go towards supporting D’Arcy’s Arc in Winnipeg. For that reason alone, I encourage you to give it a try.

Beau’s did a really great video introduction of this beer with Chris from Half-Pints. I’d recommend checking that out if you haven’t seen it already. You can view it here.

ABV – 2.5%
Appearance – Pours a hazy golden colour with a nice amount of head that dissipates quickly leaving on a little bit of foam.
Smell – A nice bready aroma combined with some herbal notes and a hint of citrus. You can certainly tell it was made using rye bread as this comes through on the nose.
Taste – A lot lighter than I had expected but with a good amount of flavour. The rye bread notes come through along with a noticeable yeasty character. There is a nice raisin sweetness and that subtle lemon citrus just at the end.
Mouth Feel – Light bodied, clean drinking, good finish and rather refreshing.
Overall Thoughts – Having never had this drink before, I was rather impressed with it. It is an easy drinking beer that brings a nice punch of flavour for only 2.5%.
Do I like it? – I did enjoy this beer. I found that it brought a lot to the table for being only 2.5%. As someone who enjoys drinking Kombucha, a Kvass might be right up my alley.

I hope that this write-up was informative. I encourage you to get out and try as many new beers as you can. Broaden your horizons and your palate.

Keep following along as I keep doing what I can to write about beer, breweries and brewers.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Surly – Darkness 2016

I want to take the first part of this write-up to congratulate all of the folks who work so diligently to put on the Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro/Am brewing competition each year. It’s quite astounding the amount of work and effort that is put in by all the volunteers. The competition went out incredibly well this year. With over 400 entries from around the country. One of my friends, Jeff Stacey, went up against Surly and won. That’s impressive. So, congratulations to all the participants, winners, volunteers and organizers. Well done.

For those of you not familiar with Surly, I did an in-depth write-up of them <here> when they first announced their coming to Manitoba. This is big. They have a waiting list for expansion and have chosen to come to Manitoba. What’s more, we are going to be seeing some of their seasonal offerings, including Furious Black IPA, Damien, and both the 2016 and 2017 vintages of their Russian imperial stout Darkness.

The beer I am reviewing today is their 2016 Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness. This beer is currently available at Liquor Marts and some beer vendors around the city. Before I get into the style, I wanted to make a couple of comments about Darkness. The price point on this beer is a bit steep for some people. I recognize that. The beer itself isn’t cheap even at the brewery. With exchange, the beer comes in at close to $25 Canadian if you drove to Minneapolis to get it. Getting this beer here in Manitoba for $29.95 is actually a very fair price for the beer.

Darkness has become an event as much as it is a beer. Every year for the release of the new vintage of Darkness people drive from around the United States and Canada to merge on the brewery in Minneapolis. Darkness Day, as it is called, bring beer lovers together with bands and special beers and the opportunity to share and trade beers you’ve brought with you for the occasion. There is a group of people from Winnipeg who go down and tweet about their experiences. I love following their trip and am jealous as I always work the weekend of Darkness.

Surly dday-line

Living vicariously through these folks you can see that while the event is centered around the release of the new vintage of Darkness, it’s become much more than just a beer release. What’s more, Surly always partners with a artist to develop the label for the bottles of darkness. Each year is different. 2016 was Cerebrus the three-head dog who guards the underworld while the 2017 vintage will have Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut. Both are awesome.

Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts or roasted barley, hops, water and yeast.  Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery.  The reason for the name ‘stout’ was because these strong porters were often sold in stouter bottles than the standard porters.  This gave them the nickname ‘stout’ which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite Imperial Stouts.  Russian Imperial Stouts are a style that I’ve really started to enjoy and appreciate.  These beers age incredibly well and change over time.  This style of beer was originally brewed in the 1800s by Thrale’s brewery in London England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. This same beer is brewed today now under the Courage brewery name and is called Courage Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).   Ranging between 8%-12% alcohol with strong malt notes of coffee, caramel, chocolate and dark fruit (plums, prunes or raisins for example), it is a perfect beer for a winter night.

ABV – 12%
Appearance – Dark. The beer is named “Darkness” and it pours black as the depths of the earth. Light cannot escape from it’s darkness.
Smell – Deep roast malt notes with hints of chocolate and coffee.
Taste –I’d describe this as a chewy beer. It is rich and deep with roast malt and a sweet caramel, raisin character. There is subtle hop bitterness in there but it is overwhelmed by the richness of the malt. Finish is toasty malt.
Mouth Feel – Creamy and smooth with a chewy characteristic. The way the alcohol comes through is subtle with only a slight bite and warming sensation.
Overall Thoughts – This is an excellent example of a Russian Imperial Stout. It brings ample malt and flavour. This beer lives up to the hype and is incredibly tasty.
Do I like it? – Yes. I know that the price point is a bit on the high side for many, but if you like the style of beer, deep roasty malt and high ABV, this is one of the best you can get. I love this beer and while I can’t drink many of them due to ABV and cost, I’m happy to have the chance to get it here in Manitoba.

There are still more beers coming our way from Surly. We’ve got Furious Black IPA on November 9th followed by Damien, son of Darkness, coming on November 18th. Finally, we will be getting the 2017 vintage of Darkness on December 2nd. Watch for those.

Surly - Embrace the Darkness

As well, anyone who is interested in the Craft Beer Advent Calendar it comes out at liquor marts around the city and Quality Inn Craft Beer Store on October 27th (this Friday). I’ll see some of you in line.

– Beer Winnipeg