Category Archives: Beer Review

Half Pints – Doc Emmett Brown Ale

Half Pints - Doc Emmett Brown Ale

Today’s review comes to us from a local brewery of which I am very proud to be able to support.  Their creativity and attention to detail allows for some really tasty and unique beers to be produced.  The introduction of growlers in Manitoba has only allowed for this creativity to increase and they have gone so far as to produce 50 litre test batches of a beer that they wanted to try out.  Yes folks, I am talking about Half Pints Brewing Co from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

When I first moved here from the maritimes I felt like there was something missing, a creative craft brewery.  There were two local breweries around when I first arrived, Fort Garry and The Agassiz Brewing Company. Both were good, but they produced their beers and didn’t really stray outside that box.  When Half Pints came along I was incredibly happy.  They brought with them some unique brews as well as a penchant for coming up with some fun and seasonal beers as well as some event specific brews (like Peddle Power for example).  This has continued and increased I’d say and I’m always interested to read what they’ve got coming next.

Now, knowing that I will be talking about Half-Pints more than once, I’ll give a bit of a backer on how they got started.The head brew master/president of Half Pints Brewing is David Rudge.  David started his path towards Half Pints in 2000 when he enrolled in the American Brewer’s Guild Craft Brewing Science and Engineering program.  After finishing this program he began searching for a job as a brewer.  He began he career as the Assistant brewer in BC at Backwood Brewing Company (now Dead Frog) where he started learning the practice of brewing at a full scale brewery.  After finding that the lower mainland didn’t agree with them, he packed up and headed to Regina where he worked for 3.5 years as the head brewer for Bushwakker brewing company.  A variety of twists and turns along life’s road brought him to Winnipeg Manitoba in July of 2005.  Having all this experience under his belt the plunge was taken and after A LOT of work Half Pints Brewing Co opened its doors in February 2006 and started selling their delicious brews that July.

I’m always incredibly impressed with the creativity of the brewing coming out of Half Pints as well as their involvement in the local Home Brew scene and willingness to assist others.  I’m hoping to sit down with Mr. Rudge should I get the chance so I can chat with him a bit more, we shall see if I am lucky enough to snag that chance.  The beer I’ll be reviewing is their most recent 1000 litre growler batch, aptly named for 2015 the Doc Emmett Brown Ale.

Brown ales are a style of beer that get their name from their color, mostly.  The term was first used by brewers in the late 17th century and was used to describe a more mild ale.  This term is rather different than how we use it today, but originally these brews were lightly hopped and brewed with 100% brown malt.  Today these beers are brewed in a variety of different regions and are used to describe a few different flavor profiles from sweet, low alcohol beers, medium strength amber beers of moderate bitterness, and malty but hoppy beers.

They range from deep amber to brown in colour and typically have caramel and chocolate flavours evident in their profiles.  This is a North American Brown Ale differ from their English counterparts.  Instead of using exclusively brown malts, American Brown Ales tend to use American Crystal Malt, which gives a sharper edge to the beer, as well as often roasted chocolate or coffee malts.  They are also often hopped, unlike the English ones, which tend to make them drier than their English counterparts and give a citrus accent and medium body due to the American hop varieties.  Let’s get to this particular beer tho and see what we’ve got!

Appearance:  Luscious dark brown with a nail’s width of head that retains well and provides some rimming around the glass.
Smell: Definite chocolate notes right up front with some almost hickory notes hidden away on the back end likely from roasting or perhaps something added I’m not aware of.  Notes of hop are there as well possibly a cascade or Amarillo.
Taste: That chocolate malty flavor comes through right on the first taste which then flows into a slightly bitter dry finish which is really rather nice.  It cuts the initial sweetness and leaves you wanting more. That hickory smell doesn’t come through in flavor but there are some bitter notes from the hops. Not a ton of complexity in there, but it was solid flavor wise.
Mouth feel: A little heavy on the carbonation with a coarse mouthfeel.
Overall: Excellent example of a North American brown ale that seems to almost draw from the bitterness of some of the English folks while still maintaining that North American dry finish.  Described as being made with 1.21 Jigawatts of deliciousness, this Brown ale does not disappoint. My only complaint really was the higher carbonation, though not a huge detractor for me.
Do I like it: I’m not usually a huge fan of brown ales.  This one was pretty good though and I’m not upset to have an entire growler to consume.  The carbonation was a little bit high for me on this one but overall I was really impressed with the flavours brought out in this one, even if I didn’t find huge complexity, it was nice and well-rounded. The bitterness cutting the sweetness from the malt was good making this a beer that is good for those who may not be huge fans of overtly malty beers.  Overall I like it and I’d buy it again.

Garrison Brewing Co. – Imperial I.P.A.

Garrison - Imperial IPA

I am very happy that when I was in the Maritimes I grabbed some beer to bring back with me.  There are so many out there that are fantastic and the brewery scene is growing every day.  While I was back in Fredericton, NB two new breweries officially launched, Trailway Brewing Co and Grimross Brewing Co.  I had the opportunity to try beers from both of them which I will be blogging about in the near future.  Today though, I’d like to review Garrison Brewing’s Imperial IPA.

Garrison Brewing is located in the largest maritime city, Halifax.  The name comes from the fact that this one was of the major garrison sites for the protection of Canada being the largest eastern port.  As well, Halifax has a long history of brewing with William Steel opening shop as the first brewer in 1754 in order to serve the early settlers and troops who were stationed at Citadel Hill.  By prohibition, Halifax was home to some 20 brewing operations!

Garrison itself tries to follow this concept of independent micro-brewing and set this at their heart when they opened in 1997 with their first brew “Irish Red Ale”.  They have continued to produce and grow serving hand-crafted ales that use the best ingredients available.

After 15 years in business, in 2013 they expanded to develop over 13,000 square feet of industrial space to become their new home. Their setup is made up of tanks and equipment that were designed and fabricated in Charlottetown, PEI (keeping it local, very nice) and consists of a single-step infusion mash tun and a propane-fired kettle and whirlpool.  It takes them an average of 10 days start to finish to ferment and condition.  You can read all about their brewing process here.

The beer from them that I am excited to try is their Imperial IPA.  Launched in 2007 at the Halifax Seaport Beerfest, this unfiltered double IPA comes in at a strong 81 IBU (international bitterness units) and is sold all year round. It uses Cascade, Amarillo and German Magnum hops balanced with 2-row pale, caramel, dextrin and Munich malts.  I received word from Garrison yesterday that they have shipped a pallet to Manitoba, so I’ll be down at the MLCC looking for some soon!

Essentially what we have here in an Imperial IPA is a double IPA.  The names are fairly synonymous.  The term Imperial tends to come from the Russian Imperial Stout, a style of strong stout that was originally brewed in England for the Russian Imperial Court.  Double IPA tends to be the most common/preferred term and essentially indicates that you have an incredibly hoppy beer on your hands with high alcohol content and good robust malty balance.  IBU on these beers tend to range from 50-120 (although 90+ it’s hard to tell the difference) depending on the brewer.  Let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 90/100

Appearance:  Cloudy golden brown coloring with a good 1” head that retains well.
Smell: Hoppy, citrus (lemon, grapefruit and some orange) with some sweetness coming through on the backend from malt (some caramel notes).
Taste: Initial sweetness followed by some extreme hoppy bitterness with the citrus being front and centre.  Good resinous hops that balance with the caramel notes from the malt and the sweetness from the alcohol.  Long dry finish.  Certainly does not disappoint on the hop front as they overpower the malts.
Mouth feel: Good mild carbonation with a smooth mouth feel.
Overall: Very strong double IPA.  The hops chosen for this particular beer balance well together providing some good meshing with the choice of malts.  Alcohol content is at 8% but not noticeable in this beer.  Sweetness is great to start and balances well with the following Hoptacular assault.  Overall a very strong double IPA.
Do I like it: Yep.  Big fan of this one.  I love IPAs and the more bitterness the better for me.  Double IPAs are at the top of my favorite styles when they can be well balanced and don’t tread into the sickly alcohol sweetness neck of the woods.  This one had a strong IBU but was balanced well.  The hops went well together and complimented each other rather than competing for the spotlight.  I’ll be drinking this one again.