Category Archives: Beer Review

Craft Beer Advent Calendar – 2015

My wife gifted me the Craft Beer Advent calendar again this year.  24 different beers from North America.  As I did last year, I plan to blog about these beers again.  Every day.  That means 24 posts, hopefully.  Here is how the post will be organized:

  • Beer name, location, and style of beer.
  • Description of the style, origins and information about the brewery.
  • Rating of the beer based on the following:
    • Appearance (Body, Colour, Head, Retention) (%5)
    • Smell (20%)
    • Taste (45%)
    • Mouth feel (Light, Medium, Heavy, Smooth, Coarse)(10%)
    • Overall (20%)
    • Do I like it (Yes or No) and why.

I want to make a note on the ratings.  I’m not a beer judge, and even if I was, I don’t always take stock in what people rate beers at.  Perhaps someone doesn’t like a particular style, or they don’t think the beer is good.  It doesn’t mean I, or someone else, won’t like it.  So, while I do plan on rating these beers, it is more for my own personal reasons to keep track of which ones I liked the best throughout the process.  You can take my ratings as you like, either listen or don’t.  Ultimately, I want people to try new beers and take chances.

There is one hitch.  I will be travelling from the 22nd of December until the 7th of January.  I will be doing my darndest to try these last two beers before I go, cheating slightly, but giving myself the opportunity to write the posts and have them get posted on the 23rd and 24th.

The first post will be coming later today.  In the meantime, here is my round up of last year’s Craft Beer Advent Calendar.

Stone Crazy Imperial IPA – Parallel 49 and Powell Street Brewing

Stone Crazy - Imperial IPA

Well apparently I haven’t been able to do one a day.  I guess that was a little ambitious given that it was a long weekend and I was travelling.  As well this week is a crazy work week so I would not expect to be able to post much until it’s over.  So, this post will have to carry you through.

Today’s Brews Brothers Beer is called “Stone Crazy” and it’s an Imperial India Pale Ale done in collaboration with Powell Street Brewery.  I’ve already gone over who Parallel 49 Brewing Co is and I’ll just take this moment to thank them for their great mixer pack.  You’ve brought together a great pack of collaborative beers.  So, who is Powell Street then?

Powell Street Brewery is aptly located on Powell Street in Vancouver BC.  They don’t post a lot of details about their brewery on their website in respect to who founded it and why.  What they do tell us is that they are a 4500 sq ft brewery capable of 17.5hl micro brewhouse with a 3.5hl nano brewhouse as well.

They sell a number of different beers ranging from Pale Ales to Porters and do growler fills, glasses and bombers right out of the brewery, something I hope we will be able to see more of here in Winnipeg.  The beer that they’ve done in collaboration is named Stone Crazy.  This entire pack is blues themed and this name comes from the song Stone Crazy by Buddy Guy with his soulful guitar rhythms and voice this beer really captures the smooth and soulful feel of this song.

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: 87/100

Appearance:  Cloudy golden brown coloring with a good 1” head that retains well. Some sediment at the bottom that needed to be left behind.
Smell: Hoppy, citrus (pineapple at the front with some lemon and some orange) with some sweetness coming through on the backend from malt (some caramel notes).
Taste: Not as big and bold on the hops but not necessarily a bad thing. The hops are definitely there with the sweetness of the malt backbone bringing in some caramel notes to give this particular Imperial IPA a smooth and well balanced taste. The hops bring in their resinous citrus tones to blend in with that caramel malt to give you a dangerously easy to drink 9% ABV beer.
Mouth feel: Good mild carbonation with a smooth mouth feel.
Overall: Nice and smooth double IPA.  Alcohol content is at 9% but not noticeable in this beer.  Sweetness is great to and blends well with the hops which don’t assault the taste buds letting you enjoy all the complexity in this beer.  Overall a very strong double IPA.
Do I like it: Yep.  Big fan of this one. I love IPAs and this one is well balanced and smooth giving a drinkable double IPA that brings some nice hop bitterness that isn’t overpowering. Very tasty.

Little Red Rooster – Brews Brothers Mixer Pack – Bomber Brewing and Parallel 49

Little Red RoosterAlright folks, so I picked up the Brews Brothers 12 beer collaboration pack.  12 beers from 12 breweries.  I’m going to do my best to try and write up a review on all of them.  I can’t promise it will be daily, my day job is keeping me nice and busy these days, but I will do my darnedest.

So, what is this Brews Brothers Collaboration pack anyway? Well, Parallel 49 Brewing out of Vancouver has brought together 12 BC breweries to create a boxed set of 12 blues inspired collaborative beers. Bringing together 12 breweries from BC’s booming craft beer industry was likely a hard challenge. Deciding who to collaborate with and what beers each would make.  The breweries participating in this Blues themed mixer pack are:  Townsite, Steel & Oak, Firehall, Bomber, Persephone, Storm, Rossland, Dageraad, Moon Under Water, Brassneck, Yellow Dog and Powell Street

The collaboration pack

Parallel 49 is a brewery that spawned out of three friends love for good beer.  Mike, Nick and Anthony all grew up about 10 minutes away from where the brewery now stands. Having been avid home brewers and lovers of good craft beer, these three friends quit their day jobs in 2008 and opened a restaurant which quickly became known as a mecca for good craft beer in Vancouver. Wanting to put their money where their mouth was and stop talking and start brewing, they partnered with Graham With, a respected Home Brewer, and Michael Tod, a friend who had the business savvy and experience in the Vancouver craft beer industry, the Parallel 49 brewing team was born.

This particular collaboration is done in conjunction with Bomber Brewing.  This small mico-brewery opened in February of 2014 after three good friends put their love of hockey and beer into practice forming a committed crew together to make good beer.  Don Farion, an award winning home brewer, brought not only that talent but 20 years in the hospitality industry together with Cam Andrews’ 20 years of design and marketing experience to create a brand that was unique and stood out from the boom of the craft breweries opening in Vancouver.  The head brewer Blair Calibaba brings experience working with Ambleside Brewing as well as 11 years of experience running a brewery to the table as well as his knack to create accessible and approachable beers.

Together these two breweries have created Little Red Rooster, a Red India Session Ale.  Session ales are essentially any beer that contains no higher than 5% ABV and features a balance between the hop and malt characteristics and, typically, has a clean finish.  According to Beer Advocate the term session likely referred to one of two allowable drinking periods in England that were imposed on shell production workers during World War 1.  The fact that they were highly drinkable allowed for these workers to consume multiples during their allotted time period.  Today, sessions used to refer to beers that meet the criteria but could come from a variety of different styles.

This one, for example, is an American IPA.  Different from a standard IPA and more flavourful than a British IPA it ranges in colour from pale golden to reddish amber.  The hops can tend to have a big herbal flavor or citric notes with a good malty backbone.  This one, as a red session, is the amber in colour and brings some nice herbal and citrus notes in the hop with a smooth balanced malt at the end which eliminates any lingering bitterness.

Onto the review!

Rating: 81/100

Appearance:  Cloudy reddish amber color with a 1” head that dissipates quickly leaving a lingering foam.
Smell: Citrus and some herbal smell which I can’t distinguish but is almost like spruce or pine.
Taste: Good citrus on the front with a refreshing bitterness that doesn’t linger long. Fading at the finish into the malty sweetness with only a slight lingering taste of tannins making for a dry finish.
Mouth feel: Light carbonation, smooth drink, dry finish.
Overall: Very nice.  Good balance of the hops and malt.  More hops would likely showcase the style of beer more but given the accessibility and approachability that bomber goes for that wouldn’t be in their style of brewing. The lower alcohol content is offset by the good hop/malt balance making for decent, if not delicious beer.
Do I like it: I do like it.  It was a good beer to start with and I think that if this is a sign of things to come that this will be a very good collaboration pack.  To be fair, this isn’t anything to write home about.  Falling within my Good range, it was good and I’d certainly be happy drinking it again.

Thanks for continuing to follow along with my blog.  I’ve got an interview with Matt Wolff at Fort Garry scheduled so looking forward to getting that up in the next couple of weeks!  Keep checking back, I’ll be trying to post more about the Brews Brothers mixer pack.

In Kelowna – Tree Brewing

  

I’m in Kelowna and had the opportunity to stop in at Tree Brewing’s Beer institute. The “beer geeks” there explained to me that this small craft brew pub is a tank to glass operation. No filtration, no kegs, just pure beer. Awesome. 

Brewing about 10 hectolitres there on site they have a variety of beer options. I tried the hophead IPA, a 65 ibu nice hoppy beer. 

This isn’t my standard post. I haven’t posted in a while and so am easing my way back in. I hope to get to the main brewery on Tuesday and see if I can’t get more details on the operation. It will also give me a chance to try out more of the beers. 

We get a variety of Tree Brewing’s beers in Winnipeg which indicates a fairly good distribution setup. 

The HopHead is a dry-hopped IPA using perle, centennial, cascade, Columbus and crystal hops. The malts are pale, light Munich, Vienna and crystal. 

Overall it’s a nice bitter beer that tastes really crisp on the finish. It’s refreshing, which is nice, with that really good dry hop tannin finish that I personally enjoy. 

I wanted to post this quick update and I’ll be starting to post more regularly once again. I’ll post a more full review of tree brewing when I get back to Winnipeg. Until then some small posts to wet the appetite. 

Thanks for following along

– Beer Winnipeg

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.