Tag Archives: 2015

Day 11 – Grizzly Paw Brewing Company – Ursa Major Brown Ale

Day 11 - Grizzly Paw Brewing Company - Ursa Major Brown Ale

This week has been a pretty hectic week.  I’ve been working as usual but with extra meetings during the day and in the evenings.  I also happen to have a meeting this weekend.  Normally this would not be that bad, it’s pretty common place for me.  Unfortunately, I happen to also be trying to finalize my thesis presentation for my defense, practice this, and come up with questions I might be asked.  This has added a bit of stress to my week.  Luckily, I always have a beer waiting for me to try and so far I’ve been pretty happy with most of them.

On day 11 of the advent calendar I get to try a beer from a brewery I’ve had the opportunity to visit.  It is Grizzly Paw Brewing Company’s Ursa Major Brown Ale.

Grizzly Paw is a brewpub located on Canmore’s Main Street in the Canadian Rockies.  It’s a beautiful location surrounded by the mountains and on a clear day it’s just absolutely spectacular.  I had the opportunity to visit with my brother a few years back and it’s almost surreal to sit amongst the Rockies enjoying a fresh pint of beer right from the brewery itself.

The owner, Niall Fraser, got the idea for opening this brew pub from his frequent visits to “The Rocks” in Sydney, Australia.  While he was living there he frequented this brewery/pub and was impressed by the setup on old granite rocks nestled in the famous historic district between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

When he returned to Canada, he sought a perfect location to open his brewpub and finally found it while on a mini-vacation, Canmore, Alberta.  On April 29th, 1996, the brewery opened its doors for the first time and has been trucking away ever since.  Originally brewing a partial mash and only 200 litres at time, the brewery grew substantially and by 2009 they needed to open a brand new brewery to keep up with demand.  In April, 2013, the new brewery opened up and at 20,000 sq/ft the space is quite large.

Not only does Grizzly Paw brew beers, they also make micro-brewed sodas, make great burgers using Alberta beef, and other foods as well.  Being Canada’s first brewpub, Grizzly Paw offers quite a lot of variety and acts as a tourist attraction.

This beer is an American brown ale.  These ales get their origins from the originally English brown ales.  The term brown ale was first used in the 17th century.  These beers varied in alcohol content but were usually brewed with light hops and brown malt.  They grew to fame in the 1925 with the release of Newcastle Brown Ale which set the stage for the success of future beers in this style. In 1986, craft beer pioneers Pete Slosberg and Mark Bronder released “Pete’s Wicked Ale” which basically set the stage for the American Brown Ale style.

This style includes the dark-brown ales from southern England, reddish-brown ales from northeast England, and even the slightly sour brown ales from Flanders.  American Brown Ales are a recognized member of this spectrum and tend to have more hop bitterness than their English cousins.  The style is also lower on the alcohol spectrum, typically between 3.3% and 5%, has caramel and chocolate malt characteristics, low to medium hop aroma and medium to high hop bitterness.  On to the beer.



Rating:  71/100

Appearance:  Rich and clear dark brown with very little head even though I poured it somewhat aggressively.
Smell: Caramel, chocolate, roasted malts as well as notes of hop tartness.
Taste:  Malty on the front, but not a very deep richness to the malt flavours, they fade quickly to a mild bitterness from the hops that lingers. Dry on the finish with slight citrus.
Mouthfeel: Soft mouthfeel with very low carbonation, this one is almost flat to me. It is likely due to age or transport. Dry finish with slight citrus notes.
American Brown Ale styles should be dominated by the hop bitterness with the malt flavours playing a supporting role. This one certainly has the hop bitterness as the star as the malty sweetness fades quickly to the bitterness from the hops.  It has a dry finish as well as some very soft citrus notes.  Roasted malt is present which compliments the hop bitterness nicely.  The lack of carbonation takes the rest of the flavours down a notch and they don’t taste as full as I would have expected.
Do I like it: It’s not bad. I don’t drink a lot of brown ales and those that I do I prefer of the other various styles of this category, specifically the sour ones from Flanders.  It’s a nice beer that if it wasn’t almost flat I would likely have enjoyed more. It’s one of the risks with this calendar given that the beers tend to sit a while and have to be transported.

Day 10 – Bridge Brewing Company – Sleigh Booster

Day 10 - Bridge Brewing Company - Sleigh Booster

We are nearing the halfway point of this 24 beer journey and so far I’ve been pretty impressed with the beers I’ve had.  Because I know people are not reading all of these, I want to take a minute to reiterate something.  I am not a beer judge, I just really like beer and as I’ve been drinking it my palate has become better. I’m by no means perfect and there are a lot of things I still have to learn.  All the ratings I do in this are based on my own personal opinion of the beer.  Like I’ve said before, I don’t always listen to people when they rate beers and I don’t expect you to either.

The main focus of these 24 posts is to learn about the breweries and the styles of beers. The ratings are so I can look back at the end of this and decide which one I liked the best. I hope that in reading these you will at least learn a bit more about the breweries, styles, and make up your own mind if you’d like to give them a try.

Today we have a beer from Bridge Brewing Company located in North Vancouver, BC.  The beer is called Sleigh Booster and it is an Imperial Red Ale.

Bridge Brewing Company opened in 2012 as Vancouver’s first nano-brewery. Bridge was housed in a 1,000 sq/ft space and was brewing beer in 800 litre batches. Craft beer drinkers loved their beers and they’ve been working hard to expand production as much as possible to meet their demand. They have since expanded their brew house and brought on some help in order to meet the demand for their beers.

What is really interesting about Bridge Brewing is that they are committee trying to be a zero-waste brewery. At present they are 99% waste free. As they brew in small batches their hops and grains in small quantities so that they make sure they get the most use out of them. This also helps them ensure high quality standards in all of their batches of beer.

Speaking of beer, they brew quite a lot of different styles from year-rounds, their iron-worker series, as well as seasonal beers.  The beer we are having today is from the Seasonal selection and sounds pretty tasty.  I’ve had the opportunity to try another one of their season beers, their Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale and I thought it was pretty good.

Imperial Red Ales tend to use American hops and has a perception of hop bitterness to the flavour. Typically, with a solid malt profile and a beautiful deep amber to deep copper colour, these beers tend to bring a good balance between hop bitterness and malty sweetness. While Imperial Red Ale itself is not a traditional style, it is an example of North American brewers taking the traditional Irish Red Ale style and ramping up the flavours. Typically using a lot of hops to bring out that bitterness, these beers can also be bottled conditioned with results in slight fruity esters.  These beers also tend to be quite high on the ABV range, 7.9%-10%, and the alcohol flavour is a noticeable part of the taste profile. I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.

Rating: 80/100

Appearance:  Deep amber in colour with about 1” of off-white head that retains well.
Smell: Low aroma.  Slight spice, malty caramel and toffee notes. These malt notes are the most evident.
Taste:  Malt is front and centre on this with alcohol notes a close second. Front is chocolate, caramel and toffee with a bitter finish and strong hop notes.
Mouthfeel: Creamy mouthfeel with soft carbonation, bitter and alcoholic finish. This is a strong ale, alcohol notes are expected.
As an Imperial Red Ale it is pretty good. The body, head, and flavour notes are near an Irish Red Ale but ramped up. The use of strong hop notes is uncommon to the Irish Red Ale category but to be expected in the Imperial Red Ale. Good tasting beer that balances the malty sweetness on the front with the hop bitterness on the finish.
Do I like it: I enjoyed drinking this beer but it wasn’t something I was over the moon about. I felt that the malty sweetness was good and it balanced well with the hop notes. I did enjoy it and I’d be happy to drink it again. It makes me curious to try the other brews from Bridge.

Day 9 – Iron Fist Brewing Company – Spice of Life

Day 9 - Iron Fist Brewing Company - Spice of Life

Well, I have to take a minute to send an apology out to all of my twitter followers.  I have been so excited about the beers from the advent calendar that I’ve been tweeting them out first thing in the morning.  In all of my enthusiasm, I never considered that I might be spoiling the fun for others by telling them what beer they will be getting before they get it.  So, to all of those for whom I’ve spoiled any of the surprise, I apologize. So, starting tomorrow, I will not post what beer it is until I post my review. Someone else might, but I wont.

Now, today’s beer is from Iron Fist Brewing Company and it is a Bière de Garde called Spice of Life.

Iron Fist is a family owned brewery located in Vista, California, right in the middle of San Diego’s craft beer scene.  While the website doesn’t give a lot of details about the specifics of the brewery or the people who run it, they do provide a list of there beers and a video that gives the story of the brewery.  So rather than me writing all about them, why not take a watch.

Biere de Garde (keeping beer) is a strong pale ale style of beer that was traditionally brewed in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.  They were originally brewed in farmhouses during the winter and spring to avoid unpredictable problems with the yeast in the summer time.

Typically copper or golden in colour, they are a beer that is brewed and then cellared in order to be consumed later in the year, basically like the Saison style. Most are top-fermented and bottle-conditioned but they can be bottom fermented.  What is interesting about this style is that if it is brewed using regional ingredients it is eligible for a Appellation d’origine contrôlée, similar to French wines.

Characterized by a toasted malt aroma, slight malt sweetness, and medium hop bitterness.  Typically brewed with noble hop varietals, there are earthy and musty notes often in this beer as well as fruity esters from the yeast.  Chill haze is expected (hazy colour when cold) in bottle conditioned versions of this style.  The style we are drinking today is brewed using grains of paradise, bitter orange peel, and coriander.  It is a bottle conditioned beer and so the haze is expected.  Let’s get to it.

Rating: 83/100

Appearance:  Copper in colour, poured with basically no head.
Smell: Brewed with orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise, all of these are noticeable on the nose of the beer.  There is also the smell of toasted malt and some fruity esters from the beer.
Taste: Alcohol flavour is noticeable, common for this style.  There are fruity notes from the orange peel, the coriander is present as well as toasted malt notes and a sweet smooth finish.  There are also some good peppery notes to this likely coming from the grains of paradise.
Mouthfeel: Soft carbonation, smooth mouthfeel, almost creamy.
Strong example of this style. Good flavours, lots of things going for it. The lack of head was concerning at first but the carbonation throughout is great. Good fruit notes balanced against the sweet malt and pepperiness. Overall quite good.
Do I like it: Yes, I do like it. It’s a good beer to drink on a summer day, it was a nice one to have after the warm weather we’ve been having here. I had just gotten back from a long walk and it was nice and crisp and refreshing.  I’m a fan of these Belgian styles of beer and this one lives up to my expectations. Quite good.