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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Leapbeer Reviews – The First Lager-off

Today is the first real day of summer weather we’ve had here (Written on July 4th), so I thought it’d be a great day to break out a couple of lager beers from the leapbeer fridge. Bear in mind these arent really the craft beers that has been so much my focus as of late. I didn’t include a craft lager as it would likely skew the results.

The Rules of my [Beer]-offs are going to be very simple. I’m going to break them down by Appearance, Smell, Taste and Overall Impression and edge a winner in all catagories. After that the winner will be declared.

Our combatants for this 1st ever Leapbeer Lager-Off are Red Stripe Lager from Jamaica and Steinlager Classic from New Zealand.

Appearance

Both are quite pale gold, the red stripe is a slight shade darker. Both are well carbonated and have fluffy white head on top. The Red Stripe came in a old school stubby bottle where the Steinlager came in a 750ml bottle. A Stubby will always hold a place in my memory as a piece of canadiana. I believe there’s even pictures of stubbies in the old family photo album.

Edge: Red Stripe – This was a close race for me. Even though the Red Stripe is ever so slightly darker, I can’t make the decision based on the colour of the poured beer. I am going to give Red Stripe the edge on the packaging.

Smell

Red Stripe: The scent in this beer is fairly light. It smells yeasty and lager-ish.  The way you’d expect a beer to smell, Beer-like.
Steinlager Classic: Smells of a euro hops strain, almost canaboid in nature (strange I was expecting that in the Jamaican beer). The kind of smell you would expect from a Holsten or a Grolsch.

Edge: Steinlager Classic – I like hoppy beers, and this beer certainly brings you the hops on the nose.

Taste

Red Stripe: Nice malty body, with a mild bitter note at the end of tasting. Quite carbonated. Refreshing for a hot day.
Steinlager Classic: Considerably more bitter than the Red Stripe. It is very full of flavour. It has been a long time since I’d had one of these. It’s good, for a fairly mass produced product.

Edge: Red Stripe – It is a hot day and I’m really wanting something to quaff to cool me down. The Steinlager, while good, does not have the same quaffability.

Overall Impressions

Red Stripe: This is my definition of a summer beer. I could easily destroy these in quick succession without blinking. I find them esthetically pleasing because of the stubby bottles, and the beer inside isn’t disgusting. There’s very little defining character to the beer, but when you’ve been working outside on a hot day you just want to cool down.

Steinlager Classic: This beer is very well hopped. I wish I knew the strain of hops that they use in this beer, but I don’t yet. Beyond that hop note it falls a bit flat though.

Decision: Red Stripe – It comes across as the clear winner in this 1st ever lager off. I realize that these beers aren’t craft, but they were both gifts from Leapbeer readers. Because of that I knew I’d have to take them on at some point, and this seemed like a great way to do that. My wife preferred the Red Stripe as well. One other interesting fact about the Red Stripe that I learned while doing the research on these beers is that they are brewed under license by Moosehead Brewery.

Our Winner

Leapbeer #188 is Red Stripe from Jamaica

Our loser, Steinlager Classic will be listed as Leapbeer #189. It still got consumed though, because it isn’t all bad. It just lost the decision to the Red Stripe. I wanted to say thank you to both Frank and Keegan for donating these beers to the leapbeer cause. They were thoroughly enjoyed.

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Leapbeer Review #187 Kriek Lambic by Brouwerij Lindemans of Belgium

If you recall back to my fruity beer tasting I did with my superfriend Jeff, the clear favorite of the night was the Cassis Lambic by Brouwerij Lindemans of Belgium. I knew that night that this beer, the Kriek or sour Morello cherry version  of this beer, would make its way to the leapbeer blog.

According to Wikipedia this brewery has been open for over 200 years, since 1811 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindemans_Brewery) Brouwerij Lindemans is a Belgian family brewery based in Vlezenbeek, a small town in the Flemish Brabant southwest of Brussels.

They really know how to encase their beer there, as the top of this beer is corked, then capped, then foil covered. After getting it open I poured it into a wine glass, and then someone behind me called me a beer snob. It pours to a deep magenta/red colour with no real discernible head to it.

Here’s a close up to show the deep red colour

 

I took a whiff of this beer and not surprisingly it smelled sour cherries. But it wasn’t a natural smell, it smelled like cherry cough syrup. When you sip it the cherry flavour is dull and muted. There’s almost no sour not to it. The beer is quite sweet, too sweet for my liking. Because I had such high expectations for this beer I find myself disappointed by it. They can’t all be winners, but I assumed this would at least have met a higher standard then it did.

Leapbeer #187 is Kriek Lambic by Brouwerij Lindemans of Belgium

When I did a bit more digging on the wikipedia page it shed some light on the nature of the cherry flavouring. Here’s what it had to say “Because of the limited availability of sour cherries from Schaerbeek, the traditional ingredient for kriek, Lindemans Kriek is made using unsweetened cherry juice which is added to a mixture of lambics of different ages. The resulting beer is described as less sour and more fruity. It contains 4.0% ABV.

How disappointingly illuminating. It explains all of my problems with this beer. The synthetic flavour, the overpowering sweetness and the lack of sour notes to this lambic. It appears to me that because they wanted to continue producing this beer, they sought out an alternative to quality natural ingredients, to the detriment of the finished product.

 

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Leapbeer Review #186 Heather Ale by Salt Spring Island Ales

This marks a new semi-local brewery to the leapbeer blog. I was overjoyed when I read Salt Spring Island Ales tweet about their beers being ordered to Campbell River, where I live.

The bottle describes this beer like this. “An ancient brew dating back over 4000 years, Heather Ale is most often attributed to the Picts of ancient Scotland, who are said to have drunk Heather ale for courage before going into battle. Growing in abundance on the moors of Scotland & Ireland, heather flowers lent flavour to the regions’ ales before the introduction of hops. Salt Spring Island Ales is proud to pay homage to this legendary brew. Infused with local heather flowers, and a sparing amount of hops, our Heather Ale has a mild floral & honey aroma, a slight mead-like charachter & light hop notes to produce a crisp finish.

This beer looks great, it pours to a transparent amber colour with a thin white head. It smells quite floral from the heather. There’s a real hit of it. I also smells slightly of sour, malt and honey. When you sip this beer my initial thoughts are that it is crisp and sweet. There is a lot of honey and floral characters to this beer. It is a very delicate flavour to this beer. It dances lightly on your palate like a butterfly flitting about on flowers. The beers flavour is so delicate that I don’t think it would be easy to pair. If you would I would make sure it was something with mild flavours that play off the sweetness of the heather and honey. I would think pairing it with a light white fish or a simple salad would work well. When I drank it I had to put it down as I was eating a spicy chicken curry dish that completely overpowered the beer. They note that there is light hop notes, but they are indiscernible to me. This is the 2nd Heather beer I’ve had so far on the leapbeer journey, and in my opinion the better of the two.

Leapbeer #186 is Heather Ale by Salt Spring Island Ales

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Leapbeer Review #185 Caffè Fantastico’s Double Shot Porter by Swans Buckerfield Brewery

Swans Buckerfield Brewery is nestled down in lovely downtown Victoria in what’s been called by the Thirsty Writer, Mr Joe Wiebe, Victoria’s Beer Mile. Within a relatively close proximity you have 8 of Vancouver Island’s breweries and brewpubs. We had the opportunity to bring Leapbeer there during my first visit to Victoria this year, but they didn’t have this new porter when I was down.

That’s not the case on my most recent visit to Victoria. During an afternoon where my little family were touring around the chinatown area of Victoria, I nipped away to check the Swans store to see if there was any of the Double Shot Porter left. Fortunately there was still bottles available, so I grabbed one to bring it to the Leapbeer experience.

The notes on the bottle say “In a single evening Caffe Fantastico’s team of skilled baristas pulled 850 double shots of espresso, which have been infused to create this delicious seasonal offering. Selected for its spicy cocoa and earthy tones, Sumatra Mandheling was custom roasted to work in harmony with this porter, creating a rich and complex flavour.

This porter pours to a deep brown/black colour. When held in the light it is somewhat translucent dark brown. There is a thich beige coloured head that forms, but then completely dissipates.

When you smell it you get lots of espresso coffee notes and malt. The taste is very malty and coffee-ish. It is a nice light feeling porter. I’m surprised at how thin this porter is. I wouldn’t be shocked if it was marketed as a ‘summer porter’ being that it has a relatively low (5.5% abv) test and a nice light mouth feel. This is a strikingly easy drinking porter. The compliment of the espresso smell to the delicate blend of the beer is really nice. Thumbs up from this beer drinker. One other note about this porter, it produces espresso flavoured burps. I feel that the majority of the the 850 double shots of espresso seem to reside in the CO2 in this beer.

Leapbeer #185 is Double Shot Porter by Swans Buckerfields Brewery from Victoria BC

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Leapbeer Review #184 India Pale Ale by Longwood Brewpub

This next beer is a staple at the Longwood Brewpub. I’ve had it several times and I always enjoy it. This classic style IPA is tasty and bold. I picked up this bomber a few months ago, and because of its age there was some sediment in it. It pours to a darker golden colour, with a thinner head to it. You get all the classic IPA flavours with a nice bitterness to it. This beer has some teeth to it, showing all of its 6.5%abv in your throat. As you continue drinking it, the bitterness sits in your mouth quite well. Whether in the pub, or in your glass at home this IPA is a great beer.

Leapbeer #184 is India Pale Ale by Longwood Brewpub in Nanaimo BC

I realize it may appear that the Leapbeer has become somewhat IPA obsessed (and if I recall it isn’t the first I’d mentioned this). Truth is I have a large stock of beers in the leapbeer fridge, and I was hoping to get through them all soon. As Rob Ringma has explained to me, due to the volatility of hop compounds most craft beers are better consumed as close to completion date as possible. As IPA’s are traditionally the hoppier beers I’ve been trying by best to get through those sooner than later. I also want to get through a few so I have a baseline with which to base my thoughts from HOPoxia on July 21st. After that I’m going to expand the blog in a couple of slightly different directions, so keep an eye out for that. I’ll also be doing my best to keep out of the hoppier beers for a while after HOPoxia.

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Leapbeer Halfway Post – Victories and Mistakes

It is officially the halfway point in the year, and I am also at the halfway point in the Leapbeer. I’m at beer 183, with another 183 to go. How can I sum up how things are going with the Leapbeer journey? It has been hectic. I feel that the blog and the journey are starting to taking on a life of their own, and it just keeps on building. There’s been a fair amount that I’ve learned over the first half of this journey. Like many things, though, I realize that the more I learn the more I have YET to learn. Especially when I consider what I am hoping to do with next year.

A few things I wanted to share about my educational journey so far into the world of beer would be about glassware, community, and research. I thought I’d also have a ‘mea culpa’ moment about a few of the mistakes I’ve made on the blog so far.

Glassware – If you recall from my post ‘Whats in a glass?‘ I disclosed the nature of 4 different styles of beer serving glasses. In truth there are literally hundreds of different beer glasses out there. I do my best to research my beer before opening to try and get the most appropriate service vessel for it. But sometimes I end up going to my new tulip glass. It was a gift from @Jonnybeers when we went on our Tofino road trip. Thanks again for that Jon, even if my first use of it was with a pilsner. I’ve found a few other glasses to add to my collection at thrift stores now. A large range of glasses isn’t essential though. Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, a well published and respected beer writer had endorsed a glass set that was simply 4 glass styles. A tasting or tulip, a snifter, a session or pint and a summer or stemmed glass.

Image Via wikipedia

Even if you don’t have a collection of glasses you likely have a better alternative to drinking it straight from the can or bottle, a wine glass. A fellow blogger from the Pacific northwest wrote a great piece about this in his blog ‘I Think About Beer’ where he extolled the benefits of using a wine glass. You can read it here http://ithinkaboutbeer.com/2012/06/20/glassware-a-victim-of-the-beer-vs-wine-culture-clash/ I’d be willing to bet that if you looked into your cupboard, there’s a great service option for your next pint of frothy goodness. Give glassware a chance, you won’t regret it.

Community – I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few of the breweries and chat up some of the staff around Vancouver Island. And in the case of Lighthouse, I got the tour from non other than their Head Brewer, Dean McLeod. Thanks again for the tour and interview Dean. I got to see in action the operations of Longwood Brewpub, Tofino Brewery, Lighthouse, Vancouver Island, Driftwood and Hoyne breweries. I did visit Phillips as well, but we were too pressed for time to tour the place. I met with several excellent individuals in the industry and got to take a real good look at whats involved in making beer. There doesn’t seem to be a cutthroat nature about these guys. There is an incredible sense of community among these brewers. They get down and help their fellow brewers when they need it, and are building a great thing on Vancouver Island. One of the other great thing to experience is the enthusiasm they have for their products. When you hear someone speaking passionately about something you also enjoy, it is hard not to get ‘caught up’ in the fervor.

Research – When I met with Gary from Driftwood for a tour of their place we chatted a bit about my comments on the Old Cellar Dweller 2011. In my review I had noted that there wasn’t service notes on the bottle. He told me that if people are shelling out over ten dollars for a bottle of beer, they’re likely the kind of people who know how to serve it. And he’s right, the average consumer will pass by the craft section. But I would like to think that as the craft beer scene continues to expand, there will be more people like myself who decide to expand their horizons by trying new products. If you do decide to go and try something new read the label. If you have the time check the website. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it will make with your experience. Take for example when I drank the Phillips Double Barrel. I didn’t read the label before I opened the bottle and it wasn’t very special at all. Then I read the label and read that I should’ve been consuming it at 10c. When brought to the right temperature it was a completely different experience. What I’m taking a rather long way to say is, a little research can make a big difference.

Mistakes – I’ve made a few. There have been many a grammatical and spelling error that have gotten through. Obviously I’m not an English major (Not a major of any sort, I never went to normal college/uni) I’ve also had my first double purchase error. I got distracted while reaching for a Spinnakers Tour De Victoria bottle, but only after completing my purchase did I find out that what I had grabbed was something that was already in the leapbeer fridge. Recently too I had a numbering problem, where i forgot to list one of my reviewed beers into my master list, the Salvator by Paulaner. The most egregious of my errors, though, was one I committed in my review of Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale. It was drawn to my attention via email by the Publican of Spinnakers that I reviewed it as a Double IPA. I don’t know why I read it that way, its not like you can’t read it in the picture, but I didn’t let that go in my review. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to get another sample of this beer to give it a proper review, but I am going to do that this month coming up.

Whats coming up? – I’m taking leapbeer on the road again in July. I shall be doing at least 2 road trips over the course of the month to breweries and events. As I mentioned in my review of the Hop Box, I will be at the HOPoxia beer event at Phillips brewery on July 21st. I also have at least 1 other brewery tour planned, and another one I hope to do as well. Also July will be my first chance to get out fishing, so I’m hoping to do some ‘reviews on the water’ as well. We’ll see how that goes. I also plan to break down and do the post I’ve hinted about hops. I’ve done some research into it, but I need to do a bit more before I put pen to paper (so to speak). Lastly I hope to bring you more interviews. I really enjoyed the chats I had on site with the brewers and brewery staff, and I hope to be able to bring that to you, my readers.

Well I hope that catches you up on what I’ve learned and whats coming up. Now its to you. Leave a comment about what you’ve learned, or what beers you’ve tried that you liked. Maybe there’s some style of beer that changed your perspective, or something you tried that was absolute dreck. Any comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading.

Leapbeer Review #183 Singularity RIS 2012 by Driftwood Brewing

According to Ray Kurtzweil, the Singularity is Near. I say ‘Nay, its not near. It’s in my hand.’

All attempted frivolity aside I’m not speaking of Kurtzweil’s hypotheses that man and machine will become one integrated entity in the near future. I am, however, speaking of the grand daddy of Victoria craft beer coveting, Driftwood’s Singularity Russian Imperial Stout.

To say that this beer has been well reviewed is an understatement. Mr.Lloyd, left4beer, gave this behemoth a 10/10 (A somewhat rare occasion). Other sites gave it similar praise. It boasts a 93 (exceptional) rating at BeerAdvocate, and a 94 at Ratebeer. Knowing this before opening it, I wanted to pick the best moment to consume this intense beer. It pained me to wait. But here I am, officially half way through the leapbeer journey. The perfect tipping point for this beast.

Driftwood used to use foil on the tops of their bottles of Singularity, similar to how Old Cellar Dweller is still packaged. This year they went with something a little more … theatrical. Similar to Three Floyds Dark Lord, they encased their jewel in a crown of wax. I call it theatrical because while it is very functional from an aging protection, it is also a royal pain in the keister to open. It must have taken me a good minute or two to open this bad boy. Admittedly it was my first time opening a wax encased beer, so maybe it was beginners ineptitude.

The Singularity is a deep Russian Imperial Stout that Driftwood ages four months in Bourbon barrels, and it really shows. This beer pours do a deep deep black colour. When you pour it, a milk chocolate coloured head appears on top of it. It’s been said that this beer is one that you not only drink, ‘but you experience’ (as per vancouver beer blog)

It smells rich, of licorice and malts. There are hints of some spice and chocolate to it as well. When you sip it, this beer packs a punch. My first thoughts were “Wow, this beer is a rib sticker.” It has a nice rich stout flavour, with somewhat muted licorice and coffee notes. I honestly expected more licorice flavour to this beer, but they (Driftwood) surprised me. And then the bourbon sweetness seeps in late. Followed by a real latent alcohol burn in your throat as the 11.8% ABV hits you. This stout is no lightweight. Let all you calorie conscious light beer drinkers beware, this beer will consume you. It coats your entire mouth, well. So much so that I still tasted this beer the next day. This beer is big, black, and impressive. It is the Darth Vader of beers. Meaning this truly left an impression on me, as I now have a very high bar with which to compare other specialty Russian Imperial Stouts.

Leapbeer #183 is Singularity Russian Imperial Stout by Driftwood Brewing

I couldn’t have planned a more perfect beer for the halfway point. Driftwood really knocked it out of the park with this beer. Now I realize I’ve been a super Driftwood fanboy up to this point in the blog, but with good reason. They assembled all the powerful ingredients used to make this brew, and then deftly arranged them into a liquid symphony for us all to enjoy. I agree with left4beer’s comments about this beer being under priced, as similarly crafted beers fetch top dollar from consumers in our neighbours to the south. I look forward to whats next from these guys, and to enjoying more Singularity in the new year.

183 down, 183 to go.

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