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Mission : Leap Beer, 366 Beers in 366 Days

Leapbeer Reviews #286-288 Salt Spring Flight Part 1

Tonight I’m compiling a trio of reviews of Salt Spring Island Ales products. I really liked the Heather Ale, and sampled the Golden Ale at GCBF. The first beer I’m going to share with you is one I missed out on the cask of it at GCBF, the Spring Fever Gruit Ancient Ale. Here’s a little intro to the Gruit ale as per a launch event notes from facebook.

Before beer, it was Gruit. For more than 700 years, Gruit Ale was the brewed beverage of medieval Europe. Like today’s beer, it was brewed with water, grain and yeast. Unlike today’s beer, it was spiced with any number of herbs, roots and spices. The Hop, which is now the quintessential aromatic and bittering herb of our contemporary beers, was once only one of many herbs sometimes used by brewers in their recipes. Hops were often completely unknown in some brewing areas of Europe. Instead, brewers relied on a healthy collection of herbs. Most gruit recipes were closely held secrets that were passed down in families or jealously guarded by monasteries, and very few authentic formulas have survived.Developed with the help of Salt Spring Island’s Wild Seed School of Herbal Studies and based on an ancient recipe, our ‘Spring Fever’ Gruit is made without hops – using locally wildcrafted herbs and a little ‘magik’. The beer was brewed on a full moon, which is said to bring out the potency of botanicals. A stimulating and refreshing beverage with bright, almost cider-like flavours, a floral/clover nose and a slight sweetness. A must-try beverage in a class by itself!

Indeed this was a very interesting beer. I really love trying something that is so far removed from anything I’d tried previously. You pour this beer and almost immediately you’re hit with a bouquet of aromas. It has a sweet almost ciderish smell, but with strong notes of wild honey and herbs. I also picked up a nice tart smell of fermenting plums from it. The taste is very nice, with a crisp snap to it followed by a slightly sour finish. While it doesn’t taste like any other beer I’ve had before, it is still very good. I recommend trying it (while you can) simply to expand your expectations of beers. Seeing this brewery making beers of this vein reminds me of some of the ancient ales brewed by Delaware’s DogFish Head Brewing.

Leapbeer #286 is Spring Fever Gruit Ancient Ale

Salt Spring Island Ales Gruit Ancient

Salt Spring Island Ales Gruit Ancient Ale

If you wanted to read another review of this beer, Left4beers review can be read here. http://www.left4beer.com/2012/10/spring-fever-gruit-salt-spring.html

And if you’re curious about the art on the bottle, there is a blog post about it here.  http://purplepoddedpeas.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/leaping.html

Next we moved to the Fireside Winter Ale. The release notes for this beer state that it’s meant for ‘sipping and savouring near a warm fire on a cold night.’ It has a very rich & sweet smell to it, striking a distinct molasses note. The taste is sweet (as expected) with a hint of vanilla. There’s not a lot of spice notes that I get out of this beer otherwise, which is something I’ve come to expect from winter beers (think Father John’s Winter Ale) Not my favorite from the bunch, but a good conversation beer nonetheless.

Leapbeer #287 is Fireside Winter Ale (please forgive the blurry picture)

Salt Spring Island Ales Fireside Ale

Salt Spring Island Ales Fireside Ale

Lastly we shared a bottle of the Dry Porter. The darker beer seemed like a nice capping point for this half of the flight. There’s a distinct bitter chocolate/cocoa nib aroma and taste to this beer. It is a nice lighter porter that starts crisp and finishes smooth. I tried both this newer bottle an older one I had and they both were great. The older bottle was smoother across the board in its flavours, even though it had a fair amount of flaked yeast particles in it (they don’t affect the flavour of the beer)

Leapbeer #288 Dry Porter by Salt Spring Island Ales

Salt Spring Island Ales Dry Porter

Salt Spring Island Ales Dry Porter

Brewery: Salt Spring Island Ales (Gulf Islands Brewery) on Salt Spring Island BC
Size/ABV: 650ml Bomber/5.2%(Gruit) 7.0% (Fireside) 5.5% (Porter)
Availability: Some Private Liquor Stores
Purchased @:
Various Private Liquor Stores
Webpage: 
http://www.gulfislandsbrewery.com/brews.html

Thanks for reading the first half of this flight. I’ve got both the Snug IPA & Whale Tale Ale to cover next, be sure to look for them.

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4 thoughts on “Leapbeer Reviews #286-288 Salt Spring Flight Part 1

  1. Good calls on the Gruit. I can’t believe it but I only tried this one recently. Not entirely my fault though, I was saving the bottle I picked up for a beer class I plan to hold, but that’s been dragging out for months. So since there were still some bottles available, I just bought some more and drank the one I had been keeping in reserve. My impressions were almost identical to your own. Great minds, I guess 😉

  2. Oh, and I also know what you mean about Dogfish Head. Which ancient ales did you try by them? So far, its just been the Chateau Jiahu for me. I’d kill to get my hands on a bottle of Midas Touch or Theobroma though!

    • The only one I’ve tried was the Midas Touch. I picked it up at whole foods in Portland when I was there last October.

      • Please describe it, in as much detail as you can recall. The Jiahu was quite interesting, a combination of mead, grape juice, beer, and a light ale, with just a hint of rice wine. But that’s to be expected since that’s what its made from – honey, rice, barely, grapes, and rosehips.

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