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Leapbeer Review #263 Pandamonium 11th Anniversary Beer from Phillips Brewing Company

It is a bit late for me to be getting to this beer. I should have covered this one during August, but alas I didn’t. But that said, without further adieu I am covering the 11th Anniversary Ale from Phillips Brewery. The Pandamonium Imperial IPA has an interesting story to it. During the 111 minute boil they added hops every 11 minutes for a total of 11 hop additions to this beer. It is easily one of the coolest Phillips labels I’ve ever seen.


Unleash the Giant Mutant Pandas!

I was somewhat shocked to see this beer weighing in at a high eleven percent ABV. Despite its strength the beer seemed to be paler than I expected for an imperial India pale ale. This is more gold than amber. There is quite a floral scent to it. It reminds me of citrus flowers, similar to what you would expect grapefruit flowers to smell like. There’s also a hint of passion fruit as well. Almost a sweetness in the scent, just a hint. When you drink this beer the first thing to hop out at you is the bitterness. The bitterness coats your mouth, but as the bitter washes away you get some sweet malt after it. And then to finish the tasting a latent bitterness hits you. You can taste that its strong, but it doesn’t seem like an 11% beer.The Thirsty Writer, Joe Wiebe told me that he was impressed with the masking of the alcohol in this beer, and I am prone to agree with that. I feel that this beer shows a real mastery over the hops in their beer. Despite its high IBU (111) and high alcohol content it is still a very enjoyable beer.

Leapbeer #263 is Pandamonium, The 11th Hour Anniversary Ale by Phillips Brewing Company

Brewery: Phillips Brewing Company of Victoria BC
Released: August 13th, 2012
Size/ABV: 650ml Bottle/11.0% ABV
Availability: Limited Run in August
Purchased @:
Oyster River Liquor Store & Merecroft Village Liquor Store
Webpage:
http://phillipsbeer.com/pandamonium-unleashed
Other Reviews:  Ian Lloyd (aka left4beer) , Beer Advocate & Rate Beer

Thanks for Reading

Leapbeer Reviews #262 Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale by Hoyne Brewing Company

I’m again covering another wet hopped beer. They are notoriously fragile brews, and should be consumed as close to release as possible. One really cool thing about this beer, the Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale, is that it is an infusion of Victoria grown hops. A regular Leapbeer reader and friend of the brewers in Victoria has some Cascade hops growing in his backyard. This year Sean Hoyne came by Kev’s place at harvest time and grabbed 9 pounds of the little beauties for this beer.

Here’s the hops plants during the summer before getting added to this beer.

Another really cool thing about this beer is the label. Even my wife wanted to know if this would be available in a format that we could put it up on the wall. Hoyne needs to be commended on the quality of their labels.

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Leapbeer Review #261 Storm Watcher Winter Lager by Vancouver Island Brewery

So yesterday I was down in Victoria to help a relative move, and it just so happened that there was also a cask event for BC Craft Beer month at the Beagle Pub featuring Vancouver Island Breweries new winter seasonal, Storm Watcher Winter lager. This replaces the Beachcomber in their line up. Because I had it on cask I didn’t have a bottle to put it up against so here’s art from their website, along with their notes.

With the ocean mist glistening in the air, huge swells rolling in from the mighty Pacific and the fury of the gales howling it must be storm season. Much like the storms of the West Coast, our Winter Lager rolls in with notes of caramel and finishes with a crash of malt. Pouring a warm amber-red, this lager combines honey, caramel and crystal malts to create a thirst quenching and slightly warming beer perfect for our winter storms.

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Leapbeer Review #260 Sartori Harvest IPA by Driftwood Brewing Company

I feel that I’ve fallen behind a bit in showcasing the Vancouver Island beers so I thought I’d take a week to post about some of the recent seasonal and limited release beers. To start things off I’m going with the most recent holy grail of BC beers, Sartori Harvest by Driftwood.

So what’s all the fuss about? For the uninitiated, when the Sartori Cedar Ranch has their hops ready for harvest they put the call out. Several breweries get hops from this ranch for their beers. Another brewery posted a nice video about visiting the farm, you can watch it here. When Sartori Harvest IPA is released there is a flood of craft beer enthusiasts that swarm the stores looking for them. In some cases the stores have to limit the amount people are allowed to buy to ensure that more people get to try it.

The Sartori Harvest is a wet hopped beer, meaning that instead of adding a kiln dried hop they use the cones direct from the vine. As soon as they are harvested they go into the beer. While I’m not 100% certain on the time frame between harvest to addition it is a very different take on flavour infusion. I have had a chance to sample quite a few different wet hopped beers, and Sartori Harvest was one of my first.

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Leapbeer Interview – Paul Hadfield, Publican of Spinnakers Gastro Brewpup

As I have mentioned before, on my trip to Victoria in July I had the opportunity to stay at Spinnakers in their guest house, and ample opportunity to sample their beers as well. One of the highlights of our trip was a wonderful tour of the facilities with the owner & publican of Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, Mr Paul Hadfield.

After our tour I arranged to do an interview with Paul, here it is.

Thanks for taking the time for us Paul, your establishment is a world class place. Do you mind telling my readers a bit about how it got started?

Spinnakers’ story began shortly after John Mitchell opened the first small scale commercial craft brewery of the modern era in Horseshoe Bay, in June 1982.  That he was granted a Brewer’s License, whilst being on the license of an affiliated neighbourhood pub license was groundbreaking.  Shortly after opening his Horseshoe Bay brewery, John became very aware of the shortcomings and set off to UK in search of better equipment.  Whilst he was away, I began the groundwork for a Victoria brewpub.  Upon his return, he agreed to sell his shares in the Troller Pub in Horseshoe Bay and we agreed to proceed with Spinnakers as the first purpose built brewpub of the modern era in Canada.  As an architect, my job was to find a site, design and build the premises and John was to be the brewer and publican.  The process took about 20 months from idea to opening day and involved a process wherein we had to do an update to the Vic West community plan, create new zoning bylaws for the City of Victoria, work with BC’s Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to create guidelines for brewpubs and work to change the Federal Excise Act to enable brewpubs to be both manufacturers and retailers of beer.


You’ve built Spinnakers into such an iconic establishment in Victoria. With a brewpub, lavish guest houses, gourmet kitchen, bakery, choclatier, artisan vinegar brewery and the artesian well all on site, what could be next for Spinnakers?


We are currently shifting our focus somewhat to be more brewery production oriented, having this year begun to ship our beers up Island and into the lower mainland.  Given the challenges facing the hospitality industry what with the downturned economy, the impacts of HST on food service establishments, the impact of changes to drinking and driving regulations and how they are administered and most recently the increases to labour costs as a result of minimum wage increases, we found ourselves searching for revenue streams which could be expanded.  We noticed that retail beers sales were growing as more consumers were picking up more product at retail stores and taking it home to enjoy.  We also noticed that there was a significant change in consumer preferences in greater Vancouver where craft beer was replacing (UK and European) imports.  Since the beginning of the year, we have committed to distribution, have more than doubled our brewing, sales and distribution staff,  installed a canning line, new bright tanks and are adding additional fermentation capacity to enable us to meet growth targets.



While we stayed there, I expected the beers to be good (which of course they were) and I expected a high level of quality from the food (which completely exceeded my expectations). But the thing that really amazed me was the attention to detail in absolutely everything. The baking for example. The breakfast scones, the crackers, in fact all of the baked goods we had there were exquisite. Since our stay every time I’ve been through Victoria I stop in and at least get 2 packs of the asiago dill crackers. Also the intricate and complex flavours to your truffles was impressive. What I’m trying to say in such a long winded and rambling way is that you’re whole staff seems to be top notch. Can you explain how you’ve assembled such a top notch team behind Spinnakers? And how have you managed to keep the quality to such a high level?


We came here to be artisan brewers, back in 1984.  At the time, the best insurance was to sell lots of good food to accompany the beers we wanted to sell.  We quickly became known for both with food sales rapidly outpacing beer and liquor sales and stabilizing at around 65 – 70% of total gross sales.  Over time we came to understand the brewery as a source of ingredients which could become inputs into other items.  We also came to view our food operations through a craft beer lens, causing us to seek out artisan growers and producers able to supply us with unique, locally produced food items.  Putting it all together requires that everybody understands, is committed and wants more out of the experience than just flipping frozen burger patties.  We were 20 years ahead of the current local, seasonal, sustainable trend, as doing all of these things was simply consistent with our business model, our underlying philosophy and was a reflection of why we came to be here in the first place.  The magic is that our staff tend to find us now, bringing their own unique skill sets and dreams with them.  We encourage people to try new (old) things and to push the local component to the extreme, looking for substitutions where imported food items are not grown here.  The people, be they brewers, bakers, chocolatier, chef, pastry chef, cooks or bartenders all feed off each other and are encouraged to interact and be innovative in creating (recreating) a local interpretation of cuisine.  In face of globalization, we have stressed going back to the farm gates for ingredients.  We seek out ingredients with good stories and encourage everybody to collaborate and delight our senses and taste buds.  When we evolve our cuisine and differentiate it from globalized food, we begin to define ourselves, culturally, as people.  We are passionate about Vancouver Island and delight in exploring the amazing opportunities that living here provides to all of us.  We aspire to function as a reflection of where we live.


Now that you’ve added canning to your brewery, does that spell relief for those ‘thirsting for a real ale’ further away from Spinnakers? Does that add some heartiness to the shelf life of them?


Canning is certainly superior in terms of protecting beer from the negative impacts of light.  Beyond that, a clean can, like a clean bottle is only as good as what goes into it.  As craft brewers, we are dealing with live products that have to be managed carefully.  I have long lived in fear of what happens to our beers after they leave our control.  We know that beer is very fragile, that it is going to taste best, depending upon what we are striving for, fresh from the tank at the brewery.  In tastings over the years, we have studied and compared beer on tap to beer in a cask to bottled to bottle conditioned and now canned.  With each, the beer has been though a slightly different process, even if they are from the same batch.  There are going to be minor differences in appearance, aromatics and overall flavour profiles. This is part of the magic of craft, that it is not all the same.  Having committed to distributing our beers, we look forward to making them available, more readily, to those who are unable to frequent the brewpub.


How many different styles of beer does Spinnakers produce?


Over the course of a year we will make about 20 different styles.  We try to keep 9 or 10 on tap, another 2 or 3 cask conditioned and feature 5 more as daily cask specials.  In package form, we currently have 17 active SKU’s with 5 being in cans, the others in 650 ml formats.


Do you have a favorite style of beer?


A very personal question, but the answer is definitely no.  There are many times of the day and days of the week and occasions that come and go, each of which speaks to an opportunity for a different beer.


Although your Brewpub is literally filled with brewing & fermenting tanks, What are your plans for brewery expansion for Spinnakers?


We will hit the wall early in the new year, forcing the addition of new fermentation capacity and storage capacity.  We are planning a new production brewery to meet the demand and are looking at shifting the focus from the original brewery into more esoteric styles, including barrel aged and sour beers.


Our Spinnakers experience while taking it all in was really comforting. My wife and I felt like family there, and everyone else we saw was being treated the same. How is it possible for a place to be as busy as yours is, and still everyone leaves with a smile? What is your secret?


Everybody leaves happy.  That’s our mission.  We are fortunate to have staff who care and who understand hospitality.  The fun part about having guest rooms, suites and the bungalow is that people can come and stay with us for more than a couple of hours and can indeed become house guests, part of the family.

What’s next for Spinnakers?

We are constantly working to evolve what we do.  The opportunities are a function or our collective imaginations, our abilities to see, understand and seize them and translate them into products or offerings which can delight us as consumers.  We have a couple of projects that we are working on.  Time will tell!


You operate an amazing place sir, truly a jewel of Victoria. I want to thank you for your time as well as your hospitality. I wish you well in all your endeavors.


It was our pleasure have you both come and stay and have you take the time to see and understand some of what we try to do every day.  We look forward to having you return soon.  Best regards.


Here’s the pictures of from our tour. Unfortunately I tried to take a pic of the boil (they were brewing more of their delicious Hoptoria IPA) my lense got messed up.

Lastly I wanted to re-review Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale. If you read my early one here I totally botched it. I reviewed this beer from the mistaken idea it was an IPA. I think I had gotten all hoppysocks that day. It was unfortunate that it happened, but that mistake actually yielded some good results. Not the least of which is a second chance to review this fine beer. Blue Bridge is a deep transparent amber double pale ale with a white head on top. While the head shrinks with time it still leaves a great lacing on the glass. It has a malty and sweet aroma, with hints of candied orange peel or maybe marmalade. It tastes great, mildly sweet up front with a nice bitter back. It is a deceptively drinkable DPA as it hits in a 8.2% ABV. The bitterness lingers with you, but as it smooths out it hints at a mild fruit character. Not as distinct as the orange scent, but still mildly fruity. A great beer that I’ve had a few times to enjoy this year, both from cans and in the bomber.

Leapbeer #141 is Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale by Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub

Brewery: Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub of Victoria, BC
Released: Unknown
Size/ABV: 650ml Bottle + 355ml Can/8.2% ABV
Availability: Continuous (as far as I know)
Purchased @: Spinnakers, MVLS & Top Shelf Liquor Store
Webpage:
http://www.spinnakers.com/our-beers
Other Reviews: http://urbandiner.ca/2010/07/08/beer-review-blue-bridge-double-pale-ale/  Rate Beer  Beeradvocate

Leapbeer Review #246 Iron Plow Harvest Märzen by Vancouver Island Brewery

My last beer review, the Paulaner Munchen Oktoberfest Bier, impressed me so much that I wanted to cover a couple of other oktoberfest inspired beers. This next one, the Iron Plow Harvest Märzen, is one of them. This bomber is the second of a resurgence of bombers for Vancouver Island Brewery. You may remember the last one they did was the Flying Tanker White IPA. This new one starts a new series of bombers, their seasonal series, and this is bomber #1 from it.

For more history on the märzen style of beer, märzen means March, as in the month of. According to wikipedia

Märzen has its origins in Bavaria, probably before the 16th century. A Bavarian brewing ordinance decreed in 1539 that beer may be brewed only between 29 September and 23 April. The original Märzen was described as “dark brown, full-bodied”. The beer was often kept in the cellar until late in the summer, and remaining bottles were served at the Oktoberfest. In order to last so long, either the original gravity and alcohol were increased or the hopping was strengthened.”

For a bit more history on Märzen, check out these blog links from The Parting Glass & The Year in Beer.

I originally had this beer at The Great Canadian Beer Festival last month. To be honest, when I had it there I was unimpressed. I had some serious trepidation about buying it again and trying it at home. I’m really glad that I did because my opinion has gotten adjusted considerably. My thoughts on this beer now are pretty straight forward. It is delicious. When I opened this bottle it had a really nice malty sweet and almost apricot smell to it. It pours into your glass as a nice deep amber colour. The thick frothy white head on top dissipates, but their is a whole lot of bubbles still in the beer. As noted in The Parting Glass blog post, don’t expect a great hop note on this beer, just enough to balance out the sweet malty goodness. Each sip washes a nice array of flavours over your tongue, but they are gone almost as fast. It doesn’t linger with you. Instead it begs to be drank again. I think this would make for a wicked session beer, even at 5.8%. I could see several pints disappearing fairly easily from this beer. If only I had a 1L bottle I’d have used my giganto-mug from the Paulaner. If I were to compare it to yesterdays beer, the ‘Official  Oktoberfest Bier’ by Paulaner Munchen, I’d say this brew is its equal. Highly quaffable with some lovely malty sweetness. A nice balance of carbonation, and a very easy finish. I know that only 6 beers are classifiable as ‘Official’ but this one is up to the task. I am continually impressed with the new Brewers Batch from Vancouver Island Brewery. I can’t wait to see what they’ll think of next.

Leapbeer #246 is Iron Plow Harvest Märzen

Brewery: Vancouver Island Brewery of Victoria, BC
Released: September 2012
Size/ABV: 650ml Bottle/5.8% ABV
Availability: Limited Release
Purchased @: BC Government Liquor Store
Webpage:
http://vancouverislandbrewery.com/default.aspx?PageID=1049
Other Reviews: http://partingglassblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/what-the-heck-is-marzen-and-why-you-need-to-try-it/ & http://barleymowat.com/2012/10/01/october-beer-of-the-month/

Thanks for reading

Leapbeer Review #251 Son of The Morning Strong Golden Ale by Driftwood Brewing

Let me preface this review with me saying that I initially bocked at purchasing this beer. The label art bothered me as a christian. I was torn between my beliefs and my need to be a VI Craftbeer completist. I settled to do research as to why they decided to market this beer this way before making any uninformed decisions. As it turns out this beer is named ‘Son of the Morning’ in an homage to Duvel Moortgat. Initially when the Duvel Moortgat brewery released their as Victory Ale, to commemorate World War I. But during the 1920s, an avid drinker described the beer as “nen echten duvel” (a real devil in Brabantian Dutch) – perhaps in reference to the strength of its alcohol content (8.5% ABV) – and the name of the beer was changed to Duvel (Obviously translated Devil). It has become the brewery’s flagship beer. This beer is considered by many the definitive version of the Belgian Strong Golden Ale style. Because driftwood used their flagship beer as a target to try and reach, it is fitting they chose such a name.

So this beer is mysterious to me. It pours to a cloudy golden colour with a white head on top. My bottle had quite a bit of sediment in it, so I gave it a good spin before drinking. Reading over the label it indeed has a bit of evil in it, It is a beefy beer weighing in at 10% ABV. Listed ingredients from the label are Water, Hops, Malt, Candy, Coriander and Black Magic (very scary kids – SCTV ref). It smells quite sweet, very reminiscent of Fin Du Monde to me. To say that this beer has a strong and sweet taste to it is an understatement. The Belgian yeast is front and centre in the taste of this beer. It’s not entirely sweet though, as there is a nice bitterness to it as well. The strong alcohol flavour is not masked at all, a bit of the devil indeed. Too much of this beer and you will be asking your friends what you did last night. I also think its of note how highly carbonated my bottle was. It would wash over your tongue as you sip it. To me this beer seems immature. Perhaps I should have aged it.

Leapbeer #251 is Son of the Morning Golden Strong Ale by Driftwood Brewing

Brewery: Driftwood Brewery of Victoria BC
Released: March 22, 2012
Size/ABV: 650ml Bottle/10.0% ABV
Availability: Very Limited
Purchased @: Top Shelf Liquor Store
Webpage:
No Longer on the Driftwood Site, but Beer On the Rock Release notes. http://www.beerontherock.com/?p=1174
Other Reviews:
http://blog.liquorplus.ca/?p=1951  &   http://www.vancouverbeerblog.com/?p=3203

As a bit of a side note, I tried drinking the 2nd half of this bottle with some homemade smoked salmon. I had accidentally made the brine too strong, leading to an extra salty smoked salmon. This beer cut right through the saltiness of that and actually enhanced the berry flavours I use in my smoked salmon.

Thanks for reading

Leapbeer Field Trip – Great Canadian Beer Festival 2012

Great Canadian Beer Festival

With a name like that it has to be good right? While this year was the 20th iteration of GCBF, this was my first. It was also not likely my last. I had tonnes of fun sampling beers here, and the brewers came out to impress at almost every booth.

Learning from lessons of Hopoxia I started the day right, my sister and I had a plan. I avoided drinking anything other than water with the intention of getting my body super hydrated before the event. We went to Spinnakers and had some heavy food to sit in our stomach and help stabilize us for the days frivolities. I had the pulled pork nachos and she had the poutine. All loaded up with a nice heavy meal we hopped in a cab and made our way to the Royal Athletic Park for GCBF.

First thing I noticed, was the gigantic line up to get inside. It was not one, not two, but three blocks long. What I really should have done is register the blog for reporter access because they were allowed in an hour early. Oh well, live and learn I guess.

Welcome to GCBF, Prepare to wait

Another note about entering the event, is that we had our water bottles confiscated, which was a real bummer. One of my plans was to remain hydrated during the event so as no need to quaff the beer so fast. I wanted to enjoy the frothy goodness. The security at the event told me that this was due to people using their bottles for the beer instead of the designated drinking glasses. They did have some water available to drink, but because it was a really hot day and the water coolers weren’t plugged in it was all piss warm by the time I went to drink it. I was able to retrieve my bottle on our way out of the venue so it wasn’t all bad.

As you check in, they scan your ticket, take your water bottle, look through your backpack, give you a map and a 4oz drinking glass. Finally through security and then where do you head? For tokens of course. Drink tokens were 1.25$ a piece, the most you could grab is a bag of 16 for $20. My sister and I both grabbed one of them and set off to the brews.

First stop, Lighthouse Brewing. You may ask yourself why I would go to a local brewery when there were fifty four other breweries to see? Because I’m trying to be a Vancouver Island craft beer completist. They had a cask offering of a Sazerac Saison.

Sazerac Saison by Lighthouse Brewing

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Leapbeer Review #214 Evergreen Ale by Phillips Brewing Company

On August 13, 2012, Phillips announced the release of their 11th Anniversary Brew, the Pandamonium DIPA. While I try to hone in my target scope to pick one of those beers up I wanted to take today to talk about their last beer release,  Evergreen Ale.

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Leapbeer Fieldtrip – Spinnakers Chefs Table Dinner

While we were visiting Spinnakers my wife and myself took time to savour the excellent dining their kitchen offers. When you dine at Spinnakers one of your options is their Chefs Table Dinner. It is a 5 course meal and each course offers the chef Ali’s suggested beer or wine pairing. The evening was great, the spacing between the plates was perfect and our server was very helpful. I’m still learning about beer and food pairing, so this evening was illuminating for me. I always thought that maybe the beer would bring out some different flavours in the food or vice versa. However it was more that they two flavours would play off each other on my palate.  I chose the beer pairing and my wife chose the wine pairing. I didn’t take notes on the individual plates because I didn’t want to interfere with the mood of the evening. I did my best to take it all in as we ate. The plates were all fantastic. Nothing was excessively large or disturbingly small, but it all had perfect proportions and the timing between courses was impeccable.

First course was a Hertel bacon wrapped smoked oyster with Spinnakers Scottish Ale infused grainy mustard & a house made english flat bread cracker paired with Scottish Ale for beer or Hester Creek Cabernet/Merlot for wine.

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