Tag Archives: Beer Review

Stanley Park Amber Ale

The amber ale produced by Stanley Park Brewery is a product that has seamlessly assimilated itself into the Vancouver craft beer and pub scene.Widely available and boasting its local connection back to the late 1800’s, it’s a company that is very aware of it’s carbon footprint and has sought new ways to scale back their energy consumption – with more efficient machinery and a wind powered turbine. While energy efficiency is not something picked out in the beer’s qualitative features, it does make a person feel better to drink green, and no “green beer” on St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t count! This particular Belgian style amber is unpasteurized and even the ink on the labels is non-toxic as it derives from vegetables… but this is a beer blog, and as such this beer is pretty solid.

-Tristan

*****

This beer is one that I find appealing for two reasons: the ideals of sustainability, and the easy drinking taste and body of this brew. Available from six-packs, to pub pints, and at football and soccer games at BC Place, this beer is widely available compared to a few years ago.  The nose is a slight malt, with no typically noticeable Belgian traits, and no sense of hops – floral or otherwise-  in the scent.Very straight forward, very approachable. The body is light, crisp, with a slight bitterness on initial sip that tingles the tongue. It’s taste was more malty than hoppy, without elements I’d say are typical of a true Belgian style beer. Simplicity is not a fault however, as it makes this beer an easy beverage to enjoy. The finish is a brief malt on the palate, but is otherwise very tame. Having tried it in pints, bottles and plastic cups at sporting events, I think bottle is the best way to have this beer. On a hot summers night with good company a person could easily finish off a six-pack without really noticing it. Next time you go to a sporting event in this city (Vancouver), be sure to try this instead of a Bud or Molson.

Nose: 18
Body: 18
Taste: 19
Finish: 17.5

Tristan: 72.5 pts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer, Individual Review

What We’re Up To…

Over the next few days Kamran and I will release the reviews we’ve written of a particular brewery we’ve been tasting for a while now. With the newest seasonal release, these beers shall be posted in chronological release order, as well as comparisons to vertical tastings  we performed on certain styles! I know we’re excited to post them and share these ones with the wider world.

-Tristan

Here’s a teaser photo of what I’m talking about…

A Hard Days Night

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Tree Spiced Reserve

During the holiday season, Tree Brewing, a relatively-larger-but-still-craft brewery from Kelowna releases their Spiced Reserve. It is one of only a few products they release in tallboy bottles — what is typically considered part of a Brewmaster special. In the case of their Spiced Reserve, Brewmaster Stefan Buhl uses a variety of Christmas-themed spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and whatever else Buhl throws in on a whim.

Upon first opening, Tree Brewing was larger than your typical craft-brewery. Using shaftebury’s old equipment, and going through several management and ownership changes, they have become larger still. In fact, they are one of few BC craft breweries that have product available across Canada — Ontario in particular. As a result, of course, the quality of their product has lessened to a degree — brewing on a large scale seems to necessarily yield some loss of quality — but I have to give Tree credit where it’s due, since they have managed to expand without losing their characteristic flavour — something I feel Granville Island and Okanagan Spring have all but lost.

– Kamran

*****

Tree Brewing is certainly up there with my favourite craft breweries, despite the fact that I don’t really love any of their beers. While their Hop Head Double IPA — enjoyed on tap at the alibi room, since it’s not bottled — is my favourite, I am quite pleased but rather indifferent to the rest of their beers. I think the Cutthroat Pale Ale, Thirst Beaver Amber Ale, and Kelowna Pilsner, although not ostensibly ‘great’, are some of the best everyday beers out there, and, in tallboy form, some of the most economical as well.

The Spiced Reserve opens up with a strong spice character. Under its copper-brown hue lies a myriad of holiday flavours; notes of various spices, such as nutmeg, clove, and pepper, amidst a robust floral-citrus hop profile come clear on the nose. Although there is a reasonable amount of hops, there is a sufficient amount of malt to balance the flavours; in fact, in terms of its hop-malt balance, I’d compare the Spiced Reserve to Phillips Double Dragon Red Ale, a seasonal that attempts to perfectly balance its hops and malts. This feat gives the beer much richness, but the body is still rather light and smooth.

The spices are quite abundant, but not too overwhelming. Still, because of the spices, I wouldn’t want to drink more than one of these. Nutmeg and cinnamon, I would say, are the most liberally spiced, while the beer finishes with a long, slightly bitter, cinnamon-hop aftertaste.

Nose: 20.5
Body: 19.5
Taste: 20
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 81.5 pts.

*****

Well as I may have stated before, I’m not the biggest fan of overly bitter beers…. Combined with spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, two things I tolerate sparingly, this beer was doomed from the moment of pouring. That might be a slight exaggeration, but still I felt a little let down by this beer.

The nose was initially malty, with the spices and hops aromas. In body it was bitter and not so smooth. It had a malty sweetness to taste  that was not unappealing, but nothing special in my opinion. The finish was short lived and consisted of spices and hops.

Unlike Kamran, I did not fully appreciate this beer. It wasn’t my style. I’m sure other found it great seeing as Tree is a very respectable brewery, who made the best winter ale I’ve ever had, but this sadly was not one I enjoyed. I look forward to trying more of their beers in future, just less bitterness and spice for me please!

Nose: 18
Body: 18
Taste: 18
Finish: 15

Tristan: 69 pts.

*****

Final Average: 75.25 pts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer

Ebulum Elderberry Ale

Last in our Historic Ales Of Scotland collection from Williams Brothers. This review came later than the others since, considering how dark it is — Guinness black! — we tasted it later in the evening. As you ought to know now from what we’ve said about the Williams Brothers collection, it uses a specific historical ingredient — one which was used for centuries of beer fermentation before it inexplicably ceased. In this case, elderberries are used!

– Kamran

*****

The nose is quite inviting. As one would expect of a dark beer, it’s relatively malty, making it fairly sweet; however, complementing the sweet malt smell are notes of fruit — elderberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, etc.. Moreover, the beer must be using roasted malt, because there are notes of coffee and burnt chocolate. This is typical of stouts and porters, but a beer need not be a stout or porter to contain roasted malt. These flavours likewise fall on the palate, with notes of blackberries — probably elderberries too, but I don’t recognize them as well — and roasted malt being the clearest expression of the beer’s unique character. While I initially found the nose quite profound, the taste blew me away — this is a highly flavourful, well integrated beer.

Although quite dark, even darker than the Big Smoke Ale we just reviewed, it is fairly easy drinking. This is likely why it’s not considered a stout/porter — the body just isn’t there. In other words, there are flavours typical of stouts/porters, but the texture just isn’t there. While I’d prefer a bit more body to it — the flavours deserve some extra substance — it’s refreshing to have such a dark beer that doesn’t weigh you down. The finish is quite long and pleasant; however, after just a few seconds the sweetness instilled by the elderberries — the fresh and fruity sweetness — dies off and leaves only the taste of the malt.

The Ebulum Elderberry Ale is quite delicious, and one of the best beers we have tasted thus far. Also, it’s the beer we have come closest to meeting each other’s scores, with the diversity of our scores being merely a few points apart; this certainly speaks to its approachability, since we clearly have different tastes. While I prefer the Fraoch Heather Ale, the Ebulum Elderberry Ale is a close second from the Williams Brothers. It’s too bad that they don’t release singles of this guy; I’d love to try it again, and I guess I’ll just have to wait until the collection comes back next Christmas.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 20.5
Taste: 23.5
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 87 pts.

*****

My favourite of the mixer pack, this beer was such a unique surprise that its originality won me over! While I have not had much exposure to elderberries outside of their incorporation into certain bake goods, this beer changed my opinion of them. And it’s not just elderberries, as mentioned by Kamran there are a variety of fruity/berry flavours contained in this dark beer.

The fruity sweet nose is also herbal and malty and frankly the best part of this beer. Only a couple of beers have beat the score I gave for the scent of this beer which says a lot. The darkness of this beer makes it appear to be heavier then it actually is, but in reality it is a smoother less creamy texture than Guinness or other stouts or some porters. However, if asked what type this beer more closely resembled, either a stout or porter, I would have to say it is closer to the latter. The taste of the berries is unmistakable amongst the  malty tones, allowing for a sweet refreshing ale. The finish is not prolonged. It is smooth and almost chocolaty from a roasted malt, yet simultaneously herbal. A unique and enjoyable combination.

This beer is more than a one-off. It’s complex, smooth and it’s memorable! Good for a session ale with friends, it further proves that not all black coloured beers need be “liquid bread” and super filling.  I look forward to its return in Canadian stores.

Nose: 24
Body: 20.5
Taste: 21.5
Finish: 20

Trisan: 86 pts.

*****

Final Average: 86.5

1 Comment

Filed under Beer

Storm Brewing/Russell Brewing Big Smoke Ale

This limited release collaboration beer between Storm Brewing and Russell Brewing has been around for just a few months. Producing one of the first of a slew of collaboration beers that have been released over the past several months, brewmasters Jack Bensley (Russell Brewing) and James Walton (Storm Brewing) are pioneering a kinsman-like spirit for the Vancouver craft beer community.

The name Big Smoke is derived from its unique approach to beer fermentation: using peated malt! Well, some peated malt — 10% to be exact. If you’re unaware, peat is vegetation that is primarily used in Scotland to dry barley malt. This technique, using peat fires, is especially used in Islay single malts, and gives it that characteristic vegetal flavour — grass, moss, dust, dampness, etc.. It’s a little difficult to describe, but quite obvious once you’ve tried a peated whisky. Because of its association with drying of the malt in peat fires, peat flavours often come in tandem with a smoky quality. Peat is, in fact, often mistaken for smoke; truth is, while these two aspects typically come hand in hand, they are not inextricable — there are some very smoky, lightly peated whiskies, as well as some highly peated, lightly smoked whiskies, but this is all relative.

When it comes to beer, peated malt is unusual, but can be quite the pleasantry for a whisky drinker. Some other peated beers include Unibroue’s Raftman, Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale — where the peat and heather come in part from the water sources of Scotland, and, though not actually using peat, (whisky) barrel aged beers — Phillip’s Double Barrel Scotch Ale, Driftwood’s Singularity etc. — tend to give off some peat flavour. Besides the peat, the Big Smoke is a heavy, malty, thick, dark, high percentage beer; a true sipping beer that’s not for the faint of heart.

– Kamran

*****

Amidst the light, effervescent peat smoke aroma is a solid malt backbone. As a single-malt enthusiast who loves his peaty scotches — Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Ileach, etc. — I was rather disappointed that the peat does not shine through as much as I’d hoped. In fact, the malt all but overwhelms the notes of peat. That said, with careful concentration, one may extract moments where peat instilled flavonoids connect with one’s receptors. The feeling is quite pleasant, however, this is much too much work, and I don’t want to have to pay such careful attention to access the best parts of a beer; these parts should be the forefront of the beer.

While the body is enjoyably creamy, the beer is quite heavy. You certainly don’t want to be drinking more than one of this tallboy bottle badboy. Though not considered a stout, it reaches certain stout-like parameters — heaviness, thickness (the definition of stout), and darkness. While the malty taste is excellent — especially the initial flavour — it does not last; the finish, while retaining the taste of alcohol, loses its sweet malt flavours.

All things considered, the Big Smoke is an exceptional beer, and while not fitting for all occasions, there are some instances — perhaps while sitting in front of a fire on a cold night — where it would be perfect. So, don’t miss out on it while it’s still around!

Nose: 20.5
Body: 21
Taste: 23
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 86 pts.

*****

As you can tell, Kamran has left little room for expansion on this particular beer; I suppose he really enjoyed it!  Just along the basics of this beer then, I found it to be one of the best beers we had that night.

The nose was a rich malt that, while stronger than the peat notes, was still an enticing factor to salivate for this beer. The body was a thick and heavy combination that went down creamy and smooth, much like certain stouts. The taste was naturally malty and slightly peaty to my senses, but it also possessed a slightly cocoa-like flavour. The finish is a brief encounter to say the least. It fades rather fast for my liking, but it is a smooth malty presence that is enjoyable prior to dissipation.

This beer is one I’ve had on a couple of occasions since the tasting, and I have to say, it is a nice treat to have and even share late at night. Well done Russell/Storm, but you’ve now set a high standard for any future collaborations!!!

Nose: 21
Body: 24
Taste: 22
Finish: 20

Tristan: 90 pts.

*****

Final Average: 88 pts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer

Beer Reviewer’s Lament

Unfortunately, we have all-but-lost one of our contributors. Our friend, James, has gone to England for an indeterminable amount of time. As a result, he, of course, will not be able to join us for tastings, or even access the majority of (Vancouver Craft) beers that we will be imbibing. James has agreed to continue contributing as a solo reviewer, guest writing on some of the beers and spirits he may taste there.

In a way, this may benefit the site. We have not been entirely productive, especially in the last few weeks, and a major cause of this is in coordinating three people — both for tastings and reviews. From now on, since there will just be the two of us, Tristan and myself,  you may confidently expect a higher level of activity and enthusiasm. At least until July 4 when I leave for Europe.

Rather than saving drafts and publishing only once all reviews have been written — a feature which has certainly slowed us down — we will now post as soon as one of us has written our review. This should give you something to engage yourself with, as well as indicate that another review — written by the other person — will arrive soon. With two people rather than three, the game of catch-up should be quicker, and we will more easily be able to motivate each other.

Thanks for visiting the site, and expect plenty of reviews to come soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellaneous