Tag Archives: IPA

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

Established in 1758, Yorkshire’s oldest brewery, Samuel Smith, is one of few major UK breweries that are being steadily imported by the BCLDB. At any time of the year, one my find a variety of beers produced by Samuel Smith, such as their Nut Brown, IPA, or, what we’re reviewing today, their Oatmeal Stout. Sold in single 500ml bottles, the beer, though relatively expensive, doesn’t break the bank — you don’t have to buy a whole 6-pack! — so it’s certainly worth the risk!

– Kamran

*****

To me, there is no risk involved. This is a great oatmeal stout that will please the palate of any and all guzzler’s of dark beer. Though originally used as a marketing tool, the addition of oatmeal, here, is not done in vain, as it’s done in some other so-called oatmeal stouts. The small proportion of oats lend a protein-based smoothness and a slight enhancement of the vanilla sweetness already contained in the stout. While I’m a huge fan of Guinness, I’d highly recommend trying Sam Smith as an alternative for stout incorporated cooking.

The nose has plenty of malt, but not enough to overwhelm. This is similar on the palate, where the sweetness of the oatmeal, as well as the variety of malts, come through. It is quite delicate, and finely balanced; however, I’d prefer more roast and hops than what is given — Mcauslan (St. Amroise) Oatmeal Stout fits this bill. The body is rich, creamy, and smooth, but also fairly heavy. This, of course, is expected of a stout. On the finish, there is a lingering sweetness that is quite savoury. Overall, this is a great beer, a must try, and one I will continually return to.

Nose: 21
Body: 21
Taste: 21.5
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 85 pts.

*****

Oatmeal stout is something I usually find thicker, and sweeter than a typical stout. However there were some noticeable differences, such as the beer was less creamy thick as I’m usually accustomed to and the flavor wasn’t as sweet. It was almost as if it were a more delicate silky texture to it, which was a nice feeling in the mouth.

The nose was understandably sweet from the malt, but I picked up on notes I typically detect in scotch to be faintly noticeable. The body was solid black in colour, less creamy than a Guinness opting for that more silky texture. The taste was rich and savory once the initial malt had flashed the palate. The richness of it would lead to me to assume that after one bottle of this beer, would have the same filling reaction as a couple of creamy stouts. The finish was an unobtrusive sweetness that was savory and dry.

I, like Kamran, did really enjoy this beer. It was a nice complexity for a stout that was neither too heavy or watered down. Due to it being an imported product it may seem expensive, but well worth it if you wish to treat yourself to a solid evening beer. Next Samuel Smith beer to try will be the Taddy Porter which is currently in my beer fridge.

Nose: 20
Body: 23.5
Taste: 19
Finish: 21

Tristan: 83.5 pts.

*****

Final average: 84.25 pts.

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Driftwood Bird Of Prey: Flanders Red

Apparently the first of a series of sour Belgian-style beers, Driftwood released their one-year-oak-aged (American & French Wine Oak) Flanders red last fall. If you’re unaware of this style of beer, lambics are sour, acidic, wine-like beers that have undergone spontaneous fermentation/re-fermentation through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria, particularly saccharomyces, lactobacillus, and brettanomyces. These bacteria, while not causing any ‘harm’ — toxicity — to the beers, degrade the consistency of the liquid, causing it to impart a ridiculous amount of flavour. The complexity of lambic, or lambic style beers, is unparalleled.

Their are many styles of lambics: geuze, which is a blend of young (1 year) and old (3 years or more) lambics; faro, a blend of lambic and freshly brewed beer; kriek, a lambic where sour cherries have been added and the beer undergoes spontaneous re-fermentation within the bottle; and several others, including other fruit added variations, are also considered lambics . Technically, Belgian sours such as Flanders red and Flanders brown, also known as Oud Bruin, are not lambics; they are traditionally produced in a different area of Belgium — West Flanders — use indigenous bacteria to that region, and may use a different strain of malt, such as red malt for Flanders Red. Comparing Flanders red and traditional lambics, such as geuze, is like comparing Cognac and Armagnac — essentially it’s the same thing. In the end, all undergo spontaneous fermentation; all are sour; all are aged in oak barrels; all utilize wild yeasts and bacteria; and all Belgian sours, despite having a similar effect on the palate, are intricate, complex, and, ultimately, unique.

– Kamran

*****

When I first had this Flanders red, I was still a novice when it came to sour beers. I had just recently grown accustom to their flavours, but I still wasn’t fully enveloped in the world of lambics. The Driftwood Bird Of Prey Flanders Red is the beer that put me over that edge. Ever since tasting this delectable beer, brewed by my second favourite Vancouver craft brewery, I have looked for lambic or lambic style beers everywhere, and each time I see them on tap — Alibi Room serves Storm Brewing’s Flanders Red as well as a seasonal Oud Bruin from Ian Hill, the Brewmaster at Yaletown Brewing — I jump for joy, knowing I will get to try an incredibly complex, highly flavourful, and relatively obscure beer.

When it comes to aesthetic appreciation, of anything of perceptible qualities, even beer, I believe that one must familiarize oneself with the medium and formal intricacies of the work. I typically discuss this notion when referring to art, such as music or film (see my film blog: Aesthetics Of The Mind), but I believe the same fundamental notion applies when it comes to taste as well. From a cognitive perspective, it seems that once one has experienced a particular impulse a few times, it becomes easier for synapses to get the message across clearly — something like muscle memory. So, familiarizing yourself with something, especially something as complex as a lambic-style beer, makes it more approachable, and ultimately, more pleasant. In the end, one may cultivate an appreciation for something that first appeared disturbing; one’s mind just needed to break it down, simplify it, and make it understandable.

That said, if you’ve tried a lambic or Flanders red before, and didn’t like it, keep trying. Some people frown at the saying, “you just don’t get it” — it appears condescending — but sometimes it’s appropriate. And it’s not a negative thing, it simply means you’re missing out on what makes this thing great. I know, personally, that sour beers are a taste one cultivates; they grew on me.

Now, to the review. Driftwood’s Bird Of Prey: Fanders Red opens with a strong tartness. A reason many may not get into sour beers is that they don’t let themselves experience anything more than the tartness. Amidst this acidic flavour though, are notes of yeast, barnyard, sour fruit, sweet fruit, sour candy — think cherry warheads — oak, orange peels, wildflowers and bacteria — think rotten fruit or moldy bread, but in a pleasant way, complemented by acidity (yes, I’m serious).

The level of sourness differs between all the styles, and even within particular styles; Driftwood’s Flanders red is certainly highly sour, but not extraordinarily so. The sourness is not overwhelming, and I actually find tamer lambics quite boring, so Driftwood basically hit the nail on the head with this one. Despite the sourness, which makes it more of a sipping beer, it’s quite light and easy on the palate. Though I never got to do it with this particular beer, I have had several instances at Albi Room where I drank sour beers all night without tiring of them. While the tartness remains, the level of acid makes the finish extremely crisp. It’s kind of like the crisp finish that a highly bitter IPA imparts, except with a remaining sensation of sour sweetness rather than bitterness — quite an appealing pleasantry. I really wish I had realized it at the time and bought a case while it was available.

Nose: 24
Body: 23.5
Taste: 24.5
Finish: 24

Kamran: 96 pts. 

*****

Well what’s left to be said after an expose like that?!?! Lambic 101 and a review! I’ll keep this short and sweet. This was my first foray into lambic beers and by God did it make a damn fine impression. Even when I first tasted this beer I noted, “a privilege to drink!”, and to the others agreed. While I applaud some of the other lambics available in Vancouver, as mentioned by Kamran, Driftwood’s still stands out as a memorable beer.

The nose was appealing and similar to Belgians I had had before (sweet, fruity, even citrussy), but unique unto itself. From the scent alone you could not determine this beer was packing a sourness to it. The body too had a nice mix of sourness and floral belgian fruity combinations that tickled the tongue. It was not overpowering and a nice light consistency.

The taste was “zingy” as my notes recorded. In finish, the beer lingers slightly over a brief period (I wished it would last longer), but is light and makes you wish you could open another once the bottle is finished.

Overall this beer put me on the path to try other lambics, which are my favourite variety of Belgian beer. I do hope that Bird of Prey will return again later in 2012 but somehow I feel I shouldn’t set my hopes too high on that as sources say this was a one-off production. I’m just glad I could get my hands on it!

Nose: 25
Body: 23
Taste: 24
Finish: 22

Tristan: 94 pts.

*****
Final Average: 95 pts.

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Coney Island Lager

The Coney Island Lager, produced by Shmaltz Brewing — an authentic Jewish brewery from New York — is a (hopped) lager that utilizes Czech pilsner yeast and multiple strains of malts and hops. Along with other Schmaltz beers, such He’brew: The Chosen Beer, this lager is Kosher!

– Kamran

*****

One sniff or sip of this ‘lager’ and one immediately thinks of India Pale Ales. Though I’m unsure of what the IBU (International Bitter Units) for this beer is, I’m sure it’s high enough that it could be classified as an IPA; however, due to the bottom-fermenting yeast being used, it must be known as a lager. Regardless, it is much hoppier than so called IPA’s such as Alexander Keith’s, which should itself be called a lager.

The Coney Island Lager should really be referred to as a hopped lager, comparable to Czechvar — which uses similar yeast, malts, and hops — Phillips Eternal Optimist, Lighthouse’s Overboard Imperial Pilsner, and Okanagan Springs Hopped. As such, I find it much more enjoyable than your typical lager — there’s more complexity and flavour!

With a pleasant, citrusy nose, solid hop profile — replete with robust aroma hops — crisp finish (no lingering lager aftertaste, just a consistent floral bitterness), and relatively light body, the Coney Island lager is a great beer, and not a huge step for a lager-boy who wishes to expand their beer horizons.

Nose: 21
Body: 20.5
Taste: 22
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 85 pts.

*****

With its unique labeling, we were not exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into when we selected this beer for our tasting. Certainly once we started dividing it between the three of us did we realize we had found something that certainly changed our perceptions of what a lager could be. The rich colour, the sweet balance of 8 malts (Specialty 2-row, 2 types of Pale Ale, Marris Otter, Red Wheat, Cara Munich 60L, Light Munich 6L, Vienna 4L, Flaked Barley) and 6 hops (Warrior, Amarillo, Cascade, Tettenange, Saaz, Hallertau) this delicate balance was held together by the Czech pilsner yeast used by Shmaltz Brewing. It has a bitter and crisp taste mellows out on the palate to a nice smooth, slightly hopped aftertaste. Certainly it would be a beer worth exploring again in the future.

Nose: 20
Body: 18
Taste: 20
Finish: 18

Tristan: 76 pts.

*****

If you went to Coney Island, I’m assuming you would find 2 things; this lager and the iconic Ferris wheel made famous by 1979 film The Warriors. Here’s the kicker…I actually thoroughly enjoy both!

As Kam mentioned above, this really should not be calling itself a lager. Judging by the scent this beer greets you with, which is a surprisingly strong array of hops leading to a pleasant aroma,  Coney Island Lager should really be  Coney Island IPA. The body also does not adhere to the name, as it combines a dark appearance with a smooth texture to create a rather heavy beer that could easily fill you in two or three bottles. The taste is also heavily reminiscent of an IPA, with the hops from the aroma carrying over into the flavour, creating a very bitter, slightly citric tang. The finish continues the IPA style textures, with the citric flavours carrying for around a minute before fading. All in all, a very nice ‘Indian Pale Lager’ which may act as a good starting point for anyone unfamiliar with IPAs. Definitely recommended.

Nose: 23
Body: 21
Taste: 20
Finish: 20

James: 84 pts.

*****

Final Average: 81. 66 pts.

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