Tag Archives: Phillips Brewery

Phillips Mass Extinction Ice Barley Wine

 

This is a unique beer, if there ever was one. Phillips Mass Extinction ice barley wine “underwent a crystalline phase which distilled the remaining liquid into a naturally sweetened nectar of caramel”. In other words, this beer was literally frozen, like the late-harvested grapes used for icewine, in order to concentrate the sugars, and release a high percentage (12%), yet still highly sweet beverage.

– Kamran

*****

While Phillips Mass Extinction is flavourful, powerful, and unique, it is quite one-dimensional; it is plainly sweet and malty. Similar to their Trainwreck, the flavours are quite subdued, or contained. The beer certainly needs some air to run through it to open it up. Since it is kept in a frozen state for a relatively long period of time, I suppose they use lager or pilsner yeast. The result is a slightly metallic and alcohol filled nose — all that can really be sensed under the malty sweetness.

While it is quite complex, the potential for pleasant flavours is all but restricted. The malt and alcohol overpowers the character of the sweetness; I could not even taste the caramel that Phillips claims on the bottle is prominent. That said, despite the lack of flavour, the sweetness itself, if tasted in just the right way, gives a beautiful sensation on the tip of one’s tongue. For this reason alone, I can enjoy the beer.

While the body is kind of heavy, it’s not quite as bogging-down as some other barley wines, such as the trainwreck. However, the alcohol at 12% is certainly noticeable. The sweetness kills the alcohol on the finish, making it not so harsh to go down. There is a slight sickly sweetness that sticks to your gums; at first it is quite pleasant, but the lingering of it is not appreciated. While Phillips is my favourite Vancouver Craft brewery, I have simply been underwhelmed by their barley wine.

Nose: 18.5
Body: 19.5
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 19.5

Kamran: 78 pts.

*****

I’ve had this beer on a couple of occasions now, and I have to admit… when compared to other barley wines this does not appeal to me at all. I’d much prefer the other Phillips barley wine, Trainwreck, over this for a few reasons. First it’s sickly sweet for my taste-buds. Secondly, I am unable to determine its complexity or if it really does taste plain. Lastly, again it is just too damn sweet. Now I understand that this beer would appeal to some sections of the population, but most of those who do like it must have lived on candy through their childhood and pound back sugar with their coffee and cream – any chance I can work in a lyric from the Beastie Boys is a good day! I appreciate the effort that went into making this beer. It has a very cool process of creation which takes some serious dedication, but the quality just wasn’t here for this particular brew.

As for the review, the nose is super sweet like a caramel with a metallic note to it. I sometimes get the same smell from lagers and pilsners so perhaps it’s the variety of yeast used. The body is a medium heaviness, with nice colouring and beading of carbonation. The taste is a caramel rich sweet, with perhaps notes of roasted chocolate malt hidden away. The finish is lingering malt that haunts your palate for an unwanted amount of time. It took some water and a few tic tacs to get a more pleasant taste back into my mouth.

While I do really like Phillips and their products, this did shake my faith in them. If someone were to ask me if I could recommend it, I probably would say don’t waste your time. I know I’m going to stick with the regular Phillips beers from now on.

Nose: 15
Body: 15
Taste: 13
Finish: 15

Tristan: 58 pts.

*****

Final Average: 68 pts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer

Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine

A seasonal by Phillips brewery, this 10% barley wine packs a punch. For those unfamiliar, a barley wine has nothing to do with wine, except that it has a strong alcohol percentage — likening the percentage of wine. It is still, of course, fermented from grain — barley — rather than grapes, and, though many other styles of beer, such as a Russian Imperial Stout, may boast a high alcohol percentage, barley wines are a distinctly unique class of ale. They tend to be complex, earthy, fruity, a touch sour — winelike — and malty.

– Kamran

*****
I must admit, despite my current familiarity and experience with complex beers, such as barley wines and lambics, the Trainwreck, tasted about a half of a year ago, broke my barley wine cherry. Because of this, my initial impression of the beer was certainly flawed. I have since seen the err of my ways. The complexity of a barley wine surprised me, and I gave the beer extra credit simply for its uniqueness. Fact is, it’s really not unique, and after trying several other barley wines, the initially strong impression once held in my mind — of the Trainwreck — faded away.

The nose has a slight florality that is masked by delicate hops, lots of complex malts, and a slightly sour, wine-like — reminds me of a 1989 Chateaux Musar I once tasted — aroma. It’s quite heavy, and, therefore, a sipping beer; however, you couldn’t tell it was 10%. I certainly couldn’t drink more than one bomber bottle, though. Like with other complex beers, familiarity causes the flavours to grow on you, and I found myself enjoying it more as I continued drinking it. I think it was better warm, too. That said, the flavours are quite subtle, and nothing jumps out at you. In all its complexity, the flavours are muddled together, sending rather incoherent sensations on the palate. This results in what I find the weakest aspect of the beer: the finish. It lingers in an awkward, bitter-sour way. Still, a relatively enjoyable beer overall.

Nose: 20.5
Body: 20
Taste: 18.5
Finish: 17.5

Kamran: 76.5 pts.

*****

Now when it comes to barley wine I’m the first to admit, probably not a beer choice you’ll want to session all night long unless you find one that blows you away, and while the Phillips Trainwreck isn’t exactly one I’d recommend for a night session it does grow on you to the point where one or two of the 750ml bottles are a nice way to spend an evening with company. Certainly a beer that improves as you drink it, whether it be to the increase in flavours as it warms slowly or that your palate adjusts, this brew is likely my favourite of the two Phillips barley wines we’ve tried.

On the nose it has all the tell-tale signs of  barley wine in regards to sweetness with faint hops, and the body is fairly typical as well. The beer is savoury, smooth, and heavier compared to most barley wines, but certainly no liquid meal like some people find with stouts.  The flavour is caramel tones, with a slight hops tucked away. The finish is smooth with a slight bitterness/tang after you swallow it, with a lingering sweetness that you’d expect.

While I’ve certainly had better barley wines I could see myself ordering this at a pub or getting another bottle at the store for a night’s one-off beer. Not a wow-factor contender overall though, but the scoring is reflective on something above average at least.

Nose: 20.5
Body: 22
Taste: 19
Finish: 18.5

Tristan: 80 pts.

*****

Final Average: 78.25 pts.

Leave a comment

Filed under Beer

Anchor Liberty Ale

In San Francisco, Anchor Brewing has been a leader of the west-coast craft beer industry since the 1800s, beginning with their inaugural Anchor Steam Lager — one of my personal favourite lagers. The Liberty Ale, brewed for mere decades has become their second most reputable beer: a medium-well hopped, yet refreshingly light ale.

– Kamran

*****

First off, I love the designs on all the Anchor beers. The image on the 2011 Christmas Ale? Incredible! What a detailed and well drawn tree. I hate to say it, but an attractive bottle can always get a sale out of me. Fortunately for Anchor, their beer is good enough to justify the spectacular bottle designs, high-costs, and quality reputation.

While the Anchor Steam Lager — a crisp, well-hopped lager, may be my favourite lager — period, I think I prefer the Liberty Ale — I’m just not much of a lager boy. The Liberty Ale is slightly darker, dry-hopped, and opens with a delicate plethora of floral hops. The aroma is profoundly hoppy, despite the lack of IBUs; this is due to the combination of steam brewing and dry-hopping. On the palate, the hops — citrusy and floral, think (non-sour) grapefruit and juniper — give plenty of flavour, while not bogging it down with overuse.

The body is light and refreshing; it is quite well balanced. This lends itself to a crisp, slightly bitter finish. Regarding our previously reviewed beers, the Liberty Ale stands up to Phillips Blue Buck and Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale as one of the better session ales around.

Nose: 22.5
Body: 21.5
Taste: 22.5
Finish: 22

Kamran: 88.5 pts.

*****

While I’ve made it known I am not inclined to consume particularly hoppy beers, the Liberty Ale is certainly something I’d recommend to people who appreciate hops and the balance of floral and bitterness that accompanies it. Less subtle in hops than the Coney Island Lager by Schmaltz Brewing or Russell Brewing’s Blood Alley, this ale is much closer on the scale to an IPA than most typical ales I’ve drank. It is however a solid beer in it’s own regard and one that I’d happily split a six-pack of with a friend for a BBQ party.

For me the nose is the best part of hoppy beers. The floral aroma is always so inviting, and Anchor certainly know how to maximize on that! While it is certainly crisp and refreshing, I wouldn’t say it is a light beer, as there is a certain thickness to it. By no means is it near a stout or porter level of thickness, but it is far from being light as a lager or pilsner. With a mild hop taste and non-sweet fruity tones, this beer plays on the palate quite nicely. As a side-note, I thought I detected some trace amount of spice to the taste. The finish certainly has that floral hops taste to it that lingers the longest, with cameo appearances of fruit and some bitterness.

This was a good beer; not the best I’ve had, but one I’d try again. However, I’d probably try other beers produced by Anchor before returning to the Liberty Ale just so I can better reference it to the other available brews. I agree with Kamran’s assesment that Anchor, based on this beer alone in my experience, would fair nicely when compared to the likes of Phillip’s Blue Buck or Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 18.5
Taste: 17.5
Finish: 17.5

Tristan: 75 pts.

*****

Final Average: 81.75 pts.

1 Comment

Filed under Beer

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.

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