Tag Archives: Roasted Malt

Innis & Gunn Winter Ale

In the winter of 2011 Innis and Gunn released a winter pack with three beers and a collectible glass. The three beers were the Original, the Spiced Rum Finish and the Winter 2011. Needless to say Kamran and I purchased a few of these packs between the two of us. This brew was a rich savoury beer that was made for the winter night and could be sipped on next to the fire, or equally enjoyed with roast pork or rack of lamb for dinner.

-Tristan

*****

The Innis & Gunn Winter ale has a strong malt backbone, but enough hops and oak infused flavours to make for a crisp finish. While not as complex or profound as, say, the original or the Highland cask, it is quite delicious in its unique appropriation of the oak.

The sweetness of the malt integrates itself quite nicely with subtle flavours of vanilla and oak. While I miss that the toffee and caramel is all but lost on the Winter Ale, I can appreciate what it has to offer. The body is relatively creamier and heavier; unlike the original, I would prefer not to session this beer — it’s even more of a sipper. The palate is deftly complemented with flavours of roast and chestnut, that, while not long-lived, are quite enjoyable, and result in a long, consistent, and crisp finish.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 22.5

Kamran: 89 pts.

*****

Only two beers the night of this tasting, several months ago now, cracked the 90’s in scoring, and both happened to be in the Winter pack. This beer did so well because it seemed to be different than the tried and true approach of the brewery. It was richer and fuller while keeping the familiar sweetness, which was more subdued than usual.

With some unique aromas on the nose: Christmas pudding, apple, pear, dried fruit all hidden amongst the tamed malt and oak, this was an intriguing shift. The body for this Scottish ale was thick and well formed, creamy yet not heavy like a stout. The taste was primarily malty with some citrus orange zest, and a more of a rum taste than whisky in my opinion. The finish was vanilla, citrus, oak and it lingered in a nice and enjoyable mellow manner. A sipping beer through and through.

Kamran’s finishing thoughts struck the nail on the head so I wont repeat them here. However, I can only hope that next holiday season Innis and Gunn release a beer of similar caliber, and that hopefully I can purchase it sans the gift box as I now have a few too many Innis and Gunn glasses in my cupboards!!!!

Nose: 19.5
Body: 24
Taste: 24
Finish: 24

Tristan: 91.5 pts.

*****

Final Average: 90.25 pts.

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Fernie Brewing Company: Big Caboose Red Ale

Three Quarters done the mixer and we get to the Big Caboose Red Ale from Fernie Brew Company. One of their newer beers — added to the lineup in November 2011 — this is a typical red ale, straddling a fine balance of malt and hops — somewhere in the middle of the beer spectrum.

– Tristan & Kamran

*****

Similar to the Griz Pale Ale in that it doesn’t really standout, the Big Caboose Red Ale is a fairly plain, yet inoffensive dark amber ale. Unlike the Griz, though, I found the Big Caboose to have just a little bit more going on.

As with virtually all red ales, the Big Caboose has conflicting tones of malt and hops. The goal of brewing one of these beers is to perfectly integrate and balance these tones — this is the concept behind Phillips Double Dragon, a seasonal that is released once a year. In this case, though, the malt is a bit overdone, and the hops don’t shine through. As a result, the malt lends itself to a slightly sickly sweetness; it’s not heavy or dark enough to give it that roasted flavour, and not roasted or hopped enough to give it a balancing level of bitterness.

That said, it certainly doesn’t taste bad — it could be a lot worse — but it’s rather lackluster. The body is fairly rich and textured, but, again, it doesn’t really stand out, and the finish leaves one wanting.

Nose: 19
Body: 18.5
Taste: 19
Finish: 18

Kamran: 74.5 pts

*****

Well this beer was the lowest of the mixer in my ratings… but not by much. While it wasn’t bad in the slightest, I just felt it was fairly pedestrian and underwhelming. It’s heavier than the Griz Pale Ale, and less exciting in flavour than the blond Buck Wild Ale.

The nose is malty, and almost spiced from the way the roasted malt was incorporated. The body was plain, and interestingly the colour upon reflection was more similar to Dr. Pepper than a usual red ale. In flavour, the malt sweetness and roasted malt taste combine on the palate but really didn’t impress me too much. The aftertaste is short, with a lingering malty sweetness that just kinda sticks to the mouth.

Like I said, it wasn’t a bad beer, but it didn’t remind me of anything spectacular or unique. It receives a passing grade however, and i wouldn’t be opposed to drinking another in the future… so long as I’m not buying it in a six-pack.

Nose: 16
Body: 16
Taste: 14
Finish: 15

Tristan: 61 pts

*****

Final Average: 67.75

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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

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