Tag Archives: Vancouver Craft Beer

Catching Up With The Ranks

In order to get back in the groove of tasting new beers and writing up to date reviews, we will simply post our scores for all that we have tasted and rated in our absence. If you’re interested in a full review on any of the following, please comment below and we will make time to do a couple write-ups!

Beer

Bavaria:
Kam: 75.5

Brother Thelonias:
Kam: 70.5

Coney Island Sword Swallower:
Kam: 85.5

Deschutes The Abyss:
Kam: 96

Deschutes, The Stoic:
Kam: 90.5

Driftwood Naughty Hildegaard:
Kam: 85.5

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller (2012):
Kam: 71.5

Driftwood Old Barrel Dweller (2012) :
Kam: 89

Driftwood Singularity:
Kam: 96.5

Driftwood Wooly Booger (2012):
Kam: 85.5

Fort Garry:
Kam: 74.5

Granville Island Imperial IPA:
Kam: 65.5

Lighthouse Chocolate:
Kam: 84.5

Lighthouse Russian Imperial Stout:
Kam: 82

Old Speckled Hen:
Kam: 76.5

Ola Dubh 12:
Kam: 80.5

Ola Dubh 16:
Kam: 87

Ola Dubh 18:
Kam: 90.5

Petrus Aged Ale:
Kam: 84.5

Phillips Double Barrel 2010:
Kam: 96

Phillips Double Barrel 2011:
Kam: 93.5

Phillips Evergreen Ale:
Kam: 83.5

Phillips Green Reaper:

Kam: 88.5

Phillips Krypton RyePA:
Kam: 85.5

Schmaltz Brewing:
Jewbelation Sweet 16:
Kam: 82.5

Rogue Dead Guy Ale:
Kam: 91

Rogue Mogul Madness Ale:
Kam: 82.5

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale:
Kam: 73

Russell 6.26: Kam: 90

Sierra Nevada Torpedo:
Kam: 91.5

St. Ambroise Vintage Ale:
Kam: 83

Thirsy Beaver Amber Ale:
Kam: 80.5

Three Philosophers: Quad Belgian Style Blend:
Kam: 83.5

Tree Brewing Vertical Winter Ale:
Kam: 82.5

Tullibardine Strong:
Kam 79

Wells Banana Bread Beer:
Kam: 77

Westvleteran XII:
Kam: 92.5

Whistler Chestnut Ale:
Kam: 81

Whistler Pineapple Express:
Kam: 79.5
Whisky

Amrut Fusion:
Kam: 86

Auchentoshin:
Kam: 86.5

Balvenie:
Kam: 85.5

Bunnahabhain 9:
Kam: 88

Glencadam:
Kam: 94.5

Glen Garioch 15:
Kam: 88.5

Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or:
Kam: 93.5

Kuch Nai:
Kam: 81.5

Maker’s Mark:
Kam: 78

Tullibardine Banyuls:
Kam: 85

Wild Turkey Rare Breed:
Kam: 89

Spirits

Botanist Gin, The: Kam: 88.5

Bombay Gin: Kam: 76

El Dorado 12 Year: Kam: 94.5

Tobala Classico Mescal: Kam: 88

Scorpion Repsosado: Kam: 84

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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.

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Howe Sound Woolly Bugger Barley Wine

At, 11%, 75 IBUs, brewed with pale, crystal, cara, chocolate and special B malts, and seasoned with nugget, fuggles, and golding hops, the Howe Sound Woolly Bugger barley wine is a highly complex, highly refined, must-see-for-yourself beer. It is thick, with bits of sediment/pebbles floating in the bottle; not to worry, decant it finely and enjoy the character it bestows.

– Kamran

*****

While not a huge fan of barley wine, and having not yet tasted one that really floats my boat, the Howe Sound Woolly Bugger blew me away. The beer is bursting with flavour, both on the nose and the palate; each individual sensation is distinct, yet well integrated, and highly pronounced. On the nose, there is a rich chocolate caramel sweetness that mingles with delicate hops — particularly the fuggles (reminds me of the Anchor Christmas Ale) — and a red wine-like acidity. The alcohol presents itself with a slightly citrus sourness that deftly complements the rich sweetness of the malts.

The beer is profoundly sweet, but the malty sweetness is balanced by robust hops, and enough IBUs to instill a crisp finish. At 11%, it is slightly heavy and the malt sticks to the sides of your cheeks. Since the flavours are so well endowed, you really can’t drink too much; one is perfect. This is currently the best barley wine I have tried, though I never got a chance to taste Driftwood’s highly regarded ‘Old Cellar Dweller’. Rogue, however, makes a close second.

Nose: 22
Body: 20
Taste: 23.5
Finish: 21.5

Kamran: 87 pts.

*****

Without a doubt, Howe Sound Brewing’s Woolly Bugger is one of the best barley wines I’ve had to date. With an 11% alcohol content and 75 IBU’s, this beer packs a pleasant and complex punch with the wide variety of malts and hops contained in the bottle. And while generally I’m not a huge fan of beers with fuggles hops (such as the Innis and Gunn Canada Day 2011 release), the mix of fuggles with other varieties was a nice counter balance to the malts. This beer had an ability to constantly keep your palate guessing as to the flavours and an ability to leave you wanting more; a feeling some barley wines lack.

On the nose, the malty sweetness is quite prevalent as in any barley wine, yet the fuggles hops really cut through to my sense of smell. Surprisingly hoppy, the floral aroma is very inviting when mixed with the malty sweetness. The body is thicker than I anticipated, but it still allows for easy drinking. In terms of taste – having been sitting in my cellar aging for over  six months – the tones of chocolate were noticeable through the sweetness. As well, the hops was adding to the rich complexity that Kamran and I both enjoyed. The finish had a flash of bitterness on the tongue with a lingering sweetness and a chocolate taste that seemed to stick to the cheeks and back of the tongue. It even had the similarity of an alcohol taste like a cognac from what we could derive.

This beer is best enjoyed alone and at a cool temperature, and is one of the only barley wines I could recommend as a session beer if the occasion arose seeing as I could easily have a few in a night. So if you happen across this beer in a store, buy it and enjoy!

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

Tristan: 89.5 pts.

*****

Final Average: 88.25 pts.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fernie Brewing Company: First Trax Brown Ale

The fourth and final installment of the Fernie Brew Co. mixer pack that we tasted. The First Trax is interesting in that it claims to use eight different malts in the mix! It is a heavier beer than the other Fernies and tastes better the longer you drink it. While not overly complex, I can see this beer being more well received than some of the others in the mixer due to it’s richer flavours and full nose.

– Tristan

*****

Having tried this one before, and enjoyed it a fair bit, I expected it to be my favourite of the mixer, and looked forward to tasting it again. While I estimated correctly that it would be my favourite, I didn’t enjoy the First Trax nearly as much this time around — simply the victim of a proper analysis.

Boasting a wide variety of malts, the First Trax Brown Ale is rich, fairly complex, and on the darker end of the spectrum. The chocolate-cocoa-toffee sweetness on the nose is quite pleasant, and certainly more appealing than the malt derivatives of the Big Caboose. On the palate, it tastes and feels like a traditional nut brown — think Cannery Nut Brown or Howe Sound Rail Ale. While it’s got a fairly robust body, it’s not nearly heavy enough to be filling, and I could, quite easily, drink several of these in a short period. The finish leaves one with a lingering chocolatey sweetness that is somewhat enjoyable, but gets tiresome.

Having done the Big Caboose Red and the First Trax Brown back to back, I have realized that a good red ale requires a certain amount of hops — and a good brown ale requires a certain amount of malts — to make it appealing. The First Trax, with a sufficient amount of malts, is simply better integrated than the under-hopped Big Caboose.

Nose: 19.5
Body: 19
Taste: 21
Finish: 18.5

Kamran: 78 pts.

*****

While this was better than the Big Caboose Red Ale, in my opinion this beer wasn’t as impressive as the Griz Pale Ale or the Buck Wild Ale. Personal opinion I know, but I do see more people enjoying this one as its nose, body and flavours could be more in line with the majority of people.

The nose was sweet as a result of the malts used, but it also had a caramel-esque, chocolate, almond and pine smell from the varying malts. Intriguing yes, but a wee bit sweet for my liking. The body was a little surprising as the bitterness took the first swing at my taste buds when I was fully expecting it to be sweet as sugar. It was thicker than the prior beers from the mixer pack, so I’m not sure if I would recommend people buy a 6-pack to consume for a party or event unless they enjoy a filling beer. The Taste was bitter, almost like an espresso or dark roast coffee behind the malts. The finish was actually drier than expected, and of course… malty.

A little bolder in the malts, this beer has a slight complexity to it, but perhaps more hops are needed to even things out. Or I’m just knit-picking… either way it’s a good beer, but I prefer the first two of the Fernies we tried to this and the latter, red ale, in the box.

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

Tristan: 62 pts

*****

Final Average: 70 pts.

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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.

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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!

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