Tag Archives: Vancouver

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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Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Here we have a relatively special beer from Brooklyn Brewing, a craft brewery located in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. While the flavour of chocolate is quite often imparted organically in the making of a stout, some brewmasters, especially in recent times, will add chocolate into the mix, post fermentation. In this case, we have black chocolate added to give Brooklyn’s stout an extra little kick.

– Kamran

*****

I love dark chocolate, and I love dark beers: I will love this. This seems logical, right? Well, though logical, it was only partially right. I didn’t love this beer, but I did rightly enjoy it.

Beneath the malty sweetness lies a noticeable, but relatively subdued, chocolate aroma. With air and a bit of warmth, the chocolate comes out more. At 10%, the beer is heavy, and, actually, a bit harsh. The alcohol unfortunately takes away from the flavour & smoothness lent by the chocolate. However, if you hold the liquid in your mouth, like how you might do with a whisky, some of the alcohol evaporates and the beer gets some air through it, making it creamier — velvety — and more flavourful.

On the palate, the beer goes from having a malt sweetness, to being slightly tart, and finishes with a light hop bitterness. In all three respects, the sensations are quite mild. The finish doesn’t leave much, aside from the remaining malt tones; however, upon exhalation, the chocolate comes out more. So, drink this beer while breathing out your mouth!

Nose: 19
Body: 19.5
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 20

Kamran: 79 pts.

*****

I am very much a fan of solid porters and stouts as I may have mentioned in previous posts, and I for one did really enjoy the richness of this particular Brooklyn brew. At 10% alc/vol. this beer has a wee bit o’ strength to it, hidden within one of heavier and certainly blackest stouts on the market. If one considers Guinness a meal in a glass and struggles to finish one, I’d likely suggest stealing a few sips from a friend who orders this as opposed to a whole pint or bottle.

The aroma of the beer is one of malt and chocolate… as if anything else were to be expected?! The body is heavy and thick, with a velvety texture when held in the mouth. Certainly some level of complexity to balance the malt and chocolate, but the alcohol is evident and adds a little roughness to the mix – so not exactly a smooth sipper. Surprisingly, this stout wasn’t as chocolate flavored as I expected compared to stouts I’ve tried at craft pubs like the Alibi Room or St. Augustine’s in Vancouver. Perhaps it was the noticeable presence of the higher alcohol percentage, or the type of chocolate used, but I expected a more dominant taste in that regard. The finish was bitter followed what i can only describe as a brief tartness followed by a longer lasting mix of chocolate and slight hops.

While the lack of chocolate taste and the “tartness” I sensed at the end were two detractors from the beer, it wasn’t bad at all. I did enjoy the richness of it but unlike Guinness, I could not drink more than one or two of these in a night. However, while not a stout, a local chocolate porter that’s just as good would be the Phillips Chocolate Porter which is much lighter and more chocolate tasting.

Nose: 21.5
Body: 24
Taste: 19
Finish: 19

Tristan: 83.5 pts.

*****

Final Average: 81.25 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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Kross Golden Ale

Kross Brewing Company hails from Chile, and doesn’t even have an official website I can link you to. I guess the article will have to do. This golden ale came at a great price: 4 bottles for $8, and it’s well worth that cost. The end of a batch at Edgemont Fine Wines, Spirits, and Ales, I have yet to see the golden ale, or any other Kross beer for that matter, in any liquor store or bar since. I guess it was a bit of a one-off, but its unique taste and complexity makes it worthwhile, indeed.

– Kamran

*****

This is a fairly spicy beer. The nose shares notes of pepper, cumin, and a touch of nutmeg. There is a bit of malt, and a bit more hops that dance delicately on the palate, while bits and pieces of various spices may be perceived. The body is rich, smooth, and easy drinking, but has some “oomph”. It’s not a chugging beer, but not quite a sipper either — it’s highly well balanced in this regard. There is a subtle hop characteristic on the palate which relieves itself in a highly crisp finish. A true Chilean session beer!

Nose: 19
Body: 21.5
Taste: 20.5
Finish: 20.5

Kamran: 81.5 pts.

*****

Unlike Kamran I did not pick up the spiced notes of this beer to the extent I could name them, but still there was some zip in this Chilean sensation. Kross Golden Ale proved to be one of those beers that has potential to grow on a person, and I’m sure my marks would reflect that if I’d have had it over an expended period of time such as the summer months, but on a single tasting the score may seem to be a bit low in relation to what it could have gotten with more familiarity.

It was light and fruity/citric on the nose and the opaqueness of it seemed to remind me of a blond or wheat beer. While there was a sharpness in nose and body, the fruit and citrus presented themselves in the taste quite prominently on my palate. That may be where I lost the sense of spice Kamran referred too, since I focused on the fruity flavours of the brew. The aftertaste was a lingering sweetness that balanced out and faded away.

As I previously mentioned, it was a single tasting, but I feel this beer could have grown on me had it had more of a chance to sink in. While not an immediate favourite, I believe my scoring is honest to this brief encounter and I am open to reviewing it again should the opportunity present itself.

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

Tristan: 72 pts.

*****

Final Average: 76.75 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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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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Fernie Brewing: The Griz Pale Ale

Fernie Brewing Companyis located in the town of Fernie, BC, tucked next to the Rockies. While it’s not the most well known of local brewers in the Pacific Northwest, they do produce some solid standard year-round beers and always interesting 650ml regular/seasonal bottles on the market in government and privately operated liquor stores. The Griz Pale Ale was the first we tried in the mixer pack of beers available year-round, and it certainly made us take notice of the brewery that has seemingly come out of the woodwork up here.

–  Tristan

*****

The Griz Pale Ale is nothing special, but it’s inoffensive; one may drink several of these in a row without qualm. The nose boasts a mild hop profile, and some citrus notes, but nothing really stands out. In a similar vein, their is not a whole lot of flavour once the liquid hits the palate; the beer is relatively plain. In this way, it’s actually quite refreshing. The lighter body makes it easy to drink, and, although there isn’t an appealing quality to the beer, there isn’t an unappealing one.

It’s not unpleasant to drink,  and is relatively cheap, making it a good alternative from the typical Caribou, Pabst, or Old Mill that you might choose if you’re going to a party or playing a lot of beer pong. The slight bitter aftertaste doesn’t linger, so you don’t get that nasty aftertaste you might get from chugging one of the aforementioned three.

Nose: 17.5
Body: 19.5
Taste: 18
Finish: 17

Kamran: 72 pts.

*****

Without any sense of trepidation in picking up this mixer-pack from Fernie, a company I hadn’t really seen or heard of in my area of the Lower Mainland, I was immediately surprised at how good the Griz Pale Ale was. It was sufficiently malty and hoppy (with a few varieties including the noticeable Cascade hops of many regional brews), and to be honest it tasted better than Granville Island’s pale ale of late. It was a rich caramel colour, well flavoured, not too complex, and certainly easy for a patio 6-pack session.

The nose possessed a sweetness that was complemented by the floral hops that gave it that good pale ale kick. The body was smooth and crisp, ideal for a bbq as it wasn’t one that would leave you feeling full and bloated. While the taste wasn’t overly complex, the ideal amount of malt and hops kept the sweetness and bitterness in check and allowed for that easy drinking sensation many big names beers proclaim to have but fail at. The finish is short and subtle as it fades from the palate.

Nose: 18
Body: 18
Taste: 16
Finish: 15

Tristan: 67 pts.

*****

Final Average: 69.5 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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