Tuesday, December 31, 2013

La Chouffe Blonde Ale (Belgium)

La Chouffe Blonde Ale (Belgium) 8%

A cloudy gold in a glass with a moderate soda like head of foam that fades fairly fast but still leaves nice lacing. A yeasty, herbal aroma with some dry euro hops and toasty malty sweetness.

A herbal, honey, nectar taste with middlelingly bitterness. Quite yeasty and with a creamy mouthfeel so, in that way, it is a little like a Belgian Wheat. However the toasty malt sweetness with subtle grain and the higher alcohol content (which is barely noticeable) makes this stand out as a very nice Belgian Blonde Ale.

Monday, December 30, 2013

104th Regiment - Picaroons (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton)

104th Regiment - Picaroons (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton) 4.2%

A clear brown colour in a glass with a head of off-white foam. Roasty, biscuit, caramel and brown sugar aroma.

A watery mouthfeel and quite carbonated (a bit of a more aggressive pour would have dealt with that though, I think). Biscuit and roasty, not quite coffee, sweet with caramel and brown sugar. Drinkable and pub appropriate if a bit sweet for a brown ale. Quite nice and I think it may be even better on tap.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Red Racer India Pale Ale - Central City Brewers (Canada - British Columbia - Surrey)

Red Racer India Pale Ale - Central City Brewers (Canada - British Columbia - Surrey) 6.5%

A slightly red full gold colour in a glass with a big head of white frothy foam. Resin, cedar, citrus (grapefruit) and mango hops aroma. Strongly hoppy flavour, with grapefruit, papaya, cedar, pine and sticky resin. Quite bitter but with some sweetness from the malty mixed in. A bitter hops (especially grapefruit) and slightly metallic aftertaste. This is a solid IPA that would go well with stirfry and one that I would drink regularly if it was local, that's no knock against Red Racer I just prefer my locally produced beers for environmental reasons.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Ale - Shepherd Neame (United Kingdom)

Christmas Ale - Shepherd Neame (United Kingdom) 7.0%

A reddish gold colour in a glass with a frothy, white head of foam. A dry, slightly herbal hop aroma with light red fruit and plum flavours. Sweet, lightly boozy and herbal taste with caramelized stickiness and dark malty flavours mixed with some light fruit tones (apple, raisin, plum). Shepherd Neame's Christmas Ale has sherry traits but also the robust malty body of a nice amber ale. The mix of flavours reminds me of really good fruitcake and is pretty close to my ideal concept of an English Christmas Ale.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Ale - Great Lakes Brewery (Canada - Ontario - Toronto)

Winter Ale - Great Lakes Brewery (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 6.2%

A dark and very red colour in a glass with a medium head of white foam. An aroma of cinnamon and perhaps cloves [note: nope] with a touch of roasted malt: not all that dissimilar from a pumpkin ale, although without any gourd tones kicking around, of course.

Lots of cinnamon (lots) and sticky, roasted malt in the flavour. The finish is fairly bitter and that is where some hops but especially the citrus (orange peel) comes out. It isn't the sort of sweet citrus that you get in a Belgian Wheat or with some hoppy west coast IPAs but the tangy, sour jolt of real orange peel. There are some red fruity, nearly sherry-like tones in the aftertaste. The spicy mix, which I originally (and mistakenly) thought included cloves (thinking of that other fabulous Christmas beverage, mulled cider) reveals the ginger in Great Lakes Brewery's Winter Ale as the beer warms.

This is a fine spiced beer but it doesn't quite suit the season to my taste. I cut my teeth, so to speak, as a beer geek/blogger/critic on Norwegian Yule Beers (see here, here and here) and therefore winter beers hold a special place in my heart. I just don't find molasses-less ginger and orange peel really speak to me as a far as the proper flavours of a beer for winter. Additionally, the lowish alcohol content and the only moderately malty body (one that is overshadowed by the spices anyway) don't really qualify this as a "true winter warmer" as the label asks you to believe. But do not misunderstand me: it may not fit my idea of a winter beer or a Winter Warmer but this is a tasty spiced beer, maybe just better suited to autumn.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yuletide Cherry Porter - Barley Days (Canada - Ontario - Picton)

Yuletide Cherry Porter - Barley Days (Canada - Ontario - Picton) 5.5%

Dark chocolate aroma, colour with coffee, some smoke and some subtle cherry scents. Opaque and chestnut brown with a red hue in a glass. It does not have much of a head to speak of: just a thin lace of tan coloured bubbles.

Strong chocolate flavour, red cherries with a smoky finish and a velvety mouthfeel that makes me feel like I'm eating a slice of black forest cake. Not just smoky, the finish also tastes fairly strongly of cherry and the aftertaste is a delicious mix of chocolate and cherry. This is an exquisite desert beer though it is not all that sweet so it's also a tasty quaffing beer. I think this would be perfect for Christmas holiday afternoons and after-supper drinks.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2012 (United Kingdom - London)

Fuller's Vintage Ale 2012 (United Kingdom - London) 8.5%

Just on the amber side of gold and barely cloudy with not much of a head, although I am pour it out in dribs and drabs so that I can savour this beer that I have been saving for more than a year. Sweet, nectary, peach and apple pie aroma. Apple because of some esters but pie because of the sweet, somewhat roasty malt flavours. Subdued but solid resiny hops, earth tones and a touch of alcohol blends this all together tantalizingly.

Sweetly sugary but with malt tones like barley candy, dried fruit flavours (dates, raisins) and lingering peach or marmalade tones. These sweet flavours are grounded with spicy, herbal hops tones and medium bitterness. The aftertaste is slightly bitter, earthy, with a caramelized sweetness and leather hints with a faint lingering touch of that marmalade flavour. I think the flavour of Fuller's Vintage Ale 2012 is truly delightful. If I had to describe it in only one sentence I'd describe it as such: a lighter body and perhaps slightly sweeter barley wine but with all the complexity. Bear in mind that barley wines are among my favourite beer styles of all time so this is high praise indeed.

On the strength of Fuller's Vintage Ale 2012's flavour I plan to pick up two or three of their 2013 (and 2014 and 2015 and ...) edition: one for a year from now; one for a vertical tasting with a one-year-old 2014; and one for a vertical tasting with a one-year-old 2015 and two-year-old 2014. Vertical tastings take a long horizon and a good deal of planning and foresight (not to mention a place to actually properly store the beer) so I still haven't done a proper one (once, out of luck I managed to find a few Orval bottles at an NB Liquor store that were bottled eight months apart) but this beauty of a beer from more than twelve months ago has convinced me that it has to happen.