Tag Archive: Canada

Collective Arts: Ransack The Universe (Canada: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light hazy yellow to apricot body. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Solid creamy white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Resin. Hop oils. Soft lime. Floral. Crisp bitterness. Pineapple.

Body: Oily bitterness. Mild gherkin. Pineapple. Prickly. Resin. Grapefruit. Slight vanilla. Dry body. Slight fudge. Mandarin orange. Tart grapes. Lychee. Peach syrup.

Finish: Oily bitterness. Oily charring. Dry charring. Bitter hop character. Gunpowder tea. Grapefruit. Tart orange. Palma violets.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a punchy wee one. It comes across a lot different from the fresh fruity IPA was was expecting from the hop choice in making it. It has a tart fruit character, but emphasises the dry attenuated base and a bitter, charred to gunpowder tea hop kick that is slightly smoothed by hop oiliness.

It feels like a beer that want s to kick you hard, then gently hug you with flavour after. Initial impression are prickly hops, oily, resinous and quickly leads out into a charred bitter finish. The base is dry and out of the way – not getting in the path of the hop punch at all. Here the beer feels kind a fairly brutal IPA, weighty enough backing that the charring isn’t evil and harsh, but still kind of one note.

Time, heat and the slow build of repeated sipping all come together to give access to a second layer of flavour – tart pineapple into brighter tart orange notes with a sour, mild gherkin like twist to it. The hops rock up front, but now with subtle flavours backing it, giving something hiding behind the harshness. Heck, you even get a soft vanilla fudge note that hints at actual malt presence, but without harming the super dry IPA character.

So it is definitely leaning towards the dry, hop assault IPA side of things, which is super my jam. Thankfully. It doesn’t leverage the favour from the hops fully, and can be a tad harsh in the bitterness, but it is a very satisfying, brutal, hop bomb with a lot to back it up flavour-wise.

In a normal environment I’d call this a good beer – in this world where there are so many milkshake/NEIPA/etcs I’m just very happy that I got my hand on an IPA like this again.

A solid beer.

Background: Didn’t run into Collective Arts while I was over in Canada, so when I saw them turn up in the UK with their wonderfully evocative can illustrations I thought I might as well give them a go. I went through all of them looking for an IPA without a New England before it. Yes I’m still not 100% on board with the NEIPA style. Anyway, saw this, grabbed it, drank it. Simple enough story. Put on Throwing Muses’ self titled album while drinking – saw Kristin Hersh was touring again and it brought them back to mind. Nice gentle drinking tunes.


Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canadian Blended Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Rye crackers. Light orange. Menthol. Peppermint. Vanilla. Water adds coconut, white chocolate and light praline.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Coconut. Slight bitter chocolate. Light smoke. Water makes much smoother and slightly more oaken.

Finish: Brown bread. Vanilla. Peppery. Menthol. Peppermint. Buttery shortbread. Tropical fruit. Coconut. White chocolate. Quite dry and with an alcohol air. Water makes more oaken and more menthol, with some charring to it.

Conclusion: This is one of those ones that ends up as a tale of two whiskies. Initially it shows a dry, spicy rye kind of thing; Lots of rye bourbon styling, while this is a whisky it has both the rye and a light set of orange crème notes that are definitely a call to bourbon style.

However, under those dry notes is a light vanilla sweetness matched with some white chocolate character. Items that usually would be very sweet notes, but since they are delivered so dryly they instead just add more of the flavour, with just some sweet hints to them as well.

Neat it has a light amount of menthol to peppermint that is fresh, however it doesn’t seem to match the other elements well. Thankfully even a few drops of water removes this, leaving more influence for the dry spicy and peppery backing.

Even like this is still has some slight vanilla sweetness – just enough to keep it from getting too wearing. Now this leaves me in a bit of a bind – usually very dry whiskies aren’t my thing – however even as such I can respect the complexity this has and the range it brings. Even with that the character makes it far from easy drinking so I’m more appreciating it that fully enjoying it.

So, a complex but just slightly harsh edged whisky. Enjoyable, chocolate backed dry coconut and peppermint spice – it is good, but not great.

Background: Now, recently Independent Spirit did what they called their “Mediocre Whisky tasting” Now the first whisky was this – what Jim Murray listed as his best whisky in the world for 2016, so you may have guessed they were being a tad flippant there. It was an amazing line up of very hard to find whiskies – including Hibiki 17 and Yamazaki 12, amongst some others – the notes of which will be turning up in the next few days. Now, accepting that Jim Murray’s picks may be slightly…political shall we say, I was still very interested to try this. A blended whisky made with 90% rye. Because of the tasting environment my notes may be a slight bit shorter than normal – hopefully they should still make sense.

Whistlepig 10 Year

Whistlepig:Straight Rye Whisky: 10 Year ( Canadian Whiskey: 10 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold.

Viscosity: Thick fast streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Vanilla. Honey and syrup. Perfumed orange. Spicy. Water adds light pepper notes.

Body: Warming. Orange. Rye crackers. Vanilla and honey. Water adds treacle and light liquorice. Malt drinks. More orange, brown bread and maybe light peach with more water.

Finish: Orange. Vanilla. Toffee. Water adds white pepper, brown bread and maybe light peach.

Conclusion: First up, this kindly given sample is about a half a normal measure, so please consider this more of a first impressions than a full tasting note, but I will still give it my best shot!

The most notable characteristic is the smoothness. Despite a 50% abv it is warming, but no more than that – and water soothes even that level of fire if you need it more easy going still.

Next up, and also easily distinct, is the base. It has that shredded wheat, rye crackers and brown bread kind of base that I would associate more with bourbon than whiskey – however it is not too harshly pushed. There is some spice from the rye, but again that is balanced. It also doesn’t push the sweetness too hard, it has honey notes, and familiar bourbon barrel aged vanilla, but very smooth. Generally smooth sums up the base well in all its implementation.

So, what it does push however, and what is probably the most interesting characteristic for this for me, is a soft creamy orange note. Very unexpected and tasty. It nestles amongst the rye notes nicely and adds a bright middle to it. There is also, and here again softly done, a mild fruitiness in other ways.

It feels like a whisky that has a lot of character but no need to push them too hard, it just lets them slip out slowly. It would be very interesting to see what comes out of this with more time for experimentation.

So, at the end of these first impressions, it looks good. Very easy to drink, soft, but well developed flavours. Uses the rye without being dominated by it. Definitely warrants full investigation.

Background: A very unusual one here, Independent Spirit gave me a small sample, about half measure, of this to try. Many thanks. They also provided a photo of the bottle as I did not have my camera with me, the sample I took in the cleaned out Masters of Malt jar photographed. The whiskey is distilled in Canada, aged for a while but then moved to the USA for further ageing. In interest of simplicity I have listed this as Canadian.

Phillips Amnesiac Double IPA

Phillips: Amnesiac Double IPA (Canada: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded yellow froth head.

Nose: Stewed apricot. Pineapple. Fresh crisp hops. Thick and lightly bitter. Fruit syrup and peach. Toffee, fudge, and crushed biscuits. Ginger bread. Light mint greenery.

Body: Greenery. Sour touch. Resin and hops. Malty toffee backbone. Lime. Apricot. Vanilla. Light coffee. Cream.

Finish: Bitter. Slight cardboard touch. Vanilla. Malt biscuits. Sour dough. Slightly cloying. Light frothy coffee. Light earthy.

Conclusion: A bottled bit of Canada brought back with me. How does it do? Well it is quite unusual for a Double IPA I will say that. For one thing there is a very thick texture and slightly sour tang to it that makes it come in heavier than most of the style. It plays an odd balance therefore – it pushes the malt sweetness heavily, and the greenery and hop feel are high, but it doesn’t seem to use any of the hop flavours that a double IPA can really boost up.

In fact, when you combine all the elements together it brings a slight milky coffee taste the whole thing. Not really what I expect from an IPA, ok, ok coffee IPAs exist but they are doing it more in tune with the whole beer. The slightly earthy feel of this reminds me of the UK traditional take on the style, but without the advantage of the real earth texture that helps ground them.

While an interesting set of items, overall it makes for a quite bland beer. Ok, there are big flavours, but no real quality well defined flavours – just strongly pushed dull bitterness and malt sweetness. Normally I would think that the beer was a tad old and so the hops were muted, but I drank this less than a week after buying, and the hops don’t feel muggy – just leaden.

So, I’m not sure if it is just trying to carve out its own niche as a bit of a different double IPA, or if it just fails at the style it aims for, but any which way it is an underwhelming Double IPA. Oh well.

Background: The last of the Canada beers, for real this time! The final bottle I brought back with me to do a tasting note of. Ok, I brought back another beer, but that was a USA beer for ageing. this is the last Canadian beer. Drunk very shortly after getting back, so to try as fresh as possible, something I don’t usually get with Canadian beers. This was actually drunk early morning after midnight due to jet lag having effectively inverted my perception of time. Drink while listening to B. Dolan’s new album – Feed The Wolf. This was found in a random bottle shop I happened to find whilst walking in Vancouver.

Steamworks Oatmeal Stout

Steamworks: Oatmeal Stout (Canada: Sweet Stout: 5% ABV)

Visual: Black with red hints at edges. A cm of caramel to brown tinted frothy bubbled head. Some suds.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Mint leaves. Bitter coffee. Milky. Slight charring. Slight sour dough notes when at room temperature.

Body: Muesli. Milky coffee. Light pepper and spice. Dried sultanas. Bitter chocolate. Oatmeal.

Finish: Charred touch. Coffee granules. Chocolate milkshake.

Conclusion: Now, the beer is still cool as I write this, so this is a work in progress set of notes, but this beer does feel slightly thin. Very surprising for an oatmeal stout. At 5% abv it isn’t super heavy, but not so light that I would expect it to hit the mouthfeel.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe the relatively modest abv for a oatmeal stout does hit it, I am used to relatively lighter abv stouts in cask, so maybe from keg they need a higher abv to deliver the best mouthfeel. Maybe.

Anyway, flavour wise it is kind of a milky coffee drenched bowl of muesli. For those of you who don’t regularly eat such things for breakfast – it gives a nicely workable contrast.

As it warms the texture doesn’t really thicken, but the flavours do rise out of it to cover that up nicely. It becomes kind of coffee meets chocolate milkshake. Over muesli.

That analogy now feels slightly convoluted

Warm it does work better, slight overly charred but it lays down its main flavour nicely. It doesn’t really rock the style, it needs that bit more grip, but the chocoffee muesli breakfast thing isn’t exactly a common interpretation so it is doing its own thing.

Id say it is on the weaker end of the style – a pity as with more fortitude I think the main conceit would have legs. Ah well.

Background: Oh, and 30 IBUs. This is the final Canada tasting note. Well the final from Canada itself, I brought back two bottles. One a USA Enjoy After IPA, which is best part of a year away from drinking, and a Canadian Double IPA which I will have notes up on soon. People had been recommending Steamworks to me the entire trip, right from Calgary onwards, so when I was in Vancouver I decided to visit their brewpub and give it a shot. I also tried an awesome Sockeye Salmon burger there, I didn’t even know people made Salmon Burgers. Very nice indeed.  Also I tried their gose, just because I am still getting used to the style – it was very salty and yet creamy, as odd as most goses are, but slightly fuller bodied – feeling slightly lactose like. Very thirst quenching but a bit overly salty even for the style for me.

Steamworks Brewing

Postmark IPA

Postmark Brewing: IPA (Canada: IPA: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Browned overripe banana skin. Thin off white head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Lemon and apricot. Gooseberry. Light toffee. Chocolate orange. Some greenery.

Body: Big caramel. Greenery, resin, hop oils. Tart grapes. Malt chocolate. Prickling hops. Chocolate orange undertones.

Finish: Lots of hop oils and bitterness. Tart white grapes. Malt chocolate. Greenery.

Conclusion: Ok, I had forgotten how sweet some interpretations of an IPA can get. This my first sip of this was a bit of a shock. Ok a lot of a shock.

This is really caramel sweetness heavy, much lighter on the fruity notes that a lot of the IPAs from this side of the sea. Instead this goes very heavy on the hop oils and bitterness, making the most of the fact that they can get the hops out super fresh in the brewpub. The meeting of the two makes for a bittersweet clash of expectations.

The level of greenery and high resin level puts me in mind of being around people with cannabis – Never having tried cannabis I can’t speak to a more direct comparison. This, therefore, feels very raw and very fresh, rough edged.

The simple clash of the two elements that is its mainstay means that it really does not work as a contemplation beer, more of an assault IPA, albeit sweeter than normal. They really are leveraging the advantage of being able to serve fresh from the brewery to be as raw hopped as possible.

It is a fun wake up call, I haven’t had many IPAs this fresh or raw. As a fresh IPA it doesn’t really fight with the big guns like Stone’s Enjoy By IPA, that was a far more complex beer while still rocking the fresh hop stakes. This really can’t come close to that, but is a simple and fun example of the hops, worth a try if you are in the area and want that sheer expression of the hop character.

So, not going to set the world on fire or shake the pillars of heaven, but it works its niche well.

Background: This was actually an accidental tasting note, I was wandering around Vancouver’s Chinatown when I got lost. Then I saw a brewpub, so I went in to ask for directions. So, while I was in there… well I could hardly not have a beer could I? IPA tends to be my go to for trying a new brewery so an IPA it was. This is 50 IBU. Oh and many thanks for helping me get un-lost.

Postmark Brewing

Granville Island Van Dame White ISA

Granville Island: Van Dame White ISA (Canada: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Hazy pineapple to lemon juice colour. Small white dash of a head that leaves some suds.

Nose: Really fresh lemon. Light cream and coriander. Pineapple.

Body: Moderate wheaty bitterness. Unleavened bread. Soft avocado. Good hop prickle. Pineapple. Lemon pavlova.

Finish: Good bitterness. Pepper. Soft avocado. Lightly earthy. Wheaty. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Session IPA meet white IPA. Oddly, despite my usual grumbles about the amount of adjectives used with IPA this one does not set off any alarms for me. maybe it is because things have got so insane over the years (Double Session IPA for one…).

Anyway, it works as an interesting mix, you can sense that kind of unleavened bread dryness that is the flavour in a lot of session IPAs, but that is underneath – up front it has that wheaty fresh character that makes the whole thing more manageable. Similarly the light spice associated with the wit style does a lot to round out the beer. It isn’t a perfect match, but I will say that it seems like a genuine way to take the session IPA forwards and give it some real legs.

I think it is because it adds a lot of range to what can be quite one note beers. The lemon wit characteristic work well with the comparatively restrained hop flavour to give a less intense but well ranging flavour profile.

Overall it doesn’t quite overcome the oft found flaws of session IPAs, that base character needs to be a bit less leaden, but it definitely works very well with it. The bitterness does build up nicely over time, slow enough to take your time with, but it doesn’t rely on just that to overcome the weak base.

Not the best, but, as I say, this definitely seems like a way to take the style forwards, and it is on the better end of session IPAs to say the least.

Background: As well as 4.5% abv this has an OG of 10.9 and 50 IBU. I do love how much info they give you in Canada. It is also very noticeably influenced by the Belgian wit beer style. Granville Island in Vancouver was awesome, tons of experiences and foodstuff to try. Including the ever addictive Nanaimo bars. At the taphouse I tried a few beers, but with a name like Van Dame this had to be the one I tasting noted.

Granville Island Brewing

Storm Imperial Sssouuurrrrr Flanders Red Ale

Storm: Imperial Sssouuurrrrr Flanders Red Ale (Canada: Sour Red: 14% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dark brown. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Cider apples. Gum of brown envelopers and vinegar.

Body: Sour. Vinegar. Envelope gum. Bitter charred core. Sour cherry and cherry sweets.

Finish: Gummy. Dry and dusty. Cider apples. Tart. Sour black cherry. Charred oak.

Conclusion: Ok, what would happen if someone attempted to replicate Rodenbach Grand Cru, but at 14% ABV? Would that ever be a good idea, could they even manage a close approximation?

Well, it does have some similar qualities, such as that gummy brown paper and almost vinegar notes that makes Rodenbach so odd – but the brewed up nature of this seems to make it feel a lot more charred at the core which overpowers a lot of the range of a good sour brown.

It isn’t a bad beer, but since that interesting holographic style shimmering flavour of a good sour ends up getting lost in the strength you end up with a lot more noticeable rough edges and a lot less pay off.

So, a very gummy beer, which is odd considering the mainly dry mouthfeel, but in the finish it is the gumminess that sticks around the longest. Not really a good or bad thing, just odd. Probably the most appetising characteristic if the beer is a slight cider apple characteristic that works well with the sourness. That fresh apple backing is a pretty good base to work form, and late on develops out to add sour black cherry – hints of where it could be going well, but it needs more. It has the right idea, but pushes itself too far into elements that don’t work by concentrating on the strength, and letting the better elements get lost in the mix.

Ah well.

Background: Hmm, looking online I can find an Imperial Flanders Red, but not with the oddly named sour that it was listed as on the menu. The one I found was 11% rather than 14%, could be a different batch of the same beer. I don’t know. Due to the high abv the kind people in the Alibi Room allowed me to grab a small measure to try. I just had to try it, an insane high abv sour, ok, let’s give that a shot.

Four Winds Berliner Weisse

Four Winds: Berliner Weisse (Canada: Berliner Weisse: 3.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Thin off white head.

Nose: Tart apples, in an almost cider fashion. Raspberries. Lemon juice and dried dates.

Body: Apricot. Lemon juice. Slight vanilla and ice cream. Syrup sweetness. Raspberry sharpness. Cider and lychee.

Finish: Stewed apricot. Tart raspberries. Dry wine mouthfeel. Light lime. Lychee.

Conclusion: This is proper lovely. I’ve got used to the tart berliner weisse style over the years and been rewarded for it, but despite that it is nice to find one so easy to get into.

The tartness is there, but delivered so softly that it refreshes rather than punishes, and then pushes the soft stewed fruit so that the fruit and sweetness just rises to fill your mouth. Then, as that vanishes slowly a white wine finish rises to meet it. While not the most dominant element, it is the soft fruit lychee character that seems to define this beer best – sweet but fresh.

The beer, metaphorically, just falls apart on the tongue – breaking open the initial tartness and leaving the, again metaphorical, piñata worth of sweet fruits to fall out. I wonder if that analogy actually makes sense. Nay bother. I’m sure my regular readers are used to me making no sense whatsoever.

This is a genuinely great berliner weisse, and it feels like it would be heresy to add syrups to it to sweeten it, as is often the tradition, it just stands perfectly by itself. A proper tart fruit juice meets berliner weisse experience, and at a perfect abv to drink for a warm day. So, another of those hard to find perfect summer session beers.

Well worth it and a fine welcome to Vancouver.

Background: Drunk at the Alibi Room in Vancouver which has a great set of taps and is deeply involved in the local craft beer scene. Awesome place, they even leant me a pen when I realised I had left mine at the hotel so would have problems doing notes. Notably this was my first encounter with sour beers on the trip, Vancouver seemed much more experimental in its beer scene than most of the places I had visited. It was a very hot day so a low abv, sour and thirst quenching beer seemed a good pick to go for an opening choice.

Central City Red Racer ISA

Central City: Red Racer ISA (Canada: Session IPA: 4% ABV)

Visual: Light grain to yellow. Thin white head and some carbonation.

Nose: Lemon. Quite dry. Peach.

Body: Lemon and cream. Light crisp bitterness. Lager like crisp texture. Lightly bready. Slight dried apricot. Light honey and lime.

Finish: Bready. Lightly earthy bitterness. Light lime. Shredded wheat. Honey touch. Pineapple.

Conclusion: Session IPA. Session IPA. Grrr. Then again, Central City has done so far with their Red Racer IPA range while I have been trying them here in Canada. Might as well see what they can do with this often hard to pull off style.

Actually, this is very solid. While it has that bready, shredded wheat backing in common with a lot of session IPAs, one that doesn’t seem quite as drinkable as the style should be – it benefits from the fact that it isn’t nearly as highly attenuated as most seem to be. They manage to keep a light honey sweetness and an easy drinking lager style crispness that combine to be enough to keep the beer flowing freely. A vital element in a session beer I am sure you will agree.

It feels kind of like a highly hopped lager, which is not entirely a bad thing. The hop flavour comes through very clean and citrus filled, less so mid body but it just plain explodes in the finish. The hop character is not excessively bitter but does have this very fluffy feeling. It gives the impression of a lot higher bitterness than there actually is – an impressive trick for a session IPA.

Downsides? Well the aroma really doesn’t sell the beer very well, and while it has nice flavours it doesn’t quite rock the range of Beavertown’s Neck Oil – but I still rate it very highly for a session IPA.

Red Racers continue to race ahead.

Background: Yay, I got to try one of the Red Racer IPA range! Technically I got to try several, but this was the one I did tasting notes on. This is cool for me as I always got Red Racer from Central City, and Racer 5 from Bear Republic mixed up. Now I’ve tried both. This was drunk in Dubh Lin Gate in Whistler. I was confused, Irish theme pubs in the UK are nigh invariably shit, yet this place was highly recommended. Turns out to be a good pub. Huh, everything is different in Canada. ISA stands for India Session Ale by the way, took me embarrassingly long to find that out.

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