Monday, January 31, 2011

Brewing the Frontiersman Pale Ale: The Process

The Frontiersman
I was facing a new challenge as I prepared to make a new batch of the Frontiersman, my popular Northwest pale ale. I have always enjoyed making new beers and new styles, and on the odd occasion I've revisited an old recipe I've always tweaked it here and there: less malt, more hops, different yeast, etc. But with the Frontiersman, one of my most popular beers, there was almost nothing I wanted to change. This time the challenge would not be improvement, but maintaining an old standard, not something I had really tried before.

The Northwest pale ale is a well balanced style of beer that emphasizes hops over malt, but to a lesser degree than that of an IPA. When made well it combines drinkability with great hop and malt flavour, and is one of my favourite styles. Few quality local examples exist, but one great one is Driftwood Ale, which has become my go-to beer. (Before I receive any angry responses I am not referring to amber ales, another type of pale ale, of which there are many fine local examples such as Phillips Blue Buck and Driftwood Crooked Coast)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review - The Saison, Beer of the Farm Labourer

The saison is a beer I have little experience with, but the more I learn about it the more interested I become. It was traditionally brewed in farmhouses in the French-speaking region of Belgium for farm workers bringing in the harvest. It was made in the cooler months, and thus had to be sturdy enough to last through the summer, but refreshing enough to quench the thirst of the labourers. Beers that combine elements of both ales and lagers are a particular interest of mine and its mix of both the robust and the refreshing reminds me of steam beer and my own Overcast Island Ale. In this post I'll be reviewing three very different saisons: the Saison de Dottignies from the Brouwerij De Ranke in Belgium, The Saison du Buff, a collaborative effort of three American breweries, and Victoria's own Deckhand, from Lighthouse Brewing.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wet Hopped IPA Tasting

I had been looking forward to this night ever since I decided it was a good way to try the new wet-hopped IPAs that I picked up on a recent trip to Whidbey Island in Washington State. Wet-hopped, or fresh-hopped IPAs are made from hops that have never been dried, but have gone straight from the field to the kettle, and thus showcase the hop in its most natural form.

The Island's own version of this style, Driftwood's Sartori, is one of my all-time favourite beers. It can only be brewed once a year, during hop harvest, and always becomes a heavily sought after item for local hop-heads. (Note: I recently picked up 4 bottles from an undisclosed liquor outlet, score!) In addition to Sartori five of us would be blind tasting three US brews: Sierra Nevada Estate Homegrown Ale, Bridgeport Hop Harvest Ale, and Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale, and putting them in order from first to worst. Starting from the bottom, lets talk about the beers.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review - Battle of the Russian Imperial Stouts: Phillips Hammer vs Driftwood Singularity

Now that winter is here with its cooler climes we have officially entered dark, heavy beer drinking season. In this spirit two of Victoria's best breweries, Phillips and Driftwood, have brought out competing versions of one of the more intense beers around, the Russian imperial stout.

Russian imperial stout, like India Pale Ale, was originally brewed in Britain with high amounts of alcohol and hops to preserve it during shipment by sea. Its destination however, was not India, but the Baltic states and Russia, where it was said to be popular with the Imperial court.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Review - Moon Under Water Brewpub

The Moon Under Water takes its name from an essay by George Orwell from 1946 published in the London Evening Standard. In it he proclaims ten attributes that make the perfect pub, the fictional "Moon Under Water." I believe that if one looks past the veneer of the age in which it is written, this essay still strikes at the heart of what makes a great public house today, and I would encourage anyone to read the full essay here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Beer from Lighthouse - Deckhand Belgian Saison

Lighthouse's new release has me excited because it's a local example of a beer style I've been getting into lately. The saison was originally brewed in farmhouses in French-speaking Belgium for the workers bringing in the harvest. Because every farm brewed its own version of this beer, it can be a very flexible style, but was made to be sturdy enough to survive the warm months, but still refreshing enough to quench the thirst of the farm labourers. This is a beer that was thought to be under threat of extinction not so long ago, but seems to be undergoing a resurgence of late.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Driftwood Beer- Singularity Russian Imperial Stout

Driftwood has brought out a new beer in time for winter, the Singularity Russian Imperial Stout. The name makes me think the guys at Driftwood must be sci-fi geeks like me, it's so much cooler than just calling it the "black hole". Its been aged for four months in Kentucky Bourbon barrels and weighs in at a colossal 11.8%. Is there any coincidence this beer is hitting the market at the same time as Phillips' Hammer Imperial Stout? (Which also comes in a Bourbon barrel-aged version) Whatever the case Im looking forward to taste testing these beers together to see how they compare.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

IPA Tasting Night

I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of the famous IPA tasting nights at the Sutherland's in the heart of Oak Bay, and it more than lived up to its reputation. Our task for the night would involve sampling and rating a total of 19 beers including a few from Basement Breweries. The beers to be judged were mostly IPAs with the odd stout, lager, and berry beer thrown in to keep us on our toes. The tasting was conducted blind, without any knowledge of the beer in question. This added an intriguing element.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brewday - Beast of Burden Brown Porter

A precursor to Stout, the porter was a drink popular with 18th century labourers, such as porters, and it is from these workers it may have taken its name.

Since I've just written a review of Driftwood's Blackstone Porter, I figured it was time for Basement Breweries to tackle this style, as it is a beer I've wanted to brew for some time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review - Driftwood Blackstone Porter

This is the second year Driftwood has released its seasonal Blackstone Porter. It is a London style porter, a beer that may have taken its name from the labourers, such as porters, with whom it was popular. It pours black with distinct ruby brown highlights and an off-white head that is quick to fade and has a subtle coffee-chocolate aroma from the dark malts used in the mash. Driftwood used a partial sour mash in the recipe and this gentle tartness is evident in the entry and the finish and blends well with the Blackstone's traditional dry bitterness that is often characteristic of a porter.The flavour is well balanced with a roasted and dry malt character, but the body is perhaps slightly on the thin side. Not since the days of Hugo's brewpub has a Victoria brewery produced a porter of this caliber, demonstrating once again Driftwood's ability to produce top quality true-to-style beer.

Rating: Very Good

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Brewday - The Rye Revival Roggenbier

One of the most interesting trends in the brewing industry today is the revival of rye as an ingredient in beer. I say revival, because using rye in beer is not one of the many new gimmicks seen on the marketplace, but rather a return to an older style of beer making, one not seen in widespread usage for centuries.