Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review - Lighthouse Uncharted Belgian IPA

If I'm going to be totally honest, the beers produced by Lighthouse haven't always been my favourite. For years they produced a basic, dependable line-up with some quality offerings such as Race Rocks and Keepers Stout. But they seemed reluctant to experiment much, as they watched breweries like Phillips grab bigger and bigger shares of the market with dependable every day beers AND experimental, exciting ones. Rumour has it it was this unwillingness to experiment that led Jason Meyer and the other Driftwood boys to split from Lighthouse and start their own brewery (although the appeal of one's own operation must have been part of the siren's song). Since then Lighthouse has made an effort to try to move in new directions through its Big Flavour Series sold in 650 ml bombers, while maintaining its mainstay beers in more traditional bottles and cans. Not all of these new products have been successful in this reviewer's opinion, particularly the atrocious Shipwrecked, a 10% Triple IPA that tasted like equal parts ethanol and paint thinner. Others have been fabulous, such as Deckhand, which remains my favourite local saison to date, and that includes the quality saisons that have been brewed by Driftwood.

The newest beer in the Big Flavour series was one of the first things I heard about after rolling into town Thursday morning. I liked the sound of it right away: A Belgian IPA that wasn't simply a hopped up version of a Belgian beer, but two beers, brewed separately and blended together. One, a unique IPA brewed with Australian and New Zealand hops was served up by itself at the Beagle last week. The Belgian portion, a beer featuring an abbey-style yeast, will be poured via cask at the Beagle, starting at 5pm this Thursday, September 8th.

Together, these beers make up Uncharted Belgian IPA. Uncharted is a fascinating deep orange colour that reminded me of Spring Rite. It has a pleasant aroma with lightly spicy phenolics and hints of tropical fruit. It displays a nice thick, white head that really adds to the appeal of this beer. Uncharted has a light IPA sweetness mixed with flavours of tropical fruit and banana. It seems to have more of an emphasis on the Belgian side of things than most Belgian IPA's, and in this it reminds me of Houblon Chouffe. Its mouthfeel is also good, being refreshing and yet substantial but never cloying. Something about the aftertaste is not my favourite, a bit too much bubblegum/artificial tropical fruit, but still this is a fine beer, easily my second favourite Lighthouse beer to date, after Deckhand. Overall, this beer is great, a finely crafted brew that really displays the skill of Lighthouse brewer Dean McLeod. This beer has inspired me to create my own blended Belgian IPA, so stay tuned for details on that one soon...
Rating: Very Good

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