A while back, I went to one of my local brewpubs and tried a dunkel. It was a charming beer and it photographed well.
The tasting notes described “toasted bread crumb and almond with hints of chocolate” which I got, but only as the beer warmed up. Some vigorous swirling in my mouth did the trick until the beer reached its optimum temperature, about 15-20 minutes into the pint.
Which did get me to thinking: do you serve beer at the correct temperature for the initial taste, or do you aim below optimum temperature, and hope your beer reaches optimal by mid-pint or so? I imagine that much of the answer to this question depends on the type of beer, the time of year, and the size of the pour (in July, you probably want your ‘Mexican-style lagers’ close to optimal temperature for the first sip; in December, I’d imagine a pint of a 10% winter warmer can be served a bit below optimum temperature, even if that optimum temperature is on the high side to begin with). But I don’t have a definitive answer, and now I have something to research.
Give the stresses at work as of late (which have been of the kind to summon a Munch painting to mind, except instead of one person making the “Macauley Culkin shaving in Home Alone” face, it’s been thirty or forty of us), I’ve been…supplementing my coffee from time to time.
While I would not approve of this as a long-term coping strategy, or when you’ve got a number of face-to-face meetings, it’s certainly taken the edge off of a day or two recently.
I’d also recommend a cheaper brand, one that should not be enjoyed on its own with a drop or two of water. Unlike this, which is peaty and smoky and undeniably good with a splash of H2O. However, one works with what one has on hand.
It’s been quite a while–probably three or so months–since I’ve been to the Brassneck, and significantly more time since I’ve sat down to have a brew. But Mr. Bottle and I had time to kill between an art show and a play, and we were in the neighbourhood, AND there were seats available.
So down we sat to have beer and sausages.
My beer was the Quibbler, a tart blonde with quince; the beer on the right was Mr. Bottle’s, the Dark Place, a barrel-aged porter with B. claussenii. After trying both, we each came to the same startling conclusion: we each liked our beers the best. Normally when we’re out, I pick for Mr. Bottle something he’d like, even if that’s the beer I’d most like to drink. I then try something a bit more experimental, and often find myself wishing I’d just ordered another pint of what he was having.
This time? Well, Mr. Bottle’s beer was a perfectly fine porter with some brett in the mix, and…this time, I wasn’t a fan. It was fine; it wasn’t for me that day.
My beer was lovely in colour, golden and opaque, with an enjoyable nose (sourness, with a bit of the fruit coming through). The mouthfeel was juicy and appealingly rich–this beer has significantly more body than you’d expect. It’s also very reminiscent of the complexity of the fruit it’s celebrating, with perfume and hints of both apple and pear. I found the back end quite dry, but in a good way.
All in all, it was a lovely way to kill an hour.
This is an absolutely beautiful beer. The overall impression is of a crisp, clean, bubbly and exceptionally well-made farmhouse ale, with just a hint of tartness. It truly is beer of the highest quality.
Intrigued, I read the back and see that this beer was aged on Spanish cedar, then blended with a saison aged in tequila barrels, and then the whole was aged on Granny Smith pumice! Which leads me to think…well, this is an incredibly tasty beer. Unfortunately, saving perhaps a faint hint of the apple, I can’t parse what all these ingredients and processes are adding to the mixture.
Perhaps I was not in the headspace last night to tease out flavour components, but I can see why Four Winds was so detailed in listing everything that went into this beer. (I’m pretty sure this was around $15 for the bottle.) Having said that, I’m thinking that this is like sausage, which I can enjoy without knowing its backstory.
I was digging through beers on my top shelf (where I tend to keep the rarer things), and I came across an unassuming bottle. And found myself face to face with a…spring gruit?
This is the Spring Fever Gruit from Saltspring Island Ales. And I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable in spring! Or at least much, much closer to when I bought it.
There are some signs that oxidation has taken place–a bit of dullness on the palate–but what struck me most about this beer was how pleasant it still was. Sweet and malty, with some of the herbaceousness coming through as well, it aged far better than I might’ve thought.
Not the best beer to cellar by mistake, but I’ve had worse from the fridge.
Which means I should be drinking more.
Ok, so this is cool:
The front of the bottle is scratch-off, and the back of the bottle also has a scratch-off strip that gives you more information about the skull. The brewers were inspired by archaeological digs near Burgos, their home base.
As far as packaging goes, Cerveza Dolina has won me over.
Now, the taste? It’s definitely tending more German than most Spanish beers, which (if you’re getting the commercial stuff) tends to be more like Budweiser. (As an aside, I have to say…if you go to a halfway decent-looking bar and ask for a beer, you’re probably going to get something that is of good quality and taste, even if it’s been mass produced. But I digress.)
Even though the label says pilsen, this isn’t a pilsner–it’s really more in the kölsch line. (Heck, their own Web page for this beer is titled Kölsch.) The colour is a lovely darker gold, there’s carbonation–but not a lot–, and the taste is softly bitter and spicy and earthy. I say softly because nothing really lingers with this beer, but with this style, you’d not want it to. I just wish I had warmer weather to better appreciate its virtues.
Now: can we all go back and appreciate that label again? Because that’s a really neat label.
I went back to Más que cervezas, and mined the Spanish section, where I found this beauty.
And I do mean beauty.
The Brother Shamus from Bidassoa Basque Brewery is a brut IPA, the new style with illusions of champagne.
Most of what I’ve had in this style has met some of the profile of champagne–the dryness, the bubbles–, but the end product doesn’t satisfy, because the brewers have gone too far and the beer ends up overly biting and disagreeable. I wish there were a stronger brut IPA movement, to counteract the hazing of all our IPAs (please stop hazing all our IPAs), but I’ve largely been disappointed with what I’ve had.
The Brother Shamus is nothing like any of the brut IPAs I’ve had before. They’ve managed to pull the beer back from the brink, and retain some sweetness. While there’s definitely a drying note at the last, the front end is floral, citrusy (specifically, lemony), and tropical. It’s even a bit syrupy…almost as if they made the beer extra sweet to anticipate the consumption of sugars that happens to make a regular IPA a brut IPA.
Whatever they did, I’m a fan.
I’m currently in Madrid, and as I was wandering around, I came across a lovely store called Más Que Cervezas (More Than Beers) disturbingly close to my apartment. While there, the clerks and I joked about Belgian beers invading the Canada section on their shelves, one of them tried to sell me on the beer from his hometown, so I picked up two beers to try: one Belgian and one local to Madrid.
La Gata Orgullosa by Cerveza Madriz has an…aggressive pour.
It was described to me in the store as a blonde ale, which I’m willing to buy…but a dark blond.
I wish I could find more information out about this particular beer, but I’ll have to make do with what I have…eyes, nose, and taste buds. Eyes you’ve already heard about. Nose: it is beer. I wish i could be more specific than that. It smells like beer with a slight caramel overlay.
Taste: It’s not unpleasant. It tastes a little bit like homebrew. And I’m not saying that to slight homebrew. But there’s sometimes where you’re having homebrew, and you think, “This isn’t bad, but a bit more polish and practice and this could be really tasty.” Well, this is like that. The front end is competently beery, if perhaps a bit watery and the back end drags some grains across my palate. If both parts were smoother, I’d be a happy camper. As it is, it’s not terrible, but I’d not reach for another if I had a choice.
(Ed. note: after a weekend of travel, I couldn’t make the Monday theme happen. I’ll catch it on Wednesday!)
Like all good residents of BC, we stopped at the Trader Joes in Bellingham on our way back from our last trip to the States. While we were there, and in recompense for putting up with all the other shoppers at Trader Joes on a Sunday morning (why weren’t they at brunch, like sensible people?), I was allowed to pick up a six-pack of Kulshan Blood Orange Gose.
And…it’s entirely pleasant! Which sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but no. It’s got a nice nose, a good gose front end, and a pleasantly fruity back note. I don’t know that my nose or palate picks up “blood orange,” as opposed to a general sense of fruitiness. But it’s remarkably light and crisp, and something that makes the warmer days of spring more enjoyable.
I’ve got to get out more when I’m in Vancouver. I tend to visit the same three or four breweries time and again because they make really good beer and, well, I’m a creature of habit.
So I hope you’ll pardon me for repeating a visit to Brassneck, as I was literally driving by. With an empty growler. Purely by coincidence.
Brassneck tends to have a saison or two on tap all the time, so they’ve got a good sense of how saisons work. The Sticks & Stones is no exception. It’s a lovely color, with a good head. The taste is spicy (cloves, pepper), a bit fruity (banana?), herbaceous and grassy, and then earthy. The latter two flavors coming from the rye, perhaps. There’s a syrupy mid-note, with more of the earthy rye on the backend, including a faint and agreeable drying note.
I’ll try new things in new places. Next time.