More reviews to come, as soon as I drink something noteworthy. For more in-depth beer musings, visit OnBeer.org.
Deschutes Cinder Cone Red Ale
Deschutes makes very, very good beer. So far, every one of their brews that I have tried has been excellent. Cinder Cone Red Ale is similar to their Red Chair Pale Ale, but with less hops and more flavour. It has a deep mahogany colour that matches its rich, malty taste.
Picaroons Irish Red
Picaroons calls this a "hearty meat ‘n’ potatoes Irish-style ale" and that's pretty accurate. It's a nice, dark tasting beer. Pours a dark amber colour with an earthy, toffee scent. Rich malty taste with some coffee and caramel undertones, but very subtle.
Phillips Blue Buck
The boys at Phillips really know what they're doing, despite some of their beers being too intense for my taste. This delicious amber ale has quickly become one of my favourites. Nice deep amber colour, fabulous malty taste with just a hint of hops in the taste and scent. Beer with a capital "B", man. I'm going to steal a marketing phrase from those chumps at Molson and award it to Phillips Blue Buck instead: this is what beer is all about.
Creemore Springs Premium Lager
Sometimes in my quest to seek out really interesting and exotic beers, I overlook some brews that are simple pleasures. Sometimes less is more in your beer glass. Creemore Springs Premium Lager certainly fits this description: it's a clean, crisp, golden lager with a touch of malt and caramel. Nothing complicated or fancy, just really good beer.
Thwaites Lancaster Bomber
A beer that appeals to both the beer nerd and the WW2 nerd in me. Lancaster Bomber is a very nice dark amber ale. Despite the strong hops scent, it's not that bitter, with a rich, malty, earthy taste. Consider it when flying your next mission to the beer cooler.
Baird Red Rose Amber
There haven't been a ton of craft beers from Japan showing up on our local shelves, but what's there is really good. Baird describes this amber ale like "a rose – extravagantly layered, expansively fragrant, and just a bit prickly". Yeah, I would say so. It's a nice bold brew thanks to the prickly hops mixing nicely with medium malt and subtle caramel flavours.
Skinner's Heligan Honey
Skinner's is a brewery from Cornwall, England that has a very nice line of beers with kooky cartoon labels. Their Heligan Honey is very reminiscent of my favourite beer, Fuller's Honey Dew (see below). It's light and refreshing, with a sparkling sweetness and a bit of hops for balance. Their Cornish Knocker Golden Ale is also very good: a hoppier offering with a strong but fruity taste.
Fuller's Honey Dew
Fuller's Honey Dew is perhaps my all-time favourite beer. This magnificent brew made me swoon with the first sip. It pours out a gorgeous golden colour and gives off a lovely clover scent, which is the first indication that this is no ordinary beer. Incredibly smooth and rich with a touch of honey sweetness that lingers for just a moment before a crystal clear finish. Amazing. This is a beer that makes you believe that there is a god and she wants us to be happy.
Alley Kat Main Squeeze Grapefruit Ale
Fruity beer can be tricky – and those grotesque berry-flavoured coolers give fruity beer a bad name by association – but when it's done right, fruit beer can be terrific. Main Squeeze is a real show-stopper. It gives off a gorgeous citrus scent, and the taste is clean, crisp and fruity with a grapefruit tang and bitterness. In a word: wow. The brew was certainly my "beer of the summer" in 2013, and it seems that a lot of people agree: Alley Kat has announced that they will make it available year round.
I have always liked white beers (or wit beers) but my critique is that a lot of them taste more or less the same. Bruton Bianca has a wonderful, subtle taste that gets nice and fruity right at the end with a crystal clean finish. Delightful.
Unibroue makes excellent craft beer with some flamboyant graphic design that adds to its appeal. Maudite's label features some voyageurs paddling their canoe through the setting sun while a grinning devil waits below. Don't know what this means, but Maudite (French for "damned") is just as bad ass as the label art. This deep amber ale gives off a heady fragrance of orange and coriander (like their excellent Blanche de Chambly white beer), and features a rich, dark, spicy flavour similar to Leffe but with a darker undertone. It has quickly become one of my favourites.
Dieu de Ciel Route Des Épices
C'est formidable! I refer to both the beer and my lovely wife who picked up a six-pack of this tasty brew during our last beer run. Quebec's Dieu de Ciel makes a really good looking set of beers (and their arty graphic design really matches what's in the bottle). This is a very nice rye beer flavoured with black pepper. It has a nice malty taste with a hint of caramel and a nice peppery bite in the aftertaste.
Wychwood makes a series of "ye olde English" beers with fairy tale names. Most of them are only on tap, but some of their bottled beer has made it to Alberta. Hobgoblin is a full-bodied, red beer with a subtle toffee aroma and a delicious dry malt flavour, finishing with a tasty bit of bitterness.
Alley Kat Pumpkin Pie Ale
Alley Kat's Pumpkin Pie ale is a fantastic brew that only comes once a year, making it something to look forward to and definitely something to savour. The first time I tried this beer, I flipped. I was amazed that something in a bottle could taste this good. Spicy in aroma and flavour, with hints of nutmeg, ginger and cinammon, this delicious brown ale is wonderful. The perfect beer to sip on a chilly October evening.
St. Ambroise Citrouille
It's the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I love pumpkin beer in the autumn, and St. Ambroise's delicious Citrouille just might be tastier than Alley Kat's much-revered brew. While it doesn't have the heady, spicy scent of Alley Kat's breew, this beer has a dark, rich, spicy, taste full of cloves and caramel. Quite magnificent.
Tree Brewing Jumpin' Jack Pumpkin Ale
Another pumpkin beer? Maybe this is too much of a good thing... The autumn of 2011 was a dark and dreary one for me when I learned that Alley Kat wouldn't be brewing their Pumpkin Pie Ale. Oh, the anguish! I went on a desperate quest to find another pumpkin beer, and the first one I discovered was Tree Brewing's Jumpin' Jack Pumpkin Ale. While not as good as Alley Kat or St. Ambroise, this was a very good plan B. A rich, spicy and very tasty strong ale.
This may sound weird, but it's true: Leffe is a sexy beer. When I first started realizing that beer went beyond boring lagers, Leffe was quite the revelation: heavy, sweet, and chewy. (And when I say "sweet" I mean a hint of sweetness, not like maple syrup.) Although I've tried other sweet/caramel beers, Leffe is clearly the queen of this variety. In a word: sophisticated.
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
I'm not a huge fan of stouts, but I certainly enjoy them now and then. This black ale is one is my favourites, and if you check out the beer nerd websites, most people agree. This is an award winning beer with a dark and earthy malt taste and strong flavours of coffee and chocolate before a mildly bitter finish. Black velvet.
While the novelty Crabbie's Ginger Beer tastes like ginger beer, Phillips Ginger beer tastes like beer with ginger; I much prefer the latter. It pours a very nice gold colour with a slight floral scent. An excellent mix of hops bitterness and a tasty ginger bite. (I would recommend gently tilting the bottle a couple of times before pouring to distribute the ginger settled at the bottom.) My only critique is that you don't get a nice, clean finish – the ginger tingle lingers on your tongue. However, it's not unpleasant and makes you want the next sip.
Alley Kat Aprikat
Hometown beer heroes Alley Kat have been a mainstay in Edmonton's microbrew scene for many years – in fact, they were Edmonton's first microbrewery. Besides their year-round brews, Alley Kat also make some really nice limited edition beers throughout the year. Aprikat is their wheat beer, with a delicious and crisp fruity taste. While not as refreshing as their grapefruit ale, Aprikat is very tasty.
Pumphouse Blueberry Ale
Although some manly men will scoff at fruity beer or describe it as cloying, Pumphouse Blueberry is wonderful. Summer is not complete without at least one six-pack of it in the fridge. It's a very nice, crisp blonde ale with a terrific blueberry flavour that never gets too sweet. Perfect for your next barbecue.
Hitachino Red Rice Ale
When I think about Asian beers, the blandness of Asahi and Tsingtao come to mind – okay when you're at a Japanese restaurant and enjoying some sashimi, but certainly not something you would seek out at the liquor store. So I was pleasantly surprised when Hitachino's excellent beers started appearing on the shelves. Their Red Rice Ale has a robust, complex flavour with hints of malt, nuts, and yes, rice. Their White Ale is very nice, too.
Big Rock McNally's Extra
Although I don't drink a lot of Big Rock beer these days in favour of more esoteric choices, I'm sometimes reminded of what a great brewery they are, despite some lame duck seasonals. McNally's is a strong red ale with a rich, dark, caramel flavour and some fruity undertones. At 7% it also is reminiscent of Scotch (or Innis & Gunn), with a nice boozy finish. My wife and I liked it enough to make it one of our official wedding beers in 2012.
Grizzly Paw Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat
There are many good reasons to go to Canmore, and one of them is the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company and their popular restaurant. I'm not crazy about all of their beers, but their Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat and Rutting Elk Red are very good.
Cannery Naramata Nut Brown Ale
Another great brown ale that's very easy to drink. Nice dark colour with a slight toffee scent. It has a rich taste that includes molasses, chocolate and roasted nuts. Goes well with a burger or maybe a roast beef Sunday dinner.
Mill Street Belgian Wit
Mill Street's other beers don't impress me that much; their Tankhouse Ale is quite good, but has too much of a bitter finish for my liking. However, their Belgian Wit is very nice – crisp, light, with a fruity coriander aroma and a zesty, orange peel taste.
Woldtop Angler's Reward
A very nice golden ale from our friends in Yorkshire. This seasonal brew has a nice subtle aroma, a slightly fruity taste, and just the right amount of hops bitterness to linger in your mouth before a clean finish. Woldtop has a good looking line up of beers that I'll definitely check out if they make their way to Alberta beer coolers.
Orkney Dark Island
The nice label art on the bottle caught my eye, and luckily the beer inside was excellent. Looks like a porter and pours dark as night, but instead of a big porter taste, Dark Island is wonderfully subtle. A slight whiff of chocolate and toffee in the scent, a similar velvety smooth taste and a delightful linger of coffee in the aftertaste. Think of it as the tasty shadow of a more robust stout.
Shepherd Neame Spitfire Premium Kentish Ale
Being a WW2 nerd, the name of this beer caught my attention. Spitfire pours a nice amber colour with a malt aroma along with a bit of orange. It has a very nice malty taste and a tiny bit of hops and spice. A very classy beer. Check out their funny commercials on YouTube.