Thursday, April 12, 2012

Medium Well-Done: Up Goes The Bar

Just before I buggered off for Hawai'i (and more on that later), here we have a recent haul from the always-excellent 16th Street Liquor Store in West Vancouver. Again, if you've a craft-beer loving bone in your body, this is the place to go. Based on my experiences, you've a one-in-ten chance of running into a brewmaster, plus Chris knows his stuff.

The Uncommon Brewing Baltic Porter I've talked about before. Enjoyable, and doubly so for coming in Tallboy format, but let's set it aside for the mo'.

Of greater interest are the other three beers, a triumvirate from the Island that further Victoria's reputation as Beertown, BC, if not indeed Beertown, Canada. Gotta get back there soon.

First off, we have Lighthouse's Dark Chocolate Porter. Choco-Porters aren't really my bag, baby, but it's nice to see a Lighthouse Specialty series that should have broad-ranging appeal. Is is as good as Longboat? Um, close? It's a pretty good beer, with plenty of cocoa notes.

Next up is Hoyne's Dark Matter. Another entry in the Cascadian Ale column, this beer isn't quite a knockout (their Pilsner is exemplary), but is one more reason you should be paying attention to Victoria's latest brewery. The best thing this company can do is make the jump to six-packs, as all of their beers are approachable enough to be mainstream best-sellers. Guys, skip the bottles and go straight to cans!

Lastly, Driftwood goes all Beavis and Butthead with their Son of the Morning Strong Golden Ale. Sweet mother of pearl this stuff is strong: funny how I can quaff a Singularity and not get that same palate burn that this heavy ale imparts. Like all Driftwood beers, it's a bit young yet. Luckily, Chris happens to have elected himself to be my personal cellar-keeper, and all I need do is visit him in a few months, whereupon he will give me some very nicely aged examples for the simple exchange of handing over a few pieces of funny-coloured paper with the Queen's face on it.

So, all pretty good, B- to B+ beers. My point? We're spoiled rotten. If any one of these beers had launched, say, 5 years ago, they would each have been brews par excellence. Now though, things have moved on a bit. Honestly, I stood in a very well-stocked American beer store today and thought, "Meh. I can get better at home." WHEN HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED BEFORE?

Welcome, my friends, to the Beerenaissance. It's in full swing now, and my one regret is that I have but one liver to give.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hot Damn of the Week: Lighthouse Switchback IPA

This is a late post.

This is a good beer.

How good? Well, let's examine the delivery mechanism first: the humble six-pack, rather than the speciality bomber. For a long time, there's been something of a dichotomy between Lighthouse's Special Releases (which are largely excellent), and their standard fare (which is fair-to-middling). Obviously, there are exceptions - I'm awfully fond of Race Rocks, and Keeper's Stout makes Guinness look like Kokanee - but Beacon IPA has always been an IPA-in-name only. Mass-appealing, but not for the hop-head, and with the microcraft scene exploding, perhaps a beer that was starting to lag behind a bit.

Here, on the other hand, is a beer that carries the Lighthouse banner proudly, and so it should. It's really light and tasty, without being heavy-handed on the hops; a real Goldilocks of a brew. Reminds me a bit of the Dead Frog Citra special release, and is surely going to make it into regular rotation as a summer fave. Good job guys!

Monday, February 20, 2012

One hell of a beer-run.

Part of the reason I've been so lax in my blogging ways is that much of what little spare time I have is taken up with my other passion: writing about cars. The machine you see above is the 556hp Cadillac CTS-V wagon, and, well: 556hp Station Wagon. That's all that needs to be said. If Singularity was a car, this is what it would look like.

I therefore ask you to take pause from your regularly-scheduled beer-blog browsing and check out the article below. In it, Motor Trend's Johnny Lieberman gets away with one of the broadest interpretations of "road test" I've ever seen, and also educates a whole new audience about American brewing. It's a heck of a trip, and well worth the read, even if you sleep with your bicycle.

The Great Midwestern Beer Run

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The return of Singularity, and other miscellanea

It's back!

It's difficult for me to imagine that we're entering only the fourth year of having a brewery like Driftwood around. They are, and continue to be, BC's Dogfish Head: putting out the sort of beer that you'd elect flag-carrier for the nation at some sort of world-beer throwdown.

This year's Singularity is no exception. It pours as black as squid ink and tastes like drinking barrel-aged 90%-cocoa chocolate fondue. Additionally, if it's 11.8%, then a Tim Horton's Maple Cream Doughnut is low-carb. Everybody knows this beer is at least 14% worth of lip-smacking darkness. If you could bottle all the sexy things Barry White ever said, this is what it would be. My favourite thing to do is this: hold up a pint of Guinness to a bright light - it'll show through red. Hold up a pint of Singularity to the same light - black as the dark side of the moon at night during January.

What else; well how about this?

It pains me to say it, but even Megadestroyer isn't something that you should drink after tasting Singularity. Mega-D is really quite good this year but it's a whole different level of insanity. If you want to have a go at something fun, be blasphemous and pour yourself a half-and-half. The resulting melange of imperial stout hits the low notes like a double bass. Phenomenal.

Now here's something interesting.

I passed over these beers in the bottom of the fridge at 16th street liquor store because... well because I didn't think they were beer.

As it turns out, and despite the seemingly-strange things added to the brew (not just limes, but lemongrass and other spices in the tripel), they're actually pretty good. Partially, I know I'm giving both these brews the benefit of the doubt because they're in cans, and I'm always a sucker for the aluminum, but both worth picking up should you stumble across 'em, particularly the Baltic Porter.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Triumvirate From Hoyne Brewing - (What, you thought I was dead?)

Well, now. Nice to see you again.

"So what happened to the damnbeerblogger?" folks have been asking, as well they might. As it turns out, nothing particularly interesting, just the humdrum everyday excuse of not having enough time to keep up with a blog and a house and an increased writing workload and a full-time job. Beer blog went from back burner to shelf to back of the freezer to crammed-in-an-old-cardboard-box-in-the-attic. Nine months I had kept it up, but no more.

However, a few things have re-energized me recently. Firstly, an unexpected bumping into Dean&Liz reminded me of all the interesting folks that I've met as a result of starting this blog. And then there was the electrifying news that Singularity is about to drop: the very beer that kicked thingsoff in the first place for me.

So, time to dust of the 'ol keyboard (the pint-glass doesn't need dusting-off: THAT I never took a break from), and ease back into things with a trio from Victoria's newest brewery.

Hoyne Brewing boasts a history of quality, and fair enough given Sean Hoyne's CV: Swan's then Canoe, then this. While my initial reaction was, "Where did these guys spring from?" it's more evidence that Victoria is Brewtown, BC; a centre where a thriving pub culture and local support mean that the answer to the question "Do we really need another brewery?" is an unreserved "Yes!"

I miss you, Victoria (but more on that later).

The first of our three is Devil's Dream IPA, and if you are thinking of opening a brewery and NOT offering an IPA, then gooood luck. Wait, didn't Driftwood get away with that for a while. Oh well, never mind: IPA is now a recognized and demanded style for your West Coaster and, as I'm a hop-head, I had some interest in seeing whether this beer would make its way into regular rotation.

It's good... but no. Despite the fiddler on the label, definitely not an East-Coast IPA, the Devil's Dream is very hoppy and acerbic, but doesn't pack a huge resiny wallop, more a balanced malt profile. Nice citrus smell, pale malts, bitter finish, nice but wouldn't stand up to a Fat Tug.

 This, though, was much better. I'm really coming around to the Pale Ale as an easy-drinkin' alternative to getting your papillae blitzed by hop-forward IPAs, and this lovely, malty beer something in the style of the Moon Under Water's beers. And not too shy on the hops either. A very nicely rounded beer, and most assuredly the proper beer to introduce yourself to Hoyne with.

Yes, that's "bock." With a "b." Ignore the big.... chicken.

What a world we live in where 6.5% and a "strong beer" label immediately has me rolling my eyes. But enough on the labels, how does this beer stand on merit? Not too bad actually, though it's not really... I suppose the nice thing to say would be "it's approachable." There's none of the big maltiness of a European bock, but then, it's still quite tasty.

Overall, a decent debut, though nothing earth-shatteringly delicious. Not pictured: the Hoyner Pilsner I neglected to get (next time). 

Having dipped my toe, a catch-up post is in order. Then next week.... the Singularity approaches.