Stone Brewing Company Crime (2015) – Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 9.6% ABV

Stone Brewing Company Crime (2015) Spice / Herb / Vegetable at 9.6% ABV (US$17.00 at Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 21-Jun-2017, reviewed 17-Jan-2018)

Appearance: murky medium to deep amber with one fat finger of dense light tan head, good retention and lacing. (4/5) Aroma: caramel/toffee, chilli, pine, tobacco, citrus. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet & peppery spice, strong bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-full body, moderate carbonation, lingering bitter spicy and boozy finish. (4/5)

I wasn’t really clear what “Crime” referred to (hadn’t even thought about it, actually) until I opened this and smelled it. Then I realized that it was Arrogant Bastard, but with a twist, making the nature of the crime obvious: they adulterated Arrogant Bastard. Only then did I read the bottle notes, which confirmed that. (It’s a blend of Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard, and Oaked Arrogant Bastard, aged in bourbon barrels, with peppers added.) I’m on the fence as to the effect of two years’ ageing: the base beer(s) don’t have an emphatic hop character to start with (at least not on the nose) and I’m not convinced the pepper burn is going fade completely no matter how long you age. So, we’re left with perhaps slightly less aroma of peppers? In any case, the trifecta of booze, bitter, and spice might well make this a problem beer for some folks. I, on the other hand, as an inveterate boozer, major hop head, and hot sauce junkie, am pretty much in my element. The down side is the same as that of the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard, for exactly the same reason and magnified by the chilli presence: the bourbon barrel and peppers completely blow out the more subtle flavours of Arrogant Bastard. (Yes, it does so have subtle flavours!) I’m getting little citrus, and no vanilla or rye. Doesn’t render this undrinkable, by any means, and if it were cheaper and more readily available, it could easily be a go-to for me. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Central City Brewers + Distillers Sour II Kriek Sour – Sour / Wild Ale at 10.8% ABV | 17 IBU

Central City Brewers + Distillers Sour II Kriek Sour Sour / Wild Ale at 10.8% ABV | 17 IBU (C$18.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 15-Nov-2016, reviewed 16-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear reddish brown with one finger of fizzy head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: vinegar, cherries, leather, oak, red wine. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet and tart, low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, lively carbonation, dry tart and warming finish. (4/5)

I’m not at all sure I’d’ve identified this as a Kriek in a blind tasting – more likely, I would have gone with a Flemish Red. (Excepting, of course, the very high ABV, which is really appropriate for neither a Kriek nor a Flemish Red.) Then again, I’m not one to complain about a high ABV, and it is decently well integrated. Not unpleasant, by any means, but lacking the emphatic fruitiness and delicacy of style I associated with true Lambic Krieks. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Fuego del Otoño – Bière de Garde at 6.1% ABV

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Fuego del Otoño Bière de Garde at 6.1% ABV (US$12.99 at Total Wines & More, Henderson NV, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 1-Jun-2015, reviewed 15-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pale amber with one fat finger of fluffy ivory head, moderate retention and lacing. (4/5) Aroma: vinegar, oak, light berry and stone fruit. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet and tart, low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body tending light, moderate carbonation, dry tart and warming finish. (4/5)

Can’t say there’s a lot of chestnut character here, nor are the spices particularly emphatic. The fact that this is JP notwithstanding, given the name and the tag line (“Autumn Fire” and “Ale brewed with chestnuts & spices”) I was expecting something occupying a space somewhere between “pumpkin spice” and “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”. Instead, what I got was very much a (light, admittedly, yet decent) Flanders-style Brown/Red. As a Bière de Garde, it’s a bit of a “huh”? As a JP, it’s a bit more precisely what one might expect: a sour. Dunno that me cellaring it for a couple of years changed it, but in my defence, if it’s a “beer for keeping”, well, I done went and kept it, din’t I? Is it good? Sure. Great? Nah. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Annex Ale Project Howling Fantods – American Double / Imperial IPA at 9.1% ABV

Annex Ale Project Howling Fantods American Double / Imperial IPA at 9.1% ABV (C$13.25 at The Brewer’s Apprentice, 946 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 14-Jan-2018)

Appearance: cloudy pale amber with one fat finger of fluffy white head, moderate retention and spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: juicy citrus, alcohol, crackery malt, pine resin, floral. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering and building bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

I’m pretty sure this is the first beer I’ve had that claims to be a D/NEIPA, which seems to me to be a style that is, if not actually intrinsically self-contradictory, at least fraught with difficulty. I mean, yes, I’ll give it hazy and juicy, sure. But it’s also obviously high gravity, verging on hot. (The combination of citrus and alcohol makes me think of a Screwdriver, actually.) More problematic, perhaps, it’s also got huge bitterness. Which is something I don’t object to in general, but it would seem to be somewhat out of spec for an NEIPA. But then again, it’s a double, so I’d expect a large, 90+ IBU rating to balance the 9.1% ABV (according to my rule which I’ve previously elucidated). I once had a (philosophy) professor hand me back a major assignment and say “I didn’t know whether to give you an A+ for the quality of the work, or an F for your use of class content, so I split the difference and gave you a B-. I recommend you don’t appeal it.” (I quoted Metallica lyrics and hadn’t actually gone to class, so…) That’s kind of how I feel about this beer: it might be an A+ overall, or arguably more like a C for adherence to style. Either way, it’s a lot of fun, and better than their APA’s, A/IPA’s, S/IPA, or Saison I’ve previously tried. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Modern Times Beer Oneida – American IPA at 5.2% ABV | 50 IBU

Modern Times Beer Oneida American IPA at 5.2% ABV | 50 IBU (C$15.25 at The Brewer’s Apprentice, 946 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 13-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pale gold with two fat fingers of fluffy white head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: mild, citrus, tropical fruit, pale crackery malt, light pine resin, hint of white wine. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body tending slightly light, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium finish. (4/5)

Modern Times is one of those very few breweries who seem worthy of the hype. Generally speaking, very little of theirs has disappointed me. And neither does this, precisely – though it’s certainly at the lower end of the range I’ve come to expect from them. There’s nothing wrong with it, as such, but it’s a very utilitarian-tending A/IPA that doesn’t really shine. Now, one might argue that at least some of that might be due to it being a week-old crowler, that’s been at 35,000 feet, but that seems unlikely. There was still good carbonation when I cracked it, the head retention was good, and I can’t see a bottle shop’s keg being left on long enough to allow the hops to fade. (In fact, I waffled a little on a couple of scores, and could have gone half a point lower, but felt I’d give the benefit of the doubt just because of those possibilities.) I’m satisfied that this is representative of a beer that is good, and quite easy-drinking, but not at the top of the range for this brewery. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Bellwoods Brewery White Picket Fence – Blended Saison at 5.8% ABV

Bellwoods Brewery White Picket Fence Blended Saison at 5.8% ABV (C$16.99 at Oak & Vine, 500 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 10-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pale straw with two fingers of rocky white head, excellent retention and heavy lacing. (5/5) Aroma: tropical & stone fruit, horseblankety funk, leather, wood. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, light funk. (9/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate-lively carbonation, dry lightly funky finish. (4/5)

That’s one heckuva Saison – a nicely balanced combination of tart fruit and funk, with a nice dry finish. Right up there with the best by this brewery, and that’s saying something. (Yes, I realize it’s only 10 days into the new year and I’ve probably just rated the worst and best of the entire year, back to back. Might as well quit now, I suppose…) (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Wonderful Winter – Witbier at 5% ABV | 20 IBU

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Wonderful Winter Witbier at 5% ABV | 20 IBU (C$3.00 at Oak & Vine, 330 ml, packaged on 4-Nov-2017, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 10-Jan-2018)

Appearance: hazy straw with one finger of off-white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, no lacing. (2/5) Aroma: doughy wheat, cooked vegetables, coriander, sulphur. (3/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter. (3/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry slightly spicy finish. (3/5)

 Well, it’s not white, and it smells foul (and doesn’t taste any better). I hope it’s an off bottle, and considered not reviewing it at all. Drain poured most of it. Just plain terrible. (6/20)

3.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Low Rider Sugarplum – Berliner Weisse at 3.9% ABV | 15 IBU

Central City Brewers + Distillers Red Racer Low Rider Sugarplum Berliner Weisse at 3.9% ABV | 15 IBU (C$3.00 at Oak & Vine, 330 ml, packaged on 5-Nov-2017, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 10-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pink-tinged deep gold with a short, short-lived fizzy head, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: vanilla, plum, lactose, spices. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, creamy tart finish. (3/5)

Not bad as such, and certainly nowhere near as sweet as the aroma promises it’s going to be, but intensely weird. Though, I guess, how could a sugarplum beer be anything but? In addition, it’s got big problems structurally, with the small head dropping off immediately to nothing, and no lacing. The carbonation could be higher, too. I can’t help but think this particular flavour profile (especially the lactose) would be better suited to some other style than a Berliner Weisse.  (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Collective Arts Brewing Collective Project/ Gose with Guava – Gose at 4.9% ABV | 12 IBU

Collective Arts Brewing Collective Project/ Gose with Guava Gose at 4.9% ABV | 12 IBU (C$4.50 at The Brewer’s Apprentice, 473 ml, packaged on 23-Oct-0201, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 10-Jan-2018)

Appearance: opaque pale gold with one finger of creamy white head, good retention and moderate stringy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: guava, floral, wheat, mild funk, light brine. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, low bitter, mild tart. (8/10) Palate: off-dry medium body tending slightly thick, moderate carbonation, medium duration mildly tart & salty finish. (4/5)

Loads of guava. Like, fruit juice levels of guava. The body isn’t heavy – barely medium weight – but has a fruit juice thickness or creaminess. The addition of the guava makes this much better than their base Prophets & Nomads Gose. I like this a whole bunch. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Bellwoods Brewery Barn Owl (No. 10) – American IPA at 6.5% ABV

Bellwoods Brewery Barn Owl (No. 10) American IPA at 6.5% ABV (C$19.00 at The Brewer’s Apprentice, 500 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 7-Jan-2018, reviewed 9-Jan-2018)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with three fingers of loose white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, minimal lacing. (3/5) Aroma: apricot, pineapple, leather, light oak, hint of red wine. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, mild tart. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium bitter mild tart finish. (4/5)

I missed out on snagging a Barn Owl (though not this batch) by a day or so the last time I made it to Bellwoods on an overnight in Toronto, so I’m not too annoyed at paying double the price it would’ve been at the brewery, to snag one in Alberta. (Actually, three – I bought a couple more at Willow Park today, for three bucks cheaper. Those are intended for long-term cellaring.) As far as the beer itself goes, well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s sure not pretty, but Brett makes that hard. I’m going to criticize just a little the apricot: it’s so heavy that it dominates, even over the Brett. It’s pleasant, sure, but I would’ve preferred a little less, to allow the Brett and red wine foeder character a chance to show. I’m very happy that I’ve got some for cellaring, because I think allowing the fruit to fade a little while the Brett digs in might put this where I’d like it be. This is very good as it stands, but I’ve got high hopes that I’m going to be re-rating this higher in a year or two. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Beer Reviews