Garrison Brewing Company Winter Warmer – Winter Warmer at 7% ABV

Garrison Brewing Company Winter Warmer Winter Warmer at 7% ABV ($2.67 at NLC Howley Estates, 341ml, bottle date 10-Nov-2014)

Pours clear deep amber with a short, short-lived light tan head, no lacing. (4/5) Nose is nutmeg, cinnamon, caramel malt, maybe some cloves. (7/10) Taste is moderate sweet, mild bitter, mild alcohol. (7/10) Medium to full body, moderate to low carbonation, lingering bitter and spicy finish with a distinct alcohol warming. (4/5)

Decent winter warmer. No off flavours at all, spices are well-balanced and while emphatic, not overwhelming. The ABV is definitely present, as should be the case for a winter warmer. Ticks all the boxes, without being overly memorable. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boston Beer Company Samuel Adams White Christmas – Witbier at 5.8% ABV

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams White Christmas Witbier at 5.8% ABV ($2.50 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 355ml, best before 1-Mar-2015)

Pours hazy pale gold with a short, short-lived white head, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is muted wheat, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet and mild bitter. (5/10) Light to medium body, moderate carbonation, bitter orange peel finish. (3/5)

Oh, look, a witbier for people who don’t like witbiers and/or can’t spell witbier. Pretty bland, although there is a little bit of a lingering orange peel bitterness that’s not bad, and the moderately high ABV is fairly well integrated. It’d do in a pinch. (12/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Microbrasserie Les Trois Mousquetaires Hors Série Gose – Gose at 3.8% ABV

Microbrasserie Les Trois Mousquetaires Hors Série Gose Gose at 3.8% ABV ($4.26 at Bishop’s Cellar, 341ml, bottle date 7-Jun-2014)

Pours cloudy gold with a short, short-lived white head, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is muted wheat, lemon, and salt, faint coriander, slightly sour. (7/10) Taste is mild sweet and bitter, moderate sour, mild salt. (7/10) Light body, low carbonation, moderate tart slightly salty finish. (4/5)

Light and easy to drink, with just a little salt that works well with the mild tart sourness. Could be nice as a palate cleanser during a meal, or just as a nice summer afternoon beer on the deck. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Rogue Ales Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry & Chocolate Ale – Fruit Beer at 5.4% ABV

Rogue Ales Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry & Chocolate Ale Fruit Beer at 5.4% ABV ($12.99 at Sobeys Liquor Silverado, 750ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours clear brown with red highlights, one finger light tan diminishing gradually to thin skim, moderate lacing  (4/5) Nose is raspberry, milk chocolate, biscuity yeasty malt. (7/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter, mild sour, mild salt. (6/10) Medium body, prickly carbonation and mild bitter and tart berry finish. (3/5)

Well, that’s a bit of a kitchen sink – what’d they do, throw everything at it, and see what sticks? It’s not bad, but ultimately what it ends up tasting like, particularly with the prickly carbonation, is cola. Maybe raspberry cola, but cola. Smells a bit better than it tastes, but ultimately doesn’t work all that well. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Isseki Nichō – Imperial Dark Saison at 9.5% ABV

Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Isseki Nichō Imperial Dark Saison at 9.5% ABV ($3.82 at Bishop’s Cellar, 341ml, bottle date 3-Sep-2014)

Pours nearly solid black with only the faintest hint of colour around the margins, a fat finger of loose beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate patchy lacing. (4/5) Nose is sweet dark malt, coffee, leather, citrus, soy?, faint smoke, some funk. (8/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderately strong bitter, some smoke. (8/10) Medium to full body, low carbonation and mildly warming bitter slightly funky finish. (4/5)

What. The. Hell. Is. THAT? Apparently, “Isseki Nichō” means “Two birds, one stone”, which I guess is a reference to this beer being a collaboration between DDC and Shiga Kogen (whom I had never heard of before today, but now seem to make necessary a trip to Japan so I can break my ass skiing in Shigakogen before sampling the local craft beers). Because, if it’s a reference to the style, it should be “Isseki Sanchō” (three birds, one stone) because I’ve never before seen “saison” applied to “imperial” or “dark”. I might be under-ranking this simply because it’s so utterly unlike anything I’ve tried before. I’m gonna think long and hard before I try the other one of these I have in my cellar. That being said, DDC is fast becoming one of my favourite breweries, not because everything they do is a home run, but because they’re willing to do these utterly unique variations. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Huge Arker – Russian Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Huge Arker Russian Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV ($21.84 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650ml, no bottle date or best before)

Pours nearly solid black with only a hint of mahogany around the margins, one finger of beige head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, moderate patchy lacing. (4/5) Nose is bourbon, boozy dark fruit, candi sugar, vanilla, oak, faint dark chocolate. (9/10) Taste is strong sweet, mild bitter. (8/10) Medium to full body, low carbonation and slightly syrupy, warming mildly bitter finish. (4/5)

Well, it’s huge, I’ll give it that. But the hugeness derives from the aggressive alcohol burn and the strong, syrupy sweetness. I’m a bit surprised at the relative absence of stout character – yes, it’s dark, but the body actually tends to the light side, and there’s very little roast/coffee/chocolate character. What there is of that seems to be completely drowned out by the bourbon – and don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind bourbon, nor do I think this isn’t a good beer. It could just be a better one – especially for the truly ridiculous price. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Winter Lager – Bock at 5.6% ABV

Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) Samuel Adams Winter Lager Bock at 5.6% ABV ($2.50 at NLC Kelsey Drive, 355ml, best before 1-Mar-2015)

Pours medium amber with a short off-white head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Nose is muted: wheat, cinnamon, faith orange peel. (6/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter, very mild sour. (6/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, quick if not abrupt finish. (3/5)

Not a terrible mass-market winter lager, but not great either. There’s a very little warming going on, and the spices are kind of stale and wilted. It’s better than a standard adjunct lager, but it’s a long shot from the best Sam Adams I’ve ever had. It’s kind of like a craft…-ish beer for people who have never tried craft beer… and aren’t entirely sure they want to. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brouwerij De Ranke Saison de Dottignies – Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 5.5% ABV

Brouwerij De Ranke Saison de Dottignies Belgian Strong Pale Ale at 5.5% ABV ($11.59 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750ml, best before 19-Sep-2018)

Pours hazy pale to medium amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is pithy citrus, yeast, cloves, barnyard funk, faint banana. (8/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter, mild funk. (8/10) Medium body, moderate carbonation, dry bitter funky finish. (4/5)

A pleasant, slightly funky dry saison. Fruit is muted and restrained, as is the sweetness. For the price, though, it could stand to be a bit more interesting – as it stands, it’s a decent beer at a premium price. I think it’s slightly better than the sum of its parts, though, so I’m bumping up the overall a bit. (18/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jennings (Marstons) Cocker Hoop – English Pale Ale at 4.2% ABV

Jennings (Marstons) Cocker Hoop English Pale Ale at 4.2% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, minimal patchy lacing. (3/5) Nose is biscuity pale malt, grassy hops, hint of fruit. (5/10) Taste is moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Light body, medium to low carbonation, lingering bitter finish. (3/5)

Pretty similar to Marston’s EPA. Maybe a little more bitter, and I think it tastes a little better than it smells – which, to be honest, isn’t saying a heck of a lot. Nothing remarkable, easy drinking with a pleasant enough bitter finish. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brakspear (Marstons) Brakspear Bitter – English Bitter at 3.4% ABV

Brakspear (Marstons) Brakspear Bitter English Bitter at 3.4% ABV ($4.00 at Dominion Stavanger, 500ml, best before 31-Jul-2015)

Pours clear pale amber with a one finger of light beige head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Nose is caramel malt, earthy hops, maybe a little black tea. (5/10) Taste is mild sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Medium body, low carbonation, building bitter finish. (3/5)

Yet another variation on the Marston’s theme, another one that tastes marginally better than it smells. It’s not bad at all, but I can’t say I’d be inclined to make much effort to find another one. Glad that kills the six pack. (10/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com