Steel & Oak Brewing Co. Red Pilsner – Amber Lager/Vienna at 5% ABV

Steel & Oak Brewing Co. Red Pilsner Amber Lager/Vienna at 5% ABV (C$7.59 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, bottle date 4-Feb-2016, acquired 26-Apr-2016, reviewed 26-Apr-2016)

Appearance: clear pale amber with two fingers of rocky ivory head, patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: grainy caramel, bready yeast, light herbal and floral. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (6/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering medium bitter finish. (3/5)

Meh. It’s OK, I guess. I’m not really getting typical crisp pilsner malt character – predominantly this is a grainy caramel Vienna lager, nothing too interesting. Hell, it could probably have been improved (or at least made more interesting) by S&O smoking the hell out of it the way they usually do. This, though, is literally middle of the road in just about every aspect you can think of. Which means, boring and forgettable – drink it if you’re thirsty, order something more interesting if you can. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Steel & Oak Brewing Co. Dark Lager – Dunkel at 5% ABV

Steel & Oak Brewing Co. Dark Lager Dunkel at 5% ABV (C$7.59 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, bottle date 25-Feb-2016, acquired 26-Apr-2016, reviewed 26-Apr-2016)

Appearance: clear brown with one fat finger of fluffy light tan head, chunky lacing. (4/5) Aroma: roasty malts, dry cocoa, light coffee, mild smoke, lightly nutty. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly bitter and slightly smoky finish. (3/5)

Probably one of the better dunkels I’ve had. Mild, pleasant, and reasonably well-balanced. I mean, it wouldn’t be Steel & Oak if it weren’t smoked, right? But the smoke isn’t overwhelming, and despite the colour, it’s not heavy. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Parallel 49 / Four Winds Brewing Co. Boys are Back in Town (Nectarface) – Sour / Wild Ale at 6% ABV

Parallel 49 / Four Winds Brewing Co. Boys are Back in Town (Nectarface) Sour / Wild Ale at 6% ABV (C$2.29 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 341 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 16-Apr-2016, reviewed 26-Apr-2016)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with a short, short-lived off-white head, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: tart lemon, stone fruit, wheat, light earthly funk. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high tart, light bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, dry and moderately tart finish. (3/5)

For the record, I hate that Thin Lizzie song – don’t ask me why, it’s just always rubbed me the wrong way. (I think the “if the boys wanna fight you better let ‘em” line is what does it.) Anyhoo. This is a blend of P49’s Jerkface 9000 and Four Winds’ Nectarous. I’ve had both, but didn’t take notes of the Jerkface 9000 (it was at a tasting and I was pressed for time). The Nectarous, though, was quite a nice sour, and this actually works. There’s not a whole lot of hopping making it past the fairly aggressive sour, but there is a little, working well with the Brett funk I noted in the Nectarous. I’m not sure it’s actually any better, but it’s an interesting alternative if you like Nectarous. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Parallel 49 / Crannog Ales Suspect Device – Gruit at 5.5% ABV

Parallel 49 / Crannog Ales Suspect Device Gruit at 5.5% ABV (C$2.29 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 341 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 16-Apr-2016, reviewed 26-Apr-2016)

Appearance: hazy medium to deep amber with one finger of fine light beige head, poor retention and no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: caramel/toffee, floral, herbal/earthy. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, light bitter. (6/10) Palate: medium body tending to watery, moderate carbonation, sweet and very slightly spicy finish. (3/5)

A very appropriate name: based on my previous gruit experience, I came into this intensely suspect of this device. But, all things considered, it’s not as bad as I feared it could be. (How’s that for a ringing endorsement?) Really, it comes across as a watery scotch ale, with the grainy caramel/toffee malt completely dominating. There is of course no hop profile at all, which is only to be expected given there are no hops. I was honestly surprised, however, in reading the brewer notes, to see that it contains juniper, ginger and rye, because I’m getting zero of any of those. Correction: as I near the end, the finish is gradually becoming slightly spicy, with either ginger, rye, or both. I guess my criticism of this boils down to it being so very mild, but ultimately it’s not unpleasant. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Bruery Terreux Rueuze (2015) – Gueuze at 6% ABV

Bruery Terreux Rueuze (2015) Gueuze at 6% ABV (C$27.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, bottle date 3-Nov-2015, acquired 16-Apr-2016, reviewed 25-Apr-2016)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with a short, short-lived white head, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: tart lemony citrus, oak, stone fruit, white wine. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high tart, mild bitter. (9/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, dry tart and mildly funky finish. (4/5)

If this were a third the price, I’d rave about it. But, at the price, it’s merely quite good. I mean, come on – it’s at Cantillon’s North American price point? But, yeah, I like it a lot – it’s a decent authentic Belgian-style gueuze, with lots of tartness. Could be more complex, with more depth of flavour, although there is an interesting sweet, almost vanilla tone going on as it warms. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Parallel 49 / Cannery Brewing Company Gimme Shelter – American IPA at 7% ABV

Parallel 49 / Cannery Brewing Company Gimme Shelter American IPA at 7% ABV (C$2.29 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 341 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 16-Apr-2016, reviewed 25-Apr-2016)

Appearance: very slightly hazy straw with one finger of fine white head, good retention and minimal lacing. (4/5) Aroma: stone fruit, hay, dry yeasty funk, light green apple. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, mild tart. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, dry mildly funky and bitter finish. (3/5)

I came into this with pretty low expectations – “apple IPA”? And I’m not sure it’s much of a success as an IPA. But if you were to call it a saison, I’d call it better than average. Seriously, thats what it’s coming across as for me: there’s a dry yeasty and hay note that completely overwhelms any apple flavour. Blindfolded, I’d’ve called it stone fruit and hay funk, and probably largely missed the apple, or included it as an afterthought. Ah! I read the brewer’s notes: saison yeast. So there you go. Not bad at all. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Driftwood Brewery Twenty Pounder – American Double / Imperial IPA at 9% ABV

Driftwood Brewery Twenty Pounder American Double / Imperial IPA at 9% ABV (C$8.79 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, bottle date 7-Apr-2016, acquired 22-Apr-2016, reviewed 24-Apr-2016)

Appearance: clear pale amber with two fingers of fluffy ivory head, excellent retention and lacing. (5/5) Aroma: citrus, tropical fruit, dank pine, caramel malt. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium oily body, moderate carbonation, sticky and warming bitter finish. (4/5)

Massive across the board, but balanced. I wouldn’t call the hops “bright”, exactly, but they’re certainly fresh – only a couple of weeks old. It’s got to be at least 75-80 IBU, and that amount of bitterness requires a significant supporting malt presence. So, it’s sweet, sure, but not inappropriately so. Drinks pretty easy, with the high ABV manifesting only as a mild warming.  An excellent example of the style. (And don’t you just love the new label?) (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Fuller, Smith & Turner PBC Fuller’s Imperial Stout – Russian Imperial Stout at 10.7% ABV

Fuller, Smith & Turner PBC Fuller’s Imperial Stout Russian Imperial Stout at 10.7% ABV (C$9.00 at Solo Liquor, 500 ml, best before 31-Dec-2024, reviewed 23-Apr-2016)

Appearance: nearly opaque black with just a hint of clear brown at the margins, good retention and lacing. (4/5) Aroma: cocoa, lactose, liquorice, red berries, floral, metallic. (6/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (5/10) Palate: full body, soft carbonation, big boozy bitter finish. (3/5)

Oof. Big, hot, heavy, and slightly metallic. Holy hell, I’ve had this sitting for over a year, and it’s still hot and metallic? Clearly this thing ain’t gonna settle down any time in the foreseeable future. Aggressive and unbalanced, but on the other hand it’s boozy as hell, which is frankly never a bad thing. Plus, there’s the big bitter finish, so it’s not a total wash. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Coronado Brewing Company Barrel Aged Old Scallywag (2015) – English Barleywine at 11.4% ABV

Coronado Brewing Company Barrel Aged Old Scallywag (2015) English Barleywine at 11.4% ABV (C$16.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 375 ml, no bottle date or best before, reviewed 23-Apr-2016)

Appearance: clear deep amber with one finger of fine light beige head, good retention and lacing. (4/5) Aroma: woody, toffee, bourbon, dark boozy fruit, light citrus. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, boozy slightly sticky finish. (4/5)

That’s a nice barleywine. Malt and alcohol definitely dominate over a moderate hop bitter that comes through predominantly in the finish, but it never gets cloying. In my experience, the style is a hard one to get right, but this is nice: rich and smooth, yet not too sweet. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com