Stone Brewing Company Enjoy After 07.04.16 – Belgian IPA at 7% ABV | 70 IBU

Stone Brewing Company _Enjoy After 07.04.16_ Belgian IPA at 7% ABV | 70 IBU _(C$17.09 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, bottle date 30-May-2015, best after 4-Jul-2016, acquired 28-Jul-2015, reviewed 30-Jan-2017)_

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with two fat fingers of rocky white head, excellent retention and well-defined lacing. (5/5) Aroma: dry hay funk, pale malt, lemon zest, herbal. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter, moderate funk. (8/10) Palate: medium body, lively to moderate carbonation, dry bitter and funky finish. (4/5)

Well, I obeyed the label, and I can’t say I’m disappointed: both the bitterness and the funk are restrained and well-balanced against one another. I’m glad I’ve got another one in the cellar, though, because I’ll be interested to see what the Brett does in another year or two. (With any luck, I’ll locate one or two other vintages in the interim, to accompany this one and my one and only 12.26.15 – what was I thinking buying only one of those?) (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Stone Brewing Company 20th Anniversary Encore Series Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout – American Double / Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 55 IBU

Stone Brewing Company _20th Anniversary Encore Series Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout_ American Double / Imperial Stout at 9.2% ABV | 55 IBU _(C$15.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, bottle date 16-Jan-2016, acquired 23-May-2016, reviewed 29-Jan-2017)_

Appearance: opaque black with one fat finger of fluffy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: mild, cocoa nibs, roasty malt, dark fruit. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-full body tending slightly watery, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly astringent finish. (3/5)

Meh. Not up to Stone’s usual standards, in my opinion. Starts off looking rich and decadent, but the body, medium-full at best, drops off to watery fairly quickly, making this another oatmeal stout supporting my theory that oatmeal makes for a thinnish Imperial Stout. And yes, the label is correct in calling it bitter, but that’s only part of the story: there’s a significant nearly-acidic astringency, especially in the finish, that lingers and builds. On the up side hand, the high ABV is well-integrated to the point that it’s pretty much completely absent. Good, but hardly memorable. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

The Ale Apothecary The Beer Formerly Known as La Tache – American Wild Ale at 7.62% ABV

The Ale Apothecary The Beer Formerly Known as La Tache American Wild Ale at 7.62% ABV (C$40.44 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, bottle date 11-Mar-2016, acquired 13-Oct-2016, reviewed 28-Jan-2017)

Appearance: hazy pale to medium gold with one fat finger of fizzy ivory head diminishing rapidly (and loudly!) to a thin collar, patchy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: complex, dry hay funk, stone fruit, lemon zest, sweet wheat malt, oak. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate tart, low bitter. (8/10) Palate: light body, lively carbonation, off-dry lightly funky finish. (4/5)

A fair bit sweeter than I was expecting, except for which I’d almost consider it a decent Farmhouse/Saison. It has strong similarities to Gueuze as well, except again for the relatively high sweetness. And, to be clear, that sweetness isn’t overwhelming or unbalanced, but it certainly makes this difficult to characterize as anything but an American Wild. The stone fruit, lemon zest, and oak give this a strongly vinous character, and in a blind taste test, I’d bet you could convince someone this was actually an oddball white wine. Quite interesting, and well worth trying if you find it – assuming you have no problem with the frankly ludicrous price tag. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Nøgne Ø / 京A Imperial Koji Saison – Imperial Saison at 14% ABV | 25 IBU

Nøgne Ø / A Imperial Koji Saison Imperial Saison at 14% ABV | 25 IBU (C$10.20 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 500 ml, bottle date 4-May-2015, acquired 13-Dec-2016, reviewed 27-Jan-2017)

Appearance: clear pale amber with a short, short-lived fizzy ivory head, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: bready yeast, stone fruit, caramel, orange peel, alcohol. (4/10) Taste: high sweet, moderate alcohol and umami, low bitter, light sour. (6/10) Palate: medium body, lively to moderate carbonation, off-dry lightly funky and warming finish. (3/5)

So, “koji” is a Japanese term meaning “grain or bean overgrown with a mold culture” (specifically, Monascus purpureus, which produces statins, making this medicinal, right?) and can be used as an ingredient in sake, of which this is a hybrid. In other words, this is a Canadian review of a Norwegian/Chinese collaboration on a Franco-Belgian/Japanese hybrid. Confused yet? Good, me too – though the 14% ABV might have something to do with that. And yes, that totally triggers my standard rant against high ABV Saisons. You can also insert my standard complaint against Council Brewing’s yeast, which smells like nothing so much as standard baker’s yeast. I’m not sure about this – I might be doing it a disservice simply because it’s so very, very strange – but it’s just weird to the point of unapproachability. Maybe if I was a big sake fan, this would be more my style -but I’m not, so it ain’t. (11/20)

5.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Gigantic Brewing Company Most Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout (#33) – Russian Imperial Stout at 11.5% ABV | 60 IBU

Gigantic Brewing Company Most Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout (#33) Russian Imperial Stout at 11.5% ABV | 60 IBU (C$16.23 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 16-Mar-2016, reviewed 24-Jan-2017)

Appearance: inky black with a short, short-lived loose beige head, no lacing. (4/5) Aroma: roasty malt, chocolate, bourbon, oak, liquorice. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-full body tending slightly watery, moderate-low carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish. (3/5)

My second bourbon barrel-aged stout of the evening, and perhaps I did them in the wrong order, but this one suffers slightly by comparison. Decent enough on the front end, with roasty malts, chocolate, and bourbon, but finishes just a little thin in the body, with an emphatic, slightly unbalanced liquorice note. I’m a little puzzled by the best before (OK, fine, the “NOT AS AWESOME AFTER” – seriously, that’s what the bottle says) date of 2016, since it would seem to me that this should cellar and age, for an extended period, fairly well. And seriously – why does the word “premium” on the label seem to, without fail, lead to abuse? Here’s an example of a beer that could probably carry off a “premium” designation. “Most premium”? Hmm… maybe. I don’t think it’s that, but some might. “Most most premium”? Nah. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

The Lost Abbey Track #10 (Bat Out of Hell) – American Double / Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV

The Lost Abbey Track #10 (Bat Out of Hell) American Double / Imperial Stout at 13.5% ABV (US $18.96, trade – thanks Norm!, 375 ml, bottle date 1-Mar-2016, acquired 1-Nov-2016, reviewed 24-Jan-2017)

Appearance: opaque black with hints of brown around the margins, a short, short-lived loose beige head, no lacing. (4/5) Aroma: chocolate, coffee, bourbon, boozy dark fruit, oak, vanilla. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (9/10) Palate: full oily body, low carbonation, lingering bitter and warming finish. (5/5)

In my experience, bourbon barrel-aged stouts can often be a bit much. So can coffee and chocolate stouts. When a brewery decides to do both (as an Imperial!), well, it’s almost always more than a bit much. And this is most certainly more than a bit much. In just about every aspect, this thing is massive – yet surprisingly well-behaved. No single flavour dominates: chocolate leads the way, coffee occupies the middle ground, and bourbon dominates the woody warming finish, but neither seems unbalanced. Rich and complex, big and boozy, warm and smooth. Reminiscent of the couple of hopped whiskies I’ve had recently (and just about as expensive per ounce). (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Gueuzerie Tilquin Oude Mûre Tilquin À l’ancienne – Lambic – Fruit at 6.4% ABV

Gueuzerie Tilquin Oude Mûre Tilquin À l’ancienne Lambic – Fruit at 6.4% ABV (C$15.34 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, best before 23-Nov-2025, acquired 18-Aug-2016, reviewed 24-Jan-2017)

Appearance: hazy reddish pale to medium amber with a short loose foamy head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: dusty barnyard funk, green apple and plums, lemon, woody and vinous notes. (9/10) Taste: mild to moderate sweet, strong tart, mild funk. (9/10) Palate: light body, prickly to moderate carbonation, very dry tart funky finish. (4/5)

I’m going to continue to damn this with faint praise to some extent, and say it’s very, very good – but hell if I can discern a significant difference between this and the other variants I’ve had, or if I can detect any mûre (blackberry). I want to say it’s about as good as the original (Oude Quetsche Tilquin à l’Ancienne) I’ve had a couple of times now, and slightly better than the avec Prunes de Namur I had last year. Unlike the situation with the avec Prunes de Namur, I don’t find that this one is less bright and tart than the Oude Quetsche Tilquin à l’Ancienne, but rather find it to be an intensely tart yet very well-balanced Lambic, with a lovely dry finish that invites the next sip. Highly recommended. (18/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Evil Twin Brewing The Perfect Matcha – Berliner Weisse at 4% ABV

Evil Twin Brewing The Perfect Matcha Berliner Weisse at 4% ABV (C$11.93 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 13-Dec-2016, reviewed 23-Jan-2017)

Appearance: dirty pale gold with a short loose off-white head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (2/5) Aroma: pineapple, lemon, wheat malt, peaches, green tea, burnt rubber / band-aid. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high tart, low bitter, light brine. (6/10) Palate: light body, moderate carbonation, tart finish. (3/5)

Not really what it says on the label: I mean, yeah, there are hints of pineapple on the front end when freshly poured, and green tea in the finish, but for the most part it’s citrus-dominated. It’s really not one to allow to warm up either, because that’s when the burnt rubber / band-aid comes out. Has elements of both Berliner Weisse and Gose, but is really too heavy-handed for either style. Not without its merits, but nothing very exciting. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Last Best Brewing and Distilling A.E. Cross Barley Wine (2016) – American Barleywine at 11.8% ABV | 45 IBU

Last Best Brewing and Distilling A.E. Cross Barley Wine (2016) American Barleywine at 11.8% ABV | 45 IBU (C$14.95 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 13-Dec-2016, reviewed 17-Jan-2017)

Appearance: clear deep amber with a short fluffy light beige head, good retention and sticky lacing. (3/5) Aroma: muted, boozy dried fruit, brown sugar. (6/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-high bitter, light tart. (7/10) Palate: medium slightly slick body, moderate carbonation, medium bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

Wow – I’ve never had to work so hard to figure out what the hell I was drinking. This vintage was split into two, a barrel-aged version, and an “unoaked” version. Guess what the “unoaked” version says on the label to distinguish it from the barrel-aged one? Nothing. Seriously, that’s how you tell the difference: if the front label doesn’t say “barrel-aged”, it’s the unoaked one. Easy, right? Now go find that spelled out somewhere. Anywhere. I’ll wait. <insert “Jeopardy” theme here> See? Tolja. Apparently I’m one of about 50 people who bought this. On the other hand, bonus points for using highly technical brewing terms on the label: I honestly can’t think of another beer that gives OE or AE, let alone both. But, why stop there? Why not go full-bore and determine TE by distillation? But I digress. This is… well…, “OK”, I guess. I mean, it’s fairly well-implemented, and there’s certainly nothing off about it. The huge ABV is quite impressively integrated. But, the aromas and flavours are muted, to the point of verging on boring. I hope the barrel-aged one addresses that, and I will actually try to find it.  But this particular one, yeah, I fall back on “OK”. (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Borg Brugghus Garún Nr. 19 Icelandic Stout – Imperial Stout at 11.5% ABV | 45 IBU

Borg Brugghus Garún Nr. 19 Icelandic Stout Imperial Stout at 11.5% ABV | 45 IBU (C$4.29 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 330 ml, no bottle date or best before, acquired 16-Dec-2015, reviewed 17-Jan-2017)

Appearance: opaque black with no relief, one finger of rocky beige head diminishing gradually to a thin ring, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: molasses, liquorice, chocolate, coffee. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-full slightly oily body, moderate carbonation, medium bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

Slightly simplistic, on both the nose and the tongue, but pleasant. Molasses leads the way initially, fading slightly to a more liquorice-like note, with hints of chocolate and coffee in the finish. Y’know, I like Iceland, always have. I could see myself living in Iceland (except if I were going to go through the aggravation of uprooting and moving, it wouldn’t be to somewhere with basically the same weather as Newfoundland). That being said, what business does some Icelandic legend have, being on the label of this beer? I always figure if there’s some pretty legend on the label, it’s because they couldn’t think of anything to say about the beer. It might not be as big a warning flag as “Premium” – but, dammit, it’s close. Still and all, I like this. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com