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

Last Best Brewing and Distilling A.E. Cross Barley Wine Barrel-Aged (2016) American Barleywine at 11.8% ABV | 45 IBU (C$19.95 at J. Webb Wine Merchant, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 30-Apr-2017, reviewed 20-Oct-2017)

Appearance: clear deep amber with a short fluffy light beige head, good retention and sticky lacing. (3/5) Aroma: toffee, dried fruit, rye whisky, wood. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-high bitter, light tart. (8/10) Palate: medium slightly slick body, moderate carbonation, medium bitter and warming finish. (4/5)

So, this vintage was split into two, a barrel-aged version, and an unoaked version. I previously reviewed the unoaked version, which I described as fairly well-implemented, and observed the big ABV to be well-integrated. But, I found the aromas and flavours to be muted, to the point of verging on boring. I expressed the hope that the barrel-aged one addressed that, as well as my intent to find it. Well: tah-dah, I guess? And, yeah, I dunno if it’s the barrel-ageing, or just the nine months more cellaring, but this one is actually better, by a pretty emphatic margin. The woody notes meld well with a boozy whisky character, both of which arguably make the alcohol more noticeable, but doing so in an integrated and appropriate fashion. Some much-needed complexity is thereby attained, making this much more enjoyable than its Plain Jane sister. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brekeriet Beer AB Cassis – Sour / Wild Ale at 5.4% ABV

Brekeriet Beer AB Cassis Sour / Wild Ale at 5.4% ABV (C$17.16 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, best before 31-May-2021, acquired 12-Oct-2017, reviewed 20-Oct-2017)

Appearance: clear pink-tinged medium amber with one finger of pinkish fizzy head diminishing gradually to a thin cap, spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: tart juicy currants, candi sugar, hint of wood. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high tart, low bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-light body, lively carbonation, tart finish. (4/5)

Very authentic currant aromas and flavours, to the point where I’m half-convinced I can feel the fur from the berries on my tongue. That, or maybe black currant jam on toast – but heavy on the jam and light on the toast. I’m not getting a lot of complexity, but that’s not really a complaint, more just an observation. The tartness might be just a shade unbalanced, though, especially in the finish. Still, good stuff. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Cascade Brewing The Vine (2015) – Sour / Wild Ale at 10.1% ABV

Cascade Brewing The Vine (2015) Sour / Wild Ale at 10.1% ABV (C$23.68 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 12-Oct-2017, reviewed 19-Oct-2017)

Appearance: murky pale gold with a short, short-lived fizzy head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: white grape must, wheat, oak, lemon zest, bready yeast. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high tart, moderate-low bitter. (9/10) Palate: light body, lively sustained carbonation, tart warming finish. (4/5)

Very champagne-like: a big pop! upon uncorking, followed by an enthusiastic gusher (which I managed to mostly catch) and a rapid diminution of a fizzy head to nothing, with a lively sustained carbonation. And yes, believe it or not, I distinctly get the Gewürztraminer grapes: white, tart, and German. (Insert barmaid joke here.) (16/20)

My 247th from the 2010 Edition of 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, 237th from the 2013 edition, and 261st combining both editions.

8/10 #1001beers #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn Tap X Cuvée Barrique (2016) – Weizenbock at 9.5% ABV | 16 IBU

Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn Tap X Cuvée Barrique (2016) Weizenbock at 9.5% ABV | 16 IBU (C$16.99 at Oak & Vine, 750 ml, best before 20-Jan-2021, acquired 3-Jul-2017, reviewed 19-Oct-2017)

Appearance: clear deep ruby with a short, short-lived fizzy head diminishing rapidly to nothing, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: complex, mild, wood, red wine grapes, dark fruit, caramel, banana, vanilla. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, moderate-low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, soft carbonation, tart warming finish. (4/5)

Huh. Another weird grapey hybrid thingy. A bit like an Oude Bruin or Flanders Red in some ways, but a lot more like an oaky red wine – and certainly not a whole lot like any Weizenbock I’ve ever had before. It grew on me as it progressed, but still not a complete success, as far as I’m concerned. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Deschutes Brewery Pinot Suave – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 11.8% ABV | 15 IBU

Deschutes Brewery Pinot Suave Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 11.8% ABV | 15 IBU (C$26.99 at Oak & Vine, 650 ml, packaged on 25-Apr-2016, acquired 22-Aug-2017, reviewed 18-Oct-2017)

Appearance: clear ruby-tinged deep amber with one finger of fizzy ivory head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: complex, tobacco & leather, grape must, caramel, stone fruit, oak, berries. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-low tart, moderate-low bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, lively carbonation, tart warming finish. (4/5)

Well, this is a heaping big mess of what the hell was that? And I don’t (necessarily) mean that in a negative way.  (Though, as beer-wine hybrids go, it’s not the best I’ve had – that distinction belongs to Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot.) Specifically, I’m not convinced that the selection of Pinot must was the right choice here, since I found Noble Rot’s botrytis-infected Viognier to exhibit much deeper and complex character. Pinot is, well, Pinot. (Come on, it’s a soccer mom grape.) On the up side, I’m getting a very pleasant leather and tobacco note right at the outset, which works well in the context of a red wine. (Which, let’s face it, based on ABV alone, this pretty much is – and a fairly pricey one at that, at least as far as a non-wine-drinker like me is concerned.) Though, to be honest, if I had tried this before Noble Rot, I might have considered it the cat’s pyjamas – not least of which because the ABV on this is nearly thirty percent greater than Noble Rot’s. Good stuff, and a true oenophile (as opposed to a bullshit artist like myself) might consider it great – but I wouldn’t know, because I’m said aforementioned bullshit artist and not a true oenophile. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Wild Rose Brewery Farmhouse White Redux – Saison at 5.8% ABV | 18 IBU

Wild Rose Brewery Farmhouse White Redux Saison at 5.8% ABV | 18 IBU (C$11.49 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, packaged on 1-Sep-2017, acquired 18-Sep-2017, reviewed 18-Oct-2017)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with one finger of fluffy white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: peaches, apples, oak, light funk. (6/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, moderate-low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly tart finish. (3/5)

Stone fruit and pome dominate this, initially bright(ish) and pleasant(ish) but gradually becoming brown or bruised in character. This is presumably a peach and Brett variant of their Farmhouse White, but to be honest, it’s not as good. I’ve had some Saisons that worked really well with peach and Brett, but for some reason this one just isn’t working for me. (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Stone Brewing Company Old Guardian Dry-Hopped with Pekko Hops (2016) – American Barleywine at 11% ABV | 75 IBU

Stone Brewing Company Old Guardian Dry-Hopped with Pekko Hops (2016) American Barleywine at 11% ABV | 75 IBU (C$6.47 at Crowfoot Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 4-Feb-2016, acquired 23-Feb-2017, reviewed 17-Oct-2017)

Appearance: hazy deep amber with one finger of fluffy ivory head, moderate retention and patchy lacing. (3/5) Aroma: toffee, orange peel, mint, dried fruits, nuts, wood. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium slick body, moderate-soft carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter warming spicy finish. (4/5)

Believe it or not, at 11% ABV, this is on the lighter end of the spectrum for its variants – I’ve got a couple others cellaring that are 11.2% and 11.6%, making this the poor relative by comparison. I must confess, however, to being a bit puzzled by this one: I last tried it six or seven months ago, at which time I was fairly certain the hop profile was pretty much done, but right now I’m detecting a fairly sprightly herbal/minty Pekko hop character going on. So… the hops faded… and then came back? That’s new… For whatever reason, I think I like this a touch more than the first time I tried it. And now I’m sad I don’t have another one cellaring for future exploration. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Stone Brewing Company Imperial Russian Stout (2016) – Russian Imperial Stout at 10.8% ABV | 65 IBU

Stone Brewing Company Imperial Russian Stout (2016) Russian Imperial Stout at 10.8% ABV | 65 IBU (C$13.85 at Crowfoot Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 23-Mar-2016, acquired 23-Feb-2017, reviewed 17-Oct-2017)

Appearance: nearly opaque black with minimal relief around the margins, one fat finger of fluffy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: dark chocolate, caramel, mild coffee, dark fruit, light herbal. (9/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-high bitter. (9/10) Palate: full slick body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter warming finish. (5/5)

That is some good shit right there. It’s almost good enough to make me OK with calling an end to summer and moving on to cold-weather beers. (Yeah, it was 24ºC [75ºF] here today, but it’s dropping to freezing overnight.) Almost. I friggin’ hate winter, but boozy goodness like this dulls the pain. I decided to finish this one off since my plans for a multi-year vertical were cruelly dashed by a complete absence of the 2017 vintage in my area, but I’ve still got a 2015 ageing in my cellar. I think I’ll give that one another couple of years and see what happens, but to be honest, this one at only a year and a half old is already pretty smooth and defect-free. (18/20)

9/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Strange Fellows Brewing Coup de Foudre New World Wild Ale – Sour / Wild Ale at 6% ABV

Strange Fellows Brewing Coup de Foudre New World Wild Ale Sour / Wild Ale at 6% ABV (C$13.27 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 12-Oct-2017, reviewed 16-Oct-2017)

Appearance: clear pale amber with one fat finger of fizzy white head diminishing rapidly to a persistent thin cap, patchy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: complex, red wine, oak, stone fruit, caramel, malt vinegar, dry hay funk. (9/10) Taste: moderate-low sweet, moderate tart, light bitter & funk. (9/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-high carbonation, off-dry tart lightly funky finish. (4/5)

Now, that’s an impressive little bit of wordplay: “coup de foudre” can be used to mean both “thunderbolt” (in the literal, weather, sense) and “love at first sight” (in the more poetic sense) because “foudre” literally means lightning – thus, “a strike of lightning”. But since foudres (or foeders) are also the massive wooden barrels used for ageing wine or sour beers, a third-level interpretation is revealed: “the impact of the barrel”. Simple puns or double entendres are so common in the beer world as to excite little response, but this rarely-seen triple entrendre works well. (In fact, there might even be a fourth level, since “foudre” sounds an awful lot like the extremely rude “foutre”. I know very well what “Va te faire foutre” means, but I’m not sure how readily that correlates here. I might have to consult with a native french speaker on that one. After I get all foutred up on this.) Aaaand after all of that, I’ve still said nothing about the beer. Which is, in fact, pretty damned awesome: big complexity, with lots of barrel notes that don’t overwhelm the wild yeast character. Reminds me a lot of the Ale Apothecary wilds, actually – but for about a third the price. And, without resorting to the fairly cheap trick of high gravity: this is very sessionable. I like this a whole bunch. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Strange Fellows Brewing Bayard Farmhouse Saison – Saison at 5.5% ABV | 25 IBU

Strange Fellows Brewing Bayard Farmhouse Saison Saison at 5.5% ABV (C$10.04 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 12-Oct-2017, reviewed 16-Oct-2017)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale straw with three fingers of loose white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: mild, grainy pale malt, lemon zest, yeast, pome, white pepper. (8/10) Taste: moderate-low sweet, moderate bitter, light funk. (8/10) Palate: medium-light body, lively carbonation, off-dry short lightly funky finish. (5/5)

I totally read that name as “Barnyard” when I first saw it, and accepted it with no hesitation whatsoever – so take that for what it’s worth. I was initially disposed to suggest this was a bit too mild in aroma and flavour, but upon reflection, I don’t know but it’s not the perfect implementation of the style I’ve been whinging about forever: it’s light and dry, with lively carbonation, the ABV is low enough to allow extended sessioning, and the mild(er) flavours prevent it from becoming cloying or overwhelming – a key issue when you consider the traditional five-litre-a-day entitlement. Huh. Well, I guess you know the old saw about being careful what you wish for, right? Really very good, but I can’t help but feeling just slightly let down. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com