Garrison Brewing Company / Boxing Rock Brewing Co. Courage for Gord Downie – American Amber / Red Ale at 6% ABV | 27 IBU

Garrison Brewing Company / Boxing Rock Brewing Co. Courage for Gord Downie American Amber / Red Ale at 6% ABV | 27 IBU (C$7.59 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 12-Dec-2017, reviewed 5-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pale amber with two fingers of rocky amber head, excellent retention, and soapy chunky lacing. (4/5) Aroma: leafy hops, bready malt, caramel, citrus, hint of coffee. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium bitter finish. (4/5)

The label calls this a “Canadian Amber Wheat”, so it’s a bit of a coin toss whether you classify it as an Amber/Red, or a Wheat. I’ve flip-flopped a couple times while drinking it, actually, but ultimately I think the Amber designation is the right one – certainly it’s not a Wit, nor does the wheat make much of an appearance. That being said, it’s hardly your typical Amber, either, since the caramel is far behind green leafy hops. I guess, given its namesake, it’s fitting that this defies easy classification. What I can say, is that it’s a decent beer: the hopping transforms what could all too easily be a boring malty Amber, into something a little more interesting. (Feel free to make your own Tragically Hip analogies here.) This is super rare, so I’m glad I was able to snag one, but I also enjoyed it on its own merits – not an easy thing to do, given its emotional baggage. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Collective Arts Brewing Collective Project/ Dry Hop Sour – Sour / Wild Ale at 5% ABV | 35 IBU

Collective Arts Brewing Collective Project/ Dry Hop Sour Sour / Wild Ale at 5% ABV | 35 IBU (C$3.69 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 473 ml, packaged on 24-Sep-2017, acquired 18-Nov-2017, reviewed 5-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear pale straw with one finger of rocky white head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus flesh and zest, white wine, lactic tart, crackery malt, pine, light funk. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, light tart. (8/10) Palate: light body, moderate carbonation, dry crisp tart finish. (4/5)

I had pretty much given up on kettle sours, but when I saw this, the combination of dry-hopping and Collective Arts was too much to resist. And, I’m glad I didn’t. This is kettle sour done right: with a whole bunch of hops (Nelson Sauvin and Citra – great combination!) providing much needed flavour and complexity over top of a clean lactic tart. This would be a great patio beer on a hot summer’s day. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

The Bruery Ten Lords A-Leaping – Wheat Ale at 10.5% ABV

The Bruery Ten Lords A-Leaping Wheat Ale at 10.5% ABV (C$14.85 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 13-Dec-2017, reviewed 4-Jan-2018)

Appearance: clear deep brown with one fat finger of pillowy beige head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: orange peel, coriander, nutmeg, liquorice, ginger, toasted wheat, banana, dark fruit. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, light tart. (7/10) Palate: medium body tending slightly thin, moderate-soft carbonation, off-dry warming finish. (3/5)

Well, I guess that officially marks the end of Xmas for me. I usually like to keep things going (i.e. stay off work!) until Old Christmas Day (January 6 – and that story dates from 1752, if you’re interested) but for a bunch of reasons had to return to work early this year. Oh well, at least it’s a damn sight better than last year’s “12 Days” release, which was by far the worst Bruery beer I’ve ever had (and one of the worst 20 I’ve ever had, actually). It’s better than the previous year’s too, while we’re on the subject. The label claims 10 different spices, and yeah, there’s a lot of complexity in there, but it more or less boils down to “standard xmas spices”, and there’s dark fruit and banana behind that. Reminds me of a Dunkel, but it tastes and ends just a little thin. (This, mind you, despite the double digit plus ABV – which, I guess, is one for the plus column.) Ultimately I could’ve gone a bit higher or lower based on personal preferences, and it’s definitely a little busy, but a solid enough brew overall. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales La Roja (Blend 6) – Sour Red/Brown at 7.2% ABV | 25 IBU

Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales La Roja (Blend 6) Sour Red/Brown at 7.2% ABV | 25 IBU (C$20.24 at Specs Main Houston, 750 ml, packaged on 6-Apr-2016, acquired 8-Mar-2017, reviewed 3-Jan-2018)

Appearance: hazy reddish deep amber with, one finger of fizzy off-white head diminishing gradually to a thin skim, spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: vinegar, cherries, red berries, earth, light funk. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, moderate sour tart. (8/10) Palate: medium body tending slightly thin, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly tart finish. (3/5)

I’m a little on the fence on this one. I’m hesitant to call it “unremarkable”, but at the very least it’s less than thrilling. I debated whether I had harmed it by cellaring, but given the style I didn’t think I would have, and upon tasting I’m not getting any oxidation, nor is the earthiness or funk out of control. I do, however, note a slightly more emphatic sour tartness than I would normally expect from the style, as well as a bit of thinness in the body. Ultimately, it’s a bit overwhelmed by the vinegary notes, leaving everything else much less pronounced by comparison. The label says it’s brewed “in the Flanders style”, but as a true Flanders Red (/Brown) it’s a little bit of a disappointment. (14/20)

My 253rd from the 2010 Edition of 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, 243rd from the 2013 edition, and 267th combining both editions.

7/10 #1001beers #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

The Bruery / Funky Buddha ¡Guava Libre! – Fruit / Vegetable Beer at 7.5% ABV

The Bruery / Funky Buddha ¡Guava Libre! Fruit / Vegetable Beer at 7.5% ABV (C$13.79 at NLC Stavanger, 750 ml, packaged on 11-May-2017, acquired 30-Dec-2017, reviewed 3-Jan-2018)

Appearance: opaque deep gold with one fat finger of creamy ivory head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: guava, cream, mild vanilla. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-low bitter, light tart. (7/10) Palate: medium creamy body, soft carbonation, medium duration warming finish. (4/5)

I don’t know that I think of guava as being particularly Floridian, but I guess they’re referring more to the Cuban influence. I’m also fairly sure I’ve never had an “Imperial Cream Ale” before, so I lumped this in with the Fruit beers – which is another one of those styles that’s so broad as to be almost useless, but what’re you gonna do? In any case, this is a huge fruit smoothie with an extremely sneaky ABV that becomes apparent as an eventual mild warming. Definitely reminiscent of a pastry, with lots of guava, some cream and a hint of vanilla. Not one I’d want to drink a lot of, but an interesting change from the everyday. (And personally, I was pretty gobsmacked at Bruery showing up at the NLC, so I was gonna take it regardless!) (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company New Lang Syne – Tripel at 9% ABV

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company New Lang Syne Tripel at 9% ABV (C$17.30 at NLC Howley Estates, 750 ml, packaged on 28-Aug-2017, acquired 8-Nov-2017, reviewed 31-Dec-2017)

Appearance: hazy pale amber with an uncontrollable ivory head, good retention and moderate soapy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: pale malt, white wine, pome & drupe, wood. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate-high carbonation, off-dry finish. (4/5)

Woof. Uncontrollable head took forever to pour. Other than that, though it’s not a bad example of the style – decently dry, instead of sweet, and sufficiently champagne-like for the festivities. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Microbrasserie Les Trois Mousquetaires Grande Cuvée Réserve De Noël (2017) – Spiced Red Lager at 10.5% ABV | 33 IBU

Microbrasserie Les Trois Mousquetaires Grande Cuvée Réserve De Noël (2017) Spiced Red Lager at 10.5% ABV | 33 IBU (C$11.18 at NLC Stavanger, 750 ml, packaged on 22-Nov-2017, acquired 30-Dec-2017, reviewed 31-Dec-2017)

Appearance: clear deep amber with one finger of light tan head diminishing gradually to a thin ring, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: spicy ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, medicinal hops. (7/10) Taste: moderately strong sweet, moderate bitter, mild spice. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, mildly bitter warming finish. (4/5)

My third vintage of this, and it seems like they’ve settled on a recipe: it appears identical to the 2015 I last had, which was actually somewhat different than the 2014. The brew is characterized by emphatic but not overwhelming seasonal spices, and a very well-integrated ABV. Not something I’d want to drink frequently, but I think I’ll continue to make this an annual tradition of the season. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com