Alley Kat Brewing Co. Olde Deuteronomy (2017) – American Barleywine at 10.3% ABV | 75 IBU

Alley Kat Brewing Co. Olde Deuteronomy (2017) American Barleywine at 10.3% ABV | 75 IBU (C$4.61 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 330 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 13-Dec-2017, reviewed 28-Feb-2018)

Appearance: medium amber with a thin tan head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim, spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: brown sugar, dark boozy fruit, caramel and toffee, earthy vinous notes. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry mildly bitter finish. (4/5)

I’m liking this a lot more than the last time I had it, a 2015 vintage. I dunno if it’s because I’ve gotten more appreciative of the style, or whether this one is actually a better example. One thing that remains unchanged, though, is the extremely reasonable price point. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Driftwood Brewery Old Cellar Dweller (2017) – American Barleywine at 11.2% ABV

Driftwood Brewery Old Cellar Dweller (2017) American Barleywine at 11.2% ABV (C$14.05 at Hume Hotel Liquor Boutique, 650 ml, packaged on 21-Nov-2017, acquired 30-Jan-2018, reviewed 27-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear deep gold with two fingers of rocky white head, good retention and patchy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: resiny pine, citrus, faint brown sugar. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-full slightly slick body, moderate-low carbonation, off-dry warming lingering and building bitter finish. (4/5)

All right, Driftwood, don’t let me down here: I deliberately had you batting cleanup because I expected better things of you than my first Barleywine of the evening – and it was actually a bit of a trainwreck, so the bar’s not been set high. Aaaand, go!

… Well, fuck. What the hell is that?

Okay, okay, let’s not be hasty here, it’s different, but different isn’t necessarily wrong, or bad, right? Give the head a shake, reset, and try again.

Yeah, let’s be clear here: this is not an English-Style Barleywine. I’m not even sure it’s an American-style Barleywine. If you had told me this was an A/DIPA, I’d’ve been all over it. Big, boozy, and hot, but with so much hops that that’s what dominates on the nose. Seriously, how is it that hops dominate a Barleywine, to the exclusion of almost everything else? And how is it that I, an inveterate hophead, am complaining about that? This is through the looking-glass territory here, folks.

‘Ang on a mo’… Huh. It would appear that’s by design. And I quote: “When young, it is a hoppy treat with plenty of citrus and pine; cellared for a few years and Cellar Dweller gracefully ages into a rich, round reward for patience, hinting at flavours of tawny port.”

Well, shit. Now I feel bad that I didn’t cellar this for a few years. Guess I’m gonna have to buy a couple more and set them down. And, oh yeah: it’s actually pretty good right now. Really good, in fact – just a bit unexpected. (I’m pretty sure there’s a “Crying Game” joke in there, but I can’t be arsed. Oh, wait – maybe that’s it?) Actually, the more I sip, the better it gets. Gee, I wonder if the double-barrelled ABV has something to do with that? (And yes, possibly the most gorgeous Driftwood label yet, but that’s almost old hat by now, right? And, my gold tooth is lower right, not upper left, I mean, jeez.) (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Outcast Brewing Boy Meets Barrel Vol 2 – English Barleywine at 9.5% ABV

Outcast Brewing Boy Meets Barrel Vol 2 English Barleywine at 9.5% ABV (C$12.16 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 17-Nov-2017, acquired 13-Dec-2017, reviewed 27-Feb-2018)

Appearance: cloudy pale amber with two fingers of rocky pale ivory head diminishing gradually to a thick creamy cap, heavy chunky lacing. (4/5) Aroma: buttery toffee, apples, stone fruit, mild spicy rye, oak. (5/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-high bitter. (6/10) Palate: medium-full slightly creamy body, moderate carbonation, off-dry warming finish. (3/5)

That’s by far the hardest bottle I’ve ever gotten into. I dunno what that cap’s been dipped in, but it’s not wax – more like some sort of industrial adhesive, or maybe whatever The Mask was made of. It started off promising, with a buttery toffee on the front end that was actually pretty pleasing. As it warmed, though, overripe brown apple and pears began to dominate, and were not as pleasant as the toffee. Bit of a disappointment, to be honest. I’ve been generally pretty happy with Outcast, but this contract brew seems to be more reflective of their association with Two Sergeants, with whom I’ve been… well… less happy. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but the one beer I had by them holds the dubious distinction of occupying a nine-way tie for the very worst beer I’ve ever had.) I’m sad to say, this needs work. (I won’t even bother picking on the label – I’m not one to kick someone when they’re down.) (12/20)

6/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Steamworks Brewing Company / Blasted Church Sanctuary – Saison at 7.5% ABV

Steamworks Brewing Company / Blasted Church Sanctuary Saison at 7.5% ABV | 25 IBU (C$6.99 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 500 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 26-Feb-2018)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with one fat finger of rocky white head diminishing rapidly to a thin skim and ring, spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: white grape must, floral, crackery malt, peppercorn. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, moderate-low bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-lively carbonation, dry mild tart finish. (4/5)

Oh, that’s all right! Lots of grapey goodness on the front end – and not just any grape, either, but probably my favourite German varietal, Gewürztraminer. (Yeah, fine, it’s a training wheels grape, piss off, I’m a beer nerd, not a oenophile.) This is completely out of left field for Steamworks, who in my experience thus far have excelled at IPAs… and not much else. I mean, seriously, if you rank them, there’s three or four IPAs at 7/10 or above, then it drops to 6.5/10 or less with the pilsener, fruit beer, and “white stout”. But this is actually a very well-behaved, even-tempered and easy-drinking Saison. And really very reasonably priced! (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

E9 Brewery Catharsis (Batch 1) – Saison at 5.7% ABV

E9 Brewery Catharsis (Batch 1) Saison at 5.7% ABV (C$11.85 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 26-Feb-2018)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with two fingers of rocky white head, good retention and spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: doughy yeast, apple, stone fruit, barnyardy funk, pineapple. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, moderate-low bitter, light funk. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-lively carbonation, off-dry mild tart lightly funky finish. (4/5)

Sort of similar to the Council Saisons, with doughy bready yeast leading the way – though not quite as emphatically as it does with the Council ones. I flip-flopped a little with it, because initially the drupes and pomes lead the way to good effect, but then the bready yeast takes hold. That only gets stronger as it warms, which isn’t entirely welcome, but then it sort of grows on you. Don’t get me wrong, it stays yeasty, but the horseblankety (OK, fine, horse-pissy) funk also comes out to play. If it were more expensive, I’d probably complain bitterly, but for the price it’s not bad at all. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Granville Island Brewing Winter Wit – Witbier at 6% ABV | 18 IBU

Granville Island Brewing Winter Wit Witbier at 6% ABV | 18 IBU (C$8.29 at Quarry Park Calgary Co-Op, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 26-Feb-2018)

Appearance: cloudy pale gold with two fingers of rocky white head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: banana, coriander, doughy bread, cinnamon, orange, clove, black pepper. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-low bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium duration finish. (4/5)

Yeah, I see what you did there – it’s a winter-y wit. There’s a decent balance between the Witbier banana and mild “winter” spices. It’s not bad, but it’s not as refreshing as a straight Witbier. OK for  one off, I guess, but not something you’d necessarily want to do again. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Phillips Brewing Company Benefit Brew Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary – Premium Bitter / ESB at 5.8% ABV

Phillips Brewing Company Benefit Brew Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary Premium Bitter / ESB at 5.8% ABV (C$5.79 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 25-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear deep amber with two fingers of rocky beige head, excellent retention and stringy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus, caramel, pine, mild coffee. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter finish. (4/5)

OK, fine, I’ll go to the Wolfdog Sanctuary. (Well… p’raps I’ll wait until the summer, considering the youngsters and the missus are probably gonna be here then – but I will go. Considering it’s all of an hour away, I feel kind of obligated at this point.) Anyway, moving on to the beer – which is nowhere near as cool as a Wolfdog, I mean, come on – but is actually pretty damn fine. It’s pretty much what it says on the label: a West Coast style ESB. Which is to say, malt doesn’t actually dominate, but doesn’t really give up the limelight either. Instead, you get a pretty decently balanced profile of citrus, caramel, and pine, with just a hint of coffee at the back end. You could do a whole lot worse with the style – and, in fact, based upon my experience, you almost certainly will. This might not be the best example I’ve ever had, but it’s right up there. (And it’s very nearly the best I’ve had from this brewery, as well!) All in all, helluva result. Wait… does this mean this actually is Extra Special and Bitter? Wow… (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

3 Fonteinen Brouwerij Ambachtelijke Geuzestekerij Oude Kriek – Kriek at 6% ABV

3 Fonteinen Brouwerij Ambachtelijke Geuzestekerij Oude Kriek Kriek at 6% ABV (C$29.96 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, packaged on 24-Oct-2016, best before 26-Oct-2036, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 25-Feb-2018)

Appearance: hazy ruby red with one finger of light purple head, good retention and no lacing. (4/5) Aroma: tart cherry, mild oak. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, minimal bitter. (9/10) Palate: medium-light body, lively carbonation, dry tart finish. (5/5)

OK, let’s be honest: it’s not a Cantillon But, dammit, it’s close. Lovely clean tart cherry with just a hint of woody oak. Really good stuff, and almost actually worth the price tag. (18/20)

My 255th from the 2010 Edition of 1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die, 245th from the 2013 edition, and 269th combining both editions.

9/10 #1001beers #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Central City Brewers + Distillers Hopping Mad Mosaic Hopped Cider – Cider at 4.5% ABV

Central City Brewers + Distillers Hopping Mad Mosaic Hopped Cider Cider at 4.5% ABV (C$6.41 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 16-Feb-2017, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 25-Feb-2018)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale straw with a short fizzy white head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, no lacing. (3/5) Aroma: tropical fruit, citrus, apple, stone fruit, pine. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, light tart, mild bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry tart finish. (4/5)

Not bad, actually. It certainly has all of the Mosaic hop character I was hoping for, with lots of tropical and stone fruit working well with the underlying apple. The sweetness is slightly higher than I prefer, but it’s not excessive. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Le Trou du Diable Dubaï Pillée – American Double / Imperial IPA at 9% ABV | 82 IBU

Le Trou du Diable Dubaï Pillée American Double / Imperial IPA at 9% ABV | 82 IBU (C$7.52 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 600 ml, packaged on 4-Jan-2018, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 24-Feb-2018)

Appearance: slightly hazy deep gold with two fat fingers of rocky pale ivory head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: tropical fruit, stone fruit, caramel. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry building and lingering bitter warming finish. (4/5)

I have no idea what the hell LTdD was on when they concocted the name and label notes for this – “Pillaged Dubai”? “In 1954, Dubai was invaded and looted of its alcohol by extraterrestrials”? – but it wasn’t beer. I’m not even sure it has a name, other than “Experimental Drug #32856, For Administration to Lab Animals Only”. Apparently, getting bought out by Molson and (presumably) becoming multi-millionaires has a detrimental effect on one’s sanity – who knew? Good beer, though. Despite the obviously beefy malt bill for this thing, fruity hops emphatically lead the way, with a lovely smooth warming ABV tempering the huge bitter bite on the back end. This is clearly a beer with no fucks left to give, and I respect that. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com