Russell Brewing Company The Ex – Black IPA at 6% ABV | 70 IBU

Russell Brewing Company The Ex Black IPA at 6% ABV | 70 IBU (C$5.69 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 24-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear brown with two fat fingers (and growing) of rocky beige head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: lightly burnt toast, stone fruit, mild citrus, chocolate. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium duration lingering bitter finish. (4/5)

This is a brilliant name for this style, because I had a brief and frankly embarrassing intense fling with it before becoming utterly disillusioned. And, seriously, seeing the phrase “best served cold as ice” on a label is a huge warning flag, even if I am taking it ever so slightly out of context. Picking on the label some more, this is certainly malty, but not all that refreshing. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Hopworks Urban Brewery Hopworks Organic IPA – American IPA at 6.6% ABV | 75 IBU

Hopworks Urban Brewery Hopworks Organic IPA American IPA at 6.6% ABV | 75 IBU (C$7.04 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 24-Feb-2018)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with one fat finger of rocky white head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus, tropical fruit, floral, bready malt, pine. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, medium duration moderate bitter finish. (4/5)

I… dunno. This thing has flashes of competence, but overall it just fails to impress somehow. Not quite a classic (old-school) A/IPA, but not quite modern, either. It’s OK, overall, but not memorable. On the other hand, it would be a fine go-to to have in the fridge for company. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Annex Ale Project Cryo-currency IPA – American IPA at 7.1% ABV

Annex Ale Project Cryo-currency IPA American IPA at 7.1% ABV (C$7.80 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 21-Feb-2018, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 23-Feb-2018)

Appearance: opaque pale gold with two fingers of rocky white head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap, moderate stringy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: pineapple, citrus, melon. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-low bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, juicy medium duration finish. (4/5)

Pretty decent implementation of the style: the juicy fruit aromas and restrained bitterness are pretty much bang-on, as is the juicy texture of the body. The “cryo” part of the name apparently refers to a new one on me: cryo hops, which are cryogenically separated, giving twice the resin content of whole leaf or pelletized product. That additional dose of hops makes this flavourful without being bitter. And by the way I think, this one might take the record for age for me (other than draft/growlers/crowlers, I mean): two days in the bottle. I suspect it’ll be hard to beat that one – just like it’s hard to beat this beer! (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Annex Ale Project Forward Progress – American Pale Ale at 5.2% ABV

Annex Ale Project Forward Progress American Pale Ale at 5.2% ABV (C$6.63 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 650 ml, packaged on 1-Feb-2018, acquired 23-Feb-2018, reviewed 23-Feb-2018)

Appearance: hazy pale gold with two fingers of rocky white head, good retention and well-defined lacing. (5/5) Aroma: citrus, tropical fruit, pine, stone fruit. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry medium duration slightly astringent finish. (4/5)

Refreshing APA with lots of Mosaic hop character, especially on the nose. The taste doesn’t quite measure up to the aroma, but not by much. Finishes just very slightly astringent, but other than that it’s a nice example of the style. Probably doesn’t hurt that it’s all of three weeks old, either! (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Nøgne Ø / Bridge Road Aurora Australis II – Tripel at 11% ABV | 35 IBU

Nøgne Ø / Bridge Road Aurora Australis II Tripel at 11% ABV | 35 IBU (C$14.49 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 330 ml, packaged on 21-Aug-2013, acquired 18-Nov-2017, reviewed 22-Feb-2018)

Appearance: muddy medium amber with a short, short-lived off-white head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap and ring, minimal lacing. (3/5) Aroma: port, candi sugar, dark fruit, wood, Belgian yeast esters. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-high carbonation, sweetish warming mildly spicy finish. (4/5)

That is one deeply weird beer. Conventional wisdom dictates that variations in cellaring temperature and/or mechanical disturbance of a beer are negatives, yet Nøgne Ø and Bridge Road decided to send this thing traipsing across the equator on a boat? That’s an… “interesting” decision right there. Port barrel ageing of a Tripel is another debatable stylistic choice. The concomitant assault upon the olfactory and gustatory senses is unique, to say the least. Oh, wait, Norway, right: a culture that thinks that it’s a good idea to age fish until it’s gelatinous and clear – “different” is pretty much going to be the baseline here, innit? Needless to say, it’s not a complete success – but it’s not an utter failure, either. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Four Winds Brewing Co. Triplicity – Tripel at 9% ABV | 33.3 IBU

Four Winds Brewing Co. Triplicity Tripel at 9% ABV | 33.3 IBU (C$11.85 at Hume Hotel Liquor Boutique, 750 ml, packaged on 5-Dec-2017, acquired 30-Jan-2018, reviewed 22-Feb-2018)

Appearance: slightly hazy straw with two fingers of fluffy pale ivory head, excellent retention and moderate clingy lacing. (5/5) Aroma: banana, pear, bread, honey, sage, coriander. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium slightly slick body, moderate carbonation, sweetish warming mildly spicy finish. (4/5)

Just slightly too sweet, if I’m being picky – and, by all means, let’s be picky, right? This splits the difference between sweet and dry Tripel styles, so of course I’d probably like it better if it were drier – but it’s not bad as it is. There’s little doubt that the higher sweetness is both at least partially attributable to the high ABV, and helps temper that same ABV. Fruit tones lead the way, with bready yeast in the mid, and mildly spicy sage and coriander on a slightly slick warming finish. Oh, and get this: three hops, three malts, and three sugars, with an ABV of three times three and an IBU of 33.3 – cool, huh? I’m pretty impressed with the amount of math that was required to make that work out! (Though I’m pretty skeptical about that decimal point, if I’m honest.) (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Wild Oats Series Strong Patrick (2018 – Jameson Barrel Aged) – Irish Red Ale at 6.7% ABV | 24 IBU

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Wild Oats Series Strong Patrick (2018 – Jameson Barrel Aged) Irish Red Ale at 6.7% ABV | 24 IBU (C$6.87 at NLC Howley Estates, 600 ml, packaged on 5-Jan-2018, acquired 21-Feb-2018, reviewed 20-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear deep amber with two fingers of fluffy ivory head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: toffee and caramel, oak, whiskey, vanilla. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, mild bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, malty mild bitter finish. (3/5)

Previous versions of this were described as whiskey barrel aged (which I’ve noted as adding a pleasant note to a style that I usually find to be fairly boring) but without specifying the exact whiskey used. I’m a total sucker for Jameson so I had to get this, even though I knew the likelihood of me being able to discern any difference was low indeed. That said, I’m more than halfway convinced I can in fact do just that. I’d have to try them side-by-side to be certain, but I want to say that this does in fact smell and taste of Jameson. Now I wish I had a wee dram of Caskmates to sip alongside this… though, sipping a little bit of Blender’s Dog definitely raised this to the next level (quite literally, with retronasal loft). (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

HORAL Oude Geuze Mega Blend (2015) – Gueuze at 7% ABV

HORAL Oude Geuze Mega Blend (2015) Gueuze at 7% ABV (C$21.59 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 750 ml, best before 31-Oct-2034, acquired 28-Jul-2015, reviewed 20-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear pale amber with one fat finger of rocky ivory head, excellent retention and moderate lacing. (5/5) Aroma: citrus zest, pome fruit, mild earthy funk. (9/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate tart, low bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate-high carbonation, dry crisp lightly funky finish. (4/5)

Stellar example of the style, but that’s hardly surprising, given that it’s a product of the HORAL consortium (Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lambikbieren – “High Council for Traditional Lambic Beers”, though Cantillon’s non-involvement in the group continues to be cause for concern). Restrained tartness with lovely complexity and a well-balanced funk on a bone-dry more-ish finish. Glad I’ve got a second one to cellar further – it’ll be interesting to see whether the funk, in particular, continues to develop with a couple more years on it. (17/20)

8.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

YellowBelly Brewery Sheila Na’Geira – American IPA at 5.5% ABV | 55 IBU

YellowBelly Brewery Sheila Na’Geira American IPA at 5.5% ABV | 55 IBU (C$9.60 at NLC Stavanger, 1 l, best before 27-Mar-2018, acquired 19-Feb-2018, reviewed 19-Feb-2018)

Appearance: clear deep gold with one fat finger of rocky white head, good retention and moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus, floral, pale crackery malt, resiny pine. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter finish. (4/5)

A pleasant enough IPA but without any really stand-out distinguishing characteristics. I see what the intent was here – to dial back the malt and let the hops take centre stage – and to some extent that worked. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go so far as to call this unbalanced, but it’s not a complete success. Specifically, the body comes across as just slightly thin for the hop intensity, resulting in it being slightly edgy or astringent. And yes, I tried it with some (high-quality) milk chocolate per the commercial description, but didn’t note any particular synergy as a result. Good, sure, but not next-level good. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

8 Wired Brewing Company Batch 2.18 Oak Aged Imperial Stout – Imperial Stout at 11% ABV | 75 IBU

8 Wired Brewing Company Batch 2.18 Oak Aged Imperial Stout Imperial Stout at 11% ABV | 75 IBU (C$15.99 at Willow Park Wine & Spirits, 500 ml, no packaging date or best before, acquired 1-Jul-2016, reviewed 18-Feb-2018)

Appearance: utterly black with no hint of relief, one fat finger of fluffy beige head diminishing gradually to a thick persistent cap, moderate lacing. (4/5) Aroma: dates, brown sugar, oak, chocolate, vanilla, light smoke. (8/10) Taste: high sweet, high bitter. (8/10) Palate: full slick body, moderate-low carbonation, lingering and building bitter warming finish. (5/5)

Clearly different from the first sniff – there’s an explicit aroma of dates and brown sugar, as opposed to the less differentiated dark fruit and sweetness one often gets in Imperials. There’s also a mild botanical note I can’t quite place, particularly present (and not entirely welcome) retronasally from the back of the tongue. It grows on you, though, and overall isn’t really a basis for a negative rating. All in all, a big and pleasantly boozy sipper. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com