Brasserie Valduc-Thor Valduc Thor – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 9.5% ABV

Brasserie Valduc-Thor Valduc Thor – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 9.5% ABV (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #7, 330 ml, best before 21-Feb-2021, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 7-Dec-2019)

Appearance: hazy reddish amber-brown with two fat fingers of fluffy light beige head, excellent retention and moderate spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: peat, bready yeast, chocolate, dark fruit, burnt sugar. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, moderate bitter mildly warming finish. (4/5)

The near-on gusher upon decapping might catch those less experienced by surprise, but this ain’t my first rodeo so it all made it into my glass with nary a drop spilt. A Rauch-like smoke plays heavily, with strong peaty malt dominating, especially upon warming. Not necessarily a negative – I quite like Rauches – but this is quite a bit different than most BSDA’s. On the other hand, it drinks very easily for a relatively high ABV. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company Liquid Gold – Belgian Pale Ale at 6.5% ABV | 15 IBU

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company Liquid Gold – Belgian Pale Ale at 6.5% ABV | 15 IBU (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #6, 355 ml, packaged on 9-Jul-2019, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 6-Dec-2019)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with one finger of fine pillowy white head, good retention and moderate soapy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: bready cereal grains, citrus, white pepper, coriander, hint of apple & banana. (7/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter, mild spice. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-lively carbonation, dry mild bitter finish. (3/5)

My feeling is this would be better with a bit less spice. Initially it’s not all that overwhelming, but it grows until it tends to dominate, particularly as the pint warms. Needing to drink it fast so it doesn’t warm is a characteristic of crappy American beers, not good Belgian ones, so that’s a definite strike right there. It’s not terrible by any means, and I quite like the dry, slightly effervescent finish, but that unbalanced spice gets in the way of rating this higher. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Belgian Original Maltbakery & Brewery Triporteur From Hell – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 6.6% ABV

Belgian Original Maltbakery & Brewery Triporteur From Hell – Belgian Strong Dark Ale at 6.6% ABV (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #5, 330 ml, best before 16-Apr-2021, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 5-Dec-2019)

Appearance: deep near-opaque cola red with a massive rocky beige head, excellent retention and  moderate spotty lacing. (4/5) Aroma: chocolate, liquorice, toasted bread, light nuts, hint of dark fruit. (8/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, sticky mildly bitter finish. (4/5)

The label says this is a “Dubbel Porter” so I assume that means it’s supposed to be a hybrid of those two styles? The closest standard style I could compare it to is a BSDA, though it’s not all that strong. Similar to a chocolate Porter, but much lighter in the body and livelier in carbonation than that would imply. I’m a bit surprised at how high the score ended up here, but really there’s not much to complain about. Ultimately it’s not very complex, but it sure is smooth and easy to drink, and certainly seasonal. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Travois Ale Works IPA – American IPA at 6% ABV

Travois Ale Works IPA – American IPA at 6% ABV (C$2.92 at Collective, 355 ml, packaged on 12-Nov-2019, acquired 29-Nov-2019, reviewed 5-Dec-2019)

Appearance: hazy medium gold with one finger of rocky pale ivory head, good retention and moderate chunky lacing. (4/5) Aroma: tropical fruits, citrus, pine, caramel. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, medium duration bitter finish. (4/5)

Yet another new-to-me local(ish) brewery, this time out of Medicine Hat (home of Hell’s Basement Brewing, who’ve been getting better after a shaky start with me). These guys, though, pretty much hit the ground running. Label notes say Northwest hops on Canadian and English malt, and that’s pretty much what I’m getting. This doesn’t particularly stand out in an extremely crowded field, but it’s certainly a solid example that compares favourably to most. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

The Lost Abbey Devotion – Belgian Blond Ale at 6% ABV

The Lost Abbey Devotion – Belgian Blond Ale at 6% ABV (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #4, 355 ml, best before 2-Jan-2020, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 4-Dec-2019)

Appearance: hazy medium gold with a short tight white head diminishing gradually to a thin cap and ring, moderate spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: herbal/floral, grass, dry hay, citrus, crackery pale malt, black pepper. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-lively carbonation, dry lingering bitter slightly spicy finish. (4/5)

Not quite a BSPA, but certainly reminiscent of one, e.g. Duvel (though not quite as highly attenuated or carbonated). Definitely fits in with the Belgian theme of the Calendar and can hold its head up in such company. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Garrison Brewing Company Hop Trip – American IPA at 6.2% ABV | 30 IBU

Garrison Brewing Company Hop Trip – American IPA at 6.2% ABV | 30 IBU (C$2.92 at Collective, 355 ml, packaged on 31-Oct-2019, acquired 29-Nov-2019, reviewed 4-Dec-2019)

Appearance: hazy and particulate-laden medium amber with two fingers of fluffy pale ivory head, excellent retention and moderate chunky lacing. (3/5) Aroma: pine, tropical fruits, citrus, caramel. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (7/10) Palate: medium body, moderate carbonation, medium duration bitter slightly astringent finish. (3/5)

Label says Mosaic & Citra, and that’s pretty much what I’m getting on the nose, with a pleasant blend of pine, tropical fruit, and citrus on a caramel base. The taste initially follows suit, with balanced sweetness and bitterness, but unfortunately turns slightly astringent in the finish. Not bad, but  (13/20)

6.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

3 Sheeps Brewing Company Rebel Kent – Amber Ale at 5% ABV | 23 IBU

3 Sheeps Brewing Company Rebel Kent – Amber Ale at 5% ABV | 23 IBU (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #3, 355 ml, packaged on 18-Jul-2019, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 3-Dec-2019)

Appearance: clear medium amber with a short loose ivory head diminishing rapidly to a thin ring, minimal spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: caramel/toffee, bready yeast, spicy rye, light berries. (7/10) Taste: moderate-high sweet, moderate-low bitter, light spice. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-low carbonation, sweetish medium duration bitter lightly spicy finish. (4/5)

Not sure what the hell a Kentish Amber from Sheboygan has to do with Belgium or Advent, but fine, let’s just roll with it. (Turns out it uses Belgian yeast and is modelled after the Abbey Single style. Why, then, they called it Rebel Kent is still a mystery to me.) Unsurprisingly, this is (almost) all about the malt, but there’s a nice little rye edge that stops it from becoming excessively cloying, as well as a little complexity in the form of red berries. Pleasant and slightly Winter Warmer-ish, so fine, let’s say it’s Advent-appropriate. (14/20)

7/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Polar Park Brewing Co. Archipelago Pale – American Pale Ale at 5.1% ABV | 30 IBU

Polar Park Brewing Co. Archipelago Pale – American Pale Ale at 5.1% ABV | 30 IBU (C$3.55 at Collective, 473 ml, packaged on 24-Oct-2019, acquired 29-Nov-2019, reviewed 3-Dec-2019)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale amber with two fingers of loose white head diminishing rapidly to a thin cap and ring, minimal spotty lacing. (3/5) Aroma: pine, citrus, tropical fruits, sweet caramel. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium body, moderate-lively carbonation, medium duration bitter finish. (4/5)

Another new-to-me local(ish) brewery, this one out of Edmonton, and a “Canadian Pale Ale” – so presumably like an APA, but with free health care and no guns? Lame political jokes aside, this is pleasant, with a restrained sweetness on the tongue that’s less than expected given the fruity bouquet. Label notes say Cascade, Citra, and Galaxy, and that’s pretty much what I’m getting on the nose: a four-way tie between pine, citrus, tropical fruits, and sweet caramel. Could be prettier, could be brighter, but at the end of the day it’s smooth, easy-drinking, and flavourful – works for me. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Russell Brewing Company West Coast IPA – American IPA at 6.4% ABV | 60 IBU

Russell Brewing Company West Coast IPA – American IPA at 6.4% ABV | 60 IBU (C$2.92 at Collective, 355 ml, packaged on 16-Oct-2019, acquired 21-Nov-2019, reviewed 2-Dec-2019)

Appearance: slightly hazy pale gold with two fingers of rocky white head, excellent retention and moderate chunky lacing. (4/5) Aroma: tropical fruit, pine, citrus, caramel. (8/10) Taste: moderate sweet, moderate-high bitter. (8/10) Palate: medium slightly oily body, moderate carbonation, off-dry lingering bitter finish. (4/5)

Brewers notes say Chinook, Vic Secret, Citra and El Dorado hops, and of course claims to be a West Coast style – but on the front end the Vic Secret steals the show with tropical fruit notes, initially making it less dank and West Coast-ish than most examples of the style. There’s definitely a resiny, oily bitterness, though, and as the pint progresses that lingering bitterness grows, gradually tipping the scales towards the dank West Coast end of the spectrum. Good stuff. (16/20)

8/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com

Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille VI Wheat – Wheat Ale at 6% ABV

Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille VI Wheat – Wheat Ale at 6% ABV (2019 Craft Beer Advent Calendar #2, 330 ml, best before 31-Jul-2021, acquired 22-Nov-2019, reviewed 2-Dec-2019)

Appearance: slightly hazy straw with two fingers of fluffy white head, excellent retention and moderate soapy lacing. (4/5) Aroma: citrus, dry hay, pale malt, herbal, faint bubblegum. (7/10) Taste: moderate-low sweet, moderate bitter, light spice. (7/10) Palate: medium-light body, moderate carbonation, dry crisp mildly warming finish. (4/5)

Only my second by this brewery, but considering the first one was a nine, I wasn’t exactly annoyed to see this come out of the calendar! I’m not entirely certain whether they were going for a Saison here, but there’s certainly very little funk if that’s the case. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of typical wheat character (e.g. bubblegum) here either, though it reminds me of some of the Brasserie de la Senne offerings in some ways. I suspect the use of American hops might cause fits for purists, but all in all I find this to be quite pleasant, with a refreshing dry crisp finish accompanied by a mild warming. (15/20)

7.5/10 #ryansbooze ryansbooze.com