I'm having a hard time catching up to beer reviews... and quite a few of them are Beau's reviews, they keep coming out with new beers that I absolutely NEED to try!
Beau's Channel Ocho is part of the brewery's 2018 Winter Mix Pack. Channel Ocho is a creative riff on a spiced winter ale inspired by Mexican hot chocolate. Channel Ocho pours a dark mahogany with spicy and earthy aromas, and hints of stone fruits and banana.
I grew up with farmervision in rural Western Manitoba and I'd be lucky with eight TV channels.. instead, we had 4 channels... FIVE if we were lucky (a very fuzzy feed from North Dakota or Saskatchewan).. so I'm jealous at channel Eight.
Appearance: Pours a rich dark brown body with a bit of a cherrywood red hue to it. The head is yellowish-beige and only a whole finger's worth, diminishes gently and leaves behind a good amount of stripy lacing on the glass.
Aroma: While this has a definite Beaus-like aroma that reminds me of many of their beers I've had over the years, it's a rich, sweet dark ale that just may be perfect for the season. I just had overly sauced Buffalo chicken bites so this beer may be a tad spicy like Stone's Xocoveza, but my senses are overwhelmed for the most part.. so I have to wait a bit to get an thorough analysis of the beer...
..Once my senses are back to normal, I get notes of milk chocolate, a hint of coffee and a definite peppery spiciness that definitely wasn't from the chicken bites.. it's a mild chipotle/spicy pepper aroma (maybe cayenne?).. but after looking at the ingredients list, it's chipotle. There's also a hint of brown sugar and nutmeg in there - I think this would be amazing as part of a nice spicy chili (which I'd eat if it didn't have chunks of onion or beans in it). Taste: There's sweet notes of chocolate and brown sugar popping up right at the beginning, but then you get a mild heat presence of the chipotle pepper popping up that gives off a very subtle amount of heat on my tongue and lips. There's also notes of cinnamon/nutmeg, a bit of roasted coffee presence to give it a bit of a bitterness to it.
Overall Thoughts: This dark ale tastes a bit like a Black Forest cake with a spiciness to it. I think I should've tried this before eating some chicken bites drenched in Buffalo sauce because this beer is likely less spicy than my palate is telling me but this gives off a good amount of heat accompanied by a good amount of chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg, making it a great winter time treat. I first discovered Mexican hot chocolate a few years ago and I loved how smooth it was yet spiced, perfect for a winter like RIGHT NOW... where the windchill is currently -41. The longer I'm sampling this, the more I'm realizing that the chipotle pepper in this beer is popping out in every sip, giving off a bit of heat, so it's gradually more the heat of the beer and less of the chicken I ate earlier. If you've ever had Stone's Xocoveza and enjoyed it, you'll LOVE this.. if you haven't - if you love dark ales/stouts/porters and love spice, same thing.. but if you're like my mom who likes Molson 67 and hates spice (even Montreal Steak seasoning), you'll hate this. 8.9% ABV
Bay Street Brown is Sleeping Giant's take on your classic Brown Ale. The beer was first released back in 2014, but it appears that it's a seasonal offering by the brewery as you can tell that they used a sticker for the label on the can.
Appearance: FFS... this is a gusher, I pour a good deal of beer into the glass and it comes out with a lot of beige foam, and the glass is at capacity with foam but the can is gushing out more and more foam. 10-15 minutes later, after cleaning up a lot of foam, the beer looks somewhat presentable. The body of the beer is a murky brown ale with a hint of cherrywood red hue to it. Once the foam dies down (finally), there's a light quarter finger's worth of head on top of the beer and a light amount of lacing on the glass.. I expected more lacing from all the gushing but I guess not.
Aroma: Toasted malt profile to give off a bit of a caramel and nutty smell to the beer, a bit of soapiness (Dove). Light amount of dark fruit notes (raisin/figs) and an earthy hop presence as well.
Taste: For a gusher of a beer, I was expecting this beer to be a write-off but this one tastes like your classic Brown Ale - it's sweet with a caramel malt profile, as well as a light amount of a nuttiness to it. There's a light earthiness from the malt/hops to give it a bit of a bitterness to it. Not harsh on the palate, has a bit of a bitter aftertaste but diminishes almost immediately.
Overall Thoughts: This beer is quite reminiscent of the typical Amber Ale/Brown Ale you saw craft breweries making a decade ago.. but it's not a style you see much of anymore. This is sweet and a bit nutty, not overly complex but something that fits in well on a -35C kind of night like tonight. my shirt's soaked because of the gushing but it turned out be a decent Brown Ale.
Hopstar is a Session IPA by the folks over at Minneapolis-based Fulton Beer. I've had a few beers by Fulton in the past and was absolutely impressed with everything I've tried.
Hopstar is described as a twice dry-hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Amarillo, this Session IPA shines bright hop rays through a nebulous body of Maris Otter, Golden Promise, Golden Naked Oats, and white wheat. It’s Session IPA, NE Minneapolis style.
Appearance: Has your classic American IPA kind of appearance to it so far, it's cloudy yet a bit bright - a pale straw/lemon look to it. There's a bit of carbonation taking place in the body, while the head is thick and frothy with a lot of off-white head to it. After about ten minutes.. the head is 100% all still there, hasn't gone down even a touch.
Aroma: This Session IPA is full on hops - my initial sniff of the beer gave off aroma of tropical fruits like pineapple, oranges and lemons. There's also a good amount of a traditional IPA hop vibe in there, as well as a bit of a grassy, leafy presence as well. 100% all about the hops so far!
Taste: I get notes of pineapple as well as other tropical fruit notes from the Citra hop, followed by a touch of soapiness, a bit of a leafy hop taste, a touch of pine for bitterness, and a bit of grassiness. I'm not really getting any of the oats at all, but I do get a light amount of pepper for spiciness.
Overall Thoughts: I'm finding this is a combo of what you're seeing in your newer popular styles of IPAs but also with a bit of a leafy/piney profile that you'd expect in a classic oldschool IPA. Decently sweet and tropical yet not overly juicy like a NEIPA, it keeps its cool. 4.9% ABV.. which is kind of really pushing it for a session IPA, but I can't complain.
I've been wanting to try this beer since it was announced back in the summer, but I only finally got to try it now - I'm trying out Strawbrarian Milkshake IPA by Winnipeg's Barn Hammer Brewing. I bought this at Barn Hammer the other day but I don't think this has been in production for at least a few months now. Strawbrarian is 6.2% ABV and has 30 IBU.
Appearance: Pours a thick peach with a hefty amount of off-white head on top. It takes quite a while for the head to diminish, leaving behind a sprinkling of lacing on the side of the glass. There's also a hefty dose of sediment at the very bottom of the glass.
Aroma: Rich strawberry presence with a mild sour presence to it. Bit of a creaminess. Fresh strawberry goodness.
Taste: There's a decent sweetness to it with notes of strawberry, as well as a little bit of a creaminess from the milkshake aspect of this IPA. Light sourness once the sweetness passes.
Overall Thoughts: This could've been quite a bit creamier and heavier on the palate than it actually is - I was hoping this would be like a nice creamy strawberry ripple ice cream. The strawberry presence is there but there's not that much creaminess.
While at Barn Hammer, I also picked up a can of 66 NEIPA, which I reviewed here back in the summer.
Yukon Brewing's Grizzly Wheat Ale is an unfiltered wheat ale. There's not really any information about this beer on the internet, so I'm going to assume that this is going to be either a Hefeweizen or a Pale Wheat Ale.
Appearance: Grizzly pours a mildly cloudy honey-orange body with a moderate amount of carbonation and a hint of floating sediment. The head of the beer starts off with a frothy white head but gradually diminishes to be just a slim amount of film on top of the glass with very minimal amount of lacing on the glass.
Aroma: Notes of honey, biscuits, banana, clove, and a hint of pepper for spiciness. This is pretty straight forward, definitely smells like an easy to drink wheat ale so far.
Taste: Fairly light but has notes of wheat (duh), a bit of honey, banana, clove, a bit of straw, mildly sweet, and a light amount of grassy bitterness at the end.
Overall Thoughts: Easy to drink Wheat Ale with a hint of spice profile to it, fairly sweet and great for summer weather.. just too bad it's winter right now. 4.6% ABV
I've been either sick or busy with work for the past couple dozen weeks so I haven't had the opportunity to review anything recently. Jack came by yesterday with a big box of Beau's/Halcyon Barrel House products that I've never tried before, whenever Jack makes a visit, I know that I'm going to be trying some amazing beers!
Today I'm checking out Halcyon Barrel House's Curse of Knowledge organic Saison. This time last year, Beau's Halcyon Barrel House was named the fourth best new brewery in the world on RateBeer.com.
Curse of Knowledge is a barrel-fermented, barrel-aged blended farmhouse saison with brett. Spice and more delicate herbal, fruity and floral elements are rounded by its relationship with wine. Effortlessly drinkable, assumingly complex.
Appearance: Pours a clear golden straw body with a very light amount of carbonation in the body, and a quarter finger's worth of head alongside the glass with a good amount of sprinkling of white foam in the middle of the top of the beer.
Aroma: This is very sour-forward with a funky barnyard presence, as well as a good amount of vinegary sourness to it. The barnyard funk is very parfumic and reminiscent of beer festivals in Quebec and beyond - lots of lemon, a bit of bubble gum, a bit of sea salt & malt vinegar kettle-cooked potato chips, a bit of straw and an overall down on the farm theme. I got a good shiver from this beer just from my initial sniff of the beer.
Taste: My goodness, this is very sour up front, giving off a malt vinegar sort of presence to it (as well as a bit of sea salt), there's a good deal of barnyard funk that gives off a woody and barn-like aged presence to it. It's quite dry with a light sweetness of bubble gum. This beer has Pilsner and Rye malt in here, I do get a hint of spiciness from the Rye malt. As I'm letting it warm up, it has more and more of a pizza dough-like taste with it, with a taste of Italian spices.. I don't know how I'm getting those notes but they're popping up.
Overall Thoughts: I drink a lot of Saisons but this one is quite a bit more sour and Brett-themed than most I've had in well over a year - this one has a great Brett presence to give it a bit of a barn woodiness, a bit of straw, and a sourness that I don't typically get from visiting a barn (I should know - I spent much of my life shovelling out barns growing up). I feel like Curse of Knowledge is an organic Saison that would age really well.. if I didn't decide to open it up as soon as I got a bottle. This is sour with a good deal of a kettle cooked sea salt & malt vinegar potato chip vibe to it, a bit of barnyard funk, a bit of bubble gum and a good amount of dryness that requires some water after sampling this beer. If you love wild yeast-themed beers, you'll love this, and if you like that with a surprising hint of Italian seasoning, you'll enjoy this even more. Maybe my palate is just playing on me after several weeks of illness/exhaustion?
Over the years, I’ve reviewed many beers that were well regarded as being some of the best beers on the planet, many that I feel that have been considered underrated, while many that were well regarded as the best of the best by organizations such as the World Beer Awards. For the past three years, there’s one product that I’ve wanted to review but only after the hype finally die down - the product was so sought after that Liquor Marts and rural liquor licensees were selling out the very second it came in.. people of all (legal age) demographics were looking to buy it even if it was something they wouldn’t typically purchase.
Well, if you didn’t know what I was talking about by now, it was Gimli, Manitoba's Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye Whisky. In November 2015, UK based whisky critic Jim Murray wrote that Northern Harvest was his choice for the best whisky in the world for the 2016 Whisky Bible. Murray is considered one of the top critics in the field of whisky so it was no surprise to see Liquor Mart shelves bare when he announced that a product made in Gimli, Manitoba was his top choice for the year.
When the news that Northern Harvest was the number one whisky in the world, I sent Canada’s top whisky critic, Davin de Kergommeaux a message on Twitter asking if he thought the review was valid. He told me that he absolutely enjoyed the whisky, giving it a 5/5 star rating on his website (CanadianWhisky.org) but was surprised for it to make it to the top of Murray’s list.
Aside from hype, I don’t know why it took me so long to review this whisky. Perhaps it's my stubbornness? Perhaps it’s the price tag? Perhaps I’m worried that I’ll do a horrible review? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above.
You may recall in last week’s First Draught I did a review of three Belgian-style Witbiers all made right here in Manitoba; This week I want to keep it up with the Made in Manitoba theme to review Northern Harvest. One thing I learned about Diageo’s Crown Royal Distillery is that the majority of the cereals/corn used in Crown Royal’s products are grown right here in Manitoba and surrounding regions.
Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye Whisky pours light golden orange in body. The aroma has a great deal of oak that gives it a woodiness with a light to moderate amount of vanilla to it. There’s notes of rich rye to give it a toasty yet spicy presence to it which is a presence of a bit of wood and a bit of a peppery presence to it. Aside from that, I’m also getting a nice sweet presence of apple, a bit of a syrupiness and a light presence of rye bread. I’ve spent approximately five minutes just trying to pinpoint the aroma in this whisky.. that’s longer than any beer I’ve reviewed in the past.. well, actually.. only the past week.
The tasting profile of this whisky starts off with the barrel itself - it has a rich, incredibly oaky presence to it with a hint of vanilla to it. There’s an incredible sweetness taking place here that’s giving off notes apple, caramel and a hint of citrus. The rye isn’t over the top here, it does give off a bitter, grainy and peppery presence to it, but it’s not overpowering and it certainly doesn’t give me shivers like most Whiskies, including compared to Crown Royal’s own standard De Luxe. I’m finding there’s a tad bit of a buttery/butterscotch presence in here that’s especially noticeable for the aftertaste, and still a definitely boozy heat.. but that’s something to expected for being 45 percent ABV.
I sampled this with some soda earlier before sampling it on its own and I found that it pairs really well with a ginger ale or a cola, it’s not as over the top for aroma or flavour, rather it’s giving off more of a spiciness from the rye, so it works really well with a ginger ale, and still works well with a cola.
I still remember when the hype was happening for this whisky, there would be customers at any Liquor Mart I went to asking for the spirit, only to be told it’s sold out. Aside from a trip to Vermont, I’ve never seen a beer in demand by the general public as I’ve seen this one whisky. Actually - the only place I saw the whisky during the hype was at one small liquor store in Montpelier, Vermont, I was intrigued on buying it but I already had too much beer to lug home. It’s absolutely amazing to see something made right here in Manitoba that’s made with ingredients sourced with our own grain being showcased all over the world. This is how we should be treating our food in the first place, we should be sampling more products made right here in Manitoba - I suggest a pairing of Manitoba cuisine featuring La Cocina chips, Bothwell cheese, local meats, vegetables and bread, Smak Dab mustard, local beer and and many of the other products made right here in Manitoba.
Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest is widely distributed throughout Manitoba at most Liquor Marts as well as at rural Liquor licensees. 375mL bottle of Northern Harvest is $19.29, while 750mL bottle of Northern Harvest is $35.49. 5/5 Pints
This is something I don't ever recall buying but either I bought it on a whim in Winnipeg or else someone gave me this beer.. most likely it was given to me. Upright Brewing is a brewery out of Portland, Oregon and their Flora is a Saison composed of four casks matured twelve months. This batch is from their 2016 vintage and I'm pretty darn excited to try it!
Appearance: Flora pours an opaque orange body with a moderate amount of micro-carbonation taking place in the body. The head is a nice finger and a half's worth of creamy white-beige head that's quite frothy.
Aroma: This is taking me back to memories of Quebec and Vermont - this has a nice Saison profile to it, with a moderate barnyard funkiness to it. It's fairly sweet with a hint of citrusy fruit profile (hint of mango maybe?) and lemon. Slight floral hop presence, bit of bubble gum sweetness, but of course.. your typical American Farmhouse vibe to it.. a mild sourness/barnyard funk as stated before. This is almost like a perfume so far.
Taste: This is incredibly sour right from the beginning, it has a bit of a vinegar profile to it but also notes of white wine as well. There's a moderate barnyard funkiness to it giving it some woodiness, some straw, and thankfully no notes of manure! It's fairly sweet with notes of seems to be a combo of candi sugar and bubble gum. It's fairly dry, acidic, very carbonated on the palate, and definitely something that my stomach won't agree with in 20 minutes from now.
Overall Thoughts: Quite a solid representation of your modern era American Saison/Farmhouse Ale, I've definitely tried a bunch in Vermont/southern Quebec that were just like this beer. It brings me back memories of my visit to Hill Farmstead in Vermont three years ago. This is quite sour, has a good amount of barnyard funk to it, but it also has a moderate sweetness that I'm really enjoying. I'm not really a sour fan but this 2016 vintage has aged pretty well so far! 5.5% ABV
It's been about 4.5 years since the last time I've ever had anything by Oklahoma's Prairie Artisan Aleswas at the now defunct Barley Brothers in Winnipeg of all places. At the time, Prairie Artisan Ales was well raved about in the craft beer industry as being one of the most in demand breweries at the time. I don't hear much about the brewery on social media anymore but I'm expecting absolutely tasty beers.
Prairie Artisan Ales' Funky Gold Mosaic is described as: “a dry-hopped sour ale. We took Prairie Gold and dry-hopped it with a huge amount of Mosaic hops. The end results are tropical, sour, and an all around new beer drinking experience! This beer is great fresh, but will continue to develop as the wild yeast continues to work in the beer.” 7.5% ABV
Appearance: Opaque with a dark lemon yellow body to it. There's a moderate amount of carbonation in the body and a light snow white head on top, good amount of bubbling action near the middle of the top of the beer, but mostly near the sides.
Aroma: Liberal amount of sourness to it, lots of lemon, a moderate amount of a barnyard funkiness from the (presumably wild) yeast used in the beer. There's something about this beer that reminds me a bit of a lemon Lifesaver, but this really isn't a sweet beer at all. Good amount of acidity to it, thankfully not overly vinegary like many Sours are.
Taste: Very sour but not quite sour enough to make my face pucker up. There's a good deal of lemon and funky yeast notes in here to give it a nice oomph to the beer. Sharp acidic notes on the palate that leaves behind a mild aftertaste lingering long after the beer's been finished. Not overly vinegar-like.. as you can tell, I'm not a fan of vinegar-forward Sours. Light presence of apple and pear, and again.. lemon. There's a nice hop presence that pops up once in every few sips giving off an herbal presence as well as a light hint of piney goodness as well.
Overall Thoughts: Not as barnyard funky as a lot of sours... but it does funk up the more I drink it. It started out a bit tooooooo sour for my liking but halfway through, I'm wanting more of this. I'm not typically a fan of sour beers now days, but this one is great!