Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Beer Review Backlog Blog

The beauty of being a newbie at this Craft Beer thing is there are opportunities to try new beers without going far from home.

And if you do get out and about to far away lands, the chances of tasting something special for the first time are even greater.

The downside of all this is a backlog of beer 'reviews' that I'd really like to clear up.

I put the quotation marks on 'review' because I don't consider myself a qualified beer reviewer, though that's something I'm working on: one beer at a time. I just know what I like and I try to put those feelings into words the best way I can.

So without further ado, here's a whole bunch of beer reviews; more or less in chronological order.

Crazy Canuck is the signature pale ale from Great Lakes Brewery, and the only offering from the Etobicoke beer maker that you'll find in The Beer Store. This 5.2 per cent beer, which scored a solid 90 on Rate Beer, pours a hazy gold with a nice head. It's quite hoppy on the nose, but I don't get the usual grapefruit. Orange, maybe a bit of lemon, with bready malt flavours and a bitter finish. Not bad at all.

Mad River (California) Steelhead IIPA wasn't a typical west coast beer, with strong malts versus minimal citrus aromas. It did have some tropical fruit and at 8.6 per cent, it packs quite a punch. I thought it was decent - Rate Beer gave it a 93 - but not exceptional.

The only Utah beer I've ever tried - Hop Nosh IPA from Unitah Brewery - poured a rich bronze with a frothy head and punchy hops. I got grapefruit, orange and pine notes and I also got the brewery's take on the three elements of life: Earth, Wind and Beer. Nice.

The last beer I tried in the U.S. was a Powder Monkey from Baltimore's Heavy Seas Brewery, a beer I drank at the airport in, naturally, Baltimore. It was supposed to be an IPA but it turned out otherwise, but as there were just five minutes to boarding and my son was getting antsy I wasn't going to argue with my bartender. There were two taps at the bar - one said 'IPA' and other was the Powder Monkey, which the man behind the bar insisted was an IPA. At 29 IBUs, I don't think so.

I hit up a Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IIPA - a Pennsylvania brew made exclusively with Simcoe hops - once I got home and this beer came with overpowering bready malts, along with faint pineapple and pine hop notes. Rate Beer loves it - it scored a 99 - but I thought it was a decent ESB at best.

I did get a kick out of Lagunitas Maximus, a IIPA from California. At 8.3 ABV and 72 IBUs, this beer poured a dark amber with a creamy head and a delicious hoppy aroma of orange and grapefruit, along with a solid malt base. A 98 on Rate Beer. Real nice.

Cameron's RPA was the second Rye Pale Ale I tried and this is the beer that really sold me on the style. It poured a rich bronze with a rich lacy head. I smelled the hops instantly - orange and grapefruit again - with a nice malt base that was both sweet and earthy. Bitter finish. Really good.

I picked up a couple of bottles of The Hipster, the latest IPA attempt from my local brewery, 5 Paddles of Whitby. It was pleasant tasting I suppose, but it came with very little hop aroma. Considering they threw the kitchen sink full of hops at this beer - never mind the three 'C's, they put at least five 'C' hops, plus a few others for good measure - that was a bit surprising. It was better than Narcissism of Minor Differences, the last IPA these guys produced, but that's not saying much. At five per cent it's a nice enough summer session ale but as an IPA it's disappointing. Again.

Hercules IIPA from Great Divide Brewing of Denver was supposed to be consumed at Donny's Bar and Grill More Drinking Less Talking but somehow made it back home with me. Oh well. I found orange on the nose and strong pine on the tongue and at ten per cent ABV and 85 IBUs, this beer is not for the faint of heart. Rate Beer goes ga-ga over this brew, giving it a perfect 100, but I can taste the alcohol so I scored it lower.

Another beer that came with me from Don's fridge was Vulcan Ale, a 5.4 per cent Irish Red Ale. Not my favourite style but it wasn't bad.

I picked up a Honey IPA from Trafalgar Brewing of Oakville at the LCBO and though I was warned not to expect much, I was pleasantly surprised. There wasn't a lot of hops in the aroma - some pine perhaps - but it was nicely balanced with 70 IBUs and it had a very happy bitter finish. There was only a hint of sweetness from the honey and it was no west coast IPA for sure, but I liked it a lot.

I paid a visit to Buster Rhino's in Oshawa last week, the home of great ribs and craft beer from every tap, to try Super Guy IIRPA from Ottawa's Beyond the Pale Brewery. Powerful stuff at 9.1 per cent and 90 IBUs, this beer is another reason why I'm falling in love with rye pale ales. It's billed as a malt forward beer but I notice hops - grapefruit, orange, pine - and plenty of them right off the bat. Rate Beer scored it a 94. I score it higher. Really, really good.

Finally, we have Robohop, a IIPA from Great Lakes Brewery that is part of their Tank Ten series. I bought a bottle from a Toronto LCBO and found it on tap at Buster Rhino's back home the very next night. This 8.5 per cent beer poured a dark gold and tasted hoppy and bitter, with tropical fruits and caramel malts dominant. Rate Beer gave it a 97 and I agree. Excellent.


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