Monday, 24 August 2015

Brooding Soldier Barrel Aged Dubbel by Brewsters

The Hoppy Hippie Says: 

With a mouthful of a name like that I was expecting a tormented tall dark and handsome. It ended up being some of those.

I won’t bore you with my past love affair with Brewster’s again,(see our River City Raspberry Ale review for that) so I’ll just dive right into this Brooding Soldier.

It comes strong at 8% and pours a gorgeous dark reddish amber color. I love this color. I want a cozy blanket in this color. It’s translucent and with barely any head it looks as though it should be poured into a whisky glass not a pint glass. Rewind. No a wine glass. Cause crazy. This smells of red wine…a 40 year old port even…I immediately wondered if Michael Scott would think it has an oaky after birth.

I want to like this beer.

Torment though, because I don’t like this beer. I’m making a sour face. Not to be confused with a bass face. And there’s the oaky after birth.

I really do not like this beer. This is not a beer. Or should I ask how is this a beer? And while we’re at it…what’s a Dubbel? Does that stand for wine? I hope Alewife Anne lets us know.

I pour my cup over. I can’t finish it. There’s no joy here.

Alewife Anne Says: 

I saw The Brooding Soldier on the shelf, saw that it was by Brewsters and was immediately intrigued, because I couldn’t remember seeing this one on the menu. How had I missed it? Perhaps it was during one of those periods I avoided the bar, due to the assholery that often occurs there. After all, my capacity for good beer is endless, but I can only tolerate so much douchebaggery.

Anyway, the Brooding Soldier is a Belgian “dubbel” style. In the 1830s, these beers were produced by Trappist monks, although the dubbel is now made by secular breweries as well. Originally, the Trappist dubbel was a light, sweet brew with a fairly low alcohol content. Monks had a lot of work to do and needed to have their wits about them. After World War Two, the dubbel developed into a heavier, fruitier beer with more of a wallop. The Brooding Soldier, for example, is 8% apv.

It pours out a fine cinnamon red with a lazy white head. Aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels, it is not surprising that the nose is all red wine. Sipping it reveals a big Malbec fruitiness with a chewy mouthfeel and a dry oaky finish. 

I really, really like this beer.

Some of you may be thinking, “WTF? If you want wine, drink wine. Beer shouldn’t taste like wine!” What I love about this is how it underscores the complexity of beer. It easily has as many different flavours and nuances as wine does. Gone are the days when beer was just a pale pilsner. As much as I hate IPAs, at least they demonstrate a certain creativity and willingness to experiment with the established formula of malt, water, yeast and hops to create something unusual. There is a beer for every palette, and bottom line, this dubbel is unique and delicious.

Four hop cones out of five!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Fuller's India Pale Ale

The Hoppy Hippie sez:
Well, we didn't *hate* it...
Fuller's India Pale Ale
I’ve tried a few IPAs in the past and the two things I’ve noticed on a consistent basis when I try them is; IPA’s make me angry and I never finish the bottle. I’ve even stopped after one sip. This review is off to a good start non?

I refused to buy a 6 pack and grabbed a single Fullers IPA to review instead. The bottle is tall (500ml) and shows to be 5.3%. Visually it looks exactly like the Fullers Organic Honeydew (which I dig) but the label is a royal purple instead. I find the bottle to be a bit of an awkward shape - not super pleasing to the eye and I am not a fan of this purple shade. Quite clearly, my pre-disposition to my rage like feelings towards IPAs is starting to sink in. It pours medium golden blond with little head and smells bitter.

On first taste it’s noticeably flat. And hops. Hops hops.  But amazingly enough not as bitter as I was expecting. To get even weirder here for a moment I noticed the flat before the hops. And with lacking the bitter of an IPA I tried it again. It does have bite (probably the hops) but I’m surprised (and pleased) it’s lacking the bitter taste. I’m even MORE surprised that I don’t hate it.

IPAs are on such a high right now…I don’t understand it. Are you a fan? What am I missing here? I was done with this after 4 sips. Would I buy it again or give it a second thought? Nope. Would I drink it if I was stuck on a deserted island? Yup. And that’s more than I can say for a lot of IPAs I’ve tried. This Hippie gives it a thunderous “Next!”

Alewife Anne sez:
Bit of a history lesson for you now, folks: India Pale Ales (or IPAs) hearken back to the bad old days of the British Raj. The popular story is that those colonizing British bastards were having trouble getting fresh beer from England. The warm Indian climate made it all go off, which was dreadful, Reggie, simply dreadful. This story is not actually true. Beer is alcoholic, which means it is already preserved.

The fact is that in the late 18th century, the Bow Brewery in Middlesex became one of the first breweries to ship beer to India. The East India Company preferred the Bow Brewery product because of its location close to their docks and the Bow's lenient credit terms. Prior to this, pale ales in England had been lightly hopped. But by the mid-18th century, commercial breweries began to sell something called an October beer, which had previously been domestically produced. It was made of a lightly roasted malt, therefore pale, slightly higher in alcohol content, and well-hopped. It proved to be popular with the working classes. The IPA grew out of this October beer, and due to its popularity, was a natural choice for shipment to the British colonies in India.

Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, the only thing I like better than a nice cool mug of beer is history. So you'd think I'd be all over an IPA like a fat kid on a Smartie. But I don't like 'em. I find them unbalanced. And too grassy. And I utterly deplore the fact that IPAs are absolutely everywhere. It's like an international obsession. The Schmaltz Brewery in New York even makes a quadruple IPA, which makes me queasy to think about. I think the people who go for that kind of thing are the same people who challenge each other to eat the hottest chicken wings on the menu--it's not about taste, it's about stamina.

Anyway, the Hoppy Hippie and I chose to try Fuller's IPA because Fuller's is a fantastic British brewery whose London Pride is possibly one of the best commercially produced beers on the market. We thought that if there was an IPA worth trying, this was it. Fullers' IPA is bottle conditioned, which pays tribute to the original October beers, which were cellar conditioned for two years after brewing. 

This rich golden beer poured out yielding a lacy head and an unremarkable nose. The first sip revealed a medium-bodied beer with a silky mouthfeel, a very clean flavour with a predictably bitter finish. I drank the whole 500 mL bottle and didn't hate it. This is pretty strong praise, considering how I feel about IPAs generally. Seriously, this one was better balanced and more enjoyable than most. The best I can say about it is it was inoffensive. Your mileage may vary, especially if you are an IPA fan.

2.5 hop cones out of five.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Picaroon's Irish Red Ale by the Northampton Brewing Company Ltd.

The Hoppy Hippy sez:

Picaroon's Irish Red Ale
And on the seventh day boys and girls, God created Picaroons Irish Red. Yup. That’s right. This is one heavenly creation.

Ambers are never my go to brew. But this one came recommended by a co-worker who’s from out East so I assumed he knew what he was talking about. He’ll laugh and say he had no clue and just thought it was good.

Well he’s not wrong. It’s good. It’s incredible. It’s Buffy season two writing good. It’s Bey when she woke up like this. It’s flawless. Do I drop the mic at this? Dare I throw the beer towel in? Is that it? Am I out? Cause I can’t foresee it getting any better than Picaroons Irish Red.

From Fredericton New Brunswick, this Northampton Brewing Co. LTD Picaroons comes in a 500 ml bottle at 4.8%, and pours a clear dark red amber color with high head. There’s a lumberjack man in red plaid flannel on the label. I dig his beard.

The beer smells of caramel and molasses…and almost a hint of chocolate cookie dough? Is that an option? I don’t even like cookie dough but if that is the smell it’s amazing.

Hitting your taste buds is a completely different taste than the one that lingers for a moment after your first sip. Both hold velvety love though. This beer is smooth, yet holds complexity in a very elegant fashion.

My handwritten notes I made when I tried this beer have a lot of ‘OMG’ underlined, with ‘LOVE IT!’ and the one liner “feels like velvety blanket wrapped around my tongue.” (Which makes sense to someone who describes Hendrick’s gin as “tastes like a rainbow cloud.” Get what I’m saying? It’s really, really good.

Thanks for the recommendation! In return I gave him the address to a little liquor store in town called Sherbrooke so we’re even ;) You can buy this Irish Red ale there under the Amber section as singles. If you find them in 6 packs available somewhere in town please let one Hoppy Hippy know.
Alewife Anne sez:
This beer came recommended by one of the Hoppy Hippie's friends, and we were anxious to give it a go. I poured it out into my favorite glass tankard, noting the deep, jewel-tone red and the generous foam racing to the edges of the glass. I couldn't get my snout into it fast enough. Big malty nose--I had to check the label a second time because I couldn't believe this wasn't a British beer. Produced by the Northampton Brewing Company of Fredericton, New Brunswick, it's all Canadian, but after the Irish style.

It is said about the Irish that "All their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad". I don't know about that, but this Irish beer makes me very happy. Words I would use to describe the overall impression of this brew? Spectacular, magnificent--yeah, that's nice, Annie, but what does it taste like? Well, beer is often about contrasts. Picaroon's Irish Red Ale is a study in contrasts. The malt delivers a powerful, rich mouthful of toast and dark chocolate, balanced off by spicy Goldings hops, leading to a long, lingering dry espresso finish.
I don't dish our five hop cones to every beverage that comes along, but unequivocally, this delicious ambrosia gets full marks.
Five hop cones out of five, kids.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

River City Raspberry Ale by Brewsters

PHHHT!!! (But in the nicest possible way!)
Brewsters' River City Raspberry Ale
The Hoppy Hippy sez:
Ahhh… Brewsters. Allow me to be nostalgic for a moment. Brewsters is where it all started for me. In the fall of 2007. New to the big city life, knowing only 3 souls, and being literally one block and an intersection away – Brewsters was it.

I hated beer very much at that point, but really only had Canadian, Lucky and the one beer that shalt not be named (John Oliver gets me)… so …obviously.
I was a spiced rum and coke, non-beer drinker looking for a change and Brewsters quickly became a local hang out for us at least once a week. The change was inevitable.

November 2007- 2011 plus beer, plus friends equals the best of times.

The first time I dabbled back in the beer world since my first few sips in high school was November 2007 and it was a pint of Brewsters Brew Foot Blueberry Ale. It was like how you felt when you first heard the album ‘Throwing Copper’ by Live in its entirety, or when you put bacon in your grilled cheese sandwich for the first time. You dug it. You were intrigued. It was really good.

Yup. Brewsters in Oliver Square holds a special place in my heart; mostly for all the memories and stories that developed at those tables for the next few years while we held a pint in our hands. But also…Brewsters beer is damn good.

I’d still order a Blueberry Ale over the Raspberry Ale 100% of the time. But that’s because I love the Blueberry. Don’t let that stop you from ordering the Raspberry though – it’s fantastic.

Described as fruit wheat beer mixed with raspberry puree, this ale is refreshingly clean and clear. It’s low on head and super smooth to drink. I don’t find the raspberry flavor to be overwhelming or tangy– it’s subtle with very little after taste.

If you order a pint of this at Brewsters it comes with raspberries floating on the top of the beer. Grab a six pack from the local liquor store and the labels have an almost trendy retro look that could be mistaken to be an old fashioned root beer in the fridge. The bottles are also stamped with the date the beer was bottled so you can make sure you’re picking the freshest of the crop.

If you’re looking to start training your taste buds on beer. This is where to start. It’s an easy one and constant in flavor. Apply the stamp of approval here. 

Alewife Anne sez:
Typically, I hate brew pub chains like Brewsters; they're invariably populated by douchebags with neck tattoos and ballcaps, macking on girls who agree to kiss their girlfriends in order to get the douchebags to buy them more drinks. Gross. And even grosser than the social dynamics in these places is the beer, where Stella Artois is considered a bold choice (NOT!).

But the beer at Brewsters is so good that I will enthusiastically hole myself up in a corner (preferably one where I can't see the large screen tvs featuring "professional" sports) and order a pint or two. There's always something seasonal on tap at Brewsters, and we're lucky that the River City Raspberry Ale is around all year long.

The 5% apv wheat ale is a perfect base for the raspberry puree used to flavour it. It's a lovely golden colour, brilliantly clear and crisp and with a lively effervescence. A thin head melts away to the edges of the glass to allow the tart, winey raspberry nose to float up. What impresses me most is how balanced it is--it's a masterful blending of the hoppy wheat ale and fruit. The raspberry is there, but it's a complement, not the dominant flavour.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable beer. The River City Raspberry Ale transcends all the disdain and snobbery that fruit beers have had to endure. This doesn't have to be just the one character beer you start the night off with before settling into the session. This one will give you raspberry all night, and in the nicest possible way. 

And, if, like me, you can't stand the douchebags and the faux lesbians for too long, Brewsters offers their product in bottles or growlers at the bar to take home at a reasonable price! Or skip the pub altogether and hit Sherbrooke Liquor Store for a six-pack!

3.5 hop cones out of 5.

And that's the truth. PHHHTTT!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Steigl Radler Grapefruit Beer by Steiglbrouerie zu Salzburg (Austria)

The Hoppy Hippie sez:
Steigl Radler
Two things. No three:

1)         I hate drinking beers out of cans. Hate it. 
2)         I dislike the taste of grapefruit very much.
3)         I fucking love Stiegl Radler.

Three more things:

1)         Stiegl Radler is in a can. A tall can. So there’s extra can.
2)         It’s grapefruit flavored.
3)         I fucking love Stiegl Radler.

There’s something about the colors of the can that remind me of a countryside picnic sometime in the 1950’s. From Austria; this Radler is ridiculously inexpensive in the liquor stores, (typically around $3.00 or under,) but ridiculously priced at pubs and restaurants (usually around $8-$9.)

I discovered this one a few years ago while at Public House downtown with some friends. I was wanting a Rickards White, which they were out of, so the waitress recommend this. It was on tap and comes in a slim curvy drinking glass. Rickards White and Stiegl Radler are not the same tasting FYI, but I really dug it.

It’s high with carbonation and pours a very cloudy sunshine yellow color. It’s hard not to notice the carbonation first, but it is quickly replaced with a poppy refreshing smack of flavor. 

This is that drink you want after spending hours doing yard work on a sunny day. This is not really the drink you want at 11:00 pm at your local Irish pub. 

I fucking love Stiegl Radler. You will too. Just pour it out of the can and into a glass.

Alewife Anne sez:
I have heard this beverage described dismissively as a "chick's beer", usually by some mouthbreather in a backwards ballcap and an Oiler's jersey slugging back a cold Coors Lite (which I can assure you will never appear on these hallowed pages). The intimation here is that "chicks" dig Steigl Radler because "chicks" prefer sweet things, and Steigl might as well be soda pop.

Well, boys, to start with, you're wrong about chicks. I know several ladies who are as excited by a mouthful of suds as Bill Cosby over quaaludes, and these women can throw down with the best of them. These broads can drink, and they drink good stuff.

Which is why some of them like Steigl Radler. It's as cloudy as any heifeweizen, but the similarities stop there. It looks and smells just like grapefruit juice. It starts with a lively white head that disappears almost immediately, like Mountain Dew, and the first sniff promises that it will taste like Fanta.

But it doesn't.

It's not as sweet on the palette as the smell suggests. There is an element of fruit juice, yes, but the astringency of the citrus nicely balances that off. The finish is all citrus peel. It is very lightly carbonated, so if you're one of those people whose life ambition is to recite all the lyrics to "Dark Side Of the Moon" in a single belch, try another beverage.

This is not a complex or palette-challenging brew, but it is thoroughly enjoyable, especially on a hot patio or with spicy Mexican food. Also, at 2.5 apv, this is the kind of drink you can enjoy all night without worrying too much about being hungover for tomorrow's job interview or church service. Also, if you're drinking it at home, it's cheap. I paid less than $5.00 CDN for a 500 mL can of Austrian grapefruity goodness.

Yes, this beer certainly has an ardent following with young ladies who wear a lot of eye makeup and use the word "like" to excess in their conversation. And I would generally choose something a little more malt-forward over Steigl Radler, but I would choose this hands down over many pissy North American lagers.

3 hop cones out of 5.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Duchesse de Burgogne by Br. Verhaege Vichte

Alewife Anne sez:

La Duchesse
Duchesse de Bourgogne translates out of Flemish as the Duchess of Burgundy. Burgundy--as well as a province in northern France--is a famous wine. And so it is an incredibly suitable name for this remarkable little beer.

As you can see in the photo above, La Duchesse is a red head, almost porter black, with a lacy off-white foam that rapidly dissipates. The first sniff hints at wine. Then the oak slowly opens up.

This is precisely the order in which the beer reveals itself on the palette. The first mouthful is assertively cidery, one could say that vinegar is the top note. And this continues on until the beer leisurely mellows, like a stroll in the castle garden. One begins to taste oak casks and dark viscous berries, and the wine character so prevalent in the first few sips matures into dryness. The hops are never anything more than a mere suggestion. 

This is easily one of the most unique and flavourful beers I have ever enjoyed. This is why the Belgians and the Flemish are widely considered some of the premier brewers in both the medieval and modern world. La Duchesse is assertive but lively. She is unlike any other, and I look forward to conversing with her again in the near future.

4.5 hop cones out of 5.

The Hoppy Hippie sez:
6.2% Strong Beer from Belgium. I’ve passed this single bottle over on the shelves of specialty beer shops many a time. No reason really. The picture reminds me of the Girl with the Pearl Earring – clearly no relation, but I felt like mentioning it.

First I thought it was caramel I was smelling. Nope. Now it’s a mix of molasses and that port I accidentally drank quickly when I thought it was a Merlot. Cause you know, drinking Merlot quickly is acceptable?? I’m also getting hints of balsamic? What’s happening?


WHOA. Ok I don’t know what happened there but I was not expecting that. It’s seemingly very carbonated – more so than what I normally like, but damn is this good!

It’s a reddish amber color with a thin head that diminishes fairly quickly. Notes of balsamic - I still get the molasses. Sour though.

It tastes like the happiness you would get while wearing warm and fuzzy mittens in Canmore.

Not a summer beer for me – but an every other season in Canada beer for sure.
This is exceptional. Where has this been all my life? Or...since the legal age of 18 of course…

I give it a rating way higher than a “meh” and would even raise that to a “seriously – you have to try this.”  

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Alley Kat's Lemon Hefeweizen

Alewife Anne sez:
Hello, and welcome to the first posting of Two Women, One Beer

The Hoppy Hippie and I decided our first review would be from a brewery right here in town, Alley Kat. You'll be seeing more of their products here, because these guys and gals consistently turn out a plethora of flavours that challenge and delight the palette.

Lots of clove, not a lot of lemon
Alley Kat Lemon Heifweizen
Alley Kat's Lemon Heifeweizen  comes in a big ol' 650 mL bottle of tasty 4.9 % apv goodness. Under the bottle cap is written, "Yipee!" which is no understatement. This is a golden blond brew, opaque and cloudy, which is typical of its type, which is often unfiltered. The head formed a lovely snowy froth on the surface, and the first sniff was of cloves. Again, typical of a hefeweizen, but I like these "white" beers, so I was intrigued. I was expecting more of a lemon flavour, but it remained quite subtle--cloves and spice remain the top notes of this beer. If you want more lemon, add a slice or two; otherwise, enjoy the citrus as it slowly matures in the finish.

I found this to be a highly appealing, refreshing beer that captures the best of its breed. If you're looking for a big lemon hit, you won't find it here. It remains quite subtle, but I like that. After all, this ain't no lambic.

This lovely lemon hefeweizen gets 3.5 hop cones out of five!

The Hoppy Hippie sez:
Coming in from your local Edmonton Brewery in a 650 ml bottle, the Lemon Hefeweizen is self-described as “Cloudy With a Chance of Lemon.” As one of Alley Kat’s limited runs for 2015, it gives a bit of bite but not a lot of punch. Don’t get me wrong  - it’s a good beer, but I think “with a chance of lemon” is a fine descriptor for it. Its heavy on the cloves, and the citrus flavor I was assuming would be there as little more than a chance is few and far between. 4th sip. Rumor says it also contains hints of banana. 5th sip. The cloves are starting to diminish slightly and the fruity flavors are settling. Interesting. Not sure if the lemon is really there but I can taste banana now that I’m thinking about banana. I’m giving it more than a “meh” for sure, but it’s not overly anything special. Not memorable. I won’t consciously buy it again, but I’d drink it over other mediocre beers. And as always, don’t forget to look under the cap of all your Alley Kat beers. Each cap comes with its own magic 8 ball answer. My cap reads “Definitely.” But I’m not telling you what I asked it.