Becoming a Beer Sommelier

 

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IBD Beer Academy Beer Sommelier Pin

I recently became a beer sommelier, well rather I achieved my accreditation as one, I considered my previous jobs as being an uncertified beer sommelier, as I had much the same role as a (wine) sommelier in a more wine oriented establishment. So what does it mean and is it necessary? Well, the number of beer styles and sub-styles seem to be ever growing and, to the uninitiated, it may seem like a malty quagmire  of names that mean nothing. There are the know-it-all beer geeks who pedal internet based knowledge at the bar all too frequently, probably putting off the inquiring neophyte. Enter stage left a qualified pro, who can guide without snobbery, judgement or ubergeekery, suggest food pairings, describe flavours and chat about breweries, making the experience a pleasurable one for the bar, pub or restaurant patron.

There is more than one path to the brother and sisterhood of beer professionals, and I trained and passed with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s arm The Beer Academy in the UK (soon to be offered in Australia) . You could choose the Doemens Beer Sommelier course in Germany or the US at the Siebel Institute, or pursue Cicerone certification, again in the US (now offered occasionally in Canada and the UK), or the Prud’homme Beer certification in Canada. The fact that there are a growing number of people and organisations offering courses is encouraging, as it sanctions professionals and offers education in an area of the drinks industry that is growing massively.

What does it take?beeracademy1

Depending on the certification you go for, they are fairly different, but have a common focus. The main thing that you need to be good at is blind tasting. Describing the flavours determining a style as well as identifying faults is an important part of all the programs. This takes practice, lots of it, and mimicking faults in beers to taste is definitely needed to be confident in his area. A strong concept of food and beer pairing is also needed, and you will be tested on your skill at finding sublime matches to enjoy both together. Getting a grip on brewing techniques and the different possibilities created by varieties of  malts, hops, yeast and water, as well as a host of adjuncts is a must as well. I found a healthy home-brewing habit is an enjoyable way to do this!

Knowledge of beer service and storage, as well as a good comprehension of beer styles and their flavour profiles are essential too. Not only having this knowledge but being able to impart it in a positive, friendly and accessible manner to a variety of customers, MUST be central to the role of a beer sommelier.

So to all you that aspire, go to tastings, read books, learn about the history of styles, take notes, attend courses and visit breweries, but remember that being a sommelier of any sort means contact with customers in some capacity. Whether it be as a retailer, restaurant server, barman, representing a brewery, or if you host beer events and tastings, you’ve got to relate to a client or customer. The term ‘beer sommelier’ is more than being a certified beer geek, it is about understanding every aspect of the product and getting other people interested and happy with their beer experience, so they come back for more!

 

Beer Store Focus: Market Row Wines, Brixton

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Having moved from what I consider the centre of Canadian craft brewing, Vancouver, back to my old home in London, I quickly missed the range of cutting edge brews that were available in a number of stores around town. The British supermarket choice is fair at best but can’t compare with the specialist retailer I have been spoilt with for the last 6 years or so.

On a slow day searching for new employment opportunities I took a break and had a stroll around the fantastic Brixton Village and Market Row, the indoor . . . → Read More: Beer Store Focus: Market Row Wines, Brixton

Is there such a thing as “Craft Beer”

What do these beers have in common?

 

Sharp’s Doombar

Goose Island IPA

Worthington White Shield IPA

Granville Island ‘Thirsty Farmer’ Saison

Leffe Brune

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The answer is that they are all delicious, well made beers by individual brewers who seem to care about the product that they make. Oh they also happen to be owned by two of the largest international mega brewery companies in the world; companies that most ‘craft beer’ fans treat with contempt, and are unlikely to be ordering any of their more visibly ‘industrial’ brands anytime soon. Those two companies are Molson Coors and . . . → Read More: Is there such a thing as “Craft Beer”

Beer! The Show

It was with great pleasure that I took part in an episode of Beer! The Show a while back, and I’m glad to say it has been released! Fortunately for me I star with the lovely Chanté Swanson, and follow the great interview with Powell Street Brewing’s owner and brewer David Bowkett (recently the winner of Best Beer in Canada with the Old Jalopy Pale Ale at the Canadian Brewing Awards)

My bit is about seven and a half minutes in and takes place at Bitter Tasting Room in Vancouver, but please watch the whole lot as its an entertaining . . . → Read More: Beer! The Show

A perfect beer cocktail for Summer – the Vancouver Vice

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A vice is something that we might enjoy despite it being bad for us, a bit naughty or immoral in some way!

Weiss Beer is a German wheat beer (and pronounced almost like the English “vice”) that is delicious and refreshing.

I put the two together and developed this great summer cocktail. It sells now in Bitter Tasting Room in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and if you want to impress some summer guests who need to be shown how versatile beer can be, then grab a cocktail shaker and make a few of these with your favourite German Hefe!

. . . → Read More: A perfect beer cocktail for Summer – the Vancouver Vice

Judging Beer – BJCP – Pros or Homebrew specialists?

A judge, but not necessarily a beer judge!

Judging beer is a complex matter and one which I have thought long and hard about. What makes one beer better than another, how can a simple pilsner be “better” than a complex imperial stout? How can you compare apples to oranges?

One solution has grown out of the home-brew movement in America. The BJCP was founded in 1985 by the American Homebrewers Association (along with the Home Wine and Beer Trade Association) in an effort to have some continuity and standards set for homebrew competitions. They have a dizzying seven . . . → Read More: Judging Beer – BJCP – Pros or Homebrew specialists?

Beer Cocktails: Artistry or Desecration

Beer cocktails can be an anathema to both the mixology purist as well as the craft beer aficionado, so what are they all about, and why should we ruin the flavour of a well crafted beer?

There are arguments abound on the web about this and in many ways I might agree about ruining a fine brew with a shot of liquor in it. A quick scan on the Wikipedia entry on the subject lists a range of so called “beer cocktails” that seem to be a bunch of pints with a shot of something in it, often still in . . . → Read More: Beer Cocktails: Artistry or Desecration

Save The Growler! – Stop The Tax

I had wanted to write a reflective piece today about stepping down as CAMRA Fraser Valley president after 2 years on the exec, but Warren Bowyer from the BC exec  came along to our AGM at Mission Springs brew-pub and made us aware of the new “Growler Tax”. In short this will raise the price of a growler fill at a small brewery (under 15,000 hectolitre production) or brew-pub by about $1 (and change) in the province of British Columbia.

Now I hear you cry that that this is a small increase, why bother complaining about it when gas prices . . . → Read More: Save The Growler! – Stop The Tax

Cascadian Dark Ale – A name is dead? – time to re-brand!

Thanks to the litigiously minded Eli Gershkovitch at Steamworks Brewery in Vancouver, BC The name for that dark, top fermented beer, with full hoppy aromatics, created by the Cascadian varietals of  hops, has now effectively ceased to exist. Proud Cascadian brewers across the Canada-US border in the beautiful Pacific Northwest have been denied the chance to brand the style that was created and championed with the cross national region that takes its name after the Cascade mountains (a term first used  in 1825). In 1970 the term ‘Cascadia’ was first used to describe the surrounding region, and since then has . . . → Read More: Cascadian Dark Ale – A name is dead? – time to re-brand!

The Great Pumpkin beer tasting

 

 

So I decided to try some Pumpkin beers on Hallowe’en while watching some bad horror movies (starting with “The Children”- murderous kids and toddlers go on the rampage!) I had five different beers from four breweries. I started with Parallel  49′s Shadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest. A clever idea marrying the easy, malty marzen style lager of the Oktoberfest with some pumpkin and spices of Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.

 

 

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. Parallel 49 Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest

This is the only lager from the group and it certainly is easy drinking. There is some nice sweet pumpkin . . . → Read More: The Great Pumpkin beer tasting

Hoyne Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Hoyne Wolf Vine is the first beer I have reviewed from this fairly new brewery. Their IPA is popular as is their version of a dark mild, Dark Matter. This is a limited release due to the availability of the fresh hops and sees Sean Hoyne, formerly of Swans brewpub and Canoe brewpub, and brother of Lighthouse founder and brewer Paul Hoyne, enter the fresh/wet hopped beer fad that is gripping British Columbia at this time of year.

Instead of going for an IPA, Hoyne has gone for the less bitter pale ale, and given it the . . . → Read More: Hoyne Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Cascadian Wheat Ale – a beer is born

I’m calling it! I’ve had enough with ‘IPA’ being used as a byword for ‘lots of hops’. IPA has a great history that has genuinely developed over time to mean a range of beers that have a common theme. Pale malts, well bittered and dry hopped aromatics. Which malt? what hops? how much? – its kind of up to the brewer, but whether you are enjoying a Lighthouse Switchback IPA from BC, Canada, the East India Pale Ale from the Brooklyn Brewery in New York or the IPA from Meantime Brewing in London, we know what family we are in, . . . → Read More: Cascadian Wheat Ale – a beer is born

Beer Vs Wine… (Yawn..)

Google Beer v Wine and you will get many blogs, magazine articles and special events geared towards this eternal battle of the beverages. This usually comes from the beer sector of the publishing/blogging world as the wine folk don’t feel they have to prove anything. Beer people feel they need to prove how good modern craft beer is and how versatile it can be. This is a fair point, there is much ignorance amongst the general public about what beer actually is! Many still see beer as an inferior product, mass produced for the masses and hoi polloi to lubricate . . . → Read More: Beer Vs Wine… (Yawn..)

Benton Brothers Fine Cheese – Cheesemongers Extraordinaire!

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

I have not yet reviewed a place that does not sell beer, but I have been so impressed with every visit to the Cambie Street location in Vancouver that I felt I had to! The Benton Brothers consist of Jonah and Andrew and their three stores on Granville island, Cambie Village and Kerrisdale. They had been recommended to me by friends who know and understand my love of cheese (there’s more to me than just beer by the way…so much more…).and was impressed by the stellar reports that they had given me; I finally decided to . . . → Read More: Benton Brothers Fine Cheese – Cheesemongers Extraordinaire!

The Beer Moment

 

This months Session (no. 63) as posed  by uber-beer blogger and writer Pete Brown is called The Beer Moment. Here is mine.

I grew up in a semi rural/suburban town in Buckinghamshire, just outside London (that’s UK not Ontario!) and my parents, especially my father, often went to the local pub and enjoyed cask bitters from the likes of Fuller’s and Bass. One such pub was a haven for families in the summer. Warm Sunday afternoons were spent in the expansive beer garden where kids could run, roam and play in relative safety, while the mums and dads . . . → Read More: The Beer Moment

Lighthouse Switchback IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

I keep drinking this beer, so it stands to reason that I

a) like it and b) should write about it.

The problem is that every time I crack one open I just want to relax and enjoy it, rather than actually  open my rather neglected blog and get to it!

Lighthouse Brewing have really upped their game in the last year and a half with some cracking and interesting “big flavour” bombers. They waited a bit to follow up with an addition to their popular if conservative 6-pack range, but it was well worth it. The . . . → Read More: Lighthouse Switchback IPA

The Case for Beer by Frugaldad.com

Thanks to frugal dad for this fun infographic!

Source: FrugalDad.com

 

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Driftwood Singularity – 1 year on

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

I went to some good friends’ house for dinner the other night and had been saving a bottle of Singularity stout from last years release to compare with a bottle of this years, that he had brought to the party. We opened them together and had them side by side to ‘test’  the effects of ageing.

The head on the 1 year-old was a little more restrained, but the aromas and flavours were full on! Dark mocha coffee bean, baked dried fruit, high cocoa content chocolate, rich sweet black molasses, a roasted warmness and a whisky like . . . → Read More: Driftwood Singularity – 1 year on

Phillips Garrison Mash-Up Baltic Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

East and West united; Canada going forward as one, whether you are in the Maritimes or the West coast beer is a universal pleasure and one that has united two great Canadian craft breweries on opposite sides of the country.

What is Baltic Porter? It is a relatively modern name used to describe strong Porters brewed in Russia and the Baltic nations that copied strong porters and stouts brewed in Britain for export to those regions. One difference is that many of those breweries now use lager yeasts rather than the warm/top fermenting ale yeasts that brewers . . . → Read More: Phillips Garrison Mash-Up Baltic Porter

Ommegang Three Philosophers

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Ommegang Three Philosophers is a Belgian style quadrupel dark ale, blended with an authentic kriek (cherry lambic). It has a dark reddish brown colour and a loose head that disappears fairly quickly. This beer has a powerful flavour that saturates my mouth as soon as it enters. The thick caramel notes and cooked, dried fruit are the main players, and it overwhelms the subtle (or is it buried?) cherry from the kriek. There are sherry-like armoas and a winey finsh that give this a bitter-sweet note that is good for strong cheeses.

I was a bit disappointed . . . → Read More: Ommegang Three Philosophers

Lost Coast Winterbraun

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

The Lost Coast Winterbraun is a strong dark brown ale brewed especially for the winter months. The label sports a Picasso-esque snowboarder with skin the colour of this rich and deeply hued brew;  the sweet, dark caramel and rye bread aromas that greet you are a comforting reminder of why we drink different beers when the nights draw in and there is a chill in the air.

The flavours are warming too, a hint of black treacle, roasted malt, baked dried fruit, and sweet caramel are all there and give this beer a cake-like appeal. This can . . . → Read More: Lost Coast Winterbraun

Beers of British Columbia

 Wrangler Rating:  (Recommended)

Whether you’re a fan of BC craft beer, live in BC or just visiting, then this is a book for your collection. It is a dossier of brewpubs and microbreweries and covers fundamental information of a brewery’s offerings and sometimes with a bit of history is thrown in.  If you can see past the clunky and inconsistent formatting, (this is a self published book) and get to the ‘meat and potatoes’, then you will really find a lot of great information from this guide.  If you’re planning any beer related trip in British Columbia, this guide will likely motivate you to check . . . → Read More: Beers of British Columbia

Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Driftwood Brewery Twenty Pounder Double IPA comes with trademark fabulous graphic artwork on the label. At the very least they have raised the game when it comes to bottle labels! Happily this is not where the game raising ends. They have produced many of British Columbia’s (and canada’s for that matter) best craft brews. A double IPA (thanks for not using ‘Imperial’) has been keenly awaited by the craft beer fans of the West coast. Since the two IPAs that have been on the shelves – regular IPA Fat Tug and super seasonal Sartori Harvest have proved . . . → Read More: Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

Brewdog Trashy Blonde

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

What makes a great Summer ale? Whether you call it a Blonde, a Golden or a Summer ale, the style has to refresh, not be too heavily flavoured, but definitely not bland. There also has to be a good level of (here I go – a word I hate!) drinkability. (I feel soooo dirty!)  However a drinkable balanced golden coloured ale would only get a 3 tankard rating. A great beer has a certain something that inspires and delights, and as all beer connoisseurs know, when you come across it, you mark it down in your . . . → Read More: Brewdog Trashy Blonde

Kona Brewing Oceanic Belgian Style Saison

Wrangler Rating:

(Recommended)

Kona Brewing’s Oceanic Organic Belgian Style Saison is brewed on the Big Island using Belgian yeast and organic ingredients. It has a medium gold colour and if you tip the whole bottle out, the small amount of yeast inside will give it a slightly cloudy appearance, with an aroma of spice and citrus. The flavour is a touch one dimensional, but has a nice crisp refreshing flavour with a citrus note. There is a hint of the coriander and dry spice on the finish and is pleasantly drinkable. This seemed to get better as it warmed . . . → Read More: Kona Brewing Oceanic Belgian Style Saison

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat is sold by the brewery as a ‘Belgian Wit’  but this is no ordinary Hoegaarden imitation that some breweries, large and small churn out in the summer. This could be the fruitiest wheat beer on the market with the vibrant orange colour of the liquid echoed by the flavour. Sweet tangerine dominates the palate with juicy blueberry notes there as well. With a touch of sweet spice and a balancing note of bitterness, this beer is a great summer refresher.

Although simple, I really enjoyed this beer and would definitely have this again . . . → Read More: Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

Abbatiale Triple (Brasserie des Sources)

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Abbatiale Triple is brewed by Brasserie des Sources in St-Amand les Eaux in northern France, and scored gold medals at the Paris beer competition in 2006 and 2008; now let’s see how it scores with me!

The cool packaging is the first thing you notice when you approach the beer shelf at your favourite local specialty ‘beertique’.  With a white ceramic bottle, cork and a cage it makes me want to investigate further. As I draw nearer the bright golden label reads ‘Abbatiale Triple Blonde, 7% ABV 50cl 6-12°c, refermented in bottle, delicately flavoured with juniper berries, a genuine recipe . . . → Read More: Abbatiale Triple (Brasserie des Sources)

Estrella Damm Inedit

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

The Spanish term ‘Inedit’ which means ‘Never Been Done Before’ is the given name that graces the label of this delicious brew from Estrella Damm Brewery of Barcelona, Spain. A collaboration between the team at the critically acclaimed elBulli Restaurant and the Brewmasters at Estrella Damm, this beer claims to be the first crafted specifically to be served with food. A skillful blend of lager and wheat ale styles, it uses 100% natural ingredients with a combination of water, hops, wheat, and spices that has yielded a fantastically refreshing and drinkable beer.

The complex aroma with . . . → Read More: Estrella Damm Inedit

Welcoming a new contributor – Brewlord

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The Beer Wrangler and Wranglerette would like to introduce a new contributor to the site who is just known as “Brewlord”. He has a professional background in restaurant management, running the floor in successful and busy hotspots in Whistler, Vancouver and on The Island. He is a craft beer enthusiast as well as a wine buff, with stints as a sommelier and mixologist in Whistler. He has also worked behind the scenes in the restaurant world as an entremetier and garde manger… so loves to pair food with the best brews. He can now be found advising customers on . . . → Read More: Welcoming a new contributor – Brewlord

It’s Hammer Time -Phillips Style

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Phillips Brewing make a highly regarded Imperial Stout every year in limited amounts which usually sells out fairly quickly. This . . . → Read More: It’s Hammer Time -Phillips Style

The Noble Pig Brewhouse – Kamloops

The Noble Pig Brewhouse was mentioned to me by my father-in-law a while back, and I made a point to get there next time we were up at their house for a visit. Kamloops might not seem like an obvious place for a brewpub, so the Wranglerette and I entered with an open mind! We were joined by the youngest member of my beer-loving brood, my 17 month old daughter, and I wondered if they might let her in. We were pleasantly surprised to be shown to a booth that had a great view of the rest of the pub, . . . → Read More: The Noble Pig Brewhouse – Kamloops

Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Pretty Things make beer with some interest, as opposed to just brewing standard styles to fill their portfolio. This time out they have used three Dwarf Hop varietals from England, Sovereign, Pioneer and First Gold, and made a well hopped British Best Bitter.  The hoppy flavours may not be familiar to those used to drinking North American IPAs, but these fairly new varieties give it a distinctly wild herbaceous twang.

This is certainly reminiscent of Bitters I’ve drunk in the UK but with an extra helping of hops. The Dwarf hops taste fresh and vibrant and leave . . . → Read More: Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter

Worthington’s Brewery opens to the public in Burton

William Worthington’s Brewery has just opened for visitors in Burton-upon-Trent, the Pale Ale capital of Great Britain.

“Constructed in listed buildings at the National Brewery Centre, the William Worthington’s Brewery will be open to the public, allowing [visitors] the opportunity to see the simple and beautiful process of brewing beer in action as you walk through the working brewery.”

-press release from Worthington’s.

This is a historic brewery that started life when William Worthington opened his brewery in Burton-upon-Trent in 1761. In 1927 it was merged with Bass which was subsequently bought up by Interbrew (which became Anheuser-Busch InBev). They . . . → Read More: Worthington’s Brewery opens to the public in Burton

Nogne O God Jul (Winter Ale)

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Nogne O is a craft brewery from Norway, and judging from my first experience of their beer, is going to take the craft brewing world by storm!  Their Strong Winter Warmer is an absolute must for any fan of dark rich warming ales.

It pours a deep, dark mahogany amber, that needs to be held up to the light to appreciate its colour. The aromas that hit you are ones of spice, dates, madeira and caramel. As you drink this luxurious ale the tan head slowly dissipates, but the flavour does not. Notes of Christmas pudding and . . . → Read More: Nogne O God Jul (Winter Ale)

Winter Beer Showdown

Seasonal beers are filling the shelves right about now, and go well beyond any single type. The basic style is the classic Winter Warmer. This is not usually spiced but brewed to a slightly stronger alcohol volume (6% – 7% is typical for this warming malty style). Specialty Christmas beers take their cues from the old Wassail Ales – spiced, sometimes fortified, mulled beer given to carol singers in Medieval England. Although no longer fortified or served warm, it is usually strong and spiced, rich and filling. There are other winter seasonal ales brewed in the Belgium style.  They tend . . . → Read More: Winter Beer Showdown

IPA – A History

The History of IPA Pale Ale and Industrialisation

The history of IPA starts not in India but in a place called Burton-upon-Trent, an ordinary town in Staffordshire, Britain, where beer has probably been brewed since 1004, when an abbey was founded there. Monks were (and still are in Belgium) prodigious brewers, and would have used the water from the local River Trent to brew their early ale. What made Burton so special, therefore made it the most important centre of brewing in Britain (and even the world for a while) was the water from the river. Its natural minerals happened . . . → Read More: IPA – A History

Duchy Old Ruby Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Duchy Originals Organic Old Ruby Ale is made with a historic malt called Plumage Archer which gives this beer a deeply pleasant roasty malt flavour. The bright amber-ruby colour sparkles, and the gentle nose of biscuity and fruity malt make this a great session ale. The slightly tea-leafy and floral hops break through enough to make this a nicely well balanced beer.

This is not a flavour bomb by any stretch of the imagination, and it falls into a cross between a Best Bitter and an Amber Ale in style, but don’t be put off. This is . . . → Read More: Duchy Old Ruby Ale

Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA is the long awaited addition to the brewery’s regular line up that filled in the gaping hole of a classic Pacific Northwest IPA. A hefty 7% ABV and 80 IBUs sees this beer punching in the heavyweight category for a ‘standard’ IPA. The hit of hops is fresh, fruity and sharp, and will please the hop-heads out there. On the palate the hops retain their power and vibrancy, and cover the alcohol admirably. The malt is there too, but it is in a supporting role, and props up the hop flavours nicely. This . . . → Read More: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo is a classic in the British beer scene. It’s an Old Ale which means that it has had some time well spent in very old seasoned oak casks, many of which date back more than a century. Each year adds to the beer-soaked wood and helps them give more complexity to the finished product.  This ale spends over a year conditioning in the oak and is bottled with yeast, so can condition further in the bottle.  It pours a deep amber colour with a thick and lively tan head. The aromas are fruity . . . → Read More: Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

In Bruges

You might be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while, and although there are many reasons, (family commitments, moving house, changing jobs) the most fun one is that I have been on holiday to Britain and Belgium, including a city-break to the stunning city of Bruges (or Brugge as the locals call it).  Here I visited the local brewery ‘De Halve Maan’ and sampled some of its delicious beer. My wife, daughter and our friends spent most of the time eating wonderful food, consuming vast quantities of  ‘real’ cheese, cured meats and of course trying to drink my . . . → Read More: In Bruges

Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Spinnakers Blue Bridge used to be labelled a Double IPA, but they have renamed it a Double Pale Ale, perhaps because it is not as much a hop explosion as some Double IPAs. It still has a good dose of hoppiness though, but seems to be carefully balanced with the malt, which makes this beer a refreshing change from the wealth of similar double or imperial IPAs on the market.

Spinnakers is one of those breweries that are hard to find outside of its local neighbourhood (Victoria, British Columbia) but are well worth the effort as the . . . → Read More: Spinnakers Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale

World Beer Cup Categories

I picked up a copy of the magazine “All About Beer” last week, as I wanted to have a read about various things beer related, including a detailed run down of the World Beer Cup and the brews that placed. As nice as it is to have a list of ‘must try’ beers in a well made magazine while sitting on the train, going to my daily job, I couldn’t help but get mildly frustrated by all the categories.

There were, in total 90 yes that’s 90 ! Including such notables as ” American-Style Strong Pale Ale”(featuring all three medalists . . . → Read More: World Beer Cup Categories

Driftwood Belle Royale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Driftwood Brewery Belle Royale is described as a Strong Belgian Cherry Ale, and seems to be based on a Tripel or strong golden ale  recipe, with “900 pounds of cherries” added. They don’t specify how much beer gets the 900 pounds but we get the idea – there’s  a lot, and they’re real cherries, not cherry flavour or syrup. It has a lovely pink amber colour, a thinnish head, with a spicy, fruity aroma.  The flavour has a hit of sweet spice and sour red cherries that lingers on the palate and develops into a long finish . . . → Read More: Driftwood Belle Royale

Beer and Butter Tarts

I had never heard of a ‘blog agregator’ before but there’s a first time for everything! Beer and Butter Tarts collects all its members’ recent blogs and shows bits from them and a link to their site/blog.  It specialises in beer and food blogs, so if you’re a foodie or a beer lover, this is a great place to scour through a bunch of them in one place without having to find and actually go to the website, so it’s a real energy saver for those tired typing fingers (that’s just two for me!).

Most importantly it will be . . . → Read More: Beer and Butter Tarts

Les Trois Mousquetaires Sticke Alt

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Les trois Mousquetaires is a small but dedicated brewery from Quebec, Canada, and it produces a range of European style and seasonal specialties. Sticke Alt is not a common style of beer, least of all outside its home nation of Germany, and is an Altbier on steroids. Many Alts are a well rounded malty beer with a nice hit of herbal hops on the finish, making a good session ale.

A Sticke Alt is a far more serious affair, and this Canadian version is no exception. It has a deep red-amber colour with a creamy head, that . . . → Read More: Les Trois Mousquetaires Sticke Alt

An African Oddity

So I have finally returned after spending three and half weeks in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia for work where I tried in vain to find a genuine craft brew available to drink. Sadly I failed. There were a couple of options, Mitchell’s in South Africa, and Zikomo in Zambia, but these proved elusive.  No one I spoke to had even heard of them, least of all where to find them. Admittedly I wasn’t long in South Africa, so perhaps I didn’t give Mitchell’s a chance, but touring around Zambia, Zikomo was not known by anyone. I was very disappointed.

. . . → Read More: An African Oddity

Archiduc Belgian Beer (Brasserie d’Ecaussinnes)

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Archiduc is an unassuming beer that doesn’t give too many clues as to what it is on the bottle (the Belgians obviously don’t have the same predilection for categorising as we do in North America). It is in fact a strongish Belgian Amber Ale with bags of flavour. It comes in a 750ml bottle that is corked and the beer has a deposit of yeast from the re-fermentation. It pours a rich amber hue with a medium tight head that slowly disappears. The aromas are spicy, rich and fruity, and the taste doesn’t disappoint after such . . . → Read More: Archiduc Belgian Beer (Brasserie d’Ecaussinnes)

Vancouver Craft Beer Week

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Just a quick plug for the inaugural Vancouver Craft Beer Week. This should be a great series of events that will do more than wet your whistle! If you’re not a local this will be a great reason to come and visit the city, where British Columbia’s craft breweries will be showing off their wares and brewing prowess.

So if you drink your beer south of the border, come on up to BC and get a warm welcome and some cold beer!

If you are a local (that includes you on the island!) come and support what should . . . → Read More: Vancouver Craft Beer Week

A Cascadian Revolution

Viva Cascadia!  So at last there seems to be some agreement on a name for a very hoppy dark brown to black ale made with Pacific Northwest hop varietals (see Northwest Brewing News). Those not from the great nation of Cascadia might not have had this mighty dark ale, but should definitely try this deliciously contrasting beer.  Hoppier than an American Brown Ale, as dark as a porter, this beer has had numerous names in the past, not all of which make sense!

“A black IPA please”  I hear in a crafty taproom.   “A dark  India Pale Ale for me!” . . . → Read More: A Cascadian Revolution

Russell Black Death Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Russell Black Death Porter is a terrific offering from a brewery that is best known for a rather mediocre cream ale. With their range of 650 ml ‘Brewmaster series’ they have definitely shown that they are more serious about beer than their 6-pack selections, sometimes suggest. This is a really rich and malty porter with a ton of black molasses , and a subtle note of hop, but it plays second fiddle to the delicious sweet, roasted flavours that dominate. The finish isn’t cloying though as there is just enough bitterness to balance it all out. . . . → Read More: Russell Black Death Porter

Bath Ales Dark Hare

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Dark Hare, the latest offering from Bath Ales , with their beautiful hare themed labels, is absolutely delicious. As it pours into the glass you notice the deep ruddy brown colour, and the notes of toasted malt and dark chocolate on the nose. The very creamy mouthfeel is punctuated with molasses, which gives way to burnt chocolate as the fuggles hops leave their distinct taste on the finish.

A great Sunday afternoon brew, Dark Hare would also be fabulous with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, créme brûlée or a not overly syrupy sticky toffee pudding.

ABV: . . . → Read More: Bath Ales Dark Hare

Phillips Double Dragon Imperial Red Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Phillips Double Dragon Imperial Red Ale is this British Columbian craft brewer’s pumped up version of an American Red Ale, which is a hoppier version of the Irish Red Ales. The Imperialisation of this fairly modern style of beer gives it a big punch in both the flavour and strength departments, so is not to be taken lightly!

This deep red ruby ale has a fairly hoppy aroma, with a robust full-bodied flavour. The rich roasted malt features heavily on the palate and is quite sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses and malty bread, but there is . . . → Read More: Phillips Double Dragon Imperial Red Ale

Maredsous Abbaye Triple

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Maredsous Triple is golden amber in  colour, a touch darker than many triples, and has a strong, spicy, alcoholic aroma, which is not surprising when you see the 10% ABV on the traditionally styled label.  The palate gives off a strong hit of the solvent-like alcohol at first, and is followed up by grainy dried fruit, with over ripe pineapple and boozy marmalade oranges leading the way. The finish is dry, with a hint of orange peel and herbiness. This powerful triple is not as refreshing as some and struggles to balance its flavour with its . . . → Read More: Maredsous Abbaye Triple

Krusovice Imperial

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Krusovice Imperial is a Czech Pilsner lager, that is eminently drinkable, and a great benchmark for this classic style of beer. It has a pale golden colour and fluffy head, with a nice level of carbonation that is a little less than many lagers, but makes this beer an easy one to drink. It is still refreshing though, as it relies on a great balance of sweet malt and bitterness rather than mere fizz. Although clean and crisp, it has a good dose of pale malt on the palate that leads into a dry, slightly citrus . . . → Read More: Krusovice Imperial

3 Monts (Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre)

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

3 Monts is a strong Biere de Garde from the Flanders region of France, which is a style that can be hard to find outside of its native country, but is well worth the hunt especially if you are a fan of the more familiar Belgian Saison beer, which this is a close relative of. This beer gets a maturation period after fermentation at very cold temperatures to further enhance and integrate the complex flavours of this refreshing ale.

It has a bright, pale golden colour, with a long lasting, tightly knit head that genuinely stays . . . → Read More: 3 Monts (Brasserie de Saint Sylvestre)

The Beer Book – Tim Hampson (Ed)

Wrangler Rating (Excellent)

The Beer Book is more than just a coffee table decoration, it’s a really enjoyable voyage through a world of ales, lagers, brewing traditions and beery nations!  It has a myriad of must try beers of all styles from around the globe. There are travel ideas for beer trails in some of the classic places making the brews that feature in the book, like Oregon, Brussels or Bamburg. There are also brewery features, from the big names like Guinness to great craft producers like Thornbridge in the UK. The book boasts over 1700 beer reviews so . . . → Read More: The Beer Book – Tim Hampson (Ed)

Beers of the World – By David Kenning

Wrangler Rating (Mediocre)

Beers of the World promises to be a journey around the world via 350 classic beers. ‘Classic or popular’ I ask myself. Any book that devotes a large one page spread to Fosters Lager, and also adds Tennent’s Super to the list (The choice of the discerning homeless man in the UK) is struggling to fulfill the promise of ‘Classic’. Sadly the photographs are not great, with some strange choices for glasses and head size. This has the feel of a book that was hastily and cheaply put together. But why the second tankard I hear . . . → Read More: Beers of the World – By David Kenning

Swan’s ESB (Buckerfield’s Brewery)

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Swan’s ESB is brewed by Buckerfield’s Brewery on Vancouver Island in a popular hotel and brewpub in Victoria, that tends to brew British style ales and German style lagers. The ESB has a nice dark amber colour and is gently carbonated, in the tradition of ales from the other side of The Atlantic, but has a slightly more robust hop aroma than some. There is a nice malty body to this beer, with plenty of sweet caramel notes; these lead to a bitter hoppy finish that seem to envelop the initial malt sweetness.

Although I really . . . → Read More: Swan’s ESB (Buckerfield’s Brewery)

Howe Sound Total Eclipse Of The Hop

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Howe Sound’s Imperial IPA has a nice name that some of its younger drinkers might not get. I am not sure if Bonnie Tyler is a fan of this beer, but she should be. Imperial or double IPAs are usually a mouthful of hops with a hit of alcohol, but the brewers at Howe Sound have managed to brew in a style that the original creators of the IPA in the 18th Century would recognise and hopefully approve of.

This is a supremely well balanced beer that has 9o IBUs and 8% alcohol, but manages to . . . → Read More: Howe Sound Total Eclipse Of The Hop

Maredsous Abbey Brune

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Maredsous is a true Abbey beer, which means that it was originally brewed in the Benetictine Abbey at Maredsous in Wallonia, Southern Belgium, but now has been transferred to a  brewery outside of the monastic grounds, but is still overseen by the monks themselves. Many beers that claim to be “abbey” beers do not have that distinction, and the name just describes a style.

The bottle I had this beer in was a corked 75 cl variety, still resting on the yeast, which would help explain the bready nature of this enjoyable ale, and served in . . . → Read More: Maredsous Abbey Brune

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Yum Yum! Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch is both justified and ancient, being based on a 2700 year old ancient Anatolian recipe which is a re-creation based on analysis of drinking vessels that were uncovered during an archaeological dig in what is now Turkey – drinking vessels that resided within what is thought to be the tomb of none other than King Midas himself (although suspiciously they had not been turned to gold!)

I can’t say that I have ever tasted a beer quite like this (which is equal parts a delight and a shame.) Deeply golden . . . → Read More: Dogfish Head Midas Touch

New Glarus Black Wheat

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

New Glarus Brewing is to be found in Wisconsin in the U.S., and is owned by the Brewmaster Dan Carey, who has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft, and oversees a brewery that makes lots of limited release seasonal beers that keep their fans on their toes and interested with an ever-changing line-up.

Their version of the traditional German Dunkelweizen is simply called ‘Black Wheat’, but this beer is far from simple. The deep brown-black liquid, topped by a foamy caramel tan head is a delightfully complex beer, that exhibits lots of nuances, and  never dominate one . . . → Read More: New Glarus Black Wheat

Pyramid Breweries Snow Cap Winter Warmer

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Pyramid Snow Cap is the Winter seasonal offering from this popular Seattle brewery, and claims to be made in the “spirit of the British Winter ales”. At 7% alcohol, it certainly has the strength to warm the cockles, but does the flavour keep up? The combination of  English and Pacific North West hops give this Winter warmer a nice bitterness, but unlike many other North American versions of this classic Christmas brew, it has copious amounts of delicious malt to back it up and keep them in check. There are notes of cocoa bean and dark caramel . . . → Read More: Pyramid Breweries Snow Cap Winter Warmer

Driftwood Brewery Blackstone Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Driftwood’s Blackstone Porter is a very dark version of this classic beer that has its origins in 18th Century London. It is a completely opaque black in the glass, looking like a stout, and is made with a partial sour mash, similar to the method used for some Tennessee whiskies. This imparts a subtle tartness to the beer, making it less sweet than many Porters. The main flavours that come through are cocoa and coffee bean, and is followed by a smokey finish. There are vague notes of hop in the background, but they are bit part . . . → Read More: Driftwood Brewery Blackstone Porter

Rogue Mogul Madness Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Rogue Mogul Madness Ale is a  Winter warmer with bite. It has a dark ruby-brown colour and a fairly creamy tan head that stays with the beer. There are some caramel flavours with some faint notes of banana bread. The unusual thing for a winter warmer, but not unusual for Rogue, are the obvious handfuls of hops used in the brew. They offer a pleasant bitterness on the finish that tastes a little grapefruity, and tends to last for a while after the beer has been swallowed. This is an enjoyable beer, but tastes like a good . . . → Read More: Rogue Mogul Madness Ale

Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Bah Humbug is Wychwood Brewery’s offering at Christmas time to warm up those cold toes on a winter’s night. This is a very mildly spiced amber ale that is not quite malty enough to be a classic winter warmer, but it doesn’t pretend to be, as it is labelled ‘Christmas Ale’ and implies a more general festive beer, made with the addition of some seasonal flavour. This ale has a pleasant medium-bodied feel to it, with subtle notes of banana and clove; the hops are just detectable too, though mainly on the finish and aftertaste. The solitary . . . → Read More: Wychwood Bah Humbug Christmas Ale

Anchor Brewing ‘Our Special Ale’ 2009 (Christmas Ale)

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Anchor Brewing famously change the recipe for their Special Ale every year, as well choose a different tree, a symbol of the Winter Solstice, to adorn the label. This version (2009), when held up to the light, has a gorgeously dense ruby colour and an almost creamy pale tan head. The aroma is full of malty molasses with a definite hoppy highlight. The flavours that follow fill the mouth, but don’t overwhelm it; the main taste that starts off is a strong malty one, that develops into a black molasses backbone to the beer. There are some . . . → Read More: Anchor Brewing ‘Our Special Ale’ 2009 (Christmas Ale)

Swans Coconut Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

I have to admit that I’m bit torn about Swans Coconut Porter. I love a good porter and really enjoy porters that are layered with other flavours (Kona’s Pipeline Porter with coffee is my personal favourite) so when I saw this coconut porter I became very excited. This beer is very dark in colour with a frothy cappuccino colour head and a strong caramel malt nose with a hint of roasted coffee bean.  The flavour of dark bitter chocolate fills the mouth and slowly gives way to a toasted coffee aftertaste. Unfortunately (for me anyway) I don’t . . . → Read More: Swans Coconut Porter

Tree Brewing Black Tree Dark Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Tree Brewing are based in The Okanagan, where this summer (2009) there were large scale wild fires that destroyed thousands of trees. This beer was released in aid of the BC Fire ReLeaf Fund that aims to replace all the trees lost in the fire. This is described as a dark ale but is in fact a blend of two beers, probably the Cutthroat pale ale and the Spy porter. This makes up a well appointed version of a Black and Tan beer. The dark mahogany ale has a roasted malt note throughout that serves as . . . → Read More: Tree Brewing Black Tree Dark Ale

Wells IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Wells IPA suffers from a common British problem: mislabeling. During the First World War, breweries (with the government!) decreased alcohol in beers to conserve resources (barley) as well as limit drunkenness among essential workers and the military. Hop levels were also reduced, so the traditionally strong and hoppy IPAs were the first in line to be emasculated. Breweries continued using the term though, but it described a pale ale or a bitter rather than the full-on flavour of an IPA. Wells IPA is a very pleasant and drinkable British pale ale that would have been awarded 3 . . . → Read More: Wells IPA

Delirium Tremens

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Delirium Tremens is a strong golden ale that has a cult following amongst fans of Belgian beer, not only due to this powerful brew, but also the famous Delirium café in Brussels that keeps over 2000 beers for enthusiasts and tourists alike.  It pours with a gloriously fluffy, tightly bubbled head, that sits atop a very pale golden liquid. The nose is full of the slightly medicinal aroma of pear drops and spicy hops. This beer manages to be light and full-bodied at the same time; if that sounds like an oxymoron, I apologise, but it . . . → Read More: Delirium Tremens

Propeller Extra Special Bitter

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Propeller ESB is a rich dark amber / brown and is brewed in the traditional style of a British Extra Special Bitter. It has a nice fruity aroma, with strong hints of malt that remind me of a classic pub pint in the UK. This Nova Scotian brew is a breeze to drink, as the balance of malt and hops are good and makes drinkability a key factor in recommending this beer. The malt has a touch of sweetness to it, but mainly you get to taste its richness. The hops are North American though, and . . . → Read More: Propeller Extra Special Bitter

Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale is a fantastically warming, well spiced brew that comes in a nice 1 litre swing-top bottle. It has a dark amber colour with a loose head, a rich malty aroma with an obvious spiciness. This full-bodied Christmas Ale has a very malty profile that is the backbone for all the other seasonal flavours that are added. Ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon are the spices that give this warming beer bags of flavour, but it is kept well in balance, and not one really dominates. There are also definite notes of . . . → Read More: Howe Sound Father John’s Winter Ale

Fat Cat Brewery Honey Beer

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Fat Cat Brewery are a small producer in BC Canada (there is another with the same name in the UK) and this is their Honey Beer, an ale made with New Zealand tree sap honey. This gives this light amber brew a slightly smokey honey aroma. This is not a sweet tasting beer as they manage to get the honey flavour without the sugar, and the malt is in there too, but not integrated with the honey. There is also an overall bitterness to the brew, which reminds me of an astringent tree bark flavour,  found . . . → Read More: Fat Cat Brewery Honey Beer

Kronenbourg 1664

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Kronenbourg seem to make a few different versions of 1664 around the world, and at different strengths. I remember enjoying this on holiday in France, but tasting it for review was a bit of a disappointment. It is a classic pale gold colour with a slightly yeasty nose. There is a touch of sweetness on the palate that gives way to a sourish finish that leaves  a bit of a watery aftertaste. I couldn’t notice any of the nice hop notes you find in some well made lagers, as there is not much of any substance here. . . . → Read More: Kronenbourg 1664

Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest IPA is a huge triumph for this small craft producer based on Vancouver Island. It has a nice ruddy amber colour and pours with a large frothy head. The aroma has a good even spicy hop note with a definite malt character. This beer has a great mouthfeel, and for me, has achieved  perfect balance of malt and hops for an India Pale Ale. They use ‘wet hopping’, which means that the local Chilliwack Centennial hops go into the brew fresh, without being dried, and it really gives great flavours of grapefruit . . . → Read More: Driftwood Brewery Sartori Harvest IPA

Granville Island Brewing Belgian Blonde Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Granville Island Belgian Blonde Ale is a great seasonal beer from British Columbia’s most prevalent brewery. It has a beautiful golden hue and a frothy head that leaves a fair bit of lacing on the sides of the glass. This is a slightly lighter version of the famous Belgian breweries strong blonde or golden ale, but they pull it off with style. It maintains the traditional spicy, candied fruit flavours while being a very refreshing beer that still weighs in at 6% alcohol. There is sweet pineapple on the palate and some nice clove notes on the . . . → Read More: Granville Island Brewing Belgian Blonde Ale

Brew Dog Punk IPA

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Brew Dog Punk IPA comes from the new wave of British brewers whose beers may be more at home with the American west coast craft beer drinkers, than in a traditional pub. This should not put anyone off as their IPA is a delicious explosion of hoppy goodness! The colour of this beer is very pale for the style, and almost looks like a hefe-weizen, as there is a touch of cloudiness too. The Punk IPA has a floral-citrussy aroma, and the palate won’t disappoint fans of this style. It’s crisp, spicy and refreshing, with a . . . → Read More: Brew Dog Punk IPA

Homebrewing for Dummies (2nd Ed) – Marty Nachel

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Homebrewing for Dummies might not make it as a ‘classic’ homebrewing book, and there might well be guides with nicer covers and lots of photos inside, but do not underestimate the value of this one! The book starts with the basics, and everything is laid out very simply, keeping the more advanced information for later. Equipment, ingredients, sanitation and basic methods are well covered before you get to the stage where you actually brew. The brewing process is unbelievably simply put, so that even I could follow it with no mishaps when brewing my first batch. . . . → Read More: Homebrewing for Dummies (2nd Ed) – Marty Nachel

Flying Dog Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Flying Dog Porter comes from one of the most irreverent breweries around, with their “Good Beer, No Shit” motto, and anarchic Ralph Steadman artwork on the labels. The beer however, is mighty fine, and their porter will delight many a dark ale fan. Its colour is a rich black, with dark cherry highlights and a creamy tightly bubbled head. Sweet molasses and coffee bean dominate the aroma and the palate is also fairly full on. Burnt chocolate notes start off, and are followed by a nice molasses malt taste. This full-bodied porter’s flavour lingers on, creating . . . → Read More: Flying Dog Porter

Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout definitely deserves the adage ‘an oldie but a goodie’. This deliciously creamy beer pours near black with a fluffy tan head while the aroma mingles chocolate, roasted coffee and dark malt. The flavour is delightful. At first sip you can taste the creamy oats, velvety dark molasses as well as the aforementioned chocolate and burnt coffee which gives way to an enjoyably bitter after-taste on the finish. Brewed in England at Yorkshire’s oldest brewery (founded in 1758) this is a gorgeous, easy drinking beer and a great first choice if you’re new to . . . → Read More: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout

Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale comes in the large 650 ml bottles, and it’s a good thing too, as this is a rather quaffable ale. It is a nice bright mid-amber in colour, with a medium frothy head that doesn’t linger for too long. There is a hint of sweetish toasted malt on the nose and maybe a touch of hop, but not a whole lot else. This has a nicely balanced palate with the malt leading the way followed by some spicy hop notes. There is a bit of light fruitiness in the background . . . → Read More: Anderson Valley Brewing Boont Amber Ale

Yukon Red – Amber Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Yukon Brewing are a shining light in a territory without much in the way of craft brewers. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t compete in parts of the world thick with micro-brewers though, and this beer is a good example why! This pours a deep red mahogany colour with a nice light head. It tastes of toasted malt with a touch of caramel sweetness, but well balanced by some spicy, slightly citric hops on the finish. This is a very drinkable beer, and slips down nicely on a Winter’s evening! Pair this with some roast pork . . . → Read More: Yukon Red – Amber Ale

Tasting Beer – by Randy Mosher

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

‘Tasting Beer’ by Randy Mosher is tagged as ‘An insider’s guide to the world of beer’ and promises the reader to have a ‘portable beer expert’ at their fingertips. There is no doubt that Randy Mosher knows his stuff. As the author of the homebrewers’ favourite ‘Radical Brewing’  and ‘The Brewers Companion’, he comes from the angle of industry pro (he serves on the board of the Brewers Association) as well as enthusiastic consumer and homebrewer. Having previously worked in the wine industry, and studied for exams, I have always felt that there wasn’t a really . . . → Read More: Tasting Beer – by Randy Mosher

Hacker-Pschorr Münchener Gold Helles

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Hacker-Pschorr Münchener Gold is a golden-straw coloured Helles lager from the great brewing city of Munich. The light frothy head dissipates, leaving a little lacing down the sides of the glass. The aroma has a pleasant light sweet malt note with a hint of the noble hops promised by the ‘edelhell’ tag on the bottom of the label. The body is light, crisp and refreshing, as a Helles should be, and feels very well balanced. The finish is subtly hoppy with a touch of sweet pale malt, and is supremely thirst-quenching. This is an ideal session . . . → Read More: Hacker-Pschorr Münchener Gold Helles

Saku Originaal Lager

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Saku Originaal is a beer from the Carlsberg stable of brands, but unusually this one hails from Estonia. It is a pale golden lager with a quickly disappearing head and a grainy aroma. The flavour is fairly light with a touch of pale malt. The finish is a bit sour with some minerally metallic notes, and maybe a suggestion of hops. One problem is that the aftertaste is not that pleasant, so the initial malty grain flavours are wiped out. All in all, this a decidedly average lager with not much to shout about.

ABV: 4.6%

. . . → Read More: Saku Originaal Lager

Fuller’s ESB

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Fuller’s ESB lays claim to be the original Extra Special Bitter and its popularity across the world has made this one of Britain’s best known ales. It has a lovely medium amber colour with a loose head (typical for Southern English Bitters); the aroma is full of rich malt with some notes of yeasty bread flavours. The hops are far more noticeable on the palate, and are beautifully balanced with the strong maltiness that typifies the ESB style. They are present with a subtle spiciness that makes this a very drinkable and thirst-quenching beer. There are . . . → Read More: Fuller’s ESB

The Brewmaster’s Table – by Garrett Oliver

Wrangler Rating (Excellent)

The Brewmaster’s Table by Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver is a journey around the world of beer as seen through the eyes of a food lover, or should that be the other way round? Either way this book covers all angles of food and beer and how they interact when served together. It is a very readable book, and I read it cover to cover fairly quickly. The conversational and personal style is enjoyable to read and tells of the author’s journey to Europe where he discovered the joys of quality beer as a young man. He . . . → Read More: The Brewmaster’s Table – by Garrett Oliver

Howe Sound Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Howe Sound’s Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale (as part of the John Mitchell series) may just be one of my favourite seasonal ales ever! The ruddy amber colour reminds me of fresh roasted pumpkin and the sweet aroma has just a touch of star anise. Unlike lesser Pumpkin Ales this full-bodied beer warms the stomach and actually tastes like pumpkin pie. Hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and roasted pumpkin flesh give way to the slightly astringent taste of cloves on the finish. At 8% this isn’t a beer for the faint hearted but it is absolutely perfect for the . . . → Read More: Howe Sound Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Marin Brewing Co. Point Reyes Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Marin Brewing Point Reyes Porter is a rich chocolate opaque brown and this is good indicator as to the flavour that follows the pour. Roasted coffee bean and dark cocoa are at the forefront here, and their rich bitterness is very satisfying and extremely moreish. There is a touch of chocolaty sweetness on the finish, but only enough to balance the enjoyable bitter notes that rounds this beer off nicely. This is a supremely drinkable porter that slips down without any trouble at all, so even the large 650 ml bottle seems to disappear far too . . . → Read More: Marin Brewing Co. Point Reyes Porter

Granville Island Brewing Pumpkin Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Recommended)

Granville Island Pumpkin Ale is a tasty bright ruddy amber coloured beer. The aroma is really quite sweet, and is reminiscent of a Belgian strong pale ale, smelling of candied orange peel and sweet spice. The flavour is thankfully not as sugary as the nose suggests, containing toasted pumpkin seed, and the roasted flesh of the pumpkin. The beer notes are not lost though, there are plenty of roasty malt flavours and a nice refreshing bitter finish. Why not pair this with some cold roast meat and chutney left over from a Thanksgiving lunch – it’ll go . . . → Read More: Granville Island Brewing Pumpkin Ale

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is one of the leading exponents of extreme beer and craft brewing in the world, and its founder Sam Calagione is treated with deep respect by the micro-brewing community as a whole. In the Palo Santo Marron he has created a giant of a beer, that offers a wealth of complexity that rivals a good fortified wine. It is fantastically full-bodied with notes on the nose that remind me of a Malmsey Madeira. The palate is full of rich caramel and molasses with big hints of licorice, and deep undertones of vanilla. . . . → Read More: Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron

Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weizen

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Ayinger Ur-Weisse is a well made Dunkel Weizen from the region which is the home of German brewing: Bavaria. The colour is of rich amber and is accompanied by the classic foamy wheat beer head. Malt, wheat and citrus tickle the olfactory senses, and leads us to take a sip. This is gently refreshing, yet full of flavour; tastes of grapefruit and malted barley are at the fore followed by nice floral hoppy notes. The finish has a touch of spicy clove and more of the dry floral hops that we found on the mid-palate. This is . . . → Read More: Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weizen

Moylan’s Celts Golden Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Moylan’s Celts Golden Ale is a slightly cloudy attractively coloured ale that pours with a nice light head that leaves almost no lacing down the sides of the glass. The aroma has a nice yeasty note with a hint of hop underneath. The flavour doesn’t seem to follow the aroma as it is so lightweight that it doesn’t offer much. There are very subtle yeast notes, and maybe a touch of malt, but nothing to really get hold of. I know Golden/Summer Ales are supposed to be light, but really this is obviously aimed at the . . . → Read More: Moylan’s Celts Golden Ale

Traquair Jacobite Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Outstanding)

Traquair Jacobite Ale is brewed in the historic Traquair House, one of the oldest inhabited houses in Britain. This beer descends from an 18th century recipe, and it has left us a very full-bodied Scotch Ale.   The name ‘Jacobite’ comes from the followers of King James II of England, VII of Scotland who was deposed as King of Great Britain by the Dutch William of Orange. In 1745 there was a final failed attempt to oust the German King George II in favour of Charles Stuart ( the grandson of James II/VII) and this beer commemorates . . . → Read More: Traquair Jacobite Ale

Okanagan Spring Porter

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Okanagan Spring Porter is not labelled as a ‘Baltic’ Porter but it should be as it has plenty of power, strength and depth. This sipping beer is really full bodied, and flavoursome. The colour is a deep browny black with tiny red highlights if there is enough light to fight its way through the near opaque brew. There is an immediate punch of black molasses on the palate, and it is these notes that dominate right though to the finish. There are however, other flavours that have to force their way out, and those are of . . . → Read More: Okanagan Spring Porter

Driftwood Brewery Crooked Coast Amber Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Driftwood Brewery’s Crooked Coast Amber Ale pours into the glass with a lovely dark amber colour and accented by vibrant red highlights. The head is thick and tightly bubbled, then thins out but stays with the beer to the bottom of the glass. There is a distinct roasted malt aroma, but without much sweetness accompanying it. The flavour is more complex and rich than the aroma suggests but the roasted notes are still at the fore. There is an enjoyable nuttiness, reminiscent of hazelnuts on the finish, joined by a dry spiciness. This is a fairly . . . → Read More: Driftwood Brewery Crooked Coast Amber Ale

Fischer Tradition Blonde Beer

Wrangler Rating: (Mediocre)

Fischer Tradition Bière Blonde is an attractive looking pale golden lager from Alsace in France on the border with Germany. This is a mildly flavoured beer with nothing strongly obvious on the palate. There are light sweet grainy notes which continue on to the finish, but no real hop presence. The carbonation is good for a session beer, as it is not too fizzy, like so many mass produced lagers. All in all, it is a drinkable lager but does nothing to stand out from the crowd.

ABV: 6%

Best Served: 5°C

Hide Sites . . . → Read More: Fischer Tradition Blonde Beer

Belhaven St. Andrews Ale

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Belhaven St. Andrews Ale is a classic session ale in the style of a British Bitter.  There are aromas of light caramel and fruity hops when I dipped my nose in the glass, the body is light-medium with a light head that leaves a little lacing behind.  There are some caramel malt notes on the palate but they do not dominate or overwhelm, the hops are perfectly balanced for this style and give off a slightly fruity and grassy taste right through to the finish. This might not be the most pronounced bitter I’ve ever tasted, . . . → Read More: Belhaven St. Andrews Ale

Nostradamus Bruin (Brasserie Caracole)

Wrangler Rating: (Excellent)

Nostradamus Bruin from Brasserie Caracole is a medium to full bodied brown Dubbel style Belgian ale. It pours a deep ruby brown colour with a tan head that dissipates without much lacing. An aroma of black molasses hits the olfactory senses, and is followed by liqueur soaked candied citrus peel and morello cherry. The flavour is complex and deep, and fills the palate with a load of dried fruit, like dates, figs and cherries with more molasses and and muscovado sugar notes. The finish has a surprising freshness to it which stops the richness become overwhelming, . . . → Read More: Nostradamus Bruin (Brasserie Caracole)