29 December 2009

Great Lakes Winter Ale

Great Lakes Brewery is one of many breweries that market seasonal beers. This practice started with the release of Green Tea Ale last spring, followed by the rather enjoyable Orange Peel Ale last summer, and then there was the horrific Pumpkin Ale that was marketed for Halloween. For Christmas, Great Lakes Brewery has released another seasonal novelty called Winter Ale. Typical of Great Lakes Brewery packaging for it's seasonal products, the beer comes in a 750 ml bottle with the labeling painted directly on the glass, and has an abv of 6.2%.

The Great Lakes website has this to say about the product:

Inspired by the long, cold and seemingly endless Canadian winter, our 6.2% alcohol Winter Ale is a true winter warmer. Handcrafted with specialty hops and malts, combined with generous amounts of cinnamon, honey, ginger and orange peel, this unique beer is brimming with flavour. Available only for a limited time.

Brian picked this one up at the local LCBO and invited me over to try it. After reading the description of what was used to make this brew, I was slightly dismayed with the prospect of reviewing it. I have had several beers (notably from Belgium) that used various spices in their manufacture, and all with the same miserable results. However, having survived both An Evening of Bumwine and such hateful products such as Corporal's Bitter Brown Ale and La Fin Du Monde, I decided that I would not be so easily defeated by a little cinnamon and ginger.

We popped the cap and pured out three samples. The beer is brown with little head, and had no strange smells nor sea monkeys. We tipped our samples back and drank. The beer was very spicy with a strong cinnamon flavour, with something Brian was instantly suspicious about. Michelle remarked it was "definately odd" but it wasn't entirely unpleasant. I personally thought it was quite festive, however it wasn't anything you would want to pound back all night. In fact, we all thought that a 750 of this would likely be too much for one person. While the beer was definitely "brimming with flavour", the unique flavour seemed to overpower the palate to the point where one glass seemed more than enough. As we finished the samples, Brian stated that this was like the "no-name Dr. Pepper of beers."

Great Lakes Winter Ale - Final Score:
Brian - 6/10
Michelle: 5/10
Myself - 6/10

On a final note, this will be the last post for 2009. However, we will be a tasting on New Year's Eve and I will do my best to fight off the hangover for an update on New Year's Day.

From all of us here at Liquor Pig, we wish you a safe and drunken New Years! See you in 2010!!!

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to say MERRY CHRISTMAS from all of us here at Liquor Pig. Here's wishing all of you the best in 2010 and beyond!

22 December 2009

Delirium Tremens

While taking a break from the mobs of crazy xmas shoppers last night, Mad Dog Johnny and I stopped in the Beer Bistro for a couple of pints. The Beer Bistro features a menu of some 200+ microbrews and select imports from all countries of the world, as well as representing all styles of beer. Upon arriving, we noticed a coaster depicting a pink elephant and advertising the subject of today's entry, a Belgian oddity called Delirium Tremens.

As we looked over the coaster, we found this quote from Stuart A. Kallen, who apparently ranked this one #1 in his "50 Greatest Beers in the World":

The name Delirium Tremens speaks for itself. Words simply cannot describe the intricate flavour of this beer - but that won't stop me from trying. The colour is golden and the head is creamy and light. The first sip warms my troat and belly like an ols woodstove does a log cabin. It's lightly hopped and surprisingly malty for such an airy, sunshiny beer. The aftertaste is fruity, almost cherry. A warming alcoholic glow works its way down the throat to the stomach. This beer must be sipped slowly so you can revel in each sweet drop. Delirium Tremens has a big body, a rich mouth feel and a long sweet aftertaste.

We ordered up two bottles and noticed that the "warming alcoholic glow" likely stems from this beer's rather heavy 8.7% abv. The beer is served with a narrow-mouthed glass that more resembles a brandy snifter than what would normally have beer served in, and is covered in pink elephants and the Delirium Tremens name. We poured out the beers and noticed the beer does indeed have a golden, if slightly cloudy appearance with a thick creamy head. There were no sea monkeys nor odd scent from the beer, so we tipped our glasses and drank.

The flavour is rather weak, with a strong alcoholic burn on the palate that follows the beer down your gullet and warms the stomach. Mad Dog Johnny remarked the beer tasted "mild, with a hint of ass." Charming. As we drank further, the "hint of ass" seemed to overpower the mild flavour and turned what seemed like an OK brew into another Belgian cup of misery. Halfway through his, Johnny made a face of disgust, and remarked "I don't like it" before chugging the rest down just to get rid of it. I drank the rest of mine at a normal pace, but really cannot say I enjoyed the experience much. It seemed to me that this was just another poor example of brewing from a country that seems to have an extremely overrated history of beer making altogether.

In closing, Mad Dog Johnny summed up his experience as thus:

"Upon completion of said Belsh beer, I found it undeniably justified to approach the bar with the empty bottle in my hand, and bust it over the head of the asspipe that had the nerve to serve it to me!"

Delirium Tremens Final Score:
Mad Dog Johnny - 2/10
Myself - 3/10

I should add that I initially scored this a 5/10, however as the flavour and alcohol taste grew on me, I reduced my feelings accordingly. Perhaps this review will finally put an end to the ridiculous claims that Belgium is some kind of epicentre of beer brewing. In my opinion, the only people who could make such an idiot statement are pretentious morons who really have no clue what good beer tastes like to begin with!

19 December 2009

Black Chocolate Stout

Last spring when I was in Manhattan, I discovered a great draught beer called Brooklyn Lager. Locally brewed by Brooklyn Brewery, it is available in many bars and pubs around New York and was a very nice example of dark, slightly malty brew. Since then, I have tried the bottled version available here in Ontario, and while not quite as good as the draught, was still quite decent. It was due to this experience with Brooklyn Lager that I snapped up Brooklyn Brewery's newly-available Black Chocolate Stout when it became available at the LCBO.

I must admit that while being a massive fan of draught Guinness, I have found bottled stouts to be rather hit-or-miss. While Guinness has gone to great lengths to capture the essence of their world-famous draught with their very good "pub draught" bottles and cans, other breweries seem to flood the market with very bitter, overly-malted stouts often with excessive alcohol content. Knowing this, I had rather mixed feelings about the Brooklyn Brewery product when I noted the devestating 10% abv. However, based on my prior experience with their lager, I thought it was worth the risk. Further inspection of the packaging noted this beer contains only water, malted barley, hops and yeast, along with this description of the product:

Limited Bottling - Winter 09-10

In the last century, British brewers made strong stouts for the Czar's Court. They were called Imperial Stouts. Our Black Chocolate Stout, brewed once yearly for the winter season achieves a chocolate aroma and flavour through the artful blending of six varieties of black, chocolate and roasted malts.

Back at Brian's, we chilled the beer and sat down for the tasting. Michelle seemed overly excited at the prospect of a "chocolate" beer (typical woman!), however once I reminded her that not one of the so-called "chocolate" beers ever reviewed on this blog tasted like chocolate, her excitement faded somewhat. The first thing we noticed once this thick brew was poured into the glasses was it is black, and when I say black I mean literally the antithesis of a summer afternoon black. The great white shark's "doll's eyes" black. Dante's 7th Circle of Hell black (you get the picture). Coupled with this demonic blackness was the oily look of the liquid in the glass. While I have reviewed serveral beers on here that looked like old engine oil, the properties of this brew even behaved like oil in that it actually left a film on the sides of the glass as it was gently swirled around. Not a good sign at all.

By now, Michelle's former excitement about drinking chocolate beer had completely dissolved as she looked with disgust into her sample, possibly contemplating Nietzsche. We raised our glasses with a hearty 'salut!' and drank. The immediate taste was very strong and nasty malt, which finished bitterly on the palate and gave a slight alcohol burn as it went down. The malty bitterness did not fade, but stayed as strong as the initial taste. Brian remarked "this stuff climbs into your mouth, moves right in and doesn't flush!" As Michelle choked down the remains of her sample, she contemplated, "Who'd drink this? Seriously." As I waxed nostalgic about springtime in New York with this beer's sexy cousin, I really did have to wonder.

Black Chocolate Stout Final Score:
Michelle - 2
Brian - 1
Myself - 3

12 December 2009

Westmalle Dubbel

Greetings! I apologize to my loyal followers who have been clamouring via email and comments for a new review. Instead of a lame excuse, I am simply going to state that the fall comprises of two things for me: hunting and football. While alcohol consumption is a part of both of these things, I have not had time to evaluate anything blog-worthy in some time. As such, there has not been an update in far too long. But fear not, I have not been incarcerated or done something silly like joining AA, so you can sit back, pour a drink of your choice and read today's offering from one of my least favourite beer-producing countries: Belgium!

Last week, a co-worker sent me an article on Vancouver's pub scene that appeared in the Toronto Star on 7 December 2009 (they are all aware of my particular penchant for alcohol, pubs and drinking in general). While the article was quite interesting, I recoiled in horror when I read this particular review for Stella's Tap & Tapas Bar:

You've woken with a Tom Waits voice and a head that feels like a melon on a toothpick. Welcome to the aftermath of a night out worshipping at the altar of the world's best ale-making nation. Belgian brews from Leffe and Stella Artois are on draft in a barroom lined with light, pilsner-hued wood. But it's the multi-page bottled list that'll do you in. Try fruity Mort Subite Kriek, coppery Chimay Rouge and dark X.O., a brooding, end-of-the-night beer made with cognac. And don't forget that other nutrient group: moules et frites is recommended but a cone of crispily addictive fries (served Euro-style with mayonnaise) is always a good idea.

As anyone who has followed this blog would know, many of the beers mentioned in this article have been reviewed here, and none of them were worth a return down memory lane (unless you want to get sick, that is). While the ever-popular Stella Artois is a bit of an exception to this rule, I cannot understand why anyone would pay a premium price for a beer that is quite literally the Molson Canadian of Belgium. To be perfectly honest, this bar sounds like it would be the perfect hell for me to spend eternity in (providing the Stella tap was always dry). After forwarding the description of Stella's Tap and Tapas Bar to Brian, he suggested doing yet another Belgian beer review to demonstrate once again that the Belgians know absolutely nothing about making beer.

I picked up this bottle of Westmalle Dubbel at my local LCBO. It comes in a funny 330 ml ring-necked bottle and has an ABV of 7%. Aside from the name, the entire label is written in Belgian, so no further information on this beer was available at the time of purchase. However, the Westmalle website had this to say:

Westmalle Dubbel is a dark, reddish-brown Trappist beer with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The creamy head has the fragrance of special malt and leaves an attractive lace pattern in the glass. The flavour is rich and complex, herby and fruity with a fresh-bitter finish. It is a balanced quality beer with a soft feel in the mouth and a long, dry aftertaste. The Dubbel contains 7% alcohol.

Since 1856 the monks have also been brewing a dark Trappist beer along with their table beer. Since the recipe was modified in 1926, they have been brewing slightly heavier beer. This is the foundation of today’s Dubbel.

The 33 cl bottles are distributed individually, in baskets of six or in 24 bottle crates. The Westmalle Dubbel is also the only dark Trappist beer available on draught in some 300 selected hotels, restaurants and cafes, from kegs of 30 and 50 litres. Dubbel Trappist continues to ferment, making the draught version slightly sweeter than the bottled version.

Dubbel Trappist is also available in 75 cl bottles, in which the beer matures differently than the smaller bottles. You will particularly notice a more subtle aftertaste.

Back at Brian's, we chilled the beer and set out a few glasses for the tasting. I popped the cap and poured out the samples of what appeared a lot like homebrew to me. Michelle compared the colour of the beer to A&W root beer, while Brian stated the beer was the same colour as tar shampoo. There was no scent coming from the beer to mention, and with a healthy "Cheers!" we tipped our glasses and drank. There really was no up-front taste from this dark brew, however it left a very gross aftertaste in the back of the palate as it quite literally burned all the way down the gullet. Not a pleasant experience at all. Brian stated the taste was "mediciney" as Michelle commented that it was simply "awful". As I choked down the last of my sample, I declared this stuff was crap and after a taste of this swill, "you'd never drink it again!" Perhaps, this will finally put an end to the ridiculous myth that the Belgians make the best beer in the world. 95% of the beers I have tried from this country have been just god-awful. AVOID!

Westmalle Dubbel Final Score:
Michelle - 3/10
Brian - 3/10
Myself - 3/10

08 December 2009

Turn to the Dark Pint Luke

From Beer News.Org

(Woodbridge, CT) – Note received from the brewery’s Matt Westfall:

“Just a heads up on New England Imperial Stout Trooper. This will be hitting shelves the week before Christmas in 750ml bottles. Same great beer, but now in bigger bottles. As far as quantity, it’s looking like about 150 cases of 750ml bottles will leave the brewery. There are plans for a bourbon barrel aged version to be released at the brewery sometime around March.”
Sometime around Monday, 12/21, the beer will be sent from distributors to stores, this according to a Beer Advocate poster who got the info from the brewery’s Rob Leonard. Leonard has posted his own update in the thread:

“We distribute in CT, MA, RI, NY? and FL. We listened to the BA voice and made IST more affordable and brewed twice as much this year. Our target shelf price is $13.99 for a 750ml- not bad, right? Better than $10 for a 12 oz. The bourbon barrel aged IST will be a brewery only release, but the 750s will go to the stores who have supported us to keep it fair. There may be a very limited growler opportunity TBA.”

With an average of 4.31 on Beer Advocate, IST appears to be very close to breaking the top 100, should that average hold up on this next batch. This is the first time the beer will appear in 750’s after previously being available in 12 oz. bottles.

While I'd like to try this for the blog, I fear that my Star Wars obsessed 7 year old would find it and chug every single bottle before I'd have the chance. Damn you Lucas....