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....

02 September 2009

Neustadt 10W30

This one comes as a request from Stokely Wilks on the Liquor Pig Facebook group. I located it at the Pickering LCBO, and brought it over to Brian's for an evaluation. After chilling the contents, further inspection of the can found this ale described as a "malty grain premuim dark ale" with an abv of 5.5%. The back of the can stated the following:

Only the finest ingredients and our own Natural Spring Water are used to Craft-Brew this Award-Winning Malty Grain Premium Dark Ale.

Remembering my experience with Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, I was somewhat looking forward to this experience. However, the two products would prove to be vastly different on several levels.

Cracking the can, the contents poured very dark with little head. I passed Brian his sample and we remarked on the lack of smell from the beer. There was a hint of malt, but nothing to overpowering. Tasting proved to be something altogether different, though. While Harviestoun Old Engine Oil was a pleasant surprise, this beer has a very harsh, malty profile up front and suffers from extreme aftertaste issues in the finish. Brian attempted to take another drink to fully appreciate the strong flavour, and lowered his glass with a hearty "no more!" He remarked that this beer was almost Cthulhu-esque, in that it was like having an alien inside of you: the aftertaste tentacles simply do not let go. In defense of 10W30, I will go on record to state this could be a great ale for a very cold winter night, but it really is a poor choice for a warm summer evening.

Thanks again to Stokely Wilks for the suggestion on this one, and please keep them coming!

26 August 2009

Pillitteri Estates Select Harvest

While at my mother's for dinner last week, we ran out of wine. Scrounging around her liquor cabinet came up with this tarnished gem that my mother had picked up on a winery tour with my sister. This self-described "sweet red wine" is produced by Pillitteri Estates in Niagra-on-the-Lake in Ontario, and has an abv of 11.2%. The bottle was a 2004 vintage, and we uncorked it having no idea what it would taste like. However, this bottle would soon prove to hold a nsaty surprise.

The initial nose on pouring the orangy-red liquid was of straight medicine. Raising her glass to her nose, my mother commented that it "smelled off." Hesitantly, we raised our glasses and drank. The flavour assaulted the tastebuds with a sickly sweet medicinal flavour that was more pronounced that the initial nose. It literally made me think "this must be what Southern Comfort's chardonnay-swilling aunt must taste like!" Keep in mind, I had never drank "late harvest" or so-called "ice wine" before, so it may just be that the style didn't agree with me. However, this stuff was downright nasty. As my mother lowered her glass, she remarked that she had drank low-quality homemade wine that tasted better than this crap. Caveat emptor.

17 August 2009

Tusker Quality Lager

Imagine driving six and half hours through the Serengeti. Tired and parched you see a local tavern up ahead, where you stop for food, rest and an ice-cold ale. As your eyes adjust to the darkness within, you find see this elephant-headed logo an an advertising poster for a local beer. You order one and as you pour out the amber liquid, you think this is going to be either a terrible experience, or possibly the greatest beer I have ever had...

I was not on the Serengeti when I tried this one. However Brian did relate a story about some friends that did travel to Africa and experienced a scenario much like the one I described above. After arriving at the tavern, his friends ordered a local beer called Burpee. While three of the four beers brought to the table were fine, one of the party thought their Burpee was a "little off". The other three friends took a sip, agreed and then complained to the waiter. The waiter took on whiff of the questionable bottle, and immediately replaced it with a fresh one. Unfortunately, one sip was all it took to place everyone's digestive tract on "nuclear holocaust" on a trip through Africa's wilderness where a decent toilet is pratically unheard of. As such, we all had serious reservations when we cracked this one.

Inspecting the bottle did not provide much information other than the product has been produced since 1922 by Kenya Breweries Ltd. in Nairobi, and has an ABV of 4.2%. As I passed around the samples, we all noted that this beer did not have any kind of offensive odour, and was devoid of any kind of sea monkeys. With a hearty "cheers!" we tipped our glasses and drank. Surprisingly, this beer was actually very decent. While not being some kind of flavour explosion, it was not bitter, too sweet, overhopped or excessively malty and did not have any kind of lingering aftertaste. Michelle earnestly stated this beer was good and Brian added Tusker is the "second beer from Africa I like" (the fist being South Africa's Castle). All in all, I thought Tusker was a very refreshing beer that I can see gracing my refridgerator again. If I were the Serengeti on some kind of safari, I'd be grateful to find it available in a local pub in the bush. While Tusker may not be anything truly exceptional, it is a great refreshing brew for the dog days of summer - or an African safari across the Serengeti.

09 August 2009

Greene King Abbot Ale

Another common sight at the LCBO is this disaster from Suffolk, England (sans the little lego man sitting on the can, of course). The cream and red can was deceptive enough, however seeing "brewed longer for a distinctive full flavour" should have been the tip off that this English ale was going to be a disaster. During my tenure at running this blog, I have found that most beer and ale that describes itself as 'full flavoured' are usually of the variety that end up in the toilet - either immediately after the initial tasting or immmediately following a bad drunk on them. Further inspection of this one found it had a modest abv of 5% and stated this about it's contents:

Abbot Ale is brewed longer to a unique recipe. This makes it a full flavoured, smooth and mature beer. It is brewed in the heart of Suffolk where master brewers have been perfecting beers of real character since 1799. So whether you are looking for a beer to enjoy with food, or simply on its own, Abbot Ale is the perfect choice.

Brian was a little hesitant when I brought this one over possibly due to the portrait of what we assumed to be the Abbot this ale is named after. Unlike the Corporal on the Corporal Brown's bottle, the Abbot is actually smiling. However, we soon found out the reason for that smile, and it was not the kind you should be pleased about seeing.

I popped the can and poured out two samples. The beer was brown and had very little head. As Brian raised his sample to his nose and exclaimed "smells good!" in the most sarcastic voice he could muster. This beer literally smelled like pain. With a shudder we raised our glasses and throwing all caution to the wind, we drank. The brew was malty, had a very bitter profile and literally attacked the throat on the finish. Surprisingly it was not bland like many English ales, but it was very hard to drink. "The Abbot is a corrupt soul," noted Brian looking at that crooked little smile on theAbbot's face as we both agreed that this one simply sucks. Perhaps the recommendation to enjoy Abbot Ale with food may in fact be so you can wash the flavour completely out of your mouth in the event you are served something that actually tastes worse than this hideous disaster. Corruption, indeed!

31 July 2009

Summer Lightning Golden Ale

When I purchased this one, I wholly expected a pretentious ale with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. From the cross-eyed pagan motif on the label to the sea monkeys visible when held up to the light, one had to wonder how good this stuff could be. Further inspection indicated this beer is brewed in England by Hopback Brewery and has an ABV of 5%. The back label also explained that this beer is "bottle conditioned" and contained "natural yeast sediment" (aka sea monkeys) and it should be stored in an upright to prevent the sediment from mixing in the beer. The brewery's website has this to say about the product:

A trendsetter in the brewing industry; the original Summer ale brewed all year round. An extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish. Probably the beer to receive the most awards in Britain!

The beer pours out golden with a thin head that barely leaves lacing in the glass. It had no discernable scent other than beer. We poured it carefully to leave most of the sea monkeys in the bottle, and knocked it back without hesitation. Surprisingly, the flavour was mild with a slightly bitter finish. Brain commented that he could get drunk on it and that there was nothing bad to say about this one. Overall, a decent beer from a country that makes very few of them. I recommend keeping an eye out for it.

27 July 2009

Orange Peel Ale

This is an oddity from Great Lakes Brewery that I had picked up several times at the LCBO and placed back on the shelf. As regular readers of this blog know, I am not a huge fan of fruit-flavoured beer to begin with, and furthermore there is just something about "orange peel ale" that screams "jailhouse hooch." In the crazier days of my youth, I knew a few people that had served time as "wards of the state" and they had all told stories about how orange peels is one of the main ingredients to making prison booze. Despite my reservations (or perhaps because of them), I finally bit the bullet and picked up a bottle to try. Would this prove to be a tasty, fruit-infused beverage, or a bottled nightmare designed to remind cultured ex-convicts about their days on the range? We would soon find out!

Further inspection of the bottle indicated this was "beer brewed with oranges" and has an ABV of 5.3%. The back of the bottle had this to say about the product:

In our quest to bring you the most flavourful and unique beers possible, we are proud to release this tasty summer ale. Handcrafted with five specialty malts and five varieties of hops, along with just a touch of honey, we added heaps of fresh oranges and peels into the boil. A little different, you say? We sure hope so. Orange Peel Ale balances the unique flavour of oranges with generous amounts of hops to achieve a slightly fruity and refreshing taste.

Unfortunately, that description sent further involuntary shivers down my spine as this sounded like a recipe for disaster. Brian seconded my reservations, and as we poured it into our glasses, we felt that black cloud of dread creep into the room. Brian raised his glass first and smelled the contents, declaring that it had no smell other than beer. There really was no indication of what this beer was made from, other than barley and hops. We both raised our cups and drank. Surprisingly, this was a refreshing beverage with a crisp taste and a slight citrus note on the finish. Brian exclaimed "this is good beer!" as I was at loss to come up with anything bad to say about the product. Different but decent, this is an excellent beer for a lazy summer barbecue or relaxing around the pool. Don't let visions of Cell Block H scare you away from giving it a try.

22 July 2009

Fuller's London Porter

On the heels of Fuller's ESB, we have reviewed another product from this English brewery. I picked this up at the LCBO along with several other ales that Brian and I reviewed that night. The can stated the contents were "rich, dark and complex" and it had an ABV of 5.4%.

The Fuller's website has this to say about their London Porter:

Fuller's London Porter is ranked the number one tasting Porter in the world on ratebeer.com. Indeed, London Porter is a superb, award-winning beer having captured the gold and silver medals at the 1999, 2000 and 2002 International Beer & Cider Competitions.

The origins of Porter date back to London in the early nineteenth century when it was popular to mix two or three beers -- usually an old, well-vatted or "stale" brown ale -- with a new brown ale and a pale ale. It was time-consuming for the pub owner to pull from three casks for one pint, so brewers in London tested and produced a new beer, known as entire, to match the tastes of such mixtures. Using high roasted malts, entire was dark, cloudy and hoppy. It was also easily produced in bulk and ideally suited to the soft well water of London. Very quickly, it became popular among the porters working in Billingsgate and Smithfield markets. Gradually, the beer took on the name Porter in recognition of its greatest devotees.

I popped the chilled can and poured the rich, black contents into a couple of glasses. Being a fan of Irish stout, I wondered how bad this one could be? It didn't smell bad, and the white, creamy head looked quite appealling. We both raised our glasses and took a hefty pull.

"Tarry!" came the exclamation from Brian as this one hit his tastebuds. Unlike Guinness which has a pleasant malt taste, London Porter is extremely malty and seemed to attack the tongue with a burnt chocolate taste as you drank it. While I was able to stomach mine, Brian had huge problems with this one. "I can't drink this," he stated. "It is like a Reese's commercial gone horribly wrong!" The heavy flavour of this one may be enjoyed by those who like their beer dark and malty, but keep in mind this is definitely no Guinness. As Brian dumped the contents of his glass, his final comment was "I don't need a tongue glove."

15 July 2009

Fuller's ESB Champion Ale

My apologies for the lack of updates. While the summer is a time when I consume untold gallons of ale, I am often found in Ontario's north country on my days off, far from any kind of internet access. However, I will try to post more regularly in the future. Have no fear, I have not quit drinking! After all, a summer without alcohol is akin to a world without air. Seriously. Now on to the subject of today's review.

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am not a huge fan of English ale. Aside from Bass Ale and Fuller's London Pride, I really can't give glowing recommendations to many of the beers coming out of England (gin is a different story, however). So I understandably had my reservations when I spotted this example of English brewing at the Ajax LCBO. While it was from England, it was made by Fuller's and being the author of this blog, I had to try it out.

Further research on the Fuller's website yielded this glowing praise:

ESB's reputation as the best British beer around is borne out by the amazing number of awards it has won. The US Beverage Tasting Institute named ESB "World Champion Bitter" in 1997 and 1998. ESB received the Gold Medal in the Premium Ales category at the 2003 International Beer Competition and a Silver medal in the same event in 2004. In addition, ESB won another Silver in the Strong Bitter category at the 2002 Great British Beer Festival. And no beer has won more CAMRA awards, including Best Strong Ale in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1991, and Champion Beer of Britain in 1978, 1981 and 1985.

With a track record like that, there is little wonder this is being marketed in North America as "Champion Ale". So after chilling the beer down, I grabbed my favourite pint glass and sat down to give this beer the full Liquor Pig treatment.

The can gives no indication of the awards this beer has won, save for the "champion" moniker in the description. It pours a clear dark brown with a nice head that laces the glass as it is consumed, and has an abv of 5.9%. I raised the glass and could not detect any skunkiness or otherwise "off" odours. The ale has a very sweet and malty profile, with slightly more hops in the flavour than I would have liked but not enough to render it undrinkable (unlike some of the swill that passes for beer I have reviewed). Ultimately, I wouldn't rank this up with Bass or London Pride, but it certainly is much better than Boddington's or Tetley's. While it wasn't an instant hit with me, I can see why fans of English style bitter praise it so highly.

23 June 2009

Wild Irish Rose

My wild Irish Rose,
The sweetest flower that grows.
You may search everywhere,
But none can compare
With my wild Irish Rose.

Returning to this blog's roots, Brian picked up a bottle of another member of the Big Five of the streetwine crowd, Richard's Wild Irish Rose. It should be noted that I had severe reservations on drinking this one after the nightmare that became An Evening of Bumwine. Brian had left the bottle in the fridge for two days, as the back label on the bottle exclaimed "SERVE COLD" in big, bold letters. We had a couple cans of liquid courage to get the nerve up to drink this swill, and after selecting a couple Star Trek glasses, we sat down for the tasting.

First of all, I would like to make it clear that this keif is as wholly unnatural coloured as Strawberry Cisco, which led me to believe this would be less like "wine" and more like a chemical laced carcinogen cocktail. After pouring two glasses the smell of this hooch filled the room with its disgusting odour. Not a good start at all. The liquid is clear and a near-flourescent red. Further inspection of the label concluded this was being passed off as "grape wine with citrus spirits" and had a abv of 17%. Throwing all caution to the wind, we tipped our glasses and drank. The sickly sweet taste of this stuff was reminscent of cough syrup. It didn't taste like grape wine at all and the flavour was obviously there to hide something much more sinister. Furthermore, while MD 20/20 "Red" actually tasted like wine, Wild Irish Rose did not even try to trick you into thinking this was actually made from fermented grapes. The "red" splashed prominently on the label is not an actual flavour or indication of this bottle's contents. I would hate to see what the "white" version of this stuff would taste like without the "red" flavouring to cover it up. This stuff literally tastes like a chemical cocktail with plenty of sugar to cover up what it is really made from. I cannot even fathom the long-term effects would be of a stint with this Irish gal, nor even what a single bottle may do to you if consumed in one sitting. Seriously, if given the choice between living under a bridge and having Irish Rosie to look forward to every night or simply hanging myself, I'd choose suicide without a second thought. This one is to be avoided unless you really are curious what it is like to get plastered wino-style.

11 June 2009

Livivske Premium Lager

This one was another find at the 'shwa LCBO on my way up to Mad Dog Johnny's sisters place in Tweed for an afternoon of 12 gauge mayhem. I had never aven heard of "AbIBCbKE" beer before, so it was a given it would be reviewed. After we had wasted several hundred rounds of ammo and ate dinner, we sat down to some serious drinking and after everyone was feeling pretty good, I pulled out the "mystery beer".

Further inspection of the lable states this one is "Livivske Premium Lager" but gives no indication of the country of origin. Everything else on the lable was written with words that were seriously lacking in vowels, so we could discern nothing more about it. We sat out four glasses and poured some samples. The lager was a very clear golden colour with a white head and no sea monkeys whatsoever. We took our samples and drank. I could detect no odour from the beer and it initially seemed like a crisp lager. Mike stated "I'd buy this. I could totally see myself drinking it". Gillian (who by this time was 3/4 through a magnum of blush wine) said she liked the taste, but "it may just be the wine". Mad Dog Johnny stated that "it doesn't taste like I'll shit blood tomorrow." What a charmer.

However, as we took another drink something strange happened. We all detected what seemed like a taint in the ale. It started on the tongue and covered the inside of the mouth like a film. At that point, Mike and I had reservations about this one and I saw Gillian pour the rest of her sample into Johnny's glass. Not good at all. The taint on this ale was enough to turn us all off it, and I hazard to guess what a good drunk on this stuff would do to you. In the end we unanimously decided that "AbBIBCbKE" was likely Russian for "The Taste of Chernobyl." This isn't one that will be getting a second chance from me.

03 June 2009

Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Beer

After a four hour drive to Michigan (where we decided to skip lunch to beat holiday traffic) our first instincts were to find a place to find that had which we craved most: food and beer.
Our choices were limited to a local Biker Bar or an Applebee's, the Applebee's won because I don't like getting hit in the head much and I can probably take the average Applebee's patron.
The bar at said chain restaurant was stocked with a good deal of stuff I'd never had before, so it proved to be an excellent choice. After hearing the long draught list, I ordered a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Why I did that: Sometimes I am still an eight year old and the thought of "cherry" makes everything better, it's hyper sweet taste improves cola, cough syrup and sundaes, so I am programmed to order it when I hear it.

After I took my first sip and discovered what cherries and beer taste like together, I remembered Dennis Leery's infamous Christmas beer rant from "Lock N Load" (transcribed below):
“Hey man, look what I got you for Christmas.”“What’s that?”“Special Sam Adams Christmas beer dispenser, man.”“Oh really?”“Yeah, it’s six different flavors…”“Y’know what? Put it in the fridge. Put it in the bottom of the fridge and bury it.”
“So months go by, of course, right? Now I’m eating pretzels and I’m thirsty. I go and open the refrigerator, I see a beer out of the corner of my eye. I grab it, I open it up SLUUURP! PHBBBBBT! Cran..berry ale. Cranberry nut crunch fucking ale! Let me tell you something, folks. Cranberries and beer do NOT go together, okay? One’s for bladder infections, one’s for getting drunk! I take a look at the label of my beer; you know what’s on my beer label? Santa Claus is on my beer label. I swear to God! Why don’t you put the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy on there, too. Call it ‘Pussy Ale’ while you’re at it, go ahead.”
After about three sips, the cherry stopped punching me in the face so much and perhaps it was the effect of a beer on an empty stomach but it became a tolerable beverage. For the second round I chose something different because honestly, I couldn't do two in a row.
The bottom line is, this tastes like Sam Adams and cherry juice mixed together, I did not find it offensive but it's not a taste I find myself craving either. To each his own I guess.....

25 May 2009

Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen

Queen Victoria's birthday on the 24th of May unofficially marks the start of the summer season here in Canada. The end of the harsh Canadian winter ushers in a new season of barbeques, skimpy clothing and drunken afternoons spent on the patio. In the warm sun, nothing goes down like a cold bottle of German hefeweizen and I was pleased to see that the LCBO has been making an effort to bring in more of examples of this excellent style of brewing. Being a huge fan of Erdinger Weissbier, I stopped into my local LCBO to pick up a few bottles for the evening barbeque when I spotted a new weissbier on the shelf. I grabbed a few for my Mix 8 and headed home with my purchase.

Hailing from the world's oldest brewery, Weihenstephaner is a Bavarian-style wheat beer with an abv of 5.4%. The Weihenstephaner website states that the brewery started between 725 and 768 in the Bavarian city of Freising by Benedictine monks. Later, it became the Royal Bavarian State Brewery until finally being privatized as a regulated enterprise of the Freestate of Bavaria. Today, Weihenstephaner brews 11 standard beers and 2 alcohol free varieties. Their hefe weissbeir is their only product I have personally seen in North America.

Like most examples of weissbier, Weihenstephaner pours a cloudy golden-orange with a thick foamy head. The beer gives off a distinct yet pleasant spicy odour with no alcohol scent. The brew starts with a slightly sweet, yeasty flavour reminscent of most wheat beers, moves to the back of the palate with the slight spiciness hinted at in the nose, and continues with a slightly bitter finish. The taste lingers but does not overpower, and the crisp finish makes one wanting more. A definate thirst quencher for those dog days of summer, I can easily see many a drunken afternoon in the coming months with a fridge full of these. Overall, and excellent example of this style of brewing. Enjoy!

24 May 2009

Foster's Premium Ale

This was another find of Brian's in Novi. Having been discussing Foster's on the drive down to Michigan, I think he had it on the brain when he got to the liquor store. I was somewhat curious about this one, as I have drank the regular blue-can Foster's in the past and wanted to see what the premium version was like. I suppose it should be stated that many people equate Foster's with "kangaroo piss" so I my expectations weren't that high.

The can was massive and lists the abv at 5.4%. The beer poured out a rich amber-brown with a thick white head. There was no discernable smell from it, save what you would expect from a dark ale. We both knocked back our glasses and found the taste to be smooth up front, but brutally bitter in the finish - not good at all. Looking on the 'net for more info on this one, I found out that this "premium ale" is actually just a repackaged version of Foster's Special Bitter! Little wonder there was such a hideous bitterness in the finish. I wouldn't recommend this one unless you are a fan of bitters and want to see what the Aussies can come up with. You can read about the renaming of this brew by clicking here.

22 May 2009

Werewolf Beer

"You must be sure you want to taste it!" was the tagline on this Lithuanian oddity that Brian picked out at the Novi liquor store, Werewolf seemed to be an appropriate name with an abv of 8.2%, and the brew also contained sea monkeys which were apparent when held up to the light. Unlike the horrific Taj Mahal, this one actually had some info on the back:

Brewery Rinkuskiai was established in the year 1991 in the Birzai Region known as Beer Country in Lithuania. Rinkuskiai beer quality is the result of old traditions in Beer Country, experience of the past generations and innovations of the modern days. That makes Rinkuskiai beer one of the most exclusive in Lithuania. WEREWOLF has an attractive dark color, slightly sweet, reach taste of malt and slight aroma of hops. Want to drink more? Oh, yes! And be aware that WEREWOLF is based on the old recipe of one of the best birzai beers.

Slightly sweet REACH taste? The pigeon English on this lable was a bit over the top. Perhaps they were trying to overplay the wolfman schtick by trying to sound like one of the Gypsies in Universal Studios classic 1941 film. Regardless, we poured out a couple glasses and drank. Aside from a slight alcohol scent, Werewolf didn't smell that bad. However, the flavour was very overhopped and not that great. I am fairly certain that this one would have had a much worse rating, but after the Taj Mahal experience earlier in the evening, Cisco would likely have tasted good. Regardless, given the excessive alcohhol content I am sure a night after drinking a dozen or so of these may actually result in waking up in an unknown place, missing some or all of your clothing, possibly covered in blood and unable to remember the events the night before - much like the victims of lycanthropy in Hollywood films!

19 May 2009

Taj Mahal Lager

"Slow Brewed for the Connoisseur" states the label on this abysmal example of the brewer's art. I can honestly state that it is a rare occasion indeed when a single beverage can turn me off drinking for two days afterward, but Taj Mahal did exactly that. Brian and I had arrived in Novi and went straight to a liquor store to see what the "Great Lakes State" had to offer, and after looking over the multitude of brews available, I chose this monstrosity. We collected up the rest of our purchases and headed back to the hotel for a sampling.

Brian had serious reservations about Taj Mahal the moment he found out it was brewed in India. However, I have drank both Cobra and Kingfisher and while they may not be the finest examples of award-winning lager, they were both drinkable. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case with this bottled demon. I popped the cap and poured out two glasses. After handing one to Brian, I heard him exclaim, "it stinks!". I took a whiff of the liquid in my glass and was immediately treated to a full-on nasal assault. "Jesus, this IS bad!" I replied as I started to realize that this was starting to resemble one of those situations not unlike putting your truck on the roulette table in Vegas. I personally have no idea where the water is obtained to brew this stuff, but the smell immediately conjured up images of waterlogged corpses floating down the Ganges River. Hesitantly, I raised the glass to my lips and took a large mouthful. I can only describe the acrid taste as what I imagine a beer tastes like after someone pissed in it after a night of eating asparagus and drinking homemade corn whiskey. Brian tried his and observed "some things dance across the tongue... This is like a dog dragging its ass across it!". Undaunted, I raised my glass again to see if it got better after the initial taste - it didn't. I took the third pull a voice in my head suddenly screamed "WHY AM I STILL DRINKING THIS?!?" as I got up to dump the remainder of this vile brew down the drain.

I can't complete this review without a report on what this beer did to my digestive system. I know it was the Taj Mahal because Brain and I drank equal amounts of everything else that night with this one exception. I spare you the disgusting details, but the symptoms I experienced included hideous gas, stomach pain and a lower intestinal tract that was somehow set to "nuclear holocaust". These symptoms required copious amounts of Pepto to alleviate, and I was unable to do any further samplings the following night. Take my advice and try this one at your own risk. Seriously, it IS that bad!

04 May 2009

St. Peter's English Ale

This one is another product from the LCBO that basically screamed "drink me!" as I walked by. Although the label says English ale, I gave into temptation to find out what was contained in the green glass of the medicine-like bottle on the shelf. St. Peter's Organic English Ale is brewed in a medieval hall in a remote, rural corner of Suffolk, England. Made with organically grown barley and hops, it is described as a "refreshingly wholesome flavoured ale with a delicate character" and an abv of 4.5%. The flask-shaped bottle is a "faithful copy" of one made in 1770 for a Thomas Gerrard of Gibbstown, which is located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

I popped it open and poured the golden ale into a pint glass. The medium head was typical for this style of ale, and the beer has no discernible scent. I raised the glass and let the cold brew slide over my tongue. While the main flavour profile was normal for English ale (in other words, bland and unremarkable), the taste was heavily punctuated by the musty overhopping common in many modern microbrews. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of overhopped ale, and this one pulled no punches. Normally, I would have sinked it right then and there, but the $3.55 price tag along with a craving for a San Cristobel de Havana changed my mind. Combined with the medium flavour of a good Cuban cigar, the ale was quite enjoyable and made for an excellent kick off to my weekend.

02 May 2009

Ochakovo Premium Lager

Being laid up on Percocet after oral surgery has somewhat affected my ability to update this blog, mostly because opiate-based painkillers lay me out cold and booze just makes it worse. However, I did dig up an unpublished review from last St. Patrick's Day when Mad Dog Johnny came by for a piss-up and a traditional Irish corned beef dinner. I had picked up this oddity at the Mississauga LCBO by my sister's house, and we sampled it while the corned beef was boiling. While I am unable to deciper the Soviet cyrillic alphabet, I did determine that this lager is brewed in Moscow, Russia by Ochakovo Breweries and has an abv of 4.5%.

The first thing I noticed was the ingenious pop-off cap the Russians included as part of the packaging, which eliminates the need for a church key or Bic lighter to open your ale. The cap comes off quite easily, and the beer did not show any kind of flatness or deterioration of quality. As I poured out two glasses, a lacy head formed over the golden lager. I handed one to Johnny and with a hearty sláinte, we raised our glasses. Before the ale even went down Johnny's throat, he commented that the smell of this hooch was "more invasive to the nasal passages than lo-grade cocaine." I tipped my glass back, and found the taste was very similar to generic American lager. While it wasn't the best lager reviewed on this site, the pull-ring opener was novelty enough to justify the purchase. Fans of other Russian lager like Baltika 3 may want to try it for comparison.

27 April 2009

Get Drunk and Vote for me

Liberal aimed to engage voters with free beer

Source: ctvbc.ca

The BC Liberal Party's election campaign was facing more distractions Saturday. This time a well known Liberal politician is being questioned over a controversial poster that was released by his supporters.

The poster indicates that supporters of Kootenay East Liberal candidate Bill Bennett are offering free beer to anyone who comes to a meeting at a local pub.
"We are trying to engage young people,'' he explained. "You have to go where young people are."

Bennett has removed the posters for now, and says he has asked that no free alcohol be served.

He probably would have been handing out Coor's Light, so no big loss.-Brain

Devil's Pale Ale 666

"THE DEVIL MADE ME BREW IT!" proclaims the tagline on the back of this novelty brew from Toronto's Great Lakes Brewery. This beer is apparently brewed with 666 kilograms of malt, 6.66 kilograms of hops, is boiled for 66.6 minutes and has a 6% abv. I recall trying this brew at Toronto's Festival of Beer after having been drawn to its Satanic imagery like a moth to a flame. Unfortunately, having already tried several dozen other beers I cannot recall what it tasted like. After spying the prominent 666 on the label at the local LCBO, I decided to pick one up for a formal review.

Both Burke and Erik had strong reservations about drinking this one. I popped the can and immediately noticed that describing the can's contents as pale would somewhat misleading, if not an outright lie. The brew is reminiscent of very dark porter with a thick head. Erik at this point wasn't sure if he wanted to drink it, but Burke (easily influenced by the evil in the can) declared we were all going to drink it. Burke and I raised our glasses and took a long pull. My palate was immediately assaulted by the strong, malty flavour which led to a pronounced bitterness in the finish. Burke stated that while he wouldn't think he would drink more than one or two of them, the flavour really wasn't worthy of the number of the beast. In fact, we further decided that the beer deserved to have been attributed to Purgatory rather than Old Scratch himself. Erik stated that it "tasted like crap" but that he had worse. Apparently, this one is more a novelty or something that might be popular with goths and metalheads rather than something that will find its way back into my fridge.

25 April 2009

Stuart's Natural Session Ale

This one comes from our good friends at the Scotch-Irish Brewing Company in Lanark Ontario, brewers of such fine products as John By Imperial Stout and the horrific Corporal's Bitter Brown Ale. This particular brew is described as a flavourful light, refreshing ale brewed in the style of ordinary bitter. The label also has a rendition of Stuart, the Scottie dog this beer is named after. It is a mild amber colour with a decent head and no discernible odour.

Erik, Burke and I poured out three glasses and passed them around. While hesitant after my prior experience with the Corporal, I thought Scotch-Irish Brewing deserved another chance after finding John By to be a drinkable stout. Burke drank first and noted that although bitter, it was a smooth bitter that went down good. Erik also stated it was good and both agreed they could drink six of them with pleasure. I found the beer to be very similar to many English ales I have tried, with slightly more bitterness than most and was much more easy-drinking than even the John By Imperial Stout. After this experience, I look forward to sampling other products from Scotch-Irish Brewing.

In other news, I'd like to announce Liquor Pig's upcoming road trip to Michigan to hopefully find the absolute worst beer the Motor State has to offer. LIQUOR PIG NEEDS YOUR HELP!!! Please send us suggestions for both horrible liquor and local oddities we can poison our livers with while south of the border. We look forward to hearing from you!

24 April 2009

Hello Kitty Beer

This isn't a review, although if anybody would like to send us some to try, we would willingly accept it with open arms. That's a given with anything though, barring shoe polish, Aquavelva and Labbat's Blue.
Here at Liquor Pig, we are of two minds about Beck's, I am fond of it due to the fact that I cut my teeth on stealing Beck's from my father during my teen years. I find as grown man, I crave what I used to choke down.
While our humble blog's creator did not grow up with Beck's and likens it's taste to the urine that's filling the troughs of any Oktoberfest celebration. To each his own but he's totally wrong about Beck's.

We are in agreement however, that neither of us would be caught dead drinking fricking Hello Kitty Beer at any place but the privacy of our own basements.
I wonder if Beck's plans a macho male equiviliant to this, like one that uses Ultra-Man or that cool guy from Star Blazers. You know, the guy with the G-Force hair...
Link Stolen from Topless Robot

21 April 2009

Liberty Ale

This peculiarity was suggested by a co-worker who apparently disagrees with most of the ale reviewed on this site. Seriously, this guy actually LIKES Corporal's Bitter Brown Ale, so obviously any suggestions from him are automatic candidates for review! After listening to him rant about how great this beer is, I tracked down a bottle at a Scarborough LCBO and headed over to my cousin's for a tasting.

Anchor Brewing Company's Liberty Ale is made in San Fransisco, California and has an abv of 5.9%. Apparently, this brew was first made on 18 April 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere's historic ride. Noted as being "almost completely handmade", it is created from the "finest barley malt, fresh whole hops, top-fermenting yeast [and] pure water" using "simple natural methods." Furthermore, Liberty Ale is "dry-hopped" and "completes its fermentation in seald vats" which apparently creates Liberty Ale's "distinctive boquet" and "delicate fermentation." The lable portrays the Liberty Eagle and an anchor (perhaps a homage to San Fransico's famous waterfront.

We popped it open and poured out a couple glasses. It was a mid-dark colour, respective of other ales of this nature and was quite effervescent. However, one taste of this one proved it to be another over-hopped disaster. Upon tasting, Amanda exclaimed "ew!" and stated that it tasted like "old lady's perfume." Apparently, the "distinctive boquet" of the "dry-hopping" is an acquired taste. I tipped my glass back and found the musty, overhopped flavour to be quite unpleasant and overpowering, but I managed to finish my glass. Rob however, initially exclaimed "oh man, this is bad!" and petitioned to sink it. After a bit of prodding (along with insults about his manhood from both me and Amanda), he finished the sample with a solemn "shit's gross, man." We universally agreed this one ranks in the KEIF! file and should never be purchased again... unless you want to keep a bottle handy to make unwelcome guests suffer through their overstayed welcome.

11 April 2009

Drunk in New York City

My apologies for the lack of updates. There have been several reasons for this. First of all, the local LCBO's well of strange brew has kind of run dry, leaving me to have to expand my search for potential review candidates. Remember, we are always open for suggestions! If any Ontario readers come across a good candidate for this blog, email me with the deatails and I will attempt to obtain it for review. As for today's entry, I just returned from a week in New York City, where I discovered an absolute must for any fan of bars, beer or this blog: A New York institution in Manhattan's East Village known as McSorley's Old Ale House.

"Be good or be gone" is the motto at the oldest bar in New York; a throwback to days when your local served beer brewed on premesis and women were barred from entering. In fact, it was only in 1970 when civil rights attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow won a Supreme Court case against McSorley's to be allowed entry. The oldest continually operating saloon in New York has served everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon in it's 150 years of history.

Stepping inside McSorley's is like taking a trip back in time. From the sawdust strewn floors to the burning coal scuttle, this bar is literally soaked in history. The ancient tables are worn down from years of use and the walls are covered in pictures, historical documents and other memorabilia marking milestones in it's history. It truly is a sight to behold. Once you have taken in the history of the place, step up to the bar and order some ale. Just don't expect to find Budweiser or fancy European imports. McSorleys serves only two kinds of ale: McSorley's Light and McSorley's Dark, and will cost you $4.50 for two mugs of either.

Now, it could be said that a storied watering hole like this could make a good living off fleecing tourists by selling overpriced beer while riding the coattails of its reputation. Fortunately, this is not the case at McSorley's. The ale is not only cheap, it is quite good as well. Having tried both during the two nights I spent there (yes, I liked it that much!), I can say that I personally preferred the dark. However, that is only from a personal standpoint as both were definately drinkable. Keep in mind that McSorley's can get very busy, especially on a weekend. This may result in you being "relocated" to another table to accomodate the ever-growing crowd of patrons. This is nothing to be worried about however. Everyone I met follows the McSorley's motto and tend to be very welcoming. I ended up sitting with many different people during my time there, including a couple fellow Canadians from Montreal! So if you ever find yourself in New York, head over to McSorley's for a couple mugs of ale. You'll be glad you did!

21 March 2009

Brussels White

While picking up the Chimay Triple, I spotted this other Belgian beer. Now, as you all know I love to pick on the Belgians and the legions of pretentious fools who seem to think the best beers in the world come from it, I picked it up fully expecting another train wreck. As I took it out of the fridge, I looked at the bottle a little more closely:

Brussels White. Ingredients: water, malt, wheat, hops, yeast, coriander seed, orange peel.

What the hell is with the Belgian tradition of putting coriander seed in beer??? I have honestly never heard of this practice until reviewing Belgian beers, and quite frankly just don't get it. Coriander was the biggest turn off for Chimay Red and an involuntary shiver ran up my spine as I saw it was also contained in this brew. As for the orange peel, I won't even go into the stories I have heard about prison hooch and what they put in it, but I will say that orange peel was always mentioned as a primary ingredient. I suppose this was to give some logic to this product being called 'flavoured beer' as stated on the label. The bottle also had a second sticker on it proclaiming an abv of 5.5%, likely to coincide with LCBO guidelines for packaging.

I poured the cloudy brew into a glass an thankfully noticed a lack of sea monkeys within. There was no discernable scent off this brew to indicate the coriander or orange peel used in its manufacture. I tipped it back expecting the worst, but surprisingly it was actually rather mild with a creamy mouthfeel. There was no over-the-top coriander or citrus overtones, and it had a nice clean finish. While I can't say it would be a staple in my beer fridge, I could see myself enjoying a few of these on the patio this summer. All in all, the Belgians seemed to have got it right for a change. Worth a try.

19 March 2009

Chimay Triple

As readers of this blog know, Belgian beer is not one of my preferred favourites. In fact, I have yet to find that mythical Belgian beer that lives up to the hype the Belgians get for brewing it. Upon spotting this one at the monstrous Queens Quay LCBO in Toronto, I thought I would give Chimay another chance. After all, even Scotch-Irish Breweries were able to somewhat redeem themselves from the horrific Coporal's Bitter Brown with John By Imperial Stout. Alas, this was not the case this time.

I had chilled the bottle overnight and poured it into a clean glass for the tasting. The smell of this stuff was very slight, with no discernable alcohol smell to allude to its potent 8% abv. The colour was a sick looking cloudy orange-brown. While not that apealling to many novices, the colour really was not much different than many of the German weissens I have drank and enjoyed. I tipped the glass back, let the beer glide over my tongue and almost gagged on the bitter flavour. The mouthfeel was creamy despite the bitterness, and let to some citrusy undertones in the finish. To be honest, the bitterness was so harsh that it was a decision to try it again. Subsequent tastes seemed to mellow the bitterness, but I believe it was more due to my tastebuds numbing than anything else, as the citrus finish became less and less pronounced as I finished the brew. Overall, I can't see the appeal of beers like this at all. Onesided, simple and strongly bitter with very little upside. Give me a Guinness, weissen or eastern European pilsner anyday over this crap.

12 March 2009

Samichlaus Classic

I can honestly say this one is the worst beer I have ever drank. Picked up on an impulse at a Mississauga LCBO, I brought it back to my sister's for an evaluation. Further inspection after chilling the contents found a devastating abv of 14%, and the following on the label:

Samichlaus Bier - Santa Claus Beer. Brewed only once a year on December 6, Samichclaus is aged 10 months before bottling. The beer is perhaps the rarest in the world. Samichclaus may be aged for many years to come. Older vintages become more complex with a creamy warming finish. Serve with hardy robust dishes and desserts, particularly with chocolates or served as an after-dinner drink by itself.

After chilling the brew, we poured it into two glasses. My sister remarked it "looked like Rickard's" and thought it smelled like "normal beer". I also felt it didn't look or smell too bad. However, as we both tasted this one we knew we had made a very bad mistake.

Susie raised the glass and as the dark liquid touched her lips, a look of complete disgust came over her face as she exclaimed "this is the worst beer I have ever tasted!" The flavour was like what caramel-flavoured Dimetapp would taste like, if anyone was nutty enough to concoct such a thing. The flavour sat on the tongue, moved down the palate and the "warming finish" burned all the way to the gullet.

I must admit after tasting this one, a dim memory surfaced of a drunken New Year's Eve from my misspent youth. An old drinking buddy (affectionately known as The Fat Bastard) and I were in the local LCBO when one of their union monkeys saw us eying the imported beers. He pointed to one and suggested we try it. "It's awesome," he said. "The stuff is pretty uncommon. You'll like it. It gets you smashed." We purchased three bottles of it and went to the New Year's party.

Once there, we cracked the beers and with a hearty "Slainte!" we drank deep. However, we both looked at each other with a complete look of disgust on our faces. Keep in mind this was the days when I willingly drank Carling and Seagrams 5 Star (out of necessity more than choice), and was somewhat immune to bad taste. However, this beer slayed us. We agreed this beer was not fit for human consumption, and spent the rest of the night daring unknowing party guests into trying it. As the Samichlaus hit my tastebuds, I remembered it was the same beer we drank at that ill-fated party years ago, and my improved palate hasn't made the experience any more pleasurable. Avoid this one at all costs.

05 March 2009

Jenlain Bière de Printemps

I grabbed this one while in the LCBO with my cousin and his girlfriend. I was looking to fill an LCBO "Mix 8" and because of Amanda's urging to hurry up, I took it off the shelf and put it in my carton. Once back at my cousin's I had a closer look at my purchase and realized (based solely on the "flowery" label) that this beer would classified by my friends as being in the same category as Pride (a pro-gay beer that was marketed in Ontario for a short time in the 1990's - and no I have never tasted it). In fact, I might have sinked it right then and there if not for the cool devil motif on the neck (the label did have one redeeming quality that can't go unmentioned). Further inspection showed this to be a product of France with an abv of 5.4%. This product also contained the "sea monkeys" that were present in Cooper's Sparkling Ale. Unable to decipher the rest of the French on the label, I did further reasearch on the internet:

In 1991, the brewery decided to revive an old custom harking back to the 14th century when there were no means of refrigeration. Beer was then traditionally brewed in early December and stored over the winter under naturally cool conditions. The first barrels were only opened in March, as the days started to become warmer. It has a fresh, springlike bouquet with dominant tones of malt and grains. It is made using a top fermentation yeast, malted barley and newly harvested Alsation hops. With 5.4% alcohol by volume, it is a pure malt beer that is highly refreshing. It has a fine white head and clear golden colour, a dominant hoppy taste with a hint of fruitiness. Best served between 5 and 6°C.

I wouldn't describe what poured into the glass as "clear". It was more like a murky-orange with distinct "sea monkeys" when held up to the light. It had no scent at all, and very little flavour. Perhaps the lack of flavour was due to it being slightly colder than the recommended 5-6 degrees, but I could see it being refreshing on a hot summer day. In fact, it was so watery tasting that people that hate beer would probably drink this one (if they weren't initially turned off by the murky colour). As Amanda put it, the taste was "smooth and inoffensive - like cross-country skiing." Fans of such watery fare like Coors Light would probably enjoy it, but I can't see myself ever buying it again. Still, it was probably the best beer I have ever tasted from France (which in all honesty isn't saying a whole helluva lot).

03 March 2009

Riggwelter Black Sheep

When we first looked at this bottle with a black sheep on its back prominently displayed on the label, my cousin exclaimed, "Look! A Scottish roofie!". As it turns out, this was the most exciting part of this particular ale. Riggwelter Black Sheep is labeled as a 'strong Yorkshire ale' with a 5.7% abv. When poured, the thick, black malt promises a full flavoured beverage. However like most English ale it is rather bland and unremarkable - much like English weather. The back of bottle explains the name Riggwelter:

From Old Norse: rygg - back and velte - to overturn. When a sheep is on its back and cannot get up without help, local dialect says it is rigged or riggewelted.

Not a great example of a strong, dark ale but it is definately brewed in the English tradition. Perhaps with the 5.7 abv and rather mild flavour profile, English lads feed this stuff to their girlfriends in the hopes that they may become hopelessly riggewelted themselves!

01 March 2009

John By Imperial Stout

While browsing the LCBO yesterday, I came across another product from the Scotch Irish Brewing Company. Those of you who regularly follow this blog will recognize them as the not-do-fine folks that brought us the worst beverage ever reviewed on this site: the horrendous Corporal's Bitter Brown Ale. A quick look at the label found John By described as:

Beginning in November we make only 5 batches of our Imperial Stout. It is brewed in the tradition of the stouts produced in the British Isles during the 18th and 19th centuries that were shipped to Imperial Russia. John By is so deep brown in colour it appears to be black. The powerful malt flavour is balanced by its alcohol content. Just the thing to ward off the cold of a Canadian winter.

Further reading found this stout also has a devastating 6.7% abv. Immediately sold, I purchased the bottle expecting an excellent example of brewing ineptitude and a possible rival for the crown of Worst Beverage Reviewed on this site.

With Michelle out of town, Brian was homebound and asked me to come over for a few ales. Upon arriving, I showed him my latest purchase, to which he gave a hearty "no!" Apparently, he could still taste the last sampling we had from this particular brewery. We put the John By in the freezer to chill while we drank a few Alexander Keith's IPA. Once the John By had chilled to an acceptable temperature, Brian cracked it and poured a sample in his glass. I heard him sigh in dismay as he poured the thick, black liquid into his glass. I had a hard time understanding how they arrived at the colour brown, as John By Imperial Stout is blacker than Guinness. The brew gave no discernable scent and resembled a glass of black industrial sludge. Throwing our reservations aside (and likely just wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible) we drank the thick, dark brew.

Surprisingly, John By Imperial Stout is not that bad at all. It has a thick, malty profile associated with all stouts, but it wasn't any worse tasting. The 6.7% abv was a little harsh, but as the label promised, it was balanced by the strong malt flavour. It finished well with slightly nutty aftertaste. Brian was actually disappointed that this wasn't another brewing disaster, and stated that despite not being a fan of many stouts, this one wasn't really that bad. I personally would have drank another one had it been available to see if the taste would grow on me after another glass. This one is heartily recommended to any fan of strong porter or stout beer.