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.