Picaroons Traditional Ales – Plaid to the Bone

I picked up this offering from Picaroons (Fredericton, New Brunswick) at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax and it was a surprise in every way. Based on the name, I assumed it was a wee heavy, so the first surprise came when I realized it was a gruit. I’d never had the style before, and after Googling it, I was skeptical: it’s an ancient style of unhopped ale, using heather tips and flowers. With that in mind, I cracked open the bottle fully prepared to hate it.

From the brewery: Plaid to the Bone Heather Ale is a 4.5% abv ale made with heather tips and flowers created especially for the upcoming New Brunswick Highland Games Festival.

Appearance: Hazy and golden, with a thin pearly head. Minimal lacing.

Aroma: A big nose of wild flower and…sweaty feet. Seriously: there’s a dank, mushroomy, sweaty funk there—like damp tennis shoes on a hot summer day.

Taste: To my manifest relief, the funky qualities don’t continue into the taste. There’s a little bit of mushroominess, but it’s mostly clean and faintly sweet, with a slightly floral finish.

Mouthfeel: Light and easy drinking, ideal for a hot summer day.

Overall: As this is the first and only gruit I’ve ever tasted, I can’t really say how it represents its style, but it stands on its own as a unique and pleasantly surprising beer.

85/100

You can find Picaroons on Facebook, and Twitter.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Rogue Ales – Rogue Nation Brutal India Pale Ale

I’ve been hearing American friends talk about Rogue’s (Newport, Oregon) signature IPA for ages, so I was pretty excited when I recently found it at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax. My favourite beer style is a big ballsy IPA, and I was curious to see if this one measured up to its hype.

From the brewery: Brutal combines Oregon hops with English Malts. The Oregon grown Crystal hop is a triploid variety developed from the German Hallertau aroma hop variety with contributions from Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green. Crystal is the only hop used in brewing Brutal and it provides a massive amount of aroma without dry-hopping. The English malts used are floor malted Pipkin (a mellow cross of Maris Otter and Warboys, from an English company called Beeston), Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat.

Appearance: Cloudy orange pour with a rich and persistent white head. Strong and lingering lacing.

Aroma: Huge nose of lemon zest and fresh-cut pine. 

Taste: Cream-of-wheat sweetness up front, with a sharp lemon-zest finish. Long-lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Big carbonation means a tingly, lively mouthfeel, with a bit of tongue-curling from the aftertaste.

Overall: This IPA’s reputation is well earned. It’s nicely crafted, aggressively hoppy but not overwhelming, and expertly balanced. Add this one to your Essential American Craft Beers list.

86/100

You can find Rogue Ales on the web, and Twitter.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Brasserie Dieu du Ciel – Aprhodisiaque

I picked up this American stout from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel (St-Jérôme, Quebec) at Bishop’s Cellar in Halifax in December, and actually managed to save it for a couple of months before I sampled (which is something of a record for me). Generally, I don’t get too excited about stouts (I’m more of an IPA or amber guy) but I’ve had enough good Dieu du Ciel beers to know that any style from them is a safe choice.

From the brewery: Black ale with aromas and flavours of vanilla, dark chocolate, bourbon and roasted malt. The vanilla and cocoa marry nicely, without out-competing each other, to produce a surprisingly well balanced beer. This beer is mildly hoppy, but the cocoa introduces a touch of bitterness. Its colour may be intimidating, but it is a very smooth beer within reach of most beer drinkers. This highly appreciated dessert beer is brewed with organic fair-trade cocoa and first rate vanilla beans.

Appearance: Black as coffee in the glass, with lively carbonation and a slight off-white head. Stubborn lacing.

Aroma: Big roasty nose of vanilla bean, dark chocolate and creamy malt. 

Taste: The taste delivers what the aromas promised. This is a beautiful, rich stout—tastes like fresh baked brownies with creamy dark chocolate icing. Just a hint of roasted malt. Sweet without being cloying; elegantly balanced. 

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy, slight bitterness on the tongue to cut through the sweetness. Medium body.

Overall: Holy smokes. This is the best stout I’ve ever tasted.There are so many sweet, tantalizing flavours going on, all in well balanced harmony. After reading my enthusiastic notes a few days after tasting, I decided to sample another bottle, thinking I might dial my praise back a bit. I ended up raising the score. It’s sweet and tasty, but so well crafted that you could drink it all night. Dieu du Ciel is one of Canada’s best breweries, and this is one of its best beers. It’s a must-try.

95/100

You can find Brasserie Dieu du Ciel on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Boxing Rock – The Next Chapter

IMG_0016Located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore in the town of Shelburne, Boxing Rock Brewing Co. has made quite a name for itself. The Next Chapter was brewed using New Brunswick grown malt and in collaborate with Andrew “Esty” Estabrooks (former head brewer with Picaroons Traditional Ales of Fredericton, NB) as their first release for the New Brunswick market. This India Pale Ale is made with a healthy dose of rye added to the malt bill.

Appearance: Dark red-orange with ruby hues. Moderate amount of off-white head.

Aroma: Bright hop aroma with lots of citrus and hints of pine and early spring grass. Some malt coming through with a nice bready note. Sight spicy aroma.

Taste: Wonderful hit of hops right up front followed by a firm, but not overwhelming, bitterness. The first taste of the hops is of citrus, but quickly becomes resin and dank, with it fading back to citrus peel (grapefruit and lime). The bitterness lingers on the palate begging for another drink. There is a bit of malt, enough to hold up the bitterness, with a subtle spicy flavour from the rye.

Mouthfeel: The carbonation is moderate as expected and it has a medium body. There is a very slight oiliness, probably from the hop load or maybe the rye.

Overall: Very drinkable. Perfectly put together with a great use of hops and malt. All the flavours work together to make a great drinking experience. This is one beer (like all the others I had from this brewery) I hope to enjoy more of.

88/90

You can find Boxing Rock on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Fredericton Craft Beer Festival 2015 Wrap-up

479098_384398868319932_1841047704_oLast Saturday (March 7), Matt and Trevor joined hundreds of other craft-beer lovers at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. Simply put, it was a great event. The location, layout, and staff and volunteers were wonderful. The simple things like dump and water stations were plentiful and well positioned. Even the attendees were well behaved, with most of them obviously there for craft beer and not a marathon of pounding beer 4 ounces at a time. We’re already making plans to return for the 2016 editions. We raise our glasses to the organizers and staff and can’t wait to see how the rest of the beer fest season compares.

Matt’s Top Five Beers (in no particular order)

Bad Apple BrewhouseIMG_0082 (Somerset, Nova Scotia) Mosaic Double IPA: Big, but balanced with an aggressive pine nose that caries into the flavour along with some citrus and dank.

Big Spruce Brewing (Baddeck, Nova Scotia) UnRYEvaled Chocolate Rye IPA: Slight roast/chocolate, and a bit of spice, but the hops are the showcase.

Big Tide Brewing (Saint John, New Brunswick) Bucht Bock: Malty without being too sweet like some bocks can be. This would be drinkable (and dangerous) by the litre.

Barnone Brewing (Rose Valley, Prince Edward Island) IPA: Fresh and hoppy without being over the top. An easy drinking, well made beer.

Celtic Knot Brewing (Riverview, New Brunswick) Dubh Loki Black IPA: First beer at the festival, and I didn’t go wrong. A bit of roast, but smooth and hoppy.IMG_2623

Trevor’s Top Five Beers (in no particular order)

Garrison Brewing (Halifax, Nova Scotia) In Session ISA: Garrison just released this new session ale at the Savour Food & Wine Festival in Halifax last week, so I was delighted to get another chance to sample it in Fredericton. Low-alcohol and super hoppy, it’s proof that a session ale can have big flavours. This one is going to be popular.

Red RoverIMG_0085 (Fredericton, New Brunswick) Winter Blues Cider: I’m a sucker for a craft cider, so I was really looking forward to sampling from Red Rover, and this tart, spicy cider far exceeded my expectations.

Le Trou Du Diable (Shawinigan, Quebec) Dubaï Pillée: A weird and wonderful DIPA, this starts with smacks of fruit and wildflowers, before turning dank, funky and hoppy.

Barnone Brewing (Rose Valley, Prince Edward Island) Pale Ale: There were a lot of pale ales at the festival, and this was the best by a country mile—a nice nose of fresh hay, slight malts and hops, perfectly balanced; refreshing and delicious.

Hammond River Brewing (Quispamsis, New Brunswick) Breakfast Stout: My unrestrained Untappd review called this a “pretty well perfect” stout and I stand by that. Flavours of bacon and milk chocolate, rich without being boozy—the best stout I had all night.

IMG_0094Best Brewery of the Festival

We actually intended to give you two different picks here, but it turns out we (Matt and Trevor) both picked the same brewery, and neither of us was willing to budge. Our unanimous pick for the Best Brewery of the Festival is Prince Edward Island’s Barnone Brewing. We liked every beer we had from them, and despite our commitment to sample as many different breweries as possible, we just kept going back to them for more. “The three beers I had from them make my top ten: IPA, Pale Ale, and Sessions IPA,” says Matt. “All balanced, flavourful, and well made. I can’t wait to start seeing these beers in a store nearby soon.”

Were you at the Festival? What were your favourites?

Maine Beer Co. – Zoe

Maine is right next door to Atlantic Canada, but you rarely find the Maine Beer Company’s brews on offer here. I’ve sampled them a couple times on trips stateside, so when a friend recently visited New
England, I was quick to place an order for the brewer’s acclaimed Zoe
amber ale (courtesy of the Craft Beer Cellar in Newton, Massachusetts.)

IMG_2525From the brewery: Our take on an American amber ale. Complex malt bill delivers notes of dark raisin, chocolate and biscuit. Copious additions of American hops yield notes of pine and citrus.

Appearance: A perfect amber hue in the glass, with a thick and persistent tan head. Lovely, lingering lacing.

Aroma: A big smack of spruce on the nose, with hints of lemongrass and roast nuts.

Taste: The hops are far subtler than the nose suggests—starts strong, but then gives way to subtle flavours of brown sugar and lemon zest. Perfectly balanced between sweet and bitter.

Mouthfeel: Lively mouthfeel, a bit sticky, with average carbonation.

Overall: This is one of my favourite reds, period. It’s the standard I’m comparing all other reds to now. It’s well crafted, perfectly balanced and would pair beautifully with fried haddock and chips.

90/100

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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