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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Drink N Brew Hits The Airwaves!

This past Friday evening I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Sheldon MacLeod Show on News 95.7 to talk beer. If you tuned in to listing, thanks, if not, you can check it out here. Thanks to Sheldon and News 95.7 for having me on. It was great to share some of my beer geek knowledge.

-Cheers!

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Le Trou du Diable – MacTavish In Memoriam

IMG_2526Shawinigan’s Le Trou du Diable is one of the pillars of Quebec’s acclaimed craft-beer scene, so I was thrilled to discover Bishop’s Cellar in Halifax offers a wide selection of its beers. I was in the store loading up on a heavy winter supply of stouts, porters and strong Belgian ales, when a helpful staff members suggested I balance things out Le Trou de Diable’s MacTavish In Memoriam APA. He assured me it would impress me. I was sceptical; I’ve had some good American pale ales over the years, but most underwhelm me—just a palate cleanser before I go on to a DIPA or something. But the team at Bishop’s never steer me wrong, so I took the advice.

From the brewery: D’un bel orange ambré, la MacTavish s’écoule inéluctablement du verre laissant comme unique trace une belle dentelle de Bruges. Alors que quelques bulles s’échappent du liquide, des effluves de houblon vert, de terre ancestrale et d’épices se mélangent aux traditionnels parfums de noisette et de caramel des ales anglaises. En bouche, fraîcheur et acidité s’accordent aux saveurs maltées de biscuit et de caramel. Le houblon laisse alors une bonne amertume et ne confère sa verdure qu’en rétro-olfaction. La finale est sèche, subite et totalement désaltérante.

Appearance: Nice golden pour, with a big frothy white head that hangs on forever. Enticing white lacing.

Aroma: There’s a lot going on here. Fresh-baked white bread predominates, followed by a bit of sweet malt and fresh boiled carrots. Intriguing.

Taste: Very slight hops and light malty sweetness, with a bit of black-coffee bitterness to finish. Other reviewers report a lot of citrus flavours here, which I didn’t get at all.

Mouthfeel: Clean and easy drinking. I could suck this down in about three swallows, if I’m not careful.

Overall: As usual, the team at Bishop’s gave me good advice. This is a finely crafted, nicely balanced APA—just what I’d expect from a brewery with Le Trou Du Diable’s reputation, and a nice counterpoint to a flight of big, dark beers.

85/100

You can find Le Trou du Diable 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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Home-brew Update: Matt turns sour

I haven’t been blogging much lately, but that’s because I’ve been busy experimenting with my beers. I’ve brewed 6 batches of beer, plus started my own yeast bank and played around with sour beer program a bit.

IMG_2409I did a lot of research for my sour beer program. I started in this back in August with my first Flanders Red and Lambic, but I’ve added two more reds, a Berliner Weisse, Oud Bruin, and a Sour Farmhouse Ale that used a split primary fermentation to give the lacto a headstart. In addition to the sours I have made a Robust Porter and a Schwarzbier and kept all the different strains used in the yeast (and bug) bank.

The most recent Flanders Red batches were brewed as a single batch and the recipe was based on the one in Brewing Classic Styles by Jamil Zainasheff. It was brewed as a full batch and fermented for in the primary with Wyeast 1056, but then split between two secondary fermenters with the larger part getting the Wyeast Rosaelare blend and the other part getting the Wyeast De Bom. They’re now aging with a bit of oak in the fermenters.

The Berliner Weisse was done as a no boil/no hop batch. Michael Tonesmeire talks about this in his book, American Sour Beers. I asked him about the hops, which his recipe show being added in the decoction part of the mash and he suggested that the IBU levels were so low that your could forgo them, so I did. I also didn’t do a decoction mash, just a single infusion. Lacto, half pack of Brett L., and a clean ale yeast (house culture of Wyeast 1056) added. The main fermentation went well and its now resting and hopefully getting delicious.

IMG_2512The Sour Farmhouse Ale is the one I’m looking forward to the most. I dream of kicking back in the heat of summer with a few bottles of this. This was originally split in two and had lacto in one half and WPL566 Belgian Saison II in the other. The lacto part was kept warm (pitched at about 100 F) on a heating pad and after a couple of days when both were going full on they got combined and had a third of a pack of Brett Brux. added. The ferment took off and is quite vigorous as I’m typing. I will slowly warm this a bit as it starts to finish to make sure it drys out good.

My Oud Bruin was fermented out for a week with the same house culture of Wyeast 1056 as the Berliner Weisse (large starter split between the two) and half a pack of Brett L. Then racked onto about 500mL of the lacto half of the Sour Farmhouse Ale and then had Pedio and a half pack of Brett Brux. Hope to try this in the summer and maybe drink it in the fall or winter. We’ll see how it comes along.

My Flanders Red from last August has a nice profile, but was a bit lacklustre in both the complexity and the sourness. It is sitting at SG 1.006, which says to me that it’s probably pretty much done the ferment, so I’m guessing the sourness is pretty locked it, and the one-dimensional level of complexity is probably more-or-less set as well. So, I think that this can use some new fermentable and judging by the flavour I’m thinking cherries and probably some fresh bugs to chew on them. Its 6 months on and another 6+ months with cherries should build up the complexity I’m looking for.

IMG_2515The Lambic tastes good. I was a bit afraid with this one because it was brewed and just had the Wyeast Lambic Blend added, capped off with and airlock, and left untouched. I had no idea what to expect, and I was please it didn’t taste like vomit. It actually tastes like a traditional lambic, more or less. It’s young and some more age will help, but it’s right in the ballpark already. I am happy with this one so far. But, because I fell like experimenting, I think that half of the batch will get put onto raspberries and aged another 6+ months. The SG is 1.002 and if thats going to hold steady I will bottle up some to drink this summer (I’m thinking I will leave some to age longer for later blending).

I must admit, I’m having fun with this sour program, but it takes forever (it seems) and I’m really looking forward to drinking these beers. Look for more updates and it moves along.

Cheers!

North Brewing – Belgian IPA

Tucked away in Halifax’s North End, North (formerly known as Bridge) Brewing Company artfully produces Belgian-style ales, riffing off that style to create big flavourful beers that make a lasting impression.

From the brewery: A dry hopped Belgian IPA. Centennial and Chinook hops are complimented by the spice and citrus character produced by our Belgian yeast strain. This ale has intense hop character without being overly bitter.

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Appearance: Golden and copper hues, cloudy amber in the glass. Slight but lingering head. Nice lacing.

Aroma: Complex nose. Green bananas, pine needles and orange zest. Tantalizing aromas that set that bar high.

Taste: The taste delivers what the nose promised. Starts with another hit of orange zest, but the hops quickly take over for a big hit of dandelion greens, cloves and peppercorns. A dry, bitter finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with average carbonation.

Overall: This is one fine IPA, one of my favourite beers from North. There is a lot going on flavour-wise, but it’s still a crisp and refreshing beer and a perfect example of what North is all about: Old World sensibilities with some daring New World experimentation.

84/100

You can find North Brewing Company 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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Banking on the Yeast

OK, we’re now well into 2015, the hectic holiday fun is over and things are returning to normal. I enjoyed many great beers over the holidays but brewed little. But I have been up to some home-brewed fun. I’ve decided to start my own yeast bank; this probably makes me certifiably nuts.

Living where I do I don’t have a local home brew shop that carries liquid yeasts, or even quality dry yeast. Though I do travel often enough to be able to get what supplies I need, I still find the selection of yeasts and other “bugs” for my beers lacking and I have to resort to making online orders. This isn’t just costly, but I also worry about the viability once it makes its way through the mail (although I haven’t had an issue…yet). I almost always make at least a small starter for my beers and make sure the yeast are happy and ready to go for brew day and I do my best to ensure that I’m pitching the right amount of yeast for the beer I’m brewing. I like to use and experiment with different strains and I figure with all this its just easier if I could always keep yeasts on hand, hence the Drink N Brew Yeast Bank.

imageimage

Full disclosure: I have no experience outside high-school biology and chemistry in working in a lab setting, and I have no education in microbiology whatsoever. I do own (and did read) Yeast by Jamil Zainasheff and Chris White and there are a lot of great websites and YouTube videos show how to work in a clean environment at home. So, I went to eBay and found some test tubes, petri dishes, sterilized inoculation loops, and agar power. I also added to my collection of flasks now ranging from 50mL up to 2000mL for culturing and got a pressure cooker (my autoclave stand-in). It looks like a mad scientist’s lair or maybe a meth lab in my basement. So, I made my self some plates and slants and then put some yeast on them from some pure yeast sources. I’ve now collected a couple of different strains of yeast, and have a few others along with some brett, pedio, and lacto cultures waiting for different upcoming brew days (I see a sour beer post in the future), all of which will make it to plates and slants for storage.

My yeast bank is in its infancy now, but I’m on my way to having a good collection and a interesting side home brew project. I have just cultured up my first pitchable size of yeast from a plate (three little colonies from the plate to what I figure is about 300 billion cells) and right now all seems well. I’ll post an update on this when I have the results.

-Cheers!

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Orkney Brewery – Skull Splitter

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/260/59048405/files/2014/12/img_2303.jpgWee Heavy isn’t a beer style I love, perhaps because I haven’t had many examples of it. But when the opportunity came up to try Orkney Brewery’s signature Scotch Ale, courtesy of the Craft Beer Cellar in Newton, Massachusettes, I got a welcome chance to educate myself.

From the brewery: Skull Splitter is our strongest ale: which is named after Thorfinn Einarsson who was the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney. Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character, it is a tribute to our colourful forbear.

Appearance: Rich mahogany in the glass, this is a beautiful pour, with a slight off-white head that quickly dissipates and minimal lacing.

Aroma: A big nose of spiced rum and figs. Bold, powerful aromas. Tasting note: “Whoa.”

Taste: There’s a lot going on here charred oak, thick molasses, black licorice. Flavours come in waves and linger on palate. Pairs well with red meat and big cheeses. Would probably pair well with steak and blue cheese.

Mouthfeel: Lighter bodied than I was expecting. Smooth and easy-drinking.

Overall: If you’re lukewarm on scotch ales, as I was, this is a great way to discover the style. Unless, you’re a viking, you probably shouldn’t drink it all night, but Skull Splitter is a must-try tasting experience.

82/100

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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