Category Archives: review

Smuttlabs – Thelema

IMG_4898The Craft Beer Cellar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire recommended this Belgian-style golden ale from Smuttlabs.

Appearance: A cloudy golden pour with a thin, eggshell head and persistent lacing.

Aroma: Big nose of red plums, caramel, and cherries. Earthy whiffs of black pepper.

Taste: Vinuous and acidic. Flavours of citrus pith, with a red-wine earthiness. Pepper and cinnamon heat as it warms. A punch of orange oil to finish. 

Mouthfeel: Light body and good carbonation. Slight carbonation bite on the palate.

Overall: Light and easy drinking. Not at all boozy, but gets warm and earthy in its final act. This is a complex beer, that changes tone and develops more spiciness and wine qualities as it warms and breathes. Beautiful craftsmanship.

82/100

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Belgian Holiday

I knew it was going to be a good trip when I sat down for my first meal and asked the server to suggest a local beer. He quickly rattled off five beers with names I’d never heard of and long and elaborate pedigrees that I couldn’t follow. Then when I ordered my meal, he rescinded all those options, and told me what beer I had to have with my food.

Last week, in my day job as editor of Halifax Magazine, I visited the Flanders region of Belgium and the Arras region of France for a tour of First World War related sites. It was an amazing, moving experience (which you can read more about in the November issue of the magazine) and Europe being the civilized place it is, I tried many, many good beers. In no particular order, here are my five favourites. 

 Papegaei by Brouwerij Verstraete at Restaurant Lettenburg in Diksmuide, Belgium. Created by local gypsy brewer Adam Verstraete, this is a big boozy blonde (8% ABV) with beautifully fresh and floral hops. Verstraete uses fresh hop flowers (rather than pellets or extract) to impart the unique flavours.
 Kriek 100% Lambic by Brasserie Cantillon at Le Poechenellekelder in Brussels, Belgium. I drank so many good krieks on this trip, I could easily give you a Top 5 list featuring nothing but that style. This was the best: light body and lively carbonation, crazy cherry sourness to start, with a subtle sweet finish. Perfect after a long walking tour of Brussels.
 Page 24 Reserve Hildegarde Blonde by Brasserie Saint-Germain at L’estaminet de Lorette in Albain-Saint-Nazaire, France. I was only in France for one day, so I didn’t get to try many local beers, but I’m very grateful to the restaurateur who brought this biere de garde unbidden after seeing me wave away a waiter with Stella. Fruity nose and flavours of fresh-baked bread, with an unexpectedly sweet finish. Paired nicely with a hearty beef stew.

  

Wipers Times 14 by Brouwerij Kazematten at Het Moment in Ieper, Belgium. During the First World War, British troops in the Ypres Salient produced a magazine called The Wipers Times. In the very casements where they took shelter, a local brewery now produces this pale ale. Historical connection aside, it’s a lovely example of a Belgian PA, with floral notes, slight hops, and a nice fruity finish.

  

Liefmans Goudenband by Brouwerij Liefmans at De Fonderie in Ieper, Belgium.
Hands-down, my favourite beer from the trip. This Flanders Oud Bruin style is a beer built for aging (it spends up to a year in the cellar before even leaving the brewery). The restaurant had been aging this bottle for “three or four years.” The result? A huge hit of rhubarb and green-apple aromas, followed by a wave of mouth-puckering flavours with a bit of an oak-barrel quality. Almond and currant flavours to close. I had this with a big steak, and it was life-alteringly good.

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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    Pump House – Rose Hip Ale

    The Pump House Brewery and Restaurant, located in Moncton, NB, opened its doors in September of 1999. This small brewpub has grown to producing many fine ales and lagers and they’ve brought home a fair number of awards over the years including “Brewery of the Year” from the Canadian Brewery Awards. Offering many year-round, local favourites and a quickly growing number of seasonal and one-off brews, this small brewery is sure to have a beer for anyone to enjoy.

    IMG_1503The Pump House released their Rose Hip Ale just this summer and already people are talking about this refreshing ale brewed with rose hips.

    Appearance: This ale pours with a lively carbonation producing a white head made of tiny, champagne-like bubbles. The colour is a golden, almost burnt orange and is fairly cloudy.

    Aroma: Sweet bready aroma upfront with a light fruitiness – almost melon. It’s quite like a saison in aroma with the wheat coming through.

    Taste: The flavour of the wheat shines with some spicy notes and fruitiness of under ripe apple and sweet melon. There are some slight floral hints as well.

    Mouthfeel: The body is fairly light accented with the slightly elevated carbonation. There is a slight prickliness on the tip of the tongue, otherwise quite enjoyable.

    Overall: This is a nice beer. It’s not heavy in any aspect and very easy to drink. Great beer on a hot day. A great lawnmower beer. It changes slightly as it warms, but it probably won’t stay in your glass long enough to notice.

    78/100

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    -Cheers!

    Les Trois Mousquetaires – Hopfenweisse

    Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery is one of those breweries that seem to just real release one great beer after another. Brewing award winning beers in Brossard, Quebec since 2004, they continue produce beers that are prized not only in Canada, but the US, Europe, and Brazil.

    From the Brewery: Wheat ale mixing the flavors of Germany’s hefeweizens and America’s typical hops.

    Appearance: Golden yellow, straw, and slightly cloudy. There’s great carbonation cascading up the glass. Big fluffy white head that stands tall, even above the glass.

    Aroma: Aroma of fresh oranges with some herbal notes.

    Taste: The orange from the aroma persists into the flavour but more orange peal. There’s a firm bitterness which isn’t normally in a traditional weissebier, but it’s a refreshing change. There’s some floral notes coming through from the hops.

    Mouthfeel: The light body is showcased by the high carbonation. Also a bit of slickness from the hops used.

    Overall: I like this. It’s different then any hefeweizen I’ve ever had, but it’s well crafted. It’s like a Hefeweizen and an IPA had a love child. I can see enjoying this on a hot day.

    84/100

    Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrewery can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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    ~Cheers

    North Brewing Co. – Farmhouse Ale

    IMG_0281With the goal of being a zero emissions brewery, North Brewing Company has been brewing Belgian inspired beers for the past couple of years. Located in the North End of Halifax, NS they have become a local favourite.  I first visited them when they had only just opened and where know at the time as Bridge Brewing, they have continued to mature and expand their offering since.

    From the brewery: Our French Farmhouse-inspired ale. Candied fruit aroma. A solid malt character balanced out with a refreshing tartness from the yeast. Big and complex.

    Appearance: Deep ruby red with amber highlights. Beautiful carbonation with a slight head.

    Aroma: Malt with plums and a dark cherry note. A bit of barnyard, earthy funk. My mouth is watering already.

    Taste: Lots of fruit – cherries and raspberries. Some of the funk comes through giving a full flavour and balancing the beer. Nice malt presence. There’s a slight tartness that really fills things out. With a lot going on, nothing is overwhelming.

    Mouthfeel: Though this is a dry beer and the body is thin as expected, there’s the illusion that it’s fuller then it is. Perfect carbonation.

    Overall: Very well done. Nothing seems out of place and all the elements are working in perfect harmony. As it opens up in the glass it melds together making a wonderfully tasty experience that dances across the palate.

    90/100

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    ~Cheers!

    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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