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Garrison Brewing Company — Double Jack Imperial Pumpkin Ale

IMG_1984.PNGI’ve always been kind of iffy on pumpkin ales. They tend to have a compost aroma, and don’t actually taste much like pumpkin—“cloying nutmeg” would generally be a more accurate way to describe them. Garrison, however, never disappoints me, so I was willing to give the pumpkin-beer craze another shot. As the name suggests, it’s more of an imperial ale than a pumpkin one, and that works out just fine.

From the brewery: Lordy, Lordy, Garrison gets “Gourdy” with this scary big brew. Daniel carved up “Cinderella” pumpkins from the Dill Family Farm in Windsor, then added cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg to create pure, pumpkiny perfection! For a limited time, choose “treat” and get to know “Double Jack” Boo!

Appearance: Double Jack is a beautiful pour—deep rusty copper with a frothy white head and abundant lacing. It’s gorgeous in the glass.

Aroma: There’s a nice, but not overpowering, hit of cloves and nutmeg right off the top, followed by a bigger whiff of hops than you normally get from a pumpkin ale.

Taste: That spiciness tweaks the tongue first. It screamed cloves at me, but my wife tasted a whole bunch of cinnamon. The pumpkins join with four different malts (Maritime Pale Ale, Kiln Amber, Munich and Crystal) to create a flavour like sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. The Millennium hops show up during the long slow finish, ending the taste with a grassy but not bitter note.

Overall: This is a pumpkin ale for serious beer lovers. It’s nicely balanced—not too sweet, not too spicy, not too pumpkiny. It all combines for a beer that’s unique, well crafted and a grade above most pumpkin ales.

85/100

You can find Garrison 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).

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Garrison – Irish Red

20140724-162427-59067386.jpgLocated on the Halifax waterfront, Garrison is one of the granddaddies of the Atlantic Canadian craft-beer scene and has, over the last few years, also grown to become one of the region’s largest craft brewers. Most importantly, it has done so while retaining a small-time feel, with flavourful beers that still feel like they come from a small brewery. This may seem a no-brainer, but as many small brewers get bigger, they lose their way and start trying to appeal to ever broader tastes, until their beer tastes like just another macrobrew. I’m looking at you, Sam Adams. But I digress… I’ll have more to say about Sam Adams in a future post, but for now, let’s return to Garrison and its Irish Red.

From the brewery: “This classic beer style was inspired by centuries of Celtic brewing history, Specialty kilned malts such as dark caramel and Munich dominate the Irish Red resulting in a ruby red colour and smooth malty taste.”

Appearance: Bright copper, with ruby hues. Frothy head that dissipates quickly, leaving a lot of lacing behind.

Aroma: A nice punch of malt, faint hits of fruit and caramel—think of candy apples.

Taste: Malty, but not as malty as your nose tells you to expect. Moves smoothly to dark chocolate, with a black coffee finish. Agreeably hoppy; almost, but not unpleasantly, a hint of fresh-cut grass. Bold flavours, best enjoyed with a palate-cleansing apéritif. 

Mouthfeel: Foamier in the mouth than it looks in the glass. The hoppiness puckers your mouth, and will linger a bit. 

Overall: As you’ve probably gathered, I like this beer a lot. It’s been a mainstay in my fridge all summer, and it’s an equally pleasant winter beer. It has big flavours and lots of character, and holds its own alongside any Irish red. And lest you think I gush, it’s a three-time bronze winner at the Canadian Brewing Awards, and took home gold at the 2010 World Beer Championships.

85/100

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).

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What will be in store (and your glass) for 2014?

Every year we see more and more people converting to craft beer. People are waking up to flavour and to the not so mundane – this is not a new trend. Since the early ’80s there has been a a steady growth in craft beer – at first it was small, but every year the market share is of craft breweries is growing. Today, more and more beer drinkers are looking for something that isn’t a pale, light flavoured lager, but something that is different. And what was “different” last year may be mainstream this year as many craft brewers are trying to keep up with what their customers want to drink. The craft beer movement has come on strong in Canada and with a fast growing number of brewers in the Maritimes we are on the edge of a beer revolution.

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So, what will 2014 bring?

It looks like big, hoppy IPAs will continue to be popular. The trend in ever higher alcohol and “the more hops the better” philosophy will keep rolling as drinkers can’t seem to get enough and the hop train keeps rolling from the west to the east. “The West Coast has been on the IPA bandwagon for a long time, but that being said, it’s a trend that keeps growing stronger.” says Tracy Phillippi of Garrison Brewery (www.garrisonbrewing.com), “Brewers out west are finding new & creative ways of using hops (hops in mash, hop filters, dry hopping, hops in bottles, etc.)… At the same time, new breweries in Toronto, seem to be starting with flagships styles that have mass appeal, but people still want aggressive IPAs. I think that’s one reason that our IIPA has done so well in the LCBO.”

In a twist counter to the big IIPA trend, low strength, session beers are increasing in popularity. As Sean Dunbar from Picaroons Brewery (www.picaroons.ca) in Fredericton, NB said, “There’s a much longer conversation to be had over beers sometime.” This is trend that not only Picarons sees, but across the nation because, well, sometimes there is a longer conversation to be had.

Local, and experimental beers. Drinkers are looking for the next think. People are willing to try new things that are coming out of their local brewpub and are also looking for the small, true craft beer – they want to know the people who brew the beer. “Niche, terroir-esque, and original beers are garnering a lot of attention in the market” says Jeremy White of Big Spruce Brewing (www.bigspruce.ca), adding “[It’s] going to be an interesting decade in craft beer.”

Sour beers of Belgium. These tart and refreshing beers are one of the oldest styles of beer. They’re produced using very traditional methods, allowing the beer to be “infected” with a variety of microbes that is truly a biological experiment gone right. Though these styles have been around for pretty much forever, they have had a falling off in popularity in their native European home, but are experiencing a serge of popularity this side of the Atlantic. Peter Burbridge of Bridge Brewing Company (bridgebeer.ca) says “Since we opened we have seen an increased awareness and demand for Belgian beer styles” adding that he sees the trend of sours coming to the Nova Scotia market.

2014 is shaping up to be an exciting year of beer. “I really think we’re (East Coast) finally seeing the growth in craft beer that other parts of North America have seen for the past several years” says Tracy Phillippi. “It’s exciting to see people come to craft beer for the first time, because in most other parts of North America it’s a longstanding trend.”

Cheers to a great year of beer!

Garrison – Spruce Beer

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Yes, spruce beer, beer made with branches off of trees.

I must admit, this was a unique experience. This is not an everyday, run of the mill beer. Spruce beer was a beer from nacessity, made by the first settlers in the New World with what they had on hand. Since they didn’t have hop yards planted yet they used spruce and fir tips to bitter their beer.

Since I was able to purchase this beer directly from the brewery I was able to chat with the shopkeeper about the beer. He told me that in past years this beer was sometimes a bit too sweet or too sprucy, but this year (2013) they hit the balance. After drinking this beer I can see how the balance could drift either way, with the sweetness or spruciness becoming dominate.

From the brewery:
“North America’s oldest beer style brewed with local Spruce and fir tips, blackstrap molasses and dates. Dark amber and brown colouring. Aroma is a comforting mix of spruce boughs, caramel malts, molasses and dates.”

Appearance
Dark brown with deep ruby highlights. Only a slight head.

Aroma
Like a sweet forest, if that makes sense. Sweet molasses mixed with spruce/fir and hints of dark fruit.

Taste
Not as much of the spruce as I expected, though it is there for sure. The sweetness comes on strong in the back. Almost a bit mediciny. Some dark fruit/date notes.

Mouthfeel
Full body with a moderate amount of carbonation. A bit sticky.

Overall
A unique experience. Not so dominated by the spruce as I expected and sweeter than my normal taste. Something that is worth trying but I couldn’t imagine having more than one in a sitting.

75/100
For uniqueness, if nothing else.

Review: Garrison 3 Field Harvest Ale

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From brewer:
“Almost 200kg of wet (green) hops were harvested and hand-picked at four separate Nova Scotian farms then added directly to the boil. Wet hops impart a more subtle hop fragrance and bitterness, making them a pleasure to brew with. Lemon, orange, grapefruit, pine and ginger notes are all present to some degree in this truly special harvest brew.

100% of the hops were grown in Nova Scotia at the following fields: Meander River Farm and Wentworth Creek (Ashdale), Fiddlehead Hop Farm (Glenholme) & Ross Farm Museum (New Ross). The complex flavours showcased in 3 Fields can be attributed to the wide variety of hops in the beer including Nugget, Newport, Galena, Cascade, Zeus, Centennial and Brewers Gold.”

Appearance:
Light copper/orange in colour. Small amount of head that settles to a thin film. Hazy but clears a bit as it warms. There appears to be some hop matter in suspension.

Aroma:
Some malt sweetness with overtones of citrus. Hits of flowers and some alcohol as it’s swirled.

Flavour:
Carmel and toasted malt. Hops aren’t as forward as expected. Citrus and pine with a bit of resin. Some floral and bready notes.

Mouthfeel:
Moderate carbonation leaving a nice medium mouthfeel.

Overall:
Well balanced. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest hop-head, but this wasn’t as hoppy as might be expected, but very drinkable (true hop-heads might be a bit disappointed). At 6.3%, there could be several of the 500mL bottles in ones future. Well done.

4/5