Tag Archives: review

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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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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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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Smuttynose – Old Brown Dog

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We all know that distance can be a problem getting the beers we want to try, so when my wife was heading to New England on a trip I was pretty excited. I got out my pen and paper and made a list. Topping that list was pretty much anything from Smuttynose. After having the pleasure of trying their Finestkind IPA I knew I wanted more from them. When my wife returned with Old Brown Dog I knew this would be good.

From the brewery: Old Brown Dog has been cited as a classic example of the “American Brown Ale” style of beer. Compared to a typical English Brown Ale, Old Brown Dog is fuller-bodied and more strongly hopped.

Old Brown Dog has been around for many years. It was first brewed in 1988 at the Northampton Brewery. In 1989 it won a silver medal in its category (American Brown Ale) at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It has since been retired from competition but enjoys love and respect from people all over the world.

Appearance: Deep golden brown with amber highlights. Off white, fluffy head. Clear.

Aroma: Clean aroma for an ale. Grassy-grainy malt with some light flowery hop notes.

Taste: Dark toasted bread with moderate bitterness. Little fruitiness – raisins, plum and hints of Toffee-like sweetness and slightly burnt sugar. There’s a little hops and is overall pretty balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium-light carbonation. Pleasant on the palate.

Overall: Very nice to drink. Not like the IPAs that I’ve had from Smuttynose, but shows their range of producing fantastic beers. Balanced and with a good hit of alcohol (6.7%) that is unlike the UK cousin beers, though you’d never notice in this one. Well done.

83/100

You can find Smuttynose on the webFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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