“Nickel Brook Headstock” (IPA) Better Bitters Brewing Co.

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Nickel Brook Headstock (front)Stats: IPA. 7.0% ABV. 80 IBUs. Burlington, Ontario.
Size: 473mL can
Colour: Golden straw (chardonnay) — clear except for profusion of heavy particulate that grows with the pour.
Mouth Feel: Medium, very natural carbonation; light start and a refreshingly bitter finish.
Purchased: LCBO
Price:
 $2.85
Pairing Notes: n/a
→ 84 points

Penny for Your Thoughts ♦ Nickel for Your Thirst

Next up on my Getting Canned tour is this very nice craft beer from the alliterative tongue-twister of beer makers, Better Bitters Brewing.

As a novice guitar player, I am happy to riff on this psychedelically adorned can for more than a few minutes. It’s really hard to smell anything inside an aluminum can (so that’s a clear beef I have with aluminum packaging) but pour it out of the can and you’re in for a treat here. You’re going to experience a full west-coast hop presence in all its glory: citrus through with strong hints of grapefruit and orange followed a tropical backing of mango. For the fruit lovers out there, this is an IPA you’ll love.

Nickel Brook Headstock (back)Don’t get distracted by the precipitate in the beer. One: it’s only an aesthetic facet and Two: it’s indicative of the fact that this beer is “naturally carbonated” (read: fermented on the lees). So take a sip of this beer that pours a beautiful tight shaving-foam of a head and your tongue is given a wash of Seville orange and grapefruit before a tasty bit of pine washes over the middle along with the malts. Speaking of the malts, they bring excellent backup vocals with a bit of burnt orange (caramel) that plays well in the middle to bring balance to a beer that is bitter from start to finish.

So if you got detoured in the middle and thought the bitters were upfront, the ending is a full-on, Pete-Townsend-smashing-guitar on the tongue with a some intense bitters and a lot of grapefruit peel. The ending is uncharacteristically flavourful, but with those strong bitters at the end comes also the less grace’ful’ note of astringency which will suck your tongue dry. Truly, the grapefruit is as prominent in this beer as I’ve tasted and for something that actually doesn’t have grapefruit in it, it nevertheless reminds me of actual grapefruit ales; quite the stellar hops here.

As for the coda in this fine tuned beer, I’m more than happy to give this brewer more than a penny for my thoughts: superb. Will definitely buy this again and recommend it to any Ontario hop-heads looking for a great, hopped-up beer.

Read more Beer Reviews here.

 

Roasted Red-Kuri and Beet Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

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Roasted Kuri Beet Salad (Plated)When the red kuri squash turned up at the CSA pick up a few weeks ago I thought only for a few minutes about what I was going to do with it — then turned back  the clock a couple of years to the first red kuri squash I received and decided to reprise what also was one of the first recipes I presented on this blog. That previous creation was a roasted-squash salad which featured a mango vinaigrette and caramelized onions.

If you look at that recipe, you’ll see that my blog “style” has evolved a bit since then, so I thought for a second of simply remaking that recipe and republishing it with more replete description and updated pictures — but then I thought, if other artists can reinterpret their own music and creations, why couldn’t I?

I like the idea of a variation on a theme — it fits me. I rarely cook with recipes and, when I use them at all, I treat recipes as inspiration or starting points. Before this blog, even with my own creations, I seldom wrote them down and so when I was asked to reprise a creation, it would invariably come out different and nuanced — sometimes better; sometimes just different. So, in reality, while I’m far from being the Glenn Gould of cooking, I’ve long been cooking variations on a theme … so why not capture it here? Perhaps new variations on this theme will emerge over time. I would be a an interesting bit of ‘history’ for me one day.

Peeling Red Kuri SquashSo, to the red kuri squash from CSA Mystery #5 a type of squash that is also known as the “onion squash” in some circles because of its distinctive shape or as a “red hubbard” because it is related to this other popular cultivar. While it is described by some as a “thick skinned” squash, in my experience it is relatively thin skinned as “winter squash” go. After all, as you can see, I can easily peel it with a vegetable peeler. What makes this squash so desirable, though, is the fact that it is sweet, mild, and firm — which means it doesn’t bake to a mush when cooking. This in turn means you can do things with it that you can’t with squash with higher water content (like a pumpkin) or, say, a spaghetti squash or squash stronger in flavour that need other ingredients to have any mass appeal. As a result, the Red Kuri holds up well to roasting while maintaining its shape — which gives possibility. Enter the salad … and variation on a theme.

Red Kuri Squash and Beet Salad (arranged)As much as I loved my previous variation, that squash came later in the season (read: end of season) and with this one, well, lighter greens and flavours are still around. However, I’ve been somewhat driven by the roasting of beets this summer … roasting them on the barbecue, more specifically. And so while the previous version of this salad was done in the oven, I wondered about ‘roasting’ the squash on the ‘cue. I also got to thinking about colour and seeing if I could really bang this one out: (re)enter the beets. And, working from a recent conversation with a friend about maple dressings, I thought I’d up the ante on my previous yummy dressing with one more focused on the ‘maple’ and toss in a bit of citrus (lemon) for zest and freshness. The rest is, well, simple enough and it doesn’t really need explanation.

It is worth noting, however, that as ‘light’ and petite as this salad might appear, the squash and beets easily make this into a meal and is deceptively filling. Keep the servings smaller if making side salads.

Cooking Tip: Roasting on the barbecue presents a few risks and benefits, with the biggest being that it will bring a deeper and richer and slightly smokey taste to both the beets and the squash. I’ve chosen temperatures that work for my barbecue, but most ‘cues are different, so be careful and watch what you’re doing. If you’re averse to barbecuing, no fear — this works just as easily in the oven. Either way, keep an eye on their progress because the squash, in particular, will go from perfect to burnt in minutes. And, wherever you cook them, the beets will take about twice as long to cook as the squash. If anything gets a bit ‘too’ crisp, well, just pare it off during your final preparations.

Finally, the one tip I took from my previous preparation was that the roasting does tend to ‘dry out’ this squash. Great for texture and workability, but tough on the palette. The solution: toss the squash in the dressing right off the grill to maintain the moisture in it.

Prep time:   10+10 minutes
Cook time:   60 minutes
Total time:   80 minutes
Servings:     8 side salads or 4 as meals

Roasted Red-Kuri and Beet Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • Red Kuri Squash1 medium red kuri squash
  • 3 medium beets, tops removed
  • 4 cups (1 litre) baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) pecans, roasted

Maple Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup (125mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons (45mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons (30mL) maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) grainy ‘old style’ mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) salt (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to 375ºF (200ºC). Trim tops off the beets, leaving an inch or two of the stems attached. Lightly oil the beets and place them on the grill and roast for 30 minutes.
    → Alternatively, do this in oven. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper and otherwise follow the same instructions.
    Roasting BeetsMeanwhile, cut the squash in half (top to bottom) and spoon out the seeds. Then, use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin.
    Prepare the Kuri SquashCut the squash into strips roughly 1½” (4cm) wide and lightly oil.
    Cut the squash into stripsWhen beets are ready, reduce heat to 350ºF (175ºC), flip beets, and add the squash to the grill and continue roasting for another 15 minutes.
    Place Squash on the Grill… the flip squash …
    Turn Red Kuri… and continue cooking for another 15 minutes at which time both the beets and squash should be tender to the fork, in which case they’re done. The beets will also start to ‘blister’ on the outside of their skin.
    Beets are Done Roasting… both should be done. Remove from grill and let cool.
    Roasted Red Kuri Done
  2. While the vegetables are cooling, prepare the Maple Vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients together in a graduated measuring cup. Stir well, and let sit.
    Maple VinaigrettePrepare the pecans (or substitute walnuts) but placing them in a small pan and over medium-high heat, ‘roast’ them until they have lightly browned (about 3-4 minutes), tossing/stirring them regularly to prevent burning. Remove from pan and let cool.
    Roast the Pecans
  3. Prepare the beets and squash, now. Cut the squash into bite sized pieces and place them in a medium bowl. Spoon over them a couple tablespoons of the Maple Vinaigrette, toss, and let stand.
    Marinate the Red Kuri SquashNext, prepare the beets. I recommend placing a latex glove on the hand holding the beets to prevent staining. Either way, carefully trim away the ‘roasted’ and blistered skin and the tops and tails, leaving as much of the roasted beet whole as possible.
    Peel the BeetsCut the beets into bite sized pieces and place in a separate bowl.
    Cut up the BeetsAnd similarly toss with a few tablespoons of the Maple Vinaigrette. Watch how the vinaigrette brings out the colour of the roasted veggies — it’s like a lacquer stain on wood. They’re gorgeous.
    Toss the Beets with Vinaigrette → Note: I preferred to do these separately to keep their colours and dyes off of each other, but if you’re just going for flavour, you can toss them together.
    → When done, remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Wash and drain the spinach, making sure it’s ‘dry’ (a salad spinner does wonders).
  5. To prepare the salad, you have a few choices. You can either
    (a) build the salad on each plate (see picture above) and drizzle liberally with dressing, or,
    Red Kuri Squash and Beet Salad (arranged) (b) toss the spinach with dressing and then arrange spinach and roasted veggies on the plates, or
    (c) toss them all together and let nature do what it wants.
    Roasted Red Kuri and Beet Salad

Serves 8

CSA Adventures … Mystery #5

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CSA_Mystery_no5_1Some mysteries are supposed to be tough — so here’s one to challenge all your ardent veggie lovers out there. “Who Am I?”

And no, “I am not a misshapen pumpkin… but I am a gorgeous colour inside.” That’s your only hint, ok?

Answer to be revealed on Saturday … if not before, should one of you clever foodies figure it out. The real question, is what became of this orange beauty from Roots and Shoots Farm? See the recipe here ….

CSA_Mystery_no5_2 CSA_Mystery_no5_3


 

 

“Kilannan Alt” (Altbier) Kilannan Brewing Co.

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Kilannan Alt Beer (front)Stats: Altbier. 5.2% ABV. Own Sound, Ontario.
Size: 473mL can
Colour: Brown-Amber (unfiltered)
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation; watery start and creamy but dry finish.
Purchased: LCBO
Price:
 $2.90
Pairing Notes:  Grilled lamb kebabs
→ 85 points

So in collision of two bits of chance, I thought I’d do series on beers that come in cans — more or less exclusively. That is the fact that I drank Red Racer (reviewed in Field Research) and that I was gifted a several cans, including this one, which got me thinking: maybe not everything that comes in a can is bad.

I know I’m not the only person who thumbs his nose at canned beverages. Beyond the rumoured health concerns over canned beverages, I quite simply don’t like the metallic taste that comes from being in aluminum — and I’ve more than once said no to having beer when the only thing available was canned beer. Glass is quite simply a more inert container for bottling — but it is heavier and introduces a greater cost to both manufacturer and distributor … and there is a subculture among brewers who have said “Screw it. We’re only doing cans.” When some of the best IPAs in today’s market (e.g. Heady-Topper and Red Racer) are coming in can-only, it is presenting us can-haters with a difficult Hobson’s Choice: take it or leave?

It’s rare when a first taste fools me, but I have to admit, this beer really grew on me. It’s a sneaky beer. It pours with decent carbonation, but there is no real residual head in place by the time you take your first sip … and there is zero lacing. I mean zero. Not that I’m telling you to do this, but you could drain this glass and put it back in the cupboard … it’s that clean.

It similarly pours an unusual and perfectly filtered and totally translucent brown-gold. I can’t say I’ve seen this colour in a beer before where the dark golden colour follows a continuum up the glass into an almost light brown-black. Interesting.

That first taste? Well, that’s where I was fooled once. My immediate first impression was “watery” which I was surprised at because reading the can, I knew this was going to have German malts and hops and was an “amber” (which I would say is a stretch), so I was expecting some German strength to back up this altbier.

Kilannan Alt Beer (back)I haven’t had many altbiers in my past, but from what I know, it’s a long conditioned ale that should have both strength and a heightened mellowness to it and that it should exude a great balance between the European malts and hops. There will be no confusion on your palette for even a minute about this whether this contains west-coast or American hops … what you taste here has strength and backbone … and the malts that emerge after a few tastes. I’m reminded a lot by the old Labatt “Ice” beer they produced – do they still? – but this is a much better beer, don’t get me wrong. What my taste memory is picking up are those stronger German hops, meaty malts, and a very crisp and dry finish.

Really, the only disappointing part about this beer is it’s first taste which is, yes, watery and thin. While the mouthfeel is improved by the creamy diacetyls that wash over the tongue, where the beer suddenly comes alive is in the middle where the carbonation ushers in the malts and the beginnings of the hops. If balance were the order of the day, I’d say this beer – surprisingly – falls more to the hops. The finish, for a German-styled beer, is not very sweet and will spank your tongue.

All in all, exceptionally drinkable and a great pairing for the lamb kebabs I had tonight. Many thanks to my friend Howard for procuring me a few cans and delivering them to my door. Yum.

Greek-Style Rice with Fresh Dill and Feta

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Greek Style Rice (Plated)Almost every cuisine has a version of rice which speaks to the culture and the ingredients that symbolize it. So when I recently made pork souvlaki (recipe here), I wanted to make a rice dish that would both complement the rest of the meal … but still be something of a new creation.

If you’ve wandered through the recipes of this blog, you know that I love and adore risotto … and love weaving new ingredients through the essential arborio rice which gives the dish its tell-tale creaminess. The only downside of risotto, and it is hardly a downside at all, is that it takes twice as long as regular rice to manually coax all the beautiful creamy starch out of this short-grained rice. I’ve never, however, used arborio rice to make anything other than risotto. And while I’m not a purist, I do put a lot of stock in labels: that is to say, if you’re going to label something with a classic name, it better live up to that label. And to be “risotto” means doing more than boiling arborio rice. There is a clear method to the dish which defines it. Still, I wondered, what if I used this Italian rice to make something inspired by the flavours of Greece? Would I start a Mediterranean war — or would it work? What would happen if I did in fact ‘just’ boil the arborio rice? While I had no misconceived notions of it turning out as risotto, how close would it come?

The experiment would have to start with isolating the right flavours and textures. And, for starters, there were three CSA ingredients in the fridge that I wanted to get out of the fridge — and this is where not only the inspiration but the recipe really took hold: dill, zucchini, and a few leaves of kale. I chose the kale for a couple reasons: the zucchini skin was kind of banged up so I resolved to uncharacteristically peel it (which is far from recommended), so I thought I would balance out the lost nutrition and colour with the kale leaves. It worked exceptionally well, I must say. So for all those people out there that say “I don’t know what to do with kale?” well, here’s one simple solution.

Greek Risotto21

Greek Styled Rice with Fresh Dill and Feta served with Grilled Pork Souvlaki and Peppers

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how zucchini, peeled or otherwise, was going to stand up to being boiled in rice, but I was committed to emptying the crisper, so the experiment got the green-light to proceed. What happened to it? It did in fact boil down as I expected — and feared — but here’s what I didn’t expect: boiled down, it actually blended with the creaminess of the rice’s starch to produce something akin to real risotto. Impressive … and very tasty and without any textural “yuk” factor at all.The rice took a little longer to cook than regular long-grain rice, but the extra moisture from the zucchini worked well to extend the cooking and keep everything in balance. I did add a bit of cream to the dish — after the cooking — to extend the creaminess of the rice a bit more … especially because I knew I wasn’t going to be adding the ubiquitous Parmesan of a true risotto.

The dill and the kale combined to produce a nice olive drab green in the rice and, from a distance, I am surprised how much it reminds me of Greek grape leaves. But, more than colour, they left the rice with a gorgeous flavour.

… And, finally, to pull it all together, and unite it with the other Greek flavours of the meal, I completed the dish with a sprinkling of crumbled feta and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Yes, don’t forget the lemon — it really is the key ingredient to it all. And in an instant — or 30 minutes — the transformation was complete. While it wasn’t risotto, it was certainly a Greek-Styled Rice that made everyone shout Opa!

Prep time:   10 minutes
Cook time:  30 minutes
Total time:  40 minutes
Servings:    8

Greek-Style Rice with Dill and Feta

INGREDIENTS:

  • Greek Risotto Ingredients1 cup (250mL) arborio rice
  • 2 cups (500mL) chicken stock
    → substitute water or veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian
  • 2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250mL)  zucchini, cubed
  • 1/4 (65mL) cup kale, chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup (190mL) onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ (20mL) tablespoon dill, chiffonade
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (65mL) whipping cream
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 ounces (55g) feta, crumbled
  • extra virgin olive oil to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Do all of your chopping prep at once because the cooking moves very quickly. Cube the zucchini, chop the onion, chiffonade the kale, and mince the garlic and chop the dill.
    Greek Risotto Ingredients
  2. Heat a deep sauté pan (with a lid) or a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
    Saute Onions for Greek RisottoAdd zucchini and kale and sauté for 5 minutes more.
    Saute Kale and ZucchiniAdd the kale and garlic and fry 1 minute longer.
    Add dill and garlic
  3. Add the arborio rice and fry for a minute until the pearls of the rice show through the transparent grains.
    Add Arborio Rice to Greek RiceAdd the stock and deglaze the pan. Add the salt and bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
    Add stock to Greek Rice
  4. Fluff rice with fork and carefully fold in the cream.
    Add cream to Greek Rice
  5. Serve on plates with sprinkling of feta, a drizzle of olive oil, and wedge of lemon.
    Top Greek Rice with Feta and LemonServe along with Pork Souvlaki and fresh Greek Salad.

Westcoast Field Trip: ‘Research’

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Westcoast Beer Field 'Research'Some hobbies are more dangerous than others. Certainly, this is one with which requires some care because, by all accounts, I took one for the team with the substantial field work I completed last month during my pilgrimage back home to BC.

Fresh off the airplane, the first stop my father made was for provisions as I would be going into the ‘backcountry’ of BC — read: my cousin’s acreage in Greystoke — to conduct research where the only real threat to life or limb would be my extended family and their stockpile of water guns and water balloons. And if you thought you could outrun an 8-year old, well, ask yourself, can you outrun an 8-year old and a couple of ‘tweens after an afternoon of ‘research’? Throw in an uncle also doing ‘research’ and the landscape gets pretty treacherous … but I digress.

The focus of this expedition would not be the OCD spectrum that runs throughout the wild-ones aka my kin, but rather the relatively tame posse I would round up at the BC Liquor Store (BCLS). And, no, for the record, that’s not the typical first stop of either myself or my father … but it did portend where this story was going to wind its watery way.

While my field journal was still empty, my brain was full of the recent advice provided by other enthusiasts of the blogosphere over the last year, so when I walked into that liquor store, I behaved by all accounts like some child in a hop-filled candy store. Judging by the $100 then put on my Visa, the foraging mission I led over the shelves of this unsuspecting tack shop was none-too-pretty. Rampage complete, I emerged with eleven new trophies tagged for vivisection, including a few whose preceeding reputation made for a very focused hunt along the shelves. In the end, it’s not that what I bought that was really that crazy — it’s that I set out to taste and drink my way through my basket of provisions over the course of the next 7 days … and the clock was already ticking. Suffice to say, I have drank substantially little beer since my return and I’ve been burning the calories on the roads ever since.

Of the trophies I chose, one beer was from Calgary, Alberta, two were from California, and the rest were from six BC cities: Victoria (2), Squamish (2), Revelstoke, Penticton, Whistler, and Surrey. Ah, it was a great bit of travel indeed and filled with a surprising bit of nostalgia as I got to return to all these towns of my younger years … with the exception of discovering a few places in California, a state I’ve still failed to visit. With each bottle I opened, I thought of the waters that defined each of those places and I wrapped myself in the vaporous blankets of their scents.

All kidding and extended metaphors aside, it was a lot of fun, some wonderful discoveries, and a great chance to explore the distribution of craft beer on the other side of this continent that doesn’t easily make its way to Ottawa. Please forgive the brevity of most of the reviews: I was with my much loved family and it was all I could do to write a few lines without getting more appraising looks than I already received.

Field Work:

Dead Reckoning IPA“Dead Reckoning” (Royal IPA), Big Rock

Stats:  Royal IPA. 7.5% ABV. Calgary, Alberta.
Colour: Dark amber.
Mouth Feel: Medium-low carbonation, almost flat in the mouth.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 77points

First up a disappointing connection with one of of Canada’s first microbreweries … which is now trying to re-discover their ‘craft.’ Disappointing, to say the least. Big Rock Brewery’s “Dead Reckoning” is very malty upfront; caramel and yeast off the nose. The beer has a ‘strong’ flavor that catches you right away. Toasty, nutty. Rather thin in the middle which is accentuated more by the low carbonation. The end is nice with a crisp bitter ending, a bit of sweetness from the malts, and some residual paperiness. Not a bad beer at all, but the maltiness of it make it more European than Canadian and a poor example of an “royal” (Imperial) IPA.

 

Night Time (Fear the Dark Ale), Lagunitas Brewing Co.“Night Time” (Fear the Dark Ale), Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Stats:  American Dark Ale. 8.2% ABV. 65 IBUs. Petaluma, California.
Colour: Deep Dark Brown.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, full and creamy.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 93 points

As disappointing as my research began in Alberta, a trip California quickly cured this with one of the highlights of the trip. This pours a rich dark brown with a gorgeous creamy head that reminds me of the kind of tight creaminess you find on a Guinness. The lacing is awesome as it slowly fades which portends the excellent bitters that close out the taste — which is why this is an American ale. Oh, and what a first taste. “Creamy” is the first thing you taste – a feeling more than taste, I admit. But that creaminess quickly gives way to chocolate and the rich dark malts that bring a nice charred smokiness to the beer as well. Within the high test elixirs in which it floats, there are elements of this beer that reminds me of a barley wine and its very full flavor.

Night Time (Fear the Dark Ale), Lagunitas Brewing Co. (side label)I’m very sorry this is a limited release and so far only available on the west coast … this a brewery that has style, thought, and a definite craft to what they’re producing. If you like a dark ale, this is something to seek out. And with the 65 IBUs, and a specific gravity just right, it is not a winter beer … it drinks very well as the sun goes down on a hot summers day. Highly recommend it.

 

White Bark (Witbier), Driftwood Brewery“White Bark” (Witbier), Driftwood Brewery

Stats:  Wheat Beer. 5% ABV. Victoria, BC.
Colour: Honey-white, unfiltered.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, large bubbles, but rather flat and smooth in the mouth.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 84 points

It seemed only fitting to create a juxtaposition of dark with white; big vs. light … and further play off the “dog” in the first label with the “bark” of this one from Victoria.

A nice Beligan-style wheat beer, it pours a light, almost bleached out honey colour. Off the nose there is a bit of light citrus and some yeast with some grassiness from the wheat. In the mouth, the first taste is light, with a low specific gravity leaving a refreshing and none-too-full feeling in the mouth. There isn’t a tonne of complexity going on here with average alcohol and light on the malts giving the wheat and the spices plenty of room to show their character. Contrary the Oranje Weisse previously reviewed, the orange (peel) in here is a bit more fruit forward and pronounced. This followed up nicely with the coriander which brings a bit of that grassiness to the tongue before it finishes with a refreshing and slightly sour (the wheat) finish. All in all, an above average wheat ale that is surely to please a lot of people and make for a great summer-time brew.

 

Scorpion (DIPA), The Tin Whistle Brewing Co.“Scorpion” (DIPA), The Tin Whistle Brewing Co.

Stats:  DIPA. 8% ABV. Penticton, BC.
Colour: Burnt-Orange Amber.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, produces buttery refreshing taste.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→  85 points

My first DIPA of the research — though technically the ‘royal’ IPA should have fit in this category as well — I picked a good one. Excellent malts up front create balance for a strong hoppy ending. It pours a beautiful dark amber with a tight shaving cream head that lasts well and leaves an exceptional lacing, even when the beer is done. Off the nose, it is butterscotch and yeast. While the beer doesn’t have the floral or citrusy west coast hop flavours I was expecting, the malts are on full display from beginning to end and produce an expected flavor bomb in the mouth which is woodsy, deep with caramels and when buttressed by the diacetyls produce a butterscotch experience. In the middle there is a bit of sourness that fills out the taste before ending with a refreshing ending with very little in the way of papery aftertaste … indeed, an experience that begs for sip after sip. An excellent beer.

 

Red Racer (IPA), Central City Brewers“Red Racer” (IPA), Central City Brewers

Stats:  IPA. 6.5% ABV. Surrey, BC.
Colour: Orange Amber.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, large bubbles, creamy taste with refreshing ending.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 95 points

Reputation is an iffy proposition. It means the bar is set and if you’re the one going over the bar, all eyes are on you. Red Racer is a BC beer I’ve heard about for a few years and have been tantalized by the description for as long. So I was excited when a six pack of cans stared back at me at the BCLS … this weekend was going to be the moment of truth.

Now I usually shun … and shun by a large distance … anything that comes in a can. But there are a few brewers out there that shun the bottle convention and leave us with a simple choice: accept or simply reject.

Red Racer (IPA) Rear LabelAccepting the challenge, I poured this beautiful tiger-tail brew and waited for the experience. A nice head forms quickly and easily but dissipates without a lot of residual lacing except a tight circle that clings to the outside of the glass. Off the nose you’re not peppered with the tell-tale west coast hops you might be thinking for a renowned IPA, but they are there. Instead, what jumps out most is the caramels from the malts. Similarly, that first taste is earthy, and malty … and it ends in a beautifully creamy mouthfeel which is like a loving hand on the back of the throat. There is some clear salt in the middle, some grassiness, and a bit of orange, before the beer ends with an exceptional bitterness which is why hop-heads the continent-over are talking about this beer … and most telling of all, it ends without any of the nasty bitter ending that might otherwise come … a balance produced by the excellent malts.

In sum, this is a beer that lives up to the reputation, carries easily over the bar, and is standing at the end of the event with gold medal around its neck and the national anthem playing in the background: “Oh Canada….” Truly a world-class beer.

 

Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale (Grapefruit Blonde), The Whistler Brewing Co.“Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale” (Grapefruit Blonde), The Whistler Brewing Co.

Stats:  Wheat Beer. 5% ABV. Whistler, BC.
Colour: Orange Amber, unfiltered.
Mouth Feel: Medium-low carbonation, smooth and creamy, refreshing finish.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 81 points

I’m definitely not a fan of the fruit-flavoured beers. I don’t see them and hone in on them like a heat seeking missile, that’s for sure. But when they are done well, they are worth the investigation. And given that the average temperature during this “research trip” has been 35°C, it seemed an even better reason to imbibe in something playful and refreshing.

I have to say, this beer was a treat. While it doesn’t pour with the most magnificent head in the world, the flavours take over very quickly. Off the nose, it is caramel, light, then some of the coriander and then the grapefruit peel. In the mouth, the beer doesn’t get particularly complex but what it does and what it aims for it does well: crisp, clean, and lots of grapefruit (go figure). In this case, it is moderate flavour of grapefruit that pops up in the mid-taste after the light malts start, and then the grapefruit carries the day to complete a bitter, refreshing ending. Really, there isn’t a lot more to say. It is what it is … and in the right time and place, it is perfectly good.

 

Nasty Habit (IPA), Mt Begbie Brewing Co“Nasty Habit” (IPA), Mt Begbie Brewing Co

Stats:  IPA. 6% ABV. Revelstoke, BC.
Colour: Amber, perfectly filtered.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, creamy through the middle, and light finish.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
88 points

Truth in advertising? Yes or no?

Allow yourself to be seduced by our Nasty Habit. A generously hopped IPA, balanced by a diabolical blend of rich specialty malts and pure mountain water. A wicked ale that leaves you lusting for more!

I have to say, I love the label for this beer and so I was thoroughly intrigued what it was going to taste like when it got opened. I poured with a nice tight head, but not overwhelming and it dissipates quickly. The colour is a surreal amber, like someone has truly filled your glass with liquid amber. The taste is a gorgeous butterscotch with some orange peel and as creamy an ending as you’ll get in a glass. And what about the hops? They’re there in spades with a malty start and refreshing bitterness that just lingers in your mouth like candy that has melted in your mouth. Want another? Take another sip and relax because this will indeed become a nasty habit for those that can get it. An excellent IPA from some of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

 

Torpedo Extra IPA (DIPA), Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.“Torpedo Extra IPA” (DIPA), Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Stats:  DIPA. 7.2% ABV. Chico, California.
Size: 710mL
Colour: Dark amber.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation, tight bubbles, creamy and easy going on the mouth.
Purchased:  BCLS
Pairings:
→ 86 points

So an interesting week, for sure, to pit the brilliantly esteemed Canadian Red Racer (above) against the much ballyhooed “Torpedo” from Sierra Nevada Brewing, one of the top-rated brewers in the USA for many years. Who’s the top dog?

Pouring a big dark amber with a nice tight foam on top, here’s another beer that is sure to please many a hop head. The brewery claims “Balance” and I would have to agree.

Torpedo Extra IPA (Rear Label)The malts and hops are themselves in balance as is therefore the sweetness and bitterness of the ending … which is pretty well done for a beer that is both 7.2% and an extra IPA (read: DIPA). They claim their method of “dry hopping” provides an abundance of hop flavours not found elsewhere. I can’t say that this beer stands out as “unique” but I will say it is an exceptionally brewed beer. Yeasts and malts come off the nose and the first taste is a beautiful mouthfeel of buttery carbonation that leads effortlessly from the sweet through to the bitter ending. Drink it quickly and you may indeed feel like you’ve been submarined … drink it slowly and you’ll rejoice in a delicious hoppiness that is sure to impress the most ardent hop-head.

As for fame and reputation? Perhaps it was unique once, but I think this beer runs like a 40-year old athlete, ready for the hall of fame, but who is now overtaken but new stars. Victory to Red Racer, hands down — but an excellent IPA, for sure.

 

Devil’s Elbow (IPA), Howe Sound Brewing“Devil’s Elbow” (IPA), Howe Sound Brewing

Stats:  IPA. 6% ABV. 68 IBUs. Squamish, BC.
Size: 1 Quart/ 1 Litre
Colour: Dark Amber.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation.
Purchased:  BCLS
Price:
Pairings:
→ 83 points

Named for the dramatic grade 4 Devil’s Elbow rapid on the Elaho River, north of Squamish, BC, this is a beer that is as good as riding down the river itself … though not as perilous as the name might suggest. It pours a dark amber, slightly unfiltered and with an ample and tight head that lingers for a while with a generous amount of lacing which belies the 68 IBUs. The first taste is balanced with the unusual malts that are mixed with a slightly sour wheat-forward taste. The middle opens up very quickly with more sourness and some rustic almost peaty or even smoky malts … and then finishes up some grapefruit zest and some hops and big bitters. There is a bit of iron and minerality at the final end that does detract a bit from an otherwise very well-balanced and very palatable beer … which is very good, because you have a litre to drink with yourself or your closest friends.

Devil’s Elbow (IPA) SideDevil’s Elbow (IPA) Rear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electric Unicorn (White IPA), Phillips Brewing Co.“Electric Unicorn” (White IPA), Phillips Brewing Co.

Stats:  White IPA. 6% ABV. 68 IBUs. Squamish, BC.
Size: 650mL
Colour: Unfiltered milky gold … pear.
Mouth Feel: Medium carbonation with a clear finish of fruit.
Purchased:  BCLS
Price:
Pairings:
→ 85 points

Electric Unicorn is a hop-infused white ale; best enjoyed while riding mystical mono-horned laser beast. Racing through the galaxy to the sonic backdrop of screaming metal guitars. Time to ditch reality and take this india pale fairy tale for a ride.

Not sure this hallucinogenic beer was the right inspiration to end the research, but it ended when it end. The beers pours an unfiltered pale, almost pear nectar, of a beer. With a thin head, this is a flavourful white ale if there was ever one. Upfront, the very full-bodied mouthfeel is all pear and apple with a hint of lemon at the end. The beer ends with a refreshing and slightly bitter ending that propels taste after taste to the back of the mouth. Really, this is far from the insipid white ale I’ve come to expect. Refreshing and truly delicious and if you’re looking for an unexpected and tasty white ale, this is one to seek out and find. Citrus and creamy and delicious in a dream.

Hmmm … hallucinogenics in a bottle? Sign me for this excellent white ale.

Post-Script:

No, I didn’t get to review the final brew of the field trip: Rhubie Rhubarb Ale from Lighthouse Brewing Company. I drank half of it on the last night of my trip, fully saturated from all the other beers I drank. My impression was poor, but I’ll grant you that I was not in the most open-minded mood when I tasted it and the bar had been fully set by the beers that came before it. I found the taste of rhubarb in it to be weak and unimpressive where the rhubarb was less a ‘taste’ as an effect: sour. All in all, of all the beers I drank, it was my least favourite and I can’t recommend it.

 

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