Patio Time

It’s been a long hot summer, perfect for sitting on the patio to enjoy a cold one. So that is exactly what we did. One hot afternoon in August we met on the patio at Brew Revolution to sample a flight of summer beer.

First up was Luck be a Lager, BR’s signature lager. In the glass, this beer is ultra-transparent with a colour described as “ghost-strewn yellow” … whatever that is. The nose shows a very slight earthiness and just a hint of corn straw. The taste is light and refreshing with a slight bitter aftertaste, making it perfect for a hot August afternoon. This is a very more-ish beer, and at 4.5% you can afford to have several more.

John’s take: Oh yeah! (with a smile)

Next up was Live Session vol 2. This beer is brewed with Amarillo, Cascade and Simcoe hops, but not in the boil – just in the whirlpool and dry hopping – giving it very low bitterness and a citrus fruit character. In the glass this beer has a hazy straw appearance, with distinct notes of Pink Grapefruit on the nose. The taste shows a very light bitterness with the pink grapefruit flesh coming through again. The aftertaste has the tiniest hint of grapefruit rind mouthfeel.

John’s take: Summer on the patio.

The third beer was O.P.P. (Orange Pekoe Pale Ale with Lemon), brewed with …wait for it… Orange Pekoe tea and lemon (rind and juice). The colour is pale yellow, with a very light haze. The nose reminds you of tea with a slice of lemon. The taste is very clean and refreshing. There is hardly any aftertaste on the tongue and front of the mouth, and just a hint of bitterness in the back and top of the mouth. This beer leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for more.

John’s take: Ready for an adventure!

We finished the flight with Rhubarbara Anne, a refreshing pale ale brewed with real strawberries and rhubarb. This beer was very hazy and darker than the others with a colour reminiscent of peach flesh. Cooked strawberries were readily apparent on the nose and also in the taste, with a pleasant bitterness from the rhubarb lingering in the aftertaste. This beer showed wonderful balance, with a long lingering aftertaste that stayed true as it (very slowly) faded.

John’s take: I can’t taste the beer … but if you told me it was juice, I’d love it.

Blind Taste Test

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I enjoy beer tasting. It’s interesting to rate beers and to test your palate. But if we know what we’re tasting, it can make a difference – we taste what we believe we should taste. To compensate for this bias the tasting can be blind, where we don’t actually know what we’re tasting. That way it is our senses, rather than our expectations, that influence what we taste.

But just how good are your senses? It’s an interesting question. One way to test this is to take a page from Sesame Street. I can sense the confused look on your face, so let me step back and explain.

Imagine that you want to rank two beers in terms of quality. Let’s say that it’s a blind taste test – you rate and rank the beers without knowing which is which. The result should identify the best beer, right? But how do you know that you would get the same answer if you repeated the test tomorrow? The honest answer is that you don’t know.

This is where Sesame Street comes to the rescue with the “one of these things is not like the others” segment. Take two beers and have someone pour two glasses from the first, and a single glass from the second – or maybe one from the first, and two from the second. Then see if you can reliably identify which one is different. The point being, that if you can’t even tell which one is different, then anything else you say about the ranking is, to be very generous, highly suspect.

We tried this at Brew Revolution recently, admittedly with a particularly difficult version of the test. Could we tell the difference between Bad Roommates Double IPA on tap and in a bottle?

The Test: Katie presented each of us with three samples, but didn’t tell us whether we had two from the bottle, or two draft. As an added twist, each of us had a different combination.

The Result: To be fair (to me) we had a pretty strong consensus that there was very little difference between the beer from the bottle and from the tap. But we all made a selection, though for completely different reasons – the initial aroma, the carbonation, or the aftertaste. In the end, only one of us was completely correct, and only one was completely wrong. Wes nailed it – identifying which one was different, and that it was from the bottle. Josh identified which one was different, but though it was from the bottle, when in fact it was from the tap. And I … couldn’t even identify which one was different. Thank heavens that Josh and Wes are the brew masters.

The Conclusion: Bad Roommates DIPA is delicious, whether from the bottle or on tap. Try it soon.

Hops All The Way Down

Hops are an essential ingredient in all modern beer, but this hasn’t always been case. Originally, beer was flavoured with “gruit”, a mixture of various herbs and flowers. But from the 13th to the 15th century, hops replaced gruit as the preferred bittering agent in beer. This happened for a variety of reasons. Taxation played a role, as it so often does in the history of pretty much everything. But another important consideration was their antibacterial properties – beers made with hops were less prone to spoilage. This became important where the British began shipping beer to India, a journey that seriously stressed beer transported over a long ocean voyage without the benefit of refrigeration. Highly hopped beer with a high alcohol content had a much better chance of being palatable when it arrived in India. Thus was born the India Pale Ale, or IPA. When craft brewing began to take off in the United States in the 80’s and 90’s, west coast brewers took the basic idea behind the IPA – high alcohol and high hop content – and in true American fashion, put it on steroids. The result was the “West Coast IPA” that we all know and love. Fast forward to today, and the IPA has morphed into a number of sub-categories, including New England IPA, Double IPA, and perhaps even “Nano IPA”.

Today’s Flight of Fancy samples a range of IPAs from Brew Revolution, to show the wide range of flavours the style can offer.

From left to right, we have:

  • Stardust, Nano IPA
  • Walking on Sunshine, New England IPA
  • Drop it Like It’s Hopped, West Coast IPA
  • Bad Roommates, Double IPA

Tasting Notes:

Stardust: 3.2% ABV  15 IBU    With modest bitterness and low alcohol content, this isn’t your traditional IPA.  But it is refreshing, and perfect as a session ale.

Appearance: crystal clear ale with pale yellow colour – like a burst of sunshine on a cold winter’s day.

Taste: taking a sip of this ale leaves you refreshed but calm, like sitting on the dock at the lake.  The finish is clean and smooth.  Enjoyable now, but when the snow melts, and it’s time to sip a beer on the patio, this will blow your mind.

Walking on Sunshine:  6.2% ABV:  6 IBU:  Like all IPAs this NEIPA has a high content, but because it is dry hopped, the bitterness is low, and the floral aroma is high.

Appearance: hazy yellow, like the sun setting at the end of a long summer day.

Taste: brimming with tropical fruits, candied pineapple and orange. Rich full mouth feel.  A crowd pleaser.

Drop it Like it’s Hopped: 6% ABV: 75 IBU: A traditional West Coast IPA, that displays all the flavour and bitterness we’ve come to expect.  If you don’t like hop bitterness, this isn’t the one for you – but if you do like it, then yummm.

Appearance: clear, but with a light caramel hue. Very fine bubbles rising from the glass.  An elegant West Coast IPA.

Taste: An immediate hit of caramel fades into a growing hop bitterness. The competing flavours of caramel and bitterness merge and cancel, leaving a refreshing clean aftertaste.

Bad Roommates: 8.5% ABV: 70 IBU: If the West Coast IPA is a traditional English IPA on steroids, then this DIPA is a West Coast IPA on steroids.

Appearance: like a jewel quality amber nectar.

Taste: The aroma is reminiscent of graham crackers and the taste is brimming with candied tropical fruits and pineapple.  Overtones of caramel on the palate, balanced by the hop bitterness.

Bonus tasting: We also had the opportunity to taste a new NEIPA – Island in The Sun – that was still brewing, and were impressed with wonderful pineapple flavours. 

Bah Humbug

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This flight starts with Wychwood Brewery’s Winter Warmer, called “Bah Humbug! Christmas Cheer! Ale. Spiced beers have a long tradition in brewing, serving as bittering and flavouring agents before the use of hops became widespread some 800 years ago.  Today spices and other flavours are typically used in addition to hops, rather than as an alternative. The full flight includes:

  • Wynchwood Bah Humbug  
  • The GingerBrewed Man (on tap)
  • Chestnut Brown Ale (still in the works)
  • Red Velvet (on tap)

Notes: Bah Humbug exhibits subtle tones of dried fruit and light taste of ginger provided by the addition of ginger extract. The Gingerbrewed Man provides a richer tasting brew, with our very own gingerbread spice blend that includes ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon (not just “cinnamon extract”) to give this English Brown Ale a rich warming taste, perfect for cold winter days. The Chestnut Brown Ale is still in the works but after aging on roasted chestnuts for six weeks it is nearly finished. It exhibits a rich smoky taste reminiscent of roasted chestnut bread … in a glass.  Finally, the Red Velvet is a slightly different style, with tart raspberries being added to a milk stout with a chocolatey malt backbone. It is perfect for sipping as dessert on a cold winter night, and makes the ideal ale to round out this month’s flight of fancy.

Flights of Fancy

Jim is a lover of beer, especially anything that is “interesting”. He is always on the lookout for something unusual or different. New flavours, beer styles, or hop varietals will always get his attention. He isn’t a purist, and will happily try a brew that with extra ingredients, whether it be lime, blueberry, rhubarb or lemongrass. It’s all fair game. He has a special weakness for strong beers. Strong flavours and high alcohol content will always bring a smile to his face.

John is also a lover of beer, especially anything that is a pilsner. He is always on the lookout for something that tastes like Pilsner Urquell. New flavours, beer styles, or hop varietals will always make him wish he was drinking a Pilsner Urquell. He isn’t a purist, but he’s pretty close. But he’s also a good sport, and when Jim lines up a flight of fancy, John is always willing to give it a try. Sometimes he even likes it. But no matter how many interesting beers he tastes, nothing will ever compare with Pilsner Urquell.

It should come as no surprise that when Jim and John sit down for a tasting, it can be very interesting.