Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lagar de Cervera Albarino 2005

Having tried a relatively cheap Albarino a few months ago and not loving it, but realizing its potential, I resolved to try more Albarino varietals in the future. This is my next attempt, but I have yet to be convinced that Albarino is a worthy white grape.

I found this Rias Biaxas wine to be fairly reserved. The citrus was subdued and coupled with some savory herbal elements that yet did not bring the wine into the territory of deeply layered flavour. I also found it to have a bitter component that did not do so well on its own. However, when paired with Oysters (I shared several dozen with some friends) this Albarino gained poise and complemented the various creamy, briney, and succulent sea flavours of some great BC oysters (I pitty those of you who don't live in the Pacific Northwest). However, I still felt that another white would have worked even better and so Albarino remains on my oddities list. I will certainly try another in the future.

$25 at Marquis


So the good friend I went to the Seattle Beerfest with was leaving town and so we faced the imperative of drinking the large majority of our spoils before he did so. These notes are the result of the first session.

Jolly Pumpkin - La Roja Artisan Amber Ale 7.2% ABV

This was aged in oak barrels and combined soft but balanced sourness with depth and roundness given to it by the oak. A very nice sour beer.


Port Brewing - Old Viscosity Ale 10% ABV

This was aged in bourbon barrels and certainly brought vanillan action to the table. Thick, rich and deeply malty this strong port was a phenomenal example of how chocolatey richness can be brough by proper brewing rather than added chocolate.


Stone Brewing - Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale 7.2% ABV

Floral and moderately hoppy. The oak is subdued, probably due to the use of oak chips rather than real barrels. A good quality easy to get (in the US) IPA, but Stone can do better.

Very Good

The Lost Abbey - Lost and Found Ale 8.0% ABV

Yeasty and somewhat a cross between a belgian dubbel and trippel. Reasonably tasty, but also somewhat standard.


Shmaltz Brewing Company - Coney Island Albino Python

This spiced lager was lemony and very clove-like. A unique and successful take on lager that brings the unfortunately popular style into the realm of properly brewed beer.


North Coast Brewing - 2008 Old Stock Ale

A properly made malty Barley Wine. The slight hops is well done but not overwhelming, which makes this eminently drinkable. Nothing exceptional to bring it to the next level, but very solid and very enjoyable.

Very Good+

Unibroue - Ephemere Apple

Yeasty and balanced. The apple brings out the floralness and the yeast.

Very Good

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unibroue Trois Pistole

Belgian beer, Sturm und Drang.
A highly carbonated fruit forward almost candy-like beer. I think this is done pretty well and is a good standard Belgian style dubbel.
Very Good+
$6 at BCLDB

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2006

I just picked up some Riedel Vinum Extreme Chard glasses at a Riedel blowout sale for $12 each and decided to christen them with this very strong new world expression. On the nose I picked up grapefruit and lime at first and then, with some air, pineapple and banana. The palate was very lush and full flavoured, but not too oaky or buttery and still has quite a nice savory character to it. Really nice stuff.

$45 at BCLDB

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Morgon Cote du Py Vieilles Vignes Potel Aviron 2005

I recently partook in something somewhat ridiculous, at least for this student. I purchased a mixed case special shipment of 2005 Rhone and Burgundy wines from my local dealer. This was one of the bottles from those spoils. Man I love Burgundy!

An interesting mixed project between Potel and Aviron to produce an affordable but punchy wine from the Beaujolais region. The nose had light cherry fruit, pain grille (aka toast), and was intense and floral - in short, a truly beautiful confluence of odour. The palate was strawberry, cherry and tart. Sitting with great balance and poise this floral wine was very structured and of rich texture. A medium length finish did not at all detract from the very authentic flavours and texture. I love wine like this - completely unmanipulated terroir driven tastyness at a good price. I wish I could get more of this stuff.

$33 at Marquis (via speical order)

Golden Mile Pinot Noir 2006

Another rare venture into wine territory I rarely explore. This time coming from my own backyard in the Okanagan valley, a few hundred km inland from Vancouver. I am treipiditious about Canadian wine, but was pleasantly surprised with this good value offering. So much so that I plan to venture a little more frequently into my own backyard.

This had boysenberry and funky fruit on the nose. The palate was all raspberry and strawberry and had a character not unlike a well made entry level Oregon Pinot. I'd even say this is equivalent to a $30+ of Oregon pinot. A good buy and an enticement to try Golden Mile's reserve pinot.

Very Good+
$23 at VQA stores

Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003

A rare venture into South Africa for me, and starting with one of the most renowned names for some reason put on sale at 30% off in a strange but wonderful discount program at BCL which seems to randomly select wines for 30-50% discounts regardless of quality. I think it has something to do with lack of information in the market, with many consumers not knowing about some of the slightly more 'obscure' producers from regions like Portugal and South Africa who are yet producing fantastic wines. Good for me.

This had blackberry and cassis on the nose, with the palate adding boysenberry or similar bitter berry. This also had an interesting almost funky fruit twist on the palate that I found it hard to identify. The finish concluded with a touch of menthol that rounded the wine out pretty nicely. Good stuff, but honestly far too pricey for what you get.

Very Good+
$70 at BCLDB (bought on sale for $50)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Seattle International Beer Festival

This weekend was host to one of the best festivals I have had the pleasure of attending. And fortunately for me, it was filled not only with a large number of beer swigging nerds, but also a huge range of exceptional and rare beers from around the world. I believe there were over 150 beers, and I probably managed to taste a third of those. So many beers in so little time meant it was difficult to rate each exactly. Thus we separated the beers into three categories: 1. those we liked; 2. those about which we held a neutral opinion, and; 3. those we disliked. These are the collaberative notes of myself and friends.

Those We Liked
Old Stock 2008 - North Coast - California - Barley Wine - 12.5%
Notes: smooth and well balanced between hops and sweetness. Another winner from North Coast. Beer Advocate rating: 4.12.

Old Crustacean 2008 - Rogue - Oregon - Barley Wine - 11.5%
Notes: a bitter but flavourful brew. Maybe slightly over-hopped, but still packs a flavour punch. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.02

Harvest Ale (Lagavulin) - J.W. Lees - Manchester, England - Barley Wine - 11.5%
Notes: Firstly, this was only available for about 1 hour at the festival. Luckily I managed to snag a taste, and boy was it worth it. First of all, this is nothing like barley wine. Rather, this is like drinking a cross between beer and scotch. Poured out of a wooden cask, this beer was aged in lagavulin scotch barrels, which gave it a smoky, sweet and caramelly flavour highly reminiscent of a very good scotch. This was my beer of the show. I picked up a 300ml bottle (not the same as cask poured, but hey) at a specialty store in Seattle for $14!!! Probably the only beer I'd pay that much for. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.03.

BB10 Barley - Maracalagonis - Italy - Barley Wine - 10.0%
Notes: Yet another barley, this rare beer sailed over from Italy for the show. This was good, and not too sweet, but not my favourite Barley Wine of the show. No beer advocate rating.

Malheur Dark Brut - De Landtsheer - Belgium - Bière Brut - 12.0%
Notes: A decent micro-bubbly wine somewhat similar to Deus. However, while spritely and fruity, this certainly isn't worth the $30 a bottle they ask for it. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08

Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien - BFM - Switzerland - Bière de Garde - 11.0%
Notes: An oaky sour beer. You have to like the style in order to like this stuff, and I felt the La Folie (reviewed later) was a better sour beer. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29.

Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock - Schneider - Germany - Bock - 12.0%
Notes: I very much like Aventinus, but had never tasted their Eisbock before. While not rare per-se, bocks are only made a certain time of year in Germany and so it was a pleasure to taste this not so easy to find and highly rated beer. Very banana heavy, this was sweetish and floral, but very well balanced. I would buy this for a special occasion given its $7 a 12oz bottle price tag. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.12.

Palo Santo Marron - Dogfish Head -Delaware - Brown Ale - 12.0%
Notes: One of the special pours of the festival and only available on a single day. This was a fantastic brown ale. Balanced, unique (brown sugar, caramelized flavours), but balanced between maltiness and hops. Just a tinge of sweetness. One of my top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.21.

Ruination Ale - Stone - California - Double IPA - 7.7%
Notes: Despite being a double IPA, this was not over the top, which was the downfall of many of the extreme beers poured at the fest. Floral, foresty and perfectly hopped. An excellent brew and one to try even if you don't like IPA! Beer Advocate Rating: 4.29

XX Imperial Porter - Deschutes - Oregon - Imperial Porter - 10.3%
Notes: A quality full bodied porter with good roasted malt flavours and moderate hops. You can taste the bigness and alcohol in this beer, which can be a bit intense, though still enjoyable. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.28.

Top Sail (Bourbon Aged) - Full Sail - Oregon - Imperial Porter -9.9%
Notes: One of the best porters at the show, while strong this was very very tasty and balanced better than the XX from Deschutes. The imperial makes porter more full bodied, roasted and flavourful than regular porter. This is an excellent example of the 'genre'. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.20

Pêche Mortel - Dieu du Ciel - Montreal, Quebec - Imperial Stout - 9.5%
Notes: A coffee based stout that was full flavoured, intense, balanced, and all 'round plain great. Tasted subtle coffee and tobacco notes. One of my top 5 beers of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.48.

Ola Dubh 30 Yr - Harviestoun - Scotland - Old Ale - 8.0%
Notes: Another super rare cask beer available for only 2 hours at the show. This one was aged in 30 year old scotch barrels and was dark, peaty and cigar-like. Less like scotch than the Harvest ale, this was still a very flavourful and unique brew. Another top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.34.

La Folie - New Belgium - Fort Collins, Colorado - Red Ale - 6.0%
Notes: Crazy sour. Probably the sourest beer I've ever had. But, despite this, it had fantastic oaky and woody flavours that gave it a lot of character. Further, it was great for the heat and cut the palate perfectly after all the super-hopped beers. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.38.

Old Chub - Oskar Blues - Colorado - Scotch Ale - 8.0%
Notes: Considered by some the best Scottish ale around, I don't understand the hype. While good, this was standard Scottish ale made well. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.

Pek & Veren (Tar and Feathers) - De Molen - Netherlands - Stout - 8.0%
Notes: A very good and unique Dutch stout. This just missed out on my top 5 list with its slightly sour but classic dark strong malt flavours and moderated alcohol. This is rare stuff and has no Beer Advocate rating.

Angel's Share - Lost Abbey - California - Strong Ale - 11.5%
Notes: This was perhaps the rarest beer of all at the festival. Only a few bottles were available and we only managed to get some after sweet talking one of the head beer police dudes running the show. You can only get this beer if you are on the Lost Abbey mailing list, and there is a wait list to get on that. I tasted caramel, oak, vanilla, and layers of complexity developing as you drink this fruity masterpiece. I found this to be structured over the full range from nose to mid-palate and finish - awesome stuff. This was my number 2 beer of the show, and thus fills the last spot in the top 5 of the show. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.55.

Double Bastard - Stone - California - Strong Ale - 10.0%
Notes: Very nicely done with a super creamy texture and great mouthfeel. The hops are insanely intense, however, and this may not be for everyone. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.32.

Oaked Arrogant Bastard - Stone - California - Strong Ale - 7.2%
Notes: Much more balanced than the double bastard, this was hoppy and floral with just a tinge of oakyness. The oak was used well here to add complexity to the hops by balancing out the bitterness. This is worth seeking out. Beer Advocate Rating 4.22.

Oro de Calabaza - Jolly Pumpkin - Michigan - Strong Ale (Gold) - 8.0%
Notes: Jolly Pumpkin is doing good things. A balanced ale that tastes different from most of what you get out there. I found this hard to describe so I would seek it out and try it yourself. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

Curieux - Allagash - Portland, Oregon - Tripel - 11.0%
Notes: Wow, a bloody good tripel. One of the best Belgian style beers at the show with coconut flavours coupled with a classic Belgian yeast nose. Strong and good. Beer Advocate Rating 4.16.

The Neutral Beers
Hop 15 - Lost Abbey - California - Double IPA - 9.7%
Notes: Not too hopped, but also a bit standard. Next! Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.

Imperial Stout - Nøgne Ø - Norway - Imperial Stout - 9.0%
Notes: I had high hopes for this but left feeling underwhelmed. Smoky and flavourful, this wasn't bad but also wasn't great. Beer Advocate Rating 4.20.

Cuvée de Noël - St. Feuillien - Belgium - Strong Ale (Dark) - 9.0%
Notes: Standard Christmas Beer. Boring. Beer Advocate Rating: 4.08.

Wit - St. Bernardus - Belgium - Wit - 5.5%
Notes: A decent wit with some complexity, but 2 out of 3 of us found this plain and boring. Beer Advocate Rating 4.03.

Those We Disliked

Old Ruffian - Great Divide - Colorado - Barley Wine - 11.0%
Notes: Great Divide had a poor showing at this show for some reason. I usually like these guys, but everything at the fest was way too hoppy. Yuk. Beer Advocate Rating 4.33.

Olde Gnarlywine - Lagunitas - California - Barley Wine - 9.7%
Notes: The opposite end of the spectrum. Just way too sweet. Unless you like your beers sugary, stay away. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.

Asam Bock - Weltenburger - Germany - Bock - 6.9%
Notes: Generic and thin. Tastes like all bocks taste. Beer Advocate Rating 4.10.

Morimoto Imperial Pilsner - Rogue - Oregon - Imperial Pilsner - 8.7%
Notes: Tastes like a urinal cake. Beer Advocate Rating 4.12.

Yeti (Oak Aged) - Great Divide - Colorado - Imperial Stout - 9.5%
Notes: Nasty nasty hops. Which sucks since I remember liking this a lot. Maybe this batch was made poorly. Beer Advocate Rating 4.32.

Ten-FIDY - Oskar Blues - Colorado - Imperial Stout - 10.0%
Notes: Why people like Oskar Blues is beyond me. This was medicinal and sickly syrupy. Really really gross. Beer Advocate Rating 4.31.

Malheur 12 - De Landtsheer - Belgium - Quadrupel - 12.0%
Notes: A bad quadrupel? Strange but true. Just too sweet. Had a hint of maple, but I recommend sticking to the standards. Beer Advocate Rating 4.15.

Judgment Day - Lost Abbey - California - Quadrupel - 10.5%
Notes: Another quadrupel that was just too sweet. Unfortunate. Beer Advocate Rating 3.90.

And that ends the round up of 2 days of beer festing down in Seattle. We also hit the Elysian Brew Pub while there, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post. I highly recommend making the trip to Seattle if you are at all into beer. Cheers!

Our Spoils: