Winter is one of the best times of the year for seasonal beers with local craft brewers pushing out all kinds of tasty brews to take advantage of the Christmas shopping spree. Now, I know Christmas is already a distant memory for most of you, but I’ve been away on holidays so it’s still fresh in my mind, as are these beers. So, without further ado, onwards:
I once saw Parallel 49 tweet “We try our best to innovate, not imitate”, and if you take a look through their portfolio of beers, you can see they take that philosophy seriously. This can result in awesome beers like From East Van With Love or Snap, Crackle, Hop, but it can also result in forgettable disasters like Lil Red. Whatever the case may be, P49 is always a great place to try something new and different.
Sahti Claws – A Finnish Sahti, this is a style brewed with Juniper berries that I hadn’t even heard of, let alone tasted, so I went into this one with absolutely no idea what to expect. It came out surprisingly standard, but not in a bad way. Pine, juniper, a little hops and malts. Nicely balanced. Pretty decent.
Toques of Hazzard – This Imperial White IPA was one I was definitely looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. Tonnes of fruity flavours along with an unexpected sweetness that totally dulled the hop bite and made the 9.2% alcohol content seem like a misprint. Is it really that high? Yes it is, but it doesn’t taste like it. Great beer.
Braggot – A beer-mead hybrid, this is one of the most impressive tasting brews I’ve had recently. It spent 10 months aging in Oak barrels before released in slick honey-dipped bottles. Very full-flavoured, with lots of oak, honey-sweetness, and dark fruits. I’ve never had a Braggot before, but I’ve had mead, and this wins hands down. This would be one of those cases of P49 knocking one out of the park.
I feel a little bad admitting that I’m not very familiar with this brewery in Penticton. I’ve seen their beers in the store before, but I hadn’t gotten around to having one. Until now.
Maple Stout – Two of my favourite things, Stout and Maple Syrup, in a bottle together. What could go wrong? Well, the answer is – not much! If I wanted to nitpick, I’d say the stout side of this is a little light. But if I’m not nitpicking? This is very easy to drink and very tasty. The maple is immediately noticeable both on the nose and the palate. Left me craving pancakes. I need to pick up another bottle of this to have with breakfast.
GIB has a decent stable of primary beers, led by the ever-popular and reliably tasty Lions Winter Ale. But in my opinion, the real action is taking place with their series of Black Notebook beers. This is where GIB has proved that they can, and will, compete with other popular craft breweries at making interesting small batch brews. Thus far, I’ve sampled about half of the releases, and have yet to find anything I don’t like. So I was especially happy (and thankful) when the great people at GIB stepped up and gave me the opportunity to sample their latest releases.
Burly Goat – This is a Weizenbock – essentially, a strong wheat beer. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of taking taste and turning it up. I’m like Tim “The Toolman” Taylor for tastebuds. Burly Goat fits right into my idea of what a Bock should do. Loads of banana, sweetness, caramel and wheat. If you like hefe’s, you can’t go wrong here.
Imperial Chocolate Stout – Tastes a lot like last year, that is to say, really good. The 8.4% alcohol is hidden very well by the rich chocolate taste. And it accomplishes all of that chocolate without any of the bitterness that sometimes comes with chocolate flavoured beers. If you like GIB’s Lions Winter Ale, you’ll like this, because it tastes like a concentration of 4 bottles of Lions into one, with a bit more complexity added in for good measure.
2013 Barley Wine – It’s hard to tell without a bottle of the 2012 vintage, but this tastes different. In a good way. When we sampled the 2012 it was during a beer night where we did competitions. The GIB Barley Wine was matched up against Demeter’s Harvest by Half Pints in Winnipeg. Demeter’s Harvest is without a doubt the sweetest barley wine I’ve ever had, and the GIB came off as harsh and overly oaky in comparison. Not to say it was bad, far from bad, I still thought it was excellent. It seemed like it had all the right tools, but the balance wasn’t quite there to cross the line into fantastic.
Enter GIB’s 2013 vintage. It tastes sweeter, less harsh. The oak is still there, but now it’s balanced out by the other flavours. All I can say is that I’m really impressed and I think this one crosses that aforementioned line. And you know what else is really cool? GIB is(was?) selling vertical taster boxes of barley wine. That means you can get a box with both the 2012 and 2013 vintages. What a great idea! I wish more breweries did this with their cellarable beers. Last time I called GIB they still had a few boxes left, but that was a week ago and they are probably gone by now, so call ahead if you plan to try and buy one!
So if I were going to give out any awards today, they would be as follows:
- Biggest Surprise – Parallel 49 Braggot. A brew that went from “What’s that?” to “Wow I need more!”
- Biggest Improvement – Granville Island 2013 Barley Wine – from an also-ran into a legitimate contender. Can’t wait to see next year’s batch.
- Beer that made me hungry – Cannery Brewing Maple Stout. Seriously, I need to make a batch of Mancakes out of this beer. That will taste delicious.