Category Archives: Reviews

2012 Brew Year In Review

By V1rgilmdm

In all, we brewed 14 different beers in 2012—up 4 from the 10 we brewed in 2011. We thought we’d share each brew with you, what we learned, and some other key developments including upgrading to a 50L batch size, and winning a home brew award.
Brewing2

Tartan Eater Strong Scotch Ale (All Grain)

28.7 IBU, 18 SRM, 6.4% ABV Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Carastan, Roasted Barley, Smoked Malt, Belgian Biscuit Malt
Hops: Perle, Fuggles, Willamette
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

We decided to mirror our first brew of 2011 (which also happened to be our first brew ever) but this time we re-brewed the recipe as an all-grain. We hosted a tasting and compared our scotch ale with other commercial brews (such as Cannery Brewing’s Squire Scotch Ale, Russell Brewing’s A Wee Angry Scotch Ale etc. ). After the praise we received from friends and family, we decided to enter it into the Vanbrewer Competition—where it went on to take first place in it’s category!

Key lesson: We received great feedback from the competition! There isn’t much we would change, except maybe add a bit more peat smoked malt.

Maple Barley Wine (Extract and Grain)

43.3 IBU,18 SRM, ~11% ABV Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale Extract Syrup, Carastan, Chocolate Malt
Hops: Fuggles, Northern Brewer, Goldings
Adjuncts: Maple Syrup
Yeast: WYEAST 1028 London Ale

This brew was our first attempt at a high alcohol beer. We used extract for this recipe because of the size limitations of our mash tun. We added maple syrup for a distinct flavour and to provide some extra sugar to kick up the alcohol content (at least that was our intent). The brew tasted good when it was young (several weeks bottle-aging), but we could tell it was young and lacking carbonation. Unfortunately, as it aged it started to taste more and more like cola syrup and was sickly sweet.

Key lesson: When brewing a monster (brew with high ABV), use as much all grain as possible to lend complexity to the brew, and make sure it carbonates!

Hopful Monk Imperial IPA 3.0 (Extract and Grain)

86.2 IBU, 12 SRM, 7.3% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Pale Extract Syrup, Honey Malt, Carastan
Hops: Simcoe, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

The third variation of our Imperial IPA (check out the previous attempts)—this time with more hops and Belgian strong yeast. Again we did a half extract, half grain due to size limitations of our mash tun.

Key lesson: Even similar strands of yeast (Belgian Abbey, Belgian Strong) will have a huge impact on flavour.

Dark Star Apprentice Licorice Stout (All Grain)

63.3 IBU, 26 SRM, 8% ABV, Batch Size 19L
Malts: Pale, Black Patent, Roasted Barley
Hops: Fuggles, Willamette
Adjuncts: Molasses, Dark Brown Sugar, licorice root, fennel
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

This was our first attempt at brewing a licorice stout. We based it on Dark Star licorice stout by DogFishHead (from the book Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione), but converted it into all grain with adjuncts added.

Key lesson: Tea shops carry a plethora of home brewer adjuncts.

Black IPA (All Grain)

78.5 IBU, 34 SRM, 7.6% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Carastan, Roasted Barley, Chocolate, Crystal 60L
Hops: Zeus, Chinook, Citra
Yeast: WYEAST 1084 Irish Ale

Based on our Imperial IPA recipe, we made this one dark and added Citra hops. This brew turned out delicious, with citrus and piney flavours and a dark creaminess.

Key lesson: The dark side has chocolate.

Ginger Ninja Ale (All Grain)

34.5 IBU, 7 SRM, 5.3% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Honey
Hops: Mt. Hood, Goldings
Adjuncts: Nettles, Dried Ginger Root
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

Using a Golden ale base, we tried to re-create a golden nettle ale from Saltspring Island Brewing. During the boil, the aroma of the dried ginger root ended up smelling stronger than we anticipated. To balance this, we ended up using more nettle then we thought we would. This ended up softening the ginger in the final brew and created a more ‘herby’ beer—not what we were going for, but a great beer nonetheless. Next time we’re going to try fresh grated ginger root instead for a better balance.

Key lesson: Fresh is best! (Especially with ginger)

Imperial White IPA Witbier (Extract and Grain)

79.2 IBU, 5 SRM, 7.7% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Wheat, Pale, Pale Extract Syrup, Flaked Oats
Hops: Zeus, Saaz, Cascade
Adjuncts: Flour, Orange peel
Yeast: WYEAST 3463 Forbidden Fruit

This was the first of two brews we did on a double brew day. We had a stuck sparge and ended up having to use extract to bring up the gravity. The extract caused the primary to be very muddy. Then we accidentally over-pitched the yeast, giving the brew some very strong clove flavours. This one was bottled too soon, leaving too much yeast in and making it spicier than we had hoped for.

Key lesson: Let the yeast do its thing—and die.

Pineapple Volcano White IPA (All Grain)

74.7 IBU, 8 SRM, 4.5% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Wheat, Honey
Hops: Perle, Citra, Chinook
Adjuncts: Pineapple puree
Yeast: WYEAST 3463 Forbidden Fruit

The second wheat beer on our double brew day. This one turned out rather well, despite some interesting complications—the primary foamed over forcing us to utilize a blow-off bucket.

Key lesson: Fruit sugars ferment rapidly—think volcano!

Volcano Half Wit IPA

Grapefruit IPA (All Grain)

78.9 IBU, 7 SRM, 6.0% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Honey, Carastan
Hops: Citra, New Zealand Cascade
Adjuncts: Grapefruit Zest
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was a brew just for the sake of brewing. A stripped-down version of the Hopful Monk, with some fun New Zealand hops we found at Bosagrape. The grapefruit zest was added to lend a citrus flavour. In hindsight, we should have used pink grapefruits.

Key lesson: Keep better notes. We’re not even sure when we brewed it, let alone the specific gravities.

American Pale Ale (All Grain)

49.7 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.6% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Crystal, Carapils, Carastan
Hops: Cascade, Willamette, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was our first requested brew! The request was for something plain that could be enjoyed by everyone, and it was well received. We made the plainest pale ale we could think of—and then added more hops!

Key lesson: Push comfort levels.

Hopful Monk Imperial IPA (All Grain)

94.6 IBU, 11 SRM, 6.5% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Honey, Carastan
Hops: Zeus, Chinook
Yeast: WYEAST 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

This was our first brew using our new 50 litre equipment. We wanted our first to be a familiar recipe, so we went with the Hopful Monk since we’d done the most variations with that one. This one worked well, we re-used the false bottom from the mash tun, and utilized our 50,000 BTU Blichman burner. Everything turned out very well—best first time ever!

Key lesson: Never get rid of working equipment, you may find a new use.

New Burner

Ghoulish Ghourd Pumpkin Pie Ale (All Grain)

22.7 IBU, 16 SRM, 5.3% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Biscuit, Carastan, Carapils,
Hops: Fuggles, Goldings, Hallertau
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Cooked Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cloves
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This ended up being one of our best brews ever. It tasted delicious and we served this at a Halloween party from a keg. It was a bit heavy on the specialty malts, and for future batches we may scale that back slightly.

Key lesson: Grinding cinnamon sticks and smashing nutmeg is tiresome. Just buy the spices from the store.

1030 Cranberry Vanilla Russian Imperial Stout (All Grain)

42.4 IBU, 62 SRM, 9.3% ABV, Batch Size: 50L
Malts: Pale, Chocolate, Flaked Oats, Roasted Barley, Crystal
Hops: Magnum, Crystal, Goldings
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Molasses, Frozen Cranberries, Vanilla Beans
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was an ambitious monster brew, with mixed results. The goal was a chocolaty, strong stout with a vanilla flavour profile and a hint of berry bitterness. Initial samples were promising, but the result was more like cold, strong coffee. Also, it did not carbonate well. To save time (we’re lazy), we used wine bottles and added a corker to our repertoire. When we make this again, we will most likely use cranberry juice and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Key lesson: Proper carbonation is important for carrying flavour.

Gingerbread Beer (All Grain)

30 IBU, 20 SRM, 6.7% ABV, Batch Size: 19L
Malts: Pale, Chrystal, Wheat, Special B, Roasted Barley
Hops: Hallertau, Cascade
Adjuncts: Brown Sugar, Molasses
Yeast: WYEAST 1056 American Ale

This was an experimental Christmas beer. I had been told of a beer (Cookie beer) that was filtered through sheets of special Belgian biscuits, and I thought, GINGERBREAD! We thought it would be a fun thing to try. So using a winter ale base, and a great gingerbread recipe, we painstakingly filtered the wort through sheets of gingerbread before putting it in the primary. Results were not as strong in flavour as we would have liked, but it was definitely interesting. Next time, to up the flavor, we think we’ll also add spices to the primary.

Key lesson: Travel to Belgium to see how they do it.

Like every great idea, this one involved Ninjas!

Like every great idea, this one involved Ninjas!

What’s next?
We are on to 50 L batches with a brew group of 5. We want to do more batches, create more styles and definitely enter more competitions. Our first brew of the year, a red lager, is currently sitting in the primary. We chose a lager to take advantage of the cooler weather.

2012 had some great experiments and we will continue to work on those recipes to lock them down.

We’re also tossing about the idea of creating a Youtube channel and filming some video reviews and brewing tutorials—so stay tuned for those.

What would you like to see? Leave your comments below.

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8-Bit Beerblog Guide to Reviewing Beer

At 8-Bit Beerblog, we recognize that brewing good beer does not happen by accident. Craft beer is born from the marriage of technical process and flavour art. We want to support the craft beer industry and its efforts, not tear it down or criticize. As such, when we review a beer we don’t use an arbitrary rating system based on a personal preference scale that is always changing.

Instead we give an open and honest appraisal of our experience at the time of drinking the brew. When we review a beer, we look at the following:

  1. Packaging: It’s the first thing that we see in the store and it influences our purchasing decisions and perception of the brew.
    For reviewing, we look at originality and attractiveness.
  2. Appearance: How does the brew look when poured? For reviewing, we look at colour, clarity, carbonation and head retention.
  3. Aroma: Taste begins with the first scent.
    For reviewing, we smell for these attributes:

    • Malts: Descriptive terms—Caramel, bread, hay, cereal, chocolate, coffee, nuts, toast, roasty
    • Hops: Descriptive terms—Resin, floral, grass, spruce, citrus, herbs
    • Yeast/Bacteria: Descriptive terms—Doughy, barnyard, cheese, basement aromas, leather, earthy, leaves
    • Other: Descriptive terms—Alcohol, banana, bubble-gum, butterscotch, clove, cooked vegetables, cough drop, ginger, licorice, raisin, rotten eggs, soy sauce, skunky, smoke, vanilla, woody
  4. Taste: What’s the first sip like?  Is it sweet, bitter or sour? Any flavour sensations across the tongue? What is the mouth-feel, aftertaste, and flavour after the beer warms?
    For reviewing we look for the presence of these flavours:

    • Acetaldehyde: Green apple-like aroma and flavour.
    • Alcoholic: The aroma, flavour, and warming effect of ethanol and higher alcohols (think vodka straight, no chaser).
    • Astringent: Lingering harshness.
    • Diacetyl: Butter, butterscotch, or toffee aroma and flavour. Sometimes perceived as slickness.
    • DMS (dimethyl sulfide): Sweet, cooked, or canned corn-like aroma and flavour.
    • Estery: Aroma and/or flavour of fruits or roses.
    • Grassy: Aroma and/or flavour of grass or leaves.
    • Light: Skunky flavour from exposure to UV.
    • Metallic: Tastes like tin, copper, or iron.
    • Musty: Stale or moldy aromas/flavours.
    • Oxidized: Stale, papery, or sherry-like aromas and flavours.
    • Phenolic: Spicy (clove, pepper, etc.), smoky, plastic or medicinal aroma/flavour.
    • Solvent: Aroma and flavours of higher alcohols. Similar to acetone or lacquer thinner.
    • Sour/acidic: Tartness in aroma and flavour.
    • Sulfur: Aroma of rotten eggs or burning matches.
    • Vegetal: Cooked, canned, or rotten vegetable aroma and flavour (cabbage, asparagus, etc.)
    • Yeasty: A bready or sulfur like aroma or flavour.
  5. Uniqueness: How well does it represent the style? Does it follow a style? Does it inspire innovation by creating its own style?
  6. Cost and availability: How much does it cost and where can it be found? Is it a fair price? Is it a limited release or a regular attraction?
  7. Summary: Our final thoughts about the brew.
  8. Achievement!: In keeping with our video game theme, we award achievements (often silly and nonsensical).

drink beer

Pew Pew Double Shot Quick Review -Townsite Brewing

By V1rgilmdm

I recently had some new brews from Townsite, one of B.C.’s newest breweries, located in the Federal Building in the Historic Powell River Townsite district. It was originally announced in November 2010. I must admit I had been looking forward to trying these beers ever since I read the announcement. The first brews were available in bottle in early May of this year and they were not a disappointment. Townsite currently offers 6 different ales: PowTown Porter, Tinhat IPA, Zunga Golden Ale, Suncoast Session Ale, Westview Wheat Ale and Charleston Triple Belgian Ale. A very prolific line-up for a new brewery, and a testament to Brewmaster Cedric Dauchot.

Pow Town Porter

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION

Coffee and roasted smells on the nose, round and smooth malty mouthfeel that is enhanced with the warmth of the 5.8% alcohol and that is balanced with the bitterness coming from the dark malts.

First off the label is unique and does a great job depicting the brewery and an abstract Powell River by artist Meghan Hildebrand. I love the self-definition on the bottle:

POW TOWN n. 1. How locals refer to Powell River, a historic lumber town on BC’s beautiful Sunshine Coast; 2. a porter style beer

This rich dark porter pours deep black with a large thick creamy head that dissipates slowly. The aroma is a creamy malty bouquet of light coffee and chocolate. It smells delicious. I take a moment to savour the smell. The first sip reveals a creamy sweetness, like coffee ice cream with chocolate. The palate matches the aroma and is easily one of the better porters I have had. There is a slight nuttiness present which accentuates the ice cream like flavours. The PowTown finishes sweet with a pleasant slight bitterness typical of strong chocolate or coffee.

                                                                                                                                                              

Zunga Blonde Ale

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION

This golden blonde ale has a light bitterness and a balanced body to create a dry, refreshing finish, with hints of European hops. It is the perfect accompaniment to a hot day up the lake. 

Here again on the label we see artist Meghan Hildebrand’s abstract version of the Townsite historic Federal building. Forefront is a rope swing being used, from which the beer’s name is based:

Zunga n. 1. a word peculiar to Powell River, BC meaning rope swing, esp. over water; 2. a delicious golden blonde ale.

The golden blonde ale pours a nice liquid gold colour. There is good carbonation present, with moderate head and good retention.  The aroma is grassy straw with a slight fruity undertone. The first sips reveal a slight bitterness that tingles on the tongue. The european hops bring out a pilsner quality of grass and straw balanced with earthy and fruity notes. This is a nice light sipping beer, refreshing when cutting the grass or playing pool. It is mild, crisp and delicious.

Here is a great article about a few new breweries in BC.

One Shot- Whistler Cheakamus Chai-Maple Ale

by v1rgilmdm

On a recent adventure to Brewery Creek, I picked up a selection of tasty beers to try. One of these beers was Whistler Brewing Co.’s Cheakamus Chai-Maple Ale.

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
A mild ale with all the freshness of maple syrup – and a little bit of springtime spice for good measure. This dark bronze ale is made with real maple syrup added right to the mash. Then, a trace of chai tea is added during the filtration process. The result is a highly complex, mildly spiced palate structure. One taste, and a simple truth is clear: complexity can be a very beautiful thing.

 

The Cheakamus label has a nice pastoral image of maple  trees and scoops of chai tea. The beer pours a dark molasses-brown colour with an off-white head that is thick and foamy. There are bubbles; lots and lots of bubbles. The aroma is very strong with maple syrup. I’m already in love and haven’t even had my first sip yet.

My first sip reveals a nice balance of chai and maple. What is chai?  Besides delicious, it’s a tea made of Indian herbs and spices, which often includes a different list of ingredients depending on who’s making it. This list can include: almonds, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, star anise, nutmeg, licorice root, and cloves. I definitely get some of the baking spice flavours coming through: a bit of nutmeg and cloves. I like that the Cheakamus is not sickeningly sweet and reminds me of maple syrup on pancakes. Delicious.

The beer has a nice tingly mouth-feel which carries the flavour. The maple leaves a lingering sweetness on the lips with an aftertaste that is creamy and sweet with a slightly dry finish. You should definitely try this one.

One Shot -Vancouver Island Brewing Beachcomber Review

Vancouver Island Brewing Beachcomber Summer Ale

by v1rgilmdm

Here in the Northwest, we celebrate the oh-so-short release of the sun from its wintery bondage by enjoying the limited releases of the summer style beers.

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
If you’ve got the sun overhead and your feet in the sand while you wander the local tide lines, you’ve most likely reached that zen-like state Islanders call Beachcombing. Here’s to one of Vancouver Island’s favourite local pastimes! Beachcomber Summer Ale is an unfiltered ale styled after a German weissbier. Pouring a glowing, golden yellow, this ale combines mellow aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruit. These flavours combine to create a thirst quenching, clean beer perfect for those warm summer days

The Beachcomber comes in bright, sunny 6 pack cartons, that depict a relaxing beach scene. The beer pours golden and cloudy with good carbonation. The head seems to retain well. The aroma is grassy and citrusy with a hint of banana. It is my understanding that the Beachcomber was fermented at colder temperature to suppress the banana and clove flavours typical of wheat beers. My first sip is quite fizzy and tastes a little watery. There is a mild citrus fruit flavour but I am definitely missing the clove and banana flavours–to the point where I can almost taste their absence. The Beachcomber goes down easy, with a clean finish and is very drinkable.  Overall, this is a nice, light beer and perfect for sipping on the beach.

One Shot -Tree Madcap Belgian White Review

Tree Madcap Belgian White Review

By Fiddler’s Elbow

Are you are looking for a crisp refreshing light beer for the summer? Well, look no further! We have the beer for you. Tree Madcap Belgian White was released recently and has finally made it to the local stores. This lighter alcohol by volume beer, at 4.5%, comes in the standard 330 ml 6-pack etched glass bottles. The Madcap makes for an enjoyable drink on a hot summer day.

COMMERCIAL DESCRIPTION
Madcap Belgian White Ale is 4.5% alc., and boasts tropical fruit aromas with a spicy finish. The unfiltered ale provides a naturally cloudy brew, so don’t forget to swirl it around a bit before pouring to fully enjoy the refreshing taste.

I first noticed some sediment that had settled at the bottom of the bottle–don’t worry–this is normal for this style of beer. The description suggests giving it a good swirl before opening, to give it the proper appearance and extra aroma. The Madcap pours a light, cloudy, pale golden colour, with fine bubbles, and has a slim white head which it retains due to plenty of carbonation.

Tree brewing definitely nailed the aroma of a traditional Belgian white, with strong clove and light banana notes and a hint of spice from the yeast. The flavour starts nicely with a crisp, grass-hop bitterness, a bit of citrus, and a light sweet fruity yeast spice in the finish. Overall, the Madcap is fairly comparable to Hoegaarden, the classic go-to Belgian white. If you are looking to support your local breweries however, the Madcap stands out as one of the better Belgian whites currently available. This will definitely be a great beer to relax on the deck and sip while embracing the sunny weather.

On a side note I would love to see the return of the Tree Weizen Bock–one of my personal favourites–and a must try should Tree brewing release it again.

Game Review: The Walking Dead Episode 1

Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead

Imagine a world where a mutated virus causes the dead to rise and then stalk and eat the living. Now, throw in a few desperate survivors that will do anything to stay alive. This is the main premise of The Walking Dead (an ongoing story of survival horror) that was first released as a comic in 2003. The comic was written by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and published by Image Comics. Later developed into a TV series which aired on AMC in 2009, it is currently going into its 3rd season. Both comic and show have since become cult hits, which sparked Kirkman to team up with Telltale Games to produce the video game. Telltale Games is known for producing point and click graphic adventure games which are split into episodes and released as downloads. Other games they have produced include: Sam & Max, Wallace and Gromit, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park.

By Fiddler’s Elbow

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