two new additions to my cellar - Phillips Burley Barley Wine and Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine
Yesterday was beer day. Chris and I made a trip to Brewery Creek to stock up for the New Year and stopped for lunch at Yaletown Brewing. And of course we had to stop at the Gourmet Warehouse, even though it’s a bit out of the way. If you like to cook good food, go to the Gourmet Warehouse – it is nothing short of amazing.
This was my first trip to Brewery Creek. Chris was worried that he over hyped his initial Brewery Creek experience, but it was better than I could have possibly imagined. Their beer selection is fantastic with a good range of hard to find beer from local BC brewers. It was nice to see a beer store that tucks the 12 case of Budweiser and MGD into the back corner where it belongs. This is a store for real beer drinkers.
Needless to say, we filled the trunk up with beer and I added two new barley wines to my cellar, Phillips Burley Barley Wine and Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine. Prior to my growing obsession with barley wine, I thought cellaring beer was ridiculous, but I have seen the light. After tasting Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine (aged for 18 months) at Central City Brewing, I can’t go back to drinking young barley wine. Well, I actually can and probably will, but that is beside the point.
Carrying a full box of beer around is exhausting work – we needed food and drink in a bad way. We drove our hungry selves to Yale Town Brewing for lunch and were thoroughly impressed. We arrived and did what most thirsty beer drinkers do – ask for a sample of the seasonal ale. Who doesn’t love free beer? Yale Town’s current seasonal is Le Nez Rouge; a Belgian style ale with a bit of a twist. This beer is impressive to say the least. It is a huge beer with an ABV of 9.5%, but is so smooth you wouldn’t know it. Unlike many Belgian ale’s, the tartness from the yeast is not overpowering, allowing for the malt flavour to show its face resulting in a well balanced beer. Le Nez Rouge has a spicy aroma and flavour with a hint of banana similar to a hefeweizen. I highly recommend this beer, even if you aren’t a fan of Belgian style ales.
After downing the seasonal sample, we ordered food and a few more drinks. I was impressed with their Brown Ale, a nice roasted malt flavour with some nuttiness and vanilla, but found their IPA to be slightly under hopped. Check out beer advocate for a full review of Yaletown’s beer. We left with full bellies and smiling faces. Who wouldn’t be smiling knowing their car trunk is full of beer.
It wasn’t too hard for the guy at Brewery Creek to sell me on a Palo Santo Marron, seeing as I had heard good things about Dogfish Head Brewery and I love a beer with a story. This brown ale gets its name, which literally translates to “Holy Tree Brown”, from the fact that it is aged in Paraguayan Palo Santo wood fermentation tanks, which at 10000 gallons happen to be the largest wooden brewing vessels used since prohibition, or so they claim. Check out this video showing how they make it.
I was surprised to see that the beer poured out jet black in colour. It was this, coupled with the high alcohol content (12%), that got me a bit scared, not that I wouldn’t like the beer, but that it would be too strong for me to finish! I hate wasting beer. The beer itself smells and tastes great, very flavorful. Rich caramel and vanilla malt flavors were present and I greatly enjoyed the taste the wood imparts on this brown ale. What I didn’t like about this beer was the strength. The alcohol content really comes through, that and the heaviness of this beer have me estimating that one 12 ounce bottle is potent enough to satisfy a team of hearty beer drinkers (4-6 people).
I don’t recommend this beer for the average beer drinker, but I do recommend that a serious beer drinker share this with fellow enthusiasts. It is quite the ride through flavor town, but one bottle it is too much for one. That being said, I can see this beer rounding out over time. I am pretty sure that this is another one I should have aged! One day I will learn.
I have a lot of two things in my house at the moment: leftovers and beer. Naturally, I put the two together to make a stew. I love cooking with beer, and a stew is one of the best ways to incorporate beer into food. This also gave me a chance to open my latest homebrew – a Vienna style ale.
Instead of Turkey, I made BBQ ribs for our annual Christmas feast. I can’t say I am a huge fan of turkey – the only reason why people like turkey is because it is perfectly acceptable to cover it in a ridiculous amount of gravy. I had about two full racks of ribs sitting in my fridge on the verge of spoiling just waiting for a stew.
The stew consisted of bacon, onion, carrot, sweet potato, BBQ pork ribs and Vienna Ale. The starch from the sweet potato was not enough to thicken the stew on its own so I did have to throw in a small amount of all purpose flour. This is my favourite way to cook – using whatever is on hand, toss everything into one pot and let the flavours come together.
The Vienna Ale was also terrific. I used Vienna Malt and 2-Row Barley Malt in equal parts, Cascade and Amarillo Hops, and Nottingham Ale yeast to create my own spin on a Vienna Lager. The beer has a sweet but not overpowering malt flavour coming from the Vienna Malt. The sweet flavour is further supported by the Amarillo hops, which tend to impart a somewhat sweet citrus flavour in young beer. This sweetness will dissipate in one month or two; although, I think Amarillo’s unique flavour tastes great in young beer.
I have no shame in promoting my own food and drink – It was delicious.
This years 2008 Fuller’s Vintage Ale is the eleventh annual release of it’s limited edition bottle conditioned ale. I’d seen them in stores and in Erik’s cellar before, but this is the first year that I bought one. Being a bottle conditioned ale, yeast remains in the bottle in dwindling quantities, meaning the beer changes (gets better) over time. Fuller’s states on the box (yeah, it comes in a cool box) that they can only legally recommend aging the beer for three years, insinuating that this delightfully crafted ale will last much longer and improve with advanced age. I showed absolutely no patience or self control by opening mine last Tuesday. How could I resist not opening my individually numbered bottle, one of only one hundred and forty four thousand, for any length of time?
It felt good to take a beer bottle out of a box and peel off a “limited edition 2008” label to get at the cap. It was also comforting to know that this level of snobbery is the exception and not the rule when it comes to beer. Upon opening the box, I also noted that there was a pamphlet enclosed describing the previous ten vintage releases. I thought that was pretty cool. The beer itself had a lovely medium brown, amber color and produced minimal head. What I noticed right away was the delightfully rich malty, fruity smell. This is by far the best and most powerful smelling beer I have had the pleasure of sniffing. The taste was similar to the smell, with a rich malty and fruity flavor. What struck me about the taste was that the high alcohol content really came through. I really enjoyed the taste at first, but after a few more sips all I could taste was the alcohol, which lessened my enjoyment of this beer. Upon reading the enclosed pamphlet, I learned that the alcoholic taste would smooth out over time, like say a year or two of aging.
I can tell for certain that Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2008 will be much improved in 2010, which isn’t to say that it isn’t drinkable or enjoyable now. Hopefully by then I will also have garnered the self control needed to save drinking a Vintage Ale for two years down the road. Luckily for me, Erik bought me another one for Christmas. I do believe I will abandon my childish ways and adopt his practice of buying each year’s Fuller’s Vintage Ale and saving it for two years before drinking. Check out Beer Advocate’s tips on beer storage if you, like me, have also never had enough patience to save beer for any length of time.
Santa's Private Reserve
It is Christmas and surprisingly the ground is covered in snow – that means its time for a warming Christmas Ale. Christmas Ales and Winter Ales vary a great deal in style but they all tend to be malty and big, typically above 6% alcohol by volume. Some are spiced while others let the combination of malted grains, hops, yeast and water do all the work. No matter what style the Christmas Ale is, it should be warming and well suited for drinking during the holiday season.
After taking my dog for a walk in the snow this afternoon, I opened up Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve Ale with high expectations; I am a fan of Rogue Ales and have heard great things about their Christmas Ale. The first sip (more like a gulp) was a bit disappointing – the beer tasted like a pine tree. I looked at the beer, it had great colour looking similar to a Vienna Lager, and it had a thick frothy head, but still tasted foul. I couldn’t figure it out, I know that certain hops have a piney aroma and flavour, but this seemed a bit much, even for a brewery from the hop heavy Pacific North West. I continued to nurse my beer and within 15 minutes realized that I was making a terrible mistake. The problem did not lie with the brewer but with the drinker, the beer was just too cold.
The tongues taste buds are numbed by cold beer – this is a problem when it comes to a malt forward beer such as a Christmas Ale. As my beer continued to warm in my glass, the malt flavour became far more pronounced, balancing out the bitterness from the hops. In North America, most beer is consumed cold, but colder is not always better. Beer’s bitterness manages to shine through even the coldest beer, but the sweetness from the malt becomes almost nonexistent when served cold.
As it turns out, Rogue’s Christmas Ale has been my favourite beer this holiday season. When this beer reaches a cool cellar temperature, 10 – 13 degrees Celsius, its pine like bitterness is balanced nicely by its rich malt flavour. As you reach for your favourite holiday beer this Christmas, let it sit and warm up – you will be glad you did.
Erik and Chris enjoy Rogue Santa's Private Reserve this Christmas