More so than most of today’s eccentric beer labels, the label for Le Naugrageur’s St. Barnabe truly sets the stage for the beer contained within. Pouring jet-black in colour, this tempting brew has aromas of bitter chocolate, roasted malt & a hint of anise, and is supported by a frothy, cream-coloured head. The first sip is thoroughly inviting, with an initial smokiness that gives way to a dry, lingering bitterness reminiscent of espresso or 99% dark chocolate. There is nothing sweet about this Dry Stout; instead it presents a distinct earthiness like tobacco or ash. The smooth, gentle carbonation allows the flavours to shine. This here beer pairs well with hearty grilled meats, chocolate desserts, or a fine cigar.
Released just in time for Robbie Burns Day 2014, Howe Sound’s Wee Beastie has undergone the Oak Aged transformation that’s been so popular amongst breweries in BC and beyond since last winter. With a 7 % ABV & appropriate complexity, this Scotch Ale is anything but wee. From the start, the dark chocolate-coloured hazy brew has deep red hues & teases you with its robust and persistent head. With an aroma of rich toffee and caramel, you can also get deeper hints of black currants, crystallized ginger and a “tootsie-role-esque” charm. The flavour is quite savory and features a smokey, subtle dryness that cautiously lingers into the aftertaste. I found this beer to be incredibly smooth, like whipped icing on a cake with a gentle warmess to get you through the Canadian Winter. Keep some around for a mid-summer campfire too.
Canada needs more classic examples of Red Ale, and Fernie Brewing Company in the interior of BC has answered the call. Big Caboose Red Ale is named after a train that travels through Fernie, sounding its horn as it goes. It’s growing popularity amongst BC’s outdoor crowd comes as no surprise, as who can resist a flavourful and drinkable canned ale. It pours a dark brown with ruby hues, almost hazy until you shine a light through it. The aroma is packed with sweet, grainy esters, reminiscent of strawberries and cherry, yet is quite clean. Earthy nuttiness and carmel come through on the palate, with hints of buttered bread and floral hops. The clean aftertaste on this creamy, medium-bodied ale has a refreshing sharpness. I’d gladly wash down a burger or soft cheese with this beer, and I hope you’ll do the same.
As New Brunswick’s smallest brewery, jack-of-all-trades Patrice Godin of Acadie-Broue has focused on creating unique German & Belgian-style beers in his 54 gallon system. This month, I was thrilled to try an early bottle of his Lambic, conveniently called Zirable or “it’s gross!” in Acadian. As an avid lover of Lambic & Gueze styles, I was pleasantly surprised by the drinkability of this beer. With a very gentle carbonation, Zirable has a specific pungency that cuts the lactic sourness, making it taste quite sharp & refreshing on your palate. The aroma is spot on with notes of barnyard, horse & vinegar with virtually no detection of hops (Lambic style beers use hops only for their antibacterial properties). It is pale yellow and exhibits the Lambic’s typical poor head-retention and was clearer than I expected. With a flavour that matches the aroma, I also picked up flavours of slightly sour pineapple & gentle sweetness from the large amount of wheat in the grain bill. Hey Patrice, keep these rare gem’s coming, you’re putting Ammon New Brunswick on the map!
I don’t think there has ever been a nicer pair than Karl & Rebecca Whiffen – owners of Uncle Leo’s Brewery in small Lyons Brook, Nova Scotia. The Whiffen’s dropped me off a bottle of each of their ales – Red, Smoked Porter, and IPA, and for a new brewery I was so thoroughly impressed by their stylistically-flawless line-up. Craig & I decided to review the Red, which is a very bold interpretation of this classic style. UL’s Red pours dark brown with ruby garnets, leaving your glass with a white, confident head. I got quite a bit of esters on the nose which complimented the more roasty, malt-focused backbone. Overall, a very well-balanced beer, the initial dryness gives way to a lingering grainy sweetness. It’s quite thirst quenching and effervescent, which really lights up your palate. And, at 5% ABV I’m sure you could enjoy more than one!