It may seem like I’ve abandoned the blog, but that’s not the case at all. I did take 2 weeks off drinking beer, which has been a formidable challenge with all the great beers continuing to come out. I have continued to buy, of course, so now I have more inventory than ever. The reason for taking the time off was to see if it was bothering my stomach. I think I’ve found the culprit to be elsewhere in my diet thankfully, as giving up beer was not really an option anyway!
Vancouver Craft Beer Week is happening now and is bigger and better than ever. One of the interesting things going on is a number of limited releases from some local brewers called ‘Band Beers’. These are local ales named after local musicians, which really connected for me – as I love local bands and local beer both. From R&B Brewing we have the fantastically named “You Say Barley! We Say Rye!” named after the local band previously named You Say Party! We Say Die! who have shortened their name to simply You Say Party out of respect for the drummer passing away from a brain hemorrhage. Townsite Brewing has brewed up an ale named after one of the friendliest bands around, Said the Whale. Old Yale has put forth a beer called D.O.Ale obviously tipping its hat to hardcore punk originals D.O.A. who recently played their last show in hometown Vancouver. And finally, and perhaps my favourite, Pink Mountaintops are represented by Cannery Brewing with Pink Mountainhops.
I hope the beers are as good as the musicians – I have a feeling they will be. Stay tuned, I’ll crack one open as soon as this cold I have dies down!
Delirium is a fairly popular Belgian brewery and one of my personal favourites. Their Tremens blonde is possibly my favourite Belgian blonde and the Nocturum is a darker ale that is among my favourites as well. They have other expressions as well, though I have not been able to procure any as of yet. Its appearance is rather striking thanks to the off-white painted bottle that includes blue speckles to match the foil.
Pouring the beer, the Nocturum is very dark red / brown – nearly black but not quite. I believe this is considered a quadrupel, though it has the body more consistent with a dark tripel. The nose is fruity and sweet with a strong toffee note. The body is creamy, fairly light for the style, with powerful dark fruit flavours – plum, raisin, figs. Almost a red wine quality to it. There is a notable bitter side as well keeping things dry especially towards the end – but don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bitter beer. It is overall on the malty side, like most dark Belgian ales, but finishes very dry. The alcohol presence is subtle but there as well at 8.5%, and presents in kind of a spiced rum sort of way. By the end, raisins are primary for me on the fruit front – interestingly I don’t really care for raisins but as an influence in beer, it’s very enjoyable.
In closing, this continues to stand as one of the greats and something I’d like to have on hand at all times if I can help it. This bottle was only aged (post-purchase) for 6 months, I’d like to try keeping a few put away for a couple years to see what happens.
Following up the GIB CDA while the impression is still fresh is one of Parallel 49’s brand new releases – the Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager. Parallel 49 seems to have a bit of a soft spot for the bottom-dwelling yeast, as they have put out a few unique lagers in a world where ales tend to garner more respect. Parallel 49 also has a tendency to use big flavour, floral hops in notable quantity. Here these two tendencies come together along with dark roasted malts to produce their own take on one of my favourite styles of beer.
Comparing numbers with the Granville Island CDA from earlier tonight: Parallel 49’s is only 41 IBU where GIB’s was 60; P49’s is 6.5% whereas GIB was 6.25%. The hops used in P49’s brew are amarillo, centennial and saaz; GIB used zeus, cascade, and ahtanum hops. P49 used pilsner, munich, crystal 40 and midnight wheat malts and GIB used black and chocolate malts. It’s nice to know the individual ingredients (though we don’t know their ratios), and suffice to say they are the basis of the final product’s flavour.
The scent of Parallel 49’s Black Hops is a little different. It’s hard to place – there is acidic fruit and something I can’t quite nail down, seemingly coming from the hops. There is some roasted elements to it as well. It looks dark at first (and in pictures) but looking down into the glass, it is not as dark as your typical CDA – it’s a dark ruby brown that does let a select few light rays through. Before the liquid even hits your tongue you know this does take its hops presence somewhat seriously. It is much more floral than the GIB offering I had drank earlier, though without significant bitterness – the diverse malt profile is able to take care of that. Where the GIB CDA was malts being chase by hops, the P49 CDL is malt-coated hops. The pine and floral flavour of westcoast style hops remains prominent but milky, bready malts come through just as clearly.
I never thought I’d say this, but I think I’m going to give GIB the edge on this one, though only slightly. Both are very enjoyable but the Parallel 49 falls slightly flat on the malt side for me, it’s kind of bready and doesn’t offer up much chocolate, coffee, or roasted flavour. P49 has the more ‘classic PNW IPA’ hops profile than the GIB brew did, but the GIB’s balance just hits home for me.
Granville Island Brewing has given their previously dubbed ‘Limited Release’ series a facelift with the new nomenclature ‘Black Notebook Series’. Is this new nomenclature just a re-branding for marketing purposes or a new approach altogether? Well, as an unbiased third party I’m going to wager it’s likely both. The black book in question is brewmaster Vern’s notebook of recipes and ideas and first to come out of it is one of his personal favourites I hear, the CDA.
The beer pours thin but dark and without significant head – the above picture was 10-15 seconds after a pour without glass tipping involved. The smell is primarily the roasted malts involved in this beer – chocolate and earl grey tea. I do not get a lot of hops presence in the nose but there is a lack of sweetness in the scent indicative of the fact this is no stout, despite its stout-like appearance.
The beer goes down smooth and without a punch in the face by any of its constituents. The malts come out on top over the hops at first – even though it’s a respectable 60 IBU, this beer is not a hop bomb. The body is medium to light, but definitely a bit more substantial than a lot of other CDA’s. The chocolate and sweet espresso flavoured malts leave a bit of an oily film on your tongue, and the NW hops then come along and they dry that off for you, leaving an earthy, ever-so-gentle bitterness to finish off with. In case that was too cryptic, what I’m trying to say is the beer is pretty dry to finish but has an oily, almost creamy texture as well.
CDA’s tend to be all over the map I find when it comes to what’s on the forefront and what’s in the background. Some taste like IPA’s. Some taste like IPA’s with bitter chocolate. This particular expression from Granville Island Brewing does not scream IPA though – instead it strikes a delicate and rather excellent balance where the hops and malts fight for supremacy and neither really comes out above the other. This is a very drinkable beer and to be honest, the best Granville Island Brewing beer I’ve had in a good while – maybe the best ever.
It’s a big week over at Parallel 49 this week, with 3 new Parallel 49 releases plus this limited Vancouver Craft Beer Week release. Vancouver Craft Beer Week is coming up May 31 – June 8th (hmm, that’s slightly more than a week) and to celebrate Parallel 49 has brewed up a batch of Jame’s old recipe – Storm Brewing Red Sky alt. Storm Brewing may not be very well known because it’s only available on tap or in kegs; they do not bottle any of their beer. However, Storm has put out several of the most influential and marvelous beers to ever come out of BC. Red Sky was Storm’s breakout beer in 1995 that put them on the map. How long it’s been off the market I’m not sure, but it’s great to have the opportunity to try the recipe today.
Altbiere or altbier is a German style beer using top fermenting yeast. It is a mild, crisp beer style perhaps somewhere between a pale ale and a pilsner. I don’t expect this beer to be typical of the style but I do expect it to be a quality expression.
The beer pours a really nice rich red-brown with a moderate amount of head – darker than I had anticipated, not that I had any idea what to expect. Taking a whiff, there wasn’t a lot to report – it’s pretty closed. There is a fresh fruit quality to it, I can say that much. It drinks something between a pilsner and a saison – it is light and crisp, and surprisingly mild. What I found interesting is that the impressive balance of the beer almost made me write it off as more boring than it really is. It is 50 IBU’s according to the bottle but there is no bitterness to speak of at all – it’s just crisp with a bit of a spicy finish.
Although this is a borrowed recipe, one of Parallel 49’s greatest skills is moderation – I’ve yet to have a brew of theirs that I felt any one component was over-the-top in. This beer screams subtle (well, more accurately, whispers) from beginning to end. However as the bottle’s level drops, the creamy malt builds, leaving a touch of sweet toffee and breadiness to go along with the crisp, light body. I think I’ll save the other bottle for a summer evening outside.