Evil Twin – Soft DK

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Evil Twin’s Soft DK (short for Soft Dookie, abbreviated to prevent loss of appetite) is a vanilla imperial stout inspired by brewmaster Jeppe’s diaper-changing experiences.  Though I have no first-hand experience, I hear that baby poop can have interesting and not unpleasant aromas before solid food diets.  Jeppe evidently was picking up vanilla notes and made this beer in the poop’s honour.

I drank this last night (Nov 8th) as it was apparently International Stout Day.  Cheers to that!

A: Soft DK pours a ruby black, not overly thick (like the poop it represents) and without a lot of carbonation.

S: The aroma is chocolate and vanilla, semi-sweet.  A touch of caramel and some prickly alcohol notes as well.

T: Taking a sip, it sits idle for a moment before opening to a burst of vanilla, some woodiness and chocolate, and followed by a spirit-like gentle alcohol presence and some earthiness that indicates a bitter hop existence barely able to poke through.  This was my only bottle, but if I had a second I would probably give it a year and see if the heat goes down and the chocolate comes up.

M: It’s not a thick stout, probably a little thinner feel than the 10% ABV would have indicated, but it does have a creaminess to it.

O: This is a nice Russian imperial stout that’s been given a boost in vanilla – which is a flavour I love in a big stout.  The vanilla wasn’t dominating and the earthiness kept the sweetness in check easily – I would actually not mind if it were a little sweeter.

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8 Wired – The Big Smoke

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As a lifetime non-smoker the idea of a smoked beer isn’t overly appealing.  However as a lover of beer, I can’t help but see the appeal of almost any beer style.  I have limited experiences with smoked beers – there have been a couple, such as the Coal Harbour Smoke & Mirrors, and my takeaway has been that they are interesting but not something I’d reach for very often.  8 Wired tends to have a bit of a unique twist on any style they produce so I felt it was definitely worth a re-visit by grabbing a bottle of The Big Smoke, a smoked porter than weighs in at 6.2%.

So, 8 Wired is from New Zealand and isn’t terribly hard to find around Vancouver – all of the noteworthy private stores tend to stock their stuff.  My first experience with 8 Wired brews was their trendily named iStout, which I loved.  They also produce a noteworthy IPA and saison, among other things.   They tend to run just north of $10 for a 500mL bottle, which isn’t cheap but for the occasional splurge they are worth it.

This beer pours a blackish brown, like, well, tobacco.  It smells of barbequed dark fruits, if that makes sense.  There is definitely some chocolate sweetness in there, as well.  Maybe a little black licorice.  The smoke notes seem to be accompanied by a prickly earthiness that I’d wager is the hops (one thing I’ve learned about 8 Wired is they use a healthy dose of hops in all their brews – which is a very good thing I feel).

The taste is strongly smoked, not quite to the extent that Smoke & Mirrors was but there is still a significant sense of being cigar-infused.   The smoke also comes across as charred, dry wood but only subtly.  Those chocolate notes I smelled aren’t apparent anymore, but the smoke isn’t over the top despite being front and center.  There is a creamy malt texture as well with some caramel.

I don’t think I’d buy this again but only because I’m not a big smoke-guy.  The execution is very palatable and I would imagine for a cigar lover, this would probably hit home really well – or cross some wires, at least.

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Lighthouse – 15th Anniversary Ale

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With the BC craft beer scene being nearly dominated with young breweries these days, Lighthouse turning 15 was actually a little surprising.  15 years old is not particularly old for a brewery, but with breweries like Driftwood being only 5 years old, it is notable.  For BC, 15 years is respectable.  Lighthouse is celebrating the occasion with an anniversary ale comprised of a healthy variety of both malt and hops and capped with some English yeast.

I actually didn’t have big expectations for this beer for some reason.  I’m not sure why – Barley Mowat’s blog says it’s a “buy and drink”, reviews have actually been pretty positive that I can find now.  So when I took my first sip, my reaction was “oooh!”.  Labelled as an anniversary ale, this drinks like a fantastic winter seasonal.  It has the vanilla, caramel, and other sweet spices that no self-respecting Christmas ale would be caught without.  Its smooth, nearly-sticky-sweet malts are countered with a great hops presence that serves to add complexity and perhaps keep the sweetness at bay – but doesn’t add notable bitterness.  It lands somewhere between a rich pale ale and a barleywine.  I would say the same thing of a winter ale, except the winter / Christmas ales tend to lack the hops presence that really makes this beer stand out.

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2013 Brewery Creek Collaboration – Spruce Tip Stout

I am a proud resident of Brewery Creek, an area within Mount Pleasant, Vancouver.  Its boundaries aren’t well defined, but it seems to reach from around 2nd Ave up to about 15th Ave along Main Street, and a couple blocks to either side.  Brewery Creek gets its name from the creek which at one time flowed above ground and which several breweries along this corridor used as a source of water for their beer-making.  The creek still exists, but it now flows underground, below the streets of Mount Pleasant.    This is an area rich in history and has some of the most well documented historical photos of all of Vancouver.  This map is an incredible rendering of the state of Vancouver at the turn of the century.  In it, if you know where to look, you can see the old Doering and Marstrand Brewery, whose building constructed in 1904 still stands today as a heritage loft conversion.  It has been my favourite residential building in Vancouver since I was a teen, long before I knew its history.  The other building that the old brewery used was recently restored and once again houses a brewery: Main Street Brewing.  More cool historical photos and information on breweries in Vancouver can be found here.

Anyway, I bring all this up because the breweries I am so fortunate to be surrounded by have collaborated in producing a seasonal beer in the name of Brewery Creek.  This area, once a haven for beer making, had up until recently lost its popularity as a beer-producing neighbourhood but that has changed thanks to a resurgence of breweries here in the last few years.  And now they’ve produced a beer together.  These breweries include Brassneck, 33 Acres, R&B Brewing, Main Street Brewing, and Red Truck.  It is called ‘Spruce Tip Stout’ and from the label this is what I know:  It’s not very strong (3.9% ABV) in alcohol and it has the coolest label feature ever:  a sewn patch.  I assume that a significant portion of the money I spent on this beer (and it’s not even an expensive beer, as far as limited 650mL bottles go) went into producing these patches.  Needless to say it’s been carefully removed and will be sewn to my MEC Klettersack.

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The beer itself is perhaps less noteworthy than the label, though the label was a lot to live up to.  There are intense mocha-coffee notes in both the smell and flavour, and not a heck of a lot else.  The body is thin for a stout but this was no surprise given the alcohol level.  Perhaps based on these two features this would be a great breakfast beer, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Four Winds Brewing – Wildflower Saison

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Of all the incredible and exciting breweries that have opened their doors in the past couple years here in the lower mainland, none of them are quite as exciting to me as Four Winds.  It’s not because they are producing higher quality beers.  Yes, their beers as about as tasty as anyone’s in town but Four Winds would not be a clear winner on taste alone.  It’s because of the styles they are producing and the direction in which the brewery seems to be headed.

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Their first bottle release is corked.  Maybe to some it’s not a big deal, but to me it’s a huge deal.  Beyond the advantages of the cork (which, for a saison not meant to be aged, are debatable), it really indicates to me a set of priorities within the brewery that hit home for me.  Coming up soon is a barrel-aged saison with brettanomyces, and some time after that will be a black (or dark) sour.  From the cork onward, this is a lot of new ground for BC craft breweries.  I am terribly excited.

I visited the brewery a couple weeks ago, picking up a couple bottles of the above pictured Wildflower Saison, and I tasted all 8 beers that were on tap.  There was a standard saison (of which I brought home a 1L growler – it was really quite a good example of the style), this wildflower saison, an IPA, a white IPA, a pumpkin oatmeal ale, a sour cherry saison, and two others that aren’t springing to mind.  Every one of them was good – the white IPA stands out in my mind as it had a fantastic, big floral smell and was really tasty.  The wildflower saison was of a different batch than that which was bottled, and I was warned that the on-tap version was much more extreme on the floral qualities.  He wasn’t kidding – it tasted like a glass full of flower petals but it was really tasty.

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A friend found his bottle to be a little under-carbonated but mine poured with big head.  One thing I’ve noticed is there seems to be a lot of change from batch to batch – maybe that’s the one criticism that could be placed on the brewery at this time.  It seems though that despite the variation, each iteration is still quite delicious.

I found the standard saison to be full-bodied for the style with strong glove and spice notes (though not so much the pepper that’s commonly found in saisons).  The wildflower saison shares the same sort of malt character but pairs it with chamomile and rose petals.  It’s like a herbal tea meets a saison, but the saison is the dominant force.  In fact, the chamomile / flowery notes tend to show up in the back half of the palate.  The carbonation in my bottle is spot-on, with fine bubbles that crackle gently with each sip.

As soon as the barrel aged, brett-infused saison crops up I’ll be grabbing a few bottles and will report here.  I am quite pleased with this bottle; it did not disappoint.

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