Belle Royale, Driftwood Brewing Co

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How I missed this beer...

Belle Royale has been one of Driftwood’s boldest brews. Does this latest bird have claws?

Pours dark crimson, pinkish tan head. Immediate cherries upon cracking the bottle, sweet and sour on the nose. Immediate cherry upon first sip, light vanilla and cinnamon, almond, hay, orchard… she’s complex. Full body, coats the mouth in fruit, which remains through a slightly dry finish. 8% abv.

Cherries seem bigger this year. And over all, this beer just seems more cohesive. It’s not a knock; the last batch of Belle Royale was a favorite. This is better. Unsure if the almond and spice I’m tasting is from the malt, cherry pits, barrel aging, or any combo thereof, but it’s brilliant. I’m even getting coffee and chocolate as the glass opens up. A unique and satisfying sour beer, and one Vic and presumably Van beer geeks should not miss. Washington, make that trip up now, this stuff is gold.

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It’s Alive (white wine barrel aged w/ lychee), Mikkeller, Denmark

My fourth in the "It's Alive" series.

My fourth in the “It’s Alive” series.

Pretty sure I’ve encountered about 15 Mikkeller beers in the last while, and that there’s more to come… and this is a very, very good thing.

Pours clear amber with vigourous white head. Aroma is sweet and farmy/orchardy… a bit tricky to describe, but intoxicating. Creamy caramel lychee hits big up front, followed by orchard peaches, lemongrass, bittersweet earth. A vein of hop bitterness runs consistently through this. Mouthfeel is intensely creamy in the beginning, bubbly and moussey with sweet flavour spreading over the tongue before turning bitter and dropping in to stark, acidic dryness. Dry bitter with hints of fruit remain on the palate for a long time, eventually revealing a subtle sweetness.

I give out too many 5s on Untappd… and this is one of those beers that illustrates why. I can’t compare this to many of those beers. Of all the Mikkeller beers which have turned up nearby, this one made the biggest impression upon me. The transition from the initial rush of cream and sweet fruit turns so spartan (quite like the apple, in fact) that every sip remains a complete experience… I swear I want all the cheeses right now. Any cheese, give that to me right now… I want all the rich and wonderful foods with this. For anyone who has ever enjoyed a fruit beer, ever.

Rhubie rhubarb ale, Lighthouse Brewing Co

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Rhubarb beer, anyone?

Freshly released new Lighthouse beer.

Pours opaque golden straw with white head. Aroma of bananas, rhubarb, clove, light bubblegum. Light acidity and carbonation hit the tongue off the bat, followed by banana wrapped in rhubarb, light clovey phenols, wheat. Other than prominent banana, esters and phenols are quite light. Mouthfeel is full and creamy, almost like a milkshake, but countered with light, tangy acidity… finish is also creamy, lingering rhubarb flavour.

I’m a sucker for fruit witbier, and this is a good one. No hop traits to speak of. Rhubarb is really one of those obvious choices in a way… why we don’t see more rhubarb wits is beyond me. I’d like salmon with this, I feel like a good goat cheese and dried cranberry salad would be awesome, and generally any light and bright flavor would probably go.

Sabotage India Session Ale, Vancouver Island Brewery

Vancouver Island has a brand new bomber for us...

Listen all y’all it’s a Sabotage…

For those who don’t know, ISA is a lighter, session version of IPA, part of the North American IPA family (which has 5 or 6 daughter styles now, not counting experimental or rare styles). IPA at 5% is a pretty great thing for parties and social events.

Pours gold amber and clear. I’m a bit stuffed up today, so the nose is muted for me, but there’s some nice grain a bit of citrus. Flavours open up with cereal grain and a rush of citrus, a blast of carbonation, then settles down quickly to a dry and slightly bitter cereal finish. Light bodied, though leaning toward medium, fairly high carbonation, and slightly creamy mouthfeel, turning dry in the finish.

I love ISAs. In fact, I love all these emergent North American IPA daughter styles we’re seeing more of. But ISA in particular is a favorite… I love having a good hoppy one that I can pound all night and keep my legs. And I like this ISA quite a bit. This is gonna be one of those beers I’ll revisit several times during the summer. This is one of those beers I’d want to have a few of with a couple of friends over a movie and some takeout (sweet ginger beef would be so good, but I’d do *any* Chinese, Thai green curry, Indian butter chicken, Mexican, or even just pizza). That said, it’s wonderful on its own. It’s super clean, has enough bitterness to remind you of it’s lineage, and the malt is wonderful; I love when I can taste those bready, cerealy grains. Here’s hoping I can get this in a growler, because I’ll definitely kill a growler or two over the summer.

Funky ⓔ ★, Mikkeller/De Proefbrouwerij, Denmark/Belgium

The madman is back with another colab...

The mad Danish brewer is back with another colab…

Another odd label, another crazy name, another Mikkeller beer has landed. I kinda like the aesthetic, but let’s see how the beer goes.

Pours amber and slightly hazy, 1 1/2 inches tan head. Tropical and barnyard aroma, sweet and funky. Apple skins, mango, leather, barnyard, strong phenolic spice, light esters… Mouthfeel is full bodied, coating, tingly from the phenols and warming from the remarkably high alcohol content (you’d barely notice it’s an oddly specific 9.39% ABV, though you’ll definitely get the alcohol). Lingering finish is dry and mineral, lingering apple skins and bitterness. As the glass progresses, I become more aware of a rich dark fruit and caramel malt underneath all this, a bit of candi sugar… and I’m calling this a dubbel with brettanomyces. Stop me if I’m wrong.

There isn’t a lot of market for value brett beers… most such beers are pricey, and they can be a gamble to purchase… but if ever I’ve had a value brett beer, this is the one. Super strength, about $5 a bottle, packing the same richness as it’s more expensive cousins (the high alcohol cuts a few of those traits slightly, but I’m not complaining)… and satisfies every way I want a farmy brett beer to do. Not my absolute favorite brett beer, but the single best bang-for-your-buck brett beer I can think of. It drinks like it cost twice as much.

One of my favorite of the recent slew of Mikkeller colabs that have landed here recently.

Metro Liquor at University Heights (bottleshop)

One of my favorite bottle shops in Vic.

One of my favorite bottle shops in Vic.

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of Craft Beer Revolution by Joe Wiebe, I suggest you do so. Aside from being a wonderful guide to BC craft beer, it’s a great resource to know where to find it; not every bottle shop and pub will (or could) carry what you’re looking for. Joe does a great job of listing good bottle shops in each region covered. That said, there’s a gem of a shop here in Vic that I think deserves some shine.

2014-03-25 09.22.232014-03-25 09.25.522014-03-25 09.23.46Metro Liquor at University Heights has got a beautiful, rotating inventory of both local and imported craft beers. Originally a more wine-focused shop, their focus has moved in to beer, and their inventory is well-rounded: If I decide I want some good German weizen or English barley wine, a hoppy New Zealand pale or a rich Belgian brune, I’ve got options here. Sour beer fans in particular should check this shop out, as the sour section here is one of the best in town. There tends to be everything from under-the-radar US sours though to rare Belgian gems (the bottles of Cantillon Iris and Lou Pepe Kriek I’m hoarding both came from this shop). The rotating inventory is great for a bottle hunter like me.

Metro also has a great and dedicated staff who are knowledgeable about their product, and great QA, which is necessary when you’re dealing with so many imported bottles. There’s nothing worse than buying a $20 import, getting it home, and discovering it’s gone off or expired last year. I like knowing that beers that don’t make the cut here never find their way to the shelf.

Next time you’re in Victoria and on a bottle-hunt, Metro is a must-check. Google maps is being a pain and not letting me embed a map, so here’s a link. Chances are that you’ll find what you were looking for, and if you don’t, you might just find something even better. With the speed of beer in BC, I’m hoping Joe Wiebe will be doing an updated version of CBR down the road, and this shop deserves a spot in the Vic list.

Rock Bay Mash Up, Driftwood/Hoyne, Vic

Driftwood and Hoyne collab... my brain is imploding with happiness...

Driftwood and Hoyne collab… my brain is imploding with happiness…

For those outside of Victoria, this is kind of a dream collaboration for us Island bound beer geeks. Driftwood and Hoyne have two of Victoria’s most beloved beers in Fat Tug and Dark Matter, and the idea of the two doing this has me frothing at the mouth.

Pours black/red, creamy tan head. Aromas of molasses, chocolate, slightly fruity. Rich and creamy, bitter espresso and cocoa, light banana and spice, slightly grassy. Silky smooth mouthfeel, hop/malt bitterness, prominent but perfect alcohol warmth… finish is bitter and lightly dry. The malt and hops blend in a way which is really uniform and satisfying.

Y’know that feeling when something really, REALLY lives up to the hype? I’m tempted to buy a case of this. I WILL buy more tomorrow at work, if there’s any left. For those outside of Victoria, Fat Tug and Dark Matter are two of the city’s favorite beers, and the idea of this collab sends beer drinkers frothing at the mouth… and I’m pleased to say, it’s exactly as awesome as I’d hoped it would be. This is the best parts of Driftwood with the best parts of Hoyne. I hope DriftHoyne is a series, not just a one-off.

Plus, it’s worth mentioning the equally awesome and so-very-Driftwood/so-very-Hoyne bottle art… both of which feature a Driftwood and Hoyne truck crashing in to each other (they’re close enough to pump wort from one brewery to another via a big hose, so it’s a theoretically quite possible crash). Both of these are going in my tiny bottle collection, because this beer is special, and tastes special (and at 8%, it kicks).