There have been several interesting BC craft beer releases in recent weeks. Here are some capsule reviews (in order of alcoholic strength).
BlissTank Organic Triple Chocolate Stout
5% ABV / 650-ml bomber
Availability: Limited release in private liquor stores.
Nelson Brewing celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Since 2006, it has embraced an all-organic focus, reflecting the healthy, organic lifestyle embraced by many residents of that progressive West Kootenay city. BlissTank is Nelson’s first foray into the popular bomber (650-ml bottle) market—a direct response to craft beer drinkers’ love of variety. The brewery plans on releasing other bombers in the future, including an Imperial IPA called Full Nelson, which should appear in early 2013.
BlissTank is a creamy, chocolatey stout with a great roasted malt character. It’s not extreme in any way, which is often the case with organic beers since the choice of ingredients can be somewhat limited. Although three different types of chocolate were used in the brewing process (bitter chocolate, cocoa and cocoa nibs), I can’t say I taste three distinct chocolate flavours in the beer. Mainly, I’d say cocoa is the dominant taste. This is a good start for Nelson—I look forward to future bomber releases.
6.5% ABV / 77 IBU
Availability: Throughout BC.
Dead Frog Brewery has had a bit of an identity complex for a while now. Originally founded as Backwoods Brewing in 1998, the company rebranded itself in 2006. But its choice to adopt a playful, marketing-focused name along with slogans like “Do it froggy style” and “Nothing goes down like a cold dead frog” turned off some craft beer drinkers. It didn’t help that Dead Frog packaged its products in clear glass bottles, which can result skunky beer, a problem that gets worse the hoppier the beer is since hop compounds are what are being affected in “lightstruck” beer.
Dead Frog is hoping to boost its profile in craft beer circles with the release of this “proper” IPA, and in a brown bottle no less. The brewery has been actively promoting this beer as the first release from their new brewing team of Tim Brown (previously at Mission Springs Brewpub) and Tony Dewald, legendary in craft beer circles since his days at Dix Brewpub in Vancouver, and the label makes big claims that it is a “big, bold IPA that lives up to its name.”
So how is it? Well, it’s pretty good. It definitely has a potent hop bitterness atop a nice malty base, but there is absolutely no “tropical fruit aroma,” as the label claims. I also don’t taste any “citrus-like bitter finish.” And I have tried more than one bottle, just in case I had bad luck with the first one. The whole tropical/citrus Northwest hoppiness that is the hallmark of BC’s best IPAs (such as Driftwood’s Fat Tug, Lighthouse’s Switchback and Central City’s Red Racer IPA) just ain’t here. Maybe it’s a matter of the hops they used or how they used them (dry-hopping? late boil addition? I don’t know, but I’m not a brewer) so it could be something they can adjust and improve upon.
Otherwise, this is a tasty beer, and I certainly wouldn’t turn it down if someone offered me a glass at a Christmas party. And it’s a good step in the right direction for Dead Frog.
Siren Red Ale
8% ABV / 70 IBU
Availability: Private liquor stores on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
Lighthouse Brewing was in the same boat as Dead Frog a couple years ago – they didn’t have much of a reputation in craft beer circles until they started their Big Flavour series. Since then, though, brewmaster Dean McLeod has made a name for himself with some of the best specialty bombers released in BC, such as the unique Belgian Black and Belgian White, Uncharted Belgian IPA and Overboard Imperial Pilsner.
Fans of McLeod’s previous specialty beers (and there are many) will not be disappointed with this latest release. Siren Red Ale is a big, bold, boozy, malty, yeasty and hoppy beer that doesn’t really fit any stylistic description I can think of other than: delicious. Other bloggers have already named it December’s beer of the month, or given it superlative ratings (11/10!). In other words: go get some now before it sells out, and when you do, please invite me over to share it with you. So good!
Shiny Penny Belgian IPA
8.5% ABV / 80 IBU
Availability: In private stores on the Sunshine Coast, the Lower Mainland and Nanaimo.
If you’ve been reading my column regularly, you’ll already know how fond I am of Townsite Brewing—I’m a big fan of both their beers and the people who work there. It’s hard to believe that the company has only been operating since March; I feel like they’ve already established themselves as one of BC’s best craft breweries. I only wish they could manage to get their beers all the way down here to Victoria on a regular basis.
Townsite’s Belgian-born brewer Cédric Dauchot and his wife, Chloe Smith, who is also a brewer, spent the last couple of years in her hometown of Saskatoon, trying to open their own brewpub, Shiny Penny, but after “chasing our own tail for a year and a half” and with a baby on the way, they jumped at the chance to relocate to Powell River. This is the beer they had in mind when they dreamed of opening their own place. It features a complex blend of bitter and citrusy/tropical fruit flavours from the hops with the spiciness of the Belgian yeast, all atop a solid base of caramel maltiness. Delicious!