Tiffin Project

Craft Beer Review: Fernie Black Mammoth Winter Ale

by Joe Wiebe on January 23, 2013

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When Fernie Brewing first opened in 2003, unlike most breweries it was busier in the winter than the summer. After all, during ski season there are as many as 9,000 people on the slopes of the three ski hills situated around the town of Fernie where only 5,000 reside year-round. Naturally, the bars and restaurants on the slopes and the après-ski spots in town are packed during ski season.

Over the decade since then, the traditional brewer’s model of trying to keep up with the insatiable demand during the summer has definitely taken over, especially following the brewery’s move from its original facility in a farm shed to its current setup just off Highway 3 in 2007.

Located less than an hour from the provincial border, the Alberta market is important to the brewery, but its excellent, diverse range of beers is also available throughout BC in the government liquor store system and in private stores in urban areas, including summer/winter seasonal sampler packs.

Fernie Brewing has several options in the 650-ml “bomber” format, including year-round brews like What the Huck Huckleberry Wheat beer (which I’m very fond of), Ol’ Willy Wit (also excellent), and the recently added Lone Wolf IPA (solid though not over-the-top in terms of hops). Seasonal bombers include Sap Sucker Maple Porter and Pumpkin Head Pumpkin Brown Ale (one of my favourites from BC’s extensive line-up of pumpkin-infused beers).

Fernie, BC
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8% ABV /  with cocoa & curacao orange peel, aged on oak

To celebrate their tenth birthday, Fernie Brewing has released this special limited edition winter beer. I wrote about BC winter beers elsewhere recently and took a risk by including this beer before I’d even sampled it, but now that I’ve tasted it, I’m happy to recommend it. There is no vanilla extract in sight, which is a big relief for me; rather, the focus here is big, roasted malt and chocolate malt flavours with a touch of real added cocoa and bitter orange peel.

Black Mammoth lives up to its name, pouring jet-black. The first pour had a lot of carbonation and the yellowish head disappeared quickly, which was disappointing. But when I poured the second half out 20 minutes later it fared much better: there was a chunky, creamy head of foam that stuck around so maybe it just needed a minute or two to let off some steam, so to speak.

I noticed a rich aroma of roasted barley with hints of toffee and chocolate. The first sip didn’t quite live up to the potent promise of that aroma, but it definitely offered a lot of roasted malt and chocolate character. The orange peel came through subtly, more as a dry bitterness than any sort of citrusy sweetness. Hop bitterness was not really evident, but there was still a lot of flavour here as well as a welcome boozy warmth. The mouth feel was better in the second glass when it was much creamier. To be honest, I didn’t really notice the effects of oak aging.

Rating (out of 5 beer mugs): ½

Availability: Select private liquor stores in the Lower Mainland, Okanagan, East Kootenays and at the brewery in Fernie.

 Fernie Brewing’s Gord Demaniuk and Paul Graham in August, 2012.

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