The Fruit Beer of Summer

Some people think of fruit beer and think of Fruli and wretch. Never you fear though, fruit beer is amazing! The hard part is finding one you like, since all fruits can be used and all styles of beer can be the vessel, so many combinations exist that it can be overwhelming.

Not all fruit beer is created equal. That should be obvious, but allow me to clarify: there is no standardized method for making a “fruit beer”. Some breweries add fruit to the second fermentation, whereas some breweries add fruit juice to the beer, either during the second fermentation or just before bottling. Neither method creates a better product, as it really depends on the potency of the fruit flavour and the base beer flavour. Sometimes, it just adds a neat colour without necessarily a strong fruit flavour. Just to make it more complicated, some beers just taste fruity but are merely characteristics of that beer style, rather than it purposely being made as a fruit beer.

Most fruit beer falls into one of 3 categories: wheat ale base, Belgian sour style base, or “other”. And of course some may fall into both! ;)

Fruit Wheat Ales:

  1. Postmark Brewing Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefeweizen (Vancouver, Canada): I really liked the uniqueness of this flavour. Medium bodied, good balance of fruit flavour with wheat flavour, overall 3.5/5 stars.Postmark Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefe
  2. Bridge Brewing Bourbon Blood Orange Wheat Ale (North Vancouver, Canada): The blood orange flavour was not strong but enough to balance the wheat flavour. The bourbon influence was the most noticeable. I gave this beer 3.5/5 stars.
  3. Fernie Brewing What the Huck Huckleberry Wheat Ale (Fernie, Canada): Now this is some tasty business. Definitely tastes like a berried wheat ale, not specific to huckleberries, but the purple beer is definitely eye catching. Medium bodied, overall 3.75/5 stars.
  4. Four Winds Berliner Weisse Sour Wheat Ale (Delta, Canada): This is absolutely my favourite! It tastes like a lemony wheat beer, slightly sour, like a beer lemonade! It’s light and thirst quenching and amazing. I gave it 4.5/5 stars.

Fruit Sours:

  1. Parallel 49 Apricotopus Sour Saison (Vancouver, Canada): This is not too strong in the apricot or sour flavour. Medium bodied. I would prefer if they made it more sour, as I feel it could have been so much more. 3/5 stars.
  2. Lindemans Lambics (all flavours – Belgium): All the Lambics!These are definitely sour! They come in many flavours like apple (pomme), peach (peche), raspberry (framboise), cherry (kriek), and black currant (cassis). The fruitiness is not subtle, but the sour fizziness of it makes it super light and easy to drink. These were my gateway into enjoying beer! I like the cassis the best, followed by the kriek in a close second. I gave the whole line 4/5 stars.
  3. Mort Subite (Framboise and Kriek – Belgium): Both of these are fruity and sour. I liked the framboise better than the kriek, only because the fruit flavour was slightly less intense and balanced the sour well. However, the kriek has a nice POP to it. Just have to be in the mood. 3.75/5 stars.
  4. Liefmans Cuvee Brut (Belgium): A sour kriek beer that has noticeable bite and still very smooth and had a complex flavour, almost like biting into a sour cherry pie. 4.25/5 stars.
  5. Parallel 49 Lil Redemption Cherry Sour (Vancouver, Canada): Now this one was a treat. This cherry sour was aged for 2 years in cabernet sauvignon barrels with wild yeast and sour bacteria (presumably our friends Brett and Lactobacillus, hmm?) and then blended with sour cherries for 3 months. It was a limited release beer and with good reason. It was just so strong and yet balanced. People who don’t like sours liked it and people who don’t like fruit beers liked it. It won the hearts of many! 5/5 stars.

Fruit “others”:

  1. Le Trou du Diable The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso (Shawinigan, Canada): The English label says it’s a “tropical strong beer” and the French website gives a little more insight into its flavour by calling it a White IPA. So it has the yeast of a wheat beer, the slight bitterness of the hops, and an indescribable nondescript fruitiness to it. Medium bodied. 3.5/5 stars.
  2. Maui Brewing Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA (USA): A medium bodied beer that was surprisingly smooth. The blood orange flavour balanced out the hops; not too bitter or sweet and not very hoppy or orange-y either. 3.75/5 stars.
  3. Parallel 49 Grapefruit Tricycle Radler (Vancouver, Canada): If you want something light and refreshing, this is it! All radlers are low in %ABV because they are beer combined with juice, after fermentation. They were popularized by cyclists as they could rehydrate and not be intoxicated enough to leave their bicycle at home! The grapefruit flavour was not too bitter or sweet. 3.5/5 stars.Bomber Brewing Park Life Passionfruit Ale
  4. Bomber Brewing Park Life Passionfruit Ale (Vancouver, Canada): I was weary to try this beer as I haven’t liked any of the beers that Bomber has produced. As in, I would run in the other direction, given the option. Luckily, one of my friends bought it so I had to try it and I was shocked at how good it was! Not only was it fruity, but it was well balanced with the beer flavour AND it was light bodied. I can see why they only sell it in 6-packs, because you will cry at how fast 1 runs out! 4.5/5 stars.
  5. Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale (UK): Now this was something else. It smelled like strawberry jam and tasted it, too! Definitely sweet but I appreciated that it poured like an ale should be coloured. Medium bodied and didn’t taste artificial or syrupy. The intense flavour had to be paced slowly. 3/5 stars.

Your Home Start-up Bar Essentials

My friends Jordie and Darcy just opened a new cocktail supply shop in Vancouver called Sips Cocktail Emporium. Since they are in the business of supplying you with the wares to stock your home bar, perhaps you are asking yourself “Where would I begin?”

Lucky for you, they wrote a blog post about How to Start Your Home Liquor Cabinet. The thing I liked the most about this post was reading about their recommended home bar supplies separately, as well as why. They had some cross-over, but each added their personal flair to it. Which just goes to show, aside from an assortment of spirits, the liqueurs, aperitifs, bitters and so on are really up to your personal preference.


Start_Your_Home_Bar2_1024x1024There’s a theory that with only 12 bottles of liquor you can start your own home bar well-equipped to make hundreds of cocktails. The theory is put forward by the Solomonsons in their book The 12 Bottle Bar. While these bottles will definitely equip you with a lot of cocktail ammo, we don’t even think you’d need 12. When it comes down to it your bar is what you think is important. We believe that, not only is there room for more personalization, it can take much less to start your own liquor cabinet!Personalization is key and even between the two of us, we created different starter home-bars. Here what we came up with:

Darcy’s starter home-bar:
1. Vodka
2. Gin
3. Bourbon
4. Rye
Even though they seem similar, I like to have specify both bourbon and rye (and not just whisky) since they have unique flavours and there are many cocktails that specify which is needed.
5. Amber Rum
6. Dark Rum
Again, while these two rums may seem similar, they are used for completely different purposes. I like a good amber rum for mixing in cocktails and a dark rum for sipping.
6. Sweet Vermouth
7. Dry Vermouth
8. Campari
9. Lillet Blanc
One of my favourite liqueurs! I would ideally like to have a bottle of each kind: Blanc, Rose and Rouge. However, to simplify, I think the Blanc is more versatile as a cocktail ingredient and a drink on its own.
With this selection of bottles, I can make countless cocktails including: A Negroni, a Vesper Martini and my personal favourite A Little Princess (equal parts amber rum and sweet vermouth).

 

Jordie’s starter home-bar:
Now before I tell you what I’d include I think that I should talk about my philosophy here. What you want in a home bar is something that if anyone comes over you can make something to suit their tastes, while at the same time showing off your own. It’s a very free-flowing style, well suited to my own flexible personality.
First off I need the basics:
1. Vodka
2. Gin
3. Whisky
Rye or bourbon is what I prefer for mixing cocktails, bourbon is a little sweeter and rye is a little spicier, play it to your tastes. If you are a scotch drinker, I’d recommend getting a bottle of scotch for sipping and another bottle of a cheaper variety of whisky for pouring mixed drinks.
4. Tequila
Good for certain cocktails, but also useful for those people who just want a shot.
5. Rum
Now many people will criticize this (Darcy included), but you can probably just get away with one type of rum. White rum is used for some types of rum cocktails (Daiquiris, Long Island Iced Teas) whereas amber or spiced dark rums are preferred for more rum-centric drinks (Hot Buttered Rum, Rum & Cokes) that known, no reasonable human being is going to spit in your eye if you offer them one for the other. If you in particular are the sort of person who cares, by all means get all three types. (If you, like me, don’t care I’d say just get a nice tasting amber and use it for everything.)
Then I’d want a few things to just make many classic cocktails:
6-7. Sweet & Dry Vermouth
Crucial for classic cocktails like Martinis and Manhattans these vermouths (unlike rums imho) are not suitable for interchangeable use. I like to age my sweet vermouth in a barrel for a couple weeks before use, but this is not at all necessary.
8. Aromatic Bitters
There’s 100s of types of bitters out there, but the only one you absolutely have to have is an aromatic. I like to use Scrappy’s but other brands are fine, and each offers their own subtleties. Once you get started down the bitter’s road you can expand your bars versatility in many directions, but aromatic is all you need to start (and is what is being referred to when any cocktail recipe just calls for “bitters”).
And finally, a place to start experimenting:
9. Your favourite type of liqueur
There’s many types of liqueurs out there, but there’s no need to get all of them. You probably know what flavours you like and what you’ll use the most. I like to always have Campari and an orange liqueur in the house, but that’s because I particularly like experimenting with those flavours in cocktails. If you like Irish Cream, Coffee Liqueur, Amaretto, Fernet Branca, Lillet, Fireball or Peppermint Schnapps, that’s great. Get those. Just get a flavour you like and experiment with making your own cocktails at home with it. Then when you get bored of it, get something else!
So don’t be fooled into thinking you need certain types of liquor to start your home bar. There are great basics to begin with and there is lots of room for personalization. Ultimately, your home bar is for you: to make yourself delicious cocktails that you love and to show off to your friends what tastes you like.
Happy sipping!

 
 
Links:
Starting Your Home Liquor Cabinet original post
Sips Cocktail Emporium home page

Wild yeast and bacteria – Why is it in my beer?

Sour beers are starting to become a craze on the West Coast. Originating in Belgium with the sour ales, such as the Lambic, Gueuze, Flanders Red Ale, and Oud Bruin (which I wrote about previously, here), a lot of the local breweries have decided they want to make their own sour beers.

Let’s talk about first why we’re calling it wild in the first place. The origin of sour beers from Belgium would be produced in what’s called “open-air fermentation“. This means that rather than using a yeast where it is measured, carefully selected and used in a controlled environment, the tanks in this case were left open. This would allow yeast and bacteria to enter the tanks, leaving behind a sour flavour. While this type of fermentation can leave behind “off-flavours” in other types of beer, this type of fermentation is actively trying to re-produce these wild conditions to develop a unique flavour.

Next, let’s talk about what yeast and bacteria are considered among the wild class:

Four Winds Berliner Weisse

Only lacto. German style sour wheat beer.

– Brettanomyces (aka “Brett”) is a wild yeast that is used in fermentation of many sour beers. It can take weeks, months, or years before the yeast is finished fermenting. It can be a slow process and you won’t necessarily get the same results every time. This is why people may purchase the same beer from year to year and then cellar it (remind you of wine enthusiasts, doesn’t it?). Any time you think of a beer tasting funky, you have Brett to thank for that!

Driftwood Gose-uh label

Only lacto. Gose German style sour.

– Lactobacillus is a bacteria that will consume the sugar and impart lactic acid. This is where the sour of sour beers come from. Since this bacteria is going to be occupied making lactic acid however, the yeast has to be added at a different time so that the increasing acidity doesn’t kill all the conversion of sugar into alcohol. (Thanks again, Brett!If the lactobacillus is used without the Brett however, the flavour left behind is a clean sour taste. Nothing funky or barnyard-y about it!

– Pediococcus is another bacteria that functions similarly to lactobacillus except that it imparts sourness and funk into the mix. I personally haven’t seen it listed on any beer labels, but the Belgians tend not to label their beers, either.

Moon Under Water - Hip As Funk label

Only Brett. Farmhouse IPA.

Since the West Coast beers are relatively new to producing sours, they like to include what they used to make it sour. Which is great, if you know which of the sour flavours you like and don’t like. Sour beers are polarizing; just like IPAs, people either love them or hate them. Knowing what aspect of the sourness one likes or dislikes, they can choose more wisely. Perhaps you like the sour and not the funk? Or perhaps you like the funk or not the sour? Or perhaps you are a sour fiend such as myself and you love all of it!

 

Links for further reading:
The Brettanomyces Project – someone’s Masters dissertation on Brettanomyces, in addition to the beer they are producing
Pediococcus on Wikipedia
Lactobacillus on Wikipedia
Gose beer on Wikipedia
Four Winds Brewing Company – in Delta, BC
Driftwood Brewery – in Victoria, BC
Moon Under Water Brewery – in Victoria, BC

Sons of Vancouver – Amaretto Review

Sons of Vancouver is a new distillery operating out of North Vancouver. They opened on March 14, 2015 and have been enjoying immediate success. They won the Best of BC Distilled competition for this year in the “Favourite Spirits/Liqueur” category for their Amaretto, and both of their vodkas came in second and third place in the “Favourite Vodka” category.

LOVE Amaretto. I wrote a blog post earlier this year about making a saffron Amaretto sour. With the Sons of Vancouver Amaretto though, you won’t need to add any flavoured syrups, because this flavour is so outstanding on its own. I think I just want to drink it straight until the bottle is gone, and then cry about I can’t just live at the distillery. Yes, it’s THAT good!!

The label tells us that it’s crafted from apricot kernels, Bourbon vanilla beans, and No. 82 Amaretto label from behindorange peel. Then later, gets sweetened with Demerera sugar and BC blackberry honey to round out the flavour. Oddly enough, there does not appear to be any almonds in it. Upon some further research however, it turns out that a lot Amaretto (e.g. DiSaronno) does not have almonds in it, despite it being an “almond liqueur”. Guess it’s easier to make almond liqueur sound more appetizing than apricot pit liqueur? And yet, some distillers do add bitter almonds or sweet almonds into the distillation process. The Spirit of BC‘s review indicates that the distillers wanted to emphasize using only local ingredients; so perhaps, using imported almonds would not fit the bill? Makes me wonder they got their Bourbon vanilla beans then, as those tend to be from Madagascar!

No. 82 AmarettoThe front of the bottle says “No. 82” Amaretto, and according to The Spirit of BC’s review, this is because they made 81 batches of Amaretto before they reached the flavour they were the most satisfied with. Well, I gotta say, it shows! This Amaretto is not only the best I have ever tasted, but it’s distilled locally too, and I <3 supporting local distillers, whenever possible.

So, how does it taste? It smells like vanilla, honey, and mildly like root beer. It tastes strongly vanilla, and has a wonderful nutty roundness to it. The finish is sweet and not strong in alcohol flavour. At 26% ABV, it’s not surprising, and falls in line with their competition. The honey and Demerera sugar give it a nice, syrupy thickness to it, but it doesn’t taste overpowering or cheap. I would much prefer this in a latte over almond syrup, any day!

 

Belgian Beer (Part I – Trappist, Belgian & French)

Belgian beer is in a class of its own. It’s some of the oldest beer that the world has to offer, and has a flavour profile that is quite unique compared to beer from anywhere else in the world.

What’s even more awesome is that some of the Belgian beers are made by monks. The ones that are called Trappist beers belong to one of only a few monasteries. The monastery makes its money by producing the beer and selling it all over the world. Yet the monasteries do not profit; the money is to provide the monks with a living allowance, to contribute to the monastery for their building maintenance and upkeep of brewing equipment, and then any money leftover is donated to charity. A very different approach to passing around the church plate!

Belgian beer can be broken down into 4 basic styles: Trappist, Belgian & French, Belgian Strong, and Sour Ale (The first 2 styles will be covered in this post, the next 2 styles in the next post). There are also Abbey beers which are brewed in the Trappist style but are not produced by a monastery. The beers within a style are going to be similar but will also express a fair amount of flavour variance.

Trappist and Abbey beer denote their sub-styles by calling them single, dubbel, tripel, or quad. This is a general term to describe how much malt and how much % ABV the beer has. Single beers are not really produced any longer, and were intended to be consumed throughout the day without any marked decrease in cognition. Some of the beers have a number after them (e.g. Rochefort 10 or St Bernardus Abt 12) and this is to denote strength relative to the same brewery. A “12” is not stronger than a “10” among different breweries.

Trappist/Abbey beer worth trying:Belgian beer
– Dubbel: St Feuillien Brune – has a roasted malt flavour, medium body, smells fruity, medium sweetness. Other beer in this category that I have not yet tried include the Chimay Rouge and Westmalle Dubbel.
– Trippel: St Feuillien Trippel – smells like pear, medium body, slight bitter after taste, appropriate as an evening beer. Other beer in this category include the Westmalle Trippel and Kasteel Trippel.
– Quad: Kasteel Cuvee du Chateau – smells like raisins and sweet plum, heavy body, tastes like caramel sweet awesomeness, clean finish. Other beer in this category include the Prearis Quad, Chimay Bleu, Rochefort 10, and St Bernardus Abt 12.

Belgian & French beer denotes its sub-styles by calling them witbier, belgian pale ale, saison, bier de garde, or belgian specialty ale. Witbiers are made predominantly with wheat, belgian pale ales are like regular pale ales but with belgian yeast, saisons are low alcohol pale ales (3-8% ABV) that are brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, bier de gardes are a stronger pale ale, and belgian specialty ales are more difficult to classify into one sub-style.

Belgian & French beer worth trying:
– Witbier: Hoegaarden – light citrus smell, slightly floral at the beginning, clean finish, and light body. Prearis Belma – smells like oranges, light and tart flavour but not too sharp, medium body, slightly spicy finish. Other beer in this category include Abbaye des Rocs Blanche des Honnelles.
– Belgian Pale Ale: An example of which I did not try is the De Konnick.
– Saison: Dupont Saison – medium body, tangy, citrus finish, better to pair with food. St Feuillien Saison – light body, slight fruity flavour, clean finish, good on its own.
– Bier de Garde: An example of which I did not try is the Saint Sylvestre 3 Monts. 
– Belgian Specialty Ale: St Feuillien Grand Cru: smelled and tasted like caramel, heavy body; must be stored cool but drink it warm (hands under a fat bottomed glass with a stem), otherwise the bottle can explode! Kasteel Rouge: smells and tastes more like a cherry liqueur than a beer; you will like it if you like sweet things!

The next post will discuss the Belgian Strong Ales and the Sour Ales.

Further reading:
– Beer in Belgium on Wikipedia
– Trappist Beer on Wikipedia
– Dageraad Brewing (A Vancouver-area brewery that produces a Belgian style Blonde and Amber ale)
– Old Abbey Ales (A Vancouver-area brewery that produces a Belgian Tripel, Quad, and IPA)

Deep Cove Gin – Review

First off, I applaud people for having the tenacity to operate a distillery. I am so happy that there are more local craft distilleries popping up in British Columbia! Not as fast as craft breweries or cider houses, but definitely making a significant impact.

And then sometimes, you come across a craft brewery that wants to dip their toes into craft distilling. One example of this is Deep Cove Brewers & Distillers (another example of this is The Fermentorium – the distillery brain child behind Phillips Brewing in Victoria, BC). Some people would argue that just because someone knows how to make beer dDeep Cove Ginoes not mean they know how to make a good gin. Some people would argue that (craft) alcohol production is all the same thing….or is it? Would you trust a wine maker to produce a yummy beer? Would you go into a Scotch distillery expecting to find a good wine? Now, I’m certainly not against people trying their hand at it, or even bringing in a “resident expert” to produce under an already established name. That’s good marketing. But, is it good alcohol? Furthermore, in an increasing craft market, how does a company make something distinct enough to be remembered and yet still palatable?

Enter Deep Cove Gin. They named their gin “Oliver” because they added olives and rosemary into their production. It is common to find rosemary as a botanical, but far less common to find olives. Seems to fit, since a lot of Martinis come with olives as a garnish, or one can order a “dirty Martini”, which is a Martini with some olive brine in it.

The bottle smelled great but the straight up flavour on its own was overpowering. Definitely not a sipping gin. Would not go well in sweet cocktails, and much to my surprise, I also did not like it in a Caesar. I did however enjoy it in a Martini, and an Avocado Gimlet (see here for the recipe). I also wonder how different it would taste if I merely left olives and rosemary in some gin myself to infuse? I did not get a chance to try it with tonic water, so it could mix well into that. Overall, I was disappointed and perhaps I expected it to be more versatile than it was. It had a smooth body to it and little after burn.

I give it 2.5 stars

Even though I haven’t given it a high rating, I am still eager to try their vodka, their sweet tea vodka, and their whiskey. Some distillers are better at one spirit than others.

VCBW – An Insider’s Look

I have to admit, I was little sad that I didn’t make it to any of the Vancouver Craft Beer Week special tasting events. Had I been able to attend any of the special nights, I would have gone to the “Rookies vs. Legends” event, which compared 3 “Rookie” and “Legend” craft brewers side-by-side, and the “Cicerone vs. Sommelier” event, which compared a chef-prepared 3 course meal with suggested beer and wine pairings. At the end of the meal, the attendees got to vote on if the Cicerone or Sommelier “won” – that is, who chose the best food and beer/wine pairings.

Alas, I did make it to the grand tasting hall on the last day of the event, and seeing this was my 3rd or 4th time attending, I thought I would “give back” to the community by volunteering. This meant that for relinquishing 4 hours of my afternoon, I would get into the hall for free and be given 5 free tasting tokens (about a $40 ticket + token value; essentially the equivalent of working for minimum wage).

Volunteering to keep you hydrated!This was a fantastic deal to me, and my job was really easy. All I had to do was fill the water jugs outside of the brewer’s tasting stations (and occasionally, empty their slop bucket), and since the place was massively sized, my section was only about 12 brewers all in a row. It was really hot outside that day, but even still, people were not drinking all that much water. It was fun getting a chance to talk with the brewery reps – it made me happier to know which craft brewers were getting my money, and which ones I was less enthused about supporting based on our conversations throughout the day. One of the horrible head-shaking moments was watching one of the breweries get told to pack it up and leave because the VCBW staff caught the booth operators drinking on the job, not even an hour after the festival had opened. Since that compromises the event’s liquor license, they were sent home immediately.

VCBW mapThe only challenging part of this benevolent endeavour was, after my shift was finished, I only had under 2 hours to try all the breweries that I wanted to check out! I also bought some tokens, knowing I would run out of 5 tokens quickly, and a friend I ran into also gave me 2 of their tokens, so now I had 15 tokens to spend in record time. I’m not at all a fast beer drinker, and I didn’t have much food in me, but away I went! One token got you one 4 oz tasting glass, and drinking 60 oz or 3-4 pints in such a short amount of time was asking for trouble!

I prioritized trying beers from breweries that we carried at the liquor store I work at, as well as other ones I just wanted to try. I did stop half way through to eat from one of the food trucks, and thankfully, the wait for my order was not very long. I wouldn’t have been so adamant to spend all my tokens, except that last year, we were allowed to cash in any unspent tokens. This year, they told us we could only use our previous years’ tokens the following year. I became so determined to spend all my tokens and TRY ALL THE BEERS that I ended up dumping half my taster glasses in the slop buckets. This filled me with some shame of wasting beer, but I needed to preserve my brain cells for the hot bus ride home.

Of the many beers I tried, none of them were particularly outstanding, but they were all above average in tastiness. I would definitely try them all again, and keep my eyes peeled for more styles from the same breweries.

My “local” brewery recommendations to check out:

1) Category 12 Brewing (Victoria, BC): The brewmaster has a PhD in microbiology and biochemistry and makes some yummy beers. I recommend trying the Insubordinate Session IPA or the Disruption Black IPA.

2) Dageraad Brewing (Vancouver/Burnaby, BC): Fantastic Belgian-style beer, made locally! I recommend the De Witte, if it’s still being made. It’s a wheat beer brewed with passionfruit, which is only noticeable in its finish. Very refreshing and not overbearing on the Belgian yeast flavour. The first one I had ever was their Amber, which was tastier than most amber beers I’ve had.

3) Tofino Brewing (Tofino/West Coast Vancouver Island, BC): I have never had a beer from Tofino Brewing that I didn’t like. Their smaller facility forces them to be more choosy on what they produce. Their year-round beers comprise a blonde ale, an IPA, and a pale ale, but if you can get your hands on one of their seasonals, I highly recommend their stout and spruce tips pale ale.

Best part about volunteering: the volunteer appreciation party in a couple months. Free and we can bring a friend for the all-you-can-drink extravaganza! I hope to be able to return to volunteering from them again next year and get a chance to check out their other events during the week.