Miscellany of Beer Reviews, January 2022

Some quick notes Gatling-style on beers I haven’t mentioned on Twitter, or only summarily:

Duvel 666. One of the line extensions in recent years from Duvel (Moortgat) in Belgium. A famous golden ale, the bigger brother has an evident imprint in this lighter version (6.66% abv, with a revised hop bill).

To us, the Belgian yeast character dominates both. I call it clove, beer reviews in the rating sites state that as well, plus coriander, pepper, orange. I don’t get much hop character under the yeast, personally, and it appears no spices are added by the brewery. See its page on the beer. A point in its favour is dry-hopping (perhaps some character lifts off with export).

Body light and carbonic. Overrated in my view, as the bigger bro.

Kertsmis Bier, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto. Described as a “Belgian Dark Ale”, at 10.5% abv. Revival of a brand dating from early 2000s (at least) although different in make-up then. Spices in recipe, see brewery page for description. Nice claret colour, the clove from the (presumed) Belgian yeast fits in well. Similar in style, I would say, to Belgian St-Feuillien Christmas Beer.  Any fan of Belgian ales will admire, but we are not fans of the Belgian yeast character.**

Ecossaise. Scottish-style beer from Alchimiste in Joliette, Quebec, a craft running for some 20 years now. Lightly aromatic, caramel-toned malt, possibly a light peated addition. An interesting acerbic tang, not sour but forecloses the malt richness many beers in this style have. 5.8% abv. See brewery page. Good effort, but not stellar, imo.

Guinness Extra Stout, Canadian licensed version. Interestingly, despite being brewed by the Labatt unit of AB InBev, this beer seems to change slightly from time to time – perhaps any beer does, made anywhere. (Quality control is less of a science than many are led to believe). This brew seems drier than the last batch I tasted with a more assertive roast malt character. The yeast background seems similar though to Irish Guinness which lends a largely uniform stamp (i.e., an experienced taster would see the Guinness signature). Still solid.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Classic early craft lager, exported here probably from Pennsylvania (label states brewed there or in Boston). Although I was just talking about seeming variations in established beers, this brew retains to a remarkable degree its character from the very first bottles all those years ago. A characteristic firmness from the yeast, and interesting hop smack – German with a twist, I’d say – are evident. Retains its darkish, Vienna-lager cast. See brewery page for more.

Trooper, Robinson’s, UK. British premium ale or bitter, 4.8% abv. The Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden) collab with old-school brewer Robinson’s. Light body, decent hop character with a lemon citric emphasis. Some New World hop in there with Golding I understand. Reminded me of Meantime London Pale Ale in its relative mildness, but latter more craft-like. A good option for macro lager drinkers, as a transition brew. I’m sure it has many devotees in general, but not for me.

Spearhead Brewery Oatmeal Cream Ale, from Spearhead Brewing Company, Kingston, Ontario. I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday but will add here, the hop taste to my mind is on a trad UK vector. Combined with the rich malty character, almost like a top English special bitter.  Uses some unmalted grains per label but at no cost to the malty character. See Canadian Brewing News entry for more information.

Hop Valley Bubble Stash IPA Cryo Hops. From a unit of Molson-Coors, brewed at Creemore Brewery in Ontario. The hop is Mosaic and the concentrated effect of the cryo(genic) processing format is to lend an intense but clean, natural hop character, no doubt assisted by the specific hopping regime.*** Balanced by good sweet malt. Great effort, great beer, enough said.

Fracture Imperial IPA. From Amsterdam Brewing (see its site above in entry for Kertsmis Bier). 9% abv. Double dry-hopped for a very full yet clean hop character. Good malt sweetness to balance. This is a classic strong ale of the craft renaissance. At its most refined (a relative term) this year, New World hop character shines while eliding the feisty grapefruit tones of earlier years.*

*A welcome note of peach seems in lieu. Our next post discusses Fracture at greater length.

**Or more precisely, its uniformity and ubiquity in the market as I’ve gleaned it.

***For the lowdown on cryo hops, the latest form of lupulin-enhanced hops, see this recent article in Hop Culture.

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