Trappist Westvleteren 8

I have long wanted to get my hands on a Trappist Westvleteren beer. Westvleteren, located in West Flanders Belgium,  is the smallest and most secretive of the Trappist brewers. Not only is their beer itself scarce because of the small production, but anyone wishing to purchase beer can only buy it in limited amounts, and even then, only from the monks themselves. They sell only to individual customers who agree not to resell the beer. People have been caught and prosecuted for doing so.

Trappist Westvleteren beer bottle
A nondescript bottle holds the most unique beer I've ever tasted

I’ve long had my eye on this beer, and long worried that I’d never see it, let alone have a chance to drink it. But I have great friends, and through them my proverbial ship came in this past Christmas. Impossibly huge thanks goes out to Kevin & Cath!

I stress at this time that this beer was a gift. I didn’t buy it or sell it. I did, however, share it.

Trappist Westvleteren beer cap
The only identification of Westvleteren beer is the cap

The first thing to note is the bottle. Simple. Brown. No label. The only identification is the cap.

The beer pours nicely, with beautiful colour. It’s fairly cloudy. The first big surprise was the smell. As is often the case with good beer and especially Trappist beer, the smell and the taste don’t always match up. I smelled fruit, predominantly cherry, and spice.

Trappist Westvleteren beer in a glass
Note the rich brown and red colour of the beer

Tasting Westvleteren 8 was an absolute pleasure. It was so well balanced. The cherry and spice that I smelled came through, but I also picked up hints of caramel and toasted malt. There was certainly more, but I’ll admit that in the face of the Westvleteren 8 my palette is probably out of it’s depth. This beer drinks a bit sweet, but finishes dry.

I’m not sure when I’ll have my hands on another bottle of this rare and incredible beer, but you can bet that some time in the future I will drink Westvleteren 8 again. Even if it means hunting for seat sales.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

Diplomatico Reserva Exlcusiva first hit the bottom of my glass in the summer of 2009.  I was hunting for something new after enjoying a run with Cruzan’s Single Barrel, their flagship offering.  To be perfectly honest, I first picked up Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva because the bottle caught my attention – its deep green hue and a label like freshly printed money.  It’s a shame us Canadians have to pay, on average, $55.00 for Exclusiva, but there is no questioning its unbelievable value at this price point.  The spirit lurking within its eye-catching exterior is blended from 80% heavy and 20% light rums, aged for up to 12 years in white oak barrels.

With my first taste, I was shocked at how smooth and sweet the Venezuelan rum was, and I didn’t experience the teeth that other rums in this category often have.  As Exclusiva moves toward its finish, smoothness reigns supreme with a complex array of flavours emerging.  A bit more about the smoothness of this spirit; I wouldn’t go so far as to call it silky smooth.  Some will revel in the intensity and richness of its toffee and fudge finish, while others may find it overpowering.  If you’re looking for something more refined, consider a stellar choice like Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera Rum, or El Dorado’s 15-year-old Special Reserve.  But if you savour a spirit that holds nothing back, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is for you.  There is no question – I will drink this again for years to come.

Garrison Imperial IPA

As you can see from the Garrison Brewing site itself, this IPA has won Beer of the Year twice at the Canadian Brewing Awards. If you check other beer review sites, you’ll see some decent ratings. All of this leads up to a really nice review here. Or at least it should. Besides, shouldn’t I be pro Canadian beer?

I fancy myself an IPA lover. I’m always eager to try a new one. The Garrison Imperial just didn’t measure up for me. I didn’t even find it overly hoppy. While some great IPAs come across as complex, this just came across as confused.

My advice would be to check out something from Brew Dog like their Hardcore IPA, or even track down the Jockamo we reviewed here in October 2011.

As for the Garrison Imperial IPA, I probably won’t drink it again. Especially with so many great IPA’s popping up all over the place these days.

Hitachino Nest Festive Ale 2011

My experience with limited edition holiday brews has been good; generally enjoyable and at the very least, interesting. The Hitachino Nest Festive Ale is no exception to this.

I’m unfamiliar with the brewery’s “regular” beers, so I can’t compare it that way. I found it to be as flavourful as my personal gold-standard beer, Innis & Gunn, only with a less fruity, sweeter taste. There is a hint of orange among the various winter spices used but the overall flavour was “caramelly”. Slightly carbonated, but also stronger — 8% ABV — so it’s one to enjoy slowly.

From the rear label:

“This commemorative ale was brewed specially to celebrate the new year using cinnamon and coriander. Please enjoy while you forget the worries and troubles of the old year.”

I’ll drink (again) to that.

Innis & Gunn Rum Cask

I have loved Innis & Gunn for quite some time now and the Rum Cask is no exception. I was lucky enough to be given an Innis & Gunn glass for my birthday by Jeff and Patricia and I always drink my I&G out of it! It pours a beautiful brown color with very little head that dissipates quickly. Smelling it, the rum aroma is very present. I love the rich dimension that being aged in whiskey casks gives to the Original I&G and that same dimension is present here but being aged in a rum cask gives it a different touch.  The Rum Cask has that typical sweet, malty, rich Innis & Gunn.

I would drink this again. In fact I will be drinking it again, many times, since I bought a case recently when it was on sale at Superstore. Kim had to convince me to buy the case. You know you married the right woman when she urges you to buy your beer by the case!

Yellowhead Premium Lager

Yellowhead Premium Lager

I tried Yellowhead Premium lager a few months ago at this thing for some politician. I’m not into politics. Not even a little, but Taylor’s band was playing and there was beer so sign me up. For that evening I was fully behind ol’ what’s her name and her platform. I remember enjoying it that night but I tried a lot of beer that night so I wanted to try it again on its own.

Yellowhead Premium lager is brewed here in Edmonton, it’s the one single beer that the company brews. I can respect them for focusing on one single beer. I don’t know if they do it because they want to concentrate their efforts or they just don’t have the space to brew more types of beer. Whatever the reason they brew a good lager. It pours out a nice coppery gold with very little head. It’s nice and malty with just enough hops in the finish. I found it refreshing, delicious and very drinkable.

I have been thinking that I should have some beer on hand for when people come over to visit. I often have singles of various kinds of beer that I am wanting to try but when people come over I don’t always want to share them. Either because I really want to try it myself or they are a bit off the beaten path and I’m not sure my guests would appreciate them. I don’t want to serve a guest a bottle of relatively expensive beer just to have them not appreciate it. So I’m looking for something basic that a lot of people will enjoy, Yellowhead Premium lager just might be that beer.

I would definitely Drink Again!

Lowenbrau Original

Lowenbrau Original

This was another beer from the bag of beer that my Uncle Jim gave me for Christmas. I have been wanting to try Lowenbrau for quite a while. Lowenbrau Original is a Munich Helles Lager brewed in Munich. I was surprised to find that Lowenbrau is one of many brands owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, this is a macro produced beer if there ever was one.

This beer poured pale golden in color with a head of foam that dissipated rather quickly. There really wasn’t much going on in this beer. Slightly malty, very little hops. This beer is fairly true to what I understand is the Munich Helles style. Would I drink it again? Sure, if it was put down in front of me. I wouldn’t go looking for it though.

Alley Kat Amber Ale

Back in September I tried this bottle of Alley Kat Amber Ale, I’ve had this post in the chute since then and finally decided to get off my ass and post. Seriously. I know right? It’s not that hard…

I’m a big fan of Alley Kat. I have to admit that I don’t always like their beer. No, it’s not that, I don’t dislike any of their beer it’s just that I find many of them unremarkable. I love Alley Kat because they are local and they brew decent beer, and the owner is a nice guy.

Pour
Deep mahogany color. Half inch of head which dissipated quickly leaved thin film.

Aroma
Roasted malt and chocolate.

Taste
This one tastes like it smells, nothing hiding here. A touch thin on the mouth feel, watery but not in a bad way. Very little carbonation to speak of. Nice caramel malt taste.
Tiny bit of bittering hops in the finish. A good example of an amber ale. I would drink this again. Especially since it’s locally produced!

Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold

Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold
Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold

This can of Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold was given to me for Christmas from my Uncle Jim. Good old Uncle Jim! Since Christmas I have bought and drank two more. This light golden lager has a malty, biscuitty, fruity  flavor with a light hop finish. This is a delicious, easy drinking beer, it could very well become my go to beer. I would certainly drink it agin. Right now.

Would you drink it again?