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February Beer of the Month

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I was sitting at the Alibi the other day, and I actually got called out for selecting a Beer of the Month that the person next to me didn’t love. So, let’s review the rules, folks. Beers of the Month are beers that meet these criteria:

  1. I have tried them
  2. I liked them or found them technically interesting
  3. Are beers that I feel need broader attention

Notice anything missing from that list? Yeah: “Are really great.” A BOTM nod from me does not mean that this is the best beer you’ve ever had (although it might be, I haven’t been keeping up on my duty to stalk every reader and keep track of what beers you have or have not drunk), but it does mean the beer is interesting to me, Chuck, or perhaps an unusual beer from a brewery not known for unusual beers.

Mini rant over.

Okay, just to keep it interesting, for February I am choosing a beer that just happens to be really great as well. This might confuse some of you, but I just don’t care any more. February’s Beer of the Month is Lighthouse Belgian Black 2013. I know, I know, I’m pretty predictable.

I love this beer for a few reasons. First, the bottle: it’s painted all-over with a textured black paint that makes it stand out as much as it completely blocks any incoming light. The bottle also has a pirate skeleton on it, and I cannot stress how much this improves a beer simply because you can say “Yaaaaaaar!!!!” while pouring it, or maybe slip in an “Avast!” or two between sips. Try it. It makes the beer better; it truly does.


Second, a year ago this beer signalled to the planet that Lighthouse Brewing was playing for keeps in the good beer game in BC. Sure, Deckhand made us realize that “Lighthouse” and “Good Beer” could be in the same sentence, but Belgian Black was a great beer bombshell that took us all by surprise. Simply put, before Belgian Black I didn’t believe Lighthouse could produce cellar-quality ales and after I flat out knew they could.

Third, it’s even better than last year. A lot better. Brewmaster Dean McLeod tweaked the recipe to be a bit more Belgian, and wow it shows. The tone of the beer has become more malt forward, with hints of all the right dark Belgian flavours: cherry, plum, date, and a wee touch of a certain monk-i-ness. There is a depth and complexity of flavour in this beer that was only hinted at in the 2012 version.

It’s drinking well right now, but lay some of these down for a year or so and you will not be disappointed.

Tasting notes:

Nose: Plums, raisins, dates. Basically 3/3 of the Belgian Strong checklist. Fruity/spicey esters are absent/very low though.
Appearance: Persistent medium carbonation, thin tan head over a dark, opaque black body. Sexy!
Taste: Very malt forward with a complex Belgian funk. Hops are prominent but balanced.
Should I buy it?: Oh hells yes.

Coles notes:

Brewery Lighthouse
From Victoria
Name Belgian Black
Style Belgian Strong
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Late 2013-2015
Pirate Score 1 for 1
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $8.00+ per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers P49 Vow of Silence

That’s three, but who’s keeping count?

Written by chuck

February 7th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

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Parallel 49 Vow of Silence

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With great accomplishments comes great responsibility. Such is the attitude I adopted prior to cracking open Parallel 49’s latest seasonal offering: Vow of Silence Belgian Strong/Belgian Quad. For those keeping score at home, P49 is just freaking killing it these days. It seems like pretty much anything and everything that Brewmaster Graham With touches turns to beery gold. Their list of recent home runs is impressive:

  • Schadenfreude: Perhaps the single best Märzen I have ever had.
  • Ugly Sweater: A smooth drinking Milk Stout? Za-what?
  • Russian Imperial Stout: A seriously good barrel-aged RIS worthy of cellar time.
  • Lost Souls: Chocolate pumpkin? It should be awful but it’s great.

And yeah, I edited that down because their regular trio of beers, while excellent, have been out for a while. Throw on top of a new barrel room, and not so subtle hints about messing around with sours, and we have a champion in the making, all in their first 12 months of operation. It’s no wonder that CAMRA Vancouver recently voted them the Second Best Brewery in BC.

So when a brewery with both technical competence and the will to experiment decides to tackle one of the biggest, most nuanced styles around (Belgian Quad), it’s a lock for awesome beer, right? Sadly this is not the case. Now don’t get me wrong: Vow of Silence is not a bad beer–it is anything but. In fact, if a lesser brewery put this together I’d be ecstatic, but from P49 I expect more.

In the end I’m just not sure what this beer is trying to be. It certainly isn’t a perfect Quad that will develop slowly and magnificently in your subterranean cellar for the next forty years. The flavours are bit too haphazard and subtle for that. Well, maybe it’s an Ugly Sweater-esque take on an advanced style that normally is hard to consume? Perhaps, but for that use the flavours are a bit too strong, and the 10% ABV is anything but easy drinking. The high sugar further conspires to make you put the glass down far too early.

Ultimately, like having sex for the first time I don’t know what I want from this beer and it’s not quite sure how to make me happy. It’s certainly not bad but it certainly could be a whole lot better. Again, like sex, I’m very curious as to the effects of a few months in Pinot Noir barrels, but alas we will never know (in either case).

Still, we should all buy at least one, because minimally this represents the LDB’s first real interest in good beer, since they’ve bought a giant fucktonne of the stuff. Sure, I don’t doubt for a second that they’re only listing this because P49’s beer is selling gangbusters, but good beer should sell well, no?

Tasting notes:

Nose: Bananas, cloves and bread from the malt. Slight hint of noble hops. Impression is of banana bread with a bit of chocolate.
Appearance: Highly carbonated with a quickly dissipating head; pours thick opaque maroon.
Taste: Very malt forward. Some raisins. High sugar is perceptible, but reduced by noble hops and roast malt. Undercutting all this is a (mild) unpleasant carbonic acid tinge.
Should I buy it?: Yes. Buy one. If you like it, buy more.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Vow of Silence
Style Belgian Quad
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential None Awarded
Drink Now.
Would it be better barrel aged? Oh hells yes
Availability Widely available at LDB
Cost $6.50 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers Lighthouse Belgian Black

Written by chuck

February 4th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

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Two More Seasonals From Phillips

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It seems like you can’t turn around these days without bumping into yet another one-off from Phillips Brewing, and this time there’s two of them (well, truthfully, there’s five of them but I’m only talking about two today). Leviathan is a Milk Stout brewed with charity in mind, and no, I don’t mean the well meaning stripper at the club around the corner from the brewery. I mean whales, specifically in the form of the Cetus Research and Conservation Society.

Phillips is generously donating the profits from this particular beer to said society, who concern themselves with… uh… riding around in zodiaks and… uh… measuring fish and… hunting whales, I guess? I dunno, I didn’t read the page–it was full of long words. Anyway, bravo Phillips.

The second beer is the first in their Twisted Oak Stillage Series, a Scotch Ale. Basically, Phillips wants to brand all their barrel’d releases under a single banner, and this is the first to get the new branding. As an aside, from beer bloggers everywhere: please pick less complicated names. It would make entering these into our databases easier. This beer isn’t called “Twisted Oak”; it has no actual name, and that means it doesn’t fit into my table below very easily. Oh well, screw it, I’m using Twisted Oak.

Tasting notes:


This is a pretty beer. It pours by the book with a thin tan head, light carbonation and a body black as night. Nose is rich roasted malt, with a hint of chocolate, coffee and an underlying promise of sweet creaminess. On tasting the coffee and chocolate are a bit more obvious, and the creamy mouthfeel is present, but not as massive as could be expected from the style.

The finish, though… wow… that’s where the wheels come off the cart. The finish is a harsh metallic twang that is amplified by the lactose into a nasty, off-milk undertone. It’s almost as if they threw in a few rolled up tubes of pennies in with the lactose during conditioning. As the beer warms the metallic finish becomes less pronounced, almost enough to make drinking one of these for the whales something everyone should do.

Twisted Oak:

Alright, let me say right off the bat that this is not a particularly good Scotch Ale. Great Scotch Ales are rich, creamy, malty and sometimes they don’t wear any underwear, and this isn’t really any of those things. What this beer IS, though, is a fascinating malty, oaked, ale that has lots of complexities and nuances with a distinct Scottish heritage.

The nose is sweet caramel combined with a hint of cherries and oak. The taste is slightly spicey and caramel, but the oak is blended in wonderfully, providing an astringent tannin pull to the sides of your mouth that work well with the high sugar of the body. The slight metallic finish common to all Phillips brews is here, but with a Scotch Ale, it’s on style and works.

All that and it’s only 6.8%, meaning you can have multiples before lifting your kilt over your head.

Coles notes:

Brewery Phillips
From Victoria
Name Leviathan Twisted Oak
Style Milk Stout Scotch Ale
SOA Now None Bronze
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Now
Do it To support the whales, man To support fucking around with barrels, man
Availability Most LRSs
Cost $6.50-$7.50 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater As a scotch: lots, including Howe Sound Wee Beastie. As a barrel beer that’s not so scotchy, none.
Chuck says Buy one. Buy several.

Mmm… pennies.

Written by chuck

January 25th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

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