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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

Posted in Beers

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Brewer

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Let’s completely abandon reality and pretend just for a second that you’re actually good at something. It doesn’t have to be something that you like; heck, let’s just assume you hate this thing. However, doing this something makes you enough money and gives you enough spare time that you are free to pursue another thing that you truly, deeply care about. Would you keep doing the profitable something?

It’s a hard question to answer, but unless the thing in question was a humanity reducing and esteem debasing action like reviewing macro beer, odds are you’d suck it up like a champ and get back to your client in that dirty alley behind the Biltmore.

Pictured: Capital Investment.

This is the dilemma that a number of BC Breweries currently find themselves in, especially the middle-aged ones that grew up in the late 90s. Back then, that boring pale ale you brewed was just about the most exciting beer anyone had ever drunk, and they loved you for it. Problem is, it hasn’t kept up with the times, and definitely stands out as a first-wave micro-brewed product that is now long past its best-by date.

Now comes the curveball: people keep buying it, and not just a little bit here and there, but in huge, massive volumes–everything you brew, in fact. They grew up on this beer and are brand loyal to it in the same way American yahoos will slit your freaking throat for preferring the wrong type of slightly alcoholic malt-water. On top of that, because the ingredients are simple and don’t contain many of those “hops” the kids are all a-ga-ga over these days, it’s cheap to make and profitable as all shit.

So what do you do? You kind of want to produce better beer in volume, but you also kind of like money and keeping the brewery up-and-running. If you went bankrupt, afterall, you wouldn’t be able to produce those limited run beers that the beer geeks actually seem to like.

Which brewery am I talking about? Pretty much all of them, but especially Granville Island and OK Spring. To a lesser extent, though, this is a problem faced by Lighthouse and Russell. Heck, even Central City and Driftwood are facing early versions of this very problem.

In short, no brewery is safe from this. Let’s assume that Seedspitter continues to sell gang busters in 10 years even after the state of the fruit-based beer art has long left it behind. Will Parallel 49 be able to put the cash cow out to pasture and move on? Maybe after one more season… yeah, just this one…

Somehow I think this goes poorly for the goose.

OK fine, use the money from this year to buy new capacity, then use that new capacity to brew better beer. What’s that? The retailers just want more Seedspitter? Well, I guess… I could always buy a new brewkit next year…

I know what you’re thinking: why don’t they just bite the bullet and simply brew better beer? It will sell just as well, and everyone will be happy! Small craft breweries are the largest growing segment in the BC beer market, afterall! This seems like a great idea, but it won’t work.

I had a great conversation a few months back with OK Spring Brewmaster Stefan Tobler about this very concept, in which I espoused that exact sentiment. I even cited that Goliath of great beer, Deschutes, as an example of how you could profitably brew large volumes of critically acclaimed beer*.

The problem, he says, is that the millions of people that religiously drink OK Spring Pale Ale (one of BC’s best selling beers) aren’t the same millions of people that drink Deschutes Inversion IPA. He has a point. (Also, the ones that drink Inversion are rather inconveniently located in the USA, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Can you imagine what would happen if, overnight, OK Pale Ale was replaced by Really Awesome Cascadian IPA? The loyal crowds would freak out, then flock over to GIB Pale Ale, and the meagre few craft beer geeks that could see past the OK Spring label wouldn’t replace even 1% of them. In six months OK Spring would be sold off by Sapporo (well, in reality, the management staff would all lose their jobs long before that).

Or, we can hope, eliminated one by one in an awesome Japanese game show.

You can move the market, but you have to do it very very carefully. Maybe Lighthouse is onto something by sloooowly changing up their six packs. Heck, even GIB has murmured something about relaunching their IPA. If you slowly make the beer better and better, perhaps there won’t be one jump large enough to confuse the brand-followers, and then they’ll find themselves drinking the same beer as bearded guys at the bar. Kind of like boiling a frog… only with beer. Um, I have to go; I just thought of a great recipe.

* I also suspect that Deschutes has their own version of this problem. It’s hard to imagine that the same folk that give us Dissident, Abyss and Stoic get all a-tingle over yet another 100hl batch of Mirror Pond.

Written by chuck

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Driftwood Singularity 2013

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Okay, Singularity is out. It’s perhaps the single most hyped BC beer release (at least in this household), and thus accordingly comes with commensurately higher expectations. For those keeping score at home, 2011 was an intriguing mix of sweet cherry goodness with tart coffee bitter, and 2012 replaced all that with the hops that didn’t make it into Old Barrel Dweller (aka a lot). For the record, 2011 is drinking quite well just now, but 2012 needs more time.

So what about this years? Is this year’s Singularity a carbon clone of last year’s, much like this year’s Old Cellar Dweller? No, it is not. It is not even close. To put it short, folks, Driftwood has swung for the fences, and I think they just might have made it.

2013 is a deeply complex malt-forward monster of a beer. A lot of those nuances are hiding behind the bourbon barreling for now, but given enough time, the sticky sweetness of that whiskey will reduce, and the sugars will yield their nuanced flavours. Over time, I suspect this will age down into just a beautiful way to spend a Saturday night, provided that you have a fireplace, smoking jacket, and an old hound dog named Rex under which to slip your cold feet. Yup, I get all that from taking a sip. I am just that crazy.

Tasting Notes:
Nose: Strong oaky bourbon over a sugar rich background of plum and dates. Driftwood says they didn’t add any molasses to this, and I’m therefore impressed with the sugar profile on this thing. If you can resist drinking long enough, a hint of the hops just starts to come in at the end, but not enough to ID a varietal.
Body: Pours pitch freaking black. Like tar, only with less carbonation. This is a glass of inactive black sludge that just lies there taunting you, and then might just randomly kill your Chief Security Officer to get her out of an inconvenient contract.
Palate: Wow. The bourbon here is just… bourbon. Bourbon, bourbon, bourbon. I think they used the same batch of barrels from Old Barrel Dweller, because there’s no mistaking the giant double pump fist of whiskey goodness on this guy. Behind all all that whiskey is a huge, rich, malt profile, but you’re not going to know about it for a long while.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Singularity
Style Russian Imperial Stout
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Early 2014 through 2017. Maybe longer.
Time for a spoon to fall over after standing it in a glass Okay, fine, it was 0.285 seconds, but I honestly THOUGHT it would be longer, and doesn’t that count for something?
Availability Widely available at LRS… for now
Cost $13.50+ per 650ml bottle.
Similar Beers P49 RIS, Phillips The Hammer, maybe even Driftwood OBD
Chuck says Buy. Buy it right now, and in volume, because it will be gone very very soon.

Another gold. Either beer is getting better or I’m losing my touch.

Written by chuck

January 14th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Beers

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