Barley Mowat 

Dark Macro Showdown

with 3 comments

It’s that time of year again. You know, when you get to hang out with your co-workers en mass at some shitty restaurant, eat okay food, drink okay booze and make awkward small talk with their spouses, all the while waiting to see which of the interns gets inappropriately drunk and hits on the boss first.

(Aside: Except my office–my office’s Christmas party was epic, perhaps because my work is better than yours. And no, this comment has nothing to do with an increase in readers coming from my work IP.)

Usually these functions trot out some variant of “red or white?” for liquor offerings, but sometimes they go the extra mile and cram a bunch of beer in a bucket full of ice. Often these beers are things with words like “Christmas” or “Winter” in them, but not the good stuff since it’s both too expensive, and comes in confusingly large bottles. (Another aside: When confronted by a 650ml bottle of beer, the masses will often open it and drink it like they do a regular beer bottle. I have seen this first hand.)

Nope, we’re talking the likes of OK Spring’s Mild Winter Ale and Granville Island’s Lions Winter Ale here*. So what do you do? Do you pull a Chuck and move on to wine and/or hard liquor? Well, I’m a hard core beer geek, and I can’t expect y’all to have such a snobbish demenour in less-than-ideal situations, so I’ve done everyone a favour: I’ve done a side-by-side comparison of these two popular winter beers to see which one wins.

Despite what you might initially think, picking a clear winner is not as easy as it sounds. Also, there are waaaaaaay more pictures of hilariously ugly dogs on the Internet then I would have guessed.

First, let’s get one thing straight: neither is a good beer. Comparing them to an actual winter ale is like getting a five-year old to draw elephant. You’ll get some of the coarser aspects, and you certainly will recognise it as a cruel caricature of such, but you won’t, for one second, expect it to stand up and start pouring water over itself with its trunk.

Now on to the notes:

Brewery Granville Island OK Spring
Name Lions Winter Ale Mild Winter Ale
Visual Clear amber, good (too good?) carbonation Clear, slightly darker. Decent carb
Nose Vanilla. Barest hint of hops. No malt. Roasted Malt and spice, slight hint caramel
Mouthfeel Fairly creamy. Lots of sugar in this puppy. Like a cream ale. Decent, but not too viscous.
Taste VANILLA and sugar. Fairly astringent. Mild roasted malt, fairly empty, but has that… OK Spring finish (macro-esque, maybe their hops blend?)

Detailed notes on GIB: Gah. I mean, I like vanilla extract and all, but must you guys cram my beer full of it? Did more subtle levels of “sugary vanilla” just flop out in market testing? You know that the kind of people that will agree to taste beer for free at 2pm on a work day aren’t exactly beer connoisseurs, right?

Detailed notes on OK Spring: I’m confused by the name. Is this a milder take on winter ales or an ale for a mild winter? Regardless, I wouldn’t consider this a great execution of either of those things. This is a boring, boring beer, to be brutally honest, and it says great things about OK Spring’s current line-up that this is probably the best thing they’re brewing right now.

Picking a Best Beer between the two is like stapling wings to a dog and a cat and throwing them off your roof to see which one flies farthest. You’re judging two contestants based on criteria that neither possesses. These beers aren’t meant to be savoured by craft beer geeks; they’re meant to be consumed en masse by people wearing backwards baseball caps and who likely bump chests as a means of celebration.

If pressed to make a call, I guess the cat flew a bit further before splattering, because it wasn’t ladden down with a sickly dose of vanilla. Despite being a boring, boring beer, the OK Spring Mild Winter Ale was the least offensive of these two, and that’s a victory of sorts… I guess.

* Yeah, yeah, neither is technically a macro, I know, but that title is awesome. What do you want? “Regional Breweries with Annual Production Exceeding 100,000hl but not 300,000hl Dark Beer Kumatai?”

Written by chuck

December 8th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,

Friday Fun

with one comment

I’ll just leave this here without comment.


Should probably link to their site: Elbowskin.

Written by chuck

December 7th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Dwellers of Cellars and Barrels Both

with 2 comments

Everyone in the beer world loves December, because that’s when all the good stuff comes out and beer geeks everyone get worked up into a tizzy. Except me; I kinda hate it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love great beer, and all these barley wines, imperial stouts and winter warmers are definitely great beer. I also love to cellar beer and that, my friends, is where the problem comes in. That means I have to buy a lot of this beer, and that means running around chasing delivery vans (or relying on the always awesome Sharon), and all that means I’m going into debt this December. Thanks a lot, guys.

It didn’t used to be this bad. Driftwood would drop out OCD, I would buy a couple of cases, and I’d be happy. I would try Phillips and Howe Sounds’ offerings, declare them decent-but-not-cellarable and we’d move on to next year.

Oh, how things have changed. Not only have the minor breweries gotten better, but now Central City is bottling Thor’s Hammer, and Driftwood made two, count them, TWO versions of OCD. Gah. I guess I’m eating cat food for Christmas.

All bitching about my ruined finances aside, how are these beers? Does a few months in bourbon barrels (and a double-shot of malt) make a huge difference? Short answer: yes. Long answer: Yeeeeeeesssssssss.

Tasting notes:

OCD: Nose is light caramel with lots of CO2 fizz. On the palate I get lots of that same caramel, but hints of vanilla with a bit of toffee finish. Hops are pretty well stacked up here, but should fade and mellow over time. This year’s release is very similar to the 2011 version. In short, they’re both built to age for a long time, so much so that I wouldn’t consider the 2012 terribly drinkable right now.

OBD: Nose is BOURBON! Whoa! Also in there are caramel, liquorice, dates and some plum. I wonder if molasses sneaked into this mix? Carbonation is much lower than OCD. The taste is dominated by bourbon alcohol, with an astringent oakiness towards the back. Hops are lacking, but definitely there. Over a glass, this sucker builds a nice whisky burn in the back of your throat. Unlike OCD, this is a beer for drinking right now, but the whisky will fade and mellow with ageing. The question is whether it will ultimately turn into a sticky sweet mess or not.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood Brewing
From Victoria, BC
Name Old Cellar Dweller Old Barrel Dweller
Style American Barley Wine American Barley Wine
SOA Now Silver Silver
SOA Potential Gold Silver
Drink 2013 to 2018 Now to 2014
Relative sketchiness of the wax
seal compared to 2012 Singularity
Availability Most LRSs, but OBD is going fast
Cost $12.00+ per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) Central City Thor’s Hammer, Phillips Trainwreck, Howe Sound Wooly Bugger
Chuck says MINE! They’re all mine! Get your filthy hands off them!

Like you expected anything else.

Written by chuck

December 6th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,