Barley Mowat 

Vancouver Island Hermannator 2012

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BC’s original cellaring beer is back for another year. Sure, VIB tends to push out a main production line of beers that bounces between awful (Sea Dog) and… okay? I guess? (Double Decker), they have always managed to release a single edition of a solidly awesome Ice Bock, and that Ice Bock is Hermannator.

This year mark’s the 25th such release. Yup, long before most of today’s batch of beer geeks were even born, a brewmaster on the island named Herman looked at the pale insipid mess that was local beer, said “Fuck it” and made a freaking Ice Bock. For context, this would be the beer-equivalent of whipping out an iPhone in 1989. I’m surprised he wasn’t burnt at the stake as a witch.

Hermannator is a beer built for the cellar, but each year has its own personality. While 2010 is still drinking strong today, 2011 gave up the ghost a few months ago. So where does 2012 find us? Let’s just say VIB’s recent expansion into craft beer (think Flying Tanker and Iron Plow) has paid some dividends. The 2012 Hermannator is a solid Ice Bock that is enjoyable now, but will cellar well for years to come.

The beer pours black with virtually no carbonation. This is a great beer to drink in front of non-beer geeks, as you can invariably spark some discussion when you explain that, yes, this is actually a lager. Nose is virtually non-existant, but will likely develop with some time.

How does it taste? How about great? Palate is dense sweet fruits of the sort that spell cellaring potential. Think raisins, cherries, dates, and plums, all minced together with a big double fist punch of boooooooooooze. Yup, you definitely notice the 9.5% on this puppy. Maybe not straight away, but after a half glass you develop the sort of boozey warmth that makes the rain outside seem less import, maybe even cheerful.

All is not perfect, though, as I’ve detected some subtle variations even in the few bottles I’ve sampled so far. One was fruitier, while the next had a more noticeable hops character. Considering that they were from the same six pack, the blend was likely identical, so that’s not it. Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain this difference, but I have to mention it in the sense of thoroughness.

Don’t trust me on this, though, Hermannator is widely available, and attractively priced for a beer of such quality. Buy a six pack and try it yourself, then put a few down as a low cost intro to cellaring.

Coles notes:

Brewery Vancouver Island Brewery
From Victoria, BC
Name Hermannator
Style Ice Bock
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold. Yes, Gold. There, I said it.
Drink Now through 2015, maybe longer.
Risk of Chuck buying it all like he does for Singularity Zero. They made a fucktonne of this.
Availability Widespread LRS & LDB
Cost $13.50-$16.00 per 6x341ml pack
Similar Beers None.
Chuck says Buy a few flats and pull one out every month or so to see how it goes.

If only the rest of VIB’s beers were this good.

Written by chuck

November 3rd, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Beers

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The Problem With Beer Ratings

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As some of you might have noticed, I’ve started putting up beer reviews. I’ve avoided doing just this very thing for a long time because, much as with Most Things In General, I have a problem with beer ratings.

It all boils down to this main issue: people are not objective. We spend a lot of energy prancing around the issue and claiming to solve the problem through various ingenious inventions, but ultimately people suck at rating things.

If I were to take a bucket of my very own homebrew swill and pour it into three bottles, marked as “OK Spring”, “Driftwood” and “Chuck’s Discount Swillery” then ask you to rate all three, people would rate each very different.

Like it or not, your impression of the label sets an expectation in your mind and you adjust your review accordingly. It’s not just brand-blindness, beer from a bottle labeled “Driftwood” actually, truthfully, tastes better to you than the same beer sopped up with a mop and wrung out into the glass in front of you (it’s a clean mop… made of hops).

Okay, so let’s remove the labels; this is where it gets interesting. You see, it doesn’t really matter WHAT is in the bottles. You’re going to give the beer a 7/10, or a 4/5, or a 20/25. Sure, maybe not every time, but overall that will be your average, despite the very real fact that “average” should trend towards 50%. As well, statistically you won’t deviate very much, and when you do deviate, your mood at the time of rating will have a much, much higher effect on the result than the actual beer.

Ironically beer salted with tears is actually quite delicious, but no one has realized it yet

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the recent ratings from two professional reviewers, Joe Wiebe (@thirstywriter) and Jan Zeschky (@jantweats). Sure looks like a lot of 4/5 and 20/25. Whoa, all the way down to 3.5/5? That beer must have sucked. 21.5/25? Best Beer Ever.

I don’t want to take anything away from Joe and Jan. They’re rating beers for publications that demand a simple number, and rating beer is freaking hard. Plus, it’s hard to balance out not wanting to rate too highly (and lose credibility with people who don’t like that beer) with not wanting to rate too lowly (and risk the publication not running the review out of fear of insulting advertisers). In their shoes I’d likely have the exact same results. It’s not the people that are at fault, it’s our desire to put a number on things.

It isn’t just beer, either. The wine world has been struggling with this problem for a while, too. Ever seen a wine rated less than 80/100? Me neither. This is so prevalent that now some reviewers have switched to rating wine out of 20… only to see their average reviews move up to compensate.

It’s almost as if we don’t want to use the lower end of the scale because we’re afraid of offending the beer (or wine, or restaurant). However, the reality of the matter is that there ARE shitty wines and beers out there, and there ARE products deserving of 1/5, 1/10, 1/25 or even 1/100.

Or even 1/10030, as the case may be.

This is why I like RateBeer for beer ratings, as imperfect as it is. It lets all the humans go fuss about whether a beer is 3.80 or 3.85 out of 5 (or maybe even 4.05), and then it applies cold hard statistics to rank all beers based on percentile. That horrible horrible beer we inexplicably gave 2.5/5.0 to? RateBeer boils that down to a much more honest 15/100.

And now to bring all this back to me and my beer reviews, so I can wrap this up and go have a Friday pint. As part of my reviews, you might notice there are no ratings. RateBeer has that covered; you want a single number to impossibly summarize the complexity that is a particular beer? Go there.

Do you want my opinion on what’s going on with this beer? Read my review. I will slip in a Barley Mowat Seal of Approval, but that is not a rating. That’s just how excited I, personally, am about this beer. Bronze is “yeah, I’ll buy it again if I see it.” Silver is “I will go out of my way to purchase this” and Gold is “If you are holding the last bottle of this, I will slit your throat and take it. And then kick you in the jewels, because that’s just the kind of guy I am.”

The vast majority of beers, though, get nothing, not because they’re awful (although some truly are), but rather because they don’t excite me… no, not like that… okay, maybe a little like that.

Written by chuck

November 2nd, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with ,

November Beer of the Month

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Usually, when I pick a Beer of the Month, I consider all the beers on the market right now, and try to find something that’s interesting, good, or preferrably both.

I look at the current list of seasonals (conveniently kept up to date on the right), then I think over what beers I’ve had that were unique, and then I consider if this beer represents a departure from the norm for the brewery in question (this is why last month VIB was selected for Iron Plow, for instance).

This month, though, I’m throwing all that out the window and selecting a regular lineup ale that is very possibly the worst, most un-interesting beer, made by the brewery in question*. And instead of picking it for any of those reasons, I’m picking it because it has a swell logo. Take that, rigorous selection process that maintains any semblence of journalistic integrity I might have! Yeah!

Don’t you just want to kiss the glass? No?

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m picking Parallel 49’s Old Boy because it really, really, really should be the official beer of Movember. If anyone else out there has a better candidate please let me know, perhaps maybe something actually MADE with moustaches? An Imperial Moustache Ale (imperial for the style of moustache and not because of the alcohol)? A Walrus Wheat? Pencil Porter?

* It turns out that the worst beer made by Parallel 49 is still quite a decent ale.

Written by chuck

November 1st, 2012 at 12:10 pm