Barley Mowat 

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Beer of the… Quarter?

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It’s been a while since I’ve picked a beer of theā€¦ let’s just call it quarter. However, this holiday season there’s one very interesting brew out there that I figure everyone should buy and try.

Beers make it into my acclaimed Box What Is On The Right Of The Blog for a few reasons. Sometimes they’re stonking great, but often they’re just interesting or unique for any one of a dozen reasons. Maybe the brewery is stepping up their game, maybe the packing is interesting, or maybe the beer itself is excellent. This mon–er, quarter, all three are true.

The beer in question is Howe Sound’s Woolly Bugger 2013. In past years, this has been one of the few BC Brewed, English-style Barley Wines on the market and I’ve loved it for that. This year, though, they change things up a bit and went for more of a hybrid form: a strong malt base with a slightly bitter finish. The result is an outstanding step up from previous years, and a beer that is eminently drinkable now but will definitely cellar well for 2-3 years. Right now you’ll get subtle chocolate behind balanced hops, but over time the smooth malt tones will mingle and come forward.

But I said something about packaging, right? Sure did. Check this bad boy out.


Ooooooooo, yeah.

This is a dramatic departure from previous HS bottlings, but also from prior Woolly Buggers. Frankly, I love every little bit of this bottle. To generate this beauty, Howe Sound teamed up with Tom Pedriks from Resonance Branding and, gosh darn it, they did well. In addition to a flat out awesome 19th century pharmaceutical look and feel on a bottle that basically contains medicine, the format of the bottle should not be overlooked.

It’s a 375ml demi bottle. Most local Barley Wines come in 650ml bombers, which can make the commitment involved in cracking one open to drink somewhat daunting. For reference, here is the one I had last night, with the entirety of its contents poured into my glass.


“Drinkable” in beer doesn’t usually means “something you can physically drink in one sitting” but what the hell, I’ll call this one Drinkable.

So, go forth and buy a few bottles of this sweet boozy concoction, and enjoy yourself a cool snifter in front of a roaring fire. It’s what this beer was made for.

APPEARANCE Deep, opaque auburn with quickly dissipating thin head.
NOSE Caramel, chocolate and a hint of backing hops.
TASTE Sharp, but not overwhelming, hops followed by a smooth malt body. Subtle chocolate intertwines with strong caramel.
STATS 10.5% ABV / 75 IBU / 25 Degrees Plato
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. Buy at least two: one for now and one to drink alongside next year’s version.

Brewery Howe Sound
From Squamish
Name Woolly Bugger
Style Barley Wine (Hybrid American/English)
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Now-2016
Thing that could improve label Two gloved hands pointing at the name
Availability Most LRS’s have some
Cost ~$5-7 per 375ml demo
Similar Beers All the other Barley Wines out there right now


 


Time will make it better. Trust me.

Written by chuck

December 24th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Beers

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Barley Wine Time

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Barley Wine season marches on. You already know to buy Driftwood’s dual release, and lots of it (perhaps more OCD than OBD though), but what about the other bottled barley wines? There are four other members of this elite style of beer vying for your attention (that I’m aware of), and three of them are out right now. What says Chuck?

Central City Thor’s Hammer

It’s good, buy it. What? You want more details? How about the fact that the NW Brewing News Readers’ Awards just named it the best Barley Wine… not in BC, but in all of Alaska, BC, Washington, Northern California and Oregon. That swath covers a good chunk of the best breweries on the planet. Sure, I’m not a fan of populist polls, but I do trust readers of NWB to be a little more beer-savvy than readers of the Straight.

What? My opinion? Okay, fine. This is a thinner, sweeter and spicier cellaring beer compared to Driftwood’s OCD, and frankly I don’t think it will improve as much but, you know what, it’s better right now so it all comes out in the wash.

Phillips Trainwreck

It’s not great. Don’t buy it… unless you like burnt nuts and toffee. Now, to be clear, this is not an awful beer (few Barley Wines are), but so far it’s the loser of the 2012 release cycle. That toffee is accompanied by a diffuse maple syrupy sweetness and, dare I say it, tones of bubblegum… in a beer. As a side note, does anyone else wonder how Phillips keeps slipping beer names past the LDB that basically promise extreme intoxication? Amnesiac, Instigator, Trainwreck? Is anyone even paying attention over there anymore?

Howe Sound Woolly Bugger

It’s great. Buy it. It’s not one of these massive, hoppy new world barley wines like Thor’s Hammer and Old Cellar Dweller, no, this is a throwback to the high malt, chocolatey English style, and it’s an absolute delight. Massive malt tone and depth give this a smooth, creamy almost velvety body, rich with chocolate. Balancing out all that sugar is subtle old world hops. Take a sip and guess at the IBUs. You, too, will be shocked to learn this has 75 of the things, and that tells you just how balanced and deep this beer is.

If you see it, buy some, as I have no idea what the production run on this was, since the bottles are not helpfully numbered as they have been in previous years.

Coles notes:

Brewery Central City Phillips Howe Sound
From Surrey Victoria Squamish
Name Thor’s Hammer Trainwreak Woolly Bugger
Style American Barley Wine American Barley Wine English Barley Wine
SOA Now Silver None Silver
SOA Potential Silver None Silver
Drink Now to 2014 Don’t Now to late 2013
Best feature Unusual spicey-ness Name implying this beer will fuck your shit up Consumption-friendly bottle size
Availability Very Limited LRS Widespread LRS Limited LRS
Cost $15.00 per 650ml $5.50-$7.00 per 650ml $4.00-$5.50 per 341ml
Similar Beers (you can buy) Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller
Chuck says Stock up Skip Stock up

Written by chuck

December 13th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Howe Sound Pothole Filler

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Howe Sound surprised the beer geek culture last week by dropping Pothole Filler (their Imperial Stout) upon us a few months early. It turns out this change in production schedule is the result of Howe Sound fully tripling their production capacity this year. The word from HS is that we can expect their seasonals to, overall, be much less seasonal.

A big reason for the increased production is Howe Sound’s recent penetration (heh, penetration) of the Ontario market. This might also explain the wording on the side of the bottle, extolling the virtues of their brewing process, which utilizes “Coast Mountain” water. Locally, we like to call this “tap water.” I guess we have it good, though.

So what about the beer? The recipe is quite different from last years, at least on the surface. Twelve months ago we were treated to a giant whack of alcohol and then something stoutish, while this year all that booze is hiding behind a massive heap of roasted malt. Lots of toasted cereal flavours here, on a rich creamy mouthful, backed up by something not-quite-licorice-y on the nose. Sharp, bitter coffee rounds out the palate, giving this a bit of an unfinished feel.

Overall this is a decent–if not great–imperial stout. However, it is the only brewed-in-BC option if you want to keep your pint of high-octane black local. Rumour has it that Parallel 49 is doing something decidedly Impy sometime soon, and come the New Year all true BC geeks will start lining up outside our local stores for the annual release of the provinces reigning beer king: Driftwood Singularity.

Until those two rear their heads, though, this is the only game in town unless you want to go Yankee.

Coles notes:

Brewery Howe Sound Brewpub
From Squamish, BC
Name Pothole Filler
Style Imperial Stout
SOA Now No seal awarded
SOA Potential No seal awarded
Drink Now; cellaring will not likely improve this, but I won’t stop you.
Best non-drinking application Brain panning burglars with the bottle
Availability Widespread LRS
Cost $10-13 per 1L bottle
Similar Beers Driftwood Singularity, Elysian Dragonstooth
Chuck says Since this is the only Imp Stout available right now, buy one and drink it. The second another good Impy comes out switch to that.

Written by chuck

October 29th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Beers

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