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Fresh Hop Showdown

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Scott over at WFLBC stirred the pot a bit yesterday by doing a side-by-each comparison between Driftwood Sartori and Hoyne Wolf Vine. The comparison itself wasn’t the controversy, and neither was the result (he liked Wolf Vine slightly more) but rather his views on the detection of diacetyl and the nuances around that caused more than a few comments.

Now, I agree that Scott took a provocative, abrasive approach to this whole topic. Let’s just say that I’m a fan of this more in-your-face style. I also think a lot of people overreacted. Dude has his own blog. He can post his opinion, even if we don’t agree with it. Heck, he could be posting nothing but pictures of his ass all day and I’d still cheer him on.


Although, I bet if he shaved it he’d get more hits.

In any event, the core issue is three fold. First, is the hype around Sartori justified? Second, is Wolf Vine actually better than Sartori? And third, does Wolf Vine have diacetyl, a buttered-popcorn off-flavour? Let me give you my opinion about all three. If you’re good, my opinion might be more than just three pictures of my ass.

Hype

Driftwood Sartori is probably the most anticipated seasonal beer release in BC. No other beer causes the local craft beer fans to, en masse, walk out of their day jobs and sprint from store to store buying their fill the second Twitter has a hint of availability (or sending non-craft beer husbands/wives clutching an order sheet and the kids, as I’ve seen more than a few times). Is this hype good or bad for craft beer in general? I’m firmly on the “good” side.

Demand creates excitement which creates interest. An independent observer noticing a bearded blogger stabbing a house husband in the neck to get the last case of a particular beer can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. Someone is this excited by a BEER? How can that be? Even if Sartori is gone, the newly curious might ask around and find themselves going home with a similar beer to try out. That’s a good thing. Personally, I think we should build the hype further next year and alert the media. A couple segments on the news would be great for local craft beer.


I briefly considered a Thunderdome-style competition for Sartori, but “Two beer geeks enter, both realize the stupidity of their situation and agree to share the bottle!” doesn’t have a catchy ring to it.

Is the frantic demand for Sartori justified? In 2009, Driftwood unleashed the first wet-hopped ale BC had ever seen. It blew our minds with its fantastic awesomeness. Since then it hasn’t been quite as mind-fuckingly-astonishing, perhaps because there are now wet-hopped beers everywhere, or maybe because it just isn’t as good.

Does the 2013 version change this? Is this beer worth the three hours of scrubbing blood off my hands? Nope. It’s freaking good, and a rarity, but this beer alone doesn’t live up to the huge build-up. Of course, we didn’t know that last Monday. We dropped everything and raced to our local LRS for the beer that could have been, not the one we got.

Wolf Vine vs Sartori

Okay, problem two. If Sartori isn’t all it’s built up to be, and Wolf Vine is better than its sales suggest, is Wolf Vine better than Sartori? WFLBC felt that it edged Sartori just slightly, and a look at review sites indicate the crowd is mixed. What about me? What does Chuck think? I compared them last year and declared Sartori better and Wolf Vine a “decent wet-hopped beer that has the advantage of your actually being able to buy it.”

I did a side-by-each comparison of the 2013 versions of Sartori & Wolf Vine last night. This just reinforced the consensus that comparing these beers is difficult. They are very different. WV is a Pale Ale; Sartori is an IPA. There are those that consider IPAs to be superior to Pale Ales by default, so how could this be fair? In short, it can’t, but I did try:

Hoyne Wolf Vine Fresh-hopped Pale Ale
STATS 5.8% ABV
APPEARANCE Quickly dissipating loose head over a hazy copper body
NOSE Biscuit/caramel malt dominated by fresh hops (lemon, grass, slight resins)
TASTE Solid biscuit malt sweetness that’s matched well to the fresh hops. The final result is a sweeter beer than you might anticipate given the prevalence of the west coast pseudo IPA “pale ale”
SHOULD I BUY IT? Fuck yeah.

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA
STATS 7.0% ABV
APPEARANCE Light amber, almost yellow gold with tight long lasting white head
NOSE Fresh PNW hops dominate here. Flowery, fresh, slight bitter citrus (grapefruit)
TASTE Builds off the nose. Beautiful hop freshness with a weaker-than-I’d-like-but-not-bad body. Smile-inducing Hop freshness builds over the course of the bottle
SHOULD I BUY IT? If you see it, buy it.

Who wins? Sartori wins. Head to head I prefer Sartori by a fair bit. However, Wolf Vine is unquestionably great and again has the distinct advantage of being a beer you can walk out of an LRS with today (although, notably, there is less supply than at this time last year).


Don’t look at me like that. I was here first.

Diacetyl

Diacetyl is a dirty word to a lot of people, and one that has been associated with Sean Hoyne’s beers since day one. However, it’s not the cut and dry defect that a lot of people seem to think it is. Sure, too much can make your beer or wine taste like buttered movie popcorn, and while I’m fairly sure my buddy Craig might like that, most folk would prefer a slightly more beer-y flavour.

In limited quantities, though, dread diacetyl can actually improve certain styles of beer by imparting a round, full bodied mouthfeel to otherwise thin beers. This is why a low level of the chemical is even considered on-style for some Pilsners.

Enough dancing around the bushes. Does Wolf Vine have any detectable diacetyl? I’m going to say yes, it has a little. I detected small amounts of diacetyl on both the nose and the mouthfeel. It should be noted that Leo from BeerThirst points out that certain malts have diacetyl-like properties, and lacking a chemistry kit, I was unable to determine if I was picking up the real thing or a pretender. Also note that just because I detected it doesn’t mean you will. Other experienced tasters did not detect it, and there is a real chance there might be some inter-batch variability with one bottle having none and the next having a bit.

In the end, though, I don’t care. The levels are not unpleasant, and the effect is very much the positive one I described above. Sure it’s not on-style, but the style was developed to describe more traditional Pale Ales, so screw the style.

And that is all I have to say about that. Ah, who am I kidding? You know I’ll never shut up about anything.

Written by chuck

October 1st, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hoyne Voltage

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On paper it sounds great: craft brewed, high-quality coffee beans (and hand-pressed at that), extremely limited batch, and even a slick label. What’s not to love about this beer? The problem comes in that quirkly little thing called execution.

The coffee half of this beer is thick and lucious. Usually the kind of coffee that winds up in beers is not exactly high grade, but even after being turned into stout and sitting in a bottle for a month you can tell that Habit Espresso is the kind you need more of.

And that’s the problem. The coffee so outplays the stout here that we quickly forget what we’re drinking. The beer half of this equation is thin with a disappointing mouthfeel. I wanted a massive punch of chewy, roasted malt to balance out that espresso, but alas it’s just not there. All I get is a watery stout that disappears behind the (great) coffee with each sip.

In the end this beer, much as the label hints, cannot decide if it’s beer or coffee, and it suffers for it. What had the potential to be an amazing home run from Hoyne on their first birthday winds up just being an okay version of an admittedly hard style to nail.

However, at the price point of $5-7 that’s what you’d expect. Even so, I just can’t help wanting more from this one, but that’s just the sort of beer geek I am, I always want perfection.

Since only one tank was made, and Sean Hoyne uses 10 hectolitre tanks, get this sooner rather than later. Even with the slow sales, those ~125 cases will be gone forever before you know it.

Coles notes:

Brewery Hoyne Brewing
From Victoria, BC
Name Voltage
Style Espresso Stout
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential N/A; Table beer
Drink Now
Recommened cut off for drinking espresso in beer 8:30 PM
Availability Some LRS, zero at LDB
Cost $5-7 per 650ml bottle
Similar Beers Elysian Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout
Chuck says Buy 1 or 2 to drink now, then more as required. If it still hurts in a week, come back to see me.


I get the feeling I won’t use the silver much.

Written by chuck

October 23rd, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Game On

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We’re finally coming out of the late summer beer lull: those lazy days of late August after the summer releases have become scarce but before the tsunami of awesome Autumn releases pile up and demand room in my cellar.

For most of September the local breweries were preoccupied with producing their pumpkin beers. With the latest round of brewpub bottlings, have a truly amazing crop of pumpkin beers available this year. I count no less than 10 pumpkin beers available for purchase for in-home (or on-patio) consumption.

But honestly, while I do like a good pumpkin ale, it’s not what gets us beer geeks all worked up in a tizzy. No siree. They’re damned fine, but they are no Imperial Stout or Barley Wine, those two reigning kings of fine ale.

However, we just can’t jump straight into the main act of fall releases. That’d be a bit premature. We have to first get ourselves warmed up some teasers. The pumpkins served their role as a flirtation, but now we need something a bit more serious to occupy our attention.

And that something is the fresh-hopped beers. The king of all fresh-hopped beers is Driftwood Sartori, and it is making its way to beer stores as I type this. When I first has this brew, I was convinced that no better beer could be made or even conceived of. While my opinion has come down a bit, I still think it’s one of the best IPAs in the province.

But don’t stop there! Driftwood isn’t the only one dumping buckets of still-green hops into their beers. Phillips, Granville Island and even new-guy Hoyne are all throwing their mitts into the rink. Buy ’em all and do a side-by-each comparison. The only winner here is you.

And when you wake up from your hop-induced coma, it’ll be time to take things up a notch with the fall releases all our favourite stouts, porters and winter warmers. Oh, it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Written by chuck

September 25th, 2012 at 12:27 pm