Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘lighthousebeer’ tag

Of Brands and Men

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A strange thing happened this weekend: I realized I might just be a pompous ignoramus screaming unwarranted obscenities from the local craft beer sidelines. Oh wait, no. I realize that every weekend. Aside: The trick to really perfecting your ignoramus-ness, by the way, is to simultaneously realize it and simply not care.

No, the strange thing that happened is that I tried the much maligned (by me) “Best Scottish/Irish Ale in BC”: Lighthouse Race Rocks. I was up at the Harrison Beer Fest (stayed tuned for my review of that affair) and I availed myself of a no doubt fresh-as-possible glass of The Dread RR.

Why would I do this; what could I hope to be different? Well, before tasting it I read up on BJCP Style 9C, which is what Brewmaster Dean Mcleod entered RR as in this competition. So, instead of bracing myself for a beer I had prejudged as awful, I tried my best to clear my head and dive into this looking for the promised mild malt with kettle caramelization, earth tones and balanced bitterness.

Fuck me, it’s there. Race Rocks is a well balanced mild Scottish, and I just didn’t realize it before now. Is it Gold-good? I said it wasn’t on Untappd but, you know what, how the hell would I know? I didn’t try the other entrants in that category. I don’t even know who they were (aside from the other two medal winners). I simply don’t have enough info to make that call. In short, I was talking out of my ass (upon reflection, the “out of my ass” should really be considered implied whenever I am observed to be talking).

This revelation got me thinking, as beer often does, about how we all like to think of ourselves as reasonable, rational beings who are capable of making perfectly consistent judgement calls on a regular basis. The reality, though, is that we’re squishy meat bags of imperfection who are trained every day to like certain things and to hate others. Some of this training is very deliberate and blunt while much of the rest is just us being us.

Lightning? Fire? Dry Ice? Wailing electric guitar? An all-leather-clad, long-haired Michael Ironside using words like “power”? All those things are awesome! This beer must therefore ALSO BE AWESOME! Q.E.D.

The mere fact that Race Rocks came out of a Race Rocks can likely doomed it to a lower opinion from me because of my experiences with this beer in the distant past, when arguably it was the syrupy malt-water I remember it to be. Who knows what caused that initial impression? Maybe the beers I had were sitting on the shelf too long (malt-forward light ales do not do well in the liquor store)? Maybe the brewing wasn’t as tight before Dean showed up? Any one of a million variables could have changed it in the interim.

Maybe it was the biggest variable in the equation: me. It’s very possible that once I discovered more aggressive styles I reflexively labelled my previously favoured styles as bad. It’s very human thing to do, and that impression can be a very strong one to shake.

Here I am just 18 months ago doing a blind taste test on four beers, including Race Rocks. Note how words like “well balanced” show up in my notes. Sounds kinda like the beer I had above, right? (although, notably I did not get even a slight puff of DMS off it this time).

I know what some of you are thinking now: “But Chuck! It’s an Amber Ale! Calling a beer labelled ‘Amber Ale’ good because it tastes like a 80 Shilling Scottish is like calling a beer labelled ‘IPA’ good because it tastes like a light lager.” Fun trick: pick up a pack or can of Race Rocks and really take a good look at it. Find me the “Amber Ale.” I’ll wait.

It’s not there. It might have been there in the past, and it certainly is still there in the “Story Behind Lighthouse” section of their homepage (in 1998 the beer no doubt was marketed as a generic Amber Ale to a beer consuming public that considered beers to be one of lager, amber, pale and Guinness), but the only style label* on Race Rocks today is the one we put there in our minds.

Lastly, does this mean I’m a convert? Am I a Race Rocks Man now? Does such a thing exist? Hardly. Race Rocks is a well made beer, for its style. Ultimately, thought, this particular style won’t be one that I spend my limited beer money on. There are too many excellent examples of more aggressive, interesting, or just plain weird styles out there for me to do that. However, that’s the first thing you learn in Beer Judging 101: Just because you’re not a fan of a style doesn’t mean beers of that style are bad beers.

Except this one. Beers of this style are bad beers.

* — Side note: I don’t like un-styled beers. I want some indication of what’s in the bottle I’m buying, and unlabeled beer just screams of “generic beer” to me. As a fun experiment, I think Lighthouse should release Race Rocks in a 650ml bomber as a new beer: “Dean’s 80 Shilling Ale” complete with craft packaging and branding. I would absolutely love to watch the differences in review scores between that and RR in cans.

Written by chuck

October 28th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Beers

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Three Sexy Stouts to Woo Someone Special

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Valentine’s is fast approaching, so what kind of beer do you need for the ale-loving significant other in your life? Everyone has their individual preferences, but when I think Valentine’s I think Imperial Stout. Imperials pair perfectly with two other great Valentine’s traditions: chocolate and oysters. Combine those two things with a sneakily high alcohol beer and you have the recipe for a perfect evening.

Sure, you probably don’t need to get people drunk to take off their clothes, but face it: it helps. Let’s just say Spring Break without alcohol is a lot more, er, restrained.

Alcohol free parties: a different kind of fun, but it’s still fun right? RIGHT? Aside: Dogs minus red-eye reduction equals CREEPY.

But how to impress that special someone? You can’t just go grab a bottle of any old stout, pour some cheap vodka in it and call it a day. No siree, you have to find something as special as that certain someone, and I’m not talking short-bus special.

Luckily, there are three stouts available right now in BC that are just a bit different to show that you care and, depending on how much you care, there’s one at every price point. More money equals more love; it’s a good rule of thumb that applies equally well to vacations, diamonds, wine and beer. (All prices courtesy of Legacy Liquor Store)

Up first is Lighthouse Belgian Black. I’ve raved about this beer just recently, and even though it’s now all of five days later I still think it’s a great beer. Sure, it’s not a traditional Imperial Stout, but the Belgian twist gives this guy some sex appeal, and isn’t that what we’re all about here?

Price: $8.15 per 650ml, ABV: 9.0%

Next is Parallel 49 Russian Imperial Stout [review]. Now we’re talking. This is a bourbon barrel-aged, wax dipped, monster of flavour. This inky black guy is not only extremely good, but also a conversation piece. Maybe your V-Day date hasn’t heard of barrel-aged beers or wax-dipping of bottles? Well, now they have, and maybe they’re learning that beer can be romantic, too.

Price: $13.75 per 650ml, ABV: 10.9%

Finally, Brooklyn Black Ops. Go big or go home. Not just bourbon barrel aged, but bourbon barrel aged in barrels that used to hold good bourbon (Woodford Reserve). This is quite possibly one of the best Imperial Stouts ever minted by man. In addition to being just a damned sexy beer in a damned sexy bottle, it’s bottle conditioned with champagne yeast, which means pulling the cork out will give a satisfying “pop” whilst the target of your desire coes appreciably from a fur lined bed in his or her best silk lingerie no-see-ums.

Okay fine, I suck at romantic writing; deal with it. Here, instead just look at a picture of Black Ops being all alluring and mysterious.

I’ll be in my bunk.

Now, before you look at that price and exlaim “for a BEER?! NO WAY!” think about how much you’d spend on a bottle of wine for Valentine’s without hesitation, and now you can feel bad. Sure, it’s marked up quite a bit from the $20 you can buy it for in Brooklyn, but so is that bottle of Californian red in your other hand. Put the grape juice down and man up, is what I’m saying here.

Price: $37.25 per 750ml, ABV 10.5%

Written by chuck

February 12th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

February Beer of the Month

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I was sitting at the Alibi the other day, and I actually got called out for selecting a Beer of the Month that the person next to me didn’t love. So, let’s review the rules, folks. Beers of the Month are beers that meet these criteria:

  1. I have tried them
  2. I liked them or found them technically interesting
  3. Are beers that I feel need broader attention

Notice anything missing from that list? Yeah: “Are really great.” A BOTM nod from me does not mean that this is the best beer you’ve ever had (although it might be, I haven’t been keeping up on my duty to stalk every reader and keep track of what beers you have or have not drunk), but it does mean the beer is interesting to me, Chuck, or perhaps an unusual beer from a brewery not known for unusual beers.

Mini rant over.

Okay, just to keep it interesting, for February I am choosing a beer that just happens to be really great as well. This might confuse some of you, but I just don’t care any more. February’s Beer of the Month is Lighthouse Belgian Black 2013. I know, I know, I’m pretty predictable.

I love this beer for a few reasons. First, the bottle: it’s painted all-over with a textured black paint that makes it stand out as much as it completely blocks any incoming light. The bottle also has a pirate skeleton on it, and I cannot stress how much this improves a beer simply because you can say “Yaaaaaaar!!!!” while pouring it, or maybe slip in an “Avast!” or two between sips. Try it. It makes the beer better; it truly does.


Second, a year ago this beer signalled to the planet that Lighthouse Brewing was playing for keeps in the good beer game in BC. Sure, Deckhand made us realize that “Lighthouse” and “Good Beer” could be in the same sentence, but Belgian Black was a great beer bombshell that took us all by surprise. Simply put, before Belgian Black I didn’t believe Lighthouse could produce cellar-quality ales and after I flat out knew they could.

Third, it’s even better than last year. A lot better. Brewmaster Dean McLeod tweaked the recipe to be a bit more Belgian, and wow it shows. The tone of the beer has become more malt forward, with hints of all the right dark Belgian flavours: cherry, plum, date, and a wee touch of a certain monk-i-ness. There is a depth and complexity of flavour in this beer that was only hinted at in the 2012 version.

It’s drinking well right now, but lay some of these down for a year or so and you will not be disappointed.

Tasting notes:

Nose: Plums, raisins, dates. Basically 3/3 of the Belgian Strong checklist. Fruity/spicey esters are absent/very low though.
Appearance: Persistent medium carbonation, thin tan head over a dark, opaque black body. Sexy!
Taste: Very malt forward with a complex Belgian funk. Hops are prominent but balanced.
Should I buy it?: Oh hells yes.

Coles notes:

Brewery Lighthouse
From Victoria
Name Belgian Black
Style Belgian Strong
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Late 2013-2015
Pirate Score 1 for 1
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $8.00+ per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers P49 Vow of Silence

That’s three, but who’s keeping count?

Written by chuck

February 7th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Beers

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