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At 9% alcohol, this Belgian Style double from Microbrasserie Charlevoix in Baie St. Paul, Quebec packs a punch. For some reason I’ve never had this beer, but I’ve absolutely loved everything I’ve had from Charlevoix. I’m especially fond of their single hop Double IPA series which has produced some of Canada’s most unique beers.

Dominus Vobiscum Double pours out a dark brown, fully opaque in the most of the body with a thin, creamy beige head. Bands of thick creamy lacing stick around the glass. The nose has an overall sweetness and fruity aroma. Notes of nuts, plum, caramel, raisin, cherry and a mild presence of alcohol. My first taste is sublime with a bit of a wheat malt subtly presenting itself midst a nutty, caramel malted middle. A sweet, cherry and beery taste with a plum and raisin aftertaste. The finish has a nice alcohol warmth, but not too much taste of alcohol. The body is a bit too thin, but creamy and delicious regardless.

Overall, a bit too sweet and not enough a roasted, toffee malt common in this style. I still like the real Belgian ones better.

Grade: A

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Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

Driftwood Brewing, located in Victoria, BC has a very limited distribution area. As such, I was given this beer from a friend who just returned from the province. Fat Tug is a 7% alcohol by volume, 80 IBU India Pale Ale. Not only am I extremely excited to try this as it is a much hyped beer from a brewery I’ve never had anything from, but this is also my 800th beer. I’m excited to crack this one open.

The pour is a light brownish orange with a light yellowish white head full of tiny, tiny bubbles. A thick ring of lacing is left on the glass after my first gulp. A few bubbles cascade upwards in the body.The head slowly died to a thin, densely packed finger of off white foam. The nose is sweet and fruity with a resinous hopped up aroma and a light caramel malt. A bunch of grapefruit and piney notes atop a bit of a sweet apricot and tropical fruit with a whif of alcohol and resinous hops. In the middle I get a sweet, slightly pined note with a bit of a brown sugar and toffee malt. The finish has a resinous smack and slick, sticky mouthfeel. A bit of alcohol in the aftertaste with a mild grapefruit tang. A lingering hop bitterness stays on well past swallowing. Overall, this is a fantastic IPA; sticky, resinous, bitter and sweet. Fat Tug manages to drink less than 80 IBU’s whilst still adding the resinous smack of sticky hops to overall libation. Cheers!

Grade: A

Chimay Grande Réserve

I found this old bottle covered in a layer of dust at the back of the shelf at a store not well known for their craft beer selection. The best before date on the bottle is sometime in 2013, so this is most likely in the ballpark of 4 years old. I eased the cap off of this bottle of Chimay Blue and I was immediately greeted by a flood of gushing beer from the bottle. I immediately dump the bottle into my Chimay Trappist glass as I try to save as much as I can. Once the glass settles down, there is a finger of ridiculously creamy beige head atop a brightly highlighted murky brown. The head leaves truly thick and beautiful yellowish white lacing rings. A waft of dark, candied fruits and a light sweet roasted malt on the nose accompanies a mild alcohol presence. A bunch of caramel, toffee and biscuits along with a strong estery Belgian yeast nose. Aroma of raisins, grape juice, prunes and sweet candy tantalize my taste buds.

My first taste is simply sublime with a perfect balance of the fruity esters and sweet malts. A light caramel and toffeed malt in the middle balances well with the raisin and prune notes. A hint of spice and estery yeast notes segway into a utterly smooth finish. A bit of alcohol on the finish, but very subtle for 9% ABV. The finish also has a bit of hop bitterness with grassy notes.  The malted middle has notes of toast, biscuit and light roasty nuts. Overall, the sweetness and the detectable fruits make this is perfect Belgian beer.

I’m not sure how the aging affected this bottle as it seemed to taste as beautiful as the last time I had Chimay Blue. Regardless, this is certainly one of the most fantastic brews I’ve ever tasted.

Dark coffee beans and heavily roasted imperial stouts are two of my favorite things in the world. So its only natural that I picked up a bottle of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Cappuccino Stout. Lagunitas Brewing, one of the hoppiest breweries in the USA is located in Petaluma, California. They are perhaps most well known for their Hop Stoopid Imperial IPA which clocks in at over 100 IBU’s. This Cappuccino Stout has 9% alcohol by volume and a IBU value of 29.5. That 9% ABV makes me wonder whether this is a regular stout (dry stout or sweet stout perhaps) or an Imperial Stout. The latter of these categories being my favorite style of beer. There is something about the rich, bitter and darkly roasted coffee bean and a robustly roasted, alcohol potent stout that just go hand-in -hand.

The Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout pours out a really dark brown on the edges and pure black in the body. The head is a thin finger of dark beige with a little bit of lacing. The nose is sweet and bitter smelling with a robust coffee nose and a big roast up front on the aroma. A mild hop and an overall intense nose with a beautiful roast and lovely torrefaction coffee notes. The middle is sweet and nicely roasted with a beautiful roast espresso and notes of chocolate and wood. Notes of like fruit and a hint of light hop are also detected. The finish has a prolonged dry bitterness with a coffee roasted note sticking to the palate well after swallowing. The body is full with a creamy and thick mouthfeel and a warmth of alcohol throughout. This is a great brew that in many ways upstages the Imperial Stout from Lagunitas Brewing. Although I like this beer quite a bit, I think their hoppier offerings such as Hop Stoopid and Little Sumpin’ Wild are still superior. 

Cheers

Located in Edmonton and Calgary respectively, Alley Kat and Wild Rose have been in operation since the mid 1990’s. At the forefront of craft brewing in the province of Alberta, the two breweries distribute a good selection of session brews as well as the occasional seasonals. Coincidentally, this year, both breweries decided to make Belgian style Abbey ales.

The Alley Kat “Abbey Kat” Belgian Quadrupel is a dark, strong bottle conditioned ale brewed in the style of legendary Trappist abts of Belgian (and Holland). At 9.4%, Abbey Kat is a pretty standard strength for a Abt/Quad.  The pour has a dark mahogany body with bright ruby highlights along the edges and the bottom of the glass. A thick and creamy beige head leaves thick rings of fuzzy off-white lacing. The first whiff of the nose is strong with a mild roast, prominent desert like fruits and a sweet brown sugar aroma. Notes of toffee, coffee, tart, prune, raisin and an odd bit of spice are all found. The head has since died down to a thin cap of dense beige foam. Sweet and well malted in the middle with candied fruits aplenty. A hint of clove and a mild alcohol overbears on the fruity middle slightly. A light hop with beautiful esters and a strong Belgian yeast aftertaste. The body is heavy and slick with a bit of lightness on the mouthfeel. This sipper provides a warm, fruity and lightly spiced taste that is simply lovely.

Wild Rose’s Dubbel is a 7.3% ABV Belgian Dubbel by style. The dubbel, like the quadrupel is an abbey beer typically dark, of medium strength and bottle conditioned. A murky muddy brown body tones of beautiful amber amidst the murky body. A thin yellowish cap of head dies quickly and leaves little head. Sweet and malted well with notes of toffee and raisin on the nose. The aroma has a subtle earthy note with fig and plums amongst sweet caramel and toffee malt notes. The taste is hearty and warming with sweet, fruity malts in the middle and a light grassy hop. There is a mild alcohol note on the finish accompanying the estery Belgian yeast and light hop aftertaste. The mouthfeel is smooth and almost silky with a lingering toffee and fruit aftertaste.

Overall, this was a good pair of Belgian style brews from my favorite local breweries. I can only hope that their next seasonal brews live up my now higher expections. I’m wouldn’t dream of comparing these brews to the actual Trappist Dubbel’s and Quad’s, but Alley Kat and Wild Rose both did a hell of a job.