Star Bright: Big Hop Delivery


Once in a while a bright star of a beer flashes over my desk and lands in a tulip glass ready for tasting. Such a beer is Life Sentence IIIPA Southern Hemisphere, 10 percent abv, brewed in collaboration with the Great Lakes Brewery and the Amsterdam Brewery, both of Toronto.

 It has a purported 100+ IBUs from a hand selected 150 kilogram bale of Pacifica hops grown in Nelson, New Zealand, specifically bale # 47-4214.


This wondrous beer pours a soft veiled amber colour, while releasing intoxicating aromas of fresh green hops and alcohol on the nose. On the palate, juicy malt is relieved of its quantum load of hop bearing inner goodness as the mouth happily succumbs to a defining hop bitterness.


Still, while the hops are big and brassy and very much in charge, unrelenting in nature even, this wonderful and playful ale has enough malt backbone to keep it all in check. It’s a revelation in big beer delivery without killing the happy recipient’s joy of beer drinking!


Brotherly Suds from Philadelphia

ryebock lager cbc16 (2) - Copy


Brotherly Suds, a ryebock lager brewed by the Sly Fox Brewing Company of Pottstown, PA, pours a polished pale golden colour, while issuing aromatics of spice and rye alongside crisp malt. On the palate, fresh malt flavours are spliced by an edgy rye note.

The finish showcases a tinge of sweet malt that is supplanted by a crispness from both a rye presence and a surfacing hop bitterness that brings balance to the beer. In baseball terms, it is a beer that is ‘sneaky fast!’


This beer was brewed to commemorate the Craft Brewers Conference 2016 and Brewexpo America held in Philadelphia, PA, in early May.


Old School Stout: Wish My Classes Started With This!

old school stout kelowna


Old School Stout from the Tree Brewing Company of Kelowna, British Columbia, rides in at 5.5 percent abv, with roast, toast, chocolate and a hint of black licorice on the nose. On the palate, a neatly defined bitterness surfaces from beneath the resplendent core of chocolate flavourings and roasted malt. The finish is refreshingly bitter and drying, with balancing toasty notes in the background that keep you sipping until there is no more!


Fat Tug IPA: Driftwood Brewery

fat tug ipa

The Driftwood Brewery of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, has unleashed a fine expression of the IPA style in its amber coloured 7.7 percent abv Fat Tug IPA. Boisterous hop aromas leap from the glass, with malty undertones flowing forth from underneath in a wave of unbridled brilliance. Luscious hop flavours buoyantly sail across the palate with verve. The finish is wonderfully hop driven straight down the throat. You can dock Fat Tug IPA in my fridge anytime. This beer is unfiltered. Currently available in Ontario at the LCBO.

The Left Field Brewery, Toronto: Hits it Big time

DSC00158The Left Field Brewery of Toronto has come out swinging for the fences with beers such as Resin Bag, 6.9 percent abv and 50 IBUs, an American style IPA. Dressed with stylized home plate-shaped neck labels with illustrative art on the flip side, there is nothing but big league here on deck.

Resin Bag pours a rustic burnished chestnut colour, and it is way better than a resin bag on the mound, as it is a hop bag full of fresh green aromatic hops. It leads off with a starburst of hop bitterness down the line, sliding safely in to second with a well-played hop dynamic. The sprint to third is as easy as another sip of this hoppy brew. The finish is sharp and decisively bitter, with an un-tagged run over the plate. This is a fine and well executed beer of the style, that is, without malt overstepping its role as a sturdy backbone for the plentiful hops.
Well, I have to say I wasn’t that fond of this beer in its original incarnation brewed at an away-facility, but now with home field advantage, they’ve nailed it to the fence!
DSC00157Another beer in the hearty Left Field Brewery lineup is Maris Pale Ale, striding in at 4.5 percent abv, and yes, obviously brewed with Maris Otter malt. It’s brewed in honour of Roger Maris who hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking the record of legendary NYY Babe Ruth. Maris, while not revered by some Yankee fans, did get the job done. Maris PA delivers, much like its namesake, an early hit of malt that is capably backed up by a smack of hop bitterness in a sustained attack that is both balanced and forthright. Free of constraints, Maris clears the bases and trots home to a warm reception early in his career.

Originally appeared as part of my column in the Great Lakes Brewing News, June, July 2015.

Munich, Germany: Beer and Surfing

When you think of Munich and Germany, beer comes quickly to mind, but not so surfing. I went to Munich for beer and stumbled upon the surfing. But first the beer, priorities being upheld.

Munich is the capital and largest city, population 1.5 million, of the German state of Bavaria. It is located north of the Bavarian Alps on the banks of the River Isar.

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Schwemme, the main beer hall

Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Schwemme, the main beer hall

I went first to the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, a Munich institution, to sample German beer on draught in
Schwemme, the main beer hall and the heart of the Hofbräuhaus, which has seating for around 1,300 drinkers and diners. Festsaal, the ball room, has a further 1,500 seats, and other more private rooms hold another 1,000 people. And there is seating for another 700 in the spacious and well-treed beer garden.

Wherever you land in this glorious beer emporium, try one of their best summer beer offerings, Hofbrau Munchen’s Munchner Sommer Naturtrub, which is an unfiltered bottom fermented draught beer hitting 5.1 percent abv. It is a veiled amber in colour,Munchner Sommer Naturtrub at The Hofbrauhaus Chinesischer Turm beer garden showcasing a refreshing hop character upfront and a pleasant hop bitterness underneath a refined malt base. Its crispness on the palate makes for perfect summertime drinking, especially so outdoors in one of HB’s many beer gardens around Munich.

The large warm pretzels and spicy German mustard make for a fine accompaniment to the beer.

Later I set off to visit, in the heart of the Engslischer Garten, The Hofbrauhaus Chinesischer Turm beer garden, (Sommer Naturtrub pictured left in beer garden) which is the second largest beer garden in Munich with some 7,500 seats in the open air. Steins of HB brands are happily served in quantity to ever-eager consumers, many in large groups of friends or with extended family members.

Surfing in Munich!

Surfing in Munich!

Along the way I came upon canal surfing in the heart of Munich, which is quite something to behold. I may have read about it in a guide book but it didn’t make any sense until I actually saw men and women in black wet suits skimming over the surface of hundreds of gallons of water forcefully gushing and frothing from a closed canal into a wider open channel. And then it did make sense. Boy did it ever. Inner-city Munich is a most unusual surfing destination but it really was quite a brilliant spectacle.

But, alas, there was more beer to be had in Munich, much more, and to that end I set my feet in motion.

Heavy Hitters Score With Big Beers


The Smuttynose Brewing Company of Hampton, New Hampshire, USA, has brewed a wonder beer in its Smuttynose Imperial Stout. Weighing in at 10 percent abv, it presents a pitch-black colour and a nose of chocolate nibs nudged forward by darkened toast elements and a solid hop bitterness, and from beneath, there is a gentle release of alcohol. The finish is dry, hoppy, roast, chocolate and a hint of dark licorice, oh, and very moreish.

After a tasting, I often, especially so if I like the beer, pour the remainder of a sample into a pint glass sleeve, my preferred vessel for drinking beer, just to see if there are any nuances I may have missed or undervalued.


Old Ruffian Barley Wine brewed by the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado, USA, gallops in a 10.2 percent abv, which is backed with a solid 90 IBUs. Pouring a burnished reddish-brown in colour, it releases aromas of hops and malt that happily co-mingle. The malt flavours succumb to a potent rush of hop bitterness on the palate. Malt, however, does not give up, pushing the hop quotient into balance. The finish has more of the continuing tussle between hops and malt, with no clear winner. A very fine brew for sipping or drinking!

Beer Writing Flashback

A few years ago I was sitting at the bar of the Brass Taps in Toronto, Ontario, when a chap picks up the Great Lakes Brewing News and starts reading from my column to his mate. He finishes reading what follows and then says to his friend, ‘now that is pure poetry’.


From the Great Lakes Brewery of Toronto slides in the Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout with a whacking good read of 11 percent abv. Aged for three months in Kentucky bourbon barrels, this beer, as part of the brewery’s 25th anniversary celebration, pours a polished ebony colour with a creamy, dense chocolate coloured head. While the nose is rather subdued in nature, gently revealing bourbon scents, with wisps of roast and chocolate. On the palate, it comes forward with smooth booze with a roasted malt edge. There is a long boozy led finish with a kiss of roast and chocolate flavourings. This beer has a disturbingly smooth delivery of alcohol. But it is gentle sipper that is ‘black gold’ of a beer kind! There is some cellaring potential if you can dare to wait that long for another tussle with your taste buds!

Originally published in the Great Lakes Brewing News in 2013.

Green Devil IPA Delivers Citrus

20150423_163417_006_resizedGreen Devil IPA, a 6 percent abv beer from Oakham Ales of Peterborough, England, pours a polished golden colour, releasing fresh aromatics of mango and pineapple, and a forthright and penetrating bitterness that leaves a deep impression on the palate. It’s a big and bold ale but it doesn’t kick your butt to the moon. The citrus imprint keeps on giving in the best way. I quite like this beer but Citra, also from Oakham Ales, has embraced me with an everlasting hop presence that I am unable, and unwilling, to relinquish. And while I don’t equate our beery relationship to love, no beer has quite taken my fancy like Oakham Citra has.

Hercules Double IPA Truly is!


Hercules Double IPA, a 10 percent abv brew from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado, has a palate massaging 85 IBUs. This polished amber coloured ale releases notes of nuts and pungent fresh, green hops. Hop bitterness heavily impacts on the palate but a firm backbone of semi-sweet malt supports and holds it all together. The finish is bitter and extended. It’s a thoroughly luscious and delicious 2X IPA that is to be sipped, savoured and then drunk!