Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Queen is Dead

Perry didn't lie.

It was the first beer that I ever reviewed, was the ale that made me create Beer O'Clock. And it was the best Imperial stout I ever had. When I was told that it could last 10 years, I put it to the test. And this year, it was time to say goodbye.

Months ago, when I told my friend that I only had one bottle of his stellar creation, he told me, in that calm, soft, nonchalant voice of his, "that's one more than I have." For all I know, it was the last bottle in existence. If you have any, I'd love to hear from you.

Also, if you do have a bottle, drink it now or forever keep it sealed.

Because, on this Imperial stout's tenth anniversary, it's reached its end.
Tsarina Katarina 2005 Imperial Stout (9% ABV)
Scotch-Irish Brewing Company
Fitzroy Harbour, ON
Appearance: deep, deep walnut, with a dark-taupe head that needed coaxing. In fact, I poured the bottle into a glass and then quickly poured that glass into another, to bring it to life. It raised a thick, foamy head that settled to a solid cap.

Nose: dark chocolate, licorice, and prunes.

Palate: sweet prunes and mild coffee. The liquid was mostly flat but not dead: there was a faint pulse that stimulated the tongue. But as I drank more, I could tell that the fizz was this beer's final breath. The flavour carried through to a tangy finish that was slightly sour.

As I continued to drink this old stout, I could taste it change, become more acidic, as though it was burning out. I have experienced this mouth change in some very old wines, but never in a beer. The air was taking the life out of the glass.

Overall impression: if this had been a new beer, I would have said that it was slightly off, that there might have been a flaw in the bottling. At 10 years, it was still drinkable, though the final sips told me that not only was my glass finished, this majestic brew was, too.

Knowing this beer's history, this final bottle was still enjoyable. My friend didn't lie: this ale lasted 10 years. No more.

I tip my hat to you, Perry: you were true to your word. You made a classic Imperial stout and you made it legendary. Your brewery is gone, and now what may have been the final bottle has been consumed. Be proud that it happened.

The queen is dead: rather, the tsarina is gone, but not forgotten.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Stout for Vikings

Centuries ago, Vikings came to Canadian shores and set roots, and until April of next year, they're setting up shop at our museum of civilization, now named the Canadian Museum of History. And because December seems to also bring in the flavoured stouts, it's only fitting that I take a look at a dark ale from the land of Vikings.

This one has bite.
Megagrisk Viking Chili Stout (10% ABV)
Hornsherredvej, Denmark
Appearance: deep walnut with a dark-taupe head that settles quickly to a dense lace.

Nose: dark chocolate with hints of coffee.

Palate: the hot peppers hit you from the start, followed closely by dark chocolate. The chili follows through, conquering you, all the way to the finish and is matched with a kiss of licorice. The finish is long-lasting, taking up roots, thanks to those chili peppers.

Overall impression: this is a spicy treat but I don't know if I could have more than one at a time. Don't get me wrong: I really like it but the cumulative heat on one beer may be too much in a second one.

Oh, plus the alcohol level. At 10 percent, you have to be careful.

I love spicy food, and spicy beer is good, but in limited amounts. Like Vikings, you may not want them to stick around. (The Vikings exhibit lasts until April 17, 2016.)

Beer O'Clock rating: 4


Thursday, December 3, 2015


Who doesn't love a redhead?

Ever since I first saw a summer sampler of Red Racer beer, with that illustration of a tantalizing redhead on a bicycle, I've been impressed. And it has nothing to do with Central City's symbolic lady. 

Almost every one of the many beers I've tried, I liked. A lot. Earlier, this summer, their ISA blew me away and was one of my summer picks.

Now, for December, the girl is back: and I'm in love.
Red Racer Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout (6% ABV)
Central City Brewers
Surrey, BC
Appearance: motor-oil black with walnut highlights, and a creamy, taupe head that settles to a thin cap.

Nose: rich chocolate, coffee, burnt caramel, and spice.

Palate: the gingerbread comes out at the gate, with full force. There's a slight sweetness that, when swirled in the mouth, releases tones of vanilla and a hint of root beer. Chocolate brings up the rear in what is a rich, decadent finish, without any "strong-beer" taste.

Overall impression: I love a good, full-bodied stout, and this one delivers. The added flavours of gingerbread and sweetness of chocolate make this not only a great stout, but a decadent holiday dessert. I am thoroughly impressed with this latest Red Racer offering, and this is perhaps one of the best stouts that I have had in a very long time.

That red head has got my motor racing.

Grab some while you can.

Beer O'Clock rating: 5