Chris G's Beer Highlights
SYC – Phantom Buzz
Non-Alcoholic Pale Ale
What SYC has done here is impressive. This non-alcoholic beer doesn’t show any of the doughy tang that normally plagues arrested-fermentation style NA brews. Lively carbonation, careful balance, and bright hop character makes this beer an unlikely but deserving 2021 highlight.
Dieu du Ciel! – Boire Prague et Moirir
Brewing a classically inspired Czech pilsner can be an intimidating undertaking. The traditional offering, “Pilsner Urquell” offers this beer style barrel-rested in on-site coopered casks, using the soft water of Plzen, in-house malted barley and an involved triple-decoction brewing method, at an incredible value. I was impressed that Dieu du Ciel! could put up a beer that’s deserving of a Pilsner Urquell admirer’s consideration.
Establishment – Sky Rocket VI
New England India Pale Ale
This little brewery was showered in accolades this year from both the Canadian Brewing Awards and the Alberta Brewers Beer Awards. I found that Sky Rocket VI succeeded on many levels, balancing big hop additions and high alcohol to achieve a surprisingly quaffable NEIPA with a soft, velvety texture.
Omnipollo – Zodiak
India Pale Ale
An unbelievable value! This pedigree of beer at this price-point is almost unheard-of. Not much is said about this beer on Omnipollo’s website, but the fresh aroma, big flavour, and persistent retention hint at a brew of exceptional quality.
Bellwoods – Grisette
Perhaps another unlikely year-end favourite. This grisette is understated but not unremarkable. Where this brew shines is in its fizzy carbonation, soft acidity, and lightly funky flavour. The perfect beer to enjoy with food.
Cascade x Collective Arts – Origin of Darkness
Oak Barrel-aged Sour Stout
I’ve always regarded sour stouts as a polarizing beer style, and I don’t think that this collaboration is an exception. I like sour stouts but have always wondered who the target audience is meant to be. Of the sour stouts that I’ve had, this might be the one that I’ve liked the most as it balances rich and acidic, with fruity and roasty in a spectacular way. Not everyone’s beer, but it was hard to ignore its masterful balancing act and uniqueness.
Crux – [Banished] In the Pocket
Barrel-aged Rustic Saison
The back label suggests that this beer is “an avant-garde combo” of “aged and unaged imperial saisons” and I couldn’t agree more. There are waves of unplaceable flavours that are no-doubt the result of mingling between the saison blend and the wine barrel; all-the-while influenced by no less than three yeast strains. This beer places high because of its experimental nature and playful charm.
Alesmith – Speedway Stout
Imperial Stout with Coffee
Speedway Stout was an obvious dark beer value pick for me. Like Omnipollo Zodiak, Alesmith Speedway stout performs well above its shelf price. This monster beer is 12% ABV and boasts big flavours of dark fruit, toffee, caramel, and of course delicious roasty coffee.
Trial & Ale – An Equatorial Detour
It seems like nearly all conversations about Alberta craft beer nowadays includes some mention of Trial & Ale. This somewhat enigmatic brewery has produced a catalogue of beers that are anything but enigmatic. Trial & Ale is #6 on Untappd.com’s top Canadian breweries at the time of me writing this, and “An Equatorial Detour” is my personal favourite of their offerings to date.
3 Fonteinen – Intens Rood
I had wanted to try this beer ever since I drank my first “3 Fonteinen Kriek” three years ago. I had sort of convinced myself that it wouldn’t come to market, so you could imagine my surprise when it came available in mid-September this year. Intens Rood showcases the most honest cherry flavour that I’ve encountered in a beer with just a smidge of earthy funk to round out the experience. I can’t recommend this enough to appreciators of Belgian lambic beer.