Well I was at the brewery I was lucky enough to have a unique experience. I had the opportunity to have their regular Red Seal Ale as well as a fresh cask version. The Red Seal is actually one of their beers that we can find from time to time here in Calgary. It has won ten gold medals in various world championships. Also, a couple of silver medals to just round things up a touch.

As anyone would guess the Red Seal Ale pours with an amber red color. It is capped off with a white head which clings to the sides of the glass as it fades. The aroma has some spices, some grassy and piney hops, I believe I might also be picking up a small amount of caramel malt too. My initial impression of the flavor was that I found it to be quite pungent with the taste of clove. There were grassy hops right upfront but are eventually overpowered by the clove. There is a malty backbone to this to add a darkish caramel to the mix. As a final note, I’m not sure why but for some reason I thought I might have been tasting a touch of soap in the aftertaste… This seems unusual for me. I’m thinking that the glass might not have gotten a proper rinse after being washed? I could be completely wrong on this or it might have been the order I’d tried the beers.

5.5% Amber

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Well, I think it’s time for a short history lesson regarding North Coast Brewing. They were a pioneer in the craft brew movement, opening their doors back in 1988 originally as a Brew pub. Under the guidance of their Brewmaster, Mark Ruedrich, they’ve won over seventy awards nationally and internationally in various competitions. They are currently shipped world-wide, yes even to Canada, though we don’t see to much of them. Okay, enough history, on to the beer.

Pouring a dark amber brown coloring, this ale has a slightly off white head. The aroma wafts with dark fruits and a heavy sweetness like brown sugar. The flavor is heavy with dark molasses and brown sugar. There is a light note of banana esters that I nearly didn’t detect. Dark roasted caramel malts darken the beer a touch but don’t help with the overly sweet taste. The dark fruits, raisins and plums, are also present throughout the taste. There is also a nasty alcoholic bite at the tail end of the after taste. I’d really like to have another bottle of this to let sit and age to see what it’d turn into 4-6 years down the road.

9.4% Belgian

The next day we started our beer road trip through Napa Valley. Yes, we were in wine country and didn’t stop for a single drop of wine. Our purpose you ask? Well, as stated earlier, Beer! Our first stop was in Fort Bragg at North Coast Brewing. They offered all of their beers on tap and had 4 oz sample glasses available and a mix and match option with 4 – 4 oz glasses. I had five, starting off with their Old Stock Ale. This ale has won multiple awards including three gold medals and a platinum medal.

The Old Stock Ale pours a dark, copper brown with a small ring of white head. The aroma is rich with caramel malts, hazelnuts, and dates. The flavors dance along my taste buds with caramel, sweet bourbon, dates or figs, and a smooth, roasted, malty finish. The caramel taste sticks around or the whole ride from start to finish. This is a style of beer that usually ages extremely well. With this being the case I made sure to pick up a four pack to bring home to let age. To be honest, I am giddy with anticipation of how delicious this will be once it’s aged a few years.

Old Ale 12.5%

Well, as I said in my previous post we had a back to back “Daddy” tasting. Obviously the next one on our tasting schedule is the Double Daddy! I managed to spot this one in a random liquor store in Los Angeles. This is the exact reason anytime I see a liquor store, especially one I haven’t been into before, I have an urge to “pop” into it. You never know what you’ll find. It might be a bunch of generic garbage, mostly generic garbage with a single shining light, a mash-up of generic and craft, or a secret heaven filled with liquid joy. Seeing as I was in another country everything was singing out to me.

Pouring a clear, bright golden color, once again we achieved very little head due to the small pour situation. The aroma is thick with grapefruit and orange hops. There is also a thick sugar cane smell to it as well. This Imperial IPA is extremely well-balanced, there is a bite of citrus hops right up front, which mellow out with the sweet taste of malts which give a decent sugar cane sweetness. The sweetness and hops linger on the tongue for a long time in the aftertaste. I find it feels quite dry in the mouth making me want to reach for another, and yet another sip. This being quite “dangerous” with it being 9.5%. Also, worth of note there is a bite of heat from the alcohol level, but not so much to scare people away.

9.5% Imp. IPA

After having dinner and drinks my friends and I headed back to the house to have a couple more tastings. This tasting I’ve been looking forward too. It’s a double up of Speakeasy’s IPAs; Big Daddy and Double Daddy. As you can probably guess the name for this brewery derived from the speakeasies that popped up during the prohibition in the US. These establishments would allow entry to individuals that would softly spoke a password to get into the alcohol serving establishment. Brewing on a small-scale was actually illegal until 1980 so only massive breweries were allowed to reopen once the prohibition was lifted. This particular Speakeasy founded in 1997 and later in 2000 you could actually walk into a liquor store and buy it off a shelf.

The IPA poured a golden orange with a white head which quickly faded. With how much carbonation there is in this brew I believe the head dissipating quickly due to only pouring a small amount into each glass. The beer is teeming with aromas. There is sweet honey, pine hops, orange and lemon hops, and just a touch of grassiness. The actual flavor is very well-balanced. It has a solid pine and citrus hops upfront, which graduates to a crisp biscuit malt in the middle and finishes up with a tasty grassy hop finish. The flavors leave the palate clean and refreshed.

6.5% IPA

My third and final beer at this fine establishment was a Poppy Jasper Amber Ale. I later found out that this brew is created by El Toro Brewing, located in Morgan Hill, California. When I first saw the name of the brew I thought it unusual for a name of the flower and the name of the town in Alberta to be thrown into the same name for a beer. I later found out, through a little research, that “Poppy Jasper” is actually a name for a semi precious stone. Apparently this stone can only be found in Morgan Hill and is believed to have been made by a unique combination of volcanic and seismic activity. Said volcanic activity would have derived from the hill named El Toro, translating into “the bull”.

Pouring a cloudy brownish amber, this brew came with a half finger of white cream head which faded quickly. The aroma is sweet and grainy with some light fruity hints. The taste is dominated by a sweet caramel malt with mild hints of floral hops. This amber was smooth going down and had just the right amount of carbonation. If anything, I found it was just a touch too sweet for my tastes.

5.3% Amber

The next pint I had at this pub was a Trumer Pilsner. Until I saw it on this list I’d never heard of it before. It turns out that they originated in Austria. The brewery originally started out as a pub in 1775 and has been passed down through seven generation of family. Slowly growing and expanding through each generation. They’ve expended so much they actually have a brewery in Berkeley, California to supply their American demand.

This pilsner pours a straw yellow with next to no head. What little head is actually there is a light white skim on top around the edges. Their aroma hints at floral and grass hops, with a side of pale, bready malts. The taste mirrors the aromas and is quite light and crisp. I could see a bunch of these going down far too easily on a scorching hot summer day.

4.8% Pilsner