Back when I was still studying at Brandon University several years ago, I did an interview with CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence.
One question I always liked to ask celebrities is "What is your favourite beer?" and almost every time — their face would light up with a large smile and blurt out their favourite beer — and that they now wanted one. For Grant Lawrence, Blue Buck Pale Ale by Phillips Brewing Company out of Victoria B.C. was the one beer he enjoyed more than any other.
For the longest time, it was hard to get beer from B.C. in Manitoba, but with loosened liquor laws in the last three to four years, we are now seeing a large selection of beers from B.C. and Ontario available at just about any Liquor Mart or beer vendor in the province. Now I could finally go out and try the beer that makes Grant Lawrence drool.
Blue Buck pours a cloudy copper-amber ale, a light amount of sediment floating about in the beer, a good amount of fizzy carbonation and a light lacing of a beige head on top. For the aroma, it’s more of a maltier pale ale than a Prairie pale ale that’s more of a grassy and barley-focused golden beer. And its not as bitter as a typical West Coast pale ale as generally they can be quite bitter from the local hops used, giving it a pine or grapefruit scent to it.
There’s a bready scent that reminds me of cinnamon buns, bready yet sweet. Light notes of caramel, toffee and oranges.
Now, the taste test! It’s a bit too light for my tastebuds. First off, Blue Buck gives me a bit of a watered down taste, not quite American beer, but a bit too much of a watery texture for me.
I notice flavours of the sweet caramel malt, a fairly light amount of bitterness that gives the beer a bit of a lingering grassy aftertaste on the tongue. The taste isn’t as strong as the aroma unfortunately. For the average lager drinking beer drinker in Manitoba, it might be a bit too malty and a touch too bitter, but for those who like a good beer like heavier ales, it might be a too light for them, so sometimes it’s hard to please everyone.
Light tinny aftertaste and a light amount of a bready flavour end off the beer.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t a big fan of this beer, but then looking at the bottom of the can, it states the Best Before Date which was February 4, 2014. So possibly, since this beer is past its prime, that fact could have toned down the flavours a bit over time.
I was hoping for a bit more of a bitter hoppy backing and a bit sweeter introduction to tasting the beer, but this wasn’t the case. While I’m not a fan of this beer, Phillips does make some really great products that you can find in Westman, such as their Puzzler Belgian Black IPA or their Bottle Rocket India Session Ale. Blue Buck is available at all three main Liquor Marts in Brandon for $2.69 per 355 mL bottle and has an alcohol content of five per cent ABV.
A new Pale Ale by the folks over at Moosehead. Boundary Ale is described as being brewed with a unique blend of old and new world hops which gives this beer all the fine qualities of an English and American Pale Ale.
The different malt varieties make it a remarkably well balanced beer that is slightly sweet with roasted and caramel malt complexity. I just tried this one the other day and between this and Blue Buck, I’d go with the Boundary Ale. Retails for $2.79 per 473 mL can or $11.72 per 355 mL six-pack. Available at Liquor Marts in Brandon.
Central City Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine
If you’ve never heard of a Barley Wine, don’t worry, it’s a rare treat. Barley wines are what I like to think of as a combination of wine and beer to create an over-the-top sweetness that is best enjoyed after dessert.
Barley wines don’t use wines or other fruits but instead get their overly sweet flavour from various spices, syrups and other goodies. Thor’s Hammer has hints of rum, dates and figs and uses made-in-Vancouver dark candy syrup. Guaranteed to be a hit for those who like a complex, incredibly sweet and syrupy beer.
I recommend sharing this with two to three friends as it is 11.5 per cent ABV and only available in 650mL bottles at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart, at $10.90 per bottle.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 12, 2014