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Our new beer guy delivers the skinny on spring releases

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Note: It’s often said, it takes a lot of beer to make good wine. That’s why we thought a beer column would be the perfect complement for a local wine and food website. We’ve drooled over the tweets by Brian Yeo, an all-in craft beer geek who knows his stuff and loves to talk about almost as much as loves to drink it. He was kind enough to join our small team here at Wines In Niagara. This is his first post. To learn more about Brian, click the About button.

By Brian Yeo

The clocks have moved forward, the temperatures are rising, everywhere you look the signs of spring abound, including the spring seasonal specialty beer release from the LCBO. Many of the beers listed below began making their way onto shelves in Ontario at the end of February with more following through March. Consult the Product Search on the LCBO website for availability near you.


The release highlights the customary switch from the rich, robust porters and stouts of winter to the traditional bocks of spring and ranges from classic Trappist Ales to contemporary West Coast styled Double and Imperial IPAs and even throws a unique Italian sour into the mix.

Westmalle Tripel

tripel-1The Westmalle brewery was established in 1794, in the province of Antwerp, by Cistercian monks and is one of only seven Trappist breweries in existence. The Westmalle Tripel first appeared in 1934 and has long been thought to be the originator of the tripel style.

The beer pours a lovely golden amber with an incredibly plush and long-lasting mousse. Aromas of orange, banana, clove, and dried roses carry the nose leading to a luxurious medium bodied palate, lively carbonation, rich flavours and lengthy finish of orange and hops.

This beer is incredibly balanced showing deceptively well-integrated alcohol.

Often times, to completely understand a style of beer we need to look at the originators. The Westmalle Tripel represents such an opportunity. This is an easy beer to recommend to anyone, however, beware, this tripel is as easy to drink as many lighter styles of beer but it is packed with a 9.5% abv whallop that will get you in the end. Highly Recommended!

Weihenstephaner Vitus

304176_258497970850891_258497647517590_909040_2433647_nBrewing continuously and commercially since 1040 the Staatsbrauerei Weihenstepaner, located just north of Munich, is considered the world’s oldest brewery. Vitus, a weizenbock, is the brewery’s winter seasonal offering and may, in some sense, be considered a bock in namesake only. Traditional bocks start with a rich, malty, dark lager base and are bottom fermented whereas Vitus begins with a rich wheat base much like their uber-tasty hefeweizen and is top fermented delivering classic wheat beer characteristics in an amped-up style with higher alcohol.

Vitus pours a hazy amber-orange colour with a full and long lasting off-white head. The nose is full of signature weissbier aromas of banana, bubblegum, clove, dried tropical fruit, and subtle hints of smoke. The mouthfeel is pure luxury with a rich creamy texture offset by vibrant carbonation and the 7.7% alcohol is superbly integrated, flavours of apricot, spice, and bubblegum carry through to a decidedly lingering sweet and sour finish.

If you are a lover of traditional bocks, the Weihenstephaner Vitus may challenge your preconceptions of the style and not be your cup of tea. However, if you love weissbiers as much as I than this beer will be a decadent treat and a beer you will go back to time and time again. The Vitus also has excellent aging potential and will continue to develop further in the bottle rewarding those with the patience to set a few aside for a year or more. Highly Recommended!

Tree Brewing Hophead Double IPA

hopheadx250Following the successful introduction of the Tree Brewing Hophead IPA into Ontario last year, the LCBO has rewarded devout hopheads by giving us the big Double IPA version from the Kelowna, B.C.-based brewery as part of the spring seasonal release.

Double India Pale Ales emerged onto the craft beer scene in the mid-1990s from the west coast of the USA with the intention of delivering a bigger, better, more bitter interpretation of a classic British beer showcasing the power of hops in all their glory. So charmingly American!

Double IPAs are not for the feint of heart and the delicate of palate as they typically deliver high alcohol content ranging from 8% to well over 10% abv and palate bruising IBUs (international bittering units) from 65 to over 100 in extreme versions.

Tree’s Double IPA pours a lovely burnished orange tone with a loose knit light amber head which quickly recedes. The nose delivers hops in all their glory with pine, grapefruit, orange zest and dried flower aromas blending with the sweet caramel malt and sourdough bread notes with forward alcohol rising above. The beer is mid-bodied and slightly oily with light carbonation and flavours denoting pine resin, orange marmalade, nut like malt carrying through to a lingering hop burn finish with warming alcohol.

All in all, Tree has delivered a pleasant example of the Double IPA style though many hardcore hopheads may view it as a little soft. Even still, I am a fan of the brewery and always look forward to tasting their beers. Watch for more Tree Brewing products to enter Ontario as part of the LCBO’s Brewery Feature program later in 2012.