Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grand River Brewing Winter Seasonals!

Grand River brewing generally offers a seasonal brew or two every quarter-turn-round-the-sun, and like with most of their other releases, are usually pretty damned good.  But, as with the case with many a microbrewery, availability of ingredients and demands outside one's control (or the brewer's/owners personal preferences) can affect what seasonals a brewery chooses to release, if at all.  Good rule of thumb: if it's a seasonal, there's a good possibility it will be a one-off brew, so get it while you can!  Example: about two years ago, Bob n' Rob released a fantastic brew - Jubilation Spiced Ale - that was my first true Winter Warmer, and I absolutely loved it.  We had it on tap at the Grad House (the bar at which I work), and I slung back many a pint over the course of the winter.  Last winter, I eagerly awaited the brew's return, only to find that Grand River had switched gears and released Curmudgeon IPA in its stead.  Though I was admittedly a bit disappointed that Jubilation was not available that year, Curmudgeon was quite enjoyable as well.   This year, Grand River chose to release their Jubilation winter brew in the form of a doppelbock - a hearty, high ABV lager - which on-tap has proved to be terrific.   Three different brews for three different years, I guess I can't complain about that!

Last week a buddy of mine made a sojourn down to the brewery and managed to pick up a bottle of both the Jubilation Winter Warmer and Curmudgeon IPA.   Neither of these brews (as far as I know) are available on LCBO shelves, so in order to sample them you'll probably have to make a brewery stop yourself. 

Beer: Jubilation Winter Warmer 2010
Type: Doppelbock
ABV: 7%

Bottled on December 13th - a bit older than most of the stuff I normally pick up at Grand River, so I guess they bottled everything all at once.  (Their regular fare is brewed, well, regularly, so it can be bottled closer to purchase) Poured into a becker-style pint glass.  I just discovered I actually don't have any Grand River glasses at home - this is something I must rectify! A lovely ruby-amber hue, very nice, with the pour producing a generous layer of head with scads of lacing to boot.  Great retention as well; after ten minutes, the brew still possesses a creamy layer of head and loads of lacing.  Looks terrific!

Nose is more on the winter warmer end of the spectrum than the bock/doppelbock, but nevertheless its still delicious!  Good malt profile, along with notes of apple, grape, cinnamon, nutmeg, a bit of caramel and bread.  Possibly a touch of clove as well.  This would have done well right before Christmas!

The taste is sweet and rich, at times reminding me of a sweet red ale, other times of more hearty fare. Cherry, grape, caramel, sherry, spice and finishes dry and with that slight mineral character Grand River is known for.  I'm not sure I would have identified this as a doppelbock if handed to me, but whatever this is, I'm enjoying it.  The alcohol is masked particularly well, which for a brewery known for low ABV brews, is saying something.

On tap, the brew has crisp, crackling carbonation, thinner bodied than other doppelbocks I've had recently, but creamy and satisfying enough. Very easy to drink.  The bottled version is predictably a bit thinner carbonation-wise, nice and thick and very creamy.

The name of the brew is very appropriate, as it had characteristics of both a winter warmer and a doppelbock, waxing in and out throughout the sampling.  Not nearly as dark or full-bodied as a  traditional doppelbock, but with flavors not often found in winter warmers, it doesn't fit that category either.  It's somewhere in the middle, but who cares!  This is a great winter brew and a must try from Grand River.

Now, for last year's seasonal offering!
Beer: Curmudgeon IPA
Type: English IPA
ABV: 6.5%

For a beer that boasts a bitter hop profile, "Curmudgeon" is a very appropriate name.  Their old bottles sported the face of a grumpy, angry old man, which I thought was hilarious.  Recently, Grand River has rebranded their bottles and done away with the images, so the hilarity is somewhat lost this time around. 

Poured into a Wellington nonic glass.  A deep russet hue, a long-lingering head, loads of sheeted lacing.

Nose is malty, with bittering and aromatic hops of the English variety, which produces notes of earth, tea, citrus, toffee, caramel and bread.
Taste is very good, one of the better English IPAs in the province.  This reminds me a great deal of a well-hopped variation of their Plowman's Ale.  Rich and bitter - pine and earth hop flavors - with nuts and spices to round off the palate.  Bitterness lingers for quite some time.  Not overly carbonated, about the right mouthfeel for the style.

IPA's are not this province's strong-suit, although there have been steps taken to rectify this fact.  Grand River's English IPA is malty and rich, and with a nice earthy and pine character reminiscent of English and East Coast IPAs.  Very drinkable over the course of an evening; certainly worth a pickup!

Two great seasonals from Grand River - get 'em while you can!

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