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Tempt Yourself with The Temptress

A new seasonal from Medicine Hat’s Hell’s Basement is creating quite a stir, for the backstory, the label and the beer.With that combination how could I not write about it?

The beer, The Temptress (de verleidster),is the product of a chance meeting between Hell’s Basement brewer, Mike Gripp, and Rich Pool, the brewer from Puik Bieren, a small microbrewery in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. The Dutch brewer was in Medicine Hat with his military unit doing NATO exercises at nearby Suffield. He and some of his colleagues found the Hell’s Basement tap room and quickly became regulars. The two brewers got to talking, realized they both liked bit, assertive beer.

Not long after they decided they should do a collaboration, started working on a recipe together and brewed it up together. Since returning home Pool has done up the same recipe at their brewery. They brewed a big red rye IPA with a noted alcohol strength (8%).

The Dutch version has become something of a celebrity beer. The Canadian ambassador to The Netherlands heard about the collaboration and became intrigued.  He requested some cases of the beer to be served at an embassy event after remembrance ceremonies and subsequently invited Pool to an embassy soiree. A little bit of Canadian-Dutch cooperation reaches the embassy. The beer has also proven very popular at beer shows around Holland.

Here at home the beer has taken some heat for the label design (which I have chosen to not post here). It is a of a sexy female devil reclining in a short dress and unbuttoned top. These kinds of labels have become controversial in North America as growing numbers of commentators (myself included) have criticized the use of sexualized imagery of women to sell beer. This label would certain fit that description.

There is some context behind the decision, I must note. All of Puik Bieren’s labels feature 1950’s pin-up style drawings of sexy women. Hell’s Basement went with a similarly themed design in the spirit of collaboration, even though they knew it might challenge the sensibilities of their local market.

I also note that Europe seems to have a different perspective on sex and beer. European labels often have a sexy, sexualized tone to them and (as far as I know) don’t seem as controversial. I don’t say that to justify anyone’s decisions, but feel the need to offer up that context when contemplating the Temptress label.

And then there is the beer. It pours deep mahogany brown, almost opaque, with ruby highlights. It builds a thick tan head with loose bubbles. I pick up a slight haze. The aroma starts with rich toffee and light caramel malt sweetness, picks up some pine hops, adds a bit of dark fruit, and finishes with a wisp of spiciness.

The front of the flavour has a bready, caramel sweetness with a slight dark rum character and some raisin. The middle sharpens notably with an earthy spiciness, some pepper and grain stalk background. In the back end a piney, resinous hop flavour picks up along with some soft alcohol notes, showing the beer’s strength. The finish is full, with burnt caramel, pine hops and an  underlying spiciness. The bitterness is present but balanced.

This beer is about enticing with flavour, which makes the name (if not the associated label) perfectly appropriate. It tempts you with its triad of big malt, big hops and enough rye spiciness to add a touch of zestiness. I note you know you are drinking a big, assertive beer.


New Breweries and New Styles: A CBC Roundup

The interior of Biera by Blind Enthusiasm

Regular readers of this site will know that every second Friday I do a beer column on CBC Radio’s Edmonton afternoon drive show – RadioActive. One of my ongoing struggles is to get a copy of the column online so that I can post about it.

I understand why it is hard for the staff to get me an audio file or a link – their job is to run a daily radio show, not post columns about beer online for me to promote. At any rate, most of my columns disappear into the audio ether, which I am okay with.

However, sometimes they do get around to posting the columns, which means I can push them out on this website.

I recently got my hands on two of my recent columns.

The first aired the day before Blind Enthusiasm had its official launch of its brewpub Biera. Yes they have been open since the summer (read here), but in late September finally got around to doing a hard launch.  I took that opportunity to introduce CBC listeners to the brewpub and the overall brewery project. We tried the ZES on-air and I got to explain just what the hell a “spontaneously fermented” beer is and warn people to not expect burgers or nachos at Biera. You can give that column a listen here.

The other column was a couple weeks later and deals with what, for me, is a fairly contentious issue. Namely that of Extra Pale Ale, or XPA for short. XPA has become a thing recently, but I have been somewhat skeptical that it is actually a thing – as in a new style. Proponents say XPA falls in the middle of an American Pale Ale and an IPA, meaning it deserves its own designation. Traditionalists scoff at that explanation and argue an XPA is just an assertive pale ale, nothing more.

Until recently I was firmly in the latter camp – XPAs are just big pale ales. But then this summer I sampled Annex Ale Project’s Metes and Bounds (as I reviewed here) and that started shifting my thinking. Enough that I decided to do a CBC column on the topic – which you can listen to here.

I am not yet fully on board with the whole XPA thing, but due to Annex I am at least open to the idea. I don’t yet know whether XPA is a full-fledged style, but I do know two things. First, Metes and Bounds is a really tasty beer that makes a great case for XPA. Second, if someone gave me enough of it I could likely be talked into a more definitive position on the issue.

That hasn’t happened yet, but XPA at least deserves a conversation.

And that, dear readers, are a couple of my recent CBC columns. Happy listening!


Town Square Is Inviting the Townsfolk to Visit

Town Square’s rustic main floor.

Edmonton’s newest brewery is finally up and running. Town Square opened their doors officially a few weeks ago and have been introducing south Edmonton to their line-up of beer.

Because the are so far south (at least for me) – they are just north of Ellerslie Road near Parsons Road – I haven’t had a chance to stop by yet, but made a point the other day of swinging by and saying hello. And I am glad I did. It was nice to see their set up.

The location and thus exterior presence is very suburban. They are in a strip mall complex with a gym and a sushi restaurant as neighbours, giving the initial approach a very sterile feel. But the inside makes up for the lack of character outside. The main floor is rustic and inviting. Most of the seating is up on a mezzanine with a fireplace, a brick wall, windows overlooking the brewhouse and even a couple comfy chairs to relax in. They make the most of the space.

From the beginning the Town Square project has been about community. They want to create a space for area residents to feel comfortable, bring their kids, have a beer and relax. The kitchen is small and simple, offering pizza, sandwiches and a charcuterie board.

The brewery is similarly cramped. They have crammed in a 15-hl brewhouse, four fermenters and two conditioning tanks into a very small space. Definitely no room for expansion. Four 5-hl serving tanks sit in the cooler offering the impression of something bigger. While they tell me West Coast Canning is coming in a couple weeks to package some of their product, they see the restaurant as the core of their business. They figure on-site sales and growler fills will sell most of their beer.

My sense is that given their location in Edmonton’s deep south they have a distinct advantage. Geographically they have an entire sector of the city to themselves. Anyone within a short driving distance (no one walks to places in the suburbs) and who loves beer will go to Town Square. They also offer a distinct non-chain drinking/dining experience. They tell me they are attracting many couples with young kids looking for a quick night out. Good thing that in addition to the beer they also make sodas from scratch on site.

I spent a fair bit of time chatting beer with their two brewers, Drew Sinden, formerly of Lighthouse Brewing in BC, and recent Olds grad Logan Dommett. They are still dialing in the beer – which is totally fair – but having tried the eight currently on tap I think there are tonnes of potential here. Both men seem to be having a great deal of fun experimenting with new recipes and generally feeling the freedom of starting a brewery from scratch.

And the cozy mezzanine.

I have a policy of not formally reviewing beer from a new brewery for the first few months to give them time to work out the kinks in the system and dial in the beer (don’t get me wrong, flawed beer doesn’t get a free pass – it is more about working out the fine points of flavour). But I will say that my favourites so far were the Forged Rye Amber Ale, which offers a really nice balance of spicy rye and rounded malt base (it reminded me of the original Big Rock Magpie Rye Ale from years ago), and the Prairie Fire Rauchbier which, while not perfect, reflects a more traditional Bamberg approach to smoked beer, of which I am rather fond. The aroma in the Cornerstone IPA was also memorable.

Even though it was a snowy Tuesday afternoon, the place had a constant flow of customers, giving one the sense that people have already started to find the place. I left with a good feeling about where Town Square is going. It is early days, of course, but first signs are positive.

Too bad (for me) it is such a trek to get there, otherwise I would pop by on a regular basis.


A Great Beer, That Fact is Kristall Clear

Regular readers of this website know that I am a long time fan of Weihenstephaner. Not only are they the oldest brewery in the world (opening in 1040, believe it or not), but they produce some of the world’s finest German-style wheat beer. I have reviewed their products a number of times, including here and here.

I am well aware that when their weizens hit Alberta store shelves they are not in peak condition. Weizens are notoriously fickle beer and don’t travel well. Still, even at less-than ideal condition, Weihenstephaner beer display all the features I look for in a good weisse. I really must find a way to the town north of Munich one day to try it fresh.

In the meantime, I found a Weihenstephaner beer I had not yet tried – their Kristall Weissbier – so quickly picked up a bottle. While most German wheat beer are intentionally hazy, a kristall weissbier is filtered to remove yeast and proteins that cause the haze. The result should be a beer that still displays the yeast flavours of a weizen but with a cleaner, crisper profile.

The beer pours a dark straw hue with, unsurprisingly, an amazing clarity. It looks like a pale lager. It produces a full, dense white head with quite a bit of lacing, which is more keeping with weizens. The aroma offers soft banana with hints of clove, some honey and a light grainy sweetness. Immediately I notice the aroma is not as assertive as other Weihenstephaner beer I have had.

The sip begins light and fruity with a noted banana and berry character. I also get a gentle sweetness and a soft wheat character. The middle sharpens up a bit with a light spice of clove and hints of earthy pepper. The finish is light and refreshing with a bit of a banana linger. Overall it has a fairly clean profile – almost lager-like.

Should I be surprised that they have produced a classic example of a Kristallweizen. You still get the hefe flavours but in a more subdued fashion. The beer is cleaner and crisper as a result. The original Weisse is subtle and  balanced. This version has that too, but offers a cleaner take.

I find myself pondering which version I prefer. An unfair comparison, I admit, but I can’t really help myself. If forced to choose I would go for the cloudy version for its more upfront flavours. However, I could see how switching it up to the cleaner, crystal take once in a while would be satisfying. A palate cleanser, in a way.

Either way, it is all Weihenstephaner which means it is all-world good.

Stealing a Sip of Prairie Pirate

Ribstone Creek appears to be channeling their inner rustler with the recent release of Prairie Pirate. In what is actually a collaboration effort with Last Best Brewing in Calgary, Ribstone has woven an interesting tale around the creation of the beer.

Ahead of the beer’s launch in mid-October, Ribstone tweeted out a series of cartoons that told the story of an underhanded pirate based in Edgerton (where Ribstone is located) who snuck down to Calgary and purloined a new batch of hops that had just arrived at Last Best. However, it appears the pirate is not all bad as he left Last Best with bottles of the brew he created from their stolen hops.

I find this a clever backstory for the beer and it offers an interesting twist on the now common collaboration beer thing. It also has me wondering if they are setting this up as a series and that we will be seeing the prairie pirate sneaking around other Alberta breweries looking for bounty.

What of the beer? It is billed as a Double IPA and clocks in at 8.8% alcohol.

It pours light copper with a noted haziness to it. It builds a dense, rocky white head that forms nice peaks and a noted lacing along the glass. The head is impressive. The aroma shows off bright citrus of grapefruit and lemon with some pine in the background. This citrus character is backed by a fruity, light toffee malt aroma. Quite appealing.

In the taste I pick up orange, grapefruit, and other fruit to begin. There is also some meadow honey and a fruity malt sweetness offering some contributions. The middle brings out an intense fruity hop flavour of orange, lemon, pine, earth and a touch of floral. The bitterness is quite assertive, leaving a noted orange linger. I find the mouthfeel is fairly light for the style, which is intriguing.

The bright fruitiness and light body give the beer a New England-esque feel, but not quite. Its noticeable bitterness inserts a more West Coast character to the beer, making it more of a hybrid in its impression. This beer could actually be quite dangerous as it has a surprisingly light body and very little indication of the alcohol points that lurk in the glass. It is almost too drinkable.

I can say without hesitation you should find a way to steal yourself a bottle or two of this beer before it is gone.


Inducements Remain Rampant in Beer Industry

It didn’t make the news, but back in August AB-Inbev was fined $200,000 for breaching the Liquor and Gaming Regulation. This was after receiving three warnings earlier in the year for similar breaches. Officially they were found in contravention of section 81(e) of the regulation. That section reads:

No liquor supplier or officer, director or employee of a liquor supplier and no liquor agency or representative of a liquor agency required to be registered under section 62 of the Act may … directly or indirectly make or offer to make a loan or advance or give or offer to give money, a rebate, a concession or anything of value to a liquor licensee or to an employee or agent of that licensee.

In short, there were caught offering inducements. Inducements are a form of bribe. They can come in many forms – free kegs, extra merchandise, trips, hockey tickets and so on. It can even be as big as paying for a tap line or covering the cost of installing a tap system in a bar. The flipside for this generosity is that the licensee (bar or liquor store) will give the brewery exclusivity or preferential access of some form. Often inducements are used to elbow out a competitor (“if you kick off X’s tap and put ours on, we will pay/give you X”).

Inducements happen at all levels of the liquor industry, but it stands to reason that the larger the operator the more money they have available to use for inducements.

What’s the problem, you may say. It is just the free market at work. Maybe. But the Alberta government (and every other government in the country) believes otherwise. They view inducements as an unfair distorting of the market, giving certain advantage to some players over others. Plus, I suspect, they are worried about a creeping corruption in the industry. In many ways the liquor industry is over-regulated in Canada, but one can appreciate that we don’t want the Wild West out there either – and a free-flowing system of bribes and blackmail is hardly the stuff of an orderly industry.

So, inducements are illegal.

Except that governments do a lousy job enforcing them. Which is what makes the AB-Inbev fine so significant. Getting caught at offering inducements is rare. A fine of that size is even rarer, so it must have been a huge violation. Of course no one at the AGLC or AB-Inbev is talking about what exactly occurred, so I can’t offer details about that specific case, but I can say unequivocally that it is noteworthy for its size.

So how common are inducements and how rare are sanctions? It is impossible to quantify the first question, although everyone in the industry says it is  huge issue. As for the second, the AGLC has so far in 2017 issued 198 decisions/sanctions. That total includes both gaming and liquor infractions. Most of the violations are minor – pubs allowing staff to drink on duty, allowing drinking in unlicensed areas or failing to submit an application within time limits, etc. Often just a warning is issued or a small fine of a few hundred dollars.

So far in 2017 there have been 3 penalties for inducements, including the recent AB-Inbev sanction. The other two are:

  • In February Molson Canada was fined $5000
  • In May, Big Rock was fined $44,481. They were assessed an additional $7000 fine for obstructing an inspector

That’s it. Three fines. Notably all three are fairly sizeable players in the market. (For completeness, I should note that Half Hitch Brewing was fined $1000 in January, but that was for permitting alcohol consumption in an unauthorized area.)

Given the widespread use of inducements in the industry, why are there only three sanctions? In my opinion two reasons. First, it can be hard to prove. If both the brewery and the bar/store are in on the deal, there is no one to blow the whistle. Most inducements never get revealed because they take place quietly. Who would notice a few kegs of Bud Light “falling off the truck”? Or how do we know the bar owner got those Oiler tickets from the brewery?

Second, enforcement is scant. AGLC inspectors are responsible for lots of things. They are active and regularly inspect bars, breweries and stores. Highly visible infractions, such as serving minors, violations of serving hours and so forth can easily be found with in-person inspections. But inducements happen in the back room and once complete there is no lasting evidence. Investigating those kind of infractions takes a different kind of approach. It requires asking questions, procuring documents and generally more detective work. That takes time and resources.

Further, if it stands to reason the big boys are more active at inducements than smaller players, then it means any crackdown would hit them the hardest. The big players also happen to have disproportionate influence over the industry, making the AGLC reluctant to get on their wrong side too much.

If the government believes inducements are negative, then they need to get serious about enforcing their rules against them.

Which is why I say rather than a sign that the system is working, AB-INbev’s $200,000 fine is evidence that the system is broken. And it is time to fix it.


ASBA Receives Grant; Announces Alberta Beer Awards

ASBA Executive Director Terry Rock, Culture Minister Ricardo Miranda and Dandy Brewing co-owner Ben Leon celebrate a new grant. (Photo from government announcement)

The Alberta government announced yesterday a $60,000 grant to the Alberta Small Brewers’ Association (ASBA) to help it build the brand of Alberta craft beer. (Read government release here). The announcement comes, not coincidentally, in the middle of the 3rd annual Alberta Beer Week.

The grant is intended to assist the ASBA to “grow this industry through the development of the brand, a digital platform to promote local touring and staycations, and the creation of industry-focused education programs.” If that sounds rather vague to you, then you are reading it right. Building a brand can take many forms.

I suspect there are some specifics in the grant contract and I fully trust Albertans will see some tangible outputs coming from their money. There is no question that Alberta craft brewers lag behind other provinces in creating a coherent image of local beer.

I realize $60,000 is a fairly small amount of money, and it definitely pales in comparison to the $1.2 million the Ontario government provides to the Ontario Craft Brewers Association annually, but it is yet another statement that the Alberta government has recognized the economic (and political) value of a prosperous craft beer industry.

The ASBA will also be announcing today the first ever Alberta Beer Awards to be held in early 2018. All Alberta-based breweries will be eligible to enter. The idea, actually, was the brainchild of myself and respected Edmonton beer judge Owen Kirkaldy. He and I were judging another competition earlier this year and got to talking. We realized the Alberta beer industry was finally large enough to sustain an official competition much like happens in B.C. and Ontario. We approached the ASBA and they quickly signed on.

Details are still being worked out but we expect an entry deadline early in the new  year with results announced at the ASBA Annual Conference in March. Owen and myself will be organizing and overseeing the judging, which will have a mixture of BJCP certified judges and industry experts. We will be creating a set of categories that honours the spirit of the BJCP guidelines but recognizes that commercial competitions require a different approach to reflect the nature of selling beer to the public.

The two announcements are yet another sign that Alberta is slowly catching up to other provinces in terms of building a vibrant beer industry. Good news.


Vintage Fuller’s, No Doubt

I think I have mentioned in the past that I am quite good at identifying beer appropriate for aging and setting them aside in my cellar. However, I am lousy at pulling them back out again to actually consume. Meaning that I have a bursting cellar space which I must force myself occasionally to rummage through to pick out some gems to try.

My most recent sifting surfaced a 2008 bottle of Fuller’s Vintage Ale, which I picked up in the year of the release. I have a few vintages of Vintage and had at one point dreamed of a vertical tasting. However, that never transpired, so I decided to just pull out the bottle and give it a try.

I should say before reporting on what I found, I find Fuller’s to be one of the most consistently high quality brewers around. It is a rare thing to find a beer of theirs that disappoints. I mean they have been at it for 172 years, so probably have figured out a thing or two about brewing good beer.

That said, I am not certain that their Vintage Ale, an traditional Old Ale style, is designed to be cellared for almost a decade. At 8.5% it does have the alcohol to keep it, but there can be a big difference between aging for three or four years and having it sit for 10 years. That is one of the reasons I decided to pull it out when I did. Just to see.

It pours dark copper verging on a mahogany red. It has a thin off-white head with a loose bead and an archipelago design across the top of the beer. It has great clarity. It is deep and rich looking. The aroma gives off rich toffee, caramel, some soft dark fruit – I detect cherry and plum –  and hints of sherry. It has a rich and surprisingly fresh smell.

The taste experience is multi-layered. The front has brown sugar, toffee, malt candy with a light treacle accent. The middle brings out dark fruit of cherry and plum and raisin. Some nuttiness also hangs around. The beer has a complex malt character, offering layers of flavour starting with sugar, moving to fruit, then to earthier light molasses-like flavours. The finish is where some age shows. I pick up a bit of sherry and wine along with an earthy floral character. The linger draws out some soft alcohol and more sherry with hints of bourbon. As I sip further, I note a bit of vanilla emerges. The mouthfeel is full with a light creaminess to soften the edges.

This is a complex, soft and rounded beer. It seems like an old ale in the truest sense of the style. I am struck by how some of the subtle malts and fruitiness hung in during cellaring. If anything it has gotten more complex with time. The subtle oxidation notes improve the overall impression of the beer. Amazing, just amazing.

Clearly I had my head on backward. Here I was worried 10 years was too long for this beer. Not even remotely. Now I am wondering if opening it after 10 years was too early. Even if so, I have no regrets. Tasting it reminds me I should pick up the newest version so I can have this experience again a decade from now.


It’s Alberta Beer Week!

Today marks the launch of Alberta Beer Week 2017. For the next 9 days (yes, I know that is more than a week, relax) breweries and beer-oriented pubs and stores will be offering a range of events, discounts and profiles to mark the 3rd annual celebration of Alberta beer.

The full schedule for the week can be found here.  By my count there are no fewer than 85 different events scheduled across the week. If your town has an Alberta brewery in it, there is no doubt you have a Beer Week event in your area.

Most of the events involve tap takeovers, tastings of Alberta beer or free brewery tours. But there are a few beer dinners/food pairings tossed in for good measure as well. I also see a handful of beer education events, an airing of the well-regarded Aleberta beer history documentary (more info here), and a couple of beer launch parties. I am pretty confident you can find something that interest you.

Plus, I am even involved this year! I have not one, but two beer week events on the go. First, I have partnered with Sherbrooke Liquor to host a tasting at their event space next door to the store. It is Wednesday (October 25) at 7:00 pm. I will be leading a tasting of some unusual and creative Alberta craft beer that profile the adventurous side of Alberta’s brewers. To find out WHICH beer you will have to come. Tickets are a nominal $5 (mostly just to create a commitment to show up) and available here or in store.

Second – and this event is not on the official list for reasons I can’t explain, I am doing an all-Alberta beer tasting at Underground Tap and Grill on October 24 (Tuesday). Tix are $10 (again, mostly to encourage actual attendance). It is one hour of entertaining discussion about Alberta beer, including four tastings.

Beyond my contribution, there are many events that seem intriguing to me. Here is a short list of some events that caught my attention while scrolling through the list:

  • Today Craft Beer Market Calgary is holding Ultimate Canadian Beer Style: “The Pitch”, where a range of Alberta breweries are being asked to propose a beer that would be the epitome of Canadian beer. The style curmudgeon in me is suspicious, but let’s see where this goes…
  • Also tonight, aspiring homebrewers can get a lesson in how to get started over at Village Brewing.
  • The aforementioned free viewing of the Aleberta documentary will be next Friday at Tool Shed Brewing in Calgary.
  • Edmonton Brewery Tours is doing a special, one-off hop-on-hop-off tour on Sunday featuring three Edmonton breweries.
  • Another Sherbrooke event has Untapped Imports hosting a series of paired blind tastings. Two beer of the same style, one brewed in Alberta, one imported from around the world. Find out which you like better! I would have done that if they hadn’t already grabbed it!
  • And yet another Sherbrooke event has Dandy Brewing pairing their beer up with … CANDY! Just in time for Halloween.

As I say there are a wide range of events out there to fit everyone’s budget, schedule and interest. So get out there and celebrate Alberta beer.

Even if you can’t attend an event, buy some Alberta beer this week and give a nod to the hard working people building this industry up at a rapid pace.

Citizen Pale Ale: A Full Moon Doppelganger?

A couple weeks ago I picked up a couple packs from a new Calgary brewery, Citizen Brewing.

(Yes, I know I haven’t done a profile on them yet. I apologize. Life is hard. I promise to get to it very soon.)

Anyway, I opened their North West Pale Ale, and immediately recognized it. I knew these flavours. Not in a general way, but in a specific “I know this beer” way. Within milliseconds my brain was saying “this is like Full Moon”. And I had to agree. The beer seemed amazingly like Alley Kat’s longtime mainstay Full Moon Pale Ale.

Full Moon is a beer I have had countless times. Its taste is burned into my body memory. It is my regular go-to/fall back/reliable standby, as I made clear when they tried to change it (read here, but don’t worry they fixed the mistake).

So imagine my surprise to try a new brewery’s pale ale and come up with Full Moon. It was something I had to follow up. I decided to try them side-by-side. To go with my recently purchased Citizen beer I picked up a fresh case of Full Moon.

I decided a blind tasting was pointless since I know Full Moon so well. Instead I just poured them in identical glasses (both with Alley Kat logos but I am sure that doesn’t affect the flavour) and tried them one after the other.

The results were interesting.

The Citizen appeared as a medium orange beer with a slight haze. It forms a dense, fluffy white head with a bit of lacing. The head hangs around. In the aroma I pick up piney hop with a touch of citrus, some toffee and biscuit backing. I also get a bit of woodiness along with some generic fruit.

The flavour gives me toffee, light caramel and a noted fruitiness upfront. The middle brings out a noted C-hop flavour of citrus, pine and wood. I also get a sharpening of the malt, offering a bit of almost rye-like graininess. Finish is bright and floral, moderately dry with a classic pale ale finish and linger.

There is no question in my mind this beer can stand out as a quality pale ale.

But for my brain the real test was how did it compare to Full Moon.

It is slightly darker, offering a bright medium orange verging on copper. It has a bright clarity and a moonscape white head with only a touch of lacing. The aroma is  full pine along with some wood. I also get some clear citrus notes. It has a solid background of toffee, honey and some clover. There is also a touch of fruitiness at the end.

The front taste is well-rounded, presenting toffee, rich biscuit and a noted fruitiness. I also get some clover honey and meadow flower. The middle keeps its smoothness but adds in light dusting of citrus and woody pine. the finish is classic C-hop citrus and pine but balanced with a biscuity malt linger.

Side-by-side I can totally tell they are not the same beer. The Citizen is more hop forward and drier in its overall impression. The Full Moon is more rounded, cleaner and overall more balanced. It keeps its malt character longer to give it a fuller character. The hop flavours are very similar – which may be why I originally conflated the two. Both have  a classic Northwest Pale Ale  (a la Sierra Nevada) hop flavour.

I won’t be so foolhardy as to suggest they use the same varieties, but I will say they have selected hops in the same family of flavours.

They are clearly sister beer. Made with the same vision but with differing approaches. You have to decide for yourself which is better. Regardless which you pick, we should all be happy we  have both on offer.