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2017 CBAs Full of Surprises; 17 Prairie Medals

Over the weekend the results of the 2017 Canadian Brewing Awards were announced (see the full winners’ list here).

I can honestly say they were full of surprises. Lots of new names on the list and a fascinating equality between regions (to a degree). There were more than a dozen breweries where I either barely knew or even had to look up because I had never heard of them.

The list overall makes me feel really positive about both the state of the Canadian beer scene – we are maturing and the diversity of winners shows it – and the evolution of the Canadian Beer Awards. A few years ago I was fairly critical of the CBAs (for historical reference, read here). To their credit they made a number of changes to their process and have worked hard to show that they want to be as objective as possible. And the results show it.

So, a few quick stats. There were 55 styles judges, with 163 medals awarded (in two styles they only awarded two medals). One of my ongoing frustrations is that they do not release the number of entries nor how many entries from each region. It can make it hard to tell who entered and who didn’t.

Ontario won the most medals at 51. B.C. was right behind at 49 – basically a tie. Quebec scooped up 35 and Atlantic Canada 11. The prairies (which, in my books includes Yukon and NWT) picked up 17, a steady growth from the past two years (11 and 13, respectively). The prairie list was an interesting mix of longstanding breweries and newcomers. Twelve breweries in total won awards. As usual Great Western Brewing won the most, this time with three medals including one gold. Other multiple winners included Big Rock, Brewsters and Troubled Monk.

Here is the full list of prairies winners (in no particular order):

In general the number of new breweries across Canada winning medals has me feeling bullish about the state of craft beer in Canada. Yet, we would be too quick to dismiss the more veteran breweries as well, as they continue to show their abilities. I note for example that 7 of the prairies’ 17 medals are from three of the oldest in the region – Big Rock, Brewsters and Great Western.

Some of you may dismiss those winners as most are clustered in the so-called “mainstream” categories – North American Lager and Wheat, European Style Lager and such. My response? You try making one of those styles. Sure, it may not be your go-to beer, but it is important to respect that these are not easy styles to make consistently. You have nowhere to hide. The slightest flaw rings through. In Great Western’s case in particular, where they consistently win in those categories almost every year, it speaks volumes about their ability to dial in and reproduce.

So, today I say a hearty congratulations to all the prairie winners and if you need a place to get rid of some of that extra award-winning beer, you know how to contact me!

When “International” Isn’t Really International

I have the greatest respect for the hardworking staff at the CBC. Due to my beer column on RadioActive in Northern Alberta, I get to interact with many of them on a regular basis. I know they are good journalists and good people.

Why am I saying this? Because earlier this week, they got a story quite wrong. On Monday they posted this story, which extols the success of Alberta breweries in “international competitions”, the headline going so far as to talk about “international accolades” pouring in.

Except there is nothing international about it, aside from the name. The story talks about Alberta breweries winning 50% of the medals at the recent Canadian International Beer Awards (CIBA). Sounds impressive.

But the competition in question was at the recently held Calgary International Beer Festival which is a product of Alberta Beer Festivals. Now, the ABF guys are great and contributing in significant ways to growing craft beer in Alberta and their upcoming Edmonton Craft Beer Festival is a must-go event. So no criticism there, either.

My point is that it wasn’t a true international competition. It included only those breweries that agreed to exhibit at the festival. This caveat restricts the scope in two ways: it means only breweries selling beer in Alberta are going to enter; and it excludes anyone who decided, for whatever reason, to give the festival a pass.

Lest you think I am being Statler and Waldorf (look it up if you don’t know them), I will note the same issue with the recent Northern Lands Festival competition, for which I was the head judge (which I write about here).

The problem is not with the competition itself – you can only win if you enter – but with the description of it as “international”. The CBC got the wrong end of the stick because they saw the word “international” in the title. And rather than do a bit of digging, they interviewed a couple people and satisfied themselves that it was an accurate representation of reality. Which it isn’t.

Alberta breweries make good beer. Of that I have no doubt. Would they win 50% of the medals at a real international competition, where beer from around the world takes part? Not a hope. That should have been the first clue.

In and of itself the results are interesting, and I am glad for the winners. The only reason I am writing about this is because it has been circulating on social media for days. Clearly people are happy to perpetuate the misinformation in the story.

Here is the nub of my concern. The story isn’t accurate. This wasn’t an “international” competition. The medals are well earned, but they are of a distinctively regional nature.

The issue is how does this kind of thing happen? It takes multiple parties. Allow me to summarize Continue reading When “International” Isn’t Really International

Alberta Beer Boom, Where Will It stop?

Over the past couple weeks two new breweries opened their doors in Alberta, Annex Ale Project (read profile here) and Caravel Brewing (profile here), both in Calgary. Their official arrivals makes 44 independent brewing operations (51 total licenses – I discount multiple brewing locations and count Bear Hill brewpubs as one entity).

In addition a check of the AGLC license application page reveals another three who have applied for a license – Citizen Brewing, O.T. Brewing and Revival Beercade. I have not had a chance to speak yet with any of the new applicants, so can’t speak to what they are up to.

But wait, I am not done. My running list of breweries-in-planning currently has 45 companies on it. The list, which I doubt is complete, covers every stage of the planning process. Some on the list are nothing more than a brewery name and a contact. At the other end are breweries well advanced in construction but not yet open for business, such as Folding Mountain and Siding 14. I also include contract breweries who have ambitions of opening a brewery down the road. And everything in between. And, as I say, I doubt I have captured them all.

If all of the current list successfully open in the next year or two, Alberta will once again have doubled in size and will be pushing 100 breweries. This from a simple dozen a couple years ago.

I have discussed the reasons why before. The triad of eliminating production minimums, growing consumer awareness of both local food and craft beer, and more recently the favourable mark-up regime have created market space for Alberta breweries.

The question on my mind today is: where will it stop? What is the saturation point for Alberta? Obviously no one can answer that conclusively as the market is very dynamic right now and still in a steep growth phase. But we can develop some insights by looking at our neighbours. I haven’t done a per capita comparison recently, but hope to in the coming weeks, but I am still keeping up on breweries across the country.

B.C. currently has 131 breweries and brewpubs (contract breweries excluded). They had a big explosion of new breweries a couple years back but more recently the pace of growth has slowed. Ontario has over 220 currently and is experiencing a new flash of openings. They give us some sense of what is possible. Alberta is closing in on B.C. in terms of population (4.2 million vs. 4.7 million), while Ontario remains three times larger.

Which suggests 100 to 150 breweries in Alberta over the medium term is sustainable, especially if they continue to be a mix of full production breweries and smaller locally-oriented operations. That is  not to say every brewery that opens will succeed – the market will still pick winners and losers based upon quality, marketing acumen and access to cash flow.

Having 150 breweries in the province, however, will permanently alter the nature of the industry. Until know it has been close-knit and rather cooperative and friendly. Partly that is the nature of craft beer. But I do expect things to become more competitive. A crowded room inevitably leads to more bumping of elbows. That will be a challenge for the industry and, in particular, the Alberta Small Brewers Association.

I am careful not to make bold predictions around the growth of craft beer in Canada – five years ago who would have said Alberta would have 50 breweries? – but I do expect the beer boom to continue in the province for the next couple of years. I fully anticipate seeing one or two breweries opening a month for the foreseeable future. A cooling off period will follow, but we are not there yet, friends.

Which makes my job of providing profiles and the like to you ever more challenging. I do hope to get to a few more in the coming weeks. For now, keep enjoying all those new breweries.

Elbeck and the Lure of Contract Brewing

They may not have an address, but Elbeck Brews officially has beer. I profiled Edmonton’s fledgling contract brewery on my CBC column on Friday. You can listen to it here. This is a follow-up of my initial introduction on this site a few months ago (find here). Basically I save my CBC profiles until there is actually beer available for thirsty listeners, radio being so ephemeral and all.

The column talks about owner Bruce Sample’s long roots in Edmonton, both as a resident and as a brewer (home and commercial). It talks about how the name Elbeck Brews came to be and, importantly, tells the story of KGB Imperial Stout (which I reviewed here). I won’t recount the whole column here – that is what you have ears for. However, as a spoiler I will say that because the  host was Rod Kurtz rather than Portia Clark we eschewed the on-air tasting (always a favourite part of the column) and suffering listeners had to listen to my ad-libbed description of the beer.

Here I want to briefly highlight the double-edged sword that is contract brewing. As a quick reminder, contract brewing is when a brewery – in this case Elbeck – contracts with an existing operation (Two Sergeants in this story) to brew their beer using their equipment and space. All sales and other issues are the responsibility of the client.

Alberta now has six contract breweries, four of whom utilize other Alberta breweries. The growing number suggests this model has some attraction. You can certainly see the advantages. You get product on the shelf with a much lower upfront cost. It gives you opportunity to build brand awareness and create cash flow. I suspect there is also a hope that success builds a stronger argument for potential investors because you can point to actual sales, rather than projections.

But it seems to me there are a few downsides as well. The first is lack of control and certainty. Even if the brewer brews their own beer (such as Sample does), you require the assistance of the contractor’s brewers since they know the system best. You can’t tweak things in the system to suit your style because it is not your system. Also, your are at the mercy of their brewing schedule. If the contractor gets busy you get bumped. This happened recently to Brauerei Fahr, who had to switch breweries. Outcast Brewing has achieved a bit more security by purchasing their own fermenters but they still have to work around Cold Garden’s brewing needs.

Also, I think contract brewing can slow down development of the desired brewery. You have split attention and only so much time in the week. Building a brewery takes a lot of work and time, fussing over details and chasing suppliers while at the same time watching cash. To do all that while also needing to make and sell beer can be daunting. My observation is that for many of the contract brewers plans for their actual brewery are moving slower than anticipated.

I am also not convinced having product on shelves helps attract investment that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. The type of people who invest in breweries know it is a longer term commitment – it takes years to make a brewery profitable. Deciding on contract brewing because you are under-capitalized worries me a touch, because I think that two years later you will still be under-capitalized.

I predict we will see more contract breweries pop up in Alberta, especially as we see more brick and mortar breweries open up, many of whom which will have excess capacity. Ontario, for example, has dozens of contract breweries, many of whom have no desire to open an actual brewery.

However, I believe it will continue to be a challenging road to travel. Elbeck Brews has put out some mighty fine beer so far. It remains to be seen whether that can be parlayed into a full brewery operation.


Taking Beer to a New Level

What happens when two guys with a bunch of degrees between them and a couple Olds Brewmaster certificates decide to start a brewery? I think it would look something like New Level Brewing. New Level will soon be the latest entrant into Calgary’s exploding beer scene.

New Level is the creature of brothers Drew and James Ross. Both are recent Olds College graduates. Drew has a PhD in Philosophy and James also has extensive university education. “We are basically both unemployed philosophers”, says Drew.

Both were restless in their careers and started looking around for a new direction. Drew describes stumbling across the Olds program. “I applied for different programs including law school and the beer program. When I got my acceptance to Olds , I knew immediately what I wanted to do”. When James heard the news, he jumped on board too. “When I heard Drew got in I thought I should go too and, surprise, I got in”.

When the started the program together they talked about “one day” opening their own brewery. But as they watched things develop in the provinces, “things just accelerated”, says James. “We said, maybe one day is now. Maybe we better get in while the timing was right”. The brothers point to all the changes happening in Alberta, including the new mark-up policy, Calgary’s new zoning bylaw and the apparent openness to local among consumers. The Ross’ point out their location – in southeast Calgary a few minutes from the Chinook Mall – would have been off-limits before the bylaw change. “We are close to a variety of small businesses and near the C-Train”, says Drew. They are also near the future location of Prairie Dog brewpub (see my profile here), and hope together to create a beer district in that part of Calgary.

They have been working full-time on the brewery since September and have been moving fast, having applied for their production license last month. “The equipment arrives in June, the build should be done by August and we will have beer hopefully by September”, says James.

They plan on approaching the beer in a unique way. “We have a different business model”, says Drew. “We will have two permanent beer and as many rotationals as we can do. We are looking at the customer who always wants something different but want to position ourselves that they can buy always buy one of ours and get a variety”. The flagship will be a blonde ale which they are “hoping will be a beer craft beer nerds say, wow, that is a great blonde”, says James. They will also have an IPA series where each batch will change in some fashion.

They are also looking at playing a lot with styles. “We are not strict with style guidelines”, says James. “We are more about is this an interesting beer”? You can see that when they list off some of their ideas, including Continue reading Taking Beer to a New Level

More Thoughts on Corporate Buy-outs

Daddy Warbucks. A fitting role model for ABInbev?

Since my post the other day on the significance of ABInbev’s purchase of Wicked Weed I have had a few people (including Steve in the comments section – thanks Steve!) send me links to a recent story on the Good Beer Hunting website from Chris Herron, a former corporate brewer employee and current owner of Creature Comforts Brewing in Atlanta. Here is the link to the story.

To be frank, the story has given me pause.

I, like many, have been trying to understand the meaning and significance of corporate buy-outs. What does it mean for craft beer? Should we be concerned or just keep moving? How are we to treat the new corporate subsidiary, who was until recently “one of us”? For my part I have tried to avoid the shouts of “sell out!” and calls for boycotts and instead try to offer some thoughtful observations on how craft and corporate beer differ. And I think I, like many, instinctively come at it from the dual perspective of the consumer and of concern for quality, authentic beer.

This story makes me think I have been looking in the wrong places for answers.

It is a long piece (fully worth your time) so allow me to briefly summarize the argument. In short, Herron argues the underlying goal in ABInbev’s actions (and Molson-Coors, etc.) is protecting the value of their brands. Craft beer has undermined the “goodwill” (a term defined in the article) of their core brands. Buyouts are a way to shore up the value by, in short, creating downward pressure on craft prices. Newly purchased craft breweries both take up more craft “space” and do so at lower prices, thus forcing other breweries to consider price drops or risk losing market share. Price reductions shrink the differential between craft and the corporate core brands and thus maintain the value of those brands. You should read the article for the full logic of this process.

The crux of Herron’s argument can be seen in this quote:

I submit that maybe buying craft breweries is more of a tool to devalue the craft category and increase the brand equity of their core legacy beers. The impairment charges AB InBev could face are worth billions more than any craft brand they have purchased, and those purchases would be a small price to pay to save a legacy brand. These craft brands, whether they realize it or not, may just be pawns in the AB InBev game of chess. … If one of these craft brands they buy is a successful long-term brand, great, but more important to AB InBev, is the vital role they play in the short-term of ensuring that their premium brands retain long-term value. 

This is a VERY different way of understanding how the minds at ABInbev and other corporate breweries work, and it has my mind racing trying to consider the ramifications. Some initial thoughts:

First, buy-outs really are not about the brewery being bought out, for good or bad. The corporate brewer doesn’t actually care if the new acquisition works out because they are there to serve a different purpose. But it also means we shouldn’t be getting so lathered up over so-and-so being a “sell-out”; it is wasted energy. The purchased brewery is, as Herron states, a “pawn” in a bigger game.

Second, it should put to rest any defence of buy-outs as evidence of a growing interest by the corporates in craft as a sub-category, or of their ability to “improve” the craft category by bringing their money, expertise, technology, efficiencies, etc. They may very well do that (which was the point of the article spawning my first post on this topic), but it is ENTIRELY beside the point. The people working Continue reading More Thoughts on Corporate Buy-outs

Making Sense of Corporate Buy-Outs

This is not an anti-corporate beer rant. Really.

Regular readers know that I am no fan of the big corporate breweries. I don’t like their dishonest marketing. I don’t like their predatory sales practices. I don’t like that they are huge multinational behemoths profiting off the desire of beer drinkers to have a refreshing pint at home or their local pub.

But I have been watching the reactions to the latest AB-Inbev buy-out of a respected craft brewer – in this case Wicked Weed, the wild ale specialist out of North Carolina. Most of the reaction has been high volume negative. But there was also this interesting piece from an industry insider that defended the effects of a corporate buy-out. I can only assume the timing was intentional.

The reason this post is not a rant is that I take what the anonymous source says seriously.

My main response, and what is driving me to write this post, is that Mr. Anonymous misses the point. He makes a good case for how the new corporate overlord actually wants their new property to keep making good beer. I believe they invest capital into improving the brewery. I also believe that they instill a decent corporate culture. I am less convinced that they, over the longer term, continue to be hands off on the beer itself, but that thought is unproven.

But here is the thing. None of that is the point. Mr. Anonymous is chasing the wrong rabbit.

I truly believe the big boys are capable of allowing good craft beer to come out 0f one of their breweries. They do like good beer and know one when they see it. And they might even like the margins craft beer gives them in comparison to Lucky or Wildcat.

But, ultimately, they miss what is the core of craft beer. Yes, it is about interesting flavours, and the big boys, at least theoretically, can do that. But it is more than that. It is about integrity. It is about being honest about where your beer comes from and what it is about.

And that is where they fall short. For two reasons. First, they can’t help themselves but to mislead consumers – it is in their DNA. I mean, these are the people who try to tell you if you drink their brand you will be surrounded by buxom-y bikini-clad women! They hide their ownership of craft breweries, hoping consumers don’t notice. They over-hype their regular brands to a degree that is almost ridiculous. They create pseudo-craft brands (such as Shock Top, Blue Moon, Rickards and so on) to try to lure beer drinkers away from real craft. Misleading is a central aspect of their existence, and that cannot be ignored.

Second, they try to pretend that ownership doesn’t matter. And maybe most beer drinkers, well acclimatized to drinking corporate beer, don’t care. But, like it or not, ownership matters in craft beer. I am not saying a brewery has to be owned by three broke bearded hipsters just trying to survive. Capital is a good thing when operating a brewery. But there is a big difference between Continue reading Making Sense of Corporate Buy-Outs

Railway Takes a Turn Down Rye Avenue

I had a couple conversations recently with Canmore-area residents on matters not related to beer. Both times they volunteered their early opinions on recently opened Canmore Brewing. BOTH of them highlighted that their favourite beer from them is their Railway Avenue Rye IPA. The fact two people whom I don’t believe know each other and completely independently offered up this endorsement was interesting to me.

As it turns out I still had a can of the Railway left over from my recent trip to that part of the world (read here and here). I remember enjoying the beer in the context of a small sample while chatting with co-owner Brian Dunn. The praise from unexpected quarters seemed a good excuse to give it a closer examination.

Before I jump into the tasting notes, I want to first pause and note the growing trend on the prairies of breweries trying to do something “different” with their IPAs. Different kind of ingredients, experiments with different hopping regimes and the adoption of regional styles not seen here before are all efforts being made by a range of brewers. I argue this is a sign of the market’s maturation. A few years back if you put out a decent IPA, you were edging into rarefied air in terms of the prairie beer scene. Today, lots of breweries have solid IPAs. To stand out you need to start offering some flavour and character that is a bit unusual. The need to stand out can have its excessive and outrageous elements, but on the whole I think local breweries are approaching their IPAs with creativity but not too much out-of-the-box thinking.

Canmore’s Railway Avenue is such a case. Rye IPAs are in no way new, but you would be hard pressed to find more than a couple examples around these parts. So, it is noteworthy Canmore went with a rye-d up version for their initial core listings. In theory the rye should add a sharper, earthier malt character to the beer that, depending on hop choice, creates a balance and contrast.

So, how does Railway Avenue fare in a more focused evaluation. Overall, pretty good.

It pours medium copper and builds a big, loose white head that hangs around to the bottom of the glass. That big white head gives it an attractive appearance.  I pick up a piney hop aroma combined with a soft grainy sweetness accented with some honey and biscuit. Soft fruit lurks in the background. First impression are of a fruity, fresh beer.

The first sip reveals toffee and biscuit upfront along with some grainy sweetness. I also detect a bit of light toasted bread as well. The middle sharpens with a piney hop note. Along with the hop, I also taste a a sharp grain character that builds as the beer works its way back. The finish is moderately dry and hoppy with a piney, American hop character. The angular grain also works through the finish which I attribute to the rye.

I wouldn’t say this is a perfect IPA. If  forced I might say the bitterness impression could be higher and I might dial back just a touch on the more bready malt character. Overall it offers an interesting flavour profile. Pine hops with a toasty malt combine well and the sharp rye accent creates interest. The beer has some interesting, unique flavours that are worth a second second glass. You know, just to be sure.

The Ichorous Trinity Compared

Photo courtesy of Oak and Vine

I love side-by-side tastings. They really isolate the effects of a manipulation to a beer. Some are more challenging to operationalize than others.

Blindman Brewing recently released not one, but two barrel-aged versions of its imperial stout, Ichorous. Not long before they also released a new version of the original beer. Seems a perfect opportunity for a side-by-side. Except that all three versions are 11% alcohol or more, meaning drinking all three in one night would leave one loopy. Sure, I could have a friend over, but I find that detracts from focussed sampling and note-taking. I could also just drink some of each and dump the rest, but – really, why?!?

So, my decision this time was to make it an ALMOST side-by-side. I sampled one each night for three nights, taking care to take precise notes to prevent memory distortion.

The three beer were the regular Ichorous Imperial Stout and then one version aged in red wine oak and one in bourbon oak. The regular version will be a newer batch, I am told, so the comparison is not exact (accounting for small variations between batches). Still, it is a pretty good exploration of how barrel-aging affects beer and, in particular, how different kinds of barrels change the beer.

The original version pours inky black, deep and dark. It builds a medium tan head pockmarked with white spots and with tight bubbles. Eventually forms a consistent blanket. It has a low carbonation. The aroma has molasses, dark chocolate, light roast coffee, dark fruit, roasted almonds and a hint of milky sweetness.

The sip brings out chocolate, some nuttiness and a gentle malt sweetness at first. I have to say it starts rather modest and not too cloying. The middle dries out a bit by bringing in some coffee and darker chocolate notes as well as a clean undertone. The back end has touches of earthy hops, dry roast and milky sweetness. There is almost a mocha latte feel to the finish. The linger has a mix of sharp hops, light coffee roast and chocolate. Light fruity esters linger in background. It has a silky, creamy mouthfeel.

Overall it is a very appetizing beer. Clean, balanced and the flavours blend well for such a young age. Tons of potential for a couple years from now.

I next tried the red wine barrel. It, too, pours opaque black, but looks thinner somehow. No head forms at all, giving it something of a cola appearance. The aroma has subdued roast and chocolate character along with noted dark fruit. No wine character in the aroma. It is a fairly flat aroma.

The flavour offers some mild chocolate and coffee notes at first, overtaken by a strong wood character, vanilla, wood, hints of smoke. Middle brings out a bit of earthy red wine. If find the beer has thinned out a fair bit and has lost the creaminess of the original. A rustic finish of wood and alcohol. Linger brings some roast back out as well as an alcohol warming.

The beer seems rather flat and loses much of the fulsomeness of the original without adding much new character. Some wood is present but otherwise it is less interesting.

Finally I tried the Kentucky Bourbon, which indicates it also has Continue reading The Ichorous Trinity Compared

An Old Time-y Beer from Olds College

Photo courtesy of somebody on Untapped

I admit I am writing this post so I can type the word “Kottbusser”. It would be even better if I could say it out loud 10 times, it is such a fun word.

What is Kottbusser, you wonder? I am glad you asked. Kottbusser is an historic German ale popular in the region around Kottbuss that about 150 years ago died out, only to be re-born in recent  years as a niche beer. It is one of those old regional styles that reflected a local flavour but didn’t happen to have the cache to make the jump to the industrial age of brewing.

Information on the style is somewhat sparse but my research offers up that it was made with wheat, oats, honey and molasses and was cloudy like a hefeweizen. There is some disagreement on the yeast, but it seems it was brewed with a clean ale yeast similar to Alt and went through a lagering period (some sources suggest a weizen yeast). IBUs were likely fairly low but some sources say there should be some hop flavour presence (others disagree). In general it should be a gold beer with an earthy flavour and an ale-like character and a sweetish finish.

Why am I talking about this esoteric extinct beer style? Mostly because recently the female students at the Olds College Brewmaster Program brewed one up to celebrate International Women’s Day. They call it Klondike Kate Kottbbusser (they have two b’s which is both wrong and weird).

I tried it when I was in Olds to judge their homebrew competition (read the post here), but it wasn’t the environment to truly evaluate the beer (given there was visiting to be done). But the choice of style stuck with me. I found it creative, interesting and curious.

Then I found a bottle of the beer at my local liquor store last week and knew then and there I needed to review it properly. Hence this post.

Of course, one of the problems with reviewing a beer style you have never tried is that you don’t have a benchmark upon which to judge the beer. You are going blind, so to speak. Regardless, here I go, blind or not.

It pours a very hazy light orange, forming a thin white head with some loose bubbles. The aroma gives me toffee, green apple, grainy sweetness, some light fruit, birch syrup, and touches of sharp grain to accent. It is an intriguing aroma.

The flavour starts with light toffee, wildflower honey, and a light toasted bread note. The middle brings out a noted fruitiness of light berry and apple. It also offers up an earthy character tinged with touches of yeast. The finish is relatively dry with just a touch of hop linger. Yeast and earthiness are in the finish as well.

This is a curious beer. The malt base edges toward a Vienna/Oktoberfest character but not as full. It also has an assertive yeast character and a distinct ale fruitiness and body. I also get some musty earthiness for complexity. It is like it is a hefeweizen married with a kolsch. The yeast impression is fairly dominant, as is a honey sweetness. It comes across very much as an historical beer, but I can’t quite pin down why it seems that way.

I can’t tell you whether this is a good Kottbusser or not, having never tried one before. All I can say is that it is an interesting beer that some will like and others won’t. And it seems to reflect an old way of brewing that seems completely appropriate.