I like beer.
Beer has existed for thousands of years. For all of that time, the words above have been slurred, mispronounced, and stumbled over by people that liked beer just a little too much. I am one of those people.
I did not always like good beer. My teenage years were awash in bad, strong beer. Anyone remember Molson XXX these days? Nope. Not unless it was the instigating beverage in a traumatic teenage life lesson.
Thankfully, tastes evolve. I can sit here now, after almost 16 years working in hotels, bars and liquor stores, and I can still remember tasting beer that wasn’t swill, for the first time. I was 21 or 22, and it was a Pilsner Urquell. It made me realize that all beers were not created equal, and that I like beer for reasons other than the effect. It was before the local craft beer explosion, but it led me to some fascinating drinking. Belgian, German, English, Irish and Czech beers have way more flavour and history than the Kokanee and Canadian that dominated the local market then.
Now, times have changed, and it feels like we are living in a beer paradise. I live on Vancouver Island, and we have so much amazing beer on the Island, it would have been hard to imagine 15 years ago. All over North America, craft beer is thriving, and the Pacific Northwest is one of the main hubs for this emerging industry. The thing is, there are so many craft-brewed beers out there, how can anyone know what they all have to offer?
I have a simple solution. Drink them. Try them all. I know, with the different seasonals, it can be hard. Most people need to work, too, so they can’t just drink every night. And a lot of people do not like certain types of beer, so why try those particular ones?
Well, I am here, and I am willing to accept my own challenge.
Besides, I like all kinds of beer, so that won’t be an issue.
Sure, I have my favorites. Super hoppy IPAs are delicious. So are malty porters and stouts. Sour ales can be among the very best, but when they miss the mark, they really miss. I am, on the other hand, not the biggest fan of sweet flavoured beers or really yeasty heffes, and I am somewhat skeptical about fruit beers. I will give them all a chance, though.
The key is, I will tell you all about them. I will give you my honest, unassuming, unbiased, and (hopefully) unpretentious opinion. I will write every review as I am drinking the beer I am reviewing, and have it finalized within an hour or so of consumption. It will almost be like you drank the beer yourself.
I will rate every beer on a 10 point scale. Actually, it will include decimals, so I guess it is kind of like a 100 point scale, really. For a more in depth explanation of how I will rate these beers, see below.
From Monday to Friday I will review one beer per day. That is five beers per week. I will introduce the weekly lineup in a blog post on Sunday. The beers for the week will all be similar in some way. I will do a summary in a Saturday night blog post.
I will also try publish some magazine-style articles from time to time. These might be about new breweries, hop farming, liquor regulation, or brewery ownership changes, among other things. They may simply be interviews with people that know about making beer, too.
So, welcome to The Flagon, where we like beer. We hope you do too.
PS – I am not a sommelier. I am not a cicerone. I am not a product rep. I am not a brewmaster. I am a beer drinker. I will not use terms like mouthfeel. What is wrong with using the word texture? That is what the rest of the world uses for how something feels. You will not hear me talk a lot about lacing, or how many fingers of head the beer has, though I might mention it if it seems to stand out. I have yet to buy a beer based on it’s head. I would avoid flat beer, though, and I will definitely talk about the effect of carbonation. 90% of my review scores will be based on how the beer tastes, with everything else rounding out the last 10%. I will not always mention colour. I will never tell you the beer tastes like something that is impossible to taste. Or something only a psycho would try to eat. If you drink generic beer, that is OK. Everyone has been there. I don’t turn down a beer when a buddy offers me a Kokanee, either. It takes a lot for a beer to be undrinkable, and blandness is a small offense in the grand scheme of things.
PPS – I also enjoy whiskey, so I might sneak in some small batch Bourbon, Scotch and Rye reviews at some point.
How I rate the beer.
I should probably explain the reviewing process.
The reviews will be done while I drink the beer. I will taste and write at the same time, so the impressions are on paper without any second guessing. When it is something on tap, or I am away from the computer, I will make notes on the taste, and make sure to write the review asap.
The ratings will be based almost entirely on the taste and texture of the beer. I will do what I can to express what I taste in the beer, and describe these flavours as well as my vocabulary allows me to. This process will be based solely on my opinion. Comments will be left open, so feel free to let me know what you think.
It can be difficult to describe how things taste without making comparisons to other food and drink. As a result, the different flavours are usually explained as being “something-y”. Hops are often piney, fruity, or citrusy, and usually bitter. They can taste, to me, of citrus rind, orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, pine, grass, herbs, melon, passion fruit, pineapple, mango, onion, mint and a variety of other fruits or veggies. Malts can taste like honey, chocolate, coffee, caramel, brown sugar, nuts, dark fruit, and bread, to name a few. They are associated with richer, slightly sweeter tastes. Yeasts produce something called esters, among other things, and are usually associated with sweetness and spiciness. They can create tastes of bananas, cloves, apples, pears, anise, and other spices. Many North American craft beers have very little in the way of discernible yeast flavours. Belgian beers, on the other hand, are usually very yeasty.
Of course, everyone’s taste buds are unique. Hopefully you, the reader, will be able to follow my descriptions, and get some of the same impressions that I do.
The ratings are technically out of 10, though the use of the decimal makes it a 100-point scale, which is traditional in booze-related industries. Here’s a loose breakdown of what the numbers will signify:
1.0-2.0 – UNDRINKABLE – These are terrible. They get poured down the drain. Ex: Colt 45
2.0-3.0 – BAD AND BORING – The generic section. Beers with no flavour. Ex: Budweiser, Corona
3.0-4.0 – EITHER BAD OR BORING – Craft beer that gets some things right, but more things wrong. Slightly better generic beer. Ex: Stella Artois, Phillips Black Jackal
4.0-5.0 – BELOW AVERAGE – Craft beer that is better, but still pretty mild and boring. Ex: Shaftebury Cream Ale, Tree Kelowna Pilsner
5.0-6.0 – AVERAGE – Mediocre craft beer. Craft beer that gets creative, but isn’t very good. Ex: Stanley Park Amber, Parallel 49 Salty Scot
6.0-7.0 – ABOVE AVERAGE – There will be some good stuff in here. Maybe they missed the mark in one area, or don’t have a standout feature. Ex: Steam Whistle Pilsner, Vancouver Island Piper’s Pale Ale
7.0-8.0 – GOOD – This will be the bulk of the craft beer that is good but not mind blowing. Ex: Phillips Blue Buck, Swans Pilsner
8.0-9.0 – VERY GOOD – These are delicious. They might not have the complexity or richness of the very highest rated beers, but they are very good. Anything over 8.5 is outstanding. Ex: Driftwood Fat Tug, Hoyne Dark Matter
9.0-10 – AMAZING – These are absolutely world class, and some of the best beers I have ever tasted. Ex: Tofino Cosmic Wave, Driftwood Entangled, Four Winds Nectarous
With so much beer to choose from, I typically only come back to beers that score over 8/10. These are what I buy consistently. There is just so much good beer available, so I see no need to go lower.
With that being said, I will happily tip back anything decent based on availability. If Blue Buck or Steam Whistle is what is the best on tap at the pub I am sitting in, I will order one. Like I said above, I will also accept if a buddy offers me a Kokanee or Stella when I stop by. I will drink boring beer if I am thirsty. I just won’t buy boring beer.
In the end, I can promise that you, the reader, will get my honest opinion. I will describe what I taste, and rate based on perceived quality. The reviews will appear in chronological order here, from newest to oldest. You can also search posts by category, style, brewery, and rating in the sidebar to the right.