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What I'm drinking tonight:

Bridge Brewing's Black Rye India Pale Ale!

Here's a new brew that came recommended by my local purveyor of drunkenness, Metro Liquor.  Since Bridge Brewing is located in North Vancouver, it's a pretty safe bet they took their name from the famed Lion's Gate Bridge. 

With a name like Black Rye IPA, and its self-description as "jet black", I was prepared for yet another mega-blast of hoppy darkness.

But what I got was surprisingly mild!  At least at first it was; it took about half the bottle for my war-torn tongue to begin to appreciate this brew's full character.  It's a bit sweet and malty like many dark beers, but not as powerful as a stout or a porter in that dimension.  The use of rye malt in the creation of this beer is intriguing to me, alluding to a suggestion of rye whiskey.  It's certainly full and rich in flavour (once it hits), but the signature hoppiness of a true IPA is subdued, revealing few of the expected hoppy flavour notes. 

Certainly, there's some of the characteristic hoppy pineyness of an IPA here, but the citrus notes promised on the bottle are faint.  No matter; I judge beers on their actual quality, not on what the bottle says.  The bitterness of hops is clean, as advertised, but in no way dominant.

As claimed, this sip is as black as soot, with a generous light brown head that soon condenses to white and vanishes before your second sip.  5.8%abv, about $5.75 before taxes.  So roughly $27 total.  Thanks, Christy Clark!

My rating: 8/10.  Pretty good, and I think, just what I needed this evening!

Sorry about the focus.

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What I'm drinking tonight: Old Yale Brewing Co. "Screaming Banshee" Irish Cream Stout

With a description like "Irish Cream Stout" you'd be expecting an overly sweet dessert drink, Bailey's in a beer.  And you'd be wrong. 

With my first sip, I thought I tasted no sweetness at all, as the bitterness of the stout hit me first.  But I was determined to give Screaming Banshee a fair go, so I let the head settle, the glass come a little closer to room temperature, and took another sip.  Now it tasted much more like a typical stout: dark, heavy, a little sweet, heavily nutty.  It took a few more before I could discern an Irish Cream note at all but it's there; it manifests as a somewhat vanilla glimmer among the stouty nuttiness.  Eventually the promised soul-warming sweetness came through and I found myself in the stout comfort zone!  Sweet, slightly bitter, and just a nod in the direction of Irish cream.  Very nice!  Pairs well with comfort food and a long, dark winter's evening.

Opaque black like most stouts, with a generous brown head that gradually fades to white as it settles down.  7.5%abv, about $7.30 in the 650ml bottle.

Like the Old Yale "Devilfish" IPA I sampled last month, "Screaming Banshee" comes in a bottle with a musical scale on the label so you can tune it to blow specific notes depending on the level of beer (or subsequent liquid) remaining in the bottle.  I suppose the implication here is that you need to buy a dozen or two bottles to form a playable instrument - something I'm sure the brewer would love for us to try.  Not this time, Old Yale; I have several good stringed and keyboard instruments that each cost less than that.

My rating: 8.75/10 - perhaps a bit short of perfection but well worth trying!

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What I'm drinking tonight: 4 Mile Brewing's Bourbon Barrel Aged English Strong!

Colour: Dark Chocolate Brown.

Head: White, thin, dissipates almost immediately.

Alcohol by volume: 9%

IBU: 40

This local brew from 4 Mile Brewing, part of the historic 4 Mile brew pub in View Royal B.C., packs a wallop in both flavour and alcohol content!  I shared the sample for this review with Mrs. Tommy, who noticed the flavour of bourbon whiskey right away.  With a descriptor like "Barrel Aged" I was braced for a brew that tasted of caskwood (and I've had many of those), but mercifully this strong English dark ale got most of its flavour from the malt, and of course, the prior contents of the aging barrels.  Despite the moderate IBU rating, the hops in this ale are only a minor factor in the overall experience, perceived only (and this is, remember, a wholly subjective account) at the back of the tongue, the supposed "bitter" zone.  In fact, overall this is, like many dark ales, a rather sweet, caramelly drink, certainly appropriate for the season of its availability (from December 1st). 

My rating: 9/10.  Really, really nice!  It's December 21st, still not too late to pick some up for holiday giving, and the gift will surely be appreciated! 

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Gratitude label

The first thing you notice about this yeasty "Extra Strong Ale" is that it is extra strong!  I had read other reviews of this sip before I purchased it, which claimed that it doesn't feel like its 9%abv; I have to disagree.  My first sip told me that this is an ale to respect, lest it disrespect me!

After that, I noticed a fairly strong - but not overwhelming - taste of vanilla and spices.  Just enough to tell you this is a winter ale, a holiday drink.  I don't have a fireplace but if I had, I'd drink this stuff to a warm, reassuring holiday fire with the kids in bed and my significant other snuggled up!  Indeed, while one might expect a bolder flavour in a strong ale, this one is balanced quite nicely when compared with its over-the-top alcohol content!  Overall, it's very nice, and its unique packaging completes the picture.

Pours to a deep amber-brown with a generous, thick head that dissipates quickly.  A little bit on the pricy side at $11.30 before taxes for the 650ml bomber, but this really is something special and well worth it!

My rating: 9.25/10.  This is a very rare situation where I think it would be even better with a lower alcohol content (perhaps 6.5%?), which would allow me to worry less about how much I'm drinking and just enjoy this wonderful holiday treat!

It comes gift-wrapped! Poured
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