2012 LCBO Spring Beers (So Far)

Waiting for the complete selection of a seasonal release from the LCBO is always frustrating. There is always a couple of beers that get delayed (or unceremoniously dropped) and do not appear until it is just about time for the next release. And for such reasons I am not waiting until all the beers for the spring release are in the LCBO, because by that time a number of other beers will likely be sold out. So here are some quickie snapshots and thoughts about the 2012 spring release thus far (and I say snapshots because no notes were taken for review purposes):

The pleasant surprise of the release so far has been the Norrebro Var Tripel (LCBO# 210773, $9.65, 8.4% ABV, 600mL). Tripels are a really hard style to pull off as it is hard to find to perfect balance of sweet and dry. The Var Tripel does just that, finding the right mix of candi sugar, biscuity malts, lemon zest and a dry, green bitterness at the end. A nice price point and greater availability than when the Norrebro feature was out last year. The other tripel of the spring release is the Westmalle Tripel (LCBO# 676577, $3.75, 9.5% ABV, 330mL), a known classic example of the style, but was a little too dry and boozy for my tastes. It is noticeably spicier (clove? nutmeg?) than the Norrebro, which contributes to the dry finish. (The Chimay tripel is also too dry for my liking, but if you like that than the Westmalle will be right for you.)

Two of the big and expensive bottles of the release are on shelves now. The Panil Barriquee (LCBO# 210591, $14.05, 9.6% ABV, 750mL) is a great Italian beer in the Flemish brown ale style. The perfect beer to really blow open some misconceptions about what beer is – sourness from the yeast, oak and cherry from the barrels, plus so much more going on. Always a treat to drink. The other big bottle is the Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus (LCBO# 270389, $11.65, 8% ABV, 750mL) from Quebec. The Lupulus is somewhere between a Belgian IPA and a really hoppy tripel, which means that it is really dry and green. The carbonation is very similar to champagne, but the beer is too yeasty and unfiltered to be confused with anything but beer. It’s a good beer, but it just doesn’t have that magical quality that makes a great beer (though I know a lot of people will disagree with that opinion).

I had high expectations for the Weihenstephaner Vitus (LCBO# 265140, $3.10, 7.7% ABV, 500mL), both because of its reputation and the deliciousness of the Hefeweissbier from Weihenstephan. Sadly the Vitus was a little disappointing, because it was so similar to the Hefeweiss – similar flavours, just kick up the alcohol and give it a drier finish. Obviously that means it is an excellent tasting beer, but the refreshing aspects of the Hefeweiss just speak a bit more to me. A beer I will try again, though. The Schloss Eggenberg Doppelbock Dunkel (LCBO# 100487, $2.85, 8.5%, 330mL) comes from neighbouring Austria and is a big step up in malts compared to the Vitus. Brown sugar, toffee, raisins and loads of maltiness. Sounds like it could be lots of different styles (barley wines? dubbels?) but the lagering process makes this a really smooth beer. No sign of the alcohol, hops or yeasts – just a lot of sweet malts. A fine tipple, but a little too smooth. It needs a little rough edge to be distinct.

Two of the big, hoppy beers have made it onto the shelf, but all these other great beers have only left me enough time to try the Tree Hophead Double IPA (LCBO# 209346, $5.40, 8.3%, 650mL), a repeat from last year. Not the cleanest or brightest of double IPAs, but a nice offering from British Columbia. The beer I haven’t tried is the Southern Tier Unearthly, but it has been a consistently tasty imperial IPA for many years now.

That’s it for the beers I’ve tried so far. Still waiting on the Mikkeller Frelser Triple Bock and Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, which are coincidentally two of the more anticipated beers. Hopefully they will appear before the summer beers.

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2 responses to “2012 LCBO Spring Beers (So Far)

  1. Not sure I agree with “$9.65 for 600mL” being a “nice price point” 🙂 It’s good, but not *that* good. I found the Unearthly to be way too much of a good thing, to the point of being nearly undrinkable honestly. Maybe a bad bottle, I need to try another.

    Mike, you comment above (and I know similar comments are made on Bartowel all the time) about the release schedules; I subscribe to a different (unproven) theory: I truly believe the LCBO not only staggers the releases but also the inventory of product released to lure us, the eager customer, back to the store multiple times. I know I certainly pick up a few extras each visit for “just that one specific beer”.

    Additionally, I’m sure the LCBO realizes that most people would balk at dropping hundreds of dollars on a single purchase should they release everything at once. By staggering the releases, they get more wallet share broken up into smaller purchases.

    It makes me laugh when I see the threads on Bartowel go on about staking out stores for releases, making staff go in the back, etc. when a few days later, the inventory continues to leak out and frankly eliminate the need for the “oh my you are hoarding all the ______, you only left 2!” hysterics. Prime example: Garrison Spruce. In January people were going mental for it, and you can still find it in stock all over the place. The LCBO sure nows how to play us, I applaud their retail & marketing chops 🙂

    • The price comment was in reference to what you might pay in the States, not compared to the other beers (though it is in line with the Lupulus and a couple of other beers).

      From the talks I have had with LCBO employees at media tastings, there is usually one or two beers that gets delayed for reasons like a late shipment or they need to add a sticker that says strong beer/the ABV according to the LCBO lab. (Or, as was the case when Dieu du Ciel! first came to the LCBO, a sticker needed to put over the twist-off caps). I actually think this was the best timed release so far, because most of the beers were out within a couple of weeks.

      As for hoarding and stalking, I have a hard time arguing for or against. Sometimes it is warranted (the Panil and Var Tripel last year were two beers that disappeared very quickly). And there are relatively few people in Ontario that obsess over the beer releases to the point of hoarding and calling stores every hour. The nice thing about staggered releases is that it allows the average consumer to find something new most of the time when they go to browse the LCBO.

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