Despite all odds, Matt Phillips made the system work for him. This is the sentence that describes every aspect of Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. In 2001, a time before craft beer had anybody's attention (least of all in British Columbia), Phillips launched his brewery without a single "normal" beer, like a pale ale or a lager, opting for daring, experimental flavors as his core aesthetic. He also accomplished all this without a bank loan, because he couldn't get one. He took out a handful of credit card applications and went into massive debt in order to start his company.
Considering that now, Phillips has also opened a soda company, distillery, and malting company, it's safe to say that his gamble paid off, a fact we're quite happy about. Making us equally happy, though, is the fact that one of our staffers brought some Phillips brews back from her recent trip to Canada (bless you, Flo). Here's what we thought of the offerings from one of Canada's coolest breweries:
Short Wave Pale Ale
We started with the static charged West Coast-style Pale Ale, Short Wave, which sported the orange gold of marmalade or, for the more incendiary tasters, gasoline. At the top-end of the frequencies, Short Wave wore a robust head the color of buttermilk. A resemblance to thinned-out orange Tylenol was noted, though the smell and taste quickly dispelled such similarities.
The aroma was anything but medicinal, with an easy, fruity hop presence. Unlike many pale ales and IPAs, the hops weren't overwhelming, either, floating smoothly through our sinuses with an appealing roundness. That's not to say that the hoppiness wasn't the prevailing flavor, though - Short Wave abounded with berry hop flavors. Even on the palate, though, this brew was wet, clean, and highly drinkable, with a slight sweetness that had no trace of citrus, unique for a pale ale. We'll be tuning in again soon.
Odyssey Nitro Porter
Odyssey is exclusive to tall 1-pint cans, a fact made more intriguing by the fact that, rather than using CO2, Odyssey is pressurized solely with nitrogen, giving it a creamy smoothness (if you've ever had a true Guinness, think of that). Even if "Nitro" wasn't in the name, we'd have been able to tell that aspect as soon as we poured, the thick, off-black brew topped with a tight, silken head the color of coffee creamer.
On the nose, the classic porter attributes of chocolate and coffee revealed themselves, though with a twist: we smelled more white chocolate and Bailey's than the scorched color suggested. Odyssey unveiled more surprises on the palate, as well, unveiling notes of vanilla and the smooth creaminess of melted s'mores chocolate that mixed well with the soft mouthfeel from the nitrogen. Remarkably, the brew didn't have an overwhelming sweetness, checked in part by the roasty bitterness that lingered at the end of each sip. Simply put, Odyssey soars.
Amnesiac Double IPA
There's no way to get a little bit of Amnesiac. Phillips' hardcore standby only comes in pint cans, bomber bottles, and kegs, so strap in and get ready. This double IPA was wildly effervescent, with a hazy limoncello aesthetic and fuzzy, bubbly head. Amnesiac already looks a little out of focus, which is fitting - a glass of this will strap some wild, steampunk beer goggles to your head.
Unlike the soft hoppiness of Short Wave, Amnesiac takes a swing at your nostrils with a crowbar full of citrus hops, leaving room for little else. Our tasters repeatedly commented on the "stank" of the aroma - still pleasantly citrusy, but undeniably potent. The taste followed through: bubbly, bitter, and sticky from hop resin. We try a lot of strong IPAs, though, and Amnesiac was still wildly enjoyable, with a delightful lingering bitterness that actually improved upon the flavor. For a sucker-punch of a beer, this one still went down easy.