Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ol’ Woody Alt

Named in honour of the old wooden motor boats that once dominated cottage country, Ol’ Woody Alt is a 5% alcohol, 35 IBU altbier brewed in Gravenhurst, Ontario—billed as a “lagered ale” in its copy. Produced by the Sawdust City Brewing Co., Ol’ Woody is sold in 473mL cans that have a decidedly coffin-looking image that is apparently a boat.

The beer itself is a very handsome clear auburn potion with an ivory head. It has a nutty, bready, and malt-driven scent, and a flavour to match. Ol’ Woody tastes pretty well-balanced, with some graininess, well roasted malt, and a slight note of mown lawn.

I’m not going to go out on a limb and call it memorable, but it is clearly cleverly brewed by people that care about their ales. When Sawdust City speaks, the Stout Man listens and, even when I’m not blown away, I have seldom been disappointed.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Pecan Pie Porter

“Finally an extra delicious beer for your pie hole!” declares the copy on the remarkably ugly and curiously-hued 473mL can of Pecan Pie Porter, a 5.6% alcohol brew from Guelph, Ontario. PPP is the brainchild of Double Trouble Brewing Co., which is, to my mind, one of the unsung and innovative beer builders in this great province. This beer is brewed, apparently, with “natural pecan flavour”.

PPP has the almost sickeningly sweet, nutty and caramel aroma of a pecan pie, supplemented with a whiff of a dessert coffee. Compared to the heartily unhealthy nose, the flavour is only a fairly sweet imitation. Notes of pecan are prevalent, but they are preceded by java and coffee elements. The back end is where the pecan is really turned loose, though it is cunningly balanced against a bitter coffee presence.

Pecan Pie Porter is definitely a dessert beer. However, it fares very well compared to other similarly situated pudding-themed brews—such as Banana Bread Beer or Maple Butter Tart Ale. Too sweet by a mile, but at least measured against a bitter backdrop, PPP is a novelty beer that has some revisitation value.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Bent Spoke Sessionable IPA

Hanover, Ontario is the source of Bent Spoke Sessionable IPA. At 3.9% alcohol, this brew, from MacLean’s Ales, is a clean and clear ale with lots of carbonation and a thick, white head. It’s counted in MacLean’s’ Low Gear Session Series. It comes in 473mL cans.

Given the low alcohol content, Bent Spoke has a pretty jumbo aroma, rich in tart grapefruit and dry hops notes. Crisp, yet flavourful, BS has a perfume-heavy flavour, with some citrus notes and a pretty decent level of bitterness and a brittily dry finish.

For a low alcohol beer, this Session IPA is a remarkably flavourful offering. The taste is less robust than I’d seek out for a typical session IPA, but it really is potent for the strength. This light ale is wildly crushable, but still tastes bigger than it ought to. MacLean’s Ales has been quietly putting out some underrated beers over the last few years, and Broken Spoke is no exception. It’s unassuming, but punches above its weight.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Kelly’s Contraption

Named in honour of the motorcar developed by John B. Kelly in Blythe, Ontario in 1883–apparently pre-dating Henry Ford’s effort by four years–the beer, styled Kelly’s Contraption, is billed as “New World Hefeweizen” and comes from Cowbell Brewing Co. aka Blyth Brewing & Distilling. Like Kelly’s antediluvian auto, the 5% alcohol, 15 IBU ale comes from Blyth, ON.

Kelly’s has a cloudy golden hue, under a thick, off-white head. There is a punchy nose, with yeasty notes, some slight clove spiciness, and a dose of banana esters. Like a classic hefe, this new world edition has yeasty profile, a flavour with banana and orange notes, and a dose of spices. The beer is thin-bodied, but refreshing. 

Really, Kelly’s Contraption is a summertime brew, but it came my way in November, via my ol’ pal LW. Despite the unseasonal quaffing, I found the beer to be a pretty convincing Ontarian imitation of the classic Teutonic style. A bit thin, sure, but clearly well-made. Like the other Cowbell offerings that I’ve enjoyed, K’sC was a quality brew that, while not exceptional, was very good.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Laser Show Vermont Style IIPA

When the Stout Man has a head cold, reviewing beer becomes a challenge. However, the Bitter World doesn’t stop turning just because I have a head cold, so the answer is to select huge beers with massive aromatics. Enter Laser Show Vermont Style IIPA. From Left Field Brewery, Toronto’s baseball-mad beer maker, Laser Show is an 8% Imperial India Pale Ale. Sold in 650mL bombers, this is a beer to be undertaken solo only with caution and when one has a pretty clear schedule.

The beer is hazy and has an orange-gold tone. Jumbo notes of tropical fruit and sticky hops waft through a light, off-white haze. The flavour is rich in the juicy, exotic fruit notes that characterize a Vermont-style IPA—pineapple, guava, and loads of citrus.

Bitter and fairly strong, Laser Show packs a nice amount of flavour into a relatively boozy package. I’ve certainly had more assertive Vermont-styles, but this one has some chops of its own. I’d have liked to taste more bold and resinous hops in this number to justify that first “I” in IIPA, as well as a bit more booze—bump this up to 9%+ and I’d have been more impressed.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Galactic Pale Ale

A member of the old guard of Toronto’s craft brewing fellowship, I’m told that Granite Brewery has been a staple of the scene since 1991–when I was not yet eight. However, it is only recently that I’ve started seeing their offerings popping up in Ontario liquor stores—historically, I’ve had to visit the mid-town brewery for my fix of their cask ales. I recently spotted a 473mL can of Granite’s Galactic Pale Ale at my local vendor, so I needed to cart it home and write it up.

Galactic is a 5% ale, brewed using Azacca and Cascade hops. Uncanned, the beer is clear and gold, with a very sudsy eggshell head. Clearly (in my opinion, at least) an English-style IPA, the aroma moves malt to hops, with initial caramel and subsequent citrus and evergreen notes. The flavour is a bit unusual for an Ontario pale ale—there is a bit of bread and toffee up front and a bit of citrus out the back, but the majority of the flavour profile is confined to a grainy, perfumed, coppery and resinous hop cast. Initially too thin, the the mouthfeel gained yardage as it rumbled down the field, ending in a dry, bitter, and unusually metallic finish.

With my first sip, I had low expectations for Galactic Pale Ale—I found it too thin. However, as both the beer and the Stout Man hit their strides, things started to click a bit more. By the end, I didn’t love this ale, exactly, but I certainly had learned a more healthy respect for it. It is notable that I can guarantee that despite the modest rating, I will definitely snap up a few cans of this flavourful and low-ish alcohol ale the next time I see it. Through long experience, Granite has created and chosen to can something awkward but enjoyable.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Bear Hug IPA

Bear Hug IPA is produced in sleepy Newmarket, Ontario by Market Brewing Co. It’s a 7% alcohol jobby that comes in (IMHO) sorta tacky, textured 473mL cans that feature: a bear in shades, a “wild” font on the word hug, and a slightly raised texture.

The beer is extremely cloudy—it has a milky, dull orange cast, under a thick and durable off-white white head. Bear Hug has an assertive aroma that boasts of satsuma and other sweet citrus notes. The flavour is similarly situated, with orange and clementine notes overlaying a relatively bitter framework.

In spite of the lackluster can (again, IMHO—I’m certainly not a marketing or graphic design whiz), the beer inside is punchy, juicy, bitter, and adequately strong. Too sweet, perhaps, but not by too much, I found Bear Hug to be a pretty credible Ontario IPA. Not as grapefruit-focused as many of the leading lights, this effort digs into the orange bag of tricks with decent effect. Would I bring Bear Hug to a party?Damn right! Would I enter it in a competition? Perhaps not. But would I buy it again? Absolutely. That alone is worth a respectable rating, and makes Market Brewing Co. a company worth watching.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.