Saturday, 23 June 2018
On what might well have been the first glorious spring day of 2018, I poured myself a 500mL bottle of Sweet Disposition Plum IPA from Toronto’s Rorschach Brewing Co. My glass of beer a dark gold with a cute pinky hue, although it was a considerably sediment-heavy ale. According to the bottle, the stuff was bottled on December 20, 2017 (the day after my 33rd), so it wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, but all of the floaties gave me pause all the same. At just 5.5%, the stuff was a touch under-strength for an India, but not jarringly so.
Sweet to the nose, with an indisputable fruity proclivity, S.D. had a slightly candied aroma. The plum came through nicely in the flavour, though it was accompanied with a clout of bitter brashness—more hoppy, in fact, than I initially expected, given the sugary scent. Acerbic, but sweet, the flavour combo was unusual. I might not have gleaned that it was a plum tint had I not been tipped off, but there it was.
A neophyte to plum IPAs, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Sweet Disposition. I felt the name was fitting, although it belied the depth of bitterness packed into the finish. The fruity front end was a dream, although, as longtime readers of the Bitter World will surmise, I chafed a bit at the 5.5% listing, and could have done with a bit more sabre-rattling gravitas. I’m no stranger to sediment-y beer, but this one was very nearly too far down the garden path, four months of aging or not. On flavour alone the rating’d have been higher, but sediment and low octane’ll getcha. I might has filtered this one ever so slightly...
Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Thursday, 21 June 2018
If there were any justice in the world, B.A. Johnston would be a major star. But there isn’t. As a result, B.A. is a modest draw—a man tirelessly touring across Canada in his minivan, sharing his unique blend of homespun tunes with a populace thirsty for truth. And when you’re thirsty for truth, the folks at Sawdust City Brewing Company know that you’re also frequently thirsty for strong beer: enter B.A. Johnston’s Finest Malt Liquor. Brewed by Sawdust City in Gravenhurst, Ontario, this 8% alcohol grog comes in 473mL cans emblazoned with an illustration of the man himself, in all of his glory.
Cloudy and sunny gold, the Finest Malt Liquor pours with a thin cap of white head. It has a boozy nose, with some syrupy grain notes. The flavour is assertively potent; sweet and strong, with notes of corn. The finish is strong, but manages to close out smoothly.
Like B.A. himself, his Finest Malt Liquor won’t be for everyone. Truthfully, it wasn’t really for me. As an alcohol delivery system, it is efficient and effective. As a flavourful craft beer, it is a bit rough, too sweet, and short on bitterness. This beer is representative of the pride of Hamilton: it’s strong, abrasive, and a bit gross, but it has some soul and some sass.
Rating: 6.0 out of 10.
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
I love a beer in service of a good cause, and that’s just what I got from Three Jars Belgian Table Beer. Brewed in Newmarket, Ontario by Market Brewing Co., this brewed supported by a number of Newmarket pubs restos and is sold in support of the Newmarket Food Pantry. According to the copy on the 473mL can, all profits from sale of the beer go to support the charity, which is excellent!
A 4% alcohol ale, Three Jars is a sunny yellow ale. Slightly hazy, it pours with a short but sustained layer of bright white head. It has a fresh, yeasty aroma with a suggestion of tartness. The ale is crisp, but yeasty. It has emphatic drinkability, though the mouthfeel is a bit on the brittle side—not all that surprising for a 4% alcohol ale.
Light and refreshing, but with a surfeit of flavour, Three Jars was a pretty good beer brewed in service of a great cause.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Those clever beer wizards at Hamilton's Collective Arts Brewing have got to be among Ontario’s most industrious and creative brewers. They pump out, can, and sell more new beers than just about anyone in the province, and they manage to get a lot of them onto the shelves of the provincially-run liquor stores, which I understand is no mean feat. The latest offering comes in the form of Mash Up the Jam, a dry-hopped sour ale. At 5.2%, there is a bit of bop to this pop. It’s sold in artsy 473mL cans from which emerges a sunny dull-gold nectar. Mash Up pours with a thin layer of off-white head and it has a funkily tropical nose. Tart, but well restrained, the beer isn’t briny or overly sharp. Rather, it’s quite approachable, which isn’t always the norm in sour ales. It has notes of almost ripened fruit—particularly citrus and stone fruits. The beer is built around an abrupt and dry mouthfeel, which holds whatever sweetness the fruit elements might try to impart very much in check. There is some bitterness, located almost entirely at the back end, though not as prevalent as I’d hoped it would be.
Mash Up the Jam is a fine and funky ale from an innovative and prolific brewery. Not there best work, perhaps, but an agreeably tart concoction with a bit of verve. Possibly a good starting point for someone new to sour ales and interested in exploring one.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Friday, 15 June 2018
The only thing one needs on a miserably cold day in April characterized by snow and freezing rain (other than a nice, peaty scotch) is a nice coffee porter. Enter Trash Panda Porter, a brew “seasoned with cold steeped Ethiopian beans”. Born in Toronto to The Six Brewing Co., Trash Panda is a 6% alcohol porter. I picked up a massive 750mL oil drum of a can from the bottle shop attached to the brew pub. The beer inside poured with a deep mahogany colour, topped with a thin flourish of off-white head.
Trash Panda has an agreeably rich aroma that straddles coffee and chocolate notes. The flavour is refined and enjoyable, though it is less emphatic than I’d have asked. The beer has coffee elements in good measure, as well as some malty tones and a touch of cocoa, but it could have been more bitter and ballsy. The mouthfeel was a bit on the thin side for a porter, but not distressingly so.
I thought that Trash Panda was a pretty good beer—not game-changing or innovative, but certainly pleasant. As I said, it would have been a stronger effort with a greater emphasis on hops and unbridled java bitterness. The 30 IBUs listed on the can just aren’t enough. Still, TP tasted nice, if a bit mild. It certainly brought me a little cheer on a brutal “spring” day.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Sold in 473mL cans that feature salmon, a Canada goose, a bear, and a beaver in a canoe, Hopped & Confused Session Ale has to be in the running for the most stereotypically Canadian packaging of all time. It’s a 4.7% ale from Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery. Cloudy and pale, this brew is orange-gold and pours with a sudsy white head. The copy on the can is almost inscrutable, declaring “This beer is really hoppy but not bitter. It is an ale and a lager. ... It is a sessionable version of a non-sessionable style. ...” and some more stuff. We’ll see.
The beer has a succulent, yet saccharine nose, with juicy fruit notes. The flavour is similarly constructed, with pleasant tangerine notes supplemented with a subtly flowery note. H&C is hoppy, but, as billed, it isn’t particularly bitter—at least not as bitter as I expected it to be. I don’t know where they get that nonsense about it being “an ale and a lager”, because it clearly tastes like an ale”, but it does taste pretty good.
The only element that would prohibit me from buying this beer on the semi-regular is its sweetness—it the beer were a little less juicy/syrupy. I’ll maybe buy it again, but despite its “session” nature, I feel unlikely to reach for a second can.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
Monday, 11 June 2018
Friend of the Bitter World MW showed up unexpectedly with a couple of bottles from Abe Erb Brewing Company out of Kitchener, Ontario. Note: if you have non-readily available beer from a cool brewery, just drop by. I usually hate a pop in, but far flung ales? Bring ‘em by Stout Man Manor. Do it!
One of MW’s deliveries was a 341mL stubby, medicinal bottle of Midnight Oil Coffee Stout. It’s a 5.2% alcohol ale brewed using a Sumatra-based coffee from Settlement Co. The beer is a late night number with a tan head that lasted only a short time and faded to a thin disc.
More than most coffee-flavoured ales, Midnight Oil has a wild java nose. Seriously potent Joe. It has some sweetness and a healthy malt, too, but coffee is the nose candy in this ale. The flavour is a bit less overtly caffeinated, but there is still some bitter coffee heft. Along for the ride are malty notes, sweetness, and some chocolate notes.
Abe Erb’s take on the coffee stout is a lovely little number. It’s not quite as bitter as I’d have liked, but it is rich and sweet, with decent strength and, not to repeat myself, a brilliant aroma. This is a coffee ale that I’d gladly revisit. It’s a bit too saccharine, though it isn’t a deal-breaker.
Rating: 8.0 out of 10.