Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Guilty Party ESB Amber Ale

On an unseasonably warm Sunday evening in late February, I was cooking up a mess of burritos and feeling thirsty, so while the onions caramelized, I reached for a 355mL can of Guilty Party ESB Amber Ale. Brewed in Greensboro, NC, Guilty Party comes from Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Company. It’s a 5.1% alcohol job balanced with a nice 37 IBUs. Its can features a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing and made me smile.

Hazy orange-amber in colour, Guilty Party poured with a modest covering of eggshell head. The beer had a classic ESB aroma—malty, slightly metallic, and rich in caramel and biscuit. The flavour was similarly inclined, although there was a more than faint dose of American-style hops as a reminder that this beer was born in the USA.

Well balanced and enjoyable, Guilty Party was not outstanding or unusual; rather, it was a well made example of an extra special bitter, executed very well. This beer wouldn’t stand out in a lineup, because it is just quietly well made, without gimmick or trick. A skillfully subtle brew with an English style and an American heart.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 22 April 2018


Auko comes from Burdock, out of Toronto. It’s a busy little brew—a sour dark ale aged with raspberries, sour cherries and cab franc skins for a year in cab franc barrels. It clocks in at a boisterous 9.1% alcohol and comes in 375mL bottles with simple and elegant labels.

The beer is a dark number with faint ruby highlights and almost no head. It has a very tart scent that is both fruity and funky, with a punchy cherry blast. It has a disappointingly thin and flat, but the flavour is quite lovely, with sharp winey notes and lots of tart fruit.

True, Auko was in my fridge for a few weeks before I uncapped it, but it really was thinner than it ought to have been in spite of that. Still, great flavour and potency made for a fairly enjoyable beer.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Amber Eh!

When I picked up a 473mL can of Amber Eh! from Niagara Brewing Company, my first thought was that this beer has two strikes and I haven’t even tried it yet: the first was the tired trope of including a pinup model (this time an impossibly slender lumberjack) on the packaging, and the second was the glaring omission of an apostrophe on the back copy (“Its a Canuck thing”). I mean, my blog is riddled with grammatical errors, but I’m not trying to sell anything to anyone. Sure hope the beer is good.

At 5%, the strength is right for the amber ale style. It had the right look, too, with a ruddy, slightly hazy complexion and a very thick nimbus of off-white head. The aroma suggested a North American style amber ale, given the presence of a fairly assertive piney hops note that lorded over the other elements, namely caramel and bread. The flavour wended a similar path, primarily driven by robust evergreen bitterness, and backed by some maltiness abs caramel sweetness. As well, there was something a bit coppery in the finish that was not at all out of place.

Given my two beers with the packaging, I found the beer inside to be quite appealing. It was surprisingly flavourful, generously hopped, and not over-sweet. 

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Ruff Draught Tropical Blonde Ale

I picked up Born Ruffians’ latest release, Uncle, Duke & the Chief this week. While listening to it for the third time, it seemed like a good opportunity to review Ruff Draught Tropical Blonde Ale, a Muskoka Brewery product brewed in collaboration with the band. Sold in neon on black 473mL cans, Ruff Draught is a sessionable 5%, 25 IBU ale that, according to its copy, won a session beer prize.  The ingredients list doesn’t mention any purée or fruit additives, so it sounds like the “Tropical” in this blonde ale is a result of brewing and not flavouring.

Brewed in Bracebrodge, RD is a slightly hazy dull gold brewski. It pours with a loose but voluminous cloud of white head, through which one can detect a a dry hops nose with some juicy fruit elements. While the aroma was a bit coy with it’s fruitiness, the flavour was a bit more forthcoming—still, for a beer with “Tropical” in the name, I was expecting to be overwhelmed by citrus and juicy papaya. Rather, the result was a beer with definite fruit leanings, but subtly nestled under an acerbic bitterness and a pleasant, almost Belgian-style yeasty fin.

As someone who appreciates a pint with less-than-obvious fruit elements, Ruff Draught left me pretty pleased—with notes of mango and peach that were plain, but not stifling. Further, the beer was definitely not too sweet, which is a treat when one delves into, and chooses to advertise, tropical flavours. All told, I thought this was a strong beer, and I’d be glad to pick up more if I see it.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Honey Habanero Spicy Ale

According to the copy on the snazzy 473mL cans of Frank Brewing Co.’s Honey Habanero Spicy Ale, this brew was created in homage to the brewer’s grandad’s zeal for his wife’s honey habanero marmalade. Low-test at just 4.8%, the beer is crystal clear and golden, with a thin disc of eggshell head.

To my sniffer, honey sweetness is the big contributor to the aroma of this little effort from Tecumseh, Ontario. Interesting, the spicy pepper is used sparingly, and only becomes evident on the finish after a couple of sips. Otherwise, the flavour is mild and sweet, with mellifluous notes on top of an otherwise mild and balanced blonde ale.

I’m conflicted when it comes to reviewing this ale—typically with spicy beers I fear over-emphasis of heat elements, but with this one, I’d have liked just a whisper more potency. As well, I always like to know where a beer’s honey (and peppers) are sourced. That info would have been nice.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

4x4 Belgian Quad

One might not expect to find a Belgian-style quadrupel in Northern Ontario, but that just what one gets when one cracks a 471mL can of 4x4 Belgian Quad, a 10.5% offering from Sudbury’s Stack Brewing.

First off, I should probably address what was, for me at least, the elephant in the room: a quad in a can?! I was pretty wary, but I persevered, dear reader, because I owe it to my art!

Stack’s quad was a fairly dark entry—it started pouring a walnut brown and just kept getting darker as my glass filled up. Atop this dark brown ale resided a slight cap of loose tan head. 4x4 had a pretty feisty aroma, characterized by a generous measure of malt, fruitcake, and a bit of spice. On the flavour side of the equation, I found many of those same sweet notes, but also leather and a slightly tangy fruit finish reminiscent of a red wine. It is in the finish that one gets the first real indication of how strong this stuff actually is.

All things considered, 4x4 was a pretty cheeky offering from one of Ontario’s unsung brewing bests, though not nearly their best work. First off, I have a bit of a hard time classing this as a quad—it has the strength and some of the right flavour elements, but it lacks the heady funk that comes with Belgian yeast. For me, this beer was closer to a barley wine or some other genre of winter ale. But classification aside, I found this brute to be a relatively tasty effort. It didn’t have the full-bodied texture I was hoping for, but the flavour was interesting and many-layered.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Pitchfork Porter

Pitchfork Porter comes from Oast House Brewers out of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. I ordered myself a 483mL can at Pinkerton’s in Toronto’s east end while waiting for the Bitter Wife.

Billed as a “traditional dry English-style porter”, Pitchfork contained 5.3% alcohol. A clear dark beer with ruby highlights, Pitchfork poured with a thin layer of cream head. The beer had a chocolatey scent; malt-focused and only slightly sweet. Flavour-wise, fresh cocoa notes kicked things off, building to a gently bitter finish.

Oast House is a quality Ontario that often doesn’t get the love that some of the bigger players do. I’ve yet to sip one of their beers that I didn’t enjoy, and Pitchfork was no exception. Not an earthshaking or unusual porter, the strength of this little guy is due to the skill with which it is brewed. I’d have liked it to be a bit more acerbic through the finish, but otherwise, I had little to complain about.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.