Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Innis & Gunn Original

Innis & Gunn Original hails from Edinburgh, Scotland, brewed by the wood aging experts at Innes & Gunn. This stuff is, according to the label, aged for 77 days over oak. It's sold in clear 330mL bottles and contains a fairly substantial 6.6& alcohol. It pours a very attractive warm golden colour, topped with a thick, off-white head. It's clear and has little carbonation.

Fraternal Twins--Original on the Right
The Original has an extremely sweet, malty aroma that has elements of honey and cognac. The beer is quite sweet. It has malt-driven flavour and very smooth mouthfeel. Like the aroma, the taste has a honeyed, almost syrupy sweetness. Additionally, there is a cognac-like warmth to this brew. This stuff is gentle and subtle--quite complex. There is very little to speak about on the bitter side of things. It has a nice body, though, truth be told, I find it too sweet for my tastes.

If you like sweet, woody ales with considerable character and a bit of warmth, Innis & Gunn original ought to float your boat. For me, given the sweetness and the fact that I bought them during a July heatwave, it took me a while to get through my sixer.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Mort Subite Kriek Lambic

Mort Subite Kriek Lambic comes in a 375mL corked bottle.  It is brewed by Mort Subite (Alken-Maes), out of Lierput, Belgium. It's a tart, sour beer, a lambic flavoured with cherry and elderberry. A rose-hued brew, this stuff is relatively clear, amply carbonated, and topped with a thick, pinkish head. According to the bottle, this stuff is aged in oak and contains natural flavours, artificial sweetener, and artificial colour.

M.S.K.L. has a tart aroma that screams of sour cherries, and also comes with a dose of yeastiness. the flavour is certainly tart, but it is nowhere near as sour as I was expecting. I recall drinking a kriek in my youth and finding it distressingly sour. This beer features a very pleasant cherry flavour. A sourish lambic base provides the foundation, but it's muted.  The artificial sweetener really seems to take a lot of the bite out of the brew, which is unfortunate.

Mort Subite Kriek Lambic has a lively, fizzy mouthfeel and a low alcohol content that make it a very quaffable beer, but it's really not as tart or as electric as I'd have liked.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, 25 April 2014

The Canadian Dream

The Canadian Dream is, I'd say, a pale ale.  It's "brewed at De Proef Brouwerij, Belgien" by Mikkeller Brewery, out of Copenhagen, Denmark. Sold in 330mL bottles, it's a cloudy, copper-coloured ale that clocks in at 5.5% alcohol.

It has a jumbo aroma with notes of sweet caramel, citrus, raisins, and evergreen. A symphonic flavour begins with a bassy malt note, adds both bready and sweet elements, and builds to a bitter crescendo.

This brew is amply hopped and satisfied my craving for bitterness.  However, it folds in an array of tastes to form a unique and complex flavour that seems to grow in intensity as you drink it down. I'm not totally sure what makes this beer, brewed in Belgium by a nomadic Danish brewer, a "Canadian Dream", but I certainly enjoyed it.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Beer Ice Cream!--Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

On a toasty afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee, I enjoyed some fantastic beery ice cream at the truly excellent Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Together in one bowl, I had a scoop of Yazoo Sue and Rosemary Bar Nuts and a scoop of Cherry Lambic Sorbet.  Woah!

I'm not always a huge fan of cherry, but this lambic sorbet is great! It's slightly tart with an exciting sour cherry flavour. It's sweet, but not too sweet.

The Yazoo Sue is nutty and creamy. The beer flavour is nestled in deep and the rosemary comes through beautifully.

Served together, these beery concoctions make an unusual combo. In a bite with both, the cherry takes the fore.

If you find yourself in Nashville, I can't recommend Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams highly enough. They make lots of great stuff, and they're happy to let you sample to your heart's content.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Red Rocket Chili Stout

Red Rocket Chili Stout comes from Gravenhurst, Ontario's Sawdust City Brewing Co. It's a spicy, 5% alcohol stout, deeply dark black brew topped with a svelte tan head. It has a mild, chocolatey aroma with a dusting of capsicum pepper pique. I had a pint on tap with a buddy at one of my favourite Toronto beer bars, and he graciously agreed to share his thoughts for a review.

My buddy found the Chili Stout to be an overall light stout that hits chocolatey first, with some spice hitting you a bit later. He said that it was almost refreshing by the end, and that he'd definitely drink it again.

Buddy gave this stuff an 8.0 out of 10--he'd have rated it higher if the alcohol percentage was higher.

For me, I found it to be an unusually spicy brew. It kicks off with some rich chocolate and transitions into a delightfully spicy jolt. The heat stays with you long after each sip. The finish is bitter, but only slightly. The mouthfeel is quite thin. I'd have liked a higher percentage and a touch more bitterness, but overall, I found this to be a pretty charming brew.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Old Style Pilsner

Old Style Pilsner is brewed by Molson, in various cities across Canada. It checks in at 5% and comes in loud 473mL cans that feature a weird frontier scene and includes a horse drawn carriage, a teepee, a biplane, a jeep, and more, all with a bold (ugly) red, white, green, and yellow colour scheme.

It's a very clear, pale straw pilsner, topped with a nice layer of white head. It has a very pungent grain aroma and a really thin mouthfeel. Old Style debuts with mild grass and corn flavour. the finish has a respectable hop profile, but there is another flavour in there that provides an unwelcome note of funk. Additionally, the finish has a sweetness that runs parallel to the bitter, which doesn't strike me as strictly necessary.

The can is eye-catching, but otherwise, this is a pretty ordinary macro-brewed lager. It's easy-drinking, but unexciting.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Shoulders of Giants Imperial IPA

Shoulders of Giants is an Imperial India Pale Ale from the beer artisans at Barrie, Ontario's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. I had a smallish glass--it does contain 10% alcohol after all--pumped from the cask at one of Toronto's most celebrated beer houses.

Shoulders was a swampy brown brew with khaki highlights. It arrived with a thick and durable carpet of cream coloured foam.  It had a substantially hefty aroma that had a surprising tropical fruit essence living amongst some citrus hops--it's sweet meets tart, with a bit of a candied quality.

A cask ale, but a boozy one, Shoulders of Giants had a creamy mouthfeel that sheltered its boozy heat, making it a dangerous sipper. It had a fairly sweet flavour, chalk full of passion fruit and pineapple. It wasn't nearly as overwhelmingly bitter as I expected from an imperial I.P.A.--rather, the bitterness was subtle and slow-building.

I found this to be a fascinating mug of suds. It's strong, but gently so, almost like a friendly giant. Ha! If you see this brew on offer, be sure to give it a whirl--as long as you don't have anything important to do with the rest of your day. I had mine on an empty stomach after a vigorous squash match, and it left me satisfied, but thoroughly unproductive.

This is the strongest cask ale that I have ever sampled. I was wary of how the boozy oomph might translate through a beer engine, but I needn't have worried. This stuff worked really well. It was soft and sultry, but backed by a deadly heat--a real femme fatale.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Tatra is a pale lager that hails from Żywiec, Poland, where it's brewed by Żywiec Brewing. The 500mL can boasts of "Exceptional Taste". Tatra pours a pale, golden hue, is amply carbonated, and has a white head that fades quickly. It contains 5.5% alcohol.

It has an aroma that is mild, but crisp and grainy. Other than the slightly elevated alcohol content (which I dig), there isn't a whole lot to set this stuff apart from the seemingly limitless array of European pale lagers on the market. It has a clean, mild flavour that starts with a dollop of sweet corn and then moves into a brief finish that has the slightest hint of a hoppy uptick.

If you're interested in pale lagers, this is a fine one. In my opinion, it's a bit too mild flavour-wise, but it gets the job done. There is, however, a pretty sweet beer-drinking, pipe-wielding, hat-wearing gent on the can, if that kind of thing matters to you.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Latitude 48 IPA

Born in Boston, Mass, Latitude 48 IPA is a child of the Boston Beer Company, a member of the Samuel Adams Hopology Collection.  L48 is sold in 355mL bottles that looks to have a map of Washington State on the label. It contains a respectable 6% alcohol. It's a very clear India pale ale that boasts a handsome copper colour and pours 'neath a thick, almost tan head.

Latitude 48 has a lemony aroma with some caramel notes. Flavour-wise, it has some caramel structure, but the beer is primarily driven by a hop engine. It has very strong notes of citrus rind, particularly lemon.

For a large-scale brewer, the Boston Beer Company has delivered a pretty nicely constructed IPA. It's neither as bitter nor as strong as many small batch India pales, which gives these suds some wider appeal, but it has enough interesting flavour notes to appeal to more discerning beer fans. Some thought clearly went into this stuff. I like the lemon zest, though more emphasis on the front end flavours would have been nice and a bit more unapologetic hopping would have suited me fine. This is a pretty agreeable brew--one I'd be glad to try again.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Okanagan Spring Summer Weizen

Okanagan Spring Summer Weizen is a seasonal release from the Okanagan Spring Brewery in Vernon, British Columbia. It's a wheat beer that clocks in at 5% alcohol and comes in 341mL bottles. It's a very pretty specimen too--cloudy and golden, topped with a white head.

The bottle talks about an apricot flavour, and that's definitely the first thing that I noticed in the aroma. The sweet nose is dominated by apricot. The flavour is also apricot heavy, thought the mouthfeel is disappointingly thin. I wanted this beer to be sweet, but it's actually quite saccharine. Still, the flavour is quite compelling. It's a somewhat unusual take on the what beer formula. In behind the apricot flavour, there are also notes of banana.

If this beer was a bit sharper, a bit more carbonated, and a bit crisper, it'd get a great grade. Even so, it's unusual enough and sufficiently flavourful for solid marks. i you like apricots, you'll dig this potion. I picture it pairing nicely with grilled chicken of fish out on the patio.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge

Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge is a Flemish sour ale. It comes from Brouwerij Bockor, in Bellegem, Belgium. Sold in 330mL bottles, C.J.R. contains 5.5% alcohol. According to the label, it's aged 18 months in oak barrels.

It's a very attractive chestnut coloured ale, underneath a rich, cream head. It's amply carbonated. This stuff is not quite clear, but not exactly cloudy either. It has a tart, almost briny aroma. The extremely sour flavour made my lips pucker. This is easily among the most sour beers I've ever tasted. Tart fruit notes of cranberry and sour cherries are the chief flavour notes, but there is also an interesting yeasty taste that runs parallel. The finish is sour and short. The label indicated that the oak aging would provide a subtle vanilla flavour, but I'm afraid it was too subtle for my boorish palate.

A sour ale with lots of character, this is a quality brew. If you're into tart, young red wines, this stuff is definitely for you. However, if you haven't tried sour ales, tread carefully.  I gave my wife a sip of this stuff and the face that she made was priceless.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Urthel Hop-It

Urthel Hop-It has confusing origins. The label states that it is brewed by Bierbrouwerij de Koningshoeven, in Aj Tilburg, The Netherlands; however, the cap confusingly lists The Leyerth Breweries, Ruiselede, Flanders, Belgium. Also, the bottle says "Product of Holland", which suggests that the Dutch brewery is the real source.

The 330mL bottle features a a beer-swilling cartoon fellow. This brew is pretty potent, clocking in at 9.5% alcohol. It is billed as a special blonde ale, and pours a cloudy golden colour. It has tonnes of carbonation and quite a lot of yeasty sediment. Its bright white head is very thick.

The nose is very yeasty, with a citrus tang. It's quite a bit like a witbier, but without the coriander. This stuff has a really unusual flavour combo--it's very boozy, like a Belgian ale, starts out sweet, with some citrus notes, and its finish is exceedingly dry and bitter, though not exactly hoppy. There is clearly a whole mess of hops involved in the production of this stuff, but they don't provide the expected notes of evergreen, resin, or grapefruit. Instead, the hops create a very dry finish that prevents this beer from being too sweet.

At 9.5%, it's a good thing that this stuff comes in a small bottle. It tastes quite strong, but I'd never have guessed it was quite that heavily boozed up if I hadn't read it on the label. I found Urthel Hop-It to be a bit yeasty for my tastes, but it has an interesting, rich flavour that passes through a number of different taste and texture jurisdictions. Seldom have I tried a beer that started so sweet and finished so dry. It's a unique beer, but for some reason, not one that I feel all that compelled to revisit anytime soon.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Iron Throne Blonde Ale

In honour of the return of the truly excellent Game of Thrones, I thought I'd fast track my review of Brewery Ommegang's Iron Throne Blonde Ale. Synergy!

According to the label, this beer, brewed in homage to the Game of Thrones, is "suitable to serve to kings, or pretenders to the Iron Throne". Hailing from Cooperstown, New York, ITBA is sold in impressive corked 650mL bottles featuring an image of the Iron Throne itself. It contains a hearty 6.5% alcohol and "is brewed with grains of paradise and lemon peel". The label also points out that this beer is "part of the Duvel family of fine Belgian ales". It's a cloudy, muted, golden hued ale, topped with a lusty white head.  Be sure to pour it gently, lest your beer foam over.

It has an aroma that is both yeasty and citrus-tinged. Iron Throne is quite mild, particularly on the front end. The flavour blends the bitter, tart, tang of lemon peel with a sourdough yeastiness. It has a very short, dry finish with a dusting of hops and, to my mind, the best element: an intriguing spice quality. It's subtly (dangerously) boozy, with a tame, but fascinating, flavour profile.

If I were in charge of branding at Ommegang, I'd have made the Iron Throne beer something a bit more formidable--perhaps a double I.P.A. or a take no prisoners imperial porter--in order to reflect the daunting might and influence associated with the seat.  But I'm not. The powers that be opted for a blonde ale (a nod to King Joffrey?), and they came up with a pretty fine one.

As a big, bearded, loud, occasionally drunken, and frequently boorish oaf, I can safely say that Robert Baratheon wouldn't turn down a pint (of a keg) of this nectar. This is a very approachable Belgian-style brew with enough depth to satisfy a beer snob. I'd have liked a bit more flavour; bolder citrus notes in the front end and deeper hop lines toward the finish. New initiates to Belgian-style ales: get this stuff. Hardened fans of Belgian brews might find Iron Throne a touch on the mild side.

Rating; 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Old Boy Classic Ale

Old Boy Classic Ale is my third and final review of a variety pack from Vancouver, British Columbia's Parallel 49 Brewing Company. Old Boy's 341mL bottles feature a pint of beer decked out as a distinguished gent, complete with top hat and monocle.

At 5% alcohol and 27 IBUs, Old Boy is a handsome, darkly brownish ale with some ruby highlights. It pours beneath a creamy head. A nice nose features molasses and brown sugar atop a malt base. The flavour begins in nutty malt country, before crossing the border into a land of short hoppy finishes. There are notes of molasses and even a touch of vanilla along the way.

This beer was both darker and more bitter than expected--both very welcome traits in an ale. Smooth and refined, with a nice flavour, this stuff is worthy of the Mr. Peanut getup.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale

Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale is perhaps not the world's most culturally sensitive beer name. Similarly, its label, adorned with a buxom woman weeping a blood red tear, isn't exactly politically correct. Frankly, I found the branding objectionable. I wouldn't complain if Vancouver, British Columbia's Parallel 49 Brewing Company, the makers of this brew, opted for a re-brand.

As for the beer itself, it contains 6% alcohol and checks in at a burly 40 IBUs. It is sold in 341mL bottles (I had two as part of a variety pack). It pours a hazy amber colour, topped with an off-white head. Its rich malt aroma has sweet notes of brown sugar and a slight bitter twist. It is a very flavourful nectar. It begins with a heavy bill of malt before giving way to a hoppier-than-expected finish. There are caramel notes which round out the malty body into an appealing shape. The finish nicely compliments the malt, rather than trying to compete with it. And at 6%, there is enough oomph to keep my liver happy.

This is a really tasty brew. It's not totally memorable, but it is definitely well-executed. If it weren't for the disagreeable branding, I wouldn't have much to complain about at all.

Rating: 8 out of 10.