Saturday, 29 November 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Stir Stick Stout

Stir Stick Stout hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's my first foray into the offerings of the Half Pints Brewing Co., a brewery that I've heard many nice things about. According to the 650mL bottle, this stuff is a strong stout, though at 5.6% alcohol, I feel like this isn't a particularly apt description. This is a coffee-infused stout, though unfortunately, there is no information given about the coffee used. Who brewed it? Is it local? Organic? Fair trade? I don't know. Give me the details! I feel like this is a bit of a missed opportunity.

This deep, dark ale pours with a cumulus of tawny head that just won't quit. It's a very fragrant brew, with a blend of blend of bitterness and malt aromatics, alongside a pleasant java subtext. This stout tastes pretty bitter, with espresso and molasses notes that jive with a moderate malt foundation.

This is a rich and flavourful beer. There are nice coffee and chocolate leanings, and a hearty bitter quality. I found it to be an enjoyable after dinner beer and one that'd go very nicely with a chocolaty dessert or a cheese plate.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Winnikeg, Manitobeer--Fort Garry Dark English Mild Ale

Stay tuned over the next few days for a series of reviews of beers that hail from scenic Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Winnipeg's Fort Garry Brewing Company gave life to Fort Garry Dark English Mild Ale. This brew, sold in 473mL cans, contains 5% alcohol and pours an attractive dark amber colour topped with a quickly thinning off-white head. According to the can, it has a gentle 16 IBUs.

D.E.M.A. had a malty scent with some notes of vanilla and brown sugar. It featured a lovely smooth mouthfeel from start to finish, as well as a flavour that tended toward the malty, but with sugary mocha and vanilla elements.

I found this to be an enjoyable beer, though likely one that is too sweet and slight to bring me back to the well frequently. Certainly a good enough effort to leave me wanting to try more Fort Garry beer.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014


On Bar Hop's beer list, Amsterdam Brewing Co.'s Cruiser is listed as a "North American Pale Ale". I had an 18oz. draught of this 4.9%alcohol brew. This Torontonian ale arrived with a thick and fluffy off-white head atop a hazy reddish-gold liquid.

Cruiser has a sweetish, citrus aroma that feels like a grapefruit syrup. It has a moderately thin, crisp, and dry mouthfeel. This beer has very little going on on the malt side of things--the needle tips heavily to bitter. Notes of resin and citrus dominate, and there is an almost tart element. The finish is also citrus-y, but has a faintly disagreeable earthiness that would be great in another beer, but doesn't really work with the vibe cultivated in this one.

This is a pretty fair American pale ale. It's flavourful and refreshing, but with a final note that isn't entirely on.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Take the Black Stout

Take the Black Stout is my third brush with Cooperstown, New York's Brewery Ommegang's Game of Thrones beers (read my reviews of Iron Throne Blonde and Fire and Blood Red). I found it appropriate that I enjoyed this brew while surrounded by a "wall" of snow. Sold in 750mL corked bottles, the label features a Weirwood tree. According to the label, this 7% alcohol tipple is brewed with star anise and licorice root.

Take the Black is an onyx stout topped with a stunningly thick and notably durable tan head. It has a considerably yeasty aroma that gives this beer a Belgian feel, which is certainly not surprising from an Ommegang brew. This yeastiness continues into the flavour, where it mingles with notes of spice, raisin, and, at the finish, a healthy wallop of bitterness. There's some sweetness in there too, but it is well tempered.

This is a pretty tasty stout. It has enough boozy warmth to keep the men of the Night's Watch from freezing and enough flavour to keep beer geeks smiling.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Bengal Lancer IPA

While killing time before a dinner engagement with my wife, I had a pint of Bengal Lancer IPA on tap at The Bristol, a newish Toronto pub not too far from our house. Lancer is a Fuller's product, brewed by Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, in London, England. According to the Fuller's website, it contains 5% alcohol (5.3% in the bottle).

My pint arrived clear and golden, topped with a downy tuft of off-white head. It had more malty aromatics than I was expecting, but overall the nose was was spicily bitter. B.L. has a mild, well balanced flavour for an IPA. It got the ball rolling with caramel and malt, before easing into a gently bitter plateau. The hops flavour was not robust, certainly not by IPA standards--it had an agrarian, faintly woodsy character.

Bengal Lancer is a gateway IPA; the kind you'd start a neophyte beer drinker out with, so as not to blow their tastebuds off when exploring the style. Or maybe a fine brew to wash down some grub. It lacks the big flavour, saucy hops, and formidable booze that I have come to expect from an IPA. It's not a bad little beer, but it left me a bit underwhelmed.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Cockpuncher? That's right. Cockpuncher. This Imperial India pale ale is a formidable, dick-strikingly good beer. It comes from Toronto, Ontario's Indie Ale House and contains a heavy duty 10% alcohol. I had a 13oz. pour on tap at the excellent Bar Hop.

Cockpuncher is a somewhat hazy brass-coloured ale, topped with a persistent off-white head. It has an entrancing aroma that is vigourously hoppy  and grapefruit centered. There is considerable boozy sweetness in the introductory stages, but this is cut through by an almost excessively dry bitterness. The bitterness of this brew is citrus-heavy, but it's also resinous and slightly spicy. This is one hoppy mofo. I'd love to know what its IBU count is--gotta be over 80, which you'll likely be if you tackle this pungent nectar. Don't drink and drive!

One of Ontario's most audacious and in-your-face IIPAs. With a name like Cockpuncher, that kind of assertiveness should be no surprise.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Gahan Island Red

From Canada's smallest province comes Gahan Island Red Premium Red Ale. This stuff is brewed by the PEI Brewing Company out of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. This clear, copper-coloured ale contains 5.4% alcohol and comes in a 500mL bottle. It pours with a quickly thinning off-white head.

There are mild caramel and malt aromatics, as well as a measure of hops looming in the background. The flavour kicks off with subtly sweet burnt toffee, which is subsumed by a modestly hoppy finish. There is also a slight metallic flavour and a bit of breadiness.

This is a nice, modestly flavourful red ale off of P.E.I. If you see it, I say give it a whirl.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Picaroons 104th Regiment Brown Ale

From the sprawling metropolis of Fredericton, New Brunswick comes the 104th Regiment Brown Ale. This brown grog is brewed by the talented folks at Northampton Brewing Company. At only 4.2% alcohol, this is a very sessionable ale. The 500mL bottle features a history lesson about 1,000+ kilometre march of NB's 104th Regiment to Kingston, Ontario in 1813. Having driven that distance and voewed never to do so again, I can hardly imagine marching it.

104th has a nice looking oaken colour, and pours with a thick tan head. I found it to be somewhat surprising that this beer was fairly clear. It has a nutty aroma that features a faint whiff of tobacco. This brew is considerably flavourful, particularly considering the low alcohol content. There are notes of tobacco, nut, and some faintly sweet molasses charms. It has a deceptively thin mouthfeel.

This is a quality session ale. Light on booze but jammed with flavour.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Five Ontario Beers That Own My Fridge

Craft brewing is alive and well in Canada from coast to coast. While my adopted home province isn't yet pumping out the quality and quantity of beers as Quebec, it's well on its way to becoming a major producer of exceptional suds. Over the last few years, I've reviewed dozens of beers that originate in Ontario, including some truly elite ones. This post, however, isn't strictly about the best Ontario beers. Rather, it's about those beers that find their way into my refrigerator most frequently.

As you'll be able to see from my list, I'm a hop devotee. When I'm not looking for new things to review, my tastes run to the bitter. Citrus hops and spicy rye get me fired up.

The five beers below are the ones that I regularly stock my fridge with and the ones that I regularly bring to parties. The criteria here are beers that are: 1.) widely available in liquor stores across the province, 2.) that I love, and 3.) that are Stout Man staples. If you invite me over, there's a pretty solid chance that I'll show up with one or more of these beauties, and we'll all be richer for it.

Note: This was a hard list to make, and I need to give hat tips to the following honourable mentions: Conductor's Craft Ale, Dead Elephant, Prison Break Pilsner, 666 Devil's Pale Ale, Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale, 10W30, Lug Tread, Duggan's #9, and Tankhouse Ale. These are all terrific beers and you should buy them.

5. Cameron's Rye Pale Ale

This beer rocks rye spiciness, grapefruit bitterness, and considerable balance, all at a hefty 6.6% alcohol. This brew comes from the woefully under-rated Cameron's Brewing Company, out of Oakville, Ontario. What keeps me coming back is the strength and depth of flavour. Read my review here.

4. Naughty Neighbour American Style Pale Ale

When you want huge citrus hops flavour without pickling your liquor and muddling your mind, you can hardly do better that Nickel Brook Brewery's Naughty Neighbour American Style Pale Ale. This pale ale contains a restrained 4.9% alcohol, making it wonderfully session-friendly. However, it doesn't give an inch in terms of flavour. A second entry out of Halton Region, Nickel Brook hails from Burlington. Read my review here.

3. Boneshaker Unfiltered India Pale Ale

Boneshaker comes from Toronto, where it is brewed by the Amsterdam Brewing Co. It's the strongest beer on my list, at 7.1%, and also the most flavourful. It is packed with a ridiculous amount of citrus hops that give off a blast of grapefruit and a tongue-pummeling level of bitterness. Sure, this beer will knock your socks off, but it's also beautifully crafted. It's not subtle by any stretch, but it is wonderfully well-made and always delicious. Read my review here.

2. Fire in the Rye Roasted Rye Pale Ale

My love for rye ales is no secret, and I've yet to sample a rye beer from Ontario that can hold a candle to Double Trouble Brewing Co.'s Fire in the Rye. This beer, born and raised in Guelph, is bitter: it clocks in at a Stout Man-pleasing 60 IBUs. But it also has ample rye heat and a not-to-be-sneered-at 6.1% alcohol. Fire in the Rye is the only entry on my list that I have yet to review. Rest assured, I have do have a review drafted. I just have to get around to typing it up. Notably, though, Double Trouble's Prison Break Pilsner (which I have reviewed) is the lone pale lager that almost made this list.

1. Mad Tom IPA

Muskoka Brewery's Mad Tom IPA is, without a doubt, the beer that most often inhabits my fridge. It isn't necessarily the best beer in Ontario (though I do think it'd at least be in the running), but it is definitely the one that I always seem to have on hand. In fact, there is seldom a time when I don't have at least one bottle or can of this 6.4% alcohol gem of an ale in my icebox. The pride and joy of Bracebridge in cottage country, Mad Tom is a study in bitterness, flavour, and craft. At 64 IBUs, it doesn't fool around, tending toward citrus hops, but it is also accessible enough to make it suitable for all beery occasions. Read my review here.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hunky Dory Pale Ale

No, Hunky Dory Pale Ale wasn't inspired by the rad David Bowie album (to the best of my knowledge, anyway); it comes from Shelburne, Nova Scotia, a town that apparently has a reputation for dory making. Hunky Dory is lovingly crafted by the Boxing Rock Brewing Co. I enjoyed a 341mL bottle of this 5% alcohol pale ale. The ingredients list includes such additives as honey, lemon and orange zest, and green tea.

Hunky Dory is a lightly hazy golden ale that pours topped with a white head. It's mild aroma is fresh, and has sweet and bitter elements. It has a bright, vivacious flavour that isn't terribly remarkably initially, but which has a pleasing dry finish that I quite enjoyed. The finish was where the green tea was in evidence, though I wasn't really able to taste the honey.

This is another solid offering from Boxing Rock. Not as exceptional as The Vicar's Cross, but certainly a well made brew.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Vicar's Cross Double IPA

The Vicar's Cross Double IPA comes from a great little brewery in Shelburne, Nova Scotia called Boxing Rock. I enjoyed a 1L swingtop growler stamped with BR's phenomenal logo. The Vicar's Cross weighs in at an impressive 8.5% alcohol.

I found a slightly cloudy copper ale. It had a spicy aroma that had some grapefruit notes and an undercurrent of boozy malt. There was a full-bodied grapefruit hops flavour--just wonderfully bitter. Along that was a respectable malt base and just enough sweetness to mask the burly alcohol content.

This is a really excellent double IPA out of a new Maritime brewery. If you find yourself on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, do yourself a favour and seek out The Vicar's Cross--it's a must-try beer.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Ghost River Golden Ale

From Memphis, Tennessee's Ghost River Brewing, Ghost River Golden Ale is a crystal clear, considerably carbonated, sunny gold beer that pours with a thick cloud of white head. It's sold in 12oz. bottles and the alcohol percentage isn't listed, nor is it listed on the website. However, I was able to glean that it has a mild 19 IBUs of bitterness.

There is a rich toasty grain aroma that I found very inviting. Flavour is grainy on the front end that I found to be a little wispy. However, a solid toasty and slightly bitter finish makes up fo the watery initial taste. Overall, there is a disappointing thin mouthfeel that increased drinkability, but lessened my enjoyment.

I'd have liked a bit more oomph, particularly on the front end. Still, I enjoyed this stuff pretty well. It was a gift from my partner's very thoughtful boss.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Life Sentence

Life Sentence is the progeny of a collaboration between two of the kingpins of Toronto, Ontario's craft brewing scene, Amsterdam Brewing Co. and Great Lakes Brewery. It's a big, bad triple IPA that packs a punch at a liver-wrinkling 10.5% alcohol. I had a 13oz. draught at one of my favourite beer joints, Bar Hop.

This swampy orange ale arrived a thin covering of off-white head. It had a tart, vaguely sweet aroma where satsuma and grapefruit mingle. This beer was wildly flavourful, but tasted hazardously less potent than its 10.5%. There was some alcohol heat, but this was hidden behind jumbo hops and citrus stank. There were a lot of sweet elements that played pretty nicely with the hops, though by the end of my glass, things were getting a touch cloying.

Life Sentence is a fine collaboration from GLB-sterdam, a brewing partnership that I definitely encourage.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Nebuchadnezzar Imperial India Pale Ale

Born of Omnipollo, out of Stockholm, Sweden, Nebuchadnezzar Imperial India Pale Ale contains a punchy 8.5% alcohol. This starköl is sold in badass stark 330mL bottles that feature a skeletal version of Ol' Glory.

Nebuchadnezzar is a murky orange-gold brew topped with a zealous off-white head. This beer has a gigantically bitter citrus aroma that jumped right up my nose the second that I pried off the cap. This is a very robust beer, even by Imperial India Pale Ale standards. The 'Nezzar has ample grapefruity hops sitting atop a sweet, boozy bod. More than just citrus, there are some other fruity notes, as well as a sticky resinousness. The finish strikes dryly and with hoppy gusto.

While I'd have enjoyed this stuff in a slightly bigger bottle and with a tiny bit less sweetness, I really enjoyed this beer. It's an excellent brew!

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Gouden Carolus--Cuvée van de Keizer-Jaargang 2013

Gouden Carolus--Cuvée van de Keizer-Jaargang 2013: a fine beer with a mouthful for a name. It comes from Mechelen, Belgium, where it's brewed by Brouwerij Het Anker. This stuff, which I presume to be an ale, is listed as an extra strong beer; apt, since it contains an unyielding 11% alcohol. It comes in jumbo corked 750mL bottles that can bring a drinker to his or her knees.

This is a swampy brown brew with some bright copper highlights. It pours beneath a very thick tan head. A very yeasty nose has notes of raisin and, perhaps not surprisingly, alcohol. It's an extremely sweet brew with a syrupy mouthfeel. There are notes of raisins and rum, along with considerable boozy pop. The finish has a slight bitter twist, but this stuff is really all about the malt and sweet.

I enjoyed this brew on a chilly December evening with a cigar. Clear your schedule if you're going to brave this bottle, because it is S.T.R.O.N.G. It's too powerful and sweet for anything more than special occasion quaffing.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.