Thursday, 31 December 2015

Top Reviews of 2015

In 2015, I've had the great privilege to try, think about, and review some pretty swell suds. Here are my ten favourite beers that I have reviewed in 2015--last year I did five, but I'm aiming higher this year. Note that these aren't necessarily the beers with the highest scores I awarded. Rather, they're the brews that, after drunken reflection, I loved the most, and would most like to get after again and again and again and again ...

10. Fracture Imperial IPA
9. Wizard Wolf Session Ale
8. Thrust! An IPA
7. Trappistes Rochefort 10
6. Smuttynose Imperial Stout
5. Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale
4. Omnipollo Fatamorgana
3. Short Walk, Long Pier Double IPA
2. Clifford Porter
1. Fire in the Rye Roasted Rye Pale Ale

Honourable Mentions:

Another Way to Rye
Viven Porter 
Hr. Frederiksen Imperial Stout

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Blind Man's Holiday Greensboro Pale Ale

Blind Man's Holiday Greensboro Pale Ale contains a hearty 6% alcohol and hits 42 on the IBU scale. It comes, unsurprisingly, from Greensboro, NC, where it's brewed up nice by Gibb's Hundred Brewing Company, a husband and wife operation that was closed while I was in town. Since the brewery is closed on Mondays, I had to get my taste of Blind Man's Holiday as a downtown bookseller called Scuppernong Books. Beer at a bookstore? How positively delightful.

I got me a pint of the stuff on draught. It turned up cloudy orange and nestled under a layer of off-white foam. It had a mild nose composed of tangy citrus and hops elements. I found the flavour to be a bit on the tart side, with lemon and grapefruit on the foreground and a slightly yeasty finish.

Blind Man's Holiday served me fairly well. It was easily drinkable and quite flavourful. However, as my pal K.C. pointed out, "it's nothing to write home about." But, since writing home about beer is basically how I travel, I felt compelled. This beer was all kinds of fine, but not much more. Still, it was well and deliberately made, with an almost Belgian-style finish, and made me curious about other Gibb's offerings.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Jam Session

Jam Session is yet another Charlottean ale that I downed on a recent trip to North Carolina. It's a pale ale brewed by the NoDa Brewing Company. At 5.1% it's a sessionable little brew that pours a sexy golden colour with a couple of inches of bright white head.

The Sesh has a mild but sunny nose--fruity, bitter, and a touch coppery. It's flavour is also quite unassuming, but in a well-made and considered kind of way. It's got tinny notes, as well as some peach and hops pops. Not an earth-shaking ale, but a darn good'un.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Bitter Waitress Black IPA

Happy holidays from the Stout Man! Have yourself a cold one, because you've earned it!

My first dance with an offering of the Shillow Beer Co., a Toronto beer-making establishment, was their Bitter Waitress Black IPA. Sold in cool looking 473mL cans, Bitter Waitress is a 6.5% ale. It proved to be a midnight black brew sporting a lush and fluffy tan head reminiscent of a stout.

Bitter Waitress displayed a bitter and slightly sweet roasted malt aroma. It's flavour kicked off smooth, well roasted, and malty up front, if perhaps a touch thin. However, the back end stormed the gates with a ribald hops profile that I found almost beguiling.

I'd never complain that the Ontario, or more specifically the Toronto beer scene is overcrowded. In the beer world, a busy marketplace is a drinker's dream. Based on the quality of Bitter Waitress, I get the impression that Shillow Beer Co. could be a welcome addition to the fold. Bitter and pushy, this black I.P.A. delivered a lot of the factors that I'm looking for from the style. The front end is a bit underwhelming, but the finish is bruising and verging on badass. Quality roasted malts throughout and dynamic hops make this beer well better than ordinary. I'll be keeping both eyes out for more Shillow brews to see whether this one was a rookie fluke or a harbinger of yet another strong contributor to craft brewing in the province I choose to inhabit.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Muskoka Winterweiss

I swapped a can of Muskoka Winterweiss from my ol' pal M.T. after an evening of Thai food, brews, and euchre. From Bracebridge, Ontario's Muskoka Brewery, it proved to be a cloudy brown dunkelweiss, that poured with a dramatic but short-lived cream head. Sold in 473mL cans, Winterweiss contained a standard 5% alcohol. It displayed a nutty, fruity aroma, with bunches of bananas and a hint of fruitcake. The flavour, slightly spicy, projected banana tones, as well as a malty base.

Enjoyable from start to finish, Winterweiss proved to be a charming Ontarian take on the dunkel, a dark German wheat beer. Seasonally appropriate on a chilly day at the dregs of November, it put a bit of fire in my belly, but did so in a mellow and agreeable way. While I'd have liked to see a touch more booze and body, particularly in terms of roasted malts, it showed itself to be an enjoyable grog.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Louis Cifer American Brown Ale

I got off work about an hour before my wife on a Wednesday evening and had to kill some time before date night, so I headed off in her direction and ducked into the Louis Cifer Brew Works, a relatively new brewpub on Toronto's east side. It was really early when I arrived, so the big place was almost empty which suited me fine. I grabbed a seat and ordered up a pint of their American Brown Ale, a 5.8% alcohol number brewed in house.

My pint turned up looking elegant--chestnut hued, clear, and created with a sudsy cream head. The ABA featured a quite pleasing aroma of nuts and roasted malt, backed with molasses. The flavour started slow, with a slightly flimsy, malty initial note, but picked up a bit of steam toward the finish, as roasted nut and malt asserted themselves a bit more emphatically. The finish even had a whisper of bitterness, though nowhere near at the level I was hoping for from an American brown.

If this stuff were simply offered as a brown ale, I'd have been a bit more keen on it, but by selling it as an American brown, I got my hops hopes up--my bitter bias riled--and found myself a trifle disappointed. LC's take on the style was not what I expected, though the beer I received did taste pretty good. A bit more noise from the front end and substantial bitterness to close and this stuff would have had me singing its praises. Instead, I'm merely speaking them.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Twin Pines Imperial IPA

On this, my 31st birthday, I wanted to review something big, strong, and charming, just like me.

There was a Sawdust City Brewing Co. tap takeover going on during a recent visit to east end Toronto standout The Only Cafe. As I'm a longtime fan of Sawdust City's excellent Lone Pine IPA, the pride of Gravenhust, Ontario, I jumped at the chance to try a pour of Twin Pines Imperial IPA, it's big, bad relation. According to the Sawdust City website, this chunky IIPA clocks in at 8.8% alcohol and 88 IBUs.

Twin Pines arrived with a hazy, slightly rusty orange look. It came covered with a thick and very persistent cream head. It had a boisterous nose that blathered on about grapefruit, tropical, and bitter notes. Full bodied and boozy, Twin Pines had a formidable flavour--at times too sweet, but building to a dank, resinous "hopsplosion." There were juicy citrus notes, but it was really the sticky resin that made me sit up and take notice. Unlike Line Pine, there isn't a heavy focus here on evergreen notes, though it does appear as a whisper.

Twin Pines lacked the artful modesty of its Lone Pine forebear, but it certainly packed a heady punch and a ton of flavour into a pint of ale. Another beaut from one of the under appreciated, under the radar, bright lights of Ontario's always improving craft beer scene.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Lenoir Belgian Style Ale

Lenoir Belgian Style Ale is named for Jean J. Lenoir who, according to the 473mL can, is the Belgian engineer responsible for inventing the internal combustion engine. Bell City Brewing Co. is the driving force behind this beer from Brantford, Ontario, that is brewed using Belgian candi sugar and which contains 6.5% alcohol.

Lenoir is an almost clear, reddish-blonde ale. It pours with an off-white fog and is blessed with a rustic, yeasty aroma. The flavour isn't as assertive as most true Belgian ales, but it does feature some familiar elements--mild, fruity notes, substantial yeastiness, and a degree of boozy, dry ending.

While the can says "Belgian Style Ale", I'd like to be a bit more specific. I don't think this beer is strong enough or hearty enough to fall in the Abbey category. I'm more inclined to class it as either a Belgian-style pale ale or a Belgian-style blonde. Whatever class it falls into, I found Lenoir to be a very enjoyable ale. A bit mild, but with some charm.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Catherine Wheel Belgian IPA

Proving that Ontario breweries can do pretty passable Belgian-style ales is a beauty like Catherine Wheel Belgian IPA from Toronto's Bellwoods Brewery. At 7.2%, Catherine Wheel comes in 500mL bottles festooned with attractive and colourful labels. It's a cloudy golden orange beer topped with an effusive white head.

Catherine Wheel has some pretty funky, yeasty barnyard notes on the nose, alongside fruity and bitter elements. The brew has a tangy flavour, packed with ample hoppiness, stanky yeast, and a dry, brittle finish.

To my palate, this stuff is more "Belgian" than it is "IPA"--I'd have liked a better-developed hops profile to really guide the flavour. It delivers satisfying yeastiness, though, and an interesting flavour.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Hi-Wire Oatmeal Pale Ale

Hi-Wire Oatmeal Pale Ale comes from Asheville, North Carolina. It's a 4.5% alcohol product of The Three Ring Brewing Co. and also my first brush with a pale ale brewed with oatmeal.

Hi-Wire is a bright golden brew; it's hazy and pours with a thin white head. It's a thin-bodied ale, but also a pretty crisp one. It has a flowery, hop-forward scent. The flavour is a touch bitter and has a pleasant perfumed vibe. The finish is dry and quick.

This was a pretty tasty little ale, though I struggled to find much oatmeal character in it. Delicate, but a bit thin, this was a beer worth trying.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Jade IPA

The 750mL bottle that houses Jade IPA has a cool film noire look. The beer within contains 7.4% alcohol and a burly 86 IBUs. It's an almost clear golden ale that pours with a thick and creamy head. It has a juicy, tropical nose--mango and papaya, as well as some tart grapefruit. That fruitiness powers the flavour too, but backed by some serious hops goodness.

Juicy and tasty, Jade IPA is a beaut from Winston-Salem, North Carolina's Foothills Brewing. I'd gladly murder another of these animals any day of the week. Only complaint is that it's a bit thin for a strong ale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Guilford Mover and Quaker Ale

I got a 7.8% rye IPA aged in bourbon soaked wood chips while in Greensboro--a gift from an awesome dude named Greg that I met during a trip to Davidson. Greg and his wife Jenn brewed this stuff as a wedding gift for a family member and Greg said that this charming ale was selected as the grand champ at a home brewing competition in Iowa. I asked Greg what he was calling their ale, and he responded that he wasn't much good at names, so I'm unilaterally calling  the heretofore unnamed beer a Guilford Mover and Quaker Ale. Hope that's OK ...

The "Mover and Quaker" is a swampy brown grog. It's a very sweet-smelling brew, with pleasant oaky notes. The flavour is quite powerful, sweet, and woodsy. There are vanilla-soaked bourbon elements and a beefy hops finish. What's missing is the promised rye heat and IPA bitterness. For me, this beer was closer to a dark ale or maybe a brown porter. 

Especially since this is a home brew effort, Greg and Jenn's beer was a pretty seriously impressive, but I'd have been pretty darn pleased if it were a commercial offering. It was boozy, flavourful, and well-made. I'm not going to assign it a rating, since it feels wrong to put a number on a gifted home brew, but it would have done well.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Hop Cakes Imperial India Pale Ale

Hop Cakes Imperial India Pale Ale is a behemoth at 10.2% alcohol. Plus, apparently it's "soaked in lots and lots of delicious Vermont maple syrup". I'm listening.

I was gifted a 16oz can of the stuff during a trip to North Carolina. It comes from Charlotte, where it's brewed by NoDa Brewing Company. According to the NoDa website, it's a member of their "NoDables" series. It's a hazy orange grog topped with a thin layer of off-white head. There is a sweet and powerfully boozy nose. The beer is thick and very sweet. There isn't a whole lot of overt maple in the flavour, but there is some sticky syrup sugariness. There is a layer of dank, resinous hops that brings some heat.

This beer is wildly strong and very flavourful. It's way too sweet by the end of pint, but tastes pretty decent until that point. My beer was also a bit heavy on sediment.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Hop Continuum No. 2 Mosaic Red IPA

DuClaw Brewing Co.'s Hop Continuum No. 2 Mosaic Red IPA is a very pretty beer from Baltimore, Maryland. It's a cloudy, ruddy brew--rusty and covered with a fog of creamy head. It came in a 12oz bottle and contains 6% alcohol. It packed a pungent aroma: floral, hoppy, and slightly coppery. The flavour walked the same line, with initial earthy maltiness, metallic and floral notes, and a classy hops finish.

Hop Continuum Two is a fine red IPA. A bit more ballast would help out, but this stuff doesn't need much assistance.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Keller Kölsch

Keller Kölsch comes from Greensboro, NC, where its brewed at Natty Greene's Brewing Company, a little brewpub located in downtown. According to the chalkboard at the bar, the Double K contains a modest 4.9% alcohol. It's a faintly hazy dull gold ale--nicely carbonated and topped with a sharp white head. It has an earthy, grainy nose that is nicely replicated in the flavour. I enjoyed a pint on tap fresh from the brewery. A pretty beer, though it has a tiny bit of sediment at the bottom.

The mouthfeel lacks the crispness that I wanted to see and it was quite thin. However, the flavour pops pretty nicely and left me reasonably satisfied.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Omnipollo Fatamorgana

Omnipollo Fatamorgana drew me in with its beautiful and simple label. The 12 oz bottle is adorned with a stylized moon reflecting on water. From Sweden, but brewed in Westminster, Maryland, Fatamorgana is an imperial India pale ale that is constructed, according to the label, by Pub Dog Brewing Co. It clocks in at a respectable 8% and pours hazily, cloudily orange with a chipper white head.

There is a juicy, bitter grapefruit nose that packs a potent punch. For a hearty imperial, the flavour is quite mild and nuanced. It's citrus-leaning, slightly sweet, and politely hoppy.

Truly a delicious beer, Fatamorgama has lots of great things to offer. It was pretty pricy for a single bottle, but well, well worth it. I downed my bottle just before sunset at a friend's lake house on Lake Tillery, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was glorious.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Mountain Shadow Black IPA

During a voyage to North Carolina, I made a stop, with some amazing ladies, at an awesome little bottle shop called the Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews. It was a pretty righteous establishment with a wealth of beers to try. One that I opted for was Mountain Shadow, a Black IPA built in Blowing Rock, NC, by the Blowing Rock Brewing Company. Listed at 6.8% alcohol, my brew arrived coal  black and covered with a thin, off-white head.

It had a surprisingly mild aroma with roasted malt notes. The flavour is a touch more assertive: roasty, malty, and darkly hoppy. Not as IBU-heavy as I was anticipating, but still fairly bitter. There's some licorice, too.

Quite a nice little ale. If I wasn't in a beery Mecca filled with a million things to try, I'da had another. It could have been a bit more zesty, but it got the job done.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 27 November 2015


Styled an "Alabama Common", Workman is based on the California Common style. It hails from Madison, Alabama, where it is assembled by an outfit known as the Blue Pants Brewery. I picked up a 12oz. bottle of this 5% alcohol lager during a trip to the American South.

It was a cloudy golden-orange brew topped with a very sturdy off-white head. It had a grain-driven, malty and slightly bready aroma. The flavour started with yeasty tendencies, almost like a Belgian blonde ale. It proved to be a pretty full flavoured and punch little lager. There is a healthy malt-heavy profile with an uptick of hops at the finish.

I found this to be a tasty and interesting beer.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Another Way To Rye IPA

Another Way To Rye IPA comes from Franklin, Tennessee, where it is lovingly crafted by the oddly named Turtle Anarchy Brewing Company. During a trip to Nashville, I picked up a growler of this good stuff at an amazing beer seller called Craft Brewed Bottle Shop & Tasting Room. According to the Turtle Anarchy website, this stuff contains 6.2% alcohol and a pretty solid 62 IBUs.

We lugged the growler up to a friend's place but only drank half (she had lots of other beers to contend with). Finished it off a couple of days later--it had gone a bit flat, but still tasted pretty nice. It was a clear, copper coloured ale that had a hoppy, citrusy aroma. There was a healthy hop profile, bolstered by some high flying rye character.

My first impression of this brew was really favourable. The second experience drinking flat beer was less so, but I'd never hold that against them, since it was my fault I didn't finish the growler while it was fresh.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Class V India Pale Ale

Class V India Pale Ale's snazzy 473mL can lists an IBU count of 72, and describes that as "sessionably hoppy". The can also says "Make your mother proud" next to the recycling emblem. We're off to a good start.

This 5.5% alcohol beer comes from Foresters Falls, Ontario. It's put together by an outfit called Whitewater Brewing Co. According to the can, Class V is "hand-crafted using only the freshest ingredients from the Ottawa Valley." This statement left me with questions: Are all of the ingredients used actually from the Ottawa Valley, or are they just assuring me that those ingredients that do come from the Ottawa Valley are the freshest? Semantics aside, Class V is a murky copper ale that pours with an agreeable cap of off-white head. The aroma flits between dank, citrus hops and rich, caramel malts. The beer smells stronger than its 5.5% listing. In terms of flavour, I found things to be a bit too far on the sweet side, but there are nice soggy citrus hops underneath.

For an IPA, Class V is well understrength. 5.5% is far too low. Call this stuff an APA though, and I'm pretty happy. Despite its low number, it does deliver a pleasant flavour and hearty bitterness. If this beer were less sweet and a bit drier, I'd love it. As it is, though, I like it a fair bit.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Brettal Head All Brett Pale Ale

The 500mL bottle of Brettal Head All Brett Pale Ale is pretty darn rad. It's emblazoned with a goat and a crescent moon, and looks pretty sweet. The bottle advises that one should "Keep Refrigerated" and "Drink Fresh--Do Not Age". My fridge was pretty full, so I had to lay this stuff down on its side. A week later when I finally got around to uncapping it, I found that there was a line of yeasty sediment along the side of the bottle that was resting on the fridge.

This murky yellow-orange ale features a thick blanket of bright white head. The ale contains the standard 5% alcohol and has a dynamite aroma that is bitter, but but buoyed by tropical fruit notes and a nice yeasty streak. The flavour and mouthfeel are both less substantial than I expected--really, this stuff is pretty thin-bodied. The flavour, though mild, is quite nice. There's a bit of Belgian-style yeast fruitiness that leads to a modestly hoppy citrus and passion fruit finish.

I prefer a lot more hops wallop in my pale ales, but the interesting flavour is worth more than a little love. Brettal Head All Brett Pale Ale is yet another fine ale from the beer wizards at Toronto, Ontario's Bellwoods Brewery.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Old Tomorrow Canadian Pale Ale

Brewed in homage to Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, Old Tomorrow Canadian Pale Ale is a Torontonian beer fashioned by Old Tomorrow Ltd. Its 473mL can features an image of John A., though at just 4.(% alcohol, one suspects this would have been mere breakfast fare for a man as notoriously "spirited" as Sir John. I also suspect that the distinction between a "Canadian Pale Ale" and an American one is largely illusory, though the can does indicate that Canuck barley and rye are used. Perhaps its the inclusion of rye that does the job?

When poured, Old Tomorrow proved itself to be a nearly clear copper ale shrouded in a hood of off-white head. Its nose has bitter elements as well as a caramel malt spine. The can uses adjectives like "velvety" and "silky smooth" which proved to be fairly apt descriptors of the mouthfeel. On the front end, I found the flavour to be a bit sparse, with a bit of malt but little else. There is, though, a good crackle of woodsy hops in the finish that saves the day. I was hoping for a touch of rye spiciness, but the classic Canadian grain doesn't really do much more than poke its head out from backstage.

While this beer has some cons, like its slightly sub-standard percentage and its anemic initial taste, the back end's bitterness, the smooth texture, and the historically endearing name all guarantee that I'll be revisiting this stuff from time to time.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Hopsta la Vista

Garish? Gaudy? Overwhelming? These are adjectives that popped into my mind when trying to describe the totality of the 473mL can from which pours Hopsta la Vista, an India pale ale from Toronto, Ontario's Longslice Brewery (though it should be said that I do like the stylized hop quite a bit). Really, if they'd stuck with the front panel, it would've looked pretty cool, but the back is too much for me. But this is a beer blog not a style blog, so let's move on to the task at hand.

H. la V. contains 6.5% alcohol. It's darker hued than I expected, bearing a swampy brown-orange tint. It's aroma is a tad mild, but it promises resinous hops and fruit notes. Dank and bitter, the flavour left me satisfied. The hops are well selected and used. There is a bit too much sweetness taking place in the front end, though, which make this IPA a touch syrupy. There are some raisin and malt notes, too, but in moderation.

Would I buy Hopsta la Vista again? Undoubtedly. Did it have everything that I want in an IPA? Unfortunately no. Still, it's a tasty, enjoyable Torontonian brew, and it hit more than enough of my preferred attributes to ensure I'll be back.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Viven Porter

The 330mL bottle of Viven Porter refers to "The art of Belgian brewing," five words that make me thirsty. At 7% alcohol, this dark ale isn't shy. It comes from the Brouwerij van Viven, which, if I'm reading the label correctly, is located in Sijsele Damme, Belgium.

VP is pretty, deepest brown, and covered with a committed haze of tan head. It's aroma is intriguing, blending leather, malt, and yeast elements. The flavour is wonderfully bitter, and built around a pleasant, yeasty corpus. There are leathery notes, as well as a metaphorical handful of espresso beans.

Also worth noting, Viven Porter was almost criminally cheap. In Ontario, a 330mL bottle of this tasty Belgian import set me back a measly $2.65! That's some damn good value! It's a pretty grand little porter too. Very flavourful. It left me with few complaints and much satisfaction.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Red Racer Pale Ale

Red Racer Pale Ale had been, for me, the elusive middle sibling in the Red Racer family of beers. The eldest, the IPA, has been available in Ontario for ages, while the baby, the ISA has been around since at least the summer. The Pale Ale only just turned up, and to get it I had to purchase a mixer case of 355mL cans--good thing I like the other two, because I got eight of 'em.

Note: I have also tried the Red Racer Pilsner (which I quite liked) and the Red Racer Craft White Ale (which I found to verge on the disagreeable).

Born in Surrey, British Columbia, Red Racer Pale is the child of Central City Brewers + Distillers. It contains a standard 5% alcohol and pours clear, copper, and topped with a thin off-white head. It has a nice aroma suspended between roasted malts and swampy citrus hops. With a winning flavour, I'm willing to overlook the slightly anemic booze bill. This stuff has nice balance between burnt caramel malts and satsuma bitterness that I found really agreeable. There isn't much of a captivating finish, but the initial taste goes down a treat.

This is a perfectly pleasant little beer. It's not adventurous or ambitious, but the brewers certainly didn't phone it in either. It manages to deliver satisfaction without wowing. Well made and well received. A fine anchor to the R.R. beer family.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Märzen Oktoberfest Lager

With the label of its 600mL bottle adorned with a variety of musical instruments and Teutonic regalia, Beau's Märzen Oktoberfest Lager gives every indication of honouring the German heritage of the style. At 5.5%, this tasty lager is a member of the "Farm Table Series" from Vankleek Hill, Ontario's reliable and remarkable Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.

A clear, auburn bottom fermenting beer, this märzen pours with a delicate covering of eggshell head. It's nose gives off timid notes of roasted malts and cereal grains. Where the aroma is shy, the flavour is boisterous. It contains the same notes, primarily roasted malts and grains, but to a significantly more vigourous degree.

I wonder what the relation is between this beer and another märzen Beau's produced a while ago called Night Märzen. They both have the same amount of booze and a similar look. It's been ages since I sampled the latter, so I can't really say whether they're the same beer or whether the former is a refined or tweaked version. Whatever its roots, this is a tasty and satisfying lager. It's a great fall beer and a well made one too.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Monk's Brew

Good lord! This is my 800th post. That's pretty rad!

Monk's Brew is a strong beer! I'd have called it a dubbel, except at 10% alcohol, it's too strong. Too dark to be a tripel, I'm going to call this a quadrupel. This stuff is brewed by the transient Danish brewer Mikkeller at De Proef Brouwerij in Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. Sold in 330mL bottles, this stuff has really compelling labels. It's a super swampy dark brown ale topped with a healthy tan head. It has a sweet nose with notes of raisin; very warm and malty. It's flavour doesn't have the high concentration of yeast notes that typify most Belgian beers, but it definitely has the booze.

Sweet but not syrupy, Monk's Brew has lots of dried fruit notes with an ever-so-slightly tangy finish. It tastes strong, but not diabolically so, and it's got sufficiently subtle hops to create balance. For a strong ale, Monk's Brew is surprisingly drinkable and has a restrained, thoughtful flavour. None too shabby.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Summer Storm Lager

From the windbag of names that is Uxbridge-Thornbury-Nobleton, Ontario comes Summer Storm Lager. This bottom-fermenting brew comes from the Barn Door Brewing Co. It's sold in 500mL bottles and contains just 4.8% alcohol. According to the label, this brew is lagered in the Kellerbier style.

I got it half right when I downed this beer. It wasn't summer, but there was a a rain storm going on (or at least it was raining a bit). It was a slightly hazy dull gold beer that poured with a decent topping of eggshell head. For a pale beer, this stuff had an assertively hoppy nose. It's still plenty grainy, but promised ample IBUs. The flavour had a nice balance between cereal and bitterness. There was a malt to hops progression with a fairly dry finish, with a pilsner-esque vibe.

In all, Summer Storm was a fine lager. There was a metallic note that I found was struck a bit too squarely, and there could have been a bit more booze, but this stuff amounted to a nice Ontario lager.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Ontario Wet Hop Pale Ale

From the wilds of Burlington, Ontario comes Ontario Wet Hop Pale Ale, a tasty little brew built by the Nickel Brook Brewing Co. According to the label on the jumbo 750mL bomber bottle, this gem is brewed using all Ontario ingredients and encompasses "Ontario's only native hop variety, freshly picked Bertwell hops," which are apparently added the day that they're picked.

At 5.3%, this brew is a cloudy brass-hued ale that is topped with a loose, but very thick eggshell head. There is excellent head retention here. The aroma is fairly mild, but features charismatic and bitter citrus notes. Similarly, there is a very subtle flavour--not meek, exactly, but definitely mellow--though there is some nice grapefruit action from start to finish.

This is a pretty nice little brew. I love the all Ontario pedigree, and this was my first brush with the Bertwell hop--certainly not my last. I could have done with a more robust flavour and a chunkier mouthfeel though.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Golden Beach Pale Ale

"Can you bottle a season?" asks the 473mL can of Golden Beach Pale Ale. The answer, as expressed in the next sentence, is "Probably not, it's far too big." Still, the folks at Sawdust City Brewing Co. have but together a fair effort at the impossible with their sunny, hazy, and bubbly golden brew. This American pale ale, born in Gravenhust, Ontario, contains a very modest 4.5% and just 25 IBUs. It pours with a loose and fluffy white head and exudes an aroma that is both fruity and hoppy. Light and crisp, there are lots of tropical notes as well as some hops pop, and a short, dry finish.

A cheery and mellow ale, Golden Beach is pleasant and sessionable. However, even for an APA, it's a little too thin and short on flavour. A beer with potential, but limited follow through.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Old School Stout

An altogether too common pet peeve of mine is marketing that associates beer with cars. In a world where so many people die from drunk driving, why would you put a car on a beer bottle? One such brew is Old School Stout. Obviously this minor irritation didn't stop me from buying the stuff--I just wanted to go on record saying that it irks me.

O.S.S. is a British Colombian brew made by Tree Brewing Co. out of Kelowna. According to the 650mL bottle, it contains 5.5% alcohol and 40 IBUs. A coal black stout, O.S.S. pours with a downy layer of tan head. It has a potently roasty nose that doubles up on cocoa and molasses. Neither too sweet nor too bitter, the flavour has mocha elements and a dusting of hops, giving it very nice balance.

The bottle calls this a strong ale. I've said before that I don't think 5.5% should earn a brew the "strong" descriptor. This one would really have benefited by a touch more hooch too. Heat this stuff up to 7 or 7.5% and it'd really bring out the flavour. As is, it's a nice beer. Tastes good, drinks smoothly, and smells tasty. It's insufficiently assertive, but that isn't much to its detriment.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Mojo Citra Rhubarb Wheat Ale

When I first started to pour Mojo Citra Rhubarb Wheat Ale, I remarked upon how clear it was for a wheat ale. However, by the time the whole beer had been glassed, there was an unusual hazy swirl taking over my pint of golden ale. Sold in lovely 500mL bottles, Mojo is produced by the Forked River Brewing Company of London, Ontario. Under strength at just 4.5% alcohol, Mojo gets rhubarb into the mix, though it isn't clear from the label whether the beer is brewed with actual rhubarb, or simply using 'barb flavour.

Through a covering of bright white head, there comes a sizable tart rhubarb aroma, as well as a murmur of bitterness. Thin-bodied, but packing a nice flavour, Mojo is somehow both tart and mellow. Rhubarb flavour is seated in the front row, with some wheaty chill in the wings.

Short on alcohol and thin: these are two comments that figure to be the death knell of most beers that I review, but Mojo ekes out a respectable rating because of its interesting taste and novel concept.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.