Saturday, 28 February 2015

Vicar's Vice Olde Ale

I quaffed a measure of Amsterdam Brewery's Vicar's Vice Olde Ale just following the first winter storm of the year. I figured I'd need something to insulate me, and at 8.1%, I guessed that this stuff would be just my speed. This Torontonian brew came in a 650mL bottle with a waxed mouth--something I detest. Stylistically, it's great, but what a pain in the ass to open!

V-squared is a handsome dark ale--a gloomy auburn beer that wears a stylish derby of tawny head. It's almost as dark as a standard porter, and with that head, one could easily make that mistake. Aromatically, is malty and quite nutty. Its flavour is a quite interesting blend of bourbon-y vanilla, nuttiness, leather, caramel, and brown sugar. It has some bitterness parked out back, but substantial malt notes are the ones taking dad's convertible for a joyride (ignore the metaphorical motoring--don't drink and drive!).

Not too sweet, nor too strong, Vicar's Vice jams a lot of flavour into a single bottle. It has a wide and evolving taste profile--the label suggested that it would "unveil more depth as it warms", though as I drank it outdoors in December, I can't speak to that. After all, I really wanted that cigar! That said, as my chalice emptied, I was treated to a bit more evolved bitterness on the finish.

This beer gave me little to complain about. It's not a tipple I'd invite to a Tuesday after work social or a Saturday house party, but it is one that'd star as an after dinner treat.  Vicar's Vice will never be my favourite Amsterdam offering (especially competing with the remarkable Boneshaker), but it's certainly a neat one that I'd be glad to enjoy again.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Riptide Rye Pale Ale

From the Southern Ontario city of London comes Riptide Rye Pale Ale, a product of the Forked River Brewing Company. Riptide is sold in 500mL bottles and contains a respectable 5.7% alcohol. When I spotted this stuff at my local liquor store, I was actually about to leave for London the following morning for some rock and roll, so I pretty much had to buy it. It pours a cloudy, rusty brown colour underneath a layer of off-white head that was never thick and which faded to a fine disc in no time. 

There's a studly aroma with sweet, malt elements and a bitter rye spiciness. The mouthfeel is much less astringent than I expected-really quite creamy for an R.P.A.--and doesn't have a lot of carbonation. It's flavour is pretty engaging. The flavour kicks off with malt and caramel, but soon passes into a tangy rye finish that is supplemented with a respectably bitter backing.

I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for more brews from Forked River. Riptide isn't my favourite R.P.A. out of Ontario, but it certainly has a nice vibe. Insufficient carbonation and too thin mouthfeel aside, I'll definitely be buying this beer again.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Guest Review: Molson Canadian Cider--Stone Fruit

My lovely wife received a couple of freebie cans of Molson Canadian's Stone Fruit Cider as a Klout perk. They languished in the back of the fridge for a few months, until finally she decided to crack one open. I suggested a guest review. She demurred. "It's not beer," said she. "No shit," I tried not to say. Instead, I observed, "It's my blog, and I can post whatever I want." Even if it is stupid cider. So here are her thoughts, as elaborated on by yours truly:

Molson Canadian Stone Fruit Cider comes in at 5% alcohol and is sold in a 473mL can. "It smells like apple juice" and "tastes peachy". She notes that peach is the overwhelming flavour, but "there's a ghost of apricot." Described as "almost a perfume-y taste", she notes that this cider wasn't as juicy as expected.

In sum, the Missus observed that Molson's Stone Fruit Cider isn't refreshing, but drinks easily. My favourite part of her review is the following: "I wouldn't buy this, but I can finish it." So there.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Instigator IPA

Instigator IPA is styled a West Coast I.P.A., though it comes from "The Annex", a trendy neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario. It's the progeny of the Indie Ale House, one of T.O.'s premier brew pubs. I seldom have cause to venture into the Annex (though I really should, since there's lots of cool stuff), but I found myself there on a snowy Saturday in February and used the opportunity to rattle off a couple of reviews at the brewery, and to bring home a quartet of bottles of Indie's Instigator IPA to sip and review from the confines of mi casa.

The bottles that I purchased were of the 650mL variety, and came with a stern-looking bearded gent on the label, as well as the statement that Instigator is "easy to drink and great with food and friends if you have any." As I was sipping on this 6.5% ale by my lonesome, I was briefly perturbed. "Do I have any friends?" I wondered. Fortunately this malaise was followed quickly by "Oh yeah, many." Existential crises thus averted, on to the beer.

Instigator is a lazy, hazy orange-gold ale that pours with a hefty measure of off-white head. It produces a hospitable and cozy aroma of bitter grapefruit. This nose is rebroadcast in the flavour, where citrus elements and juicy hop notes are at the fore. En arrière, there is a modest malt presence that seems to want to be noticed, but which struggles to assert itself above the clamour and clang of hops. As expected, the finish is fairly dry and fairly bitter.

As Indie Ale House's flagship brew, Instigator does its job pretty well. It's a pleasant little ale with a great flavour and not too much booze. It's by no means forgettable, but it isn't unique either. Rather, it's a well made beer with lots to enjoy. It makes the drinker want to try more of I.A.H.'s lineup, which is where they branch out into more memorable and risky beers.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout

Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout comes from the Town of Holland, in the Great State of Michigan. It's brewed by the New Holland Brewing Co. and comes in a big ol' 650mL bottle that's all the more imposing when you realize that the nearly opaque jet black liquid within contains a whopping 11% alcohol! The stout pours with a nice cowl of tawny head.

Dragon's Milk has an ultra-sweet nose, with malty everything, boozy notes (bourbon barrels after all), and, as promised by the label, "deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath." This woody beer has a well sanded mouthfeel--smooth and thick.  While I'm typically resistant to wildly sweet dark beers, this one was quite agreeable to me. It does its damage on the malt side of things, with very little bitterness evident, and has creamy vanilla notes. There is also a bit of raisin-y pipe tobacco in small measure. At the finish, there is a sharp strike of boozy heat, and that's where the bourbon flavours imparted by the barrel-aging process are most evident.

Truthfully, I've had better strong stouts, and better barrel-aged ales, but I got to this stuff just before dinner on a beautiful fall Friday evening when all was right with the world, and I found it really satisfying. It kicked my night off right--don't even imagine driving after a dance with Dragon's Milk. Pulling my critic's hat away from the drink faeries, this beer is too sweet and, if you strip away the barrels, I'm not sure that the underlying stout is all that remarkable. Still, well worth the price of admission. While this beer would pair well with an after dinner cohiba, my pre-dinner value stogie activated some flavours all the same. One must make do, you know.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Amnesiac Double IPA

Amnesiac Double IPA is a strong beer born in Victoria, British Columbia. It's made by the Phillips Brewing Company and contains a juicy 8.5% alcohol. The 650mL bottle features an elephant with a knotted trunk on the label, and also has a mysterious symbol with "HWO" in it--what's up with that? On pouring this stuff out, I was surprised to see that the amber liquid was remarkably clear for an India Pale Ale, let alone for a double. It poured with a luscious off-white head.

The aroma bellows bitter and booze, though there is also a pretty assertive resin streak and the promise of citrus fruit. The flavour is typical of a double IPA, with considerable bitterness atop a sweet, boozy base. The finish is very hoppy and also a bit dank, with a sticky, hempen weight.

Amnesiac is a pretty enjoyable beer, even if it wasn't a particularly memorable one. Though it does come in awesome bottles and packs quite a punch.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 16 February 2015

De Koninck

I had a nice little glass of Antwerp, Belgium's own De Koninck on tap at  a Toronto bar called the Village Idiot, which specializes in Euro-beers and which happens to be on my way home. According to the literature in the beer menu, De Koninck contains 5% alcohol. I was expecting amber, and found it, though with a bit more golden hue that I anticipated. It was clear and arrived with a snazzy chapeau of off-white head. It's brewed by the eponymous brewery.

This beer has a powerfully sweet, fruity aroma. In it are notes of apples and cranberries, as well as a respectable profile of malt and yeast. Its flavour is much less presumptuous than the nose, but likewise kicks off with fruity, malty vibes, before veering gently toward a short, dry, and only slightly bitter finish. De Koninck has a light, drinkable mouthfeel that I found to be a bit wanting and a tad watery.

De Koninck is a fine ale, though not one of Belgium's more interesting offerings. This stuff is much more accessible than tripels, quads, and the other tipples that make beer lovers salivate, but that accessibility comes at the expense of depth. Remember--this is still a Belgian beer, and one with lots of style and an unconventional flavour profile--it just isn't as deep as a Trappist dubbel. Had the mouthfeel been a bit more impressive, I'd have dug this beer a lot more.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Resurrection Roggenbier

Resurrection Roggenbier from Oakville, Ontario's Cameron's Brewing Co. is my first brush with the roggenbier style. In fact, I'd never heard of it before I saw this 650mL bottle emblazoned with a phoenix at my local liquor retailer. According to the label, roggenbiers were outlawed with the passage of the German Purity Law of 1516, the legendary Reinheitsgebot, since it forbade the use of rye in brewing. Other than the fact that it contains rye and that this one has 5.2% alcohol, that's all I really had to go on.

Resurrection is a gloomy dark ruby ale topped with a dapper cream head. It has a somewhat sweet nose with a bit of cranberry notes. Flavour is also sweetish, and solidly malty. There is a touch of tartness and very little of the rye spiciness that I anticipated. The finish continues to be malty, in a fashion more typical of Belgian ales than German ones.

A neat little brew from a top notch Ontario brewer. Not the kind of beer I'm inclined to purchase on any but rare occasions, but one I'm certainly glad to have experienced.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Arcadia Ales London-Style Porter

Brewed by Battle Creek, Michigan's Arcadia Brewing Company, Arcadia Ales London-Style Porter is a pretty, dark beer. It appears black, but has a brownish, ruby hue. Atop that sits a transient cream head.  The L-SP contains a welcome 7% alcohol and comes in a 341mL bottle that might try too hard to show English character, festooned as it is with a Union Jack with "Churchill's" written on it, a Winston-esque silhouette in a top hat smoking a stogie, and Big Ben off in the distance.

There is a rich, malty aroma that has a notably smoky streak. The flavour proceeds in that vein, with a campfire accent buttressing a malty flavour that has raisin, cocoa and molasses notes.

The smoky leanings give this beer something to set it apart from the myriad other porters and stouts that have been flowing through Ontario's liquor stores this year. It's reasonably flavourful and decently boozy. In short, a fine brew, but not earth-shaking.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

St.-Ambroise IPA

From one of my very favourite Canadian breweries, Montreal, Quebec's McAuslan Brewing (makers of the truly extraordinary St.-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout), comes the St.-Ambroise IPA. A clear, copper-hued India pale ale, this stuff pours with a hearty cloud of off-white head and displays pretty vigourous carbonation. It contains a sensible, but still potent 6.2% alcohol and checks in with 56 IBUs.

St.-Ambroise IPA has a fresh, hoppy aroma that has some evergreen forest notes and a whisper of treacle. Its flavour is quite sweet--at first, it tastes almost like an Imperial IPA, but with less boozy heat. It has a stalwart malty body, but it's the bitter, spruce and resin notes that really keeps this stuff moving.

Neither as bitter or as strong as I generally like my I.P.A.s to be, but St.-Ambroise IPA manages to be pretty enjoyable anyway. It's a touch too sweet for a beer with just 6.2% alcohol, but it has an interesting flavour that works well.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Poet Oatmeal Stout

The Poet Oatmeal Stout is an opaque, black ale from Holland, Michigan. It's brewed by New Holland Brewing Co. The alcoholic percentage isn't listed on the bottle, I'd already recycled the cardboard six pack holder on which it was listed, and I don't have a QR code reader on my phone (the bottle has a code for "brand info and stats"), so I had to go to the New Holland website--it contains 5.2% alcohol and has 37 IBUs. It pours with a modest but durable covering of tawny head. The spooky label on the 355mL bottle features a raven silhouetted against a full moon.

Smooth, slightly sweet, malt aroma on The Poet had some nice espresso leanings. A velvet mouthfeel really showcases a molasses and chocolate-heavy mocha flavour. There's a healthy coffee finish that provides bitter balance.

A nice example of an oatmeal stout, my only minor complaints have to do with sweetness. A much better than fine dark ale--I'd definitely buy it again.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Sam Roberts Band Session Ale

Sam Roberts Band Session Ale comes from the urban wilds of Toronto, Ontario, where it's built by Spearhead Brewing Company (makers of the truly excellent Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale).  I'm sure it's no accident that a beer named for a rock band contains 4.5% alcohol and 33 1/3 IBUs. It's a handsome caramel-coloured ale that comes in a 355mL bottle and decants with a thick layer of loose, off-white head.

The Session Ale has a bitter, slightly nutty nose. It has a thin body. Flavour-wise, the front end is a bit wanting, with only a faint malt presence. However, the finish is pretty solid, with a happy, hoppy heft. There are are also some caramel and nut notes.

The Sam Roberts Band Session Ale is a pretty decent, drinkable brew. It's a bit thin and a bit light on flavour, but it has a good, fulsome finish with sizable hops action. It's in tough in an Ontario market that has had some brilliant session ales popping up lately, and doesn't compare to the likes of Muskoka's Detour (review to come) and Nickel Brook's Naughty Neighbour, but it's a fine offering all the same.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Saranac Our Pale Ale

Saranac Our Pale Ale is produced in Utica, New York by the Matt Brewing Co. It's sold in 355mL bottles that do not have a percentage listed, though the Saranac website informs me that there is 5.5% alcohol and 32 IBUs in this brew. O.P.A. is a rich, clear, brassy ale topped with a healthy off-white head.

There is a warm, coppery aroma that has some grainy notes and a bitter follow though. Our Pale is a very easy drinking pale ale. It's malty and metallic initially, giving way to a fairly mild, dry, and bitter finish.

This'd be a nice beer to bring on a camping trip, since it has some character, but you likely wouldn't have a lot of trouble putting a couple away. I'd have liked a bit more hop fullness though.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Mad Anthony APA

Mad Anthony APA comes from Erie, Pennsylvania, where it's crafted by the Erie Brewing Company. I enjoyed a 355mL bottle during a trip south of the border. This stuff contains 5.5% alcohol. It's a slightly hazy golden ale, well carbonated, and covered with a thin layer of off-white head.

Angry Tony has a somewhat malty aroma, with notes of raisin layered atop a raunchy hop base. It moves in a malt to bitter direction, with pretty nice balance. On the hop side of the equation (the "dehoperator", if you will) there is a slightly toasted quality that I liked. It's toasty and dry through the finish.

This beer lacked the citrus hop charge that I was hoping for from an American pale ale. Still, I enjoyed the stuff well enough. I found it hoppy, flavourful, and decently strong.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.