Sunday, 28 February 2016

Maple Butter Tart Ale

Maple Butter Tart Ale? That seems like a gross idea. According to the 473mL can, this flavoured beer was an idea developed by folks from Midland Township in small town Ontario and brewed in Gravenhust by the canny folks at Sawdust City Brewing Co. The can of the 5% ale is pretty awesome, featuring a black and white depiction of some kind of eagle or griffin creature holding a colour hot air balloon bearing a gooey butter tart. The can invites the drinker to "crack open a can of your favourite dessert", and reveals that this odd grog is brewed using butter rum extract, vanilla extract, maple extract, and caramel extract. That's a lot of extract!

It's a lovely looking auburn brew--clear, and crowned with a luxurious, fluffy, off-white head. As I expected, there is a cloyingly sweet nose that does, for all the world, smell convincingly like a butter tart baked with maple syrup. The mouthfeel is quite thin, which doesn't work in this beer's favour. Its taste is, given the potent aroma, surprisingly restrained.  There are sweet, buttery caramel notes, as well as slow-rolling maple elements. A bit light, however, on both malt and hops, with only a tinge of bitterness on the back end.
This is a curious beer. It smells both potently delicious and a little bit revolting. Because of the strong smell, I expected comparable flavour, though I found it tasted slightly thin. This beer would likely prove pretty scrumptious poured over vanilla ice cream, but as a standalone brew I found it a bit baffling. Too sweet and too thin makes for an unusual combo. Still, the parties involved with the Butter Tart Ale are to be commended for innovating a truly unique beer. Not my cup of tea, but a genuinely inventive ale. 

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, 26 February 2016

St.-Ambroise Oak Aged Pale Ale

The 25th anniversary of McAuslan Brewery, one of Canada's premier beer businesses, is cause to celebrate. They chose to mark the occasion by releasing St.-Ambroise Oak Aged Pale Ale. This beer hails from Montreal, Quebec. It's sold in 341mL bottles and features a heady 6% alcohol. It's a hazy, ruddy gold brew that pours with a creamy head.

Owing to its oak aging, the beer has an extremely sweet aroma--it's woody, with honey and vanilla notes. That sweetness carries through into the flavour, with bourbon and vanilla character, which is buttressed by some nice roasted malt elements. Not a lot of bitterness here, which is a knock against the stuff, but not a substantial one.

This anniversary ale was enjoyable, though too honeyed and sweet to be a frequent purchase. As with all McAuslan beers I've sampled, this stuff is well made. However, I prefer their darker, more substantial brews. Maybe for their 30th, they'll knock out an extra special imperial stout or something along those lines.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Wuchak Black

From Ottawa, Ontario comes Wuchak Black, classed alternately on the 473mL can as a Black IPA and a Cascadian Dark Ale. Its stats are unremarkable for the style--slightly understrength at just 6%, but amply bitter at 77 IBUs. Wuchak is brewed by the Kichesippi Beer Co. The beer is definitely dark--almost black and nearly opaque--buried underneath a froth of loose cream-coloured head.

I didn't find that there was a lot of aroma that made it through the thick, foggy head, but what there was displayed as resinous bitterness and roasted malt. Initially, the flavour packs a slightly more substantial bill of roasted malt, though this is subsumed fairly decisively by a whip crack of hops that dominates the back half of the brew. Bitterness manifests in dank, earthy notes, and the ale finishes quickly.

Kichesippi's Wuchak Black proved to be a nice ale. It could certainly have been stronger, both in percentage terms and with respect to aromatics. This is a less macho black IPA than I was expecting, but I don't see that as a negative. There is lots of room for subtlety in bitter black beers, and this one certainly had some of that. Where I found it falters a bit is in the front end, with too little emphasis on the rich flavours that roasted malts can impart. The finish, though, is really quite good. Would I buy this beer again? Oh, no question--in a heartbeat! But it's unlikely to ever be my favourite black IPA.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction is a moody porter from Hamilton, Ontario's Collective Arts Brewing. At 5.5%, this dark ale is potent, but not overpowering. My first brush with a Collective Arts brew sold in a can, the 473mL vessel still manages to display the variety of art that makes C.A. a unique outfit--in this case, a spooky-eyed lass with antlers.

The beer itself is dark brown, verging on black, with reddish highlights and a supple, fluffy layer of off-white head. It smells of well-roasted malts and has a whiff of mocha. The mouthfeel isn't as velvety as many dark beers, but proves enjoyable all the same. To my palate, the flavour is rich, with a solid malty base and notes of cappuccino and chocolate. There is a nice bitter finish that closed things off quite pleasingly. 

Not remarkable or memorable, Stranger Than Fiction is still a nicely made beer from an inventive Ontario brewer. It's neither sweet nor bitter, which left the beer a touch anemic. While not inventive, the beer is certainly agreeable. A fine Ontarian porter that's well worth trying, from an innovative and risk-taking brewery that I think deserves a lot of credit.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Midnight Bock

Midnight Bock is a part of the Lake of Bays Brewing Company's Wild North Series. At 5.5% alcohol, this brew comes in 473mL cans. It's a lager that comes from Baysville, Ontario.

Midnight Bock looks like a stout--it's dark and brooding, with a fluffy ecru head. It has a rich, roasted malt aroma that is swathed in notes of nut and mocha. It has a pleasant and smooth mouthfeel, though one that plays a little thin. The flavour is far from thin, though, with sizable roasty malt character and a whisper of coffee bitterness.

Midnight Bock proved to be a thoroughly agreeable little lager from small town Ontario. Thin, yes, but still quite nice.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

100% Brett Golden Ale

Another ale from the Torontonian Burdock Brewery gifted to me by R.H., 100% Brett Golden Ale was just what the name suggested, a golden ale fermented with Brettanomyces yeast. At 6.5%, it had some heft, but not too much to distract from flavour, and the Spartan label on the 500mL bottle was too plain to distract from anything.

The beer was a honey gold colour, faintly hazy, and topped with off-white suds. The funky wild yeast gave the beer a tangy, fruity aroma, alongside an earthy musk reminiscent of many Belgian beers. If the engaging nose was 100% Brett's best attribute, its disappointingly thing mouthfeel had to be its worst, at least as far as I'm concerned. Somewhere in between was the flavour, which was less tart and lively than the scent led me to expect, but which was still pretty funky and interesting. It finished dryly and quite pleasantly.

Burdock's 100% Brett Golden Ale was a mixed bag of a beer. Aromatic, inviting, thin, fruity, and alright are words that came to my mind as I was downing my glass.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Big Black Voodoo Daddy

The final installment of My Bitter Birthday is the second installment from Meadville, PA's Voodoo Brewing Co. This one, which goes by the moniker Big Black Voodoo Daddy, is a bruisingly strong imperial stout. At 12% alcohol, a single 12oz bottle is not to be taken lightly. According to the label, there is a punishing IBU count of 74 to boot.

BBVD is a jet black ale that pours with a fluffy off-white head. It has a fairly powerful malt nose that is studded with hefty cocoa notes. To my tongue, this jumbo stout is packed with chocolate and sweet coffee elements, and is potently malty. Toward the finish, strong coffee bitterness is in evidence.

BBVD is a strong ass beer, but also a cultured and well-crafted one. A touch too sweet, perhaps, but lusciously flavourful. I'd like hops to play a bit more assertive role through the body of this beer, though, to elevate it from very good to excellent.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Weyerbacher Double IPA

The label on the 12oz bottle that houses Weyerbacher Double IPA is pretty well horrifying. It features what looks like a cyclops Siamese twin with an upsetting smile on the main part of the bottle, and to make matters worse, there's an evil looking clown/jester on the neck. It was with some trepidation that I uncapped this beer.

Brewed in Easton, PA by the Weyerbacher Brewing Co., this double IPA contained a no foolin' around 9% alcohol. The beer poured swampily--it was a dull orange-swill, hazy, and created with a thin, off-white head. It's potent aroma made me stand up and take notice--powerful woodsy and citrus notes in equal measures, along with the promise of silly amounts of bitterness. To my dumb tongue, murky, bitter grapefruit was the driving force, backed with a boozy sweetness and a whisper through the pines.

As I often complain about, many double or Imperial IPAs are too sweet, in an effort to get the percentage up. My favourite thing about this spooky nectar was that the sweetness was held in check to a serious degree. Three words to describe this beer?: hoppy, dank, and strong. Those of you who know me will recognize that those are all pretty good adjectives for me to assign a strong ale. This beer wasn't pretty, and a healthy head would have been nice, but it sure tasted sexy.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 12 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Head Hunter India Pale Ale

The next installment of Pennsylvania's finest in my mixed six turned out to actually be from Ohio. Middleburg Heights, Ohio to be exact. That's where Fat Head's Brewery does their brewing, including the brewing of Head Hunter India Pale Ale. After my initial shock at seeing Ohio on the label, I went on to peruse the 12oz bottle and gleaned that this stuff contained a powerful 7.5% alcohol and 87 IBUs, as well as the fact that the suds in question have won multiple awards at both the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival.

The beer itself was golden orange, hazy, and covered in a sudsy and thick off-white head. Its aroma was ample; packed with hops, tropical fruit notes, and a faint whiff of tin. To my palate, the brew proved quite fruity, with an emphasis on citrus elements. Bitterness was well represented without launching an onslaught. My only complaints came early--the mouthfeel proved a touch thinner than desired. Initially, I was a bit nonplussed by the finish, too, but as the beer went down, I found the dry and resinous notes nicely complimented the assertive fruit flavours to provide a hoppy balance.

Fat Head's Head Hunter was a strong IPA, both in terms of alcohol content and quality. I liked it a lot and immediately wanted more.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--The Mad Elf

I didn't have a tonne of Christmas ales this year, so I was glad when my birthday mixer included a 12oz bottle of The Mad Elf, a holiday beer brewed with honey and cherries. Brewed in Hershey, Pennsylvania, this beer was made by the Tröegs Brewing Co. It contained a daunting 11% alcohol and featured a creepy and possibly drunken elf on the label.

Presumably owing to the cherries used in the brewing process, this beer had a bright reddish hue. It was amply carbonated, though topped by only a thin ivory head. Tart and fruity through the nose, with cherry notes and some yeasty elements. The flavour had cherry notes, but with less emphasis than I was expecting. As well, there was serious sweetness--both from the booze and the honey. Not a lot of bitterness was on display in this beer. It had a thick, almost syrupy mouthfeel.

The Mad Elf was a pretty enjoyable holiday ale. It was too sweet for me, but had lots of cheery warmth. Also, for an ale containing 11% alcohol, its strength was dangerously subtle.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 8 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Good Vibes India Pale Ale

Good Vibes India Pale Ale comes from Meadville, Pennsylvania. It's a zesty IPA containing 7.3% alcohol and sold in 12oz bottles that's brewed and bottled by Voodoo Brewing Co. According to the label, this hoppy demon is "hopped five times in the kettle & double dry hopped" and contains 85+ IBUs.

It's a brown orange brew, slightly hazy, and topped with a thin covering of short-lived off-white head. There are colossal notes of tropical fruits in the nose, as well as substantial bitterness. The flavour is hearty and dank, with mango and pineapple juiciness. Hops are luridly present start to finish, in copious quantities.

This beer is pretty dang interesting--over-ripe fruit flavours, zealous bitterness, and pretty formidable strength make for a tangy and delicious ale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Madra Allta India Pale Ale

According to the label on its 355mL bottle, the "madra allta" in Madra Allta India Pale Ale comes from the Gaelic for wolf. Brewed and bottled by the Lavery Brewing Company, this 6.4% alcohol ale comes from Erie, Pennsylvania.

It's a dull, swampy brown beer--cloudy and with a creamy head that had some admirable longevity. To my nose, there are notes of tart citrus and resin. It's a sweet brew with a nice emphasis on malt, particularly for the style. As for bitterness, this manifests in politely resinous and tangy citrus elements. The label said that there would be pine notes as well, but I didn't find any worth writing about.

A touch on the sweet side, this ale isn't perfect. However, it really is v. good. A bit of a unique flavour in a world of very similar IPAs makes a beer memorable. I'd love to get my hands on a few more of these beauties, but alas I only had the one.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

My Bitter Birthday--Pennsylvania Six-Pack

As part of my haul of gifts to mark my 31st birthday, my lovely and thoughtful spouse brought me a mixed sixer of beers that I have never tried. This is no easy feat, given the volume and range of beer that I consume, but it's one she managed by bringing home since beers local to Pennsylvania (and one from close by) following a work trip to Pittsburgh. According to the Missus, these beers were recommended to her by a knowledgeable bearded gentleman at the Carson Street Deli & Craft Beer Bar. She managed to find some pretty bold and boozy ales too! What a gal!

The next six posts on the bitter world will cover these six ales in all of their glory.  Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Corne du Diable

Corne du Diable is an impetuous little IPA from those beer geniuses from Montreal, Brasserie Dieu du Ciel. I had a 341mL bottle at Northern Belle, the nearest bar to my apartment. The Devil's Horn sports a dapper Lucifer on the label. It's a ruddy and hazy ale that pours with a thin dusting of off-white head and contains 6.5% alcohol.

It has very strong aromatics--sweet malty notes, caramel, and floral-piney hops. The flavour kicks off with a malty top note with nice caramel and then eases into a restrained and relaxed bitterness with some agreeable forest elements.

Not assertive or powerful, this beer prefers to be subtle, balanced, and beautifully crafted. It's a swell ale and you should try it.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.