Saturday, 30 April 2016

Armed 'n Citra

Armed 'n Citra is an American Pale Ale that I was fortunate enough to sample at the source--Toronto's Rainhard Brewing Co. Rainhard is an out of the way brewery that took an unfortunate amount of time to reach via transit, but once I got there, I was pretty pleased.

A 'n C contains 5.2% alcohol, and clocks in at a respectable 45 IBUs. It has a potent nose--rich in bitterness and tropical fruit notes. The flavour runs along the same lines, with passion fruit and mango, as well as a solidly bitter, dry finish.

If you're in Toronto, you could do a lot worse to take the trek to Rainhard Brewery, and if you get there, it's well worth it to down a pint or two of Armed 'n Citra. It's a really solid offering from a really solid beer shop.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 28 April 2016


Gotham is a sinister black imperial IPA from Toronto standout Bellwoods Brewery. Twitter told me that this brew was available, and within 36 hours I was at the bottle shop picking up a 500mL bottle of the stuff (as well as a handful of their other excellent offerings). The label of this 8% ale features an imposing municipal skyline and an admonition to drink the stuff fresh.

The beer isn't actually all that dark--it's an attractive mahogany ale with amber highlights, underneath a dense and durable cream head. The scent of this bad boy is dominant, with chunky hops taking the pole position, but with a really compelling stone fruit sweetness not far behind. The flavour, too, is bitter first, but bolstered by a slightly honeyed plummy sweetness. There is also a modest splash of rummy heat.

I often rave about Bellwoods' acumen for making elite beers, but there's something really special about Gotham. What works about it is it's delicious and unusual flavour--this is an imperial IPA, a black IPA that doesn't taste like everything else on the market. At just 8%, I don't think it's quite strong enough to merit the "imperial" designation, and it's a touch too sweet, but this was a beer I couldn't put down.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Golden Vox

A collaborative beer brewed by the beer geniuses of Van Kleek Hill, Ontario, and Canadian hip-hop stud K-OS? Yes. I'll buy that.

Golden Vox is billed as a rye pale lagered ale. It charges the gate at 6% alcohol, 46 IBUs, and pours a beautifully clear golden colour. The 600mL bottle that houses this elixir features a rad, leather-clad, sunglass-sporting fox on the label. The suds pour with a thinnish white head. There is a substantial toasted grain nose that comes with a modicum of bitterness. To my unschooled but evolving palate, there is a grainy, Kölsch-style flavour built alongside a tiny burst of rye warmth. The beer finishes cleanly, with a soupçon of bitterness that agreeably seals the deal.

Golden Vox has only a marginal dose of rye zeal, which let me down a trifle, but this calm and patient offering from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. offered a nice flavour and an agreeable mouthfeel. Not all that dissimilar from Beau's legendary Lug Tread, Golden Vox adds a faint glimmering of rye charge to the equation to differentiate itself from Beau's stable brew (in truth, they were so similar I worry I couldn't
Tell them apart). There is a slight tinge of wood-aged sweetness that adds a touch of depth to the ale, which provides a bit of oomph.

Fans of Beau's excellent Lug Tread should be particularly intrigued by this oat soda, though I predict widespread satisfaction. It's only slightly richer and subtly different, but worth sampling. As with the vast majority of the Beau's brews I've sampled, Golden Vox is well crafted and pleasant. I'd have liked a bit more variation, but this ale is certainly worth sampling.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

When a known beer geek hosts friends for dinner, he or she can often expect to receive a couple of bottles from their guests. Recently, my partner and I hosted one of our favourite couples for some vegan burritos, and they showed up bearing beer, including a beautiful corked 750mL bottle of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace. Ace is a farmhouse ale brewed by the Brooklyn Brewery out of Brooklyn, NY. It's a bright and fizzy high alcohol brew--sunny gold, hazy, and 7.6%--that pours with a bushy white head.

The Ace doesn't actually have much of an aroma--it smells faintly yeast and with a peppering of dry hops, but that's about it. The flavour is considerably richer, with a delicate, floral body, Belgian-inspired yeastiness, a hint of spice, and a Saharan-dry finish. There is a nice hops drive, particularly out back.

On the down side of the ledger, this ale tastes a lot less robust than I wanted it too. While it is much more flavourful than it smells, there is still a paucity of flavour that I found a bit disappointing. On the strong side, there is a lovely mouthfeel--champagne-like effervescence--and a tremendously dry, interestingly hopped back end.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Sultana Gold

Lake of the Woods Brewery is, according to their cans, Ontario's northernmost brewery. Situated in Kenora, they are the producer of Sultana Gold. Other than the golden 473mL can, what really drew me to this beer is its name--I know that Sultana is a type of raisin, but to me, it evokes images of the ill-fated steamship Sultana, a tragedy that, in my limited experience, many people seem unfamiliar with. But enough of the half-cooked history; on to the beer! Besides, according to the can, this stuff is actually named after a gold mine.

Sultana Gold is a blonde ale listed at 5%. It's a clear, healthy gold hue, and pours with a nice tipping of vivid white head. It's aroma is both grainy and tinny. As for flavour, grainy stalksaround the front end, but there is a half-hearted ambush of hops in the rear. The mouthfeel is crisp, but also vaguely buttery.

Lastly, the can features the number 14,522 with no explanation. My guess is that this represents a census population of Kenora, but who knows?

My final take on Sultana Gold is that it is a tasty, well-made, and entirely forgettable beer. That it won't stir my memory bank isn't meant as a detraction--it just indicates that the beer did its job adequately, without bells and whistles. Moreover, drinking this beer left me wanting more of Lake of the Woods offerings, so that's a positive takeaway.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Glutenberg Blonde

Brasseurs Sans Gluten's Glutenberg Blonde takes the "blonde" part of the name very seriously. This gluten-free millet and corn brew is extremely clear and extremely pale--it's a very light gold colour. It's quite well carbonated, but pours with only a slight coating of loose white head. This Montrealer brew is quite light-bodied, clocking in at just 4.5% alcohol. It's sold in smart-looking but very hard to read 473mL cans.

Glutenberg Blonde has a dry and grainy nose. It has an agreeably beery mouthfeel--fizzy and crisp like a pale lager. Like most gluten-free brews I've quaffed, not many drinkers would mistake this stuff for a conventional ale or lager; however, its grainy flavour with faint notes of apple is none too shabby. 

The beer is dry, crisp, and refreshing. It's certainly not the can of beer I'd reach for on a regular basis, but if (*knock on wood*) I ever become gluten intolerant, I'd certainly be glad that good gluten-free beers like GB exist.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 18 April 2016

HogsBack Ontario Pale Ale

Unfortunately for them (or at least for me) HogsBack Brewing Company chose to package their Ontario Pale Ale in 473mL cans that are remarkably similar to the ones that house their Vintage Lager--so similar that I didn't realize that they were two separate brews. As a result, I haven't ever purchased a can of the OPA, until I recently saw the two of them in two separate, adjacent coolers at a Toronto beer vendor. Such is my shame.

The Ontario Pale Ale, brewed in Ottawa, Ontario, weighs in at 5.5%. It's a bright, copper-hued beer that pours with an unusual bit of silt and a pretty layer of off-white head. It exudes a rich, bready aroma, built around a toasty malt foundation. The taste is also quite luxurious, with a subtly sweet body, a delightfully toasty malt bill, a half measure of caramel. Finish-wise, this pale ale provides an agreeable hops chop--slightly bitter, and warm.

I'm disappointed with myself for not realizing that this beer existed. It's really quite lovely--a very satisfying English-style pale ale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Reynard the Fox Golden Wry Ale

Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. really delivered with a great name when they chose to call their rye ale Reynard the Fox Golden Wry Ale. Pretty cool packaging too on its 473mL can. The beer, which hails from Kitchener, Ontario, is a cloudy golden brew. It pours with a wispy layer of off-white foam.

Reynard has a very mild aroma, with some nicely-spiced grain elements. The flavour is also a bit scanty, though what's there is quite pleasant. There are toasty malt notes that support a primarily grainy taste.

Despite its excellent name and packaging, this golden rye ale was just ok. It has some nice things going for it, but came up a bit anemic. It was, however, drinkable and crisp.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Red Rage

A gift from the charming and rhythmic N.G., Red Rage is a red ale from the wilds of Calgary, Alberta. This pretty red ale is nearly clear and pours with a modest measure of creamy head. The 355mL can claims that the beer is named in honour of "the undocumented, freakish strength possessed by gingers," but I don't really care--what interests me is the beer. At 5.6%, this product of the Tool Shed Brewing Company is on the verge of qualifying as a strong ale (it even says so on the can), but I'm not willing to go that far.

Red Rage has a surprisingly potent nose that is rich with malty and metallic notes, as well as an understated sweet fruit feel. The beer also tastes stronger than I expected, with a heavy malt profile taking the helm, backed by a sturdy crew of subtler elements: iron, raisin, and even a touch of bitterness.

Full-bodied and flavourful, Red Rage has a lot going for it. The other side of the equation is that the beer is a little lacking in nuance and texture. A good enough red ale, though, and one I'd gladly revisit on occasion.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Easy Stout

Walkerville Brewery's Easy Stout followed me home for two main reasons: I've never tried it, and as a chubby dude, I know how easy it is to be stout!

Easy comes from scenic Windsor, Ontario. It's canned in slightly homely 473mL tins that hearken back to the Roaring 20s, and contains a faintly elevated 5.5%. The beer that tumbled  out looked like cola--deep brown, fizzy, and with a pretty layer of fuzz sitting upstairs. Through the Ol' fizz 'N' fuzz wafted a pretty impressive aroma that blended roasty malts and milk chocolate. True to that scent, the flavour also meandered between chocolatey and malty, with a little molasses thrown in for balance. There was a finite dusting of hops at the close to keep thing honest, but this beer was pretty sweet and gooey.

In fact, to my mind, the beer was almost sweet enough to wander into milk stout territory. Given the (sorry Walkerville) not very attractive packaging, this beer left me pleasantly surprised. It was highly flavourful for a light-bodied dark ale, and the flavour it pumped out wasn't just assertive; it had a purpose. Too sweet for me, and not sessionable, but Easy Stout did deliver a quality mug of ale and I'd buy it again.

7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Smoked Honey

Royal City Brewing Co. is a new (or at least new to me) brewery operating out of Guelph, Ontario. When I saw their Smoked Honey hit the shelves of my local beer vendor, I jumped at it, both because it's an early offering from a brewery I know nothing about, and because the description beguiled me: "Lightly smoked, easy drinking brown ale ... made with real honey." Sold.

The 500mL bottle boasted an attractive label and it has a 5.5% on there too, which isn't bad at all. The label invited me to "share with friends & enemies", but I decided to hoard this one to myself. Smoked Honey proved to be a deep mahogany ale. It was cloudy and had some subtle ruby highlights underneath a healthy eggshell head.

The aroma found an interesting point in an unusual spectrum, somewhere between sweet and smokey. In addition, there was an entertaining waft of brown ale malt running through from end to end. The flavour wasn't quite rich, but close. I'd call it bourgeois, upper-middle-class ale. Honey and woodsmoke mingled in this one, giving it a slight BBQ hue; however, neither honey nor smoke was present in abundance. As for my old pal hops, there wasn't much of a sight of him in this particular beer. Just a few footprints in the finish.

Nuance and restraint typify this flavoured ale. Really, in spite of its apiary and incendiary leanings, this beer was basically a mildly malty brown ale. It was too sweet for multiples in an evening, but an enjoyable treat that I'd gladly welcome next to a campfire as the sun goes down.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Noble Oaf Rye Saison

Noble Oaf Rye Saison comes from Sarnia, Ontario, where its brewed by Refined Fool Brewing Co., makers of one of my fave Ontario strong ales, Short Pier, Long Walk Doubple IPA. I had a mighty 750mL bottle of the 7.3% alcohol brew at my pals' place. The beer proved to be a darkish copper hued ale, cloudy, and topped with a fluffy white head. It had a yeasty, faintly floral aroma. The flavour is yeasty, spicy, and pretty boozy. All told, a nice, large format saison with good strength, some rye heat, and a relatable name. I'd drink it again, but maybe not tonight.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Brygg Måstarens Swedish Premium Gold

I haven't had all that much experience with Swedish beers, so when I spotted cans of Brygg Måstarens Swedish Premium Gold, I hastened to pick one up. The clear bright gold lager comes Vimmerby, Sweden, where it's brewed by Åbro Brewery. At 5.9%, I'm grudgingly willing to call this a strong lager. It pours from its 500mL can with lots of carbonation and a layer of fluffy white head.

Brygg Måstatens has a reasonably potent aroma that is rich with sweet grass, grain, and a few metallic notes.  The mouthfeel isn't exactly crisp--rather, it's a bit think and slow for a lager. The flavour is quite grassy and very sweet. Toward the finish, the beer starts to turn toward bitterness, but, in my opinion, there aren't enough hops to satisfactorily close the door on this one.

While I found this lager to be a bit on the sweet site and a bit lacking in crispness, I don't want to give the idea that I didn't like it or wouldn't buy it again. Really, it was a decent, satisfying "starköl".

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Goose Endless IPA

Add the words "Limited Edition" to the list of phrases that open my wallet like a can of beans. That's true even when the beer being referenced comes from a subsidiary of a multinational beer giant (that used to be a premier micro, until it changed hands). This time, the beer that sucked me in with the lure of limited availability was Goose Endless IPA, an ale built by the Goose Island Brewery, formerly of Chicago, but now seemingly made in every major Canadian beer producing city (London, Creston, Edmonton, Montreal, Halifax, and St. John's are all listed on the 473mL can). The beer itself is a strikingly clear number, golden, and topped with a pretty luscious white head.

According to the can, Endless is a session IPA, but at 5%, it's pushing the boundaries of what is sessionable for mere mortals. I'd have called it an American Pale Ale, but what do I know? As promised by the can, the there are pretty substantial orange notes, first in the aroma and later in the flavour. As well, the scent suggests a mild but assertive bitterness that caught my interest. The flavour is not assertive though. Rather, the beer is verging on thin, with a delicate but pleasant taste.

Endless is a sessionable ale, but in a dangerous sense. At 5%, it has the strength of a macro-brewed beer, but the name of one with less juice. All told, this beer was fine. I was glad to have bought it (and another can for later), but I don't think it has the prowess to go beyond a limited edition into Goose Island's regular lineup.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 2 April 2016


I used to buy Netherworld, the Cascadian Dark Ale from Barrie, Ontario's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, with some regularity when I first moved to Toronto in 2010, but for years it's been pretty scarce. Recently it started showing up again on beer store shelves, so I pretty much had to buy some for old time's sake.

At 6%, this beer hits the cusp of what I'd call a "strong ale". Stout-dark and crowned with a lovely cream head, this beer is a real looker. It has a malty, syrupy nose that features dried fruit notes. The flavour is quite rich, but a tad too sweet. It has raisin elements and considerable malt in the first half, while the game concludes with a gritty, hoppy finish that has a taste of espresso.

Generally, I equate Cascadian dark ales with Black IPAs, but stuff is way maltier and sweeter than that style tends to play, particularly in the early going. Still, it tastes highly agreeable and it closes out strongly.

Something worth mentioning about this ale is its label. The 355mL bottles of Netherworld are adorned with a quartet of lurid, ghoulish hops-zombies huddled around what looks like a cauldron filled with electronics, art, a pink flamingo, and a purplish potion. Very strange. Very cool.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.