Monday, 30 May 2016

Bandit's APA

Bandit Brewery opened a few weeks ago in Toronto's Dundas West neighbourhood. It's a place I've had my eye on since their raccoon mask signs first appeared a few months ago and I've been itching to try it. The Bitter Wife and I made the trek (actually a short streetcar ride from our place) on a gorgeous spring day.

The first beer I opted to try was called Bandit's APA, a 5.25%, 40 IBU American pale ale. I got myself a 16oz pour of the highly carbonated, almost clear, ruddy ale on tap. My glass showed up with a thin but unrelenting layer of off-white head. It had a mild but enticing nose with a fresh hops vibe. The flavour is floral, with dry bitterness leading the charge. Underneath, there was a slight grainy sweetness that really added a bit of value.

My first brush with a Bandit brew was definitely satisfactory. Bandit's APA wasn't life-altering, but it was well made and extremely fresh. The bitterness level was delightful, but there could have been a bit more charm in the front end. 

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Insane Frown Posse

Insane Frown Posse is a collaboration between to great Toronto establishments--Great Lakes Brewery and Bar Hop. It's a brettanomyces pale ale brewed with strawberries and blackberries. A bit on the weak side at 4.3%, IFP arrived at my stretch of Bar Hop's bar with a quickly dissipating off-white head. The beer was a hazy, dull orange one.  It had a really unique sent, walking a curious line between tart and sweet, all the while luxuriating under a tonne of berry notes.

Given the presence of brett, I expected this ale to have a serious amount of funk; however, it was only a little bit yeasty. Instead, tangy berry elements dominated the flavour. 

This beer was a great compliment to a sunny Saturday afternoon. It was refreshing and quirky, without having a punishing alcohol content. I'd have liked the brett to come through a bit more forcefully, but the berries were incorporated quite nicely. Hops, too, could have been evidenced a bit more prominently.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.
For those of you keeping score at home, today's post is my 900th!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Flight Delay IPA

Barnstormer Brewing Company works its magic in Barrie, Ontario. I recently spotted a can of their Flight Delay IPA at my local beer vender and, despite the remarkably unattractive packaging, I came home with a couple of 473mL vessels of the stuff. At 6.5%, Flight Delay has a standard amount of juice, but its 85 IBUs put in on the uncommonly bitter side of things.

The suds themselves are hazy and orange, with a loose off-white head. There is a soft aroma that hints at the presence of fruity hops. The flavour packs the expected bitter wallop, manifested both by tropical fruit and resinous elements. 

As a certified hops zealot, the massive amount of bitterness in this beer left me feeling really satisfied. Where I felt a bit let down was is the malt side of the equation, which I found a bit thin and underdeveloped. Despite this, and the less than beautiful packaging, I will most certainly be buying this stuff again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Neon Wasteland

Neon Wasteland is a Belgian-style pale ale brewed and bottled in Toronto, Ontario. It's produced by the woefully overlooked Rainhard Brewing Co., which crams it into 500mL, sci-fi inspired bottles. I picked up my bottle right at the source during a visit to the brewery.

At 5.1%, Neon Wasteland isn't terribly potent, though its 45 IBUs pick up some of the alcoholic slack. It's a slightly hazy elemental gold brew that pours with a nice cap of white head. As expected of a Belgian-style pale ale, there is a considerably yeasty bent to the nose, as well as a metallic trend and an underpowered whiff of hops. The flavour is assertively yeasty, and this is backed with a cracklingly dry hops finish.

Rainhard Brewing has really impressed me with their beery acumen. Neon Wasteland isn't quite as noteworthy as their excellent Armed 'n Citra, but it's pretty close.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Barn Owl No. 3

A "mixed fermentation farmhouse ale with Ontario peaches" comes from Toronto's Bellwoods Brewery. I picked up an owl-emblazoned 500mL bottle at the bottle shop, brought it home, and reviewed it with my lovely mother-in-law (who likes to try beers in 2oz. samples).

Here are her idiosyncratic thoughts:

Frothy, fruity, and sangria-esque. Light--the fuzzy navel of beer. Could drink it quite easily. Would dress it up and put fruit in it. Liked it a lot.
The beer was cloudy and orange. It poured with a thin and fluffy white head that faded extremely quickly down to nothing. It had a sharp and yeasty aroma, sitting boldly atop a slightly fruity base. I found the flavour to be a touch tart, particularly early on, with a lovely unripened peach vibe. It's yeasty and a bit funky.

Barn Owl was a pretty decent little farmhouse. It was a bit short of fizziness, which I found a tad disappointing, but packed a lot of flavour into its 6.5% alcohol frame.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Murder of Crows

Beers from Sarnia, Ontario's Refined Fool Brewing Co. have been appearing at my neighbourhood liquor store and I've been guzzling them down at an immoderate pace. One such ale that turned up recently was a black IPA called Murder of Crows. The 650mL bottle and the 8% alcohol both appealed to me, but what really caught my eye were the 90 IBUs, which is just a lovely amount of bitterness.

The beer proved to be a handsome black number with a thick covering of tan head. For a strong and bitter beer, there was not a particularly potent aroma, but what was there was quite pleasant. It had a mild roasted malt scent and a whiff of resinous hops. There was definitely no shortage of flavour, though--lots of roasty notes, a bit of sweetness, and a serious hops presence.

Murder of Crows is a weighty and assertive dark ale. It's a bit sweet and boozy, but I definitely enjoyed it all the same.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Hop Cone Syndrome

I downed a 650mL bomber of Hop Cone Syndrome while watching my Toronto Raptors slug it out with the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs on a Monday night. The brew came fresh from the Rainhard Brewing Co.'s bottle shop, purchased a few days earlier. This Torontonian brew contains a hearty 8.5% and an enamel-wrecking 100 IBUs.

A double IPA, Hop Cone Syndrome is slightly hazy and fully brassy. It pours with a beautiful layer of loose, off-white head through which a punchy citrus and resin aroma wafts up. The flavour bites hard to bitter, with powerful citrus hops, laid on top of a very boozy body. There is a pretty hefty layer of sweetness that comes with all that alcohol, but it isn't overblown. As expected with a righteous label featuring hops and fists in the air, the finish is heartily bitter, but not particularly dry.

Having recently been exposed to Rainhard's Armed 'n Citra, I was not totally blown away by Hop Cone. That said, though, it really is a well made and enjoyable strong ale--a beer you're gonna want to track down. As I've mentioned, Rainhard Brewing is a bit off the beaten path, but with engaging, nicely crafted ales like Hop Cone Syndrome, beer drinkers in Toronto would be fools to overlook it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Death By Coconut

Death By Coconut is an Irish porter flavoured with both coconut and chocolate. DBC comes from Longmont, Colorado, where it is crafted by Oskar Blues Brewery. The beer comes in 355mL cans and clocks in at a portly 6.5% alcohol.

This beer packs a hefty coconut aroma that pretty much dominates the light chocolate tone. The flavour plays in the opposite direction, with a bitter chocolate vibe towering over some coconut foothills--fine by me, since I'd take chocolate over coconut any day. This beer is more than just choco and coco, as there is a nice roasted malt quality and a decent hops charge to close things out.

As I expected, this beer was a bit too sweet for me, but it was undeniably enjoyable. This stuff makes an excellent dessert beer--one that would be well matched to chocolate or fruity sweets.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Pineapple Sculpin

When I uncapped my 12 oz bottle of Pineapple Sculpin, an immediate aroma of pineapple juice washed over me. This brew, born and raised in San Diego, California, was nurtured to maturity by the stalwart folk at Ballast Point Brewing Company. Like their Grapefruit Sculpin, the pineapple variety is brewed with natural pineapple flavour. It's an IPA, and accordingly contains a nearly immodest 7% alcohol.

Lightly hazy and with a brassy orange hue, P.S. pours with a thinnish off-white foam. As already mentioned, its aroma bellows "pineapple!", but also pays some homage to bitterness as well. Before sampling this India pale ale, I was mildly concerned that it would over-emphasize the piña elements at the expense of hops and malt bricks and mortar; however, the taste proved to be enjoyable IPA first and flavoured ale second. In spite of the jumbo aroma, the ale itself wasn't over-sweet or cloying. Rather, it was pretty damned tasty. That this beer would benefit from a bit meatier front end is my only real note of critique.

I enjoyed the Grapefruit Sculpin as well, but grapefruit is a much more traditional IPA flavour than pineapple, and so requires less art to make things click. Pineapple is a bit more of a challenge, one the team at Ballast Point was up for.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Marooned on Hog Island

Another offering from 21st Amendment Brewery, Marooned on Hog Island is billed as a "stout brewed with Hog Island sweetwater oyster shells". At 7.9%, this stout has some chops. It comes in 12oz. cans and pours with a dark, ruby hue, under a fluffy cream head. Unlike Hell or Highwatermelon, reviewed earlier, this strong ale comes, not from San Francisco, California, but from 21st Amendment's San Leandro, CA location.

The aroma is quite rich and warm, with cocoa and molasses elements. The flavour, which is built on a malty foundation, contains some dusky, sweet chocolate notes. My pal MM recommended that I enjoy this brew slowly, because a faint saltiness comes though as the beer warms, and she wasn't messing with me--there is a smidgeon of aquatic saline noticeable at the finish.

This beer certainly doesn't taste as strong as its billing, which makes it a deliciously dangerous ale. Strong, yet subtle, Hog Island is a fine piece of brewing. It might be a bit sweet and weighty, but not by much.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Hell or High Watermelon

A seasonal offering from the brilliantly named 21st Amendment Brewery, Hell or High Watermelon is an equally well-named watermelon wheat beer. Brewed in San Francisco, California, this little number contains a modest 4.9% alcohol. The 12oz can has a pretty cool Statue of Liberty meets Golden Gate Bridge motif.

The beer itself is a sunny golden hue. It's hazy and crowned with a short-lived white head. Its aroma is slightly sweet and fairly wheaty, but with barely a hint of watermelon. The flavour, on the other hand, has a hefty dose of juicy watermelon, giving the beer a light, fruity vibe. There isn't a lot of hops or malt to this one, but a nice fragrant wheat presence.

Hell or High Watermelon is undeniably a sunny afternoon beer; a patio beer for sure. It's fresh and fruity, but not too sweet or overdone. The mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, and despite the appearance of lively carbonation, it doesn't really have the desired effervescent burst. It's definitely a tasty brew, though. One worth tracking down.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Countryside India Pale Ale

Sycamore Brewing hails from Charlotte, NC. The offering I was gifted, Countryside India Pale Ale, came housed in a pale blue 16oz can emblazoned with an old-timey truck. At a modest 6%, Contryside was a bit understrength for an IPA, but still hearty enough to make me salivate. Hazy brown-orange in colour, Countryside poured with a generous cloud of off-white head.

The can told me to expect "a beautiful bouquet of tropical fruits" and that was no lie! This beer smelled like a rain forest fruit salad, with mango and papaya notes sitting high atop a nice whiff of bitterness. The flavour was true to form--juicy and exotic, backed by a none-too-bashful whomp of sticky hops.

Countryside had big positives and only a few minor issues to whine about. It could have been a bit stronger, a few more of the ol' IBUs, a touch less sweet, and the head could have lasted a bit longer, but even that last one is a stretch. Really, a very solid beer, assuming that you're down with very fruity IPAs.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Queen City Craft--Doin' Thyme

Doin' Thyme is an adorably named witbier from Charlotte, North Carolina. It's brewed by the Birdsong Brewing Co. and came to me via my pals MM and AM. It's a pretty mild brew at 4.3% and pours a milky white, yellow, with a bright white head.

There is a slightly sweet and slightly spicy nose, with a fresh, veggie feel. The flavour has some classic wit notes, with banana smoothness, but there is also a substantial thyme presence that really comes through.

Really agreeable, tasty, and unusual, Doin' Thyme is a lovely little brew. It lacks oomph and charge, but delivers a pleasing vibe. I'd have liked a bit more ballast, but I can live with it, for its subtlety and originality.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Queen City Craft

During a luxurious long weekend in April, the Bitter Wife and I hosted a pair of dear friends from sunny Charlotte, North Carolina. As is often the case when I play host, I was treated to a nice assortment of the finest ales available south of the border. For the next few posts, buckle in for a series of reviews I'm going to call Queen City Craft, even though not all of the brews are from Charlotte, or even, on closer inspection, from The Old North State. Still, their path to me came through the QC, so it seems acceptable. 
Cheers to these broads! (even though I can't seem to smile in photos with them)

Monday, 2 May 2016


During a recent visit to the excellent Junction Craft Brewing, one of Toronto's finest beer builders, I had occasion to sample Bravo, a member of their Hops Series. Liked it so much I left the brewery with four 500mL bottles of the stuff. Bottles, it is worth mentioning, that featured really spiffy labels.

Bravo is either an American pale ale or an India session ale depending on your politics. Either way, it's a very light-bodied and low alcohol brew. At just 4%, it's wildly sessionable, but its 48 IBUs give it a pretty respectable whomp. It's a faintly lazy-hazy golden brew, topped with a thin shock of white head. It has a mild but enjoyable aroma that brings fresh citrus to the equation. Crisp and hoppy describe the mouthfeel and flavour respectively. Rounding out the bitterness is a thinnish but juicy fruit taste.

While I might like a bit more depth, Bravo is a lovely and refreshing little ale with a big upside. Definitely worth a trip to Junction's tap room.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.