Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Track 85 Lagered Ale

Track 85 Lagered Ale is inspired by Canada's railroads and comes from Toronto, Ontario. This kölsch-style ale is a product of Old Tomorrow Ltd., and features the likeness of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald on the 473mL cans. At just 4.5%, this brew wades into light beer status.

Clear and aburn-hued, Track 85 pours with a nice eggshell head, but little carbonation. It has a sweet, malty nose, with lots of grain elements. The flavour is similarly oriented, with a sweet, grainy freshness up front. There is very little in the way of bitterness, just a touch at the end, and the finish remains malty and sweet with a glimmer of toastiness.

This lagered ale checks many, but not all, of my boxes for the style. It's too sweet, insufficiently strong, and lacks hops pops. However, on the positive side of the ledger, it's extremely sessionable, with an interesting flavour, and an agreeably toasty finish. I'd definitely buy Track 85 again, but I wouldn't call it a tremendous example of the style.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Smithavens' Kellerbier

Smithavens Brewing Company, a new-to-me Ontario brewer, works its magic in Peterborough. I spotted a 500mL bottle of Smithavens' Kellerbier recently, and it took little convincing to give the bottle-conditioned, 5.2% alcohol lager a go.

Upon my initial pour, the pale golden lager had a look that wasn't exactly clear, but very close. By the time I reached the bottom of my bottle, this had converted into a cloudy dull gold, owing to the stirring up of yeast in the bottom of the bottle. It was amply carbonated and bore a sudsy white head. The Kellerbier had a very grainy scent, fresh and with a subtly bitter turn. The flavour kicked off with some sweet malt and grain elements, before shifting into a dry, bitter finish. According to the label, this lager contained a mere 20 IBUs, but I'd have pegged that number considerably higher, given Kellerbier's arid and hoppy finish.

This Peterbourian beer tastes like a sudsy treat from the Czech Republic or Germany, rather than one that hails from central Ontario. I found it to be nicely balanced and I was able to come up with very few negatives, making this beer a real winner. I'm now extremely curious to check out other offerings from Smithavens--a trip to Peterborough may even be in the offing.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Work Horse IPA

During a recent visit to Fredericton to deal with a family issue, I seized the opportunity to try some of New Brunswick's newest sudsy offerings. Among these, the first that caught my eye was Maybee's Work Horse IPA, which I sampled at the King Street Alehouse, courtesy of my mum and dad--the Stout Folks. I had a 473mL can of the stuff, which is brewed by the newly-opened Maybee Brewing Company. At 7% alcohol, Work Horse was pleasantly potent. Hazy and brassy, my beer looked alright with a thin off-white head.

The nose was muted but inviting, with fresh citrus notes. An American-style IPA, there was heaps of grapefruit hops on a subtle caramel malt base. 

This beer wasn't unusual or unique, but it was decidedly well made and extremely tasty. Maybee's Work Horse definitely got the job done.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Sunnyside Session IPA

Every time I see a new offering from Toronto beer standout Great Lakes Brewery I'm quick to snap it up, and doubly so when the letters "IPA" are in the mix. Given that proclivity, I wasted no time in picking up a couple of 473mL cans of Sunnyside Session IPA as soon as I saw them on the shelf at my preferred local beer vendor. At an extremely low test 3.9% alcohol and just 25 IBUs, this session IPA also qualifies as a light beer. It's hazy, brassy, and covered with an elegant layer of ecru head.

Sunnyside has a dry, fruity aroma, with a decent-sized nod toward bitterness. The flavour is actually quite floral, with some faint citrus leanings.

With its dry and crisp mouthfeel, Sunnyside Session IPA is a thirst quenching machine. It's not as bitter and assertive as many of the other session IPAs currently available, and it could stand to be a few ticks stronger while still maintaining its session label, but Sunnyside is mellow and easy-drinking, with much to like.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Two Hearted Ale

Another gift from the astonishing and beer-savvy KC was a couple of 16oz cans of Bell's Brewery's elite Two Hearted Ale. THA is a classic American IPA: it contains a weighty 7% alcohol, pours a hazy and effervescent golden orange, and is crowned with a fluffy eggshell head. A favourite of mine in a past life when I was working in the US of A, Two Hearted Ale comes from Comstock, Michigan.

Grapefruit rind and nicely moderated hops are the key scent elements. The charmingly balanced flavour drifts from assertive, juicy citrus hops to a sweet and stable malt finish.

Drinking Two Hearted Ale on a beautiful late-May afternoon, I was reminded a lot of Boneshaker, the standout Ontario IPA from the Amsterdam Brewing Co. THA has a very similar flavour profile and body, though perhaps executed with a bit more moderation. It's a well-rounded India Pale that it strong, yet approachable. Really, a standout brew.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Bitter Unicorn Tears

Born in Clayton, North Carolina, Bitter Unicorn Tears is an India pale lager brewed by the Deep River Brewing Company. The 16oz can features a weeping, rainbow sneezing, orange haired blue unicorn. It's listed at a punchy 7.2% alcohol.

It's a hazy, golden brew. It poured with a nice cap of white head. It has a slightly spicy, floral hops nose. The beer is quite dry and a bit yeasty. Less bitter than I expected, but still modestly hoppy, with a floral bent.

While the best thing about Bitter Unicorn Tears was its name and packaging, it was a pretty decent little offering. Nice flavour and strength, but a little thin.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Distillery Root Beer

On my way to purchase some ales and lagers, I spotted a sixer that caught my interest. Distillery Root Beer stuck out, not because I wanted it, but because it seemed like the kind of boozy alco-pop that the Bitter Wife would be interested in. Of course, from the packaging I realized that the stuff hailed from Toronto's latest member of the Labatt Empire, the Mill St. Brewery, but I wasn't buying it for any connection to beer, just because I like to make my missus happy. However, when, on closer inspection, I saw that the product at issue contained a belt of Mill St.'s Vanilla Porter Bierschnaps, the liquid in my hands became a reviewable quantity. So the Bitter Wife got five 341mL bottles, with the sixth earmarked for review. While I thought that she would like the stuff, I was unprepared for the Bitter Wife's unbridled enthusiasm. It was hard to claw my bottle away from her grasping hands. "It's smooth like butter," she shrieked.

At 5.2%, Distillery Root Beer has a bit more oomph than the average macro brew, but less than most micros. Open emptying from its clear glass vessel, DRB proved to be clear itself, with a brown-amber hue, and no head to speak of. It had a powerful root beer aroma that was rich in vanilla and earthy notes. The flavour stuck to the same pattern--sweet, with ample vanilla notes. 

Nothing about this product was all that reminiscent of beer--it was definitely more root--but that failed to dampen my enjoyment one aota. Too sweet to indulge in more than a beer or two, sure, but Distillery Root Beer was tasty and fun.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Hop Roar

Hop Roar, a gift from the amazing KC, comes from Holly Springs, North Carolina. It's a west coast-style IPA brewed by Carolina Brewing Company, who, according to the label on the 355mL bottle, have been "brewers of tasty liquids since 1995." At 7.5% and 85 IBUs, this India pale has some serious bombast.

Mostly clear and copper-coloured, my brew poured with a thin level of off-white foam. In terms of nose, the big notes were metallic and piney hops. Up front, the flavour was amply hoppy, in a resinous and evergreen way. As it progresses, there is a drift toward sweetness, and a little bit of alcoholic heat.

Hop Roar is a lively and nicely-constructed little ale. I enjoyed it a lot and I'd recommend it to hops enthusiasts everywhere.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Quesada: Farmhouse Tripel

On a beautiful holiday Monday, I met my brother near his pad at a place called Folly Brewpub. Folly hadn't been on my thirst radar until I noticed it from the streetcar a few weeks earlier, but since then it had been popping into my head a lot.

While waiting for Little Brudder to arrive, I ordered myself a 12oz pour of Quesada: Farmhouse Tripel. Quesada was a sunny golden ale, hazy, and stroked with slow-moving carbonation. It showed up with a thin measure of bright white head. According to the tap list at Folly, Quesada contained a burly 8.8% alcohol and is dry hopped using Citra and Jarrylo hops.

My beer arrived bearing a powerful aroma that blended punchy yeast elements with dry white wine and tart fruit notes. Its mouthfeel proved to be a bit mellower than I expected, with a nice, smooth texture--not quite the farmhouse fizz I was counting on. Its taste was yeasty, bright, and fruity, with tart apple and pear notes in evidence.

For a Belgian-style ale brewed in Toronto, Quesada really delivered. The farmhouse elements make for an interesting take on the style. It was good enough to make a return to Folly an almost certainty. Not too sweet, plenty strong, and nicely made.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Leather Interior

According to the tap list at Bar Hop, Redline Brewhouse's Leather Interior is a brown ale with vanilla beans and toasted almonds. It sounded like a dessert to me, and given that I was stuffed to the gills with brunch, I figured I'd give it a whirl. At 5.4%, this beer outta Barrie, Ontario, wasn't overly potent--just warm.

My 15oz glass of ale showed up looking pretty--chocolate brown with ruby highlights, under a fog of creamy head. The nose had a large molasses presence built around a roasted malt body, and, most notably, a huge vanilla tone. The flavour starts like a classic brown ale; all roasted malt business. But as each sip progressed, rich notes of vanilla and mocha became evident. 

Innovative and nicely executed, Leather Interior left me feeling mellow and satisfied. This beer had a smooth, creamy mouthfeel that really suited its flavour profile. It wasn't necessarily a great choice for a sunny, summery afternoon, but I was pleased to have it. A bit more booze could have helped the cause a bit, though, by amping it up to a true dessert beer. Also worth noting, this beer had the potential to be too sweet, but managed to stay on the happy side of that particular line.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Farm Table I.P.A.

With a snazzy steamboat motif, a 600mL bottle of Farm Table I.P.A. was a pretty easy sell. This 6% alcohol ale comes from Vankleek Hill, Ontario. It's brewed by standout craft brewery Beau's.

When I upended my bottle, I found a swampy orange-brown product that poured with an extremely lush off-white head. When the head eventually died down a bit, I could detect a faintly metallic tang to the nose layered beneath a pleadingly dank, hoppy scent. The flavour is that of a standard India pale--a nice blend of bitter citrus and evergreen--but executed with a health panache. It starts with a dose of malty sweets before progressing to a musky, aromatic hop presence.

For an IPA, this stuff is a little low test booze-wise. On paper, it is an unremarkable brew, with conventional flavour notes and styling, but it delivers a great taste. In short, it does the ordinary really well. This is a beer well worth seeking out. It's certified organic, too.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Cone Ranger

I usually try not to review more than two beers in a sitting, but on the Sunday of a summer long weekend, I visited the newly opened Bandit Brewery and allowed myself a third review: Cone Ranger, an American-style IPA. The copper and amber-hued ale arrived  in front of me, in a 16oz glass marked with Bandit's awesome raccoon logo, looking clearish, with a layer of cream head. At 5.5% alcohol, this beer is less boozy than a typical IPA, though it does pack a virile 60 IBUs.

Cone Ranger had a fresh, hoppy scent, buttressed by a slight metallic tang. The flavour is less hop-focused than many IPAs, preferring instead to kick things off with a rich, toasted malt vibe, before veering into the IBU zone. Caramel and copper notes make this a nicely balanced India pale ale, but there are still enough hops to satisfy a devotee of the bines.

Maybe it could have been hoppier, and definitely could have been stronger, but Cone Ranger was otherwise a nice IPA.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Bystander American Pale Ale

On the Friday of the Victoria Day long weekend, I worked up a powerful thirst waiting for the bitter wife to get home so we could order some chow. Fortunately, Innocente Brewing Company answered my prayer for beery relief with their Bystander American Pale Ale. Brewed in Waterloo, Ontario, Innocente's take on the APA contained a mere 4.7% alcohol (fortunately a buttressed that with a whisky), and came in a 500mL bottle. The brew was a swampy, dull orange number, with a lush, off-white head and a pretty fair volume of yeasty floaties.

According to the copy on the label, I was due for flavours of grapefruit and strawberry. While citrus is an altogether common (if wildly enjoyable) note in hoppy beers, the prospect of strawberry threw me for a bit of a loop. Sure enough, though, the ale's aroma walked a tricky line between citrus and berry, while maintaining the promise of bitterness. The flavour played a similar tune, with a cacophony of fruit notes dueling with dry bitterness in an effort to be heard.

This was my second tango with an Innocente offering, and like the Charcoal Porter before it, I found myself genuinely impressed with the quality of this beer. Someone (or someones) in the Innocente organization has their shit together. I could have done without the floaties, but this beer had little else to count against it. It was sessionable, flavourful, slightly unusual, hoppy, and memorable. And that isn't just the whisky and the pending long weekend talking--this beer was baller. I feel like a trip to Waterloo is in my near future! 

Note: "a trip to Waterloo is in my near future" is a nine-word combination that may have never been accompanied by an exclamation point prior to this blog post.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 3 June 2016

White Belt IPA

During a recent visit to Toronto's Bandit Brewery, I took the recommendation of my server and ordered a 16oz pour of their White Belt IPA, billed as a blend of IPA and a Belgian wheat ale, dry hopped with an array of good green cones.

My glass arrived a cloudy pale gold ale, crowned with a lush white head. At 5.3%, it's a little on the weak side, but at 70 IBUs, it doesn't want for bitterness. The nose was hop-heavy with some understated fruit notes. Robustly bitter, the beer was quite dry, and underlaid with faint tropical notes.

Other than the lower than standard booze bill, White Belt provided me with very little to complain about. It was nicely executed, flavourful, and commendably hoppy.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Pouch Envy

Sarnia, Ontario's Refined Fool Brewing Co. has done a bang up job of infiltrating the LCBO with a bevy of their beery beverages. One that recently caught my eye was called Pouch Envy. Billed as an "Australian pale ale", P.E. is a 5% alcohol, 20 IBU brew. Sold in yeller and green 650 mL bottles, the beer within is a modestly hazy, pale golden ale--cheery and bright, with a thick level of white head.

With a crisp, lightly hopped nose built atop grainy aromatics, Pouch Envy had a scent that caught my fancy. It's flavour is modest, but chipper--fresh, grainy, with a touch of shiny bitterness.

Not as potently bitter as an American pale ale, this Aussie version left a bit on the table. Low booze and light body aside, this is a sunny little bräu with definite session potential. A bit too light, but certainly tasty; this is a beer I'd gladly revisit, though it is unlikely to make it into heavy Stout Man rotation.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.