Friday, 29 July 2016

Collective Project: Papaya Saison

My first foray into the Collective Project Sixer was the Papaya Saison. Brewed in Hamilton, Ontario by Collective Arts Brewing Limited, this 6% alcohol farmhouse ale lists papaya among its ingredients--not papaya extract or papaya purée or papaya concentrate. So that's something. Sold in 355mL bottles, Papaya Saison pours fizzy and clear, with a pale golden hue and thin white head that could easily be mistaken for an American-style lager.

Less belligerently fruity than I expected, the nose is more of an earthy, yeasty job, with an overlay of tropical notes. Ditto the flavour, which is doubtlessly fruity, but more so yeast-driven. The dry mouthfeel is very true to style, and the finish is just faintly bitter.

If it weren't for the mention of papaya in the name and ingredients list, I'd have merely called this a saison with a hint of fruity character. The subtle nature the papaya was incorporated shows impressive restraint in a style that could easily have gone awry with a heavy hand. I am really quite impressed with this little brew--a lovely, light-tasting summer ale, with a faint booze bite.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Collective Project

I spotted a mixed sixer the other dat from Hamilton, Ontario's Collective Arts Brewing Limited. Dubbed the Collective Project, the pack was made up of two each of a papaya saison, a hefeweizen, and a gose. With a cool aesthetic and a trio of interesting offering, this was a six pack I found highly intriguing. Stay tuned to the Bitter World over the next few days to hear about my thoughts.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Railside Session Ale

Railside Session Ale is a low-alcohol offering from Guelph, Ontario's venerable Sleeman Brewing and Malting Co. Sold in Sleeman's trademark clear 341mL glass bottles, this copper ale is largely clear and pours with a quickly melting off-white head. At just 4.2%, Railside really is a session ale.

To my nose, this stuff smells mild, with toasted malt notes and a subtle hint of hops. This aroma is closely replicated in the flavour, with malt and caramel in front and a bit of bitterness out back.

Truthfully, my thinking on this little ale is that it's mostly alright, but nothing special. There is a decent amount of flavour for the low percentage, but it isn't all that interesting and there is a bit of a hops power shortage.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Ace Hill Pilsner

Extremely fizzy, clear, pale gold, and topped with a fluffy white head, Ace Hill Pilsner proved to be a lovely companion for a little afternoon baseball. From Toronto, Ontario's Ace Hill Beer Company, the AHP came in a stylishly minimalist 473mL can. At 4.9%, AHP is just a whisker below standard strength, and, according to the Ace Hill website, it contains 16.5 IBUs.

This pilsner featured a delicate, grassy aroma. It's flavour was mild, but engaging, with a grainy base and a slight murmur of something floral. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, and not quite as crisp as I'd have liked, but very refreshing. The back end had some hops bitterness, but not as much as the best beers in the pilsner category tend to sport.

Though I had some qualms about bitterness and crispness, Ace Hill Pilsner's distinguished and subtle flavour made this a lager I could get behind. I'll definitely be buying more of this summery brew.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

West Coast SESSION Lager

West Coast SESSION Lager comes is a collaboration if ever there was one. Listed on the 473mL can are a variety of Ontario bars, breweries, and other beery denizens of the province, including Bar Hop, Sweetgrass Brewing Co., and and Sawdust City Brewing Co., of Gravenhust, Ontario, where this little number was born and raised, or at least brewed and canned. The ensemble cast is billed as The Local 7. Light, at just 4.5%, this pale lager promises to be "easy drinking", with "a big, bold hop forward flavour and aroma."

The beer is cloudy, pale gold, and pours with a thick, white head. It has an aroma both grassy and slightly hoppy, with some fruity notes. Its mouthfeel is crisp and dry, and its flavour is fruity, with an agreeable dose of lovely lagered hops.

As Ontario lagers go, West Coast SESSION Lager has a lot in its favour, with ample flavour above a mild, low-alcohol body. Crisp and thirst-quenching, this little partnership offers lager drinkability, with a decent degree of crafted hops.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Haters Gonna Hate

A totally new style to me, Haters Gonna Hate is an Imperial Kölsch. At 8% alcohol and 40 IBUs, this lagered ale from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. has some fiendish heft. According to the label (which features a hipster cat walking a tiny dog), this beer is an extra strong rendition of the Vankleek Hill, Ontario outfit's popular Lug Tread Lagered Ale. Sold in 600mL bottles, this murky orange grog pours with a fluffy white cloud cover.

Haters Gonna Hate is No. 46 in Beau's Wild Oats Series. It has a tremendously engaging nose--one that is thick and sticky with tropical fruit, but also boisterously boozy. The taste walks the same walk, particularly with the recurrence of big fruit notes in the early going. However, ye olde back end of this beer is what surprised and delighted me most. The finish is certainly strong and boozy, but there is also some really interesting, resinous hops that lend an almost IPA feel to this weirdo take on the Kölsch.

In truth, I'm not totally sure what gives this beer its Kölsch-style pedigree, as it tastes nothing like any Kölsch I've ever downed, but it is a flavourful, assertive, and downright fun ale. Add to that the large format and the silly label, and you've got a real winner. Well done, Beau's.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Sunlight Park

Named in honour of Toronto's first professional ballpark, Sunlight Park is a saison brewed with a considerable amount of grapefruit zest. From Toronto's Left Field Brewery, this brew comes in at 5.3% and is sold in 650mL bottles. It's a bright golden beer, heartily carbonated, clear, and covered with a white head.

To the nose, Sunlight Park is yeasty and tart, with grapefruit notes. The mouthfeel is thin, but extremely fizzy. Flavour-wise, there is a substantial yeast presence that underlies tart, fruity, and dry leanings.

Left Field is one of my favourite Toronto brewing establishments. Their Sunlight Park is an enjoyable addition to the roster, though not a top of the order hitter like Maris* or a cleanup like Eephus. All told, a fine brew, with seriously refreshing properties. A bit on the thin side, but agreeable.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Absent Landlord Country Kolsch

The copy on the side of the 473mL cans that house Absent Landlord Country Kolsch taught me that in 1855, a gent named Henry Blyth bought the entirety of the town of Drummond, Ontario, rechristened it Blyth, and never even visited the damn place. From this anecdote, Absent Landlord gets its name. A Kölsch-style ale from Blyth, Ontario's Cowbell Brewing Co., Absent Landlord features 5.3% alcohol and 18 IBUs. Hazy and orange-gold, it decants with a nicely sudsy off-white head.

Absent Landlord has a sweet and fruity scent that is closely replicated in the flavour. There is something almost wheat-like in the taste, with vague banana notes nestled in with lightly toasted malt. Out back, there are sufficient hops to offer a sense of closure, but little more than that.

While not quite what I expected, Absent Landlord offers a refreshing (literally) take on the Kölsch style. No idea what makes it a "Country Kolsch" other than the fact that Blyth is a rural community. Perhaps it's an attempt to thwart the sticklers in Cologne who insist that a Kölsch must come from their fair city, or perhaps it's because there is a bit of a witbier element. Whatever the case, Cowbell has created an interesting little ale here. I'd buy it again, though I'd be more likely to do so in a timely manner if this beer was a tad less sweet and had fewer banana esters.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Castaway India Pale Ale

At a pal's bachelor party, I had occasion to sample a 12oz. bottle of Castaway India Pale Ale. Born in Kona, Hawaii, Castaway comes from Kona Brewing Co. The beautiful bottle has a nice catamaran, as well as a map of Hawaii and the words "Liquid Aloha" in raised letters. At 6%, it's a little low octane, but the flavour satisfies.

The aroma is hoppy and carries a lot of tropical fruit notes. Bitter, but not excessive, Castaway walks a tricky line between thirst-quenching and craft-style levels of hops. Chief notes are pineapple and resin. I try to drink my beers in clear vessels to maximize my ability to see it, but at a cabin in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, I was forced to settle for a stein engraved with my name. Tough choices. The beer inside appeared to be clear, brown-gold, and it poured with a thick layer of white head.

As my soon-to-be wed pal put it, "you can't beat the ratio of refreshment to hops", and he was quite right. Very enjoyable stuff! Booze count could have been slightly elevated.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Illiterate Librarian Grapefruit IPA

Under a fluffy cloud of white head, Illiterate Librarian Grapefruit IPA is a hazy gold-orange ale. Hailing from Sarnia, Ontario and the Refined Fool Brewing Co., this 70 IBU number comes in 650mL bottles with a heinous pink and brown colour scheme on the label. At 5.7%, we're dealing with a slightly understrength India pale ale.

I was less than shocked to discover the nose of this grapefruit IPA was rich in both hops and citrus. However, my first impression was that I was not all that blown away by the depth of grapefruit in the flavour of this ale--it has a definite grapefruit note that I'd have identified, but not much more than a plethora of I.P.A.s on the market that don't feature "grapefruit" in their names. It is worth noting, though, that the finish packs a hearty element of citrus rind and tartness that grew on me. Otherwise, I was dealing with a beer that was reasonably bitter, deficiently boozy, but with a well-rounded flavour. Not a customary India pale, but not a noteworthy one either.

At 70 IBUs, this stuff is extremely bitter for a low-booze IPA. Despite my initial misgivings, my final assessment on this one was quite favourable. Like a nice ruby red grapefruit, sweetness, tartness, and bitterness are all present. While I didn't get the up-front citrus pop I was expecting, the cumulative impact was pretty decent. Would I buy it again? Definitely. Would I buy it again tomorrow? Not likely. Was it as good as Refined Fool's standout Short Pier, Long Walk Double IPA? Not a chance.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Red Coat Canadian Red Ale

London, Ontario is the hometown of Forked River Brewing Co., and the birthplace of their Red Coat Canadian Red Ale. A strong ale at pleasant 6.2% alcohol, Red Coat is sold in 500mL bottles. The beer within is a clear, copper red. It pours with a loose foam of cream head. Malty, well roasted, and metallic were the terms that popped into my mind when sniffing the stuff. The mouthfeel in this one was a bit of a mixed bag--initially quite thin and flimsy, but nicely salvaged by a chunkily bitter back end. The flavour tracked the nose quite well, with roasty, malty and ferrous notes, along with a pretty decent hops presence.

Red Coat is a fine red ale. A bit stronger and more bitter than average, but balanced against a somewhat underwhelming primary mouthfeel. Like other Forked River beers I've sipped, Red Coat is a nice specimen that does the City of London proud.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Rye Knot

A few years ago, during a trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, a pal and I ducked into a little brewery called Taps on Queen for a couple of cold ones (see reviews here and here). This week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Taps, now billed as Taps Brewing Company, has managed to navigate the bureaucratic minefield and land a beer in the provincially-run liquor stores. Rye Knot is a rye pale ale. The 473mL can billed it as "the whisky of beers." At 5% and 30 IBUs, it's middling in strength and bitterness. The beer proved to be a next to clear with a handsome copper tone and a sudsy eggshell head.

Grainy to the nose, with roasted malt elements and a whiff of something stronger than ale, Rye Knot delivered a pleasant smell. Its flavour started sweet with a well-roasted and grainy trajectory, but quickly angled toward a spicy hops 'n' rye finish.

Oddly, I wasn't wild about Rye Knot after my first sip, but by the third or fourth (sip, not can), I was really enjoying it. True to the copy on the can, this beer had elements reminiscent of a whisky--spice and sweetness rolled in together.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Pernicious India Pale Ale

Asheville, North Carolina seems like my kind of town; it certainly has a disproportionate number of craft brewers, which suggests a cool populace. One of Asheville's beery denizens is Wicked Weed Brewing, an outfit that has been recommended to me by more than one beer-savvy North Carolinians. Thankfully, my Ol' pal KC brought me a couple 330mL bottles of WW's Pernicious India Pale Ale, so I was able to satisfy both my curiosity and my thirst.

Pernicious is a cloudy gold IPA. It pours with a thin disc of off-white head and displays a fair amount of carbonation. At 7.3% alcohol, it has an extremely respectable amount of juice. Its aroma exudes a rich mosaic of sweet, fruity, and bitter notes. Juicy tropical fruit flavours are prevalent, particularly in the early going, though they persist throughout the finish, enhancing an otherwise enjoyably bitter finish with a bit of flare.

Pernicious lived up to the hype generated by my pals in the Old North State. It's all of my favourite things in an IPA: hoppy, boozy, assertive, and intriguing. A first class ale. Cool label, too.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Friday, 1 July 2016

8 Man English Pale Ale

Another beer from Bath, Ontario's utterly respectable, farm-based Mackinnon Brothers Brewing Co., 8 Man English Pale Ale is a 5.8% alcohol brew, housed in 473mL cans. Those pale blue aluminum sheaths feature an image of a mustachioed English rugger, seemingly taking advantage of a break in the action.

8 Man is a handsomely hazy ale. It has a ruddy chestnut brown colour and pours with a blanket of dense eggshell head. Its aroma presages a balanced ale, boasting a healthy measure of roasted malt notes superimposed over a faint but hard to ignore hops layer. True to its pedigree as an English-style pale ale, this little number focuses more strongly on the malt portion of the beer equation than does its North American brothers and sisters. Nicely roasted and rich in caramel notes, this malty, slightly sweet front end is where 8 Man really shines. Toward the close, there is a nod to bitterness, but it feels little more than perfunctory,

I'll admit that, just as I prefer football to rugby, I am typically more pleased with hops-heavy American/Canadian style pale ales than brews that ape the maltier English style. However, this charming offering from the Mackinnon Bros. left me feeling sated and impressed. 8 Man English Pale Ale is most certainly worth checking out.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.