Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Henderson's Best

During my first visit to Toronto's Henderson Brewing Co., I had to sample their flagship ale, Henderson's Best, an ESB. My pint of this amber ale arrived looking lovely and clear, with decent carbonation and a healthy cream head. At 5.5%, this beer had enough heft to soothe this savage beast.

It had a sweet, malty nose that was rich in caramel. The flavour, too, was malty with a caramel focus, but it also had a slightly coppery vibe. Not a lot on the hops side of things, though, with just enough bitterness to keep things balanced.

Henderson's Best is a good take on the Extra Special Bitter style. A nice English-style ale with decent strength and a pretty look, I found myself pretty pleased with my order.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Rademuller's Refusal

Thirsty for something different, I checked out the trusty Ontario Brewers Map and decided to check out Henderson Brewing Co. 

Henderson is tucked in a little industrial area just if of Dundas Street in Toronto's west end. It's a cute little spot that has a lot of nice touches--free popcorn, a cool Rube Goldberg machine that opens and pours a beer, and a bottle shop on site. What really made me settle on this brewery though was their monthly beer series, "The Ides of". While this is a cool idea generally, it was the Ides of October on tap in October 2016 that truly sealed the deal. 

Called Rademuller's Refusal, this English strong ale is named in honour of J.P. Rademuller, the late lighthouse keeper at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on the Toronto Island. Rademuller died a violent death, his murder was never solved, his ghost is said to haunt the lighthouse, and he's a favourite villain of my buddies The Stormalongs. According to the legend as told on the Henderson advertising copy, Rademuller was an amateur brewer whose strong ale was much in demand. When thirsty soldiers showed up at the lighthouse in 1815 demanding beer Rademuller refused ... and was never seen again.

The brew, a 12oz draught, was hazy, mauve-brown, and covered in a thin cream head. It contained a bruising 9% alcohol, and packed a mighty aroma of dark fruit and roasted malt. The beer proved to be extremely flavourful and smooth. It had date and raisin notes, as well as a decidedly boozy vibe.

Strangely for such a strong ale, I found Rademuller's Refusal to be a bit thin of body. Certain elements put me in mind of a Belgian dubbel, minus the funky yeast. It tasted great and I'd gladly drink it again.


Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Common Loon

After spending a disheartening evening watching my Toronto Blue Jays being cruelly bounced from the MLB playoffs, I had a powerful thirst, and I thought that an Ontarian pale ale done up in a blue can would suffice to slake it. Common Loon was an American pale ale from the Bobcaygen Brewing Company. According to the 473mL vessel in my hand, the 4.8%, 36 IBU concoction was created in Bobcaygen, but brewed in Ottawa.

My ale was a hazy golden number that poured with a persistent off-white foam. Its nose was metallic and grainy, and its flavour followed a similar course. There were some sweet, bready notes along for the ride, before a curious turn toward noble hops bitterness that put me in mind more of a pilsner than a pale ale.

Absent from Common Loon were the fruity or floral hops notes that I expected to find, though there were some decidedly hoppy floral notes that helped it attain its 36 IBU listing. Crisp and friendly enough as the flavour was, I had a hard time with the APA designation afforded to this ale. A pale ale, certainly, but not all that American in style. I found it to be an agreeable ale, but not one that lived up to its pedigree. The million dollar question: Would I buy it again? Sure. I most definitely would and most certainly will. However, I wasn't blown away.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Bronco Copper Ale

Bronco Copper Ale was born an raised "on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron" in Southampton, Ontario. A brew from the Outlaw Brew Co., Bronco contains 5.6% alcohol. Sold in 473mL cans with a riverboat gambler motif, it proved to be a handsome ruby-copper beer; hazy and with a a healthy eggshell head.

Bronco had a sweet and malty nose, with notes of caramel, bread, roasted malt, and copper. The flavour had a metallic bent, but layered over a hearty malt and lots of sweetness.

This ale was pretty appealing, though a bit too sweet. It had some round caramel notes that were a bit distracting. A heartier hops finish would have helped matters. What it did, though, was alert me to the Outlaw Brew Co., an outfit I'll be sure to monitor.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Old Flame Red

From Port Perry, Ontario's Old Flame Brewing Co. comes Old Flame Red. A Vienna lager, OFR contains 5.1% and pours a beautiful deep auburn, clear and with a thick eggshell head. It's sold in slightly sleazy cans that depict a female silhouette, but the can is an unusual 568mL, which is something I don't think I've seen before. According to the copy on the can, "[i]ncredibly balanced, this lager can be enjoyed by both ale and lager drinkers." We shall see.

The nose is robust and agreeable, with a sizable roasted malt body and some breadlines. The flavour is rich and roasty--full of malty goodness. On the finish, there is a slight shuffle toward bitterness, but not quite as far as I'd have wished.

Despite the iffy can, Old Flame Red proved to be a really solid take on the Vienna lager. Flavourful and deep, in a large format, I was more than pleased. This is a brewery I'll be monitoring in the months to come, since they've shown me that they can deliver a tricky style with nuance.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Mango Even Keel

Another gift from the generous MM, Mango Even Keel is billed as a "session ale with natural mango flavours. It comes in beautiful 12oz cans that feature a beer chugging skeleton lounging in a hammock. A true session ale, MEK contains just 3.8% alcohol. It's a clear, copper ale with a short-lived cream head. It's brewed in San Diego, CA by the beer wizards at Ballast Point Brewing Company.

Copper in colour, MEK also has a slightly coppery aroma, sitting atop some fruity notes. For a beer with such a low percentage, this stuff has an unbelievable amount of flavour. There is a metallic malt base note. The finish is slightly hoppy. As for the mango elements, these are cunningly and subtly built into the back end--really nicely done! The only drawback was that as the beer warmed, the mango became more and more assertive, becoming a bit of a distraction in my final sips.

For a flavoured session ale, I found myself unexpectedly wowed by Mango Even Keel. Big flavour, discrete fruit essence, and quality execution made quaffing this ale a treat.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Autumn Hop Harvest Ale

Autumn Hop Harvest Ale is a fall seasonal from Toronto's Amsterdam Brewery. According to its 473mL can, this 5.6% alcohol ale is wet hopped using fresh Ontario hops sourced from Clear Valley Hops to reach its 46 IBUs.

The beer proved to be a hazy gold grog and it poured under a lush cloud of loose white foam. Upon cracking the can, I was greeted with a snootful of grassy and hoppy aromas. The ale tasted fresh and fine, with balanced bitterness in the form of mild evergreen notes. Sadly, the flavour was delivered via a thin mouthfeel, though things picked up a bit into the final stanza, with a bit more hoppiness.

Autumn Hop Harvest Ale had many fine elements, but its watery consistency left me a bit underwhelmed. It didn't have the pale ale crackle I was hoping for, but it was still quite refreshing.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bristol Stout

A milk stout from Ottawa, Ontario, Bristol Stout is a fall seasonal produced by Kichesippi Beer Co. It's a 4.8% alcohol number with a moderate IBU count of 36. It's sold in 473mL cans that feature a cow and explain that the beer is inspired by the family farm in Bristol, Quebec.

Less black than dark brown, this stout poured hazily and with a sudsy cream head. Roasted malt and molasses on the nose were accompanied by a whiff of mocha. The flavour proved to be chocolately, with some coffee notes, atop a roasted malt foundation. The mouthfeel was quite smooth, but also unfortunately thin. As for the finish, Bristol concluded on a slightly bitter cacao lilt.

This beer was good, but not great. The strength and mouthfeel were the biggest drawbacks, while its very nice flavour accounted for its greatest strength.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Ball's Falls Session IPA

On Thanksgiving Monday, the Bitter Wife and I went out for some gourmet burgers at BQM, a great little Toronto chain with a place near us. While I waited for my burger, I got down with a pint of Ball's Falls Session IPA from Bench Brewing Co. from Beamsville, Ontario.

My draught arrived with a fuzzy layer of white head. The beer itself was hazy and pale gold. It had an impressive tropical fruit nose and a flavour to match. There were generous notes of papaya and orange running from bow to stern. However, the mouthfeel proved disappointingly thin, and there could definitely have been a bit more assertive hops presence.

Ball's Falls was listed as an IPA on the tap list and I was pretty disappointed with its lack of depth and gravitas--until I visited the Bench website and learned that it was actually a session IPA. That changed things a bit. It had a lovely flavour, but still nowhere near enough of it. However, I'll definitely keep my eye on Bench, because I sense a big upside.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Gentlemen's Pilsner

The Gentlemen's Pilsner calls Simcoe, Ontario home. It's lovingly crafted by the Blue Elephant Brewing Company and then poured into amazing 473mL cans that feature a mustachioed rogue in profile. It contains the requisite 5% alcohol and is a clear, straw yellow lager without much head beyond a white disc of bubbles.

TGP has a pushy grainy scent that was on me as soon as I cracked the can. The flavour, too, has grain in the crosshairs, though, as with all good pilsners, there is also a nice streak of noble hops running through the finish. The black mark on this beer relates to its mouthfeel, which lacked the crispness that really makes a good pilsner crackle. I found it to be a bit thin and wet for my tastes.

Really, if it weren't for the thin mouthfeel, this would have been a swell pils. As it is, I found a lot of elements to really enjoy. I'd definitely buy it again, but next time I'd make more of an effort to drink it fresh.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sling Shot California Common

"Fuel for a revolution" is how Toronto's Radical Road Brewing Co. describes its beer, at least on the 473mL can of Sling Shot California Common. An amber-hued lager, Sling Shot checks in at the baseline 5% alcohol. It pours with a very sudsy eggshell head and is quite hazy.

This beer packs an amplified and interesting nose that combines notes of cereal, well roasted malt, and copper. The flavour is similarly constructed, but considerably more mild. Much more assertive than a macro pale lager, Sling Shot is far milder than the average pale ale, but it boasts a sort of mindful calm that I found engaging. The beer moves from sweet to faintly bitter.

To its benefit, I found this subtle sauce to have an interesting taste. Perhaps it was slightly too metallic, but it was otherwise quite nice.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Across the Pond English Special Ale

On a crisp autumn eve, whiling away some team before the Blue Jays playoff tilt against the Orioles, I cracked open a 473mL can of Across the Pond English Special Ale. Across the Pond was brewed in Cambridge, Ontario by High Park Brewery. At 5.5% and 42 IBUs, it had a pretty fair volume. The beer poured the tarnished copper of an old penny. It came with a fluffy cream head that didn't last terribly long.

Sweet malts and tin were the chief aromatics of the brew. Flavour was full and malty initially, but tapered off to a nicely bitter finish. Through that progression, there were some burnt caramel notes.

Given its strength and style, Across the Pond had a really nice amount of flavour. It tasted pretty good too, although it was a touch sweet and there was a faint off note in the finish that I started to notice as my beer warmed a bit. Still and all, I thought it was a fine ale, and one I'd gladly get back to one day.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Wake Up Dead Nitro Russian Imperial Stout

Wake Up Dead Nitro Russian Imperial Stout is a meaty number from Longmont, Colorado. It's brewed by the Left Hand Brewing Company, comes in 12oz bottles, and contains a mighty 10.2% alcohol.

According to the label, it's got a "super smooth trifecta of cocoa, dried fruit and licorice notes." To my nose, roasted oats, jumbo malts, copper, and plums were the dominant aromas. I found the flavour to be really complicated, with a real network of tastes. There was fruit, woody rum, coffee, and chocolate all rolled up into one tasty glass of beer. At the back end there was even a heap of bitterness.

This big stout offered lots and asked only for the last vestiges of my sobriety. It was bold and big, yet smooth and complex.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Hop Burglar India Pale Ale

I am a total sucker for blood orange--can't get enough of that juicy and delicious flavour. So I was really excited to see Wicked Weed Brewing's Hop Burglar India Pale Ale arrive in a sextet of beers provided to me by the incredible MM. Brewed with blood orange and grapefruit zest, this stuff sounded pretty damn good to be.

From Asheville, NC, Hop Burgler came in a 12oz. bottle with a beautiful  label featuring the notorious hop snatcher. The 7% alcohol brew poured with a fluffy off-white head. It was a mostly clear copper-orange beer with an assertively bitter orange scent. The flavour was quite enjoyable, with lots of bitterness built on top of a sweet and fruity basement. The finish was hoppy enough.

Hop Burglar had a lot to be positive about. For a flavoured IPA, the use of blood orange and grapefruit was judicious and didn't steal the show, the strength was good, and the aroma was particularly nice. The beer was a bit too sweet and, for a beer called Hop Burglar, could have packed in a few more IBUs. My second foray into Wicked Weed's collection of beers, and they've both been winners.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


During a recent trip to the ol' US of A, I effected a bold beer swap with the solid and courageous MM. To her went some of my favourite Ontario brews, and my way came some of her preferred American suds. One of those was KBS, a stout flavoured with chocolate and coffee. According to the Founders Brewing Co., of Grand Rapids, Michigan, this 2016 release of KBS is bourbon barrel aged and "is good for everything a flavo[u]red stout ought to be good for." No percentage was listed on the bottle, but KBS was clearly strong (the website told me it was actually 12.4% with 70 IBUs!!!).

Scent-wise, the beer was woody and sweet, with cocoa notes. The flavour was extremely full-bodied and wildly boozy, with notes of oak, chocolate, and java providing an assertive blend. The finish was quite bitter, but not enough to surmount the boozy sweetness that lasted from uncapping to finishing the ale. It had a very thick and syrupy mouthfeel.

As someone who spent a little bit of time working in government, I found the lack of explanation of the "KBS" acronym unbelievably frustrating, but I enjoyed the beer all the same. This beer was way too sweet to revisit in the short term, but I'd be glad to sip it again during the winter months. It wasn't my favourite strong stout, but I liked it well enough to revisit. The coffee notes could certainly have been stronger, but this sweet and potent Imperial stout was still pretty decent.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.