Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top Reviews 0f 2016

2016 has been a real doozy of a year and I, like many, am really looking forward to seeing the back of it. This year we lost some artistic luminaries, survived a deeply troubling election, witnessed prolonged military conflicts, and generally had a shitty time. Fuck 2016. However, today we see the year out. Good riddance!

Keeping my tradition alive, I'd like to close out 2016 with a list of my top reviews from the past year:

10. Skinny Dippin' Stout
9. Two Hearted Ale
8. Haters Gonna Hate
7. Pernicious India Pale Ale
6. Wake Up Dead Nitro Russian Imperial Stout
5. Smithavens' Kellerbier
4. Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room
3. Corne du Diable
2. Charcoal Porter
1. Gotham

And the honourable mentions:

Head Hunter India Pale Ale
Bystander American Pale Ale
Black Sheep
Ruination Double IPA 2.0

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga' Substitute Ale

According to the copy on the six pack, Lagunitas Brewing Company brewed their first batch of Lagunitas Sucks Brown Shugga' Substitute Ale in 2010 when they were unable to brew their BrownSugga. Since that time, Sucks has become what the 12oz bottle refers to as an "un-limited release". It's a hefty double IPA--8% and 63.21 IBUs (which is as specific as I've ever seen). Sucks comes all the way from Petaluma, California.

It's a clear and brassy ale that pours with an eggshell head. It's nose is both sweet and sticky, with a considerable resinous quality. The flavour, too, is quite sweet, with a sugary candy vibe mingling with dank hops, a smack of evergreen, and a serious booze kick.

I'm a fan of Lagunitas Sucks Brown Sugga' Substitute. Good stuff, it proves to be a real misnomer. Not as accessible as their standard IPA, but much more engaging. In truth, though, it is a tad too sweet.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Bodacious Blueberry Blonde

Bodacious Blueberry Blonde is an alliterative blueberry flavoured ale from the Broadhead Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario. Sold in 473mL cans that describe a ninja-inspired "blueberry infusion process", this little clocks in at a standard 5% alcohol and an innocuous 12 IBUs.

BBB is a hazy golden-orange beer that pours with a layer of tight white head. It packs a powerful blueberry aroma that cloaks just about everything beer about the nose, other than a faint graininess. The flavour is a bit too far on the sweet side and there is almost no bitterness, but it has a very nice blueberry quality and a smooth mouthfeel.

A nice take on the blueberry ale, I'd buy this stuff again, though I'd be more inclined to drink it again in the summer. A bit more beery bitterness would also help a bit.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Head Over Hops India Pale Ale

Happy Holidays from the Stout Man!

Bombshell Beer Company does its damage out of Holly Springs, North Carolina. That's the home of their Head Over Hops India Pale Ale, a 6.8% 74 IBU IPA. The beer came in a 12oz. can. It was a cloudy and brassy ale that poured beneath an eggshell head. Another gift from KC, who is a legend of beery generosity.

Murky and resinous to the nose, this beer had some hop stank over top of some boozy sweetness. The flavour was a jumble of different notes: citrus, resin, and even some subtle tropical elements. Not lip-crinklingly bitter, but the 74 IBUs still managed to assert themselves, particularly toward the finish.

A fine IPA with a lot of quality elements, though not quite an elite offering. However, I'd gladly hit this one again at the drop of a hat.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 23 December 2016

5:01 Golden Ale

5:01 Golden Ale is an homage to the end of the standard work day, or as it's described on the can, it "captures that satisfying moment when work stops and beer begins." It comes from Barrie, Ontario's Redline Brewhouse. According to the 473mL can, this brew contains a lean 4.2% alcohol and is made with a wheat.

5:01 is a cloudy orange-gold colour. It pours with a thin cover of eggshell head, through which wafts a mandarin orange aroma. The mouthfeel is disappointingly thin, though I guess that should be expected from a wheat ale with such a low percentage. Despite the uninspiring mouthfeel, the flavour left me feeling relatively impressed. It has a delicate orange blossom vibe that I like, and a subtle hops finish.

This beer is quite a bit better than I expected, as I'm often suspicious of both the amorphous "golden ale" category and any beer that has less than 5% alcohol. However, it is a refreshing and tasty low octane option. A more burly mouthfeel would have led to a stronger rating, as would a heavier hopping.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Citradelic Single Hop IPA

Calgary, Alberta's Big Rock Brewery is the outfit responsible for Citradelic Single Hop IPA, a 6% alcohol, 67 IBU ale that pours with a healthy, hazy copper colour. The 473mL can featured a weird hop cheerleader and the beer within poured with a thin quilt of off-white head. This India pale is brewed with the famed Citra hop.

This beer had an oddly mild aroma characterized with lemongrass and citrus notes. The flavour had quite a bit more pop, but it was still curiously mild. Citrus elements and hops were the main drivers of this ale.

Having sampled a few other single hop IPAs that feature Citra (see Karma Citra, which I think I reviewed too harshly at 7.5, for example), I won't pretend that Citradelic is the best of the bunch, but it is pretty tasty. It was an enjoyable enough beverage, but not as assertively hoppy or juicily fruity as I'd have liked.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 19 December 2016

A Perfect Pub

1,000. One thousand. Ten hundreds or one hundred tens. A lot of bloody blog posts. For this personal milestone I've decided to share a little fantastical tale for my loyal readers. I call it:

A Perfect Pub

Living in a sprawling metropolis in this, the Golden Age of Craft Beer, I'm surrounded by a plethora of good pubs, and a smattering of truly exceptional ones. But what I want to talk to you about today isn't great pubs. Rather, I want to muse about MY ideal pub.

Let's start with the name. Mine would have to be something witty. A play on words that draws in beer lovers across all ages, races, and genders, but which dissuades those with a penchant for "lite" beers and white rum cocktails from darkening its doors. "The Stout Man" and "The Bitter World" are acceptable candidates, but I think we could go cleverer. Mine is a place where you can order a Manhattan or a neat bourbon with impunity, but also one where such orders are anomalous. My pub is for the craft beer aficionado.

Location, location, location? Important, but not the chief concern. My pub is simply urban. Locked in the greater downtown of a large city, near restaurants, rock bars, and public transit. It's in a walkable neighbourhood--one that's venerable, but not too hip. Far enough away from the financial centre to keep the suits at bay, but close to culture and art. I want a place where a jacket isn't out of place, but jeans and a ball cap work too. A safe space, I want patrons of all genders and persuasions to feel welcome and at home while nursing their porters and downing their doppelbocks.  Accessibility is big at my pub--it's a first floor number with no stairs, no barriers, and no worries

Food? Of course! Upscale pub grub. Affordably priced, flavourful food that pairs well with the suds on offer. Vegetarian options in large measure, but chops and burgers that stick to the ribs of those so inclined. And the menu isn't static, either. Favourites remain, but others are swapped in regularly. Food is local. Food is comfortable. There's a wood-paneled dining room, well ventilated, for those who choose to dine enthusiastically. 

The main bar area is cozy in winter, with a roaring fire in a central mantle, but airy in the summer, with a nicely appointed patio and a charming city view. Ample parking? Heck no! You don't drink and drive at the Bitter World.

The beery larder is the real showpiece of my fantasy public house. We'd obviously carry a book of beers from around the world: fresh brews and others aged to perfection. Global rarities and local favourites admirably represented. However, it would be our constantly rotating taps that'd be the real draw. I'd like at least six beer engines serving up fresh cask options, and another 24 taps reflecting an ever-changing variety of styles and seasonal fare. Pilsner fan? We've got you covered. Imperial stouts more to your taste? There are always two or three rare and boozy offerings on the go. We've always got a half dozen IPAs rockin', as well as at least three doubles for hop heads, and rye, pale, ESB, and red ales in good measure. Two taps are reserved for quirkier styles--sours and tripels, and rauchbiers, oh my! Beers are priced at a narrow margin--profitable but not extortionate. And the are always beautiful $3 specials to ensure affordability.

Televisions? Yes and no. We've got a few big screens, but these are only carted out for special occasions. Major MLB tilts, basketball bouts, and, from September to February, a slate of full volume NFL action (the Oakland Raiders are always on the box!). But other than select sports and occasional political debates, the TVs are off and out of sight. This pub is for socializing and beer appreciating, not for vacant gazing and petty distraction.

Lastly, a word on the staff. This diverse gang has only one thing in common: a passion for beer and a zeal for dispensing it. They can recommend an amber ale to pair with a club sandwich, a witbier to enliven a spinach salad, or a smoked porter to accentuate a raspberry chocolate cheesecake. But they'll leave you alone if you know what you're after.

That's my vision.

Thanks to all of those who have read my blog since I started scratching out notes on cocktail napkins and scraps of paper. You are the best!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

North Country Kellerbier

Yet another new light on the Ontario craft brewing horizon is Boshkung Brewing Co., an outfit operating out of Minden Hills. The first I heard of Boshkung was when I spotted a 473mL can of their North Country Kellerbier on the shelf at my favourite beer vendor. At 5%, this cellared ale meets the average in terms of strength. My beer poured a swampy orange-brown hue, with a modest cap of off-white head.

North Country had a grainy and slightly floral scent. I found it to be a malt focused ale, and one that closed out with a degree of caramel and bready elements.

According to my can of North Country, Boshkung is "a small batch Brewery focused on cottage living, local fare and great tasting beer"--sounds like a nice life if you can afford it. Their mellow kellerbier was definitely a laid back effort, though, and one I quite enjoyed. It was a tad too sweet and lacked the hops push I was pulling for, but it was a thoughtful little ale with a complex flavour: one I'll buy again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Skinny Dippin' Stout

"Don't be the last one in!" is the motto of Skinny Dippin' Stout, an oatmeal stout from the underrated and extremely talented Gravenhurst, Ontario outfit, Sawdust City Brewing Co. At 5.5% and 35 IBUs, a  single 473mL can of this elixir won't have you peeling your clothes off, though it has a bit of heft.

SDS is an opaque, nearly black brew, with a tan head. It has a sincerely lovely aroma that mingles roasted malts, cocoa, oats, and molasses. The flavour isn't quite as rich, though it doesn't lack for depth either. The beer kicks of with malty and mocha elements, before adopting a slightly malty stance at its finish. Also creditable is the creamy mouthfeel.

Skinny Dippin' Stout is a nice effort--reminiscent, in some ways, of my very favourite oatmeal stout from Saint Ambroise, though with a bit more chocolate emphasis and a lot less bitter molasses. Really nice ale, though a bit more boldness couldn't have hurt.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

MacLean's Farmhouse Blonde

From Hanover, in Grey County, Ontario, comes MacLean's Farmhouse Blonde. A light-bodied 4.8% alcohol beer brewed by MacLean's Ales, this stuff is crafted using Ontario hops and barley. It's sold in somewhat spartan mustard coloured cans that house 473mL of the bright, clear, and fizzy golden ale. It poured with a fluffy white head and a bit of sediment.

The aroma is heartily malty and very fresh smelling, with lots of grains and a bit of sweetness. Though listed as a farmhouse ale, this brew doesn't share too much with the traditional boozy saison, though it is a bit yeasty, finishes dryly, and is amply carbonated. The flavour starts fresh and malty, with a touch of fruit flavour, before giving way to a dry and slightly bitter back end.

MacLean's Ales have proven pretty reliable and well made. Their Farmhouse Ale is no different--nice, if muted, flavour, the beer is crisp and dry. I'd have liked a bit more pop and a bit more alcohol, but it was nice ad steady. A fine beer.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fake Plastic Trees

In a 473mL can bearing the silhouette of the City of Charlotte, NC (one of my favourite places), comes Fake Plastic Trees. This "hoppy wheat ale" came to me by way of an exchange with MM, a real friend to the Bitter World, and a classy lass, too. FPT is brewed in the Queen City, by the folks at Birdsong Brewing Co. It contains a respectable 6.4% alcohol and pours hazy, almost milky, and golden, beneath a very fluffy covering of bright white foam. 

To my nose, this beer came off with a rowdy lemon aroma, and featured a healthy dose of citrus hops. With a thin but crisp mouthfeel, this beer was both refreshing and deceptively strong. The can told me to expect lemongrass, and that's just what I got in the flavour, which was slightly spicy, coupled with citrusy hops and a bit of yeastiness.

Fake Plastic Trees is both a solid rock song and a tasty wheat ale. Refreshing, yet punchy, with a decently hoppy finish. My only real beef with this one was its too thin mouthfeel.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Fuller's Imperial Stout

A limited edition, Fuller's Imperial Stout was a real doozy. At 10.7% alcohol, a 500mL bottle of this dark ale counts as a mighty 5.4 UK alcohol units--probably too much, given it was a pre-dinner selection. That's a beer, though!

Built by Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC in London, this jumbo ale poured darkly--a deep brown, almost black, with a sheet of tan head. According to the label, this beer derives some of its floral character due to the inclusion of rose buds, which also lends "a hint of Turkish Delight flavour to the beer."

To my nose, Fuller's Imperial Stout had a rich but surprisingly mild aroma. This was dark and sweet, with date and raisin notes, ample malt elements, and a touch of pipe tobacco. I expected a beer as strong as this to have an impossibly thick mouthfeel, but I was pleased to discover that, while a bit chewy, it was really quite smooth. The flavour, unsurprisingly, was substantial. Treacle, dried fruit, molasses, and big booze were the premier tasting notes to me--not so much the cherry and chocolate advertised on the bottle. I did agree with the description of the "lighter, bitter finish" though.

Big and complex, with almost all of its damage done on the malt side of the spectrum, this ale was both a treat and a trial. Instead of pre-dinner and solo, I'd recommend sipping this ale with dessert and a friend. However, I made it through and I'm richer for it. It could have been less sweet and far hoppier, but the mouthfeel was just beautiful. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that, by the mid-point of my bottle, cherry notes, or even cranberry, did come into evidence in a slightly tart flourish.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Sweetgrass Golden Ale

As far as I know, Sweetgrass Golden Ale is the only suds manufactured by Hamilton, Ontario's Sweetgrass Brewing Co. It's a clear, happy golden ale that pours with a sudsy cover of bright white head. At just 22 IBUs and 4.9%, this stuff won't blow you down with strength, but it isn't particularly anemic either.

Sweetgrass has a mellow, beery aroma that is chiefly malty and supplemented with some sweet corn notes and just a soft whisper of hops. The flavour is similarly constructed. It's malt-focused, with sweet grains and corn carrying the bulk of the weight and only a soupçon of hops to usher you out the door at the end. Though, it should be said that the finish takes on a slightly deeper character as the beer warms, going from "plain" to "pleasant".

This is a good enough beer. It's refreshing. It's crisp. It's fine. It isn't unique or remarkable. Not memorable. Not much of anything, really, except beer. A decent summer ale, though I hit it in November. I'll probably buy it again, but I'm in no rush. Perhaps when the weather turns.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Rhine Stone Cowboy

The back of the 330mL bottle of Big Rock Brewery's Rhine Stone Cowboy does a better job of describing its label than I ever could, so I'll repeat it here: "A lederhosen wearing, bedazzled 'pardner', strolling along the Rhine ... oh and there's a rooster too." Strange and oddly specific, but that's what you get from this Calgarian kölsch-style ale. 

At 4.6%, it's just a tad below standard, but RSC makes up for that with an assertive nose that blends hearty grains with brown sugar sweetness. Though the nose is burly, the flavour is a little less muscly. It's driven primarily by sweet corn and grain, with a waft of bitterness at the end. The beer poured golden and slightly cloudy. In fact, there was a wisp of yeasty sediment, though that might have been the result of my having left the beer in my fridge for an uncommonly long time.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Blue Collar Pale Ale

Blue Collar Pale Ale is born, appropriately, in Hamilton, Ontario. It's a 5.5% ale brewed by The Hamilton Brewery, though it is actually constructed in the facilities of Railway City Brewing Co., in St. Thomas, ON. Sold in 473mL cans, this tidy offering pours hazy and ruddy, with a fluffy off-white head.

Blue Collar has a portly nose, with notes that showcase caramel malts, breadiness, and some sweetness. The flavour doesn't quite track exactly--there are hefty caramel notes, but built with a crunchy hops backbone.

Far more malty than a typical pale ale, and with more caramel sweetness than I expected, Blue Collar still managed to be an enjoyable little ale. It has decent strength and a very full body, making for a pretty square ale. I'd have liked a bit sharper bitter kick, but otherwise, this stuff was quite appealing. I'll be giving The Hamilton Brewery more of my money in the years to come.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Midnight Kissed My Cow

Midnight Kissed My Cow is a double chocolate milk stout from Kanata, Ontario. It's brewed and filled into 473mL cow-emblazoned cans by Big Rig Brewery. Checking in at 5.6%, this little ale features lactose and cocoa in its ingredients list, making this a flavoured stout. The beer poured dark and opaque, with a smooth blanket of eggshell head.

Unsurprisingly, MKMC's nose was sweet and chocolatey, if a bit mild. It had a thin but smooth mouthfeel reminiscent of chocolate milk. This vibe was reinforced by a definite mocha taste. The beer finished quite sweetly, with only a sprinkling of cocoa bitterness. 

As double chocolate stouts go, Midnight Kissed My Cow wasn't particularly rich or thick. The richness I missed, but the thickness was an omission that didn't rankle all that much. All told, an adequate chocolate ale.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 1 December 2016


Block 3 Brewing Company does their crafting in St. Jacobs, Ontario. That's the venue where they brew Frankenstout, their 5% alcohol "session stout." When tipped out of the 500mL bottle, I found the ale to possess a handsome black coffee colour and it poured with a thick sheet of tan head. Very attractive.

The nose, while mild, had some depth, and featured roasted malt notes and a hint of something chocolatey. Mellow and creamy to sip, this beer was very smooth. It was a little thin in the flavour department, though the tastes represented were all lovely: tobacco, mocha, and, above all, well-roasted malts. The finish shifted into a casual bitterness that I quite enjoyed.

While 5% isn't quite what I'd call "sessionable," I did find Block 3's Frankenstout to be easy-drinking and approachable. While I might have asked for the flavour to be amplified a bit, they did make for a pleasing combination. This beer tasted really well made and convinced me that the folks at Block 3 know their stuff. I'll be checking out their other offerings for sure.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.