Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Smith & Lentz Vienna Lager

In Music City for the wedding of two dear friends, I made a couple of visits to Nashville's Smith & Lentz Brewing, a lovely little spot near our AirBnB. My first visit was as part of a pretty wild pub crawl organized by the Bitter Wife, so I didn't have the chance to pen any reviews. The following day, I made a return trip to take some notes and revisit some of the ales and lagers I'd hazily enjoyed the night before.
 

First up was S&L's Vienna Lager, which came highly recommended by the lad behind the bar. It was a slightly hazy amber brew that poured with a lusty cream head. Though I was suffering through a bit of a head cold, the toasted malt and rich sweet grain scent came through clearly. There was no shortage of flavour here, either, with a malt-driven opening note that preceded an amply dry and relatively bitter finish. Toffee kept the flavour going from tape to tape.

S&L's Vienna Lager was a great representation of the style, with a robust flavour a great look. At just 4.8%, it was pretty session-friendly and very approachable. If you're in Tennessee, I'd say a stop at this Nashville taproom wouldn't be complete without a taste of the VL.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Found Bikes Ride Faster Experimental Pale Ale

Brewed in collaboration with Toronto's Great Lakes Brewery in celebration of its 30th anniversary, Found Bikes Ride Faster Experimental Pale Ale comes from Ottawa, Ontario, where it's brewed by Big Rig Brewery. Sold in 473mL cans with a cycling hipster trailing hops, the beer clocks in at 6% alcohol.

Found Bikes is a golden ale with an orangish tint. It's hazy and pours with a bit of silt and a bright white foam. The aroma suggests a mélange of fruity sweetness and resinous hops, and the scent plays out in the flavour, which is juicy initially, before cornering into a dank, bitter finish. En route, there are some winey grape notes that added a bit of value. On the downside, the finish, while bitter, is also a touch too saccharine for my preferences.

All told, Found Bikes is a pleasant and interesting brew. Unlike the glut of Ontario pale ales that tend to follow a similar formula, this one seems a bit off the beaten track, possibly due to the "experimental hop" referred to in the copy on the can. I'd buy it again. In fact, I already bought another can for my brother to try.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 18 August 2017

No Nonsense Lagered Ale

From Tecumseh, Ontario's Frank Brewing Co. comes No Nonsense Lagered Ale, a 5.4% alcohol kölsch-style beer. Sold in 473mL cans, No Nonsense pours clearly,  with a yellow-gold colour and a short-lived white head.

There is a bumpin' toasted malt and sweet grain aroma to greet the nose. The flavour runs along the same lines and the mouthfeel presents a fairly refreshing crackle. The beer finishes somewhat dryly, though not particularly bitter.

I've observed that summer 2017 has seen an explosion of kölsch-style brews hitting the market in Ontario. Frank Brewing's take on the style is a pretty decent interpretation. It has decent strength, a crisp feel, and a nice scent. I'd have liked the flavour to stretch a bit farther and the finish to be a bit hoppier, but despite the minor critiques, I'm likely to buy the stuff again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Infinity Mirror Brett I.P.A.


According to the label on the 650mL bottle of Infinity Mirror Brett I.P.A., it's brewed by Halcyon Barrel House, which is "Part of the Beau's Family" out of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. The 6.5% ale sports a cheery orange hue and pours with a sudsy white head.


There is a crisp nose with notes of apple and funky yeast. As for taste, the flavour has hefty yeast notes, some tart fruit elements, and some jazzy bitterness. The finish is notably dry and fairly pleasant.

I liked Infinity Mirror well enough, but I wouldn't call it all that memorable. I'd have liked a bit more malt emphasis in the early going to fill it out a bit. Definitely a nicely made beer, though.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Westvleteren 12

When my ol' pal WFM returned from his honeymoon in Belgium, he came home with a sixer of Westvleteren 12, reputed to be the best beer in the world. Lucky me, I got to enjoy one 12 oz bottle of the stuff because my friend is magnanimous. At 10.2%, this brew is a hefty tripel. It's a hazy rusty ale that pours with a thick, creamy head. It comes from Sint Sextus Abbey in Vleteren, in West Flanders, Belgium.


W12 doesn't have a powerful aroma, but it has some serious subtlety, with notes of raisin, rich yeast, and some tart cherry. The flavour, though, isn't the least bit tart. It's very smooth, with yeasty, malty, and sweet, with raisin notes. Remarkably, the alcohol (10.2!!!) is barely detectable--brilliantly masked.

While I don't think I'd class it as the best in the world, W12 is a pretty damn tasty ale. It's very rich, criminally easy to drink, and strong as fuck. The flavour is extremely nuanced and compelling. Down to the lack of a label, this beer is unpresumptuous, letting the flavour do the talking.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Yuzu Pale Ale

From Radical Road Brewing Co. in Toronto's Leslieville neighbourhood, Yuzu Pale Ale is brewed using yuzu fruit. According to Wikipedia, that fount of knowledge in the digital era, yuzu is a citrus fruit, similar in look to a small grapefruit, that is native to China and Tibet that is now more widely grown in Japan and Korea. The beer comes in 473mL cans and clocks in at an even 5.0%. It's a bright and hazy golden number that pours with a shock of white head.

To my ol' sniffer, Yuzu Pale Ale had a feisty scent that was bitter and heavy on lime notes. The flavour had less to do with lime and more to do with grapefruit and lemon. All told, a real citrus cornucopia. As well, it was fairly bitter, though not quite hops-heavy as I might have wished.

 
Yuzu Pale Ale gave me a real gift in that it was a genuinely new (to me at least) twist on the pale ale. I found it refreshing in every sense of the word. My complaints were minor and my zeal was genuine, though I must confess, it was a wee bit thin of mouthfeel. Still, it was a grand summer pale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Wheat Kings


During a recent visit to Descendant Pizza, a place in Toronto's Leslieville that came highly recommended and lived up to the hype, I found myself with some time to kill before the Bitter Wife was due to arrive. Fortunately for me, directly across the street was Radical Road Brewing Co. While I didn't have time to sample anything while I was there, I did pick up a couple of offerings from RR's small bottle shop. One of these was Wheat Kings, a wheat pale ale sold in 330mL bottles. At 5.5%, WK has enough puissance to take the edge off, but certainly isn't strong. It's a hazy golden brew--amply carbonated--and topped with a mountainous white head. Pour gently!

As far as my nose could detect, this beer had a subtle and faint aroma with a slightly fruity quality and a touch of grain. The flavour, thankfully, had considerably more heft. It started sweet, peachy note, but ended with some pretty respectable hops static.

 
Wheat Kings was a very refreshing summer ale. I'm a fan of hopping up wheat beers (less so of wheating out hoppy beers), and I thought that this did the former pretty well. It was crisp to the end, but started with a juicy quality that I found inviting. For a better rating, I'd need a richer aroma and something a touch more assertive. However, the head had staying power that was worth mentioning; by the time my glass was "empty" there was still an inch of foam at the bottom.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Citra Grove

Since I see no reason to doubt the copy on the 750mL bottle, Citra Grove is a dry hopped sour ale brewed in the [Niagara] escarpment. The product of Bench Brewing Company out of Beamsville, Ontario, Citra Grove is a cloudy brew. It had the greenish-yellow tint that I associate with a cheaply made whiskey sour, and a tartness of aroma to match. Under a pudgy and loose white head, the scent of this 6% alcohol, 14 IBU beer has a pronounced citrus sharpness, as well as a modest saline brininess. Its taste is a mish-mash of tart fruit and fragrant yeast (both lactobacillus and brettanomyces are listed on the label).
 

While I enjoyed this beer quite a bit, if I'm being completely honest with myself, 750mL of the stuff is a bit more than I needed in one go. I'd have been better off sharing the stuff--I suspect there are some really interesting cheese pairings that would make a body hear angels. As sour ales go, Bench's Citra Grove is a fairly accessible one. I'd have liked a bit more pop from the Citra hops with which this brew was dry hopped, I did enjoy the crispness and tart fruitiness that this beer had in spades. Add about ten more IBUs and I'd have been really happy.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Payday

Payday is a saison from Brampton, Ontario's/Saint John, New Brunswick's Hop City Brewing Co. (incidentally, the fact that two cities are listed makes it ambiguous as to which is "Hop City"). Payday is a 6.2% alcohol, 40 IBU brew sold in 473mL cans emblazoned with a wheelbarrow loaded with money. The beer inside has a bright copper hue. It pours hazily, topped with an off-white crown of suds.

Payday has a spicy and yeasty nose. So too goes its flavour, with yeast leading the way to a slightly floral finish.

As saisons go, Payday is middle of the pack. It has a good weight and look, but I'd like to enjoy a bit more tingle in the mouthfeel and something distinguishing in the flavour. That said, I don't feel like there were any notable flaws.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Je Ne Sais Quoi

Je Ne Sais Quoi from the Little Known Brewing Co. in Barrie, Ontario left me with a bit of a conundrum as a beer reviewer and blogger. According to the 473mL cans, Little Know seeks to make "beer beyond definition" and described the hazy golden liquid inside as "mysteriously obscure and beyond conventional categories. It's meant to be enjoyed, not defined." My problem is this: I try to meet people where they're at, but it sure is hard to right a beer review without slapping some kind of a label and descriptor on the stuff. So, with some reservations, I decided to attach some adjectives to the "previously uncategorizable" suds.

Seriously though, JNSQ is a pale ale. At just 4.2%, it's a crisp, session-friendly American-style pale ale. It has a sweet, yet bitter citrus bouquet that wafts nicely through the thick layer of bright white head. The taste is less sweet than the nose, but no less citrus-oriented. The mouthfeel is thin, yet crisp, with a short, dry finish. More on the finish: it has a pretty substantially bitter vibe, as well as some agreeable perfume notes to give it a vaguely floral angle.

Obviously, I didn't know what to expect when I bought my can of Je Ne Sais Quoi. But, upon sampling it, I found myself quite thoroughly pleased. Other than a slightly patchy opening note, I thought the beer was impressively flavourful and quite tasty.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Viaduct IPA

Viaduct IPA is a 6% alcohol India Pale Ale that comes from Toronto, Ontario's Danforth Brewery. It's sold in 473mL cans that look pretty damn sharp. I got a couple of cans from my brilliant and beautiful pal Sequin Brown and she agreed to review it with me. Here are our thoughts.


Sequin Brown: What I love isn't necessarily the smell. The scent is weak, but has a tiny sweetened pine scent. There's some foamy backlash toward the back of the throat behind the wisdom teeth, but the taste is so aromatic, piney, and rich. The scent doesn't do it justice. A little grainy in mouthfeel, but dangerously sessionable.makes me feel powerful ordering it at a bro bar.

7.0 out of 10

Stout Man: Mild aroma, with some evergreen notes and a modest bitterness. The flavour moves from malty to bitter, with detours around fruity, citrus, and sweet. Too sweet by a bit, but rich and rewarding. Makes me want to try more from Danforth.

7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Burlington Funk: Ceres Cucumber & Lime Gose

According to the copy on the 375mL bottle of Ceres Cucumber & Lime Gose, the name honours the Roman goddess of agriculture. Billed as a "soured light beer", Ceres comes from Burlington, Ontario's Nickel Brook Brewing Co. It contains a feather weight 4% alcohol and a preposterous 0 IBUs; however, despite those numbers, Ceres manages to pack in a significant amount of flavour.

Brewed with Himalayan sea salt, lime juice, cucumber juice, coriander, citra hops, and wheat, Ceres has a foolish amount of things going on. It has a nose that initially smacks of fresh cuke, but ends up encompassing some pretty substantial lime tartness as well. The flavour has the same elements, but reversed: the lime juice comes to the fore, while the crisp cuke-iness manifests as a a subtle presence. Ceres is tart, but not sour; briny but not salty. It can boast a genuinely unique flavour.

Billed as "thirst-quenching", I actually didn't find this gose to be all that refreshing. While the lime and cucumber juices lended a certain crispness, Ceres didn't strike me as particularly quaffable. At 4%, the beer is, on paper, easily sessioned; however, the powerful and unusual flavour combo would stall me at just one bottle. While this cucumber lime potion wasn't totally to my taste, it was innovative and odd, which made for a memorable sip. I might buy it again, but not for myself--this is a beer I'd enjoy running past someone else.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Burlington Funk: Nickel Brook Raspberry Über Berliner-Style Weisse

Nickel Brook Raspberry Über Berliner-Style Weisse is a 3.8% alcohol ale in the German style from Burlington, Ontario's Nickel Brook Brewing Co. The ale poured a surprisingly pink and hazy hue, topped with a short-lived light pink head. According to the label of the 375mL bottle, this pink concoction clocks a mere 3 IBUs.

Über has a punchy raspberry aroma that straddles between tart berry and cool-aid sweetness. The flavour is far leas sweet than the aroma, built around a tart raspberry vibe. Über has a tight, short taste, with a fraction of sweetness dwarfed by seriously fruity sourness. It is effervescent, but fairly thin on the mouthfeel.

Once one battles through its lurid pinkness, NB's Raspberry Über Berliner-Style Weisse has an engrossing cordial quality that makes it quite enjoyable. I'd have liked a bit more body from this wheat beer, but it tasted pretty nice all the same. The real beef for me was that the raspberry flavour really dominated the beery elements of this little ale.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Burlington Funk: Duplicitous Citra Dry-Hopped Gose

Nickel Brook Brewing Co.'s Duplicitous Citra Dry-Hopped Gose has a curious distinction: despite the dry-hopping, it is the first beer that I've ever sipped with a listed IBU count of 0. Sold in strangely-sized 375mL bottles, Duplicitous is a light beer at just 4% alcohol. It's born and bred in Burlington, Ontario.

The gose has a sunny golden hue. It's quite hazy and pours with a vibrant white head. According to the label, this low-alcohol ale is brewed using both Himalayan sea salt and coriander. It has a sharp, citrus twang to the nose and a flavour that is both briny and tart. The mouthfeel is crisp, but also a bit thin, while the finish is short and sour.

I found Duplicitous to be a pretty engaging little gose. Neither too sour nor salty, but still meaningfully tangy, it left me feeling refreshed while I watched a Jays game on a Sunday afternoon.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Burlington Funk: Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale

Nickel Brook Brewing Co. messed around with funky brettanomyces yeast when developing their Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale. At 5.2%, 38 IBUs, and sold in an odd format 375mL bottle, Ue is a hazy dull-gold brew that pours with a serious cloud of off-white foam.

Ue has a funky, slightly juicy yeast nose. Strong yeast dominates the flavour, but beneath it, there are some tangy fruit notes, as well as a modestly bitter and crisply dry finish.

Having sampled a fair number of Brett-built pale ales, I'd have to say the Uncommon Element is quite good, but not great. It has the Belgian-inspired yeast funk in spades, but I'd have liked that to be compliment a bitterer, more assertive and distinctive taste. Still, would definitely buy again. Ue beat back a hot summer afternoon with crispness and substantial refreshment.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Burlington Funk


My next summer theme week originates in Burlington, Ontario. It's a mixed four-pack from the Nickel Brook Brewing Co. that they call their Funk 101: Summer School Mix Pack. The pack features an array of NB's sourest and funkiest ales, a quartet that includes their Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale, Duplicitous Citra Dry-Hopped Gose, Raspberry Berlinerweisse, and Ceres Cucumber-Lime Gose. The four 375mL bottles (weird size BTW) came in a very sharp box with beaker/scientific flask cutouts.

I'm going to call the next four reviews Burlington Funk. Stay tuned to the bitter world to read my thoughts on this slick summer quad.




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Sanguine Siblings: Blood Light

Lest anyone belive from the first three installments of Sanguine Siblings that Blood Brothers Brewing deals only in IPAs, Blood Light is a low alcohol blonde ale from the midtown Toronto brewery. At just 4.2%, this brew is straw yellow in colour; hazy with a bright white head. I reviewed this one with the Bitter Wife, fresh from the source.
 

Bitter Wife:

Smells like beer, with a thin but citrusy note. Smells like eating a grapefruit under a sprinkler on a summer day.

Tastes thin, but crisp, only for a microsecond. Frothy in texture, with a bit of a buried maltiness. Flavour is gone in a wink. There are mass-produced pale lager attributes, but with a refined flavour. Mostly, though, it's gone in an instant. Very little finish.

6.5 out of 10, but based on the Bitter Wife's harsh rating scale.

To my mind, this beer had a yeasty, slightly fruity scent. More flavourful than its low percentage should allow, this ale tasted slightly yeasty, over top of some strawberry notes. There was almost nothing on the finish, though, which let the beer down.

I liked the stuff OK. It was light and crisp, yet flavourful, except for a wispy finish that fell short of impressing.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Sanguine Siblings: Love Trip

My third foray into the Blood Brothers Brewing catalogue was also a member of the IPA family, although this time a double. At 8.5% alcohol, BB's Love Trip had some hefty ballast. Sold in 500mL bottles from the brewery's Toronto bottle shop, Love Trip proved to be an orange-gold grog--hazy with a bright ivory head.

For such a strong beer, the aroma was surprisingly mild: mild, but still engaging. The scent was slightly metallic, but primarily motivated by the tang of fresh oranges. The flavour could (and I think should) be described as "dangerous", given the fact that the high alcohol content is barely apparent. If I hadn't read the tag, I'd have guessed 6.5% tops. The result is that the booze in this double IPA can catch you unaware if you're not careful. It has a slightly sweet Valencia orange note on the front end and a finish that is bitter, but also warm and a touch sugary.

Based on the three beers I've tried to date, Blood Brothers Brewery seems to really excel at producing hoppy, juicy beers. The orange notes in Love Trip fit nicely into that pattern without holding the portfolio back--this beer is different enough from Shumei and Grannyville to forestall any qualms about repetitiveness. As double India pales go, Love Trip was a better than average entry; one I'd gladly return to.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Sanguine Siblings: Grannyvine IPA

While the stats for Blood Brothers Brewing's Grannyvine IPA are very similar to those of their Shumei IPA (both clock in at 7% alcohol, come in 500mL bottles, and pour with bright white heads), the beers are actually fairly distinct. My analysis of Shumei had already been recorded, so I'll save my ink for Grannyvine.

A hazy, bright gold ale, Grannyvine has a seductive, juicy aroma; a nose rich in both bitterness and tropical fruit. The flavour also has bursts of fruit; namely mango and pineapple. Added to this are deeply bitter hops elements. With lip-pursing dryness through the finish, this beer has a lot of big positives. The one stumbling block that I found was an initially thin mouthfeel. For a beer at this strength and with this aromatic depth, I wanted a comparably punchy tone. However, it should be noted that, though the initial mouthfeel is a touch too thin, much ground is made up by the time the arid finish rolls around.

On the whole, Grannyvine is another engrossing IPA from Toronto's Blood Brothers. While it isn't as distinctive or impressive as the flagship Shumei, it's still a very nice brew--adequately strong, amply flavourful, and agreeably bitter. Will most definitely buy again.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Sanguine Siblings: Shumei IPA

My first taste of a Blood Brothers Brewing product was their Shumei IPA. According to the copy on the cooler at the Toronto-based brewery and bottle shop, Shumei is BB's biggest-selling ale. It comes in 500mL bottles that feature a BEAUTIFUL label. At 7% alcohol, Shumei is a handsome orange-gold brew. It's hazy and pours with a fluffy cover of white head.


With a dank and resinous aroma, this beer's scent is definitely reminiscent of a certain euphoric plant that may soon be legal in Canada. The flavour, while mainly bitter and resinous, has layers beyond the hempen, however, with some light fruit notes, hay, and pine making cameo appearances.

For a first dip into the Blood Brothers reservoir, I found Shumei IPA an exciting and energetic brew. It was flavourful, adequately strong, and not a typical or boring India Pale: bitter and not bashful about it. Damned good stuff worth buying.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Sanguine Siblings

During the Victoria Day long weekend, I convinced the Bitter Wife, the long-suffering gal who won my heart, to accompany me to Blood Brothers Brewing--a little spot nestled on Geary Avenue in midtown Toronto. Keep in mind that our visit to the brewery came after a lengthy stopover at the Dufferin Mall--a brewery trip was no small ask.

Because we were carrying tons of cargo and because it was quite crowded, we opted to visit Blood Brothers' bottle shop rather than seek out a seat.

I left with a quartet of ales that I'll be reviewing over the next week. Stay tuned for the series I'm calling "Sanguine Siblings".

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Ricky and the Hendersons: Rube Goldbeer

Named in honour of both Rube Goldberg and the ingenious beer opening device that graces the wall behind the bar at Toronto's Henderson Brewing Co., Rube Goldbeer is described as a "Belgian-inspired strong ale". However, I'd class it as a dubbel. Sold in hefty 650mL bottles with a label that features a monk and the aforementioned bottle-opening machine, RG is an 8% alcohol concoction.

RG is clear, with a nice chestnut colour. It pours with a vivacious off-white head and has a malty, nutty aroma. The flavour is also extremely malty. It's sweet, with some raisin notes and a bit of a yeasty streak. As well, it tastes strong, as in boozy.

Rube Goldbeer was a pretty fair Ontarian take on a Belgian ale. It tasted quite nice, though nowhere near as funky as the Belgian equivalent. Still, I found it strong and satisfying, with a complex array of flavours.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Ricky and the Hendersons: Cucumber Blonde

Henderson Brewing Company's Ides of April 2017 was a Cucumber Blonde. Sold in honour of House of Anansi Press' 50th anniversary, this brew gave recognition the Henderson's neighbour. At just 4.7% alcohol, it was a sessionable spring ale sold in beautiful 650mL bottles with several local artists represented on the label: mine was Michael Winter's The Big Why.

The beer was a handsome golden ale topped with a lush white head. Its nose was definitely heavy in cucumber notes--more so than any other beer I've ever downed. Cool and refreshing, cukes were well represented in the flavour, too. As well, there were some slightly bitter notes toward the finish.

All in, the beer was sweet, refreshing, and innovative. A hot weather brew for sure, this cucumber blonde ale was deeply thirst quenching, though a trifle sweeter than it needed to be. Some deeper hops presence would have solidified its finish and made it elite. Still, I found Henderson's Ides of April 2017 to be a unique and captivating little ale. The marriage of cucumber and beer wasn't something that I anticipated would be enjoyable, but as often happens, I was well off the mark. It tasted fresh, sweet, and a bit crunchy.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Ricky and the Hendersons: Old Fashioned Premium Rye Ale

According to the label of the 650mL bottle of Old Fashioned Premium Rye Ale that I brought home from Toronto's Henderson Brewing Co., this 10% alcohol ale was conceived in response to a challenge: to "brew the flavour & spirit" of an Old Fashioned cocktail into a beer.

For those of you who only drink beer, an Old Fashioned is a simple and succulent cocktail made using bourbon (or rye whisky), bitters, and a sugar cube (and sometimes some water, simple syrup, or club soda). Typically it's garnished with an orange slice and a cherry. Just lovely.

Henderson's Old Fashioned was a fairly clear, deep copper colour. It poured with a modest eggshell head, and gave off a sweet and toasty aroma, with a fair malt presence. Details of the ingredients were scarce on the Henderson website, but a little googling told me that the beer is brewed using rye--the grain, seemingly, rather than the spirit. While the beer doesn't taste like a classic O.F., it does have sweet and spicy qualities that I associate with rye (the spirit), as well as a faint orange tint and a bitterness born less of hops than of something herbal.

At 10%, this stuff'll knock your socks off. It's a bit too sweet to be approachable, but it certainly has a unique flavour. Innovative, tasty, and strong make this a beer worth trying, and one I'll likely revisit.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Ricky and the Hendersons: Face of Toronto


Face of Toronto was brewed by Toronto's Henderson Brewery in honour of the City's 183rd birthday. A dark saison, this tricky little number brings several unconventional ingredients to the traditional Belgian/French farmhouse style: cardamom, orange rind, and chocolate. The beer was a low-alcohol effort, at just 4.5%, and came in a 650mL bottle with a "waving out the streetcar-themed" label. It was Henderson's "Ides of ..." entry for March 2017.


The beer poured stout-dark, which would have been jarring had I not seen MT enjoy one of these guys a day earlier at the brewery. It had a sudsy tan head and a substantially chocolatey aroma. Quite unlike any saison that I've ever tried, Face of Toronto was light on the traditional yeast and spice elements. Its flavours were built largely around chocolate and coffee, with an agreeable dip of the toe into orange. Of the cardamom, I detected very little--only a whisper of spice at the finish of each sip.

If Face of Toronto didn't say "saison" right on the bottle, I'd have called this a spiced stout. However, it does. I must take its saison-itude at "Face" value (puns!), but whatever it's called, I found it to be a largely agreeable dark ale. I'd have liked a bit more spiciness, but the chocolate was nicely represented and the orange peel suitably restrained.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Ricky and the Hendersons

After spending a highly enjoyable afternoon at Toronto's Henderson Brewing Co. with the ultimate friendship duo, MT and AK, along with the Bitter Wife, I decided to pick up a quartet of Henderson's offerings to review. The four I ended up with with Henderson's Ides of March 2017 (a dark saison called Face of Toronto), their Ides of April (a cucumber blonde ale), the Rube Goldberg tripel, and the Old Fashioned Premium Rye Ale. This four all came in 650mL formats and were housed in an excellent carry out box featuring a cutout of that phallic Toronto landmark, the CN Tower.



Stay tuned to the Bitter World for a Henderson Brewery theme week I'm calling Ricky and the Hendersons!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Old Tomorrow Honey Ginger Shandy

It's not really beer, but I had a 473mL can of Old Tomorrow Honey Ginger Shandy, so I decided to give it a whirl. According to the can, this "flavoured malt beverage" is an "easy drinking beer cocktail". The ingredients list shows "beer", as well as Muskoka Springs Ginger Ale, as well as natural lemon and honey flavour.

Brewed (or concocted) in Toronto, Ontario, by Old Tomorrow Ltd., this low alcohol (3%) beverage is a nice, clear golden liquid with a decent white head. It has a sweet tea nose with a fair measure of citrus zing. It's taste has almost nothing to do with beer, but honey, lemon, and a touch of ginger are all well represented, particularly at the front end. The finish is where things break down a bit: it finishes thin, sweet, and a bit artificial.

Though I am unlikely to buy Old Tomorrow's Honey Ginger Shandy again for myself, it is the kind of drink that lots of people would enjoy on a hot day. A bit too sweet to be genuinely refreshing, but the notes of honey and ginger were pleasant enough and very inoffensive. The Bitter Wife certainly enjoyed it, and I'm not about to criticize that!

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Accelerated Stall Maverick's IIPA

I'm not wild about breweries giving their products two names. As a reviewer, I find it baffling. Such is the case with a new imperial IPA from Barrie, Ontario's Barnstormer Brewing Co. The beer is called either Accelerated Stall, Maverick's IIPA, or Accelerated Stall Maverick's IIPA. God, it might even be called Maverick's IIPA Accelerated Stall! See what I mean? What's a beer scribe to do? I'll tell you what: I'm going to call the beer "Maverick's", and the folks at Barnstormer should be grateful I didn't dock them points for this nonsense. End of rant.

Maverick's is sold in 473mL cans that are nearly as busy as those that house Flight Deck, another Barnstormer product. The beer inside  checks in at a pretty substantial 8.4% alcohol and a ballsy 80 IBUs. Under a durable and dense off-white foam, Maverick's proved to be a hazy golden orange ale. For so strong a beer, the nose was almost dainty, with subtle hops notes and a leaning toward citrus. Less dainty was the flavour, which also had citrus leanings (orange rind and grapefruit), but managed to contain some sweetness, much booze, and a bit of resin. The finish wasn't powerful, but it did definitely linger.

As IIPAs go, Maverick's 80 IBUs represented a substantial integer, but not one that translated into obvious bitterness to my palate. This was as approachable as an imperial IPA is likely to get, and would be the kind of brew I'd recommend to a recent craft beer convert with a hankerin' for something stronger. That's not to say the beer isn't good--quite the contrary! I liked it a fair bit. It's just not as gum-wrinklingly bitter or as unconscionably strong as some of its peers. A fine tasting beer that fits somewhere between a highly charged IPA and a less-than-obliterating IIPA.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Brown Van Kölsch-Style Ale

Brown Van Brewing's Kölsch, or more appropriately their Kölsch-Style Ale is a 4.8%, 23 IBU number from Ottawa, Ontario. It's a crystal clear straw gold ale hat pours with a slim cover of white head.

This kölsch-style brew has the slightly sweet aroma of toasty grain. The flavour profile meanders from sweet and grainy opening notes toward the finish line: a short, dry, and unexpectedly bitter back end.

Because of the sweet to bitter progression and the curtness of the finish, this beer manages to have exemplary crispness without sacrificing much flavour. While perhaps not as style-typical as some of the classics from Cologne, I find Brown Van's version of the tricky little brew to be a novel and noteworthy take. A bit more booze would be nice, but with its current strength, clarity, and brightness, this is the kind of craft beer that might turn heads among the macro lager crowd.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Friday, 23 June 2017

3-Point Saison

3-Point Saison is a farmhouse ale from Collingwood, Ontario's Collingwood Brewery. It's sold in 473mL cans and contains a pretty substantial 7% alcohol, as well as a modest 20 IBUs.

The beer is hazy and dull gold, with a fluffy white foam on top. It has a fragrance that is, at times, yeasty, tart, and briny, with sour apple notes. The flavour proved significantly less tart than the nose, instead featuring a somewhat unforeseen sweetness at the front end, with some banana esters a bit more suited to a witbier. The back end was, as expected, yeasty and dry.
 

While 3-Point wasn't quite as effervescent as many saisons, it was rife with wild yeast, giving homage to its Belgian-style roots. At 7%, there was more booze than the average Ontarian take on the saison. I enjoyed this brew while I was watching the Toronto Raptors kick the crap out of the Milwaukee Bucks in game 5 of their playoff series, so I was predisposed to like it, but I genuinely thought it was a good, not great, beer. Would definitely buy again.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Monty's Aged Ryed Ale

Monty's Aged Ryed Ale is named in honour of Jon Montgomery, the Canadian skeleton racer who won a gold medal and celebrated by chugging beer in a scene of patriotic glory. The beer, constructed by the Old Tomorrow Ltd., comes from Toronto, Ontario. According to the 473mL can, this 6.2% Ale is aged with oak that has been infused with rye whisky (100% Canadian of course--though it doesn't divulge which one).

Monty's is a swampy dull orange grog. It pours with a surprisingly bright white head and has a extremely sweet aroma--woody, with some vanilla notes. The flavour is also quite sweet, with clover elements and a fairly woody body. There is little bitterness to this ale, which makes it a good after dinner candidate, but also leaves it a bit unbalanced. There is a touch of whisky at the tail end that was warm and wily.

I thought that Monty's was a pretty innovative little brew. The oaked rye aging process made for an interesting taste profile, though I maintain that the beer was too sweet and could have benefited from a few more handfuls of hops. Still, I liked it and I'll buy it again.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Geronimo IPA

According to the 473mL can, Walkerville Brewery's Geronimo IPA is named in honour of the boat belonging to bootlegger Henry Low. Apparently the good ship Geronimo was seized by the authorities, but returned to Canadian shores due to a storm. Appropriately, Walkerville Brewery does its brewing in the border town of Windsor, Ontario.

The IPA Geronimo is a 6.3% alcohol brew. It's golden orange in colour and pours with a lustrous off-white head. It has a vibrant aroma that's resinous, bitter, and a bit juicy. It tastes bold, with grapefruit and swampy hops elements. However, the big flavour was a bit overpowering for the relatively thin mouthfeel.

Geronimo is a tasty and flavourful Ontario India Pale. It lacked something in terms of body, and I'd have liked another half a percentage point of booze or so, but I thought it was a nice lil brew.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Nottabottle Belgian Pale Ale

Nottabottle Belgian Pale Ale comes, as one might imagine, in a 473mL can. It's a lightweight 4.5% alcohol pale ale from Peterborough, Ontario's Smithavens Brewing Company.


The beer is faintly hazy, brightly carbonated, and has a ruddy orange hue. It pours with a thick white head that faded fast. It has a tart, fruity fragrance that has a potent yeasty bent. The flavour is sweeter than expected, particularly initially, with banana notes. Behind that, the ale is yeasty and only a little bitter.

According to the info on the can, Nottabottle contains just 20 IBUs and is made using an abbey ale yeast. I'd have liked a bit more oomph from this brew, and a tarter flavour. However, I enjoyed it and I'll certainly buy it again.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.