Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017: A Year in Beer

This year, I sipped, chugged, quaffed, and downed a whole lot of beer. Among the gallons of suds that I consumed were some really elite brews. Below is a list of my ten favourite reviews from 2017.

10. Meanwhile ... Down in Moxie
9. Shumei IPA
8. Goatman Imperial India Black Lager
7. Sinister Minister
6. Nectarous
5. St. Benedict's Breakfast Dubbel
4. St. Mary Axe
3. Wesvleteren 12
2. Smuttynose Baltic Porter
1. Fruit Helmet

And some honourable mentions:

The Secret Goldfish
Godspeed Stout
Brown Van Kölsch-Style Ale
Bricks and Mortar

Happy New Year form the Stout Man!

Friday, 29 December 2017

Nightwatcher Oatmeal Stout

Cooking up a mess of homefries for a Sunday brunch for me and the Bitter Wife, I found myself with a serious craving for a dark ale. Fortunately, I had a 473mL can of Nightwatcher Oatmeal Stout chilled and ready to go. A relatively light brew at just 4.4% and 25 IBUs, under its fluffy eggshell head, Nightwatcher was uncommonly light-hued for a stout, with a clear, rusty caramel colour. The beer came from the Lake of Bays Brewing Co. in Baysville, Ontario.

Nightwatcher had an aroma that was both grainy and slightly metallic. The flavour had fewer rough edges, with a thin, but nicely balanced, combo of grains and mocha. The mouthfeel was compellingly smooth, but with just enough of a hop flare at the back end to keep it honest.

For all of the good, this beer did have one major drawback—it was way too thin for a stout, especially for an oatmeal stout. I really wanted it to have a bit more body. Still, a pretty nice effort from one of Ontario’s less talked about breweries. Nightwatcher is a beer I’ll certainly buy again from time to time.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Beerdevil IPA

I attended a bang up conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario in October. While I was there, I stole an opportunity to check out the Niagara Brewing Company, and purchase a selection of their wares. One of these was Beerdevil IPA, a swampy amber-brown grog with a luscious off-white foam. The beer, 6.5% alcohol, came in 473mL cans with a barrel riding demon in a jaunty top hat.

Beerdevil had a surprisingly grainy, malt-focused nose and a flavour to match. Definitely an English-style IPA, the flavour was primarily malty on the front end, with caramel and grain notes. It’s IPA credentials were more prominently on display in the finish, which had some sticky hops notes and a bit of an evergreen vibe.

All told, Beerdevil was both unmemorable and enjoyable. It tasted pretty predictable, with only a modest nod to high hops. However, it had a nice warming quality that shouldn’t be dismissed, particularly as I drank it during the first sub-zero evening of Winter 2017. To me, it had more English pale ale qualities than those of an IPA, and it was modestly low on the booze bill. I’d gladly drink it again though. Really, it reminded me of a classic Toronto stalwart, No. 7 IPA from Duggans, though with less crisp hops.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Pale Ale Project

Happy Holidays from the Stout Man!

From Ottawa, the Pale Ale Project is an effort from Beyond the Pale Brewing. It’s a 4.9% pale sold in 473mL steampunk-style cans. The beer inside is a milky-hued number—hazy, and with a fluffy white head.

P.A.P. has a slightly citrus nose, with a, crisp mildly perfumed, bitter-focused flavour. It is nice and dry ale—not memorable, perhaps, but well made.

Dry and crisp, the beer was refreshing, without sacrificing bitterness. Sessionable and flavourful for 4.9%, though not quite as assertive as I wanted. Buy again? Absolutely! Recommend? Sure.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Howe Sound Lager

Squamish, British Columbia is the home of Howe Sound Brewing Co., and their Howe Sound Lager. Billed as a dortmunder-style lager, this amber-gold brew contains a solid 5.5% alcohol and comes in 355mL cans.

Through the off-white head comes a very grainy aroma, with notes of grass and hay. Despite sitting in my fridge for longer than it probably should have, the beer tasted fresh and crisp, with distinctive noble hop bitterness and a grainy, barnyard flavour.

A fine take on the classic German style, Howe Sound Lager is a nice dortmunder. It’s refreshing and flavourful, with decent bitterness. I’m not much of a lager guy outside of sunny summer days. I think of dortmunders and pilsners as baseball season beers, but I thought that HSL brightened a gloomy, wet November afternoon watching week 9 in the NFL. My only real beefs are that the beer is a touch too sweet and could be a bit more carbonated.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Skeleton Park Amber 6.6

Skeleton Park Amber 6.6 is—you guessed it—a 6.6% alcohol amber ale. It comes from Kingston, Ontario and is brewed by Skeleton Park Brewery as a part of their Heritage Series.

The beer was murky, ruddy, and covered in a creamy but short lived head. It had a mild bakery aroma with bread notes and a malt-driven quality. More robust than the nose, Amber 6.6’s flavour is slightly sweet, built against a substantial malt and bread backdrop.

For an amber ale, I thought that the strength was excellent. The flavour was pleasant, though there was a a notable hops shortage evident at the back end. My first brush with a beer from Skeleton Park, Amber 6.6 had me thinking about my next trip to Kingston.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Double Dry-Hopped Cat Lady

Way back in 2014, I told you about Cat Lady IPA, from Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery. This week, after shooting some hoops, I swung by the Bellwoods bottle shop and spotted an updated version, Double Dry-Hopped Cat Lady. At 7.2% alcohol, there is actually less booze than the original (7.3%). Sold in a 500mL bottle, Cat Lady DDH is an extremely hazy brew—it’s a milky dull orange-gold with a fairly fluffy off-white head.

CLDDH has a mammoth aroma that is resplendent in tropical fruit notes. Like the original, there are serious satsuma vibes, but in place of grapefruit, passion fruit is the secondary fruit feature. Despite the juicy sweetness, the beer manages a dry and bitter finish, with a slightly resinous vibe.

Compared to the original Cat Lady, I found the DDH sibling to be a bit more hop-bopping and considerably more juicy. This was, to my mind, a Vermont-style IPA. The only substantive failing that I perceived was a touch too much sweetness, particularly in the early going. Other than that, this was a lovely ale and quite worthy to share the stage with Cat Lady 1.0. I actually bought two bottles of this stuff; the first left me floored, but I was less blown away by the second.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Collective Project IPA No. 4

The next in the numbered IPA series from Hamilton, Ontario’s Collective Arts Brewing’s Collective Project IPA No. 4 is a 6.4% alcohol number sold in 473mL cans.

Brewed with Hallertau Blanc, Citra, and Mosaic hops, #4 is a hazy, white-gold brew with a cumulus of sudsy white head. There is a slightly juicy citrus nose, built along cranberry and strawberry lines. The flavour is also darned juicy, with a berry-citrus blend leading off. From there, citrus notes take command, with Valencia orange, white wine, and grapefruit leading the charge.

All in, I found IPA No. 4 to be a fine ale, though less invigorating than Nos. 1 though 3. Too sweet by a margin, and a bit more syrupy than I’d have preferred, No. 4 is good, but not great. The bitterness was more understated than it could have been. This one was close to a Vermont-style IPA, but too sweet in execution.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Sociable Pilsner

Fresh and fizzy, The Sociable Pilsner is a pale lager offering from Toronto’s COMMON GOOD BEER COMPANY. It’s an effervescent yellow-gold lager with a thick and fluffy white head. At 4.7%, Sociable is sessionable. It comes in sparse but stylish orange 473mL cans.

Sociable has a predictable but comforting grain and grass scent. The flavour is spare, but nice enough, with grainy notes and a modest noble hop bitterness.

Not as robust as classic Czech pilsners or the more formidable of the Ontario versions, Sociable has positioned itself behind its crisp and fizzy mouthfeel more than its flavour. It is a crushable and thirst-quenching lager, but not one that left me feeling thoughtful. A classic “lawnmower” beer, but not the kind of suds that attract effusive adjectives.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity is an unusual ale: it’s a sour ale brewed with coffee cherry (also known as cascara), as well as cinnamon and ginger. Brewed in Cornelius, North Carolina, EV is the progeny of District 9 Brewing. It’s a powerful ale, with 14.2% alcohol. Sold in 355mL bottles, this beer is basically three-in-one.

EV has a dry, tart nose, but there is also a genuine undercurrent of aromatic spices. It has a unique flavour—primarily sour, with cherry and cranberry notes, but also with an unusual spice profile. According to the copy on the label, this beer is a “new-fashioned spin on the fragrant Ethiopian libation Hashara”. I’m not familiar with Hashara, this beer undeniably incorporates some exotic flavours into a sour and boozy base.

This beer came my way from the tremendously tremendous MM, a true friend of the Bitter World. I liked it a lot, though I unwisely uncapped it before looking at the percentage, resulting in a very unproductive Sunday afternoon. I was suspicious of a heavily spiced sour, but this beer gave me a lot to think about. I don’t say this often, but it might actually have been too strong for the style, but it was undeniably a one-of-a-kind brew—one I was pleased to try.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Sägemehl Stadt Fest Bier

A take on the marzen style, Sägemehl Stadt Fest Bier is an amber lager from the Sawdust City Brewing Co. It’s a 5% alcohol beer brewed in Gravenhurst, Ontario. I picked up a 473mL can direct from the source. It was a clear, copper lager with a lush white head.

The beer featured a fresh, damp malt aroma with some raisin notes. Malt was the most prominent flavour note, along with biscuit and a slightly bitter tinge to the finish.

SSFB was a pretty tasty Ontarian take on a classic German style. It had a fairly rich, malt body that I found pleasant. A bit more booze bombast might have given this harvest lager a bit more chilly weather warmth, though.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Food Truck

Brewed in appreciation of Toronto’s gourmet mobile sustenance vendors, Food Truck is a blonde ale that, according to the copy on the 473mL can, is intended to pair nicely with chow. A product of the excellent Henderson Brewing Company, Food Truck is a low alcohol offering, at just 4.8%. It’s a a clear brass-gold ale that pours with an enticing off-white foam.

FT has a grassy, lager-like nose that features grainy notes and a touch of sweetness. The beer has a pretty nondescript taste that moves from slightly sweet to slightly bitter, with a grainy initial vibe and a finish that is sweet, yet fairly crisp.

This grog is very much a blank canvass that absorbs the colours and flavours of the accoutrements it comes with. As a result, it is wildly inoffensive, but has little character of its own. Not boring, exactly, but FT isn’t a particularly remarkable brew. Rather, it’s the background scenery in a local theatre production. A touch too sweet, but otherwise innocuous, FT isn’t much like Henderson’s other, more rambunctious offerings. It’s a fairly well-balanced but forgettable ale, waiting on external flavours to enhance its vitality. I liked it fine, but won’t remember it tomorrow.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (no photo because I'm not smart).

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Tartan Pants Scotch Ale

From Kanata, Ontario, a satellite community of Canada’s national capital, comes Tartan Pants Scotch Ale. This ale from Big Rig Brewery clocks in at a respectable 6.4%. It comes in garish 473mL cans that feature plaid-clad legs dancing a jig.

Tartan Pants is an extremely dark brown colour. It pours with little carbonation and a thin mist of creamy head. According to the copy on the can, hand smoked malt is used in the brewing process, which goes a long way toward explaining the rich, smoky scent that greets the nose. The flavour is malt-focused and full, with sticky toffee and Christmas pudding elements, assembled under a slightly smoky skyline. There aren’t a lot of overt hops characteristics to this ale, though there is a slight nod toward woodsy bitterness in there somewhere.

Scotch ales aren’t particularly commonplace in the Ontario craft marketplace, which is increasingly dominated by crisp pale ales. While I undoubtedly enjoy a good hoppy pale, I’m pleased when I see a bit of stylistic diversity in the brewing landscape. Big Rig’s take on a Caledonian ale was pretty well conceived and executed. The smokiness is big on the nose, but understated to the taste, which is a pretty neat trick as far as I’m concerned, as it lets the other flavour notes express themselves.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Woodhouse IPA Beer

With roots in Toronto, Woodhouse IPA Beer is a product of Woodhouse Brewing Co. It’s a 6% alcohol ale sold in 473mL cans. According to the copy on the can (which incidentally was white writing on a mint green can and virtually unreadable) indicated the presence of five distinct varieties of hops in the clear, coppery ale, but unfortunately, the types used were not listed.

The beer poured with a substantial cap of sudsy white head. It had resinous aroma that tightroped between bitter and sweet, with some floral funk played against a caramel quality. The flavour was a bit underwhelming, though it did have a subtlety that caused me to sip mindfully. Pine was the most prominent hop element, while some caramel was on display on the malt end of things. Between those poles, there were murmurs of pineapple and melon, too. Its finish was dry, quick, and pleasant.

In a nutshell, Woodhouse’s take on the IPA is a very accessible one. At just 6%, it’s far more session-friendly than some of Ontario’s more robust IPAs. The flavour is also apt to please the masses given its mellow approach to hops. Still, there is enough crackle and nuance to make a beer fiend like me sit up and take notice. The low octane hurts my rating, though others might prefer a less immediately intoxicating ale. The very modest melon notes, though, were definitely worth a half point on the ol’ Stout Man scale. It should also be noted that I liked this beer more by the end of my pint than I did through the first few sips, and I liked the next few I tried in the following days more still.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


From Kastrup, Denmark’s Amager Bryghus comes RyeKing, a 7.7% alcohol smoked rye stout. Sold in 500mL bottles with America’s stars and bars on the label, the beer within is extremely dark. It pours with a thick layer of tan head, through with comes a tangy, smoky aroma.

RyeKing’s flavour is both mammoth and complex. It is smoky, spicy, and malty, with notes of leather, tobacco, and chocolate.

This beer has a lot going for it: depth, potency, and richness are some of its finer attributes. On the negative side of the ledger? Not a whole lot, actually. The mouthfeel is a bit syrupy, but that’s not particularly unusual for a strong stout. In short, I have few complaints.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Moosehead Anniversary Ale

From Saint John, New Brunswick comes Moosehead Anniversary Ale, a 5.7% alcohol ale brewed in honour of two sesquicentennials: that of Canada and of the Moosehead Brewery. The been comes in 473mL cans that feature a map of Canada.

The beer is a dull golden number, with a luscious off-white head. The aroma is grainy with some punchy farmyard elements. Anniversary Ale has a dry mouthfeel, with some fairly hoppy elements. Mostly, though, the flavour is grainy, with straw and wheat notes.

For a macro brewery, this golden ale has some decent chops. It’s not a remarkable offering by any stretch, but it does taste pretty good. Not particularly special, but without any notable off notes, Anniversary Ale is a modest, but tasty, effort.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Low Boy

Low Boy is a 4.3% alcohol session ale. It’s billed as a New England-style pale ale brewed with apricot purée. Sold in 650mL bottles, the beer is an extremely milky orange soup that pours with a thin cover of white head. It comes from Toronto, and the Kensington Brewing Co.

A bitter, fruit-focused aroma greets the nose. Low Boy has a fresh and juicy flavour built atop a faintly tart citrus tingle. Apricot and orange notes are the flavour drivers, leading to a nicely hopped finish.

This beer was, compared to many of Ontario’s sessionable pale ales, fairly innovative and unique. The judicious use of apricot purée gave the body a bit of thickness. Additionally, it might be the milkiest looking beer I’ve ever downed. The only gripe I have with Low Boy is a slightly off note in the finish—something a bit earthy and murky that, while maybe great in another beer, fell a bit flat in this otherwise fruity and fresh ale.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 27 November 2017

First World Problems

First World Problems is a Belgian-style IPA brewed in Edinburgh, Scotland by Stewart Brewing. The 6.2% alcohol ale is sold in pithy 330mL bottles that seek to illustrate a first world problem.

The beer is a hazy orange potion that pours with a considerable layer of loose off-white head, and which has a small measure of sediment. The beer has a potent aroma characterized by notes of yeast and some floral notes. Compared to the assertive nose, FWP’s flavour is unexpectedly mild. Not particularly bitter or punchy, this Scottish ale has a slightly earthy taste, with some perfumed hops evident at the back end. Mostly, though, Belgian-style yeast is the most prominent note.

I found FWP to be a bit of a disappointing effort. When I spy a new internationally-brewed IPA on local shelves, I expect a unique offering, something unique. This beer was fine and all, but it lacked a depth of flavour that would have set it apart from the bulk of Belgian-style IPAs. A fine ale, but really nothing special.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

In the Weeds

After teasing me for ages, I recently noticed that the Kensington Brewing Co. and its bottle shop have finally opened. The brewery, in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood, is a stone’s through from my apartment, so I recently walked over to check out their wares and came home with a quartet of 650mL bombers. One of these was named In the Weeds. Billed as a West Coast IPA, ITW contained a somewhat sub-strength 5.9% alcohol.

The beer, a hazy golden orange grog, poured with a thick and durable off-white head and a pretty mild nose. More biscuity than I expected, with just a soft kiss of citrus bitterness, the scent did not immediately remind me of the prototypical West Coaster. The flavour, while quite nice, seemed to me to be closer to an English-style ale, given its emphasis on malt at the front end. However, the finish did have a bit of the characteristic hops crackle of the brews that make the western US such a hotbed of beery greatness.

All in, In the Weeds is too timid for its purported style. It tastes pretty good, I was glad I bought it, and I might buy it again, but it didn’t hit me with the assertive and gritty IBUs I was craving.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Meanwhile ... Down in Moxee

Meanwhile ... Down in Moxee is an American IPA—billed as a Vermont-style IPA on the tap list at Bar Hop—from Toronto’s Great Lakes Brewery. At 6.4%, the strength of this clear golden ale is a decent, but toward the base of the IPA booziness spectrum. My 15oz draught arrived with a pretty lush white head and a fruity nose that tended toward fresh melon and berries.

Though it’s extremely light-bodied for an IPA, Moxee doesn’t sacrifice one ounce of flavour, with juicy melon and  a cornucopia of other subtle and enticing fruit notes. Not particularly bitter, Moxee still manages to have a pretty dynamic hop profile with a bit of stickiness at the finish.

Vermont-style IPAs are a pretty new addition to the Ontario craft beer palate, and GLB’s take is definitely one of the best that I’ve tried so far. The body is thin, but the flavour has compelling depth. At 6.4%, this beer is either a bit too mild for the style, or dangerously too strong for a session ale. Either way, it’s a juicy, subtle creation from one of Toronto’s finest. I typically flavour bold, bludgeoning IPAs, but this one has a fragility that makes you take is seriously.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Raspbeery Coco Lait

An entry from the Muskoka Brewery’s Moonlight Kettle series that I picked up at the brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario, Raspbeery Coco Lait is a milk stout flavoured with raspberry purée. The easy-drinking 4.5% alcohol ale comes in a 473mL can. It’s a dark ale with elegant ruby highlights.

RCL has an engaging chocolatey aroma with just the faintest hint of a tart raspberry backbone. The raspberry in the flavour is considerably more than a hint, though, giving the beer an assertively fruity vibe that follows on the heels of a malty, cocoa rich base.

Raspbeery Coco Lait is a decadent dessert beer that would pair brilliantly with a chocolate indulgence of some sort after a rich meal. And, since if you’re anything like me, you probably had a bottle of wine or two with dinner, you’re in luck that the beer has low alcohol count, so you might not nod off in your tort.

I’m irritated that the can didn’t tell me whether this is a stout or a porter, though those labels are often pretty arbitrary and the website declared it to be a milk stout. Otherwise, I have few negatives to heap on RCL, other than the fact that I’d have preferred a more bitter and gritty chocolate to the milky number in evidence.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Greenwood Vermont-Style IPA

The Bitter Wife works every second Saturday afternoon. This creates a perfect recurring opportunity to duck out for a pint or to check out a brewery. One of my preferred Saturday afternoon haunts is Toronto’s Bar Hop (the original King Street location). They’ve always got something new and fresh that I’ve never tried before. On this Saturday in early October, that niche was filled by Greenwood Vermont-Style IPA. Built by the excellent Left Field Brewery in Toronto’s Greenwood neighbourhood, this little brew arrived looking milky gold, under a modest off-white foam.

The 6.3% 65 IBU ale had an extremely juicy tropical fruit aroma and a flavour to match. Notes of piña and mango were well represented, nestled in an assertively bitter body.

Bitter yet juicy are the hallmarks of the Vermont style, and Greenwood certainly hit both of those pretty squarely. I like my IPAs to have a bit higher percentage—if this stuff was in the 7% range, it’d have been closer to my ideal. I’d also liked the fruit flavours to be tangier, rather than the sweetness that settled in particularly as the beer warmed. All of that aside, though, Greenwood was a delicious beer from one of Toronto’s best.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 17 November 2017

1857 Kölsch-Style Lagered Ale

The latest in a spate of Ontario-born kölsch-style ales, 1857 Kölsch-Style Lagered Ale comes from Waterloo, where it’s nourished into existence by Abe Erb Brewing Company. A 4.8% alcohol potion, 1857 is a golden ale with a faint touch of haze and a bright white head. It comes in 473mL cans.

The scent is a somewhat pedestrian grain and malt combo, but the flavour has some life and a pretty respectable bitter kick as it closes out.

Pretty crisp and hoppily pleasant, I thought 1857 was a pretty decent take on the classic style from Cologne. A bit more booze would’ve been a welcome plus, but the flavour worked and the freshness quotient was solid. Not a beer I’ll seek out, but one I’ll doubtless buy again.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Secret Goldfish

A member of Sawdust City Brewing Co.'s Winewood Series, I picked up my corked and caged 750mL bottle of The Secret Goldfish direct from he brewery. The label of this features a vignette about a woman discovering the magic of re-reading books and declares this 6.7% alcohol conviction to be a barrel-aged tart saison. The beer had a bronze tint. It was hazy and aggressively carbonated, with a modest covering of off-white head.

The Secret Goldfish had a sour and slightly saline nose with cranberry and cherry notes. The flavour, less sour than the scent, was still a bit tart, with unripened fruit elements. Cleverly, the barrel-aging flavour was almost hidden beneath a crush of tart notes, but it became more and more apparent as my beer warmed and my mind mellowed.

To this dork, there weren't a lot of saison elements to this stuff, other than a lively mouthfeel and a high concentration of yeast--still, I guess the saison is a big tent and getting bigger, so what do I know? Well, what I do know is that the flavour was nice, the strength just right, and the sourness far from oppressive. The Secret Goldfish made me with that Sawdust City's Winewood Series was available at my local store.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Wild North Pumpkin Ale

Wild North Pumpkin Ale comes from Baysville, Ontario. It’s brewed by the Lake of Bays Brewery, comes in 473mL cans, and checks in at a feisty  6% alcohol.

The beer, brewed with pumpkin, has a rich auburn colour and a loose off-white layer of head. It has an autumnal nose—pumpkin pie with clove and cinnamon. The flavour walks a similar pass, with sweet, aromatic pumpkin pie notes, backed against a mild bitter finish.

To my mind, the best pumpkin ales are strong, spicy, bitter, and bold. For me, Lake of Bays’ Wild North Pumpkin Ale ticks one of those boxes (spicy), comes very close on two others (strong and bitter), and falls a bit short on the last (bold). If this beer were upped to 7%, it might have hit all of my unofficial criteria. Still, as is, I liked the beer quite a bit. It had me hankering for a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixins.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Muskoka Harvest Ale

During an anniversary trip to Ontario's beautiful Muskoka region, the Bitter Wife and I dropped into the Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, where I bought a handful of brews and a lovely IPA glass. One of the brews I picked up was Muskoka's Harvest Ale; a 6.7% alcohol effort with a hazy golden tint and a fog of white head. According to the 473mL can, the beer is dry-hopped, though the hop is not identified.

Harvest Ale has a grassy, grainy, and malt-focused aroma. The taste is malty up front, with a hefty and dank hops finish that provides for a nicely rounded brew.

Strong and flavourful, I found Muskoka's Harvest Ale to be an agreeable can o' suds. Harvest ales are an amorphous bunch with few definitive characteristics--a group of beers that I have often found disappointing--but I found this iteration to be a pretty compelling one. With sticky hops and grainy body, this beer had a lot of positive attributes that left me both pleased and buzzed.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Bridal Veil Pale Ale

From the town of Little Current, on Ontario's Manitoulin Island comes Bridal Veil Pale Ale, a 5% alcohol pale brewed by the Manitoulin Brewing Co., and sold in 473mL cans.

The beer is brassy and clear, with a cumulus of white head. There is an evergreen, slightly floral aroma with a bit of a metallic edge. The flavour is similarly situated, with a woodsy vibe and a tinny subtext. The finish is crisp and brief, with a nice equilibrium.

According to the can, this stuff was dry-hopped with Cascade, which led me to expect a bit more citrus, but the flowery-foresty notes I got were decidedly enjoyable. Compared to the fine, but ordinary Swing Bridge Blonde, Manitoulin's Bridal Vale was a better executed ale. I'll be buying it again, but it probably won't become a Stout Man Refrigerator Regular (tm).

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Sawdust City Chinook Wet Hop

Another pint I enjoyed during my evening at Gravenhurst, Ontario's Sawdust City Brewing Co. was their Chinook Wet Hop. At 5%, and with a milky orange hue, the CWH arrived on the bar with a thin cover of white suds.

The beer had a sticky and resinous smell and a similarly dank, hempen, and floral hop flavour. The downside of this beer was its mouthfeel, which I felt was inordinately wispy, and its booze factor, which could have been considerably more bombastic.

CWH was a pretty tasty brew, but it lacked depth. I enjoyed it, but I'd be hesitant to order another, as the body didn't live up to its potential. Still, the flavour was good and the aroma excellent.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 5 November 2017


“Remember, remember the fifth of November”—I actually sat down with a 473mL can of 11-05 on November 5th. The beer, brewed in collaboration between Nickel Brook Brewing Co. from Hamilton, Ontario and Sawdust City Brewing Co. out of Gravenhurst, Ontario (where it was actually brewed), contains 11.05% alcohol. The can has three notable features: (1) the two collaborators involved in this brew share a common birthday—November 5; (2) there is an excerpt from the famed rhyme about the Gunpowder Treason and a Guy Fawkes mask; and (3) there is an indication that the beer was brewed in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada. A fourth element also caught my eye—the beer was brewed on August 31, 2016—over a year before I bought it.

The beer is billed as a Belgian-style tripel brewed with brettanomyces yeast. 11-05 is a sunny golden brew. It’s hazy, less carbonated than expected, and pours with a white head. It has a funky scent, with notes of sour cherries. The flavour is extremely sweet, with fruit elements. It isn’t as tart and yeasty as I expected, nor as lively and effervescent.

In truth, I suspect that this beer was in the fridge at Sawdust City for too long before I bought it. It likely lost a bit of its funk and punch over the 14 months between brewing and consumption. Still, it was a boozy and fairly interesting collaboration between two of my fave Ontario outfits. It was too sweet and not nearly as yeast-focused as a tripel should be, but it was brewed for a good cause and gave me a lot to write about.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Fruit Helmet

I’m pretty late to the game, but Milkshake IPAs and pale ales are a big deal now. I’ve tried a couple, but Bellwoods Brewery and Evil Twin’s Fruit Helmet is my first review of the style. Milkshake Ales are a recent trend, brewed with fruit and lactose sugar. Evil Twin/Bellwoods’ Torontonian take, Fruit Helmet, features guava, passion fruit, and raspberry, and clocks in at 5.6% alcohol.

Sold in stylish 500mL bottles, Fruit Helmet is a rosy-hued, juicy, and milky ale. It’s opaque and pours with a thin layer of white head. The nose is dynamically fruity—sweet, with notes of grapefruit and tart raspberry. The flavour is equally fruity, though the notes are a bit different—primarily tropical, but with a rowdy berry tartness. The finish continues the fruity trend, but also packs a murky, bitter taste.

I understand that milkshake IPAs and APAs are an established style, but Fruit Helmet tastes to me like an innovative and inventive grog. It was juicy, thick, and altogether unfamiliar, but in a way that left me thirsty for more. A bit more booze could have helped the effort, but this stuff was already solid, with ample bitterness and big flavour. Bitter, yet tart, yet juicy, but still smooth—this is one of the finest Ontario ales I’ve tried in 2017.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Adaptation: Mosaic Dry-Hopped Kölsch

For our fifth anniversary, the Bitter Wife and I took a little weekend trip to cottage country. While in Gravenhurst, we dropped into the Sawdust City Brewing Co. for a couple of cold ones to celebrate. While she knocked back some Little Norway Pale Lager, I alternated between a couple of different offerings, but the one that first caught my eye was called Adaptation: Mosaic Dry-Hopped Kölsch.

This take on the kölsch style showed up pale yellow-gold and mostly clear, with a thin cap of off-white head. It had a charming aroma that was both grainy and fruity. The flavour toed that same line, with some soft grain notes cohabiting with a peachy element. The beer culminated with a snappy, dry finish that had some modest hops crackle.

The idea of a dry-hopped kölsch-style ale seems like a strange bird--and to choose a juicy hop like mosaic, instead of a pinier option seemed like an odd choice--but the folks at Sawdust City clearly know their craft (beer), because this stuff was treat. I found it too thin, even for a kölsch-style, but the flavour combination was genuinely enjoyable.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Northern Maverick White IPA

Happy Halloween from the Stout Man!

Northern Maverick Brewing Co.'s White IPA is a 6% alcohol brew that blends witbier and India pale ale styles. My 500mL bottle contained a slightly hazy golden beer and poured with fluffy white suds.

Its nose was fruity, yeasty, and a little bit metallic. The flavour was considerably more bitter than I expected, with a range of taste notes spanning dank hops, citrus, a bit of floral perfume, and some tinniness.

This beer definitely held my interest from first sip to last, but I'm not sure that I loved it. To me, there were metallic elements that seemed to intrude on both the nose and flavour of the beer. On the plus side, there was enjoyable dryness to the finish, a nice crisp body,

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Cooking dinner on a Tuesday evening, I delved into Gose-Zilla, a 4.7% salty sour from Northern Maverick Brewing Co. in Toronto. Sold in 500mL bottles featuring NM's polar bear mascot in an I ❤️ Tokyo shirt, the beer was dull gold and poured with a blanket of white head.

My nose caught a lot of subtle notes in this beer. While primarily sour and briny, I also noticed tart strawberry and cherry elements. As for flavour, this beer was way less tart than I expected, and displayed very little of a gose's characteristic salinity. While the flavour wasn't strictly up to style, I did enjoy notes of ripening fruit--berry and cherry again--as well as a sharp, quick finish that quenched my thirst admirably.
While not a strong exemplar of a gose, Gose-Zila still managed to be a pretty tasty little brew. Heightened tartness and a more detectable salt presence would have helped this ale. Still, for a very young brewery attempting a pretty finicky style, I think this stuff was pretty well executed and it's likely to improve in the future.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Heart of Tartness

From Toronto's newest brewery (at least as of September 2017), Northern Maverick Brewing Co., comes Heart of Tartness. HoT is a 5.2% alcohol dry hopped sour beer, brewed, according to the 500mL bottle, with oats to add balance.

The beer is a milky, pale yellow-gold number. It's crowned with a thick layer of pearly white head and has an aroma that vacillates between pungent brine and juicy fruit notes. The flavour is moderately tart, with some sour fruit elements--unripe peach and cranberry to this amateur aficionado--though the label promises pineapple, cherry, apricot, and orange. I can see where they're coming from with cherry, but the others elude me. The finish is quite dry and short, providing the beer with a nice crispness that cut right through a hot late-summer day to provide serious refreshment.

Heart of Tartness is a tame but thoroughly enjoyable sour ale. The strength is pretty good, there is depth of flavour, and it finishes with a commendable crispness. Perhaps not as sour as I'd have liked, nor as hop-focused, but this was a nice beer and I'll gladly revisit it before to long.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Northern Maverick Hefeweizen

When I uncapped a frosty 500mL bottle of hefeweizen from Toronto's Nothern Maverick Brewing Co., I was immediately struck by a waft of banana scent. Upon decanting my 500mL bottle of the 5% alcohol wheat beer, that initial impression was confirmed, and joined by some spice notes and a yeasty quality.

The beer was cloudy amber (a bit darker than I expected) with a thick fog of bright white head. Banana and orange were the executive flavour notes, over a mild yeast workforce. Hops were only barely evident as a slight crackle at the finish.

My first experience with a Northern Marverick brew, I found their Hefeweizen to be quite well executed, if not anything to garner effusive praise. The only shortcoming of this beer, described on the bottle as a "classic Bavarian hefeweizen", is an underwhelming mouthfeel. It was a bit thin and would have benefited from a bit of crispness. Still, on an unseasonably warm September day, this summery ale was a welcome bit of refreshment. I wouldn't have minded a second.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Northern Maverick Brewing Co.

It's a fact that when I moved into my current neighbourhood in Toronto in the summer of 2010, there were no easily walkable breweries. Zero. Zilch. Then, in 2011, I started this blog. As of September 2017, there are three walkable breweries, with a fourth slated to open later this year. Now, I'm not saying I'm solely responsible for this influx of craft beer to a once-overlooked, too hip for beer neighbourhood, but my blog and I have clearly been wildly influential. Right?

The latest opening is Northern Maverick Brewing Co. Located in a lovely and open space on Bathurst Street with a patio and a full kitchen, NMBC seems like a place I'll be getting intimately familiar with over the next few months. Today, though, I just breezed on over to take a look at the bottle shop.

I was instantly greeted by two friendly and enthusiastic dudes who were eager to help. Playing dumb, I let them give me the rundown on the five beers that were on offer, they shared their wisdom. and I came home with four: a hefe, a white IPA, a gose, and a dry-hopped sour, all sold in 500mL bottles branded with a polar bear in aviator shades.

Stay tuned this week for my thoughts on the bulk of NMBC's initial offerings.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Aleyards Collaboration IPA

Aleyards Collaboration IPA is ... you guessed it ... a collaboration! It's a project worked up between the three breweries that make up Toronto's Aleyards Brewing District": Junction Craft Brewing, Shacklands Brewing Company, and Rainhard Brewing Company. The three nearby breweries (in the case of Shacklands and Rainhard, they're actually contiguous) on Symes Road combined to brew a 6.8% India pale ale in honour of the 2017 iteration of Toronto Beer Week.

The Aleyards Collab is a lightly carbonated and considerably hazy ale with a brushed gold hue and a fog of loose, white head. It has a resinous, citrus/evergreen scent and a flavour that feels comfortably balanced. There are some caramel malt notes and a finish meanders between sweet  tangerine and sticky hops.

Aleyards Collaboration Ale is definitely good beer--decent strength, nice flavour--nothing to complain about. It's not all that remarkable or memorable, except as a reminder that brewing, when done right, should be collaborative and community-based. My favourite brewers are the ones that enjoy and recommend ales from their "rivals" and support their "competitors" with advice and feedback as they are sought. The whole industry wins when micros offer a better product and sway drinkers from the macro dross, and a strong local community like the one in the Aleyards is to be commended.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Transatlantic Pale Ale

Transatlantic Pale Ale, another member of the "Pitch and Pray" series from Toronto's Godspeed Brewery seems to be their most "conventional" offering. My 355mL can, straight from the brewery's bottle shop, was a murky brown number with a thick but loose off-white head. The 5.2% brew had a had a curious nose--somewhat gastric, but not unpleasant, with some acidic notes atop a fruity base.

The flavour is malt-driven, with some dark fruit elements, built against a modest, dank bitterness and some metallic tang.

This was a hard ale to rate, given that it had a unique flavour and dark hue that set it apart from the glut of Ontario pale ales, but a unusual taste that wasn't at all crisp or refreshing. The maltiness made me think English-style, but it wasn't really that. A bit of an oddball ale, I nonetheless enjoyed Transatlantic Pale. Not session-friendly nor strong and surly, there was a lot to like and a lot to dwell on. Certainly a beer worth revisiting!

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Godspeed Stout

A member of the "Pitch and Pray" series from Toronto's Godspeed Brewery, Godspeed Stout came to me by way of the East-End brewery's newly opened bottle shop. Sold in 355mL cans, the beer packs a slightly light 4.7% alcohol. The stout is a more brown than black ale that poured with a loose but thick tan head.

G.S. had a subtle, but not at all non-existent aroma--cocoa and coffee, on top of a malty base. Compared to the mildness of the nose, I found the flavour to be compellingly rich, driven by java and dark chocolate notes, as well as a taste of leather. The back end even had some pretty respectable bitterness that belied the low alcohol percentage.

I gotta say, this stout caught me a little off guard. At 4.7%, I was expecting dry and smooth, but what I poured into my eager maw was full and rich. If the Godspeed Stout is a lodestone, Godspeed will be a brewery worth monitoring. It takes some skill to make a dark ale that flourishes at a low percentage.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Puppers Premium Lager

According to the 473mL can, Puppers Premium Lager is "the official beer of Letterkenny", which is supposedly an extremely funny show that I have not seen.

The beer is a 4% light lager. It's a straw gold brew with a loose and thin white head and a significant amount of carbonation. Puppers comes from Sudbury, Ontario, where it is crafted by Stack Brewing. It has a sweet cereal grain nose and a flavour to match, though the sweet grain and corn gives way to a slightly bitter finish.

At just 4%, Puppers is incredibly sessionable. However, it lacks the crispness of a quality pale lager, and packs a bit more sweetness than I tend to enjoy in my bottom fermented beers. Not a bad beer, but a bit on the forgettable side. Not quite what I expect from a quality brewer like Stack.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Elvis Juice

Elvis Juice is marketed as a "grapefruit infused IPA". It comes from Ellon, Scotland, where it's coaxed into existence by BrewDog.

A ruddy orange potion, E.J. is a 6.5% ale that pours under a thin, sudsy, and quickly-dissipating cream head. According to the label, it's brewed using both orange peel and grapefruit peel, which explains its murky citrus aroma. Given the rich musk of the nose, I was expecting a robust flavour, but what I got seemed a bit restrained--almost timid--with dominant citrus notes at the vanguard and a resinous hops brining up the rear.

I downed this ale while cooking up a mess of rotini, and it made for an enjoyable sous chef. While it could have been more assertive and more sharply tart, I thought it was a pretty decent little brew all the same.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

St. Mary Axe

Brewed in London, Ontario, St. Mary Axe is billed as a "Canadian Best Bitter". Made by the eponymous brewery, SMX (as it appears in shorthand on the spare but clean 473mL can) is a sessionable 4.6% alcohol. According to the copy, it's a "divine dichotomy where old meets new and complex is simple." Hmm.

The beer is a slightly hazy burnished copper colour. It pours with a vibrant and loose off-white head through which wafts a balanced albeit mild aroma that walks a tightrope between caramel malts and metallic bitterness. The flavour, sweeter than I anticipated, kicks off with date or raisin notes and a sticky toffee quality. The finish is relatively modestly flavoured, but admirably subtle and complicated. There are treacle elements, but this share the spotlight with an undercurrent of earthy hops.

I really enjoyed SMX. It should be noted that, despite the session-friendly percentage, this beer manages to taste full-bodied and will fill you up. What that means, for me at least, is that it provides an excellent way to enjoy a lush, well rounded ale without getting utterly pickled. The truth, as I see it, is that SMX does deliver on its promise: it blends classic English ale elements and low octane with a 21st century hop profile. A little less sweetness is my only initial complaint.

I'll have to revisit this one soon to be sure, but my inclination after a single can is that this stuff merits a pretty great score.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.