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!