Tuesday, 22 August 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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 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.