Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

In honour of Canada Day I review a slew of beers from one of Canada's great breweries, Mill Street in Toronto.


Mill Street Brewery Tankhouse Ale (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.2%

This beer has a very visually appealing old-style bottle and logo. The beer itself is a copper colour in a glass. It has a rather hoppy aroma and bitter taste but this is balanced with a sweet rustic red malt flavour, with a roasty tone. It is spicy and has a certain hint of citrus in the hops character. The aftertaste is bitter and hoppy but also appetizingly sweet and malty in a way that reminds me a of bakery fresh brown bread.

Tankhouse Ale seems like an ideal pub or restaurant beer: due to it's hops character it's an exceptionally refreshing beer that would pair well with a wide variety of foods and though it is bitter, it is still a very drinkable beer.

Mill Street Brewery Pilsner (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.2%

Packs a suprisingly sweet punch at first. Has that characteristic dry crisp hops flavour associated with European style pilsners, that same hops flavour is the predominant aroma in the nose of the beer.

The beer is a deep gold in a glass and is a little cloudy - perhaps I served it a little too cold? Unfortunately I only have the one bottle to sample. I like the throwback label.

Nicely bitter, perfect for the style. The sweetness is a little unexpected but it quickly fades behind the hops and bitterness. Just a hint of citrus and floral tones in the finish of the beer with a moderately bitter aftertaste - all in all a very nice pilsner.

Mill Street Brewery's Pilsner is very refreshing and true to the style but with a little twist to keep things interesting while remaining well balanced throughout. I recommend you try this one.

Mill Street Brewery Traditional Ginger (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

A bright clear beer that is a coppery gold colour in a glass. A gingery smell and taste, with a spicy kick if you take a large swig. It is very gingery in a way that tastes like fresh ginger, rather than ginger ale, but is also reminiscent of ginger bread and a little bit like pumpkin pie. I really appreciate the fact that Mill Street used actual ginger puree and no sweetener because ginger beers have been around for a long time and yet most of the modern versions are full of sugar and artificial flavourings. Also it is quite bitter which makes it stand out from other ginger flavoured beers on the market and makes it seem all the more authentic for it.

Mill Street Brewery Stock Ale (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

A richly malty brew, sweet with roasted malt tones also. Something pleasantly creamy about the flavour of the malt that pairs nicely with the bitterness of the hops which is on the tame side of moderate. The sweet slightly roasty aroma is reminiscent of honey with a touch of hoppy bitterness for good measure.

A pleasant well crafted lighter ale. I've liked every beer I've tried from Mill Street Brewing so far, and this one is no exception, from the taste down to the design of each label this is a top tier craft brewery.

Mill Street Brewery Original Organic Lager (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 4.2%

Pale gold in a glass. This beer is sweet, malty and crisp but also springy on the palate. An interesting floral hops character that is reminiscent of a wheat beer. Refreshing and tasty but with a very short lived aftertaste.

This beer is an excellent lager: proof that a lager doesn't have to be bland or uncomplicated to be refreshing. If you are looking for a lager and are into organic foods you can't miss this beer.

Mill Street Brewery Coffee Porter (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.5%

With a rich coffee aroma that could kick-start a morning as effectively as a true cuppa joe, this beer certainly lives up its name. This should come as no surprise though since it is brewed with actual coffee! To be honest, I think including actual coffee in a porter borders on cheating since so many brewmasters strive to (and often succeed in) coaxing that coffee flavour out of specially malted barley.

In Mill Street's Coffee Porter though I have to say the merits of their coffee-blending approach is in the drinking: this is a very nice porter, strong flavours of coffee, smoke, a lovely level of sweetness that gives it a pronounced chocolate tone. It is also nutty and has a somewhat bitter aftertaste. The combination of aroma and aftertaste remind of the mix of smells I associate with pubs that are just around a street corner from a major thoroughfare and down a half flight of stairs: the pot of coffee behind the bar, the glass of ale on the table in front of you and the lingering hint of smoke from the night before.

This porter would do just as well as an after dinner desert as it would paired with an omelette at brunch. Also, and as always, I love the throwback style bottles Mill Street uses. All around a great purchase and worth trying more than once.
Mill Street Brewery Ambre de la Chaudiere (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 7.0%

A brass colour in a glass. A yeasty, floral and citrus aroma. A very yeasty floral explosion of a taste. Spicy but I think it could use a bit more spice to add to the yeast and sherry-like tones. Really nice beer all-in-all with an interesting story on the label to match the interesting flavour. A creamy mouthfeel with a touch of alcohol burn that cause this beer to drink as a fine wine, an exotic sherry or a robust scotch.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bushwakker Sampler (Canada - Saskatchewan - Regina)

Bushwakker Sampler (Canada - Saskatchewan - Regina)

This brewpub had great beer, good eats and a fabulous jazz group playing the night we were there. If you are in Regina this place is a can't miss. The location is a little weird: the neighbourhood is sort of industrial and run down but the brewpub is a gem. They had plenty more beers than I was able to sample and a whole pile of specialties and seasonals too.

Dortmunder ?%

A blended beer, it is very smooth and malty but bitter and has more than a hint of bananas in its flavour. Also somewhat musty and woody, an interesting balance/interplay of flavours.

Last Mountain Lager 5.2%

Malty but quite hoppy with a musty fruit finish.

Regina Pale Ale 4.5%

Nicely sweet pale ale this one: I'm sure there is some crystal malt in this brew's kettle. Bitter finish but well balanced and tasty.

Dungarvon Irish Red Ale 5.0%

Smooth and a little toasty. Hints of honey, not as dry or bitter as some other reds.

Sodbuster Brown Ale 5.0%

Tastes and smells of caramel, very sweet with roasted malt backer. Some bitterness and a slight coffee hint.

Palliser Porter 5.8%

A true porter: bitter and black, tastes of coffee and dark chocolate. If it was just a little less bitter it could pass as a dessert beer. A nice way to finish the sample tray.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Picaroons's Summer Brews

Melon Head - Picaroons (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton) 4.5%

Smells like watermelon bubblegum and somehow tastes like that too! A mix of hops and natural extracted watermelon flavour gets the credit but Melon Head's flavour is so different it's still hard to believe it isn't artificially tweaked to taste this way. A really interesting beer and refreshing to boot. A full gold colour in a glass with a hilarious label.

Dooryard Summer Ale Organic Wheat - Picaroons (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton) 4.5%
A flowery and caramel aroma and taste. A subtle flavour of orange and a little spiciness to go along with typical wheat tones but they are somewhat masked by the caramel taste that is found in nearly every single Picaroons beer. The caramel taste is nice but its recurrent appearance in Picaroons's wide variety of types and styles (sometimes slightly inappropriately, in my opinion) is somewhat puzzling and could begin to wear on the palate. Still this is a pleasant, and certified organic, ale.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Miller [Summer] Time!!

Here's my review of a pair of citrus flavoured summer brews by Miller Brewing Company.

Miller Chill (USA) 4.0%

This beer's aroma is Miller Genuine Draft, light but creamy, with the expected hint of lime. This beer is more carbonated than many beers but that only helps make Miller Chill more refreshing. The lime is not exactly subtle but not overpowering either: it balances well with the mild maltiness so that Miller Chill still tastes like beer. A good summer beer that pairs well with food, softball and sunshine.

Miller Chill Lemon (USA) 4.0%

Tastes just like Miller Genuine Draft with lemon instead of lime: it doesn't taste sweetened, simply flavoured. It makes it refreshing, a nice summertime beer. I think I prefer the lime Miller Chill because I find it more drinkable, but then again I also prefer limes to lemons, so it's just a matter of personal preference. I'm a little surprised other mega-breweries haven't made lemon flavoured light beers since it seems like every one of them has a lime beer. The lemon is a nice change from the lime though obviously still along the lines of light citrus flavoured beers.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sea Level Brewing at The Port (Canada - Nova Scotia - Port Williams)

Locate in Port Williams, Nova Scotia, The Port gastropub has award-winning decor, great food and even better beer made on location by Sea Level Brewing. All the prices are very affordable, so, if you are in the area I definitely recommend checking pulling into The Port.


Planter's Pale Ale 4.5%

A sweet, slightly caramel and nutty aroma. Tasted much the same but with hoppy and bitter tones as well as strong bread flavours and a slightly bitter, grain finish. Pale gold in a glass.

Raspberry Wheat 4.5%

A tart but sweet, clearly raspberry aroma. Clear and refreshingly watery mouthfeel. Bitter with a raspberry tartness, not very sweet and more than touch of the grain flavour that comes with freshly crafted beer. The raspberry is not very strong due to the fact that Sea Level Brewing is using actual raspberries rather than syrup or concentrate. Gold with a pink tint that makes it look almost grapefruit pink.

Rojo Mojo Red 5.2%

A mild sweet slightly roasty aroma. Roasty, bitter, more than a touch hoppy. Some sherry like fruit tones. A nice red! Amber in a glass.

Blue Heron Extra Special Bitter 5.5%

Brass coloured in a glass. Very hoppy aroma, sprucy and sweet - makes your mouth water if you are a hops fan and perhaps cringe if you tend to shy away from hoppy brews. Not nearly as bitter as implied by the aroma but still plenty of great hops flavour. Although Blue Heron is a dry-hopped beer, Sea Level Brewing uses hops that they grow themselves that are low in bitter oils but still full of flavour: hoppy and green. It still has a bitter, lingering smoky finish. Sweet but not overly and, as a result of its bitterness, pairs well with food as the menu recommends. Even with the pleasant hops flavours this beer brings it is still mild enough that someone who might not like a strongly hoppy and bitter hops flavour can still enjoy this beer while hops fans are still happy.

Port in the Storm Porter 5.5%

Smoky, coffee aroma with a touch of chocolate. A perfect silky head and very dark in a glass. A very smoky dark coffee flavour touches of grain, bitter and a hint of hops. A smooth mouthfeel. A very nice porter.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Barley Days Brewery (Canada - Ontario - Picton)

Located in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Barley Days Brewery makes three beers year round and a number of seasonal beers as well. I had the good fortune to come across a mixed twelve-pack. The bottles themselves are the standard brown bottle and the bottlecaps are plain but the labels are quite handsome. Here's what I thought of four of their fine brews. (Spoiler alert: they were really good!)

Barley Days Loyalist Lager 5.5%

A crystal clear, medium gold in a glass with a malty, slightly roasty aroma. A great fresh hops taste lends some dry spiciness to this malty lager that is also sweet and somewhat roasty despite its light colour. A nicely drinkable lager with quite a bit of character.

Barley Days Harvest Gold Pale Ale 4.8%

A cloudy gold colour in a glass. A pleasant yeast and grain flavour, somewhat sweet, with hints of caramel, and bitter. A similar hops character as other Barley Days beers but distinctly more bitter and a little more sprucey rather than the dry hops character of the Loyalist Lager. All in all a nice beer.

Barley Days Brown Ale 4.5%

An amber brown colour in a glass with a slightly hoppy aroma of molasses. The taste is sweet and somewhat roasty with hints of coffee or chocolate and the aforementioned molasses. The hops flavour is quite pronounced and decidedly fresh tasting, the carbonation is mild and a watery mouthfeel makes this beer very refreshing. All in all this is one of my favourite brown ales.

Barley Days Wind and Sail Dark Ale 5.0%

A dark, porter-esque aroma of smoke and coffee. Strong notes of coffee and chocolate in the taste; quite sweet with some wooden tones from the combination of dark malt and hops. A malty, smoky aftertaste rounds out this very pleasant dark ale. Very dark in a glass: nearly opaque and the colour of darkly stained wood. Certainly worth picking up, another great beer from Barley Days.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bavaria Beers (no not Bavarian Beers)

There is a brewery by the name of Bavaria and it makes three kinds of beer, puts their beer into 500 ml cans, and ships these cans to New Brunswick. You can buy them for less than $3.50. Two are of the three are pretty good and one is terrible. Read on to find out which!

Bavaria 8.6 Original (Netherlands) 7.9%

A deep gold colour in a glass. This beer has a sweet, apple aroma, somewhat like a white wine or a cider. Tastes like a pleasantly malty lager though sweet and with more than a touch of apple. The flavour can be a touch cloying and has a bitter touch with an alcohol bite in the aftertaste; considering it is nearly 8% ABV, the flavour isn't too strong by any means. Bavaria 8.6 Original manages to strike an interesting balance by having a beer with a high alcohol content but doesn't taste like something you'd only ever drink when you were sixteen (I'm looking at you Colt .45). If you are after a beer that can pass as a lager and get you drunk in a hurry this one is for you.

Bavaria Light (Netherlands) 4.0%

A yellow gold colour in a glass. Malty, slightly roasty and somewhat sweet: almost with a touch of honey. A little watery; maybe a touch hoppy. Pretty good for a light lager. Overall not a bad choice if light beer is your thing but you might as well go domestic or, even better, for a beer other than a light lager!

Bavaria 8.6 Red (Netherlands) 7.5%

An apple juice aroma. Tastes very sweet and a lot like apple: an unbelievably sweet taste. Reddish orange in a glass almost like fruit punch. Tastes a lot like sherry actually, and not the expensive stuff; the stuff teenagers get drunk on and the rest of us cook with. A little roasty, not much of an alcohol taste at all. Actually, there is an alcohol taste to this beer but you have to be willing to drink this syrupy swill fast enough to taste it. To be frank, saying it tastes like anything other than sugar is misleading. Unless sugary and gross is a beer type I am not familiar with this is a terrible beer. So if you aren't as obsessed as I am with trying & reviewing every beer you can get your hands on - skip this beer! It's just awful.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

International Lagers From Around the World

International lagers are a constant in the world: travel nearly anywhere in world and someone (seemingly often owned by InBev) will be brewing a bland, yellow, fizzy beer. In this post I review four of them all of which except for Polar Bear are available in beer stores pretty much everywhere.

Sol (Mexico) 4.5%

Gold in a glass. Smells quite malty, a little skunky probably because the clear bottle doesn't protect the beer from sunlight like a brown bottle would. Taste is very mild, quite sweet, fairly malty. Essentially no aftertaste.  A nice bottle cap and label. If you are just looking for something yellow, fizzy, refreshing with very little flavor Sol beer does the trick. On the other hand if you are looking for a beer with an interesting flavour look elsewhere.

Red Stripe (Jamaica) 4.7%

Sweet, not very bitter. Not as carbonated as most international lagers, smoothly malty and with a slight metallic and umami finish. Not much to it but a distinctive bottle. Because of this bottle and especially the country of origin I'm always disappointed when I remember Red Stripe isn't a ginger beer, oh well.

 Sapporo (Japan) 5.0%

A very light gold colour in a glass, this Japanese beer (brewed in Guelph, Ontario) is very, very light tasting. Slightly malty, slightly hoppy aroma. Slightly malty flavour but it somehow manages to not come across as watery, which is nice. Eminently drinkable: you could pound back a ton of these with ease and I'm sure it would go with just about any type of food because it's so bland. Sapporo must be popular with Japanese salary-men as it makes such a nice after work beer because it's so refreshing. However, there just isn't much to Sapporo other than being yellow and fizzy: a typical international lager but a good one if that's all you are looking for. The can is also really cool with a raised logo and Japanese characters stamped into the side of it.

  Polar Bear (Iceland) 4.7%

A really normal international lager: not overly malty, sweet or bitter. Distinctly indistinct.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lake of Bays Brewing (Ontario - Baysville)

Pale Ale - Lake of Bays Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Baysville) 5.0%

Noticeably hoppy aroma that carries through to the taste. Caramel malt is the delicious counterpoint to the bitter hops that is the main flavour of the aftertaste. This well balanced and interesting beer was a delight to enjoy while overlooking one of Northern Ontario's many beautiful and picturesque lakes.

Mocha Porter - Lake of Bays Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Baysville) 5.2%

This porter is very dark in a glass but not quite opaque and it smells of coffee and oatmeal. The taste itself is mainly of black coffee, a little watery as a porter compared to a stout usually is, and a bit like raisins with a hint of black olives. Actual coffee was added to this porter which seems a little like cheating to me but the end result is very tasty.