Friday, November 30, 2012

Gahan Sydney Street Stout - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - PEI - Charlottetown)

Gahan Sydney Street Premium Stout - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - PEI) 5.2%

Pitch black in a glass, an impressive velvety head of tiny bubbles with good lacing. Coffee, grain, brown bread aroma, chocolate and hints of smoke like you get from bread toasted to point of being nearly charred.

Initially, a bitter dark chocolate taste so strong and distinct it seems like they could have actually used chocolate although there is no indication that they actually did. I view the use of actual chocolate in stouts as practically "cheating" when a good brewmaster can work such magic with judicious use of different types of malted barley. I have exceptions for my rule to allow for desert beers and other creative uses, and I'm certainly not a Reinheitsgebot-ist that pooh-poohs the use of any ingredients other than water, malt, hops and yeast but I digress. The dark chocolate flavour lasts throughout but takes a step back to allow some wooden tones, some bread flavours and a touch of hops to come through as well. The mouthfeel is creamy but not heavy.

I very much like this limited edition bottled stout and I hope the PEI Brewing Company sees fit to add Sydney Street Stout to their current roster of 1772 IPA, Sir John A Honey Wheat, Iron Horse Brown and Island Red which are all available in bottle in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and soon Nova Scotia.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rifleman's Ration - Black Creek Historic Brewery (Canada - Ontario - Toronto)

Rifleman's Ration - Black Creek Historic Brewery (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

A rosy brown colour in a glass with a subdued head that fades quite quickly but leaves nice lacing. I'm not sure how unfiltered it is but there was zero sediment. A smoky, extremely roasty aroma with some grain, lots of wood tones, a floral touch as well as an earthy touch. Also an aroma like the crust of well baked brown bread and a bit tartly astringent as if it was higher in alcohol than only 5.0%.

The taste is all that and more. Molasses, palpable smokiness, wood tones, piles of roast, brown bread, a milk chocolate aspect, a bit a fresh cut grass taste from the hops and a slight taste of alcohol with a chest-warming booze sensation (5% really?) that combines with the other flavours already mentioned to be a little rum-like. An umami and brown bread aftertaste with a touch of molasses and smoke. A delicious taste indeed to have lingering in your mouth. Definitely follow Black Creek Historic Brewery's recommendation and drink Rifleman's Ration at room temperature.

I can't say enough about how much I like the concept of this beer and brewery. For me, trying historic beers brewed according to old recipes is one of my favourite spin offs of the craft beer revolution. Garrison makes a Spruce Beer that is a similar concept though with a different flavour and different ingredients.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Plowman's Ale - Grand River Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Cambridge)

Plowman's Ale - Grand River Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Cambridge) 4.7%

Hoppy aroma, sweet and some tones of roasty fresh brown bread or even rising bread dough. Some fruit esters and something that smells a little like alcohol at first blush - but that can't be right as it is only 4.7%. Quite brown and gold with a reddish hint in a glass and ever so slightly cloudy. A slick creamy head with frothy, robust nearly lumpy lacing. Some fine sediment towards the end of the bottle that kicks the cloudiness up a notch.

A hoppy, darkly resiny taste, still some fruit esters, roasty and just a touch sticky like many reds. A nice American Amber as the hefty hops tones and bitter finish are balanced with rough malt tones and the more traditional red flavours. At times the bitterness of the hops flavours and the fruit ester combine to make something nearly port-like but it is all very nice and Plowman's Ale strikes lovely balance between food like malt flavours and bitter green hops flavours.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oranje Weisse - Amsterdam Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Toronto)

Oranje Weisse - Amsterdam Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

Pale, nearly full gold in a glass and just ever so slightly cloudy. My bottle had been stored for quite a while (at an appropriate temperature, mind you) so I think more sediment resisted the Weisse Roll (see photo below) than not. Towards the end of the bottle more of the sediment ended up in my glass and was quite nice. A quick look at the ingredients list reveals the reason why this aroma differs from other white beers: it is the anise which adds quite a pleasant aspect to go along with the coriander, yeast, malt and wheat tones.

The taste is quite a nice mix of anise and coriander with the citrus flavour being just a little muted (I, of course, did not serve it with an orange slice as the bottle suggested). The malt flavour speaks more to barley than wheat, though the wheat is clearly there and the mouthfeel is fairly creamy. This mix of grain choices has the added benefit of making the beer lighter and more refreshing than if they had gone heavier on the wheat: tailor-made for patios during hot Ontario summers. All in all quite nicely refreshing and I like the use of anise.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brasseurs RJ - Blonde d'Achouffe (Canada - Quebec - Montreal)

Brasseurs RJ - Blonde d'Achouffe (Canada - Quebec - Montreal) 8.0%

A bright gold in a glass with an aroma of honey, fresh baked bread, yeast; quite floral, touching on nectary, like a perfume. Very nice. There is sediment in the bottom of the bottle (as I tend to expect from the style) so the look and taste will tend to change as you drink it unless you pour it into a glass all at once, and that would have to be a big glass since the bottle holds 660 ml. I use a smaller tasting glass so this tasting had to proceed in stages.

Well carbonated, the alcohol comes through to the taste with a bit of a bite and in a chest warming sensation. I suggest serving it warmish so that the alcohol mixes better with the other flavours. The taste is sweet with flavours that are much the same as the aroma: honey and bread, touches of yeast but where the perfume, nectar and floral aspects carried the aroma they are more subdued in the taste. As I got to the midway point of this big bottle the flavour is more malty though the floral, nectar tastes remain. This flavour spectrum continued even after large-ish flaky sediment started finding its way into my glass. A very nice beer that you should definitely try if you like Belgian style Blondes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beer Suggestions for the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto, Ontario

What is a football game (or any sporting event) without a few beers? The Canadian Football League Championship Game is being played in Toronto this year so here are three reviews of Toronto brewed beers in honour of the 100th playing of the Grey Cup. There's a light beer if you intend to drink a pile of 'em, a flavoured wheat if you like a splash of fruit with your ale and an IPA if it's hops that punches your ticket.


86 Light - Amsterdam Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 3.8%

A nice gold colour in a glass, this light beer is light indeed. Very carbonated, lightly malty with a slight grain flavour, barely bitter, not sweet. It's nice for a light beer, well put together with a clean, crisp flavour. If light beer is what you want this is a fine choice.

Mill Street Brewery - Walker's Blueberry Wheat (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

A neat pink tinted amber colour in a glass. Quite a lot of medium sized sediment. A tart aroma that reminds me more of blueberry skins than it does of the blueberry flesh and carried with it some lemony notes.

Quite bitter and tart, the blueberry flavour mainly comes through in the sediment so this can be a hard beer to share: if you don't get the bottom of the beer it tastes very light indeed. Definitely should pour this beer into a glass to drink it.

A good but not overpowering blueberry flavour with plenty of tartness with citrus some other fruit flavours that remind me of watermelon and maybe a bit of cherry - kind of like a fruit punch. The blueberry in this beer is more like what wild blueberries taste like, rather than what blueberry juice or pie would taste like: more tart, less sweet, more of the peel's flavour coming through.

Duggan's Brewery 9 IPA (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 6.2%

A brown hued gold in a glass. An aroma of resin, roast, alcohol and a dark malt coffee hint. The taste is very hoppy with lots of resin and alcohol taste and warming. Some toasted bread and darker malt touches. Pretty bitter as suits the style. Overall well balanced and an interesting darker type of IPA.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Headstrong Pale Ale - Big Hole Brewing (USA - New York - Utica)

Headstrong Pale Ale - Big Hole Brewing (USA - New York - Utica) 5.5%

This ale is well balanced and easy drinking with some interesting features that make it worthy of tasting as well as quaffing. The taste and aroma are sweet and malty with a hint of orange zest; there is more than a hint of hops but it fades before any strong bitterness kicks it. The is also a herbal touch of something like coriander. A different take on a pale ale that is both drinkable and interesting.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Maudite - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec)

Maudite - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec) 8.0%

This beer pours a cloudy gold with a reddish/brownish hue.  It tastes very similar to Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde (which I absolutely love) but certainly has it's differences: sweet, bitter, floral, and yeasty, sure, but there is also a dark roasty red flavour lingering in there. I'm a little annoyed because I think I may have riled up the sediment too much while trying to get this bugger open, not that the sediment is unpleasant (far from it) but that it can sometimes conceal the other flavours. If this happens to you, you can always set it aside for a bit and let it settle but frankly it is great to drink any-which way. A general note, beers like this (with a yeast base in the bottle) can be aged like wine, though probably not as long, setting them aside can let the flavour evolve; too bad the brewery can't do that for us, eh?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blanche de Chambly - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly)

Blanche de Chambly - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly) 5.0%

An enticing spicy and floral aroma. The taste is more citrusy than the aroma; the floral and spiciness tastes are all there and there is also a creamy umami taste. Though it has that creamy mouthfeel I mentioned it isn't too thick but also a somewhat watery which makes it a very refreshing as well as interesting. White Ales are amongst my favourites for just that reason. The lees or sediment does not take away from the taste really at all so there is no need to go to great lengths to avoid it. I would still recommend drinking this from a glass rather than a bottle (especially the 750 ml bottles!) so you can better appreciate the colour and aroma.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Scottish Ale - Highlander Brew Co (Canada - Ontario - South River)

Scottish Ale - Highlander Brew Co (Canada - Ontario - South River) 5.0%

A burnt amber colour in a glass with a frothy head and good lacing. A roasty aroma of malt with a sugary glaze aspect, a touch of molasses, a bit of spice, some faint fruit esters (cherry, raisin) and a fresh-baked bread aroma: all quite appetizing.

The taste does not disappoint. Roasty but with a punch of fruit esters and light hops character that really mixes well; a touch of grain continuing the fresh-baked bread from the aroma. Highlander's Scottish Ale has low to moderate bitterness and a really nice balance between the sweetness, the bitterness and the high-flying fruit esters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ephemere Cassis (Black Currant) - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly)

Éphémère Cassis (Black Currant) - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly) 5.5%

A beautiful, floral, fruity and mouthwatering aroma of black currants. The taste is very much the same with a tart punch carrying the lovely black currant flavour, sweetness and more than a hint of citrus. There is a light malty backing that is more pronounced in the aftertaste as the showy fruit flavours fade to leave an appetizing impression of a rye (or darker) bread with a fruit glaze. Éphémère Cassis is a charming, slightly cloudy pink colour with a brown hint in a glass and a real standout.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blonde de Chambly - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly)

Blonde de Chambly - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly) 5.0%

Gold in a glass with a full frothy head. Nectary and flowery yeast aromas; quite sweet with a honey flavour and a touch herbal. Quite a spicy taste to go along with floral yeast flavours - quite obviously a beer on lees. The aroma especially, but also the taste, settles down to some thing more conventionally malty and sweet. However, there are still effervescent and delightful hints of the yeast flavours throughout the beer getting stronger as you get closed to the bottom. If pouring the whole bottle into a glass at once, it is worth swirling the last inch of so a bit to grab some of that tasty yeast off the bottom.

The history behind the name Blonde de Chambly is interesting: Unibroue named it les Filles du Roi, young women of marriageable age who came to Nouvelle France to help populate the colony in 1665. With the cool story, the handsome label, the matching gold foil and the tasty brew inside this is a very nice beer, definitely worth picking up.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

U Miel - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly)

U Miel - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly) 4.9%

Deep gold in a glass with a frothy head that fades quickly. A dry pilsner aroma with a grain flavour, faintly like a light rye bread, with a hint of roast and malty with some sweetness. The taste is basically the body of a lager with a sweet honey coating. There is a faint peach flavour that may be overlooked but it is there. Not as much of the natural spice that honey beers sometimes have but a nice honey pilsner all the same: refreshing and very pleasant with a touch of honey.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bah Humbug - Christmas Cheer! Wychwood Brewery (England)

Bah Humbug - Christmas Cheer! Wychwood Brewery (England) 5.0%

A quite reddish brown colour in a glass with a decent head and light lacing. A lightly cinnamon and malt aroma; a smell of glaze with some dried red fruits (cranberries). Hints of gingerbread and hops.

What a neat taste! Strongly cinnamon with cloves but with pronounced malt flavours of a red, like roast and glaze, and also sugary sweet crystal malt. The finish leaves your mouth feeling quite dry. The mix of flavours from this fine Christmas Ale puts me in a distinctly Christmas mood. Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer! from Wychwood Brewery would make a fun (and tasty) stocking stuffer for the beer geeks on your Christmas list.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pump House Scotch Ale (Canada - New Brunswick - Moncton)

Pump House Scotch Ale (Canada - New Brunswick - Moncton) 4.8%

A dark brown with a slight orange hue in a glass. Chocolate malt aroma with molasses, wood notes and hints of scotch tones of peat and smoke.

Wood, peat and smoke tones - kind of like in scotch (quelle suprise!), especially in the finish. The dark malt gives us molasses flavours very similar to dark molasses candy and a mellow lingering mix of dark chocolate and coffee. Though Pump House Scotch Ale is sweeter than it is bitter the balance is good and a watery mouthfeel keeps it light and refreshing.

Picaroons Winter Warmer (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton)

Picaroons Winter Warmer (Canada - New Brunswick - Fredericton) 7.3%

Caramel, molasses, brown sugar, a coffee hint, some wood tones and a touch of alcohol in the aroma. Dark but not opaque, a clear, very dark reddish brown with a velvety head and lovely thick lacing. Quite a strong coffee flavour, wood tones, hops, strongish alcohol touches and some nice caramel high notes as is typical of Picaroons ales. Fairly bitter but some sweet brown sugar in there too. Chocolatey dark malt finish along with some smoky wood tones from the mix of dark malt, alcohol and hops. Though there are tastes of alcohol the strength of this 7.3% beer is carried well by the broad and creamy dark malt flavours. This tasty heavy ale will do more than only warm you on a winter's night, it will feed you too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nickel Brook Gluten Free - Better Bitters Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Burlington)

Nickel Brook Gluten Free - Better Bitters Brewing (Canada - Ontario - Burlington) 5.8%

An interestingly hoppy aroma before a cheesy aroma that some gluten-free beers have barges in; although the two do find some balance in the end. I'm not sure if that particular aroma is due to the sorghum or not, but the hops still carries through lightly. Pale gold in a glass and with a quick-fading, soda-pop-like head: after all, the proteins that allow beer's unique among beverages frothy head to form are necessarily absent from a gluten-free beer.

The taste is sweet and tart, maybe even a touch metallic at first. It is really quite bitter and the hops come through, at times more than others, with nice floral and cedar hop notes. Other than the bitterness, the overall flavour is milder on the whole than most gluten-free beers I have reviewed. This combination of factors, particularly the skillful use of hops, makes Nickel Brook Gluten Free perhaps the most similar to conventional beers out of the gluten-free beers I have tried. That being said, its flavour certainly still takes some getting used to and there are some other gluten free beers which manage to taste very good, in my opinion, even if they don't taste much like conventional beers. Overall, a good gluten-free alternative and, if you are into gluten-free, a must-try.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trois Pistoles - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly)

Trois Pistoles - Unibroue (Canada - Quebec - Chambly) 9.0%

Super frothy and a very dark brown colour in a glass. A lovely sweet apricot, herbal, spicy, floral and faintly yeasty aroma. Reminds me of Esrum Kloster. After the froth subsided the aroma was more dark fruit, plums, but still spiced and sweet with a herbal (faintly minty) aroma. Also something that reminds me of ginger bread cookies without being heavy on the ginger - probably a mix of the yeast-born spice and the molasses-esque tones of the dark malty. Some herbal taste but followed quickly by dark malt taste, a boatload of sweetness and a nearly masked alcohol taste that occasionally jumps out and bites at your toungue. I thought my bottle of Trois Pistoles (which has a spectacularly cool label) was already warm enough (out of a warmish fridge for more than fifteen minutes) but as it warmed further it became more balanced and more similar to a tasty, strong brown ale.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gahan 1772 India Pale Ale - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - PEI - Charlottetown)

Gahan 1772 India Pale Ale - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - PEI - Charlottetown) 6.5%

A resilient and frothy head with great lacing. A cedary hops aroma with a touch of earthiness. A lovely cedar, resin and floral hops taste, not overly bitter considering the strong (and lovely) hops taste. The sweet malt flavours that come through as a mix of fresh bread and honey give this IPA perfect balance. 1772 would pair well with any food, except for the most mild flavoured foods which it could overpower, because the hops character and malt flavour combination is so appetizing. 1772 isn't only one my favourite beers by the PEI Brewing Company but one of my favourite IPAs ever.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gahan Island Red - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - Prince Edward Island - Charlottetown)

Gahan Island Red - PEI Brewing Company (Canada - Prince Edward Island - Charlottetown) 5.3%

Quite a dark and reddish amber colour in a glass with an impressive frothy head and good lacing. Quite a mild aroma with some roast and some earthiness. A roasty flavour with dark malt notes that are somewhere between light molasses and chocolate all mixed with some wood tones, touches of caramel and a bitter finish. A touch of a vegetal flavour from the hops. Not sticky sweet like some reds. In fact it isn't particularly sweet at all which makes it sessionable.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

La Tabachéra - Birra Amarcord (Italy)

 La Tabachéra - Birra Amarcord (Italy) 9.0%

A dark, scorched looking gold colour in a glass. A strongly malty aroma, some alcohol, banada and some faint fruit esters. Strong malty taste, some alcohol taste and a chest-warming sensation but a very nice mellow mix of fruit flavours: pear, white grape juice, and hints of apricot. Nectary, sweet; the faitest bit of green and some biscuit tones. Quite nicely and carefully crafted to have such a delicate balance while boasting an ABV of 9.0%.

A very nice Belgian style Pale Ale and a wonderful departure from the only other Italian beers I have tried.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

St-Ambroise Citroulle: The Great Pumpkin Ale - McAuslan Brewing (Canada - Montreal)

St-Ambroise Citroulle: The Great Pumpkin Ale - McAuslan Brewing (Canada - Quebec - Montreal) 5.0%

Strong raw pumpkin aroma with some pumpkin pie crust tones and spices like nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. Plenty of the aforementioned spices in the taste along with a noticable cloves tone that I didn't notice as much in the aroma; quite sweet (brown sugar) with some raw pumpkin and pumpkin pie flavours. Quite a dark brown in a glass with an orange hue.

Pumpkin is a funny kind of flavour because for many people the only way they eat pumpkin is in pumpkin pie. As a result, lots of these pumpkin beers, including this one, are spiced like pumpkin pie however there are some nice flavours to be had from the flesh of the gourd itself. McAuslan's St-Ambroise Citroulle The Great Pumpkin Ale does a good job of balancing the two: genuine pumpkin flavour and the familiar and comforting spices of pumpkin pie. Propeller's Pumpkin Ale is more heavy on the pumpkin side while Mill Street's Nightmare on Mill Street is more on the spiced pie side of the spectrum.

Although this helpful tip probably comes a week or more too late, the next time you are carving a pumpkin it is interesting to try a little taste of the raw flesh of the pumpkin. It is an interesting flavour, quite mild and delicate, but trying it raw and on its own may also give you a better idea of which flavours are coming from which ingredients for the next time you try a pumpkin ale.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Glutenberg Blonde - Brasseurs Sans Gluten (Canada - Quebec - Montreal)

Glutenberg Blonde - Brasseurs Sans Gluten (Canada - Quebec - Montreal) 4.5%

Pale gold in a glass with a head that fades quickly but is better than most gluten-free beers I have tried. A strong grapefruit aroma which is very pleasant actually with just a touch of something malt-like. That grapefruit aspects continues into the palate and is still very nice. The taste is also just a little bit skunky and malty with a lingering shadow of a flavour that reminds me of sushi rice prepared with a dash of rice wine vineagar.

Definitely my favourite gluten-free beer I've had to this point: I really like the grapefruit flavour. Glutenberg Blonde has a stylish label complete with nutrional factsheet but sports a plain silver bottlecap (not pictured).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

La Messagère - Les Bières de la Nouvelle-France (Canada - Quebec - St Alexis des Monts)

La Messagère - Les Bières de la Nouvelle-France (Canada - Quebec - St Alexis des Monts) 4.7%

Very, very pale gold in a glass. Malty aroma ctually, bread and quite a bit of yeast. Quite taste (at times very sour), flowery but some malt-like taste and overall really not that bad. One of the best gluten-free beers I've even had, by far.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

St Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011 - McAuslan Brewing (Canada - Quebec - Montreal)

St Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011 - McAuslan Brewing (Canada - Quebec - Montreal) 10.0%

An ever so slightly cloudy red-tinted amber colour in a glass with a think and creamy head with great lacing. Lots of plum, fresh baked bread, molasses, nutmeg, some wood tones and a hint of white chocolate in a delectable aroma.

The alcohol comes through clearly from the moment it touches your lips by the way it makes them tingle as well as the taste. But it's a barley wine afterall so what else could you expect? Sweet, herbal, a touch of something like cinnamon and a bit of a honey flavour. A lot of dark fruit like the plum that I found to be prominent in the nose as well as cherry, and dried fruit tones like apricot. Lightly yeasty and quite bitter. The hops, which are largely pushed aside by the other more powerful flavour, and the alcohol combine to lend St Ambroise Vintage Ale some wood tones. A lot of the different aspects of the flavour are similar to the taste of fruitcake particularly fruitcake made with rum.

This beer will improve with time and can be aged for years. It is a good idea to let it warm to the suggested serving temperature of 12 and 15 Celsius.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wellington County Dark Ale (Canada - Ontario - Guelph)

Wellington County Dark Ale (Canada - Ontario - Guelph) 5.0%

A red hued brown colour in a glass; a quite fading head with limited lacing. It has a musty earthy aroma, that reminded me of clay, with roast and wood tones as well. Delicious milk chocolate and fresh brown bread, molasses and just the perfect touch of hops and bitterness to finish. A slightly smoky, roasty and moderately bitter finish with a pleasant biscuit aftertaste. Quite a light mouthfeel making it sessionable and pub-appropriate. I'd suggest serving it around 6 or 7 degree Celsius to allow the flavours to really stand on their own. Wellington County Dark Ale is brewed to be an English Brown Ale and I'd have to say they do a very nice job.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Black Creek Pale Ale (Canada - Ontario - Toronto)

Black Creek Pale Ale (Canada - Ontario - Toronto) 5.0%

Strongly malty aroma with molasses and roast. Also a bitter mildly hoppy aroma in the background. A fairly dark amber colour, bordering on brown, in a glass.

Sweet, malty taste with a hint of honey, more than a touch of roast with a light grain finish. Moderately bitter to go along with quite a bit of spicy vegetal hops flavour. Black Creek Historic Brewery's Pale Ale is a bit like a darker (in both colour and flavour) version of a Standard Bitter English Pale Ale and doesn't quite have the strong hops flavour of an American Pale Ale. Being made with a receipe from the 1800s, I'm not sure of the exact style category this Pale Ale would fall under (let me know in the comments if you know), but it is really quite a nice Pale Ale.