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.