Saturday, 31 January 2015

Beau's Siduri

Beau's Siduri has the orignal distinction of being billed as a white pepper saison aged in red ice wine barrels. It's brewed in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, by the excellent folks at Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. It comes in a 600mL bottle that comes all wrapped up like a gift--it's pretty snazzy, but a real waste of paper. It contains an extremely forte 10.2% alcohol and 24 IBUs. It's a hazy, golden grog that looks a lot like a weissbier. It's amply carbonated and pours with a cloud of off-white head.

Where organic peppercorns meet lively yeast and a substantial amount of booze, you're bound to find a truly unusual aroma--spicy, oddly tart, and hard to describe. After the nose, the actual flavour is really quite understated. If the label didn't say 10.2%, I'd have sworn that this stuff was no stronger than 6, so tread lightly. It has the classic saison mouthfeel--fizzy and dry. There is some pepperiness, but not in the way that I had expected; it's very much an additional note rather than the main event. It's a very yeasty beer, with a faint ginger note, as well as a nearly undetectable throb of peppercorn.

Kudos to Beau's for coming up with such an unusual style. I'm not over the moon with respect the the execution, but it's undeniably unique. I also dig that the stuff is aged in ice wine barrels, though I must confess that I was unable to detect any notes of that sweet syrup. I was steeling myself for spicy, but there was really only a whisper of peppery heat, mostly contained to the finish.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Half Cycle IPA

From Indianapolis, Indiana's Flat 12 Bierworks comes Half Cycle IPA. Half Cycle is an extremely well carbonated, cloudy golden brew, topped with some thick white suds. It comes in a 12oz. bottle that features a pretty awesome dude in old-timey baseball duds and bears the legend "This stuff is made by guys". According to the bottle, it contains a sensible 6% alcohol.

Half Cycle's aroma is both bitter and slightly fruity. It has a slightly peachy flavour that runs along a sharply bitter finish. There is a really dry mouthfeel. This is a pretty nice India pale ale, though in truth, it's a touch too sweet for this beer geek.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack--Banks's Bitter

The Park Brewery in Wolverhampton, England is the home of Banks's Bitter. This hazy, sunburnt ale is brewed by Banks's Beer. It contains a very soft 3.8% alcohol and pours with a nice covering of off-white head. It comes in a beautiful 500mL bottle that features the motto Fide et Fortitudine--which a little quick Googling tells me means "by fidelity and fortitude", which is mildly ironic, given the lack of alcoholic fortitude in this little number.

Banks's Bitter contains a mild aroma that is balanced between malty and bitter, and which has a wee smidge of fruity sweetness. In the flavour, notes of grain and apple are present, though in small measure. Really, the taste of this stuff is extremely mild. It's very drinkable, but it's also very thin and a but watery. It does have a nice, fresh finish.

The nice thing to say is that this beer has a delicate flavour, that it's subtle and refined. Those things are true enough, but my personal take on this bitter ale is that it has a flavour deficit. I'd like lots more body and more hops presence to make this a better bitter.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack--Marston's EPA

Marston's English Pale Ale is, according to the cap, the "Official Beer of England", which is pretty bold, given the number of terrific ales that come from Albion. Sold in 500mL bottles, the EPA contains a very light 3.6% alcohol. This hazy, pale gold ale is brewed in the legendary beer-making Mecca of Burton Upon Trent, England, famed for its mineral rich water, by Marston's Brewery. It pours with a thinnish off-white head.

Marston's EPA has a fairly fragile sour apple nose. Similarly, the flavour is mildly fruity, with notes of apple, and leads into a modestly dry, floral hop finish. Unsurprisingly for a beer south of the 4% line, it has a somewhat flimsy mouthfeel, though it is nicely fizzy. However, it does possess a bit more flavour that I ws expecting.

This ale isn't too shabby. It's flavourful enough, but a bit watery. I'd have liked a bit more generous hand with the hops, and  definitely more alcohol--at 3.6%, I chose to devour this stuff fairly early on a Sunday afternoon, but it could easily have been a breakfast beer.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack--Brakspear Bitter

Described in the label as "double dropped Oxfordshire ale", Brakspear Bitter comes in a beautiful old world 500mL bottle that goes on to explain that the "unique Brakspear 'Double Drop' system"gives this bitter a "robust secondary fermentation to produce this remarkably flavoursome ale". All of which is to say, I have no idea what "Double Drop" means or does. That said, B.B. is a stunningly attractive little brew--clear, copper, and covered in a thick cream head. It contains a woefully anemic 3.4% alcohol and hails from the Brakspear Brewing Co., in Oxfordshire, England.

Brakespear Bitter has an aroma that waltzes between rich malt and metallic bitterness. For such an understrength ale, there is an admirable dose of flavour and balance. This beer kicks off with a slightly sweet, substantially malty taste, and delves into a copper mine of easy bitterness.

At 3.4%, this beer is easy to drink. It has a relative abundance of flavour. I'd have liked more booze, more bitterness, and a smidge less copper.  However, it proved to be a pretty fine little ale. Not special, but reliable.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack--Fortyniner

Fortyniner is listed as a "rich and golden craft ale". It's brewed by Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire, England. It contains a mild 4.9% alcohol and comes in a 500mL bottle. According to the label, Ringwood uses "lightweight bottles because they are better for the environment." I've actually heard the same justification for the use of extra heavy bottles.

This was a hazy dull gold ale topped with a substantial level of bright white head. It had a sweet, bakery-fresh aroma with brown sugar notes. My taste buds were treated to a mellow, malt-forward brew that spotlighted sweet, bready notes, toffee, and a slight fruit squeeze. There is a bit of bitterness on the back end, but not oodles.

Fortyniner is an enjoyable enough ale, though a bit more body, less sweetness, and a better-defined hop finish would all have made for a better one.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack--Cocker Hoop

Jennings Cocker Hoop is, according to its 500mL bottle, brewed at Castle Brewery, in the Lake District. The label also includes a definition of "cock-a-hoop" ("In very high spirits" or "Boastful"), and an explanation that the brewery is located on the banks of the River Cocker. Finally, the label declares that this golden pale ale is "Unabashedly cocky".

Cocker Hoop contains a very light 4.2% alcohol. Underneath a chubby cloud of loose, cream head, it is a slightly lazy, cheery golden ale. There is a crunchy, toastiness to the nose, as well as a suggestion of modest hop presence. It tastes of rich and dry cereal malts up front and closes with a lingering hop bitterness.

I found myself really enjoying this stuff. It has a toasty bitterness that I found appealing. Of course, a bit more alcohol would be nice, but the low percentage doesn't lead to a corresponding flavour deficit. A fine British ale.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Classic Ales Six Pack

I was in my local beer purveyor and came across a mixed six called "Classic Ales". It features a half dozen ales from all over England. On closer inspection, the pack seems to have been produced by Marston's PLC, and all six beers appear to be brewed under its auspices. The beers appear to originate in a few different places across England, but the address given for the collection itself is Marston's House, Wolverhampton. The collection contains:
  • Banks's Bitter;
  • Brakspear Bitter;
  • Jennings Cocker Hoop;
  • Marston's EPA;
  • Ringwood Fortyniner; and
  • Wychwood Hobgoblin.
Each bottle contains 500mL of suds. As you can imagine, that makes for an uncommonly bulky six-pack--in fact, I had a bit of a hard time getting it home on the subway/streetcar, since the box foolishly lacks a handle and it barely fit in my usual beer-toting bag.

The box has a brief write-up of each of the six beers, as well as serving suggestions. My favourite part is that the word "zingy", which one seldom hears, is actually used twice. The box also invites the drinker to "Take an ale trail amongst some of our finest breweries, from the South Coast to the Lake District, showcasing how great beers, like fine wines, have a diversity of flavours and characteristics to savour and enjoy." Sounds fun!

So stay tuned to the Stout Man for posts about each of the six--or, five anyway. I've already reviewed Hobgoblin, but you can check out that review here.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lake Effect IPA

Lake Effect IPA is the latest in a string of hoppy offerings from Toronto's Great Lakes Brewery, a veritable IPA-brewing machine. Like many others that I have reviewed, Lake Effect is part of GLB's Tank Ten Series. It comes in a 650mL bottle that sports an unfortunate fisherman about to get doused by a wave. It contains a weighty 7% alcohol and an even heartier 80 IBUs.

Lake Effect has a jumbo grapefruit aroma--both tart and sweet, with the promise of a chunk of bitterness. In terms of flavour, this stuff doesn't taste nearly as assertive as it smells. There are a good measure of hop-forward citrus notes, which really got me grinning. However, the back end suffers from a bit of "too sweet-itis", and as a result, I was reminded of the 7% alcohol content in a very real way.

Hop lovers, particularly those bending their elbows in Ontario, already know that GLB delivers the goods with regularity. While this isn't their finest IPA offering, it's still a delicious ale, and one well worth your time.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Winding Road for 7 Km Rye Saison

From Ontario's cottage country comes Winding Road for 7 Km Rye Saison. It's brewed in Gravenhurst by the Sawdust City Brewing Co. and came in a silver 473mL can with a sticker for a label. This little 7% beaut was left in my fridge by a most excellent and generous guest after a New Year's Eve beer and cheese soirée--clearly the social event of 2014. On New Year's Day, still a bit groggy and cheese-bloated, I decided to conduct a co-review with the truly remarkable Sequin Brown, with whom I had somehow never written a review previously.

According to Sequin Brown [and occasionally paraphrased by yours truly], Winding Road had fast flowing bubbles, which were inviting. She described its colour as brassy and "Rock and Roll golden". Aroma-wise, there was a bold, homey, almost concord grape overnote--in fact, upon tasting, she elevated that to "an incomprehensible grapiness". She also noted that some "not quite caramel" was hidden within. The beer had a crisp mouthfeel and was "extremely flavourful, bright, and a little bit mischievous", and was described as "a sultry lighthouse" and showy and loud, like a trumpet.  It had a clean finish with no aftertaste and isn't particularly sessionable.

Sequin Brown determined that Winding Road for 7 Km was worthy of 7 Km out of 10.

In my own estimation, I found Winding Road to be a chipper, slightly hazy golden ale that was seriously fizzy. It poured with a mammoth amount of durable white head. Its aroma was floral, with a gently perfumed yeastiness. It had a bright and sunny mouthfeel with some champagne-like dryness. The flavour had lots of yeast, in a Belgian fashion, and there was ample taste, but it didn't "pop" as much as I'd hoped. There wasn't much of the classic rye spiciness that I was pulling for. To its credit, the 7% alcohol was subtly buried. All in, it was certainly a nice enough little beer.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

K:rlek Pale Ale

Brewed at De Proef Brouwerij, out of Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium, by Mikkeller, this brew contains a sensible 5.9% alcohol. It's sold in 330mL bottles that feature a flashlight wielding woman in the woods.

An extremely cloudy, slightly dull gold ale, K:rlek pours with a cowl of thick cream head. It has an intoxicating citrus aroma that leans toward lemon, and also has a slight tropical bent.

Passion fruit notes and tart citrus are front and centre in the flavour. This is a fairly hoppy beer, but in a fruitful way. There is also a fair measure of yeastiness, particularly toward the back end.

This is a thought-provoking ale. It's tart, bitter, tropical, and delicious. I wouldn't sit down to more than one in a go--it's a bit too unusual for session drinking--but I'd gladly enjoy another bottle sometime soon.

 Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Steam Whistle

Toronto, Ontario's Steam Whistle Pilsner is among the most successful of Ontario's certainly, but also Canada's, microbrewing scene. In fact, given its near coast to coast ubiquity, it might have graduated to macro status. It's also one of the best branded beers in the country. In my apartment, there are Steam Whistle glasses and bottle openers in great numbers, but friends have clothing and even a frisbee that gets a lot of love.  It's brewed by Steam Whistle Brewing. One of the interesting things about Steamy is that they only brew the one beer--just their much ballyhooed pilsner, which they call "Canada's Premium Pilsner". They operate out of "The Roundhouse" in Downtown Toronto, a relic of an era dominated by rail, located almost at the foot of the CN Tower and within convenient pre-game distance of the Skydome. It's a popular tour that I'll doubtless be writing up sometime in the future, probably closer to baseball season.

At 5% and a standard fizzy clear gold with white head configuration, there's nothing unusual or remarkable about its stats or looks. It's sold in aesthetically pleasing heavy green bottles that contain 341mL of the stuff.

S.W. has a classic cereal aroma, with a coquettish suggestion of dry hops bitterness. It's flavour eases from a gentle malt sweetness to noble hop bitterness gradually. There isn't much else to write about how this beer tastes--it does what a pale lager beer should, without making a lot of noise about it.

While I think a lot of Steam Whistle's runaway success has to do with its admirable marketing machine and its branding as an accessible alternative to Canada's macrobrewing landscape, it must be said that it is a pretty solid pilsner. It's crisp, easy-drinking, refreshing, and all the rest o' the pale lager adjectives that make this the world's most popular style. It isn't amazing, or Ontario's best pilsner--for my money, that honour goes to Double Trouble's Prison Break--but it is a quality pils. It's far and away my wife's favourite beer, which means there's always a couple kicking around in my fridge, and a fair few of those find their way down my gullet with no complaint. If I were in charge, it'd have a little more kick and a bit more hops. But then, if I were in charge, this beer almost certainly wouldn't have the wide appeal it currently enjoys.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Fracture Imperial India Pale Ale

Fracture Imperial India Pale Ale is the brawny cousin of Amsterdam Brewery's excellent Boneshaker. Brewed in Toronto, Ontario, Fracture is sold in 355mL bottles that have a righteously badass label. It contains a belligerent 9.1% alcohol. I received a bottle of Fracture from a man who might possibly be its biggest fan, "The Reverend" Nick Gaiser.

It's a hazy, slightly rosy, amber brew. It poured with a thin froth of off-white head, but one that faded quickly. Fracture has a bitter and boozy nose. Like its kin, Boneshaker, it has gaudy citrus aromatics. Its flavour is, at least for an IIPA, pretty subtle and smooth, with initial sweetness and brazen late-breaking bitterness.

It's a very hoppy beer--one that's clearly contributing to the rumoured global hop shortage--but you won't here me complaining. It's a flavourful and delicious strong ale. It's not as impressive as Boneshaker, but it's easily worthy of lineage.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Lambda Brett-Barrel Aged Quardrupel

Lambda Brett-Barrel Aged Quardrupel comes from Bellwoods Brewery, my friendly neighbourhood suds provider. It comes in a really nice looking 500mL bottle with a monkish stained glass theme. A Belgian-style quad, this stuff contains a jumbo 11% alcohol. Sure, this beer is really strong, but at $12 a pop at the brewery's bottle shop, I feel like it might be a tad over-priced.

Lambda is a very dark brown ale. It pours with a thin wisp of tan head. Its strong aroma shouts tart fruit notes from the rafters. I expected that aging this brew in barrels with brettanomyces would give this Belgian-style strong ale a funky sour kick, but it's actually sweet and syrupy above all else. The initial flavours are of port, raisin, and fruitcake. The wild yeast does definitely contribute to the finish, though. The brew closes out with some sour apple and red grape notes.

This is a deceptively strong beer. The jumbo percentage is largely cloaked by the big, sweet, malty flavour. This intriguing strong (STRONG) beer is a neat Ontario take on the quad style, though I feel like it could have benefited from a touch more balance away from sweetness on the finish.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Argus Brewery

While in Chicago to celebrate my 30th birthday, my partner and I ambitiously trekked out to the Argus Brewery for a tour. This involved traveling to the end of a train line, hopping a bus, and then walking for a bit--totally worth it.

We arrived at a historical building, with a small notice indicating that we should ring the bell for the brewery tour. Upon ringing, a wildly friendly bloke ushered us into a small reception area and we joined a handful of other intrepid beer fans waiting for the tour to begin and sampling a fine pale ale to pass the time. Once we were all assembled, the "brewery historian" (best job ever?) guided us outside and told us about the brewery building's past. It turns out that Argus is housed in a former stable for the Schlitz Brewing Co., a fact that Argus' owners were unaware of when they decided to set up shop there.

After a brief discussion, the tour headed inside, to the brewery's cozy tap room. Once there, we were all provided with a pint glass and instructed that if it was empty, that was our own fault. The tap room was well appointed--covered in cool stuff, much of it bearing the Argus logo, as well as a pool table and shuffleboard.  Our hosts informed us that they thought the best way to tour a brewery was to get comfortable and to familiarize ourselves with the beer first, so to that end, we spent over an hour in the tap room sampling generous measures of five of Argus' regular offerings: a wheat ale brewed for Jarrett Payton (son of Walter), a nice marzen, the pale ale we'd already tried on entering, a "Chicago common", and the obligatory craft IPA. As well, they had a keg of an experimental dry stout that was none too shabby. To my mind, the pale and IPA were the best, though I thought the common and marzen were also quite nice. The wheat ale was a "take it or leave it" brew, as far as I was concerned. To both of our surprise, my spouse (normally only a pale lager tippler) really enjoyed five out of six beers, and was particularly enamoured with the marzen. She even liked the pale ale, though, predictably, the IPA was a bit too much for the ol' girl.

Once we were suitably lubricated and had spent some time chatting with our hosts and fellow patrons, the tour began in earnest. Having toured a silly number of breweries, the beer-making process portion tends to feel the same everywhere, though our guide was admirably well-informed, open to questions, and most importantly, instantly likable. Also, the tour was made more interesting with the inclusion of a handful of the type of amusing anecdotes that you only seem to get from people who really care about their work and want to share it with others.

Highlights of the tour included a look at the brewery's historic and still functioning freight elevator, which had wooden rails and had once been used to hoist horses, and a very cool Chicago police carousel horse whose hindquarters had been fashioned into beer taps.

If you're in Chicago, the Argus Brewery tour is not to be missed. For $15, you get a nice pint glass, a belly full of good suds, and a pretty interesting little tour. Leave the car at home and clear your schedule!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout

Kickin' off the New Year with something interesting, here's Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout, a "Japanese dark ale brewed with coffee beans". It's sold in great looking 330mL bottles--they have a great shape and an adorably alert little owl. It's brewed by Kiuchi Brewery, out of Ibaraki, Japan. It's an opaque black stout that pours with a lovely layer of tan head.

It has a malt-forward aroma that it bolstered by molasses notes and a dark roast coffee expression. Likewise, it's flavour features malt in the early stages, with a sticky molasses quality, while the back end has strong espresso bitterness. Through it all is a hefty booze presence.

Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout is a really nice strong stout out of Japan. It's my first brush with a dark beer from the Land of the Rising Sun. Plus, it has a really great aesthetic.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.