Monday, 30 March 2015

The "Witty" Traveller Pint

The "Witty" Traveller Pint comes from St. Thomas, Ontario, where it is brewed by the Railway City Brewing Co., the brilliant minds behind lots of beers, most notably their Dead Elephant India Pale Ale. The first question that one must ask oneself when one claps eyes on The "Witty" Traveller is whether those quotation marks are intentional or misused That aside, the 473mL can features a debonaire gentleman in a top hat with a moustache and a high collar. The can looks neat but feels cheap. It has a crappy plastic coating that does it no favours. The beer within contains a very slight 4.2% alcohol and 15 IBUs. According to the can, this little brew features "spices from the East, the fruits of the South, and yeasts of the North". The ingredients list includes wheat, orange peel zest, coriander, and white pepper.

This stuff has the hazy, whitish gold colour of a wheat beer. It pours with a thin white head that vanished to nothing at an astounding rate. The beer has a decidedly peppery aroma which boldly accents a yeast and citrus note. It has a very thin mouthfeel and a fairly interesting flavour, but it really suffered from a lack of carbonated life. It tastes as it smells, though milder and with a substantial and agreeable pepper note colouring a predictable yeast and orange vibe.

This beer was fine, but it left me a little disappointed. It just wasn't anywhere near the standard of a brewery responsible for Dead Elephant.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Trappistes Rochefort 8

Trappistes Rochefort 8 is a Belgian ale marked with the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo. Brewed in Rochefort, Belgium at L'Abbaye St-Remy, the stuff contains a worthy 9.2% alcohol. It's sold in 330mL bottles. It's a cloudy, ruddy brown beer that exists underneath a veritable atmosphere of tan head that sticks around for the duration.

"Huit" has a nose that is yeasty, fruity, and packed with malt. The flavour opens like other Trappist beers that I have sampled: boozy, malt-driven, and supported by notes of raisin and apple. However, where the stuff sets itself apart is in the finish. While there are still lots of malt notes, but also a bit more bitterness than expected. For a strong, yeasty ale, the finish is quite short and verging on dry.

Trappistes Rochefort 8 has a pretty approachable flavour, but still provides loads of strength and a cartload of flavour. See it? Buy it.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Smuttynose Imperial Stout

I spotted Smuttynose's Imperial Stout at my local liquor store and was instantly drawn to it. It has a beautiful 650mL bottle adorned with a cool map, it contains 10% alcohol, and most of all, my prior brushes with Smuttynose products have been excellent--see my review of their outstanding IPA, for instance. According to a banner across the top of the label, the Imperial Stout is part of "The Smuttynose BIG BEER Series".

Brewed in Hampton, New Hampshire,  by Smuttynose Brewing Company, this hefty stout is coal black and pours with a froth of tan head. According to the website, this stuff checks in at an extremely muscular 107 IBUs! It has a strong and busy nose that incorporates notes of leather, dried fruit, pipe tobacco and a java-style bitterness. It's flavour is equally potent and crowded. It begins with sweet, boozy malt notes that have raisin and oak leanings. Behind that, the beer opens up to espresso and tobacco elements. Through it all. Smutty's Imperial Stout packs a strong alcoholic punch that's warm but not withering.

This truly is a BIG BEER, but not a brutish one. It has much more than potency to fall back on. There is a complicated flavour progression that ranges from fruitcake to after-dinner cigar. It's bitter, but not out of proportion, and it has black coffee notes without resorting to using beans in the process. As the beer progresses, sweeter notes gain momentum--not to the point of being objectionable, but with more vigour than I'd have liked. This is a quality strong ale, and a stout worth sharing with friends after dinner. Intrepid drinkers tackling it alone ought to eat first and leave the car at home!

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.*  
*Since my lovely wife is a 10 out of 10, I was hoping to find a beer to match in honour of her birthday. The task proved too much. This beer, while excellent, is a 9. Happy birthday, Love! You're one of a kind!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

504 Pale Ale

Liberty Village Brewing Company's 504 Pale Ale owes its name to the 504 King Streetcar, which is crappy and unreliable. Fortunately, this born in Toronto brew isn't. It contains 5.3% alcohol and comes in 473mL cans. I had a can on offer at the outstanding Tallboys Craft Beer House while waiting for some amigas to arrive. It was a hazy orange-gold ale that poured with a thin off-white head.

504 had a slightly hoppy aroma that featured unexpected notes of juicy fruits. Following that pattern, the flavour blended notes of passion fruit and peach with a meagre bitterness to form a very drinkable, curiously tropical Ontarian pale ale.

Other than my distaste for its namesake, 504's only significant failing is that its bitterness is underwhelming. It has the hop quotient of an under-boozed, sessionable American Pale Ale--less than expected from a slightly boozier cousin. That aside, my first foray into Liberty Village Brewing Company's offerings left me pleasantly surprised. Perhaps because Liberty Village is such a horrid neighbourhood, I was expecting to be unimpressed with the progeny of this brewery.  I'll eat some crow though, because it was quite a lovely little ale.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Immodest Imperial IPA

Immodest Imperial IPA is a gut-punchingly strong brew (clocking in at a powerful 9%) produced in Burlington, Ontario by Nickel Brook Brewing Co.  I had a lovely 13oz. pour of the murky, dull orange soup on tap at Bar Hop, which is fast becoming my favourite spot to down suds in Toronto. It arrived with an attractive covering of off-white head, though it faded to a thin disc in a matter of moments.

Immodest has an aroma that broadcasts tropical fruit notes all across the Greater Toronto Area. It's got passion fruit and peach to spare, plus a wee waft of that citrus tang I love so much. Given the assertive nose, the flavour was unexpectedly mellow (in an imperial IPA context, anyway). It's very fruity on the front end, and packs an understated bitterness en arrière.  My glass was empty in a matter of minutes, which could clearly lead to immodesty on a grand scale.

I have long maintained that Nickel Brook is one of Ontario's most unsung (least sung? That's a hard double negative to avoid) breweries. NB has an evolving roster of beers and, other than its woeful Green Apple Pilsner, It consistently delivers quality goods. Immodest IIPA is another example of this. While it's not the finest imperial that Ontario has to offer, and it isn't quite as wiltingly bitter as I'd have asked for, it delivers an exotic flavour that was more than welcome on a chilly January's eve in Canada. Would I buy it again? Indubitably. Did I order a second? I did not. I've got things to go.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Weendigo Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Inside a wax-topped 500mL bottle that invites it's drinker to "taste the way less travelled" lives Weendigo Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. A deep, dark, foreboding brew, Weendigo is an almost black ale. At 10.2% alcohol, it has heft to spare, and it pours with a determined and unyielding tan head. A product of London, Ontario, Weendigo is the product of the Forked River Brewing Company.

For such a powerful ale, Weendigo has a shockingly mellow, subtle aroma. It's nose is malty, tinged with woody vanilla, mocha, and molasses. These elements are duplicated in flavour form--malt is the driving force, with a sensual kiss of oak. Toward the finish, espresso bitterness demurely winks, alongside a shy but heavy hops profile. Again, for such a potent ale, it is almost mild and pleasingly smooth. As it warms, a bit more depth is revealed, with leathery notes becoming more evident. Also, its boozy warmth, evident from the get go, reaches new heights toward a pint's midpoint. It's a sleeper.

While I really enjoyed Weendigo Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, it has a real failing that is worthy of mention. Most barrel-aged beers scream their origin from the rooftops. They're aged in oak casks. They're bourbon barrel-aged. They're lovingly born of port vessels. This is a characterization that I expect and enjoy. Weendigo's packaging doesn't give any indication of its barrel stats--neither wood nor previous inhabitant. It took a visit to the Forked River website to learn that this ale was aged in barrels that once housed Jack Daniels. I'd guess oak. Too much work. That should be spelled out plainly. Otherwise, it's a splendid brew. A bit light on flavour and aroma, I was left a tad underwhelmed, but still engaged and enthusiastic. Should you acquire a bottle or two? Absolutely! Will it blow your mind? Perhaps not, though it will warm and mellow it. Will it satisfy? Easily.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Northumberland Ale

Northumberland Ale is produced in Campbellford, Ontario by the excellently named Church Key Brewing Company. It's an ever so slightly hazy pale golden ale that comes in 341mL bottles and pours with a slim layer of white head. Northumberland contains the standard 5% alcohol and has a mild toasted grain aroma. Unfortunately, I found its flavour to be significantly wanting. It's easy-drinking, but doesn't have much oomph in any particular direction. There are faint grain notes that are toasty and quite pleasant, though not bold enough for my tastes. Again, in the finish, there is a subtle hop twist that has potential, but which delivers underwhelming verve.

Northumberland Ale is a refreshing brew, but one which lacks depth. It is certainly an accessible craft beer for drinkers making the switch from a generic marcobrew, but as a self-appointed aficionado, I found it to be a tad dull. This is by no means a bad ale, just much less interesting than some of Church Key's other worthy brews, like their very agreeable West Coast Pale Ale and their excellent Holy Smoke Peat Smoked Ale.

Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Saint of Circumstance

From Burlington, Ontario comes Saint of Circumstance, a citrus-infused blonde ale brewed by the creative minds at Collective Arts Brewing Limited. At 4.7%, it's a tad understrength, but not woefully so. It comes in 355mL bottles, each with a different image on the label--a very cool touch. I reviewed this faintly cloudy, pale gold ale topped with a layer of off-white head with my missus.

According to Partner, Saint of Circumstance smells very fruity, but with a sourness and whiff of wet gym sock. It tastes less sour than it smells. There's some citrus, but also something more exotic, like lychee. There was no strong aftertaste, which she found appealing. According to my better half, this is an ale that she probably wouldn't buy again, but one she wouldn't kick out of bed either.

She gave it a 6.5 out of 10.

According to yours truly, Saint of Circumstance has a grainy aroma with a pretty evident citrus subtext. It has a thin, dry mouthfeel and one that is reasonably crisp. The flavour is an interesting blend of grassiness, floral hops, and a healthy measure of lime notes. It tastes nice enough, but I wanted it to have more body. It's a nice warm weather guzzler, but not much else.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Square Nail Pale Ale

From Peterborough, Ontario comes the whimsically named Square Nail Pale Ale. At 5.5% alcohol, this west coast style pale ale comes in a 473mL can that isn't particularly eye-catching. The beer, however, looks perfect--a stunning chestnut colour that pours with a fluffy white head that just won't quit. It's brewed by The Publican House Brewery.

In terms of aroma, things are on the faint side, with a mild twist of bitterness and caramel wafting through the the foam, but not much else. Square Nail is a nicely crafted pale ale, but it's no standout for the style. I was pulling for that classic west coast bitterness, dripping with citrus and pine. Instead, I got a nicely balanced effort with hops and malts working together to create a pretty enjoyable little ale. It's not memorable or unique, but definitely nice. The best feature is a dry, bitter finish that has a subtle caramel lift.

Square Nail is a fine beer. One I'd definitely buy again. In fact, I've ordered it in pubs several times after writing this review, and purchased cans a few more times. It never leaves a strong impression fer it or agin it, but I never regret my purchase. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for more offerings from The Publican House. I see a lot of potential there.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Star Cheek IPA

According to its 355mL can, Star Cheek IPA is so named in honour of a fella named "Jeff", who has a white star materialize on his flushed cheek when inebriated.  So there.

Star Cheek is an Albertan IPA brewed by the Tool Shed Brewing Company out of Calgary. It contains 6.2% alcohol.

A cloudy, swamp orange brew, Star Cheek poured with a thin covering of off-white head that proved quite durable. It has a punchy aroma that vacillates between toffee malts and citrus stank. While there is some malt in evidence in the flavour, it's easily dwarfed by hoppy elements, both citrusy and resinous. This brew tastes bolder than its 6.2%.

This is a dank but delicious IPA. It's not one that I'd want to knock back four or five of in a single go, but one or two would certainly be better than alright.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Bottle Imp

Bottle Imp is a proud member of Beau's All Natural Brewing Company's Pro-Am Series. It comes in really unique 600mL bottles and is brewed in collaboration with David Thompson, who won 2012's Toronto Beer Week Homebrew Contest. It's a beautiful Russian Imperial Stout--midnight black and topped with a healthy tan head. At 9% alcohol and a hefty 81 IBUs, this coffee-infused ale isn't fucking around.

Bottle Imp has a seriously intense java aroma--black coffee with vigour. The flavour kicks off with robust maltiness, cozied up to some scintillating espresso notes. There is some sincerely boozy heft along side the big, stout pop. The finish has some sassy bitterness in a black coffee manner, as well as some undeniably awesome forceful hops.

This is a seriously bitter stout. The coffee infusion isn't as subtle as I'd have liked, but the stalwart hoppy chops are a real treat. A fine and dandy strong ale from one of Ontario's premier breweries.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Boogie Monster Imperial IPA

Boogie Monster Imperial IPA is yet another beautiful ale from Toronto's outstanding Bellwoods Brewery. I bought a 500mL bottle fresh from the brewery's bottle shop. The creative label features a handful of cute monsters, which really draws the eye. At 8% alcohol, Boogie Monster is on the low end of the strength spectrum for an imperial I.P.A., but still strong enough to get your furnace lit. It's a hazy brassy ale that pours with a thick and fuzzy off-white head.

There is a healthy grapefruit aroma that is certainly bitter, but also has a fruity sweetness. The flavour is warm and boozy, but not oppressively so, and it's replete with powerful citrus notes. There's also a pretty thick sweetness to this stuff that gives it a chewy mouthfeel.

This beer is a touch too sweet for me, but it's certainly more than enjoyable. Another quality addition to the Bellwoods stable, and one that I'd love to revisit again soon.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Red Rocket Coffee Spiced Stout

Brewed in Gravenhurst, Ontario by Sawdust City Brewing Co., this flavoured stout is brewed with a veritable spice rack of additives: coffee, cayenne, vanilla, and cinnamon are all listed in the ingredients list of the 473mL can. The Red Rocket contains 5.3% alcohol and a reasonable 35 IBUs. It's made using the house blend coffee from Red Rocket Coffee.

It's aroma is pregnant with coffee notes, and has a brush with vanilla as well. Flavour-wise, there's a lot going on. Initially malty, there are notes mocha and a soft vanilla sweetness. At the back end, the cayenne makes its presence felt, with a coy but significant spicy belt that hangs around backstage after the show. Of the cinnamon, I found no sign.

Red Rocket Coffee Spiced Stout is an unusual creation, and not entirely what I was expecting. I though sweet would rule the roost, but instead cayenne heat ended up carrying the day in a satisfying enough way. It's too piquant for a session, but it certainly warms the ol' bones on a chilly eve.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Clifford Porter

Clifford Porter is my first brush with one of Ontario's newest craft breweries, Clifford Brewing Co. Ostensibly based in Hamilton, Clifford seems to do its brewing by contract elsewhere. I had a pint of the 5.7% alcohol porter at Bar Hop on Valentine's Day 2015 after narrowly avoiding a squash defeat. I received a classic looking dark ale--blackish with ruby highlights, under a carpeting of frothy tan head.

This beer has a sultry, dusky aroma. The nose is composed of rich and roasty malts, cafe americano notes, and a fairly obvious suggestion of big hops. This beer proved more bitter than I thought it'd be, and extremely flavourful. There are ample shades of dark roast coffee, even darker chocolate, molasses, and, particularly evident at the finish, a stalwart hop blast. It's got a relatively low alcohol content, but tastes much stronger. And, with a silky mouthfeel, it's a treat to down.

Easily one of the best dark beers originating in Ontario that ever I've tried, this stuff has a lot to offer and little to complain about. I encourage you to seek out a mug or two of Clifford Porter if you're in the mood for virtuoso, big beer flavour, but don't want to delve into high gravity ales. You're welcome.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished is an IPA from the much venerated Beau's All Natural Brewing Company, operating out of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. I had a pint of the cloudy, dull orange nectar on tap at downtown Toronto's always impressive and well-provisioned Bar Hop. According to B.H.'s beer list, Mission Accomplished is a North American IPA, and contains a stocky 6.7% alcohol.

Mission Accomplished arrived with a thin layer of cream-hued head. Through that emerged a decidedly citrus hops aroma. Echoing the nose was a flavour that pretty much screamed grapefruit, from start to finish, and which was joined by a resinous note as it closes.

Yet another quality ale from Vankleek Hill, Beau's Mission Accomplished is a study in citrus, and a pretty enjoyable one. It'd have been more impressive with a bit more body and a stronger secondary note to compliment the grapefruit zest, but these are paltry complaints. If you like mighty citrus notes in your India pales, Mission Accomplished is bound to satisfy.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.