Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Cerveza Renata

Toronto's C'est What? has a curious little list of beery cocktails (they call them "craftails"), some of which sound pretty damn tempting. On a Saturday in February, the Cerveza Renata caught my eye. It's a concoction composed of Finlandia vodka, Campari, Steam Whistle Pilsner, and a twist of orange, served on the rocks.

What I got was an attractive, clear orange potion. Bitter citrus in the nose, sweet through the middle, and boozy out back. It was actually a pretty beguiling little cocktail--a touch too sweet for me, perhaps, but more than interesting. On the beer front, the Steam Whistle is buried pretty deeply, but it does provide some carbonation, a grainy subtext, and a streak of malt through the finish. 

The Cerveza Renata is a combo that I couldn't have come up with in a million years, but one that worked pretty well.  Well played, C'est What?. You've done it again!

Monday, 27 April 2015

Love Triangle IPA

Love Triangle IPA is from the "3 Hop Series" at Toronto's Indie Ale House. According to the barman, this version was brewed using chinook, calypso, and columbus hops varieties. At 6.5%, it's not overwhelming, but not soft either.

This iteration of Love Triangle was a swampy orange grog that arrived with a froth of off-white head. With a heavily bitter citrus nose to greet me, I knew that I was about to be happy man. Love Triangle was nice and flavourful; hops-driven and bitter. Citrus and tropical elements made this IPA fruity and fun, but there were enough IBUs to keep things from getting frivolous. My only real critiques were that the body was a tad thin and that the sweet streak in the finish was a bit too pronounced. Really a very nice little ale.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Mongozo Premium Pilsner

I had a 400mL glass of Mongozo Premium Pilsner, a gluten-free, organic, and fair trade pale lager, on tap at Toronto's Town Crier Pub. This stuff is produced by Mongozo BV, out of Venray, The Netherlands. According to the Mongozo website, it's the world's first lager to combine gluten-free, organic, and fair trade. It's a fizzy, pale golden brew and arrived mildly hazy and capped with an elegant white head. The beer list at the Town Crier informed me that the stuff contains the standard 5% alcohol and brewed using barley malt.

I've been burned by gluten-free beers in the past, which accounts for this one being the first I've reviewed, but I had 30 minutes to kill before a movie and decided to take a risk.

Aroma-wise, this beer is all pilsner, with a grainy, cereal-filled, and decently hoppy. This doesn't entirely translate in terms of flavour or mouthfeel. The beer is pretty thin, and lacks the crispness that I've come to expect from the pilsner style. It has an alright enough flavour, though it's unusually mild and has a bit of a gluten-free funk that manifests in curious, corn-syrupy sweetness. I wish it tasted more like it smells.

While this beer was far better than some other gluten-free efforts that I've tried, against quality European pale lagers, it comes up a bit short. I'm inclined to give it a fairly favourable rating, owing to its pedigree as an enigmatic bière sans gluten, but it can't be too high, since it didn't offer the pilsner satisfaction that I was after. Consider my rating accordingly.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Black Betty Black IPA

700 posts!  Holy blog! The eye-catching labels on the 330mL bottles of Black Betty Black IPA drew me in like a moth to a flame. They feature imbibing skeletons deep in conversation superimposed over a cool purple and black background and featuring golden logos of Beavertown Brewery. Beavertown operates out of London, England. According to its website, this punchy, 7.4% alcohol black India pale tips the scales at a portly 75 IBUs. It's a swampy, extremely dark brown ale that pours with a cowl of tan head and also a few yeasty floaties.

Black Betty packages a bitter, evergreen hops aroma in with some pungent black licorice notes. Ditto in the aggressive flavour--piney hops and licorice chops. Amply astringent, this beer will likely appeal to hops heads, but be anathema to beer drinkers who limit their tippling to pale lagers. It's very flavourful, but doesn't taste particularly boozy. The licorice gives this black I.P.A. an interesting, assertive flavour, that I suspect would pair well with a sharp cheese. All in, an enjoyable and unapologetic ale that'll help make your fridge the envy of your neighbourhood.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fat Tug IPA

Fat Tug IPA comes all the way from Canada's left coast, where it's brewed in Victoria, British Columbia by Driftwood Brewery. I had a pint on tap on the patio of a swanky gastro pub during a trip to Vancouver. According to the Driftwood website, Fat Tug has a solid 7% alcohol and contains "80+ IBUs"--why not just say the actual number? Total pet peeve!

I found myself faced with a modestly hazy, brassy ale that showed up with a healthy cream-coloured head that faded quickly into a bubbly disc. Fat Tug's aroma drifts between citrusy and straight up bitter. It has a considerably sweet flavour for an India pale ale, with some peach and satsuma leanings and a very hoppy citrus finish.

This is a nice, approachably-flavoured I.P.A.--a good one for sloppy session drinking and for people interested in cutting their teeth in the Indaia pale ale genre.  I liked it, and you might too.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Stack '72

A rare treat for me: a quadruple review with three great pals, all of whom are friends of this blog (not to mention three of the four founding members of the best rock band you've probably never heard of, The Stormalongs). For the occasion, we chose to analyze Stack '72 Imperial I.P.A., a 9% alcohol bruiser from Sudbury, Ontario's Stack Brewing. Sold in 473mL cans, Stack '72 is named in honour of "The Superstack", which is apparently Canada's tallest smokestack. It's a murky, dull amber brew with a frothy off-white head.

The Reverend Nick

My man Nick was our gracious host for the evening. so his thoughts go first. He found '72's aroma to be powerful and almost sweet, with hop and grapefruit notes. He found there to be a very fresh, clean taste with light citrus fruit notes. To the Rev's mind, this stuff tasted a bit under-powered for a 9% alcohol Imperial I.P.A. The mouthfeel delivered acceptable carbonation and the finish picks up steam. It sits in your mouth well.

Overall, Nick said he wanted the beer to have more punch. He called it a great Northern beer, but noted that he was surprised that it was as strong as 9%--he'd have guessed 7 or 8. Said Nick: "Blue collar. Not too snooty, but still craft." For him, '72'd be great after a hard day's work and he' be happy if it was more available.

The Rev: 7.0 out of 10.


Adam was our source for Stack beer. His parents live in Sudbury and he'd been hyping its new brewery to me for ages. Like Nick, Adam declared that this beer tasted less strong than it is. He characterized it as hoppy but not over the top, with a medium sweetness that left him craving something salty. He had a hard time describing the flavour, twice noting that "there's something I can't put my finger on", but he theorized that there might be some subtle smokiness combined with some sweetness, maybe some caramel, or maybe some resin. Said Adam: "I love this beer, but it's a mystery."

A super-enthusiast, Adam declared that "Stack '72 makes a lot of other beers feel inferior" and that "this is one of my favourite Ontario beers, despite my inability to articulate what's going on". It's strong but not damaging. Adam said that he could drink this stuff all day, as long as it's a short day.

Adam: 9.0 out of 10.


Colin, The Stormalongs' front man, is always great for a sound bite. Of Stack '72, he said that it's "a beer fit for a working man, but developed enough for a craft beer palate. A high alcohol content reflects the hard-scrabble origins as a Northern brew."

He found it to have a hoppy, dark, and vaguely spicy aroma, with lime notes. As for mouthfeel, it was simple, not foamy, direct, refreshing, layered, strong, and clean. He found the flavour to be sweet, playful, dark, and not overpowering. All told, Stack '72 was "a straightforwardly hoppy ale with enough complexity and balance of flavour to merit repeated experience."

Colin: 7.0 out of 10 compared to "normal beers"; 9.0 out of 10 for Northern Ontario.

Stout Man

For yours truly, Stack '72 had a swampy, resinous nose that was dank and faintly fruity. Unlike my compadres, I found that the healthy booze presence was well on display. It was malty and sweet a short lived, front end with a rich caramel aesthetic. Then it turns sharply into bitter territory: considerable hempen and citrus tones are present, but I found murky resin to be the order of the day.

A fine pungent ale. Flavourful, pushy, and nice. It's not an elite IIPA, but it sure is a good one.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Grindstone Amber Ale

Grindstone Amber Ale comes from Canada's national capital, Ottawa, Ontario, where it's brewed by Broadhead Brewing Company. It's sold in 473mL cans that feature Broadhead's playful "Business Plan", which features entries such as "Build small brewery", "Brew tasty beer", and "Grow large beards", before culminating with the inevitable "Make a rap video". Grind Stone contains 5% alcohol and packs a gentle punch at 25 IBUs. It pours an ever-so-hazy auburn colour, crowned with a nice layer of cream head.

It has a bready, malt-driven nose that is mild and mellow. It's got malt flavour flowing, along with some buttery caramel shades. The finish has a little soft, bitter grit, but in an understated fashion.

Grind Stone was my first exposure to Broadhead's brewing prowess. While I wasn't floored by it, I did enjoy the stuff a fair bit--it's an agreeable, if unremarkable pub ale. I'll be on the hunt for more Broadhead.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Westmalle Dubbel

Westmalle Dubbel bears the logo of an authentic Trappist product. It comes from Antwerpsesteenweg, Malle, Belgium, where it's crafted by Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle (Wikipedia cleared this up a bit for me--Westmalle, where the brewery is located, is one of two towns in Malle, a municipality in the Belgian province of Antwerp). This Belgian dubbel contains 7% alcohol and pours a deep reddish brown, beneath a loose cream head. It comes in shapely 330mL bottles.

As expected, Westmalle Dubbel has a yeasty aroma that has lively fruit notes. The nose primarily features notes of raisin, although there is a faint cranberry tartness, too. It's flavour is almost delicate, with soft floral notes mingling with more hearty yeast and malt ones. For a reasonably strong Belgian ale, this stuff is less assertive that might have been expected. Dried fruit flavours are represented, though they are not heavily emphasized. The finish is quite nicely balanced, with malt and a very agreeable dry hops quality sharing the spotlight with equanimity.

This is a very nice dubbel--restrained and mellow, yet still boozy and flavourful. While its not my favourite Belgian ale, I like it very much and I can think of no reason not to recommend this brew.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Eliot Ness Amber Lager

I had a pint of Eliot Ness Amber Lager on tap at a Chicago eatery just before closing time. At 6.2% alcohol, it possessed a heavy booze count for a lager--unlike its namesake prohibitionist. It had a clear, ruddy appearance and showed up wearing a thin cap of off-white head. There wasn't a lot of aroma, but what was there was bready, malty, and had some brown sugar notes. The flavour was rich in toasted malts and a nice burnt toffee vibe, while the finish was bready and pretty solid.  All told, Eliot Ness packed in more flavour than expected for a lager, even an amber one.

Eliot Ness is brewed by Cleveland, Ohio's Great Lakes Brewing Co., brewers of the excellent Commodore Perry. It's a lovely lager, and you should drink it.

Rating: 8.0
out of 10.

Saturday, 11 April 2015


After a vigorous and nearly ruinous squash game, I had a powerful thirst. I stepped into one of my favourite locals for a pint and settled on Barnraiser, a North American pale ale brewed in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario by Niagara Oast House Brewers. At 5%, I felt sure that the 18oz. pour would be just the stuff to quench my thirst and soothe my weary bones.

My beer arrived looking handsome and lithe; a largely clear golden ale topped with a thin but resilient off-white head. Barnraiser has a very organic, earthy, farmyard aroma. It has a yeasty bitterness that I found engaging and reminiscent of a saison. It's quite a dry pale ale, with a bready flavour. There are some sweet apple notes preceding a modestly bitter finish.

Barnraiser wasn't what I was expecting. However, I enjoyed it very much. It's a yeasty, saison-esque pale ale with a curious flavour that has some depth. Try it if you're hankering for a nice twist on the classic pale ale.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

French Press Vanilla Stout

French Press Vanilla Stout is brewed by the excellent folks at Double Trouble Brewing Co., a Guelph, Ontario outfit that has impressed me with their prowess in the form of Fire in the Rye Roasted Rye Pale Ale and the monstrously under appreciated Prison Break Breakout Pilsner. French Press comes in a curious 473mL can and contains a slightly downtrodden 4.8% alcohol. According to the can, this little number is brewed with both kiln coffee and natural vanilla flavour.

A becoming, black brew, F.P.V.S. pours with a deep tan head. It exudes a sweet, almost woody aroma and tastes, none to surprisingly, of coffee and vanilla. There is not a lot of bitterness to this stuff--it's more of a cafe au lait vibe than dark roast. This is complimented by a very smooth, lush mouthfeel. Oddly for a flavoured beer, there is very little aftertaste.

French Press Vanilla Stout is a decent enough little ale, though its has a mild flavour and lack of depth that leave it well in the shadow of its more impressive Double Trouble siblings. It's silky and makes a fine after dinner tipple.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Matador, Version 2.0: El Toro Bravo

I'd seen The Matador, Version 2.0: El Toro Bravo in the store for a while before deciding to part with the eleven sheckels that it costs to buy a 750mL bottle. Brewed in Barrie, Ontario by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery and sold in a handsome box featuring a very cool painting of a bull, this "Imperial dark rye ale aged on Spanish cedar" clocks in at a demonic 10.1% alcohol. It's a very elegant looking beer: clear, with a reddish honey hue, and blanketed beneath a creamy head. Not as dark as expected, but very sexy. According to the label, El Toro Bravo is the second entry in the Monkeys' Matador Series of suds aged with Spanish cedar. Also, it advised that this beer can be agreeably aged, though not drinking a beer is nowhere to be found in my unique skill set.

El Toro Bravo has a warm and generous nose reminiscent of my cigar humidor. The woody cedar elements are snugly nestled around sweet, malty elements and a hint of spice. The flavour is sweet initially, with soft honey notes and a very woody tenor. Behind that, a bill of rye spice is timidly lounging--not as obvious or as aggressive as I'd like it to be, but undeniably present. There isn't a lot of bitterness to this brew, but that isn't really the point. It has a very smooth, very mellow mouthfeel that makes for enjoyable sipping. A word of caution: El Toro Bravo is a strong ass beer, but its 10.1% is cunningly cloaked, making it dangerously drinkable. If you're not careful, you'll be singing and weaving in the blink of an eye.

The Mat 2.0 is a grand ol' brew. It's not perfect, but it sure is nice. It's a strong beer with significant subtlety and craft. I wanted more rye spice and a bitter finish to compliment the strength, but what I was presented with was certainly worth the purchase price. Would I buy it again? Most def. Would I buy it again tomorrow? Less def. This is an occasional treat--a beer to appreciate on a chilly winter's eve. Flying Monkeys is one of my favourite Ontario brewers, and with El Toro Bravo, they have delivered another winner.  I expected audacity, but was met with a relaxed, contemplative brew. And I liked it. Kudos!

Beer and Canada are like Salt & Pepper ... only different.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Fallen Idol

Fallen Idol, from Toronto, Ontario's Indie Ale House, was billed as a sour wheat with blackberries. I had a 16.5oz pour of the 5% alcohol brew on tap at the brewery on a snowy Saturday afternoon in February, when I was in the mood for something fruity and fresh.

My beer showed up looking quite pretty--a slightly rosy brown ale; cloudy and covered with a thin covering of off-white head. It had a cute aroma to match, with gentle tartness, berry notes, and, in small measure, some red wine tannins. The beer wasn't as sour as I was expecting--it was tart at most. As for the blackberry, the flavour wasn't aggressive or showy. It was, however, both chipper and subtle. The mouthfeel was bright and light, but the stuff wasn't as fizzy as I wanted it to be.

Beer and blackberries are a great combo, and Indie Ale House linked them together pleasingly. Fallen Idol is a very agreeable little brew. I wasn't sure what food I'd pair it with until garlicky mussels showed up for the woman dining behind me. The flavours and aromas had me salivating like a hound, despite my full belly. Perhaps it was an odd choice for a wintery day, but F.I. really hit the spot.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Anchor Porter

From the Golden Gate City, San Francisco, California, comes Anchor Porter. A.P. is brewed by the Anchor Brewing Co. and contains 5.6% alcohol. It's sold in 355mL bottles that have an elegant shape and a handsome, old-world label. Also, the label on the neck of the bottle makes a pretty bold claim about Anchor Porter: "It is aesthetically pleasing and wholly superior in every respect".

Anchor Porter is a nearly opaque black ale topped with a vibrant and creamy tan head. This beer isn't especially aromatic, but it does have a gentle malt nose with some molasses hints. The initial flavour is malty, with some bitter cocoa notes and a touch of pipe tobacco. There is a pretty respectable hop bill that inhabits this ale, and which comes to the fore near the finish. It has a largely creamy moiuthfeel, but with a slight crunch at the end.

A.P. is a fine example of the porter style. It's flavourful, rich, and tastes well made. Given that I've had better porters, I think the claim that it's "wholly superior in every respect" falls a bit short, but it is definitely a beer of quality.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Jever Pilsener

All the way from Jever, Germany comes Jever Pilsener. It's brewed by Friesisches Brauhaus, comes in a 500mL can, and contains 4.9% alcohol. Jever is an extremely pale yellow lager. It's wondrously carbonated and pours with a fluffy, bright white head.

Its aroma has a barnyard hay vibe and a suggestion of of generous (at least by pilsner standards) hopping. Jever has crisp Bavarian pilsner flavour that's grainy at first, but which is followed up with gritty Bavarian noble hops. Again for a pilsner, there's plenty of hefty IPU count.

Jever is a European pale lager with some balls. It's likely accessible, if a bit hoppy, for pale lager fans, but also cultured enough for beer geeks. My only complaints are the unassertive front end and the slightly understrength alcohol percentage. I'm also a fan of "pilsner" rather that "pilsener", but that has little bearing on the beer.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.