Monday, 31 August 2015

Ships in the Night

Ships in the Night is a 5.6% alcohol oatmeal stout from scenic Kingston, Ontario. It's built by an outfit called Stone City Ales, that I hadn't previously encountered. Always keen to try new Ontario brews, when I saw it listed at Toronto's Bar Hop, I felt compelled to give it a whirl. This, despite the fact that it was a sweltering Saturday afternoon in August, hardly ideal oatmeal stout weather.

My pint arrived looking like a stout--dark, moody, and topped with a cream head (this one was another photographic casualty of my now-deceased cellphone, so no pic). The head wasn't as dense or as thick as I'd have liked, but no matter, on to the aroma. Well roasted malt, molasses, leather, and mocha filled my nose. An agreeably smooth mouthfeel is coupled with a pleasant flavour to create a nice taste sensation. Chiefly, there are roasty malt notes, but these are supplemented with dark chocolate and molasses up front, and a respectable hop presence and a bit of booze heat toward the rear.

Ships in the Night was a fine example of an oatmeal stout. Not quite as thick and filling as I might have liked, but flavourful and, importantly, solidly bitter. I'll be watching out for more Stone City Ales for sure.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Octopus Wants To Fight

Octopus Wants To Fight is another in a long line of IPAs born of Toronto, Ontario's Great Lakes Brewery. This one clocks in at 6.2% and, according to the inimitable list at Bar Hop, it is classed as a North American IPA.

My pint arrived topped with a sudsy foam of off-white head. Underneath was a nearly clear golden nectar. The aroma of this little gem was potently tropical, screaming with juicy papaya, peach, and mango. Its flavour maintained the Calypso feeling, with island fruit notes from start to finish. Not as gritty or bitter as some of my favourite IPAs from GLB, there was still enough hops blast to hold my attention as my pint speedily vanished before my eyes.

Octopus wants to fight had a lot of the same attributes as Thrust! An IPA, though with more emphasis on fruity and less on hoppy. Not as remarkable as that well bred cousin, Octo still managed to deliver an enjoyable drinking experience.
I had a lovely photo of this brew on my phone and ready to go, but then my phone committed suicide, so you'll have to imagine it.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

"19-33" Queens Lagrrr!

1933 was the year the Volstead Act was repealed, marking the end of America's failed experiment with Prohibition. 19-33 37th St. is also the address of the SingleCut Beersmiths' brewpub. Both are reflected in the name of SingleCut's "19-33" Queens Lagrrr!, a 5.4%, 45 IBU pilsner. 19-33 was a strikingly clear, modestly carbonated, and came out of the tap with a dense, snowy head. Pints at the brewbup were only $4!  For my last review during my visit to SingleCut, I convinced my lovely wife to participate in a co-review.

The Missus described 19-33 thusly: "It's like you're bringing in the fishing boat on a clear sea at the end of the day, but there's an overcast sky and you get the sense of having just missed something terrible--that's what I think it tastes like. I like it, but it makes me uneasy." She noted that the aroma was almost salty--oceanic, even. In addition, she noted that it had a quick, crisp taste that was swallowed up by a hoppy back end.

She gave it a 7.0 out of 10.

For me, I found the nose to be grassy, with some hop tang and a slight allusion to dryness. Significantly bitter for a pale lager, this brew was crisp initially, and journeyed into a pilsner desert where hops got a bit more play.

It was a very Czech feeling mug of beer. There was a sweet to dry movement, and it was quite drinkable, though perhaps a bit less accessible than some other pilsners (which I kinda liked). A touch more grain in the early going might have evened things out.

I gave it a 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

"Dean" PNW Mahogany Ale

My next foray into SingleCut Beersmith's offerings was their "Dean" PNW Mahogany Ale. I had a pint on tap at the brewpub in Queens. What I got was a clear ale with a nice, amber-brown colour under an off-white foam. Dean contained 6% alcohol.

It's aroma had toasted caramel on the brain, but also packed a dank hop wallop. The flavour was decidedly woodsy. Earthy malt notes mingled with evergreen and a musty hop charm. There is also a pretty healthy caramel malt base that "really tied the room together."

I found this beer to be evocative of beards, campfires, and canoeing--very outdoorsy and vaguely wild. My advice to you is that if you're in NYC, drag yourself out to Queens and grab yourself a pint (or a growler) of these rootsy suds.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

"Billy" Half-Stack IPA

Clocking in at a wondrous 88 IBUs, "Billy" Half-Stack IPA was one of the driest India pale ales that ever passed my lips, but it somehow managed to be oddly light-bodied. And at 6.8% alcohol, it was none to light on the liver either. From Queens, New York's SingleCut Beersmiths, Billy proved to be a gently hazy and well-carbonated brew with a cheery, bright gold hue. Fresh at the brewery, my pint arrived topped with a thick and sudsy white head.

There was a sensuous hop aroma jam-packed with lemon and grapefruit notes. The flavour was extremely hoppy, bitter, and wonderful, with citrus to spare. There was also a substantial amount of pine taste running parallel to the grapefruit. It finished bitterly and with an understated boozy warmth.

This was a hugely enjoyable IPA--crisp, flavourful, and bruisingly bitter.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, 21 August 2015

SingleCut Beersmiths

During my wife's 30th birthday trip to New York City, I dragged her all the way to Queens, or more specifically, to Astoria, New York, via public transit, to visit SingleCut Beersmiths. We tried to get there in time for the final tour of the day, but underestimated the length of the trip and missed it. Still, we found a pretty cool little brewery. The food was ordinary, but extremely affordable, and the beer was worth the trip. Plus, it was a hip industrial space and they were playing cool tunes.

 Stay tuned to the Bitter World this week for reviews of three of SingleCut's year-round brews: "Billy" Half Stack IPA, "Dean" PNW Mahogany Ale and "19-33" Queens Lagrrr!.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Cerveja Stout Açai

Cerveja Stout Açai came to be as a gift, by way of a traveler to Brazil's Amazon Rain Forest and an all around cool guy. The suds in question hail from Belēm, Brazil, where they're put together by Amazon Beer. I got a single 355mL bottle of the 7.2% alcohol nectar, which I treasured for a few weeks before giving in to temptation. According to a Portuguese label I couldn't read and a bit of logic (it's in the name after all), I deduced that this stout was brewed with açai berries--something new for me.

It was a very dark brew; nearly black, but highlighted with ruby. On top was a fluffy tan head. I realized I was dealing with something unique when I picked the beer up and took a whiff. It had an extremely fruity aroma, but in a sweet, dark, and mysterious fashion. The flavour was not quite as engaging as the nose, but managed to be pretty interesting in its own right--sugary and fruity up front, with a noticeable turn toward bitter at the finish. Dangerously absent were any reminders that this jungle bräu was packing 7.2%.

I feared this beer might be syrupy and saccharine. While it was definitely sweet, it was nicely braced against a decently hoppy backdrop. My only complaint was that after my pint passed the equator, the açai flavour began to take on a slightly medicinal tone that I found a touch unwelcome. That said, though, if you find yourself in the wilds of Brazil, I'd recommend searching out a bottle of Cerveja Stout Açai. It'll be something new.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Little Norway Pale Lager

Little Norway Pale Lager is built in Gravenhurst, Ontario by the esteemed brewing minds at Sawdust City Brewing Co. According to the copy on the 473mL can, apparently Gravenhurst was used as a training ground for Norwegian Air Force pilots during WWII. This brew was made in conjunction with the Norwegian outfit Arendals Bryggeri.

It weighs in at a light and fluffy 4.5%. It's a clear golden lager that pours with a thin white head. It has a grainy nose that has a waft of hops. Pretty flavourful for a low alcohol lager, Little Norway has a grassy vibe that turns to meager hops toward the finish. 

It's not anything all that special in terms of being unique or atypical, but it is a nice brew--well made and enjoyable. Not as crisp as I'd have liked though.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Jutsu Pale Ale v3

I bought a 500mL bottle of Jutsu Pale Ale v. 3 on July 24 and consumed it on July 26. According to the sticker on the bottle, Toronto's Bellwoods Brewery created this stuff on July 22. I just love fresh, local ales! I'm living in a golden age.

According to a note on the Bellwoods website, Jutsu is an American pale ale. Apparently, they're trying out a variety of slightly different recipes (hence the v3) before they settle on a champ--I also had a bottle of v4, and should really have compared them side-by-side, but I got thirsty! 

Anyhow, the v3 iteration of Jutsu poured cloudy and honey-hued, with a cap of loose off-white head. It had an assertive and engaging aroma rich in tropical fruit notes and suggestive of crispness. Indeed, crisp is one of the best adjectives I could come up with to describe this particular brew. It is lusciously fruity, with tropical notes leading the charge, and plenty hoppy without being alienating. The website doesn't seem to list an IBU level, but I'd peg it as around 45-50. My only complaints are with the short, dry finish, which is nice, but a touch anemic. Otherwise, a stellar offering from one of my very favourite breweries in Canada.

Jutsu v3 is a smashing little brew. It isn't the overall winner that lays claim to the Jutsu crown, I'd like to see it continuing under a different moniker. This stuff is too good to scratch!

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Les Trois Mousquetaires Gose

Gose is a style of beer that I'm quick to buy when I see it, but often hesitant to actually drink. I had a bottle of Les Trois Mousquetaires Gose in my fridge for months before I got around to uncapping the snazzy 375mL bottle and sampling the cloudy orange liquid within. Brewed in Brossard, Quebec by Les Trois Mousquetaires Microbrasseurs, the gose contained just 3.8% alcohol and 9 IBUs. It's a part of LTM's "Hors Series". It poured with only a slight covering of off white head.

Aromatically, the most obvious note is oceanic brine. There are also tart elements. Flavour-wise, salty and sour continue to be the dominant factors. According to the label, coriander is used in the brewing process, though I was unable to catch much spice flavour. Unsurprisingly, given the low percentage, LTM Gose has a thin mouthfeel, which wasn't entirely to my liking.

All told, LTM Gose was a fine sour ale, but not one that I'd be eager to fill my fridge with. Gose isn't my favourite style anyway, but a light ale in gose clothing won't bring me back to the well frequently. Still, I'm glad to have tried it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Cause & Effect

When I see a beer can with a phrenologic theme, that's a beer that is bound to interest me. When you factor in some of the thought centers being "hoptimism" and "odd notions", my interest increases. So it's little wonder that I was quick to purchase a 473mL can of Cause & Effect, a blonde ale from Burlington, Ontario--aka a sweet spot between Toronto and Hamilton. C&E is brewed by Nickel Brook Brewing Co. It's a blonde ale that contains 19 IBUs and 4.7% alcohol. It's an almost clear brew, pale gold in coloured, and capped with a fairly thin, white head.

Malty, grainy, and grassy through the nose, with more of the same on the palate, Cause & Effect tastes good. However, it might not taste enough for some drinkers. I found myself yearning for a bit more bombast, particularly up front, where the flavour is a bit sparse. The finish, though, contains a pretty healthy measure of floral and dry noble hops to make C&E a beer worth the price of admission.

If you've a hankering for a nice summer brew, and lagers, saisons, radlers, and wits aren't to your taste, Cause & Effect Blonde is a pretty respectable choice. Although it doesn't compare to other, stronger Nickel Brook offerings like Headstock IPA, Bolshevik Bastard, and the stalwart Naughty Neighbour, I'll certainly be buying it again.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 9 August 2015


Jackknife is a North American IPA from Kanata, Ontario's Big Rig Brewery. I had a pint of the 6.7% alcohol ale while biding my time on the patio at the Only Cafe, the beery hub of Toronto's east side. My 20oz draught arrived filled with an almost clear liquid, coloured somewhere between copper and honey. It didn't have a whole lot of head to speak of and there was very little carbonation.

Along with notes of citrus and peach, Jackknife's aroma carried a dry bitterness. The beer had a hearty bitter streak, but not much by way of complimentary flavours up front. The back end, however, was both buttery and fruity in small but pleasing levels.

The craft brewing culture in Ontario has given birth to a spate of formidable and excellent IPAs. While Jackknife doesn't measure up to the more prominent among these, it is certainly an enjoyable brew. What it isn't, is innovative. It takes the tried and true hop-heavy formula and runs with it. It's a tad heavy-handed without the niceties I expect from an elite IPA. Still, it should be noted that when my first pint vanished in a matter of minutes, I wasted little time in securing a second--something I interpret as a good sign. 

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Couch Surfer IPA

Couch Surfer IPA, by Toronto's Indie Ale House, is billed as a summer IPA. At just 5%, it's closer to an American pale ale in pop. At the brewpub, my pint arrived topped with a fluffy white head. Beneath that was a sunny, cheery golden ale--more cloudy than hazy.

The stuff has an exotic tropical aroma that carries over into the flavour. There are passion fruit and mango notes, as well as neat and crisp finish. Hops are prevalent but this beer is nowhere near as bitter as a typical craft IPA.

As usual, Indie Ale House delivered a reliable brew with Couchsurfer. Not a standout like Instigator, but a very nice brew. As indicated at the pub, an excellent summer sipper.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Beer Beer

Beer Beer has to be the most nondescript brew I've ever tried. A native of Red Deer, Alberta, the imaginatively named beverage comes in plain white cans, 355mL, and feature stark red lettering, a few biographical details (5% alcohol, brewed by the Drummond Brewing Company) contact info, a recycling logo, and a barcode. That's it. It doesn't even provide a style--I'm going to say pale lager.

There's not a lot to set the beer inside apart, either. It's pale, haystack yellow, moderately fizzy, clear, and pours with a none-to-durable white head. It has an assertive aroma of noble hops and grain, a thin body, and a mild light lager flavour--grain and plain. Really, this beer is perfectly packaged. It's a serviceable alcohol delivery system, bare of even the faintest bells and whistles. Not bad, really, just nothing.

Beer Beer was a gift from the legendary Reverend Gaiser. It was thoughtful and I really appreciated it. Still, I'm glad he only gave me one.

Rating: 5.0 out of 10.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Burning River Ale

Sitting around at The Exchequer Restaurant & Pub in Chicago, I had a draught pint of Burning River Ale, a 6% alcohol beer by the Great Lakes Brewing Co. out of Cleveland, Ohio. According to the Great Lakes website, this brew contains 45 IBUs and is named in a nod to the Cuyahoga River Fire. A strikingly clear copper ale arrived at my table with a thin off-white head and little carbonation. Its nose was nice and toasty, with some tinny malts initially and moderate hops heft in back. There was a vague toastiness that ran from start to finish that contributes a bit of verve to the flavour of this ale.

While it was a bit thin for me, and not particularly bitter, Burning River definitely had some originality that made it well worth purchasing.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Wizard Wolf Session Ale

On my way home from work on a sunny Friday, I ducked into the Bellwoods Brewery bottle shop with a thirst for an IPA. I found one to my taste, but I also picked up a couple of 500mL bottles of Wizard Wolf Session Ale. Wizard Wolf is one of Bellwoods' regular offerings, but for some reason I hadn't previously tried it. I feel like it might be due to the "session ale" moniker--I've enjoyed lots of such ales, but seem to shy away from this one because the name lacks a modifier. Call it a session IPA and I'll buy it. Ditto American Pale Ale (which, incidentally, is how I'd class this one). On the Bellwoods website, they call it a dry-hopped session ale--put that on the bottle and I'd've come knocking months earlier. But a beer by any other name. I digress.

Wizard Wolf contains 4.8% alcohol, which is fairly potent for a session ale, though I guess an amorphous style like that creates a big tent.  Like most of BB's brews, it has a really eye-catching label--this one is yellow, bears a lupine silhouette, and features lots of mysterious and magical-looking symbols.  The beer itself is hazy, cheery, golden, and crowned with a sudsy off-white head.

My nose was fairly assaulted with a juicy, tropical aroma--a beating that left me anxious for more. The flavour follows suit, with passion-fruit and citrus notes well represented, leading into a fairly crisp, almost dry finish. Transitioning between juicy and dry is a tough line to walk, but this stuff tightroped it like a champ.

Wizard Wolf is yet another top flight APA bursting out of the Ontario craft beer market. Moreover, it's one of the best ones I've tried. After having foolishly shunned this tasty elixir for ages, I can assure you it'll be a frequent fixture in my refrigerator going forward.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.