Saturday, 29 April 2017

Hu Jon Hops

My understanding is that Hu Jon Hops is the signature IPA from Fredericton, New Brunswick's TrailWay Brewing Co. I picked up a single 473mL can of the 6.5% alcohol ale from the brewery. According to the brief copy on the can, this beer is "juicy, dank, and fruity". It's a very hazy dull gold ale that pours with a luxe layer of off-white head.


To my nose, the beer had tropical fruit aromatics enveloping a nicely bitter skeleton. Its taste is similarly constructed, with a fruity front end and a slightly resinous bitter fin. Much like TrailWay's Rype pale ale, although to a lesser extent, this one is juicy and flavourful, but suffers from a notable lack of volume in the mouthfeel. While this makes for an easy-drinking ale, it doesn't have all of the sharp edges that I love in the best IPAs. Still, it tastes great and is well-worth picking up should you find yourself in New Brunswick's capital city.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ghost Orchid

Ghost Orchid is a beautifully-named IPA from the always-reliable Bellwoods Brewery. Coming from all the way across the park from my apartment in Toronto, this little gem is a 6.3% alcohol brew sold in pretty 500mL bottles.


According to the Bellwoods website, this cheery IPA, brewed with oats, used to be a pale ale, but has been bumped up a category for this release. It's a hazy orange-gold number that pours with a hefty off-white foam. It has a fresh and fruity aroma that exudes clementines and tart pear. The flavour is quite well-rounded, with a decent malt background, under a mostly bitter body. There are powerful fruit notes, manifested in orange, pear, and grapefuit.

A beer with quality hop elements, but not an abundance of IBUs, Ghost Orchid is highly downable and refined, without the gritty potency of a typical IPA. Bellwoods has brewed a number of memorable IPAs--while this one isn't there most remarkable, it really is a well-executed beer. I'd have liked a bit more pop, alcohol-wise, to push it to the next level.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Laker IPA

During a recent weekend foray to Ontario's beautiful Georgian Bay region, I found myself running dangerously low on craft beer. To replenish my stores, my friends and I headed into the nearest town to visit their beer vendor. While the shores of the Georgian Bay are something to behold, the selection at this particular beer seller was not. Faced with desperate choices, I picked up a quartet of 473mL cans of Laker IPA. The Laker mark, brewed in Kitchener, ON by the Brick Brewing Co., has the dubious distinction of being the value ale on which many Ontario youths cut their teeth. However, never having seen their IPA before, I resolved to give it a whirl. The fact that contained just 4.8% alcohol--way low for the style--was a red flag, but one I was willing to overlook.

The beer, once poured, looked quite agreeable. It was a hazy brown-auburn colour, with a thin cap of off-white head. Its aroma proved to be a blend of dank bitterness and a sweet, metallic twang. Rarely do understrength beers taste stronger than they are, but the sweetness displayed in the front end of Laker IPA gave it the illusion of considerable booze, despite its relatively anemic percentage. While the beer smelled fairly bitter, the taste didn't kick up its heels with IBUs in any significant manner. Rather, the bitterness was largely drowned by saccharine elements.

At the cottage, where I downed my first three cans of Laker IPA, I was extremely critical of the stuff. I took the fourth home for sober reflection. While that can still left much to be desired, it wasn't the total swill that I had derided on first impression, but I still wasn't wild about it. Too sweet by far, wildly under-strength, and insufficiently bitter: three characteristics that all but ensure I will not be revisiting this ale again.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

St-Feuillien Tripel

St-Feuillien Tripel is a Belgian abbey beer from Le Roeulx, where it is crafted by Brasserie St-Feuillien. Sold in stubby 330mL bottles, this cloudy Ale is dull gold in colour, and pours with a thin covering of off-white head. At 8.5% alcohol, it has some ballast, but isn't nearly as potent as some other tripels out there.

S-F has a tart aroma that is both yeasty and fruity. The flavour, too, is fairly tart, with sour apple and white grape elements. As well, there are some yeasty notes, though less than in some other Belgian and Belgian-style brews. The finish is dry and has a faintly perfumed quality.

What I liked most about S-F was the fact that it was more tart than sweet. For such a strong beer, I found the flavour profile to be somewhat mild, but not unpleasant. The only real concern that I had was a slightly chemical taste that marred the finish for me. All told, a good but not great tripel. Buy again? Sure. I liked it, and the front end was unique.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Friday, 21 April 2017

SuperCollider 2.0 Double IPA

There aren't many Ontario beers that hit triple digits on the IBU scale, but SuperCollider 2.0 Double IPA is one of the few that reaches that height of bitterness, checking in at 102 IBUs and a liver-pummeling 10.4% alcohol. Brewed in Barrie, ON, by the delightful eccentrics at Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, SC2 is sold in loud 473mL cans that are reminiscent of the lurid holographic labels that adorned the bottles of version 1.0.

The beer inside the can poured with a surprising clarity--an amber liquid topped with roiling cream suds. As one would expect, the nose is "bigly" bitter, with swirling notes of citrus and sweet. The flavour begins with a pushy gust of tangy grapefruit, but this is set off against a heavy dose of boozy sweetness. By the time the beer stumbles across the finish line, the citrus notes are more tangerine-y, and the warm sweetness of the alcohol actually picks up steam. The large hops bill lasts from dawn to dusk.

SuperCollider 2.0 has a lot of commendable attributes--it's strong as hell, packs loads of hops, and it has a relatively complicated flavour profile. On the other side of the ledger, its too damned sweet! I know that sweetness tends to increase with alcoholic strength, but this stuff could really use something to thin out its saccharine side. The sweetness makes drinking the warmer half of a 473mL portion a bit more daunting than need be. All in all, SC2 is a delightful brew--immodest and almost unreasonable ... in a good way! Would buy again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Night Mist Imperial Stout

At 8.5% alcohol, Night Mist Imperial Stout is certainly strong, but it isn't as bonkers as some of the other big stouts out there--as a result, I found that a 500mL bottle of the stuff was manageable on a weeknight. From Toronto's Bandit Brewery, Night Mist was onyx, opaque, and covered with a slim disc of tan head--in fact, considerably less head that I was expecting.

Night Mist had a comforting malt aroma blessed with mocha notes and the suggestion of some dank hops. The flavour veers from well roasted malts to a modestly bitter finish in the space of a few beats. Along the way, there are some dark chocolate notes and a thin wisp of pipe smoke. However, the chief note to me seemed to be dark, dried fruit.


According to Bandit's website, this little number has 60 IBUs, which seems about right--really a respectable bitterness packed into this dark beer. However, I'd have liked it to be featured a bit more assertively. Overall, the flavour was agreeable and had few faults to pick at. Like everything I've tasted from the Bandit repertoire, Night Mist Imperial Stout was nicely made and genuinely good, if not elite.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Crimzen Premium Red Ale

Crimzen Premium Red Ale finds its home in Toronto, Ontario. An English-style ale, it's brewed by the folks at Lost Craft Beer and contains 4.7% alcohol. The 473mL can is austere, but not inelegant, with a white and red colour scheme.

The beer inside is a shiny copper hue. It's clear and pours with a decent cap of off-white head. For aromatics, the ale has metallic and malty leanings, with a drizzle of caramel. It tastes as it smells, with lots of malty, bready notes, a coppery clang, and some burnt caramel. The finish picks up IBU steam, delivering a surprisingly hoppy, quick finale.

I didn't know what to expect from Crimzen. After all, the name annoyed the piss out of me, but I'm always keen to try a local red ale. In the result, I was quite glad to have picked a can up, and can easily see myself doing so again and again in the months ahead. It's really a nice little pint o'beer. If they got the percentage up over five, this might well have gotten an even higher grade.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Hoppelgänger

Hoppelgänger is a hazy golden dry hopped pilsner. It comes from Toronto, Ontario's Bandit Brewery, where it is sold in 500mL bottle. Weighing in at the standard 5%, there is a decent enough heft for a pale lager, but nothing too exciting. The aroma has the (for me at least) beguiling aroma of brewery-fresh noble hops--a mixture of bitterness and recently mowed grass. It has a grassy flavour that is grain-rich, but which picks up dry, hoppy momentum at a considerable pace toward the finish of each sip.

As always when dealing with a Bandit beer, Hoppelgänger has a very cool label. I found it to be a very satisfying take on the pilsner--dry and bitter where it counts, but also crisp, grainy, and just slightly sweet. I have no problem with brewers using hop pellets--it's a totally necessary element of modern brewing. My only beef with this beer was that the hops tasted a bit like pellets. Still, I'd buy this stuff again in a heartbeat. It was excellent.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

"Never Say Die" reads the tag line on 651mL bottles of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, the extra strong beer from Ft. Bragg, California's North Coast Brewing Co. And at a solid 9% alcohol, I'd say the "extra" in "extra strong" is probably well earned. The black as tar ale poured with a thick and loose tan head that was built to last.


To my nose, the scent of Ol' Raspy was dominated by bitterness, set off slightly by molasses sweetness. Rich and malty were the initial flavour notes, before swerving into the bitter lane toward the finish. The mouthfeel was creamy and lush, but not such as would disguise the big booze count.

Drinking a bottle of Ol' Raspy was a substantial Sunday afternoon undertaking. It was hearty, with the hoppy grit that I love in a strong dark ale. Plus the glowering image of the man himself on the label gave the beer a spectral or haunted vibe. My only note of critique on this very good beer is that it could use a better developed front end.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Nectarous

It was a family effort to get me a bottle of Nectarous, a dry-hopped sour ale from Delta, British Columbia. Spearheaded by my ol' pal KF, who enlisted her step brother to complete the delivery, it took a few weeks for me to get my bottle, but the beer was well worth the wait.

Nectarous is a member of the Zephyrus Series of brews done up by Delta's Four Winds Brewing Co. I was provided with a 650mL bottle of the stuff, listed at 5.5% alcohol and just 6 IBUs, which I thought must have been a misprint but confirmed on the FWBC website. It poured with a hazy dull golden aspect and a layer of lusty white head. The aroma was positively mouthwatering, with juicy tropical fruits and the suggestion of some serious tartness. Not quite mouth puckeringly sour, Nectarous' flavour managed to be more than simply tart, while retaining a devious blast of almost ripe fruit. Nor was it particularly yeasty. Funky, sure, but not all that yeasty.

This sour beer wasn't what I was expecting when I read "dry-hopped sour". Not at all hoppy is usually a bad thing for me when I'm reviewing an ale, but this beer somehow utterly failed to disappoint. It was big, bold, well-made, and delicious. Too tart to drink a second in a sitting, perhaps, but each sip demanded attention. This was a unique and special sour.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Juicy Ass IPA

During a winter getaway to Midland and Tiny, Ontario, I ducked into a little café called Ciboulette et Cie. I was looking for a baked good to nosh on, but I also found a pretty good tap list and couldn't resist the luster of a beer called Juicy Ass IPA. From Barrie, Ontario's Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Juicy Ass is a a 6.5% alcohol India pale. It was a gently hazy golden ale that poured with just the right amount of fluffy white head. It had an assertively fruity nose with lots of tropical vibes. The flavour is also quite juicy, with some passion fruit notes. However, it veers pretty sharply toward dry bitterness at the back end.


The interplay between bright tropical elements and vibrant bitterness made this a really enjoyable accoutrement to a sunny winter afternoon.

Rating: 8.5 out 10.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Through the Quad Belgian Quadruppel

St. Jacobs, Ontario, the home of Block 3 Brewing Co., is the birthplace of their Through the Quad Belgian Quadruppel, a Belgian-style strong ale. And at 10% even, it is strong. Swig a 500mL bottle of this brew and clear your schedule.

Through the Quad looks for all the world like a stout--it's dark brown/black, opaque, and ringed with off-white head. It has a sweet and fruity nose that also manages to incorporate a whiff of coffee. Flavour is malt driven, with notes of honey and fruit coming before a faintly bitter finish. Through it all, booze is a constant flavour note.

As an uncontextualized strong ale, Through the Quad sings a lovely tune. As a simulacrum of a Belgian quad, it fares well enough in terms of vigour, though it lacks the yeasty demeanor of a classic quadruppel. That said, though, it is an agreeable shot at a tricky style, done with strength and artistry. I seldom spot Block 3 brews, but when I do, I snap them up quite eagerly, since they tend to be well made and somewhat unconventional. Such is the story with Through the Quad--a nicely constructed beer that, while not exactly representative of the style, is quite delicious and fiendishly potent.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Industrial IPA

With a clockwork aesthetic, Industrial IPA has the look of a beer in a bank vault. From Lock Street Brewing Company in Port Dalhousie this little Ontarian India pale ale is sold in 473mL cans and contains a low-test 5.5% alcohol. The beer within is ruddy, hazy, and topped with an off-white head that shows a half inch of foam.

With malty aromatics and a flavour to match, Industrial has a nice flavour, though not one that packs the deep bitterness that I was hoping for. There are some decent hops here, but not quite up to par as many of the better IPAs coming out of Ontario. Likewise, 5.5% plays a bit on the light side for the style.

Industrial IPA is a decent offering, but not one that packs the style-mandated heft. It's a pretty well made beer, but it could be a lot more assertive. That said, I'll be keeping my eye on Lock Street, because this beer shows potential.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Trooper Red 'n' Black Porter

Trooper Red 'n' Black Porter is brewed in Stockport, England by Robinsons Brewery. According to the label, this 6.8% alcohol Ale is designed by Robinsons' head brewer and by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame. Like other Trooper beers, the 500mL bottle of Red 'n' Black features Iron Maiden's mascot/spokesdemon Eddie charging forward with a tattered Union Jack.

True to its name, Red 'n' Black is very ruddy for a dark ale. It's a clear brew with an off-white head. The beer has a classic English ale aroma--malt-forward, with a hefty elemental note of copper. The taste is similarly constructed, with metallic notes riding atop some earthy, malty rails. There is also a faint chocolate element that starts to manifest in between sips, but becomes more assertive as the beer warms. The mouthfeel of this beer is unusual, with a smooth texture, but one that is a bit too thin.

All told, it was good stuff. Good strength and decent flavour. I was glad that my brother bought me two bottles in exchange for cat-sitting--although his cats did unspeakable urinary things while he was away...

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

UPA

UPA is a beer with a concept I can get behind. Brewed by Toronto's Henderson Brewing Company, it's an IPA that honours the Union-Pearson Express--the commuter train that runs back and forth between Canada's largest airport and Union Station every 6.5 minutes, right behind Henderson's brewery. In honour of the train, the beer actually contains 6.5% alcohol.

Union Pearson Ale is a moderately hazy reddish-gold brew. It pours with a very fluffy millinery of off-white head. It's fragrance suggests balance between toasted malts and a decent level of hoppiness. Its flavour walks in those same tracks, with an alluring mix of warm malts and a bit of bitterness. Under the hood, there are some buttery notes, and a slightly generic hoppiness--not particularly citric or evergreen--just hops.

UPA is a very drinkable India pale. Its unassuming alcohol count makes it close to sessionable (for those with tested livers) and its flavour is nice enough, but isn't overly assertive or boisterous. This is a good starter IPA for drinkers of macro brews looking to dig deeper into the world of craft ales. But for pros, it might seem a bit mild. That said, it's clearly well made, and brewed with some skill. I'm a big fan of Henderson, and this beer is certainly worthy of their name. Would (and will) definitely buy again.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.