Manx Visit 2013!

manx_tapsAs is our custom whenever visiting Ottawa, the wife and I chose to stop by the Manx Pub this year in order to sample from their vast array of taps. In addition to their fine food (I still think they make the best burger in town), the Manx has always been known to host a vast array of local craft breweries. And this year, I managed to find a whole slew of new beers to choose from. I tell ya, its not easy fitting five pints into one evening, but somehow I managed!

And if you get a chance, stop by their new website which went online just a few months ago. Lord knows they took their time putting one up, but that’s part of their charm. They’re not into trends, just good food and drink. And now that they’ve entered the realm of “the internets”, more people can learn about them and see what they’re all about. In any case, here’s what was on tap for me in 2013…

Broadhead Maddog IPA:
broadhead_beerAn old friend from high school recommended I try this one (hi Chris!), not that I needed much encouragement. Since arriving in Ottawa this year, Broadhead was a label that kept popping up whenever I went to a bar or to the LCBO. So naturally I was eager to try it and see what the hubbub was all about. I started with their Maddog IPA, which was a fitting example of a India Pale Ale brewed and fashioned by the good people of the Valley. In addition to a good amber hue, a nose rich in malts and hops, the flavor was both refreshing and clean while still malty and varied in terms of hop bitterness. An all around mouth-pleaser!

Appearance: Amber, lightly cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Rich syrupy malts, subtle citrus hops
Taste: Semi-sweet, rich malt, citrus and piney hops
Aftertaste: Mild, lingering hop bitterness, relatively clean
Overall: 8.5/10

Muskoka Harvest Ale:
muskoka_harvest_aleNext up was my latest sampling from the venerable Muskoka brewery. During our last visit, I was pretty blown away by their Dark Ale – a smooth, rich and chocolatey take on an English brown. So I was naturally interested to see what they did with this seasonal installment. As the first in an emerging lineup of limited run beers, this beer is a strong twist on a Fall Harvest Ale, being dark in colour, dry-hopped, and weighing in at a respectable 7% alc/vol. This proved a bit much for me, as the beer was quite bitter and had notes of espresso and smoke on top of its already noticeable hop bitterness. Not a bad beer by any means, and certainly not a bad start to their limited runs, but it did prove a little out of character to me.

Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf
Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf
Dry hopped and brewed using a selection of premium local ingredients, this ale has a rich malt backbone and a subtle grassy character reminiscent of the freshly cut harvest. It’s our way of celebrating another prosperous growing season. – See more at: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/harvest-ale.php#sthash.HPvSpDdv.dpuf

Appearance: Dark amber-brown, slightly cloudy, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malts, mild grassy hops
Taste: Rich malt, notes of espresso, smoke, citrusy hops, mild skunk
Aftertaste: Lingering malt flavor and espresso bitterness
Overall: 7.5/10

Spearhead Morroccan Ale:
Moroccan-Brown-Ale-199x300
Now this beer proved to be one of two that I managed to sample from this brewery while in Ottawa. And in both cases, they were indicative of the experimental spirit that so clearly characterizes the brewery. In all cases, they appear to be about marrying disparate flavors and traditions, not unlike BC’s own Parallel 49. Basically, it is a brew that merges the spirit of the Maghreb to the style of an English brown ale. And the results are quite pleasing and appetizing, bringing together dark brown malt, subtle dried fruits (raisins, figs, dates) and a mild spice palate. It also weighs in at a slightly stronger than usual 6% alc/vol, and is highly refreshing in addition to being rather sweet and tasty.

Appearance: Dark brown, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Dark roasted malt, hints of fruit, hint of cinnamon spice
Taste: Rich, syrupy malt, hint of raisins, figs, dates and cinnamon
Aftertaste: Lingering spice and mild malt sweetness
Overall: 9/10

Beyond The Pale Pink Fuzz:
beyond_the_pale_pinkfuzzThese next two samples come from one of Ottawa’s newest breweries, the Beyond The Pale operation that I was surprised to learn about. After many years of starts and stops, it now seems that Ottawa is exploding on the craft brewing scene. And from what I’ve seen from their website, it looks like they are off to a very good start with their product lineup. As for this beer, it was a very nice introduction to what they have to offer.

And as their name suggests, they are committed to making beers that go beyond your basic pale ales and into the realm of the experimental. Nowhere is this more clear than with their grapefruit wheat, a slight twist on a traditional hefeweizen. Light gold in color, it has a gentle wheat malt nose that is imbued with citrus fruit, and has a flavor to match. Overall, it is very light and refreshing, but of course possesses a strong citrus tang that is a great accompaniment to lighter dishes.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild grapefruit and citrus nose
Taste: Immediate tang, grapefruit and citrus flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering citrus rind, quite clean
Overall: 8/10

Beyond the Pale Darkness:
beyond_the_pale_darknessThis second sampling was better than the first. As the breweries take on a traditional oatmeal stout, this beer manages to bring all that’s right about this classic British style into good balance. In addition to being pitch black and opaque, the nose boasts plenty of coffee and dark roasted malts and bitter hops. This carries through into the flavor department, being at once smooth, smokey, creamy and malty, and complexly bitter. It then rounds everything out with a flavorful but relatively clean finish, which is surprising with an oatmeal stout. While not one of their more experimental brews, it was certainly a fitting example of what they can do. Not a bad intro to Beyond The Pale, I must say!

Appearance: Pitch black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of coffee, bitter hops, and dark roasted malt
Taste: Smooth, smokey malts, creamy head, discernible hop and coffee bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering coffee and malt flavor, quite clean
Overall: 8.5/10

And that’s all I managed to sample on that particular outing. More are coming, as the wife and I were sure to visiting other favorite haunts (such as Pub Italia) and managed to do some sampling on our own between lengthy walks through my old hometown. Stay tuned!

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Back from Ottawa!

DSCF1285As promised, I am back from the east with plenty of beers to rave about! Much like last trip, and the one before that, ad infinitum… I managed to secure some beers from several new breweries, seasonals, and special releases that can only be found in the nation’s capitol. Whether it was on tap, in a can, or a bottle, and found at the local LCBO, bar, or bistro, I had a number of great drinking experiences this trip. And what better place to start than with the latest from Beau’s All Natural Brewing and the Creemore Brewery?

Beau’s Night Marzen Oktoberfest Lager:
beaus_marzenBack in 2012, I saw Beau’s long-necked beers at an Ottawa LCBO, and for some reason didn’t buy one. Perhaps my cart was overloaded, who knows? Luckily, I rectified my mistake this year and promptly picked up a bottle of their seasonal Marzen Oktoberfest. And I was quite pleased, though admittedly I am a fan of this seasonal lager. Compared to your average lager, Marzens are often darker and orange in hue, a heavier, maltier body, and a crisp finish. However, the Beau’s manages to adds to that with a relatively good dose of hops which yield a more bitter, complex and even lemony flavor than I was expecting. This is all complimented by a good, clean finish that manages to round things out. Not your light lager by any means, but a pleaser as far as I am concerned!

Appearance: Orange-amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Grassy, piney notes, subtle malts
Taste: Immediate burst of bitter, piney hops, lemon, grainy malts
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and citrus rind
Overall: 8.5/10

Creemore Altbier:
creemore_altbierCreemore is without a doubt one of my favorite microbreweries in Ontario. Not only are they the purveyor of one of my favorite beers of all time – Creemore Urbock, one of the finest bocks ever made – I also consider their Pilsner, Lager and Kellerbier to be exceptional. So it was exciting to see that they had produced a collaboration ale that honors the venerable German style known as altbier – “old beer”, which refers to the pre-lager days when German brewers made ales. Produced in conjunction with the brewers at Zum Schlüssel in Dusseldorf, an historic brewery specializing in alts, this beer was released for their 25th anniversary and is now back by popular demand. And much like their other beers, it was very subtle, clean, and highly refreshing.


Appearance:
Dark amber-brown, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild, toasty malts, mild hops and smokiness
Taste: Smooth, gentle malts, slight tang, hint of grassy hops and smoke
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, clean, touch of minerality
Overall: 8.5/10

More to follow from my trip! Stay tuned…

Clocktower Brewhouse

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Hello all. As promised, I made it out to the first of the many brewpubs I intend to visit while here in Ottawa, and have returned to share what I learned. As I might have mentioned already, the Clocktower is an old haunt that my friends and I used to hang out at all the time. And while the lot of them enjoyed drinking cider, my fondest memories were for the microbrews themselves. Since I left Ottawa, their operation has expanded to the point where they now have four locations spread across town.

Last night, the friends and I convened there for some much needed catch-up time, some food and drinks. And I did my best to sample the entire lineup, though I did need a little help. Here’s what they had to offer and how it all went down…

Wishart’s ESB:
This is one of my favorites from the old days and was therefore the first that I tried. A traditional English Extra-Special Bitter, the beer is light amber in color, clear, and has a good foam head and carbonation. In terms of smell, what immediately comes through as some syrupy malts, a hint of sweetness, and a dry hop aroma. A slight tang, mild toffee and baked bread are immediately apparent on the tongue, followed by some dry, grassy hops. The beer finishes with a lingering tang, malt and herbal notes, an all around pleaser! 8/10

Clocktower Red:
This one will always be known as Fenian Red to me, regardless of how they change the name over time. This beer is dark red, clear, and with a creamy head and good carbonation, the beer has notes of peat, smoke, and rich malts on the nose. The taste is loaded with syrupy, saccharine malts, with a slight smokey edge and a crisp, bitter dose of hops. The beer finishes with a lingering hop bitterness and some more traces of syrup malts. 8.5/10

Bytown Brown:
Another classic, one which I enjoyed often when I frequented the pub back in the day. This beer pours a deep, dark brown, is clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose is packed with coffee and chocolate malts, reminiscent of a good, solid stout. This impression continues well into the flavor department, which consists of toasted malts, traces of cocoa, espresso, and a dose of bitter hops. The beer then finishes with more traces of chocolate, hop and coffee bitterness. 8.5/10

Raspberry Wheat:
Another brew that takes me back. It seemed that in the summer of 98, shortly after the pub first opened, every craft brewer was producing their own version of a fruit-infused Krystalweizen. So naturally, I was sure to try the Clocktowers, and I can say it hasn’t changed a bit over the years. The beer pours of a light golden color, is clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose contains mild yeasts and wheat malts and a good dose of raspberry sweetness. The flavor is much the same, opening with a light tang, traces of wheat and yeast, and a strong tart/sweet fruit flavor. The finish is clean, with small traces of fruit and malt, and is quite refreshing. 8.5/10

Kolsch:
The Clocktower’s take on a venerable German altbier, the Kolsch is now their flagship beer. Light in color, clear, and has good foam retention and carbonation. The nose contains traces of apple and honey, mild hops and subtle malts. In terms of flavor, the beer is very clean, has traces of apple, and possesses some pilsner-like hop crispness. The finish is clean, with some mild malts and lingering grassy hops. 8/10

Pumpkin Ale:
As the brewhouse’s seasonal product, I was absolutely sure to try the Pumpkin ale before calling it a night. And honestly, this beer was the most impressive sampling of the evening. Golden-orange in color, clear, and with good foam and carbonation, this beer smells of nutmeg, allspice, and pumpkin pie. In terms of taste, it has a big burst of spice, semi-sweet pumpkin-infused malts, and a long, lingering finish packed with spice and thick malts. 9/10

Not a bad visit, and it is encouraging to see a favorite old hangout doing so well. Tonight, we go back to Vineyards to pay it another visit and find out if its still one of the best damn bistros and places to get obscure beers in town! More to follow, stay tuned…

Ottawa Trip 2013

trafalgarHi folks! As it is time for the ife and I to do our biannual trip to my old hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, I will be offline for a few days. However, I expect to return to this site in a week’s time with plenty of new reviews since we’ll be visiting several old haunts and new while we’re there. These will include the Clocktower Brewhouse, an old favorite of mine which has expanded since I left; the Beyond The Pale Brewery, another brewpub operation that has several locations across town; and of course, the Mill Street Brewpub and Vineyards Bistro, two old favorites I would like to find myself in again.

And of course, I will be sure to sample the latest from Ontario’s craft brewers of late. These include just about anything from the Wellington Brewery, the Trafalgar Brewery, the McAuslan Brewery, the Muskoka Brewery, and Creemore Springs. And given our proximity to Quebec, I’m sure I’ll be dipping into anything from La Brasseurs Du Temps, Dieu Du Ciel, and Unibroue as well!

Have yourselves a great post-Thankgiving weekend and get out to enjoy this fall weather as much as possible. And see you all when I get back!

Moon Under Water Year One Red Wheat Wine

moon_year1In honor of their first year since the new ownership took over, the Moon Under Water brewpub chose to release this limited reserve wheat wine. And I finally got my bottle! Not that long ago, I wandered into their operation for the first time and got to meet some of the management. They seemed like a family that was seriously committed to craft beer, so when they chose to release their first anniversary brew, I knew I had to have some.

And I have to say, red wheat wine is really quite interesting. I’ve had my share of interesting brews in the past. Much like a barleywine, it is darker in color due to its high gravity and heavy malts, and is unfiltered. It’s also generously flavored with Citra hops and fermented dry with three different strains of yeast. What results is a beer that is a deep orange-red, is cloudy to the point of being opaque, and very strong (11.5% alc/vol).

Appearance: Orange-red, cloudy and opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong wheat malt, citrus hops, baked bread
Taste: Wheat malt, dry grapefruit, strong notes of alcohol, yeasts
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness, citrus rind, malty sourness
Overall: 9.5/10

My one complaint about this beer is the amount of yeast found within. Once I poured this bad boy into a tall glass, I noticed quite a bit of floating cultures! But that’s to be expected from a beer of this strength, and one that’s unfiltered! All in all though, this was a VERY not bad first year for Moon Under Water. I sincerely hope they choose to greet fall and the coming of winter with a brown, a stout, a barleywine and/or a straight bock. Not that their lineup particularly needs these, I would just be interested to see what they would do with them. If there’s one thing they’ve demonstrated a knack for, its experimentation!

Logsdon Seizoen Bretta

logsdon_seizon_brettaToday I have a special feature, a sour ale that comes from a brewery located in Hood River, Oregon. It’s known as Logsdon, a farmhouse operation that produces handcrafted beers using locally sourced ingredients, sometimes their own. Being a fan of sour ale, I noticed this beer at one of my favorite dispensers and immediately snatched it up. It’s quite the treat when something rare and truly local pops up!

And I can say without exception that I was very impressed with this ale. Much like other fine sours I’ve had of late (namely from Driftwood’s venerable Bird of Prey series), this beer boasted a truly lovely, wild, and spicy palate that was highly reminiscent of sour cherry fruit. On top of that, there were some specific notes that put me in mind of Chimay and other Trappist ales, specifically an oaky quality that complimented it so well.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Lactic acid, sour cherry, dry oak
Taste: Notes of oak and sour cherry, dry and spicy yeast
Aftertaste: Dry, lingering, traces of yeast and mild hops
Overall: 10/10

Yep, this beer was just that good! Like a true sour ale, which can only be produced from a farmhouse operation, it was loaded with all kinds of complimentary and complex notes. I wish I could find more from this brewery. Alas, I have a feeling the presence of this beer alone in my area was something of a rare occurrence. It was worth it!

Two More Americans…

In truth, I’ve been laid out these last few weeks with the flu, and this has effected my ability to sample beer. Luckily, I’ve been backlogged with a number of samples that I tried back in September, and just needed to provide a complete write up on. Two such samples were part of my ongoing campaign to drink all the beer that’s been coming up from the south of late. This time out, both come from the great state of Washington!

Diamond Knot Brown Ale:
diamondknot_brownThis is my second sampling from the Diamond Knot brewery. And much like the first, I was not terribly impressed with it. While it is certainly an inoffensive and decent enough American-style brown ale, it was a little on the light side, and had a rather strange flavor profile. This became evident with the smell first, which consisted of nicely toasted malts, a hint of sweetness, and then a strange herbal aroma that put me in mind of Jagermeister. And then the taste, which was lacking in the dark malt flavor department and instead was slightly sour, tangy, and quite light. Only in the aftertaste did I detect the telltale signs of chocolate and coffee that are common to this variety. And by then, I had lost a lot of interest.

Appearance: Deep brown/amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild sugars, toasted malts, trace herbal essence reminiscent of Jagermeister
Taste: Mild tang, mild sourness, slightly toasted malt flavor
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness, hint of cocoa and coffee
Overall: 7.5/10

Skagit River Gospel IPA:
Gospel-LabelThis second installment from the Skagit River brewery did better. As a special release IPA, the Gospel is certainly comparable to the Scullers, in that it boasts a good mix of strong malts, a highly respectable dose of floral, citrusy hops and weights in at a respectable 7.4% alc/vol (just slightly stronger than the Sculler). However, I marked it down slightly from its predecessor in that the hop bite tends to obscure the malts when you taste it. While you can certainly smell a good, syrupy malt base in this beer, its really not discernible on the tongue. What’s more, the hop bitterness can be a little too much all the way through. Citrus fruit is appealing, but citrus rind? Not so much.

Appearance: Light amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Strong floral and citrus aroma, good malts and sugars
Taste: Strong citrus bite, notes of grapefruit and citrus rind
Aftertaste: Strong and lingering bitterness with plenty of citrus rind
Overall: 8/10