Beau’s The Tom Green Beer! Milk Stout

tom-green-beerBrewer: Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co., Vankleek Hill, ON
Style: Milk Stout
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 27

Description: Beau’s and Canadian actor and comedian Tom Green have collaborated to create The Tom Green Beer. A milk stout, The Tom Green Beer displays flavours of chocolate and coffee, while delivering a creamy, velvety texture, and finishing with a mild sweetness. Malts: 2 Row, Munich, Oats, Caramel 120, Roasted, Chocolate, Black; Hops: Perle, Hersbrucker.

Tasting Notes: This was a relatively light beer, as milk stouts go. It pours a black that is not opaque and smells of toasted malts, dark chocolate and espresso. And it has a taste that is both smooth, but possessed of the chocolate and espresso notes. Still, the end result is quite refreshing and nicely balanced.

Dieu du Ciel Herbe à Détourne New World Triple

Dieuduciel_HerbeDetourneBrewer: Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, QC
Style: Triple Ale
ABV: 10.2%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This beer is part of Dieu du Ciel’s Rotation series, a limited-release that is available from January to April. As the name suggests, it is a North American take on the traditional Belgian Tripel, combining American Citra hops with pale malt and Belgian yeast. The beer takes its name from the French Canadian legend of the Herbe à Détourne, which makes one lose their way should they happen upon it.

Tasting Notes: Quite the powerful triple! This beer has a rich malt base and the telltale flavor of candi sugar to boot! This leads to a rich and coarse malt flavor, a yeasty backbone, and some serious alcoholic warmth to finish. The addition of Citra hops also imparts a nice citrus twist.

Appearance: Golden orange, cloudy with sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, candi sugar, strong yeasts, alcoholic bite, citrus
Taste: Strong, coarse malt, sugars, yeasty effervescence, citrus, alcoholic warmth
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt, sugars, and alcoholic bitterness
Overall: 9/10

Trafalgar Fresh Hop Harvest

trafalgar_hopharvestBrewer: Trafalgar Ales and Meads, Oakville, ON
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5%
IBUs: Unlisted

Description: This recent addition to the Trafalgar lineup is brewed using a combination of pale malt and fresh hops harvested from from the local Van De Slyke Farms, located in Statfordville, ON. This is the second fresh-hopped beer in their lineup, and carries on in the tradition of Trafalgar being the first modern brewery to locally source fresh hops for use in their beers.

Tasting Notes: Here is a brewery which I have sorely missed since moving to BC, especially their Celtic Ale. And while I could not find this beer while in Ottawa, I did stumble across their Fresh Hop Harvest and knew I had to try it. And while it is certainly on the powerfully bitter side, I can’t deny the quality and craft of it. A smooth and semi-sweet malt base combines with strong notes of grapefruit, citrus and floral hops, augmented by a yeast culture that is somewhat reminiscent of a saison. Basically, a sharp and bitter punch to the tastebuds. Glad I got it!

Appearance: Golden orange, slightly cloudy, thick and lacy foam, good carbonation
Nose: Gentle malt nose, notes of citrus, grapefruit, floral traces, sharp yeast
Taste: Syrupy malt, immediate burst of grapefruit rind and dry herbs, yeasty backbone
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, smooth malt, yeasty undertones
Overall: 8.3/10

Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager

hopcity_lagerBrewer: Hop City Brewing, Brampton, ON
Style: Lager
ABV: 5%
IBUs: 24

Description: This lager, which is Hop City’s flagship beer, is brewed using a combination of of Pale Two-Row, Crystal, Dark Crystal , Munich, and Torrified Wheat malts, which are then bittered with Hallertau Mittelfrueh and Saaz hops.

Tasting Notes: This is the second time I’ve sampled Barking Squirrel, the first time being during my 2013 trip to Ottawa. Somehow, my review card was full and I neglected to give it a proper write-up, which I am corrected now! This is very much a good, clean-drinking lager, with some maltier notes that are reminiscent of a good Marzen. A crisp and slightly sweet malt base with notes of sweet bread and caramel combine with a dry, noble hop flavor to create a very quaffable and drinkable lager.

Appearance: Amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sharp and grainy malt nose, noble hops, dry grasses and herbs
Taste: Clean, crisp malts, sweet bread, caramel, grassy and herbal hops, minerals
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness, grainy and sweet malt flavor
Overall: 8/10

Muskoka Detour Sessional IPA

muskoka_detourBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge, Ontario
Style: Sessional IPA
ABV:
4.3%
IBUs: 30

Description: This beer takes it name from the fact that it is a departure from the regular North American style India Pale Ale. In addition to being dry-hopped, it is also sessionable, creating a lighter, more accessible IPA that is easy drinking.

Tasting Notes: This was one of my first sampling from 2015 trip to Ottawa. Muskoka is an old favorite when it comes to craft brewing, and it seems they have been getting better and more experimental in my absence. This was a neat take on a traditional IPA, and not just because its subtler and lighter. It also has some very interesting flavor notes – which include orchard fruits you don’t normal expect in an IPA. And that accompanies the usual citrus and grassy hops. Quite an interesting take.

Appearance: Golden, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Smooth malts, subtle hops, fruity esters, apricot

Taste: Crisp malt, mineral tang, notes of citrus, grassy hops, orchard fruit 
Aftertaste: Lingering fruit esters, hop bitterness, grassy hops and citrus
Overall: 8.3/10

Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

muskoka_beardBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge ON
Style: Strong Stout
ABV: 8%

Description: Muskoka’s Winter seasonal beer, this stout is brewed using dark roasted chocolate malts which are then infused with cocoa, 70% dark chocolate, and freshly harvested local cranberries. The result is a strong stout with hints of sweetness and a smooth backing.

Tasting Notes: This is one of those “long time coming” drinking experiences. I can recall seeing this beer on the shelves back when I visited Ottawa, and made a mental note to try it once I saw that it was available here in BC. It took awhile, but I finally managed to get my hands on one and give it a go. And the combination was pretty pleasing. Tart and sweet cranberry flavor play well with a strong stout, cutting the bitter malt flavor, while chocolate provide an undertone of smoothness.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich, roasted malt, chocolate, hint of espresso, licorice
Taste: Dark, rich malts, cocoa and espresso, hint of tartness and sugary finish
Aftertaste: Lingering roasted malt flavor, chocolate and espresso, licorice
Overall: 8.5/10

Muskoka Legendary Oddity

muskoka_oddityBrewer: Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge ON
Style: Vintage Ale
Alc/Vol: 8%

Description: This limited release Spring-seasonal ale pays homage to the legends of the lumberjacks and furtraders who experienced the mysterious culture and wildlife of the North during the 1800’s. Brewed in the Belgian style, it brings together a combination of North American malts, Noble hops, heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings, before being fermented with Belgian yeast and fortified with Candi sugar. The end results is then bottled and cellar aged to bring the flavors together to maturity.

Tasting Notes: This beer brought to mind many drinking experiences, all of them pleasant. First, there are the distinctive Belgian-style elements, which are similar to a good Tripel; a barley-wine in terms of the sweet and sugary notes; and a juniper pale ale with the infusion of gin-like flavor and a crisp finish. I am always happy when I get to reconnect with breweries from back east that I don’t always have access to. And this beer was definitely a lovely and worthy addition to Muskoka’s lineup.

Appearance: Gold/orange, clear with sediment, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, sugary nose, barley wine-like, floral, citrus, Belgian yeasts
Taste: Strong malts, sugars, Belgian yeast, citrus rind, crisp finish, hint of juniper
Aftertaste: Lingering coarse malt and yeast bitterness, juniper berry, citrus rind
Overall: 9.5/10

St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 2013

st.ambroise_vintageThis is a beer I purchased with great excitement, and not just because it was part of my holiday beer collection. As followers of this site are sure to know, the St. Ambroise Millennial Ale (brewed in 2000, this was the first vintage ale they ever produced) remains my favorite beer of all time, even to this day. Because of that, their Vintage Ale (Ale Millésimée en francais) is one I try to get my hands on whenever possible.

Last year, I managed to get my hands on two bottles of their Vintage Ale – their 2011 and 2012 respectively – and had mixed impressions. The first I sampled in Hull, Quebec last year when the wife and I attended the Taste of Winterlude Winter Beer and Wine show. The good people tending the McAuslan table were offering, among other things, samples of the last year’s vintage. At the time, I felt it was too coarse and had a gravity that was a little high for my taste. It was by no means poor or offensive, but it did seem to pale in comparison to their 2000 Millésimée.

A few months later, I purchased a bottle of their 2012 here in BC, and let it age for a few more months. When consumed, I noted that the malt profile was smoother than what I remember of the 2011, and allowed the full flavor profile of figs, raisins, and barley wine goodness to really come through. And once I spotted a bottle of the 2013 Millésimée at the same store (Cook Street Liquor), I grabbed it with the intention of seeing how it stacked up.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich aroma of sugars, raisins, dates, figs, and citrus hops
Taste: Very malty, immediate alcoholic bite, hints of sugar, molasses, fruit, and citrus
Aftertaste: Lingering alcoholic bitterness, citrus hops and coarse malts
Overall: 9/10

Not a bad vintage this year, McAuslan. Not bad at all! It’s a shame these are produced only once a year because I’m positive a year-round barley wine (or at least a seasonal that could be available for a few more months out of the year) would do very well for itself!

Pub Italia Visit 2013

pub_italia

In the past few weeks, I have been struggling to get over the flu so that I might be able to keep up with this season’s latest releases. At the same time, I find myself backlogged with beer reviews from my recent trip to Ottawa. Which is really not good considering that some of the best and most adventurous sampling I did this year has remained unmentioned. I choose to remedy that here and now by mentioning my most recent visit (it was the first time I’ve been back in years really) to Pub Italia.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Located in Ottawa’s Little Italy on Preston Street (aka. Corso Italia), this landmark is a combination Italian trattoria and Irish pub designed to look like the interior of a Monastery. This is in keeping with the Pub’s ethos, of how in the Middle Ages, Monasteries were the place where fine beer was crafted, while pubs and trattorias were the designated places for consuming them. In addition to their menu, which includes pub fair as well as Italian favorites, they also boast some thirty taps and a vast array (I’m talking vast!) of bottled beers from around the world. All of these are listen in their Beer Bible, a leather-bound tome the size of a first edition and almost as thick!

In the old days, Pub Italia was a place of Ciceronian education for me, and the one place that could give Vineyards a run for its money! Since we found ourselves in Little Italy this year for the better part of a day, I knew we had to stop in and sample the local wares. Here’s what the wife and I had to drink and what I had to say about it:

Dylan’s Killer Red:
churchkey_dylanskilleredBrewed by Ontario’s own Church Key Brewery, this Irish Red Ale is made especially for Pub Italia. It was my wife’s pint of choice, but of course I had to sample some for myself. And while it certainly was reminiscent of a good Irish Red, the beer’s flavor was both a little understated and a little too much for me. While the malt is rich and syrupy, providing a good mouthfeel, the flavor was a bit off. Ordinarily, an Irish red or any variation of this pale should remind one of baked bread or slightly burnt sugar, not raw dough. And the hop bite was quite absent, to the point that it had no real aftertaste to speak of. Not the best Irish Red I’ve tried to date, but not a lost effort either.

Appearance: Amber red, clear, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Thick, syrupy malt, reminiscent of uncooked dough
Taste: Light tang, hint of sweetness, viscous malt, spring water
Aftertaste: Very clean and somewhat watery
Overall: 7/10

Muskoka Mad Tom IPA:
muskoka_madtomipaWhat would an Ottawa trip be without an additional installment from the Muskoka Brewery? Though I’m sure I’ve enjoyed the Mad Tom before, a cursory glance at this blog of mine revealed that I failed to take any tasting notes. Hence, all previous samplings don’t count, and any other excuse I need to drink some more! In any case, a  tall pint of Mad Tom went quite well with our visit, as it is both immensely malty and hoppy, and dry-hopped with large quantities of Centennial and Chinook hops. The end result is rich in malt and heavily bitter, though perhaps a little too so. A little variation in hops, or perhaps some conventional in addition to the dry-hopping would have provided an added dimension to the flavor. Still, a very good IPA in my opinion.

Appearance: Golden amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich hop bouquet, floral, tropical, and citrusy
Taste: Semi-sweet, coarse malts, piney hop bitterness, grapefruit rind
Aftertaste: Lingering grapefruit bitterness
Overall: 8/10

Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale:
spearhead_hawaiianAnd last, but not least, was this experimental concoction from the Spearhead brewery. Located in Toronto, Ontario, Spearhead is the same brewery that produce the Moroccan brown ale which I sampled at the Manx this year and had nothing but good things to say about. Combining the tropical sweet flavor of pineapple with a pale ale foundation, the Hawaiian-style manages to combine an easy drinking experience with a citrus bite that comes from a respectable dose of dry hops. According to their website, this beer has won numerous awards on the national and international stage, due in no small part to their “ballsy” combinations.

Appearance: Golden, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Citrus hops, pale malt, tropical fruit and sugars
Taste: Immediate hop bitterness, mild pineapple sweetness, smooth malt
Aftertaste: Lingering hop bitterness
Overall: 8/10

And that was my visit to Pub Italia for this year. Next year, I shall be just as eager to go back, as I’ve missed out on the opportunity to visit this old, favorite haunt in recent years. A man cannot live on bottles and cans alone, after all, and if one haunt is being honored, the rest must be as well. So sayeth the beer snob code!

Mill Street Brewpub Visit 2013

Mill_ValleyIrishRedAs promised, another review of one of Ottawa’s premier eating and drinking establishments! Much like last year, the wife and I knew that we had to set aside time to visit the Mill Street Brewpub which opened up just a few years ago in the LeBreton area. And I was determined to try all this beers this year that were either unavailable or that I didn’t get a chance to last year. This included the latest seasonals, such as their Oktoberfest, pumpkin ale and Ambre de la Chaudiere. Paired with some delightful eats, we both had a pretty good evening and sampled our fair share. Arranged in order of tasting, here’s what I thought of them all:

Mill St. Oktoberfest:
Mill Street OktoberfestJust in time for the autumn, Mill St. has put their take on the traditional Marzen on tap, and I was sure to include a glass in my sample train. And consistent with this seasonal lager, it was nicely balanced in terms of malts and hops. The former were slightly darker, syrupy, and sweeter than your average lager; while the hop content was very much consistent with the usual grassy, and grainy quality common to a Marzen or Pilsner. It also had a noticeably creamy quality, and a relatively refreshing finish. It was admittedly a bit light for my taste, but was still very pleasing and went well with my wife’s plate of nachos and my Elk burger!


Appearance:
Golden amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Very light malt and hops, traces of nuts
Taste: Smooth, slightly creamy, semi-sweet malts, hint of nuts, mild hop bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering grainy malts and hops
Overall: 8/10

Ambre de la Chaudiere:
millstreet_ambreNow this beer was a bit of a surprise, a seasonal which I have never before seen at the Mill St. brewery or as part of their extended lineup. As a Bière de Garde, a style of strong farmhouse pale ale that comes from the Calais region of France, this beer is noted for being darker, stronger, and fermented a second time in the bottle. This beer happened to be my favorite of the evening, and of course came in a special glass! Boasting rich malts, good yeasts, and an oaky, semi-sweet taste, it was also rounded out by a nicely balanced profile that was strong without being overpowering.

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Yeasty, rich heavier malt, notes of spice
Taste: Smooth, semi-sweet malts, notes of oak and yeast
Aftertaste: Slightly coarse malt finish, light lingering yeasts
Overall: 9/10

Nightmare on Mill St. Pumpkin Ale:
MillStNightmareThis beer was a must have, which was why I ordered a pint of it on top of the glass of Ambre and the sample train I ordered. So much for sampling on the cheap! In any case, it was what one would expect from a pumpkin ale that comes brewed by a faithful craft brewery. This would include a dark amber hue, a nose that calls to mind pumpkin pie, and a malty, spicy flavor profile that is quite refreshing and appetizing. Again, it was a bit light for my taste, but nevertheless gets high marks for doing this seasonal variety of ale right. I was happy I was able to score some alongside their Ambre, making it a two-fer night for seasonals!

Appearance: Dark amber, clear, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Pumpkin pie, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rich malts
Taste: Immediate hint of sweetness and pumpkin, giving way to allspice
Aftertaste: Lingering spice and malty finish
Overall: 8/10

Pilsner:
millst_pilsnerNow this was the part where the sampling began to diminish for me. In the past, I had some bad experiences with Mill’s own Stock Ale and their Lemon Ice Tea, two beers which regrettably made it into their sample pack. However, I was undecided about the Pilsner, so I chose to include it in the sample train. And while perfectly inoffensive and somewhat charming, it also possessed some characteristics which I don’t feel belong in a Pilsner. These included the sweeter than normal malts, which came across as quite honey-like in terms of smell and flavor and overpowered the hops to a fair degree. On top of that, it did not finish clean and crisp as a Pilsner should. This one felt more like a blonde ale in my estimation, not a true lager.

Appearance: Golden amber, clear, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Sweet malts, mild honey and light hops
Taste: Mild tang and hop bitterness, touch of honey sweetness
Aftertaste: Lingering tang and grainy hops
Overall: 7.5/10

Organic Lager:
mill st organicLast, and strangely enough, least, was their Organic Lager, a beer which I had sampled in the past but could not recall. After taking my first sip, I remembered why. Alongside their Stock Ale, this beer is a perfectly forgettable, very light, and very oddly flavored lager. All throughout, one gets the impression they are drinking a light beer, as it is both lacking in color and is consistently underwhelming in terms of taste. What’s more, some interesting and odd fruit flavors come through as a result of the light malts and very light hops, such as traces of mild apple and melon. Not an offensive beer by any measure, but if the best you can say about a beer is that it’s inoffensive, something’s missing.

Appearance: Light gold, clear, good foam and carbonation
Nose: Mild Pilsner malts and grainy hop
Taste: Very mild malt, mild tang, light grassy hops, mild apple and melon
Aftertaste: Very light finish, no real aftertaste
Overall: 5.5/10

Well, that was Mill Street for 2013, every bit as adventurous and interesting as our 2012 visit. Coming up next, our visit to Pub Italia, and the other assorted beers I managed to sample while in town!