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…

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Two American IPAs

IPA_1This week, I managed to pick up an assortment of new beers, most of which are premiering at my local beer stores for the first time. And with few exceptions, just about all of them are from south of the border, coming to us from Washington state and Oregon. Given that these states happen to hold some of the greatest breweries in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even the world, they are certainly good company. Being new to me, they also had some rather stiff competition!

I started my sampling and reviewing with two IPAs, both of which are from Washington state. These were the Diamond Knot Brewery’s own IPA, and Skagit River’s Sculler IPA. The former comes from the craft brewing operation of the same name that owns two restaurants and a brewhouse in Mukilteo and on Camano Island, while the latter brewpub is located in Mount Vernon.

Diamond Knot India Pale Ale:
diamondknot_ipaAccording to the commercial description, this hop-forward IPA was designed with balance in mind, combing a solid malt base with good hoppiness. And for the most part, they accomplished this. But my initial tasting differed from what is advertised in some key respects. For example, the description also claims the beer possesses notes of grapefruit and cedar while the malt is characterized by caramel. While I certainly detected strong notes of grapefruit citrus on the nose and palate, the rest of the hops could only be described as lemony and grassy.

In addition, the malt was somewhat light in color, at least compared to what I’ve come to expect from an IPA. And though there was some caramel sweetness, it was largely coarse, perhaps due in part to presence of powerful hop flavors. Still, it was a pleasing beer and certainly not lacking in India Pale Ale characteristics.

Appearance: Light amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sweet malt, citrus, lemony, grassy hops
Taste: Immediate bitterness, coarse malts, mild caramel, notes of herbs and lemon
Aftertaste: Lingering bitterness and grassiness, citrus rind
Overall: 8/10

Skagit River Sculler IPA:
scullers_ipaAs the brewery describes it, this IPA is basically a “roasty, dry version of an old London style” ale, with of course a generous hopping to ensure it meets the single-greatest requirement of an IPA. And I could certainly sense this inspiration when I began sampling it, as I noted some interesting malts that are not usually present in a Pacific Northwestern IPA. Whereas these tend to have malts that are sweet and coarse, this beer possessed a more gentle and smooth malt profile which contained more of a toffee flavor, a mixed fruity nose, and some mild skunk. Naturally, the hops came through in full force, possessing some strong citrus and combining it with a hint of peach, which was a bit of a surprise.

Appearance: Dark amber, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mildly skunky malts, notes of citrus and orchard fruit
Taste: Syrupy malt, mild toffee-like sweetness and skunk, citrus hops and peach
Aftertaste: Strong lingering bitterness and coarse malt
Overall: 8.25/10

All in all, not bad showings from these south of the border brewers! Stay tuned for entries from American and Base Camp Brewing…