The Manx Pub, Ottawa

Welcome back and hope you’re enjoying my series on Ontario Beers and where to drink them when you find yourself in the nations capital. Today, I would like to pay homage to one of my most favorite pubs (in part because of their many, many taps). As the title line suggests, I am referring to The Manx Pub, located at the cozy intersection of Elgin Street and Frank, right next to that venerable institution, the Elgin Street Diner!

I was first introduced to this pub back in the early 2000’s. I was told in advance that it was good, that it was popular, and I immediately saw why. As soon as you walk in to this basement-level pub, you are hit with a warm, cozy feeling that is augmented by the decor. In addition, they also have artwork and photographs on the walls, showcasing the work of independent artists. I tell ya, it’s like a cross between an updated Tudor-era pub and a Bohemian artists wet dream!

But what I liked especially was the friendly atmosphere and the many taps they boasted. Not only that, but if you were a regular in the old days, they’d let you bring in a mug of your own, hang it behind the bar, and you serve you out of it whenever you came in. Mine was an Alexander Keith’s porcelain mug, and it hung there for a little over two years (since renovating, they had to discontinue this trend, but hopefully they’ll pick it up again soon).

In 2004, when I moved into an apartment just up the road, I made the Manx my go-to place for dinner and drinks. Many an evening I would spend their with friends, my writing note-book, or just a stack of papers that needed marking. Since moving to BC, I make it a point to go back there anytime I’m in town. My wife and friends became easy converts to the place, seduced by the atmosphere, food, and great beer!

The Great Beer:
Of their taps, the following names have typically enjoyed a home there.
McAuslan Brewery: the St. Amboise Pale Ale and Oatmeal Stout have had a home at the Manx for as long as I can remember. Good thing too!
Churchkey Brewery: Another popular customer at the Manx, particularly their Northumberland Ale. However, others seem to be making it into the lineup all the time.
Scotch-Irish Brewery: An old favorite that I keep returning to, and one the Manx has been known to rotate in every now and then.
Niagara Brewery: I can recall many occasions when Niagara was on tap, particularly the Gritstone or the Olde Jack.
Creemore Springs: the lager is available year-round and the Urbock is brought out during the winter season. Every winter, I’m sure to get on that!

The Food:
In addition to all that, I’ve found that they make the best burger in town! Competition on that front has been intense since our most recent visit, especially since the burger joint known as Hindengburger set up shop! Nevertheless, my feelings on this issue stand!

One can always find their daily burger creation listed on the specials board. Everyday there’s something new and creative, but the core principle always revolves around a burger with a hand-made patty of thick beef, a toasted kaiser, and the usual fresh fixings. Not to mention the potato-wedge fries with garlic aioli, which is frankly to die for! The most recent special (which we enjoyed during our visit) featured a Kim Chi twist (Korean pickled/spiced cabbage). I can also remember one incarnation from years back that involved Brie cheese. Others involved shaved beets, cucumber, white cheddar, back bacon… the list goes on!

Aside from that, their special board always includes a Naan pizza (always different), soup, pasta and a main dish which are often vegetarian, but which will sometimes feature steak, ribs, or duck. Portabello mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, and different types of cheese will usually make it into the mix as well. And their regular menu is definitely worth checking out as well. Since it keeps changing and I tend to visit only once every few years, I cannot attest to the contents with any real accuracy. But always the ingredients are fresh, the combinations creative, and the result well worth the price. Word around the campfire is that they do a fantastic brunch too!

The Atmosphere:
When one walks into the bar, one is immediately struck by the old-world feel of the place. Whether it is the dark wood tables, beams, and bar, the warm lighting, or the stucco walls, one can help but think they are in a Victorian or even Tudor-era pub (updated for the current century obviously). In addition to that, adding to the creature comfort factor, are the plush red velvet booths and couches and copper-skinned tables. Where else but on Elgin street could someone find such a place, I often wonder. Ecclectic and artistic, traditional yet trendy-modern. With friendly staff, great beer and good eats to accompany, its little wonder why the place is always packed.

This latter aspect is something that can be a bit uncomfortable about the place. It’s size and popularity lend themselves to a packed a tight mentality. What one person finds cozy, another might find claustrophobic. Live music is often featured, but again, space is not at a premium which means noise levels can get a bit oppressive too. In addition, the food can be pricey as well. Still, once you get your seat and have your meal, you’ll feel that your time and money were well spent!

My thanks to the Manx staff for having us back again this trip! To my fellow Beer Snobs, I say to you that if you find yourself in Ottawa and are looking for good taps and a quality establishment, get yourself a table at this here place. Come early or call ahead, as the place tends to fill up quickly during the dinner and drinking hours! Cheers and keep on tilting!

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Hoyne’s Brewing

You ever have this happen to you, where multiple sources tell you you have to try something? Well, that happened to me recently. Everywhere I turned, it seemed people were talking about Hoyne’s brewery, a start-up operation located right here in the heart of Victoria, BC. But of course, I did a little homework before sampling from this beer maker, and was pretty damn impressed with what I found!

For starters, the brew master of Hoyne apparently got his start with Swann’s own brewpub, an operation he started with Frank Appleton back in 1989, which he then took over when the venerable Appleton moved on. He then started the Canoe Club 1998, which he then ran for 13 years before moving on himself to establish Hoyne. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t make credentials better than that!

Okay, enough fawning. Here’s what I’ve sampled thus far, and it just happens to be half of their starting lineup:

Hoyne’s Big Bock: First impressions… great! In fact, I was reminded of Creemore Urbock, one of my all-time favorites. Smooth, malty, lightly hopped, and with a tawny taste that has nice subtle notes that just linger on the tongue. Faint notes of chocolate also give this beer a light trace of sweetness, which is absolutely essential when it comes to good bock! Congratulations, Hoyne! My first sampling and you smacked it out of the park! 5/5

Next up, always a personal favorite, their IPA!

Devil’s Dream IPA: I tasted this one just a few minutes ago, and immediately another comparison came to mind, to another one of my favorites no less! Strong, malty, but with a big hop kick that is strongly citrusy in terms of bouquet and taste, I was immediately reminded of Driftwood’s Fat Tug. This is no coincidence, as both are perfect examples of a true Northwest IPA, using hops and malts that are characteristic of this fine region. Another home run! 5/5

Now I just need to try their Down Easy Pale Ale and Hoyner Pilsner, and given the impression they’ve already made, I expect good things! My apologies to Hoyne for the comparative analysis, but the association was unavoidable. Rest assured that if I had tried yours first, I would be comparing their beers to you! Keep up the good work!

Creemore Springs!

In honor of my pending trip to Ottawa, I have decided to do a few reviews dedicated to some old favorites. In the course of my reviews, I’ve given a few shout-outs to faithful brand names. But as always, some got missed! And shout outs are hardly comprehensive. So I thought I’d dedicate to this first review to an old favorite, one which somehow got forgotten in the shuffle. So without further ado, I give you… Creemore Springs Brewery!

Creemore Premium Lager: A clean, crisp, amber lager that has a rich, malty profile, and a light hop bite that is reminiscent of Czech and Bavarian hops. Apparently, the local spring water also plays a part in giving its its rather unique flavor, which can best be describes as having a certain “minerality.” That’s a wine term I picked up while touring the Okanagan. Trust me, it’s legit! As I can attest from years of drinking this beverage, this beer is well paired with pasta and lighter fare, and is an excellent accompaniment to most desserts. It’s also just fine on its own, in cold weather or hot! 4/5

Creemore Urbock: Bock beer is a strong lager that comes to us from Germany of the 14th century. Being the beer of monks and aristocrats – the former looking for a more tasty, nutritious beverage, the latter looking for something fancy – this style of beer was brewed longer and using the choicest hops and barley. In addition, the name “Ur” designates this beer as the best of the batch, which means it was taken from the bottom of the barrel where the beer is richer, maltier, and more alcoholic. And on a personal note, this beer began my love affair with Bock beers! Years later, it remains my favorite bock, and one of the best beers I’ve ever had. Smooth, dark, matly, and tawny, this beer is a well-rounded winner with a light hop bite and a semi-sweet finish. 5/5

Waiting to try: Yes, Creemore has come up with some new varieties since I left town. Apparently, they now have four, including a Pilsner and a Kellerbier. I will be sure to try them just as soon as I can get my hands on some!

Link to the brewery website:
http://www.creemoresprings.com/