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…

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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!

Niagara Brewery

And I’m back with another installment in the “beers from the East” series. That’s what I’ve decided to call it, since calling it “Beers from Ottawa” would hardly be accurate. In truth, much of what I enjoyed when I lived there was from all over Southern Ontario, not to mention Quebec, the Maritimes, continental Europe and the US. However, whereas I still have access to most of those out-of-the-country varieties, I have next to no access to my old Ontario favorites.

Now where is the logic in that? How is it that I can walk over to my local BCL and buy any number of European brews, but a couple dozen of beers from a few provinces away are inaccessible? Sure, some would say its the convoluted issue of globalized brewery ownership that’s to blame, but believe it or not, old prohibition laws have way more to do with it. But that’s something for another post. Right now, I want to honor another of my old favorites.

So here she is: The Niagara Falls Brewery, located in Brampton Ontario! This beer has been around for several decades and made an impact on me on a few occasions. In addition to being a local favorite, it was also a purveyor of good, hoppy, and uniquely flavored beers.

Pale Ale: As Pale Ales go, Niagara’s is one of the cleaner one’s I’ve ever tasted. This is to say that it is less hoppy than you might expect, but also malty and slightly viscous, with a clean finish that is somewhat reminiscent of lager. Combined with a nice red-orange hue, it was one of the better taps that I enjoyed at my favorite pub in Ottawa (the Manx!). Can’t wait til I’m back on those velvet benches, drinking off those copper-skinned tables. I just hope this beer is still on tap! 4/5

Gritstone Premium Ale: The name kind of spoke to me once I had my first taste of this beer. With a name like Gritstone, you expect the beer to taste… I don’t know, gritty! And it does! In fact, much like their pale ale and strong, this beer has a tawny, almost sedimentary taste that makes you think of unfiltered/bottle fermented ale. Mildly hopped and also malty, its a highly enjoyable and quite unique experience, as ales go. 4/5

Olde Jack Strong Ale: An old favorite. This beer is dark, strong, highly malty, and with a toasty taste of tannins that lingers on the tongue. Toasty taste of tannins, try saying that three times fast! Also lightly hopped, this beer’s main strength comes from the rather unique flavor that makes one think of stone-ground bread and roasted barley soup, albeit with a smooth, stout-like quality. Definitely hope I can find this one again! 4.5/5

Millstone Lager: Admittedly, not one of my favorites. For some reason, many of my favorite breweries make lagers that just don’t seem to cut it with me. Perhaps its the fact that the lagers taste a little too malty and sweet to be thought of as true lagers, which in my opinion, must always be clean, sharp, and distinctly hoppy. Anything else, and you should have stuck to ale! Ah well, still a good beer, the Millstone is merely a bit light on the hops and sweet on the malts for my taste. Others may certainly enjoy though, as it is purely inoffensive and goes well with food! 3/5

Eisbock: This beer I discovered at the  same time as Creemore Urbock, and it went hand in hand with that beer in educated me on the subtleties and complexities of Bock beer. In conjunction with Bock beer, this number is produced during the winter months using select hops and barley and fermented at ice cold temperatures, resulting in a beer that is mildly syrupy, semi-sweet, quite strong, and just the slightest bit brackish tasting. This last aspect kind of bothered me, as it rendered the beer a little watery in the beginning, but sweet and syrupy in the end. You might say I thought this was a tad inconsistent. However, since this is a seasonal beer, my experience was limited to the earlier 2000 and something releases. Later vintages could and probably were entirely different. And overall, the Eisbock was a tasty and educational experience, and I’ve not hesitated to pick this one up an several occasions when I needed something festive for a party! 3.75/5

Naturally, there are only the beers that I can recall drinking. In total, Niagara Falls Brewery produced over a dozen brand names, some of which were ahead of their time. They included an Apple Ale, a Best Bitter, a Brown Maple Wheat, a Saaz Pilsner, a Scotch Ale, and a seasonal Weisse. However, it seems that in recent years they were forced scale back. In fact, upon writing this, I’m not even sure they are still in operation. What info I could find on them indicated that they were bought out by Moosehead some time ago, that their variety and standards seemed to have dropped, and at present, they don’t appear to have an operational website.

Could it be that the worse has happened? Could they have gone the way of Hart, first being bought out, then forced to purvey run of the mill beers, only to get axed anyway in the long run? Oh God, I hope not! But until I get to Ottawa and am able to ask/interrogate some people over at the local LCBO, I will know for sure! Niagara, if you’re out there, hang on a little longer! I have yet to re-sample thee and will be there soon!

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/