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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More Beer!

In this last installment of my series dedicated to my hometown, I would like to address some of the miscellaneous beers I enjoyed during my most recent trip. They were several, and diverse, so no single brewery could be cited for exclusive praise. However, I shall do my best to give credit where credit is due. Here goes:

Barn Dog Ale: This beer is nominally known as Nickelbrook Draft, but which is made specially for Woody’s Bar and Grill on Elgin Street. This beer is naturally golden, has light malts and a light hop bite, this beer is unassuming, unpretentious, and a generally refreshing brew. Not the most complex or palatable beer I’ve ever had, but well-suited to easy drinking and well paired with pub grub. 3.5/5

Beaver River IPeh?: An interesting take on the traditional IPA’s, combing both British and American styles. Based in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, this brewery is a relatively new operation, and during my trip, I saw there beers just about everywhere I looked. However, once i cracked a bottle and got down to sampling it, I was somewhat unimpressed. IPA’s are renowned for being hoppy and bitter, but generally manage to balance that with citrus and floral notes. Unfortunately, this beer is heavy on the former, light on the latter. However, it does possess some dark, tawny malts that add to the aftertaste, which is just unfortunately a little too bitter for my liking. 3.5/5

Churchkey WCPA: Generally, I have nothing but nice things to say about Church Key brewery. However, this particular attempt at a West Coast Pale Ale was a bit of a misfire for me. Much like the IPeh? it was too bitter and not provide any balance to its strong hop bite. Although it too had some smooth malts, they did not balance the hops, which were too powerful and too bitter, and combined with a very light aftertaste, made for an experience which was kind of over and underwhelming at the same time. Oh well, can’t knock em all out of the park, can ya? 3/5

Kichessipi 1855: Located right in Ottawa, this brewery is a relatively new addition to the capitol’s beer scene. Naturally, I was sure to sample all that they had on tap before leaving, and was lucky in that there are only two for the time being. Of them, this beer was the lesser for me. Though it too had good malts, it was a bit underwhelming when it came to hop flavor and complexity. In short, it had a bitter start, a watery finish, and some maltiness to speak of but not enough to satisfy yours truly. 3.75/5

Kichessipi Blonde: As already noted, the better of the brewery’s two signature creations! Once again, we have a beer that boasts nice, smooth malts, a nice dry-hop bite that is reminiscent of Pilsner, and a certain minerality that is reminiscent of Creemore’s own Lager. I suspect that this is due to the use of natural spring water to make this beer, which I highly approve of! I will be looking for it and any additional Kichessipi products during my next visit. 4/5

Muskoka Dark Ale: A newer installment in Muskoka’s lineup, and comparable to everything else I used to enjoy by them. Much like Neustadt’s own 10w30, which I tried a few nights prior, this is an English-style brown ale. And like a good brown, it is smooth, dark, and tawny with discernible notes of chocolate and caramel amongst the malts. A delicious dinner or desert beer, well paired with meat, chocolate, or creme caramel. 4.5/5

Trafalgar ESB: From Oakville, nestled in the nook of Lake Ontario, Trafalgar Ales and Meads is a brewery that keeps popping up on my radar. Years back, I was regaled by their tallboys of Irish Ale. Crisp, clean, and slightly tawny, it was one of those beers that just goes great with spicy food or on its own after a tough workout! During my most recent visit, I was lucky enough to spot the newest addition to their lineup, the Trafalgar Extra Special Bitter. I can honestly say without exaggeration that it is one of the better bitters I have ever had. Like a good bitter, it is light in color and taste, but possess a smooth, tawny taste and dry hop bite that provide complexity. Good job Trafalgar! Can’t wait to try your meads! 4.5/5

Trafalgar Irish Ale: Now this one was a little less impressive, but still good as beers go. Typically, Irish Ales are smooth, creamy, and have a little bit of a bitter bite in addition to their tawny malts. However, this particular Trafalgar beer was particularly bitter to taste, with dark malts that contain coffee notes, and a rather underwhelming finish that was just the slightest bit watery. 3.5/5

Well, that was Ottawa! I still have more Ontario breweries to cover and compliment, but those are amongst my all-time favorites and fell outside of my sampling repertoire this trip. I look forward to our next trip, seeing our friends and sampling more beers. Preferably at the same time!