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

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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

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!