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!

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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!