Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bicycle Craft Brewery, Belle River Blonde

A lot of craft brewers struggle with lighter and paler ales. They are a lot more complicated to make than you would expect, especially compared to IPA's where the general solution is to throw hops at any problems.  Unfortunately to make a good, drinkable lager or pale ale you need to be a bit more creative.  Some succeed, some fall flat on their faces, some end up somewhere in between, and that's where Belle River Blonde comes in. 

I will admit that my first glass of Belle River blonde did not impress me, but that was after having had a glass of Nita's much maltier and hoppier OPA, so Belle River sorta fell flat to me.  I really needed to step back, and have this as a standalone beer, instead of following something stronger.  Belle River is not complicated, nor does it pretend to be, bit it is refreshing.   The nose is actually quite pungent, almost sour with a noticeable hop aroma, but when you actually take a drink it is not hoppy whatsoever.  The pour is quite cloudy, so you would expect it to be a bit wheaty, but it isn't, it is just simple and refreshing with a slight hop finish.  Personally I like it, it's what you want after a hard day of work, not complicated, not too strong, just pure beer.  I imagine it would be great in the summer in front of the barbecue, but even in the winter it really goes down smooth, and at 4.7% it's nice and sessionable as well.  Fans of more complicated beers might complain that this is a bit bland, which it can be, but that's not the point of this beer, the point is to be a refreshing, clean beer to be enjoyed after a hard day of work.  It's simplicity will prevent me from giving top marks, but this would be a great beer to introduce to people who don't drink craft beer, it's not easy to win over the Coors Light crowd, but this could be a good stepping stone. 

It's available in Growlers at their brewery and you can order it online at brewdonkey.ca.  You can also get it on tap at various pubs and restaurants in Ottawa, a list is available on their website.

Alc: 4.7% IBU 22

Rating: 3.5 Steins

What you need to know

Brewery and tap room
850 Industrial Ave, unit 12
Ottawa, ON
K1G 4K2

Website:
http://www.bicyclecraftbrewery.ca/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/bicyclecraftbrewery

Twitter
@Bicyclebrewery 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ontario Beer Company 100 Mile Lager

Local, a word that you often see in connection to Craft beer, but just how local is your beer?  It may be made down the street, but where did those ingredients come from?  If your hops were grown in Germany, and the barley grown in Saskatchewan then it is not really that local, at least according to the Ontario Brewing Company who make beer comprising only ingredients grown in Ontario.  Despite the fact that the ingredients aren't grown within 100 miles of the brewery in Toronto, is still a novel idea so I was very intrigued by the concept. 

Lager can be a tricky business because the flavours are so subtle it is very hard to make something unique, and unfortunately 100 mile lager misses the mark somewhat.  The first thing you note is that it is quite sweet, and a bit wheaty on the tongue, almost pilsner-esque.  Unfortunately that's where it goes a bit downhill because the middle and finish are pretty watery, with a slight bitter and hoppy note.  It's not that it is unpleasant, just watery and a bit bland with some balance issues.  I can definitely see the potential here but what I tried was a bit of a letdown.

It's available at the LCBO, and on tap in Toronto, including at the Duggans Brewery, who are one of the collaborators in this company

Rating: 2.5 Steins

What you need to know

Website
http://www.ontariobeercompany.com/

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ontario-Beer-Company/205451729636616

Twitter
@Ontariobeerco

Friday, March 20, 2015

Broadhead: Grindstone Amber Ale

I have always struggled with Broadhead beer.  The guys are proper beer guys, I have chatted with them at beer fests and they are really fun and enthusiastic about what they do, but their beer has tended to be a letdown.  In my experience they have had issues with the beer being watery and generally bland, but I was willing to give them another shot with Grindstone Amber, a beer style I am quite fond of, unfortunately this one still struggles to bring much flavour to the table.

The first sign of trouble is the pour, the side of the can tells you it has a rich amber colour, but the reality of the situation is that the colour is more of a light gold, closer to what you would expect from a Pale Ale or a Vienna lager.  I am not one to judge a book by it's cover or a beer by it's colour so I pressed on to nose, which didn't provide a whole lot to go on either.   At tasting time, the can told me it should be balanced with a bitter-sweet finish and caramel overtones, unfortunately that didn't really happen either.   I got the bittersweet finish, but the caramel overtones were nowhere to be found.  What I did find was a wimpy and watery amber that leaves you wanting for more.  The sip intro provides a bit of a malty flavour but then things just fall off a cliff, I was hoping to get that caramel flavour but what I got was pretty much nothing, very watering with little to no flavour, quite a disappointment.  It sorta picks up on the finish with a slight bittersweet finish, but this beer needs work.  It's a shame because they broadhead guys are really funny and down to earth, but their amber leaves a lot to be desired.  It goes down smooth but fans of Amber ales will be left wanting for more.

It's available at their brewery, at the LCBO as well as on tap throughout Eastern Ontario.

Rating: 2 steins

What you need to know

Brewery
81 Auriga Drive, Unit 13
Ottawa, ON, K2E 7X7

Website
http://broadheadbeer.com/

twitter: @broadheadbeer

Facebook
Facebook page

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Duggan's No. 9 IPA

Mike Duggan is a perfect embodiment of the spirit of adventure and bravery that appeals to craft beer fans.  A veteran of the industry he has founded 3 breweries Mill Street and Duggan's Brewery (twice!).   His self titled Duggan's brewery is a story in itself, after leaving Mill St, Duggan opened his own brewpub in a cavernous old building on Church street in downtown Toronto, where I first tried No. 9 and chatted with Duggan.  Unfortunately the first brewpub didn't work out and it closed in 2011.  Undeterred, Duggan borrowed brewery space to keep making No 9 until he re-opened Duggan's brewery on Queen Street west, in the Parkdale neighbourhood where he has had more success.   When I tried No. 9 in 2010 on Victoria street I really liked it, so when I was in my local LCBO I decided to pick a couple up to see if it is still as good as I remember it, fortunately it is!

Number 9 pours a nice amber colour, and it has a nice hoppy nose to it so the start is promising. From there it smooths out into a malty smooth middle that is almost creamy in feel.  This middle is not complicated, but it goes down easy and avoids a lot of the wateriness that some less finely tuned IPA's can suffer from, unfortunately I still found that middle to be a bit bland, but it is not too bad.  The finish brings back the hop bouquet quite nicely, although it may be a bit grapefruity for some.  It's not perfect, but I like it, the sip is a journey, much more than most beers are, so you sorta get the malt and the hops in different stages.  Duggan does a good job of keeping the hops under control but still adding the strength and depth that appeals to IPA fans.  It may not be a mass-market IPA but this should appeal to most IPA fans apart from the Uber-hop afficianados.   The slightly bland middle does let it down a bit, but this is still a tasty brew and one I will be happy to try again.

It's available across Ontario in the LCBO as well as at their Queen St. West brewpub and on tap at a variety of bars and restaurants in Ontario

Rating. 3.5 steins

Alc 6.2%

What you need to know

Brewpub
1346 Queen St W
Toronto ON, M6K 1L4

Website
http://www.duggansbreweryparkdale.com/

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/duggansbrewery

Twitter
@Duggansbrewery

Friday, March 6, 2015

Barley Days: Wind & Sail Dark Ale

Barley Days are one of the more succesful Ontario craft breweries.  Based in Prince Edward County near Kingston, they make  a very popular, and pretty decent, harvest gold ale that you can get at the LCBO.  When I noticed they had a dark brown ale I was looking forward to giving it a try.  Although I had some reservations about the Harvest gold, I love brown ale, particularly English style brown ales so I was looking forward to giving this one a go, unfortunately I'll need to keep looking.

Everything about this was unfortunately a bit of a letdown.  I took my first sniff and didn't get a whole lot of flavour in the nose but I still had high hopes for the middle and finish.  It intros quite bland, not a whole lot of flavour, but the middle improves to a decent nutty and hoppy flavour, the only redeeming quality.  Unfortuantely that hoppiness gets mixed with a bland, watery finish that produces a bitter, almost sour aftertaste.  The potential is there, but the balance is all wrong, if you are a fan of brown ales I would suggest looking elsewhere, this one just doesn't cut it in my books.

It's available year round at the LCBO as well as on brewdonkey.ca

ABV: 5%

Rating: 1.5 Steins

What you need to know

Brewery address
13730 Loyalist Parkway
Picton, ON
K0K 2T0

Website:
www.barleydaysbrewery.com/

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/barleydaysbrewery

Twitter:
@barleydaysbrews
 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nita Beer Company OPA

Nita craft beer is one of Ottawa's newest breweries, and it held the title of the newest in town for about a month in Feb 2015 before Waller Street opened their doors.  Thanks to the good folks at brewdonkey.ca (the best donkey ever!) I managed to get myself a growler of their OPA Pale Ale.  Contrary to what I thought, OPA does not actually stand for a new beer style, it actually refers to the Greek work OPA! Which according to their website is a word to celebrate life itself. 

OPA is an interesting ale.  It's not really an IPA, but is too hoppy to be traditional pale ale, so what is it?  Well, I am not sure they really know, but it is very tasty.  The hop flavour is front loaded, so the palate is quite hoppy and a bit floral, once that is out of the way it progresses into a nice malty middle that trails off into a smooth finish.   You smell the hops immediately but the front-loadedness of the hops actually makes it a better beer as you aren't getting any surprise hop kicks to the face. It actually is less intense than a lot of other 70 IBU beers.  The maltiness sets it apart from most IPA's because it adds a sweet and smooth character that a lot of other beers seem to miss out on, I really like what they have done here, and I look forward to trying more Nita Beers

It's available at their brewery on Colonnade road as well as for delivery via brewdonkey.ca.  I highly recommend this beer, and I wish the folks at Nita all the success in the world because one of their first beers is a winner

Alc 6% IBU 70

Rating 4 Stein

What you need to know

Brewery
190 Colonnade Rd, Unit 17
Ottawa, ON
K2E 7J5

Website
nitabeer.com

facebook
https://www.facebook.com/NitaBeerCompany

Twitter
@nitabeerco


Friday, February 27, 2015

Bicycle Craft Brewery: Velocipede IPA

IPA has really become a style associated with craft beer.  There are a lot of different sub types of IPA, from Rye IPA, to wheat IPA, to dark IPA, however one constant is that pretty much all craft breweries make at least one of them.  Bicycle, yet another new member of the Ottawa craft brewery club makes Velocipede IPA, a beer named after the original name for a bicycle and it is indeed an IPA.

The problem with IPA is that as more and more craft breweries keep making them, they become as common and often as generic as the blonde lager that craft beer sought to replace, so I am naturally a little bit wary of any new IPA.  Regardless of any wariness, I decided to give Bicycle's Velocipede a try.  It pours a cloudy brownish blonde colour, as most IPA's do, and it carries a stronger alcohol content than your standard beer, as most IPA's do.  Everything was shaping up to be a generic IPA, which it ended up being.  It's not that Velocipede is a bad beer, it starts with a slightly sweet and malty tone and finishes with a roundhouse kick of hops to your face.  Fortunately it's more of a Steve Urkel roundhouse kick than a Chuck Norris kick so it doesn't hurt too bad, but it still upsets the balance somewhat.  The bicycle website proclaims that velocipede has floral and citrus notes, but I didn't really notice either of those things, I mostly tasted hops.  I guess I am a bit jaded about IPA, but I didn't notice anything special about this particular one. If you like IPA, then I am sure you will enjoy this one, but if you are wary about the style then don't bother. 

It's available in Growlers at their brewery and you can order it online at brewdonkey.ca.  You can also get it on tap at various pubs and restaurants in Ottawa, a list is available on their website

Alc. 6.0% IBU 70

Rating 3 Steins

What you need to know

Brewery and tap room
850 Industrial Ave, unit 12
Ottawa, ON
K1G 4K2

Website:
http://www.bicyclecraftbrewery.ca/

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/bicyclecraftbrewery

Twitter
@Bicyclebrewery