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

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


twitter: @broadheadbeer

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

1346 Queen St W
Toronto ON, M6K 1L4




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

ABV: 5%

Rating: 1.5 Steins

What you need to know

Brewery address
13730 Loyalist Parkway
Picton, ON
K0K 2T0




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 (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  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

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




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  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




Saturday, February 21, 2015

Beyond the Pale: Pretty little Porter

Ah Porter.  The less popular cousin (and ancestor) of stout.  A lot of breweries make various different flavoured porters that can very widely in consistency and flavour.  Some are good, some not so good, but how many are real representations of "traditional" porter?  And what is "traditional" porter anyways?  It's an interesting question that can cause debate, but I'm not here to discuss the semantics of what makes porter, I am here to talk about whether or not a beer is tasty, and fortunately I have one that is.

Porter is usually a lighter version of Stout, the history of the two styles are intertwined and Stout was originally a stronger variety of Porter.  Beyond the Pale's Pretty Little Porter is indeed lighter and smoother than their "Darkness" Oatmeal Stout.  It pours a proper dark brown, not quite pitch black, but a very dark brown.  The first taste is one of smoothness, not overly watery, but properly lighter than a stout.   The beginning of the sip brings out a really nice and slightly bitter coffee flavour, as the sip progresses you get a nutty and smooth middle before it fades off.  It has a really good early and mid sip balance with a surprising amount of flavour, the only downside is that it sorta fades off into a watery finish.  The bitterness of the early sip is nicely tempered by the smooth nutty middle, and the lightness of it will appeal to those who find stouts too thick and heavy.  The only warning is that at 6.1% it is stronger in alcohol than it tastes, so if you are driving be warned that it may catch up to you.  

It's available in growlers at their brewery, as it is a seasonal I can't guarantee that they have it on draught anywhere, but Beyond the Pale have beer available in a large number of bars and restaurants throughout Eastern Ontario so you may get lucky and find it on tap.  

Alc 6.1% IBU 25

Rating: 4.5 Steins

What you need to know

Brewery Address:
5 Hamilton Ave N
Ottawa, ON
K1Y 1B4


Twitter: @BTPBrewing


Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Microbrew times resurrected. Side Launch Pale Ale

After a long hiatus I have decided to return to writing beer reviews on the Microbrew times.  These are exciting times for craft beer (or beer in general) lovers so I hope to be able to bring you my views on some of the newer beers you can now find in Ontario or Quebec (or Both).  My first review is going to be Side Launch Pale Ale, an interesting brew that is somewhere between an American Pale Ale and a traditional English Pale Ale.

If you have never heard of Side Launch Brewing Company, don't worry, I hadn't heard of them either until I saw some of their beers at my local LCBO.  Naturally I had to pick up a couple of cans and I was glad I did.  They style it as a pale ale, but there isn't too much pale about it in terms of colour, as it pours a neat cloudy brown-ish hue.  A first sip brings out notable hop flavour, something that caught me off guard at first, but when you start drinking it a bit more you can easily get past it.  A sip starts with a sweet, almost caramelly taste that progresses into that hoppy middle.  The hops provide a nice floral bitterness that doesn't overwhelm but is definitely noticable, it then fades off into a citrussy finish that reminds you of it's American Pale Ale roots.  It's really nicely balanced and creative style mix.  I like the contrast between the sweet entry and bitter finish, a really good first offering from the Side Launch folks.  I look forward to trying more of their offerings as their first beer was a really winner.  One side note is that it is much better poured into a glass, the sweet caramelly opening doesn't come out well when drunk straight from the can

It's available at the LCBO as well as at their brewery in Collingwood, Ontario.

Alc 5.3 % IBU: 35

Rating: 4 Steins

What you need to know

200 Mountain Road, Unit 1
Collingwood, ON