Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Publican House Brewery: Square Nail Pale Ale

It's always nice to try beers from different breweries, so when I saw Peterborough ON's Publican House Square Nail in the LCBO I decided to give it a try.  It is self styles as a West Coast Pale Ale, which is means that it should be a heavier, maltier pale ale than most.  Fortunately it hits that button in an interesting but slightly unfulfilling brew.

Square Nail pours a nice burnt orange colour, which is a good start, but the nose leaves a lot to be desired.  On the tongue you get a nice caramel taste, good maltiness that progresses into a citrussy middle with a relatively bitter finish.  Unfortunately all of these characteristics are only notes, they are very nice notes, but they are a part of a relatively bland melody.  Like a lot of complicated ales, this one struggles for balance, it has a lot of potential but I found that the overall flavour is thin and weak.  It's perfectly refreshing, but I had been hoping for more.  If ever there was a beer to remind you that the whole is more than the sum of its parts, this is it.

It's available at the LCBO in cans as well as at their brewery in Peterborough.

Alc 5.5% IBU 43

Rating 3 steins

What you need to know


Brewery address
300 Charlotte Street
Peterborough, Ontario
K9J 2V5



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Great Lakes Brewery Canuck Pale Ale

Pale Ale is such a widely used term that opening a can or bottle can be a bit of a gamble.  Am I going to get something akin to a lager, or something so hoppy it could be used as paint thinner.  A proper pale ale should be decently hoppy, but not over the top, somewhere in the 25-40 IBU range is perfect (for those who pay attention to such things).  Canuck Pale Ale does fall into that bitterness zone, but it leaves you wanting for more.

Usually when I review beers that come in a can or bottle I pour them into a glass but I decided to drink Canuck straight from the can, and when I say I decided not to use a glass I really mean I was too lazy to use a glass.  No matter, right from the can is perfectly acceptable for pale ale and my first sips were decently promising.  It opens with a nice hoppy tongue, punctuated with a bit of malt.  A proper pale ale will surf the malt wave before trailing off into a smooth finish.  Unfortunately Canuck needs to work on it's surfing techniques because it quickly falls of the wave into a watery abyss.  It's  a shame really because this has the potential to be a very nice beer, but it's just not balanced enough.  If the hoppiness was present throughout the beer then it would be excellent, or if the malt would stay longer it would be excellent too, but this just doesn't do it for me.

It's available in cans at the LCBO and Beer Store in Ontario as well as at their brewery in Etobicoke.

Alc. 5.2% IBU 35

Rating 2.5 Steins

What you need to know


30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd
Etobicoke, Ontario M8Z 1L8



Friday, June 12, 2015

Big Rig: Release the hounds, Black IPA

I love black ales, and I find that a lot of IPA's can be over-hoppy, so when Big Rig came out with a Black IPA I was intrigued.  Will this be bitter like an imperial stout, or will it be smoother like a black lager?  The answer is something in the middle that is a brilliantly balanced brew.  I have to admit that this is not the first time I have had Big Rig's Black IPA, the first time I had it was at their brewpub about a years ago when it was a seasonal and I thought it was excellent so I tweeted to them saying it should become a regular beer, and it has since become a regular on their menu.  I am not going to claim responsibility for the decision, but in my (occasionally delusional) mind I think I had a part to play. 

It pours almost black, more of an extremely dark brown with a decently creamy head.  The first sip produces a delightfully malty flavour, something akin to a light stout such as Guinness, but the texture feels definitely like an IPA.  This nutty/malty intro fades into a hoppy (but not too hoppy) middle, followed by a nice smooth finish.  This hoppiness is as hoppy as a proper IPA should be, which is to say that the hops are perfectly noticeable but they are but one piece of the overall puzzle, as opposed to overwhelming the beer the way some IPA's do.  I really like this beer, it is well balanced, flavourful, and perfectly drinkable for a 6.2% dark beer.  Big Rig have a large range of beers, but their Black IPA is a real winner, probably my favourite of their range.

It's available at their 3 brewpubs in Ottawa on draught and in growlers to take home.  It's also sold at the LCBO in cans.

Rating: 4.5 steins

What you need to know

2750 Iris Street (Near Ikea)
Ottawa, ON

103 Schneider Road (Kanata)
Ottawa, ON

115-1980 Ogilvie Road (Gloucester Centre)
Ottawa, ON




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Friday, May 1, 2015

Beau's Mission Accomplished

As many of my loyal readers may know, I have a tendency to be skeptical about IPA's.  It's not that I don't like IPA, it's just that some breweries have a habit of getting into a hops arms race that ends up overshadowing the actual flavour of the beer.  Fortunately Beau's have managed to keep their hop instincts from going into overdrive, producing a really interesting and flavourful brew.

It pours a nice orange colour, darker than straw coloured but not not the colour of a dark beer. One interesting thing to note about it is the amount of sediment, when you look at it through a glass you can see some dust floating around.  You get a good hop flavour on the nose, not over powering but an interesting almost light and sweet smell.  The flavour is interesting as well, it starts with that sweet and bitter hop combo, sorta fruity but not that intense grapefruit flavour that some IPA's have.  After that hop intro it settles down a lot into a smooth, slightly malty brew.  The malty and bready middle then trails off into a slightly watery and disappointing finish.  This is an IPA that has a lot of potential, I quite like it, although I have had better IPA's.  Beau's did a good job at keeping the hops under control and creating something that doesn't taste like most IPA's.  One thing to note is that if you are a bit skeptical about having a lot of sediment in your beer, you are best to drink it out of the bottle as opposed to pouring it into a glass, but if you are like me and don't mind having extra pulp in your beer then a glass is the way to go for sure.

It's available at their brewery or occasionally at the LCBO.   Unfortuantely it is a seasonal beer, and umm, that season has passed so sorry about that.  I was given a bottle for helping the good folks at brewdonkey proofread the French version of their website, but if you see it, and like interesting IPA's then I highly recommend this beer.

Alc 6.7 % IBU's 65
Rating: 3.75 Steins.  Oh and BTW I am now awarding quarter steins, because I can. 

What you need to know


Brewery address
10 Terry Fox Dr.
Vankleek Hill, ON



Saturday, April 25, 2015

King Brewery Dark Lager

I love dark lager.  A good schwarzbier is a nice alternative to a traditional blonde lager on a sunny day so I tend to be optimistic when I get my hand on one and King Brewery have a reputation for making good beer, so on paper this has the makings of being a very promising brew.  Unfortunately beer isn't brewed on paper so this didn't exactly live up to expectations, but is still a decently tasty beverage.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad beer, it just isn't all that great either.  The intro is nice and malty, but it has a really odd sour taste.  I am not sure what to make of it, and it is hard to describe but it is definitely interesting.  This sour taste is followed by a clean and smooth finish, slightly watery but perfectly drinkable. King Brewery Dark is definitely different from most black lagers which tend to be heavier, in fact this is actually quite light for a dark beer (which seems like a weird thing to say).  It is definitely not the worst black lager I have ever had, but it isn't the best either.  The weird malty flavour will probably be a bit off-putting to some, but I think it adds an interesting aspect to the beer that most other black lagers don't offer.  I am definitely willing to give it another try, some beers need multiple samplings in order to fully appreciate them, and this is one of them.

It's available at the LCBO, the Beer Store, and at their brewery in Nobleton, ON.  I had it in a bottle, but their website says it is on draught in some parts of Ontario.

Alc 4.7% Rating: 3 Steins

What you need to know

5645 King Road
Nobleton, Ontario
L0G 1N0




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




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