Thursday, January 24, 2013

That's Not Orange Juice

Ottawa has a new brew pub in town, and after giving them a chance to settle in, I paid them a visit.

The new pub is not a new brewery. Founded in 1986 in France, les 3 Brasseurs has expanded in Europe and has made its way to Québec and Ontario. It's newest location is at Bank and Sparks, in the 240 Sparks building.

My first experience with The 3 Brewers, as they are known to les anglophones, was last summer in Old Montreal. And, I have to admit, I left the brew pub less than satisfied. The beer was okay, the food was so-so, and the service was downright awful. I left the Rue St.Paul location thinking I would never try them again.

But here we are in Ottawa, and I decided to give them another chance. The location is great, with large, floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the pub, with some glass looking into the mall. The pub is spacious, clean, and takes up two floors. Copper kettles and fermentation tanks are in several locations and are exposed to the patrons. The main-floor bar, where I sat, is huge and offers 12 taps.

Although, when I was there, only six brews were available.

When I visited the Montreal brew pub, I tried only the brown. I remember it being good, but not extraordinary. It was on tap at the Ottawa pub, so I ordered the six samplers. I wanted to refresh my memory of the brown and compare it with the remaining five ales.

The sampler consisted of four regular beers: the Blond, Amber, White, and Brown. A beer of the month, a special brew for the new pub, a Wit-style ale aptly called 240 Sparks was the fifth offering, and the final beer was a seasonal called The Winter Warmer.

Each of the beers offered a unique taste to its style, but when it came down to it I found that I only liked one of the beers. Most of them rated a 2 on my scale. They weren't to my liking, but if you like that style you should try them out for yourself.

I didn't like the seasonal at all. The colour was a deep copper with hints of red. The nose was closed and offered little more than traces of wood. On first sip, I was immediately hit with the 9-percent alcohol, and then I detected what I could only describe as pine resin. The Winter Warmer finishes like medicine. My rating: 1.

But there was one ale that I truly enjoyed and even ordered a full pint, and then another half-pint.

The winner of the evening was the beer of the month, the 240 Sparks.

I enjoy unusual ales, and this one was definitely not your ordinary brew. With creamy orange, murky colour and a white head, you could look at my glass and believe I was drinking orange juice. Seriously. But this was not orange juice. The nose presented distinct notes of grapefruit and intense spruce. Grapefruit carried through in the mouth and blended with a good balance of hops and a nice, lingering finish. The alcohol (6% ABV) did not come through in the flavours, which makes me think that this would be a dangerous beverage on a hot summer day. It made me long for patio season (especially since I was there on a frigid winter's night).

My rating for 240 Sparks: 4 out of 5. I hope they bring this beer back, because January is almost over.

While I didn't eat during my stay, my friend ordered the fish and chips, which smelled great and was endorsed by my buddy. Another gentleman ordered a cheeseburger with crispy, fried onions, and it made my mouth drool. The unnamed eater gave it his thumbs up.

And apart from the manager, who was initially surly with me (I asked permission before I came behind the bar to photograph the taps!), the service was prompt and friendly.

So I will return to The 3 Brewers. Check them out for yourselves, and make sure you get some of the beer of the month before it's gone.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Morning, Sunshine!

This post is long-overdue.

I visited this Finger-Lakes brewery in October, drank this beer last week, and finally got around to writing this post on Sunday night.

And now you get it today.

But this beer was worth the wait.
Sunrise Coffee Stout
Cortland Brewing Company
Cortland, NY (U.S.A.)
6 fl. oz.; 6% ABV
Colour: deep walnut brown with a deep beige head.

Nose: intense coffee notes with a hint of cedar and tobacco.

Palate: rich, roasted coffee and toasted malts; a rich, lingering finish.

Additional notes: this is a great stout that tastes like an espresso. Made with locally roasted coffee beans, this ale is a great pick-me-up. My only wish is that I lived closer to Cortland. But at five hours, I'll be tempted to return.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Best Beer the Belgians Never Made

My hiatus is over. Time to catch up.

Over the Christmas holiday, I had the pleasure of trying a Belgian-style tripel from a Québec microbrewery. Until this year, I wasn't a fan of Belgian beers. This selection makes me change my mind.

Even though it isn't from Belgium.
Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus Extra Strong Beer
Microbrasserie Charlevoix
Baie-St-Paul, QC
Broue Ha Ha: $9.95, 750ml; 10% ABV
Colour: bright, clear, golden honey-amber; massive, foamy-white head

Nose: strong, ripe fruit, mostly pear with hints of pineapple.

Palate: honeydew, pear, cedar.

Finish: heady and long.

Overall impression: this is a beer for celebrations. It comes in a champagne-style bottle and the bubbles dance in the light. And at 10%, you don't want to drink this beer alone.

Being a seasonal, it may be gone, but I'd check anyway. Beer like this is meant to cherish.

My rating: 5/5.

Monday, January 7, 2013


If you follow this blog, you'll notice I haven't posted a review in a couple of weeks. This absence has been unintentional.

When performing a beer review, it is essential to have my nose and taste buds at their optimal level. I need to be able to describe exactly what I smell and taste in the beers I am exploring.

Sadly, this Christmas season has also brought me a nasty head cold. As a result, I can smell nothing, can only taste a little.

My reviews will resume when I feel better.