Not even the brewery that I visited this weekend. Quite to the contrary, in fact.
When I walked into the reception area of this nearly 26-year-old brewery with my two young daughters, I was met by a pretty, friendly woman named Alison. I explained that I was visiting from Ottawa and that I was hoping to try something new and special.
She politely told me that I needed to come back on Thursday, that the brewery would be releasing two one-off brews. Nothing else, besides their regular line and their seasonal, an orange ale, were available.
Crest-fallen, I told her that I was only in the area for the weekend and that I would be heading back to Ottawa on Sunday. I added that I ran a beer blog and was hoping to have something special to review.
"Give me a second," she said, and left the room.
I wandered the reception area, which also had two tables in the centre that were set up for tastings. Two pitchers with their seasonal were sitting atop; signs warned that it was not a self-serve area. I saw shelves of awards and a fridge that stocked all of their available beers.
When Alison returned, she had two large bottles and two aluminum cans with her. "You have to promise me that you won't say anything about these beers until Thursday," she cautioned me.
I promised. I told her that I would try the beer before Thursday and, if I liked it, I would write a review that would be posted on Thursday.
So here we are.
The brewery is Great Lakes: the one-offs, both pale ales.
Pompous Ass English Pale Ale (4.2% ABV)Appearance: Alison gave me cans that hadn't even been labelled. She had to show me a demo can, which I captured with my iPhone. At home, pouring it into my glass, a lightly filtered, deep gold ale provided a white, foamy head that eventually settled into a thin lace.
Great Lakes Brewery
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Nose: fresh grapefruit. Lots of grapefruit.
Palate: big hops, but not overpowering, were the first flavours to greet me. I also tasted citrus and a hint of honey (though, not sweet). This EPA is wonderfully balanced that has a nice, short finish that, despite the low alcohol content, leaves a bit of alcohol on the tongue.
Overall impression: this is a big EPA that doesn't overwhelm; rather, it pleases my senses. I don't find it pompous at all. In fact, if I had this in an English pub, it would be hard to drag me away. Now that I've had it, I want more.
The other beer that Alison gave me came in a 650-ml bottle, complete with label and information painted around it.
My Bitter Wife IPA (7% ABV)Appearance: also lightly filtered, it pours a brilliant amber-resin colour with a dense-foamed, light-beige head.
Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5
Nose: powerful citrus and a tinge of toffee.
Palate: orange rind, nuts, and hops culminate into a massive, clean, dry finish.
Overall impression: I am reminded of the huge-flavoured IPAs of Amsterdam Boneshaker and Muskoka's Twice-As-Mad Tom. This is not an ale for the feint-hearted. This is a heavyweight.
My only problem with these beers, as is often the case with the Toronto-area breweries, is that they probably won't make their way to the Ottawa marketand we're a thirsty bunch. I'm already out and am craving more.
What's a guy to do, Alison?
Given that Great Lakes is only releasing these ales today (April 18) at 4 PM, I suggest that those of you in the GTA get your hands on it, pronto.
And if you're coming to Ottawa, bring me some, won't you? Maybe you could deliver it in Great Lakes Brewery's set of wheels?