Thursday, November 28, 2013

Late Harvest Ale

Though the snow has fallen in Ottawa, it's still officially autumn. And though the harvest is in, we're still reaping the benefits of that harvest.

In ale.
Autumn Hop Harvest Ale (5.6% ABV)
Amsterdam Brewing Company
Toronto ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: a pale amber with a creamy, off-white head that settles to a thin cap.

Nose: tangerine, pink grapefruit, and hops.

Palate: bitter orange rind and grapefruit, with significant hops that give lots of flavour but do not overpower the other flavours in the beer. There's a lovely, full finish.

Overall impression: this is a great ale to quaff on a cold day. I rewarded myself with a pint of Autumn Hop after shovelling my driveway for the second time, after the snowplow came through my street. It is flavourful from start to finish and is perfectly balanced.

I enjoy the beers that Amsterdam Brewery produces. I've had their Boneshaker IPA many times, though I've never reviewed it. I first enjoyed the Autumn Hop a few weeks ago, when I hosted a tweetup at D'Arcy McGee's, on Sparks Street. I enjoyed it so much that I was hoping to find more of it to review.

If you live in Ottawa, a pub like D'Arcy's is a good place to enjoy a pint of this harvest ale. Otherwise, you can still find it in the LCBO.

Go ahead: enjoy a late harvest.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Calling It Like It Is

In a world where very little is as it seems, it's nice to discover a beer that delivers on its name.
Banana Bread Beer (5.2% ABV)
Wells & Young's Brewing Company
Bedford UK
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: a clear amber-orange with an off-white, creamy head that comes to a full, lingering cap.

Nose: bananas, yeast, cinnamon, and a hint of clove.

Palate: ripe bananas and moist spice cake.

Overall impression: as per its name, this beer delivers exactly as advertised. This is liquid banana bread. This beer has good body, full flavour, and a good, solid finish.

I gave it a rating of 4 because the beer delivered. It claimed to taste like banana bread and it did.

While it's a good beer, I feel it's a novelty item. I enjoyed drinking it and would happily do so again, but it's not something I would drink on a regular basis. It more of a rare treat.

After all, who wants to eat banana bread every day?


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Collaborative Effort

One of the consequences of reviewing beer at home is that I don't have anyone with which I can share the experiences. My wife doesn't mind beer but she's not a lover like I am, and while she will sometimes partake of the beer I'm reviewing, she will take hours to finish a glass of beer, if she finishes it at all.

She prefers wine (we took the sommelier course together at Algonquin College).

This weekend, however, I found a sampler pack that the two of us could share and enjoy, and Lori actually helped perform reviews. You see, as much as she would rather review wine, she enjoys cider. And, for the holidays, one brewery produced a pack of both beer and cider.

Waterloo Brewing Company (aka Brick Brewing), which is a partner of Seagram, has released a holiday pack that includes three cans of beer and three ciders: something for everyone.

Because Lori doesn't drink beer, she was unfamiliar with my format for reviewing. I told her to review the cider the same way she used to review wine, and all would be well. I explained how the rating system worked (you can see it in the right-hand column) and to give it a point rating based on how she felt about the beer overall.

Over the course of the weekend, we each drank our beverages and made our notes. I then compiled them and here they are for you.
Waterloo Authentic Amber (6.8% ABV)
Waterloo Brewing Company
Kitchener ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 3
Appearance: pours a clear, rich, reddish amber with a foamy beige head that lingers.

Nose: grassy malt and light, citrus hops.

Palate: caramel and malt, with light coffee. The alcohol comes out in the finish but is nicely balanced.

Overall impression: this is a good lager, overall. Good body and flavourful, and not filling. A general, easy-drinking beer.
Seagram Amber Cider (5.3% ABV)
Waterloo Distillery
Kitchener ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5
Appearance: amber—the colour of maple syrup. Slightly sparkling.

Nose: caramel notes and sweet cider.

Palate: the nose presented itself in the taste, with sweet caramel notes. The alcohol comes through.

Overall impression: tasty if you like sweet cider (Lori does not).

Waterloo Original Dark (5% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5
Appearance: dark brown with red highlights. A sudsy taupe head that settles to a thin but foamy cap.

Nose: cocoa and licorice.

Palate: a sourness hits the mouth, with mild coffee and a watery but clean finish.

Overall impression: I used to drink this brown ale whenever I was in a pub that didn't offer Guinness. It's a light, good alternative.

Now that I'm reviewing it critically, I would drink it in a pub when no other darks are on hand. It's good but leaves me craving something more fulfilling.

Seagram Apple Cider (5.3% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 3
Appearance: pale straw.

Nose: light apple, slightly sweet.

Palate: light, slightly off-dry.

Overall impression: an enjoyable cider.

Waterloo Union Mills Porter (7% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: deep walnut with slightly red highlights. A creamy taupe head that stays.

Nose: dark chocolate and rich, dark-roasted coffee.

Palate: creamy chocolate and malt, with an easy finish. The alcohol does not overpower at all.

Overall impression: I could drink this porter all day. It has good body throughout. I hope it's available on its own, because I would easily keep this at home.

Seagram Pear Cider (5.3% ABV)
Beer O'Clock rating: 2
Appearance: golden yellow.

Nose: sweet pear.

Palate: sweet pear.

Overall impression: it has a lovely pear flavour but is too sweet.

So, there is my first review collaboration with Lori, on a sampler pack that is a cider-beer collaboration. While Lori is short on words, she does know what she likes in cider. If it's not dry, she's not particularly interested. But she says anyone with a hankering for sweet cooler-like beverages, these ciders would be worth a try.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Not Green Tom Beer

I've never really cared for Tom Green.

Of the few times that I saw him on TV, I never once laughed. I thought his comedy to be more along the lines of obnoxious behaviour rather than humourous antics.

So, when I heard that the Ottawa native had collaborated with Beau's to create a beer, I was initially dismissive. That is, until I heard that the beer was a milk stout.

I love milk stouts.

And, because I have a fondness for the weird one-offs of this Vankleek Hill brewery, I knew I had to give it a try. To give Tom Green a fair shake.
The Tom Green Beer! (5% ABV)
Beau's All Natural Brewing Company
Vankleek Hill ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: dark walnut with a deep beige head that vanishes within a minute of being poured.

Nose: chocolate, coffee, and a slight hint of cedar.

Palate: semi-sweet chocolate, medium-roast coffee, and a mild finish.

Overall impression: this is a great milk stout with a good balance of chocolate and coffee. The body is light, which makes this stout extremely easy to drink.

As a milk stout, however, I would have liked to have experienced more body and robustness: possibly, a higher alcohol content may have helped. If you are familiar with the milk stout that is produced by Charlevoix (La Vache Folle), you'll know what I mean.

Beau's never ceases to surprise me with how they are willing to go out on a limb to produce some ales that are out of the ordinary. Bringing Tom Green into the mix raised my opinion of our local comedian: I now take him a little more seriously (I don't know how that helps his comedy, but for me there's nothing funny about beer).

It was good to see Tom promote the beer and give a shout out to Beau's last week on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Stock up on this great beer while you can.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

I'm a Weizen Guy

When the weather starts to cool, as fall is in full swing, the last thing I want to drink is a light beer, like a wheat ale or saison. At this time of year, I prefer something full-bodied.

Mill Street has released an autumn sampler, which includes some of my favourite of their beers: Tankhouse Ale, Cobblestone Stout, and Vanilla Porter. It also includes an old English-styled ale, Distillery, and one of their oldest brews, the Organic Lager.

But one beer that comes in the six pack, a beer that I truly wish came in a six pack of its own, is a wonderful German-styled bock that is perfect for the season.
Weizenbock (7.5% ABV)
Mill Street Brewery
Toronto ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: an unfiltered, murky toffee with a taupe head that settles almost immediately to a fine lace.

Nose: malt, yeast, and a distinct banana-walnut bread.

Palate: bananas, raisins, and burnt caramel, that come to a finish that leaves you feeling warm all over.

Overall impression: I love this beer. There is lots of body, lots of flavour, and is well-balanced. It drinks very well on its own or with a meal: the first time I tried this bock was at the last Brewmaster's Dinner at Mill Street, and it was perfectly paired with a roasted leg of lamb. But I've also enjoyed it with a beef burger too.

You can find Weizenbock in the latest Seasonal Sampler, available at the LCBO, or you can also get it on tap at the Mill Street Brew Pubs in Ottawa and Toronto. It's also available at select pubs that specialize in craft beers. Check your local watering hole: if it doesn't have it on tap, you're not going to the right places.

I find that the draft version of Weizenbock to be a bit creamier, and rate it at 4.5. But either on tap or in a bottle, it's a beer that's not to be missed.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Great Expectations

For some reason, I started thinking of Charles Dickens when I sat down to write this review.

I thought of Oliver Twist, with the famous "Please, sir, I want more," line, which then led to another of his works for the title of my post.

That's how this beer left me.

I had great expectations for this beer. In September, I tried a seasonal selection from this brewery that blew me away. There were intense flavours that left me wanting more. So, when the next seasonal for this brewery hit the shelves of the LCBO, I was excited about trying it.

I had great expectations.
Resurrection Roggenbier (5.2% ABV)
Cameron's Brewing Company
Oakville ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5
Appearance: a murky caramel with a foamy, taupe head.

Nose: oaked malt, raisins, and toffee.

Palate: yeast, butter, malt, and light toffee, which culminate and then drop off into a watery finish.

Overall impression: I was really hoping for lots of flavour. This is a rye-styled ale, after all. The label is bold, but the beer is not. It's good, but after having Cameron's Obsidian Imperial Porter (hmm... that post also played on Dickens), I expected better.

As it is, Resurrection is an easy-going ale. But I wanted more: more flavour, more intensity.

I had great expectations. They weren't met.

It was good, and if you like beer that's not mainstream, this is worth a try. For myself, however, I won't be having more. But I certainly will try more beer from Cameron's.


Monday, November 4, 2013


Over the summer, I pulled a bottle of beer from my cellar and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though I had decided that I was going to discontinue my Beer O'Clock blog, I made notes and took a photo of the beer. But somehow, I can't find any record of having consumed the wonderful beverage.

Thankfully, I am blessed to have a wonderful memory when it comes to flavours, be it with food, or wine, or beer.
Just thinking about a beer I've had will bring the flavours to my mouth. I will remember where I had it, who I was with, and what I thought of the beer.

When I was invited to try a beer that hadn't been released, wouldn't be released until today (November 4), I couldn't say no. I can never say no to good craft beer. And though this beer is a new release, I've had it before: that is to say, I've had previous vintages of it.
Yes, today's beer review is about a vintage ale. A Russian Imperial Stout.
St-Ambroise Stout Impériale Russe 2013 (9.2% ABV)
McAuslan Brewing Inc.
Montréal QC
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: a deep walnut that allows no light to pass through (my test: shining the flashlight on my iPhone through it. I saw nothing come through), with a light cocoa-brown head that comes on strong and foamy but settles to a thin, bubbly cap.
Nose: intense cocoa, plump raisins, and bourbon.
Palate: dark-roasted coffee, prunes, and bitter, dark chocolate. It finishes with a heady, whisky-like mouth; over time, a trace of vanilla can be felt on the tongue.
Overall impression: it's no secret that McAuslan is one of my favourite breweries. There is nothing they make that I don't like, or love. That's because they do nothing half-way.
This in an intense Imperial stout with loads of flavour and a strength that will ensure its longevity. When I originally tried the 2012 vintage, I knew that this ale will be something that you can set down for several years and it will hold up well.

It's unforgettable.

I still have a bottle of the 2012, and have added a 2013 to the collection. In a few years, I will hold a step tasting and will see how each vintage has matured.
But, in the meantime, I suggest that you stock up now, because this wonderful stout is available in limited quantities only. I got mine at Bières du Monde, in Aylmer, where I plan to pick up more. They also sell a special McAuslan beer glass, specifically designed for the stout. Get yours before they're all gone.

You can also find it in the LCBO.