Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rhyme & Reason

This summer has turned out to be a great one so far, with lots of sunshine, near-perfect temperatures, and plenty of excellent beer to go with it.

Also, when I think of summer, I think of getting out and enjoying the outdoors, with concerts, festivals, and all that the community has to offer. That's why, when I saw the colourful six pack from Collective Arts Brewing, I thought I might have found another perfect summer beer.

And I was right.

This Burlington brewery is founded on the belief that creativity inspires more creativity, and that art manifests itself in all of our culture: through music, through film, through visual art, and through brewing.

Craft brewing is an art form in which I thoroughly believe.

I think their video, on their Web site, says it all:

In keeping with Collective Arts' philosophy, the brewery incorporates art into their labels, each bottle in their six pack showing a different artist's work.

They truly have some of the most beautiful bottles I've ever seen. (Although, they do need to work on that sticker on the bottle neck: four of the six bottles in my pack had those little circles lifting off.)

But it's what's inside that counts, and I was eager to give them a try.
Rhyme & Reason Extra Pale Ale (5.7 % ABV)
Collective Arts Brewing Ltd.
Burlington, ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 5
Appearance: a dull, murky (that is, unfiltered) apricot and a creamy head the color of grapefruit rind.

Nose: intense tangerine and honeydew, with a hint of honeyed sweetness and a touch of malt.

Palate: bitter grapefruit and a fine balance of hops and malt. The finish is clean and thirst-quenching, and left me wanting more.

This is an excellent summer-patio beer. Though it has a higher alcohol content than many session ales, it reminded me of the Muskoka Brewery session ale that I've been drinking this summer. It's full bodied but clean, making it seem deceptively light.

I could see myself sipping a pint of Rhyme & Reason while enjoying an outdoor concert or at a film festival (I'm going to one this weekend: too bad they won't allow alcohol in the theatre).

One thing is for certain: I now have two favourite summer ales. My cellar is going to be well-stocked this season.

Rhyme & Reason is available at the LCBO.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coffee & Beer

If you know anything about me, you know that I can't go for long without either beer or coffee. They are staples in my life: rarely a day goes by where I don't drink coffee; rarely a couple of days go by where I don't have a bottle or pint of beer.

And when beer and coffee mix, it's like sex in a glass.

Again, if you know me, you know that my two favourite styles of beer are stouts and IPAs. And, this weekend, I had the opportunity of sampling both, beautifully flavoured with coffee.

Because it's been a while since I've written a review for Beer O'Clock, I thought I would share both of these outstanding ales in one post. This is not a comparison, because that wouldn't be fair. I could never compare an IPA with a stout: it would be like me comparing coffee to beer.

Both the coffee'd IPA and stout are from fairly new, local craft breweries. One, I have reviewed before, the other, I have tried before but have never taken the time to examine closely. I'm glad I now have.

Newly opened this spring, Covered Bridge Brewing Company has already made waves with Ottawa craft-beer lovers. Owner and brewer, John VanDyk has brought his ales to WinterBrewed, to the Ottawa Beer Market, and just recently, to the Watson's Mill Craft Beer Event. His microbrewery, located in Stittsville, has a great selection of regular offerings, such as The Dirty Blonde and Bridge Over the River "Chai," as well as some one-offs, like the Raspberry Princess, and some seasonals, like the sweet La cabane à sucre.

But my favourite of the Covered Bridge beers that I have had so far is their coffee and chocolate stout, Double-Double.
The Covered Bridge Double-Double (7.4% ABV)
Covered Bridge Brewing Company
Stittsville, ON (Ottawa)
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: dark walnut with a cocoa head that pours to a fine lace and then quickly disappears.

Nose: dark chocolate and sweet coffee.

Palate: rich chocolate, mild prunes, dates. A lengthy coffee finish that accumulates into a solid taste of alcohol.

While this Double-Double may be as sweet as it's Tim Horton's counterpart, the coffee flavour puts the giant coffee chain to shame. The coffee flavours in this stout are richer and more satisfying than anything that Tim's puts out. The chocolate is sweet and cloying, but not overpowering, and the alcohol cuts down the overall richness.

I have to admit, the first time I tried this stout at the brewery, and then again at the event at Watson's Mill, I detected more of a creamy richness. The bottle that I drank two weeks after picking it up from the brewery had more of the dates and prunes, and the alcohol finish was more pronounced. But it was still incredible.

The other coffee ale I tried this weekend came from Whitewater Brewing Company,  farther up the Ottawa Valley. I met two of the brewers, both named Chris Thompson, at this year's WinterBrewed Festival. I told Chris "Low Tower" that I would visit his brewery, and two weekends ago, I kept that promise.

While neither Chris was there, I did meet a third brewer, Sierra, who introduced me to a fabulous seasonal that I couldn't resist. Nor could I leave without.
Jacked Rabbit Espresso IPA (6% ABV)
Whitewater Brewing Company
Foresters Falls, ON
Beer O'Clock rating: 4
Appearance: steeped Orange Pekoe tea—a reddish toffee brown, with a creamy beige head that holds a good cap almost all the way down the glass.

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

Palate: coffee and hops, perfectly balanced, though I would have liked to taste a slightly fuller finish. The finish is, though, clean, with no strong alcohol flavours. Though this beer was brewed to a bitter 95 IBUs, the addition of the cold-steeped espresso—from Neat Café—after brewing, mellows the hops.

In fact, the coffee is strong in this beer. So much so, that at times I felt I was drinking a beer-infused espresso, rather than a coffee-flavoured IPA.

Not that there was anything wrong with that.

I loved this IPA and hope that the folks at Whitewater keep this seasonal in their repertoire.

Yes, coffee is a wonderful thing, as is beer. And when you bring them together, as Covered Bridge and Whitewater have done, magic happens.