Monday, October 6, 2014

New Kid in Town

Ottawa's beer scene is thriving: sometimes, it's hard to keep count.

To date, I've counted about 18 breweries in the Ottawa region, from Pembroke in the west to Vankleek Hill in the east and from Gatineau to Merrickville—north to south, respectively.

It's a good thing we craft-beer lovers are so darned thirsty. There still seems to be plenty of room on our palates.

Enter the latest brewery to hit Ottawa, and I have two reasons to love them: one, they make good beer; two, the brewery is owned by cycling enthusiasts.

Bicycle Craft Brewery (12-850 Industrial Avenue) has been open for only two weeks, and seems to have both wheels firmly on the ground. Owners Fariborz Behzadi and his wife, Laura, took their love of travel to explore the world of craft beer, and they recently moved to Ottawa to make the capital richer with the knowledge that they gained.

The brewery currently offers four staples and two seasonals. While I visited their brewery a day early of their latest seasonal, a pumpkin ale, I did have the opportunity to try everything else. Some, I loved, others I liked. One, I did not care for.

Here's a quick rundown of my findings:

Isodore's Harvest Ale (4.9% ABV, 42 IBU)
I loved the richness of aroma on the nose and the balance of hops and malt in the body. This is a great autumn ale and my only regret is that I didn't leave the brewery with a growler of the stuff. It was my second-favourite beer that the brewery offers.

My Beer O'Clock rating: 4

Belle River Blonde (4.7% ABV, 22 IBU)
This is a light and refreshing ale, and while I myself don't care for this style of beer, I have to say that I appreciated it for what it was. If you like blonde ales, this is definitely one to try.

My Beer O'Clock rating: 3

Base Camp Oatmeal Porter (5.1% ABV, 30 IBU)
I liked this porter so much I brought some home to give a proper review, so let's do it:

Appearance: dark walnut to black, with red highlights and a creamy taupe head.

Nose: rich espresso coffee and tobacco.

Palate: dark-roasted coffee and cedar, with a higher bitterness than the IBUs would suggest. It all mellows in a medium-bodied finish.

Overall impression: while I don't get the relationship between this porter's name and cycling (sounds like a name that I'd associate with mountain climbing or hiking), I do get the easy-drinkingness (new word) of this porter. The flavours come off immediately as bold but then mellow out to an intensity that I associate with a classic porter—that is, not overpowering. This is a great ale.

My Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5

Abyss Chocolate Stout (5.7% ABV, 31 IBU)
When I learned that this brewery's pumpkin ale wasn't available on the day that I planned to visit, I was tempted to go to the LCBO to pick up my weekend beer. But when I learned that they made a chocolate stout, I had a change of heart. Stouts are my favourite beer style: chocolate is an added bonus.

One of the things that I noticed straight away, when Fariborz poured me a sample, was that the stout appeared to be flat. Had the half-growler been open a long time, I asked? No, was the answer: this stout was made with little carbonation by design, Fariborz told me.

That was a shame. I found that the stout was not only flat in the glass, it felt lifeless in my mouth. While there were still good flavours of malt and chocolate, I feel that carbonation helps a stout feel creamier in the mouth, and I missed that in my sample.

I did not care for that design. Had the stout been infused with gas, I feel it had the potential to be so much better.

My Beer O'Clock rating: 2

Velocipede India Pale Ale (6% ABV, 70 IBU)
Of the brews that were available, this IPA, by far, was my favourite. Like the porter, I brought some home to conduct a full review (oh, what I do for my readers).

Appearance: an unfiltered, deep caramel, with a creamy beige head that had an orange tint.

Nose: orange citrus and lush hops.

Palate: creamy orange, almost like a Creamsicle from my childhood, but without any sweetness. There is rich fruit with intense hops that balance beautifully. There is bitterness without having that teabag feeling on the roof of your mouth. The long finish is incredibly satisfying.

Overall impression: this IPA is a definite keeper and should be Bicycle Craft Brewery's flagship ale. As a direct appeal to Fariborz and Laura—change nothing about this beer: it's a gem.

My Beer O'Clock rating: 5

Bicycle Craft Brewery is a welcome addition to the Ottawa brewing community. For myself, I especially like that they are well-situated (not exactly in my end of town, but not much of a detour from my commute between work and home). I am excited to try the pumpkin ale and I look forward to watching Fariborz and Laura grow their business.