Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Curmudgeony IPA

There are a lot of beers out there, and one will never find the time to consume all of them (though, I do try). When I see a particular style of beer, I have certain expectations and, if that style is one of my favourites, those expectations are particularly high.

If my expectations aren't met, I can get a bit surly. You might even say I act like a curmudgeon.

Take the IPA by Cambridge, Ontario, brewery, Grand River. The label drew my eye to it as I shopped the shelves at the LCBO. The name amused me and, as IPAs are among my favourite ales, I picked up a couple of bottles.

With an IPA, I expect some bitterness, nice, aromatic hops, some grapefruit or other citrus flavours, a full body, and a clean but bitter finish. Not too bitter, mind you, unless the bitterness is balanced with other flavours.

Let's see how this ale did.
Curmudgeon IPA (6.5% ABV)
Grand River Brewing
Cambridge ON
Appearance: a clear, deep amber with an off-white head that quickly settles to a thin but solid cap.

Nose: bitter hops and a touch of caramel.

Palate: my initial impression was that I had bitten into an orange peel--lots of bitterness but not the best part of citrus fruit. The flavours balance in the finish but I would have liked to have felt that balance while the ale was still in my mouth. The alcohol is apparent but not overpowering: it lingers, however, in the finish.

As I continued to drink the IPA, the bitterness turned sour, and my appreciation for the ale waned.

Overall impression: this is a good beer but I felt the emphasis was placed on bitterness and booze, rather than an overall balanced flavour. With the vast number of great IPAs out there, I thing I would give this one a pass the next time I saw it on the shelf.

It simply didn't live up to my expectations.

Beer O'Clock rating: 2

Though this IPA left me feeling somewhat curmudgeony, I would still be interested in trying more beer from Grand River. I have already reviewed their Imperial stout (I didn't like) and their pumpkin ale (I liked), so I hope I can find something else to please my palate.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Smart Beer

With patio season approaching, I'm looking for the perfect beer to have outdoors on a hot, sunny day. (I'm also looking for the best patios in Ottawa, to come in an upcoming post.) Often, I find an easy-drinking, thirst-quenching brew to be my go-to ale through the summer.

I think I found mine when it was still winter.

I enjoyed it in one of my favourite pubs in Ottawa, the Arrow & Loon, and remarked at how full-flavoured it was for a beer with such a low alcohol level. It's a great session ale.

It's a smart beer.

I was thoroughly disappointed, a couple of weeks ago, when the man behind the bar told me that the kegs of this ale were gone, that it was a seasonal. Being denied another pint made me want it more.

And then I saw it, in the LCBO, in a six pack. And I was happy beyond belief.
Genius of Suburbia (3.8% ABV)
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery
Barrie, ON
Appearance: rich, golden-yellow, with a foamy, white head that stays solid for most of the ride to the bottom of the glass.

Nose: lemon citrus and straw. Over time, a touch of honey and melon.

Palate: lush hops, with a delicate bitterness and a seemingly full body--you sip this and you find it easy to swallow, but hard to swallow the fact that it's only 3.8 percent alcohol. It has a refreshing finish.

Overall impression: as I said, in the late winter, I picked this ale as my go-to summer beer. It's incredibly drinkable and I could while the day away on a patio, easily consuming this, enjoying the flavours and the fact that I won't get wasted.

Flying Monkeys is quickly becoming one of my favourite Ontario breweries. If you haven't familiarized yourself with them, Genius of Suburbia is a great introduction. And, with all Flying Monkeys packaging, it's easy to spot.

Picking up a six pack would be smart: genius, even.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4


Monday, April 20, 2015

Quelle Formidable

When I first saw the bottle in the LCBO, I thought, great: Beau's has yet another brew out. I saw the shape of the 600ml bottle, the artwork, and the tag strung with rough twine around the neck, and threw two bottles into my shopping cart.

It's nice to see new offerings from the greater-Ottawa area's largest craft brewery. They are always experimenting, always trying something new. Yet, I find it hard to keep up with all of the brews that they put out. If I drank every new beer from the Vankleek Hill brewery, I doubt I would have time to try all the beer by all the other breweries, Beer O'Clock would become Beau's O'Clock.

I'm sure that the brewery would be fine with that, as long as I gave glowing reviews of everything I drank. But I don't like everything they brew, although I find that I like the majority of what hits the LCBO shelves or the taps around town.

I'm not, of course, going to be able to review every Beau's beer, and with this bottle, I'm not sure that I am reviewing Beau's, anyway.

When I brought those two bottles home, I set them down in my cellar, next to the other Beau's bottles on my wine rack that now holds more beer than wine. It wasn't until I opened one of the bottles, poured it into my Beau's glass, began sipping it, and making notes, that I actually read the label.

And saw that there were two words below Gigantic: Brewing and Company. I try not to read any information that is written on a label or on any card that accompanies the bottle, because I don't want any tasting notes to interfere with my own.

I found that this beer was brewed by a Portland, Oregon, brewery. What a coincidence that they share a similar packaging to Beau's, I thought. And then I saw something on the label that got me scratching my head again: this beer was brewed in Vankleek Hill—the home of Beau's.

I had to finish my tasting notes before I delved further. So let's find out what went on, together, shall we?
La Formidable American Belgo IPA (6.9% ABV)
Gigantic Brewing Company, Portland OR
Brewed in Vankleek Hill ON
Appearance: not-quite-clear, amber-orange with an effervescence of steady, tiny pearls, and an off-white head that maintains a healthy cap.

Nose: orange citrus with hints of pine—almost as though you were standing in an Oregon forest. There's a wet earthiness about it.

Palate: pine resin and grapefruit, bitter hops, and an orange-rind finish.

Overall impression: I really like this beer and, if not for the formidable alcohol content (see what I did there?), I could drink this all afternoon. This is definitely something that I would enjoy on a hot day, under a shaded patio.

La Formidable is brewed under Beau's B-Side label, in which they share capacity with international brewers. Gigantic Brewing's brewmasters,  Ben Love and Van Having, brought their recipe and brewed a batch of this delicious brew in Vankleek Hill, and the marketing folks from Beau's packaged it up and brought it to Ontario beer lovers.

La Formidable is... well... formidable!

Gigantic's brew is the second ale to run under the B-Side label. The first beer, Kissmeyer Beer's Nordic Pale Ale, was a tasty offering that I tried more than a year ago, but was also fooled into thinking that it was strictly a Beau's creation.

Maybe different bottles would help?

So, I accomplished two things in this tasting: I tried another brew that came out of Beau's brew house and I tried a beer from another brewery. I call that a win-win situation.

I don't know how long La Formidable is going to stay on store shelves, but stock up while you can.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Side Launch Pale Ale

Although spring is slow in taking hold, I am confident that it will be here soon, in full swing, and that means patio season.

And, in the coming weeks, I hope to compile a list of the best patios in the Ottawa area. My criteria is simple: the patio must have a great view, must have space for plenty of patrons, and—most importantly—the establishment must serve beer that is worthwhile: that is, there must be a reason to sit on the patio and stay.

If you know of a great patio in Ottawa, write to me at Tell me where this patio is located and why you think it's worth visiting.

You know what would be a great beer to have on a patio? The beer that I reviewed this week, by an Ontario brewery that I didn't even hear of until a couple of months ago, nor really pay attention to until last week's Kingston Beer Festival.

They have my attention now.
Pale Ale (5.3% ABV)
Side Launch Brewing Company
Collingwood ON
Appearance: unfiltered, dried apricot, with a foamy head that's light beige with hints of orange. It pours well and settles to a thin cap.

Nose: candied orange and orange pekoe tea, with mild malts. I felt that the bouquet was only subtle and could use more aromas.

Palate: solid hops with mild grapefruit—it starts as a watery citrus that opens as you swish it in your mouth, and it ends in a nice balance of hops and malt, though the hops accumulate with subsequent sips. The finish is steady and strong without overpowering.

Overall impression: this is a good, well-rounded APA. While I would appreciate more in the nose, the flavour is a reliable constant, making for an ale that I could easily drink all night long.

Or during patio season, whenever that happens.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3