Thursday, October 22, 2015

Straw Hat Matt & A La Mode

When I learned that a new brewery was opening, this summer, in a small town in Southern Ontario, I was thrilled. First, because it was opening in one of the prettiest towns in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and second, because I was going to be visiting some friends in Guelph, and we were a very short drive away, which meant that there was no way that I was going to pass through the area without dropping in.

Elora is about 20 minutes or so north of the centre of Guelph and lies along the Grand River. There's a majestic gorge that cuts through a beautiful conservation area. Over the years, Elora has evolved into an artisan town, with its bakeries, craft shops, restaurants, and ice-cream parlors. It is picturesque and friendly, and worth a stop any time you're in the area.

The brewing company, located in the heart of Elora, also houses a gastropub, which serves up-scale pub-grub made by a world-trained chef. Even the ketchup is homemade.

When I visited the pub, I tried a sampler of the brewery's four signature brews. You can see a brief review of them, along with some other beer finds, in a previous post. And while I loved their flavourful IPA, I wasn't prepared to bring a growler all the way back to Ottawa (so I drank it with my friends, in Guelph, that evening). I did, however, manage to snag a couple of their ales that are offered in 500ml bottles, and this week, I finally got a chance to sit down properly with them.

The first selection is a wheat ale, or weisse.
Straw Hat Matt (4.3% ABV)
Elora Brewing Company
Elora, ON
Appearance: a pale apricot, unfiltered murkiness, almost like grapefruit juice, but slightly darker. An effervescent, white head starts thick but quickly settles to a half-cap.

Nose: fresh citrus fruit, yeast, mild hops, and a creamy malt. Enticing, to say the least. I spent a long time just breathing in the aromas.

Palate: light and creamy, with some fruit that I wished came out more. The finish brought out a tone of banana, and was clean.

Overall impression: this is an easy-drinking weisse that goes down well and leaves you longing for that next sip. It's well-balanced with a light body, something that would quench your thirst after working a good day in the fields.

Or in whatever field in which you work.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5

The second ale that I brought back to Ottawa was perfect for this time of year. And no, I'm not talking about another pumpkin ale. Though, there is definitely a pie element.
A La Mode (3.9% ABV)
Appearance: a hazy (slightly unfiltered), deep-gold to amber-orange glow, with an off-white, foamy head that settles to a thin cap, and then to a fine lace.

Nose: cinnamon and baked apple, complete with a fresh-baked crust.

Palate: all-spice, more cinnamon, and apple. This ale has a big mouth feel, as though you've taken a bite of dessert. There's an essence of sweetness without actually being sweet: it's more of a tart apple pie, but not too tart.

Overall impression: this ale tastes exactly like a home-baked apple pie. It's a liquid pie. At a time where pumpkin seems to rule, this is a welcome change.

Though this is a regular offering at Elora Brewing, I think that it would be made more special and be more sought if it was offered only as a fall seasonal. During my family Thanksgiving dinners, we always end the feast with a selection of both pumpkin and apple pie.

And I usually have a little of both.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4

Congratulations to Elora Brewing: you seem to be off to a great start. I hope you make your way to Ottawa LCBO stores. Mind you, I now have one more reason to visit my friends in Guelph.


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