Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Eureka Moment

When I pick up a beer that I intend to review, I try not to read too much of the label. I avoid the sides or the back, and if I see paragraphs of text, I look away. I don't want to be influenced by what the brewer has to say about the flavours, colour, or aromas.

That's for me to work out.

When that can or bottle catches my eye, for whatever reason, I look to see what style of beer is contained within, who made the beer, and where the brewery is located. I don't want to know the alcohol content or what types of malts or hops were used.

I want to come by my opinion honestly.

A couple of weeks ago, when my family and I were in Toronto, I visited the LCBO that was around the corner from our hotel. I went in there, specifically looking for beer that was made in the GTA and that I haven't seen in any of the stores in Ottawa. I was looking for breweries that I didn't recognize, and with the explosion of craft brewers in Ontario, that isn't hard to do.

I found three breweries that fit my criteria. You can read my reviews of those ales from last week and the week before. The third brewery, from Brantford, rounds out these finds.

Bell City Brewing opened its doors in February of this year and currently has one of its ales in cans, in the LCBO. I presume that this beer is the company's flagship ale, as I also presume that the can shows Alexander Graham Bell, experimenting with one of his inventions. Bell lived, for some time, in Brantford.

What I saw, smelled, and tasted did not meet my expectations, and I'm glad that I didn't read the back of the can or visit the brewery's Web site until I finished my review. Here's why:
Eureka Cream Ale (5.8% ABV)
Bell City Brewing Company
Brantford, ON
Appearance: a clear, deep amber with red highlights and a beige head that forms a solid cap. I had to re-read the can to make sure that I was drinking a cream ale, and not a red.

Nose: caramel and rich malt. There was a sweetness in the aroma that I did not expect. It was at this point that I knew that I was in for something different, and I had to check once again that this was, indeed, a cream ale.

Palate: more caramel, barley, and mild hops. The ale is full-bodied, with a rich mouth feel and a satisfying finish. But the flavours, although enjoyable, did not match with what I expected. The more I drank, the more I  was reminded of a red ale.

Overall impression: while I was trying this beer, I was feeling chilled in my cooled house (I'm a little stingy with the thermostat and I'm fighting a cold that is aggressively trying to claim squatter's rights in my head), but after a couple of sips, I felt warmed, comforted. The alcohol content, though modest, was beginning to show itself more prominently, but not overpowering. In fact, the cream ale seemed to open my sinuses and give that cold a shot over the bow.

While this cream ale doesn't seem to have much of a creamy mouth feel, its richness made me feel like my tongue was receiving a warm hug.

After I recorded my impressions of this cream ale, I finally read the back of the can, which states that Bell City had crafted this ale according to a pre-prohibition style. As they put it, this offering "is NOT your typical lawnmower cream ale."

They have that right (though, in truth, I have no idea what a "lawnmower" cream ale is).

I had to think: was this ale what I expected? No. Was it what the brewer expected? Probably.

This was my eureka moment.

It is a good ale: it's not your traditional cream ale, and that's okay. It's more than okay.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3

At the time of reviewing this ale, my house, cooled as it was, was also filled with the aroma of a slow-cooked, barbecue pulled pork, and all I could think of was how this beer and that meat would make a perfect combination. And so I enjoyed a second can at dinner.

If you can find this ale in your LCBO, pick it up and try something different.


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