Do you remember the Robert Simpson Brewery from Barrie Ontario? Yes? No? Well, its irrelevant now, because that brewery has changed its name to The Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, and not only does the new name reflect a fresh and exciting approach to craft beer, but best of all, their beer does as well! Peter Chiodo, the Chief Executive Shitstirrer, as he so aptly has designated himself, is getting out there testing his beers in the Ontatio market and trying out new recipes to create better, more unique, and more delicious beers.
The Hoptical Illusion is Flying Monkeys’ Almost Pale Ale, as they call it, but for the sake of classification, you can call it an Americal-Style Pale Ale. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Flying Monkeys crew at several beer events around Ontario in the last few weeks, and have been able to try both bottled and cask versions of the Hoptical. It really took very little convincing to get me to drink this beer, and now I might be hooked.
The Hoptical Illusion is 5.0% abv, and comes in 6 packs of 355ml bottles at most LCBOs for just under $12. This beer does fit a very specific niche in the pale ale market in Ontario that has not been properly filled – until now. Yes, there are several Pale Ales, or IPAs to choose from at the LCBO, but some err to far on the crisp hop side of things, and others can get quite expensive. The Hoptical is a freshly hoppy, clean, crisp, but malty Pale Ale that comes in with just the right amount of sweet, bitter, and citrus. This is a true Ontario Craft beer, so grab a 6 pack, throw ’em in the fridge, and enjoy em right away to best appreciate the hop freshness it has to offer.
I opened the Hoptical Illusion up cool at about 8C (45F) and poured it into a stemmed beer glass. The pour was silky smooth building a rich amber brown beer. Only halfway up it began to build foam, but eventually a thick, pillowy pure white inch and a half head built with dense carbonation on top a sturdy beer. It glowed from the inside out – deep golden brown shines dark in the transparent center of the beer, then gently warms to a ruby red and copper orange glimmering at the edges.
Slowly the head faded two about half an inch, but built in density and showed great retention. I brought the glass to my nose and was delighted with the familiar scents of caramel and pale malts, fresh floral and slightly citrus hops, touches of pine and a smooth wash of gentle biscuit and toffee. It is soft and balanced with pronounced aromas without attacking your senses.
With the sun beating down on me, I went for shade by way of the beer. The Hoptical flows gently and easily over your palate brining with it richly distinct flavors of malt and hops. It seemed like a bit of game here – as first I got a fresh citrus bite of hops, but almost instantly after that smooth warm caramel malt came in behind it and filled my mouth. It doesn’t stop here though.
Hops bring back some crisp, earthy pine helping quench and refresh your palate. They aren’t overly aggressive or super citrus; it is a nice elegant blend of smooth floral bitterness with the mellow touch of grapefruit peel and hints of fresh pine. But again, the malts bring contrast adding a wide biscuit and toffee sweetness which really hits the sides of my tongue and cheeks. It is gentle but really plays perfectly with the hops. A touch of fresh grain and spice lingers everywhere barely in the background adding a layer of complexity to this greatly balanced beer.
The mouthfeel is easy and relaxing with a medium body aiding a richly flavored beer (especially considering that it is only 5%). The finish is bittersweet with the continuous battle between hops and malt leaving you with a refreshed, and also very satisfied palate. This is really a wicked session pale ale, and will pair real well with a big variety of foods. Anything coming off the grill, anything deep fried, and anything meat I can guarantee will work perfectly. Come the football season and the Hoptical could be your right hand man next to chips, nachos and pretzels.