The Muskoka Cottage Brewery, located in Bracebridge Ontario (pure cottage country) has a slogan that states “The taste of cottage country”. Not only is that their motto, but it is also the idea behind their newest seasonal beer, the Harvest Ale. This could actually be the first of its kind from Ontario; all the malts and hops used in this brew were grown here in Ontario. I love the idea. This is the second year that Muskoka has released the Harvest, and this version comes in a very handsome 750ml swing cap bottle.
It is now floating through LCBO locations and will be available while supplies last at select pubs and restaurants. Muskoka has designed a richly hoppy and bitter pale ale at 6.4%. Right now it is probably the biggest, and most bitter pale ale offering available from Ontario in LCBO locations. It offers up different flavors than that of the typical American Style Pale ale, which I expect Muskoka would like to say is uniquely Canadian. I’m not sure what Ontario’s hop farms are like, but I do hope that this inspired more brewers to create seasonal beers sourced locally – everyone benefits.
As mentioned, when you pull the Harvest out of your fridge you will have a 750ml bottle ready to enjoy with friends. This is actually what I would like to see most of all out of the Ontario Brewers – more unique packaging! The 750ml bottles are beautiful, and it really brings your beer up to a new level of aesthetic design and perception. Don’t get me wrong, its what inside that counts, but packaging can help those who previously didn’t look to craft beer to give it a shot.
I opened the Harvest cool around 8C (45F) and poured it slowly into a snifter. The pour was very smooth, falling out of the bottle with a heavy oily texture. It build up richly in the bottom of the glass showing creamy and silky lines and a gentle rumbling of dense foam. What I created was an glowing amber red beer with huge rays of bronze and sunshine beaming though it. It was transparent with a golden brown shimmer at every glance. The condensation on the outside of the glass fogged my view, but every wipe away revealed rich colors in depth and maturity. A creamy, and long-standing 2 inch head built up on the beer with a off-white, cream color fading to very light khaki. It peaked just above the glass with a dense cap and great retention. Ok, very well done so far Muskoka. This beer was a sight for sore eyes.
Those nose is richly bitter with a pungent mix of bitter and floral hops, light brisk notes of citrus, and a fresh earthy field like aroma. Waves of dark malts bring brown sugar and marmalade in and show reasonable depth, but lack complexity. Overall the nose is dry and bitter, slightly one sided, but seemingly very crisp and refreshing.
My first sip was mostly head, which had a great deal of rich flavors in it mimicking the nose. The next brought a lushly silky wave of beer with it and also a robustly bitter wave of hops. This showed a big and rich bitter sensation, but a relatively narrow flavor. It was potent and full, but only has subtle notes of citrus, soft floral flavors, and a round earthy bite.
Malts come in right down the center and briefly show pale malt sweetness, but quickly made into a more caramelized feeling. Lightly burnt brown sugar and biscuits round off my tongue and full my cheeks in a robust flushing of browned malts. This again was a bit more one sided than I would have liked to see. The balance between hop bitterness and malt sweetness was there, but I didn’t love the hop flavors, not was I enamored by the malt.
The finish is crisp and very quenching bringing out the power of the hops in a dry, longstanding breath. Overall the beer is clean and slightly warming, with great construction and a unique take on a Canadian Pale Ale. It brings bitterness that we haven’t seen before, but it is too one sided for me. I would have enjoyed more hop flavor compared to the hop bitterness, and a bigger range of malt sensation to bring juicy richness to my palate. Nonetheless, a great 2nd edition, and I will be excited to see what happens next year.