Tasting the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

October 5, 2010

The American India Pale Ale, or American-Style India Pale Ale has become one of the most popular, widespread, and brewed beers in North America. The rich pale malt backbone found in the depths of an aromatically bitter and hop-crisp beer has enchanted people all across the continent. There is only one problem with this – there are probably close to 1,800 breweries in NA, and there are probably about 2,000 different Pale Ales! The Pale Ale craze is becoming a bit overwhelming; whether it is an IPA, Pale Ale, American version or a hybrid, there are just too many pale ales out there.

So what’s a beer lover to do!? Well, obviously taste them all and find your favorites. Because that may take to long, I’m going to start you off in the right direction with one of the most well rounded and best constructed American IPA’s on the planet. The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Too many pales are either one sided, to aggressively hopped, not hopped enough, or are poorly built. The Two Hearted Ale is at the top of my list because it hits all the right notes in perfect harmony. It doesn’t get carried away with this or that, it is just plain good. Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)

October 5, 2010

Aroma: Hop aroma moderately-high to moderately-low, and can use any variety of hops although UK hops are most traditional.  Medium to medium-high malt aroma, often with a low to moderately strong caramel component (although this character will be more subtle in paler versions). Medium-low to medium-high fruity esters.  Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.   May have light, secondary notes of sulfur and/or alcohol in some examples (optional).

Appearance: Golden to deep copper.  Good to brilliant clarity.  Low to moderate white to off-white head.  A low head is acceptable when carbonation is also low.

Flavor: Medium-high to medium bitterness with supporting malt flavors evident.  Normally has a moderately low to somewhat strong caramelly malt sweetness.  Hop flavor moderate to moderately high (any variety, although earthy, resiny, and/or floral UK hops are most traditional).  Hop bitterness and flavor should be noticeable, but should not totally dominate malt flavors.  May have low levels of secondary malt flavors (e.g., nutty, biscuity) adding complexity.  Moderately-low to high fruity esters.  Optionally may have low amounts of alcohol, and up to a moderate minerally/sulfury flavor.  Medium-dry to dry finish (particularly if sulfate water is used).  Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Innis & Gunn Winter Beer, 2010

October 4, 2010

Its coming, and its just around the corner… This winter as the Christmas beers begin to flood the LCBO again; we will be getting back the Innis & Gunn Connoisseur’s pack, and in this years pack is the strongest Innis & Gunn ever made – the Winter Beer. My good friends at Innis have been chatting about this beer for a long time now. In the summer I had heard that Dougal (the founder and BrewMaster) was working on a spiced beer, one that he was more excited about than any other beer he has made. This definitely got me excited – I already love the sweet, creamy and caramel oaky flavors of the Innis Original – the idea of a spicier and stronger version for the winter sounded perfect!

We should expect the Connoisseur’s Pack to be made available late October to November for the Christmas Release; probably the best overall beer release at the LCBO. I was fortunate enough to get the Connoisseur’s pack ahead of time thanks to my good friends at Innis & Gunn, and I have been saving the Winter Beer since – until now. The time finally came. I had enjoyed the Original and the Rum Cask that came in the pack, but have been waiting for the right moment to test the Winter Beer on my palate. It was a calm Sunday afternoon, football filled my living room, but my Innis & Gunn glass was empty. Time to fill it! Read the rest of this entry »


Did Someone Say Brunch? Grab a Blanch de Chambly Mimosa!

October 4, 2010

One of my all time favorite meals is brunch. It is such a delicious combination of foods from all courses coming together in perfect harmony. Everything from eggs and pancakes to bacon, roast beef, shrimp, pastas, desserts and more make it onto the table. Beyond that, there is usually a wide selection of juices, coffees, cocktails, beers, spirits, and usually mimosas; the classic brunch drink of orange juice and champagne.

I do love champagne, but honestly the classic mimosa leaves something to be desired. It always ends up a bit to sharp, and unless you are using very expensive sparkling wine, a bit to tart. Ah ha, beer to the rescue. Here is one of my most favorite beer cocktails that people are always shocked, and then astounded by; the Blanch de Chambly Mimosa! It is smoother, creamier, has a soft vanilla and warm spice character to it, and just compliments orange juice better than champagne can. Read on for the directions, and I dare you to try it! Read the rest of this entry »


The Ola Dubh Will Return to The LCBO. All Of Them!

October 4, 2010

Every once in a while the LCBO brings in a beer that totally shocks me. And its not necessarily the beer itself that gets my attention, but the fact that the LCBO had the you-know-what to actually bring it in! Last year the LCBO proved their worth to me by bringing in the Ola Dubh 12 and 40 – while the 40 was grossly over priced at $18.95 for a 330ml bottle, I was still excited to have it here. As well, it is a rare and pricey beer, so you can’t completely blame them.

This year the LCBO has again shocked me, and more so beyond last year. Not only are we getting the 12 and the 40 back, but the reaming Vintages in the Ola Dubh line are coming! That means soon we will have access to the Ola Dubh 12, 16, 18, 30 and 40! This is not yet reflected on the LCBO’s system, but was confirmed to me by beer services employee at the Sumerhill location. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Muskoka Cottage Brewery Harvest Ale 2010

October 1, 2010

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. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Brooklyn Lager

September 30, 2010

In the 1800’s Brooklyn New York was a haven for brewing in America, sadly though, prohibition and time destroyed a once vibrant community. We are lucky today though because the Brooklyn Brewery has brought revitalization to the heart of New York by brewing new and innovative beers, and exception traditional beers which pay homage to their predecessors.

The Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship beer is the Brooklyn Lager, an award winning Vienna Style lager brewed traditionally as would have been done in 1890. It is available at almost all LCBO locations all year round, and is distributed all across the United States and is beginning to float across the globe.

This is all for very good reason too; Brooklyn has brought back to us a fantastic example of the Vienna Lager, a purely refreshing, versatile and meaty beer which fits many situations all too perfectly. Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Northern English Brown Ale

September 30, 2010

Aroma: Light, sweet malt aroma with toffee, nutty and/or caramel notes.  A light but appealing fresh hop aroma (UK varieties) may also be noticed.  A light fruity ester aroma may be evident in these beers, but should not dominate.  Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Dark amber to reddish-brown color.  Clear.  Low to moderate off-white to light tan head.

Flavor: Gentle to moderate malt sweetness, with a nutty, lightly caramelly character and a medium-dry to dry finish.  Malt may also have a toasted, biscuity, or toffee-like character.  Medium to medium-low bitterness.  Malt-hop balance is nearly even, with hop flavor low to none (UK varieties).  Some fruity esters can be present; low diacetyl (especially butterscotch) is optional but acceptable. Read the rest of this entry »


Canadian Brewing Awards Announced

September 29, 2010

At the end of Toronto Beer Week last week the Canadian Brewing Awards were handed out to the top three beer styles in 30 Categories as well as the Brewery and Beer of the Year Awards. From BC, Central City Brewing took home the Best Brewery Award, and their Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine won Best Beer. BC and Quebec brought home the most Gold awards, with Ontario getting some recognition as well. The biggest shock for me came in the Cream Ale category where Sleeman’s Cream Ale beat out both the Muskoka Cream and Cameron’s Cream. I would actually like an explanation on this. For the full award listings see the post at Great Canadian Pubs and Beer by Troy Burtch.


Bud’s Sales Slide, New Strategy? Free Beer…

September 24, 2010

As more and more consumers all across the globe choose local, artisan, and craft products the beer industry has benefits greatly. Or, at least the craft beer industry does. Budweiser, who once had an unfathomable stronghold over most segments in the beer market has been loosing ground to smaller, more unique breweries year on year for quite some time now. You just can’t trick people into buying a bad product anymore, at least not as easily as you could before. Budweiser was never about selling you a beer, it was all about selling you an image, an image of who you could be if you drank Bud. Like it or not, that image has been tarnished over the years, and people aren’t so willingly hypnotized by cleavage and free trips. They want quality, flavor, and something unique.

So Budweiser has come up with a new plan to energize, to reinvigorate their appeal to the under 30 sector who is now seemingly ignoring them. Bud will unleash the largest ever national free sample campagn in trendy bards and eateries. This, honestly, is proof that Bud just doesn’t get it. Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Mild

September 24, 2010

Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, and may have some fruitiness.  The malt expression can take on a wide range of character, which can include caramelly, grainy, toasted, nutty, chocolate, or lightly roasted.  Little to no hop aroma.  Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Copper to dark brown or mahogany color.  A few paler examples (medium amber to light brown) exist. Generally clear, although is traditionally unfiltered.  Low to moderate off-white to tan head.  Retention may be poor due to low carbonation, adjunct use and low gravity.

Flavor: Generally a malty beer, although may have a very wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors (e.g., malty, sweet, caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, raisin).  Can finish sweet or dry.  Versions with darker malts may have a dry, roasted finish.  Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide some balance but not enough to overpower the malt.  Fruity esters moderate to none.  Diacetyl and hop flavor low to none. Read the rest of this entry »


The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Tasting at the Beer Bistro

September 23, 2010

On Wednesday September 22nd, in the middle of Toronto Beer Week the Beer Bistro hosted a beer tasting of four Lost Abbey Beers, and two from Port Brewing. Cass Enright from the Bar Towel introduced Matt Tweedy, a Beer Bistro employee, and assistant brewer at Duggan’s Brewery who also spent 8 weeks at the Lost Abbey for a brewing apprenticeship. You couldn’t ask for a better journey through the six beers which Matt had very intimate experiences with. Each unique beer was introduced and described by Matt, who was able to regale us with stories straight from the brewery. The Lost Abbey focuses on Belgian inspired beer brewed in California, and Port Brewing creates classically west coast beers also in California. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the BrewDog & Stone Bashah

September 23, 2010

The Bashah is a collaboration brew between two of the worlds most influential breweries, the Stone Brewing Co. in California, and BrewDog from Scotland. It barely even matters what the beer in the bottle is, if you put these two names on it I’ll buy it out of sheer faith in its quality and predictably fantastic flavor. Each of these breweries have embarked on an incredible beer journey on their own, each creating unique and no-holds-barred beers in their own style. Put them together then, and what do you get? A Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale.

Firstly, this is a Double IPA, so it should be robustly hoppy with fresh, earthy and citrus bitter flavors that pack a decent punch. It should be both higher in alcohol and in bitterness (IBUs). Next, it is a Belgian Style Double IPA. This could mean a few things, but most typically it means that it was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain rather then an Californian one, thus giving it bigger body, a fruiter, more malty character, and a more lively carbonation. And Finally, it is black. This indicates the color, and therefore usage of dark, chocolate, or roasted malts in the brew; those flavors should come through subtly in the beer finally creating a unique and exciting beer. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Craft Beer Week Introduces a Truly Unique Viedo

September 23, 2010

Recently there has been a slew of Craft beer videos all resonating the same message about how much we love craft beer. Most of them are great, but absurdly repetitive uttering “I am a craft beer drinker” over and over again from different people at different angles. It was refreshing then to see the newest Craft Beer promotional video for the New York Craft Beer Week. This video is totally original, unique, and pretty awesome. I don’t think anyone has done a beer promotional video like this before. Hats off to ya guys. Oh, and NY Craft Beer week is going to be crazy! September 24th through October 3rd. If you are in New York, go get some great beer!


Tasting the Mongozo Coconut

September 22, 2010

A lot of old men at the bar give me flack anytime I order this beer – but why should I care? And more importantly, why are they living in a world of stereotypes and preconceptions of beer. They may as well be drinking Bud Light as far as I am concerned. Why can’t beer be sweet? Or Fruity? Or low in alcohol? Or anything for that matter? Beer can be whatever you want it to be. And every once in a while I want it to be a cool coconut on a hot beach. And that it what the Mongozo Coconut delivers!

I first tried the Mongozo about 4 years ago at the Beer Bistro with some friends, and it instantly won me over. I love real flavors, and I love coconut. Why shouldn’t I love this beer – it is undeniably unique, and extremely delicious. But since then it had vanished off the menu. I had heard rumors that it would never come back, and others that it has been on order for years. The beer menu for so long has exclaimed that it is “coming soon”, but by now, I had no idea when soon would be. Finally, I was in the Bistro yesterday and decided to ask about the Mongozo, just in case. “Oh yeah, we’ve got it” said Greg, in a non nonchalant manner. I slammed the menu closed in excitement, and waited for one to appear in front of me! Read the rest of this entry »