Tag Archives: fruit beer

Quick Quaff: Molson Canadian 67 Sublime

OK, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat:

Molson Canadian 67 Sublime is not a great beer. It has very little colour, aroma and flavour. It’s bland and, frankly, kind of boring. The several bottles I had at the launch party that Molson threw at The Fifth last week are likely the last I will ever drink.

Those are all the things that I, as a Serious Beer Drinker, am expected to think and write about beers like this. And in general, they’re all true.

But they also don’t much matter, as Molson Canadian 67 Sublime – a low calorie and low alcohol beer infused with lime and lemon flavour – isn’t a beer for Serious Beer Drinkers, and what Serious Beer Drinkers think about it is pretty much irrelevant. It’s not a beer to be sniffed and sipped and swirled and savoured; it’s a light and lightly-flavoured beverage designed for calorie conscious consumers who want to enjoy a few brews on a warm patio with friends and not think about what they’re drinking aside from making sure it’s cold and refreshing.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sure, I could pull out the argument that those who want to cut back on their caloric intake could just drink a less – and preferably craft – beer rather than settling for a low calorie macrobrew. But that assumes that the people who choose to drink 67 Sublime and other low-cal and lime-flavoured brews are settling, when in fact, many of them are likely quite happy with what they’re getting.

And what exactly are they getting? A pale yellow liquid with lots of carbonation, very little aroma, a very refreshing mouthfeel, and a clean flavour that’s reminiscent of 7-UP with a backnote of malt. (My wife claimed that it tasted like Irish Spring soap, but I think that was caused by the combination of the beer and the cilantro in one of the hors d’œuvre that was being served. Plus she generally hates fruit-flavoured beers, and calls me a girly-man when I drink them.)

Sitting on the lovely enclosed rooftop patio at The Fifth, chatting with friends and colleagues, and enjoying a sultry early summer evening, I drank one, and another, and another besides that. Sure, they weren’t as good as the Hacker-Pschorr Kellerbier I’d enjoyed at a nearby pub beforehand, or something else similarly full of flavour and character, but they were cold and wet and drinkable (sorry, Steve!), and I was thirsty, and I drank them.

So for what it is, and who it’s made for, Molson Canadian 67 Sublime is a product that fits its niche perfectly. It’s just pretty clear that I (or any other Serious Beer Drinker) don’t really fit into that niche along with it. That’s not a passing of judgment, just a statement of fact – a fact that I’m fine with, and that I expect Molson is fine with as well.

A Shot with a Beer Back: Sheep Dip Malt Whisky & Brasseur De Montréal Coeur Brisé

Each weekday this week, I’ll be posting a pair of mini-reviews covering selections from the latest additions to the LCBO’s Whisky Shop premium whisky program, and the products in the LCBO’s Summer 2011 Specialty Beer promotion. Today, it’s a pair that pleasantly surprised me…

Sheep Dip Malt Whisky
(LCBO 231688 – $44.95/750 mL)

While most of the Scottish selections in the Whisky Shop rotation are higher end single malts, they do keep a blend or two in there as well, and some of them – like the Famous Grouse Gold Reserve – are deserving of their spot. But something about the name Sheep Dip had me not expecting much from this one. Thankfully, I was wrong, as this blend of 16 single malts from a variety of distilleries and reasons is a not a bad little whisky. Notes of grass and hay are at the forefront, with some marzipan and orange marmalade sweetness, and threads of cinnamon and clove. Yeah, it’s not especially complex, the flavour is a bit muddled, and the palate a little softer that I’d like, but it’s a big step up from many blended whiskies. (Still not as good as that Grouse, though.)

Brasseurs De Montréal Coeur Brisé
(LCBO 224212 – $2.95/341 mL)

Like the whisky above, I went into this beer with low expectations, although not because of the name (which translates to “broken heart”), but because of the style. While I always enjoy a proper Belgian-style framboise, I find that most other raspberry-flavoured beers tend to be sickly sweet and/or artificial tasting, and are often made using a base beer that is pretty mediocre to start with. Coeur Brisé, however, seems to be based on a well made golden ale, and both the aroma and flavour have a very natural and fairly tart raspberry character, with a bit of toasted malt sweetness and a hint of citric hops. The body is full enough to be noticeable, and crisp enough to be refreshing. It’s still not my favourite style, but as far as pale raspberry ales go, this is a pretty damn good one.

Quick Quaff: Garrison Blackberry Wheat

Garrison Blackberry Wheat isn’t exactly the most seasonal beer to be drinking on a cool evening in March – quite literally out-of-season, in fact, as it’s only available from the brewery in May through September, and this bottle was sent along with a few other east coast brews as an Xmas present by my brother-in-law in Halifax. So I can’t even be sure exactly when it was brewed and bottled, aside from knowing that it’s at least six months old. Not promising, especially for a 4.6% abv beer.

It still seems to be in good shape, though, with an inviting aroma of slightly tart blackberries and toasted grain malt coming off of the golden body and large white head. It’s light and crisp on the tongue, and malt and berry notes come together in the flavour to evoke something close to blackberry pie, with a hint of orange and herbs joining in the subtly hopped finish.

Definitely one of the better non-lambic fruit beers I’ve tried, and hopefully I can convince my bro-in-law to send me a few in the summer when they’re even fresher and more suited to the weather.

Chill Out

miller_chillA few weeks back, I did a write-up for Taste T.O. on Moosehead Light Lime and Red Baron Lime, a pair of beers that hit the shelves in Ontario in the dying days of summer, attempting to ride to coattails of the incomprehensibly popular Bed Light Lime. You can click through to read the whole thing if you’d like, but the condensed version is that neither of them is especially good when judged purely as a beer, but the Red Baron was at least a drinkable and somewhat refreshing beverage.

Soon afterwards, I got an email from Adam Moffat, a rep from Molson who I’ve met a couple of times, with an offer to send me a sample of Miller Chill. While not available in Ontario, Molson has recently introduced it into the Alberta market, and Adam was curious to know what I might think of it, even given my general dislike for the lime beer gimmick. I took him up on the offer, making it clear that he shouldn’t expect a glowing review, and he followed through with a delivery a couple of days later.

In my typical fashion, I stuck a bottle in the fridge and then promptly forgot about it until this evening when I found it stashed in the back. With the temperature outside hovering down near the freezing point, it’s certainly not ideal weather for what’s supposed to be a summer quaffer, but I’ve never been one to worry about that sort of thing. So let’s get this done…

It pours a pale gold with a small white head that disappears remarkably quickly. The aroma is initially not so pleasant, offering that stale malt and wet corn husk smell that I get from many mass produced lagers, but that slowly clears and is replaced with notes of candyish lime. The body is thin and crisp, as expected from a light lager, and the flavour holds very little that can be described as “beer-like” – it’s more reminiscent of Sprite with a very, very faint wisp of malt.

Bottom line: Like the three aforementioned products, this is not a brew for serious beer drinkers. It’s for people who want to throw back a few lightly flavoured and slightly sweet alcoholic beverages on a patio, or at a party, or in other situations where people drink a lot without really thinking about what they’re drinking. Regardless of how much it may offend my pretentious beer geek sensibilities, there obviously is – and always will be – a large market for such beers, and for better or worse, Miller Chill serves that market well.

How Much Is Too Much?

cantillon_zwanzeEarlier this evening, I visited beerbistro, and I purchased and drank the beer in the photograph that accompanies this post. It was Cantillon Zwanze 2008, a limited edition lambic from the renowned Belgian brewery that was made with rhubarb.

Like every other Cantillon beer I’ve had, it was excellent, full of tart and funky goodness, with an interesting hint of rhubarb in the finish. A perfect beer to enjoy on a warm early summer evening.

Oh, and it cost me $25 (+ tax and tip) for a 375 ml bottle, which I believe is the most I’ve ever spent on a single serving of beer.

I’m sure there are a lot of people – including many craft beer drinkers – who will think me crazy for dropping so much on a single beer. Hell, for the money I spent on the Zwanze, I could’ve had three pints of something or other at beerbistro, or even more at someplace a little more down market.

So, why did I buy it? Well, a friend mentioned on a private chat forum today that he’d tried it, and since I love Cantillon beers and really like rhubarb, I decided to treat myself and splurge a little. (The fact that I came into a bit of extra money this week kinda helped me make my decision as well…)

And, was it worth it? Tonight, yes, it was. I thoroughly enjoyed the 45 minutes or so I spent drinking the beer, and given it’s scarcity, I felt the price was justified. Beerbistro is probably the only place in Canada, and perhaps in all of North America, to have Zwanze in stock. When I think what a wine of similar quality and rarity would cost in a restaurant, $25 almost seems like a bargain.

I’m curious to know what other people think, though. Is $25 (or more) ever a justifiable price for a bottle of beer, no matter how rare it might be? Does the “just imagine what a comparable wine would cost!” argument hold any weight, or is it a just a way for suckers to justify things to themselves when they drop too much money on a beer? And like the subject line above says, how much is too much when to comes to the price of beer?

Any thoughts?

(PS: While I was sorely tempted, I didn’t steal the glass. While I’m not a regular at beerbistro, I’m there often enough and know enough of the staff that it would’ve made my next visit a bit awkward. Plus, stealing is bad, ‘mkay? But man, that’s a cool glass, isn’t it?)

Pimpin' For Pump House

pumphouse

One thing that I’m going to try and do more of in ’09 and beyond is posting beer review features here on the ol’ blog. As a beer rating whore, I’m taking & typing up notes for all of the new beers I try, anyway (although I’ve currently got about half a notebook full that need to get entered). So while I won’t be posting here about every single beer I tip back, I’ll be aiming to do themed posts when I get a number of beers in the same style, or from the same brewery, etc.

Which brings us to this li’l round-up of five beers from  Pump House Brewery. My exposure to the beers from this New Brunswick brewery has been fairly limited, since only their Blueberry Ale has ever been available in Ontario, and even that was quite limited. But when the lovely and talented brewmaster Greg Nash headed there after being turfed from Garrison Brewing in Halifax, I made a point of trying to get my hands on more of their brews, and soon lucked into the five pictured above.

I actually received and drank all of these beers a few months ago, but I just came across the photo that I took of them back then, obviously with the intention of doing a post like this one. And thanks to the magic of RateBeer, I can cobble one together now:

Pump House Special Old Bitter (S.O.B.)
Caramel-amber colour with a small off-white head. Aroma and flavour are both quite hop-forward, with strong grapefruit notes, and a sweet malt backing – simple, but very good. Medium bodied, and quite sessionable.

Pump House Dementia Double IPA
Hazy dark golden with a small, lacy white head. Aroma – sweet sassy molassy, that’s HOPPY! Seriously, this is one of the hoppiest smelling beers I’ve ever come across. Big notes of citrus, pine, spruce, pot – crazy! Flavour is SLIGHTLY more subdued, but still pretty powerful. There is a sticky character to the body, but it’s also surprisingly crisp, especially in the finish, making it remarkably refreshing.

Pump House Raspberry Weizen
Dark pink-amber with a minimal light pink head. Aroma and flavour are all about the raspberry – big and fresh, and really, really tart. Completely one-dimensional, but if you like raspberries (which I do), that one dimension is a really good one.

Pump House Pail Ale
Golden amber with a large white head. Aroma starts malty, with notes of chocolate and caramel, with citric and slightly woody hops coming up behind. Medium bodied with light carbonation. Flavour is great – mild caramel, candied orange peel, lingering hop bitterness. Solid!

Pump House Cadian Cream Ale
Light gold colour. Sweet & grassy malt aroma. Light body. More sweetness in the flavour, with a bit of honey & orange. Not much bitterness in the finish. The most mainstream – and most disappointing – of the bunch.

Cherries 'n' Crème

cherryandcreme

I’m generally not one to play or pick favourites, but if I had to make a list of the best young breweries in North America, Southern Tier would be near the top. These guys from New York State produce so many solid and interesting beers, it’s hard to believe that they’re less than 5 years old. And it’s nice that they’re one of the few US breweries to have representation and availability in Ontario, thanks to the fine folks at Roland + Russell.

Vlado from R+R passed me a pair of of brews from ST’s specialty Imperial series a while ago, so as I continue to play catch-up on all the things I’ve been meaning to write about, here’s what I thought of ’em:

Southern Tier Cherry Saison
Saison is one of my favourite beer styles, and cherry is one my favourite fruit beer flavours, so I was prepared to love this one. Unfortunately, I was a bit let down by it. It has a slightly hazy golden with a small white head. Odd aroma – a vague hint of cherry of you know to look for it, some oakiness, some musty yeast, hint of spice, and something else that I can’t really identify. Medium mouthfeel. Flavour is rather disappointing – again, a very vague hint of cherry, but it’s overpowered by notes of wood and caramel, a hint of cream, and a mild spiciness. Quite a strange beer – I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout
Ahhh, now this is more like it! Deep brown colour with a small mocha head. Absolutely rockin’ aroma of vanilla and caramel with hints of cream, maple, brandy and cocoa. Flavour follows the aroma note for note. Body is full and slightly sticky. I can see why some people wouldn’t dig this – the sweetness is verging on being cloying – but alongside a few rich chocolate truffles, this is a fantastic dessert brew. Yum!

Belated Buckbean Review

buckbean

Now that I’m back to blogging on a semi-regular basis, I figure it’s about time that I catch up on posting reviews of a few beers that I received and drank during my unintended break. First up: A pair of brews from Buckbean Brewing Company, a relatively new brewery in Reno, Nevada.

I was first contacted by someone at the brewery back in the spring or early summer with an offer to send me some samples to review. The first attempt to get a package to me failed when it disappeared along the way – likely due to thirsty customs agents opening it for inspection – so I arranged for a friend in Buffalo to receive a reshipped box, and eventually got the beers in September, at which point the ol’ blog was on an unintended hiatus. At least I was on the ball enough to take a picture when I drank them!

I was really interested in trying these beers for several reasons. First, I’d never tried a beer from Nevada before (not surprising, as the state isn’t exactly a hotbed for craft brewing action). Second, the styles of the brews – a schwarzbier and an orange blossom ale – are pretty unique for a fledgling brewery to come out with as their first offerings. And third, they’re in cans, which I’m glad to see more and more small breweries moving towards (for beers that are suitable for cans, at least).

As it turns out, I was pretty impressed with both of them, or so my tasting notes from the time suggest:

Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale
Slightly hazy orange-amber with a small white head. Aroma of orange popsicle and mild caramel malt with a hint of hops. Medium bodied. Fresh tasting, with notes of orange water, floral tea, sweet malt and mild herbal hops with a refreshingly dry finish. A nice, fresh, summery ale.

Buckbean Black Noddy Lager
Deep brown – almost black – with a medium tan head. Aroma of charred and roasty malt with notes of coffee and cocoa and a bit of smoke. Medium bodied. Flavour follows the aroma very closely – rich and roasty with hints of coffee, cocoa and smoke – and a dry, well-bittered finish with some nutty notes. Excellent!

So, belated thanks for Buckbean for sending these beers my way (twice!), and apologies for taking so long to post my thoughts on them. It’s been years since I’ve been in Nevada, but it’s good to know that there will be at least a couple of decent beers for me to drink down there if/when I ever make it back.

OCB Winter Beers – A Review Round-Up

ocb_winter_beers.jpg

Back in mid-December, I received a media pack from the Ontario Craft Brewers containing eight holiday/seasonal/dark beers. For a number of reasons, I was pretty slow to drink them all, with the final bottle finally being cracked a couple of nights ago (although I wish I had opened it sooner, for reasons noted below…), so the review round-up I promised would “follow soon” at the time has taken a bit longer than expected. Better late than never, right?

So, in the order of appearance in the photo above…

Wellington County Dark Ale
Chestnut-brown with a small off-white head. Toasty malts on the nose, with some toffee and chocolate. Medium bodied, and a well rounded malt flavour with notes of caramel/brown sugar, chocolate, and an odd hint of red wine. (Just see if I was imagining it, I checked my notes from a few years ago, and I noticed it then as well.) Mild hops in the finish are a bit earthy. A pleasant beer that straddles the line between a traditional UK pale ale and a nut brown.

Great Lakes Winter Ale
To quote myself: “A strong (6.2%) and malty ale spiced with cinnamon, ginger and orange peel. It has a rich ruby-orange colour and a sweet aroma with hints of fruit cake and caramel. The flavour starts quite sweet as well, but turns pleasantly spicy in the finish, with the orange peel and ginger being especially prominent as it warms up. This spiciness seems more up-front than I recall in last year’s version, but that’s quite alright, as it gives the beer a distinctive and enjoyable edge.”

Camerons Dark 266
A dark lager with a slightly murky ruby-brown colour. Nice aroma, with a good chocolate malt character with a bit of brown sugar. Similar malty sweetness in the flavour, followed by a bit of smoke, and a fresh hop finish. Medium bodied, quite suitable for the style. Like Waterloo Dark, it’s a fairly simple but enjoyable beer that is a good introduction for people who don’t think they like dark beers.

Trafalgar Abbey Belgian Spiced Ale
This is the last of the batch I tried, but I should’ve known better and opened it back in December in hopes of it being drinkable. Alas, like many Trafalgar beers I’ve tried in the last couple of years, it was infected despite being three months ahead of the supposed “best before date”, and had an aroma and flavour that sat somewhere between old sweat socks and pickle brine. It’s such a shame that a brewery with such an eclectic line-up has such poor quality control, as they’re really doing a disservice to themselves and Ontario’s craft brewers in general. Perhaps they should spend less time on their rebranding gimmicks and more time getting their core beers into a more stable condition before shipping them out.

Mill Street Barley Wine
Quoting myself again: “It has a clear, deep golden-orange colour with a good sized white head. The aroma has the sweet maltiness expected from the style, with a strong caramel character, but also a lot of orange/citrus notes that I don’t remember from the older versions. The flavour is very sweet off the top, with some spice and pepper in the middle, and strong orange peel in the finish along with a whisky-like heat that builds in intensity as the beer warms up.”

Old Credit Holiday Honey
Old Credit is one of those breweries that I rarely think about. Based in Port Credit, they have two year round brands: a “pilsner” which is more of a pale lager, and an “amber ale” which is essentially a Rickard’s Red clone. Microbrewed beer for mainstream tastes, I suppose. So I didn’t expect much from their holiday beer which is apparently available only from the brewery, and those moderate expectations were well met. It has an amber colour with a wispy head, and a simple, one-dimensional sweet malt aroma and flavour, with a faint hint of honey. It’s not offensive in any way – in fact, it’s inoffensive almost to a fault. And it has absolutely nothing in it that says “holiday” to me.

King Dark Lager
The first time I tried this beer a few years ago, I wasn’t that impressed. I guess I expected a dark beer to have a full body with big flavours. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate more subtle “dark” beer styles like dunkel, and realize now that King Dark Lager is a very good crack a that style. It pours a nice caramel-amber with a small off-white head. The aroma is malty, with notes of coffee and bread, and a grassy hops. Medium mouthfeel, and a very nice nutty malt flavour with hints of coffee and toffee, and a moderately hopped finish. Great stuff, especially if you get it fresh.

Heritage Black Currant Rye
Two years ago, this beer was a lager that was first made available at Volo Cask Days, and later as a limited bottle release. Last year, it became an ale that was, frankly, pretty bad. This year, it’s an ale again, but it’s been reformulated with some help from Perry Mason of Scotch-Irish, and it’s much better for it. Pretty ruby colour with a good size pink head. Great balance of malt and sweet-tart fruit in the aroma, while the flavour has a mild malt profile with a nice infusion of red currant. It’s a good fruit beer that’s sweet without being too sweet, but it’s also an odd choice for a winter seasonal – it really seems more summery to me.

Black Oak Nutcracker
This beer wasn’t actually part of the promo package, but I added it to the picture in order to make it more symmetrical, and to add another true winter/holiday beer to a somewhat slapdash selection. Nutcracker is a rich and robust porter laced with cinnamon, and it’s annual release is a highlight of my holiday season every year. That anticipation is one of the indicators of a great seasonal beer, and it’s also the reason that Nutcracker would’ve been a great addition to this package. Ah well, there’s always next year…

Christmas in October with Het Anker

hetanker.jpg

A while back, the fine folks at Roland + Russell importers set me up with bottles of a few of their newest offerings. Amongst them were two brews from Het Anker, the Belgian brewery better known for their main brand name, Gouden Carolus. Since I had a third Het Anker beer on hand at the time, and had recently sampled a fourth at a tasting session, so a rating round-up seemed to be in order.

Gouden Carolus Christmas
I’d tried this strong spiced ale a couple of times before, but I had no complaints about drinking it again. It pours a dark, hazy mahogany with a small mocha head. Big aroma that is sweet, spicy and herbal with some dried fruit notes. The flavour is quite sweet as well, with notes of cherry, pineapple, cinnamon, clove, dark malt and brown sugar. A great winter warmer – I almost wish I’d saved it to drink closer to Christmas. Almost.

Anker Boscoulis
One of the few non-Carolus beers from the brewery, this fruit beer has a slightly hazy ruby-amber colour with a good sized white head. The aroma is jammy, with tons of sweet berry notes, and some yeastiness lurking behind, and the mouthfeel is sticky. The flavour is sweet at first – very, VERY sweet – almost like liquid jam. But as it warms up, some tart and yeasty notes develop in the finish to help take the edge off. Still too much on the sweet side for my personal taste, but better than a lot of fruit beers I’ve tried.

Gouden Carolus Classic
A very fitting name for this one, as it truly is a classic example of a strong Belgian ale. Looks great in the glass – reddish-brown with a good sized off-white head. The aroma is warm, rich and sweet, with notes of malt, dried fruit and dark sugar. Smooth, full mouthfeel, and a big flavour of fruity malt, a bit of chocolate, some spicy yeast, and a slightly boozy finish. Lovely!

Gouden Carolus Ambrio
This lesser-known Carolus has a lighter colour, body and alcohol level than the Classic, but it’s still a decent Belgian strong. It has a clear amber colour with a short white head, and the aroma is warm and sweet, with notes of caramel and rye whiskey. Medium bodied, with a sweet, yeasty, warm and peppery flavour. Probably the least complex of all the Carolus beers I’ve tried, but still very good.