So first off I’ll apologize for not posting an update in almost a month. It turns out working 5 days a week while simultaneously running a New Orleans style brass band is NOT a recipe for free time (who knew?). So with that out of the way today we’re looking at Muskoka Detour ale. This is a new session IPA from the Muskoka brewery. So you know what an IPA is and if not you should check out my review of Muskoka’s Mad Tom IPA as this does have some similarities. So what does it mean to be a session IPA? Well a session IPA is a light ale (4.3% alcohol) that does’t sacrifice flavour for drinkability (*cough*Coors*cough*). There is still a solid hop flavour while lacking the boozy quality that is more prevalent in full IPAs. So enough of what it is and on to what it tastes like.
Looking at this you may notice that it’s hazy. Don’t worry that’s completely normal as it’s an unfiltered beer (worry when Toronto is hazy, that shouldn’t be normal). The first thing you’re going to notice is how prevalent the hop aroma is. There is a lot of grapefruit peel coming off this beer and if you focus and get a good sniff (don’t snort it up your nose though…<-I am no longer liable if it happens) you can pick up a subtle hint of pine in the aroma. The palate follows the aroma but throws in a wicked curveball (if only the Jays bullpen could do that *sigh*) as it is a mix of the citrus flavour expected from the aroma but also has a very earthy kick to it as well. Following the hoppy bitterness, which is more bitter than a British pale ale but less than and American style IPA, the malt kicks in leading to a somewhat sweet aftertaste. The one thing that will surprise you (or at least it surprised me…though if you’re reading this sorry for ruining the surprise) is that for all the hop character and bitterness this IPA has the lightness and crispness of a lager making it quite refreshing.
Overall this is a very well made beer that positions itself firmly in a niche of super easy drinking IPAs that won’t get you belligerently drunk. It’s the type of IPA you can enjoy throughout the dog days of summer and have a few throughout the day without the lose of flavour typically associated with light beers. It’s available at the LCBO and the brewery and I whole heartedly recommend you give it a try.
The Beer Phantom
So it’s a long weekend. Hurray! That means I get to catch up on reviews. Today it’s all about the maple. We have Spring Maple from Lake of Bays queued up for you lovely people. So Lake of Bays (in an ode to a Canadian stereotype), brewed up a Belgian blond ale with maple syrup. Unlike other beer styles I’ve covered this requires less of a history lesson in terms of style (and no test this time!…consider it my long weekend gift to you). A Belgian blond ale is relatively heavy straw coloured ale sort of like a heavy lager. It usually has almost no hop taste of bitterness and therefore very grainy in character with lots of malty sweetness. Anyways on to the maple version.
“So what’s the aroma?” you eagerly ask since you’ve figured out my format by now. Well as you would expect from something made with maple syrup there is just a truckload (treeload?) coming off this beer. Once you get passed that treeload (yup I’m going with it) there is also hints of vanilla in a way that is almost reminiscent of butter pecan ice cream (yes really…why do you keep questioning me long after that previous review’s running gag had died?). There isn’t anything past those dominating aromas (just all over your nose like opposing teams on the Leafs).
The palate of this beer was very unique and extremely fluid. It started out with a surprising nutty flavour before quickly leading into an earthy but subtle bitterness (as subtle as the “b” in “subtle”). As quickly as it transitioned to the earthy bitterness the maple comes rolling right back in (like the puck into the Leafs defensive zone…hey if Lake of Bays is going Canadian stereotype then so am I). The beer finishes with maple however the sweetness fades and it comes across more like maple sap than syrup.
This is definitely not a beer for the faint of heart as it is very heavy as well as quite sweet. It is an ideal dessert or after dinner beer but is not really versatile or light enough to be a session beer (though it would probably make fantastic beer batter pancakes). Overall I would definitely recommend picking this up as it is one of the most mapley (it’s a word…don’t give me that look…) beers you’ll ever try but don’t anticipate wanting a large quantity of it due to the sweetness and heaviness of it.
Cheer eh (I said don’t give me that look!),
The Beer Phantom
“An Irish potato stout?!?” you exclaim. Yes indeed, that’s what Black Creek has produced for spring. “Yes but what is it?” you ask impatiently. Well it’s basically a nice dry Irish stout with the addition of potatoes during the brewing process (because stereotypes…well and history, what with the famine and all, but that makes for a worse punchline… so stereotypes). “Well that’s all well and good but I still have no idea what you’re talking about.” you say so that I can advance the plot of this post. Well an dry Irish stout is a dark, opaque and heavy style of beer with a lot of roasty quality but very little malty sweetness. Guinness is the most well known example of the style. So that plus potatoes.
The aroma of this beer follows fairly true to the typical notes you get from most Irish stouts, which is lots of toastiness, with a subtle hint of smoke. Where it differentiates itself is with the added aroma of freshly peeled potatoes, though it is subtle. This was very surprising given that I had expected the addition of potato to have more of a textural effect than a flavour impact, like with oatmeal stouts where it makes it creamier but has very minimal flavour impact (yes even I get to learn things here.) The palate follows the aroma but with some added depth. There is once again the toastiness, followed by potato (surprisingly), some malty sweetness (even more surprisingly) and really subtle dark chocolate bitterness as the flavour fades (if you want more drop a chocolate bar into it…and remember I said you’d get more not that it would be good).
Overall it’s a nicely done stout that is lighter than expected from the style. Whether that is due to potato or just the attempt of the brewmaster I’m not sure but it’s definitely a fairly easy drinking stout. It’s still not a sessionable beer (because you know, it’s a stout) but a nice, slow sipping beer for the end of the night (unless you want to feel like you ate a potato whole, then you can gulp eight of them down*). This beer is available in bottles at the LCBO.
Until next time
The Beer Phantom
*Legal disclaimer: do not under any circumstances do that!
Today’s prey is Mill Street’s Vanilla Porter. Now to get any confusion out of the way fast this is not a vanilla covered gatekeeper, but rather a dark beer that is slightly lighter than a stout but still a rather heavy and opaque beer. Now unlike a lot of beer names we’ve covered this one actually is exactly what it sounds like (take note British bitter!) and is a porter brewed with vanilla. Just a little backstory to porters as a style, it is a dark beer made with roasted barley and is the precursor to stouts, which got their name by being the stoutest of porters a brewery would make. Though it is good to remember that while all stouts are porters but all porters are not stouts. Clear as mud? Perfect. Moving on.
So the first thing to note about this beer is that it is designed to be a nitro style of beer, which means that the beer uses nitrogen in the keg rather than CO2 (and not that the beer has a turbo charged motor like a street racer). This carries over to the can so to properly pour it, make sure you have a big enough pint glass to fit the entire beer and the pour it out completely vertically as soon as possible after opening it. So the aroma of this beer is unsurprisingly, vanilla dominated, though there is also a bit of crème brûlée and a subtle toastiness. The palate offers about the same flavours as the aroma where once again vanilla dominates, though it starts off toasty before a subtle malt note before the vanilla kicks in. There is also a very, very subtle smokiness (the mice from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy subtle…yes I’ve read a book try not to act so shocked… or alternatively if you are unfamiliar with the book, the exact opposite of any Michael Bay movie). Right as the flavour is fading away there is also a nice dark chocolate bitterness that keeps the beer from getting too sweet.
This beer has a very creamy texture throughout that distracts from its heaviness making it one of the easier drinking and more sessionable porters going. Definitely worth picking up as it’s pretty much dessert in a glass. It also makes a mean beer float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s available at the LCBO as well as at the brewery so check it out.
The Beer Phantom
From the wilderness of Northern Ontario (well Muskoka anyways) comes the heavy hitting IPA I’ve mention before. Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom lives up to its name by being a powerful citrusy IPA with a high level of bitterness. The name IPA for those of you geeky enough to care about such things, (like me) stands for India pale ale. The reason for this is that when India was still a British colony they needed to send beer there (because without beer what’s the point of forcefully oppressing a people), however standard pale ales would go stale on the journey (and no one wants a stale ale let alone a pale stale ale). To overcome this they added a significant amount more hops to the beers, as hops act as a preservative. This had the unintended side effect of creating a uniquely hoppy style of beer with a high level of bitterness. That concludes our history lesson for today so onto the beer we go.
Mad Tom has a very strong citrus aroma with grapefruit peel just pouring out of the glass. Through this powerful citrus though comes a subtle hint of pine to really drive home the Northern Ontario point. The palate follows very true to the aroma and once again grapefruit peel and pine come through. The difference however is that the pine is much more pronounced on the palate than in the aroma (almost enough to make me want to turn it into classy furniture). After all the bitterness has faded the malt comes through at the end leading to a nice refreshing finish. Mad Tom surprisingly also has a nice warming feel to it (probably because winter sucks in Muskoka… Even Ned Stark would say “Jesus that’s a brutal winter!”)
Overall this beer is a fantastic example of a big hoppy IPA but it is definitely heavy and not particularly sessionable due to its strong flavour. I’d recommend picking a couple up but having other beers on hand if you are planning on having a longer drinking session (unless you want to become as mad as Mad Tom…you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…). Mad Tom is available in tallboy cans and 6 pack bottles at the LCBO as well as at their brewery so hop (groan) to it.
The Beer Phantom
So I’m here to introduce you to another relatively new Toronto brewery in the Junction. The aptly named Junction Craft Brewing company, specializes in lower alcohol beers without losing the flavour like mass produced light beers which shall remain nameless (*cough Coors *cough). On the docket for today is their signature beer Conductor’s Craft ale which you can get at the brewery in bottles or at the LCBO in cans. Now onto the beer because I exhausted all my train jokes in the title.
So this beer falls firmly into the kind-of-a-pale-ale-but-not-entirely category. What does that mean exactly? Well if you’ve read this far you already know I’m going to explain it. Conductor’s has similar qualities to an American style pale ale (hops and lots of them) but is more subdued like a British style pale ale and has a very malty quality like a German amber lager.
This beer starts out with a really roasty aroma and lots of earthiness, more so than I was expecting given it being categorized as a American British hybrid pale ale. It also has a slight caramel hint to it which follows through onto the palate. On the palate the maltiness jumps right out (like Harrison Ford jumping out of the way of the train in The Fugitive…yes it was forced but you try coming up with train/pop culture analogies). The caramel comes in shortly after but it’s very subtle and very brief. Then the earthy hops and roasty character dominate the rest of the flavour but with only a moderate amount of bitterness. The beer finishes with a bready note and an earthy hop character.
Overall I’d definitely recommend grabbing one of these if you’re looking for a sessionable pale ale with more hop kick than the average British style pale ale. It’s got a nice hop bite without being as heavy and bitter as an IPA so it fits into it’s niche of being hoppy and light but only moderately bitter well.
The Beer Phantom
Who says you have to go to Germany to get a decent weiss beer? You do for the purposes of this post. Great little Ontario find of a German style weiss or wheat beer from Denison’s Brewing Company. Like most wheat beers it is cloudy due to the yeast sediment (unlike Vancouver which is cloudy due to no Stanley Cups! Hiyoooo… It’s a blog I have to be my own co-host…). This style of wheat beer is different from the Belgian style in that it is brewed without orange peel and coriander, due to being brewed in accordance with the German beer purity laws which state only water, yeast, hops and wheat or barley can be used. That concludes the history portion of this lesson so onto the taste we go.
Unsurprisingly the beer is less cloudy coming out of the can as opposed to draught but it is still one of the best LCBO available wheat beers going. It’s got a really nice aroma that is also very unexpected if you have never tried a wheat beer before. Lots of banana (yes really) comes through with a little bit of yeasty quality (hard to explain that one so unlike the juniper this one you have to find in your kitchen. Don’t worry I’ll wait here…Back? Okay moving on). The taste is really crisp and refreshing and once again the banana shines through (yes really. It’s my blog, no more questions without raising your hand). There is also a very slight hint of cloves but it gets hard to taste after even half the pint unless you focus on it with all the determination of Liam Neeson in Taken (you don’t know where it is but you will find it and you will taste it). The beer finishes with a lingering banana bread flavour (I said put your hand up!).
Overall definitely a nice beer if you’re looking for a lighter beer and a break from the hops or just skeptical of a great Ontario weiss beer. It’s also a great session beer as it’s not too heavy alcohol wise. This beer is available in the LCBO in tall cans.
The Beer Phantom