It took me a while to let my thoughts settle on this year’s Ottawa Winter Brewfest. I’m far from an apologist in the craft beer community, but I am the kind of guy who likes to look for the good in everything. That said, it was very difficult for me to find anything good to say about the 2016 Ottawa Winter Brewfest. Here are my five main reasons why this festival failed miserably:
Several fantastic brews come to mind when we think of imperial stouts made here in Ontario. We've got Beau's and their Matt's Sleepy Time, Bolshevik Bastard from Nickel Brook, and of course Wellington's Russian Imperial Stout. All great stouts, all readily available at any LCBO with a decent craft beer selection (readily available during stout season, of course.)
Now, let's get sidetracked for a moment here... Way back when the Ottawa Beer Club had its first meeting, our host - one Nick Kutlik - decided to go big or go home and kicked off our monthly meetings by introducing us to the Russian Imperial Stout style (paired with some awesome sausages and cheeses.) His choices? The previously mentioned Wellington's Russian Imperial Stout, and today's feature: Grand River Brewing's Russian Gun Imperial Stout. In celebration of nearly five years of us doing this Ottawa Beer Club thing, I decided that it was only fitting that we do a throwback to one of our first beers as a club (I know, throwbacks are for Thursdays... but can we just pretend that they're a Tuesday thing, just this once?)
Just behind Stouts and Barley Wines comes a close contender for my favorite beer style: Brown Ales. While we have a few mainstays that are readily available at plenty of LCBOs, such as Amsterdam's Downtown Brown and Neustadt's 10W30 (both of which are just great representations of the style,) I'm always on the lookout for new Brown Ales to try. My local LCBO (#624 - Innes & Tenth Line location) always carries an amazing stock of new brews to try. And this past week was no different when I walked in and was recommended to try today's beer, Left Field Brewery's Eephus.
As I sat here studying the thrilling North American Industry Classification System for my Marketing Foundations class, a very strong urge to crack open a beer washed over me. So I decided to go with a beer considerably more exciting than what I am studying: a chocolate chipotle stout called The Mayan by The Ilkley Brewery Co. from the U.K. This 6.5% stout delivers exactly what it says: tons of chocolate (milk, dark, and even some mocha) gives way to a lingering mild pepper heat. Under all that there's some nice roasted coffee, smoke, and dark fruit sweetness. There's some nice complexity to this that balances out quite well. Overall, I'm quite pleased with this LCBO find. Hopefully Ontario will see more from this brewery in the future! #craftbeer #stout #chipotle #themayan #studybreak
@millstreetbrew's West Coast IPA: a huge citrus slam - hints of orange peel, mango and lemon - grassy - mildly piney and earthy - juicy - light lingering bitter aftertaste. This is probably the cloudiest IPA I've come across in the province. As beautiful as it is delicious. #craftbeer #ontariocraftbeer #westcoastipa #ipa
Starting of an #OBC meeting right! Massive charcuterie board pored with The Alchemist's Heady Topper! #craftbeer #charcuterie #nomnomnom
@beausallnatural Ten Year Anniversary at the brewery today! Why aren't you here?! Tonnes of awesome beer to try! #craftbeer
Time for a vertical of @bierestambroise Stout Impériale Russe! 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. So much Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout goodness! #quebeccraftbeer #stout
It's easy to forget that @millstbrewpubottawa is here. I mean, if you're not downtown on a regular basis, it's kind of out of the way. But man, is it worth the trip! They're really bringing it with a solid selection of Summer Seasonals right now. My fave? The Stargazer! An awesome well-balanced English bitter. The location alone is worth the trip with one of the nicest patios in the city, but this brew is the cherry on top! #craftbeer #stargazer
Having never had a gluten-free beer before (I mean, why would I want to? Gluten is so tasty!) I had no idea what to expect from Glutenberg's Blonde. It's got adjunct lager qualities, in that there's a corn-syrup sweetness to it along with being light bodied with low-medium carbonation. Refreshing on a beautiful sunny day like today, and definitely a great alternative for are friends who can't do gluten! Hats off to our Glutenberg friends for cracking into the Ontario market and making their product widely available through the LCBO! #Glutenberg #blonde #glutenfree #quebeccraftbeer
While it may not be as perfect of a day as yesterday, today is still nice enough to BBQ in shorts and a t-shirt, and that's all I need. Well, that and this #Maibock from #LesTroisMousquetaires. Smooth and lightly creamy with a nice sweetness with hints of honey and grain. Refreshing! Do these folks know how to make a bad beer? Every time I pick up one of their products when I'm over on the Gatineau side of the river, I'm always impressed at the quality. This has a very good chance of becoming one of my go-to summer beers this year! #quebeccraftbeer #craftbeer
@brasseursdt L'Horloge never ceases to amaze. 12 samples of some of the best beer in Gatineau! #quebeccraftbeer #craftbeer #Gatineau
It's finally beginning to feel like spring, and what better way to celebrate than with @muskokabrewery's Legendary Oddity! And now available in cans! One of my fave Muskoka seasonals (right behind Winter Beard,) this beauty has tons going on: huge orange rind citrus complimented by flavors of spice and coriander with subtle hints of banana, cloves. There are also some nice herbal and floral undertones that smooth out some of the mild alcohol burn (which if you're not careful, that 7.1% will sneak up on ya!) So much going on in this amazingly complex and well-balanced beer! And now with the change from big bottles to cans, it's incredibly affordable at only $3.15/can at the LCBO. What's not to love?! #ontariocraftbeer #craftbeer #legendaryoddity #muskoka
We recently took a little day trip down to @hillfarmstead, which is quite literally half a mile down the road from the middle of nowhere in Vermont. While the brewery is definitely out of the way, it's a great place to visit. Although, everything we've read indicates that you'd probably want to avoid it on the weekends and try going during the week like we did last Thursday. We sampled everything available, and it's easy to see why this is considered a world class brewery. It was all so expertly crafted and extremely well-balanced. While we wanted to bring a bit of everything back with us, our wives would have been upset with the credit card bill. Instead, we settled on some Edward, an American Pale Ale with tons of orange citrus, mango, tropical fruit, hints of pine and grass lending to a nice dankness, light pepper and spice notes, and a strong malt backbone giving it a full bodied mouthfeel. Perfection in a glass. #vermontcraftbeer #craftbeer #edward #americanpaleale
One of our last stops on our #beerroadtrip: @innocente_brew. Tried a few samples and picked up some tasty treats to take home. Some solid beer, cool facility, and great staff! Can't wait to try these barrel aged #russianimperialstouts! #craftbeer #Ontario
After the 11th Annual Michigan Winter Beer Festival, we just HAD to go to the #1 #craftbeer bar in North America, #Hopcat! So. Much. Amazing. #beer. #OBCdoesMichigan
Next stop in #OBCdoesMichigan: @foundersbrewing, a huge pillar in the American #craftbeer scene. So stoked to be here!
#Michigan! We are in you! First stop: @bellsbrewery in #Kalamazoo! Amazing tap list! Where do we even begin?! I guess we'll just have to work our way through the entire list... #craftbeer #OBCdoesMichigan
#craftbeer in a canoe! No beer weekend is complete without a stop at @5paddlesbrewing! Enjoying a tasty flight consisting of Cold Crash Porter, Pith Girl and the Zesty Boys, and Midnight Paddler.
First stop on a huge #craftbeer weekend! @smithworksbrewingcompany in Peterborough. Awesome tasting room! Friendly staff. If you're ever in the area, come check them out!
Brew day with @dominioncity! We're brewing something fun, can't wait to see how this turns out! #Ottawa #craftbeer #pilotbatch
Death by Coconut, by Oskar Blues Brewery out of Colorado. The perfect #Porter for #OttawaSnowStorm2016. The roasted malt profile with some milk chocolate sweetness is the perfect reward after shoveling ten feet of snow. And the strong coconut flavours just takes my mind to some place warmer... without snow... and freezing temperatures... and broken shovels... and snow plows that make a four foot snow bank RIGHT AFTER I finished shoveling the driveway... Anyway! This little treat definitely hits the spot on a day like today. So glad we picked some up during a recent trip to Bottle Caps in Watertown. #craftbeer #OskarBluesBrewery #DeathByCoconut