Wellington Brewery - Some Recent One-Offs

Over the last few weeks I've had the pleasure of trying out several of Welly's one-offs.  Instead of posting about them individually, I decided to go with one long-ass post.  So let's get started in no particular order.

First on deck:

Terrestrial India Brown Ale!

I was lucky to sample this at one of our favorite watering holes, Ottawa's own Arrow & Loon.  The manager was great enough to let us know he had a few he'd been saving, and we happily jumped on the opportunity since we missed out when they were released.

This came in a 473mL can, and had a 5.9% alc./vol.  It pours an opaque brown with a thin light beige head and thick lacing.  The biggest thing about the nose on this was the fresh grassy hop with some light caramel undertones.  Bitter hops hit the tongue and it finishes with a strong earthy malt.  There are also some light citrus notes mixed in between.  The mouthfeel is smooth with medium carbonation and little-to-no coating.  Overall it was a good brown ale and I was glad to have caught it when the A&L had some left.

Onto the next:


Again, sampled at the Arrow & Loon just recently when we thought it would be unattainable!

5.5% alc./vol.  Pours copper-red with a thin white head and little lacing.  The nose has a powerful combination of wheat, yeast and grain, with mild undertones of rye and caramel.  Caramel malts become much more apparent in the taste and the rye remains very mild.  There's another sweetness there, maybe a touch of vanilla?  You also get a strong bitterness mixed in with earthy hops.  The carbonation was light, and the body was medium with a smoothness that's a little surprising given the bitterness.  It was quite interesting, I can't say that I've had it's like before so I don't have much to compare it to, but I really enjoyed it.

And now an intermission:


Everyone, say hello to Bosco.  He's some kind of... dog... thing.  Don't ask me what kind.  He's my mom's dog, and I took this picture when I took care of him last year, and this picture was still on my phone.  Happy Mom?  Your dog is now internet famous.  Which means a few people on the internet will go "D'awwwww, he's so cute!" ...then promptly forget about him after they see another ninety-four animal pictures by their first coffee break of the day.

Alright, intermission's over, back to the good stuff!

Boot Chuck I.P.A.!

I've mentioned this before, but one of our good friends happens to live down in Guelph.  Even more convenient for us is the fact that he's a stone's throw away from the Welly.  So when we knew we'd be seeing him a few weeks ago on a trip to Montreal, we made sure he brought us the current Welly One-Off.

I didn't take notes, so I'm running purely on memory here, and this old thing isn't running so smoothly.   This, like the Rye-it! was a 5.5% alc./vol.  It pours an opaque amber with thick white head and medium lacing.  Good blend of malt and hop in the nose with a very strong citrus tone.  Slightly bitter hoppy taste with more of the malt and citrus.  Smooth mouthfeel, medium carbonation, bitter lingering aftertaste.  A nice take on an I.P.A.  Fingers crossed on this still being available when I'm in Guelph this weekend!

Next up:

Spaltacus Imperial Golden Ale!

This is a fairly recent one-off that I had the pleasure of sampling when I was last in the G-town, back in June.  I couldn't buy any at the time, because some jerk (who shall go unnamed... okay, it was the OBC's own Nick) cleared out their entire fridge and wouldn't let me buy any.  Okay, maybe he's not such a jerk, because he saved a few for me and brought them over last week.

This golden ale weighs in at a hefty 8.5% alc./vol.  Golden hue with a very light cloudiness, with a thick white head and minimal lacing.  Herbal hop, earthy malts, and hints of pepper and grapefruit in the nose.  You get a bit of the pepper in the taste, which adds a little spice to the bitter hops.  There's a strong booze finish to it (what did you expect from an 8.5%?) that you can really feel travel from the back of your mouth and down your throat.  This ale was exceptionally smooth.  A great strong beer that I hope they do again one day.

Lastly, not a One-Off, but something definitely worth mentioning:

Cask Imperial Russian Stout!

At the cask session that kicked off the recent National Capital Craft Beer Week at the Arrow & Loon, Wellington brought casks of two of our favorites: the Arkell Best Bitter and the Imperial Russian Stout. I won't say much, since I've gone on about the Imperial Russian Stout many times... but do yourselves a favour: if you ever see this on cask anywhere, get it.  I just read a tweet that it will be available very soon at Brothers Beer Bistro.

So there you have it, my take on a few one-offs.  I'd love to hear from my fellow Welly fans.  What's your favorite Welly One-Off?  What would you like to see them do next?


Craft beer - Great Beer, better people.

Craft Beer! What's not to love? I mean, the very precepts of the movement highlight what makes good businesses great. They care about community. Most micro brews or craft Brewer's are local and their main client base are the communities they themselves live in, so they can't help but pour the love they show their craft right back into their communities. They run festivals, support local events, start local charities and do all this while pumping funds into the local economy. They take care of the communities that take care of them. They care about their clients. Craft beer is about reaching out and putting a pint glass in the hand of a fan. The Craft Brewer's love what they do and want to share that love with their fans. They love beer and beer drinkers. They want to talk beer and love an opportunity to do so. I can't remember a time when I have gone to a craft beer event where I didn't spend most of my time waxing philosophical about beer with various reps from across the province. Craft brewing is as much a fraternity as it is a business. Craft brewers stand together. I recently heard a rep describe the craft beer movement as a group of brewers standing in line with arms linked facing the big 10 brewers. I love this analogy because that's what they are. They don't run each other down. They don't slander or impugn one another. They stand together. Perhaps sometimes not arms linked but side by side, joined by their collective love of the craft of beer brewing . They cheer the accolades of their fellow Brewers and support each other in their love of beer. I seldom hear them criticize their fellows but rather hear them sing the praises of their competition. It's incredibly hard not to fall in love with this community. Honest, dedicated, enthusiastic and loyal. Craft brewers are a community worth praise.

To Weiss or not to Weiss?

Greetings and salutations, my fellow bloggers.  For my inaugural post I have chosen to talk about the brew that most strikes my fancy, and that is wheat beer.
I have realized long ago that given a choice, I will most often pick it over others.  To this day, I remember the very first one I tasted even though many years have passed, and I knew right then and there than I was on to something.  From light to dark (yes, for those new to wide world of beers, wheat beers can be dark! ..I remember being quite surprised by that back in the day when I started broadening my beer horizons.), the spectrum of flavours wheat beers offer has yet to disappoint me. 
Whether it’s a Hefeweizen or a Belgian Wit, or perhaps some unique fruit blend, the notes of coriander, cloves, or citrus always keep me coming back for more. 
Sure, the hops are not as present in this style of brew, but I think that’s part of the attraction for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and enjoy beer in nearly all incarnations, but I’ve noticed that I tend to side with those that keep the bitter hops flavours more subdued.
I have observed that wheat beers tend to evoke fairly strong reactions when tasted for the first time.  Most often it is those who don’t stray too far outside of their chosen brand that are caught off guard by the unique flavours.  Some love it, while others write if off completely, in preference to more traditional (for lack of a better word) types.  Either way, I find it’s always a good idea to offer to show this delicious style of beer to anyone who is willing to try, because even if they don’t fall in love with it as I have, they now know that there are options out there to explore.  And let’s face it, it’s that exploration of all that beer has to offer is what keeps us coming back for more.
To me, there is something spectacular about a warm summer afternoon on a patio with a cold, refreshing wheat ale in hand.  I highly recommend it to everyone!

Mill Street Ottawa it's not me, it's you.

They say that presentation is everything. Most people would agree that if something looks good, it usually is good. But how you present, shouldn’t be all you're striving for. There has to be a solid base to back up a great presentation, a real dedication to the product you’re putting forth. Presentation can be everything, but shouldn’t be the only thing.
I recently had an opportunity to drop in at the Mill Street Brew Pub Ottawa. I had been there before but this time I went with the express intention of stopping to smell the roses. I think the first two times I went I was so awe struck by the place I didn’t take the opportunity to really enjoy it. This is an establishment that takes the precepts of great presentation to new heights. The Brew Pub opened this year, in what was once a pulp mill, just off the Ottawa River. It’s a fantastic location and a beautiful building. I am a fairly big Mill Street fan and was very pleased to hear they had opened up an establishment in Ottawa. It’s a nice blend of rustic and modern inside, and has a serious cool factor about it.  There is a fantastic glass enclosure in the center of the building where you can see the burnished steel of the brew house and admire the several gleaming vats of their in-house brewing operations. The menu is fairly standard pub food with a few stand outs like pulled chicken poutine, port steak salad and brewery tourtiere. All the menu items are prepared with Mill Street beer so they do try their best to sew it all together. The wait staff were helpful and courteous and did try to help me out with my beer choices, though suggesting the seasonal offerings seemed to be their “go to” when making suggestions. As some of you may know by now, beer is my major concern, so I took a moment away from my musings on the establishments other offerings and got down to beer business. I studied their beer list and was frankly a little underwhelmed. I didn’t see anything that really got my beer brain excited. When coming to a destination spot, like a brew Pub, I’m often looking for, and expecting, something special. I want something I can’t get at the LCBO. I want something that peaks my curiosity, something unique. Sadly, in this case, I found nothing to stimulate my barley senses. I settled on their seasonal Frambozen and found it decent but unmemorable (I’ll let the boys who do the beer reviews give you the skinny on this). After the Frambozen I decided to mix things up, literally, and ordered a flight. The flight was reasonably priced and allowed me to give a few old favourites a run around my taste buds. I should point out that the Ottawa Mill Street Brew Pub does brew 3 Ottawa specific beers: Amber de la Chaudiere, Irish Valley Red and Portage Ale. These have all been available in mixer packs at the LCBO from time to time. The Amber de la Chaudiere is quite good, with great flavour but the other two did not register on my “gotta have it” list. I was thoroughly disappointed to find out they did not have their new Brown Ale on tap as I had tried it at another Ottawa establishment earlier in the week and loved it.
All in all, once I took the time to sit back and look past all the glitter I found the Mill Street Brew Pub was trying a little too hard. They put on a good show, but couldn’t really back it up. The beer is cold, the food is decent and the service is standard, but the whole package was a bit of a let down. Sure it’s flashy and did a few things very well but I found the follow through lacking. You want to showcase what you’ve got, not gloss it over with a few fancy tricks. Mill Street is a fantastic organization and brews some of the best craft beer out there. They should focus on that, not on all the glitz and glam.   

Shock Top - Belgian White

My very tall and handsome friend Matt and I sat down on a sunny afternoon to enjoy a few brews out on a patio.  We ended up down at the Aulde Dubliner, in the heart of the market in downtown Ottawa.

Before I get into what we drank, I have a quick story to tell.  One of the wait-staff had a tattoo on her right ankle and it made us geek out just a little bit (well, I might have geeked out more than Matty, but that's not the point.)  This 20-something gorgeous hostess had a tattoo of the Triforce of Power from Zelda.  How awesome is that?  I should have gotten a picture for you all.  Wait, in retrospect, that probably would have been a little creepy.  Anyway, it was totally cool.

Now onto our review!  We ended up ordering a couple Belgian Whites from Shock Top.

Just take a look at that.  The presentation is just gorgeous: a cloudy, golden orange with a thin white head.  The lacing is as expected for a Wit: non-existant.  It's aroma has a heavy citrus nose to it blended with wheat and hops.  The flavour holds much of the bitter citrus from the nose, while the grainy hops isn't nearly as strong as expected from the nose.  You get light carbonation in the mouthfeel with a smooth coating of the tongue.

Our final thoughts?  In Matt's words: This is a great "gateway" wit.  If you've never had a wit, this will help you appreciate this style of beer.  It cuts back just enough on the graininess that you typically get in more traditional Belgian Whites, allowing you to appreciate it as a smooth and refreshing summer beer.  My only suggestion: if it's served to you with an orange slice (which it usually is,) be sure to sample the brew on it's own first.  An orange slice really increases the citrus notes, which might not be for everyone.


Beau's Lug Tread

A beautiful and not-so-disgustingly-humid-and-hot day got me to leave the house and hit a few local pubs.  I decided to visit a well-known and well-established joint by the name of the Fox & Feather on Elgin street in downtown Ottawa.  It's a place I've visited a few times over the years, and the atmosphere has always been great.

So I step up to the bar, pull up a stool, and ask "What do you have that's local?"  The response:  "Beau's Lug Tread."  Not a bad choice if you only had to choose one local brewery.  I'm a fan of Beau's brews and the company in general, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed that such a pillar in the Ottawa pub scene didn't have a stronger Ontario craft beer selection.  That being said, the rest of their selection wasn't terrible, but I was looking for something local, so the choice was painfully obvious.

Before we chat about their flagship lager - the Lug Tread itself - let's talk about Beau's.  These folks are located just outside of Ottawa in a small town called Vankleek Hill.  They pride themselves on being a tight family operation that is all about organic ingredients and great beer.  They've truly stepped up their game in recent history by increasing their presence in the craft brew scene through colaborations with other breweries, some fantastic seasonal brews, and amazing charity works.

Now onto the review:

The Lug Tread lager weighs in at a 5.2% alc./vol.  You can pick it up at the LCBO in 4-pack 600mL bottles usually.  The colour is a very clear golden-yellow with a thin white head and good lacing.  It's important to note that the carbonation is highly visible.  The aroma has strong senses of grain and grassy hops with a slight sweetness that I had a hard time describing (a cross between apple and pear is the closest I could get.)  There is also a light peppery dusting in the nose.  You get more of the grassy hops and grainy malts in the taste with a sweet and peppery aftertaste that is very light.  There's surprisingly high carbonation for a light-bodied, crisp and smooth lager.

My final thoughts?  A great pint on a warm summer day.  This beer graces my fridge often enough, so I don't need to say much except this: if you haven't tried their brews, do it.  The Lug Tread is finding it's way into more and more pubs here in Ontario, so it shouldn't be hard to find.  Worst case, stop by the LCBO and pick up a 4-pack.  Better yet: go to their brewery, take them up on a tour, have a few samples, and pick up some brews on your way out.

What about you, my fellow beer lovers?  What are your thoughts on the Lug Tread?

"This is grain, which any fool can eat, but for which the Lord intended a more divine means of consumption: Beer!"
-Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves

Mill Street Brewery - Helles Bock

A couple of the boys and I sat down at the Mill Street Brewpub here in Ottawa to have a few pints recently, and we decided to have a look at the Helles Bock together.  I didn't get a chance to take a picture due to technical difficulties (those technical difficulties being a malfuctioning brain - A.K.A. I forgot to take a picture.)  Unfortunately, not even their website has a nice pic of how it looks, so you'll just have to trust my skills as a wordsmith. (I know, I'm a regular comedian.  Funny, right?)

This German-style lager weighs in at a 6.2% alc./vol.  It pours a clear golden copper with a thin off-white head and little lacing.  The aroma has a heavy grain and malt nose with a slightly sweet vanilla and honey undertone to it.  A hint of caramel can also be detected.  The first sip is bittersweet: a mix of bitter hops with the same sweet notes from the nose.  Malts start to come through as you drink more, and the bitterness subsides slightly as the sweet notes take over, although this all happens quickly with a lackluster finish.  The mouthfeel is smoth, with light coating and medium to high (almost too much) carbonation.

So what's the good, the bad, and the ugly?
The Good: The Bock was surprisingly smooth for a high alcohol content beer.
The Bad: The execution of bitter to sweet seemed a little off, like it didn't blend well.  The carbonation was a little too high for my likes.  The finish was just not there, the bitter and sweet hit hard as it rolled on the tongue, but it quickly dissipated into nothing.
The Ugly: Nothing.  I would drink it again, I love high alcohol brews that don't taste like high alcohol brews.  It just really isn't that great of a representation of a Euro lager.

"Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." - Winston Churchill

Wellington Brewery - Imperial Russian Stout

Fellow beer enthusiasts: It's time.

It took several self-pep talks, but I'm finally doing it.  I've stared down the cans (the old cans from my trip down to Guelph last month, and more recently some of the new ones that our buddy Andy picked up for us last week.)  I've put this stout up on a silver platter for some time, and I've been afraid that it wouldn't hold up.  My tastebuds have evolved in the recent past, and while I fell in love with this beer only a year ago, I couldn't quite define why.  Back then, either I liked something or I didn't - I never really stopped to ask why.

Today I stop and ask why.

Do I need to talk about the company before I get into this?  Honestly, I wouldn't know what to say.  During my last trip down to the G-town, they blew me away.  Their tour was awesome: both extremely informative and enjoyable (it's the best five bucks you'll spend in Guelph.)  We got to chatting with Bryan, one of their brewers and self-proclaimed resident beer geek (seriously, he evens claims it on his Twitter account.  Follow him, he's an awesome guy.)  Do yourself a favour and have a serious beer chat with him if you can - he's both down-to-earth and enthusiastic about his craft.  Anyway, about the company itself?  Bah, you're not here for a history lesson, you'd go to their website if you wanted that - or even better, you'd stop in for a tour.  So, what are you here for?  If not for a history lesson, or my stunning good looks (seriously ladies, check out the mug in that profile picture, you know you love it) it must be for a review of the beer I have gone on record as claiming to be the best beer brewed by a man (or a woman.)

Here we go!

The Imperial Russian Stout comes in a standard 473mL can, and weighs in at an 8% alc./vol.  (Loving the new cans by the way Welly!)  It pours a near-black with a beige head that quickly dissipates, leaving a thin lacing.  You get a rich blend of dark chocolate, coffee and roasted malts in the nose.  The mouthfeel is smooth and light with low but adequate carbonation.  There is more of the aroma in the flavour: dark chocolate and coffee with a slightly earthy hop finish.

Conclusion?  I love it as much as the day I first tried it, even more now that I can define it better.  This stout just does it for me.  And on a side note, it's absolutely amazing with a bit of dark chocolate.

While my fellow Ottawans (Ottawanians? Ottawites? Whatever...) can't get it in any LCBOs I can find yet, it should make it's way up here soon, or so Welly has promised since we've been bugging them on Twitter about it.

Along with a couple cans of this bad boy, I managed to snag some of the Welly's current one-off, their Boot Chuck IPA.  A review of that will be needed very soon... mainly because I lick my lips everytime I see the cans sitting in my fridge.

So thanks for reading beer lovers.  I hope it was a pleasant distraction.  Now speaking of pleasant distractions... time for more Stout and a little more Lindt dark chocolate.

Oh, yeah, before I go... As I expand my beer horizons, I've come to realize I love dark ales and stouts.  What are some fantastic stouts that you've come across in your travels?  (preferably something I can get ahold of here in Ottawa or within a reasonable distance.)


Ottawa Beer Club Posting Schedule

We're pleased to announce an attempt at a fixed posting schedule.  Look for new posts every Tuesday and Thursday.  Most posts will continue to involve beer reviews from @Jay_Bizzle along with the popular rantings on beer culture and reviews on local pubs and brewries from of our own @CptHarbatkin.  However, we may catch you off-guard with random postings about anything else beer-related from time to time.  So stay tuned, and let us know what you want to see! :)

Great Lakes Brewery - Red Leaf

I was at the LCBO last week preparing for a little beer club meeting and I decided to do a little grab bag of cans from various breweries that I have either never tried, or have only had one or twice in the past.  One of the breweries that made it into the batch was Great Lakes Brewery, and the specific can was one their Red Leaf.  Now, I'm always on the search for a good Red - I love my chicken wings, and I love 'em more when I have a good Red to enjoy 'em with.  I have to say, I'd never tasted their Red before, because when I think Great Lakes, I think of the fan favorite: Crazy Canuck, and that's the first thing I grab from them.

About a week after picking it up, I've decided to crack 'er open and do a little tasting before I fire up the grill for a couple steaks I have marinating.  So without further ado, Great Lakes Brewery: Red Leaf.

This "smooth red," as they call it, pours a golden red - almost coppery, although the picture makes it look more like a brownish clay - with a frothy light beige head.  The interesting part of this is with such a thick and frothy head there was surprisingly little lacing.  The aroma is a light combination of caramel, grain and roasted malts.  The mouthfeel is smooth - as they aptly describe it - with average carbonation and a quickly dissipating, light aftertaste.  The grainy aroma takes on a toasted quality in the taste, combined with flavours of roasted nuts, bread and caramel malts.  These different flavours are all light in their own respects and blend together fairly well.

And the verdict?  My search for the perfect red to go with my chicken wings continues, unfortunately.  While the Red Leaf is an overall satisfyingly smooth Red, it failed to blow me away.  Will I buy it again?  Sure.  But I have to say this Red meets the standard and does little to set itself apart from the rest, unlike so many of the other great brews from GLB.

So I ask you, readers and fellow OBC members, what makes the top of your lists for your favorite Red?

-JDK (And no, contrary to popular belief, the "D" does not stand for Douche.)

The Arrow and Loon, my happy place...

It's not hard to find a place to drink beer.  You can't throw a beer cap without hitting a pub, sports bar or bistro that serves that frosty beverage we all adore.  So how does the above average beer drinker sort through all the competition when it comes to his beer guzzling palate?  It's got to be about the BEER.  So often we find nothing but the same old, same old nowadays.  The usual mix of mass market retail beers, maybe a monster import and in rare cases, a craft beer selection to round things out but only if it's brewed locally.  Ordinarily this would be fine.  Who doesn’t love the local Pub?  A place you can go to get your favorite import or the old faithful domestics you’ve been drinking for years.  I can say there isn't much that I like more than a frosty glass of Rickard's Red.  But the problem is it's always the same.  There's no variation, no surprise.  The beer merchants have a formula.  You buy what sells and sell what people want to buy.  No brainer.  In many cases the beers they buy are the safe and consistent choice.  I'm no commerce major but this seems like a good business plan.  Unfortunately for me, as my beer palate matures, it's just not good enough.  I want more.  I want to be surprised again.  I want to mix things up and step out of my comfort zone.  For most beer slingers that's just too much, you can't make money headed down that path.  People want what's familiar, what's safe.  They want consistency and predictability.  

But ladies and gentlemen, you don't have to settle for what is safe and predictable.  I have found a place where all my beer dreams have come true.  It’s my Beerhalla, my mecca for brewed barley, my happy place.  The Arrow & Loon Pub is a little piece of heaven, smack dab in the middle of Ottawa.  I can't say enough about this place.  The Arrow is my favorite place to grab a pint.  This humble establishment boasts both a restaurant and bar.  It also has both an indoor and outdoor patio, something you certainly don’t see every day.  Its unique architecture adds to its allure, but the real story of this place is the beer.  When you get up to the bar you'll have to find your way around a forest of beer taps.  The Arrow sports 29 Craft Beers on draught!!!  29!  It’s fantastic.  Whether it be Rail City's Dead Elephant or Nickelbrook’s Naughty Neighbor, to Spearhead's Hawaiian IPA and Muskoka's Summer Oddity, the beer you want is here.  The mastermind behind this Craft Beer Revolution is the manager.  He is the perfect blend of surly and courteous, and always happy to pour you a pint.  The manager is also a huge Craft Beer fan and always seems to have some new keg he’s dying to put out.  They rotate the beers on tap often so there is always something new to entice your beer taste buds.  They have 3 cask pumps they keep stocked with great Real Ale selections so the true beer connoisseur will never go wanting.  The staff is friendly, efficient and always tries to help you out with the mountain of beer choices.  The beer menu is often out of date, so checking the taps before you grab a seat is always a smart move.  The wait staff might not always be the most knowledgeable about the specifics of beer, but what they lack in expertise they make up for in enthusiasm and good humour.  The Arrow offers beer flights at reasonable prices so you don’t have to agonize over which delectable brew to try next.  I mean, why have one when you can sample three?  All and all this place is tops.  It's the number one destination for Craft Beer in Ottawa and it never disappoints.  I should also mention that there is indeed a kitchen at the Arrow and I'm told the food is quite good.  Myself I've only seen the menu once or twice, choosing to focus on that which is best in life over sustaining my body's pathetic need for nourishment.  If any of you take my advice and stop in at the Arrow and Loon, please take a look at the menu and let me know what you think.  As for me, I'll most likely be at the bar, trying to drink the place dry. 

HogsBack Sunofa Beach - Kristal Wheat

A couple of us had the pleasure of attending a little launch party for HogsBack's new seasonal, Sunofa Beach.  Some of the lads from HogsBack were on hand to chat about it and meet some of their loyal customers.  To me, this was a huge treat, on par with being able to sit back and enjoy a few pints of their new beer.  After meeting a few of these gentlemen (first at the Watson's Mill beer tasting, and then last night at the Sandy Hill Bar and Lounge,) you really get the sense that they're down-to-earth, regular beer-loving Joes, who love to tell stories and talk about their trade.  What's not to like, and even respect, about that?

If you're new to the Ontario craft brew scene, you might be asking yourself who HogsBack is.  They've got a great little story about how they came to be over on their website.  Essentially they're a group of good ol' Ottawa boys who got together very recently - only a couple of years ago - to start this great new brewing company.  They have one lager that you can find in general circulation at most LCBOs: The HogsBack Vintage Lager.  I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but this is fast becoming my go-to session beer (as a matter of fact, I am enjoying one as I write this.)  So yes, they currently have this superb lager, and they just recently started doing seasonals.  And that is what we're here to talk about today.

I only remembered to take one quick picture for a tweet while we were there.  It unfortunately isn't the best picture - I promise to get better!  The HogsBack Sunofa Beach Kristal Wheat:

In this case we were served this by the pitcher, and we all know pouring from a pitcher is much different than pouring from a can or bottle.  However, when we poured it we got a clear golden straw appearance with minimal head and very little lacing.  The nose if very faint, a slight sweetness that is difficult to discern at first but can best be described as a vanilla aroma.  You get a very smooth and crisp mouthfeel every sip.  The faint sweetness from the aroma becomes more apparent in the taste - but not to the point of being overpowering - and the vanilla aroma almost takes on a honey quality in the taste.  Aftertaste is very light to almost non-existant.

The main thing here: smooth, crisp and slightly sweet.  The perfect summer beer.  It's a limited run that will not be available in retail, you'll only be able to get it on tap at select locations.  The HogsBack boys said they'd have a listing up soon as to where else you can enjoy this fine beverage.  In the meantime, do yourself a favour: stop by beautiful Sandy Hill and head over to the Bar and Lounge for a pint of this great beer.

Be sure to follow these boys on their Twitter feed: @HogsBackBrewing and visit their website: http://www.hogsback.ca.

Cheers to a job well done, HogsBack!

Hockley Amber

After our outing to the Watson's Mill beer tasting on Friday, I decided to pick up a couple of the Hockley taster's packs at the LCBO.  Hockley hasn't let me down yet.  In fact, they brew one of my favorite Dark Ales (luckily for me, the pack features Hockley Dark, huzzah!)  But that's not what I'm here for tonight.

If you recall, in my not-so-brief review of the beer tasting, we sampled Hockley Amber.  It left a good impression on us.  So I wanted to take a moment this evening and attempt to truly appreciate this ale and jot down my thoughts on it.

But first, a little bit about the company, shall we?  These guys have been around for almost 10 years now, starting up in late 2002 in Hockley Village, just west of Newmarket, Ontario.  They had thought of starting a distillery with a different twist on whiskey: horse manure instead of the normal peat-based process.  Sounds a little crazy to me, I'm happy they made the move to brewing.  In their first few years they released such great beers as the Hockley Gold and the Hockley Dark.  In 2007 they relocated to Orangeville, and have been brewing great beers ever since.

And now, on to the tasting!

Hockley Amber is a light bodied ale with a 4.2% alc./vol.  As you pour it, a reddish brown with a golden tinge fills the glass.  The head retention is nice, leaving foam along the glass as the head subsides.  The nose is sweet with a light caramel malt and hoppy undertone.  The mouthfeel is smooth, envelopping the tastebuds - without coating them heavily - and giving you a full taste that you would expect  from the nose.  Aftertaste is light and doesn't stay for long.

I have to say: this was as good as it was at the beer tasting, actually even better now that I've had a moment to sit and enjoy a full can.  Before this night is through, the second one tucked away in the back of my fridge may go missing.  In the summer, I'd really enjoy this next to the barbeque having a few burgers with the boys.  In the winter, this would go great with a hot bowl of spicy chili watching the game.

I recommend you pick up their taster pack at the LCBO: featuring the Dark, Amber and Black&Tan.

Rookie Beer Reviewer signing off,
-JK (no relation to Rowling)

Watson's Mill Beer Tasting - a not-so-brief recap

So several of us made our way to Manotick yesterday evening, and as previously mentioned we attended the beer tasting event at Watson's Mill.  While the weather was a little on the "uncomfortably warm and humid" side, with dozens of people crowding into an old heritage building, it wasn't unbearable. Having been on the grounds before - but never in the Mill itself - the building was quite a site behold.  This great piece of history has been preserved and maintained so well, kudos to the staff and volunteers!

The atmosphere was great.  Most people were there out of genuine interest to support this historic landmark, and the beer tasting was just an added bonus.  As an outsider looking in, you could really feel a sense of community that is fostered by the staff and volunteers, and it was great to be a part of that.  The band was good, playing tunes that blended well into the background as people mingled, sampled and chatted.

Then, of course, there was the beer.  Our entry fee got us enough tickets to sample six beers each.  There were "booths" for perhaps a dozen Ontario craft breweries (I say booths in quotations as these were just tables with a few empty cases, a cooler and someone to pour the beer for the most part.)  Now, there was some great selection to be had - so much in fact that most of us ended up buying more sample tickets after our initial six ran out.  Most of these beers we'd all had and enjoyed to various degrees in the past, but it was still fun to walk around and sample such a large variety.

On the main floor there were three booths: Kichesippi, Steamwhistle, and Hockley.  We make our way to the Kichesippi table first for no particular reason and have a quick sample.  At this point it's important to say that we're assuming all these craft breweries had sent actual representatives to be a part of this event and to grow their brand.  So we start chatting up the young lady, ask her a few questions about the company, the beer, and what's new and upcoming.  She had no clue, about anything.  So I find myself thinking "Is she really a rep, or just some person they asked to serve beer?"

Odd... but we move away, chat about the beer itself for a bit, and move on to the Hockley table.  Here's where things started falling into place: the table was manned by an older couple.  Not what you'd typically expect to see representing a brewery.  But we don't ask any questions because we see they have the Hockley Amber, and we get a little excited.  Side note: I wouldn't say Hockley makes #1 on any of our favorite brewery lists, but it definitely ranks high for one reason: Hockley Dark.  Haven't tried it? Do yourself a favour.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, Hockley, old couple, Amber.  Right.  The Amber, we hadn't tried it before, so we get excited and all get a sample.  Long story short? Win.

Now we'd been here for probably twenty minutes or so and we hadn't done the tour of the building, so we decide to skip Steamwhistle (we drink their beer all the time, and there's plenty of time to come back for a sample later) and move up to the second level and see what's happening up there.  As we climb the stairs, the music starts to fade a little and is replaced by the sound of dozens of people talking amongst themselves: this is where the the majority of the tasting was happening.

Six more brewery "booths" are here: McAuslan, Dos Equis, Barley Days, Mill Street, Creemore Springs and HogsBack.  Wait.  Dos Equis? The odd man out in this group, but when you're the most interesting man in the world, I guess you're used to that.  None of us have much interest in Dos Equis though, we're here for Ontario craft beers, so we turn our noses up and have a look around at the other booths.

At this point it becomes clear: there are no representatives from any of these breweries here.  The tables appear to be manned by volunteers.  A bit of a let down as we'd expected to be able to rub elbows with some reps, chat about their beers, ask questions, etc.  But we don't let that stop us, after all, there is still good beer to be drank.  Instead of all of us sampling the same beer, we decide to go for whatever tickles our fancy, and then share our findings with each other.

McAuslan had their apricot beer, which is always a hit with my tastebuds.  A certain other OBC member, who shall remain nameless (Matt,) has strongly disagreed with us in the past that this is a great beer.  But we made him try again, and he still disagrees.  Allow me to quote him "I do not like beers that taste good."  Okay, okay, maybe not a direct quote, but that's what I got from our conversation.  But we're all friends here, so we agree to disagree.

Creemore had their pack of three, which I'm pretty sure we all sampled a bit of everything from them at one point or another.  Our club has a bit of a soft spot for these guys, they know how to do things right.  But we don't spend a lot of time discussing these beers, because we've featured them in one of our own tastings before.

Barley Days had their Harvest Gold ale and their dark Wind & Sail.  I'll be honest, I'd heard of these guys, seen their beers before, but I'd never tried them.  I'm a big fan of the Wind & Sail (surprise, surprise, Jim's a fan of a dark ale...)  Very nice earthy tones with chocolatey malt taste.  I'll be picking some of these up at the LCBO very soon.

Mill Street had their taster's pack.  This company, much like Steamwhistle, spends a lot of time in our fridges, so we don't sample much from them.  Although the blueberry wheat got some good reviews.

Lastly, there was HogsBack.  This was the highlight of the evening, for two reasons: 1) We got to try their new seasonal: Sunofa Beach, which was just incredible, and 2) The gentleman serving us was none other than one of the founders, Frank.  Not only did we get to talk to someone who knows what he's talking about, but it's one of the guys who started it all.  So we ended up spending a good portion of our time just hanging out, having samples, talking about the business, gushing about how much we love the company and this new seasonal, and having a few laughs.  Redemption!

This just solidified my opinion of HogsBack.  Before last night, they brewed one of my favorite session beers, and that was enough for me.  But now I have a connection with this brewery, and I feel they really care about their customer base and the community, enough at least to make personal appearances at events such as these.  In retrospect, this may have been enhanced by the fact that none of the other breweries could be bothered to have an actual rep attend, but that doesn't change how I feel about it.

HogsBack: Keep doing your thing, you've got a loyal customer in me for as long as you continue to brew good beer and keep in touch with your customers like you did last night.

To the rest of you breweries: This may have appeared to be a small event, but make the effort to attend these.  Keep your grass roots.  Rub elbows with your customers.  Create brand loyalty.  You're in a growing market where you have tons of competitors creating beers just as good as yours.  What will set you apart is loyalty to your brand, and you do that by creating connections with your customers.  While we all appreciate you contributing your brews, it's not enough.  Last night was a perfect example of that, a dozen breweries all contributed, but only one truly set itself above the rest.

Watson's Mill: On behalf of the Ottawa Beer Club, thank you for hosting a great event.  We look forward to attending every year.

Thanks for reading,

Watson's Mill Beer Tasting

So, one of the OBC members came to us earlier this week with a nice little find: Watson's Mill is doing a Beer Tasting.

What is Watson's Mill, you ask?  Well, if you live in the Ottawa region, shame on you for not knowing about this historical landmark.  If - like me - you lived or currently live in the Manotick area, you know it well.  I'll let you, our intelligent readers, read up on them over on their website (linked below.)

Anyway, back to the beer tasting.  It's a fundraising event to help support the Mill in it's 150th year.  $30 gets you in for all sorts of great times: beer sampling, chatting with various Ontario craft brewery representatives, dancing, live music, and more!  Several members of the OBC will be attending, and you should too!

Be sure to check out Watson's Mill on their website, their Facebook Page and on Twitter: @WatsonsMill.

See you there!

Brrr...is it blue in here?

I was kicking around cyberspace today and happened upon a post that really hit home.   It was at one of my newest and currently most beloved spots to stop by and check out, http://www.thirstforknowledge.ca/.   It was in the ever insightful, always informative Blog of thirst for knowledge's resident Beer guru Roger Mittage, professor of all things Beer.   I won't go into the specifics of the post, I'll let you do that yourselves, but I will say it brought up COLD FILTERING.

Sweet Mother of God!   COLD freaking FILTERING!   Let me hit you with some knowledge.   ALL BEER IS COLD FILTERED!   All of it.   Filtering beer by nature is done cold.   For those that are thinking, wait a minute, he's wrong, they actually do cold filter.   They lower the temperature of the beer while filtering so that the protein molecules will clump together and therefore make it easier to filter the beer.   Well, thank you professor science, I'm acquainted with the process, but what does it have to do with the taste?!!   Many beer commercials would have you believe that cold filtering makes the beer ever so much tastyer.   Like the crisp cold taste of the mountains themselves!   Since when is COLD a taste.   I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.   Cold isn't a taste, it's a temperature.   Cold is winter in Ottawa.   Cold is drinking the last IPA when you didn't pay.   Cold is my ex girlfriend.   It most certainly is not the taste of beer.   And it sure as shit isn't shipped that way.   The brewer didn't give you cold beer, your fridge did.   The bartender should get a nickel every time he serves a cold beer.   He's delivering on a promise some jackhole marketing hump threw at the consumer in the hopes the average mindless simpleton would believe that the beer itself is actually infused with coldness.   Blue mountains?   So I know it's cold??   Are you joking?   I know it's cold, I can tell by the way my hand goes numb when I put it in the cooler.   You don't want colder beer.   Cold is the enemy of taste.   The colder the beer, the less likely you are to taste the full  flavour of the beer.  It doesn't have to be ice cold to be enjoyed.   I mean, I like a frosty brew just as much as the next guy, but don't you wanna taste that beer?   Don't you want to savour the subtle undertones in the flavour.   Don't you want to experience all the complexity a beer can offer.   Many brewers pour their heart and souls into this blessed beverage we call beer.   I want to experience the payoff of all that hard work.   I mean, if you're drinking to get drunk have at 'er.   Pack that shit in dry ice.   Handle only with pincers and welder's gloves.   Just don't lick the can.   Me, I'll take a beer that prides itself on taste, not temp.      

Beer and baseball, Japan style

When asked what sport goes best with beer most people think of hockey..or football...or soccer..or...well actually beer goes with pretty much any sport. In fact I would say it is impossible to enjoy a good bonspiel without frosty brew in your hand. But I'm getting away from my point. If there is a sport that almost requires having a beer it would have to be baseball. The two have a long history together, and sometimes there can be nothing better on a warm summer evening than going out to the park, and taking in the game over a few pints.

There is a country that loves both beer and baseball, and no I'm not talking about the U.S. I'm thinking of Japan. Because while in North America you need to drag yourself out of your seat and up to the concourse to get a frosty draft beer, in Japan they do things a little different. No, instead of you going to the draft beer, the draft beer comes to you, strapped to the back of Japanese beer girl. You have to wonder what they will think of next.

Thirsty Male seeking tasty relationship with lonely beer.

Intro's suck.  I mean, I present my name you all say, hi, I look sheepishly at the group and go on to explain my likes and dislikes.  I explain I like Pina Colada's, people who love dogs and long walks on the beach.  Let's face it, you could all care less what my do's and don't are, who my favorite Beatle is or if I like square dancing.  I'm not trying to date you.  I'm here for one reason and one reason only; to talk and most of the time rant, about BEER.

For the official record, I'm Kutty and I love BEER!  I mean, I really, really, really, love beer.  It's a beautiful thing.  A sublime melding of nature's bounty in one perfect pint (or bottle if you prefer).  It's one of man's perfect creations.  It has a flavour spectrum that covers everything from sweet to bitter, it's sometimes fruity, or earthy, can taste sharp or dull, it can deliver its flavour with a kick to the teeth or a subtle caress.  Its tasting notes can be everything and anything from apricots and wheat to bog sprigs and barley.  Hell, just the other day I had a beer that tasted like smoked sausage.  Seriously, this beer smelled and tasted like a Polish deli.  Amazing!  It's produced in light or heavy alcohol content, its colour wheel has hues of red, gold, and even black in some cases.  It looks good, taste better, and in most cases is only made with the most organic and natural of ingredients.  What's not to love?

Myself, I'll drink just about anything.  I prefer the hoppy pop of bitters and IPA's but enjoy the crisp freshness of weiss' and lagers.  I have delved into the citrus sweetness of wit's and hefenweissen's and craved the roasted malts of stouts and porters. As stated above, I LOVE BEER!

Now, I need to point out that I'm not a pretentious pinky waggler, but am developing in to a bit of a beer elitist. I tend to gravitate towards craft beer, but will stand up for the retail breweries when impugned (Shit!  It was the big guys who got me through College!!). There is only one beer I refuse to drink and some that I will avoid. I will often give anything a chance and very much enjoy what's new and radical. 

So, CHEERS and enjoy.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer."

-Abraham Lincoln

News from The Welly!

Our friends at the Wellington Brewery announced this week that they're launching a new look  featuring the beloved Wellington boot!

Great look, guys!  I know I'll be pickin' up some of these beauties!

While this new look is great, I'll tell you the best part of this annoucement: Imperial Russian Stout is going to be available year 'round at the LCBO starting next week (July 6th.)  This beer lover is absolutely stoked.  For the OBC's first meeting, our host - one Nicholas Kutlik - featured this beer.  Let me tell you my friends, I fell in love with it and have not been able to get enough ever since.  Never had it?  Do yourself a huge favour and pick up a can next week.

For the full "DL" on this, check out the news post over at Wellington's site.  These guys are also great at keeping their customers updated on their Twitter feed, so be sure to follow them @WellingtonBrew.

Happy Canada Day Beer Lovers!
-@Jay_Bizzle away!

A letter of introduction

Hey there! First post from a member of the OBC! My name's James, but you can call me Jim, Jimmy Boy, Jay Bizzle, or... the list goes on, pick one.

What you can expect from me is random, inconsistent posts about a beer I drank, a place where I drank a beer, or a beer that I drank at a place that I like to drink beer.

 My Top 3 Beers of all time (after much lengthy discussion at our last meeting):
3- Heineken - although I haven't drank this beer in many years due to a string of skunky bottles, this beer will always hold a special place in my heart. Memories of times long past will always resurface anytime I see a bottle of this stuff.
2- Mill Street Stock Ale - this is one of my go-to's. I can drink it in the summer on a hot day, in the winter on a cold day when I'm warming up with a bowl of spicy chili, and anywhere in between. I just love this beer.
1- Wellington's Russian Imperial Stout - What can I say? Best beer brewed by man. This is the pinnacle of everything I look for in a beer.

 Maybe I'll talk more about those one day, but I'll keep this post brief, and leave room for other members to introduce themselves.

Drop me a line on Twitter anytime! You can find me under the tag @Jay_Bizzle.

Jimmy Boy out!