A Beer Note Miscellany

Pilsner Urquell Still On Top

Pilsner Urquell is just out in our market in attractive new packaging, the bottle is now brown with retro-looking labelling, a change implemented some time ago in the U.S. The can design is new too.  Judging by the best-by dates, and factoring a 9 month freshness window which I understand the brewery uses,  both forms at LCBO seem hardly more than two months from packaging.  Each is excellent although I still feel the can is superior.  Urquell is an unlikely survivor from the 19th century and its current owner (SAB Miller) deserves much credit for maintaining its integrity.  In this particular case, terroir really means something as the malt and hop characteristics lend a unique stamp to the product.  I’m sure the yeast does too, but the special qualities of Czech barley malt and Saaz hops shine through and give it its defining character, in my view.

Labatt Porter Carries On

This is an old favourite I first encountered in the 70’s.  I had one in Montreal recently. The flavour was mild but good, not really roasty but more a dark chocolate-licorice taste, rather sweet though, almost like Coca-Cola.  It tasted possibly all-malt, or all-malt plus a sugar addition.   One always hopes for more character in the mass-market products but this is a good beer from a large powerhouse, and idiosyncratic in nature, which fits into the current ethos perfectly.

Labatt Porter 2015 image








Mountain Lager

Side Launch Brewing Company in Collingwood, ON has just released Mountain Lager, I’ve seen it so far draft-only at Bar Volo in Toronto.  5% ABV and apparently a keller-style although the one I had looked perfectly clear.   This is one of the brewery’s best beers right out of the gate: rich, flavourful, tasty, Bavarian helles in style (vs. Germanic pils, IMO) but without the “sulphur springs” DMS taste so many of these (there and here) have.  A real winner courtesy the company’s master brewer Michael Hancock – and if anyone ever deserved that moniker Michael Hancock does, he is a legend in Ontario brewing circles and did much to install a quality beer culture here decades ago when at the helm of Denison’s brewpub in Toronto.

4 thoughts on “A Beer Note Miscellany”

  1. “Alan, I haven’t seen it in Ontario in many years although I believe it was sold here in the earlier 1900’s.”

    • Yes, possibly up to then. Large brewers at the time were phasing out such curios, including e.g. Labatt IPA which lasted I think until about 20 years ago, only to see their like and more introduced by the burgeoning craft brewing industry. One hope I’ve always had is that these brewers – for Canada basically AB InBev/Labatt and Molson Coors, but also Moosehead – will reintroduce 19th century versions from their archives. These would be the most authentic in terms of the origins of styles such as porter and pale ale. These brewers have all made different forays into craft-like beers but not in that direction, as far as I know.

  2. Alan, I haven’t seen it in Ontario in many years although I believe it was sold here in the earlier 1900’s. Labatt almost certainly had a porter on the market in Ontario in earlier years, possibly under a different name. I’ve read the large brewers would sometimes market this kind of black beer as porter or stout, depending on the market and other factors possibly.

    I recall Molson Porter being sold into the 1990’s if I’m not mistaken, in Ontario. It was good, drier than the Labatt Porter.

    Of course AB InBev/Labatt also brews Guinness Stout under license in Canada and it is sold in Ontario. (This is one of the numerous forms of Guinness available in Ontario, the others are all brewed in Dublin, Ireland, e.g., the well-known widget can form).

  3. Gary,
    Is the Labatt Porter a Québec-only release, or is it also available in Ontario?
    I’m amazed that they are still producing this, or was there a “lull” and it’s been recently re-introduced?
    Who do think would purchase this relic?

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