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.
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.