Some Beer Reviews

A Pot Pourri of Brands and Tastes

IMG_20160625_163128Polly Want A Pilsner

From Hop City Brewing in Brampton, ON, a unit of Moosehead but as LeBlanc and St. John note in The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, its brewer started with the predecessor craft operation, Niagara Falls Brewing. Good pedigree. Still, I’d like to enjoy the beers more than I do.

They are well-made technically but tend to have flavours I don’t cotton to.

The pilsner has good stability and authentic German hop flavour but I get a drying, wheaty finish that doesn’t seem right for a blonde lager, in my view again.

Perhaps this is from the wheat in the recipe, or the carastan malt: the company commendably lists the ingredients on its website. I think the beer would be much better just with German lager malt.

IMG_20160708_135927The Range at The Black Swan, Stratford

I was in Stratford again, today in fact, and tried the TBS range in a “paddle” (flight).  I thought the IPA and Galaxy were first-rate, textbook in fact: rich but perfectly balanced and lotsa hops. The porter was well-brewed too but it has that very dry acerbic finish many stouts and porters have in Ontario, e.g., Keefe Stout from Granite Brewery, Black Katt Stout, the new Collective Arts porter.

To my mind, a porter or stout should have a rich roasted flavour with good residual sweetness. The brewery informed me no raw grains are used. I’d assume chocolate malt and perhaps the target attenuation result in the dry, somewhat harsh style mentioned.

Just my opinion, the ubiquity of the style means many like it of course.

The pale ale didn’t work for me, with a dry milk chocolate or Postum-like palate.

The raspberry weisse (Berlin-style) was back to form, full of lactic character and very drinkable. The house pointed out that in a style like this the special culture tends to overpower the wheat, but that’s fine. Excellent brew and the weather outside was perfect for it when I was there, over 90 F.

Kudos to TBS for not air-conditioning the brewery excessively. Summertime beer drinking should be just that.

IMG_20160706_170649_editBurdock I.P.A.

Every brew I’ve had from Burdock Brewing is excellent despite the relative newness of this Bloor West brewery and pub. They are all true to style and stable in the glass (by which I mean, they don’t break down half-way as some neophyte beers do).

The IPA, pictured at Bar Volo in Toronto, had all the right flavours with a peach-like finish, and in this regard reminded me of Hill Farmstead’s Edward, the Vermont classic. To try to give some context, the Black Swan’s IPA was not dissimilar but the latter had a more “dank” quality, which I like too.

IMG_20160620_195201Henderson’s Best

This Toronto-based brewery has impressed the GTA beer community with this English-style effort which has proved its flagship.

The house calls it an ESB type, I’d say perhaps more “best bitter”, the way Courage Best Bitter was 20 years ago. It’s the fruity, flowery type of bitter, not golden but also not toffeeish from caramel malt.

The beer needs to be very fresh to really show its stuff. I had a pint mid-town recently that seemed a bit oxidized, although it was still good. But at its freshest, the flowery, English style is hard to beat. On cask this should be extremely good.

Strongbow Cider

I remember this cider as having a distinct taste of English apples. That taste is perfumed, winy, complex, a quality North American apples don’t have. However, recent glasses of Strongbow (the regular one) seem more indistinct in character, as if you blended North American (or New Zealand?) apples with English ones to get the must from which the ferment was prepared. Also, the taste seems less upfront than I remember, blander.

I have no issues with use of concentrates or sugars, I used to like Strongbow but at the present time, no.