Saturday, March 30, 2013

La Fin du Monde

I've heard about this one many times. It was recently recommended to me and I found a 6-pack at the beer store on Friday.

La Fin du Monde, by Unibroue (owned by Sleeman Breweries)

Now I know why everyone recommends it. This is a really good beer. But be careful because it's also a potent 9% alcohol.

Colour: Cloudy amber, with a nice creamy head and dies down but lingers on the surface.

Aroma: Malty, fruitiness.... apricots?

Taste: Amazing. Malt... fruit... smooth... slightly peppery... slightly bitter... smooth and just the right carbonation. It's a well balanced beer, imho.

ABV: 9%

Overall: Deliciously dangerous. You can easily drink a lot of this stuff... keep reminding yourself of the alcohol content. :)  I will definitely be treating myself to these throughout the summer.

Munich Gold

And here we have the third...  Hacker-Pschorr Munich Gold.

Colour: Clear golden (deja vu)

Aroma: Beer. :)

Taste: Crisp & clean. I found this one to be a touch sweeter than the other two.

ABV: 5.5%

Overall... another nice beer that I could drink in quantities, if I felt like it. I think this was my wife's second favourite of the three.


The second of three... Kaiser. It's an Austrian beer, from what I gathered from the label.

As I mentioned before, similar to the other two we bought.

Colour: Clear golden.

Aroma: Lightly hoppy. Seriously, I think you'd need a bloodhound nose to pick anything out of the aroma.

Taste: Light, clean, crisp. Slightly hoppier than the Moretti. I was surprised that my wife made a face after taking a sip. I didn't think it was that much different than the Moretti. Again, lightly carbonated which makes it very smooth.

ABV: 5.0%

Overall... I could drink this all day.

Bierra Moretti

My wife picked up three imports along with the previously mentioned Spring Bock. We found all three to be very similar. Here's the first, and it happened to be our favourite.

Bierra Moretti Premium Lager

It's Italian. According to the can, "brewed and canned by Pruulitud Heineken Italia SpA"(?)

Color: Clear golden

Aroma: Light.. umm.. very lightly hoppy. As my kids would say, "smells like beer".

Taste: Light and crisp, clean finish. The carbonation is very light too.

ABV: 4.6%

Overall: I liked it, and I could probably drink it all night, but if you're looking for something different, this probably isn't it.

Spring Bock

In keeping with the bock theme, Amsterdam Brewery's Spring Bock.

Colour: Dark. Very much like Coca Cola. The head is pretty poor and disappears quickly.

Aroma: So familiar. Chocolatey sweet, malty goodness.

Taste: Again, familiar, same as the aroma. I swear I've tasted this before. Perhaps Hockley Dark? I fully expected my wife not to like it because it is a little bitter, but she did like it. She said she could drink "a glass" but no more.

ABV: 7.8%, so be careful.

Overall: I liked it. This falls under my "a nice treat/change beer" category as I don't think I could drink a lot of them. That's a good thing considering the alcohol content. :)

I noticed that the brewery is in Toronto. We're going there in June for the Waterfront Festival and I'm hoping we can do a few brewery tours while we're there.

Friday, March 29, 2013


I read an article on Thursday with a little history about bock beers. In the article it mentioned three bock style beers to try. One of them was Mill St. Spring Imp that we had last weekend. Creemore Springs Brewery's urBock was another. I've seen it in the store before, so we picked up a couple of cans at the beer store — not the LCBO this time!

Color: A beautiful dark red. The head nice and creamy but doesn't stick around for long.

Aroma: Like.. hmm.. carmel-ish and malty?

Taste: Delicious. Not too sweet. You can taste the hops but it's not bitter. Surprisingly, my wife wasn't a big fan of it though. I thought for sure she'd enjoy this one.

ABV: 6%

I'd buy this again for sure. Makes me want to try their others. All in due time, I'm sure.

Molson Canadian Wheat

I saw them post this on their Facebook page and said "WANT".

I'm was a long-time Molson Canadian fan, but I've moved away from it over the years for lighter, and cheaper beers. This was before my discovery of craft beers, mind you.

I'm a fan of wheat beers, and when I saw that they were making one... yeh, I had to try it.

I picked up 4 cans at the beer store, confident that it would not disappoint.

The verdict?

I like it. Now, it's not as flavourful as some other wheat beers I've tried, but it's still a good beer and I will likely pick it up again in the summer, assuming it's not going away any time soon.

I kinda screwed up pouring it though and I should have known better, having had to do the same thing for Hoegardden. Pour 2/3s of the container into the glass, swirl the remaining third, and then pour it in. I forgot to do that. I do have 3 more cans, so I won't screw that up again.

The aroma... lightly sweet and yeasty? Bread?

They colour... a cloudy yellow/gold. It's unfiltered, remember.

The taste. Lightly citrus perhaps? One of the reviews on Untappd said it was like regular Canadian without the harsh aftertaste. That may be true. I've tasted better, but for a commercial wheat beer I think it's pretty good.

Some of the other reviews on Untappd were a little harsh. I got the impression that some people didn't expect it to be cloudy? It's also a mass produced beer, so it's not going to be as good as the smaller batch brews. Still, you get what you pay for.

P.S. It's 4.5% alcohol.

Shock Top

I had this one a while ago and really enjoyed it. I read a review recently that said it tasted like a creamcicle. I don't think so.

Shock Top... and yes, it's not a craft beer, it's made by Anheuser-Busch (ABInBev). Admittedly, when I first tried it I did think it was some kind of craft until I read the can.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoy it now.

5.2% alcohol, it has a lightly sweet, orange citrusy aroma. A cloudy orange colour. And the taste is lightly sweet, and barely any bitterness to it. I'd probably enjoy it more on a hot summer day.

I guess you could say it's the creamcicle of beers, but it's nowhere near as sweet as a creamcicle, so don't expect that. :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Big Rig @ the LCBO

I don't know how much of a secret this is because it had been mentioned way back that it would happen "in the future" when Big Rig first opened.

I think the future is almost here.

I heard from a friend, who heard from an extremely reliable source, that Big Rig Gold will be available at the LCBO soon. There's supposed to be a media announcement in a couple of weeks.

I love it. As much as I like Big Rig beers, the west end is too far to go from where I live. Secondly, I have to assume that once it's available at the LCBO, the bottles will be refundable. I hate seeing them get tossed into our recycle bin.

I hope this also means that we might see other Big Rig flavours appearing in 6 packs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Growing your own hops - rethinking this...

It looks like I underestimated what is required to grow hops; or grow a decent crop.


Lots of space.

Mostly height.

I did a little reading this evening and it looks like these are some pretty big freakin' plants that required tell trellises to grow on. Learn somethin' new every day. :)

I live in a townhouse and space is one thing that I lack in my "yard". *sigh*

This really sucks.

But I did find some good info for the future and a Canadian supplier for the rhizomes that you grow your own hops from: Left Fields Hops Store. They also sell a great little manual called Small Scale & Organic Hops Production from their web site, or you can also download the PDF from the same site for free.

Growing your own hops

Here's an article that discusses how some people are growing their own hops for homebrews. That's something I never even considered, but after reading it I think I'll give it a try. I have a pretty good green thumb. I'm not so sure they'd be ready by the time I make my first batch though.
Dish of the Day: Brew your own beer? Not so hopping mad…
The picture in the article reminds me of something else that's not so hop-like. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013


Iron Maiden (the band) is releasing their own brand of beer.

"Created by Iron Maiden. Brewed by Robinsons" according to their web site. The description sounds rather tasty:
Trooper is a premium British beer inspired by Iron Maiden and handcrafted at Robinsons brewery. Being a real ale enthusiast, vocalist Bruce Dickinson has developed a beer which has true depth of character. Malt flavours and citric notes from a unique blend of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops dominate this deep golden ale with a subtle hint of lemon.
I sent the LCBO a message on Facebook, asking them if they had any plans to stock it when it's released, which is supposed to be early May. This morning I received a reply thanking me for contacting them, and saying that they would contact one of their beer buyers for information and get back to me in a day or two.

This afternoon I got another reply letting me know that they are "in talks with some agents" but that it was only preliminary discussions so they could not say for sure if or when they'll be stocking it. They ended the message by saying once something is confirmed, they would be sure to let me know.

Now, whether that means they'll make an announcement or whether they'll send me another message, who knows. But I'm pleased that I got a decent response and not some kind of corporate spin saying they can't discuss their dealings.

You can sign up on the Iron Maiden Trooper mailing list to be notified when it's released here

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hops & Robbers

I've had this one a couple of times in the past, before writing about beers. My sister picked this one up for me with a half dozen or so others.

Double Trouble Brewing Co. Hops & Robbers.

The aroma is citrusy with something else my untrained nose can't pick out. Caramel perhaps.

The taste is also citrusy with a light bitter finished.  It's supposed to have 50 IBUs, but if it does, it's somehow hidden in the nice flavour. The flavour is pretty unique in comparison to many hoppy beers I've tried. This is one of those beers that reminds me of my first attempt at making my own beer. :)

The colour is an clear copper/orange. The head is (was) foamy and mostly disappeared fairly quickly.

Overall, a nice beer and one of my favs among the IPAs.


Wife purchase, again. :)

Tusker by West African Breweries Group.

Another label with a cool story.
Tusker Lager has been brewed in East Africa since 1922. Named after the elephant that killed George Hurst, one of the brewery's founders, Tusker claims that special heritage of being one of the first beers in East Africa. Over the years, this unique lager has become a part of East Africa's rich tradition.
An odd tribute I guess. But I liked to read the story behind the beer.

The color was a very light golden. One of the lightest I've seen on imports and crafts.

The taste was a touch of sweetness with a clean finish.

Only 4.2% alcohol, so you can enjoy this one frequently.

Really a nice beer overall. Crisp and light. I'd buy this again.

1715 Lvivske Premium Lager

I have no idea what this is called. It's my wife's pickup from last week.

It's Ukrainian. I'm guessing it's 1715 Lvivske Premium Lager so that's what we'll go with. It's from the Lvivska Brewery.

I like it and so does my wife.

It's a light golden colour. The aroma is... umm.. cabbage? What's with the cabbage? It must be the type of hops used. Anyway, it's not bad.

The taste is lightly hoppy... a touch of sweetness... with a clean finish.

Overall a nice beer, but it tastes familiar.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Orval revisted

When my wife picked up a couple of bottles of Chimay Blanche from the LCBO, she also picked up "another trappist beer" for me.

When we got home, I discovered that it was Orval. The not-so-tasty sour beer that I wrote about last week.

However... perhaps I was a little harsh the last time.

Not one to waste beer, I poured myself a glass. This time, knowing how heady it got the last time, I pour it very slowly. It still had a pretty big head, but it was much better than the last time.

It smelled pretty much the same as last time too.

But the taste was a little different. Still sour, but I actually didn't mind it as much. I guess you could say that I enjoyed it. I compared the dates on the label and they are from the same batch.

While sour beers will probably never make it to my list of favourites, I could see me possibly drinking one of these on a hot summer day some time. It's definitely an acquired taste.

Devil's Pale Ale 666

I've had this one a few times over the last year. My sister picked up a half dozen assorted beers for me last weekend for doing a favour for her, and didn't realize that most of the ones she bought me I had tried before. :) That's not a bad thing because I haven't written about any of them.

So off we go... Great Lakes Brewery Devil's Pale Ale 666.

Devil's Pale Ale 666
Colour: Dark. Duh.

Aroma: Hoppy, malty.

Taste: Hoppy, malty, with a pretty clean finish.

Love the printing on the can:

666 kilograms of malt
6.66 kilograms of hops
66.6 minutes of boiling
6% alc/vol
6.6.06 date of conception  

I'm slowly gaining an appreciation for hoppy beers. They're not my every day choice, and likely won't ever be, but I do kinda enjoy them as a nice change.

I also tend to drink them slower, which is probably a good thing.

Chimay Blanche

I guess Blanche is what this is called. It doesn't really say on the label.

Chimay Blanche

This one was not available at my usual LCBO, so I asked my wife if she could stop at one near my work on her way to pick me up on Friday.

I loved the Chimay Premiere, so I had high hopes for this one. It did not disappoint. Chalk up another for the Monks! :)

The head initially worried me, being very similar to the Orval that I wrote about last week. Thankfully that's as close to being similar as it got.

The bottle is cute. :) My daughter thought so as well.

The aroma was lightly citrus.

The colour, a cloudy golden.

The taste, lightly citrus with a light hoppy finish.

The alcohol was a hefty 8%, so be careful. :)

I really enjoyed this beer, and there's a second one sitting in my fridge for tonight. So far, Chimay is 2 for 2 on my list. They have a few other flavours, but I've yet to find them anywhere local.

Maple Porter

Another maple beer!

Nickel Brook's Maple Porter.

Nickel Brook Maple Porter

We've had this one in our fridge since last week and I've been dying to try it. Friday night was the night.

First of all, the plastic waxy seal was a nice touch, but man, that was a bitch to cut off the bottle.

I expected the plastic covering to pull off, but it didn't. It required cutting. And I cut my finger as a result. But, the surprise under the bottle cap sorta made up for it. :) I like bottle cap surprises.

The colour, as you can see in the first photo, was dark. Very dark.

The aroma. Smoky maple, but subtle, I think. So far, so good.

The taste. A little more maple than the Mill St. Spring Thaw, but not as maple as I would like. The packing screams maple, but the taste whimpers maple. I wanted more maple. The... "feel" was slightly syrupy.

Despite the wound, and the low maple factor, I did enjoy this beer over and I think I would buy this again. It's one of the few dark beers that my wife didn't mind.

I'll let someone else open it the next time. :)

Tuborg Green

The can is humourous. It says "Liquid Soundtrack" along the bottom. WTF?

4.6% liquid soundtrack, to be exact. :)

Tuborg Green

In case it matters to anyone, also on the can is:

Brewed by Turk Tuborg  A.S. Izmir/Turkey under supervision of the Carlsberg Breweries.

This was one of the half dozen or so that my wife picked up last weekend at another LCBO.

The aroma was a little confusing. My brain said "cabbage". My wife agreed that there was something unusual about it.

The color... golden, with a hint of... err.. green? Was that because the can had green on it, and the name was "green"? I don't know. But I thought it looked a little lime-like in colour. No lime taste that I could tell though.

The taste... very lightly hoppy. My wife took a few sips, so it obviously isn't hoppy enough to turn her off.

Overall not a bad beer, but nothing really stood out to set it apart from the others, except the liquid soundtrack thing. :)

Spring Imp

The second flavour from the Mill St. Brewery's Spring 2013 Sampler pack is their Spring Imp Spring Bock. 

Mill St. Spring Imp

The aroma is sweet. Caramel? I almost thought it was maple. Hmm... damn tasty sums it up.

The colour, a beautiful reddish amber. The head retention is pretty poor but I'm learning that this seems to be fairly common among the sweeter tasting beers I like.

The taste, as I just said... lightly sweet. It felt slightly syrupy. That wasn't my imagination — my wife concurred.

Overall, a very nice beer, and it was wife approved.

FYI... it's also 7% alcohol, so be careful. :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Craft or Crafty?

A few of the beers on the list in this article surprised me to find out exactly who owns them.
The Dirty Dozen - ‘Small’ beers by big breweries 
You order a tasting flight of five one-of-a-kind ales at a historic brewery in downtown Toronto. Every one is a gem. Nice! At home, you want to find out more about this new craft brewery, but a couple of Google searches reveals they’re owned by—gasp—Molson! How can that be?
Click the quote heading to read the entire article. (Thanks to Sheltered Girl Meets World on Facebook for posting the article)

As I mentioned before, it doesn't really bother me as long as the beer tastes good, but it would be nice if they were a little more open about it.

I was a little disappointed to learn that Blue Moon Belgian White is Rickard's White. I was hoping to find another beer that I liked, bit seeing as how I've already tried Rickard's White there's no much point to it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Thaw

There weather here in Ottawa lately is the furthest thing from a spring thaw, but we do have Mill St Brewery's new Spring Thaw, one of two flavours in their 2013 Spring Sampler pack.

The colour is gorgeous. I love it. It looks like maple syrup. Unfortunately, it doesn't really smell like it, nor does it taste much like it.

The aroma gives off a very (and I stress very) subtle sweetness.

The taste is just as subtle. I was really hoping for a stronger maple flavour. From what I remember of the St. Ambroise maple that we tried at WinterBrewed, it was perfect. I guess I keep comparing others to it because it was so good. The finish is lightly sweet and very lightly bitter.

It's 5.3% alcohol, and overall, it is a good beer. I did enjoy it, but it's not what I expect a maple ale to taste like. I'd buy it again for it's overall flavour, but not because it's a maple ale.

It did come in a six pack (with two flavours) so I've got two more to consume. I'll reevaluate it when I do, just to make sure it's not my defective taste buds.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Old Ruby Ale

Another purchase by my wife.

I'm not sure what the name of this is. There are names all over the label

Duchy Originals from Waitrose

Organic Old Ruby Ale
Plumage Archer

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd go for Old Ruby Ale since it's the most prominent.

"A deliciously robust blend of hops and malt  including plumage"
WTF is plumage? Another term I'm not familiar with, other than thinking feathers. Thankfully, there are no feathers in this beer.

The aroma. I'm not sure. I could go with "smells like beer" as my son would say. I think there's a hint of sweetness to the aroma. It's nice and mild.

The color. What you see in the photo is pretty accurate. Clear. Reddish amber? Ruby? Duh.

The taste. Pretty smooth. Just the right carbonation. A little spicy sweetness. Very light bitter finish. If it's any help, my wife liked this one. She's not a fan of bitter.

Overall a decent beer, but there's really nothing that makes it stand out. I do like the colour though.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gluten Free

A friend of the family left a comment on one of my beer pics once that he now has to avoid gluten and is therefore limited to gluten free beers.

I had been meaning to try one to see what they're like.

It just so happens that my wife also picked this one up on the weekend. Nickel Brook's Gluten Free.

Gluten Free
I found the aroma to be a little on the floral side. It has a decent head, like the average beer, and the retention is pretty good.

The taste was a little on the bitter side and it had a lingering bitterness that I could probably do without. I also noticed a little gumminess with my saliva after not having a sip for a while. I'm not entirely sure if that's because of the beer or not, but I thought it was worth mentioning. :)

My overall impression was that this been isn't half bad. I have to admit that I'm glad I'm not limited in my choice of beverages due to a gluten allergy or sensitivity. But really, if I was, I think I could feed my beer cravings with this.

One oddity is that this is the first beer can I've seen with nutritional facts printed on it. :)

Premium Spitfire Kentish Ale

A mid-week treat. Shepherd Neame's Premium Spitfire Kentish Ale

My wife picked this up on the weekend, along with a handful of other different beers during her visit to another LCBO where they had a selection we've never seen at our LCBO.

Premium Spitfire Kentish Ale
The label has a pretty cool write-up:
This 4.5% Kentish Ale was first brewed in 1990 to celebrate the Battle of Britain which was fought in the skies above Kent 50 years earlier.
The beer is named after the legendary Spitfire Aeroplane designed by R. J. Mitchell.
The versatility of the aircraft and the courage of its pilots were essential to victory and the Spitfire is a key symbol of the spirit of that time. 
I like it when there's a story behind the beer.

I shared this with my wife. I was a little afraid that she wouldn't like it, since the label says that it has a bitter taste, but she didn't mind it in comparison to other "bitter" beers she's tried.

The aroma was slightly sweet... the label confirmed it with "fruity, toffee".  I didn't pick up on the fruity.

I loved the colour — a dark amber. (looks a bit darker in the photo) Wasn't much head on it and the retention was poor.

The taste was slightly hoppy with a light bitter finish. As previously mentioned, the alcohol content is an average 4.5%.

Over all, I enjoyed it and I would definitely buy this again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craft vs. Commercial

An interesting read.

An interesting stat from the article:
Small "mom and pop"-style breweries — or regional breweries — now account for about 6 percent of domestic beer sales. That may seem like a small number, but it's been growing every year since the early 1990s, while big brewers' share is declining.
There are now more small breweries than there were before Prohibition, when beer was largely a regional business.
Then there's this:
"There's also the issue, Flock says, of what the Brewer's Association calls "crafty" beers — beers owned by big beer companies disguised as small craft beer. A common example is Blue Moon, a Belgian-style beer."
Not everyone agrees. Benj Steinman, an editor for Beer Marketer's Insights, a trade publication, says these so-called "crafty beers" might be helping the craft beer market.
"What Anheuser-Busch and Coors have done through Shock Top and Blue Moon is opened up a greater number of consumers to the universe of craft beers and their innovation, flavor and variety," says Steinman, a 30-year veteran of the beer business. "They're sort of gateway beers."
I agree with Benj Steinman's.

To be perfectly honest, as much as I like many craft beers, I don't particularly care WHO makes what I drink. If I like it, I'll buy it. At the moment, I tend to like what the smaller brewers are making and I don't mind paying a little more for them. But if the big guys can make something just as tasty, and preferably cheaper, I'll buy it too. I've tried Shock Top and I like it. I know who made it because I tend to read the cans/bottles/labels of the stuff I buy. That doesn't deter me one bit.

I don't drink craft beers because they're craft beers. That's too... umm.. fanboi-like. That smells to elitist and stinks of attitude.

I don't think the little guys have anything to worry about. I think they have more freedom to be creative in their brews. They don't have to go through all the corporate B.S. to release an new product. They have the freedom to work with each other (and they do!) to make some pretty tasty beverages. They don't seem to compete against each other -- they work together.

That's what sets them far apart from the big boys and that's what gives them an advantage, imho. Keep making what the people want and there's nothing to worry about.

Beer Ice Cream

My sister forwarded this one to me.  Homemade Beer Ice Cream.

Me thinks I need to get an ice cream feezer.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Yet another surprise from my wife.

This turned out to be a bigger surprise than I expected.

The last time we were at the LCBO, I mentioned to keep an eye out for Trappist beers. She remembered when she was out this afternoon and picked this one up.

Orval from Brasserie de l'Abbaye d'Orval

I was really hoping that it would be similar to the Chimay Premiere. Alas, it would not be, because the real surprise was that it's another sour ale, very similar in taste to the Panil that I tried on Friday.

Crazy head minutes after pouring.
I noticed the familiar sour aroma immediately after opening it. Then I began to pour it, carefully, into the glass.

It has crazy head. What you see in the picture above took about five minutes to pour and I still wasn't done. It didn't seem to matter how careful and slow I tried to pour, the head foamed like mad.

It's a cloudy amber colour and has 6.7% alcohol.

I didn't find it quite as sour as the Panil, but it's sour enough that I didn't enjoy it much. Sour ales are probably at the bottom of my list of beers to drink. They're obviously an acquired taste. :)

Having said that, it was an interesting beer to try.


This was a surprise purchase from my wife when she was picking up the Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask.

Wychcraft by Wychwood Brewery

I had tried their Hobgoblin before starting this blog and enjoyed it. This one did not disappoint.

Golden colour, smooth, sweet aroma, lightly sweet citrus taste, with a light bitter finish. The label says it's a "blend of 3 hops and 3 malts".

Nice blend, I say. I can definitely see me buying this again.

Winter Treacle Porter

Winter Treacle Porter from Innis & Gunn.


What they say about it:
This is the first time we have brewed and oak matured a Porter, which has been imparted with great depth of flavour thanks to the addition of some roasted wheat, crystal malt and treacle (molasses).
These flavour packed ingredients, along with our signature approach to long, slow oak maturation have created a sublime beer that is perfect for cold, dark winter nights.

Sweet aroma. Slightly sweet taste. Lightly carbonated. Why wife said she tasted rye, but perhaps that's the oak aging or treacle?

There's supposed to be a chocolate flavouring, but I'm not getting that. Unless what I taste is how chocolate comes out in beer. Hey, I'm still learning, right?

Smooth finish and a deep red colour. I love the colour.

I love this beer. And it knocks the Irish Whiskey Cask out of second place. :)

1. Original, 2. Treacle Porter, and 3. Irish Whiskey Cask

If you've never tried an Innis & Gunn beer, you've waited too long. Do it.

P.S. 7.4% alcohol.

Irish Whiskey Cask

I love all Innis & Gunn beers. They're a little on the pricey side, but they're a great treat to have when you want a change.

I find that there's something unique about the flavour in all of their variations, likely due to the oak aging process. I could probably pick them out blind folded.

This one is their Irish Whiskey Cask. It was tough to find at our local LCBO. For some reason, they don't all carry it and we had to go a little out of our way to find this one. When my wife was going out shopping in the area near an LCBO that had it in stock, I asked her to pick up a few. Confident that we'd like it, we picked up four bottles.

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask
As with all Innis & Gunn beers, they did not disappoint.

This is a stout, but unlike other stouts I've tried. It had a little more bite and a light aroma, but a smooth finish. The head retention was poor, but that seems to be the norm for Innis & Gunn. I wouldn't hold that against them because the flavour is so delicious.

It clocks in at a higher than usual 7.4% alcohol.

The finish is smooth, as always. I honestly can't say whether or not it had an Irish whiskey flavour because I'm not too familiar with Irish Whiskey, but what I tasted I liked. I'm glad we got 4 bottles of this.

I ranked it as my second favourite Innis & Gunn beer.

However, after trying their Treacle Porter, that may change.... ;)

The Cobblestone vs. Guinness Stout-off results

Mill Street Cobblestone Stout vs. Guinness

This was a tough comparison. I even recruited my wife to get her input. She's not a fan of stouts at all, so in her case it was a matter of which she disliked the least. :)

Both are nitrogen charged. Both pour in a similar fashion, but the Cobblestone did settle much quicker than the Guinness, if that matters to anyone.

Guinness on the left, Cobblestone on the right
The Guinness head seemed to be slightly creamier than the Cobblestone. The head retention of the Guinness was slightly better. The overall smoothness goes to Guinness by a hair.

My wife and I both agreed that the Cobblestone had slightly more aroma than the Guinness.

The taste... hardly any difference, in our opinion. I don't know how many times I "cleansed" my palette trying to figure out any differences. I want to say that Cobblestone had a slightly less bitter finish than Guinness, but really, if there was a difference I think it's hardly noticeable.

Both are 4.2% alcohol, in case that matters to you.

Was there a winner? Honestly, I'd have to say that it was a tie. But, seeing as how Mill Street is not an import and I'd prefer to buy Canadian, my vote would have to go to Cobblestone Stout.

If price weighs into it, the Mill Street was also slightly less expensive than the Guinness. More savings means more money to buy beer. :)

After this comparison, I feel more confident that Cobblestone would make a great substitute for Guinness in the Chocolate Stout cupcakes.

St. Patrick's Day Stout-Off

We made another batch of those delicious Chocolate Stout cupcakes yesterday to bring to a get-together with friends. On Friday, we picked up a pack of Guinness for the recipe, but on the way to the check-out I grabbed a couple of cans of Mill Street Cobblestone Stout as a possible alternative to using Guinness.

My wife decided to stick with Guinness to avoid screwing up the recipe, leaving us to try the Cobblestone at a later date when it'll just be us eating the cupcakes. :)

Now I have two can's of Cobblestone and a few Guinness sitting in the fridge on St. Patrick's Day. Is there a better day to crack them open? I think not.

This afternoon we'll be having a Stout-Off.

Black & Tan, and Dark

I'm posting these two together since they're both from Hockley Valley Brewing and because I found them to be quite similar. They are the other two that came in the taster pack with the Hockley Amber.

Hockley Black & Tan

Black & Tan. Smooth. Creamy. Dark. Light tasting. 4.7% alcohol. They describe it as:
A dark amber blend of Hockley Stout and our light ale mingle in our signature can. Hints of smoke, coffee, and chocolate enrich the sweetness of a light ale, with a refreshing and dry finish.
Right off the bat I found it to be similar to Guinness. I think it was the creamy head. However, the taste is different enough that I actually enjoyed this more than a Guinness. Despite not being a big fan of stouts/dark beers, this could change my mind. I would definitely buy this again. I would even consider using this as a replacement for Guinness in the Chocolate Stout Cupcake recipe that I posted previously. If we try it again using Hockley, I'll be sure to post how they came out.

Hockley Dark
Dark. Light tasting. Felt  overly carbonated. 5% alcohol.
Hints of roasted nuts, caramel, chocolate, and coffee combine to make this award winner one of Ontario’s best-selling craft beers.
I found it similar in taste to the Black & Tan, but the carbonation kinda threw me off. It felt like I was drinking a Coke. I think I'll have to get another can of this one and try it again to see if the experience is any different. It was a good beer, but I preferred the smoothness of the Black & Tan.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lug Tread

Beau's Lug Tread. I've had this one since last weekend when I picked up a 4-pack and have yet to write anything about it.

It's crisp. It's clean. It's a clear gold colour. It has a light bitter finish. It's 5.2% alcohol.

It seems to have just the right blend of everything.

Quite simply, it's a great beer. I could easily make this my regular.

Orange Peel Ale

This Orange Peel Ale by Great Lakes Brewery has been standing out on the shelf at the LCBO for a couple of weeks now. I've been hesitant to buy it because the label gives me the impression it is going to have a strong orange flavour to it. I like orange, but I don't think I'd like a strong orange flavoured beer. This week, I took the bait.

Clear amber colour. The aroma has a hint of orange.

The taste was clean and definitely refreshing, but if what you're looking for is a strong orange flavour, you'll be disappointed. It made me happy.

The back of the bottle describes it as boasting a "zesty, fruity and refreshing taste". Perhaps I haven't tried enough fruity beers to make a fair judgement, but I don't think the subtlety of the orange flavouring is enough to push it into the "zesty, fruity" category.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed this beer and I was really happy that the orange taste was as subtle as it was. I think if it were any stronger it would put me off.

Friday, March 15, 2013


And now, for something a little more normal...

Hockley Amber.

The photo pretty much sums up how it looks.

Amber/reddish. Clear.

Very light bitter finish.

 4.2% alcohol.

I really enjoyed this. According to my wife, this is about as bitter as she can tolerate.

I'd buy this again, for sure. It came in a 3-can taster-pack, so the other two will get a review shortly. If I survive the effects of that Italian sour ale.

What I found rather cool is that there's a fish batter recipe on the cardboard packaging and on the can itself.

Cathy's Amber Battered Fish
  • 8 halibut or pickerel fillets
  • 1¼ CUPS of flour
  • ½ CUP of cornstarch
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • 1½ CUPS of Hockley Amber
Mix together, then dip fillets in batter and deep fry until golden brown, turning occasionally, serve with a lemon wedge and your favourite fries.
There you go. Seems like a typical beer batter recipe. I haven't tried it, as we don't own a deep fryer.

Panil Barriquée

I have to write this now because I think this bottle is going to kick my ass by the time I'm finished it.

We had no idea what this was. The label on the back is written entirely in Italian. But it clocks in at 9% alcohol.

My (and my wife's) initial impression from the aroma was that it smelled like beer and wine combined. Kinda fruity.

And then came the taste.


I've never tried a sour ale before, but apparently that's what this is.

I don't dislike it at all, but, it wouldn't be my first choice for a beer. My wife didn't like it. I think this would be a great summer drink. In moderation. Seriously. My head is really buzzing and I'm 3/4 of the way through this bottle.

Hmm... where was I.

Dark. Cloudy. Sour.

I typed out part of the Italian label into Bing's translator and it came up with this:
This double malt, Brown ale brewed with special malts from Germany, England and Belgium with the addition of German and Czech hops, has suffered three: the first fermentation in steel tank for 15 days, the second for over 90 days in small French oak casks or in large, valuable and ancient Winery barrels and the third for 30 days.
That's enough to give you an idea of what this beer had to "suffer" through. :)

If you don't mind sour, I think this is worth a try to at least say that you've tried it. It's very unique. At least for me. Don't plan on going anywhere if you finish off the entire bottle.

Good grief. I'm not sure how I'm going to last past 9:00pm tonight.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Iron Arse Ale

I keep meaning to mention this and forgetting.

The Ottawa chapter of Ride for Dad is raising funds by selling pre-orders of Big Rig's Iron Arse Ale, in a limited edition growler for $20. The only way you can guarantee getting one of the limited edition growlers is by pre-ordering it.

Great cause, no doubt great beer, and a souvenir too. :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Homebrew: Early preparation

I've been reading up on beer making over the last couple of days. As I do, the experience I had ~20 years ago is coming back to me. I think it's going to be a much different experience this time, since my primary goal isn't just to make cheap beer to drink, but to make a good and interesting beer. I think my first brew is going to be some kind of Belgian White, or Blonde. That may change by the time the day comes.

I'm also more interested in the science behind it than I was back then, which is pretty cool. I told my 17 year-old son that I think he might find that aspect of it to be interesting, so I told him it would be a great father/son project. :) Although he's not of legal drinking age in Ontario (yet) he will be for Quebec by the time I start the project so I'm ok with it. Besides, he doesn't like the taste or the smell of beer. :)

I found most of my beer making kit in the basement yesterday. I'm missing the air lock, hydrometer, and a thermometer. I've seen the air lock kicking around in a box somewhere in the basement, but finding it will be a challenge. I'll probably have to pick up the other two items.

A friend at work has graciously donated a 23L glass carboy to my project in exchange for 6 beers — one from each future batch I make. :) The first (and last) time I made beer, I didn't use a secondary container for fermentation. I'll be interesting to see the beer as it ferments.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brewmaster Wannabe

I've been giving more thought to attempting to make my own beer, for the second time in my life.

I'm a more familiar with the different types and flavours than I was in my early 20s, so I think I'll be able to make a more educated decision about what to brew.

I've still got most of the equipment in my basement, with the exception of a glass carboy, but it looks like I'm going to get hooked up with that through a friend at work. I think that'll earn him a pint or two. :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Scotch Ale is coming back!

One of my Big Rig favs, Scotch Ale is coming back, according to Big Rig's Facebook page. The ETA is 4 weeks.

Another new one, Swartz Bier, is supposed to arrive in ~2 weeks. They describe it as Black Lager, roasty and smooth.

Can't wait!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beaver River I.P.Eh?

A spring seasonal, Beau's All Natural Brewing Company Beaver River I.P.Eh?

Slightly cloudy amber colour and 5.6% alcohol.

Beau's says it is "designed to appeal to hop heads".

It does indeed fit that bill.

It's a mix between a British style IPA and an American style IPA, according to the tag. They mention a citrus punch, but I couldn't pick that out. Maybe my taste buds were still missing Strong Patrick. :)

If you've read any of my other reviews, you already know that I'm not a hop head. However, I did enjoy this beer for what it is, it just wouldn't be my first choice for beers.

Having said that, if I was looking to step away from my norm and have an IPA, this would be one that I'd consider.

Being a hop head has its advantages, as it is only $4.35 for a 600ml bottle at the LCBO.

Strong Patrick

Strong Patrick is a seasonal beer from Beau's All Natural Brewing Company.

It's an Irish red ale, so obviously it has a reddish colour to it. Duh.

I picked out a lightly sweet aroma, most likely toffee. It's lightly carbonated and the head retention isn't the best (nor is it the worst) I've seen. My wife said it tasted flat. The photo above was shot immediately after pouring.

It's pretty smooth going down and there's no bitterness to it at all. The tag does say that it's "lightly hopped". No idea what the IBU* is, but I would have to assume that it's pretty low. I'm a big fan of lightly hopped beverages. :)

So, I'm not sure where the "strong" plays into it. It's not just the name, the label says "Strong beer". Strong as in the alcohol content? It is 6.7% — is that considered strong?

The tag also says that "part of the batch has been aged in whiskey barrels, and then reintroduced adding subtle wood and vanilla nuances". Clearly all steps to making a really good beer.

So, yes, I enjoyed this beer. A lot.

On the downside, it's not cheap at $7.85 for a 600ml bottle at the LCBO. :(

In comparison, if money is an issue, you can pick up a 750ml bottle of equally delicious Chimay Premiere for $6.00.

I guess the real decision is whether or not you want to support a local brewery, or the Trappist Monks and their charitable works. :)

(* International Bitterness Units)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Who am I?

I decided to expand a little on who I am. So, I created a dedicated page for that. You can see the link above on its own tab, or click here.

Mad Tom IPA

A last minute pick up on the way to the cash - Muskoka Mad Tom IPA. Another terrible pic. WTF was I doing last night?

This beer confused me. (that's not too difficult sometimes) I was somewhat torn between "It's good.. but, not a big fan" and "Yeh, I like this".

Note the bonus bottle opener. :)
Clear golden-orange colour. Nice head retention. Even got the lacing* going.

The aroma was puzzling. After half a glass, I was able to pick out citrus but I couldn't narrow it down.

The taste... smooth with a bitter finish. A bitter that I had tasted before... somewhere.

Then on Instagram, @worldonmute commented on the photo saying that he was a fan and that Twice As Mad Tom was better because it "brings out the notes of grapefruit even more".

Grapefruit! That was the citrus I smelled and tasted. After reading that, it was so obvious. (give me a break.. I'm new at this beer reviewing stuff) As a result, I actually enjoyed the bitterness more than I usually do. I like grapefruits and the aftertaste of this beer is very similar to what you get after drinking a glass of grapefruit juice, only not that strong. I'm glad it came in a 6-pack so I get to enjoy more of it.

To top it all of, the 6-pack came with a bottle opener. We didn't see that until we got home. I like free stuff.

(* I wasn't aware that this was called lacing until a buddy, Chris Avery, told me. Google it if you want to know more.)

Champion Czech Pilz

The drawback of buying beer in a growler is that the photos tend not to look much different than other beers of the same brand in growlers. :) Not a very bright pic either. I should have used the flash.

You'll have to take my word for it that I drank it. Well, not all of it, yet, but a glass or two. This "tasting session" took place on Friday night.

This pilsner weighs in at 5% alcohol 35 IBUs*.

It has an interesting aroma. I'm not entirely sure how to describe it. As my son would say "smells like beer". That it does, but there's something else there that my uneducated nose can't pinpoint. Flowery perhaps? I'll need to try more today. That's a plus for a growler... there's always more for tomorrow. :)

The colour... golden. Slightly cloudy. Decent head retention.

The taste... light and smooth going down with a bitter finish. What I found interesting is that the bitter finish seems to get progressively stronger after the sip. The carbonation was just right.

This is a limited run beer. While I did enjoy it, and I'd drink it again, it doesn't rank up there on my list of favourite Big Rig brews. I think I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of bitter beers. Maybe my tastes will change over time. Sometimes a beer tastes different the next time too. I've still got some left, so we'll see if it's any different today.

Update: I just had another glass of this and I like it a little more than last night. Perhaps the bitterness I taste in this is also grapefruit? Or maybe I have Mad Tom IPA stuck in my brain and taste buds.

(* The IBU rating denotes the level of bitterness. The higher the number, the more bitter the beer. There's a great chart here.)

Beer shopping

As I suspected, this week's beer shopping trip to the LCBO was an expensive one.

But, some of the expense is actually being saved for this spring/summer, so I guess it's not too bad.

I picked up two bottles of Muskoka Legendary Oddity and one of Chimay Premiere and hid them away in the basement. Oddity is a limited run, and I'd really like to try it paired with a nice BBQ steak, so I decided to bite the bullet and get it now. Maybe I'll try to keep one for next year to compare with next year's batch. That'll be tough. :)

My wife also picked up a growler of Big Rig's Amazing Czech Pilz. I cracked that open last night and the review is next.

Also on the list was Beau's Strong Patrick (Irish Red Ale), Beaver River (I.P.Eh.), and Lug Tread Lagered Ale. I'm sure I had a cup of Lug Tread a long time ago and liked it, but I don't remember what it was like — plus the 4-pack has been taunting me for weeks every time I'm wandering around the LCBO beer fridge, so I had to silence it.

I was hoping to find the Mill St. Spring Mix (Spring Imp & Maple Ale) but they didn't have it, even though it's supposed to be in-store by now. Hopefully it's forthcoming for my local LCBO.

One the way to the cash, we passed a display of Muskoka Mad Tom IPA 6-packs. Into the cart they went. It wasn't until we got home that I noticed a surprise, that'll mention in the review. :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weekend possibilities

My want-to-try list for this coming weekend, assuming that my local LCBO has what I'm looking for, with the exception of the Czech PILZ which is only available at Big Rig:
  • Beau's Beaver River I.P.Eh.
  • Beau's Strong Patrick Irish Red Ale
  • Mill Street Spring Mix — Spring Thaw Maple Ale & Spring Imp (Bock)
  • Big Rig Czech PILZ
  • Another Trappist beer, perhaps something from La Trappe which was recommended to me last weekend on Twitter. A quick check using the LCBO app doesn't show much in stock where I go. :-\
  • Muskoka Legendary Oddity (although I tried it last weekend, I was thinking of picking up a couple to save for the summer before they stop making them)
It's unlikely that I'll get to try them all, but this should be the list I'll have on me. :)

Free music from Beau's

In case you don't follow Beau's on Facebook, or check their web site regularly, they've got some free music available for downloading.

CLICK >> The Beau's Mixtape, Spring 2013 << CLICK

No catch. Download a single song, a few songs, or download them all.

To be honest, I don't think I've heard any of the bands listed, but after listening to a few previews I grabbed them all.

Domain name?

I'm thinking of getting a dedicated domain name for the blog.

One option is Another option is a fun, sorta beer related name, but not an indication of the blog's current name... so if I were to get it, I'd either rename the blog or simply have it forward to it. Cryptic enough for ya? :)

I could register both, put the blog on its namesake and as mentioned previously, forward the other to it so there would essentially be two ways to get here. But, to keep both domain names it would cost about $30 per year.

That's beer money!

I'm not in any rush, so we'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll just keep an eye on the traffic for now and if it picks up steam make the move.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Food pairings

On the back of the box that the Libbey glassware came in has a description of each glass and their recommended food pairings for each type of beer.

I was going to type it out, but before I got around to it I decided to have a look on the internet to see what other sites might say.

Holy confusion.

It would appear that there's a difference of opinion for each, depending where you look.

So, rather than contribute to this mass confusion, I decided to go with what they posted over on — mostly because they also offer a handy, dandy chart that you can download and print out if you wish:

If cheese is more of your thing (as if cheese isn't a food?), The Beer Store has a list of beer & cheese pairings over on their web site:

Enjoy! (or just be more confused...)

Beer recipes?

If anyone has any good food recipes that include beer in the ingredients, or ones that go really well with beer (hmm.. what doesn't?) feel free to drop me a line with the details at and I'll post it. Naturally, you will receive full credit for it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

An old "church key"

I suppose since this blog is called "Church Key", I should probably make a post once in a while about a cool bottle opener.

So here's one.

Empress of England bottle opener

This is a souvenir from The Empress of England. Click the name if you're curious about the ship's history. What you won't find there is the part of its history that says it was the ship that brought me from England to Canada in September of 1967.

A few years ago, I started collecting memorabilia about the ship and this bottle opener was one of the items I bought off eBay, for less than $10 from what I recall. I received a notification from eBay this morning that someone is selling a bottle opener like this one, in worse condition, for ~$30. Among the items I've purchases is one of the original passenger lists from the exact same trip that brought me here, with my family's names are printed in the booklet, and some old newspapers they used to print on board the ship, from the same time period.

Anyway, this isn't about all the stuff I've collected. It's just about this bottle opener. I think it's pretty cool and means a lot to me, although I've never actually opened a bottle with it since I got it.

Check, please?

Big Rig Kitchen and Brewery is releasing a new beer tomorrow at 2:00pm called Champion Czech PILZ. My brain is somehow stuck on reading it as "Check please". :)

No word on exactly what is in it, as far as I can find. But, when I asked @Brewmasterlon if it was going to be available in growlers he said it was.

Perhaps I can talk my wife into making a stop there on Friday before picking me up from work. :)


One of my friends at work had mentioned that she saw a set of 6 different beer glasses at the Home Hardware in Perth, and offered to pick me up a set the next time she was there, if I wanted.

It is the Craft Brew 6pc Set by Libbey.

In case you're as unfamiliar with the different types of glasses as I am, the set includes (from left to right): 1- 15.25oz Classic Pilsner, 1- 20oz English Pub, 1- 16.6oz Belgian Ale, 1- 20oz Craft Pub, 1- 14.75oz Porter/Stout, 1- 23oz Wheat Beer Glasses.

I have a couple of different beer glasses at home, but the majority of them are branded. That's not a big deal if all you're doing is drinking from it, but since I'm snapping pics, I'd rather not have a glass displaying a brand not used in the photo. Makes sense, no?

Can't wait to try them out. :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

I can't remember how I came across this recipe. It was posted somewhere on Facebook, I think. Anyway, here it is: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting.

I'm not a really big fan of cake to begin with, but we tried making these a week or two ago and they are delicious.

Our kids don't even like the smell of beer, but they enjoyed these as well. The recipe says that the cakes are safe for kids, since the alcohol in the beer cooks off, but the frosting still has alcohol in it since it's not cooked and therefore it's best to label them as adult only cupcakes. Our kids are 14 and 17 yrs old, and we let them have the cakes w/ frosting. 3-4 table spoons of Bailey's spread across a dozen cakes is pretty weak.

One thing we had a little trouble with was the icing. Following the recipe to the letter left us with some pretty liquidy frosting. We had to keep adding more confectioner's sugar to it to thicken it up and then we let it sit in the fridge for a while as well.