We had an unexpected (but not entirely unwanted) burst of cold weather out here on the West Coast so I thought I would sample a couple more winter beers in honour of this dip in temperature and increase in white stuff. This time around I am trying Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing described as “A regular picturesque postcardy old ale”, and Winter Hum Bug’r from MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. described as “A deceptively dark holiday ale” and “A rich holiday porter.” This is my first beer from Portland’s MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. so I am curious to see what this brewer is like –price is certainly right barely breaking the three dollar mark for a 650ml!
Belly the Mountain: Great label depicting a night scene of the city ringed with mountains. This seasonal ale pours a deep reddish brown with lots of thick head. It is very sedimenty; even with gentle pouring the glass took some time to settle. There is sweet malts on the nose. Medium bodied, rich malt taste in the mouth and a burnt finish. The finish does not linger as much as I would have hoped. Mellows really well as it warms to room temperature becoming even sweeter. Nice strength that really meets that winter warmer criteria of warming you up from the inside out.
Winter Hum Bug’r: Fun beer name but I am not really feeling the cartoonish label design. The porter pours deep black with good clarity. There is a ton of heavy mocha coloured head that lingers for quite a while eventually developing into some nice lacing on the glass. There is a fruity element to the nose that I can’t quite place. The porter is light in body, clean to drink with a distinctive coffee taste in both the mouthfeel and finish. The finish has a bitter burnt quality. The coffee taste is a little overpowering for me since there is not much in the way of competing flavours to balance it out. Kind of an average porter for me.
The Winner? I have to give this one to Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing.
I have been intrigued by Church-Key Brewing ever since I saw a brief reference to this small scale brewery in a craft beer documentary. The program showed a tiny red brick Church situated in rural Ontario, which housed an equally tiny ‘micro’ brewing operation. Here small batches of carefully selected, uniquely flavoured ales were lovingly brewed in limited quantities for the most discerning and daring palates.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I tend to over-romanticize the small-scale brewer by envisioning a David versus Goliath struggle of the beer purist struggling against the tyrannical beer-opolies (you know who I mean); the proverbial ‘little guy’ who cares more about the craft than the cash. So during my trip to Ontario I planned to visit the facilities and find out for myself just what was brewing at Church-Key.
The Church-Key Brewing Co. is located in an old Methodist Church dating to 1878. I am told the brewer consulted with the good people of Campbellford to ensure there would be no objections to opening the brewery in a former Church. The brewing equipment is located inside the common area of the church where an old wooden staircase winds up to an office. Countless bottles lining the walls attest to the brewer’s interest in all things ale related while beer names like The Great Gatsbeer, Catch Her in the Rye, Riders of the Purple Loosestrife and The Scarlet Pilsner indicate a love of literature. The guide informs me little has been done to the original layout of the Church and indeed the fermenting tanks and kettles seem like an extension of the existing architecture -I am not even sure how they got in or could get back out. My father assures me, and the tour guide, even the original ceiling materials are still in place. The retail portion of the brewery is located in an addition adjacent to the Church, and the entire tour takes about five minutes to walk from one end to the other.
An interesting fact I learned is despite the obvious link to the physical Church the name Church-Key actually refers to various types of bottle and can openers some of which resemble a simple key.