I am finally coming back around to saison style beers.
Initially farmhouse beers were one of my favourite styles but as more and more breweries tried their hand at crafting their own version I found myself sampling more and more misses than hits. After which I became a bit burnt out on the whole concept so like any diligent beer geek I quit cold turkey.
Perhaps it was my recent uprooting that got me (re)thinking that it was time to check back in or perhaps it was the fact that hot Ontario summers demand a different kind of beer but I got curious to see just what kind of saisons are brewing now.
So as I sit outside on this very warm and breezy Saturday listening to my neighbours blare music with lyrics like "Country girl, shake it for me" I am indulging in Saison from Black Oak Brewing Co. based in Toronto.
This unfiltered Belgian style ale pours a hazy, well carbonated orange colour with some airy white head. This beer has a big yeasty nose with lots of coriander. First few sips are light bodied, very orange flavoured with a slight funky taste. As you drink the citrus really stays at the forefront. Not a challenging saison but a perfect thirst quencher for a sunny Saturday. It is like a wheat beer infused with oranges, more than that little slice on the side of your glass usually imparts. The coriander and clove spiciness hits the back of your throat the more you drink while the finish brings the yeast back into the mix. Overall a very, very nice beer one that is making me think I stayed away from saisons a little too long…
As of late I have been using my beer touring as a cover for my larger goal of finding a permanent place I would like to live and work (and drink) in. Essentially this boils down to me picking breweries to visit that are located in towns or cities where I could see myself putting down roots.
On my hit list was Kingston, Ontario home to a lovely waterfront, historic buildings, a university, green space, prisons, an old fort and a craft brewery the not-so-surprisingly named Kingston Brewing Company.
Somewhat surprisingly though this brewery is home to in-house crafted cider and wine, which meant my gluten-adverse hubby could also partake.
The brewery is located in the downtown withing walking distance of shops, eateries and entertainment stops. Like many businesses in Kingston, the Kingston Brewing Company (KBC) is housed in a historic building with lots of interesting details like the bricked archway leading to the patio, colourful wood work and an interior boasting an immeasurable quantity of breweriana.
One little issue I seem to be having with the Ontario breweries is the absence of taster flights. The breweries are happy to pour you a third of a taster glass to sample their wares or a full pint obviously but for light-weights like myself that want to try an entire line-up while remaining vertical you just have to close your eyes and pick a beer. Hopefully this is something that will change as beer culture here continues to develop.
My drink of choice was the limited release cask ale First Capital, a deep copper coloured beer that comes with just a little skim and a ring of head around the glass. Being a real ale this beer had minimal carbonation and was served close to room temperature. The server informed me this ale incorporates a single hop though she was not sure which hop this was. Flavours include some bread character, caramel maltiness and the tiniest presence of hop; I think it was slightly citrus in nature. A very light bodied ale that felt a bit thin to me but this is not uncharacteristic of real ales. No lingering finish to speak of. Overall an approachable real ale but one I did not find particularly memorable.
I tried to tour the brewery but I was told the brewer had already left for the day (sweet gig since it was only 2:00pm when I visited) so hopefully I can take a peek behind the scenes next time I am in town.
Happy Friday beer aficionados!
This time around we have Holiday Honey from Old Credit Brewing Co. out of Mississauga, Ontario. We visited the brewery to pick up some of the beer and the brewery is in a great location right down near the Lakeshore. The brewery itself is pretty blasé, a red brick store front, some beer historical memorabilia in the shelves, a few fridges stocked with the three available beers and a nice gentleman behind the counter offering wisdom on which beer to pick up. I’ll post a brewery write-up soon.
The said gentleman recommended their award-winning Holiday Honey so I took his advice and brought a 650ml home.
Holiday Honey pours a really clear reddish gold colour with lots of airy head on the initial pour and the head dies down pretty quickly. Sweet honey on the nose, first few sips are very malt forward with a mineral water taste. There is just the slightest bit of bitterness on the finish but nothing to really discern the hop character. A light bodied 5% ABV beer, a nice choice for summer, one that drinks well when it remains cold. Overall a nice beer, not outstanding but safe and easy.
One of the good things about moving to a new province is the chance to stumble across a brewery you have never visited and whose beer you have never tried. This was happily the case for me and the hubby as we were out touring around Prince Edward County when I saw a sign that said brewery and we had to slam on the brakes – do they make I Brake for Craft Beer bumper stickers yet? If not, I hereby patent the idea!
But I digress.
Barley Days Brewery is located, as mentioned, in the very lovely Prince Edward County region of eastern Ontario. An area filled with historic little towns, vineyards, a craft distillery, a cidery and a craft brewery of course. The brewery is your regular set-up, tasting room, some beer swag, pretzels, chalkboards but they also boast a sausage maker hawing his product out front (and tempting patrons inside with free samples).
Not sure about anyone else but I am starting to get the impression there is a standard start-up kit for dressing up your craft brewery that includes wooden everything, rustic/industrial themed fixtures and a chalkboard menu. C’mon people let’s think a little outside the proverbial box we certainly do when it comes to our beer so why not when it comes to our breweries?
This is not to say there is anything wrong with the ambiance at Barley Days it just feels like I have not seen anything different in quite some time.
But I digress yet again.
There were no less than three people behind the bar to ensure I got to try the line-up and to provide the details on the brewery. One particularly nice fellow (an BC’er no less) showed me behind the scenes and even gave me a sneak taste of their new collaboration Rye beer brewed with spices from a Toronto area deli. A nice, if slightly young tasting beer, that has lots of potential. I also sampled the rest of the available regular line-up as well and despite my initial reluctant I was persuaded and impressed by their Loyalist Lager (not usually a big lager fan).
All their beers were consistent and quite drinkable and I look forward to sampling some of their darker beer offerings after the summer.
Barley Days is also committed to making use of their neighbours and uses locally grown when available. I am a pretty big fan of this ethos and it makes me like their beer just a little bit more…
Fruit beer is tricky. Err on the too sweet side and you risk alienating beer fans, err on the too sour side and you become a niche beer but when it all comes together in harmony the results are good, really good.
Lanark County Blueberry Mead comes to us from Trafalgar Ales and Meads based in Oakville, Ontario. It is described as a braggot style mead brewed with berries and honey from Lanark County in Eastern Ontario. The mead incorporates hops and barley making it a bit of a hybrid.
Blueberry Mead pours a clear berry colour with just a hint of head on the initial pour that quickly dissipates and slight carbonation. Very honeyed on the nose. First sips are sweet at the front of the palate then giving way to more complex tastes of roasted grain and liquor. The berry presence is more visual than flavourful imparting a slight earthy quality. There is a deep warming sensation as you drink probably due to the relatively high ABV of 8.5%. The finish is also pretty earthy so the description of terroir mead noted on the bottle seems fitting. Overall an interesting beer that blurs the lines on just what defines a craft brew.
Fourth day on the road and nothing too exciting to report other than for the first time I saw the beautiful northern lights that decorate the Manitoba sky at night.
We made it to northern Ontario so it feels like we have progressed until you look closer at the map and realize just how big Ontario actually is!
Luckily today I saw something that cheered me up immensely, Kenora Ontario, or to beer geeks, home of the Lake of the Woods Brewery and tap room so we pulled in for lunch and a beer.
My Ontario beer of the day was Last Call a rye and ginger brew. This beer poured a nice clear copper colour with lots of white head and decent carbonation. A slightly sweet malt forward nose with a bit of spice as well. First few sips were light-bodied, sweet and with a bit of a warming quality from the ginger not the alcohol content, which seemed pretty sessional. As you continue to drink the heat of the ginger and the tang of the rye really become more pronounced. This beer is a pretty tricky one to pair with foods as the flavours in beer change with the dinner you are having.
Overall a really nice beer, one probably best consumed before or after a meal. Looking forward to trying more from this brewery.