Tag Archives: Ontario Craft Beer

Kawartha Craft Beer Festival

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It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to put my beer skills to work so when I saw a local beer festival advertised I heard the hoppy siren song…

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The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival took place in Peterborough Ontario this weekend. The venue was Millennium Park, which is located alongside the river in the city’s downtown. The park provided a picturesque setting with lots of green space to sit and sip. The organizers had several food options, live music and a total of eleven brewers and one cidery in participation. So while technically it was the smallest beer festival I ever attended they put on a good show nonetheless.

 

I am still really getting to know the Ontario craft beer scene so there were lots of new-to-me breweries to explore (one of the best things about beer fests) as well as some familiar faces.

A lot of the breweries stepped up on their serving options, maybe to compensate for the smaller size of the festival, with multiple booths pouring from kegs, bottles and cans.

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Compared to many other festivals I have attended this was a pretty subdued drinking crowd; I do not recall seeing a single drindl or even a person in costume! To be fair this is only the festival’s second year so give it time for the fanboys and fangirls to come out en masse and I definitely was not the only note-taking, picture-snapping, beer geek in attendance so just a heads up Peterborough.

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A few of the standout brews for me were the festival-only option from Port Perry’s Old Flame Brewing Company, a regular line-up beer brewed with stone fruit and the Saison from Bobcaygen Brewing Company based out of, well c’mon guess, Bobcaygen.

I also have to give an honourable mention to Church-Key Brewing Company from Campbellford who brought a Brett beer, which I was so happy to see …for this sour gal it was like finding a long lost friend. Sadly, this Brett brew did not pack the funky, sour wallop I had hoped for but kudos for bringing some sourness to the province.

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My gluten-free hubby (who also happens to be my only hubby) made do with the two offerings from County Cider Company, who brought a Ginger Peach Cider and their very nice, dry Waupoos cider. He also indulged in some olfactory appreciation of my selections.

Overall a pleasant evening spent sipping beer alongside the river and a great reminder of what I have been missing as of late. Perhaps I have been away too long, beer my old friend…

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A lil’ something new on my grocery list…

  

After too many years of cross-border shopping while having all kinds of envy at the complete obviousness of selling beer in the grocery store, FINALLY us Ontarians can now pick up our craft beer with the rest of our dietary staples.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that it took us as a province this long to put bottles on the grocery shelves or that the selection is meagre or that the seperate checkout is still working through the kinks rather I am going to simply enjoy the moment.

I knew it was coming, the news alluded to beer in grocery stores being on the horizon for months now but it was not until I saw the sign from above (the Superstore in Oshawa) that I became a believer.

  

Even better this sign did not deceptively lure me in only to break my heart with a provisio beer soon or beer next year but quite accurately beer was most indeedly-doodly here.

   
 
As I alluded to above the actual nuts and bolts of beer in the grocery store are still being revamped. 

While I was in the Superstore that fateful day the very helpful store worker walked me through the process. Beer can only be purchased at the tiny checkout situated between the two aisle end caps where they stock the beer. The initial offerings are somewhat sparse though I was told the shelf space for beer is slated to grow in the near future. Also, when beer is allowed through the regular checkout lanes there will be only a select number of lanes where cashiers are trained in the fine art of deciphering those under 25 (the age under which you will be id’d) and pretty sure you will never be in the self-checkout with your craft beer.

Nonetheless, no whining or complaining on my part, beer is here and we will happily work out the kinks as we grow!


Beer by Campfire Light

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I know I have been a little off the radar as of late but I like to think I have good excuses for not getting around to writing my blog posts. It is really not for lack of ideas, I am quite adept at that part, it is just the actual sitting down at my computer and typing part that trips me up.

I blame it on the fact I have worked too many years as a Princess Leia like slave to my desk – yup, in my mind I am literally chained to my desk, which I picture as a slovenly beast from a distant galaxy and I must type up endless reports and documents for it’s amusement while I wait for someone to come rescue me or at least afford me the opportunity to strangle something and free myself.

But lets put a pin in that while I get back to the topic at hand, why does beer taste so much better around a campfire?

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Seriously, has anyone done any scientific studies on this? If not, I volunteer.

Labour Day weekend found me and a couple of friends car-camping with our trusty red plastic coolers, gas station bought bags of ice, enough firewood to keep burning man in business, and, of course, several (dozen) summer worthy beers like Muskoka Detour, Beau’s American I.P.A., Naughty Nellie, Waupoos Cider, Daura Damm (gluten free for the hubby), Smithworks Kellerbeer, a few types of Radlers all made better by the warm nights, mosquitoes, lakeside smells and smores.

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I really do not have much in the way of beer reviews to impart but I do have a few observations; summer and IPA are meant to go together like summer and baseball, everything tastes better when you are sitting in a camping chair in front of fire and wearing a glow stick, beer always has been and always will be a communal experience, and take the time to enjoy your last few sips of summer before the pumpkin beers start emerging from the patch!

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Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 8

Cameron’s Obsidian Rum Barrel Imperial Porter 9.2%

I was very impressed with the other beer I tried from Cameron’s Brewing so I was understandably excited to try their take on one of my favourite beer styles the barrel aged imperial porter, not to mention this was the last beer of my trip so I hoped to toast my send-off to Ontario in style!

Obsidian pours a deep black worthy of its’ namesake with lots of dense cream coloured head and nice lacing. Big molasses, chocolate malt nose with a sweet caramel overtones. Full bodied but not into stout territory with enough alcohol presence to consider this a winter warmer. Flavours include chocolate, dried fruits, tobacco (smoky notes), rich heavy malts and a nice earthy character reminding the drinker this one spent some time in the barrel. At the same time there is a bit of hop to this one making the finish seem like a dry bitter chocolate with some lingering alcoholiness. Overall a great porter and one I hope will find its’ way out to British Columbia.

Obsidian


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 7

Muskoka Harvest Ale (7%) Strong Ale

Described by the brewery as a dry-hopped malt forward seasonal commemorating the end of the growing season. Harvest Ale pours a hazy dark amber colour with lots and lots of off-white airy head. A hoppy nose giving citrus and piney notes. As you drink the caramel malt character emerges but not as much as I expected the hops take over flavour-wise making the ale earthy, grassy and slightly bitter. There is also an herbal almost spicy quality to this beer. Medium bodied with a slightly creamy mouthfeel and some carbonation. This ale ends with a primarily bitter finish.

Overall not really my ‘cup of tea’ but interesting nonetheless and sure to please those who love a hop heavy ale.

Harvest Ale


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 5

Wayward Son

The Wayward Son from Radical Road Brewing Co. (7.5%) Belgian Golden Ale.

Okay can we take a minute to talk about the box? You see the box right? This box rocks. What beautiful presentation. How nice would this look sitting under my (or any other beer geek’s) Christmas tree with a bow on top?

Once I got over my rapturous euphoria I actually opened the box to find an equally pleasing bottle and label. So far I was quite impressed now did what’s inside live up to its proverbial cover?

The Wayward Son pours a deep gold colour, hazy and sediment heavy with some bright white head. Lots of yeast on the nose, sweetness and a slight fruitiness. Medium bodied and smooth with a touch of alcoholiness coming through. Lots of malt flavour, some spice, coriander perhaps, and a bit of hop bitterness something kind of earthy or even herbally. There is good carbonation in this Belgian making it quite drinkable. A subtle finish that is woody (oaky?) and slightly bittered. Overall not the best example of the style I have tried though to be fair the competition in this field is pretty pedigreed.


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 4

Rye Pale Ale (RPA) from Cameron’s Brewing (6.6%) is an American IPA brewed with rye (duh).

RPA pours an orange gold colour with lots of sediment and some airy bright white head. Big citrus hops on the nose cut through with malt and a sweet yeasty aroma. A medium bodied IPA that has resiny and citrus hop flavours, which are well-balanced by an equal dose of sweet and spicy malt (think that pungent bite from rye bread). Strong and warming, a slightly sticky mouthfeel with a dry bitter finish. This beer was very impressive managing to bring big hops to the front while retaining an accessibility that does not make RPA the exclusive domain of hop heads.

RPA


Ontario Craft Beer, As Advertised – Beer 2

Vanilla Porter

 

On the other end of the porter spectrum from Les Trois Mousquetaries Porter Baltique we have Vanilla Porter Draught from Mill Street Brewery (5%). This porter pours a deep black brown with just a little skim of mocha coloured head. Lots of vanilla bean on the nose and a bit of cold coffee. A light bodied and airy beer very consistent with other draught cans (think Guinness) but veering close to the watery side of things. As I alluded, the vanilla presence is quite unmistakable in this one though personally I did not find it be an artificial extract-y taste. Flavour wise (aside from the vanilla) you get cold coffee and roasted malts, and this porter finishes dry and slightly sweet.

Overall not a bad porter if you are looking for something light and easy though it may be a tad sweet for some of you beer geeks out there …#beercandy.


They say you can’t go home again

Philosophically speaking this rings true but when visiting the place of one’s birth you can take time to try lots of different beers so in a way (a somewhat obscure way) you can make it feel like home again by bringing your wonderful beer geekiness with you in your travels.

Okay so that probably doesn’t make sense but I am stretching for an introduction to highlight the fact I am back from Ontario after an extended visit with the family and while there I visited a couple of local tap rooms and tried lots of interesting craft beers that never make their way out west.

Specifically, I was in Peterborough, Ontario a mid-size city that boasts a couple of breweries, The Old Stone Brewing Co. and The Publican House Brewery and a couple of tap rooms St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room and  Ashburnham Ale House.

Each time I come home I make a concerted effort to try all the Ontario and Eastern US beers I can find as well as visit anything new that falls on my radar.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House is new to Peterborough and it is located in the old part of town known historically as Ashburnham (now East City). I was really excited when I read about this tap room, local beers, rotating taps, eco decor and a great location. The Ale House is a large space heavy on the wood and leather accents and equally heavy on the meat menu. Seeing that me and the vegan hubby were not going to be eating we decided to head on over to the bar to enjoy some craft beer.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House

In an almost completely empty space we were seated, immediately asked what we wanted and then left to fend for ourselves. Inquiring about the rotating taps we were told the names of the beers and the ABV with no real description, when I asked again another server gave me a totally different ABV -do people really only pick a beer based on the alcohol content???

The bottles were listed on the menu but no descriptions were provided. Somehow I expected the staff to be a bit more enthusiastic about the beer in a tap room! After looking over the bottle and tap selection we decided to try a flight of everything on tap but sadly they have no flights and no small pours.

Overall, I was really disappointed in Ashburnham Ale House and I hope they get some passionate beer geeks to make this space come alive.

 

Thankfully we were able to head to St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room, which beer for beer may be one of the best tap rooms I have ever been to. Their beer menu is extensive focusing on Belgian beer but also boasting a nice selection of Canadian options. They always manage to find something unique to have on tap and the rare bottles are numerous (the photo below is one of three pages!).

St. Veronus

St. Veronus

While there the hubby and I tried a couple of Rodenbachs a (mildy) sour Flanders Red Ale, the Bacchus a Flanders Oud Bruin described (accurately) as tasting like flat coke and the Gueuze Fond Tradition a tart unsweetened lambic. All the beers were interesting and the server really knew his stuff. Oh and did I mention the food? Well it is incredible, savoury, filling and creative with options to fit even the pickiest eater in our party.

Stay tuned for more of my beer explorations in Ontario…


When East Moves West

This review is somewhat overdue thanks in part to my over-enthusiasm for following up my pumpkin beer countdown with a Christmas beer countdown, which left very little time to fit in any barking squirrels.

 

For those who have not yet been introduced to this cutely monikered export from Ontario, let me be the first to put Hop City brewing Co. and their Barking Squirrel Lager on your radar. As a fellow Ontario export I feel a certain obligation to spread the word to the Beer Suspender*, aka the Pacific Northwest, that there are things brewing back east.

Rather than bore you with random brewery specs I confiscated from the brewery’s own website I thought I’d be even lazier and plug in their you tube video discussing Hop City.

 

 

So now that you know a little more about the brewery and the brewers let’s get to their signature beer, Barking Squirrel Lager.

 

Barking Squirrel Lager

 

BS Lager (poor choice of abbreviation I know) pours a copper orange colour, it is very clear and it has tons of head on the initial pour; the head dies off quite a bit but still leaves a small off-white head and some lacing. There is a very subtle sweetness and a bit of yeastiness on the nose. First sip, this lager is very clean and smooth, light bodied and well-balanced. There is caramel sweetness and spicy hop taste but neither element dominates this beer. As you drink the character of the beer remains pretty consistent with the hops coming a bit more to the front. Like the nose the finish is quite subtle with just the tiniest hint of bitterness and also the nuttiness I have come to associate with lagers in general. Overall a very nice session beer though, personally, I am still not a big fan of beer in cans. It is probably psychosomatic but I always think I can taste something tinny as I drink …probably says more about me than the beer.

Oh and yes, squirrels can in fact bark (like a dog) and strip bark from trees though I not sure which of those factoids was the inspiration behind the beer name…

 

*Nerdy interjection: If the Bible Belt generally runs in an east and west direction I thought the Beer Suspender could run north and south to showcase the concentration of breweries and beer culture along the coast; if this phrase catches on you heard it here first 🙂


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