Designed to showcase a German hop variety, Alexander Keith’s Saphir Hop Ale from Anheuser-Busch InBev pours a light amber colour with a creamy off-white head that dissipates quickly, leaving behind nothing but a thread-like collar. This American pale ale has aromas of black tea, bergamot, lemon zest, black pepper and dark honey, with hints of wet grass, perfume and red grape skins.
The taste of Alexander Keith’s Saphir Hop Ale starts with a sharp honey sweetness then quickly becomes very dry, with a bitter citrus peel flavour apparent throughout that becomes quite pronounced in the finish and aftertaste. Subtle notes of toasted caramel malt and strawberry can be detected as well. This ale is grainy, earthy, mildly viscose, scantily carbonated and leaves my mouth feeling rather dry in between sips.
This low alcohol beer from Koninklijke Grolsch N.V. in Enschede, Netherlands is a bright golden colour and pours with a large, soapy white head that leaves patches of lace and is retained as a small collar. Grolsch Non Alcoholic has aromas of sweet grain, wildflower, grass and a mild fruity tone that reminds me of strawberry jam.
The taste of Grolsch Non Alcoholic is malt forward, somewhat sweet and has a distinct tea-like character that imparts a crisp bitterness. There are notes of citrus rind and minerals in the crisp finish and the aftertaste has mild earth and barley flavours. The lager is squarely on the thin side, but has a surprising amount of body to it for a low alcohol beer. Grainy, syrupy and creamy sensations can all be felt on the tongue.
Beyond The Pale Brewing Company (Ottawa, Ontario)
Imperial Saison / Farmhouse Ale (8.4%)
Look: Chill-hazed, light apricot orange colour. Small, loose, frothy white head hangs around as a cap.
Smell: Lightly toasted malt and fresh grasses. Tons of yeast esters...banana, clove, apple, pine, wintergreen, lavender. Very complex and appealing.
Taste: Very intense at first. Bitter citrus flavour is front-loaded, then mellows out nicely. Surprisingly light syrupy sweetness, notes of apple and pear, very dry and peppery finish with a hint of mint.
Mouth: Viscose, grainy, medium-bodied. Aftertaste is grainy, yet crisp. Distinct ethanol heat.
Opinion: Deceptively easy-drinking, but also very satisfying. Similar to Hennepin in many ways. Great as a sipper.
Food: Creamy cheeses, light rye bread, mild sausage, strawberries, kettle chips.
Covered Bridge Brewing (Stittsville, Ontario)
Irish Red Ale (6.6%)
Look: Very dark, almost opaque ruby-brown colour. Wispy tan head retained as a tight collar. No lace.
Smell: Thick. Dark toffee, roasted cocoa, brewed coffee, plum/raisin. Hint of rubbery phenols when first poured (toasted wheat malt?).
Taste: Fairly sweet, fruit and dark toffee characteristics in line with the smell. Bitterness in the finish is an appropriate strength before giving way to a stark dryness.
Mouth: Medium body, mild carbonation. Somewhat grainy, yet smooth. Warming, but not too hot ethanol bite in the aftertaste. Lingering toffee note.
Opinion: Not at all what comes to mind when I think of an Irish red ale, but a very sturdy offering that’s perfect for sipping in fall weather. More akin to an American brown ale, but sweeter.
Food: Roasted meat or poultry, old cheddar, crusty white bread, stews, chocolate cake.
A traditional English-style pub ale, Earnscliffe ESB from Dominion City Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a steely, ruby-brown colour with a small off-white head that remains as a persistent collar throughout your glass. The smell of roasted chocolate malt blends with aromas of caramel and tea biscuit to create a sturdy base, on top of which are deep plum and raisin notes, along with woody hints of pine and cedar.
Chocolate and dark toffee flavours anchor Earnscliffe ESB. The taste of plum and raisin is joined by a vinous and slightly sour grape tone that transitions to a lighter grape jelly-like character in the finish. This ale’s bitterness is spot-on and leads to a dry aftertaste with notes of chocolate and pepper. A full body and low amount of carbonation give the brew an authentic English pub feel.