Queen Street 501 from The Brickworks Ciderhouse in Toronto, Ontario has a deep golden colour that more closely resembles a typical American lager than it does a commercially produced cider and retains a small collar of bubbles longer than most. This semi-sweet blend of Ontario heritage apples smells McIntosh-heavy, with a soft and warm baked character and background sweetness that reminds me of Cortland or Gala.
That sweetness translates through to the taste of Queen Street 501, which is similar to a higher quality, not from concentrate juice that you might find at your local mom and pop grocery. Though this moderately effervescent cider is a bit sweet for my palate, there are some mildly funky yeast notes that open things up and the finish has a nice tartness Granny Smith fans will enjoy as well as a vague sourness that might even make you pucker a bit. The body has a mild viscosity and I was typically left with a soft fuzziness on my tongue.
Owned by Constellation Brands, Inc., Growers Cider Co. has produced a number of flavoured ciders of varying potability over the years. Growers Pear is the latest beverage to appear on shelves and is presented as a clear, almost colourless liquid that bears the faintest of chartreuse tones and sets free a torrent of fine bubbles when poured into a glass.
Growers Pear has a big, natural-smelling fruit aroma that really pops from the can or glass, along with a thick, syrupy quality that brings to mind a fruit cup you might pack in a child’s lunch. There are also hints of stonefruit and citrus in there, but the pear aroma is dominant and surprisingly convincing.
Look: Hazy, honey coloured. Airy and light white head settles as a small, puffy collar. Long streaks of lace.
Smell: Light honey malts. Red fife wheat and spelt are prevalent, bringing a vague sourness and earthy character. Hints of apple, pear, sweet white wine. Mild funk.
Taste: Crisp, dry and earthy. Soft honey sweetness countered by sharp lemon, orange and vinous notes. Finish is very dry, lingering lemon in the aftertaste.
Mouth: Medium to full body. Relatively soft carbonation, fairly viscose, earthy and a bit chewy.
Opinion: Very rustic take on the style. The grain bill is quite hearty, Cascade hops are well used and keep the beer from feeling too heavy. Not a lot of funk, but enough yeasty life on the tongue to give it some pop.
Food: Charcuterie, green or white grapes, creamy cheeses, lighter nuts, soft white bread. Note: Amsterdam Brewing Company provided me with a bottle of Home Grown Saison for evaluation.
This lighter take on a Belgian-style ale From Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario pours a hazy golden honey colour, with a creamy white head that settles as a thin film and fuzzy collar, leaving a few small streaks of lace behind. Farm Table: Grisette has a honey-soaked malt smell that reminded me of banana or carrot bread, with light aromas of apple and pear, fresh herbs, a hint of farmhouse funk and a crisp, white pepper-like note.
The taste of Farm Table: Grisette brings this bright and appealing melange forward and is set against a stark dryness that really promotes the grassy, herbal and floral tones. A quick, crisp and lemony finish punctuates the light-bodied and modestly carbonated ale, leaving vague hints of earthy, toasted malts, citrus rind and mineral.
This American red ale from Molson Coors Canada is a clear amber colour, yielding a large and spongy white head that has good retention, lingering as a rocky cap. Rickard’s Red IPA has a strong, lemony aroma and light peppery tone in front of light toffee malts that carry notes of fresh grain and warm biscuit.
The taste of Rickard’s Red IPA seems somewhat imbalanced at first, but manages to come together, wavering from a sweet but sharp buckwheat honey-like tone to a punchy citric bite and then warm, syrupy peach and mango flavours. A moderate bitterness (40 IBU) transitions to an earthy and grainy finish and though there are pleasant lemon and fruit notes that linger, they are saddled with an unfortunate stickiness that had me reaching for my water glass between sips of this full-bodied ale.