Butler’s Bitter from Niagara College Teaching Brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario has a deep amber hue with honey highlights and a moderately-sized and frothy tan head that gets retained as a small collar and spotty film. A rocky, somewhat mossy mineral-heavy aroma is prevalent in this English bitter and backed up by bready, syrupy malts that evoke molasses and accented by a note of lemon juice.
The taste of Butler’s Bitter is also syrupy and rather sweet at first, here taking on a dark toffee character. Accents of cashew and coffee lead to a bitter finish with notes of lemon, black tea and mineral water and an aftertaste that carries a mild, berry-like fruitiness. This ale is full-bodied with mild carbonation and is heavy with malt and earth on the tongue.
This European dark lager from Guinness & Company (Diageo) in Dublin, Ireland is a dark brown colour reminiscent of cola or root beer and has a small tan head that almost completely burns off within minutes, leaving a very thin film and thick layers of lace. Guinness Black Lager has aromas of roasted grains, fishy lake water and chocolate syrup accented by sweet light malts, mild florals and a strange cardboard-like tone.
Guinness Black Lager tastes like a poorly blended black and tan, with a dry roasted grain flavour that is at odds with a syrupy lager character that is so sweet it verges on cloying. This lager is surprisingly thin-bodied given its lineage, with mild carbonation and notes of grain and syrup on the tongue. The finish is rather dry with the aftertaste leaving a bitter and dirty flavour in the mouth.
This American IPA from Kensington Brewing Company in Toronto, Ontario is a ruby-tinged amber colour with a large tan head that leaves a thick web of lace before settling as a small collar and mossy film. Baldwin FishEYE-PA has a rich smell packed with aromas of berries, tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, notes of caramel and dark grains and a hint of chocolate.
The taste of Baldwin FishEYE-PA is very well-rounded, grainy and decidedly thick with caramel and berry flavours while putting forth a moderate bitterness. This ale is full-bodied, mildly carbonated and very oily feeling. A dry chocolate character in the finish reminds me of a coffee liqueur and dark toffee while the aftertaste takes on a flavour not unlike lemon oil.
Highlander Brew Co. of South River, Ontario recently introduced two specialty beers to complement their flagship Scottish Ale, a beer I considered one of my favourite new retail releases of 2012. I had a chance to sample both Twisted Spruce Ale and Blacksmith Smoked Porter, as well as speak with owner and brewmaster Brian Wilson about his brewery’s relatively brief history.
Brian Wilson established Highlander Brew Co. in 2009 using a long time appreciation of beer and the severance package he received after being laid off from his position with a large financial firm along with 20000 of his colleagues and relocating his family to northern Ontario.
Propeller Revolution from The John Allen Brewing Company Limited in Halifax, Nova Scotia is an opaque black with a moderate sized, frothy tan head that is retained as collared film and leaves some thick lace. This Russian Imperial Stout carries strong pine oil and spruce notes in its smell. Behind them are aromas of date, red berry, raisin, coffee and chocolate.
The taste of Propeller Revolution with dark roasted malts and has an assertive bitterness. The woodsy character also remains, backed by coffee and chocolate flavours. The stout is full bodied and grainy, with a fairly mild carbonation and a tangible oiliness. There is a tart berry note in the finish and the bitter aftertaste has a roasted coffee tone.