St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from McAuslan Brewing Incorporated in Montreal, Quebec is opaque and jet black, with a frothy tan coloured head that settles as a thick and rocky cap and leaves large splotches of lace on your glass. The simple yet sturdy smell of this stout carries aromas of chocolate malt and syrup, black cherry juice, oatmeal and ground coffee.
The taste of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is full-flavoured and very well-balanced. There is a very strong chocolate character that gets accented by an earthy, grainy bitterness clocking in at 45 IBU. The oatmeal brings a bit of sourness, notes of plum and raisin mingle in the slightly woody finish and the aftertaste is assertively dry. This ale has a thick and grainy body, mild to moderate carbonation and a pleasant creaminess smooths everything out.
This American pale ale from Moosehead Breweries Limited in Saint John, New Brunswick is clear and light amber in colour, pouring with a small but frothy light tan head that leaves weblike lacing as it settles into a thin cap. Boundary Ale has a very fruity smell, with dark notes of plum and raisin countered by bright grape, lemon and apple juice aromas. Sweet fresh grains and light malts carry hints of chocolate and minerals.
The taste of Boundary Ale is thick with flavours of biscuit, raisin, cocoa and honey balanced by a moderate bitterness that is most prevalent in the aftertaste and carries notes of lemon rind and fresh grasses. This ale is on the lighter side of medium-bodied and has a fair amount of carbonation that pops on the front of the tongue. A smooth oiliness leads to a grainy and somewhat chocolatey finish.
The Wayward Son from Radical Road Brewing in Toronto, Ontario is light amber in colour with tinges of old gold and a loose, but creamy white head that tends to leave thick swathes of lace and settles as a thin but frothy collar. This Belgian strong pale ale is matured in Ontario sourced pinot noir wine barrels and has a pungent smell. Sour, rotting apple and grape tones converge with candi sugar-sweetened malts converge to create an air of apple crisp or rhubarb pie. Hints of yeast and pine contribute to an overall outdoorsy character.
The taste of The Wayward Son brings to mind a union of fresh, crusty white bread, red wine and a honey-soaked bran muffin. The ale has a yeasty and creamy mouthfeel with mild viscosity and carbonation. Mildly sour crab apple and grape notes create a dry finish while a juicy hint of the pinot noir barrels lingers in the back of the throat.
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.
Highballer Pumpkin Ale from Grand River Brewing in Cambridge, Ontario pours a clear golden-copper colour with a small but frothy white head that leaves a solid, long-lasting collar, but little lace. This ale smells warm and inviting, with aromas of ripe pumpkin, honey, toasted malts and grasses.
The taste of Highballer Pumpkin Ale is also pumpkin forward. There is a lovely, light and fruity ale underneath with a sweet caramel tone. Grassy, floral hops bring earthy and tart characteristics, as well as a mild orange pekoe tea flavour. The ale is full-bodied with low carbonation and a dry, cracker-like character on the tongue. There are subtle pepper and allspice notes present throughout that comes forward in the finish and aftertaste.