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.
This American brown ale from Cassel Brewery in Casselman, Ontario pours a deep reddish amber colour with a small and loose white head that leaves very little lace on your glass and is retained as a soapy-looking collar. Golden Rail has a sweet and toasty caramel malt smell, with a soft honey tone, light fruit esters, a faint vegetal whiff and a mildly boozy phenolic aroma.
The taste of Golden Rail is quite grainy and earthy. Caramel, toffee and honey flavours are all present, but the ale never comes off as too sweet. The finish is dry, suitably bitter and carries a cherry note while the aftertaste has a lingering, yeasty bread flavour and a touch of mineral character. A mild slickness can be felt on your tongue between sips of this full-bodied and mildly carbonated ale.
Nickel Brook Brewing Company in Burlington, Ontario has crafted an extra special bitter that is a lovely ruby colour and yields a large, spongy tan head when poured that gets retained as a small cap and leaves scattered spots of lace behind. Equilibrium has a thick, chocolaty smell with aromas of dark stone fruit such as plum and black cherry, as well as mild pine and citrus accents.
The taste of Equilibrium carries similar notes of prune juice and raisin on top of a base that has both light and dark chocolate flavours. The beer’s balance certainly lives up to its name and once the lemon-toned bitterness sets in, it hangs around throughout the somewhat woody finish and fruity aftertaste. This ale is very mellow and full-bodied, giving it an authentic English pub feel.
This extra special bitter from Beyond The Pale Brewing Company in Ottawa is a hazy, rusty brown colour and pours with a creamy white head that leaves a few small spots of lace on your glass and hangs around as a thin collar. Breaking Bitter has a breadlike smell, with aromas of fresh and toasted grain accented by notes of wild grasses, raspberry jam and hints of citrus and pine.
The taste of Breaking Bitter has a nice toasted character, with grainy flavours that bring breads, biscuits and bran muffins to mind. This ale is very well-balanced with an amount of bitterness in the finish that I consider to be spot on. The beer is full-bodied with mild carbonation and a slight oiliness. A dry lemon rind and pith flavour comes out in the aftertaste.
Wishart’s ESB from Clocktower Brew Pub in Ottawa, Ontario is a deep, rusty amber colour with streaks of gold throughout. A frothy, light tan head settles as a climbing collar and thin film while leaving small spots of lace on your glass. Chocolate and toffee malts anchor the smell of this English ale, with notes of plum, roasted grain and lemon pith rounding it out.
The taste of Wishart’s ESB brings forth fruity esters that remind me of plum, black cherry and lemon, as well as a flavour not unlike black tea. This full-bodied and lightly carbonated ale carries a moderate, yet sharp and mineral-like bitterness. Chocolate and coffee notes in the finish lead to a dry aftertaste with hints of pepper and grapefruit.