It’s that time of year again. The weather is cooler, leaves are changing colour and tables are filled with comfort food. For the third year, the folks at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario have put together a mix pack of beers to celebrate and promote their famous Oktoberfest event that sees thousands of beer lovers from far and wide descend on the quaint eastern Ontario town in search of revelry, great food, big name musical acts and, of course, beer.
This year we see the return of some favourites from years past in Dark Helmut (complete with a new label) and Happy Pilsner, while Dial “Z” for Zwickel and Rauchstack represent the newest entries in Beau’s Wild Oats Series. I briefly reviewed the four beers, which are presented in alphabetical order.
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.
A spiced farmhouse ale, Earl Grey Marmalade Saison from Dominion City Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a hazy tangerine shade of orange with a small white head that leaves a few spots of lace and hangs around as a collar that persists until the end of your glass. Aromas of light pilsner malt and honey are accompanied by notes of orange zest, bergamot and an inviting sweet scent that brings to mind wildflowers in the rain.
The taste of Earl Grey Marmalade Saison is clean, with a minimal amount of “farmhouse funk” and based around sweet, bright malts. There isn’t a whole lot of tea flavour at first, but there’s no mistaking the dryness it imparts. This medium-bodied ale is also surprisingly bitter, likely from the addition of orange zest and pith. The peppery Earl Grey character really sneaks up on you, becomes prevalent in the finish and lingers throughout the aftertaste along with a mild earthy note.
This American IPA from Dominion City Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario is fairly dark for its style, pouring a hazy tone somewhere between amber and ruby. A soapy, off-white head leaves small swaths of lace and settles into a yarn-like collar. Two Flags IPA has big pine and citrus peel aromas, an unmistakable pineapple scent and a peppery note that sit atop a hearty chocolate and toffee malt base.
That blend of rich malts in Two Flags IPA, along with hints of burnt sugar and coffee combine to remind me the taste of a popular candy that rhymes with “Footsie Toll”. This ale has a great, distinctive transition from dark malt, to sweet berry flavours to a moderately bitter grapefruit tone. Two Flags IPA is full-bodied, has a fairly mellow level of carbonation and a resinous slickness that lingers in the aftertaste.
Town & Country Blonde Ale from Dominion City Brewing Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a clear golden colour and has a small white head that dissipates in a hurry, leaving a stringy collar behind. The American-style ale smells of fresh barley, with a light floral or perfume note, one of dry apricot and a honey-like sweetness that has a bit of a maple edge. I also got a faint vegetal whiff that reminded me of green peas.
The taste of Town & Country Blonde Ale is fairly sweet and carries the same apricot/stone fruit character as the smell. The grainy body is fantastic and fresh tasting, while restrained hopping lends a grassy bitterness and soft lemon pith tone to the finish. The aftertaste is quite clean, with some residual grain flavours. A medium body and mild carbonation level make this ale feel hearty, yet easygoing.