Run by Ottawa-based entrepreneur Brad Campeau, Brew Donkey is a service that offers beer tasting tours and will soon be delivering beer from Ottawa and area breweries right to your door. The next tasting tour will take place on Sunday, October 27 2013 and having just received his license from the AGCO, Brad plans to have the Brew Donkey delivery service in operation by mid-November.
I had the chance to attend the first Brew Donkey tasting tour on October 12 and thoroughly enjoyed spending the day sampling and talking about my favourite beverage with a range of beer fans from young to young at heart, novice to old hat. About 15 of us met at Corner Bar & Grill on Bank Street and after going over some basics and signing a concise, yet thorough waiver we packed on to a bus and were off to sample some local breweries’ wares.
This English IPA from Kichesippi Beer Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours a lovely golden amber colour, with a large and creamy off-white head settles as a collar and rocky film while leaving thick rings of cascading lace. Wuchak UK smells prominently of caramel sweetened grains, both fresh and toasted, with accents of red berry, lemon zest and coffee.
The taste of Wuchak UK is also anchored by grainy tones, with notes of baker’s chocolate, berry, honey, lemon and black tea. A bitterness that is spot-on in terms of amplitude takes hold in the finish of this easy-drinking, mildly carbonated and medium-bodied ale, while hints of citrus and minerals linger in the aftertaste.
Heller High Water from Kichesippi Beer Company in Ottawa, Ontario is a golden straw colour with a spongy white head that leaves small spots and streaks of lace before resting as a thin collar and film. This seasonal helles lager has a mild smell with aromas of fresh and lightly toasted grains, yeast and red berry juice.
The taste of Heller High Water is light and crisp. Airy yet earthy malt, yeast and grassy flavours are accented by an almost metallic, mineral-like bitterness. The lager has a fairly thin body and moderate carbonation. It is creamy and a bit grainy with a mild oiliness and the finish is pretty clean with a touch of grain and yeast flavour in the aftertaste.
Wuchak Black from Kichesippi Beer Company in Ottawa, Ontario pours dark brown with crimson tinges visible when held towards the light and a frothy, tan-coloured head that leaves spotty lacing and settles a thin collar. This Cascadian Dark Ale (aka Black IPA) has a rich roasted malt character on the nose. Coffee, cigar, wood and chocolate tones are accented my piny hops and red berry juice.
The taste of Wuchak Black goes hand-in-hand with its smell. Deep, dark chocolate and coffee flavours are anchored by an assertive bitterness, with complimentary notes of lemon rind, pepper and grainy biscuit. The mouthfeel is fairly thick, grainy and oily, the carbonation is on the low side and a persistent collar creates a smooth creaminess that helps ease the ale down. Coffee, pepper and a lingering, lemony bitterness permeate the aftertaste.
2012 was a pretty good year in terms of both the quality and quantity of regularly-brewed Ontario craft beers hitting the shelves at one’s local LCBO or The Beer Store. I selected 12 of them to quantify as favourites, with a few caveats. First, the beers had to be listed at at least 25 retail outlets.
The beers had to be ones that I’ve published a review for, not just tried at a show or festival. Seasonal and one-off beers were not considered, I’ll try to make a list of those next. Re-branded or re-packaged beers were also not counted, however those that were previously available at a brewery’s retail store or at a licensee were. All that said, here are my selections in alphabetical order.