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.
Patio Saison from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario is a hazy golden-amber colour and yields a large, billowy white head that is retained as a small cap and leaves large rings of lace on your glass. This Belgian-style farmhouse ale has strong aromas of light, honey-sweetened malts and freshly picked cloves with a mild citrus note and a faint perfumy whiff that comes from the addition of elderflower.
The taste of Patio Saison is anchored by a blend of pilsener and wheat malts that create a soft caramel sweetness. Subtle citrus zest and peppery flavours contribute to a well-balanced dryness, while the ale finishes with a moderate bitterness and leaves notes of pith and clove in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel has definite earthy and grainy qualities, though long-lasting fine bubbles produce an air of creaminess and my tongue was left feeling a bit slick and syrupy between sips.
Despite its name, 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager from Mill Street Brewery in Toronto, Ontario is actually a deep golden colour with the faintest of amber tinges and yields a small, tight white head that hangs around as a thin cap while leaving scattered streaks of lace on your glass. This American amber lager smells mainly of sweet grains and light caramel malts, though there is also a noticeably earthy and slightly sour quality reminiscent of freshly cut field grasses.
100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager has a rather sweet taste. Flavours of earth, fresh and toasted grains, white grape and red berry juices, cocoa and citrus peel can all be found in this lager. A distinct and sharp saltiness appears in the finish, along with a mild bitterness that’s just enough to balance the brew out. A fairly thick and bready mouthfeel is lightened up somewhat by a moderate effervescence and a mild grain flavour resonates in the aftertaste.
Let the Gruit Times Roll from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours a clear golden-amber colour with a fairly small but creamy white head that gets retained as a soapy film and small collar. The smell of rosemary pops from this spiced, un-hopped ale against a backdrop of sweet malts that carries notes of honey and caramel.
The blend of rosemary, sage and black cumin dominates the taste of Let the Gruit Times Roll. The brew is particularly dry and peppery at first and in the finish, while a light and syrupy sweetness comes through on the tongue to lighten things up. The mouthfeel is on the thick and viscous side and carbonation is minimal. The sage and black cumin notes hang around in the aftertaste.