A spiced imperial stout from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Channel Ocho is opaque black and pours with a large, creamy, tan-coloured head that leaves swathes of lace and hangs around as a tight collar and film. There is a lot going on in the smell of Channel Ocho. Smoke is front and centre, with notes of clove, red pepper, plum, cinnamon and banana all coming through behind it. The ale also has a sort of chemical edge to it (likely from chipotle peppers) that softens as it warms.
The taste of Channel Ocho is quite spicy, particularly in the warming finish. Along the way, flavours of dark chocolate, black and white pepper, wet mushroom, and dark fruit like fig or raisin can be found in the full-bodied, mildly carbonated and very earthy feeling ale. The burn of white pepper lingers in the aftertaste along with a note of fresh grass.
This hefeweizen from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario has a very cloudy, saffron-toned appearance and yields a relatively small, frothy head that is retained as a thin film and stringy collar without really leaving any lace behind. The Witty Traveller has soft wheat and honey aromas that bring a warm muffin to mind, along with notes of banana, cloves and black peppercorn.
Sharp grape, apple and citrus esters punctuate the taste of The Witty Traveller’s mild wheat base. This ale is light-bodied with a moderate carbonation that creates a smooth and creamy texture that glosses over and earthy, grainy texture. There’s a slight sourness to be found in the finish before a rather dry and surprisingly peppery aftertaste takes over.
This flavoured American porter from Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington, Ontario is opaque and black, pouring with a moderate tan coloured head that settles as a collar with large bubbles and leaves small spots of lace on your glass. Nickel Brook Maple Porter has deep aromas of dark roasted grains, toasted cocoa, coffee and plum, with distinct notes of cigar, alcohol, wild grass and a damp, light wood like cedar or birch.
The taste of Nickel Brook Maple Porter is rather sweet and most definitely malt-forward, with a whole lot of roasted character accenting flavours of dark toffee and dry red wine. All that rich sweetness is well-balanced by a notable sharpness that gives way to a very dry finish that leaves lingering hints of maple and wood in the aftertaste. This ale is full-bodied and carries a moderate carbonation. It feels very thick and grainy throughout, but there is also a subtle syrupy quality that smooths everything out a bit.
An early spring seasonal, this doppelbock from Railway City Brewing Company in St. Thomas, Ontario pours with a creamy head that leaves ample lace and settles as a thick collar atop the dark brown and ruby-coloured brew. Sham-Bock smells mainly of dark fruits such as figs, dates and raisins, with notes of chocolate and butterscotch becoming more apparent as it warms.
The taste of Sham-Bock has a surprisingly strong bitterness for the style, though it is far from overpowering against the lager’s formidable sweetness. Flavours of red grape juice, chocolate, honey and coffee are met with a wallop of maple syrup that brings a mineral-like sharpness along with its inherently sweet tone. A full body and modest amount of carbonation yield a grainy and mildly viscous mouthfeel, while the lager finishes quite dry, leaving hints of chocolate syrup and lemon juice behind in the aftertaste.
Detour from Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario is a light, orange-tinted golden colour and pours with a soapy white head that has good retention, hanging around as a tight collar and film throughout your glass while leaving an ample amount of lace behind. This American pale ale has strong tropical fruit aromas of mango, pineapple and passion fruit over a fairly light base of caramel and toasted grain with subtle notes of lemon, pine and gypsum.
The taste of Detour is most definitely hop forward. Bitter citrus bites at the first sip, but is backed up by a surprisingly hearty and earthy grain flavour that remains throughout the finish. Along the way I found notes of caramel, red cherry, peach and green grape before a pithy aftertaste took over the back of my tongue. The ale is medium bodied and suitably carbonated, leading to a lively feeling on the tongue before its mild oiliness eases the beer down.