Monday, November 21, 2011

Reviewing Under the Influence

I wrote parts of Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary while I was in a pub or at home, enjoying a few drinks. I know that some of you who have read my novel will think, yeah, I can see that. It all makes sense now. That explains a lot.

Well, screw you!

Today, I'm going to give you a review of a beer that I was actually drinking—am actually drinking—while writing this post. And, halfway through this beer, I'm feeling it.*

Mill St. Brewery Barley Wine Extra Strong Beer
500 mL; 11.5% alc/vol
Available at LCBO: $11.95

 This Toronto-based brewery is one of my favourites. I almost always keep some of their Tankhouse Ale in my refrigerator, I've sampled almost every beer they've put out, and I can't wait for them to open their brew pub in Ottawa, sometime in the new year. So when I saw this limited-edition ale in my local LCBO, I had to try it.

I'll admit it: the 11.5% alcohol content made me a bit nervous (the LCBO Web site claims it's only 10.3%, but that's still very high for beer). At that level, it is in the range of a wine—as it's label calls itself. But make no mistake: this is definitely a beer, and it packs a punch without putting all of that alcohol on your palate.

What drew me to this beer in the liquor store was the shape of the bottle. It's stoppered, has a steel-grey glass that has some weight (even empty, as I later found), and the bottle is shaped slightly like it is meant to hold some hooch. In a way, I guess it does. Good hooch.

The colour of this winter ale is a caramel brown, with highlights of red. There was a yeasty smell on the nose, but not at all unpleasant. Almost like freshly baked bread.

When I first tasted the beer, I tasted toffee; but as it opened, it mellowed to a creamy honey flavour. There were also distinct notes of grapefruit and a bit of orange zest. As it finished on the palate, I felt traces of tannins on the roof of my mouth. Not as strong as you'd get with a wine, but they were there. Almost like weak orange pekoe tea.

I liked this beer, but I've got to tell you: one bottle, and I'm not going anywhere. After two pints, and you'd have to call a taxi to get home—if you're out—or plan on staying in for the evening.

Writing this post while sipping at my one bottle, I'm feeling the buzz.

I'm also feeling that I want more of this stuff. So run out and get some.

Before I beat you to it.

Right after I sober up!

* Photos were shot before I got into this beer. Were processed afterwards, so I guess I'm in better shape than I thought!

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