Tuesday, February 7, 2012

It's FeBREWary, Baby!

Each weekend for the past three months or so, I've made a trip to my local LCBO, where I've been checking out the beer section at the back of the store, away from the wines and spirits, and there I've scanned the shelves, hoping that my eye would catch a label or bottle that would draw me near. This weekend, I had a specific beer in mind, and instead of heading to my neighbourhood liquor store, I went on a road trip to the brewery itself, in search of its latest offering.

That brewery was Beau's All Natural Brewery, out in Vankleek Hill—between Ottawa and Montréal.

This February, Beau's is celebrating winter's typically coldest, bleakest month by offering five new releases in four weeks (FeBREWary is their word). The first release was this past Saturday in their brewery, and the beer was their Beaver River I.P.Eh?, an incredible mouthful of hops. I was lucky enough to sample this brew directly from a keg, as well as from a chilled tap, and was able to compare the two. In the end, I walked out with a 64-fl-oz bottle (growler)—essentially, four pints-worth.

Let's first talk about the tour, the event, and then the IPA.

My step-father, Greg, and I drove out to Vankleek Hill on Saturday morning, and neither of us realized that this small Eastern-Ontario town was as far away as it was. Sure, I've passed by it countless times on my way to Montréal, but because it's halfway to the city where I was born, halfway didn't seem that far. But it's more than an hour, door to door. Luckily, it was a beautiful day, and so it was worth the trek. Had it been snowing or worse, freezing rain, I would have passed on the visit.

Vankleek Hill, which I never really see from the 417, is a pretty town atop a small rise in the otherwise flat farmland. The brewery is on the far end of town, so we traversed the length of VH to get to our destination.

Beau's is housed in an old textile factory and shares its space with the natural-water bottling plant that supplies it with the breweries main ingredient. An uninterrupted supply of natural spring water: convenient.

When Greg and I arrived, we first checked out the gift store, where they also ran some taps of their Lug Tread lagered ale, as well as the new brew, Beaver River. Greg and I grabbed a Lug Tread and were then ushered into the brewery proper, where the tour was just getting underway. Only one other person was with us for the start of the tour—a beer fan from just across the Québec border. Whortly after, we were joined by another beer aficionado, my Twitter buddy, Katy Watts

Beau's has been in business for about six years and has been expanding steadily ever since. It is family- and friend-run and operates on the philosophy of creating certifiably organic beer in a green environment. The equipment was new and state-of-the-art: some of it hadn't even been used yet (up to now, the labels had been affixed by hand). The brewery is currently undergoing expansion, with new office space under construction behind the fermenting tanks. It's an impressive operation. Their growth a testament to their success.

The tour wrapped up with some beavertails—make that Beaver-River tails—deep-fried dough, made with brewer's wheat from the brewery. The ingredients had to come from the brewery itself so that the brewery could safeguard against contamination. The Beaver-River tails were certified organic, and they produced a hoppy, powerful flavour. Delicious, if not incredibly filling.

To celebrate the new release of Beaver River I.P.Eh?, a small aluminum cask was broken open, and we had the privilege of comparing it with the stuff that is now available in bottles and on tap.

And now, lets get to the tasting.

Beaver River I.P.Eh? reveals a deep-amber orange, whether from the tap or from the keg. The colour is intense and gives a hint of what to expect. The nose on the beer from the tap offered citrus, whereas the keg sample added a pine resin with the citrus. Both gave a strong scent of hops.
On the palate, the keg was a bold grapefruit; the tap was even bolder. Our guide put it best: it was like being hit in the mouth with a grapefruit. The finish on both was backed by lingering hops.

Beaver River is a beautiful IPA. My fear for this seasonal ale is that it might be hard to find. It was only available in 64-fluid-ounce growlers when I was at the brewery, and it will only be made available in limited quantities, in 600-mL bottles, at select LCBO locations.

As good as it is, I'm not sure I would drive an hour each way to pick more up. And the day after I visited Beau's, my growler was gone.

Yeah, it was that good.

My haul from Beau's: Mr. Hyde will be reviewed some day
Luckily, Beau's lets you buy your beer online, and delivers it to your door.

Do it. You'll be happy you did.

I'm looking forward to the other Beau's offerings, though I don't know if I'll get a chance to try all five releases. But I'll try.

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