Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Beer O'Clock: Going Beyond the Pale

Last night, as I sat down, ready to try some new beer for today's review, my wife looked at me and said, "I thought you posted a review today. Didn't you cover that blackberry porter?"

"Yes," I said, but that was for my new blog, Beer O'Clock. This is for The Brown Knowser, for my weekly beer review."

"Wait a minute," she said, her voice stern, "you're not going to write a beer review every day." It was not a question. "One review a week, mister. You're starting to pack on the pounds again."

I love her so much.

"Not every day. Although, I have beer almost every day anyway. I created the new blog to catalog my tasting notes for those beers. Several beers that I drink each week go without a review, and that's a shame. And I'll go for a walk tonight: it's a nice evening, and I have three beers to write about. I promised the guy in the shop I would."

The guy was Rob McIsaac, one of the partners in Ottawa's newest brewery, Beyond the Pale Brewing Company.

The tasting bar at Beyond the Pale

Several months ago, when I learned that our city was getting another brewery, this time in Hintonburg, I was excited. As excited as I was when I first learned that Mill Street was coming to town. What was so special about this brewery was that it was started by local lads (in addition to Rob is Shane Clark and his dad, Al) who use local ingredients. And this trio isn't afraid to start big, to experiment and produce ales that stand out.

I meant to visit the brewery, which is located behind the Parkdale Market, around the corner from The Carleton Tavern, on Hamilton Avenue, last week for their grand-opening party. But I'll admit it: I plain forgot. (I had a very busy week at work). But I'm glad I went on Sunday, when it wasn't as crowded, and I could actually take my time and the owners could stop and chat. They're all great guys.

Sadly, in coming three days too late, I missed out on one of their beers, which had sold out. That's great news for them, as it shows how welcome their creations are.

I had initially decided to try all of their beer in a small tasting and choose my favourite of the bunch to take home and review. But when I tried the three ales that were available, I decided to take them all with me.

So here's what I tried:
Pink Fuzz Grapefruit Wheat
6% ABV, 20 IBU
Beer O'Clock rating: 4/5
This wheat ale is infused with real grapefruit zest and pulp that carries through every component of the drinking experience. With an opaque apricot colour that at times looks like grapefruit juice, this beer sparkles with effervescent, pearl-like bubbles. Looking at my glass, I could easily believe I was drinking champagne and grapefruit juice. There was no head on this beer but it was very much alive.

On the nose, I detected intense citrus aromas of tangerine and grapefruit. In the mouth, the citrus continued with refreshing flavours of grapefruit rind and mild hops. The finish was sharp, cleansing, and although I don't usually care for wheat ales, I loved this one: it left me wanting more.

But I didn't have more. I was only putting a couple of ounces in my glass: I had two more beers to sample, and as Lori said, I'm packing on the pounds. So on to the next offering.
Rye Guy IPA
6.7% ABV, 52 IBU
Beer O'Clock rating: 3/5
This IPA tastes more bitter than the IBU rating leads you to believe. Perhaps it's the rye malt that is used in the crafting of this beer. Pale amber in colour, this IPA, like the wheat ale, had no head but had a great fizz. On the nose, I detected lots of hops and a touch of oak. Like the previous ale, I also caught traces of grapefruit in the bouquet.

The palate delivers heady hops; the respectable alcohol level, and perhaps the malt, contributed to the punch in the mouth I felt. This is a serious IPA with loads of flavour that hang on in a wonderfully long finish. I could easily sit down for an evening and polish off the half-growler I picked up.

But not tonight: I had one more beer to try.
The Darkness Oatmeal Stout
5.6% ABV, 30 IBU
Beer O'Clock rating: 4/5
I love oatmeal stout. My favourite beer is an oatmeal stout. An oatmeal stout made me forsake Guinness. And this oatmeal stout delivers.

Deep walnut in colour with a cocoa head that dissipates quickly, the nose revealed a rich, dark chocolate with a roasted coffee aroma. In the mouth, I tasted malted espresso and cocoa with a great hoppy finish. Awesome.

I now have three favourite beers to add to my repertoire and can't wait until their fourth offering, an imperial rye IPA, to be available. According to Shane, that should be in a couple of weeks.

By then, Lori will let me drink again.

"You're not drinking beer every night, buddy," Lori stressed when I told her I drink almost every day. "Your body doesn't need the carbs."

There won't be a review on the Beer O'Clock blog every day. Just a couple of times a week, when I want to share with you. And I'll post just the facts: just my tasting notes.

The Brown Knowser is where I prefer to ramble anyway. Cheers!

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