Thursday, September 21, 2017

Beer O'Clock: Picking Up a Stray

Last weekend, Ottawa's newest craft brewery celebrated its opening in Orleans with a party that included live music, pizza, and even a visit from the mayor.

Oh, yeah, and there was also some pretty awesome beer.

On tap at Stray Dog Brewing Company's grand opening were six ales for tasting, plus a limited amount of a variation on one of those brews. I tried the Summer Slam, a cucumber-infused wheat ale that really refreshed, and a bold New England-styled IPA, Shaggin Wagon, that had lots of powerful hops with nice apricot and mango notes. But my favourite of the beers that I tried at the brewery was the Normandie Saison, which was a classic farmhouse ale with flinty, peppery flavours and a great body.

I really wished that the saison was available in cans. I hope they put it in portable containers in the future.

All three of those ales were available only at the brewery, which is quite the drive from someone who lives in the Barrhaven area. It's not often that I drive out to Trim Road, in the east end of Orleans.

Bearded brewer, Marc, who was out there, mingling with the crowd, gave me a small sample of his Bleu Nuit, which is essentially the Normandie Saison, brewed with blueberries that he sourced from Costco.

Hey, they're good blueberries.

If he puts that in cans, I'll be happy to make the drive out again soon.

I did purchase a six-pack of the beer that was available in cans, and that brings me to today's review. Let's take a close look at the ales that I thought were good, really good, and so-so.

This One California Common (5.2% ABV)

Appearance: deep amber to caramel, with a creamy, beige head that retained much of its solid cap.

Nose: a malty caramel with faint hints of toasted oak. There was something that almost opened my sinus passages as I breathed it in. It reminded me of eucalyptus, though the can says "mint." I didn't get mint.

Palate: comforting malt and a hint of gentle hops. A medium finish left traces of oak that lingered at the back of my throat.

Overall impression: This One is easy-drinking, an ale that you would want to reach for when you're enjoying a cheesy, bacon-topped pizza (I had that at the grand opening and it was delicious!). Expect to see This One on the shelves of the LCBO soon.

Beer O'Clock rating: 3.5

Anytime Pale Ale (5% ABV)

Appearance: an amber-orange with a foamy, off-white head that settled to a thin cap.

Nose: orange citrus

Palate: my first mouthful presented a sharp, powerful bitterness that came off almost as sour, to the point where I thought there was a fault with the beer. I decided to let it sit for a few minutes and tried again. The ale opened up and the bitterness subsided, and as I continued to empty my glass, it began to taste like a typical pale ale, but there was something more to it, something that I couldn't put my finger on. Something that wasn't quite right.

Overall impression: I wanted to like this beer but there was something that didn't seem to go with the flavours that I expected. I didn't detect a flaw; rather, it was like the pale ale was trying to be something more but wasn't quite there.

Beer O'Clock rating: 2.5

One Hop Wonder: Mosaic New England Pale Ale (5.7% ABV)

Appearance: a cloudy orange with an off-white head that quickly settled to a dense lace.

Nose: fragrant hops and orange citrus. It's a gorgeous aroma that had me constantly sticking my sniffer in the glass.

Palate: bold orange and tropical fruit flavours. I can never tell the difference between a west-coast style ale and an east-coast style. The hops are aggressive but not overpowering. It's like summer in a glass.

Overall impression: having tried the Shaggin' Wagon at the grand opening, I would have liked to have tried Mosaic at the same time, as I found their flavours very similar. A great balance of hops and fresh fruit flavours, Mosaic is a beer I could drink over and over again.

Beer O'Clock rating: 4

If their opening lineup is any indication of the success that the folks at Stray Dog are going to have, they are in for exciting times. Stray Dog is definitely worth the drive out to Orleans.


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