On our travels to various cycling events across Canada we make an effort to try the local brews (hey, it's a good excuse for having a beer!). If you have a favourite brew that you would like us to review then send a case of it to...(just kidding). Instead, just drop us a line (email@example.com).
Highlander Scottish Ale
This one has a personal appeal for our Editoress; it comes from her hometown of South River, Ontario (population 900). It is a copper-amber colour with a small head and some carbonation. As befitting a Scottish ale, it has a strong malt smell and flavour - somewhat sweet and caramel, but not overpowering. If you like a malty style of beer, it is a good change from the 'hop bombs' we've been seeing lately. - RJ
From one of our favourite Quebec breweries, McAuslan, comes this limited edition St-Ambroise Erable. We've found that most maple flavoured beers seem to have either non-existent maple or too much, but this one gets it right for a rather unique brew. At first sip, pretty much everyone we know who has tried it immediately thinks 'pancakes with maple syrup'! It is quite carbonated and a fairly light body. This is not a beer you would want to drink every day, but for something refreshing and different it is definitely worth trying. - RJ
Lake of Bays Spring Maple
The Lake of Bays Mocha Porter is one of our favourites, so I was looking forward to this Belgian Blonde-style ale. I have tried a number of attempts with maple syrup and, sadly, most do not work - the Nickel Brook Maple Porter set a new low... The Spring Maple is certainly better than the Nickelbrook, but not so much that I would recommend it. The maple syrup is definitely there to smell, but you have to strain to find it in the taste, which is more fruity. Not a bad beer, just not that interesting. - RJ
Les Trois Mousquetaires Weizenbock Grande Cuvee
Les Trois Mousquetaires is another of the many fine microbreweries out of Quebec, this one located in Brossard. The Weizenbock Grande Cuvee is a dark wheat ale, weighing in at a hefty 10.5% - one 750 ml bottle should probably be shared! The beer is a dark amber with a reasonable head. It has a complex taste, with lots of fruit and spice, which i found kept evolving as I got further into the glass. This is not a light, easy drinking beer; rather one you are going to want to savour. - RJ
Black Creek Pumpkin Ale
Produced onsite at the Black Creek historic brewery in north Toronto, this seasonal pumpkin ale comes in a 500ml bottle with an alcohol rating of 5%. Unlike many pumpkin ales, that offer more scent and taste of spice than actual pumpkin, this one actual does taste quite 'pumpkiny'. This is quite a light tasting beer with almost no carbonation, making it quite smooth, and very different from most pumpkin ales. It's a beer you will either like or hate. - RJ
Phone: 416 736-1733
Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale
Brewed by the Great Lakes brewery, out of Etobicke this is a medium strength (5.5%) pumpkin ale. It comes in an easily identifiable 650ml brown glass bottle with an orange foil wrapper on top. This is quite a light tasting pumpkin ale, with not a lot of carbonation. The taste is more spicy than pumpkin, but it is very refreshing after a ride through the fall leaves. - RJ
Howe Sound Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale
The fall is the season for pumpkin ales. Usually somewhat spicy, the pumpkin flavour or scent can range from overpowering to almost nonexistent. The Howe Sound brewery, out of Squamish, BC, has long been one of our favourites, but is usually difficult to get outside of B.C. (we make a point of stopping in whenever we are heading to Whistler). However, we found the Pumpkineater in Ontario, in a one litre, resealable bottle. It is, without a doubt, the finest pumpkin ale we have ever tasted. The smell is not overpowering, but you can definitely tell it is pumpkin, with a hint of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. The taste is the same, with a medium amount of carbonation, and not much head. It is quite strong, at 8.0%, but the one litre bottle is perfect for sharing - fills two pint glasses exactly. - RJ
Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout
This is a seasonal beer (November - February) from the Muskoka brewery people. While it is called a stout, I would place it closer to a porter in consistency. A slightly bitter chocolate is the overwhelming presence at first, followed by coffee and then, finally, some cranberry - would have liked to have tasted more of that. Very smooth and rich taste; a drink to be savoured on its own, not as part of a meal. Apparently, it is available on tap, but I have only seen/tried it from the 750 ml bottle with the Grolsch-style hinged stopper. A good fall/winter beer. - RJWebsite: http://www.muskokabrewery.com/double-chocolate-cranberry-stout.php
Unibroue Blanche de Chambly
This is one of our favourite summer beers. Made in the style of a Belgian witbier (wheat beer), it is a golden, hazy colour with a fluffy head. Very wheaty, with citrus in the aftertaste. Best served not too cold, otherwise you lose that wonderful flavour. Compared to most actual Belgian wits, there is more fizz (carbonation) to Chambly, adding to the buzz in the mouth. Available almost everywhere bottled, but even better on tap. - RJWebsite: http://www.unibroue.com/en/beers/3
Lake of Bays Mocha Porter
We tried this one at a Vitess Grand Allemonte event, and it was a great find. Out of Baysville, Ontario, in the Muskokas, this is a fine example of a porter. It is very dark, with a scent of dark chocolate most prevalent. The taste offers a combination of mocha coffee and chocolate. Very smooth and well balanced, the flavour stays with you through the entire glass (or 750 ml bottle). Definitely a cool weather beer. - RJ
Microbrasserie du Lac St-Jean
A few years ago, I had my first opportunity to visit the Lac St-Jean region north of Quebec City for the Mountain Bike World Cup in St-Felicien. Subsequently, I have been there a few more times for the national cross-country championships. Except for the long drive (and even that is not without the pleasures of magnificent scenery), it is a pleasure to visit - the people are friendly, it is a beautiful area, the race organization is fantastic and ... there is beer. - RJ
Not just the excellent Unibroue products such as Blanche de Chambly, but locally brewed offerings from Microbrasserie du Lac St-Jean. I discovered this brewery when i stopped in a dépanneur to pick up a bottle of water, and came out with a bag full of beer as well.
The brewery was founded in 2007; it actually celebrated its fifth anniversary at the beginning of August by three partners: Marc Gagnon, Annie St-Hilaire and Charles Gagnon. It has expanded to include a brew pub, in the village of St-Gédéon, a village of less than 2000 people on the southeast shore of Lac St-Jean.
Now, onto the beer, Like most artisanal breweries, MdL (for brevity) has a lot of seasonal brews. I'm going to stick to two of their regulars: Vire Capot and Gros Mollet.
Vire Capot - An American style blonde ale; 5.5% alcohol. While a dark gold colour with a thick head, it is a surprisingly light taste. There is malt taste on the tongue, with the smell of fruit. Very smooth, but a bit disappointing in the lack of depth.
Gros Mollet - This is a strong brown ale, weighing in at a hefty 7.8%. This is a very dark ale, approaching a porter in consistency. The taste is sweet and caramel, with some fruitiness. No bitter aftertaste. The label shows a burly lumberjack, which is appropriate. This is a great fall beer.
1772 India Pale Ale & Propeller India Pale Ale
I'm an IPA man, hell, I love IPA and here are two world class India Pale Ales brewed in the Maritimes that you should sip. The first is the 1772 India Pale Ale brewed at the Gahan House on Sidney Street in Charlottetown, PEI. and the second is the Propeller Brewery's India Pale Ale brewed in Halifax, NS. These are true IPA's with lovely aromas and distinct hoppy finishes that linger in your mouth long after the last swallow has slid down your throat. Both of these micro-brewery's have a variety of fine beers and ales, but these two are my favorites. Check 'em out, you'll be hard pressed to find better.Don, the Backyard Baker, Harris
Barking Squirrel Lager - HopCity Brewing
Discovered this one on tap in Cambridge ON Café 13, but the brewery website lists locations all over Ontario
The beer has a nice amber colour, nice head and smooth taste. Where the Barking Squirrel name comes from? who knows. It does not bark and it is not squirrely. The flavour is the toasted malts, supported by a light caramel base. Some floral hops provide a bit of a bite in the finish, but only slight. This one is hard to find, but worth a try should you come across it on tap. - TH
Pumpkin Ale - Great Lakes Brewery
Pours out a nice copper colour with a slight head. The taste is creamy with just a hint of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (pumpkin pie) but not sweet. Spicy finish with minimal bitterness on the palate. Availability is seasonal. Locally I get at the LCBO in bottles, but I believe some pubs also have on tap - TH
Black Cat Brewery
I recently went into the Black Cat micro brewery in Nanaimo (after riding past it for the last four years). They do four distinct beers: India Pale Ale, Porter (a sweetish stout), a really good honey brown ale , and OLD Bad Cat. This last beverage is something else! It's the most potent beer I have had the pleasure of imbibing and, at 11% alcohol (22%proof) is really a barley wine. I are drrinkin it nOW and the efecks 'r begringing too shoh. nead two gesummore.Peter McCafferyWebsite: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/8203/24103
Boreale Noire from the Montréal area is our editorial selection for the Spring issue. An excellent stout in the finest European tradition. Nice dark colour and only a slight bitterness. It's a great beverage after a long, cold ride in the early spring. Check it out when you're in Montréal. (For full effect, you should be in a bar, and the beer should be used to wash down a Montréal smoked meat sandwich - ed.)
Phone: 450 979-8400
Granite Brewery Peculiar.
This is brewed at the Granite Brewery micro-brewery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is styled after a North Yorkshire beer called `Old Peculiar', and is a dark ale with a slightly sweet aftertaste. An excellent accompaniment to conversation at the end of the day.
Formosa Springs Bavarian Bock by Algonquin Breweries
A dark beer with 6% content. Very refreshing without a lot of the bitterness that Bocks often have. Be forewarned - it's quite filling. However, this makes for a wonderful apres-ride beverage.
Okanagan Spring Pale Ale
I came across this medium brown ale at the first Canada Cup in Whistler, B.C. (In our never ending quest to keep readers up-to-date we religiously partake of local brews). It is a smooth, creamy ale with a slightly nutty taste. Just the thing while relaxing in the evening after a day of riding. - RJ
Granville Island Breweries Lord Granville Pale Ale.
An especially pleasant ale. No preservatives, good water and lots of care go into making a refreshing beverage. I just wish I could get the stuff back here in the east. Check it out if you're in Van, especially if you see it on tap. - RJ
Algonquin Honey Brown Lager
Not just the editorial beer, but the favourite household beer this summer. More robust than most lagers and more refreshing in the hot weather than an ale. A slight sweetness comes from the addition of a tiny bit of wildflower honey to the brew. 5% alcohol and all natural. Very unique and well worth the purchase. Algonquin Brewing Co. Ltd. Formosa, Ontario. - RJ
Mother's Pale Ale
Brewed by Whistler Beer in, of course, Whistler, B.C., Mother's Pale Ale is an unpasteurized, natural beer that uses local mountain spring water in the the brewing process. The flavour is not as bland as many pale ales, approaching that of a mild bitter. The beer has a gorgeous amber shade, a sweet aroma and mild carbonation. The funky label features a skiing Granny in the style of Whistler's Mother (get it?). Available in the Whistler area, and limited distribution across British Columbia. - RJ
Muskoka Cream Ale
The recent winner of a Gold Medal as the Best Canadian Ale at the Great Canadian Brewing Festival. President and Brew Master Gary McMullen has achieved a very pleasant beverage that has evolved to be somewhere between a European and North American ale in flavour. Very smooth with no aftertaste. Distribution is currently limited to Central Ontario and just a couple of Toronto area outlets. If you're up riding some of the great trails or fine roads of Muskoka, check out the brewery in downtown Bracebridge. Lakes of Muskoka Cottage Brewery.
Phone: (705) 646-1266/1-800-881-4229
Old Credit Amber Ale
I've known about this beer for a while now, but I've resisted reviewing something from this close to home in order to keep it secret (more beer for me!). The actual brewery has been in existence for 14 years and has been through several names and owners, but for the past 3 years, the Old Credit Brewing Co. Ltd.'s Brewmaster Orrin Besko has been producing this fine amber ale. He uses only the best English Dark Caramel Malt. The fantastic smoothness of this ale is achieved through 14 days of fermentation to rid it of all sugar, followed by a further 8 weeks at minus 3.5 degrees before bottling. The ale is a wonderful medium brown with only the faintest hint of bitterness and a nice finish on the tongue. Brewery owner Aldo Lista says that Old Credit Amber Ale is available at the brewery, at 15 other retail outlets, and at over 30 pubs and restaurants in southern Ontario. Popularity, and production, is continuing to grow, to the point where it will see wider distribution in Ontario, and probably in Quebec as well. If you're biking on the waterfront trail along Lake Ontario in Mississauga, the brewery is just a few hundred metres north at 6 Queen St. W., Port Credit, Ontario, L5H 1L4. (P.S. - they make a great Pilsner too!) - RJ
Creemore and Robinson's Red
Creemore Springs Lager, out of Ontario is the favourite beer of our publisher, Tracy, so we asked her to provide the commentary.
So, what do you like about Creemore, Trace?
I don't know, I'm not like you and Mike, I don't analyze the stuff, I just like to drink it.
Uh, Huh. Could you be more specific?
It tastes good - smooth and not too bitter. It has taste to it, unlike some other lighter beers. It is really good at the end of a long, hard ride, or a hard day. I just like it a lot.
Robinson's Red is, brewed by the Robinson Brewing Company of Mississauga, Ontario. This ale has a rich copper colour to it, with a strong, fruity flavour. It is sweet, with very little aftertaste and has good body. - TJ
Cameron's Cream Ale
Nothing like finding a brand new beer from a brand new brewery. On the western edge of Toronto in a modest industrial unit is Cameron's Brewing Company. They only have one product - a Cream Ale. It is a very dangerous beer. Cameron's just slides down your throat so easily that it's tempting to consume a large quantity. It has a light colour with modest head. The nose has a nice hop scent without much yeast. The taste is very clean - just a bit of hop and an exceptional lack of after-taste, with maybe just a slightly sweet sensation. I've found it to be a very refreshing beverage. One unique feature of Cameron's is that it is sold in a "Cameron's Cube"; a 9 pack of bottles. Just the right number as far as I'm concerned. Cameron's Brewing Company is located at 1 Westside Drive, Toronto. Distribution is very limited at the moment, but expect more restaurants to have it on tap soon.
This is perhaps the most unusual brew that I have ever tried. Quelque Chose is a strong ale (8%) which has had fresh cherries steeped into it for several months. I've tried other "fruit" beers (usually American) with very mixed results. Trust the brewmasters at Unibroue (Chambly, Quebec) to get it right. Not too sweet, and a hint of cherry tartness to the finish. The most unusual aspect is that Unibroue suggests that the beer be mulled like wine. The recommendation is to gently heat the beer in either a double boiler or a microwave. A minimum temperature of 30 degrees C and a maximum of 70 degrees C is suggested. Just the beverage for after a cold weather ride. Supplies are limited, so check for it now rather than later.
Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale
Despite the name, this is an all Canadian brew. The Amsterdam Brewing Company (in Toronto), with its pub and restaurant, has been a favourite spot of the Canadian Cyclist staff for many years. I was pleasantly surprised to see this beer, and several other Amsterdam beers, at the local beer store. The Nut Brown Ale is a great beer for cooler times of the year. It is, as the name says, a rich brown colour with a modest head when poured. The taste is fairly strong with just a hint of bitterness to the finish. It can hold its own with hot, spicy food, and it is an excellent choice with some of the dishes served at the restaurant. You can get it on tap there, and also take some home with you, 7 days a week. Limited distribution in the beer stores, but well worth the search. Amsterdam is located in downtown Toronto at 600 King St. West. They've got lots of fine beers so you can visit Amsterdam many times before you get a chance to try them all.
Coup de Grisou Spicy Buckwheat Beer
Yet another unique beer from southern Québec. Brasserie Le Cheval Blanc from Montréal (Ontario Street - one of Montréal's oldest taverns) takes buckwheat to produce a spicy brew best described as a Belgium-style ale. Spicy aspects are noticed in both the nose and the flavour. We're not sure of the translation of the name, but we think that it comes out as "Gas Explosion". This might also explain the rather enigmatic art work on the bottle. I won't describe it, but you'll understand it when you see a bottle. The beer is naturally refermented in the bottle, so the carbonation factor is high. This also produces a yeast deposit on the bottom of the bottle. Not a problem though, because the yeast is natural and drinkable. Availability is limited (we did find some in Ontario), but you will be rewarded with an unusual and enjoyable drink if you track some down.
Quidi Vidi Brewing Company 1892 Traditional Ale
We made our first ever trip to Newfoundland this summer, and were very pleased to find this fine micro-brewery ale. The colour is a fine medium brown, with a blonde head and good carbonation. Its got a good hoppy nose with not much yeast. It's a pleasant and refreshing flavour, slightly sweet, but with no after taste. It is a lot lighter than something like an English ale, but is very enjoyable. We thoroughly recommend it with a fresh Newfoundland lobster. Check it out when you make it to NF. Available in most liquor stores in the Province.
Maritime Beer Company Black Pearl Cream Ale
I just wish I had more of this. Thanks to Aaron Hershoff for bringing me a couple of bottles of Black Pearl from out east. This brewery out of Halifax makes a wide variety of products, but this one proved to be my favourite. It has a nice full bouquet, with a good dose of hop. The taste is really interesting and it actually had me puzzled a bit. It is initially sweet, but then seemed to finish with a touch of bitterness from the hops and malted barley. Very yummy. It is a little darker than most cream ales, but don't let this put you off. Aaron, I need more Black Pearl to continue my important experiments! Send some soon. Check it out if you're in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
McAuslan Apricot Wheat Ale
McAuslan's idea was to do a special beer flavoured with different fruit for each of the 4 seasons. The Apricot Wheat Ale was supposed to be for spring only. It's proven so popular that McAuslan has kept it in production. Its win as the most popular beer in its' category at the Montreal Beer Festival obviously helps a great deal. The colour is very interesting, with a light orange tint. But it is the aroma that is so special and unique. Breathe deep over the beer glass, and you get the sweet scent of apricot jam. It's just wonderful. From the aroma you would expect a sweet taste, but instead you are met with a hint of bitterness, and just a tiny bit of apricot. I'd term the Apricot Wheat Ale to be almost dry. It is an absolutely unique beer. Anyone that I know that has tried it has fallen in love. Availability is fairly limited, but if you're in the Montreal area, make sure that you ask for it. If this is any indication of what McAuslan has in mind for the other beers in the series, then I can't wait to try the Spiced Pumpkin Fall Ale. - RJ
Picaroon's Simeon Jones Amber Ale &Irish Red
From New Brunswick's Picaroon brewery, based in Fredericton. The first is Irish Red, a very smooth, mild beer, with no discernable aftertaste. Irish Red has a slightly sweet, yeasty odour, a thick head and a cloudy, amber colour in the glass. Very flavourful, and to my liking.Picaroon's Simeon Jones Amber Ale is considerably lighter in both flavour and appearance. It is clear, pale gold in colour, with mild carbonation. There is little head when it is poured, and has a fruity flavour, with a slight aftertaste of yeast. Definitely best chilled, on a hot day. - RJ
Taylor & Bate Niagara Spray Beer
Taylor & Bate is a "reborn" brewery. Originally founded in 1834, it lasted for a long time and then went out of business with prohibition in 1935. In 1998, Taylor & Bate was reborn under the direction of Tim Taylor - great, great grandson of founder James Taylor. Although the company specializes in English style brews (Porters and Stouts) this beer is a welcome addition to the beer connoisseurs in the Niagara region. It's a lovely golden colour as befits a premium lager. The beer is wonderfully refreshing, with no hint of aftertaste. It doesn't have wide distribution, but if you do find it, you're in for a treat. If you find yourself in St. Catharines look up Taylor & Bate at 75 St. Paul Street.
Cameron's Auburn Ale
Yummy. This has quickly become one of the household favourites. A nice caramel colour, beautiful blonde head and a great taste. The hops are nice and up front but they don't overwhelm the flavour. This is a nice addition to their fine Cream Ale. Drop by if you're in the western part of Toronto. It's a family run business with some of the nicest folks that you could hope to meet. Cameron's is just north of Sherway Gardens Mall at 1 Westside Drive.
I was up in Whitehorse last summer (1999) to check out the cycling possibilities (in a word: incredible). Of course, once I heard that there was a local brewery, I had to stop by, have a tour and try the local libation. The Yukon Brewing Company (previously known as Chilkoot) makes a variety of ales, but my favourite is the Yukon Gold. It is a rich gold colour, slightly cloudy in the glass, with a small amount of carbonation. It actually smells like a heavier, darker beer than it really is. It is non-pasteurized, with a slight after taste of citrus, due to the addition of malted wheat in the recipe. Yukon Gold is a very smooth, light tasting beer, that slides right down your throat. Highly recommended. Luckily, it is now being exported outside of Whitehorse, to Alberta and Ontario at this time. Ask at your local beer store. - RJWebsite: http://www.yukonbeer.com/
Steam Whistle Pilsner
In honour of the Steam Whistle Brewery host of the Ontario Cycling Association/Canadian Cyclist - "A Cycling Celebration" on November 18th, we thought it appropriate to review their fine brew. The company name comes from the brewery location, surely one of the most unique in the world. Steam Whistle occupies the old CPR roundhouse in the railway lands just south of SkyDome and the CN Tower in Toronto. Their pilsner is definitely a German style. I found it to be a great summer, post-ride beer due to its light taste, but it would also be a fine beer to combine with a spicy meal. The word that keeps coming up with Steam Whistle Pilsner is "refreshing". It goes down the throat so easily. There is a light touch of bitterness from the hops, and just a hint of the malt. It is a subtle beer that is thoroughly enjoyable. I have tried it most often from the bottle and found the taste to be somewhat better than my experience with the draft. I think I need more research! Such hardship. Steam Whistle Brewing Company has just been in business since this spring so production is still just gearing up. It is mostly available in the Toronto area, both in beer stores and in restaurants, but it expect it to be easier to get in the near future. Find SkyDome and you?ve found Steam Whistle. The address is 255 Bremner Blvd - MB