Great Lakes Brewery: Pumpkin Ale

PumpkinAleIt’s fall! My favourite time of year.  I love the changing colours in the trees, the approach of Thanksgiving, cozy warm sweaters, boots, and pumpkin pie.  My love of pumpkin is pretty deeply rooted – it has been my go to request instead of cake at my birthday for as long as I can remember.  Conveniently, my birthday is right around Canadian Thanksgiving so pumpkin pie is usually easy to come by.

In recent years there has been a bit of an explosion of pumpkin spice or pumpkin flavoured things.  Hot and cold pumpkin beverages abound – though I’ve found they often miss the mark in taste and pumpkin qualities.  Despite former letdowns I recently picked up a Pumpkin Ale by Great Lakes Brewery.

The beer poured a slightly orange-red colour with minimal head. It smells like a great mixture of pumpkin and spices – namely nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. The taste wasn’t bad, it didn’t fall into the common pumpkin beer problem of being a mouthful of way too many spices.  The pumpkin wasn’t all the prominent but it was a good tasting beer with a slightly pumpkin note.  This was surprisingly light and subtle a good beer if you’re looking for something fall inspired but not hit you in the face pumpkin.

Beer of the Month: True South of 7

The True South of 7 beer from 4 Degrees Brewing is the final of the four different selections Andrew and I received in the latest beer of the month shipment.  This beer is the counterpart to the North of 7 beer that was also included in the shipment.  And similar to the North of 7 beer I really enjoyed the can design and the linking of the beer name to a geographic region (namely Hwy 7 in Southern Ontario)

This was a fairly standard pale ale that poured a pale amber with minimal head. This was definitely a sessionable beer that was smooth and fairly standard.  There was a slightly citrus note and a very subtle amount of hops.  A step above your generic beer but not anything world shattering in terms of taste.

Beer of the Month: Peace Wheat and Longwoods Lager

The most recent beer of the month delivery included two beers from Strathroy Brewing.  We’ve had a few beers from this particular brewer in the past as part of the beer of the month club and didn’t mind them.  This month’s selections were a similar experience — they were decent but didn’t stick out in my mind as fantastic.

The 1915 Longwoods Lager poured a pale yellow with minimal head.  It had a clean taste to it with a slightly citrus note and was very smooth for a lager.  No harsh aftertaste or bitter notes.  Fairly run of the mill but perfect on a sunny day.  Andrew and I enjoyed the first sample of this beer under a shady tree in Muskoka chairs – perfect drink for that kind of afternoon.

The 1815 Peace Wheat ale was a much darker colour than I would have anticipated.  It was also slightly bitter which is a bit unusual for a Belgian style ale.  There was a malt note and a very flight bit of hops in the taste.  Similar to the Longwoods Lager this was a very smooth drinking selection that was good but not exceptional.

Beer of the Month: True North of 7

Two the most recent beer of the month club selections were from 4 Degrees Brewing Company, a small craft brewer in Smith Falls.  One of this month’s beers was the “True North of 7” lager.  The beer was alright, a standard lager that was smooth drinking but nothing special.  I did some reading and apparently the beer was brewed by Jason Cook, who was responsible for creating Bud Light Lime.  He brewed the “True North of 7” selection on a contract.  I suppose that explains some of the blandness and my unimpressed feelings around the beer.

The beer is branded to appeal to cottagers, campers, and hunters.  The graphic design on the tall can was well done and had a bit of a Canadian redneck northern feel.  But a nice looking container doesn’t makeup for poor tasting beer. The beer was described as having subtle hoppy notes, however that seemed pretty much none existent.

Paddle for Pints

First beers of the day at the Filing Station

First beers of the day.

Last weekend Andrew and I went on an adventure to Traverse City.  The main reason for this trip was so that we could participate in Paddle for Pints, essentially a wonderful combination of kayaking and craft beer.

It was a rainy day but we still had a wonderful time kayaking and sampling a variety of tasty beers.  The event took us to four separate breweries/brewpubs where we each sampled a range of tasty beer.

The Filing Station Microbrewery

Registration and the first brew stop of the day.  After registering for the day and receiving our t-shirts and swag bags we had some food and a couple of drinks before starting the kayak adventure.  The pizza we ordered was a delicious thin crust treat.  On the beer front Andrew tried the Salem Raspberry Pale Ale and I had the Ironwood Amber Ale.  Both were a good start to our day – not overwhelming and subtle enough to be enjoyable when paired with food.

Right Brain Brewery

Artwork at the Right Brain Brewery

Artwork at the Right Brain Brewery

The first brewery we paddled to was Right Brain.  I loved the atmosphere of this brewery, it was a community space, art gallery, and beer hall all mixed together.  It was also surprisingly kid friendly with a toy area, board games, and lots of cool stuff to look at.  We saw a number of families hanging out in the space during our visit.

I tried the Irish Goodbye red ale to start and Andrew has a pint of the Flying Squirrel Brown Ale.  I really enjoyed the Irish Goodbye, it was a dark amber colour with a bit of sweetness mixed in with subtle hops.  We also split a tall can of the Northern Hawk Owl.  Andrew picked this one out but it was one we both enjoyed and one I wanted to try just because it had a cool sounding name.  The Northern Hawk Owl was a bit more generic than the Irish Goodbye, it had some malt and very subdued hop notes but was pretty smooth drinking.

Rare Bird Brewpub

Rare Bird was the smallest location we visited – or at least it felt pretty small with all the paddlers plus the regular lunch crowd packed into the pub.  There was some really interesting woodwork in this brewpub – the tables were made out of single slabs all cut from really large trees and one of the walls included reclaimed wood from industrial packing crates.

Andrew tried the ‘Dam Paddlers’ beer which was crafted especially for the Paddle for Pints events and I sampled the Hopricot.  As you might guess my beer was hoppy and made with apricot.  It was a surprisingly good and layer combination.  The Dam Paddlers beer was also a bit of a surprise, it had a lot of lime and despite being labeled a cream ale it was surprisingly light.

The Workshop Brewing Company

Workshop Brewing Company

Workshop Brewing Company

Another really interesting physical space – the Workshop had an industrial feel but had a surprisingly warm touch to it.  It was also fairly family friendly with games, books, and lots of space.  We saw a number of families with small children enjoying some food and just hanging out in the space.

Andrew tried the Plumb Bob and the Pipe Wrench.  I ordered the Plumb Bob for him – and had I read the description more closely I probably wouldn’t have picked it, it was very coffee flavoured.  I had the 20-pound Sledge IPA and the Bastard Rasp.  As one would expect the IPA was on the hoppy side and was a fairly standard IPA.  The Bastard Rasp was surprisingly good – it was a wheat ale with a raspberry kick.  I had fears that it would be overly sweet but it was well balanced and easy drinking.

Overall this was a great day filled with kayaking, delicious local beer, and visiting new places.  The event itself is a bit expensive but it was a really unique experience that I’m really glad we took the time to do.

All the mead? Yes, please.

A few years ago Andrew and I went to Traverse City for the first time.  During our weekend in the city I discovered mead.  It was cheery mead and it was one of the best things ever.  Since that trip I’ve been scouting local stores for all the mead varieties and stocking up at Christmas time when they seem to have more options.  I’ve also been telling everyone about the long history of mead making and lots of other random mead facts. Basically I really like mead and think more people should make it.

When Andrew and I were getting ready for our trip to Traverse City a couple of weeks ago I started googling to try to find out where I had the cherry mead years ago.  Googling resulted in me finding the Acoustic Tap Room.  Essentially a meadery –I didn’t know these even existed!  They specialize in making all kinds of mead and their ‘tap room’ has a cozy living room feel. There was live music, board games you could play if you wanted, and communal comfy seating.  We tried a flight of all the mead they had on tap, nine samples which were served in ukuleles. Yes, ukuleles. Basically it was the best thing ever.

Of the nine offerings on tap I think the cheery mead is still my favourite but I also enjoyed their more traditional honey variety and Andrew seemed to enjoy the blueberry mead. We brought a few bottles of the mead back with us and I’m already trying to think of excuses to make another trip to Traverse City.

Mead

Sawdust City Brewing Co: Lone Pine IPA

Located in Gravenhurst, Ontario Sawdust City Brewing is a relatively new craft brewery that was launched in 2013.  They have five core brands and brew the occasional sessions.  I tried their Lone Pine IPA a few years ago but had mostly forgotten how it tasted other than it was a hoppy IPA. I also think the Lone Pine is the only beer from Sawdust City Brewing that I’ve seen at an LCBO – granted the local LCBO is often pretty sparse in terms of craft beer.  I loved the design of the can, the stark lone pine is an iconic Canadian image that they’ve made into a simple but visually appealing label design.

The name of the beer is well chosen as it has a distinctly pine smell.  There’s a bit of a citrus hop smell buried under the pine but it’s minimal. In terms of taste it was an interesting blend of pine, hops, and a citrus (maybe grapefruit?) taste.  It was relatively dry with lots of hops.  It’s definitely a hop forward beer but manages to avoid being too bitter.  I tried this beer while camping and it was a great beer to have in the evening after a hot day of hiking. Refreshing and a tad sweet.

Beer of the Month: Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery

The final two beer selections from our latest beer of the month delivery were from Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery, located in Burlington, Ontario.  By the looks of things Pepperwood is a fairly standard small scale brew-pub operation (albeit with classier food/eating area) and they routinely make five standard beers, two of which were in this shipment.

One interesting thing we noticed about the Pepperwood beers was that the bottles seemed to be much lighter than the standard beer bottle.  Maybe they were made with thinner glass?

The first Pepperwood brew I tried was their Cream Ale which poured a hazy blonde colour with minimal head.  It had a slightly smell of hops and citrus.  There was a slight malty taste and a hint of bitterness while still being easy drinking.  A good summer weather beer that was a step above generic.

The second Pepperwood selection was their Monkey Brown Ale.  For whatever reason the Monkey Brown Ale’s we’ve tried so far seem to have been over carbonated or something — they poured with far too much head and took a very long time to settle.  That fact alone may have impacted the taste — it was okay but I’m not sure it was representative of how the beer would typically be like.  It poured a dark brown and had a classic nutty taste.  A bit darker than I prefer my nut brown ales typically, but lots of flavour packed in.

Beer of the Month: Red Maple Ale

StonehammerThe second Stonehammer Brewing selection this month was Red Maple Ale, an ale style beer that was brewed with locally sourced maple syrup. I had no idea there were categories for maple/honey beers at so many beer contests — but there are and apparently this beer has won a handful of awards.

When I think of maple syrup I think sweet tasting.  I had anticipated the Red Maple to have a sweet aftertaste to it and oddly enough it doesn’t.  The ale has a very bitter finish and if you’re craving maple syrup this isn’t the way to go — it’s hard to pick out the maple among the other flavours.

The beer poured a very dark red, almost brown colour with minimal head.  Aroma wise there was a hint of hops and maple and a lot of malt.  This beer was surprisingly subtle and is a good balance of bitters, malt, and sweet. It tastes more like a classic red ale than a proudly maple beer – but it works and it was surprisingly smooth drinking.

Beer of the Month: Queens English Mild Ale

Back to beer blogging! Two of this month’s selections came from Stonehammer Brewing in Guelph, Ontario.  Formerly known as F & M Brewery, Stonehammer has been around since 1995 and all of their beers are made using spring water from Guelph’s artesian wells.

The first Stonehammer brew I tried this month was the Queen’s English Mild Ale.  It poured a dark almost black mahogany with almost no head.  Judging by their website this was a one-off specialty brew that was available for a a limited time. Though the description mentioned hops I didn’t really get a hops smells or taste with this one — the malt flavour and caramel notes took precedence.

Despite this being a dark beer than my standard fair I really enjoyed it.  It was flavourful enough without being overbearing – and is the type of beer that both Andrew and I could agree upon.  I’m looking forward to trying the Red Male Ale that also came from Stonehammer Brewing.

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