Every November, you can show your support for Canada’s veterans by wearing a poppy over your heart. Thanks to Royal City Brewing Co., you can also help those wounded in war by doing something that comes naturally to craft beer fans – drinking beer.
Royal City’s limited-release Remembrance Red is once again available on local LCBO shelves and on tap at local establishments. It’s a choice you can feel good about. A dollar from every bottle of this classic dry Irish red ale will go to Wounded Warriors, a Canadian charity that funds rehabilitation programs for soldiers injured or ill from their service.
My wife and I first tried Remembrance Red on tap at the Army Navy Air Force Club #344 in Guelph. We were both surprised at how good it was. It’s an excellent beer, with nicely roasted malt character, yet well-balanced with a very mild caramel sweetness. It’s well worth the $5.95 price for 650ml at the LCBO, considering the brewery is passing on a good chunk of the proceeds.
When so many Ontario craft brewers are making awful pumpkin-spice seasonal beers, it’s great to see local brewer making a fall seasonal offering that tastes great, and does some good, too.
Compiled by Greg Mercer, Kate Mercer and Owen Roberts
UPSIDE IPA, WELLINGTON BREWING
After years of focusing on English-styles ales, one of Ontario’s oldest craft brewers has finally added a year-round India Pale Ale to their lineup, and it’s been well worth the wait. Upside IPA is an unfiltered, east coast-style IPA (think juicier and hazier than west coast versions, but less bitter), with loads of Amarillo, Centennial and Citra hops giving it a ton of grapefruit, peach, and tropical fruit flavours. At a surprisingly drinkable 6.8 per cent alc./vol, it’s a well-balanced, complex and delicious take on the IPA style. This brew will be available at local LCBOs, Beer Stores and grocery stores.
SERENITY NOW, BROTHERS BREWING
The newest and smallest brewery in Guelph was probably one of the most anticipated additions to downtown in years, and for good reason. The Proveau twins behind Brothers are producing some really good beers – which they also sell in takeaway bottles. Their Serenity Now saison smells like summer in a glass, and is next to their Tropic Thunder is our favourite of their stable. This traditional Belgian wheat beer was originally a warm-weather brew, and weighs in at 6.7 per cent alc./vol, and 30 IBUs.
SPOTTED COW, AMSTERDAM BREWING
This delicious Fieldberry Wheat beer from Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewing celebrates so much of Canada’s great harvest. From the standard Canadian ingredients of wheat and barley, to the Canadian raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, this is a tart, light wheat beer that is sure to impress – on top of the patriotic red and white can. A pink, hazy hue and 5 per cent alc./vol makes it perfect to enjoy on a hot summer long weekend.
8 MAN, MACKINNON BROTHERS
Kingston’s acclaimed MacKinnon Brothers offer up a fine English pale ale, called 8 Man. At 5.8 per cent alc./volume you have to pace yourself with this brew, which was a bit of a challenge for me and my fishing buddies last weekend because 8 man is so smooth. It’s slightly bitter finish gently lingers, then fades quietly and mysteriously. It’s there, but it’s pretty quiet, and we found ourselves wanting more. 8 Man doesn’t compete with or interfere with anything on the BBQ. Great choice if you’re hopped out.
CITRA RHUBARB WHEAT, FORKED RIVER BREWING
Forked River‘s unique twist on an American-style summer wheat beer will surprise and refresh with each sip. If you’re put off by the sweetness of some wheat ales, the subtle tartness of the rhubarb – the London, Ont. brewery uses cold-pressed juice – will add balance that nicely compliments the spicy wheat tang and tropical fruit aromas from the Citra hops. We liked this beer more than we expected to, and at 4.6 alc./vol, you can enjoy it all afternoon.
THE STARTER SESSION IPA, FOUR FATHERS BREWING
The folks behind Four Fathers are proof some of the best craft beers in the province are coming out of small places.
Rockwood, Ontario isn’t known for a whole lot other than its annual Farmer’s Parade of Lights, when neighbours deck out their combines and harvesters in a pile of Christmas lights and rumble down the village’s main street.
Four Fathers, which began commercial production in late 2015, have given tiny Rockwood another claim to fame: good craft beer. But that’s about to change.
Brewery co-founder and general manager Mike Hruden says Four Fathers is moving to Hespeler, where they’ll soon be opening a new production facility and long-awaited retail storefront.
If you want to get to know Four Fathers, one of my favourites is their flagship beer, The Starter Session IPA. This brew, which started appearing on LCBO shelves last fall ($3.10 for a 473ml can), is a strong entry into the session IPA category. It’s got everything you’d expect from the style – citrus fruit aromas, solid bitterness and a dry finish despite a subtle malt backbone that’s not always present in IPAs.
Ontario’s craft beer fans have been flooded lately with so-called session IPAs. But this one holds its own against some of the best in that style.
Another favourite from the Four Fathers stable is their nutty, malty and complex Shevchenko 9, a fine Ukrainian-style dunkel. If you’re a fan of dark, European beers, this is a can’t-miss.
What the brewery says (About The Starter):
“With a crisp and citrusy profile, our Galaxy hop driven IPA screams high draft pick beer stud, while its low 4.8 % ABV gives it the stamina to go the whole session, no matter how formidable the competition.”
WARD HEAVY, ROYAL CITY BREWING
The Scottish call it ‘wee heavy,’ and it’s an ideal beer for these grey, cold, rainy days when spring still feels a long way away.
The folks at Guelph’s Royal City Brewing must have had miserable March weather in mind when they concocted their take on the traditional scotch ale style – a rich, malty, sweet, caramel-infused beer that has a distant smokey flavour.
I picked up a growler of the seasonal beer direct from the brewery ($16 for a 1.9-litre jug), after sampling it on location. This Royal City version of that staple of Scottish pubs is cloudy and deep amber in colour, kind of like a glass of iced tea.
I had gone to the brewery hoping to get a growler of their Juice Wayne IPA, but it was sold out (here’s hoping they make more, and soon). But the Ward Heavy, named after the Guelph working-class neighbourhood where the brewery is based, was a pleasant consolation prize.
Scotch ales are kind of like the IPA of the malty world. They’re typically boiled longer in the kettle, which caramelizes the wort and bumps up the alcohol content (this one comes in at 6 per cent ABV). The brewers at Royal City say they use only British Isles hopes and malt to make this beer, which is kinda cool, too.
As someone who generally likes drier beers, I found it sweet without being too sweet, and mildly boozy without it being overpowering. In all, a very nice brew.
What the brewery says:
A scottish wee heavy by style, this deep amber ale is made entirely of UK malts and hops. Strong, assertive, and a little rough around the edges it’s just like the Ward, the part of Guelph we call home.
This St. Patrick’s Day, you can skip all that green beer and Guinness and celebrate your pretend-Irish heritage by hoisting these made-in Ontario stouts that give a nod to the Emerald Isle, without leaving the province.
100 STEPS STOUT, ROYAL CITY BREWING
If you want a stout less travelled, we’d suggest heading to the Victoria Road brewery and picking up a growler of this local stout. A dry, traditional stout modelled after Guinness’s iconic Irish brew, this is a subtle, easy to drink stout that’s one of our favourites from the Royal City stable. It has a mild hint of espresso, but without overtaking the brew. Weighs in at 5.2 ABV.
BLACK COAL STOUT, RAILWAY CITY
Like the name suggests, this is a deep, dark, smoky stout that tastes like it was brewed in a mine shaft far underground. But this 6 ABV beer from St. Thomas is no lump of coal. With heavy notes of roasted, black coffee and dark chocolate, it’s a more full-flavoured take on the stout style, with a slight liquorice finish. No wonder it was a gold medal winner at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards.
LUCK & CHARM OATMEAL STOUT, MACLEANS
With a funky label that was obviously marketed toward me (hello cool charm bracelet!), this oatmeal stout did not disappoint. A thick, creamy head leads the way to bitter, roasted, dark chocolate notes and a slightly sweet finish. The strong 5.6 ABV stands out with this stout, but it’s nicely balanced with the dry, big hops. It’s become one of our favourite made-in Ontario stouts.
COBBLESTONE STOUT, MILLSTREET
Mill Street Cobblestone Stout has wandered into our fridge many times, but we’ve never reviewed it before. It has a super smooth mouth-feel, with a dry, lightly roasted flavour, making this a fantastic beer you’ll drink on repeat – especially with a relatively low alcohol percentage (compared to other stouts) of 4.2 ABV. Mill Street uses nitrogen charging to carbonate this stout, just like Guinness, which gives it that classic stout creaminess, without having to travel to Ireland.
SKINNY DIPPIN’ STOUT, SAWDUST CITY
The Gravenhurst brewery makes a fine oatmeal stout, with all the chocolate and roasted malt flavours you’d expect from the style. Because of the addition of oatmeal to the malt, it’s sweeter variety of stout than a dry Irish-style stout, and pours with a light brown foamy head that disappears quickly. At 5.5 ABV, it also packs more punch than Cobblestone’s stout, but without sacrificing any smoothness.
Compiled by Greg and Kate Mercer