WATERLOO 1815 RYE SAISON – INNOCENTE BREWING COMPANY
It had been one of those weeks – the kind that have you start dreaming about Friday evening on Tuesday morning. The toddler battles seemed overwhelming and I needed to give myself something to look forward to, to help get through the week. An Ontario craft beer could be the ticket, so I grabbed a bottle of Innocente’s Rye Saison and placed it front and centre in our fridge. Every time I’d open the fridge after that, it reminded me that we’d crack this bad boy open once the kids were asleep on Friday evening. We finally got there, and celebrated (as many parents do) with “Netflix and chill”. I’ll let you decide what the “chill” part entailed.
I’m a fan of Belgian brews (Greg tells me that ‘Saison’ is a Belgian style of beer), and this one was a delight. It smelled sweet, with a note of bubblegum, and was a gorgeous amber colour. It was slightly flat, however, likely because it was bottled in October (Innocente adds the bottling date to their packaging). It’s very drinkable and light, but keep in mind it has a higher alcohol percentage (5.7%) that can hit you faster than you expect.
Innocente, based in Waterloo, brewed this beer to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium in 1815 with ingredients from the home of each of the seven armies who defeated him. As I sipped my beer, I reflected on that historic battle and wondered how it would compare to my particularly tough week managing a certain independent toddler who refuses to wear snow boots and pokes her baby sister in the eyes.
I’m not quite ready to admit defeat or run from the battle in tears (as Napoleon did, apparently), but I will continue to call on my allies (husband, grandparents, friends, strangers at Costco), take out my frustrations on the volleyball court and lastly, keep exploring this delicious world of craft beer.
Cheers to Innocente for this Rye Saison. I can’t wait to taste more from this brewery.
YULEBIER (BARREL-AGED JUNIPER RYE ESB) – TWB
The holidays have come and gone. Our pants are a bit tighter, our wallets much lighter, and the snow is a mess of slush. In these early days of January, many folks are returning to work in the post-Christmas fog, having to shower frequently and remember what day it is.
Since I’m still on maternity leave, neither of those things apply to me. But, also due to being home with two young ones, we haven’t really had much time to pack Christmas away yet either. Most of our decorations are still up (minus the tree), the last of Aunt Holly’s cookies sit lonely in the Tupperwear on the counter, and the Christmas lights still turn on at 4:30 p.m. every day.
A lot of beers were drunk this holiday, but amongst all the hustle and bustle, I didn’t have the wherewithal to write any reviews. Lucky for us, a tall bottle of Yulebier from Kitchener’s TWB Cooperative Brewing also survived to January 3. I figured we should drink this ASAP, before it becomes un-cool to drink something yuletide-y too far into January.
I had no clue what a Yulebier was, and it’s sub-description as “barrel-aged juniper rye ESB” still didn’t help me. But I poured it anyways. This beer is beautifully cloudy, and smells slightly herbal. It starts off sweet and malty, with hints of herbs and spices, but has a drawn-out, strong finish that’s sour and hoppy. After this delicious sip, I had to find out what the heck was I drinking.
There is no Wikipedia for Yulebier, but it seems there are some Scandinavian traditions with brewing a special holiday beer. The Juniper Rye part wasn’t as much of a mystery. It usually has a spicy bite from both the rye and juniper berries. The ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter, an English-style pale ale. These beers are known for their great balance between malt and hop bitterness. So, knowing this now, I’d say that TWB made Santa’s ‘nice’ list. Overall, this one-off from TWB rocks, and something I would drink regardless of holidays..
HOLIDAY TASTER PACK – HOCKLEY VALLEY BREWING CO.
Greg’s Uncle Billy is an awesome guy. He’s a retired truck driver — a straight shooting guy’s guy and rides motorcycles. He’s a one-type-of-beer kind of guy. I think everyone has an Uncle Billy that’s pretty comfortable with their beer choices and not really interested in the craft beer scene. But as you and I know, dear reader, the world of craft beer is exciting, delicious and always changing. And a great way to introduce your Uncle Billy to this magical wonderland is to gift him Hockley Valley Brewing Co.’s holiday Taster Pack.
The trio are all smooth, drinkable and tasty, leaving no hint of scary bitter hops, syrupy alcohol content or cloudiness of some craft beer that can take some getting used to. Pick it up at the LCBO, and at a very competitive price of less than $8 for three tall boys, your Uncle Billy can savour Hockley’s Classic Lager, Dark and Amber beers. Grab a few extra packs for you to sip, or drop some off to your neighbour or colleague who may be looking to earn their craft beer stripes.
The Classic Lager is my favourite of the pack. Smooth, refreshing and balanced in every way you’d want a lager to be. This beer would appeal to seasoned craft beer drinkers looking to enjoy all the taste of a classic lager, as well as newbies. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this lager!
The dark could look ominous to some when poured, but I promise it’s light and delicious, while still maintaining the dark beer roasty flavours of coffee and chocolate. Slightly sweet, but very drinkable, it’s perfect for winter time and pairing with hearty meals.
The amber is milder tasting, which means it landed third on my list. But again, the lighter taste could be helpful to get Uncle Billy to dip his toe in the frothy craft pool.
Here’s how Hockley describes their beer:
Classic Lager: A rare find – this rich, crisp, traditional golden lager is the perfect balance between hops and malt, crafting a beer that is as refreshing as it is flavourful. A true connoisseur’s lager, it’s the ideal choice for those looking for an easy-drinking beer that won’t soon be forgotten.
Dark: A hybrid of a Northern Brown Ale and a Midlands Mild, with a body tweaked to give it a lighter, more North American appeal. Hints of roasted nuts, caramel, chocolate, and coffee combine to make this award winner one of Ontario’s best-selling craft beers.
Amber: Inspired by the rich warmth and colour of a Canadian autumn, you’ll experience aromas of toasted malts, warm biscuits, and fresh bread with a delicate caramel finish that ends with the crispness of a spring morning.
KING STREET SAISON – BLOCK THREE BREWERY
The scene: it’s Friday night and the kids are in bed. Dishes are done and there’s an hour and a half before one of the grownups falls asleep. We open the fridge, and ‘ta-da’ (as our 2 year old likes to exclaim), there’s a beautiful tall bottle of Block Three’s King Street Saison looking at us. At 500ml, it’s the perfect sized beer to share. So, fittingly, Greg and I are posting our first double review.
What Kate says:
Based in St. Jacobs, Block 3 calls this their flagship beer, a Belgian Saison, with notes of citrus, coriander, peppercorn and bubblegum. I’m a sucker for most Belgian brews, and since Greg had tasted this before, he warned me that, “this is a ‘Kate’ beer, through and through”.
It certainly is. The beer smells much sweeter than it is. And the forethought of bubblegum makes it stand out on your palate. (Sidenote: I now wonder if it’s that bubblegum taste that I love about all Belgians. Hmm…perhaps I should do some further sampling.)
This is a smooth, light, easy drinking saison at 4.6% Alc/Vol, and it made me salivate for more after the first sip. It’s strange to think of citrus and bubblegum flavours together, but it works, deliciously.
You can get this at most local LCBOs, but I suggest taking the fun country drive down Crowsfoot Road into St. Jacobs if you have some spare time.
What Greg says:
This is a pleasantly dry saison, and a nice change of pace for as guy who likes hops-forward beers. It smells sweeter and more sour than it actually tastes. Of course, I drank it with a head cold, so my senses were a bit muted.
Traditionally, Belgian saisons, also known as farmhouse ales, were a style of beer brewed in the winter months and intended to refresh farmers working in the hot summer months. But with its notes of coriander, spice and almost apple cider-like smell, this brew reminds me of Christmas.
It poured with a frothy, clean white head, and tasted fresh – hats off to Block Three for actually putting a bottling date on this beer, so we knew it was brewed up just six weeks ago.
RASPBERRY UBER BERLINER STYLE WEISSE – NICKEL BROOK BREWING CO.
I recently discovered Nickel Brook’s Raspberry Über Style Weisse, and while it’s not quite as game-changing as the similarly-named discount taxi service, this Über is unique. I’ve tried some sour beers at tastings in the past, but never had an entire bottle to savour, and I don’t think I was quite prepared for the sour punch.
A funky, red German bear graces the label, and at only 4.2% alcohol, I was expecting a summery, berry-tasting beer. I popped the bottle top, and my first thought was, “Holy crap! It’s pink!”. Not a tint of pink like the Hibiscus Saison Greg recently wrote about, but pink pink.
Then, I learned it is super foamy to pour. As in, I had to wait several minutes for the head to settle before pouring the rest of the bottle to take a photo. It smells like sour raspberries, and the first sip is really different than most beer. With the vast amounts of foam and fruity bitterness, it reminded me a lot of our family’s go-to cold prevention tool “EmergenC – Acai berry”.
It is sour, and really hits the sides of your tongue at the far back of your mouth. When it’s in your mouth, the strong raspberry taste overpowers any suggestion of beer. That is, until you swallow, and you’ll remember what you’re drinking… and you’ll still remember ten minutes after your sip since the sour taste lingers that long.
Nickel Brook’s slogan is “A miracle of science”, and I’d say that holds true for this beer since they managed to make a beer that tastes more like lemonade. Still, it’s refreshing, and I can picture myself enjoying this on a patio in warmer months.
Sadly, there was some chunky sediment in the bottom of the bottle, and I think that may have sealed any hope of me giving this beer three mugs, instead of two. However, I’ll have to try again in July and see how I feel about it then.
Nickel Brook says this about their Über Weisse:
Summer seasonal available at the Brewery and LCBO
Our brewers decided to have some fun and the took one of our most scientific creations and made it even more amazing! Nickel Brook Raspberry Uber Berliner Weisse uses our refreshing sour style of wheat beer which has then been aged on local Ontario raspberries. The result is a massive raspberry flavour explosion that still maintains the incredibly unique qualities of our Uber Berliner Weisse. You’re going to love this! It’s a scientific fact.