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Unleash the Jutsu

Unleash the Jutsu

BELLWOODS BREWING, JUTSU AMERICAN PALE ALE

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It’s no secret some of the best beers being brewed in Ontario right now aren’t ones you can find on LCBO or Beer Stores shelves.

Bellwoods Brewery’s Jutsu pale ale is a fine example. I had two 12-ounce glasses of it at Guelph’s Baker Street Station pub last week, and kinda fell in love. It’s a hazy, hoppy concoction the colour of pale orange juice, with an appealing aroma of tropical fruit and nectarine.

It tasted like it had just been brewed that day, and was exactly what you’d want in a dry, aromatic American-style pale ale. Bellwoods uses a unique Vermont yeast strain that gives it an especially juicy character, at a pleasantly sessionable 5.6 ABV. I promptly went home, and tried to find some more Jutsu I could put in my fridge. Only it’s not available on any local shelves.

The Beer Store and LCBO don’t carry it, or any other Bellwoods beers for that matter, since their listing requirements exceed the small brewery’s production capacity. A few local bars carry Bellwoods on tap and occasionally in bottles, including Baker Street and Woolwich Arrow in Guelph, Kitchener’s Arabella Park and Abe Erb, and Brux House and The Brain in Hamilton.

If you want take-home Bellwoods bottles, you need to go direct to the brewery. Which, I suppose, adds to its allure, but sucks if you’re a fan living outside the GTA.

Bellwoods, which started as a small brewery and pub in Toronto in 2012, brews such popular beers that their retail shop on Ossington Avenue became known for running out of stock. They’ve tried to fix the problem with expansion, and added a second shop on Hafis Road in North York, but in the rest of Ontario our only option is to hope our local bars are smart enough to put Bellwoods beer on tap.

But if we want to bring the Jutsu magic into our homes? We remain out of luck. That still requires a road trip into Toronto, and my taste buds are hoping that changes soon.

What the brewery says:

“Hazy with restrained bitterness, juicy yeast-derived aromatics, and a dry body. A refreshing and super drinkable hoppy beer with notes of cantaloupe, grass, and nectarine.”

I saw the light with Elora Borealis

I saw the light with Elora Borealis

ELORA BOREALIS, ELORA BREWING CO.

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I found Elora Borealis on a recent night out in downtown Guelph, just about the time I was losing all hope I’d be drowned in an endless sea of Alexander Keiths and Sleeman Original.

Nothing against those inoffensive beers, but when you’re craving a well-made North American-style pale ale, everything else kind of disappoints.

All the usual craft beer pubs were jammed, so we were stuck searching elsewhere. Our final stop on the night was NV, a bar I associate more with cocktails and than craft beer. But credit to their bar manager, who on had a keg of Elora Borealis on tap.

One of my friends immediately zeroed in on the Elora-made beer and suggested I try it. I’m so glad he did.

The first pint was a revelation. Bright pine and citrus greeted me, with hints of mango and something like canned peaches. It had an intense aroma of musky tropical fruit thanks to the exclusive use of Citra hops.

The beer, a bronze medal winner at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards, was a looker. A fine, frothy white head that lasted until the final sip, pouring with a hazy, golden hue. It weighs in at 5.1 ABV and is a dry 30 IBUs, just about right for a hoppy, but not too overpowering, North American-style pale ale.

The next week, I picked up a few bottles from the LCBO ($4.50 for 500ml), which only started stocking the Elora-made pale ale in October. It was every bit as good as I remembered. I enjoyed smelling it almost as much as drinking it. Almost.

When so many Ontario breweries are jumping on the pale ale bandwagon, it was refreshing to find one of the best in the province is made right here in Wellington County. This is an excellent beer.

What the brewery says:

“Elora Borealis is a lightly malted pale ale that is bittered, flavoured, and dry-hopped exclusively with Citra Hops. A bright, floral nose gives way to crisp, light malt flavours and finishes with several citrus notes.”

Beer and wings – what a combo!

Beer and wings – what a combo!

One of our favourite watering holes is The Woolwich Arrow Pub, or The Wooly, as frequenters call it. One of our favourite nights to go to The Wooly is wing night – every Tuesday!

So on a cold wintery night, we walked down to The Wooly in search of (what we consider to be) the best wings around, and a cold pint. Or two.

The Wooly’s beer menu isn’t huge, but it includes local brews (Guelph area), beer from Ontario, Quebec and other beer-loving locales across Canada. This Tuesday, it had beer from the top two highest ranked Original 10 breweries on tap, according to a people’s choice competition taking place now from the Ontario Beverage Network (OBN).

To be considered an “Original 10”, the brewery has to have been “…founded between 1985 to 1995… and does not include breweries no longer in operation or now owned by Big Beer….”.

Number one on the OBN list is Great Lakes Brewery (est. 1987, Brampton), and second is Wellington Brewery (est. 1985, Guelph). Owen had Great Lakes Lake Effect IPA. I had an old faithful: Wellington SPA.

beer-and-wingsWhat Owen says about Lake Effect (on the right): From now on, I will always look for this beer at The Wooly. Served ice cold, it’s appealing even on the coldest winter night. With its high carbonation, I can only imagine how it will be on a steamy summer day. Lake Effect has a HUGE citrus taste, tangy mouth feel, hardly any bitter after taste and just the right amount of weight — not too heavy, and not too light. The cloudy yellow-gold colour is fascinating — looks great and tastes great. I give it a Six Pack rating!

What Angi says about Wellington SPA (on the left): Aaaaah, I love Wellington SPA. I hadn’t had it in years, but it’s like I’ve found an old friend. It’s one of Wellington’s oldies but goodies. And one of its most popular. Not surprising. It’s delish! It’s weighty, smooth, creamy, with just a hint of bitterness, and if you really pay attention, you can taste something like roasted marshmallow, which I think is girly-talk for what might be roasted malt. It’s just how I remember it. And perfect with The Wooly’s medium-sauced wings! I give it a Six Pack too!

What the breweries say:

Great Lakes Brewery: “The weather channel describes Lake Effect snow as a “mass of sufficiently cold air moving over a body of water creating an unstable temperature profile in the atmosphere.” Who cares. This beer, however, has nothing to do with that drivel. It was inspired by a summer spent drinking heaps of IPAs on a stoop on Elmwood Ave. in Buffalo, NY.” (Not very helpful tasting notes, but fun, like the beer.)

Wellington Brewery: “Our most popular beer is a refreshingly smooth pale ale that is deep gold in colour and notably full of flavour. With a balance of malt and hops that is patterned after traditional British pale ales, S.P.A. has an aroma of caramel and toasted grain followed by a delicate hop aftertaste.”

When lager and stout (chips) meet….mmm mmm mmm

When lager and stout (chips) meet….mmm mmm mmm

‘Twas three nights after Christmas, and all through the house, not a snack could be found, no chips, no pretzels, no nuts. No nothing.

And I wanted a beer. I wanted the Radical Road Brewing Company’s Slingshot that was sitting in the fridge. We bought it at the LCBO a few days earlier, and now that all the mimosas and Manhattan’s and cabernet sauvignon had been consumed, I wanted a beer, a refreshing beer. I wanted to kick back, eat a bag of chips and drink beer.

So off to Market Fresh (my favourite market) …and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Potato chips flavoured with Guinness Stout Beer!  Oh yes, beer flavoured chips. They’re a thing.

This California Common lager was everything I’d hoped for: crisp, easy-drinking, with a hoppy finish. It was absolutely perfect with the Guinness thick cut potato chips.  The chips were rich and creamy, just like a Guinness (I think they were $3.99/bag), and coupled with this lager, they were just right.

The lager, with its mild fruitiness, cut the richness of the stout-flavoured chips. I think Slingshot would be equally as excellent with other rich dishes: a big juicy burger and gruyere cheese, maybe pulled pork poutine, or a beef and potato stew. Or with whatever you want to eat. Try it with friends. Or by yourself. Or while on holiday. Or not.

It’s the holidays! Eat, drink beer and be merry!

P.S. to be honest, I’d never heard of a California Common before. So, according to the interwebs, it’s a “unique 100% American style lager, usually brewed with a special strain of lager yeast that works better at warmer temps”. Drinking beer can be so educational!

The Les Paul of IPAs

The Les Paul of IPAs

HEADSTOCK IPA – NICKEL BROOK BREWING CO.

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It’s Friday night.

The Celtics are playing the Raptors.

The Raptors are struggling; they’re down by seven at the half.

I pop a top on a Headstock IPA.

The Raptors catch fire and dominate the third quarter 33-18.

Coincidence?

Of course.

But it’s a coincidence made me feel even warmer and fuzzier about this excellent beer than I did already.

Headstock, by Nickel Brook, is one of the most enjoyable beers I’ve tasted. I love how it combines superb taste and reasonable potency – a pronounced tingly citrus flavour, and a light-heavyweight reading of 7.0 per cent alcohol. One of these, and you’re relaxed without feeling full.

On the label, Nickel Brook list the four hops that account for the distinct citrus taste: Simcoe, Amarillo, Equinox and Mosaic. “We especially adore the science of hops…we conclude that hop science is one tasty passion,” it says. “No additives. No Preservatives. Just Science.” Bravo to the brewers for promoting beer science; it’s especially refreshing in an era where fact and proof is quickly, shallowly and nefariously dismissed as corporatism.

Headstock’s funky label features a logo meant to resemble the headstock of a Gibson Les Paul, one of rock’s finest guitars (think Jimmy Page, Gary Moore, Slash, Duane Allman, etc.). It’s very classy and very enticing to guitar-playing beer drinkers who appreciate quality. The promise of quality inside comes through in spades.

I won’t wait until spring to pop another Headstock. But I’m already declaring it my official beer of the NBA playoffs.

Here’s what the brewery says:

“The flowering humulus lupulus top-cone provides us with the vital acids, essential oils and resins that permeate throughout our IPA. The result is a deliciously obscene wallop of tropical fruit, citrus and pine hop flavours.”

Lots of love for this ‘Australian’ beauty

Lots of love for this ‘Australian’ beauty

POUCH ENVY – REFINED FOOL BREWING CO.

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Once in a while, you have a beer that feels like it wakes up a whole new batch of taste buds in your mouth. That’s exactly how I felt when I first tried Pouch Envy from Sarnia’s Refined Fool Brewing Company.

The guys behind Refined Fool, an eclectic mix of ten friends, opened Sarnia’s first brewery in more than a century just over three years ago. I hadn’t tried any of their beer until this week.

The brewers describe Pouch Envy as an Australian pale ale. I had no idea what that meant, and was worried it might taste like a can of Foster’s when I bought a bottle on a whim at the LCBO.

I didn’t realize what a treat I was in for. Pouch Envy has to be one of the best-smelling beers I’ve ever had – made in Ontario or otherwise. It’s got the aroma of a fresh glass of grapefruit juice and tropical fruit, but without over-the-top sweetness.

My brother-in-law and I shared a 650 ml bottle ($5.95 at LCBO), and the first sip was a revelation that had us both doing double-takes. And it seemed to get better and better with each sip.

I’d describe it as the best kind of mildly hoppy American-style pale ale, but made with Australian hops that gave it a unique passion fruit flavour that I’ve never quite tasted in another pale ale. The brewery doesn’t list the hops it uses, but says it’s a rotating variety. If they’ve been tweaking this recipe, here’s hoping they stick with the version we sampled.

It comes in at a gentle 20 IBUs and 5 per cent alc./volume, and tasted as fresh as a bottled beer can be. The beer pours cloudy with a thick, frothy white head that lingers. I’ll be looking to add more of this excellent stuff to my fridge soon.

What the brewery says:

Similar to an IPA, this pale ale is hopped with a rotation of Australian hop varieties. The result is an easy-drinking brew with a citrus/passionfruit aroma and hop flavor.”