Monday, February 25, 2013

Days 22-25 - The Final WinterBrewed Review!

While external circumstances have prevented me from posting for a couple days, I'm back on track and still plenty of beers ahead! Onto the final collection of beers from WinterBrewed and the final number drunk at the festival!

Beer #29 (#12 of WinterBrewed) - Beyond The Pale Oat Shot 9000 (served hot)

With temperatures dipping and my curiosity piqued, the idea of a hot beer was a bit foreboding at first, but an irresistible prospect. Served along cider and coffee, Oat Shot 9000 is an oatmeal stout with a decent alcohol rating of 8.4%, but the heat only served to weaken the brew and cut the taste down considerably. I spoke with the brewers at Beyond the Pale who advised that the beer wasn't served as they advised, with sugar and cinnamon and the resulting containers left the beer a bit watered down.

I'm going to give Oat Shot 9000 a pass on rating, and will head to Beyond The Pale soon to try it cold. However, hot beer was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. I've never been a proponent of warm beer, despite what some British "beer hipsters" would have you believe. (I say that from the safety of a coffee shop in Ottawa, as many of these "beer hipsters" drink their warm beers with plates of bangers & mash and are often violently ill-tempered soccer hooligans with names like Bangers and Mash.)

Hot beer is growing in popularity in Poland and Japan, and to be honest, with a strong coffee stout or perhaps a creamy porter heated with some cinnamon or other sugar and spices, hot beer could be a great substitute for hot cider on cold nights. Experimentation and results to come soon, this is something I have to try at home.

Beyond The Pale Oat Shot 9000
Beyond The Pale Brewing Co., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 8.4%
Class: Oatmeal Stout
Rating: N/A
Quote: "Warm beer?!? You're lucky it's minus 20 outside or I'd have some derisive comment for sure! is good."

Beer #30 (#13 of WinterBrewed) - Hogsback The Full Monty Brown Ale

Named for the barebacked shenanigans of Prince Harry in Las Vegas a few months back, The Full Monty is certainly representative of brown ales, beers characterized by some nuttiness, caramel flavor and mild bitterness. The flavor certainly had butterscotch moments, something that my taste buds may be leaning towards in my slow Canadian evolution, but the flavors only floated around and gave way to a tiny bit of bitterness on the finish.

Further sips brought out a bit of sweet fruitiness from the beer, and oddly made me think of the International House of Pancakes. IHOP, of which I have yet to find on this side of the border, and yes, likely from lack of searching, offers sweet syrupy pancakes with a bit of a processed flavor. The Full Monty has an unidentifiable fruitiness, followed up by a weak bitterness, and a presence that is not very strong and doesn't linger. Uncomplicated, a little sweet, overall, not bad.

Hogsback The Full Monty Brown Ale
Hogsback Brewing Company, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5%
Class: Brown Ale
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quote: "Oh, Prince Harry, you crazy little scamp."

Beer #31 (#14 of WinterBrewed) - Ashton Brewing Company Harvest Brown Ale

Brown ales may not be my cup of tea, and this one seemed to have been brewed just wrong. Where Hogsback didn't quite push the boundaries, ABC went way too far. Harvest Brown has an unusual sweetness too it, much like tea with too much sugar, but with that unique fruit taste of brown ales. The bitterness which generally defines ales never found its way out and everything about this particular brown just seemed like an experiment gone wrong.

When the odd taste similar to artificial berry sweetener subsided, a butterscotch comes in heavy on the butter side and makes the entire beer a touch difficult to finish. The other tastes are there, and the beer was not like drinking a sugary-sweet soft drink. Harvest Brown might taste better warmed up, and this may be the beer for testing out a hot beer at home...but more likely, I won't be purchasing this one again.

Ashton Brewing Co. Harvest Brown Ale
The Old Mill at Ashton Brewpub, Ashton, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.5%
Class: Brown Ale
Rating: 2 out of 10
Quote: "It's like a butterscotch candy mixed with cream of wheat. This is an old man in a beer cup."
Beer #32 (#15 of WinterBrewed - FINAL BEER! and my BEST OF THE FEST!) - Ashton Brewing Company Pub Coffee Porter

Fifteen beers in and I reached my proper limit on the day. ABC's Coffee Porter was actually drunk earlier in the day, but I couldn't help saving the best for last. ABC has been spectacularly hit or miss, and this is the hit that struck me after the disappointing brown ale and fairly decent vanilla stout. This porter was a coffee porter without an overwhelming coffee taste. In two fields of coffee porters and stouts, it seems that porters utilize the coffee flavor without it being the defining quality of a beer. This, in itself, is a tough challenge, as coffee is so strong and often what many stout and porter drinkers are looking for.

Pub Coffee Porter has a light mocha taste with the chocolate and coffee supporting the porter bitterness. It reminded me of Guinness without being too bitter, this one being a porter that went down surprisingly smooth. It is pleasant throughout, and didn't leave a foul aftertaste, instead turning out a delicate taste without being watery or underwhelming.

Don't drink this looking for a post-pasta espresso type beer. Drink this when you want something a touch heavier than regular beer or if you like Guinness but need a break from the bitters. Seek out the sweetness in this beer and it pops up as you drink in vanillas and caramels. I can see how many will decry my rating of this beer as it isn't the best example of a "coffee beer", but standing alone, it held up incredibly well.

Ashton Brewing Co. Pub Coffee Porter
The Old Mill at Ashton Brewpub, Ashton, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5%
Class: Coffee Porter
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Quote: "This is coffee for people who hate coffee. Which is everyone. Admit it. Coffee is terrible. (I love you, coffee. Please don't take this seriously. You know I would never betray you.) *finishes off Tim Horton's cup and types last of blog entry*"
So a huge Congratulations to Jessica Christenson Fox who guessed the exact number correctly. A Starbucks gift card will be heading your way shortly! Well done! Your regularly scheduled reviews return shortly, and from March 6-27, I'll be touring Southern California and reviewing the best beers the golden coast has to offer. Cheers!!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 20-21: Beers 25-28 - More WinterBrewed!

Double Chocolate Cranberry and Freezing
The reviews of WinterBrewed continue, and we haven't reached the final number yet! I cannot recommend supporting your local brewfests enough. It's what allows local breweries to showcase their best and introduce the public into new tastes they may never have tried before. If you are a newbie beer drinker, it's a great place to start expanding your palates and for experienced beermasters, where else to find unique beers that don't show up in stores.

Another note - my review of the Hot beer, Oatshot 9000 from Beyond the Pale is being held another day for some input from the brewer, apparently there was some mishap in how it was served at the fest and I want to make sure my reviews are as fair as possible. But I will preface with this, hot beer was NOT a bad idea.

Enough about brewfests, on with the beers!

Beer #25 (#8 of WinterBrewed) - Ashton Brewing Co. Vanilla Stout

Most who try a vanilla beer think of porters, with a creamy head and sweet ice cream taste. Vanilla stouts on the other hand, retain some of the darker, coffee flavors. This isn't a rule, more of a guideline as the difference between porters and stouts has blurred over the years. Originally, stouts came from asking for a thicker, darker porter, a "stout porter" as it were, but nowadays, there's virtually no difference as many breweries will brew what they like and call it what feels appropriate. In my mind, stouts will always be darker, more bitter (not in the hoppy sense, but more in the coffee flavor sense) and be a touch heavier on alcohol rating.

The best example here is ABC's Vanilla Stout. While the ABV isn't too high at 5.2%, the coffee flavor and slight bitterness is extremely prevalent. It's a good stout, with light espresso taste and finishes off with vanilla. It's very similar to Starbucks' vanilla blonde coffee, in that it has the stout taste with only hints of vanilla sweetness. This is a great stout for drinkers who appreciate a bitter beer, but don't be fooled into thinking you'll be getting the cream soda taste of most vanilla porters here.

Ashton Brewing Co Vanilla Stout
The Old Mill at Ashton Brewpub, Ashton, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.2%
Class: Stout
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quote: "Too many cold coffee-like beverages in this weather...stop teasing me, you delicious icy temptresses!"

Beer #26 (#9 of WinterBrewed) - Muskoka Legendary Oddity

Legendary Oddity is a Belgian ale, a style of beer I often find held back by medicine-sweet tastes that quickly blend into one another, making it difficult to differentiate one Belgian ale from another. So when one is able to stand out, it generally does so extremely well. One of those beers is Legen....wait for it....dary Oddity.

The first taste is almost flowery, but the sweetness isn't as sharp as in some Hefeweisens and with a light bit of citrus throughout. It has a champagne quality, in that the alcohol isn't wholly masked by the sweetness, but accompanies it without being too off-putting. LO takes the best parts of a variety of beers, some touches of spices akin to white ales, the citrus and slight hoppiness of some IPA's and the sweetness of Belgian and German beers to combine brilliantly.

LO is highly recommended, if only to try and discover what flavors you personally notice within the beer. With such a variety that may confuse and surprise your tastebuds, it's no wonder it earned the name Legendary Oddity.

Muskoka Legendary Oddity
Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 8.0%
Class: Belgian Strong Ale
Rating: 9 out of 10 (One of my BEST OF THE BREWFEST)
Quote: "This beer is Legen...wait for it...*takes sip*....wait for it...*takes another sip*...wait for it....*takes another sip*"

Beer #27 (#10 of WinterBrewed) - Big Rig Rideau Red

After a poutine from Spud's Poutinerie with beer-based gravy, I dove into the next beer hoping for something not too heavy after eating approximately 7 pounds of gravy, fries and cheese curds. (This is just how heavy it feels just after eating it. Poutines are delicious, but turn immediately to a superheavy element I like to call Poutinium.)

Big Rig's Rideau Red was light and easy to drink, something I was grateful for post-Poutinium. But once the effects of the heavy lunch wore off, I was left with a bland, watery beer that seemed a poor example of a true red ale. Red ales can be Ambers, like your average American non microbrew, or Irish Reds, a slightly more bitter and pronounced beer. Rideau Red unfortunately leans to the former, a general disappointment when delivered with the crimson namesake.

Amber ales like Rideau Red often rely on a taste of malts and grains, but RR falls short and doesn't deliver a strong flavor at any point. I'll give it an extra point as it is most certainly a summer beer and was ill appropriate for a blustery winter day, and served ice cold on the beach, Rideau Red might actually be passable.

Big Rig Rideau Red
Big Rig Brewery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.2%
Class: Amber Ale
Rating: 3 out of 10
Quote: "Palate cleanser. Next!"

Beer #28 (#11 of WinterBrewed) - King Brewery Vienna Lager

I mostly blame myself for seeking out two summery lighter beers after the weight of lunchtime and reacting per the cold weather, but beer is beer, right? Vienna Lager is another easy to drink beer with hints of caramel sweetness to it, but nothing extremely bold. Vienna Lager is on the high-end of beers you could sit down and drink six of without flinching at the taste, and likely enjoying it.

Vienna isn't anything special, but it accomplishes the average requirements for a decent beer. The taste isn't too strong, but also has just a bit of hoppiness to it. It is by no means a spectacular beer, barely above a C rating, but when with a group of friends, you could do much worse if preparing for a night of beer pong or other drinking games.

And that, in the end, may sell more beers, but doesn't give you something of quality. Vienna Lager is the chicken nuggets of beer. Not very good on their own, but when you're with friends and you're drinking, they could really hit the spot.

King Brewery Vienna Lager
King Brewery, Nobleton, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 4.8%
Class: Lager
Rating: 4 out of 10
Quote: "Palate cleanser #2. Now bring me something heavy and full of alcohol....other than myself...."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 19: Beers 21-24 - WinterBrewed Continued

Both the ale and actual fruitcake are a mystery to me.
The best part of beer festivals is the different ways you get to try new beers. Special experimental brews, casks of old favorites, and yes, the fruitcake ale. So onward and drinkward to a selection of special beers that are hard to find anywhere other than booth to booth at a beerfest.

Beer #21 (#4 of WinterBrewed) Hogsback Aporkalypse Now Oatmeal Bacon Stout

I'm not sure if it's a breakfast theme, but this stout reminded me a lot of La Vache Folle Milk Stout, with a bit of that dairy taste. Aporkalypse Now's bacon stout had a huge draw at the fest, and who can blame the lines? According to statistics that sound true enough to be true, 90% of beer drinkers love bacon.

Aporkalypse Now is a decent smoky stout, but nowhere near the strong smoky flavors of German beers that specialize in it, and it may come from the hints of bacon flavor that hang at the end of each sip. True bacon afficionados will hem and haw about the light bacon-ness of the stout, but the bare flavor of it works to complement the dark, oatmeal stout flavor of the beer and works well without being overbearing, much like Rogue Brewing's Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale beer.

It's a good oatmeal stout with a nice bacon-y finish, and any beer that lets me use the words "bacon-ness" and "bacon-y" earns an extra point with me.

Hogsback Aporkalypse Now Oatmeal Bacon Stout
Hogsback Brewing Company, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.5%
Class: Oatmeal Stout
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quote: "Itttttttsssssssssssssssss Bacon! What? They don't have that commercial in Canada?"

Beer #22 (#5 of WinterBrewed) - Beyond The Pale Make'r Dark (Cask)

My love for bourbon is well known to everyone who has now read this sentence. After chatting up with the kind people at the Beyond The Pale booth, a cup of Make'r Dark was insisted upon me, poured fresh from the cask. Make'r Dark is a Bourbon barrel-aged version of their beer, The Darkerness, an Imperial Oatmeal Stout.

Make'r Dark is sweet, but bourbon sweet, in that way that supplements the heavy stout taste in the way bourbon sweetness counteracts the alcohol. Which is another note that surprised me about Beyond the Pale's offering; the Imperial-high alcohol rating was masked well by the stoutness and bourbon edge of the beer.

It's an incredibly strong flavor and definitely reminded me of Le Castor's Wee Heavy Grand Reserve, but seemed to lean more to the stout-ish side, with hints of mocha creeping in here and there.

Beyond The Pale Make'r Dark
Beyond The Pale Brewing Company, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 10.5%
Class: Imperial Stout
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Quote: "Ah, now this is how you warm up properly."

Beer #23 (#6 of WinterBrewed) - Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

Bearing the telltale sign of beerfest brews, Muskoka's Winter Beard is packed with adjectives and the promise of another unique beer experience. Much like Old Fruitcake, however, I was extremely disappointed.

Let me elaborate. Winter Beard is an excellent chocolate stout. The aroma is similar to that of a Mocha Latte, and it pours with a solid stout blackness and creamy head. It simply lacks a strong chocolate or cranberry taste apart from only the slightest aftertaste. The alcohol is hidden well by the flavors of the stout; it just doesn't seem to deliver as advertised. Chalk this one up to higher expectations, but if I can put aside the descriptive differences, Winter Beard is a solid chocolate stout that isn't too sweet, isn't too bitter and balances well as a chocolate stout on its own.

Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout
Muskoka Brewery, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 8.0%
Class: Chocolate Stout
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quote: "I half-expect to see next a Triple Imperial Doppel All-Natural Vanilla Coffee Lager Ale."

Beer #24 (#7 of WinterBrewed) - Cassel Brewery Caboose IPA (Cask)

It doesn't sound like it, but Cassel Brewery's Caboose IPA is one of the most experimental beers of the entire WinterBrewed festival. Caboose is made with varying hop blends while keeping the malts and yeast the same, so no two batches of Caboose are the same. This seems like a fun idea, but makes it nigh-impossible to judge the beer, as it could easily change the next time it's served.

This, unfortunately, just adds to the sheer disappointment. Caboose tastes exactly like it's handled, not seriously; more like the leftovers that are thrown together to create a halfway-decent recipe. It's the pizza you have the next day, still decent, but nowhere near as good as the real thing the first time around.

The bitterness levels are fair, but not quite peaking where you'd expect most IPA's. The taste lacked anything special, and was surprisingly less sweet than most east-coast IPA's, but failing to match the solid hoppy taste of west-coast fares. There was a butterscotch hint to the beer, but just too bland to punch home any significant impression. If you want to start trying IPA's and want something that isn't as bitter, there are better options with more taste than Caboose.

Cassel Brewery Caboose IPA
Cassel Brewery, Casselman, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.5%
Class: India Pale Ale
Rating: 2.5 out of 10
Quote: "Time to disconnect this beer from the rest of the train and move on."

Tomorrow reviews will include a beer served hot and one of my two BEST OF THE FEST beer choices! Cheers!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 17-18: WinterBrewed Results - Beers 18-20

WinterBrewed has come and gone and I have finally recovered from Saturday's beerapalooza. Photos and videos to be posted soon, but I wanted to start with the most important part of the festivities...the beer.

Numerous visitors e-mailed and facebooked with guesses of how many beers I finished off during my Saturday visit, with only one person guessing the exact number! The final number will be revealed with the last review, so here's the first "three-pack" of beers!

Beer #18 (#1 of WinterBrewed) Broadhead Brewing Co. Old Fruitcake Ale

If you're going to kick off a beer festival with a wide variety of beers, go with the one with the best backstory and most unique ingredients to give your palate a chance to shake off the Tim Horton's and get to the good stuff. Broadhead provided a sampling of local homebrew contest winner Emil Niec's Fruitcake Ale, an ideal wintertime treat for beer drinkers hunting for unique holiday offerings.

Yes, it's as good as it sounds. And that's for those that find fruitcake to be a middling, unusual member of holiday foodstuffs. Emil Niec is a skilled brewer, there's no doubt there, as his Fruitcake Ale came off as described. Strong oat taste with some unusual bitter fruits appearing here and there. This is a beer for adventurous drinkers, or those beer tasters that want to stretch their beer-tasting boundaries without getting too wild.

Broadhead Brewing Old Cranberry Ale
Broadhead Brewing Co., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.0%
Class: Holiday Ale
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quote: (True Story) "Fruitcake beer, that seems like a terrible idea. you're Emil Niec?"

Beer #19 (#2 of WinterBrewed) Broadhead Dark Horse Stout

The wind was whipping down Sparks Street, stealing about ten degrees extra from us trying to sip beer through our scarves. So, of course, breweries are going to bring out their stouts in full force, appropriate for the winter months.

My first Stout of the day is Broadhead's Dark Horse. Lower alcohol rating than I expected and by all definitions, a one-note beer. The stout tasted as if they reached a good average stout and then said, "Good enough." The taste is lighter than most stouts, and the coffee and chocolate are hinted at but don't overwhelm the beer.

Dark Horse lives up to its name in that it remains in hiding throughout the sampling, but it never really reaches the front of the pack. The advantage is that this is a great gateway beer to other stouts, in case many have always wanted to expand into bitter beers, but don't know where to begin.

Broadhead Brewing Dark Horse Stout
Broadhead Brewing Co., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.5%
Class: Stout
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quote: "At least now I'm warmed up....I mean, ready to drink more beers, I'm still freezing out here. I'm buying a WinterBrewed toque."

Beer #20 (#3 of WinterBrewed) Hogtown Hog Wild IPA

Toque pulled down over my ears to avoid the -25 wind chill, I forge ahead to the next booth and officially, my first beer from Toronto. Eager to find a good source of bitter hops to perk up my energy, I settle on Hog Wild's 70 IBU IPA. (Here's your beer fun fact, IBU stands for International Bitterness Unit and ranges generally from 1-100, though you may find some IPA's over 100. Don't be fooled by this though, bitterness can actually be adjusted by the malts in the beer as well, which is why some English "Bitter Ales" are more bitter than some IPA's despite varying IBU ratings.)

Hog Wild hits the spot, the spot being the part of my tongue that tastes hoppy bitterness. Not overwhelmingly bitter, but with enough to give it the defining IPA taste. A bit of citrus hangs before and after, but not for too long. It's a good, average IPA, again, a relatively safe showing from the breweries here at WinterBrewed. It seems that many brought their B+ game in hopes of hooking the average consumer. But overall, Hog Wild is a slightly above average IPA. Definitely worth a try, probably won't buy a second time.

Hogtown Hog Wild IPA
Hogtown Brewers, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.2%
Class: India Pale Ale
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quote: "Does alcohol make you warmer? I have reason to believe that, in that my reason is that I'm drinking alcohol and I do not want to be cold." (The man at the keg tap feigned interest and offered a considerate nod at this.)

More WinterBrewed Reviews Tomorrow!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Guess my beer weight!

Or more accurately, how many beers will I try at WinterBrewed? Winner gets a Starbucks gift card!!!! Post guesses here, first guess, first serve, so guess wisely!!!

Day 15-16: WinterBrewed

For yesterday and today's entry, I've got something special planned. Today is the WinterBrewed Festival in Ottawa and I will be bringing the FlipCam along to give everyone a taste of beer festivals in Canada's capital. Enjoy your Saturday, I will try to be sober enough to post whatever my drunken results may be tonight. Cheers!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 14 - Beer 17 - Dieu du Ciel! Aphrodisiaque (Happy Valentine's!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, a proper stout.

It's Valentine's Day, so I'll keep it brief. A stout should be many things - dark, bold, strong coffee bitterness with a sweet aftertaste. Aphrodisiaque is all that and more. This is the stout you graduate to. This is the stout you drink after a large Italian dinner in place of espresso. This is a true coffee stout.

It isn't an overwhelming coffee flavor, like those beers that advertise as "espresso stouts" and the like, and offers a balance of bitter and sweet without losing the strong defining qualities of a stout.

Dieu du Ciel! has yet to disappoint me and be anything other than well above average. I will have to pay this brewery a visit and offer a special inside tour for you blog readers, because it's Valentine's and I love each and every one of you.

Dieu du Ciel! Aphrodisiaque
Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.5%
Class: Stout
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quote: "I like this stout like I like my women....I'll let you finish that one."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 13 - Beer 16 - St. Ambroise Scotch Ale


Ah, my first beer straight out of the bottle...well, the first since I've started this blog. McAuslan Breweries of Quebec have revamped their Scotch Ale and released it under their St. Ambroise banner, giving it a bump in alcohol rating and renewal of flavors. Done in the style of a "wee heavy", much like the Grande Reserve in an earlier post, it's a Scotch Ale with a stronger alcohol taste and rating,

St. Ambroise's Scotch Ale has the sweet overtones and almost a pear-like taste at first, with vanillas hitting you second. It is one of my favorite Scotch ales, and uses its sweetness wisely, not overdoing it, or venturing into other tastes, like Belgian ales or stouts.

Scotch ales originated back from Scottish beer recipes where the caramelization of the malts from copper fermenters would create that specific sweetness, from butterscotch to caramel to the vanillas found in St. Ambroise's version. Some breweries will even add peat-smoked malts in order to get that taste found in scotch, the alcoholic beverage.

With so many permutations of beers based on a country's heritage to another alcoholic beverage, you have to respect the effort made by breweries big and small. St. Ambroise, your representation of Scotch ale did not disappoint.

St. Ambroise Scotch Ale
McAuslan Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 7.5%
Class: Scotch Ale
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Quote: "Ach!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 12 - Beer 15 - La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout

The Crazy Cow Imperial Milk Stout. I'm happy to state that this beer is a bit more tasty than the name implies. (I know, with a name like Crazy Cow Imperial Milk Stout, it has to be good, right?)

In an effort to make this blog more fun and educational, (that's right, funucational.) let's explain what I also had to look up, what a "milk stout" is. Milk stout uses lactose to sweeten the beer, though where that sweetness came up in this stout was lost on me, and it came across much like any other fine stout, strong, bold, and all with a dancing googly-eyed cow on the label.

Back in the old days, milk stout was actually given to nursing mothers as one of those early 20th century "fix-all" tonics. Pep up your children with Vitamin Beer. I could get on board with this. (DO NOT READ THIS AS ENDORSEMENT OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION DURING PREGNANCY. READ IT AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION BEFORE PREGNANCY.)

The sweetness in La Vache Folle was more Belgian than vanilla, that odd lollipop sweetness that accompanies most Belgian brews. It's a decent stout, less bitter than Guinness and recommended for those who like their stouts without a strong coffee taste.

La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout
Microbrasserie Charlevoix, Baie-St-Paul, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 9%
Class: Stout
Rating: 6 out of 10
Quote: "I'm sure I'm getting some calcium or vitamin D or something healthy out of this."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 11 - Beer 14 - Schoune 1608

Canada loves to celebrate their anniversaries, and often do so with the release of collectible currency, fireworks and assorted breweries releasing special celebratory beers. Again, this country is starting to show its appeal. 1608 was brewed on the 400 year anniversary of the Canadian province of Quebec, an "all-natural amber ale" to recognize the...well....the fact that Quebec has been around for 400 years. A respectable feat for Quebec, much unlike this overbland, overcarbonated offering from Schoune.

1608 has a decent aroma of malts at first sip, but quickly comes off as a factory-bred, flat tasting amber. Beers from microbreweries and mass-produced beers are arguably different in quality, but no matter how delicious some of the wider distributed beers are, there's that indescribable difference in taste between a macro and microbrew.

1608 is nothing special, a beer that could carry the Budweiser label as their new "American Red" and few would bat an eye. The carbonation is a bit too strong, the flavors never seem to break through and overall, it's just a sub-par beer. I imagine the celebrations on Quebec's "Quadricentenaire" may have involved a few spectacular drinking games with 1608, as its one note quality is that it is a rather easy-drinking beer. 

Schoune 1608
Schoune Beer Farms, St-Polycarpe, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Amber Ale
Rating: 2 out of 10
Quote: "I want to go to a country's quadricentenaire party. There is no better excuse to drink 400 beers."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 10 - Beer 13 - Le Bilboquet MacKroken Flower

It's a beer as complex as its name, and one I was saving for a truly special occasion. That's right, suck it, assorted birthdays, anniversaries and winter-predicting rodent holidays, Walking Dead is back on tonight, so for me, it's time to break out the Scotch...ale.

Le Bilboquet, which I first thought was a Quebecois Lord of the Rings fan club, turned out an alcohol heavy Scotch ale that takes its sweetness up a notch with the addition of honey to the recipe. The MacKroken Flower is a reference to the wild flowers and Scotch thistle honey which are key to this particular Scotch Ale's recipe, calling back to the origins of the ale itself.

Definitely for those who like the alcohol to rear its head throughout, but the taste of honey is instantly identifiable and gives a secondary sweetness to an ale that already prides itself on strong vanillas and caramels. The MacKroken Flower isn't for everyone, and the strong alcohol taste can actually take away from the other flavors, but I certainly enjoyed it.

In the end, if you enjoy Dogfish Head's Midas Touch, or want a Scotch Ale that will keep you warm in a kilt, pluck the MacKroken Flower.

Le Bilboquet MacKroken Flower
Le Bilboquet, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 10.8%
Class: Scotch Ale
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Quote: "Zombies and Scotch...hey, I think I might have a name for my memoirs..."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 9 - Beer 12 - Kichesippi Wuchak Black

A nice chill wind. Surrounded by snow. Sitting outside on a haybale in front of a firepit. 

If there's a better environment to enjoy a fine winter beer, then it was crafted by Antarctic science-doctorate holding mall santas. This was perfect.

Back at 8 Locks' Flat after walking down the frozen Rideau Canal, (the skate rental line was a mile long, or 1.60934 kilometers, my Canadian/metric friends), I resisted the urge to warm myself with a Bailey's and Hot Chocolate in the interest of keeping the beer marathon alive. With a fresh keg of another fine Kichesippi beer, the temptation was slight.

Kichesippi's Wuchak Black, named for the old First Nations term for woodchuck, is one of the truest Black IPA's I've ever had. It's relation to woodchucks evokes images of furry beasts swimming amongst the fermenters, but considering the incredibly tasty balance of bitter and dark, it's more likely the name popped up simply due to the rhyme scheme.

Wuchak has the lightest of stoutness, almost mocha-like in taste, and it gives way to that strong IPA flavor which fits unusually well as a winter beer. While most winter brews are spiced ales or flavored beers, a Black IPA to celebrate the colder months is unique and perfectly appropriate. It's a strong taste to battle the cold, and balances the best of both IPA and Dark stout.

Kichesippi Wuchak Black
Kichesippi Beer Co., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.4%
Class: Black India Pale Ale
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quote: "Guh, schwaa, look! Beer! AAAaaa!" (After walking a few kilometers around parliament hill and down the canal). 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 8 - Beer 11 - Molson Export

Ah, Molson Export. Created by John Molson's grandson and their brewmaster John Hyde in 1903, Molson "Ex" is in a class all its own. And by that I mean that Ex resides in that category of common beers you want to grade for their likeability instead of their overall quality. It's the Home Alone 2: Lost in New York of beers.

Molson Ex is a great beer to drink with friends, and a step up from the usual 24 pack Coors or Labatts, and my twelver of choice if pressed for beer pong or sportsing it up with dudefriends. And sitting at Don Cherry's after finishing up a short film shoot with some of the most talented creative types in Ottawa, Molson Ex from the tap will do just fine, thank you very much.

Molson Ex doesn't have strong flavor, it's aftertaste is pretty awful, but all in all its your basic beer with a decent grain taste and is extremely easy to drink. Just remember your beer container rankings - draft, keg, bottle, can. You could do much worse than Molson only question is if it's called "export", why can't we get it in the States?

Molson Export
Molson Breweries, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Golden Ale
Rating: 4.5 out of 10 (Quality is a 3, Drinkability is a 5. I'd drink it over many of the higher ranked beers on this list so far, but this isn't about me, it's about beer.)
Quote:  "Molson X sounds like the name of a famous Canadian activist."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 7 - Beer 10 - Brewers Unlimited IPA Classique

As a West Coast B&R (Born n' Raised), I have to adjust my tastebuds to the IPA's of the East, and prepare for a less-bitter, almost Belgian style to the beer. The Simple Malt IPA from Brasseurs Illimités (Brewers Unlimited) defines the English IPA style with a strong bitterness paired with that licorice-sweetness so common in many European beers.

I personally didn't care for it.

The flavor was a touch bland at times, and the bitter and sweet knocked against each other like two oafs through a tiny doorway. The third stooge was an earthy tap water taste that threw the entire beer out of whack. There was a constant battle of tastes in the beer, a bit of orange mixed with malt, perhaps a nutty taste combined with bitter hops. While bearing the "Simple Malt" moniker on the front, this beer couldn't make up its mind and the result is disappointing.

Brasseurs Illimités Simple Malt IPA Classique
Brewers Unlimited, St. Eustache, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 6.4%
Class: East Coast India Pale Ale
Rating: 2 out of 10
Quote: "This beer reminds me of myself, scatterbrained, unusual and a bit terrible."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 6 - Beer 9 - Le Castor Brewing Company's Wee Heavy Bourbon Grande Reserve

There comes a time in every man's life where he must start a sentence with the phrase: "There comes a time in every man's life...". Were it not such a cliché, I would have done so here. Tackling Le Castor's Grande Reserve, (a high recommendation from Ryan Bellerive, owner of Bières du Monde in Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec, where I reached rabbit-footed leprechaun levels of lucky in discovering, and has provided the bulk of my beersperimentations.), in one night would prove to be a challenge, but that's what I'm here for; to drink for the benefit of my readership, liver and ability to walk to my bedroom be damned.

Le Castor's Grande Reserve starts as a Scotch Ale, ("Wee Heavy") and is then aged in American Bourbon barrels, and the sweetness of a good Kentucky Bourbon carries well over into the beer. The initial taste struck me as similar to Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, with significantly less alcohol taste. The alcohol still pushes through, but it was subdued by the caramels and vanillas, but in the finest way possible. 

Wee Heavy Bourbon is a dessert beer, and is wedding cake-perfect. I use that analogy, as a wedding cake is the dessert that comes to mind when thinking of close to perfection, deliciousness and at least in theory, epic. Also much like a wedding cake, this should not be handled alone, but fear not, dear readers, I can handle it and will finish the bottle after this post, for certain.

This is the beer I've been looking for my entire life. The beer I want to settle down with, perhaps buy a house and have a few small 6 oz. tasters somewhere down the line. It was indulgent, it was delicious and it was a wee heavy on the alcohol side. Share this beer after dinner with friends, provided you can find a bottle of it. I'm already on the waiting list for the next one and will likely buy out Bières du Monde's stock when it arrives again.

Le Castor's Wee Heavy Bourbon Grande Reserve
Le Castor Brewing Company, Rigaud, Quebec
Alcohol Rating: 11%
Class: Scotch Ale
Rating: 10 out of 10
Quote: "This is like whiskey and cupcakes combined in a beer. I might cry."  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 5 - Beer 8 - Brasseurs Du Monde Le Trinqueur

In celebration of my celebrations, I decided on a beer with a bagpiper playing the pipes and drinking beer on the same label. What more could you possibly want from a Scotch Ale. Brasseurs du Monde believe the answer to that question is a dump truck of Coriander and spices.

Le Trinqueur, (which, according to two French speakers, the mass knowledge Google can provide and an uneducated guess in the dark, translates to Old Guy You Drink With), is an excellent Scotch Ale. It manages to hide the high alcohol rating extremely well, though I prefer to have that fuelish bite to my drinks. It's extremely smooth, with a candy-sweet finish, but more licorice and spicy than sugary sweet. Then the coriander hits, a spicy bomb that seems altogether unnecessary.

Imagine eating a few licorice candies. They're pretty good, if you like licorice, and then all of a sudden someone enters the room and slaps you in the face. Maybe you like licorice. Maybe you like slaps in the face. Le Trinqueur is a beer that could have been a great example of a Scotch Ale, but like some old drinkers you may share a beer with, they ruin everything by adding too much coriander to your meal.

(Okay, I did that once making walnut tacos, but in my defense...this isn't about me, this is about beer. Cheers!)

Brasseurs Du Monde Le Trinqueur, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 9.0%
Class: Scotch Ale
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Quote: "Coriander is made from cilantro, right? And cilantro is tiny devil lettuce."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 4 - Beer 7 - Pit Caribou I.P.A. Americaine

The truly great tragedy of the beer world on the East Coast is the sad lack of proper India Pale Ales. More specifically, West Coast IPA's, hoppier blends that lack the sweet almost Belgian-like taste of British and Eastern IPA's. Everyone has their preference, but a beer that can hit you with the fine bitterness of hops without overwhelming you has bullseyed a brilliant West Coast IPA.

Pit Caribou did just that.

PC basically took the standard recipe for Pacific style IPA, choice-selected the right American hops and then added their own special twist, giving it a grand almost-citrus finish, while pushing the boundaries of hoppy bitterness. Pit Caribou's IPA Americaine won't go over with those that shy away from heavy-hopped beers, but like most who develop a bitter-appreciating tongue, (often those who learn to love the taste of black coffee or grew up on Lemonheads candies), this beer is something truly special.

Pit Caribou I.P.A. Americaine
Alcohol Rating: 7.0%
Class: West Coast India Pale Ale
Rating: 9 out of 10 (This avoids the perfect 10 simply because many might not enjoy this beer as much as I do, and trying to be impartial....but credit where credit is due, PC did a fine job on this beer.)
Quote: "I found one! I found an IPA!"

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 3 - Beer 6 - Hop City Barking Squirrel

Watching soccer at a pub in the morning is a great excuse to enjoy a pre-noon brew. It's no secret I'm an avid fan of Liverpool Football Club, and a match against the champions Manchester City is a great backdrop to try a mini-pitcher of Hop City's uniquely named Barking Squirrel Lager.

Barking Squirrel is an odd title for a beer that is extremely subtle in its flavor and hops. Solid grain taste from the mix of malts with a perfectly light hoppy aftertaste. It's an easy to drink amber, as most should be, smooth with a bit of flavor at the end, but Barking Squirrel went down simple, even while I shouted and screamed at 90 minutes of football.

It's the simplicity that kills the beer, or keeps it from living up to its name. Something called Hop City Barking Squirrel should seem to have a hoppy bite, or a significant malt, but nothing stands out, and the beer falls victim to advertising a larger expectation. Call a beer Super Hoptastic Wild Unicorn Timebomb Lager, the extra letters won't add extra flavor.

Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Amber Lager
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Quote: "I don't think squirrels bark. Do they bark? I thought they chickoo or something."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 2 - Beers 2 through 5 - Mill St. Brewery Flight

Mill St. Brewery in Ottawa is like a sports bar crashed into a fine brewery restaurant hidden inside a building from the 19th century. Looking over a courtyard that looked plucked from Game of Thrones, I decided to bolster the numbers on Day Two. A four taster flight of specialty beers from Mill Street.

So let's get to it, from left to right - your left, not mine.

Mill St. Doppel Pilsner

A Czech-style pilsner with double the everything. Czech beers have never been a favorite of mine, nor pilsners, but this isn't about me, it's about beer. And every beer created is worth at least one taste. This Pilsner, not half bad. Nor is it half good. More malts, hops and alcohol didn't seem to have too much effect on their Pils Doppling up. (Or is it to Dopple Down. Okay, one more. This beer wouldn't pass the Super Dopple Dare Physical Challenge...please leave your comments below.....)

The best way to describe this beer is like having an incredibly well-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It can be well-crafted, very good for what it is, but at the end of the day, it's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This is essentially Coors Light if Coors Light tasted better.

Mill St. Father John's Ale

I've got a slight weakness for English Bitters, but this one just missed the mark. The aroma was metallic and had that cod oil bitterness you'd find from bad cough syrup. The taste was a different story. The bitters were still a bit pungent at the end, but there was a sweetness hidden in the beer. Drink Scotch for a bit and try to work your way past the gasoline-strength to find the maples and vanillas beneath and you'll have an idea why I was making weird twisty faces while drinking this ale.

Each of these two had a ABV over 6%, so having this cheeseboard of microbrews was probably not a wise substitution for lunch. But it's Saturday! I can go home and nap!

Mill St. Tartan Ale

You have to appreciate the Scottish pride here in Ottawa. Or at least in relation to its microbreweries. Brewed for Robbie Burns Day, the Tartan Ale uses a wide variety of malts, giving it almost a pale ale touch in bitterness without the hops dominating. Using five different malts, Mill St. Tartan Ale is certainly complex, but the flavors seem to fall over one another, making a Scottish Ale that certainly tastes good, but seems to lack that strong note that defines it.

Tartan Ale is a fine example of a Scottish Ale, but not anything particularly special or unique. This probably comes from my own personal quest to find something standout about any beer. This one prides itself as a Scottish Ale and has no pretenses or desire to be anything else. A well made ale, no more, no less.

Mill St. Vanilla Porter

My kryptonite beer, my weakness, the sweet vanilla key to my beer-pumping heart. Vanilla beers were part of my first foray into non-standard brews and virtually impossible for me to resist. Saving dessert for last, I dive into the porter, and it's no error I held off to the end for this one.

It's vanilla cream soda, but standing on the precipice of sweetness. I'm considering marching this beer down to Tim Horton's and explaining this is what proper vanilla lattes should taste like. A proper creamy start, strong sweetness throughout and hints of coffee that linger just after you finish. It was incredibly heavy, and if a scoop of ice cream had been smuggled in at some point, I would not have noticed. It was delicious, however, and had some nice subtle supporting flavors beyond the Haagen-Daaz level of vanilla creaminess.

Day 2 - Beers 2-5 - Mill St. Brewery Flight
Mill St. Doppel Pilsner
Alcohol Rating: 6.8%
Class: Pilsner
Rating: 5 out of 10
Quote: "Budweiser could learn from this beer. I still won't drink it, but it could learn something."

Mill St. Father John's Ale
Alcohol Rating: 6.3%
Class: English Bitter
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Quote:  "This smells like a hospital."

Mill St. Tartan Ale
Alcohol Rating: 8.0%
Class: Scottish Ale
Rating: 7 out of 10
Quote: "So far, two beers in two days I should be drinking in a kilt."

Mill St. Vanilla Porter
Alcohol Rating: 5.0%
Class: Porter
Rating: 8 out of 10
Quote: "This is the vanilla frogurt of beers."

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 1 - Beer 1 - Kichesippi 1855 at 8 Locks Flat

My hands nearly froze to the plastic cup outside next to the Rideau Canal at 8 Locks Flat. Minus 20 and a set of Highland Dancers are setting up to open Ottawa's Winterlude festival and celebrate the Scottish folk who helped build the Rideau Canal. I recently discovered my family's clan (McCowan of Clan MacCallum) and met this incredible bagpiper, Keith, a fellow member of Clan MacCallum.

Keith honored the start of the 100 Beers in 100 Days blog by playing Rowan Tree, the song of our clan, kilt-clad in nigh-freezing weather. I can't think of a better sendoff.

While I had unfortunately left my kilt at an Irish Store unpurchased, I went in jeans and heavy jackets, but passed on the gloves in order to hold my beer proper. As heads of the event, Kichesippi had brought out their Ottawa staple, a full-bodied red in salute to the founding of Ottawa, Kichesippi 1855.

This was an incredible start and to be honest, 1855 may have an unfair advantage, being served from an ice-cold keg in ice-cold temperatures. But 1855 is a fine tribute to Ottawa and one of the best beers I've had on this side of the border.

The malts were strong and the finish was just bitter enough to create a unique balance. I apologize for the slight upnosed attitude of the last line, but great beers deserve the accolades, and I want to sound like I know what I'm talking about when recommending a beer of this quality.

A solid flavor and incredibly smooth. Did I make a huge mistake by setting the bar too high?

Day 1 - Beer 1 - Kichesippi 1855
Kichesippi Brewing Company, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Alcohol Rating: 5.2%
Class: Red
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quote: "$%&#, this is good....$%&#, it's cold."

Let the Drinking Begin!

 To those that know me, beer is a passion. It is the sweet nectar and proof that whatever god you believe in or don't believe in loves you very, very much. (Per Benjamin "Kegstands for Liberty" Franklin). When set with the challenge of sampling one hundred beers in the span of one hundred days, I responded with an overboasting, "I can do more than one hundred! I am borne of steel and hops!"

From the bitter IPA's to the strong bellied stouts to the light-hearted blondes, no beer will go untried and by the end of the 100 day run, I will go above and beyond the centennial mark. I hope that you delightful readers will comment if you've had any that I've tried, share your opinions, or douse me with beer-soaked internet rage. Unless you're a light-hearted blonde, then shoot me an e-mail. Hi-oh! (I've been forced to apologize for this joke and advised to beg you to unclose your browser and continue reading.)

So it begins, starting today, February 1st and continuing on until right before my 31st birthday, I will try to do more than just sip and review. I'll throw some adventures in, add a few embarrassing stories and do my best to share every beersperience with you. Trademark pending on "beersperience". Or patent. Or whatever, I'm drunk.