Tag Archives: ale

BEER BY THE SEA: 5 FAVOURITES FROM THE MAGDALEN ISLANDS

Last month, I went on a family vacation to Quebec’s Magdalen Islands (AKA Îles de la Madeleine). About a 5.5-hour ferry ride from P.E.I., the Acadian archipelago is smack in the middle of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, boasting an abundance of sandy beaches, fresh seafood, and spectacular scenery. And like the rest of Quebec, it has a lively local-food-and-drink scene.

Considering the region’s total population is 12,000, I was delighted to discover a thriving local brewery, cidery, and meadery, plus a choice selection of other Quebecois drinks. (I know some people argue that cider and mead aren’t really beer; if confronted by one of those people, it’s best to just nod politely and have a drink.)

Here are my five favourites from the trip.

Chipie by Archibald Microbrasserie in Lac-Beauport, Que.

The instant you board that ferry in Souris, P.E.I., you’re essentially in Quebec. The proof? The onboard bar boasts a selection of craft beers at a shockingly reasonable price and you’re not confined to a little bar to drink them. My vacation started with a textbook American red ale. Unshowy and straightforward, with a lovely Cascade-hop nose and a strong malt backbone.

Pilsner Blonde by Alchimiste Microbrasserie in Joliette, Que.

As you’d expect, the SAQ liquor store was our first stop, where this little darling was retailing for $2.85 a bottle. (In a Nova Scotian store, $2.85 barely gets you a look at a good craft beer, let alone a bottle.) This is no low-quality, high-volume discount beer, though. It’s unusually interesting for the style: light and grainy, with faint minerality to finish. Refreshing after a long day of travel.

And now, the made-in-the-Magdalens portion of our list…

Hydromel des Montants by Miel En Mer in Havre-aux-Maisons, Que.

There’s some debate over just what to call this tasty beverage. The honey-maker who produces it calls it a “honey wine,” Untappd calls it a “honey beer,” and the local tourism website calls it “mead.” Pedantry aside, it’s surprisingly sweet without being cloying. Local chokeberries give it a nice complexity, adding just enough tartness to offset the honey richness.

La Poméloi by Le Verger Poméloi in Bassin, Que.

This charming little cidery is tucked away on a winding dirt road in the hills, about as far from the ocean as you can get on this island. Its store/tasting room is just big enough for four adults. And it is absolutely worth visiting. The owner is friendly and knowledgeable, eager to share his passion. (He invited us to wander around the orchards and explore, which was a lovely way to spend a sunny summer morning). This eponymous oak-aged cider is his Cadillac, and it’s not hard to see why. At 17% ABV, it’s agreeably warm, with the oakiness making it feel like a smooth, faintly sweet whisky. Prickly/spicy notes give it an excellent finish. The best cider I’ve had in a long, long time.

Corps Mort by À l’abri de la Tempête in L’Etang du Nord, Que.

On my last Quebec trip I went to Gaspé and found a pilsner from these guys that I loved, so I was eager to visit the brewery on this trip. I took a trunkful of their beer home, and this English-style barleywine was my favourite. Sticky, rich, currant-sweet, and smooth. With 11% ABV, it’s another big boozer, but it’s so beautifully crafted you’d never know it. Aggressively flavourful yet quaffable. Often this style starts to feel like work after I’ve had a couple sips; this one went down easily, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t bought more. Best beer of the trip (and of the year, so far).

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Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Grimross – Maritime Pale Ale


Grimross Brewing is a small brewery located in Fresricton, NB. Opening July 1st, 2013 by Stephen and Dawn Dixon, they have a growing reputation for great beers and expanding operations. Maritime Pale Ale is their first offering in cans or bottles. 

Appearance: Deep golden colour with an off-white fluffy head that is long lasting. Nice lacing on the glass. 

Aroma: Big hop nose of citrus, with a slight pine note and a hint of earthiness. A little malt aroma and a sweet finish. 

Taste: Hops – pine and citrus, little floral. Long lasting, late bitterness on the palette. A little malt comes through, a bit more as it warms. 

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body with a medium carbonation that so quite appropriate. Creamy texture, but cut with hop oil. 

Overall: Very nice. Balanced (little malt, but nice range in the hop flavours). This is one I will be going back to and recommending. I can’t wait to see more offerings on the shelves from Grimross. 

84/100

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Smuttlabs – Thelema

IMG_4898The Craft Beer Cellar in Portsmouth, New Hampshire recommended this Belgian-style golden ale from Smuttlabs.

Appearance: A cloudy golden pour with a thin, eggshell head and persistent lacing.

Aroma: Big nose of red plums, caramel, and cherries. Earthy whiffs of black pepper.

Taste: Vinuous and acidic. Flavours of citrus pith, with a red-wine earthiness. Pepper and cinnamon heat as it warms. A punch of orange oil to finish. 

Mouthfeel: Light body and good carbonation. Slight carbonation bite on the palate.

Overall: Light and easy drinking. Not at all boozy, but gets warm and earthy in its final act. This is a complex beer, that changes tone and develops more spiciness and wine qualities as it warms and breathes. Beautiful craftsmanship.

82/100

Smuttlabs (Smuttynose) can be found on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Pump House – Rose Hip Ale

The Pump House Brewery and Restaurant, located in Moncton, NB, opened its doors in September of 1999. This small brewpub has grown to producing many fine ales and lagers and they’ve brought home a fair number of awards over the years including “Brewery of the Year” from the Canadian Brewery Awards. Offering many year-round, local favourites and a quickly growing number of seasonal and one-off brews, this small brewery is sure to have a beer for anyone to enjoy.

IMG_1503The Pump House released their Rose Hip Ale just this summer and already people are talking about this refreshing ale brewed with rose hips.

Appearance: This ale pours with a lively carbonation producing a white head made of tiny, champagne-like bubbles. The colour is a golden, almost burnt orange and is fairly cloudy.

Aroma: Sweet bready aroma upfront with a light fruitiness – almost melon. It’s quite like a saison in aroma with the wheat coming through.

Taste: The flavour of the wheat shines with some spicy notes and fruitiness of under ripe apple and sweet melon. There are some slight floral hints as well.

Mouthfeel: The body is fairly light accented with the slightly elevated carbonation. There is a slight prickliness on the tip of the tongue, otherwise quite enjoyable.

Overall: This is a nice beer. It’s not heavy in any aspect and very easy to drink. Great beer on a hot day. A great lawnmower beer. It changes slightly as it warms, but it probably won’t stay in your glass long enough to notice.

78/100

You can find the Pump House on the web, Facebook, and Twitter.

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-Cheers!

North Brewing Co. – Farmhouse Ale

IMG_0281With the goal of being a zero emissions brewery, North Brewing Company has been brewing Belgian inspired beers for the past couple of years. Located in the North End of Halifax, NS they have become a local favourite.  I first visited them when they had only just opened and where know at the time as Bridge Brewing, they have continued to mature and expand their offering since.

From the brewery: Our French Farmhouse-inspired ale. Candied fruit aroma. A solid malt character balanced out with a refreshing tartness from the yeast. Big and complex.

Appearance: Deep ruby red with amber highlights. Beautiful carbonation with a slight head.

Aroma: Malt with plums and a dark cherry note. A bit of barnyard, earthy funk. My mouth is watering already.

Taste: Lots of fruit – cherries and raspberries. Some of the funk comes through giving a full flavour and balancing the beer. Nice malt presence. There’s a slight tartness that really fills things out. With a lot going on, nothing is overwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Though this is a dry beer and the body is thin as expected, there’s the illusion that it’s fuller then it is. Perfect carbonation.

Overall: Very well done. Nothing seems out of place and all the elements are working in perfect harmony. As it opens up in the glass it melds together making a wonderfully tasty experience that dances across the palate.

90/100

You can find North Brewing Co. on the webFacebook, and Twitter.

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~Cheers!

Picaroons Traditional Ales – Plaid to the Bone

I picked up this offering from Picaroons (Fredericton, New Brunswick) at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax and it was a surprise in every way. Based on the name, I assumed it was a wee heavy, so the first surprise came when I realized it was a gruit. I’d never had the style before, and after Googling it, I was skeptical: it’s an ancient style of unhopped ale, using heather tips and flowers. With that in mind, I cracked open the bottle fully prepared to hate it.

From the brewery: Plaid to the Bone Heather Ale is a 4.5% abv ale made with heather tips and flowers created especially for the upcoming New Brunswick Highland Games Festival.

Appearance: Hazy and golden, with a thin pearly head. Minimal lacing.

Aroma: A big nose of wild flower and…sweaty feet. Seriously: there’s a dank, mushroomy, sweaty funk there—like damp tennis shoes on a hot summer day.

Taste: To my manifest relief, the funky qualities don’t continue into the taste. There’s a little bit of mushroominess, but it’s mostly clean and faintly sweet, with a slightly floral finish.

Mouthfeel: Light and easy drinking, ideal for a hot summer day.

Overall: As this is the first and only gruit I’ve ever tasted, I can’t really say how it represents its style, but it stands on its own as a unique and pleasantly surprising beer.

85/100

You can find Picaroons on Facebook, and Twitter.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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Rogue Ales – Rogue Nation Brutal India Pale Ale

I’ve been hearing American friends talk about Rogue’s (Newport, Oregon) signature IPA for ages, so I was pretty excited when I recently found it at RockHead Wine & Beer Market in Halifax. My favourite beer style is a big ballsy IPA, and I was curious to see if this one measured up to its hype.

From the brewery: Brutal combines Oregon hops with English Malts. The Oregon grown Crystal hop is a triploid variety developed from the German Hallertau aroma hop variety with contributions from Cascade, Brewers Gold, and Early Green. Crystal is the only hop used in brewing Brutal and it provides a massive amount of aroma without dry-hopping. The English malts used are floor malted Pipkin (a mellow cross of Maris Otter and Warboys, from an English company called Beeston), Cara Vienna and Cara Wheat.

Appearance: Cloudy orange pour with a rich and persistent white head. Strong and lingering lacing.

Aroma: Huge nose of lemon zest and fresh-cut pine. 

Taste: Cream-of-wheat sweetness up front, with a sharp lemon-zest finish. Long-lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Big carbonation means a tingly, lively mouthfeel, with a bit of tongue-curling from the aftertaste.

Overall: This IPA’s reputation is well earned. It’s nicely crafted, aggressively hoppy but not overwhelming, and expertly balanced. Add this one to your Essential American Craft Beers list.

86/100

You can find Rogue Ales on the web, and Twitter.

Regular contributor and guest reviewer Trevor J. Adams is senior editor with Metro Guide Publishing and the editor of Halifax Magazine. In 2012, he published his first solo book, Long Shots: The Curious Story of the Four Maritime Teams That Played for the Stanley Cup (Nimbus Publishing). You can see what Trevor is drinking on Untappd and follow him on Twitter.

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