Tag Archives: beer review

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).

~

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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IRISH EXPLORATIONS: 7 FAVOURITE BEERS FROM THE EMERALD ISLAND

Last month, I enjoyed a family vacation in Ireland. We spent two weeks roaming the island, giving me lots of time to explore friendly little pubs, tour breweries, and sample a lot of great beer. Here are my favourites from the trip. You’ll have to be pretty lucky to find most of them in Canada but if you ever visit Ireland, seek them out. Irish craft beers in general are fantastic and these are some of the best I’ve had.
Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale by McGargles Irish Family Brewers in Celbridge, Ireland

About 90 minutes after my feet touched Irish soil, we discovered the Patriots Inn, which instantly became our Dublin base of operations. It required a little negotiation to make the bartender understand that Guinness isn’t mandatory for tourists. Once we got that sorted, she poured this textbook APA: hoppy, crisp, quaffable—just the beer to start our explorations. Older versions of this got brutal online reviews; either McGargles has improved its game, or those reviewers need to chill.

 

Bay Ale by Galway Bay Brewery in Galway, Ireland

I ordered this beer because it was the only thing in the restaurant that wasn’t a Heineken product, and I cringed when it turned out to be a copper ale—a style that I usually dislike. Imagine my delight when it turned out to be aggressively hopped, vigorously carbonated, and surprisingly tasty.

 

Yannaroddy by Kinnegar Brewing in Rathmullan, Ireland

At 4.8% ABV, this coconut porter is an easy sipper. Light but velvety, it’s faintly sweet but not cloying, with a nice dark-malt balance. Well rounded and smooth; beautifully crafted, in an unshowy way. Pairs nicely with a big ol’ pub steak.

 

Maggie’s Leap by Whitewater Brewery in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland

There are so many India Session Ales in the world, and so many of them are thin, fizzy, and tasteless. This one, on the other hand, was hugely hopped, offering a floral nose and big citrus-zest punch in the taste buds. Combines the drinkability of a session ale with the big flavours of a double IPA.

 

Tom Crean’s Irish Lager by Dingle Brewing Company in Dingle, Ireland

This is the only beer this little historic brewery makes, so I expected it to be pretty much perfect, and they didn’t let me down. Light, faintly sweet, and malt-forward. The German-style yeast gives it an unmistakably Bavarian quality. One of my favourite lagers ever.

 

The Sinner by O Brother Brewing in Kilcoole, Ireland

Even in this land of stouts and reds, one sometimes needs a classic American IPA. The Sinner satisfies the craving nicely. It’s carbonated with gusto which, combined with the predominant zesty citrus hops, made it a wonderful quencher after an afternoon of exploring Dublin.

 

Wrasslers XXXX by The Porterhouse Brewing Co. in Dublin, Ireland

Before the trip, I asked folks on Twitter to recommend a must-visit brewery, and the majority picked the Porterhouse brewpub. They didn’t steer me wrong; I tried two flights and every single beer could have made this list. Black as night, with a thick pearl head and lacing for days, this is a classic Irish stout; lip-smackingly dry with lingering black-coffee bitterness.

~

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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Garrison – Irish Red

20140724-162427-59067386.jpgLocated on the Halifax waterfront, Garrison is one of the granddaddies of the Atlantic Canadian craft-beer scene and has, over the last few years, also grown to become one of the region’s largest craft brewers. Most importantly, it has done so while retaining a small-time feel, with flavourful beers that still feel like they come from a small brewery. This may seem a no-brainer, but as many small brewers get bigger, they lose their way and start trying to appeal to ever broader tastes, until their beer tastes like just another macrobrew. I’m looking at you, Sam Adams. But I digress… I’ll have more to say about Sam Adams in a future post, but for now, let’s return to Garrison and its Irish Red.

From the brewery: “This classic beer style was inspired by centuries of Celtic brewing history, Specialty kilned malts such as dark caramel and Munich dominate the Irish Red resulting in a ruby red colour and smooth malty taste.”

Appearance: Bright copper, with ruby hues. Frothy head that dissipates quickly, leaving a lot of lacing behind.

Aroma: A nice punch of malt, faint hits of fruit and caramel—think of candy apples.

Taste: Malty, but not as malty as your nose tells you to expect. Moves smoothly to dark chocolate, with a black coffee finish. Agreeably hoppy; almost, but not unpleasantly, a hint of fresh-cut grass. Bold flavours, best enjoyed with a palate-cleansing apéritif. 

Mouthfeel: Foamier in the mouth than it looks in the glass. The hoppiness puckers your mouth, and will linger a bit. 

Overall: As you’ve probably gathered, I like this beer a lot. It’s been a mainstay in my fridge all summer, and it’s an equally pleasant winter beer. It has big flavours and lots of character, and holds its own alongside any Irish red. And lest you think I gush, it’s a three-time bronze winner at the Canadian Brewing Awards, and took home gold at the 2010 World Beer Championships.

85/100

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).

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