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...."

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