Advent Beer Calendar – Dec 17 – 20

We continued our blind tastings from the Nita Brewery Beer Calendar.

Dec 17: (far left) This beer was straw yellow in colour, with a very slight haze. The nose was light with a “corn sweetness” and hints of apple. The taste was light with mild bitterness that lingered on the aftertaste. We also detected a slight sulphur taste/smell (think old-fashioned matches), which is a characteristic of many lagers. the taste was fairly light, so we guessed a light lager, probably around 4.5% alcohol. Some thought that is might be a cream ale instead.

And the answer is: Broadhead Brewery Broadhead Light, which is a light lager with 3.5% ABV.

Dec 18: This beer was a lovely dark brown colour with a light tan head and a nose of hazelnut. The taste was rich and smooth, with notes of hazelnut. We all thought this was a lovely easy drinking ale for winter, or any other time of the year. We didn’t have to guess about this one because Wes immediately spotted it as Brew Revolution’s contribution to the beer calendar.

And the answer is: Brew Revolution Renegades of Dunk, a Roasted Hazelnut Dunkel at 5.5% ABV.

Dec 19: This beer was a clear golden yellow with a nose of orange, bubblegum, and phenol. We tasted orange, cloves, and phenol, which led us to guess it was an American Witbeer at about 5.5% ABV.

And the answer is: People’s Pint Brewing Company Alpine Hefe, which lists the style as Alpine Wheat with an ABV of 5.2%. (I’m calling that one a “hit”.)

Dec 20: This beer was a hazy golden orange colour. The nose had candied orange notes and sweetness, but also hints of lemon. We tasted caramel, orange, and cloves with a light bitterness on the finish to balance the sweetness. We guessed a Belgian ale at 5.5% alcohol.

And the answer is: Common Good Beer Company Civic Pride British IPA at 6.0% ABV. The tasting notes mention citrus and caramel with an IBU of 50, so we had things about right, but we missed it when we were guessing.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #19

Today’s tasting didn’t have a theme – I just asked for a random selection of beers from the menu. Our objective was to identify the beers.

Number 1: (far left) This beer was clear and reddish amber in colour. On the nose, we detected spicy, vegetative notes that we tentatively identified as phenol. The taste was clean, with a mild bitter aftertaste. We guessed Summer Nights or Taste of Honey … and we were wrong on both counts. This was Blackberry Mad Saison (we should have believed it when we thought we tasted phenol.)

Number 2: This beer was clear and mahogany colour, and we noted spicy dried fruit on the nose. The taste was smooth and clean with a hint of dried fruit and sweetness. We guessed Taste of Honey or Rebel Rebel but … it was actually Gourdie. Not doing so well today.

Number 3: This beer was a clear yellow colour. We detected grapefruit and lemon on the nose. The taste had citrus and spice, with a pleasant warmth that made us suspect high alcohol. We guessed Lemon Haze, and finally we got one right.

Number 4: This beer was a light golden brown in colour with a musty/fruity nose. The taste was sour, with stone fruit flavours. We guessed Lady in Red, which gave us another correct guess.

So, after a slow start, we ended up with a (barely) passing score.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #18

For this tasting I asked Wes to surprise me. I was informed that all the beers in today’s flight had mild malt and hop flavours to let me focus on the impact of the yeast. One beer had a lager yeast, one had an ale yeast, one had Kviek yeast, and one had a yeast that was “non of the above”. Be careful what you wish for…

Number 1: (far left) This beer was honey coloured, with mild orange and spicy sweetness on the nose. The taste was like tart orange, leading me to identify this as a “sour”. I had no idea what the yeast type was, so I passed. The answer was “non of the above”. This beer is brewed with a yeast that isn’t a traditional beer yeast. During the initial fermentation it produces lactic acid, which generates the sour taste, and then it switches to a more normal beer fermentation. The beer was Lady In Red, a fruited sour with cranberry, raspberry and red current (alas, no orange to be seen…).

Number 2: This beer is clear and yellow with a hint of gold. I got a very light earthiness and candy on the nose. The taste was slightly bitter balanced with light sweetness. The aftertaste was clean, though there was a slight pleasant lingering taste. I guessed this was an ale … and I was wrong. The yeast is Kviek, and the beer is Lola.

Number 3: This beer was yellow and very clear. The nose had notes of alfalfa, hay, and earthiness, but the taste was clean and crisp with a hint of bitterness. The clean aftertaste led me to guess this was a lager, but I was wrong again. It is an ale, and the beer is Haus of the Rye-sing Sun. Note, even though my guess was wrong, in this case it’s okay, because this ale is brewed to taste like a lager. Very tricky.

Number 4: This beer was pale yellow with a hint of cloudiness. The nose was earthy and vegetative. The taste was smooth and clean. Since I’d already guessed lager for the previous beer, I was at a loss so I passed again. Bad move, since this was a lager, and the beer was Luck Be A Lager Tonight. During the debriefing, I was told that the hint I missed was the characteristic “pilsner” nose which is similar to number 3 above, but more “straw” than “hay”.

Need more practice…

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #17

There wasn’t any particular theme for this meeting, other than to enjoy beers that are drinking particularly well now. And, of course, to try to identify what the beer was.

Number 1: (far left) This beer was crystal clear, yellow, and had a definite vegetative nose. We immediately suspected it was a lager. The taste was clean and crisp with a light hop bitterness in the aftertaste.

We guessed this was Luck Be a Lager Tonight, but it was actually Haus of the Rye-sing Sun. The clue we should have been looking for was the taste of the Rye, which gives the beer a “spiciness”. Maybe next time…

Number 2: This beer was very clear, with a light amber colour. We detected a slight sweet/caramel nose, which we also got on the taste. The taste was very clean and smooth – wonderful to sip.

We guessed this was A Taste of Honey, and we nailed it!

Number 3: This beer was also very clear, with a hint of red/copper in the colour. We detected spiciness on the nose, which we tentatively identified as “phenol”. The taste was warm, rich, caramel, and spicy, with a surprisingly high bitterness in the aftertaste. Perfect for drinking on a cold winter day.

We guessed this was Gourdie, and we were correct again.

Number 4: This beer was clear, with a colour of copper in the glass. We noted “warmth” and berry/fruit on the nose. The taste was also warm – you could tell this was a high-alcohol brew. The aftertaste was beautifully balanced between sweet and hop bitterness.

We guessed this was Whoa Blackberry, which is a wonderful Imperial IPA, and we were correct once again.

We scored 75% today, so maybe the practice is paying off. On the other hand, perhaps we just got lucky…

Advent Beer Calendar – Dec 13 – 16, 2022

It was a brew day at Brew Revolution, and Wes was rather busy. So he challenged us (with our very inexperienced palates) to take our best shot at assessing each beer, and then he would drop in and give his quick assessment. It was like taking off the training wheels. What could possibly go wrong?

Dec 13: (far left) This beer was a cloudy yellow with bubblegum and grassy notes on the nose. We could also taste bubblegum, artificial candy and lemonade. We thought we caught hints of coriander and cloves. We guessed it was a Saison or perhaps a Belgian wheat beer. Wes thought it was more likely to be a radler.

And the answer isCovered Bridge Brewing Company Orange Blonde with Orange listed as one of the ingredients. The ABV is 5.1%.

Dec 14: This beer was very clear, rich brown, and had a moderate lacy head. The nose was subtle – we couldn’t put a word to it, but Wes said “Coca-Cola”. The taste was sweet and reminded us of brown sugar, molasses and baking spices. Jim guessed a Winter Warmer, Stu guessed a Brown Ale, and Wes thought perhaps a Scottish Ale. We thought somewhere around 6.5% ABV.

And the answer isLaketown Beer Company Base Layer, with the style listed as Doppelbock at 8.2% ABV. (Once we heard the answer, it was kinda obvious, but we completely missed it when we were tasting.)

Dec 15: This beer was cloudy, light yellow, and had a lovely lacy head. The nose had strong notes of grapefruit juice. The taste had grapefruit, orange pith, and citrus. Wes kept telling us he was tasting habanero peppers, and we kept telling him he was crazy. (Guess who was actually crazy. Hint: it wasn’t Wes…) Jim guessed this was a NEIPA at 6.5% ABV. Wes guessed a session NEIPA/IPA or perhaps a New England pale ale at 5% ABV.

And the answer is5 Paddles Brewing Company Habanero In Your Face Spicy IPA at 6.2% ABV with … you guessed it … habanero peppers.

Dec 16: This beer was crystal clear and light yellow. The nose was subtle, but had a definite sweetness to it. The taste was sweet with a rich mouthfeel and low bitterness. I tasted ripe bananas and Wes could smell corn. Jim guessed it was a Belgian Pale Ale, and Wes guessed a cream ale.

And the answer isPerth Brewery Honey Lager at 4.5% ABV.

Advent Beer Calendar – Dec 9 – 12, 2022

Continuing our blind tastings from the 2022 Nita beer calendar…

Dec 9: (far left) This beer had a light haze and a beautiful copper colour with a lacy head. We could smell esters, fruit, and bitterness. The taste was spicy, with caramel, grapefruit bitterness and piney notes. Josh was pretty confident wheat was included in the brew. We couldn’t reach a consensus guess: Wes thought a malty pale ale at 5% ABV; Jim guessed ESB at 6% ABV; Josh guessed an American ale at 5.5% ABV.

And the answer is: Common Good Beer Company Ellesmere Amber Ale at 5.2% ABV. The description notes that “this is our earthy, biscuity, modern homage to the traditional English Extra Special Bitter Amber Ale”.

Dec 10: This beer was similar in colour to the previous one, but a little paler and clearer. About the only thing we could smell and taste was ginger. It was moderately sweet, with a lovely ginger burn with each sip. Our guess was ginger beer, and we thought it might be non-alcoholic.

And the answer is: Kichesippi Beer Company Gingerbread Beer Shandy at 3% ABV. The description notes that “this throwback shandy mixes a dark ale and our house-made ginger beer for an extra kick”.

Dec 11: The colour of this beer was virtually identical to Dec 10th with decent head retention. We noted definite esters on the nose. We could taste bitterness, brown sugar, piney/resinous notes with a hint of caramel. We struggled a bit with this one as it didn’t seem to fit neatly into any category, but in the end we guessed it was a West Coast IPA at about 6% ABV.

And the answer is: Rorschach Brewing Company Shameless, which lists the style as “Malt Liquor” at 7% ABV.

Dec 12: This beer was chestnut brown with a light haze and creamy head. We could smell malt, esters, dried fruit/raisins, brown sugar and grape juice. The taste was fairly dry with a definite dried fruit taste. We guessed this beer was about 6.5% ABV, but we couldn’t reach consensus on the style: Josh thought it was a winter warmer, but Wes and Jim pegged it as a Scottish ale.

And the answer is: Grit & Grain Beer Company Dark Side Dark Kölsch at 5% ABV.

Advent Beer Calendar – Dec 5 – 8, 2022

Continuing our blind tastings from the latest Nita beer calendar…

Dec 5: (far left) This beer was black with just a touch of haziness, and a lovely tan head around the edges. We could smell coffee, fudge, and just a hint of smoke. It tasted of coffee, mocha and dates. This beer is very dry. We guessed this was a porter (perhaps a coffee porter?) and estimated the alcohol content at 5.5% ABV.

And the answer is: Riverhead Brewing Company Midnight Odyssey, which is an Oatmeal stout with 6% ABV.

Dec 6: This beer was very hazy, yellow with a hint of apricot and great head retention. We got stone fruit, citrus, and fresh hops on the nose. It was soft, with a full bodied mouthfeel and tasted of peach and apricot. We guessed this was a NEIPA at about 6.5 – 7% ABV. Although we were leaning toward a NEIPA, Wes thought that it might be a New England Pale Ale.

And the answer is: Ridge Rock Brewing Company Walking in the Tall Trees, which is a New England Pale Ale with 5.5% ABV. This beer was delightful, and was surprisingly rich given the relatively modest alcohol level.

Dec 7: This beer was crystal clear and golden yellow. It had a moderate white head and the nose was light and clean. The taste was mild with hints of silage and hay. We thought this beer was an American lager and estimated it at 5% ABV.

And the answer is: Muddy York Brewing Mexican-Style Lager with 4.6% ABV.

Dec 8: This beer had a lovely yellow haze with a nice lacy head. We detected hops, citrus, and grapefruit juice on the nose. The taste was sweet, with citrus, pineapple juice, and naval orange notes. We estimated this beer at 7% ABV and guessed that it was a Double IPA or a NEIPA.

And the answer is: Stray Dog Brewing Company Shaggin Wagon NEIPA at 6.4% ABV and 45 IBUs.

Advent Beer Calendar – Dec 1 – 4, 2022

Every December, Nita Beer cooperates with Ontario breweries to put together a beer calendar. Each individual beer shows a date, the brewery name, and … not much else. The idea is that on the day in question, you pour the beer and scan the QR code on the can to discover what you’re drinking. Most people do this while enjoying the beer, but we realized that if you had a beer tasting before the date shown on the can it would be the ultimate blind tasting, since it wouldn’t be possible to check for several days (the QR code isn’t active until the day shown on the can). So we had a blind tasting, took careful notes, made out best guess, and then waited for several days to see how we did.

Dec 1: (far left) This beer had a mild haze, with a light yellow colour. We could tell it was a sour from the nose, but we couldn’t identify the specific flavours. The taste confirmed it was a sour and we were confident fruit had been added, but again we struggled to identify the specific fruit. John thought it was a grapefruit sour (almost a radler), while Wes was leaning more toward a pineapple sour. Overall, this was a light, refreshing beer, perfect for an hot summer afternoon on the patio.

And the answer is: Nita Beer Company Rosy Mist is a flavoured sour with lemon puree and raspberry puree listed in the ingredients, with 4.6% ABV.

Dec 2: This beer is very hazy with a lingering foamy head. The nose is fruity, and the taste shows notes of passion fruit, guava, and orange zest, with significant “dry hop burn”. We identified this as a Hazy IPA and estimated the alcohol at about 6% with moderate IBUs.

And the answer is: Calabogie Brewing Company Horizon NEIPA is a New England IPA. The tasting notes identify grapefruit, orange, guava and mild pineapple. It has 6.5% ABV and 38 IBUs.

Dec 3: This beer was amber and crystal clear with a moderate head. The nose had notes of caramel and breadcrumbs. We tasted caramel, bread, cinnamon, esters, menthol and metallic/copper notes. John thought it was a Wee Heavy (strong amber ale), Jim guessed Marzen, and Wes went with Amber Ale.

And the answer is: Clifford Brewing Company Oktoberfest is a Marzen, with 5.9% ABV.

Dec 4: This beer is pale gold with a light haze. The nose shows definite fruitiness. We could taste esters, bread, coriander, cloves, orange peel and bubblegum. We also detected a definite acidity/tartness. We guessed this was a sour saison.

And the answer is: Spearhead Brewing Company Queen of Wheat is a Wheat Ale with 5% ABV.

Conclusion: Three out of four ain’t bad.

Coming up next: December 5 – 8.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #16

The goal for this meeting was to try to get a better sense of hop bitterness. In the past, I’ve often confused hop bitterness (from hops added during the boil, leading to high “IBU”s) and alpha acids (also from hops, but added later in the process, so not resulting in high “IBU”s). Confusing, right? Two of today’s beers have low IBUs and two have moderate IBUs. The objective is to spot the difference.

Number 1: (far left) This beer was very clear and bright yellow. It was brimming with tropical fruits, orange, peach, and clean citrus on the nose. The taste had a bit of grapefruit rind bitterness, and bitter almond, but not that much.

I guessed this was low bitterness … and I was wrong. This beer was Lemon Haze with 30 IBU.

Number 2: This beer had a mild haze. Then nose was much milder but evoked peach, candied pineapple and a bit of lemon. The taste had a hint of caramel and a bit of grapefruit rind and faded to a mild bitterness on the palate. This was definitely sweeter, and I suspect higher alcohol.

I guessed moderate IBU and I was correct. I also got the high alcohol right. It is Sunrise with 30 IBU and 7% alcohol.

Number 3: This beer was hazier, with a hint of yellow-orange. I got peach and pineapple on the nose with hints of peach on the taste. I detected grapefruit bitterness and guessed moderate bitterness.

I was wrong – this was Walking on Sunshine with 6 IBU.

Number 4: This beer was very hazy with lots of pineapple, apricot and orange on the nose. I detected very little bitterness on the taste, and it quickly faded with very little lingering bitterness. I guessed low IBU and I was correct. This was the brand new batch of Walking on Sunshine.

Clearly I still need more practice.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #15

Today we tried something different. We started with a baseline beer (we were told what it was) and then three other beers with similar taste elements. The taste we were looking for was “phenolics” which are very common in Belgium beers and saisons. It’s hard to describe phenolics with a single word – in fact, once you learn to recognize them, that is the word you use. But to help us today, Wes explained that words typically used to describe phenolics include herbaceous, and spices such as cloves and nutmeg. And to make it interesting, one of the beers did not have any phenolics, and our objective was to spot it. Wish us luck.

Number 1: (far left) Our reference beer was 10 Track Commandments which is a Farmhouse Ale – Saison. The idea is for us to note the flavours and then see if we can identify similar tastes in the other beers – which will allow us to learn how to recognize phenolics. At least that is the theory. The aroma had a warmth to it, like fresh baked applesauce muffins. The taste reminded me of gingerbread … but without the ginger. If that makes any sense.

Number 2: This beer was pale amber with nectarine, citrus, lime and pineapple on the nose. The taste also had pineapple and citrus, with a fair bit of hop bitterness.

We guessed Lemon Haze but it was actually  Summer Nights. We didn’t identify the beer, but we did correctly identify that it was the one beer without any phenolics.

Number 3: This beer was reddish amber in colour with a “muffin” aroma similar to the previous beer along with a note of menthol. When we took a sip, it instantly coated the mouth with a spicy lingering warmth. We correctly guessed this beer had phenolics and that it was Whoa Blackberry.

Number 4: This beer was light brown in colour with a nose of caramel. The taste had a slight, sharp bitterness, with a hint of caramel. We correctly guessed that it had phenolics, but drew a blank at identifying the beer. The answer was Mad Saison.