Saturday, 4 February 2012

Winter Beer Fest @ The Only Cafe: Day One

So I spent a brief while at The Only Cafe's Winter Beer Fest this evening and had eleven samples.  Before getting to those, I'll just add the following: Yes, I will go tomorrow too and rate some of the different beers that then appear; no, like today, I won't get elaborate on the ratings since the cold (yes, it is mostly outdoors), the quantity, the socializing, and the whole event atmosphere complicate that, but in rough I give you the following from today:

Beau's Treading Water: This is apparently a (seasonal) blend of the Lug Tread Lagered Ale (Kolsch) and the Bog Father.  It is neither as cloudy as the Bog, nor as funky as the Lug, and seems unique in their union.  It has a sweet biscuity nose, a nice balance, and is, ultimately, smooth and very drinkable. Grade: B+

Beau's Beaver River IPeh? This is a very unique IPA with some malty biscuit aromas alongside piney hops.  It is not overly hoppy, though has some pine notes.  That said, it is a bit visibly cloudy and a bit funky/murky in flavour (if that can be a flavour - not off, but neither crisp nor dry, if you catch me?).  Odd, not bad, but not fantastic either, though I'd drink it again.  Grade: B

Wellington IPA: Part of the Welly One-Off series, tis is basically a hopped-up version of their Special Pale Ale (according to the rep).  It was served on cask and was additionally dry-hopped therein.  Typically, neither dry hopping nor cask IPAs are my thing, but this one was very creamy and smooth (as the cask offers) yet showcased a very fine IPA that is not excessively imbalanced. I would like to try this again and take my time with some notes, but I think it was a one-time thing.  Grade: A-

Wellington Russian Imperial Stout:  I had been looking forward to trying this, but had not been able to get to it, yet, despite my current Imperial Stout kick, this is kinda mellow and bland, malty sweet but no real bitter notes and, though good enough, it just didn't stand out for me, though I would like to try this again and take more time with it in different conditions.  Grade: B

St. Ambroise Scotch Ale: I had this one once before, but forgot everything I ever knew about it.  While the cold (and small sample sizes) muted the aromas of most, this offers a superb nose, with nice smoky aromas and a pleasant warming mouthfeel alongside a nice smoky taste.  Better than I remembered - and I remembered liking it, as I like most of this brewery's offerings.  Grade: A

Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA: Readers will know I like an IPA with a bit of balance and this lacks it, but does offer that complex nuance that fits the US style, even if not always to my taste.  It is nice, but bitter in the piney/citrusy sense, though with a very good nose, though the taste has a lingering dryness bordering on astringency for me.  If that's your thing, it does it well.  Grade: B

Sawdust City Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus: Yes, I just rated this and just had it on cask at the Only the other day, but I had to try the artificially carbonated version (if not to say the 'regular' offering... I mean, would the 'real' ale not be 'regular,' even if irregular???)  Needless to say, it is still excellent.  The head retention is still phenomenal, if a touch less so than from the cask in a full pint.  I was able to discern more of the vanilla notes on the nose today, though whether the difference had to do with me, the day, or the cask I couldn't say.  Less drying than the cask, but just as good, if a slightly different experience.  Grade: A

Flying Monkeys Dry-Hopped Barley Wine: Mmmm, mmmmm, mmmm.  My favourite of the event.  In a nutshell, this was excellent, with a great malty/bitter-sweet nose with a well hopped piney taste.  Yes, it was aggressively hopped, which is not always my style, but to me it works better with some malty balance in such styles as this.  That said, I might even prefer it without, but would drink it anytime regardless. Fantastic.  Grade: A

Railway City Dead Elephant Ale: I had this once before too, but had a bad experience due to LCBO issues I won't repeat here...  Anyway, it is fairly nice.  Drying, yet quite drinkable.  For an IPA, it is not too bitter at 'only' 48 IBU offering a nice piney but not excessively hopped thirst-quench.  Grade: B

Railway City Pomegranate Ale:  This one-off that may become a staple is quite good too - odd to drink after a Barley Wine and its sweetness was a shock indeed.  I do prefer others on the list generally - as beer styles go - but for its style this is very, very well done.  It works well as a beer a 'beer geek' could order and enjoy alongside a non-beer pal who wants the fruit beer to hide the hops and malt.  It is quite smooth and creamy, with a complex malt taste alongside the pomegranate sweetness.  As I said, it is a very nice fruit beer for both the beer fan and the fruit fan who may accompany them!  On fruit beer terms, this is an A+, but in my standards of the night assessment, Grade: A-

An excellent event, with some excellent beers all around!  I look forward to doing it again tomorrow!  New breweries (with some overlap), new beers, same venue!

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