Saturday, 16 June 2012

Best Brewpub Location Yet! Mill Street Ottawa in On-Site Review

As the wife and child attend a baby shower, here I sit pleasantly enjoying a gorgeous afternoon on the patio of the Ottawa location of the Mill Street Brewpub.  One thing that must be expressed is the absolute stunning beauty of this 170 year-old former mill building (the oldest still remaining in Ottawa).  The ambiance, the stone walls, the hum of the Chaudiere Falls, and the excellent staff just make the visit splendid even if they only served American light lagers, but thank Science they serve more (including many not available in Toronto!).

Though I began my very affordable flight tasting with the Helles Bock (7% ABV), I remembered to smell each before too much head and resulting aroma dissipation!  The Helles Bock has a standard yellow clear body, without obvious gassiness, while presenting a white head with slight retention  The lacing is thin, but smooth and fluid.  On the nose are aromas of baking bread, with slight citrus.  Flavorwise, I experience slight malt sweetness and drying hops somewhat like a pilsener.  It is finely dry for a beer guy, probably bitter for the pale lager drinker with a medium body and fine carbonation that results in a fairly standard lager crispness that is pleasing on the tongue.  Grade: B+

Portage Ale (a Cream Ale at 5% ABV) pours a golden body capped by a decent white head with fair retention and fair glass-clinging lace.  Aromas are of sweet bread, with slight toffee malts.  The nose is a bit light and faintly grassy.  As this has both ale and lager yeast, one can perceive the gassy flow of a lager and the straw notes on the flavour front, which it is dominated by.  It is fairly dry, and more bitter and lingeringly so than the Helles Bock with flavour notes of straw and grass, but it is oddly more pale-'lagerish' and has less flavour preceding these notes.  It is essentially much like a fairly dry lager or even a hybrid alt that is fairly light bodied, with only slight carbonation, yet a tingly and simultaneously smooth and slightly oily feel.  Grade: B-

Valley Irish Red (4.8% ABV) was essentially a disappointment, not because it wasn't the best beer I had so far, but because it was the worst beer in one of my favourite styles ever!  It is very light in colour at a dark golden to light amber, though with an EXCELLENT creamy white head that presents super retention and creamy lacing.  It offers faint aromas of caramel, toffee, and slightly smoky brown sugar, and the flavour is very mild and muted, with faint notes of toffee and fudge, alongside a lightly drying finish.  Though tapped on a dual nitrogen/carbon dioxide tap with low carbonation that offers creamy smoothness, it is also lighter bodied than it should be and wholly unremarkable if still pleasant to drink. To a guy who loves this style, I still enjoyed drinking it, but rating by style, I am forced to give it a Grade: C+ despite loving Mill Street and my location no less.

My last flight sample was the Ambre de la Chaudiere (a 7% ABV unfiltered Bière de Garde) which presented a thin head and a nicely cloudy almost glowing yellow (like an unfiltered, unpasteurized cider or apple juice).  It smelled, as it should, funky, slightly sour, with predominant aromas of fermenting pears and apples, with some yeasty spice, mostly cloves, as well as faint pepper.  It tasted similarly, though began (just briefly) with an upfront candy apple sweetness that quickly turned to a drying funky yeasty sour predominance characterized most by sour, fermenting apples and sweat.  Many times I dislike a sweaty yeast, but this was quite good.  On the mouth it was lightly carbonated and medium bodied with a fine light tingling that supplemented the flavour notes.  Grade: A


Before long I got a never before seen message on my phone about it being too dangerously hot to use and decided I should go into the AC for a bite and a final pint (and just in time to watch the Jays tie it up in the 8th - and hopefully win in extras!).  I sampled the Pilsener (good, much like a Steamwhistle, but just an ounce, that was mostly straw-like in colour and notes with a decent grassy drying), but returned to the much adored Cobblestone Stout with some very good, smoky Jamaican jerk wings before my departure.

The beer is affordable (and Tankhouse, Cobblestone, and the Ambre are near perfect), the food is good (if pricey), and the location is unrivalled.  All in all, a great afternoon and one I highly recommend!

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