Barley Days County IPA

I was in Prince Edward County over the weekend and stopped in at the Barley Days Brewery to see what was new and was happy to discover they had a few more on offer than what was normally available year round.  They had a Brown Ale, County IPA and Working Man’s Stout and I happily sampled all 3.  The focus in this entry will be just the County IPA, I’ll come back to the other 2 in future posts.

Lately I’ve really come to enjoy West Coast Style IPAs, with its full on “slap you in the face” with grapefruit aromas.  County IPA is not one of those styles of IPA unfortunately.  This one is what is classed as an English IPA, which is much more malty grassy version than what I really like.  Not that there is anything wrong with this IPA, it’s very respectable and pretty tasty for the style.  They’ve used their Brown Ale for the base, which is a very English style beer and added more hops to it to make it an IPA.

Barley Days County IPA

Barley Days County IPA

The colour was medium to dark amber with a bit of an orange-ish tint to it.  The head didn’t hang around very long, which is uncharacteristic for this style.  The carbonation was a little low but considering they were using the Brown Ale as a base I’m not surprised.

Good carbonation in an IPA usually helps to bring the aroma forward and without it, I had to wait for it to warm up a little before I managed to smell anything.  When I did finally get an aroma, it was mostly grassy with some floral undertones.  The fruitiness I usually associate with this style was very subdued, but overall it smelled promising.

At the brewery they mentioned that this was made using some Prince Edward County hops, which got me very excited.  They guy who sold me the beer couldn’t tell me what hop variety was used, so I’m curious to find out what kind of hops are being grown locally with any measure of success.  He did tell that the hops came from a farm on Big Island, which is in the northern part of the County close to the Bay of Quinte.  Next time I’m out there I’ll have to check it out and see what they’ve got growing.

The flavour was definitely true to style with a good balance of malt and bitterness.  It wasn’t overly bitter, I was expecting more, so I was little disappointed that this didn’t punch me in the mouth with big hoppy flavour.  The malt had a nice caramel like presence which is very common in English style ales.

Overall I did enjoy this beer and it went very well with the spicy dinner it accompanied.

Mill Street Surprise

Last night the plan was to go down to the Mill Street Brewpub in the Distillery District and have dinner with a friend.  As we walked down the quiet cobblestone streets we noticed that the entrance didn’t look quite right.  It was surrounded by building materials and debris.  We also noticed a huge sign on the door that said “Danger due to Construction”.  The lights were on and the door was open, so we figured it was just a minor repair job going on near the door.  But they were actually undergoing a massive renovation as the place was completely gutted and sadly closed.
It was too bad as I was looking forward to going so I could try their Vanilla Porter, which was only available at the Brewpub itself.  One of my projects as a home brewer is to brew a Vanilla Chocolate Stout, so the research was something I really wanted to do.  So with the Brewpub closed we opted for the Oyster House next door which had a respectable list of Mill Street brews on tap, although not the Vanilla Porter I was hoping for.
A good way to compensate for the disappointment of the Mill Street closure was to stop in at my neighbourhood local The Mugshot on my way home.  They had just recently put in a rotating Cask and it was always something very appealing.
On offer was a Stonehammer Oatmeal Stout. The nose was full on vanilla with hints of cherry and good helping of chocolate.  Although the beer itself was lightly carbonated, it had a very substantial thick creamy head that stayed with it long after it was poured and stuck around for nearly half of the pint.  The vanilla and chocolate are in the forefront on the palate with a slight toasted oatmeal flavour throughout.  The oatmeal flavours became more prominent towards the bottom of the pint as it warmed up.  Overall it was fruity and only slightly bitter.  The bitterness was just enough to keep if from being too sweet, which made it quite nicely balanced overall.   It had a very clean crisp mouthfeel and the relatively low bitterness left only a slight aftertaste.  Because the pub was dimly lit, it was less than ideal to properly inspect the colour and clarity of the beer.  From what I could see it was quite dark, dense and somewhat cloudy.  I found it to be a flavourful and seasonally appropriate stout that I enjoyed from start to finish.

Before leaving, I asked about the guest tap was and was introduced to a wonderful winter brew – The Nickel Brook Cuvée ’07 Spiced Strong Ale.  It had a strong cinnamon and nutmeg nose with brandy undertones, imparted by the oak barrels used to age the beer.  It had very little head and carbonation.  Its sweetness came from the Demerara sugar and the spices, while aromatic, were not overpowering to the taste.  All in all, it was a pleasantly balanced dessert beer and would have gone nicely with a piece of apple crumble and ice cream.  From what I could tell this beer was amber in colour and slightly cloudy.  It looked like an unfiltered beer that probably had its secondary fermentation in the wood barrel.  At 7.75% ABV it’s not one to overindulge in – because it goes down very easily.  If you are interested in trying it, you’ll need to get your hands on it soon, as their website says it’s a limited run.  Available at the LCBO:  I’d be curious to see if the bottles taste the same as the draft.
A night that originally promised one kind of beer ended up with two surprising seasonal beers that were most pleasant.  CHEERS!

The Learning Adventure Begins

As a lifelong lover of beer I figured it was time to really do something more meaningful and give back to a beverage that has done so many great things for me over the years.  To start the education process a few courses, offered by Prud’Homme Beer Certification, were in order. So far I’ve completed the first two levels of the courses taught by Roger Mittag at Thirst for Knowledge.  These courses were an absolutely amazing introduction to beer, but there are still mountains of information left to consume (in some cases literally) and digest.  Thankfully Roger also offers a level 3 course called “Beer Sommelier” that will afford me even further knowledge.   I also began brewing beer at home with my oldest friend in the world Rob Westgate.  We are doing this because it’s a hands-on way to see, smell and taste what goes into making a good flavourful beer.

As far as this beer blog goes, it’s a great excuse to try new beers out there and to write about them.  I plan to try at least one new beer every week and share my thoughts about them.  It is my hope that practice will help my nose to recognize distinctive aromas and develop my palate to taste the complex subtleties of this fantastic beverage.  In addition to the tasting notes there will also be beer related stories that you’ll hopefully find interesting. It’s all part of the quest to learn more about beer.  I am an advocate of great beer (both Micro and Macros) and I’m share my thoughts about it.  I want to find the best beer for everyone!

“Optima ceruisa quisque” 

At the IJ Brewery in Amsterdam