I had the good fortune to meet with Victor North, one of the owners and the brewer at Garden Brewers of Hamilton, Ontario. He brought me a couple of his beers; The Green Thumb India Pale Ale brewed with fresh ginger root and the Piperales Smoked Amber with black pepper. I was a bit apprehensive about trying beers with these particular added ingredients, because they can completely overpower a beer and make it difficult to have more than one. I’m happy to say that both of these beers were very easy to drink and I could have easily have had more of them.
First up was the Green Thumb IPA. It poured a beautiful deep apricot colour, leaning toward a bright amber hue. The nose was a rich bouquet of fresh ginger, which was the dominant aroma, but it was supported with subtle notes of black currant and tropical fruits like mango and cantaloupe. Lying just below all these fresh aromas there was also a slightly toasted bread crust malt aroma.
The flavour was well balanced with just the right amount of ginger, enough to enjoy but not so much that it dominated the beer. The tropical fruit flavours inherent in the ginger, really shine through and add a very bright and fresh character to the beer. The hop bitterness lingers with a pleasing amount of ginger flavour in the finish. It is definitely thirst quenching and easy to knock this beer back.
Because of the nature of these beers I thought it would appropriate to have them with a little food, and these beers did not disappoint! I paired this one with oven roasted Tandoori Chicken and fresh broccoli micro sprouts. The ginger was a great complement to the heat of the Tandoori spices and the bitterness of the hops really amped up the overall flavour. Following dinner I had a second glass with my dessert of baked apple blossom covered in greek yogurt with black currants and pomegranate. The ginger worked really well with the sweetness of the apple and complemented the fruits in the yogurt. I happen to think this beer would pair very well with many different foods. The bottle label suggests pairing it with glazed salmon, sushi and bibimbap, all things I would very much like to try once I can get my hands on more of this excellent beer.
Next up was the Piperales Smoked Amber with fresh black pepper. Again I was a little worried that the smoke and the black pepper would be a little too much. If anything I probably could have had a little bit more of both. But finding that perfect balance is something Brewer North is still tweaking but doing so in very small increments so as not noticeably change the overall experience of the beer. Either way I still found it easy to drink and an excellent session beer.
The colour was a rich dark whiskey amber with ruby highlights and poured with nice thick ivory head. The nose was deep caramel with smokey and earthy undertones, with a hint of black pepper. It reminded me of a pot of molasses being slowly heated in a cast iron cauldron over an open fire. Everything combined in a pleasingly subtle way and was not overpowering.