Friday, March 9, 2012

Microbrew Review

I average about nine beers per week. I don't drink a lot, but I drink regularly. I wonder which is better when considering long term health. I know binge drinking can wreak havoc on one's internal organs, but I also know that the chronic use of pretty much any substance can aggravate cells and lead to cancer. But I digress...the consistent consumption of fermented malted beverages enables me to try a slew of varieties and brands. It seems as though whenever I feel I am on top of my beer game I browse the shelves of the government liquor store or a specialty shop and spot a new craft beer. This becomes even more discouraging when I consider the fact that many small-batch microbrews aren't even bottled! I suppose I should be excited rather than discouraged by the prospect of an endless array of new beers to try. Here are a few of the craft beers I have tried for the first time over the past few weeks. Please note that some of these companies have been bottling for a while...I just hadn't tried them.

Mill Street

Named after the business' original site in downtown Toronto, this Scarborough-based brewery started as a successful brewpub, akin to Vancouver's Steamworks or Portland's Lucky Lab. Its popularity was acknowledged on a national level when it won 'Canadian Brewery of the Year' at the Canadian Brewing Awards not two but three years in a row, beginning in 2007. While I have read that Mill Street only bottles a selection of the overwhelming twenty-four draughts that they brew, I find that the Seasonal Samplers they release to provide a representative swatch of their skills. From the current sampler, I found the English-style Extra Special Bitter and Franconian Bock to be unique tasting and well suited for winter imbibing. I've tried bock beer before, but never this particular style, which originates from northern Bavaria. It is a strong, biscuity lager...and Mill Street even imports the malt from Bavaria for this brew! I found the Stock Ale, the Organic Lager, and the Coffee Porter to be fairly one-dimensional. The lager was definitely over-carbonated. Mill Street beers are like Torontonians: slick and intriguing on the outside, but generally disappointing on the inside.

Fernie Brewing Company

Look out world, beers from the Kootenays and Rockies are acquiring bottling machines and are making frothy, delicious waves in the Northwest beer scene. Although a brewery has existed in Fernie since 2003, it moved to a larger facility in 2008 and purchased a bottler two years ago. They have also revamped their packaging (something Nelson Brewing should do!) and started to distribute sampler packs, like Mill Street Brewing. I haven't tried all of Fernie's products, but I generally enjoy what I have tested. Last week, I bought a six pack of First Trax Brown Ale and a bottle of their summery What the Huck huckleberry wheat beer. First Trax has won a few medals at Canadian beer events, but I prefer Phillips' Ancient Brown and Cannery's Naramata Nut Brown. First Trax leaves no tracks; that is, there is very little lacing evident, and it is a bit watery for a brown ale. What the Huck would be great on tap in the summer. It is basically a rich hefeweizen, and the huckleberry is primarily noticeable during the finish. Perhaps it is due to the fact that they import all of their hops, or perhaps it is due to the immaturity of the brewery, but there is something that interferes with my desire to keep buying this beer. Perhaps I need to try Fernie's  silly seltzer fresh from the keg.  

Mt Begbie Brewery

What is better than small batch, domestic craft beer? Small batch, domestic craft beer made by an uber nerd! Owner and brewmaster, Bart Larson, has a PhD in Nuclear Physics and he applies his evil genius skills to making beer that will blow your socks off. At least his Powerhouse Pale Ale and Nasty Habit IPA will lick you for a loop...I haven't tried his milder beers yet. The hops used in Nasty Habit leave your palate coated in a pleasant pine and grapefruit patina, and the lacing is evidence of good protein levels and 6% alcohol content. I really like the pale ale too, mainly because the hops are subdued. Some pale ales try hard to convince us that they are of the colonial variety, while they should actually contain the hopping of an amber or APA. Based in Revelstoke, this tiny brewery is another example of small  towns in the Selkirk/Kootenay region growing and developing a demand for an alternative to Kokanee.   

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "BC beers", "Mt. Begbie beer", "Mill Street Brewery"

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