Three Canadians and a Scot Walk Into a Bar…

I’m taking a break from the merry slog I’m making through all the Brazilian beers I brought back from Montréal last week. (If you Tweet, follow me at @BeaumontDrinks and you can watch it all unfurl under the hashtag #MyBrazilianBeerHaul.) So here is a quartet of non-Brazilian reviews I’ve been meaning to get to for a little while.

First up, from Québec, the beer now known simply as Cheval Blanc, winner of a gold medal in last week’s Canadian Beer Awards. Hazy light gold in colour, it has a suitably spicy, orange- and lemon-accented aroma and a spritely body, with pinpricks of peppery, coriandery spiciness filling the mouth even as the beer’s maltiness sneaks underneath to sweeten things up a bit. On the finish, it’s off-dry and quite fruity. Perhaps I’m drinking this slightly warmer than it would ideally be – I keep my beer fridge at about 5 – 6 degrees Celsius – but I find it weighs a bit on the cloying side for what is normally a crisp and refreshing sort of beer.

Next up we have British Columbia’s Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale, from the BC interior’s Tree Brewing. Rich copper in colour with a frothy collar of off-white foam, it has a slightly vegetal aroma with toasted grain accents and a whiff of something like raw baby turnips. The body begins with a mild sweetness before becoming gently hoppy with back notes of cooked apple, alfalfa and softly cinnamony spice. The finish is dry and slightly bitter, but there is a grassy, vegetal quality to this beer that disturbs me somewhat.

Now arises the Scot in the group, albeit one with strong Canadian leanings. Each Canada Day for the last three years, Innis & Gunn has released a special edition beer to the Canuck market, and each year it has been aged in a Canadian whisky barrel. Apparently that wasn’t working out as well as planned, though, since this year the Canadian content is limited to the artwork of Gary Whitley adorning the box which contains the bottle. The nose of this 7.7% Scot is big on the toffee with a touch of vanilla and a fruitiness best described as preserved plum. On the palate, it is, if anything, bigger than its advertised strength, with loads of sweet caramel and spicy toffee against a backdrop of baked apple and orange marmalade. The finish stays on the sweet side, but shows its alcohol in an oh-so-pleasant fashion.

Finally, back to Québec, we have the St. Ambroise Framboise, a fruit beer I can’t recall having tasted previously from a brewery I admire and respect. Deep, almost blood red, with an aroma that screams “raspberries,” I immediately suspect that this, like the St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat, has a healthy dose of pasteurized fruit concentrate added post fermentation, and the big fruitiness of the body does little to dissuade me from that view. That said, however, it has the decency to taste like real raspberries, rather than saccharinated extract, and also like the Apricot, offers a fine, not overly sweet balance between fruit and beer flavours. Regardless of how they make this, I think it’s a lovely fruit beer.

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