Two New Ontario Beers – Molson & Muskoka

So, it’s late on a Sunday afternoon and my work for the day is done. Time to dig in to a pair of new releases from my sampling fridge.

beer-spring-lgMuskoka Brewery Legendary Oddity – This 7.1% abv spring seasonal was shelved by the brewery a couple of years back, but makes a return this spring unfiltered, flavoured with “heather tips, juniper berries (and) sweet orange peel shavings” – shavings? – and packaged in a can rather than its former 750 ml bottle presentation. It is only slightly hazy and a rather lovely medium gold in colour, with an aroma redolent of its seasonings, sweet orange foremost among them with a slight piney, juniper spiciness and very soft florals – but mostly sweet orange. The start is likewise sweet and fruity, and although some juniper and a bit of hop arises in the mid-palate, the beer remains pretty much that way – sweet almost to the point of cloying. I expect a 7% alcohol beer to be on the sweet side and I expect a spiced beer to taste spicy, but this goes a bit overboard on both fronts, before blessedly adding some nice bittering hop character to dry out the finish.

In the Pocket Beer Guide 2015, I related my old notes on the Oddity, calling it “judiciously spiced” and “Belgian-esque.” I would say that its canned, 2016 interpretation veers towards injudicious spicing and, frankly, lets the ‘Belgian school’ side down a bit. It certainly warrants a trial can or three – those more accepting of sugar and spice will no doubt be thrilled – but it doesn’t quite measure up to the beer I recall from releases past.

John R. Molson & Bros. 1908 Historic Pale Ale – If you thought the name of the Oddity was a mouthful, welcome to Molson 20160225_C4081_PHOTO_EN_629472Coors’ latest attempt to crack the craft market and re-establish their historic brewing credentials. This is a beer that has received much attention since the sample bottles were sent out, with the Advocates apparently liking it, Jordan appreciating it for its historic integrity and Beppi choosing to write more about the Molson-provided backstory than about what it actually tastes like.

As for me, well, my notes go something like this. It is unfiltered, but significantly cloudier than the Oddity, with a hue that edges a bit more towards the copper than the medium gold. The nose is muddy and a bit musty, which may be a function of the supposed ‘heirloom hops’ used – which hops we aren’t allowed to know – with a very soft spiciness that suggests the “more familiar hop from the U.K.’ that was used for aroma hopping might have been a Fuggle. The start has a nuttiness to it, but also a spicy, slightly dirty caramel maltiness which leads to a nuttier, tannic and very faintly citrusy mid-palate that hides well its 6.8% alcohol strength and controls well the malty, caramelly sweetness that lurks in the background. The finish dries nicely and leaves a vague impression of mixed nuts mixed with a handful of toasted barley malt.

I think that in terms of the “Historic” part of this beer’s name, Molson has fared quite well. As I continue to sip from the 625 ml bottle, however, I find myself unable to shake the feeling that I am drinking someone’s homebrewed pale ale, a quite good one, mind you, but also a beer that lacks the sharpness and clarity I would expect of a professionally brewed and packaged pale ale.

If you do decide to buy these two beers, I will add one note of caution and that is to try them in the order I have set out above. Because one thing about the Oddity is that it does not fare well on the palate after hoppy beer. I learned that one the hard way the other day.

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