Tag Archives: wheat beer

This Week on Taste T.O.: Wellington Silver Wheat Ale

While my “Beer of the Week” column on Taste T.O. usually features positive reviews of beers that I like – or occasionally, so-so reviews of beers that I can at least appreciate to some degree even if I don’t love them – it’s rare that I post a completely negative review.

But that’s what you’ll find there this week, as I have nothing good to say about Wellington Silver Wheat Ale, a complete mess of a beer that is made even worse by the fact that it was made to celebrate Wellington Brewery‘s 25th anniversary.

Most breweries take such milestones as an opportunity to create something really big and special and flavourful, but Wellington decided instead to go in the opposite direction, releasing a pale and light North American style wheat ale – and one afflicted with a multitude of flaws to boot.

Click here to share my pain, anger and disappointment.

A Pair from Propeller


Yes, I know that  promised a series of Innis & Gunn review posts, and they’ll be coming soon eventually, and more as well. But I wanted to get this post up quickly while at least one of the beers is still in season.

The trigger for this was a package I got from Propeller Brewery in Halifax a couple of weeks ago with some bottles of this year’s batch of their Pumpkin Ale. It’s a beer that I liked a lot when I tried the 2006 version, so I was happy to give it another go, and even happier to find it just as good as I remembered it. In fact, based on this tasting notes from back in ’06…

Hazy light gold with a massive rocky white head. Big pumpkin pie aroma – cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mutmeg, pumpkin – very nice! Body is quite aggressively carbonated at first, but mellows as it warms and flattens a bit. Flavour of a pleasant, well-made golden ale laced with pumpkin and spice, and a dry finish with an interesting lemon cookie note. Very refreshing brew that lacks the cloying character that taints some other pumpkin beers I’ve tried.

… it appears that it hasn’t changed much since then. Which is perfectly fine.

And since I was in a Propeller mood tonight, I reached further into the fridge for the bottle of Propeller Hefeweizen that my friends Jeremy and Karen passed on to me a couple of months ago. I really should’ve had it sooner, as it was already 4 or 5 months old by then, and hefes are always better fresh. But it was still in OK shape considering:

Cloudy golden with a medium white head that recedes to a thin film that sticks around through the whole glass. Lightly yeasty aroma with hints of lemon and pineapple. Good mouthfeel with a nice level of carbonation. Flavour is a bit muted, but what’s there is pleasant, with nice tropical and citrus fruit notes, some crispness from the wheat, and a mildly spicy and yeasty finish. Based on the label, it looks like this was bottled back in April, so drinking it six months later I’m obviously not getting it at it’s prime. It’s still a decent hefe, though.

I briefly considered making it a Halifax trio and cracking the Garrison Hop Yard I’ve got chilling in there, but it’s getting late. So I decided to hold off, and will perhaps bring it out along with a bottle of the Ol’ Fog Burner Barley Wine that I’ll be reviewing later this week for the next issue of TAPS.

A Brief History of Hefeweizen

coasterI got word from my editor at TAPS Magazine that the Winter issue will be back from the printers next week, featuring the fifth instalment in my “Beer Styles 101” column, this one focussed on barley wine.

My intention was to post each edition of the column here on the blog when the next issue comes out, which means that I should be posting my fourth column (on porter) from the Fall issue right about now. But then I realized that while I had posted my first (pilsner) and second (dunkel and schwarzbier), I never got around to posting the third.

So, since my mild case of OCD demands that things be done in the proper order, here is my column on hefeweizen as originally featured in the Summer issue of TAPS. As with all of the columns in this series, the intention is to give a condensed history of the style, followed by a list of examples of the style being brewed across Canada.

I’ll follow up with the porter article from the Fall issue in a week or so, once the Winter issue is out.

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Teaching Druggists What To Drink

Earlier this year, I got an email out of the blue from an editor at the specialty publications group of Rogers Publishing, asking if I’d be interested in writing an article for a magazine called newpharmacist, a lifestyle magazine for pharmacists. At first I thought that maybe he had me confused with some other Greg Clow who actually has some knowledge about pharmaceuticals beyond being prescribed them once in a while, but it ended up that the mag features a regular drinks column, and they wanted to focus the article for the summer issue on beer. Or more specifically, non-macro beer that’s especially suited to warm weather.

(On a slightly ironic side-note: Rogers’ co-publisher on the magazine is Apotex, the pharmaceutical company owned by Berry Sherman, who also happens to be the money man behind Steelback Brewery.)

Since the magazine (which came out last month, I think) is only distributed to Canadian pharmacists, and since I suspect very few of my readers fall into that category, I thought I’d post it here. It’s aimed primarily at an audience that likely doesn’t know much about beer beyond the big names, so it’ll probably be a bit basic for most of y’all. But hey, at least it’s content, which is something that has been all too rare around here lately…

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Powerful Beer on a Powerless Night

I had a fun – and partly odd – time this past Tuesday night as I hit two different beer-centric happenings.

First stop was beerbistro, where they were celebrating the tapping of several Koningshoeven beers which were appearing on draught for the first time ever in Canada. (In fact, I believe this may have been the first time any Trappist beers have been available on draught in Canada.) The original plan was to feature five Koningshoeven (aka La Trappe) brews on tap – Blond, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel and Witte – but shipping problems meant that only the latter three made it in time for the big night, so the Blond & Dubbel were there in the more commonly available bottled form. Still, it was a rare treat to get even the three, so no one was complaining.

My arrival was later than expected, and the bar area was rammed solid with a mixture of the usual after-work drinks crowd and the Trappist-thirsty beer geek contingent. Luckily, I reached the bar just as Stephen Beaumont was getting up from his stool to do a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with a rep from the brewery who had flown over for the event, so I generously offered to save his seat for him and got myself a glass of the Witte, the one beer of the five that I’d not tried before. You can check my notes on RateBeer for my full thoughts on the beer – I’ll just say here that it’s a really solid witbier, and having it on draught made it even better.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long, so I wasn’t able to sample any of the others, but I hope to make it back to try the Tripel and Quad before the kegs run dry. I was also unable to stay for the celebratory dinner, with each course paired with one of the Koningshoeven beers, but I’m sure that chef Brian Morin and his crew knocked it out of the park as they usually do with their themed dinners.

My other destination for the evening was the Mill Street Brewpub, where they were holding a semi-private event celebrating their Brewery of the Year honour awarded at the recent Canadian Brewing Awards. The mile or so walk from beerbistro to the pub was a strange one, as there was a scattered power outage that caused some blocks to be darkened while others were fine. A few minutes before I reached the Distillery District complex where the pub is located, my wife called to let me know that the whole District was in darkness, and the staff at the pub was scrambling to serve up what they could by candlelight.

Luckily, the lights came back on literally the moment that I arrived (I tried to take responsibility for the miraculous occurrence, but Sheryl was having none of it…), and we snagged a prime seat before the crowd swooped in. Fellow beer blogger Troy Burtch joined us with his lovely fiancée Jessica, as did TAPS Magazine editor Karla Dudley. The open bar tempted me to work through a few Mill Street favourites, but the cask-conditioned IPA that I started with was in such good shape that I just stuck with it for the rest of the night.

Pub staff were making the rounds with a seemingly endless assortment of hors d’oeuvres, most of which were palate-pleasing, although the flavour combo on the maple & pesto chicken wings was a bit odd. Local musical legend Big Rude Jake provided some great entertainment for a crowd that was sadly more interested in watching the Leafs lose to the Habs (again) on the big screens. Mill Street co-founder Steve Abrams came by to chat at some point, as did C’est What‘s colourful owner George Milbrandt who was wearing an equally colourful scarf.

As Troy says over on his blog, “It was a good night celebrating Mill Street’s award won because of dedication, hard work and fantastic products”. Not much I can add to that, really, except to offer the Mill Streeters further congratulations on the well-deserved win.

The Session #6: Fruit Beer

OK, here’s the thing: When I selected fruit beer as the theme for this month’s instalment of The Session (that beer-blog round-up thingie that a bunch of us do on the first Friday of every month, and that I’m hosting for August), I did so in anticipation of the pending arrival of Liefmans Kriekbier as part of the LCBO‘s summer beers promotion. I loved this beer when I first tried it a couple of years ago, and was looking forward to downing a couple of bottles to see if it’s as good as I remembered, and to write about it for The Session.

However, the beer – along with its non-fruited counterpart, Liefmans Goudenband – never showed, leaving me at a bit of a loss as to what beer I would write about it. After all, as my fellow Ontarian Stephen Beaumont mentions in one of his contributions to the Session, there are very few fruit beers produced up here, and only a couple of imported examples on our LCBO and Beer Store shelves. But I guess the beer gods were smiling on me, as I managed to get my hands on three new fruit beers in the past week, giving me a lot to write about after all.

The first was a beer that came in as a part of the now Liefmans-free LCBO release: Chapeau Banana Lambic from Belgium’s Brouwerij De Troch. The Chapeau line-up consists mainly of highly sweetened and strangely flavoured lambics, and my past experiences with other Chapeau beers like Exotic (pineapple) and Mirabelle (plum) had been, shall we say, less than stellar. But in the case of the Banana, I was surprisingly not offended by it. In fact, I kinda liked it, and even picked it as my Beer of the Week over on Taste T.O. this week. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about it there:

The aroma is a combination of those marshmellow banana candies I used to like as a kid (yeah, you know the ones I mean), mixed with a slight lambic funkiness. (My wife also found notes of strawberry, melon and kiwi.) The body is sticky, and not very refreshing, which is a common fault in sweetened fruit beers (or any overly sweetened drink, for that matter). The flavour is quite sweet off the top, although it tastes more like real banana than the candyish aroma suggests, and there’s a pleasant tartness peeking through in the finish.

That being said, beers like this are still closer in style to coolers and other alcopops than good quality fruit beers. Which is quite the opposite of the second one I tried thanks to my pal Paul bringing it to a tasting night: Oud Beersel Oude Kriek from the respected Belgian lambic producers Brouwerij F. Boon. This hazy ruby-rose coloured brew is a much more traditional fruit lambic, with the expected funky and musty aroma with notes of sour cherry, wood, old books and mouldy cheese. (Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound that appealing when I write it, but believe me, it was.) After the aggressive aroma, the flavour was actually a bit of a let down – it was good, very dry and tart with a strong cherry character, but a bit milder than the aroma let on. Still, it’s a classic example of the kriek lambic style, and provided a great contrast to the Chapeau sugarbomb that I drank the night before.

Moving from the Old World to the New, my third fruit beer of the week came to me courtesy of import agents Roland + Russell who dropped off a package of a few of their new offerings for me to sample. It actually contained two fruit beers, but I only had a chance to sample one of them: Southern Tier Raspberry Wheat Ale from Lakewood, NY. While I’m usually underwhelmed by fruit flavoured versions of North American wheat beers, I’d enjoyed pretty much every Southern Tier beer I’d tried before this one, so I had fairly high hopes. Unfortunately, it followed the pattern of it’s style: light golden-yellow colour; lots of fruit and faint malt on the nose; thin, spritzy body; and a mild, lightly fruited flavour. It was certainly refreshing, especially during the nasty heat wave that we’re currently experiencing in Toronto, and I’d take it over the Chapeau Banana any day of the week. But I guess I just expected a bit more oomph from a Southern Tier beer.

So now that I’ve got my own post out of the way, it’s time for me to put on the hosting hat for this month and compile a round-up of the posts that all of my fellow Sessioners have published today (in most cases, in a much more timely manner than yours truly). I’ll get that together over the next day or two, allowing any stragglers to get in on the action before posting the final tally. If you have a contribution to be included, drop me a line or comment on this post.

Beer of the Week – Waterloo Wheat

This article was originally written in July 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

A decade or so ago, I tried my first wheat beer. It was Celis White, a Belgian-style witbier (white beer) created by Pierre Celis, the man who saved the style from extinction with his creation of Hoegaarden in 1966 (The “Since 1445” claim on the Hoegaarden label refers to when the town of Hoegaarden was founded, not when the beer was first brewed). After a series of acquisitions and mergers led to Hoegaarden being owned by the multinational beer monolith Interbrew, Celis retired, but soon returned with Celis White and other beers brewed in the unlikely location of Austin, Texas.

In 1997, Celis White came to Ontario in a version contract-brewed by Waterloo’s Brick Brewing. At the time, Brick was one of the most diverse breweries in Canada, with a line-up that included Brick brands such as Brick Premium Lager, Red Baron, and Waterloo Dark; the brands from the Algonquin, Conners and Laker breweries that they had purchased in the previous few years; and several international contract-brewed beers including Germany’s Henninger and Andechs Spezial Hell, Greece’s FIX Lager, and Celis White.

The intervening ten years saw Brick moving away from their eclectic craft brewing roots with the discontinuation of most of their interesting brands, including all of the foreign contract-brews. Their main portfolio was stripped down to a bunch of indistinguishable and undistinguished lagers, and they helped create the buck-a-beer trend with their Laker discount brand. Last year, however, they went back to their roots somewhat by killing off most of the main Brick line-up and replacing them with the higher quality J.R. Brickman series.

And now, Brick has come full circle with the introduction of Waterloo Wheat, a limited edition beer brewed to mark the 150th anniversary of the city of Waterloo that they describe as a Belgian-style witbier, although as I discovered, it’s not perfectly on-style.

It definitely looks the part, with a hazy golden-orange colour and a large snow-white head, and the aroma is pretty much on point, with light malt and wheat, and hints of citrus and spice from the orange peel and coriander used during the brewing. The body is quite creamy to start, but has a fairly crisp finish. But the flavour seems like a hybrid of a Belgian witbier and a German weissbier: it has the citrus and spice notes expected from a wit, but also a bit of the banana and yeast that’s typical of a weisse. The flavours are also a bit subdued, giving the beer a slightly watery character in the middle. It’s no Celis White, but it’s still a solid summer brew, and another step back in the right direction for Brick.

As mentioned above, Waterloo Wheat has been brewed in limited quantities, and is available on draught in several Waterloo bars and in bottles in LCBO outlets in the Kitchener-Waterloo area (LCBO 56762, $3.25/650 mL). While it was supposed to be available until August, sales have been strong since it’s introduction at the beginning of July, so any Torontonians hoping to try it out should plan a trip to the K-W area soon.

Beer of the Week – Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweisse

This article was originally written in June 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

Ah, summer, when a beer lover’s thoughts turn to hefeweisse. Well, this beer lover’s thoughts do, at least, as there are few things I like more than sitting on the patio at one of my favourite bars on a warm June afternoon with a nice, cool glass of this delicious German-style wheat beer.

I have one in particular to write about this week, but first, a quick German lesson: weisse means white, weizen means wheat, and both are used pretty much interchangeably when describing German wheat beers, with weisse (or weissbier) being more commonly used in Bavaria. There are also several sub-styles that are indicated by a prefix, with hefe (yeast) – indicating that the beer is unfiltered – being the most common. Other versions include kristallweizen (filtered), dunkelweizen (dark) and weizenbock (bock style).

Most often, though, when one thinks of weissbier, one is probably thinking of hefeweisse. These hazy and aromatic beers are perfect for summer – they’re full bodied without being heavy, flavourful without being overpowering, and just downright tasty, with the unique yeast strain, Torulaspora delbrueckii, imparting such flavour and aroma notes as banana, clove, vanilla, lemon and coriander.

When I’m out enjoying a pint or three of hefeweisse, my usual choice is Denison’s Weissbier, a locally brewed version that is considered the best hefeweisse in the world according to RateBeer. But since it’s only available on draught, I have to settle for something different for home consumption.

Luckily, there are several world class examples available via the LCBO and the Beer Store, and one of my favourite imports is Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweisse (LCBO 247486 & at the Beer Store, $2.95/500 mL). Based on brewing traditions that extend back to the founding of the Hacker Brewery in Munich in 1417, this beer is a classic example of the style.

The colour is a bit darker than most hefes, with a light copper-gold tint, and the flavours lean more towards lemon and clove, with the banana notes being fainter than some other takes on the style. It does suffer a bit from the travel and storage time, as weissbier is a style that is best enjoyed fresh, but even with a bit of age on it, it’s still a fantastic beer from a venerable brewery.

And for those looking for a good way to kill a warm afternoon or evening, why not undertake a weissbier taste test? In addition to Hacker-Pschorr and Denison’s, several others including Magnotta’s Wunder Weisse and Paulaner Hefeweissbier can be found on store shelves and tap handles around town. Or perhaps a German weissbier vs. Belgian witbier showdown is in order, pitting a couple of the aforementioned beers against Blanche de Chambly and Hoegaarden. It doesn’t matter which are chosen, really, as they’re all perfect brews for summer imbibing.

Beer of the Week – PC Blanche

This article was originally written in May 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.

It probably goes without saying that I’m not a discount beer drinker. It’s not that I have a problem with the idea of saving money, but as someone who drinks beer in order to enjoy the aroma and flavour rather than to serve as an alcohol delivery mechanism (well – most of the time, anyway), I’ve found the few “buck-a-beers” that I’ve tried have generally failed to satisfy me.

However, while flipping through the latest President’s Choice Insider’s Report this past weekend, I came across a blurb for a new addition to the PC discount beer line-up: PC Blanche. Considering that every other beer in the PC portfolio is a knock-off of some macro-brewed lager or other, from Genuine Lager to Dry to Honey, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea of them tackling the decidedly non-mainstream Belgian witbier style.

I was also encouraged by the fact that Brick Brewing – the brewery that makes the PC beers under the alias Whitewater Brewing – was once the holder of the Canadian brewing rights for Celis White. The same Celis White that was created by Pierre Celis, the man who saved the witbier style from extinction when he founded Hoegaarden in 1966.

With all of that in mind, I set aside my snobbery and picked up some PC Blanche ($16.95/12 x 341 mL, $29.95/24 x 341 mL at The Beer Store), although even with the credentials mentioned above, I wasn’t expecting a lot. Which meant that I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

That’s not to suggest that the beer is the equal of Celis White, or Hoegaarden for that matter. But at least it is pretty close to style, which is more than can be said for some other low-rent attempts to emulate less common beer styles. It has the expected hazy-golden colour, which is evidence that it’s unfiltered as the label promises, and a moderate snow-white cap that dissipates quickly. The body is nice as well, very clean with a refreshing crispness. And the aroma and flavour have the notes expected from a wit – spice, citrus, yeast – although in a more subdued form than one would find in the higher-end versions.

So while it may not hold up to the classics of the style, it’s still a valiant attempt at offering something different to Ontario’s discount beer market. For the budget-minded beer drinker looking to try something more exotic than Wildcat and Bohemian, it’s a great choice, especially for the warm and sunny weekends ahead.

Beer of the Week – Denison’s Weissbier

This article was originally written in February 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in September 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after the Taste T.O. blog was shut down and taken offline.

Up until a few years ago, one of the best quick meals to be had in the downtown core was a heaping bowl of steamed mussels and clams at Conchy Joe’s, a welcoming seafood restaurant on Victoria Street. Along with adjacent steakhouse Louie’s Brasserie and downstairs neighbour Growler’s Pub, Conchy Joe’s was part of Denison’s, a brewpub specializing in classic German lager styles such as dunkel, hell, bock, marzen – great beers all. However, my favourite from the Denison’s line-up – and my regular companion to those mussels and clams – was their spectacular weissbier. And I wasn’t the only one to feel that way, as it was voted the best German-style weissbier in the world on RateBeer.com.

Sadly, landlord problems caused the entire Denison’s complex to be shut down in early 2003, and it looked like all of the Denison’s beers were dead. But thankfully, brewmaster Michael Hancock wasn’t willing to let that happen, and he was soon contract brewing Denison’s Weissbier at Mill Street Brewery using his original recipe. He’s since moved production to Black Oak Brewery in Oakville, but the beer remains the same as I remember it being back at Conchy Joe’s: an absolutely perfect rendition of the style, with the classic banana and clove combo in the aroma, wonderful fruit and yeast in the flavour, and an amazingly crisp and lingering finish that keeps you coming back for more. Like any good weissbier, it’s a great warm weather refresher, but it also has enough flavour and body to be enjoyable at any time.

My only complaint about this beer is that I have to go out to get it, as continuing demand from his draught accounts has made it impossible for Michael to make his beer available in bottles. But the upside to this is that his pride in his craft and his sense of perfectionism means that Michael always does his best to ensure that the bars and restaurants carrying his Weissbier (as well as his Dunkel, which he has also revived) serve it in the best condition possible. So while it may not be quite as fresh as it was when it was being served from a bar just a few feet from where it was brewed, you can generally be assured that any pint of Denison’s you order will be amongst the freshest beers available in Toronto. And if you can find a place where you can order some mussels and/or clams to go with the Weissbier, that’ll be a nice bonus.