Quick reviews of beers from across Canada by Greg Clow, publisher/editor of CanadianBeerNews.com

Okanagan Spring Cloudy Amber

Brewery: Okanagan Spring Brewery, Vernon, BC
Style: Amber Ale
ABV: 5%

Translucent copper-amber colour with a finger of off-white foam that recedes to a thin cap. Aroma and flavour both strike a good balance of caramel malt - and perhaps some crystal as well? - and herbal, grassy hops. Finish has a slight metallic hint that is off-putting at first, but actually meshes well with the herbal and lemony hops that linger for a while at the back of the palate. A bit safer than most of the American craft ambers it seems keen to emulate, but a nice brew nonetheless.

Big Rock Cherry Bomber

Brewery: Big Rock Brewing, Calgary, AB
Style: Cherry Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.0%

Murky looking pinkish-amber body with a good sized white head that disappears by the time the first couple of sips are taken. Aroma of light malt and wheat, mild sweet cherry, vanilla extract. Soft mouthfeel with light carbonation. Flavour of cherry and vanilla up front, with a bit of lemon and some yeasty dryness toward the finish. Not bad as far as cherry-flavoured beers go, but honestly not a lot of Hefeweizen character to be found, and little evidence of the Cascade hops mentioned on the label.

Black Oak Break of Dawn APA

Brewery: Black Oak Brewing, Toronto, ON
Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 4.5%

Hazy sunset-hued (or perhaps sunrise is more appropriate, given the beer’s name?) golden body with a creamy white head. Aroma is bright and tropical, with sweet citrus and pineapple, backed with husky malt. The flavour takes a bit of a left turn, with the hop character being deeper and danker than the aroma suggests - not necessarily a bad thing, but I would’ve preferred a slightly lighter and brighter tone. Still a good beer, though, with a nice depth of flavour, and more body than some of the other hop-forward session ales that are out there,

Bin Brewing SaskAle

Brewery: Bin Brewing, Swift Current, SK
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5%

A caramel-amber ale with a clean aroma and flavour of light caramel, toasted grain, a slight fruitiness, and grassy hops, finishing with a bit of orange oil. Not much else to be said - it’s just a simple, easy-drinking ale, which appears to be exactly what they were going for.

Railway City Canada Southern Draft

Brewery: Railway City Brewing, St. Thomas, ON
Style: Pilsner
ABV: 4.3%

Clear bright golden-yellow with a couple of fingers of white foam that recedes slowly. Aroma of toasted grain, honey crackers, freshly cut grass, and peppery herbs. Flavour follows the aroma pretty closely - grain and honey sweetness to start, grassy and peppery hops to finish. Builds quite a respectable amount of dry bitterness as it warms up a bit. Starts out a fairly nondescript pale lager, but by the end of the glass, it reveals itself to be a rather nice little pilsner.

Bellwoods Phantom Limb

Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery, Toronto, ON
Style: Tripel
ABV: 8%

Sunset golden-orange body with a slight haze and a thin & persistent white head. Punchy aroma with notes of stone fruit - esp. apricot - and tart apple, and spicy hints of clove and allspice. Flavour starts with a simple malt sweetness with a hint of candi sugar, but starts to develop layers of complexity as it goes across the palate, especially once it warms. Apricot, nectarine, peppery yeast, clove, lemon zest, cut grass, candied orange and more all come through at one point or another. Finish has a slight medicinal character that is the only off-note for me. Otherwise, an excellent beer.

Waterloo Traditional IPA

Brewery: Brick Brewing, Waterloo, ON
Style: IPA
ABV: 5.2%

Copper-orange body with a thin off-white head that doesn’t stick around. Aroma is quite sweet but not cloying, with notes of caramel and candied orange, and an odd hint of musk melon. Flavour is well balanced, with sugar cookie and caramel malt off the top, leading to mellow hops that offer some subtle but noticeable bitter orange character as the beer warms. The body is on the light side of medium - a bit thinner than is preferable, but it still carries the flavour well. It’s certainly not a heavily hopped North American style IPA, and shouldn’t be judged against them - but as far as more traditional UK style IPAs go, it’s respectable.

Great Lakes / Amsterdam Ezra Cider Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale

Brewery: Great Lakes Brewery & Amsterdam Brewing, Toronto, ON
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.2%

Slightly hazy peachy-gold with a thin head. Aroma has an interesting complexity to it - some tropical fruit, peppery yeast, woody cider, mild funkiness, a medicinal tinge. Flavour is simpler, but that’s not a complaint - it’s a solid saison with cider and sour wood notes from the barrel aging integrating nicely with the fruit and pepper of the base beer. Finish is dusty and tart, with quick, sharp apple and lemon, and a lingering herbal dryness. Medium bodied with a good level of carbonation bringing some crispness. An excellent beer that won’t be at the LCBO for long, so grab it while you can.

Bellwoods Stay Classy

Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery, Toronto, ON
Style: Light Session Ale
ABV: 2.8%

Bellwoods’ contribution to the increasingly popular trend for lower alcohol but still flavourful ales is one of the least alcoholic - they reckon it may be the lowest abv beer in Canada outside of 0.5% near beers - but it certainly doesn’t want for flavour. Or aroma, for that matter, as the bright and hazy golden-yellow beer throws off ton of fresh green hops with backing notes of canned peaches & mandarin orange and cut grass. The body is light as crisp - as you’d expect from a 2.8% beer - but it still manages to carry the big and luscious flavour of the Mosaic and Citra hops - tangerine, pineapple, bit of pine resin - with some faint biscuity malt hanging out in the background. A strong contender to be a benchmark example of this recent and still evolving style.

Stanley Park Wit

Brewery: Stanley Park Brewing, Vancouver, BC
Style: Belgian Wheat Ale
ABV: 5%

Pours a moderately hazy golden-yellow with a good sized white head that hangs around for a minute of two before quickly receding. Aroma of cracked wheat, dusty lemon, a touch of sulphur, and an odd suggestion of marshmallows. Flavour takes a similar path at first, with wheat and a spritz of lemon to start, turning a bit yeasty in the middle, and finishing with notes of coriander and ginger. Not exactly to style, but still pleasant, and certainly better than previous Stanley Park beers I’ve tried.