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

Picaroons Harvest Ale 2014

Brewery: Picaroons Traditional Ales, Fredericton, NB
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.5%

Not content to take the typical “single beer made with freshly harvested hops” approach to their Harvest Ale, the folks at Picaroons have instead whipped up 7 different versions this year, each made using the same base beer but with different hops from different farms, which can be identified by visiting a special webpage and looking up a code on the label. Doing so with my bottle shows that it was wet hopped using Galena hops from My Father’s Farm in PEI - a fitting choice for this Summerside-born boy. The ale has a lovely orange-amber body with a finger or so of white foam, and an aroma that isn’t as sharply hop-forward as some harvest ales, although the hops are still quite present, with lots of the blackcurrant notes that Galena is known for, along with a bit of citrus, and nice sweet biscuit malts to balance. Blackcurrant is also quite dominant in the flavour, hitting the palate right up front, with the more punchy and bitter qualities of the hops - grapefruit peel, pepper, a bit of pine - coming through towards the back of the swallow. Quite a well-made and interestingly flavoured beer - and now I’m wondering how the other six versions compare…

Phillips Hoperation Tripel Cross

Brewery: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Belgian-style IPA
ABV: 7.3%

Pours a clear, bright, almost glowing golden with a massive rocky white head that recedes to a thin cap but never completely disappears. Aroma shows a nice combo of the Belgian Tripel and West Coast IPA styles, with a bubble-gum fruitiness and punchy & pungent citrus and pine hops playing off each other well. The flavour serves up just with the aroma promises, along with a slight spicy/peppery edge, and a warm, moderately dry finish. Like all style hybrids, so-called “Belgian IPAs” can be hit or miss - but this one is pretty clearly in the “hit” column.

Side Launch Pale Ale

Brewery: Side Launch Brewing, Collingwood, ON
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 5.3%

Side Launch brewer Michael Hancock is best known for his skill at producing traditional German-style beers - mostly notably his world-class Side Launch Wheat, previously known as Denison’s Weissbeer - so I was curious see & taste what his take on a decidedly non-German pale ale would be like. Thankfully, it’s very good, with a slightly hazy amber-orange body, a medium mouthfeel with a slight oiliness in the finish, and an aroma and flavour that nicely combine caramel and toasted nut maltiness with a mild but complex hop character that includes notes of citrus peel, pine, pineapple and anise. A very nice coming together of  traditional UK and modern US variations on the reliable ol’ pale ale style.

Bell City Eureka Cream Ale

Brewery: Bell City Brewing, Brantford, ON (brewed under contract at Railway City Brewing, St. Thomas, ON)
Style: Cream Ale
ABV: 5.8%

The text on the can warns that this is “not your typical lawnmower cream ale,” and the warning is right. It pours a dark red-copper colour more typical of an ESB, and the aromas and flavours of sweet toffee, vanilla, and dried leaves, as well as the restrained but still noticeable hops that lend a mildly bitter and slightly spicy note to the finish, also combine to bring to mind a moderately strong British-style ale. Where the cream ale descriptor most makes sense is on the palate, where the beer has a very pleasant creamy character. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s a very nice ale.

Les Trois Mousquetaires Gose

Brewery: Les Trois Mousquetaires, Brossard, QC
Style: Gose
ABV: 3.8%

Hazy straw-gold with a prodigious bright white head. Aroma of lemon and gooseberry, cracked wheat, a bit of salt. Body is soft and crisp, great refresher. Flavour is somehow bright and fusty at the same time, with ripples of fresh lemon balanced by an earthy saltiness and a bit of peppery yeast. Finish is suitably dry and tart, inspiring the swigs and swallows to proceed in a rapid succession. May not be for everyone, but for me, it’s a first rate beer that I’ve been drinking a lot of this summer

Phillips Elsinore Lager

Brewery: Phillips Brewing, Victoria, BC
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

Clear and bright yellow-gold with an abundant white head. Clean aroma of bread crust, light caramel, bit of boiled corn, light grassy hops. Simple and well-balanced flavour of lightly sweet and toasty malt & grassy not-too-bitter hops. A straight-up, well made pale lager - not my usual choice of beer, but I’ve gotta respect it for being a good example of the style. And who can resist a Great White North/Strange Brew reference, eh?

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.