Friday, July 2, 2010

"We Got The Mill Street Brews" (reviews)!

I'm a big fan of Mill Street Brewing. It's got a great location and awesome brewery tour and restaurant, as well as a fairly diverse slate of brewing offerings ranging from the standard blond ale (Stock Ale) to the more challenging tripels and roggenbiers (I'll get to the latter in a moment!). Indeed, Mill St. is one of Ontario's better craft breweries, and it's received some mighty fine accolades, winning its third consecutive Canadian Brewing Awards - Brewery of the Year award. Three of my favorite Ontario brews are Mill St. offerings: Tankhouse Ale is, in my opinion one of the finest red ales available; Cobblestone Stout, which is only available on draught is a superb nitro-pour alternative to Guinness; and their Belgian Wit is an excellent summer thirst quencher, on par with Hoegaarden. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to check out their brewery for some time, and that's where most of their unique brews can only be found. Fortunately for me, a couple of flats of individual bottles became available at the LCBO, thus saving me a trip to T.O.!

Beer: Lemon Tea Beer
Type: flavoured ale
ABV: 4.9%

I think the first time I heard about Mill Street's latest summer brew, I may have inadvertantly offended a Mill Street rep. When he started telling me about how they've got this great new summer ale, a "lemon tea beer", my reaction was a less-than-enthusiastic: "....neat..." Look up 'crestfallen' in the dictionary, and you'd find this guy's face. Oops...I can forget about free samples in the future, I guess...

Now, I rarely make a point of dismissing a brew before I've tried it, unless of course it's a light beer or if it's brewed by Faxe, but in this case, I can't really say I was excited about "Lemon Tea Beer". Generally, I'm not a fan of beers that go out of their way to declare that there's fruit in the product, especially lemon. I've had some pretty bad luck with 'lemon' and 'tea' flavored brews, because usually the added flavor isn't so much subtle as it is punch-you-in-the-face-artificial. Think Coke Vanilla. The same goes for most fruit beers; it's a delicate balance, and the scales can be, and often are tipped disastrously to the disgusting side of things. (See: Nickle Brook Green Apple Pilsner, the unholy combination of weak lager and Jolly Rancher candy)

But I've got to say, Lemon Tea Beer wasn't bad at all. It's still probably not something I'll regularly seek out, but it does what it sets out to do fairly well.

Poured into a Mill St. lager glass. Looks like an iced tea beer: light copper, slightly opaque, about a 1/2 inch of head that recedes quickly into a ring.

Nose isn't too strong, which is a good thing. Iced tea, lemon, malts, maybe a touch of yeast. Another plus: the iced tea smells less like Nestea (or worse, Brisk...), and more like a proper iced tea.

This brew is actually pretty tasty: like a lemon iced-tea cooler, with just a touch of malt and yeast. I'm still having trouble calling this one a 'beer', but at the very least it tastes alright and their are some typical ale characteristics to be found.

Mouthfeel is slightly watery (again, like iced tea), with a tight zip of carbonation at the finish.

Not a bad seasonal from Mill St - certainly better than I had expected, but probably not something I'll pick up on a regular basis. I don't think I could drink too many of these in a night. Worth a try though! (Grade: B-)

Beer: Schleimhammer Roggenbier
Type: roggenbier
ABV: 5.3%
Schleimhammer Roggenbier - now there's a name with some chest hair! This beer was previously only available on draught, but thankfully they've produced a bottled version for us poor souls from outside the GTA. Now, I've got to admit, I've never heard of roggenbier before, and if there's one thing Matt loves, it's learning more about beer!

Alright, two things...

Roggenbiers are rye beers, in that the primary brewing grain is rye, rather than wheat or barley. As you can probably tell by the name, roggenbiers are of Germanic origin, being extremely popular in Bavaria during the Middle Ages. After a series of disastrous grain harvests in the 16th century, that lovable German Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot) of 1514 came into play, banning the use of essential baking grains for brewing purposes. Rye was out, barley was in. And for the longest time (actually, until the late 20th century), the style virtually disappeared, kept alive only by those who brewed at home or in small enough batches. The style has seen a bit of a resurgence in Bavaria recently, and a few craft brewers across the pond have attempted to replicate the old style, with varying successes. Mill Street, I must say, can count itself among the success stories.

According to head-brewer Joel Manning, his roggenbier employs the use of yeast traditionally used for hefeweizen, and as he describes it, the brew makes for "Good 15th century peasant fare!" Good enough for me!

Again, I poured this one into my fancy Mill St. glass. The picture is a bit hard to see (it was late), but the brew is a lovely chocolate brown and opaque , similar I suppose to iced coffee. A thin head, which didn't last for too long. Looks a great deal like a dunkelweizen.

Nose is indeed very hefe or even dunkel-like. Notes of cloves, malt, fruit (banana), yeast, chocolate and biscuit. A bit of smoke to it as well, perhaps some rye bread as well. Very rustic and intriguing.

The taste is also surprisingly similar to a dunkelweizen, but with a spicy, rye bread character to it. Pumpernickel, actually. (Seriously, how German can you get?) Finishes slightly dry and bitter. Very enjoyable; I can see what Manning means by "peasant" beer, because this brew really has an archaic, Middle Age quality to it that I'm really digging.

Mouthfeel is medium-bodied, with a very crisp, tangy carbonation to it. Sharp.

A fine brew indeed; I would love to have this on tap. Certainly a defined rye character to this brew; I suppose I could have gone for an even more robust spiciness (just to distinguish the beer further from a dunkelweizen), but it's still quite tasty. I don't really have a great deal to compare this to, seeing as how this is my first roggenbier, but as far as first impressions are concerned, Schleimhammer made a good one! Will pick up again! (Grade: B+)

Alright, three things....

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