Wednesday, September 15, 2010

East Coast Representin': A Nova Scotia Beer Haul!

New beer time!  Big thanks to Jill and David for this wonderful haul!

Despite what the commercials will tell you, Alexander Keith's is (thankfully) not the only brewery out East.   There are a few other lovable scamps trying to eke out their piece of the Bluenoser beer pie, and if this little lineup proved anything to me, it's that these smaller breweries are doing a fine job.   Both breweries featured today, Propeller and Garrison, are found in Halifax, thus giving me two more reasons to plan a trip out that way!

We'll start things off with Propeller:

Beer: Propeller London Style Porter
Brewery: Propeller Brewery (Halifax)
Type: English porter
ABV: 5%

A tall, 650ml bottle, poured into a nonic ale glass.  I'm a huge fan of the bigger bottles, not just because there's more beer inside (hooray!), but also because it allows you to pour the beer several times into the glass, giving you a greater range of temperatures to compare from.  As long as the alcohol content isn't too high, having more beer means more time to savour the flavour, as it were.  Also, there's more beer inside!

Deep, chestnut brown, with a hint of red around the edges.  When first taken from the fridge, it didn't leave much head, but later pourings produced more retention and lots of patchy lacing.  Another example of a brew that needs a bit of warming up to optimize deliciousness.

Nose is typical porter: roasted malts, toast, dark chocolate, dark coffee, caramel.  A touch of toasty marshmallow immediately after pouring. 

A fine porter, rich and hearty, but thin enough to not sit heavy in the belly.  A great roasted malt profile, with notes of bitter coffee, dark chocolate, caramel and dark fruit (raisin or blackcurrant).  Leaves you with a slightly bitter finish.

A bit thin (porters tend to be as such), but with a creamy feel and tight, spritzy carbonation.

A standup porter, among the better of the style I've encountered.  Not as hearty as Fuller's London Porter, but still rich enough to deliver a satisfying flavor.  There's nothing unique about Propeller's London Porter, nor does there need to be.  (Grade: A-)

Beer: Propeller IPA
Brewery: Propeller Brewery (Halifax)
Type: English IPA
ABV: 6.5%

Poured into a nonic glass. Terrific foamy head, with exceptional lacing streaks all along the glass. Only loses marks on the colour - kind of a washed out, light copper, pretty light on the IPA spectrum.   It looks pretty ruby-red in the picture, but trust me: it's more of a light copper.  

Nose is citrus and pine, with a touch of biscuits and malt.
Citrus and earthy hops start things off, but a malty sweetness evens things out well with notes of caramel, biscuits and peach. Finishes with a tart, peppery hop bitterness that lingers well. Quite tasty, I'm thoroughly enjoying this brew.

Thin, but featuring some great carbonation. Slightly creamy from the still-present head.

A Canadian IPA done right! An enjoyable brew that is a great summer thirst-quencher. Hoppy, but not to the point of insanity, which means I could have a few of these in an evening and not get hopped-out.  A stand-up brew!  (Grade: A)

Now for the Garrison's!  I was hoping to try their famous Martello Stout, but it seems the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp isn't much better than ours.   Next time I'm out there, I'll make a brewery pit stop!

Beer: Garrison Nut Brown Ale 
Brewery: Garrison Brewing (Halifax)
Type: brown ale
ABV: 5%

Poured into a tall ale glass.  Dark chestnut brown with a touch of red when held to the light. Thin, foamy off-white head, dissolved fairly quickly. Ring survived throughout the pint.

Nose is coffee, chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, marshmallow. Smells great!

Taste is that of a solid brown ale, but unfortunately it doesn't deliver on the same level as the nose. All the flavors were there, but were a bit muted, especially towards the finish. A bit of a bolder effort would have made for a quality brew; as it is, the taste is merely satisfactory.  Still, on a crisp fall day, it ain't bad, and I can certainly knock back a bunch of these no problem.  
Slightly watery, decent carbonation. About right for the style to avoid being classed as a porter.

A tasty ale, nothing truly spectacular, but easy to drink and certainly better than others I've encountered in Ontario.  (Grade: B)

Beer: Garrison Raspberry Wheat Ale
Brewery: Garrison Brewing Co. (Halifax)
Type: flavored wheat ale
ABV: 5%         
Fruit-flavoured wheat ales are a tricky business.  You either go big on the fruit and risk overdoing it, thus turning your product into something of a 'cooler', or you go too light and sabotage the rest of the beer.  The fruit flavor also has to be just right, lest it seem fake - Bud Light Lime fake.    I have to admit, they aren't really my thing - I'd never turn one down, of course, but usually I'm not looking for big fruit flavor when I want a beer. 

Poured into a nonic glass. Light copper/amber, with a fairly decent frothy head. Some lacing for a while, but this dies off.
Nose is raspberry, lemon, cream. Not bad, doesn't smell artificial, which is a big plus.

The raspberries in Garrison's effort are on the light end of the scale, not the tart juicy variety I was hoping for, but certainly flavorful enough.  After a moment, they give way to a lemon, yeasty finish.   Medium-bodied and slick, with decent carbonation.

Not bad at all, a tasty raspberry ale that does what it sets out to do.  Would be a fine addition to a summer patio lineup.  Although there's nothing special here to set it apart from the Ontario equivalents of KLB Raspberry Wheat or Grand River's Raspberry Pils, it's still worth a go.   (Grade: B-)


A good little mini-haul! I'm particularly impressed with the good things Propeller is doing; nice to see to see Canadian breweries nailing the classic recipes.   Keep your eyes open: every so often Propeller Bitter will make appearances in the LCBO - it's a fine brew if you like English-style ales, and well worth a pick up.  Rumor also has it that Garrison might finally be unleashed in Ontario sometime this winter - I will be making nightly sacrifices to Baal to ensure this comes to pass.   

Next time you're out East, remember that there is more to the Halifax beer scene than the Alexander Keith's tour, amusing and cheesy though it may be.   If you get a chance, give Garrison and Propeller a try  for some classic British-style brews!

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