Thanks to Hank for this four pack sampler!
Cameron's Brewing of Oakville was one of my first introductions to the world of Ontario craft brewing. Some years ago, when my beer-drinking was still done somewhat clandestinely and my choices limited to whatever I could get, my dad picked up a mixed four pack quite similar to the one I just received, and offered me a few sips. After a few months of Labatt's and Coors or whatever else I could come across, the flavors I detected in Cameron's lagers and ales were strikingly different - much bolder, stronger, abd more diverse than anything I had tried before. I wasn't totally certain that I liked them, but I did appreciate them, as I also did the old-tyme farmer's brew bottling design in which they were presented. Something intrigued me, but I didn't get around to revisiting their brews - or any craft brews at all, for that matter - for some time.
My next experience with Cameron's would not be until my moving to Waterloo, where I visited the KW Craft Beer and Rib Festival (which is now an annual treat for me that not even my wedding day could stop!) and approached the Cameron's booth. I remember really digging the Auburn Ale and the Dark 266 ale and being taken with the beer rep's passion for his beers (not to mention the cute girls who were serving them). I signed up for regular email updates that informed me cask night events and one-off tastings at the brewery that sounded entertaining but were a bit out of my travelling range. Since then I really can't say I've given Cameron's a fair go, so I'm glad to have found myself in possession of a nice sampler pack containing four of their regular rotation brews!
Beer: Cameron's Lager
Type: Pale Lager
The last time I had this was at last years KW Craft beer festival, and I remember I had it immediately following a rich, hoppy dark ale (Flying Monkey's Netherworld Porter), so the transition to such a light brew wasn't that great. It wasn't really a fair assessment, so let's see how it does on its own with more time for reflection / less festival noise!
Nothing artificial here in the nose, which is actually quite pleasant: just a strong cereal grain scent with a slight hoppy kick to it.
Cameron's Lager is very drinkable to be sure - light, and with a nice grainy flavor. Natural ingredients goes a long way towards distinguishing this brew from the mass-produced, adjunct-heavy fare. Nothing really exciting, but nothing offensive whatsoever. Creamy, a bit thicker than most pale lagers. Potent carbonation. This does exactly what it sets out to do, which is fine by me. Of course, it's still exceptionally boring, but it tastes authentic and goes down very smoothly. I could drink buckets of this.
A pale lager is tough for me to rate to scale because there's so little separating members of the same style. However, Cameron's tastes like it was made with real ingredients, so I'm marking accordingly. Is it bland and run of the mill? Sure is. Is it good for what it is and easy to drink? You bet. (Grade: B-)
I'm actually quite pleased with the taste, which is dominated by the malts early on, but the herbal hops give it a lasting bitter finish. Nutty, bready and crisp, very satisfying. Good carbonation, but a touch too thin. Very quaffable, however. Good stuff!
This one was my favorite of the bunch - easy to drink, flavorful, nothing funky or out of place. Not very complex, but something one could session with incredible ease. A solid Ontario offering - I'll definitely pick this one up again if it's offered in six-packs. (Grade: B)
We'll stick with that nice Creemore glass, because it seems to be bringing us good luck so far! On to the cream ale!
The cream ale is a much-maligned style in the beer geek world, although for many of us, the style was our foray into beer drinking beyond the pale lager fare our fathers/uncles left unguarded on the porch. A step above the bland fizzy stuff, cream ales usually ale-malt based, although sometimes lagering yeast is used and other stuff is added into the mix (i.e., adjuncts). What you get is a very sweet, low-hopped brew that should go down pretty smoothly. However, for the more discerning drinker - especially one used to a good hop profile and roasted character in our ales, they can be pretty bland. Still, they serve their purpose.
The nose is bready malts, a bit of hops, nothing unusual, except for a strange adjunct smell that reminds me of cardboard or something akin to tomato soup. I'm not alone in this regard, as other reviewers seem to get the same thing. It's not altogether pleasant, I have to say. There's maybe a bit of apple in there, like a really sweet cider.
The taste is sweet, grainy, but with that same strangeness from from the nose that's quite offputting. Again, like other reviewers, I get tomato or something that really shouldn't be found in a beer. That particular flavor is not overpowering though, and so the rest of the brew is mild and easy to drink. A bit of apple, and the finish is nice and smooth, but it's not something I'm enjoying much, nor is it something I'm liable to return to. Creamy, thick, a bit flat after a strong carbonation burnoff after pouring.
I'll still review them just in case I find one I like, but I'm still not a fan of cream ales, and this one is a perfect example of why this is so. Bland, sweet, and with a strange adjunct flavor that really throws the whole off. Won't get again. (Grade: C)
Well, I guess the Creemore glass has run out of luck - time to give the conical Mill Street glass a try for the last brew of the bunch. Not that it will make a smatter of difference, I just like mixing things up.
The nose is grain (a increasingly distinct scent that I always now am coming to associate specifically with Cameron's), along with notes of caramel, fruit, dark chocolate and a bit of roasted coffee.
This is a decent dark lager that's easy to drink. That same grainy flavor, coupled with a mild roasted character and breadiness. The whole thing feels thin, however; not a robust brew by any stretch. Pushing into English mild brown ake territory. Same goes with the mouthfeel - thin carbonation, thin bodied.
Certainly worth a try, as this is by no means a bad effort (you might have noticed that "not bad" is a descriptor keeps coming up in my reviews of this) - it just needs some work to stand out among the other efforts featured in this dark ale heavy province. (B-)
Breweries like Camerons that produce decent - if not a little average - brews are often overshadowed by the bolder, hoppier, extreme-named fare of other craft breweries, and I think that's a bit unfair. Compared to brews like Smashbomb Atomic IPA or Russian Gun Imperial Stout, the standard offerings of Cameron's can seem a bit more humble. There's a lot to be said for beers that don't rely upon gimmicks or their brewer's desire to push the envelope - sometimes an 'auburn ale' or a locally made 'lager' sounds rather nice and would really do the trick. If you can brew them well - and use all natural ingredients without adjuncts - I say go for it. Also, drinking local fare is one of the major objectives of the craft beer movement, and Cameron's is just around the corner, so you can feel good about doing it.
This was a nice little sampler pack full of some decent brews that, with the exception of the Cream Ale, I would certainly recommend and purchase again.