Now that the clocks have turned back and the evenings are closing in even earlier, there’s a natural tendency towards stronger, comforting flavours in both food and drink.
Fortunately, brewers in Ontario have taken the opportunity to present a solid crop of releases in time for the holiday season. It’s perhaps the most solid crop of offerings to come out simultaneously in quite a while, and therefore worthy of your attention.
First up, there’s Mill Street’s Cobblestone Stout. Until recently, this was only available on draught. Possibly because it has gained a not insignificant following on draught in Alberta, Mill Street has decided to release it in 440 ml cans, designed with a nitrogen widget that attaches to the bottom. This theoretically results in a creamy sensation on the palate.
Brewmaster Joel Manning recommends serving it cold. I can corroborate from experience, given that an attempt to open an insufficiently refrigerated can resulted in a stout volcano.
The beer itself is a dry stout that gives Guinness a run for its money. In the aroma there is milk chocolate and a certain amount of roast malt, but this fades away on the palate to a dry finish and slightly lactic tang without much in the way of astringency.
At 4.2%, it’s a light beer and a safe bet as a crowd pleaser at a holiday party. Currently, it is available at the LCBO and it will roll out across the country over the next month.
Second, we’ve got Muskoka’s latest offering, Twice As Mad Tom. As you may know, Mad Tom is Muskoka’s India Pale Ale, a thoroughly dependable beer named after a fictional madman. Apparently, we’ve done something to make him furious, because he is now Twice As Mad. Curiously, instead of an apoplectic rage, this seems to have translated into a stronger beer.
Twice As Mad Tom is a Double IPA that weighs in at 8.4% alcohol, about 2% stronger than its namesake. It is hoppier, but the name is somewhat misleading. Muskoka has a deft hand across their lineup and tends towards balance, meaning the tropical fruit aroma and the caramel malt sweetness are certainly larger, but continue to balance each other out. It is bitter, but it is not an all out assault.
They are to be forgiven for the reason that it’s potentially one of the best Double IPAs in the country and also because “Proportionally Madder Tom” is not a very good name for a beer.
It is available across Ontario in 355ml bottles, and given the brewery’s recent expansion into a larger facility, it may eventually make appearances elsewhere.
Finally, there’s Great Lakes Brewery’s newest addition to their 25th anniversary lineup: Imperial Black IPA. It’s a hop monster, clocking in at 100 Bitterness Units (near the threshold for human perception of that flavour). I think that it is overbalanced towards American hop varieties, at least while it is cold. As it warms up, the nuance of the dark malts begins to emerge. There are notes of chocolate and coffee.
The impression that it leaves me with is an odd one. Periodically, I can’t help but sense flavours that aren’t actually present, but are suggested by the combination of malts. It’s for this reason that I feel like it would go well with coconut. Given the season, it may well be worth trying it out with Nanaimo Bars, which would support the chocolate flavour while adding coconut to the mix.
It’s available at the LCBO in limited quantities, so if you feel like trying that experiment, you’ll want to pick it up sooner rather than later.
Jordan St. John writes about beer at Saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s experimenting with beer poetry.