|Muskoka Brewery's Oddity. (Supplied)
Though it may not be quite as predictable as the groundhog, one of the surest signs that spring is in the offing is the release of spring beer seasonals. Of course breweries are interested in getting their product out there first, so over the last few years, we’ve been experiencing a certain amount of release date creep. As we all know, the first day of spring is March 21st, but that hasn’t stopped one of the first spring seasonals from launching near Valentine’s Day.
The good news is that the people at Muskoka Brewery have changed the name of this early riser. Rather than Spring Oddity (which sounds like it has to be confined to a certain part of the year), it’s now simply Oddity. The label has not changed and still features a mythological creature that might be a mix of an eagle and a 10-point buck. While I'm relatively sure that there is no such beast hanging around the brewery waiting for spent grain, it's a good representation of the beer, which is combined from a number of disparate elements.
That needn’t concern you unduly, because the beer is still extremely tasty. According to the brewery, it’s inspired by “the thaw of the Muskoka winter which has given rise to new and strange creations.” This may well account for the diversity of ingredients that it houses.
There are really three sets of flavours going on in the Oddity, and they all somehow work together as something you would probably have to call a Belgian Golden Ale. There are a couple of ingredients indigenous to Ontario: Juniper berries and heather tips. There are citrus flavours from the orange peels and (comparatively little used) sorachi ace hops. Finally, there’s the complex character of the trappist yeast that they’re using. All of these combine to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.
The only real difficulty I have is that it is so completely unique that there’s nothing to compare it to. I have noticed that the flavour is somewhat different than last year, but my expertise stops just short of being able to say definitively what has changed. There are not so many heather tip beers out there that there’s a frame of reference. It remains extremely interesting. It is already available in Ontario and Manitoba, and should be available on tap in Alberta sometime this week.
The juniper, heather and citrus do suggest the thaw. If there is one comfort that you can take in this deep winter (when your back aches from digging out of the garage, so you can get to the snowblower), it is this: The brewers are prognosticating an early spring, and they will be ready for you weeks before patio season.
Jordan St.John writes about beer at saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s drinking, er… fact-finding in Alberta.