Beer is inseparable from hockey. This is true whether you’re actively participating in a beer league or simply watching the game on TV.
Hockey might be the largest advertising platform there is when it comes to Canadian beer. There have been hockey themed giveaways from miniature Stanley Cups to items of winter apparel to ticket giveaway contests.
Historically, hockey has been the territory of the big brewers, but recently, Lake of Bays based out of Baysville, Ontario has used the natural flexibility of being a small brewer to do something the big guys have never attempted.
They’ve created hockey-themed beers.
Top Shelf is a pale lager of the kind that you’ll certainly be familiar with if you’ve ordered a beer at a sporting event. The difference here is that it is all malt, rendering it slightly higher in quality. The aroma has a small amount of apple and pear with the slightly sour, sulfurous tang that lager yeast will occasionally provide. The hops come through as reedy grass with a little hint of spice at the front of the palate. There’s a small cereal road bump on the way through to a dry finish. At 4.5% alcohol, it’s a touch lighter than some of the other options in this range.
While the price difference between a standard lager and top shelf does not add up to much, it’s worth noting that approximately 20 cents per can goes to the NHL Alumni Association. It’s a great way to show your support for the game and its players. Besides, you were going to drink beer anyway.
In addition to the standard pale lager that will appeal to everyone in your locker room, Lake of Bays has decided to release a Signature Series themed around famous goaltenders. The Masked Men-theme will comprise four separate offerings, the first of which is named China Wall after legendary Toronto goalie Johnny Bower. While Bower eschewed a mask for the majority of his career, the artwork on the bottle is modelled after one he wore during his last 17 games.
The beer is slightly outsized, but so was Bower’s career. It’s really too big and too dark to count as a traditional Vienna lager. It pours a transparent red with an off white head, and it weighs in at 7.0% alcohol. The aroma is toasted walnut and caramel just before the scorch point with North American hopping that plays as oddly perfumed over that base. The dark malt flavours overbalance the hopping, but I think that is made more noticeable by the Vienna lager template they’re using. That’s not such a bad thing as I suspect that this makes China Wall a fine choice to go with sports watching fare like saucy BBQ.
Jordan St. John writes about beer at saintjohnswort.ca. He didn’t even make a five hole joke.