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All I want for Christmas is a barrel-aged stout

Christmas is over and everyone is starting to snap back to the reality that we still have many months of cold, short days. I for one believe that these long, cold winters only enhance our love and affection for dark beers. Common flavours for porters and stouts are: chocolate, coffee, caramel, vanilla, and dried fruit. Barrel aged beers can also add to that “warming” feeling that we get from the beer.

After all that, you are probably aware that I’m reviewing a dark beer. It’s Nickel Brook’s Old Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout and at 10% ABV this stout is a heavy-weight. According to the description, this is a barrel-aged version of their delicious Bolshevik Bastard imperial Stout which I had the chance to try at Brother’s Beer Bistro, located in Ottawa’s Byward Market.


Sorry about the flash. I never claimed to be a photographer.

Pour is black with a tan head that shrinks pretty quickly. Nose is of strong dark dried fruit, chocolate, oak, and bourbon.  The burn from the added alcohol and bourbon barrel is evident throughout this one. Other flavours are deep vanilla and chocolate. The booze is truly rosy-cheek inducing. Finish is vanilla and a boozy bourbon burn.

This is an excellent winter brew that warms the body and soul. I’ll be buying this again, but I wouldn’t advise it for beer drinkers who don’t like a strong alcohol burn which the barrel-aged stuff tends to bring.

As a side note, I struggled with the wax that was melted over the bottle cap for added appearance. Is there a trick to this, or am I just a special case? Leave a comment if you can relate.


Downtown Amsterdam

Yet another exam week beer review. Let’s be honest, craft beer is a lot more interesting than studying for Intermediate Macroeconomics Part 2… Fuck the theories of aggregate supply & demand.

Tonight I’ve settled down with a tall can of Amsterdam Brewery’s Downtown Brown, brewed in Toronto. It’s a 5% ABV nut brown ale, and here’s what I thought:


Pour is dark brown with white head that dissipates pretty quickly. Aroma’s of roasted malts, dark chocolate, earthiness, hints of burnt caramel, and coffee. The smell is out of this world; like a diet stout. Flavour is toasted malt, light nuttiness, light earthy/grass, caramel, and desert coffee. Finish is clean with rich coffee.

Downtown Brown is light bodied and very sessionable. I could very easily see myself drinking eight of these in an evening (just kidding Mom). Its sweetness isn’t too over the top, and all of the beers flavour is able to come through nicely.

I recommend this for someone who isn’t normally a dark beer drinker. It won’t scare them away in the way that a Triple Chocolate Bull Testicle Imperial Stout might, and might help them transition into the beautiful world of browns, porters, and stouts.

Merry Christmas everyone. May your stouts be imperial, your IPA’s be hoppy, and your hangovers mild!

Baby its cold outside

If you live in the Ottawa region, you were reminded this week of how god damn cold winter can get here in the Valley.

Anyways… It’s time for the last beer from my Bellwoods Brewery visit, and what better timing? I just finished my second of three exams and now have a break until Saturday… party time.

Its stout season folks, and I’m pumped as hell for some winter warmers. This beer is just that. Its Hellwoods Imperial Stout, and it’s a big fucking beer.


Aromas of vanilla, dark roasted malts, and dried fruit. This is a heavy beer starts out with flavours of roasted malts, switching to dried fruit which is slightly bitter, then moving to burnt caramel and dark chocolate for the finish with a slight burn from that 10% ABV.

This stout is on point. Bellwoods, I’ll be home for winter break in about a week. See you then.

To anyone who may read this, whats your favourite stout? (Feel free to name a few, I recognize that’s an unfair question).

I’m still alive

Hey there good lookin’.

Due to end of term papers and tests, along with work and a generally high level of procrastination, I haven’t made a post in a while. Don’t worry, I’ve still been drinking beer, I just haven’t taken the time to do any more than the odd check-in on Untappd (username is: Swainer – add me fools).

Tonight I’m drinking a beer I’ve had many times before. From the Quebec based brewery Dieu du Ciel!, its Penombre. This is a black IPA, a style which really interests me as it normally combines characteristics from my two favourite beer styles. Penombre is sold in a 4-pack in the LCBO for around $13.

Here are the details:


Pours pitch black with a frothy light tan head. Aromas of roast malt, nuttiness, coffee, and fruity hops. The palate is coffee, pine, bitter grapefruit, and earthy tones. The bitter grapefruit comes through in the finish, along with the malts and the mocha.

I really like this beer because it has the traits which I like in a stout combined with the bitterness I look for in an IPA. Dieu du Ciel! is constantly brewing excellent beer (try the Peche Mortel if you can find it) and this is no exception.

I’m looking forward to making more time to post now that classes are done, but no promises.


Study break beer review

I’ve been balls deep in the books all day, so I decided I’d earned myself a delicous beer break (its a thing, okay?!).

Now back during my time at home (Toronto) in the beginning of November I made the trek downtown to highly acclaimed Bellwoods Brewery to check out what all the fuss was about.

I went with a good buddy who also had never been there before. My first impression of the bottle shop was: “damn this place is small”. Still though, the woman working the cash was very helpful and gave some good descriptions of the 3 beers they had available. Being a craft beer fan with little self control, I got one of everything. This included the Galaxy Single hop Pale Ale, Hellwoods Russian Imperial Stout, and today’s beer of choice, Farmageddon barrel aged Brett Saison (all were 500ml bottles).

Farmageddon barrel aged Brett Saison – bottle conditioned:


Cloudy straw colour with a frothy white head. Aromas of wheat, yeast, and sweetness like licorice. On the palate are surprising tangy flavours, with yeast, spices, and a bit of sour citrus. Finish is slightly bitter with lingering hints of lemon and spice. The sourness dominates this beer, but in turn it hides the hefty 7.2% extremely well, so look out.

Overall, very smooth and sessionable. It was my first Bellwoods experience and I definitely plan on going back for more next time I find myself in Toronto.

I’m going to get my balls back in the books. Keep that stick on the ice folks!

Coffee compilation

Let’s be honest people, the reason we love one-off brews is because they make us feel special. We’re one of a small number of people on this earth who will have the privilege of drinking that beer.

Today I’m reviewing another beauty from Beyond the Pale Brewing Company in Ottawa. I picked up a small (32 oz.) growler of their collaboration brew entitled “Brewmance Begins”. This beer is made in collaboration with Bridgehead Coffee, and it’s really something special. It’s a coffee IPA that comes in at 6.6% ABV and 72 IBU’s. Without any further adieu, here’s what I thought of this one.


Pours a cloudy amber/brown, with very little head to speak of. On the nose is citrus, light coffee notes, and a distinct malt base. I found the hops really came alive on the palate, which started fruity and slightly bitter and then transitioned to coffee and a bit of sweetness from the malt. Finish was slightly bitter but pretty smooth and left a really nice “desert coffee” flavour on my tongue.

Again, I loved the uniqueness of this beer, and I feel as though it will be a long time before I get to try another coffee IPA. The fact that 2 independent Ottawa area companies could combine their product to make something of such high quality makes me happy.

Part of me hopes BTP does another batch of this at a later date, but another part of me likes how exclusive it was and would be totally fine if they didn’t make more because I was lucky enough to try it.

Either way, keep it up Beyond the Pale.

Taking a Swing at Homebrewing (Part 2)

The time has finally come to sample our first batch of basement-brewed IPA from a kit. As I stated in Part 1, the actual work that we put into this batch was quite minimal; comparable to raising a tamagotchi. No mash, no boil, no sparging, yet for us, still a good amount of fun!

When I ended the last post our IPA was in the secondary fermenter with the stopper and airlock tightly in place. Now to be honest, we were somewhat disappointed with our lack of involvement in this brew. Our natural solution was to do something drastic(ish).

On our next trip to Defalco’s we purchased a package of Centennial hop pellets. I had read that sometimes people add hops during fermentation strictly for aroma purposes, so we decided to go for it. We poured all of the hop pellets into the secondary fermenter, and the next day we were greeted by a nasty looking layer of disbanded hop pellets floating on the top of our beer. It looked like algae in a murky pond. We were slightly concerned, but we went home for Thanksgiving weekend with our family’s and forgot about the situation for a few days.

When we returned, the hops that were sitting on the top had pretty much dispersed into the beer. Success! By this time we were ready to bottle. The Brewhouse Kit comes with a pack of Dextrose, which we are told to add to a few cups of boiled water and pour into our primary fermenting bucket (which we had washed and sanitized). This would act as priming sugar and help our beer carbonate while resting in the bottles.  We then racked our beer from the glass carboy into the primary fermenter so it could mix with the dextrose, making sure to leave behind any sediment that had accumulated while in secondary (there was quite a bit, but I assume this was due to our outlaw power-move of adding hop pellets to the carboy). We then began siphoning the beer from the pale into our bottles.

For bottles we opted to reuse the many we have purchased from the LCBO over the past few months, exceptions were given to the ones that were beginning to grow mould-gardens in the bottom… Gross. We washed them thoroughly inside and out, and used sanitizer to make sure we wouldn’t die from drinking our cheap as dirt homebrew.

Once a bottle was full (we tried to leave about an inch of space in the neck) we put a cap on using a capper which we also bought from Defalco’s. Overall the process took about an hour and a half, but could probably take less time once we’ve had a few runs at it.

Once in the bottles, it takes a minimum of 2 weeks for the beer to carbonate to a sufficient level. So today I cracked the first of this batch. Here’s a quick rundown of what I thought of the finished product.


Tried my best to hide it, but there’s no removing the label from a Lake of Bays 10 Point IPA bottle.

Pours cloudy amber with a medium white head which dissipated after a couple minutes, but hey, at least the carbonation worked (Score!) Aroma’s of light citrus with sweet fruity tones. So far so good. Starts out earthy/grassy, moving to light citrus, and finishing bitter and tangy. Although it was a little lighter than we want, all the flavours we look for in an IPA were present. Also, at certain points I noticed a bit of a metallic taste, but it was never over powering and I still found myself enjoying the beer we made.

If you’re looking to get into brewing, this Brewhouse Kit is a solid place to start. I mean sure, you can do more of the work and have more fun on your first try, but if you aren’t familiar with the brewing process or how the equipment is meant to work, (it took us an embarrassingly long time to get a good siphon going…) why not smart small?

Happy Halloween folks, hope it’s a dandy. I’ll be watching Simpson’s Halloween episode’s with my roommates and getting drunk off my own beer, then eventually drag my ass to work for 8 am.