On Your Marks, Get Set, Gose!

About a year back, we here at Hoppily Ever After had a chat about what we thought would be the next big trend in local craft. Our guess? Sours. Turns out we were partially right.

GOSE (that’s like “goze-uh”) seems to really be picking up steam in the Ontario craft beer world and we couldn’t be happier. This odd little brew of German origin is often considered a sour, but that’s over-simplifying it a bit. A Gose will also often have the coriander tastes of a Witbier, and possibly also with fruity tangs. What makes it unique:  it’s also brewed with salt.

If you haven’t tried a Gose, you might not think salt would be a tasty (or refreshing) addition to a beer. And you’d be wrong on both counts.

Gose is originally from the German town of Gostar, where it gets its name. Due to the salt, it doesn’t meet the standards of the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law), but it got an exception because of being a local specialty. These days, we’re seeing them local to us as well! Here’s a few Goses we’ve been able to find so far:

Nickel Brook‘s Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose

Nickel Brook Gose - Hoppily Ever After BlogOne of Nickel Brook’s “Lab Series”, this Gose entered the world in July 2016. It tastes like everything you want it to taste like by reading its name. Very cucumber. Very lime. Even quite fizzy. But that sour-salty classic Gose taste evens it all out and turns this into a very drinkable and innovative experiment .

Where to find it: We got ours right from the Nickel Brook Brewery in Burlington. But we’ve also seen it on tap at the beer garden of their sister brewery in Hamilton, Collective Arts.

And speaking of Collective Arts…

Collective Art‘s Collective Project: Gose

Collective Arts Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog

They went for the classic Gose taste with this one, also categorized as a sort of experiment (or “project”, at least), this beer succeeds perfectly. If you are new to the Gose world and want to try that beautiful salty sour taste in its original style, go looking for this. Great for hot weather.

Where to find it: The brewery and beer garden in Hamilton is, of course, a good bet. But they’ve got these canned. We haven’t seen them in the LCBOs, but we have seen them in local beer-bearing grocery stores!

For something quite different again….

Refined Fool‘s You Are Lazy Susan Rosemary Gose

Refined Fool Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog
Photo Credit: Katie Hurst

It has a salty pucker and a strong rosemary taste. Josh, who grew up on homemade French and Italian cuisine, thought this was amazing (one of his winning sample at Because Beer). Jess associates rosemary a bit too much with roast turkey, but still this beer managed to impress her.

Where to find it: We found it at a local beer festival. Then, there’s always the brewery in Sarnia.

The Ghost of Gose Past

  • Beau’s made two gose, neither of which are currently available (at least where we can find them):
    • Opa’s Gose apparently even came with an attached sea salt bag. Jessica would have loved to try this, isn honour of her own Opa.
    • Boom Gose the Dynamite was in last year’s Oktoberfest mixpack. Perhaps we’ll see another one day! (But not in this year’s Oktoberfest pack).
  • And we’ve heard about Muskoka’s mysterious Moonlight Kettle. Apparently they made a mysterious Gose called “Gose ‘Round” in March of this year

Gose Just Across the (Buffalo) border

We’ve also ducked across the Buffalo border and found some Gose at breweries beyond:

  • Mangose (a mango gose, get it?) at Resurgence Brewing right in Buffalo, NY
  • Blackberry Gose at Hamburg Brewing Company, in an idyllic farm-brewery setting 20 minutes out of Buffalo

Brew Roundup: Russian Imperial Stout

There’s no middle-ground with a Russian imperial stout – you either love them or hate them. Pitch-black in colour with a rich, bitter flavour, these brews are most commonly found and best enjoyed during the depths of winter.

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Czar Alexander II

Despite the name, this style was created by the English. In the 18th Century, they created this style to be exported to Russia, to be enjoyed by czars and their families. To ensure that the beer would make the trip without going bad, these stouts were brewed with double the alcoholic volume of a typical stout, and loaded up with hops.

The Russian royals enjoyed the beer despite the changes to the brew, and Russian imperial stout has a small-ish but dedicated following today, including us at Hoppily Ever after – Josh in particular.

Choosing your brew

Like many specific styles in the craft beer community today, Russian imperial stout has a surprising amount of variance. In our very scientific description, the brews range from “kinda-heavy” to “super-heavy”. What we mean by that they typically start at 8% ABV, but can easily drive right on up to 15%, or even higher.

A deep, dark stout*

Because these beers have to be aged for several months to develop properly, breweries often create uniqueness in their products by aging their brews with added ingredients like fruit or roasted coffee beans, or in specialized containers such as wine or whiskey barrels.

Let’s start with some basics

To get a taste of what Russian imperial stout is, here’s a list to try that follow the basic style guidelines.

Grand River Brewing – Russian Gun

This is probably the best to start with, as it’s among the lightest and least bitter. A dark, malty taste and only light roastiness. It’s named after the cannon in downtown Galt (Cambridge), where Grand River brews from, and in commemoration of a tragic story surrounding the cannon itself.

Russian Gun Imperial Stout - Hoppily Ever After

Wellington Brewery – Imperial Russian Stout

That’s not a mistake – they just reversed the name. Rich and bold,  with notes of coffee and chocolate.

Sawdust City – Long, Dark Voyage to Uranus

Great name for a great beer. For a high-alcohol beer, it has a surprisingly dry finish (think Guinness), but still a rich flavour and refreshing bitterness – if you find bitterness refreshing, of course.

Sawdust city Imperial Stout - Hoppily Ever After

Nickel Brook Brewery – Bolshevik Bastard

It’s another big, bold brew (not surprising with Russian imperial stouts). On the roast-ier side, Bolshevik Bastard is brewed with a flavour reminiscent of dark chocolate.

And now for something a little different…

Some interesting offerings from Ontario craft breweries that play with the style description a bit.

Nickel Brook Brewery – Winey Bastard & Kentucky Bastard

Nickelbrook Imperial Stouts - Hoppily Ever After

Both of these are simple alterations on their Bolshevik Bastard. The first is aged in local Pinot Noir barrels, giving it a subtle red wine taste. The second is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels, blending a sweet bourbon oakiness and a warming feeling throughout.

Beau’s All Natural – The Bottle Imp

Many Russian imperials are brewed to resemble roasted coffee – here’s one that’s actually brewed with roasted coffee. It has a maltier finish, probably to offset the added bitterness from the coffee, and a subtle anise taste. This one definitely stands out from the pack.

 

*Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/10413717@N08/15933479008

Cameron’s Brewing – Ontario Brewery Tours

Cameron’s Brewing has been in business since 1997, which makes them one of the oldest players on the Ontario craft beer scene. They’ve had the time to hone their craft to create some really solid brews, and now they’re undertaking a branding revitalization. 

Ambear, Cameron's Brewing, Hoppily Ever After
New brand on the Ambear Red Ale

THE PLACE

Cameron’s Brewing is a classic brewery, tucked into a business park in Oakville, Ontario. It has a simple front end, with just enough space for tasting and purchasing, and then a back-end busy with the operations of beer creation.

Brewery, Hoppily Ever After
Some of the older style, externally insulated tanks

THE BEER

The $10 tour included a whole raft of samples. Here’s our take on what we tried:

  • Cosmic Cream Ale – Clean and creamy. This is the original Cameron’s Cream Ale, with an updated name and brand for the 21st Century.
  • Ambear Red Ale – Red & roasted, some toffee notes. Another rebrand, this is a slightly modified version of their Auburn Ale.
  • Dark 266 – A sweet and roasted dark lager. Smooth and rich, with a hint of bitterness that tastes more like raw cocoa.

Cameron's Beer, Hoppily Ever After

  • Resurrection Roggenbier – With the banana bread flavour that’s customary in Roggenbiers, which use malted rye in place of some of the wheat. Reminiscent of Hefeweizens in that sense. This one is sweeter than the Roggenbiers we’ve tried, and a little peppery. Very sessionable.
  • Dry-Hopped Tripel – Sweet like a Belgian tripel, but lighter and not at all syrupy. Definitely a fruity taste, we were envisioning grape. The Cameron’s guys told us the aim was to be a “white wine of beer”, and that makes a lot of sense to us.  And doesn’t taste like a 7.5%!
  • Rye Pale Ale (RPA) – A rich hopped brew with a little white pepper undernote. Smoother than a lot of hop-forward brews, but still too hoppy for Jessica’s tastes – Josh quite enjoyed it.

Growlers at Cameron's, Hoppily Ever After

THE TOUR

Cameron’s tours are Saturdays at 1, 2, and 3pm. For $10, you get the tour and the tasting. On the tour, you get the story of beer creation, and in particular Cameron’s style of doing it. You’ll also see all their equipment and packaging, from old to new.

Cameron's Brewing, Hoppily Ever After
Original branding on the boxes

They also showed off their towers of the new cans, and different rooms throught the brewery like the barrel-aging room.

Barrels at Cameron's, Hoppily Ever After
Doppelbock being aged in Bourbon barrels

THE EXTRAS

There’s a  tiny shop with a few items – namely this Beer Geek shirt and some beer brittle candy.

Beer Geek, Hoppily Ever After

And as we’ve mentioned throughout, Cameron’s Brewing just went through a rebrand. We think the cans give a very hip and updated look to this old stalwart brewery, but you can hear even more about it from our friends at Hamilton Small Fries.

Cameron's cans, Hoppily Ever After
The new look

If you want to check out Cameron’s – and a few of their friends – further, they’re having a Cask Night on April 1, 2016.

AprilCaskNight

Our Visit Date: March 19, 2016

Trafalgar Club – Ontario Brewery Touring

Oakville’s Trafalgar Club is a combo of Trafalgar Ales & Meads and the Trafalgar Artisanal Distillery. They do the meads, the hard liquor, and the beer – and they do it damn well.

Trafalgar Club Interior - Hoppily Ever After

THE PLACE

The tap room was redone back in 2014, and now it’s a rustic haven with wood panels, long benches, and a pot-bellied stove. When we visited back in November, there were only three taps. But now they’re really close to unveiling their 16 growler filling stations, which means that soon we’ll see all  the varieties from their fridge on tap.

Flavoured alcohol at Trafalgar Club -Hoppily Ever After
Flavouring hard alcohol

THE TOUR

On Sundays at 2pm, there’s a great tour around the facility. It’s $10, but that includes a good round of samples (plus you can apply the $10 to a purchase).    It’s not a huge place, so we didn’t expect the tour to last a full hour, but between the two of us, the other guys on the tour, and our guide, we got to chatting.

Beer ingredients at Trafalagar Club - Hoppily Ever After

We talked beer, brewing at Trafalgar, distilling, homebrewing, and the state of beer in Ontario. Plus, we poked around the back end of the place

At Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After
Josh checking out the equipment

THE BEER

Though there were only the three beers on tap, doing the tour meant we could dig into all the goodies in the fridge. Some standouts of beer and mead included:

  • Norfolk County Baked Apple Mead – like apple pie in a glass, with all the spices
  • Wet-Hopped Ale – the fresh, local Cascade hops gives it a leafier taste than some hop-forward brews
  • Trafalgar ESB – that classic, undefinable bitter ale done just the way it should.
  • Potato Stout – quite a dry, old-timey, classic stout. Can’t actually taste the potato though!
  • Irish Brown Ale – tangy, proper, Irish brown, perfect for the cooler seasons

Beer on Tap at Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After

THE EXTRAS

The big extra is, of course, the distillery! Trafalgar makes quite a list of unique or creative spirits. Along with vodka and unfiltered gin, they make “shines” (as in moonshine, but with a name more palatable to the LCBO), which is basically unnamed whiskey – and Trafalgar does it in multiple flavours: berries, apple pie, pumpkin, and more. We even took a few home with us.

Shine and Hard Alcohol at Trafalgar Club - Hoppily Ever After

Our visit date: Nov 28, 2015

Refined Fool Brewing

Sarnia might be quite a ways from most other cities, but Refined Fool is worth the trip. It’s the sort of brewery that has it all going on: it’s a good place to hang out, it has a great batch of beers, and it even has a neat brand and interesting merch.

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THE PLACE

The big colourful mural down the side of the building makes it stand out, and they keep up that quirky, old-timey theme (heavy on top hats) throughout the building and throughout their brand.

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And they have a proper bar. Not a standing-awkwardly-tasting area, but a place you can get cozy at one of the table. It feels like they actually want people to hang out there.

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So you can hunker down at a table, and try a flight of interesting samples, or have a big glass emblazoned with that logo.

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THE BEER

Refined Fool makes a lot of beer in a lot of different styles. Jess & Josh have conflicting views on this. Jess thinks: how exciting, keep pumping out the brews! While Josh thinks that maybe a focus on 3-4 might be the better way of doing it.

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Still, they go across the field, from European standards to beyond, playing with the bits and pieces, and interesting ingredient ideas to make some pretty unique brews.

When we were there, these were the offerings on tap.
During our autumn visit, these were the offerings on tap.

Some of our favourites:

  • She’s German, Oktoberfestbier –   perfect for the season, less malty than most Oktoberfest styles
  • Pouch Envy, Australian Pale Ale –  quite unique. With a fruitier, more citrus-y taste than most IPAs, and less of the hoppy bitterness, this was a winner for both of us. We took a bottle home.
  • Serenity Now,  Extra Special Bitter (ESB) – we’re always on a hunt for a good local ESB, and of the Ontario craft ESBs we’ve tried, this one probably matches the traditional English style best. Well balanced in hops and malts (and not particularly bitter).
  • Troll Toll, Cream Ale – uncomplicated, simple, and refreshing. What else can you say about a good cream ale?

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THE EXTRAS

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Now as we’ve mentioned, the Refined Fool brand is strong – and pretty freakin’ cool too – and the little shop at the back of the store shows it. (Jess regrets not picking up a t-shirt).

We even caught the brewer at some paddling.
We even caught the brewer at some paddling.

 

Visit date: October 17, 2015