Finally … a beer from the Muskoka Brewery worth writing about.
Having previously reviewed their ubiquitous Mad Tom and Twice as Mad offerings which left me unimpressed, I was hesitant about sticking another toe in their fermented waters. Twice bitten — definitely third time shy. So why did I take the bait? The packaging grabbed my attention … and as a “limited run series,” it is proof if you needed any that controlling the supply impacts demand.
If you wanted to judge a beer by the box, well, this is going to wow you. This is a 750mL bottle, beautifully labelled, ‘capped’ with a cork and ‘cage’ and then placed in well constructed box artfully blazoned with with the “oddity.” Not really sure what it is but it is a cool looking bird with a rack of herbaceous antlers — and with a piercing eye, this raptor-phoenix looking creature arrests your gaze and hooks you to drink.
Each year Muskoka gives rise to new and strange creations. Legends date back to the 1800′s when lumberjacks and fur traders took to the woods and encountered the mysterious culture and wildlife in Northern Ontario. Today, we echo our ancestors’ quest for discovery and have unearthed a unique and adventurous offering. Brewed with a Belgian style in mind, this culmination of unique ingredients rests in the bottle of our Legendary Oddity brew. RELEASE THE LEGEND.
This is an interesting beer, to be sure. Firstly, it doesn’t necessarily follow any particular style. Moreover, it is described as a “vintage” which in this case means that this beer was brewed in 2013 and cellared for a year before being bottled and sold in 2014. Having said that, it also only sold March 10 to June 30th — to which, I offer my humble apologies. I meant to review this a month ago thinking it was on release till the end of July. It is also worth noting that even though this is a cellared vintage beer, it also comes with stamp on the bottle that says “Enjoy by September 24, 2014.”
Nothing about this beer would intuitively suggest this is a great summer time beer — but you’d be wrong. It know I was. This is a beer that defies convention and amazes.
My only beefs with the beer are subtle but the details drive me nuts: why on earth did Muskoka use such a small cork that is almost impossible for you to pull out with even adult hands? You practically need a cork screw to pull this out. And why stamp a “95 Rating” from RateBeer.com? Sorry, but that just seems obsequious and contrived like those crappy products that carry that stamp: “As Seen on TV.” I don’t have a problem with Muskoka referencing reviews as part of its own media campaign — but seriously, to incorporate it into your packaging? That feels horribly contrived for a “limited release” beer? It begs the question: how/why did RateBeer.com get an advanced tasting?
So to the tasting: once you twist, pull, and coax the cork out of this bottle, you’re in for a treat. Pour the beer into a glass and pour hard and you’ll get a wisp of head that fades quickly to a tenacious bit of lacing that doesn’t give up. Off the nose it is sugar and yeast … and spice … and all things nice. Caramel and orange peel dominate off the top, but the balance is refined and just leaves you going: “Mmm, interesting; nice.” Pour it hard or pour a second glass and you’ll understand that phrase quoted above: “unique ingredients rest in the bottle.” That’s not just a metaphor — it’s a vague way of saying this beer is on the lees and unless you really want all this turbidity in your glass, pour the last dregs carefully — or don’t, and watch what happens (click on photo to the right → to enlarge and see for yourself).
A first taste is satin caramel on the tongue. I’m serious, if you were making real homemade caramels, this is the softness you’d be striving for. The diacetyls are huge, right off the top and right through the end. These are key, in my opinion, to balancing out the 8% ABV to the point you don’t even know you’re drinking a high-test beer. The mouthfeel is truly remarkable.
If anything, the beer is so much in balance that nothing happens in the middle. That’s not to say the beer is watery, but there isn’t really fireworks in the middle either. It’s sort of like petting a Wheaton Terrier or a Bernese Mountain Dog – soft, beautiful, and something you want to wrap your arms around. It’s the end where the real personality of the beer emerges with among the most complex endings I’ve encountered: clove, cardamom, orange peel, juniper, and sugar all wrap up this oddity into something you want to cuddle and hold and give to your friends.
This is a refreshing beer. The Belgian and Trappist styles leave it spiced and very flavourful, but despite the sugars, their is a slightly sour, almost wheat-ale-like finish to this beer which also, despite the spices, makes this an excellent summertime and apres-golf beverage.
If you can’t find it this year, keep an eye out for next year. It’s just odd enough to be brilliant.
Stats: Spiced Beer. 8.0% ABV, Bracebridge, Ontario.
Colour: Unfiltered golden.
Mouth Feel: Low-medium carbonation; excellent diacetyls to finish.
Pairing Notes: Burgers
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