Such is my experience with Ontario’s Beer Store which I had previously panned for not only its disappointing selection but its poor selection of local craft brews. Apparently they’re listening to their customers.
Or perhaps they’ve been taking a page out of Flying Monkeys pages and decided to be innovative … and put the fun back into going to the Beer Store.
So what a pleasant surprise when I was in the Beer Store last month and discovered an expanded selection of brews that included one of personal favourite craft breweries, Flying Monkeys … who still owns the award, in my opinion, for most fun with a beer cap and/or bottle. (The Golden Globes should expand their categories, I think.) Even better, they were now carrying an entirely new line of theirs I hadn’t seen before, including this new entry, their “Amber Ale.”
I know, for those expecting a pun in the middle of the label, keep looking. Perhaps the humour is being totally unimaginative … perhaps “Red Beer” was already taken.
The aroma off the neck is alluring, sweet and sensuous, almost like maple … the caramel malts lead, which is at it should be in an amber. Pour it as hard as you want, though, and you’re unlikely to get much of a head and any that does form will disappear very quickly. I give points for carbonation, therefore, as well. This is a beer that won’t fill anyone up. What is perhaps most surprising about the pour, however, is the colour that emerges. Did someone change the definition of “amber” on me? This is a dark gold at best … a medium honey, even, but this is not what I was expecting from the label. It will take a lot more to convince me that this “amber.” Perhaps that is the humour in the label — or perhaps the label should have read “Almost Amber Ale.”
That first taste? Creaminess immediately greets you. Not bubbles or carbonation. Not alcohol, but the diacetyls are huge … which is good, because there isn’t a lot more that will have anyone calling this beer “complex” or “layered.” Far from it. Still, the beginning is very nice.
The midtaste is a bit more uneven. You’re first introduced to the sweet Crystal malts, which are generous and pronounced. In the middle, here, it almost tastes like a cream ale, actually. This isn’t going to offend many people and I sort of buy the argument the brewer makes that this is “classy.” There are clear notes of toffee or even some of that maple that came off the nose and beyond that, it is the yeast and malts that just taste like ‘bread.’ However, classy as the first meeting will be, I think it is superficial because the 5% alcohol then takes over and without the camouflage of carbonation, the beer starts to becomes weak and watery … which becomes worse, much worse, at the finish. Indeed, without the carbonation which I would have signaled a plus at the beginning, at the end, this tastes like those last watery, flat dregs at the bottom of a warm can of Coors Light. Yes, I know, those are fighting words and I’ve practically been mean, especially to a brewer I love and admire … but that is how the ending tastes to me. And, no, that’s not a good thing.
In sum, this a beer with excellent lineage and a fine promise. It starts well, but quickly fades because of a lack of structure in the last half of the taste. The result is generally disappointing, not because this is awful (because it is not) but because I’ve quite frankly come to expect better from this brewery. As I say, this beer won’t offend many and I believe that is perhaps their market in this particular brew … and, in retrospect, why it’s being sold at the Beer Store.
Stats: IPA. 5% ABV. Barrie, Ontario.
Colour: Dark gold or, imagine if you can, a very golden amber
Mouth Feel: Medium-light carbonation upfront, very creamy with a watery finish.
Purchased: Beer Store