Rating → 79 points
Stats: English Ale. 5% ABV. 29 IBUs. St Thomas, Ontario.
Size: 750mL bottle
Colour: Dark red-brown amber — perfectly filtered
Mouth Feel: Medium-low, natural carbonation; relatively flat on the tongue with a low specific gravity.
Pairing Notes: Butter Tarts
No offence to the great Muhammad Ali, but when you have an epithet that great, great imitation follows..
The truth is, I decided to put this on my tasting menu because I thought it would, with the emphasis on honey and elixir, prove to be the right addition to my photography series devoted to Yellow. As you can see, I couldn’t have picked much worse. A dark red-brown amber, this would have been better paired with my Ommegang review of their Game of Thrones brew, Fire and Blood. However, since much of the colour of beers is imparted by the malts used in the brewing process, so I thought that with the addition of honey to the wort that the colour would have stayed much more pale than what I poured. And since the visual aesthetics of anything epicurean has so much to do with how our palate perceives it as the taste proper, I’m kind of surprised by the choice of malt here in something trying to market itself as ‘honey’ … and all I can surmise is that they wanted a darker, sweeter, more caramel malt to pull out of the honey. The problem is that if it doesn’t look like honey, will it taste as sweet? Will the palate taste honey as readily?
The head of the beer pours well enough, but there is nothing special to it and what does emerge wanes very quickly which is consistent with the low carbonation and the 29 IBUs. And, at ‘only’ 5% ABV, this is a beer that is destined to taste relatively thin on the mouth. The first taste is sweetness and more caramel than anything. The microcarbonation then takes over which I attribute to the fact that there isn’t a lot else going on, so the little bubbles win. (Isn’t that nice? To quote Monty Python, it’s nice that the meek finally win something.) Once the carbonation stops its little happy dance on your tongue, however, the creaminess of this beer emerges and with it the sweetness that pervades is slightly transformed and the honey comes out to play for a sweet, very smooth ending. I was actually expecting something a bit more like mead to end, but I guess then it probably would have more likely met all my expectations. The ending is in fact a lot more like an American pale ale without all the flavour from the hops … but it does have the astringent ending. A bit unfortunate in a beer that doesn’t have the typical tradeoff this brings and that being a bunch of bitters.
In sum, this is an interesting beer from graphic and playfully painted bottle, to its name, to the beer itself … but I don’t think it works as well as Railway City might think. It misses the mark as a truly honey beer, doesn’t have the craziness of mead, and instead seems to get the middling qualities of them all. Put other ways, this is an average beer with an identity crisis and I wouldn’t put it as “good value for money” unless you’re going to keep the bottle you’ve overpaid to posses. Gulp the beer, though, and it is extremely sessionable and, yes, it is a beer that will pair well with a lot of the sweet treats being served over the holidays, including butter tarts.