Rating → 89 points
Stats: Old Ale. 6% ABV. 25 IBUs. Vankleek Hill, Ontario.
Size: 600mL bottle
Colour: Dark amber — the colour of a well-steeped Earl Grey tea or a weak, reddish coffee
Mouth Feel: Medium-low but tight carbonation, that fades quickly. Refreshing and creamy finish.
Price: $24 (for Mix Pack)
With a new year comes repetition and with repetition comes tradition. Thus is seems the “Best of Beau’s Mix Pack” is a new tradition, one I reviewed last year in its entirety and one which I’ve picked up again this year. What’s particularly special about the mix pack is the thing that makes it frustrating and that is it collects some of the best brews from Beau’s during the preceding year — however, you can only get access to the individual bottles by purchasing the whole mix pack.
The 2013 Mix Pack proved a fun adventure with two very good, even outstanding, beers that were buttressed by two good but somewhat uneven beers. The good news is that the 2015 mix pack reprises one of the beers from 2014 — but it was my least favourite of the 4-pack, a vanilla porter by the name of “Burnt Rock.” But the good news is that in tasting it again, I liked it a lot more, though I still think the carbonation is amped just a wee bit too much.
This year, there some intriguing additions to the pack which have had me salivating at with promise. The first I chose to crack was “Winter Brewed,” mostly because I’ve been on a winter beer kick of late (go figure).
For a number of years on this blog, I’ve lauded both those who are community minded and care about the food/drink we consume, who try to produce a natural quality product which is good to environment, community, and consumer … and who have turned those values into good business. As such, I’ve long lauded the work and brewing of Beau’s and who even though not every beer is a winner, their spirit and commitment is unwavering and they dare to both dream and to explore.
But it’s nice to be able to add to this tale this year by introducing another similarly quality, earth and community minded local business with whom Beau’s has partnered on this ‘brew,’ and that is Bridgehead, a local chain of coffee houses. Bridgehead is a unique example of Toronto-born business that not only failed to flourish at the centre of the Canadian universe, but failed outright there, while it in fact has flourished in Ottawa and now has 15 locations and is still growing. Their website is well-worth a look as it shares not only about their organization and how to find them, but has whole sections on “learning” about coffee (and tea), brewing, and fair trade. It tells about their community support which is more than just Ottawa — indeed, the whole premise of fair trade is that we’re part of a global community and should care how our ‘local’ companies do business in other countries — to which I couldn’t agree more.
If you want to read something incredibly interesting and cool, you really have to read the Bridgehead History where you will discover that this is where Fair Trade Coffee started in Canada back in 1981. How cool is that? I mean really. I had no idea. Nor did I know about the fact they were involved with Oxfam-Canada and continue to prove that operating a business with both a social conscience and with ethical stewardship is not only possible, it can be successful. Perhaps they should start a school to teach ethical business practices. I can think of many businesses I’d like to put through it. What do you think, Hershey’s, want to bring your Mexican management team back to Canada to learn what you did wrong?
So, to beer … yes, there is a beer review in here and it is a review founded upon the cooperation of Bridgehead and Beau’s to produce this product.
Winterbrewed Coffee-Amber is a collaborative creation with our friends at Ottawa’s Bridgehead Roastery, celebrating all that brewing great beer and great coffee have in common…. It is an amber ale infused with Mexican micro-lot organic fair trade coffee from Bridgehead.
What emerges is the answer to every coffee geek that harbours an inner beer geek who asked not what would you get if your crossed a shark with a tornado (a wind with a big bite?), but rather what would an iced coffee taste like with malts and hops in it? The answer is revealed in this well-balanced beer that pours a brownish amber replete with precipitate but which ironically turns the colour of strong tea when held up to the light and which produces a frothy tight head on the pour which settles down to produce a fine bit of lacing to finish.
Off the nose there is no doubt that there is coffee in this brew, but don’t add cream and sugar because the beer has a nice malt backbone for a reasonable bit of sweetness that turns this from leftover coffee into something special. Nuts and I’d wager hazlenut and vanilla (I even imagine a bit of Frangelico liqueur) underpin the aroma that comes alive with that first taste making a perfect cup of coffee for those that alike their vanilla-nut in the morning. With medium carbonation to start, this softens quickly on the tongue to reveal a caramel macchiato before some nice bitters produce a clean though slightly astringent and earthy finish.
The truth is like this beer a lot … which makes me feel good because I love the partners in its production a lot as well. And, yes, I’ve tried to show that I’m somewhat impartial in my ratings of Beau’s products over the years … so when I say this is a winner, I really mean it. My only word of advice: don’t make this part of your morning coffee ritual.
Check back tomorrow for the next in the series: St Luke’s Verse.
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