Finally, an interesting variety pack at the LCBO. Just look at that selection. Well, why the heck am I still looking at it? I am ready to drink it.
Steam Works Pale Ale
Unsure where to start, I just grabbed one nearest in the line...also the tallest in the line. No wonder why one of the box corners had a bulge.
First off - I love the design of this bottle and I especially love the list of ingredients on the side:
Malts: Pale, Carapils, Crystal and Caramalt
Hops: Zythos, Cascade
OK, these are not all ingredients, but you get the idea.
So how is this one? Well, pretty good. It has a copper color (obviously) and pours with a short head that quickly recedes. The aroma is subtle with a bit of sweet malt, caramel, nuts, light citrus and a touch of hops. The taste is bittersweet and heavy on the malt with notes of caramel and roasted nuts appearing here and there. The hops come out in the end and linger well into the finish along with some of the caramel. The flavour starts off rich, but towards the end it thins out and I thought the beer felt watery at times. Odd.
Though the bitterness is nice at first, it tends to quickly build and towards the end of the bottle, I thought it was too much. I liked the malt/hop balance, though.
OK, not sure who started it, but someone should be suing someone because when I first saw Russell's IP'eh!, all I could think of was Beau's I.P.Eh?.
Russell's has a dark copper color and pours with almost no head. The aroma is sweet and full of caramel, but has very little hop aroma. The taste is quite opposite - more bitter (and watery) than sweet. The hops do not jump out and punch you in the face, but if you taunt them for long enough, they will come out (I mean if you have a few sips, you will start noticing the hops). The beer is a bit watery, but fortunately that keeps all the bad players in check - you know, the ones that can ruin the flavour if they are allowed to take the lead - the caramel sweetness, the hops, the grassiness, etc. The watery flavour actually mellows out the IPA and turns it into a pretty good session ale...except it does feel a bit heavy.
I was a bit disappointed, but I guess I was expecting a hop bombed concoction...so I guess I should be disappointed with myself because I was automatically expecting this to be an American IPA and it didn't even cross my mind that this can be an English one...I have been ruined.
Whistler Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale
Aaah, I remember the days when I made a pomelo ale. Why? Because I love pomelos, that's why. So how does this stack up against my own brew?
Well, it is hazy and has an amber color and pours with no head. The aroma is malty with some bitter/citrus grapefruit notes. The taste is pretty darn good. It has a strong grapefruit flavour upfront, followed by a bit of not-too-sweet malt, followed by more grapefruit, followed by a touch of hops, followed by more grapefruit, followed by...well, you get the idea. The grapefruit comes and goes, but it is always there somehow. The flavour seems very real too. The finish is of grains, with subtle grapefruit base and a touch of hops. Man, the grapefruit is well done. Did not expect this, but yeah, I am quite impressed.
Dead Frog Pale Ale
Amber color, thick and creamy head, fills the room with a strong hop aroma. Up close caramel malt and a light citrus note. Oh Dead Frog, you had me at the hop aroma.
The taste....well, not as good as the aroma, but still very tasty. It is a bit watery, but a very nice bittersweet malt flavour is present along with a light citrus note. Have a few sips and the flavour starts to feel a bit less watery. The finish is similar - bittersweet with light hop and citrus notes.
Overall, the beer lacked the body, but because of that it was easy to drink and would make for a decent session ale with decent flavour.
Sea Dog Amber Ale
This one has a dark amber color and pours with a short head which recedes quickly. The aroma is heavy on the malt and roasted nuts with very little hops lurking underneath. The taste is a bit less malty and a lot more nutty, especially near the end. This is a lot bolder than I thought, but overall it is pretty simple...but bold. The finish is also nutty, but has a touch of coffee and some hops.
Pretty good this one is and that's a lot coming from me because I am not huge on ambers.
Whoa, for an American IPA, this one has a super pale color...or am I too used to the amber/copper color of 99.9% of the other IPAs? The aroma carries a load of hops, pine and citrus notes, but that color?
The taste? Pretty damn good. It is a bit dry, extra hoppy with delicious pine and citrus notes, but this is where you see that the color carrying malts are also the color carriers and their presence lacks. Sure there is a bit of sweetness, but this IPA is less sweet (and drier) than most others of the same style. The finish is long and very hoppy. I feel like this is a pretty good "session" IPA since the sweetness will probably not build up that much after a few...I just wish I had a few more to test this hypothesis with.
Bottom line - excellent sampler pack that is a few notches above the Ontario ones available in Canada. I don't mean that BC beers are better than Ontario beers, it is just the variety and what has been assembled is much better than the standard packs at the LCBO. If someone wants to make a few bucks, they should reach out to the non-LCBO retailers and get a bottle from each...aaah, one can always dream.