Tag Archives: Barrel aged Sours

Toronto Ontario Breweries Part 1 – Bellwoods, Niagara, Nickel Brook, and Great Lakes

Bellwoods Brewing

I didn’t have anything on tap my first visit to Bellwoods because it was late in the evening and they were quite crowded at their restaurant. Thankfully I saw the shop outside and was able to grab a few bottles. I got their Jutsu, hazy pale, Jelly King, hazy sour, and farmhouse classic, each in 500ml bottles.

The Jutsu was thick yellow haze that was more green at the bottom half of the bottle with all the yeast and hops. The beer had a grassy hop character and other tropical fruit hops that ended with a strong hop acidity like drinking pineapple juice. If drinking it again I would probably pour the dregs into a separate glass and not drink it. I liked it better with what I poured out first.

 

Jelly King I assumed would just be a clear kettle sour with mild hop kick but it was almost as hazy as Jutsu. It was fruity with notes of grapefruit, mild tart kick and mild hop acidity, much less than Jutsu. The farmhouse classic was a good funky saison that clearly should have been bottle conditioned longer as it erupted when I opened the bottle and spilled all over the table. It had hints of vanilla and a dry finish, reminding me of a muffin or light white cake.

I returned to Bellwoods some days later and tried two tasters of some beers that I hadn’t picked up in bottles the first time. I was very glad I did because I got to taste Runes and Witchshark. While Jutsu was great it was also ridiculously acidic, so it may have been just extra fresh. But Runes was soft, thick, and creamy without that acidic bite. It had tons of tropical fruit and citrus notes and mild caramel on the finish. It is a great example of the modern hazy IPA. Witchshark was a nice balanced double IPA though a bit maltier than I like and compared to Runes, I didn’t finish the taster. It was bitter with mild malt, mild pine and some candied fruit notes at the finish.

Top 2:
Runes – Hazy IPA
Jutsu – Hazy Pale

Niagara Brewing

Niagara brewing is a total gimmick of a brewery that gets a lot of traffic by being so close to the falls. They have a restaurant and both indoor and outdoor seating. I tried four beers while I was there and some were quite drinkable. The Blood Orange Berliner Weisse was a great low alcohol kettle sour with orange flavor, light tart kick, and effervescent carbonation. This was my favorite from this brewery.

The lager was fruity and thin with a mild sweet corn finish. It is a standard lager. The Schwartz was quite nice with a medium body and flavors of thick molasses and sticky burnt toffee. It tastes more like a stout than a schwartz but is quite good. The IPA was very sweet and heavy on the caramel from malts. It was too sweet and not particularly hoppy. I would have preferred to have it on cask being this style.

I wouldn’t recommend a trip out for the brewery alone but since Niagara is such a popular destination, it is a good enough stop for a pint after you are done walking. I did not have any food there.

Top 2:
Berliner Weisse with blood orange
Schwartzbier, black lager.

Nickel Brook


Nickel Brook brewing is in Burlington in Ontario Canada, about an hour west of Toronto. They don’t yet have the license to have a tasting room so you can try free tastes and buy bottles to go. I won’t get too critical of any of their beers since I only had a small taste of each of them. They had a good variety of options including tasty low malt hoppy beers that had a great balance to them. My friend swears their double IPA is one of the best hes ever had but they didn’t have it for tastes at the time I visited.

What stood out to me the most was the cherry dark sour I had. It was fantastically balanced and jammy with mild sweetness, low acidity, and mild oak. I enjoyed it so much that I bought bottles of the cherry dark sour, cherry blonde sour, and Flanders red style to bring home with me. I wasn’t originally planning on packing beer back but at $5 Canadian a 375ml bottle I couldn’t resist.

I got to try the Flanders at a bar later that evening and really liked its mellow flavors. Many beers in the style are either too much like vinegar or too acidic but this blended very nicely just like the cherry dark. It had good flavors of dark fruit and mild biscuit malts with a mild oak character. I will enjoy sharing these bottles with friends after I return but I would also recommend everyone try these delicious sours if you are in the area.

Known for:
They have a wide variety of beer but I would recommend coming out for IPAs or barrel aged sours. They also have some solid stouts available and lighter kettle sours.

Great Lakes Brewing

Compared to some other breweries I visited, Great Lakes Brewing isn’t doing anything hyper modern but the majority of their beers were quite good and to style. They have a good sized tasting room with outdoor seating and sell most of their beers in cans.

I enjoyed their pompous ass, a hoppy version of an English mild with a mild malt backbone and some citrus hops and a dry bitter finish. Their session IPA was a classic example of the style, lightly bitter with notes of resin and pine and a crisp finish on a light body. The red lager was nice and fruity with notes of currents and a dry finish.

The blonde lager was crisp and delicious, an excellent example of the style with light fruit and a dry finish. The IPA was lightly sweet and mildly bitter with lots of citrus and pine. This is purely classic west coast style. The pale ale was also low on malts with a bitter finish and notes of citrus and pine.

Come to Great Lakes Brewing for standard examples of styles done excellently well or look for their cans in the market.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Toolbox Brewing Revisited – Vista California – The Addition of Barrel Aged Sours Brings Them to the Next Level

Occasionally I have need to update a post on a brewery that has changed significantly since the last time I posted. Back when I visited Toolbox it didn’t seem very likely that the entire core of their beer would change so drastically. But brewers are people too and disagreements occur that lead them to move on to other breweries, as was the case when one of the head brewers from Toolbox left. I don’t intend to get into the specifics of what happened as that is none of my business but I do want to explore for you the big differences in the types of beer available at Toolbox. For those interested you can read┬ámy original Toolbox post. I have updated it with a note to indicate that the information is outdated.

Toolbox 03

You may recall previously that Tart X was the basis for many of the fruited sours that were available at Toolbox. This seriously tart base beer made for some quite tart fruited sours. Now the brewery appears to focus on a few different types of beers, Berliner Weisse, Gose, and barrel aged sours. I didn’t try everything on the menu in my recent visit because at $3 to $5 per taster depending on what you were ordering that could get quite expensive. But I could easily tell that trying the gose, berliner weisse, and barrel-aged sour they had on was an important part of understanding their new direction.

Toolbox Brewing Revisited 01

I tried five different beers on my latest visit, Free Range Lettuce, Funky Wit, Cumcumberliner, Life Gose On, and Bramble on Rose. The Grass Fed Lettuce is described as a dry-hopped sour pale ale with amarillo, galaxy, and hallertau blanc hops. However, I found it lacked both the flavors of the three hops and the sour kick I expected. It was a quite funky pale ale with really mellow hops and a bitter finish. Perhaps I missed it when it was first put on but hop heads won’t find anything exciting here. The Funky Wit is a twist on the traditional Belgian Wit with the addition of the Brett yeast. In this case the wild yeast gives the beer a very slight funk and a bit of bright fruit notes. Otherwise the beer has a nice high carbonation with light spice and a mild sweetness at the end. Quite a delicious beer and quite different in flavor from typical local versions.

Toolbox Brewing Revisited 02

The Cucumberliner is a Berliner Weisse with cucumber, 18 pounds per barrel to be exact. I found the beer to be a delicious mix of tart and intense cucumber flavor. It had a bit of a mouth puckering effect and a nice hint of citrus at the finish from the underlying beer. This was one of my favorites of the day and I left with a bottle that is thankfully reasonably priced at $8 for 16 ounces compared to other sours. The Life Gose On is described as a tart wheat ale with coriander and sea salt. I found it mildly salty yet balanced with a mild tartness and light citrus notes. I think the saltiness was what kept me from getting the citrus gose they had in bottles at the tasting room but I look forward to trying other varieties. As you can see on the beer board two of their other beers were fruit varieties of the berliner weisse. I did not try these in my visit.

The large number of barrels in the brewery indicates how deeply they have gone into barrel aging.
The large number of barrels in the brewery indicates how deeply they have gone into barrel aging.

I ended with the Bramble on Rose, a barrel aged wild ale with local blackberries. I found it to be absolutely delicious and I was glad I went straight for a full pour the first time. It was bursting with blackberry flavor and had a nice light sour that balanced with a nice light sweetness. The barrel really gave the beer a nice smooth finish. Probably the closest comparison I could make with this beer is the Cascade Blackberry Sour I had recently, quite high praise as Cascade has been brewing this style of beer for many years. I left with a bottle of this beer despite the $22 price tag because they indicated the bottles were going fast and I felt myself wanting more after I finished the first glass. You probably won’t find this beer available when you visit but if you do see a barrel-aged variety you should absolutely try it. Hopefully over time the amount brewed in each batch will increase.

The delicious red color of the Bramble on Rose.
The delicious red color of the Bramble on Rose.

One other thing to note here is the absence of the IPA and Stout that Toolbox brewed before. If you happen to visit with a friend who doesn’t like sours, I hope you are visiting multiple breweries in your trip as there are plenty of great breweries in the area that brew fantastic IPAs and Stouts. Now that I have become familiar with the world of sour beers I think it is fantastic that they have gone all in with sours and decided to no longer brew an IPA. After all they are surrounded by many great breweries that do the IPA properly.

Top 2:
Bramble on Rose
Cucumberliner

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Phantom Carriage Brewing Company – Bringing Dark Sours with a side of Horror

My third and final Torrance area brewery during my recent visit was Phantom Carriage. Phantom Carriage is located in Carson, slightly between Torrance and Long Beach but close enough to Torrance area to make it a natural next stop for the day. It just so happened that they were celebrating their grand opening that day so how could I not stop in!? After getting my IPA fix at Smog City and my Belgian fix at Monkish I was ready for some sours. Many Southern California breweries that make sours focus on fruit sours (beer with fruit added) but Phantom Carriage had wild ales and sours on tap, in the form of both dark and light varieties.

Phantom Carriage 01

I started with a flight of the Muis wild ale (a sort of brett blonde ale), Old Muis aged wild ale, and Bergman sour ale. The Muis was a solid beer with plenty of tropical fruit and light hoppy flavor with a mild amount of tart flavors. The beer was overall quite enjoyable. The Old Muis, which was an aged version was quite a lot more tart and had a light flavor of bourbon or whiskey.

The Bergman was very light and not very sour or tart and had a light fruit flavor and light sweetness. Compared to the others it didn’t taste like much. Subtle beers are hard to enjoy when others are such knockouts. As you can see in the pictures below, Phantom Carriage uses a unique style of taster glass that gives you a good chance to enjoy the aromas of the beers.

First flight, lighter color.
First flight, lighter color.

Second flight I tasted the Rathrbone dark sour, Lugosi barrel aged sour, and Dolores dark farmhouse ale. The Rathbone was a flavorful beer that was much more tart than the Bergman with plenty of good dark fruit flavors and a nice overall tartness. The Lugosi was quite tart and that did a good job to balance out the flavors of the barrel that gave it a nice boozy flavor.

Second flight, dark sours.
Second flight, dark sours.

The dolores was quite smoky and had plenty of roasted malt flavors and a little bit of dark fruit. Though on its own it had a strong smoke flavor it was great when compared to the others.

Tap list on the grand opening day.
Tap list on the grand opening day.

Overall, I was quite impressed by the beers at Phantom Carriage to start and look forward to what they will do in the future. Their tasting room is fairly large with enough room to handle a good number of people. They also have some food they serve as well, a rarity for new breweries. If you live in the area and like horror movies they also have a small theater where they will be playing horror movie classics. I couldn’t tell if this is going to be something they do all the time or only certain scheduled events. I will certainly be stopping in the next time I am in the area to see how things are progressing.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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