A mall filled with malts
For the first time, Winterlude will be invaded by a wealth of micro-breweries.
Saturday and Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., as part of the first Winterbrewed Craft Beer Fest, beer-lovers will take over the Sparks Street Mall to make snowmen, sample treats from an on-site sugar bush and, of course, sample 18 of best craft beers available in the region, from the Ashton Brewing Company to Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. Some are coming from afar, including Microbrasserie Charlevoix and King Brewery.
If you want to taste the beers or food at Winterbrewed, you will need to buy an official festival glass and tokens. They are available online at winterbrewed.com in package deals ranging in price from $10 to $30. You can also buy the deals at three ticket booths where Sparks Street intersects Elgin, Metcalfe, and O’Connor respectively.
With dozens of examples on tap, it can be tough trying to decide which are worth taking the time to try. Below are a few picks I’ve sampled and think are not to be missed:
Old Fruitcake Ale
Broadhead Brewing Co.
Alcohol: 6 per cent
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 45
This is a beer with character and a story. While it’s being served by the brewers from Broadhead, this brew is in fact the product of an Ottawa home brewer, Emil Niec, who won the 2013 OntarioBeerKegs Homebrew Competition. Niec’s prize was to have Broadhead make a commercial-sized batch of his brew for WinterBrewed.
Dried fruits, including cranberries, dates, figs and raisins were used to make this brew. Sweet, dark and malty, it’s almost like a porter. Despite its higher IBU level, there is very little detectable hops flavour. Instead, the sweet and roasted flavour of dates, figs and raisins shine. An excellent full-bodied drink to enjoy on a cold winter’s day.
Hogsback Brewing Co.
Alcohol: 5.5 per cent
Did someone say bacon? This beer is a must-try, not just because it is an outstanding oatmeal stout, but because the beer was made with organic bacon. The bacon, provided by Pork of Yore, was carefully trimmed and baked in a home oven before being added to the final stages of this beer. While bacon can get greasy and messy, that isn’t the case here. The bacon hides within the roasted and malty taste of the stout, and its flavour doesn’t kick in until after a few sips, leaving a faint, salty and slightly smokey taste. The addition adds to what is already a fantastic stout and makes it more interesting to the palate. Lovers of stout should beat a path to the Hogsback booth for this one.
Imperial Super Rye Guy
Beyond the Pale Brewing Co.
Alcohol: 9.1 per cent
If you’re looking for flavour and you’re into hops, this beer is it. The guys at Beyond the Pale pride themselves on pushing conventional norms out the window and trying new and exciting ways to make beer. Imperial Super Rye Guy blends copious amounts of rye malts with tons of hops to get a beer that is massively high in alcohol and full of sweet malts and bitter hops flavour. The beer pours a clear copper colour with a thin white head. At the first sip, the hops hit hard, followed quickly by the sweetness of the malt. Then a lingering, albeit slight, grapefruit taste remains on the tongue at the finish. The alcohol disappears into the background and is barely detectable.
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Alcohol: 6 per cent
Rejoice, coffee lovers. This one has been made just for you. A collaboration between Beau’s and Ottawa coffee stalwart Bridgehead, this beer offers an overwhelming coffee-flavoured punch. While many coffee beers are of the darker variety such as porters or stouts, Beau’s has used an amber style of beer. Its lighter flavours allow the strong coffee to shine and the malt’s sweetness from the beer acts like the coffee’s sweetener. It’s definitely a unique beer that is big on taste. The beer pours a rich red amber colour with a tall thick head. The bitterness of the coffee hits hard, followed by caramel and lighter coffee flavours. The beer finishes with a malty sweetness on the tongue.