Santo Domingo

Earlier this month I had the chance to spend a few days in the Dominican Republic’s capital Santo Domingo. I stayed mostly in the city’s Colonial Zone, which is rich with history and a great place to visit. What follows are my observations on the local beer culture and some tips for where to get a good brew if you’re in town.

Presidente (a.k.a. ab-inbev antifreeze)

Presidente freezer
What keeps Presidente from freezing at -4.4°C? Rumours abound, and you won’t find out by reading the ingredients list.

You will no doubt sip from a few green bottles of this watery rice “pilsner” if you visit the Dominican Republic. It’s a pretty generic macro brew that hits the spot after you’ve been sweating buckets in the sun all day.

Interestingly, twice I heard a rumour that Presidente is made with glycol to keep the beer from freezing at sub-zero temperatures. Why? So it can be served ice cold, and to keep competitors out of Presidente-branded fridges freezers (see image).

The same brewer (owned by AB-Inbev since 2012) also makes Bohemia Especial, which I enjoyed more — mostly because I am reasonably sure it’s not brewed with antifreeze.

This fact was made clear to me after ordering a Bohemia one afternoon. “Se congela,” the server said to me. I understood what he meant after he turned the bottle upside down — the liquid inside was frozen. I watched him pull up five more Bohemias, all frozen. The Presidente, of course, was flowing fine.

There’s also Presidente Black (not a dark beer) which is a bit heavier at 6% alcohol and Presidente Light which weighs in at 4.3%.

Another quirk: Presidente is always served with at least one napkin in the DR. Sometimes with up to three: one serving as a coaster, another wrapped around the base and one tied around the top of the bottle’s neck. If you get a Presidente without a napkin, you’re doing something wrong.

Cultura Cervecera

Santo Domingo Brewing's Montesinos
The local-ish option: Santo Domingo Brewing’s Montesinos hoppy red ale .

With two locations in Santo Domingo Cultura Cervecera is a great place to get a good beer in town. The bar has US craft beer on hand from breweries such as Dogfish Head, Rogue, Sierra Nevada and more. Also available: many Germans and a smattering of Belgians, including a full suite of Lindemans lambics. Prices range from $6 to $12 per bottle.

The newly opened second location was close to my hotel in the Colonial Zone, so I popped by a few times for a pint. On my last visit I asked the waitress for an “IPA fresco” so she went to ask the owner Ian, who came by and recommended a bottle of Chivoperro IPA from Casa Bruja out of Panama. It was enjoyable.

Ian and I got to talking about the Dominican beer culture.

It turns out the familiar story of red tape bogging down craft brewers is very true in the DR, with crippling taxes, inspections and other regulations serving to help the big brewers dominate the market.

To illustrate the extent of the problem, the lone local craft brewer, Santo Domingo Brewing, actually contract brews in Oregon and ships their product back into the DR. (I recommend their Montesinos hoppy red ale). Ian also had some Charley Horse beers available, produced quasi-legally by a local homebrewer. I had to try the Summer Ale by this bootleg brewer, and it was pleasant.

Santo Domingo beers
A selection of some of the brews I had in Santo Domingo.

I can imagine how hard it is to grow a craft beer culture without being able to easily offer customers a locally-brewed option. Nonetheless Cultura Cervecera is growing and the owner has high hopes for the new location in the tourist district.

Kegs are also hard to find the DR. The original Cultura Cervecera location has 4 taps, which use one-way, disposable kegs. The new location has only bottles.

Presidente has convinced Dominicans that beer should always come out of a bottle, largely because they don’t want to rely on bars to maintain clean tap lines, Ian said. When he first opened his bar, a Presidente executive assured Ian he would fail without selling the macro suds. Three years later Presidente is scrambling to get into Cultura Cervecera and has agreed to sponsor a new 18-tap system for the bar, with very favourable terms (only four lines will be for macro product).

Other options

The local supermarket I visited had some decent European beers including: Erdinger, Paulaner, Franziskaner. Duvel, Fullers, Czechvar, Maredsous and Leifmans. There are also a handful of Beer Market pubs around town. They offer a Euro-heavy selection. When I visited one, many of the bottles I requested from the menu were out of stock. I settled on a 375 ml bottle of 2012-2013 Boon Oude Geuze which ran me about $15. I also came across an Erdinger Biergarten on the waterfront road (“El Malecon”). And better macro options like Leffe, Stella, and Hoegaarten are available at many better restaurants and stores.

Erdinger Biergarten
A motorcyclist passes by the Erdinger Biergarten on El Malecon.


The DR is a great tourist destination, but it’s no beer drinkers’ paradise. Change is slowly happening but most will have to settle for Presidente or Bohemia for the foreseeable future. However, good beer can be had in Santo Domingo if you’re willing to seek it out. Of course, you could always just drink rum!

What was your beer-drinking experience like in the Dominican Republic?

Santo Domingo

Great Lakes Octopus Wants to Fight

Octopus Wants to Fight
Octopus Wants to Fight. I want to drink.

When it comes to hoppy beer, few in the Canada are on par with Great Lakes Brewery. The west Toronto operation has twice been named Canadian Brewery of the Year, in no small part because it pumps out a steady flow of top notch American-style IPAs like Karma Citra, Lake Effect, Thrust! and Robohop , to name a few.

Octopus Wants to Fight is one of the newest brews coming out of Great Lakes’ tanks. And it was great to stumble upon some fresh cans at the LCBO just as spring is (hopefully) upon us. (If you’re curious about the name, click here.)

Pouring this beer out produces lots of off-white head sitting on top of mostly clear, beautiful amber liquid.

Immediately the pungent scent of grapefruity Mosaic hops hit my nose. This is a beer you can smell from 5 feet away. Getting closer, I inhaled deeply picking up pine resin and juicy tropical fruit.

The flavour profile is very balanced. While this IPA is surely packed full of hops and delivers a firm bitterness, it isn’t overly bitter. It’s very smooth and drinkable, yet complex and satisfying with notes of dank pine, citrus and tropical fruit. At 6.2% alcohol it sits on the light end of the IPA spectrum, with a medium body and finish.

Brewing a balanced IPA — a trick many breweries struggle to pull off — has become Great Lakes’ trademark. Their IPAs go down so smooth but pack all the hop punch you could ask for.

For a while the knock against Great Lakes IPAs was that there was never enough to go around. The good news for drinkers is that the brewery seems to have solved that problem with their recent releases.

100,000 cans of Octopus will hit LCBO shelves over the next three months, the brewery announced. It should also be available at “bars and restaurants from Ottawa to Windsor, Sudbury to Toronto.”


Brewer: Great Lakes Brewery

Location: Toronto, Ontario (Etobicoke)

Beer: Octopus Wants to Fight

Style: American IPA

Alcohol: 6.2% abv


Currently at LCBO stores around the province, the brewery store and better bars/restaurants.

What is your favourite Great Lakes IPA?

Great Lakes Octopus Wants to Fight

Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus

One of the highlights of the LCBO’s sparse seasonal release for spring 2016 is Lupulus from MicroBrasserie Charlevoix. This hoppy Belgian strong ale is rated among the top Canadian beers and the 10th best beer in its style worldwide. Not too shabby.

I paid a pretty penny to taste this one at Winter Brewfest and was quite impressed, so I gladly purchased a 750ml bottle from the LCBO for $11.80.

Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus
I tried to pour it gently, but it still produced a massive head.

This beer is a gorgeous deep and clear yellow. And be sure to pour gently, as it yields a mammoth frothy white head (see photo). It’s well carbonated with lots of bubbles streaming up from the bottom of the glass and a little effervescent on the tongue.

The nose is really complex, there is barnyard character from the Belgian yeast, melon, citrus, lemon, pineapple as well as some peppery notes from the Saaz hops. It really is something to smell.

The taste doesn’t disappoint either with a mix of fruity esters which give way to a dry lingering bitter finish. This brew is refreshing and very hoppy, but well balanced in my opinion. It’s easy drinking for its heft, but after a glass or two you will understand its potency. The bottle says 10% alcohol but the LCBO has relabelled it as 9%, no doubt after lab testing. Either way you should sip thus one slowly, but that may prove difficult.

Simply put, If you haven’t tried this beer you should. If you like hops and Belgian ales you will love this. Be sure to pick it up while it’s still reasonably fresh. The bottle I bought was born in mid-December. I am sure you could cellar this beer but the hops will fade with time.

Hops are a horrible thing to waste, and with a name like Lupulus, derived from the scientific name for hop (humulus lupulus), the brewer clearly wants you to experience this fresh and at its most hoppy.

I think this ale could be enjoyed anytime, but goes best with mild weather and a hearty meal.


Brewer: MicroBrasserie Charlevoix

Location: Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Beer: Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus (Sainte-Reserve)

Style: Belgian Strong Ale

Alcohol: 9% or 10% abv, depending on who you ask


Currently at LCBO stores around the province.

Have you tried Lupulus? Does it deserve high praise or is it over-hyped?

Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus

Nickel Brook Maple Porter

Nickel Brook Maple Porter
One of the more appetizing cans I’ve seen.

As a lover of porters and all things maple I’ve had my eye on Nickel Brook’s Maple Porter for some time now.

I’m generally hesitant when brewers add sugar to beer, as I often find such concoctions overly sweet. However, I seem to have an unlimited tolerance for maple syrup.

Over the years this brew has had some mixed reviews. It was also a little pricey at $9.00 for a 750 ml bottle, so I never bought it.

This year the Burlington-based brewery opted to release it in a more convenient and reasonably-priced format, so I gladly picked up a couple tall cans for $3.00 apiece.

First off, I must say I love the label on this beer. It looks just like a can of maple syrup and instantly made be crave a stack of pancakes.

The beer pours out a solid black with a beige foam head, which receded to nothingness quickly.

The scent of maple syrup hits the nose intensely, as the sweet sugary notes rise up from the glass and dominate the aroma, with some coffee and roasted malt lingering in the background.

On the first sip it’s clear the maple is less intense on the taste buds — and that’s a good thing. No doubt this is a sweet beer, delivering shades of tiramisu as the sugary syrup blends with the beer’s roasted malt foundation. But as I work through the pint I find myself wishing for more maple.

After drinking and thinking some more on the maple levels I think the brewer may have got the balance right. A full glass of this beer went down pretty easy. And while the maple syrup was present in every sip along the way, I can’t say it was cloying. I could have easily popped open another can after finishing the first one.

But the maple flavour can get tired and most of the time I would probably prefer a regular, unsweetened porter. I’d love to see a maple porter with more of a roasted malt presence, or perhaps with some chocolate or coffee thrown into the mix.

If you like maple and porters, or are looking for a beer to pair with breakfast, Nickel Brook’s Maple Porter is well worth a try.


Brewer: Nickel Brook Brewing

Location: Burlington, Ontario

Beer: Maple Porter

Style: Robust Porter

Alcohol: 6% abv


Seasonal. Currently available at the brewery and LCBO stores around the province.

Have you tried this beer or other maple beers? What do you think?

Nickel Brook Maple Porter

Ice. Cold. Beer.

Beer fridges
A sight for sore eyes.

When I first heard beer was coming to Ontario grocery stores I was excited and hopeful. I thought competition would fix some of The Beer Store and LCBO’s shortcomings.

But my enthusiasm waned when I learned some details of the arrangement: grocers are banned from competing with the duopoly on price and selling hours; nor can they offer any cross promotions on beer.

Of course the grocery stores must overcome the usual pile of Ontario red tape to bring in any unique products. Plus, they face a new, seemingly arbitrary restriction: no beer with more than 7.1% alcohol. “I mean, let’s keep this respectable, right?”

My one remaining hope was that the grocers would seize the chance to exploit the one avenue of meaningful advantage available to them — temperature.

Most LCBO stores keep their beer at room temperature. Some stores have ineffective “cool shelves”. Even fewer have “cold rooms” which are not usually cold enough, and often out of service. The Beer Store does a slightly better job on the temperature front, albeit with a far worse selection.

As the cans and bottles initially rolled into grocery stores late last year I was disheartened when I saw them sitting warmly, with minimal shelf space at the grocery stores I visited.

This week, however, my wish came true when I stumbled on a wall of gleaming refrigerators, stocked with ice cold beer at my local Superstore.

Not only was the beer ice cold, but there was a surprisingly large selection, better than many LCBO stores. Fully 50% of the shelf space was devoted to Ontario craft brews (the law says only 20% has to be reserved for local craft).

This place is going to get a healthy chunk of my beer dollars.

To buy beer at a grocery store you must go to the designated cashier, which also serves non-beer customers. This means you might have to wait in line behind people buying Lego and potted plants.

I’ll still head to the duopoly for seasonal releases and imports unavailable elsewhere. But when I need beer to be consumed soon after purchase or if I’m buying regularly-available Ontario craft (especially hoppy styles), I’ll be picking up from the Superstore. There are currently 60 grocery stores authorized to sell beer.

As far as I’m concerned this is a win for Ontario beer drinkers. No more waiting for lukewarm lagers to cool down! No more faded IPA!

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you’ll sell more beer if it’s cold. As one impressed customer remarked, “It sure beats buying it piss warm.” In the almost 90 years since the end of prohibition in Ontario, The Beer Store and LCBO have not bothered to offer properly chilled beer to Ontarians with any consistency. For shame.

Does cold beer make a difference to you? Is your local grocery store selling cold beer?

Ice. Cold. Beer.

Review: St-Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011

For this review I reached deep into the depths of the cellar and pulled out the oldest beer I’ve ever tasted, McAuslan Brewing’s St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011.

For some perspective, when this bottle was produced: planking was a thing, people said “winning” a lot and Donald Trump was on TV bossing around Jose Conseco, La Toya Jackson and Gary Busey.

St-Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011
St-Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011

At that time I was still blissfully ignorant of craft beer, quenching my thirst with macro swill and gin and tonics.

I picked up this bottle in 2013 when the Montreal brewery released a gift pack through the LCBO for the Christmas season. The box contained a bottle each of from 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages. I intended to buy a new bottle each year, and one day do a side-by-side tasting to study how age affects the beer.

However, the 2014 and 2015 vintages never made to Ontario, and the trio languished in my cellar for two more years before I finally cracked the 2011 bottle for this review.

This beer is classified as a barley wine, which is a very strong English-style ale, and is brewed just once a year. Characterized by high alcohol content, many prefer to let barley wine rest for a year or more to smooth it out and calm any boozy heat that may be present in a fresh batch. Some say barley wine can be stored almost indefinitely, in a cool, dark place.

As it comes out of the bottle the half-decade old liquid looks a lot like apricot nectar. Some chucks of sediment loosened from the bottom of the bottle and, despite best efforts, a couple globs sneak into the glass at the tail end of the pour.

The beer smells wonderful. It’s very malty with bright, fruity and floral esters. There are also strong notes of grains, wood, caramel and brown sugar. The 10% alcohol can be detected with a mild sting that hits the nostrils.

The flavour is a very smooth, well integrated malty blend of fruits like figs and apricots with brown sugar and grains. This is very sweet, as close as a beer can get to liquid candy. It has a thick, chewy consistency that leaves a sticky upper lip after each satisfying sip.

This is a potent and indulgent brew, best enjoyed when you have nowhere to be anytime soon.


Brewer: McAuslan Brewing

Location: 5080 St-Ambroise, Montreal, Quebec

Beer: St-Ambroise Vintage Ale (2011)

Style: Barley wine

Alcohol: 10% abv


Very limited. This beer has not been available in Ontario since 2013. New batches may arrive in the future. It can be found in Quebec.

Do you cellar any beer? What’s the oldest beer you’ve tasted?

Review: St-Ambroise Vintage Ale 2011

A buck an ounce: Thoughts on Toronto Winter Brewfest

Even if you weren’t there, by now you’ve may have heard that the inaugural Toronto Winter Brewfest didn’t go off without a hitch.

If you attended, you felt the pain. It stung your wallet early and often. Tickets were a dollar each. Most four ounce samples cost four tickets.

A buck an ounce. What?

That works out to $20 a pint or about 65% more than a beer inside the Rogers Centre.

Price was by far the biggest sore spot, but there were plenty of others. Almost as soon as it kicked off on Friday, complaints began flowing out of the Enercare Centre via social media about crowding, service, lineups, glassware, the venue and beer availability.

The Gainsbourg setup before the crowd swarmed at Toronto Winter Brewfest.
Best in show. The Gainsbourg setup before the attendance swelled.

The complaints continued on Saturday, and the throughout rest of the weekend about what was dubbed “Winter Screwfest.” (More reading here, here, here and all over social media.)

As a ticket holder for the Saturday night session, I followed the drama with some anxiety. Event representatives thanked critics for the feedback (read: flak) and vowed to remedy the situation where possible. My suggestion was ignored. Instead organizers grew the event space by 25% for Saturday and provided free bottles of water.

An excited winner at Toronto Winter Brewfest.
An excited winner at Toronto Winter Brewfest.

From what I can gather, the Friday session was a bit of a disaster, with equipment breakdowns reducing the availability of beer, large lines and a cramped space. Add the high beer prices to the mix and people were understandably upset.

Personally my experience on Saturday was great. I arrived around 5:30 and there was plenty of space, all the beers I wanted were available with minimal waiting. A lesson I’ve learned more than once: the early bird gets the beer.

The DJ at work.
The DJ at work.

As the evening wore on it did get increasingly crowded and kegs began to tap out. Even with 25% more floor space, walking from one end to the other started to feel like I was in a packed nightclub. As the crowd grew it got a little sloppy and I heard a lot of glasses shattering. I decided to hit the toad around 10 after ensuring there were no glass shards in my shoe.

Thankfully, I already had my fill.If I had arrived at 10, as many did, I would have probably left unsatisfied and frustrated.

There were some really good beers to be had. I was able to sample all of my top beer picks. My favorite of the night was Gainsboug’s Orange Tie Wrap. I sank 12 tickets into this complex saison-IPA hybrid to have my cup filled three times (including some generous pours from

People at Toronto Winter Brewfest
Starting to get a little crowded.

the very knowledgeable server). It had a lot of lime and orange going on and a healthy dose of unmistakable Neslon Sauvin hops.

Another standout was Bilboquet’s MacKroken Flower, which is an indulgent 10.8% scotch ale brewed with wild flower honey. And Charelvoix’s Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus was a phenomenal blend of hops and fruity esters. I was lucky enough to get the last pour.

The good

Beer selection: From my experience, this was the biggest and best selection of Quebec and Ottawa brews ever offered on tap in Toronto.

Atmosphere: I like the venue, the interior/exterior brick wall on one side gives it an outdoorsy feel. I enjoyed the lighting, music and decor/fixtures. Also, having ample restrooms and drinking fountains is a big plus.

Pre-purchased tickets: I took the opportunity to buy food/drink tickets ahead of time online for a 20% discount. That means my overpriced beer samples only cost me just $3.20 apiece. This is a great idea I’d like to see at every beer event.

Roll-a-Ball: Anyone reeling from the prices could take a seat at this carnival game and try to turn a ticket into five.

Self-serve beer: This is a bit of a gimmick, although I do take much joy in pouring my own pint. The real value is that you could fill your 16 ounce glass up to the brim for 9 tickets. I didn’t try it, but that’s actually decent value.

Service: Specifically the generous server who — for a measly four tickets — dropped about 13 oz. of Beyond the Pale’s Govern Yourself Accordingly rye porter into my glass. It must have been my charm!

The bad

Beer selection: More stouts, big Belgians, barley wines, scotch ales please. This is Winter Brewfest. I could count the imperial stouts available on one hand.

Food: The wait for food was long and I wasn’t even there for the busiest hours. It cost $10 for a trio of two-bite fish tacos. They need more options and more quick-serve snack items. I should be able to get a soft pretzel with mustard at every beer event.

Service: On Friday there were reports of people getting stingy pours. I think this was remedied with some retraining for the Saturday session. Still, at these prices servers should have been instructed to be generous from the start.

The ugly

Prices: A buck an ounce! How dare you?

Crowding: The sheer amount of people there by around 10 hastened my exit. Had I arrived later, I wouldn’t have stayed long at all. Clearly, too many tickets were sold or maybe the event’s layout should have been designed better.

The takeaway

I think most shortcomings would have been forgiven if the beer prices weren’t so outrageous. Conversely if the event was executed better, people wouldn’t have complained about the price as much.

This was the first Toronto Winter Brewfest, so, I’ll give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there were unforeseen circumstances that necessitated the high prices and/or overselling of tickets. That doesn’t make it right, but it is understandable. And for every complaint on social media, there are probably a dozen posts from people who had a blast at the event.

To me the beer selection alone made this worth attending. Such a wide selection of interesting brews from Quebec and Ottawa is hard to find in Toronto. Hopefully the people behind the event learn from this experience and return much improved in 2017.

Were you at the event? How was your experience? Would you attend again?

A buck an ounce: Thoughts on Toronto Winter Brewfest

Toronto Winter Brewfest preview

Toronto Winter Brewfest got my attention when I read that a bunch of Quebec breweries signed up to participate. Considering Quebec is our neighbour and home to some of Canada’s best microbrasseries, brews from the province are frustratingly hard to get in Ontario.

Winter Brewfest logoThis will be the first time the organizers hold this event in Toronto, after operating in Ottawa and Gatineau.

Ahead of the event this weekend the organizers have released a list of the 130 beers available from about 50 Ontario and Quebec breweries.

There are a bunch of great beers available, but at events like this I always try to stick to beers that are hard to come by elsewhere.

Beer picks

After studying the beer list, these are the 5 beers I am most anxious to try for the first time. Lo and behold, they are all from la Belle Province.

Gainsbourg – Orange Tie-Wrap (Saison-IPA, 8%)

It’s hard to find any info about this beer, but from what I can tell this is a hybrid beer brewed with limes, fresh orange zest and Nelson Sauvin hops. I love Nelson Sauvin hops. This will surely be my first stop of the evening.

Gainsbourg – Côte Ouest – (IPA, 7%)

Several beers from this small Gatineau brewery look great. This is their west-coast IPA, triple dry hopped, can’t wait to give it a try.

Les Trois Mousquetaires – Sticke Alt (German Alt, 6%)

This established brewer from Brassard is great at putting a twist on classic styles. I’m expecting big things from their take on a German Alt, and I doubt I’ll be disappointed.

Bilboquet – MacKroken Flower – (Scotch Ale, 10.8%)

I love a scotch ale and this one sounds like a treat, as it’s brewed with wild flower honey. This might be a great one to have for dessert to end off the night.

Dieu du Ciel – Solstice d’Hiver (American Barley Wine, 10.5%)

I’ve heard great things about this beast from arguably the best brewery in Canada. At 10.5% this might be another candidate to cap off the night. Or maybe this will make a good second dessert.

Check back next week for a post about my experiences at the event.

Are you going this weekend? Which beers are you looking forward to tasting?

Toronto Winter Brewfest preview

Review: Bellwoods Brewery — Skeleton Key

On the heels of being named one of the world’s top 100 brewers for the second straight year, Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery released its Skeleton Key.

The first batch of this brew was released in 2014 and in the time since has risen to become the highest-rated beer Bellwoods has produced to date.

Bellwoods Brewery's Skeleton Key
Bellwoods Brewery’s Skeleton Key

Weighing in at 12% alcohol this imperial stout is an ideal companion for a cold winter’s night. And as it happens, the second batch of Skeleton Key was released during the coldest week of the season, after spending a year resting inside rum barrels with some cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, all spice and peppercorns.

Having missed out on the initial batch, I would not be left out in the cold again and headed over to 124 Ossington Ave. to get my four-bottle allotment as temperatures dipped south of -25° C.

During my trip home the elements had naturally chilled both my bottles and bones, and as such, I got straight to work on this one.

Skeleton Key pours pitch black with a dense dark brown foam cap, reminiscent of a nice espresso.

I’d sum up the aroma like this: chocolate rum cake. Oak notes from the rum barrel are very present as are the spices, which evoke thoughts of some memorable encounters with spiced rum. You can also detect the alcohol content with a whiff.

Skeleton Key tastes like black forest cake with rum-soaked raisins instead of cherries. Lots of chocolate and dark fruit, such as figs and dates. And the alcohol provides a much needed warming sensation as it goes down. The spices are muted but give this beer a very unique, wintery character.

Physically the beer has a satisfyingly thick, heavy mouthfeel. It gets smoother as it warms and releases carbonation.

Skeleton Key has a long, lingering, rum-chocolate-spice finish that builds as I worked my way through the bottle.

This is a slow sipper that deserves to be savoured at your leisure. Here’s yet another standout and unique offering from Bellwoods Brewery.

I’ve heard that the first batch got a little smoother after year or so in the cellar, so I’ll probably drink one more this year and save the other two for next winter, if I can resist.


Brewer: Bellwoods Brewery

Location: 124 Ossington Ave., Toronto, Ontario

Beer: Skeleton Key (2016)

Style: Imperial Stout

Alcohol: 12% abv


Very limited. A total of 1876 500 ml bottles released at the brewery’s bottle shop on Feb 12, 2016. You might find it on tap at a very select number of bars, including Bellwoods’ brewpub.

Review: Bellwoods Brewery — Skeleton Key

Review: Muddy York Brewing — Gaslight Helles

Muddy York Brewing’s Gaslight Helles

Lagers are usually the subject of ridicule among craft beer drinkers — often rightfully so — in a market so flooded with the bland, pale variety.

But a good lager can be refreshing, complex, satisfying and downright delicious.

The best ones traditionally come from Europe and often wash up on our shores well below their prime, after pasteurization and the long journey robs them of taste. Most North American lagers are mass produced with rice and other adjuncts to dilute the flavour of barley malt.

As such I am always on the lookout for local, fresh, unpasteurized lagers and had high hopes for Muddy York Brewing’s Gaslight Helles lager.

Since it was established 2013, Muddy York has focused classic beer styles. You won’t see coconut or cacao nibs listed on their ingredients lists. Muddy York boasts of taking a “less is more” approach to brewing. To me, that sounds like the perfect approach to make a great lager.

As I poured my bottle of Gaslight Helles into glass I knew this was going to be a winner as an appetizing aroma of sweet grassy malt wafted up to my nose and caught me off guard. This is no average lager.

Upon taking my first sip my enjoyment continued. The flavour follows the aroma with a delicately complex grainy malt presence dominating the palate with sweet grassy, almost lemony notes.

I did notice this beer is a little under carbonated. I think it would benefit from a few more  bubbles, but it didn’t take away much from my enjoyment.

Gaslight Helles is seriously tasty and refreshing. It pairs well with just about any meal and would hit the spot on a summer afternoon, as a good lager should!


Brewer: Muddy York Brewing

Location: 22 Cranfield Road, Toronto, Ontario

Beer: Gaslight Helles

Style: Munich Helles

Alcohol: 5.2% abv

IBUs: 18

Ingredients: Malts: Bohemian Pilsner, Munich, Melanoiden, Carafoam. Hops: Northern Brewer.


500 ml bottles at the brewery’s bottle shop (call or email before going).

On tap at better bars around Toronto and the GTA.

Review: Muddy York Brewing — Gaslight Helles