Well folks, we are now ½ way through the craft beer advent calendar for 2017. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’ve enjoyed many of the beers in the calendar and am hoping that the second half will bring just as many enjoyable beers.
For the second post of today, I am writing about Day 12’s beer coming at us from Nickel Brook Brewing Co in Burlington, Ontario.
Nickel Brook may sound familiar to many regular craft beer consumers. They’ve got a couple of beers that are easy to find in our local Liquor Marts. Their Headstock IPA and their Cause & Effect blonde are regular listings. They’ve also sent us several seasonal beers including Uber Weisse, Bolshevik Bastard Russian Imperial Stout, and some others that I’m forgetting (I’m sure).
Nickel Brook has a unique history in that they didn’t begin as a brewery. John and Peter Romano started a company together called “Best Bitters” which was a brew-on premise operation. Clients would come and brew all sorts of wine and beers. Over the years this company grew to be the largest brew-on premise operation in the province. The Romano brothers worked this gig for 10 years before getting tired of making wort for others to turn into beer. They decided, why not brew a few big batches and sell them directly to our consumers? So, they applied for a commercial license and began building a brewery. In 2004 Nickel Brook Brewing Co. opened its doors.
The name comes from John’s children, Nick and Brooke, and built a name for itself brewing a gluten free beer and a green apple pilsner. By 2005, they were listed in the LCBO and by 2006 they had hired Rick Morrow as Assistant Brewer. This is also when they started turning away from mainstream brewing styles towards more innovative and creative beers.
In 2009 Head Stock IPA won a gold at the American Brewing Awards. And the brewers began experimenting with barrel-aging beers. This created the basis for what eventually became one of the largest brewery barreling programs in Ontario. The Romano brothers are also the co-founders of Arts and Science brewing company along with Collective Arts and through this and their Funk Lab (opened in 2016) they’ve increased not only their brewing capacity, but their ability to make interesting and fun beers.
Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts (or roasted barley), hops, water and yeast. Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery. The name ‘stout’ referred to the often stouter bottles these brews were sold in, which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.
There are numerous sub-styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite, Imperial Stouts. While they had lost popularity after the First World War, they’ve started to have a bit of an upswing due to the growing popularity in craft beer and breweries. Stouts are very versatile, allowing for a lot of creativity in adjuncts and flavouring. You can see a number of craft breweries playing with stouts regularly. Higher alcohol stouts also often age well, making them a wonderful cellaring beer.
This stout is an American Stout. American stouts tend to be more hop forward then your traditional stout (think Diesel Fitter). They have a dry slightly bitter finish but are very subtle on the hop aroma and flavour. Let’s get to the beer.
Appearance – Pours black with red tinges and a frothy tan head.
Smell – Grainy caramel malt, roasted malt and cocoa notes, a mild earthy note and some herbal hop notes.
Taste – That same grainy caramel and roasted malt character comes through with a slightly sour tinge to it. It has a subtle coffee and cocoa notes with some herbal, wet hop character as well.
Mouth feel – Higher then expect carbonation with a slightly sour finish and a medium body.
Overall – I think there is something going on with this beer. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I think there might be a bit of an infection going on with this beer. The sour notes and the high carbonation were off putting and out of place. Sad, because I though the imperial version was fantastic.
Do I like it? – No, I didn’t enjoy it. There were some notes here that felt out of place and made it difficult to drink. Each sip tasted “off” and so I, sadly, ended up dumping it. Boo.