Tag Archives: Old Ale

Day 18 – Black Oak Brewing Co – Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale

Day 18 - Black Oak Brewing Co - Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale

Well, today I had the opportunity to try some pretty good beer.  The Liquor Mart near my house was doing a tasting of the Westvleteren 12.  For those who are unfamiliar, Westvleteren 12 is considered by many to be some of the best beer in the world.  It is made by Trappist monks in Belgium and has been brewing beer since 1838.  They brew in incredibly small batches and they are VERY hard to get. They had to fix their roof in 2012 and so some actually made it over to Canada. Today I got to try one of those that had been aging since then.  But, that’s another story.

Today we have a beer coming to us from Black Oak Brewing Co. based in Etobicoke, Ontario.  It is a beer made especially for this advent calendar and is called “Neck of the Woods” and it is an Old Ale.

Black Oak Brewing was founded in 1999 in Oakville Ontario by Ken Woods, owner and president of the brewery.  In 2008 they made the move to Etobicoke and have been brewing there ever since.  Like most craft breweries, they really care about the beer they are making and are sticklers for quality.  They take extreme caution in the production of their beers and only use traditional brewing processes and quality, Canadian, ingredients.  As well, they make an effort to use environmentally friendly materials throughout the whole process.

Black Oak Brewing brews using a 20 hectolitre brew house.  They have four 40 hectolitre unitanks and two 40 hectolitre bright beer tanks in their 11,000sq/ft space. All of their brewing equipment is stainless steel and custom made in Canada. They have a strong team and produce a number of interesting sounding beers, from year-rounds, to seasonal, to special series of beers.  I’ll be interested in making a visit the next time I visit Toronto.

The beer we are drinking today is an Old Ale.  Really, it is an American Strong Ale, but this term is a catch all that refers to a number of different styles.  Based on some of the reading, I’m leaning towards this one being an old ale.  Old Ales range from dark amber to almost black in colour.  With soft aroma and varying levels of bitterness.  Dark fruits are common as are intense malt flavours and sharp alcohol notes. The brewer describes this beer as being “strong, yes smooth: a full-bodied ale. You’ll get lots of dark fruit and caramel notes too!”  It sounds pretty nice and I’m excited to give it a try.

Rating:  85/100

Appearance:  Dark amber, off white head that fades relatively quickly (stays long enough for a picture)
Smell: Salted caramel, dark fruit and alcohol are prominent with hints of roasted malt and chocolate
Taste:  Roasted malt, alcohol, raisins and black currants come through. Caramel is not noticeable in the flavor as much as it is on the nose.  Sharp bitterness on the front with a warm alcohol finish that lingers.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, good carbonation, sharp bitterness on front and warm lingering alcohol finish.
Pretty good indeed.  I’d be interested to see how it would age. There are some sharp notes that might balance out.  Overall I found this one to be quite a strong beer with a lot of different flavours going for it.
Do I like it: Yeah, I did.  Like I said above, it might be interesting to age one and see how it turns out. I thought it was nice as is and would be happy to drink it again. It makes me want to visit even more.


Craft Beer Advent Calendar – Day 3

Beer 3

Today is the third day of the beer advent calendar.  It still has just as much fun and charm as it did two days ago.  My wife is wondering if I will become “bored” with it and if it will lose its excitement.  Stay tuned to the blog to find out (I doubt it.)

Today’s beer is a Chateau Civrac Old Ale – Cask Aged Strong Ale from Penpont Brewery in Cornwall UK.  You might be wondering why there is a French name on an English beer.  I wondered that as well.  It turns out that this beer is aged in wine casks from the Chateau Civrac vineyard in Bordeaux.  Hence the name.  Most cask aged beers I’m familiar with use rum casks for aging.  I’m rather excited for one aged in wine.

Penpont Brewery is located in Altarnun in Cornwall region of UK.  It’s rather far from London (245 miles) and is located quite inland.  The brewery was established in a converted milking parlour on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall.   They use their own local spring water and top quality ingredients in their beers and produce about 10 different beers.  This particular beer I will be tasting is not on their official beer list leading me to believe it is a special beer made specifically for the advent calendar (or they are slow at updating their website.)

With this beer we actually end up having two different varieties of beers combined.  To be fair, old ales were traditionally the ones that they kept at the brewery longer (also known as keeping ales) and so the big difference here is that it was kept in a Cask to age rather than in the standard brewing drum.  The first beer I tried, the winter ale, is a style of old ale as well.  Traditionally darker and more on the malty side of things these beers, in England, typically only range up to 5% alcohol.  Another deviation for this particular beer as it is at 7.5%.

Cask aged ales should not be confused with Cask ales.  A cask ale is a beer that is produced inside a cask which is then “tapped” and the beer poured directly from there.  Cask aged ales are beers produced using the more modern method of stainless steel drums and such but then are moved into a cask, in this case old wine casks, to be aged before being bottled and sold.  This allows the beer to take on the flavours of whatever was produced in the cask beforehand.  So, without further ado, let’s get to the beer!

Rating: 76/100

Appearance: Nut brown with 1” of head which dissipates quickly leaving light rimming on the glass.
Hints of oak and wine combined with caramel-chocolate notes of the malt.
Taste: Starts sweet and rich with the malt coming through strong until the finish where you are left with strong tannins like a red wine.
Mouth feel:
Smooth with a medium body and low carbonation.  Leaves the tongue feeling as though you have black tea leaves on it.
Overall: Excellent cask aged ale.  The uniqueness of the wine cask really brings another element to the beer. The oak and wine notes balance well with the sweetness of the malt.  My only complaint is the finish on the tongue.
Do I like it: I do like this beer, though it is not my favorite. The tannins, while something I love in red wine, I do not overly appreciate in this beer.  The smoothness of the malt and the oak of the cask work well together.  I could go without the tannins.