The beautiful marriage of beer and patio has long been cherished. With Canada’s topsy-turvy climate, I don’t know of any other culture that really seizes patio season as fervently as Torontonians; basically, like it’s a new religion. Needless to say, this particular Spotlight Toronto beer tasting was conducted on a rooftop patio overlooking St. James Park. The mission: tasting some brews that are “off the beaten path”. Namely: have fruit, are gluten-free, or are light beers. We (Michelle Edgar, Mike DiCaro, David Ort, and I) gathered together to taste these beers and share our thoughts.
Great Lakes Orange Peel
The nose on the Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale was overwhelmingly orange and citrusy, suggesting that the taste was going to be just as potent. Though, upon tasting, the group agreed that the orange taste is a lot subtler than the nose would suggest. The taste was slightly syrupy and tasted like a hit of orange juice from concentrate being mixed in with beer. Our non-beer drinker participant, felt that this wasn’t a good gateway beer. She even noted that the beer was not very “bubbly” lacking body and taste, finally noting “The label is misleading except for the orange smell!"
Amsterdam Brewery Oranje Weiss
This orange-infused wheat was definitely the group’s favourite. The cloudy beer had notes of sour wheat with a citrus smell and was noted to be more of a wheat beer than fruit beer. The group agreed that it improved after every taste and the subtle orange flavour was very natural. The accessibility in taste of the Oranje Weiss makes this beer both a great gateway beer for new converts, and also very food friendly. We hypothesised that this might be a great pairing with some spicy Thai food.
Wellington Arkell Best Bitter
With a label that states “Best Bitter,” it might not be on the list of some light beer drinkers. Most believe that bitter beers, are just that–bitter–and not much else. Though it’s slightly caramel taste and short, “non-beery” after-taste, prompted our non-beer drinking to proclaim that she “could drink that whole can.” That would probably surprise most people, but we think it’s being marketed to the wrong crowd. Though it does state that it’s a session beer (read: you’ll be drinking for a while, so go for something lighter), most novices would think from the label that it’s a more complex beer.
Nickel Brook Gluten-Free Beverage
Note that the Nickel Brook Gluten-Free “beer” has to be called a beverage, since a lack of any grain means it's not technically beer. Unfortunately, no matter how we tried to rationalize its benefits, it was the group’s least favourite beer. Some note that it smelled “like the dentist”, while others noted its lack of taste and one person said it’s what they would imagine “licking the floor at Sneaky Dee’s would taste like.” OUCH. For those who absolutely can't tolerate gluten there are much better alcoholic-drink options out there.
Nickel Brook Green Apple
The first thing we all noticed was that the nose on this beer was nothing short of green Jolly Ranchers: sweet, tart, overtly apple. It made one of our panellists presume that this type of light beer is what German kids had for breakfast 200 years ago. It tasted like “the cider of beers" wherein one literally mixed beer and apple juice, more of a beer cocktail than a beer. Overall, it was well received and we finished the whole can. Perhaps it went down too easy, we thought, making it a good gateway beer and a nice summer sipper.
Mill Street Lemon Tea
This beer was the only beer we all had previously tasted, even the non-beer drinker in the group. Though the smell had a bit or a Lemon Pledge undertone, the taste was very subtle, light and with good enough head. The subtlety and lightness in flavour though made this beer feel like it didn’t really grab anyone’s attention–the wallflower of beer. Our non-beer drinker assured the rest of the group that this beer tastes much better on tap, than it does from a can.
Overall, we enjoyed this tasting and venturing away from the standard course. The team consensus was that the Amsterdam Brewery Oranje Weiss and Wellington Arkell Best Bitter were top contenders and would be welcome at any patio gathering. Their body, flavours and overall enjoyment wouldn’t deter even beer-lovers from having one.