Beer is made for drinking so it seemed unthinkable to run a month of beer coverage without focusing periodically on the drinkers. For our first panel discussion with beer drinkers I wanted to bring together a group who don't usually think of Ontario or craft beer first but tend towards the macro-brewery product.
I took a mixed pack of Ontario craft beer to the cottage for neighbours, friends, and family to try. The weather and bugs forced us inside but we still managed to have a great time with some very interesting comments on the four beers.
Panelists: Chris, Alex, Mike, Adam, Steve, Shari
What we sampled (all prices are for 473 ml tall cans except where noted): Great Lakes Crazy Canuck ($2.50), Wellington Trailhead Lager ($2.45), Wellington Silver Wheat ($2.60), Muskoka Cream Ale ($2.65).
Examples of what panelists were working on before we started: Heineken ($2.55 for 500 ml), Bud ($2.10), Cracked Canoe (not sold in tall cans at the LCBO but a sixer of 341 ml bottles goes for $12.50).
1. GLB Crazy Canuck Pale Ale
For this beer and all others I poured small sample size portions into plastic cups for all of those who were tasting. Everyone knew what was being poured and I also recorded comments on the packaging. In each case I introduced the beer and then, as is usually the case with this group, everyone took over with their comments without any further prompting from me.
- "this is a special occasion beer"
- A consensus quickly snowballed that this beer "smells like mango".
- "hoppy" Alex commented as his sinuses closed up. We think he might be allergic to something in ales that tend to the hoppier side.
- After tasting the beer with its moderate hoppy bitterness some tasters found that it smelled less like fruit.
- Tasters weren't fans of the can design and thought it was out-of-sync with beer and half-hokey, half-patriotic.
2. Wellington Trailhead Lager
- The light blue can that with the fish on it received rave reviews from the panel.
- "this could be an all-afternoon beer"
- Steve called this the "only beer that would be allowed in a hockey dressing room"
3. Wellington Silver Wheat
- Alex, sinuses still closed liked the "thinner mouthfeel"
- Silver can with "the dude on it" drew approval
- "also smooth, a little sweet"
- "smells grainy"
4. Muskoka Cream Ale
- Turning a little romantic (even considering that this was our fourth beer) Steve mused that the Cream Ale is "a beer you could drink sitting on the dock watching the sun set."
- "Another special occasion beer"
- "A classic can"
- "A little bitter, kinda spicy"
In general I think the panel was impressed with the beers we tasted and especially with the range of flavours. They seemed to be expecting the stronger, more complex tastes of the Crazy Canuck and the Muskoka but were impressed by the smoothness and refreshing dryness of the other two. I'm not sure that minds were changed or that Heineken sales will be falling off at the Beaverton LCBO this summer but we enjoyed the experience and eyes were definitely opened.
Written by David Ort
As one of Spotlight’s contributing editors, David enjoys turning his mind (and keyboard) to a wide variety of topics ranging from recipes to restaurants to craft beer. When he’s not writing for Spotlight Toronto, David shares his thoughts on new restaurants and beer at PostCity.com and all things food and drink on his own site, Food With Legs.