For peat’s sake, these beers are nothing to oak about (or, Beer for whisky lovers)

- November 12th, 2012

Oakhouse_3D_Bottle
Rickard’s Oakhouse

I recently had the opportunity to try Rickard’s second seasonal offering, Oakhouse.

As I mentioned when I tried the company’s autumn beer Cardigan, I am pleased to see Rickard’s moving in this direction, having rounded out its stable with Dark and Blonde. It’s nice to see the larger brewers in Canada taking a stab at the niche market.

The Oakhouse, which is, as the company says, “specially aged with lightly toasted oak,” does make for a lager that holds up against colder weather — and I don’t much care for lighter beers in the cold months.

While Rickard’s suggests pairing Oakhouse with bacon-wrapped scallops, roast beef or coffee cake, I would recommend a hearty serving of French toast with maple syrup, whether it’s for dinner or brunch. The beer and breakfast item seemed like they were made for each other. Having a child who suggest French toast for supper doesn’t hurt either.

As I was enjoying the subtle oak flavour of the beer, I got to thinking about other brews that appeal to the whisky lover in me. My Top 5:

5. Pumphouse Brewery’s Scotch Ale: This beer leans to the peaty end of things, bringing a nice smoky flavour to their caramel-coloured ale. Not one for people not fond of a lot of smoke.

4. Harviestoun Ola Dubh: Ola Dubh (Black Oil) is a collaboration between Harviestoun Brewery and Highland Park Distillery. It’s a dark, strong ale, and the first to be aged in whisky casks from a named distillery. It is a strong-flavoured beer, and not to be taken lightly, with smokey and bitter notes, but with hops and citrus on the finish.

3. Unibroue Raftman: I grabbed this beer by chance, hoping it would be similar to another beer on the list. It was different, but I wasn’t disappointed. Unibroue describes it as a “peat-smoked whisky malt ale,” and those characteristics are all there, though the smoke isn’t as intense as the Harviestoun or the Pumphouse offerings, partly because of the yeast qualities Unibroue’s in-bottle fermentation brings. Lots of fruit and some spice and sweetness. Quite good.

2. Innis & Gunn Original: It’s hard to pick just one favourite from the line of Innis & Gunn’s cask-aged beers. The Irish Cask is quite a treat, a really close second, and the Rum Finish is sweet and spicy. But the Original stacks up for me as the one I could enjoy the most of. It has a lot of fruit on the palate, but isn’t too sweet, even with toffee and vanilla notes that come with a lot of good single malt Scotch. An easy drinker any time of year.

1. Big Rock Brewery’s Scottish Style Heavy Ale: This beer is not new to readers of this blog. Or to beer drinkers in Alberta. We Scoundrels like it. A lot. What started as an offering from Big Rock’s Brewmaster’s Edition, became a member of the Signature Series stable. And we couldn’t have been happier. Well-suited for cold weather, I would drink this beer any time of year. Aged on oak, it has similar notes as the Innis & Gunn Original — toffee, vanilla, etc. — but is fuller in malt flavour, darker in colour, and will definitely warm you up and redden your cheeks like a good whisky would.

As the weather gets colder, any of these would serve you well on a snowy Calgary night.

Cheers!

Categories: Drinking

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