Review of the Garrison Brewery Feature

The latest LCBO brewery feature begins today, bringing five beers from the Garrison brewery in Halifax to store shelves. The Black IPA, Pils, Winter Warmer, Grand Baltic Porter and Spruce Beer will be available at the usual 25 select stores across the province today, though many stores have leaked the beers in advance of today. All are available in 500mL bottles, with prices ranging from $4.25-$5.95.

The Pils (4.9% ABV, $4.25) is a mix of Czech hops and German yeast, making it a mix of the two national variations on the style. It pours a clear straw with little head, leaving slight lacing on the glass. Biscuit and cereal grain aromas, very clean and crisp. Noticeable green hops and slight bitterness in the finish – not a great amount, but enough for a pilsner. A nice example of the style and a beer I would be happy to drink, though perhaps not in the dead of winter.

I have had some previous experience drinking the Black IPA (6.3%, $4.25) and the beer in the LCBO tastes noticeably different than others bottles that I have consumed. The colour is similar to burnt toffee in the center and auburn around the edges. A lot more roast in the aroma and flavour than I remember, plus a strong chocolate finish. There is also a distinct smell of caramel and a little butter in there as well. The hops are pretty faint in the finish – there’s some citrus and bitterness, but not really enough to make me think this is really a black IPA. It’s still a decent beer, but hopefully this was just an off bottle. The Winter Warmer (7.6%, $5.25) is another beer that I have had and this bottle is exactly what I remember. Loads of cinnamon and caramel with notes of orange and brown sugar. The sweetness isn’t cloying and the spices don’t overwhelm. Medium bodied. Definitely tastes like winter.

I may be chastised for this comment, but the Grand Baltic Porter (9.0%, $5.95) just doesn’t work for me. The typical elements of a Baltic porter are there (densely black body, syrupy mouthfeel, heavy on the roasted malts) but there is a slightly lactic taste and left the sensation of dust on my tongue. Others may disagree, but that just means you get all the bottles I won’t buy. The Spruce Beer (7.6%, $5.25) may be another beer that will cause some discussion, but it tasted spectacular to me. A nice auburn colour, the aroma was strong of spruce and molasses. The same elements are found in the taste, along with caramel, a bit of chocolate and a warming booze finish. The best part is that the spruce is not overwhelming, but a nice element as part of a larger beer. You may want to split your first bottle with one or two people in case it’s not to your taste, but it seems likely that you’ll be hoarding a stash through the rest of the winter.

The Garrison brewery is a really nice spotlight on a great Canadian brewery. There is a nice variety of styles that should appeal to all walks of beer drinkers. The next brewery feature at the LCBO should be Tree Brewing from British Columbia.

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