Ontario breweries have climbed on the hop train in the past twelve-months, creating a number of diverse options for drinkers looking for a daily hop fix. A number of breweries realized that they had to keep up with the trend, which is why you can now find the Nickel Brook Headstock IPA (7% ABV, $2.65 from the LCBO) and Amsterdam Boneshaker in the LCBO (plus newer offerings to come in a month or two, like the Augusta Ale and Hops and Robbers IPA). Of course, not all IPAs are made the same.
The Headstock IPA poured a hazy amber with a tiny beige head. The aroma has pine and caramel upfront with an undertone of tropical fruit. Caramel is the dominant flavour at first, alongside earthy and nutty notes. A little peach comes through in the middle before resin in the finish (and more caramel). The Headstock dies in the finish, but then the bitterness starts to creep in a couple of seconds later. The body is a little light and the beer could use more carbonation to help the hops jump out from the malts and give more of a refreshing finish. With its current configuration the Headstock might be more of a hoppy amber than IPA. There isn’t as much malt as other Ontario beers like the Mill Street Tankhouse or Duggan’s #9, but they still standout.
The Nickel Brook Headstock is a fine beer, but could use a few tweaks to improve the hop profile and create a better balance with the malts. I can see it being a good gateway beer for people needing an interim step between lagers and super hoppy beers, but it will probably only be an occasional purchase for me. Nickel Brook will have another hoppy entrant soon in the Naughty Neighbour Pale Ale, so be on the lookout.