A word on Innis & Gunn before reviewing their Canada Day 2012 oak aged beer – I have never been a fan of the brewery. They use clear bottles, which often go skunky unless they put the beer in boxes. There often seems to be an Innis & Gunn house style/flavour of an overly sweet beer put into some oak/barrel to impart a mild flavour. They market it as something special (oak aged, matured for X number of days before release) that makes a boring beer seem interesting. There are many people crazy about Innis & Gunn in Ontario and the rest of the country – that is clear, because they made a beer for Canada Day. I have even met some of them, but they have never been able to convince me on the merits of Innis & Gunn.
Did the Canada Day 2012 beer change my opinion? No. This just seemed like a slightly modified version of their standard beer, but with a bit more alcohol. The standard flavours were there – toffee, vanilla and oak. A bit of the East Kent Goldings hops, but not enough to balance out the sugars. I did get a chance to figure out why I don’t really like Innis & Gunn and came up with a couple of reasons. 1) The flavours die really quickly. There’s almost no aftertaste. 2) It’s a one-trick pony. The beer has no complexity. It’s like a sweet Scottish ale, but with no depth. And that is really disappointing for an oak-aged beer. 3) I found it had too much carbonation and not enough body. 7.7% ABV oak-aged beers should not be that refreshing. Maybe some people like that quality, but I want a bit more to savour. I don’t think that is a flawed beer, as much as a beer without any exceptional qualities.
Chances are that my opinion will not affect anyone’s judgment. Your opinion on the Canada Day 2012 beer will probably be the same as the Innis & Gunn Original. So if you’re going to buy an Innis & Gunn beer, save the buck-fifty and buy the Original. Just hope it’s not skunky.