Finding a new, unexpected Ontario craft beer on the shelves of the LCBO is pretty rare. Usually breweries use all their social media clout to let people know that a beer is going to be on the shelves, creating lots of hysteria as people scour stores and wait until their local gets stock. Hype creates demand, which in turn creates more hype, creating a cycle that goes on for a couple of weeks if a brewery is lucky. But not all craft breweries are as big into the social media and marketing game, so every now and then a beer comes out without any advance notice. That was the case when I found the Hockley Valley Amber at the LCBO ($2.65, 473mL can), though it’s not surprising that a brewery with an inactive Twitter account (last used in 2010) could release a beer and not have anyone notice.
The Hockley Valley Amber is a surprising departure from everything that is trendy in beer right now. It pours a clear burnt orange colour with a small head that does not linger. The smell is very much of a British ale – caramel, wet grains and slightly earthy. Basically smells like wort, which is not a bad thing. The taste is similar, with brown sugar, almonds, cereal grains, vanilla and an undertone of earth. Almost no hop presence, which means this is a very sweet beer, one that reminds me of MacLean’s Pale Ale. Barely carbonated, which gives it a pretty watery mouthfeel. At 4.2% ABV, it is a very sessionable ale, but I don’t know how well it will do compared to big hoppy beers that are the rage. Probably won’t become the favourite beer for anyone, but a nice choice when you’re looking for a sessionable British ale. Not an ideal summer beer, but will be perfect for autumn when the leaves start changing.