Looking for some entertainment on a Saturday afternoon, Bucky meandered over to Bellwoods Brewery at 124 Ossington Avenue in Toronto, ON. At the bar, he ordered a 500 ml bottle of their Bring Out Your Dead (“BOYD”) imperial stout, aged for 12 months in cognac barrels. The beer was 12.2% alcohol by volume, and luckily Bucky had been forewarned about its monster price…$25 per bottle. This is not a typo, that's $25 per 500 ml bottle.
BOYD poured pitch black with a thin layer of crema coloured head that left some modest lacing down the glass. The aroma was nothing short of wonderful; coffee, dark chocolate, potent cognac and dark cherries. Its taste was sweet up front, followed by strong flavours of dark chocolate, dark coffee and cognac, with a touch of vanilla. Very rich, and very boozy. Also very enjoyable, but you wouldn't want more than one bottle per sitting. Leaving a sticky feeling on the lips, the beer was full bodied with a silky smooth mouthfeel, reinforced by its soft carbonation. Overall, this is one substantial stout and one of the best barrel aged brews around. If I was to rate this beer based solely on its characteristics, it would likely be in the mid-nineties and an easy entrant into Bucky's Top 10 rated Canadian beers. But it's a whole lot easier to produce a quality beer if money is no object. Price would be my one and only complaint with this beer and I'll have to knock the rating down accordingly.
Rating: 8.41 / 10
The last of the bottles purchased from Bucky's first foray into Bellwoods' retail store, Wizard Wolf Pale Ale came in Bellwoods' standard brown 500 ml bottle. The beer was 4.8% alcohol by volume with no production or ‘best before' date, but with a warning to “drink fresh, do not age” on the label.
The first glass of Wizard Wolf poured a relatively clear golden colour with plenty of visible carbonation bubbles, but there had obviously been some settling going on because the beer from the bottom of the bottle was very cloudy. Pouring produced about 1” of white head that faded to a collar and film after roughly 3 minutes, with these remnants leaving a continuous sheet of lacing down the glass. Its aroma was mainly grapefruit, but with notes of light malt and pine. The taste included all of the elements in the aroma plus a bonus of tangerine and lemon, and although the bitter grapefruit still dominated, there was a respectable balance between the bitter and sweet that held the grapefruit in check. The grapefruit bitterness lingered for a while as an aftertaste, but was neither unpleasant nor overwhelming. Wizard Wolf had a dry mouthfeel with a body on the light side of light-medium, and a suitably active carbonation. Wish I could remember what I paid for this beer, but alas the bill was not itemized. Overall I prefer Bellwoods' Boogie Monster, but Wizard Wolf is refreshing and worth a try.
Rating: 7.93 / 10
Purchased from the Bellwood's adjacent retail store, Monogamy came in a brown 500 ml bottle with no visible production or ‘best before' date. 7.2% alcohol by volume.
Monogamy poured an opaque apricot colour, with a very aggressive pour required to raise ¼” of bubbly white head. The minimal head disappeared in a hurry, leaving behind a very thin collar and small film of foam in the centre of the glass. Some minor lacing was left behind as the beer level dropped. The aroma was a bit odd…peach, apricot and plastic band-aid. Though it wasn't offensive, I'm really hoping that the band-aid smell doesn't carry over into the taste…and the beer Gods have granted my wish. The taste reminded me very much of a flavoured Gueuze, with apricot, peach and dry champagne all ending with a very mild bitterness. Monogamy had a relatively soft carbonation, light body and dry mouthfeel. Overall, a tasty brew, but not one of my favourites from this notable brewery.
Rating: 7.91 / 10
From the brewery retail store, Bucky selected a 500 ml bottle of Bellwoods' Boogie Monster Imperial IPA. 8.0% ABV, no visible production or ‘best before' date, and consumed on Halloween night in keeping with the spirit of its name.
Boogie Monster poured a slightly hazy yellow/gold colour with plenty of small carbonation bubbles visible. Pouring produced about 1.5” of white foam that gradually faded over the next 3 minutes to a collar and thin film, leaving a continuous sheet of lacing down the glass as the beer level dropped. Its aroma was primarily grapefruit, with undertones of pineapple and tangerine. Expecting a bit of a hop bomb in the taste, but the initial grapefruit bitterness is nicely balanced by the sweet tropical fruits including pineapple, tangerine, and possibly one or two others that I can't separately identify. A mild bitterness lingers as an aftertaste, and the 8.0% alcohol content is barely detectable. Boogie Monster has a soft carbonation lower than that of a typical IPA, and is medium bodied with a bit if a dry mouthfeel. Wish I could remember the price to judge value for money, but sadly my bill was not itemized.
Rating: 8.44 / 10
From the brewery retail store at 124 Ossington Avenue in Toronto, Bucky picked up a bottle of Bellwood's Stay Classy Light Session Ale (among other Bellwood brews for future review). Stay Classy was a modest 2.8% alcohol by volume and came in a brown, 500 ml bottle with no visible production or ‘best before' date.
Stay Classy poured a very cloudy apricot colour topped by about ½” of lily white foam that stuck around for about 3 minutes before dissipating to a thin collar and film. As the beer retreated down the glass, these remnants left behind a decent amount of lacing. The aroma was dominated by grapefruit, but with distinct notes of tangerine and underdone toast. The flavour began and was dominated by grapefruit, with undertones of lemon, tangerine and lightly toasted bread. A modestly bitter grapefruit bitterness lingers for a few seconds after the finish. While Stay Classy holds up nicely in terms of its appearance, aroma and flavours, for me it falls short overall with a very light body, almost watery mouthfeel and feels somewhat under-carbonated, too. Maybe I would have enjoyed this more in the summer than in early fall?
Rating: 6.89 / 10
From Bellwoods' retail store Bucky procured a 500 ml bottle of their Lambda Brett-Barrel Aged Quadrupel, 12.0% alcohol by volume with no visible production or best-before date. I believe this one was selling for $12.50 per bottle, but I'm going from memory since my bill wasn't itemized.
Lambda poured an opaque deep chestnut brown colour, topped by ½” of orange-tinged light tan head that gradually wasted away to a collar and thin film. The retreating head left little spotting or lacing down the glass. The aroma was something unique…sweet caramel and milk chocolate with red-wine vinegar and funky yeast. Getting a big whiff of soy sauce out of the bottle, but not from the glass. Its taste was sweet caramel and milk chocolate up front, followed by a mild funkiness and red-wine vinegar finish. A nice, subtle booziness becomes more evident as the beer warms. This is essentially a messed-up quad…but messed-up in a positive sort of way. It's a Belgian quad and a lambic in one bottle and this is intriguing stuff. Lambda is a rich, full bodied beer with a tingly carbonation that is more active than a typical quad. Definitely worth a try since you're unlikely to taste anything like this again…at least not in the same bottle!
Rating: 8.35 / 10
Purchased from Bellwoods' retail store in January 2016, Bucky sampled a 500 ml bottle of their 3 Minutes To Midnight Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout (Raspberry Edition). 10% alcohol by volume.
3 Minutes to Midnight poured a pitch black colour with about 1.5” of crema coloured head with good staying power. As the head slowly retreated, it left some attractive lacing down the glass. Killer aroma here…dark chocolate, raspberries, black cherries, dark roast coffee and a touch of cognac barrel. Its taste was equally impressive, beginning with cognac, dark roast coffee and dark chocolate, giving way to tart cherries and raspberries, with a mild dark roast coffee bitterness in the finish which lingers briefly as an aftertaste. Delicious stuff! A full bodied beer with a soft carbonation and smooth mouthfeel. If it wasn't for the fact that I'd have to drive into the downtown Toronto core again, I'd pick up a few more bottles. A bit on the pricey side…$12 per 500 ml bottle if I recall (my bill wasn't itemized so I'm not entirely sure), but certainly worth the occasional splurge.
Rating: 9.00 / 10
While making a run to Bellwoods' retail store to pick up a few bottles of 3 Minutes To Midnight, Bucky decided to take a flier on their Hellwoods Imperial Stout. Hellwoods was 10 % alcohol by volume and came in the brewery's standard 500 ml brown bottle, with no visible production or ‘best before' date.
Not quite “as black as the inside of a coffin at midnight”, but dark enough and lightening up only around the edges when backlit. Pouring produced about 1.5” of tan coloured head with good staying power, leaving sheets of continuous lacing and chunks of foam down the glass. Near-perfect visually. Its aroma was quite complex with notes of black coffee, smoke, dark chocolate, earthy hops and…OH NO…black licorice. Regular readers will know that Bucky is not fond of black licorice. The taste incorporated all of the same elements, with a bitter black licorice aftertaste lingering on the palate. About half way down the bottle I find that the bitterness and black licorice combined begin to wear me down. Rich and full bodied with a mild carbonation and smooth mouthfeel. The black licorice presence interferes with my personal enjoyment of the beer…but that's just my taste. Otherwise, a respectable example of the style.
Rating: 7.35 / 10
Joining the first day of issue lineup (about a dozen people at opening time), Bucky procured himself 4 bottles of Bellwoods' Skeleton Key Spiced Imperial Stout from the brewery's retail store. Selling for a not inconsiderable $12 per 500 ml bottle, this beer is aged for 12 months in rum barrels. No visible ‘best before' or production date on the bottle, but at 12.0% abv I imagine this stuff would last quite a while.
Skeleton Key poured an opaque black colour with dark cola edges when backlit. It seemed to have the viscosity of a decent motor oil, producing a thin crema coloured head that quickly faded to a thin collar and blob of foam, leaving some intermittent spotting down the glass. Its aroma was a tempting mix of cocoa, rum and vanilla. The taste added some additional elements, with sweetened rum, vanilla, cocoa and milk chocolate detectable. No bitterness to speak of, and the alcohol content is pleasantly warming but otherwise well camouflaged. Skeleton Key was full bodied with a soft carbonation and sticky, substantial mouthfeel. Enjoyed this beer very much and glad that I went with the maximum allotment of 4.