All the way from Marlborough, New Zealand to the People's Republic of Ontario, the Renaissance Brewing Company's Tribute Barley Wine 2012 Vintage (“Tribute”) tempted Bucky with the promise of something new. Tribute was a respectable 10.8% alcohol by volume with a ‘best before' date of Aug ?? on the bottom of the bottle tacked on as an afterthought…likely a condition of import into Ontario.
A murky dark brown/orange colour with ruby glints when backlit, Tribute poured with a thin layer of off-white head that quickly disappeared, leaving no trace of its existence in the form of spotting or lacing. Its aroma was very sweet and malty with its high alcohol content detectable, but with a mildly unpleasant touch of spent malt that has been left sitting around for too long before disposal. Tribute's flavour was very sweet up front with a hint of grape that reminded me of ice wine, followed by alcohol and a mildly bitter hop finish that prevented the sweetness from becoming cloying. Its mouth feel was thick and syrupy and Tribute sticks to your lips, and is best described as medium-to-full bodied with a light carbonation. Worth a try as a desert beverage, but the LCBO has seriously mispriced this brew at $10 per bottle. I strongly suspect that they will have to cut the price dramatically to move the rest of their inventory.
Somewhat underwhelmed by their pricey barley wine, Bucky thought he would give Renaissance one last chance to impress and bought a 500 ml bottle of their Elemental Porter Ale. ‘Best before' date of July 2015 printed on a sticker on the bottom of the bottle, and selling for $6.15 at the time of writing.
Blacker than a politician's soul and equally impervious to light, Elemental required an aggressive pour to raise about 1/2” of cream coloured head which slowly faded to a collar and thin film. The retreating head left some modest lacing down the glass. The beer's aroma was appealing…a combination of coffee and dark chocolate, with a hint of black licorice. The taste started off with promise, some very nice coffee and chocolate malts up front, just a touch of black licorice again, and a bitter dark roasted coffee finish which lingers as an aftertaste. As the beer warms though, an almost sickly sweet flavour becomes more pronounced in the middle of the taste experience, and I remember this flavour from their barley wine. The closest thing I've experienced to this and the best way I can describe it, was the smell once encountered from the remains of the brewing process that had been left in a warehouse too long before disposal. Not good. I have no idea whether this is some exotic kiwi hop or malt variety, but I know I'm not fond of it. Slightly more carbonated than I'm used to with this style, Elemental is medium to full bodied with a creamy mouth feel. I just can't get past that one unpleasant taste though. No more Renaissance beers for Bucky.