Trafalgar Ales & Meads ("Trafalgar") is located at 1156 Speers Road in Oakville, Ontario, and was founded by Mike and Nancy Arnold and George Hengstman in August 1993. Part of the brewery is the Tied House Pub which features Trafalgar's beers and meads, and foods prepared using its brewery products as ingredients.
For our first foray into Trafalgar's beers, we decided to sample their Smoked Oatmeal Stout ("SOS"). We picked up a 650 ml bottle from the LCBO, with an indicated 'best before date' of March 2012. SOS was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
As you'd expect from a stout, SOS poured a black colour, which showed some very faint ruby highlights when backlit. An aggressive pour produced a thin beige coloured head which dissipated quickly, leaving no spotting or lacing down the glass. The aroma was mainly of roasted malts, with a bit of smoke and subtle oatmeal becoming detectable as the beer warmed. Its taste very much followed the aroma, with the roasted malts up front, followed by the smoke and oatmeal, and ending with a smoky/bitter aftertaste. The aftertaste wasn't so strong or long lasting as to be unpleasant, though. The oatmeal and low level of carbonation combined to produce a smooth mouth feel, and SOS was medium bodied. All in all, a respectable beer from the folks at Trafalgar that I would drink again, though the smoky and oatmeal aspects could stand to be strengthened and at $4.95 per bottle this beer isn't cheap.
For our second foray into the beers of Trafalgar Ales & Meads we sampled their Maple Bock ("MB"), purchased in a 650 ml bottle from the LCBO. The bottle had a best before date of June 2012 punched into the label, and was 6.5% alcohol by volume.
MB poured a very dark, opaque brown, with an aggressive pour producing 1" of short-lived tan coloured head. The head faded to a foamy collar within 2-3 minutes and left considerable lacing down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by coffee and chocolate but the maple syrup was certainly detectable. Who doesn't love the aroma of coffee, chocolate and maple syrup? When I swirl the beer around the glass I can also smell the hops. We're off to a good start...good looks and aroma. The first taste to hit the palate is the maple syrup, followed by the chocolate and coffee, ending with a mild hop bitterness. A bitter/coffee aftertaste lingers but isn't so strong or long lasting as to be offensive. Trafalgar has the carbonation just right on this one...the fairly low level of carbonation that you would typically experience with a stout. Mouthfeel is slightly creamy and I would describe MB as medium to full bodied. Trafalgar has a winner here! So many beers with "maple syrup" on the label fail to deliver any detectable presence of maple syrup, but that's not the case here. At $4.75 per 650 ml bottle MB represents decent value for money, and I would certainly buy this beer again. Good work Trafalgar.
Having enjoyed Trafalgar's Maple Bock and Smoked Oatmeal Stout, Bucky went to the well one more time and bought a bottle of their Cherry Ale ("CA") from his local LCBO in a brown, 650 ml bottle. A 'best by' date of September 2013 was punched into the label, and CA was 4.5% alcohol by volume.
Cherry Ale poured a hazy orange/brown colour, with red/orange highlights in the centre of the beer when backlit. An extremely aggressive pour produced 1/2" of frothy off-white head that receded to a very thin film in the middle of the glass within two minutes, leaving some attractive lacing behind it. Its aroma was fruity, but I may not have guessed cherry if I that word had not been emblazoned on the bottle in 1" high letters. CA's taste began with a sweet candied fruit flavour, though again, I could only positively identify it as cherry by the beer's name. The sweet candied fruit gave way to a slight hop bitterness, which lingered as an aftertaste...certainly no fruit in the finish The mouth feel was thin and watery, and I found this beer to be seriously undercarbonated. Not a wretched beer...it's certainly drinkable, but I have to describe this one as underwhelming. I won't be buying any more of this beer, especially not at $4.50 per bottle. This is the first time that Trafalgar has let me down. :(
Not often able to find mead in North America, Bucky took a flier on Trafalgar's Mead Braggot ("Braggot") from the shelves of his local LCBO. Braggot was 8.5% alcohol by volume, and came in a beautiful corked and caged 500 ml ceramic jug. No doubt a decent piece of the $9.95 purchase price is for the packaging. A best before date of March 2014 was punched into the jug's label.
Braggot poured a slightly cloudy honey colour, with a strong and steady stream of fine bubbles visible. The fizzy white head burned itself out of existence within seconds, leaving only a thin ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass. Its aroma was of honey, alcohol and apples...very nice, but leaving me a little confused since I was expecting this to be a hybrid of mead and beer. Checking the list of ingredients just to make sure...water, honey, barley, hops and yeast. Yup...in theory this should be something between a mead and a beer. Braggot's flavour was of sweet honey, ethanol, and dry cider...again, quite nice, but where is the strong cider presence coming from given the list of ingredients? No bitterness at all here, but the honey sweetness is balanced nicely by the dry cider flavour. In short, this tastes like a mix of mead and a good dry cider. The carbonation was quite strong, the exact opposite of what I would expect from a mead. Even though the carbonation level mellowed over time, it was still much stronger than what I would normally associate with mead, and I would describe Braggot as relatively light bodied.
Overall this one was not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. A bit pricey at $9.95 though.
Although Trafalgar has been a bit of a hit and miss brewery, hope springs eternal and Bucky picked up their Cognac-Aged Porter ("CAP") in a Downsview LCBO. CAP came in an attractive 500 ml ceramic jug with a resealable stopper, and a "best before" date of July 2013 punched into the rear label. CAP was 5.0% alcohol by volume. The first question that pops into my head after reading the label...5.0% abv? This seems awfully light for a cognac aged porter.
CAP poured an opaque dark brown colour, with ruby highlights when backlit. An aggressive pour produced a thin, short-lived head that fizzled into a thin film within seconds. Not surprisingly, CAP left zero lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was dominated by dark, roasted malts with just the slightest hints of oak and cognac. The oak and cognac elements became more noticeable when the beer was agitated, but were still too faint for my liking. Likewise with the flavour...the porter itself was quite nice with a strong coffee malt presence and slightly bitter coffee finish and aftertaste, but the oak and cognac were almost completely lost in the strong dark malts. For a porter I found CAP to be relatively light bodied with a thin mouth feel, and a light carbonation typical of the style. Overall, a very nice porter base, but Trafalgar really needs to heft up the "cognac-aged" elements and the body of the beer. As an experiment I resealed the empty jug using the attached stopper, and reopened it the next day giving the jug a sniff before I wrote this review. Absolutely magical cognac and oak aromas, giving an indication of what CAP could have been! Hopefully Trafalgar will make a few adjustments if they re-release this beer to realize its potential. At $8.95 per 500 ml jug I imagine that we are paying mainly for the packaging. There's enough promise here that I might try this beer again next year in the hope of some improvement.
Bucky never knows what to expect from the folks at Trafalgar Ales & Meads…anything from a hidden gem to a mild disappointment is within the realm of possibility. With this in the back of his mind, Bucky bravely selected a 375 ml corked and caged bottle of their Lanark County Blueberry Mead (“LCBM”) with a best before date of February 2015 indicated on the label. LCBM was 8.5% alcohol by volume.
The first comment on this product…the cork broke off in the bottle and it took three attempts with a corkscrew to extract the remainder. Not off to an auspicious start. After a 5 minute battle with the cork, LCBM poured a slightly hazy brownish/orange colour (aren't blueberries…blue?) with a thin layer of fizzy head so short-lived that I could only tell that it was some sort of light tan shade before it was gone. Lots of honey in its aroma with a faint hint of blueberries and a bit of booze. The taste is the saving grace of this brew with a big honey sweetness up front, again with a faint hint of blueberries, and more wine than mead-like notes in the finish with a nice warming effect from the alcohol. Lightly carbonated as it should be and medium bodied, LCBM turned out to be worth the battle with its cork. Mead as it should be made, though I wouldn't have minded a bit more of a blueberry presence. Selling for $5.45 per 375 ml bottle at the time of review.
Impressed by their Blueberry Mead, Bucky decided to take a chance on Trafalgar's Niagara Peach Mead (“NPM”). NPM came in a 375 ml bottle with no visible production or ‘best before' date, and was 8.5% alcohol.
NPM poured a very clear dark amber colour at first, but then took on more of the expected peach hue when the last few inches of the bottle were poured into the glass. Apparently the peach elements tend to sink to the bottom of the bottle with time. An aggressive pour produced a lot of fizzing and a very short-lived peach tinted head that left no spotting or lacing to testify to its brief existence. There were no visible carbonation bubbles. The aroma was primarily peach with undertones of honey…exactly as you would expect and quite nice. The taste was very sweet, peaches up front with a bit of honey in the finish and no hint of its healthy alcohol content. NPM was very light bodied with nearly zero carbonation (quite normal for a mead) and a bit of a watery mouth feel. A bit surprising that something with an 8.5% alcohol content could feel and taste so light…much better suited to late summer/very early fall than the Canadian winter as a result. Selling for $5.45 per bottle at the time of writing. All in all, not a bad effort from Trafalgar, but I much preferred their Lanark County Blueberry Mead.
From the brewery that people love to hate, Bucky picked up a bottle of Trafalgar's Chocolate Orange Porter (“COP”). Hopes were high given the recently sampled bottle of The Mighty Oak (previously reviewed) from this same brewery. COP came in a brown 500 ml bottle and was 5.0% alcohol by volume, with a ‘best before' date of June 2015 punched into the label.
Taking a whiff from the open bottle Bucky was encouraged…this smelled just like a Terry's chocolate orange. The aroma was very different in the glass though…the chocolate aroma was still there but the orange took on that artificial smell of flavoured dentists' fluoride. COP poured a dark cola brown colour with an aggressive pour raising 2” of tan coloured head that fizzed itself out of existence in about 3 minutes. It did leave some decent lacing in its wake, however. The flavour, sadly, followed the aroma from the glass, flavoured orange fluoride paste, cocoa and chocolate malt. I struggled to finish this beer and it was the artificial orange flavour that was the killer. Light bodied and lightly carbonated with a fairly thin mouthfeel, this beer continues Trafalgar's habit of alternating between ‘hit' and ‘miss'. Give this one a miss. Selling for $4.45 at the time of writing.
From the brewery that Ontarians some to love to hate, comes The Mighty Oak Imperial Oaked Brown Ale (“Mighty Oak”). Mighty Oak came in a brown 500 ml bottle and was 7.0% alcohol by volume with a “best before” date of October 2015 punched into label.
Mighty Oak poured a deep brown colour and took on a dark ruby tone when backlit. An aggressive pour was required to raise about 1.5” of short-lived off-white head which left nary a trace of spotting or lacing down the glass. Lots of dark chocolate and oak in the aroma…quite promising. The taste is a very pleasant surprise. Dark chocolate malts up front followed quickly by a strong, boozy oak that lingers as a welcome aftertaste. This is as good as the Innis & Gunn products that Bucky enjoys so much. In fact, Bucky will be picking up a few more bottles of this tomorrow. Light to medium bodied with a soft but adequate carbonation, it may be a touch thin in terms of mouthfeel for a beer of the type. The flavours are wonderful, however, and carry the day. Trafalgar has a winner here, and with a bit more heft to the body could have a serious winner.