There’s something to be said about being confident and proud. For example, we at The Manor are proud of Cheltenham Town football club and confident that
Lord Ackery’s Brentford are going waaayyyy down!
The village of Niagara-on-the-Lake just a few miles east of Niagara Falls on the Canadian side is confident and proud enough to describe itself as “Canada’s
Prettiest Village”. No mean statement, to be sure – but making our way up there for the third year in a row, we felt compelled to agree, even if our experience
of Canadian villages is somewhat limited!
Point being, we LOVE visiting Canada. It truly is pretty with all manner of spectacular scenic contrasts, while the cities radiate a contemporary European-ness
about them. Little wonder then, that the Royal motorcycle has been up to Toronto twice in recent years. And every year we tell our peasant farmers at The
Manor that we’ll be off “for a few days” visiting the Montreal Bier Festival (although we haven’t quite made it happen yet).
So, here we were, Lady Roberts and myself at the end of May, relaxing at our Bed & Breakfast, just off the main drag. We had a simple brief: drink beer, go
shopping, drink beer, visit wineries (of which there are a bucket load in this region), drink beer, go to the theatre (The Shaw Festival had just started – named
after George Bernard Shaw), drink beer, have High Tea at The Prince of Wales Hotel and drink beer.
While there are several opportunities to “drink beer” in Niagara-on-the-Lake, including a hideous Irish pub with air-conditioning set so low you can see your
own breath in there, the obvious choice is The Olde Angel Inn, which apart from being the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an English pub this side of the
Atlantic, is also the oldest building in NOLT, being built in 1812.
The Angel Inn’s menu is not for the faint hearted. This is a hunting nation, thus meat of all varieties is the norm here. Yes, The Angel does feature the old
standby Fish & Chips, but my favourite is their Steak & Kidney pie – it is absolutely chock full of kidneys with this beautiful dark brown gravy smothering the
pie. Yummy! Lady Roberts is partial to their Shepherd’s Pie.
So, intro over, let’s park the Moose and get on with the beer reviews from our several visits to The Olde Angel Inn….
1) Olde Angel Inn
Best Bitter (5%)
Contract brewed by the Niagara Falls Brewing Co, the Angel Inn Best Bitter featured a smooth biscuity malt flavour with a hoppy underbelly. There was a
strong malt finish with it, which reminded me of a mild version of Wychwood’s Hobgoblin. Not exactly earth shattering, but perfect with that lovely Steak &
Kidney pie 7/10
2) Olde Angel Inn
Red Ale (5%)
Another contract brew, the Red Ale was all over the place. The predominant flavours were of sickly caramel and watery malt. I couldn't find any sign of a hop
presence - perhaps they were hiding out of embarrassment - while towards the end some tangy, rotting cherries made an appearance, giving a fizzy Ribena
finish. Ghastly! 2/10
3) Niagara Falls Brewing Co. Brampton, Ontario
Gritstone Ale (5.8%)
This one was worse still. The Gritstone Ale was very dark, bittersweet with a hefty malt presence. It really was quite "gritty" too, as if a bucket of sand was part
of the ingredients. It had a nauseating finish of mouldy bread. Put some white colouring in it and it could pass for vinyl spackling. In other words, absolutely
bloody awful. 1/10
4) Amsterdam Brewing Co. Toronto, Ontario.
Two-Fisted Stout (4.3%)
Mmmmm, now this was more like it. Very, very dark with espresso at the beginning, followed by loads of oatmeal, chocolate and some underlying hop
bitterness. That's all we need to say. This was the ticket – chuffing delicious! 10/10
5) Upper Canada Brewing Co. Guelph, Ontario.
Dark Ale (5%)
Brewed by Sleeman's, who are now owned by Japanese brewer Sapporo, the Upper Canada Dark Ale is made with English Challenger hops in order to impart
that English brown ale feel to it. Not that the hops helped - I liked the smoothness of the beer, but then it all went pear shaped with smoky molasses, a hint of
liquorice and a strong bitter finish of Marmite. I'm normally a big fan of liquorice, but not in this mess. A definite strike against the rising sun. 2/10
6) Kawartha Lakes Brewing Co. Peterborough, Ontario.
Raspberry Wheat (4.5%)
Here we go, another contract brew, this time by Amsterdam Brewing Co. The Raspberry Wheat is made with German hops and Belgian wheat - that being
said, I was still looking at a raspberry wheat ale, which was quite worrying. But, this IS The Quest for Taste, so let’s jump in ! No, let’s jump out ! This was
purely Schweppes fizzy mineral water with a rather large vat of raspberry essence thrown in. Very watery with an unexpected tart raspberry finish. Should be
frozen and turned into alcopops. 3/10
7) Great Lakes Brewing Co. Etobicoke, Ontario.
Orange Peel Ale (5.3%)
Not to be confused with Cleveland’s GLBC, this version hails from Etobicoke, Ontario. The blurb from the brewery: “Handcrafted with five specialty malts and
five varieties of hops, along with just a touch of honey, we added heaps of fresh oranges and peels into the boil. A little different, you say? We sure hope so.
Orange Peel Ale balances the unique flavour of oranges with generous amounts of hops to achieve a slightly fruity and refreshing taste. We are proud to offer
this limited edition beer as we celebrate our 20th anniversary of brewing excellence”.
All that woffle aside, this was actually a very good beer ! We saw it as an orange lager with predictable citrus notes without the orange being too overdone. It
had some bitter peppery flavours (no doubt, due to the orange peel) and a refreshing orangy finish. It was a bit on the lightweight side, but perfect for those
warm summer days on the deck reading Dostoevsky or Marx (Groucho) or The Pocket Encyclopaedia of British Steam Locomotives by O.S.Nock (Third
8) Trafalgar Brewing Co. Oakville, Ontario.
Paddy’s Irish Red (5%) – can version
Trafalgar Brewing have this annoying credo printed on their cans “We only sell what we can’t drink ourselves”, which suggests that everything they brew is a
world classic. Setting themselves up for disaster, Paddy’s Irish Red is – naturally – NO world classic and it IS a disaster. The tin mentions that it’s brewed with
roasted Canadian barley and German Noble hops – rather an odd mixture for an “Irish” ale. Taste-wise, think of a tin of lager with a box of black pepper tipped
in it. Throw in some malt and a bitter peppery finish and there you have it. Total shite. Nice picture of a Red Setter on the can though. 2/10
9) Mill Street Brewery, Toronto, Ontario.
Mill Street Wit (5.2%)
Oh dear – another impending disaster. What happened to the notion of flavour from some of the Canadian micros ? This was weak, lame and very sad.
Essentially, a bowl of murky dishwater with very, VERY mild cloves and even milder bananas added. Utterly forgettable. 1/10
10) Innis & Gunn, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland.
Limited Edition Canadian Cask Oak Aged Beer (6.6%)
It all sounds rather romantic - a remote Scottish beer matured in Canadian oak barrels. I can smell the heather and peat from here although actually all Innis &
Gunn beers are brewed in an unromantic fashion by English regional brewer Greene King. So, bubble burst, this is actually a very fine beer. We were
somewhat apprehensive at seeing a clear bottle, but it did pour a very attractive golden colour. Hitting the taste buds, we were presented with a silky smooth
mouth feel with some lovely honey and mild caramel flavours. You couldn't mistake the oakiness either. More honey appeared later on with the mildest of
clean malt finishes, with no aftertaste. Lady Roberts was most impressed with this delicious beer. 10/10
And that dear readers concludes the beer aspect of our trip. Throw in several glasses of vino from our winery visits - including the delicious Ice Wine, native to
Ontario - and you have a fine Royal trip indeed. Right, where's the Manor Chef - I could do with a plate of steak & kidney pie!