I'm not all that big on Beau's All Natural Brewing Company's flagship beer, Lug Tread Lagered Ale. And I wasn't particularly enamoured with its Night Marzen Oktoberfest Lager when I tried it last fall.
But I was still excited when I found out about Beaulo, a Beau's total takeover of one of Toronto's top beer bars, Bar Volo, on Thursday evening. The problem was, a lot of other people were excited, too. That, combined with Bar Volo's small size and a much stricter adherence to legal fire code capacities than most music venues I find myself in, meant I waited two-and-a-half hours to get in despite arriving 15 minutes before the 7 p.m. start time.
The temperature dropped and I wasn't dressed as warmly as I should have been, but I read a newspaper and met some nice people who were also shivering in the cold. I normally don't stand in lines for more than a few minutes, but I had no other plans, so I stuck it out as bottles and casks were tantalizingly close a mere metre away over the patio fence.
By the time I got in, some of the 27 different beers that were available at the beginning of the night were gone. I was most disappointed not to try the May Contain Traces of My Nuts Peanut Butter Stout (an exclusive Beaulo one-off), but was also shut out from the Smokin' Banana Peel Smoked Hefeweizen, Collabrrrewator Coffee Doppelbock, Dunkel Buck Dunkel Weizenbock and Doble de Accion Agave Pale Ale, which was aged with tequila-soaked oak chips.
Tokens were three dollars each, and 10-ounce plastic cups of beer cost either two or three tokens. I bought nine tokens and made my way to the main bar.
First up on my hit list was Weiss O'Lantern Pumpkinweiss, a white beer brewed with pumpkin that had a dark orange colour, slightly spicy bouquet and a lively flavour. The 4.6-per cent alcohol brew may be the best pumpkin beer I've ever had, and I look forward to its return next fall.
Doublewide Double IPA was created by my friend Brad Clifford, the 2011 Great Canadian Homebrew Competition winner, but brewed at Beau's. It was available in both cask and keg, and I went for the cask as I always do when given a choice.
I'm happy to report that this eight-per cent alcohol India Pale Ale was well worth the third token. The dark amber brew had a spicy, hoppy aroma and was very nicely hopped without being excessive, and had just the right amount of bitterness. It uses a variety of malts and hops, is delicious and goes down surprisingly easy for such a high alcohol beer. Unfortunately, the last of it was consumed at Beaulo. It will be missed.
I stayed in the IPA family and dropped two tokens on a cup of Beaver River I.P.Eh? from the cask. It was a similar colour to the Doublewide, but had a milder bouquet. There was a nice blend of fruitiness and caramel in the flavour combined with a well-balanced hoppiness. This 5.6-per cent alcohol seasonal IPA is available now in 600-millilitre bottles in select Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores and on tap at some bars and restaurants.
I wanted to end my night with something dark and went with the two-token Ryes Above Rye Porter. The bar was out of the cask version, so I went with the keg. It was quite dark, had a decent head and had a semi-sweet bouquet and chocolatey flavour that wasn't too heavy on the rye, which I was happy about. I would have appreciated a little more body to it and, while it was my least favourite of the evening, it was still pleasing.
Was it worth waiting in line for two-and-a-half hours? Probably not. But I was happy with what I tasted and Beau's now has a convert who's eagerly awaiting the release of its 5.9-per cent alcohol Patio Saison in the next week or two. I always appreciate a good saison.