Looking for something to add to their Christmas 2014 social calendar, Bucky and his entourage decided to visit Amsterdam Brewery at 45 Esander Drive in Toronto, ON for a tour and tasting. Amsterdam runs these sessions every Saturday from 1pm to 5 pm, with the tour and subsequent tasting each lasting about 30 minutes. Did I mention that the whole thing is free? Amsterdam's employees were helpful and friendly during both the facility tour and tasting in the lounge, taking the time to answer any questions that the visiting group asked. The only part of the brewery that was off limits this day was the bottling function because it was in operation when we arrived. On tap for the beer sampling (after the tour) were the brewery's All Natural Blonde (their biggest seller), Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, Boneshaker IPA, Downtown Brown and KLB Raspberry Wheat. Bucky was most partial to the Downtown Brown with honourable mention given to the Boneshaker IPA. Respectable brews all, and Bucky left the retail store with bottles of Vicar's Vice and Tempest Imperial Stout to try at a later date.
The second brew from Amsterdam that we have tried, Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale ("NBA") is 5.0% alcohol by volume and came in a 473 ml can.
NBA poured an attractive chocolate brown colour, with about 2 cm of fizzy beige head that burned off rapidly. The head resolved itself into a film that left some spotting down the glass. The aroma was not promising...sour vinegar with a hint of smoky malt. Unfortunately the taste followed the aroma with a noticeable acidic, malt vinegar flavour at the start, the only saving grace being a subtle, smoky malt aftertaste once the vinegar had faded. I imagine this can had been sitting around the Liquor Store a bit too long before I was unfortunate enough to pick it up. The lettering on the can reads C2311 0820, so I was assuming that the 0820 was an expiration date of August 20. I'm hoping that it's not a production date of 0820 2010 which was 11 months ago. Mouth feel was a bit on the thin side with a decent level of carbonation, but when the dominant taste is malt vinegar, the mouth feel is not a big issue. The only thing I've tasted like this before was an 'in process' dark ale that was being brewed at Black Creek Pioneer Village...the same acidic malt vinegar flavour, but at least the unfinished dark ale at Pioneer Village had a legitimate excuse for it. I'm going to assume that I had an NBA that was past its prime, though I do note the same problem with NBA being mentioned by another beer drinker after a quick internet search. Though I should probably try this one again to confirm that the problem was just my beer and not NBA generally, I won't be in any hurry. As the saying goes, "first impressions are lasting impressions."
Supplemental Review for Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale:
I sent an e-mail to the good folks at the Amsterdam Brewery regarding the malt vinegar smell and taste of their NBA previously described, and sure enough, the can had been sitting on the LCBO shelf far too long. Amsterdam was kind enough to replace it since I work fairly close to their facility, and here is what the NBA should be like. Again, I tried it in a 473 ml can.
The aroma is predominantly of roasted chocolate malts, with an increasing wood smokiness as the beer warms a bit. Carbonation is gentle and quite appropriate for this type of beer, with the creamy mouth feel preserved by the collar into which the initial tan coloured head resolved itself. The flavour was primarily of toasted malts, with the malt sweetness nicely balanced by the hops. The finish exhibited a smoky flavour which didn't linger excessively. In light of the above we are re-rating Amsterdam's NBA...but pay better attention to the date codes than I did. Apparently Amsterdam uses an alpha numeric code whereby the initial letter corresponds to a calendar production month, for example, in this case the 'C' refers to a production date in March. A solid, but not spectacular brew that I would drink again.
The origins of the Amsterdam Brewing Company date to 1985 when Dutchman Roel Bramer purchased a property originally intended to be opened as a restaurant. His plan for the property changed when the Ontario government passed legislation allowing restaurants to brew and sell their own beer. In 2002, Roel Bramer turned the operation over to Jeff Carefoote. Today, the brewery is located at 21 Bathurst Street in Toronto where it produces beers made from four all natural ingredients; malt, hops, yeast and water. No preservatives are used, and their beers are never heat pasteurized. Amsterdam Brewery produces several beers, and I tried their Natural Blonde Lager ("NBL") which is 5.0% alcohol by volume.
NBL pours a light golden colour with an off-white head of a few millimeters which dissipates fairly quickly. With the head disappearing within a couple of minutes, there is no lacing down the glass. The aroma is of hops with what seems to be a hint of apple. The mouth feel is carbonated, but a bit thin. The taste is crisp and exactly what the aroma would indicate. The first taste is a subtle one, of apples, but not really sweet. It has a bitter finish, but the bitterness is not overpowering or too long lasting as is the case with some of its European counterparts. Overall, a respectable, pleasant enough beer that goes down well...but nothing to really distinguish it from the crowd.
According to the brewery's web site, the company conducts 45 minute tasting and product knowledge sessions every Friday and Saturday for a cost of $10 plus taxes, but no longer does tours.
It's been a while since Bucky tried something from Toronto's Amsterdam Brewery, so when he saw a bottle of their Oranje Weisse in the local LCBO, he added it to his inventory. Amsterdam's Oranje Weisse ("AOW") came in a brown 500 ml bottle with no visible production or best before date, and was 5.0% alcohol by volume.
AOW poured a very cloudy, pale yellow/orange colour that did not change noticeably when backlit. Pouring produced just less than 1" of pure white head, which receded to a thin cap and collar within about 3 minutes, leaving considerable lacing and spotting down the glass. Its aroma was of coriander and yeast, with hints of orange citrus and banana. The taste closely followed the aroma, with yeast and coriander being most noticeable, followed by a nice orange citrus and just a bit of banana. The orange citrus seemed to become stronger as the beer warmed. The beer's carbonation started off quite strong...well suited to the beer, but seemed to drop to nearly nothing toward the end of the beer...odd. Despite this, AOW was a refreshing brew well suited to the summer, and I would describe it as light to medium bodied. At $3.95 per 500 ml bottle, AOW is perhaps a bit on the pricey side, but certainly worth a try.
Purchased from the brewery retail store and cellared for about a year, Bucky sampled a 500 ml bottle of Amsterdam's Tempest Imperial Stout (Year 2014). Tempest was 9.0% alcohol by volume with no visible production date, but since this beer is good for up to 3 years, that's not a big deal.
Tempest poured an opaque near-black colour, topped with about ½” of crema coloured head. The head lasted for about 3 minutes before fading to a thin collar and film that left some modest lacing down the glass. Tempting aroma…both sweet and dark chocolates with dark-roast coffee and a subtle touch of raisin. The taste was sweet milk chocolate up front followed by dark cocoa, raisin and dark-roast coffee, with a big delayed impact bitterness that lingered long. The bitter aftertaste takes a bit away from the beer, but at least it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the flavours. The bitterness seems to mellow a bit as the beer warms (or maybe I'm just getting used to it?), and a warming booziness becomes more evident. Tempest has a relatively soft carbonation and mouthfeel, and I would describe it as medium bodied. Overall, a bold flavoured beer and worth a try, but brace yourself for the bitterness in the finish.