Mill St. Brewery was founded in Toronto in December 2002 by Steve Abrams, Jeff Cooper and Michael Duggan. The brewery has won a fair number of awards during its nine year existence, including Golden Tap Awards for Best Toronto Microbrewery and Best Toronto Beer for its Tankhouse Ale. Mill Street was also named "Canadian Brewery of the Year" at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The brewery was named after its original location at 55 Mill Street in Toronto's historic Distillery District. In early 2006, however, large-scale brewing was moved to a bigger facility in Scarborough with the Distillery District location reopened in October of that same year as a brew pub.
On this occasion, I tried their Tankhouse Ale in a 341 ml bottle, part of Mill Street's "Seasonal Sampler" six pack. Tankhouse Ale ("Tankhouse") is 5.2% alcohol by volume.
Tankhouse pours a clear copper-red colour with a thin, fizzy, off-white to light beige head which dissipates quickly. The beer left no lacing and very minor spotting down the glass. The aroma is subdued, of burnt malt with a touch of hops, but there was something mildly unpleasant lurking in the background...almost like rubbing alcohol. Mouth feel is good with a medium body and soft carbonation. For the first few seconds the flavour is a very good balance between toasted malt and a modest hoppy bitterness. All was well, until...the finish and lingering aftertaste. The smokey flavour and hop bitterness linger way too long and never really clear. I guess I'm a firm believer that a beer should have a clean finish, with no lingering aftertaste of any kind. In this case, the aftertaste was still noticeable an hour later.
Given Tankhouse's reputation, I'd have to say that I was disappointed in this beer. Five more to go in the Seasonal Sampler, though, and odds are good that I'll find a winner in their somewhere.
Mill Street's Stock Ale ("Stock") is the second brew that I tried from the company's "Seasonal Sampler" 6 pack, and it came in a clear 341 ml bottle. Stock is 5.0% alcohol by volume.
Stock Ale poured a pale straw yellow colour with a thin, fizzy head which dissappeared almost instantly...no lacing, no spotting down the glass. Its aroma is faint, but a hint of light malt with some hops in the background is detectable. Mouth feel was very thin with a watery body, but the level of carbonation was appropriate. Stock's taste, like its aroma, was subdued, starting with a malt sweetness and finishing clean, with a subtle hop presence.
All in all, I'd have to rate this as an underwhelming brew. Refreshing enough and a drinkable beer on a hot summers day, but so subdued that I wouldn't actively seek it out.
Mill Street's Lemon Tea Beer ("LTB") is the third beer that I tried from the brewery's Seasonal Sampler. It's probably the most unusual of the bunch, so I was looking forward to giving it a try as a change from more conventional brews. LTB is 5.0% alcohol by volume, and I tried it in a 473 ml can.
LTB pours a hazy amber colour with a thin, fizzy, white head that dissipates rapidly. Its aroma is of lemon, iced tea and a faint hint of hops...I can't quite put my finger on it, but something in there has a bit of an artifical aura to it. Strong lemon, black tea, and sugar flavours dominate this brew, followed by a slight hoppy bitterness. The mouth feel is a bit on the thin and watery side, but with a decent carbonation. I have to give Mill Street credit for taking a chance and trying something different, but I'm afraid this one was just too sweet for my liking. Quite frankly, I struggled to finish it. While LTB isn't to my particular taste, I can see how it might appeal to the non-purist beer drinker looking to try something out of the ordinary on a hot summers day.
Mill Street's Pilsner ("MSP") was beer number 4 in that company's Seasonal Sampler 6 pack, and we tried it in a 355 ml bottle. Date code on the bottle was E17 11 MS1, and MSP was 5.2% alcohol by volume.
MSP poured an attractive deep golden colour, and took on more of an amber hue when held up to the light. Its thin, fizzy white head burned off and resolved itself into a collar within a couple of minutes. The beer left no lacing or spotting down the glass. Its aroma was subtle, with the light, bready malt dominating the more muted grassy hops. In terms of taste, I'm going to use the company's description verbatim because I can't put it any better. Its taste is refreshingly clean and balanced, starting out slightly sweet and ending with a dry hoppy finish. The slightly bitter hop finish didn't overstay its welcome. It's a refreshing change to taste a beer that is exactly as described by the brewer...so many promise flavours or other characteristics that they simply don't deliver. MSP was light to medium bodied with a well suited amount of carbonation, and the clear leader so far in Mill Street's Seasonal Sampler, with two beers left to go.
Beer number 5 of 6 from Mill Street's Seasonal Sampler, I tried their Traditional Ginger ("TG") in a 355 ml bottle with date code E27 11 MS1. I was a little concerned going into this one given that Mill Street's other flavoured beer, its Lemon Tea Beer, just didn't work for me. TG is 5.0% alcohol by volume.
TG poured an amber colour, taking on more of an orangey tint when held up to the light, and produced about 2 centimetres of foamy white head. The head dissipated quite rapidly and resolved itself into a collar that remained all the way through the glass. No spotting or lacing was noted. The aroma is of light ginger with sweet malts, and the first taste is of ginger followed by a distinct hoppy bitterness and a dry finish. The sequence of flavours works well and there was nothing artificial about the ginger taste...my only complaint is that TG was a bit lighter on the ginger than I would have liked. Mouth feel was light with a medium carbonation that was entirely suited to the brew. In summary, TG was a pleasant surprise...not something that I would drink on a regular basis but good enough that I would drink it again as a change of pace from the ordinary.
The final beer to be tasted from Mill Street's Seasonal Sampler was the Original Organic Lager ("OOL"). Apparently OOL is Ontario's first certified organic lager and as such contains no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. I sampled OOL in a 341 ml bottle with date code E03 11 MS1, and the beer was 4.2% alcohol by volume.
OOL poured a crystal clear pale yellow/gold with a large, foamy white head that disappeared quickly and resolved itself into a film that was retained down the glass, leaving some spotting. The aroma was of sweet, lightly roasted malts and although the company's web site describes a "light floral hop aroma", I couldn't detect anything beyond the malt sweetness. The flavour is this beer's saving grace with a very pleasant biscuit, malty taste that was noticeably sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The finish was clean, but mouthfeel was definitely on the thin side with a medium carbonation. The verdict...a light but surprisingly refreshing beer well suited to drinking in the all too brief Canadian summer. Oddly, Mill Street's web site describes OOL as a "European Style Pilsner" but it certainly lacks the distinct bitter finish of that genre...but it is a refreshing brew nonetheless.
We sampled Mill Street's Coffee Porter ("CP") in a 341 ml bottle, liberated (legally) from the remains of a 6 pack at the LCBO...which probably explains why there is no production date on the bottle. Good looking printed graphics on the bottle, and CP is 5.5% alcohol by volume.
CP pours a deep mahogany, almost black colour, with hints of ruby toward the bottom of the glass when backlit. An aggressive pour produced a 1" crema coloured, bubbly head that dissipated in 2 to 3 minutes.The head faded to a healthy collar and thin film which left minimal spotting down the glass. The beer's aroma was primarily of burnt malt, with a dark roast coffee undertone. CP's flavour was dominated by the burnt malt, but with distinct notes of coffee and chocolate, and a slightly bitter finish. A modest bitter/coffee aftertaste lingers, but not long enough to be offensive. Unusual for a porter, I found CP to be light/medium bodied, with a carbonation level a bit lower than normal for the type.
The key word in describing this beer would be "mellow"..the aroma, the flavour, the carbonation. Ideally I would have liked all three of these boosted a bit...but not a bad effort at all. I would certainly drink this one again. You can almost think of CP as an introductory coffee porter, and an alternative for those of us who find something like Dieu de Ciel's Peche Mortel a bit too bitter. At $2.20 per bottle, CP is quite reasonably priced.
After reading this beer's rave reviews, Bucky was looking forward to sampling Mill Street's Cobblestone Stout (“Cobblestone”) . The beer came in a nitrogen infused 440 ml can with no apparent production or best before date. Cobblestone was 4.2% alcohol by volume.
Cobblestone poured with a beautiful Guinness-like cascade and was an opaque black colour with about 1” of creamy looking beige coloured head when everything settled down. The head eventually faded to about a ¼” collar of foam which remained all through the sampling. For such a long-lived head though, it left surprisingly little lacing down the glass. Overall though, a very good looking beer. Its aroma was fairly subdued…not surprising given the ever-present head, but dark chocolate, coffee and a touch of milk chocolate were noticeable. Cobblestone's taste was fabulous…a milk chocolate sweetness from the head, followed by dark chocolate and dark roasted coffee with a mild bitterness in the finish. All but the initial milk chocolate sweetness lingered pleasantly as an aftertaste. For me though, despite the wonderful flavours, it's the mouth feel where Cobblestone falls short. The initial creaminess from the head stands out as a stark contrast to the thin mouth feel of the beer itself. Maybe Mill Street was trying to produce a sessionable stout when they created this beer, but to me it just comes off as ‘stout light'. If not for the somewhat watery mouth feel, Cobblestone could easily have entered Bucky's Canadian Top 10 list and become one of his ‘go to' beers. Cobblestone had a very soft carbonation in keeping with what you would expect from a stout. Cobblestone sells for $2.90 per 440 ml can at the time of writing.
Just after Christmas Day 2012, Bucky and a couple of his minions decided to visit the Mill Street Brew Pub, located at 21 Tank House Lane in Toronto's Distillery District. The Toronto Brew Pub opened in October 2006, and is located in the original Gooderham and Worts tankhouse that housed Mill Street's original brewery. Most of Mill Street's brewing is now done from its Scarborough facility, but the Toronto Brew Pub still produces Mill Street's specialty beers and conducts some research and development work.
The total Brew Pub consists of a retail store with a sampling license, a small brewing operation and an adjoining restaurant. The brewing portion of the facility is so small that it probably wouldn't warrant a visit in its own right, but combine your tour of the brewing room with the Mill Street beer samples from the retail store, and one of their Angus burgers in the restaurant and the trip is certainly worthwhile. In fact, the Brew Pub is pretty well the highlight of the old Distillery District, which otherwise consists of a series of overpriced cafes and art stores, and nearby condos under construction. Tours of the Brewing Room are offered Monday to Friday at 4pm, and Saturday & Sunday at 3pm and 5pm. Tours are free with no reservations required...just check in at the retail store 15 minutes prior to the tour and you're good to go.
During our tour we were shown the ropes by Andrew, who actually works in the brewing room. In addition to explaining the basics of the brewing process and the Brew Pub's role in Mill Street's overall operations, Andrew provided us with samples of Mill Street's Helles Bock in the unfiltered stage of production. At 6.2% alcohol by volume, Helles Bock is a strong German Lager with the aromas and tastes of sweet light malts, alcohol, orange and raisins, with a mildly bitter finish to balance things out...very nice! I hope Mill Street is planning to give this beer wider distribution at some point in the not too distant future.