Muskoka Cottage Brewery was founded by Gary McMullen and Kirk Evans, and since 1996 has been producing hand-crafted beers. Located in Bracebridge, Ontario, Muskoka Brewing produces 5 different beers, plus two seasonal brews. On this occasion we tried their Dark Ale.
Muskoka Dark Ale, like all of Muskoka's beers contain no additives, no preservatives and no adjuncts, and its beers are never pasteurized. The Dark Ale contains 5% alcohol by volume. Simply put, this is the best North American brewed dark ale that I have tasted to date and rivals some of the best that I have tried from the U.K. It has that smoky malt taste typical of dark ales but does not have the bitterness of several British counterparts. In fact, the finish is very slightly sweet. Given its dark colour, I was expecting a much heavier beer. Overall, a very pleasant surprise and a dark ale that I plan to buy instead of the British dark ales I've purchased in the past. All else being equal, why not buy Canadian!
Apparently Muskoka Dark Ale was a Gold Medal Winner at the 2009 Ontario Brewing Awards.
Having really enjoyed Muskoka's Dark Ale, I decided to pick up a 473ml can of their signature Cream Ale. Muskoka Cream Ale ("MCA") is 5.0% alcohol by volume.
MCA poured a light amber colour, more orangey when held up to the light. Two centimetres of off white head dissipated fairly quickly and left a bit of lacing down the glass. The aroma was interesting and one of the more complex beers that I've tried in that regard...a combination of sweet malt, both floral and earthy hops and a touch of fruit..if I had to hazard I guess I'd say orange citrus. MCA's taste very much followed the aroma, beginning with a malt sweetness and a hint of citrus, and a few seconds later transitioning to a subtle hop bitterness that didn't remain too long on the tongue. A very nice balance, and I especially liked the transition in flavours as opposed to being hit with them all at once and having them fight each other. MCA had a light to medium body, an appropriate amount of carbonation, and a creamy finish.
Overall, well done Muskoka! I would certainly buy this one again.
With two of Muskoka's brews (its Dark Ale and Cream Ale) currently in Bucky's Top 10 list, we were looking forward to trying their Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (a.k.a. Winter Beard) over the Christmas holiday. Winter Beard was 8.0% alcohol by volume, and was purchased from the LCBO in a 750 ml bottle stamped "Enjoy Before 20 APR 2012". One thing that I've always liked about Muskoka is the simplicity of its date system.
The stoppered bottle was well sealed and opened with a loud pop. Winter Beard poured an opaque black with about 1/2" of fizzy, cream coloured head that burned itself out rapidly, resolving into a thin film and collar of foam that left minimal spotting and lacing down the glass. There was very little light penetration when the beer was held up to a light source, with some dark brown just visible around the edges. The aroma was mainly of dark roasted malts, cocoa, and coffee, with the cranberries only detectable for a second or two when the beer was swirled around the glass. As the beer warmed, an alcohol smell became detectable...not surprising at 8.0% abv. Winter Beard's taste was a well balanced combination of roasted malts, coffee, and cocoa...not overly sweet and not too bitter. I struggled to detect the cranberries in its taste, and wouldn't have been able to identify the very subtle fruit taste if not for the beer's name. Winter Beard ends with a moderately bitter aftertaste...but nothing too long lasting. It has a below average level of carbonation consistent with most stouts, a nice dryness and a mildly chalky feeling to it from the cocoa. Winter Beard was medium to full bodied, and I'd recommend sharing the 750 ml bottle. The only negatives of this beer are its relatively poor head retention and high price. Though I enjoyed Winter Beard and certainly wouldn't turn one down, at $10.95 per bottle I have to knock it down a few points based on the "value for money" factor.
Having heard good things about Muskoka's Mad Tom IPA ("Mad Tom"), I picked up a 473 ml can at the local LCBO stamped with an "enjoy before" date of August 30, 2012. Mad Tom was 6.4% alcohol by volume. An aggressive pour produced about 1" of bubbly white, orange-tinged head that lasted for about 3 minutes before fading into a foamy collar and thin film which left a fair bit of lacing and some spotting down the glass.
The beer itself was a slightly hazy golden/orange colour, which took on more of the golden hue when backlit. Some slow rising bubbles were visible despite the beer's haziness. Mad Tom had a BIG grapefruit aroma with pine undertones, the grapefruit aroma being even more pronounced in the empty can. Its taste, as you'd expect given the aroma, was grapefruit up front, followed by pine and a juicy orange flavour giving the beer a bit of sweetness in the middle, and then a strong bitter finish. The bitterness continued as a long lingering aftertaste that was still with me 2 hours after finishing the beer. While I very much enjoyed the citrus and pine flavours, I could live without the lingering aftertaste.
Mad's Tom's carbonation was moderate and completely appropriate to the style of beer, which contributed to a relatively light mouthfeel. I would describe the beer as light to medium bodied. At $2.95 per 473 ml can, I found Mad Tom to be a bit pricey, and would prefer something like Flying Monkey's Hoptical Illusion when in the mood for a pale ale.