I go to the LCBO more than the Beer Store here in Ontario but when I have gone to the place also known as "the In and Out", I have noticed but never picked up this brand, preferring Maudit or another Unibroue variety. I noticed today that it actually comes in a four pack and thought what the hell. The clerk looked at me a little like my head was on wrong and had to hunt through her computer to find the right key to hit. Apparently no one ever buys it. Bodes well.
The Trafalgar Brewing out of Oakville has been around since 1993. It gets a few lines in Allen Winn Sneath's Brewed in Canada in the chronology for the year of its opening and for its two year attempt to expand to the Old Mill in Elora. It is a tough trade. You know, some smaller microbrewers in Ontario only get local sales so that, for example, Mill Street Brewery's product from Toronto or Heritage Brewing's bottles from Ottawa simply do not make it to Kingston shelves even though we are about two hours drive from each - God bless the monolpoly system that ensures I have access to 27 types of identical tasting eastern European lager but not all the real ales from within this province. In part it is the reality of shipping costs but mostly it is a bad system of laws. So it is a bit of a odd thing to see one here. The packaging is a bit weird too, a 1 x 4 quart (650 ml) pack. No handle, light cardboard meaning you have to kind of hug the thing which is not unlike carrying a grade 12 math textbook when you are in grade 6.
The bottle I had was showing age with a bit of a rusty cap but its secluded life at the back of the Beer Store cooler kept the ale inside in fairly good shape. It is a fresh tasting amber ale, not too heavy at 4.5%, along the lines of Gritstone, Quidi Vidi Trad or Big Rock Trad. Like Quidi Vidi and Big Rock there is a bit of sourness (yeast sting?) to the yeast and like Gritstone it is a fairly sweetish ale. Unlike all of them is the addition of a smoky note and a bit more body. The white head dissipates fairly rapidly over the clear dark caramel ale. It is a quite attractive ale with notes of apple, toffee and maybe mocha back there somewhere. Subdued barky and green hops. It is an ale I would be interested in comparing to Garrison Irish Red from Halifax, though from recollection the latter might still be my preferred ale. The brewery says:
The Celtic formulation is based on an ancient recipe for Irish Brown Ale. Four different malts emphasize the grainy richness of this well-balanced ale. The flavour profile of Celtic is that of an easy drinking subtle ale with mild hopping. This every day ale compliments most meals and occasions.Only one beer advocate has rated this beer and had it on draft at the brewery. At $13.95 for four it is definitely good value.
I am starting to think there is an unnamed style out there, the Canadian amber ale, sort of a low hopped ESB, that has versions throughout the land: medium in colour, sweetness and weight with only enough hops to cut the cloy of the sweetness. Not much to aspire to but this one goes beyond it. I am a little smitten.