Heritage Brewing Limited in Ottawa is a small eastern Ontario brewery which has yet to get a review from me. Why? My brother buys it. So what! Well, its just one of those things. I visit from time to time and he has Heritage dark in the fridge. And probably Hoegaarden if its summer. Once he had a growler of porter twice no longer extant Taylor and Bate Brewery from St. Catherines. That was a one-off 4,000 litre run from 2000 or so. That was good.
Anyway, this is not a review of what is in big brother's fridge but comment on these two beers from Heritage. What I like about them is that they are in fact one off-runs that appear to be planned on a quarterly basis. Readers in the good old U.S. of A. will think "what's the big deal?" For Canadians, however, this is a radical step into the unknown. I wish more brewers here would take a chace like this.
The beer to the right is Blackcurrent Rye Beer. I might have liked to know whether it is ale or lager rye but no nevermind. The five reviewers amongst the thousands of BAers were less than enthusiastic - especially the two who did not have it from a cask at one particular bar, Volo in Toronto. I had a bottle a few months ago and what I really liked about it was how it did mimic blackcurrent well even though I was pretty sure the "black current concentrate" on the label was more syrup than mash. The trick was the clever use of rye and that twangy old twiggy feel it adds to a beer. Years ago there was a brewery in Pictou, Nova Scotia that produced a straight rye ale. Ta-wang. It was a bit heavy. Chewing on bark heavy. Here, the twang is tempered by the current but not bombastically - it is a relatively light touch accentuated by the similarly light body. Again, I used to pick 20 or 30 pounds on the old bushes at the farmhouse and blackcurrent is quite a dry fruit, more apt for a savory fruit sauce for wild game rather than pies. This beer captures that well so even though it is a fruity brew it is balanced and true to the two named ingredients. The rye, blackcurrent and twiggy hop all conspire to form a nice dry finish with some lingering berry. 4.5% in a 650 ml bomb. The beer pours a nice amber that has a purpley note from the fruit, the foamy head resolving to a white rim. Don't bother going to look for it unless they make it a repeat a few years from now. Worthwhile but hard to imagine being an everyday sort of thing. Exactly the sort of thing to try with a seasonal brew.
Heritage's February 6 release Passion Brew is on the left. It pours yellow straw and the head respoves to a white rim. It is hard for me to say whether this is the true taste of passionfruit as I have only ever had it in a juice box or maybe in a sauce. My feeling, based on the Belgian approach, is that a fruit beer ought to be as close to the flavour of the fruit from the branch as possible. The logic is that in the mid-winter you can pull out a bottle and have a real sip of summer's bounty. This is, however, a good tasting fruit brew and just might make me want to go out and try a passionfruit. The fruit is round like a lollipop but not sickly sweet. There is a good edge which could be graininess but is more likely a roughish hop. It does not entirely cut through the fruit making the beer a bit cloying and certainly more than the blackcurrent rye. For me, this is less of a success and I bet if passionfruit had actually kept its original name, Bert Farmbley's apple, this beer would never have been made and put out for the Valentine's Day market. No BAers have rated it but four at RateBeer are less than enthusiastic. Sort of a nasty finish, though not the worse I have ever had. I would think a lighter touch with the fruit and a bit of wheat in the mash might be an adjustment the brewer might consider.
But in the end, this is an experiment and that's what seasonals are all about. Good for Heritage for trying it in the Ontario market. Now if they could introduce a program more like Smuttynose's Big Bittle Series and we'd be getting somewhere swell.