The quality assurance process undertaken for every single alcoholic beverage sold by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the largest single buyer of alcoholic beverages in the world, reads like a crime scene investigation checklist. Professional tasters ensure that the wine being sold has the appearance and aroma and taste of the varietal and region from which the maker claims it originates. Then the wine undergoes a battery of chemical analyses that search for things such as pesticides and metal content. Lastly, the labels and bar codes are inspected to ensure they are not forgeries. "If somebody is trying to pass off plonk as a top-end wine, I have every confidence that our sensory evaluation panels would pick it out," said Leonard Franssen, manager of quality services for the LCBO's quality assurance department.Wow. That's sorta like CSI Ontario (hmmm...opening theme tune? "Squeeze Box".) Thanks Len. Except no one really cares and no one checks up on the scientists, adding little but expense and delay while ensuring fresh is not a factor. Why do I mention this now? Well, note the picture above. Someone had to scratch out the 3.7% alcohol by volume information on every bottle being sold in Ontario. Then they had to stick on another sticker that says "4.4% alc./vol." on the back. Trouble is RateBeer says it's a 3.7% beer. And the brewer says it is a 3.7% beer. Who do I believe? Do I think that a brewer would goof up and add 19% or so too many fermentables into the mash and not notice? Not likely. And Beer Advocate really can't even tell me what this is as there is a likely for-Canada-only label that says "Best Bitter Light Beer/Biere Legere" and the nearest number noted in their description of the brewer's whole range for a pale ale is 4.1%. So who knows? And, just 'cause you're wondering, the two numbers are not off by the alcohol by weight compared to alcohol by volume ratio. So there.
Anyway, maybe the brewer botched the label and the website...and the style and the LCBO scientists are right. Let's go with that and open the beer by flipping of the slightly crusty cap of a well-aged LCBO import. Orange amber ale under thin whispy white foam and rim. On the nose, bready raisin sweet malt. Drinking, I note a very light ale buttressed by a nod to diacetyl, a cunning use of sharp weedy green hops and some light crystal malt keeping it from thinness. All I can think is whether it's 3.7 or 4.4%...it's maddening. Frankly, it's more like 3.7% to me but I am no scientist. No one is. Except them.
3.50 CND for 500 ml at the
Ontario Science Centre LCBO.