Four or five years ago, Chris — a good friend of mine from Toronto — was raving about this brewery called Amsterdam Brewery. At the time, looking at their beer labels, I assumed they were actually a Heineken product, or at least Heineken-wannabe product, as their beer labels reminded me too much of Heineken. Actually, it turned out that Amsterdam Brewery was a brewery from Toronto, a brewery that was quickly turning into one of the most popular breweries in Ontario.
Eventually the brewery started selling their beer at the LCBO (Ontario’s MLCC) and The Beer Store (which is basically a Molson/Labatt/Sleeman owned version of our beer vendors). Soon enough, their beer would be available in Manitoba and in great quantities and varieties!
Amsterdam’s Big Wheel Deluxe Amber Ale was the very first beer I ever tried by them and it turned out to be one of my favourites for nights around the bonfire, nights watching NHL games on TV and afternoons having a marathon of "Orange is the New Black" and "Arrested Development" on Netflix.
What is an amber ale? Amber ales are ales brewed with malted barley that gives the beer a rich honey/caramel appearance. Not only that, the aroma and flavour is generally sweeter and maltier than your standard pale ale/lager. An amber usually has a sweet caramel aroma, a bit syrupy and some notes of grassiness from the barley. For flavour, caramel or honey sweetness generally hits the tastebuds more than anything else but there’s usually a bit of a grassy bitterness following it. Overall, amber ales are generally full of sweet caramel or honey flavour, but isn’t so sweet or bitter that it would scare off the average beer drinker. Most pubs in Brandon carry at minimum one amber ale on tap such as Big Rock’s Sweet Honey Brown or Alexander Keith’s Red Amber Ale.
Big Wheel is your typical amber ale, it’s a slightly cloudy but honey/caramel beer in appearance, an aroma that reminds me of those soft caramel candy squares you can find in bulk at various supermarkets around town. There’s a bit of a bitterness of what I can only describe as a faint scent of Earl Grey tea meets fresh-cut grass. As for flavour, I’m noticing the trend of caramel sweetness continuing here and also notes of honey, various grains and syrup give it a sweet flavour that isn’t overpowering but welcoming. Big Wheel is a crisp, refreshing, easy drinking ale with a bit of a creamy mouth feel, it’s nothing like a Coors Light — but only Coors Light should look or taste like a Coors Light. In a lot of ways, this is very comparable to Sleeman’s Honey Brown as there are a lot of similar flavours and aromas in each beer.
Big Wheel costs $3.07 for a 473 mL can, has five per cent alcohol content and is available at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Minnedosa and Russell. @15.7.1 sat tab HEADERS:New Beer Release
Amsterdam Boneshaker IPA
Available at the Virden and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts, Boneshaker is a strong, liberally hopped India Pale Ale that describes just how cold it has been this winter. Boneshaker has a rich pine bitterness with a hint of lemon citrusness. $3.93/473 mL can.
Mongozo Premium Gluten Free Pilsener
If you’re a fan of beer but have celiac disease or you are trying to minimize the amount of gluten in your diet, Mongozo Pilsener is an organic and gluten free beer out of Belgium. Gluten-free beer isn’t common in Manitoba yet, so it’s great to see the MLCC increasing the selection of gluten-free beers for those who want beer but without having to deal with the side effects of gluten. $2.99/330 mL bottle. Available at the Liquor Marts in Brandon and Minnedosa.
Half Pints Isolator Doppel Bock
Available at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart. Isolator is a strong bock with an alcohol content of 8.6 per cent ABV, has flavours reminiscent of raisins, dark fruit, molasses and a slight alcohol kick. It’s very limited in stock so once it’s gone, it’s gone! $6.77/650 mL bottle.