"Normal is Weird" is a statement Barrie, Ontario’s Flying Monkeys Brewery takes to heart, so much so that they have quickly turned into one of Canada’s "craft breweries to watch."
Flying Monkeys is one of the most "over the top" breweries I’ve experienced in a long time, so much so that for every product they release, it’s more experimental or over the top than their previous release.
Back in 2012, Flying Monkeys collaborated with Barenaked Ladies to create an Imperial Chocolate Stout like no other — the BNL Stout tasted exactly like homemade chocolate cake crammed into a bottle, icing and all!
More recently, last year — they collaborated with musician City and Colour to create an Imperial Maple Wheat Ale. I’ve heard it was incredibly delicious but something that would be best enjoyed with a few friends as it was quite savoury and high in alcohol content.
Sure, Flying Monkeys may make some incredibly over the top beers in all of Canada, but they also make some beers that aren’t just for the most elite of beer snobs.
Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale is one such beer that doesn’t go too extreme in the ingredients or brewing process. What is a Cascadian Dark Ale? It’s a mashup of a West Coast (BC/Washington/Oregon) India Pale Ale with a liberal amount of fresh West Coast hops meets a dark roasted porter which ends up giving the beer drinker an incredibly bitter yet sweet flavour and aroma.
Netherworld pours a thick but not-as-thick-as-Guinness dark beer, a hue of of mahogany when put against the light, and a creamy cookie dough-like head on top. With "Dark Ale" right in the name of the beer, you know that this isn’t going to be a golden lager by any stretch of the imagination.
The aroma is what welcomes me — it has the aroma of floral West Coast hops, a thick pine scent, as well as a clashing from the darkness — a very dark roasted aroma that is common in stouts and porters: A bitter, roasted coffee bean scent from the roasted malts. With the coffee-like aroma, there’s notes of dark chocolate and a bit of a nuttiness present as well.
Finally indulging in the beer, I can immediately notice that this is much more bitter than your standard Dark Ale (ie Fort Garry Dark Ale), the bitterness of the hops gives it a piney bite that tickles the tongue while the roasted malts give it a very dark earthy bitterness that has a coffee and dark chocolate aftertaste that lingers for a long time.
This beer certainly won’t be for everyone as it’s as dark as a porter or stout, and as bitter as a West Coast India Pale Ale. This is a beer that would scare off the average beer drinker in Westman, but for those who like to try something new and want a challenge, this is certainly a beer worth trying.
Netherworld costs $2.93 per 355 mL bottle, has six per cent ABV and is available at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Roblin and Virden. If Netherworld scares you too much but you are still looking for something new to try, Flying Monkeys’ Smashbomb Atomic IPA is a great India Pale Ale, especially if you’re dealing with a flu or a bad head cold like I am — beers with a liberal amount of hops are believed to help fend off nasty colds, so drink up!
One cool tidbit about Smashbomb is that the beer was briefly rejected by the LCBO in Ontario for apparently being attractive to youth and graphics of an explosion — the LCBO quickly reversed their decision and now sells it at their stores throughout Ontario. Smashbomb is available in Liquor Marts in Brandon and Virden for $2.93 per 355 mL bottle. I give this beer a 3.5 out of 5 pints.
Central City Red Racer IPA
One of BC’s most popular India Pale Ales has returned to Manitoba, after a hiatus from the province for a few weeks. The beer was previously available in Manitoba since last summer in 355 mL cans. Now, Red Racer IPA is available in a convenient 473 mL can for $2.50 each, which is an incredible bargain if you are looking for a bitter, floral India Pale Ale in time for camping season, whenever spring arrives. Available at the 10th Street & Victoria Avenue Liquor Mart.
Fort Garry Portage & Main IPA
My favourite prairie India Pale Ale has returned! Fort Garry did a great job with releasing Portage & Main this time last year and the beer is quickly turning into one of the brewery’s most popular beers yet. Portage & Main is one of the first commercial beers to contain Manitoba-grown hops and has notes of alfalfa, grapefruit and lemon citrus. Cost is $3.06 per 473 mL can. Available at Liquor Marts in Brandon.
Central City Red Racer ESB
I’m excited about this one — Central City’s Red Racer Extra Special Bitter has returned to Manitoba for the first time since 2012. Available in 650mL bottles, Red Racer is a toasty, malty and liberally hopped beer with a bittersweet grapefruit zest to it. It goes for $5.50 per 650 mL bottle. Available at the 10th Street & Victoria Avenue Liquor Mart.