Amsterdam Brewery’s Suite

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Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen (CSW)

(TORONTO, ON) – Comfortably ensconced in the Leaside District of Toronto, Amsterdam Brewery is close to Home Depot, Winners, and Golf Town. A big box brewery in the land of the upper middle class rapidly being shredded by Trudeau income policies favouring the disappearing middle class.

The rich get richer and the middle class disappears at $200,000, which seems to be the golden rung of the middle class. A strange continuation of Stephen Harper policies. Syrian refugees trump aboriginals and the disappearing middle class.

Saturday tours are available at the Brewery and include tastings of up to five beers at no charge.

Amsterdam’s 416 Lager (416 is the area code for established Torontonians) is golden in colour. Aromas of wheat, honey, rubber ball and elastics, and a touch of fumes on the inner city 401.

On the palate, consistent carbonation, some rye, honey, and ginger ale. A light brew with very little complexity. It’s very clean on the palate and far from the mega brewery sour swill.

Innovative or unique? No way.

It has going for it that it that it is no mega brewery swill, but it has a bit of a journey to be a great beer. (Amsterdam 416, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 473 mL, 4.16%, $2.34, Square Media Group Rating 84/100) Good beer for a badminton tournament on a hot day or a sneak in the knapsack at the Toronto Island Frisbee golf course. Cute name, cute can, and with Toronto on the map. Forget the cool can.

The Amsterdam Blonde is not blonde of course, but a medium golden coloured beer so much like the vast quantities of beer produced by Canadian mass breweries. It’s the taste on this that will win me over.

It’s got a bit of the mass produced nose to it. A bit like toast and cat’s pee with a hint of bacon.

On the palate some nuts and sourness one might expect from the big breweries. Almost imperceptible notes of honey, green grapes, and a lack of direction. This might as well be a Labatt 50 or Canadian although its pedigree might be higher.

A light harmless brew devoid of any character than perhaps quenching your thirst on a hot summer day. (Amsterdam Blonde, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 473 mL, 5%, $2.34, Square Media Group Rating 80/100)

With dark beer comes a bit of complexity. Can Amsterdam’s Downtown Brown Convert?

It has a slight creamy head, but from a distance has a smell of promise. Heady aromas of chocolate, coffee, and fruitcake mixed with a bit of dark rye bread.

On the palate, creamy and smooth, very Nutella infused with hints of back bacon sandwich. A simple and satisfying dark beer that might be a good start for a novice.

For complexity there are other dark brews that offer more seductive and ponderous products, but for lack of creativity and a slant towards a PR statement I say, “A simple and straightforward dark brew targeted towards those shy mass brewery guzzlers that feel guilty with pale swill mediocrity.”

(Amsterdam Downtown All Natural Brown, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, 473 mL, 5%, $2.34, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

We move on to a brew with a threatening name and a high alcohol content of 7.1%. The Boneshaker has a murky orange and brown colour. Murky in beer usually means unfiltered, which is the case here. No big foamy head.

On the palate, a spicy and sassy aroma of cloves, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie. Brackish and slightly bitter on the palate which, by the way, is full of papaya, cloves, and turnips.

The finish is long, but this is far from your “standard beer”. It strikes one as a very specialized and seasonal brew constructed for the colder months of the year.

This is very quirky stuff and best suited to food considering its underlying bitterness that really needs to cut into some beef and, yes, organic pumpkin stew.

Equally, it might fly with pumpkin pie or Christmas cake. Serious beer for beer aficionados. (Boneshaker Unfiltered Pale Ale, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 473 mL, $2.56, Square Media Group Rating 90/100) This is not my type of beer, but it is a fascinating brew and very well made that will either have you saying wow or one sip is enough. If there is such thing as a personal beer this is it.

In a dark brown bottle lies a dark brown beer with a minimalist looking label and the name Dogbolter American Brown. No head on the pour.

Strong aromas of rye bread, chocolate covered pears, and molasses. A pronounced bitterness on the palate with notes of burnt brown sugar, white grapefruit which softens into a more mellow finish of dark chocolate, and barley.

So refreshingly different from the mass produced swill purloined over television sports. Thank goodness for these micro breweries that saved beer from total interswillization. No wonder Labatt bought Mill Street and Molsons purchased Granville Island and Creemore. The big boys are beginning to see the writing on the wall.

This beer isn’t for the timid but those willing to explore the boundaries of beer. (Dogbolter American Brown, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 500 mL, $4.34, Square Media Group Rating 93/100)

Really? A fruit flavoured beer? About as attractive as a low end peach flavoured chardonnay. Beer is beer and adulterated beer gives me the willies.

But, being a curious soul I try a Kawartha Lakes Brewery Raspberry Wheat Beer. Golden brown in colour with primary notes of raspberry and raw grilled beef.

On the palate, a raspberry elixir that has some resemblance to beer; or, is it a soda?

The slight bitterness rescues it from pop stardom. It is beer with a raspberry infusion. A pleasant diversion and a nice little experiment.

It hovers between pop and beer. A wonderful late night brew after too many traditional beers. Tasty and refreshing, but impossible to review as a beer as it is only half beer; the rest is pop.

A dangerous preteen slumber party refreshment. (Kawartha Lakes Brewery Raspberry Wheat Beer, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 473 mL, 4.5%, $2.35) Kwartha Lakes Brewery was purchased by Amsterdam in 2003.

Fracture Imperial India Pale Ale has both a weak element in Fracture and a regal Imperial element to it. It is almost reddish brown in colour. No head at all.

Very strong grapefruit and rye aroma somewhat tamed by a bit of pomegranate.

On the palate, a strong bitterness that seems to be the trademark of the higher alcohol Amsterdam beers. There is a whole lot of grapefruit with some cloves and allspice on the palate, loaded up with Mom’s orange spice cake from the 1960’s. Beer a-go-go at a swinging 60’s hippie party.

The single malt of beer with its uniqueness. (Fracture Imperial India Pale Ale, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 355 mL, 9.1%, $2.52, Square Media Group Rating 91/100)

Love the label of Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. The Scottie dog says it all.

The Scotch tend to like a heavier beer than the Brits, which suits me just fine. For goodness sake, can you imagine Bud being served in a London pub?

An orange-brown colour. Maple syrup, toffee, but no hint of bitterness on the nose.

A distinct heavy but smooth pull on the palate with light hoppiness. Tastes of burnt apricot, peach, and crème brulee. Frothy and tasty and totally in control, just like a wee Scottie dog.

The Dogbolter on the other hand has the temperament of a West Highland Terrier. In fact, this beer is almost elegant with no strong or quirky characteristics to frighten the less than adventurous beer drinker. Heavy but restrained. (Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Amsterdam Brewery, Toronto, Ontario, 500 mL, 6.2%, $3.67, Square Media Group Rating 94/100)

The Autumn Hop Harvest Ale is brewed with fresh Ontario Hops. The hops used are fresh and not dried and pelletized.

The colour is cloudy brown. Loads of citrus on the nose, full of grapefruit, lime, and lemons.

Bitterness on the palate, but gentler than some of the Amsterdam hoppier brews. If you are a novice to hoppy beer, this might be the place to start. The hops are somewhat sedated and the finish is medium, but not replete with the bitterness of many hoppier beers.

A matter of style I suppose.

I imagine a good match with Greek lemon chicken and roast potatoes, or to savour over the first half of a football game. (Autumn Hop Harvest Ale, Amsterdam Brewery Toronto, 500 mL, 5.6%, $4.29, Square Media Group Rating 89/100)