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Check out more posts by Dave at Your Next Beer

Being a craft beer enthusiast can be really fun, but it can also be a tad frustrating at times.  I only say this because there are so many beers out there that are only available regionally.  Hell, regionally is being way too generous, because many really good craft beers are only available locally, as in, if you don’t live in that town you’re pretty much fucked.

But such is craft beer life, constantly hearing and reading about beers that sound really awesome but being resigned to the fact just won’t have the opportunity to try many of them.  Recently though, my long-forgotten birthday wish from 2013 actually came true as Smoth from Sublime Imbibing suggested an idea so great that my involvement in it was a foregone conclusion: A Tale Of Two Cities – Holiday Beer Exchange.

The premise was simple (although technically illegal): from him I would receive some beers from Toronto, “the craft beer capital of Canada”, and from me he would receive a selection of beers from Ottawa, “the actual capital of Canada.”  As the idea burst into fruition, I received some beer from Toronto’s famed Bellwoods Brewery, and Smoth received some beers from a few of my favourite local Ottawa  breweries; Nita Beer Company, Beyond The Pale Brewing Company, and Tooth And Nail Brewing Company.  Clearly a few beers from each city is only the tip of the iceberg, but this was a great opportunity for us to try some gems that we don’t have access to.

The two beers I got for Christmas were Jutsu and Farmhouse Classic from Bellwoods Brewery.  Although I wanted to crack these bad boys open  immediately upon delivery, I decided to save them for one of my favourite days of the year.  Every December, I take a day off work to do some Christmas shopping, wrap said Christmas gifts, enjoy a couple of beers, watch a couple movies, and *treat every homeless person in Ottawa to a steak dinner.  So as I cozied up near the fireplace and turned on my favourite Christmas movie, Only God Forgives, I finally got to drink these beers and jot down my thoughts.
*still in planning phase

Bellwoods Jutsu

My first beer was Jutsu, an American-style pale ale from Bellwoods. My anticipation and girlish delight was justified when I finally got to try some beers from Bellwoods, and Jutsu was a nice introduction to the brewery.  First off though, when you pour yourself a glass, don’t be alarmed by the shit-tonne of rather large-sized particulate floating around your glass.  There is more sediment in this beer than perhaps any I’ve ever tried, and I wouldn’t advise staring into the bottom of your glass during the last few sips.

Although this sediment could be considered unsightly, I’m told that it’s perfectly normal and despite its resemblance to wet asbestos, it won’t cause mesothelioma.  Secondly, and way more importantly, after just one bottle Jutsu immediately catapults itself into the upper echelon of Canadian APA’s, and it’s an absolute must-try if this style of beer is what you dig.  The structure of Jutsu is fairly typical of the style; a subdued malt profile layered under a big hop profile that dominates from start to finish.  What sets Jutsu apart is that its hop profile is one of the juiciest and most vibrant that I’ve ever had. 
Each sip seems to explode in your mouth, unleashing a fresh, juicy burst of grapefruit and sweet orange flavour.  And although Jutsu is probably packing a respectable amount of IBU’s, the focus is more on hop flavour than bitterness, and every mouthful is a cavalcade of really interesting tastes.  There is also a tinge of yeasty spiciness on the back end, right before a powerful bitter aftertaste takes over and warms your mouth between sips.  Despite hops being the main draw, Jutsu is well balanced and it displays a surprising amount of complexity.
Jutsu’s really great flavour is accompanied by an equally great mouth-feel, with gentle carbonation providing a lusciously soft, smooth and full texture.  There’s a luxurious and refined nature to Jutsu which makes the beer incredibly easy to drink, and it’s the kind of beer that you can’t put down for long. 
Belwoods Farmhouse Saison

My second beer was Farmhouse Classic, their resident saison.Even though it’s the winter season (sort of), there’s nothing quite like a well executed saison, and the fact that Bellwoods Brewery is striving for authenticity with this beer is evident in every sip.  Other than Brooklyn Brewery’s famed Sorachi Ace, which is easily the best I’ve ever had, I can’t think of any other saison as purely enjoyable as Farmhouse Classic.

Saison’s are notoriously complex and energetic brews, and Farmhouse Classic is no exception, possessing both a great depth of character as well as an effervescent mouth-fell that combine to make each sip a stark reminder of why the craft beer revolution is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  10 years ago, a beer of this ilk didn’t even exist in an Ontario that was once devoid of anything that didn’t resemble Labatt Crystal.  Anyways, right of the bat, Farmhouse Classic hits you with some strong aromas of Belgian yeast, the classic “clove and banana” that gets referenced so often, but there is also a peppery quality in there as well. 
Every sip of Farmhouse Classic is a roller coaster of semi-sweet malt, spicy Belgian yeast and citrusy hop bitterness.  The balance is impeccable however, and apart from a lingering peppery bitterness, no aspect of Farmhouse dominates the stage.  The finish is clean but the high amount of bitterness in the aftertaste is a bit surprising considering that the hop profile is relatively subdued overall.  It’s not my favourite aspect of this beer but it certainly doesn’t stop me from loving Farmhouse Classic overall. 

Farmhouse Classic’s subtly complex flavour profile is equally matched in superbness by it’s palate-tickling mouth-feel, created by the ill-used but totally worth it method of bottle conditioning.  Primers are added to each bottle, which brings on a second phase of fermentation, creating the super-fine micro-carbonation that saison’s are well known for.  The result is a finely carbonated and lively but soft effervescence that highlights the beers fresh-tasting nature.

Overall, two very enjoyable beers, and my hat’s off to Bellwoods Brewery and Smoth for furnishing this small Christmas miracle.  I can see this happening at Easter as well.

— By: Dave Segaert, Editor-in-Chief of Your Next Beer