Friday, March 23, 2012

Quaff Review #21: Howe Sound Rail Ale

Looking back through my life, it seems that with the exception of New Year festivities, whenever I've drank in commemoration of an event it was to soften the blow, as it were; I can't remember what I knocked back when Rob Ford was propelled into the Toronto mayoralty, but when Harper and the Conservatives robocalled their way to a majority last year, nothing alcoholic in my apartment was safe. I was getting a bit tired of this; after all, the old saying isn't "eat, drink and be miserable." In that spirit, then, I stopped off on my way home from work last night to properly toast not only Toronto City Council's victory but Rob Ford's defeat with the effective resurrection of my favored mode, the Transit City light rail plan.

I was looking for something that I could at least tangentially connect back, and I was fortunate to find at the top of the cooler a tall, thick bottle of Howe Sound Brewing's Rail Ale Nut Brown. The one-liter, potstopper-equipped resealable bottle cost me $9.30 at the local bottle-o with taxes included; you'd probably find it for cheapear at the BCL, but for that much beer it's still a fine enough price. The strange thing about it is that even though Howe Sound is based up in Squamish, barely one hundred kilometers from New Westminster, the liter bottle I picked up was produced for the American export market - as evidenced by the Surgeon General's warning and the complete absence of French on the label.

Enough of that, though - what's it like?

In a word: thick. Of everything I've drank before, Rail Ale Nut Brown feels closest to Guinness; true to its name it's dark and opaque enough that it could probably stand in on camera for motor oil, it's got the viscosity, and it's got a similarly tangy taste, and while the taste of black licorice does become progressively stronger as the beer cools down, I couldn't really detect any hints of the chocolate which the label assures me is also present. It had a nutty, woody aroma, bringing to mind images of nineteenth-century steam trains cutting through the western wilderness, chugging past ancient forests and craggy mountains. It's got a 5% alcohol content, so as long as you don't down the entire bottle in one go, it's a good weekend or after-work relaxant; would be good with dinner as well, I think.

As for the taste as a whole, it's slightly bitter and did not become much more bitter as it warmed up, which was a definite plus to me. It was rather sharp and heavy, too - for me, at least, this wasn't the sort of beer I could chug even if I was interested in that sort of time. It feels like it needs a bit to filter down one's esophagus.

Just remember that, according to the Surgeon General, consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your capacity to operate machinery - so as long as you're not driving the train on Sheppard Avenue East, go for broke! Raise a drink to the Toronto light rail system - or to the defeat of Ford's ephemeral subway dream, if you'd rather - and let the rails take you along.


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