I have a friend who works for a brewery in Guelph – not these guys – that likes to bring us stuff we can’t get from “the west side of the 400” as he calls it – one-off Wellington, Stone Hammer, and at last gathering, a couple of bottles of the Royal City Hibiscus Saison. Having heard of but never drank them, we indulged – and loved it. We found our first Brewery Profile project.
Royal City is located in Guelph, just 15 minutes or so north off the 401 on Highway 6 and into what one would call “downtown” Guelph. (We’ve been invited to the brewery, so stay tuned for a little tour once we go when winter has released us from her cold and volatile grip). They do tours, keg sales, have a great bottle shop, and moreover, are a tiny operation:
I spoke with Royal City rep Avery Jennekens on our ongoing series, and as they are only now making inroads into the Toronto city area, she clamored to get us a range of their beers for us to go over and profile.
Royal City makes four core brands, a “rotating” selection (in their own words: Rotating Brews come off of our main system and are available in our tap room and at select bars and restaurants. They are available until we run out. We strive to have 2 – 3 rotating brews available at any point in time. The rotation is regularly updated with successful pilot batches.), as well as one seasonal beer per season, PLUS their pilot brews, which amount to 10 or so experimental beers, ranging from their Lacto-heavy Berliner Weisse to something called “Kombrewcha”. With this variety, it’s hard to imagine that this small team is not working around the clock – if they aren’t now, wait until us Toronto folk get a taste of their product! We’re seriously excited to see Royal City really make a splash in 2016 as they expand distribution and introduce thirsty people all around the GTA to their traditionally produced, small batch, high-quality beers. Goddamn, I need a Suffolk St.
I know what you’re wondering: Where can I buy them? As of this moment, only the (award winning) Smoked Honey Ale is available en masse at LCBOs; I’m told distribution is expanding to key LCBO locations this year (stay tuned to our social networks, we’ll be sure to keep you updated – or, just politely but firmly demand their beer from our girl Avery or Royal City yourself).
On tap, for those of you seeking a pint downtown, check out C’est What, Bar Hop, The Craft, Thoroughbred, or Drift Bar – they’ve got a handy dandy list on the interactive map on their site, too.
Let’s go over the beer selection we recieved:
Dry Hopped Pale Ale (5.2%): Know how most people have a “daily driver”, like your favourite jacket you wear every day, a hat you never remove, or that 1999 Tercel in your driveway that still doesn’t need replacing? This beer could be my daily drinker. Finely balanced hop aroma is just cutting enough to make you perk up and have another sniff. A well-balanced, even bodied beer with a hint of hop bitterness at the finish and the floral Chinook shining through in the after taste, this is an amazing introduction to their lineup. Drink it when: you want something nice and easy to drink that has character.
Hibiscus Saison (4.3%): This combination made my eyes widen. Frankly, I was just happy to have a bottle of this to myself. Light and (surprise) floral in scent, but not lacking in flavour in any way. An ever so slight piercing tartness brought on by the effervescence and the hibiscus follows through with a citrus and yeast ester profile quite unlike any other saison. Absolutely fantastic, and easily the best of the lot. Drink it when: the summer sun joins us again and you’d like to have a beer in the backyard with your best beer nerd friend Mike.
100 Steps Stout (5%): A stout. I have nothing to say about this, except that it’s so faithful to the style that it is like a benchmark on which to judge other stouts. Roasty, burnt, with an exceedingly high drinkability. Drink it when: you need to man/woman up and get shit done, like a project, or after cleaning your eavestroughs and need to escape into something absolutely classic.
Suffolk St. Session Ale (4.2%): For those that donlt know, this is an ESB, which was the first ever session ale before the term “session” was even invented. With a depth of malt character pleasantly complemented by earthy and grassy hops. It’s here that I determined that the team at Royal City was seriously about honoring styles of old with really faithful recreations brought back into the light for us all to enjoy. Drink it when: Ye Olde workday sucked and there’s something warm and meaty for dinner, like a meat pie or stew.
Earl Grey Porter (Seasonal, 5%): I was hesitant to open this. I like Earl Grey tea in limited supply. I don’t want to be punched in the face with Bergamot or smell like my grandmother’s house for 4 days after drinking a beer. Surprisingly, there are simply complimentary notes of bergamot and bitterness from the tea they use to make this porter throughout. It is as enjoyable as a cuppa, and holds body and a slight alcohol burn towards the end of the glass. Drink it when: You need to drink something most people think is super duper weird OR if you’re so English, it hurts.
Exhibition Session IPA (4.5%): There’s that word again. In case anyone doesn’t know what “Session” means, it’s what you do when you drink several beers in a sitting. The Session title is usually attributed to beers of a lighter ABV that enable one to have several of them in a sitting without getting drunk. With that in mind, this is the perfect Session IPA. No tongue-crushing bitterness or soul-eating grass flavours here – fruity and floral and just bitter enough, Exhibition leaves you wanting more – which is great, because, you know, Session. Drink it when: You want an IPA but you’d like to taste the curry you’re eating it with.
Smoked Honey Ale (5.5%): If you want me to go BJCP on this, it’s technically closest to a Rauchbier, which is a style of German smoked lager. Except, this fairly dry, fairly different English-inspired ale with a good touch of smoke is as close as you can get to campfire drinkin’. I’d pair it with brisket, arugula, or just a plain ol’ burger – you’re looking to keep that smoky depth around (it actually intensifies ever so slightly on your way through the glass) but is absolutely never intimidating. A great beer for any time of year when you’re thinking “I need something different.” Drink it when: You’re intimidated by smoke and honey in or around beer but your curiosity gets the best of you.
Curious about Royal City beers? Check out their website – book a tour, buy some bottles, and support your local brewers!
Until next time, friends.