In a previous post, I accused Taps Magazine, “Canada’s Beer Magazine”, of focusing overly on Ontario brewers. One fellow from Taps was kind enough to comment on our blog and let us know that Taps will increasingly be spreading its coverage throughout Canada. I think what Taps is doing is great and I understand that, as a young magazine focusing on a niche subject, it might be hard to cover our vast nation coast to coast, especially when based in Ontario. All that aside, I found that I read an awful lot about Mill Street Brewing and their greatness in early Taps issues. Their prevalence in Taps coupled with their great success at the Canadian Brewing Awards got me rather curious. Is Mill Street really Canada’s best brewery? Or are they Canada’s best brewery like the Leafs are Canada’s best hockey team (because they are from Toronto)?
To answer this question, I set out to try as many of Mill Street’s brews as possible, which turned out to be rather challenging. Nowhere in BC can any Mill Street products be found in draught form, but I did manage to track down bottles at a few places. Brewery Creek carries their Belgian Wit and used to carry their Stock Ale, until I bought the last six pack. The Irish Heather also carries bottles of the Belgian Wit, as well as their much heralded Tankhouse Ale. I made a special trip to the Irish Heather just to taste the Tankhouse Ale. I have now tasted both the Stock Ale and the Tankhouse Ale, both gold medal winners at the Canadian Brewing Awards.
As for the beers themselves, I first tried the Stock Ale in the comfort of my own home. My first impression of the Stock Ale was nothing whatsoever. I don’t think I noticed taking a sip. It really reminded me of macro brewed lager. I was really expecting great things, and was disappointed as such, but I can’t say that this was bad beer. It’s just everybody beer. You’d serve this beer to people who don’t like beer or you’d drink this beer if you wanted to drink 15 beers in one sitting. I suppose it was true to style, but I expected a touch of genius.
I next tried the Tankhouse Ale at the Irish Heather. Now this is Mill Street’s flagship beer, and having read so much about it, I was really expecting the greatest beer of all time. I think it was only the build up that had me disappointed, because I really did enjoy the Tankhouse Ale. I found it to be good pale ale and I would gladly buy it again. It has an amber colour, is a little spicy, and a bit hoppy. I found it to be very well balanced. I read on Mill Street’s website that they use Cascade hops to brew this one. This got me thinking, most Pacific Northwest brewers use Cascade, which were originally cultivated in Oregon, in a good portion of their brews. The Tankhouse Ale was quite good, but it is of similar quality to the pale ales I regularly get hereabouts (Phillips Blue Buck for example).
Tasting two beers probably wasn’t a fair assessment of Mill Street (I bet they have some great seasonal and draught beers), but I wasn’t particularly impressed with Mill Street. I held off originally on the Belgian Wit (not my favorite style), but I will endeavor to try some the next chance I get. What I find more alluring of what the East Coast has to offer is Dieu du Ciel. I’ve had three of the six varieties I’ve purchased so far and each one has been an experience. I plan to do a write up of my Dieu du Ciel experiences in the near future, but I definitely recommend trying any that you come across in the mean time.
To sum up, I think I’ve decided that Mill Street is the best brewery in Canada in the same way that Luke Schenn is the second coming of Bobby Orr (it’s the Toronto factor). Ontario is always going to get more attention at the national level and I can deal with that (especially when the Leafs are losing). I’m just happy to be living out West where there is an abundance of great beer, right here in BC and coming up from Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.