Toque and Mitts. Celtic Knot Brewing. 7.3% ABV, $6.25/pint

Hunky Dory Pale Ale. Boxing Rock Brewing. 5% ABV, $7/pint

Toque and Mitts. Celtic Knot Brewing. 7.3% ABV, $6.25/pint

Celtic Knot has brewed up a winner with its Toque and Mitts barley wine.

On the first sip, this ale’s main flavours are chocolate and coffee, rounded out by nut and caramel notes. While this may sound like a stout, it’s not. The deep red-brown ale is anything but creamy, and as the style’s name suggests, the alcohol’s flavours are similar to a nice red wine: present, but held in check by the other flavours. The wine-like character increases with each sip.

This beer resembles wine in another way, too: the use of oak chips in the brewing process. They aren’t just any oak chips, though; they were lightly toasted and then soaked in bourbon. The beer aged on the chips for a month after fermenting. The resulting bourbon sweetness, without the harsh alcohol flavour of whiskey, really sets this ale apart.

The small-batch beer was sent to only three bars across the province (Moncton’s Laundromat Espresso Bar and the Tide and Boar are the other two locations that have tapped the beer), so if you’re a fan of rich, dark ales, get yourself a pint while you still can.

– Richard Kent

Hunky Dory Pale Ale. Boxing Rock Brewing. 5% ABV, $7/pint

Hunky Dory might be best described as a summery take on an American pale ale. With its crisp, refreshing mouthfeel and lingering hop bitterness, this ale would be perfect for bringing a different element to your patio cooler.

Unfortunately, Hunky Dory is disappointing in terms of taste. While it features some trace notes of wheat, citrus, chamomile and sea salt, these subtle flavours are swallowed up by a dominant hop taste before the drinker can properly appreciate them. Where the beer truly excels is in its mouthfeel: the texture is a pleasant balance of bubbly and smooth that gradually improves after a few minutes in the glass. Hunky Dory also boasts a lighter gravity than other pale ales, making it easier to drink a second or third pint.

One could almost mistake Hunky Dory for a lager, as its rich, golden colour and intricate lacing is somewhat unusual for a beer of this style. This would be an excellent place to start for those new to hoppier brews, as it ultimately straddles the line between light, crispy lagers and smooth, malty pales. However, hop fanatics looking for a more complex taste might find Hunky Dory a little disheartening.

– Daniel Marcotte

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