A two story stone building complete with working mill, stone floors, wood staircase and its very own ghost. You would not immediately think beer tasting venue but Watson's Mill has hosted quite a few.
For this year's event the organizers decided to focus on craft beer only. The roster included Ottawa's own Kichesippi, Broadhead, Mill St, Hogsback, Beau's and newcomer Turtle Island. Other breweries featured included Cassel, Barley Days and Burlington's Nickel Brook Brewing.
We arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of doors open and took the time to enjoy the aesthetics of the building before doors opened promptly at 7:00. The venue was stocked with volunteers helping to get people in the door and to the beer as quickly as they could.
Our first stop was to see Ben at Cassel Brewery. First beer of the entire night was Golden Rail Honey Brown Ale with its nice sweet nose and taste. Good malt with a hint a honey. White Fog followed it up with its light wheat flavour.
Barley Days Brewery sent up some of their beers and volunteers served them up to the guests. I tried the Three Horse Hitch. A smoked beer I was initially concerned as this style tends to be overpowering. The nose was very smokey but not a turn off. It was a pleasant smoke rather than an acidic harshness. The taste was a great balance of the smoke and the malts. Even the lingering taste was pleasant.
Mill St also sent some brews from the Ottawa brewpub. I had a pint of both the Big Red Cherry (cask) and the Paradise IPA. The cherry was not quite what I expected as it had a more candy taste than a pure cherry. The cherry was subtle and the beer overall quite sweet.
The Paradise is a really intense but balanced IPA. There is no doubt that this is an IPA from the first sip. Citrus, grapefruit balanced with the malts to give it a clean taste.
After a pit stop for some of the cheese and charcuterie provided by the talented Indulge Kitchen, the upstairs beckoned.
Turtle Island Brewing Co. was our first stop. This event was their official launch and a stop to congratulate them was in order. Samples were needed. The SMASH Cherry is an easy drinking fruit beer. The cherry flavour builds with each sip and is reminiscent of early season cherries rather than the sweet late season ones. The finish is clean and overall the beer isn't as sweet as other fruit beers, suiting my palate quite nicely.
Their Dark Honey Brown was a hands down favourite. Made with five malts, three hops and local honey it comes in at 7.5% abv. Don't be fooled though. The nose and initial flavour are all honey. The malts and maple syrup add a great sweetness to the end.
Next was Nickel Brook Brewing. Justin brought a selection of their beers and just standing there it was easy to see that the Berliner Weisse was a crowd pleaser. This beer at only 3.8% has a nice sour dryness.
Straying to a favourite of mine I had the Bolshevik Bastard. This big imperial stout has a big roast, big chocolate notes and huge coffee flavour. It is rich but not overly sweet or heavy.
After more food including duck perogie, a scallop taco and compressed melon I had a sample of their Headstock IPA to help refresh my palate. This is a great example of a quality IPA. Well balanced and easy drinking so be careful of its 7% abv.
Our next stop was at Broadhead Brewing Co. The Backbone Standard had a bright nose with a sweet taste. The Dark Horse Stout had a chocolately nose and great roast. Finally from them, we tried the Wildcard Ale. This batch was full of citrus flavour. Lemon nose and great citrus taste and finish. It was refreshing and perfect for the warm summer night.
With a sidestep to the left we stopped at Beau's Brewery and enjoyed a Festivale Plus Sticke Alt. Nice malts, great finish without an overlingering bitter. This beer is a gem in my book.
Heading down the wooden stairs we made our way to visit the Kichesippi table where Meg was handing out samples of their 1855. Another great example of a nicely malted beer with a balanced finish. After some wonderful conversation with Meg we headed back up once again to sample our last beer.
Hogsback Vintage Lager was cold and very refreshing. At 5.2% abv and easy on the taste buds there is nothing quite as good on a humid night.
As the evening wound down I was on hand to see Turtle Island Brewing win the People's Choice award. It was a well deserved win and a great way to end their official launch day.
The entire night was a great success for the breweries and especially for Watson's Mill.
Thank you to the organizers for a night of craft beer!