Canadian Micros irritate me

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fredthecat

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Having lived in Canada for about 95% of my life and trying to drink/learn about beer as much as I can, I feel that I can now generalize and Canadian Microbrewers piss me off. Frankly, I think they're getting better, but there are 3 things that make me actively choose non-canadian brews every time.
1. Why are the majority of them much, much, MUCH more expensive than brews from micros of comparable size from other countries. This is what started me off with this thread, just saw a 750ml barley wine with lukewarm reviews going for 13 dollars at the lcbo. This is standard practice, I would consistently see 650-750ml bottles of beer by canadian micros from 8 to 12 dollars. (currently looking at a 4 pack from "Beau's" going for 24 dollars. A 4 PACK) Next point follows...
2. When you actually shell out this money the product quality is often massively disappointing. Waterloo, Grand River are big ones I dislike for having mediocre stuff. As much as this will be unpopular I especially hate the little guys, Railway City brewing makes a ton of crap rather than try to sit down and make one good beer. Endless list of utterly mediocre nanobreweries: Double Trouble, Hop Town, Hogsback, lake of bays. recently there's been more copying of american "extreme end" microbrews like imperial stouts, high IBU/ABV, but they're half assed. My favourite microbrewery to hate on is Trafalgar, the worst most WTF commercial beers I've ever bought have all been from them, yet the canadian government continues to stock this crap. (read the reviews on ratebeer, they're hilarious.) if the beers they make aren't shameless attempts to ride on trendy american micros, the rest are massively boring "organic golden lager" or "summer blonde ale" crap. also quality control is more of a problem than any foreign beers i've had, have had many infected canadian beers. (trafalgar, creemore)
3. terrible advertising/product style. though i can imagine other places have this as well, i just personally haven't seen it to the same degree. here are some examples:
http://bryehn.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/hopnouveau2011.jpg
http://res.cloudinary.com/ratebeer/image/upload/w_250,c_limit,q_85,d_beer_def.gif/beer_6829.jpg
(they literally have a series of 3 beers labeled with three different "girl's faces". who thought that up???)
http://craft-works.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/New-cans-family-shot-web2.jpg - ugly pseudo 50's style artwork abounds for some stupid reason. making beer = an ironic 1950s in canada
http://bryehn.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/conductorscraftale.jpg


Exceptions to this are millstreet, Wellington (minus the crap packaging), mcauslan and most Quebec brewers who all make a lot of great and undisputably mature beers. This rant has come from a long time of having idiotic microbreweries come forth and get guaranteed product placement from the government so that they continue to survive when they should have died long ago. Just because it's "local" and "independent" doesn't make it good. Compared to the US, or even Quebec it's just embarassing and I don't know why it happens.
 

Jayhem

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Having not tasted many Canadian beers I would have to say this is accurate. If there were great beers coming from up north I'm sure they would make it to our beer distributors. The only Canadian beers I've had have been mainstream lagers like Molson.

As for the cost. Is it government taxes causing the inflated prices?
 
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fredthecat

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"22 oz bomber. When I tried to open this the whole cap and neck of the bottle came off in my hand... looks like it broke clean so hopefully I don’t swallow shards of glass. If I do though, blame these bastards. Deep brown beer with very light carbonation. Aroma is nutty and oxidized with lots of coriander and an aroma that reminds me of the bad old days at Trafalgar. A touch of plum and prune, but the infection has really taken this over leaving a thin sour mess of a beer. Blech. "

buy a trafalgar and it's a gamble whether it'll be infected or not.

why are they so expensive? I think it's just unrealistic expectations on the part of these know-nothing wannabe brewers. They see that some more extreme American micros cost a bit, so they do the same but push it a lot farther. Right now you can get a 4 pack of Founders Breakfast Stout or a 6 pack of any unibroue beers for the same price of that single 13 dollar bottle of fair quality local beer. Hmm wonder what I'll choose...
 

kombat

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I blame the puritanical, nanny-state governments of Ontario. Decades of stifling, restrictive laws and obscenely high taxes have held the craft brewing industry down in Ontario, while more progressive jurisdictions flourished and innovated. As a result, those who do manage to get a foothold must do so by appealing to the masses, with bland, boring, unoffensive offerings like Steam Whistle, blondes, organic lagers, and other flavourless pablum.

That said, there are a few standouts, in my opinion. Flying Monkeys, up in Barrie, is producing some fantastic beers. And Amsterdam's Boneshaker IPA out of Toronto is one of my favourites. Muskoka Brewing's Mad Tom IPA (and the Twice as Mad Double IPA) are also great beers. Venture beyond the LCBO and go directly to the nanobreweries themselves (that don't even sell in the LCBO) and you can find even more great beer. We're undergoing a bit of a brewing renaissance here in Ottawa, with several adventurous new breweries producing great beer, such as Broadhead, Beyond the Pale, Ashton Brewing, Big Rig, and several so new I haven't even tried them yet (Covered Bridge, Turtle Island). Admittedly, Hogsback and Kitchissippi have both gone the "boring, bland, blonde ale/lager" route.

I would love for Ontario to move toward the Quebec model, where privately-owned boutique beer stores are allowed to operate and showcase local/regional brews. Beer is not allowed to be sold in corner stores in Ontario, because the government doesn't trust the clerks to check peoples' ID. Yet those same stores are allowed to sell cigarettes, which also require an ID check. And how come grocery stores often have a little "Wine Rack" boutique, selling Ontario wine, but they're not allowed to sell beer? Last time I checked, wine (in general) had a higher ABV% than beer, so why does Ontario wine get a pass, but Ontario beer is left out in the cold?

I blame the nanny-state Liberal ideology and anachronistic Christian values/heritage of Ontario.
 
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fredthecat

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i agree with the anachronistic thinking/feeling of ontario. i also forgot to mention that one of the two government run alcohol stores is completely owned by BMC, literally. the beer store is owned 49% by labatt, 49% by molson-coors and 2% by sleeman, so that micros do have to pay a huge fee just to get their stuff sold at the beer store. essentially leaving the LCBO to decide entirely what micros are going to be sold in the province. however, frankly I like the LCBO for raising the price on bmc swill while having comparatively very low prices on high quality imports from belgium, germany and other countries.
 

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Another thumbs up to the LCBO store. If you live in a big enough city you can find pretty much anything if you look at inventory online.
 

daft

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Canada seems to have a slight brain drain where the talented or ambitious or just plain sun seekers seek their fortune in greener pastures. So your favorite US micro brew master or whatever may speak with a canuck lilt if you listen carefully. I believe their tax and healthcare schemes are friendlier than the US for citizens living abroad. Leaving guess what to man pumps in blizzardville..?
 
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Oh what a sad turn. It was a short span of maybe 40 years ago that I would visit the Brewers Retail and the LCBO and the selection from independent Canadian brewers was a sight to behold. Molson made a porter. Carling had Red Cap ale. O'Keefe had more than just O.V. Charrington ales were brewed under license by somebody or other. The US had yet to poison my grandfather's homeland with budmillercoors. Carling and O'Keefe were yet to merge much less be bought again by whoever the hell owns them now. Canada had a fine brewing tradition and a great selection beyond just pale lagers .. a selection of ales, stouts, porters. It is sad to hear that micro breweries are not filling in where the tradition has been bought up and thrown out. I will hope and pray that somehow it all comes back around. It is undoubtedly true that the good old days were never really that good, but the beer in Canada was damn good back when the US was rapidly giving itself over to light tasteless lager.
 

Riot

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Try the Waterloo Union mills porter. It might bring you back to that place, and I've seen it in the beer store. Usually means it's pretty easy to find.
 

jefffromlondon

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Trafalgar is horrible. I bought one of their stouts and my coopers can stout tasted better. I gave them a second chance with a pumpkin ale and it was barely drinkable. Flying monkeys has a few decent options but I find Ontario beers are weak in comparison.

Fredthecat, are you from st Thomas? Railway city has a nice stout but the rest was so-so. I came across Forked River in London and they have a above average IPA. I was impresses at least

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Zepth

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+1 for Mill Street, Big Rig, Ashton Brewing Co. These are all close to me and I've had a pint at each ones facility. Always been satisfied with quality and cost. Mill Street and Ashton are always rolling out seasonal styles so you've always got something new to choose from. All located in Eastern ON. BTW Ashton makes the best fish & chips within a 1 hour radius of the city.

-1 for Beaus and waterloo. Neither one does anything for me. Beaus claims all natural but most of us could do the same for our nano breweries. I think I coined that here and now. Patent Pending. Had a few from waterloo. If it was being sold as a discount brand I'd be happy enough to get it again. For the micro brewery premium price it just isn't anything special.

I work 5 minutes into the Quebec side. Ottawa/Gatineau is a bizarre place where 2 cities and 2 provinces co-exist in one giant swarming entity - with a great divide down the centre. Confused? Good you're with me now. This provides exposure to local QC micros as well. I have yet to find one that I've purchased a second round of. Across all the styles I've tried, all the different breweries, nothing really speaks to me as being amazing or even noteworthy.

Saw an episode of Dragons Den a few nights ago. For those who don't follow it's entrepreneurs trying to get big name investors interested in their companies to help fund and expand. Hogs Back apparently doesn't have a brewery. They contract their recipes out to other micros, keeping the other micros busy and not needing to worry about their own capacity limitations. Why they just don't get a macro on board is beyond me.
 

kombat

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I've got to somewhat disagree with you on Beau's. They're a very "approachable" craft beer. I consider them somewhat of a "gateway" craft beer. I agree that most of their beers are pretty tame, but you've got to admit that their Tom Green Milk Stout is friggin' delicious.

As for the Quebec microbrews, I'm sorry, but you're out of your friggin' mind. If you're in Ottawa, then I encourage you to head over to the Museum of Civilization tomorrow and partake in Festibiere, the Quebec craft beer festival, which as it happens is going on this very weekend. My favorite Quebec microbrewery is Dieu du Ciel, which is fantastic. Their Peche Mortel is world-renowned. Brasseurs du Temp is also great, as is McAuslin (tried their Double IPA?), Castor, Vache Folle ("Crazy Cow"), and many more. They're light years ahead of Ontario with their craft beer.
 

FrozenOcean

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I think maybe you should have called this "Ontario Micros irritate me". Some good micros on the west coast, and the only micro here in Manitoba (Half Pints) is darn good.
 

Zepth

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As for the Quebec microbrews, I'm sorry, but you're out of your friggin' mind. If you're in Ottawa, then I encourage you to head over to the Museum of Civilization tomorrow and partake in Festibiere, the Quebec craft beer festival, which as it happens is going on this very weekend. My favorite Quebec microbrewery is Dieu du Ciel, which is fantastic. Their Peche Mortel is world-renowned. Brasseurs du Temp is also great, as is McAuslin (tried their Double IPA?), Castor, Vache Folle ("Crazy Cow"), and many more. They're light years ahead of Ontario with their craft beer.

Me being out of my mind is independent of the topic at hand. I should have added that I have not tried many of the Quebec micro brews (3-5) rather than simply saying that I haven't really found anything special about those I have. I've heard of the festival every year but like clockwork I've been scheduled to work that very weekend. I should be able to find time to go over Saturday afternoon/evening. By the sounds of things you're not going to miss the event. If you'd like to cross paths send me a PM. No hard feelings either way.
 

Riot

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Kombat, are the Dieu du ciel beers really worth the price? I keep eyeballing a couple when I'm on a beer run, but it's hard to justify 10+ for a 650. Also, for as many lame beers have had for Ontario in the last couple years, I font think anyone can take anything away from boneshaker. Most of the other Amsterdam beers I've tried I don't feel where that special, but I really like that stuff.
 

kombat

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Yes, the Dieu du Ciel stuff is fantastic. And I agree with you on Amsterdam, they really run the gamut. Their Boneshaker is fantastic, but their Blonde is utterly bland. I guess they're trying for a broad appeal, but at least they've gone out on a limb with the Boneshaker. I rank it right up their with Muskoka's Twice as Mad Tom.
 
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fredthecat

fredthecat

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yeah, i mentioned that i like mcauslin and unibroue and think i said that in a broader sense i like quebec beer. i do like dieu du ciel, but failed to mention it.

one poster has a very good point though about dieu du ciel.. the price. there's also that "dominus" brand, which frankly i've never tried because they start at about 6 dollars for onbe bottle of their cheapest stuff.

but overall yes, quebec makes great beer, ontario has a lot of trash. i hate beau's because they are so low-brow and trying to be a "gateway" brewer. frankly, no one is going to be converted to good beer through a bunch of blonde ales and ****. when i want someone to try homebrew i give them a good stout or something dark-nutty, chocolatey and roasty because that is undeniably a good taste. just turned someone the other day with an introductory stout that i made. **** blonde ales, "cream ales" in general
 

chocotaco

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What about Unibroue? They make some damn fine beers that are pretty reasonably priced (compared to the local micros in Southern California). La Fin du Monde is my favorite Belgian-style golden ale period.
 
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fredthecat

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lol i just said literally "i like unibroue", try reading before posting, that's person number two at least now. yes, unibroue was basically a brewery that really moved me beyond BMC/cheapest beer style stuff
 

Remmy

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Canada irritates me would've been a better thread title.
 

TVM71

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I'm from Pennsylvania in the States and personally enjoy visiting Ontario and trying different craft beers from the region. The Kitchener Craft Beer & Rib Festival is one of my favorite events to attend each year just to see who has what to sample. Someone mentioned the Union Mills Porter from Waterloo which is absolutely a fantastic brew...IMO. I'm also fond of Nickelbrook's Maple Porter.
 

kombat

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I just visited the "Winterbrewed" beer festival in Ottawa, this past weekend, and the state of craft beer in Ontario has never been stronger. Several new breweries were on hand that are less than a year old, and were serving up some fantastic representations of classics, as well as envelope-pushing creative brews.

Somehow, despite the puritannical leanings of decades of successive nanny-state regimes, these enterprising young brewers are taking a chance and following their dreams and succeeding in supplying a market of beer drinkers who are finally having their eyes opened to the fact that beer can actually have FLAVOUR.
 

Riot

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I agree with that, there are a ton of breweries just in Ontario doing a ton of interesting,unique beers. Ever since I realized I just don't like ambers I very rarely buy an Ontario beer I really don't care for
 
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fredthecat

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Lcbo has gotten rid of their best, tried and true german and english beers and replaced them with tons of ontario micro pale lagers. I am totally uninterested in trying mediocre (according to beeradvocate and ratebeer) pale lagers with stupid names like "barking squirrel". Dont worry theyre STILL stocking new and terrible trafalgar garbage.

Quebec is selling unibroue, imported belgians and delicious micros for 5-6 bucks per corked 750ml
 

sasky7777

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Phillips, Driftwood, Central City, all great breweries, as well as Dieu de Ciel. It does seem though that ON is quite good at quantity of brewers but
low on quality.


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Zepth

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I am totally uninterested in trying mediocre (according to beeradvocate and ratebeer) pale lagers with stupid names like "barking squirrel". ...

Barking squirrel, while ridiculously named I rather enjoy. As do all of my well-educated beer people, not to be confused with the "BMC=Beer because label says so"crowd. Well worth trying a bottle or pint.

And since we're on the topic of Candian micro brews, there is a festi-biere going on in Gatineau QC (30 seconds from Ottawa ON) next weekend, May 30-31 (possibly june 1). Jacques Cartier park beside the museum for those somewhat in the area or looking for a road trip.
 

kombat

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I've all but given up on the LCBO. I keep reading about how the beer scene in the US is being dominated by IPAs. I love IPAs, and I hear that it's the best selling style in the US. Every brewery has got one, and they make up sometimes up to half the shelf stock in beer stores. Yet if I go to my LCBO (Barrhaven, Ottawa, Ontario), how many good, true IPAs are there?

They usually have Muskoka Mad Tom and Twice as Mad Tom. Those are my go-to IPAs. They often have Amsterdam Boneshaker, which I quite like (although apparently it's not well regarded among other beer drinkers?). And sometimes, on a good day, they might have a 6-er or two of Flying Monkeys Smashbomb.

That's pretty much it. On rare occasions, they might have some Philips Hop Circle. I've heard rumours some people have even seen Founders Centennial IPA on the shelf from time to time. But where's the variety? What's with all the lagers? If I just want a pale, bland lager, why would I pick up one from Mill Street or Steam Whistle or Amsterdam when Coors Lite costs half as much?
 

tmacinc

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You can't really take a stance against Canadian micros and follow it up with hate towards the LCBO.. Sure the LCBO is the main common source for micro brews in Ontario but the Ontario government is to blame for that. The LCBO has volume minimums as they are suppose to be able to have all of there products available province wide (at least to some degree). This limits both market entry and quality. Market entry, as micro brews need to commit to brewing a large volume to be stocked. This doesn't let them to play with many styles until they hit a scale where this makes sense (typically greater than most micros) and they are forced to only put forward their most "non-craft friendly" beer as it is most likely to sell in quantity. Quality, as many LCBO's do not turn over all of their craft beer in enough quantity to always keep things fresh. I have had old beer from one LCBO and great beer consistently from another.

If you are willing to venture to the micros and buy fresh you will certainly be impressed. Most carry many more styles than are available at the LCBO and you will know it's fresh. I have never been disappointed with this approach in Ontario. An example of this is Beau's, sure the always stocked lugtread at the LCBO (their most non-craft drinker friendly brew) but they brew many more styles of beer. Their Octoberfest is one of the best around with many styles that are all very good. Not to mention the support they have for the home brewing community. The guys at forked river actually said they had won a Beaus competition before they decided to open a micro. Whenever I travel to a different area I always make a point to hit a microbrew and sample/buy what the have.

I think what you are getting is in Quebec you can get something very close to this in corner stores as they can stock a wide selection in small quantities which cant be done in Ontario.

Anyways, that's my plug. You can't take the OP too seriously since he is a fan of Quebec beers..
 

calebgk

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I am a fan of many Ontario beers. There are many, yet, that I do not care for, either. Trafalgar? Gods!! But Beau's has some that are quite nice. Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale is very enjoyable and unique. Their Nightmarzen is unreal! They push the unique a bit much with alot of their product, and it doesn't always work for me. Double Trouble makes some great beer that, while not amazing, has become a reliable choice. Flying Monkeys, Amsterdam, Mill St, Nicklebrook, Muskoka. You've definitely got your opinions, but these breweries are producing solid, reliable beers that I know I can enjoy. The LCBO is a completely other issue, and one that I try not to argue, because until the day the government wants to give up billions in tax revenue from alcohol sales, it's not going anywhere soon. The Beer Store can suck mustard.

Further, the majority of the rant seemed to be focused on Ontario beers, while the thread was about Canadian beers. BC has some amazing stuff that (thanks LCBO) we can't get much of. Howe Sound, Tree Brewing, and Parallel 49 are awesome. And Quebec is just a different monster. They seem to have a more traditional view of their beers. Their ideas concerning IPAs are unappealing. But Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout is incredible.

I think what I'm trying to say is I like what I like, region and politics be damned.
 

seanybubbles

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Living in Quebec I'm not a fan of too many local beers. We have a huge quality problem with brewers. I've almost given up on local brewers due to freshness or quality issues. Very often I get stale or contaminated beers. It's really a shame. I still drink mcauslan and dieu du ceil though....


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Near-Beer-Engineer

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Kombat hit the nail on the head...Ontario has not been a craft-beer-entrepreneur friendly place due to it's tax scheme and alcohol laws. Ontario, therefore, has traditionally not churned out much innovation in my opinion.

That being said, I just went to the Toronto Beer Festival a few days ago, and there was some really good stuff. Left Field Brewery, Descendants, Muskoka Brewery among others are all making some pretty cool stuff in Ontario now and I'm looking forward to seeing them grow.

I recently moved to Calgary however and the beer scene is much different there. Huge selection in my opinion, and easier to access, however still expensive. There's some great beers coming out of the west coast which I never had access to living in Ontario before. And as others have mentioned, Quebec has some great stuff too.

I'll always support the Canadian breweries! I've got a feeling things are slowly changing for the better here!


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Tutsbrew

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This rant has come from a long time of having idiotic microbreweries come forth and get guaranteed product placement from the government so that they continue to survive when they should have died long ago.

Yet another reason to limit government in our lives. It's not the idiotic micro's fault, IMHO, it's the lack of free markets as evidenced by the OP's own words.
 
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fredthecat

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Yet another reason to limit government in our lives. It's not the idiotic micro's fault, IMHO, it's the lack of free markets as evidenced by the OP's own words.

i recently went back to canada and the LCBO is STILL selling trafalgar products, it seems more than ever. what the hell is going on?

they've got a new "ginger mead" for $9.95. here's one of many reviews along this line

"Ceramic bottle - 500ml. Pale blond body with heavy carbonation and no head at all. Looks like Apfelschorle! Bland, light fruity (apple, citrus) aroma woth some herbal hints. Taste is aciditic and dominated by fruity flavors. Some ginger notes are noticeable. Ends with a harsh sour finish. Never again. "
 

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