Brewery: Lake of Bays Brewing Company
Type: Independent Microbrewery Est.: 2008
Location: Baysville, Ontario, Canada
Beer Style: Black IPA
ABV: 7.0% IBU: 90
Format: Aluminium Can Size: 473 ml
Cost: $3.15 CAD Purchased At: LCBO
I wrote about my little mini journey to go seek some of the sites that were important in Tom Thomson's life and death this summer and managed to share a beer with him "in spirit." Had this beer been released back then I would certainly have taken this one, as it was specially brewed with the 100th anniversary of Thomson's death in mind. Tonight's beer is The West Wind Black IPA. Lake of Bays is a quaint little brewery in Baysville and they turn out some stunning beers. Longtime readers will remember their Hockey Mask series and a very Impressive 10 Point IPA from some time ago. Just recently I did their Wild North Series Pina Grande. So when this beer was brought to my attention I had to seek it out and try it.
The West Wind refers to Tom Thomson's painting of the same name. It was sketched in 1916 at the Ranger station in Cauchon Lake, Algonquin Park. Thomson finished it over the winter of 1917 just months before his death. This along with "The Jack Pine" are, I feel, his two most recognisable works, and the two that certainly best represent the rugged beauty of Canada's North. Strangely, it is reported that as Thomson was sketching this painting he was doing it in the middle of a windstorm, as evidenced by the whitecaps on the lake. He was at the Ranger station with his patron Dr. James McCallum, and fellow painter and future Group of 7 member Lawren Harris. Dr. McCallum and Harris were watching Thomson paint the sketch in the wind when the tree depicted in the painting was blown down, nearly on top of Thomson. He got up, waved at the other two men, righted his easel and finished painting. Can anyone say "bad-ass Canadian?"
So then, our beer tonight is for bad-ass Canadians, rugged in spirit and irrepressible. Let's see how it stacks up.
Pours an opaque dark chestnut brown about the same colour of the water of Canoe Lake just before final sunset. A darker tan head floats above made up of tiny bubbles. Aroma light malt chocolate and coffee with a tiny bit of molasses. First sip is very transformative. It attacks the senses as a dark ale, with deep malts and chocolate and espresso. But as the beer wraps itself around your tongue the body of an IPA emerges, like sunshine breaking through clouds. Bright and hoppy, lots of green and slightly bitter hop aromas mingled with some light tropical notes. Hints of vanilla and brandy. Aeration gives us toasted wheat hints of dried fruit, some turbinado sugar, and leaves the lips slightly sticky.
Impressions: Fail, So-so, Pass, Exceptional
Cost: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Colour: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Beer Style: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Re-Order: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Experience: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Just Like a Tom Thomson painting, don't expect everything to be on the surface. Expect to be surprised, enthralled, and left with a deep sense of calm. This beer was a pleasant surprise, it swirls around you quickly like the wind, but then draws you up into that beautiful sky. The West Wind is a perfect name for this beer and does indeed capture the spirit of Thomson's work. Subtle and bold, calm yet still a bit startling. It is hands down the best Black IPA I have tasted (so far!). Please get your hands on this limited edition while you still can. And raise at least one glass to Tom.
Follow me on Twitter: @pintjockey
Like me on Facebook: Pint Jockey Online
NOW ON INSTAGRAM! pintjockey
And don't forget to "Friend" me on Untappd.