Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Advent Beer 18: Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale

When I worked at Games Workshop, working over Christmas was a foregone conclusion; after all, as a toy retailer, you make a significant portion of your year's sales in the month of December. I appreciated the fact that the no vacation rule was applied relatively equitably, and even head office staff could not book vacation time in December, from the chief on down.


Today I began my longest winter break ever; it is my compressed day off, and then some vacation, followed by the actual factual holidays themselves, followed by some days in lieu to make up for a weekend training course I took, and as a result, I will not be returning to work until January 4th.


It is fortuitous, what with Fenya being in grade 12 and possibly being away from home next Christmas during her gap year. I appreciate having as much time as possible with all three of my girls, plus the in laws, and Mum actually agreed to let us fly her back to Alberta for Christmas!


Today when I woke up though, my first two thoughts were 1) 'I should make a hot breakfast for the ladies before school, since I get to start Xmas Vacay one day prior to them', and 2) 'I wonder what today's beer is.'


It turns out that it comes from Black Oak Brewing, in my old stomping grounds of Toronto, and is called Neck of the Woods Vintage Ale.


Decanting it puts bready yeasts and esters into the air, coupled with the aromas of apples and dark fruit, and a moderate amount of off-white head finishes the pour. The dark reddish brown does speak of the ales of ages past, and makes me a bit sad for the two individuals I heard debating the merits of Budweiser versus Blue at the liquor store.


A zesty, full-bodied mouthfeel, as promised by the label, with spice-like flavours of cloves and nutmeg, but the fruit abides, accompanied by some caramel notes as well. The high ABV (8.5%) is bit too provocative for my tastes, rendering a medicinal quality to the affair, but without undue harshness. The finish sees some piney hops make their way through, and a taste that lingers on the tongue with a tingling sensation.


A pleasant enough winter warmer from a brewery I have not encountered before, able to stand amongst some very strong competition even if it doesn't distinguish itself overmuch. A wonderful start to Christmas holidays!


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