My wife recently traveled to the Haliburton Highlands as part of a girls’ getaway weekend. While there, she discovered Haliburton Highlands Brewing. She was so impressed by their beer that she brought a six-pack sampler home for me.
Tonight I tried the Irish Stout. This was recommended to her by the staff when she told them that I was a fan of Guinness. I judge a beer on three main characteristics:
- This includes how it looks in the glass, how much head is formed (as compared to how much should form), and how the gasses move through the beer.
- Taste is mostly smell, and by smelling the beer we can get a pretty good idea of what we’re in store for. If a beer doesn’t have much of a smell, or has an overwhelming smell, you’re probably going to have a hard time getting it down.
- This can be pretty subjective. For example, I love hops. A beer that I taste and think is excellent, may gag someone else who isn’t as into the hops. I try to keep the taste in perspective with what the beer is advertised as. If it’s advertised as a wheat beer and has an overwhelming hop taste, there’s something wrong.
Anyway, to the testing…
The Irish Stout came out with about a finger of head on it, but that dissolved back into the beer within 30 seconds. No 120 second wait here like there is for Guinness. The gasses were initially very active, streaming towards the head, but again, after about 30 seconds, it became calm.
This beer is brewed for someone who wants to enjoy a craft stout, without all the pomp and circumstance of pouring a Guinness.
There isn’t much smell to be had. It’s very subtle. I can pick up slight notes of caramel, chocolate (maybe?) and hops, but I really had to get my nose into the bottle to find that. That’s good news if you’re drinking with a friend; a subtle smell in the glass means your breath ought to remain socially acceptable after taking a drink.
Bitter initially, with a slight aftertaste. The barley they’re using has definitely been kilned for a while… They pulled it just before it would have gone from giving a pleasant, bitter taste to giving you the feeling of having just licked the bottom of your coffee pot. That takes a fair bit of skill.
The final verdict
This beer isn’t trying to something it isn’t, they aren’t trying to be Guinness, they’re trying to be what they want their stout to be, and that’s pretty awesome. Overall, the Haliburton Highland Irish Stout is a slightly more crisp take on the traditionally dry Irish stout. You’ll enjoy it if you like a bitter beer, but this isn’t one you’ll want to grab a six-pack of and laze around on the coach with.
This beer deserves to be enjoyed and savored. Save it for a nice dinner or a date night. Sadly, I drank it sitting at my desk writing this post (the sacrifices I make…), but the other one in the fridge is going to be saved for dinner tomorrow. Pair it up with a hearty meal like steak and potatoes, shepherd’s pie or Irish stew and you’ll benefit the most from the bitter tones.