Branching Out for Fall - Henderson Brewing Company
It’s late October and we are now well into Fall, which of course means that beer shelves and fridges have been graced with Fall beers - and I love it! Not that there’s ever a bad season for porters and stouts, but I just like them that much more when the sun sets a bit earlier, the wind is a bit chillier, and you just want something to warm you up from the inside. Let’s also not forget about the unsung heroes of the Fall beer lineup, wet hop ales, with their fresh, dank, piney and oh so grassy vibes, and who doesn’t love a smooth, crisp märzen on a sunny fall afternoon? Oh, and of course… PUMPKIN EVERYTHING!!
Michelle at Henderson Brewing Company in Toronto kindly sent me two of their Fall 2019 releases and I was excited to try them! They happen to both be pretty underrepresented styles, or at least underrated (probably both): an Export Stout, and an English Brown Ale with vanilla orchid rooibos tea. I’m always down for trying styles I don’t get that often, and even before tasting these already sounded perfect for Fall.
Foreign Export Stout – 7%
Export Stouts (or Foreign Extra Stouts) are definitely a rare subset of the stout family in craft beer. The style has been around for hundreds of years, the most famous of which probably being Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, first brewed in 1801, which I was reminded of in the write-up on the style Henderson provided. Though I could probably count on one hand the number of craft Export Stouts I’ve tried, and at the moment I can’t think of any that I regularly or even seasonally see available. In fact the last straight up, no adjunct craft Export Stouts I remember trying are Amsterdam’s Nautilus, Beau’s Sergeant Stripes, and Dominion City’s Shed No Tears, all of which were back in 2017. Although, Shed No Tears has made a return in the past year. It’s been a while, so I was excited to have one again!
To start off, it poured jet black with an espresso crema head and a mild roasty coffee aroma. On the first sip I was reminded of one of the distinguishing characteristics of the style which is a quite dry, slightly dusty mouthfeel with an initial dark chocolate bitterness. As it warmed up a bit, the flavour started to move more towards slightly sweeter dark chocolate with dark roast coffee. It’s medium bodied and the flavours are rich without feeling heavy, and that dryness sticks around throughout. It actually drinks quite easily for a 7% stout, and it has a warming quality without tasting boozy.
Henderson first brewed this beer as part of their monthly “Ides” series back in November 2017, and it is now a Fall seasonal, available in the LCBO province-wide. I really enjoyed this, and it will be great to see a craft Export Stout widely available seasonally.
Vanilla Orchid Brown Ale
A collaboration with Society of Beer Drinking Ladies
English Brown Ale with Vanilla Orchid Rooibos Tea - 5%
Brown ales are certainly a bit more common in craft beer. Though they aren’t widely brewed, there are a few that are available year round in Ontario; Black Oak’s Nut Brown and Wellington’s County Brown come to mind, as well as the odd seasonal from some breweries including Dominion City’s Earnscliffe and Avian Principality, and Redline Brewhouse’s Leather Interior Almond and Vanilla Brown Ale. Though they aren’t generally my personal favourite style, I can certainly appreciate that they’re underrepresented, and I know that those who like brown ales tend to LOVE them. I will also admit that they’re a great style for Fall.
This beer is sub-titled “Brew 0002” as Henderson’s second LCBO-specific collaboration with SOBDL. It pours an opaque reddish brown with a thin head. The added vanilla along with the spices from the rooibos tea give it an almost root beer-like aroma. It’s thin-to-medium bodied with a nice smoothness to the mouthfeel from the vanilla and oats, without adding too much sweetness. There’s a very gentle caramel maltiness throughout. The rooibos tea spiciness really comes out in the mid-palate, which is a nice complement to the other subtle flavours. Mild but present sweetness carries through to the finish with a bit of a spicy tingle at the end. I find it a bit thin bodied for my personal preference, but it’s a very well-flavoured beer. The flavours they chose to add complement the style well, especially for Fall.
At the time of writing, both of these Fall beers are available in the LCBO (the Export Stout should be available in grocery stores, too). Track them down and give them a try! If you find yourself at the brewery in Toronto, keep an eye out for their monthly “Ides” series. The first Henderson beer I had was Ides of February 2017: The Henderson Cup, a black IPA with raspberries! Check them out!