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The King of Bellwoods, No Doubt

Every Ahab has a Moby Dick. That extends to the beer world.

My recent elusive target likely does not rate the tragedy of Captain Ahab, in particular because I was fine waiting, but this is a nice way to start a column about a hard-to-find beer. (Also Moby Dick is actually a Sperm Whale, but that is an odder way to start a post.)

There are some breweries in Canada that those of us who pay attention start to yearn for, especially when  we can’t get them in our home province. In this case I am talking about Bellwoods Brewing.

Over the past few years Bellwoods has developed a remarkable reputation for its edgy, creative, flavourful beer. The problem was that you had to be in Toronto – and in particular the more out-of-the-way Little Portugal part of Toronto – to find their beer. I got to sample a couple offerings on my most recent trip to Toronto, but that only made me want to sample more. I made a last second effort to visit the brewery but, understandably, they couldn’t accommodate.

Thus my White Whale remained (mostly) elusive.

So you can imagine my surprise a few weeks ago to walk into my favourite liquor store and find a couple of offerings from Bellwoods on the shelf. It is, I will admit, a listing I don’t trust will be here for long as they are a small brewery mostly trying to meet more local demand. But somehow a shipment made it west.

It was a great moment to think I had just landed my white whale – and without going insane and perishing like the original Captain Ahab. I scooped up a couple of bottles and trotted home.

Jelly King was one I had been hearing much about in recent months, so started my journey there. Jelly King is a dry-hopped sour beer. It pours light gold, is deeply hazy, and offers only a thin white wisp of a head. Oh, and hazy. Very hazy. They do have some fruited versions of Jelly King, but I chose the original.

The aroma starts with a big fruity character. I get pineapple, some tangerine and other sweeter more generic citrus. I also pick up a light grainy malt underneath and a delicate, soft tartness – which I find accents the pineapple character.

That big fruitiness also marks the initial upfront tast. Again, pineapple is most noted for me but I also get papaya, tangerine, lime and orange. It is lightly sweet, but balanced by a soft tartness, giving a sweet-sour taste you might get in pineapple juice. The malt is slightly grainy in a pilsner malt fashion. The tartness is clean and nicely balanced with the sweetness. It doesn’t come across as a sour beer, per se, but more a fruity beer with a tart accent. The linger is a dry grain and light clean tartness.

Wow, this is a really balanced and delicious beer. Like pineapple juice for me. Less overtly sour than most kettle sours, but also not a fruit beer. Feels like what would happen if you let a New England IPA go sideways. It has a classic balance and flavour, making it perfect for summer sipping.

Sometimes finally capturing your white whale can be disappointing – all the expectation is let down by the actual experience. Not here. While I would have loved to drink this beer sooner, I can confidently say it was well worth the wait. It lives up to its expectations.

Note: Edited to correct photo image.

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