St. Peter’s English Ale
Depending on who you are in Ontario, you either love or you hate the LCBO, which is the Crown corporation who more or less monopolizes liquor sales in the province. If you’re a small vintner, an entrepreneurial competitor, anti-government crank or micro-brewer then you probably hate them with a glowing passion and call for their downfall with each election; if you’re a consumer, then chances are that you like them well enough.
Me, I just like finding neat beers, of the type that I very much doubt a private corner-store-type vendor would ever bother to carry. I like finding them so much that even when I know better, I’ll still pick some up and do a little experimenting — the product might be from a country I didn’t even know brewed beer, or have a novelty ingredient like raspberry or pot, or perhaps simply have an interesting container.
The latter was actually the case with St. Peter’s English Ale, which is marketed in what the label describes as a “beautiful flask-shaped bottle” that is modeled from one dating back to 1770s colonial America. Adorned with a very simple logo in the front, promising organically brewed hop-and-barley goodness, it presented the kind of easy purchase that an exhausted commuter would welcome: half a liter of decent beer for just over three bucks. And that’s basically what you should expect when you find it, too.
St. Peter’s is a light, very hoppy ale that starts off light and finishes very bitter. It leaves very little head when you pour it, which is comforting for people (read: me) who can never seem to pour a glass of anything fermented without half of it turning into mousse. More important than my self-esteem, though, the light carbonation means it drinks very smoothly, as long as you’re prepared for the gentle start and the fairly hefty finish.
It also tastes very… how do I put this? Organic. It’s organicky. Organismic. If you were to say to someone that you met today, “Good day to you! Say, can you describe the flavor of an organism?” then they might reply, “Your servant, sir! Why, is it anything like your beer?” and you can chuckle heartily and huff, “Yes indeed sir! Why yes indeed!” And then the two of you can pay an urchin a haypenny to buy you a Christmas goose, since apparently I imagine all dialogue taking place between Victorian gentlemen.
This (and I mean the flavor, not my imagination) is because, as far as I can detect, all organic beers taste basically the same: very hoppy, very light on the tongue, but with an oomphy aftertaste that lingers for a surprising time. I’ve had a few, so I can speak to this with some authority — whenever a waitress mentions that they have an organic beer on tap, I surrender to my inner yuppie douchebag and immediately order a pint, just so I can say I tried the overpriced domestic premium before anyone else. And without fail, I always get the same pleasant flatness, and the same vague sense that I’ve been had. Do preservatives really make that much of a difference between organic ales and the mass-produced stuff that I buy for my friends after they’ve worked on my backyard for me? Is there just not that much variety yet in a fairly young product set? What is an organic hop, anyway?
Whatever it is, don’t get me wrong: St. Peter’s is a solid and enjoyable ale that will get you by, particularly during hot weather, or when you want to pull out a safe all-purpose alterna-beer that isn’t too sissy or fruity for manful gatherings. But unless you’re a real fan of the hops, and you’re convinced that organic hops are the way to go, you’re likely to find yourself moving down the shelf to another interesting bottle, next time you’re at the liquor store.
Rating: 2 and 1/2 hippy organic peacenik brewers.