I reached into my tickle trunk of beer for the 5th night of the #8BeersOfChanukah and came up with the Darkwood Blackberry Saison from Brassroots Brewing Co. for tonight’s beer. Actually, it wasn’t a far reach – I picked this one up at the LCBO on the weekend and since I was feeling generous, I bought Kole a can too. I have never heard of Brassroots Brewing before this weekend – I don’t remember seeing them at festivals over the last few months, and this was the first time I noticed their product in the rather small LCBO near our place. A tall can will set you back only $3.50, which is a great deal for this 4.3% ABV brew that sits at 33 IBU.

The can indicates that the beer is made in Gravenhurst, home to one of our favourite breweries, Sawdust City. Sawdust City started out as a contract brewery, and a bit of digging online indicates that Brassroots Brewing is now contract brewing out of the Sawdust location. Although I’d never heard of them before, I had high hopes. Saison beers are a style I’ve really enjoyed over the last few years, with funky yeast notes typically loaning a nice peppery aroma to the brew.  But this time, uncle Shlomo was right. It was kind of a let down.  The beer didn’t deliver much on flavour or aroma, aside from some off-flavours of wet cardboard and celery. I took a peek at the bottom of the cans, and both were packaged on March 29, 2018. It looks like the actual LCBO release happened on November 15, meaning those cans sat around waiting for distribution for quite some time, developing an oxidized profile and possibly already contaminated with dimethyl sulfide or DMS during the brewing process. I’d like to give them another chance with a fresher batch that hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse for 8+ months. At least this time the off-flavours weren’t caused by my own inability to remember what I have in my fridge. I let Kole finish my glass as I was not a fan.

Appearance: Orange and pink in the glass, depending on the lighting. Very long lasting frothy cotton candy pink head.

Aroma: Virtually non-existent. Hints of biscuit, blackberry underneath the grassy notes, celery aroma, and wet cardboard from the off-flavours.

Taste: Flat on the palate, bubbles non-existent. Highly acidic mouthfeel, notes of blackberry, cloves, grass and celery.

Food pairing: Disappointment on rye.

Overall: A huge disappointment that I couldn’t finish. I would give a fresher batch another go but I’d rather see this brewed in the summer months with local Ontario blackberries, rather than in March with imported blackberries. Definitely does not have a 9 month shelf life, but very few beers do to be honest. Beer is typically best enjoyed fresh, unless it’s a style with a much higher ABV and IBU designed for preservation.

Shawna O'Flaherty

Shawna is a 30-something Montreal native transplanted to Toronto in 2010. Wine loving, beer sniffing and rum swilling come naturally to her, and she is also a certified Irish whiskey taster. She has hosted beer and cheese pairing events in the past.

Shawna has visited vineyards in 6 countries on 3 continents, and has a knack for finding the hoppiest beers around. A dedicated Booze Hound, Shawna completed the Wine Specialist Certificate at George Brown College in 2018.

She can be found drinking alka-seltzer and coconut water in the morning.

Email: shawna@torontoboozehound.com