Whether picks are ringing, or a drill whirs, or a back-hoe claws out a crevice in the craggy face of a flecked pit of gold, mining has been a crucial aspect of industry. The grimy face of the coal-miner, with calloused hands and bent back has been the visage of the working-man for centuries. Iron, coal, gold, diamonds and more recently uranium are the body of any economy, from the energy-heart to the ironclad bones.
Both old and new, mining is tough, hot work. So, a refreshing beer is necessary for any relief to be had after the pit. There are a lot of ales to pick from for this job. Extra Special Bitters come to mind; a clean, clear ale with impeccable balance. Or maybe an India Pale, for its strong hop flavour. Perhaps a nice Lager will do, given its lighter body and spicy character. But all that can be said is: whenever you get back from pit, it’s off to pub.
In the northernmost parts of Canada, the mine-pits are mostly for gold or diamonds. Although valuable for their rarity (and a bizarre luxury market), both minerals have been mined throughout the north’s history. I’ve done a beer from this region before, and similarly, the subject of today’s review is a beer cold as the harsh winter wind, yet clean enough to clear away the dust and grime of the underground.
Before discussing this ale, we need to look towards the province where it’s brewed. The Northwest Territories is one of Canada’s northernmost regions. Famed for its tundras, its vast elk herds, and for having the least imaginative name in the history of the world. It’s literally the northwesterly part of Canada, next to Yukon. Whoever named it in the first place is a bit of a boring git, if ye ask me.
The place was home to the Inuit people for centuries (perhaps millennia, but I have no real clue) before the Brits moved in. The trade was fur and gold, and it was those two valuable materials that kept traders in the rime-lands. I doubt they’d stay for the weather.
Despite these two very different and oft-conflicting cultures up north, one thing is certain: nobody lives in a world that harsh without engaging in hard-ass work. And it’s in that hardworking spirit that the beer of today’s review, NWT Brewing Company’s “Miner’s Refresh Grisette” comes forth.
This beer comes from a land of gold and frost, and the quality reflects the cold yet valuable contents of the Northwest Territories. To say that it’s a damn good beer is an understatement: I think it’s a great example of a beer, and that I didn’t give it a hack during my beer marathon earlier in July makes me rueful.
I will rectify that now. We’re going to give this Grisette a shake (not literally. Good lord that would make a mess) and see how well it holds up to the competition. Suffice to say, I am impressed with it, and think it rivals with the best of ’em.
Miner’s Refresh Grisette
This pour may be embarrassing, but I also have to admit not finding the original bottle. Judging it by the label is therefore difficult, but based on the rest of the beers from this variety pack, the image should be tastefully appropriate with the ingredients in plain view. Or a tastefully abstract mining pick in a rock. Or a tastefully nude women straddling said mining pick. Or maybe all three at once. Though I don’t know if nude women and rocks would taste good in a beer.
Though what we can see is the clear image of the beer itself. It looks nice, based on the pale gold colour and the lumpy, generous head. Appropriate for a territory full of gold and diamond, the diamond foam and golden lustre are self-evident in this ale. The carbonation is pretty fine and foamy too, which is characteristic of this type of beer. I think. I haven’t had too many “Grisettes” before. Probably because it’s on the “lighter” side of the beer spectrum.
Now hold on, there. I don’t mean that it’s some crappy light lager. It doesn’t use adjuncts. The ale is merely on the low-alcohol side of the equation, which is about 4%. This isn’t the lowest you can get, mind you, but it’s still lower than the average alcohol content that I’ve had before.
Doesn’t really make me sound like a responsible drinker, if half the beverages I drink are 6.6% by the pint. Well fuck off; they taste good. Speaking of taste…
The beer’s nose is quite lovely. It has a slight grassy-hay scent, which is something I’ve come to expect from lighter ales.
The interesting half of the smell, though, is a slight undercurrent of lemon. I like lemony beers, personally, as a means of cutting back on mealy malt. So, having citrus waft in my nose makes those twin-holes in my doofy face very happy indeed.
Moving away from snorting this beer to actually tasting it, the first moments on my tongue are pretty malty. It isn’t over-sweet, though. This grisette is on the tart side too, owing to the citrus-hints. The sweet-sour harmony is pleasant and definitely refreshing. Good that the label isn’t lying to me.
The finish is pretty spicy, meaning that the hops aren’t of the bitter variety. I appreciate that, by the way. So many of the beers I’ve had put lots of sprucy hops in the mix to “balance” the citrus entry. However, this little chugger makes it clear that it wants nothing to do with that kind of trendy nonsense. Why ruin a perfectly good citrus-malt palate with obnoxious bitter bullshit? This is a beer for the thristy labourer, not for some jumped-up critic.
Wait. Am I a jumped-up critic? Aw crap.
I will say that the taste is on the mild-side, which isn’t a detriment in terms of what this beer tries to accomplish. Nothing says this ale can’t be mild and refreshing rather than a potent monster that blows your socks, pants and undies clean off.
This beer keeps getting better and better. The texture is damn smooth, while not being fizzy or watery. Given the “light ale” designation, you might expect something very, very clean on the palate. Something not nearly meal-some enough. But fie on that, I say! This ale is no slouch and offers a meaty mouthful.
I’m glad the beer isn’t cloying either. Most meaty beers stick to your palate, and if the finish is bitter, they can be pretty nasty. Thankfully, this ale is far from nasty, and the citrus flavour keeps any clingy texture from arising.
To conclude, this beer is cool on the palate and far from a sticky mess. I’m glad, once again, that this beer avoids being a sandy bottle of garbage, and that the label is pretty honest at the contents.
Any man (or woman) who swings a pick or wields a drill will want to slake their throats after their labours. I think that this beer fills that purpose nicely. It avoids the pitfalls of hoppy bitterness, while maintaining mildness alongside decent flavour. I was surprised by this ale, and I think it captures the feeling it set out to do amicably. I may heap praise upon this beer, and my biases lean towards this kind of ale, but I do think the quality warrants any kind words I can offer.
I would recommend this beer in a heartbeat, but much like the Yukon brew I tasted, the quality comes with rarity. It’s a shame that much of Canada’s best beer is impossible to get, unless you buy them in a variety pack. Well, if you find it, drink it after a long, sweltering day.
- Wheat and Barely Malt from a back bent by labour.
- Hops hewn by heaving earth.
- Top Yeast from yonder.
- Water of the northwest.