Rex on Tap: UTSC draught beer reviews

March 14, 2012
Rex on Tap: UTSC draught beer reviews

(photos via Sadaf Ahsan, Jasun Singh)

If the bartender’s report on draught beer sales at Rex’s Den means anything, you probably haven’t heard that our campus restaurant offers eight different beers on tap – all of which will be reviewed here. Nicknamed “UTSC pints” for their significantly smaller than standard size, Rex’s Den nevertheless offers both staple brews and interesting craft alternatives that can make the walk to the pub up the street, The Fossil & Haggis, seem unnecessary for a good draught beer (in the winter anyway). While aspects of service, environment and even price will go beyond the scope of this article, Rex’s Den deserves credit for now finally offering that which any restaurant with a “bar” section ought to offer: cold fresh beer straight from the tap.

If you’re unsure about which draught beer you would like to try, and are also unwilling to spend $13 on a few taster cups like I just did (not to say it’s a bad deal), perhaps the reviews that follow can offer you a general idea of how all eight vary – and I promise some are indeed worth trying.

Click on a link to jump to a review:

Mill Street Original Organic Lager
Rickard’s Red
Big Rock Traditional Ale
Beau’s Lugtread Lagered Ale
Wellington Special Pale Ale
Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale
Church Key Northhumberland

Mill Street Original Organic Lager: 4.2% Alcohol; Craft Brewery

Rex’s Description: Pale yellow colour, delicate floral aroma, light palate with malty flavour balanced by hoppy bitterness.

Add the word “organic” to your description and you’ve already got a best selling product for university students. This beer was actually sold out when I first went to review Rex’s Taps, so I had to make an additional trip down just for this one (one that I probably wouldn’t make again).

Perhaps due to its anti-pesticide campaign, the smell of this beer absolutely does not live up to the supposed “delicateness” that Rex’s description offers. With far more of a dirty dry aroma, this beer definitely lacked the crisp smell one would expect from a draught beer. The best part of this beer is its soft texture: light, easy-going, smooth. By no means smooth in the creamy sense, but smooth in an easy-to-get-down kind of way.

Now I would comment on this beer’s flavour, but to me it seems entirely absent. The “malty flavour” from the description we could interpret, I suppose, as the very slight sweetness you get when you first sip it, but this so called “hoppy bitterness” is simply outright false advertisement. Hops, that is, the ingredient that creates bitter and sometimes citrus-y tastes, is nonexistent in this beer. Although it is indeed smooth and easy to get down, this drink is probably best for someone who generally hates beer: you’ll find none of the flavours that I would usually associate with this kind of beverage. If you’re just getting into drinking beer, maybe give it a try.

Final Grade: I’ll have to give this watery beer a 5/10

Rickard’s Red: 5.2 % Alcohol; Macro Brewery

Brown colour; toasty, nutty aromas; full, rich palate.

Much easier to agree with Rex on the smell this time around, although I wouldn’t necessarily use “nutty” as I tend to associate that description with the browner beers. To me what jumps out is its strong malty sweetness – definitely a smell to savour before drinking.

A full-bodied beer by definition, the texture is heavy, yet still easy to get down (as opposed to a heavy thick dark). Its taste, though, is everything that the previous beer is not: sweet, tasty and a mouthful of flavour. You may even notice a hint of caramel on the initial sip, and I can understand where Rex’s is coming from when they use the word “rich”. A noticeable absence is any sort of hops, which is of course fine if a sweet malty beer is what you’re trying to produce.

Now I would hate to call this a “dessert” beer in fear of giving off the wrong impression – it’s not thick or sugary by any stretch of the words – but it’s definitely a mouthful of sweet beer. The added crispness from getting this beer on tap helps with the slightly heavy body and allows you to focus more on its balanced taste.

Final Grade: 8.5/10

Big Rock Traditional Ale: 5% Alcohol; Craft

“Trad” has a big, complex taste and perfect balance. It’s full of flavour, with notes of toast, fruit and nuts. It shines a deep copper with hints of garnet and amber.

It looks really nice in a glass; it has the same dark brown that Rickard’s did (in fact, I found the two to be almost indistinguishable in colour). Initially, I had this beer’s smell as light and even nonexistent, but I did notice a very slight nutty smell halfway through drinking it.

Although it looks like Rickard’s, its taste is far from it. While I called Rickard’s a heavy-bodied beer, Big Rock can easily be described as a light-body beer (which makes me seriously question the apparent “big complex taste”).

It’s got an extremely soft and light taste to it, but I do understand what Rex’s means when they say complex. It’s malty not in the same way as Rickard’s; this beer is heavy on the caramel-type of malt. I don’t want to say it has “fruit and nuts” though; more like a raisin or even prune mixture to it. There ARE hops in this beer if you really look for it in the aftertaste, but it’s really that dark fruitiness that seems to overcome the entire drink after a few sips. While I admit it’s worth a try if you like getting beer that strays from the usual kind of tastes, I really can’t imagine myself buying a full pint of this, never mind a pitcher.

Final Grade: 6/10

Rex on Tap: UTSC draught beer reviews

(photo via Jasun Singh)

Beau’s Lugtread Lagered Ale: 5.2%; Craft

Golden-hued, crisp and finely balanced, is top fermented (like an ale) and then cold lagged (like a lager) for a lengthy period. Lugtread displays interwoven malt and hop flavours, subtle fruit flavours and a crisp, lingering finish.

I just shrugged when I saw this beer in the glass: a little darker than your typical maco-lager, but not much different in any other way. The smell I found to be extremely light and really hard to pick up on; it’s a grainy smell if anything.

The taste really surprised me after finding it to be a close to aroma-less beer. It has the initial clean-smoothness one would normally expect from a cold lager, but it has an amazing mix of malt and hops. Its slightly more malty than the maco-lagers – okay, a lot more malty if you have Bud in mind – and is extremely more hoppy than most lagers I have ever tasted (although a lot less hoppy than Indian Pale Ales (IPAs), as it should be).

It’s easy going yet full of great malty-lager flavour – not to be confused with a red or dark malt. The aftertaste is all hops, which is a great thing: piney, floral, slight bitterness. Usually you get beers that try to show off either their malt or hops, but I really think that Beau’s pulls off both creatively. While you’ll notice the sweetness at first, you will not miss the hoppyness later on. Refreshing and clean, yet hoppy and floral, Beau’s will put your typical maco-lager – like Bud, Canadian, or any of those mainstream European ones – to shame.

Final Grade: 9/10

Wellington Special Pale Ale: 4.5%; Craft

Patterned after classic English pale ales, S.P.A. is copper in colour with a bread, biscuit, apricot aroma and a malt, nut and spicy hop aftertaste.

This ale didn’t really look pale; more of an amber or light brown, although it is one of the most colourful beers offered at Rex’s. I was pleasantly surprised by its smell, as it’s probably the most hoppy-smelling beer Rex has to offer.

This beer has an interesting taste, although I don’t necessarily agree with any of what Rex’s says. It’s got that ale taste to it, but the texture I might even compare more to a dark: it’s really smooth in the creamy sense. There is hardly any sweetness or malt to it, but the hoppy bitterness definitely makes up for that. This beer is easy to get down because of its texture, but some may find the bitterness to be too much – I don’t. It has an interesting combination of being both light in feel and strong in bitter taste – something you’ll only get from a creative craft brewery that’s not marketed to the sports-game crowd. The hops are great in this beer, but it’s something of which you will find in the taste, not the aftertaste like Rex says – there’s actually a fairly clean aftertaste.

Although I admit that getting a pitcher of this may not be the best idea for most, Wellington’s has a special balance that can appropriately fit into a satisfying pint.

Final Grade: 7.5/10

Sapporo: 5.2%; Maco

Golden colour; delicate dried grass/herbal aroma; lively effervescence; balanced with clean bitter hoppy finish.

Rex’s didn’t have much to say about this beer and nor will I. I mean, it’s not a bad beer, but so much like a typical maco-lager that, if you’ve even just sipped a Canadian before, you already know what it tastes like. The same goes for visuals and smell: yeah, “golden colour” – good call on that one, Rex’s.

To be fair, Sapporo can separate itself from the typical line of maco-lagers if one were to focus on its hop-content. The beer doesn’t have a bitter taste going down, but it is noticeable in the finish. If you’re heading down to Rex’s for a beer and don’t want to gamble on something you may or may not like, just grab this stock, safe beer. You won’t be blown away by it, but nor will you find anything that’s noticeably bad about it.

Final Grade: 6/10

Rex on Tap: UTSC draught beer reviews

(photo via Jasun Singh)

Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale: 5%; Maco

A pale ale known for its distinctive flavour and refreshing aroma.

Keith’s is going to get the lowest grade here, yet it’s not necessarily Rex’s worst beer – in fact, I like it. The reason I’m giving it a really low rating is because this beer lied to me: this is NOT an IPA, not even close. It smells almost like a budget beer, with its dirty light dominance and average-to-low quality smell. An IPA, that is, a beer that focuses heavily on its hops, ought to smell more floral or citrusy – Keith’s is far from that.

Keith’s is somewhat tasteless and watery, but there’s a slight malt taste. I DO taste slight hops – and I guess for this reason they market themselves as an IPA when it normally has to compete with Bud or Coors – but it’s nothing bitter, that’s for sure. A fan of Sapporo would be a fan of Keith’s, but Keith’s has more hops in its taste, whereas Sapporo is more about the surprise aftertaste.

This is a typical maco-lager that isn’t special or bad, but getting it on tap provides an added bonus to its crisp and refreshing components. Not a bad idea for a pitcher as it tends to be a people pleaser; it’s a standard taste that’s easy to get down.

Final Grade: 3/10 if rated as an IPA, which it claims to be, more like a 6/10 if we look at it from a standard lager perspective.

Church Key Northhumberland: 5%; Craft

Stock ale designed to be a throwback to the tavern ales of the 40s and 50s. Crisp light palette with a dry citrus finish.

I have no idea what a 40s and 50s tavern ale is supposed to taste like, so I won’t be commenting on the accuracy of this description. It looks good though: yellowy with a slightly dark tinge to it.

This one has a very distinct taste: slightly citrusy, slightly bitter, sweet or malty aftertaste. I wouldn’t say the texture is smooth, but it has a very interesting taste, in fact I actually can’t pick the taste out. Nevertheless, it’s good to be different, and that’s how craft beer defines itself, so I would recommend giving it a try.

This is a hard beer to comment on and is something I’ll have to try again. It definitely has the ale taste to it though – nothing like a lager. While it doesn’t seem like a beer I’d want to put in a pitcher, it’s one that deserves more than just a sample cup to get a real feel for.

Final Grade: 7/10

Rex’s Taps

If I were to rate Rex’s Den solely on its draught beer, I would have to give it high marks for balance and creativity. Unfortunately, you will have to walk up the street for a dark beer on tap, even though they do have Guinness (the Budweiser of darks… not a good thing) in a can. They offer craft breweries on tap that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else, and I believe I found a gem particularly in Beau’s. For a bar that has just recently started serving draught beer, I must admit that their offerings are unique and well worth a trip down (but good luck getting back up all those stairs if you plan to review eight different beers in one go).

Rex’s Draught Beer Final Grade: 7.5/10