Picture this: it’s a chilly autumn evening. There are clouds in the sky, and a definite pre-winter chill in the air, and your landlord hasn’t gotten around to turning the heat up for the building you live in. For any lover of good beer there’s only one answer to a quandary such as this. Reach into your beer fridge and pull out a bottle of your favorite winter warmer. For those not in the know, a winter warmer is any full bodied, malty ale strengthened with a little extra alcohol to fortify you against the chill of a cold night.
Traditionally, such beers would include barleywines, Russian imperial stouts, and strong Scottish ales. Although with today’s craft brewing climate one could include Double IPAs, but those are not the subject of today’s review. Hailing from Montreal’s St. Henri district, McAuslan brewing opened shop in 1989. Their first beer was a pale ale which became an early success for the brewery.
Over the next ten years McAuslan expanded its operations, adding four new beers to its line-up. Since then, brewers added seasonal beers, most of which were fruit based in one way or another. Seasonals included an apricot wheat beer and a spiced pumpkin beer for instance. Since then, McAuslan has built a solid reputation in Quebec, earning more than a dozen medals including a gold and five silvers as of this writing.
St. Ambroise Scotch ale is modeled after the strong ales of Scotland, meant to be malty, full bodied and warming. St. Ambroise is a crystal clear, ruby colored ale. Deeply, almost menacingly ruby colored with brown highlights. Head is cream colored and reasonably lasting.
At first blush there seem to be a few things going on in the nose. Closer examination reveals an up front combination of brown sugar along with rum and raisins. Malty butterscotch finish comes through in the middle. The finish gives a slightly hoppy peaty sort of an aroma. Not bad in all, even if it does seem slightly watered down.
Up front, St. Ambroise is a smooth bodied, pleasantly sweet sort of an ale. Up front sweetness builds into flavors of rum and raisins. Background gives the same sort of flavors found in cinnamon sticky buns but not as pronounced as I’ve found in other Scotch ales. Finish is short and you guessed it, sweet. Finish lacks the dryness or peaty qualities found in some other beers of this type.
This one gets a final mark of 6.75 out of 10. It has some interesting qualities and you can tell the brewery is trying to do something with it. However, they fail to pull the beer together into a rich, malty, full bodied ale. I hate to say it but this almost feels like the Scotch ale’s answer to a Rickard’s Red.