Black Bellows Big Buck IPA, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 6.5%) LCBO $4.50 (473ml can)

Occasionally I worry that as the years progress my preferred alcohol level for beer is increasing. My usual sweet-spot was, for many decades, around 5.5%, but these days (perhaps it’s the pandemic?) I’m more than happy to sup upon a beer at 6.5%… as long as it is in balance.

I was about to write that “It’s hardly Tennents Super territory”, but then I had a little look… and in some regions actually it’s not too far off. For the record, Tennents Super tastes bloody awful, and is nowhere near in balance.

Which brings me to this offering from Collingwood’s Black Bellows brewery. I was under the impression that I had written of them before, but a search reveals my latent false memory syndrome, something which may or may not be related to this upward trajectory in my favoured beer strength. Who knows?

This pours hazy like fuzzy peach skin and offers up a white frothy head with persistent lacing in the glass as one progresses. Looking at the finished glass as a historical document, even taking into consideration the tapering of the vessel, my swigs towards the bottom appear to be considerably larger than those at the top. Interesting.

Dry hopped with El Dorado, Citra, and Amarillo, aromatically there’s certainly a touch of that resinous weed smell, and for the record I simply cannot stand the smell of weed at the very best of times. Too much time “whiteying” back in Scotland as a youth. Thankfully the bouquet is more about Honeydew melon, grapefruit, and passion fruit.

On the palate I tend to be drawn to those IPAs that show a nice equilibrium betwixt hops and malt in their flavour profile, and this ticks that particular box when it comes to balance. I found much of the same tropical notes but augmented by an appealing warm malt nuttiness. There’s a soft, creamy weight in the mouth, and it doesn’t come over as sweet, even with the 6.5% alcohol, the dry hoppy finish is quite snappy and satisfying.

Yes, I’ll be ordering more of this in the dog days of summer. I’ll just be keeping a close eye on how many I consume in one sitting.

(Four out of a possible five apples)