Saturday, October 03, 2009

Notes from my Travels: Sleeman Honey Brown lager

A Sleeman and a light snack to keep me going! Chateau Laurier Hotel, Ottawa

I was chatting away to a chap at a reception in Toronto this week and he turned out to be John Sleeman, founder (sort of ) of Sleeman's brewery, now the third biggest in Canada. In fact, Sleeman was founded by John H Sleeman in 1836 but in the 1930s his son George Sleeman was caught smuggling beer into prohibition America and lost his business as he had to sell up to pay the American taxes. In 1955 the company became inactive. Then, in 1984, John Sleeman, who had lived in England and enjoyed the pub culture, learnt from his aunt that the family had been brewers in the past, something he was previously unaware of. His aunt presented him with the original book of Sleeman brewing recipes, they decided to revive the family business and in 1988 his new brewery was up and running. Over the next two decades Sleeman acquired some other breweries until, last year, he sold the businees to Japan's Sapporo for $440 million.

Sleeman Cream Ale was one of the original beers formulated in 1898 and sold in a clear glass bottle. Using his aunt's recipe book John Sleeman recreated Cream Ale in 1988, also in a clear bottle. Most of the current Sleeman beers are sold in clear bottles to this day. I tend to drink two whilst in Canada: Honey Brown Lager and Cream Ale itself. Honey brown is darkish with a good two finger head. Mostly malty in taste with a bit of hops and a sweet caramel taste it's certainly not a sophisticated beer but much better than having to drink Labatts or Molson! There is a feeling that the clear bottle makes it fragile and prone to bad bottle syndrome. Many of the Sleeman beers have a sort of metallic taste to them but I don't think this is as pronounced with the Honey Brown. A good stomach liner before a proper drink.
So, the beer is a sort of 6/10 but John Sleeman himself is a 9/10 chap!

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