Brewery: Sleeman Breweries Ltd. (Guelph, Ont.)
Style: Honey Brown Lager
Alcohol: 5.2% ABV
What can you say about Sleeman? Originally founded in 1834 by John Sleeman before becoming completely inactive by 1955, Sleeman Brewery started up again as an independent brewery in 1988 by another John Sleeman, the great-great-grandson of Sleeman Sr., only to become part of Japanese brewery Sapporo in 2006. Originally more of a microbrewery that launched during the early years of craft beer in Ontario, Sleeman has become a major player in the Ontario craft beer scene. It’s far from being a microbrewery now, and some might argue it’s lost its roots.
Still, Sleeman is probably the macro brewery that people go to when they’re starting to make their way into the craft brewing scene. Sleeman produces the typical wobbly pops, but it also produces beer not found among the Molson and Labatt brands. One of those flavour profiles is found in Sleeman Honey Brown Lager.
One of the unfortunate realities of Sleeman beer is that the Guelph, Ont.-based brewery bottles all of its branded beers in clear glass bottles. This would likely be a bigger problem if it wasn’t for the mass distribution of Sleeman product and the simple fact that those bottles of beer are likely to be consumed quickly and before they turn skunky from light.
From the bottle, Sleeman Honey Brown pours somewhere between a dark golden and light brown colour, with a highly fizzy, thin, off-white head that quickly dissipates. The heavy carbonation of the beer can be seen in the small bubbles that stream off the bottom of the glass. However, like most of the major brands’ beers, its clarity is excellent. It’s a very clear beer.
A very light malt characteristic presents itself, but the beer’s aroma is pretty weak. The entirety of the mild aroma is in the malt. The hops and honey are completely absent.
When the beer hits your tongue, you’ll taste some medium to dark malts immediately, but for a beer that uses honey, the honey flavour is very light. The honey flavour becomes slightly more pronounced in the swallow. As for hops, well… What hops? They seem to be mostly missing, but this shouldn’t be all that shocking based on the type of beer. Sleeman Honey Brown has a fairly clean taste, but it’s surprising that it’s a lager based on some of the flavours. It strikes me as more of an ale in flavour profile than a lager.
So what do we have here? Well, he have a nice effort that really could use a lot more flavour and complexity. Although I enjoy Sleeman Honey Brown on occasion, I’m not afraid to call it a weak representation of a honey brown. There are certainly worse beers in this category from the big breweries, so in comparison, I’d recommend Sleeman’s beer over the likes of Lakeport Honey.
For beer geeks, though, Sleeman Honey Brown just won’t do. It’s really the type of beer that’s best in the middle of summer when you want to drink something out of the bottle and not worry about craft beer complexities.