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the best in beer

Lake of Bays China Wall Vienna Dark Lager, Ontario Add to ...

  • Rating 90
  • Price $11.95/750 ml

Hockey fans of a certain vintage (who, me?) may get the “China Wall” reference. It’s the nickname of Johnny Bower, legendary Maple Leafs goaltender during the 1960s, who is honoured in this limited-edition, premium brew. It’s part of Lake of Bays’s fundraising collaboration with the NHL Alumni Association, which helps players transition into post-hockey careers.

The arresting painted-label graphic, of an old-school goalie mask reminiscent of the one worn by Jason in Friday the 13th, is ironic. Bower played with Toronto for more than a decade but donned a mask for just 17 games. I can’t help but add that he was my boyhood idol, an avuncular face with a famous poke check, who helped the Leafs earn four Stanley Cups, including the team’s last in 1967.

The beer, sold in a 750-millilitre bottle, does the man proud. Dark amber and creamy, with moderate carbonation, it plays to the malty side, with sweet caramel, chocolate, banana bread and dried-fruit characters balanced by roasted nuts and mild bitterness. Medium-bodied, it hides the 7-per-cent alcohol well. Available in Ontario. (In a lighter vein, and much more widely available, is the very good Lake of Bays Top Shelf Classic Lager, another NHL Alumni collaboration beer from the same brewery.)

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