An article by Noah Forrest
Although Half Hours on Earth has become well known in the Canadian beer scene, I feel like they are somehow still our best kept secret. In a climate that had people lining up for a Bellwoods Milkshake IPA or trading their Lambic for Brasserie Auval, I’m often perplexed that Half Hours bottles don’t sell out in minutes (especially with the home delivery option). I don’t for a moment want to suggest that they are not successful, sought after, or extremely well respected – they very much are – I’m just often so impressed whenever I have the pleasure to drink something they’ve produced.
Half Hours On Earth is a small brewery located in Seaforth, Ontario. Their beers are not available in Quebec, however they primarily sell their stuff online, which means that you can have them delivered to a friend’s house anywhere in Ontario; or if you want to set up a PO box close to the border, that’s always an option too.
At the beginning their focus was solely on Farmhouse beers, most of which were on the tart and sour spectrum. And although these types of beers still make up the bulk of their offerings, they are now doing straight IPAs here and there as well as insane concoctions that only they could dream up. Half Hours also started a barrel program about two years back and are constantly releasing new bottles for us to enjoy. Their ability to create offerings that are on the surface almost silly, but still well executed, as well as creating more straightforward barrel-aged sours really speaks to their quality as a brewery.
Today I’m going to examine several of HHOE offerings. Let’s get to them.
Sunset Overdrive is a sour IPA brewer with watermelon, marshmallow, Madagascar vanilla, and lactose. I have to say, this beer scares me.
The nose is madness. Imagine if you took a pink movie theatre slushie, then added marshmallow and cotton candy. The watermelon and vanilla are at the front, with some hibiscus adding juiciness as well. It’s quite something.
The palate is all these things, but manages to have been molded into something palatable and surprisingly delicious. Sour watermelon candy meets marshmallow fluff and juicy hibiscus sweetness – yet somehow this is aptly dry, with the deep sourness cutting through all the sugars and complimenting the overall fruitless. I feel like I should hate this beer, but I love it.
Sundot is another little piece of insanity. A sour double IPA brewed with banana, coconut, kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, and lactose.
The nose is pineapple candy, coconut, and fresh citrus. It smells like fuzzy peaches or sour patch kids. The palate is incredible, bursting with tropical fruits, both from the actual fruit and the Azzaca and Idaho 7 dry hops. Coconut and pineapple are at the front, with a great acidity and just the right amount of sweetness. The 8% is nowhere to be found. It’s balanced perfectly. I can’t get over this one. Damn.
Advanced Drinker is truly something special, so I’ll just quote the process from the Half Hours site. “Advanced Drinker is a progression of our hybrid style of beers co-fermented with Lager, Saison & Brettanomyces yeasts. This stainless fermented Farmhouse Pilsner was mashed in oak with 100% Organic German Pilsner Malt from Weyermann and hopped with all Organic BC hops from Harvesters of Organic Hops. We utilized Horizon & Ultra hops in the boil with a gentle Centennial dry-hopping.”
The nose is a perfect mix of dusty Brett funk and light honey maltiness. fresh green apple and pear slices compliment the aromatics even more, with damp wood in the background.
The nose had a delicious Bretted Saison vibe – something Dunham might put out. But the palate is definitely delivering its own thing. All those complexities from the aromatics are far more subtle here, instead the whole thing is impressively clean.
Dry as can be, it starts with light notes of pear flesh alongside light wheat notes, grassy herbal hops, and a potent bitterness that lets you know it’s there. It’s incredibly clean and easy to drink.
I have a love affair with complex beers that come off easy to drink, and this is the epitome of this. It’s a pillow in a glass.
Journeys In Space & Time
Journeys In Space & Time is an Oak Aged Farmhouse Sour Ale with Saskatoon Berries & Merlot Wine Must. The nose is wonderful, carrying a solid acidic edge, with loads of vinous notes from the grapes. Having never had Saskatoon berries it’s a bit hard to place, but I’m definitely getting some blueberry-like aromatics in here. That said, this is a wine forward nose with just the perfect amount of yeasty funk and barrel character.
The palate is actually quite subtle and is one of the more mild HHOE beers I’ve had in terms of acidity. Only slightly tart, the beer carries a rich combination of grape-forward vinous flavours and lots of berry sweetness. Grapes, blueberries, and blackcurrants make up the fruit profile, and is layered against a dusty phenolic funk. There is a solid but not overbearing tannic component that dries things out beautifully in the finish. Delicious.
Blues For A Red Planet
Blues For A Red Planet is a Red Wine Barrel Aged Farmhouse Sour Ale with blueberries, sour cherries & raspberries. The nose bursts with all kinds of deep jammy fruits, coupled with layers of acidic zesty aromatics. The raspberries are the most intense, while you still get lots of sweet cherry aromas as well. The blueberries are more subtle. A light vinous character comes through as well.
Like the last beer, the palate is actually a lot more subtle than the nose led on. Lots of raspberry tang and juicy cherry flavours make up the profile, with some jammy blueberries in the backdrop. The acidity is in check, balanced perfectly against all the sweet fruits. It finishes slightly tannic, carrying some spicy oak characteristics that linger nicely between each sip.
The beer is exceptionally fruity while still being bone dry and easy to drink, with a subtle funk.
Into The Groovey
Into The Groovey is an oak aged Farmhouse Sour Ale with montmorency cherries & rosehips. The nose is a zesty mix of bright acidity. The cherry is huge and jammy, giving off loads of cherry pie filling. Vinous oak lends compliment to the fruits, while floral hints come through only slightly.
The palate matches, beginning with a sharp acidity, followed by layers of cherry deliciousness. This is ultra fruity and jammy, but the sourness alongside the tannic oak help cut through it all and delivers a balanced, easy drinking profile.
The rosehips give off that sexy tang, which works so well against all those sweet cherries.
Bees! is a Farmhouse sour ale brewed with local honey and aged in oak. The nose is fruity, delivering lots of peach and pear, with all kinds of stone fruits as well. Acetic notes lend a white balsamic compliment, mixed in with layer of dusty barnyard funk.
The palate provides the same notes, but with more of an emphasis on pear and green grapes. Light tangerine notes come through as well. It’s tart, but not aggressively sour, with subtle but apparent dusty phenols that deliver lots of funk. This has a Gueuze-like quality, but more on the fruity side, providing hints of balsamic in the finish. Normally acetic notes throw me off – I’m not a fan – but it’s so well integrated here that it works for me.
I avoid making bold claims about the best brewery or best beer in the country, but if someone told me that Half Hours On Earth was their favourite brewery in Canada, I might just say, “yeah, me too.” Take Advanced Drinker, which is refined, simple and complex, yet straightforward in the most perfect of perfect ways. Then look at Sundot, an almost nightmare-inducing sour IPA filled with lactose, banana, coconut, and the kitchen sink. A beer that is somehow balanced so well that it’s essentially fucking perfect – probably the best sour IPA I’ve ever had. For them to be able to execute this level of impeccability on two completely different ends of the spectrum is truly an exemplary achievement, and one that they actually pull off constantly. So do yourself a favour, order some of their beer online if you can, and relish in its delicious beauty.
An article by Noah Forrest
Photography by Noah Forrest