In Toronto Mill Street Beer has had an establishment in the Distillery District for several years now. I have never been. But in Ottawa they just opened a new location in the old mill at the Portage Bridge, and LJ and I thought it was a good time to check it out.
This location was converted into a restaurant several years before I had moved to Ottawa a few years ago now, but apparently failed miserably, and closed. When I came to the capital region, I remember on several urban explorations I came across the abandoned site, sad that its potential was lost. But now, it has been found.
Mill St. has done an amazing job fixing this place up. LJ and I went on a Monday night (a holiday mind you) but it was packed. The place looked like a chic pub. I usually prefer old classic pub looks, but I had to admit that this place looked stylish and functional. The place is multi-story. I was kind of hoping for a seat either near the water looking out (although it's dark and maybe we wouldn't see anything) or near the windows that face the side building, illuminated green (seen in the bottom photo above).
We sat in the bar area to begin with and decided to sample some of the beer. We went with a sampler, and when the beer came, our table was ready and we moved to our booth. Our waitress was Veronique who was friendly and super busy.
So how was the beer? Let me preface this:
I am NOT a beer drinker. I don't drink alcohol in general. I acknowledge it is strange for the wing lover to not, but I don't. It's not religious, it's not political, I just don't.
That being said, there are occasions that I will because it just seemed right. When I turned 19 and could order alcohol for the first time, I did. When I was in Germany, how could I not? And being at a beer inspired pub, I felt it was important to. But I don't know beer, so don't take my word on whether these are good or not. Here are the descriptions from the menu since they can express it much better than me, but with a few of my thoughts added:
Helles Bock: "A pale orange colour (Helles in German means pale), strong lager brewed with 100% organic malt and hops. A big white head gives way to a sweet malty note which is quick;y followed by the aroma of alcohol. A rich malty flavour with hints of current and oranges is found on the first sip. The hops have a gentle bitternes to balance the malt. The alcohol is not a dominant flavour, but you'll feel it after a glass or two." Of all the beers we sampled this was the most boring. But then again, the others were unusual beers.
Vanilla Porter: "Pure, organic Mexican vanilla extract adds a very smooth and rich (but not over-powering) vanilla aroma and palate. Slightly fruity with plum and smoke notes. These flavours in combination with the vanilla produce a very subtle aroma reminiscent of sweet pipe tobacco." -This one was unique. The vanilla flavour came across very clearly.
Belgian Frambozen: "Brewed with our Belgian wit beer yeast and given a secondary fermentation on whole raspberries, the result is a naturally carbonated, garnet-red beer with a fresh raspberry aroma and plate and a clean, dry finish. This is the traditional Belgian method for producing this style of beer and we are very proud of this beer. A blend of European and Canadian malts give this beer a smooth, creamy body, and unlike our Wit beer, this brew is filtered to show off its intense red colour." - It was ok. I did not get a raspberry flavour, but I found it easy to drink.
Coffee Porter: "This unique porter is rich and robust, imparting an intense coffee flavour. And yes, it's made with real roasted Balzac's beans in every batch! Aromas of burnt malt and dark roast coffee; notes of chocolate, coffee and malt with a light bitterness" - yes it tasted like coffee. I don't drink coffee either. Actually it was interesting and not too bad.
So again, I am not a beer drinker and cannot effectively review these.
Also, now having come back home, writing this review, I was on their website and saw they brew their own root beer. Now that's my kind of beer!
Monday night is 5 for $5 - five different appetizers for $5. So LJ and I did some sharing. We were going to order the Drunken Crab and Spinach Dip . . . but they were out. So we ordered the Smoked Chicken Poutine.
I really liked this. The cheese curds were fresh and squeaky. The fries (Yukon gold potatos) were crispy and good. The gravy was smooth and the chicken was smokey. LJ wasn't excited by it, but I thought this was a good poutine.
Next was the Calamari. It was a tall cone of perfectly cooked squid. Calamari is a tough dish because it can easily go wrong - but the coating was well seasoned, crispy and the meat itself tender. The marinara dip was like any other (I didn't taste the chipotle in it), and the beer mustard aioli tasted like just simple aiole, but good.
LJ was going to order the Brewmaster's Mussels, but those too were sold out. So then we ordered the Piggy Delight flatbread (BBQ sauce, pulled pork, smoked pork belly, chorizo sausage and mozzarella cheese). We started eating it, and we thought it was strange that there were blueberries on it (we didn't remember blue berries). LJ questioned the BBQ sauce, and I was thrown off but figured it was just really light. And there was a meat that was a little too gamey for us, which we assumed was the pork belly. Then it dawned on LJ - we didn't get the Piggy Delight, we got the Duck and Mushroom. Veronique had mentioned earlier about some mix ups in the kitchen (they are still new and working out kinks) so we realized there was a mistake. We didn't report it though.
I don't like duck or mushrooms, FYI. I do like pork and chorizo. So a little sad here. It was well executed, if your into duck and mushroom.
Fortunately, I had wings to get over all of that.
I had heard good things about Mill St. wings from the Toronto establishment, so I was excited to try these here in Ottawa.
Wings come by the pound, with about 7 wings in their pound. The wings are dusted, then deep fried and tossed in sauce. I went with a pound of Hot, a pound of Jamaican Jerk BBQ, and a side of Habanero.
On the side were carrot and celery sticks. The dip was blue cheese. This dip was thick, and rich, but not a single chunk of actual blue cheese.
Size wise, these were a roughly medium in length, but these were pretty meaty wings. The dusting made these crispy wings that matched the tender meat inside. The coating also held up nicely to the thick sauces.
This was a good hot sauce. Nothing original, a cayenne based hot sauce but nice and saucy.
They had the mildest of kicks, but I was happy with these hot wings.
JAMAICAN JERK BBQ
I was curious but nervous about ordering them. Jerk is a flavour that is interpreted very differently and can be not so great. But LJ seemed interested in this flavour, so I thought, why not. Thank goodness for LJ!
These were great wings. The jerk flavour was definitely the secondary taste to the BBQ sauce, but that was a good flavour strategy. Sweet, slightly smokey, with the spices from the jerk accenting the chicken very well. They were saucy and sticky and I liked them. A lot.
Whoah. This was a spicy sauce. Suicide for sure. It actually took me by surprise how spicy these were and it knocked me back a bit. Heat aside, the sauce was very thin, and it had a vinegary/habenero taste to it. I think it was best having it on the side, and kicked it up nicely.
The Mill St. Brewpub is a great addition to Ottawa. I won't speak to the actual beer, but the food was good. There are still some growing pains, but I have confidence that it won't take long for things to smooth out. My highlights include the calamari and the smoked chicken poutine. Also, the wings. Not huge, but crispy, saucy and tasty wings. Thumbs up to the heat of the Habanero and to the flavour of the Jamaican Jerk BBQ. 7.5/10
Mill St. Brewpub
555 Wellington St., Ottawa ON