On a brief visit to Ontario and Quebec in 1990 I ran across no superlative beers, but then I wasn't traveling with a fellow beer lover. I was told that it was impossible to buy in one province a beer that was brewed in another (true then?), and indeed I didn't see any Moosehead, that staple of fraternity houses in the U.S., perhaps because it's from Nova Scotia. A visit to a friend in Montreal in 1992 included stops at several brew pubs with excellent products, and I gather that interprovincial restrictions on beer have been eased, widening the market. At any rate, many new beers are coming from various parts of Canada.
Upper Canada Rebellion Ale is, says its label, "extra premium," and "microbrewed," in fact, "[b]rewed to the highest standards in the world to satisfy the most discriminating beer connoisseurs." Three barley malts, imported hops (Cascade hops, from the exotic United States), and Canadian spring water: such statements, especially about the water, threaten a bad beer. The courage of the rebels of Upper Canada in 1837 is, the label goes on, the inspiration for this beer. The historical appeal bodes ill, but unsettling customers in the United States with their own historical ignorance is a good sign indeed.
The ale is light brown and clear, with a big initial head that is soon compact. It smells powerfully of malt, with some scorched malt and alcohol but no hops. A sip starts with very heavy malt sweetness, almost like a barleywine's, but alcohol and burnt-malt bitterness soon kick in, nearly balancing it. Belated hop bitterness tips just past the balance point, and then powerful hop flavor takes over as the sweetness dies. The aftertaste is mostly scorched malt with hops, but without that characteristic grapefruit scent of Cascade hops: Cascade could well be the bittering and flavor hop, but I doubt that there was any aroma hop at all. An estery fruitiness typical of a good ale shows up along with everything else, combining especially well with the flavor hops.
The malty sweetness lingers somewhat too long for my liking before the rest of this ale's flavor gets its act together, but apart from that, Rebellion Ale is an excellent drink. I've also tried Upper Canada's lager: very different but of similar quality. Both are well worth trying.