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Nostalgia

Nothing takes you back down memory lane better than a slideshow, or a slideshow at a wedding that is. To put this in context, my fantastic sister just got married a couple of weekends ago and I was tasked (among a few things) with making a slideshow of her growing up, as well as her now husband and my brother-in-law! So many fun pictures of us growing up together and of Nick growing up with his brothers flooded my brain with memories.

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Firstly, I recall that my sister, Victoria, and I were super close as kids, and remain to this day. This is obviously fairly odd for a brother sister duo, but the thing is, we just had so much in common that it would have been more irregular if we didn’t like each other. We both love music, arts, crafts, heck even Victoria likes beer enough to go out for a pint or two with me. We were both fortunate enough to be on stage in musicals together during public school and high school in our local theatre company (Original Kids Theatre Company, which our cousin is now in!). We were also both extremely lucky to attend Queen’s University for Bachelor of Music (Victoria BMus ’15, me BMus’17(but like really, “18)). Victoria was kind enough to let me live with her for my first two years of University. This is where I really got to know Nick, which hallelujah, the dude loves craft beer too! It wasn’t until I was living with Rachel did I actually begin to invest into craft beer, and actually write more about it.

Though, that was just one of the memories that flashed through my mind, while at the wedding plenty of friends and family attended. Even though we hadn’t seen each other for a long time we partied together like we had just hung out last weekend.

As a journey down memory-ville I think about visiting little ole Delaware, having awesome bon fires and swinging on a “totally safe” swinging rope. Or always asking is we could play GTA on the PS2 because I wasn’t allowed to have that game or making our own horror films in the basement.

 

Parallel to those memories are those of visiting Bayfield, swimming in Lake Huron, or going to the Albion for a wee pint. Coincidentally, also playing GTA on the PS3 because I was still not allowed to have it. When we weren’t playing we were working in the kitchen at the Brew’n Arms, me being the dish pig/cob salad extraordinaire. Funny what only a few pictures can bring out of a mind. It’s like what they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. However, I also think a beer brings all of the senses back to memories, possibly even more than a picture.

 

For this I tried going to memory town for a few of the first beers I had when getting into Craft beer. Because this was around 2013 Ontario had less than 150 craft breweries, let alone only a dozen of them available in the LCBO. Mill Street was on the top of the mountain and was readily available so, naturally I grabbed some Mill Street Organic. I remember thinking just how cool it was that there was an organic craft beer, from Toronto! Wowie! The nice things about these memories is that in hindsight this is still not a small feat. If anything, I respect Mill Street even more because of how difficult it is to achieve organic status. Mill Street has since been purchased by Labatt’s, but personally I have not noticed a quality difference. I’m sitting here, just having finished a new can of their Organic Lager and it tastes exactly the same. Light flavours, hints of lemon, a wee bit of honey and no gross preservative aftertaste like you would find in Labatt’s Blue.

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A very specific and odd memory comes to mind when I have the Organic Lager, and in fact remind me of another (decommissioned) beer Mill Street offered, Stock Ale. Surprisingly difficult to find on their website this beer was described as the best “lawn mower” beers around. Somehow, I still remember how it tasted 6 years later. That memory is of watching Game of Thrones Season One. Every time I have that beer I am distinctly reminded of the opening music, while sitting on the couch in our little Emery Street house, with the DVD copy borrowed from the library playing on our half decent 42” HD tv. No way I should be remembering it so distinctly, but here we are, an empty glass and already too many memories, but wait, there’s more!

 

In early 2015, Mil Street released 100th Meridian, an Amber Lager that was also Organic. At this point I had begun this long journey into loving all kinds of Craft beer. I was so hyped that there was a beer that (I think) was named in part for the barley they get their beer from, but also a Tragically Hip reference. In fact, 100th Meridian was my first beer post on Instagram, I like to think I’ve developed a better writing style since then, but I are REALLY hope my taste has maintained consistency. This Amber Lager also appears in the newest Mill Street pack, with an updated can design. Similar to the Organic Lager, there is a very subtle amount of lemon, but a heavy amount of malt, a little sweeter on the sip and a longer after taste but not an offensive one.

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This is the part where I preach about cans and the design they bare.

 

I had planned to write a blog post purely on can design, but found that the entertainment value to effort value was not balanced so here is a condensed version:

 

Cans come in 3 different styles. Busy, Simple and Everything Else.

Can design

 

Mill Street has gone from Busy, to everything else with this shift to a standard can style. I’d describe their new style as neo-art deco, but toned down. These cans do inch into the simple category, but because of just how simple many cans are it just doesn’t feel right to stick these cans in there. When I say simple I refer to cans like Anderson Crafts Ales, Ace Hill, Side Launch or Refined Fool. All of these breweries decided to find one theme and stick to it for all of their cans/bottles. Anderson Craft Ales is an extreme case of simple, almost too simple considering the only visual differences on the cans are 2 lines of colour and the in bold the name of the beer. Ace Hill changes the whole can colour, and on their Radler adds some cute little fruits. Side Launch achieved a good amount of simple. They slapped a big ole boat on the side and used vibrant colours to identify their different beers.

 

When I say Busy, I immediately think of Flying Monkey. They have achieved ultimate “whatever” on their cans. As a marketing standpoint they made a great choice by making their cans stick out like a sore thumb on the shelf. Collective Arts has some of the best cans out there featuring some beautiful art on their can with a small slice of classy info in between.

 

I consider the everything else category in two parts, themed or random. Many breweries aim towards themed where all of their cans or bottle match each other slightly, or at least, complement each other. For instance, Stone City has a very dainty style of art on their labels, mostly all matching, but definitely all fitting with each other. Muskoka Brewery could almost fit into busy, especially with their Detour Can, but they have a great use of pattern in their cans, each one tying into the last. Lastly, Great Lakes Brewery has a stand out art style, partially because their current resident artist also does editorial cartoons.

 

I consider myself lucky that I have many happy memories that come back via slideshow or beer. I hope everyone who reads this also finds some happy memories. It’s important to hold on to them as it is having access to them. It’s also important to make new ones with old friends and new. I know it may be cliché but give a friend a call and ask them to hang out for pint and share those memories together. No point in keeping them cooped up for yourself.

 

Cheers!

 

Oh and Radlers:

 

  • Moosehead Radler (Optional: Add 1 Shot of Gin to enter flavour town)
  • Ace Hill Radler
  • Waterloo Radler (any of them, they are all great)
  • Stiegl Zitrone Lemon Citron Radler
  • Big Rig Bongo Radler

Summer Session Season

Summer is upon us and so are summer brews. However not everyone is aware of the flavour change that is upon us!

I have had many people ask me “Spencer, why are breweries making lagers and easier to drink beers? Is it because they realize that no one likes IPAs or dark beers anymore?” “Spencer, what does session mean” and finally “Spencer, why are all the beers made with fruit now?”

Well! To answer the first question I have to do it in two parts.

First, to address the recent increase in Lager creation you have to look at it from the brewer’s perspective, or rather the brewery owner’s perspective. Craft beer, if not obvious enough already, has become very popular. It edges on being a fashion statement at times. With over 250 craft breweries in Ontario now it is hard to find a town that does not have their own brewery, or at least a quick drive away. Part of this is because breweries offered a variety of flavours that you couldn’t get at the beer store, or there was only a small selection at your local LCBO. Another part is that the brewery itself was a cool place to be. I talked about this in my post “Tour of The Town” where breweries provided a unique environment which amplified (or in some cases stifled) your impressions of their beer. This showed a shift from craft beer drinkers from going to Craft Beer restaurants that serve a variety of breweries where they could get food as well to now going to the breweries themselves and grabbing a snack there.

Now, because breweries have grown so popular, and have become an attraction for the whole city, there are now many more customers to please. This is where the classic lager beer comes in. I did talk about lagers in “Lager and Beau’s” and why they are so easy to drink, but also how breweries differ from the big beer companies like Bud and Labatt’s. A lager is a crowd pleaser and always will be. It is only a benefit for a brewery to carry this style especially for those friends of craft beer snobs who only come along to the brewery to be able to hang out with their friends. Many breweries will hold on to these lagers long term, like London Brewing Co-Op’s Lager. Now that it is being served in various local bars (shout out to the Wortley Roadhouse), there would be no reason to get rid of it.

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London Brewing Co-Op – Instagram

To answer the second part of this first question in an already long winded answer is the fact that it is summer. Warm weather makes us thirsty, therefore we need easy to drink, crushable, refreshing beers, and lagers meet that need quite nicely. The reason IPAs are made less right now, or rather aren’t put on the LCBOs shelves is for the same reason as well. Normally an IPA has quite a lot of flavour and sipping the beer is the preferred method of drinking which is not ideal for hot summer patios. To deal with that issue, breweries created the much more approachable “Session IPA” (or Session Pale Ale/Lager whatever)

On to the second question “What does Session Mean?”

Well, to me it means that you could have a few of these beers and not be a total wreck afterward. Low alcohol %, easy flavour, refreshing; as if you could drink a few in one session. Or according to the LCBO: “Session ales came to be back in WWI England when workers got two four-hour drinking periods or “sessions” per day calling for a lighter brew than the usual stout or porter”. Either way, you get a bigger bang for your buck as far as flavour goes, instead of alcohol.

I went out and snagged myself a select few Session Ales just to see if there is some consistency with my definition of Session Ales.

To start I had Great Lakes Brewery’s Sunnyside Session IPA.

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Sunnyside sits low in Alcohol with 3.9% which is the lowest of the beers I’m trying. Definitely on the sweeter side, but not quite fruity. As you can see with the colour it is very light, almost clear yet still cloudy, but there is still a strong hop flavour hidden in there. Of course, this is one I would recommend for everyone who wants to creep their way into hoppy beers without having to take very tiny sips to get through it. However, this being part of their Tank Ten series, this beer won’t be available forever.

Next I jumped up in alc% to 4.8% with Railway City Brewing Company Express India Session Lager.

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What Railway has claimed they did here is put together their India Pale Ale with a Lager to create a much easier to drink brew. What came out of it was 90% India Pale Ale and 10% Lager. Especially comparing this to Sunnyside, Express has much more hops and is quite a bit less sweet. Now before I get too negative, I really enjoy this beer. It has slowly turned into the evening and cooled down quite a bit which becomes the perfect setting for a bit more hops. (Its almost like I planned for that to happen).

Third is Maclean’s Bent Spoke Session-able Ale, which at first glance is much clearer than the first two beers and boy, does the flavour match that. Very zippy with hints of lemon, barley and pretty darn sweet. Perhaps more of a flavourful lager rather than a Session Ale, but still does the job. Refreshing and goes down easy, especially when considering the low 3.8% alc. This beer would do well on any patio for casual beer lovers.

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Just about as clear as the Bent Spoke comes Central City’s Red Racer I.S.A (India Session Ale). Much more bubbly coming out of the can creates a very frothy head which leads me to believe this beer will have much more flavour. After the first sip, there is an initial strong sense of toffy or a sweet caramel malt, not something I would expect from an IPA or a Session ale. Compared to all of the previous beers, I.S.A. is very sweet and very malt forward with little to no hops. I would have a hard time calling this an India Session Ale, maybe a Session English Ale, or Session Scotch Ale, but lacking the hops steers it very far away from India.

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Finally for my last beer, ironically named The Starter Session IPA by Four Father Brewing Co. On the higher end of alcohol for Session Ales (4.8%), a dark golden fuzzy beer pours from the can. A large amount of hops bellows out of the glass making me think this will be a stronger tasting Session beer, but the can assures me of citrus notes. First sip is very similar to Sunnyside, which is a good thing. A bit on the sweeter side with a hint of tang on the finish. I definitely find those citrus notes but I’m not afraid to take larger sips. Pleasantly surprised with this one.

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My findings may not be the most scientific or above bias, but there is quite an inconsistency when it comes to Session Beers. Sunnyside fits closest to what I think Session IPAs should taste like. Easy to drink, refreshing but not bland or boring. If I had to rank them to help with choosing your next Session brew they would go as follows:

  1. Great Lakes Brewing Sunnyside Session IPA
  2. Four Fathers The Starter Session IPA
  3. Railway City Express India Session Lager
  4. Maclean’s Bent Spoke Sessionable Ale
  5. Central City Red Racer I.S.A

Each have their own appealing aspects, but 4 and 5 hardly fit my description or rather my opinion of what Session Beers should be like. I.S.A. is hard to consider a proper Session Ale, but might fit someones fancy if they prefer toffy-like flavours.

Other notable Session brews that I have enjoyed in the past and would recommend are Bench Brewing Ball Falls Session IPA (Also available at the Wortley Roadhouse). This beer features quite a bit more hops compared to Sunnyside and Express, but feature much more citrus that add to the refreshing aspect of what a Session ale is; very comparable to Four Father The Starter. Collective Arts State of Mind Session Ale also meets my expectations of a good Session Ale, can’t really go wrong with Collective Arts though.

Now as for the third and final question. “Why do all of the beers have fruit in them now?” Same could be said as to why we eat fresh strawberries in the end of June into July, or why we pick our own oranges during the summer. Breweries love using fresh ingredients, especially when they can boast about the ingredients being local (See every Can that claims to use local water). With summer upon us, our instincts naturally go to fruits, many of which are tropical. It’s really only recent that these fruity beers are also including lactose sugars. This makes a much creamier, sweeter beer that practically turns into juice. For example Collective Arts Liquid Arts Fest.

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Made with Passionfruit, Mango and Vanilla blending into Simcoe and Citra hops (both of which are very fruity already) create a full bodied Milkshake IPA. Sweet, Hoppy, Sour, Creamy, Juicy, everything fits into this beer and much like the Session Beers it is only available for this summer season.

When we return to cooler weather, and the harvests begin I will write about what flavour profiles begin to pop up, as well as what to look out for, and why we have to say goodbye to our easy drinking session brews.

My next post will be about Czech Pilsners and where they fit within the season. As well as how during the plateau of summer flavours, what breweries do to attract costumers through stylish can designs.

Cheers!

Way Out There

Hello!

Long time no write. I’ll admit, there has been plenty of time for me to write something, but never had anything worth writing, or at least to write in a way that would spur any interest, and that’s O.K.

However, I have had quite the month. Much of it working, and much of it enjoying some pretty darn good beer. For starters, I had the great opportunity to have a 3 week internship at the Canadian Opera Company. More specifically, the Education Department. Such great people work there and they made the experience a fantastic one. I had the chance to speak with members of the Ensemble Studio, a high level training program for young opera singers. They made me feel a lot more confident about pursuing a career in opera, particularly with giving me a timeline of things I need to do to accomplish that. Of course, since the Canadian Opera Company is in Toronto, I also had the opportunity to try some local brews.

Unfortunately (except not really that bad) I didn’t have a lot of free time and was only able to visit Bellwoods Brewery. The first thing you see at the place is a cool wall of chalk drawings and an assortment of glasses. Then you realize that the place is packed and there is already a line of people behind you. It was crazy for such a small place how many people they were able to squeeze in. Fortunately I timed it perfectly and was able to get a spot at the bar.

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As for the beer, lets say Bellwoods is knee deep into Juice, and I loved it. I started off with their Pineapple Milkshark IPA, what a rollercoaster of a name, as was the flavours. It is literally (but actually figuratively) pineapple juice with some orange in there. On the nose it smells like your going face first into a tropicana commercial. I had to take a few swigs to start tasting anything that resembles beer. The lack of bubbles reinforce the juice motif, with subtle hints of hops it reminds you to not drink this like a morning glass of OJ. To address the MILKshark part of the name, the beer is brewed with lactose sugar, which essentially gives it this easy going sweetness, and creaminess you wouldn’t otherwise be able to achieve with just fruit juices and wheat. The Milkshake IPA is a beer that is great when done right, such as this beer, but could be a strike out looking if done poorly. There’s not much of a middle ground there.

During this month I had a pretty cool assignment to work on. I had to design an app, it could be any app I wanted, so of course I tried my hand at making a Craft Beer app. I pooled inspiration from Untapped,Spotify and the LCBO app of all places. Essentially the idea was to create an app where you could “like” beers, and gradually the app would suggest beers for you. My ideal audience is someone who is just getting into craft beer and needs a little help with getting going. Of course the point of the assignment was to make something that made things easier for the user, but also lasted a while. For being my first attempt at designing anything I thought it went pretty well.

Whether or not I pursue this as a legit app is a whole other story.

Finally, I had this new idea of pairing beer with music. By new I mean, I’ve had this idea stowed away for a long time, but never felt it would make sense, but here it goes.

Collective Arts – IPA No. 5 with Strange Trails (2015) by Lord Huron

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Let’s start with the beer.

A dark and stormy beer with hints of yeast dripping down to the bottom of the glass. The cloudy hue of gold and brown rise up to a thin head (mostly because I poured it poorly). Immediately I smell a sweet piney hops. First sip is a whirlwind of malty goodness closely followed up by that pine tree of hops. The Citra Hops pop out quite nicely adding that sweet bit of citrus that is used a lot these days. A nice clean beer and quite easy going considering it is 8.2%. It has a nice warm finish, and echoes the hops back to you.

As for the album, the mood is set right away from the first track Love Like Ghosts. The typical style of Lord Huron is the feeling of sitting in a cave listening to an intimate singer and his full stringed orchestra of folk guitar, bass and an assortment of percussion. The melody is sweet, just like the citra hops. The notes give you the feeling of leisure and comfort, but when you listen to the words, the melancholy and honesty changes the mood. Much like how hops can be a little bitter. Some genius might even call it bitter sweet.

Then the party arrives

Until the Night Turns is much more upbeat, fun and has that classic beach rock beat. A perfect fit for the 8.2% this beer carries. It’s a song about dreaming this is your last day, so why not have fun? Of course once that world has ended, you’ve got Dean Man’s Hand. A groovy old fashioned tune suitable for a slow sipping brew. And because not everything can be doom and gloom, have the view that things will all work out, Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme) tell us that sometimes you’ve gotta be the one to make it that way. About halfway through this beer you sort of fall in love with the flavours, as does this song La Belle Fleur Sauvage or The Beautiful Wild Flower (almost like a blooming hops).

Now, after 20 minutes of this album you find yourself in a bit of a blurry soundscape of folk, countryside and hops. The album swings back and forth between slow and fast from Fool for Love and The World Ender. Two tunes that make you want to watch an old spaghetti western. Meet Me in the Woods is one of their more electric songs, which is very similar to some of the new songs they have released from their new album coming out this Friday (April 20). The maltiness of the beer is finally featured in The Yawning Grave, a lovely waltzing lullaby. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The great thing about Lord Huron’s albums is many of the songs seamlessly move into one another. The Frozen Pines may be an obvious connection, but when I try to describe how hoppy a beer is to anyone I use a Pine scale. This beer is a large branch off the pine tree, which means its fairly hoppy.

Cursed is how you will feel after trying this beer and knowing that you will probably want it again, but will have a hard time because everyone else already bought it. Way out There is nearing the end of the album and subsequently the beer as well. The song sings of reminiscing of a long journey. Maybe you took your time drinking this brew, maybe you’ve moved onto your second? Either way, this song will make you think, and with the IPA, it will make you think deeply. Slowly each sips becomes smaller and smaller, grasping as the last sweet drops, a small tornado at the bottom of the glass of hops, yeast and bubbles each time you set the glass down, settling into Louisa. This is a memorable beer, which doesn’t come by too often. How ironic that the name is simply IPA No. 5. The final song on the album is easily the most popular due to Netflix’s Original series 13 Reasons Why.  Used as the anthem for the show it adds a second layer of sadness.

That and you’ve probably finished the beer by now.

Check out the album here:

Google Play

Spotify

iTunes

Youtube

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Tour of the town.

Alright, buckle in! This is a long one full of great beer from 3 beautiful breweries in London Ontario. Each place approaches serving beer differently. While I was drinking these greats beers I was also taking in their unique environments.

At Anderson Craft Ales you have two great options. Sit at the bar and have a great chat with the bartenders about the great beer they have to offer, or if you are with some friends you can go upstairs to these large tables with long benches to seat all you like. Many great board games reside upstairs including giant jenga, crokinole and corn in the hole. Not to mention the front row seat of the whole brewing operation. The balcony view of the tanks is very unique and creates a very cool connection between the brewery and their customers. Many of the times they are playing great music over their stereo that plays throughout the whole brewery. Tunes include Queen to Coldplay to Vulfpeck. Enough music for all to enjoy. All of these things go into creating a great setting for enjoying delicious beer.

A great drinking environment is crucial for enjoying any beer. A brewery should have the proper place to enjoy the beer that they have to offer. There should be a sense of harmony between creating and serving beer. I’ve seen many breweries become successful because the experience of being at the brewery was enjoyable.

In Kingston, Stone City Ales has created a unique and hip stop to visit. An enclosed Brewing operation that connects to their restaurant makes a tight but comfortable spot to enjoy explosive flavours. At Riverhead they have a giant window facing their tanks to show off their grand potential for great beer. Both of these approaches are like fish tanks. Glass separates you and what you’re looking at as if you probably shouldn’t go in there.

Here in London there is a greater approach towards accommodating many different kinds of patrons. As I said, for Anderson Craft Ales you can sit and chat for hours with knowledgeable staff or sit upstairs with friends and watch the process all happen, all the while listening to great tunes. While I was there I was thinking about all the hard work that has gone into creating great beer.

While there I had a Belgian Tripel that honest to goodness tasted like it was 4% and made super sweet but turns out it’s 9.5%. The beer is practically a light sugar beer but not the type that hurts your teeth. Very light on texture, which practically felt like a wine. There are hints of honey and spice which place this beer in the “how in the world?” Category but nails it.

I also tried the Spring Ale in my flight. I’m not too sure what this beer is trying to be. A hoppy beer or a dark beer? Either way it tasted quite good and I look forward to trying it again.

The Local Pale Ale is a super light pale ale that doesn’t ask too much from the drinker except to embrace the tiny bubbles that reach the surface and enjoy the light cloud of hops that bloom during the aftertaste. For a beer made with all local ingredients it sure has some interesting accents and represents the region wonderfully.

The stand out was definitely the Stout. If you enjoy a nice iced coffee this beer is for you. Not only the roasted malts but the overall coffee taste matched the brewery’s environment perfectly. The lights were dimmed. People were laughing, having a good time and there was slight music in the background. It honestly felt like a coffeeshop. It just felt natural having a cold bubbly cup of coffee at the table.

Our next stop was London Brewing Co-Op. As we opened the door there was a loud “WOOO” coming from the back end of the room. My eyes went straight towards a family having a great time playing some foosball. Right then I knew that this would be a fun spot to enjoy a few beers. The space has been managed quite well with the brewing tanks just across from the bar top. Nice big tables for big groups at the front and some high tops at the back make this place feel much more than just a place to have a drink, it’s a place to have fun and make new friends.

Speaking of new friends, the staff was excellent. Right away I could tell that they enjoy being there just as much as we did. They made a great effort in learning our names and making sure we were well taken care of.

On top of that, their knowledge of each beer was great! As I was ordering a flight, I was given detailed descriptions of each beer which made each one sound tempting.

I love how they serve their flights. Brass coins label each beer and rest on an old cask board. To help you lift your beer is a cool copper pipe handle. Such a neat rustic looking device. I really want one for home.

As for the beers themselves, on the left there is the fantastic Norfolk Red. Such a beautiful red/copper colour with a slight head to it. Most red ales have an upfront flavour and don’t really go anywhere with it, but this fine brew goes down a rabbit hole of warm flavours. Nothing too crazy but for a small sample it was full bodied and tasty.

To the right is the Workhorse IPA. Like I said in my post on Instagram, this is a full on IPA. A lot of hops right at the first sip unravel into spices and hints of maltyness. I like how the beer develops in flavour rather than just throwing hops at my face.

Next up is Tolpuddle Porter. Exactly what you want from a Porter. Perfect for cold Spring days where you want something to warm you up but still has refreshing sweetness. Nice roasted malts and the slightest hint of dark chocolate throughout. A very natural tasting beer.

Finally, Southwest Wheat. Such a clean looking and tasting beer. Super light on flavour but the flavour that is there is sweet. Tiny little bubbles keep the aftertaste short.

I really enjoyed my time at the Co-op and I see my self going back there many times.

Our last stop was the brand new Storm Stayed Brewery on the other side of town. What used to be a dive bar called Coves is now this crisp and clean brewery. Considering how new this brewery is, I’m surprised how many beers they have. If I remember correctly there were about 9 different beers you could try, and pretty much hitting every part of the beer spectrum.

Of course I got a flight because when you have such a wide selection, you gotta try as many as you can. I started off with Daybreak Blonde Ale. This cute little beer pops with fruity fragrance and nice light sweetness. Sitting at 18 IBU (International Bitter Units, which really means how much is this beer going to taste like a pine tree?) this Blonde Ale is a great contrast to the hoppy IPAs I had earlier.

The odd ball out on this flight is their Oatmeal Stout. Safe Harbour is a very appropriate name for this brew. Tastes exactly what you would expect for a nice thick stout, not too sweet but definitely no bitterness.

The last two are both IPAs but almost entirely different. In Flux is a super light session IPA, almost closer to a pale ale. Very crushable and was a great warm up to Randonée!

Wow lots of hops in this one. Someone should have yelled “Timber” when pouring this pine tree into a glass. Much sweeter compared to earlier IPAs, would be great on a patio. (SOON).

I have the feeling that Storm Stayed will develop a different environment for their building as they age. Right now it just seems so new (because it is).

It was nice to see that every place we went to was full of people having a great time. Everyone had smiles on their faces and the chatter was so full of life. London is a lucky city to have these fine establishments.

Cheers!

India Pale Ale or Pale Ale?

The IPA or India Pale Ale is often seen as the flagship for many breweries. There’s almost a competition for who can make the hoppiest beer or the most citrusy brew. The one that come to mind right away is Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA. I can always recall the nice dry hops that is in the beer. Now here’s the thing about West Coast IPAs that’s different from a regular IPA. A West Coast IPA has a different approach to hops. By that I mean they shove as much hops into the beer as they can. Some may love this as they crave more and more zip. Some like a more subdued flavour. To the latter I suggest going for a nice Pale Ale.

Pale Ale beers are still a bit hoppy but there are more intricate flavours that accompany the lead vocalist. These are for the folks who like new things to try while still having an idea of what they are in for. Most breweries will have their own Pale Ale, especially if they haven’t made an IPA yet. I tried out a few Pale Ales this week just to have a friendly reminder why these beers are so approachable and fun.

First I had a beer call Pale Ale Project by Beyond the Pale Brewery An interesting full flavoured but light feeling beer. Not too hoppy but more flavourful than a lager or cream ale. Smelled much more hoppy that it tasted, which is sometimes nice.

Next I had Tuque Dorée by Tuque de Broue .A very light pale ale. Almost no hops present but not quite as sweet as a lager or pilsner. Very crushable and won’t hurt your head at the end of the night but rather, keep it warm. While is did not feature any wild flavours, the beer was pleasant and is a pretty normal beer. I’d have to say it’s an average Pale Ale, maybe something to have at the start of your night as a warm up.

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As I’m writing this, I am enjoying the ever delicious Canuck Pale Ale from one of the Ontario Craft Brewery Royal family, Great Lakes Brewery Pours like liquid gold into your frosted glass. A sweet malts come right at the start of the sip. A clean hops resides in the back seat which allows for big gulps of the Canadian delicacy. Sitting at 5.2% this one doesn’t put the pedal to the metal, but rather sits in cruise and lets you enjoy all of its flavours.

Now to compare those brews to some of the IPA’s I have had recently. First up is another member of Ontario Craft Elite: Mad Tom IPA by Muskoka Brewery The first time I had this beer I couldn’t even finish the bottle. It was one of the first craft beers I had ever had and wanted to dive into the deep end right away. Oh boy the hops kicked my butt. For some reason I haven’t had it since, or don’t really remember having it, so I decided for this week’s post that I would revisit this hoppy, strong beer. Well much to my surprise and chagrin this beer is amazing. It’s like a pine tree grew in an apple orchard and made best friends with its fruity comrades. The crisp sweetness that remind me of a granny smith is melted together with fresh sharp hops. Understandable for an 19 year old me to think this beer was way too much to gulp down.

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I also dived into Muskoka Brewery’s Detour Session IPA. What makes a session IPA different is they involve much more citrus and lower the alc % significantly. These are the beers made for patio seasons, or for having more than one. Detour has a much faster flavour to it. What I mean by that is the flavour kind of comes and goes quickly, but leaves you wanting more. A nice change from lingering hops and spices.

So when you want to go out for a pint and your faced with the decision of IPA or Pale Ale I’d recommend starting with the Pale Ale, if you fancy that, stick with it, if you find yourself wanting a bit more of the pint tree in your mouth, go for that IPA. I’d only warn you about double IPAs. That is some major league hops right there.

A couple of other beers I had this week:

Riverhead Brewing Company – Dunkel

This is a beer for beers and I love it. Great classic taste with a hint did extra flavour to keep things interesting. No worries of getting tired of this refreshing taste. Malty enough to steer it was from anything hop related but beyond the darkness to call it a light beer. A nice place to be for a cool pint on a warm winter/spring day. Not going to lie, wish this one would be a mainstay but after talking to the Brewers, they would need to buy more tanks to keep Brewing this one. Aged 8 weeks takes up some much needed space to brew the rest of their lineup. Maybe one day!

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Stone City Ales – Coconaught

Smells of black liquorice and whiskey. Blows you away with the flavour of dark chocolate and coconut, but mostly a coffee and whiskey flavour resides throughout. A beer that makes itself known and holds its stance from smell to aftertaste. Makes you very well aware of its 9.5abv. This beer beat me up in a delicious way.

Trigger Alert. Mill Street Brewery was once a independent brewery, which they are now owned by the likes that make Labatt Blue. I will preface that I enjoy their beers, and their more limited releases have sometimes been very good. Many other beer bloggers have shunned the brewery, and thats fine, more beer for me.

I decided to try out a couple that I used to consider some of my favourite beers. Mill Street Organic Lager and 100th Meridian Amber Lager. So. They aren’t awful. You don’t have to over-exaggerate that the beers are simple. However I was surprised by what my memory of 100th Meridian is very different than what the one I’m drinking tastes like right now. Compared to the organic lager, there’s a hint of extra spice and I have to remember that yes these are lagers and they are meant to be simple and refreshing. There isn’t a gross lingering aftertaste and I’m not feeling full after having one. So as far as beer goes, it’s better than a bud.

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So you want to try some funky beers.

Seasonal beers are always fun to try. Especially when they involve an ingredient that makes you think “how in the world did they turn that into beer?”. February is a fun time of year to explore all of these funky beers. Basically the reason is hops have been used for all of the heavy dark IPA’s, Stouts and Black lagers for the late fall and winter. It is also too cold for much of the maple syrup here in Canada so the sweet Porters and Maple Ales have yet to fully flourish. Finally it just feels weird drinking a light citrussy Saison in the middle of the winter. From those restrictions come some of the best creativity a brewer can think of. From using lavender and spices to pistachios and lucky charms (what? I’m looking at you Anderson Craft Ales)

Some of these crafty specialities are a winner and sometimes become mainstays, while others become lessons learned to create even better beer next time.

From recent memory, my favourite seasonal would be the Black Currant Bock from Cowbell Brewing, however I’m not totally sure that it is a seasonal but more of a “only at the brewery” kind of beer. Either way I’m pretty sure black currant berries don’t grow year round, so that counts.

Now, for a brewery who seems to enjoy experimenting in the world of fun and enjoyable seasonal beers is Perth Brewery. Residing in the lovely town of Perth, just 45 minutes north of Kingston, this brewery embraces their Scottish heritage and offer many classic beers alongside their limited time offers. I have had many opportunities to have Last Duel Lager on tap at the Grad Club at Queen’s University. Such a refreshing and simple lager, perfect for all to enjoy during a great funk show.

Of course at the brewery you can find something I have never even thought to put in beer. Perth Brewery in collaboration with Walesbone created an Oyster Stout! Most people’s first thought might be “ew I hate oysters” but mine was “oh man, I love oysters!”. With no coincidence I also really enjoyed this beer. I will say that the oysters did not impact the beer overtly and anyone who enjoys a good Stout should surely try this one out. Thing only thing I wouldn’t recommend is having this beer while enjoying oysters. I’d save some vodka and tobacco for those little guys.

A little less out there, but still parked in the realm of “Huh” is Perth Brewery’s Pistachio Ho Ho Holiday Ale. I posted about this one on Instagram, but I fell like I should mention just how intricate the flavours were in the one. The smell was very much the same you would get from pistachio ice cream. The flavours are similar but feature a lot more spice and nutty overtones. There’s also a tiny zip of cinnamon in there which really ties in the festive feeling of the beer. Unfortunately when I was at the brewery they looked like they only had about 2 dozen cans left and they said there wouldn’t be any more until next year.

As the weather does warm up you will start to see more maple beers filling up the shelves. Especially here in Eastern Ontario. This is exciting for two reason. 1. It getting warmer and I love rain, it smells great. 2. Maple Ales are some of the most crushable beers ever made and I couldn’t recommend more for people to try these out if they havnt enjoyed beer before. Most brewery’s don’t have a hard time creating a good beer using some sweet sweet maple syrup. I hope to make my way up to Pakenham to grab some more of Cartwright Springs Maple Ale. They use all syrup instead of water to create that amazing beer.

Perth has also made quite a tasty Maple Ale. Oh Canada as it’s aptly named was probably my favourite beer I tried last Friday with Rachel (@rayrayrosee on Instagram). A nice spicy sweetness and long lingering flavour was a nice surprise.

Here are a few short descriptions I had of some of their mainstays at Perth Brewery.

Calypso

A nice sweet IPA that has hints of citrus without over doing it

Bon Fire Black Lager

Still nice and smokey coming off the tap compared to in a can that I had a while back. Light after taste and small bubbles to not fill you up.

Euro

A great patio beer for sitting with friends talking about how hot it is. But also great for barside on a chilly Friday evening talking about how cold it is. Classic pilsner.

Mocha Stout

Actually has the taste of a coffee mocha, not too sweet which is nice. Reminds me of an iced coffee kind of.

Perth – Honey Lager

A beautifully sweet lager with nice malty undertones light. bubbles keep the whole beer feeling weightless.

Going into week 4 of Beau’s Febrewary, I unfortunately missed out on week 2’s specially but week 3 offered up a great spicy Belgian Style Black Ale. I enjoyed this lovely brew at the Kingston Brewing Company, which will have each weeks Beau’s on tap. The Belgian Ale had all the sweetness of a good old fashioned version, but the roasted malts and spices created a unique battle between the two. There was also hints of a little smokey roasts as well.

So if you’re out and about at your local brewery and you see they have a seasonal available, don’t be afraid to give it a try, you’ll never know if it will end up being your favourite beer or not. What is there to lose?

Cheers!

Thinking Local, Drinking Local

Kingston is a mighty fine place to get a pint. Often known for the number of pubs that can be found downtown (practically 1 ever 3 buildings) the Limestone City is gradually becoming more known for its breweries. Within the Kingston-ish borders there are now 6 independent breweries making great craft beer.

The first and near and dear to my heart is Kingston Brewing Company. As I mentioned on a previous post, the KBC is the oldest brewpub in Ontario. I will also recommend the Cask Ale for people who like a smooth, dark flavourful ale and the Pale Ale for those who like a bit more hops and spices while being super refreshing.

Second is a bit of a crown jewel for Kingston right now. Stone City Ales opened the summer of 2014 with quite of bit of excitement. Stone City usually features quite hoppy and tarty. Many of their seasonals feature very abstract and very new concepts (at least to me they do). Some of these include Yaht Rock which I had this summer, it was a very orange Gose that reminded me of the sun, another is Secret Beach, a brew they worked in with a vineyard just outside of the city, a very sweet and wine influenced beer.

These past two weeks I dived into their winter seasonals. First I was happy to see a new craft Lager! Low Key Vienna Lager had a great spicy malt flavour on the sip and remained fresh and clean in the after taste. As far as lagers go this was a very flavourful slightly sweet beer. I hope more craft Lager follow a similar recipe.

Next from Stone City is Alive N’ Well. This essentially hoppy juice makes me wish it was a mainstay. Such a great flavour of citrus mixed with hops makes this beer one of my favourites from the brewery. The New Zealand hops they used must have some extra sweetness in them during the brewing process. I would say this beer fits well with the winter, because it reminds you the summer is better, but you’re still alive.

The next brewery I went to was King’s Town Beer Company. 2016 they opened, and since then have made some quite tasty beer. I really enjoyed their Canada 150 ale. A nice hoppy and refreshing beer that made me feel patriotic and such. However, their new Simon Whit Bier made simplicity taste very very good.

Happily one of their mainstays has, King’s Town Ale is also very good. This beer is an old fashioned malty, and some how smokey flavour to it. On my first sip I first had the hint of a roasted coffee flavour, but not the taste of coffee, the smell.

Riverhead Brewing Company is the newest brewery in Kingston (that has a full-on brewery) and I can’t get over how much I love their logo. Their Tropical IPA grabbed my attention right away when Rachel and I went to the brewery on opening day. The citrus flavour is incredible with how well it blends with the hops.

One of Riverhead’s current (and not for long) seasonals is their Double IPA. I had expected a mouth full of explosive hops featuring their citrus flavour from their Tropical IPA but I was nicely treated by traditional spicey hops that was still refreshing and not overwhelming.

MacKinnon Brothers has been a bit of a small treat for us in Eastern Ontario. The little barn brewery in Bath, On have been making some nice brews. I’ve made some reviews about them on my Instagram for their Red Ale.

Another small brewery is Skeletin Park Brewery, I haven’t had too much of their brews apart from a cider and their ale, but I can tell they will provide some great tasting beer.

Now, Beau’s Febrewary has begun! I have been able to try their first weeks beer, Ninho do Corvo – robust porter with coconut and cacao nibs. Honestly, I thought after the first sip that I would get tired of the taste, but every sip felt new and refreshing and found once I was done that I really wanted another! If you find a chance to try this brew I would absolutely take the chance.

I think I’m pretty lucky to be here in Kingston to have all of these delicious flavour our adventures so close by. I can’t thank these breweries enough for all the hard work they put forward to making something that they should all be proud of. Cheers to local and cheers to craft!

Family, Friends, and Beer

Come sit at the bar and drink a beer with me.

There is nothing I love more than talking with people over a couple of pints. Add a great pub with great beer and it makes my night fantastic.

Something I learned from my Dad was how to talk to people. How to be friendly and how to carry a conversation with anyone about anything. While at a pub, sitting at the bar I have watched my Dad become a friend to many and share things I’ll never forget. I aspire to have that kind of skill like he has. Once my Dad knows the person at the bar, he remembers the littlest of things to make the conversation about them.

“How’s the new house?” “How is your son doing at his new school”

Things like that make sitting at a bar with him so unique and refreshing. Of course, I’m not always at the pub with my Dad and so I take on the role of conversation starter. The main thing I learned is a beer should be shared with Family and Friends.

While home in London (South Western Ontario) I get to have quite a few beers I don’t have access to here in Kingston (Eastern Ontario). Such things include Railway City Brewing based out of St. Thomas, Forked River (London)or Anderson Craft Ales (London).

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Link to a post I made about Anderson Craft Ales.

Every time I am home my Dad is excited to share the beer he bought for me and asks if he picked good ones and what I think of them (He always picks great ones). The key here is, he always gets two of each. One for me and one for him. That way we compare how it tastes. As we drink the beers we talk about how our days have been, how was work or school, but also that way the beers taste. Obviously not everyone has someone in their family writing a blog about beer, and so they don’t go into detail about the hops in a certain brew, but you should! I have found a great connection with both my parents over good beers. Even further, getting to talk about beer with my sister and her fiancé.

It’s appropriate to mention talking with friends and family today because today is Bell Let’s Talk day. Now, I won’t go into how Bell and the top the mobile companies refuse to make competitive prices, but what Bell is doing today, and all year long, is raising awareness of mental health. So while you’re sitting down, drinking a beer, feel free to send a tweet with #BellLetsTalk, or call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, or just ask the person next to you how they are doing. You never know how much that can change someone’s day.

Cheers!

Lager & Beau’s

January 24, 2018

Firstly, everyone who’s had a beer, whether you enjoyed it or not, has had a lager. The Lager is what I consider the entry level beer. It’s the beer often used for parties, concerts and sporting events but I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that; In fact I really enjoy a lager here and there. Unfortunately it gets a bad rap by a lot of beer enthusiasts. This is because most craft breweries focus on Hops, Spices and big flavours. A lager shouldn’t be any of those things and therefore is brushed aside for IPA’s and Stouts (among many others).

Except every once and a while a Craft Lager will pop up from a brewery and I get to enjoy a simple refreshing beer. The first one that comes to mind is Muskoka Brewery’s Craft Lager. It features a light refreshing fizz without any murky aftertaste at all. What I mean by murky aftertaste is that often times a lager that has been heavily processed, or mass produced has a lingering flat taste after sipping. A lager should not linger. craft-lager-1

Muskoka Brewery – http://www.muskokabrewery.com

This brings me to Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale. What does that mean? Well it means it is a Kölsch. What’s that? It is a Lager. Yes, a bit confusing, but stay with me. Lager is an umbrella term for how the beer is made. It has to do with the yeast and what temperature the beer was kept at during the brewing process which is generally colder. I won’t go into details because I wouldn’t get it right anyway. Besides, what is important is Lug Tread is a great beer to show off to your friends that you drink craft beer. Beau’s nailed the semi-sweetness of a lager with the contrast of hops. A great beer for year-round drinking and since it’s their flagship beer they have it available everywhere in bottles and most recently in short cans.

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Beau’s Brewing Co. Lug Tread Lager Ale – Twitter.

Most recently I had Beau’s “Lamb’s Wool” Apple and Spice Gruit. Just about everything in this beer is organic which I find pretty cool. Apples from Quebec, Spring Water from near the brewery and real cinnamon and cloves. The apple juice was very apparent with a blanket of spice making this a very flavourful but lightweight beer. With much tinier bubbles than the Lug Tread this Gruit doesn’t fill you up nearly as much. Typically a Gruit would make up for the lack of heavy hops with boat loads of spices. This one found a happy place between spice and the tang of apple juice to produce something quite tasty. Conveniently February 1st is International Gruit day, and I wouldn’t look any further than Lambs Wool for that day.  I would love to have this beer sitting outside under a warm sun, but that will have to wait.

In the mean time, Beau’s has their annual month long event “FeBREWary”. Every week for 5 weeks, Beau’s releases a new beer! Check out their website for the list a beers and where you can get your hands on them, including local pubs. I will also be grabbing these as well to write about. http://www.beaus.ca

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A beer that is much more appropriate for this season is actually another Beau’s I had this week. “Dunkel” is also technically a Lager, but if I’m using Lager as an umbrella term then Dunkel is getting a bit wet. While the brewing process is fairly similar, a Dunkel features a much more dominant malt flavour. I describe malt as a salty caramel flavour that often feels a little heavier. The reason this beer would be good for colder weather is the natural warmth it gives after a nice big sip. It’s like a softer version of the warmth you would get from a decent scotch or bourbon (neither of which I can claim I’m an expert on).

When I first started trying new beers I simply picked the coolest name or the coolest looking label. I’ll admit that I still sometimes do, but now I am able to understand what I’m getting myself into based on the style of beer the brewers claim it to be.

I hope that learning a bit more about Lagers will help you choose some off the shelf. Of course there are plenty others that one day I will get to including Helles, Bock and more proper Kölsch.

Cheers!

 

The First of Many

To start off, welcome!

If you know me then you know I really enjoy not just drinking beer, but talking about it and sharing it with others. My enjoyment of trying different beers actually started well before I could legally drink.

“Hey, hold on”

Root Beer. I loved trying new root beer. Still do actually. My family and I were on our way back from Punta Cana and had landed in Detroit. We stopped at this Texas BBQ like restaurant that had tall wooden ceilings and a gift shop on the side. My love for root beer started when I first found out about Dad’s Root beer. An old fashioned American Root Beer that at the time was still owned by the Dad’s Root Beer Company. A Completely normal drink to American’s and probably to a bunch of Canadian’s too, but brand new to me.

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It was so much sweeter than the Diet Barq’s I had been used to. Of course as a kid this excited me. From then on whenever my family went to a new restaurant I would ask for a root beer if it was one I hadn’t had before. Or if I was in a corner store that had some new pop company like Jones or Pop Shoppe I had to grab some. At the time a cute little hobby that my parents thought nothing of.

Skip ahead to when I was 18. Just about to turn legal drinking age. Oh my! My sister was just beginning University at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. The night we finished moving all of her things into her place we were trying to decide on where to eat. We didn’t feel like going somewhere fancy due to the fact we were exhausted from moving and cleaning.

Then comes The Kingston Brewing Company.

By this time I have had a few beers, all by permission of my parents of course. My interest in different beers had started to grow and the sight of this pub cracked open that thought like 1 inch ice under and elephant.

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Kingston Brewing Company – Instagram

The Brew Pub, as the locals call it, at the time had a modest but respectable offering of craft beer. Beers included Steam Whistle, maybe some Great Lakes Brewing Company and possibly Muskoka Brewery. The highlight however, was that fact that they brewed their own beer and was the oldest Brew Pub in Ontario! Their Dragon’s Breath Real Ale (now called Cask Ale), Dragoon’s Breath Pale Ale, WhiteTail Cream Ale, and Regal Lager were all present the first time I visited and they all remain to this day. However, the real highlight for me was they also make their own Root Beer! Well, to be more accurate, sarsaparilla. I remember having the same smile on my face as I did when I first had Dad’s Root Beer all those years ago.

 

That was the start of many years of creating friendships,  and creating memories and drinking delicious beer along the way. The good folks at the Brew Pub have become a sort of family and as my Dad say “There’s no other restaurants in Kingston!”

Now I enjoy trying new Craft Beer from all over Ontario. I hope to share these kind’s of stories with everyone, and talk even more about certain beers I have enjoyed, and even beers I regret ever having.

Cheers!

beer taps 2Some of the new taps at the Brew Pub.