Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Flying Monkey's - Alpha Fornication

  A few months ago, the Flying Monkey's Brewery, located in Barrie, announced that they were going to brew the hoppiest beer ever made.  Brewmaster Peter Chiodo released the plans for one of the most ambitious brewing endeavours attempted by stating that this Double IPA (more like a Triple IPA) would have an ABV of 13.5% and would measure upwards of 2500 IBU's - IBU being the unit of measurement of bitterness units in beer. Your typical lager (Molson Canadian, Budweiser) may contain 10-20 IBU, a bolder pale ale around 30-50 IBU and a really hoppy Double/Imperial IPA around 80-100 IBU, meaning that this beer is around 25 times more bitter than a beer that's considered really bitter. Due to the amount of hops and the time it would take to brew something this extreme, this was not going to be a beer that would be readily available. In fact, this beer was limited to one small keg that Flying Monkey's brought to a special event in London and 6 bottles that would be made available for sale for $45.00 a bottle.

  My tasting group was able to obtain a bottle of this extremely limited beer, and on Monday the wait was finally over and we got together to open it up. Now to say that this beer is not pretty looking is a gross understatement. This is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen, with a colour that looks like pea soup and sand with floating sediment all over the place - it did not look like something you would ever want to put in your body.  The smell was unlike any IPA I have ever encountered; it smelled like a bowl of hops so much so that it initially burned my nostrils and made my eyes water. After the initial smell it actually was kind of nice with notes of pear, citrus, pine, big fruity characters, pineapple and boatloads of hops. Upon my first sip the tip of my tongue went tingly and numb for about a minute, and there was no doubt that it was the bitterest beer I may ever taste. The flavours that did accompany the sip were tons of hops, pear, black liquorice, lots of tropical fruit, pear, and honey, but mostly raw hops. The mouthfeel is quite syrupy and thick with almost no carbonation, very dry and quite warming. Overall, this is a tough one to drink because it is so bold and extreme. Certainly not a refreshing beer or one you would drink watching the hockey game - this is more of an experience for the beer connoisseur to challenge the palate.

  Even though I probably would not revisit this one, I am glad that I did get the opportunity to try something this bold. While I can not say that this was a good beer, I can say that Flying Monkey's wanted to brew the most hoppy, bitter and extreme beer they could possibly brew and in that regard they definitely hit the mark.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Toronto Festival of Beer

  This coming weekend the Toronto Festival of Beer will be taking place at the CNE Bandshell Park. Like every year before, thousands of people will descend upon the festival to enjoy beer, food, music and an assortment of entertainment provided by the vendors in attendance. This is without question the largest and most commercial beer festival of the summer, bringing in a mixed crowd of everyone from puritan beer geeks to beer funnelling party animals and everything in between. Don't let the commercial aspects of this festival fool you - in recent years, the craft beer presence has been growing like crazy, leaving the tents of Molson, Labatt and Budweiser scarcely populated. Even though these giant brewers put tons of money behind this festival and have without question the biggest and most elaborate tents and give out the most free swag, more and more people are spending their tokens on craft and specialty beers.  I think this is largely due to the fact that people know what Labatt and Coors taste like and when they are confronted with such a large selection of new and interesting beers, combined with the laid back festival atmosphere, they are more inclined to take a chance on a new brew.  This is great for craft brewers because, while some people might not want to spend 12 or 13 dollars on an unknown 6 pack at the liquor store, a one dollar sample token can open people up to a whole new world of what else is out there.

  Some of the highlights this year include CASKapalooza from Great Lakes Brewery, Mill St. Brewery's brand experience and local collaborations from Great Lakes, Beau's, Flying Monkeys, Black Oak, Amsterdam, F&M and Nicklebrook. I'm sure that many craft brewers will bring out some off the wall and interesting one off brews made just for the festival. Tickets for Friday and Sunday are still available while Saturday has been sold out for weeks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Barley Days Oak Aged Series

  This past weekend I was in Prince Edward County with my girlfriend for her cousins wedding, which was quite nice, and to take in some of the attractions the area has to offer.  One of the attractions being the Barley Days Brewery, located within walking distance of where we were staying. I took a little trip over to see what they had to offer there and to just check it out in general. When I got there they had three beers they had been aging in oak barrels for the last 2 to 3 months, they were the Wind And Sail Dark Ale, Harvest Gold Pale Ale and Loyalist Lager. I have tried all three versions without oak and they have varied from mediocre to quite good so I am curious to see how these taste with the added oak.  Kayla and I also went to a restaurant that brews their own beer in house called Lake On The Mountain, I had the IPA and it was very nice and pleasantly hoppy. I would have tried a couple more of their offerings but we were both tired from horseback riding and were a little pressed for time. The county was a great place to relax and take it slow while enjoying some great scenery and some great beverages, if you can bear the 2.5 hour drive from Toronto it is well worth the trip.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Samuel Adams Latitude 48

  Today a buddy of mine brought me all 6 versions of Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA.  Sold as a 12 pack, this set contains 2 of each version of Latitude 48.  The original Latitude 48 IPA is an American IPA brewed with five hop varieties composed of Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble Hops, East Kent Goldings, Ahtanum, Simcoe and Zeus.  The other 5 versions are brewed using only one hop variety each as a way to showcase what the individual hop contributes to the beer as a whole.  It's a fun experiment and a great way to get familiar with individual hop varieties.  As someone who loves IPA, I am really looking forward to these, even if just to see if the original is better than the sum of its parts.   

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cigar City/Mikkeller Nielsbohrium

  Just wanted to post a quick blurb about one of the most recent brews I have tried that absolutely "wowed" me.  Florida's Cigar City is quickly becoming a top contender in the U.S. craft beer scene and Denmark's Mikkeller has been leading the way for a couple years as one of Europe's most cutting edge, boundary pushing breweries that have collaborated with just about every major craft brewery worth mentioning.  Earlier this year these brewers collaborated on Nielsbohrium, an American Imperial Stout brewed with raisin and cinnamon then aged in rum barrels.  Coming in at 10% ABV, this jet black stout delivers on every level.  Pouring a deep black with a ruby-tan head, this beer has an incredible nose that will make you forget that this was made to actually drink and not just to smell.  Once I did take a sip it did not disappoint at all and it was full of roasted malts, dark fruit, cinnamon, a slightly sweet sugary presence and nice notes of oak, vanilla and rum.  Incredibly complex and enjoyable, this is truly a masterpiece in its own regard.  With such a small amount bottled I will no doubt never see this one again, but I sure am glad that I did get to try it.  Thanks to Jason for bringing this one to the last group tasting.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Great Lakes One Off's

 This past Monday, following a trip to Ikea, I persuaded my girlfriend, Kayla, to make a quick stop at Great Lakes Brewery since we were so close anyway.  I wasn't looking for anything specific, just wanted to see if they had any Project X bottles for sale and maybe say hi to my buddy, Rob, who is a sales rep there.  Project X is a monthly series from Great Lakes where they hand bottle a small batch of a beer they only brew every so often - some especially rare batches are even limited to only the one release.  So I walked into the retail store and saw that there were indeed some Project X for sale, but instead of the usual one or two this time there were six.  So while waiting for Rob to come down I decided to get some shopping done and started bringing bottles two at a time to the counter.  The line up was quite stellar I must say and included Miami Weisse, Black Jacques Shellack  Belgian Brown, Great Lakes/Black Oak Etobichoker Double Belgian IPA, Lackey's Flask Citra, No Chance With Miranda Saison and Double Devil's Pale Ale 999.

 The Miami Weisse is an american wheat beer that's quite hoppy and packs a citrus punch.  Lackey's Flask Citra is a bottled version of a beer they make called Lackey's Cask that is an american pale ale, although this bottled version is made with citra hops unlike its cask conditioned original.  Double Devil's Pale Ale 999 is their amped up version of Devil's Pale Ale 666 that can be found in cans at the LCBO and I have to say that I am dying to try this, it taunts me every time I open the fridge - I am holding out on trying this one and the Lackey's Flask for an upcoming tasting group.  I am currently enjoying Etobichoker as I write this and it is a solid brew overall.  Made with fellow Etobicoke brewery Black Oak, it is a very spicy and well balanced Belgian style pale ale that bursts with lovely bitter hop in the finish.  As for the others, I will probably give them a shot this weekend to satisfy my curiosity.

  Thanks to Rob Hern for throwing in a freebie and taking time out of his day to visit for a few minutes and my girlfriend Kayla for helping to carry one of the two large boxes to the car and letting them take up tons of room in the fridge/rest of the apartment.  Great Lakes is located at 30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd and you should check it out sometime - tell them Pino sent you......and they will be confused.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Session 99 Overview

 This past Saturday the 2nd annual Session Craft Beer Festival took place, showcasing the best of Ontario craft brewers as well as craft brewers from BC, Quebec and Nova Scotia. In addition to year-round offerings from the brewers there were many one-off's and rarities that, in my opinion, were the highlights of the day. The beer of the day for me was Beau's Bourbon Barrel Aged Festivale Plus Sticke Alt, for this they took their summer seasonal and incorporated a secret recipe and then aged it in Bourbon oak for 7 months. The result was a perfectly balanced, smooth and full bodied behemoth of a beer clocking in at 11% ABV but tasted nowhere near that. Other favourites included Flying Monkeys Big Nib Cocoa Vanilla Imperial Stout, Great Lakes Karma Citra IPA and Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale. It was also nice to see Mill Street resurrect Tankenstein, a whole hopped cask condition version of their signature brew Tankhouse. Even though this did not blow me away it was still nice to see this rarity that most thought was gone forever. Keep 6 Importers, formerly HMH Negotiants/The guys from Bar Volo, had some monsters at their booth from Trou Du Diable, Trois Mousquetaires, Dieu Du Ciel!, Phillips, Central City, and Brasserie Dunham. Hands down they had the most insane lineup of the day, but that being said there was no weak booth and at Session this year Ontario craft brewers showed that they can keep up with their American and out of province counterparts.

  The food was also pretty amazing on Saturday, provided by Cowbell, Burger Bar, Magic Oven and Leslieville Cheese Market. The pulled pork from Cowbell and burgers from Burger Bar were perfect matches for the fine selection of beer being served at the festival. The only downside at the end of the day was knowing I'm going to have to wait a year until the next one.