Monday, August 16, 2010

A few great articles from this weeks National Post about craft beer

Hey I don't know how many of you read the articles that were published in last Saturday's National Post. If you didn't I'm going to post the links here for your enjoyment. So check them out if you haven't already done so. Lots of good information on craft brewers in Ontario, and beer in general.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dieu Du Ciel! in Ontario

So for those of you that have not heard yet Microbrasserie Dieu Du Ciel! will be released in Ontario as a brewery feature from August 15 to September 11. This release will feature some of the best offerings from Dieu Du Ciel! most of which have never been available for sale in Ontario. The release includes: APHRODITE – COCOA VANILLA STOUT, 6.5%, BLANCHE DU PARADIS – BELGIAN WHITE ALE, 5.0%, DERNIÈRE VOLONTÉ  -  ABBEY-STYLE BLOND ALE, 7.0%, CORNE DU DIABLE -  INDIA PALE ALE, 6.5% and ROUTE DES ÉPICES  – PEPPERCORN RYE ALE, 5.3%. 

Also they have a few seasonal beers being offered at various time throughout the year. These include: ROSÉE D’HIBISCUS  -  WHEAT BEER WITH HIBISCUS, 5.9%, PÉCHÉ MORTEL -  IMPERIAL COFFEE STOUT, 9.1%, RIGOR MORTIS ABT  -  QUADRUPEL, 10.5% and SOLSTICE D’HIVER – BARLEY WINE, 9.8%. 

These will only be available at 25 LCBO locations throughout Ontario, mostly in the GTA, so find a store with them and stock up. They shouldn't be around too long.

Beer Festival Day 2….but actually 4!

         So, my second day at the Toronto Festival of Beer was actually the last day of the festival (the Sunday). As a whole, it went very well. The weather held up – aside from a light mist on the way down and when we got there – but otherwise, the sun was out and it was a good day for beer.

         I started out my day going to visit a few people I needed to see. First stop was the McAuslan booth to visit my buddy Barry. Sure enough he was there dispensing samples to a fair sized crowd but still took a moment to say hello and tell me what he thought of the festival so far before filling my cup with St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and telling me to stop by anytime throughout the day. Next stop Mill Street.

         Now, I am not lying when I say that Mill St. and their larger than life tent was by far the busiest of the day. After making my way through the crowd and finally finding some Mill St. personnel I learned that the guy I was looking for was not there today. Oh well. I grabbed a surprisingly delicious ESB, which I think I have had before but I can’t be sure of. In any event, it was a near perfect depiction of the classic British-style bitter: a rich malty sweetness backed by a well-structured bitterness, a nice deep copper colour with about one finger of head that laced quite well on the thick plastic tasting cup and was mild on the palate but quite refreshing.

          The next stop was Flying Monkeys, a personal favorite of mine. On the way there we stopped at the Old Credit Brewery tent – a brewery that I have only tried one beer from – and got a sample of their Pale Pilsner. This was a standout beer for me because, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from it. It surprised me with a clean grassy bitterness that stuck to your cheeks and held on forever. It looked near perfect with its golden straw colour and thick white head and smelled of a pleasant and earthy citrus. Really well made local pilsner that could have easily been crafted in the Czech Republic.

            Back to Flying Monkeys (sorry for getting off topic). Earlier in the week I had spoken to Patty, the owner of the brewery, and she told me to come by the booth while I was at the festival. Since I missed her Thursday and I knew she wouldn’t be there Sunday she told me to find her brother Peter who would be running the show on Sunday. I have to say that Peter was one of the coolest guys I have ever met in my life. He was super nice and approachable and we (my friend Blair and me) sat and talked to him about Flying Monkeys, American craft ales, his homebrew setup and the festival the past few days.

With the good conversation came good beer in the form of Hoptical Illusion, probably my favorite year round Ontario craft brew. Before we left, Peter invited us to stop by his house/brewery sometime to come and have some drinks and some food and to teach me how to brew. As an aspiring (I use that term loosely) home brewer this is monumental news. Having someone teach you how to brew instead of fumbling around your first few tries is good – having someone who is responsible for the masterfully crafted, citra hopped Smashbomb IPA teaching you how to brew is fantastic.

            Next we decided to get a bite to eat, because if you want to be able to taste fine beers all day you (of course) need food and water. We decided on St.Louis partly due to the fact that we had a craving for some wings and fries and partly because it was close (right in front of us). Now, somehow it was cheaper at the festival than at the restaurant itself, in any event no complaints here.

            After lunch we headed over to CASKapalooza to see what the cask offerings were today. Much better selection than Thursday I have to say. From what I tried there were some hits and some misses. Lets start with the hits. First My Bitterer Wife Double IPA, was a big, generously hopped DIPA. It had a great deep amber colour that was quite pale and gave a slight bubbly head, due to the cask conditioning of course. It was full of citra (and possibly cascade) hops and at an impressive 100 IBU’s had a pull no punches bitterness that was very drinkable as well as refreshing, even with a bolder alcohol content. Another hit from the Great Lakes Brewery casks was Does this Muumuu make me look Hefe? What a name this beer has. Aside from that, this imperial hefe- weissen did not disappoint. A nice cloudy, pale straw colour with a nice touch of head, it gave off strong breaddy and citrus notes in the nose with a yeasty, slight milky palate that was easy drinking, and with its imperial status, masked the taste of alcohol almost entirely.

            Now I have to say I was much more impressed with Great Lakes Brewery today than I was on Thursday. However there were a couple of misses. The Windy City IPA, fell short of my expectations: it was bland and syrupy and did not make the most of the Chinook hops that went into it and overall had a rather unbalanced character. The last cask I tried was Satans Choice… I am almost positive that this is just Devil’s Pale Ale with a different name and cask conditioned. Either way it was lackluster and unpleasant. To be fair I love Devil’s Pale Ale when it’s freshly canned or on tap, I just feel like this fell short of its intended purpose. The other beer I tried from Great Lakes Brewery was the Blonde Jagerbomb which is essentially Golden Horseshoe spiced with the same herbs found in Jagermeister. Not great, certainly different but I would definitely give it another try.
            Now, I realized that it might seem that from this post as well as my last one that I am totally ragging on Great Lakes Brewery. Let me just say that I am not. For the most part I like what they do, especially the seasonal ales, its just that I tried more beers by Great Lakes Brewery at the beer festival than any other brewery so its only natural that I’m not going to like all of them. I DO NOT DISLIKE GREAT LAKES BREWERY….just saying.
Another beer that made an impression on me was the Scottish Ale from Nickelbrook. This impressed me because I’m not the biggest fan of scotch ales (sorry Green) or Nickelbrook, but this was a solid offering with a tasty cedar-pine malt character that I would buy on a frequent basis.  I also took in a few old favorites during the day from Black Oak, Flying Monkeys, Hop City and of course Dogfish Head (even though all they had from DFH was the 60 Minute IPAyou cant go wrong with that.)

            So that was it. A successful festival filled with great beer, delicious food, a surprise appearance by JoLo, a few new contacts and thousands of people wearing ridiculous looking Steam Whistle box hats (which included me for about 30 seconds after I was given a rocket shaped hat by a some guy who was a rocket scientist (or not)….but he then took his hat back after I was photographed in it – obviously looking super cool….but I didn’t care.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Festival of Beer Day 1

  So the first day of the Festival of Beer went well aside from it starting about 45 minutes  late. It was quite nice because it wasn't too busy and you could walk around freely and lines for beer were short if there was even a line up at all. Now I will mention some of the bad before moving on to the good. I was disappointed with the Great Lakes CASKapalooza most of the casks I wanted to try either weren't going to be tapped for a while or weren't there at all on Thursday. Now this is not the first time I've had a weird experience with Great Lakes and tapping a cask. At the Session festival they were waiting for the right time to tap "My Bitter Wife" but seriously just tap it your at a beer festival for fuck sake. Anyway the two casks that I did try were the "Armadillo IPA" and the "Morning Glory Breakfast Stout" and both were mediocre. Nothing special about either of these so that was quite disappointing because I'm a huge fan of cask conditioned ales. Among the other misses for the day was the Samuel Adams Summer Ale. I am a fan of Samuel Adams and The Boston Beer Company and most of the things I've tried from them have been really good, however their take on a summer wheat ale fell short of what it could have been. There was too much citrus and sour notes coming through this. You could have told me this was Keith's White or something made by some other lowest common denominator brewery that turns out batch after batch of fizzy yellow beer but not Sam Adams. Thats it for the bad portion of the day the only other disappointment was the Hop City Braking Squirrel Lager. It's not that it was bad it just wasn't memorable at all. I mean its better than a Coors Light or whatever but thats not saying much though.

  Before I get to the good I'm going to talk about a beer that I found interesting. It was the Trafalgar Critical Mass. Now let me say that I don't particularly like anything that I've tried by Trafalgar just because it tastes very amateur like. Also their labels and packaging look like they were photocopied and stuck on a bottle. Now normally I only care about what is inside the bottle but these look extra bad. But back to "Critical Mass" this is not for your average weekend warrior in board shorts and flip flops. This beer is huge in flavour, has a thick sweet caramel scent, pours a syrupy light brown colour and clocks in at an enormous 17% alcohol content. Now thankfully I only had a (very liberal) 4oz. serving of this because anything more would put you on your ass. This is definitely one to share with a buddy and to sip on slowly. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it and I would certainly have it again. Now this is by no means something completely different in the beer world. Dogfish Head has their "World Wide Stout" and "120 Minute IPA" that come in at 18% alcohol and Hair Of The Dog has "Dave" that come in at 22% and Brewdog has "Sink The Bismarck" thats in the upper 20's (and now "The End Of History" at 55%. I'll give this its own post one day) but no other brewery would dare bring something this big to a festival that is not geared toward craft beer and is dominated by Molson, Budweiser and other billion dollar breweries. Not only did they bring "Critical Mass" but they brought "Korruptor" their barley wine that comes in at 17% alcohol so I have to respect the chance they took in bringing something that most people will hate or not even try to event like this even if it does nothing but let people know that beers like this exist out there.

  Now moving on to the good. Earlier in this post I mentioned my disappointment with Great Lakes but I really did enjoy "Up In Smoke" this was a really good North American take on the German style of rauchbier. Nicely smoked lots of bbq smoke and cedar in the nose with a clean smoked taste. This is not the best example of the style but was a really really good take on it. Beaus "Festivale" was another highlight so was the "Summer Saisson" and "Double Chocolate Cherry Stout" from Black Oak. Hop City that didn't wow me with their "Barking Squirrel Lager" won me over with their "Lawnchair Wheat Ale".

  By far the best part of the day was meeting Michael Duggan (Duggan's Brewery, founder of Mill St.) and shaking his hand and telling him how much I appreciate what he has done in terms of brewing in Toronto. He also told me to drop by their both on Sunday to at least say hello while I am there if I see him. I also met Ralph Morana the owner of Bar Volo in Toronto and we talked about some rare beers and the release of the "Cocoa Milk Stout" that they are brewing on premises. I also mentioned to him that he has a great establishment and that I would be by in the near future.

  So that was my experience from the first day of the Festival Of Beer in a nut shell....a very long and quite possibly boring nutshell. So I hope as many people make it out to the festival and try some new things as well as some old favorites that are available. Oh and if you do go drop by the Camerons Brewing booth they have some amazing stickers available.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Intro to my blog

Hello there,

  This is my little space where I will rant about beer (mostly) and music, art, cats and other things that I like or find interesting. I'm going to keep a heavy focus on craft and independent beer. Punk rock and underground hip hop as well as other music I happen to be into that may not be from the two mentioned genres. Anyway, I'm going to post reviews from the Toronto Festival Of Beer in the next couple of days along with a list of beers from Ontario that you should pick up and try. Well, thats it for now. Talk to you soon.