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.