Keep calm, have a pint!
For little over 10,000 years beer has provided the gift of relaxation. From hunters and gatherers, to new British royalty in the Mughal East to the hands that crafted the Rideau Canal. Beer has nurtured our greatest ideas, providing respite from a long day chasing wild game in the sweltering heat or blistering cold. It is sanctuary from the first sip, escaping into a pool of malt enveloping the soul. After a long day few things can soothe the soul as a strong pint, helping rest weary shoulders, raising those feet and closing the eyes to savour the intricacies of beer.
For one such day, there is Covered Bridge Brewing's MSB. John VanDyk was careful to find the right beer, providing a walk-through of his beers. After plenty of delicious samples this Imperial Brown, with a rich dark cherry red body and a nose of pine, hit the mark. After serving the beer in a British Ale glass, I poured myself into an armchair watching the setting sunlight through the glass giving the chocolatety hue a reddish tint.
Diving nose first brings out its American hop character, with a minty note combining with the pool of dark malt. The first sip was not like the next, nor the one after. It was a complexity of flavour ranging from sweet toffee, dried cherries followed by a sharp bitter, piney taste that blends with the malt giving the sensation of a rich Turkish coffee notes.
Holding the sip, interrupting its journey turning the frosty beverage warm, the malt spreads slowly coating the tongue in a lingering aftertaste as sipping mint hot chocolate by a burning fire. Super thick, sweet malt with a piney bite that lingers, it is a beer to have s a slow, savoury relationship.
This beer merits your full undivided attention. It is best enjoyed at the end of a long day as an after dinner beer. rich in malt to satisfy your sweet tooth. Treat it well, do not rush to drink, hold it in your hands for a bit, have a conversation, read a book. Forget about it for a minute or two, then return to a new beer. As popular a Lager may be, nothing is quite the same as a slow dance with a bold, flavourful Imperial Brown Ale like MSB.
White Water. Espresso. IPA. 6% abv, 90 ibus. “I’ll take that one”. The perfect combination leaped from the menu, for a hop-loving espresso enthusiast on the constant prowl for local taps, White Water and I were in the right place at the right time.
Only recently the brilliance of Thompson & Thompson (if only), along with James Innes, at White Water Brewing Co. has become evident to me. After sampling at Winterbrewed, I was sure to keep a keen eye to where they may sprout in the city. Fortunately, Union613 always carries a great selection of local taps.
It was a gorgeous March afternoon. The sun pouring into the room, shining brightly as the beer was set on the table reflecting the deep copper body with a coffee-tinted foam crown bursting with bubbles. I held it close, gripped in the left hand, bringing it to the nose. There was a sweet, roasted caramel malt aroma of a milk stout, followed by the fragrance of citrus rising from the glass. Patience was wearing thin, only one thing preventing me from diving in.
-side note: The concept of the ‘Ice Cold Beer’, is often frustrating. A myth, much like the unicorn, or dinosaurs. Beer needs not to be served at a ridiculously cold temperature. As we continue to outgrow the practices of industrial brewing, we must learn drinking full-flavour beers at the same temperature as a raunchy lager is near criminal.
The first sip was a rush of sweet tropical fruit aromas with thick malt crashing heavily down onto the palate. One more taste transported me to the days of Hemingway, in a café at the port of El Mariel with a short espresso and a pastel de guayaba watching the waves tumble ashore as the rising sun spreads light to the furthest reaches of the ocean. Each sip was this combination of guava filled pastry adorned in frosted sugar accompanied with a frothy espresso, laced with raw sugar to impart flavours of burnt caramel. It was frothy with the legs of cream ale, smoothly passing through stimulating the taste buds until it was gone leaving a bitter bite at the back of the throat, similar to most IPA’s. The espresso, however, allows for a savoury, roasted caramel note enjoyed by espresso aficionados, redefining the lingering sensation of an IPA.
White Water Espresso IPA is an exhilarating thrill ride with bold highs and lows, crashing down in different waves leaving behind a rippling effect across the tongue, resting calm until another sip comes along. The espresso flavour is not overly pronounced, serving to amplify the malty sweet body, altering flavour as it moves from the forefront to the furthest reaches before falling off leaving the delicious after taste of espresso.
This is a welcome addition to my Repeat list. Bold and complex, like most IPA’s but the espresso provided a twist to the traditional flavours. A wonderful union between the two beverages I most adore.
It’s been a Bloody, Long Dark Voyage to Uranus. We were told how long it would take. They lied. It was said we had all the amenities required to reach the planet’s moon safely. They lied. They told us of an ample supply of beer. They lied; we were down to the last bottle. Our chance of survival in this barren wasteland has grown thin.
Months have gone by since that sweet nectar touched my lips. I’ve managed to stave off the ensuing rage that has gripped the entire ship. After leaving Earth, we quickly tired of our bland nutritional gruel relying heavily on this Raspberry Stout for subsistence, vigor and warmth. That viscous, velvety dark brew oozing rich chocolate and raspberry aromas, balanced perfectly with a sharp bitterness to refresh the palate. Its intense flavour tarries not, but the mind never forgets. The bold malt character sensation entrenches itself deep into your memory, your taste buds begging, pleading for more.
Over the past couple of months I’ve seen crew members struggle, eyes growing wilder with sharper grins and maniacal laughter. They have all gone mad for this potent elixir, craving another and another in the search for sweet indulgence in the void of space. On this Bloody, Long Dark Voyage, Uranus cannot be any closer.
The crew continued without heeding my concerns to conserve our rations, pressing on secure in the assurances given. When they found it had been a farce, not even the Captain could save face. Only one bottle remained, and that now belonged to the Captain. He moved quickly to preserve it for himself, instructing the security detail to guard his possession with their lives. Once he found they were not to be trusted, the ship broke into anarchy. In one fatal decision, sanity broke. The guards were jettisoned from the ship into the cold vacuum of space, with no remorse. The crew grew crazed, dividing into factions with more than mutiny on the mind, they longed for the way its laced foam caressed the tongue, the cold soothed the throat, the belly afire from its complexity. They could be heard whispering into the night, reaching a feverish pitch, screeching “Saw Dust”. It sent chills down my spine, I was terrified. The only thing keeping me together was the hope that our destination would bring more.
This mission was to be our last hope, now degraded with infighting, like what brought our once luscious planet to its knees. 100 years ago we began construction on Osiris, a space station to orbit Ariel as we terra-formed the moon to meet our needs. 25 years ago, we placed it into orbit. After a 40-month voyage with the hopes of bringing life, the ship was lost along with her Captain. Flanked by his 2nd in command and weapons officer he guarded himself well along with the now sacred bottle, promising to share. He could be seen in the shadows muttering in tongues, shifty eyes gleaming atop a gnarled beard. Of all the afflictions of madness, this was the worst I had seen.
Survival hinged on how long you could survive the darkness, hiding in nooks and crannies once their footsteps were heard. Ruthless factions improved their odds of survival, for the warm embrace of raspberry and chocolate, ridding themselves of the weaker ones establishing themselves along with the Captain and his men as the lone survivors. I kept safe by mastering the layout of the ship surviving on sacs of barley found in storage. With one month left, I only hope we can reach Osiris in time!
There is a reason as to why beer has always been popular, winter is one of those reasons.
In the midst of a cold, blistering winter a three-day beer festival was a welcome sight. This year’s edition of Winterbrewed sought solace away from frozen lines, frozen hands, finding warmth in the Arrow and Loon and the Fifth Avenue Court. Glebe was about to welcome a line-up of breweries from Ottawa and its environs.
There were enough breweries to make grown-ups pause like children in a candy shop (at least the amount of sugar was comparable). Right from the entrance there was a wealth of options for the parched. Forward from the token table, it was a quick step to reach Perth Brewery Co. with their easy, refreshing Honey Lager, then another step for a ride on the sweet sweet Caboose from Cassel Brewery, onwards to the Bridge Over the River “Chai” from Covered Bridge Brewing and finally down along the trail to Whitewater Brewing Company paddling your taste buds with a refreshingly smooth Midnight Stout. There was enough quality beer to keep most well occupied all weekend, however, for the restless legs a walk about the courtyard proved fruitful.
At the center of the courtyard a fountain was corralled by five more breweries, Amsterdam Brewing brought a Casked Wee Heavy, while Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. supplied their wicked array of beers. Beyond the Pale Brewery was not far behind with a line-up of beers written in chalk; the result of a continuous need to add new taps throughout the weekend. Muskoka Brewery was able to provide an appetizing Detour, while Broadhead Brewing Company with the Backbone to the Grind Stone to make any Wild Card happy, finally with Mill St. Brewery and their crop of well-rounded beers.
Overlooking the courtyard, perched on the patio of the Arrow and Loon were Flying Monkeys hemmed in by bottles of their Green Time Imperial Pilsner, Junction Craft Brewing with a smooth Craft Ale. The mad scientists at Saw Dust City Brewing endeavouring on a long voyage of wild stout combinations and finally Turtle Island Brewing Co. with potent potables to wow all comers. Although access to the patio was narrow, it proved not to be an impediment as crowds continued to line up to taste these brews.
On a beautiful Sunday morning, the courtyard, adorned in red heritage bricks, was aglow providing an intimate setting with the fountain reflecting the early morning sun pouring from the skylights. The excitement was palpable. Craftsmen assembled once more for the cause of good beer. These vendors did not just bring beer; along with their countless kegs they brought passion and enthusiasm. As eager as some were to have others sample their beers, they were even more eager to sample the special flavours of the weekend; from Beyond the Pale’s Turbo Cobra Ninja to the Casked Imperial Maple Stout from Turtle Island. They were prepared, willing and able to guide all along a wonderful journey.
The early morning session was sparse, with Sunday church services thought of as the number one cause, however when the clock struck noon the true answer became evident. After grabbing a beverage, the crowd found spots on the patio peering through the window to see the action. Even those hard at work selling suds could not resist the gravity of this match, wandering to catch a glimpse of pride. Once Team Canada went on to seal victory in overtime, it was time to celebrate.
The afternoon saw life streaming in, lining up to toast to victory. The courtyard would soon be filled and the taps flowing. The courtyard hummed with conversations sparked from all corners, from vendors imparting pearls of wisdom, to crowds congregating in discussion circles, trading beers roaming into conversations that have made public houses cherished throughout history. In this crowd you can see what makes beer great, bringing people together in a common meeting place as equals, to share a drink and tales of survival. There was a positive charge in the room, everyone appeared to be in the right place, at the right time. It is often astonishing that in a room crammed with people and so much beer that the air is always relaxed; the lines are formal, the traffic is gentler and everyone is working towards happiness.
The last session in the evening marked the beginning of the end as the courtyard filled to capacity once more. Laughter and elation reached a feverish peak as taps continued to flow. Vendors sensing it was their last hurrah could be seen scuttling, sparking conversations with their fellow vendors ready to toast the end of the festival. The weekend was non-stop action, between lifting of kegs, pulling of taps, running, dancing, tears of joy and sore abdominals; finally they had reached the end. After a furious weekend, it was time to ease the throttle.
For many the weekend provided escape. Whether from the chorus of mouse clicks in the office, the wind keeping noses poised for frostbite, the doldrums from a lack of sun or those terrible beers leftover from the holidays. Winterbrewed provided a detour in daily routines to foster new memories and stories, keeping us cozy, waiting for warm months ahead.
Participants of varying sizes occupy the beer market, from small, medium to large, most consumers are accustomed to the marketing strategies of large breweries shaping the market on a large scale from licensing pubs, stores, restaurants to use their promotional material as well as spending millions of dollars in advertisements to reach large audiences; the reason why blonde lager is most preferred in North America. Large breweries can, to a certain extent, control what you drink by limiting access to other styles by engaging in cost-efficient large scale brewing or limiting products from other breweries through their licensing deals with pubs and restaurants.
Small breweries have always made an impact on their local surroundings, but they’re often capitalised by larger breweries; eg. Unibroue/Sleeman and Sapporo, Creemore/Granville and Molson Coors. Today, craft beer is experiencing an expansion faster than any time since prohibition ended, changing the way the general population view beer through small, local community initiatives to attract consumers. This expansion in Canada began around the 80’s with breweries like Amsterdam, Creemore and McAuslan, these breweries were able to cater to a more localised market and educate a lager drunk population of the diversity of beer. For me, my first contact was Le Lion d’Or at Bishop’s University, where I first enjoyed my first Amber’s and Bitter’s. After many (many) experiences, I learned the virtue of good beer and the importance of the social aspect of beer, the ability to create wonderful, lasting relationships without the need of a beach, cottage, scantily clad women or a football game. The only need is good friends and good beer.
Good beer doesn’t need elaborate gimmicks to sell, its intrinsic value sells itself. This has been evident by the market share craft beer has been able to achieve (also this). Large breweries may argue that they are not worried by newcomers to the market and that their impact is minimal. To that, I offer contrary examples:
These examples represent a shift in focus from institutions that are not agents of change but rather keepers of the status quo. Even these large breweries are now forced to participate in a market that is in flux from the growth of craft beer. To capitilise on the market, they have begun to shift their strategies to cater to craft beer aficionados, however beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing as many of these breweries do not care if their product is of any discernible quality, they only care if you buy it.
Now why should you care? Because they don’t. They promote drunken hullabaloos through marketing campaigns ilustratrating the sensational, the surreal, that which is not a measure of quality. Good beer needs no ploys, care measures its quality. Good beer is made for beer drinkers, swill is made for money. Large breweries separate consumers from their beer, estranging relationships to consumers and individual communities; except for branding face-less pubs with little originality. Local beer supports local communities through the organization and support of local events and activities while seeking to create direct relationships with those who drink their beers; can you get drunk and dance in an open field with the owner of Labatt’s (or would you want to)? The relationship sought by craft beer hinges on the social importance of beer throughout history and its abilities to bring communities together.
The beer you drink is a democratic vote in support of good beer, a vote in care and social impact, or in support of multinationals that have dictated what you should be drinking. The next time you are faced with the decision of your next brew, vote for the brew that gives something back to you.
It is simple to say that I have fallen in love with a green cone. Close to all my activities are inspired by it, from the books I read, to the brews I make, right down to the beers I drink; I am forever grateful for hops.
Aside from its well-known use in North American Pale Ales, the culture of hops extends much further with a full history evolving from a medicinal beverage, to a plant the sailed the seas and finally to the renaissance of North America’s brewing culture. Initially, hops became used in brewing to preserve beer. Prior to that, hops were widely regarded for their anti-bacterial powers as mothers often made hop tea for their sick children or hop pillows for the restless. When applied to beer it was found to be a more stable flavouring ingredient as well as keeping beer for longer and cheaper, aiding mass production for sale and eventually moving brewing out of the homes and into the market.
Everyone was amazed at the benefits brought by hops, aside from its well known bittering powers it has the ability to prevent beer from spoiling, aid in head retention and impart citrus, fruity, floral and woody aromas. Hops became the staple for modern brewing practices as demonstrated by the German Purity Law.
The practice of using hops eventually leads to the story of the India Pale Ale, the ale that built the British Empire. It was found that hops aided in the preservation of ale on its journey to the British Raj. In order for it to sustain the journey, sufficient hops were to be used with an equal ratio of malt to balance the bitterness and increase alcohol by volume to further ensure preservation.
Countries of former British colonies would have been formed on this type of beer. It was well known that ships to the new world carried with them plenty ale for the voyage and subsequent stay. These became the local ale, like that brand on tap at your local watering hole. North America was bred on strong bitter ales, therefore the resurgence of hops in Craft Brewing should not be all too surprising.
Along with blazing new paths, Craft Brewers bring new perspectives and takes on traditional styles. One such style is the re-invigoration of the American Pale Ale using North American grown hops. To their European cousins, American hops have been found to have more resin amplifying not only the bitterness, but the flavour, mouth feel and aroma found in American Pale Ales. The North American craft boom has popularized hops. Where once citrus and fruity aromas were discouraged by traditional brewers in Europe, the extraction of these aromas is a large part of modern brewing practices leading to research on the attributes of hop oils to aroma and the cultivation of hops; including breeding new species such as Magnum, Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe to yield specific aroma profiles. A refocus on hops has made possible new creations not available in traditional markets, further redefining North American Craft Brewing as ground-breaking and at the vanguard of modern brewing practices.
And well, here I am in love with a green cone!
The start of a new year brings things to note for 2013; new music, new movies, or my favourite, beers. In my search I found Complex’s 1oo Beers to Try Before You Die. It was American centric, but included many international brews as well. On this list sat Pliny the Elder, considered by many as the best of its style. After some light reading, I was left pining for Pliny with no hope of reaching it.
American brewing has existed as a joke among a cadre of beer drinkers; to me it was. After all, it was the industry that gave us Budweiser, Coors Light, Miller Light, now Bud Light Platinum. It was redefined in the new vaunted American industrialism of post WWII, culminating with the end of prohibition. There began a race for profit at the cost of quality, polluting the minds of many with the cheap thrills of light beer.
American brewing was resurrected in 1978, when Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, that included an amendment allowing small scale brewing to be exempt from taxation. Like a Phoenix, American brewing was on the rise. Where the late 70’s saw only 89 breweries, 2012 was marked by the establishment of over 2000 breweries in the USA (Brewers Association). This resurgence has led to a richer culture and a widely diverse industry boasting with the likes of Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Rogue and Pliny’s maker, Russian River Brewing.
Fortunately, fate was in my favour. “I got you a bottle of Pliny”, read a text from a travelling friend. I waited in anticipation until that fateful day, when Pliny would be mine.
The ritual began with the flow of rich copper into a Pilsner glass. As it poured, the air filled with deep rich pine, very floral. The scent grew stronger as the glass approached. Like running through a pine bush with a fresh beer in hand, the bitterness was smooth and persistent. The potent combination of bitter citrus is intertwined with a caramel sweetness to strike the perfect balance.
If there was ever one IPA to rule them all, I’d vote Pliny.
Note: Dogfish Head, Southern Tier, Rogue are available in Ontario through the LCBO.
For this BogFather, you will kiss the ring.
This truly isn’t your familiar Bog Water, this is the Bog•Father; reigning in at 8.5% and an impressive 43 IBU’s.
This creature exists in a maroon lagoon, with a billowing scent of roasted barley and German malts. As it approaches, the scent grows stronger, and soon irresistible. With one sip, the powerful malts wash through as a fog over troubled water, coating the palate.
It pleased as a bock, in the moment it had that familiar feeling. That sense is quickly abrupted when the Creature from the Maroon Lagoon emerges, BogFather!!!
It quickly wraps your tongue in a mixture of dried fruits, overpowering the maltiness now left behind. It is unlike any Gruit I’ve crossed. Whereas Oiseau de Nuit and Dubbel Koyt imparted gentler flavours, the BogFather was not merciful. It was bold and powerful as a porter, but not a porter. The marriage of hops was felt once the creature disappeared into the gullet and left behind its bittering aromas; not to be seen again until the next gulp!
As you continue through the BogFather, notice flavours changing over time. As with most dark-heavy beers, drink this warm and ready yourself for a distinct adventure. Where cold, the BogFather’s frostiness individually pronounces the malt and bittering agents. When warm, it is a combination of both that blends with each sip, not changing the flavour characteristics but rather the timing in which they occur.
Note: The BogFather can be best enjoyed on a cold evening by the fireplace, with a soft-ripened cheese while watching Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Special Note: It came served in Beau’s new frosted glass. Although the glass simulates the idea of “the frosty pint”, it does take away the ability to observe the colour and clarity of the beer; key when evaluating appearance. Lovely for a frosty Lug Tread on a warm summer’s day, however I prefer the original.
The Dubbel Koyt, a beer 500 years in the making, in the defiance of purity laws. My interest was piqued at first sip. At a glance, its extreme paleness had me dreading the worst; I guess after years of drinking I have become conditioned to the idea that paleness equals blandness. Terribly wrong was I.
To the nose, faintly sweet zesty aromas fill the air. With one drop flavours ripple across your tongue to the furthest reaches. It spreads like wildfire, imparting a gentle sweetness bang on with its description of a breakfast cereal like sweetness.
Flavours come in waves, persistent sweetness provides a perfect balance to an avalanche of spiciness that explodes as the first wave dissipates Once it goes over the cliff, all there is left is a dry bitterness as a lament of another sip lost.
It was a true joy. I was stunned by its 6.8% ABV as it did not have the feel of a high alcohol beer. Cider fans will undoubtedly enjoy this special brew while white wine drinkers may find something in common with their fellow beer-bibers.
Critical note: the current climate alters the perception of the beer. Its light dry finish would best suit me on a warm midsummer’s eve.