Saturday, 31 December 2011

December 30, 2011

398)  Home:  Grasshopper Wheat Ale by Big Rock Brewery of Alberta:  **;  has a malty, biscuity nose;  very well balanced with a hint of citrus to boot;  the label reads, "sunshine in a glass";  as it suggests, while it would be great in the summer it is interesting enough to enjoy in the cooler months;  a big thank you to my niece for sending it in my direction;

Shame on me - this is the first Big Rock product all year.  They deserve better than that from me.

December 29, 2011

397)  Home:  Black Coal Stout by Railway City Brewing of Ontario:  **1/2;  as I said earlier this one is impossible to find (I think they only brewed enough for 600 bottles) but my brother found it so it's three cheers for him;  notes of sweet mocha with a mild hop presence;  it reminds me of the stout I helped brew a couple of months ago at Black Creek Pioneer Village;

Railway City is among my favourite Ontario breweries.  Dead Elephant IPA is a classic and when it is available I always go looking for Double Dead Elephant double IPA. 

Railway City cannot go wrong with dark beers.  Black Coal is the latest example and in a few weeks I am going to start looking for Sham-Bock.  I found it by accident last year at The Burger Bar & Tequila Tavern.  Their taps change so rapidly that the handles do not always stay current so at the risk of sounding foolish, I always ask what they have even though the handles are in front of me (the outstanding barmaids there would never allow anyone to feel foolish so don't be shy).

Speaking of Dead Elephant, I am seeing it in tins now which makes me think the bottles are being discontinued.  I am hanging on to one bottle for the label which looks a lot nicer than the can.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

December 28, 2011

396)  Home:  Winter Beer 2011 by Innis & Gunn of Scotland:  **1/2;  I thought I detected less sweetness than in the Spiced Rum Finish;  there are notes of brown sugar and dried fruit;  dark, rich caramel flavours;  matured for 48 days;

I should use this space to declare that my wife "got" Innis & Gunn long before I did. 

Their web-site has received a good deal of praise of late:  It is worth a visit just for the story of how they came to create their beers in the manner that they do. 

As best I can tell, the only way to get the Winter Beer 2011, not to mention the Spiced Rum Finish, is in the gift pack with the glass and I am sorely tempted to purchase another.  I am starting to see the original Innis & Gunn on draught.  I had a glass at the beerbistro and it is quite a treat on tap.

December 27, 2011

395)  Home:  Utopias 2011 by Samuel Adams Brewery of Massachusetts, U.S.A.:  **; I found the nose to be a combination of fruitcake (my brother-in-law's wonderfully boozy fruitcake in particular) and brown sugar;  tastes of brandy and dried apricot;  my wife, who I think likes this more than I do, said it reminds her of sherry;

I am advised that this is best served at room temperature.  It comes in a beautiful ceramic decanter.   A label on the decanter points out that Utopias 2011 is brewed with maple syrup.  The yeast is a strain normally used for champagne.  This edition is a blend of batches, as many as eighteen years old, aged in a variety of woods.  The casks used once stored bourbon, Spanish sherry, madiera, brandy, cognac and port.  It makes for very complex sipping.  Of the spate of "strong" beers from the last year or two, Stephen Beaumont opines that this is the strongest of the lot that is actually brewed in the manner of a beer - the others are made by a process more akin to distilling.  One reference advised to consider this a beer liqueur.  At 27% (not to mention $114.95 for 710ml) I am treating this as I would a spirit with one ounce servings.

I really should give this a couple more spins before forming an opinion but I don't want to get too far behind in publishing either.

December 26, 2011

393)  Home:  Lager by Dead Frog Brewery of British Columbia:  *1/2;  a fairly typical lager with perhaps a little something special as lagers go, but not particularly distinctive;

394)  Home:  Spiced Rum Finish by Innis & Gunn of Scotland:  **1/2;  finished over oak infused with spiced Carribean rum;  marvelously complex and warming;  aged for 47 days prior to release;  from a gift pack I bought for myself, which comes with a very nice glass;

I have to admit, I did VERY well in terms of beer this Christmas.  People were more than kind. 

I was initially taken aback when my niece advised me that the grasshopper was from her but I was delighted to learn that she meant Grasshopper Wheat Ale by Big Rock.  My brother worked a miracle and found Black Coal Stout by Railway City which is basically unavailable.  My wife checked in with a pair of gift packs and my son presented me (if you will excuse the term) with six Netherworld by Flying Monkeys. 

I will be enjoying my Christmas beers well into January, if not February.  Luckily, at this time of year I am able to store what doesn't fit in the beer fridge in the garage without fear of spoilage by lack of refrigeration.

Monday, 26 December 2011

December 25, 2011

391)  Home:  Bah Humbug! by Wychwood Brewery of England:  **;  "Christmas Cheer!";  I was saving this one for today;  while the label indicates that this is a "strong beer", at 5% I think they are referring to the bold flavours;  said label indicates that it is brewed with cinnamon but it doesn't appear on the list of ingredients, though cloves and coriander do;  a very warming brew;

392)  Home:  Nut Brown Ale by Dead Frog Brewery of British Columbia;  **;  sweet, malty nose;  the sweetness carries on to the taste with notes of chocolate and roasty malts;  my favourite so far from the Winter Mixer pack; 

There have been comments about "carrion beer" what with Dead Frog, Dead Elephant, Dead Guy, etc.

Allow me to add, belatedly, Merry Christmas to all my readers.

December 24, 2011

389)  The home of someone else:  Bavaria of Holland by Bavaria Inc. of the Netherlands:  *;  grainy, bready;  in one of his books, Nicholas Pashley suggested that the Belgians send us Stella Artois in the hope that we will keep our hands off their good beers and I suspect the Dutch are doing the same thing here;

390)  The home of someone else:  Kronenbourg 1664 by Brasseries Kronenbourg of France:  *;  another grainy European lager;

December 23, 2011

387)  The Crown and Anchor, Brampton:  Lowenbrau Original by Lowenbrau Munchen of Germany:  *;  a very ordinary lager;

388)  Home:  Pepper Lime Lager by Dead Frog Brewery of British Columbia:  *1/2;  similar to the Mandarin Orange Amber Ale in that they use the oil of lime, as well as black pepper;  I can't help but thinking this would go well with Mexican food and it would probably be good to use in cooking;

Yes, I sort of knew what to expect from the Lowenbrau.  I was a tiny bit curious, though, having seen it advertised so much.  I was at the Crown and Anchor because I knew they had cider on tap and I was enjoying my visit so much that I used it as an excuse to stay longer.  I don't thnk the one barmaid stopped laughing the whole time I was there.

Another beer I think would be good to cook with is Dieu du Ciel's Route des Epices (Spice Route), a rye beer brewed with black and green peppercorns.  I think it would work with my hamburger stroganoff recipe.

December 22, 2011

385)  Home:  Mandarin Orange Amber Ale by Dead Frog Brewery of British Columbia:  *1/2;  this is brewed with "pure orange oil" instead of juice or pulp which lends more subtle flavours;  in the manner of my visit to Gambrinus in London, I can't help thinking that this would be great in the summer with fish and chips;

386)  Home:  Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale by Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster) of England:  **;  has a bready aroma;  lightly spiced, this is the perfect way to mark Winter's arrival (at least it is in this time zone);

I was hoping to be able to mark today with Dieu du Ciel's Solstice d'Hiver (Winter Solstice), reviewed earlier, but I would have had to make the journey to Toronto to find it.  With luck I will come across it locally in short order.

Yes, after being promised as far back as April, Dead Frog has finally arrived.  Their Winter Mixer pack is in a few LCBOs but none are handy to me.  I picked it up instead at the Beer Store.  The website promised inventory at two nearby locations a couple of weeks before anyone actually had any but at least when I did visit they had heard of it and they knew what I was talking about.  In one store they went so far as to suggest other brands to try, seeing as how I liked the out of the ordinary beers.

I am seeing more of the smaller brands at the Beer Store of late, the Paddock Woods and others.

December 21, 2011

On Saturday, I finally was able to pick up my bottle of Sam Adams' Utopias.  This was as much of an adventure as reserving the bottle was.

First off, the store never did phone me to let me know it was in.  I was fishing around the LCBO site on the previous day (which was four weeks after I paid for it) when I saw mention of how to get the free glass that was to come with the Utopias which implied to me that people were receiving their bottles.  I used the contact function and received a very fast reply informing me that it was indeed at the outlet I had chosen to pick it up from.  They just hadn't called yet.

I was without a car as I had plans to go into town and was taking the bus to and from Union Station but the next to last Friday before Christmas was not going to be any less busy than the next day.  It was quite a wait as the individual they sent to retrieve it not only seemed to wish he was doing something else but he had no concept what he was looking for.

At any rate, I did not drink it in the car on the way home and the beautiful ceramic bottle sits soon to be opened.  The tag on the neck of the bottle advises it is best consumed at room temperature,  I hear tell that when the beerbistro has Utopias they ask $20.00 for an ounce, but they do take your photo with the bottle.

Without having tried it yet, I think it is a safe bet that I will try to buy it again next year.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

December 20, 2011

384)  Home:  Grande Reserve 17 by Unibroue of Quebec:  **1/2;  very Belgian, brewed in the Trappist style;  aged in French Oak and re-fermented in the bottle;  a dark ale with sweet fruity notes and warming alcohol (10%); 

The signifiance of the "17" is that this was first brewed in 2001 to celebrate Unibroue's seventeenth anniversary. 

December 19, 2011

383)  Home:  Kozel by Pizensky Prazdroj of the Czech Republic:  *1/2;  bready, grainy nose;  a standard central European lager, brewed in Pilsen (!);

December 18, 2011

382)  Home:  Dominus Vobiscum Double by Microbrasserie Charlevoix of Quebec:  **;  comes in at a warming 8%;  bottle conditioned;  sweet and yeasty in the Belgian style;

December 17, 2011

381)  Home:  Bog Water by Beau's All Natural Brewing of Ontario:  **;  thie Eastern Ontario Gruit is a winter seasonal;  wild bog myrtle is used in place of hops which lends flavours of herbs and roots;

Beau's is located in VanKleek Hill which is 45 minutes or so east of Ottawa.  Their wares are uncommonly popular in Toronto and much credit must go to a fellow named Rob whom I have met on several occasions.  He is very friendly and engaging and he has done a lot to get the word out.

December 16, 2011

380)  C'est What, Toronto:  Deviator Doppelbock by Cameron's Brewing of Ontario:  *1/2;  for all the build-up I found it rather non-descript;  malty with a touch of sweetness;

December 15, 2011

Readers may have gathered that I have many fond memories of a location on Victoria Street in Toronto, between Queen and Adelaide.  I liked it as Duggan's Brewery and particularly as Growlers. 

Growlers was fun because, perhaps unintentionally, it was extremely kid-friendly.  An enormous chesterfield snaked its way around the outer perimeter in a jagged fashion creating numerous enclaves and corners to limit a young one's ability to scamper off. 

The food was generally appetizer sized which was ideal for kids and people like me who couldn't make up their minds.

The latest attempt to make a go at this location will be coming from the Six Pints Specialty Beer Company, which is the division of Molson-Coors that operates their craft brewing lines like Creemore Springs and Granville Island.  The idea is to house their offices, use the brewing facilities for one-off beers and there is talk of a brewing museum on site.  It doesn't appear that there will be a pub to speak of but there will be kitchen facilities for events.

I am a lot less impressed with Creemore Springs than I once was.  This could be snobbery kicking after they were purchased by Molson's, or maybe my tastes have changed or maybe the background against which I am judging has changed.

Friday, 23 December 2011

December 14, 2011

379)  Navigator by Dutch Export Breweries of the Netherlands;  it has a yeasty nose, reminiscent if Belgian beers, with hints of alcohol and spice;

December 13, 2011

378)  Home:  Dark & Handsome by Box Steam Brewery of England:  **;  rich tasting with hints of berries and roastiness;

December 12, 2011

376)  The 3 Brewers, Toronto:  The Holiday Ale by The 3 Brewers of Ontario:  **1/2;  described as "a festive amber brew rich in malts and hops";  it is nicely spiced;  I have been back a couple of times specifically for a glass of this one so it ranks pretty close to three full stars;

377)  beerbistro, Toronto:  Maudite by Unibroue of Quebec:  **1/2;  strong (8%) and warmingly spiced in the sort of way you wish every fruitcake was spiced;

December 11, 2011

376)  Home:  Imperial Stout by Nogne Ø of Norway:  **1/2;  the nose is expresso and alcohol;  bitter coffee flavours with a touch of caramel;  if you are keeping score, this one weighs in at 9%;

December 10, 2011

One of the hazards in attempting to come up with new beers to drink is that names change.  I have already covered the matter of the matter of Elora ESB going by Patrick's Pick for St. Patrick's Day and now I have learned that Muskoka's Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout has been re-named Winter Beard.  The new bottle looks great, though.

December 9, 2011

374)  Home:  New World Tripel by Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, USA:  **1/2;  the nose is yeast and champagne;  a sweet, yeasty Belgian style tripel;  aged in oak barrels;  another strong (10%) warming winter beer; 

December 8, 2011

373)  Home:  Weissbier by Denison's Brewing Company of Ontario:  *1/2;  the nose is grainy and the taste features notes of cloves, banana and yeast, though not nearly so bold as the wheat beer back in the day at Growlers;

Thursday, 8 December 2011

December 7, 2011

372)  Home:  Organic Lager by Mill Street Brewery of Ontario:  *;  an ordinary lager, unredeemed by the "organic" appelation;  not everything from Mill Street is a winner but I had to buy this one in the seasonal sampler package in order to get the ESB and Franconian Bock;

December 6, 2011

371)  Home: St. Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout by McAuslan of Quebec:  **1/2;  another terrific RIP, a style I have become very fond of;  this one weighs in at a very warming 9.2%;  the nose is expresso with a touch of alcohol;  rich bitter coffee flavours with a hint of chocolate;  aged in bourbon wood;

In light of the recent surge in Russian readers (Russia now places third in terms of page views per country) I stood at attention, facing East, and toasted my friends not yet met from Russia with this dark brew.  I will be thinkng of you on Monday at Toronto's Gardiner Ceramic Museum as I visit an exhibit called The Tsars' Cabinet - a collection of "decorative arts" from Imperial Russia.

December 5, 2011

370)  Home:  Past Masters XX Strong Ale by Fuller's of England:  **1/2;  the nose is alcohol with a touch of dried fruit;  strong, full-blooded flavours finishing with bitter alcohol notes;  matured for three months then bottle conditioned;  this is the first of the Past Masters series and dates from September 2, 1891;

December 4, 2011

369)  Home:  Old Winter Ale by Fuller's of England:  **;  lightly spiced nose;  tastes of English hops with a mildly bitter finish;

Fuller's is the featured brewer at the LCBO these days.

December 3, 2011

368) Home:  Past Masters Double Stout by Fuller's of England:  **1/2;  brewed following a recipe dated August 4, 1893;  the nose is bitter coffee, expresso and alcohol;  roasty taste with coffee and alcohol notes;  I was reminded of Dieu du Ciel!'s Peche Mortel;  a very warming 7.4% octane; 

This is the second of a series.  The label informs that since 1845, their head brewers have kept a book of recipes.

The skating rink at Gage Park will be opening any day now.  This will be nice to come home to after a few kilometres of skating. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

December 2, 2011

I am afraid I let my team-mates down this past evening.  Believe it or don't our Branch Manager set up three teams for "boat races" at the staff Christmas party.  I have never believed that drinking should be a spectator sport so this was my first such experience.  I think my captain thought that what with all my training and experience drinking beer I would perform better but this was not the case. 

For starters it was a slender half pint glass and not the usual pint glass I drink from.  To be kind, the beer was not my brand.  The glass indicated it was Moretti but whatever it was, it tasted of mass production.  I found myself fighting the urge to sniff the contents periodically and make withering, scornful notes which did not make for speed.  It serves them right for making me drink this sort of stuff.

December 1, 2011

The main point of this exercise is my desire to have goals and I do have several on-going.  As of today I am able to state that in 2011 I ran outside in short pants every month of the year and that I also drank beer on the patio of Tracks Brewpub each month of the year. 

Goals need not be virtuous or praise-worthy, it's enough that they are goals.

November 30, 2011

367)  Home:  Ayinger Celebrator by Brauerei Aying of Germany:  **;  a Doppelbock with a somewhat yeasty nose and a sweet yeastiness that almost takes one to Belgium with warming alcohol notes;  it seemed appropriate what with me having so much to be celebrating these days;