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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Session 2: Electric Boogaloo

I'm posting this mainly to remind myself of the date, but some of you might be interested to know that the second Session will be taking place on Friday, April 6th. It's being hosted by Alan at A Good Beer Blog this time around, and the style he's chosen is dubbel.

I wasn't especially thrilled to hear this at first, because there are only two dubbels currently available at the LCBO, both of them quite common ones. But then I remembered that I have a couple of bottles of a rather unique one in my stash. So it should be a bit of fun after all. Check back next Friday and see.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


At the latest beer tasting/rating session with my usual crew this past Thursday, we decided to take a bit of a break from the notebooks for part of the night and watch Beerfest, which this month's host Paul - aka The Guy Who Buys Every Movie Released On DVD And Watches Them On A Kick-Ass Home Theatre System - recently picked up.

The serious craft beer aficionado in me should've been horribly offended by the fact that the film celebrates binge drinking, stupid drinking games, and the age-old connections between beer and half-naked women. But since I also have a strange and somewhat misguided appreciation for stupid and sophomoric comedies - from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure to Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle - I couldn't help but love this flick.

Oh, sure, it's got it's fair share of puerile and scatological humour (ever seen a frog being masturbated?), and some rather gratuitous sexism (although in most cases, it's played with such over-the-top gratuitousness [yes, that's really a word - Firefox spell-check told me so!] that only the most prudish would find it offensive). But it's also quite clever and self-aware in places, not to mention laugh-out-loud funny. And really, how can you not love a film that includes (A) an uncredited cameo by Donald Sutherland as a dying Bavarian patriarch who chugs several mugs of beer before pulling his own plug; (B) Cloris Leachman as a foul-mouthed great grandmother who gives a hand-job to a large sausage; and (C) Willie Nelson as Willie Nelson?

So, yeah - if you're looking to kill a couple of hours with some relatively mindless but not completely moronic entertainment, then invite over a few buddies, chill a few brewskies, and watch Beerfest.

Or alternatively, you could read the stuff that I've written for Taste T.O. and Gremolata in the past couple of weeks, including a review of last month's Brooklyn Brewing dinner at beerbistro, a report on a great food & hospitality conference called Terroir: A Sense of Place, and "Beer of the Week" features on Fuller’s London Pride, Trafalgar Celtic Pure Irish Ale and Gayant La Goudale. But you'll probably enjoy the movie more...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

R.I.P. Olive 1991-2007

I love dogs even more than I love beer, so I was saddened to read on Lew Bryson's blog that Olive, the lovely pooch featured on the label of Smuttynose Brewing's Old Brown Dog, passed away on March 15th. If OBD was currently available in Ontario, I'd be raising a couple in her honour, but since it's not, hopefully she won't be offended if I toast her with a different beer at tonight's session with the boys.

On another note - things are still busy at Taste T.O., and even busier at my day job, hence the lack of posts in these parts lately. I've got a couple of things half-done, though, so there may be a post or two this weekend. I'm sure you'll all be waiting with bated breath...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Post-Session Musings

I spent some time today looking at some of the posts from the first Session. Very interesting to see such a wide variety of opinions on a wide variety of stouts. I think Lew Bryson summed it up best in his Session post with the following:

Storm King made me look back at the stouts I'd had, and all the stouts that are out there, and the stouts I'd read that other bloggers would be sampling. I realized that this is a continuum, that stout embraces session beers, extreme beers (Dogfish Head World Wide Stout certainly qualifies), dessert beers, hoppy beers (black IPA, anyone?), mild and malty beers... There is no definite "stout," not even Guinness can claim that, with so many different versions of itself around.

I love stouts and porters, in a large part because of this malleability of form. They're dark ales (and sometimes lagers!), yet they have enough in common to be recognizable as brethren. The Brotherhood of Stout (women welcome, too).

Right. What he said.

Continuing with the stout theme, I had a pint of Guinness with lunch today. It had been a while since I'd had one, and as always, my feelings were mixed. The nostalgic part of me always wants it to be as full and rich and flavourful as I found it the first time I had one, but the many better beers I've had over the years combined with the dumbing down of the recipe mean that I'm always a bit disappointed by the stuff.

But when you're at a place where the other draught options are several macro-brewed fizzy yellow lagers, a couple of imported fizzy yellow lagers, a flavour-challenged red ale, and a sickly honey brown, it's certainly the lesser of all the evils. And when I stopped being such a frickin' beer geek for a few minutes, it was a pleasant enough pint. Just not the world-class beer that many think it to be.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Session #1: Five Stouts

Today marks the first instalment of The Session, a new event that will see beer bloggers around the world drinking & posting about a different style of beer on the first Friday of every month. This month's theme as chosen by the founder of The Session - Stan Hieronymus of the Appellation Beer blog - is "Not your father’s Irish stout". in other words, any stout(s) besides Guinness, Murphy’s or Beamish are fair game.

First, some bitching: Ontario is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to stouts. There are only a half-dozen or so available at the LCBO on a regular basis, and just a handful more from a few local microbreweries available on tap at a few places around town. But thankfully, I had a few interesting ones in my stash from trades and travelling, so I worked through some of them over the past few nights.

I was originally going to pick one favourite to focus on, but I couldn't decide, so here's a little bit about all of them:

Garrison Martello Stout
This Halifax brewery tends to be hit-and-miss for me, but I quite enjoyed this one. The colour is on the dark brown side, and it has a good aroma with notes of roast malt, coffee and a bit of smoke. The flavour follows the aroma, with the smoke notes becoming a bit more prominent in the finish. I like a bit of smokiness in my stouts, so it's well appreciated. The body is a touch thin, but otherwise, this is one of the good ones.

Big Rock Espresso Stout
Another dark brown one, looking a lot like a glass of cola. Mild aroma with the expected roasted malt and coffee notes, although it’s more stale coffee than the fresh roasted coffee beans I was hoping for. Thin body, quite disappointing. Flavour is OK - roasted malt, coffee, a bit of bitter cocoa. Not bad, but it didn’t wow me.

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
This is an old favourite that I don't get to enjoy nearly as often as I'd like. I've got a couple of bottles in the stash, but my most recent taste of it came at the Brooklyn Brewery dinner at beerbistro this past Tuesday, when it was served with a dessert trio that had been made using the beer. This is a world classic when it comes to Imperial Stouts - black as midnight, huge aroma of charred malt and chocolate, creamy mouthfeel, big flavour, nice alcohol warmth in the finish. Oh yeah, always a treat!

Scotch Irish Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout (2005)
I'd been hearing some mixed messages about how this beer has been aging, so I had a bit of trepidation when I found a couple of bottles in the back of my stash recently. Thankfully, I needn't have worried, as it's still in pretty nice shape. I don't know if it's necessarily improved with age, but it's still a big and complex beer. My tasting notes from my first bottle mentioned the aroma as being "rich and roasty with notes of toffee, chocolate, smoke and alcohol", and flavours like "coffee, burnt malt, dark chocolate, dried fruit (prunes, raisins, figs), licorice, and a wonderful hit of hop bitterness in the finish." All I can add is that there's a slightly lactic end note to the flavour now - perhaps a sign of age, but I enjoyed it, so I'm not complaining.

Arcadia Imperial Stout (2005)
Another back-of-the-stash surprise - I picked this up during my trip to Ann Arbor last summer, and recently found it lingering with a few other strays. Another pitch-black beauty, it's got lots of espresso and bitter cocoa in the aroma and flavour, and a fair amount of warmth from the 8.4% alcohol. It's quite generously hopped as well, with gives it a finish that it a bit unique for the style. And I'm not sure where it came from exactly, but as it warmed, I found an interesting saltiness developing in the flavour. It was a bit strange at first, but I actually liked it.

Posted with 10 minutes to spare! Thanks for Stan for getting this thing rolling. Participating bloggers have been linking to their posts in the comments of his contributing post, and he'll be setting up a list of links to all participating blogs by Monday. Next round is on Alan at A Good Beer Blog, who should be announcing April's theme soon.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Green Beer

No, I'm not getting an early start on St. Patrick's Day. (And besides, I wouldn't be caught dead drinking fizzy yellow beer with green food colouring in it on March 17th - or any other day, for that matter.)

By "Green Beer", I'm referring to beer that is produced and distributed in environmentally friendly ways, which is the focus of Beer Activist, a newish blog that I discovered this week. It's the online home of Chris O'Brien, author of a book called Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World that I got for Christmas but have yet to read. Chris looks like a pretty interesting guy - he has brewed in South Africa, worked with fair trade organisations and co-ops, and is currently part owner of a store specialising in organic brewing supplies and organic/fair trade home coffee roasting supplies. I'm looking forward to reading his blog, and (finally) reading his book as well.

Between this, and meeting/chatting with Garrett Oliver the other night, and attending a Slow Food conference earlier in the week, I'm seeing the worlds of local/organic/sustainable food and craft beer becoming more and more entwined. Very exciting stuff!

Speaking of Mr. Oliver - my encounter with him was at a fantastic Brooklyn Brewery beer dinner at beerbistro on Tuesday night. I'll be writing up a full report this weekend, and it will probably be published at Gremolata, assuming Malcom is interested. If not, I'll just post it here.