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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've Been A Bad Little Blogger...

Between work and Taste T.O. and other life stuff, this poor blog of mine has been sorely neglected the past couple of months, and I'm feeling a little guilty about it. I actually considered just shutting it down completely, but I still like the idea of having a place to stick up my writing - beer-related or otherwise - that doesn't quite fit at Taste T.O. or Gremolata, so it's safe for now.

My lack of time, however, means that it may still look a little sparse, at least for the foreseeable future. So in order to make it seem not quite so dead, I've decided to start cross-posting my articles from Taste T.O. and Gremolata - or rather, portions of those articles, with a link to the source so you can click through and read the whole thing if you're interested.

As an introduction to this, are segments from my last couple of Beer Of The Week posts at Taste T.O., as well as links to all previous ones. Watch for future instalments to be previews & linked here each Tuesday:

Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner

Back in 1987, just as Canada’s modern craft brewing scene was kicking off, a small brewery called Creemore Springs opened in their namesake town of Creemore, Ontario. Unlike most of the other microbreweries launching around the same time, they decided to concentrate their efforts on a single brand, Creemore Springs Premium Lager.

This flavourful lager with a rich amber colour has been praised by beer drinkers and writers from around the world, and is often listed with Brooklyn Lager and Samuel Adams Boston Lager as being a landmark lager in the North American craft brewing scene.

It took ten years from the brewery to add a second beer to their line-up, the dark and malty Creemore Springs urBock which is available during the fall and winter months. Another ten years on, and they’ve decided to mark the end of their second decade with a second seasonal brew, Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner (LCBO 53686, $2.55/473 mL), which will be available from May through October.

Click here to read the rest of this review

PC Blanche

It probably goes without saying that I’m not a discount beer drinker. It’s not that I have a problem with the idea of saving money, but as someone who drinks beer in order to enjoy the aroma and flavour rather than to serve as an alcohol delivery mechanism (well - most of the time, anyway), I’ve found the few “buck-a-beers” that I’ve tried have generally failed to satisfy me.

However, while flipping through the latest President’s Choice Insider’s Report this past weekend, I came across a blurb for a new addition to the PC discount beer line-up: PC Blanche. Considering that every other beer in the PC portfolio is a knock-off of some macro-brewed lager or other, from Genuine Lager to Dry to Honey, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea of them tackling the decidedly non-mainstream Belgian witbier style.

Click here to read the rest of this review

Hockley Stout

As noted in this column a month or so ago, I’m quite a fan of Hockley Dark, an authentic UK-style brown ale brewed by Orangeville’s Hockley Valley Brewing. So when I caught wind earlier this year that they were planning a dry stout to be released for St. Patrick’s Day via the LCBO, I was obviously very interested to try the results.

Well, they missed the St. Patrick’s Day target by a month or so, but Hockley Stout (LCBO 615625) finally started appearing on shelves a couple of weeks ago as part of the LCBO’s spring beer promotion. And having now tried all six of the beers in the rather meagre little release, I’m happy to declare this stout to be the best of the bunch.

In fact, I might go so far as to say that this is a quintessential example of a dry stout. Although the style is pretty rare around here, so aside from Guinness, there’s no real point of comparison.

Click here to read the rest of this review

Earlier "Beer of the Week" Reviews

Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale
Atlantic au Pineau
Duchy Originals Organic Ale
Wellington Arkell Best Bitter
Hockley Dark
Fuller’s Cask-Conditioned ESB
Gayant La Goudale
Trafalgar Celtic Pure Irish Ale
Fuller’s London Pride
C’est What Mild Brown Ale
Brooklyn Lager
Heritage Passion Brew
Denison’s Weissbier
Steam Whistle Pilsner

Friday, May 04, 2007

The Session #3: Mild

Another first Friday of the month, another Session in beer blog land. This time around, we're being hosted by Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin, and in honour of CAMRA's Mild Month, he chose mild ale as this month's style.

As Alan notes over at A Good Beer Blog, mild is a rare style nowadays, especially outside of the UK. But luckily, Toronto pub C'est What has a Mild Brown Ale in their line-up of house beers.

Even more luckily for me, I wrote an article on this beer just a couple of months ago as part of my series of Beer of the Week columns over at Taste T.O.. So I can be lazy this month, and just do some cut 'n' paste. Nice!

Here's what I wrote:

To most North American drinkers, mention of a beer with a 3% to 4% alcohol level will undoubtedly bring to mind fizzy yellow light/lite lagers that taste even less of beer than their 5% kin. But fans of UK-style ales will more likely think of Mild Ale, a style that was once on the brink of extinction but that has been gaining popularity thanks to the efforts of CAMRA and other real ale supporters.

Brewed since the 1600s, if not earlier, the definition of Mild Ale has varied a bit over the years, but it has typically referred to malty ales that are darker in colour and have a lower alcohol content than Bitters and Pale Ales. Back when ales were generally stronger across the board, Milds would vary in strength from 5% to 7%, but most modern interpretations sit somewhere in the 3% to 4% range.

Like most traditional ale styles, Mild is more common in the UK (although even with CAMRA’s efforts, it still hasn’t been restored to the point where nearly every pub had a Mild on at least one of their taps). But with the increasing popularity of cask ales in North America, more and more microbreweries are taking a crack at the style.

The only local example of the style comes courtesy of C’est What (67 Front Street East), the almost-brewpub (their house beers are brewed off-site at County Durham Brewing) that has been at the forefront of Toronto’s craft beer scene for over 19 years. Their C’est What Mild Brown Ale had actually crept up to 4.1% abv, but it was recently reformulated back to its original 3.4% level without sacrificing any of its unique character.

In the glass, it has the appearance of a nut brown ale or even a light porter, with a ruby-brown body and light mocha head. Both the aroma and flavour hold notes of roasted malt, cocoa, coffee and toasted nuts, with a delicate touch of hops in the finish. The body is on the creamy side due to the fact that it is served using a nitro tap of the sort typically used to serve stouts and some cream ales. Personally, I’d rather have it served as a cask ale, but in this case the nitro doesn’t have as much of a negative effect as it can have on lighter beers. Dispensing method aside, it’s just nice to have a flavourful beer that one can quaff several pints of in a session without falling off one’s barstool in the process.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Shaken or Stirred?

First of all, I must apologize for the severe lack of posts here lately. April was, to put it bluntly, a completely fucked up month for me. First my wife got sick, and then I got sick, and then my wife got sick again. Add to that a busy day job and work on the increasingly popular Taste T.O., and something had to give.

Anyway, speaking of Taste T.O. - we launched a discussion forum earlier this week, and I made a post there yesterday that I thought readers here might find interesting. It doesn't have to do with beer, but it does have to do with booze:

I've been a fan of New York Times wine & spirits columnist Eric Azimov for quite a while, primarily because unlike many other booze writers, he has a healthy respect for beer as well and don't treat it like a second- or third-rate drink.

My respect for him has gone up a couple more notches today thanks to his article about martinis. Or more accurately, his article about a gin tasting where they decided to taste 20 different gins in the form of martinis.

Here is the specific bit that I really enjoyed...

Before we discuss the findings, though, we need to clear up a little matter. It’s come to my attention that some people believe martinis are made with vodka. I hate to get snobbish about it, but a martini should be made with gin or it’s not a martini. Call it a vodkatini if you must, but not a martini. Gin and vodka have as much in common hierarchically as a president and a vice president. Vodka can fill in for gin from time to time and might even be given certain ceremonial duties of its own, but at important moments you need the real thing. Vodka generally makes a poor substitute for gin in a martini or any other gin cocktail.

In a follow-up post on his blog, he continues...

I’m annoyed at myself for even asking this question, but when’s the last time you had a real martini? Not a chocolate cocktail, or watermelon drink or any of the other spurious hangers-on that threaten the integrity of the word martini, but a real honest-to-goodness gin-and-vermouth martini?

What annoys me is that few people really know or care what a martini is anymore. They’ve just appropriated the appeal of the term to sell other cocktails, drinks that may be fine themselves but are decidedly not martinis.

The funny thing is, I'm actually not a huge martini fan. I'll have one once in a while, but I tend to prefer my gin mixed with tonic. But this whole trend of sticking "-tini" onto the end of the name of any alcoholic drink that's served in what people consider to be a "martini glass" (which it's not, by the way - it's just a cocktail glass) has always gotten under my skin. Especially when I've been handed a "Martini List" at a place that really should know better.

So are Azimov and I both cranky old sticks-in-the-mud who should get over it? Or do we have a valid point here?