Category Archives: canada

My last beer

No, not forever. Just for a while.

I’m having minor surgery in a few days, and I wanted to dry out before I went under the knife. Which must happen, but about which, as you might imagine, I have…feelings.

I also finished my major responsibilities at work for quite some time, and damn it, I needed to celebrate the end of an atrociously challenging few months. After the year I’ve had at work, I was done. And I needed to cut loose.

So I opened a 2017 Luppulo Evoluta, a tripel aged in bourbon barrels, on a Zoom with some colleagues.

I’m surprised at how boozy this beer is, several years on. I had a bottle when I first purchased it, and while I remember the alcohol note being a bit more aggressive in 2017, the difference four years made wasn’t nearly as significant as I’d thought it would be.

The beer was a bit dark in terms of colour–not surprising, since it was aged in bourbon barrels–, and had all the delightful flavours you’d expect of that: brown sugar, and lots of it. But it was definitely strong! And that booze carried me through a slightly befuddled evening. Precisely what I needed.

Good-bye for now, beer. We’ll meet again in a few weeks, when I’m on the other side and healing well.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

Sometimes I make the mistake of cellaring beer far, far too long. (Prime example: my 2008 Deschutes Abyss.)

Recently I made the opposite mistake: drinking a beer that was not yet at its prime.

The beer? A bière de garde from Wildeye Brewing.

beer in tulip glass on table

The beer was perfectly fine as-is. It tasted like a brown beer on steroids, with touches of sugar and raisin, though with a bit of a funky ending. But it was only after I had the beer that I read the label: “This beer will cellar for two years.”

Whoops.

I mean, it’s the beer’s style. It’s even in the damn name of the beer. It tells you to put it away. It wants you to wait.

And…I did not.

Oh well. There’s always another bottle.

There Are No Feel-Good Ad Campaigns Under Capitalism

So, the big brewery up north–no, not Bud*, Molson–started this ad- and sales-campaign to push Canadian brew. And the concept seems cool. They’re selling cases of tallboys of random Canadian beers, with at least one Molson’s per case**; a percentage of the proceeds go to charity. Cases are randomized off of a list of participating brewers in Ontario; in Regina and Saskatoon, you can pick-and-choose among a limited list of selections.

As their marketing director put it: ““All a brewer has to do is say yes, […] and Molson handles the supply chain logistics.” Hmmm…things are starting to seem not so cool. Particularly when the chain they’re using in Ontario for deliveries is–wait for it–owned by Molson, Labatt (Ab InBev) and Sleeman’s (Sapporo).

And when you realize several of the beers that are being picked from are actually microbreweries owned by MolsonCoors, that seems even less cool.

Oh, Molson. As the owner of this site suggested recently, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

*Actually the best-selling beer in Canada. The result of the Molson-Coors merger in 2005, which made Canadians question if Molson was even Canadian any more. So…they went with Bud?

**I checked: in Regina/Saskatoon, six of your beers have to be Molsons.

You know, there’s something to be said…

for a simple can.

Let’s appreciate the fact that, in the face of cans reminiscent of 70s rock art or 80s neon fevers, we can have cans like this one, which looks almost painfully simple.  However, it captures the shape of the sun (the black dot), the colour of sunlight (“33 Acres of Sunshine”), and the (approximate) colour of the beer.

The best way to draw attention to yourself in this market might be to simplify. Perhaps this is the little yellow dress of beer cans?

Repurposing spent grain

Fuz here. I had hoped that this time away from all things would allow me the leisure to drink new and exciting beers, and to have something more to report to you on the brewing scene up north.

I hadn’t counted on the whole “I have no desire to leave the house and interact with people, even if it’s to buy things I love” feeling I’ve had since the world turned upside down. My trips to the liquor store have become blitzkriegs. And, while what I’ve been buying is good, I’ve been going after old standards.

But, these folks have been coming to my farmers’ market for a few years. Susgrainable takes spent barley from breweries, dries it, and uses it to make flour, breads, cookies, and more. By using spent grains, they’re reducing food waste–and, because most (if not all) of the barley’s sugars are extracted in the beer preparation, what’s left is far less likely to impact one’s glycemic index. Which is a good thing.

Critically: how does it taste?

Pretty good, actually! Their rosemary focaccia is nice and oily and redolent of rosemary. It’s definitely a bit darker than I’d like, the crust a bit more tender than I enjoy, and the crumb is a bit closer than I’d prefer. (To be honest, the bread up here is generally softer and less crusty/chewy than I’d like, so this isn’t a knock on the Susgrainable folks, per se.)

In any case, I enjoyed this, and I’d definitely buy it again.

I also had an Animal Lover’s cookie (not pictured)–and here’s where we run into my issue with healthy desserts: coconut. Let’s just say I’m generally not a fan of coconut’s taste or texture. So I was surprised when I generally liked the flavour of the cookie. The texture was not my cup of tea–but I imagine that they know what sells.

Overall, I had a positive experience with their baked goods, and I’d be willing to try more. And I think this is a great idea for reducing the amount of waste that brewing generates.

A tale of temperature

A while back, I went to one of my local brewpubs and tried a dunkel. It was a charming beer and it photographed well.

dunkle

The tasting notes described “toasted bread crumb and almond with hints of chocolate” which I got, but only as the beer warmed up. Some vigorous swirling in my mouth did the trick until the beer reached its optimum temperature, about 15-20 minutes into the pint.

Which did get me to thinking: do you serve beer at the correct temperature for the initial taste, or do you aim below optimum temperature, and hope your beer reaches optimal by mid-pint or so? I imagine that much of the answer to this question depends on the type of beer, the time of year, and the size of the pour (in July, you probably want your ‘Mexican-style lagers’ close to optimal temperature for the first sip; in December, I’d imagine a pint of a 10% winter warmer can be served a bit below optimum temperature, even if that optimum temperature is on the high side to begin with). But I don’t have a definitive answer, and now I have something to research.

 

 

Brassneck: The Quibbler; Dark Place

It’s been quite a while–probably three or so months–since I’ve been to the Brassneck, and significantly more time since I’ve sat down to have a brew. But Mr. Bottle and I had time to kill between an art show and a play, and we were in the neighbourhood, AND there were seats available.

So down we sat to have beer and sausages.

IMG_3556

My beer was the Quibbler, a tart blonde with quince; the beer on the right was Mr. Bottle’s, the Dark Place, a barrel-aged porter with B. claussenii. After trying both, we each came to the same startling conclusion: we each liked our beers the best. Normally when we’re out, I pick for Mr. Bottle something he’d like, even if that’s the beer I’d most like to drink. I then try something a bit more experimental, and often find myself wishing I’d just ordered another pint of what he was having.

This time? Well,  Mr. Bottle’s beer was a perfectly fine porter with some brett in the mix, and…this time, I wasn’t a fan. It was fine; it wasn’t for me that day.

My beer was lovely in colour, golden and opaque, with an enjoyable nose (sourness, with a bit of the fruit coming through). The mouthfeel was juicy and appealingly rich–this beer has significantly more body than you’d expect. It’s also very reminiscent of the complexity of the fruit it’s celebrating, with perfume and hints of both apple and pear. I found the back end quite dry, but in a good way.

All in all, it was a lovely way to kill an hour.

 

What was that again? (Four Winds Bosque)

Four Winds Bosque Ale

This is an absolutely beautiful beer. The overall impression is of a crisp, clean, bubbly and exceptionally well-made farmhouse ale, with just a hint of tartness. It truly is beer of the highest quality.

Intrigued, I read the back and see that this beer was aged on Spanish cedar, then blended with a saison aged in tequila barrels, and then the whole was aged on Granny Smith pumice! Which leads me to think…well, this is an incredibly tasty beer. Unfortunately, saving perhaps a faint hint of the apple, I can’t parse what all these ingredients and processes are adding to the mixture.

Perhaps I was not in the headspace last night to tease out flavour components, but I can see why Four Winds was so detailed in listing everything that went into this beer. (I’m pretty sure this was around $15 for the bottle.) Having said that, I’m thinking that this is like sausage, which I can enjoy without knowing its backstory.

Forgot What’s In My Fridge #3

I was digging through beers on my top shelf (where I tend to keep the rarer things), and I came across an unassuming bottle. And found myself face to face with a…spring gruit?

Saltspring Gruit

Um…whoops.

This is the Spring Fever Gruit from Saltspring Island Ales. And I’m sure it would have been more enjoyable in spring! Or at least much, much closer to when I bought it.

There are some signs that oxidation has taken place–a bit of dullness on the palate–but what struck me most about this beer was how pleasant it still was. Sweet and malty, with some of the herbaceousness coming through as well, it aged far better than I might’ve thought.

Not the best beer to cellar by mistake, but I’ve had worse from the fridge.

Which means I should be drinking more.

What Can You Buy There #6: Kulshan Blood Orange Gose

Kulshan Gose ale

(Ed. note: after a weekend of travel, I couldn’t make the Monday theme happen. I’ll catch it on Wednesday!)

Like all good residents of BC, we stopped at the Trader Joes in Bellingham on our way back from our last trip to the States. While we were there, and in recompense for putting up with all the other shoppers at Trader Joes on a Sunday morning (why weren’t they at brunch, like sensible people?), I was allowed to pick up a six-pack of Kulshan Blood Orange Gose.

And…it’s entirely pleasant! Which sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, but no. It’s got a nice nose, a good gose front end, and a pleasantly fruity back note. I don’t know that my nose or palate picks up “blood orange,” as opposed to a general sense of fruitiness. But it’s remarkably light and crisp, and something that makes the warmer days of spring more enjoyable.