Abundance

One thing about going to the OBC meetings is that sometimes there are goodies to take. 

And this time, there were bottlecaps. Including Budweiser bottlecaps. 

For home brewing there is nothing more punk rock than serving stouts with a Budweiser cap.

Well, maybe there is, but it’s as punk rock as I need to be.

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East Coast One

After arriving in Manhattan, my friend Ed took me to Molly Wee’s, which is somewhere near Madison Square Garden. While I probably could find it walking in the city, I couldn’t tell you where it is. New York is like that for me; familiar but mystifying.

While the selection was rather slim, it was my first chance to relax since I’d gotten on a plane 8 hours earlier. Stuck between everything I would expect, and nothing, I went with Samuel Adam’s Oktoberfest. It was a solid, reasonable beer, malty and it had a kind of workmanlike quality that I was going to rely on whenever I was limited in my choices. Sam Adams seems to have established itself pretty strongly, at least in the Yankee areas I were in, as the solid premium beer of choice.

Fortunately, my next stop was Brooklyn, where the awesome author of the Gift Donkey began to show me around. New York was quite warm, so she walked us through the neighborhood,  passing by the bad Korean place, the crazy local dive bar (“you will get weird looks when you walk in”)  and the Williamsburg expressway. On the porches people hung out, having overloud conversations about giant bugs or strange boyfriends, or maybe both. We stopped at Mugs, a badly lit place that had a six page menu; four of beer, and two of food.  Oh yeah, this was going to be my kind of place.

Many of the beers were belgian ales, many of which I recognized, and I was a little discouraged because I wanted to try something I hadn’t before. Then on the chalkboard sign that wasn’t even illuminated as well as a grade school stage play, I made out, Brooklyn Lager on the menu.

Well, I’ve never had that before! Gimmie.

The Brooklyn Lager was decent, but I admit I was hoping for a little more. My own fault, though, for picking a beer that is meant to be so unremarkable. Spoiled by the Hopswork lager? Maybe. 

So next up was Sixpoint’s Incubus. I had no idea what I was getting when I ordered this, and found myself confronted with a yellow, hazy beer with a banana nose. The head on it had large bubbles, giving it a foamy, airy quality that made the nose stand out. The beer wasn’t very challenging, but it was still pretty tasty, and by now I’ve been up for seventeen hours. Which is my way of saying; my notes and my memory both fail me. I forgot to take pictures, and was all done in, so should this be less than accurate, please forgive me.

Disappointments

Not quite right
Not quite right

The amber I made didn’t work out. You can probably see that in the growling of my face.

Oh, it’s drinkable. I can’t say it’s a failure, but so far it has not met expectations.

The nose on this beer is nice and sweet; UK Golding hops serving me well here, the boiling of hops that I’d used in a dry-hopping process working out just fine. The beer isn’t bitter, but it does have some body to it.

Once again, however, it’s just not carbonated. Now I’d bottled this beer before finding out about the trick of re-introducing yeast to the beer so hopefully this problem will be eliminated in the future. Beer ought to be carbonated (at least a bit) and I don’t feel like waiting another three weeks or more for the stuff to behave. However, if all goes well, this will be the last time I have to deal with this problem, so huzza!

What’s more troubling is that there are strange black particles at the bottom of my glass.  Tiny black ashes. It’s like there were burnt malts that were allowed to stay in the beer, somehow. Or who friggin’ knows what went wrong there.

There really is only one proper response to this kind of situation; open up another beer, and find out if it has the same issues.
~you’ll have to imagine me getting a beer at this point~

So, now that I’ve had the next beer, I can say that this doesn’t seem to be a pattern. This beer is clearer, and while there are particulates at the bottom of it, I don’t think they are the same kind. The previous one probably came near the end of the carboy, where more yeast and other particulates can make it into the beer.

I’m still drinking flat beer, though. Sigh.

One clear winner

The beers I tried from Phillips Brewing were steadily awesome. While I was not fond of the dark IPA, Black Toque, I am not fond of that style. Bitter malts, coupled with bitter hops means there is a strong desire to not drink that beer on my part.

But (and what would this post be without one?) the Longboat Double Chocolate Porter tasted lovely, like milk chocolate only in beer form. It was velvety without being heavy, and a great beer. The Amnesiac IPA was one of the better balanced double IPAs I’ve had, and the Blue Buck sustained me in bars where my other options were Molsons or nothing.

I haven’t seen Phillips’ beers down in Portland, and I hope that changes soon.

A brief aside: I don’t see many beers from Canada in my section of the US. Why is that? I can find beers from German, Belgium, England, even Italy and Japan! Canada is right there! Seems like those microbreweries would send things our way. I can only assume that for some strange reason the laws for transporting alcohol between Canada and the US are stricter than the ones between the US and other countries.

Finally, one place I was told to check out but found very disappointing was Spinnakers. We got a sample of all their beers, and they seemed timid. It’s weird to describe a beverage that way, but it felt right; the beers all erred on the side of safety. The double IPA was balanced, but are double IPAs supposed to be? There was a scotch ale that was decent, but because it was cask conditioned, the carbonation element was missing, and I felt that I would’ve been better if the carbonation had been present. The last phrase in my notes is: the dunkel is good, but not pint worthy.

That’s not a good sign for a beer, nor a brewery.

But I don’t want to end this post on a sour note! I had a nice time in Canada, and drank at some excellent bars, getting to try some fantastic beers. Sure, it took me a little while to find my way, but the barkeeps and waitstaff were really helpful.

Big Bad John’s was one of those crazy places where they only play country music that’s at least 20 years old and everyone tries to leave a piece of their history there–business cards, pictures, bras.

The Sauce listed Heroic Drinkers on their wall; Belushi, Yeltsin, and a memorable quote from Tallulah Bankhead, “My father warned me about men and booze… but he never said anything about women and cocaine.” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be warned or inspired.

Smith’s pub not only had a great selection of beers (most of which were potent enough that I forgot to write about them, but I do remember some were belgain inspired concoctions from Qubec) it had some kick ass chicken strips. Mmm…chicken strips.

There was also a kick ass place on Simcoe street called the Bent Mast which is rumored to be haunted in a friendly way. The food was tasty and the service was great, and though I didn’t see any ghosts, it had the vibe of a good place that meant to stay that way.

The tipping point

Upon arrival in Victoria, we needed a beer. All that time on the ferry staring at nature and having the sun shine down-I’m sure you can imagine how necessary a beer was at this point. Fortunately, the Swans Hotel was just down the street, serving Buckerfield‘s ales. From my limited time there, it seemed as though the brewery was attached to the hotel itself, which makes me think that the next time I visit Victoria, I should just stay there.

I might never leave, which has its own pluses and minuses. Sure, I’d miss the glory that is Victoria, but I’d get to become a brief fixture at a great pub, sipping gently on well crafted beers all day.

Note to self: do this someday.

I started off with the Arctic Ale, which was the seasonal; it was crisp, light and with a fruit essence to it–my notes suggest cherry.  Finally, some yeast experimentation! Sure the malts had the overriding flavors, with a biscuity taste that didn’t stay around long enough to be welcomed, but I knew that I was on the right track.

Next, I had their IPA, which was a different animal; there was a definite floral push, and I’d go so far as to say even a rosy  quality to it. There was some actual hop bitterness to the beer, but again it didn’t linger to become unwelcome. This beer felt really balanced and very drinkable.

Next, it was down to the Canoe brewpub for their Beaver Brown ale, which had a dense mouthfeel for a brown. There was a hint of orange to it, before coffee rises up near the end to keep the beer from getting cloying. Delicious! I don’t know why, but my luck at finding interesting brews had definitely turned.

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