Thursday, 8 February 2018

Sayonara to the Spiegelau...

According to Police Reports, this Collective Arts Spiegelau
(that would be this IPA specialty glass) was last seen in the
company of this staggeringly-attractive blonde IPA, which
was originally placed at the brewery's location on Burlington
Street in the Hammer. The glass recently died and the police
believe foul play may be involved. Its owner is picking up the
pieces, as we speak. We send him our thoughts and prayers.
There was this one day last Summer where I knew precisely what my former co-worker Jay Dawg was doing. Even though we were miles apart, I still knew. You see, I got a text from him. It said simply, "Having a slow Sunday sipper in my Spiegelau." A photo of whichever big, latest, greatest IPA was out at that moment came within seconds.

It was in his Collective Arts Spiegelau glass - the style created several years back by the German glassware manufacturers in tandem with American brewers, Sierra Nevada out of Chico, California and Dogfish Head out of Milton, Delaware, meant to optimize the taste of your IPA and blah, blah, blah, other stuff I don't buy.

However, the fact that he referred to his beer as a "slow Sunday sipper" also meant he was watching Drunk Polkaroo videos (as we all do) because that is one of Polk's folksy catch-phrases. It simply means the beer is probably high-octave, say, an ABV of 8% or more. When they're darker like Imperial Porters, Stouts or Belgians, he switches it up to "big boozy bastards." They're like original genuine bonafide Made-by-Polk Phrases. The man's an Ontario craft beer legend.
Screw you, Spee-gah-loo, as I am now opting for the more solid pint glass
from Collective Arts. Breaking these damn Spiegelau glasses has become
a hobby I no longer enjoy. This pint glass will do just fine. It is branded
Collective Arts, is sexy in a plain-Jane way and is not so damn fragile...

Eventually, Jay and I just started referring to any and all good IPAs as a "slow Sunday sipper in my Spiegelau" regardless of the day of the week. We simply liked Polk's alliteration... all those S's. And because I got tired of constantly Googling the damn word for the correct spelling, I simply started referring to the glass style as my Spee-gah-loo. You ever have one of those words that you simply can't remember how to spell, like, ever? Yeah, "Spiegelau" was mine. That it's a German name doesn't surprise me. I mean, their bloody word for pen is "kugelschreiber." Linguists will tell you German is the easiest language to learn because it's the most logical but a 14-letter word for pen? Work with us here, Germany!

"Hey, folks, it's me, Matt Johnston, co-owner of
Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton. Look, if
you can't handle the delicacy of the Spiegelau
IPA glass, why not just stick with a regular pint
glass like this bad boy? If, like Don, your damn
hands are made of bricks, it's the right choice!"
So several years ago, I was given a two-pack of Spiegelau glasses from a friend as they were the latest, hippest IPA glassware craze at the time. While I, of course, thanked the friend profusely, I was also thinking, "Yes. It's an oddly-shaped IPA glass. I also have one that looks like a big damn boot." Various craft beer friends have rhapsodized over the difference Spiegelau's make to the taste of an IPA and I always nod agreeingly. "Uh-huh, yup, man, it sure does." And, of course at the same time, I'm thinking, "Look, unless this thing is lined with Idaho 7 and Amarillo hop resin, it's still just a damn beer glass." 

Now because those stupid Spee-gah-loo things are more fragile than your 90-year-old Grandma on ice skates, I broke both of mine within months. One time, I had simply washed it and was putting it in the drying rack. Nothing near it. *Ping* It broke. I probably should have turned off the ceiling fan in the kitchen first so as to not expose it to raging high winds like that. Perhaps it brushed against a spoon. Who can tell?

But they both kacked it and I thought, meh, that's that, then. Except I popped into Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton a short time time afterward and holy cow patties, they had branded Collective Arts Spiegelau's for sale. I could have resisted, I suppose, but Collective Arts makes some of the best IPAs in Ontario and it is the official hipster IPA glass so... Also, Spiegelau glass, you are a foul and ruthless temptress. You show no mercy.
Okay, this Sawdust City Brewing glass, gifted to me by Barrie Beer
Bro Hago, and Town Brewing glass, gifted to me by me because I'm
all about spoiling myself, are now my de-facto Spiegelau glasses.
Are they exactly the same? No. Are they close? Yes. Do I care? No.
This is what the apple must have felt like to Eve in that weird nursery rhyme.

Well, I broke it, too (no way you saw that coming, eh?) so during Collective Arts' next big IPA release (like, six days or maybe six minutes later), I bought another. But I thought, "That's it. When this one dies, the lineage ends. The Spiegelau Family is over. Kaput. Nicht mehr." (No more.)

Anyway, I recently made two trips into Collective Arts within a week. The first was to buy Beer Bro Glenn some of their new beers that he was dying to try and knew he wouldn't be able to get his hands on because he lives in Oshawa. And the second was to replace the new beers that Glenn was dying to try because I drank the first ones. But between the two trips, I had managed to break my fourth Spiegelau. Do I give it one more try or... Nope! Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my sexy in a plain way Collective Arts pint glass. Fully functional!! Not as achy breaky.
And here we have another entry into that Milkshake IPA derby
that people are so excited about. I thought it was okay although
the addition of Habanero Peppers was... odd? But Glenn really
wanted it, the brewery sold it in four-packs so suffice it to say,
Glenn went home with three of them. Not sure about this style.

So at some point, I'm gonna have to break it to Polk that there will be no more slow Sunday sippers in my Spee-gah-loo at Donny's Bar and Grill. Will he be gutted? Absolutely. (Polk: "Wait... what?") Will he get over it? Probably not. (Polk: "Get over what again?") But the man is a brave soldier and I know he will carry on. (Polk: "Wait? What exactly am I carrying? What the hell, man?")

Now I can invoke Polk's name here because I know he's broken a couple himself. One simply blew off his patio table once. I heard no mention of wind so I assume a mosquito flew past and the shock-waves from its wings were enough to send it flying. Beer Bro Glenn has broken a few himself though he only cops to two. He's klutzier than me so I'm not buying that bill of goods. Barrie Beer Brother Hago saw his Collective Arts soldier die at the hands of his lovely wife who was (ruthlessly and viciously) doing the dishes. But the most recent loss of a Spiegelau came at the hands of my Twitter buddy, Burlington Dave (@puckywuckums).
Is this glass as sexy as their Spiegelau? Does it have the same
tantalizing curves and finely-ridged bottom? No, I suppose not.
However, this is something unique about my new Collective
Arts pint glass. IT'S STILL IN ONE DAMN PIECE! You
know, there's something to be said about durability here...

On February 3rd, he took to Twitter to praise Collective Arts Collective Project New England Style Double IPA No. 5 as not only the best of the brewery's numbered IPA series so far but also one of the best beers he's ever had. Within the hour, he was back on Twitter, mourning the loss of his Spiegelau in a tragic dish-washing accident. That struck a chord with me because it was also the last beer my Spiegelau held in its delicate frame before its demise.

Is it possible that the Collective Arts Collective Project New England Style Double IPA is so bursting with flavour that a glass so thin simply can't contain it and literally bursts? And is this, in fact, the perfect segue for me to talk about the new Collective Arts beers? And would I do something that transparent and lame? You bet your damn ass I would. Burlington Dave called it. Okay, for the record, their Ransack the Universe IPA will always be an all-time favourite but this is that hazy, glorious New England style, baby, and that's a different birdie altogether.
When I caught up with Beer Bro Glenn at Three Brewers Restaurant in
Oakville last week, I brought him in 12 beers, 10 from Collective Arts
and two Dark & Sticky India Brown Ales from Cameron's Brewing to
show my hometown pride. So the craft guy there was fussing over the
beers I brought in. Meanwhile Glenn had this stash for me in his trunk.

The minute I tried this beer, I couldn't even remember what my favourite of their previous four numbered IPAs was. (I think maybe it was No. 3.) But it doesn't matter. This one was such a step above the others - all of which were very good - that it defies description (though that won't stop me.) Jacked with Simcoe and Citra hops, you get a blast of citrus on the nose, melon and orange on the tongue. This 8.2%, probably 45 IBU nectar of the gods has to become part of their regular line-up! I will actually beg if I have to because there is no actual dignity in this space. Actually, this is kind of a morally-bereft space altogether, come to think of it. Meh. But hey, now it's 100% Spiegelau-Free! (The Devil's Chalice, I say...)
Wait, Nickel Brook's Beer C was the winner of their
Mystery Pack voting? Who saw that coming? Oh, right,
everyone. Well, actually, 34.2% voted for this baby, which
means 65.8% didn't. You bet on the wrong horse. But hey,
that's okay. My horse rocked it and is now called Wicked
Awesome IPA. I always bow to democracy. When I win.

Okay, apparently their Life In The Clouds Hazy IPA was previously released as just Hazy IPA and I somehow missed it. I was probably distracted by a squirrel or something. It happens. With alarming frequency. Okay, since it now has a proper name, that means it must be in the regular line-up which makes me happy. Not quite the same kind of thrill-seeker as IPA No. 5, this is nonetheless a strong entry into the New England IPA (neee-pahhh) marketplace. Simcoe and Mosaic hops in this which means tropical fruit swirling in a hazy jug of tasty-ass. At 6.1% and probably also about 45 IBU, it won't kick you in the arse like the No. 5 but hey, after a couple, I absolutely guarantee you that you will believe you have Buns of Steel. (Disclaimer: Guarantee not valid in Ontario.)

Okay, from the glorious Neee-pahh style I worship, let's move onto a style I am far more dubious of - the Milkshake IPA. Because every brewery needs at least one of these, the Raspberry Milkshake IPA is Collective's entry.
As you can see, my man Drunk Polkaroo uses
his Spiegelau as a tasty snack holder on Movie
Night. I'll give the glass this much credit as it
certainly is versatile. And with all those kids
munching Tide Pods, the company bankrolled
enough cash to have the best Super Bowl ads.
Unless you are Bellwoods Brewing, in which case, you brew 85 different ones which people will happily buy because you're Bellwoods. Okay, back to this raspberry dealio. My problem with milkshake IPAs is that I'm lactose-intolerant. Oh, my body can digest lactose easily. I'm just intolerant of it being in my IPAs. To that end, I will let Beer Bro Glenn describe the 6.3% beer. "The aroma is all raspberry. More tart berries, as well as lemon and a bit of spice following. The habaneros kick in at the finish." Everyone get that, then? That was me letting someone else describe a beer that I can't deal with due to my intolerance issues. An easy out.

So let's get back on track outside the dairy world with Collective Arts Collective Project Black IPA. I snap this seasonal up whenever both it and myself land at their retail counter at the precise same moment. Why? Because I love this beer. The 6.8% bowl of black magic smells like a regular west coast IPA (pine and grapefruit) if you close your eyes but on the tongue, lots of cocoa and licorice. I will always have time for this style. Okay, so while all of these Collective Arts beers are winners in their own way, in a far more realistic and accurate way, that New England Style Double IPA No. 5 smoked them all and is officially the New England IPA to beat for my Best of 2018 list. Good luck with that.

Okay, moving on from beer business to the much more serious business of my upcoming birthday. It's February 14th (jot that down please) so I have taken all of next week off.
Artist David Buist created this image for a T-shirt
for me to wearing in Vegas. I am scrambling to get it
printed as we speak. So in essence, I'll be wearing a
T-Shirt of Drunk Polkaroo wearing a T-Shirt of me
wearing a T-Shirt of actual Polkaroo. Got all that?
As it is a big birthday - I am turning 80 and yes, I know I look good for my age - I'll be jetting down to Las Vegas for the week. But I turned to Twitter for some help with an issue. When I went down for New Year's Eve, I packed my Nickel Brook, Great Lakes and Brock Street Brewing shirts so Ontario craft breweries could represent in Sin City. So I asked who should be represented this trip? Polkaroo was insistent that his beloved Hamilton see the neon lights so I will be picking up a Collective Arts T-Shirt. As Manantler Craft Brewing owner Matt Allott handed me one of their tees, Bowmanville's getting some Vegas love. Of course, my hometown homey's Cameron's Brewing will get a shirt seeing the shiny slots. My man, Brian Wilson, (no, not the crazy one - well, a little maybe), the brewmaster at Highlander Brewing in South River is priority-posting two of their shirts to me - one black and one red for obvious Vegas reasons. That's four breweries but we needed another.

But suddenly, Twitter craft beer lover Clevareno jumped in with a crazy suggestion.
I finally figured out where on the strip this sign is so
this time, it's me, this iconic landmark and many tasty
Nevada IPAs. It's actually just a 10 minute walk away
"You need to make a T-Shirt with Drunk Polkaroo on it. In this picture on your shirt, he should be wearing a shirt with your picture on it. On that picture, you should be wearing a shirt of the real Polkaroo. Make it happen!" So Polkaroo threw the suggestion to our artist buddy, David Buist, who came back 15 minutes later (I'm not kidding) with the above cartoon. I suspect The Dark Arts were involved but hey, who cares? David got shit done fast!

Right now, I have Brittany at Champion Print Studios in Oakville on the case, making this shirt happen by the weekend. That cartoon on a simple black T-Shirt, size large because I'm totally jacked, man. Ripped. Buff. All the buzz-words that people who actually exercise use. Brit got back to me and said the best they could do without losing resolution was a six-inch-by-six-inch image (not sure why as David's original art, which he sent me and I relayed to her, was easily 12-by-12-inch) but it's getting done in two days so it's coming to Vegas. I'll get a proper big-crested one done when I get home. But this insanely-brilliant idea of Clevareno's that David made real in minutes had to make the trip. So it's coming, too. Okay, Scooby Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. I'll be back with those Glenn beers on the weekend but until then, I remain...

Monday, 29 January 2018

A new look up there at Barnstormer

Barnstormer Betty, top picture, has been swapped
out for a purely aviational logo, bottom, at Barrie's
Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling Company. It's
a move that was a long time coming, according to
Brad Ariss, their creative director. Digging the look
The beauty of talking to Brad Ariss, the creative director of Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling Company up in Barrie, is that even the shortest of conversations will glean a gem or two of very cool information. (And never forget, people, knowledge is power... uncontrollable raging power that will unravel the fabric of the very Universe and lay waste to all who oppose you!!!! Or maybe you'll just learn about beer. It could go either way, really. Probably more towards the second one.)

But a longer conversation with Brad is a veritable certified gold-mine, laden with so many shiny nuggets that you're not sure where to swing the pick first. (That's prospector land-minin' talk right thar...)

Now Brad was recently assigned to set up a more streamlined, workable sales structure for his beer-loving, aviation fly-boys and fly-ladies up there and once doing so, he has been slowly sliding back towards two other responsibilities - the lesser being their voice on all social media and the larger being, well, that whole creative direction thing.

As you are about to see, Brad has been a busy (what's the proper aviation term?) wing-nut these days. And if you pay as close attention as most of us craft lovers do to Ontario breweries, you've perhaps already noticed one thing.

Barnstormer Betty, their 1940s style pin-up girl logo, is gone. Oh sure, you'll still see her on some cans here and there as the new designs are slowly phased in but soon that will be like, well, the 1940s itself - history!

Now to be clear, dealing with the logo, thought by some to be a sexist throw-back of yesteryear, was an immediate priority for Brad and the brewery as you want your product, especially craft beer, to be as gender inclusive as possible. Looking past the obvious negative social ramifications, my thinking is that's just plain smart business.
Ladies and gentlemen, a sneak peek at the new
label for Barnstormer's signature IPA, Flight
Delay. While the basic design is based on 1960s
pop art, that of a traveler slightly panicked as
she scans the departure board, the base colours
will change to match that month's fruit tweak
to the renowned IPA. (Easy now - the regular
one will still be available year-round. Breathe!!)
Half the people you encounter at a Craft Beer Festival or relaxing in craft breweries are women. You want to potentially alienate half your clientele with outdated imagery, hey, you go nuts. The local Chamber of Commerce won't be knocking on your door with any Job Well Done Award anytime soon.

And Brad was more than happy to redesign it. "It is, indeed, a full logo change. I've been wanting this for a while. I appreciate what the brewery had in mind with a pin-up girl. It made perfect sense for the brand but I wanted to focus on aviation (the brewery theme) - just in a more artistic way."

So Barnstormer Betty is gone for good, Brad? "Yeah, bye bye Betty. I think it's time." After more than four years, Betty has left the plane, walked across the tarmac and disappeared forever into the hangar.

But because we're talking Brad here, it's a lot more than a logo change. The brewery, which first opened in late 2014 with the name Barnstormer Brewing and Pizzeria (seriously, I love that), is about to relaunch, rebrand and one of the first on the Re-Do List is their customer favourite Flight Delay IPA.

But a quick aside or two. First, that pizzeria thing. When they opened, they quickly became renowned for their delicious stone-fired personal pizzas. Their ranking on their Facebook page is 4.7 out of 5 Stars. That's virtually a perfect score for a restaurant.
A new design by Brad for Barnstormer's Absolute Altitude Saison, including
the new logo. I went extra-large with this one because I loved the design, the
colour shift from top to bottom and the modern imagery. I tell you, if this is a
taste of what's in store from the brewery, we are in for a colourful, wild ride.
No one ever scores a perfect five because customers can be (what's the phrase again?) whiny keyboard warrior bitch-boys. To get the equivalent of a 94% in the customer service industry is phenomenal. That speaks volumes to the food, the ambiance, the beer selection and most especially, the servers. So kudos to the brewery airline crew for that.

But the second is a story that still cracks me up. One of my first dealings with Barnstormer (and thus Brad) online was regarding a Twitter issue. Every time, I mentioned Flight Delay on Twitter, it triggered some crazy nanobot that instantly sent me about five responses from different "people" all saying the same thing. "Was your flight delayed? You may be eligible for a refund from the airline if you go to this link!" That I was talking about a beer in a glass taking off from the coaster and landing in my mouth successfully - on time, every time - seemed to elude the little cyber nanobots, programmed only to see the words "flight delay." I'm not sure how Brad resolved the issue with Twitter - only that he did - but some day I will ask him. I won't even begin to understand the answer but I'll nod sagely and have a beer in my hand so it's all cool.
Snapd Barrie was at Barnstormer in the Summer of
2016 to get this shot of the crew opening their "Hop
Garden Patio." That's Brad on the left, super-brewer
Jeff Woodworth in the middle and Dustin Norlund,
who owns the whole insane asylum on the right. And
yes, I've been there and there are hop vines growing
on the trellis framework around the patio. Very cool.

Okay, back to the rebranding. I veer off course at times but hey, many pilots do. It's in our blood. Just ask brewery owner-founder Dustin Norlund. The dude once built a plane. From scratch. With his damn hands. Frikkin Beast Mode stuff right there.

Turns out Brad is pretty damn happy with the rebranding thus far although truly, it has only just begun. When he fired through some of the new artwork, I was pretty impressed and told him so.

"Thanks, man," he responded. "This is the first work I've done that I'm really happy with."

With Flight Delay IPA, it's a core design - a 1960s Pop Art style with a traveler looking at a Departure Board at an airport and she's doing what we all do. Panicking to see when the flight leaves.

But Head Brewer Jeff Woodworth has plans for Flight Delay (and others) this year and he plans to tweak the brewery classic with a different flavour profile each month. So Brad and a designer buddy created a can that could stay the same but swap in new colours each month to represent the new fruit or spice additions to the recipe. Sounds like the designer is ready for it. "We're doing a twist with Flight Delay every month this year. It's a program I want to keep up."
Wait, is that Flight Delay IPA with Pineapple
and Jalapeno? Can someone go check on Jeff
Woodworth and make sure everything's okay
at home? Crazy brewers and their concoctions.

And here, my friends, is the designer's mind at work. (Enter with caution.) "I wanted a black and white can with strong hits of colour across it. The hard part was getting the graphics and lay-out. Now that it's done, I just need to change a few colours and maybe add a fruit icon."

So he's set with the radical Flight Delay revamp, then? Oh yeah, he noted, "Good for eternity now." So new colour each month, new look each time, I asked? "Essentially, yes. It keeps things easy on my end and makes the cans collectible."

But I'll tell you something for free. Just a few weeks ago on Twitter, my video-blogging pal, Drunk Polkaroo, was talking with some frustration about an objectionable beer can he had seen in the LCBO. Craft beer, too. Likely a female form in the art. I didn't ask  but let's face it, it's a damn good guess. So I just kinda said to him that it seemed that quietly, the label objectification was slowly disappearing. No doubt, if you're a woman, there's still a long ways to go but the footprints at least seem to be aimed in the right direction. Two days later, I noticed Barnstormer's rebranding for the first time and realized, well, guys like Brad are certainly fighting the good fight. It seems we all want a Craft Beer World that's just about good craft beer. And we want an inclusive one because, well, the beer is really good stuff. And in this case, you get some wicked art out of it!! Okay, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Leave It To Beaven

That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight. Losing my
religion. No, wait, that's me on the left while my Carpenter
Bro Josh is on the right and here we are, enjoying some tasty
product at Little Beasts Brewing in Whitby on December 9th.
This is a story about my young Oshawa friend, Josh Beaven (hence the punny and absolutely hilarious headline - I'll give you a second to catch your breath), the joys of Beer Mail and a most epic battle between myself and a Canada Post SuperBox.

Now, I've known Josh for quite a while now as we first met on... *checks notes*... December 9th, 2017. So virtually a lifetime ago, right?

We met during the epic (and I would hasten to add, arrest-free) Whitby Craft Brewery Invasion of 2017 whereby seven of us jammed ourselves into a big, white stretch limousine and descended on four hapless, helpless craft breweries scattered throughout Whitby. (Oddly, they embraced us, which may offer empirical proof that craft breweries very much enjoy testing their own products.)

Now the week leading up to the Brewery Invasion was a bit of a shit-show for Josh. His work-truck broke down and what was supposed to be an already-pricey $700 repair bill nearly doubled to $1,200-plus.
After building a hugely-popular Brock Street Brewing pop-up store at
the Oshawa Centre shopping mall for the Christmas crowds, Josh and
his squad dismantled it (which is a shame because I wanted to see it) and
then built this Brock Street stand at the Whitby Curling Club for the
2018 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts. He took over Sheet #1 at
the club and made it into a stand-alone bar for the participants. Nice!
And perhaps this is just a false rumour but I hear curlers like to drink.
While his business, Josh's Custom Carpentry, is just starting to take off in the Durham Region, it was a pre-Christmas financial kick in the nards that he (indeed, any of us) could have happily done without. I dare say no one was looking forward to our little excursion quite as much as Josh, who needed a stressfree, absolutely-brain-dead day of fun, great craft beer and debauchery. (This is where I shine, people. The afore-mentioned arrest-free part is just a happy coincidence. I can't guarantee that twice.)

So anyway, Josh has done considerable work for his and my favourite Whitby brewery, Brock Street Brewing, including a pop-up store at the Oshawa Centre shopping over Christmas (think of it as Day-Care for Husbands) and then another pop-up bar at the Whitby Curling Club this month for participants in the 2018 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts, one of the Province's best-known curling bonspiels.
As you can see, Josh had written instructions on my Beer
Mail not to let it drop below a certain temperature. The
one problem with that was pointed out to me by a dear
friend at Canada Post, Shona, who explained that due to
automation, hand-written instruments do not scan into
the system but a "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker would work.

But it was when I was in Las Vegas over New Years Eve that I got a message from Josh, asking for my mailing address because he wanted to send me some "Welcome Back to Canada" Beer Mail. He doesn't know I'm in the Witness Relocation Program so I was like hell yeah, here's my address and Godspeed. Just don't tell anyone.

So he sent his package off (I'll show you the swag below) and tracked it until it arrived in Oakville. Once here, he alerted me that The Eagle Had Landed. Sweet. However, it was at this point that a new fight was about to begin, featuring myself versus my Canada Post SuperBox. Since it was averaging minus-10C and even colder at the time, my key couldn't open the frozen lock on my box. That lead to an hour on the phone with Canada Post.
The two beers on the left survived the Winter elements, the two on the
right, not so much as they froze and popped the cans. However, it's the
centre-piece that's the jewel here as the Brock Street glass landed safely.

They gamely sent a guy out and de-iced my lock the following day. Once I got into my box, there was a separate key for the larger parcel box at the bottom. But it was... yes, frozen shut. At this point, I was referring very loudly to my SuperBox by another word that begins with "S". A very "shitty" word, so to speak. So I did what any rational, thinking Canadian would do. I went home, got vice-grips and rubber gloves. I decided if the key broke off in the parcel box, well, that's not mine to fix.
Despite promising myself that I would come home
from the Whitby Craft Brewery Invasion with a glass
from each brewery, I somehow forgot Brock Street,
our very first stop. I did make it home with eight of
their taster glasses, though. Clearly, the same thing
happened to Barrie Beer Bro Hago, who posted this
picture of a taster, joking about how huge the can was!

Canadians know all-too-well that feeling when you try to open your car door on a frigid Winter day and there's resistance. No joke - three weeks ago, a guy walked into my Beer Store, holding his door handle as it had snapped off in his hands. I used a wooden ruler to pry the door seal that night when I was opening mine. (Worked like a charm.)

But the rubber gloves and vice-grips did the trick as with some elbow grease, the parcel box eventually popped open with no damage to the key. Now I had a very frigid package that I left on a boot-tray as I was on my way to work. That turned out to be a good call as two of the four beers in the package had frozen and popped. When I got home, it was a bit of a soggy mess.

However, when I opened it that night, I found two Brock Street Brewing Amber Ales, two of their Porters and the shiny gem of the package, a proper Brock Street pint glass. One each of the two styles had frozen and popped while the other two, though very chilled, were fine.

But I wondered aloud on Facebook, why would Canada Post put a package clearly marked as "Do Not Freeze" into a SuperBox fully exposed to the Winter elements, rather than hold it for parcel pick-up. I got my answer very quickly and if you send friends "Beer Mail", you may wanna pay attention.
Here's a Canada Post SuperBox similar to mine. The big
boxes on the bottom are where parcels are now stored as
they leave a separate key in your smaller box to open it.

My friend, Shona, who I've known since high school, has worked for Canada Post for, well, decades now, including stints of running both the Consumer Relations and Business Technical Support departments... so she knows her workplace inside-out. And she told me, with automation, that things had changed over the years. Since packages are scanned through the automated system these days, the sender would have needed to have the post office put a "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker (with its specific coding) on the box as handwritten instructions don't scan into the individual carrier's Personal Data Terminal. "(Hand-written instructions) went out decades ago," she told me. "It's a different postal world than when we were kids!" 

So there you go, Beer Mailing People. If you are going to send Beer Mail and you have concerns that it may languish in a SuperBox or in someone's large-enough mailbox in the harsh Winter elements outdoors, get that specific "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker when you're posting it from your local Canada Post kiosk. Remember, the life you save could be a beer's. Does it get more important than that?
It was a Cream Ale Showdown at Donny's Bar and Grill on my day off as
I decided to pit three of the Province's best against each other. However,
the breweries involved all wanted to know who came out on top. What
was meant as a fun little day for me got competitive. The trouble I cause.
I think not. Well, maybe a heart being shipping to a hospital for an emergency transplant but they tend not to send those through the post office.

Well, once again, it seems I caused something of a Tempest In A Beer Mug. I had Monday off and perusing my beer fridge, I found I had three different Cream Ales in there - Muskoka Brewing's, Anderson Craft Ales and my hometown homeys Cameron's Brewing. So I posted a picture of the three and said words to the effect of "Who will win?" before concluding, "Hey, I will win!" But the three breweries all jumped onto the tweet and, in the spirit of Ontario craft beers with a dash of competitiveness, wanted to know who had actually won!!
While Anderson Craft Ales was quick to point out its
silver medal win for their Cream Ale at last year's
Canadian Brewing Awards, I told them the one they
HAD to enter this year was their Brown Ale. It is not
a style I enjoy often but this version was top-notch!!!

Anderson Craft Ales, out of London, fired the first shot across the bow, saying, "We eagerly await your decision! Although we know what the judges at last year's Canadian Brewing Awards thought." Last year at the awards, the relatively-new Anderson took the silver medal for their Cream Ale while the established 20-year-old Cameron's was right behind with their's for the bronze. However, in 2016, Muskoka Cream Ale (also 20-plus years old) took the silver at the World Beer Championships. So all three are recent award-winning brews. Once again, no matter which I picked, I still believe the real winner here was me. But they wanted something a little more substantive from me and the contest - an actual winner.

Cameron's played their cards close to their chest by adding, "Might be a tight race." But Muskoka, out of Bracebridge, true to form, was ready to throw down, declaring "Loser(s) have to buy a six-pack for the (winning) Brewery?" I was between a rock and a hard place now. I had to pick one of the three.
When the boys at Bell City Brewing
both heard I had just returned from
Anderson Craft Ales an hour prior,
they rhapsodized over the brewery's
IPA. Since I had plenty, I went out to the

car and grabbed them some on the spot.

So I tried all three in alphabetical order - Anderson, Cameron's and finally Muskoka. The 4.8% Anderson Cream Ale had some nice floral notes and a hint of apple on the nose and as the style does, went down very smoothly

The Cameron's Cosmic Cream Ale at 5% is very similar, a whiff of fruit and floral, again pouring down very smoothly.

But at the risk of alienating the first two (Honestly, I love you both - truly, purely, deeply, nobly), it was the 5% Muskoka Cream Ale that had a touch more punch to me. It had the same floral notes with some light caramel on the tongue but I think their light use of Summit, Cascade and Amarillo hops gave it the faintest bitterness and boldness on the back end.

Now, of course, I would never expect anyone to pay up on a bet that was adjudicated by someone as sketchy as me so how you three settle your score here is up to you. However, I do have consolation prizes for the first two brewers!!

Anderson Craft Ales, I had stopped in at your fine establishment last Summer and was happily told by your clerk, Kirk, to head upstairs and really check the place out. So I did and hey, what an awesome set-up! So, I had a great little visit. But I was on my way home to Burlington, first on Highway 401 and then the 403 when I decided to stop in at Bell City Brewing in Brantford. You have to cut off the 403 onto Wayne Gretzky Parkway to get to Bell City on Woodyatt Drive.
Head brewer Sebastian MacIntosh is still at Redline Brewhouse in
Barrie, just as he has been there with them from the beginning. But a
recent ad on Twitter indicated they were looking for a brand new head
brewer. A quick chat with Sebastian confirmed that he is not leaving
until the new brewer is all set up and ready to rock Redline's recipes.
What a lot of drivers don't realize is that the Ontario Highway Traffic Act clearly states that you have to put your right hand on your heart when pulling off at Wayne Gretzky Parkway in deference to The Great One. It's probably caused a few accidents.

So when I popped into Bell City and was making idle chit-chat with the two guys at the front, I mentioned I had just come from Anderson. Instantly, the Bell City boys got into how much they loved your Anderson IPA.

Hearing that, I went out to my car and returned with a couple for the guys because, well, sharing is caring... or some other hackneyed trite kumbaya clique. So I did my good deed for the day and Anderson Craft Ales, your role was obviously critical in that. So there's your consolation prize right there - you are adored and respected by breweries afar.

And Cameron's Brewing, your consolation prize is, well, me. Now I know that sounds like you got the totally sucky end of the stick but hear me out. I moved from Burlington to Oakville last Autumn, landing not two minutes from your fine establishment. Since I left, my favourite craft beer bar, Rib Eye Jack's Ale House, was shut down and my craft brewery Nickel Brook is moving to the Niagara area in the near future.
It wasn't until I recently visited to Las Vegas that I
discovered what a key role rice plays in the brewing
process. So much so that even yeast doesn't make the
cut anymore. That Bud Light... it's cutting edge stuff.
I'm not trying to draw a connection between my presence and the viability of local craft beer outlets but, you know, I'm tellin' ya what just happened in Burlington since my departure. As odd as it seems, it may be safer to have me nearby.

And on a final note, it was with some surprise I noticed on Twitter that Redline Brewhouse, one of my absolute favourite Barrie stop-overs, had posted a job opening. Okay, that's not unusual but when I clicked on the link, it was for a new Head Brewer. Wait... whuuuuuu? You see, since they opened a few years back, Sebastian MacIntosh, a Niagara Brewing College grad, has been their Head Brewer. He created my absolute favourite pale ale, Clutch, another winner with their Double Clutch Double IPA and top-notch collaborations such as the Going Going Back Back To Cali Cali IPA with Cameron's or the hilarious but actually tasty Lil Donkey Burrito Pale Ale with Rainhard Brewing. While Sebastian told me privately he's keeping the reasons for his departure to himself for now, he also assured me that he was not leaving until he helped Redline find a replacement and got him or her properly trained in all things Redline. I let him know I was bummed about it all and he duly thanked me for enjoying their beer so much and added that additional exposure to the ad could certainly be beneficial. So if you wanna become a Barrie Brewing God or Goddess, here's the link: Seeking Brewing God or Goddess And Seb, no matter where you land, you're my Notorious B.I.G, brother! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Maple Leafs, the Golden Knights and beer

Approaching the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for
the BIG GAME! A brand new arena with all the
bells and whistles. And my seat turned out to be a
little more upscale than I had originally suspected.
Lessee now, why did I go to Las Vegas for New Years Eve in the first place? I know there was a reason... Lemme think, lemme think...

Oh right, my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs were playing their first-ever game against the Golden Knights in Sin City on January 31st. See, I knew I was there for more than craft beer. I was also there for hockey. Typical Canadian - hockey and beer.

And I certainly wasn't the only one. With the game starting at 12:30 pm (3:30 pm Toronto time), there was tons of time to wander the strip in the morning. Along there, I saw dozens and dozens of Leafs jerseys. At one point, I posted on Facebook, "I've seen more than 50 Leafs jerseys on the strip this morning. I love it when a town comes together like this." I should have waited another hour. It was closer to 300 Leafs jerseys by the time I got back to my home away from home, Excalibur Hotel and Casino a half hour before the game. The T-Mobile Arena was literally across the street. And there were jersey-wearing Leafs fans everywhere all the way into the game, myself included.

While it's actually easier to get a ticket to a Leafs game in Vegas than it is in Toronto, there was the matter of price.
My seat pal, Al, holds up my $15 Hop Knot IPA made by Four Peaks
Brewing (Tempe, Arizona) which is 6.7% and thus the perfect hockey
beer. Al and his wife Jean are life-long Golden Knight fans... so that's a
half season so far. The couple was a rarity - actual Las Vegas residents.
The sucker cost me $325 and that was the American price-tag so closer to $400 Canadian. Because I want to go so badly, I coughed up the cash but was still curious as to why it was so high. I soon found out.

I was in box seating. I walked in and there was a bar, a washroom about 25 feet away and even a small beer and sandwich kiosk. My seat was a movable, cushioned fold-out right on the railing between the upper and lower tier seating. To one side of me were Vegas residents, Al and Jean, season ticket holders and on the other side, a Toronto family with their young son in a wheelchair. So the box seating was all-access. And damn convenient when you needed the can during a stoppage in play.
I walked by the Beerhaus brewpub on my way
into the T-Mobile Arena but never actually
made it inside. That situation will be rectified
when I return in the Summer. Or even earlier.

And while many friends back home exhorted me to try and get on camera, there was good reason why I would never appear. On the other side of the Toronto family were the banks of TV cameras, all aimed at the rest of the arena and the ice. If one had swung way around, he could have got a close-up of my nose and that's about it. No hockey fan needs to see that.

Okay, first the game summary, followed by the beer summary. The Golden Knights made short work of us, winning 6-3. Sophomore superstar Auston Matthews potted a pair for us but was outdone by Vegas' William Karlsson who brought the New Years Eve party early to Sin City by scoring the team's first hat-trick in franchise history. But as fellow Leaf fan, Beer Bro Glenn said optimistically afterwards, "Hey, at least you got to see a nine goal game!" As for the Jersey Score, well, that was closer to even but I'd say there were slightly more Golden Knight jerseys than Leaf jerseys in the stands. The fans have really embraced this team down there which as a hockey fan makes me happy, as well as disproves all those nattering nay-sayers who said the Sin City was no place for an NHL team. Armchair idiots, all of them.

Which brings me to the Beer Summary. At $15 a pop, I only had a couple but the craft beer options at the new arena were huge!
So, who are you guys cheering for? A couple of Leaf
fanatics went all out with the face-painting and team
appropriate fashions in Las Vegas for the big game.
My quest for Nevada-Only Craft Beers was a little stymied as I didn't have a chance to search out the whole arena and frankly, I wasn't too keen on leaving the comforts of my box seating, except at intermissions when we all flooded out to a humongous multi-tiered balcony for smokes.

First on deck was the Wolf Pup Session IPA made by Grand Road Brewing in Los Angeles. Sweet Mother of Moses, (I've never read the Bible so I need help with her name) was this a tasty one. They didn't hold back on the hops as this is goosed with Cascade, Simcoe, Chinook, Equinox, Mosaic and Galaxy - that's a lotta hops for a wee little wolf pup. At just 4.5% with a hefty 50 IBUs (international bitterness units), it's all tropical fruit and citrus. A fantastic sessioner!

Number Two was Hop Knot IPA from the good folks at Four Peaks Brewing in Tempe, Arizona because after you open with a session beer, you gotta step up your game. At a stronger 6.7% but low-end 47 IBUs, this, like the Sin City IPA, was more of a hybrid British-west coast brew. But I always have time for those. Tons of grapefruit and orange on the nose, this had a malty, bready back-end, giving it tons of balance. Quite liked this one.
Sometimes in Las Vegas, you gotta go old school and in
this case, that meant the always-reliable Stone IPA,
coupled with a classic Lynda Carter Wonder Woman
slot machine. I put in $20, cashed out $37. Not a huge
win but then again, I'm not much of a gambler either. 

But just before the game, I went to the check-out at Excalibur (check-out time was noon) because I was due to fly out at 12:15 am, just after New Years Eve celebration to head home. The lady at the counter looked at me quizzically and said, "You have this room booked for tonight, as well." Well, hold the phone, then. I sped up to my room, hit the laptop and found a cheapie 9 pm flight on WestJet to Hamilton for January 1st. I booked it. Yeah, I burned myself for my Air Canada return flight (no refunds) but who cares? I was staying in Vegas for New Years Eve! Time to celebrate! (The best thing about traveling solo? Spontaneous but often costly and foolhardy decisions! My specialty!)

But that also meant another 24 hours of hunting down the best Nevada craft beers! And I knew my first stop since moderation in all things beer was now off-the-gaming-table for the day. That would be Pour 24 at the New York New York Hotel and Casino and my old bartending buddy, Anthony. We'd been friends for two whole days now so, hey, we were tight. Also, never mind the slots or the Poker tables. You want a for-sure wager pay-out every time in Vegas? Hand the bartender a $20 bill and you get a beer and change back! Guaranteed winner.
Please note the lovely amber colour of the Sin City IPA
with the back-drop of the Paris Hotel and Casino. It's a
majestic view! The beer, I mean. Not the wee Eiffel Tower.

So now it was time to try the Hop Ride IPA from Tenaya Creek Brewing in Vegas. The brewery is nowhere near the strip but off in the desert where there's rattlesnakes and shit. They first opened in 1999 (that's practically geriatric in the craft beer community) as a brewery-restaurant but then switched to just beer. They moved to a new location, still near rattlesnakes, in 2015 and the rest is history. Because it happened before today. Thus, it's history. And the Hop Ride IPA? The 7.2%, 70 IBU ale has Cascade hops for that floral aroma with some Summit and Magnum hops giving it a fruit and pine back-end. Very nice Nevadian brew!

With a second visit to the Yard House in the shop-filled alley beside The LINQ Hotel and Casino, I decided a half-yard of Bad Beat Brewing (Henderson, Nevada - a bit of a craft beer hotspot in the State) Hoppy Times IPA was definitely in order. While my new favourite craft beer bar in Vegas with 146 taps has what appears to be a 7.5% and under limit on what goes into a 32-ounce (about a litre) half-yard glass, meaning no Imperial or Double IPAs, Bad Beat Hoppy Times just made the cut at 7.2% and roughly 80 IBUs.
Aren't hotel bathroom photos just the sexiest, he asked very much
tongue in cheek? Okay, not a great shot but one fantastic beer as
Belching Beaver, out of San Diego, has seen its Peanut Butter Milk
Stout become its number-one seller. Small wonder. It's delicious!!
This one is not 3D but rather 3C as Cascade, Chinook and Citra hops combine for floral nose with a wonderful citrus and pine on the tongue. I tell you, every IPA machine on this Vegas trip was hitting the jackpot big-time with this hophead.

Okay, time for my Favourite Las Vegas Beer now. Except it wasn't from Nevada and very much to my surprise, it wasn't even an IPA or an Imperial IPA. No, it was a stout. But this was no normal stout. Turns out there's a San Diego place called Belching Beaver Brewery, which, as a Canadian, makes me think of home because it's our national animal. (I actually had to Google that because I thought it might be the moose.) Also as beer lovers, we are prone to belching. Well, Belching Beaver makes this Peanut Butter Milk Stout. I know this because I was told by a server at another establishment up that alley-way to get my stank-ass Canadian butt to the Yard House so I could try this stout.
Our good friends at the Yard House craft beer bar in
Las Vegas are facing a bit of a dilemma regarding
Super Bowl Sunday. It turns out they can not use
either "Super Bowl" or "Super Sunday" in their ads,
due to NFL mumbo-jumbo reasons. Can you help?
Once there, a nearby patron, Craft Beer Carolyn, asked me if I'd had the peanut butter stout yet. When I replied that no, with the IPAs on their menu, I was unlikely to, she told me exactly where to get a bottle on the Vegas Strip and strongly (menacingly, even) advised that I do so. So I did so. Turns out this stout is the brewery's biggest seller. Small wonder. As smooth as a politician making false promises, this 5.3%, 30 IBU stout was a silky taste of peanuts, coffee and chocolate. Frankly, it might be one of the best flavoured stouts I've ever enjoyed. Next time, a half-yard at the Yard House, for sure.

And since we're already there, let's finish off our look at Vegas with my friends at the Yard House. They recently took to Twitter, asking for help getting alternate names for their Super Bowl Party. At first, I assumed it was because they didn't serve Budweiser, the official beer of the NFL. Nope, they told me, the NFL does not allow bars to use either "Super Bowl" or "Super Sunday" in their ads, due to the copyright warning you hear 227 times during any NFL game. So they asked their Twitter followers to give them a hand with a party name. So far, one of the better ones they have is my suggestion of "The Only NFL Game In February" Which is true... but oh-so-lame. Follow them @YardHouse and help my favourite Vegas craft beer bar come up with a better name, I beg of you. Tell 'em Donny from Canada sent ya. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

What happens in Vegas... is craft beer

After first staying at the now-gone Imperial Palace and
then Planet Hollywood Resorts, my Vegas go-to has now
become the Excalibur Hotel and Casino with its medieval
King Arthur theme going on. Everyone needs a home away
from home and the Excalibur has become mine. Love it.
The story of my trip to Las Vegas to see my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs play their first-ever game in Sin City began on the tarmac of Toronto's Pearson Airport. I mention that only because I and the rest of the passengers on December 29 all became quite familiar with that tarmac.

You see, the flight was to leave at 8:55 pm and land in Vegas at 10:55. It's a five-hour flight but with the time change, you gain three hours, right? (If you don't understand how time travel works, just nod. Also go watch the Back to the Future trilogy. Geez.) And 10:55 pm is just the beginning of a night in Vegas. However, we got delayed on that tarmac for slightly more than three hours. Every time the pilot got on the intercom to explain another delay, the poor bastard was getting jeered. Takes a lot to make Canadians hiss at you but he was succeeding. I just shrugged. I mean, it's not like he can say, "Screw this! I'm not waiting anymore. Let's jump the queue."

So with wheels finally off the ground at 12:05 am, that meant landing in Vegas at 2:05 am and while that's still the shank of the evening in Sin City, it's somewhat less so when your body thinks it's after 5 am.
My first night representing in Vegas and I paid homage to
my crew at Nickel Brook. Now you don't want to know
about the ugly bastard in this pic, taken by my server,
Anthony, but rather what's in the glass. That would be
from Crafthaus, the brewery around the corner, and it's
their Resinate IPA. So Las Vegas was off to a great start.
Still, my first night in Vegas? I was gonna get out, at least a little. After quickly cabbing it to and checking into the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, my favourite haunt, I knew where I was going. There's a little bridge that goes directly over Tropicana Boulevard and leads into the side-door of the New York New York Hotel and Casino across the street. And about 50 yards past that door, just past the famous Coyote Ugly bar is an open-air craft beer bar called Pour 24. It's right at the top of the stairs that leads down to their casino.

As this was my second (of many to come) time at the Excalibur, I knew Pour 24 all too well from my last visit. You see, this is my seventh trip to Vegas in a decade and the first five times were with girlfriends. All lovely, beautiful ladies, all fun company but it was mostly shows, shopping and "Let's take another selfie... OMG, delete that one!" Stuff that's less fun to me. My last two solo adventures have been dedicated to a new love - American craft beer. Last time, it was about finding great American IPAs that I hadn't previously enjoyed. This time? I was zeroing in on great Nevada IPAs (and maybe a couple of other styles.) Why? Because wherever I am, I want to drink locally and man, was Nevada ready for me in that department.
Anthony at Pour 24 craft beer bar in New York New
York Hotel and Casino was the first friendly face not
long after I landed in Vegas. He always seemed to be
working when I was walking by and as such, I always
seemed to be stopping there to start my day on the
strip or on my way back. NYNY or Pour 24, give this
man a raise, based solely on the money I spent there.

So because I knew this would be a short night out, given the late hour, off I went to nearby Pour 24 where I encountered Anthony, my new serving bestie. And I asked about local IPAs. Soon, I had Las Vegas brew-house Crafthaus Resinate IPA in my hands, courtesy of the man. (The actual brewery is in Henderson, Nevada.) And because it was very late and it was just me and another couple there, I got to chat with Anthony. Told him I was from Toronto (I always say that - it's easier) and was there to see the Leafs play the Vegas Golden Knights on New Years Eve. His eyes lit up as he talked about what the expansion NHL team had brought to the city - apparently, a lot of Canadians - and it turns out they quite like us down there. The usual reasons - we're just plain nice. After asking about him - how he landed in Vegas, where he was from and the usual get-to-know-you inquiries - I asked where this Crafthaus brewhouse was because I was quite enjoying the 6.5%, 58 IBU (international bitterness units) Resinate IPA with its grapefruit and pine on the backs of Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops. He just laughed: "You'll see it on your way into the T-Mobile Arena!" And by gawd, I sure did. Never made it in but I'll be back in the Summer. And maybe again in the Autumn. Possibly earlier in the Spring, too, as well. I dunno, I kinda like this bustling little city. Not a gambler at all so I must just dig neon and noise.
Because it was gifted to me by my favourite carpenter, Josh
Beaven, my Brock Street Brewing T-Shirt was my Day Two
shirt. Here we are at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville bar and
this photo comes with a story. I asked a dude, about 75, who
was really trashed if he could take my picture. He held the
camera pointed at himself (I knew - I just wanted to see) and
flashed himself in the face. After he got his sight back, I got
the camera in his hands correctly and he nailed Take Two...

But folks, here's my Favourite Anthony Story. It was Day Two of Four that I was coming back to the Excalibur after a day on the Vegas Strip. I saw him working and thought, "Time to stop in for a wobbly and say hey to Anthony because I'm almost home." I live in Oakville, Ontario but the Excalibur is my home, too. I love that place. They're solid - like that mystical sword of yore! Because I had enjoyed many Nevada beers that day (coming up), I opted for a Green Flash (San Diego) West Coast Imperial IPA, which is 8.1% and 95 IBUs of orange, grapefruit and pine glory. He greeted me happily as a familiar face ("Find some good beers out there?" Oh yes.) but I saw a group of 12, half men, half women, downing shots on the main stretch of the bar and asked what their deal was. "I think it's a wedding party," he said. "They started with a bunch of wine and beer but they are now up to shots." Hmm, a group of men and women downing shots together, I told him, that means there's gonna be some yelling and crying soon. "Oh yeah," he laughed, "And I can tell you exactly when, too. Just wait until they get their bill..."

But Day Two on the Vegas Strip when I woke up at about noon their time - the day before the Big Hockey Game - was my "Let's Explore What Craft Beer Treats Are Here" Day.
Tina at the Sin City Brewing satellite booth was an
absolute pro, answering every question I asked about
their beers and nailing the answers. She knew all the
styles and like me, she rocks the flannel overshirt.
And part of that meant Sin City Brewing, now over a decade old. Keep in mind, the first five times I went to Vegas, I was not a craft beer drinker and was perfectly happy with $1 and $2 Buds or Miller Genuine Drafts along the strip.

But during three stays at Planet Hollywood resort, I did see their initial brewery among the Miracle Mile Shops that circle that resort. While now there are four Sin City Brewing outlets along the strip, Owner-Brewmaster Richard Johnson has kept it a Vegas-only operation, only available in kegs. No bottles, no cans. So if you see someone, such as myself, wandering along the strip drinking their product, it's in their plastic cup with the brewery logo. Also because he keeps it small batch - 100 kegs each time - he has only created five styles - their Light, Amber, Stout, IPA and Weisse. I stuck my head into their Harmon Corner location but it was pretty jammed so I kept moving along. (I already had a Samuel Adams Rebel IPA in my hand.)

But I noticed something unusual in the outlet that I had to ask server Tina about when I came upon their satellite stand in the Grand Bazaar Shops in a shopping strip alley beside Bally's Las Vegas.
With over 145 taps - 130 of them craft beers - Yard
House is an absolute stop for craft lovers in Vegas.
The fact that 34 of the taps were craft IPAs made it
a necessary stop for me. I will be coming back here!
Chatting with her as she poured my Sin City IPA, I had to ask why there was Bud and Coors Light also on the counter at the Harmon Corner outlet whereas her little kiosk just carried Sin City alone? Harmon Corner was a sit-down location, she explained, so they carry a couple of big names "because you don't want to miss out on the sale." I suppose that makes sense. It's Vegas so not unwise to cater to the masses. It was weird to see those macros in a craft outlet, though.

Billed as a "classic British-style IPA", Sin City's was a great strip-walking brew. A light amber colour, at 6.5%, it's more of a hybrid as the nose was all west-coast pine with a caramel malt backbone. Deep rich taste. A few Ontario breweries - Walkerville in Windsor, as well as Longslice and Junction Craft, both in Toronto - do that hybrid-IPA style exceptionally well.

Further up the strip, I came upon another alley with businesses on both side beside LINQ Hotel, which replaced the former Imperial Palace. (The Imperial was so 1940s old-school that rooms still had balconies - something Vegas got rid of years ago for fear that some poor slob, who'd wagered his life savings away, would take a swan dive off one.)
At Yard House, my server Josh holds up my
Joseph James Brewing Hop Box Imperial IPA
which was both from Nevada and one helluva
beer. Two boxes checked at once with this one.

At first, I stopped into Off The Strip as their awning said "Craft Beer and Libations" but when I started talking to my server - great guy, won't name him, this is why - after he got me a Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, California) Union Jack IPA, he told me once I finished it, I should walk five minutes further down to Yard House. Without so much as a blink, he added, "To a real craft beer drinker, our selection is meh. Yard House has a ton of Nevada craft beers. But they have this chocolate peanut butter stout you have to try! I go there after work to drink it." Thank you very much, Awesome Man Whose Name Can Never Be Uttered!!!!

When I got into the Yard House, I told my server, Josh, that I was actually sent there by a guy at Off The Strip and he laughed, "Glad he knows where all the really good beers are." When he plunked the humongous craft beer menu in front of me, I had to ask. "How many taps do you have here?" Turns out it's 146 taps. That's a lot and something like 35 were pale ales, IPAs and Imperial IPAs. So when I asked Josh what a good high-ABV Nevada IPA was, he was soon back in front of me with a pint of Joseph James Brewing (Henderson, Nevada) Hop Box Imperial IPA.
The half yard glass has got to be about 30 ounces
(about a litre) of beer. In fact, Yard House won't
serve any big-ABV beers in these glasses. It looks
like the cut-off point is above 7%. Smart move!

At 8.2% and 90 IBUs, this thing was a Brain Cell Blaster! Tons of citrus on the nose, sticky resin, orange rind and pine on the tongue with that noticeable malt back end you get with most Imperial IPAs. But I ordered a cheeseburger and fries and when it was there within five minutes, the lady sitting a few chairs down from me, Craft Beer Carolyn, marveled at the speed it arrived and then asked me if I'd tried the Belching Beaver Brewing (San Diego) Peanut Butter Milk Stout, apparently the same beer that Name Withheld recommended. I told her I honestly wanted to but with all the IPAs on their menu, that wasn't gonna happen. Not a problem, she said, stop in at such-and-such store (about two blocks away) on my way back to the Excalibur because they always had it. "Seriously, you have to try it!" she exclaimed. "I will!" I exclaimed right back.

I did find it... and I did try it. So how was it? Well, that's gonna have to wait for next time as I continue my Vegas adventure with that Toronto Maple Leafs vs Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey game (Spoiler Alert: We lost 6-3) which was a frikkin' blast, as well as countless other Nevada beers and shenanigans on the Vegas strip as the New Years Eve clock struck midnight. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Back in a few days with Vegas, Part Two but until then, I remain...