Monday, 29 August 2016

When Cameron's comes a-callin'

Once we all get over our crippling shyness, I'm sure some day we'll
come out of our shells. The boys, including myself and buddy Drunk
Polkaroo on the left, whoop it up out front of Cameron's Brewing's
Cask Night on August 26. Three other breweries were also there...
When Cameron's Brewing social media maven Jenny offered me a reserved spot-plus-one for the brewery's Cask Night festivities on August 26, I found I just couldn't say no.

For starters, she and I had never met so I didn't want to be rude. That means beginning our beer-filled relationship with positive affirmations, of course. It's the gentlemanly, socially-appropriate thing to do and I'm all about that.

Yeah, just kidding, it's a wild and wacky night of imbibing delicious craft beer. Basically, it's the same as handing a juicy prime rib bone to a hungry dog. Like I said, Jenny and I have never met but she certainly already has a good sense of what I'm all about... Well, okay, "Don loves craft beer" isn't exactly a state secret.

But I tell you something. The timing of the Cask Night was perfect! You see, my high school friend Liz was in from Coquitlam, BC, and we needed something to do that night.
Liz has been in BC for so long, she was completely
unaware that her hometown of Oakville had its own
craft brewery these days. But I'll tell you this. Even
as someone who has been immersed in the BC craft
world for a couple of decades now, she was thrilled
with some of the offerings that night from Cameron's.
You see, Liz loves herself some craftie brews and living in BC such as she does, she jumped into the movement years before I did. I remember back in my Labatt's Blue days years ago, she landed on my patio with some Muskoka Mad Tom IPA on a nice Summer eve. I recoiled in horror after having a sip of one. If nothing else, that'll give you an idea of how much times have changed for me. Over three years of a steady craft beer diet will do that to a fella. Whenever someone buys a case of Blue at my Beer Store, I do remember it fondly. Happily drank it for years. But the simple fact is that macro beers are like a first marriage - a combination of nice memories as well as many nights you'd rather forget (or can't remember) but man, you can never go back there.

So, of course, Liz was down for the Cameron's Cask Night, which the brewery holds on the last Friday of every month. And they have expanded to the point where other breweries make the scene, as well. On this night, it would be Toronto favourite Steam Whistle, Waterloo's Innocente Brewing and Redline Brewhouse, a newer outfit that opened in Barrie just last Summer.

Craft Beer Sidebar... with Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Barnstormer Brewing and now Redline, Barrie might just be the Per Capita Craft Beer Kings of Ontario or even Canada. Three craft breweries serving a population of 128,500 people?
There was little doubt as to which fine Cameron's product I would steer
Liz towards with our free first pint. As solid as their core line-up is, with
the Ambear Red Ale being a particular stand-out, we were aiming our
mugs directly at that 12 Mile India Pale Lager, a 5.2% newbie there...
Based on numbers alone, not even Toronto, Vancouver, Portland or San Diego can rival that. I will be reporting on my coworker Jay-Dawg's recent swing through Barrie into cottage country and the stash he brought me in my next column.

So when we arrived, we were given a choice - go into it with the 10-ounce (295-ml) plastic cup or be big spenders, slap down $5 and get an official Cameron's 20-ounce (592-ml) pint glass, as well as a free fill from one of the four beers Cameron's had on tap. Lessee, a glass and a pint for $5? Tough to beat. At that point, I had my fingers crossed that the brewery had one specific brand on tap. The second we stepped in, I could see that gleaming tap from the distance - their 12 Mile India Pale Lager, one of the best beers I've had this year. Also there was their Cosmic Cream Ale, Captain Log's Lager and Ambear Red Ale, all fine choices.
When Joel and Noah from Steam Whistle brought both
their regular version and an unfiltered version of the
award-winning pilsner, Liz asked the same question
we all ask the brewery on numerous occasions. "Why
don't they bottle that unfiltered one, as well?" Despite
our pleas, the brewery saves it for special events only.

Naturally, Liz needed a little guidance for our free pint and I offered up the following, "The lager, cream ale and amber ale are all great but you gotta try the india pale lager." Now I was assuming that her tastes might be similar to mine but we all know what happens when you assume. Well, how about that? This time, I didn't make an ass of anyone, including myself, (that's staggering, actually) as she absolutely loved it.

But those were the bonus beers as the brewery had casks of two specialty beers there - their 4.7% Lager Noire (Liz' next choice) while I opted for their Duck Saizon, a 6.2% saison goosed with Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops, clocking in at a slick 29 IBUs (international bitterness units), pretty high IBU for a Summer Sipper. I had a sip of Liz' black lager (very nice) but was really happy with that saison. The hops gave it a nice flowery, citrus smell and taste. A definite winner! (Also I got topped up with that IPL a couple of times but don't tell anyone. It's a secret between me and server Zach. Also, Liz doesn't know it yet but she and Zach have a date on Thursday. What? I had to barter something!)

The next stop was Steam Whistle, Toronto's award-winning pilsner that Liz has imbibed dozens of times during her visits to Ontario.
Manning the Innocente Brewing booth at the Cask Night
was Jacob, who was offering up their Conscience IPA
with strawberries in the mix and The Hoff, a wheat
infused with peaches. Well, I pretty much had to go Hoff
But I knew the boys, Noah and Joel, had an ace up their sleeve. Partially because they both cheat at Poker (that's what Zach said) but mostly because Steam Whistle always brings their unfiltered version of the beer to every beer event. As Liz soon found out when she got her sample. "Wow!" she enthused, "this is so good!!! Why don't they make this one all the time???" That puts Liz in a long line of people who have asked the brewery the exact same question at every single beer fest they attend. I love the regular version but the unfiltered variety? Man, that's like a different beer altogether! If I was a craft brewer, I wouldn't filter anything. It's like the same beer... but raw and naked. Everyone likes raw and naked. (Zach, remember that on your date.)

Next in line was Innocente Brewing out of Waterloo where server Jacob gamely offered up a strawberry-infused version of their Conscience IPA at 5.7% and a peach-infused wheat beer called The Hoff, clocking in at 6.2%. My choice was simple as I am not partial to strawberries but I do like my peaches. Liz could not turn down an IPA, strawberries and all, so she went for that. I had a sip of hers and wasn't a huge fan but man, I really dug The Hoff!
This is the second time Drunk Polkaroo and his Brew Crew
have descended on Cameron's this summer. The first time
was to get their hands on that Brewmaster's Choice Four-
Pack that contained the delicious 12 Mile India Pale Lager
Light peach and a bit of banana on the nose and all peach (but subtly so) on the tongue. Liz sampled mine, crinkled her nose and said, "I like mine better." *Facepalm* I have told her time and time again... don't hassle The Hoff!!! Pamela Anderson hassled The Hoff and she ended up making sex videos with various rockers. And she also caught Hepatitis C. Nothing good ever comes from hassling the Hoff, especially Drunk Floor Burger Hoff. Mmmm, floor burger.

Poor Redline had technical issues and couldn't properly chill their casks of their 501 Golden Ale and Check Engine Amber Ale so they were shut down for a short time while they scrambled to fix the situation. Eventually, they got things up and running again but the beer was still warm. That said, we gamely gave them the old college try anyways with me opting for the 5.2% Check Engine goosed with Ella dry hops while Liz went for the 4.2% 501 amped with Nelson Sauvin hops.
Hamilton's Dave The DJ, aka Broken Mohawk, kept
the brewery buzzing with great tunes all night long.
I was ready to bust out my White Man Shuffle moves!
We liked both offerings but again, they were pretty warm. I think a Barrie road-trip is in order to more properly try their offerings. I can probably get up to Barrie before it starts snowing. Well, if I leave tomorrow. But like I said, the beer scene in that town is booming! That spells road-trip. It also spells b-o-o-m-i-n-g. English is tricky.

But the best part of the Cask Night was the camaraderie. Beer writing buddy Drunk Polkaroo was there with his lovely wife Kathryn, as well as a beer posse of indeterminate size. Had to be a group of 15 to 20. This man seems to know and have a personal friendship with everyone in Ontario who loves craft beer. Except Bob in Timmins. His outgoing, chatty and friendly nature makes the Polkaroo something of a natural people magnet. He'll corral Timmins Bob some day. And I was thrilled to meet Cameron's Jenny, a happy, friendly blonde who greeted me with a big hug. We chatted for a good amount and I applauded her on what a great night Liz and I had as their guests. This is not be my last Cask Night. As The Other Donald would say, "YUUUGE fun!"

But before I check out, every year there's an event in Toronto called the Golden Taps Awards, whereby you vote on all sorts of craft beer thingeys. One of them is Beer Writer Of The Year and my main man, Polkaroo, is out there lobbying for that sparkly trophy like a seasoned pro. I'll include his YouTube video with the Golden Taps link in a second. So you know, The Polk is a regular dude like the rest of us, Even if he sips too many tasty craft brews in his backyard, he still puts his pants on the same as you and me. One arm hole at a time. Oh wait, that's me! Never mind. So cue up this video, buckle up big-time and get ready to: Get Polk'd 2016!!! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Monday, 22 August 2016

♫ Watch the band... ♫

Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie had an entire
country in the palm of his hand on August 20 when the
band played their final show in their collective hometown
of Kingston, Ontario. Millions of Canadians got together
for viewing parties for The Hip's swan-song concert on

 CBC. Guitarist Paul Langlois, left, and the rest were there 
for the ride but everyone knew the night belonged to Gord.
On August 20, I actually felt sorry for other countries. Up here in Canada, we all stopped everything we were doing for three solid hours. And I mean, everything. Because collectively, as one nation, we wanted, no, I think, needed to do one thing and one thing only.

We put the entire world on hold for 180 minutes to watch the final Tragically Hip concert being broadcast across the country and live-streamed to the rest of the world, courtesy of a network we often love to mock and ridicule, the CBC.

And from 8:30 to 11:30 pm, we because a country full of Siamese Twins, all of us joined at The Hip. Aside from perhaps Olympic gold medal games in hockey, nothing had ever united us all in one place at one time quite like this. When Canada won gold for men's hockey at the 2010 Olympics, it was viewed by 16.6 million Canadians. I can guarantee you that if this concert does not topple that number, it will certainly rival it.

So why was this concert to important that an entire country would post a "Store Closed - Back in 3 Hours" sign on their front doors? Well, lead singer Gord Downie was recently diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. Despite his condition and his exhausting bouts with treatment, the band decided to do one last tour across Canada.
Canada's ridiculously-photogenic Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau walked through the
streets of Kingston on his way to the final Hip
concert. In a TV interview with Ron McLean,
Trudeau, who became a Hip fan in university,
said the band was "an inevitable and essential
part of what we are and who we are as a
country. It was an extraordinary opportunity
for everyone in Kingston but indeed across
the country to celebrate an iconic Canadian
band." And we all did celebrate exactly that.
So how important was the August 20 concert? Well, let's put it this way. The CBC cut away from the Rio Olympics to broadcast the concert. Since the CBC is a government-owned, crown corporation, they won't reveal how much winning the Olympic bid cost them. Because technically, it cost us, the taxpayers. But an estimate of $150 million is probably close to the mark. And they cut away from that to show the final concert. Live and without commercials. When a big business like the CBC does that - giving up guaranteed revenue to put on something for free - you know it's a big deal.

Now frankly, I didn't care that the Olympics got short-changed. Canada is a Winter Olympic country, what with the hockey, skating, sledding, snowboarding and skiing events. And we dominate so much that even the Americans and Russians are afraid of us. The Summer Olympics are a lot more... meh. Honestly, to me, when it comes to the Summer version, it takes about two seconds for me not even knowing a sport exists to becoming passionately invested in whether or not Canada is good at it. I mean, they play ping-pong as an event? Turns out the Chinese are insanely good at that. Canada, not so much. But in the end, we tied our record for medals at Summer Olympics so, you know, yay us! I also tied my record low events watched with one - the Men's 100M final. Canada's Andre De Grasse got a bronze but he was up against Usain Bolt so that's almost like a win. A horse on amphetamines couldn't beat that guy.

So, back to The Hip. I watched it at my friends Amy and Simon's place with a dozen of us there. Amy's father, Fin, was up from Florida and much to my surprise, he had a personal connection with the band. He's known guitarist Rob Baker's parents for some 40 years.
Have you got your Wellies on? Yup, the iconic logo for
Wellington Brewery in Guelph is a rubber boot or as
they are called by many, Wellies. That nickname actually
originated in New Zealand, which is rife with shepherds
minding their flocks of sheep and wearing, um, wellies.
"I remember when Rob was about this big," Fin said, holding his hand about two feet above the floor. As for the show itself, it took Downie about seven or eight songs before he found his sound but when he did? Holy crap. At the end, they did a three-song encore. And then another. And then a third. They gave a hungry country the musical nourishment and closure we craved.

But since this is allegedly a beer column, I have to find just the right brewery to include in a piece that opens by honouring The Hip. Well, let's see. Four of the five Hip members - Downie, Baker, bass player Gord Sinclair and drummer Johnny Fay became a band in 1984. Guitarist Paul Langlois joined them in 1986 as the final puzzle piece. I'll need an Ontario brewery with a history that mirrors that.

Well, why not Wellington Brewery out of Guelph which was created in 1985 and bills itself as "Canada's oldest independent brewery"? Seems like a solid fit, eh? They've both been around for the same amount of time.
Okay, this one I really liked! The rhubarb is there
in the taste but not overpoweringly so. Perfect job!
As it happens, my coworker Marie recently visited the Guelph landmark and came back with a bagful of beery goodness for me. I have yet to see the supermodel who can rival a Bag O' Free Beer for beauty. Like the last few Hip songs, it still brings a tear to my eye.

Now, due to its longevity, Wellington is often viewed as a stodgy, even dull pioneer in Ontario craft brewing. I disagreed vehemently. Yes, they have their core line that's been around for decades but these guys are still at it, cranking out new, interesting and cutting-edge brews. Old dogs can learn new tricks. I mean, it's only 31 years old. Technically, that's the same age as an actor has to be to play a high school student in the movies or on TV.

So let's start with a newbie of theirs, the Kickin' Back Dry-Hopped Session Ale. While not quite as hoppy as the name would imply, this beer definitely has its charms. Light tropical fruit on the nose, a touch of grapefruit on the tongue, this 4.8% brew had a perfect tweak of bitterness at the end. Nice job! A perfect Summer Sipper for, well, kickin' back...
Can you really go wrong with a Chocolate Milk
Stout? Nope, they are always delicious and fun...

To be honest, I didn't know what to expect from their Rhubarb Saison because of, well, rhubarb and saison reasons. Well, then, colour me pleased. (But please don't draw a penis on my forehead with a Sharpie when I'm asleep. It wasn't funny the first 17 times.) This has a lovely tartness to it. While there was no discernible fruit on the nose, which surprised me, there was a light spice aroma. But the rhubarb did come through, though very lightly so and it had a really nice dry finish. I was damn impressed with this one. One of the best fruit beers I've had this year.

This next one is not a newbie. Wellington's Chocolate Milk Stout pops up from time to time at the LCBO and I always make a point of grabbing a couple. This time, Marie did it for me. For the record, I pretended I had never seen it ever before in my life and I'll tell you something. It was an Oscar-worthy performance because of, well, free beer reasons. Not to mention the fact, this is a dynamite stout. And free!
Okay, this is a pretty clever name. Wellington's new
Against The Currant (complete with canoeist going
against the current) is a black currant kettle sour.
For starters, look at the beautiful brown head on this choco-bomb. You get roasted malts on the nose with a big old hit of chocolate. A slight hint of coffee on the tongue... followed by more chocolate. This 7.1% stout is a Cocoa Beast, baby! Remember back in the days when you were hung-over on macro brews and went to Mac's Milk to down a litre of their chocolate milk so you'd feel better? This would have been a better choice. One, it tastes better than chocolate milk. And two, it may have served as the introduction to craft beers that may have weaned you off the macro brews. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Also the ABV would have vanquished that headache.

Okay, next up is their Against The Currant Kettle Sour, which won bronze for Best Fruit Beer at this year's Ontario Brewing Awards. Much to my surprise, there were no sour beer categories at the OBA's but we all suspect that will change by next year. The Canadian Brewing Awards has added them so like I said, next year. Thus spoketh Odin.
The Prismatic Golden Sour is part of the brewery's
Welly One-Off Small Batch Series. I made sure I hung
onto this one until sour-loving buddy, Jay, showed up.
As you can see, this pours a beautiful amber and was perfectly carbonated - fizzy and tingly to the last drop. The black currants they used come through strongly on the nose but more moderately on the tongue along with some citrus in this 5.5% beer. It is definitely sour but not baby-bite-a-lemon-slice-face sour. According to the commercial description, "Kettle souring lowers the pH of the beer by adding lactobacillus into the brew kettle which produces natural lactic acid. When the appropriate sourness is achieved, the kettle is brought to a boil, killing any living lactobacillus, leaving behind a distinct sour beer with notes of lemon and honey." Then they added the black currants to the mix. Got all that? Yeah, me neither. They lost me at pH. Dammit, Jim, we're beer drinkers, not biochemists! But hey, it's a damn fine Summer Sipper and that's all I care about. That and pizza. And I suppose my son. But only when he listens to me which is rarely. He has no idea how quickly he can slip down the ranks behind pizza and beer if he's not careful.
Gone but not forgotten is Wellington's president and
co-owner Doug Dawkins who passed away after a
massive heart attack on June 11.  Dawkins took over
the brewery in 2000. Brent Davies joined him later.

And finally for a more traditional style sour. That would be their Prismatic Golden Sour. Want to know the difference between this and a kettle sour? It's barrel-aged. *Boom* You don't need a fancy-pants Science degree to understand that. This beer was barrel-aged in Cabernet Franc wine barrels for over a year with a mix of wild yeast and sour bacteria. As Cabernet Franc is actually a black grape that is used in several wines, all red, it really came through in the taste. On the nose, this 5.9% sour was all citrus on the nose but strongly dark stone fruits (grapes, mostly) on the tongue. I saved this for when my sour-loving coworker Jay-Dawg was passing through Donny's Bar and Grill. I very much liked it. He very much loved it. It was tart, tart and then a little more tart.

But much like Wellington mirrors The Hip's reign in terms of longevity, they also started this Summer with a heart-breaking story, not unlike Downie's, which was announced just three weeks later. On June 11, Wellington president and co-owner Doug Dawkins passed away from a heart attack in the early morning. His longtime friend, co-owner and Wellington Vice-President Brent Davies told that employees at the brewery were stunned by the news.
Over 6,000 people packed the streets in Bobcaygeon,
Ontario to watch the final Hip concert on countless
big screens set up along the main strip. When the
song Bobcaygeon came on, the huge crowd roared
 its approval. Only The Hip could pull this one off.

"We lost a good one way too young," said Davies. "We're like a family here. It was extremely difficult to tell everyone what happened on Saturday. This is a family place. We all pitch in when it's needed, doesn't matter what the job is. Doesn't matter if it's an order that needs packaging or whatever. We all do what we have to. Doug was just a laid-back guy and a very hard worker. The kind of guy who could fix anything."

Davies added that the brewery was going to keep moving forward. "We had a vision and we're going to see that through." Dawkins purchased the brewery in 2000 from founder Phil Gosling after working on the production line for 10 years. He brought Davies in as a partner in 2010. Dawkins' passing was a sad note that rippled quickly through the Ontario craft brewing community. Pretty damn sad.

But let's wrap this up where we started. On August 18, just two days before the final Hip concert, my beer writing buddy and YouTube shining light Drunk Polkaroo posted one of his beer review videos. Now I am mentioned a couple times in it but that's not the reason I'm posting this. Trust me, I'm as surprised as you. The beer he's reviewing is Hopsta La Vista, brewed by my buddies Jimmy Peat, John Peat and Sebastian Lesch at Longslice Brewing in Toronto. But again, not the reason, though he describes the beer perfectly. No, it's because he talks about The Hip at the beginning, in the middle and again at the end. Polkaroo's lovable and relatable Everyman style described much better what most of us were feeling. After posting it on his Instagram, Longslice commented that "I guess you've been Tragically Hopped!" And that's Canada in a nutshell. Smiling in the face of adversity. But believe me, when the final chord was struck, an entire country wept. So here is: Polkaroo Talks Hopsta And The Hip  And hey, everyone, after Side Launch Brewing in Collingwood lost three batches of their award-winning wheat, let's all continue to #StepUpForSideLaunch by buying some of their fine beers. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's it and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

East Coast IPA sends message

Shame on me??? What the hell did I do now? I think the
real problem is that I can't keep up with all the stuff I do
wrong so when someone says, "Shame on you!", I always
let them tell me why. The choices in my case are endless!
On August 10, I woke up, made a pot of coffee and turned on the news...

No, no, not the TV. That's the old-fashioned way. I went online and clicked on Canadian Beer News. I don't care what's going on in the American election and am only paying casual attention to the Summer Olympics. Quick question: did Canada send any men at all to Rio? Because the women are winning everything so far. You go, ladies.

But I want my morning news to be beer news. Start my day in my happy place. That's why I open my eyes every mornings to the latest shenanigans posted by Canadian Beer News. And that morning in particular, I was greeted by the news that Boxing Rock Brewing out of Shelbourne, Nova Scotia and Big Spruce Brewing out of Nyanza (cool name alert), Nova Scotia were teaming up for the release of Shame On You IPA. According to the CBN post, the new IPA takes a swipe at certain "imposter beers lined up for sale next to true Nova Scotia Craft Beer."
In the end, it was a release from the Craft Brewers
Association of Nova Scotia that finally spelled out the
issue. They don't want to see consumer dollars spent on
beers brewed by multi-national breweries when local Nova
Scotia craft beers are readily available. Okay, we get that.

Of course, since I'm 1,800 kilometres (1,120 miles) away from Halifax, I suspected they weren't try to personally shame me. (As I have no shame, it would be a waste of a pretty good name.) So who are they shaming with this new IPA? So I asked my young friend, Megan, the daughter of a coworker who lives in Halifax, the obvious question. "Is this a Keith's thing?" You see, Alexander Keith's is huge on the east coast, being founded in 1820 in Halifax. Except Keith's India Pale Ale is often targeted by beer geeks and snobs alike for calling itself an IPA. Frankly, to most, it's not even a good representation of a malt-driven British style IPA, much less a hoppy west coast one. I will go to my grave convinced it's not even an ale but actually a lager.
Boxing Rock founders and brewers Emily Tipton
and Henry Pedro both brought their respective
families to Sherbourne and from there, Boxing
Rock Brewing was formed. An up-and-comer!

But Megan herself wasn't sure at whom the shaming was aimed, only hearing of the new IPA when I posted it on her Facebook wall. Looking at Keith's IPA as a possibility, she noted, "I'm surprised they haven't changed that (name) yet. IPAs and Imperial IPAs are pretty big around here. (There's a) HUGE craft beer market in Halifax. I think everyone just has enough respect for the company (Keith's) itself that they keep their mouth shut."

Megan, being the little sweetie that she is, ended it as she always does - with an invitation to come out east and check out Nova Scotia's booming craft beer industry first-hand. Hey, if my beer writing buddy Drunk Polkaroo has his way, a bunch of us are aiming our vehicles directly at Halifax and forming a convoy next summer with that very intention in mind. Unfiltered Brewing, headed up by raunchy lunatic and renegade brewer Greg Nash? I have you in my cross-hairs! I will be using my titanium liver for this trip!

But that still left of the mystery of whom the Shame On You IPA was aimed at and as a card-carrying member of the Scooby Doo Gang, I can leave no mystery unsolved. (Hint: In the cartoon, the monsters are always human. Unknown is why Velma doesn't announce their names before she unmasks them. Does she know? Doesn't she know? We can't tell.)
On a crooked little road with a crooked little hill in
Nyanza stands the sign at the entrance of Big Spruce
Brewing. Like Beau's, this brewery is all-organic.

So I went to both breweries with DMs on Facebook and basically asked, "Is this a Keith's thing?" Big Spruce got back to me quickly and noted, "It's a more general poke than that."

Hmmm, the mystery continues a-foot! In the end, as I continued to dig, the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia laid it all out for me in a grand reveal on their website. "Hey, Nova Scotia!" they wrote. "I don't know about you but we're tired of seeing imposter beers lined up for sale next to true Nova Scotia Craft Beer. It blurs the lines between actual #NSCraftBeer and, ahem, beverages that try to impersonate local craft beer." Looking directly at Shame On You IPA, it continued, "Big Spruce Brewing and Boxing Rock Brewing have teamed up to brew you an all-Summer seasonal craft beer that reminds you of the choice you have to make when you make a beer purchase. Should I support my province and its thriving craft beer industry or should I let my money go to big international companies that care mainly about the bottom line and less about the community they supply to?"

In the end, the issue seems to come down to signage, of all things.
Nova Scotia's craft brewers are a little disturbed that the
signage in the NSLC can land beers made by big brewers
right next to theirs, duping the customer in buying beer
that they think is locally-made craft beer but in fact isn't. 
Much like Ontario's LCBOs, most booze in Nova Scotia is sold through Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation outlets. (Except we also have Beer Stores and now grocery stores, too.) But in the NSLC, it seems there's designated signage that craft brewers are finding, well, a little vague, if not outright misleading. In its commercial description, Shame On You IPA openly declares: "Hey, Nova Scotia, don't be duped by new categories like 'Premium Beer', 'Experimental Beer' and 'Craft-Style'! Only when you choose Nova Scotia craft beer like Shame On You IPA are you guaranteed to be drinking locally-made beer." To put an exclamation point on that sentiment, the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia added, "Nova Scotia Craft Beer should be recognized so that beer drinkers who want to keep their beer money here in the province aren't fooled into thinking they have (by the big brewers)."

I get that. While our LCBOs have always had clearly marked areas, our Beer Stores only did so in the past year as a nod towards its own edict to allot 20% shelf space just for craft beers. Now we are very clearly-marked - Domestic Specialty, Domestic Discount, etc, with one large section near the front of my store now very clearly labelled Ontario Craft Beer.
Many Ontario grocery stores, such as the Loblaws shown
here, are earmarking 50% of their beer shelves to Ontario
craft brewers. Have we somehow gone from the backwards
province to one that is finally ahead of the curve? We'll see.
But I am seeing a lot of my personal favourites on this shelf.
With clearly marked shelving for Ontario craft brewers in the LCBOs, Beer Stores and now the grocery stores, Ontario now seems to be in the unlikely position of leading the charge to boost our local craft breweries. A couple of years back, that certainly was not the case. For all that she is being politically condemned for this, that or the other thing, Premier Kathleen Wynne has opened up a huge distribution pipe-line to the public for Ontario's craft beers in a remarkably short time.

And now it's time to look at one Ontario craft brewer that made a very big announcement on August 11. And believe me when I say, this announcement must have been a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Side Launch Brewing, out of Collingwood, issued a media release on pretty much every form of social media to say, "Recently, during routine quality taste panel sessions at the brewery, we noticed that (our) Wheat beer packaged on certain dates has a strong tendency to sour if it is stored in a warm environment after leaving the brewery." The brewery added the beer posed absolutely no health risk to anyone who have consumed any. Just a "sour taste or uncharacteristic smell." That's usually enough to stop us anyway.
In this two-year-old photo, Side Launch Brewing
president and CEO Garnet Pratt Sidell is
holding a Side Launch Wheat, the very beer
they are yanking off the shelves at the moment.

Instantly, one wag on Twitter said something to the effect of, "Wait! A sour wheat? I might be onboard with that!" Indeed, did brewer Michael Hancock stumble onto the formula for Side Launch's first Berliner Weisse? Okay, probably not. Moving along...

The release continued: "We want you to drink the best beer that we can make. This will always be our commitment to you. We have therefore recalled all Wheat beer that has any risk of this taste defect." They then specified it was the Wheat beers packaged on July 6-7, July 20-21 and July 26-28. Check the bottom rim of the can for the date. Given the date spread, it's a safe assumption that this represents three separate batches of their award-winning wheat. That's a pretty huge "ouch" right there. I mean, Side Launch is certainly not the smallest brewer in Ontario but the brewery itself has only been around for slightly more than two years. (Prior to that, they contract-brewed out of Cool in Toronto.) They are not big player in the craft beer universe quite yet - though they will be. Three lost batches that should be black ink on the ledgers but instead turned to red ink is not small potatoes to them. Especially in the pocket book. (If you're not an accountant, which most of us aren't, black ink equals good, red ink equals bad. And I have no idea why I even know this...)

But Side Launch recognizes their dilemma and seems pretty eager to make amends.
One of my all-time favourite Rib Eye Jack's Ale House
friends, Tiffers, doesn't even drink beer (more an Irish
whiskey fan) but she's there to #StepUpForSideLaunch
They noted, "While we will be replacing this beers as soon as possible, this process may take up to two to three weeks, During this time, you will notice an absence of our familiar yellow can from your local LCBO, grocery stores or Beer Store."

So, okay, they've explained the situation and what we, the craft beer lovers, can expect. Awesome. But then they went a step further.

They continued: "If you have any of this Wheat beer in your possession, we will replace it as soon as possible as soon as we have more available. Please simply photograph the date code from the can (printed on the bottom's silver edge) and send an email to: with your information and we will respond within 48 hours... regarding your replacement beer."

So that's cool. Fresh free beer replacement, right? Wait, it gets better. After that, they drop the bomb. Ready? Here goes: "Alternatively, you can call 705-293-5512 to speak with Garnet Siddall, President and CEO, directly."
Am I willing to #StepUpForSideLaunch? That 12-
pack of their Dark Lager came home with me
last night. Buy one can, buy two or hey, buy a 12.
Granted I got a break price for the 12-pack. Saved
$3.65 over the individual can price. Hey, that's
another can of Side Launch I can get with those
savings! Everything's coming up Side Launch!!

Whoa. And that's a Keanu Reeves-level "whoa". They are offering up Garnet's phone number if you have a beef. Why? Lemme tell you. Side Launch won gold for German Wheat at the 2016 Canadian Brewing Awards back in May with this beer. On top of that, they won Best Canadian Brewery. As Spider-Man himself would tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. So the brewery and Garnet in particular are stepping up huge on this one.

And this is maybe where we come in. My normal routine is to grab a sixer of a good IPA from my Beer Store but then also stop at the LCBO on the way home to grab new singles of stuff I've never had or stuff I really like. Most of you skip that Beer Store step because you don't work there. So here's what I am throwing out there as an idea. Side Launch made a pretty huge and honest move here. I figure the least we can do is return the favour for the gang that bought Best Canadian Brewery back to Ontario this year. So when you're in the LCBO, Beer Store or grocery store, why not grab a can or two of Side Launch beer and throw it into the mix? Their Pale Ale, Dark Lager (my fav) and Lager are all top-notch beers. I mean, obviously, you don't have to but if you did... *Ed Grimley voice* it would be pretty decent, I must say. And if you do, why not take a picture and then tag it #StepUpForSideLaunch on Twitter or Instagram so they know they have our support? As our friends in Nova Scotia showed us, you have to have each other's backs. Side Launch might like knowing we have theirs, right? We're seeing them try their hardest. Buying a couple of cans is all we have to do. I already have a few friends that are ready to #StepUpForSideLaunch. I suspect buddies like Drunk Polkaroo and Beer Bro Glenn will happily help out. Let's show them how much Ontario loves their Collingwood friends. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Here you see my stunt-double Brad Pitt in a
scene from the movie Troy, which was set in
about 2000 BC. As far as I know, there were no
jet planes during this time. I mean, I wasn't
there but feel certain planes are more recent.

Anachronisms... and then more beer!

Here you see my stunt-double Brad Pitt in a
scene from the movie Troy, which was set in
about 2000 BC. As far as I know, there were no
jet planes during this time. I mean, I wasn't
there but feel certain planes are more recent.
An anachronism is defined as something historically out of place and time. I would give you the actual Webster's Dictionary definition but recently, they added (not joking) "fo' shizzle" and "hot mess" to their published definitions. That, in turn, meant the removal of other words such as dignity, civilization and intelligence to clear some room for these new words and phrases. So I no longer trust them as a source. In words they themselves apparently will use and soon publish, "Them Webster bros and hoes be all cray cray..."

The first time I ever heard the word used was by my Grade 10 History teacher. Noticing the stunned looks on our faces, he knew it was time to define it for our benefit. (My stunned look might have been connected to narcotics I accidentally ingested in a Brownie. Spent a lot of high school with that, ahem, dopey expression.) So he explained: "Imagine you were watching a movie about Julius Caesar and you noticed the actors wearing wristwatches or running shoes, those would be anachronisms. They were not invented in 30 BC so they are objects historically out of place and time."

That was good to know and interesting to discover because these days, things are rapidly becoming anachronisms with each passing decade. I remember taking my young son for an eye test a few years back where he had to identify objects on a large chart.
Back in about 1920, this is how phones looked. There
was a earpiece on the side, a mouth piece on the front
and weird little crank on the other side. Somehow by
furiously spinning that crank, you could call someone.
It would have been tough to take a selfie with this one.
With each passing row on the chart, the common every day objects got a little smaller. The chart contained drawn pictures of normal things - a rabbit, an airplane, a turtle, an apple, a car - things like that. But he was suddenly stopped by an image. Oh, he could see it. He just had no idea what the image was. It was a rotary phone. He had never seen one in his life. Even when I had a landline, it was a wireless with buttons. I suddenly realized that a rotary phone in a 2012 eye chart was an anachronism. There is a generation growing up who have never seen a rotary phone. I also suggested to the lady doing the eye test that they update that image to at least a flip-phone, if not a Smart Phone. I feel certain she ignored my advice.

Indeed, it is the advancement of the phone that is causing other every-day things to become anachronisms. If anyone wears a watch these days, it's more likely to be a fashion statement. People have been using their phones to check the time for more than a decade now. That actually comes in handy during a trip to Las Vegas as after six visits, I have never seen a clock anywhere there. Showgirls, escorts, booze and marriage chapels everywhere - but no clocks. So if you end up drunkenly marrying a showgirl, you'll likely have to check the marriage certificate to find out when it happened. Memorize that. It'll come in handy to know during the court case.
Digital cameras were so easy to use that even actor Ashton
Kutcher could successfully navigate one. Because he even
knew how to take a picture, he was Nikon's spokesman.
Ashton to Nikon commercial's director: "Which button
do I push? This one? Okay. So why is it suddenly on fire?"

And digital cameras - have they now become a relic of the past? Digital cameras have only been around for 20 or so years and already they seem on their way out as everyone uses their phones to take pictures. I have a little Lumix digital that I still use for events, such as beer festivals. Why? It takes better pictures than my Samsung phone. It's got one of those internal gyros inside that makes photos "shake-free." Unless you are actually falling over (which actually happens often at beer fests), there are no blurry photos. Just blurry people.

So whenever I whip out my digital camera at events, I risk mockery of the first order. Last October at the Rib Eye Jack's Beer Fest, my co-worker Jonny looked at it and chuckled, "That's a weird looking phone, Donny." Fast forward four months to my birthday bash, also at Rib Eye Jack's. I handed co-worker Jay-Dawg my camera to get a picture of me with my cake and he instantly held it up to his ear and said, "Hello? Hello?" But I get that. Both Jay and Jonny, who are brothers, are Millennials who have had Smart-Phones since their teenage years. Since cameras are part of the phones they've always used, neither has ever felt the need for a digital camera.
When old farts like Bill Nye (The Science Guy), US President
Barack Obama and Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson are
using Nye's phone for a selfie, you know cameras are no longer
relevant. Plus these guys seem smarter than Ashton Kutcher.
Why bother? A camera would seem like a waste of money to them. And it is.

However, this past weekend, when I was at my buddy Dennis' annual Summer Bash and Backyard Concert, a guy my age stared at my camera and joked, "Are you actually using that? There's one in your phone, you know." Seriously? Now I'm being dissed by Baby Boomers?

So yes, I am using a digital camera and I always will. My oldest buddy, Dave, and I are always the guys with the digital cameras at high school reunions, concerts and parties. Why? Because people who use their phones at these events (and almost everyone of every age, including mine, does now), well, their photos usually suck donkey wang. Unless grainy and dark is the newest Instagram filter. Our cameras are about the size of six credit cards stacked on top of each other so hardly bulky. The charge lasts about five times longer than any phone because it's only used as a camera. So it's staying with me until either I die or it dies. I like the camera's chances there. They build these things too well. My warranty expired a decade back.
I laughed at the little slogan on the top of
Shillow Brewing's Bitter Waitress Black IPA:

"Drink responsibly. Tip generously." I can't
guarantee the first but I can do the second.

But to paraphrase Mel Gibson in Braveheart, "You can take my life but you can never take my freedom!!! Or my camera!! Also, listen up, you English bastards, it's pretty damn risky taking one of my beers!!! And the neighbour's cat?? Take her, please. Keeps pissing in my garden. So we clear then? The freedom, camera and beer I keep, okay? Actually, don't kill me, either. I take that one back. Just kill the damn cat, you British bastards!! Also, thank you for listening!! You seem nice!" (What? I'm Canadian. We're polite.) But why Hollywood has never utilized my writing skills is beyond me. That movie would have won every Oscar if they hadn't banned me from the writers' room. Hey, it was right next door to the washroom. Anyone could have made that mistake. Apparently, it's only okay if you're the neighbour's cat. And sober.

And with the mere mention of the word "sober", it is instantly Beer O'Clock at Donny's Bar and Grill. And let's get this party started with something from our friends at Toronto's Shillow Beer Co. Now their flagship beer, Sass on the Side Brown Ale, is listed as being contract-brewed out of Niagara College's Teaching Brewery (Canada's premier brewer making facility.)
I was very happily surprised by Big Rock's Traditional
Ale, which had much more body than I was expecting.
And that Grasshopper was a pretty solid German wheat.
So I'm not sure if their other three beers are, as well, but it's probably not a horrible bet. But in today's glass is their Bitter Waitress Black IPA, a style being rapidly explored these days. Pouring coal black with a nice brown head, this Black IPA seems to strike an exact balance between a porter and an IPA. At 6.5% and about 70-75 IBUs (international bitterness units), it's one of those best-of-both-worlds deals. Roasted malts and cocoa on the nose, there is some IPA-ish pine on the finish. While to me, no black IPA has surpassed Collective Arts' Collective Project Black IPA thus far this year, this is certainly up there near the top and well worth your consideration. And remember, as the can says, tip generously, you cheap bastards.

In all my years, I don't think I have ever had any Big Rock products. Around since 1985, the Calgary brewery is a craft beer pioneer, established by Ed McNally who was tired of the same old-same old from Canada's mega-brewers. The brewery itself is named after a multi-tonne quartzite glacial deposit located just outside Okotoks, Alberta. But when I ran across a Big Rock server at a Beer Fest, I told him that his products sold well (okay, so-so) at my Beer Store.
When Beau's All Natural Brewing's Farm Table IPA
landed in my Beer Store, I was a happy camper. There
will always more room for Beau's products in my store!
My slight exaggeration was rewarded with a bunch of vouchers for Big Rock six-packs. I shared the freebies with friends and kept two to grab some of their Traditional Ale and Grasshopper Wheat. Once home, I instantly put the pair on my Visitors' Beer shelf on the bottom of my fridge as I knew my friend Amy was a big fan of the Grasshopper. Then one day, I decided to try a Traditional Ale with my lunch. I was happily surprised. The 5%, 20 IBU brown ale had some really nice toasted malts on the nose with medium malt and a light gingery taste on the tongue. Suddenly, those Traditional Ales were elevated from the bottom shelf up to the top shelf where all the elite craft beers reside. Screw visitors. They can drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Grasshopper was a pleasant enough German-style wheat that Amy enjoyed (as did I) but it was the Traditional that made me take notice. Recently, these guys have been cranking out all sorts of funky new brews so I'm keeping my eyes open as this old dog is fast learning new trick.
Try as I might, I could not wrap my head around the
Waterloo Brewing Blueberry Weizenbier. It was just
too sweet for me. Fruit infusion should complement a
beer, not completely overtake it. Dial it down a notch.

I always sit up and pay attention when a new beer lands in my Beer Store so when a new Beau's product hit our shelves, I was thrilled. Their Lug Tread Lagered Ale is one of our better craft sellers and this Vankleek Hills. Ontario all-natural organic brewery is always releasing cutting-edge new stuff. That was certainly the case with their Farm Table IPA, best described as a British/west coast style IPA with a touch of Belgium thrown into the fermentation vat. The 6%, roughly 70 IBU beer has a hint of grapefruit and spice on the nose with some tropical fruit, orange peel and pinch of pepper on the tongue. Because of the British side, this is a hugely drinkable, easy-going IPA that even those frightened by the very initials could handle. A really nice Summer Sipper!

Okay, my Beer Store also recently received Waterloo Brewing's Blueberry Weizenbier and I be honest, I was pretty pumped for this one. I love a good German wheat in the summer and the notion of blueberries, my favourite fruit, in one was pretty appealing.
I have no idea what beer this pretty, young lady
is holding up. One of those silly gimmicky nitro
infused stouts. I just really like her T-shirt a lot.
Now I am not a fan of slagging anything in this space but holy crap, I couldn't handle this as it was just too goddamn sweet. And I mean, sickly sweet. The trick to fruit-infused anything is to make the taste there but subtly! I mean, I got panicky when I saw Nickel Brook had used lactose sugar in their Dreamsicle Vanilla Orange Pale Ale and was thrilled when I was rewarded with a tart and tangy taste, instead. But this Blueberry Weizenbier was overpowered by both the blueberry and the sweetness. As I said on Instagram, if you want to make a fruit presence this prominent, do it in a heavier style, such as a stout, whose body can hold it amply. A German-style wheat is not the proper vessel for this much in-your-face fruit flavouring. In fairness, though, while coworker Jay was also not a fan, my other coworker Marie really enjoyed it. Every beer has its audience. Me? I left the theatre before the opening credits rolled.

Okay, time to check out of this roller-coaster ride of hops and malts but I have lot more coming up soon. That same Marie gifted me with a ton of Block 3 Brewing and Wellington Brewing beers and there's lot more after those. Before I go, one last thing. A recent date asked me if I had any tattoos. She had a few (tasteful, I thought - musical notes, girly stuff) but no, I have none. However, if I was going to get a tattoo, I would have them tattoo a huge bruise on my lower calf. That way, if anyone suggested we go for a hike or jog, I could simply point to that and say, "No can do. Hurt too bad." Also, it would get me out of helping anyone move. You gotta think ahead, people. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Here you see my stunt-double Brad Pitt in a
scene from the movie Troy, which was set in
about 2000 BC. As far as I know, there were no
jet planes during this time. I mean, I wasn't
there but feel certain planes are more recent.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Cans vs Bottles Challenge

I was prepared for Kim and the Bottles vs Cans Challenge,
bringing four cups, marked Kim A, Kim B, Don A and Don B.
What I was NOT prepared for was losing that beer challenge!
As they say in the movies, Dennis Ford made me an offer I couldn't refuse...

Well, I suppose I could have but I would have missed one helluva great time. You see, Dennis popped into my Beer Store a couple of weeks back and invited me to the Kim and Dennis Midsummer's Night Filled With Rock and/or Roll Music and Debauchery Party on Saturday night. I am also quite certain that is not the party's official name but rather some descriptive prose on the party's theme.

You see, Kim is Dennis' lovely wife and this now-annual Summer bash was held pretty much around the corner from where I live. Maybe 10 minutes away - 15 minutes if you get stuck behind a Smart Car, such as I did. But there were two big reasons to attend... well, three if you include a whole lot of fun.

The first one was a chance to see twin siblings Dennis and Danny perform a live concert for us all night. The second reason was far more serious. Dennis had confided that Kim thought beer tasted better out of the bottle, rather than a can.
The Twerk Twins (there was no twerking) of Dennis and
Danny played everything from the Everly Brothers to the
Foo Fighters, aided and abetted by a healthy handful of
back-up musicians, as well as some stunning back-up lady
singers. Also I made an early mental note when I saw them.
"Okay, Dennis is in red, Danny's in white. Remember that"
I instantly balked at the notion and brought forth a challenge. Checking my Guest Beer, strategically located on the bottom shelf of my fridge, I noticed the only visitor beer that was both in a can and a bottle was Miller Lite. That would serve our purpose well, as if there is a difference in taste, it would be most noticeable in a pale light lager and they don't come any paler or lighter than Miller Lite. In the "tastes great, less filling" debate, I would suggest only "less filling" is applicable.

So Kim and I both had two cups - one filled from the can, the other from the bottle. We both drank them and guessed which was which. Kim got it right. I got it wrong. Seeing that I was devastated by the results, Kim put a consoling hand on my shoulder and gently noted, "Maybe I should be writing the beer blog..." As the hostess, I think she could have at least provided me with some ice for that vicious burn. That said, Kim, it would seem, has discovered a taste for Kolsch beers after visiting Sawdust City Brewing in Gravenhurst. So rather than wine, I brought her Sawdust City Gateway Kolsch, Muskoka Kirby's Kolsch, Creemore Kolsch and four Beau's Lug-Tread Lagered Ale - the king of Ontario Kolsches.
The ladies, from left, Jo-Ann, Juliette, Julie and Kim,
bust a move while singing back-up for Mustang Sally.
And, Kim, so you know, Beau's All Natural Brewing is located in the tiny farming community of Vankleek Hills, Ontario (near Ottawa) and a Lug Tread is the indentation of a tractor's over-sized back wheels in the mud. See? I know beer stuff. And quite inexplicably, farm stuff.

Early in the concert, Danny noted that Dennis' bass-playing and his son Michael's drumming were being lauded from the crowd. "But nothing for me? Come on, I'm the sensitive one up here." I decided to break the cricket-chirping silence and show Danny a little love. "Your guitar playing is really adequate," I said loudly. He seemed to truly appreciate my show of support. It's all about friendship, people.

And then, of course, there's the Ford's sibling sisters, Brenda and Shelagh. Teasing Shelagh is pretty much a ritual for me at these events. You see, we were dancing partners in a high school musical called Rock and Roll and after every practice, Shelagh made a point of telling me what a horrible dancer I was.
I shuddered a little when Shelagh, left, told me that Susan
Eaton, right, wanted to talk to me. A former teacher calling
on you is never a good sign. Turns out she was determined
to figure out how she knew me as she was never my teacher.
Well, of course, I am. If you can't tell from the photos, I'm white. And male. I had the pleasure of telling her young daughter that story, who instantly turned to Shelagh and scolded, "Mom, that was mean." Heh, heh, heh... I was also a bit mischievous when someone asked me 10 minutes earlier how I knew Shelagh. "I took her virginity," I said without hesitation. Well, lemme tell ya, Brenda lost her shit laughing while the others stared at me with open mouths and wide eyes. At that point, civilized society dictates that I say, "Just kidding." I forgot that part. So you know, I didn't. That would be in violation of the Bro Code For Dating Friends' Sisters which simply states, "You do that and you marry her."

During a break, Dennis joined me for a smoke behind his garden shed where I admired his neighbour's immaculate lawn and humongous garden. "Here's the thing about my neighbour," Dennis confessed. "She's 87, widowed a few years back and she is constantly bringing me fresh vegetables from that garden." I told him that was a pretty sweet deal. "Yeah," he agreed, "the only problem is she thinks my name is Dave and 15 years later, it's too late to correct her."
This young lady, Brynn, the daughter of a friend of
Dennis, brought down the house with her rendition of
Adele's Rolling In The Deep. Such a tiny girl but what
humongous pipes. She nailed every single high note!!

But I gotta be honest. In the end, the Fords were not the stars of their own party. No, that honour went to Susan Eaton-Davies... or Miss Eaton as we knew her when she was a music-drama teacher at White Oaks Secondary School way back in the day, She reconnected with the Ford brothers at our high school's 50th Reunion back in May and happily accepted an invitation to attend with hubby, Bryn. When we were introduced, I noted she hadn't taught me as I had the other music teacher, Mr. Herlihey. But I knew there was some connection. As did she. So when Shelagh grabbed me and said, "Susan Eaton wants to talk to you," I knew the time was coming to figure it out. "Why do I know you?" she asked. In that instant, it dawned on me. She was the director of that high school musical I mentioned earlier. Fortunately, she remembered me fondly, which makes sense because she got "Funny After-Class Don" rather than "Don, The Student Who Sent Five Of Her Colleagues Directly Into Therapy." Before she left, Susan made a point of telling me, "This is so wonderful. It's great seeing all these people again. What a fun night. What a fantastic idea!" Dennis and Kim, this is where you take a bow. Actually, this is where the whole Ford family takes a bow.
Straight from the Left Coast - or Vancouver, as many call
it - is the Steam Works Kolsch Lagered Ale. Refreshing!

Okay, since this is allegedly a beer blog (until Kim takes it over) and that wicked-awesome Summer Bash makes me think of Summer Sippers, let's get our party beer-drinking hats on. And in honour of Kim, let's kick-start this with a Kolsch. So let's stretch our arms all the way to Vancouver and pull back a Steam Works' Kolsch Lagered Ale. At 4.8% and a style-reasonable 22 IBUs (international bitterness unit), you can see this pours the colour of a pale lager - very light. Fortunately, looks can be deceiving as there is some soft citrus on the nose and light malt and a wee bit of apple on the tongue. I had this with home-made Mac and Cheese lunch before work one day and thought it was a great food pairing. Well, what doesn't go with Mac and Cheese, eh? There was some light sediment at the bottom of the glass that told me this was unfiltered so I was pretty happy about that. Great little beer. I'll find one for Kim.
Okay, at 7%, the Collingwood Brewing Saison Farmhouse
 Ale had a little more kick than I was initially anticipating.

And speaking of pre-work, lunchtime beers, I was having a roast beef and swiss cheese sandwich one day and decided to wash it down with something from my fridge. Spotting the Collingwood Brewing Saison Farmhouse Ale, I thought, "Perfect! A nice light lunch beer!" That is, until I opened and poured it. Instantly, from the smell, I knew this was no light-weight saison. Looking at the can, I realized it was 7%, a little heavier than you want from a pre-work lunch beer. The aroma was thick with tropical fruit while on the tongue, there was initially some sweetness followed quickly with a nice bitter bite.

This beer encouraged me to seek out more of Collingwood's products. So it wasn't long before I had my seldom-washed mitts on their Downhill Pale Ale. (I had their Fireside English Special Bitter some time around Christmas. Really nice ESB.)
Okay, right off the top, look at this colour. That, my friends,
is the sight of a deep, rich pale ale. I quite enjoyed this one.
Okay, first of all, this has a beautiful amber colour which, believe me, is almost always a good sign. (I said "almost") Some nice orange on the nose, it was a bit grassy, a bit fruity and a bit peppery on the tongue. At a reasonable 5.4% and solid 33 IBUs (standard for a pale ale), I found myself enjoying this, as well.

Moving on and once again, in honour of Kim, I recently had Lost Craft Brewing's inaugural beer, Revivale Lagered Ale. Contract-brewing out of Etobicoke's Cool Brewery, this Kolsch is nice and light at 4.8% but some light fruitiness on the nose (nothing I can pinpoint - just fruity) and some grainy malts on the tongue. I had it one night when I returned home from work and I will tell you, it was a refreshing way to start the evening. As they are hoping to set up their own brewery in Scarborough soon, I genuinely look forward to more Lost Craft beers. Maybe a couple more out of Cool before they get their vats set up.
Yeah, even the brewery will admit this colour is pretty
thin but dammit, they threw a metric ton of Saaz hops
into this pale lager so really, it was better than it looks.

Okay, let's finish up with one from Kim's favourite brewery, Sawdust City. I'll be frank. This beer should not have worked at all. They decided that in conjunction with Norway brewery Arendals Byggeri to brew a pale lager. Pale lagers are beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Rolling Rock, Molson Canadian and Bud. Technically, that's the style craft brewers are trying to wean us away from. (Hey, Miss Eaton, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Aren't you glad you weren't my English teacher?) So what did Sawdust City put into their Little Norway to differentiate it from the mainstream? A big-ass pile of Saaz hops, the ones usually dropped into Czech-style pilsners, such as Steam Whistle. At 4.5%, those hops amp the lager's game a little, making it grassy on the nose but malty and slightly dry on the tongue. Being very mild, this is not representative of Sawdust City's usual output of stud beers but at least they took a weak style and made it somewhat interesting. So 10 points to Gryffindor for that.

Okay, before I go, one more story from the party but only because I don't want to see you beg. It's unbecoming and I'm all about dignity.
After 25 years of wedded bliss, I finally got to meet
Danny's wife, Denise. After less than one minute of
conversation with her, it dawned on me why Danny
 has made sure this has never before happened...
You see, Dennis' wife, Kim, wasn't the first Ford wife I met last night. No, I also met Danny's wife, Denise, at the same time. (Well, not the exact same time - several minutes apart.) So I was telling her how I enjoyed a picture of the two of them earlier this Summer, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by plunging into the water at a cottage - she in her wedding dress, he in his wedding suit. The photo captures them inches above the splash-down. That lead to this conversation.
Me: Did you ruin the dress?
Denise: Okay yeah, completely.
Me: Are you sure that was wise? *Looking at Danny right beside her* I mean, it's only been 25 years and you could have a change of heart. After all, the dress still fit and everything.
Denise: *Eyeing Danny* You make a good point.
Me: I know, right? Those dresses are expensive and who knows if you'll need it again?
And that, my friends, is why Danny wisely waited a quarter of a century before introducing me to his blushing bride. The Instigator Factor that I bring.

Before I sign off, I wanted to say I just saw that all-female Ghostbusters and thought, "Man, they are just trashing my youth." You know what else is trashing my youth? Getting older. But hey, screw that. Parties like this are what make us all young again. Especially when you see a former teacher kickin' it up old school and having the time of her life. What a great night! I have said it before but there are no friends like old friends. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!!! Until next time, I remain...