Sunday, 4 December 2016

Using Nickelback to fight drunk driving

Yes, we applaud Prince Edward Island's Kensington Police
Department for doing their part in getting drunk drivers
off the road. But have they crossed the line with this new
punishment? Arresting the driver is one thing but, man...
Prince Edward Island is a cool little Province. It's like the Canadian version of Rhode Island. It's only 224 kilometres (139 miles) long and its width ranges anywhere from 64 kilometres (40 miles) to just six kilometres (less than four miles).

So basically, at its narrowest, you could walk from one side to the other without breaking too much of a sweat. Unless you're me... in which case, you would collapse in a heap about 250 steps in. Frankly, I'm more into upper body core strength, specifically my right arm, the one that holds the beer. I could be wrong but I don't ever remember dropping one in my life. That, my friends, is core strength.

But back to PEI and even more specifically, its tiny town of Kensington, which gained national and then international attention last week for something posted on social media. I thought it was very funny, rather than controversial, but I'll let you be the judge.
Back in February, while attending a New Zealand
vs Australia cricket match at Westpac Stadium in
Wellington, NZ, renowned beer writer Neil Miller
and his friend Annika Corley held this sign to taunt
Aussie cricket star David Warner. When told of the
sign, Warner was confused, having never heard of
Nickelback. But it all swept the social media there.

Noting that Christmas season was upon us, meaning seasonal parties and social events that usually involve alcohol, Kensington Police Constable Robb Hartlin posted that his department would be out in full force, "looking for those dumb enough to feel they can drink and drive." He further warned that, "When we catch you - and we will catch you - on top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a year's driving suspension, we will also provide you with the bonus gift of playing the office's copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail."

Now obviously, the last bit was tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps a means to capture attention towards what is a problem (drunk driving) that certainly increases with this particular season. And the thing is, it did get attention. A lot of social media attention. World-wide, even. In fact, far more attention than Hartlin's comfort zone allowed him. And he began to feel bad because in the end, he very much likes the band and their music. He made that much perfectly clear in the original media release. He flat-out said big fan, love them. But, well, mocking Nickelback is kinda universal - everyone does it. So Hartlin was having some fun with the anti-Nickelback folks out there as they seem to be... well, pretty much everyone.
♫ Never made it as a wise man. Couldn't cut it as a
poor man stealing. Ran out of occupational ideas
after that. None of them were too appealing... 
Nickelback songs are so formulatic,  I can write one!

Now personally, I actually believe the band is a little more successful because of it. Still, Hartlin felt guilty. He invoked the name of a band he quite likes to use humour against a serious problem. He felt that perhaps he had made light of the consequences of drunk driving after his "threat" got the attention it did. So he did what any good Canadian would do.

He apologized. He said, "I'm sorry" to both the band and anyone who thought his light-hearted approach trivialized a serious issue. And believe me, it was sincere. He followed it up by saying, "How would I tell my son he was wrong for picking on a kid in the playground when I was doing the same thing? But I was not doing it on a local playground. No, I was doing it on a global scale to a global audience."

Personally, I thought it was as funny as hell and my dark secret is that I am a Nickelback fan. I think their songs are undeniably catchy, certainly not complicated but still a lot of fun. And they're ridiculously easy to sing-along to when they come on the car radio. In fact, I remember telling my step-son Ryan that I was going to a Nickelback concert several years back.
My Beer Bro Stevil St Evil had a little fun with the David
Warner "controversy" by taking Annika and Neil's photo
and superimposing it onto a still image from Nickelback's
"Photograph" video. The whole thing was a great ride...
He asked why and I said, "Honestly, everyone says they hate these guys. So I wanna see who goes to their shows!" Ryan thought about it for a second and said, "Okay, that's the only acceptable answer for going to see Nickelback." He then referred to the band's front-man Chad Kroeger as "Poodlehead" and we moved on to weightier matters.

And while I feel bad for Constable Hartlin's failed joke - which I still find funny - there was a far bigger Nickelback war waged in New Zealand back in February. You see, my buddy, Neil, the country's 2014 Beer Writer of the Year, happened to be attending a championship cricket match between New Zealand and arch-rivals Australia.
Australian cricketer David Warner eyes a
beer writer in the stands and vows that the
next pitch will be coming right at his head...
And as spectators often do, Neil created a sign to rattle the Aussie squad, specifically Australia batsman David Warner, a skilled but often-controversial player. The sign simply read: "David Warner Likes Nickelback." The bright yellow sign (Neil and I assume, both being colour-blind) got a ton of attention from both the game's commentators, as well as social media.

One small problem. Warner didn't get it. He apparently was one of the dozen or so people on the planet who's never heard of the band. So the athlete actually asked Neil on Twitter to explain it to him. (Is there anything worse than having to explain a joke? Oh, right... Nickelback.) So Neil simply tweeted back that it was "a reference to being successful, yet controversial to many." The pair took some mild jabs at each other, back and forth on Twitter, before Warner finally tweeted, "Good comeback, bro. You want me to get you more followers. You look like you might need some. Haha." Being a professional athlete, Warner has 1.1 million followers whereas Miller has 3,660. But it was game, set and match to Miller, who tweeted back: "Apart from batting, the only advice I'd take from you is how to grow a mo (moustache) that looks like a 70s porn star playing a traffic cop."
Drunk Polkaroo recently gifted me with my first ever
Muddy York Brewing beer - the R-100 IPA. This is
also Polk's photo which I'm using because mine was
taken on concrete steps while Polk went to the effort
of including some nice Autumn foliage in his picture.

And since both countries are Down Under and neither are Canada, the debate ended without apologies as both men simply carried on with their lives. While short-lived, it was fun to watch while it lasted.

Okay, that ends the Nickelback portion of this (I suspect for the only time ever) so I guess it must be Beer O'Clock around these parts. *Looks at clock - not even 9 am * Well, time to talk about beer. I'll drink some later.

A couple of Sundays back, I got a nice visit here at Donny's Bar and Grill from Mrs Polkaroo, the lovely wife of my Beer Writing Buddy Drunk Polkaroo. She had a bag filled with four beauties from Polk and I had some to send back his way. Polk calls it #beersaint whereas I simply call it #PrisonerExchange because let's face it, those soldiers are gonna die. But while two are still in my fridge (one a bourbon barrel-aged one from Cameron's), two soldiers were struck down on the field of battle (my patio table) so let's look at them.

First of all, I was excited to get a Muddy York Brewing R-100 IPA for three reasons. Number one, it's an IPA. Two, my first Muddy York beer. And three, look at that label! It would be a perfect Led Zeppelin album cover!
While Polkaroo gifted me with a Redline Brewing Kollision
Hoppy Lager, this picture belongs to Paul The Beer Guy,
who loves to employ the funky Batman angle into his pics!
Stoner #1: Hey man, what's your favourite song on Zep's R-100 IPA album?
Stoner #2: Oh, definitely When The Hobbits Arise. You?
Stoner #1: Oh, totally Vikings in Valhalla, man.
(Note: All Led Zeppelin songs boil down to only five different things - hobbits, trolls, Vikings, sex or shrubbery.)

But that R-100 IPA? Oh baby, it was nice! The 7%, 70 IBUs (international bitterness units) brew had some dynamite citrus and pine on the nose while on the tongue, it was all grapefruit and a wee touch of pineapple. Some light malt on the back-end gave this beautiful balance. As first beers from a brewery go, I couldn't have asked for a better starter! There will be more Muddy York in my future. And probably mud due to seasonal conditions.

Okay, next up, Redline Brewing's Kollision Hoppy Lager, a beer I had sampled at the recent Rib Eye Jack's Beer Fest but never enjoyed in its entirety, meaning simply a whole one.
Black and gold... black and gold!!! While those colours
are synonymous with Hamilton's football team, they
were also what I brought home from Hamilton's
Collective Arts Brewing when I grabbed some cans of
their Black IPA and brand new Imperial IPA. Nice!
Good ol' Polkaroo fixed that for me, as well, dropping one in the Gift Bag. The 5.3% ABV is well within the norm for a lager but the 37 IBUs? Okay, then, this is pretty hopped up for the mild style. I got some nice orange peel on the nose while the strong malt on the tongue lets you know it's a lager but the added pine flavour tell you it's also something much more. Great lager and as Polk likes to say, very "crushable" meaning you could easily down a few of these without breaking a sweat. The opposite of the "slow sippers" he and I also both enjoy. Two more Polk beers to come. I just have to drink them first, which is a "Challenge Accepted" scenario.

Speaking of #PrisonerExchange, when my son, David and his Mom moved to Sarnia last year, we decided the fairest thing to do when transferring him back and forth was to meet in London. And as we travel home to Burlington along Highway 403, I usually take the opportunity to pop into Hamilton to visit either the Dundurn LCBO or Collective Arts Brewing on the waterfront. This time around, the choice was a no-brainer as Collective Arts had recently released their Imperial IPA, as well as re-released their Collective Project Black IPA, now a year later, simply called Black IPA. But that Imperial IPA has been anticipated by many of us for quite some time now.
David loves visiting Collective Arts Brewing in
Hamilton simply because they have a working
pinball machine in their retail section. "Yeah, it's
pretty cool having that," said the girl at the counter

I've reviewed the Black IPA in the past (with much praise) but before I get to the Imperial, I want to point out one thing about the Black IPA. Whereas most really good Black IPAs give you a whiff of something familiar, like grapefruit or citrus, they also give you a whiff of coffee or chocolate like a porter. Not this one. If you close your eyes and smell it, it's exactly like a gold IPA. It's not until it's on your tongue that you get some of the porter-stout tastes expected of this style. That makes it fairly unique to me.

But that Imperial IPA? Holy crap-on-a-cross, that's a sexy beer! At 8.5% and roughly 90 IBUs, it punches you in the face with its mango and peach aroma which is followed by a dynamite pine thickness and tropical fruits on the tongue. As expected, there is a much-needed malt backbone on the finish because beers this big and hoppy need the aid of their friends, the malts. Sales of this beer - if any remain - were limited to four per customer per visit. So hopefully, you didn't miss it because man, that is one tasty-ass beer. I have one left, which I will enjoy after this but I may scoot back to see if any are left. If not, there's always more Black IPA and their incomparable Ransack The Universe IPA. I can't really lose either way which is almost always the situation when it comes to me and beer. Hashtag #DonnyCantLose...
While we have always carried Hop City's Barking Squirrel
Amber at my Beer Store, we recently added three more
from their roster - the HopBot IPA, the Big Mouth Pale
Ale and the Polly Want A Pilsner. I hadn't tried the
HopBot in quite a while so it was high time for Round 2.

There were some recent Hop City Brewing beers that landed in my Beer Store, including the new Polly Want A Pilsner and old favourites Big Mouth Pale Ale and HopBot IPA. The Pilsner is still in my fridge but I'd had both the others quite some time ago. Like three years or so. So I decided it was time to revisit the HopBot. The brewers use five premier west coast hops in this one - Citra, Cascade, Williamette, Mosaic and Simcoe. At 7.1% and roughly 70-75 IBUs, with that hop combo, it should make for a pretty punchy beer, yes? Well, actually, yes and no. Don't get me wrong because I did enjoy it. But while it has the prerequisite fruity aroma, in this case, melon, I found there was an unusual caramel back-end on the tongue. Not normally a flavour you'd associate with an IPA. However, it does make for an interesting break so give it a whirl.
I have always heaped praise on Nickel Brook Brewing's
Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout, which was, in fact,
the first stout I ever tried. Well, after Guinness, which
actually makes it the first really GOOD stout I ever had.

As the year winds down, I have quite literally dozens of "Best Of" awards coming from 2016 but in the spirit of that, I recently came across a one-sentence review of my long-time favourite Nickel Brook Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout that I have to share with you. Beer Buddy Hago Vanayan recently tried it and this was his one-sentence summation of the beer. "Pours like chocolate Communist blood of a Russian vampire..." I fell down laughing after reading that review. Outstanding!

And since we're talking about Hago and Polkaroo, both regularly release video reviews of beers and some of them are pretty damn funny. Drunk Polkaroo recently enlisted his brother, Mike, a long-time rye drinker who shuns beer, to be part of his reviews and the result was spectacular in its hilarious fail to draw a booze drinker over. As well, Hago often includes his teenage daughters in his reviews... in a non-drinking capacity, of course. In one, they engage in a Paddle Battle that soon turns into an Oar War. Wait until the end to hear one of his girls mimic his reviewing style. Here's Polkaroo's video at: Beers That Nearly Killed Mikey! and you can follow that with Hago's at: Teenage Paddle Battle!!! Both videos are hilarious so check them out. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Two breweries get new digs

The new Brock Street Brewing restaurant-brewery at
Brock Street and Dunlop Street in Whitby doesn't mean
their Hopkins Street facility is going anywhere. The folks
will operate both with Hopkins acting as their retail outlet.

In fact, the brewery just got its Site Plan Approval today!
I got some very good news about one of my favourite out-of-town breweries back in August. After travelling to Whitby with my son to visit his Uncle Johnny and Aunt Trish, I made a point of stopping into Brock Street Brewing and 5 Paddles Brewing before we made the hour-plus trek back to Burlington.

Now 5 Paddles was a first-time stop for me and an enormously enjoyable one as I scored some really great beers and had a great talk with the dude running the retail counter.

But I had been to Brock Street Brewing once before a month earlier and quickly became a fan of the gang there. The first time I had visited them was in July with my boy after I showed Johnny the Google map of their location on Hopkins Street. I don't know Whitby all that well other than how to get to Johnny's, as well as the Beer Store and LCBO along the way. So I was hoping it wasn't too far away, like the other end of town or something. It wasn't.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Brock Street
Brewing, nestled in a location less than five minutes away
from my long-time friend Johnny in Whitby on Hopkins
Street. Close, convenient and man, oh so very tasty beers!

Johnny looked at the map on my phone and howled. "That's right around the corner! Big sign out front. I've passed by them a million times."

But I knew of Brock Street Brewing long before I landed in their facility. Beer Bro Glenn, who lives in nearby Oshawa ("the Shwa"), had mentioned them on numerous occasions since it opened in April 2015.

As well, this brewery is always the life of every Beer Fest it attends, including this past January's Burlington Winter Beer Festival. The young turks manning the booth, Phil and Andrew, brought a mini Ping-Pong table and were taking on all comers. They also shared with me a sample of some secret stash they had tucked away. I can't remember what it was except that it was barrel-aged and bloody tasty.

Now, as it turned out, Brock Street had an application into the Town to build a new 13,000-square-foot brewery-restaurant combo at the corner of Brock and Dunlop Streets in Whitby.
I was afraid I was going to lose Brock Street's
Hopkins location once they moved downtown
but no, they are keeping this one open. That's
a good thing because server Taylor gave me
about five free-flight coupons (one per visit).
I haven't used them yet so free beer for me!

When they got the go-ahead this past Summer for demolition of the old building at that spot and the construction of their new building, I was a vocal cheerleader from the far reaches of Burlington. I also jokingly assured them on Twitter that I had back-up sites in Burlington, should Whitby turn their application down. I even included a picture of Taj Mahal as a potential Burlington location, hoping they knew as little about my city (or India) as I do about Whitby. (We also have pyramids here. True story - no need to Snopes it.)

In fact, not only did Whitby give them the go-ahead, it also came with high praise from Mayor Don Mitchell who told the press, "It's a wonderful use for that corner. It's been through multiple uses over the years but nothing's really stuck. A craft brewing operation in the downtown, I think, will support exactly all the things we want to go down there." I don't usually have many positive things to say about politicians but, hey, this Don guy likes craft breweries. That's all I need to know.
Okay, I gotta admit that Junction Craft Brewing's new digs,
slated to open sometime in late 2017, are one helluva lot sexier
than their present location. As an added bonus, they are less
than 30 seconds away from Rainhard Brewing. That's a win!

But at the same time I also lamented that as much as I supported the new brewery, I tweeted that I would also miss the Hopkins Street one, assuming it would be gone. Their eagle-eyed social media person saw my sentiments and said words to the effect of "What you talkin' about, Willis? Hopkins is staying put!" It seems that while the new building, slated for late Summer 2017, will be up and running, the Hopkins Street one will continue to be their retail (and separate brewing) outlet.

Given their proximity to Johnny and Trish's house, I didn't want to lose that convenience of a quick and easy purchase from a favourite craftie when in town. That also means they are still across the street from 5 Paddles. There is no downside to this story as once again, everything's coming up Milhouse...

Okay, now let's look at a big move for Junction Craft Brewing, a brewery I visited in October with my boy, David, during a trip to Toronto for a photo shoot. (My son is a male model of Fabio-like proportions.)
This is a photo of Junction Craft Brewing just
before they opened in October 2012. As you can
see, their sign wasn't even up yet. And now the
sign will be on a new building on Symes Road.

After first visiting Great Lakes Brewing in Etobicoke and then Indie Alehouse in the Junction area of west Toronto, we drove over to their Cawthra Avenue location less than five minutes east of Indie at Keele and Dundas. Cawthra is a little back street lined with old-school industrial buildings that was much more gritty than glamorous. That said, who cares? I was there to buy some good craft beer, not high-end jewelry or mink coats. Also, as business plans go, that's an astute one. Start low-rent, build a solid clientele base (which they have done quite successfully) and then find some fancy new digs. Oh and also buy suits for the grand opening.

So it was that I described their present locale in this space and when the Junction Craft folks read my description of their turf, they reminded me that they were moving in 2017. And by reminded me, I mean informed me because I hadn't a clue. I mean, I just found this place, bought some outstanding beers from them and now they're moving?

But here's where serendipity comes into play. I found various online stories about their upcoming move to 150 Symes Road, filed it away in my brain from future reference and moved on to other things. Until a couple of weekends back when I had a Saturday off and decided to take a road trip into Toronto to Rainhard Brewing, another place I had always been eager to visit.
The worker bees were busy that day at Rainhard while
the rest of us slackers were enjoying their fine product.
That's okay. I know the feeling. When people come into
my Beer Store on a Saturday, they often tell me that "I
can't wait to get home and drink some beers." I smile,
nod and think, "Shut the hell up. I'm at work, A-hole."

Coworker Jay-Dawg pulled up their bottle shop listings for the weekend and quickly gave me his wish list. Since I was making a special trip in, I also checked with Rib Eye Jack's Ale House GM Steve to see what he fancied, as well as my pal Drunk Polkaroo. And off I went in my little fuel-efficient yet highly-stylish Ford Focus hatchback that makes the ladies weak in the knees. (The fuel-efficient part might possibly be true.)

So I Google-mapped Rainhard Brewing and simply wrote down the directions. My phone has some weird direction app that actually talks to me when I'm driving ("In 50 metres, you will turn left...") but I don't like taking verbal directions from my shirt pocket so I prefer just to write this stuff down. Also the app isn't programmed to say, "No, Don, your other left..." The fact is if I'm driving to any brewery, I will find it. So off I went to Rainhard at 100 Symes Road in west Toronto.

But of course, as I was driving, the thought nagged at me, "Why do I know Symes Road? Pretty sure I've never been there in my life." Back in my Toronto days, did I know someone living in that neighbourhood? Was I once arrested there? (The odds are more weighted towards the latter.)
It wasn't hard to find Rainhard Brewing on Symes
Road in Toronto. It's pretty much the only thing on
the short street. However, soon Junction Craft will
be their new neighbour. One street, two breweries...

Of course, it eventually dawned on me on the drive there that Symes was also the Junction Craft's new street. So I'd get the chance to see the refurbished exterior shell of what was once the Symes Road Incinerator, way back from its beginning in 1934 to the late-1950s because in those days, that's how cities got rid of garbage. The company rebuilding it has preserved the shell beautifully as the city long ago designated it a historical building created on the foundation that air pollution is truly awesome.

So long story short, a cool but long-derelict and boarded-up Art Deco-style building with a dubious purpose in the past is being rebuilt, refurbished and filled with vats for a much more noble and humanitarian cause - the making of great beer. Beyond that, two of Toronto's best award-winning craft breweries now share a street that's roughly two football fields in length. Once again, as it should be, everything continues to come up Milhouse.

Now I since have given a History lesson here, as well as a sneak peek into the near-future, it's time to take off the Beer Professor's Hat (it's like the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts with "Beer Professor" written in crayon on a piece of paper and stapled on it) and put on my Beer Reviewer Hat. (Same hat, actually. I just turn it around.)
Okay, this label is cool and spooky all at once. It
looks like the Grim Reaper is coming for me and
yet, he's bringing me a beer. Or maybe he just wants
to enjoy a beer as he sends my soul into the abyss.

Okay, since I have nothing new to share from either Junction Craft (I'll be back soon) or Brock Street (next visit to Whitby), let's look at what was in the Magic Beer Box from Rainhard, shall we? As per Jay-Dawg's request, I snagged him a Nosbeeratu Black IPA, a Burnout Dry-Hopped Pale Ale and a Rage & Love Dry-Hopped Sour. What did I get myself? The same three.

To shake things up, let's start with the heaviest beer and work our ways backwards, which would put the Nosbeeratu on deck. Now black IPAs are a style that are growing quickly on me, thanks in large part to Collective Arts' Collective Project Black IPA, a beer that popped up from the Hamilton brewery in the Spring and has recently resurfaced, now simply called Black IPA. The Nosbeeratu is cut from the same dark and dank cloth. The style provides all the sensations of a good IPA mixed with a darker porter or stout. The conflicting aromas of chocolate and grapefruit assails your nose in this 6%, 66 IBU (international bitterness units) glass of black magic.
As part of their Revolution Series - wait, what revolution?
The craft beer revolution, maybe? Oh well, regardless, the
Rage & Love (ever notice how those two go hand-in hand?)
is a sour that gets a nice IPA-ish bitterness bump for the
dry-hopping at the end of the brewing. Pretty nice beer!
On the tongue, it's more of the same as both pine (IPA) and coffee (porter-stout) splash down on your tongue. It's like two styles are having a gang war on your palate. Like the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story but it's mostly just dancing and very little actual violence. (I'm not sure whether to applaud that or be a little appalled.)

Okay, Rainhard's Burnout Dry-Hopped Pale Ale is one of the better pale ales I've had this year and I have had more than a few (he said in the understatement of the year). Aggressively dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy hops, this is one of the driest pale ales I've had since... well, ever. The 5.6%, 50 IBU (nearing IPA levels) beer has some plucky citrus on the nose and while that citrus does carry to the tongue, the dry finish almost makes you think of a white wine. Almost. I mean, it's all beer. And a pretty damn good one.

Now if I had to guess, I would suggest the beer most eagerly awaited from my Rainhard trip by Jay-Dawg, Drunk Polkaroo, Rib Eye Steve and Rib Eye Jack's beer technician Kylie was probably the Rage & Love Dry-Hopped Sour.
Jordan Rainhard, the brewmaster and co-owner
of Rainhard Brewing along with his wife Katie
Armstrong, will soon have new neighbours as
Junction Craft Brewing is set to open the doors
of its brand new facility by the Summer of 2017.
All four are knee-deep into the sour style whereas I'm still sticking my toes into those waters. The Love & Rage is the second release in Rainhard's Revolution Series which they call "an expression of brewer freedom and experimentation, a revolt against the norm." So when you wanna drink good beer but stick it to The Man at the same time, I guess? Sadly, I'm probably more revolting than revolutionary.

But I am a little pissed at myself for missing their first Revolution release - the Double Kapow Double IPA back in September. Talk about being in Donny's wheelhouse. That said, I am glad I grabbed some of the Rage & Love, especially for my friends, because it was a limited 700-bottle run and it was the first sour ever produced by Rainhard. I actually didn't know either. I just happened to drive in on the right weekend. As this was dry-hopped with Galaxy and Citra hops, its IBU is an impressive 35, putting it into the pale ale zone (I've had sours that were zero IBUs). According to the brewery, it was "soured with a culture of seven different Lactobacillus strains." So... Science that no-one except brewers understand. All citrus on the nose and lemony on the tongue, I found it more tart than sour but again, still a style I haven't fully embraced.
So Brock Street Brewing and 5 Paddles are remaining
across the street from each other in Whitby. Junction
Craft Brewing and Rainhard Brewing will soon occupy
the same small street in Toronto. In craft beer circles,
we pretty much have to put those in the win column...

Of this Rainhard trio, I'm pretty much going to have to give that Nosbeeratu the blue ribbon this time around although all three certainly had their charms.

Okay, I will be back soon as I was recently #beersainted with numerous GTA-area craft bottles from Drunk Polkaroo... and some American ones from Beer Bro Glenn... and some southwest Ontario ones from coworker Marie. It's getting to be that I can't keep up and man, what a wonderful problem that is to have. When I say, "Hey, I'll drink to that!" this is one of those instances when you can take me quite literally. I find I have no choice but to imbibe... for Queen and country! (I mean the rock group, not that old lady in England.)

And as Christmas approaches, I would like to remind people that I only drink on the holidays. All 365 of them. (Since it's a leap year, I should probably say 366 but I think there was a day in March that I slept through.) But guys and doll, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Thursday, 24 November 2016

My sweet Stone City swag

The problem with posing with me for a photo, as
Jay-Dawg found out, is that because I'm older,
the camera automatically reverts to the black-
and-white setting. On the positive side, standing
next to me makes Jay look a helluva lot better...
Frankly, I made a huge tactical error when I returned from my niece's wedding in Halifax with some east coast IPAs for my Beer Store co-worker, Jay-Dawg,

After I landed, I remembered that while my fridge at Donny's Bar and Grill was, in fact, jammed with beer, there were no IPAs in there. There are always IPAs in my fridge. I leave with at least six after most shifts whether or not I'm planning to pop into the LCBO to get even more on the way home.

Not a problem, I thought. I'll stop and grab some on the way home. Except, well, a problem. I had forgotten it was Thanksgiving Monday and all LCBOs and Beer Store were closed. That meant the only IPAs in my entire house were the Nova Scotian ones slated for Jay - a Propeller Double IPA, a Garrison's Imperial IPA and their Hoppy Buoy IPA and a Boxing Rock Brewing The Vicar's Cross Double IPA.

Relating my blunder to Stevil St Evil in New Zealand, he howled, "Jay's not gonna see any of those beers!" Well, of course, that wasn't gonna happen. As I said, I still had many beers in my fridge. Drinking beer slated for a buddy would be a King of Douche-Land move. Still as a precautionary measure, I took a picture of them and texted that picture to Jay with a simple "Look what I brung ya" note. So Jay knew he had beer coming and I simply drank some of the still-very-good-but-not-IPAs beers in my fridge. And I survived...
A quick look inside the scene at Stone City Ales in Kingston.
If you look carefully, you may notice a blurry figure in the
background. Clearly, he has super-speed. I'm not sure he
should be using that power at work, even if it means serving
tables more efficiently. Secret identities must be preserved.
One night wasn't gonna kill me. Two would be pushing it. Three nights would likely cause excruciating convulsions. Four nights and my very soul would perish into the abyss. But not one. One's totally easy. *Inwardly giving myself a high-five for lasting even one night without an IPA, as well as how convincingly I told that outright lie.*

But for coworkers, Jay and I travel in different directions during our off-hours, although our final destinations are ultimately some craft brewery or breweries somewhere. In essence, by bringing each other beers from various trips to Ontario (and even Maritime) breweries, we are each travelling half the distance but individually reaping twice the reward. It's an effective beer-centric system and one that works well for both of us. And when he and his pretty partner-in-crime Cara recently returned from Kingston, I was the happy beneficiary of some of Stone City Ales' finest products.

Now, I have had some previous exposure to Stone City as Rib Eye Jack's wonderful beer technician Kylie has a friend working there and after a visit there last Summer, she brought me back a one-litre (34 ounce) howler of their Grizzled Hipster Double IPA.
As you can see, I didn't have a Stone City Ales' glass that I
could pour their Bad Habit Weissbier into so I made due
with a Stone Hammer one that made me sort of half-right
The Grizzled Hipster was again in the Jay-and-Cara-Care-Package but so too was their Bad Habit Weissbier, their Uncharted IPA and finally their Ships In The Night Oatmeal Stout.

And with that remarkably short lead-in (for me, anyway) it seems it's Beer O'Clock at Donny's Bar and Grill. None of my clocks actually say that so I pay a neighbour to yell it at me. He has a beard and dresses like a lumberjack so I pay him in Pabst Blue Ribbon. (That's another beer I will be examining for its unusual Hipster Cred in the near future but not today.)

Okay, if you've read this before, you know the rules. Around these parts, I start with the lighter beers and move slowly and deliciously towards the heavier ones. Unless I go in a different direction. Like good beer itself, the rules are very fluid in my corner of the world. But that means we're starting with the Bad Habit Weissbier and hey, a good German wheat is a great place to start.
Because this is what a "grizzled hipster" looks like, right?
Actually, that's a pretty cool label on a pretty good Double
IPA. Nice deep rich colour, plenty of power in this punch!

Okay, there was a new twist to this wheat as they brewed it using German Huell Melon hops, a fruitier hop meant for milder styles, such as wheats, saisons and the like. So as expected, lots of banana on the nose - your usual wheat aroma - but the 5.3%, 30 IBU (international bitterness units) summer brew does a funky switch to melon on the tongue. Which melon? Beats me. There's like a million of them, none of which my son will eat. Let's say one of the orange ones and hope I picked the right melon family. I got to enjoy this on a sunny 22C (70F) Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks back and frankly, it disappeared from my patio as rapidly as the temperate weather. A smooth easy-drinker in true German style.

Sailing onward into unfamiliar waters, next up, let's look at that Uncharted IPA. At 6.9% and 69 IBU, this is a straight-up, solid IPA. No bells, no whistles, just some great taste. 
This Oatmeal Stout was simply outstanding, one of the best
I had enjoyed in 2016. It landed on my doorstep with ample
praise from Jay-Dawg, who mentioned it ahead of two top-
notch IPAs. In our beer world, praise cannot come higher .
Both pineapple and pine scents on the nose, you get some nice tropical fruit, orange and even apricot on the tongue. If I was starting to think Kingston was getting a little bit spoiled with this brewery, the next two beers certainly locked in that opinion.

The Grizzled Hipster Double IPA was everything I remembered from that howler a year and a half back. I occasionally check out RateBeer for one of two reasons - to find commercial descriptions of beers and to identify colours that are giving me trouble. This time, it was a colour issue. I was going to say "tarnished brass." The consensus by RateBeer users was "deep orange." And this is why the colourblind rely on the eyes of others. Okay, so it pours (allegedly) deep orange with a really nice fruit on the nose. It's medium-bodied and lots of bitter grapefruit on the tongue. But be warned, this 8.5%, 90 IBU bomb has the taste and feel of a single IPA and that can spiral you into the Danger Zone.
Stone City Ales' founder Ron Shore, left, along with
partner Eric Dinelle (and his wife Rebecca) started the
Kingston craft brewery in Summer of 2014 and since
that point have won a handful of award for their brews.

Which brings me to Cara and Jay's final offering - their Ships in the Night Oatmeal Stout. Jay came back raving about this one, which surprised me because he's a big IPA and sour fan. This style is certainly the polar opposite of his favoured sours - a style for which I'm still trying to develop an appreciation. I classify most as "interesting" or "different" so far. But to all the brewers who swore it was gonna be the style to replace IPAs as the new favourite, I offer a succinct three-word rebuttal: "No, they won't."

Okay, instantly, I saw why Jay was buzzing about this beer. This 5.6% glass of black magic had tons of coffee and chocolate on the nose with damn tasty bitter chocolate and toasted oatmeal maltiness on the tongue. This was, frankly, one of the best stouts I've enjoyed in 2016 and believe me, there have been many. A velvety, rich bomb-blast in a tall glass. Simply outstanding.

This talented young man, Jason da Silva, is the
head brewer for Stone City Ales but has a real
local connection for me. Once upon a time, he
was the Eastern Ontario sales rep for my much
beloved Nickel Brook Brewing right here in
Burlington. He is pumping out some really
dynamite and award-winning beers these days.
So how about a quick look at this fledgling but already-strong brewery right about now? Sure, I'm game! When founder Ron Shore lost his job in the healthcare industry (on just three days' notice, to boot) back in 2013, he decided it was time to throw the dice. Knowing the burgeoning popularity of craft beer in Ontario, he saw that Kingston had a void to be filled. With the strong base of potential patrons, such as a steady stream of downtown business people, as well as students from both Queen's University and St. Lawrence College, the market was there, ripe for the picking.

Partnering up with husband-and-wife team, Eric and Rebecca Dinelle, they created a solid business plan and in July 2014, they opened their brewery's door to an immediate thirsty and appreciative crowd of suds-sippers. The addition of head brewer Jason da Silva at the beginning paid off in instant and unforeseen measure. Da Silva, who had worked at Ottawa's Clock Tower Brewpub, was also a former Eastern Ontario sale rep for Burlington's Nickel Brook Brewing, who then plied his trade as a brewer for Ottawa's Beyond The Pale Brewing. When da Silva started creating beers for Stone city, it didn't take long to reap the benefits as just nine months later, the brewery struck silver for their Green Goddess Imperial IPA and bronze for their Uncharted IPA in the West Coast IPA category in the 2015 Ontario Brewing Awards. Uncharted then took gold in the same category in the 2016 OBAs. Clearly, this is a brewery with a strong foothold and on its way up in the increasingly-populated Ontario craft beer landscape. These guys are one to watch carefully.
While Alec Baldwin nailed Donald Trump's bombastic
nature beautifully in the pre-election Saturday Night
Live skits, a lot of people missed how Kate McKinnon
captured Hillary Clinton's less-than-warm-and-fuzzy
and often-times cold and calculating persona perfectly. 

Now before I sign off, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that today is Thanksgiving Day for my American readers, the beginning of a four-day weekend for them. Just as it is in Canada, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather under one roof to enjoy good food, watch sports and then, once stuffed to the gills, argue bitterly. I suspect the aftermath of the American election will spill over many dinner tables tonight in the USA. Harsh political divisions will be instant, vocal and acrimonious, I suspect. But it doesn't have to be that way. You see, I think it's simply a matter of knowing how to speak to the other side.

Okay, if you're a liberal, dealing with a relative who voted for Donald Trump, you just need to employ some of his phrases into the conversation. Say things like, "This stuffing is so great, it's gonna bomb the shit out of your colon!" Or perhaps, "This meal is gonna be so good! Everyone will be talking about how great it is! Let's make Thanksgiving great again!"
Of all the celebrities that said they'd move
to Canada if Trump won, the only one we
are willing to take is Samuel L Jackson
because he alone can take a cold country
and make it even cooler. Come on up!!!

But if you're a conservative dealing with a Hillary Clinton supporter, it may take a little more finesse. Look at the dinner table and note you are impressed with "how inclusive
and diverse the food is. Every food group is equally represented, regardless of taste and colour!" See? It's just a matter of know the other side's lingo to make Thanksgiving dinner relatively (see what I did there?) happy and peaceful.

And when watching football today, be sure to talk up this Electoral College in whatever conference it plays. I've been hearing a lot of chatter about this school so they must have a really good football program! Like, YUGE!

And finally onto the touchy subject of American celebrities who swore they'd move up here if Trump won. The truth is we don't really want most of them, especially that shrieking harpie, Miley Cyrus. She's all yours. Sorry, gang. That said, I saw Samuel L Jackson say the same thing and man, we will gladly take him! That bad-ass mother-lover (it's his catch-phrase - did I say that right?) is always welcome up here! He can crash on my couch. One more thing, America. This morning, I found James Franco rummaging through my recycling bins. Did he do that down there, too? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Magical Mystery Craft Beer Tour

That Tiffers Beer Bus looks a little tipsy, just as I suspect we will be on
November 26 when the inaugural We Take You To Beer bus tour kicks
off at Rib Eye Jack's Ale house before heading to Great Lake Brewing,
the Indie Alehouse and finally, Steam Whistle where we'll be getting a
full brewery tour. It's a lot of beery fun jammed into one day on wheels!

I suspect readers of this space may recognize the name Tiffany, the social media maven and beloved-by-all server at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington.

If not, perhaps the name Tiffers is more familiar to you? Yes? Okay, regardless (because there is no such word as irregardless, people) here's a pretty big question. How does a devout Jameson Irish Whiskey drinker end up organizing a beer bus tour? I mean, Tiffany is the first to admit she knows jack-squat about beer, despite working at the very restaurant with the best craft beer selection in the city.

Well, like all good superheroes, it seems that Tiffany lives a double-life. On one hand, she is a key cog in the Rib Eye Jack's wheel. But given her background in public relations and event promotion, she is an valued asset in the area business Concept Solutions.
Tiffany holds up a Side Launch Pale Ale at Rib Eye
Jack's Ale House even though she would be the first
to admit, she hasn't the faintest idea how good it is.
Hint: very good. But Tiff know what beer drinkers
like and that is to be chauffeured to new breweries.
And what does the business, owned by Deirdra Watson, specialize in? Public relations and event management. In dated TV terminology, I believe we have a love connection or more accurately, a great business connection.

So when it came time to organize an event for Concept Solutions, Tiffany decided it was high time to take her two businesses, meld their unique specialties into one and came up with the "We Take You To Beer" bus trip, slated for November 26 from 11 am to 5 pm. The event, which costs $80, will start at Rib Eye Jack's where craft beer lovers will enjoy a pint before jetting down the QEW to Great Lakes Brewing in Etobicoke, the Indie Alehouse in west Toronto's Junction neighbourhood (my old stomping grounds) and finally landing at perennial favourite, Steam Whistle Brewing nestled between the SkyDome and Lake Ontario, where the entire group will be getting a full brewery tour.

I checked quickly with my Beer Writing Buddy, Drunk Polkaroo, to see how that pricing fared as he has gone on a couple of similar craft beer brewery bus trips in the past and he said the price was usually in the $90-$100 range. So there you go. Once again, in TV vernacular, The Price Is Right.
Come on into Great Lake Brewery, folks. My name
is Don and I'll be your host. No, not really. I'll just
be a happy patron like everyone else and probably
wearing this same Nickel Brook t-shirt, hopefully
washed by then, because I'm a shop-locally dude.

So how did Tiffany decided on a craft brewery bus trip? I'll let her explain. "The craft beer market is exploding at an insane rate. Knowing this, many craft beer lovers I have spoken to... have never gone to a brewery or toured (one.)" She added that there are literally dozens of similar tours for wine lovers but precious few for beer drinkers. "Having the relationship I do with Rib Eye Jack's (and its patrons) and the love of having a bus do all he driving, I thought this would be an amazing adventure for all craft beer lovers." She added the proximity of dozens of great breweries in the Toronto area made this a no-brainer.

Rather than go with a full-coach bus, she opted instead for a mini-coach with a 30-person capacity. For starters, it's easier for breweries to accommodate a group that size. And though she may not realize it yet, it's easier for her as the organizer. My Beer Bro Stevil St Evil has been on a number of full-coach brewery tours in New Zealand and says that keeping a group of 50-60 beer-swilling drinkers in line, much less together as a group "is like trying to corral feral cats. It's funny... but damn near impossible." 

So how did she end up picking these three breweries in particular?
The Indie Alehouse is an excellent choice as the middle
stop on the bus tour for a few reasons. It has incredibly
friendly and knowledgeable staff (as do they all) and a
huge restaurant-bar component as part of the brewery.
Turns out GLB was a gimme. "Great Lakes Brewey is always a favourite at Rib Eye Jack's. Sometimes guests don't even care what it is on tap because as soon as they see the (GLB) handle, they are sold. Craft beer lovers are known to be very particular with their tastes but when it's Great Lakes, that seems to be all it takes." Very true as I am one of those patrons. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, GLB is likely to be among your Top-Three Favourite Brewers, if not number one. Since GLB doesn't do brewery tours, "we can be expected to be greeted by their amazing staff and taken on a 'tasting tour.' We will be educated on their beers and the process (involved in brewing them)."

The pit-stop at the Indie Alehouse will simply be relaxing time, she added. "This is free time. The brewery doesn't offer tours. They just know we are coming (as part of the tour.) This is the time to wander, learn and sample a variety of different brews."

For the brewery-tour-minded in the crowd, the last stop, Steam Whistle, will be the real highlight of the day. I've been on this tour and it's fun, informative and frankly, the folks there just love to rock it out. I've been to many great parties there.
If you live anywhere in the GTA and even beyond, you know
what this is. The Tower at Steam Whistle is a landmark that
tells you some serious fun is about to begin for beer-lovers.
It will be the final stop on the We Take You To Beer Bus
Tour on November 26. And believe me, it's a great final act
When the group lands at Steam Whistle, Tiffany noted, "We will be greeted with samples and then split into two groups of 15 to be taken on the amazing tour they offer. (You'll come out of the tour) completely amazed, impressed and knowing far more than you did before entering." 

Indeed, Steam Whistle is an anomaly in the Ontario craft beer circles as they brew only their one Czech-style Pilsner and yet remain hugely popular with drinkers. People line up to go there for fun and hey, being across the street from the SkyDome doesn't hurt. I remember once heading there before a Blue Jays game with a group of four. We were having so much fun that we skipped the game, kept partying and watched it on their big screen. One of the guys walked across the street, sold our tickets for face value and we drank for free all afternoon. Best ball game ever as the atmosphere at Steam Whistle is second to none.

The box lunch for the day will be provided by the talented kitchen staff ar Rib Eye Jack's and Tiffany noted bus adventurers will be gifted with swag from Creative Solutions and merchandiser Brand Blvd. She said there are tickets left but keep in mind once they hit 30 people, it's done. But there will be more on the horizon, she promises. "I would love to do this every three to four months if this one takes off."

Tickets are available at this link: We Take You To Beer Bus Tour! or from Tiffany any time at Rib Eye Jack's. I advance-scouted both GLB and the Indie Alehouse on a recent trip into Toronto and these are both great stops. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. I'll be back real soon with the beers coworker Jay-Dawg brought me from Stone City Ales in Kingston. Until next time, I remain...

Monday, 7 November 2016

David's Star Turn & Daddy's Beer Tour

David reads the small chalkboard on the counter at Toronto's
Indie Alehouse. He helped Daddy pick out his beer with one
condition. They had to end with the letter I-P-A. Hey, no
problem as we walked out with three of them. Great work!
My son, David, got a pretty cool opportunity a couple weeks back when a Toronto casting company contacted his Mom about the possibility of him having his picture taken for a print media campaign.

Now David's happy persona was available on tape to the casting agency because he has auditioned for a couple of things in the past, notably a cereal ad that celebrated diversity, showing images like a gay couple having breakfast, a family with a special needs child enjoying the product and so on. (My pitch for a cave-family with a pet dinosaur went unheeded. Brilliance is never recognized until long after its time.)

David's Mom was busy preparing for a trip to Germany so she didn't have time to travel to the photo shoot. Asking my boss, Allison, if she could fix it so I had that Wednesday off did involve some major shuffling of shifts on her end but she made it happen which was very much appreciated by both me and my boy.

When I got the itinerary for the day, I saw that David's photo shoot was slated for 3:45 pm, likely the last of the day. I smelled opportunity.
Great Lake Brewing had a huge pumpkin and hay
bale scene set up out front of their Queen Elizabeth
Boulevard Brewery in Etobicoke. My boy got pretty
happy about the scenery as it reminded him more
of Halloween than beer. Granted, he doesn't drink.
And for me, opportunity is pronounced "brewery stops." Of course, it was David's big day, not mine, so I asked if he wanted to go into Toronto early and check out some breweries with Daddy since we had all day. He was extremely game as he loves a good road trip, as well as visiting these places and talking to new people. So as I was taught by Beer Bro Stevil St Evil, "Use Google and chart your course first, Beer Captain!"

And I did, pulling up a map of craft breweries in Toronto's west end near the studio and drawing up a rudimentary tour. Our stops would include Great Lakes Brewing in Etobicoke, the Indie Alehouse in the Junction area of Toronto and Junction Craft Brewing in the same neighbourhood. I made sure the last two were less than 10 minutes away from the studio, if we had to cut our little brewery jaunt short. Not an issue. We landed in all three places and were still an hour early. That actually worked out well as he had to be fitted for clothes, get his hair and make-up done before the shoot... you know, all the stuff that stars must endure. So he was more than ready to go and happily waiting when the young lady having her photo-shoot ahead of him was just finishing up. For once, being early was a good thing. But the studio was the last start so let's take a look at the first three before we come back to it at the end.

As this was just a handful of days before Halloween, the taps
at Great Lake Brewing were covered with faux cobwebs and
caution tape was plastered through the place. The only thing
I was in danger of was buying some really good craft beer...
You know, considering Great Lakes Brewing is literally 25 minutes down the road from Donny's Bar and Grill, I'm stunned I've never been there. But then again, I'm at the seasoned age where none of the stupid things I have done or smart things I haven't done really surprise me anymore.

Going into their retail shop, I was impressed with both the huge patio out front, the fridge with product inside and the taps at the ready. Seeing their outstanding Karma Citra IPA in the fridge, I told David I would be buying some of that but asked him to pick me another. He surveyed the lot, which included their Pompous Ass Pale Ale, Devil's Pale Ale 666 before pointing to their Canuck Pale Ale. "I like that one because it has a lumberjack," he noted of the label created by artist Garnett Gerry and GLB graphic designer Fabian Skidmore. He doesn't even drink beer but picked the exact one I wanted. Excuse me while I go weep fatherly tears of pride.

So we collected our swag and off we went to the Indie Alehouse in the Junction about 15 minutes away.
My boy poses with Indie Alehouse worker Jason
who was quite interested in David's upcoming
photo adventure. The two of them chatted away
and when I set up this picture, Jason made sure
my boy was wearing an Indie Alehouse ballcap.
No problems finding it at all as I followed my roughly-drawn map. Parking along Dundas Street West in Toronto, however, was a different issue so I opted for a side street and parked not exactly legally. But hey now, here was a really good set-up. Next to their retail shop was a huge dining and bar area - I mean, really big - so this place must see tons of foot traffic, especially on the weekend. This is good news as Tiffers, aka Tiffany from Rib Eye Jacks, is organizing a "We Take You To Beer" Bus Tour at the end of the month and GLB is Stop #1 while Indie Alehouse is Stop #2. It finishes with a full brewery tour at Steam Whistle (lots of fun and super-informative - I've done it before) but I'm glad Indie Alehouse has this kind of space as our halfway stop. More on this bus trip to come.

But it was at Indie Alehouse that we met Jason, who would be helping us on this fine day. After Jason introduced himself, David cheerfully piped up, "I'm David and this is my father, Don. We're in Toronto because I'm getting my picture taken today!" Jason perked up and asked why. So I explained the photo session to him and he then looked at David and boldly told him, "They'll pick your pictures for sure! You're a pretty good-looking guy!" When David beamed and responded, "I sure am!", Jason looked over at me and laughed, "You gotta love that confidence!" To paraphrase my lad, I sure do!

So then, it was beer buying time. They had a little chalkboard in a stand on the counter so I make it easy for my boy. "Show Daddy every beer that ends with I, P and A." He looked at the board and start pointing. "Hmmm, that's this one... and this one... and this one."
The final stop on the Father And Son Beer
Tour was Junction Craft Brewing where I
picked up four beauties. This one was the
most real of the three as you have to walk
past more than a few fermenting vats to get
 to the retail counter. It really doesn't come
much more authentic than that, does it?
There's a little Parenting 101 right there. It's about guiding your kids in the direction you want them to go. And that's how I walked out of the Indie Alehouse with a Love Triangle IPA, a Couchsurfer IPA and an Instigator IPA. One stop, three IPAs, it doesn't get more efficiently-tasty than that. We'll get to all this beer in a minute but first, let's go to the final stop, Junction Craft Brewing.

Where Indie Alehouse was on a nice strip of Dundas Street West with an unique combo of antique places, nice deli's, book shops and some fine dining, Junction Craft Brewing was tucked away on a backstreet five minutes east amidst a sea of industrial factories, complete with an abundance of spray-painted graffiti as outer decor. This would not be a "chic boutique" little stretch of Toronto land. Gritty would be underselling it. That said, as always, I was suitably dressed for the location as the only thing I know about Armani is that it's not short for either army or manicure.

Since it was a long stretch of attached factories, we accidentally walked through the wrong door and were in some sort of distilled alcohol distribution centre. It was nice but again, wrong place. So as per instruction, we went one over, climbed the metal staircase and landed inside Junction Craft Brewing. But when I opened the door and saw nothing but fermentation vats and liquid-covered floors, I said to a nearby worker, "We've come in the wrong way, haven't we? I wanted your retail." No, she assured me, gesturing toward the retail counter just past all the vats. "It's right over there." Well, alrighty then... let's play.
Okay, from the Indie Alehouse, we have, from left, their
Love Triangle IPA, their Instigator IPA and finally, their
Couchsurfer IPA. All three were really good but in the
end, the one with the lowest ABV was the one that made
me go, "Whoa!" That said, three dynamite beers here. 

I grabbed David's hand because I didn't want him slipping on the floor just before his big photo-shoot. But at the same time, I noticed he was looking around in wide-eyed marvel. He was not used to this at all as it wasn't just the cool shiny machinery he's seen in our previous brewery visits. Oh, they were there but this also had troughs of spent barley malt, grated drains on the floor funneling liquid and it smelled accordingly. Yeah, this was the exposed raw guts of a brewery and David was totally fascinated. It was pretty cool that these guys basically usher you in through inner-workings to get to the retail counter. I've never seen that before and I have been to a lot of breweries. I loved it. It was like those old MTV: Unplugged shows but, you know, a craft brewery. Raw and bare, baby. After buying my beer, I walked David over to the trough of used-up malt and told him, "You know what they do with all this old grain at Nickel Brook? A farmer comes in, takes it all for free and feeds it to his pigs in the country."
There's not much more I can tell you about this
Karma Citra IPA that I haven't already said. It's
simply one of Ontario's best IPAs. But I wanna
show off the cool inverted tulip glass I bought at
GLB during our visit. A glass of tasty right there!
The lady there (whose name I missed) told him that Junction Craft did precisely the same with theirs. This new connection between a brewery and what would eventually become tasty bacon was not lost on my boy.

Okay, time to talk beers! Let's start with Great Lakes as it was Stop #1. Well, I don't know what more I could tell you about Karma Citra that I haven't already said in this space. One of Ontario's juiciest single-hop IPAs, it's a limited run that will sell out quickly so get your ass over to either the brewery or an LCBO and grab it now. For my money, Canuck Pale Ale deserves all the praise it gets and then some. It's one of those great beers that always been there and sometimes we forget about it. My coworker Jay-Dawg and I were talking about that recently. He noted that sometimes when he hits the LCBO, if he doesn't see any new stuff he's interested in, he'll grab a few knowns, including Canuck. "I always forget how good of a beer it is until I try it again," he noted. Pale ales were Jay's cross-over into the world of craft beer and hey, it's good to revisit the ones from the beginning of the journey. Much like him, I enjoyed the reminder of how good this brew is.
I love a good red ale and I love a good wheat. So how do the
styles combined taste? Pretty damn good. One of four beers
bought at Junction Craft Brewing, this had tons of flavour.

At 5.2% and 35 IBUs (international bitterness units), there's grapefruit on the nose with a taste of pine and citrus on the tongue. It's ABV safe, it's damn tasty and it's your all-purpose, watching-hockey beer.

The three IPAs from Indie Alehouse were all solid performers so good choices there, David. At 6.5% and roughly 80 IBUs, the Instigator IPA had some big grapefruit on the nose with bitter orange peel on the tongue. This is the one that's really popular among the Indie patrons. The Love Triangle IPA weighed in at 6% and about 70 IBUs and had some nice pine on the tongue with fresh citrus on the nose. Again, another solid candidate but let's look at the Couchsurfer IPA. Okay, at just 5%, you expect this to be a malty British-style IPA. It most definitely was not as it kicks it full west-coast style. Herb and mango on the nose and while it had a thinner body, it still held a full-bodied taste. Because I expected the least from this one, it actually blew me away.
When I posted this on Instagram, beer lovers were all
commenting on its beautiful colour for a Galaxy Hop beer.
I hadn't really noticed but instantly worried that I might
have gimmicked it too much, using the filters. There are
some things colourblind people should avoid. Like filters.
Not for being the best of the bunch. No, for exceeding my expectations by a large margin.

Now onto the gang at Junction Craft Brewing where I really mixed my choices up. This was kid in a candy shop time. Let's start with their Olympia Looping Red Wheat because while I have enjoyed many Summer wheats and darker Dunkel Weisses in the Winter, I've never had a red one. That's pretty apropos for the colourful Autumn landscape, I'd say. As you can see, it's a beautiful deep red pour. At 5% and 18 IBUs, the nose is banana with a brief whiff of bubblegum. Some tangy, dry, apple and fruit on the tongue. As it's the only red wheat I've ever had, it's easy to declare this one the winner!

Their Hop Burst Galaxy was a damn good one for a session ale. Using just Galaxy hops (they also made an Amarillo hop one I wish was there as it is my favourite), this clocks in at just 3.5% but has a staggering 58 IBUs. I have never seen a combination of low ABV to high IBU quite like that in my time.
Junction Craft's Engineer IPA is the pretty example of why
you need a whole beer, not just a small Beer Fest sample, to
properly talk about it. At first, it's nothing but malts but
slowly, about halfway through, the hops start to surface...
Very light-bodied as sessioners tend to be but lots of citrus on the nose and some light orange and lemon on the tongue. Just an excellent job with this one, gang!

Their Engineer's IPA is a bit of a sneak attack. On first sip (and several afterwards) all you get is malts. I mean, you do get citrus on the nose but it's caramel maltiness on the tongue. Then the 6.2%, 59 IBU beer starts to slide in a different direction about halfway through. Suddenly, the more you have, the more the hoppy grapefruit comes to the forefront. If you're expected a hop bomb, this ain't it. But it is one beautifully balanced beer.

And finally, let's look at their Bahnhofzoo Berliner Weisse, a sour offering from the Junction crew. (The Bahnhof Zoo is an actual tourist attraction in Berlin.) This is the first non-fruit-infused Berliner Weisse I've had in quite some time. At just 3.5% and 5 IBUs, this is a nice light sour that won't offend any sensibilities.
David stands happily in front of the fermentation vats
at Junction Craft Brewing. Yeah, it was definitely an
eye-opener to walk into a brewery and be right in the
middle of the brewing area. But then again, it's not
an area that we usually see. So new adventure for us!!
Pouring with a thin head and looking like a pale lager, it's tarty citrus on the nose with more of the same on the tongue. Meant to be a Summer drink, I had mine on an warm Autumn day so close enough.

And that's a wrap from the beers on this Toronto road trip but a couple more cute moments from the photo-shoot and beyond. At one point, David was posing on the kitchen set and photographer Mark called me over because David wanted to talk to me. Turns out he was posing with a plate full of fruit and he wanted me to take a picture of him "eating healthy" to show his Mom. The crew sent him back to Daddy's with that fruit, some chicken wings and vegetarian lasagna, all of which he loved.

On the way home, David decided that this photo-shoot was destined to make him famous. Once he was a star, he told me he was moving to Hollywood where he would have four girlfriends - Emma Watson, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. He didn't have his fourth picked yet so I asked if I could use that extra spot and get Halle Berry as my girlfriend. He thought about it for a few seconds and then said flatly, "I don't think so, Daddy." Damn, that was my only real shot at Halle, using David as a lure. Oh well. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...