Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Adventures in Public Speaking

This man, "Downtown" Wayne Brown held a
recent Beer Fest called BurlOnTap and as it
turned out, Downtown Brown had a special
assignment just for me. My coworkers could
have told him just how foolhardy that was...
Usually when someone asks something above-and-beyond of me, it's almost always at work. Crazy stuff like, "Are you planning to do any work today?" Or weird things like, "You do know they're paying us to work, right?" Or philosophical questions such as, "What part of work are you so afraid of?"

That's why I like going to work. The people there are such jokers. Always with the laughs. So when someone outside my work-place asks something of me, the answer is always the same. "Who are you and how did you get my name?"

Except this time, I knew who he was and how he got my name. Unlike others, he didn't have to search the Halton Police Criminal Data-Base. You see, it was "Downtown" Wayne Brown, the cofounder of two Burlington Summer Beer Festivals, as well as the cofounder of the more recent BurlOnTap Beer Festival in August. So I definitely know this guy. He's beer-related. That's why I'm his buddy.

So anyway, before the BurlOnTap Fest, he said to me, "You know what I'd like to see there?" Yes, I answered confidently, lots of beer! "I'd like to see an educational component to it," he continued. Yes, I replied still confidently, many tasty beers! Wait... an edu-what-now?
I have two ex-wives and a handful of ex-girlfriends
who could tell you a "quickie session" with me does
not last 20 minutes. It's probably something better
timed in seconds. However, talking about beer styles
for 20 minutes? That I can do for the full time period.
Turns out Downtown Brown wanted someone to speak to the crowd in a seminar-way, explaining different beer styles. Capital idea, I told him. Then I suggested that maybe I could do it. That's when a capital idea quickly became a lower-case idea.

I gently tried to balk, suggesting our local craft brewery Nickel Brook had a surplus of brewers hanging around that could do a far superior job. And let's face it - for once (and perhaps the only time), I had a damn good point! All of Nickel Brook's Funk Lab bunch are friendly and outgoing. They're also legally allowed out in public. It was a perfect fit.

But no, Wayne was pretty persistent that it be me and believe me, he is not one to give up easily. Still, I was reluctant. It's not because I'm afraid of public speaking. Quite the opposite. I enjoy it. When I read those studies that show public speaking is people's number one fear, even ahead of dying, I'm truly baffled that most would prefer to be in the coffin rather than reading the eulogy. No, in this case, it was more a matter of knowing there were others nearby that could do a far better job. Many, many others. Anyone else, really.

In the end, I eventually relented.
My man Charles from Nickel Brook Brewing
came up front and told the audience about the
work that goes into making a good sour beer.
I tell you this - this young guy really killed it!
My thinking was basically that I already make an ass of myself on a daily basis. At least now, I'd have a captive audience. And if I really messed it up super badly, I could at least be a You-Tube star for a day. They must have a "Check Out This Idiot" section on the website.

So I went home and jotted down three or four bullet-points for each of the style I picked: lagers, ales, wheats, porters, stouts, Kolsch and sours. The rest of the talk, I would simply ad-lib. I've been writing about these styles for over three years so perhaps it was time to see what I've retained and what's been lost to excessive Imperial IPA brain damage.

Now right off the top, I missed my Friday Night 6 pm Session because I was stuck in traffic and didn't even get home until 6 pm. And then I realized I left my phone at work so I had to drive back and get it. So the first session was super easy. Without me there, I thought it went extremely well.

But that still left three sessions to go. So at 9 pm on the Friday night, I got up to talk. There were about 20 people listening. I've played to bigger rooms. Yes, they were court rooms, actually, but I could do this. So I yacked away about the various beer styles, mostly true but with some embellishment along the way, to be sure.
Boy, if I was gonna to grab a guest speaker,
it should have been Sarah, the Brewmaster
from Lock Street Brewing in St Catharine's.
She is holding up their Jealous Mistress
Brown Ale and Naughty Sailor Lager here.
Unfortunately, she was short-handed so I
brought in some others to speak for me...
So no, Imperial Stouts weren't invented by Russians because it's too damn cold in Siberia and they needed a warming beer to keep their strength up in order to fight the KGB. But some 20 people in Burlington now believe that's the case.

But towards the end, something kind of crazy happened. The last style I talked about was sours and as I was talking, I noticed Charles Voyce from Nickel Brook striding towards the front. When he got there, I was still talking but noticed he had samples of the brewery's Raspberry Uber Berliner Weisse in his hands. So I simply said, "This is where Charles will talk to you about sours."

And that's precisely what he did
. In an informative and entertaining way, Charles started talking about the work involved with making sours. The fruits that have to be crushed. The kettles that have to be cleaned afterwards. The bacteria used in the brewing. Walking among them, still talking and letting them each smell or taste the beer. Everything. I've known Charles for about a year and my guess is he's about 23 years old. But he held this audience, age 20 to 65, in the palm of his hand. He was one of the most engaging public speakers I have ever watched, even if it was just for the closer. And when Downtown Brown opened the floor up for questions, Charles was right there beside me, answering as many as I did. Even when it was over, more people approached us with questions. It was like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid's Kid up there. It was pretty awesome. It went so well, we were both kind of bummed when it finally got cut off.
On the right, Matthew from Beau's All-Natural
Brewing explains the complexity of the Kolsch,
a lagered-ale. Beside him is Devon who was
merely days away from completing his class at
Niagara Brewing College. Like I said, it was
high time to get a few pros up front for this...

By Saturday morning, my head was spinning with thoughts. Like how Aquaman protects 70% of the Earth's surface and everyone thinks he's lame but Batman protects one lousy city and everyone thinks he's awesome? Or as a Game of Thrones fan, how bad I feel every time a character in the show dies because they basically just got fired in front of all of us. That's gotta suck. Oh... and also thoughts about my little beer seminars. That being simply, I could bring pros up there on Saturday night's sessions. The room was full of them. I mean, while Charles does, at this moment, work the retail side of Nickel Brook, he is also a Prud'homme Level 2 Beer Specialist. This is precisely the level of expertise that should be doing the talking.

My first thought was that Sarah Casorso from Lock Street Brewing in Port Dalhousie, a suburb of St. Catharine's, would be perfect. Not only is she a female craft brewer, she is the first female Brewmaster I've met. So that's a whole new perspective and take on the industry that could come from her. The problem is, as stupid as this sounds, she would be too perfect. I mean, why am I even standing up there if a Brewmaster has the floor? Don't get me wrong. I'd much rather have her up there than me (especially to hear what she had to say) but I promised Downtown Brown I'd do this. Handing the whole show over to a brewmaster, regardless of gender, would have been a Game Misconduct.
My younger brother, Gary, dislikes social
media and has asked me many times to never
post him on Facebook, Twitter and even this
blog. His wife, Phe, is cooler about it as she
does Facebook. But he's not the boss of me!!
So... that's Phe on the left and Gary on the
right. Sorry, bro, held off as long as I could.

Also just she and one other were taking care of the booth so if I pull her away, I'm leaving someone stranded. Still, I am happy to report that Sarah was there to correct some serious pronunciation issues on my end. You see, I pronounced Port Dalhousie as "Dal-Howz-Eee". Sarah said, no, no, no... it's "Dah-LOO-zie." For the record, I totally nailed "Port." Like on the first try. But Sarah, your brewery is just a hour away from me. You deserve a lot more than a mere mention in a blog that includes others. So one night, I will travel there and over your beers, we shall talk about your beers, many other beers, the craft beer industry itself, the role women play in it and the general lack of respect that Aquaman gets. Deal?

So it was time to con cherry-pick others who could come up front. Charles had the sours nailed down as Nickel Brook was the only brewery with a sour beer there. So he was a gimme. But while I had most styles in my back pocket, I figured I could use a little help with the Kolsch, that tricky lagered-ale style.

And when I saw Matthew from Beau's All-Natural Brewing working the room on Friday night, I knew I had someone who could explain the complexity of the Kolsch brewing process. (It might be remarkably easy - I have no idea.) But here's the tricky part - he'd have to agree. So I asked him. He said yes. Okay, gotta admit, negotiations went a little more smoothly than I initially thought they might.
Josh and Sam from Four Fathers' Brewing in Rockwood,
Ontario, hold up the fine samples of their beers we would
be enjoying on Saturday evening. But in Sam's left hand
is the Shevchenko 9 Ukrainian Dunkel Euro Dark Lager,
the beer that got the nod from, me, my brother and his
lovely wife as the one we collectively enjoyed the most.

And Saturday was set. That's good because my younger brother, Gary, and his wife, Phe, were in town from Barcelona, Spain and I would be bringing them to their first ever craft beer festival. They had been in Canada for a few weeks looking after my Mom before I could step in to do so and were pretty much regulars at my Beer Store at that point. Their beers of choice, at that point, were Gary's European go-to, Guinness, as well as Molson's Rickard's White, a macro Belgian Wit that they both quite enjoy. I have to agree that it's a pretty good example of the style... but now they were entering Big Brother Donny's Craft Beer Den of Sin. There would be no macros on this night, though as both Jerry and George would say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Now before I tell you how Saturday night's beer-talking sessions went, perhaps a quick look at some of the beers that stood out at this event to my brother, his wife and myself. Topping that list was the one we three all agreed was delicious - Four Fathers Brewing (Rockwood, Ontario) Shevchenko 9 Ukrainian Dunkel Euro Dark Lager. As Guinness drinkers, I suspected this might be to their European tastes and with me, the darker the lager, the better.
Which beer was my go-to through the weekend? Well,
Mackenzie and Whitney at the Beau's All Natural
Brewing booth will tell you that they served me more
than my fair share of their outstanding Full Time IPA

Now despite the fact that Four Fathers Brewing began with four fathers meeting in the hockey rink as their sons played, someone in the group is a soccer fan as the name is a tribute to retired Ukrainian soccer star Andriy Shevchenko, who (oddly) always wore jersey #7, not 9, during his illustrious career. So after two samples, I asked Gary and Phe what flavours they were getting from the 5% lager in terms of taste. "Chocolate, for sure," said Phe. "Like a nut and coffee thing," added Gary. And both were bang-on.

But after that, it was the Beau's booth that saw a lot of our time. For me, it was refills of their Full Time IPA, one of the best beers put out in 2017 to my thinking. I don't know an IPA lover out there who wasn't wowed by this beauty this year.

But Gary and Phe found something else at the Beau's booth that they loved - the brewery's Quads & Rockers Belgian Style Quad that tips the scales at a weighty 10.5%. I'm not sure that either had ever had a Belgian Quad before and lemme tell you, Beau's turned them both into huge fans of the style within mere hours. Less, actually, as it was love at first sip.
Beau's Haters Gonna Hate Imperial Kolsch was actually a mistake from
the first crack at making their big Ontario favourite Lug Tread Kolsch.
Matthew from Beau's told that to the crowd during his stint up front.

The pair of them went through as much as the Quads & Rockers as I went through the Full Time IPA. And it is a one great Belgian. I have had it before and always got plum on the nose. Gary got raisins and some banana (which I then got as soon as he said it) while Phe got a lot of coffee in the flavour. But to be honestly, I think the pair just liked drinking a beer over 10%. I don't think they see a lot of that in Spain. And all of us could feel the warmth of the alcohol as it slid down. Rich and oh-so-very dark, it's always been one of my favourite Belgian Style Ales brewed in Ontario.

Let's move on to Matthew from Beau's and see how his turn at the front table turned out.
Hmmm, looking at that glass on the right, I
can see I covered all the big styles in my talk
but it's the glass on the left that speaks to me.
Drink local Ontario craft beer if you want to
live a good life and eventually go to Heaven. 
Well, here's a guy who's used to working the room at Beer Festivals so you know he's going to have the gift of gab, right? He was a lot like Charles that way.

And when he was speaking of Beau's provincially-famous Lug Tread Lagered Ale, he told the story about how it started out as a mistake. (That's okay, Matthew, so was my brother, Gary, but let's just keep that between ourselves.) When they were brewing their first-ever batch of Lug Tread, it accidentally froze, which, in turn, jacked the alcohol level above 7%. So they did it correctly a second time and came out with the desired 5%, instead. But that batch that was a mistake? The damn thing won "Best of Show" at the Golden Taps Awards in Toronto that year. So the brewery recreated the initial batch, named it Haters Gonna Hate Imperial Kolsch, which is a must-have for fans of the style. But be warned, at 7.1%, this ain't your grandpappy's Kolsch. Well, unless your grandpappy is Irish like mine was, in which case, he'd be slamming this down like soda pop.

But Matthew didn't come to the table alone. While there, he met one of the volunteers, Devon, who was, at that point, just days away from graduating the Niagara College Brewmaster Program.
Yeah, I got my little sign up front at the cash counter for the two days of the
BurlOnTap Beer Festival but gang, here's a REAL sign!! When my man
Drunk Polkaroo and his lovely wife, Kat, visited Cowbell Brewing in Blyth,
Ontario near the end of October, the brewery took this sentence out of his
subsequent blog and made this, which is framed and posted in the brewery!
So for the final session, I dragged poor Devon up there. I talked about lagers and ales, then basically passed the whole thing over to him. Like, "..and here's Devon to talk about everything else!" I gotta be honest - that worked exceptionally well for me. The audience got a real understanding of the various styles from a young man on the cusp of turning pro.

So if I had to describe my public speaking style after this event, I would suggest that I seem to shine when it comes to delegating the work to others. So there you go - just like every day at the Beer Store. Always play to your strengths, I say.

But here's an interesting sidebar. On the afternoon of BurlOnTap Day Two, I ran into Nickel Brook co-owner John Romano working the retail counter at the brewery because, of course, Charles was at the Beer Fest. Because I know John fairly well, I absolutely raved about the awesome job his young superstar did for me the night before. Now, a couple of months later, Charles is training for an Inside Sales job there. Was this on the strength of my praise? Absolutely not. It was gonna happen. Because, you see, we always hear the same things repeatedly about Millennials. They're entitled, they're spoiled, they have no ambition, they have no focus... and so on. I call absolute bullshit on that crap. Because I watched three of them come up front with me and they absolutely stole the show. I'm not surprised. As The Who said way back in 1965, "The kids are alright." Some things never change from generation to generation. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 29 October 2017

This Bud's for... WHO??? (Not Glenn...)

This is a screen capture of Corb Lund singing in that
Budweiser commercial. As you can see, in the back is
a Budweiser banner proudly proclaiming the beer to be
"Alberta Made." Which, technically, yes, it is as the
Labatt brewery in Edmonton does produce Bud. But
the ad had a lot of Alberta beer drinkers up in arms.
Do you know who Corb Lund is? If so, you're a step up on me.

Before a small controversy he was involved with during the Summer, if we were playing Name Association and you said, "Corb Lund," I likely would have replied, "That's a damn fine tire!"

So who is he? Well, he's a 48-year-old country singer from Edmonton, Alberta who heads up the band, Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans. Okay, I think the flow of the band name is kinda cool. So there's that. Three of the following four country songs are his; one I just made up so let's see how adept you are at spotting fake song titles. Ready? Here goes: Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer; Time To Switch To Whiskey; This Is My Prairie and finally My Wife Left Me, My Dog Died And As Soon As My Truck Becomes Self-Driving, I'll Be Totally Alone. Don't guess right away. Give yourself time to think about it.

So why am I talking about this dude? It's certainly not because I admire country music. It has its time and place which is "never" and "not near me." No, it turns out that ol' Corb here was in a Budweiser commercial this past Summer. That's not controversial. Except that the theme of the commercial was that Bud was "Alberta Made."
Okay, again, as you can see in this photo of the Edmonton Labatt's plant,
Budweiser is, indeed, Alberta Made. However, Albertans, like the rest of
Canada, have always considered Bud to be an American beer. While this
is something of a tempest in a teapot, the commercial stirred up some
negative response. To me, a country singer associated with Bud makes a
lot of sense. As Lund himself defended: "I've always considered it to be
a cowboy beer." No doubt there. But others were not happy with the ad.
Okay, that part rattled a few feathers, it seems. Or is that ruffled a few cages? I can never remember. Damn metaphors.

In the commercial that shows beautiful Alberta scenery, a very obvious drive-by at the Labatt plant and a crazy amount of pretty young women dancing to his music, Lund says in a voice-over, "Being an Albertan is in my music. It's the places. It's the people. We've been through a lot but at the same time, we've accomplished a lot." Cue to dozens to Bud cans held aloft, proclaiming "Alberta Made" though at the end of the commercial, it does clearly state "Since 1980." And that's the thing. Budweiser was first brewed in St Louis back in 1876, some 141 years ago. To us, it's an American beer and always will be.
In the Summer of 2016, Anheuser-Busch renamed
Bud, calling it "America." (How is that name NOT
protected under a copyright of some sort?) While the
beer promotion was just for a short period of time, it
certainly reaffirmed that Bud was an American beer.

That said, since Labatt started brewing it in 1980, it has become Canada's third-largest selling beer, behind Coors Light and Canadian, both produced by Molson's.

But here's the funny thing. While I suspect many shrugged the commercial off (as I would have), those who took offence were an even mixture of macro and craft beer drinkers. I have frankly never seen these two sides band together on anything. Especially over a commercial.

To the craft drinkers, they thought Corb's attention would be better focused on the province's 50 craft brewers, who could benefit from a little attention. Especially since Corb himself fancies the odd micro-brew. But the macro drinkers' point was simply this: Budweiser was not part of their proud western heritage. They considered wrapping Bud in the Alberta flag to be a slap in the face.

So let's leave the final word on this to Lund himself. As the controversy grew, he went on his website and noted that Budweiser had been the sponsor of the Calgary Stampede for, well, decades and as such, he always considered it a "cowboy beer."
This dude is NOT Alberta-Made. Nope, Beer
Bro Glenn is 100% Grade A Ontario Beef. But
he really knows a good American craft beer,
such as Smuttynose Brewing's Finestkind IPA
He continued: "I'm also a strong supporter of Alberta small business (I run one myself) and that extends to craft breweries. Just because I support one thing doesn't mean I oppose the others. I'm a fan of Alberta's microbreweries and I've had many hangovers to thank them for. I admire their passion and dedication to the craft and I know what it's like to be the little guy trying to beat the odds."

I think that's a pretty legitimate mea culpa. I mean, actually thanking craft brewers for the hangovers they have given him? I've never done that. He's definitely a gentleman cowboy, this Corb Lund dude. I'll never invite him to sing at a party because he's a little bit country and I'm a little bit rock and roll. But still, I'll include a link to the commercial at the end if you like to rant over inconsequential things. I'm very considerate that way.

So, at this point, how do I take the Corb Lund controversy and segue into column about craft beer? Glad you asked. It's a specialty of mine. You see, this whole thing was about America and Canada, specifically Alberta. And who do I know that's NOT from Alberta? Beer Bro Glenn. And what does Beer Bro Glenn do in his free time? He crosses the border and smuggles me back a crap-ton of American craft beer. Was that segue smooth? Not at all. I clearly need a new specialty. Maybe as an Uber driver. Except, you know, people. Talking to people. Shuttling people. Being civil to people. Ugh.
Another day, another new American IPA courtesy of
Beer Bro Glenn. This bold beauty is Troegs Brewing's
Perpetual IPA. Now "perpetual" indicates endless
movement or activity. Not so here. I poured it in this
glass and drank it. All activity stopped after that. Oh,
wait, I probably had to pee. Maybe that counts, too...

Now, as usual, there is one Yankee Doodle standard that Glenn does not come back without. That would be Stone Brewing's (Escondido, California) Ruination 2.0 Imperial IPA. If Glenn returned from the USA without one of those for me, knowing full well it's my all-time favourite American beer, he also knows, again, full well that he would have to turn back and rectify that grievous error. So Ruination is always a gimme. It's an unspoken bond between us.

But to his everlasting credit, he also includes a few reruns that he knows I love. For instance, he brought me back Bell Brewery's (Kalamazoo, Michigan) Two Hearted Ale, again one of the best IPAs America has to offer. Also, whoever named Kalamazoo should have been given the opportunity to name more American cities because that's a cool handle. There was Dogfish Head Brewing's (Milton, Delaware) 90 Minute Imperial IPA, which, aside from being another America classic, is 30 minutes longer than their 60 Minute IPA but also a half hour shy of their 120 Minute Triple IPA. (I'm all about teaching here.) And finally, of the Previously-Enjoyed Brews, he brought me a monster bottle of Sierra Nevada's (Chico, California) Pale Ale, considered by most to be the best pale ale ever produced in America.
I have lost count of how many different beers
from Ballast Point Brewing that Glenn has
brought me. So when he finds one I haven't
had yet, I'm always a little bit surprised by it.

So just like Corb Lund, Beer Bro Glenn is very much a gentleman cowboy. Minus the cowboy part. And we take the gentleman part on a day-to-day basis. But usually, he's good for it. A generous bastard, though, to be sure. Why not take a look now at some of the new beers that our gentleman cowboy Glenn brought me this time?

Let's start with Troegs Brewing (Hershey, Pennsylvania) Perpetual IPA. I love this because I had never even heard of the brewery before so yes, guy, I'm totally down! New brewery, new finds!!! Troegs Brewing is officially now on the "I Want More Of Their Stuff" List. Totally west coast style, this 7.5%, 85 IBU (international bitterness units) Double IPA is, according to their website, run through their Hopback Vessel. You know what that is? If so, tell me the next time we have a beer together because I got nothin'. I do know what a Hollaback Girl is but only because Gwen Stefani told me in 2004. But it's probably not the same.

In fact, in their words, "At Troegs, artisanal meets mechanical in a state of IPA we call Perpetual. Cycling through our HopBack vessel and dry-hopping method, this bold Imperial Pale Ale emerges rife with sticky citrus rind, pine balm and tropical fruit." Artisanal meets mechanical? Is that like handing an Amish dude an iPhone and saying, "Go nuts, Techno-Blank"? No idea. Craft brewers are crazy.
Ahhh yes, Stone can brew no wrong and once again,
they hit the jackpot with their 21st Anniversary Hail
To The Hop Thief Double IPA. How was it? Well, we
are talking Stone Brewing here so take a wild guess.

That said, their description is bang-on as that's exactly what you can expect from this Imperial IPA. The aroma jumped out at my nose and then bitch-slapped my taste-buds. What can I say? #GotHopBacked. And I really enjoyed it!  (Legal Disclaimer: If not enjoyed in moderation, getting HopBacked may cause prolonged euphoria, that feeling of always being right and potential intoxication. Ask your doctor if getting HopBacked is right for you.)

But Gentleman Cowboy Glenn wasn't done with the Imperial IPAs just yet as next on deck was the Ballast Point Brewing (San Diego) Manta Ray Double IPA. Now before we get started, let's be clear as there is some confusion. It was not a Manta Ray that killed Australian "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. It was a Stingray. Different beast. It's like that old saying... "Manta Rays are friends to all but Stingrays dislike Australians." I know, I know... that's an old cliche but cliches become cliches because they're usually true. And they do have the word "sting" right in their name. But let's talk about the Manta Ray Double IPA because of... something, something, they're not Stingray reasons.
While our friends at Green Flash Brewing call this a "Wheat
Ale," up here in the Great White North, it is likely to remind
you of a Berliner Weisse beer. Same tanginess, same tartness,
same tasty-ass treat. This one was their Passion Fruit version!

What can I say? Gentleman Cowboy Glenn is dealing nothing but Aces with Jacks with this bunch. Brewed for the first time at the beginning of 2017, this 8.5%, 70 IBU ale was barely even out before it won a Euro Beer Star Gold Medal. (Yeah, no idea what that is but it sounds pretty impressive.) Tons of orange and melon on the nose, it has a beautiful pine and resin finish. Picking a winner in this new stable of Imperial IPAs is gonna be a tricky bit of business that I will no doubt somehow wiggle out of with a modicum of effort.

Which brings us to the big gun that is called Stone Brewing's 21st Anniversary Hail To The Hop Thief Double IPA. Is this a big beer? Hellz, yeah, even my oversized Muskoka Brewing goblet could barely contain it. Granted at 22 ounces (650-ml), that is a big beastie. Sorry, was. All gone now. What makes this one so tasty? Well, for starters, it's brewed with Magnum, Mosaic, Pekko and Hopsteiner Experimental 06300 hops. I mean, if the first three didn't clinch it, that last one certainly did. (All Hail Hopsteiner Experimental 06300.)
Gentleman Cowboy Glenn and I don't have a lot
of rules. Drink beer. Have fun. Generic stuff like
that. But he does NOT return to Canada from
Niagara Falls, N.Y. without a Stone Ruination
2.0 Double IPA for me. It's the Unwritten Rule...
Okay, tons of peach with a bit of spice on the nose, this 9.8%, 80 IBU bastard is dirty pine and grapefruit on the tongue. I should have taken a picture when it was done because the lacing on this was phenomenal. Actually, that was true of the others but on this one, it's like it refused to let go. Another Stone beer, another "wow."

Finally, Glenn surprised me by slipping an American Wheat Ale into the mix with all these heavy-duty IPAs and to be frank, it may have been my favourite of the day. Not just because it was a change of pace - I could drink Double IPAs pretty much forever - but because it was an excellent example of the style - Wheat Ale or what we call Berliner Weisses up here. In essence, it's a spin on the classic German wheat ale (which are the best wheat ales) but given a North American twist by infusing a crap-ton of fruit flavours into the mix. My homeys at Nickle Brook Brewing in Burlington are the local pros at this game. But Green Flash Brewing out of San Diego, probably best known for their palate-shattering IPAs, has stepped into the game with their Passion Fruit Kicker and damn, it was good!

Exactly like the Berliner Weisses here in Canada, this 5.5%, 5 IBU ale was brewed with wheat malts, as well as 2-Row malted barley, making it tart and tangy with a beautiful fruit and Sweet Tart smell followed by a mouth-puckering pluckiness and more intense fruit on the tongue. Geez, I loved this one!!
"You're the Crocodile Hunter," I told him. "Just stick
to the damn Crocs!" But noooo, Steve Irwin decided
it'd be fun to poke at a stingray. Gawdammit, Steve!

Okay, at this point, you're probably thinking, "Hey, how can I make Gentleman Cowboy Glenn my buddy so we brings me all sorts of sick beers like these ones?" That's actually simple. Rent a Time Machine, go back to the 1980s and go through Journalism School with him. That's what I did. Well, okay, without the Time Machine. I did it old school. As in "We're old and went to school together." But Glenn, one of your finest hauls ever. Good job!

Time to shut this one down but before I go, it's back to Bud for a moment. From one of the silliest but memorable ad campaigns ever, I take you back to 1999. An ad company is scrambling to think of a new Bud campaign. Suddenly, the top exec introduces newbie Brad into the boardroom. They say, "Hello, Brad." Brad responses cheerfully with "Wasssuuup?" Three senior execs get wide-eyed. And that's how it started. (What? Were YOU in the room? No? Then prove me wrong.) But here's the real Corb Lund commercial that caused such a fuss called: This Bud's For... WHO? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Patchy's prank... and east coast treats

Yeah sure, he looks innocent enough but this is the impish face
of a sick and demented mind! My coworker Patrick played a
prank on me recently and man, he Punkd me pretty damn good.
Here, he's holding up two of my favourite beers and that's where
he played me, exploiting my love for Nickel Brook for his joke.
At work, I think I've always been seen as the easy-going one. I'm not prone to getting flustered if things get hectic. I laugh a lot. I joke a lot. My thinking is simply, hey, if you're stuck in one place for eight straight hours, at least have fun with it.

So I guess that's my deal - I'm pretty much the friendly guy who likes everyone. Well, we do have one customer none of us like because he's a dick. But he's just one miserable old fart and we deal with hundreds of actually pleasant customers a day. Not so bad. So no one ever really sees me angry or frustrated much. Well, until one day earlier this Summer. That day, I came into work and noticed something taped to the cupboard. I asked the other full-timer Trey what it was and he just shrugged, "Oh, (our co-worker) Patrick found that in some Nickel Brook returns."

Now I'd tell you I call Patrick "Patchy" because his clothes are pretty shoddy and all of them need patches. But I'm not here to wardrobe-shame anyone. Also, that's not even remotely true. Next to me, everyone at the Beer Store is a damn sharp dresser. Granted, I am the guy who goes into Goodwill and buys all the old flannel shirts for $5 a pop. Fashion-wise, you'll always look like a sartorial guru standing next to me. The downside there, of course, is you're stuck standing next to me. But buying and wearing all those old, used flannel shirts like it's some sort of misguided tribute to Kurt Cobain, well, you get a lot of stares. I figure that just means I'm wearing someone's dead grandfather's ratty old shirt. Hey, I'm all about recycling. (My excuse... so shut the hell up!)
You wanna spit on me? You go ahead. You wanna insult
my family? Have at it. You wanna insult, degrade or
demean me? Go nuts. I seriously don't care. I can take
it. But you NEVER take a shot at my beloved Headstock!

But back to that piece of paper, taped to the cupboard. I took a closer look. It was a filled-out "Report Card" that Nickel Brook has included inside their Summer School Mix Pack, the four-pack that included their Ceres Gose, Duplicitous Dry-Hopped Gose, Raspberry Uber and Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale - four really great beers that come out of Nickel Brook's Funk Lab.

And I started to read it. For the Ceres, the buyer called its appearance "cloudy", its aroma "pungent", its flavour "terrible" and under comments, simply said, "Worse than Headstock." It was graded an F. For Duplicitous, it was an F-minus, calling the flavour "bad" with the comment, "Such an awful beer." For the Raspberry Uber, the aroma was "poor", the flavour "bland", another F with the comment, "Almost as bland as Headstock." And finally for the Uncommon Element, another F-minus with the comment, "Makes Headstock look like a great beer."

As I read it with Trey sitting right there, pretending not to notice, I got angrier and angrier.
Look at the East Coast beauties that Patchy's girlfriend, Ashlie, brought
me back when she went out there for a visit. Except for Garrison
Brewing (the Juicy Double IPA), all of these breweries were new to
me. There's nothing cooler than new discoveries in the craft beer world
and all seven beers were new and unheard of ones to me. Fargin' great.
I then dropped a few F's myself as my loyalty to Nickel Brook and love of Headstock is well-known.

Well, I threw out the actual F-bomb countless times in the next minute. But I will be using the fake swear words, made popular by the 1984 Micheal Keaton comedy gangster movie, "Johnny Dangerously." I suspect you'll be able to crack the code but please remember what I did here in the name of community decency.

"Why the fark would this fargin' icehole EVEN go to Nickel Brook???" I fumed. "This corksoaker doesn't know what the fark he's talking about!!! What bullstein! This fargin' bastage is the stupidest fargin' sonomabatch to walk the face of this fargin' planet!!!"
The Gahan House 1772 IPA was a great
blend of the west coast style with a wee
touch of British in the bottle. I call these
hybrid IPAs and it was a tasty bugger!

So I was slightly seriously pissed. I guess in scientific terms, we all now know The Boiling Point Of Donny is not measured in Celsius but rather, you just have to insult Nickel Brook and slander the holy name of Headstock IPA and watch me lose it. Suddenly, Trey started smiling and confessed that Patchy had filled it out and very purposely left it there for me to read. I can't believe the fargin' icehole did that to me. That's total bullstein, man. (Joking, of course - it was a beautifully-executed prank and frankly, I fell for it like a sucker!)

However, it would be tough to ever be angry with Patchy, regardless, as he did Trey and myself a huge solid earlier in the Summer. When his girlfriend Ashlie went travelling to the east coast, he asked her if she could bring some IPAs back for the pair of us. Now being as Patchy is our resident stout lover, I don't know how familiar she is with IPAs but whoa, did she come through or what? (That was rhetorical - she did. Bigly!)

Within the next week or two, Trey and I would compare notes at work over what we had sampled so far and an early favouite was The Gahan House (also known as Prince Edward Island Brewing in Charlottetown) 1772 IPA. On the nose, I would have guessed this was primarily a British-style IPA with its malty, caramel scent. But the use of Centennial and Cascade hops in the mix of this 6.5%, roughly 60 IBU (international bitterness units) brought some tangy citrus and pine to the back end. Both Trey and I dug this little number.
From the good folks at Upstreet Craft Brewing in, hey,
also Charlottetown, PEI, came the White Noize White
IPA and the Go Devil American IPA. Both were quite
good but the Devil is in the details so it gets the edge!!
Which is in the glass? Honestly, I no longer remember
but given the haze, let's assume there's Noize going on!

When Upstreet Craft Brewing hits the scene in Charlottetown, PEI, back in June 2015, they were welcomed with open arms by both existing craft breweries on the tiny island - The Gahan House and Barnone Brewing (Breadalbane, PEI), who both said they were happy to have some help shifting PEI tastes towards the craft market. The brainchild of Mitch Cobb and head brewer Mike "Hogie" Hogan (who had been home-brewing for nearly a decade at that point), the brewery gathered a loyal following quickly. With some seriously fun and kick-ass labels, created by Newfoundland artist Jud Haynes, I happily (and luckily) landed a pair of brews from these guys - the White Noize White IPA and the Go Devil American IPA. 

Let's start with the White Noize White IPA, which, of course, starts as a regular west coast style until great gobs of wheat malts get dumped in the vat. In fact, this 7%, roughly 50 IBU bad boy is profiled as having a "50% wheat bill" which, of course, does tone down the hops significantly. That said, it is still one of the better White IPAs I've had over the years as that heapin' helpin' of wheat doesn't halt a tangy citrus tone on the tongue. This was a tasty fargin' sonomabatch!
"Hey Don, would you like some rye malts in an IPA?"
Hmmmm, well, Maybee! Yeah, their Forage Rye IPA
was an excellent example of that Rye-PA style as it was
deep, rich, a little heavier and full of Canadian Rye fun!

While Upstreet's Island Hopsbitality IPA is their main west coast IPA, they released the Go Devil back in March and when the 6.66% (of course), 42 IBU (whaaaaa...?) IPA poured a copper colour, I figured, "Okay, cool, a British IPA. Pip pip cheerio!" Nosirree, Bob! They used just one malt in this, which allowed both mango on the nose and citrus on the tongue. As the IBU would indicate, this wasn't overly bitter but still, nice floral scent to balance the back-end grassiness from that wee malt. I quite liked it but the White Noize gets the edge here.

Okay, loved the island offerings but let's jump to the mainland - specifically, Fredericton, New Brunswick where our friends at Maybee Brew, ply their trade. Their Forage Rye IPA landed in my hands and man, this is a style that I would be happy to see more brewers jump on. Yes, it's quite a departure from the regular IPA style but when it's good... it's great! As a craft beer drinker, you'd have to hold a gun to my head to get me to sample even the best Canadian Rye Whiskey. But put those same rye malts in a beer? Yeah, man, I got time for that! I feel very much the same about bourbon-barrel aged beers.
Courtesy of foodbloggersofcanada.com comes this picture
of Garrison Brewing's Juicy Double IPA. The 20-year-old
Halifax brewery has tried their hand at a Vermont-style
IPA with great results here. The haziness, the juiciness
and all that tastiness in one glass. I really loved visiting
these guys when I was in Halifax about this time last year.
So was the Forage Rye IPA a good example of the style? No. Not at all. It was, instead, an excellent one. (Geezuz, Ashlie, you kicked fargin' grass with this assignment and I'm not even at the best one yet!) At 7% and 70 IBUs, it had the pre-requisite breadiness on the earthy back-end but with pine, citrus and some hefty spice on the nose, this was a meal of a beer. This is a tough style and I've had a few thin ones. Not this time. Beautifully done, gang! Now if I could just get my hands on their 6%, 70 IBU Roseway Red Ale, well, let me just say society itself would benefit as a result. Mostly me, yes, but society, too, in a microscopic but totally significant way. You kinda have to take my word on this. He said... hoping someone (anyone) would buy into that.

Okay, there's a potion of New Brunswick that is so close to Quebec that French becomes a little more prominent than English. So let's shift to 45 Rue de l'Eglise in Edmundston, New Brunswick and visit Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault ("Small Jump Brewery") and check out their Soeur Catherine (Lady Marmalade - I know, weird, right?) Because here in Canada, it's all about bilingual beer drinking! Give us enough beers and we're all speaking a foreign language...
Hey, I'm not Catholic but Soeur
Catherine looks like one bad-ass
nun. And that's kind of a good
thing because this offering from
Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault
was pretty bad-ass unto itself...

Aside from the cartoon Catholic imagery (I'm a heathen so there's no stopping me - nice try, though), this beer comes in an actual stubby bottle. Does Gryffindor House get 10 points for insane coolness there? Yes, Hermione, calm the fark down! (Married a Weasley - seriously, give your head a shake, kid.) But how was the Soeur Catherine IPA? But uttering words that have never before been spoken in the history of... well, all previously spoken words, that's one tasty nun. Perhaps nun imagery beer might make more sense. (Unless you're the vicar.) Deep orange in colour, this 7%, roughly 70 IBU hop-bitch is another British-west coast USA hybrid and again, one that shines. With orange and pine balanced off by caramel on the nose, this was both sweetness and resinous on the tongue. It sounds a little offside - like all other beers with angry nuns on the label - but it's extremely balanced between the two styles. To celebrate that, I shall give this beer the honour of the three French phrases I have memorized over the course of my life. "Es-tu celibataire?" (Are you single?), "Une autre biere s'il vous plait" (Another beer please) and most importantly, "Ou est la salle de bain?" (Where is the washroom?) What can I say? C'est bon.

This time last year, I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia for my niece's wedding and I did a four craft brewery tour the day before the big event. Before stops at Propeller Brewing, Good Robot Brewing and the fargin' hoppy deliciousness of Unfiltered Brewing, I started it all off at Garrison Brewing right down at the Seaport on the Atlantic Ocean. As you all well know, the list of the Best Oceans goes Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Billy Ocean (Hey, if that's not a body of water, why is it best known for Caribbean Queen )
Off their website, here's Trailway Brewing's Hu Jon Hops
American IPA. Okay, look at the thickness. Look at the
texture. THAT, my friends, is a true Vermont-style IPA.

So when a Garrison Juicy! Double IPA landed in my grubby ape hands, what was I to do? Again, rhetorical. I drank it. What else would I do? Seriously, have we met? Billed as a New England-style IPA, it was maybe not so much that in my mind. That style (to me) is muddy, cruddy and thick. That said, it was certainly hazy - a key component - meaning definitely unfiltered and I dig that. Using Citra, Mosaic, Comet, Ekuanot and one other unrevealed hop, this 8%, roughly 65 IBU Double IPA had tons of pineapple on the nose with orange, mango and resin on the tongue. Maybe not a Vermont-style to my thinking but certainly a super solid Imperial IPA. Well done, Garrisonian people! Garrisonites?

Okay, like I said at the beginning, Trey and I were swapping notes on these beers from the get-go and one morning, he came in and said enthusiastically, "One of those beers Pat gave us was SO delicious!" I wasn't certain which one until I came in the following day and asked, "That really great beer - did it look like orange juice?" When he said, "Yes!", I knew it had to be Trailway Brewing's Hu Jon Hops which I had enjoyed the prior night. (Go ahead - say the name three times fast.)
When Upstreet released the Go Devil American
IPA back in March, this was the photo they used
with flames surrounding the bottle. Darn creative

Heading back to Fredericton, New Brunswick for this one, Trailway has created the ultimate New England-style IPA. Never mind east coast, Ontario, west coast or even the USA, this is the single best New England-style IPA I have enjoyed this year. By far. And I have enjoyed a fair few. Juicy, fruity, juicy, fruity and hoppy. This 6.5%, probably 40 IBU or less sonomabatch beer was the fargin' bomb! As my Military Man Beer Brother Hago is prone to saying, "If it looks like orange juice, it's gonna be great!" 

Actually, when they first released it  back in December, Trailway was perhaps concerned that people wouldn't understand the concept of the unfiltered murky Vermont style and noted: "We feel it's worth reminding you all that inevitably with our hazy hoppy style, a layer of sediment may form on the bottom of the can. If you don't want this in your glass, pour gently! If you enjoy some cloudiness, disregard that last statement and drink up!" I'm gonna guess no true fan of the Vermont style IPA poured this bastage gently. I was practically licking the sediment off the inside of the glass. This was, hands down, the show-stopper from what was actually a pretty terrific collection of east coast beer. I have no idea how Ashlie pulled off this little East Coast beer coup but she can get me beer anytime. I'm thinking of flying her to BC to see what she brings me from there! And when you think about the way that alcohol affects your motor skills, well, it's staggering. (Give it a second... there you go!) But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Hanging with Hago...

The Three Amigos hanging at Flying Monkeys Brewing in Barrie. Hago
had their latest sour. I, of course, was all over Juicy Ass IPA and my boy,
David, was content to sip away on cranberry juice. It was Stop #3 in the
latest Barrie tour my son and I had done. I came home with some beauts!
When my son, David, was very young, I got him into the world of superheroes. As a long-time comic geek, I wanted my son to be equally immersed in the world of fantasy and heroics because I think that helps build a stronger creative mind and imagination.

Before I go much farther, I should add that this was much to the chagrin of his Mom, who, years prior, thought my dedication to my comic book collection was the single dumbest thing an adult could spent money on. I remembered that every time I tripped over one of the 5,218 pairs of shoes she owned.

So David was quickly aboard the Superhero Appreciation Train even as a toddler. So we talked about Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America and all the rest.
Asked early on by David who my favourite super
hero was, I pointed to Wolverine of The X-Men.
I mean, he's Canadian, has these super-cool metal
claws and a healing ability. From that point on,
David has called me his "scruffy Wolverine man."
We wore the T-Shirts, we saw the movies, bought the DVDs. We were all about the superheroes.

But at some point, I realized it was important for him to understand that the real world had its heroes, as well - real people just like him and me. (Well, him, anyway.) So when we talked about real-life heroes and he wanted an example, I instantly offered up "our soldiers" as the best one. As the conversation continued, I brought "fire-fighters",  "nurses" and "teachers" into the hero fold, as well. These, I explained, were real life heroes - the fighters, the protectors, the healers and those who educate. Just like those in the fictional super-hero world - a parallel I emphasized so he would understand, the real world also has its Captain America's. They just don't wear the colourful costumes and capes.

Now, despite being special needs, when something gets locked into that curious little brain of David's, it's in there forever. So during our first visit to Beer Bro Hago up in Barrie back in April, the mere mention that Hago was, in fact, a soldier (now part-time as he has completed 20 years service) was all David needed to hear. Though Hago wasn't aware of it, my son was previously conditioned to elevating his occupation to a higher level of esteem, even though he and Hago had never met.
Hey, guys, where are we? That's right. We're right out
front of Flying Monkeys Craft Brewing in Barrie, a
stop that we all enjoy. But there were two others, as
well so hitting Redline Brewhouse and Barnstormer
Brewing and Distilling were also must-stop visits!

Now, of course, in the real world, that's a narrow mindset so over the years, I have slowly introduced the notion that there are many other kinds of heroes walking this Earth. From police officers to doctors to the people that drive the bus or clean up the school when the rotten kids go home, the idea that perhaps everyone has a hero inside. (Somehow, I left lawyers off the list.) I suspect if a child can't learn the way you teach, then simply teach them the way they learn. To me, that meant using superheroes and incorporating them into real-life scenarios with real people. You want your children to see there is good in everyone. To paraphrase Tom Cruise, mission accomplished. (Seriously, how many missions does this guy have to complete before people stop calling them "impossible"? There's been like seven so far.)

So when David met Hago for the first time, it was with a pretty snappy salute. And the next time we visited, a couple of weekends back, that salute was accompanied with a loud and enthusiastic "Hago! Sir!" While the first visit was an over-nighter, this time we were just up for a day visit because both Redline Brewhouse and Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling had some new releases I was eager to try.
The first words out of Drunk Polkaroo's mouth when he poured the Lil'
Donkey Pale Ale, a collaboration from Rainhard Brewing and Redline
Brewhouse was, "Oh, this is a murky bugger!" He's certainly not wrong
And, of course, you don't go to Barrie without stopping into Flying Monkeys Craft Brewing so our agenda was set.

Now since this is not a column about my dubious parenting techniques (keeping in mind our Quality Father and Son Time is being spent in breweries) but rather beer, perhaps it's time we looked at which beers had me so eager to get back to Barrie. And topping that list was the brand new Lil Donkey Pale Ale, a collaboration between Rainhard Brewing (Toronto) and Redline Brewhouse. Now since it was brewed at Redline, Ontario laws dictate it can only be sold out of their Barrie retail. When Mark Twain once said, "The law is an ass," this is precisely what he meant. In this case, a real dumbass law.
Hey, look, my first ever crowler!! What's a crowler exactly? Well,
it's a 946-ml (32 ounce) can of beer that's almost a 1L (34 ounce)
howler but it's a can, not a glass jug. When I saw Redline still had
some of its delicious Air Ride IPA in this format, I jumped on it!

Now I bought some Lil Donkey not just for me but also for Drunk Polkaroo because I had lost a bet to the dude. I'll include the video explaining all that at the end but the thing is a collaboration between Redline and Rainhard could not be ignored - they are two of our favourite breweries. And that's even though this sounded like the world's worst idea for a beer. The ingredients stamped right on the label? Tortillas, corn, rice, beans, lime and cilantro. Holy snappin' arseholes, Margaret, they've lost their goddamn minds. (I have no idea who Margaret is.) Okay, turns out they created this for Toronto Beer Week 2017 and well, I guess brewers Seb MacIntosh and Jordan Rainhard like their burritos? (Well, I get that - I think we all do. After Salma Hayek, they're Mexico's greatest gift to North America.) So how was this 5.4%, 50 IBU (international bitterness units) pale ale? At first, kind of odd. (Polk said "interesting.") But the taste very quickly grows on you. Hago loved it instantly!
When Barnstormer Brewing and Distillery created the new
Cirrus Heavenly Pale Ale, they had some fun with the label.
They did a riff on Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam"
(yeah, the famous one in the Sistine Chapel) but the wrap-
around label took out Adam's face and swapped in the
face of brewer Jeff Woodworth instead. Crazy bastards! 
The use of El Dorado, Cashmere and Idaho 7 hops gives this a real lemon-lime kick on the nose and tongue and I ended up really enjoying it. After my tastebuds understood that this was a drink and not a meal, things settled in nicely. This is most definitely the funkiest and freakiest collab of the year. I've said it before and I'll say it again... craft brewers be all cray cray.

Moving down the road to Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling, Hago and I had a quick brew there but it was all about hitting their retail shop. David, on the other hand, had an iced tea and some deep-fried pickles, which involve battered pickles being, well, deep fried. That brings me to two thoughts. Who among us will finally speak up on behalf of battered pickles? It's like society pretends it doesn't exist! And secondly, there's a dill-dough joke in here somewhere but I'm gonna pass. Two great retail offerings from our friends here - first up, the Cirrus Heavenly Pale Ale.  As the name nearly implies, this 4.5%, way low 24 IBU (tasted hoppier than that) ale had some nice citrus and a whiff of wheat on the nose, a tangy back-end, this is a really nice sessioner. I would suggest it pairs well with deep-fried pickles but I gave them a pass. That said, Hago and David were all over those. They don't care about the poor pickles' plight.
While I did enjoy this, I found the body a little thin for an
Imperial IPA that had been bolstered with oat malts. Still,
the 8.2% IIPA did have some nice flavours shining in it.

Which then brings us to their wet-hopped Sierra Hotel Imperial Oat IPA. Okay, before I even get started here, a couple of things. This was my first wet-hopped ale of 2017 (several have since followed), which is always a treat. And second, "Sierra Hotel" is pilots' lingo for "shit hot" as in "That landing was Sierra Hotel, man." Hago will confirm that all branches of the military frown upon profanity coming through the head-sets (or being voiced out loud in general and especially to Generals) so, well, some creative word-play comes into the picture.

Hey now, the beer itself. I did find the body a little (okay, a lot) thinner than I'm used to for Imperial IPAs but the 8.2%, 90 IBU beer was not without its charms. There was some nice peach and mango on the nose and you could feel the oat malts on your tongue, as well as more mango and some citrus. Crazy bastard brewer Jeff Woodworth used Jarrylo (huh?) and Chinook hops in this one. As a one-off, I quite enjoyed it but their Accelerated Stall Double IPA definitely has the edge over this one, especially in terms of body. Still, it was pretty good.
This would be Brad Ariss, one of my favourite
dudes at Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling. It
seems Brad is shifting things and become a sales
lead in Toronto, ditching the comforts of the
brewery's confines for uncharted turf. I dig that.

Okay, let's finish this out with a quick shout-out to my main man, Brad Ariss, who handles all the social media and creative duties for Barnstormer. He has nicely Punk'd both myself and Hago on Twitter in the past and since then, became a favourite. But here's a guy who went through school to become - I shit you not - an economist. At that point, I can only surmise something heavy fell on his head and he decided, instead, to tour the world upon finishing post-secondary. He eventually landed at Barnstormer where his motto was "I might drink a lot but I do it professionally." Hey, man, everyone appreciates professionalism. But because we're Facebook friends, I noticed he put his Barrie apartment up for sub-let. So, of course, I had to ask: "What the deuce, man?" Turns out that Brad's position within the brewery has shifted. In his own words: "I wanted to leave the restaurant and town so we changed my role. I'll be organizing the outside sales and work on larger business development." (Sounds like a little bit of that economist is still in there, eh?) So Brad has recently moved down to the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto to do exactly that. Since I am in and out of Toronto far more frequently than Barrie, I think we'll need to have a brew together soon, Brad. You got a promotion so the beers are on you, brother! (See how smoothly I did that?) And here's the part where Polk talks about Lil Donkey called: Polk talks Burrito Beer! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!! Until next time, I remain...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Nickel Brook's Oktoberfest and Summer of Sours

Hey, I know this dude! That's Rob, the very man who
delivers Headstock IPA, Naughty Neighbour American
Pale Ale and Cause & Effect Blonde Ale to my Beer
Store. I have no doubt the bean-counters at the place
have seen an alarming spike in Headstock sales since
its appearance at my store. But at Oktoberfest, Rob
was happy to serve me - hey now - Headstock IPA!!!
It's been one helluva busy Summer for Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington and if I know these guys (and I do - very well in a few cases), there will be no slowing down.

Yeah, I've moved 20 minutes down the highway from them but they're never far away from me as Headstock IPA, Naughty Neighbour American Pale Ale and Cause & Effect Blonde Ale all landed on my Beer Store's shelves a few months back. Truth to tell, so did their outstanding 9.5% Immodest Imperial IPA, much to our surprise. That actually ended up being a clerical error on somebody's end - a whole bunch of Beer Stores that weren't supposed to have it did. But hey, I walked out with a fair few before they were recalled by the brewery. I happily drink to anyone's mistakes, even my own. (So, frequently for the latter.) For a brief while, it was one of the strongest ABV beers at my store. I took great pride in that because, y'know, they're my guys!

But a couple of weeks back, Ben Saucier, a buddy who works at an Ottawa Beer Store alerted me that Nickel Book beers were going on sale and man, he wasn't kidding. My beloved Headstock IPA dropped from $66 to $54.95 a case. Naughty Neighbour dropped from $62 to $48.95/case while Cause & Effect went from $58 to $44.95. I'll save you doing the Math. In essence, buying it by the case, Headstock dropped from $3.25 a can to $2.28 - a buck less per can!
Yeah, I love the wall of Headstock in the background
but this Summer has been all about the Cause &
Effect Blonde Ale in the foreground as it has been
the focus for a couple of fundraisers by the brewery.
Ben recently spoke to the brewery and happily passed me the news that those prices were permanent! Holy crap on a cross, Margaret! (I have no idea what that means. Sometimes, I just say weird shit.) I couldn't walk out with a case fast enough. Hey, man, a case of Naughty Neighbour is next! Finally, a real reason for craft beer lovers to wander into a Beer Store. The two-four price break!

But of those three beers, the Spring and Summer has been busy sales periods for Cause & Effect as it's been the focal point of a few fundraising events. In June, the brewery started their Cause For A Cause campaign where 10-cents from every can sold across the Province went directly to Ronald McDonald House Canada, a hospice for people to stay while a family member battles cancer at a nearby hospital. It is a cause near and dear to brewery owners John and Peter Romano who, in their youth, lost a sister to leukemia. Their family spent a lot of hours at a Ronald McDonald House during those trying times.

Coupled with a Charity BBQ at the brewery, the Nickel Brook gang handed Ronald McDonald House a cheque for $6.108.50 in July. But Cause & Effect wasn't done its charity work just yet.
With singers Lee Bailie and Kristen Lasonta beside him, Nickel Brook's
Matt Gibson, the Manager of Corporate Sales and Marketing, takes to
the mic as their band, Mutual Release, hit the stage (okay, parking lot)
at the brewery's Oktoberfest. The group's smooth R&B covers for a
number of 1960s-70s funk-soul classics was a big hit for the party-goers!
In August, a dime from every can went to the Juravinski Cancer Treatment and Research Centre in Hamilton. And finally, they threw a kick-ass Oktoberfest bash at the brewery on September 30 with all funds going to the Carpenter Hospice in Burlington, a home where families can spend time with their loved ones as their time fades, much like the Ronald McDonald House.

But while this brewery seems to specialize in fund-raising, let's not forget they also brew really great beer because, apparently, that's what craft breweries do. (Who knew, eh?) Before the Summer even started, Head Brewer Patrick Howell told me that out of their Funk Lab, this was gonna be a Summer of Sour Releases and man, he wasn't kidding. It seems like new ones were popping up in their retail every week. But that's only because they pretty much were. It was unbelievable.
All released separately or together in the last month was four brand new
Berliner Weisse sours. From left, it the Yellow Plum, the Apricot, the
Nectarine and the Blue Plum, shown in the glass. All were very solid
and everyone had their favourite. For me,  it was Apricot hands down!

Wave after wave of new Berliner Weisses pour out of their vats, not to mention, a solid selection of other sour styles. It's a style that took me a while to warm up to but eventually I succumbed to its charms as brewers these days seem to be pouring a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. (The tears likely account for the bitterness.) Beer Bro Glenn, like me, was a slow starter on the sours but Drunk Polkaroo and Brother Hago? They were both onboard with sours, like, instantly! I dare say Hago now prefers them to IPAs, which is, of course, a shooting offence. But because he's a military man, he has all the guns and ammo so he's pretty safe.
Is that my Retail Shop buddy, Rob Nagy, on drums for the
opening band, Saturnines? Why, yes, it is! Rob told me after
their set that they had just got a new singer for the band that
specializes in 1980-90s rock classics. He was a little nervous
about that but they kicked off the Oktoberfest really well!!

So Funkmaster Patrick and his Funky Funk Lab Brew Crew (finally, a boy band doing something I actually give a shit about - I've been waiting patiently for decades) have been cranking out new beer after new beer all Summer long, which is exactly what he assured me back in April or May. Funkmaster Patrick is a man of his word. He's also a bit of a Crazy Scientist, if you ask me, but then craft brewers are a different breed than us mere mortals. For starters, they're all quite insane and seem to be fine with that. Also the beard thing - they all look like a ZZ Top cover band. Are they storing ingredients in those things? Specialty hops, maybe?

So now that Summer is over and people have woken up Green Day because September ended, what were the top dogs in Nickel Brook's Summer of Sour Releases?

Well, of the recent releases, I was all over that Apricot Uber - just the right mix of tartiness to fruit - but this Summer, Nickel Brook was all about the cherries.
After Matt Gibson, background, lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of
Happy Birthday, John Romano, right, presented his brother, Peter, with
a birthday cake. Here, Peter, the inspiration behind Pissed Off Pete's
Pumpkin Porter, pretends to blow out the candles. The wind already had.
When they released the Cherry Uber in mid-August, its shelf-life could be measured in days. Not because it turns quickly but rather, they were barely in the retail shop before they all got snapped up. I grabbed a pair while I was in there for some Headstock and when I went back the next day for more, they were gone. Suffice it to say, they gathered no dust.

But the big cherry-based hits of the Summer have to be With Glowing Hearts Sour released for Canada Day and the Proud As Funk!, a Flanders Red-Brown blend released to celebrate Pride Week in Toronto. The first clocked in at 8.3% while the second was a 7.1% killer - both on the high ABV side for sours.
John Romano has an animated conversation with "Downtown"
Wayne Brown, organizer of past Summer Burlington Beer Festivals
and more recently, the BurlOnTap Beer Festival. Are there more
local beer festivals up Wayne's sleeve? Hey, only time will tell...

With Glowing Hearts, created as a golden ale, jacked with Brett yeast and lactobacillus (a lactic acid) in a barrel for two years, it eventually took on a light red hue as it was aged for an additional three months in a barrel full of Montmorency cherries. The Proud As Funk!, on the other hand, was two separate beers - a Brown and Red Flanders, the most mouth-puckering of all sour styles - that came together. While cherries were prominent on the nose, there was a purple grape, plum and red wine feel to this bad boy. For my money, these two were the highlights of Nickel Brook's Summer of Sour.

However, a couple of other July releases (See what I mean? They just kept coming!) also caught my eye and ultimately found their way "into mah belly!!!" First on deck was their Bastardized: Apricot Stout, a 6.2%, 24 IBU (international bitterness units) that the brewery tagged as a "Summer Stout" because the fruitiness makes it lighter and a little more refreshing as Summer fare than stouts tend to be. Made with apricot puree from Oregon, the fruit added a lot of flavour to the traditional chocolate-coffee tones of a stout and made it really pop. It's almost odd having a stout with that much fruit flavour but please note I said "almost." The fact is this may be one of the most enjoyable stouts I've had all year. This is a stout you can drink, regardless of season and should be made available year-round. He said. Hinting.
As the label of Redshift Cherry Dark Sour explains a redshift is
when light on an object increases in wavelength and then shifts to
the red end of the colour spectrum. To a colourblind man, such as
myself, this means... nothing. But hey, this was a damn tasty beer!

Finally, I wanted to look at their Redshift Cherry Dark Sour, a 7%, 24 IBU, which mixed dark fruits, primarily cherries with some chocolate overtones in a nicely sour blend. Let's give this one a half mouth-pucker - it's nicely tart. Starting as a dark sour, you can see the colour lightened to a deep burgundy (which I could see through) after the addition of cherries late in the process. Just another great release in the Summer of Sours by the thugs in the Funk Lab!

As for the Oktoberfest itself? Well, the three bands - Saturnines, Mutual Release and the closing act Big Lonely Band (who brought a number of their Hamilton fans out to the festivities) - closed out the month of September on a musical high. The BBQ had big-ass sausages with sauerkraut on the side as a garnish. And the beer? Well, it was an Oktoberfest so yeah, it flowed freely. It had, as Nickel Brook events always do, a real family feel to it. It was for a great cause. And it was one helluva great way to say "Auf Wiedersehen" to Summer. That leaves just one question. Funkmaster Patrick, how the hell are you gonna top the Funk Lab 2017 Summer of Sours?? I guess we'll just have to see what shakes out of that beard to find out, eh? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...