Saturday, 29 April 2017

The mystery of the Lagunitas glass

I was having a hard time photographing my new Lagunitas Brewing glass
because it's raised glass lettering on, well, a glass. Then late one night, I
realized that I could back-light the lettering using my little desk lamp.
As you can see, I had to finish it to see whether the full or empty glass
worked better. This experiment took many Lagunitas IPAs to complete.
A few months back, I wrote about expanding my craft beer glass collection as I was inspired by two buddies, Paul The Beer Guy and Drunk Polkaroo. These chaps have, respectively, glass collections in the high double-digits and triple-digits.

I, on the other hand, had about 10 craft beer glasses in my cupboards, which suited my son (The Glass Nazi) fine at the time as one of his chores is putting away the dishes and he was very resistant to me getting new ones. However, as I recently mentioned, my Beer Buddy Hago cured my boy, David, of his glassphobia by simply suggesting to him that he pick out Daddy's new craft beer glasses during brewery visits. Stunningly, it worked. Like, really well. So despite my ongoing efforts, one simple sentence from Hago turned my boy around 180-degrees.
How much is that doggy on the label? Ruff, ruff ♫
While the glass had Lagunitas Brewing Company on
one side, it had brewery logo, a pitbull named Petey
that was inspired by The Little Rascals TV show, on
the other side. At the time they started in 1993, owner
Tony McGee said Petey was the star of the TV show.
He just needed the advice of a different Daddy.

Perhaps now, I should also suggest that he buy the new glass for Daddy. You know, so he can really feel like part of the process! Parenting is all about inclusion. It is also a case of saying the same thing over and over to your children but expecting a better result each time. This is also the working definition of insanity. That is no coincidence.

So, anyway, while my craft beer glass collection is now somewhere in the mid-30s, a nice jump in a very short time, occasionally I am given some, as well. This was the case when I met up with my former coworker, Gordo, at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House a few weeks back for beers after work. (Despite the fact that we are surrounded all day by beer, our employers prefer we keep the drinking of said-beers to after-hours. Rules, rules, rules...)

Now despite being a loyal Molson Canadian drinker, Gordo seems to land some pretty cool craft glasses. I don't ask him how (because I don't want to know) but this time, he handed me a Lagunitas Brewing Company beer glass.
Okay, the 420 at the top is definitely a marijuana reference just as
the 3.14 at the bottom is a nonsensical reference to Pi. But that
10/6 in the middle? What the hell is that all about? Mysterious...
It's a pretty basic Mason Jar style of glass with cool raised glass lettering and logo, which conveniently holds a 355-ml (12 ounce) bottle of Lagunitas IPA handily. That my Beer Store sells that very tasty-ass IPA is also quite handy.

But because it's a Mason Jar style, Rib Eye Jacks GM Steve and I noticed the glass had some odd measuring markers along the side.Of course, mason jars are usually marked on the side, measuring either ounces, millilitres or cups. But these were unusual numbers to be sure. The top one was 420, which no doubt refers to a drug bust that nearly shut the brewery down in 2005.

The bottom number was 3.14, which is, of course, Pi, the number we use to calculate the circumference of a circle because it's important for 15-year-olds to memorize as many high school Math formulas as possible. Speaking as an adult, will you ever use these formulas again? No, not unless you go to work for NASA. So why are you being forced to learn them if even the teachers (who are now my age) know they are pointless to you in the future? Simple. Because some day (never), you might need to calculate the circumference of a circle (still never) to save a life (again never because that's just ridiculous).

But back to the glass and the number in the middle, 10/6. Now that one stumped both Steve and myself. As a fraction, it equals 1.66666666 (so you know, that six goes to infinity... and beyond!)
All those Millennials who leave the tags on their
ball caps are following in the footsteps of Alice
In Wonderland's Mad Hatter, who left the actual
price tag on his hat. Also, he was quite insane.
So let's rule that out. It could be a date - either October 6th or June 10th. I checked both dates to see if anything relevant had happened in connection to beer. But nada. So not a date thing. But what then? It must mean something!

I forgot about it for a couple of weeks until the other night when I was yacking with Beer Bro Stevil St Evil on Messenger and after noticing I was using the glass, I bounced it off him. He was uncertain of the 10/6 himself and decided to Google it. Because he has a stupid amount of free time. Eventually, he found a chat-session about the Lagunitas glass and its unusual marking. The general consensus among the drinkers who owned the glass is that it was a reference to the Mad Hatter's hat from Alice in Wonderland. And what does it mean? According to the book's author, Lewis Caroll, it means the hat cost (in British currency) "10 shillings and a sixpence" or maybe $40 to us in North America. As to why Lagunitas used it on their official glass? Still shrouded in mystery but we did mention drugs, right?

Ah yes, back to drugs and the infamous St. Paddy's Day 2005 marijuana drug bust at Lagunitas. It seems, back in the day, both the clientele and staff at the Petaluma, California brewery were not adverse to stepping outside to - how do the kids put it again? - spark a bone, blaze a spliff, fire up a doob, chief some leaf.
Ah yes, at the bottom of my Lagunitas glass is another
message: Beer Speaks. Oh, it most certainly does and it
has plenty to say. Like, "What? You're not stopping at
one, are you, wussy-boy?" Or "Seriously, how badly did
you want to go to work tomorrow?" Or the best: "Hey,
you should tell your girlfriend how much she reminds
you of her mother! She will love it! It's a compliment!" 
It seems the brewery became known for their little 420 parties, held outside in an alley every Thursday at 4:20 pm. Among those who discovered this, beyond the clientele, was the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). So the ABC began sending undercover agents in to try and buy marijuana. However, while no one would sell them any, people would happily give them some. Not at all illegal and certainly not trafficking, which is what the ABC wanted to happen. Since they were having no luck, eventually the ABC just decided to bust everybody in the alley one Thursday. It was some serious-ass, hardcore stuff. Lagunitas could have lost their licence to brew. However, it was suspected even by the higher-ups in the agency that an ABC agent himself left a huge, eight-inch joint on the bar, the same one being smoked that fateful day - a form of entrapment. Because who wouldn't spark up that bad boy? (No, David, of course, Daddy wouldn't - guys, do not say a word!)

And since no actual arrests came of it, owner Tony Magee was able to strike a deal with the ABC headquarters in Sacramento. It ended up being a 20-day suspension of their selling licence with a one-year, zero tolerance probationary period for the then-12-year-old brewery. So, a pretty close call there.
As Hago ponders the mysteries of the universe
in the background, in the foreground is the
Redline Brewhouse's Artifacts Farmhouse
Brown Ale that Kaitlyn K brought out from a
super-secret backroom at the brewery. Tasty!
Magee later said that it was a pretty clear sign that perhaps the rules had gotten a little too lax at the brewery and maybe it was time to fly, well, on the "straight" and narrow.

But since is a blog about beer, not the devil weed, why not talk about beers, instead? (Angel on my left shoulder: "Alcohol is also considered to be a drug." Devil on my right shoulder: "Oh, why don't you just shut the hell up?") And a great place to start would be some of the beers that came home with me from Barrie or were enjoyed there because there was some great ones.

When we stopped into Redline Brewhouse as Stop #1 on our Barrie Craft Beer Mini-Festival, we were joined shortly thereafter by Redline's Kaitlyn K, a very cool lady that I have had official craft beer business with over the phone for the last few years. (She used to work with the good folks at Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery across town. I'm employed by the Beer Store and drink a lot of their Smashbomb Atomic IPA. So the usual thing that draws people together - beer.) However, while Hago and I enjoyed many fine Redline beers that day (while David happily sipped his chocolate milk), Kaitlyn brought a couple of bombs out of the backroom for us to sample with our flights.

The first was the brewery's Series-1 Barrel-Aged Golden Brett Saison and folks, this one was a kaleidoscope of funky Brettanomyces yeasty flavours!
Three different beers, all blended in different
red wine barrels, made up this Series-1 Barrel
Aged Golden Brett Saison by Redline. Very
fruity, very yeasty and a total beastie in a glass.
Brewmaster Sebastian MacIntosh wanted to create a special one-year anniversary brew for the gang last year so he did something a little crazy. (Well, perhaps not crazy by brewer standards because they're all a little whacked out. Gotta be the fumes.) He blended three beers - their Aggressive Jazz Hands (an IPA-strong ale hybrid), The Mechanic (their saison) and a third unnamed Belgian ale with goosed sugar levels, all in different red wine barrels, all jacked by various Brett yeasts. Now even brewers will tell you Brett yeasts are highly unpredictable, much like brewers themselves. But the final blend spoke for itself. This was a saison unlike any you have ever had. The aroma on this 7.8% brew was soured (almost spoiled) fruit and a bit of spice with a note of apricot on the tongue. When Bretts work, they work well and this was outstandingly different.

But Kaitlyn K wasn't done with the goodies yet, hauling out a Artifacts Farmhouse Brown Ale, a 6.3% ale aged in a port barrel with sour cherries. (Hago, next time we're at Redline, let's sneak into the super-secret backroom because clearly it's a treasure trove of tasty treats!) I love when brewers do something wild with a bland old brown ale and man, did he ever with this. Once again, using Brett yeast, what popped with this 6.3% beer was the sour cherry flavour. Part beer, part Sweet Tart and all delicious. Frankly, Kaitlyn K spoiled us during our visit and I, for one, could get used to that...
This still from a YouTube video shows brewmaster
Jeff Woodworth pitching the SR-71 Blackbird Black
IPA to the craft beer loving masses. Rumour has it
that so far, the brewery has raised $27 million for a
very good cause just through the sales of this beer!
That said, my Math skills suck and the decimal point
might be a little off. Also, I made that number up.

Let's move across town to Stop #2, Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling for the next offering. While I walked away with five of their beers, the one I have to single out is their SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA. Reason #1 is that a dollar from every bottle went to Autism Ontario (Simcoe Chapter) so that is just cool. But Reason #2 is the timing of the beer release itself. This is not to say we didn't other favourites. Hago was a huge fan of their Buzz Aldrin Sour Peach while I, in turn, loved their Iron Compass Irish Red Ale. But the SR-71 Blackbird was literally released the night before we arrived. When I excitedly pointed out the announcement on Twitter to Hago and said, "It's like they knew I was coming!" Barnstormer's media man, Brad, stepped in to quip, "Just for you, Don!" Well, damn, that's pretty neighbourly, I'd say! The beer's official slogan is now, "The SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA. Brewed just for Don. But enjoyed by others! As he allows it..." (You're welcome, people!)

The SR-71 Blackbird is classified as both a Black IPA and a Cascadian Dark Ale. At 6% and 41 IBU (international bitterness units), it won't slap you upside the skull with hoppiness.
When properly poured, White IPAs will foam up so much that they actually
end up outside the glass, all over the patio table. So as you can see, I did
exactly that with this EXCELLENT pour of a Flying Monkeys-Propeller
Brewing collaborative Graceland Too White IPA. Okay, okay, maybe the
carbonation caught me a little offguard. This is just a pitifully-bad pour!!
Cascadian Darks tend to be milder on the hops and maltier on the back-end so that's precisely what you have here. Darker malts give you some nice licorice on the nose with a bready, malty back-end. But this was a tasty offering. The hops were there... just muted somewhat. Still, if you see one, grab it. It's an interesting flavour and one well-worth taking for a test flight.

Okay, moving along to Flying Monkeys, the one I was most excited to grab was their Graceland Too White IPA, a collborative effort with Propeller Brewing, a place I thoroughly enjoyed during a Halifax visit last October. Now White IPAs have never been my thing but when two of my favourite brewers get together from 1,872 kilometres (1,163 miles) apart to make a beer, dammit, I will drink that very beer! Again, no need for thanks. Just a service I provide. But again, you're welcome.

As White IPAs are a blend of that west coast IPA style and Belgian Wits, this 6.5%, roughly 55 IBU beer did have some grassy wheat on the nose but also a nice whiff of citrus. There was a quick taste of banana on the tongue (it disappeared quickly) with more citrus and wheat on the back end. I wasn't wowed but I did enjoy it.
Poor Hago. As I was leaving, he gifted me with a few
beers, including his favourite, 5 Paddles Brewing's
Skull Pucker Sour IPA, shown here from their
Twitter feed. Only my second sour IPA, this was,
like the last one, more sour than IPA. Way more!

The last beer discussed today was one that caused poor Hago a lot of pain to pass along. Gifting me with a 5 Paddles In Your Face IPA, a 5 Paddles Skull Pucker Sour IPA and a Stack Brewing 4X4 Belgian Quad, it was the Skull Pucker that hurt him badly. Why? Being a sour fiend, it's one of his all-time favourites. And he was giving me his last one. I have already favourably reviewed the In Your Face IPA here last August and have yet to enjoy the Stack 4X4 so let's look at that Skull Pucker... just so Hago knows how much I enjoyed... his last one!!! (Yes, I'm a bastard-coated arseface.)

The only Sour IPA I've had before was Sawdust City Brewing and Stone City Ales' collaborative An Ale of Two Cities Sour IPA, gifted to me last Summer by co-worker Jay-Dawg. This was similar, which is as sour as hell. After trying so many milder sour styles, such as Goses and Berliner Weisses, it's nice to get one that seriously makes you pucker. This 5% beer did exactly that. Oh man, so sour!!! Some pineapple and orange on the nose, that all disappeared on the tongue. It was like biting into a lemon. And you know what? I'm seriously coming around to enjoying this style because of beers like this one. A great offering! Your sacrifice did not go in vain, Hago. Well, for you, maybe... but certainly not for me. (*Cue evil laughter*)
If all these styles of beers with their varying colours and
hues can get along, why can't we? Oh well. Drink beer.
Have fun. Enjoy life. And seriously, screw everything else. 

Anyway, a great day of fun in Barrie and as you can see, some outstanding beers, as well as great food. I thank the folks at the three breweries for their patience. Because I bet the hardest part of being a server is waiting for that exact moment when the customer's mouth is full of food before asking them how everything is. So anyways, that's the mystery of the Lagunitas glass solved, the story of some great beers and it's time to go. But because I had David for two solid weeks at the beginning of April, I'm miles behind with these columns. I will catch up with a flurry of blog activity in May. But that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Unless next time, I remain...

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Barnstorming it in Barrie

Well, Barnstormer Brewing and Distillery is all about
aviation, gang, so here's Hago and my boy, David, at
CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Borden in front of a big-
ass red plane. That base was huge as Hago took us two
on the full tour on Sunday morning. Lots of cool toys!
♫ Now this is the story all about how... my life got flipped, turned upside-down... and I'd like to take a minute so sit right there... I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called... Barrie? ♫

Okay, that doesn't quite work. At all. I know that now. However, on April 8, when my boy, David, and I visited my Beer Buddy Hago, we were treated like royalty so here's my Fresh Prince of Barrie story. (♫ In east Oakville, born and raised...) Sorry, man, I'll stop now. Bloody addictive song.

But this is the story of the neglected middle child. I get that as I, too, am a neglected middle child. (Not complaining - you should see the shit I got away with in my youth.) The last column was all about the older Barrie sibling, Flying Monkeys ("Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!!!") and the youngest sibling, Redline Brewhouse (Why did the writers make Cindy lisp like that? I couldn't understand a damn word the stupid kid was saying.)

So today, the middle child, Barnstormer Brewing and Distillery gets its day in the sun, much like that Brady Bunch episode where middle child Jan makes up an imaginary boyfriend, George Glass, to get a little attention.
My haul from Barnstormer was a little larger
than the other two breweries for a reason. That
reason has a name and it is David. After letting
him select the glass, he just kept handing me
more and more beer from their retail fridge.
(His last name came courtesy of a glass of OJ sitting on the kitchen table that she spotted as she was making up the lie. And yes, I have watched far too much TV over the years. But contrary to what your parents told you, it doesn't cause any lasting drain bamage.)

But leaving the Fresh Prince and the Bradys behind for now (and with any luck to the reader, forever), let's talk Barnstormer. I deliberately left this brewery out of last week's column about the Barrie brewery visits for a couple of reasons. The column was getting too long as it was and my haul there was larger than the other breweries. Why? Well, that part is on Hago. You see, at our first stop, Redline Brewhouse, knowing my son's resistance towards buying more glassware since he has to put them away (one of his chores), Hago suggested that David pick his old man a glass. Thus my son inadvertently became an enthusiastic part of the process. So much so, that when we went to our next stop, Barnstormer, he not only picked out my new glass, he kept handing me more beers from the retail fridge.

I had already selected their Buzz Aldrin Sour Peach, their Parachute Porter and their specialty SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA. A pretty solid haul, right? But nooooooo...
If I get a chance to use a picture taken by my Beer Buddy
Drunk Polkaroo, I jump on it. This photo of Barnstormer's
Accelerated Stall Maverick's Imperial IPA is beautifully
composed with the Spiegelau glass and can against a nice
blue sky in the background. It conjures up the imagery of
being in the sky, the theme behind all Barnstormer beers.
David decided he had to become part of the beer-buying process as well. While I waited briefly at the retail counter, he plunked an Iron Compass Irish Red Ale in front of me. "You like red beers," he said. Daddy's love of a good red ale has somehow become known to my lad. Apparently, I've mentioned it. Seconds later, David's next pick was the YYZ First Class Lager, as he cheerfully noted, "You like lagers, too! Remember Lucky Lager?" Ahh yes, a discount go-to from Labatt in my old macro drinking days. His keen memory of my past might be my downfall if I'm ever up on charges in court. Please, no one mention IPAs or Imperial Stouts to my lad. He has too much dirt on me already. And so you know, YYZ is Toronto's Pearson Airport travel designation.

Okay, so before I get into some executive-class Barnstormer stories (you see what I did there), a quick question. What the hell is a barnstormer?  Well, back in the 1920s, barnstorming was an aerial display of one or more stunt pilots performing tricks in the air. It was also known as a "flying circus" for the Monty Python fans in the audience. The idea was that the viewing public on the ground would be less frightened of air travel if they could see the planes do really cool stuff.
My paddle at Barnstormer consisted of, from left, a Buzz
Aldrin Sour Peach, an Accelerated Stall Maverick's IIPA,
an SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA and a Deadstick Milk Stout.
Did it work? You tell me. Ever been on a plane? So yeah, it worked. In fact, pilot Charles Lindburgh was one of the first barnstormers. The more you know... (*starburst... no, wait, skywriting!*) Yeah, skywriting's the Barnstormer ticket, baby!

So when owner Dustin Norland, a former engineer and aviation expert (who once built a working airplane from scratch!) opened his brewery in late-2013, the name Barnstormer was a slam-dunk. At first, they were known as Barnstormer Brewing and Pizzeria, as a nod to the tasty-ass jet-fired stone-baked specialty pizzas created by head chef Dylan Marcellus. 
My man, Hago, made a tragic discovery after he
took home a healthy handful of this Buzz Aldrin
Sour Peach. Turns out it became his wife Aime's
favourite beer and his stash became very quickly
depleted after that. Fortunately, he lives about 15
minutes away from Barnstormer so he's good...
(I will forego the obvious Pulp Fiction name connection here by not asking, "What does Marcellus Wallace look like? Does he look like a bitch?" Oh... I guess I just did. My bad.)

That name has now changed to Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling Company as head distiller Megan Moore has climbed aboard the brewery plane to create thirsty Barrie residents a wide assortment of artisanal liquors. I'm not a booze drinker but to be honest, I was keenly eyeing her Russian Intelligence Craft Vodka. Vodka is the only liquor I can drink but, well, it's always a big bottle of morning-after regret for me. So I wisely stick to craft beer which has never given me a hangover. Probably because I don't drink nearly as much as I did in my Lucky Lager days. Craft beers are to be enjoyed and savoured... not slammed down like Bud Lite in a rowdy frat house Beer Pong game. Also, the fact is, these beers have too much flavour. You couldn't chug one of these if you tried. Watch, I'll try... *Seven seconds later* Okay, let's say shouldn't, rather than couldn't. But any craft beer drinker will confirm that yes, we drink far less than we did in their macro days. But we pay more now for our beers so it all evens out. (So worth every extra penny, too.)
This Flocking Fokker Oktoberfest Bier was a #beersaint
gift from Drunk Polkaroo. Look at this beautiful picture!
(The sound you now hear is Polkaroo sobbing over there in
Stoney Creek.) But look at the beauty hue on this bad boy!

Moving along to an amusing Barnstormer story, I first came into contact with their social media Maverick (you see what I... never mind) Brad Arliss when I discovered their outstanding Flight Delay IPA at a Burlington LCBO a couple of years back. I wrote about it in this space, heaping praise on it as I tend to with a really good IPA, and eventually linked the column to Twitter. Well, the damnedest thing happened. Every mention of Flight Delay instantly got me about four responses from "people" asking, "Was your flight delayed? If so, click on this link for financial restitution!" All different people, all different links. Clearly, "flight delay" was a Twitter trigger phrase that alerted scammers to your aviation plight. (A delayed flight is hardly a travesty of justice as airports have bars.) So I gave Brad my best Stewie Griffin "What the deuce, man?" Unaware of the situation, he told me he'd check it out and fix it, if need be. I'm not sure what ever happened there but I'll test the "flight delay" waters once again when I post this for shits and giggles reasons.
Here's a shot of Barnstormer Brewing from Beer Buddy Paul The Beer
Guy. Despite temperatures of about 7C (45F) on April 8th, it was a sunny
day just like this so yeah, a couple of young drinkers were out on that sick
patio. Fortunately, both Drunk Polkaroo and myself will be there soon.

But after that point, I often found myself tagged on Barnstormer's Twitter pictures. I guess Brad liked my sense of humour (not good humour per se but there's a "sense" of it in there somewhere). Last September when their head brewer Jeff Woodworth turned 32, I was tagged in a photo of him hoisting a stein of his own fine product. At that exact moment, I was out on the patio having a smoke at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington when my phone gave a chirp. So I looked at the pic of Jeff and responded, "Well, yeah, I dig the symmetry of Jeff drinking a 32-ounce (946-ml) stein of beer on his 32nd birthday. But what's he gonna do next year?" I mean, they don't exactly make 33-ounce steins, do they? Pretty sure there's a Bavarian law against that.
Here, Barnstormer head brewer Jeff Woodworth holds
up a 32-ounce stein on his 32nd birthday way back last
September. They're gonna need a stein and a shotglass
for Birthday #33 this Autumn. Also, it would appear
Jeff, being all black-and-white, lives in Pleasantville.
Are there any more TV shows or movies I can allude to
today? Oh probably. I'm a treasure trove of lame info.
(Germans are pretty strict about beer and the vessels in which beer is served.)

But I'm here to give Brad his well-deserved due today as he absolutely blew a beauty of a practical joke past both myself and Hago on April 1st. The brewery issued a press release, crafted by Brad, that revealed the creation of independent Craft Beer Stores in Ontario. These would be retail outlets scattered throughout the Province that only sold craft beer. No Molson's, no Labatt, no Sleeman's... just craft beer.

Now I guess Brad had read just enough of my blogs to know that prior to the institution of grocery stores selling beer (despite being a Beer Store employee, I was very much onboard with that), I wrote that for the most effective delivery and exposure of great Ontario craft beers, I wished we had those large craft-beer-only stores that the USA has in droves. So on April 1st (and again, we all know what day that is), Barnstormer issued a press release saying that was precisely what was going to happen in Ontario, starting this Autumn. I will include a link to the press release at the end but lemme be honest. I was a journalist for a couple of decades-plus and I bought right into the elaborate ruse. Especially after Barnstormer declared on Twitter that I would be the perfect president of the company. Hell, yeah, Donny's got lots of time for that!!! That comes with full limousine service, right?
♫ When a couple of fellows who were up to no good...
started causing trouble in my neighbourhood... ♫
That's me and Hago in front of the cool neon sign at
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewing in Barrie. And as
always, it goes back to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Eventually, I clued in. I mean, this being the cyber-age of information, I would have heard word of this as it would have been spread far and wide long before anyone made the official announcement. And I realized the date. And that the entire press release was completely Barnstormer-centric. Brad totally roofed me, which is an old school way of saying it went over my head like an SR-71 Blackbird.

But poor Hago was dangling on the April Fool's string a while longer after I declared he would be my Vice-President, saying we were the Irish and Armenian ticket to political glory. Instantly, he wrote he wanted rights to the Fergus craft-beer outlet. Soon afterwards, like me, he realized it was a joke. But as God is my witness, I swear he was already preparing to put his military commission towards his new craft beer outlet venture. When my boy and I visited him, we laughed about the whole thing and how easily we got sucked in. By that damn Brad. Because we want that so badly.

Brad, your day will come. For starters, as the brewery's creative director and assistant general manager, you have mentioned on several occasions that in the movie Top Gun, Maverick (Tom Snooze) killed Goose.
A final look at the Three Amigos Of Barrie. That's Redline's
Kaitlyn K, Hago and my boy, David, all hunkering down at our
table at Barnstormer's Brewing and Distillery.  Barnstormer
was Stop #2 on what was an outstanding day of fun in Barrie...
I will be bringing David's portable DVD player so we can rewatch that scene... hundreds of times, if necessary... until you finally acknowledge that no, it was Iceman who ultimately was responsible for Goose's death. I don't care how many of your delicious Barnstormer beers we have to consume until you finally recant your blasphemy. I realize you won't back down quickly. It may take many, many beers before you come to see the real truth and offer up your mea culpa. (You got that, Brad? Many, many beers. I'm not being too subtle here, am I?)

But a final word about Barnstormer's SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA. Despite being quite tasty, that beer was created for a pretty good cause as $1 from every bottle was donated to Autism Ontario. As you can see, my boy is also special needs so when a brewery does something like this, well, it touches me in a whole different way. Thank you, guys, that's very much appreciated. Next up, the mystery behind my Lagunitas glass, as well as a look at some of these very tasty Barrie beers that I bought or David insisted I buy. Anyway, here the link to the April Fool's joke that nailed both me and Hago, called April Fools, You Two!!! And hey, one more about that SR-71 Blackbird Black IPA from head brewer Jeff called Is This Mic On? Watch to the end for bloopers. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain as always...

Monday, 17 April 2017

When the Redmond boys hit Barrie

My son, David, had very explicit instructions for me,
Hago and Kaitlyn when we visited Flying Monkeys
Craft Brewing in Barrie. Fortunately, that was our
game plan all along. And David? Well, he was the
group's designated iced-tea drinker for three stops.
"So how do we greet Hago when we get to his place?" I quizzed my son, David, on the drive to Angus, a tiny (but rapidly-growing) hamlet just 15 minutes outside Barrie.
"We salute him!" responded David cheerfully.
"And why do we do that?" I continued.
"Because he's a soldier and soldiers are heroes," came the happy response.

And true to form, when Hago came to the front door, David gave him his sharpest salute from the bottom of the steps. And thus began one kick-ass Saturday in Barrie on April 8. Started with a military note, followed quickly with a warm civilian hug, of course. Because of David reasons.

But we were barely through the door when the festivities began in earnest. "I understand you just had a birthday?" Hago asked my boy as his pretty teenage daughters Tiana and Meadow (on occasion, the hilarious co-stars in Hago's videos) descended to the living room. Indeed, it was two weeks prior. With that, Hago presented him with two Star Wars gifts - models of the cool TIE Fighter Jets used in the movies. That said, we didn't come empty-handed ourselves as I gifted Hago with a specialized Nickel Brook Mix-Six - Headstock IPA, Naughty Neighbour Pale Ale, Immodest Imperial IPA, Malevolent Imperial Black IPA, Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout and Continental Drift Belgian Pale Ale. Brewery-fresh to boot.
The pic that launched a thousand WTFs on my
Facebook page. As a diehard Maple Leaf fan, I
was forced to wear Hago's Montreal Canadiens
slippers when I went out for a smoke. Yes, they
are hideous... but they kept my feet warm and
they fit better than his wife Aime's pink ones.

On top of that, David had purchased a Nickel Brook Naughty Neighbour T-Shirt for his new buddy so within seconds of our arrival, it was all Star Wars and craft beer. And that was the purpose of the whole trip up Highway 400. Barrie, a landmass of just 77 square kilometres (30 square miles), has not one, not two but three craft beer breweries in town. That's one craft brewery for every 47,144 Barrie citizens. As well as the occasional interlopers from Angus. (Love your steaks, Angus!) The Star Wars stuff? That was just a bonus.

And shortly afterwards, Hago aimed his car for Barrie with Redline Brewhouse being Target #1. Having recently called their Clutch Pale Ale "probably the best pale ale in Ontario right now," Hago noted that if I liked that, I was gonna love their Double Clutch Double IPA. But our Party Of Drinkers wasn't quite complete just yet. Hago had texted his buddy, Shawn, to meet us there and I was given firm instructions by Kaitlyn K to text her when we were on my way there. I first dealt with Kaitlyn at my Beer Store way back in her Flying Monkeys days (she's a Redliner now) so we actually go back a few years but only on the phone. We have never met. Poor lady - meeting two Redmond boys in one day. Fortunately, one is well-behaved. Good thing, too - the older one's a frikkin' mess.
Kaitlyn asked Alex (this nice lady) to bring a couple
of specialty bottles from the (super-secret) room in
the back. Here, Alex is pouring us Series 1 Barrel-
Aged Golden Brett Saison (7.8% of wow!) which was
followed by Artifacts, a 6.3% Farmhouse Brown aged
in a port barrel using Brett yeast and sour cherries.

When we arrived, the lady in the retail store instantly recognized Hago (let's assume he's been there once or twice) and gave us a tour of the brewery section. Man, they packed a lot of fermenting vats and equipment into what is not a huge amount of space. On the way over, Hago gave me the backstory of how the brewery was created in 2014. Husband and wife team, Doug and Kari Williams, craved a new challenge, enlisting their son Devon and daughter Darci into a true family-owned operation. Grabbing head brewer Seb MacIntosh right out of Niagara College's Brewmaster and Brewery Management program, they created one of the province's most up-and-coming breweries seen in quite some time. Their reputation is already strong among craft drinkers while in actual fact, they've really only just begun.

Well, there was little doubt about what was going on my paddle and (surprise, surprise) it was a Mini Festival Of Hops, featuring Clutch Pale Ale, Double Clutch Double IPA, Rainbow In The Dark Winter Rye IPA and a Sprung! Belgian Pale Ale. All four have different hop and flavour profiles... and all four were dynamite. Frankly, I confessed to Hago on the way out, I could have stayed there all day. Loved the set-up, the ambiance, the whole noodle. But I was faced with a greater challenge.
This is probably the Best One-Two Sucker Punch in Ontario at this exact
moment. While I have already raved about Clutch Pale Ale in this space,
it is now Double Clutch's turn. Peachy and mango on the nose, it has a lot
of tropical fruit and citrus with a touch of pine on the tongue. Outstanding.

You see, one of David's chores when he's with Daddy is putting away the clean dishes. As such, he tends to balk when I purchase a new craft brewery glass. So much so that I took to calling him the Glass Nazi. And there was no way I was walking out without a Redline Brewhouse glass. Well, here's where Hago stepped up and showed the experience he's gained by helping to raise two daughters. "Hey, David," he suggested cheerfully, "why don't you pick out a new glass for your Dad?" By making him part of the process, I watched as Hago magically transformed my lad from Glass Nazi to the Glass King. Simple? Yes. Brilliant? Absolutely!
The Three Amigos - David, Hago and Kaitlyn K - pose
happily at Redline Brewhouse. Believe it or not, there
is a Redline Brewing in Burton, Michigan hence the
"Brewhouse" in the name. No matter, it's all great stuff

So how was that Double Clutch Double IPA that Hago promised would blow my doors off? Oh, it did precisely that! Also took out the windshield, broke the transmission, stripped the gears and blew out all four tires plus the spare. At 8.4% and a presumed 83 IBUs (international bitterness units), head brewer Seb used Simcoe, Columbus, Cascade and Galaxy hops in the boil before dry-hopping it with Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and Columbus. Using flaked oat malts (among others but those are prominent), this was all peach and mango on the nose followed by tropical fruit, citrus and a wee touch of pine on the tongue. And that's why it does all of that previously-mentioned vehicular damage - it's a goddamn car bomb in a glass.

Next on our Plan Of Brewery Attack was Stop #2, Barnstormer Brewing. However, I bought so much beer there and have such a great story about how they hoodwinked both Hago and I on April 1st, that I am holding their story until next time. Clearly, I'm not done with Barrie stories yet. Well, as least not as much as Barrie's probably done with me! (Upcoming Press Release from the Barrie Chamber Of Commerce: "Seriously, it's okay, Don. You can pretend you were never here. We'll give you a gift certificate!")
There was no way I was leaving Flying Monkeys without their Juicy Ass
IPA. But since it isn't bottled or canned, that meant buying a one-litre
(34 ounce) howler of it. I didn't care. It was coming home with me. Also
making the trip: Graceland Too White IPA, collaboration with one of my
favourite stops in Halifax, Propeller Brewing, and of course, Shoulders
Of Giants Imperial IPA, a favourite that I assumed had long vanished.

So if we can just fast-forward to Stop #3 and that would be Kaitlyn's old stomping grounds, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewing. As this was Kaitlyn's first trip back there in quite some time, the hugs she got were flying, well, fast and furious. Like the movie. But without cars. Because Redline blew them all up. Great family, great brewery... not so nice to cars.

I have wanted to visit Flying Monkeys since I started drinking craft beers. Their Smashbomb Atomic IPA was my first love and ask any guy how well he remembers his first love. Hell, I know I'll never forget Good Ol' Whatzername. She had it all - face, arms, legs, basically all the body parts.
Even the equipment signage is colourful at Flying
Monkeys as Hago poses next to "Moe's Magic
Tunnel and Bottle Dryer." Tis a magical place...

The only thing that was greeted more warmly than Kaitlyn at Flying Monkeys was the glass of Juicy Ass IPA, an insanely-good beer, that I ordered. Well, okay, Kaitlyn gets the edge because she was such a great Brewery Tour Guide for the day but damn, this IPA was a close second.

At 7.1% and 69 IBUs, it was a long-time favourite of mine on tap at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington. You can smell the hops from the glass as it sits in front of you, teasing and taunting. Deep citrus on the nose, this is all fruity goodness on the tongue and damn, it is juicy. Love this beer.

As for my partners in crime, well, David was absolutely thrilled to go there because being a huge Wizard of Oz fan, he's always loved the name. And Hago? Well, he got a cool new Flying Monkeys sign for his downstairs, as well as a menu (with a gnarly Flying Monkeys licence plate on the other side) that somehow fell in the sleeve of my jacket. How does that even happen? It's the damnedest thing. When something mysterious like that happens, there's only two possible explanations. It's either Odin's Will or black magic. (And we're all out of magic. All hail Odin.)
Either David and Hago are pointing to the Redline Brewhouse sign or
they're in a ZZ Top video. The jury's out because I'm pretty sure I
heard Sharp Dressed Man as I was taking this picture. The start of a
day in Barrie that will go down in the memory books. Great fun there

Okay, I'll be back in a day or two because, oh man, so many more Barrie stories to come. (Barrie Chamber of Commerce: "Seriously? Do we need a restraining order?") There's the whole Barnstormer visit (where David ate deep-fried pickles for the first time), not to mention a kick-ass visit to CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Borden where Hago plies his trade. That place, which is huge, has planes and tanks and big-ass artillery guns. It was all the cool toys of which a Canadian boy can dream. (Also, I think David very much enjoyed it, too.)

And I told you what I brought Hago from Nickel Brook but hey, what did he sent with me back to my Burlington home? Did one of them actually hurt him badly to send it home with me? (Yes... yes, it did.)

And speaking of beers that Hago has tragically lost from his collection, what sour beer from Barnstormer Brewing did Hago buy that his lovely wife, Aime, decided was her new favourite thus depleting his stock even further? Hago's my buddy and you don't rub salt in the wound of your buddy. But shit, Hago, I really loved mine! Just sayin'...

And finally, some serious reflection on my lifestyle. If, like me, you drink way too much craft beer, eat nothing but junk food and never exercise a day in your life, eventually you'll need a motorized scooter. Frankly, I'm not seeing the downside here. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, with much more Hago, David and Kaitlyn K, I remain, as always...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Gananoque Riddle???

This building housing Gananoque Brewing is clearly historic and must
be the town's old train station, right? Uhhh, no. Stevil St Evil, sitting in
his Wellington, New Zealand perch, is a Gananoque native and while he
recognized it from his seedy, youthful past, he couldn't remember what
the hell it used to be. A bit of digging, we found out the real story here. 

When Drunk Polkaroo and his lovely wife, Kat, embarked their week-long, 50 breweries, too-many-towns-and-cities-to-name, adventure dubbed Polkapalooza 2, The Electric Boogaloo (I added the last bit for rhyming purposes), I was happy to join them...

Well, I joined them from the creature comforts of my home, viewing their journey after work each night on my laptop. It's the warmer, safer way to travel.

Now Polkapalooza 2 became such a social media thing that the couple were many times greeted personally by the brewery owners themselves and in a couple of cases, given special after-hours privileges. The road-trip was, suffice it to say, a pretty big deal to both the Polks, the many social media friends who caught up to them and the breweries themselves.
This is the actual Gananoque train station... miles out
of town... standing a lonely vigil among the farmers'
fields and whistling winds of north-east Ontario...

But given time restraints and the sheer volume of breweries being visited in a short time, a couple of the stops were, well, quick in-and-outs. Any couple with young children can relate to that concept. ("Geezuz, Bob, make it fast before the damn kids wake up and ask for a glass of water! And take your stupid socks off!" Every married guy who read that just instinctively mouthed the words, "Yes, dear.")

One of those beat-the-clock stops was Gananoque Brewing. For my American readers (Zup, guys?) who are not familiar with native Canadian aboriginal pronunciations, that's Gah-nah-knock-way. According to my Beer Bro Stevil St Evil, who grew up there (well, aged in some manner) and now resides in Wellington, New Zealand, that likely translates as "fly-speck." Not a big place with less than 5,200 people calling it home. "The population of the town is exactly the same as it was when I went to high school there," Stevil laughed. Like other residents, he simply calls his hometown Gan.

But it was Polkaroo's picture of the Gananoque Brewing Company that caught my eye. While most craft breweries the couple visited were in modern stand-alone buildings or plazas, this was an old-school historic building. No doubt about it.
Several years back, Gananoque Brewing
president Bruce Davis stood in the empty
building which would. in two years, house
fermenting vats and all the other cool toys
 a brewery needs to make their final product.
This Wayne Lowrie photo for the Gananoque
Reporter shows in 2012, he had a ways to go.
I was convinced it had to be the old train station. I mean, it had that look of a 200-year-old former train station. (Actually, this kinda makes it sound like I have come across many of those is my life. Nope, less than 200.) So I went to the Man From Gan himself.

No, it was definitely not their train station, Stevil noted, as he sent me the above picture of their actual train station. "It's way the hell out of town. Nothing else near it." In fact, the actual Gananoque Train Station is a bit of an oddity in town folklore, he added. "As you know, usually you build a town around the train station as in olden days, that's how people got there! But no! Train tracks came through and they built the town 10 miles away!!" Oh and one more thing, he said, "It's not even a regular stop! If you want to catch (a train), you have to be out on that platform, waving your arms!" Okay, that's some Petticoat Junction small-town shit right there.

So this cool-looking building was not the train station. Well, what was it? "I cannot recall what that building is. It's been so long," he noted. "I think it might be an old electrical building... maybe even a waterworks or sewage thing? There's a fair few old-timey buildings like that in Gan, even to this day."

And it was time to dig. Took about a half-hour or so but eventually we discovered it was the town's historic Bell Tower building. The photo at the top has the bell's spire cropped out but once upon a time, that's where the bell rang for Sunday church and other, you know, bell-related events. No word on whether it could be heard from the miles-away train station.
As you can see, only the ridiculously-photogenic drinkers pop
into Gananoque Brewing to enjoy some tasty craft beer in their
town. Don't get me wrong. People who look like, well, me are
also welcome. We just don't end up in pictures. A smart policy...

But the brewery didn't open overnight. It took owner Bruce Davis more than two years to bring investors onboard, not to mention, more than a little elbow grease to turn the 18th-Century Bell Tower (still complete with bell - yes!) into a functioning brewery. Finally, on Friday, June 27, 2014, the doors opened and the word is it's been a local hit and a tourist hot-spot since that day.

In a 2012 press release when he locked the structure in, Davis said, "The Bell Tower building is a Gananoque landmark with a deep history, a special character and real charm. We will preserve and restore this important property to honour its legacy and create a space that showcases our locally-sourced products and supports an onsite brewing operation that will be a great new attraction to town."  The brewery's flagship beer, Naughty Otter Lager, has a huge following and is readily available in LCBOs around the Province. And Davis, true to his word, is using as many local ingredients as his brewery can secure. Great little success story that really rings my bell. Yeah, I just went there.
At long last! I finally got my filthy ape paws on a
Sawdust City Twin Pines Double IPA. Was it worth
the long wait? Oh, you bet your ass it was! This was
like getting hit in the face with dozens of pine trees!

And ain't that just the way life works? Polkaroo went into long descriptions of many of the breweries on their stops, adding at length the kindness of the brewery owners and the comradery of the many craft beer friends with whom they connected. Gananoque got a passing mention as a quick stop... and guess which one actually piqued my curiosity to the point of researching it? Yup. The hold old-time architecture has over me! (I still say it should have been a train station.)

But it's Beer Time at Donny's Bar and Grill and before their departure, even knowing their many stops, I ask Polk for one beer and one beer alone. Sawdust City's Brewing's Twin Pine Double IPA. Well, Mr and Mrs Polk brought me 10 beers, not one, so decimal places got scrambled a little but we've all been out of school so long that Math is no longer a strong suit with any of us. (Pretty sure it wasn't then, either.)

And the Twin Pines? This one's Crazy-Eights, my friends - 8.8% and 88 IBUs (international bitterness units) of pine forest in yer face! Massive pine on the nose, so much so I double-checked to make sure all those pine needles I was snorting the previous night weren't still lodged in there. (What? That's not illegal. It's seriously messed up... but not illegal.)
What is an Accelerated Stall? Oh, that's a bad thing. It
means a plane is flying full-tilt and suddenly, the engines
cut out. So what happens? Gravity happens. In a bad way.
There was a warm touch of the high-ABV on the tongue but just a mild flickering as more pine, much juiciness and tropical fruits all came out to play. Was it good? Let's just say that The Indie Alehouse's Cockpuncher Imperial IPA now has serious competition for the Best Double IPA of the Year. Yes, that good. Well done, Gravenhurst gang, well done, indeed.

But the Polks weren't done pummeling me with top-notch IPAs just yet. No sirree, Bob, more landed on my patio. Just last Summer, after a trip to Hunstville and a four-brewery pit-stop along the way, former coworker Jay-Dawg and his sweetie navigator Cara steered a Barnstormer Brewing's Accelerated Stall Maverick's Imperial IPA into my hands. (Oddly, my chronicle of their journey has become one of my highest-read blogs, leading me to believe that Cara re-reads it every night. Sometimes twice.) And courtesy of the Polks, another one hit the runway here. And dammit, it was every bit as good as I remembered. Using Ella and Summer hops from Australia, Cashmere hops from the USA and Aramis hops from France, the Barrie brewery (there is another Barnstormer Brewing in Carson, Washington) has a winner with this 8.4%, 80-plus IBU skywriter.
Okay, look at the gorgeous copper-red colour of this
Dominion Brewing's Two Flags IPA. The can's
design is simple and plain. And I so don't care. It's a
vessel that brings joy to me. That's all that matters...

Lots of citrus and fruit on the nose but bitter and strongly-malted on the tail end (pun intended.) My only qualm with this beer is that the brewery's website claims "Maverick Killed Goose" in the movie, Top Gun. I disagree. Because Iceman wouldn't get out of the goddamn way even though Maverick had a clear shot, Mav's plane spun out in Iceman's jetwash. I say Iceman is responsible for Goose's death. Fortunately, my son and I will be visiting Barnstormer this coming weekend when we head up to Beer Buddy Hago's locale for a three-brewery visit. I was planning on wearing a styling "Shut up! Iceman Actually Killed Goose" T-shirt for this event. And then, let the debate begin... over delicious beers! But apparently, a stunt pilot died during the filming of Top Gun for the same reason - his plane fatally spun out - so maybe I'll keep my mouth shut and just stick to beer. And checking up on how that Goose's Gose I suggested to the brewery is coming along. Should be ready by now. No pressure.

Next up is a little beauty from Polkapalooza Day 1, Stop 4 in Ottawa - Dominion Brewing. Touted by many of their area friends as a "must-visit" stop for Polk and his lady, I suspect they were glad to land there.
Here's a lovely little find from Day 1, Stop 2 from the
Polkapalooza stop in Ottawa - Tooth and Nail Brewing.
Stop #1 was Beyond The Pale Brewing so Stop #1 and
Stop #2 rhymed. Am I the only one who noticed this?
Does it keep others up at night wondering? Just me?
From what I read, there was an East Coast-style IPA on hand at Dominion that would curl my toes with delight. But sadly, it was only on tap. However, the Polks were gracious enough to make sure a Two Flags IPA landed on my patio table. (You can see the aforementioned table in all my pics and yes, I recognize it's not very clean. I gave it a courtesy wipe for the pics. Please try to concentrate on the beer, rather than my shoddy housekeeping, okay?)

Okay, the Two Flags IPA is one I would put in the British-Style IPA category as its malt base is prominent. Which is totally cool because I enjoy exposure to this milder style as much as the hoppier west coast style. At 7% and 63 IBUs (both numbers are deliciously on the high side for the Brit style), there was some dark fruit and a wee bit of pine on the nose while the tongue was all caramel, a bit more pine and thick maltiness. I have noticed lately that a lot of the new Double and Imperial IPAs are hiking the malt levels on the tongue, as well, and I believe it's for the sake of balancing the taste. Old Dominion did exactly that with this one. The best of this style I've had this year.

I suspect I got the next one for its name alone - Tooth and Nail Brewing's Rabble Rouser IPA. I'm not saying Polk looked at it and thought, "Definitely one for Donny."
Gonna do the Oscar Red Carpet Fashion Call
here: "As you can see, Mrs Polk is looking quite
resplendent in her fashionable poppy red jacket
while The Polk has the layered look of the black
T-Shirt with an eye-catching colourful logo under
a traditional open Hawaiian shirt. Truly a power
couple here in Hollywood." Okay, people get paid
to make those observations? What an easy job...
That's just a strong suspicion. But from Stop #2 on Day 1 of their adventure, this brewery was called the city's best by many of Polk's pals and as you can see, they've reverted to the popular 355-ml (12 ounce) cans for their offerings. While the Rabble Rouser was not a power player up against the aforementioned beers, it was also not without its own charms. At 6.8% and (roughly) 70 IBUs, this had some really prominent peach and mango on the nose (love that combo) while the tongue was pine and citrus. I did notice faint traces of caramel on the back end but nothing remotely close to the Two Flags IPA. This was a tasty little wobbly-pop.

It's funny because the same day I read their Day 1 Ottawa portion of Polkapalooza, I also saw that tickets were available for the Canadian Brewing Awards this summer in Ottawa and thought, "Hey, that'd be fun. Visit Big Rig, Dominion, Tooth and Nail, Beyond The Pale Brewing and a few others at the same time." Pulling up the ticket site, I saw they were $299 each. So then I thought, "Hey, Hago's place in Barrie sounds more way fun. Camping adventure on his downstairs couches for me and my boy. Reasonable rates. Good company." Whoa, $300 to watch other people win awards? That's a lot of craft beer money in that sum.

So you know what? I'll live vicariously through the Polks' Ongoing Adventures and save my dough for beer. And please understand I'm not comparing anyone else's Married Life Adventures to Mr and Mrs Polk's fun here.
Final Gananoque Brewing note: all of the fermenting
vats within the brewery are named after the wives of the
brewery's Board of Directors. Which sounds fun. Until
one of them asks: "Does this shiny silver make my vat
look fat?" Gentlemen, three words... duck and cover!
It's not a contest, people. Which is fortunate because if it was, yours would seriously suck by comparison. Just sayin'. What a fun partner-in-crime Polk has found himself in Mrs Polk. (Legal Disclaimer: They are not actual criminals. They just play them on TV.)

Okay, yesterday (April 1st) Polkaroo did one of his funniest reviews, looking at an Anheuser-Busch product called Natty Daddy and I will include that at the end. But did anyone else notice this? April Fool's Day seems to be the only day that people actually check facts on the Internet. I mean, they critically evaluate and research what they read to determine if it's true or false. For one day! How is the craziest, prank-filled day of the year actually the one most marked by sanity?

To that end, all you Americans who said they wanted to move to Canada because of your present political situation? You can't. Canada isn't even a real place. We just made the country up one day, put it on the Internet and no one bothered to fact-check it. We are literally just an extension of North Dakota. They annexed us in 1827. Sorry. (We say "sorry" a lot up here in Northern North Dakota.) Okay, here's Polkaroo's hilarious review of that macro mess from yesterday, a beer that could only be drank from a boot in a link I can only call: Who's Your Natty Daddy? But guys and doll, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!! Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Colourblindness... the superpower!

Stop me if you've heard this one. So anyway, Clark Kent gets into an elevator
and see the skeletons of, from left, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Perry White.
Because he forgot to turn off his damn X-Ray Vision. Rookie mistake, Supes.
I have mentioned in this space in the past that I am colourblind so I won't be going into any great detail on that today.

To recap quickly. Yes, I can see in colour. No, my world is not 50 Shades of Grey (either through my eyes or apparently, my social life.) What I have is called Red-Green Deficiency. That means I have problems telling some shades of red, green and brown apart, as well as blue and purple. That's about it.

Oh... one more thing. No, I don't wanna guess what stupid colour your stupid shirt is. That's mostly because I don't give a damn what colour your shirt is so please know this. I will always answer "purple" if you ask me. Point to the sun, a tree or even a squirrel? "Purple." Bleeding because I stabbed you repeatedly after you asked that damn question. Your blood is "purple."

Show me a picture of Prince in concert? Well, okay, that's a trick question. You're all rotten Colour Sighted Bastards, which I will now abbreviate to CSBs because being colourblind is exceptionally tiring on the typing fingers. Both of them.

Behold the fine-tipped Yellow Sharpie!
It exists only to increase the quality of
life for those of us who are colourblind.
(Random CSBs Fact: 92% of all male crime is committed by CSBs. Yeah, sure, that's also your exact percentage of the male population but numbers don't lie. You're all thieves, crooks and generally speaking, no-good-niks.)

But my coworker Trey and I discovered something quite interesting about my colourblindness very recently. There are certain shades of certain colours I see even more clearly than you evil CSBs. Now in fairness, Trey is used to me using my colourblindness as an excuse for all my misdeeds. Three hours late for work? "Hey, sorry, man, at a traffic signal for hours. Couldn't tell when it changed to 'go'." Dropped a case of beer on an old lady's toes? "She was wearing red shoes. Couldn't see them."

However, one day he was changing the marking pen of a clipboard used for keeping a tally of empties and I said, "Make it yellow or orange. I see those the best." This piqued his curiosity so he took a fine-tipped Yellow Sharpie and wrote something on a piece of paper. When I read it easily (whereas you CSBs might struggle because of its light hue and the fact you're all weak and complacent), we realized, well, hey now Hank, there's shades I actually see better than y'all.
Here's proof I could easily take down Green Lantern. His
power ring doesn't work on anything yellow. I mean, that
is little Robin laying a beating on him because he painted
himself in yellow. Box of Yellow Sharpies and GL's done! 

I now call this clear gift to mankind my "Super Vision" and here's why. We all know that Superman's X-Ray Vision cannot see through lead, right? So what does Lex Luthor do when he wants to plant six bombs around Metropolis? He puts them in lead casings, of course, so that Superman can't see them. Well, here's the problem with that little theory and also why I would be a far superior evil genius than Lex. Because Superman can see through everything except lead, guess what stands out like a beacon when he's using his X-Ray Vision? Duh, Lex! Lead! Just leave the damn bombs uncovered in men's room stalls across Metropolis and Superman will look right through them, too! I mean, unless as an evil villain, you prefer Superman rounding all the bombs up in 3.5 seconds and lobbing them into the Sun. That's probably why Superman always wins. What's transparently obvious (literally, in the case) is beyond your average evil villain's grasp.

Now some of you CSBs may mock and ridicule me for comparing my Super Vision to Superman's X-Ray Vision. Please know I have been mocked and ridiculed before and...
Okay, Ghost Orchid used to be a pale ale released by
Bellwoods until they goosed it up and re-released it as
this damn tasty little IPA. Another winner from them.
Well, actually, that's it. That just seems to happen to me a lot.

Okay, enough chatter about my Super Vision and time to talk shop about some beers! First on deck, we have not one but two offerings from Rib Eye Jack's Ale House's GM Steve. Both are from Toronto's "can-brew-no-wrong" Bellwoods Brewery and these are always winners with craft beer lovers.

Now I will be describing the beers' colours myself as we go along but will employ RateBeer users' descriptions as back-up in case I'm mistaken. First on deck is their recently-released Ghost Orchid IPA, a 6.3% mother-pucker. Okay, look at the lovely emerald green pour. My back-up RateBeer eyes called it "bright orange"... then "hazy golden-yellow"... then "cloudy golden orange." This leads me to ask but one question: Do you CSBs even see colours the same way?? Seriously??

Back to Ghost Orchid (as I understand it, orchids are usually purple or pink so even Bellwoods is playing me). This used to be one of their pale ales but they threw a ton of Mosaic, Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin hops into the vat and goosed it up to a full-blown IPA.
Two things. Okay, 1) this was the haziest glass of
deliciousness I have had in quite some time. And
2) I really need a Bellwoods' glass. Although bless
my Collective Arts' Spiegelau for stepping up here
This had a nice whiff of pineapple on the nose while on the tongue, that faded and was replaced with grapefruit and a sly touch of orange. This is a damn tasty IPA, made by the folks who crank out Witchshark Imperial IPA, one of my all-time favourites. I was very happy with this one until I became ecstatic with the next one...

Great Caesar's Ghost, Kent, their Monogamy Double Dry-Hopped IPA was a barn-burner. Truth to tell, this was the one both Steve and myself were eyeing with lust before his trip to the brewery. Now the 19th incarnation of Monogamy (each with a different hop profile), this version was the best version I've had though I think I've only had four of the other 18. It's tough to keep up with Bellwoods, Tagged at the bottom of the label as an "Idaho 7 Hop Hash", I don't need RateBeer's eyes to tell me this was a thick, hazy orange pour that looks like it was created by the folks at Tropicana rather than Bellwoods. This is now the second substance that Superman's X-Ray Vision cannot see through. When I posted its picture on Twitter, my Beer Buddy Hago drooled, "When it looks like orange juice, I get excited."

With good reason, Hago, because damn, this was outstanding!
When Junction Craft Brewery veers off the
track with specialty releases, it's always good
news. This Cascadian Dark Ale and Imperial
Black Ale were both great. The real question
here is: Which is in the glass? I took the damn
picture and I forget. But I do know it's black!
At 6.4%, this was all papaya on the nose with a huge wallop of grapefruit and pine on the tongue. You like your east-coast, Vermont-style IPAs? Well, Bellwoods delivered a beauty with this bad boy. When Jimi Hendrix sang Purple Haze, that was his colourblind tribute to this beer. Hazy, crazy and one of the best I've had in 2017.

Okay, I have to veer briefly off the IPA Path because Drunk Polkaroo and his lovely wife, Kat, brought me so many on St Paddy's Day that their gift will happily sung about (though with poor pitch) in the next few columns and there are other styles in the world. Not as important as IPAs, mind you, but I don't want you CSBs thinking that those of us with Super Vision aren't well-rounded individuals who also enjoy many facets of... yeah, no idea where I was going with this.

A recent trip to Junction Craft Brewing saw me bring back a pair of their specialty releases, the Cascadian Dark Ale and the Imperial Black Ale, both brewed as part of their Destructor Series (okay, that's just a cool name). Once again, no need for the helpful eyes at RateBeer when it comes to colour here. One was black; the other similarly black. Together, they are Back In Black (♫ I hit the sack. It's been too long. I'm glad to be back...) Okay, getting myself Back On Track here, let's start with the Imperial Black Ale which was, this time, aged in red wine barrels with bourbon barrels on deck for the next batch. At 9% and 64 IBUs (international bitterness units), this ain't your Grandpa's ale. Or your father's for that matter.
Every year, it seems like our friends at Flying Monkeys in Barrie had a
big sweet imperial stout for us. Always in a colourful (yeah, thanks for
that) box, this year was no different as their Aurora Heart Chocolate
Raspberry Stouts hit the LCBO shelves recently. It's a sweet thang...

No, this level of bad-assery (it's a word - ask anyone) is meant for the modern palates of those with discerning tastes. And also, for guys like me. With that IBU count, this might fall shy of being called a black IPA but it was not quiet in taste. A light sweetness on the nose that I would attribute to the wine barrels, this was mostly bitter coffee and licorice on the tongue. Also, while I'd have to check, it could be the first imperial ale I have had. Certainly, the first black one. It's a Dandy Andy!

The 7%, 67 IBU Cascadian Dark Ale is meant to be more of an IPA style though I've never thought of them that way. That doesn't mean I don't have mucho love for the Cascadian style, mind you.
From our good friends up there in tiny Hanover, Ontario, MacLean's Ales
is continuing to crank out new beauties. I enjoyed their Pale Ale at the
first Burlington Beer Festival in the Summer of 2014 and as you can see,
they just keep adding on to the line-up. Hats off to Charles Maclean, the
elder statesman of Ontario Craft Beer, as he continues to expand things.
With this Cascadian, there was a whiff of hoppiness on the nose... but none on the tongue. No matter. Much more chocolate on the tongue (likely due to the malts used), I enjoyed this just a touch better than its imperial ale counterpart. Both were top-notch but I tell you, with each passing day, I become more and more impressed with the specialty beers coming out of this brewery.

I remember when I first met the brew crew from MacLean's Ales from Hanover, Ontario. It was at the inaugural Burlington Beer Festival in Spencer Smith Park back in July 2014. Manning their booth was assistant brewer Mike with Marketing Manager Curtis.
Way back in the Summer of 2014, my main MacLean's
man Curtis gave me a perfect pour of that tasty-ass pale
ale at the Toronto Festival of Beer. Great gang there!
The guys told me the story of brewmaster George MacLean who started his outfit back in 1993 after returning to Canada from Britain. Unhappy with the quality of the Canadian macros, he just started contract-brewing his own Pale Ale, which eventually became something bigger in 2014 when he and two partners built the brewery, now standing in Hanover.

I happily sampled both the Pale Ale and Farmhouse Blonde that day (the latter came out of "retirement" for the event but is now back in a big way.) But I loved seeing the old-school Maclean's 500-ml (17 ounce) bottle when they released their Luck & Charm Oatmeal Stout late last year. I am once again calling the colour on this one again. Black. Due to my Super Vision, I am very proficient in describing the black genre of beer pours. Hell, I can do it in one word. I got some really nice toffee and molasses on the nose of this 5.6% stout followed by almost an expresso bitterness on the back end of the tongue which was mostly chocolate and nutty. Great little stout!

Okay, I am very deliberately ending this with some great folks at breweries up there in Barrie as they have been buzz-bombing me on Twitter.
Redline Brewing's Clutch Pale Ale has
become my go-to at Rib Eye Jack's in
Burlington. At 4.8% and 42 IBUs, I
recently declared on Twitter that this was
the best American Pale Ale in Ontario at
this exact moment, leading to more news!
It all started with Drunk Polkaroo's week-long adventure with his lovely wife, Kat, on their recent 2017 Polkapalooza trip where they visited 50 breweries and drove some 2,700 kilometres (1,680 miles) through the Province. When they were approaching Barrie, there were, of course, three stops: Redline Brewing, Flying Monkeys Brewing and Barnstormer Brewing. Our mutual man of military might, Hago, awaited their arrival at one of those places (Redline, I think) and posted a picture on Twitter of himself, tipping back a pint. Realizing the time factor, Polk had to tweet that they might not make it to him as the clock ticked down. That, in turn, lead me to tweet that we'd all take a trip up to Barrie when the weather broke and get together. Fortunately, Polk soon posted a picture of them connecting. Happy ending, right? Well, this story does not end there.

That was March 14. Four days later, Barnstormer posted a tweet, asking Hago and I if we got that Barrie trip in yet. That simple question seemed to call the Barnstormer Army to arms as it got liked and retweeted too many times to count. Even Hago was baffled, asking, "How is this getting so much traffic?" Clearly, neither of us is used to receiving much attention. Okay, fast-forward to a few days ago when I tweeted a picture of Redline's Clutch American Pale Ale from the tap at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington and called it the best APA in Ontario at the moment. That lead Hago to tell me that I should keep an eye open for their Double Clutch Double IPA. Well, of course! But then, Kaitlyn from Redline (I knew her in her Flying Monkeys days) jumped in, noting that Double Clutch would be arriving at Rib Eye Jack's in the near future!
Here's the picture Hago posted on Twitter as he was
awaiting the arrival of Drunk Polkaroo and the lovely
Kat, Polk's beloved navigator. It's as hazy as the beer!
(I originally had her in here as still working at Flying Monkeys. Rib Eye Steve corrected me. He corrects me about 17 times a week. Usually because I can't tell red from green.)

Well, I don't know what to say about these three Barrie craft breweries other than, well, I will be driving to your ♫ Funky Town! And yes, it'll be sooner rather than later. Trust me when I say, if Hago had to drive down to Burlington and haul my scrawny ass up there himself, he'll make this happen. Also he's a military guy and I'm too afraid not to follow his orders, even as a civilian.

But let's finish this bad boy off with some Barrie reviews, shall we? Show some loving right back at them. And let's start with that Clutch American Pale Ale that I was singing Happy Viking Songs (in the original Norse dialect, too) about just a few paragraphs back. At just 4.8%, talk about your plucky sessioner. The brewery lists the IBUs at 42 but added that was "theoretical." I'm glad they said that as I would have pegged this as closing in on 60. As far as the actual colour, let's stick with the brewery's "hazy straw" description as Barrie CSBs are among the most benevolent in society. Okay, they jam-packed this with Centennial, Citra, Amarillo (yay!) and Mardarina Bavaria hops that give it a really strong fruity nose and metric tons of bitter orange peel on the tongue.
For my money, Polkaroo is absolutely the best beer
photographer in the Province. All of his pictures
jump off whatever social media he is using. Here,
he snapped a shot of Flying Monkeys' Juicy Ass
IPA, a beer previously on tap at Rib Eye Jack's.
I'm pretty sure I don't see the same colours as you.
Many of these will be making the round-trip home with me.

Okay, let's jet across town to Flying Monkeys and look at their Aurora Heart Chocolate Raspberry Stout. Every Winter, Flying Monkeys seems to land a big stout in a colourful box on the LCBO shelves. (Sidebar: If you see their The Chocolate Manifesto Imperial Stout on the shelf, grab it! With both hands. Hold it tight! Knock over an old lady if you have to. But try not to because that's not very nice. However, Soccer Moms in minivans and dudes your own size are fair game.) Okay, back to the Aurora Heart. Whereas The Chocolate Manifesto is like a glass of moist chocolate cake, the 7.1% Aurora Heart is a raspberry truffle in liquid form. Tons of raspberry sweetness on the nose, the combo of chocolate and raspberry and chocolate on the tongue alternates between sweet and tart. It's a Bittersweet Symphony (♫ this life...) of a beer. I have placed the Chocolate Manifesto on a pedestal that's so high, nothing will beat it but damn, this was pretty tasty, too.

Okay, Barnstormer, your Accelerated Stall Maverick's Imperial IPA will be revisited in the next one with updated tasting notes so you're landing on this runway very soon. And Hago, how's April looking for ya, bro? I got me a tasty-ass craft beer itch that apparently only a visit of Barrie can scratch! But guys and dolls (and especially the good folks in Barrie), that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...