Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ideas I've Had While Drinking Beer

I think the best ideas I've ever had have been formed while I'm having a good beer.  It's likely that the worst ideas I've ever had have also been formed while I'm drinking beer, but let's just focus on the good ones for this post.

1. Beer companies should start making beer food.

For example, in a previous post I spoke about Fuller's Red Fox Autumn Ale.  I wrote that the first and only thing that came to mind when drinking the nutty, malty, clean ale was that a slice of cheesecake in that very same flavour would probably be the best cheesecake this world has ever seen.  I mean, it would be so good that cheesecake fanatics and Cheesecake Factory regulars would end up getting wasted from their daily dose of cake.

A few other examples of beer that should be turned into its own food are: O'Fallon Pumpkin Ale pumpkin pie (obviously), Big Wheel whole wheat hamburger buns, Alexander Keith's Light pita bread, and Muskoka Mad Tom IPA chicken wing batter.

I mean, have you ever had Guinness ice cream?  They're onto something.

2. More food should be shaped like national symbols.  

I'm currently eating gummies shaped like maple leafs.  I would not be eating these if they weren't.

3. Spontaneous shoe music.

Someone should make a music video of regular people wearing heels that they grab off the street, spontaneously.  They'd tell them what beat to step to, walking back and forth, and it would make the coolest background track to an awesome hip hop song.

4. The Toronto Maple Leafs need more chants than GO LEAFS GO.  

Someone needs to fix this.  Oh, and a wicked cool goal song would be appreciated too.  Thanks.

5. Let me text you back.  Oh wait, it's winter.

Someone needs to come out with widely available touch screen gloves that don't make you look like you've just escaped from TRON. (  We need to protect ourselves from frostbite, not Sark.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Best Coleslaw I've Ever Had

Bar none, BarVolo serves the best coleslaw I've had in my entire life; and being Polish means I know my coleslaw.

Oh.. they serve beer too.

My first time at BarVolo was a fantastic success.  I went in for the Fuller's Cask Ale event and tried four new Fuller's ales - all of which were unbelievable.. Unbelievable! Four new beers for me, and all unbelievable... great night.

Back to the beer.

I've had the London Porter and Extra Special Bitter at the Duke of York a couple of years back, so tonight I tried the other four.

The Chiswick Bitter was one of the most euphoric beverages I've ever graced my tongue with.  At 3.5% you can tell that it's light, but wow... it's highly recommended if you ever want to feel like you're sitting on a pink and purple fluffy cloud in the middle of a lilac-filled meadow.

Next up was the 5% Bengal Lancer.  I liked it.  As with most cask ale's I've tried, it has this amazing clean taste.  Definitely one of the cleanest, crisp, smooth IPA's I've had the pleasure of.

Third was the Red Fox.  Have you ever had a sip of something and thought - they should make cheesecake out of this?  Yea.

Lastly I had the Front Row.  It's super light, 3.7%, and lightly floral.  Again, really enjoyed it.

My favourite from the 6 shown in the photo is definitely the Chiswick Bitter.  What can I say, I like that pink, fluffy feeling.

Now, back to the coleslaw for a minute.  Do you remember when KFC used to sell a salad called "Mixed"?  It must have been about 15-20 years ago before they stopped selling it.  It was my favourite thing in the world of food.  And in no way am I degrading BarVolo's coleslaw by comparing it to a KFC dish; TRY BARVOLO'S COLESLAW.  You'll end up going back for it. Trust me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beer, Beavers, and Black Katts

Have you ever been to the Queen and Beaver?  The upstairs floor is SO QUAINT that I just loved it.  I got to watch the rugby final and sip on a lovely pint of Durham Brewery Black Katt Stout.  I asked what it was like and our server, James, said he liked it better than Guinness.  I'd have to say that I still prefer the Irish stuff because it's just so darn delicious and easy to drink, but this stout was good too.

It had a thicker feel, and almost no lacing, which I was sad about because I'm so used to Guinness's lacing when drinking stouts.  It also had quite a few flavours in it.

If you're in the mood for a sweet, coffee taste, with what I felt was a rose-cherry aftertaste, I'd recommend this stout.  And you can't forget the fantastic fact that it's local. ..yes, I'm fond of alliteration.

And if you're in the mood for a super quaint, packed with locals, where-everyone-knows-your-name type of spot, try the Queen and Beaver.  The brunch menu looked pheonomenal with things like Pancakes and Maple Butter... mmmm maple butter..., Haddock Rabbit & Green Sauce, & Smoked Salmon & Scrambled Eggs.  They even do a traditional English Sunday roast.

Oh and Whiskey-Gingerbread ice cream.  Yes, you read that right.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's not just about the Beer, it's about the People

I've been reading a ton of beer sites to support my goal of becoming a Certified Cicerone and have been learning a whole lot from them.  One in particular, Beer Universe, did something that really made me think about why I had this Cicerone goal: it listed a bunch of pubs and gave people the opportunity to write about their history, events, and types of beer that were available.  It writes about how many different types of beer were available too, which was pretty cool.  After seeing that most of the pubs I've visited in Toronto and Halifax were listed on the website, it got me to thinking about how, for me,  it's not just about the beer, it's about who I'm able to share it with.

I've spent some time travelling around (not as much as I'd like) visiting pubs that I've read about online, have been recommended to me, or heard about from locals.  The one thing that I adore about most of these places is that they care for both the beer they promote, and the customer reaction.  Think about it: you can sell the "best lager in all the land" but if it's not promoted well, and in turn, received well, what makes it the best?

I've also found that a lot of people who comment on beer blogs have a lot of negative things to say about the posts, be it that the beer in question is not hoppy enough, or is not really a  "beer" because it has added ingredients other than the standard four, or that it's simply not good because it's owned by a large manufacturer.  The great thing about the people that I tend to spend my time with over a pint or two is that they cherish not only the taste of a good beer, but the time that we're spending together over the pint.

Maybe I'm just blabbing on about nothing, but in my opinion, a beer is only as good as the people you're able to share it with.

..not the particular beer itself, I mean really, get your own pint.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fullers - The Cask Ale Full of -ers

It's light-er, malti-er, and loveli-er than most cask ale's I've had in my day, and I love that the Duke of Richmond has it on tap.

Fuller's London Pride is one of my favourite "sipping" beers, because it's not a sipper at all.  It's because the darker colour makes me immediately think that it's a heavy beer, but upon the first couple of sips, you realize that it's actually the kind of beer that you can knock back quite a few of without even noticing.

To be honest, I feel like it has a rosy after-taste that I can't get over; it's just so delightful.

I started drinking London Pride before I took my trip over to England because I wanted to train myself for the supposed warm ales I would be drinking over there.  Since then, I'll dabble in this award winning cask ale on cooler nights like last night, to warm up and dream of my travels in England.

This is also a good segway to Toronto's Cask Beer Festival: Cask Days that I'm attending this month... can't wait!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Pilsners

After years of living in the city centre, and being in the brewery many times, I finally went on the Steam Whistle brewery tour!

So much Ontario green.  So much in fact that they get a large percentage of their bottles back to recycle; bottles that are made of 30% more glass than regular beer bottles, making them stronger and more re-usable. They give their used barley husks to local farmers.  They also use three types of hops.  Two Bavarian and one Czech.

Did you know that the guys who started Steam Whistle originally called it Three Fired Guys?  Cam Heaps, Greg Cromwell, and Greg Taylor worked for Upper Canada Brewery until Sleeman bought the company. Being out of work, they decided to open their own brewery, and chose Toronto's Roundhouse as their site.

Why? Because when they checked out the space for the first time they found a bottle of Upper Canada Lager and took it as a sign.

I've been on a few brewery tours in my day, and this one did not disappoint.  Our tour guide, Brandon, (well, I'm pretty sure his name was Brandon but he did give us a few free samples on the tour..) was informative and jovial, and made fun of the fact that I was portraying a stereotypical Canadian image, being at a brewery, and wearing a hockey jersey.  To my defence, I was going to the Toronto Maple Leafs game right after the brewery tour.  We won 3-2 over the Calgary Flames after being down 0-2 in the 1st, by the way :)

Now I'm clearly more of an ale gal, but this pilsner never fails to impress.

Last fun fact: If you fly Porter airlines, they give you as many free Steam Whistle's as you can drink during the flight.  My record: 3 on my last flight back from Chicago.  There, that's the plane reference in this post's title.

OK one more: The retractable suitcase handle on the 12-pack box came in as the 22nd of the CBC's 50 Greatest Canadian Inventions in 2007. ...A beer case handle.  Go Canada, and nice work Steam Whistle.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Not Just an Accessory for your Hand

That's me.

For a milestone birthday a few years ago, a good friend of mine decided to combine my love for accessories with my love of Alexander Keith's.  Thus, my Keith's bottle cap earrings were born.

These babies have seen almost every important outing of mine since then.  I'm pretty sure we could make a killing on selling such paraphernalia.

My suggestion for the day:  Are you letting only the beer you're holding speak for your fine taste?  Why not take the next step - Wear it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My First Amber: A Tale of Ten Beers

And now a tale from the Linda Lee archive.

It was the summer of 2008. My drinking buddy and I were hard at work, thinking of something to do that would give the day purpose. We had been working overtime for the past little while and were going to leave at 5pm on this day to enjoy the great outdoors... in a dark pub of our choice.
It was at this time that my drinking buddy had informed me that he had never been to a brewery in Toronto. I had to remedy this.

5pm came around, and we headed over to the Steam Whistle brewery in the lovely harbourfront area of Toronto. Alas, they were closed!

"To the iPhone!" I called out, and went on a search for possible alternatives. The next, closest brewery was Amsterdam, so I called. The gentleman on the phone informed us that their tours were not running at the time, but if we stopped by, he could let us sample a few of their brews..

..and sample we did. We sampled the blonde, the nut brown, the raspberry wheat, the pomegranate wheat, all four KLB's (Kawartha Lakes Brewing Co which Amsterdam brewery bought back in the early 2000's: the raspberry wheat, cream ale, premium pale ale, nut brown) and even the a stout (possibly the two fisted) from a small barrel.

We sampled so much in fact, that we left there at 4am.

The best part of this story is that I sampled my first Amber - Big Wheel. I had been nervous about anything not clear and blonde until then, and was afraid of it at first, but the moment that the sweet, amber bubbly hit my tongue, I was in serious-like. Since then, I've oft frequented the Grindhouse Burger Bar which has Big Wheel on tap, and it's always as delicious as the first time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving; Thanks for the IPA, NYC

Thanksgiving is coming to a close here in Canada, so to finish off my night of finally getting this blog up and running, I'm having a Southern Tier IPA.

At 7%, you can definitely feel an enhanced taste to the beer. It's brewed with four varieties of hops, and 4 varieties of malts, both of which give it a strong, fruity finish. It's almost as strong as some double IPA's I've had in the past, but the remnants of light hops that it leaves you with are quite enjoyable.

Southern Tier Brewing Company is based in New York, and once again, American beer has impressed me.

So on this Thanksgiving day, I'd like to say a few words about what I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful that the LCBO is selling more beer from smaller breweries.
I'm thankful that today was a holiday with which I finally got this blog going.
I'm thankful that hockey season is back.
I'm thankful that my meds from the pneumonia are done and I can drink again.

Most of all, I'm thankful for you. Thanks for stopping by, and stay classy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'd like some Irish Cream please

You can't go wrong with an Irish Cream Ale.

After smashing a mirror (seven years of bad luck, of course),
my amazing boss quitting,
finding out that I had pneumonia this past week, and being on delirium inducing meds,
missing Alexander Keith's birthday for the first time since I've been legal,
being unable to celebrate the Toronto Maple Leafs home opener,
and so many more things this week,
all I could think about was having a solid, proper, beer to ease my woes.
I missed Chicago, I was tired, and nothing was working out in the other many aspects of life that we all rely on to hold us together.

The Irish Embassy kept me from crawling in that corner and never coming back out.

Great environment there. I got to watch part of a couple games, hang out with a good friend, and kick back with a cream ale. Kilkenny is one of those cream ales that looks heavy to the untamed eye, but when you have the chance to try one, you're thrown into a world of floral calm. It's extremely low carbonation, smooth, creamy texture, and light to medium body will take all of your worries away. Highly recommended, especially at the Irish Embassy. They know how to keep the temperatures just right, so well in fact, that you might think you're actually in Ireland.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Map Room

September 2011 - Chicago - The Map Room

After reading that this bar was the 5th Best Beer Bar in America, and knowing that I was staying very close to it, I had to give it a go.

Did you know that The Map Room allows one to order food from any restaurant or bring your own, and sit there and eat as if it's your very own home? Sure, you have to purchase a few drinks, but what an idea! Let the bar focus on the beer that it's serving you, and nothing else that typical pubs have to deal with. Brilliant!

In my attempt to get a proper Canadian breakfast here in the States, my wonderful companion and I ordered up some breakfast. Not thinking about where I was (the USofA) and being worried that I wouldn't have enough maple syrup, we ordered twelve servings. 12. Oh yes, I forgot, everything's supersized. Whoops.

Aside from the food fumble [oh yea, I was down in Chicago this time to see the Bears v Packers game. Yes, I'm now also a football fan] I had two incredible beers here.

The first was Coopers Brewery Sparkling Ale from Australia. With no preservatives, and a "best if drank after" stamp on it, it's claim to fame was the sediment that is kept in the bottle. It's 5.8% was barely noticable due to it's highly amusing paticles floating around. After being scared to drink it at first, it turned out to be a great tasting, easy to drink ale. It had both the fruitiness and hoppiness that I love in an ale, with the added bonus of watching the sediment swirl around.

The second beer I had here was Chicago's own Half Acre's Captain Fantasy Saison Ale. I'd let this captain sail through my fridge any day. It was sweet for a 7% ale, and very refreshing.

And with that, I left Chicago once again. Happy to have visited the Map Room and hope to one day return.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I like hops

September 2011 - Chicago - Hop Whore

Can you tell that I like hops by now? I wouldn't call myself one of those hop-heads, but when I saw Tyranena Brewing Company's Hop Whore, I had to try it... after a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale of course. [Click on Beers, then Brewers gone Wild - I'm sure glad I had one, because apparently these Hop Whore's are next to impossible to find now.]

Still at Lush, I switched over to the hoppy side of the counter and didn't looked back. This American IPA from Wisconsin was good, and for a 7.5% beer, it sure went down a lot smoother than I thought it would.

As for the story here.. In an attempt to keep my wits alert for the night, I refused any other type of alcohol, because as we all know, beer lasts longer than a shot. What I did not take into account was the number of hours I was trying to stay alert.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lush Indeed. Hello again Chicago.

Back again.

September 2011 - Chicago - The Lost Abbey's The Angel's Share

I visited a really lovely spot in Chicago called Lush. It had a number of specialty beer and wines, and the bartenders knew their beer. I tried The Lost Abbey's The Angel's Share because it had a cool cork top. No, it doesn't take much to impress me. Everyone had a sip, and everyone's eyes bulged out like Roger Rabbit's at seeing Jessica.

It was a kick in the face of a beer. It might be nice over ice, sipping it as one would a fine scotch.. it was heavy in a regular glass. It turned out that this particular bottle had gone slightly bad. If you'd like to read more about this beer, please do so on their site. It's really an interesting read.

As for this third trip to Chicago in 2011: My kind tour guide from Chicago, chapter 1, is still around. I commandeered a couple of his friends who brought be here. Lush is a definite recommendation for those looking to talk beer or wine, and try some rarities.

Oh, and they had O'Fallon Pumpkin Beer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oldest beer in the world, eh?

Apparently the Bier Markt was selling the world's oldest beer. I had to have it.

Weihenstephan, a German, wheat beer, brewed in Freising, Bavaria, was apparently brewed back in 1040AD.

As I am slightly allergic to wheat beers (I know, I'm sad too) I was able to have but a small taste.

It tasted like a good wheat beer.

Jupiler though, that you see to the right of the Weihenstephan, is a Belgian pale lager that was quite delicious.

Most people believe that Belgium has some of the world's best beer because of all the Trappist Ales, and yes, I've had some nice glasses of Duvel, and Leffe.  Jupiler (I warn you, I'm linking to their actual site...which is in Dutch) though, has been, one of the nicest Belgium beer I've tried to date.  It was very light bodied, had a clean start to finish, and barely any after taste; almost a dry after taste, and was 5.2% - it's always nice for that extra 0.2% to be around.

To all those Leffe Blonde fans, I recommend trying this pale lager. Don't hate it because it's different; it's one of the most popular beers in Belgium.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

If I pronounce this right, do I get a prize?

September 2011 - Toronto: Against the Grain Urban Tavern - Duchy Organic Old Ruby Ale

Duchy has an extremely interesting background story that I recommend checking out. They aren't a brewery... they're an organic food producing company started by Prince Charles. It's technically brewed by Wychwood Brewing Co - the brewco that makes Hobgoblin (not a fan).

This UK ale is the first I order every time I go to Against the Grain. It's one of their more expensive bottles, but definitely worth it. It's ruby in colour but doesn't have the heavy taste that most ambers or reds that I've had have. It's 5% which keeps it extremely drinkable, and by drinkable I mean I can have 12 and not be sick of them.

This ale started me off to two very interesting stories..

The first time I had this ale I gave my contact information to a lovely gentleman with whom I'd been getting along with quite well that evening at the restaurant. I'd forgotten that my hand writing looks like the cut out magazine lettering in a ransom note after a few brews.

The second time I had this ale, a good friend called asking for me to join her at another pub. Turns out fate had interjected and she bumped into her newly-made ex on exactly 365 days after they had first met. Ahhh anniversaries for the warm-hearted.

Considering my search for the meaning of life, love, and sports enlightenment, the 'love' aspect seems to be thwarted when I drink this ale.

Duchy, thanks for keeping it interesting for me.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cider! OK, let's talk.

When my friend Nick told me he had followed his dream and started brewing a cider, I just had to try it.

September 2011 - Toronto - Pommies Dry Cider

Now I'd never been the biggest cider fan, but if I see an unattended Pommies, I guarantee I will be remedying that.

Pommies is all natural, made with Ontario organically grown and manufactured apples. **Correction made, they're almost fully organic!** There's no added sugar or preservatives, and it packs the full punch of a proper bevy coming in at 5%.

With one sip, you might taste a dry pinot grigio, and with the next, apple juice! A 5% apple juice is something I will back up any day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ambrosia, thy name is... Blonde?

Deeeelicious! What a grab. The Beer Store has never been so kind.

Alexander Keith's Light Ale and brand spanking new Ambrosia Blonde all in one trip.

September 2011 - Alexander Keith's Light Ale and Ambrosia Blonde

Once again Labatt and Alexander Keith have taken the original IPA flavour and created something wonderful - AK's Ambrosia Blonde.

This is a summer drink if it's sunny out, and a winter drink if it's cold outside. I really enjoyed it because it took a slight twist on Keith's regular sweetness and made it more subtle, but caramel-like. I'd recommend it and I'd drink it again and again.

Plus, being back in Toronto, I needed to get back into the swing of Canadian beer drinking. Was happy to be back to this justly named Ambrosia.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pumpkin Juice.. I'd drink it.

August 2011 - Chicago - O’Fallon Pumpkin Beer.

OK so it's not pumpkin juice, but if you've ever wanted to throw Thanksgiving's pumpkin pie into a blender and drink it because you can't fit any more food into you like I have, then this is your solution.

It really was like pumpkin pie in a glass. And bonus! 5.6% to boot.

I really recommend this place Kuma's Corner. Apparently the wait is one hour no matter when you show up, but for the specialty beer available, and the enormous burgers, if you're not a fan of heavy metal as your dining experience music, bring headphones and try it out.

I also had Wells Banana Bread beer brewed by Wells & Young's Ltd in the UK. A really tasty 5.2% fruit beer that truly tasted like banana bread. The next time you have a craving for those carbs, I recommend getting them through Wells Banana Bread Beer.