At the same time that a new brewery seems to open in Ontario every week, we are also treated to the release of widely-recognised, international beers almost as often. Two Belgian style ales from Chicago’s goose island brewery – Sophie and Matilda – will be making their Ontario debut this April.
The plan is to have them in LCBOs by the week of April 29. Until then, they are exclusively available at Nota Bene on Queen Street West. I had the pleasure of attending a media lunch there last week to mark the occasion. (more…)
When I write tasting notes for my First Draught posts, I do my best to not let preconceived notions cloud my judgment. Sometimes, though a reference to how the beer differs from expectations is unavoidable. I can’t remember a honey beer experience (before this one) that wasn’t full of cloying sweetness. As I think about it more, that might be because the honey beers I’ve tried (usually dug out of the bottom of a cooler at a barbeque) really were designed to be that way – sweet, cheap, and cheerful. Anyway, the point is that this beer is anything but. It has all of the aromatic and lovely floral aromas and flavors of honey without any of the sugary sweetness.
The rest of the Dupont release also deserves some attention. The Monk’s Stout is all right, but as I posted on a homebrewing discussion forum, who needs another halfway decent stout in the middle of April? The bruine is good (and on the same forum some have speculated that it will get better with age), but the Cervezia is the other gem of the brewery feature. In some ways it’s an advanced version of Dupont’s famous saison. My tasting notes for it include “funky” “pastrami” and “wicked length”. That world-famous, mainstay saison is now a regular listing the LCBO and should still be on shelves after the brewery feature ends. (more…)
While wearing their trend-spotting thinking caps, other beer writers have wondered in print why Keith’s produced this new beer. On one hand, because their “India Pale Ale” is really nothing like the style should be, Keith’s has more to lose than some other macrobrewers by acknowledging the existence of craft beer. On the other hand, the end game question comes up: if regular Keith’s drinkers try this beer and like it, won’t they then turn to actual craft beers with their fistful of limited beer dollars?
I’m not really sure how to answer these questions. Maybe Keith’s thinks that craft is a trend (the decades-long history of real ale campaigning in the UK probably indicates otherwise) or maybe somebody at the multinational, brewing behemoth realised that dollars are being left on the table. Either way, the Cascade ale (and to a slightly lesser extent the Hallertauer version) is a very good beer. It will be easy to find this summer and I’ll be happy to drink it again. (more…)
A tolerance for bitterness is probably what everyone means when they speak of beer being an “acquired taste”. When you get past that, drink through everything IPAs have to offer, sour beer is the next frontier. We innately associate bitter flavours with dangerous poisons and sourness with spoiled beer (though the latter connection probably isn’t as hard-coded by evolution). It’s worth developing an appreciation for the style of sour ales (that are that way by design and not because of spoilage) not just for the notoriety but also because they are delicious and pair excellently with food.
If beer-writing gods were really on my side I would have been able to write about the Rodenbach first and the Panil second. They are both in the same Flemish sour ale style (though Panil is made in Italy), but the Rodenbach is lightly tart and makes a better introduction for newcomers to the style than the funkier, more complex Panil. (more…)
My “workflow”* process for writing the First Draught posts is pretty simple: drink the beer, take notes, shoot a photo, do some quick background reading and write it up. This time out, that fourth step ballooned into a bit of a paranoid obsession. I was bothered by the feeling that I had missed something while searching for a unified definition of “Grand Cru” beer. But, from a living room covered in beer books (not to mention a computer screen covered in browser tabs) I can report that there really isn’t a single meaning. It sometimes means “this beer has spent time in oak barrels” and more often “this is the best beer we make.”
The St. Feuillien Grand Cru (also in the LCBO’s Spring release) is an exception on both counts. It isn’t aged and they also brew a Grande Cuvee and a Grand Cru Reserve. Bottom-ish line: regardless of what the name really means the Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru is an excellent beer and a great deal for $3.10.
*obligatory quotations for referring to work that involves drinking alcohol, sometimes before noon even. (more…)