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Goose Island Comes to Ontario

Bottles of Goose Island Sofie and Matilda

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…)

Second Draught: Brasserie Dupont’s Biere de Miel

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…)

Second Draught: Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru

Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru

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…)

Second Draught: Nostradamus, a Belgian strong ale that’s perfect for winter stews

Rather than just (re-)introducing this beer I’m going to offer a relevant and quick lesson on reading the LCBO website. The product page for the Nostradamus Belgian strong says that it’s discontinued, but the inventory page shows 1,800 bottles (a very rough estimate) spread across 65 stores. That’s a hell of a lot of beer for a special season release. For regular listings the discontinued notice means that the LCBO no longer adds to their inventory of that product, in that packaging format. For the seasonal release beers or brewery feature beers it seems to just mean that a product is from the previous cycle. In this case, Nostradamus was part of the winter release and the spring release has started to roll out.

Beer is a fragile product, so the discontinued notice might often be a good indicator to steer clear. With its higher alcohol and low hop bitterness I’m less concerned about the Nostradamus and may pick up a few bottles myself for some cellar aging.

(more…)

LCBO goLOCAL Niagara Tour

I really like trains. That our early-September tour of Niagara’s lovely wine country–organised by Suresh Doss and the LCBO’s Trina Hendry–started in a dedicated Via 1 train to Saint Catherines predisposed me to enjoy the day.

What with the third annual Spotlight Toronto 30 days of local wine and the LCBO’s goLOCAL: Find Your Favourite promotion I’ve had a lot of wine on the brain this month. For the seventh day Jen Bylok, Mike Di Caro, and I live blogged the highlights of the tour.

Obviously, I’ve also entered the LCBO’s blog challenge that is part of the goLOCAL promotion and you can read my post here and vote for it here. (more…)