The Blood of Cthulhu – A Lovecraftian Beer Review

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So before I go in to it here, I should offer some explanation. I was offered to sample a beer for consideration of a review and, based on the name and label design, I immediately said yes. The beer is called The Blood of Cthulhu. It’s put out by Sawdust City Brewing Co. from Gravenhurst, Ontario and is in collaboration with Bar Hop from right here in Toronto. It’s a 9.5% ABV Imperial Stout with raspberries, cranberries, and tart cherries. It will officially be launching at Sawdust City’s brewery location (with limited availability in bottles) and at Bar Hop’s annual Black & Orange Halloween celebration on October 31st at 5pm. Should be said too that Bar Hop’s Black & Orange will have a series of multiple collaborations with other breweries and it’ll be a hellishly good time.

IMG_0456So as for this beer specifically…you know, when I approach this time of year I find I start reading a good bit of horror fiction. Of course one can’t really go in to that genre without catching references to the famous H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos among other incredible stories that leave the imagination reeling. Upon hearing of this beer, I thought it would be a fitting tribute (not to mention fun as hell) to write a review in the style of a short H.P. Lovecraft story. I should note as well that while much of this story is original, I did in some cases directly pull from Lovecraft’s famous story The Call of Cthulhu.

Here it is.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I have just been notified by Samuel Corbeil, noted brewer of Sawdust City Brewing Company and former Professor of Brewmaster and Brewery Relations at the Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology in Niagara, Ontario that there is a certain item he wishes me to appraise. A dark liquid of strange and dark origins encased in a receptacle with sharp engravings that surpasses the knowledge of noted historians and archeologists of his acquaintance. Normally in cases with such profound mystery as this, Prof. Corbeil would not hesitate to defer to his associate, head brewer and creative liaison Aaron Spinney whose experiences in his search for the more esoteric pleasures of the world have, despite his reputation in polite society, required him to associate with the strange and arcane. However, recent events have found Mr. Spinney to be missing without a trace, the last Corbeil seeing him being before he departed on an expedition to the South Pacific some six months ago. There was, however, a recent correspondence in the form of a telegram, which was delivered to Corbeil in September. It has been speculated that this strange item may have been indeed sent by Mr. Spinney, though Prof. Corbeil is unsure of how it came to be in his study or who in fact delivered it.

On seeing my old friend nearing the end of his wits, I have agreed to appraise the item and have arranged for it to be sent to me at my home address. Included with it will be Mr. Spinney’s final communication and notes that precluded his mysterious disappearance, which I hope will provide some insight in to the location of his whereabouts.

I look forward to discovering what secrets this strange item may hold and will, of course, be writing my findings with the intent to publish.

October 29, 2014
After a rather tiring day of running errands throughout the city, I arrived at home to find the parcel from Prof. Corbeil along with the accompanying notes of the missing Aaron Spinney as well as his letters of correspondence. The item which has been the source of mystery for my colleagues is a strange, dark, receptacle. While obviously a bottle of dark glass, the etchings all around it seem to be that of a language with the cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric writings. Equally curious is a figure in the glass that can only be described as a monster or symbol only a diseased fancy could conceive. At a cursory glance, this appears to be a container for a divine drink used for particular rituals. But as for what god this is in reference to, I can not even speculate at this moment.

The accompanying notes included comments on secret societies and hidden cults, accounts of queer dreams, and cuttings alluding to outbreaks of group mania in the spring of 2013. They also tell the tale of a Mr. Robert Pingitore, A man of known genius but great eccentricity and the owner of the now-famous Bar Hop on King Street West. He arrived at the office of Mr. Spinney one night troubled and requesting insight from his trusted friend. Mr. Spinney’s response was curt, as he was deep in to his research on a current project. Pingitore’s rejoinder, though, impressed him enough to record their fantastical conversation. It transpired that the night before there had been a slight earth tremor and Pingitore’s imagination had been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had an unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with ooze as red as cranberries and sinister with latent horror under a sky that was as black as the darkest of chocolates. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters, “Cthulhu fhtagn”.

Photo 2014-10-29, 6 12 10 PMIt is in this moment that I pause to note the striking coincidence in the jumble of letters that Mr. Pingitore dreamed of that Mr. Spinney recalls in his last telegram. It reads: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”. These words only appear one other time throughout his notes, alongside an image not unlike the bizarre creature etched in the mysterious bottle. Underneath this crude sketch are what I can only conclude is the translation of the words. “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming”.

With this new information, I turned once more to the mysterious bottle, now seeming to be the center of this particular chain of events. I decided to take a chance by opening the bottle so that I may study its contents.

what poured out was a liquid as dark and black as obsidian. Despite the dark colour leading to the expectancy of a rather potent, syrupy smell, all that is on the aroma of the liquid is rather light, with hints of raspberries and an ever slight presence of chocolate. What possessed me, I know not, but I took a sip of this libation and found that the expectations that the aroma presented me with were not only met, but exceeded upon. My senses came alive with the swirling chaos of flavours. The prominent essence of raspberry, followed by the mild bitterness of cranberries, and the subtle note of tart cherries, all bound together by the warm, calming notes of high quality cocoa and the overall texture of rich cream.

As I snapped out of this transcendental state of flavour and pleasure, I noticed that I had lost several hours and that the contents of the bottle were diminished to mere drops. With a light head and the memories of the pleasant gratification of the senses, I will retire to my chambers for the night.

October 30, 2014
Whether it was a result of my imagination being affected by my findings the day before or some other cause, upon retiring last night I was constantly in a state of unrest due to the most bizarre dreams that haunt me still in my waking hours.

I was aboard the Intrepid, the ship that Mr. Spinney and his expedition sailed on with intentions of heading towards the South Pacific. The sky was a deep blood red and the wind harsh. As I looked around, the ship appeared to be in a state of long abandon, with mould, barnacles, and rust prominently covering the area. What can be described as a rushing sound came from beyond the hull and I made my way towards the area to investigate the cause of such a noise. I found that something was arising from the depths of the ocean and there was very little water separating it from the world above. What rose were structures of weed and ooze-covered Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror. The construct that Spinney’s scripture alluded to in his notes and what I now know to be the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.

And through the depths of that poison city it arose. The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. Once again the stars were right and the dreaded high priest, the monstrous creature governed by laws that are not of this earth and whose description defies sanity, Cthulhu, was on the loose once more!

I awoke screaming, and it took a not insignificant amount of time to console myself that what I saw was the result of an overactive imagination and not a vision of the horrors to come brought on by the divine elixir, what I now refer to as the Blood of Cthulhu, which was used in practices relating to this horrific being. I must confess though, a hesitancy to accept this comforting thought.

I have been left shaken and, satisfied that I have solved some portion of the mystery of the object that has confounded Prof. Corbeil, return the items he provided me with. With them shall go this record of mine – this test of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me.

I must conclude that it was a harsh storm that overtook The Intrepid and with it Mr. Spinney, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. But who knows the end? Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise again.

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Louis Cifer Brew Works (House Beer Review Edition)

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I didn’t mean to do a review on Louis Cifer Brew Works, but my small notes turned into something a bit more solid and, well, here we are.

So a bit about the place. Louis Cifer (yes, yes, fans of Angel Heart, it’s a play on De Niro’s devil character. Lou-Cifer) is a brewpub in the Danforth area put together by Erin Gamelin, the owner of the well-known Stouts Irish Pub. It features 26 taps pouring a selection of guest beers along with a proposed ever increasing selection of Louis Cifer’s house beers, brewed by Brewmaster Christine Nagy, a recent grad from Niagara College Teaching Brewery with experience interning at Big Rock Brewery in Calgary, Alberta and working with the folks at Silversmith Brewing in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. There are additional plans to have a barrel room in the basement. Aside from that, food promised to be pub fare, with the overall concept of the place being geared mainly towards people who are unfamiliar with the world of craft beer.

Unavoidable to notice, however, were the reviews that were coming out shortly after it’s soft launch earlier this week. Not just in local news sources, but hearing personally from people about it. In regards to the beer, the things I heard ranged from the simple “not up to snuff” to the, frankly, dramatic. Even more worrying was finding out that the brewpub…didn’t actually have the “brew” part down. The in-house brewing facility has not been installed yet, with the house beers brewed at Railway City Brewing in St. Thomas, Ontario.

So today I found myself finished with errands in the Danforth area and caught in the rain. I noticed the place and, remembering the things I heard from it already, decided to check it out and reach my own opinions. It should be noted that I didn’t order any food, so I can’t comment on any of that.

Before I head on to reviewing the house beers, a couple of points:

  • The lack of brewing facility is due to two factors. Firstly, they’re having a bit of trouble retrofitting their current gear for use and the second is that the red tape to get everything okayed took longer than expected. I have been told that now it’s just a matter of installing it and getting the certification. ETA for a fully workable and ready-to-brew facility is 1-2 months.
  • And this is a big one for me. It was recently reported that the house beers were being brewed at Railway City in St. Thomas. I discovered that the beers are actually being brewed in multiple breweries, each with different brewing facilities. I suspect that one of the problems people have with the house beers is because of this, as different facilities and making the translation work would be a pain in the ass.
  • One of my annoyances is the lack of originality with the names of the beers considering the devil theme. So far there are only two with names, the Louis Cifer IPA and the Dirty Blonde. The rest are just given the names of their styles. “lager”, “Bock” and so on. Apparently they have plans on actually naming their beers later on.

On to the beers:

Lager:  Unfiltered. Nice creamy note with a whole whack of biscuit and a really nice dry finish. Incredibly solid and enjoyable. This one has proved to be the beer that staff suggest when someone asks for a Molson or Stella.

Louis Cifer IPA:  I kind of get the feeling that this doesn’t know whether it’s an English or American style IPA. The malt is pretty over the top and kind of ruins the bitter finish, which I felt started too late. I definitely feel like it needs more balance. Additionally, they have plans to dry hop this beer for future versions.

Bock:  Not carbonated and a whole whack of molasses but finishes with a nice twist of bitterness. Needs to warm up to be fully appreciated. Frankly, this one has a lot of great potential. This is part of their ongoing experiments, which is limited to two kegs. Get it carbonated a little more and age that sucker in bourbon barrels and it’ll be very worthwhile.

Stout:  Also part of the experiment series and limited to two kegs. More bitter than the IPA. Too much coffee notes and the flavours just start and end with bitter, which is not great. Lower the coffee notes, bring up the cocoa notes and (a thing they were going to do anyways) make it a nitro stout to add a bit of creaminess, and it could very well be a nice winter warmer.

Dirty Blonde Blonde-Brown Ale Hybrid:  This baffles me because despite the light colour of the beer, if I close my eyes I swear I’m drinking a pretty thin tasting English brown that has a touch too much carbonation. With that confusion out of the way, there’s a good bit of balance there and provides a bit of an interesting mix. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind trying a one-off nitro version of this just to see how it is.

Conclusion:

Surprise surprise, it’s too early to tell. I feel in regards of the house beers they tripped on the starting shot. There are a couple of problems I have with the beers that are easy to fix and, to be honest, I feel that the brewmaster should have nipped those in the bud months ago. That said, there’s definitely a lack of harmony in how these are and I feel a big portion of that is due to making beer in multiple brewing facilities with different setups. I get a lot of “lost in translation” in these beers more than anything and can’t help but think it may have been less of a headache and less a chance of inconsistency for Brewmaster Nagy if they just…waited until their own brewing facility was installed and good to go. They could have easily glided with their impressive guest tap selection and a mea culpa, I feel.

When there’s more harmony and they have their facility up and running, I’ll be coming back. I want to see how the Bock is after a few more batches and I hope that stout gets worked out.

As a beer geek there’s an acceptable amount of guest taps with an experimental streak to Brewmaster Nagy that, at the moment, is at least worth keeping an eye on. But the vibe I’ve been getting is that this a place for people to take their first steps with beer. In the area it’s placed at, with more and more families moving in, it’s a spacious area with inoffensive food and beer that could perhaps ignite a spark of adventure in those curious enough to go with the staff’s suggestions.

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A Nice Cuppa Cascade – The Benefits of Hop Tea

 

NOTE: While the point of this post is showing some cool things that hop tea helps out with, it should be stated that if your symptoms are REALLY bad and you’re in a lot of pain, a doctor would be better. Really. 

So, this might come as a complete shock to people who know me well, but…well…every now and then I get stressed and have the odd bout of anxiety. I know, I know, I hide it well, but it’s time that was revealed. So it was interesting for me to find, while aimlessly following an internet search engine trail, that the very same hops that go in to my beer also works as a holistic remedy for stress and several other maladies. Even a few complaints, afflictions, and one or two indispositions.

Thanks to the oils contained in them, hops are believed to help with anxiety, stress, stress-induced stomach problems and insomnia. On top of that, the plant is also a source of estrogen, encouraging milk production for breastfeeding mothers, helping reduce the wild ride that is menopause and bringing down the living hell of period cramps. To make the most of the benefits, it’s encouraged that the hops be fresh enough that the oils haven’t dried out. Freshly picked or bagged versions from homebrew shops should be fine.

After reading all of that, I figured this was worth a test. As luck would have it, the Cascade hops that I have growing on the frame of my porch were just about ready for picking and I had to do a work-related task soon that has a tendancy to cause some high levels of anxiety. I picked a few cones, broke them up, and put them in my french press along with some boiled water. After waiting a few minutes I got this yellowish (yellow from the lupulin sacs that contain the oils), extremely bitter tea. Having never before been so excited to stress myself out, I took my tea and a nice little cup with me to my office and got to work.

To my surprise, the tea worked. I still felt stressed, but instead of going in to the usual red alert which leaves me irritable and worn out, the tea was very noticeably keeping it at a low, steady level. On top of that, I was also feeling rather sleepy and in need of a nap, which wasn’t totally unwelcome.

So for now I’m sold on trying the tea out more. However, while the type of hops in the tea were my favourite and provided a nice taste, it was still really bitter and I can’t help but feel that there were better ways to try it out. Perhaps by making a blend with another tea. So off the bat, here are a couple of other teas to throw in the teapot with the hops. All depends on the purpose.

To Sleep – Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint (Fun tip: you can also make aromatherapy sleep pillows with these ingredients)

To Soothe the Stomach - Peppermint, Ginger

To Soothe Cramps – Chamomile, Ginger, Raspberry Leaf,

To De-Stress – Kava, Passionflower, Chamomile, Lavender

So if you’re ever feeling stressed out or in need of a good night’s sleep and happen to have some hops handy, maybe give hop tea a try!

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Goodnight Brew

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Well, it’s about half past midnight as I write this and I’m just about ready to go to bed. But like anyone in their late-20s, I need a bedtime storybook that caters to my fast-paced, on-the-go, beer-loving lifestyle. I need stouts. I need bears. I need a walrus, and I need some beer.

Goodnight Brew“, written by Ann E. Briated (haha no really, her name is Karla Oceanak) and illustrated by Allie Ogg, is at first glance in the same vein of “Go The F*ck To Sleep” or any of the other “Goodnight Moon” parodies in the sense that it’s a more adult take on a medium that is normally reserved for children. Admittedly, when I was sent an advance copy to look over, I didn’t know what to make of it. In a few ways, it struck me as sort of a cutesy gift.

kettleBut you know what? I just can’t get over how staggeringly adorable this book is. Goodnight Brew shows us the time in which the employees of a brewery (such as a black bear named Charlie with sweet malted barley and a whirling wort hog) shut down for the night.

The art is very cute, showing the camaraderie of workers in a brewery incredibly well and really bringing some whimsy to that world. With the words, Oceanak really must be given credit for her fun wordplay that didn’t sound particularly strained. One of my favourite parts of this book, however, was at the end, which featured a nice little look in to the basics of brewing beer and a few handy basics on different styles. It’s not a dictionary, but it’s enough to inform an absolute beginner.

When thinking of a use of the book it hit me that, if a parent was very big in to say, homebrewing, this book would be a fun guide to explain what they do and kind of let them in to that world a bit. Though I can’t comment on this from the parent side, as last I checked I didn’t have a kid, the book, especially the tail end, seems like a good introduction to that world without…you know…taking the kid to a bar and ordering them pints.

brewingAs Oceanak says: “I live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and when visiting New Belgium, Odell, or any of the other fantastic brewery taprooms here, noticed that I was often surrounded by families with younger children. For many people, home-brewing and craft beer seem to be family affairs. Also, Goodnight Moon is a nostalgic book for many people in their twenties and thirties. So I thought, why not do a parody for grown-ups who love craft beer—a “pitcher book” for grown-ups—but at the same time, make it a book those grown-ups can read with their kids and grandkids if they choose? Lots of Goodnight Moon parodies are inappropriate for children, but, if craft beer is a normal and healthy part of your family culture anyway, Goodnight Brew is copacetic for your kids.”

In the end “Goodnight Brew” gets lots of points for being cute and making me chuckle. And sleepy. I got a kick out of flipping through it.

Goodnight Brew is put out by Bailiwick Press and will be available on September 23 wherever books are sold. Here’s an Amazon.com and an Amazon.ca link for you.

Now. Goodnight.

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The Beer Experience Toronto Beer Week Giveaway Extravaganza!

 

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Hey you!

Yeah, you!

Do you like beer? Do you like beer events? Do you like said beer events taking place in churches built in 1871 that have been renovated in to a rather spacious, lovely event space? Do you like all of that to take place in Toronto before everything gets underway with a more-than-week-long local beer event?

Well, apart from that being a very specific set of criteria for your enjoyment, you’re in luck! As part of the kick-off to Toronto Beer WeekThe Beer Experience will be once again setting up shop at Berkley Church and Field House on September 11, 2014 from 6-11pm.

17 breweries confirmed! Beers that were either made specifically for this event or are unavailable on shelves! Tasty treats! CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE THIS EXCITEMENT? Seriously, can you? I mean, I’d like you to, but if you’re unable I understand.

Tickets will run you about $25 in advance and $35 at the door. Beer sample vouchers are $1 each.

But you know, paying for tickets to events are for chumps. As luck would have it, I have two (count ‘em TWO) tickets to give away to one (un, 1, uno) lucky person. You want ‘em? Well here’s what you have to do.

Leave a comment on this post telling me what person throughout history you’d like to have a beer with and why.

Don’t forget to include your e-mail address in the comment. You have until…oh….let’s say September 5th to leave a comment. I’ll pick the winner and will get in touch with them.

 

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Queer Beers: On LGBT Representation in Craft Beer

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Alright, so at the time of writing this I just finished up a kinda-sorta twitter conversation that I want to elaborate on in this site. LGBT representation. I do know that there are a handful of LGBT folks in the craft beer community, but as a bisexual fan of beer I’d like to see something a little more open within the industry itself.

The first question most folks ask is…why? Why should someone’s non-beer preferences be anywhere near the beer world? And I get that, it’s just that the craft beer community is a very large group of people. We talk about beer, but on other subjects as well. Most commonly the topic of relationships will pop up in conversation, and if someone in a same sex relationship is talking with a group of strangers who are all talking about their heterosexual relationships, it would be understandable if that person decided to omit out of the fear of getting an odd reaction. To me it’s not about whether or not someone would act poorly in response (in my experience they definitely wouldn’t), it’s more that a hesitation like that shouldn’t even be considered before talking about a loved one. The beer community is a very comfortable and welcoming community, but without a visible LGBT figurehead it risks unintentionally closing the door in some people’s face. Just saying “there’s no problem” isn’t cutting it for a group of people who have historically learned that no visible representation = not welcome. Not just for someone attending an event but even someone looking to get in to the industry. Make sense? I hope so.

But what to do? Well, there are two ways to deal with things.

The first is the grand gestures that breweries can do to show they acknowledge LGBT folks as a valid demographic and support them. Sam Adams boycotted the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade when the parade announced the exclusion of LGBT marchers. BrewDog made a Double IPA called Hello My Name Is Vladimir to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation with 50% of sales going to pro-LGBT organizations. Half Pints Brewing in Manitoba made a beer exclusively for Winnipeg Pride…these are all bold, loud gestures that most likely have swayed over a lot of customers based on the inclusion and rabid defense of that demographic. It feels good to be stood up for on such a grand scale in that way.

The second one is something that is more direct to the culture and requires a bit more thought and a lot of personal risk, but I would like to see someone within the industry openly out as LGBT and comfortable enough to talk about it. Now, I’m not talking about breaking out the pink shirts and rainbow capes (unless they want to), but more of pulling an Ellen Page. Coming out, talking about it, and then going back to work doing what they do best. I think a move like that from someone (and hey, it only takes one or two people) would be wonderful for LGBT people looking to enter the craft beer world, as it would give them someone to look to as a more overt example of representation, which I feel is needed. Something that will have them say “hey, I guess people like me are less alienated than I thought”.

Many know how vocal I am for my love of the craft beer community. It is a welcoming, supportive, smart, funny, awesome group of people who are from all walks of life. All I’m suggesting is that maybe, just maybe, making the welcome sign a little bigger would go a long way for people who aren’t sure just how well they’d fit in to our group. If we could make such a move that will just let people know more clearly how welcoming we are, well…that’d be something to take pride in.

 

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Cooking With Beer: Pizza Dough 2 (Electric Boogaloo)

 

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So remember back in the early days of this site three years ago, when I wrote a post about beer pizza dough and included a recipe?

No? Oh thank god. Good. Don’t try and search for it. Just keep reading.

After a few years of making pizza at home, I’ve figured out a recipe that works for me. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it’s damned tasty. Beer in pizza dough sounds like such an odd combination, but I assure you the taste is divine. Even more fun is that the taste is different with each beer you use, so there’s lots of room for experimentation. Personally, I find that a good Weisse provides a nice light flavour to it. If you do this right, you’ll get a crisp, thin dough with the sharp flavours of the extra old white cheddar and the subtle dry sweetness of the Weisse.

So a couple of disclaimers here. Firstly, and please don’t hit me, I don’t usually make my pizzas with cheese on it. Weird personal preference I know, but that’s just the way I am. The second is that in regards to pizza sauce, there so many personal preference on that. Some like to make their own, others like to get some more upscale stuff…it’s all good.  However, if you can’t get a hold of/don’t wish to use other things, I usually get the cheap, $0.97 Unico cans and add whatever I want to it while spreading it out on the dough (Usually Buffalo Sauce or Siriracha). There are other options, but this one is mine for the moment.

So shall we go on to the recipe? Alright then, here we go.

Here’s what you need.

3 cups of flour
1 cup of shredded parmesan (I use the Kraft brand because I’m not a member of the Rockefeller Clan)
1 cup of freshly grated extra old white cheddar
Pinch of salt
1.5 cups of Hefe Weisse (Hacker-Pshorr is my favourite at the time of writing this, But Erdinger has proven to be a good substitute)

 

1. Mix the flour, salt, parm, and cheddar in a large mixing bowl and then pour in the beer. Mix with your hands until you wind up with a large, slightly sticky ball of dough. Really make sure you have a large bowl, as that beer really bubbles up.
2. Leave for 15 minutes to half an hour. Maybe watch an episode of Food Party. It’s a good cooking show.
3. Split the big dough ball in to two. Keep one and put the other in the fridge for another day. Flatten the ball of dough you have on a floured surface to be as flat as you can get it.
4. transfer to baking sheet sprayed with oil spray. Spray the flattened dough for good measure
5. Put your ingredients on. Give it one last quick run through with the oil spray.
6. put it 425F oven for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and crispy.
7. BOOM. Pizza.
Hope you enjoy it!

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