Monthly Archives: April 2011

CURRENTLY DRINKING – April 27, 2011

Where I talk about the beers that I am currently drinking tonight and attempt to review them.  The kind of fun bit is that I’m actually drinking the beer as I’m reviewing it.

BLACK CREEK PALE ALE – Black Creek Historical Brewery (Toronto, Canada) – 5% ABV

I’ve actually been looking forward to this one since I got the news earlier this month that Black Creek’s Pale Ale was hitting the shelves of my local LCBO store.  The brewery, based out of Black Creek Pioneer Village and using brewing techniques from the 1860s, has been marked on my “local breweries to watch out for” list ever since a rather cute guy named Mathieu raved about it as I was looking at the bottle of their Porter for the first time.  Being one to take personal recommendations from random cute men seriously, I picked it up and have enjoyed it ever since.  In fact, you may recall that I mentioned it in the second Gateway Beers post. It’s light, but has a wonderful flavour to it.

But the Pale Ale…this promised to be something of another colour.  Seriously.  TOTALLY different colour. Oh hell, you know what I mean.  Let’s give it a try.

COLOUR – Beautiful orange.  Almost exactly like looking in to a jar of orange blossom honey.

AROMA – Citrus and malt.  You can smell a hint of hops.  They all combine to give it a pretty sweet smell.

TASTE – Funnily enough, the initial taste hits me in the same order the aroma does.  The citrus starts off which leads to a sharp hit of the sweet and lovely malt and then BAM, the hops is there and it’s all wrapped up with a nice, smoky taste.  Apparently this brew was hopped four times, and damn, does it show.  Make no bones about it, this is a sippin’ on the porch or in my case, on the couch listening to Charles Mingus beer.  This is a taste you want to savour and get lost in to.

VERDICT – I’ll be picking more of this up. It’s definitely a sunny day beer and with the 5% alcohol content, you can drink this for quite a while without having to worry about falling down.  And you know, Im quite happy with the luck I’ve been getting with hoppy beers with citrus tones to it.  I’m attracting these things, I swear.

I haven’t come up with a rating system yet, but I feel like I have to come up with something for this.  4 out of 5 stars. Definitely a Toronto beer (and a brewery) worth watching out for.

SIDE NOTE –  Charles Mingus really does go well with this drink.

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Cooking With Beer: Ale-Braised Short Rib Sandwich With Horseradish & Pickled Vegetables

Isn’t the very TITLE of this post making you drool?

Reader and all around New York artist babe Caroline sent this my way along with the text “Oh my god“.  And I have to say, that about sums this recipe up.  Figures that I read this recipe JUST as I start The Dieting to get ready for summer. Ah, screw it.  This sounds delicious and my slow cooker has been looking at me like I’ve been neglecting it lately.

Here is the recipe itself.   All via sippitysup.com.

The beer this recipe recommends, New Belgium Brewery’s Fat Tire Amber Ale,  is a brew that isn’t available here.  Judging by the description, I’m going to see how it would turn out if I replaced it with the Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted from last post.  The citrus tones and the hoppiness would blend perfectly with the meat.

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CURRENTLY DRINKING – April 21, 2011

Where I talk about the beers that I am currently drinking tonight and attempt to review them.  The kind of fun bit is that I’m actually drinking the beer as I’m reviewing it.

BITTER & TWISTED – Harviestoun Brewery (Hillfoots Village, Scotland) – 4.2% ABV

Actually, a reader suggested this beer.  When I was in my local booze store, I noticed that they had recently stocked their shelves with this Blond Beer from Scotland and quickly picked it up.  I’ve only ever tried a few brews from Harviestoun before, their famous Olah Dubh.  Dark ale that has been matured in Highland Park whisky casks.  The 16 and 18 year old brews in particular I call my “sleepy-time” drink.  I have one of those and I get all warm and just drift off to sleep.

But I’ve never had anything else by them before and jeez, was I missing out.  Lets go through it, shall we?

COLOUR – Nice, crisp, dark golden colour.  The type of colour you’d expect to see in your mother’s jewelry (and just as shiny)

AROMA – VERY citrusy smell to it.  Grapefruit, definitely.  Maybe a lemon or two.  It’s actually quite decietful, since the aroma gives off the impression that this won’t be a bitter beer at all.  There’s a SLIGHT hint, but still.  But as we’ll find out…

TASTE – Dear, sweet Jesus that will be resurrected soon, what a freakin’ taste.  The initial taste is very smooth and you can tell that this is the beer showing it’s fun, citrusy side.  This is where the Grapefruit and Lemon flavours REALLY come out to play.  But the bitterness, god DAMN, the bitterness.  According to the beer’s profile, it was hopped with three different types of hops.  The Hallertau Hersbrücke for that subtle aroma, the Challenger hops, which gives this beer a bit of spice to compliment the citrus flavours, and the Styrian Goldings, which actually bring forth the citrusy aroma and flavours.  I get the impression that the good people at Harviestoun put these hops in expecting a brutal, horrible fight and they ended up…er…doing something indecent.  But that’s science for you, isn’t it?

Aftertaste is also very pleasant, leaving just a hint of the hoppiness that rocked your world in the limo after the concert and finally ending it off with the memory of being sweetly serenaded by the citrus overtones.  Peeled grapes and togas might have been involved.  It’s okay, I won’t judge.

VERDICT – You know, since Spring is coming (taking its dear sweet time, but still coming), I’ve been slowly shifting away from the dark heavy ales and have been craving something lighter but with a bit more of a bite to it.  This beer fits the bill and with its citrus overtones, it did a DAMN fine job of welcoming the season for me while still giving me that hoppy bite that I so crave in beers.  This beer also gets top marks for restoring my faith in below 5% ABV beers.  I honestly wouldn’t have suspected that this would have an alcohol content of 4.2%.  Harviestoun, you done good.

SIDE NOTE – ISN’T THAT THE MOST ADORABLE LITTLE MOUSE YOU’VE EVER SEEN?

And now to have some dinner before I move on to the next beer…

GEMINI IMPERIAL BLENDED ALE – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY) – 9.0% ABV

This beer was one of those drinks that you can’t help but notice just popping up in the store and you wonder “What are YOU all about, then?”.  The packaging is lovely and the description by the brewers on this limited release Imperial India Pale Ale is quite poetic.  It’s been in my local store for weeks now, but due to the price (around $9.00) I had to hold off on buying a bottle until I was able to justify the money.  And well, I finally justified it.  Let’s ‘ave a butcher’s.

COLOUR – Dark, cloudy, slightly peach-coloured.  The DARK part of the peach, at any rate.  Good start, so far.  Gotta say, that’s a fine lookin’ head on it too.

AROMA – Fruity.  Berries.  As the beer started adjusting to not being in the fridge a SLIGHT hint of honey came up.  Some people have claimed that there’s an earthy smell to it, but I haven’t noticed it.  Maybe it’s because I don’t snort dirt. I don’t know.

TASTE – Well. it definintely lives up to it’s alcohol content of 9%, because that sucker punched me at the initial taste like…uh…some boxer at a grudge match (I don’t follow boxing and saying Mike Tyson seems a bit too “done”).   The syrupy malt texture is hitting me and the hints of berries and honey have gotten stronger.  One thing I will say about this baby is that it is CREAMY.  No acidic feelings at the back of my throat like a few IPAs have given me.  The hops really does have a strong presence, but with the creaminess it’s like I’m being punched with a pillow between me and the fist.  I’m not getting the whole she-bang out of the hops and in this case I think that’s a good thing.

Aftertaste is pretty good.  The berries and honey taste remains and I’m finding myself moving my tongue around because the texture was so smooth and I liked it.  The hops flavour was clearly not around to cuddle and left with the glass.  Something about an early meeting. (EDIT: Turns out there’s an after-after taste.  When the berry and honey hints left the hops came back to get its keys.  Lasted for a few minutes.)

VERDICT – Eh.  While I enjoy the smoothness of the beer and the slight honey aroma and taste, I feel like there’s not much to this beer and, especially after the Bitter & Twisted, this beer doesn’t seem like all that even with its high alcohol content.  So what I’m saying was, you were alright, Gemini.  And I might give you a ring some time if I feel like just getting drunk, but that’s only if my other stand-bys aren’t available.

SIDE NOTE – The experience was SLIGHTLY made better when I just sat back and thought about things, swirling the glass like I would with a snifter of Brandy.  Halfway through, there’s a warm feeling that is nice.  Still not all that, but it has a slight appeal.

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Gateway Beers Part 2

Yes, GATEWAY BEERS.  Just like The Rock And Roll is a gateway to gang violence, Satanism and baby murdering, so too are there beers that lead you down a path where there is no turning back.  Take the story of Johnny. He was captain of the basketball team.  He didn’t think there was any harm in trying a beer from Belgium.  But after that it all changed for Johnny.  He quit the basketball team and started attending underground craft beer events.  Split the money with his hoodlum friends in ordering some Bolivian Pale Ales to be shipped to his town.  Three months later Johnny was found dead in an alley, a broken bottle of Westmalle Triple in his hand.

Sorry, I have a passion for mental hygiene films. These just come out.

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   

I USUALLY DRINK GUINNESS

I’ll say this now.  Guinness is a great drink.  It really is.  For years it’s been known as the beer someone orders if they don’t like the weak mainstream drinks like Molson or Bud.  It’s rich, smooth, creamy and can easily substitute a meal.  It has a wonderful history and a great tradition and while there is a slight risk of looking like a douchebag while drinking one (especially if you explain why it’s so better than the beers your friends are drinking) that doesn’t take away from the fact that it clearly is a work of art in itself.

But, as is the point of this series of posts, there is more out there.

I won’t lie to you.  To find a suitable “next step” for you might take a bit of trial and error.  But the first thing to do is examine what it is you enjoy about Guinness.  Primarily the “heaviness” of it.  On that, there’s three levels to it.

1.  The heaviness frankly scares me and I want something a bit lighter 
– Well it sounds like a nice dark ale would suit you down to the ground.  Hobgoblin Ale by the wonderful Wychwood Brewery was a WONDERFUL starting dark ale for me and to this day remains as an ol’ stand-by when I don’t have a specific beer I want to pick up.  A wonderful dark ruby colour with a taste of chocolate and toffee.  It’s refreshing, comfortable and not as much a meal as Guinness can be.

Another suggestion would be Leffe Brune, a nice little Belgian number that I grew fond of last summer.  A soothing beer with a slight hint of roasted spices and  fruits and a bitterness that’s not overbearing at all.  Truth be told, I actually cook with this as well (see the recipe I posted last week).  Definitely a drink worth trying.

2.  The heaviness is just right, actually.
Well, have I got two beers for you then.  Dragon Stout out of beautiful Kingston, Jamaica really fits the bill for this.  It’s got about the same heaviness of Guinness with a nice, chocolaty finish to the taste.  This is DEFINITELY ideal for a hot sunny day.

Second up is Black Creek Porter out of Toronto’s own Black Creek Historic Brewery (actually in Black Creek Pioneer Village if, like me, you have fond memories of that place. Now’s a reason to go back!).  While a porter is usually supposed to be “heavier” than a stout, I find this one hits the mark rather well.  Nice chocolaty taste with a hint of spices.  This is also a recipe used my Ontarians in the 1860s, so it also provides a nice history to it.  I just recently started drinking this beer and I can’t get enough of it.

3.  Guinness is FAR too light for me.  Give me something heavier!
Alright there, Rambo.  First up is Fuller’s London Porter from our good friends at Fuller’s Ales.  One day my mother, who wanted to teach me about some of the brews she grew up with, bought four cans.  Two was Fuller’s London Pride (which we’ll talk about later) and the other two was this one.  And MAN, was it refreshing.  A deep black colour that not even light can escape out of and a smooth, creamy taste with a strong taste of cocoa.  If Guinness is a meal, Fuller’s London Porter is a meal with seconds.

The second one I’d suggest is John By Imperial Stout by the Scotch-Irish Brewing Company in Ottawa.  All I can say about this beer is: DAMN.  I tried it for the first time last weekend and was really impressed.  Much like the London Porter, nothing can escape the darkness held within and there’s a strong cocoa taste to it.  I’ll be honest, this was a drink that I could probably have one or two of.  You actually feel FULL after this drink, which can be said about many Imperial Stouts, but it still is refreshing.  A wonderful brew.  I actually wonder what it would be like at room temp…

And that’s all for now.  And damn, now I think I’m going to head off to the pub and have a London Porter.  I got me the craving…

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Cooking With Beer: Beer Sausages Inna Bun

One of the things I’m going to be doing over the next little while is finding some recipes and coming up with a few of my own that involve beer.  This will involve anything from sauces, batters, cakes…whatever I can find.  Just to see what I can make with the wonderful drink.

The following recipe is kind of a classic that has served me well over time.  I have cooked it at parties, as a thank you dinner for NYC friends who have offered a couch to sleep on, and of course for myself when I want a food that warms me up, sticks to my bones and brings forth what we all know as The Burp Of Satisfaction.

I’ve included some suggestions for specific beers to try out in this recipe, as they have worked out for me.  But really, as long as it is a stout, porter or even a nice dark ale that you enjoy drinking I guarantee it will work out.  The key of this is that it should be a dark beer.  Suggested drink to go along with it would be the beer that you used for the recipe (What, like you’re going to buy ONE bottle? …jeez).

Beer Sausages Inna Bun
Ingredients:
– Sausages (Brats are a good kind, but if you dream of something bigger I suggest you follow that dream. 2-5 is a good number if it fits in your pan)
– Beer (SUGGESTED BRANDS: Leffe Brune, Hobgoblin Ale, Dragon Stout or Black Creek Porter)
– Half an onion (chopped in to rings)
– Buns (Not yours (sicko), but the kind in the bakery section of your local grocery store)
– Olive oil (just about two tablespoons.  If you don’t have olive oil, safflower of grape seed oil will do.)

Instructions:

1. put oil in frying pan, crank that stove up to high. Then add sausages and fry up until browned.

2. Once the sausages are browned, decrease the stove to medium heat, remove the sausages and throw in the onions.

3. Cook those onions in the sausage juices until rubbery and transparent.  You may need to use some extra oil.

4. Put the sausages back in the pan and pour your beer in. Half a bottle is good.  As long as the sausages are covered about half way you’re golden. And look at that, you now have something to drink while you’re cooking!

5. Turn those sausages in your wonderful beer-onion concoction until the beer has reduced into a somewhat thick sauce. Your entire kitchen will start to smell amazing.

6. Remove the sausages and place in the buns.

7. spoon in the beer and onion sauce in to the buns on the sausages.  If you’ve got a lot of the sauce, go freakin’ wild.  More is DEFINITELY better in this case.

8. Eat and enjoy. If you feel like moaning in a way that makes those around you a tad uncomfortable, don’t hesitate.  Let the food take you somewhere magical

Bonus Feature:

Throw a bit of grated cheese on top.  This adds to more flavour and a HELL of a lot more guilt afterwards, but my god, it’s worth it.

Got a recipe?  E-mail me at robin@therobinleblanc.com and tell me about it!

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Gateway Beers Part 1

GATEWAY BEERS.  Yes, like Marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and LSD AS WE HAVE ALL LEARNED AT SCHOOL, so too are there beers that can get you hooked and lead to something more complex.  Sure, you might be at a party and someone offers you a Chimay or St. Andrew’s Ale.  What’s the harm?  It’s a party after all and you want to be cool.  Plus that girl Sandy you’re sweet on is drinking a La Fin Du Monde and SHE seems pretty on the ball. But in two month’s time WHAMMO. You’re at a local shindig and creating a scene because the bar doesn’t serve any reputable Abbey ales.  You’re kicked out.  You’ve alienated all your friends, your family doesn’t understand you and your local priest thinks you’re beyond hope.  It’s a sad, horrible life.

I’ll stop now.

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   So to start off, We’ll hit the most common one I’ve heard.

I USUALLY DRINK HEINEKEN (or Bud, Molson, Steamwhistle, Labaat, Busch…)

We all have at some point.  As a Canadian, it almost seemed like my duty to drink Molson.  My old drinking buddy and I used to buy Steamwhistle by the pitcher and during my senior year at high school I drank nothing but Heineken. But as I discovered myself, there is so much better out there.

If you are used to these light coloured (and flavoured) beers, stepping towards something darker and richer might be too much too soon and have you running away.  You might want to take baby steps.  And with that, I’m going to suggest a good Pilsner.

Pilsner is a style of beer in the lager family and is named after the city it was created, Plzen, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) and was made by people who were sick of these dark cloudy brews that, at the time, seemed to go sour a lot. They dreamed of a beer that didn’t seem like a meal and this was their answer.  The combination of the lager yeasts, the pale grains and the natural soft water of the region made for one delicious brew.  If you want a damn good pilsner beer, throw away that Heinie and grab a brew made in Plzen.

Going by what’s available in the LCBO stores here in Ontario, my main suggestion in this style is going to be the Plzen-based Pilsner Urquell, which can be found anywhere in bottles, cans and sometimes on tap in pubs.  The first thing that will hit you about this beer is the colour.  A beautiful golden wheat colour that will make you instantly thirsty.  When you try it I guarantee it will be a whole new world for you.  The crisp, biscuity quality to it, the subtle spices thrown in…yeah, there will be no going back.  As Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune said in their fabulous book The Naked Pint, it’s like going your whole life eating waxy halloween chocolate and suddenly taking a bite of an 80% cacao chocolate bar.  You really never knew something so light could taste so GOOD.  And why should you?  You’ve been drinking Molson or Bud.  It’s all you’ve ever known.

And that’s the first Gateway Beer I have for you.  There will be more in the future and then we’ll move on up.

But for now, I’m off to have a drink.

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