Monthly Archives: May 2011

Being Overwhelmed

So…I might have gotten a bit overwhelmed when I went in to my local LCBO (King/Spadina for Toronto readers) and noticed that the start of their new summer line of beers came in.  For the first time in a while I saw the shelf COMPLETELY covered with new beers I’ve never had before.  After being stuck with some of the same Pale Ales and Weissbiers, it’s probably an understatement to say that I danced a little jig in the aisle.  In fact, if we’re going to be perfectly honest, I pranced and sang a little.  You know what a four year old girl does when she has a plastic tiara, pink cape and a magic wand and is playing Fairy Princess?  Yeah.  THAT.

But I had to stop myself.  Pull in those reins.  I’m on a VERY limited budget, after all.  And some of these beers aren’t cheap.  A few were in the $11-12 mark.  I have to be cool about it and avoid the urge to get the shopping cart out and just stack up on stuff.

Normally when I find myself COMPLETELY overwhelmed with the selection and a budget of about $20ish  I go with four beers.  Two that I have tried either on tap or in a bottle before, and two that I have never tried before.

So I bought two bottles of La Trappe Tripel, a BEAUTIFULLY malty Trappist Abbey Ale from De Koningshoeven Brewery in the Netherlands (the only Trappist brewery outside of Belgium) which I drink on tap at my favorite pub. For the stuff I haven’t tried I bought a bottle of ROGUE Double Dead Guy Ale, an evolution on their wonderful Dead Guy Ale (duh) and Wells Banana Bread Beer.

The Banana Bread Beer is something I’ve been interested in trying out since I first heard that such a thing existed.  I love the idea of putting interesting and sometimes crazy things in beer and I’m looking forward to giving this one a try. And really it was either this or the ROGUE Chipotle beer, but I already got one from ROGUE.

The Double Dead Guy Ale, well…I’ll be honest.  I like the original Dead Guy Ale and am looking forward to seeing where it goes, but really…I also like the bottle design.  Simple, but wonderful.

So that’s my strategy when there’s so many beers out there you want to try but can’t pick.  Two safe beers, two new beers.

I’ll be posting reviews on these at some point.  Sadly, this weekend I’m off to the cottage where the Internet doesn’t roam as free as it does in the city.  But I have my little notebook and will be making notes for you.

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CURRENTLY LATHERING – Taking A Look At Beer Soap

No, that’s not a typo and NO, THIS ISN’T GOING TO HEAD IN THE DIRECTION YOU’RE THINKING.  Well, unless you read the second half of the title and that direction is towards Beer Soap.

But yes, Beer Soap.  It’s a real thing.  I guess I’ve always known that it existed, but never really saw any examples of it until about a month ago when Brooklyn Brewery announced the sale of a three soap set, with each soap being made with lager, brown ale or black chocolate stout. I couldn’t hit “order” fast enough, but when the cost of shipping exceeded the cost of the actual product ($10 for the soap, $15 for shipping) I decided to close that order window and wait for when I actually head down to Brooklyn in June.  But I had the bug.  I HAD to try a beer soap.  So, on the advice of a friend I searched Etsy and it was there that I found the good people at The Beer Soap Co. from Miami, Florida (Their non-etsy site is here) and…wow.  Not only did they offer beer soaps for significantly lower prices, but the amount of beers they turned in to soaps was staggering.  It was kind of a shame that this wasn’t a real store otherwise I would be dancing in it.

After going through only a portion of the intimidating selection, I settled on a soap made from Delirium Tremens.  Partly because it’s one of my favorite beers and I’m a slave to the little pink elephants, but also because I enjoy the aroma of it and wondered what it would be like as a soap.  A few clicks and a 2-3 week wait later, and I had a very nice-smelling package waiting for me in the mailbox.

Now before I get in to a review of it, let me get this out of the way: You aren’t going to smell like you just poured beer on yourself.  If that were the case it would be far cheaper to just pour the contents of a bottle all over you and you’d probably get the exact same looks of judgement and pity.  While the soap is made with beer, the people at The Beer Soap Co. have added essential oil blends to ensure that you can use this and still be taken seriously at a job interview.

Right, onwards to the review.

COLOUR – Skin coloured with dark flecks all over.  There’s an inner circle that is slightly darker than the the outer circle (see picture to get what I mean).

AROMA – Mmmmmm…Eucalyptus is the strongest scent here! With the smell of Oak hitting next and lingering the most.  The product description says Birch and Tobacco are also in this, but my nose isn’t refined enough to sense it, I guess.  And of course, there is the slightest hint of the beer itself, which brings a nice, subtle fruity finish. Also, the coconut oil that’s in this can barely be noticed, but it’s there.

BATHING –  Once water hit the soap the overpowering smell immediately went down.  Lathering took a while, but was okay.  In all honesty if you use a loofah, put it away and just use the bar as it’s less of a hassle.  Very creamy texture to it which is owed to the Shea and Cocoa Butters in it.

SHAVING – It just so happened that the arrival of this soap landed on Leg Shaving Day. So, for research and a passion to inform the uninformed, I shaved my legs using the soap.  One sentence review, the creamy texture to the soap made for a great substance and shaving was flawless and left the legs nice and smooth. (Quit snickering, you men.  This is SERIOUS BUSINESS)

VERDICT – The saving grace for this soap is how smooth it leaves the skin feeling.  My skin is usually extremely dry and I may well just hold back on the moisturizer.  Other than that…if you’ve had homemade soaps with oil blends before, you aren’t missing too much with this one, although it’s subtlety in scent can be admired.  From a personal note it’s nice that I’m not reeking of the scents that make this soap, which is a problem I’ve had with friends who go a little too “I want to put ALL THE SANDALWOOD in this!” with the soaps they have made and given to me.  I should say that it is now, post-shower, where the scent of the beer is starting to come out a bit more. And that is lovely.

To be honest, I have a feeling that if it weren’t for the novelty of using beers to make the soap, I’d have given these a miss. But as it stands they DO use beers to make this and I’ll most likely be ordering more to compare and give in to the family addiction of collecting things that I have fought for so long.  It’s a fun idea, fairly cheap and a pretty good soap, so why not? At the very least it’s worth buying one to satisfy your curiosity.

Hell, this soap came with a sample that is made with Brooklyn Red Lager called “The Hipster“.  While I’m not part of the thick-rimmed glasses and jeggings crowd, I am interested to try it out in the future.

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Wish List: Abstrakt Beer

My friend and fellow beer/metal enthusiast Alastair messaged me to tell me his brew plans for Friday night and linked me to this little beauty:

That’s right.  It’s a Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted coconut and cacao.  Created by the bloody GENIUSES at BrewDog as part of a concept series they are putting out in which they say:

  • Abstrakt is a new type of beer brand, we will only ever brew and release a beer once
  • Abstrakt will release a very small number of limited edition batches per year
  • More art than beer, Abstrakt will brew directional, boundary pushing beers: blurring distinctions and transcending categories
  • All Abstrakt beers are bottle-conditioned, individually numbered and known only by their release code, e.g. AB:01
Isn’t that wonderful? The bottles are expensive, but apparently well worth the price.  Hopefully I’ll be able to gather enough cash to get one before the series is out.  Their current release is a Triple Dry Hopped Imperial Black IPA which sounds like EXACTLY my sort of beer, but alas, money.  And I’m not sure if the beers ship internationally or not, so there’s also a problem.  If they do I might need to enlist the help of some of my fellow beer-lovers…

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Judging a Beer By Its Label (part 1 of 2)

It’s a very risky game.  Sometimes it pays off brilliantly, other times…you end up spitting out the beer and pouring it down the sink.  But picking a beer just by the label design alone can be a really fun way to discover new types of beers and learn more about your own personal tastes.  Plus every time you buy a beer based on its design, a graphic designer gets its wings.  Or something like that.

There are too many beers to list on which ones have been a success, a failure and a surprise, so I’ll just list a few highlights. This entry is going to be separated in to two parts.  The first one the good beers with good designs and the second being on the bad beers with good designs as well as the surprises I’ve had.

GOOD DESIGN, GOOD BEER

Hobgoblin Ale – It’s been mentioned here plenty of times before and I SWEAR this will be the last time I mention this beer from Wychwood Brewery for a while, but it’s important! This was the first beer I felt that I HAD to buy on the design alone and not look at any of the details that point out alcohol content or taste notes.  I believe it was 2004 or so and at the time I was really in to fantasy novels.  While “preparing” for a weekend trip to the cottage with a few friends I came across this beer and found myself really impressed with the design of both the label and the bottle.  At the time, I hadn’t seen any designs that went beyond a crappy logo and standard beer bottle (or even a “stubby” which was a rare treat at the Beer Store).  And as you all know, this beer my stand-by drink to this day.  Hell, I had one on tap (the beer has an AWESOME custom tap by the way) just last week and it hasn’t lost anything in taste for me.

Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA – I found this beauty about a year ago when I made a trip to the Amsterdam Brewery here in Toronto and the label just blew me away.  But then again, I love William Cheselden’s Osteographia, so whatever.  The colour scheme, smooth bottle design and yes, the choice of typeface all contributed in making me wonder what this beer was all about.  I picked up three bottles on the spot.  Turns out, it’s a DAMN good IPA.  So hopped up that you can actually taste a kind of earthiness and so bitter that it is still the only beer that can make my throat go dry.  And as you folks out there who either read this blog or know me in person know, that’s just the kind of bitterness I like.

This brew very recently (about two months ago) went on tap and has been a pretty good success.  In fact, it was hearing about one of the few bars that carried this that led me to find the Town Crier/Halfway Beer House, which is now my favorite pub in all the city (more on that place in a later post).

Arrogant Bastard Ale – I like this design because it matches perfectly with the reputation that the folks at Stone Brewing Co. wants it to have.  It’s aggressive, it’s mean, it will spot a weakness in you and exploit it to the point where you leave the room crying.  Even by tasting the beer, with it’s strong punch of hops, one can tell that this is a beer for Tough People and I think the design puts forth that image incredibly well.

But aside from the design, what REALLY won me over was the copywriting on the bottle.  Here’s how it reads:  “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.  

DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO DRINK THAT?

Coney Island Lager – The label is in more detail at the head of this post.  This I think was one of the first craft brews I picked up when I went to New York City and actually had an appreciation for beer.  The label alone was enough to make me wonder what the hell this drink was about because, quite frankly, a pants-shittingly terrifying Carny on the label (which also reminds me of the good ‘ol fashioned Carnival signs back in the day when people didn’t think stuff like that looked terrifying at all) is enough to make me laugh and pick up the bottle.  It could taste like brown sugar in water, I don’t care.  You have to try it and you’d be half-tempted to keep the bottle as a souvenir. The same goes for most of the labels put out by Shmaltz Brewing Company.

But as it turns out, it was a pretty damn refreshing drink.  Very nice malt and earth flavours with an very nice aroma that just worked.  I definitely wouldn’t say no to this brew on a hot summer day.

So that’s it for this post.  Toon in soon for part 2 where I discuss the good designs with bad tasting beer as well as the surprises I had.  I might throw in a third post, but we’ll see.

But hey, I can personally taste and try so many beers, so if you have any DAMN good brews with some equally DAMN good designs on the labels (or heck, if you just want to suggest a brew to me) e-mail me at robin@therobinleBlanc.com! Or, you know, COMMENT.  Because that’s even easier.

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Filed under designs