Monthly Archives: September 2013

Make it Schnappy: Bierschnaps

So, full disclosure, I had originally written this post a few months ago with the intention of it going up on another site. Unfortunately, due to editorial problems it was left on the shelf. After breaking my ties with the site, I then decided it would be such a waste to keep this post sitting there, so here it is. This post has been slightly changed to roll with the changes since it was originally written. Also, since it was intended for Amerikan eyes the spelling of some words is very clearly wrong. I apologize to all the fans of the letter U who read the site and can only ask that you move past your prejudices and enjoy the post. Thank you.

Beer…SCHNAPS? Kind of weird to think about I know, but it is out there and it’s surprising to say the least. Be forewarned, this isn’t the syrupy sweet schnapps that comes in distinct chemicaly flavors like could-be-mint and I-think-that’s-what-peach-tastes-like and alternates as the combination to Elaine’s Vault (ask your parents or think back a bit, come on I’m not that old). This is the traditional, clean, crisp, and strong-as-hell liquor with a unique process brought over from Austria.

To be honest I first heard about this style when Mill Street Brewery, based in the touristy Distillery District here in Toronto, announced the opening of a Beer Hall with an in-house micro distillery way back in April. The plan was to exclusively make their own brand of Bierschnaps with three of their flagship beers, Tankhouse Ale, Coffee Porter and Frambozen as a base.

So how is it done? To put it simply, they brew the three beers to a higher alcohol level than they usually are (around 7% abv) and run it through a double distillation process. Before the second distillation the “low-wine” is steeped for a while in a selected ingredient for that extra flavorful push. In the case of the Tankhouse, it’s cascade hops and in the case of the Frambozen, it’s whole raspberries. The resulting clear liquid, roughly 45% abv, is bottled, sealed with individually colored sealing wax and placed in fridges both for the pub and the store to be enjoyed as an Apéritif between courses or…just for the hell of it, I imagine, in little tiny beer stein shot glasses imported from Austria.

I should admit that the first time I tried this was at a friend’s house for dinner and my initial reaction….wasn’t too favorable. While I am familiar with hard liquor, my palate has been trained to pick up subtle hints of things and any kind of boozy beverage that is the taste equivalent of a hammer slamming in to my tongue is going to give my senses a bit of a jolt. But the second time I tried it was at the Beer Hall under the supervision and direction of Mill Street owner Joel Manning and Head Distiller Kaitlin Vandenbosch and after an explanation of how to pick up the flavors, it turned out better. As far as taste goes, I really think that context is important before trying.

Bierschnaps, according to Manning and Vandenbosch, isn’t a drink to swirl about in the mouth and savor. It’s meant to be downed in one shot quickly. The flavor notes work after it’s knocked back, when the remaining liquid warms and moves up your throat. The Frambozen, for instance, lets out a not-too-subtle hint of fresh raspberries and the tankhouse has the unmistakable notes of hops as well as the malts that went in to the original beer.

As an aside, if you ever get the chance to try a shot of Bierschnaps with a pint of the beer it was based on, I strongly reccomend it. Having a shot of the Tankhouse with a pint of Tankhouse as a chaser really opened up the flavors for me and helped me figure out some of the things I was tasting in the schnaps.

Bottles of the Frambozen, Coffee Porter and Tankhouse Bierschnaps are available only at the Mill Street retail store at their brewery for about $35 and can be a fun novelty gift for a loved one based in lands not our own. As of writing, Mill Street was in the planning stages of upcoming seasonal releases of Bierschnaps and readying the release of a new bottle to the family of three called Hopfenschnaps, which is a hoppier and more spiced version based with the Tankhouse ale and is a kicker at 55% ABV. Bottles of that are currently available at the retail store for $39.50. If that’s too expensive for your blood, they do serve individual shots at their brewpub.

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Filed under Beer Products, Uncategorized

Toronto Beer Week 2013

Man, even though my Toronto Beer Week ended a bit early and I didn’t go to nearly as many events as some people did, I find myself still wiped out a week later.

For those not involved, Toronto Beer Week is similar along the lines of Canadian Music Week, Fashion Week or the little known but no less important Llama Enthusiast Week. Many bars, breweries and beer groups put on some really fun events for the week in an effort to raise the awareness of local craft beer as well as showcase a sense of community and some incredible beers.

And it really does do that. Most events were practically a who’s who of the Ontario beer industry and the beers, a combination of one-offs and staples from well over 31 breweries, were pouring freely. Homebrewers tap takeover? Yep. All-ladies dessert and beer pairing? Yep. Wonderful award show? Well, of course.

Barley’s Angels, Sweets ‘n Suds: This was the first event I went to and was a LOT of fun. Black Oak Brewing beers paired with desserts from The Sassy Lamb and Jillian’s Simple Sweets at the lovely Only Cafe. It was also great to see so many women show up to a Barley’s Angels event for the first time. Stay tuned for other events by the Angels coming up…

Great Lakes Brewery Canadian Brewery of the Year Party: Held at The Loose Moose with an astonishing 20 taps, this was definitely a highlight party that gave me the chance to try a few Great Lakes beers I’ve never had before as well as FINALLY meeting the wonderful Renee from Great Lakes.

The Golden Tap Awards: What a frenzy that was. Held at Beer Bistro, the evening at the Golden Tap Awards was spent sampling some of Ontario’s finest and trying to move in the crowd of people. Was really a treat to finally meet The Beer Gypsy and see all the wonderful movers and shakers throughout the industry. Congrats to all the winners!

Canadian Beer News/Rhino screening of Beer Hunter: This event is what capped off my Toronto Beer Week experience and was such a wonderful end to it. The screening, introduced by Canadian Beer News‘ Greg Clow and author/columnist/dapper gent Stephen Beaumont, was a lovely snapshot of the life of celebrated beer writer Michael Jackson. The evening also featured wonderful food, special one-off beers made just for the event and a signing of Stephen Beaumont and Timm Webb’s latest book The Pocket Beer Guide, which I happily purchased and look forward to consulting on my travels. I have to say, this event did a wonderful job of invigorating my passion for beer. Truly unforgettable. Afterwards I went on a long walk down Queen Street West and was practically glowing.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that that was all I ended up going to for the week, but there you have it. Also, a final special thanks to The Only Cafe for being my hiding place.

And now, to keep recovering…

Actually, that’s not true. Another post will be popping up this week and next week is promising to have some fun stuff up soon, including a guest post.

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Filed under Field Trips, Uncategorized

Wait, Summer is OVER?

Folks, I’m a bit concerned. Because apparently summer is over and I feel that it went by WAY too quick to be natural. I mean…I vaguely remember the heat, people sitting in the parks, going to a couple of festivals and enjoying some wonderful pilsners, saisons and wheat beers…but now it’s all over and suddenly it’s light sweater weather and my little beer fridge is filled with Fall seasonal beers. I’m not sure if it was aliens or an alive and well Nikola Tesla screwing around with the universe, but things seem a little too…rushed, you know?

So a summer post IS coming, it is…but I just wanted to remark on how fast Fall has hit us and even hit the beer shelves.

fallbeerminds

September JUST hit and Pumpkin beers, normally a favourite of OCTOBER, are already out. A lot of them have been out since the end of August and many more are on the way soon. So with pumpkin beers coming early, we’re getting people who complain about pumpkin beers coming early and then people who complain about the people who complain about pumpkin beers coming early…and so on. Just another day on the internet.

But WHY are they coming early? Well, several reasons, but the biggest one is high demand. Despite the many people whinging about pumpkin spice being added to beer, it’s a popular autumn drink. The increased demand is forcing breweries to brew earlier so it can hit as many stores and bars as possible with some regularity for the season. I recognize that it’s a sign of the seasons being rushed (I’m one of the many to complain when I start hearing Christmas music in stores the day after Halloween), but if it’s being done to put more money in the pockets of breweries and increases the regularity of the style of the season, I’m for it.

And for those of my readers who absolutely hate the Pumpkin Beer style or are really annoyed that they are on the shelves this early, I have amazing news for you: You’re a human being capable of independent thought! You have the amazing ability to purchase whatever you want whenever you want! You prefer an IPA? Well go off and buy an IPA and may the winds bless you. Run! Run in the fields and dance the dance of life!

Happy Fall, everyone.

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Filed under seasonal, Seasonal Beers