Monthly Archives: April 2014

Geeked-Out Beers

Regular readers here will know that I’m a bit of a nerd. Mainly, I love video games, MST3K, Star Trek, and comics. So it’s always a lot of fun when my nerdy side meets my beer geeky side by some rather awesome brew ideas. The following are two of the more interesting geeky beers available right now.

NOTE: I should say that I wanted to include one of the Game of Thrones beers put out by Ommegang Brewery and HBO, but I was saddened to find that the two stores I went to find it in no longer had it in stock. I promise I’ll talk about it as soon as I can find a bottle, though I’m a bit nervous about pairing it with EVERYONE I LOVE DYING. 

First up we have Vulcan Ale, a contract brew put out by the Federation of Beer for the centennial celebrations of the town of Vulcan, Alberta and as such, the only officially licensed Star Trek Beer. Before you get in a tizzy, YES I KNOW VULCANS DON’T USUALLY DRINK ALCOHOL AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF IT WAS ROMULAN ALE. We know. I know. Every time I mention this beer to people they say the same thing. I’m not going to pull a “it’s just a show you should really just relax”, but I will say to allow a bit of suspension of disbelief because it was for the town of Vulcan, Alberta, and you’ll notice that Spock did partake in a few alcoholic celebrations and the planet does have it’s own Brandy so it may be in the realm of possibility that there is a small brewery on the planet Vulcan. Maybe.

The beer was brewed by Montana-based brewery Harvest Moon Brewing Company and brought in by importers Delancey Direct (I know, I know, I laughed too, but it’s the wrong spelling). To reflect the colour of the red planet Vulcan, the brewery decided to go with an Irish Red Ale. It’s running at about 5.4% ABV and sold in individual cans at a little over $3 each (depending where you’re at).

I have to admit, I got a bit too excited when this beer came out here in Ontario and decided to put my special Star Trek socks on, a t-shirt that a friend bought me, and put on a season one episode of Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) just to see how it would pair with the drink. And oddly enough…it went well. The beer wasn’t quite what I was expecting, very English influenced. Mild caramel taste with a sweetness at the end that feels kind of weird. In the end I found it matched the original show perfectly, having a sweet warmth enveloping it while at the same time the various complexities are there for you to discover and think about. While it is a little to sweet for my tastes, it’s an excellent beer as mild as the Chief Science Officer himself.

The Federation of Beer has a plan to do an ongoing series with the Star Trek beers. Next up will be a Rye Dunkelweizen by Tin Man Brewing of Evansville, Indiana called Klingon Warnog (which actually is a traditional Klingon Ale, normally very clear in colour), which will be the first of the Star Trek beers to hit the United States. Needless to say, I’m excited to try a glorious Klingon beer to quaff after a good battle where many friends died well. Iwllj jachjaj!

I should mention that, although it may be due to understaffing or not enough of a budget, I feel that the Federation of Beer really dropped the ball on the marketing of the nationwide launch. It was released in the LCBO with barely a whisper from them and any questions I had sent were either met with no reply. And so far there doesn’t seem to be any word on Star Trek Day celebrations, which strikes me as an easy tie-in. But whatever, that’s just my opinion. LLAP.

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Second up is the latest offering from Mill Street Brewery here in Toronto. As part of their Summer pack, they decided to let their brewpub in Ottawa have a go at making a summer sipper and the result is an amber ale with lime and chipotle called Palomar Ale (pictured above). The beer is, if you didn’t pick up on it, named after the fictional town in Mexico that the famous Hernandez Brothers comic Love & Rockets took place in.

Firstly, I really have to give credit to Mill Street on the reference. It was awesome to hear how geeky the Ottawa crew is along with how much of a long time fan of the Hernandez Brothers the seemingly mild-mannered brewmaster Joel Manning is. Of all the breweries to make a Love & Rockets reference I never would have figured Mill Street to be the one to make it. Bra-freaking-vo.

As for the beer itself, it’s rather tasty. Nice grain tone to it with some crisp bitterness that is complemented by the gorgeous taste of lime. The chipotle is…definitely on the subtle side, being present only as a slight tingle of heat at the back of the throat at the end of tasting. I’m kind of curious to see how this will go in the blisteringly hot summer, as this strikes me as a little too malty for a the season. But then again, I’ve been proven wrong before. All in all, the lime was definitely the star of the show and it was quite enjoyable to sit on my porch in the somewhat cool Spring day. I think I may drink this while watching some wrestling.

 

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The Beer Store & Bad PR: Kill the Thrill

I normally don’t post too much on local news, but this…this was a bit too tempting to resist. And the thing that started it all made me so annoyed, that rather than just rant on social media, I decided to take it to this site to get everything in one place.

So if you’re just joining us, here in Ontario there is a bit of a debate going on between The Beer Store and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) over selling beer and wine in convenience stores. The Beer Store, owned by Molson-Coors, Labatt, and Sleeman, are, aside from Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores, the only other place you can buy beer in the province of Ontario. Since it’s owned by three mega-beer corporations, you can probably take a wild guess as to what kind of beers you’re most likely to find there and you’d be right to assume that if you’re a small brewer who wants shelf space at their stores, you will not be able to afford it.

So the OCSA wants to open up the market and allow selling of beer and wine in convenience stores. The Beer Store, obviously enjoying the profits it makes on being pretty much the only game in town, is understandably doing everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. And so, The Beer Store had a few meetings and Ontario Beer Facts was born, “Providing Ontarians with important facts on the consequences of selling beer, wine and hard liquor at corner stores and gas stations.”. The problem is that the facts they give…well, they aren’t really facts. Any points they give can mostly be slapped away by the OCSA or anyone at all who decides to take five minutes to look in to both organizations. Nevertheless, they still trudge on, taking advantage of people’s fear and stupidity as they move ahead. One such move on their part has been particularly offensive.

So above is an ad that The Beer Store just put out, showing the careless Convenience store clerk knowingly selling alcohol to minors. It’s an ad that harkens back to late-80s-early-90s PSAs about drug use and if it wasn’t officially backed by The Beer Store, I’d think it was a joke made by a parody account. The underlying point the video was trying to make was “You can not trust shopkeepers to sell this stuff. The Beer Store’s employees are specially trained so they can sell alcohol responsibly”. Which ok, I can see how that might be a good point to go with…but what if we made it so Ontario shopkeepers who want to sell alcohol in their stores be required to get SmartServe Certification? No one serving drinks in the province can work without one and the penalties for violating are harsh enough for shopkeepers to not want to even chance it. It’s a good response and one that Beer Store President Ted Moroz can’t quite answer back with anything.

Bottom line: No one is taking this new ad seriously at all and there are many people who are actively boycotting The Beer Store because of it’s blatant attempt at fearmongering to keep their profits flowing. If that makes you angry, good. It should make you angry. 

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So with that busted, the OCSA should have it pretty easy PR-wise, but…well, they’re being kind of disappointing. They have so many things on their side: family-owned business, an active support of local Ontario wines and beers, actual FACTS…but they aren’t using them, instead taking the time to snark on The Beer Store for being wrong, and that’s it. I voiced my frustration and asked questions to the OCSA and was asked to call them, but…I’m just annoyed because I shouldn’t have to call them. I shouldn’t have to dig for answers to detailed questions because they should be shouting them out to whoever will listen as their opposing argument.

In the end, we’re left in the middle of a PR mudfight between two Ontario giants and the only reason people are going with the OCSA is because they aren’t The Beer Store. I’m just suggesting that people should be going with the OCSA because they very clearly offer ________ and _________ and some ________. I suppose I’ll dig and let you folks know how it went.

In the meantime, for more amazing coverage on this debate, read Toronto writer Ben Johnson’s posts on the topic and check out Sun columnist Jordan St. John’s blog for updates. Jordan recently got sick of the commissioned reports brought out by both sides and actually got the ball rolling on an independent survey.

In the meantime, let the message stand to not trust bad PR. Call them out on it. Ask questions. Show them that you aren’t an idiot.

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So I’m a SAVEUR Magazine Best Food Blog Awards Winner

 

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Well. Uh. Wow.

So as you recall, I recently got nominated for the Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Awards in the category of Beer & Wine. I was up against some very talented writers and was…

Ah the hell with this, I WON! I won. Reader’s Choice. I feel weird saying it. I’m still in a bit of shock. My phone has been having a stroke with the flood of texts, e-mails, and notifications of people suddenly following this little site.

SAVEUR is flying me in to Vegas and putting me up at the Bellagio. I’ll be there for two days sampling some of the finest foods and will be presented with a customized award. I’m going to try and make it in to a few choice craft beer bars while I’m there as well. Anyone who has any suggestions, please put them in the comments. Freakin’ Frog is the only one I know.

So wow. I’ll have more to say on this later, but as it stands I’m still expecting this to be a part of a really crappy episode of the Twilight Zone.

To Longtime Readers: You did this. Thank you all so much for reading. Like I said in my birthday post, if it wasn’t for you, I’d have stopped this long ago.

For New Readers: Hi there. My name is Robin LeBlanc. I live in Toronto and write about beer. Here are a few posts that give a good feel for who I am and how I write:

 

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The Thirsty Wench Turns 3

I started The Thirsty Wench for a number of reasons. The first was to create a kind of journal of what I was learning in the world of beer while at the same time showing my friends, who at that point were sending me e-mails at 3am with a pdf of the menu of a bar they were at asking me what drink they should order, what I was learning so they could make their own decisions and take in the same knowledge I was taking in. The more I learned about some of the more practical aspects of choosing and drinking a beer, the more I would write, boiling it all down in a way that even the most casual of readers could take in. I wanted my writing style to be the same as if I was talking directly to the reader in a pub. No bombarding of too many details, just some decent facts, practical examples of how to use them, and a few jokes because hey, this stuff is fun. It’s a kind of philosophy that I still try and write by.

If you had told me three years ago that this site would be at the level it is now, I would have laughed. Hell, if you had told me three years ago that I would have paid money for the domain name, I would have laughed. This was always a casual and fun thing and any level of fame the site got has always been a surprise to me. Being a regular guest on Rogers Daytime Toronto, being featured in NOW Magazine’s Beer Guide, getting interviewed for radio, being asked to speak on several panels…it’s great, it’s wonderful, and I’m honoured to have been showcased in these ways, but I can’t help but laugh in disbelief. I guess I’m still waiting for Rod Serling to pop out of some bushes and tell me it was all a dream.

Disbelief aside, beer has been good to me. It constantly surprises me and reveals new things about it every day that keeps me smiling. Through it I’ve also met an incredible community of people who are welcoming, supportive, and engaging, with our common love bringing us closer together and making the world feel a little smaller (Really, beer is a subject that, for me, has made complete strangers longtime friends). Beer is a wonderful thing on its own, but what makes it so amazing and special to me are the experiences and people around it. For those that are a part of that, thank you.

This site has been good to me as well, connecting me with more and more readers every week, all with their own stories, opinions, and suggestions. If it wasn’t for readers like you, I would have stopped this long ago. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

tl;dr, You’re all amazing superstars and I’m very grateful. Thank you.

Happy Birthday, Thirsty Wench.

Myron, take it away.

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So I’m A SAVEUR Best Food Blog Awards Finalist…uh…again!

This is a bit late, since I’ve been dealing with computer troubles and catching up on things with a clunky mobile unit, but…earlier this week the nominees for Saveur Magazine’s 5th Annual Best Food Blog Awards were announced and yours truly is a finalist in the category of Wine & Beer!

I’m really honoured to be considered once again in the awards by the editors of Saveur and feel I’m among very talented company in the category. Of course it would be amazing to win, but the fact that I got nominated is an honour in itself.

So how can you help? Well, as I understand it things have changed around from last year and there is going to be two winners in each category. One for Reader’s Pick, and one for Editor’s Pick.

For readers, all you have to do is go to the Category page, find me (I’m #5 in the Best Wine or Beer Blog category), click “VOTE FOR THIS BLOG”, go through a quick and painless registration process, and that’s it! All is done! Best part? Saveur won’t even send you anything for doing that, so don’t worry. Voting closes on APRIL 9TH, so hurry!

However this plays out, I want to again say what a thrill and honour it is to be considered for this award for a second time. It’s a good indication that somewhere along the line I’ve done something right.

 

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