Category Archives: Beer Products

TRUTHSEEKER ALERT: NEW LEGENDARY MUSKOKA ODDITY SIGHTING!!!!

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Up here in Ontario there was some excitement on my part when I found out that Muskoka Brewery’s Legendary Oddity, formally the Spring Oddity, a Belgian Ale made with Heather Tips, Juniper Berries, Sweet Orange Peel, and Candi Sugar has not only come back to the brewery’s lineup, but also evolved from their giant 750ml wine bottle to a respectable tallboy can. I was happy about this for two reasons. Firstly, that particular beer, which itself was an oddity by being one of the early Belgian-style beers in Ontario, always marked the arrival of the spring season for me. so getting it on a day where the grey clouds actually parted to reveal sunny and mildly warm weather behind them made me feel all good. As erratic as it’s been, it was a long winter.

oddddddityThe second reason I got excited was because Muskoka’s marketing for it has leaned heavily on the Cryptozoology aspect of the beer which considering its mascot, a large eagle with antlers called a “Reineagle”, is absolutely perfect to create a story and social media campaign behind. The brewery has even gone so far as to make up some photos of Oddity “sightings” which I think are really cute (Above is my own discovery, from when I was hiking in the woods).

For those who don’t know, Cryptozoology is, in absolute basic terms, the study of animals that have very little evidence of their existence, but have been seen in legends and folklore of the locality. Think the Loch Ness Monster, El Chupacabras, The Jersey Devil, Mothman, and everybody’s favourite party animal, Bigfoot.

I love Cryptozoology. Not just because it’s taking a look at local lore and seeing if there is any substance to it, but also because in this day of cynicism, where there are all sorts of conspiracy theories over governments trying to destroy the population or personally attempting to bring forth the end of times…it’s just pleasant and downright heartwarming to know there’s someone out there looking for Bigfoot just to confirm that he exists. Like, maybe for some financial gain, but mostly just doing it to see if he’s real. Reading stuff on Cryptozoology is a good way to take a break and realize that there’s a more wholesome and optimistic type of fanatic out there.

In doing some research I was disappointed to find that, while Ontario has some legendary creatures of our own, they don’t seem to excite many folks in the cryptozoological community. We have a bunch of lake monsters reported as far back as the 1800s and the odd Sasquatch kicking around, but that’s about it.

Well…actually there is one.

Wendigo1The only creature that really sticks out is the famous Wendigo, a half-man-half-monster that has its origins in the belief system of the Ojibwe, Cree, Naskapi, and Innu people and has been spotted around Northern Ontario, particularly near Kenora (Note to self, call up Lake of the Woods Brewery up there). While the legend itself varies, one thing is common, a person could transform into a Wendigo by taking part in cannibalism, a strong taboo in the Algonquian cultures, even in dire circumstances such as needing to survive the cold. The transformation would leave that person as a horrible creature of pure malevolence, obsessed with the consumption of human flesh.

For further reading on Cryptozoology, check out American Monsters by Linda Godfreys. While it puts its focus on the States, it is fun to read about creatures of air, land, and water in the regions.

Now. On to the beer.

To be honest, it’s been awhile since I’ve tried this beer. It’s been on hiatus for a while and my tasting notes are lost to time. I’m happy to note that the flavour is really….well, bright is the only way to put it. The juniper berries provide a nice tart note along with a gin-like mouthfeel (not surprising, since the berries are a key ingredient in gin), while the heather tips and orange peel do the heavy lifting making for some wonderful bitter notes. The candi sugar wraps it all up in a lovely sweet blanket and there’s a gentle jab of warmth and a fairly dry mouthfeel. All in all, it’s definitely a great welcome in to the Spring season.

Muskoka’s Legendary Oddity will be out in LCBOs on April 1.

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Filed under Beer Products, Currently Drinking, Learning, Seasonal Beers

The Long War: Big vs. Small Beer

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I think for about as long as I’ve been writing on this site, and definitely many years longer than that, there’s always been this epic war going on between smaller breweries and the big breweries. I know I definitely took part in fighting for the side of Small Craft Beer, especially when the lines were divided so distinctly between “unique, flavourful beers” and for the most part “tinted water painted up to look sexy”. It was, and still is, a thrill to see small businesses pull one over on the big corporations. It’s a sign that quality DOES matter to consumers and that each battle won, be it in the form of a growing selection at bars or stores, or in the rise of beer events, the small will always win. It’s always an aspiration and a joy to feel like Anya Major in the 1984 Apple commercial, throwing a sledgehammer at the screen broadcasting Big Brother’s word and showing the drones of people that there are other options out there and they can think for themselves.

The problem is, though, that at some point it became a war over ideals than actual quality of the product. This wasn’t helped by the fact that no one really managed to get a firm definition of exactly what “Craft Beer” is. The Brewer’s Association have one, but considering they’ve changed it so they can keep certain famed breweries under the “craft” label, it’s safe to say that their definition isn’t too great. With that, everyone has a personal ideal of what “Craft” represents. I often joke by saying that Craft Beer is the sun rising in Spring and is the warmth you feel when a loved one holds your hand. Frankly, I feel that “Craft Beer” should either be trademarked (similar to “Trappist Beer”), or left be. The definition is so broad.

workersAdditionally, the distinct line between flavours blurred as more and more the big brewing companies were purchasing smaller ones and had them continue to make the beers that made them famous, only with MUCH bigger distribution and budget behind it. Similar to when a favourite indie band signs with a big label, many fans forget that there is a business side to every art and that “selling out” is very different from “changing who signs the cheques”. Boycotts and expressions of outrage over a betrayal usually follow the news of a smaller brewery getting bought. It’s weird to see that, even though smaller breweries have won so much, many of its fans still fight as if they have everything to lose, as if everything they’ve fought for could all slip away without a moment’s notice and we’d immediately go back to The Way Things Were. For many, when we think of small breweries we think of the lone brewer skillfully working on their craft, but when we think of big breweries or breweries owned by a bigger one, our mind leaves the brewing floor and focuses on people in suits having a meeting about marketing strategies. And that IS terrifying. Our minds go back to the quality distinction and there’s this small, gripping fear that anyone picked up by a company that historically was on the wrong side of that distinction will be lost to us, drowned in watered-down piss, and emerge as one of the nameless machines that churns out mediocre brews.

Not to suggest that big brewing is blameless and doesn’t warrant that distrust. Like how Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is run by the same folks that sign off on AXE Body Spray ads with bikini-clad women, it’s hard to trust a company that is so big that they have sections that cater to things you’re both for and against. I love sitting down at a patio with a nicely made beer, but I hate being at an event where nightclub partiers scream and fall down with a beer-case cardboard hat on their heads. And yet big breweries are in this position where they are able to comfortably sell to both sides of that market. Along with that and actively engaging in offence and deceit tactics, as a consumer I totally get how someone could look at that and not want to support it.

For myself and many others, there’s been a few things we’ve had to do. Firstly is to acknowledge that everyone has different tastes (duh). Secondly is to put the politics aside and see how the beers stand up along with the others we’ve enjoyed. While Miller Light, Coors, Bud, and Molson Canadian will always be passed on for me, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout and IPA, Rickard’s Lederhosen Oktoberfest, and Pilsner Urquell will always be considered damn good beer. Just like a beer being “craft” doesn’t mean it’s a good beer, the same goes the other way for big beer. It’s not all yellow water with a flavour note of “cold”.

But hey, you’re all adults capable of making informed choices. I certainly don’t want you to choose sides, though as a personal rule that doubles as a compromise, I’m more prone to give local smaller breweries my money and attention while knowing that if I find myself in a spot, a good quality big beer is handy if I need it and they can work great as “old reliables”. From a variety within the brewery perspective, I’ll get some amazing limited one-offs from local breweries. Big breweries? Not as much.

There are many wars being fought in regards to beer. But I do feel that with the way things have been going, with big brewing companies courting smaller breweries and trying their best to embrace some of the adventurous spirit in those brewers, small beer has won the war on flavour. How that victory will continue to take shape is something we’ll discover as time goes on.

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An Unexpected Brewery – Central City’s Hobbit Beers

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Considering that I’m writing this post with the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack playing and a replica of the One Ring To Rule Them All hanging from a silver chain around my neck, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. The world, the languages, the beautiful stories that go on throughout his books are nothing short of masterpieces for me. While my preference tends to lie with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s children’s book sibling, The Hobbit, has a special place in my heart as a book that I would escape to when the trials and pressures of being a Grade Fiver would get to me (not a joke, there were plenty). So when a movie trilogy based on the book was being made I was optimistic. The movies are great. They’re no Lord of the Rings (Extended OR theatrical), but they’re fantastic films all the same, that capture many of the characters, in particular the company of Dwarves, in a way that really made the fifth grader in me smile.

So it’s with that same level of optimism I had when I learned that Central City Brewers + Distillers out of Surrey, B.C. would be making a series of beers based on The Hobbit films. The beers would essentially be a Canadian version of Olympia, Washington brewer Fish Brewing Co.‘s Hobbit beers, with Central City using their recipe. So Canada would have a beer based on a movie based on a book that is based on an American beer based on a movie based on a book. The thought of adaptation in this is very interesting and I’m sure that Central City adapted as well as changed slightly to create a series of beers that is altogether unique.

I’m actually a huge fan of beers based on franchises, since the name attached tends to, not totally unlike Bilbo Baggins, get people not inclined to be adventurous with beer to try something new. However, there were a few hurdles to overcome, the big one of these being timing. Fish Brewing came out with their beers in the Fall of last year, which left Central City racing to get their beers finished and out in time for the release of the final Hobbit film. And as an Ontario resident I’d like to add my personal gripe of the beers being available in all provinces of Canada EXCEPT Ontario, with the LCBO deciding not to go with it for reasons that I can only speculate on (hooray).

But anyways! You aren’t here to read my Ontario Retail System slashfic, you came to read about these Hobbit beers! Let’s get to them!

Bolg Belgian Tripel (9.5% ABV): The albino Orc Azog is one of the primary antagonists in the Hobbit film, having killed Thorin Oakensheild’s grandfather, the king under the mountain by beheading him. Thorin managed to cut off his arm, but Azog merely retreated and was able to hunt down his nemesis Thorin with his son Bolg. But the movie actually demoted Bolg, whose father is long dead and is merely mentioned by name in the book, with his son actually being the Orc leader of the Misty Mountains and leader of the Goblins of Moria.

All that to mean that for whatever reason, Bolg’s role in The Hobbit is one of the more problematic and ill-conceived (at least in the movie version). He doesn’t totally work and, I’m afraid, the beer, a belgian tripel, doesn’t either. To its credit, it starts out with promise. Both aroma and taste have some lovely notes of honey, dried fruit, and cloves in them. But the taste falls apart at the end, when things get far, far too bitter.

The Precious Pils (5% ABV): Oooooh we likes it, Precious! We likes it! The colour is golden like the Precious! Golden, Precious! Very balanced, it is, with slight grainses and a clean finish, Precious! The dry note at the end is especially good!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

As it warms the dryness grows, but we still likes it, Precious! We likes it! All ours! Forever and ever!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

Smaug Stout (8.5 ABV): “Revenge! Revenge! The King under the Mountain is dead and where are his kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons’ sons that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!”

With a quote like that, you would expect that a beer named after a huge, heavily armoured dragon, especially Smaug, to be pretty damn big. So it’s with no surprise whatsoever that it’s an 8.5% ABV Imperial Stout with Habanero Chilis was created to honour the Dragon who took over the Lonely Mountain.

The aroma sets up a really good expectation, as the chilis come out very prominently, followed closely with its friends cocoa and coffee. The taste is incredibly creamy and smooth. Very well-balanced. A bit disappointing, as the chili notes in the flavour was a lot more subtle than the aroma led me to think it would be, but that aside, it’s an incredibly well put together stout.

All in all, two of the three offerings blew me away. The pilsner is a thing of beauty and the Smaug Stout is an incredibly close second.

Now go gather some of your close Dwarf and Hobbit friends, pour a drink, and sing a song. Or read the book together. Whichever works.

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“Hey, ho, to the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe!
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
But there still beeeeee many miles to go!

Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And stream that falls from hill to plain!
Better than rain or rippling brook,
Is a mug of beer inside this Took!

Strange and dark is the world outside,
But in the pub we’ve naught to hide!
With lots of ale, and barley wine,
This evenin’ is surpassin’ fine!

Harvest’s in and cold without,
An’ hobbits strong are hobbits stout!
Naught to fear, and naught to think,
For hobbits nowwww have ale to drink!”

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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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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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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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Premium Near Beer – A Look at Quality Non-Alcoholic Beers

WAIT NO COME BACK TRUST ME READING THIS WILL BE WORTH IT.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way, first. Non-Alcoholic beer get a bad rap. You know it, I know it. We’ve all tried it at one point or another, went to a store, got a little curious about a Beck’s non-alcoholic beer and gave it a try…only to spit the first mouthful in the sink, throw the remainder out the window and set your house on fire in protest. It’s happened. The Quest for non-alcoholic beer has been pretty futile and fraught with peril for designated drivers, religious folk, people that want the taste but not the buzz, and folks with medical conditions that prevent them from having an alcoholic beverage. Sadly, it seems that the taste notes are pretty much the same for all of them. Basically water, sickly sweet, you wouldn’t even know it was trying to taste like beer. What’s even worse is that crap like that are the most common sold, which hasn’t helped non-alcoholic beer’s reputation in a world that stupidly provides social alienation for people who don’t drink alcohol (And really, if you are That Person who shames someone for not drinking alcohol for any reason, close this window and don’t come back. You aren’t welcome here).

While us in other parts of the world have been frustrated by the horrible Near-Beers out there, Germany as well as a few other countries who have seen the potential, have been making a hell of an industry of making some pretty high-quality non-alcoholic brews, with many traditional breweries making non-alcoholic versions of their flagship beers and some even being a strictly non-alcoholic brewery. There’s clearly a demand for quality in this style and they’re doing very well, which isn’t so surprising when you give a good hard think about how many people actually can’t drink alcoholic beverages.

Some fun facts about these beers:

– Legally, any beer up to 0.5% ABV is considered non-alcoholic. For some perspective, that’s pretty much in line with the natural alcohol content of things like grape juice.

– The history of  “near beer”  can date as far back as the middle ages, when it was made as a better substitute for the putrid, disease-ridden water that nobody in their right mind would drink.

– Non-alcoholic beer gained popularity during the Temperance Movement throughout the world and during Prohibition in the US where many breweries managed to stay in business by making them. It was during the Prohibition years where the style really got huge and the flavour of nearly water and very sweet gained popularity. Plus at the time you could drink one right in front of Eliot Ness and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do.

– Non-alcoholic beer is usually made like normal beer, aside from one step at the end where alcohol extraction takes place. Depending on the method, this can greatly change the taste of the beer.

– In 1966 Swiss brewery Hurlimann developed a special yeast that would yield a low alcohol amount during fermentation. However, since Birell Pale Lager is 0.8% ABV, legally it is considered Low-Alcoholic beer.

Here in Toronto a new service has opened up called Premium Near Beer. It offers a wide selection of International award-winning non-alcoholic beers for a decent price. The founder, Ted Fleming, whose diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease prompted him to explore the landscape of non-alcoholic beers, saw the more common products out there lacking in flavour and quality. So he did what any reasonable person in his situation would do. He let out a resolute sigh, went out, and…had a selection of quality, award-winning non-alcoholic beers brought in, opened up an online shop and made it so anyone in the area who orders can get it delivered right to their door. Oh, and brought on Cicerone, Prud’homme Beer Sommelier, Beer Scribe, and at the time a soon-to-be mother Crystal Luxmore to go over the selection and provide professional tasting notes that added some weight to the claims of high quality. And indeed some of the non-alcoholic selection carries a hell of a rep with it. Clausthaler Premium, for instance, won a World Beer Award for best non-alcoholic lager. And soon Premium Near Beer hopes to be getting in Nanny State, by UK beer heavyweights BrewDog. Known for their huge beers that are high in the percentage rate, this beer, tipping in at 0.5% ABV, is made with eight different malts and five different hops.

Premium Near Beer has a few plans. Firstly, of course, is to get an interest in the service and take as many orders as they can while also getting more quality brews in. Beyond that, they would like to see the landscape change in favour of non-alcoholic beers and the social stigma surrounding them fade. Another ideal goal would be to develop enough interest to get local breweries interested enough to make a quality non-alcoholic brew. I admit, I’d love to see Amsterdam or Great Lakes, or any of the others at least try and take on that challenge. Perhaps even do a non-alcoholic version of My Bitter Wife, which has a drawing of the Temperance Movement’s Carrie Nation on the label.

Most of the bottles available are only available in 24 packs, with the option to get a mixed pack if you can’t decide on just one. Currently they deliver to Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, & Aurora, with  free delivery in the area for orders over $100. If you have any questions on deliveries beyond Toronto, the province of Ontario, or the country of Canada, feel free to contact them and hopefully something can be worked out. These beers ARE available internationally, so while it may be hard to get a hold of them, it’s not impossible. Unless you live in Germany, where most of these beers are from, in which case…uh…just go to the store.

And folks, Ted Fleming brought a sample 6-pack to my house and, after sampling them, I must say that I’m turned around on what I thought non-alcoholic beer was about. As Moss in the IT Crowd says, “Every value I’ve ever held is being questioned and I’m loving it”. While the pack was pretty hit and miss, I should say that the hits were pretty solid hits and the misses were just simply not to my tastes. Here are my notes from each of them.

Krombacher Pils (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – The first one of the six I had and it officially blasted any misconceptions I had about non-alcoholic beer. Beautiful grain aroma with solid malt flavours and a dry finish that leads you wanting more. Crisp and wonderful. Definitely on par with some of the highly regarded Pilsners I’ve had.

Krombacher Wheat (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – Beautiful cloudy gold colour that is so wonderful about wheat beers. Big head that died down a bit. Aroma is bananas and cloves, which carries in to the taste. This is a little on the sweet side for me, but still…I’d put this up against many of its alcoholic siblings and it would do really well. Dry finish on the end leaves me wanting more. While I might not order a case of 24, I will have a second.

Sagres Lager (Central de Cervejas, Portugal, 0.3% ABV) – Incredibly light straw colour. Taste is almost that of an incredibly dry cider, but finished off with an intense maltiness. Still good, but by the end I was still thinking about the Krombacher Pils. Very carbonated, which added to the dry flavour.

Gerstel Lager (Gerstel, Germany, 0.5% ABV)  – Sweet, grassy aroma and incredibly malty taste. Nice mellow grain taste in the middle and ends with an abrubtly dry finish. Barely any aftertaste to it, which made me want to try more.

Clausthaler Golden Amber (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.4% ABV) – My least favourite of the bunch. Beautiful amber colour, but a bubblegum taste mixed with something metallic. The hoppy finish is nice, but doesn’t quite save it for me and I’m left with a kind of chemical layer of…something on my tongue.

Clausthaler Premium Lager (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.45% ABV) – I can’t fairly review this one, as it seems that in transit the (green) bottle came in contact with some sunlight and the entire beer went skunky. But hey, it won a World Beer Award for Best Non-Alcoholic Lager, so I’m sure it’s lovely.

Both the Krombacher Wheat and Pils are beers that I would keep regularly stocked in my fridge. They both have a beautiful aroma and refreshing taste with flavour notes that hold a bloody sword up to the thought of non-alcoholic beers being sugar water only consumed by rubes. I found both those beers very surprising and was glad that the quality of the taste didn’t take a back seat. They are both beers, and I say beers including the alcoholic ones, done right.

 

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