Category Archives: Innovations

The Divination Six Pack – Beer & The Tarot

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One of the things I’m often asked to do when trying beers is to assign a particular profile to whatever it is I’m drinking. This works as a descriptor of when/where to try a beer, but like with all things that involve taste and smell, it’s entirely subjective. To me a hotdog is best enjoyed on a city block while trying to fight away pigeons, whereas to others it might be in a baseball stadium. Each person has a different ideal scenario for what they’re having and each one has a very specific kind of emotional attachment to that scenario.

But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back a couple of nights.

So I’m chatting with a friend of mine, Philosophy Professor and Occult Reality Augmentation Man-About-Town, Damien Patrick Williams about the popular method of divination, the Tarot Cards. Within that he brings up his own unique way of doing Tarot pulls that don’t involve the actual cards. Instead, he puts his music player on shuffle. When he asks his question (let’s say “How do I see myself?”), a song will come up and he’ll take in the lyrics and his emotional reaction to the song and figure out how it fits in to his question.  He feels that it works similar to the tarot, but also has the ability to provide a bit more nuance than cards, as songs can make you feel a whole mix of feelings at the same time.

This got me thinking about beer. After all, each beer has incredibly unique flavour profiles and brings about its own unique emotional response. If there was a way to create a randomized list of beers, could I do the same thing that Damien did with his music player? I decided to find out.

In creating a “deck”, I formed a list of a healthy mix of Ontario beers that were the resulted wins of the 2014 Ontario Brewing Awards, which involved three beers in each section, which was many different styles from Lite Beer to Dark IPA, to Wit Beer. To make things easier for a pull, I removed beers that either no longer existed (and that I hadn’t tried) or would be impossible for me to try in the span of a few days, leaving a grand total of 62 beers for this experiment. After making the list, I ran it through a list randomizer several times and it was complete.

To do a reading all you have to do is go to a random number generator, think about your question, and click “Generate”. Look up the number in the beer list, and then think about (or try!) the beer, noting it’s full flavour profile and what you think of it, including situations where you think it would be ideal to drink it in (and think about how you would feel about that situation, good or bad?). With those connections made, think about how they relate to your question and how they apply to you.

Removing the Tarot element of this, I feel it’s an excellent exercise in really getting to think about the connection you have with certain beers and may help you for pick out selections in the future. It’ll provide some context in your thought process and help you understand what kind of beer you want when faced with the dilemma of “what should I have?”. Additionally, this would be a really fun way to share beers with friends, as you can create a Divination 6-pack for them as a gift.

For the Ontario folks, I have this handy-dandy list pre-made, so you can use that (though feel free to make your own). For everyone else, at last we have a use for lists that web sites make! Ratebeer has a top 50 beer list section that can be customized, or you could spend an hour or so creating your own. The more there is on the list, the better. All you need is the random number generator and you’re good to go.

As for the questions, I’ve kept it simple but strong with six ones. You as you see yourself, you as others see you, your goal, recent past, near future, and ultimate outcome. As an example, I’ve done a pull of my own below. While I’m not going to give you specific aspects of my life, I have included my personal reaction to the results and have outlined the ones I feel have the strongest connection.

And here we go.

You As You See Yourself: Highlander Brew Company  Scottish Ale – A very soft-spoken beer in the public eye, but revealed to have a level of complexity due to the malts.

You As Others See You: F&M Stone Hammer Maple Red Ale – An all together solid beer and arguably one of the most solid from this particular brewery, it’s an Amber Ale brewed with locally sourced maple syrup. However, it isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Folks will either have one and never think of it again, or reach for another

Your Goal: Amsterdam Brewery – Downtown Brown – Whenever I think of Downtown Brown, I tend to think of “Balance”. While it has many of the elements of a solid, grounded brown ale, there is also a level of lightness to its taste that makes it a drink that doesn’t demand a certain atmosphere to enjoy it with. Very easy-going but grounded.

Recent Past: Molson-Coors Rickard’s White – Rickard’s White is actually a pretty good beer, but in America, where the exact beer is known as Blue Moon, it is a a beer that is constantly mistaken for something made by a smaller brewery (When in reality it’s made by one of the largest). As a result, there is a deep mistrust among the craft beer crowd and it has the image of trying to be something that it is not.

Near Future: Mill Street Frambozen – A very bright and sweet beer, ideally preferred in the sunshine. However, the taste is quite brief. (Only real personal note – Am planning a trip to Montreal soon)

Ultimate Outcome: Wellington Imperial Russian Stout – With several exceptions, I often view Imperial Stouts as the grand finale beer of a particularly trying day. With it’s dark roasted notes and slight alcohol burn, it’s a beer that’s meant to be savoured and sipped slowly. My ideal circumstance would be sitting in an easy chair with some music playing and a good book. Ultimately, with an Imperial Stout, in particular this one, I’d like to unwind from something with it. While this may not be my absolute first choice, it’s a damn good choice nonetheless.

And there you have it.

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Filed under Innovations, Learning, people I know, Tips

Cask Days 2012

Have to say, that was one enjoyable Cask Days.

Some quirks were expected, as the festival moved from the smaller Hart House to the bigger and better Evergreen Brick Works and added on an extra third session. The biggest problem was that nearly half of the 100 or so casks went empty at the third and final session, but the festival made up for it by bringing in new casks and offering $10 in cash or beer tokens to people attending.

I wasn’t around for that one, though. I went to the first session which went as smoothly as possible. The Brick Works offered amazing shelter from the rain, the delicious food was ready to go (the cured meat plate was my saviour), all the beers advertised were available (though some went quicker than others because of word of mouth) and I ended up having a lot of fun by trying new and weird beers, talking to brewers and other beer writers (some of which I’ve previously only spoken with on twitter) and chatting with strangers by comparing notes, making suggestions and in one case singing along with them to Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. Definitely a different experience from my time last year and I think, tiny tweaks to be made aside, BarVolo, the organizers of Cask Days, have matched the festival with the expectations and growing popularity of craft beer.

And now on to some of the highlight beers from the 25 or so that I sampled…

FAVOURITES:

Flying Monkeys Mark Henry Sexual Chocolate Triple Take Down Stout – Yes, that’s what they called it. This was quite a dangerous drink, as it tasted like the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had and at about 12% ABV…damn. Amazing.

R&B Brewing Cucumber & Mint American IPA – An incredibly refreshing IPA that I hope becomes available in the summer. The Cucumber offered a really nice crispness to the drink while the mint, though subtle, added a nice bite. And of course the hoppiness brought it all together.

Amsterdam Brewing Full City Tempest – Imperial Russian Stout with coffee. “Have you tried the Tempest yet? Do it now.” was pretty much all I heard for my first ten minutes at Cask Days from the brewers I ran in to and I’m glad I took their advice. Went down very smoothly and the coffee was a powerful and amazing presence.

Black Oak Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier – This…I really enjoyed it. This was the first beer I had that cleared my sinuses, burned away anything hanging around in my throat and warmed me up for the rest of the day. I went back to the cask for seconds. To give an idea of how much chipotle was in it, I’m pulling this from Alan Brown, the brewer of this beer’s, web site:

I brought a small container of perhaps 125 mL of pulverized smoked chipotle, courtesy of Chef Michael Olson of Niagara College. The question was, how much chipotle to add to 40 litres of schwarzbier? The assistant brewmaster looked at the container of chipotle, then at me, then at the container.

“Add it all,” he suggested.

“All?” I gulped.

“Sure.”

So I added it all.

Amazing. Hope to see something like that again very soon.

THE NOT-SO-FAVOURITES:

Microbrasserie Charlevoix “Chicory” Strong Porter – Just missed the mark for me. The chicory flavours was pretty minimal and the whole thing tasted rather thin.

Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater Milk Stout – A bit too thin for me (I like my stouts as thick as sludge) and WAY too sweet.

F&M Wurst Idea Ever – Sour Ale brewed with Brussel Sprouts and Smoked Meat. I know it sounds weird, but I thought the use of those two ingredients was fun. But as much as I hate sounding like a judge for Iron Chef, I felt that the beer didn’t celebrate the two ingredients, especially the brussel sprouts, well. In the end it smelled horribly and left a really bad taste in my mouth. I ended up dumping it.

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Filed under Field Trips, Innovations

My First Beer Workshop

“Aaah!  AAAHHHHH”

That was mostly the sounds coming out of me when I got in to my house just 20 minutes before I was supposed to start my first ever Thirsty Wench Beer Workshop on Google+ (concept mentioned here) at 9pm with some folks from scattered parts of the globe in attendance. The hours leading up to that involved grocery shopping, picking up the Two-Fisted Stout provided by the wonderful Amsterdam Brewery and going to C’est What for a Spearhead Brewery sampling of their Hawaiian Style Pale Ale which was a good idea in theory.  Of course I got in to a nice conversation with the sales reps and of course I ended up leaving later than I planned and by the time I got home I felt, even though I had gone through what I was going to talk about countless times, that I was pretty unprepared.  By the time my friend Cheryl came by to share the webcam with me, I had Gilbert & Sullivan playing at high volume, the beers were in the freezer and I was washing glasses with all the composure of a speed addict.  But one of the things Cheryl has always managed to do is stop me in my tracks and order me to calm down. So I did.  Kinda.

And then it started.  A little after 9pm people started trickling in and within the hour we had about six people all there to drink and talk about beer! The topic on this night was Stouts so I asked people attending to bring two different types of stouts, one Guinness (which anyone can get to act as a sort of base) and one local or “different” stout.

Aside from a few hiccups the meet went really good and the progression from one beer to the next ended up being pretty natural.  I did my best to talk about some of the more common tasting notes associated with stout and how brewers can deviate from all they want with some incredible results.  Then we tucked in to the Guinness.  What made it interesting was that we had a group of people who had occasionally had Guinness, never drank Guinness or it was there go-to drink at pubs, so to get the sometimes different taste impressions from a group of people drinking the same things was interesting along with the group coming to a general consensus on how the drink made them “feel”, which was that it represented a kind of comfortable hominess to them.

Then the second part of the workshop came to order and we all got our local/favorite stouts out.  One person brought a Yeti Imperial Stout from Great Divide Brewing Company, another bought Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout and I brought along the Two-Fisted Stout from Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery.  And hearing about the tasting notes as well as the aroma, getting a good look at the appearance of the beer int he glass (hooray for webcams!) and hearing about the personal likes and dislikes spoken not like we were all pushed in a line and forced to, but spoken as a fluid conversation with friends.

So all in all the workshop was a success!  I was relieved that so many people showed up and that I didn’t, as many first-time teachers worry about, have to spend the whole two hours talking with no interaction.  Alan, David, Max, Ian and Cheryl, you were a solid group of people!

So next up I’ll be taking down some of the notes I made from the suggestions given on how to improve the workshop as well as the dynamic.  I’m confident that the next one (I’m thinking Pale Ales) will be a lot of fun.

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Filed under Currently Drinking, Innovations

Beer Person of Note: Sam Calagione

I really have to give the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery credit for inspiring me lately.

It’s not even his beer.  To be honest, due to living in Canada, I haven’t tried any of Dogfish Head’s selection aside from Midas Touch, a beer based on a 2700 year-old recipe, when I visited NYC.  The Raison DEtre?  The Namaste? The 60 or 120 Minute IPA?  Nope, nope, nope and nope.  I want to try them in the worst possible way, but geography and lack of a car and money for travel is preventing that.

So what is it about Sam Calagione that is inspiring me?  His passion.  Say what you want about him, but he is a man who is EXCITED about beer and wants to share that excitement with the world.  He’s also one of the first people I’ve come across that actively endorses going as wild as possible with ingredients and promotes experimentation.  Sure a lot of the books I’ve read say that you can do it and it’s fun, but Sam Calagione is the first person I’ve read about who shows that it can be done and be rather tasty to boot.  And if it’s not tasty then so what?  Just keep getting out there.

But this endorsement of experimentation of beer styles isn’t just a call to other brewers.  It’s also a call to beer drinkers to try something new.  And while that’s been said many times by many people, I have to give credit to Calagione for being one of the louder voices.

As some of my readers know, the tail end of 2010 was when I started getting more interested in beer and was kind of looking at home brewing.  So it was luck, I guess, that introduced me to the existence of Calagione through the (sadly) short-lived Discovery Channel show he starred in called Brew Masters, which came out in November.  And in the few episodes it ran (still waiting on that final sixth one, Discovery Channel) I found that I got excited to try new things in both brewing and tasting beer.

Doesn’t that show look great?  It was.

While I’m currently reading and getting a lot out of his book Brewing Up A Business, the one I REALLY can’t wait to get my hands on is Extreme Brewing.  Here’s part of the book’s description:

 “While recipes are included for classic ales and lagers, Extreme Brewing emphasizes the hybrid styles that have helped put Dogfish Head’s beers on the map. Using fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, readers can create their own unique flavor combinations for truly world-class beers.”

It sounds like an amazing template book to get one started.  He makes the recipes as simple as possible so you can focus on making something unique and original.  I like that.

And that’s why I admire the man.  He loves going wild and weird with ingredients and is incredibly vocal in encouraging others to do the same.

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Google+ Beer Workshops

YES, this has to do with the topic of this blog and NO, I’m not going to add to the pile of “How Google+ should be used” posts that already have been sprouting like weeds.  This is just an idea that I was pondering that could have some legs.

So yes, Google+ is here and for the moment, it’s growing prety steadily.  I have an account and the list of people in my “circles” is growing and growing.  I won’t lie, I’m finding it interesting.  Combining elements of both twitter and facebook to create some kind of hybrid where you can communicate with multiple people of your choice.  I’m in love with the concept of “hangouts”, where you can talk to multiple people within your circles on a web cam.

So naturally, considering the international readership I have on this blog and within that account, the mind went somewhere.  BEER WORKSHOPS.

Here’s what I wrote in a public post on Google+

Here’s what we do. We choose an agreed upon style for this particular meet. We try our best to get one bottle of the same brand and one completely different (since we’d all be in different areas). We start a Hangout, sit down, I’ll talk a bit about the style, we’ll try the agreed upon brand first and discuss the finer and lesser point of it. Then we crack open our different bottles and go around the circle (as it were) and each talk about the beer we picked and its finer and lesser points.

Does that sounds good? Would anyone be interested in that?

And that’s it.  This way, we learn about the style, talk about a common beer and learn something about a beer that’s not available in our areas.  Considering that so far people that are interested are from places like Iceland, the UK, Finland and of course the US…this could be really fun.

So that’s me just putting an idea out there.  By no means am I telling you to follow me and do it.  It’s just a fun use for this new Social Media Thing.

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