Category Archives: Seasonal Beers

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

oddity2

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.

Advertisements

2 Comments

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

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.

landa2

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.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Beer Products, Seasonal Beers

In Space No One Can Hear You Review A Beer: Half Pints Brewing Co.’s Black Galaxy

logo

Whenever friends of mine let me know they’re heading to Winnipeg to see friends (And dear god, that happens more than you would think), they always ask for a local brewery recommendation and with no pause whatsoever my response is always “Half Pints Brewing”. There are others in Winnipeg and definitely in the whole province of Manitoba, but Half Pints is the one I always suggest because they have been leading the charge on well-crafted beers since 2006 when co-owners Nicole Barry and David Rudge opened their doors as part of a grand plan to open a brewery by their early 30s.

With Rudge as Brewmaster and Barry putting her extensive accounting and business administration background to good use as the brewery’s CEO, Half Pints have slowly and steadily made their mark on the minds of beer drinkers in the province of Manitoba and beyond. From being fiercely active in their local community (one instance of note is creating “Queer Beer”, a special beer for the Winnipeg Pride Festival with proceeds of sales going to Pride Winnipeg), to consistently coming out with new and exciting beers, Half Pints stands as a good example of creative brewing and cunning business sense.

Flagships include St. James Pale Ale, Bulldog Amber Ale, Stir Stick Stout, and the incredibly popular Little Scrapper IPA. Their market includes Saskatchewan, BC, Alberta, and of course Manitoba, with the occasional feature in the eastern provinces as well. If you find yourself in Winnipeg, the brewery also does tours every Saturday starting at 1pm.

1601307_681922288535481_1551725549_nI was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of their newest limited release, the Black Galaxy, a Black IPA finished off with, you guessed it, Galaxy Hops. The beer has been a popular March feature since it first came out in 2012 and has had Half Pints fans shaking with anticipation ever since. The beer is about 6% ABV and is being sold at the brewery itself along with selected stores while quantities last.

…And I have to say that it’s a comfortable and strong beer. Normally when I have a Black IPA I get a lot of roasted coffee notes at the end, and while I certainly start to get the malty notes as it warms in the glass, if I was blinded in an accident and drank this beer I wouldn’t guess that it was so dark in colour. I say this because despite its colour  it’s a very bright beer. The tropical fruit notes of the Galaxy hops comes out nicely in the aroma, and those same notes come out strongly in the taste. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to think of a dark beer release so close to Spring, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t fit the season nicely. If I’m going to borrow from the space theme this beer takes on, the aroma and taste are two bright stars in an otherwise dark space.

It’s fun to see this beer unwrap itself while drinking it, going from a bright and tropical IPA while cold and ending up as a slightly roasted hoppy dark beer as it warms.

This isn’t the first time a Half Pints beer has made me smile at my glass and say “Well, look at you!” and I doubt it will be the last. While I have no clue when I’ll next be in Winnipeg, I’ll be sure to keep this on my list of destinations when I’m there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Currently Drinking, people I know, Seasonal Beers

Dark Ontario Beers for Dark Ontario Winters

Well, if the shortened days, snow, and respectable low temperatures are anything to go by (and I think they are), it would seem that winter is finally here. This means a lot of things. Coffeeshops are switching to peppermint everything, stores are playing Christmas songs to cause a kind of insanity among the public, and, of course, the darker beers are rolling in. Seasonal or not I like my dark beers during the winter. I find that, like a hot chocolate or mug of coffee, these beers add to the experience of warming up by a roasting fire indoors and laughing at whatever poor soul is walking in the snowstorm (don’t judge, I know you do it too).

The beers here are just a sample of some of the quality Ontario brews that are coming out right now that go well with fires, sweaters and perhaps a couple of jingling bells. A few of these can also be aged in the cellar for a couple of years, where they will be perfect for sharing with friends, giving as gifts, or used as an emergency escape from family gatherings.

Nutcracker Porter (Black Oak Brewing, 5.8% ABV): The notes of cinnamon and nutmeg in this already make it a winner for what to drink when you just get in from the cold. Pretty intense coffee notes with a nice cocoa finish. Glad that it’s in the LCBO, but it’s definitely a great experience to have on tap. If you’re in the area, Black Oak is hosting a Porter and Pie party at the brewery on December 14th, so you can get a good feel on what food this beer would pair well with.

Winterbeard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout 2012 (Muskoka Brewery, 8% ABV), A beer I always look forward to in winter and this year the folks at Muskoka seem to have done a favour for people who don’t have the space for cellars and aged a batch of last year’s Winter Beard for you with an LCBO release. And it turns out that a year does a lot to the beer, with the cranberry notes rising up slightly and the chocolate notes calming down a bit. As a bonus, if you’re ever near the Brewery off the highway near Bracebridge, see if they have any bottles of Winter Jack left. An unforgettable beer that has their 2011 Winterbeard aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels for a year. Both are excellent winter warmers.

Barrel Aged Double Tempest Imperial Stout (Amsterdam Brewing, 14% ABV): This will be making an official launch at the Amsterdam BrewHouse on Saturday at 1pm. A gorgeous beer, but something of a beast at 14%. Really though, that just means you should share this amped up version of Amsterdam’s Tempest or save it for a day when Cabin Fever starts to take hold.  Beautiful, rich coffee and cocoa notes with a hint of dried fruit and toffee. The Five Roses Bourbon Barrels that it aged in adds a gorgeous burn to it. A slightly dry finish that rounds things off nicely. Slight aftertaste of chocolate lingers around the taste buds for a while.

Vanilla Porter (Mill Street Brewery, 5% ABV): You know, I have really fond memories of this beer. It must have been two years ago in mid-December and I was walking from my work to the Dominion on Queen for a Ukulele jam (I swear, this was before they became a Thing) during a particularly horrible storm. When I finally got in, I was drenched from coat to bone and shivering. Not really knowing what to order, the Mill Street Vanilla Porter hit my fancy and I had one. The sweet chocolaty taste and the warming vanilla extract notes and the creamy head that comes with nitrogen-charged beer can bring made this absolutely perfect. I went back for seconds. And then thirds. Much to my absolute joy, Mill Street finally gave in to the demand and gave it a can release available at LCBOs now.

Triple Chocolate Manifesto Triple Chocolate Milk Stout (Flying Monkeys, 10% ABV):  I once described their previous effort, the BNL Double Chocolate Imperial Stout as a chocolate cake in alcoholic liquid form. My thoughts on the Triple Chocolate Manifesto are similar to that, only with, yes I’m serious, more chocolate. Made with Cacao nibs and Cacao powder, this beer is almost like drinking a bunch of Brown Cow chocolate syrup. Definitely a sipper to have with family and should most definitely be put on vanilla ice cream.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Seasonal Beers

“The Cider Geeks Are Excited” – Canadian Beer News & The Rhino’s Fall Beer & Cider Fest

Last year I went to a Winter Beer festival that I considered one of the most refreshing festivals I’ve attended. It was pretty low-key and casual, but featured an incredible selection of new and interesting beers. It was in a wonderful space as well, which allowed people to sit down or walk around talking to each other. It was relaxing, eclectic and appealed to hardcore beer geek and interested newcomer alike.

And on Sunday Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News and the folks at The Rhino Bar & Grill did it all again for Fall and decided to include a wonderful feature of Ontario ciders on top of it.

With a total of 58 beers and 11 Ontario ciders listed, this proved to be a fun event and a nice sampling of what Ontario’s alternatives are to the syrupy apple juice one usually finds in liquor stores.

The clear highlight of the day for me was the West Avenue Cider Company, run by Husband-and-wife team Chris Haworth and Amy Robson. The Cidery is only in their first year, but has been making a big splash with one-off ciders, this event in particular featuring Barrett Fuller’s Secret Bourbon-Barrel Aged Cider, with a rich bourbon aroma and lovely vanilla taste notes and the Smash Me Up Butternut Cask-Conditioned Pumpkin Cider, which tasted like a  homemade mulled cider I would expect from a beloved Somerset family member with an age-old secret recipe.

And with plans to increase their production by 300% and make ciders with more select, quality ingredients, West Avenue is a Cidery I’ll be keeping my eye on.

A tip of the hat and a rising of the glass goes to Greg Clow and The Rhino for pulling off another wonderful event that I’ll always be looking forward to.

Leave a comment

Filed under Field Trips, people I know, Seasonal Beers

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.

2 Comments

Filed under seasonal, Seasonal Beers

The Quest For Fire: Ginger Beers (featuring Liberty Village Brewing Co.)

When I was a kid and went to the grocery store with my dad to help (which I think at that time was trying to charm him in to buying a box of Count Chocula), we would always get a few bottles of Ginger Beer. It was non-alcoholic of course, and the name of our favourite brand escapes me. It came in little stubby bottles and I think there was a sea captain or a pirate on the logo. We would always have it with a spicy dish, or sometimes even with my mom’s famous Crackers Chicken, where the fiery burn of the ginger would go perfectly with the slight hint of squeezed lemon from the chicken. My dad and I would have a sort of contest to see how much of the ginger beer we could drink in one go before the burn would finally get to us and we would cough with tears in our eyes. I always lost. Well, come on I was like, FIVE.

Anyone who knows me in person knows that while I really love beers with such graceful and subtle tasting notes, I also love an assault on my senses. A beer that makes your eyes bulge and leaves you whimpering for some water. A somewhat recent example was in October at Cask Days where one of my favourite beers there was “Call of Brewty Black Chipotle Schwarzbier” by Black Oak. Basically, the brewer, Alan Brown, just dumped a crap load of smoked Chipotle in to about 40 litres of beer. The end result was something that cleared the senses, dissolved any phlegm or foodstuff in your throat and made you gasp for breath. I really enjoyed it and after my initial half pint I went back for a full one.

Okay, so there’s some context for this.

With all that said, I’ve found it quite difficult to find an alcoholic Ginger Beer that I love. Which really sucks, since spring is sorta-kinda here and the nice warmth of the ginger in a beer can really match the season well. I can’t even find something that meets me halfway and provides a mild, ginger-forward burn. Crabbie’s? Might as well be soda pop. Wychwood’s Ginger Beard? A sugary disappointment. I’m sure there are good ones out there in the world, but being in Ontario with fun little laws about that stuff, I can’t really get access to it.

Annoyed by the lack of great ginger beers available to me, I did what almost every person in their 20s in North America does when they have a minor gripe: I complained on twitter.

I was genuinely surprised that Ginger Beers weren’t a thing in the province let alone the city of Toronto but, always eager to be corrected or proved wrong, I asked if anyone had any leads. It was then that the folks at Liberty Village Brewing Co. responded.

Liberty Village Brewing are a new brewery here in Toronto and are named after the beautiful old district of the city where they will also be located soon. With their first batch, 504 Pale Ale, just having been put on kegs early this week after brewing it at Junction Craft Brewing, the beer promises to be an excellent addition to the Toronto beer scene along with several homebrew efforts that will make it out as one-offs or seasonals. Among them a beer made with Gummi Bears, a Gose and…a Black Ginger Beer named “Exodus”.

Intrigued, I met up with Steve Combes from the brewery, who gave me a bottle of Exodus and told me a little bit about it, how it was a tribute to Reggae music and that the opinion of some at the brewery was that the ginger notes were too harsh. I was excited and tried it that night.

And you know…it was really interesting and the closest I’ve come to the flavours that I seek in a good Ginger Beer. The darkness of the beer was a bit of a wild card and very interesting to experience, as was the coffee and slight chocolate notes that came with it and, really, were the star of the show, but right in the back there, almost like a harsh, burning ember keeping a fire alive, or a slumbering old god waiting, was the ginger in all it’s strong and firey glory. Although things may have changed since I last talked with Steve, but apparently this beer may be a one-off they include in their very diverse line and I will definitely be excited to go to their location for a glass.

But I’m not going to let the journey end there. I have an intention to at least try out a recipe of my own for a Ginger Beer (Actually thinking of a Ginger Weiss) and will always be on the lookout for a damn good ginger beer. If you have any suggestions, I don’t care where you live, please post them in the comments section. And if you’re a brewer here in Ontario, don’t make me beg for a one-off (seriously though, I will totally beg).

Alright, I think I’ve talked enough for now. Take care, folks.

5 Comments

Filed under Beer Products, Currently Drinking, Seasonal Beers