Tag Archives: ale

Judging a Beer By Its Label (part 1 of 2)

It’s a very risky game.  Sometimes it pays off brilliantly, other times…you end up spitting out the beer and pouring it down the sink.  But picking a beer just by the label design alone can be a really fun way to discover new types of beers and learn more about your own personal tastes.  Plus every time you buy a beer based on its design, a graphic designer gets its wings.  Or something like that.

There are too many beers to list on which ones have been a success, a failure and a surprise, so I’ll just list a few highlights. This entry is going to be separated in to two parts.  The first one the good beers with good designs and the second being on the bad beers with good designs as well as the surprises I’ve had.

GOOD DESIGN, GOOD BEER

Hobgoblin Ale – It’s been mentioned here plenty of times before and I SWEAR this will be the last time I mention this beer from Wychwood Brewery for a while, but it’s important! This was the first beer I felt that I HAD to buy on the design alone and not look at any of the details that point out alcohol content or taste notes.  I believe it was 2004 or so and at the time I was really in to fantasy novels.  While “preparing” for a weekend trip to the cottage with a few friends I came across this beer and found myself really impressed with the design of both the label and the bottle.  At the time, I hadn’t seen any designs that went beyond a crappy logo and standard beer bottle (or even a “stubby” which was a rare treat at the Beer Store).  And as you all know, this beer my stand-by drink to this day.  Hell, I had one on tap (the beer has an AWESOME custom tap by the way) just last week and it hasn’t lost anything in taste for me.

Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA – I found this beauty about a year ago when I made a trip to the Amsterdam Brewery here in Toronto and the label just blew me away.  But then again, I love William Cheselden’s Osteographia, so whatever.  The colour scheme, smooth bottle design and yes, the choice of typeface all contributed in making me wonder what this beer was all about.  I picked up three bottles on the spot.  Turns out, it’s a DAMN good IPA.  So hopped up that you can actually taste a kind of earthiness and so bitter that it is still the only beer that can make my throat go dry.  And as you folks out there who either read this blog or know me in person know, that’s just the kind of bitterness I like.

This brew very recently (about two months ago) went on tap and has been a pretty good success.  In fact, it was hearing about one of the few bars that carried this that led me to find the Town Crier/Halfway Beer House, which is now my favorite pub in all the city (more on that place in a later post).

Arrogant Bastard Ale – I like this design because it matches perfectly with the reputation that the folks at Stone Brewing Co. wants it to have.  It’s aggressive, it’s mean, it will spot a weakness in you and exploit it to the point where you leave the room crying.  Even by tasting the beer, with it’s strong punch of hops, one can tell that this is a beer for Tough People and I think the design puts forth that image incredibly well.

But aside from the design, what REALLY won me over was the copywriting on the bottle.  Here’s how it reads:  “This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.  

DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO DRINK THAT?

Coney Island Lager – The label is in more detail at the head of this post.  This I think was one of the first craft brews I picked up when I went to New York City and actually had an appreciation for beer.  The label alone was enough to make me wonder what the hell this drink was about because, quite frankly, a pants-shittingly terrifying Carny on the label (which also reminds me of the good ‘ol fashioned Carnival signs back in the day when people didn’t think stuff like that looked terrifying at all) is enough to make me laugh and pick up the bottle.  It could taste like brown sugar in water, I don’t care.  You have to try it and you’d be half-tempted to keep the bottle as a souvenir. The same goes for most of the labels put out by Shmaltz Brewing Company.

But as it turns out, it was a pretty damn refreshing drink.  Very nice malt and earth flavours with an very nice aroma that just worked.  I definitely wouldn’t say no to this brew on a hot summer day.

So that’s it for this post.  Toon in soon for part 2 where I discuss the good designs with bad tasting beer as well as the surprises I had.  I might throw in a third post, but we’ll see.

But hey, I can personally taste and try so many beers, so if you have any DAMN good brews with some equally DAMN good designs on the labels (or heck, if you just want to suggest a brew to me) e-mail me at robin@therobinleBlanc.com! Or, you know, COMMENT.  Because that’s even easier.

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CURRENTLY DRINKING – April 27, 2011

Where I talk about the beers that I am currently drinking tonight and attempt to review them.  The kind of fun bit is that I’m actually drinking the beer as I’m reviewing it.

BLACK CREEK PALE ALE – Black Creek Historical Brewery (Toronto, Canada) – 5% ABV

I’ve actually been looking forward to this one since I got the news earlier this month that Black Creek’s Pale Ale was hitting the shelves of my local LCBO store.  The brewery, based out of Black Creek Pioneer Village and using brewing techniques from the 1860s, has been marked on my “local breweries to watch out for” list ever since a rather cute guy named Mathieu raved about it as I was looking at the bottle of their Porter for the first time.  Being one to take personal recommendations from random cute men seriously, I picked it up and have enjoyed it ever since.  In fact, you may recall that I mentioned it in the second Gateway Beers post. It’s light, but has a wonderful flavour to it.

But the Pale Ale…this promised to be something of another colour.  Seriously.  TOTALLY different colour. Oh hell, you know what I mean.  Let’s give it a try.

COLOUR – Beautiful orange.  Almost exactly like looking in to a jar of orange blossom honey.

AROMA – Citrus and malt.  You can smell a hint of hops.  They all combine to give it a pretty sweet smell.

TASTE – Funnily enough, the initial taste hits me in the same order the aroma does.  The citrus starts off which leads to a sharp hit of the sweet and lovely malt and then BAM, the hops is there and it’s all wrapped up with a nice, smoky taste.  Apparently this brew was hopped four times, and damn, does it show.  Make no bones about it, this is a sippin’ on the porch or in my case, on the couch listening to Charles Mingus beer.  This is a taste you want to savour and get lost in to.

VERDICT – I’ll be picking more of this up. It’s definitely a sunny day beer and with the 5% alcohol content, you can drink this for quite a while without having to worry about falling down.  And you know, Im quite happy with the luck I’ve been getting with hoppy beers with citrus tones to it.  I’m attracting these things, I swear.

I haven’t come up with a rating system yet, but I feel like I have to come up with something for this.  4 out of 5 stars. Definitely a Toronto beer (and a brewery) worth watching out for.

SIDE NOTE –  Charles Mingus really does go well with this drink.

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Cooking With Beer: Beer Sausages Inna Bun

One of the things I’m going to be doing over the next little while is finding some recipes and coming up with a few of my own that involve beer.  This will involve anything from sauces, batters, cakes…whatever I can find.  Just to see what I can make with the wonderful drink.

The following recipe is kind of a classic that has served me well over time.  I have cooked it at parties, as a thank you dinner for NYC friends who have offered a couch to sleep on, and of course for myself when I want a food that warms me up, sticks to my bones and brings forth what we all know as The Burp Of Satisfaction.

I’ve included some suggestions for specific beers to try out in this recipe, as they have worked out for me.  But really, as long as it is a stout, porter or even a nice dark ale that you enjoy drinking I guarantee it will work out.  The key of this is that it should be a dark beer.  Suggested drink to go along with it would be the beer that you used for the recipe (What, like you’re going to buy ONE bottle? …jeez).

Beer Sausages Inna Bun
Ingredients:
– Sausages (Brats are a good kind, but if you dream of something bigger I suggest you follow that dream. 2-5 is a good number if it fits in your pan)
– Beer (SUGGESTED BRANDS: Leffe Brune, Hobgoblin Ale, Dragon Stout or Black Creek Porter)
– Half an onion (chopped in to rings)
– Buns (Not yours (sicko), but the kind in the bakery section of your local grocery store)
– Olive oil (just about two tablespoons.  If you don’t have olive oil, safflower of grape seed oil will do.)

Instructions:

1. put oil in frying pan, crank that stove up to high. Then add sausages and fry up until browned.

2. Once the sausages are browned, decrease the stove to medium heat, remove the sausages and throw in the onions.

3. Cook those onions in the sausage juices until rubbery and transparent.  You may need to use some extra oil.

4. Put the sausages back in the pan and pour your beer in. Half a bottle is good.  As long as the sausages are covered about half way you’re golden. And look at that, you now have something to drink while you’re cooking!

5. Turn those sausages in your wonderful beer-onion concoction until the beer has reduced into a somewhat thick sauce. Your entire kitchen will start to smell amazing.

6. Remove the sausages and place in the buns.

7. spoon in the beer and onion sauce in to the buns on the sausages.  If you’ve got a lot of the sauce, go freakin’ wild.  More is DEFINITELY better in this case.

8. Eat and enjoy. If you feel like moaning in a way that makes those around you a tad uncomfortable, don’t hesitate.  Let the food take you somewhere magical

Bonus Feature:

Throw a bit of grated cheese on top.  This adds to more flavour and a HELL of a lot more guilt afterwards, but my god, it’s worth it.

Got a recipe?  E-mail me at robin@therobinleblanc.com and tell me about it!

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