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Session Toronto 2013

 

Well now. Session.

This past Saturday was the Session Craft Beer Festival, which is more or less an after party to the Ontario Craft Beer Week festivities. Last year featured some of the best and brightest breweries from all over Ontario showcasing special one-offs and this year was no different. The festival included a wonderful selection including beers for consideration in the in-fest competition Collaboration Nation, where breweries teamed up with Ontario celebrities like the badass TV personality Ed the Sock, Well-known horse masturbator Tom Green, Canadian Singer-Songwriter City & Colour and Toronto Star Beer Columnist Josh Rubin for a chance of their beer being picked up by a handful of LCBO stores.

This year’s event was packed. More than a thousand arrived for the event at Wychwood Barns and the event was shoulder to shoulder. Amazing for the organizers and for anyone looking for a sign that craft beer is only going to get bigger.

My one big suggestion to the organizers for next year (and one that they are very well aware of by now, I’d wager) would be to find a bigger place so folks can spread out a bit better and even separate if there are individual things going on. Beer Writer and Prud’homme Beer Sommelier Crystal Luxmore, who I deeply admire and look up to for her insightful view on the drink we love, led a tasting with hot dogs and a selection of beers. Although the talk was wonderful, I feel it would have been better in an area with better acoustics. Equally so with Black Oak Brewery’s Sonja North and Erica Campbell’s talk on IPAs. In the end I got the sense that, with two stages for live music/talks, food trucks galore, a volleyball court and incredible beer, the organizers planned big but, to be on the safe side, chose a space that was too small.

Don’t get me wrong though, of all the problems that a festival can get, “too crowded” is a really good one to have. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of beer lovers for this event and seeing the overwhelming love for quality beer was incredible. In the crowds I managed to strike up conversations with some fantastic people (including an adorable couple that met during Ontario Craft Beer Week) and got a good insight in to the general public’s way of looking at beer. Session is a festival that keeps showing the rise of the Beer Geek in popular culture and I love the hell out of it.

Although the winner of the Collaboration Nation competition was The Tom Green Beer, a milk stout by Beau’s All Natural Brewing and Tom Green, I had many highlights, including  “Allison Brier”, a Raspberry Saision by Sawdust City Brewing and Edge 102’s Fearless Fred, “Lion Grass”, an earthy beer made with lemongrass and Dandelion leaves by Highlander Brew Co. and Durham Tourism Manager Kerri King and “Red on Red”, a stunning Imperial Red Ale by Flying Monkeys and Central City Brewing.

It was a fun, inspiring, and above all an optimistic day.

…there was also a scary clown.

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And That’s 2012 Done

First, just want to say that my time at Rogers Daytime Toronto yesterday was, as always, amazing. To my surprise I was given 10.5 minutes to talk about as much of the seasonal beer stuff that was going on and, despite feeling as I always do, that I stumbled through it and came out looking foolish, I was told that it was really a good show and my segment had people surrounding nearby televisions listening. And I never, EVER get tired of crew members coming up to me afterward and expressing their amazement that beer can be different than the flavourless coloured liquid that most people know.

So here’s the beer things that I was talking about.

BEST OF BEAU’S MIX PACK: Set of four amazing beers that were voted as the best of the many, MANY one-offs that Beau’s Brewery were making throughout the year. The Matt’s Sleepy Time Belgian Imperial Stout in particular was amazing. About $24 at the LCBO and going rather fast.

THREE KINGS GIFT SET: A box of three of King Brewery’s finest complete with glass. This is the ultimate gift for the lager lover and all three beers, the Vienna Lager, Pilsner and Dark Lager, make amazing gateway beers for the Molson or Coors drinker in your life. A mere $9.99 at the LCBO.

MILL STREET BARLEY WINE: I love these Barley Wines from Mill Street because they can be aged for years and years and only get better. This particular batch has hints of vanilla and Kentucky Bourbon. Can be enjoyed now or aged for years and years. Seriously, I know people who are testing just how long they can age this beer. A fun gift. $12.95 at the LCBO.

BNL IMPERIAL CHOCOLATE STOUT: I think it’s safe to say that you know what I think of this by now. Amazing dessert beer that goes well with ice cream, trifle, raspberries…a very delicious beer. About $13

And those are the beer things I was talking about.

Now on to this year.

2012 has definitely been an interesting year for this site. It went from something only my mom and a few friends read to something that receives several thousand hits per month. I’ve gone from being someone who knew next to nothing about beer to someone who knows a little bit more and is still learning. I’ve gone to many amazing events, made some amazing friends within the industry and have even gone on television to talk about this ancient and wonderful drink that I enjoy. This has been a year where many doors opened up for me and no one is more grateful or baffled about it than I am.

So I’d like to take this chance to thank you folks for continuing to read The Thirsty Wench. Your support has been overwhelming and I don’t think I can adequately thank you all enough. And if you’ve ever dropped a few bucks in to the tip jar, thank you. Every little bit helps keep this running.

It’s also been an awesome year for beer here in Ontario. It seems just like yesterday that to make an IPA was taking a risky chance and now new breweries are starting off their product line with them. Releases of Double IPAs and Imperial Stouts are now a decision that is never met with any hesitation. The wild and crazy of the past is the safe and common of the present and I love that because it means that we’ll be seeing some more amazing experiments in the near future that will test our taste buds and preconceptions. It’s been an exciting year and it only promises to get more exciting, folks.

Some fun things are in the works for The Thirsty Wench in 2013. There are talks about leading a tasting, more Television appearances, a few radio talks, more guest posts and even a book that’s in the works. You’ll hear about it all here.

Alright, I’m going to finish this post off before it turns in to a rant or I reveal too much. I’m writing this on the train now, but when I get home I’m going to pour a glass of something nice, do any small edits that need doing and post it.

As The Most Interesting Man in the World says: Stay thirsty, my friends.

Horrible beer he promotes, but good words.

All the best,

The Thirsty Wench (Robin LeBlanc), Toronto, 2012

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Rogers Daytime Toronto – 2nd Appearance Recap

So! Exciting day! I was asked to come back on Daytime Toronto today to talk about some heat-busting local beers. Like the last time, I had a blast and the host Glenn Dixon, asked some great questions and told me that he learned a lot about how diverse beer was. By the end I was thanked and asked to come back on in the Fall season and I gave Glenn two of the beers he liked the best from the tasting I gave.

An added bonus for me was, as the show was wrapping up, I was approached by crew members who asked questions and said that before today they had no idea that beer was so diverse and there was more out there than the mainstream lagers. It’s moments like that which make me really happy I’m doing what I’m doing.

But what beers was I showcasing? Some people might be able to recognize from the picture, but for those that don’t I’ll go through them right to left.

1. Muskoka Summer Weiss (Muskoka Brewery) – Light, sweet and crisp weiss beer that really cuts down the heat. I mean look at that.

2. Oranje Weisse (Amsterdam Brewery) – Beautiful hint of oranges and slight bitter notes.

3. Summer Festivale (Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.) – Lovely Alt beer with nice hoppiness at the start and smooth maltiness as it reaches the back of the throat.

4. Rosée D’hibiscus (Dieu Du Ciel) – A light beer with the colour, aroma and taste all coming from the Hibiscus flowers used in the brewing process. Sweet, crisp and, dare I say it, flowery.

All of those and MANY more are excellent thirst quenchers on a hot summer day. I can’t tell you how much fun I had on this show and am looking forward to coming back in the Fall.

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The Death of Summer

Well, September is here.  The kids are back in school, the skies are getting a little more grey and (at least here, anyways) the wind is getting nice and chilly.  I love Fall.  But…most people I know don’t.  Many of my friends are tragically lamenting the end of Summer and looking back on what made it great.  So I think it’s only fair that I do a bit of looking back on my own in regards to beer in the summer.

So for me, Summer was an excellent chance to explore the wonderful beers that my own province of Ontario offers.  Specifically the more hoppy beers that I so love.  While I’m looking forward to the coming cold days where we all huddle in to a nice, comfortable little pub, there is something to be said about sitting on a patio with friends and sipping something that matches the weather perfectly.

I primarily drank crisp and hoppy pale ales, but others kinds were good highlights.  The season kicked off, for instance,  at the launch of Beau’ FestivALE, a brew that started with a hoppy bite and gradually got sweet and malty on the way down the throat.  But damn, those pale ales…there were the monsters like the Black Oak 10 Bitter Years Imperial/Double IPA, and damn…was that ever a treat.  And sitting around at the Burger Bar with an Augusta Ale with it’s slight aroma of honey was delightful.

But the winner of this summer for me was Spearhead’s debut Hawaiian Style Pale Ale.

In the short few months that this beer has been around, it has already won several awards and the style, a heavily hopped up West Coast Pale Ale brewed with Pineapple juice to add a slight sweetness, made this the perfect summer drink.  I really can’t recall the many times I’ve popped by The Old Nick on one of the brutally hot days we had up here or after a really good workout at the gym (my boxing gym is thankfully a 20 minute walk away from this wonderful Toronto pub), ordered one or two pints of this drink and just cooled the hell down.

What impressed me most, though, was that the folks at Spearhead chose not to start off with a fairly safe debut beer, like a cream ale or pilsner.  They went right for the crazy (well…crazy for Ontario folks, anyways) and what’s more, they came out at a time when Ontario, and especially Toronto, was just starting to wake up to the world of craft beer.  They really were in the right place at the right time, and I’m happy for it.

Here’s a video of the beer pouring.  Why? BECAUSE IT’S BEAUTIFUL.

So that’s my end of Summer post.  Hope you all had a good one.  And now AUTUMN IS HERE!  And you know what that means, right? PUMPKIN ALES!

See you soon.

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