Tag Archives: black oak brewing

Simple Done Well

becausebeer

I was at the first Because Beer Festival at the beautiful Pier 4 Park in Hamilton, Ontario a couple of weeks ago. Summer is a wonderful time because, well, there are less beer events that take place in cramped spaces and the noble Beer Geek can roam free in the glory of the outdoors. This was especially true for the Because Beer Festival because we had a gorgeous parkland and a hell of a view of the lake to go with out tasty beverages. It was definitely a beer event put on by people who have handled these before and it seemed to go off without so much as a whiff of a hitch. But it was there that I noticed a switch in myself. The biggest hit for me at the festival was, like a Hobbit’s involvment in a quest involving a ring, rather surprising. It was a simple, well-crafted English Blonde Ale by Maclean’s Ale, out of Hanover, Ontario. A simple English Blonde Ale made very, very well by a man, Charles MacLean, who has been making beers like this since the 80s.

In Toronto Star columnist Corey Mintz‘s book  “How to Host a Dinner Party” he talks about early on when he interviewed accomplished food writer and then editor of Gourmet Magazine Ruth Reichl. After trying to figure out where to take her for the interview, he decided to invite her to his place where he would make her lunch. He was terrified about what to make her, but then, very simply, put himself in his guest’s shoes. As a restaurant critic, you go out all the time and eat expensive, rich food. While delicious, it can get tiring. “So I made us GLT (guanciale, lettuce, and tomato) sandwiches.” he says. “This was a valuable lesson for later. When you really need to impress someone, choose the simplest thing and make it well.”

To be clear, I’m not saying anything bad about all of the incredible, wonderful, and innovative beers that have been coming out lately. We’re at a wonderful time right now where there is so much variety coming out at such a fast pace. It’s getting harder and harder to keep track of them all and I for one think that’s a very good problem to have. I love beers that enflame the senses, make me think, and prove to be a combination of flavours that I would never have thought to combine. I’m just saying that along with that, I have a high appreciation for a well-made beer with a simple concept that I can look to as an “old reliable” for years to come.

So here are just a couple of local and non-local beers that I’m enjoying that fit that bill.

sidelaunch-wheatSide Launch Wheat – Brewery originally known as Denison’s, but has undergone a merger and rebranding, Side Launch Brewing Head Brewer Michael Hancock has been making this exact beer since it first appeared in the Denison’s brewpub in 1989. It’s a damn fine Bavarian style unfiltered wheat beer that pours a hazy yellow and has such beautiful taste notes as banana and a hint of lemon. Absolutely perfect for the summer season.

Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7 – For about 300 years the Bavarian Royal Family held exclusive rights to brew wheat beers. In 1872, due to declining sales, King Ludwig II discontinued the production of the style and later sold the right to brew wheat beer to brewer Georg Schneider. My usual advice to international folks on picking their first Weiss is to maybe make it the ACTUAL first one. Schneider Weisse Original Tap 7 is one of my go-tos for the style. With the brewery owned and operated by the Schneider family for 142 years, it’s safe to say that you can’t go wrong with this beer.

beer_7702Black Oak Nut Brown – One of the original flagships of Black Oak Brewing when their doors first opened in late 1999, any change that has been made to this beer has been an improvement. Very traditional and solid Brown Ale with notes of caramel and malt that don’t assault the senses, but provide a really nice balance on the tongue.

Muskoka Detour – The youngest beer of the group featured here. I wrote about Detour in the Session Beers post a while back and my opinion of it hasn’t changed. 4.3% ABV with gorgeous, subtle, citrus aromas, a hint of mandarin oranges in the taste and a quick dry finish. Absolutely perfect Summertime porch-sipping beer that has proven to be a good gateway beer for a lot of newcomers.

whitesWorthington White Shield – A lot of my English Beer Geek friends roll their eyes at this one, but to me it’s a solid English IPA that we just don’t get enough of this side of the pond. Originally marketed by Worthington’s Ale as East India Pale Ale in 1829 and then started going by White Shield when the logo of a (prepare for a shock now) white shield appeared on the bottles in around 1870, The Burton-Upon-Trent based beer is now owned by MolsonCoors and sees a pretty regular international distribution. That said, it’s the first time I’ve seen a CAMRA label on a bottle in Ontario and the beer is incredibly balanced. Nice amount of sweetness, nice amount of dryness, and best when consumed at cellar temperature (10-12C/50-55F). Of course it’s probably not going to be the same beer that was let out in the 1800s, but it’s still damn fine.

Do you have any reliables? Please feel free to leave a comment!

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Filed under Gateway Beers, Local

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.

 

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Filed under Seasonal Beers

Best of Winter (Providing It’s Gone)

Don’t know about you folks, but up here our weather has been…well, let’s put it this way: Last week in a single day we had snow, rain, snow, hail, rain and ending with some snow overnight. Now it’s practically t-shirt weather with forecasts saying the temperature will more than double tomorrow.

So screw it, I’m calling it. Winter is over.

I think I’m going to make up a very quick list of some of my highlight beers of Winter. If this were a television show, it would be a clip show episode, but as it is I’m just going to list the beers. These are in no particular order and some of them aren’t even seasonals, but beers I’ve just tried over the winter. It SHOULD be noted that during the winter I primarily drink stouts and porters, because it’s cold and my natural instinct is to drink something that seems like a meal (my rule with stouts is that it’s good if I can put a pencil in the middle of the glass, let go and the beer keeps it up). While there are some exceptions in the list, these are mainly black-as-my-soul beers.

1. Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout by Muskoka Brewery – An absolute treat to have both in bottles and on cask. Cranberry taste is a bit too subtle, but it more than makes up for it in the chocolate taste.

2. Lava Smoked Imperial Stout by Ölvisholt Brugghús – This also was a regular visitor to the LeBlanc house. The coffee and chocolate tastes along with the  liquid smoke makes this beer and is a meal all on itself.

3. Wych Craft Blonde Ale by Wychwood – Noticed this turning up more and more in LCBOs this winter, and have to say, rather crisp and refreshing!

4. Double Chocolate Cherry Stout by Black Oak Brewing Co. – The tartness of the cherries just makes this beer a wonderful treat and the chocolate taste adds a wonderful warmth to it. I was really lucky to try it for the first time on cask, which all in all gave a warmth that I needed that particular night. Will be having some more this week.

5. Infinium by Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan – Slight romantic memory behind this one, because The Fella bought me a bottle of this rather wonderful beer that came in a Champagne bottle. Very clean beer with the taste of a nice, somewhat sweet Belgian Tripel. Needs to be consumed in a champagne flute and it matters on the type of company you have with this drink (mine of course, was wonderful).

6. World Wide Stout (Aged for 1 year) by Dogfish Head Brewery – Hahahaha….man. Visiting one of the brewpubs owned by Dogfish Head was such a TREAT. And part of that treat was having this amazing beer, aged for a solid year.  At about 19%ABV had a lovely chocolaty taste with a slight burn I would normally get from an Imperial Russian Stout. But wonderful. WONDERFUL.

7. Tokyo Imperial Stout by BrewDog – Thanks to a wonderful donation to the Tip Jar from reader Raymond Conlon (you could all learn something from him. HINT HINT), I got to try this $24 Imperial Stout at around 14% ABV (though I’m sure it’s cheaper anywhere but here). INCREDIBLY sweet, which was unexpected for its alcohol content. Wonderful taste of cranberries and chocolate in there. I’d go so far as to say it would make an excellent dessert beer.

8. Sublimely Self Righteous Ale by Stone Brewery – What turned me on to Black IPAs. This was a birthday gift from The Fella, who brought it all the way from the states and…wow.  SO. MUCH. HOPPINESS. Drinking it is like putting a handful of fresh hops right in your mouth. Just wonderful. The Fella, who is a malt fiend, could not finish his share. It is my go-to beer whenever I am in the states now.

9. Black Chocolate Stout by Brooklyn Brewery – Tried this during a 5-hour layover in New York City where I met up with friends Rachael Fox and Eddie McShane and we found a decent watering hole to sit down, have a few drinks and have the most wonderful conversation about photography. This beer, which had a WONDERFUL bittersweet chocolate taste and a creaminess. was a perfect match for the night.

10. Spruce Beer by Garrison Brewing Co. – Most of you have read my review in which I talk about this beer, so will keep this short. But I’ll say this: What a wonderful treat it was to have this beer.  A drink that did an amazing job of invoking the spirit of winter. Loved it.

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