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The Surprisingly Complex World of Beer Glasses

Yes, more than one glass for beer exists (And I’m not talking about different logos) and more and more I’m noticing pubs actually carry them.  And while they do look nice and pretty, they are varied for a reason.  This post will go over that reason and list off some glasses along with which beer styles go with them.

So to put it as basically as possible, the glasses help bring out the best in your beer.  If you want, think of a glass as a suit or dress that just suits you SO WELL and calls attention to all the right parts, showing no flaws.  That is the job of the glass.

To get in to specifics, similar to wine glasses, different types of beer glasses help compliment different styles.  With the right combination of beer and glass, the aroma, taste and steady carbonation of the beer will be greatly complimented.  So tell that to your wine snob friends next time they laugh about how unsophisticated beer is.

Perfect example.  It was a warm summer day and my mother and I were in a pub.  She wanted something light and crisp, so she ordered a Pilsner Urquell, which was served in a Pilsner Flute Glass (see picture above).  She adored the beer’s crisp flavour, biscuity aroma and to top it off, she was refreshed by the end of it. Fast forward a month later, she’s at home and feels like another Pilsner Urquell, so she gets a can from the liquor store.  We don’t have any flute glasses at home, so she picked a random one, an Abbey Goblet (also above) and in her own words “it smelled and tasted like piss“. So once again, the right glass for your beer will REALLY help bring out it’s best qualities and have you strongly consider a second date, er, tasting.

So where can you get these fancy glasses?  Well, there are plenty of ways.  Ebay is a good bet.  So is contacting the breweries individually or kitchen stores and the like.  And yes, there’s the dishonest way (and as it happens, my late grandfathers preferred way)  of just swiping them from a pub.  But that is dishonest and you should at the very least offer to buy the glass from them.

And now, because knowing is half the battle, I’m going to teach you about some of the more common glasses you’ll find in pubs and what should go with them.  For pictures, see the picture/chart above.  Keep in mind that there are many different styles of the different styles of glasses.  A flute glass can be stemmed or not, for instance, and a particular beer needs a specific one of those and so on.

STEMMED ABBEY GOBLET: These babies are usually for holding dark ‘n heavy Belgian Abbey ales.  Suggested beers: Leffe Brune, Westmalle Tripel, La Trappe Tripel, Chimay Red

SNIFTERS: Not just for rich guys with a passion for Brandy and cigars! Beglian ales, Barley wines and Imperial IPAs are great for this glass and really brings out the aroma. Suggested beers: admittedly, Delirium Tremens is the only beer I’ve had with this glass.  But damn, it’s lovely.

FLUTE GLASSES: For Pilsners, Lambics and fruit beers.  And dear lord, they make the brew look refreshing and beautiful.  Suggested beers: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (Or Czechvar in other places), Fruli

PINT GLASSES: The classics.  We love ’em.  Nothing screams “traditional pub drink” than a nice pint glass.  This usually takes in the mainstream stuff as well as stouts, porters and bitters!  Suggested beers: Fullers London Porter, Hobgoblin Ale, Guinness, Arrogant Bastard

TANKARDS: For when you want to quench your thirst after a bloody battle.  Suggested beers: WHATEVER YOU WANT, YOU’RE A VIKING RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Seriously though, see above in the pint glass bit.  I find those go really well with a nice Pewter Tankard that’s been left in the freezer for a bit.

And that’s all on glasses from me at the moment.  Hope it was enlightening! And now you know what glass to expect for which type of beer!

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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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Gateway Beers Part 2

Yes, GATEWAY BEERS.  Just like The Rock And Roll is a gateway to gang violence, Satanism and baby murdering, so too are there beers that lead you down a path where there is no turning back.  Take the story of Johnny. He was captain of the basketball team.  He didn’t think there was any harm in trying a beer from Belgium.  But after that it all changed for Johnny.  He quit the basketball team and started attending underground craft beer events.  Split the money with his hoodlum friends in ordering some Bolivian Pale Ales to be shipped to his town.  Three months later Johnny was found dead in an alley, a broken bottle of Westmalle Triple in his hand.

Sorry, I have a passion for mental hygiene films. These just come out.

Basically, this was inspired by the friends and family I have who have said “I don’t really drink beer, but when I do I usually drink _______.  What should I have?”.   

I USUALLY DRINK GUINNESS

I’ll say this now.  Guinness is a great drink.  It really is.  For years it’s been known as the beer someone orders if they don’t like the weak mainstream drinks like Molson or Bud.  It’s rich, smooth, creamy and can easily substitute a meal.  It has a wonderful history and a great tradition and while there is a slight risk of looking like a douchebag while drinking one (especially if you explain why it’s so better than the beers your friends are drinking) that doesn’t take away from the fact that it clearly is a work of art in itself.

But, as is the point of this series of posts, there is more out there.

I won’t lie to you.  To find a suitable “next step” for you might take a bit of trial and error.  But the first thing to do is examine what it is you enjoy about Guinness.  Primarily the “heaviness” of it.  On that, there’s three levels to it.

1.  The heaviness frankly scares me and I want something a bit lighter 
– Well it sounds like a nice dark ale would suit you down to the ground.  Hobgoblin Ale by the wonderful Wychwood Brewery was a WONDERFUL starting dark ale for me and to this day remains as an ol’ stand-by when I don’t have a specific beer I want to pick up.  A wonderful dark ruby colour with a taste of chocolate and toffee.  It’s refreshing, comfortable and not as much a meal as Guinness can be.

Another suggestion would be Leffe Brune, a nice little Belgian number that I grew fond of last summer.  A soothing beer with a slight hint of roasted spices and  fruits and a bitterness that’s not overbearing at all.  Truth be told, I actually cook with this as well (see the recipe I posted last week).  Definitely a drink worth trying.

2.  The heaviness is just right, actually.
Well, have I got two beers for you then.  Dragon Stout out of beautiful Kingston, Jamaica really fits the bill for this.  It’s got about the same heaviness of Guinness with a nice, chocolaty finish to the taste.  This is DEFINITELY ideal for a hot sunny day.

Second up is Black Creek Porter out of Toronto’s own Black Creek Historic Brewery (actually in Black Creek Pioneer Village if, like me, you have fond memories of that place. Now’s a reason to go back!).  While a porter is usually supposed to be “heavier” than a stout, I find this one hits the mark rather well.  Nice chocolaty taste with a hint of spices.  This is also a recipe used my Ontarians in the 1860s, so it also provides a nice history to it.  I just recently started drinking this beer and I can’t get enough of it.

3.  Guinness is FAR too light for me.  Give me something heavier!
Alright there, Rambo.  First up is Fuller’s London Porter from our good friends at Fuller’s Ales.  One day my mother, who wanted to teach me about some of the brews she grew up with, bought four cans.  Two was Fuller’s London Pride (which we’ll talk about later) and the other two was this one.  And MAN, was it refreshing.  A deep black colour that not even light can escape out of and a smooth, creamy taste with a strong taste of cocoa.  If Guinness is a meal, Fuller’s London Porter is a meal with seconds.

The second one I’d suggest is John By Imperial Stout by the Scotch-Irish Brewing Company in Ottawa.  All I can say about this beer is: DAMN.  I tried it for the first time last weekend and was really impressed.  Much like the London Porter, nothing can escape the darkness held within and there’s a strong cocoa taste to it.  I’ll be honest, this was a drink that I could probably have one or two of.  You actually feel FULL after this drink, which can be said about many Imperial Stouts, but it still is refreshing.  A wonderful brew.  I actually wonder what it would be like at room temp…

And that’s all for now.  And damn, now I think I’m going to head off to the pub and have a London Porter.  I got me the craving…

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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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