Tag Archives: IPA


So most people on here know what I think of Toronto-based Kensington Brewing Co.’s Augusta Ale (hint: I really like it). So it doesn’t come as much of a shock to learn that I was pretty excited to hear about the release of their newest release, an IPA called Baldwin FishEye-PA. I was disappointed that I missed the chance to sample it at it’s debut at Bar Hop a couple of weeks ago, but was delighted to be given a can by the folks there (the can, funnily enough, was completely blank. I attached a label on to it with scotch tape).

The beer, named after the fish markets on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market, is around 6.7%ABV although I’ve been told that that will be lowered slightly for the beer’s release in to LCBOs some time in the spring of 2013 where it will be sold in tallboy cans.

Shall we get to it? Yes. Let’s.

COLOUR: pours a clear, light crimson. Similar to apple cider or orange blossom honey.

AROMA: Front end of the smell has some nice fruity and citrusy tones with a nice warm hint of pine at the back.

TASTE: Since it’s an IPA it’s no surprise that there’s a strong hop presence at the start, but the hops is holding hands with the sweet malty body ending with a slightly astringent finish before moving on to the pine notes.  Aftertaste is a bit of frutiness with another healthy dollop of pine that rounds things off somewhat nicely.

VERDICT: Although I think this is a good beer from the folks at Kensington Brewing this just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I feel that the hops could have been shown off a bit better and the slight astringent taste was a bit offputting. The pine, however, was a big and welcome surprise for me and personally would be my main reason for drinking more. While I’d really like to try this after a couple of more batches, the beer has some good character to it and will definitely match the Spring season that it plans to launch in. I also plan to try it over at one of my places on Baldwin, Thirsty & Miserable, for the true Baldwin St. Experience.


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Can the Can: On Canned Craft Beers

I’m sorry if the title of the post was somewhat confusing, but you only get to make one or two Suzi Quatro references in your lifetime and so help me, I chose to go with it.

Canned beer has kind of a negative stigma with a lot of people. A common negative image, at least in North America, that comes to mind is that of drunken jocks, chanting their fraternity motto while slamming cans in to their foreheads and beating up nerds (or for my older readers, the image of Billy Beer comes to mind). A common taste is that of tin and warm water. Regardless, for some reason canned beer feels to many like a step down from bottles.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

More and more in the past while craft breweries have been taking the canned route. Some breweries have even been switching from bottles to cans. Now there are a couple of obvious benefits with cans, being easy to stack, less breaking…but what else? Is there a financial benefit? Is there a sacrifice by compromising the flavour?

To answer some of these questions I e-mailed Michael Gurr at the Kensington Brewing Co. Their beer, Augusta Ale, just came out at the LCBO this week. In cans. I thought it a good time to ask what their rationale was for going with cans instead of bottles for their release. I was surprised to discover just how many benefits there are to both the brewery and the consumer.

On the business side of things, cans make sense especially for a new brewery. They’re cheaper to manufacture and don’t include additional costs such as a six pack holder, thus cutting down on initial expenses. The cost of a single tall boy can, which is a common method of selling canned craft beer, is also meant to be less intimidating on potential new customers, allowing them to purchase a single can ranging at about $2.50-3.00 instead of taking a chance on a new brand/beer by committing to a  6-pack for $12-14. This creates more liklihood of bringing in new customers (it’s reasons like that which make me more likely to purchase singles than packs as well).

For the consumer’s benefit, for one, you have an environmentally friendly container. “Cans are much lighter than glass, using much less material to hold the same amount of beer.”  Gurr says, “Less weight = less emissions. The rate in which people recycle aluminium is also shown to be far greater than glass.” (Although, Gurr admits, this does not take in to account the Beer Store’s bottle return program which, apparently, has a 99% return rate.)

Cans are also a good way to go because there is no light exposure on the beer, preventing the chance of a “skunky” chemical reaction that isn’t fun in the slightest (which is why beer bottles are typically dark. Green and clear bottles have more of a chance of going skunky, so beware!). This also makes for a beer that can be stored longer.

But what about the tin taste? Well, there’s two possible causes to people’s problem with that in the past. The first being that the taste of tin was actually a smell (think where your nose goes when you sip from a can) and the other being that some cans didn’t have protection on them that prevented the the beer from extracting materials from the can, creating a tin taste. The good news though, is that modern beer cans are coated with a special food-grade epoxy resins that prevents this extraction.

Other benefits include what most already know; easy storage, less breakability (Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone smash a beer can open and attack someone with it) and faster cooling time. And for me anyways, I love seeing the beautiful designs that cover the entire container as opposed to a label. Good show, package designers!

Still got that negative stigma and think that canned beer is a step down? Well, here’s a simple solution: do what you’d do with bottled beer and pour it in a glass! That way you’ll be able to drink amazing beer without the fear of being “found out” as a can drinker. While you’re at it, you can even let people sip your beer and find you’ve converted some anti-can folks.

What beers should you go with? Well, explore around! If you’re in Ontario give the three in the above picture a try, as they’ve been *ahem* tested by myself and have proven to be quite delicious and satisfying in this hot-as-balls Summer. International, I would suggest going with BrewDog’s Punk IPA, which has been hitting the stores in can form and is also quite refreshing!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to dance to more of Miss Quatro’s music.


Special thanks to Michael Gurr over at Kensington Brewing Company for the insight in to cans! 

Beers in image (left to right): Hops & Robbers IPA by Double Trouble Brewing Co., Augusta Ale by Kensington Brewing Co. and Dead Elephant IPA by Railway City Brewing Co.

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Cooking With Beer: Beer Pizza Dough

So when I first heard that beer can be used for pizza dough I got a little excited.  The source that first told me said that it could be used as a substitute for yeast and water.

Since then, a few have mentioned that only unfiltered beer (beer that still has active yeasts in the bottles) can be used to substitute the yeast while others have said it works just fine without.  Me, I don’t really care.  I just want to make a good pizza.

So with that, I submit to you this recipe found on Restless Chipotle that is both simple and covers the base by essentially saying “go with whatever beer you want, just in case we’re still adding yeast to it”.   It looks easy to make and, judging by how she describes the end product (“One thing I noticed with this is that the dough bubbled up soon after kneading. The baked dough had a lot of air bubbles in it, too. “), makes it sound like a tasty one.

This has me wondering what some nice Belgian ales would taste like.  Or an IPA.  I’ll give it a try hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

And here it is: BEER PIZZA DOUGH

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Wish List: Abstrakt Beer

My friend and fellow beer/metal enthusiast Alastair messaged me to tell me his brew plans for Friday night and linked me to this little beauty:

That’s right.  It’s a Belgian Imperial Stout aged on toasted coconut and cacao.  Created by the bloody GENIUSES at BrewDog as part of a concept series they are putting out in which they say:

  • Abstrakt is a new type of beer brand, we will only ever brew and release a beer once
  • Abstrakt will release a very small number of limited edition batches per year
  • More art than beer, Abstrakt will brew directional, boundary pushing beers: blurring distinctions and transcending categories
  • All Abstrakt beers are bottle-conditioned, individually numbered and known only by their release code, e.g. AB:01
Isn’t that wonderful? The bottles are expensive, but apparently well worth the price.  Hopefully I’ll be able to gather enough cash to get one before the series is out.  Their current release is a Triple Dry Hopped Imperial Black IPA which sounds like EXACTLY my sort of beer, but alas, money.  And I’m not sure if the beers ship internationally or not, so there’s also a problem.  If they do I might need to enlist the help of some of my fellow beer-lovers…


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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.


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.  


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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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.

BITTER & TWISTED – Harviestoun Brewery (Hillfoots Village, Scotland) – 4.2% ABV

Actually, a reader suggested this beer.  When I was in my local booze store, I noticed that they had recently stocked their shelves with this Blond Beer from Scotland and quickly picked it up.  I’ve only ever tried a few brews from Harviestoun before, their famous Olah Dubh.  Dark ale that has been matured in Highland Park whisky casks.  The 16 and 18 year old brews in particular I call my “sleepy-time” drink.  I have one of those and I get all warm and just drift off to sleep.

But I’ve never had anything else by them before and jeez, was I missing out.  Lets go through it, shall we?

COLOUR – Nice, crisp, dark golden colour.  The type of colour you’d expect to see in your mother’s jewelry (and just as shiny)

AROMA – VERY citrusy smell to it.  Grapefruit, definitely.  Maybe a lemon or two.  It’s actually quite decietful, since the aroma gives off the impression that this won’t be a bitter beer at all.  There’s a SLIGHT hint, but still.  But as we’ll find out…

TASTE – Dear, sweet Jesus that will be resurrected soon, what a freakin’ taste.  The initial taste is very smooth and you can tell that this is the beer showing it’s fun, citrusy side.  This is where the Grapefruit and Lemon flavours REALLY come out to play.  But the bitterness, god DAMN, the bitterness.  According to the beer’s profile, it was hopped with three different types of hops.  The Hallertau Hersbrücke for that subtle aroma, the Challenger hops, which gives this beer a bit of spice to compliment the citrus flavours, and the Styrian Goldings, which actually bring forth the citrusy aroma and flavours.  I get the impression that the good people at Harviestoun put these hops in expecting a brutal, horrible fight and they ended up…er…doing something indecent.  But that’s science for you, isn’t it?

Aftertaste is also very pleasant, leaving just a hint of the hoppiness that rocked your world in the limo after the concert and finally ending it off with the memory of being sweetly serenaded by the citrus overtones.  Peeled grapes and togas might have been involved.  It’s okay, I won’t judge.

VERDICT – You know, since Spring is coming (taking its dear sweet time, but still coming), I’ve been slowly shifting away from the dark heavy ales and have been craving something lighter but with a bit more of a bite to it.  This beer fits the bill and with its citrus overtones, it did a DAMN fine job of welcoming the season for me while still giving me that hoppy bite that I so crave in beers.  This beer also gets top marks for restoring my faith in below 5% ABV beers.  I honestly wouldn’t have suspected that this would have an alcohol content of 4.2%.  Harviestoun, you done good.


And now to have some dinner before I move on to the next beer…

GEMINI IMPERIAL BLENDED ALE – Southern Tier Brewing Company (Lakewood, NY) – 9.0% ABV

This beer was one of those drinks that you can’t help but notice just popping up in the store and you wonder “What are YOU all about, then?”.  The packaging is lovely and the description by the brewers on this limited release Imperial India Pale Ale is quite poetic.  It’s been in my local store for weeks now, but due to the price (around $9.00) I had to hold off on buying a bottle until I was able to justify the money.  And well, I finally justified it.  Let’s ‘ave a butcher’s.

COLOUR – Dark, cloudy, slightly peach-coloured.  The DARK part of the peach, at any rate.  Good start, so far.  Gotta say, that’s a fine lookin’ head on it too.

AROMA – Fruity.  Berries.  As the beer started adjusting to not being in the fridge a SLIGHT hint of honey came up.  Some people have claimed that there’s an earthy smell to it, but I haven’t noticed it.  Maybe it’s because I don’t snort dirt. I don’t know.

TASTE – Well. it definintely lives up to it’s alcohol content of 9%, because that sucker punched me at the initial taste like…uh…some boxer at a grudge match (I don’t follow boxing and saying Mike Tyson seems a bit too “done”).   The syrupy malt texture is hitting me and the hints of berries and honey have gotten stronger.  One thing I will say about this baby is that it is CREAMY.  No acidic feelings at the back of my throat like a few IPAs have given me.  The hops really does have a strong presence, but with the creaminess it’s like I’m being punched with a pillow between me and the fist.  I’m not getting the whole she-bang out of the hops and in this case I think that’s a good thing.

Aftertaste is pretty good.  The berries and honey taste remains and I’m finding myself moving my tongue around because the texture was so smooth and I liked it.  The hops flavour was clearly not around to cuddle and left with the glass.  Something about an early meeting. (EDIT: Turns out there’s an after-after taste.  When the berry and honey hints left the hops came back to get its keys.  Lasted for a few minutes.)

VERDICT – Eh.  While I enjoy the smoothness of the beer and the slight honey aroma and taste, I feel like there’s not much to this beer and, especially after the Bitter & Twisted, this beer doesn’t seem like all that even with its high alcohol content.  So what I’m saying was, you were alright, Gemini.  And I might give you a ring some time if I feel like just getting drunk, but that’s only if my other stand-bys aren’t available.

SIDE NOTE – The experience was SLIGHTLY made better when I just sat back and thought about things, swirling the glass like I would with a snifter of Brandy.  Halfway through, there’s a warm feeling that is nice.  Still not all that, but it has a slight appeal.

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