Tag Archives: mill st. brewery

Make it Schnappy: Bierschnaps

So, full disclosure, I had originally written this post a few months ago with the intention of it going up on another site. Unfortunately, due to editorial problems it was left on the shelf. After breaking my ties with the site, I then decided it would be such a waste to keep this post sitting there, so here it is. This post has been slightly changed to roll with the changes since it was originally written. Also, since it was intended for Amerikan eyes the spelling of some words is very clearly wrong. I apologize to all the fans of the letter U who read the site and can only ask that you move past your prejudices and enjoy the post. Thank you.

Beer…SCHNAPS? Kind of weird to think about I know, but it is out there and it’s surprising to say the least. Be forewarned, this isn’t the syrupy sweet schnapps that comes in distinct chemicaly flavors like could-be-mint and I-think-that’s-what-peach-tastes-like and alternates as the combination to Elaine’s Vault (ask your parents or think back a bit, come on I’m not that old). This is the traditional, clean, crisp, and strong-as-hell liquor with a unique process brought over from Austria.

To be honest I first heard about this style when Mill Street Brewery, based in the touristy Distillery District here in Toronto, announced the opening of a Beer Hall with an in-house micro distillery way back in April. The plan was to exclusively make their own brand of Bierschnaps with three of their flagship beers, Tankhouse Ale, Coffee Porter and Frambozen as a base.

So how is it done? To put it simply, they brew the three beers to a higher alcohol level than they usually are (around 7% abv) and run it through a double distillation process. Before the second distillation the “low-wine” is steeped for a while in a selected ingredient for that extra flavorful push. In the case of the Tankhouse, it’s cascade hops and in the case of the Frambozen, it’s whole raspberries. The resulting clear liquid, roughly 45% abv, is bottled, sealed with individually colored sealing wax and placed in fridges both for the pub and the store to be enjoyed as an Apéritif between courses or…just for the hell of it, I imagine, in little tiny beer stein shot glasses imported from Austria.

I should admit that the first time I tried this was at a friend’s house for dinner and my initial reaction….wasn’t too favorable. While I am familiar with hard liquor, my palate has been trained to pick up subtle hints of things and any kind of boozy beverage that is the taste equivalent of a hammer slamming in to my tongue is going to give my senses a bit of a jolt. But the second time I tried it was at the Beer Hall under the supervision and direction of Mill Street owner Joel Manning and Head Distiller Kaitlin Vandenbosch and after an explanation of how to pick up the flavors, it turned out better. As far as taste goes, I really think that context is important before trying.

Bierschnaps, according to Manning and Vandenbosch, isn’t a drink to swirl about in the mouth and savor. It’s meant to be downed in one shot quickly. The flavor notes work after it’s knocked back, when the remaining liquid warms and moves up your throat. The Frambozen, for instance, lets out a not-too-subtle hint of fresh raspberries and the tankhouse has the unmistakable notes of hops as well as the malts that went in to the original beer.

As an aside, if you ever get the chance to try a shot of Bierschnaps with a pint of the beer it was based on, I strongly reccomend it. Having a shot of the Tankhouse with a pint of Tankhouse as a chaser really opened up the flavors for me and helped me figure out some of the things I was tasting in the schnaps.

Bottles of the Frambozen, Coffee Porter and Tankhouse Bierschnaps are available only at the Mill Street retail store at their brewery for about $35 and can be a fun novelty gift for a loved one based in lands not our own. As of writing, Mill Street was in the planning stages of upcoming seasonal releases of Bierschnaps and readying the release of a new bottle to the family of three called Hopfenschnaps, which is a hoppier and more spiced version based with the Tankhouse ale and is a kicker at 55% ABV. Bottles of that are currently available at the retail store for $39.50. If that’s too expensive for your blood, they do serve individual shots at their brewpub.


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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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The Season of Giving: Beer Gift Packs

We’ve all been denying it and dreading it, but it’s time to come to terms with it: the holidays are here.  I don’t know about you folks, but this week and next for me will be a chaotic haze of gift buying, office parties, secret-santaing and dinner partying.

So you need to get something.  Ideally under $20-$50 and you kind of want to avoid getting everyone the same coffee table book of “Chairs Throughout History”.  While thinking about it you grab a beer…and then it hits you.

It’s one of my favorite seasons right now…BEER GIFT BOX SEASON!  That glorious time of year where breweries decide to make a box set that samples their beer and comes with a beautiful glass.  They’re cheap, they’re pretty and they’re tasty!  They truly are good gifts for the dinner partying or office partying crowd.

The following is a list of some favourites I’ve known of.  Speak to your local Boozemonger for information on purchasing/ordering.  Of course, prices may vary and I can’t be held responsible if you spoil the gift by opening it and trying it for yourself.

1. Historic Ales From Scotland Gift Pack
William Bros. Brewery

This is a really fun set.  Comes with four bottles of historic ales (Pine Ale, Heather Ale, Elderberry Ale and Gooseberry Ale) which all, to my surprise the first time I tried it, taste just wonderful.  The story behind them is also amazing and listed on the back of the bottle so you can learn something (The Gooseberry Ale was originally brewed by 16th century Scots monks, the Pine Ale was brought over by the Vikings and so on).  This is a nice and cheap set which brings out a sort of adventurous spirit in people with the results always being good ones.  I strongly suggest picking up this set.

Taste of Belgium Gift Pack
Anheuser-Busch InBev

To regular readers here, SHUT UP I KNOW HEAR ME OUT. Let’s face it, you’re bound to have some friends, no matter how much you try to pour craft beer down their throats, that are going to like the simple stuff.  This pack has three beers with accompanying glasses for each one. Stella Artois, Hoegaardan and Leffe Brune.  While I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the first two, I have to acknowledge that people love them and that’s cool.  Also, Leffe Brune is truly a wonderful beer and mixes it up a little.  While a beer snob would turn his or her nose up to this, it does make an ideal gift for a friend who likes that kind of thing and ESPECIALLY for “mystery gifting” at office parties.  It IS practical.

Mill St. Organic, Tankhouse or Coffee Porter Gift Pack
Mill St. Brewery

I actually bought one of these (The Coffee Porter one) for a Dinner Party I’m going to tonight.  Three different packs; one for their Organic, their Tankhouse Ale and their very tasty Coffee Porter.  Each beer comes with a glass that will suit the beer (The Coffee Porter comes with a Snifter Glass, for example) and they pack a HUGE punch as a present for a really cheap price.  Once again, ideal for office party Secret Santas or dinner parties and the beer is of exceptional quality!  And screw it, I may very well buy one or two of these myself.

Erdinger Weissbier Bavarian Gift Pack
Erdinger Weissbräu

A pretty damn refreshing beer!  This pack comes with two beers, the traditional Weissbier and Erdinger’s superb Dunkel as well as a glass that goes well with this style of beer.  The beer is tasty and is sure to attract even the beer-haters of the group.  And while Weissbiers are considered by a few people to be a better drink in the summer months, I think they are still quite amazing in the winter months.  The nice maltiness of the Dunkel will add to the holiday ambience considerably.

Chimay Gift Set
Bières de Chimay

This is a gift set for the beer lover friend of yours.

You remember my post on Trappist Beers, right? Of course you do!  Chimay is one of the seven Trappist breweries in the world and are the most aggressive with their advertising and sales.  This set comes with their three famous beers, the blue cap, red cap and white cap, as well as a BEAUTIFUL Abbey Goblet to drink it all down with.  Seriously a wonderful set that allows you to try the brews of one of the more famous breweries out there.


So there we go!  There are more out there, of course so be sure to get down to your booze emporium and check out what’s available!  And hey, maybe pick one or two out for yourself while you’re at it.

Let’s all try and survive the holidays, folks.

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Ontario Craft Beer Week: Mill St. Brewery

Okay, yes.  I know I just got back from NYC and I know that I have several beers to review and talk about and just plain GUSH about but…well…the very day I got back Ontario Craft Beer Week began and I just went to my first event for it and…well…my NYC thoughts can wait for now.

Why?  Because I talked to the Brewmaster and one of the Brewers from Mill St. Brewery, who, in the short nine years they’ve been around, have become one  of the most well-known breweries here in Toronto. And in all honesty, I’ve never had the chance to talk to a Brewmaster for any period of time longer than two minutes, so this was a thrill for me.   So to my international readers, I apologize for alienating you.

The event was a “Meet the brewer for a tutored tasting” type of deal at The Rebel House just north of Rosedale station here in Toronto.  A brewer comes in with samples of some of their beers and talks about them a bit.  I arrived ten minutes early and it took me exactly ten minutes to realize that I was sipping a pre-drink beer next to the Brewmaster of Mill St. Brewery, Joel Manning.   I felt a bit embarrassed that I was drinking something from another brewery.

Let me say this about Joel Manning: he is an incredibly smart man who knows his beer and will stop at nothing to get just the right recipe.  And for someone who is Brewmaster, he is remarkably not shaking with stress/coffee consumption and chain-smoking nor is he impatient and curt as most top people in businesses are.  He’s very laid back and enjoys what he does.

Before getting in to the beers they brought that night, Joel gave me a little bit of the history of the brewery and talked about just how committed they are to get the best ingredients.  At this point I brought up their seasonal on-tap-only beer, the Vanilla Porter.  which frankly, made my winter. Well, turns out I opened a can of worms for Joel, who went on for five minutes about all the different type of vanillas he tried and how each region was slightly different.  “I didn’t want it to be a beer that tasted like JUST porter and vanilla,” he said. “That’s boring.  We wanted all the subtle flavours to find their way in and I think we did it with this type of Vanilla.”  Finally Joel went with vanilla from Mexico, which he feels brings out the best in the beer. No complaints here.  And it was interesting to hear about the attention to detail.

Then we went on to the beers they brought: Original Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale. Both award winners and both high-selling.

The Organic Lager is their highest selling beer so far.  Ontario’s first CERTIFIED organic lager, this German Pilsner is about 4.2%ABV and goes down smooth with a slight biscuity taste and a floral aroma to it. However, while it is a refreshing brew, I’m a person who is normally fond of the heavier, more bitter beers, so due to personal taste I’m afraid this just wasn’t up my alley and seemed too watered down.

Now the Tankhouse Ale is a pale ale that I am intimately familiar with.  I’ve taken this to parties with me several times and it’s a great year-round drink.  The spicy taste notes as well as the hints of citrus brought on by the use of Cascade hops just freakin’ DANCE on the tongue.  At 5.2%ABV, this is what I consider a comfortable drink.

But tasting the beers and getting an idea of the flavour notes wasn’t the end of it.  It was at this point Mill St. Brewer Bridgid Young (knowledgeable in the art of brewing and almost as laid back as her boss) stepped in and pulled some of the grains used in both the Organic and Tankhouse as well as (gasp!) a bag of Cascade Hops.  Together they let me sample the grains, which was a HELL of an education in just what they do to the texture of the beer as well as the taste notes.  And I learned how to properly take in the scent of hops: grab a small amount, grind it with your palms, open up and inhale.  And…wow.  It was my first experience handling fresh hops and I was taken aback by the texture and colour of them as well as the smell.  Speaking of the smell, it’s no wonder that I love brews with Cascade hops!  The citrus tones are much more defined and…well, it was quite an experience.

After this great education both Joel and Brigid gave me their cards, invited me to the brewpub, got me a pint of Tankhouse Ale and went off in to the crowd with sample cups to talk about themselves to others, leaving a slightly amazed, slightly in awe woman feeling really grateful for the most educational talk with folks from a brewery she’s had in a good long while.

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