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The Divination Six Pack – Beer & The Tarot

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One of the things I’m often asked to do when trying beers is to assign a particular profile to whatever it is I’m drinking. This works as a descriptor of when/where to try a beer, but like with all things that involve taste and smell, it’s entirely subjective. To me a hotdog is best enjoyed on a city block while trying to fight away pigeons, whereas to others it might be in a baseball stadium. Each person has a different ideal scenario for what they’re having and each one has a very specific kind of emotional attachment to that scenario.

But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go back a couple of nights.

So I’m chatting with a friend of mine, Philosophy Professor and Occult Reality Augmentation Man-About-Town, Damien Patrick Williams about the popular method of divination, the Tarot Cards. Within that he brings up his own unique way of doing Tarot pulls that don’t involve the actual cards. Instead, he puts his music player on shuffle. When he asks his question (let’s say “How do I see myself?”), a song will come up and he’ll take in the lyrics and his emotional reaction to the song and figure out how it fits in to his question.  He feels that it works similar to the tarot, but also has the ability to provide a bit more nuance than cards, as songs can make you feel a whole mix of feelings at the same time.

This got me thinking about beer. After all, each beer has incredibly unique flavour profiles and brings about its own unique emotional response. If there was a way to create a randomized list of beers, could I do the same thing that Damien did with his music player? I decided to find out.

In creating a “deck”, I formed a list of a healthy mix of Ontario beers that were the resulted wins of the 2014 Ontario Brewing Awards, which involved three beers in each section, which was many different styles from Lite Beer to Dark IPA, to Wit Beer. To make things easier for a pull, I removed beers that either no longer existed (and that I hadn’t tried) or would be impossible for me to try in the span of a few days, leaving a grand total of 62 beers for this experiment. After making the list, I ran it through a list randomizer several times and it was complete.

To do a reading all you have to do is go to a random number generator, think about your question, and click “Generate”. Look up the number in the beer list, and then think about (or try!) the beer, noting it’s full flavour profile and what you think of it, including situations where you think it would be ideal to drink it in (and think about how you would feel about that situation, good or bad?). With those connections made, think about how they relate to your question and how they apply to you.

Removing the Tarot element of this, I feel it’s an excellent exercise in really getting to think about the connection you have with certain beers and may help you for pick out selections in the future. It’ll provide some context in your thought process and help you understand what kind of beer you want when faced with the dilemma of “what should I have?”. Additionally, this would be a really fun way to share beers with friends, as you can create a Divination 6-pack for them as a gift.

For the Ontario folks, I have this handy-dandy list pre-made, so you can use that (though feel free to make your own). For everyone else, at last we have a use for lists that web sites make! Ratebeer has a top 50 beer list section that can be customized, or you could spend an hour or so creating your own. The more there is on the list, the better. All you need is the random number generator and you’re good to go.

As for the questions, I’ve kept it simple but strong with six ones. You as you see yourself, you as others see you, your goal, recent past, near future, and ultimate outcome. As an example, I’ve done a pull of my own below. While I’m not going to give you specific aspects of my life, I have included my personal reaction to the results and have outlined the ones I feel have the strongest connection.

And here we go.

You As You See Yourself: Highlander Brew Company  Scottish Ale – A very soft-spoken beer in the public eye, but revealed to have a level of complexity due to the malts.

You As Others See You: F&M Stone Hammer Maple Red Ale – An all together solid beer and arguably one of the most solid from this particular brewery, it’s an Amber Ale brewed with locally sourced maple syrup. However, it isn’t to everyone’s tastes. Folks will either have one and never think of it again, or reach for another

Your Goal: Amsterdam Brewery – Downtown Brown – Whenever I think of Downtown Brown, I tend to think of “Balance”. While it has many of the elements of a solid, grounded brown ale, there is also a level of lightness to its taste that makes it a drink that doesn’t demand a certain atmosphere to enjoy it with. Very easy-going but grounded.

Recent Past: Molson-Coors Rickard’s White – Rickard’s White is actually a pretty good beer, but in America, where the exact beer is known as Blue Moon, it is a a beer that is constantly mistaken for something made by a smaller brewery (When in reality it’s made by one of the largest). As a result, there is a deep mistrust among the craft beer crowd and it has the image of trying to be something that it is not.

Near Future: Mill Street Frambozen – A very bright and sweet beer, ideally preferred in the sunshine. However, the taste is quite brief. (Only real personal note – Am planning a trip to Montreal soon)

Ultimate Outcome: Wellington Imperial Russian Stout – With several exceptions, I often view Imperial Stouts as the grand finale beer of a particularly trying day. With it’s dark roasted notes and slight alcohol burn, it’s a beer that’s meant to be savoured and sipped slowly. My ideal circumstance would be sitting in an easy chair with some music playing and a good book. Ultimately, with an Imperial Stout, in particular this one, I’d like to unwind from something with it. While this may not be my absolute first choice, it’s a damn good choice nonetheless.

And there you have it.

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Filed under Innovations, Learning, people I know, Tips

Beer Nog, Holiday Message, and Good Tidings

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Well, it’s that time of year again, where a bearded fat man, in celebration of Jesus, breaks in to your house in the middle of the night, eats your food, and leaves a few things before moving on to the next house. For others who don’t recognize this bizarre annual disturbance, it is also the holidays and a good bit of time off work.

There are many ways (and reasons) to enjoy beer over the holidays and the variety is, as it has always been, limitless (though in the cold winter months I’ve noticed many folks tend to go with the dark and/or boozy beers like Imperial Stouts, Belgian Tripels, or Dark IPAs). While of course nothing quite beats enjoying them in a glass on their own to either wrap up a day of gift wrapping or in an attempt to shut out the family arguments, there is a way to combine your beer with the OTHER favourite drink of the holidays. I refer, of course, to the ‘Nog.

Yep, you can indeed mix eggnog with your beer, though picking the right beer isn’t as easy as it sounds. It can’t be too bitter or too dry, so something creamy and a touch on the sweet side would do marvelously. Beers I would suggest to use are Mill Street‘s Vanilla Porter, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout, or North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout. Though thinking on it, a nice coffee stout might also go pretty wonderfully. If any of you folks have other suggestions, please please PLEASE put them in the comments.

Now that a beer is picked you have two ways of going about it. You can either do a mix with store bought eggnog or you can make your own. If you’re going with the first method, I’d suggest 3 parts of nog to about 2 parts of beer. Possibly throw in a bit of milk and nutmeg/cinnamon.

For the make-it-your-own method, the author of The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. and The Sriracha Cookbook Randy Clemens made a damned good recipe way back in 2009. Here it is…

Beer Nog Recipe

6 eggs*, separated
1/2 c sugar, plus 2 Tbsp
2 1/2 c whole milk
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 fl oz of beer (Clemens suggests Port Brewing Old Viscosity or other dark, strong ale)
2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Whisk 6 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for several minutes, until the yolks lighten in color and double in volume. Lower speed of mixer and add milk, cream, vanilla, beer, and nutmeg, stirring until combined. Reserve yolk mixture. Wash mixer bowl and whisk attachment thoroughly (any traces of dairy or egg yolk left on equipment will keep the egg whites from whipping properly).

Whisk 6 egg whites in cleaned stand mixer on high. Gradually add in remaining 2 Tbsp sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into yolk mixture. Chill and serve, topping each glass with additional grated nutmeg if desired. Serves 8.

And with that, I just wanted to say Happy Holidays from me and mine to you and yours. I’ll go in to a bit more detail on my new year’s post, but 2014 was a hell of a year for this little site and its humble but pretty tall author and none of it would have happened without viewers like you. Thanks for reading, thanks for talking, and I hope your holidays, however you spend them, are as relaxing as they can be.

 

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Filed under Cooking With Beer, seasonal, Site Business

Geeked-Out Beers

Regular readers here will know that I’m a bit of a nerd. Mainly, I love video games, MST3K, Star Trek, and comics. So it’s always a lot of fun when my nerdy side meets my beer geeky side by some rather awesome brew ideas. The following are two of the more interesting geeky beers available right now.

NOTE: I should say that I wanted to include one of the Game of Thrones beers put out by Ommegang Brewery and HBO, but I was saddened to find that the two stores I went to find it in no longer had it in stock. I promise I’ll talk about it as soon as I can find a bottle, though I’m a bit nervous about pairing it with EVERYONE I LOVE DYING. 

First up we have Vulcan Ale, a contract brew put out by the Federation of Beer for the centennial celebrations of the town of Vulcan, Alberta and as such, the only officially licensed Star Trek Beer. Before you get in a tizzy, YES I KNOW VULCANS DON’T USUALLY DRINK ALCOHOL AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF IT WAS ROMULAN ALE. We know. I know. Every time I mention this beer to people they say the same thing. I’m not going to pull a “it’s just a show you should really just relax”, but I will say to allow a bit of suspension of disbelief because it was for the town of Vulcan, Alberta, and you’ll notice that Spock did partake in a few alcoholic celebrations and the planet does have it’s own Brandy so it may be in the realm of possibility that there is a small brewery on the planet Vulcan. Maybe.

The beer was brewed by Montana-based brewery Harvest Moon Brewing Company and brought in by importers Delancey Direct (I know, I know, I laughed too, but it’s the wrong spelling). To reflect the colour of the red planet Vulcan, the brewery decided to go with an Irish Red Ale. It’s running at about 5.4% ABV and sold in individual cans at a little over $3 each (depending where you’re at).

I have to admit, I got a bit too excited when this beer came out here in Ontario and decided to put my special Star Trek socks on, a t-shirt that a friend bought me, and put on a season one episode of Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) just to see how it would pair with the drink. And oddly enough…it went well. The beer wasn’t quite what I was expecting, very English influenced. Mild caramel taste with a sweetness at the end that feels kind of weird. In the end I found it matched the original show perfectly, having a sweet warmth enveloping it while at the same time the various complexities are there for you to discover and think about. While it is a little to sweet for my tastes, it’s an excellent beer as mild as the Chief Science Officer himself.

The Federation of Beer has a plan to do an ongoing series with the Star Trek beers. Next up will be a Rye Dunkelweizen by Tin Man Brewing of Evansville, Indiana called Klingon Warnog (which actually is a traditional Klingon Ale, normally very clear in colour), which will be the first of the Star Trek beers to hit the United States. Needless to say, I’m excited to try a glorious Klingon beer to quaff after a good battle where many friends died well. Iwllj jachjaj!

I should mention that, although it may be due to understaffing or not enough of a budget, I feel that the Federation of Beer really dropped the ball on the marketing of the nationwide launch. It was released in the LCBO with barely a whisper from them and any questions I had sent were either met with no reply. And so far there doesn’t seem to be any word on Star Trek Day celebrations, which strikes me as an easy tie-in. But whatever, that’s just my opinion. LLAP.

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Second up is the latest offering from Mill Street Brewery here in Toronto. As part of their Summer pack, they decided to let their brewpub in Ottawa have a go at making a summer sipper and the result is an amber ale with lime and chipotle called Palomar Ale (pictured above). The beer is, if you didn’t pick up on it, named after the fictional town in Mexico that the famous Hernandez Brothers comic Love & Rockets took place in.

Firstly, I really have to give credit to Mill Street on the reference. It was awesome to hear how geeky the Ottawa crew is along with how much of a long time fan of the Hernandez Brothers the seemingly mild-mannered brewmaster Joel Manning is. Of all the breweries to make a Love & Rockets reference I never would have figured Mill Street to be the one to make it. Bra-freaking-vo.

As for the beer itself, it’s rather tasty. Nice grain tone to it with some crisp bitterness that is complemented by the gorgeous taste of lime. The chipotle is…definitely on the subtle side, being present only as a slight tingle of heat at the back of the throat at the end of tasting. I’m kind of curious to see how this will go in the blisteringly hot summer, as this strikes me as a little too malty for a the season. But then again, I’ve been proven wrong before. All in all, the lime was definitely the star of the show and it was quite enjoyable to sit on my porch in the somewhat cool Spring day. I think I may drink this while watching some wrestling.

 

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Filed under Beer Products, Seasonal Beers

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

Small Lessons Making a Big Difference

So I’m going to tell you folks a little story.

You sitting down? What about you in the back? Okay? Good. Here it goes.

So back in 2011 when I was still trying to get this blog going and was still at the very start of the grand journey of learning about beer, I went to my first Ontario Craft Beer Week event, which was a “meet the brewer for a tutoured tasting” thing with Mill St. Brewery at The Rebel House. Brewmaster Joel Manning and brewer Bridgid Young showed up with samples of their Original Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale. And since the place wasn’t too busy, they sat down with me and taught me about the ingredients that go in to their beers. Even bringing bags of two types of grain and a bag of hops to show. Joel encouraged me to taste the grain that went in to their Tankhouse Ale and then try the beer. Suddenly I realized the source of the biscuit-like flavours I was tasting. Even with the hops, I learned how to take a handful of the flowers, grind it with my hands and smell the wonderful hints of citrus and sweetness that the hop is known for.

It was my first exposure to the individual ingredients that went in to beer and was nothing short of a revelation on the senses for me and changed the way I looked (and, well, tasted) beer. Now and then when I do a tasting of a beer my mind sometimes goes back to the lessons I learned that day.

So why am I telling this story? Am I too tired? Am I off my meds and just feel like rambling?

Well, yes.

hops1But also to segue in to talking about earlier this week when I went to the launch of Alexander Keith’s Hop Series of beers, which opened with two single-hop beers (that’s a beer that is made with one variety of hop); a Cascade Ale and Hallertauer Ale.

Now, I’ve only tried the Cascade Ale so far and while it’s a pretty decent and comfortable offering (but not to my personal taste) I really need to bring attention to the packaging. The cans themselves talk a bit about the history of the individual hop they’ve used, which I think is a fantastic idea. Also press were given this little pack (seen on the right) that came with two small jars of flower hops. The only labels on the jars were “Hop A” and “Hop B”.

Confusion was cleared by the accompanying card:

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And I thought that was such a brilliant way to get people learning about what goes in to beer and encourage a whole appreciation for it. Sometimes when a 2-300 page book or big event seems too intimidating for a beginner in learning or when you just plain don’t know, it takes one person to show up with a jar of flower hops or a bag of malt and say “this is what went in to what you’re drinking”. Like in food, breaking something down to its raw ingredients increases an understanding in it.

So say what you will about the taste of Keith’s, or dismiss them because they’re a big brewery, but I say they did something right here and that this is a pretty cool way to educate people about what’s going in to their drink. And that’s something.

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Filed under Beer Products, Learning