Tag Archives: pilsner

An Unexpected Brewery – Central City’s Hobbit Beers

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Considering that I’m writing this post with the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack playing and a replica of the One Ring To Rule Them All hanging from a silver chain around my neck, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. The world, the languages, the beautiful stories that go on throughout his books are nothing short of masterpieces for me. While my preference tends to lie with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s children’s book sibling, The Hobbit, has a special place in my heart as a book that I would escape to when the trials and pressures of being a Grade Fiver would get to me (not a joke, there were plenty). So when a movie trilogy based on the book was being made I was optimistic. The movies are great. They’re no Lord of the Rings (Extended OR theatrical), but they’re fantastic films all the same, that capture many of the characters, in particular the company of Dwarves, in a way that really made the fifth grader in me smile.

So it’s with that same level of optimism I had when I learned that Central City Brewers + Distillers out of Surrey, B.C. would be making a series of beers based on The Hobbit films. The beers would essentially be a Canadian version of Olympia, Washington brewer Fish Brewing Co.‘s Hobbit beers, with Central City using their recipe. So Canada would have a beer based on a movie based on a book that is based on an American beer based on a movie based on a book. The thought of adaptation in this is very interesting and I’m sure that Central City adapted as well as changed slightly to create a series of beers that is altogether unique.

I’m actually a huge fan of beers based on franchises, since the name attached tends to, not totally unlike Bilbo Baggins, get people not inclined to be adventurous with beer to try something new. However, there were a few hurdles to overcome, the big one of these being timing. Fish Brewing came out with their beers in the Fall of last year, which left Central City racing to get their beers finished and out in time for the release of the final Hobbit film. And as an Ontario resident I’d like to add my personal gripe of the beers being available in all provinces of Canada EXCEPT Ontario, with the LCBO deciding not to go with it for reasons that I can only speculate on (hooray).

But anyways! You aren’t here to read my Ontario Retail System slashfic, you came to read about these Hobbit beers! Let’s get to them!

Bolg Belgian Tripel (9.5% ABV): The albino Orc Azog is one of the primary antagonists in the Hobbit film, having killed Thorin Oakensheild’s grandfather, the king under the mountain by beheading him. Thorin managed to cut off his arm, but Azog merely retreated and was able to hunt down his nemesis Thorin with his son Bolg. But the movie actually demoted Bolg, whose father is long dead and is merely mentioned by name in the book, with his son actually being the Orc leader of the Misty Mountains and leader of the Goblins of Moria.

All that to mean that for whatever reason, Bolg’s role in The Hobbit is one of the more problematic and ill-conceived (at least in the movie version). He doesn’t totally work and, I’m afraid, the beer, a belgian tripel, doesn’t either. To its credit, it starts out with promise. Both aroma and taste have some lovely notes of honey, dried fruit, and cloves in them. But the taste falls apart at the end, when things get far, far too bitter.

The Precious Pils (5% ABV): Oooooh we likes it, Precious! We likes it! The colour is golden like the Precious! Golden, Precious! Very balanced, it is, with slight grainses and a clean finish, Precious! The dry note at the end is especially good!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

As it warms the dryness grows, but we still likes it, Precious! We likes it! All ours! Forever and ever!

*Gollum! Gollum!*

Smaug Stout (8.5 ABV): “Revenge! Revenge! The King under the Mountain is dead and where are his kin that dare seek revenge? Girion Lord of Dale is dead, and I have eaten his people like a wolf among sheep, and where are his sons’ sons that dare approach me? I kill where I wish and none dare resist. I laid low the warriors of old and their like is not in the world today. Then I was but young and tender. Now I am old and strong, strong, strong, Thief in the Shadows!”

With a quote like that, you would expect that a beer named after a huge, heavily armoured dragon, especially Smaug, to be pretty damn big. So it’s with no surprise whatsoever that it’s an 8.5% ABV Imperial Stout with Habanero Chilis was created to honour the Dragon who took over the Lonely Mountain.

The aroma sets up a really good expectation, as the chilis come out very prominently, followed closely with its friends cocoa and coffee. The taste is incredibly creamy and smooth. Very well-balanced. A bit disappointing, as the chili notes in the flavour was a lot more subtle than the aroma led me to think it would be, but that aside, it’s an incredibly well put together stout.

All in all, two of the three offerings blew me away. The pilsner is a thing of beauty and the Smaug Stout is an incredibly close second.

Now go gather some of your close Dwarf and Hobbit friends, pour a drink, and sing a song. Or read the book together. Whichever works.

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“Hey, ho, to the bottle I go,
To heal my heart and drown my woe!
Rain may fall and wind may blow,
But there still beeeeee many miles to go!

Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And stream that falls from hill to plain!
Better than rain or rippling brook,
Is a mug of beer inside this Took!

Strange and dark is the world outside,
But in the pub we’ve naught to hide!
With lots of ale, and barley wine,
This evenin’ is surpassin’ fine!

Harvest’s in and cold without,
An’ hobbits strong are hobbits stout!
Naught to fear, and naught to think,
For hobbits nowwww have ale to drink!”

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CURRENTLY DRINKING: Ramblin’ Road Country Pilsner

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And here we are, my first beer review of 2013.

Since first hearing about them, I’ve been excited to try the offerings of Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm out of  Norfolk County. What caught my eye on them initially was that they are Ontario’s first and only “Brewery Farm”, which is to mean that they are a functioning farm and produce the ingredients going in to the small batches of beer they make. While they don’t grow their grains (yet), they do have a full hop garden and draw spring water from their own land. On top of that the brewery also does its best to be a part of the community by continuously promoting events and places taking place in “Ontario’s Garden”, Norfolk County.

The three beers on offer by the brewery, led by Brewmaster/Farmer John Picard, are Country Pilsner, Country Lager and Country Ale. The reputation that the brewery farm has amassed from the festivals they’ve showcased their beers at has been hard to ignore, so it’s no wonder that I’ve been looking forward to trying one of their products.

And once they finally finished bottling their beer the folks at Ramblin’ Road were incredibly nice enough to send me the Country Pilsner. Shall we take a look at it? I think we should.

RAMBLINColour – very clear bright yellow. Not too big a white head that eases down in to a thin layer.

Aroma – Nice earthy scent of the grains hitting you along with a slight hop aroma quietly lurking in the shadows behind it.

Taste – Now this…is interesting. Obvious earthy malt characters are coming up to the forefront, but the hops has disappeared from the shadows and is now walking with the malt as an equal. The bitterness of the hops is complimenting the earthiness of the grains very well… Though what makes this beer for me is the slight twist of sweetness at the end. Aftertaste is slightly bitter and warming. The grains are all that’s left.

Verdict – A damn refreshing beer that celebrates the Pilsner style very well. The sweetness at the end is enough to make me want to try more and this is indeed something I would love to drink at the end of a tough day out in the garden.

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Gateway Beers Part 1

GATEWAY BEERS.  Yes, like Marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and LSD AS WE HAVE ALL LEARNED AT SCHOOL, so too are there beers that can get you hooked and lead to something more complex.  Sure, you might be at a party and someone offers you a Chimay or St. Andrew’s Ale.  What’s the harm?  It’s a party after all and you want to be cool.  Plus that girl Sandy you’re sweet on is drinking a La Fin Du Monde and SHE seems pretty on the ball. But in two month’s time WHAMMO. You’re at a local shindig and creating a scene because the bar doesn’t serve any reputable Abbey ales.  You’re kicked out.  You’ve alienated all your friends, your family doesn’t understand you and your local priest thinks you’re beyond hope.  It’s a sad, horrible life.

I’ll stop now.

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?”.   So to start off, We’ll hit the most common one I’ve heard.

I USUALLY DRINK HEINEKEN (or Bud, Molson, Steamwhistle, Labaat, Busch…)

We all have at some point.  As a Canadian, it almost seemed like my duty to drink Molson.  My old drinking buddy and I used to buy Steamwhistle by the pitcher and during my senior year at high school I drank nothing but Heineken. But as I discovered myself, there is so much better out there.

If you are used to these light coloured (and flavoured) beers, stepping towards something darker and richer might be too much too soon and have you running away.  You might want to take baby steps.  And with that, I’m going to suggest a good Pilsner.

Pilsner is a style of beer in the lager family and is named after the city it was created, Plzen, Bohemia (now Czech Republic) and was made by people who were sick of these dark cloudy brews that, at the time, seemed to go sour a lot. They dreamed of a beer that didn’t seem like a meal and this was their answer.  The combination of the lager yeasts, the pale grains and the natural soft water of the region made for one delicious brew.  If you want a damn good pilsner beer, throw away that Heinie and grab a brew made in Plzen.

Going by what’s available in the LCBO stores here in Ontario, my main suggestion in this style is going to be the Plzen-based Pilsner Urquell, which can be found anywhere in bottles, cans and sometimes on tap in pubs.  The first thing that will hit you about this beer is the colour.  A beautiful golden wheat colour that will make you instantly thirsty.  When you try it I guarantee it will be a whole new world for you.  The crisp, biscuity quality to it, the subtle spices thrown in…yeah, there will be no going back.  As Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune said in their fabulous book The Naked Pint, it’s like going your whole life eating waxy halloween chocolate and suddenly taking a bite of an 80% cacao chocolate bar.  You really never knew something so light could taste so GOOD.  And why should you?  You’ve been drinking Molson or Bud.  It’s all you’ve ever known.

And that’s the first Gateway Beer I have for you.  There will be more in the future and then we’ll move on up.

But for now, I’m off to have a drink.

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