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So I’ve been busy (Ontario Craft Beer Guide Announcement)

ontariocraftbeerguide_robin_jordan

Hey folks, a lot of you might have noticed that I haven’t posted much on here this summer. My deepest apologies. Work has been absolutely crazy, with things just getting incredibly busy leading up to a string of business trips last month. Rest assured that posts are on the way. I have at least three posts in my drafts folder waiting to be tweaked on.

But before we get to that, I wanted to let you all in on some news. This will excite many people, but in particular long time readers and loved ones, who have seen this site grow since 2011.

As of today, fellow beer writer Jordan St. John and myself have signed a book contract with Dundurn Press to write The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, a comprehensive guide of Ontario’s breweries, brewpubs, and contract breweries.

Details will come soon. We’ve only just signed the thing and put it in the publisher’s hands. But I can say that we’re looking at a 2016 release, it will feature pictures, and that it’s the first book of it’s kind since 1993’s “Ontario Beer Guide” by Jamie Mackinnon. Safe to say that a lot has freakin’ changed since that time.

Right, I should get back to work. I just wanted to let you folks know. While this has been a Thing In The Works for a little while, now that it’s out there in the big world, it’s…it’s emotional, to be honest. Just going through this whole journey from blogger to contributor to columnist, to author. Freakin’ author.

Man.

Anyways, for some more official news, check out Canadian Beer News and Ontario Beer Network’s articles. Stay tuned for more details.

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The Blood of Cthulhu – A Lovecraftian Beer Review

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So before I go in to it here, I should offer some explanation. I was offered to sample a beer for consideration of a review and, based on the name and label design, I immediately said yes. The beer is called The Blood of Cthulhu. It’s put out by Sawdust City Brewing Co. from Gravenhurst, Ontario and is in collaboration with Bar Hop from right here in Toronto. It’s a 9.5% ABV Imperial Stout with raspberries, cranberries, and tart cherries. It will officially be launching at Sawdust City’s brewery location (with limited availability in bottles) and at Bar Hop’s annual Black & Orange Halloween celebration on October 31st at 5pm. Should be said too that Bar Hop’s Black & Orange will have a series of multiple collaborations with other breweries and it’ll be a hellishly good time.

IMG_0456So as for this beer specifically…you know, when I approach this time of year I find I start reading a good bit of horror fiction. Of course one can’t really go in to that genre without catching references to the famous H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos among other incredible stories that leave the imagination reeling. Upon hearing of this beer, I thought it would be a fitting tribute (not to mention fun as hell) to write a review in the style of a short H.P. Lovecraft story. I should note as well that while much of this story is original, I did in some cases directly pull from Lovecraft’s famous story The Call of Cthulhu.

Here it is.

——————-

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
I have just been notified by Samuel Corbeil, noted brewer of Sawdust City Brewing Company and former Professor of Brewmaster and Brewery Relations at the Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology in Niagara, Ontario that there is a certain item he wishes me to appraise. A dark liquid of strange and dark origins encased in a receptacle with sharp engravings that surpasses the knowledge of noted historians and archeologists of his acquaintance. Normally in cases with such profound mystery as this, Prof. Corbeil would not hesitate to defer to his associate, head brewer and creative liaison Aaron Spinney whose experiences in his search for the more esoteric pleasures of the world have, despite his reputation in polite society, required him to associate with the strange and arcane. However, recent events have found Mr. Spinney to be missing without a trace, the last Corbeil seeing him being before he departed on an expedition to the South Pacific some six months ago. There was, however, a recent correspondence in the form of a telegram, which was delivered to Corbeil in September. It has been speculated that this strange item may have been indeed sent by Mr. Spinney, though Prof. Corbeil is unsure of how it came to be in his study or who in fact delivered it.

On seeing my old friend nearing the end of his wits, I have agreed to appraise the item and have arranged for it to be sent to me at my home address. Included with it will be Mr. Spinney’s final communication and notes that precluded his mysterious disappearance, which I hope will provide some insight in to the location of his whereabouts.

I look forward to discovering what secrets this strange item may hold and will, of course, be writing my findings with the intent to publish.

October 29, 2014
After a rather tiring day of running errands throughout the city, I arrived at home to find the parcel from Prof. Corbeil along with the accompanying notes of the missing Aaron Spinney as well as his letters of correspondence. The item which has been the source of mystery for my colleagues is a strange, dark, receptacle. While obviously a bottle of dark glass, the etchings all around it seem to be that of a language with the cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric writings. Equally curious is a figure in the glass that can only be described as a monster or symbol only a diseased fancy could conceive. At a cursory glance, this appears to be a container for a divine drink used for particular rituals. But as for what god this is in reference to, I can not even speculate at this moment.

The accompanying notes included comments on secret societies and hidden cults, accounts of queer dreams, and cuttings alluding to outbreaks of group mania in the spring of 2013. They also tell the tale of a Mr. Robert Pingitore, A man of known genius but great eccentricity and the owner of the now-famous Bar Hop on King Street West. He arrived at the office of Mr. Spinney one night troubled and requesting insight from his trusted friend. Mr. Spinney’s response was curt, as he was deep in to his research on a current project. Pingitore’s rejoinder, though, impressed him enough to record their fantastical conversation. It transpired that the night before there had been a slight earth tremor and Pingitore’s imagination had been keenly affected. Upon retiring, he had an unprecedented dream of great Cyclopean cities of titan blocks and sky-flung monoliths, all dripping with ooze as red as cranberries and sinister with latent horror under a sky that was as black as the darkest of chocolates. Hieroglyphics had covered the walls and pillars, and from some undetermined point below had come a voice that was not a voice; a chaotic sensation which only fancy could transmute into sound, but which he attempted to render by the almost unpronounceable jumble of letters, “Cthulhu fhtagn”.

Photo 2014-10-29, 6 12 10 PMIt is in this moment that I pause to note the striking coincidence in the jumble of letters that Mr. Pingitore dreamed of that Mr. Spinney recalls in his last telegram. It reads: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn”. These words only appear one other time throughout his notes, alongside an image not unlike the bizarre creature etched in the mysterious bottle. Underneath this crude sketch are what I can only conclude is the translation of the words. “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming”.

With this new information, I turned once more to the mysterious bottle, now seeming to be the center of this particular chain of events. I decided to take a chance by opening the bottle so that I may study its contents.

what poured out was a liquid as dark and black as obsidian. Despite the dark colour leading to the expectancy of a rather potent, syrupy smell, all that is on the aroma of the liquid is rather light, with hints of raspberries and an ever slight presence of chocolate. What possessed me, I know not, but I took a sip of this libation and found that the expectations that the aroma presented me with were not only met, but exceeded upon. My senses came alive with the swirling chaos of flavours. The prominent essence of raspberry, followed by the mild bitterness of cranberries, and the subtle note of tart cherries, all bound together by the warm, calming notes of high quality cocoa and the overall texture of rich cream.

As I snapped out of this transcendental state of flavour and pleasure, I noticed that I had lost several hours and that the contents of the bottle were diminished to mere drops. With a light head and the memories of the pleasant gratification of the senses, I will retire to my chambers for the night.

October 30, 2014
Whether it was a result of my imagination being affected by my findings the day before or some other cause, upon retiring last night I was constantly in a state of unrest due to the most bizarre dreams that haunt me still in my waking hours.

I was aboard the Intrepid, the ship that Mr. Spinney and his expedition sailed on with intentions of heading towards the South Pacific. The sky was a deep blood red and the wind harsh. As I looked around, the ship appeared to be in a state of long abandon, with mould, barnacles, and rust prominently covering the area. What can be described as a rushing sound came from beyond the hull and I made my way towards the area to investigate the cause of such a noise. I found that something was arising from the depths of the ocean and there was very little water separating it from the world above. What rose were structures of weed and ooze-covered Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror. The construct that Spinney’s scripture alluded to in his notes and what I now know to be the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.

And through the depths of that poison city it arose. The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own. Once again the stars were right and the dreaded high priest, the monstrous creature governed by laws that are not of this earth and whose description defies sanity, Cthulhu, was on the loose once more!

I awoke screaming, and it took a not insignificant amount of time to console myself that what I saw was the result of an overactive imagination and not a vision of the horrors to come brought on by the divine elixir, what I now refer to as the Blood of Cthulhu, which was used in practices relating to this horrific being. I must confess though, a hesitancy to accept this comforting thought.

I have been left shaken and, satisfied that I have solved some portion of the mystery of the object that has confounded Prof. Corbeil, return the items he provided me with. With them shall go this record of mine – this test of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me.

I must conclude that it was a harsh storm that overtook The Intrepid and with it Mr. Spinney, or else the world would by now be screaming with fright and frenzy. But who knows the end? Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise again.

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Louis Cifer Brew Works (House Beer Review Edition)

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I didn’t mean to do a review on Louis Cifer Brew Works, but my small notes turned into something a bit more solid and, well, here we are.

So a bit about the place. Louis Cifer (yes, yes, fans of Angel Heart, it’s a play on De Niro’s devil character. Lou-Cifer) is a brewpub in the Danforth area put together by Erin Gamelin, the owner of the well-known Stouts Irish Pub. It features 26 taps pouring a selection of guest beers along with a proposed ever increasing selection of Louis Cifer’s house beers, brewed by Brewmaster Christine Nagy, a recent grad from Niagara College Teaching Brewery with experience interning at Big Rock Brewery in Calgary, Alberta and working with the folks at Silversmith Brewing in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario. There are additional plans to have a barrel room in the basement. Aside from that, food promised to be pub fare, with the overall concept of the place being geared mainly towards people who are unfamiliar with the world of craft beer.

Unavoidable to notice, however, were the reviews that were coming out shortly after it’s soft launch earlier this week. Not just in local news sources, but hearing personally from people about it. In regards to the beer, the things I heard ranged from the simple “not up to snuff” to the, frankly, dramatic. Even more worrying was finding out that the brewpub…didn’t actually have the “brew” part down. The in-house brewing facility has not been installed yet, with the house beers brewed at Railway City Brewing in St. Thomas, Ontario.

So today I found myself finished with errands in the Danforth area and caught in the rain. I noticed the place and, remembering the things I heard from it already, decided to check it out and reach my own opinions. It should be noted that I didn’t order any food, so I can’t comment on any of that.

Before I head on to reviewing the house beers, a couple of points:

  • The lack of brewing facility is due to two factors. Firstly, they’re having a bit of trouble retrofitting their current gear for use and the second is that the red tape to get everything okayed took longer than expected. I have been told that now it’s just a matter of installing it and getting the certification. ETA for a fully workable and ready-to-brew facility is 1-2 months.
  • And this is a big one for me. It was recently reported that the house beers were being brewed at Railway City in St. Thomas. I discovered that the beers are actually being brewed in multiple breweries, each with different brewing facilities. I suspect that one of the problems people have with the house beers is because of this, as different facilities and making the translation work would be a pain in the ass.
  • One of my annoyances is the lack of originality with the names of the beers considering the devil theme. So far there are only two with names, the Louis Cifer IPA and the Dirty Blonde. The rest are just given the names of their styles. “lager”, “Bock” and so on. Apparently they have plans on actually naming their beers later on.

On to the beers:

Lager:  Unfiltered. Nice creamy note with a whole whack of biscuit and a really nice dry finish. Incredibly solid and enjoyable. This one has proved to be the beer that staff suggest when someone asks for a Molson or Stella.

Louis Cifer IPA:  I kind of get the feeling that this doesn’t know whether it’s an English or American style IPA. The malt is pretty over the top and kind of ruins the bitter finish, which I felt started too late. I definitely feel like it needs more balance. Additionally, they have plans to dry hop this beer for future versions.

Bock:  Not carbonated and a whole whack of molasses but finishes with a nice twist of bitterness. Needs to warm up to be fully appreciated. Frankly, this one has a lot of great potential. This is part of their ongoing experiments, which is limited to two kegs. Get it carbonated a little more and age that sucker in bourbon barrels and it’ll be very worthwhile.

Stout:  Also part of the experiment series and limited to two kegs. More bitter than the IPA. Too much coffee notes and the flavours just start and end with bitter, which is not great. Lower the coffee notes, bring up the cocoa notes and (a thing they were going to do anyways) make it a nitro stout to add a bit of creaminess, and it could very well be a nice winter warmer.

Dirty Blonde Blonde-Brown Ale Hybrid:  This baffles me because despite the light colour of the beer, if I close my eyes I swear I’m drinking a pretty thin tasting English brown that has a touch too much carbonation. With that confusion out of the way, there’s a good bit of balance there and provides a bit of an interesting mix. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind trying a one-off nitro version of this just to see how it is.

Conclusion:

Surprise surprise, it’s too early to tell. I feel in regards of the house beers they tripped on the starting shot. There are a couple of problems I have with the beers that are easy to fix and, to be honest, I feel that the brewmaster should have nipped those in the bud months ago. That said, there’s definitely a lack of harmony in how these are and I feel a big portion of that is due to making beer in multiple brewing facilities with different setups. I get a lot of “lost in translation” in these beers more than anything and can’t help but think it may have been less of a headache and less a chance of inconsistency for Brewmaster Nagy if they just…waited until their own brewing facility was installed and good to go. They could have easily glided with their impressive guest tap selection and a mea culpa, I feel.

When there’s more harmony and they have their facility up and running, I’ll be coming back. I want to see how the Bock is after a few more batches and I hope that stout gets worked out.

As a beer geek there’s an acceptable amount of guest taps with an experimental streak to Brewmaster Nagy that, at the moment, is at least worth keeping an eye on. But the vibe I’ve been getting is that this a place for people to take their first steps with beer. In the area it’s placed at, with more and more families moving in, it’s a spacious area with inoffensive food and beer that could perhaps ignite a spark of adventure in those curious enough to go with the staff’s suggestions.

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The Beer Experience Toronto Beer Week Giveaway Extravaganza!

 

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Hey you!

Yeah, you!

Do you like beer? Do you like beer events? Do you like said beer events taking place in churches built in 1871 that have been renovated in to a rather spacious, lovely event space? Do you like all of that to take place in Toronto before everything gets underway with a more-than-week-long local beer event?

Well, apart from that being a very specific set of criteria for your enjoyment, you’re in luck! As part of the kick-off to Toronto Beer WeekThe Beer Experience will be once again setting up shop at Berkley Church and Field House on September 11, 2014 from 6-11pm.

17 breweries confirmed! Beers that were either made specifically for this event or are unavailable on shelves! Tasty treats! CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE THIS EXCITEMENT? Seriously, can you? I mean, I’d like you to, but if you’re unable I understand.

Tickets will run you about $25 in advance and $35 at the door. Beer sample vouchers are $1 each.

But you know, paying for tickets to events are for chumps. As luck would have it, I have two (count ’em TWO) tickets to give away to one (un, 1, uno) lucky person. You want ’em? Well here’s what you have to do.

Leave a comment on this post telling me what person throughout history you’d like to have a beer with and why.

Don’t forget to include your e-mail address in the comment. You have until…oh….let’s say September 5th to leave a comment. I’ll pick the winner and will get in touch with them.

 

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Ü Two Should Meet – Chocolate & Beer Pairings

It was my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary recently. As a celebration, a family friend sent over a box of chocolates that were, to put it mildly, a decadent experience that transported us all to Cloud 9. Rich, smooth, creamy, and bursting with flavour, we vowed never to get celebration chocolates from the grocery store again. The chocolates were made by Ü Chocolate for the World a local business run by Mother & Son team Lydia and Andy Yue. Lydia, a longtime veteran chocolate maker, originally rose to confectionary stardom with her business Chocolateur, which had two storefronts in London, Ontario’s Masonville Place and Toronto’s Eaton Centre. Now, after an absence of more than twenty years, Lydia has returned and making confectionaries with high quality ingredients and incredibly rich and creamy swiss chocolate.

If you’re in Toronto, Ü Chocolate for the World has a temporary storefront at Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West) for the 13th and 14th only. If you miss those dates or live elsewhere in North America, you’re in luck! They’re primarily an online shop, and can provide boxes of their wonderful truffles, chocolate coated fruits, and custom gift novelties.

So anyways…after being sent to heaven with these chocolates, I thought that it was about time I did a post on chocolate and beer pairing. And what better way to level the quality playing field than by pairing excellent beers with excellent chocolates? After all, a bar of generic, waxy, milk chocolate bought in a grocery store is going to provide a different experience than a well-crafted chocolate made with quality ingredients. It pays to have good quality on both sides of the pairing to get the best overall experience.

So chocolate primarily seems to go well with the darker beers such as stouts, porters and brown ales, with the occasional nod going to Barley Wines or a nice Pilsner. But like all pairings, it all depends on your personal preference to taste as well as the quality of what you’re pairing.

Now, for the selection of some of these, I went with what seemed to me like a fairly logical pairing based on what I knew about the beers. Sometimes they worked out, sometimes they didn’t and I had to figure out something else. As a result, I not only went with a dark and milk chocolate truffle pairing, but also went for two of the flavoured ones as well (I mean hey, you get a box of chocolates and it’s not just straight up milk and dark, right?). I have to say in, ahem, researching for this post, I was quite surprised by the tastes that went with the beers selected.

So here we go.

Dark Chocolate – Mort Subite Kriek Sour Cherry Lambic

Mort Subite Kriek is usually a beer I break out when I learn that a person doesn’t drink beer because of the bitter taste. It’s a good introduction to the versatility of beer and is a lovely occasional treat to pick up at the LCBO. While this particular one, brewed in Belgium’s Brouwerij Mort Subite, is made with cherries, the brewery does have a Raspberry variation as well. I find that one a bit too sweet though, and appreciate the wonderful sour cherries used in the Kriek.

I always love matching rich, bitter, dark chocolate with the taste of cherries and the choice of pairing the dark chocolate truffle with the cherry lambic was a wise one. The tartness was brought out more with the chocolate and provided a breif, wonderful explosion of cherry and cocoa, almost as if I was eating a cherry flavoured truffle. As the flavours died down, the sour notes of the lambic continued to swirl around my tongue while the chocolate provided and nice, creamy finish.

Mango – Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue Cap) Dark Belgian Ale

Admittedly this one threw me for a bit of a loop. The Mango certainley wasn’t my first choice for the pairing, but as an experiment I decided to try it out and…well, it worked. Marvelously in fact. Definitely helps that the chocolate was of extremely high quality, with the Mango flavours less overt and medicinal and more natural and subtle. The dried fruit and malty notes of the Chimay blended nicely with the subtle Mango note at the back. The alcohol burn I normally find in this Dark Belgian ale was all but diminished, making for a creamy, slightly dessert-like experience.

Milk Chocolate – Black Oak Nut Brown Ale

Again, I had a bit of a trial and error with this one. Unfortunately, dark chocolates paired with this beer just didn’t do either of them justice. But there was the Milk Chocolate truffle and I thought “Why not? Two longtime, solid favourites coming together. Let’s see how it goes.” and sure enough, it went well. The sweet creaminess of the milk chocolate matched the dark, slightly bitter malty notes and distinctive hop characteristics perfectly.

Irish Cream – Wellington Russian Imperial Stout

You can’t go wrong with Irish Cream Coffee, and the Wellington Russian Imperial Stout, with it’s strong cocoa and coffee flavours, was the perfect pairing for the milk chocolate Irish Cream chocolate and made for a wonderful final pairing on par with a nice cup of coffee with dessert.

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Premium Near Beer – A Look at Quality Non-Alcoholic Beers

WAIT NO COME BACK TRUST ME READING THIS WILL BE WORTH IT.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way, first. Non-Alcoholic beer get a bad rap. You know it, I know it. We’ve all tried it at one point or another, went to a store, got a little curious about a Beck’s non-alcoholic beer and gave it a try…only to spit the first mouthful in the sink, throw the remainder out the window and set your house on fire in protest. It’s happened. The Quest for non-alcoholic beer has been pretty futile and fraught with peril for designated drivers, religious folk, people that want the taste but not the buzz, and folks with medical conditions that prevent them from having an alcoholic beverage. Sadly, it seems that the taste notes are pretty much the same for all of them. Basically water, sickly sweet, you wouldn’t even know it was trying to taste like beer. What’s even worse is that crap like that are the most common sold, which hasn’t helped non-alcoholic beer’s reputation in a world that stupidly provides social alienation for people who don’t drink alcohol (And really, if you are That Person who shames someone for not drinking alcohol for any reason, close this window and don’t come back. You aren’t welcome here).

While us in other parts of the world have been frustrated by the horrible Near-Beers out there, Germany as well as a few other countries who have seen the potential, have been making a hell of an industry of making some pretty high-quality non-alcoholic brews, with many traditional breweries making non-alcoholic versions of their flagship beers and some even being a strictly non-alcoholic brewery. There’s clearly a demand for quality in this style and they’re doing very well, which isn’t so surprising when you give a good hard think about how many people actually can’t drink alcoholic beverages.

Some fun facts about these beers:

– Legally, any beer up to 0.5% ABV is considered non-alcoholic. For some perspective, that’s pretty much in line with the natural alcohol content of things like grape juice.

– The history of  “near beer”  can date as far back as the middle ages, when it was made as a better substitute for the putrid, disease-ridden water that nobody in their right mind would drink.

– Non-alcoholic beer gained popularity during the Temperance Movement throughout the world and during Prohibition in the US where many breweries managed to stay in business by making them. It was during the Prohibition years where the style really got huge and the flavour of nearly water and very sweet gained popularity. Plus at the time you could drink one right in front of Eliot Ness and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do.

– Non-alcoholic beer is usually made like normal beer, aside from one step at the end where alcohol extraction takes place. Depending on the method, this can greatly change the taste of the beer.

– In 1966 Swiss brewery Hurlimann developed a special yeast that would yield a low alcohol amount during fermentation. However, since Birell Pale Lager is 0.8% ABV, legally it is considered Low-Alcoholic beer.

Here in Toronto a new service has opened up called Premium Near Beer. It offers a wide selection of International award-winning non-alcoholic beers for a decent price. The founder, Ted Fleming, whose diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease prompted him to explore the landscape of non-alcoholic beers, saw the more common products out there lacking in flavour and quality. So he did what any reasonable person in his situation would do. He let out a resolute sigh, went out, and…had a selection of quality, award-winning non-alcoholic beers brought in, opened up an online shop and made it so anyone in the area who orders can get it delivered right to their door. Oh, and brought on Cicerone, Prud’homme Beer Sommelier, Beer Scribe, and at the time a soon-to-be mother Crystal Luxmore to go over the selection and provide professional tasting notes that added some weight to the claims of high quality. And indeed some of the non-alcoholic selection carries a hell of a rep with it. Clausthaler Premium, for instance, won a World Beer Award for best non-alcoholic lager. And soon Premium Near Beer hopes to be getting in Nanny State, by UK beer heavyweights BrewDog. Known for their huge beers that are high in the percentage rate, this beer, tipping in at 0.5% ABV, is made with eight different malts and five different hops.

Premium Near Beer has a few plans. Firstly, of course, is to get an interest in the service and take as many orders as they can while also getting more quality brews in. Beyond that, they would like to see the landscape change in favour of non-alcoholic beers and the social stigma surrounding them fade. Another ideal goal would be to develop enough interest to get local breweries interested enough to make a quality non-alcoholic brew. I admit, I’d love to see Amsterdam or Great Lakes, or any of the others at least try and take on that challenge. Perhaps even do a non-alcoholic version of My Bitter Wife, which has a drawing of the Temperance Movement’s Carrie Nation on the label.

Most of the bottles available are only available in 24 packs, with the option to get a mixed pack if you can’t decide on just one. Currently they deliver to Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, & Aurora, with  free delivery in the area for orders over $100. If you have any questions on deliveries beyond Toronto, the province of Ontario, or the country of Canada, feel free to contact them and hopefully something can be worked out. These beers ARE available internationally, so while it may be hard to get a hold of them, it’s not impossible. Unless you live in Germany, where most of these beers are from, in which case…uh…just go to the store.

And folks, Ted Fleming brought a sample 6-pack to my house and, after sampling them, I must say that I’m turned around on what I thought non-alcoholic beer was about. As Moss in the IT Crowd says, “Every value I’ve ever held is being questioned and I’m loving it”. While the pack was pretty hit and miss, I should say that the hits were pretty solid hits and the misses were just simply not to my tastes. Here are my notes from each of them.

Krombacher Pils (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – The first one of the six I had and it officially blasted any misconceptions I had about non-alcoholic beer. Beautiful grain aroma with solid malt flavours and a dry finish that leads you wanting more. Crisp and wonderful. Definitely on par with some of the highly regarded Pilsners I’ve had.

Krombacher Wheat (Krombacher Brewery, Germany, 0.5% ABV) – Beautiful cloudy gold colour that is so wonderful about wheat beers. Big head that died down a bit. Aroma is bananas and cloves, which carries in to the taste. This is a little on the sweet side for me, but still…I’d put this up against many of its alcoholic siblings and it would do really well. Dry finish on the end leaves me wanting more. While I might not order a case of 24, I will have a second.

Sagres Lager (Central de Cervejas, Portugal, 0.3% ABV) – Incredibly light straw colour. Taste is almost that of an incredibly dry cider, but finished off with an intense maltiness. Still good, but by the end I was still thinking about the Krombacher Pils. Very carbonated, which added to the dry flavour.

Gerstel Lager (Gerstel, Germany, 0.5% ABV)  – Sweet, grassy aroma and incredibly malty taste. Nice mellow grain taste in the middle and ends with an abrubtly dry finish. Barely any aftertaste to it, which made me want to try more.

Clausthaler Golden Amber (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.4% ABV) – My least favourite of the bunch. Beautiful amber colour, but a bubblegum taste mixed with something metallic. The hoppy finish is nice, but doesn’t quite save it for me and I’m left with a kind of chemical layer of…something on my tongue.

Clausthaler Premium Lager (Clausthaler, Germany, 0.45% ABV) – I can’t fairly review this one, as it seems that in transit the (green) bottle came in contact with some sunlight and the entire beer went skunky. But hey, it won a World Beer Award for Best Non-Alcoholic Lager, so I’m sure it’s lovely.

Both the Krombacher Wheat and Pils are beers that I would keep regularly stocked in my fridge. They both have a beautiful aroma and refreshing taste with flavour notes that hold a bloody sword up to the thought of non-alcoholic beers being sugar water only consumed by rubes. I found both those beers very surprising and was glad that the quality of the taste didn’t take a back seat. They are both beers, and I say beers including the alcoholic ones, done right.

 

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“The Cider Geeks Are Excited” – Canadian Beer News & The Rhino’s Fall Beer & Cider Fest

Last year I went to a Winter Beer festival that I considered one of the most refreshing festivals I’ve attended. It was pretty low-key and casual, but featured an incredible selection of new and interesting beers. It was in a wonderful space as well, which allowed people to sit down or walk around talking to each other. It was relaxing, eclectic and appealed to hardcore beer geek and interested newcomer alike.

And on Sunday Greg Clow of Canadian Beer News and the folks at The Rhino Bar & Grill did it all again for Fall and decided to include a wonderful feature of Ontario ciders on top of it.

With a total of 58 beers and 11 Ontario ciders listed, this proved to be a fun event and a nice sampling of what Ontario’s alternatives are to the syrupy apple juice one usually finds in liquor stores.

The clear highlight of the day for me was the West Avenue Cider Company, run by Husband-and-wife team Chris Haworth and Amy Robson. The Cidery is only in their first year, but has been making a big splash with one-off ciders, this event in particular featuring Barrett Fuller’s Secret Bourbon-Barrel Aged Cider, with a rich bourbon aroma and lovely vanilla taste notes and the Smash Me Up Butternut Cask-Conditioned Pumpkin Cider, which tasted like a  homemade mulled cider I would expect from a beloved Somerset family member with an age-old secret recipe.

And with plans to increase their production by 300% and make ciders with more select, quality ingredients, West Avenue is a Cidery I’ll be keeping my eye on.

A tip of the hat and a rising of the glass goes to Greg Clow and The Rhino for pulling off another wonderful event that I’ll always be looking forward to.

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Filed under Field Trips, people I know, Seasonal Beers