Tasting the Innis & Gunn Winter Beer, 2010

October 4, 2010

Its coming, and its just around the corner… This winter as the Christmas beers begin to flood the LCBO again; we will be getting back the Innis & Gunn Connoisseur’s pack, and in this years pack is the strongest Innis & Gunn ever made – the Winter Beer. My good friends at Innis have been chatting about this beer for a long time now. In the summer I had heard that Dougal (the founder and BrewMaster) was working on a spiced beer, one that he was more excited about than any other beer he has made. This definitely got me excited – I already love the sweet, creamy and caramel oaky flavors of the Innis Original – the idea of a spicier and stronger version for the winter sounded perfect!

We should expect the Connoisseur’s Pack to be made available late October to November for the Christmas Release; probably the best overall beer release at the LCBO. I was fortunate enough to get the Connoisseur’s pack ahead of time thanks to my good friends at Innis & Gunn, and I have been saving the Winter Beer since – until now. The time finally came. I had enjoyed the Original and the Rum Cask that came in the pack, but have been waiting for the right moment to test the Winter Beer on my palate. It was a calm Sunday afternoon, football filled my living room, but my Innis & Gunn glass was empty. Time to fill it! Read the rest of this entry »


Did Someone Say Brunch? Grab a Blanch de Chambly Mimosa!

October 4, 2010

One of my all time favorite meals is brunch. It is such a delicious combination of foods from all courses coming together in perfect harmony. Everything from eggs and pancakes to bacon, roast beef, shrimp, pastas, desserts and more make it onto the table. Beyond that, there is usually a wide selection of juices, coffees, cocktails, beers, spirits, and usually mimosas; the classic brunch drink of orange juice and champagne.

I do love champagne, but honestly the classic mimosa leaves something to be desired. It always ends up a bit to sharp, and unless you are using very expensive sparkling wine, a bit to tart. Ah ha, beer to the rescue. Here is one of my most favorite beer cocktails that people are always shocked, and then astounded by; the Blanch de Chambly Mimosa! It is smoother, creamier, has a soft vanilla and warm spice character to it, and just compliments orange juice better than champagne can. Read on for the directions, and I dare you to try it! Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Baltic Porter

October 4, 2010

Aroma: Rich malty sweetness often containing caramel, toffee, nutty to deep toast, and/or licorice notes.  Complex alcohol and ester profile of moderate strength, and reminiscent of plums, prunes, raisins, cherries or currants, occasionally with a vinous Port-like quality.  Some darker malt character that is deep chocolate, coffee or molasses but never burnt.  No hops.  No sourness.  Very smooth.

Appearance: Dark reddish copper to opaque dark brown (not black).  Thick, persistent tan-colored head.  Clear, although darker versions can be opaque.

Flavor: As with aroma, has a rich malty sweetness with a complex blend of deep malt, dried fruit esters, and alcohol.  Has a prominent yet smooth schwarzbier-like roasted flavor that stops short of burnt.  Mouth-filling and very smooth.  Clean lager character; no diacetyl.  Starts sweet but darker malt flavors quickly dominates and persists through finish. Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Northern English Brown Ale

September 30, 2010

Aroma: Light, sweet malt aroma with toffee, nutty and/or caramel notes.  A light but appealing fresh hop aroma (UK varieties) may also be noticed.  A light fruity ester aroma may be evident in these beers, but should not dominate.  Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Dark amber to reddish-brown color.  Clear.  Low to moderate off-white to light tan head.

Flavor: Gentle to moderate malt sweetness, with a nutty, lightly caramelly character and a medium-dry to dry finish.  Malt may also have a toasted, biscuity, or toffee-like character.  Medium to medium-low bitterness.  Malt-hop balance is nearly even, with hop flavor low to none (UK varieties).  Some fruity esters can be present; low diacetyl (especially butterscotch) is optional but acceptable. Read the rest of this entry »


Canadian Brewing Awards Announced

September 29, 2010

At the end of Toronto Beer Week last week the Canadian Brewing Awards were handed out to the top three beer styles in 30 Categories as well as the Brewery and Beer of the Year Awards. From BC, Central City Brewing took home the Best Brewery Award, and their Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine won Best Beer. BC and Quebec brought home the most Gold awards, with Ontario getting some recognition as well. The biggest shock for me came in the Cream Ale category where Sleeman’s Cream Ale beat out both the Muskoka Cream and Cameron’s Cream. I would actually like an explanation on this. For the full award listings see the post at Great Canadian Pubs and Beer by Troy Burtch.


Defined: Southern English Brown

September 29, 2010

Aroma: Malty-sweet, often with a rich, caramel or toffee-like character. Moderately fruity, often with notes of dark fruits such as plums and/or raisins.  Very low to no hop aroma.  No diacetyl.

Appearance: Light to dark brown, and can be almost black.  Nearly opaque, although should be relatively clear if visible.  Low to moderate off-white to tan head.

Flavor: Deep, caramel- or toffee-like malty sweetness on the palate and lasting into the finish.  Hints of biscuit and coffee are common.  May have a moderate dark fruit complexity.  Low hop bitterness.  Hop flavor is low to non-existent.  Little or no perceivable roasty or bitter black malt flavor.  Moderately sweet finish with a smooth, malty aftertaste.  Low to no diacetyl. Read the rest of this entry »


The New Randall by Dogfish Head Really Puts the “Hop” in Hop-Head

September 28, 2010

Here is another amazing example of why I love Dogfish Head and its founder, Sam Calagione. Back in the early 2000’s at some beer festivals you may have seen Dogfish head pumping some of their IPAs through a vertical tube of fresh hops then poured directly into your glass. Most notably the 120 IBU (International Bitter Unit) 120 Minute IPA was being fed through what Sam named Randall, producing a wildly fresh, enamel eating, hoppy beer. This was a fun and unique experiment for Dogfish, and also a way for Sam to prove to the West Coast Brewers that the East Coast knows how to hop it up too.

Now though, Sam has introduced Randall the second, a much more refined and engineered version of the original makeshift Randall. This version installs onto a tap line, and has two chambers allowing Dogfish to filter beer though the ingredient of their choice in one, and the second to reduce foaming. Guess what they have been doing with it… Read the rest of this entry »


Bud’s Sales Slide, New Strategy? Free Beer…

September 24, 2010

As more and more consumers all across the globe choose local, artisan, and craft products the beer industry has benefits greatly. Or, at least the craft beer industry does. Budweiser, who once had an unfathomable stronghold over most segments in the beer market has been loosing ground to smaller, more unique breweries year on year for quite some time now. You just can’t trick people into buying a bad product anymore, at least not as easily as you could before. Budweiser was never about selling you a beer, it was all about selling you an image, an image of who you could be if you drank Bud. Like it or not, that image has been tarnished over the years, and people aren’t so willingly hypnotized by cleavage and free trips. They want quality, flavor, and something unique.

So Budweiser has come up with a new plan to energize, to reinvigorate their appeal to the under 30 sector who is now seemingly ignoring them. Bud will unleash the largest ever national free sample campagn in trendy bards and eateries. This, honestly, is proof that Bud just doesn’t get it. Read the rest of this entry »


Defined: Mild

September 24, 2010

Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, and may have some fruitiness.  The malt expression can take on a wide range of character, which can include caramelly, grainy, toasted, nutty, chocolate, or lightly roasted.  Little to no hop aroma.  Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Copper to dark brown or mahogany color.  A few paler examples (medium amber to light brown) exist. Generally clear, although is traditionally unfiltered.  Low to moderate off-white to tan head.  Retention may be poor due to low carbonation, adjunct use and low gravity.

Flavor: Generally a malty beer, although may have a very wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors (e.g., malty, sweet, caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, raisin).  Can finish sweet or dry.  Versions with darker malts may have a dry, roasted finish.  Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide some balance but not enough to overpower the malt.  Fruity esters moderate to none.  Diacetyl and hop flavor low to none. Read the rest of this entry »


The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing Tasting at the Beer Bistro

September 23, 2010

On Wednesday September 22nd, in the middle of Toronto Beer Week the Beer Bistro hosted a beer tasting of four Lost Abbey Beers, and two from Port Brewing. Cass Enright from the Bar Towel introduced Matt Tweedy, a Beer Bistro employee, and assistant brewer at Duggan’s Brewery who also spent 8 weeks at the Lost Abbey for a brewing apprenticeship. You couldn’t ask for a better journey through the six beers which Matt had very intimate experiences with. Each unique beer was introduced and described by Matt, who was able to regale us with stories straight from the brewery. The Lost Abbey focuses on Belgian inspired beer brewed in California, and Port Brewing creates classically west coast beers also in California. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the BrewDog & Stone Bashah

September 23, 2010

The Bashah is a collaboration brew between two of the worlds most influential breweries, the Stone Brewing Co. in California, and BrewDog from Scotland. It barely even matters what the beer in the bottle is, if you put these two names on it I’ll buy it out of sheer faith in its quality and predictably fantastic flavor. Each of these breweries have embarked on an incredible beer journey on their own, each creating unique and no-holds-barred beers in their own style. Put them together then, and what do you get? A Black Belgian Style Double India Pale Ale.

Firstly, this is a Double IPA, so it should be robustly hoppy with fresh, earthy and citrus bitter flavors that pack a decent punch. It should be both higher in alcohol and in bitterness (IBUs). Next, it is a Belgian Style Double IPA. This could mean a few things, but most typically it means that it was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain rather then an Californian one, thus giving it bigger body, a fruiter, more malty character, and a more lively carbonation. And Finally, it is black. This indicates the color, and therefore usage of dark, chocolate, or roasted malts in the brew; those flavors should come through subtly in the beer finally creating a unique and exciting beer. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Craft Beer Week Introduces a Truly Unique Viedo

September 23, 2010

Recently there has been a slew of Craft beer videos all resonating the same message about how much we love craft beer. Most of them are great, but absurdly repetitive uttering “I am a craft beer drinker” over and over again from different people at different angles. It was refreshing then to see the newest Craft Beer promotional video for the New York Craft Beer Week. This video is totally original, unique, and pretty awesome. I don’t think anyone has done a beer promotional video like this before. Hats off to ya guys. Oh, and NY Craft Beer week is going to be crazy! September 24th through October 3rd. If you are in New York, go get some great beer!


Tasting the Birrifico Le Baladin Xyauyu; Reserva Teo Musso

September 21, 2010

There is a great deal of intrigue and excitement floating around this beer. First of all its shape, unique label dated 2005, unpronounceable name,  and its corrugated cardboard box are totally unfamiliar to me. There is no cap, but rather a cork. It is 13% abv. And it was also $40 for the small, but beautiful bottle. What is this Italian work of art? It is exactly that, and Italian work of art. Birrifico Baladin, an Italian Craft Brewery lead by Teo Musso had originally thought of creating an oxidized beer to resemble a Madeira in 1996, but finally made the dream come true in 2003.

This is one of my favorite types of beer, and I don’t mean the beer style. But rather this beer can show the world how wide and far the boundaries of beer can really stretch. There is no limit to your creative ability, just your imagination. Musso Named this beer Xyauyu after his daughter’s imaginary friend; he also describes the beer a an “Italian-style barlywine.” I would put it squarely in that category where it should remain the front runner and definition of the style. This beer is remarkable. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Cannery Brewery Blackberry Porter

September 20, 2010

Its now Fall, one of the best beer seasons that there is. I know it may seem counter intuitive; most people consider the summer to be beer season. But when the fall comes breweries begin to produce more richly flavored, robust beers with a wide range of ingredients. Spices, pumpkin, berries and more get added into the brew and the beers become unique and warming. I love it.

It is also when the LCBO brings in the best selection of new beers. In this year’s Autumn release came the Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter, a 6.5% traditional style porter with blackberry flavor added for a hint of sweet complexity. The Cannery has been brewing since 2000 in Penticton BC, and is one of many west coast breweries which I have been excited to try for a long time. The 650ml bottle plainly depicts blackberries front and center on the purple label, so I was expecting at very least a reasonable rush of blackberry in this beer. Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Alpine Beer Company’s Nelson

September 17, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I love San Diego. Not just for Ron Burgundy, but for its amazing breweries! There is a slew of big name craft brewers whose beers are flooding the U.S. market right now, but recently I got the chance to enjoy a smaller, more local brewery’s beer – the brewery is Alpine Beer Company – and the beer was Nelson. Yes, Nelson is a man, and a beer. A Rye India Pale Ale to be precise.

The name is representative of the hop variety primarily used in this brew; from New Zealand comes a citrusy and spicy hop called Nelson Sauvin. It is used in both the brewing and dry hopping for this beer, as well rye malt is used to add a smooth, uniquely malty character to the beer. I really had no clue what to expect; I had never heard of Alpine, nor was there much detail of the beer on the bottle. But I knew that this was a west coast IPA at 7% abv with 60 IBUs. How bad can it possibly be? Or better yet, how good could this be? Read the rest of this entry »