Tasting the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

October 5, 2010

The American India Pale Ale, or American-Style India Pale Ale has become one of the most popular, widespread, and brewed beers in North America. The rich pale malt backbone found in the depths of an aromatically bitter and hop-crisp beer has enchanted people all across the continent. There is only one problem with this – there are probably close to 1,800 breweries in NA, and there are probably about 2,000 different Pale Ales! The Pale Ale craze is becoming a bit overwhelming; whether it is an IPA, Pale Ale, American version or a hybrid, there are just too many pale ales out there.

So what’s a beer lover to do!? Well, obviously taste them all and find your favorites. Because that may take to long, I’m going to start you off in the right direction with one of the most well rounded and best constructed American IPA’s on the planet. The Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Too many pales are either one sided, to aggressively hopped, not hopped enough, or are poorly built. The Two Hearted Ale is at the top of my list because it hits all the right notes in perfect harmony. It doesn’t get carried away with this or that, it is just plain good. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Tasting the Muskoka Cottage Brewery Harvest Ale 2010

October 1, 2010

The Muskoka Cottage Brewery, located in Bracebridge Ontario (pure cottage country) has a slogan that states “The taste of cottage country”. Not only is that their motto, but it is also the idea behind their newest seasonal beer, the Harvest Ale. This could actually be the first of its kind from Ontario; all the malts and hops used in this brew were grown here in Ontario. I love the idea. This is the second year that Muskoka has released the Harvest, and this version comes in a very handsome 750ml swing cap bottle.

It is now floating through LCBO locations and will be available while supplies last at select pubs and restaurants. Muskoka has designed a richly hoppy and bitter pale ale at 6.4%. Right now it is probably the biggest, and most bitter pale ale offering available from Ontario in LCBO locations. It offers up different flavors than that of the typical American Style Pale ale, which I expect Muskoka would like to say is uniquely Canadian. I’m not sure what Ontario’s hop farms are like, but I do hope that this inspired more brewers to create seasonal beers sourced locally – everyone benefits. Read the rest of this entry »


The Pumpkin Beers Are Coming

October 1, 2010

There’s no avoiding it anymore, the summer is definitely gone; as hard as I have been trying to hold onto it, its gone. But fall is a pretty beautiful season – the leaves change, the air is crisp, the enchantment of the holiday season nears, and, oh yes, the Pumpkin Ales come in! This year we are getting four pumpkin ales in for the Autumn Release at the LCBO.

Great Lakes’ Pimpkin Ale will be back in 650ml bottles; it is a pale ale based pumpkin ale with mellow spice and pumpkin flavors at 5%. The St. Ambroise Pumpkin Ale is also back, this 5% 341ml bottle is packed with crisp spices and refreshingly sweet pumpkin notes. The Post Road Pumpkin by Brooklyn will join the ranks for the first time, offering a more malty 5% pumpkin ale. And finally, Southern Tier, who is getting more and more shelf space recently will bring the Pumpkin, an 8.8% imperial pumpkin ale. Go get it!


Defined: Robust Porter

October 1, 2010

Aroma: Roasty aroma (often with a lightly burnt, black malt character) should be noticeable and may be moderately strong. Optionally may also show some additional malt character in support (grainy, bready, toffee-like, caramelly, chocolate, coffee, rich, and/or sweet).  Hop aroma low to high (US or UK varieties).  Some American versions may be dry-hopped.  Fruity esters are moderate to none.  Diacetyl low to none.

Appearance: Medium brown to very dark brown, often with ruby- or garnet-like highlights.  Can approach black in color.  Clarity may be difficult to discern in such a dark beer, but when not opaque will be clear (particularly when held up to the light).  Full, tan-colored head with moderately good head retention.

Flavor: Moderately strong malt flavor usually features a lightly burnt, black malt character (and sometimes chocolate and/or coffee flavors) with a bit of roasty dryness in the finish.   Read the rest of this entry »


Tasting the Brooklyn Lager

September 30, 2010

In the 1800’s Brooklyn New York was a haven for brewing in America, sadly though, prohibition and time destroyed a once vibrant community. We are lucky today though because the Brooklyn Brewery has brought revitalization to the heart of New York by brewing new and innovative beers, and exception traditional beers which pay homage to their predecessors.

The Brooklyn Brewery’s flagship beer is the Brooklyn Lager, an award winning Vienna Style lager brewed traditionally as would have been done in 1890. It is available at almost all LCBO locations all year round, and is distributed all across the United States and is beginning to float across the globe.

This is all for very good reason too; Brooklyn has brought back to us a fantastic example of the Vienna Lager, a purely refreshing, versatile and meaty beer which fits many situations all too perfectly. 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 »


My Maudite Lamb Meatball Recipe Takes Center Stage on Unibroue’s Site

September 28, 2010

A month or so ago I posted a recipe for a Spaghetti Squash pasta made with veal meatballs, San Marzano tomatoes, and Unirboue’s La Maudite.  Unibroue loved the recipe and posted it in the recipe section of their site – then, just a few days ago I got an email from then asking if they could post it up on the front page as their recipe of the month! So now on the main Unibroue Page my own recipe is featured front and center! Thanks Unirboue! You keep making the beer, I’ll keep enjoying it! Cheers.


Tasting the Founders Dirty Bastard

September 24, 2010

The Dirty Bastard is a big Scotch Ale, also known as a Wee Heavy. It is one of Founders Brewing’s year round, and flagship beers. Founders has been brewing since 1997 in Grand Rapids, Michigan – very close to several other great American Craft Breweries. And I’ve always been impressed with their beers, especially the bigger ones. But so what it a big Scotch Ale? Well its 8.5% abv, 50 IBUs (which is higher than the normal style, but typical in the US), and malt focused. Scottish Ales show a big, sweet, malty center with classic toffee, caramel and roasted malt sensations. They are thick and rich in both mouthfeel and flavor, and are best served at cellar temperature.

So given the style, and my experience with Founders, I was expecting a good beer. Scotch Ales are some of my favorite, so I was definitely excited to try this Dirty Bastard. But really you never know what you are going to get from a classic style brewed by the Americans. Will be it over hopped, too rich, unbalanced, or hugely alcoholic? It could be sublime, soft, balanced and elegant on the other hand too. It really doesn’t matter where on the spectrum it lies, because the key is that wherever it is, I can almost guarantee that it is well done. 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 »