September 24, 2014

Beau's Oktoberfest: Silent Auction

Oktoberfest is coming.  This event, hosted by Beau's brewery is a much anticipated two day festival of food, music and of course, beer.

Did you miss out on tickets? Yes, Saturday and the two day passes are sold out.

We have a way to help. We have been given TWO 2-day passes. We are hosting a silent auction for the passes, both passes,with the money going to Shepherds of Good Hope here in Ottawa.


If you win the auction you get two 2-day passes.

How do you bid?

Auction opens at 2:00 pm today, September 24th 2014. Auction ends September 30th 2014 at 5:00 pm. Bid after 5:00 pm will be rejected.

Auction starts at $60. That means bid $60 or more. Bids of less than $60 will be rejected. We will keep the highest bid updated via Twitter.

DM us on twitter with your bid starting at 2:00 pm today. We will notify the winner on September 30th at 6:00 pm. Payment is due on delivery of tickets. We will arrange details with the winner of the auction.

Remember the two day passes are sold out and this is for charity. All the money of the winning bid will go to the Shepherds of Good Hope.

August 22, 2014

Road Trip - Visiting Breweries with the Ottawa Beer Bloggers

Road trips are a summer staple. I love them. All the more when breweries are involved and more so when good friends are along for the ride.

Anyone who knows Wort and I in person knows we travel for beer. This whole blog started because we based vacations on number of breweries we could hit in a given area. Add a nice motorcycle drive and we are hooked.

For this particular trip however we left behind the two wheels for more seating. We, along with Matt Petitpas, Sasha Dunfield and Brian Papineau set out towards the Muskoka region with a list of eight stops and a full tank of gas.

Two days before we set off I was able to attend a special Tap to Table lunch with Muskoka Brewery's Gary McMullen. We sampled the Summer Weiss, Cream, Detour, Mad Tom and Twice as Mad Tom. Each beer was paired with a dish designed by the kitchen at Hintonburg Public House.

Spicy beer nuts and Detour are fantastic, blue cheese and Twice as Mad were great but the perfect dish had to go to Cream ale and the chicken poutine. Perfect comfort food.

 Poutine anyone?
 Spicy nuts and Detour

Beets and big hunk of blue cheese, Twice as Mad

Getting to talk to Gary about the brewery's history and the beers was the perfect way to prepare for a trip to the Muskoka region and surrounding areas. His passion for the beer fueled my own excitement for what was sure to be a memorable trip.

We let the breweries know we were coming weeks in advance. There may have been only five of us but if you have been anywhere with even two of the group you know we can be loud and boisterous.

Every place we notified welcomed us with open arms and offers of tours. Many even gave suggestions for other must stop places.  Our list quickly grew from eight to almost twelve. We knew we could not hit them all so we narrowed it down to ten.

Our first stop was Lake of Bays Brewing. Ian was waiting for us and poured us our samples, including the brewery only Lake Monster. As we toured the back we were tickled by the names on the tanks, things like Ethylred the Unsteady and Maltose Falcon.

 Hello Lake of Bays!

 Ian and Athos. Yes the other musketeers are there too.

So many smiling faces. We hadn't seen our hotel yet...

We had a timeline that I preset and I got so engrossed in talking to Darren Smith about beer related things that Ian had to come pull me away. I like to talk about beer, what can I say?

Not leaving empty handed, we headed towards Bracebridge for lunch at the Griffin GastroPub.  The wonderful thing about Griffin is they do a lot of collab beers with Muskoka and other regional breweries. We enjoyed wonderful food and beer we could only get there like Original Jordan IPA and Lemon Verbena Saison.

Stomachs full we made our way to Muskoka Brewery.

Blurry but you can make out the handprints. Takes a lot of people to make a brewery.

Wort and I had been to the old brewery in downtown Bracebridge along with a quick stop at the new one shortly after they opened. This was the first time we were able to tour the new location.

Jake took the large group back into the warehouse. The space was large yet with the barrels, tanks and painting of the iconic muskoka chair on the wall it still felt like a small brewery. They may have gone with more space but they have not lost the intimate feel.


 More barrels!

Check out the colourful cans

We left Muskoka happy with loads of beer in the trunk.

Our next stop was to see what was at the time, the soon to be opened Sawdust City Brewery in Gravenhurst. Even though it wasn't complete (they were laying tiles when we arrived) it was easy to see just how beautiful the brewery was going to be. We were treated to a behind the scenes view of barrels and canning machine.

 Who knows what the boys of Sawdust will make in these but I bet it will be good.

Breweries like barrels and we like barrel aged beer.

The consensus was we cannot wait to go back once they are opened.

Final stop of the first day, after we checked into our less than impressive hotel, was Flying Monkeys Brewery in Barrie.

Well hello Flying Monkeys

We arrived as they were closing for the day but having made arrangements we were able to get a quiet behind the scenes tour of the brewery.  What was striking? The history of the building and the personal touches. There are drawings from the employees children framed and lining the walls of the hallways that lead to the offices. There are black and white photos that speak of the history of the area, the first iteration of the brewery and how long they have been around.

Nothing like a brewery in the middle of an evening thunderstorm, especially when the power goes out

Upstairs in the event room we talked for a long time with Courtney, the brewery's sales manager. She talks about beer with a knowledge and passion that draws everyone in. It is easy to see why she is good at her job and why the brewery makes it possible for anyone who comes into contact with them to walk away with a story.

 Happy beer people are happy.

Our second day began with a pit stop to the LCBO. We hadn't originally planned to stop but given the proximity to Toronto we had a feeling that they might have beer that the Ottawa area doesn't see. We were not disappointed.

Next up was lunch and flights at Barnstormer.


We tried both of their flights and ate some very tasty food. The stand out beer for the majority of the group was the Widebody Galaxy IPA. (Want to see it in their own words? Check out OttBeerBloggers)  For me the Twins Basil was the winner, Galaxy a strong second. I really enjoyed the basil notes of the Twins.

 Thank you pin up lady for our flights

Day two has only just begun. The tiredness hasn't kicked in yet. Still smiling.

From Barnstormer we pushed our way through traffic to get to 5 Paddles Brewing. By the time we got there they only had one beer for sale but luckily a few to sample. The Chupacabra had a nice bite but the winner for the samples was the Strawberry Wheat. The group was unanimous is lamenting the lack of bottles to buy. We did get a fun tour and some of their Steamin' Paddles to take home.

 Still smiling but wishing we had more strawberry wheat beer.

Plastic kegs. So much easier to lift.

Another short jaunt up the road and we made it into Peterborough to the Publican House. We didn't realize how small the retail space was and crowded our way in with those purchasing cans and growlers and looking for BBQ on the patio.  We were warmly greeted and sampled their two offerings.

Hello Publican House.

Cans in hand we made for our very last stop of the trip.

Church Key Brewery in Campbellford is housed in an old church giving it a certain charm that most ultra modern breweries do not have. John Graham, head brewer appeared out of the back of the brewery to welcome us and explained he had been following our adventures via Twitter.

He took us into the back where we chatted as he filtered a brew. John told us about the Ooh Mommy beer and how he experimented with different mushroom teas until he got the blend he liked. With that description how could we not try it?

Visiting Church Key and tasting Ooh Mommy.

The Ooh Mommy was less earthy than I expected and rather nicely balanced. Bottles were bought for further taste testing at home.

We returned home late, tired but very happy. The trip had been a success on all fronts.

We would like to offer thank yous of the biggest kind to breweries who opened their doors to us and welcomed us in with such hospitality that we were speechless. (Well the rest were, I am never out of words)

You all made this trip memorable. To them and to my traveling companions, thank you.

Tired but...still smiling.

June 12, 2014

More Beer and Cheese!

Haven't had enough beer and cheese yet?

Well we sampled many cheeses and a few beers so we put together a small list of what we thought would work together.  Try it and comment if they worked together.

Cheese suggestions:

Wilton Extra Old Cheddar with a good english bitter.
Mapledale Smoked with a pilsner.
Fifth Town Operetta paired with a saison.
Fromagerie Nouvelle France..any of their cheeses, really. Try them with a Belgian!
Any big blue cheese? Match it with a big hopped beer.
Riopelle with a berliner style beer.

Pied de Vent with a farmhouse saison. Big hay notes in the cheese lend itself to a farmhouse style beer.

Beer Suggestions:

Barley Days Wind and Sail with a smoked gouda.

Mackinnon Brothers Pale paired with a soft brie or mild goat cheese
Beau's Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale with raclette

Have a good beer and cheese pairing? Share it with us! 

June 11, 2014

Beer vs Wine - Which goes better with cheese?

This is a big question.

Ask any die hard wine lover and they will tell you that the pairing of wine and cheese is classic, that nothing is better.  They will tell you that the tannins in wine balance out with the high fat, high protein of cheese.

Ask a die hard beer fan and they will tell you that beer and cheese are the perfect pair because the carbonation helps break down and coat your mouth with the cheese, allowing you to taste it more fully.  They will say a good beer will balance out the flavour of a good cheese.

Personally I think the key to this lies in the balance and complimenting tastes.  Both wine and beer have their place when it comes to cheese but is there an ultimate pairing? Is one really better than the other?

With this question at the forefront of our minds we headed to Prince Edward County to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

 Lots of cheese

Yes, a festival for all things cheese and cheese related. We arrived at the Crystal Palace on the fairgrounds and were greeted by booths and booths of cheese, wine, artisan chocolates, soda and meat.

 More cheese

Ottawa's own Harvey and Vern's

What better place to decide the best pairing for cheese than at a cheese festival where the products are at your fingertips?

So much cheese to try!

We also attended a tutored talk about Wine vs Beer. Savvy Debbie put together a great tasting where we tried seven cheeses with four wines and four craft beers.

We tried the following wines:
Casa-Dea Sparkling Rose (PEC)
Sandbanks Rose (PEC)
Huff South Bay Chardonnay  (PEC)
Palatine Hills Cab-Merlot (Niagara on the Lake)

We tried the following beers:
Highlander - Lion Grass (South River, ON)
Mackinnon Brothers (new brewery, not yet open to the public out of Bath, ON)
Publican House - House Ale (Peterborough)
County Cider (PEC)

Our wines and beers

Each cheese was tasted on its own and then again with each of the wines and beers/cider.  Debbie encouraged us to find flavours that balance. We then voted on which paired better. Unsurprising the group overall was split with no big winner between wine or beer. It seemed to come down to every one's individual taste and how they found the pairings met to their taste buds.

Not shocking as most foodies, beer lovers or wine lovers will tell you that you have to find what you like, what works for you.

How did we rate them? Well... in a not shocking twist we found overall that the beer paired better than the wines (we are wine drinkers too though so it wasn't a bias)

Ready to compare

Here is how it broke down:

 #1 at the top by the red dot and then move clockwise

#1 - Laliberte Triple Cream Cheese

Paired best with the County Cider. Also went well with Publican House or Highlander Lion Grass. For wine it seemed to go best with Huff Chardonnay or Sandbanks Rose. The cider however lent the best combination of flavours and balance.

#2 - Cross Wind Farm Chevre

This soft goat cheese paired best with the Mackinnon Brothers beer. It really help mellow out the cheese and was best for complimentary flavours.  The Sandbanks Rose also went well for the wines.

A favourite for pairing with cheese

#3 - 14 Aprent Washed Rind

This cheese needed a saison beer. None of the beers offered really did enough for this cheese in terms of balance. The Huff Chardonnay was a good match however.  This was the only one where wine won over beer for us.

#4 - Gunns Hill Five Brothers Washed Rind

This cows milk cheese had similar qualities to a gouda. It was fantastic on its own but the Publican House House Ale cut through the cheese wonderfully.

Publican House

#5 - Chemin Hatley Road

This cheese was slightly fruity on its own.  It went well enough with the Huff Chardonnay and the Palatine Cab-Merlot but the winner for us was the Mackinnon Brothers. The beer really enhanced the flavours of the cheese and vice versa.

#6 - Zacharie Cloutier Washed Rind

Again this cheese on its own was very tasty and it was hard not to eat it all at once. It did pair well with the Palatine Cab-Merlot but once again the better balance came from Mackinnon Brothers.

#7 - Lindsay Goat Bandaged Cheddar

This goat milk cheddar was firm and crumbly.  The Palantine Cab-Merlot was a great match but the moment we tried it with the Mackinnon Brothers and then the County Cider we knew we had a winner. The firm cheese was broken down so wonderfully and the beer helped to enhance the cheese.

So the final verdict for us was 6 for beer and 1 for wine. The carbonation really does help cut through the fat of the cheese and just like any good pairing the right flavours work together.

Did we answer the question definitively? No.  Do we think there is a right and wrong in beer vs wine? No.

Yes, beer does break down the cheese better but in the end it comes to individual tastes. The key to a good pairing? Balance of flavours. For some that might be wine and cheese, for some beer and cheese. Others it might just be the cheese.

For us, we will continue to look for great cheese and beer pairings.

Thank you to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival for allowing us the chance to do such important and tasty research.

May 24, 2014

Seacoast Winter Brew Festival

It was American Craft Beer Week last week and it got me thinking about my favourite American festival. To be honest it is probably my top beer festival. Maybe it is because I have a thing for the east coast of the United States, maybe it is the chowder or maybe, just maybe it is because the festival is so well put together and kicks off Portsmouth Craft Beer Week.

I am referring to the Seacoast Winter Brew Festival.

It is organized by 2 Beer and hosted by Portsmouth Gas Light Co.

This year thirty three breweries and one cidery took over the upper floor and outdoor patio to welcome beer lovers both new and old to the best that the east coast has to offer.

So what makes the festival so good? Well there are two sessions plus an hour for VIP ticket holders only. This keeps the crowd manageable and means room to move and talk to people. Speaking of talking to people the breweries send people who know the beers. There is nothing better at a festival than talking to reps, brewers and those in the know about the beer they are serving.
Portsmouth Gas Light Co. has a great layout for the event which makes moving around and finding things like the bathroom easy.

Food is included and we aren't talking pretzels or chips. This year there was pasta, veggies and other things I am sure I am forgetting but what is important is that the food was good, made in house and helps to soak up the beer samples.

The people at the door, those checking tickets and handing out bracelets were very friendly, courteous and even started the line up a little bit early so that we were ready when doors opened. The crowd itself was also friendly and courteous. Maybe it was the venue, maybe that it is held in February but it lacked the 'pound 'em back' push that some summer beer festivals have.  All in all it is one crowd I do not mind being a part of.

The weather held up beautifully making the patio and the beer selection out there enjoyable. The selection of cigars was nice too.

Getting the V.I.P. ticket is highly recommended. The extra hour as well as the selection of whiskey, scotch and bourbon make the slight increase in cost worth it. It also includes your admission to the first session so budget wise it is the most bang for your buck. This year there was also a large selection of V.I.P. only beers.

As for the selection of beer overall, well you can't go wrong with thirty three craft breweries offering you beer samples. I enjoyed trying everything from Sam Adams, Harpoon to Portsmouth's own Earth Eagle and Smuttynose. Add to that, brand new brewery Stoneface was there with their first beer.

Highlights for festival:

Founders KBS 2013 - Big coffee, chocolate and bourbon notes.

Harpoon Pumpkin Stout - Wonderful pumpkin notes. One of the best pumpkin beers I have had in recent memory. Molasses, lovely spices.

Smuttynose Baltic Porter 2013 - Lighter bodied than last years but still great as an after dinner beer. More coffee than chocolate this time around.

Lagunitas Lil Sumpin' Sumpin' - Very smooth and easy drinking. Nice malt profile.

Founders Backwards Bastard - Tobacco notes, bourbon and a wonderful smoothness.

Earth EagleWormhole Verte - A collab with 2 Beer Guys. Loads of wormwood and licorce/anise flavours. A building bitterness.

Allagash Hugh Malone - Nice Belgian IPA with great depth to the malts and nice dry finish.

For me, the event is everything I look for in a beer festival. Location, ease of movement, friendly people, well organized and great beer selection.

Thinking of checking out New Hampshire? Why not plan for a February trip and enjoy this festival as well as the Portsmouth Craft Beer week that follows.