March 25, 2013

A week in review - Birthdays, St Patrick's and a house concert.

The question was put to me just the other day - "How long have you been into craft beer?" - At the time my answer was to point to the shelf that lined the length of my dining room, the one that held row upon row of glasses and say, "That long."

That doesn't quite suffice but I could not honestly tell you when exactly it became our drink of choice.  The big beer company beers had always been 'okay' but never something sought out.  Hearing of a new beer, checking the shelves at the local LCBO for something different, had always been our primary means of acquiring beer.  Since then our love of craft beers, craft breweries, and the craft beer community, has grown.

All that to bring us to this point.  Our friends often ask us what new beers we have tried and our impressions of ones that they have tried. We also love to tell stories of the festivals we attend.  It has been pointed out that it would be much easier if we just wrote it out and then let people read it.  Not sure if it says something about my storytelling ability or not but it brought about this blog.

Updates will come once a week unless something extra special occurs.

Last Saturday we attended a friend's birthday party.  Another pair of friends were coming down from Hamilton and they texted the day before saying they were making a special stop at Flying Monkeys Brewery.   Flying Monkeys does some great beer and if you don't know them you should check them out. Their slogan is "Normal is weird" and their beers have fun names like Hoptical Illusion and Smashbomb IPA.

Flying Monkeys did a special beer with a Canadian band called the Barenaked Ladies.  (BNL for short, you have likely heard of them.  If not google them and you will then likely recognize at least one song.) I have been trying for months to get my hands on this beer.  Very few made their way into Ottawa and when they did they were sold before I could purchase them.  Our friends found out the brewery still had some.  I eagerly told them what I wanted.  Their other beer that we were having trouble getting our hands on was the Matador

We arrived to find our beer waiting for us.  A bottle of the BNL was opened as was a bottle of Matador to share around.  The BNL is an Imperial Chocolate Stout.  It was extremely tasty, not too sweet and with a lovely chocolate flavour.  The Matador is an Imperial IPA.  It was aged on cedar and was made to celebrate their 8th anniversary.  Citrusy and not bitter.  Both beers were well received and the rest of our stock is being cellared.

We also brought a growler of Muskoka's Legendary Oddity with us.  Spices with strong juniper notes.  The growler was emptied relatively quickly as that beer is always a hit.

Sunday was one of my favourite days, St Patrick's day.  Four days prior I purchased a beef brisket from The Piggy Market in Westboro.  This 4 kg piece of beef rested for the four days in a bath of beer and spices.  The beer was Beyond the Pale's Darkness. This beer is an oatmeal stout and it gave the beef a wonderful, rich flavour.  When I put the brisket in the oven I topped it up with more of the beer and some other veggies.  I also added Beau's beerwurst sausages.  The entire feast, the coddle, colcannon, pratie oaten et al was served with a selection of beer that included The Darkness, Pink Fuzz, Easy Pleasey and Legendary Oddity.  The first three were growlers from Beyond the Pale while the Oddity came from the keg.

For those that haven't tried it the Pink Fuzz is grapefruit wheat beer that is refreshing and nicely balanced citrus.  The Easy Pleasey is their brown.  A lovely easy drinking beer, hence the name.

The group of thirteen finished off the Pink Fuzz, most of the Darkness and the Easy Pleasey.

So of course on Monday we had to finish the last of the Darkness and Easy Pleasey.  Everyone knows growlers have a short life span once opened.

Tuesday was a day of spring cleaning and prep work for the house concert we were hosting on Thursday.  I sat down to dinner and opened a Mill St. Spring Thaw.  For a spring beer that was supposed to have a hint of maple I found it rather lacking.  Decent beer but I wouldn't call it a maple beer.

Thursday was a big day around our house. Musicians Big Rude Jake and Alison Young from Toronto were coming in to Ottawa on a stop over on their way to Quebec City.  I was extremely excited since I have been trying to see Jake play for a while now and just couldn't make it work.  We had the Legendary Oddity still on tap and our second tap was graced with a keg of Nickel Brook's Maple Porter.  The food was amazing thanks to my brother and the music was phenomenal!  The keg of Oddity was emptied and most of the Maple Porter is gone.  I'd call that a successful night!

Friday evening I got an odd phone call while out and about.  Seems in the packing up Jake forgot his box of cds and t-shirts at my place.  He was headed to Montreal on Saturday and wondered if I could ship it to him.  Ship it?  Everyone knows that Beau's Brewery is about halfway between Montreal and Ottawa.  We are part of the Greener Futures program and happened to have a bottle to pick up.  We texted Jake to tell him no we wouldn't ship it, we would deliver to him in person.

Saturday we set off to Montreal.  First stop was Beau's Brewery. Grabbing the bottle of bourbon barreled Burnt Rock we then turned our attention to some of the other bottles.  Beau's has a great selection and it makes it hard to choose.  We tried the Oiseau de Nuit and the Beaver River IPA. Though I had the Oiseau before I love this pumpkin gruit.  Beaver River was something I hadn't tried before.  It was a very nice IPA and three bottles of that and our bourbon Burnt Rock rounded out our four pack.

Arriving in Montreal our first destination was Brasseur de Montreal.  We tried their beers a few years back when we stumbled into a food and beverage fest in Montreal.  They had an amazing stout that had absinthe in it and a ginger beer that was wonderful.  We located them and went inside.

Now I am a firm believer that the craft beer community is just that, a community.  I have rarely come across an unfriendly person.  Sometimes they don't know things about the beer as they are helping out or new but never unfriendly.  Apparently Montreal is the exception.  Well not all of Montreal but two places in particular have proven extremely uptight and borderline rude.  Brasseur de Montreal was one of them.  Perhaps it was that we don't speak french, I don't know but the woman serving us was delightfully rude.

The beer however was great.  We tried the Orientale Chi and the Ghosttown Stout.  They were just as good as we remembered from a few years ago.  The Chi had strong ginger and a refreshing taste.  The Ghosttown had wonderful licorice notes.

We left there and took a drive towards the venue where we were meeting up with Jake and Alison.  We needed food and a sign caught our eye. Brasserie Japanoise.

Intrigued we parked and walked back to them.  In English they are called Big in Japan.  They brew a house blonde that paired well with our seafood platter for two.

The trip home was swift and traffic sparse.

All in all a great week of excitement and some great new beer, along with some favourites.

Till next week!