June 28, 2013

An Alternative to Convenience Stores

Under Ontario's Liquor Control Act, Brewers Retail (The Beer Store) is the only retailer, other than those located on the site of a brewery, or stores owned by the provincial government-owned Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), permitted to sell [beer or other malt beverages]. The act and the company's articles of incorporation further stipulate that Brewers Retail cannot sell "hard liquor" (spirits), or consumer goods (like groceries).
Owned at its inception by a consortium of Ontario-based brewers, national and international consolidation has resulted in an ownership structure with only three shareholders, all of which are multinational brewing companies at least 50% controlled by non-Canadian interests.

From The Beer Store entry on Wikipedia

There is a lot of talk about privatising alcohol sales in Ontario. All sides have pulled in their studies to prove one point or another. Price, ease in which minors can obtain, change in drunk driving incidents etc. As with any debate both sides have good points or bad that they stick to with determination. I don't want to debate those points. Instead I would like to support a proposal I've heard.

The current situation doesn't seem entirely fair to me. In order to get their label placed on a wall, a small craft brewer has to convince, then pay, their larger competitor. This wall is often created to emphasize the big three's main brands while anyone else's brands are so tiny you have to be within a couple feet of the wall to read any of them. And this is for local, produced in province beers. Getting an imported craft beer is nigh impossible.

The LCBO provides a slightly better option, and in recent times has focused on increasing their selection of craft beers, both local and imported. However, there is still a relatively onerous process to get listed in an LCBO. Most small craft brewers aren't producing the quantity to justify the process.

Why not create a Craft Beer Store that follows similar rules to The Beer Store, but removes control of stocking choices from the big three? A co-op of local craft breweries fits with the original intent of The Beer Store that was lost because of all the consolidation. It would also allow these smaller, local breweries to list their beer in their local outlets without having to meet a process that is scaled to deliver to province wide outlets, like the LCBO. The LCBO, with it's mandate to sell other liquors, is unlikely to have the shelf space available in one or two local stores. A Craft Beer Store could be created to support and grow the local breweries.

A great example of this is Bieres du Monde in Gatineau, Qubec. Dedicated to Qubec craft beer, the staff I have met are very knowledgeable about their offerings and are more than happy to provide recommendations or answer questions about any beer they offer. Personally, I would love to be able to have a similar experience in Ontario.

Of course, there are many details to work out. What qualifies as craft? Can there be imports? Samples? I realize I don't have all the answers, but I think, instead of arguing about a convenience store's suitability for beer, why not talk about working with the model already available? Instead of having a system controlled by three of the larger retailers, let's open an avenue for the smaller places to band together and sell their beer. If we start talking about it these missing details will find their solutions.

June 26, 2013

My Ontario Craft Beer Week

Sometimes plans get messed up and what you wanted to do gets altered by events that you have no control over.  Back on the May long weekend I sat down with @varxint and @thebeergypsy and we made a list of all the things we wanted to do during OCBW.  We had it broken down by day and at the end of the night we knew exactly what we were going to do.

A phone call from family back home meant that travelling was now in order for the opening weekend. Plans had to change. We packed and headed out but being the beer travellers we seem to be, we decided that just because we couldn't go to the planned events didn't mean we could not support our craft breweries.  Heck, we were driving nine hours to Southern Ontario there were bound to be places for us to stop and show our support.

Our first stop was 5 Paddles Brewing.  I won't go into detail here, as the previous post talks about them but I will say if you are in Whitby stop in.

We had a quick turn around and headed back nine hours on Sunday. We quickly stopped in at Railway City. With their expansion and move the selection was limited.  Refusing to be disappointed, cans of Iron Spike and Dead Elephant were bought to enjoy once we returned home.

Being Father's Day, we had planned to be at Beau's BBQ but we found ourselves in Toronto around dinner time.  Some poking at the OCBW events page pointed us to dinner at Granite Brewing. 

First off in Toronto anywhere that has free parking is okay in my book.  Combine that with tasty beer, excellent food and it was more than worth the stop.  They had a great selection of beers, homemade root beer and cask beer. I really enjoyed the ESB and the Best Bitter special.  They were different.  A slightly different nose and bitterness that varied.  The Best Bitter had a longer lingering bitterness while the ESB smoothed out in the end.

The Keefe's Stout was a perfect drink with dessert.  It was paired with the blueberry cheesecake at our server's recommendation and it was bang on.  Dark chocolate roast and coffee finish made this a perfect traditional stout.

The first Ottawa event attended was The Brothers Beer Bistro "Crafsters of the Brewniverse," The bistro closed its doors for the evening and the kitchen did its best to get out great tasting finger food to all the ticket holders.  On hand were brewery people from Beyond the Pale, Spearhead, Muskoka, Beau's and Nickel Brook.  Each brewery brought some great beers to sample. With full pints poured it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the offerings.

I was happy to see Spearhead's Moroccan Brown there and even happier that the Belgian Stout was on tap.  The Beligian Stout had an amazing roast and great chocolate taste.

Nickel Brook offered up Immodest IPA, Naughty Neighbour and the Paysan Saison.  I snagged a pint of the Paysan.  This complex Belgian style saison hit the spot first thing after I arrived.

Beau's had Wag the Wolf.  I had been trying to find this beer since its release and missed out everytime.  This time it did not elude me.  This hefeweizen was light hops, nice wheat taste and good bitter finish. 

Muskoka Brewery's Ross Muir decided to do a little experimenting.  He started by mixing the Summer Weiss and Legendary Oddity.  The brew was spicy but wheaty. Next Ross decided to "dry hop" a few for us.  He broke out a french press, added a bit of various beers and the hops.  He let them sit for a bit, pressed away and gave us a shot glass tasting of the unusual mix.  He even mixed in some Immodest IPA from Nickel Brook at one point.

As far as events go this was definitely a craft beer fans dream.  The place was full of people who love craft beer and there was so many conversations about beer, breweries and events that at times it was hard to keep up.
Next event was the Half in the Barrel at Clocktower.  The brewpub and Beyond the Pale teamed up to do a series of beers aged in wine barrels.  They started with their base, a Flander's Red Ale and then aged it in Merlot and Cab Franc barrels.  In total there were six beers to taste.  The base and each barrel aged on draught and then on cask.  I loved all of them but the merlot on cask was by far my favourite.  The cab franc was nice as well but the merlot packed more overall flavour.  The Clocktower's food was excellent and the event brought in many familiar faces.

I made a quick swing to the Corner bar and grill down the street.  Flying Monkeys brewery was hosting a tap takeover.  Most I had tried before but I was happy to try Green Man and the Citrus.  I have to say the Citrus lived up to its name packing a strong lemon aroma and mild bitterness at the end all thanks to the citra hops.

The end of my OCBW came at Corner's Tap vs Tap.  Muskoka's Ross Muir and Beau's Tim Duncan pitted various beers from their respective breweries against one another and let the crowd decide the winner.

I love this idea and there are no two better reps to do this.  Ross and Tim are both a lot of fun and they had a packed house for the battle. My table was full of familiar faces with a strong showing by the Barley's Angels.

They matched the beers fairly evenly. Craft Lager vs Lug Tread.  Summer Weiss vs Wag the Wolf.  Mad Tom vs Beaver River IP eh?. Legendary Oddity vs Rudolphus VI. Twice as Mad Tom vs After Dark.

For me, the Craft Lager won with its full mouth feel. 

The hardest choice for me was the Summer Weiss and Wag the Wolf.  Both were excellent beers and in the end I voted summer weiss though I delayed as long as I could out of indecision. 

Mad Tom beat the beaver river in my book as the hops were a bit stronger. 

The Oddity lost out to Rudolphus and I was a bit surprised.  Oddity is a staple in my house but for whatever reason it lacked the normal layers. 

Finally Twice as Mad did not stand up to the newest brew from Beau's.  The After Dark was made specifically for Jazzfest. An American brown that carried a nutty malt and a smooth but very noticable hop finish.

Much like many of tables in the restaurant our table was split at times.  Everyone picked out something different they liked or didn't and the style of glass greatly altered the nose making discussion even more interesting.  This is how beer should be tasted.  The entire table talking about what we could smell, the first taste, the mouthfeel and lingering after taste.

In the end the count was very close at 27-23 for Muskoka.  The guys were fantastic hosts.

I could not be happier with everything I got to do and all the new beers I was able to try during craft beer week.  The turn out for each event is a strong reminder that good beer is celebrated in this province.

Cheers to Ontario breweries!

June 25, 2013

5 Paddles Brewing

When you have to make a long road trip it always helps if you can break it up with interesting places to stop. Traveling from Ottawa to Windsor is certainly a long road trip, and with the proliferation of breweries in Ontario there are often good choices for stops. When we heard of a new brewery opening in Whitby we made sure to schedule a stop.

5 Paddles is a nano brewery, producing 350 litre batches and seem to be quite popular as the choices to bring home were limited. They had two beers in bottles, which was a pleasant surprise. I don't mind growlers, but traveling with one seemed a little more than I would have preferred. After securing two bottles each of their Midnight Paddler black ipa and the Hot Pants ipa, since there were less than a dozen of each left, we talked a bit with Spencer, one of the brewers/jack of all trades at 5 Paddles.

They have much in common with Broadhead, which is unsurprising after Spencer told us that Broadhead was the inspiration and helpful party in setting up 5 Paddles production facilities. The DIY spirt is obvious here, and felt quite familiar having recently toured Broadhead. When I asked Spencer if he was the brewer he said all of the original Paddlers are the brewers and general jack of all trades. Again, similar to the Broadhead philosophy.

After chatting a little, we decided to grab a flight of the other beers they had on tap but had sold out of bottles. There were 4 on tap, one being Hot Pants and since we had bottles of that we went with the other 3. First up was the summer.

Dog Days of Summer is sweeter than any summer ale I've had in the past. It was certainly refreshing and had a pleasant creamy mouthfeel. Definitely a good combination for a hot summer patio. However, the 6 percent a.b.v. might hit a little harder than a typical summer.

We Opened A Brewery ESB brought a chuckle from me on the name, and continued the fun naming conventions that 5 Paddles has. The beer was nothing to chuckle about though. An excellent example of an ESB, this is a beer I wish I could get on a regular basis. A delicious, nutty flavour was followed by a wonderful bitterness. Drinking many of these would be quite easy.

The last sample was the Bad Ass pale. An American Pale ale that focused on the malt profile. A lot of caramel up front, the malts were a mouth filling taste. The floral hops were a little subdued, and I later found out they were brewing a Bad Ass 2.0 with an enhanced hop. It was still a very nice beer and I think the 2.0 version will be very good.

At the end of the trip we opened the bottles that we bought, excited to continue the experience.

Hot Pants ipa has a great grapefruit nose and flavour. A sweet caramel note of the malts balances the bitterness of the hops. A very nice ipa that is refreshing, yet big in flavour.

Finally, the Midnight Paddler. The label says black ipa, but they call it a stout/ipa fusion. One smell of this beer and the coffee roast reminds you very much of a stout. The creamy, beige head, also looks like a stout. The flavours of the coffee roast comes through first, then the warm, sweetness of the malts come through. At 9.9 abv the alcohol is surprisingly subtle and leads perfectly into the hoppy bitterness. This would be a nice after dinner drink or night cap for a cooler night.

This is another example of the great explosion of wonderful beers Ontario is experiencing right now. Spencer was a friendly and welcome host and my only complaint was that this brewery is a little far from Ottawa so I will not be able to routinely have their beer available to me. Cheers 5 Paddles and good luck!

Beyond the Pale Tap Takeover

It isn't always easy being the new kid.  New in school, new in the office or the newest craft brewery in a relatively big city.  The thing is, if you know what you are doing being the new guy ain't so bad.  Beyond the Pale Brewing hasn't been open that long but they have made a huge impact in the face of Ottawa's craft beer scene.

Within their first four months their plan of being open during the week was altered when the beer began selling out on the first day.  From that point on sold out was a common phrase for these folks.

They offered special beers aged in Maker's Mark bourbon barrels. Those were not only in high demand at preorder but when they released another small batch they were scooped up quickly.

I honestly have not had a beer I did not like from them so you can guess how happy I was to hear they were going to be doing a tap takeover at Wellington Gastro Pub.  Not only is it a great venue but great staff.  Combine that with great food and it has the makings of a great tap takeover. Tickets sold quickly.

I arrived early, by early I mean first. The place quickly filled up with people.

My first task was to find Rob McIsaac and Shane Clark to congratulate them on the event.  The crew at BTP have been working really hard and it was nice to see them outside the brewery enjoying the crowds appreciation. There was a lot to appreciate.  The bar was lined with casks and the taps were all ready to go with BTP's wonderful beers.

Shane Clark and Rob McIsaac

The Pink Fuzz, the wonderful grapefruit beer in its own right was made even more fantastic on cask with the addition of dry grapefruit.  This beer was so easy to drink it was deemed "dangerous." This beer had all the flavour of a perfect grapefruit juice without acidity. A certain brewer tells me that two casks were emptied at the event.  Pretty sure this means it was a crowd favourite.

The Darkness was done in two variations.  One with chocolate and one with coffee. I prefered the one with coffee though others at my table favoured the chocolate.  Both were amazing casks.  The beer had such richness to it that you expect of a high quality stout.  I enjoyed getting to taste the two variations.

@varxint and The Beer Gypsy discussing the beers

The I Pine For You was a neat cask.  Nose had a hint of pine to it.  It had the perfect slightly bitter end.  A great American Brown Ale with good flavour. This tasty little beer was a collaboration between BTP and Wellington Gastro Pub, the hosts of the event.

There was also a cask of Hop On Your Face.  A dry hop addition left this beer with a fruity nose. Nice strong lemon/citrus flavour and a well balanced finish.  This is the way an IPA is meant to be.  Again, from looking around and the fact that at least one cask emptied while I was waiting I would say the crowd overwhelmingly approved.

Not to be outshined, the Imperial Super Guy packed a huge citrus punch on its cask.  It was dry hopped with citra.  I have to say I love this beer and the cask really proved flavourful and refreshing.  A nice mouth feel, lemony nose and nice citrus aftertaste. 

I didn't think anything could top the Pink Fuzz but I got to the Make'r Easy and I have to say it is a close tie. Their Make'r series of beers are over all amazing.  The barrels from Makers Bourbon add so much to the beers.  The Easy at only 3.6% abv packs so much flavour it is easy to forget it is a light beer.  It is smooth with caramel, bourbon notes on the nose.  The taste is along the lines of a smooth bourbon with hints of hops and malt.  Anyone who is a bourbon fan would drink this beer.  

I knew the night was going to be a success.  Any brewery that has trouble keeping beer in stock, that has to expand four months after opening and has line ups for its special releases is going to rock a tap takeover.  I believe that it went better than any of the organizers could have imagined.  The quality of the food was stellar and the beer was top notch.

Cheers Beyond the Pale, Rob and Shane!  I hope this is the first of many tap takeovers and I can't wait to see and taste what else you guys come up with.

I want to say a special thank you to Wellington Gastro Pub for their hospitality and great food.   

June 19, 2013

American Craft Beer Festival

I admit it, this Canadian girl has a huge soft spot for New England.  This spot in my heart is only rivaled by my love of craft beer. So when the opportunity to go to Boston for American Craft Beer Festival with the Ottawa chapter of Barley’s Angels came up there was no way that this girl was passing it up.

I had a ticket for Session B on Saturday afternoon.The lineup long, the day hot but overall getting in was extremely easy and efficiently done.  The organizers and volunteers were extremely pleasant.  Waiting in line was hard for this pale girl on such a sunny day but not only did one of my fellow Angels have sunscreen for me to use, I was able to meet some new friends in line as we lamented the plight of the fair skinned.  We whittled away our time waiting for the doors to open with talk of craft beer in Ottawa, in New England and various festivals.  Not a bad way to start a day at all.

Once in we were given our glass, our booklet and sent on our way.  Let me just say go with a plan because with so many breweries and the count for beers available to taste coming out at something like 600+ it is easy to get overwhelmed.  

Luckily for me I was with two other Angels.  One had been to Session A the night before and one had a list of things she needed to try.  I went along for the ride as well as made a few stops of my own.

I will spare you the details of all 95+ beers I tried but I will tell you about some standouts for me.  Before I do, if you are wondering how I managed to walk after so many keep in mind that we did the divide and conquer strategy.  Each of us took a different beer at the booth, sample a bit of each.  If there was anything we really didn’t like, which sadly there was, it was dumped.  Samples weren’t overly large so it is a good way to go about things when you are facing an undaunting number of beer.

If you like Wild Turkey Bourbon I highly suggest you try Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout.  While many bourbon barrel aged beers carry smooth caramel notes this one is very in your face bourbon.  I rather liked it though others found it too harsh.

Ballast Point Brewing’s Victory at Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter is a high abv at 10% but so very smooth with a vanilla nose and a lingering coffee taste. We were told that the coffee is a locally roasted one.  This beer would be nice after dinner or with dessert.  

Beer Works RIPA, standing for rosemary imperial pale ale, was an interesting take on the style.  I will admit that the rosemary was too strong for me to drink but it would be amazing in stuffing or for cooking with.

Cody Brewing’s No Name IPA was one of the most complex IPA’s I have had.  There was a lot of hop but each adding something different and none of them being more overpowering than the rest.  I could taste the cascade and amarillo but the rest escaped me.  Once I asked the list also included glacier, shinook and sorachi ace.  

Mayflower Brewing Co.’s Summer Rye was one of the best balanced summer rye beers I have had.  I typically like my rye beer in the fall or spring but this rye was light and refreshing.  The hops which were crystal and columbus, combined with the belgian yeast to give you a refreshing yet flavourful beer.  My vote for great patio beer.

Newburyport Brewing Co.’s Green Head IPA was a very in your face hop aroma and ended with an amazing malt finish.  Their Plum Island Belgian White also impressed me with its spicy aroma and wheat finish.  I could have easily had a few more of both of these beers.  Also to note about this brewery, these guys play in a funk band and there is a pick waiting for you under the carrier of each of their six packs. Speaking of, they are one of two breweries we saw with a very different way of packaging their cans.

The People’s Pint’s Farmer Brown is their flagship beer.  I admit I am hesitant when it comes to browns. I have had a lot that do not live up to the idea of malty or full body.  I tend favour Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog (though it is an American Brown vs an English) and thus compare all browns to it.  I was very pleasantly surprised at this beer.  The Farmer Brown was malty, a little sweet and a lovely almost toffee or caramel finish.  

Post Road Tavern/Rocky Coast Brewing’s Lone Warrior is an amazing IPA that offers one thing, the clean bitter warrior hop.  Their Breakfast at Tig’s Before During and After Thanksgiving Morning Abbey Ale is as layered as the name is long. It has everything you want from an abbey ale but the numerous layers mean that everyone’s palate discovers something different and each sip brought new flavours.  It is perfect for before a heavy meal.  During a meal its flavours would mingle well with that of the food. After it isn’t too heavy to leave you feeling extra full and at 7.8% is enough to make all your relatives amusing.

I had to make a stop at Smuttynose.  I was just in Portsmouth in February but couldn’t pass up a chance to see what they had to offer.  I tried the Farmhouse Ale.  I found it well layered, complex without being overpowering and I could certainly see sitting down with a pint after doing copious amounts of yard work.

Another stop I had to make was at Throwback Brewery.  Yes I had just been there in February but the Angels I was with had not.  What is better than women beer lovers?  How about women brewers?  We chatted with Nicole Carrier, congratulated them on getting the go ahead for the new brewery and of course tried their beers.  The Rhubarb Wit was very tasty though I was worried it would be far more sour than it was.  Very summery with notes of citrus on the end.

Lastly I need to talk about Bunker Brewing Co.  We went specifically to try the Dirty Pearl Oyster Stout. We were told the keg would be tapped at 2:30.  While at the booth we took some time to try their other beers and chat with Jay Villani.  The 122 Coffee IPA was not at all what I expected from anything that with coffee in the title.  A bright colour of an IPA with a lovely non bitter coffee flavour.  No heavy roast, no dark colour, yet coffee.  Intrigued I found out that they add cold coffee in the bright tank. We also tried their New Machine Pils and Trashmaster 2013.  Both very good beers.  One of my favourites from them was the Munjoy Mild.  An English Pale Mild Ale, it was exactly what I had hoped it would be.  Malty, hint of hops and lovely mouth feel.  

The three of us headed off to try other beers and promptly returned at 2:30.  The keg was tapped but as it was poured it was clear something was not right.  A lighter coloured beer flowed leaving the Bunker men confused.  The keg had been marked correctly and yet it was not the oyster stout.  Apologies were given out and we left to finish off the fest.    

With fifteen minutes left of the festival we were making our last decision about our final samples when Jay found us.  He had searched the festival three times for us as they found the oyster stout.  It appeared they had the right keg but the taps were a bit mixed up.  We were amazed that he came looking for us and thanked him profusely for doing so.  We finally got to try the Dirty Pearl.  The smoked oysters added a hint of smoke and saltiness to the stout. Subtle flavours that enhance the stout’s roasted taste.

I won’t tell you about the beers I did not like as everyone’s palate is unique and we all enjoy different things.  What I taste in a beer or liked you might not.  What I will say is that the festival had something for everyone.  It was a craft beer lovers paradise that I intend to visit again.

I want to stress again how amazing the volunteers were for getting the wristbands on and getting people inside in an efficient manner.  Thanks to all the breweries that we visited as everyone was super friendly and talkative.  A thank you also to the Beer Advocate and Harpoon Brewery for putting on the event.

Festibiere - A celebration of Quebec beers

I am not an expert on beer at all.  I love to learn about it, love to talk to brewers and of course taste as much as I can.  There are so many beers from so many areas and in so many styles it is hard to keep up.  Festivals are a great way to learn as much as you can about beers from a certain area.  Big or small festivals are the way to sample beers you do not know but maybe want to learn more about.

Gatineau's Festibiere is the perfect way to learn more about beer from the province of Quebec.  The festival hosted 32 booths of breweries both big and small, Quebec food vendors and presentation area.  It is also a family friendly festival which means children are welcome to attend with their parents and there was plenty for them to do.

I had planned to attend but as luck would have it the Barley's Angels were invited do a tasting presentation.  I was asked to be one of the participants.  I arrived Friday and my group of three Angels headed off to find three beers to sample.  We took some time to chat with brewers and reps, chose our beers and made our way to the presentation area.

Once the talk was done I was free to check out all the booths at my own pace.  Saturday was much the same idea and Sunday was simply a day to relax.  While the ground was muddy from the rain on Friday morning the festival organizers did their best to cover the worst areas with wood or plastic stepping 'stones'.

Food vendors were great with options like thai, BBQ, sausages and smoked meat.  Activities for kids included bouncy slides and climbers and a climbing wall.

The main focus though was all the great beer that was available to sample.

Dieu du Ciel had some of their staples on hand including the Rosee d'hibiscus and Peche Mortel. Stand outs for them were L'Herbe a Detourne, a belgian tripel with citra hops. Mea Culpa, a cream ale that was heavily hopped like an IPA.

Broadway Pub brought their La Don Juan.  This beer was a belgian dark with a 9% abv.  Big, complex flavours and a peppery note at the end.

Microbrasserie le Naufrageur brought an amazing bourbon barrel aged pale ale.  This beer had amazing vanilla notes that blended well with the mild hop.

Les Brasseurs RJ had Death Valley, an imperial IPA and Apocalypse, an imperial stout.  The Death Valley had warm sweetness and caramel notes that ended with a nice bitterness.  The Apocalypse had all the chocolate notes you hope for in a good quality imperial stout but was not overly sweet at all.

Les Trois Mousquetaires brought a randall.  This amazing contraption allows the beer to flow through chambers, in this case, filled with fresh hops and ice.  It was a pale ale that was pumped over the hops and made it taste like you were eating the hops without all the plant material.  Anyone that tried it and loved hops loved this beer.

Brasseurs du Monde had a number of beers to try.  L'Infusee, a wit beer with tea notes.  It would be perfect on a hot summer day.  Saison Imperiale was a farmhouse style beer with complex start and warming boost from the 8.1% abv.  It didn't carry a strong alcohol taste but would hit you hard if not shared with friends. My favourite from them was the A Table.  Replace any basic red wine with this beer.  Strong pepper and spice notes.  Would pair amazing with a hearty red meat meal with all the fixings.

The standout brewery of the festival for me was L'Alchimiste.  I first talked to Patrick Dupuis when we were searching for beers to do our presentation about. I liked their beers so much I made the trip back to their booth on all three days.  Wee Heavy their scotch ale came in at an 8% abv but the caramel and light peaty-smokiness the beer carried mellowed any chance at the alcohol burn.  Unlike other beers the smokiness was not overwhelming.  Their Eisbock was not only my favourite of their beers but of the entire festival.  It poured an amberish colour.  They use a process similar to ice wine to get an intense bourbon or brandy flavour in this beer.  The abv is a high 9.5% but the beer, with all the caramel taste is deceptively smooth.  This beer easily replaces any brandy as an after dinner drink.

This was my second year attending Festibiere and I look forward to next year's edition.  They proved once again that Quebec is a gem when it comes to new and interesting craft beer.

June 18, 2013

An Immodest Event

The craft beer world is kind of small.  Go to enough events and you will start recognizing faces.  Start seeing the same people enough and you are bound to start talking to them.  Sometimes you go to things, meet people and next thing you know it is four or five years later and you are at a bar for the release of their beer.

This is sort of how we met Ryan Morrow of Nickel Brook Brewing.  We happened to be at a very small beer festival a number of years ago.  I was being forced to try this drink made with half lager, half vodka cooler.  I was told I would like it as "women love this cause it tastes like lemonade and not beer."  I took one sip, hated it as expected and passed it to a friend.  I happened to look over at the next booth.  It was for Nickel Brook and I just happened to have their green apple pilsner in my fridge.  I said as much and  a conversation was quickly struck up with the man at the booth.

We tried the beers, loved them and in the end got his card.  Turned out that the person manning the booth was the brewer himself, Ryan.

Over the years our fridge has seen many a keg from Nickel Brook and currently the Naughty Neighbour occupies one of the taps.

It was of course our pleasure to join Ryan and Ottawa rep Justin da Silva at the Arrow and Loon to celebrate the release of Immodest Imperial IPA.  We were also thrilled to find out that Ryan had brought with him a keg of Creepy Bitch.

Both Ryan and Justin suggested we start with the Creepy Bitch.  Between the two it had the more citrus and floral notes.  This beer is a belgian tripel with a 9% ABV.  It was a collaboration brew between Nickel Brook and Great Lakes.  It was served with a rose petal floated on top.  The aroma was, as expected very floral and the taste carried notes of blood orange.

The Immodest carried a wonderful woody nose  The hops, a healthy dose of Citra and Simcoe, gave the beer a nice almost pine like taste with a hint of grapefruit on the end.  A bit malty but not overly sweet at all.  As with all their beers I found it very, very well balanced and complex

The evening was hit of course.  There were of course many familiar faces in the crowd.  Many beers were enjoyed. Once again Nickel Brook and Ryan did not disappoint.

Thanks to Ryan and Justin for a great evening.

June 08, 2013

Celebrating 3 Years for Kichesippi Brewery

Kichesippi Brewery celebrated three years of brewing this past spring.  It has become one of the go to craft beer breweries here in Ottawa and for me, I use their flagship beers 1885 and Natural Blonde as a gateway beer for non craft beer drinkers.

I will admit I don't always love their beer.  I find many too mild for my palate.  That doesn't mean I don't admire what they have done in their three years of brewing here in Ottawa.

Taking over the brewery once operated by Heritage Brewing, Paul Meek has to build a brewery that is recognized throughout the city.  They were the beer the mayor used for his bets during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Arriving, I bought my chips and headed off to find food and beer.  My food consisted of an amazing chili grilled cheese from StreetEats. My beer choices consisted of the Polaris, the 1855 and the Heller High Water.  I am not a fan of the Polaris so I opted for the Heller.

I was joined by a bunch of fellow Barley's Angels and we happily chatted over beers and delicious food.  Marissa, another Angel and I met the challenge of pinning Paul Meek, the owner.

Another treat to be had at the party was Harvey and Vern's soda.  I tried both the ginger beer and the cream soda.  If you ever want to taste soda the way it should be done I highly recommend Harvey and Vern's. The ginger beer was amazing with all the bite you'd expect and the cream soda a clear, smooth cream soda.

Before heading off the Barley's Angels had our picture taken in the photo booth and I snagged a Pascale's Ice Cream 1855 sandwich.  Nothing beats handmade ice cream sandwiches, especially when they contain beer.

Cheers to Kichesippi Brewery!

A word about Barley's Angels

For those that don't know Barley's Angels is a group formed to help promote beer lovers of the female persuasion.

If you have ever gone to a brewery event, a brewery tour or a beer festival you will see that the ratio of women to men is quite different.  This isn't because women don't like beer, far from it but simply that a higher percentage of men attend.  Barley's Angels aims to help bring women and beer together.  Events centre around tasting and discussing beer.

Now, I am a woman, I like beer, I like craft beer and I attend as many events as I can make time and have the budget for.  I rarely pay attention to how many men vs women there are in a crowd since I am there for the beer, not to do a head count.  That being said I am often reminded that overall there are less women around me at these things.  I mean how do you not notice the really short line up in a bathroom? How often does that happen?

Back in March, I was tipped off to the forming of an Ottawa Chapter of Barley's Angels. I was excited to learn that my city was going to have a group of women uniting in their love of beer.

The first meet up was at the beginning of April.  The group showed up at Kichessippi Brewery for board games and beer.  There was plenty of food, courtesy of the pot luck tag for the event and lots of different games to play.

Meagan gave the girl's a brief talk on the history of the brewery. I will admit to being disappointed to the lack of acknowledgement to Heritage Brewery and what they did for craft beer in Ottawa and for Kichessippi itself.

The rest of the evening was spent with board games, good conversation and beer.

The second event for the Angels was at Cassel Brewery in Casselman.  Tickets had to be purchased in advance as space was limited.  The brewery itself is not overly large and with the count of members at over 200 there was no way to get us all in.  Those of us who were lucky enough to make the 45 minute drive were treated to a sample of each of Cassel's beers, cheese and crackers provided by event organizers and a tour of the brewery.  Of course more than a few growlers were purchased.  Myself I brought home Hopper Car, Aged Honey Brown and Maple Rye (bottles.)

The third Barley's Angels event was in Quebec at Bieres du Monde.  For those who have not made it to this amazing store they carry an almost overwhelming number of beers for purchase.  Again with space limited tickets were purchased ahead of time.  This group of ladies were led through a tasting of seven beers. Ryan, the owner, was extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  He walked us through the tasting of each asking what we smelt, tasted and if we liked it or not.  Each beer was paired with a cheese.  My picks from the evening were Dieu Du Ciel's Chaman and Les Trois Mousquetaires Baltic Porter. Of course I left the store with a box of various beers that I purchased. 

The most recent event was at the Arrow and Loon.  A more social meet up this one too found us with limited space so tickets were 'bought' though there was no cost.  It helped the Arrow and Loon to ensure there was space for everyone.  There was much talking and beer drinking.  I enjoyed a Nickel Brook Malevolent as those at my table discussed types of beer and brewery tours.  Centretown news was on hand talking to some of the Angels about the group.  

Our next meet up is again at Kichessippi Brewery on June 26th. The focus of this night will be learning about hops. Nickel Brook/Clocktower's Justin da Silva will be on hand to give the ladies a lesson in varieties and the role of hops in beer.