July 29, 2013

So much beer, so little wifi.

People travel for a lot of different reasons.  Sometimes for work, sometimes out of obligation but usually for fun.  In our case we love to travel and even more when it involves beer.  In fact we plan whole vacations around a festival we want to attend.  This past weekend we attended the Southern New Hampshire Brewer's Festival.

We decided to make a lengthy trip out of it and hit Portland, Maine as well.

There were many breweries to see and many beers to try.  Stay tuned in the coming week for a break down of our trip, write ups on the breweries you should visit if you head out that way and a review of the festival.

If you follow us on Untappd you have seen just a small sample of what we tried (very little wifi in Maine) and if you don't but want to you can find us at AThibert and varxint. We will be Untapping the remaining beers in the coming days.


July 20, 2013

Beer Tasting at Watson's Mill

A two story stone building complete with working mill, stone floors, wood staircase and its very own ghost.  You would not immediately think beer tasting venue but Watson's Mill has hosted quite a few.

For this year's event the organizers decided to focus on craft beer only.  The roster included Ottawa's own Kichesippi, Broadhead, Mill St, Hogsback, Beau's and newcomer Turtle Island.  Other breweries featured included Cassel, Barley Days and Burlington's Nickel Brook Brewing.

We arrived about fifteen minutes ahead of doors open and took the time to enjoy the aesthetics of the building before doors opened promptly at 7:00.  The venue was stocked with volunteers helping to get people in the door and to the beer as quickly as they could.

Our first stop was to see Ben at Cassel Brewery.  First beer of the entire night was Golden Rail Honey Brown Ale with its nice sweet nose and taste. Good malt with a hint a honey.  White Fog followed it up with its light wheat flavour.

Barley Days Brewery sent up some of their beers and volunteers served them up to the guests.  I tried the Three Horse Hitch. A smoked beer I was initially concerned as this style tends to be overpowering.  The nose was very smokey but not a turn off.  It was a pleasant smoke rather than an acidic harshness.  The taste was a great balance of the smoke and the malts. Even the lingering taste was pleasant.
Mill St also sent some brews from the Ottawa brewpub.  I had a pint of both the Big Red Cherry (cask) and the Paradise IPA.  The cherry was not quite what I expected as it had a more candy taste than a pure cherry.  The cherry was subtle and the beer overall quite sweet.

The Paradise is a really intense but balanced IPA.  There is no doubt that this is an IPA from the first sip. Citrus, grapefruit balanced with the malts to give it a clean taste.

After a pit stop for some of the cheese and charcuterie provided by the talented Indulge Kitchen, the upstairs beckoned.

Turtle Island Brewing Co. was our first stop.  This event was their official launch and a stop to congratulate them was in order.  Samples were needed.  The SMASH Cherry is an easy drinking fruit beer.  The cherry flavour builds with each sip and is reminiscent of early season cherries rather than the sweet late season ones.  The finish is clean and overall the beer isn't as sweet as other fruit beers, suiting my palate quite nicely.

Their Dark Honey Brown was a hands down favourite. Made with five malts, three hops and local honey it comes in at 7.5% abv.  Don't be fooled though.  The nose and initial flavour are all honey.  The malts and maple syrup add a great sweetness to the end.

Next was Nickel Brook Brewing.  Justin brought a selection of their beers and just standing there it was easy to see that the Berliner Weisse was a crowd pleaser.  This beer at only 3.8% has a nice sour dryness.

Straying to a favourite of mine I had the Bolshevik Bastard. This big imperial stout has a big roast, big chocolate notes and huge coffee flavour. It is rich but not overly sweet or heavy.

After more food including duck perogie, a scallop taco and compressed melon I had a sample of their Headstock IPA to help refresh my palate.  This is a great example of a quality IPA.  Well balanced and easy drinking so be careful of its 7% abv.

Our next stop was at Broadhead Brewing Co.  The Backbone Standard had a bright nose with a sweet taste.  The Dark Horse Stout had a chocolately nose and great roast.  Finally from them, we tried the Wildcard Ale.  This batch was full of citrus flavour.  Lemon nose and great citrus taste and finish.  It was refreshing and perfect for the warm summer night.

With a sidestep to the left we stopped at Beau's Brewery and enjoyed a Festivale Plus Sticke Alt.  Nice malts, great finish without an overlingering bitter.  This beer is a gem in my book.

Heading down the wooden stairs we made our way to visit the Kichesippi table where Meg was handing out samples of their 1855.  Another great example of a nicely malted beer with a balanced finish.  After some wonderful conversation with Meg we headed back up once again to sample our last beer.

Hogsback Vintage Lager was cold and very refreshing. At 5.2% abv and easy on the taste buds there is nothing quite as good on a humid night.

As the evening wound down I was on hand to see Turtle Island Brewing win the People's Choice award. It was a well deserved win and a great way to end their official launch day.

The entire night was a great success for the breweries and especially for Watson's Mill.

Thank you to the organizers for a night of craft beer!

July 12, 2013

Capital Mash-up:Ottawa's Brewery Market

In true Barley and Wort fashion we arrived just before they opened the gates for Ottawa's first brewery market of the year.  Held last Sunday (July 7) in Parkdale Park, the "Capital Mash-up" featured three Ottawa breweries and their collaboration beers with three Toronto breweries.

The breweries were paired up by the organizers and worked together to create three special beers that would be featured in both the Toronto and Ottawa brewery markets.

Cassel Brewery was paired with Great Lakes brewery.  Their beer, a Cranberry Saison had a slight cranberry nose and a pleasing tartness. I would have liked a bit more punch from the craberries but overall it was easy to drink. Personally, I wouldn't consider this a saison though I understand the shift from the traditional spicy to the tart by using cranberries.  I like my saisons to have the overall refreshing quality and I found this beer almost too weak to be truly refreshing.  It was a more typical fruit beer than a saison, in my opinion.

Broadhead Brewery were paired up with Amsterdam Brewery to produce a Lemon Wheat beer. Despite The colour was typical of a nice wheat beer and while I hoped for a stronger wheat taste, this beer had just enough of a balance to be truly refreshing.  

The last pairing was Beyond the Pale and Toronto newcomers, Indie Alehouse.  Their brew was the Golden Devil.  A golden ale ale it hosted a light malt profile and light citrus notes from the hops. Easy drinking and very flavourful beer.  

The brewery market was a success though there were a few hiccups.  First anyone who didn't know to come early found themselves missing out on the collaboration beers.  Tickets were a bit confusing with one colour and price for the collabs and one for the other beers that were on tap. Both patrons and staff in the booths had a frustrating time with them.  Many of the patrons did not realize that there would be more than one market in Ottawa.  There was some confusion about where the other Ottawa breweries were.  I overheard comments from a few people who were under the impression that the Toronto breweries were making an appearance.

On the positive side the food from Hintonburger was very good.  The beer overall was very good. Each brewery brought a few of their varieties for people to try.   Beyond the Pale even had a special beer and ice cream float.

The weather held out for the majority of the event and even when the rain did come down people shared umbrellas and space under the tents. Community spirit at its best.

The event was free to attend and the only cost was if you wanted to eat or drink.  For people on a budget it meant that they could plan to try the beer and still not break the bank.  The biggest plus though was that the event was family friendly.  There were swings and a playground for the children with tables nearby for the adults.

The market was definitely a success. The next one occurs August 25th. Organizers have said that there will be a theme but as of right now that and the breweries attending have not been announced. I like the idea of focusing on a few breweries at a time. However, using advertisements or other announcements would help reduce confusion and increase excitement for future markets. 

I am, of course looking forward to the next one as anything that puts Ottawa craft breweries and their beer in the spotlight is a winner for me.

July 04, 2013

Hops, hops and more hops!

Hops.  Originating in China, they are used around the world for medicine and of course, beer.  They are used for aroma. flavour and for natural preservation.  These cones help balance the malt and bitterness while imparting aroma to the beer and adding their own flavours.

This past Wednesday the Barley's Angels learned all about these wonderful plants at the "Hop into Summer" event.  Our host, Kichesippi Brewery opened their doors and event space to 40 women so they could listen to Nickel Brook's/Clocktower's Justin Da Silva talk about hops.

Justin brought a few varieties in pellet form for the women to smell. He explained the difference between aroma hops-those that have low bittering but high aroma and bittering hops-those with high bittering and low aroma. Hops take on the characteristics of the terroir they grow in.  Each variety, each cultivar brings something different to the table.  A brewer decides what hops they will use based on the profile they want the beer to have.

The ladies passed around glasses filled with pellets, sniffing and discussing what they could smell.  Justin explained the common terms such as citrus, spicy, grassy and many others.

Smelling wasn't the only thing on the agenda though.  One can talk about hops and aroma but the best way to experience them is of course by trying some beer.

First up was Nickel Brook's Naughty Neighbour APA.  Notes of citrus and pine on the nose and the beer left a light bitter taste on the palate.  A great starter beer to introduce how hops are used in beer.

Next up was Nickel Brook's Headstock IPA.  This beer was a bit more hop forward than the Naughty.  The malts brought out a nice balance. 

Going up in terms of hoppiness our next beer was Muskoka's Mad Tom.  This beer is dry hopped with Chinook and Centennial making it a a bit more bitter to the palate but still well balanced so as not to turn a beer lover off.

Moving up the I.B.U. scale we moved onto Twice as Mad Tom, also from Muskoka. This beer is dry hopped twice, packing it with a lot of flavour and aroma.  Immediately the smell of lemon and a hint of floral was apparent.  After being told how much hop was in the beer many were pleased to find the bitterness to be well balanced and not overwhelming.  It was an example how you should be able to taste all the sublties hops brings to a beer. 

Our next beer was Beyond the Pale's Hop on Your Face.  This beer is packed with Centennial (given to them by Muskoka) Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  This beer poured a lovely rich amberish colour and carried lemon and a hint of pine on the nose.  The flavours were cirtus and pine. 

Our last hop forward beer was Nickel Brook's Immodest IPA. There was no mistaking the Simcoe and Citra hops in this beer.  This beer packs a big aroma, a great taste and a big 9.5% ABV. The malt blended with the citrus and pine on the palate leaving it sweet but not cloying. The hops left a nice lingering bitterness on the palate.

To end the night off Justin served up some Kichesippi Blonde from our hosts. In the blonde, the hops lend it a very mild bitterness but a hint of citrus on the nose. Its flavours were far more subtle than those of an IPA but that is what you want from a good blonde beer.

The event was a huge success.  There was lots of sniffing, discussing and tasting, the way a beer event should be.

Special thanks to Beyond the Pale, Muskoka, Kichesippi and Nickel Brook for all the beer we were able to taste.  A big thank you to Justin Da Silva for giving such an informative talk.