Ben's Beer Blog

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The Friday Four 12/15/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking.

Kensington Brewing Co. 
Mango Low Boy, Neu Rodes, and Temper Temper

My craft beer journey actually started with Kensington Brewing Company.

It was 2011 and Toronto’ foremost digital journal of record, blogTO, had put out a call for a beer writer. I was a writer who liked beer so I threw my hat in the ring and submitted an application.

Then,  I had a lot to learn about beer.

Thankfully, as anyone with experience in craft beer will know, most of the folks working in or enjoying craft beer are happy to chat so I quickly found people eager to school me and share some insight. One of the very first people to do so was Brock Shepherd, who, at the time, was the founder and sole employee of the eight month-old Kensington Brewing Company. He was also the owner and operator of Burger Bar, which even as late as 2011 was something of a rarity in that it was a restaurant where the beer on tap was entirely local craft beer and there was even a cask engine. There were also occasional health code violations, but I considered that all part of the charm.

I met Brock under the guise of digging for a story–and eventually wrote this one, about how Augusta Ale was soon to arrive in bottles (even though I’m not entirely sure it ever actually did)–and I ended up sitting and chatting (and drinking) with Brock for at least a few hours.

Brock was one of my first interactions with someone who had that certain passion for craft beer–the kind where some annoying wannabe writer shows up when you’re trying to run a business but you end up chatting with him for hours just because you dig craft beer. At that time, Brock was getting some media buzz for attempting to grow usable hops around Kensington Market and was planning to open a nano-brewery in the back of Burger Bar while continuing to contract brew his production beer under the watchful tutelage of Paul Dickey (at the time, this was still a novel idea and not a marketing plan they teach you at Niagara Brewing College. I kid, I kid). Continue reading


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Let’s talk about Untappd

Untappd irritates me.

Sure, there was a time in my life, as there is in most budding beer nerds’ lives, when I wholly embraced all that Untappd had to offer. A crowdsourced collection of tasting notes at my finger tips, a way to track beers that I tried, and even a built in humble-brag system that lets me not only tell people what cool beer I was drinking in a cool bar but also alert all my social media followers that I’ve just earned a badge for surpassing a benchmark like 25 IPAs consumed in one month. It was fun. It was engaging. It was well designed.

But now I think it might be one of the worst things to happen to beer drinking since Adolphus Busch decided he wanted to shag Lilly Anheuser.

Here’s how I came to this conclusion. First, on crowdsourcing tasting notes: I’ve realized I don’t actually care what most people think about a given beer. On the one hand, Untappd is great in that it democratically allows everyone to provide feedback about a beer, and yeah! power to the people.  But on the other hand, who cares about people? Untappd makes every neckbeard with a smartphone think he or she is Michael fucking Jackson. Do I really give a shit that “Jeff T.” thinks Bellwoods Brewery’s Farmhouse Classic “has a weird tangyness” or that “Kyle M.” thinks Instigator IPA from Indie Alehouse is “Really good”? No. No I do not. Untappd is the Yelp of beer, but lazier. If I’m looking for a good restaurant, I don’t want to know that John from Schenectedy gave it one star because he was seated under a drafty vent, I want to know what an actual fucking restaurant critic has to say.

Beer is the same way, and I’m sorry for being snobby here, but most people don’t know a cream ale from a California common, so why the fuck would we want an app that lets all of the people drinking beer (all of them!) share their opinions directly with the world? Continue reading


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The Friday Four 11/17/2017

The Friday Four is a (new) weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking. 

Brasseurs du Monde
Célébrante 375

Included in a handful of beers my brother brought me from the dep near his house in Montreal last time he visited, this beer is a “mellow blonde beer with champagne yeast.” The label listed tasting notes that suggested I could expect “low bitterness” and noted “it delivers honey, pear, orange and lemon flavours.” I didn’t catch most of these notes and instead this came off as a sort of overly-boozy blonde with an almost overbearing rounded pear note. I didn’t actually finish it. Sorry, brother. I include it here though to note what might be the first instance of  casual colonialism I’ve ever seen on a beer label. Brewed to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, the label includes this gem: “With courage and preserverance, Maisonneauve and his settlers founded Montreal on the site of an Iriquois village called Hochlega 375 years ago.” Right on the site of an existing village. What courage!


Sawdust City
Long Dark Voyage to Uranus

Previous batches of LDV have been a weird and impressive balance of rich, bitter, and dry that somewhat manages to be far more dangerously smooth than its hefty 9.5% imperial ABV would suggest. Possibly one of the best imperial stouts in the province–and definitely the best beer I know of that involves butthole word play–LDV is slated to return to LCBO shelves November 23rd and appears to already be on tap at a couple bars.


Block Three Brewing Co.
Frankenstout

On Monday, I undertook the overdue task of cleaning out my second beer fridge. Yes, there are two. I had a ton of beer that I knew I’d never drink (i.e. because it was terrible) or that appeared to be past its prime per its date stamps. It turns out I had a Frankenstout from November 2016 in the fridge and, given its lowish (5%) ABV I wasn’t sure how it might have held up. Turns out it was just fine. I took a whiff from the bottle and had to get a glass. Rich aromas, semi-dry finish, etc. and not over-bearing. A very nice accompaniment to pouring other beers into my laundry tub.
I forgot to take a picture so here’s Boris Karloff. 


Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout

The folks at Beau’s sent me this variant of their popular Tom Green Beer milk stout about a month ago but I’ve been too much in denial to admit the winter months I associate with stouts are  here to dig in on the dark stuff–as you can see from the inaugural Friday Four, I’ve accepted that winter is around the corner and I’m diving into dark beers wholeheartedly. Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout is a black-brown with reddish highlights and it was doing that crazy growing head thing where I had to keep an eye on the glass to watch the ever-expanding off-white foam creeping higher. There are nice roasted malt and subtle chocolate flavours in this one and, while the tasting notes suggested sweet “dessert-like” cherry, I detected would I’d call a semi-sour smooch (a technical term) of sour black cherry. Very nice beer.

 

What are you drinking this weekend?


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Never mind Oktoberfest, here’s Craftoberfest

When I was in university, I travelled to Kitchener to attend the annual Oktoberfest event there, and it was nothing short of terrible.

The pilgrimage to the K-W included sleeping on the floor of a frat boy friend of a friend and it coincided with a lamentable period of my youth that all men seem to go through where we find it humourous to hit each other as hard as possible in the balls. While my group of friends always had a gentleman’s rule that these shots were permissible only when administered open-handed, the agreement was not enough to prevent my two best friends from nearly fighting each other in the middle of a polka-filled hall of dirndl- and lederhosen-bedecked revellers that evening.

Accordingly, I will likely forever associate my experience at Oktoberfest with a terrible night of drinking and the anxiety of perpetually fearing blunt force trauma to my penis and testicles. And while the organizers aren’t responsible for me associating Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest with being hit in the balls, it seems to me an apt metaphor for the annual event. Continue reading


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Haiku reviews: Sawdust City’s Limberlost Farmhouse Ale

Haiku reviews is a new feature wherein I invoke the brief and impressionistic style of poetry to devote exactly 17 syllables to reviewing a beer.

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Sawdust City’s Limberlost Farmhouse Ale
barrel-aged gold smell
dry, yeasty, spice-forest vibes
deep, pure, musty lakes

What they have to say: “Named for the local Muskokan forest where our brew team captured the unique wild yeast strain we used to ferment this natural beauty, Limberlost farmhouse ale will be hitting our shelves Thursday, April 28th. Stay tuned for more of the story of our most original brew to date!”

Where you can get it: Limberlost will be available at the Sawdust City retail store in Gravenhurst and on tap in select bars and restaurants.

Want to send me a beer for the haiku review treatment? Drop me a line


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Beer art spotlight: Sawdust City’s Spooky Action

spooky action 2

If I had a dollar for every time a brewery released a beer that was implicitly tied to profound questions about the fundamental theory of quantum mechanics, the TV show The Flash, and a man’s love for his English bulldog, I would finally have my first dollar.

That’s because Sawdust City has released Spooky Action, a spiced barrel-aged imperial stout and the fourth installment in the brewery’s Winewood Series.

The idea for the above-pictured label image, which may now be one of my favourite beer labels, started when Sawdust City brewmaster Sam Corbeil was watching The Flash and a particular episode mentioned “Spooky Action,” referenced off-hand to describe how two characters had become “quantumly entangled” and ultimately became one person.  Corbeil wasn’t entirely sure the science reference was legit, but he liked the name for a beer. So he did some googling.  Continue reading


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Let’s talk about beer awards

Beer Award

Beer awards are kind of bullshit.

They don’t really denote an absolute degree of quality or a level of excellence above all others in the field or category.

What beer awards often actually denote is simply a willingness on the part of a brewery to meet the demands of individual award ceremonies’ rules and style guidelines. That is, maybe a winning beer best met a certain judge’s understanding of the BJCP definition of a certain style or the beer adheres to the individual awards’ strict and often archaic style guidelines, but does that make the beer the “best” example of its kind?

According to the judges who blind-taste-judged the Ontario Brewing Awards, for example, Triple Bogey Brewing Co. brewed the “best” North American Lager in the province last year. But what does that even mean? Taste is subjective, right? You, for example, may prefer the taste of Great Lakes Brewery’s Golden Horseshoe Premium Lager. Who can say how or why those two lagers are different and what makes one better? Continue reading