Friday, 17 July 2015

The Summer of Beer... so far


This was the summer that the baby chipmunk found the
"feeding zone" at Donny's Bar and Grill. Stevil St Evil
kept clicking his tongue in some crazy African dialect

during his stay here, hoping that the little fellow would
find the peanuts. He eventually did. Good work, man.
Also, this is the face I make when I start eating dinner
and then someone else says, "Let's say Grace." D'oh!
This may just be one of the best Summers I've ever had... and according to the calendar, it basically just started. I mean, June 20th is the first day of Summer which means technically I have two more months of it. Or because I live in Canada, 15 more minutes of it...

I have caught up with so many old friends this Summer that it's staggering. And as my high school buddy Lubin likes to hear me say, there are no friends like old friends. Also, his son Victor thinks I'm Batman because one of my first Facebook profile pics was me, wearing a Batman t-shirt. He was just a toddler way back when his father and I first connected on Facebook and he used to say to his Dad with alarming frequency, "Go to Batman's profile!" Victor, please don't tell people that I'm Batman. You put all my loved ones at risk. I mean, the Joker reads this blog, you know. He's just that insane.

I am mentioning Lubin not just because he's a good friend (who I may or may not owe money to - I'm never certain) but also because my Summer started in May when my White Oaks Secondary School class from Oakville first held a Mini-Reunion at the end of the month. I wrote about that reunion in great length in this space and, well, again I may or may not have won a Pulitzer Prize for the piece. Lemme check my trophy case. *Looks at coffee table. Empty beer bottles. No Pulizter* There's always next year.
You see this devastatingly handsome young man
in the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey? This would
be Neil Miller, New Zealand's Beer Writer of
the year and my brother from another mother.
When I sent a Canadian Care Package back to
New Zealand with Stevil St Evil, as well as a
dozen or so Canuck craft beers, I also included
a Matt Sundin jersey and Leafs' coaster because
I didn't want my brother wearing any Montreal
Canadien contraband from the Black Market...

But that reunion was barely over when suddenly Beer Bro and Humber College Journalism School buddy Stevil St Evil was on the doorstep of Donny's Bar and Grill at the beginning of June, complete with hideous Hawaiian shirts (the only kind worth owning) and a bushel-basket full of top-notch New Zealand IPAs. During his two-week stay in Ontario, a solid week was spent here, drinking top-of-the-line Canadian craft beer. Steve left Canada for New Zealand in 2001 because as it turns out, their winters hit a low of, oh, 14C (or 57F to my American readers). I asked him how he was coping without snow. His haunting, sinister laughter still echoes in my ears to this day.

Since we last saw each other a few decades ago, I've been married twice and then divorced twice. He's been married once, then divorced and then lost both his legs just below the knees due to an incredibly-rare genetic infection. (Sorry but I'm still convinced he got off easier than me.) He gets around pretty good on those prosthetic legs though I will admit, they'd be a lot cooler if they were bionic limbs made of titanium that shot lasers and stuff. Dear Science Inventor Guys: Please get off the pot and make some bitchin' tactical-weapon prosthetic legs! Also whenever anyone asks me, I simply say, "Well, he was serving with our forces overseas over in Afghanistan..." and *bam* free drinks! You may ask: do I have no shame? I would ask right back: Uhhh, have you read this blog before?? There are no tears shed here, no regrets, no shame... just beer and lots of it.

And this is precisely what Stevil St Evil and I did
during his stay in Canada - Ontario's finest craft
beers were poured into frosty mugs of enjoyment
But while Steve was here, dammit, I put him to work as we jointly reviewed countless beers in the fridge at Donny's Bar and Grill for commentary in this very space. (And you think your job is hard? Suck it up, buttercup.) Two of those blogs were written back in June and are presently before the judging panel at the Pulitzer Prize headquarters, as well as the Nobel Peace Prize judges because, well, cast your net wide, I say. Our joint reviews, voice-recorded on my Smartphone, veered from erudite to babbling nonsense, emphasis on the latter. Actually, in retrospect, the former never came into play. The waters in our Think Tank run shallow. But a solid week of Day Drinking and reviewing beers with Steve was probably the highlight of my Summer thus far which gives you a good idea of the glorious state of my life. At present, my relationship status on Facebook is: "Trying to take a selfie with the neighbour's cat."

But I jest (not about the cat thing - that's possibly true.) While Steve was here, we held a mini-Humber College Reunion at Donny's Bar and Grill and, bless his wee blackened heart, Beer Bro Glenn did one of his infamous USA-border Beer Runs, as well as scooting around to some of Toronto's finest craft brewers before landing on my patio with a resounding *thud*.

Among the finest Beer Bro Glenn brought to Donny's
Bar and Grill was the Rainhard Lazy Bones IPA,
which is a strong offering from the fledgling brewery
Now because I voice-record all of my reviews on my phone, I decided to clean up the remainders from Steve's visit because I am about to embark on a three-day adventure known as the Burlington Beer Festival and I wanted a clean phone with which to record this little slice of beer history. So have a seat, relax and get ready for Beer O'Clock at Donny's Bar and Grill as I run through the last of those joint beer reviews, questionable language edited out.

Among the Yankee offering Glenn beer-muled here was one from my second-favourite San Diego craft brewer, Ballast Point, who are making a strong case to unseat my favourite, Stone Brewing. (They can brew no wrong.) So it was that a Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA landed in our glasses. So buckle up, the ride's about to begin.
Don: Not getting fruit or anything off the nose, just a big-ass whack of hops. *tasting* Ohhh my gawd, bitter, bitter, bitter. Delicious."
Steve: "I think a citrus just exploded in my mouth. Citruses? Citri?"

Next up was a Rainhard Crazy Bones IPA, courtesy of newcomers Jordan and Katie Rainhard's new west-end Toronto brewery. Now Glenn wrote an outstanding piece on them a few days back so I'll simply attach that link at the end of this and you can read it at your leisure. (Disclaimer: his blog may contain adult situations and course language. Or not. I can't remember.) So that Crazy Bones IPA?
Laden with Saaz hops, this Czech-style pilsner
actually offered Steve and myself a break from
a week where we were basically injecting hops
directly into our veins like vagrant beer junkies
Don: "Sweet smell. Fruit. Oranges. Okay, bitter orange peel on the tongue. This is pretty damn nice."
Steve with his laptop on the patio: "This could be a little hoppier but it's still quite tasty. These guys are obviously pretty new. I'm only seeing five beers on RateBeer so far. So boys, amp up the hops for your inevitable Imperial IPA. More hops!!!"
I think that's New Zealand's motto. While the tiny island(s) used to have "Onward" as their "official" motto, I guess they figured they'd moved forward enough due to being ocean-locked so now they have no motto. From what I've heard, "More hops!" would be appropriate.

Next up from the always-reliable, two-time Canadian Brewery of the Year, Great Lakes Brewery with their Long Dong Pilsner, an almost welcome change-up from a hop-laden week.
Don: "Aroma is fresh and malty."
Steve: "Refreshing, almost like a wheat beer."
Don: "Oh yeah, that's got some back-kick to it. Really good!"
Steve: "It's a tickle-trunk of tasty treats... *laughter* Hey, I think Glenn's obsessed with genitalia. Remember when he couldn't stop talking about (Toronto's Indie Alehouse's) Cock Puncher (Imperial IPA)?"
Don: "It's a phase. All boys go through it."
Just prior to Steve's departure for Vancouver,
we landed at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House where
I enjoyed a Great Lakes Brewery Johnny Simcoe
Pale Ale. Another from their Tank Ten Series.
Don't even get us started on his raving obsession last summer with Fat Tug IPA from Victoria, BC's Driftwood Brewing. We have determined that while, in fact, women have G-Spots, Glenn has an entire G-Zone between his knees and belt. He's a randy lad.

Just before Steve's departure from Toronto to Vancouver where he would promptly lay waste to his buddy Richard's liver, we popped into Rib Eye Jack's Ale House to enjoy a few pints. While Steve went for a Nickel Brook Bolshevik Bastard Stout on tap ("Sweet Baby Jeebus, this is good!"), I opted for another Great Lakes beer, their Johnny Simcoe Pale Ale.
Don: "Some nice citrus on the nose. It's got tropical fruit on the tongue. Another really good beer."
Patron beside me at Rib Eye Jack's Ale: "Why are you talking to your phone?"

And finally from my favourite Grand River, Ontario brewery, Highlander Brewing Co., comes their delightful Scottish Ale.
Don: Okay, I've had this before but Steve's never had it so I'm giving Highlander a two-for-one because I like them a lot. It's got a nice sort of plum on the nose..."
Okay, guys, if this picture of my favourite Beer Technician Kylie
does not encourage you to attend the Burlington Beer Festival
starting tonight, well... I dunno... consult your physician or maybe
a therapist because there's something wrong with your brain-pan.
Steve: "It's subtle and it's well balanced. Beautifully balanced. It's not like an in-your-face Scotch ale but rather, a smooth one. I like this."
Don: "Oh yeah, there's the Scotchy-Scotchy smoothness."

Okay, gang, tonight's the night - the grand opening night of the Burlington Beer Festival at Spencer Smith Park on the lake, running tonight right through to Sunday. I will be planted firmly there for the next three days so unless you're on fire, don't call me. In fact, why call me at all? Call a firefighter. That makes far more sense and as it happens, that camera you carry around also doubles as a phone. No joke. I'll be there tonight with Beer Store Bro Gordo, tomorrow during the day with Other Beer Store Bro Jay-Dawg and finally on Sunday with Glenn and his now-famous G-Zone. It's $35 a night or $75 for the VIP Weekend Pass. Over 30 breweries, a couple of cider-houses and hey, two wine kiosks await your arrival. All of the details can be found at: burlingtonbeerfest.com. It is THE event of the Summer and if you miss it, I will laugh loudly and say straight to your face, "Hey, you missed it."

And remember while you're there, not only are those craft beers delicious, they also fill almost 10% of your daily beer requirements so there's some real Science to be learned here. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. As promised, here's that link to Glenn's look at Rainhard Brewery, cleverly called: Glenn's Look At Rainhard Brewery But, as always, until I return from the inevitable stint in Rehab, I remain...