But the stars finally aligned on Friday when he gave me a call and asked what I was doing. Well, I was working (of course) but the event would be going on long enough that I could jump in after work. You see, after eight years at the brewery, one of Tony's young co-workers, Eric, was stepping away to return to school and Tony and a few others organized a going-away party at The Purple Heather. "Can you make it over?" Tony asked.
To The Purple Heather? Uhhh, in Poker, does a straight beat a flush? To the gambling-challenged reader, the answer is yes. (However, in the washroom at Donny's Bar and Grill, nothing beats a flush.) You see, The Purple Heather is a great Burlington pub owned by a buddy, Doug, and the added feature that night of a bunch of Nickel Brook workers partying it up, well, to me, that's just a bonus...
|Man, did this dude have some pipes on him!!!|
Everything from Led Zeppelin to Johnny Cash
came from the stage that night and it was good!
When I arrived after work, I spotted Tony instantly and quickly joined the Nickel Brook throng. When owner John spotted me, he yelled out, "What? Are you out on a day pass?" The joke was on him a little later on when I took off my black button-up shirt to show John my bright orange Las Vegas County Jail T-shirt underneath. (My inmate ID number is 80122-48021 - as is everyone's who bought this shirt, I suppose. There's a lot of us on the loose.)
From there, I made my way over to bar owner, Doug, holding court, as always, at the northern end of the table situated directly between the bar and the band. Shaking my hand, he asked with his usual gregarious smile, "You here to see Freedom Train?" Actually, no, I told him, just hanging with the Nickel Brook Mafia. He waved around at the packed bar - no easy feat during the summer months when most folks are away - and noted it was the band that drew them all in.
|Stolen from their Facebook page, here's a shot of |
drummer Tim playing - yes - just two drums and still
managing to get a huge rock sound with his sparse set
Given his history with the brothers, Tony gave me a crash course in the band, now together for more than two decades, before they started. All three have been in other bands before Freedom Train and have plenty on the go outside of the power-trio. Singer Carl is also a producer, musician and audio engineer at Westmoreland Recording Studio; guitarist Eddie has performed on dozens of songs and jingles and is apparently a talented designer-artist creating CD covers for other bands while Tim teaches drums at Long & McQuade, just five minutes away from me in Burlington. Beyond that, Tony warned me of their talent.
Within seconds of them starting up, I got it. Carl's voice has a four-octave range which was perfectly suited for the rock classics (including some great Led Zeppelin covers), R&B and funk they played. Eddie put on his business face, standing stoically in one spot while grinding out lick after lick. But drummer Tim? Well, here's a little story about him.
|Ringo, I love you and you're my mate. But it's about time|
we had a chat about your drumming skills. Better sit down.
(Quick Ringo story: when a journalist once asked John Lennon if Ringo was the world's best drummer, Lennon quipped, "Ringo's not even the best drummer in The Beatles.") Anyway, an awesome night of music. But back to the Nickel Brook Bash!
|I recently noticed these words at the|
bottom of my beer glass after having a
pint of Muskoka's Mad Tom IPA on tap at
Burlington's Rib Eye Jack's Ale House.
All these beers later and I had never
noticed their motto on the glass' base.
In the end, I learned three things that evening. If you get a chance to see Freedom Train, go see them! If you get a chance to go to Doug's bar The Purple Heather, actually go there! And finally, if you ever get a chance to party with John Romano, for gawd's sake, just do it!!!
The many clocks at Donny's Bar and Grill may not agree on the time (seriously, they're like snowflakes - no two are alike) but they all know this... it's time to talk about some beers! So let's go there, shall we? Now you may have read about my favourite beer technician Kylie at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in this space once or twice but what you didn't know is that she and I have a Beer Exchange Program. I give her beer, she gives me beer - we both learn. Good on her end because, well, she's a beer technician and good on my end because I write this thing.
|And what did I get in return for those crappy|
Labatt-USA Bourbon Barrel Ales? Ummm,
three quality beers. Cue the Guilt Card now.
|I have had better IPAs, to be|
honest, but this one comes with
a pretty funny story about it...
Those three beers were a mixed bag - all good but some moreso than others. Let's start with the Hercules Double IPA which was close to perfect and keep in mind, my Gold Standard for double/imperial IPAs is Stone Ruination Imperial IPA, at this point, the best IIPA I've ever had. Hercules comes damn close. Very fruity on the nose, piney and bitter on the tongue, the 10%, 85 IBU (international bitterness units) crotch-kicker has got it down. It'd push your grandmother off the curb into oncoming traffic for shits and giggles. Great job by Great Divide! My next favourite was, surprisingly, the session Right-O-Way by Southern Tier. At just 4.6% and I'm guessing maybe 45-50 IBUs, this was a nice day time drinker. Citrus on the nose, grapefruit on the tongue, this actually delivers. Not quite in the same league as Flying Monkeys' Genius of Suburbia either taste-wise or hop-wise but pretty damn good. And that takes us to the Commodore Perry IPA. Now don't get me wrong, this is certainly good but my standards for single IPAs are nearly impossible to meet, mainly because I've had so many great ones, notably from their Canadian counterpart of the same name, Great Lakes Brewing in Toronto. The 7.5%, 80 IBU beer has some nice orange rind on the nose, citrus on the tongue but... it falls a little short. I'm no brewer but maybe some dry-hopping at the end? The name, of course, is from the famous commander who fought on Lake Erie during the War of 1812 between Canada (well, the British, really - we weren't a country yet) and the USA (since 1776, not big fans of the Brits). You can Google him but long story short? In the US Navy and a big deal back in the early-1800s. Statues and stuff. Shares a name (Matthew Perry) with the Canadian actor called Chandler Bing ("No statues, Joey - could life BE more unfair?") from the TV show, Friends.
|Manantler Brewing's Seimic Narwhal Imperial IPA -|
the explanation behind this beer's name is totally worth
the price of admission. Keep in mind, you paid nothing.
|Remember, people, not every hero wears a|
cape. (This message is endorsed by Beer
Bro Glenn, the Pizza Dude himself...)
Okay, back next time with a "Closer Look At..." Highlander Brewing Co. out of South River, Ontario... which means no IPAs... because they don't make one. Yet. Brewmaster Brian Wilson is a cool dude and his brewery deserves a hearty plug. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...