Sunday, 9 August 2015

Time to play some catch-up...

No, no, NO! It's time to play catch-up, not
ketchup! Geezuz, heads are gonna roll in my
Graphics Department! You guys had ONE job!
The downside to cranking these beer blogs out is you tend to get behind. You have consumed dozens and dozens of different beers but there's only so much space to write about them. Some of these valiant soldiers get left behind on the battlefield.

The upside to cranking out these beer blogs is that you have consumed dozens and dozens of different beers. So really, once again, life is a trade-off. And in this particular case, one that works in my favour. Hang on, getting a text,,,
Don's Liver: "Please stop."
*texting back* "New phone. Who's this?" (Gawd, whatta baby!)

So every once in a blue moon, I have to play catch-up with the many beers consumed and since we actually saw a blue moon at the end of July, let's start there... with Blue Moon.

Molson's recently announced that they would be bringing America's best-selling Belgian-style wheat beer to Canada this Autumn, renaming it Belgian Moon up here. But here's the odd thing. Molson's has been brewing Blue Moon for the USA out of their Montreal plant since 2006. That lead both myself and former co-worker Saga to believe that Blue Moon was actually my brother's favourite Canadian beer and this country's best-selling wheat, Rickard's White.
When Belgian Moon comes to Canada in a
month or so, I will finally get to try it side-by-
side with Rickard's White to see if there is
any difference. Win-or-lose, it's a fun game
Now granted, on our end, it was just a suspicion - we quite honestly didn't have a spare Blue Moon in our possession to compare to Rickard's White so who knows? Maybe yes, maybe no.

But in a month or so, I'll have the opportunity to compare Rickard's White with Belgian Moon. Maybe even in a blind taste-test. If I'm blindfolded, perhaps my other senses, in this case, my sense of taste will be enhanced much like Beer Bro Glenn's favourite superhero, Daredevil. And if I get enough Belgian Moons in me, I might feel the urge to fight crime, though poorly, I'm guessing.

However, right off the top, I will say Rickard's White is a pretty decent beer. And more importantly, Molson's was smart to have their name all over this announcement. No subterfuge here - as bold as could be, they said, "We make this!" I like that. A few beers have snuck up here, marketed as craft beers when they are actually made by one of the big boys. Not gonna name names but it rhymes with Shock Top. Oh... okay, I guess it rhymes exactly with that. Given their size, I suppose Molson's will never be able to call this a craft beer but I get the feeling the phrase "craft-style beer" is about to enter our lexicon. But again, kudos to Molson's. If you're big and you're brewing something new, proudly take ownership of it like they did.
Beer Bro Glenn holds up one of those Labatt-USA
Bourbon Barrel Ales, made out of Buffalo's Genesee
Brewery. So how was it? Well, reviews were mixed

And speaking of Glenn, when he landed on the patio of Donny's Bar and Grill recently, I had saved him a little surprise - one of those Labatt-USA Prohibition Series Bourbon Barrel Ale, made out of the Genesee Brewery in Buffalo. It met with mixed reviews. Glenn noted of the 6% ale, "this isn't too bad. I'm getting some nice fruit off it." My buddy Greg said virtually the same thing a week prior. (Greg sticks with commercial lagers but to his credit, he favours Kokanee which is one of my favourite mainstream lagers.) I, on the other hand, was less impressed. Perhaps it was aged in a bourbon barrel... but only if that barrel was on fire because it had a very distinct charcoal taste to me, which is maybe not a flavour you want outside of your barbeque. Drinkable, yes. But not much else.

Strangely at virtually the same time, Glenn had talked me into joining the ranks of RateBeer reviewers, something I had always resisted. I use the site mostly just for the commercial descriptions of a beer and not much else. Why? I found a lot of reviews to be pretentious and smug. If you brew an IPA or Imperial Stout, hey, you're golden. But a lager, pilsner and almost any style of ale? Your beer is gonna get bent over the car hood without lube.
What's the difference between a Muskoka Brewing Mad
Tom IPA and Twice As Mad Tom Double IPA? Well, it
took coworker Ethan to point out something I never saw.
So how did Glenn talk me into it? Like this. "You've had all sorts of beers you liked, even though they got panned on RateBeer, right? Well, maybe the brewers of those beers might benefit with some positive reviews and better marks." I hadn't thought of that but one brewer actually told him that poor marks on RateBeer could be reflected in sales, just as good marks could help. "Be that guy, Don!" my old college buddy exhorted. An interesting turn-about since I'm usually told, "Don't be that guy!" The irony here? Both Glenn and I marked the Labatt Bourbon Barrel Ale on RateBeer with him giving them an 11/20 and me giving it a 12. If I was a teacher, students would flock to my class as I'd be giving out A's like Oprah gives out free cars.

Now before I get to these many beers (although I've dealt with a couple already), I wanna share a couple of quick co-worker stories first.
That's my girl, Sassy Cassy, whooping it
up at Steam Whistle's Annual Beer Store
Employee Appreciation Day, held at the
Round House back in June. Great fun!
One of my favourite co-workers is a young student named Ethan Snow (he's the bastard son of Ned Stark and also knows nothing.) One day, Ethan says to me: "You know the difference between (Muskoka's) Mad Tom IPA and Twice As Mad Tom Double IPA?" Well sure, I said. Mad Tom is 6.4% and 64 IBUs (international bitterness units) while Twice As Mad Tom is 8.4%, 71 IBUs and is aggressively dry-hopped at the end.

"Uh no," answered Ethan, a Fine Arts student. "Mad Tom is the same character on both labels but Twice As Mad Tom wears an eye-patch." I looked. He was right. Been drinking both for years and I have never noticed. Okay, I concede - you know... something, Ethan Snow.

And then there's Sassy Cassy, our Kinesiology student. One day I rushed up to her and excitedly told her, "I know the lyrics to all five songs!" Puzzled, she asked, "What five songs?" Me: "The same stupid five songs your damn dance radio station plays over and over!" She flipped me the bird as she walked away but it was with a silly-ass smile on her face. But when she returns to Thunder Bay this September, she happily saw the announcement that two beers from her local craftie, Sleeping Giant Brewing, will be available in her local Beer Stores, where she plies her trade during the school year.
Is this the beer that Gotham City needs?
Tough to say but it is another damn fine
product from the folks at Bellwoods Brewery

Okay, it's officially Beer O'Clock at Donny's Bar and Grill which can mean one of two things. 1) It's time to start talking about beer or 2) I just cracked open my first beer on a Lazy Sunday. In this case, it's both. So let's call today Black Sabbath because I'm starting with two black IPAs - Bellwood Brewery's Gotham Black Imperial IPA and Great Lakes Brewing's Apocalypse Later Black Imperial IPA. Both of these were enjoyed (immensely) at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington, the former being my choice as I love all Bellwoods products, the latter on the advice of my trusted beer technician Kylie. They are virtually deadlocked on RateBeer with Apocalypse holding a slim 98-97 advantage. The 8%, 80 IBU Gotham smells hoppy with some piney notes but on the tongue, all coffee... if you brewed your coffee with a truck-load of hops. This was Bellwoods' third try at Gotham before they finally released it. They will serve no beer... before its time. The Apocalypse Later steps things up a notch at 10% and over 100 IBUs (taste-buds can't discern anything over 100 IBUs). Similarly, lots of citrus and pine on the nose but at that IBU, it's the expected shot-gun blast to the tongue, both malty and bitterness with some sweetness and the high ABV completely masked. Pretty much tied for me, the only reason I would give Gotham an edge is that I firmly believe Batman would drink this. (Maybe it's good I avoided RateBeer for all those years.)
This is probably the best session ale I
have had in 2015. It's got the pop of a good
IPA but checks in at a mere 3.8%.

Okay, let's swing in the opposite direction and talk about a couple of India Session Ales I enjoyed recently at Donny's Bar and Grill. (ISAs are beers that still carry some degree of hoppiness but are low in alcohol.) In this round, we are pitting Flying Monkeys (Barrie) Genius of Suburbia against Central City's (Surrey, BC) Red Racer ISA. In this case, Red Racer was the runaway RateBeer winner scoring 84 to 73. With all due respect to Central City (and zero due respect to RateBeer), I would flip those scores. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both to varying degrees but strongly favoured the Genius and here's why. Genius, at just 3.8%, packs 52 IBUs into its punch and that usually means more hop flavour. Indeed, some citrus and pine on the nose, this wheat ale actually tastes (to me) like a proper IPA. The Red Racer ISA was a tad more lacklustre, I'm afraid and I know Glenn agrees with me on this one. So much so, when he approached the Central City booth at the Burlington Beer Festival, he pointed to the ISA and said to the servers, "Yeah, I don't like that one." (I was quick to praise their Red Racer IPA, which is excellent, as a counter-measure.) At 4% and 40 IBU, the Red Racer is a decent sessioner but almost comes off like a pilsner in its taste. As Seinfeld would say, nothing wrong with that but I'm handing Genius this round. And Flying Monkeys - my 18/20 score just boosted you to a 76 on RateBeer. Thank Glenn - he talked me into it. And Central City, sorry about Mr Blunt. He had a Donald Trump moment.
Great Lakes Brewery's Octopus Wants To Fight
IPA was a definite winner from their Tank 10
series of beers. Lawdie, this packs a real punch

Okay, let's slide back to Rib Eye Jack's again for another. I popped in for a pint on my way home last night. Kylie was readying herself to pour me my "big-ass Boneshaker IPA" in a 32-ounce (946 ml) mug as I looked in their fridge and stopped her. In there, I spied several Great Lakes Brewery's Octopus Wants To Fight IPA, a beer I have heard Glenn (also a Hop Ho like me) rave about but one I have never encountered. I'll be honest. I was planning to name the same brewery's Karma Citra IPA as my IPA of the Year for 2015 this December but it just got slightly nudged to the side. Holy Godiva, this is outstanding. Again, I bought up all the Karma Citra IPAs I could find in Burlington as quickly as possible. Love that beer, still do. I really liked their Thrust!, which Stevil St Evil got a chance to sample on his sojourn to Canada from Wellington, New Zealand... and he was impressed! But man, Karma Citra was my beer. These guys do not do a bad or even mediocre IPA - all top-flight. But then Octopus came along on its eight legs. Because it's a beer in their Tank Ten series (meaning, quite literally, the brewery sets aside Tank #10 for specialty beers), it's gonna be good. Okay, I'll tell you how good in a second but let me set the table here. Kylie's boss is a guy named Steve. Great guy, chat with him all the time and he just came back from a Beer Sampling mission with a buddy in Vermont, a hot-bed for really good single, double and triple IPAs.
Stone IPA is FINALLY in Canada! Woo! Bells
and whistles. Got a few to enjoy here. ♫ I gotta
feeling that tonight's gonna be a good good night ♫

And the entire time he was regaling me with details about his road trip, he was drinking Octopus alongside me. Does this guy know his beer? Well, let's put it this way. He is the only man (aside from actual brewers) who Kylie has ever acknowledged to me knows beers better than herself. In terms of knowledge, I am a beer enthusiast (Little League), Kylie is semi-pro (Triple-A) but Steve, man, this dude is an actual beer expert (The Show). My co-worker Jay listened to a conversation Steve and I had with a young brewer during a smoke break at the Burlington Beer Festival and confessed afterwards, "I didn't understand a single thing you guys were talking about."

So Octopus, let's talk. Deep citrus on the nose, tons of tropical fruit on the tongue, what can I say? Stevil St Evil declared it the best name of the year. And me? So far, the best IPA of the year. But Tank Ten beers always come with an little explanation on the back label. Here's Octopus Wants To Fight IPA's story.  "Our pet octopus is a bit of a jerk. He's that guy who has a couple (and) then either tells you how much he loves you or threatens to fight you. So we brewed this IPA with eight varieties of hops and eight types of malts. We targeted 88 IBU and 8.8% to appease him. Sadly, when he found out we fabricated all the the above info, it only make him more volatile. We are starting to realize that Octopus was a poor choice for a pet." That said, they did get the 88 IBUs but *only* 6.2% on the other end.
Kylie: "Are you dissing my white high-heels? I
will bury your worthless ass if you are!" No,
really, I wasn't! I was just saying... never mind

Okay, quick Kylie story before we wrap up because this one is kinda funny. When I was at the Burlington Beer festival on the Saturday (July 18), I was asked by Rib Eye Jack regulars all day long, "Where's Kylie?" Apparently, people think I have put some kind of GPS on her. I haven't. I don't have the technology. But I did finally spot her with Steve in the late-afternoon and she was all dressed in white, right down to her high heels. It had rained pretty hard the night before, there was mud everywhere so I said, "Uh, maybe not the day to wear those high heels." Okay, guys, you know how sometimes what you say can be misconstrued by a woman? Yup. I was giving a "ground condition" report. Kylie, on the other hand, took it as me giving fashion advice. "There is NO bad day for high heels," she said sharply. Okay, then, gentlemen, if you feel the urge to comment about anything a woman is wearing, you say these four words. "Wow, you look great!" Do not deviate. Do not improvise. Those four words. That's it. Nuff said. As for Kylie? Well, for all those guys that asked me, all I could say was, "Saw her briefly with her boss, Steve. She's all in white. Should be easy to spot." So all afternoon, Kylie was getting texts from regulars, saying, "Where are you? I know you're all in white." She was confused as hell as to how regulars knew that until I told her a week later. It's gotta be bloody tough being my beer technician. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...