Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Arts and Science behind brewing

Just a man and one humongous pile of Collective Art's Rhyme
and Reason Extra Pale Ale. My trusty tour guide, Tony, takes
a pause during the tour of the new Arts and Science Brewery
in the Hamilton port yards. Okay, this place is frikkin huge!
If my buddy Tony Cox ever decides to hang it up in the craft beer brewing world, he's a lock for a new career. This dude is one world-class, kick-ass tour guide.

Way back on March 23, 2014, Tony gave me the nickle tour (you'll see what I did there in a few words) of the Burlington Nickel Brook brewery. (And there it is - kind of a let-down, yes?) There is little need for me to look up the date. It was my son David's birthday, we were there to get growler(s) refilled and the minute David declared to him it was his big day (as my boy would do), Tony smiled and asked him, "Would you like a tour?" When David responded enthusiastically, off we went. I had never been in the back of the brewery so it was kind of fun for me, too, since this has been my home-town brew crew since I first met owner John the prior December to buy some Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout for blog purposes - my first visit there. I remember it like it was yesterday. 'Twas a chilly Saturday morning. No snow but the heat was on in the car. Bought my first growler of stout from a man claiming to be the brewery owner. Turns out he was...

Ladies, please take note. I have been married twice and cannot tell you either of my anniversary dates but I do remember to the exact date when Tony took me and David on a brewery tour. To my credit, I knew the anniversary dates then but that's still pretty bad on my end. To your friends, I would be "that guy." Your friends would be all, "Stay away from that guy." I hate interfering friends but they are right this time. I still hate them, mind you... Also, that bitch Crystal wears too much make-up unless she's planning on fighting The Batman. Just sayin'...

How magic are the brewing vats at Arts and
Science Brewing? Well, you can literally see the
electricity around the lower half while the magic
swirls around the upper half. Or maybe that's
just the reflection of my flash and ceiling lights...
Okay, back to Tour Guide Tony, who may be the only bigger Batman fan than me and you will, of course, take note of how I seamlessly I transitioned there using the Dark Knight. Despite the fact that he and his lovely wife, Charis, don't have kids (they opted for cats which are just as finicky as kids but cheaper and far less sticky), he knows how to speak their language as he walked David through the purpose of all the gleaming silver equipment, eliciting "Wow, that's so cool!" from my lad numerous times throughout the process. Like his Dad, he's easily distracted by shiny objects. So Tony knows how to tour. And it was only a matter of time before I knew I'd get the call to The Bigs - the grand tour of the Arts and Science Brewing, a collaborative brewery shared by Nickel Brook and Collective Arts Brewing at 201 Burlington Street East in Hamilton.

The building, formerly housed by Lakeport Brewery, is still a work in progress. Tony estimates it'll be a year before everything is hooked up and all the bugs are ironed out. However, a good number of the kettles, tuns and vats they purchased when Sleeman's shut down its Maritime brewery a while back are, in fact, up and brewing. In fact, while I thought the place was huge, nearly every single employee I expressed that very thought to, all looked around and shrugged, "Nah, it's not that big." Really? My beloved Nickel Brook is Harry Potter's closet under the stairs compared to this place. But what was even more impressive was the significant number of former Lakeport employees Tony either introduced me to (See? That's some solid guide work!) or pointed out.
While of course Nickel Brook has its retail outlet in the
Burlington brewery, Collective Arts finally gets its own
outlet at the Arts and Science Brewery. I've already
clocked it out. While Nickel Brook is five minutes away,
this Collective Arts retail is only 17 minutes from me.

"What I really like," Tony noted, "is that when they tell stories about the Lakeport days, all the memories are happy ones. It was like they were a big family." (Okay, maybe not my family as we put the fun in dysfunctional...) When beer giant Labatt bought Lakeport in 2007, things were peachy-keen for a while. Less than three years later, they shut the plant down, putting 150 employees out of work. That a healthy handful of them landed back in the Arts and Sciences brewery is actually a pretty decent feel-good story. I honestly had no idea there were this many former Lakeporters there until Tony told me. Gave me the warm and fuzzies. Granted, so too did the free pizza we enjoyed up in the lunch room so my warm and fuzzy button is relatively easy to push.

As the grand tour ended, Tony and I both made good use of the Collective Arts retail store as he grabbed a six of their Saints of Circumstance Blonde Ale for Charis (the citrus-infused ale also preferred by my coworker, Jay Dawg), a six of their State of Mind Session IPA for himself while I jumped on 12 of their Ransack The Universe IPA - six for myself and six slated for my homeys, Kylie and Steve, at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in Burlington.
Well, that's a bitter-sweet sight. The end
of a glass of Nickel Brook's Malevolent
Imperial Black IPA on the bar-top at Rib
Eye Jack's Ale House. Stevil St Evil loves
this picture because it's a replica of the
ugly lamp that the father in the movie, A
Christmas Story, won (which was then
"accidentally" broken by his wife) and I
love it because the foam lacing on the glass
means two things. The glass is very clean
and the beer is very well-made to do that.
And Tiffany, one of my all-time favourite
waitresses, pulls the nylons down to the
lamps' sexy boots every time she walks by.
It was actually Beer Bro Glenn who alerted me to Ransack - I had never heard of it but then again, now I've had Ransack The Universe and Glenn hasn't. Not rubbing it in (I so am). It's what Beer Bros do - taunt each other, rub their noses in our every small triumphs - it's a dude thing.

Okay, after the brewery, Tony and I popped over to Stonewalls, a great pub in Hamilton that's basically around the corner from his place where we happily imbibed some Nickel Brook Naughty Neighbour American Pale Ales on tap. After the second, the question of whether we should have a third came up. "Oh why not?" Tony said. "It's only 4.7%." When I pointed out it was actually 4.9%, Tony did a bit of a facepalm and said plaintively, "Work with me here, Donny!" But here's an interesting little insight into Tony that showed up when the bill arrived. Turns out he gets Stonewalls Points with every bill which he can use to buy their swag. Every dollar equals one Stonewalls point. So how many does he have? Charis, if you're reading this, he only has 11 points. If Charis is not reading this and just you not-Charis people are, multiple that by 100. But if Charis inadvertently read that, I will note that if Rib Eye Jack's did this reward system, my points would be twice as high. And I'm just talkin' the last month. So that Tony guy ain't so bad.

Okay, so Tony and Donny's Excellent Adventure ended with a really great pale ale so why don't we keep that ball rolling with more pale ales? I think I have a few in the arsenal.
Come to the Dark Side, mainstream
drinkers. We have pale ales for you all.
Actually, Rainhard is consistently making
top-notch beers so this is a brewery that
you wanna keep an eye on. Cheers, boys!
Why not start with the Rainhard Brewing (Toronto) Armed 'N' Citra Pale Ale. Okey-dokey, this beer was donated to the Donny's Bar and Grill Benevolent Beer Fund by Rib Eye Jack's GM Steve one sunny day. Why? He's just a giving dude. Okay, these Rainhard guys are a brewery to watch because this beer was almost as good as the Great Lake Brewery's Karma Citra which is an IPA. This 5.4% single-hop beer has a kick that many IPAs do not. Citrus and light fruits on the nose, tons of citrus on the tongue, this is definitely one of those beer you would give a mainstream drinker to see to you could lure him/her to "the Dark Side." (Goldmember voice: Luke, I am your fahzah.)

Okay, had a Black Oak Pale Ale recently and this is a malt-driven, more traditional British style. Pale ales have only started getting hoppy for the last few years. Keep in mind this brewery started in Oakville in a strip-mall off Iroquois Shore Road in 1999 by owner Ken Wood. The fact that he opened a brewery around the corner from where I grew up is purely a coincidence. I think. At the time, they were just trying to offer an alternative to Molson's and Labatt back in those days with this and their Nut Brown Ale. They definitely succeeded with this pale ale which, at the time, was a quite step up from the commercial norm. Indeed, with its light citrus aroma and malty breadiness, it collected seven medals between the Ontario and Canadian Brewing Awards between 2007 and 2013 in the British style category.
This is Bellwood Brewing's Jutsu Pale
Ale but what version? They have made
four different ones and the little label
on the back only identified it as Jutsu

Another gift from Rib Eye Steve from a Toronto outfit that apparently can brew no wrong was Bellwood Brewery's Jutsu Pale Ale. When asked about it, Beer Professor Steve told me the brewery had written a blog about it and that I should check that out. Crossing my fingers and hoping there would be no Math, I did just that and discovered there have been four versions of this beer. After reading the hop-malt-yeast profile of each version, as described by them, I will now blindfold myself, throw a dart at the board and guess that I had Version 3, which uses Citra and Galaxy hops. (To be honest, I'd be screwed if I had to figure this out based solely on the malt-yeast profile.) Powerful citrus on the nose, light fruits on the tongue with some remarkable staying power. And Bellwoods isn't stopping there. "You'll probably see a few more iterations (of Jutsu) before we pick a winner from the six or seven that we ultimately make." Clearly, they like to employ the Mad Scientist approach to brewing. Regardless of which version I had, it was definitely a winner.
Well now, this was a pleasant surprise from beer
technician Kylie as she presented me with a 1L
howler of Stone City's Single Handed Galaxy Pale
Ale, as well as a bottle of their 100 Pound Wet
Hop IPA after a recent beer run to Kingston. 

When my favourite beer technician Kylie did a Beer Run to Kingston, she popped into Stone City Ales, which opened in July 2014. So how's this relative newbie, created under the leadership of Ron Shore and his business partners, Eric and Rebecca Dinelle, doing thus far? Uhhh, pretty damn good, actually, as they took silver and bronze at the 2015 Ontario Brewing Awards in the West Coast IPA category with their Green Goddess Imperial IPA and Uncharted IPA. Nine months into their existence and they're winning awards. So back in March, they decided to create a single hop pale ale, using the Azacca hop. It sold out as fast as they could make it. Their most recent venture, presented to me by Kylie, was their Single Handed Galaxy Pale Ale, again just using the one hop. At 5.6% and 60 IBUs (international bitterness units), this one packed a nice citrus smell with a similar resonance on the tongue. (Galaxy hops closest cousins would be Citra and Amarillo.) Now the day Kylie presented it to me was the same day our Steam Whistle driver dropped a 10-pack can van. Not wishing to take the damaged goods back to HQ, he simply handed them to me and said to divvy them up among yourselves. So I grabbed a few and delivered them to Kylie, figuring everyone needs guest beers.
Holy crap! Another big winner from Collective Arts!
The Ransack The Universe IPA combines tropical
fruit with citrus for a mouth-puckering good treat!
Now to the uninitiated, "guest beers" serve two purposes. 1) Most of my guests have little interest in my top-shelf craft beer and 2) They keep my guests the hell away from my top-shelf craft beers. I love my guests... but not that much.

Now unfortunately as I was passing Kylie this bag of guest beers, Rib Eye Jack's regular Steve was gifting her with some of Wisconsin's finest craft beers, having just returned from the state. Looking at my beers, he howled, "I think she's had that one, Donny!" Even knowing he is right, I can't help but feel the Steve-To-Don Ratio in my life is decidedly lop-sided against me. That said, Kylie's new-found visitors' beer is a far cry above my current bottom-shelf guest beer - Pabst's Blue Ribbon. Just so you know, Pabst won that blue ribbon in 1893 after being voted "America's Best" at the World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago. That'll give you an idea of how badly life sucked in 1893. To be brutally honest, the rushed infusion of Ransack The Universe IPA to Rib Eye Jack's the day after The Steam Whistle Debacle is no coincidence.
I'm putting this in for Tony Cox. When Stevil St Evil
moved into his new digs in Wellington, New Zealand last
week, this was his address marker! Of course, I won't
say the street name because... reasons. (Interpol, for one.)
Which, of course, brings us to that very same Ransack The Universe. (Man, my subject transitions are on today!) Well certainly similar in style to Nickel Brook's Headstock IPA, this IPA uses Galaxy hops from Myrtleford, Australia and Mosaic hops from Yakima, Washington to give it a citrus and tropical fruit nose with a tweak of pine on the tongue. I predict Glenn will enjoy this immensely when he next crash-lands at Donny's Bar and Grill. (That crash-landing part usually ends up being literal.)

Okay, that's a wrap on today's edition but I'll be back in a day or two to look at the news that stunned the Ontario craft beer world on Friday - Labatt buying up Mill Street Brewery. What will this mean for the craft pioneer, what will this mean for the brewing giant and what was Beau's All-Natural Brewing's cheeky response to the news? But remember, kids, alcohol is never the answer. Well, unless someone asks, "What are you doing this weekend?" Don't feel guilty - it's been estimated that .7 per cent of the world's population is drunk at any given moment. That means 49 million people are drunk right now. In unrelated news, the population of Australia is about 24 million, half of that. Not pointing fingers, just sayin'... But guys and dolls, that's it, that all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...