Sunday, 28 February 2016

Contests beating the February Blahs

Want a year's worth of Amsterdam Boneshaker IPA?
Go on their Twitter account - @amsterdambeer - and

gives them your best new slogan for the Boneshaker!!!
This month in Canada, as well as the American North-East and Midwest, can be a depressing time for many people. In the month of February, we get creamed with frigid grey days, filled with snow and rain and not nearly enough sun - weather so blah that it's actually become known to most of us as the February Blahs.

However, it's an actual medical condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD - I'm guessing that acronym was intentional), meaning simply that seasonal change can affect a person's mood to varying degrees. Simply put, when it's crappy out, you too feel like crap and February, the greyest month of the year, is when it is mostly likely to strike in this hemisphere. But the medical reasoning behind it is that the human body needs Vitamin D, which the sun dishes out in liberal doses, as that vitamin is the one that boosts our immune systems. Too little Vitamin D and we are more prone to colds. Which make you feel like garbage - it's a vicious little circle.
Stevil St Evil's entry into the Boneshaker slogan contest
netted him "Slogan of the day" kudos from the Toronto
brewery on their Twitter feed. Will he win the contest?

To that end, some of Ontario's premier craft breweries are doing their best to banish the February Blahs by making us put on our creative thinking caps. How so? They're holding contests - slogan contests, name-that-beer-contests and even let's-see-your-best-pics contests.

By far, the most ambitious contest with the biggest prize was Amsterdam's Boneshaker Slogan contest. The premise is simple: enter a slogan for the tasty IPA and you could win a case of Boneshaker per month for a year.
My favourite Winter Shot for Muskoka's contest
was submitted to them by @jpye91. It has it all.
Muskoka Cream Ale, snow and hockey - nothing
says Winter to me like these key frosty elements
To that end, they enlisted ad agency Bensimon Byrne to create an ad, promoting the contest with some mini-commercials. The agency responded in kind with a dozen or so hilarious slogans intoned by a man with a gravelly voice. They were silly, salacious, awkward and goofy. Among my favourites were: "This Bone Train's leaving for Quenchtown", "Reach for something different... er" and my personal favourite, "Copious amounts of copious."

I quickly alerted Stevil St Evil, my college buddy now happily settled in sunny Wellington, New Zealand, to the slogan contest and off we went. My submission was naturally a groan-worthy pun playing off the label's skeleton - "So hoppy, it's not even humerus." That earned me a "nice try" pat on the back and a smattering of likes on Twitter. No free Boneshaker for me - yet - but I'll keep trying, of course. No puns too lame for this guy. But Stevil, he of clever mind and mad graphic designs skills, struck gold with his Twitter entry above, intoning "The IPA Bone is connected to the Mouth Bone." His words netted him "slogan of the day" honours! The contest runs until March 31st on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so "hop" to it, people and get yours into Amsterdam.
My lack-of-snow plight here in
Burlington was highlighted with
my sad attempt to sway Muskoka
as I posted this on their Twitter
wall. Everyone up there had snow
to work with. I had bloody rain.

Meanwhile up in snow-blanketed Bracebridge, our good friends at Muskoka Brewery decided they wanted folks to break out their cameras and hand us a little Winter Wonderland action. They put the call out to send in your best Winter shots with some of their fine product in the picture for a chance to win a big old basket, overflowing with Muskoka swag! The contest ended February 22nd but by gawd, I was ready. I had a little hat and toque ready to drape around a bottle of Mad Tom IPA in a snowbank. Inspired by Amsterdam, I had a slogan ready and everything: "Even bad boys get cold now and then."

But Mother Nature decided I was not winning anything as Burlington barely saw any snow in February and sadly, the contest was over. (No winner announced yet.) In the meanwhile, dozens of entries were pouring in with snow-covered Muskoka beers in scenic Winter settings. The natural choice for most photographers was the brewery's delicious dunkel-wheat, Winter Weiss. I sent a private message to Muskoka on Twitter, telling them I had nothing to work with here! The pleasant respondent reassured me that they hold plenty of contests throughout the year and that my chance would come. I replied that me and my Mad Tom would be waiting to represent. Back came a chuckling response: "You may be Mad Tom's best friend... if he had one."

I don't care if I win Barnstormer Brewing's
Name That Black IPA contest. Frankly, I
just want to try it! That's win enough for me
And finally, up in Barrie, those fun-loving folks at Barnstormer Brewing just threw out a brand spankin' new contest yesterday on Facebook. Their Assistant Brewer, Dylan, has just created a Black IPA that seems to be missing a name thus far. So the brewery is asking us: "Want to put your name on our new beer? Submit your suggestions in the comments and we'll choose our favourite on the release date (March 12), launching your name into the Barnstormer history books forever! Cheers!"

I think they've had a handful of contests in the past - all of which I've missed - but you can be damned sure I flew nose-first into this one. Knowing that the brewery favours aviation terms and names for their product, I submitted Blitzkrieg Black IPA as my choice. And again, with Amsterdam's slogan contest still hardwired into my brain, I added, "It'll bomb your taste-buds!" Just 24 hours in, their contest has seen more than 60 submissions so far. It'll be well into the hundreds by the time the *ahem* crop-dust settles. So fly onto their Facebook page and dive-bomb them with your cleverness. I'll likely be propell-ing another dozen at them but I'm hoping my Blitzkrieg really takes off. Let's see what Stevil has in his tank.
The dumbest - and shortest - lawsuit
between American craft breweries
happened last year when Lagunitas,
bottom, suggested the font in Sierra
Nevada's use of the word IPA, top,
was far too similar to theirs. After
big outrage on social media over the
stupidity of the lawsuit, Lagunitas
withdrew it after two days. Good call.

So let's all raise a chilled mug of our favourite craft beers from these three Ontario breweries doing their best to negate the February Blahs! Your Brew Crews are testing our creativity and curling our toes with Blah-Busting contests. But hey, the clocks on the wall at Donny's Bar and Grill are telling me it's Beer O'Clock and let's talk beers, shall we?

I was stunned to see some Lagunitas (Petaluma, California) IPA in my local LCBO last week. It's never wandered this far north before. So I snapped a dozen up quickly. But before I get to the beer, I am reminded of the world's silliest lawsuit, launched last year by Lagunitas against craft competitor, Sierra Nevada (Chico, California). It seems that Lagunitas felt the font for the word "IPA" used by Sierra Nevada with their Hop Hunter IPA was far too similar to their Lagunitas IPA font. To that end, they launched a cease-and-desist lawsuit. Disagreeing with Lagunitas' contention was anyone with eyes as they are pretty clearly two different fonts. This lead to an instantaneous explosion on social media from craft beer lovers, some 99.9% of which sided with Sierra Nevada. Sensing the futility and lose/lose nature of what they had started, Lagunitas withdrew the lawsuit after just two days. BeerAdvocate posted the first page of the lawsuit and included was the notion that Sierra Nevada hadn't used periods between the letters in IPA... just like Lagunitas! Uhhh, I've been at this more than a couple of years and I have yet to see any brewery refer to it as an I.P.A. Perhaps breweries should be instructing their graphic designers, "To be safe, make sure it reads I-dot-P-dot-A-dot" just to be certain? Such nonsense piled on a dung-heap that's floating in a cesspool of stupid-ass.
While I used this Driftwood Brewing (Victoria,
BC) Fat Tug IPA (again, no periods - a lawsuit in
the making) as an example of a label that's tough
to read if you're colourblind. I believe I also said
the contents more than made up for the label...

So how is the Lagunitas IPA? Well, as it turns out, it was one of many I enjoyed during my trip to Las Vegas last March. And how about that, it also turns out I had imbibed the Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA at the same time. Back then, I had suggested that with its citrus on the nose and light citrus and grapefruit on the tongue, the 6.2%, 70 IBUs (international bitterness units) Lagunitas IPA significantly edged out the wet-hopped Hop Hunter. So while their legal acumen may be, well, sketchy, their ability to make a top-flight IPA (no periods) is not. However, when push came to shove, the Sierra Nevada Double Torpedo IPA (again, another I have enjoyed recently) blew both those beers out of the Tasty Vat so Sierra Nevada is no slouch, either. (In the end, I declared the Double Torpedo and Stone IPA to be tied as the best on the Vegas strip.) Anyway, I was thrilled to see it and try it again on my home turf.

One beer I forgot to review recently was Fat Tug IPA out of Driftwood Brewing in Victoria, BC. This is one of Beer Bro Glenn's favourite beer. But since Glenn ate a lot of chalk in Kindergarten (we're talking like five buckets of chalk in one sitting - they had to buy more), I like to double-check these things. Turns out Chalk Breath was right as this is a damn good IPA. Mango on the nose, grapefruit and pine on the tongue, this 7%, 80 IBU was one of the better IPAs I've had this year.

So what does the Central City Brewing Red Racer
Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout taste like? Take a
wild guess. It's a fun beer as far as dessert stouts go.
Okay, that's enough IPA talk for now. Let's look at a couple from our friends at Central City Brewing in Surrey, BC. First on deck is their Red Racer Gingerhead Gingerbread Stout. I have long maintained if you wanna flavour up a beer with outside-the-box ingredients, use a stout or porter. The reason? They are thick, rich styles that can either improve or withstand the goosing. At this point, I've had stouts that taste like pretty much everything although I will confess, this is the first gingerbread one. So how does the 6%, surprisingly-high-for-a-stout 55 IBU dark beer taste? How about exactly like gingerbread. I highly doubt I would drink two in one sitting but the cinnamon in this would make it an outstanding dessert beer, coupled with something chocolate to contrast the taste. Certainly an interesting and unique beverage, it won't be my Stout of the Year by any means but I am impressed with the bang-on gingerbread taste.

The Red Racer Copper Ale was a decent enough red/amber ale. I'm a pretty big fan of that style so I tend to be very picky. Using Pale, Munich, Caravienne and Caramunich malts, coupled with German Perle and Amarillo (not very noticeable here) hops gives this 5% ale a pluckish smooth taste. Very drinkable though not outstanding.
This is a pretty solid Canadian bock. The
molasses used would make you think that this
might be a bit heavier but bocks leave that
for the stouts and porters as bocks are more
akin to dark lagers. Still a rich taste to this.

Okay, it's Winter (or at least some contest-thwarting, snowless facsimile of Winter here in Burlington) so let's finish off with a nice seasonal-style bock. Our pals up in Baysville, Ontario do like to crank out their specialty beers. Their NHL Alumni has yielded some of the best one-off beers I've ever had. Their Wild North series is more of the same. One-offs that they small-batch for something different. This has a dunkel weisse vibe as the brewer used malted wheat but a bit of molasses in there also gives the 5.5% bock a slightly richer taste. These guys continue to impress. Nice job on this. Now more NHL Alumni specialty beers, please! (Pretty please?)

Okay, that's it for this time but I'll be back with Molson's special one-off, the John H.R. Molson and Bros. 1908 Historic Pale Ale, a beer that uses a 1908 recipe to recreate the taste of a turn-of-the-last-century pale ale. To be honest, the 6.8% unfiltered ale has captured a lot of attention lately with its limited release. Is it any good? Well, lemme tell you right now, this beer is absolutely... something we'll discuss next time, along with a few other Molson's beers, their new Canadian 67 Session IPA and Rickard's Session Lager.

In the meanwhile, I'm kinda screwed. You see, I used my last Post-Note and now I have no idea how to remind myself to get more. Yeah, yeah, first world problems but when I run out of salsa, things will get ugly. But guys and dolls, that it's, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain as always...