Thursday, 31 March 2016

Mom's phone and dark beers

Meant to be a joke but trust me, this is a flip
phone that my Mom would be onboard with!
My poor Mom called me in a frenzied panic the other week because it seems her service provider (no names but rhymes with Rogers) forced her to get a new cell phone. Her message was a bit confusing but included phrases such as "They're talking about a SIM card. I don't know what that is!", "It says it has a camera! Why would I need a camera in my phone?" and of course, the clincher, "It has a big screen! I don't know what that means!"

Now, before I get started, let me remind you that my Mom is 86 years old. Born during the Great Depression, she has lived through a pretty big World War, several recessions and countless acts of terrorism that believe me, started long before 9/11. She's a tough cookie. But hand her new technology? I think she'd rather take on the Nazis single-handedly. That said, realistically, at that age, she needs nothing more than a flip-phone that she can open, dial a number and Betty from the Oakville Seniors' Bridge Club answers.

So, of course, my first thought was, "Oh, those asshats at Rogers made her get a Smart-Phone. What the hell were they thinking?" When I arrived to walk her through it, it turns out, no, it was still a flip-phone. However, when I opened it, she was quite right. It did have a big screen (well, relatively speaking.) Even flippies have advanced.
Believe it or not, the flying envelope
icon actually calmed my Mom down.

And, of course, my Mom's old flip-phone was a simple "open up, hit numbers, make phone call" deal. The new one was a more advanced deal - you had to hit "menu" before you could do anything. "Menu?" my Mom panicked before I reassured her, "Just like in a restaurant, Mom. You open that up to see what you want." Once into menu, nine icons popped up in a tic-tac-toe configuration. More panic. "No problem, let's see what each is," I said, drawing the nine squares on a piece of paper and labelling each. "I only want to make phone calls!" she said. Okay, no problem - top centre. So I put a check mark in that box. All the others, I put a big X in the box. ("Don't need this... don't need this... don't need this") Except one - the "contacts" box. "Here's where you can store all of our phone numbers so if you're outside the house, you can call us."
A big porter, such as Trafalgar Ale and Meads'
Cask Porter needs a big glass. Well, they don't
come any bigger than the Incredible Hulk...

She liked that because at home, she has little Rolodex with everyone's number in it. So we entered some numbers - me, my sister Carly, my son. But the contacts box was also the texting function and being as she had done so well, I pushed the limits a little. "Oh, I don't want to text," she insisted. So I pointed out that sometimes at work, Carly and I can't answer our phones. Wouldn't it be a little easier to simply text "Call me"? With my phone sitting on the table, we created a text on her phone. Then something funny happened. When she hit send, a little envelope grew wings and flew away. "Oh, look at it fly! Right off the screen! I love it!" she gasped with wide-eyed enthusiasm. At the same time, my phone chirped so I picked it up to show her the text. "Is that me? So fast?" she asked incredulously. I opened it and there were her two words - call me. She was sold. "Ohhh, I like this!" So I got to put a double check-mark in that box, bottom centre.

And that, kids, is how I met your mot... oh wait, wrong show... the day I taught your Grandma how to text. (Unissued) challenge accepted and mission accomplished. But hey, since I was already in Oakville, helping my Mom, why not reward myself with a visit to Trafalgar Ale and Meads and their new self-serve 16 tap growler station? After all, I was up for another challenge and pouring my own growlers certainly qualifies.
Lessee, how do Nickel Brook's Robbie and
Amy do this? Tilt, pour? Huh, a little more
tricky than it looks. But hey, I didn't do too
badly for a first-time growler pouring guy.

So in I went and manning the craft beer fort was Sarah, their sweetheart social media maven/customer service rep. Sarah and I had chatted several times behind the scenes on Twitter or whatever but had never met. So she was the perfect person to walk me through the growler-pouring process. As I have watched Robbie and Amy do this hundreds of times at my local Nickel Brook Brewing, I just followed their lead, holding it at the right angle and so forth. And by gawd, when I was pouring Trafalgar's Cask Porter, I got it to within an inch and a half from the top. Not too shabby. However, I was less successful with my attempt at their Baked Apple Mead and needed Sarah's intervention to get it near the top. Previously, Sarah and I talked about their brewers. While I had used a picture of their Brewer Ainsley in a previous column, Sarah noted that Ainsley was "primarily responsible for our on-tap brews - and continues to a favourite - while (Brewer) Chris is primarily responsible for our commercial brews enjoyed in the LCBO, Beer Store and grocery stores." She said along with Head Brewer Dave Jamieson, "Chris brews our delicious mead. Thanks to this team, we have good products both in our retail and out in stores."
Of the varied beers I'm reviewing today,
this is definitely the top dog. Yet another
winner from the fine folks in Hamilton's
Collective Arts Brewing. Smooth and tasty.

Well, lemme tell you something else Chris brews that's pretty damn tasty - that Cask Porter. A recent arrival to the 16-tap growler station (up and running since February 13th), brewery owner-founder Mike Arnold had likened it to Innocente Brewing's (Waterloo) Charcoal Porter, an excellent dark brew. While I could smell only coffee and chocolate, when I tasted the 5% porter, I got what I thought was a very faint whiff of bourbon. I wasn't certain because whenever I've had a bourbon barrel-aged porter or stout (and I have had many), the bourbon is unmistakable, prominent even. This was not. So I asked Sarah... who asked Chris. Turns out "it was conditioned in stainless steel so any flavour or aromatic compounds you're picking up are from the beer itself." Wow. Okay then, no outside influences so then I guess this is just a damn fine porter! I'll be back for more. I am really appreciating this Oakville brewer these days as they continue to stretch their wings.

Rather than stretch their wings, one craft brewer, Collective Arts, took off like a rocket from their inception. At first contract-brewed out of Nickel Brook, they now equally share the old Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton with Nickel Brook under the name Arts and Science.
I thought Lake of Bays Wild North Series'
Midnight Bock was nice but a little too
much on the thin side. Perhaps a stronger
malt base for the next year's bock batch?
The brewery came to my attention with their inaugural Rhyme and Reason Extra Pale Ale and has held it since with their outstanding Ransack the Universe Hemispheric IPA. So when I picked up their Stranger Than Fiction Porter, it was with a sense of confidence. Its commercial description calls it "a full-bodied porter with plenty of roast flavours, as well as hints of molasses and chocolate. Ridiculous amounts of chocolate and pale ale malts make this porter smooth and creamy." This description is pretty much bang-on, although I also got a little spice and coffee on the nose of this 5.5% black beauty. Outstanding.

Let's switch things up and look towards a bock, in specific, Lake of Bays (Baysville) Wild Series' Midnight Bock. To me, bocks are pretty much kissing cousins to dunkels and dark lagers (all of which I enjoy) - malty and a little deeper, though not as rich as porters and stouts. According to its commercial description, the Midnight Bock is "brewed with malted wheat, specialty malt and molasses." But it was not the "full-bodied treat" as described. To be honest, I found it pretty thin, pouring with little head. Some toast on the nose, a little bitterness on the tongue but... That said, it did improve a fair bit as it warmed up.
HANDLE WITH CARE!!! The Rogue Ales'
Sriracha Hot Stout will clear your sinuses,
not to mention other body parts south of there
However, these guys do know how to brew a tasty bock. Their Crazy Eyes Darcy Tucker Winter Bock Lager was not only one of the best bock lagers I've ever had, it notched a spot on my Best of 2015 list. I think the Midnight Bock just needs some tweaking - a little heavier on the malts, perhaps?

Let's finish this up with a stout that was, well, a real kick in the nuts. Last Summer, Rogue Ales (Newport, Oregon) released their Sriracha Hot Stout, one of the spiciest beers I've ever had. How hot was it? Well, I had a pot of my patented spicy jambalaya simmering on my stove that afternoon. I used the jambalaya, which also incorporates hot sauces, to cool my mouth down. That hot. Apparently, this is the only beer officially sanctioned by Huy Fong Foods, the gang who created the original Sriracha Hot Sauce. The sauce is added to the stout during the brewing process and believe me, it doesn't disappear in this colon cleanser. My recorded tasting notes for this 5.7% stout were this: "Okay, peppery on the nose. Getting maybe some roasty caramel on the tong... oh dammit, this is hot. Pretty good but so so hot!" In the background, screams of the villagers can be heard.
The Simpsons have some fun with the often-funny, at-times-silly names
that craft brewers put on their labels. That Harry Potter Porter is not that
far removed from Great Lakes Brewing's Harry Porter, proving yet again
that life often imitates art... or The Simpsons. Garbage Pale Ale? Classic.
I am not sure if it is returning to our LCBOs again this Summer but keep your eye open. This is one you should try just to say you survived it.

To bring this full circle, I was explaining to one of the young part-timers at the Beer Store that back in the day, at home, we had one phone (maybe two) we all shared, usually attached to the kitchen wall. You could not walk into the bedroom with it for privacy, nor was there any call display. "But how did you know who was calling?" she asked in wide-eyed horror. "Well, that's the thing," I told her. "You didn't. You just answered and took your chances." Pretty sure she shivered. Probably the notion of her parents be able to hear what she was saying.
Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders
may or may not win his run but hey, the Vermont
Senator certainly knows his state's best beer is
The Alchemist's Heady Topper Imperial IPA...
Actually, that was kinda brutal but there was fun to be had. In high school, I had two older sisters, also in the same school. As their various and sundry boyfriends would occasionally visit, I got to know them. Every once in a while, when one would call, if I was feeling like being a little shit (so often), I would answer the phone and say, "Look, man, I heard my sisters talking and she's planning on dumping you today. I just wanted you to be prepared, okay?" Of course, break-up plans were not actually in the works so then, I would call whichever sister, sit in the nearby living room and listen to half of the world's awkward conversation. Why? I was a little brother. It was my job, man.

Next up, oh geez, a bunch of stuff. What did Jay-Dawg bring me back from Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto? What did Rib Eye Jack's Ale House Cask Night regular Stevie-D bring me back from Vermont? What did Rib Eye Jack's GM Steve bring me from Steve's Stash? So we have lots of beer to talk about. Plus Nickel Brook ace employee Tony Cox brings the food trucks back to the brewery this Saturday (April 2) - Hamilton's Salted Pig food truck will be there from noon to 4 pm. As will I. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!! Until next time, I remain...