Saturday, 2 April 2016

Mixology 101

Well, it seems my favourite Baysville, Ontario brewery
Lake of Bays has a mixologist on hand in staffer Teresa
who took a Spark House Red Ale and mixed it with a
10 Point IPA, thus creating a SpIPA. Say it out loud -
that's pretty damn clever. I will be trying this at home
A mixologist is another fancier word for bartender. Whenever someone enrolls in a bartending course, quite often it is called Mixology 101 or somesuch. This is not to downplay it simply because I never diminish anything that I cannot do. And I cannot do that. (In much the same way, I would never demean someone who struggles a little to speak to me in English because it means, in fact, they know twice as many languages as me.) For starters, half my patrons would get coated in alcohol and less than half of those would be unintentional. Over my many years, I have seen first-hand the abuse that bartenders, waiters and waitresses have had to put up with. It turns out assholes and alcohol are a poor mix. That's probably Lesson #1 in Mixology 101. I am fairly certain I could not handle that. I prefer to be on the opposite side of the bar, hopefully smiling and offering kind or funny words to offset the nitwits. This is to say nothing of the pace at which they have to work. Customers, it seems, are natural born complainers and the servers have to move at an obscenely hurried clip. I would not be fast enough, nor would I be able to remember their orders in my head. If I could remember that, it would likely push other stuff out of my brain, such as how to open a door or worse, the practical function and applied use of toilet paper.
My coworker Jay-Dawg tried to replicate one of
the Great Lakes Brewery's Swamp Juice mixes
at home. I forget which number it was (19?) but
it mixed both the Thrust and Lake Effects IPAs
with their Canuck Pale Ale and was outstanding

So if you asked me to mix you a martini, for instance, I would likely fill the glass with gin, look at the vermouth, say, "Yeah, so what you are, anyway? Are you booze? Are you mix? I don't know," add a wee shot of that because it's apparently part of the deal and throw in, like, eight olives because I saw that somewhere, probably a 1980s movie like Cocktail starring some toothy Scientologist. And for the record, yes, I had to Google "martini recipe" because I had no idea.

You see I'm a beer drinker. The only thing I mix is a tasty craft beer with a clean glass. It's remarkably simple. All I have to do is clean the glass. I leave the heavy lifting, the "making the beer" part of this to the brewers. Oh, I guess I'm also responsible for getting the cap off which is not much of a challenge unless it's corked and caged or waxed. Then I'm a complete spaz using vice-grips to pry out a cork or worse, a crazed lunatic, hacking away at wax with a knife. I don't remember that scene in Cocktail. All I really remember is Elizabeth Shue because she's, well, Elizabeth Shue.

But sometimes, beer drinkers become mixologists, either intentionally or by fluke. You see, my coworker Jay-Dawg and I were big fans of one of the Great Lake Brewing's Swamp Juice concoctions recently at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House here in Burlington.
Robert, better known as YouTube beer
reviewer Drunk Polkaroo, recently had
Collective Arts blend their Ransack the
Universe IPA and Collective Project
Black IPA into one growler. How did that
work out for him? Well, pretty darn good
Swamp Juice blends three different beers into one giant mix, kegs it and sends it off to bars, notably Rib Eye Jack's. Now this particular version of Swamp Juice had GLB mixing both Thrust and Lake Effects IPAs with their Canuck Pale Ale, which is always the core beer in Swamp Juice. Three truly outstanding beers, any one of which I would happily drink on its own, but as Greek philosopher Aristotle once told me, "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." Meaning simply in this case, together this combo was dynamite. So Jay, very intentionally, tried to recreate it at home. One night, I got a text from him, asking how he should combine the three. I took the easy route and said, "A third of each?" (For the record, I feel certain that is not how GLB does it.) Except for one small problem. Thrust, an IPA, was not available in the LCBO at that time. So Jay subbed in Hop City's Hopbot IPA with the Lake Effects and Canuck, instead. Now Hopbot is a pretty decent IPA... but it's not Thrust, which, frankly, is one of Ontario's best. So how did it turn out? Well, as my Grandpa used to say, "Fair to middling." Good but according to Jay, it was no Swamp Juice.

However, I have recently begun to talk to another fellow, Hamilton beer reviewer Robert, who on YouTube and online goes by the name Drunk Polkaroo. I caught one of his beer reviews when I was watching another local video beer reviewer, The Albino Rhino, do his thing and I saw Drunk Polkaroo on the sidebar. For the record, the Albino Rhino is Albino but he is not a rhino. Just a solid beer reviewer. As for Drunk Polkaroo, he is neither drunk nor Polkaroo, a beloved Canadian children's TV character that's, I dunno, like a full-sized puppet or something. But again, he has a very engaging TV presence and I have come to really enjoy his beer review videos.
When Drunk Polkaroo had to get that
Ransack the Universe/Collective Project
Black IPA combo growler home, he took
no chances. Buckle up for safety, kids!!
As well, our beer tastes seem to parallel so I added him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, the modern-day social media Holy Trinity. From there, I started to look more closely at Mr Polkaroo. Turns out the dude does pretty much daily beer reviews and has written a beer blog for a while, too. And even though I have been at this a year or two longer than him, he has reviewed far more beers. This, my friends, is a dedicated craft beer drinker. If he was a woman, my research would be considered creeping but he's a guy who talks about good beer so free pass. Learned a couple of things about him. First up, man, this guy loves his wife. "Mrs Polkaroo" is mentioned constantly and with huge affection. She is truly his partner-in-crime. I dig that. And secondly, he and I have tread the same path. Years of drinking mainstream beers for the sole purpose of simply getting hammered. Then we discovered craft beer (some meh, some good, many excellent) and things changed. We both drink craft beer now to discover new tastes, not to get a cheap buzz... although with the way Polkaroo's and my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs are playing this season, no one would condemn either of us for going with the cheap buzz.

But for whatever reason, perhaps new-found maturity (okay, maybe him, probably not me), we found craft beer and our eyes opened wide, our throats said "thank you" and a new journey had begun for both of us. But as usual, I am Tokyo-drifting off the point like driver Jeff Gordon negotiating a hair-pin turn at the Nascar whatever. Back to the mixology.
What happened when you mix Collective Arts
Brewing's Ransack the Universe IPA with their
Collective Project Black IPA? Well, even the
colourblind like me know is if you mix anything
with black, it stays black because black is the

sum of all colours. But actually, how did it taste?
Polkaroo was recently at Hamilton's Collective Arts Brewing, getting a growler filled with Ransack the Universe IPA - a favourite for us both. But halfway through the growler, the keg kacked. Rather than waiting for a replacement keg to be installed. he asked if they could continue to fill it with their outstanding Collective Project Black IPA, the best black IPA I have had this year and I mean, by far. The servers were amenable and thus, Robert inadvertently created what he came to call the "Polkaroo Special Ransacked IPA".

So how was it? Well, I'll let Polkaroo take it from here. "An off-white head that laces and hangs around (the glass) all the way down. Smells roasty and dank. Sharp bitter pine and resin bull their way to the front. Grapefruit and mango hint at something under it all. It has some of the roasty notes but they are balanced with the dry, crispy citrus flavours, Piney and sticky on the ends with some bittersweet dark chocolate just lurking on its edges. It's not as juicy as Ransack nor as hard as a Black IPA. For me, it's a real treat to see how the flavours mesh, like a black-and-tan that's just a whole lot of IPA."

Okay, right off the bat, we can see he goes far more detail than I do. It's not my fault. My descriptions of beer are about as long as my attention span. So they're short. Probably because of my attention span. As the song goes, Blame it on my A-D-D...
Ahh yes, the old-school Nickel Brook labels. I will admit
that the new Headstock label is far better but the Naughty
Neighbour label you see here? Man, THAT was a classic!
But I had to share a story with Polkaroo. Way back, when I started this column in 2013, I made a trip to Nickel Brook Brewing (literally down the street and around the corner from me) for the first time and actually met the owner, John Romano, who was manning the fort. It was John who got me going with growlers on that day. My first purchases were my beloved Headstock IPA and their Bolshevik Bastard Imperial Stout, a delicious 8.5% pipe cleaner. From there, I dutifully returned once or twice a week to have my growlers refilled. One time, I was having both filled with Headstock and about two-thirds through the second growler, the keg died. Like Polkaroo, rather than wait, I simply said, "Top it up with Naughty Neighbour (their excellent American Pale Ale.)" Without realizing it, I had mixologied an American Indian Pale Ale... or to be politically-correct on the label, Donny's Native Aboriginal Pale Ale.
Twitter user Doug McDowall recently tweeted GLB to
let them know he was going to try his hand at mixology
to recreate a different Swamp Juice, using Octopus
Wants to Fight IPA, Robohop Imperial IPA and black
beauty Apocalypse Later Imperial Black IPA. I'll tell
you this gratis - that is gonna be one strong Swamp mix

It was slightly different than straight-up Headstock but still pretty damn good. Due to the similarity in styles, the pair blended perfectly. To be honest, until Polkaroo's recent Collective Arts excursion, I had forgotten all about it. But now, I can't stop thinking about it.

You see, yesterday I scooted over to Collective Arts and picked up two 1.9 litre (64 ounces) growlers of Collective Project Black IPA, as well as a one-litre (34 ounces) howler filled with the same. The growlers were earmarked. One for my personal consumption and another for Jay-Dawg, who really hasn't found a Black IPA to his liking. I strongly suspected he would enjoy this as it has the most IPA-ish taste of all the Black IPAs I have tried. Last night, he and his girlfriend were splitting it and I got the following text review: "We are loving the Black IPA! (It's) definitely got an IPA taste (rather than) a stout." Eggscellent, Smithers...

But that little one-litre howler (or squealer as everyone except me refers to it) is for Mixology purposes. You see, I happen to have some Ransack the Universe IPA in my fridge as we speak and I think I should see if I can replicate the Polkaroo Special Ransacked IPA.
Polkaroo and his cat, Jinx, often have long talks
on Facebook and Instagram. Never on Twitter
because, well, 140 character limit. Jinx regularly
insults her owner in these conversations which
makes it both funny and probably true to life. My
college girlfriend, Jackie, was also nicknamed
Jinx. She's no relation to this cat as far as I know
After that, it's Flying Monkeys Smashbomb Atomic IPA that will be paired with the black gold. Maybe some others, if there's any left. Regardless, like me, I notice Polkaroo does not deny his mainstream past. I drank Labatt Blue for decades while Robert's last foray off the Mainstream Menu was Brava Light. Neither of us deny our murky pasts.
Labatt Blue: You better not deny me, you, you Judas!
Me: I think Judas was the betrayer. Apostle Peter was the denier.
Labatt Blue: Are you sure?
*Flashback to over 2,000 years ago*
Judas: Okay, the one I kiss is Jesus.
Roman Guard: You know, you can just point him out.
Judas: *putting on lip balm* Look, I don't tell you how to do your job!
*Fast-forward to present*
Me: Yeah, I'm pretty sure. I've seen Jesus Christ Superstar a bunch of times.

Okay, well, I was supposed to review two Bellwoods Brewery beers gifted to me from Jay-Dawg, three American brews bestowed upon me from Rib Eye Jack Ale House's Cask Night regular Stevie-D, as well as two IPA offerings from Rib Eye Jack's GM Steve. As you can see, none of that happened. That said, I get derailed more easily than Amtrak. So next time. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...