Thursday, 14 July 2016

Stairway to Summer Sippers...


♫ Here we come... walking down the street... ♫ Wait, that
one's taken? Hmm, we'll try something else instead, okay?
In case you missed it, sometime in late-June, rock legends Led Zeppelin were found not guilty of plagiarizing the opening riff of "Stairway To Heaven" from a little-known ditty called "Taurus" written by even lesser-known band called Spirit.

It was a big deal court case which actually only involved the two members of Led Zeppelin whose names were attached to the song - singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page. Thus bass player John Paul Jones was excused from the lawsuit proceedings as was drummer John Bonham, whose health has not seen much of an upswing since his death in 1980.

Strangely, "Taurus" songwriter Randy Wolfe, who died in 1997, had been told on numerous occasions about the similarities and had just shrugged them off. He didn't care.
"Okay, if we stole from Spirit, how come we have our
own private jet and they're touring in a '68 Volkswagen
van? I mean, we're kind of a big deal in the rock world."
And could no one buy Robert Plant a shirt with buttons?
So who did care? Well, that would be his "estate", meaning distant relatives who thought they could earn themselves some easy money off Led Zeppelin's best-known song.

When the jury heard both songs, they decided the similarities weren't substantial enough to warrant handing millions of dollars to Wolfe's estate and tossed the case out. But I suspect the testimony at this proceeding must have been interesting.
Defence Lawyer: Yes, we concede the opening riff has some vague similarities but does this 'Taurus' song make any mention of hobbits, vikings, ice giants or gnomes of any sort? These are all staples of Led Zeppelin songs.
Estate Witness: No, I don't believe so.
Defence Lawyer: How about sex? Lots of sex in Led Zeppelin songs.
*Page and Plant snicker like school boys.*
Estate Witness: No. No mention of sex.
Defence Lawyer: Does 'Taurus' make any mention of... (looks at lyrics sheet) uhhh, "a bustle in your hedgerow" at all?
I feel like this is being made harder than it has
to be. I mean, there's a Highway to Hell but I
have to hike up all these damn steps to get up
there? No escalator, no elevator, no nothing??
Estate Witness: I don't even know what that means?
*Everyone in court turns and looks at Robert Plant*
Robert Plant: Not sure myself. I was pretty high for all of 1971. It probably made more sense at the time. Perhaps a hobgoblin said it to me in a dream?

And with that damning cross-examination, the case was pitched in the trash bin where it belongs. So good for Led Zeppelin, proving after 45 years of accusations that all that glitters sometimes is gold. Well, except for glitter itself, which is actually aluminized plastic. Whoa... irony.

Okay, that's it for the musical portion of today's outing so let's take a stairway to the beer portion. I found myself in an awkward position the other day when co-worker Marie brought me four beers from Block 3 Brewing in St Jacobs. One small problem. There was no room in my fridge. Yeah, there's a bit of food in there because my son, David, is with me. But not too much. I mean, it's not like the kid pays rent. No, in actual fact, there was an excessive amount of single beers in there. The fact is I will always grab a six-pack of one of my Beer Store's IPAs (Mad Tom, Twice as Mad Tom, Smashbomb Atomic, Finestkind or Ransack the Universe) on my way out the door, But I will often stop at the LCBO to find new singles of craft beer we don't sell. Believe me when I say they can build up quickly.
The Collective Arts 3X2 Summer Sampler includes their
Hefe Weizen wheat, their Gose sour and their Papaya
Saison. All of these were Summer beers and I was eager!

In order to thin the herd a little and make room for the Block 3 beers, it would seem I'd have to make the ultimate sacrifice and clear out a number of those singles through the treacherous means of consumption. As the thermometer climbed past the 30C (86F) mark this past week, many of the Summer Sippers that were taking up prime real estate in the fridge at Donny's Bar and Grill would pay the price.

Okay, there was one thing in my fridge that would free up plenty of space quickly. That would be the Collective Arts Brewing's (Hamilton) 3X2 Summer Sampler. That's six bottles of three different styles of Summer beers that, well, go down remarkably smooth. Before I even tried it, I called the Papaya Saison as the potential favourite. So was it? Well, let's see...

The Hefe Weizen was, as expected, big banana and either peach or pear (I couldn't tell which) on the nose with more banana and some nice tartness on the tongue. Definitely a nice 5.5% smooth sipper. Love a good German wheat!
Well, you just know a session IPA from Great
Lakes Brewery is gonna be good and of course,
the Sunnyside Session IPA was no exception.
The 5.2% Gose was a really nice surprise. If this is any indication, goses are a much lighter style of sour beer than my previously-sampled lambics, berliner weisses or barrel-conditioned ones. I was a Gose virgin. A wheat ale, this was lightly spiced, more tart than sour to me. There was a taste in the background that was confusing me so I looked at the box. Turns out that was Himalayan sea salt. That's a first. It made this very different but still quite tasty. Also the label helpfully pointed out it was pronounced gose-ah, not goh-se as I had been doing. Schooled by a label again. That brings us to the 6% Papaya Saison. To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd ever had papaya in my life before. The second I smelled this, I knew I had. Probably on vacation somewhere. So yeah, papaya on the nose, more papaya and light fruit on the tongue with a very dry finish. And yeah, it was my favourite of the three though I would happily drink any of them again.

I grabbed a six for co-worker, Jay-Dawg, as the LCBO nearest me in Burlington was the only one stocking it at that time (that has since changed) and he was equally impressed.
Look at the colour on this Lake Wilcox Brewing
Mad Quacker Vienna Lager!! Yes, of course, this
style is meant to be a darker hue but that just tells
you that you are in for one deep, rich tasting lager
"Did you notice they all kinda had the same taste?" he noted. Well, yes and no. I knew what he meant because all three were very light tasting even though a 6% saison suggests otherwise. But yeah, all three were easy Summer Sippers, for certain. Still, when I asked him his favourite and he instantly replied, "Oh, the Papaya Saison, for sure!" it was clear they had their discernable differences. While I have already declared the Muskoka Mix-Six Summer Survival Sampler to be the best mixed pack around these day, the Collective Arts' 3X2 definitely has Summer written all over it. And yet, the word is not mentioned on the packaging anywhere. These are crazy times.

In the GTA region, there has probably been no beer this Summer that's received the kind of word of mouth that Great Lakes Brewing's Sunnyside Session IPA has. It was all over Twitter, Facebook and Instagram the second it came out and even prior to that. Highly anticipated would be severely understating the case. It took me a couple of weeks to catch up to the others but truth to tell, that's about the distance I'd be behind in an actual running marathon so...
The folks at Black Oak Brewing in Toronto are
definitely going for a Summer Sipper when they
took this Belgian Wit and named it Beat The Heat
Simply put, this met the hype. Pouring a beautiful hazy gold, there was nothing but citrus on the nose. On the tongue, I got lemon instantly but a few sips in was a little bit of pineapple, too. At just 3.9% and a stunningly low 25 IBUs (international bitterness units), this packs a real IPA flavour. I would love to try this side-by-side with their Citradiction Pale Ale from a few years back. It clocked in at just 4.4% with a 40 IBUs and was a delicious session single hop APA. And, of course, Sunnyside featured Garnett Gerry's beloved cartoon character Roland Baggetts from the Lake Effects IPA label. And yes, he wear socks with his sandals and you won't care...

First beer out of the gate from our new friends at Lake Wilcox Brewing was their Mad Quacker Vienna Lager. Like most Viennas, this was a full-bodied reddish beer. Just 4.7%, the dark fruits and breadiness on the nose is countered by a thicker caramel and toffee finish. This is one heavy lager. Contract-brewed out of Railway City in St Thomas, I paired this with a roast pork and swiss cheese sandwich. 

When my buddy, Easy E, bought this carved bear for his trailer
at Lawson Park in Flamborough, I noticed that it had a convenient
beer holder for my Mad Tom IPA. Turns out, according to his lady
and my coworker Marie, that's actually a "pot holder." Oh, I'm not
really a pot smoker so I used it for beer, instead. And I don't know
much about the drug culture but isn't that an obvious hiding spot?
Well, unless there is another kind of pot that I don't know about...

A delicious lunch on both ends!!! Nice job, Lake Wilcox Brewing on your first beer.


I asked Lake Wilcox what was next on Instagram and they got back quickly, thanking me first before adding, "Our second style is currently available. It's out 'Wilcox Black Hops' Black IPA. We are currently working on our APA and Craft Lager. Please visit our new brewery in Vaughan, opening in August." Hey, a contract brewer no more! Very cool.

Okay, let's wrap this up with one from our pals at Black Oak Brewing in Etobicoke. Lest you have any doubts it's a Summer Sipper, this Belgian Wit is actually called Beat The Heat. So yeah, there's that small clue if you can crack the code. While I much prefer German weisses, a few Belgian wheats have impressed me lately and this 4.5% brew was one. As expected, some coriander on the nose but also some sort of citrus and breadiness. On the tongue, the anticipated orange rind but also quite dry and tart. I liked it. The style is warming on me a little but strong examples, such as this one, go a long way for that.

So is there room in fridge for those Block 3 beers yet? Well, I had to clear out another half dozen Summer Sippers because, ooops, more Ransack The Universe IPA fell into there by accident. It happens. But that's the Summer. I realized how much we are preoccupied with the heat (and cold) when a local TV weatherman came into my Beer Store and I realized I had no idea how to make small talk with him. "Man, it sure is hot out ther... ummm, so beer, that's some crazy good shit. Am I right?" Well, guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!!! Back in a few with more Summer Sippers but until then, I remain...