Monday, 29 August 2016

When Cameron's comes a-callin'

Once we all get over our crippling shyness, I'm sure some day we'll
come out of our shells. The boys, including myself and buddy Drunk
Polkaroo on the left, whoop it up out front of Cameron's Brewing's
Cask Night on August 26. Three other breweries were also there...
When Cameron's Brewing social media maven Jenny offered me a reserved spot-plus-one for the brewery's Cask Night festivities on August 26, I found I just couldn't say no.

For starters, she and I had never met so I didn't want to be rude. That means beginning our beer-filled relationship with positive affirmations, of course. It's the gentlemanly, socially-appropriate thing to do and I'm all about that.

Yeah, just kidding, it's a wild and wacky night of imbibing delicious craft beer. Basically, it's the same as handing a juicy prime rib bone to a hungry dog. Like I said, Jenny and I have never met but she certainly already has a good sense of what I'm all about... Well, okay, "Don loves craft beer" isn't exactly a state secret.

But I tell you something. The timing of the Cask Night was perfect! You see, my high school friend Liz was in from Coquitlam, BC, and we needed something to do that night.
Liz has been in BC for so long, she was completely
unaware that her hometown of Oakville had its own
craft brewery these days. But I'll tell you this. Even
as someone who has been immersed in the BC craft
world for a couple of decades now, she was thrilled
with some of the offerings that night from Cameron's.
You see, Liz loves herself some craftie brews and living in BC such as she does, she jumped into the movement years before I did. I remember back in my Labatt's Blue days years ago, she landed on my patio with some Muskoka Mad Tom IPA on a nice Summer eve. I recoiled in horror after having a sip of one. If nothing else, that'll give you an idea of how much times have changed for me. Over three years of a steady craft beer diet will do that to a fella. Whenever someone buys a case of Blue at my Beer Store, I do remember it fondly. Happily drank it for years. But the simple fact is that macro beers are like a first marriage - a combination of nice memories as well as many nights you'd rather forget (or can't remember) but man, you can never go back there.

So, of course, Liz was down for the Cameron's Cask Night, which the brewery holds on the last Friday of every month. And they have expanded to the point where other breweries make the scene, as well. On this night, it would be Toronto favourite Steam Whistle, Waterloo's Innocente Brewing and Redline Brewhouse, a newer outfit that opened in Barrie just last Summer.

Craft Beer Sidebar... with Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Barnstormer Brewing and now Redline, Barrie might just be the Per Capita Craft Beer Kings of Ontario or even Canada. Three craft breweries serving a population of 128,500 people?
There was little doubt as to which fine Cameron's product I would steer
Liz towards with our free first pint. As solid as their core line-up is, with
the Ambear Red Ale being a particular stand-out, we were aiming our
mugs directly at that 12 Mile India Pale Lager, a 5.2% newbie there...
Based on numbers alone, not even Toronto, Vancouver, Portland or San Diego can rival that. I will be reporting on my coworker Jay-Dawg's recent swing through Barrie into cottage country and the stash he brought me in my next column.

So when we arrived, we were given a choice - go into it with the 10-ounce (295-ml) plastic cup or be big spenders, slap down $5 and get an official Cameron's 20-ounce (592-ml) pint glass, as well as a free fill from one of the four beers Cameron's had on tap. Lessee, a glass and a pint for $5? Tough to beat. At that point, I had my fingers crossed that the brewery had one specific brand on tap. The second we stepped in, I could see that gleaming tap from the distance - their 12 Mile India Pale Lager, one of the best beers I've had this year. Also there was their Cosmic Cream Ale, Captain Log's Lager and Ambear Red Ale, all fine choices.
When Joel and Noah from Steam Whistle brought both
their regular version and an unfiltered version of the
award-winning pilsner, Liz asked the same question
we all ask the brewery on numerous occasions. "Why
don't they bottle that unfiltered one, as well?" Despite
our pleas, the brewery saves it for special events only.

Naturally, Liz needed a little guidance for our free pint and I offered up the following, "The lager, cream ale and amber ale are all great but you gotta try the india pale lager." Now I was assuming that her tastes might be similar to mine but we all know what happens when you assume. Well, how about that? This time, I didn't make an ass of anyone, including myself, (that's staggering, actually) as she absolutely loved it.

But those were the bonus beers as the brewery had casks of two specialty beers there - their 4.7% Lager Noire (Liz' next choice) while I opted for their Duck Saizon, a 6.2% saison goosed with Amarillo and Sorachi Ace hops, clocking in at a slick 29 IBUs (international bitterness units), pretty high IBU for a Summer Sipper. I had a sip of Liz' black lager (very nice) but was really happy with that saison. The hops gave it a nice flowery, citrus smell and taste. A definite winner! (Also I got topped up with that IPL a couple of times but don't tell anyone. It's a secret between me and server Zach. Also, Liz doesn't know it yet but she and Zach have a date on Thursday. What? I had to barter something!)

The next stop was Steam Whistle, Toronto's award-winning pilsner that Liz has imbibed dozens of times during her visits to Ontario.
Manning the Innocente Brewing booth at the Cask Night
was Jacob, who was offering up their Conscience IPA
with strawberries in the mix and The Hoff, a wheat
infused with peaches. Well, I pretty much had to go Hoff
But I knew the boys, Noah and Joel, had an ace up their sleeve. Partially because they both cheat at Poker (that's what Zach said) but mostly because Steam Whistle always brings their unfiltered version of the beer to every beer event. As Liz soon found out when she got her sample. "Wow!" she enthused, "this is so good!!! Why don't they make this one all the time???" That puts Liz in a long line of people who have asked the brewery the exact same question at every single beer fest they attend. I love the regular version but the unfiltered variety? Man, that's like a different beer altogether! If I was a craft brewer, I wouldn't filter anything. It's like the same beer... but raw and naked. Everyone likes raw and naked. (Zach, remember that on your date.)

Next in line was Innocente Brewing out of Waterloo where server Jacob gamely offered up a strawberry-infused version of their Conscience IPA at 5.7% and a peach-infused wheat beer called The Hoff, clocking in at 6.2%. My choice was simple as I am not partial to strawberries but I do like my peaches. Liz could not turn down an IPA, strawberries and all, so she went for that. I had a sip of hers and wasn't a huge fan but man, I really dug The Hoff!
This is the second time Drunk Polkaroo and his Brew Crew
have descended on Cameron's this summer. The first time
was to get their hands on that Brewmaster's Choice Four-
Pack that contained the delicious 12 Mile India Pale Lager
Light peach and a bit of banana on the nose and all peach (but subtly so) on the tongue. Liz sampled mine, crinkled her nose and said, "I like mine better." *Facepalm* I have told her time and time again... don't hassle The Hoff!!! Pamela Anderson hassled The Hoff and she ended up making sex videos with various rockers. And she also caught Hepatitis C. Nothing good ever comes from hassling the Hoff, especially Drunk Floor Burger Hoff. Mmmm, floor burger.

Poor Redline had technical issues and couldn't properly chill their casks of their 501 Golden Ale and Check Engine Amber Ale so they were shut down for a short time while they scrambled to fix the situation. Eventually, they got things up and running again but the beer was still warm. That said, we gamely gave them the old college try anyways with me opting for the 5.2% Check Engine goosed with Ella dry hops while Liz went for the 4.2% 501 amped with Nelson Sauvin hops.
Hamilton's Dave The DJ, aka Broken Mohawk, kept
the brewery buzzing with great tunes all night long.
I was ready to bust out my White Man Shuffle moves!
We liked both offerings but again, they were pretty warm. I think a Barrie road-trip is in order to more properly try their offerings. I can probably get up to Barrie before it starts snowing. Well, if I leave tomorrow. But like I said, the beer scene in that town is booming! That spells road-trip. It also spells b-o-o-m-i-n-g. English is tricky.

But the best part of the Cask Night was the camaraderie. Beer writing buddy Drunk Polkaroo was there with his lovely wife Kathryn, as well as a beer posse of indeterminate size. Had to be a group of 15 to 20. This man seems to know and have a personal friendship with everyone in Ontario who loves craft beer. Except Bob in Timmins. His outgoing, chatty and friendly nature makes the Polkaroo something of a natural people magnet. He'll corral Timmins Bob some day. And I was thrilled to meet Cameron's Jenny, a happy, friendly blonde who greeted me with a big hug. We chatted for a good amount and I applauded her on what a great night Liz and I had as their guests. This is not be my last Cask Night. As The Other Donald would say, "YUUUGE fun!"

But before I check out, every year there's an event in Toronto called the Golden Taps Awards, whereby you vote on all sorts of craft beer thingeys. One of them is Beer Writer Of The Year and my main man, Polkaroo, is out there lobbying for that sparkly trophy like a seasoned pro. I'll include his YouTube video with the Golden Taps link in a second. So you know, The Polk is a regular dude like the rest of us, Even if he sips too many tasty craft brews in his backyard, he still puts his pants on the same as you and me. One arm hole at a time. Oh wait, that's me! Never mind. So cue up this video, buckle up big-time and get ready to: Get Polk'd 2016!!! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...