But, of course, I needed Genevieve Tomney, a media relations coordinator at the LCBO to explain to me what the heck an Elsie was. While she was at it, I asked if she'd explain the actual significance of the annual Golden Globes Awards. Turns out there is none.
|Ahhh, the object of every stout lover's|
desire - the Goose Island Vanilla Rye
Bourbon County Imperial Stout. That
beer will reduce a grown man to tears.
"Oh yes," she said. "Last December, Labatt hosted a special event at the Summerhill LCBO for the limited release of Goose Island Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Stout and..." At that point, I could stop her. I suddenly remembered the event well. Beer Bro Glenn was one of the people in line.
My next question for her was "How on Earth did Matt Damon win a Golden Globe for The Martian? I mean, he was up against Al Pacino! What happened there, Genevieve?" But I let it drop and didn't ask. Some things just cannot be explained...
So I pulled up Glenn's blog from December last year and rehashed the details. As Glenn sagely told us, it was a one-time limited release, it was bloody expensive at $35 a bottle and he had to stand in line with a bunch of dudes sporting man-buns. Since Glenn was actually old enough to be father to the Man-Buns crowd, he had a fleeting moment of feeling young and/or hip.
But Glenn, being the trooper he is, ignored the ownership issue, waited in line and said, "Screw it. I want this beer!" I should add he was blissfully unaware of the $35 price tag. Now I have no qualms about the Goose Island ownership. I take no issue with the $35 price tag. My only beef would be, well, waiting in a line-up. Not my forte. I can Christmas shop for 12 people in less than 37 minutes. I have little patience for waiting in any line-up. That's pretty much the only reason I would have no interest in getting a special limited edition anything. Unless it gave me superpowers. Then I'm all in.
|Here, The Simpsons deftly parody the too-close-to-truth|
perception that most of us craft beer lovers have about the
big mainstream brands. That said, they are the big sellers!
So what's the Labatt connection? Simply put, they are also owned by AB-InBev. As such, they secured the rights to brew Bud, Bud Lite, Busch and a few others up here years ago. They also, within the last year, launched their own Goose Island IPA, Goose Island Endless IPA (a session brew) and Goose Island Honker Ale line here in Canada. To their credit, their Goose Island line is not too shabby. Didn't love them but certainly liked them. That's pretty good. And as such, Labatt was, by default, the host brewery when the Goose Island Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Imperial Stout landed here at Summerhill LCBO last December.
Now I have no real interest in ownership issues. If a small craft brewery can remain untouched, hey, more power to them, I say. Carry on, wayward sons... and all that jazz.
|Ahhh, yes, a Mill Street West Coast Style IPA or 12|
were definitely enjoyed on the patio of Donny's Bar
and Grill this past Summer. This is a damn fine IPA
But to be brutally honest, that's on a case-by-case basis. If, say, Nickel Brook or Cameron's Brewing in Oakville got bought up by a huge multi-national beer giant, I would probably be gutted. I would be in their offices, making them all sign affidavits that their brewing process and ingredient quality would also remain untouched. That's because I feel a personal attachment to these local breweries.
However, when Mill Street Brewing got bought out by Labatt last year, I barely blinked. They're in Toronto - a little farther away. I enjoy many of the beers, though - particularly their 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager, their outstanding Tankhouse Ale, their delicious Coffee Porter and have highly praised them all in this very spot. When Stevil St Evil left Wellington, New Zealand to visit Donny's Bar and Grill last Summer, that Coffee Porter was our transition beer from coffee to, well, beer. Every morning. At the crack of 11 am. Why? Because we could. So we did. And you would have, too. Don't lie.
But something even more significant happened after Labatt bought Mill Street last October. This Spring, Mill Street finally released a hoppy west coast style IPA called, ummm, West Coast Style IPA. Really? Okay, guys, that's a little too on the money. I suddenly feel the need to sit down with your marketing department. When I reviewed the beer on Instagram, I noted there was "mango - so much mango on the nose with grapefruit and resin on the tongue... this 6.6%, 60 IBU (international bitterness units) brew is a contender. Liked this one quite a bit!!"
Since I had outright stolen beer writing buddy Drunk Polkaroo's visual effect of hooking the tab onto the glass to give the beer the illusion of floating, I gave him a nod, as well, basically saying, "Hey, bro, stole your trick. Owe you a beer. Don't sue." He laughingly responded, "That's some fancy floating can magic there, sir. It was a good beer (which) surprises a lot of people who wanted to hate it."
And why would people want to hate it? Because Mill Street is owned by mega-giant Labatt. See the pattern now? That said, many of us take our craft beer on an individual glass-by-glass basis. Many of my favourite craft brewers crank out a few that I am "meh" on at best. I was just elated that after all these years, Mill Street finally made a hoppy IPA. About time!
I don't know about that. But still, I'm about as familiar with corporate boardroom strategies as Kid Rock is with personal hygiene. It's a foreign element. That said, I do know I don't have to line up at an LCBO in the early morning for some great American beers. These things often land in my lap. Beer Bro Glenn is infamous for his illicit cross-border runs. My favourite beer technician Kylie at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House visits family in Arizona quite often and smuggles back some serious swag for me and a small handful of regulars. And then there's Rib Eye Jack's GM Steve.
Some of the goodies laid on me by my main man have been unbelievable. Last Summer, he wandered over to Donny's Bar and Grill (well, actually he cabbed it) and came bearing a Heady Topper Imperial IPA from Vermont brewery, The Alchemist. Heady Topper is one of the most prized and sought after beers in America, if not the world. Why? Like a Pokemon GO player seeking the elusive Charizard, this beer is hard to find. (Also the Pokemon GO reference - I had to Google that - I have no idea what it means. All I know is back in my day, if we stumbled upon a Pokemon GO character, we had to beat it to death with a rotary phone.) When Beer Bro Glenn and former Beer Store co-worker Carter saw I had a Heady Topper in my possession, they both saw red with anger. Or was it green with envy? Or blue with bummed out? Damn this colourblindness!!!
But Steve had just returned from a huge craft beer festival in Vermont and he did not come back empty-handed. No, sirree, Bob. (Who's Bob?) Since I got my Heady Topper last Summer, it was Jay-Dawg's turn this year. His review, not realizing the beer's public acclaim? "That was one of the best beers I have ever had in my life!" No kidding, eh? But I got two other offerings from the Vermont brewery from Steve - their Focal Banger IPA and Crusher Double IPA.
So how were they? Oh my stars and garters, they both blew me away! Okay, let's start with the Focal Banger. How many single IPAs do you know that are 7% (okay, hundreds - fair enough) but also 98 IBUs? Uhhh, not many? None, even? An IBU count that high belongs on an Imperial, not a single. This was as hazy as a London fog with huge blasts of grapefruit and hops on the nose, fruity and bitter as hell on the tongue. Had this been a blind taste-test, I would have bet someone else's house that this was an Imperial IPA. That much flavour, so damn good!
|Sandwiched in between two outstanding beers from The|
Alchemist. Hill Farmstead Brewing's Society & Solitude
#8 actually held it own! At 90+ IBUs, it was Hop Heaven!
Steve and I shared both this and another from Hill Farmstead out of Greensboro, Vermont, on my patio (more on that one in a second) while he cautioned me to hold the Crusher Double IPA until the next day. Why? Two reasons. One, give my palate a day to adjust. And two? "It'll knock you on your ass," he smiled. So some 24 hours later, did it? Uhhh, that's an affirmative. At 9% with the IBUs simply listed as "A LOT!", this bruiser bashed my pointy beak with huge wallops of citrus and tropical fruit with more of the same, as well as pine, on the tongue. I could feel the warmth in my throat and tingle on my tongue as I swallowed. How does this stand up to Heady Topper? I have no idea. I had them a year apart. In fact, Steve said when he was down there, he met a couple of people who thought Focal Banger was superior to Heady Topper. He settled that argument quickly. "It's not," he stated flatly. Still, I'd love to try all three in one sitting.
Which brings us to that Hill Farmstead offering. Now these guys out of Greensboro are also one of Steve's favourite Vermont brewers and he's a picky mofo so you know they're pretty damn good. So I got a 750-ml (25-ounce) howler of their Society & Solitude #8 Imperial IPA. The brewers have made seven of the Society & Solitude series with each one being slightly different - tinkering of the hops and other Mad Scientist stuff that brewers do. So while I can't speak for One through Seven, lemme tell you about Number 8. But this 8%, 90+ IBU bad boy is all blasted up with Citra, Simcoe and Mosaic hops, giving it grapefruit and tons of pine on the nose with tropical fruit and citrus on the tongue. How did it stack up? Honestly, this was damn close to those two Alchemist offerings. Had I not had it with those, I would be singing from the rooftops about its glory and magnificence. And after falling off the roof and waking up in a body-cast at the hospital, I would utter a weak "Totally worth it." And then lapse into a coma. So thank gawd, I had it with some of Stowe's finest.
Okay, that's it for now. But coming soon are some sick gifts co-worker Marie got me from both Block 3 Brewing in St Jacobs and Wellington Brewing in Guelph. And of course, after a recent trip to Arizona, Kylie dished up a couple of America's finest IPAs directly into my fridge. I don't know what the weather's like where you live but at Donny's Bar and Grill, it's raining beers, baby. And yesterday, also the regular kind of rain. Finally to those adults criticizing Millennials for running around chasing Pokemon GO characters, can I offer a suggestion? You'd be a little more credible if you stopped using Snapchat to turn yourselves into cats and dogs. Just sayin'... Let them have their fun. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...