Thursday, 24 November 2016

My sweet Stone City swag

The problem with posing with me for a photo, as
Jay-Dawg found out, is that because I'm older,
the camera automatically reverts to the black-
and-white setting. On the positive side, standing
next to me makes Jay look a helluva lot better...
Frankly, I made a huge tactical error when I returned from my niece's wedding in Halifax with some east coast IPAs for my Beer Store co-worker, Jay-Dawg,

After I landed, I remembered that while my fridge at Donny's Bar and Grill was, in fact, jammed with beer, there were no IPAs in there. There are always IPAs in my fridge. I leave with at least six after most shifts whether or not I'm planning to pop into the LCBO to get even more on the way home.

Not a problem, I thought. I'll stop and grab some on the way home. Except, well, a problem. I had forgotten it was Thanksgiving Monday and all LCBOs and Beer Store were closed. That meant the only IPAs in my entire house were the Nova Scotian ones slated for Jay - a Propeller Double IPA, a Garrison's Imperial IPA and their Hoppy Buoy IPA and a Boxing Rock Brewing The Vicar's Cross Double IPA.

Relating my blunder to Stevil St Evil in New Zealand, he howled, "Jay's not gonna see any of those beers!" Well, of course, that wasn't gonna happen. As I said, I still had many beers in my fridge. Drinking beer slated for a buddy would be a King of Douche-Land move. Still as a precautionary measure, I took a picture of them and texted that picture to Jay with a simple "Look what I brung ya" note. So Jay knew he had beer coming and I simply drank some of the still-very-good-but-not-IPAs beers in my fridge. And I survived...
A quick look inside the scene at Stone City Ales in Kingston.
If you look carefully, you may notice a blurry figure in the
background. Clearly, he has super-speed. I'm not sure he
should be using that power at work, even if it means serving
tables more efficiently. Secret identities must be preserved.
One night wasn't gonna kill me. Two would be pushing it. Three nights would likely cause excruciating convulsions. Four nights and my very soul would perish into the abyss. But not one. One's totally easy. *Inwardly giving myself a high-five for lasting even one night without an IPA, as well as how convincingly I told that outright lie.*

But for coworkers, Jay and I travel in different directions during our off-hours, although our final destinations are ultimately some craft brewery or breweries somewhere. In essence, by bringing each other beers from various trips to Ontario (and even Maritime) breweries, we are each travelling half the distance but individually reaping twice the reward. It's an effective beer-centric system and one that works well for both of us. And when he and his pretty partner-in-crime Cara recently returned from Kingston, I was the happy beneficiary of some of Stone City Ales' finest products.

Now, I have had some previous exposure to Stone City as Rib Eye Jack's wonderful beer technician Kylie has a friend working there and after a visit there last Summer, she brought me back a one-litre (34 ounce) howler of their Grizzled Hipster Double IPA.
As you can see, I didn't have a Stone City Ales' glass that I
could pour their Bad Habit Weissbier into so I made due
with a Stone Hammer one that made me sort of half-right
The Grizzled Hipster was again in the Jay-and-Cara-Care-Package but so too was their Bad Habit Weissbier, their Uncharted IPA and finally their Ships In The Night Oatmeal Stout.

And with that remarkably short lead-in (for me, anyway) it seems it's Beer O'Clock at Donny's Bar and Grill. None of my clocks actually say that so I pay a neighbour to yell it at me. He has a beard and dresses like a lumberjack so I pay him in Pabst Blue Ribbon. (That's another beer I will be examining for its unusual Hipster Cred in the near future but not today.)

Okay, if you've read this before, you know the rules. Around these parts, I start with the lighter beers and move slowly and deliciously towards the heavier ones. Unless I go in a different direction. Like good beer itself, the rules are very fluid in my corner of the world. But that means we're starting with the Bad Habit Weissbier and hey, a good German wheat is a great place to start.
Because this is what a "grizzled hipster" looks like, right?
Actually, that's a pretty cool label on a pretty good Double
IPA. Nice deep rich colour, plenty of power in this punch!

Okay, there was a new twist to this wheat as they brewed it using German Huell Melon hops, a fruitier hop meant for milder styles, such as wheats, saisons and the like. So as expected, lots of banana on the nose - your usual wheat aroma - but the 5.3%, 30 IBU (international bitterness units) summer brew does a funky switch to melon on the tongue. Which melon? Beats me. There's like a million of them, none of which my son will eat. Let's say one of the orange ones and hope I picked the right melon family. I got to enjoy this on a sunny 22C (70F) Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks back and frankly, it disappeared from my patio as rapidly as the temperate weather. A smooth easy-drinker in true German style.

Sailing onward into unfamiliar waters, next up, let's look at that Uncharted IPA. At 6.9% and 69 IBU, this is a straight-up, solid IPA. No bells, no whistles, just some great taste. 
This Oatmeal Stout was simply outstanding, one of the best
I had enjoyed in 2016. It landed on my doorstep with ample
praise from Jay-Dawg, who mentioned it ahead of two top-
notch IPAs. In our beer world, praise cannot come higher .
Both pineapple and pine scents on the nose, you get some nice tropical fruit, orange and even apricot on the tongue. If I was starting to think Kingston was getting a little bit spoiled with this brewery, the next two beers certainly locked in that opinion.

The Grizzled Hipster Double IPA was everything I remembered from that howler a year and a half back. I occasionally check out RateBeer for one of two reasons - to find commercial descriptions of beers and to identify colours that are giving me trouble. This time, it was a colour issue. I was going to say "tarnished brass." The consensus by RateBeer users was "deep orange." And this is why the colourblind rely on the eyes of others. Okay, so it pours (allegedly) deep orange with a really nice fruit on the nose. It's medium-bodied and lots of bitter grapefruit on the tongue. But be warned, this 8.5%, 90 IBU bomb has the taste and feel of a single IPA and that can spiral you into the Danger Zone.
Stone City Ales' founder Ron Shore, left, along with
partner Eric Dinelle (and his wife Rebecca) started the
Kingston craft brewery in Summer of 2014 and since
that point have won a handful of award for their brews.

Which brings me to Cara and Jay's final offering - their Ships in the Night Oatmeal Stout. Jay came back raving about this one, which surprised me because he's a big IPA and sour fan. This style is certainly the polar opposite of his favoured sours - a style for which I'm still trying to develop an appreciation. I classify most as "interesting" or "different" so far. But to all the brewers who swore it was gonna be the style to replace IPAs as the new favourite, I offer a succinct three-word rebuttal: "No, they won't."

Okay, instantly, I saw why Jay was buzzing about this beer. This 5.6% glass of black magic had tons of coffee and chocolate on the nose with damn tasty bitter chocolate and toasted oatmeal maltiness on the tongue. This was, frankly, one of the best stouts I've enjoyed in 2016 and believe me, there have been many. A velvety, rich bomb-blast in a tall glass. Simply outstanding.

This talented young man, Jason da Silva, is the
head brewer for Stone City Ales but has a real
local connection for me. Once upon a time, he
was the Eastern Ontario sales rep for my much
beloved Nickel Brook Brewing right here in
Burlington. He is pumping out some really
dynamite and award-winning beers these days.
So how about a quick look at this fledgling but already-strong brewery right about now? Sure, I'm game! When founder Ron Shore lost his job in the healthcare industry (on just three days' notice, to boot) back in 2013, he decided it was time to throw the dice. Knowing the burgeoning popularity of craft beer in Ontario, he saw that Kingston had a void to be filled. With the strong base of potential patrons, such as a steady stream of downtown business people, as well as students from both Queen's University and St. Lawrence College, the market was there, ripe for the picking.

Partnering up with husband-and-wife team, Eric and Rebecca Dinelle, they created a solid business plan and in July 2014, they opened their brewery's door to an immediate thirsty and appreciative crowd of suds-sippers. The addition of head brewer Jason da Silva at the beginning paid off in instant and unforeseen measure. Da Silva, who had worked at Ottawa's Clock Tower Brewpub, was also a former Eastern Ontario sale rep for Burlington's Nickel Brook Brewing, who then plied his trade as a brewer for Ottawa's Beyond The Pale Brewing. When da Silva started creating beers for Stone city, it didn't take long to reap the benefits as just nine months later, the brewery struck silver for their Green Goddess Imperial IPA and bronze for their Uncharted IPA in the West Coast IPA category in the 2015 Ontario Brewing Awards. Uncharted then took gold in the same category in the 2016 OBAs. Clearly, this is a brewery with a strong foothold and on its way up in the increasingly-populated Ontario craft beer landscape. These guys are one to watch carefully.
While Alec Baldwin nailed Donald Trump's bombastic
nature beautifully in the pre-election Saturday Night
Live skits, a lot of people missed how Kate McKinnon
captured Hillary Clinton's less-than-warm-and-fuzzy
and often-times cold and calculating persona perfectly. 

Now before I sign off, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that today is Thanksgiving Day for my American readers, the beginning of a four-day weekend for them. Just as it is in Canada, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather under one roof to enjoy good food, watch sports and then, once stuffed to the gills, argue bitterly. I suspect the aftermath of the American election will spill over many dinner tables tonight in the USA. Harsh political divisions will be instant, vocal and acrimonious, I suspect. But it doesn't have to be that way. You see, I think it's simply a matter of knowing how to speak to the other side.

Okay, if you're a liberal, dealing with a relative who voted for Donald Trump, you just need to employ some of his phrases into the conversation. Say things like, "This stuffing is so great, it's gonna bomb the shit out of your colon!" Or perhaps, "This meal is gonna be so good! Everyone will be talking about how great it is! Let's make Thanksgiving great again!"
Of all the celebrities that said they'd move
to Canada if Trump won, the only one we
are willing to take is Samuel L Jackson
because he alone can take a cold country
and make it even cooler. Come on up!!!

But if you're a conservative dealing with a Hillary Clinton supporter, it may take a little more finesse. Look at the dinner table and note you are impressed with "how inclusive
and diverse the food is. Every food group is equally represented, regardless of taste and colour!" See? It's just a matter of know the other side's lingo to make Thanksgiving dinner relatively (see what I did there?) happy and peaceful.

And when watching football today, be sure to talk up this Electoral College in whatever conference it plays. I've been hearing a lot of chatter about this school so they must have a really good football program! Like, YUGE!

And finally onto the touchy subject of American celebrities who swore they'd move up here if Trump won. The truth is we don't really want most of them, especially that shrieking harpie, Miley Cyrus. She's all yours. Sorry, gang. That said, I saw Samuel L Jackson say the same thing and man, we will gladly take him! That bad-ass mother-lover (it's his catch-phrase - did I say that right?) is always welcome up here! He can crash on my couch. One more thing, America. This morning, I found James Franco rummaging through my recycling bins. Did he do that down there, too? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...