Thursday, 15 December 2016

When Glenn comes to B-Town...

Beer Bro Glenn holds up the only pumpkin beer that I will ever buy -
Nickel Brook's Pissed Off Pete's Pumpkin Porter - during a recent

trip to Donny's Bar and Grill. Turns out the spices used to make
pumpkin pie (nutmeg, cinnamon, whatever) actually add some cool
flavours to a porter. But Pumpkin Ales are usually frowned upon.
Despite living way over in Oshawa on the snowier, frost-bound, Arctic-tundra side of Toronto, my old college buddy and Beer Bro Glenn makes the trek to visit Donny's Bar and Grill in Burlington probably twice a year, if I'm lucky.

Maybe three or four times a year, if I'm far less lucky. (Ohhh, call the Burn Unit - Savage Bro Smackdown Aleft.) I'm kidding, of course, all of my jests are said with love... respect... affection... okay, just said out loud. (Seriously, get the shock paddles ready! I'm killing it here. "Attention, shoppers, we have a totally burned Bro down in Aisle 3. Bring ice!")

Okay, done dissing Glenn (for this paragraph anyway) because last weekend he made a special trip out here for a couple of reasons. When Hamilton's Collective Arts Brewing created their Imperial IPA and recreated their Black IPA (the same formula as last year's Collective Project Black IPA), I promised Glenn I would get him some cans of both.

But gawd bless his tiny, coal-black heart, which is rapidly faltering as we speak due to years of artery-hardening, fat-saturated, deep-fried foods, as well as a general apathy and indifference towards the pain and suffering of others, except for the neighbour's dog who he really likes. Hang on.... lemme read that back. Oh goddamn, that's not Glenn - that's me! Don't I have egg on my face? (Quick aside to "Buddy") "Who's a good boy! Yes, you are!"
Great Lakes Brewing's most recent gift from their prolific
Tank 10 series is Thrust! An IPA. I could heap praise on this
beer for the countless awards it's won or the critical acclaim
it's received. But I won't because come on, I just told you...

But knowing I had the "Gift of Beer" (cue the celestial harmony of beautiful angels singing) for him, Glenn made sure he wasn't coming empty-handed. So he stopped along the way at Etobicoke's Great Lake Brewing to pick me up some of their recently-released Thrust! An IPA, as well as their ass-kicking Life Sentence Triple IPA, their now-annual collaboration with their pals across town at Amsterdam Brewing. Oh, and for good measure, he also brought me a bomber of their bourbon-barrel-aged Solstice Imperial Stout, which I haven't had yet because of two reasons. Number one, I was too busy, downing those delicious IPAs like Homer Simpson with a plate of doughnuts. And number two, Solstice itself refers to exactly two things - the point of the year when the Sun is closest to the Earth, creating the Summer Solstice or the day that is the longest in terms of sunlight - so June 20th. Or conversely the day when the Northern Hemisphere is farthest from the Sun, making it the shortest day of the year or the Winter Solstice. And that's December 21st. So dammit, I will drink my Solstice on the day of Winter Solstice when the stars and planets are aligned perfectly. Thus the prophets have spoken.
Did I sit there and drink GLB's and Amsterdam's Life
Sentence Triple IPA in the snow on the patio like some
kind of addled, freezing loser? Photographs don't lie, man.
Unless they're profile pictures on Tinder. Those always lie.
(By the way, all the Science I just laid on you came from the Bible, just after the part about the dinosaurs but before the part where Santa Claus shows up for the big manger scene.)

But while I only had six Collective Arts beers for Glenn, he had brought me a six of Thrust!, a six of Life Sentence, as well as the Solstice. There was great inequity that day at Donny's Bar and Grill, my friends. So I slid him some cheddar to make up for it. And when he finished the cheese plate, I gave him cash. I'm all about fairness but usually only fairness for me in every single aspect of my life, not for others. Stupid "giving time of the year."

But while I have praised Thrust! many times in this space, telling it how "pretty you look today" and "Have you lost a little weight?", inevitably I always get down to dull, technical terms such as how the 6.5%, 72 IBU (international bitterness units) beer is "chockful of luscious grapefruit and mango on the nose followed a resiny, tropical fruit finish on the tongue." You know, real Bill Nye The Science Guy kind of stuff. Without the Bill. Or the Nye. Or the Science even. Just beer, really.
Last year, Amsterdam head brewer Iain McOustra
found himself about 100-kgs (220 pounds) of late harvest
Chinook hops in Washington Yakima Valley. So he and
GLB head brewer Mike Lackey dropped the entire
batch, shown here, into a big vat and created Life
Sentence Triple IPA. But the story varies this year...

So let's move on to this year's Life Sentence Triple IPA then, shall we? As you may (but probably don't) remember from last year, Amsterdam Brewmaster Iain McOustra was in Washington state's Yakima Valley last year and stumbled across 100 kgs (220 pounds) of late harvest Chinook hops. And I mean, he literally tripped over them. So he picked up the phone and called GLB head brewer Mike Lackey. The phone call went something exactly like this:
McOustra: "Hi, can you put me through to Mike?"
Receptionist: "Mike, it's Iain from Amsterdam."
Lackey: "The brewery or the city? I know Iain's from both. I'm very well-traveled, y'know."
Receptionist: "The brewery."
Lackey: "Tell him I'm at lunch."
McOustra: "I heard that! We're on speaker!"
Lackey: "Damn my luck. Hey, man, what's up?"
McOustra: "Hey, I just found 100 kgs of those hops mentioned above in this fictitious account of our conversation. What should I do with them?"
Lackey: "We could... I dunno... make beer?"
McOustra: "Oh man, why didn't I think of that?"
And thus, Life Sentence Triple IPA 2015 was created following a conversation that went absolutely nothing like that.
Behold, if you will, the wonderous glory that is the
Pacifica Hop from New Zealand. It's big, it's green,
it's the Incredible Hulk of the Hop World. For my
American readers, that 5-cm equals about two inches.
As your President-Elect would say... they're YUGE...
everybody loves them!!! They are the best hops ever!
Oh and Life Sentence was dry-hopped using both
Pacifica and Nelson Sauvin hops, also an NZ staple.

But the Brewery Boys decided to throw us a curveball for the 2016 edition of Life Sentence. If you look carefully at the can shown above, you will notice the words "Southern Hemisphere" just below the name. So what's that mean? Well, the Southern Hemisphere is all that stuff below the equator, those rat-bastard countries who are enjoying mid-Summer right now while we freeze our nards off up here. Instead of using Chinook this year, Mike and Iain opted for Pacifica Hops from New Zealand in the 2016 batch.

Why? Well, according to Lackey, they thought it would be "great to change the hop bill in Life Sentence each year." Why would they do that if last year's Chinook version was such a huge success? That's simple. Brewers be all cray cray.

So how is the 2016 version? Well, certainly a bit different than last year's but ultimately, still 100 pounds of dynamite in a 473-ml (16 ounce) can. The brewers both liked the pineapple profile of the hop so there is little doubt both that and mango come through on the nose of this 10%, 100 IBU berserker. (So you know, Berserkers were Norse warriors who, according to Icelandic literature, fought in a trance-like state. A few of these and I was in a similar state.) You do get some of that booze on the tongue but not alarmingly so. A little bit fruity but more slyly dry and malty on the tongue than last year's version.
If Joan of Arc had "the face that launched 1,000
ships," then my Beer Bro Glenn has "the face that
frightened 1,000 small children." (Man, my disses
are on point today!) But hey, Manantler Brewing in
Bowmanville used his face as part of their Lesions
(ooops, sorry, LEGENDS - damn, I'm really on fire )
Imperial Stout label series. Actually, this was a very
cool initiative from the brewery, honouring a small
 group of local, faithful customers who had shown
them tons of support in their early stages. Very nice.
Final verdict? Absolutely loved it, just as I did last year's. One of the year's best. Again. So we'll let the brewers relax (Amarillo) for a year (Amarillo) while they decide (Amarillo) what hop to use (Amarillo) next year and which additional hop (Simcoe or Citra) to pair it with for the dry hopping at the end. Totally their call, obviously.

Okay, moving on up to the East Side... what else can I say about Glenn, other than the fact he brought me some damn great beers? Lessee, in 2016, he has thus far eluded the Durham Region Police force on any major charges. (In his defence, minor charges are exactly that - minor. Sorry, I just can't stop. I'm on a sick roll. My bad.) He's a damn good Dad to both his son and two step-sons. I don't know. That's about it. Oh, wait, right, he also had his pretty-boy face plastered on the label of a Manantler Craft Brewing (Bowmanville) Imperial Stout. Not too shabby for my little college buddy of 35 years.

Yup, at some point in the Summer, Manantler decided to honour Glenn, another dude much more manly than Glenn, a couple (twice as manly) and two brothers (more manly squared) on four separate labels for the same Imperial Stout. Glenn swears his sold out first but that could just mean Glenn bought all his labels up first, Still, it would be super-cynical for me to say that. Or type that. Or publish that. (My Diss-A-Bro Button is clearly stuck. Too late now.) No, actually, I honestly thought it was one of the coolest things ever to happen to a friend, except perhaps my buddy, Larry, who won $133,000 in the 6/49 lottery about 10 years ago. No disses for Larry. He has money.
Just a couple of college buddies tearing the hell out of
the last day of the 2015 Burlington Beer Festival. The
day ended up with both of us arriving alive at Donny's
Bar and Grill, despite leaving the fun at different times
as we somehow (copious amounts of beer) got separated
during the fun. Tried retracing our steps the next day.
What happened between us losing each other and both
getting back safely to my place is still a mystery to us.

So Glenn gave me a couple of bottles of their Legends Imperial Stout, which I enjoyed recently and should review. Except it's Glenn's beer, not mine, so let's check out his RateBeer review of this brave 9% Imperial Stout that dared to put his face on a label.

Here we go, folks. Buckle up for Glenn's review. "Roasted coffee on the nose and coffee, bitter chocolate and a touch of licorice on the tongue. Smooth and rich and delicious." Dude, seriously? I can't get you to shut up, like, ever and Manantler gets two sentences? You didn't even use any vowels! What, were you paying for words that day? Did the Word People charge by the syllable? Manantler, I actually agree with his review but would add there was a nice bitterness on the back end and some nice roasty malts on the nose. Really great stout, gang.

Okay, poor Glenn, I've slammed him pretty good here. But this is how life-long guy friends talk to each other. Women compliment each other all the time... but really don't really mean it. Guys crap on each other... but also don't mean it at all. He made a special trip to GLB just to bring me those beers. That was the only reason he stopped there. Well, actually, he grabbed some for himself, too, so let's not get all "He's a modern-day Mother Teresa" here. But Great Lakes, Amsterdam and Manantler, thank you for those outstanding beers. And Glenn, you disgusting and hideous piece of filth, thank you for getting them to me. Love ya, Broseph. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...