Monday, 26 June 2017

Little Known Brewing mystery unravels...

Did I pour this into the appropriate glass - the Flying
Monkeys tulip? Well, I'm not going to say that just yet
but there was debate on Instagram as to whether it was
Flying Monkeys or Barnstormer who brewed this one.
So anyway, who makes Little Known Brewing's Je Ne Sais Quoi beer?

This has been a question that has both baffled and intrigued southern Ontario craft beer drinkers for at least... a week? (What? Not every mystery dates back eons, shrouded by the cloak of time and history. There has to be newer mysteries, dammit. Stuff has happened after the year 2000.)

Truth to tell, as you can see from the photo that I posted on Instagram, it's called Little Kn?wn Brewing Co. but that's making my Spell-Check go a little mental so let's stick with the more familiar English vernacular of "Known" and leave the emoji-hieroglyphics out of this for now.

And for those who are not fluent in French, Je Ne Sais Quoi loosely translates as "I don't know what" and is often used to describe a trait or attribute that is positive but you can't quite pinpoint why. So like, "She has that certain je ne sais quoi" because she is attractive to you but you're not sure why.
Nope, not us, said Brad Arliss, Creative Director and
Assistant General Manager of Barnstormer Brewing
up there in Barrie. But they are contract-brewing a
well-known (smaller) Toronto craft brewery now...
If you're me or my single buddies, perhaps because she's breathing? Or because she smiled at you from 50 feet away... but was actually smiling at Brad Pitt who was standing behind you? (I frikkin' hate when that happens!!) Who knows? But that's the whole point of Je Ne Sais Quoi...

Anyhoooo... I posted the photo on Instagram and said, "On the side can, it informs us that it's 'mysteriously obscure and beyond conventional categories. It's meant to be enjoyed, not defined'." There was no description of the style. But telling a craft beer drinker a beer's style is not meant to be defined? This is the only part of our lives that we actually over-analyze! Can't pay the mortgage? That's a shame. Wife is pissed? Huh, wonder why? This beer is not meant to be defined? Oh, them's fightin' words! Come at me, bro!

So I proceeded to define it because, Strange Can of Beer, you're not the boss of me! I said, "A session IPA at 4.2%, it's hazy, grapefruit on the nose with light grain and pine on the tongue." And since it was linked to Barrie's Flying Monkeys Brewing on Google and was only identified as being brewed in Barrie, I poured it into one of their glasses, assuming they were the contract brewer in this case.
And this would be my North American Craft rep
Brian Will, who not only got the Double Trouble
Brewing beers into my last Beer Store but also
managed to score us some Smuttynose Brewing's
Finestkind IPA, straight out of  Hampton, New
Hampshire. One dynamite IPA that one is...

Not so fast, said my Barrie friend, Verena, better known as SunshineTravelCat on Instagram. "I believe it's a different Barrie brewery, Don! Wrong glass, my friend!" Hmmm, that just leaves either our friends at Redline Brewhouse or our buddies at Barnstormer Brewing. Any idea which, I asked?

"Who's my favourite and that's your answer?" she winked. Well, I have only met Verena once when my son David and I visited our Main Military Man and Craft Beer Loving Brother Hago in Barrie for the three-brewery tour back in March. But I know that she and her hubby, Richard, are partial to Barnstormer. Personally, I love all three Barrie breweries equally so they all get 33% of my love... and Hago gets the left-over 1% as he is not a brewery.

So I went to Brad Arliss, Creative Director and Assistant General Manager of Barnstormer and asked him, "Do you guys contract brew this?"

Nope, he told me. "I actually just heard about those guys for the first time, Don. We are not the brewery contracted for them, though." However, no chat with Brad goes without at least one new nugget of info. "We are, however, (now) contract brewing for High Park (Brewing) down in Toronto." Okay, that is great news for High Park Brewing as Barnstormer will bring some Barrie-style kick-ass to their, well, lacklustre line-up.
In this Mark Wanzel photo taken for the Barrie
Examiner, Andrea Chiodo is shown hoisting their
Smashbomb Atomic IPA like the trophy beer it is.
She also solved the mystery behind Little Known
Brewing quite quickly for us as they brew it...

So while I continued to search, my Beer Writing-Videographer Bro, Drunk Polkaroo, chipped into the conversation that, yes, they were contract-brewed (not sure if he knew by whom) and "distributed by NAC, same as the Trailer Park Boys." Polk is, of course, referring to Trailer Park Boys Freedom 35 Lager, brewed out of Wellington in Guelph. And NAC is North American Craft, a distributor of many craft beers to Beer Stores and LCBOs. My NAC rep, Brian Will, is in charge of the Double Trouble Brewing beers (also brewed at Wellington) at my Beer Stores. Another small piece of the puzzle answered.

But it would be Andrea Chiodo, Creative Director and Co-Owner of Flying Monkeys who would finally lay the mystery to rest for me. "Yes, we did sort of contract brew that beer but it's more of a collaboration with our western distributor, 49th Parallel Group. Steve (Thibault, owner of 49th Parallel) just always wanted to make a hop-forward session ale recipe he dreamed up one day. We've known him for so long (as the distributor of their line in Western Canada) and talked about brewing so much... well, it's pretty rare we just talk about making a beer. He created the (brewery and beer) name for himself. We (brewed it and) canned it for him so it is showing up in the LCBO. You can grab some of tap or in a growler at (Flying Monkeys) because we put it in our collaboration line."
Twitter buddy Dave D alerted me when Beer Master Ryan got
this into the Burlington LCBO at Walker's Line and Dundas.
Good thing, too, because this was the last somewhat dented
and dinged-up can Beyond The Pale's Aromatherapy IPA!

Despite the lack of brewery identification on the can, other than Barrie, Ontario, Andrea noted, "No secrets on our part and I think Little Known Brewery is obviously not a bricks-and-mortar place. But it's all done in the spirit of craft beer and we're fine if folks know about it."

So when another Barrie buddy, Shawn (also met during the Hago visit), recently post a pic of Je Ne Sais Quoi on Twitter and asked if anyone knew the story behind the beer, I promised him the full answer. And here it is. Except I originally thought it was connected to Parallel 49 Brewing in Vancouver, which it is not. However *takes a deep breath*, 49th Parallel Group does distribute Parallel 49 (gosh, I can't begin to imagine my initial confusion there, eh?), as well as Flying Monkeys, Tree Brewing (Kelowna, BC), Central City Brewing (the Red Racer folks, in Surrey, BC) Driftwood Brewing (the Fat Tug IPA folks out of Victoria, BC) and Phillips Brewing (also Victoria), as well as a dozen others to happy craft beer drinkers out in Western Canada.
Dammit, I just KNEW I had enjoyed a Beyond The Pale beer
before but I was stumped until I went through my pic folder.
Courtesy of Drunk Polkaroo is the brewery's Pink Fuzz, a
big 6% Grapefruit Wheat Ale which I thought rocked it. 

And speaking of Twitter, thank gawd I'm on it because my Burlington Twitter Brother Dave D (@puckywuckums) alerted me last week to the presence of Beyond The Pale Brewing's (Ottawa) Aromatherapy IPA at the Walker's Line and Dundas LCBO. The beer there is ordered by our craft superstar Ryan and both Dave and I consider it the best source of new craft brews in our city outside the breweries themselves. (In nearby cities, Dundurn LCBO is my choice for Hamilton while Oak Park LCBO gets the nod for Oakville.)

So off I went on Monday to grab some. Except there were none to be found. I scoured the shelves (Ryan was off) but to no avail. Okay, then, I was there anyway so I hunted for some newbies, as well as a few old faithfuls, mostly of the hoppy variety though I did branch out into other styles as I usually do. Just as I set was to leave, I spotted a lone can on the top left at the very end. No tray, no price tag, no nothing, just a solo can. I turned it around and it was Aromatherapy IPA! Hoppy Days are here again! 
This is billed as a North American IPA but Geronimo
IPA out of Walkerville Brewery in Windsor is actually
a west coast-British hybrid. Hops on the nose, malts on
the tongue. That said, both Hago and I enjoyed this one.

I quickly alerted Dave that I had found the last can, which looked like it had been the abused ball in a particularly-vicious rugby match. It was like it had taken several swan-dives from that top shelf. He responded, "Yeah, I know. I left that one. It was there last night. Didn't wanna be greedy since I have some at home. Thinking about my beer friends!"

And this is why craft beer drinkers flock to Twitter and Instagram. No macro drinker would be tweeting his buddies to say, "This is the best batch of Bud Lite I've had since August 2015. You gotta get some!" Craft drinkers understand the importance of information support services for their homeys and homettes.

Okay, there's a 140 characters limit on Twitter, which is probably a blessing in Twitter's case but also why I prefer Instagram or this blog for actual beer talkin' stuff. Since I had to be succinct on Twitter, I just said there was lemon on the nose and juicy mango on the tongue.
Eureka! I finally had a Sawdust City's
Juicin' IPA at Rib Eye Jack's Ale House in
Burlington and damn, that was tasty little
treat. At 6.4% and a surprisingly low 45
IBUs, this bad boy was all peach on the nose
with melon and pine resin on the tongue.
May I expand upon that, I ask, (as if you have a choice?) At 6.5% and a lower-end 55 IBU (international bitterness units - my exes are rated on the same scale - also sometimes, me), this is - and I am quoting Beer Bro Glenn directly here from a rare Twitter appearance all the way over there in The Shwa - "One of the best New England IPAs out there. One of the best Ontario IPAs period!" To put it in "Donny," this shit was the bomb. No wonder Dave D drew my attention to it. Holy crap, lemons, fruit, pine on the nose, peach, mango and citrus on the tongue. I think my mouth jizzed. So good. What Glenn said...

I knew I had enjoyed a Beyond The Pale brew before but couldn't remember which one. So I checked my so-full-I-feel-guilty "to review" folder and by gawd, there was their Pink Fuzz Grapefruit Wheat Ale, a gift from Drunk Polkaroo. Been sitting in that folder since early-April. (There are much older ones in there.) This ain't your Bavarian grandpappy's wheat. At 6%, there's ample grapefruit on the nose, some far more subtle citrus and grapefruit on the tongue, damn, this is a helluva starter beer. I wouldn't even have known this was a wheat, to be honest. I love it when they funk up the wheats.

Okay, a couple of quick ones to wrap this puppy up. I have had Walkerville Brewing's (Windsor) Geronimo IPA long ago as I believe my former co-worker Marie brought me back a one-litre (34 ounce) howler after she won big one night at the Caesars Windsor casino.
I liked this Rye Knot Rye Pale Ale by Taps Brewing
out of Niagara Falls but unfortunately, Cameron's
Brewing in Oakville has set the bar for this style way
too high. I'll call this medium effort a one-and-done.
So when I spotted it in the LCBO, I snagged one for myself, as well as Hago. While it's billed as a North American IPA, it owes more to Britain than the Portland, Oregon scene. There was plenty of west coast in the smell, courtesy of Cascade, Centennial and Summit hops, giving it orange and grapefruit on the nose but on the tongue, this 6.3%, 55 IBU ale goes all "Hail Britannia" on the tongue with deep, rich caramel. The colour alone had me half-expecting that. For all of its UK-leaning style, I thought it was pretty damn nice. More of a meal than a hop buzz with this one.

Ever had a beer that made you think, "This is okay... but it could have been a lot better"? That's exactly how I felt when I tried the Taps Brewing (Niagara Falls) Rye Knot Rye Pale Ale. The problem with this unique style is that Cameron's Brewing in Oakville makes such a good Rye Pale Ale that others could possibly suffer by comparison. That is exactly the case here. Add to that, the inclusion of the more recent, barrel-aged and most excellent Monty's Aged Rye Ale (formerly Monty's Golden Ryed Ale) from Old Tomorrow Brewing and well...
Someone at Amsterdam Brewing in Toronto got pretty
creative with the malts one day recently, creating this
killer Bob Marley (Bob Barley?) art. It be jammin'...

I'm not trying to be a dick here (he said, sounding a lot like a total dick) because this was decent but the 5% ale was far too light on the spiciness, the rye depth and well, the body was too damn thin. I'll try pretty much any beer once but every once in a while, I also come across those I won't try twice. This falls into that category. That said, I'll keep my eyes open for other Taps products. I would love to try their Baltic Shipwreck Russian Imperial Stout some day. That sounds like it has real potential.

Okay, I'll be back soon (he threatened) with six big-ass IPAs that my high school sweetheart Christine brought up from California on a recent visit. Man, they make some great hop-juice in that state.

And after that, well, it's funny. Guys like me, Drunk Polkaroo, Beer Bro Glenn and Soldier Boy Hago used to drink nothing but lagers in our macro days. Now we barely touch them. I needed a craft lager to, as Motley Crue would say, kick-start my heart. One from Britain did so I sought out more. And found some other beauties, as well. But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...