Sunday, 11 June 2017

Sgt Pepper was a Canadian cop...

The actual Beatles, front and centre, with a bunch of old-timey celebrity
cardboard cut-outs surrounding them. At the time, I only recognized a
few of them - Marilyn Monroe, WC Fields, Tony Curtis, Marlon Brando
 and that was about it. Later, of course, they would all be identified in
 in great length but we also learned that just above the word Beatles in
flowers were marijuana sprouts. Those boys liked to get their buzz on!
It was fifty years ago today... Sgt Pepper taught the band to play... 

June 1st marked something of a big anniversary in the music industry as it was the 50th year to the day that The Beatles released their seminal, ground-breaking Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album on June 1, 1967.

I was just a little kid at the time and didn't realize the significant of the album. I probably wasn't all that into music just yet. I knew The Beatles were a pretty big deal but frankly, at that age, I was far more concerned about how Spider-Man was going to beat Doctor Octopus. I mean, with those killer metal arms and shit? How do you beat that? (For those keeping score, yeah, Spider-Man did beat him. He always beat him.) Hell, at that age, I probably still thought girls had "kooties." It would take decades for me to learn that kooties are actually called STD's.
On the inside sleeve of the album, that OPP badge on
Paul McCartney's shoulder, given to him by OPP
officer, Sgt Randall Pepper, couldn't be clearly made
out and many thought it said OPD. That all became
part of the whole "Paul is dead" conspiracy theory
because that could only mean "Officially pronounced
dead," right? Like I said, lots of drugs back there in
the 1960s. Fortunately, they stuck around for the 70s.

But despite being a big Beatles fan for decades now and knowing this album front to back, there was something I didn't know. Sgt Pepper was an actual guy. An OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) sergeant from Aurora named Randall Pepper who headed up the unit that was assigned to protect The Beatles for their 24 hours in Toronto during their 1966 tour.

Now as it turned out, this Sgt Pepper was a pretty straight-laced, no-nonsense kind of guy who, frankly, thought The Beatles looked like a bunch of girls with their long hair. However, noted Canadian rock historian Alan Cross told CTV News on June 1 that "for whatever reason, he was charmed by The Beatles and The Beatles were also charmed by him."

So that OPP patch on the shoulder of McCartney's jacket for the outfits they wore on the album cover? Well, he and the other three Beatles were given them by Pepper and his comrades. So there you go. A Canadian police officer played a pivotal role in what many historians considered to be one of, if not the greatest rock albums ever produced in the last century.

But it's interesting. While this all seems very dated, perhaps it's a little more timeless than we thought. At the Tim Horton's I go to, there is always this easel with a framed photo or painting on it. People bid on it, starting at $200, with the eventual winning bid going directly to the new Oakville Hospital.
As the sun sets at the cottage during Boys Weekend, I got
this shot of Redline Brewhouse's Aggressive Jazz Hands
in the Official Boys Weekend tribute glass from South
River's own, Highlander Brew Co. What a bomb-blast!
Those framed photos are almost always of big-name hockey players. But one time a few weeks back, it was a great picture of The Beatles performing live. A boy, around 10 or so, and his two younger siblings were examining the picture as their Mom lined up for treats. "Do you know who they are?" I asked him. "Yeah," he smiled, "they're called The Beatles." Good job, I told him but "can you name any of them?" He named all four - first names only, mind you but all four correctly. One smart kid.

Okay, this is a beer blog and thus, I should do that transition. But before I get to my first beer, Redline Brewhouse's blend of a Belgian strong ale and Imperial IPA called Aggressive Jazz Hands, a quick word about Buzzed-Out Gorilla Hands. You see, The Beatles called in an orchestra to create the final crescendo for a song called "A Day in the Life." But they really didn't know what they were looking for. So they asked all these respected orchestra members to wear gorilla hands or clown noses and other weird-ass stuff like that. Then the late John Lennon addressed his distinguished guests by saying, "What I'd like to hear is a tremendous build-up from nothing up to something absolutely like the end of the world."
"Hulk... Get Smashed!!" Once again, Stone
Brewing out of Escondido, California, proves
they can brew no wrong. Their Vertical Epic,
a Belgian-style Strong Ale and a yearly release
offers up a glass full of spicy, tangy goodness.
At that exact point, I have absolutely no doubt that the bassoonist leaned over to the cellist and whispered, "I don't know what drug this Liverpool scouser is on but I would like to try some..."

Okay, beer time and as mentioned, we're starting with another beauty out of Redline Brewhouse in Barrie. Their brewmaster, Sebastian MacIntosh, clearly loves to tinker, blended different styles in barrels, vats, the kitchen sink... just another Brewing Mad Scientist. So he created a house ale using a Belgian Abbey yeast strain before mixing it with a proper West Coast Imperial IPA. It could have been a train-wreck as styles don't always mesh... but it wasn't. Quite the opposite, in fact. At 8.3% but just 43 IBUs (international bitterness units), they has that huge whiff of spiciness coupled with pineapple but is all IPA on the citrus and pine finish. Of the three beers I gave former coworker and hop-lovin' Jay-Dawg in a Redline Mix-Six, this was his hands-down favourite over Air Ride IPA and Going Going Back Back to Cali Cali IPA. All three are excellent but he liked that this one just had that extra little bit of juicy creativity.

Okay, we were talking about a Belgian Strong Ales so let's continue to stomping down that familiar path... unless it involves hiking because screw that. Sounds like physical fitness which has nothing to do with me fittin' dis big-ass beer down my massive pie-hole.
The reflection of the sun on the top of this bottles of Sunlight
Park Grapefruit Saison from Left Field Brewery based in
Toronto makes a very powerful statement. And this Spring, that
statement would be, "Holy shit, the sun is out! No rain today?"
Well, what can I tell you about Stone Brewing that you don't already know? They're based in Escondido, California. They make craft beer. And those beers are always excellent. See? I told you I had nothing new.

Except maybe this. Way back on February 2nd, 2002 (hence the 02-02-02 on the label), they created this big boozy Belgian Strong Ale called Vertical Epic and it was such a hit with the craft-lovin' guzzlers that they keep going back to that vat every year. This one was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary late in 2016 and it was certainly cause for celebration. Meant to be an Imperial Belgian Wit of sorts, I'll confess I got no bubble-gum or banana (traditional wheat aromas) on the nose of this 7.5%, 40 IBU ale but man, there was some fresh-ground pepper in there, citrus and a flowery scent. On the tongue, the pepper disappeared but there was a complex mix of melon, orange, more citrus, a bit of wine and a very dry finish. It wasn't barrel-aged (to my knowledge) but had some of those elements to it. A big ol' beer from a long-trusted and respected source.
As my first ever offering from Hamilton's Clifford
Brewing, I made sure I put this Pinball Wizard into
the glass of their city-mates, Collective Arts Brewing.
The Pale Ale won a bronze at the 2014 Canadian
Brewing Awards and is a pretty solid little brew.

Well, here in Southern Ontario, it looks like we are finally turning the seasonal corner. This year, April Showers did not turn into May Flowers. Instead, it turned into Twice As Much Damn Rain As April followed by Flooding Everywhere. When hard-right politicians tell us climate change is a hoax and that God will protect the Earth, I think God's answer in May was, "Better build an ark then." And also, "Don't hang that climate change crap on Me! For the love of Me, I sent you scientists!"

But with the change in the season to Summer, that means it's time for a Saison, which is, of course, French for season. So let's go to our friends at the baseball-obsessed Left Field Brewing in Toronto and their Sunlight Park Grapefruit Saison. To quote Crocodile Dundee, "Noice!" Also to quote him further, "You call that a knife? This is a Saison!" (I may have that one wrong.) Turns out Sunlight Park was an actual baseball diamond built in Toronto way back in 1886. The stands, everything - all made of wood. The bats? Wood. The urinals? Wood. The Ark? Wood. It's not coincidence. But this was a beauty of a light Summer beer. I find saisons are just that much nicer with a fruit twist and, well, grapefruit, you can't go wrong there. At 5.3% and 22 IBUs, you smell both the wheat on the malt and the grapefruit zing on the tongue. A home run.
I have had exactly one blueberry ale in the past and it
pretty much put me off the fruit beer style for a long while.
But then along comes Ottawa's Broadhead Brewing with
their Bodacious Blueberry Blonde and I was back in there.

I finally had a beer out of Clifford Brewing in Hamilton and where better to start than their award-winning Pinball Wizard American Pale Ale? This was strong out of the gate, despite being a little on the high side for a pale ale at 5.7% and 55 IBUs. That said, you'll never hear me complain about big numbers. If I can count them on my hands and if necessary, my toes, you're well within reason as far as I'm concerned. Okay, my favourite pale ale of the year thus far is Redline's Clutch Pale Ale. Did this knock it off the throne? No, it did not. Did this throw up some stiff competition? Yes, I will say that. It's got citrus, pine and juicy fruits on the nose, a little heavy-handed on the back end's breadiness but all in all, a damn fine beer. My beer writing buddy, Drunk Polkaroo, swears by their porter so that's up next. But this was pretty solid. Nice job.
I posted this picture on Facebook with a one-word caption
that said simply: "BEERD". This brewer with Verboten
Brewing in Loveland, Colorado got pretty damn creative
with his beard, I thought. While most women chirped in
with "Ew!" my old high school buddy, Brian, who now
lives in that state, chipped in with "Verboten is just up
the road from me! Great beer! Gotta love the beerd!
Very Colorado beer!" Ladies, much better than "Ew!"

Okay, I don't write much about fruit beers and there's a reason. The style is usually gross and sickly sweet. Truth to tell, I avoid pumpkin beers altogether and I'm not even sure pumpkins are a fruit. They're just scary, hallowed-out conduits that channel the spirit of the anguished lost souls.... and frankly, I wish my grandfather had never told me that at the age of five. I think he was trying to see which of us would die of a heart attack first. I mean, he did but still... geez.

So let's turn to our Ottawa friends at Broadhead Brewing and their Bodacious Blueberry Blonde Ale. The only other time I had a blueberry ale (I think Waterloo made it), I poured that crap down the drain after two sips. The toilet might have been a more appropriate receptacle but I was hoping it would clean the pipes. So I was pretty damn impressed when this not only made the grade but set the bar for fruit beers. Yeah, the blueberry was strong enough on the nose that I was concerned but the second I cautiously sipped the 5%, 12 IBU ale, I felt vindicated. The blueberry was still there, backed up some nice carbonation, but not overpoweringly so. It was tart and tangy and damn tasty! Excellent work, Broadhead! And hey, a little bit of every style in this one.

Okay, if 2016 prepared us for anything, it was celebrity deaths. I'll be back in a couple of days to deal with the loss of TV's Batman Adam West. And talk about beer. But man, this one hurts. Bad! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...