Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Nickel Brook's Oktoberfest and Summer of Sours

Hey, I know this dude! That's Rob, the very man who
delivers Headstock IPA, Naughty Neighbour American
Pale Ale and Cause & Effect Blonde Ale to my Beer
Store. I have no doubt the bean-counters at the place
have seen an alarming spike in Headstock sales since
its appearance at my store. But at Oktoberfest, Rob
was happy to serve me - hey now - Headstock IPA!!!
It's been one helluva busy Summer for Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington and if I know these guys (and I do - very well in a few cases), there will be no slowing down.

Yeah, I've moved 20 minutes down the highway from them but they're never far away from me as Headstock IPA, Naughty Neighbour American Pale Ale and Cause & Effect Blonde Ale all landed on my Beer Store's shelves a few months back. Truth to tell, so did their outstanding 9.5% Immodest Imperial IPA, much to our surprise. That actually ended up being a clerical error on somebody's end - a whole bunch of Beer Stores that weren't supposed to have it did. But hey, I walked out with a fair few before they were recalled by the brewery. I happily drink to anyone's mistakes, even my own. (So, frequently for the latter.) For a brief while, it was one of the strongest ABV beers at my store. I took great pride in that because, y'know, they're my guys!

But a couple of weeks back, Ben Saucier, a buddy who works at an Ottawa Beer Store alerted me that Nickel Book beers were going on sale and man, he wasn't kidding. My beloved Headstock IPA dropped from $66 to $54.95 a case. Naughty Neighbour dropped from $62 to $48.95/case while Cause & Effect went from $58 to $44.95. I'll save you doing the Math. In essence, buying it by the case, Headstock dropped from $3.25 a can to $2.28 - a buck less per can!
Yeah, I love the wall of Headstock in the background
but this Summer has been all about the Cause &
Effect Blonde Ale in the foreground as it has been
the focus for a couple of fundraisers by the brewery.
Ben recently spoke to the brewery and happily passed me the news that those prices were permanent! Holy crap on a cross, Margaret! (I have no idea what that means. Sometimes, I just say weird shit.) I couldn't walk out with a case fast enough. Hey, man, a case of Naughty Neighbour is next! Finally, a real reason for craft beer lovers to wander into a Beer Store. The two-four price break!

But of those three beers, the Spring and Summer has been busy sales periods for Cause & Effect as it's been the focal point of a few fundraising events. In June, the brewery started their Cause For A Cause campaign where 10-cents from every can sold across the Province went directly to Ronald McDonald House Canada, a hospice for people to stay while a family member battles cancer at a nearby hospital. It is a cause near and dear to brewery owners John and Peter Romano who, in their youth, lost a sister to leukemia. Their family spent a lot of hours at a Ronald McDonald House during those trying times.

Coupled with a Charity BBQ at the brewery, the Nickel Brook gang handed Ronald McDonald House a cheque for $6.108.50 in July. But Cause & Effect wasn't done its charity work just yet.
With singers Lee Bailie and Kristen Lasonta beside him, Nickel Brook's
Matt Gibson, the Manager of Corporate Sales and Marketing, takes to
the mic as their band, Mutual Release, hit the stage (okay, parking lot)
at the brewery's Oktoberfest. The group's smooth R&B covers for a
number of 1960s-70s funk-soul classics was a big hit for the party-goers!
In August, a dime from every can went to the Juravinski Cancer Treatment and Research Centre in Hamilton. And finally, they threw a kick-ass Oktoberfest bash at the brewery on September 30 with all funds going to the Carpenter Hospice in Burlington, a home where families can spend time with their loved ones as their time fades, much like the Ronald McDonald House.

But while this brewery seems to specialize in fund-raising, let's not forget they also brew really great beer because, apparently, that's what craft breweries do. (Who knew, eh?) Before the Summer even started, Head Brewer Patrick Howell told me that out of their Funk Lab, this was gonna be a Summer of Sour Releases and man, he wasn't kidding. It seems like new ones were popping up in their retail every week. But that's only because they pretty much were. It was unbelievable.
All released separately or together in the last month was four brand new
Berliner Weisse sours. From left, it the Yellow Plum, the Apricot, the
Nectarine and the Blue Plum, shown in the glass. All were very solid
and everyone had their favourite. For me,  it was Apricot hands down!

Wave after wave of new Berliner Weisses pour out of their vats, not to mention, a solid selection of other sour styles. It's a style that took me a while to warm up to but eventually I succumbed to its charms as brewers these days seem to be pouring a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. (The tears likely account for the bitterness.) Beer Bro Glenn, like me, was a slow starter on the sours but Drunk Polkaroo and Brother Hago? They were both onboard with sours, like, instantly! I dare say Hago now prefers them to IPAs, which is, of course, a shooting offence. But because he's a military man, he has all the guns and ammo so he's pretty safe.
Is that my Retail Shop buddy, Rob Nagy, on drums for the
opening band, Saturnines? Why, yes, it is! Rob told me after
their set that they had just got a new singer for the band that
specializes in 1980-90s rock classics. He was a little nervous
about that but they kicked off the Oktoberfest really well!!

So Funkmaster Patrick and his Funky Funk Lab Brew Crew (finally, a boy band doing something I actually give a shit about - I've been waiting patiently for decades) have been cranking out new beer after new beer all Summer long, which is exactly what he assured me back in April or May. Funkmaster Patrick is a man of his word. He's also a bit of a Crazy Scientist, if you ask me, but then craft brewers are a different breed than us mere mortals. For starters, they're all quite insane and seem to be fine with that. Also the beard thing - they all look like a ZZ Top cover band. Are they storing ingredients in those things? Specialty hops, maybe?

So now that Summer is over and people have woken up Green Day because September ended, what were the top dogs in Nickel Brook's Summer of Sour Releases?

Well, of the recent releases, I was all over that Apricot Uber - just the right mix of tartiness to fruit - but this Summer, Nickel Brook was all about the cherries.
After Matt Gibson, background, lead the crowd in a rousing rendition of
Happy Birthday, John Romano, right, presented his brother, Peter, with
a birthday cake. Here, Peter, the inspiration behind Pissed Off Pete's
Pumpkin Porter, pretends to blow out the candles. The wind already had.
When they released the Cherry Uber in mid-August, its shelf-life could be measured in days. Not because it turns quickly but rather, they were barely in the retail shop before they all got snapped up. I grabbed a pair while I was in there for some Headstock and when I went back the next day for more, they were gone. Suffice it to say, they gathered no dust.

But the big cherry-based hits of the Summer have to be With Glowing Hearts Sour released for Canada Day and the Proud As Funk!, a Flanders Red-Brown blend released to celebrate Pride Week in Toronto. The first clocked in at 8.3% while the second was a 7.1% killer - both on the high ABV side for sours.
John Romano has an animated conversation with "Downtown"
Wayne Brown, organizer of past Summer Burlington Beer Festivals
and more recently, the BurlOnTap Beer Festival. Are there more
local beer festivals up Wayne's sleeve? Hey, only time will tell...

With Glowing Hearts, created as a golden ale, jacked with Brett yeast and lactobacillus (a lactic acid) in a barrel for two years, it eventually took on a light red hue as it was aged for an additional three months in a barrel full of Montmorency cherries. The Proud As Funk!, on the other hand, was two separate beers - a Brown and Red Flanders, the most mouth-puckering of all sour styles - that came together. While cherries were prominent on the nose, there was a purple grape, plum and red wine feel to this bad boy. For my money, these two were the highlights of Nickel Brook's Summer of Sour.

However, a couple of other July releases (See what I mean? They just kept coming!) also caught my eye and ultimately found their way "into mah belly!!!" First on deck was their Bastardized: Apricot Stout, a 6.2%, 24 IBU (international bitterness units) that the brewery tagged as a "Summer Stout" because the fruitiness makes it lighter and a little more refreshing as Summer fare than stouts tend to be. Made with apricot puree from Oregon, the fruit added a lot of flavour to the traditional chocolate-coffee tones of a stout and made it really pop. It's almost odd having a stout with that much fruit flavour but please note I said "almost." The fact is this may be one of the most enjoyable stouts I've had all year. This is a stout you can drink, regardless of season and should be made available year-round. He said. Hinting.
As the label of Redshift Cherry Dark Sour explains a redshift is
when light on an object increases in wavelength and then shifts to
the red end of the colour spectrum. To a colourblind man, such as
myself, this means... nothing. But hey, this was a damn tasty beer!

Finally, I wanted to look at their Redshift Cherry Dark Sour, a 7%, 24 IBU, which mixed dark fruits, primarily cherries with some chocolate overtones in a nicely sour blend. Let's give this one a half mouth-pucker - it's nicely tart. Starting as a dark sour, you can see the colour lightened to a deep burgundy (which I could see through) after the addition of cherries late in the process. Just another great release in the Summer of Sours by the thugs in the Funk Lab!

As for the Oktoberfest itself? Well, the three bands - Saturnines, Mutual Release and the closing act Big Lonely Band (who brought a number of their Hamilton fans out to the festivities) - closed out the month of September on a musical high. The BBQ had big-ass sausages with sauerkraut on the side as a garnish. And the beer? Well, it was an Oktoberfest so yeah, it flowed freely. It had, as Nickel Brook events always do, a real family feel to it. It was for a great cause. And it was one helluva great way to say "Auf Wiedersehen" to Summer. That leaves just one question. Funkmaster Patrick, how the hell are you gonna top the Funk Lab 2017 Summer of Sours?? I guess we'll just have to see what shakes out of that beard to find out, eh? But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...