Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Patchy's prank... and east coast treats

Yeah sure, he looks innocent enough but this is the impish face
of a sick and demented mind! My coworker Patrick played a
prank on me recently and man, he Punkd me pretty damn good.
Here, he's holding up two of my favourite beers and that's where
he played me, exploiting my love for Nickel Brook for his joke.
At work, I think I've always been seen as the easy-going one. I'm not prone to getting flustered if things get hectic. I laugh a lot. I joke a lot. My thinking is simply, hey, if you're stuck in one place for eight straight hours, at least have fun with it.

So I guess that's my deal - I'm pretty much the friendly guy who likes everyone. Well, we do have one customer none of us like because he's a dick. But he's just one miserable old fart and we deal with hundreds of actually pleasant customers a day. Not so bad. So no one ever really sees me angry or frustrated much. Well, until one day earlier this Summer. That day, I came into work and noticed something taped to the cupboard. I asked the other full-timer Trey what it was and he just shrugged, "Oh, (our co-worker) Patrick found that in some Nickel Brook returns."

Now I'd tell you I call Patrick "Patchy" because his clothes are pretty shoddy and all of them need patches. But I'm not here to wardrobe-shame anyone. Also, that's not even remotely true. Next to me, everyone at the Beer Store is a damn sharp dresser. Granted, I am the guy who goes into Goodwill and buys all the old flannel shirts for $5 a pop. Fashion-wise, you'll always look like a sartorial guru standing next to me. The downside there, of course, is you're stuck standing next to me. But buying and wearing all those old, used flannel shirts like it's some sort of misguided tribute to Kurt Cobain, well, you get a lot of stares. I figure that just means I'm wearing someone's dead grandfather's ratty old shirt. Hey, I'm all about recycling. (My excuse... so shut the hell up!)
You wanna spit on me? You go ahead. You wanna insult
my family? Have at it. You wanna insult, degrade or
demean me? Go nuts. I seriously don't care. I can take
it. But you NEVER take a shot at my beloved Headstock!

But back to that piece of paper, taped to the cupboard. I took a closer look. It was a filled-out "Report Card" that Nickel Brook has included inside their Summer School Mix Pack, the four-pack that included their Ceres Gose, Duplicitous Dry-Hopped Gose, Raspberry Uber and Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale - four really great beers that come out of Nickel Brook's Funk Lab.

And I started to read it. For the Ceres, the buyer called its appearance "cloudy", its aroma "pungent", its flavour "terrible" and under comments, simply said, "Worse than Headstock." It was graded an F. For Duplicitous, it was an F-minus, calling the flavour "bad" with the comment, "Such an awful beer." For the Raspberry Uber, the aroma was "poor", the flavour "bland", another F with the comment, "Almost as bland as Headstock." And finally for the Uncommon Element, another F-minus with the comment, "Makes Headstock look like a great beer."

As I read it with Trey sitting right there, pretending not to notice, I got angrier and angrier.
Look at the East Coast beauties that Patchy's girlfriend, Ashlie, brought
me back when she went out there for a visit. Except for Garrison
Brewing (the Juicy Double IPA), all of these breweries were new to
me. There's nothing cooler than new discoveries in the craft beer world
and all seven beers were new and unheard of ones to me. Fargin' great.
I then dropped a few F's myself as my loyalty to Nickel Brook and love of Headstock is well-known.

Well, I threw out the actual F-bomb countless times in the next minute. But I will be using the fake swear words, made popular by the 1984 Micheal Keaton comedy gangster movie, "Johnny Dangerously." I suspect you'll be able to crack the code but please remember what I did here in the name of community decency.

"Why the fark would this fargin' icehole EVEN go to Nickel Brook???" I fumed. "This corksoaker doesn't know what the fark he's talking about!!! What bullstein! This fargin' bastage is the stupidest fargin' sonomabatch to walk the face of this fargin' planet!!!"
The Gahan House 1772 IPA was a great
blend of the west coast style with a wee
touch of British in the bottle. I call these
hybrid IPAs and it was a tasty bugger!

So I was slightly seriously pissed. I guess in scientific terms, we all now know The Boiling Point Of Donny is not measured in Celsius but rather, you just have to insult Nickel Brook and slander the holy name of Headstock IPA and watch me lose it. Suddenly, Trey started smiling and confessed that Patchy had filled it out and very purposely left it there for me to read. I can't believe the fargin' icehole did that to me. That's total bullstein, man. (Joking, of course - it was a beautifully-executed prank and frankly, I fell for it like a sucker!)

However, it would be tough to ever be angry with Patchy, regardless, as he did Trey and myself a huge solid earlier in the Summer. When his girlfriend Ashlie went travelling to the east coast, he asked her if she could bring some IPAs back for the pair of us. Now being as Patchy is our resident stout lover, I don't know how familiar she is with IPAs but whoa, did she come through or what? (That was rhetorical - she did. Bigly!)

Within the next week or two, Trey and I would compare notes at work over what we had sampled so far and an early favouite was The Gahan House (also known as Prince Edward Island Brewing in Charlottetown) 1772 IPA. On the nose, I would have guessed this was primarily a British-style IPA with its malty, caramel scent. But the use of Centennial and Cascade hops in the mix of this 6.5%, roughly 60 IBU (international bitterness units) brought some tangy citrus and pine to the back end. Both Trey and I dug this little number.
From the good folks at Upstreet Craft Brewing in, hey,
also Charlottetown, PEI, came the White Noize White
IPA and the Go Devil American IPA. Both were quite
good but the Devil is in the details so it gets the edge!!
Which is in the glass? Honestly, I no longer remember
but given the haze, let's assume there's Noize going on!

When Upstreet Craft Brewing hits the scene in Charlottetown, PEI, back in June 2015, they were welcomed with open arms by both existing craft breweries on the tiny island - The Gahan House and Barnone Brewing (Breadalbane, PEI), who both said they were happy to have some help shifting PEI tastes towards the craft market. The brainchild of Mitch Cobb and head brewer Mike "Hogie" Hogan (who had been home-brewing for nearly a decade at that point), the brewery gathered a loyal following quickly. With some seriously fun and kick-ass labels, created by Newfoundland artist Jud Haynes, I happily (and luckily) landed a pair of brews from these guys - the White Noize White IPA and the Go Devil American IPA. 

Let's start with the White Noize White IPA, which, of course, starts as a regular west coast style until great gobs of wheat malts get dumped in the vat. In fact, this 7%, roughly 50 IBU bad boy is profiled as having a "50% wheat bill" which, of course, does tone down the hops significantly. That said, it is still one of the better White IPAs I've had over the years as that heapin' helpin' of wheat doesn't halt a tangy citrus tone on the tongue. This was a tasty fargin' sonomabatch!
"Hey Don, would you like some rye malts in an IPA?"
Hmmmm, well, Maybee! Yeah, their Forage Rye IPA
was an excellent example of that Rye-PA style as it was
deep, rich, a little heavier and full of Canadian Rye fun!

While Upstreet's Island Hopsbitality IPA is their main west coast IPA, they released the Go Devil back in March and when the 6.66% (of course), 42 IBU (whaaaaa...?) IPA poured a copper colour, I figured, "Okay, cool, a British IPA. Pip pip cheerio!" Nosirree, Bob! They used just one malt in this, which allowed both mango on the nose and citrus on the tongue. As the IBU would indicate, this wasn't overly bitter but still, nice floral scent to balance the back-end grassiness from that wee malt. I quite liked it but the White Noize gets the edge here.

Okay, loved the island offerings but let's jump to the mainland - specifically, Fredericton, New Brunswick where our friends at Maybee Brew, ply their trade. Their Forage Rye IPA landed in my hands and man, this is a style that I would be happy to see more brewers jump on. Yes, it's quite a departure from the regular IPA style but when it's good... it's great! As a craft beer drinker, you'd have to hold a gun to my head to get me to sample even the best Canadian Rye Whiskey. But put those same rye malts in a beer? Yeah, man, I got time for that! I feel very much the same about bourbon-barrel aged beers.
Courtesy of foodbloggersofcanada.com comes this picture
of Garrison Brewing's Juicy Double IPA. The 20-year-old
Halifax brewery has tried their hand at a Vermont-style
IPA with great results here. The haziness, the juiciness
and all that tastiness in one glass. I really loved visiting
these guys when I was in Halifax about this time last year.
So was the Forage Rye IPA a good example of the style? No. Not at all. It was, instead, an excellent one. (Geezuz, Ashlie, you kicked fargin' grass with this assignment and I'm not even at the best one yet!) At 7% and 70 IBUs, it had the pre-requisite breadiness on the earthy back-end but with pine, citrus and some hefty spice on the nose, this was a meal of a beer. This is a tough style and I've had a few thin ones. Not this time. Beautifully done, gang! Now if I could just get my hands on their 6%, 70 IBU Roseway Red Ale, well, let me just say society itself would benefit as a result. Mostly me, yes, but society, too, in a microscopic but totally significant way. You kinda have to take my word on this. He said... hoping someone (anyone) would buy into that.

Okay, there's a potion of New Brunswick that is so close to Quebec that French becomes a little more prominent than English. So let's shift to 45 Rue de l'Eglise in Edmundston, New Brunswick and visit Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault ("Small Jump Brewery") and check out their Soeur Catherine (Lady Marmalade - I know, weird, right?) Because here in Canada, it's all about bilingual beer drinking! Give us enough beers and we're all speaking a foreign language...
Hey, I'm not Catholic but Soeur
Catherine looks like one bad-ass
nun. And that's kind of a good
thing because this offering from
Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault
was pretty bad-ass unto itself...

Aside from the cartoon Catholic imagery (I'm a heathen so there's no stopping me - nice try, though), this beer comes in an actual stubby bottle. Does Gryffindor House get 10 points for insane coolness there? Yes, Hermione, calm the fark down! (Married a Weasley - seriously, give your head a shake, kid.) But how was the Soeur Catherine IPA? But uttering words that have never before been spoken in the history of... well, all previously spoken words, that's one tasty nun. Perhaps nun imagery beer might make more sense. (Unless you're the vicar.) Deep orange in colour, this 7%, roughly 70 IBU hop-bitch is another British-west coast USA hybrid and again, one that shines. With orange and pine balanced off by caramel on the nose, this was both sweetness and resinous on the tongue. It sounds a little offside - like all other beers with angry nuns on the label - but it's extremely balanced between the two styles. To celebrate that, I shall give this beer the honour of the three French phrases I have memorized over the course of my life. "Es-tu celibataire?" (Are you single?), "Une autre biere s'il vous plait" (Another beer please) and most importantly, "Ou est la salle de bain?" (Where is the washroom?) What can I say? C'est bon.

This time last year, I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia for my niece's wedding and I did a four craft brewery tour the day before the big event. Before stops at Propeller Brewing, Good Robot Brewing and the fargin' hoppy deliciousness of Unfiltered Brewing, I started it all off at Garrison Brewing right down at the Seaport on the Atlantic Ocean. As you all well know, the list of the Best Oceans goes Atlantic, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and Billy Ocean (Hey, if that's not a body of water, why is it best known for Caribbean Queen )
Off their website, here's Trailway Brewing's Hu Jon Hops
American IPA. Okay, look at the thickness. Look at the
texture. THAT, my friends, is a true Vermont-style IPA.

So when a Garrison Juicy! Double IPA landed in my grubby ape hands, what was I to do? Again, rhetorical. I drank it. What else would I do? Seriously, have we met? Billed as a New England-style IPA, it was maybe not so much that in my mind. That style (to me) is muddy, cruddy and thick. That said, it was certainly hazy - a key component - meaning definitely unfiltered and I dig that. Using Citra, Mosaic, Comet, Ekuanot and one other unrevealed hop, this 8%, roughly 65 IBU Double IPA had tons of pineapple on the nose with orange, mango and resin on the tongue. Maybe not a Vermont-style to my thinking but certainly a super solid Imperial IPA. Well done, Garrisonian people! Garrisonites?

Okay, like I said at the beginning, Trey and I were swapping notes on these beers from the get-go and one morning, he came in and said enthusiastically, "One of those beers Pat gave us was SO delicious!" I wasn't certain which one until I came in the following day and asked, "That really great beer - did it look like orange juice?" When he said, "Yes!", I knew it had to be Trailway Brewing's Hu Jon Hops which I had enjoyed the prior night. (Go ahead - say the name three times fast.)
When Upstreet released the Go Devil American
IPA back in March, this was the photo they used
with flames surrounding the bottle. Darn creative

Heading back to Fredericton, New Brunswick for this one, Trailway has created the ultimate New England-style IPA. Never mind east coast, Ontario, west coast or even the USA, this is the single best New England-style IPA I have enjoyed this year. By far. And I have enjoyed a fair few. Juicy, fruity, juicy, fruity and hoppy. This 6.5%, probably 40 IBU or less sonomabatch beer was the fargin' bomb! As my Military Man Beer Brother Hago is prone to saying, "If it looks like orange juice, it's gonna be great!" 

Actually, when they first released it  back in December, Trailway was perhaps concerned that people wouldn't understand the concept of the unfiltered murky Vermont style and noted: "We feel it's worth reminding you all that inevitably with our hazy hoppy style, a layer of sediment may form on the bottom of the can. If you don't want this in your glass, pour gently! If you enjoy some cloudiness, disregard that last statement and drink up!" I'm gonna guess no true fan of the Vermont style IPA poured this bastage gently. I was practically licking the sediment off the inside of the glass. This was, hands down, the show-stopper from what was actually a pretty terrific collection of east coast beer. I have no idea how Ashlie pulled off this little East Coast beer coup but she can get me beer anytime. I'm thinking of flying her to BC to see what she brings me from there! And when you think about the way that alcohol affects your motor skills, well, it's staggering. (Give it a second... there you go!) But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...