Sunday, 28 January 2018

Leave It To Beaven

That's me in the corner. That's me in the spotlight. Losing my
religion. No, wait, that's me on the left while my Carpenter
Bro Josh is on the right and here we are, enjoying some tasty
product at Little Beasts Brewing in Whitby on December 9th.
This is a story about my young Oshawa friend, Josh Beaven (hence the punny and absolutely hilarious headline - I'll give you a second to catch your breath), the joys of Beer Mail and a most epic battle between myself and a Canada Post SuperBox.

Now, I've known Josh for quite a while now as we first met on... *checks notes*... December 9th, 2017. So virtually a lifetime ago, right?

We met during the epic (and I would hasten to add, arrest-free) Whitby Craft Brewery Invasion of 2017 whereby seven of us jammed ourselves into a big, white stretch limousine and descended on four hapless, helpless craft breweries scattered throughout Whitby. (Oddly, they embraced us, which may offer empirical proof that craft breweries very much enjoy testing their own products.)

Now the week leading up to the Brewery Invasion was a bit of a shit-show for Josh. His work-truck broke down and what was supposed to be an already-pricey $700 repair bill nearly doubled to $1,200-plus.
After building a hugely-popular Brock Street Brewing pop-up store at
the Oshawa Centre shopping mall for the Christmas crowds, Josh and
his squad dismantled it (which is a shame because I wanted to see it) and
then built this Brock Street stand at the Whitby Curling Club for the
2018 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts. He took over Sheet #1 at
the club and made it into a stand-alone bar for the participants. Nice!
And perhaps this is just a false rumour but I hear curlers like to drink.
While his business, Josh's Custom Carpentry, is just starting to take off in the Durham Region, it was a pre-Christmas financial kick in the nards that he (indeed, any of us) could have happily done without. I dare say no one was looking forward to our little excursion quite as much as Josh, who needed a stressfree, absolutely-brain-dead day of fun, great craft beer and debauchery. (This is where I shine, people. The afore-mentioned arrest-free part is just a happy coincidence. I can't guarantee that twice.)

So anyway, Josh has done considerable work for his and my favourite Whitby brewery, Brock Street Brewing, including a pop-up store at the Oshawa Centre shopping over Christmas (think of it as Day-Care for Husbands) and then another pop-up bar at the Whitby Curling Club this month for participants in the 2018 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts, one of the Province's best-known curling bonspiels.
As you can see, Josh had written instructions on my Beer
Mail not to let it drop below a certain temperature. The
one problem with that was pointed out to me by a dear
friend at Canada Post, Shona, who explained that due to
automation, hand-written instruments do not scan into
the system but a "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker would work.

But it was when I was in Las Vegas over New Years Eve that I got a message from Josh, asking for my mailing address because he wanted to send me some "Welcome Back to Canada" Beer Mail. He doesn't know I'm in the Witness Relocation Program so I was like hell yeah, here's my address and Godspeed. Just don't tell anyone.

So he sent his package off (I'll show you the swag below) and tracked it until it arrived in Oakville. Once here, he alerted me that The Eagle Had Landed. Sweet. However, it was at this point that a new fight was about to begin, featuring myself versus my Canada Post SuperBox. Since it was averaging minus-10C and even colder at the time, my key couldn't open the frozen lock on my box. That lead to an hour on the phone with Canada Post.
The two beers on the left survived the Winter elements, the two on the
right, not so much as they froze and popped the cans. However, it's the
centre-piece that's the jewel here as the Brock Street glass landed safely.

They gamely sent a guy out and de-iced my lock the following day. Once I got into my box, there was a separate key for the larger parcel box at the bottom. But it was... yes, frozen shut. At this point, I was referring very loudly to my SuperBox by another word that begins with "S". A very "shitty" word, so to speak. So I did what any rational, thinking Canadian would do. I went home, got vice-grips and rubber gloves. I decided if the key broke off in the parcel box, well, that's not mine to fix.
Despite promising myself that I would come home
from the Whitby Craft Brewery Invasion with a glass
from each brewery, I somehow forgot Brock Street,
our very first stop. I did make it home with eight of
their taster glasses, though. Clearly, the same thing
happened to Barrie Beer Bro Hago, who posted this
picture of a taster, joking about how huge the can was!

Canadians know all-too-well that feeling when you try to open your car door on a frigid Winter day and there's resistance. No joke - three weeks ago, a guy walked into my Beer Store, holding his door handle as it had snapped off in his hands. I used a wooden ruler to pry the door seal that night when I was opening mine. (Worked like a charm.)

But the rubber gloves and vice-grips did the trick as with some elbow grease, the parcel box eventually popped open with no damage to the key. Now I had a very frigid package that I left on a boot-tray as I was on my way to work. That turned out to be a good call as two of the four beers in the package had frozen and popped. When I got home, it was a bit of a soggy mess.

However, when I opened it that night, I found two Brock Street Brewing Amber Ales, two of their Porters and the shiny gem of the package, a proper Brock Street pint glass. One each of the two styles had frozen and popped while the other two, though very chilled, were fine.

But I wondered aloud on Facebook, why would Canada Post put a package clearly marked as "Do Not Freeze" into a SuperBox fully exposed to the Winter elements, rather than hold it for parcel pick-up. I got my answer very quickly and if you send friends "Beer Mail", you may wanna pay attention.
Here's a Canada Post SuperBox similar to mine. The big
boxes on the bottom are where parcels are now stored as
they leave a separate key in your smaller box to open it.

My friend, Shona, who I've known since high school, has worked for Canada Post for, well, decades now, including stints of running both the Consumer Relations and Business Technical Support departments... so she knows her workplace inside-out. And she told me, with automation, that things had changed over the years. Since packages are scanned through the automated system these days, the sender would have needed to have the post office put a "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker (with its specific coding) on the box as handwritten instructions don't scan into the individual carrier's Personal Data Terminal. "(Hand-written instructions) went out decades ago," she told me. "It's a different postal world than when we were kids!" 

So there you go, Beer Mailing People. If you are going to send Beer Mail and you have concerns that it may languish in a SuperBox or in someone's large-enough mailbox in the harsh Winter elements outdoors, get that specific "Hold For Pick-Up" sticker when you're posting it from your local Canada Post kiosk. Remember, the life you save could be a beer's. Does it get more important than that?
It was a Cream Ale Showdown at Donny's Bar and Grill on my day off as
I decided to pit three of the Province's best against each other. However,
the breweries involved all wanted to know who came out on top. What
was meant as a fun little day for me got competitive. The trouble I cause.
I think not. Well, maybe a heart being shipping to a hospital for an emergency transplant but they tend not to send those through the post office.

Well, once again, it seems I caused something of a Tempest In A Beer Mug. I had Monday off and perusing my beer fridge, I found I had three different Cream Ales in there - Muskoka Brewing's, Anderson Craft Ales and my hometown homeys Cameron's Brewing. So I posted a picture of the three and said words to the effect of "Who will win?" before concluding, "Hey, I will win!" But the three breweries all jumped onto the tweet and, in the spirit of Ontario craft beers with a dash of competitiveness, wanted to know who had actually won!!
While Anderson Craft Ales was quick to point out its
silver medal win for their Cream Ale at last year's
Canadian Brewing Awards, I told them the one they
HAD to enter this year was their Brown Ale. It is not
a style I enjoy often but this version was top-notch!!!

Anderson Craft Ales, out of London, fired the first shot across the bow, saying, "We eagerly await your decision! Although we know what the judges at last year's Canadian Brewing Awards thought." Last year at the awards, the relatively-new Anderson took the silver medal for their Cream Ale while the established 20-year-old Cameron's was right behind with their's for the bronze. However, in 2016, Muskoka Cream Ale (also 20-plus years old) took the silver at the World Beer Championships. So all three are recent award-winning brews. Once again, no matter which I picked, I still believe the real winner here was me. But they wanted something a little more substantive from me and the contest - an actual winner.

Cameron's played their cards close to their chest by adding, "Might be a tight race." But Muskoka, out of Bracebridge, true to form, was ready to throw down, declaring "Loser(s) have to buy a six-pack for the (winning) Brewery?" I was between a rock and a hard place now. I had to pick one of the three.
When the boys at Bell City Brewing
both heard I had just returned from
Anderson Craft Ales an hour prior,
they rhapsodized over the brewery's
IPA. Since I had plenty, I went out to the

car and grabbed them some on the spot.

So I tried all three in alphabetical order - Anderson, Cameron's and finally Muskoka. The 4.8% Anderson Cream Ale had some nice floral notes and a hint of apple on the nose and as the style does, went down very smoothly

The Cameron's Cosmic Cream Ale at 5% is very similar, a whiff of fruit and floral, again pouring down very smoothly.

But at the risk of alienating the first two (Honestly, I love you both - truly, purely, deeply, nobly), it was the 5% Muskoka Cream Ale that had a touch more punch to me. It had the same floral notes with some light caramel on the tongue but I think their light use of Summit, Cascade and Amarillo hops gave it the faintest bitterness and boldness on the back end.

Now, of course, I would never expect anyone to pay up on a bet that was adjudicated by someone as sketchy as me so how you three settle your score here is up to you. However, I do have consolation prizes for the first two brewers!!

Anderson Craft Ales, I had stopped in at your fine establishment last Summer and was happily told by your clerk, Kirk, to head upstairs and really check the place out. So I did and hey, what an awesome set-up! So, I had a great little visit. But I was on my way home to Burlington, first on Highway 401 and then the 403 when I decided to stop in at Bell City Brewing in Brantford. You have to cut off the 403 onto Wayne Gretzky Parkway to get to Bell City on Woodyatt Drive.
Head brewer Sebastian MacIntosh is still at Redline Brewhouse in
Barrie, just as he has been there with them from the beginning. But a
recent ad on Twitter indicated they were looking for a brand new head
brewer. A quick chat with Sebastian confirmed that he is not leaving
until the new brewer is all set up and ready to rock Redline's recipes.
What a lot of drivers don't realize is that the Ontario Highway Traffic Act clearly states that you have to put your right hand on your heart when pulling off at Wayne Gretzky Parkway in deference to The Great One. It's probably caused a few accidents.

So when I popped into Bell City and was making idle chit-chat with the two guys at the front, I mentioned I had just come from Anderson. Instantly, the Bell City boys got into how much they loved your Anderson IPA.

Hearing that, I went out to my car and returned with a couple for the guys because, well, sharing is caring... or some other hackneyed trite kumbaya clique. So I did my good deed for the day and Anderson Craft Ales, your role was obviously critical in that. So there's your consolation prize right there - you are adored and respected by breweries afar.

And Cameron's Brewing, your consolation prize is, well, me. Now I know that sounds like you got the totally sucky end of the stick but hear me out. I moved from Burlington to Oakville last Autumn, landing not two minutes from your fine establishment. Since I left, my favourite craft beer bar, Rib Eye Jack's Ale House, was shut down and my craft brewery Nickel Brook is moving to the Niagara area in the near future.
It wasn't until I recently visited to Las Vegas that I
discovered what a key role rice plays in the brewing
process. So much so that even yeast doesn't make the
cut anymore. That Bud Light... it's cutting edge stuff.
I'm not trying to draw a connection between my presence and the viability of local craft beer outlets but, you know, I'm tellin' ya what just happened in Burlington since my departure. As odd as it seems, it may be safer to have me nearby.

And on a final note, it was with some surprise I noticed on Twitter that Redline Brewhouse, one of my absolute favourite Barrie stop-overs, had posted a job opening. Okay, that's not unusual but when I clicked on the link, it was for a new Head Brewer. Wait... whuuuuuu? You see, since they opened a few years back, Sebastian MacIntosh, a Niagara Brewing College grad, has been their Head Brewer. He created my absolute favourite pale ale, Clutch, another winner with their Double Clutch Double IPA and top-notch collaborations such as the Going Going Back Back To Cali Cali IPA with Cameron's or the hilarious but actually tasty Lil Donkey Burrito Pale Ale with Rainhard Brewing. While Sebastian told me privately he's keeping the reasons for his departure to himself for now, he also assured me that he was not leaving until he helped Redline find a replacement and got him or her properly trained in all things Redline. I let him know I was bummed about it all and he duly thanked me for enjoying their beer so much and added that additional exposure to the ad could certainly be beneficial. So if you wanna become a Barrie Brewing God or Goddess, here's the link: Seeking Brewing God or Goddess And Seb, no matter where you land, you're my Notorious B.I.G, brother! But guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...