Tuesday, 20 March 2018

When a picture's worth 1,000 words...

My son, David, has what I call the "Batman Angle" down in this pic
which he hoped would find its way into Daddy's Beer Blog. Well, call
me a sucker or a sentimental fool but of course, I'm gonna use this!!!
It's Daddy's proudest moment when his son takes his first beer pic.
The strangest thing happened a couple of weekends back. I had driven my son, David, to London, the city where his Mom and I traditionally do what I like to call the "prisoner exchange." She lives in Sarnia, I live in Oakville so we split the difference when shuttling my boy between his two distant homes.

Later that evening, after he went back to his Mom's, I got a text from her. This sometimes can be bad news, though usually of the "David ate a whole container of ice cream and is now puking" variety. Or perhaps "David has a weird rash on his ass. Any ideas?" And then there's my all-time favourite phone call from her when he was in Grade 4 - "Your son pulled the fire alarm at school!!!" When I couldn't stop laughing, she added to the gravity of the situation by explaining, "This is serious! The fire trucks showed up and everything!" This, of course, put me quite literally on the floor, howling with more laughter, almost unable to breathe.
While David has never taken a beer picture for this blog, he
has been in many pics as he often accompanies Dad to the
best craft breweries. Here he is at Barnstormer Brewing in
Barrie with our favourite dude and soldier Brother Hago!!
Once you become parent, you get a keen awareness that Mommies and Daddies don't always have the same senses of humour when it comes to a child's shenanigans. But these are things parents deal with all the time. You simply adjust accordingly. Turns out it's not funny when your child pees on Mommy's shoes, even if they're those butt-ugly purple and black pumps. Just as Moms learn it's also not funny when he takes the scissors to your old high school football jersey (no matter how many times Mom has tried to throw it away.) And if you do find it funny, well, take your laughter elsewhere.

Anyway, back to the text from his Mom. It was two beer pictures of a Belgian Moon wheat in a Guinness glass as you see above. One was kind of from a distance and not as sharp but the other? There it is right up top there. A really great beer picture! It has the tilted Batman angle, favoured by two of the best craft beer photographers around, Drunk Polkaroo and Beer Brother Hago. It came with the message, "Don, David got you two pics for the beer blog."
Last Father's Day, David presented me
with this Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.
Upon learning I would be in Las Vegas,
watching our Leafs on New Years Eve,
he asked if I was wearing his gift to the
game. Well, of course I would, I told him.
It was a great gift so I was thrilled to put
that wool sweater on come game time!
I instantly texted back, "Did David really take these?" Well, she replied, not only did he take them, he also wrote the attached text, pretending to be her.

I know how my boy's mind works. He didn't want to say, "Here, Daddy, please put this in your beer blog" so he pretended it was Mom doing the asking. He thinks it makes a better and stronger case for blog inclusion if it's coming from Mom. That said, he's taken dozens of photos that have appeared here. He's very handy with my digital camera but as my iced-tea drinking boy, he's never taken an actual beer photo on a cell phone because he's never actually had a beer. In fact, the Belgian Moon was being drunk by Mom's boyfriend and David just decided to go into Beer Picture Taking Mode on the spur of the moment.

So I threw the photo up on Facebook, explained it was David's first-ever beer photo and basically said: What do you guys think? Because it's Facebook and David is very much loved by my friends on there, the response was, as expected, overwhelmingly positive. Hago was first on deck, suggesting the picture was worthy of a blog of its own. After that, dozens more weighed in, praising it through the roof. But when Yellowbelly Brewing's (St. John's, Newfoundland) very own Brewmaster Liam Mckenna simply replied, "Brilliant," I knew, well, this was a certified award-winner.

I also put it on Twitter reluctantly because, well, it can be way crankier than Facebook so I prefaced it with "Please no nasty comments about the beer or the glass" and went on to explain it was my son's first beer photo.
This is Shehan De Silva, founder of Lost Craft Beer, in a picture used by
Bay Street Bull for an online story. You see, the financial website follows
"money people" such as Shehan, who worked for a handful of years with
the Royal Bank of Scotland before ditching it all to start a brewery. Now
I personally think that's pretty noble but hang on as we are about to tell
the story of how his gin-joint, Lost Craft Beers, got started back in 2016.
Because Belgian Moon is brewed by a Canadian macro, Molson's and Guinness is far too large to be a craft brewery, I was nervous there might be a few nasty shots across the bow from the many craft beer drinkers on my followers' list. David's not on Twitter but I wasn't prepared to read negative stuff about this photo. But knowing it was my kid, everyone was both cool and awesome. In fact, I ran a poll with very pointed answers, asking should I run this picture in my blog? So 15% answered "Use it in your beer blog." Then 20% clicked on "Why are you even asking?" A solid 25% hit the "Seriously good pic! Use it!" option while an overwhelming 40% opted for "Don't be a dick! Use it!" 

I knew putting the word "dick" in an answer would make it, by far, the favourite. But that's the story of how David got a beer picture in here.
I got my high school friend, Sandy, to hold up my Lost
Craft Revivale Lagered Ale at St Louis Wings here in
Oakville and suggested she was stealing it. The joke
here is that even in high school, Sandy despised beer.
And unlike many of my long-winded openings, at least this one has something to do with beer.

Which brings us to the beer portion of this little horse-and-pony show. It seems I've been drinking an inordinately high amount of Kolsch (lagered ales) lately. Not my first style choice when I'm purchasing but it seems to be one favoured by local restaurants. I'm not at all surprised as the style is long considered to be a strong crossover between macro and micro.

First, it was at The Keg, which has always served up a big-time favourite of mine, Collective Arts Brewing's (Hamilton) Ransack The Universe IPA. But my beloved Ransack is no longer there. Fearing the worst when I scanned their beer menu, I was happy to see that Beau's All Natural Brewing's (Vankleek Hills, Ontario) Lug Tread Lagered Ale was added. So when long-time best bud, Dave and I went to The Keg for my belated birthday dinner, I was happily piling back the Province's premier Kolsch with my prime rib dinner. You know what beer goes well with medium-rare prime rib? Any damn craft beer they have! At that point, it's "mainly because of the meat." Dave, who's old like me, will get that reference.
Here's a marketing fact for us.  Shehan De Silva believes their products'
minimalist design makes his three beers stand out more prominently at
the LCBO. He may be onto something. Sometimes less is, indeed, more.
Quick question: Do vegans even know about prime rib because, frankly, I think that might be a deal-breaker!

But there's been another Kolsch in my life lately. You see, my high school buddy, Danny, has played two recent music gigs at St Louis Wings in Oakville and the only craft beer they have in stock is Lost Craft Beer's Revivale Lagered Ale. 

Now, after extensive trips to Europe, notably Germany, Lost Craft founder Shehan De Silva decided their flagship beer when he was kicking things off a few years back should probably be a Kolsch.
In what is now a time-honoured tradition (so it's happened twice), Sandi,
right, the organizer of so many White Oaks reunions, pours a beer for
our musician Danny, left, while Dave the photographer snaps a pic. But
Sandi was pouring Danny a craft beer - the Lost Craft Revivale Lagered
Ale at my suggestion. Danny drinks any beer but he really loved this one.
In my mind, that's a smart choice. You want your first beer to be accessible to beer drinkers at large.

Initially contract-brewed out of Etobicoke's Cool Brewing, De Silva later shifted in 2016 to Common Good Beer Company in Scarborough, which, under the watchful eye of Brewmaster Jamie Mistry, contract brews a large number of small Ontario craft breweries' fare. Don't get me wrong - I like to see craft breweries as bricks-and-mortar facilities unto themselves but even breweries as big as Collective Arts began as contract brewers in Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington. You gotta start somewhere. And if the beer is really good, well, we're less concerned about an actual structure.

So is the Revivale Lagered Ale any good? Oh hell to the yeah, for its style, it's top notch.
During its brief beer existence, Sextant Craft
Brewery put out the Why So Sirius? Pale Ale,
a beer later purchased by Lost Craft Beer and
remarketed as Sirius Premium Pale Ale. Brand
new can but the same great taste and still made
at Common Good Brewing out in Scarborough.
After all, at the 2017 Ontario Brewing Awards, it took gold for the Best Lagered Ale.

As with most lagered ales, it's got a somewhat grassy, grainy nose but there's a light fruit that comes through on the tongue as you're drinking this 4.8%, 19 IBU (international bitterness units) beer that makes it, well, a dandy, little bar beer that's a solid step-and-a-half above the macros on tap.

But you know, it's not always my beer opinion that counts. So when my man, Danny, pulled the plumb St Paddy's Day gig at St Louis Wings, there was a bunch of us there. And one was Sandi, the lovely lady who organizes our White Oaks Secondary School reunions every Summer. She had made the trek in from Woodstock for the gig. But while Danny was playing, she said, "I have to buy him a beer. What do you suggest?" So I handed her my empty can of Revivale and said to get one of those. So she did. When Danny was finished his set, I asked him what he thought of it. "That's a really good beer!" he responded. So there we go. Another man on the path to good craft beer. I'm bringing them over, one musician at a time.

But Lost Craft has two more beers (one with an odd but interesting twist) to look at here so let's start with their Crimzen Premium Red Ale because any time I get a good red ale in my hands, I am the happiest of campers (despite the fact I only camp in comfy hotels because... indoor toilets, bears and stuff.) Whenever I see Crimzen at the LCBO, I always grab a couple of cans because I like having a nice British-style red in my fridge and frankly, a smooth red ale is a great starter beer. This is exactly that. Pouring a nice amber-red (that's a glass of Crimzen in the above picture), this 4.7% charmer is all apple on the nose with some light caramel and spice on the tongue. As a good red should be, it's quite refreshing. Call me a fan.

The third and last beer in the Lost Craft stable is an interesting story in itself.
You may wonder why my buddy, Danny, as well as the
Leafs-Habs game behind him is in perfect focus while I
am but a blur on cowbell. That's just how speedy I am.
Like The Flash, it's hard to get a focused picture of me.
I'm just that fast. And oh yes, the Leafs blanked the
Habs that night 4-0 so it sucks to be a Habs fan now!
In the shared Common Good brewing facility was another small contract brewery called Sextent Craft Brewery which made one beer - the Why So Sirius? American Style Pale Ale. So in February 2017, Lost Craft ended up purchasing Sextent for an undisclosed amount and added a third beer to their ranks - the now renamed Sirius Premium Pale Ale. I find that all very interesting because I have never heard of a contract brewery buying out another contract brewery. As far as I can tell, the beer did not change one lick during the transition - it's still an evenly-balanced mix of malts and hops with no emphasis of one over the other.

Which is precisely what De Silva wanted when he made the purchase. In a release at that time, he noted, "The transaction adds a refreshing American-style Pale Ale that is complimentary to Lost Craft's core year-round product portfolio. Sextant's flagship beer, Why So Sirius? is well-balanced and sessionable, consistent with Lost Craft's brewing philosophy." And, indeed, that is precisely what you get with Sirius. It's a reasonable 4.9%, roughly 35 IBU ale that pours golden with some nice citrus on the nose and light pine on the tongue. So exactly as it was under Sextant. A solid west coast pale ale.
A huge shout-out to this lady, Megan, the manager of the St Louis
Wings outlet in Oakville. She invited Danny to be the entertainment
on St Paddy's Day and man, did we have some good old Irish fun on
that, the most sacred of all Irish traditions. Plus she keeps that tasty
Lost Craft Revivale Lagered Ale icy cold for me when I get there..

So there you have it. A column that started with a boy Finding Craft in his photos and a brewery called Lost Craft to finish this up. That's what I call full circle.

Okay, coming up are a few big reads. A lot of us who used to drink macros lagers, such as myself, Beer Bro Glenn and Drunk Polkaroo don't pay too much attention to the style anymore. Is that because there is no solid craft lagers out there, my friends? Oh no no no. I went on a very deliberate hunt and found a few beauties for us to enjoy.

My pal, Tony Cox, recently made the shift from Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington to Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, a mere 10-minute drive from his Hammer home. So he invited me over to his new digs and gave me the, ahem, "nickel tour." Some big stuff coming out of his new turf.

And while I am returning to Las Vegas on April 9th because I am so goddamn sick of this Winter That Will Not Leave, there's still the matter of the many tasty beverages I had while I was down there for my birthday week in February. So we'll have to investigate what really stood out and how Nevada stacks up in the craft beer sweepstakes! And, of course, where you find the best craft brewski's in Sin City. But Scooby Doo gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here for today. Until next time, I remain as always...