Monday, December 17, 2012

The blue god lives

A wise man once said, "Let's get right to the heart of this thing." The only clear mission in an excursion such as this, is to blast through as much pavement, brick and keg line as you can endure!  To the stout of heart go the spoils of brewery tourism. 

We took the high road one afternoon by going the out of town way...A sudden Dachau on the prairie's edge.  But little did they know, we had Barret's own privateers in the wagon and a crossbar Marx to guide us.  The quest took its first coffin nail at the crowbar, allowing for inscriptions on our black tomes with dark speech.

Our intent was clear from the get-go, lay the hogs on the blacktop and spin toward pandemonium.  It took a day atleast to get out of the wagon and onto the saddle before our designated nighttime sendoff station became second nature.        

The only secured contacts we'd established before takeoff took some greasing before we could speak a shared tongue. Rapping specs and quaffing thimblefuls. We found the old boys in town to be the fathers of a better time and a better ceremony.  Stinking of citrus and grass and brimming with futures bigger than our prestige, we decided to ride the wet whistle express down the drag until faces and spaces and solar places played games on the backdrop till curtain call. 

Taking in what we could gather each daybreak, we lived nomadic on a trail of snakes, hot jazz and black curbside peril.  The blue god had beckoned us since first we angled downhill from the muddy waters of the Assiniboine.  Winding and winding, frenzied by the possibility of beginning anew, we posted all points north and sailed the yellow-blazed byway.  Lucid stories of night terror and bookshelf gargoyles came second nature or the nature of our existence, decidedly we promised to smother the other if expressions became a science.  Reaching the blue god meant feeling it, weighing how our bodies would contort on its tiled face.                

The blue god had seen itself through crevices and craters uninhabited for an epoch.  What the flying dragons couldn't teach, we learned in the rocks which jutted under hand and secured to foot.  Our boats still made sail, the crew still jilted astern, the sails still flapped in the angry screeches of emergency to take hold of a voyage all its own.   

Making landfall on the back of a leviathan is like describing an oasis, its beauty is as palpable as imagination.  We took refuge in one, two, three galleys of measurable difference only to post up at the last show in ghost harbor.  After wearing the day thin with sand, settlement, and circulation we answered with certainty to the beckoning of something more momentary than home.
Before the quest would end, we knew the bruise would burst.  Spilling into the night, the hopes and the dreams of lesser men made paving stones for our banner charge.  Joints and gears, sinew and rubber, tendons and cable, what came undone would fall into rank and forge anew.  With this and that we left the east and began the rest.  Never has the morning smelled so sweet, nigh has the sun blazed so proud, long has the promise of perfect provisions lay just on the horizon.  Goodbye my home, goodbye my land, hello to lady luck with whom we now stand.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sleeping Giant Brewing Co.

The good people at Sleeping Giant Brewing Co. in Thunderbay, Ontario were awesomely kind enough to let me get a behind the scenes look at what they had cookin only a week after a grand opening this past summer.  Becoming Thunderbay's first micro-brewery, they have lots of hoops to jump through with provincial regulation and general market adaptation in a place that sells case upon case upon case of something called Laker Lager (of "Mak'er a laker, eh!" fame).

 Their setup so far includes all the necessaries to produce three different brews, and what I'm seeing now on their website is a new Skullrock Stout which sounds pretty fantastic.  I sampled all three of their offerings and was pleased with each one.  They have a standard setup in a factory style building with the taproom in the front and the shop in the back.  Output so far is only in growler and keg sales.  As far as the cost for bottling and restrictions on sale in LCBO's, it sounds like the trend for alot of upstart breweries.   

Brewmaster Kyle showed me around the place and talked about all the potential for expansion they have in the building.  All depends on what the response is.  It's those frantic times and thoughts that give me nightmares when it comes to making the transition from wizened peon to full brew master. Getting to see him do some of the sugar refraction and talking about yeast made it all seem so feasible, but this is the dream after all.  I walked out with a growler of the Belgian style ale which was their rotating seasonal.
Here's to hoping they succeed in finding that demographic of beer drinkers who want something different.  I think the proximity to Duluth, which has an ungodly proportion of fantastic beer per capita should make this transition a bit easier than expected.
Thanks SGBC!

East Coast Exploits

Navigating the Colonial

On a trip to the Eastern states of Connecticut and Massachusetts, I got to sample some of the tricorne hat flavor and the atmosphere of cobbled stone and colonial foot paths.  Thankfully all of these things led towards breweries, or were somehow steeped in a tradition relating to the mercantile congregation of beer exchange.

The history of American colonialism is also a history of beer.  As originating in England, the colonial brewing tradition which began in the home and eventually formed into the manufactory remained a mainstay of beer production throughout the 17th 18th and 19th centuries in this part of the continent.

As the Boston Beer Company demonstrates through its Samuel Adams flagship, "patriots" as mythologized men brand the landscape.  Granted, historicizing anything is a far more important endeavor than marketing bad beer, but I wont go so far as to say that these hero drapped beers are far off from the stars and stripes budweiser cans.  Out there, history means something, but that history has more of a locale than anything else: "Here is where Paul Revere lived, and thats why america."  My brief foray unfortunately hadn't brought me to the true radical brew that represented the truly radical characters they were purported to be.

Nathan Hale breweriana
The tavern known as the Green Dragon is one of these purported historical places where the revolutionaries would meet and drink and plot.  It had a colonial atmosphere and an ok tap selection.  If that city didn't have Harpoon brewery though, Sam Adams would engulf it.

 As for the mainstay drinking culture, such as this historic ball park, they served the standard fare of budmillcoors and boston lager.  The only thing that caught my eye was Narragansett, which is still fizzy yellow liquid but I hadn't had it before.  Plus, at 6 bucks a pop, that's not gonna play.  Luckily there is a massive brew pub across the street from Fenway called Beerworks, which was pretty good.  Not to mention the inherently abundant access to beer surrounding the park at all points.  

This is what happens when the only liquor store that is supposed to carry the legendary Saison du Buff is closed and I can see it through the window.  Pretty pouty, but I really dont think I could have added a 9th cork and cage Saison to my pack for the flight home.

By far the best beer coming out of Boston is the Harpoon Brewery.  Deadly deadly awesome beers.  A pal and I wiggled our way into a tasting on a Sunday afternoon, which is free and you get about an hour to put back what you can.  The Red Square was the best red bitter I have ever had, packing somewhere at the 8% volume range.   Super friendly and knowledgeable staff.  We also met one of the cool guys at the tasting who wasn't pure chach, who just so happened to have done a chemistry internship at Victory Brewing out of PA.  What a gig! So we talked about gravities and flocculation for much longer than most would care to witness.

In the end, there is much more to explore and Boston being in the middle of a lot of interstate traffic, I expect great things to come down that storied Mass Turnpike.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

IPA DAY & The LC goes kinda awesome

To begin, Happy IPA Day!
Internationally recognized, this day is designated as the occassion to tip back orange elixir with the oils of those resinous earth cones we love so dear.  Thanks to the mass proliferation of the style which the British made famous (for worse, I assure you - heres to trading all the beer in the world for an end to imperialism), you can enjoy an IPA from just about any brewery on the planet.
If you get a chance to share an IPA today, lets have a toast to end occupation.  Lets have a bottom's up to reclamation and cheers to better times for all.
Yeasty Boys (New Zealand): Digital IPA

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission
Manitoban's are regulated in their beer consumption.  If you like beer, the MLCC is the mandated arm of the government which enforces what beer supply hits the shelves.  For this reason, it uses its power to disseminate particular influences over the market.  Without knowing the amount required to be sold by headquarters, I would estimate that 90% of the beer sold by the LC is produced by BudMillCoors.  The MLCC therefore can be accused of promoting brands which don't necessarily reflect the demand of beer drinkers.
Here's the tricky part.
Upon entering the LC on Ellice ave. this afternoon hoping to get my IPA on, I stumbled across 5, count em, 5 fantastically new brews that were too good to hesitate over.  If you live in the states and you read 5 as rather pathetic, this demonstrates my point above.  However, for the MLCC, 5 new beers from several different countries, and also some of the best in the world of their style, is no small feat for this regulatory arm of the steady-goes-the-course Canadian government (albeit an outdated perspective of today's conservative Canada).  In my mind, someone is doing a service to beer drinkers by allowing us to have these brand spankin new brews.  Yet, the position goes two ways, I have seen great beers come and go to never return.  With this introduction, and in keeping with the mentality that even if no-one walks out with 50 cases of Bud Light (which I have never seen leave any LC to date) or the frickin fantastic Duchesse De Bourgogne, these beers will still be provided. Who are they serving by introducing good beer? Are they trying to promote buying from them versus driving to the states for better?  Are they benevolent and hoping to gain the support of those who have ragged on them since legal drinking age?  Are they trying to promote an aficionado class of consumers?  Despite these questions, in the here and now, I have beer that I would only get abroad, and for that I am thankful.  Now, go buy some Duchesse!

Lost Coast (Eureka, CA): Indica IPA, Cervesas La Gardenia (Alcover, Espana): Blonde Ale, Brasserie de Rochefort (Rochefort, Belgium): Quadruple, Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck (Ingelmunster, Belgium): Quadruple.

Closing notes, on further inspection Rosita of Spain is an export bottle with an importers name and Shaw email address on the back! Premier Consulting...sounds nefarious.   


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bengal Spice and the BIY

For the 7th annual Do-It-Yourself Brew-It-Yourself competition, I cooked up something unique but also very fast and easy.  I got the recipe from Homebrew Favorites and took a risk on something that was very straight  forward but unique. 10 bags of Bengal Spice tea, produced by Celestial Seasonings, was added at the cutoff boil to basically give all the character it could to an all-grain palest of ales and a single hop addition.  The aroma was dynamic and the body was flat.   It was served out of my kegerator at the event for a start out table beer.  It unofficially took 5th place in the competition, but due to having won a place already with my Dark Port Hawk chocolate porter, the award was passed down.
No images exist of the brewing of the Bengal, but it hit the mark for a simple beer that took one stage of fermentation and then straight to the keg in time for the event.  If event brewing turns out to be a regular affair for me, I will use this gem as a special seasonal ale.     
In total, the event had 15 entries and about 25 tasters in total.  Due to some smaller submissions, liter-age wise, had there been any more drinkers we would not have had enough to go around.  Kevin and I had some tense moments of tallying at the end of the evening. But the event on the whole went off without a hitch.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beer America

A recent foray into the upper-Midwest United States of awesome beer garnered the usual choice fatigue that comes along with such great options.   However this was a special trip  to a special place where liquor stores dot the landscape like that of an expelled colony of ants. I was prepared to spend on what my eyes feasted upon.  Caution was thrown to the competitively priced winds, undaunted by national restrictions and penny pinching.  Some old favorites are in there, some new researched bottles and then some that just said drink me.  My purchases came from several different stores, predominantly Blue Max Liquors which is the best beer store in Minnesota, bar none.  Next is Haskalls, which is a chain and meh, but usually they have seasonals in the South Metro because nobody goes there for beer when Blue Max serves the seeker. The Liquor Barrel in SLP had a few unseen imported rarities that I was stoked to pick up unexpectedly. And finally, my usual keg provider, Zipp's Liquor on East Franklin Ave. 


From L-R
Surly: Cynic Ale - a great saison summer beer with a belgian yeast and a black pepper finish.  Soo good.

Surly: Furious - Look, there's no way you go to the twin cities and not drink this. Grapefruit crammed right up the wazoo. If you havent had this, its time to get Surly.

Tallgrass: 8-bit - I love most of what this brewery has done, especially having done it in my people's state of Kansas.  If it sucks, the can is to blame.

Tallgrass: Oasis - This beer is awesome.  Super malty ESB, even maltier than Furious which really does a seemingly unrivaled job of it.  When it comes to ESB, this is my choice.  We can talk about Red Racer only after talking about Oasis from Tallgrass. 

Half Pints: Queer Beer 2012 - This is not from the US, but it does represent a transnational celebration of the Queer movement in all shapes and sizes - even the dry sectors.  This beer is very much a shandy that has undergone some consternation, more so for its flavoring.  Last year's benchmark used raspberry juice to an unsatisfying effect.  This year, raspberry extract was used.  It does have the aroma of more 'fruity fabulousness' but it could still be more more more.  But, it is what it is and im proud to drink it.

Yeastie Boys: Digital IPA - This came highly recommended by the fellow beer drinker from his insightful post at the Liquor Barrel.  Cheers.

Schells: Maifest - Thanks Brian (happy birthday), for turning me onto this one.  I do like me some Summit Maibock, but this does a hop lover a bit more service. Love you Minnesota.

North Coast: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout - The dopest Imp Stout I have had.  Major points for using an accurate historical figure whom equals the darkness of this beer. 

Verhaeghe-Vichte: Duchess de Bourgogne - boom, my favorite Flander's Red Ale.  Sour like i like.


New Belgium: La Folie (Lips of Faith Series) - This ol'boy set me back a piece, but after falling in love with sour ales, and knowing how well New Belgium is at getting me as a beer drinker, I went all in.  However, now it will go all closet for as long as I can hold out (1-3 years already in oak barrels).

Breckenridge: Extra ESB - After reading a pretty positive review of this in All About Beer mag May 2012 , it looked good enough to try.  Will have to set it down with a crew and run the ESB gauntlet.

Rogue: Younger's Special Bitter Ale - Again, it scored well and im hoping to expand my palate in that style.  Rogue who?

Unibroue: Quelque Chose - I'm not sure if my discouragement at the fact that this Canadian beer (and many other Unibroue's) is more readily available in a country other than where I live in Canada is warranted.  But seriously, lets get on this people.  A kriek/brown cross reserve, this cage and cork 750ml looks to be a beer to let age (best by date is 2025!).

Coney Island: Steel Hop Lager -  Ive seen these around far too long to not have an opinion on them.  Yes the graphics are in your face, yes they scream judge me, and yes they may in fact be all hype.  But this one boasts Steel Hops!

If you go somewhere, drink what they drink.  But when you leave somewhere, take what you can't get here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Turn

Have you ever had an infection in your beer? An introduction of a living organism that was not supposed to be there? One so foul, so wretched, that it ate all your digestible sugars and gave no love other than its toxic gas? Expelling all across your upper lip when you lean in for a big draw? No?

The creation of a sour ale is about harvesting that wild beast which subverts the standard beer through guile and craft. In the fermenter today I have a homemade batch of Berliner Weisse which calls for this greasy intruder to be admitted, no, invited, into the young beer.

To begin, Berliner Weisse is a German style wheat ale that is generally low in alcohol-by-volume and is very light in color and sour in taste. The ingredients for this batch are as follows: 2 parts wheat malt, 3 parts 2-row domestic barley, 1oz of Liberty hops, homemade lacto-bacillus and a general ale yeast.

Historically, sour ales were naturally inoculated with wild yeast in open fermenters left outside, on rooftops, in barns, bakeries, abbeys and now my kitchen. These wild yeasts are all around us, at all times, and will gladly take a free lunch. However this is not going to produce a great beer all the time. If you have ever had an infected batch, that is the example of why wild yeast or bacteria is not always a welcomed helper. But beer styles are a funny thing, a brown ale with a hint of sour is totally uncalled for and would be rejected by a beer judge, however a Flander's red ale that tastes like sour gummy worms is applauded and marveled at.

Here's how it works: A week before brew day, I prepared a small jar with crushed 2row domestic and 130F degree water, placed tin foil over top and let it work with whatever happened to be trapped inside. Mold began to form within 2 days and a gray pellicule arrived by day 5. This recipe was a no-boil batch, meaning instead of sparging from the mash-tun into the brew kettle, the wort was run directly into the fermenter. Grains were doughed at 150F for 75 minutes with the introduction of boiled Liberty hop tea. Sparging up to the 5.5 gallon mark on the carboy and waiting to cool took much longer than it should have due to the difficulty of reducing temperature for pitching range without a wortchiller. Once cooled the moldy liquid from the lactobacillus starter was introduced. My kitchen smells awful.

Currently the brew is bubbling and expelling funk, in 2 days I will introduce an ale yeast that will help digest the bulk of the sugars that are undigestible for the lacto. This is intended to also impart estery flavors beyond the soured characters working right now. Many homebrew shops sell a cultured lacto strain in smackpack form. However, the great adventure of homebrewing is about utilizing the context in which you brew. This batch will taste kinda like my apartment, if you think thats gross then you're not invited.

Another option for making a style such as this and many other great sour ales is to get acidulated malt, or make your own. Instead of utilizing the yeast to make the souring quality, the malt itself is left to stand in warm temperatures for natural yeast to make it turn. Then it is added to the boil or mash-tun depending on your setup.

Similarly to my Gueuze, I will be waiting in sheer anticipation for when this brew can be tasted. For a closing image, I provide you with the following. One of the more pleasurable things to do, now that it's warm out, is two-maning the mash-tun over to the compost bin. We dribbled all the way there.