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.