Category Archives: The Session

The Session #7: Theme Announcement

As mentioned in my round-up of Session #6 last weekend, Rick Lyke of Lyke 2 Drink is the host for Session #7, and a couple of days ago he announced the theme:

Have you ever noticed how many animals show up on beer labels? We have lions and tigers and bears, plus various birds, reptiles, fish, assorted domesticated and wild animals, plus a few mythical creatures. For whatever reason brewers have a tradition of branding their beers using everything from pets to predators. The Brew Zoo will celebrate these lagers and ales.

Your assignment for The Session #7 is to go on a beer safari and help stock our Brew Zoo with animals large and small. This is one hunt that even PETA should not protest.

This should be a fun one, although I do have two thoughts right off the bat:

1) All of the locally-available beers I can think of with animal names and/or graphics are pretty lousy. I’ll have to wrack my brain to come up with something before September 7th.

2) It’s funny how the idea of drinking a “zoo brew” is perfectly acceptable to the beer geek contingent, while serious wine drinkers generally look down upon so-called “critter wines” that feature animals on the label.

The Session #6: Round-Up

Well, I think this was the busiest Session yet, which is pretty impressive considering that BB&B is probably the least active blog to have hosted so far. Here’s what everyone had to say:

  • Al at Hop Talk confesses that he’s really not much of a fan of fruit beers, and after trying six new ones, his opinion doesn’t change much.
  • Also at Hop Talk, Ron compares a couple of blueberry beers, and tries to improve one of them by mixing it with Guinness.
  • Andreea at Belgian Beers tries the “pink” and “girly” new Hoegaarden Rosée, a raspberry flavoured version of the classic Belgian witbier.
  • Stan at Appellation Beer tries a fantastic sounding Raspberry Strong Ale from Berkshire Brewing in South Deerfield, MA, which is brewing using a whole whack of real raspberries.
  • Ray at The Barley Blog is another fruit beer hater, so he dodges the bullet by reviewing Duchesse De Bourgogne, which isn’t a fruit beer at all but does have some fruit lambic character to the flavour. Plus it’s one of my favourite beers, so I guess I’ll let it slide.
  • Rick at Lyke 2 Drink gives quick notes on 11 different fruit beers he’s tried in the last month, ranging from light wheat beers to some high-octane ales, and featuring flavours as varied as raspberry, blueberry, apple and pomegranate.
  • Alan at A Good Beer Blog is pleased to find a fruit lambic that he likes in the form of Kriek De Ranke from Belgium.
  • The Beer Nut in Dublin gets the award for tasting the most unique beers for this Session, as he tries examples flavoured with green tea and yuzu, palm nut, and banana.
  • Steve at Summer of Beer is a relative newcomer to fruit beer, but he enjoys the pair of raspberry beers that he tries.
  • Tim at Sioux Brew is new to the Session, and debuts with a look at Brau Brothers Strawberry Wheat.
  • Wilson at Brewvana doesn’t really dig Longs Peak Raspberry Wheat, but is very happy with his homebrewed Cherry Bomb, a Belgian strong ale enhanced with bing cherries. He also offers a helpful list of beer styles that often have fruit-like characteristics without having any actual fruit added.
  • Captain Hops at Beer Haiku Daily gives a couple of his patented 5-7-5 tributes to Lindemans Pêche and Dogfish Head Aprihop.
  • Paul at Stuff. Y’know. is another Session newbie, and he tries two cherry beers: Bell’s Cherry Stout (which he doesn’t really like) and Unibroue Quelque Chose (which he does).
  • Craig at Beers, Beers, Beers reviews three beers in three different flavours – apple, cherry and peach – and ends up liking them all.
  • Another Session newcomer is The Dude at Akelas Biggins, who gets nostalgic with a look back at the original Austin-brewed version of Celis Raspberry.
  • Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin checks in with one of his typically informative and interesting posts where he lists dozens of different fruit beers grouped by fruit, and then reviews what is probably the first ever beer brewed with plumcots, a plum/apricot hybrid that’s one of my favourite fruits.
  • Paul at Beer & Food is a Session virgin, so it’s fitting that his post is entitled “My First Cherry”.
  • Stephen does double duty once again, with reviews of Bell’s Cherry Stout at On The House and Wild Rose Wraspberry Wheat (plus mentions of a few other Canadian fruit beers) at Stephen Beaumont’s Beer Blog.
  • Sage at My Beer Pix does a bit of self-analysis regarding what he likes and doesn’t like about fruit beers in general, rather than reviewing one in particular. And he also has a very funny picture of a banana in a glass of beer.
  • Ted at Barley Vine is pretty happy with his choice of Atlantic Brewing’s Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale.
  • Jon at The Brew Site doesn’t have any fruit beer on hand, so he decides to “wax rhapsodic about fruit beers in general”, and also links back to reviews of some fruit beers he’s posted about in the past.
  • Andrew at Flossmoor Beer Blog offers his personal opinions, and those of some other people, on two fruit beers (or more accurately, two different versions of the same fruit beer) that he brews for Flossmoor Station.
  • OK, I lied when I said that The Beer Nut tried the most unique beers, as the award really must go to Chris at Beer Activist, who brewed up a batch of mfula mfula (aka riva riva), an African fermented drink made with bread, oats, sugar and pineapple.
  • Jesse at Twin Cities Beer Geek takes one for the team and reviews Miller Chill.
  • Jack at The Beer Tap missed last month’s session, but he returns this month with a mixed trio of peach, raspberry and blackberry beers.
  • Bill at Beerjanglin’ is yet another Session newbie, and he arrives in fine form with a witty and well-written feature on three East Coast offerings.
  • Dave at Hair of the Dog Dave pays tribute to my Canadian-ness by writing up two fruit beers he tried on a recent visit to Vancouver.
  • Adam at Beer Bits 2 (does that mean there’s a Beer Bits 1 somewhere?) looks at two raspberry beers that are quite different from each other despite featuring the same fruit.
  • maeib at maeib’s Beerblog looks back at some of the many fruit beers he has known.
  • Spence at Brewer Man reviews Dogfish Head Black and Blue – a beer that I sincerely wish was available in Ontario, as it sounds fantastic – and also gives his thoughts on a few other fruit beers that have impressed him.
  • Londoners Boak & Bailey review a couple of blackberry beers – including one they brewed themselves – as well as beer brewed with tayberries (yeah, I’d never heard of them either – they’re a cross between raspberries and blackberries).
  • Lost Abbey’s Tomme Arthur is late with his post at Brewer’s Log (Blog), but since it’s a really fascinating look at his own Cuvee de Tomme, we’ll let it slide.
  • And finally, some guy named Greg at Beer, Beats & Bites is pissed that the beer he wanted to review didn’t show up, but stumbles across three others unexpectedly, so it all works out in the end.

So, I think that went pretty well, don’t you? I figured that my theme choice would be a controversial one, and based on the number of people who started their post with “I normally hate fruit beers…”, I guess I was right.

To be honest, though, I think the reason why fruit beers get such a bad rap from a lot of beer geeks is because they instantly think of the ones that are most common in North America – i.e. filtered wheat beers or other light ales and lagers that are flavoured with cloyingly sweet and often artificial tasting fruit extracts. The fact that such beers made up a large percentage of those covered in this Session goes to show just how ubiquitous those type of fruit beers are. But thankfully, a number of people looked at some more classic and/or bizarre examples as well.

In the end, this whole Session can be summed up nicely by the following words from Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin:

(There is an) amazing diversity of different fruits used in beers. No two are alike, and so saying you don’t like fruit beer is like saying you don’t like people. There’s just too many variables to make such a blanket statement. I think it comes down to perception again of some weird prejudice in the U.S. where fruit in beer is seen as unmanly, as ridiculous a notion as I can imagine. There’s just too many good flavors here to ignore them over masculinity. But I guess that’s more for the rest of us.

Amen. And thanks to everyone who participated. I now pass the pint glass to Rick at Lyke 2 Drink who will be hosting next month’s Session. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to his theme announcement with much anticipation. No pressure, Rick… 🙂

The Session #6: Fruit Beer

OK, here’s the thing: When I selected fruit beer as the theme for this month’s instalment of The Session (that beer-blog round-up thingie that a bunch of us do on the first Friday of every month, and that I’m hosting for August), I did so in anticipation of the pending arrival of Liefmans Kriekbier as part of the LCBO‘s summer beers promotion. I loved this beer when I first tried it a couple of years ago, and was looking forward to downing a couple of bottles to see if it’s as good as I remembered, and to write about it for The Session.

However, the beer – along with its non-fruited counterpart, Liefmans Goudenband – never showed, leaving me at a bit of a loss as to what beer I would write about it. After all, as my fellow Ontarian Stephen Beaumont mentions in one of his contributions to the Session, there are very few fruit beers produced up here, and only a couple of imported examples on our LCBO and Beer Store shelves. But I guess the beer gods were smiling on me, as I managed to get my hands on three new fruit beers in the past week, giving me a lot to write about after all.

The first was a beer that came in as a part of the now Liefmans-free LCBO release: Chapeau Banana Lambic from Belgium’s Brouwerij De Troch. The Chapeau line-up consists mainly of highly sweetened and strangely flavoured lambics, and my past experiences with other Chapeau beers like Exotic (pineapple) and Mirabelle (plum) had been, shall we say, less than stellar. But in the case of the Banana, I was surprisingly not offended by it. In fact, I kinda liked it, and even picked it as my Beer of the Week over on Taste T.O. this week. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about it there:

The aroma is a combination of those marshmellow banana candies I used to like as a kid (yeah, you know the ones I mean), mixed with a slight lambic funkiness. (My wife also found notes of strawberry, melon and kiwi.) The body is sticky, and not very refreshing, which is a common fault in sweetened fruit beers (or any overly sweetened drink, for that matter). The flavour is quite sweet off the top, although it tastes more like real banana than the candyish aroma suggests, and there’s a pleasant tartness peeking through in the finish.

That being said, beers like this are still closer in style to coolers and other alcopops than good quality fruit beers. Which is quite the opposite of the second one I tried thanks to my pal Paul bringing it to a tasting night: Oud Beersel Oude Kriek from the respected Belgian lambic producers Brouwerij F. Boon. This hazy ruby-rose coloured brew is a much more traditional fruit lambic, with the expected funky and musty aroma with notes of sour cherry, wood, old books and mouldy cheese. (Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound that appealing when I write it, but believe me, it was.) After the aggressive aroma, the flavour was actually a bit of a let down – it was good, very dry and tart with a strong cherry character, but a bit milder than the aroma let on. Still, it’s a classic example of the kriek lambic style, and provided a great contrast to the Chapeau sugarbomb that I drank the night before.

Moving from the Old World to the New, my third fruit beer of the week came to me courtesy of import agents Roland + Russell who dropped off a package of a few of their new offerings for me to sample. It actually contained two fruit beers, but I only had a chance to sample one of them: Southern Tier Raspberry Wheat Ale from Lakewood, NY. While I’m usually underwhelmed by fruit flavoured versions of North American wheat beers, I’d enjoyed pretty much every Southern Tier beer I’d tried before this one, so I had fairly high hopes. Unfortunately, it followed the pattern of it’s style: light golden-yellow colour; lots of fruit and faint malt on the nose; thin, spritzy body; and a mild, lightly fruited flavour. It was certainly refreshing, especially during the nasty heat wave that we’re currently experiencing in Toronto, and I’d take it over the Chapeau Banana any day of the week. But I guess I just expected a bit more oomph from a Southern Tier beer.

So now that I’ve got my own post out of the way, it’s time for me to put on the hosting hat for this month and compile a round-up of the posts that all of my fellow Sessioners have published today (in most cases, in a much more timely manner than yours truly). I’ll get that together over the next day or two, allowing any stragglers to get in on the action before posting the final tally. If you have a contribution to be included, drop me a line or comment on this post.

Tomorrow: The Session!

Just a last minute reminder to my fellow beer bloggers and other interested parties that tomorrow is the August instalment of The Session, the monthly beer blogging round-up that I happen to be hosting this month. This month’s theme, as I announced a while back, is fruit beer.

Given my ridiculous schedule lately, I probably won’t be getting my own post up until fairly late in the day. Those who are more on the ball than me can feel free to email me or reply to this post with a link to their contribution, and I’ll do the obligatory round-up on the weekend (which is a long one in Canada, thankfully).

Announcing Session #6

OK, it’s been a week since the last Session took place, and since I’m hosting the next one, I guess it’s about time for me to announce the theme.

First, some background:

2007 seems to be the year of the farmers market in Toronto. We’ve always had a few regular markets in the city, both seasonal and year-round, but there’s been a mini-explosion of new ones this year, including a Sunday morning one in the Liberty Village neighbourhood, just a few minutes from my apartment.

As a result, my wife and I have been eating even more fresh produce than usual this summer. We’re at the Liberty Village market almost every Sunday, and Sheryl also takes trips around the city to check out other markets for the Market Basket feature on our website, Taste T.O..

For the past several weeks, we’ve been gorging on fresh local strawberries and cherries, and have just recently gotten our first taste of the year’s raspberry and blueberry crops. Coming soon will be peaches and plums, and later will be the first crisp, tart apples of the year.

With all of this fruit on the brain (or more accurately, in my belly), it gave me the idea for a theme for Session #6. Therefore, I hereby declare that on Friday, August 3rd, 2007, beer bloggers the world over will be writing about Fruit Beer.

Aside from the stipulation that it be a beer brewed/augmented with fruit (or fruit juice or extract), there are no other rules or guidelines. Anything is fair game, from a tart and funky Kriek or Framboise, to a sugar-laden “lambic”, to a Blueberry Wheat or Raspberry Ale from your local brewpub.

And have some fun with it. After all, it’s the summer! (Well, except for where it’s the winter, but you know what I mean…) Spread the word, enjoy the rest of your July, and check back on August 3rd to report your contribution for the obligatory round-up post.

The Session #5: Atmosphere

Holy crap, is it already time for another Session? It seems like just three posts ago that I did a last one! Oh wait, it was just three posts ago, ’cause I’ve neglecting this poor li’l blog of mine more and more. If not for the monthly Sessions, it might just wither away to nothing. Sniff.

Anyhoo – for those just joining us, The Session is one of those things where a bunch of bloggers write about the same topic on the same day. In this case, it’s beer bloggers writing about a particular type of beer, with the style chosen each month by a different one of us. Then the person/people who chose the topic keep tabs on all of the posts and compile a round-up. Our themes for the last four months have been local beer, milds, dubbels and stouts.

(I get to choose the theme for August, so watch for that to be announced here soon.)

This month, our “hosts” are Al & Ron at Hop Talk, and to mix things up a little bit, we won’t be writing about what we drink this month, but rather where we drink it, as the theme is Atmosphere:

Beer is about more than flavor, IBUs, and the debate over what is a craft beer and what isn’t. It’s about Life. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake.So, we want to know about the “Atmosphere” in which you enjoy beer. Where is your favorite place to have a beer? When? With whom? Most importantly:


Because while life isn’t all about beer, beer is all about life.

Since I’m an indecisive git, I’m going to do as I did in the first Session and give multiple answers:

1) Down The Pub

Yes, I know, it’s the most obvious choice, and will probably be the most popular one today. But I think very few beer lovers would deny that some of their favourite beer imbibing moments have been sitting in a friendly pub – whether it’s your local spot, a place across town, or a bar you discover during your travels elsewhere – and hoisting a pint or three with friends old and new.

Here in Toronto, the bar I frequent the most is The Rhino. It’s been my neighbourhood bar & grill for the 13 years I’ve lived in Parkdale, and while they’ve had their ups and downs on the service and food quality fronts over that time, they’ve been pretty stable in the year and a half since I moved from a place 5 blocks away to a place even closer. Their dozen or so taps are dedicated primarily to good local craft beers, they added about 200 bottled beers to their selection around the time I moved closer last year, and they also started carrying cask ale a few months back. They may not match destination spots like Volo or beerbistro when to comes to truly eclectic beer selections, but the remarkably low prices for both beer and food combined with the ramshackle neighbourhood vibe of the place just can’t be beat.

(Addendum: A couple of hours after I originally posted this, my wife and I went to Rhino for dinner. I had mussels and fries, she had a veggie sandwich, and we each had two beers. Total with tax and tip was 40 bucks. That may seem a bit high to you Americans who are used to $2.50 pint specials and the like, but trust me when I say that for Toronto, that’s a fantastic deal.)

2) Tasting Sessions (aka Geekfests)

Being a beer rater, I’m always up for trying as many new beers as possible, and one of the most efficient and enjoyable ways of doing so has been via tasting nights with some of my fellow raters. Once a month or so, I get together with my regular crew (Jeff, Paul, Harry & Jer) and occasional guests to listen to some tunes, shoot the shit, and drink & rate a bunch of beers. Sometimes we have a theme – like last summer’s infamous “Beers from the RateBeer Top 100” tasting – but usually, it’s just a pot luck of beers that most of us haven’t tried before. Yeah, it can be a bit geeky at times, as we jot in our notebooks and debate whether the beer is true to style or try to figure out what hop varieties were used. But mostly, it’s just a bunch of guys (and sometimes one girl) with similar-but-not-identical interests and views sitting around and sharing something that we all love.

3) I Drink Alone…

Supposedly, it’s one of the warning signs of alcoholism, but I don’t really see anything wrong with enjoying a beer on my own at home. (And to be completely accurate, I’m rarely completely alone when I’m doing so, as my wife is usually around, and will even join me if I crack something she likes). Sometimes, it’s something new that I drink and contemplate and write about. More often, it’s an old favourite that I quaff while watching the tube or poking around on the computer. Either way, it’s an enjoyable and civilised way to unwind after a day at work. And it’s cheaper than going out, as well.

So there you go – a trio of places that I like to drink. Check out the round-up at Hop Talk to see what the others have to say, and check back here in a couple of days to find out what we’ll all be writing about a month from now.

Geek Speak

Hey. Life is still pretty busy, hence the continuing silence around these parts. I’ve got a few posts either half-written or half-formed, and I’ll get to them soon(-ish).

In the meantime, check out this great little article by Ken Wells, author of Travels With Barley, on how to speak beer geek. Most people reading this blog probably won’t learn anything, but it’s a great primer to give to your less beer-saavy friends have a hard time following when you start to geek out.

Also – the theme of next month’s Session has been announced, and it’s “Atmosphere“. Interesting. I’ll have to think about that one for a bit.

The Session #4: Local Brews

Right, it’s time for another Session, that day of the month when beer bloggers all over the damn place kinda-sorta post about the same thing. This month, it’s being hosted by Gastronomic Fight Club, which is a bit odd since GFC appears to be a food blog (based in Omaha, no less) rather than a beer blog. But hey, beer is food, so it’s all good.

For the past three sessions, we’ve focussed on particular beer styles – stouts, dubbels, and milds. But this month, we’re mixing it up a bit, as snekse (I bet that’s not his real name…) at GFC has decreed that we shall all drink and write about a local brew (or brews). The specific parameters were that it had to be brewed within 150 miles of our house, preferably at the brewery closest to us, and leaning towards beers that are not well distributed outside of our area.

Well, if I was writing this 10 years ago, my pick would probably be something from Upper Canada Brewing, as I live about 5 minutes away from their original brewery. But they were bought by Sleeman in 1998, and production was moved to the Sleeman facility in Guelph soon afterwards. Plus the UC brands are pretty much shit now.

Nowadays, there must be at least a dozen breweries within 150 miles of my apartment, if not more. If I were to stick strictly to the “closest” rule, my pick would have to be either Amsterdam or Steam Whistle. But Amsterdam’s beers don’t really wow me (except for maybe their Framboise), and Beaumont did Steam Whistle.

So the other day, when I was returning some empties at the Beer Store, I stared at the big wall of logos (Ontarians will know what I’m talking about) looking for something local, and decided upon an old favourite that I hadn’t had in a while: Black Oak Pale Ale. And since I did this on Monday, the day that I was writing my Beer Of The Week column for Taste T.O., it gave me a chance to double dip, as I used it as my subject for this week’s column.

In fact, the column became a sort of preview for the Session, as I wrote a bit about local beers, and my somewhat embarrassing habit of not drinking them as often as I should:

I’m not the type of beer drinker who sticks with a single favourite brand. I usually have a bottle each of a dozen or so different beers in the fridge at any given time, and another box or two of others stashed in the closet. Even when I go out, I rarely have the same beer twice in a night, unless I’m at a pub where there’s only one beer that I like on tap.

As a result, I often find myself giving short shrift to some beers that I really enjoy, but generally pass up in favour of grabbing something new. This is especially true of local beers that I tend to take for granted, figuring that they’ll always be available, while this new seasonal release or import may only be around for a limited time.

Like I said – kinda embarrassing. And also kinda stupid, given how good the beer is:

It has a beautiful golden hue with a good sized white head that leaves a fair bit of lacing on the glass as it recedes. The aroma is fresh and inviting, with a big hop presence, but with sweet malt to balance, and a faint woodiness. The body is a touch thin, but also crisp and lively – quite likely due to the addition of a bit of toasted wheat to the recipe – giving the beer a thirst-quenching edge. And the flavour follows the aroma closely: a good balance of sweet, honeyish malt and citric hops that linger deliciously in the finish.

As a result of all this, I’ve made a pact with myself to start drinking local beers more often. Sure, I’ll still pick up new and interesting imports, and faves like Brooklyn Lager and Aventinus will still be coming home with me occasionally. But I need to stop taking breweries like Black Oak (and Neustadt and Mill Street and Magnotta and King and so on…) for granted. Despite what I write above, they may not always be available, so best to enjoy them while I can, especially in these warm spring and summer months when a cool, fresh beer is always welcome.

The Session #3: Mild

Another first Friday of the month, another Session in beer blog land. This time around, we’re being hosted by Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin, and in honour of CAMRA’s Mild Month, he chose mild ale as this month’s style.

As Alan notes over at A Good Beer Blog, mild is a rare style nowadays, especially outside of the UK. But luckily, Toronto pub C’est What has a Mild Brown Ale in their line-up of house beers.

Even more luckily for me, I wrote an article on this beer just a couple of months ago as part of my series of Beer of the Week columns. So I can be lazy this month, and just do some cut ‘n’ paste. Nice!

Here’s what I wrote:

To most North American drinkers, mention of a beer with a 3% to 4% alcohol level will undoubtedly bring to mind fizzy yellow light/lite lagers that taste even less of beer than their 5% kin. But fans of UK-style ales will more likely think of Mild Ale, a style that was once on the brink of extinction but that has been gaining popularity thanks to the efforts of CAMRA and other real ale supporters.

Brewed since the 1600s, if not earlier, the definition of Mild Ale has varied a bit over the years, but it has typically referred to malty ales that are darker in colour and have a lower alcohol content than Bitters and Pale Ales. Back when ales were generally stronger across the board, Milds would vary in strength from 5% to 7%, but most modern interpretations sit somewhere in the 3% to 4% range.

Like most traditional ale styles, Mild is more common in the UK (although even with CAMRA’s efforts, it still hasn’t been restored to the point where nearly every pub had a Mild on at least one of their taps). But with the increasing popularity of cask ales in North America, more and more microbreweries are taking a crack at the style.

The only local example of the style comes courtesy of C’est What (67 Front Street East), the almost-brewpub (their house beers are brewed off-site at County Durham Brewing) that has been at the forefront of Toronto’s craft beer scene for over 19 years. Their C’est What Mild Brown Ale had actually crept up to 4.1% abv, but it was recently reformulated back to its original 3.4% level without sacrificing any of its unique character.

In the glass, it has the appearance of a nut brown ale or even a light porter, with a ruby-brown body and light mocha head. Both the aroma and flavour hold notes of roasted malt, cocoa, coffee and toasted nuts, with a delicate touch of hops in the finish. The body is on the creamy side due to the fact that it is served using a nitro tap of the sort typically used to serve stouts and some cream ales. Personally, I’d rather have it served as a cask ale, but in this case the nitro doesn’t have as much of a negative effect as it can have on lighter beers. Dispensing method aside, it’s just nice to have a flavourful beer that one can quaff several pints of in a session without falling off one’s barstool in the process.

The Session #2: Dubbels

Another Session, and another last minute post from yours truly. This month, we’re doing dubbels. Which means that I should probably start by confessing that I’m a bit of a spaz when it comes to Belgian ales.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy them. Like most beer geeks, some of my favourite beers come from Belgium, or are brewed in the Belgian style. It’s just that I have a hard time keeping track of what characteristics differentiate the various Belgian sub-styles from each other. So when Alan announced his pick for the second edition of The Session was dubbels, I was at a bit of a loss, and had to check RateBeer to see which beers were actually in that style.

Another factor was figuring out which dubbels are actually available in Ontario, since we’re at the mercy of a government owned liquor monopoly here. As I mentioned in my last post, the only dubbels we can get here on a regular basis are Leffe Brune and Chimay Premiere (Rouge). Both of them are decent enough beers, but I was hoping for something a bit more unique for this Session.

But then I noticed something interesting: According to RateBeer (as well as Beer Advocate), Tickle Brain Ale from the UK brewery Burton Bridge is considered a dubbel. And it just so happened that I had one bottle of Tickle Brain left in my stash from a private order that a few of us got in on last year. A nice stroke of luck.

According to the label, “Tickle Brain” was a Tudor name for strong drink, so it fits this 8% beer well. It has a nice, rich ruby colour with a slight haze from the bottle conditioning. The aroma is big and sweet, lots of malt and caramel and dark fruit, and some sharper spicy notes coming through as it warms. More of the same in the flavour – caramel, brown sugar, dark fruit and berries, and an alcohol warmth that comes on a bit strong, but which is appreciated on this unseasonably cold Good Friday night. It’s not an everyday beer to be sure, but it’s nice to have around for those times that you want something a little stronger to savour. Too bad that this is my last bottle.

Thanks to Alan for picking a style that led to me getting a bit of an education. I’m already looking forward to next month.