Any readers of this blog who are – or at some point have been – comic book geeks are likely familiar with the concept of “retroactive continuity”, or as it’s colloquially known, a retcon.
For the less dorky among you: a retcon refers to a situation when facts established in an earlier story are changed in such a way that the previous story couldn’t have happened the way it was originally written – in other words, the previously established continuity has been retroactively changed. Sometimes these changes are small, affecting minor attributes of a single character; and sometimes they’re massive, affecting an entire shared fictional universe (as was the case in the classic DC Comics series Crisis on Infinite Earths that the title of this post lazily evokes).
The reason for this nerdtastic tangent is that this blog is about to undergo a bit of retconning, as I’m starting to integrate many of the posts that I wrote for Taste T.O., the food and drink website run by my wife and myself that we recently converted from a daily blog to an events listing site, taking the old content offline in the process. My contributions there included many beer reviews, pub profiles, and other beer and booze related articles that I’d like to keep online, so folding them into this blog seemed to make the most sense. While doing this, I’ll also be editing or removing any posts that referred or linked to the Taste T.O. posts, fusing the material from both sites into a seamless whole! (Insert dramatic George Perez splash page here.)
Since I’ll be backdating these posts to the dates they were originally published on Taste T.O., the whole process should hopefully go unnoticed to most readers. But for those who enjoy digging through archives, there will be lots of “new” stuff to read.
And as for REAL new stuff – I’m hoping to get more on top of that in the next little while as well. I’ve got quite a backlog of notes and photos from the past couple of months, and while not all of it is post-worthy, there are a few things that I’d like to get written up soon, especially since the fall is shaping up to be a pretty busy season for beer happenings.
Earlier this week I got a sneak peek at some new items on the food menu at Bier Markt – the highlights of which I’ve covered in a post over on Taste T.O. – and launching at the same time was the latest exclusive addition to their draught beer line-up, Jupiler Lager.
I’m well aware, of course, that Jupiler isn’t exactly held in the highest regard among serious beer drinkers, as typified by a response to one of my tweets that evening reminding me that it’s “the Coors of Belgium.” And yes, it’s a bit unfortunate that it’s position as Belgium’s top-selling lager gives the marketers an opportunity to give it a higher cachet than it may deserve.
Still, as far as mainstream mass-produced lagers go, it’s fine enough. The mildÂ herbal edge in the aroma indicates that there are actually some hops in there, and while the flavour is simple, it’s also clean and mostly balanced, with pleasant lightly toasted grains off the top, and a smidgen of cut-grass hops joining in. However, it falls short in the finish, where the corn that’s added as a adjunct makes itself known very clearly and much too sweetly.
So no, it’s not a great beer. But it’s not an awful one either, and as I note in my Taste T.O. write-up, the folks who like Stella and Heineken will be more than happy with it.
While I take some time to get things together for some posts I’ve got planned, here are links to the beery and boozy writing I did for Taste T.O. in the couple of months before we put the site on hiatus.
Nov 9th: Beers of the Week â€“ Harviestoun Ola Dubh Series
A review feature on the five Ola Dubh versions – 12, 16, 18, 30 & 40 – that were released at the LCBO recently.
Nov 2nd: Pub Crawl â€“ Parkdale
A virtual tour of five of the best places get a pint in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
Oct 28th: Glenfiddich – Not Just For Newbies
A re-cap of two Glenfiddich tasting events I attended in one day, one of which included the somewhat rare 21 Year Old, and the really rare 40 Year Old.
Oct 26th: Beer of the Week â€“ Creemore Springs urBock
Review of a returning seasonal favourite.
Oct 19th: LCBO Opens The Whisky Shop
A look at the line-up of premium spirits on offer via the LCBO’s new Whisky Shop promotion.
Oct 12th: Beers of the Week â€“ Birrificio BrÃ¹ton
Some thoughts on the beers of Italy’s Birrificio BrÃ¹ton, which I enjoyed in the company of brewery founder Iacopo Lenci.
Oct 5th: Pub Crawl â€“ Downtown Yonge
The first installment in the returning Pub Crawl series, and also the first in the new multi-venue format, featuring short write-ups on five bars and pubs in the same neighbourhood.
Sep 28th: Beers of the Week â€“ Hereâ€™s to Halloweâ€™en!
An advance preview of the pumpkin beers and other spooky ales brought in by the LCBO for Hallowe’en this year.
Sep 21st: Beer of the Week â€“ Muskoka Harvest Ale
Review of one of the best seasonal ales available in Ontario this fall.
Sep 14th: Beers of the Week â€“ The Ales of Autumn
Preview of the beers included in the LCBO’s 2010 Autumn Ales promotion.
Sep 7th: Hanging Out With Bud And Jack
Notes on a unique day where I met the men currently responsible for two of America’s most legendary alcohol brands: George F. Reisch, Brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch; and Jeff Arnett, Master Distiller at Jack Daniel’s.
…and here they are:
- My weekly column for Taste T.O. this past Tuesday was a re-review of Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale – “re-review” because I had previously written about it three years ago when it was first launched in cans, but the recipe has recently been tweaked to make it hoppier and much more enjoyable.
- Speaking of re-reviews – last night I cracked open one of those lovely 750 ml ceramic swing-top bottles from Beau’s All-Natural Brewing, containing their limited edition Screaming Beaver Oak-Aged Angry IPA, which I had been sitting on since May. I tried a pint of it on cask back in the spring and didn’t care for it at all – it was boozy and sticky and just a big hot mess. But either the three months or so of sitting in my fridge took the edge off the bottled version, or it was a beer better suited for bottle format over cask – either way, I enjoyed the hell out of it this time. Big aroma with the oak, malt and hops playing very nicely off each other, and a flavour that starts sweet, with some notes of caramel and tropical fruit, before it turns dry and bitter with a wonderfully long and lingering finish of pine and grapefruit and wood. Mmmm-mmmm!
- Not sure how I missed mentioning this before, but a few weeks back, my buddy Troy over at the Great Canadian Beer Blog did a Q&A with me as part of a series of Ontario beer blogger profiles. Seven of us have been featured so far, and as the blogroll I maintain over at Canadian Beer News shows, Troy will have plenty more to choose from if he decides to continue, especially if he expands to cover all of Canada. Hard to believe that just a few years ago, there were only 3 or 4 of us doing the beer blogging thing in the whole country.
- Finally, I’m flattered to have been asked by George down at C’est What? to participate in one of the events they’re holding during Toronto Beer Week. Dubbed “Not Always In Good Taste – a beer writers-in-the-round“, it’s gonna feature Stephen Beaumont, Nick Pashley, Ian Coutts, Steve Cameron, Troy Burtch, Aonghus Kealy, Josh Rubin and myself sitting on stage talking about beer. And drinking some as well, I would expect. Which could be pretty boring, but given that it’s happening at 10:00 PM following several other TBW events, including what is sure to be an epic Brewdog beer dinner at beerbistro, I fully expect that most of us – and most of the audience – will be half in the bag before it even starts. So best luck to whoever is supposed to moderate the damn thing…
While my “Beer of the Week” column on Taste T.O. usually features positive reviews of beers that I like – or occasionally, so-so reviews of beers that I can at least appreciate to some degree even if I don’t love them – it’s rare that I post a completely negative review.
But that’s what you’ll find there this week, as I have nothing good to say about Wellington Silver Wheat Ale, a complete mess of a beer that is made even worse by the fact that it was made to celebrate Wellington Brewery‘s 25th anniversary.
Most breweries take such milestones as an opportunity to create something really big and special and flavourful, but Wellington decided instead to go in the opposite direction, releasing a pale and light North American style wheat ale – and one afflicted with a multitude of flaws to boot.
Click here to share my pain, anger and disappointment.
In my beer review column on Taste T.O. this week, I freely admit to enjoying Rickard’s White, despite the fact that they might take my Certified Beer Geek card away for liking a Molson Coors product. It’s certainly not the best Belgian-style wheat beer around – it’s too sweet for one thing, and less nuanced than better examples for another – but it’s still tasty, especially when it’s fresh, and serves as a good fallback beer in the sort of places that haven’t come around to the fact that there’s more to beer than Molson, Labatt and a few big name imports.
Because as far as we’ve come in the current Craft Beer Revolution, we’ve still got a long way to go. For a lot of Canadian beer drinkers, Rickards White may be as close as they’ve ever come to a craft beer, in much the same way that a lot of American beer drinkers view Blue Moon Belgian Wheat, the Coors-owned beer that Rickard’s White is based upon, as something really unique and out there.
This is something I can relate to, as I had a similar reaction to another Rickard’s beer around 20 years ago. While I was already familiar with the craft beer of the time from breweries like Brick, Formosa and Upper Canada, the beers I was drinking from them were mainly pale lagers. So the first time I saw Rickard’s Red, I was confused and intrigued. A red beer? Who had ever HEARD of such a thing? And since the Molson connection wasn’t well publicized at the time, I assumed that it was from some other small brewery like those others I’d been discovering.
Keep reading this post
My weekly column for Taste T.O. went up a little while ago, featuring a review of Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew.
As the review notes, I nearly gave up on this beer after having two pretty awful samples a couple of months ago. But good buzz about it once it showed up as a late arrival in the LCBO’s Summer seasonal beer release convinced me to give it another shot, and I had a much more positive experience.
And speaking of seasonal beer releases – very nice looking lists have been announced for the LCBO’s upcoming Autumn Ales and Hallowe’en Beers promotions. Combined with the Dieu du Ciel! brewery spotlight release launching next week, it looks like it’s going to be a happy (and expensive) couple of months for Ontario beer geeks…
Over on Taste T.O. this week, I’ve got a review of Muskoka Pilsner Light, a newish beer from Muskoka Cottage Brewery that is “Light” due to being 4% alcohol, but is otherwise a solid and flavourful German-style pilsner. In the piece, I make the point that the name – which I assume was chosen at least partially to get the beer noticed by drinkers of Coors/Bud/Blue/etc. Light who may be willing to experiment a bit – might end up alienating Muskoka’s core customer base of craft beer drinkers who would sooner drink water than a typical North American Light Lager.
I have hope that the quality of the beer – which is quite high – will win it fans regardless of the name. But there’s still a big reason why so few small breweries call their beers “Light” even if they happen to be lower alcohol lagers, and that reason is that most mainstream light lagers simply aren’t very good. Not that they’re completely undrinkable (well, some of them, at least), but they inevitably lack some or all of the elements that craft beer drinkers look for in a beer – elements like colour, body, aroma and flavour.
I recently had a chance to reconfirm my opinion about macrobrewed light lagers when I received a promo shipment from Molson Coors Canada containing a selection of beers from their portfolio, ranging from light and ultra-light lagers to craft and pseudo-craft brews. I’ll give some thoughts on the beers in the latter category in a subsequent post, but for this one, I’ll be concentrating on the quartet of cans in the former group.
Keep reading this post
For this week’s “Beer of the Week” column over on Taste T.O., I review Boneshaker IPA, a rather excellent new(ish) beer from Amsterdam Brewery.
Great to see brewmaster Jamie Mistry continuing to brew interesting seasonal and one-off beers – he’s really turned things around at Amsterdam since joining a year or two back.
The column also touches on the debate regarding small beer samples – i.e. the little plastic cups you tend to get at festivals – and how valid they are for writing up proper tasting notes. I’m interested in hear other opinions on this, so feel free to comment there or here if you have something to say.
In order to start giving this blog some semblance of regular content, I’m going to try and post a link to my column on Taste T.O. each week. If I’m on the ball (which I am this week, surprisingly), I can even write it up and schedule it at the same time as I schedule the Taste T.O. post so they’ll go up simultaneously. Mmmmm, technology!
This week, it’s a review round-up of nine beers from MicroBrasserie Charlevoix that were launched in Ontario this past weekend via the fine folks at HMH Negotiants import agents.
(Note to non-Canadian readers: Yes, beer from Quebec – or any other Canadian province – needs to be “imported” in order to be sold in Ontario. It’s all very silly.)
In addition to the beers brought in by HMH for the launch, I also recently had the chance to try Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Brut, a limited edition beer created in the Champenoise style; i.e. with champagne yeast used for fermentation, and the traditional steps of “remuage” and “dÃ©gorgement” following. The result is a sparkling and effervescent golden ale with a very complex character, combining aromas and flavours of sweet fruit (notably peach and lychee), florals (rose and lavender), mild spice and yeast, and mellow herbal hops. Really nice stuff, and one of the better examples I’ve tried of this still rare beer style.