Canadian Beer News for January 10th-16th 2011

Here’s a round-up of my posts for the last week over at Canadian Beer News:

Jan 16th: Mill Street and Royal York Partner for Royal Stinger Honey Ale
Jan 15th: Beau’s Bog-Father Coming Next Week
Jan 13th: Garrison Brewing Starts Shipping Out West
Jan 13th: Granville Island Scottish Ale On The Way
Jan 13th: Phillips Brings Back The Hammer in Two Versions
Jan 12th: The Malt Exchange Links Brewers and Farmers
Jan 12th: Muskoka Scales Back Pilsner Light, Plans New Brands
Jan 11th: Tree Hop Head Double IPA Returns With Wider Distribution
Jan 11th: Lighthouse Deckhand Belgian Saison Coming Next Week
Jan 11th: Vancouver Island Double Decker IPA Coming Soon
Jan 10th: Russell Brewmaster Series Continues with Blood Alley Bitter
Jan 10th: Cariboo Cream Ale Launching This Week


Canadian Beer News for January 3rd-9th 2011

It took a couple more days past my previous post, but I finally managed to lick that cold, and actually had a couple of beers this weekend. I’ve also been together enough to organize some notes from the past couple of months that I’d intended for posts that never came to fruition, so new material should finally be scrolling by here imminently.

In the meantime, I thought I’d start a new weekly column to recap the most recent posts on Canadian Beer News, the beer & brewing news blog that I publish on a much more frequent basis than this one (mainly because it consists primarily of rehashed press releases and new beer announcements). For those who already read CBN, I apologize for the redundancy. For those who don’t, hopefully you’ll find this to be of interest:

Jan 9th: Wild Rose Imperial IPA Back For Another Year
Jan 8th: Molson Coors Threatens Lawsuit Over Pacific Western Mingler Pack
Jan 7th: Beer Vat Convoy Hits The Road
Jan 7th: Propeller Releases Growler-Only Zwicklebier
Jan 5th: Cheshire Valley Robust Porter Now Available
Jan 3rd: King Brewery Sold to Beer Barons

Crappy New Year!

So, my big plans to fire things up over the holidays and start getting more frequent content up on this ol’ blog got kind of scuttled, mostly due to a Head Cold From Hell that’s still lingering after more than a week.

Once it clears, I’ve got an interesting assortment of liquids here that I’ll be consuming and critiquing. And I’ll also dig through my notes from some older tastings and events to see if they’re post-worthy, even despite the lack of timeliness.

For now, however, my snot-filled nose and I are off to bed.

Christmas Cheer with OCB Beer

Just in time for the holidays, the latest batch of sampler packs to media from the Ontario Craft Brewers went out a couple of weeks ago – and interestingly, rather than just sending out their latest Discovery Pack, they did up one-off samplers in handy six-bottle/can carriers from the fine folks at CRAP, along with some tasty bottle and mug shaped cookies.

My package contained six beers that I’m quite familiar with – Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale, Black Oak Nutcracker Porter, Cameron’s Auburn Ale, Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion, Muskoka Cream Ale and Wellington Special Pale Ale. All nice enough quaffers. And quaff them I have – or most of them, at least, with the last couple sitting in the fridge to be downed soon.

Given my aforementioned familiarity with them, I haven’t bothered taking any tasting notes – and honestly, most of them are beers more suited to drinking and enjoying casually rather than analytically. But thanks to the magic of RateBeer, I’m able to bring you some notes I wrote up about each of them in the past (with a few new comments & amendments as needed)…

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A Six-Pack of Beer Books

Over the last several months, I’ve received a number of books for review, but various circumstances have meant that I’ve barely had the chance to read them all in full, let alone give them each a proper review.

So with Christmas looming and lots of people scrambling for last minute gift ideas, I thought that a mini-reviews of a half-dozen of them might help solve some shopping dilemmas (assuming that you have a combination beer geek and bookworm on your list, of course) – and it will also help me clear my backlog of planned blog posts so I can get a fresh start in 2011.

Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing

by Charles Bamforth
FT Press – US$25.99/CDN$29.99

When I saw the title of this book – which references a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin that’s been proven to be false – I was disappointed that an author like Bamforth, who is one of the world’s leading experts in the science of brewing and fermentation, would make such an amateurish error. But thankfully, the book opens with an “About the Title” page that debunks the myth, and what follows is an interesting and entertaining combination of social history, business analysis and personal memoir; all revolving around the idea of respecting beer in all of its forms, and the corresponding preferences of every type of beer drinker, from the weekend Bud boys to the hardcore hopheads.

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I Was Not Informed That There Would Be Cameras Present!

Or maybe I was informed. I was pretty drunk after all. But either way, there is some unfortunate video evidence of the “Not Always in Good Taste: Beer Writers in the Round” event that I was part of at C’est What during Toronto Beer Week back in September.

In the video above, you’ll see Josh Rubin, yours truly, and Troy Burtch revealing some embarrassing beer-related moments; and below, you’ll see the two Steve’s – Beaumont and Cameron – and I ranting about some of the worst beers we’ve tried. For my part in this second video, I gave a spoken variation of the especially (and deservedly) scathing review of Wellington Silver Wheat Ale that I’d written for TasteTO a couple of weeks earlier.

Assuming that you can stand watching these two videos, there are a couple more posted to C’est What’s YouTube account, both of which are mercifully free of any of my aimless ramblings.

Yo Ho Ho and a (Small) Bottle of (Expensive) Rum: Appleton Estate 30 Year Old

I’m generally not much of a rum drinker, but around this time of year, it tends to pop up in my drink rotation more often, usually mixed with a few glugs of egg nog and sprinkled with nutmeg. And of course, many of the cakes, cookies and other treats that my wife bakes for Christmas feature a healthy shot or three of rum as a key ingredient.

Using some good ol’ Bacardi or Captain Morgan to mix or cook with is about as far as most people go with rum, but as I’ve learned on a number of occasions in the past couple of years, a high-end rum can be just as complex as a great whisky or bourbon. And like tequila before it, a few of those better bottles have started trickling into Ontario.

One of these is Appleton Estate 30 Year Old Rum, which can be found at a select few LCBO locations (LCBO 164103) in very limited quantities. In fact, it’s limited all around, with only 1440 bottles available worldwide, and 644 for all of Canada. And as is usual in the world of high-end spirits, such rarity comes with a price – in this case $503.00 for a 750 ml bottle.

By my reckoning, that means the cute li’l 50 ml sample bottle that was sent to me has a retail value of $33.53 – or $6.58 more than the full-sized bottle of Sailor Jerry that I picked up on the weekend for holiday nog quaffing. But just as it’s not fair to compare a scarce single malt to a mass-produced blend, so should this copper-amber liquid be ranked on a completely different scale from the Captains and Sailors of the rum world.

With that in mind, I poured it into my favourite whisky glass, and sniffed & sipped it like a single malt. What I found was a remarkably complex spirit that revealed an array of aromas and flavours including caramel, marzipan, orange zest, bitter cocoa, dark sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, raisins and wood. The mouthfeel is soft and silky, and the finish is long and warm, but not as hot as expected given the 45% abv strength.

I was sad to reach the end of the glass, but also pleasantly satisfied. If I had the money to spare, I’d be tempted to pick up a bottle, if only to blow the minds of a couple of whisky-loving friends the next time we get together for a few drams.

As noted above, Appleton Estate 30 Year Old Rum is available in limited quantities in Ontario, as well as most other provinces. It’s also available in the US, and perhaps elsewhere, but you’ll likely have to hunt for it.