Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Best of Late: Beers and Bars in Brief

Don't take the infrequency of posts as an implication that my beer consumption has dissipated, but I cannot catch up on all.  Thus, I offer you the recent brief best-ofs (only of those consumed for the first time within the past month):

Montreal Beer Bars: Having now been to L'Amère à Boire, as well as renewed trips to Le Saint Bock and Vices et Versa, I have to renew my statement that Vices is a true marvel, Le Saint Bock is a pretty damn fine (if pricier) place to drink as well, while I look forward to more of L'Amère's mellow vibe and a few more tastes soon!

Toronto Beer Bars: Finally got to King West's new(-ish) Barhop and was most impressed with the location, the draught, and the bottle selection!

For the beers, the new must-try gems list includes:

Les Trois Mousquetaires Doppelbock (8.7% ABV) is simply a delight with an excellent biscuit-malted nose and a finely grassy hops finish to a roasty beginning!  Grade: A

Mont des Cats, in bottle at Le Saint Bock, offered me a taste from the unofficial new Trappist Brewery and didn't disappoint, offering what could perhaps be the most light and easily drinkable of the Belgian Strong Darks I have had.  Grade: A-

Lindeman's Cuvée Renée (Gueuze) from the LCBO was a sour funky delight adding to my growing love of this style!  If you like the funk, you'll love this treasure... otherwise, steer clear!  Grade: A

Spearhead's new(-ish) Moroccan Brown Ale is a fine American Brown with raisin, fig and plum notes adding a new twist on a well-done classic.  Grade: A-

Pauwel Kwak, yes in the funky glass, is a fun experience, and though good is basically just your standard Belgian Pale, but worth having once - if in the right glass!  Having a side-by-side on the same night of two similar beers (Urthel Hop-It and Delirium Tremens made clear to all involved that the Urthel is a true marvel, with everyone preferring it!)  Grade: B+/A-

Hopfenstark's Loulou Porter continues the success of this small Quebec brewery.  With a smooth biscuity sweet aroma and a roasty, nutty taste along with a lightly drying finish, this beer is just delicious!  Grade: A

Dunham's Barley Wine likewise shows off the strengths of another of Quebec's superstar breweries in a beer with a quite dry finish following up on a smooth, syrupy, honey-like sweet malty prevalence.  Grade: A-

Brasseurs du Monde's La Seiglerie (Bitter au Seigle) is a Rye Bitter masterpiece with a malty-sweet aroma of toasted notes and bread, preceding a mild taste with a lightly/subtly dry finish.  Easy drinking and quite sessionable at a mere 4% ABV.  Grade: A

That's all for now!  That said, I have now had beers from all eight Trappist breweries and all of the available Trappist beers except for Rochefort 6, Westvleteren Blonde and Westvleteren 8 (and, I suppose the 150th Anniversary Chimay).  I should have some Westvleteren 12 soon, and have loads of Bernardus, Rochefort 8, Rochefort 10, and some aged.  I would gladly trade for the remainders.  Comment me!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Beau's Oktoberfest: A Fine Celebration of Beer

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to put in a few good hours at Beau's annual Oktoberfest. The event seemed, to me, to be a resounding success.

It is held outdoors, with many a tent for the serving areas and tables, on the Vankleek Hill Fairgrounds where your entrance fee of $18 allows you a "free" beer and pretzel.  (The pretzel being a nice toss in, but it was mediocre especially compared to the beer!)

Many food vendors offer excellent-smelling, and stylistically-appropriate food and Beau's, of course, has a merch/swag booth that has the additional treat of selling engravable event-specific steins for the price of $10.

Competitions, such as the Keg Toss, Malt Sack Races, Sausage Eating Contest, Stein Holding Struggle, and the Spouse Carrying Race excite the crowd (but might benefit from an emcee livening things up), while two stages of music (one with a dance area for professionals out front) offer both traditional German folk (of the liederhosen and stein-chugging variety) and more contemporary Western folk such as Plants & Animals, Elliott Brood, and Ron Hawkins.

Yet, to readers here - and to me - most of this provides simply the mostly superficial, environmental context for what really matters: the beer and its consumption.

As a guy who'd rather taste many and drink a few, that all beers were $5=1 token=1 glass, with no smaller options available meant sharing with friends to get through a few (especially since I won't make it to cask days).  That, coupled with the quantity served meant little in the way of individual beer notes, but I will offer what did stand out, but first the offerings:

Aside from their flagship Lug Tread and their seasonal Night Märzen Oktoberfest Lager, Beau's offered seven beers from the Wild Oats Series.  I will shortly comment on each in turn, but first I should also mention that 48 cask conditioned ales from 20 different breweries were on offer, as was Thornbury Cider.

In brief, and all-around: the beer was excellent and too many wonderful offerings (in full sizes for 1x$5 token or two smaller (6-ounce?) samples of the cask offerings per token) made any attempt to get through them without a full-weekend pass merely an idea of folly!  Coupled with a publicly judged homebrew competition, there were options for all and excellent ones at that (though I should note that for the homebrew competition they simply ask which you prefer between two radically disparate styles: I got a rye beer and a robust porter!).  More specifically, and from best to wurst (noting that everything from Beau's was regular draught and everything else was cask conditioned):

Surprise, surprise: Dieu du Ciel's Peché Mortel is even better and creamier on cask than on draught (than on bottle).  I will say no more except to drink this in such a manner if/when you ever can.  Mmmm coffee and (naturally carbonated) imperial stout... together!  Grade: A/A+

Great Lakes Dude, Where's My Czar (Russian Imperial Stout) is a success on cask with its great chocolate nose and bitter cacao taste/creamy-feeling mouth.  Grade: A

Indie Alehouse Breakfast Porter is my kind of breakfast!  Apparently in the robust style, this offers an excellent coffee aroma, with a finish that is roasty, yet of piney dry hops.  Grade A-/A

Beau's Dark Helmüt (7.3% ABV "Imperious Schwarzbier") was delicious, with excellent aromas and tastes of darkly roasted malts that presented in a nearly smoky way.  Grade: A-/A

Nickel Brook Bolshevik Bastard (yes, another Russian Imperial Stout - my tastes are obvious!) is another gem on cask, where its bold, dry, roasty notes are allowed to shine with the creamy smoothness of the natural carbonation.  Grade: A-/A

Beau's Koru (6 % ABV Belgian Pale Ale) was quite enjoyable, with a nice floral hops on the nose and tongue, alongside a characteristic pear semblance.  Grade: A-

Dunham Dry-Hopped Harvest Ale was quite good offering a fairly balanced dryness up front before a nice piney finish.  Grade: B+/A-

Flying Monkeys Rose-Hopped Hibiscus Hoptical Illusion did quite well with the extra infusion of floral actual flower notes!  Grade: B+/A-

Dieu du Ciel's Voyageur des Brumes also shows well on cask, with its characteristic up-front boldness, and quite dry (yet tempered in contrast) finish matched by the smoother feeling of real ale. Grade: B+/A-

Nickel Brook Underground Pale Ale was good... I think... though I think I better try it again!  Grade: TBD, but I guess it fits in around here!

Beau's Night Märzen Oktoberfest Lager (5.5% ABV) was good and drinkable offering an up-front sweetness with a lingering dry finish that tempered its mildness somewhat.  Grade: B/B+

Beau's Octobock (7% ABV Bock) impressed as well, though consumed later in the day, I won't say too much here that I may regret! Grade: B/B+

Flying Monkey's Red Basil Smashbomb Atomic IPA was nearly indistinguishable from the regular offering to me (perhaps unless consumed side-by-side).  I love basil - had I observed it, I may be singing this beer's praises, instead I say I enjoyed it!  Grade B/B+

Beau's And Boom Gose the Dynamite (4.6% ABV Gose) was good, if not remarkable to me.  Some citrus on the nose with a slight tartness, but it was altogether mild across the board.  I never got much of the spice or salt, and even the tartness was faint.  I'd rather at least one of these possibly strong notes offered a bit more, than all tried to balance so smoothly, yet that too is praise in that it came out as more 'drinkable' (for the average drinker, presumably) than had it expressed the salt, or coriander, or sourness, more profoundly.  Grade: B

Beau's Weiss O'Lantern (Pumpkin Weiss at 5.6%) offered too little in the way of flavour for me as the pumpkin seemed indistinguishable from the wheaty notes, though it was otherwise fine.  Grade: C+/B-

Church Key Grains of Wrath (Double IPA) neglected to impress with a terrible aftertaste that none in my party enjoyed despite it being made up of 50% professed Hop-Heads.  It wasn't hops - it was funky - and it wasn't good.  Grade: C-

Beau's Vassar (6.7% ABV Heirloom Ale) attempted to recreate an extinct recipe from the Hudson Valley dating back two centuries - and in that it may have succeeded remarkably - but insofar as I hate banana which kicks in my gag reflex, I could barely desire to taste this beer after smelling its overpowering banana notes and in taste it was little different.  I won't offer a grade on this since it may simply have not agreed with me stylistically, but I do think - speaking stylistically - that it may even border on being a fruit/hybrid or at least it truly presents that way to me (and those with me).
Cheers, til next year's!