Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down, Sunday Evenin' Rising: Battle of the Breakfast Stouts

Though I may not quite have been in shape as rough as that forewarned by Kris Kristofferson following Benelux Verdun's 2nd Anniversary party, I did feel a special need to commemorate this Sunday as the cooling temperatures - and fading coffee - encouraged an imperial stout afternoon/evening.

Having procured a bottle of Weyerbacher's Sunday Morning Stout, as well as recent bottles of Founders Breakfast Stout and KBS, I figured I had to do these together.  Some people have been calling Sunday Morning Stout "the KBS Killer," and memories fade while imbibing together produces a fairer (if still biased assessment).

Just what makes a stout a breakfast stout, you may ask?  Well, the coffee that is in each beer.  Founders Breakfast Stout also has chocolate (alongside flaked oats), while KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) - though a different base beer - maintains the coffee and chocolate but adds aging in bourbon barrels.  Sunday Morning Stout follows the same pattern as KBS: coffee and bourbon barrels.

Though none of these beers are available in Canada (outside of trading circles), they are available in most North-Eastern States and are worth your quest, especially if you like BA Stouts and coffee.  And really, who doesn't?

For comparison, I will grade all as per BJCP ratings on the table below.

At 8.3% ABV and 60 IBUs, Breakfast Stout should be a bit drier than it is, but it is still a treat.  It pours a deep, dark brown body capped by a moderate mocha head of pretty fair retention.  The head lingers slightly for quite some time, sitting in spotty rings around the top of the beer with some thick, almost milkshake-like lacing around the edges.  It wafts a more coffee forward nose than chocolate, but smells almost like a cold coffee with added chocolate flakes.  The taste begins with lightly sweetened coffee notes, before switching first to what seems almost milk chocolatey with a hint of bittering hops (though only dark chocolate is used in the production) before finishing with tastes of semi-sweetened dark chocolate (and a final trace of coffee).  The body is moderately full, and yet not as thick as one would think for oats, chocolate, and ABV, and it remains super-drinkable with a creamy and velvety, lightly carbonated feel coupled with just a touch of warmth in the end.

KBS comes in at 11.2% ABV and 70 IBUs, for a less bitter BU:GU ratio than the Breakfast Stout.  Likewise, the head is a touch lighter in colour (between tan and mocha) and also dissipates faster, though this is not unexpected for its high ABV.  It seems a tad darker in colour, but it is not much different.  Though I have often said this smells like a vanilla bourbon bomb through and through, there is a hint of chocolate there too though none of the coffee which has been muted by the bourbon notes.  It smells pretty much like a marble ice cream cake would smell - if it was 85% vanilla and 15% chocolate.  The taste is a bit sweeter up front, with a more mocha or cappucino-esque sweet choco-coffee thing up front that evolves into the bourbon forward vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate finish with a fair linger.  The feel is very similar to Breakfast Stout in its velvety smoothness, but the body is oddly a touch lighter (not light per se).  This makes it remarkably drinkable for its high alcohol content, but also brings with it a touch of bourbon-like heat as it warms the chest on the way down.  The ethanol notes are quite muted by the dessert-like qualities of the beer, but you can't mute that feeling by adding adjuncts and aging in oak (so it isn't a knock against this marvellous treat).

Sunday Morning Stout is perhaps the boldest of the bunch, but more on that in a moment!  It comes in at 11.3% ABV, with unknown IBUs.  It is visually the thickest and darkest of the bunch, with the darkest mocha head, but also the slightest and the fastest receding, leaving only the faintest of rings around the top of the body.  Lacing is scant to non-existent.  The aroma presents as intensely coffee forward.  There is faint wood and just the slightest trace of vanilla bourbon notes, but nothing like the KBS: one is a vanilla bomb, this a coffee-bomb.  The taste is much like it smells with a bit more complexity.  Coffee is still predominant, but in the finish, just before the linger, one gets drier roasty and slightly hoppy unsweetened dark chocolate notes before some bourbon vanilla and caramel, yet the start and the linger are dominated by espresso - in a delightful way.  The body is more full than on the Founders beers, while there is also a touch more carbonation.  Yet the feel isn't as smooth with more of a syrupy, sticky quality.  The warmth is a touch more present on the back of the palate, as is the glow in the cockles.  KBS hides the ABV a bit more.  Though this gains marks for the body, it loses in feel for the remainder.  Still, a super treat!

Final thoughts, follow the rating table:

If you consider that I tasted somewhere in the vicinity of 80 beers at last year's Mondial de la Biere, and gave out merely two ratings over a 45, the ratings above attest to the stellar quality of each of these brews.  However, in many ways the comparison is poor.  Sunday Morning Stout would better contrast with Dieu du Ciel's Péché Mortel (or Péché Mortel Bourbon) or perhaps Avery's Tweak, while even BS and KBS are two different beasts, even if similar.  They are not comparing apples to apples, but if I had to pick, I'd gladly drink any of the above, any time.  Personally, it depends: you want chocolate, go BS, you want vanilla, KBS, you want coffee, that's where the Weyerbacher excels.  What a night... what a treat!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Maneuvering Mondial: Malty Tasker's Guide to Mondial de la Biere 2015

Warmth: a sign of things to come. And no, I am not predicting the weather, rather I am delighting in the switch to beer festival season (known to some as summer) beginning with the mighty Mondial de la Bière 2015.

With 523 alcoholic beverages from which to choose, 475 of them being beers, 85 breweries, 40 Quebec breweries, 16 food pavilions, and an expected 150,000 visitors, how is one supposed to navigate such a crowd and so many options?  Mondial hits Montreal this June 10th through 14th at the Palais des Congrès (3:30pm to 10:30pm Wednesday, 11:30am to 11pm Thursday through Saturday, and 11:30am until 6:30pm Sunday).  As always, admission is free and tickets are $1 each, with most beers costing between 2 and 8 tickets per sample.

This year promises an on-site cask event organized by Benelux, with a delightful cask list including Jukebox Distorsion, Dunham Cyclope Alpha, La Succursale Angus IPAAA, and some yet to be determined.  This event happens from 4-8pm Thursday, June 11th on site, and you must pre-register to take part here.

In the past, I have put up unofficial Mondial survival guides, but while beers change, little else does. That is, planning ahead, going early, and drinking responsibly remain ideal goals, though for such tips you can click that link and explore past suggestions in greater detail. Thus, in the interests of avoiding repetition, I'll offer a few further taboo tips on the things everyone thinks but nobody says.

First, bring hipster repellant. They will be out in force and, accordingly, you must navigate the crowds without getting sucked into a conversation about obscure bands - try to discuss obscure beers instead.

Second, COVER YOUR DRINKS whenever you can. I don't think this is much of an event for drink-drugging douchebags (fortunately) but beards will abound and stray hairs spoil a great foamy head like nothing else.

Third, wear deodorant. It gets warm and you don't want to be the guy who sat beside me last year; or worse, you don't want to sit beside that guy.

Fourth, either join the drunken masses in excessive intoxication or be prepared for the incessant cheering every few minutes for five days.

Finally, don't come looking to meet a date - unless you're into dudes - this is a beer event after all! As with the rest of these tips, I kid, of course: unlike early morning, multi-hour lineup bottle releases, this event boasts much gender parity and brings in beer geeks, party animals, festival goers, professional judges, and more broadening all of our horizons beyond the usual "Beerd" scene we have all grown accustomed to.  Yes, faithful readers, I can only presume that you too are a committed beard cultivating beer geek (else what entices you to reading Malty Tasker?)!

In all seriousness, though, I cannot stress strongly enough to go with a plan.  Whether you wish to go early and seek whatever you wish to try before some options run out, or whether you wish to go late and party, there are WAY too many options to just buy whatever strikes you or whichever has a short lineup. Such strategies usually fail.  If you like crapshoots, be my guest taking your chances, but I strongly advise checking out beer ratings (ba or rb) and seeking out styles you enjoy or ones you have never tried.

As for what you probably came here for, advice... since you know I have carefully scrutinized the list while rubbing my fingers through my beard and checking reviews of the unknown, I offer the following:


From our neighbours to the South, come treats from Revival, Sierra Nevada, and Wormtown, alongside usual staples from Ommegang, Dogfish Head, and New Belgium.

From Quebec, Dieu du Ciel, Dunham, and Hopfenstark top the want list with excellent brews on offer and surprises likely.

From further afield in Canada, check out Central City, Amsterdam, and Muskoka.

And for the worldly-inclined (and who wouldn't be when beers are available here that are never otherwise found in Quebec), may I point out Germany's Bierkultur, and The Monarchy, Brazil's Colorado, Bodebrown, and Amazon, and Italy's Baladin as the brightest shining stars on this year's list.

The Czech Republic's Lucky Bastard also makes a first time showing and, while their ratings aren't superb, Czech styles are often under-appreciated by rating geeks and if these styles intrigue your palate, you should definitely try them while you can.


Really, I think you have to seek out what excites you by perusing the list, but I will share a few that excite me for those who value my take.

Sierra Nevada's Hop Hunter IPA and Narwhal RIS both rate very well and despite broad distro have not, as yet, hit my palate.

Germany's Bierkultur brings traditional, fruited, German Berliner Weisses for those with a sour-craving palate (the Abraxxxas beers), while The Monarchy offers numerous strong soured and alt delights.

Brazilian brewery Colorado has previously brought their delightful Guanabara Imperial Stout to Mondial, and this year brings a wood-aged variant that typically provokes high praise.

Amazon, another Brazilian brewery, brings Forest Bacuri, a lightly sour and low-alcohol fruit beer I had a few years back at Mondial (and loved at the time) alongside an Acai Stout that also sounds intriguing at the least.

Italy's Baladin brings the barrel aged variant of their Xyauyu barleywine. Last year's Xyauyu Gold was fantastic and mapley if a bit sweet.  If that's your thing, sip this strong ale variant.

Finally, from closer to home may I make a few final recommendations? We may think, "ah Dunham, DDC, these things I can always get," but NO, YOU CAN'T!  Treats from DDC, like Au fil des seizons, Saison St. Louis, and Matière Noir (Yes, the delightful Russian Imperial Stout Matière Noire!!!) are not always available. Nor are Dunham's delectable treats, such as... well, shit, such as their whole freaking list.  Pick a style you like, a style you don't, something you have never tasted, and Dunham cannot disappoint.

Off Mondial:

As always, numerous Off-Mondial Events abound, but I will point out only those of most likely interest to my audience:

La Succursale hosts a smoked beer night on Tuesday, June 9 - before the official festival begins.

On opening night, Wednesday, June 10th, as always, Dieu du Ciel hosts THE party, bringing in their past brewers to help create brand new concoctions that promise to be delicious!

Brouhaha's Anniversary Party comes on Thursday, June 11th, while le Saint Bock (and Beau's) offer a Randall night on the Friday.

However, also on the Friday is Station Ho.St's sour beer night which was a big hit last year and should be again.

In Closing...

Finally, note your day. Wednesday and Thursday (especially during the day) will boast a greater number of beards, but a smaller number of rowdy drunks, but if it's the party atmosphere you dig, there is nothing better than a Saturday evening at Mondial.

See you there!  Santé!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Grab Yourself a GrOpener, and Open Luxurious Brews in Style!

Beer geeks not only love beer, but also love beeraphinalia.  Somehow, we always find ourselves loaded with glassware and bottle openers far beyond our actual needs, and I often find myself seeking improved versions of such products (only occasionally dumping the no-longer used).  Whether it be a keychain opener, a compact one, a cooler-attached opener, or a branded one, it seems there is always another opener to buy.

Yet, not all openers are equal: some are attractive, yet limited in functionality, others are sturdy and easily manipulable, yet bend caps.

I have now found the ideal product that fulfills nearly every requirement for my needs and has become my staple opener: the GrOpener (Grab Opener) hits nearly every nail on the head... errr, cracks nearly every bottle perfectly!

It is difficult for me to make a video of the ease and awesomeness of this product that could compete with their own, so go check it out at

Just what makes it so great that I'll endorse it and not simply beer?

  • It opens a beer with one hand, with relative ease (after a brief few attempts of giving it a shot to learn the required pressure).
  • It has a built in powerful magnet with a multi-purpose: it attaches to any metal surface for storage/easy reach, it snaps into place on the cap for ease of use, AND it holds the cap after removal.
  • It leaves caps in perfect shape for those who wish to keep them (and add to their beer-related memento stashes)
  • It is sleek, comfortable, and comes in many colours, as well as a scratch-resistant designed premium model
Quite frankly, these have become my go-to openers and basically the only ones I use, with the following exceptions, and slight limitations:

  • There is no keychain version (though the magnet would limit the desireability of such an incarnation anyway)
  • The GrOpener doesn't do quite as well with large format caps (Cantillon, BA Le Trou du Diable, etc) Though it can succeed with these, it takes much more force, occasionally falters, & is less effective at its near perfect cap preservation.
For these limitations, I cannot discard the rest of my openers, but in the few months of my GrOpener possession, it has not only become my go-to product for its expertise in these areas, but I have come to lament when I am forced to use something else.

And, if you need further proof, the company is run by responsive, friendly staff who care for your satisfaction!

Seriously, this is no gimmick.  Many ingenuitive products fall short in ways beyond their advertised strengths, but even with some limitations, this shit is as real as Hill Farmstead beers.  You may think this is false advertising as Shaun Hill's delights have no limitations, but really the only limitations to this well-conceived product are what it isn't (a large format or keychain opener), while HF saisons (for example) are not imperial stouts in the same way, but they are no less perfect at their strengths!  Believe the hype!  Grab your GrOpener at