Sunday, 2 July 2017

Godspeed! You Mad Brewmaster!

I just happened to be in Toronto when the first can-release preceded the anxiously awaited opening of Godspeed brewpub in Toronto's East End (slated to officially open as a brewpub sometime this week!) When the brewmaster and genius behind the project is Luc "Bim" LaFontaine (originally of Dieu du Ciel fame followed by Japanese brewing experience), the hype is real and the lineup of 100+ people when I arrived about 20 minutes into a 12-hour first-launch can-release foretold the thirst of the city's residents.

With the release announcement neglecting to mention the beers on offer, speculation ran amok, while early Untappd check-ins of cans of Stout and Dortmunder gave away two initial offerings, while the third (discovered only on site) was an IPA.

Though I expected a lineup, I wasn't sure a 4.7% ABV Stout and a Dortmunder would draw the crowds, but while I wasn't alone in this assessment (as many in line described the styles as "boring"), Bim's reputation brought the Canada Day crowds nonetheless. That said, I too came for his past resume, even if relatively uninspired by the styles but optimistic due to brewmaster pedigree. Though I expect them to be on-point, this may have been the only beer geek lineup for Dortmunder in history and may well be the last! But, such is Bim's legend! Yet, we nonetheless anxiously await Godspeed's step into the trendier styles of sour beers, wild ales, barrel-aged delights, NEIPAs, saisons, and more.

Cans were offered at about the moderately high end of the going rate at $3.75 (tax included) per 355 ml.

Even with construction remaining, the visit prompted excitement for open with a gorgeous interior layout (if a touch less seating than space may demand) and the promise of stellar on-site Japanese food created by a team specially selected and brought over by Bim to join in the project. He promises us that "The food will be amazing! You cannot go wrong when you put so much passion and love in what you do."

I can hardly wait, for either food or beer, so let's turn to them!

India Pale Ale (6.0% ABV from the "Pitch & Pray Series") wafts a fairly mild nose with a honey-ish malt base coupled with a blend between earthy hops and mild citrus and cantaloupe. It smells as it looks, fairly malt forward, slightly English and less American.The taste is similar with an earthyness coupled with a grainy slight nuttiness up front before a moderately bitter finish, but one once again more reminiscent of a blend between an English and a West Coast style than of the East Coast claimed in the brewery description.  The body has a decent heft alongside low-side carbonation (for the style), with a pleasant oilyness to its mouthfeel. This is a type of IPA somewhat neglected in these parts, and it may impress for some, but for the trendy beer geek posse, it will likely underwhelm. Though the description above proclaims it an Eastern IPA, it is much more English in tradition, with but mild hints of the New World character. It is fine, and I respect it for what it is, but I look forward to more thoroughly American takes on the style when Godspeed gets around to them.

Dortmunder (4.8% ABV from the "Pitch & Pray Series") presents a gorgeous copper colour with a soapy white head, of minimal retention. Aromas are of sweet, malt-dominant pilsner grains, with a faint grassy noble hops character. The taste is quite sweet up front, but quite clean with a fairly dry finish and a substantial, mildly bitter linger. This beer is very well balanced, and likewise offers a moderate body with moderately low carbonation and mouthfeel. It may not be my preferred style, but it is highly quenching, and almost entirely on point to style parameters. One could argue that releasing such a stylistically sound beer as an initial offering is the safe route, though another perspective holds it as a bold one to offer it in such a lager-loathing craft beer market. Yet, despite the reservations of the geeks, brew-pubs need the locals alongside the dedicated beer-traveller, and styles such as this are the virtual basis for local orders at my local craft brew pub (in an area not unlike Godspeed's). Though I may not buy many such beers, I am happy to note the stylistic expertise I'd expect from a brewer of Bim's pedigree.

Stout (4.7% ABV from the "Pitch & Pray Series") may be the hidden gem of the bunch. Pouring out a deep dark brown to opaque black with a thick, foamy beige head of stellar retention and thick lacing, this beer presents a bold roasty coffee dominant and very mildly ashy bouquet. Though there is some cacao underneath, it is coffee that is highlighted by these malts. There's a mild biscuity quality up front in the mouth before a quite sharp, dry, and lingering coffee roast dominant finish. In the end, there is a trace of earthy hops alongside the intense roast that almost expresses in the linger as a slight ashyness, but not beyond acceptable levels. This seems to fall somewhere between what would be defined as Dry Irish Stout and American Stout by style, and it holds a medium body with the low carbonation I appreciate in the style lending a heftier feel on the tongue than the 4.7% ABV likely supports in reality (but aren't mouthfeels all about perceptions anyway?). This is a solid, solid base stout and I regret not having purchased more!

I love the name of the "Pitch & Pray Series", since as the adage goes, brewer's only make wort and yeast make beer, such that even Mad Geniuses like Bim, still must "Pitch & Pray." Bim tells me this is the series name for the early release beers, only some of which will be brewed later after others arrive. Thus, different lines will become evident once the product starts flowing regularly. In the meantime, however, this launch plays it fairly safe but demonstrates base mastery (as if there was any doubt) with nailed styles and reliable staples.

Now, time for the madness!  Bring it, Bim!  We're ready!