Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Giant steps to finding the Perfect IPA

The best part of searching for something beautiful and awesome – such as the Perfect IPA, for example – is that even when you think you’ve found it, you haven’t.

What I found when I finally got my hands on Shoulders of Giants, the 10 per cent hop monster from Flying Monkeys Brewery in Barrie, was an Imperial IPA that was extraordinarily beautiful and awesome.

But perfect? I think the search must still continue. Because when you are looking for the Perfect IPA, the quest never really ends. And that is fine by me, because the journey is half the fun. Hell, it’s most of the fun.

I wrote about my quest to find Shoulders of Giants in April (http://tinyurl.com/kdw84od) and until I finally found it last week on tap at Buster Rhino’s (my local watering hole in Oshawa), I was afraid it would be summer before I got the chance to drink the stuff.

I was originally planning on making it to the beer’s release party at the brewery in late February but circumstances scuttled that trip and in the months after that event I would hear whispers of the beer on tap at this bar or that, but our paths would never cross.

The kicker was that my pal Don scored tickets to the Toronto Festival of Beer Spring Sessions at the Evergreen Brick Works in late March, and subsequently found himself face to face with Shoulders, with a fistful of tokens and a seductive smile at the ready.

Don emptied his pockets to make sure he got his share and then posted pics to my mobile, declaring it “soooo good.”

Me? Jealous much? I think so.

Anyhow, many weeks later I walk into Buster Rhino’s and stop dead in my tracks when I see Shoulders of Giants on the chalkboard. The young lady behind the bar asked me how I was doing and I said that if the board is correct, my day just got a whole lot better.

It was (correct) and it did (get a whole lot better). Shoulders of Giants (which is not for the timid), packs a huge citrus, tropical fruit and piney punch – like Chuck Norris giving your taste buds a roundhouse kick, is how Don put it in his Rate Beer review – with a solid kick in the teeth malt backbone as well.
It was also very boozy, and it took four visits to the bar before I got used to that.

The first night I was there I struck up a conversation with a couple who shared my taste in Imperial IPAs. I mentioned that I found the beer very strong and the young lady replied that she found the beer “quite drinkable.” Sessionable, even, she added.

I was shocked and impressed at the same time. “You think this 10 per cent IIPA is a session beer?”

Her boyfriend tried to modify her statement by saying Shoulders “wasn’t exactly a session beer.” But the look on her face – “yeah, I said it. You got a problem with that?” – told a different story.

You hang on to her, dude.

Four or five nights later, having stopped in for a half-pint or two after my shift each night that week, the inevitable happened. I blew the keg.

And just like that, no more Shoulders of Giants. But I’m sure the nice Flying Monkeys people will bring some back to Oshawa when Buster Rhino’s hosts the Durham Craft Beer Festival July 12.

Say yes, nice Flying Monkey people.

Another hard to find IPA treasure I talked about in that April 2 blog is Centennial IPA from Founders Brewing of Michigan.
I had been chasing that brew around the LCBO’s product inventory for some time before finally finding it, in all its delicious bitter, hoppy glory, in Florida.

But here in Ontario the beer remained elusive, as an order for 1,580 six-packs to the LCBO warehouse remained unfulfilled until last month, when I spotted eight on the inventory list at a Leaside liquor store.

The only eight in Toronto, apparently. What the hell happened to the other 1,572?

As I was visiting my parents in Toronto that day, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and detoured down to Eglinton and Laird to find two left on the shelves. I grabbed one, thinking that leaving the last six-pack of Centennial for the next fella was the upstanding thing to do.

I have to stop being so nice.

This beer needs to be here on a regular basis. Maybe we need to do a trade, like we did in the 80s when we sent Michigan a few moose and they sent us some wild turkeys, which are practically ubiquitous in rural Ontario today.

If that can work with beer I have no problems sending Michigan all the Molson Canadian they want. Just send us Centennial IPA. If the beer is anything like the birds, they will multiply all on their own.

That would be cool.

And while I’m on the subject of out-of-province beer, I have to rave about Dernier Volonte, the fantastic Belgian IPA from Montreal’s legendary Dieu du Ciel Brewery.

The beer is a creamy and deliciously smooth delight. It poured a cloudy orange with citrus, some stone fruit and spices on the nose with a nice biscuit malt backbone. An exceptional beer. Really top notch.

I have no idea why I waited so long to try it. I do know I’m itching to buy it again.

The Beer Musketeers have been talking for some time about a road trip to Montreal to visit this brewery. I haven’t heard much chatter lately so I better bring this subject back to the forefront.

We have to go.

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