Monday, 24 November 2014

Unapologetic about beer

It's been 23 days since my last confession, I mean blog, but I am unapologetic about that and ask not for forgiveness. It has been 30 days - an entire month - since I passed out early at Donny's Bar & Grill (at a party that was kinda my idea) but I am unapologetic about that as well.

But those unapologies pale in comparison to some the world has heard over the years. Many were squeaked by vain men caught with their pants down at their ankles, but those were but childish rants compared to the final words of the great Greek philosopher Socrates.

It was on his death bed that Socrates, sentenced to die in 360 B.C. by hemlock poisoning for the crime of "corrupting Athen's youth" and "blaspheming local gods" with his philosophical notions, uttered these words: "The hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways, he said to his accusers, defiant to the end. "I to die and you to live, Which is better, God only knows."

Socrates, famous for such seditious (and tragically prophetic) sayings as "Death may be the greatest of all human blessings," and "The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing," was unrepentant and most certainly unapologetic in his final moments.

The great California brewing minds at Stone, Beachwood and Heretic breweries had the same idea - minus the dying part - when they got together got together to a create a double IPA that took unapolgies to a new level.

Who says the world needed another IPA? They did and they made no apologies about it when they created Unapologetic IPA. At 8.8 per cent ABV this beer took me to another level as well, but more on that later.

The beer was one of the highlights of the Mid-Autumn Night's Decadent Dangerous Craft Beer Festival, held in Burlington on the last Saturday in October. Buying the beer and then smuggling it across the border was another high point, and I submit that I am a better smuggler of awesome ales than I am a drinker of them.

There were some mitigating factors, but the bottom line is I bailed early on the party, leaving myself vulnerable to a certain level of mockery as I slept the sleep of someone down for the count.

But disregard all of those salacious rumours circulating on social media, because I did get my fancy Holt Renfrew shirt (100 per cent silk, yo) back from the international lost and found at the Days Inn in Niagara Falls, N.Y. and I did bring back some spectacular IPAs from that fair city's local Consumers Beverages outlet, so I'm calling it a successful day.

I even got to take a few Stone Brewing bombers home with me the next day as well as two growlers filled with Headstock IPA (one more than my promised allotment: thank you Cat) - and got a belated birthday hug from host Don's awesome son David as well - so it was all good.

The genesis of all this happened in early September, shortly after the Oshawa Craft Beer Festival (Ciders and Seasonals). My pal Brian and I were there, and I was joined later in the afternoon by Cat and her friend Blair (our newest full-fledged Musketeer), who came in from Toronto for the beer fest. We had no trouble enjoying some delicious and often unique beers (Not a normal beer fest), while easily avoiding the horrible pumpkin ales and most of the ciders.

Don, however, could not make this Motor City event, citing work commitments. I suspect the thought of being that close to vile (his word) ciders  was too much for him, but as I've known him for a long time, so I'll take his word on it.

The Stone Brewing Wall of Fame
In any event, we started planning another Donny's Bar & Grill event, and decided to open up the guest list to other people in Don's circle (which is a lot) to make it a real party. And I started rationalizing about ways to turn a trip from Oshawa to Burlington into another voyage across the border to get a few more excellent IPAs and their friends.

When it's an hour-and-a-half from my apartment to Donny's Bar & Grill, what's another hour or so to get to Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Consumers Beverages?

For further justification, I needed only remember that I had left my best shirt - a 100 per cent silk Holt Renfrew number, part of my Rich Cousin's Boyfriend's Hand-Me Down Collection - at the Days Inn in Niagara Falls after my last trip to upstate New York in early September.

The hotel staff had it - I called right after I got home from the September trip - and were putting it aside for me. So hang tight, Stone Brewing IPAs. I'm coming for you.

I was up at four a.m. that day - as per usual - and went in to  work my abbreviated three-hour weekend shift. Then it was off to Toronto to spend some time with my folks, where I got lovingly roped into moving some (very heavy) furniture from the basement out to the curb.

Then I was border bound, where I watched trunks being inspected all around me by excitable customs officials. And I started to sweat just a little. See, I was going over the wall for just an hour or so, meaning that every beer I brought back would be subject to duty.

I was kind of hoping to avoid paying all that duty, actually.

First stop was the hotel, where the nice lady hunted around a bit before presenting me with my fancy-pants shirt. The it was east to the other end of town where Consumers Beverages, in all its American convenience store-style glory, awaited.

There's a chain of these stores all over western New York, with the heaviest concentration in Buffalo. They have a surprisingly wide selection of brews, including hard to find collaborations and one-offs from some of the big players in the American craft beer industry. The company has clearly established strong connections with many of them, notably Stone Brewery of San Diego, aka The Brewery That Can Do No Wrong.

I haven't had a Stone brew yet that wasn't excellent - I'm looking at five different Stone IPAs on my beer bottle shrine (which now takes up space on two bookshelves and one end table) as I write this - and today's haul would only add to Stone's reputation.

There was the 18th Anniversary IPA, which I was pretty excited about; and there was Collective Distortion IPA, a collaborative creation that Don had enjoyed and raved about. There was also Unapologetic IPA (bingo!), an 8.8 per cent Double IPA that was the best beer by far from the little mini-vacay I took with my son to Rochester and Niagara Falls a couple of months before. Stone IPA, the brewery's flagship beer, was there. So was Ruination, Stone's iconic Double IPA and the beer that sends Don into a beergasm rapture at its very mention. Bought two of those. And one RuinTen, billed as Ruination on steroids, just to cover all my bases.

But man cannot live on Stone alone, and I filled out my shopping cart with a few other ales, including a Triple IPA called The Kind from Three Heads Brewery in Rochester. I had Don and Cat in mind for this one, as they had yet to lose their Tripe IPA virginity, though I was hoping Marie, who suffers from working with Don at The Beer Store (and whose husband Ernie supplied the glorious meat for the festivities), would also give it a try.

See, when I had my first IIIPA (a 12 per cent ABV satanic brew called Devil Dancer from Founders Brewery), my gloating was met with shrugs or "what the hell is he talking about" from my two experienced IPA drinking friends. Marie, however, had the correct response; the one I was clearly looking for: "I'm jealous," is what she said.

Triple IPA for you Marie.

Eighty bucks (Cdn) later I'm on my way back to the border, after first deciding on a smuggling strategy (declare the two Ruinations to give the illusion of honesty, and hide the rest) and then figuring out where to stash my prizes.

Turned out it wasn't difficult. I had a trunk full of boxes filled with junk and some old milk cartons with tools in them. A little rearranging of said items with the beer at the bottom; a few hidden under the seat and presto! we have a trunk that no self-respecting border dude is going to want to check.

So I get to the border and, of course, he checked. "Anything to declare sir?" Well yes, I respond, hoping he wouldn't catch the beads of sweat running down from my brow. "I have the two Ruination IPAs here. Party favours," I added helpfully.

"Uh huh," he said. "Open your trunk please."

There's nothing I can do now, save for warning him that the spring on my trunk is broken and to close it "carefully." He obliges (after rooting around a bit) and sends me on my way, without bothering to charge me duty on the two beers I did declare.

See? Honesty does pay off.

I was going to make one more stop - at my father-in-law's place in Hamilton - before I got fully immersed in this awesome beer in Burlington. But I got thirsty, so I didn't, and shortly after two I pulled into Don's parking lot, showed him our booty, and we got into it.

Kenza Fourati made an appearance at DB&G
Perhaps I should have had a nap first. Maybe I should have avoided all those Double IPAs. I could have considered pacing myself as well. But I did none of those things.

I started with Smashbomb Atomic. Two of them, actually. Then it was Bolshevik Bastard, the 8.6 per cent Imperial Stout from Nickel Brook, which was all about roasted coffee, bitter chocolate and strong licorice. Then Don brought out the Pissed Off Pete, because we both were hoping there would be one pumpkin beer that didn't suck. This one, a porter that is also from Donny's hometown Nickel Brook Brewery, was the best pumpkin beer I tried this year. Which isn't saying much. It had the usual aroma of pumpkin spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, ginger and cloves - but it wasn't cloying like the others. Instead, there was a nice clean finish.

There was a brief distraction from Kate Upton and Kenza Fourati when a much read copy of Sports Illustrated's 2011 Swimsuit Edition made an appearance on the patio before we opened the bottle of Unapologetic IPA, a collaborative effort of Stone Brewery and their California friends - Beechwood and Heretic breweries - that has reached the top of the pops among IPAs for me.

This is a brew that I had once before and would buy a thousand times again if I could. The first time I got all pine and sweet malts with the citrus, but this time the malts lingered only for balance as my senses were overloaded by a super mango and grapefruit hop bomb. Mitch Steele, Stone's genius brewmaster, promised the beer would be "intense and totally hop forward," and he and his co-conspirators, who used some experimental hops and even some unusual (for an IPA) malts in the making of this beer, make no apologies for that fact. Which is good, because neither does the beer.

By the time we got to the bottom of that bottle the first stragglers were showing up and I was already half in the bag, and exhausted from all my criminal activities. It had already been a long day. I remember drinking Headstock and Fire in the Rye, and I remember wolfing down a few sausages, with both the sausages and the buns being made that morning by Ernie himself.

I mostly draw a blank after that. My notepad had the words Otter Creek/ Lawson on it, which implies I drank this magic elixir, a collaborative effort between two Vermont breweries that scored 100 on Rate Beer and had been praised to the mountaintop by Don, who had saved two for Cat and I to enjoy.

And I have no memories of drinking it. This travesty is actually the only thing I regret about the day.

But, I am told by a somewhat reliable source that I liked it, though my notes were not in my handwriting. But our host said I thoroughly enjoyed the brew.

Indeed you did!! Maybe I wrote it because you were having trouble writing.
"Did Cat like it as well?"
You both loved it. I'll help you out. Tropical and dark fruits on the nose... large dose of pine plus spice and hops on the tongue
"Did I say that?
You thought maybe some plum on the nose. I went with the catch-all dark fruits. That's what we agreed on.

So there you have it. I'm glad to see that beer did not go to waste but I still wish I remembered drinking it.

I didn't last long after that and after a short snoring spell in my chair on the patio, I found my way upstairs for the wee nap, just as the party was getting into full swing.

Next time I'm in for the long haul. I promised myself the next morning as I pocketed the parking ticket (again!) and unwrapped the shrink wrap from my car (thanks Cat and Marie!). And I won't take a month to write about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment