Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Beers for Breakfast 

Lunch at Brock Street

My attempts at reviving the popular Beers for Breakfast workplace enrichment program I had initiated earlier this year with work pals Steve and Scott ended abruptly for a couple of reasons.

Spring came for one thing and we started working past breakfast time. You know, like regular people. Also, Scott left for greener pastures and Steve was the less enthusiastic of the two when it came to beer.

But when Marc, our boss, handed me a few free flight coupons from Brock Street Brewery (leftovers from the Brooklin Fair), I decided it was time to stop in after work, with Steve riding shotgun.

I had been to Brock Street around the time of their opening just over a year ago and not since, having decided to wait until they expanded their offerings beyond blondes, reds and browns and into hoppier stuff. Free beer, however, was enough of an enticement to return.

So with the lovely Taylor handling the bar duties, we got started.

She set Steve up with their Extra Light Blond (3%), the award-winning Blonde (4.3%) and Big V's Pale Ale (5.5%). I chose the Blonde, Big V's, and because I was wearing my big boy pants, the 7.5 per cent Double Vision IIPA.
Free flights at Brock Street!
(With coupon, of course)

Steve, who is a man of few words when it came to beer, declared the Extra Light "good" and the Blonde "even better." He wasn't a fan of Big V's (he made a face) but when Taylor gave him a bonus taster, the 4.8 per cent Amber, he was pretty vocal about his feelings. "We have a winner!"

I didn't find the Blonde had much to offer, though it was pleasant, but I liked Big V's, with its citrus and caramel flavours. Double Vision was pretty good as well and I declared it piney and bitter.

Which is the way I like my Double IPAs.

Taylor handed us a few more free flight coupons on the way out, so for sure we'll be back.

While on the subject of local breweries I hadn't visited in a while, I stopped in at 5 Paddles recently (on the way back from a border crossing/Donnie's Bar & Grill adventure) and picked up a bottle of their In Your Face IPA.

I had tried this beer a couple of years ago and wasn't impressed. Either they have tweaked their recipe since then or my palate has been tweaked (or I'm an idiot), but this was a pretty good IPA. Not a hop bomb, with the citrus, tropical fruit and straw aromas a bit muted, but very tasty. Lemony hops, with some sweetness and more tropical fruit definitely shone through. Moderately bitter, clean, fresh and good.

I'll see both breweries at the Durham Craft Beer Festival this Saturday. Looking forward to it.

Rainhard and Durham's own breweries shine

I popped in to Toronto's Rainhard Brewing a little while back to help Jordan Rainhard celebrate one year brewing great beer.

I had a glass of his excellent Daywalker Session IPA and brought a bottle of that and the most excellent Kapow! IPA back to the third floor loft in the Shwa. But it was his Lazy Bones IPA and big brother Hop Cone Syndrome that stole the spotlight at the Canadian Brewing Awards (CBA), held in Vancouver at the end of May.

Lazy Bones outpointed Nickel Brook's Headstock - a long time love of mine - for the gold medal in my favourite category - India Pale Ale. Hop Cone Syndrome (a new IIPA I haven't tried yet) earned a silver in the Imperial IPA category, behind Innocente Brewery's Two Night Stand and ahead of Nickel Brook's wonderful Immodest.

In Your Face IPA - good beer, bad-ass label
The CBAs also featured a local medalist, as 5 Paddles of neighbouring Whitby took home a silver in the Belgian Style Dubbel category for Brother Ian's Belgian 6.

But Durham Region brewers knocked it out of the park at the Ontario Brewing Awards (though my pals at Manantler were shut out), held in Toronto one month before the nationals. A total of ten medals were handed out to local beer makers, with 5 Paddles picking up three seconds and three thirds and Brock Street (Whitby) winning the only gold as well as Newcomer of the Year.

Old Flame (Port Perry) had the other three medals, with three seconds.

Old Flame earned silvers for Red (Amber Lager), Brunette (Dark Lager) and All 'Ale' the Ginger (Herb/Spice). Brock Street took the top spot for its Irish Red (Dark Ale), while 5 Paddles came home with a silver for its In Your Face IPA, though it was in the American Pale Ale category. There were also silvers for Midnight Paddler (Imperial Stout) and Sunset Paddler (Barrel Aged Red Wine). Home Sweet Home (Honey Beer) and Kingdom Sweet Kingdom (Belgian Style Tripel) earned bronze medals.

Pilsner Urquell still shines after 174 years

The legendary Pilsner Urquell
Every once in a while I have to remind myself there is more to good beer than IPAs and their friends.

This was one of those times.

I picked up a bottle of Pilsner Urquell the other day, mostly because I felt the need for this IPA lover to broaden his tastes a bit.

There was another  factor in my decision as well. I found it at the back of my Mom's fridge; it belonged to my older brother; and he wasn't there.

Also, International Beer Writing Icon Neil Miller (a former New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year), suggested I do so, having raved about the beer after a trip to the brewery, now owned by ABInBev, in the Czech Republic in 2014.

(The brewery is for sale, if you're interested. ABInBev just purchased rival SABMiller - apparently no relation to Neil - a move that will give the world's largest beer maker one-third of all beer sales and half the global profit. The deal is expected to close later this year, pending regulatory approvals, which include the forced sale of ABInBev's Eastern European portfolio, with the jewel in that collection just happening to be Pilsner Urquell. Neil might have a second cousin or somesuch involved in the proceedings and therefore could be of benefit to would-be buyers. I'll let you know.)
Beer Writer,True Beleafer Neil Miller
also loves Pilsner Urquell

Pilsner Urquell, first brewed in 1842, is the world's first Pilsner as well as being the first blonde lager, making it quite an influential beer. Nine out of ten beers consumed in the world today are derived from the original Pilsner (according to Wikipedia, which is never wrong) so, yeah, it's pretty important in the grand pantheon of world beers.

Neil was quite emphatic at the time of his visit in espousing its virtues. In fact, he said drinking Pilsner Urquell unfiltered and unpasteurized straight from the barrel was "almost a spiritual experience."

I didn't feel the need the wax quite so eloquently after drinking it from a bottle I appropriated from the back of my Mom's fridge, but I liked it just the same.

Very smooth and gentle to the tongue, like a good pilsner should taste. As lagers go, this was a very good one. A classic, in fact, and my father (who shared my contraband beer) agreed.

It wasn't my favourite Pilsner - Long Dong Pilsner from Great Lakes gets that vote - but as far as Pilsners that haven't been tweaked or modified to meet the changing tastes of beer drinkers, it takes top honours.


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