Monday, 24 April 2017

#Beersaints, real saints and my best B.C. bud

When I sent my pal Trevor, now settled in Langley, B.C. and starved for Ontario craft beer, a shoe box of Octopus Wants to Fight IPA, he promised to send me some of Vancouver's finest craft ales in return, further promising that at least one would be 'Glenncore.'

There was more than one, I can tell you that. Most of 'em were stellar, with at least three already category front runners. That's pretty Glenncore (a term Trevor coined, meaning a beer I was guaranteed to love), if you ask me.

He cheated, though. Where I spared no expense on postage and fancy wrapping paper, he waited until his sainted mother Debra arrived from Bowmanville (to do his laundry and make him cookies, I'm sure) so he could send my care package home with her.

He more than made up for that breach in protocol by going overboard on my box of fun. Eight beers in total from four different Greater Vancouver breweries, with half coming from Trevor's Russell Brewing of Surrey, where he reprises the role he once had with Manantler Brewing as the World's Sexiest Cellarman.

First, though, I had to pick up my beer in suburban Bowmanville from Trevor's saintly mom, who lives precariously between Camp 30, the WWII POW camp, and Darlington Nuclear plant.

I can vouch that Debra is, indeed, a saint. She gave me beer.

B.C. beer from my B.C. bud
I chose Punch Bowl, a 6.5 per cent sweet-as-candy IPA from Russell that was brewed with Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo (three of my favourite hops), to start things off, mainly because it was the only beer I had heard of from Russell.

I knew they were two-time World Cup of Beer medalists, so they must have been doing something right.

Punch Bowl delivered, with tropical fruit, pine and rich malts , as well as that aforementioned sweetness.

I found that sweetness in the next IPA I tried as well. (Must be a B.C. thing.) Four Winds IPA was piney, with some citrus and earthy malts; a little bit of sweetness and dankness too.

The first (of two) cans of Hop Therapy, a 4.5 per cent India Session Ale that Trevor declared as Glenncore almost from his first day on the job, was up next and this beer delivered on everything he said.

There was a bit of that B.C. sweetness in the aroma but it all came together in a delicious way, with tropical fruit, honey and peach jam making this beer resiny, sticky and way more flavourful than 4.5 per cent alcohol beers should be.

Definitely Glenncore, and the early leader for my Session IPA-of-the-Year. An awesome beer.

The next beer out of the hat was White Rabbit (you see what I did there?), a hoppy Hefeweizen from Russell that immediately became my favourite Hefeweizen ever. Granted, it is a short list, but I have had a few good ones and this is the best of the best.

There was lemon and spices on the nose with a real hop-forward taste, with banana, more spices and a little citrus. Very nice.

Next up was Nocturnum, a Dark IPA from Strange Fellows Brewing (East Vancouver) that got knocked around on Rate Beer: a 55 overall score with just 21 points for 'style.' But Rate Beer reviewers can be a fickle lot and as Trevor is a big Black IPA fan I was hopeful this one would measure up.

No worries. It was as tasty as dark sunshine on a rainy west coast day, with mandarin orange, a bit of pine and toasty notes in the aroma. The dark side came out next with roasty goodness, a touch of chocolate and tropical fruit, with a dry finish.

Hop Therapy India Session Ale
from Russell Brewing.
Most definitely 'Glenncore.'
Sit and Stay, a 3.9 per cent India Session Belgian Ale - possibly my first stab at this style - followed Nocturnum, and this beer was, what's that fancy Rate Beer reviewing adjective? Oh yeah. Yummy.

It had a gorgeous burnt orange pour with a ton of bright citrus on the nose. More citrus and spices on the tongue. Delicious.

The next afternoon was all about the last can of Hop Therapy - most definitely Glenncore - before I enjoyed the last beer in the #beersaint stash: Wee Angry Scotch Ale from Russell.

Like White Rabbit, this beer is part of the brewery's small batch Brewmaster Series. My Scottish heritage notwithstanding, Scotch Ales are not normally in my wheelhouse, but this one went a long way to changing my perspective on the style.

There was an aroma of aged fruit and caramel malts and the ale was smooth and balanced, with a Stout-like finish.

My dearly departed and very saintly Nana would have approved.

Thank you Trevor. Let me know when your saintly mom visits you next. I'll hook you up.

Paul (who will always be) The Beerguy

My beer pal Paul did that #beersaint thing again, and all I had to give him in return was a bag of coffee I commandeered from my son's fridge.

I couldn't even buy him a beer at our meeting spot at Buster Rhino's as he was already perched on his bar stool, glass of beer in hand, when I arrived.

On time, I might add.

Paul had called me the day before, saying he wanted my opinion on a few microbrews he had picked up on his travels and could we hook up before work the next day?

Absolutely, said I, though there was nothing in my fridge he hadn't tried before that I could bring as a trade.

Ergo the coffee. How was I supposed to know he drink much coffee?

I sincerely hope his wife liked it.

So we enjoyed a half-pint of something tasty and he sent me on my way with three bombers of local craft goodness.  There was Anniversary #4, a Saison from the good folks at Left Field and Rorschach IPA from a brand new brewery in Toronto's east end - located only a few minutes from Left Field, in fact.

The third bottle was Fresh Roast Coffee Porter (five per cent ABV) from Falcon Brewery in neighbouring Ajax and as Brewmaster Dave is a regular at Buster's I figured I'd have a go at that one first.

Besides, I'd enjoyed it once before on tap at the bar, so it should be an easy review.

Coffee and roasted malt flavours but nothing overpowering. Smooth and very drinkable.

The Anniversary #4 was a nice treat, especially as I don't get a lot of Saisons in my glass most days.

Soft, tart citrus up front. The taste is crisp, with lemon and spices prominent. As tasty as a warm summer's eve spent on the back porch with family.

The final beer in Paul's #beersaint package turned out to be the best of the lot. Rorschach IPA made me see the psychiatrist's ink blot and think of nothing but deliciousness.

Fantastic aroma of tropical fruit and the tropical citrus theme continued in the taste, with a satisfying bitterness.

I am definitely going to have to make a pilgrimage to Toronto's east end. With a stop in Ajax on the way.

Thanks Paul!

Homebrew beauty (And Unicorns)

I stopped in at my friend Josh's place the other night after work to watch the end of the Leafs game. My son Matt was there too so bonus for me.

I have written of Josh before and craft beer's newest convert had a surprise waiting for me in the apartment he shares with his mother, Paula: Home brew.

Josh has been learning a few tricks of home brewing from his friends Linda and John and it was their February Sunshine English Pale Ale that I would be enjoying on this evening.

But first a Canuck Pale Ale from Great Lakes, the hockey game (which would end in a heart-breaking overtime loss for my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs), and a look-around of the apartment, which I couldn't help notice was covered with unicorns.

There were stuffed unicorns, unicorn figurines and pictures of unicorns on every wall. There were more unicorns than I wanted to count.

"Looks like your Mom likes unicorns," I say to Josh cleverly. "Dude," he replied, "you have no idea."

At that moment Paula - who I didn't know was home - comes 'hopping' into the room, riding a unicorn on a stick.

I think I'm getting it now, Josh.

After we all had a good giggle I got down to tasting Linda and John's homebrew, which was brewed on a sunny and warm (16 degrees!) day in February, hence the February Sunshine name.

Made from a recipe from my pal Matt at Brewer's Pantry and brewed with Linda's "special touch," February Sunshine delivered soft, fruity hops balanced with soft, bready malts and an almost buttery texture.

So very, very drinkable.

I hear there's an IPA and an APA coming. I also hear I've been promised a bottle or two.

My life just got a little bit better.


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