Sunday, 18 June 2017

Buzzed about Buzz Light Beer

Brew Day at Manantler with the #Beersaints seemed such a long time ago that I had almost forgotten about it.

Almost, but not quite.

The brewing process was a lot of fun, but it was a blast because of the company we kept and the beers we drank far more than any actual brewing we did. I mean, let's be real: I threw some oatmeal in the malt and tossed a handful of hops in the tank.

Chris, the drone-flying, critter-whispering Brewmaster, and Alex, the Sexiest Cellarman East of Burlington, did all the work. Well, and David. All that running back and forth between the back room and the tanks with fresh coffee had to count for something.

Still, I was anxious to actually taste our handiwork and earlier this month I finally got that chance.

Buzz Light Beer, our coffee-infused, 4.8 per cent ale, was ready.

Jen tweeted the news first and I asked the brewery boys to save me a few bottles as I wouldn't be able to get out to Bowmanville until the weekend.

Buzz Light Beer
I ended up buying a case of the stuff. You know, for my Mom and a few of my friends. Not all Buzz Light Light Beer - I picked up some Liquid Swords, Manantler's very excellent IPA, as well as a couple of bottles of Hot Tropics, their 3.6 per cent Belgian Table IPA which is simply the finest under-four cent beer ever made.

I had ten in the box when Alex pointed out that if  I bought a dozen I would get a free glass.

Two more Liquid Swords joined their sisters, as well as a Manantler glass to replace the one I broke last month.

Despite it being the middle of the afternoon, with work only a few hours away, I didn't have to wait until the evening to try my beer. At 4.8 per cent, the beer was good to go for me, so as soon as I got home I popped the cap and imbibed.

It poured a beautiful bronze with coffee on the nose - lots of it.

(The colour was surprising all by itself - on brew day I thought we were making a stout. It was days later before I clued in that it would be a coffee-infused ale. A little slow off the mark sometimes, I am.)

Bits of dark fruit, grains, spices and more coffee came up next. Smooth and very drinkable. I may be biased. but I (ahem) am such a good brewer.

Jessica agreed. I gave her and Shannon a bottle each. Partly to suck up to my bosses at the bar, and partly because they are - and I've said this before - Two of My Favourite People.

Shannon decided to save hers for the housewarming after she completes her move later this month, but Jessica was messaging me shortly after she closed the bar, thanking me for the gift and giving me her three word assessment:

"Beer is Good"

I couldn't have said it better myself.

I also gave a bottle to my pal James, who runs Oshawa's iconic Mr. Burger and has the craft beer business in his blood: his father Bill owns the 100-plus seat Stack barbecue restaurant and craft beer bar in uptown Toronto.

The Buzz Light Beer brewing team
I set aside one for my Dad as well and promptly forgot it when I was out there last weekend to cut the grass and do a few odd jobs.

I'll save it for you for my next visit Dad.

Which left just two for me but that's okay, because I can never aspire to be a true #Beersaint unless I understand that it is better to give than receive. Especially with beer.

And speaking of #Beersaints, I want to give a shout-out to my fellow brewers Paul, Jen, Robin, Joan, Toni, Dave, Rob and Brett, as well as our Manantler 'assistants' Chris and Alex.

As my friend Jess said, "Beer is Good."

Happy Birthday Rainhard!

Another two weeks had gone by, and that meant another trip out to the old homestead to cut the grass at my Mom and Dad's place.

It also meant another west-end Toronto brewery run on the way back to Oshawa, and I knew just which brewery would be tops on the itinerary: Rainhard Brewing.

They even knew I was coming because they were throwing a party in my honour. There was a big crowd of people with beers in their hands enjoying the sunshine and there was band playing inside.

All that fun could have been because it was the brewery's Second Birthday Party, but it could have been for me too. Hard to say, really.

So I got out of my car and started walking ... the opposite way of all that hubbub to the other side of the parking lot to Shacklands Brewery.

It's literally that close.

I figured I'd hit up the new guys first before I pop by the Rainhard party. I had heard good things about Shacklands, so my strategy made sense to me.

Shacklands opened only a few months ago (after contract brewing for a few years) and Brewmaster Jason Tremblay has brought a Belgian twist to his beers. I didn't see Jason, or even much of the tap room beyond the cash register, but I did meet co-owner Dave Watts, and we chatted about beer while he rang up my purchases.

I did say cash register, right? This was the real deal, too. About a million years old and as cool as Cool Hand Luke, if he had a job selling widgets at Sam Drucker's store in Hooterville.

At Indie Ale House, you park Where the Pigeons Are
(Dave actually told me how old it was but I forgot and my notes have disappeared. I'd blame the dog, but I don't have one.)

In any event, I placed my Brett Pale Ale and my bottle of Belgian
Porter in my car and wandered back to the Rainhard side of the lot to find the party in full swing. I spotted Jordan Rainhard - the man of the hour - in deep convo - so I popped into the bottle shop for a few beers to go.

A brand new IPA called Total Clarity and Jordan's amazing Kapow IPA were in the fridge, so I bought a bottle each and a pair of Daywalker, my reigning (2X!) Session IPA champion beer.

I miss Daywalker.

I filled my glass with Hop Cone Syndrome, Rainhard's excellent (and award-winning) Imperial IPA, and headed outside, where I ran into Callum, a pal and a regular at Buster Rhino's. Callum was there with his wife and some friends, and I whiled away a quarter-hour at their table before I was off, with two more breweries to go and a schedule to keep.

Indie Ale House in the heart of The Junction was next and, as always, I parked Where The Pigeons Are and walked across Dundas Street and into one of Toronto's most iconic brew pubs.

Time was getting tight and I had Blood Brothers still on the agenda, so I settled for a bottle shop visit only and grabbed Love Triangle IPA and a couple of bottles of Rabbit of Caerbannog, a White IPA that intrigued me by its name alone.

Blood Brothers Brewing
I like White IPAs, which take the wheat base and spicy traits of Belgian Wits and mash it up with the ultra hoppy character of American IPAs, and any beer named after the Killer Rabbit of Monty Python's classic Holy Grail movie is going home with me.

And then it was on to Blood Brothers for the final stop and a much needed glass of a strawberry IPA for my poor parched throat.

What the hell is a Strawberry IPA, you say? I asked that too. But it wasn't half bad. Smelled like strawberries for sure, and I didn't think I'd like it, But I did. Strawberry jam was prominent, along with citrus, apple and froot loops cereal. Good stuff.

Milk of the Poppy it was called, and I bought a bottle, along with previously endorsed Shumei and Love Trip IPAs for the ride back to Oshawa.

One day I won't be in such a hurry.

Beer O'Clock (and 500 goals)

It was a real pleasure to get my hands on some old favourites on this trip, like Kapow and Daywalker (tart, citrusy and delicious) from Rainhard and Shumei and Love Trip from Blood Brothers.

But it's the new taste sensations that get me excited for these little beer adventures and this trip had a few of those.

Total Clarity from Rainhard was one such newbie and this 6.2 per cent IPA came with earthy hops that pummelled the palate a bit before giving way to pine, orange and bit of sweetness.

Monty Python's Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. 
Love Triangle (Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus) was another new beer and it was citrusy with orange zest and tropical fruit.

Rabbit of Caerbannog, an Indie Ale House collaboration beer with Bar Hop, was the most interesting beer of the day. More so than a strawberry IPA, and that's saying a lot. There was a spicy and floral aroma with a creamy texture on the tongue. Light citrus (lemon, orange zest), more floral hops and a bit of coriander. I liked it a lot.

Shacklands brought a level of intrigue - and a whole lot of funk - to the table as well with their Belgian-inspired beers. Their Belgian Porter was funky, with yeast, dark malts, chocolate and dark fruit, while the Brett Pale Ale took the funk up another notch entirely, with its sour-like aroma. There was more funk in the flavour, along with yeast, spices and a little fruitiness too.

I will have to pay these guys a return visit soon.

I gave my son Cam a sample of the Brett Pale Ale, as much to see his face when he tasted the funky flavours caused by the addition of Brettanomyces yeast strains as any attempt to be a loving Dad.

After all, Cam's beer of choice is Corona or Coors Light - when he drinks at all - so I wasn't expecting more of a reaction than "what is this stuff?"

He liked it. He really liked it. And since then he's tried a few of my hoppier beers and liked them too.

I may have a convert.

Number 500!
And speaking of Cam (and non-beer related issues), I feel the need to give him a plug. The lad was quite the hockey player in his youth. He scored goals at a pretty high rate in house league and in the lower levels of rep hockey before 'retiring' from minor hockey at 18 with 484 career goals.

I counted.

He played part of a season of men's hockey a few years ago and this summer went back to organized summer hockey and starting lighting the lamp once again.

On June 1, in a game played on the big ice at the Tribute Communities Centre in downtown Oshawa, his team (The Gents) were being hammered by Independent Waterproofing when Cam scored a late goal. It was number 500.

I wasn't in attendance but I have the puck and it will be honoured on a plaque in time for his birthday next week.

Congratulations Cam!

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