Wednesday, 19 July 2017

On the juice ... and loving it

It was a couple of months ago when I had this great idea of writing a blog about the three 'Juice' IPAs that were floating around out there: Juice Campbell from 5 Paddles; Juicin from Sawdust City and Juicy Ass from Flying Monkeys.

I would drink them, rate them and see which beer came out on top. It sounded pretty simple at the time.

But finding all three beers has proved to be a longer process than I imagined.

Juice Campbell was easy, and I didn't even have to drive the five whole kilometres to the brewery. I just had to stop in at Brew Wizards, a pub and coffee house just a block south of my local at Buster Rhino's in downtown Oshawa.

It's also directly across the street from my pal Brandon's place, making it a convenient spot for a post-work beer. Win win.
Juice Campbell from 5 Paddles

A geek/nerd paradise, this is the place where you can indulge in role playing games, play any number of board games with friends, or get a flight of coffee served to you on a sword. Or, conversely, you can check out the tap list - 16 beers! - and order a pint of local brew.

Which is how I discovered Juice Campbell and ordered my first pint.

Not a ton of aroma but there is some citrus hanging in the background, Grapefruit is very prominent and that citrus hoppiness builds some as you make your way through the glass. Dry finish. Good stuff.

Juicin came on board in the beer fridge at Buster Rhino's soon after and I was quick to order a bottle after work as soon as I learned of this extremely peachy development.

This beer was one of my favourites of 2016 and my number one New England-style IPA, a category that is low on quantity - it's practically a brand new style - but super high in quality.

And my first beer of 2017 underwhelmed me a little.

The aroma of Juicin (circa 2016) was "mind-blowing" - to quote myself - with peach and tropical citrus lovingly tormenting my taste buds.

The aroma from the can from our fridge - which I knew was quite fresh - was a bit muted, which surprised me. Otherwise it tasted much the same as I remembered from last year, with resin, orange and peachy awesomeness. Juicy (oh, so juicy!) and very tasty.
Juicin from Sawdust City

But the universe was restored to its proper place a few weeks later when Sean, our smiling Sawdust City rep, delivered a keg of Juicin to the bar and I enjoyed this magical beer on tap.

And there was that aroma, back in all its glory with loads of peach, mango, pineapple and love.

That put Juicin firmly back as a contender (again) for Beer-of-the-Year, as well as in the lead in this little 'Juicy' competition.

But I didn't think I'd ever get my hands on a Juicy Ass IPA from Flying Monkeys. I remember the brewery teasing an LCBO appearance but never seeing it, and a trip to Barrie - however enticing that may be - was not in my immediate plans.

And then I walked into my favourite LCBO - the Oshawa Centre location - and there it was, along with a few other new gems I had been hoping for. I chatted with Tim, my favourite LCBO Beer Guy, and congratulated him on his superior ordering skills before taking my cans home.

Juicy Ass IPA from Flying Monkeys
I might actually have a blog now.

Juicy Ass - the name may be suggestive but the can design is suggestive only of Flying Monkeys loveable weirdness - was worth waiting for, but was it good enough to take down Juicin?

Pretty high standard to shoot for, for sure.

(By the way, if you want to learn more of the name's origins check out Beer Bro Don's take on the subject - "What's in a Name?" - in his always entertaining Brew Ha Ha blog.)

Juicy Ass was juicy, smooth and delicious, with mango, pine, peach, floral notes and little sweetness carrying the flavour and grapefruit and tropical fruit prominent in the aroma. It was lighter than I expected but very good.

Did I have a winner? Yes I did. Did I have a blog to write? I guess I did, because I just wrote it.

It's Juicin for the win.

Two breweries is not enough to meet demand for hot-selling Bellwoods beer

I was really looking forward to trying Peach Milkshark. I really was.

Damn you Bellwoods and your hugely inconvenient popularity.

The most interesting new beer style in Ontario over the past six months has definitely been the Milkshake IPA, a smooth and creamy lactose and vanilla infused beer that tastes like a fruit smoothie brewed in heaven.

Created two years ago by Tired Hands (Ardmore, PA) and Omnipollo (Stockholm, Sweden), the style hit the Canadian craft beer market more recently, particularly when Bellwoods got into the game.

Since then the iconic Toronto brewery has brewed a whole line of beers under the Milkshark line, including Pineapple, Mango, Guava, Blackberry and now Peach.

Peach Milkshark from Bellwoods
And I have enjoyed but two - Pineapple (divine!) and Guava - because the beers sold out almost as soon as they were produced. Mango, a Milkshark I was extremely excited about (I love mango) was gone in a matter of hours after its release last month.

None for me.

Peach is the latest in the line, and I saw it on the brewery website Tuesday and immediately made plans to visit Bellwoods' Hafis Road location Saturday. But long before I headed out to Toronto to cut my Mom and Dad's grass I knew the beer was gone.

You need a third brewery Bellwoods. At least.

Gord, the Retail Supervisor at Hafis and the fellow behind the counter Saturday, laughed when I said that and reminded me that a third brewery (Dufferin & Dupont) has been in the works for a while.

That future good news didn't help me on this day, I responded. No Peach Milkshark. The fact that the run lasted more than 24 hours - it was gone Wednesday afternoon - was of little consolation.

(The fact I was at the counter buying Jutsu, Wizard Wolf, Jelly King and Witchshark made me feel a little better. I'll admit that.)

It's a problem, Gord agreed, adding that the the constant beer shortages because of the brewery's popularity also explained why you rarely see Bellwoods at beer festivals.

"We just don't make enough beer."

We chatted about beer festivals - the Durham Craft Beer Festival was just over a week ago - and he praised the non-competitive vibe at these events.

I told him the story of how my pals at Manantler discovered a broken regulator during set-up and were saved from a fate worse than death at a beer festival - the inability to pour beer - by the efforts of festival neighbours Sawdust City (a replacement regulator) and Muskoka (tools and elbow grease).

"I love the collaborative nature of this business," Gord declared. "It just raises the ceiling on the whole industry. It creates a 'scene.'"

"It's one of the things I love about craft beer."

Despite Bellwoods not actually having a booth at the festival, we still sold a lot of their beer through the Buster Rhino's booth (from our beer fridge), with our best customer being a woman from Liberty Village in west Toronto. She threw her arms to the sky in delight when she learned we had Bellwoods beer. "Bellwoods!" she cried, with her take on Jazz Hands on display. I thought she was going to faint and I was going to have to be a hero and catch her. 

Lucky for her that didn't happen.

Maybe when Bellwoods opens a third brewing location I can actually get my hands on the next Milkshark beer before it runs out.

Maybe, just maybe, that could mean they could actually show up at our beer festival.

But remember, Bellwoods: you will be responsible for any Liberty Village women who faint in your presence.

Rouge River Tap Takeover!

I praised (gushingly) the Summer IPA and complained (bitterly) about the speed in which the Passion Fruit Sour ran out at the recent Durham Craft Beer Festival.

This Saturday I get (I hope) one more chance at both at the Rouge River Tap Takeover at Buster Rhino's in downtown Oshawa.
Rouge River brewers in the house!

The Markham brewers, who only opened late last tear and took home Silver at the People's Choice Awards at the Durham beer fest, will be bringing nine beers with them Saturday. Both the Summer IPA - which debuted in Oshawa on festival day - and the Passion Fruit Sour will be in the house.

But here's the thing: I will be working for the peak part of the evening and I need to make sure the Passion Fruit Sour is still pouring when they get rid of me and I can have a few pints. So don't drink any of it. Please. I know this is asking a lot, but I need you to save it all for me and ...

The most delicious Summer IPA
from Rouge River Brewing
What's that Darryl? I can't tell customers not to drink the Passion Fruit Sour? 

Damn. Okay, never mind folks. Drink as much of the sour as you like. I'll just have to take my chances that there's some left when I'm done my shift.

What's that Jessica? You have a keg hidden away just for staff? And you're hiding it at Shannon's place? And Darryl doesn't know about it?


Like I said, drink as much as you like. The tap takeover will run from 11 to close (or until we run out of Rouge River beer) and there will be prizes, merch and a chance to meet a sexy brewer or two.

See you there!

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