So beer writers Stan and Daria and family were here getting a break from the camper on their world beer tour 2008. As it turned out, so were Steve from Beau's and John o' Church-key. Between them the lads drove 500 km to get here and as much to get home - nothing compared, however, to the Hieronymi land cruiser which hit the 10,000 mile mark yesterday. And, after hours of great beer and some good chow I threw together, I came away from what I will call the first Kingston Symposium on Craft Brewing realizing I pretty much know nothing about beer. Zippo.
Hanging around with such people of the beer is always a great education but listening to two such knowledgeable beer thinkers as Stan and Daria (who is also a recent winner on Jeopardy) over a whole evening with two of Canada's most interesting young brewers was pretty amazing. Not to go blow by blow through the beers but I shared some Ontarians including our local Barley Day's Wind and Sail Dark, some Stuart's Natural and made some fairly snazzy scallops in a pan with a slug of Wellington Dark. Good Ontario and Quebec craft cheeses also shared the table.
We talked about beer price and value, the regulatory challenges of the Ontario market and the Canadian border as well as the opportunities a province that is trying hard to catch up to our southern neighbours provides. We also poured bottles of Steve and John's brews including Beau's flagship kolsche and Church-key's West Coast IPA - as well as half year cellared bottles of Bog Water and Lactese Falcon, that beer that begs to be next to a rib-eye. Each of these showed really well and, in their comparison, begged the question as to which better expressed Ontario-ness: the traditional Algonquin Park canoe trip invocating bog myrtle or the funky blue cheese tang of the beer of the 22nd century. I just made that up. I am sure John will pick it up as the LT's catch phrase.
To finish, we popped the tangy spicy dry and quite fascinating Fuego del Otono, a seasonal chestnut beer which is also very under-priced from Jolly Pumpkin. Stan and Daria had passed Dexter on a Saturday when the brewery was not open so it was fair to include it in their year-long continent hopping search for the essence of global local beer. By the way, that last beer is one of the ones that make me think there should be a web based auction for craft beer where beer lovers could set out what they would pay for a beer. If Ron at Jolly Pumpkin would set me aside a mixed case of beer like Fuego del Otono for pick up when I am in the neighbourhood, I would definitely pay $11.99 or a bit more compared to the $8.99 I paid for this one last fall at the ever excellent Bello Vino of Ann Arbor. Other beers of the moment might not get such a price boost from the set you own auction, if my suspicions are correct.
In the end, one in the morning came far too soon and, as with the best gatherings like this, I came away having added understanding as well as happily convinced in how little I still really know. There is so much to learn about good beer. For one thing, I now crave New Glarus Spotted Cow and may have to drive to Wisconsin just to get me some more.