This weekend I made a discovery while looking for things to do while visiting family...OK, my in-laws. Right there in little Stratford Ontario was the Stratford Brewing Company. At the south end of town in a small industrial park area at the back of a building there it was...a van, a man and a set of second-hand brewing equipment making one of the best pilsners I have ever had.
After I got past what looked like an attack beagle, I met Joe Tuer who ended up taking over two hours of his day to tell me about his beer and his business.
I actually came back with the camera and a note pad. I was going to do this interviewing thing right. Looking at my notes now you would think I was sitting in a chilly lagering room in the middle of a Canadian winter fixated on the beer in front of me and chatting with a new found beer nerd fellow traveller. Oh...I was. I did get a good quote after I asked what his challange as a brewer was, which he replied:
I don't want to be someone's favorite beer. I don't want someone to buy our beer religiously. If we're in your top six - perfect.
This is a two beer operation. The flagship is a 4.9% Czech pilsner - by name of Stratford Pilsner - which has a nice breadcrustiness from the pale malt as well as a easy drinkability from Stratford's soft artesian well water. Joe also poured me a new 4% porter he decided to add for winter. Chocolate with a nice snap of twiggy hops, this beer relies on a light fruity English ale yeast as well as that soft water. Again, quaffable at the lighter end of porter. The malt Stratford Brewering uses is from Gilbertson & Page of nearby Fergus, the hops from Hop Union and the yeast are from Wyeast.
Brewing lager takes a bit of an investment and a bit of a chance. Lager has to be "lagered" or stored in cold temperatures for a significantly longer period of time than ales. This means you need more storage capacity to produce the same amount of beer as an ale brewer. It also means you have to pay higher cooling costs. But what is smart about it is that you are aiming at a niche that the average southern Ontarian is already used to supping. You have market. Stratford Brewing services a keg market of about two dozen accounts right now which is largely based on local loyalty in town as well as beer lovers in downtown Toronto, about two hours drive east. The town of Stratford has a world famous Shakespeare festival which attracts folk from around the world including many who expect a town to have a local town brewer and who ask for his beer before they even know the name.
After some rejection from banks as a new grad with a business degree, Joe reinvented his business interest in beer while working in Singapore enjoying the ex-pat life. Diligent readers of the archives will be familiar with Brewerkz, a brew pub there visited by Newfoundlander and Asiapundit, Chris Myrick before he moved to Shanghai, land of pineapple beer. Joe got a short course of over the shoulder training from Scott Robertson at Brewerkz which carried him back to Canada a year and a half ago and started him on his search for equipment. What he found was in Cincinnati - a 14 barrel Specific Mechanical system originally from BC shown here.
I will revisit Stratford Brewing (and not only because I visit my in-laws there) from time to time. This is a lager I would return to - and this is from someone who is not a lager fan. I hope to find Joe on a hot August Saturday with a lawn chair each and time to contemplate his work.
Hey! A Good Beer Blog has been nominated by some sort of global organization, no doubt UN funded, for Best Blog Covering Wine, Beer or Spirits and Best Group Food Blog. Vote here and give those wine folk and their gin soaked pals a right good thrashing.
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From Alva in Clackmannanshire. Luscious brown ale, mahogany under a beige rim. Big dark chocolate note right up front. Among the chocolate the twig hops provide bitter which is sustained as notes of date and fig show up.
There is a lot of graininess amongt the richness which, along with the hops, keeps this from getting flabby. Really rich and smooth with a good body. Highly BA approved though they call it an old ale when it is more a southern English brown.
Very moreish. Sadly, I have but one to open.
Now in its 10th year, NWAF began because brewers of old ales, stouts and porters could not enter the Champion Beer of Britain Competition – held in August when most winter ales are not available. Since then NWAF has become a staple in the beer drinkers calendar, attracting thousands of visitors.I was not aware there was a beer drinkers calendar. Where can I get one of those.
I hadn't realized that there was a protest going on over the decision by InBev to move production of Hoegaarden from the village of Hoegaarden to another facility. A protest web site from the village asks:
If real parma ham has to have it's origin in Parma, if champagne has to be produced in a strictly assigned region, why shouldn't an internationally famous, but typically regional original product like the Hoeegarden White beer, be produced in the town of Hoegaarden.This is a good question. Why is beer not granted the sort of inherent quality that other foods and products are? One of the Celis family, revivers of the white beer style, gives her opinion here.
What to sip for for the New Year, for Hogmanay, as we wait for the baby in the sash to kick the old bearded guy with the staff out of the room as we wait for the odometer of life to click over one more digit?
What better than saison, one of the great ale styles. One, Hennepin, from Ommegang of Cooperstown is one of my favorite sips out of central New York state and actually available at better gas stations in the Albany region for under five buck a 750 ml. [Ed.: ...just imagine...] The other two are both made by Brasserie Dupont of Tourpes, Belgium. The simpler 250 ml of Saison Dupont was picked up at the LCBO for the merest farthing while the organic Forêt was at the Finger Lake Beverage Center (right about here) probably for the best part of ten bucks. Forêt says that it is made of 100% organically grown hops and barley, that it was made without pesticides or chemicals (a broad claim if ever there was) and that it was made from filtered artesian well water. That is a lot of talk. One hopes it is for the best. All three are bottle conditioned.
Michael Jackson notes in his early work The World Guide to Beer that saison is a style from south central Belgium which makes it a geographical neighbour to northern France's slightly funkier bières de garde like La Choulette. To my mind, saison is a celebration of the finest pale malt grown south of the English channel, full of fruit and soft water, perhaps earthy where bières de garde is pungent. Let's see if my pre-conceived notions are in fact accurate.
- Saison Dupont: 8 pm. New Years In Scotland has come. Very nice. Rich and round with masses of dry palt malt. Lively antique gold ale under replenishing white foam. Fruitier on the nose than in the mouth. There is a pronounced graininess to the malt with only the slightest nod to pear fruit perhaps. The yeast is slightly soured milky. There is hop which is dry, twiggy or maybe even straw-like because it is not like twigginess of Fuggles, devoid of English green or German steel.
- Hennepin: 9:30 pm. Much fruitier than Saison Dupont, not as bone dry. Golden straw under light white foam. Pear and apricot juicey with some light sultana notes later. Soft water but with a stoney aspect like Riesling. Some nutmeg spiciness to the yeast but primarily creamy. There is a bit of burlap as well but it is a hearty tone that works with the juice rather than something divergent and discordant. One of my favorite brews.
- Forêt: 10:30 pm. Golden straw under white foam. Again, drier than Hennepin but a notch fruitier than Saison Dupont. The aroma is burlap and malt, richly earthy organic like early turning spring turf. Quite remarkable. Not so much morish yet pear juicey nonetheless with lots of bread crust, the mustiness (but not dairy sour) of cheese rind with a notch of the potato peel you get in a bières de garde like La Choulette Noël. Hops mainly straw but also some twig and green. A very complex beer.
I have been thinking about which was the best beer, the best pub and the best publication for my 2005. So far I am thinking:
- Smuttynose Big A IPA. I know this is not a famous Belgian or a beer everyone rates tops but for me it comes across as simply as an act of love by the brewer for the art. Strong yet creamy, hoppy but smooth. What is your pick?
- Best pub. This has been a good year for good pubs. Twice to Syracuse and twice to Maine makes for some quality moments. I really liked the steak, the room and the brews at King Arthurs in Oswego, NY as well as the handling of the Belgians by the helpful staff at St. Veronus in Peterborough, Ontario. But for a sense of place, relaxed staff, quality beer and good value as well as kid friendly we are going with the Adirondack Pub and Brewery in Lake George, New York. Again, what is your favorite.
If I have a local the Kingston Brewing Company is likely it. The merest merriest wee half-pint this day to whisk away the cold along with a bowl of curried soup.
This Figgy Pudding Ale is one of their best ales for the KBC's signature but quite pronounced apple-fruity yeast. Using soft water and a good measure of chocolate malt forming a good part of the core plum note, this Christmas ale is quite the thing. There is also a touch of orange peel and perhaps nutmeg but a very light touch that sits well below the medium weight of the ale.
The overall effect is a bit rummy which - given the name - is exactly what the brewer likely intended.