Lambic. Natural yeasted wheat ales from Belgium left to go thin and sour. Sounds foul but it is like drinking fresh wine the small champagne corked bottles of usually fruit brewed ale. Fruit brewed as the freshness of the harvest is added to the fermentation in the best of these real ales not as some syrup later in the process. This raspberry lambic is the colour of homemade wild strawberry jam, blush with a brown edge under a pure white rocky head that dissipates to seafoam. The scent is earthy twig berry and the sharp tang of the beer. A long lingering true fruit flavour mixes with the bite of the fine carbonation. Like many Belgian ales, the hops are a fine delicate aged presence almost deprived of all their acid before being added to the boil. Not cheap at $4.15 CND at the LCBO for 375 ml. Try topping up a can of draft Guinness with another 20% of this ale. A better black and tan.
I liberated the Unabrewer from the hotel he was stuck at near Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Sunday night. Together we checked out two of the better reviewed brewpubs in Shanghai: the Shanghai Bund Brewage Co (SBBC) and Le Bar/Brauhaus.
The SBBC is located on 11 Hankou Rd, within almost equal walking distances from either Three on the Bund or the Peace Hotel. The Bund was the seat of Shanghai's old colonial consuls and boasts the European-style architecture of the era, which makes it a great match for a German-style brauhaus. A daytime photo is here. Only two microbrewed beers are on tap, the light or dark 'Fest Beer.'The light is essentially a weissbier, and a decent one at that. It's unfiltered, mild with a low-carbonation mouthfeel and lemony aftertaste. The dark was good, but unexceptional. It had no outstanding notes, but was better than an average lager. One of the nice notes about the place is that it serves take-away customers. If you bring your own container it can be filled for Rmb40 per liter (about US$4.80). The 'light fest' would make a nice summer afternoon beer, is a wonderful break from Tsing Tao and will be a staple at my home when I get settled.
From there Joe and I ventured to what I thought was called Brauhaus. Located in the Sofitel Hotel on the sleazy neon part of Nanjing Lu, the bar seems to have decided to have a makeover... but not one based on a coherent theme, it is now called Le Bar Brasserie features a Colombian house band and thin-crust pizzas on the menu. It's a Western pub, although it hasn't decided on what part of the West it wants to resemble. That doesn't matter though, they have nice beer. The '505 beer' is hoppy and light, easy drinking very mildly fruity. It's the only beer they brew themselves, but if you're an idiot, the menu allows you to have it cut with 50%-Sprite and served as a shandy.
More comprehensive reviews will follow later in the year. Or, if Joe (one hour out of Shanghai), Charles (who is occasionally down on business from Beijing) and myself can coordinate - we could possibly have the Good Beer Blog's first panel discussion. For those who can't wait, which would be understandable as I still haven't finished the third part of the Singapore trilogy, a review of Shanghai's micros is here.
This is a bit of a work in progress, having put a few feelers out there on the network of ale fans. I will be there in the next couple of weeks and would like to bring home a couple of months worth of good...postings. Yea, that's it. Good postings for you the reader. The best candidates so far appear to be:
- Downtown Wine and Spirits, 225 Elm Street, Somerville, Mass. One beer advocatonian says:
OK so basically I consider this place my candy store, as I feel like a kid in a candy store whenever I go here. Even if I know what I want when I go in, I still wander around the store for a good 45 minutes. Basically we've got 2 15-20 foot shelves, one with 4 or 5 shelves and the other with 2. These are all singles and packs from faraway places...[...faraway places...faraway places...]
- Bread and Circus Whole Food Market, 340 River Street, Cambridge, Mass. We are told that it has more than 300 beers in stock, many organic, but not much else.
Rogue is offering a job which would be pretty attractive to me half a life ago:
Job Posting, March 11: Sales Assistant, Portland, OR. Responsibilities include reporting, tracking, phoning, follow-up, filing, typing, answering phones, coordinating, ordering, shipping, mailing, filling forms, communicating, note taking...and occasionally drinking the world's greatest beer. Must be proficient in Excel, Word, internet, and written communication. Experience with Access or SQL a plus. Long hours, rough conditions, and lousy pay. Why not? Applicants must be willing to survive without company cars, stock options, a living wage, employee manuals, HR departments, political correctness, 2-5 year plans, praise or recognition, job security or guarantees, BS, competent management, or Mom. Requirements: passion, highest level of integrity, driven to succeed, a need to contribute to a team, a commitment to creating value, a history of failure in a multi-tasking guerilla context preferred. Mail your resume to: Rogue Ales, 1339 NW Flanders, Portland, OR, 97209, or e-mail to email@example.com.
I went on a binge last night. Or at least I may have.
It was St. Pat's so I decided to check out the local Irish Pubs, the Blarney Stone and O'Malley's. Both were good, but the former was better by a long shot. More authentic, smaller, cozier and the barman threw in a free shot of Jagermeister because my meal was late. It was the Jagermeister, my fifth drink, that turned the evening into a binge. On top of that, I had four pints of Guinness between 19:00-22:00. That would be five drinks total which, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, would be a binge:
Bingers were defined as male students who had at least five drinks in a row on at least one occasion in the two weeks before the survey, or women students who downed at least four drinks in a row. A "drink" was defined as 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler, 4 ounces of wine or a 1.25-ounce shot of liquor
Christ, that means half the time Lisa split a reasonably strong bottle of Shiraz at dinner we're "binging." We do that almost every night.
I prefer the 'binge' definition of the UK's Royal College of Physicians. That would put last night well below binge level:
Personally, I've always thought a binge was measured in a temporal, rather than volume, measurement. Specifically, "how many days did the bender last" or "how many hours of memory had vanished."
Definitions of 'binge drinking' vary. A report of the Royal College of Physicians (2002) defined binge drinking as: 'a man who regularly drinks 10 or more units in a single session, or a woman who regularly drinks 7 or more units in a single session.'
Still, the divergence between the two sides of the Atlantic may explain why I tend to use UK colloquialisms - such as 'flat' for 'apartment' - rather than US/Canadian ones. Brits drink more than Americans. I drink more than Americans. Ergo, on a late night of 'binging,' Brits usually surround me at closing time. The English English language is absorbed through drunken osmosis. [You know I've tried to explain that before by saying I prefer economical language. Why use the multi-syllabic term "suspenders" when you can say "braces?" Why stick all of those extra 'u's everywhere when spelling words like flavor? But it's probably because I've been hanging around too many Brits socially and writing for mostly American companies.]
Anyway, a keen study on international alcohol consumption guidelines is here. Here are some of the notes on recommended male alcohol intake levels from around the Anglosphere:
- Australia: for a healthy man, four standard drinks per day with two alcohol-free days per week is regarded as low risk.
- Canada: no more than seven drinks per week.
- Ireland: Three units per day.
- New Zealand: no more than 21 standard drinks per week and no more than six on any one occasion.
- UK: Regular consumption of between three and four units a day for men of all ages "will not accrue significant health risk".
- US: no more than two drinks per day.
Happy belated St. Patrick's!
This week we have received new inquiries from Japan and Slovakia about forwarding posts about the local brew scene. Please feel free wherever you are to send a note, a photo or a voluminous tome on your heart's desire to this blog's gmail account. We (meaning me) will help with editing and where required with simple coding.
One other note. We do like photos and would encourage the use of the camera without the flash. Beer and bars tend to be shining objects and all you get are shadows and glare. Longer exposures with natural light tend to be better, especially indoors. Get artsy. Most bartenders don't mind as long as you ask.
The trouble with Ontario is really expressed in its beer distribution system: it is too big. Half the nation lives here, half the office space and half the bears as well. It goes from the arctic to the Carolinian forest, from the western prairie to a few miles from Montreal. The effect on beer distribution is a focus on localization so that if you want to find one of the beer from the handful of brewers in the province you have to drive. Driving on the weekend for other reasons, I took the opportunity to test the LCBO stocks in Guelph, north on highway 6 just past the Sleemans Brewery, four hours drive to my west.
This beer was worth the drive. A dark ale that actually tries to be something other than a darkened lager like the quite foul Waterloo Dark. Dark ale is not really a style so much as a place there by brown on the lighter side and porter on the richer. It is a small place and this beer settles there well. The body is heavier than the average Canadian ale - as the automotive oil name would imply. It is however fairly fresh with bright, if twiggy, hops cutting quite a sweet rich malt profile. Within the malts there are grainy pale malt flavours as well as some chocolate. Amongst those there is also a treacle note and perhaps a little hint of licorice. A brighter and lighter Theaksons's Old Peculier? Here is what the advocates say.
Perhaps not the most amazing ale but - for those named dark - the best I have had from Canada.