A big thanks to all of you who voted for A Good Beer Blog which came fourth in the non-political blog category in the 2004 Canadian Blog Awards. Next year, the podium!
I received an email from Jim Curtis of Chicago who writes:
Hey beerbloggers,As a lapsed rural Canadian homebrewer of some note in the circles whose thirst I fed and no farther, I was dependent on beer making mail order supplies which I shipped in from either 150 miles away or even 2000 miles away. My main supplier was Saskatchewan's Paddock Wood and the shipping of quality goods made all the difference - especially PWB cleaner and San Star sterilizer. I notice that Jim stocks both - that's good. I quite like the set up of the web page which allows, for example, one page buying of a large variety of grains as opposed to use of a page per item. Mmmm....Vienna malt...120L crystal malts. I could grind up some of that to sprinkle on ice cream right now.
My name is Jim Curtis and I'm a homebrewer from the west suburbs of Chicago. I have a general beer and brewpub info site at www.beer100.com. I have just quit my government job and opened a brewing shop in Wheeling, IL. The site for that is www.perfectbrewing.com
Just thought you might be interested in a guy who quit a job that was easy money for life to sell bags of hops and barley.
Reports from the frontlines, Jim. Send us a story about a trip to the wholesalers or your efforts to build client base. It is all good and interesting stuff.
This is a very pleasant pastime this comparison of Belgians which is already into its third month. To say pacing is required is more than stating the obvious. These are big big beers with two of today's selection coming in at over 10%. Good reason to have a get together.
Just as one observation on the photos I like to add to these posts, this was a very hard grouping to shoot as the paint on the Terrible by Unibroue is actually mirroring silver while the bottle is black glass. There was no way around using the flash, which I do not think provides you with the best photo of glass. So that being noted, here are my notes on the three examples of this style I have gathered:
- Gulden Draak: A true Belgian, 10.5% 330 ml from a variety six-pack from Van Steenberge sold during the pre-Yule rush by the LCBO. The first thing you notice is the malty heat from the dark candi sugar - tastes of fig, pepper and prune. Also, it is surprisingly juicy very nice, grapy and there is a bit of milk chocolate truffle in the centre. Unlike a dubble there is no burlap or oaken notes or orange peel and spice. This is all about the malt, like a barleywine stripped of the English hops. The yeast is prominant as well, butter pastry and cream. It is all like a tart of prunes with whipping cream dolloped on top. The hops balance rather than cut the malt, providing structure but it is all about the malt. Advocates say yeah.
- Dogfish Raison D'Etre: An entry from Dogfish Head of Delaware in the USA, this beer is 8% and 12 oz. sold by the single bottle at the LCBO. This one is lighter and somewhat reliant on the addition of grape juice to the beer but the result is surprisingly similar to the Gulden Draak. The yeast is bready rather than pie crusty and the hops are even more subdued. The rich core is more about dried apple more than prune. With its fairly soft water profile and relative simplicity it is still very pleasant. I am coming to think that these beers are also like Scotch heavy ales without the smoke of the barley and that northern strian of ale yeast. Soft blankets of malt. Some advocates disappprove citing poor head and thinness yet it was awarded American Beer of the Year 2000. Can't we all just get along?
- Unibroue Terrible: Canada's entry is again fantastic - lush, juicy and more-ish. Amazingly, at 10.5%, there is no heat. I am recalling that Terrible is less complex as well than the Unibroue's Trois Pistoles, their other Belgian dark strong ale. [By the way - imagine a brewer in North America selling two Belgian dark strong ales. I hope Sleeman knows what it bought.] There is some orange but it is more as juice than peel. Big malt but the least signs of dark candi sugar than the Gulden Draak or Dogfish. A little figgy, a little leathery, smooth. Some dried cocoa like a can of powder for baking - dusty and light. Perhaps a recollection of black cherry. The yeast is milky rather than butter or cream - not rich and it adds to the juiciness. Hops again are structural rather than bitter. BAers approve as all but one.
I will leave this up top for a while. You can vote for A Good Beer Blog at the 2004 Canadian Blog Awards. Please do. And you are right..it is 2005. But think of all the good we did up to a few days ago.
Update: Please also add your nomination for A Good Beer Blog for the 2005 Bloggies as Best Topical blog. Many thanks.
Readers in the local area may have noticed I have yet to write about the Kingston Brewing Company, more commonly called the Kingston Brew Pub. It's just that I have not got a set of photos that capture the place more than anything but I popped in mid-afternoon today and made a start.
I have been going to the Kingston Brew Pub for more than a decade. When we lived three hours drive away, during LBK (Life Before Kids) we planned long weekends around meals there. Now I work a block away and am happy because of it, even to pop in for the lunch special or a cup of coffee mid-afternoon. The beers on tap are mainly their own but they do have McAuslan Oatmeal Stout and Guinness - based on the belief, I think, that now one can improve much on these examples of the styles. There is a bloggers meet up tomorrow evening there at 5 pm so I will have more thoughts and notes on a couple of ales after that.
Later: Ok. I never took any notes. I blabbed about blogs and failed to note the Winter Whallop or the Dragon's Breath IPA. But I did get a couple of pictures of the upstairs.
This is somewhat depressing news given my inclination towards quality real ale:
Kirin to enter market for '3rd-category beer' this springOnce can only presume that the 3rd level is below discount. Can any Asian correspondents enlighten us on this? Interesting to note that the Asia Times is reporting a concurrent decline in overall Japanese beer consumption and a move to the third way as an effort to get around taxation. Guinness, one of the great beers of the world in both an economic and quality sense, was created for the very same reason when Britain moved to the taxation of malt included in beer rather than the final alcohol content (if I am recollecting correctly...I did! See here). The result was a beer high in unmalted raw rolled barley and blackened but raw roast barley and a resulting low-carb profile. I suspect the Japanese will not come up with such a happy outcome.
Thursday, January 13, 2005 at 07:00 JST
TOKYO — Kirin Brewery Co said Wednesday it will join three other major Japanese breweries this spring in offering a product known as "the third-category beer," a beer-tasting alcoholic beverage that is in a lower tax bracket because of its ingredients. The beer-like beverage accounted for about 5% of sales of beer and the like in 2004, underlying a growing demand for the new beverage, said Kirin President Koichiro Aramaki. (Kyodo News)
...related to the drink that is:
In an attempt to provide more convenience and variety for consumers, the Ontario government is planning a major overhaul of liquor laws that could include the sale of beer and wine in corner stores. Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said yesterday a panel will look at all aspects of the sale and distribution of alcohol in the province. "The current system is a patchwork of policies and agreements dating back to the 1920s and the end of Prohibition," he said. His announcement comes just weeks before Ontarians will start bringing wine into some restaurants. The government passed legislation allowing that freedom last month. Sorbara said the panel will consider several possibilities, including breaking up the Brewers' Retail monopoly that operates 436 Beer Store outlets, franchising some liquor stores beyond the 196 "agency stores" in rural areas, and expanding the 395 winery-run wine shops.The interesting thing for non-Ontarians is that the system in Ontario is the biggest monopoly left in the world - or dual monopoly if you add the brewery run system romantically called "the Beer Store". Maybe Beer2Go will make a trans-Atlantic leap! In the meantine, it would have been nice to be considered for the committee. $1,000 bucks a day to think about beer!
You may have noticed there is a lot of talk around here about Belgium. The fact simply is that there are more indigenous styles and more small brewers in Belgium than any other country. Other lands may have had as many (...maybe...) but they have fallen by the wayside, overtaken by mass manufacturing. To a greater degree than anywhere else, Belgium has refused that urge. If you are going to talk about fine beers you are just going to have to accept that as a fact. Gregory Noonan of the Vermont Brewery and Pub in Burlington Vermont wrote of a dubble recipe he included in his Seven Barrel Brewery Brewers' Handbook:
Belgian monks, and the commercial breweries that copy this style, invariably brew with dark candi sugar rather than dark malts to color and flavor their brews...The yeast strain should give a hint of butteriness (diacetyl) to your brew. This beer always seems to come out beter if you shave your head in the fashion of a monk's tonsure and speak French while brewing it.Rajoutte says in Belgian Ale that the style has "a faint hop aroma, usually a generous malty nose with differences in aromas created by yeasts specific to the brewer" and describes Leffe Brown as a sterile pasturized version of the ale. Give me the yeasty dregged real ale version any day.
Bornem Dubble, Chimay Red, Ommegang, Unibroue's Maudit
One of my favourite styles of all of the Belgian Ales is the dubbel and I have found four to discuss.
- Bornem Dubbel: 8%,330 ml in a mixed six from the brewer, Van Steenberge - here is the brewer's web page for the beer. I was a bit surprised by this one as I had awful expectations after the amber ale. The beer poured with a big loose beige head like stiff beaten egg white...except it was beige. It was the lightest dubble I have had - not unlike 50% Chimay Red and 50% Newcastle Brown Ale. In the mouth there is some heat but less spice than I would have liked. I am happy to report that there were no off flavours but unfortunately not enough flavours. The yeast was balanced with a decent biscuity aspect which was balanced by a herby twiggy rustic hoppiness. I am not certain whether there was much orange peel which there really ought to be. All in all not really poor but a bit lifeless for a dubbel. Advocatonians seem to like it a little more than I do. Well, at least no one call it "raisin bran" like with the amber.
- Unibroue Maudit: 8.0%, 6 x 341 ml at the Beer Store year round. Compared to the Bronem, this is the real thing. Pie pastry yeast, orange peel and spice. Heat and dark brown rich. Unlike the roughness of the Bornem's hops, these are rightly frail and antique. I did not get a great head off the pour and, compared to my recollection of the corked 750 ml bottle, this twist-top standard 12 341 ml bottle was maybe a bit weaker than I would have liked. Maybe just a weak capping...or is that the dreaded effect of the Sleeman buy-out? Michael Jackson wrote in his Great Beer Guide:
Maudite is a darkish interpretation of the style; fruity spiced (orange peel, corriander, pepper?) and dry.BAer like - but call it a Belgian strong ale?!?!
- Chimay Red:7% single 750 ml at the LCBO. Hot but less than the Maudit, similarly medium bodied. A rocky beige head. The first taste is malty but clearly cut with drak candi sugar. It is musty and oaken, burlap hops which rim rather than cut the malt with a brown bread crusty structuring as well. The fruity flavours are fig and a small bit of raisin, orange peel is definitely there with nutmeggy spicing. In the yeast there is a core of pear juiciness. This is one of the great beers and another tomorrow might let me know more. A real monk-made Trappist ale, the monestary apparently has broadband. One advocator actually thought yeasty cloudiness was chill haze - the other 99.99% are in love.
- Ommegang: from the woods near Cobleskill and Cooperstown, NY. This is a great brewery of distinct intention and it shows in its self-titled dubble. Forget the brewing, look at the location! We hunted the place out last summer and the setting was almost intimidating in its clean intention to assert Belgium in the north-end of the Appalachians. The beer is a real assertion as well. Plum and dark chocolate from the get go which hides the heat a bit which at 8.5% is the biggest of the four. There is a bit of leather, cinnamon and butter. Then there is something else that you realize are the hops - delicate and fine, autumnal woods. Great. Greater than the Chimay Red I just had? That is worth consideration.
Cory at Boing has linked us all to a recipe for a beer that is claiming it is licenced under creative commons license. The beer is called Vores Øl or "Our Beer." The odd thing about this - and an example of the wacky thinking about copyright being spouted at Boing - is that a beer recipe is not really copyrighted or copyrightable. Recipes, as sets of instructions rather than the expression of the instruction or "a work", are not really property. Only as a fixed literary published work would the expression of the recipe be potentially protected. Has Boing been sucked in?
One of the reasons we do not know much about the manufacture of porter in, say, 1810 is that breweries protect their recipe book archives as trade secrets and hide them from public view. If they did not the information would not be protected - because they are not subject to intellectual property law. They are merely ideas, not expressions, and an idea is not copyrightable. They are exclusive through secrecy rather than property. You know this because you can mix up much of the expression of a recipe, reorder the ingredients and twig the process and get the same result. Some technical processes relating to brewing that are patentable, like Labatt and its ice beer, but that is different. But one of the joys of homebrewing is the realization you can maintain a yeast strain cultivated from a favourite beer, tap into your well, grow and malt your grain and pick your own hops. Beer is literally free if you are free enough to make it.
For all the hype about the loss of freedom due to strict copyright law enforcement, is this a knee-jerk reaction making that which is free actually less free by implying that the creative commons applies to the actual common property of us all? True open source is the stuff we all have access to and can do simply out of human dignity. Beer making is one of those things.