I got off the 401 at the Brighton exit and headed away from that town, going north. I will write more about this brewery tomorrow when I am not so tired but for now here are some pictures and the assurance that some of the best beer in Ontario is being made in a small Victorian church in the rolling hills of Northumberland county.
Just one point before tomorrow, however: there were renovations going on and that is why a good swiffering looks due.
The Next Day: You have to spend an hour getting to and from Church-Key Brewing from the 401. Do it. It sits between Campbellford and Springbrook on route #38 on a high point among small century farms. If it is not on the road, you will notice the yellow draft dispensing van out front. The brewery is housed in the former Zion United Church which was likely the former Zion Methodist Church. The main body of the building is from the 1860s or '70s with an addition from the 1920s that the brewery is expanding into at the moment. Its 3000 litre conical fermenters stand floor to rafters like the dullest organ pipes in the what was the sanctuary.
I got to spend an hour with Church-Key Owner John Graham and Marketing Director Cary Tucker. We got so quickly into talking that I didn't even sample any samples. They only sell six-packs at the brewery, moving kegs to bars and restaurants from Ottawa to Toronto, Kingston to Peterborough. Cary and I got into beer travelling, the joys of the Galeville Grocery and his website. These guys like to know what is going on in the industry and, after five years or operation, are still self-described beer nerds.
They brew a lager, a pale ale, a smoked ale and a chocolate porter and, going by the two sixes I picked up, the beer is some of the best made in the province. I'll review the smoked ale and chocolate porter later but suffice it to say that I can easily see making the two and half hour round trip some Saturday just to get another fix. Recently, they have won some important awards:
Church-Key Brewing picked up three Gold Medals at the second annual Canadian Brewing Awards held at the Duke of Westminster Pub in Toronto. Church-Key's first gold medal came in the Scotch Ale competition as Holy Smoke was chosen Best of Category. In the Cream Ale Category, Church-Key's Northumberland Ale tied for the Gold Medal with Gulf Islands Salt Spring Golden Ale from British Columbia and Quebec's Microbrasserie du Lievre La Montoise. Church-Key's Decadent Chocolate Porter, flavored with cocoa from World's Finest Chocolate in Campbellford, tied for Gold in the Stout or Porter category with Black Oak Nutcracker from Oakville, Ontario and Boreale Noire from Quebec.Impressive competition which makes me think we have a couple of candidates for the National Six-Pack.
You think it is February. Nothing will surprise you in February when you are as many weeks from Yule as you are to spring. Month o' the rut. Then, you try a brew that you have never gotten around to trying and the world is all sunshine and love...or at least has one more good brew to tell folks about.
I really like this ale. Likes it, I do. 5.5% at a pretty basic price at the Beer Store. It is like a cross between a great Belgian witte and a great Canadian pale ale. A bit spicy, gingery orangey/lemony but also a big husky grainy profile as well. There is a yeast deposit that tastes decidedly spice-a-lee Belgian but a careful pour leaves the ale bright in the glass. The colour is more deep dark straw than amber - no red to my eye. The head stays around in a nice lively fine foam. It is the kind of beer you could smell for an hour, sticking half your face in the glass - you could if your wife or pals or children would not laugh at you for being a dork.
The brewery, Unibroue says of one of its lighter offering Raftman:
Launched in March 1995, Raftman is a beer with a coral sheen that is slightly robust. It contains 5.5 percent alcohol and combines the character of whisky malt with the smooth flavours of choice yeast. It has a subtle and exceptional bouquet that creates a persistent smooth feel. Raftman complements fish, smoked meat and spicy dishes. It is brewed to commemorate the legendary courage of the forest workers. These hard working men knew when to settle their differences and share their joie de vivre with a beer and a whisky.The brewer twice notes "smoked whisky malt" as a part of the mash but it is a pretty subtle smoke if it is there at all. Still, it is Big Joe Mufferaw ale. Ale for men in plaid. Beer for lumber bars like Fred's in Chapeau or the Silver Maple back of Shawville. Click on the photo for a plaidly scale version. The beer advocates do not go all rang-dang-do ever it but lots like it.
So far, tied best of the National Six-Packs along with St-Ambrose Pale. Two Quebecers leading the pack. Who knew?
Germany is investing billions of euros to stage the 2006 World Cup that is expected to be the biggest yet in business terms, but the honour of hosting the event has failed to impress German companies, which are crying foul at being squeezed out by big foreign players...German troubles started when it was announced that German beer would not be available at cup games because Anheuser Busch, the huge US brewer, had won the rights.So if you go to one of the world centres of beermaking for the world's celebration of soccer...expect thin, insipid American lager in the stands. Pure evil is afoot.
I go to the LCBO more than the Beer Store here in Ontario but when I have gone to the place also known as "the In and Out", I have noticed but never picked up this brand, preferring Maudit or another Unibroue variety. I noticed today that it actually comes in a four pack and thought what the hell. The clerk looked at me a little like my head was on wrong and had to hunt through her computer to find the right key to hit. Apparently no one ever buys it. Bodes well.
The Trafalgar Brewing out of Oakville has been around since 1993. It gets a few lines in Allen Winn Sneath's Brewed in Canada in the chronology for the year of its opening and for its two year attempt to expand to the Old Mill in Elora. It is a tough trade. You know, some smaller microbrewers in Ontario only get local sales so that, for example, Mill Street Brewery's product from Toronto or Heritage Brewing's bottles from Ottawa simply do not make it to Kingston shelves even though we are about two hours drive from each - God bless the monolpoly system that ensures I have access to 27 types of identical tasting eastern European lager but not all the real ales from within this province. In part it is the reality of shipping costs but mostly it is a bad system of laws. So it is a bit of a odd thing to see one here. The packaging is a bit weird too, a 1 x 4 quart (650 ml) pack. No handle, light cardboard meaning you have to kind of hug the thing which is not unlike carrying a grade 12 math textbook when you are in grade 6.
The bottle I had was showing age with a bit of a rusty cap but its secluded life at the back of the Beer Store cooler kept the ale inside in fairly good shape. It is a fresh tasting amber ale, not too heavy at 4.5%, along the lines of Gritstone, Quidi Vidi Trad or Big Rock Trad. Like Quidi Vidi and Big Rock there is a bit of sourness (yeast sting?) to the yeast and like Gritstone it is a fairly sweetish ale. Unlike all of them is the addition of a smoky note and a bit more body. The white head dissipates fairly rapidly over the clear dark caramel ale. It is a quite attractive ale with notes of apple, toffee and maybe mocha back there somewhere. Subdued barky and green hops. It is an ale I would be interested in comparing to Garrison Irish Red from Halifax, though from recollection the latter might still be my preferred ale. The brewery says:
The Celtic formulation is based on an ancient recipe for Irish Brown Ale. Four different malts emphasize the grainy richness of this well-balanced ale. The flavour profile of Celtic is that of an easy drinking subtle ale with mild hopping. This every day ale compliments most meals and occasions.Only one beer advocate has rated this beer and had it on draft at the brewery. At $13.95 for four it is definitely good value.
I am starting to think there is an unnamed style out there, the Canadian amber ale, sort of a low hopped ESB, that has versions throughout the land: medium in colour, sweetness and weight with only enough hops to cut the cloy of the sweetness. Not much to aspire to but this one goes beyond it. I am a little smitten.
The UK medical mag The Lancet has published a Swedish study on the relative harm caused by alcohol, tobbaco and high blood pressure and found:
An international team of scientists, writing in the Lancet, point out alcohol is a factor in about 60 different diseases. The researchers found 4% of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol, compared with 4.1% to tobacco and 4.4% to high blood pressure...The report looks at diseases including cancers of the mouth, liver and breast, heart disease and stroke, and cirrhosis in which alcohol can play a role. It also highlights the role of alcohol in car accidents, drownings, falls and poisonings. Alcohol is also linked to a proportion of self-inflicted injuries and murders.I find the last bit interesting as it points out the difference between alcohol and, say, ciggies. Statistically and across the population, they may have a similar effect. The drink, however, contributes its harm in individual contexts. Many of the risks of booze are reduced by not binge drinking, drinking lighter drinks (like, say, a tasty Guinness or well made mild) most of the time and staying away from mixing cars or anger with booze. Smoking has none of those contextual elements that ever makes it sensible. Normal drink consumption is a boon, tobacco always has a negative effect.
Here is a great comment from a reader, Andrew Mazanec, from St. Louis that I hope we can help with:
Dear Sirs,This is a great opportunity and I am going to take on one question myself, #2. Tough news, Andrew. Liquor is only sold through the government owned "S.A.Q." and they are on strike, though hopefully that will be over by July. A 375 ml "mickie" or "pint" of Canadian Club rye - we call Canadian whisky "rye" up here - goes for $12.50 CND at the SAQ. The next size up is 750 ml or a "quart" which goes for $21.95 CND. That will still be the price if you can find one of the five SAQ outlets being run by management open. You may be a good union man as a firefighter so I would not presume that you would cross picket lines but, still, here are those five outlets:
I am a firefighter in St. Louis, Mo.USA. I am heading to Quebec City, Quebec in the end of June through the first week of July for the World Police and Fire Games. I have a few alcohol related questions:
1)What is the cost for one case of beer domestic and Anheuser Busch products?
2) What is the cost of Canadian Blended whiskey approx. 400-500ML?
3) What time do establishments stop serving alcohol?
4) Are there any open container laws on public streets parks. etc.
- Beauport - 205 ave Joseph-Casavant (Seigneuriale exit)
- Charlesbourg - 9115 boul. Henri-Bourassa
- Québec - 400, boul. Jean-Lesage, bureau 49 (corner boul. Charest)
- Québec - 5015, boul. de l'Ormière
- Québec - 2900, rue Einstein
I am going to leave the questions up for a bit and see if we cannot get some more help for you.
For some reason Bulgarians have increased their beer consumption almost 10% in one year:
The total amount of beer consumed in the country was 294 million litres in 1997, reaching 425 million in 2003 and 473 million in 2004.By comparison in 2001/02, Canadian consumers purchased an average of 7.1 litres of spirits, 12.4 litres of wine and 84.7 litres of beer. The year before, they bought, on average, 6.5 litres of spirits, 12.2 litres of wine and 85.0 litres of beer. I suspect Bulgarians outdo Canadians in terms of wine - yup 19.66 litres percapita in 2001.
Later: yet consumption was dropping like a rock in the Bulgarian fall?!?! More research required.
This post was brought to you by the Canadian-Bulgarian drinking Statisticians Society.
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The beers I have thus far reviewed have been bottled and exported for sale in Singapore. While there are some excellent exports, there is much better to be found at the numerous microbreweries that are scattered throughout the country. A couple of years back, I had the pleasure of touring Western Australia and sampling some of the region’s fine craft breweries. These include the Sail & Anchor in Fremantle, its sister pub in Perth the Brass Monkey and Margaret River’s Bootleg Brewery, whose slogan is "an oasis of beer in a desert of wine". All had impressive beers. The Brass Monkey Stout was quite tasty. However, the best micro in the region and the best Australian beer I’ve yet tasted was the India Pale Ale of Little Creatures in Fremantle. The brewery only makes three beers at any time. All are good, but the pale ale is its raision d’etre:
Little Creatures was born to make a pale ale, a specific style of pale ale, a style that we are absolutely passionate about and one that we believe displays great balance of flavor and refreshment, complex yet highly drinkable. The beer's character is driven by the use of fresh whole hop flowers. Hop flowers are carefully selected that are bursting with aroma and contain all the essential oils and acids that deliver a unique flavor experience. Drink a few pints of this beer and you'll soon become one of us?a certified "hophead" craving those crisp citrus flavors of grapefruit and passionfruit and maybe a bit of honey, all backed up with a good balance of bitterness.The beer’s rich and fresh flavor partly arises from the brewery’s insistence in using whole hop flowers rather than the dried pellets that are usually used in most beers. While I can’t quite offer a review from memory, I remember it as by far the greatest Australian beer I had ever sampled. It was smooth and fresh with hints of citrus and pineapple... yum. I was so impressed I bought a 'slab' in Freo before we headed down south in the combie (actually a Winnebago). What that means is that I bought a slab of beer before heading down for a tour of one of Australia's best wine regions. Fresher reviews can be found here, here and here. That’s it for Australia week. Again, if any bloggers from the lucky country want to be contributor to A Good Beer Blog, please contact Alan.