RCMP officers in Woodstock, N.B., have discovered more than 5,000 of the 50,400 cans of Moosehead beer that went missing en route to Mexico last week. Police were investigating a crash involving a trailer that went off the road at East Newbridge, near Woodstock, Monday evening. At the accident site, they found a half-ton truck with a homemade trailer and four pallets – containing between 5,000 and 8,000 cans – of Moosehead beer labelled in Spanish and English. There was no sign of the driver.
Happy news from Wales where they have the common sense to allow tiny batch breweries to exist - the smallest in the world in a former outhouse has just reopened. Practically impossible in Canada where a whacking excise fee has to be paid unless you fall into section 172(1) of the Excise Act:
172. (1) Notwithstanding sections 170 and 171, the duties of excise thereby imposed shall not be levied or collected on beer that is made or brewed by any person for personal or family consumption or to be given away without charge and that is not for sale or commercial use.Notice that "not for charge" but still "commercial use" nonetheless requires the whacking fee - pubs couldn't even give it away. Then, under section 3(1) of the Brewery Regulations [C.R.C., c. 565] you have to phone the government up when you do your job:
3. (1) A brewer shall establish a production day in respect of the brewer's brewery and shall, in writing, notify the appropriate superior officer of the time of commencement and the duration of the production day.and then pony up:
5. The excise duty on beer shall be charged and computed on the quantities of beer produced during each production day...All to stop the madness of Canadian pubs making 9 gallons of real ale every two weeks in an outhouse. Thanks government.
I've give some detail as I pop a few of these starting with the second from the right. [hmm...I only have one of the second from the left remaining...must be careful...must be careful.]
- Yuengling Traditional Lager: The flagship of the oldest brewery in the United States, located in Pottsville, PA, the Traditional Lager is a beer that sneaks in under my lager radar - I call it LAGAR 3000™...the radar unit not the ale.
Anyway, there is enough crystal malt and yeast balance to off set the metallic tang of lager hops. Most of you who do not think about your beer or think it tastes funny and ever so kinda sour, drink German based lager style beer. Sometimes, as with Heineken or Rolling Rock, other balancing grains are used to frame the hops in a lighter style and it works for me. Usually it does not. This, however, is a very good expression of that German tradition meeting the ale based micro style with more flavour and more body coming from the oldest German settled area of the USA and continuing a brewing tradition for 175 years where many others died through prohibition or the bland days of the '50s to '70s. Lew Bryson in his magnus opus, his 2000 second edition of Pennsylvanian Breweries states of the introduction of this beer at a time of fiscal challenge for Yuengling just twenty years ago
But it was the Lager - a little darker, a little more flavourful, a lot less national - that blew the doors off the brewery. Yuengling taps cropped up everywhere in southeastern Pennsylvania.If you see it on tap outside of Pennsylvania, be prepared to ask for "ling-ling" rather than "yung-gling".
- Lancaster Amish Four Grain Pale Ale: This beer by the Lancaster Brewing Company [of Lancaster, Lancaster CO. PA], the first at the left above, is just a little odd for a number of reasons. Being somewhat acquainted with the conservative and private buddy-folk of the Kitchener, Ontario area, I am surprised with the branding as it might go down as an insult hereabouts. But the Amish of Lancaster County appear to take a less private stance to their conservative communal approach to life.
In a sense the brew is a testament to that life as it celebrates the grains which form the base of the ale. To appreciate that you have to understand what you are tasting: barley malt tastes like barley candy close to butterscotch, oats are slick and round a beer, wheat is grassy like sauvignon blanc and rye is rough and husky with a small trace of anise. Each of these flavours are there and stand out like separate threads. The choice of and use of hops is thoughtful - the website lists Willamette, Fuggles and Saaz as being included from Oregon, Kent and Bohemia. The site says a small portion of crystal malt is used as well, a caramel sort of sweetness smoothing it all out. As a result, like the Yuengling, Pennsylvanians again want a sweeter more amber brew than would be normal elsewhere.
- Lancaster Gold Star Pilsner: This is the third from the right. I like the name. What is it about the pre-1980s beers that they were rewarded with non-descriptive names: Newfoundland's Jockey Club, Alberta's Old Style Pilsner? Gold Star? Sounds like a bad hotel in Eastern Europe. For a non-descript name, this is a fairly boss brass sort of lager. Hopped almost as much as a Shipyard Export, horn section in a glass, using all central euro-hops (Hallertau, Saaz and Tettnang). The Michael Jackson who is not in court says of the Bohemian Pilsner style:
Too many brewers take it lightly, in more senses than one. In their all-round interpretation, German brewers take the style most seriously inspired by the Urquell (original) brew from the town of Pilsen, in the Czech province of Bohemia.Maybe that works for Gold Star. Where Pils Urquell is all Saaz and a wonder, this rougher beer works that way too. It could stand up to saurkraut and sausage and now that sweater weather is coming that stuff counts big time.
- Ithaca Flower Power IPA: Second from the left, I had this the other day and kept notes. It was as complex a pale ale as I have had. By this I mean there are layers of hops, more layers due to the selection of hop varieties and the timing of when to throw them into the boiling wort. Early and you make bitterness, later you make flavour and at the end and after cooling you get aroma. What this beer reminded me of is taking the lawn mower into the verge of your lawn where sweet plants like dandelions mix with bitter ones. With the first vrrap of the blades out comes a bloom of green smells. So with this beer - green and early summer herby. The body is substantial, not unlike Old Speckled Hen and there is almost and orange peel thing in there not unlike a Belgian dubbel like Unibou's Maudit or Chemay Red. One of the most interesting beers I have had in ages - lots of taste to think about. Now, what with the Ithaca mixed 12 I picked up north of Syracuse on the 29th of August, I am hoping to learn more about this great small brewery.
- Tröegs Pale Ale: Third from the left, this is simply a loverly beer, rich and green hoppy with a grapefruit rind bitter tang, without a hint of tannic, through it all. I'd guess a little flaked barley and some centennial hops in the mix. It is a great balanced beer and, perhaps except for Shipyard Export, the finest US pale ale I have tried. Worthy of comparison with the English pale ales like perhaps St. Peter's Summer Ale yet with that rich almost glyceral, uncious body which is hcaracteristic of US pale ales. The lads at Beer Advocate rate it highly and Tröegs says:
Tröegs Pale Ale is an American style Pale Ale that is aggressively hopped with Northwest Cascades and balanced with crystal malts to create a hoppy, copper-colored crisp ale. An excellent example of a classic American Pale Ale.Quality grains used. Not crisp, not an edge on the tip of the tongue and maybe the slightest Islay smokiness. Lew Bryson as written that:
the pale ale is brighter, livelier and fruitier than the ESB.One northern French style of pale ale, biere de garde, also celebrates the fruitiness of grain as a key flavour. This beer may be considered be a melding of that style, English bitter and US pale style.
- Tröegs Bavarian Style Lager: Far right. I better get these reviews finished. This last of the set is a lager, obviously, but a heavier one than you might expect. It is medium amber or butterscotch in hue. The brewery's website does not give a blurb for it and 9% of the Beer Advocate guys actually give it a thumbs down...which is highly odd conduct for people who drink beer and write about it on the internet. A fridge temperature, there is not a whole lotta taste but what is there is fairly nice. Caramel malt, non-metallic hops (which is a nice change for a lager) and I will buy the guys description of a very light maple syrup taste as well. The hops are woodsy enough to bring that out with the caramel. But you kind of have to go with maple or nutty but not both. Thinking through flavour description is a big of a minefield as you are taking actual elements and shuffling them together to make an abstract analogy.
As a style, the Beer Advocate call it a märzen or oktoberfest. Here is a good summary of that double barrelled name:
The original Marzen beer was brewed in March, and because of the lack of refrigeration, was stored in caves at the foothills of the Alps through the summer months when brewing was suspended by law. Marzen beers were stronger to survive the many months to their completion, for which a celebration took place. In 1810 a famous wedding between Prince Ludwig and Princess Theresa held over the course of 16 days launched what is still today the world's largest and most famous beer events, the Oktoberfest.See - its easy to learn about beer as long as you are ready to take on a little Hapsburgian genetic history along the way. The real point is, however, that this style is the original lager. Left to ferment slowly in cold caves for months, flavours are muted and the effect is rich and quaffable. I have had a real one a few years ago, I think Hacker-Pschorr Marzen Amber [dig the tuba on the lable] and this is a lighter in malt and slightly more hoppy version. I can accept it as such. If I were having a BBQ and wanted to introduce lager drinkers to new micro- tastes, this beer would do.
In the 1840s, Vienna brewer Anton Dreher developed a lager beer that swept through Austria. An apprentice at Dreher's brewery was Gabriel Sedlmayr III, son of Josef Sedlmayr, owner of Franziskaner-Leistbrauerei which eventually became Spaten-Franziskaner Breweries. Brewing a batch of beer in the Vienna style 1871 and introducing it at the Oktoberfest in 1872 resulted in a complete sell-out of the beer at a price 3-crowns more than other beer available and sales of 2-1 over any other beer at the fest.
One other point as Lew Bryson makes is that micro-lager is a massive financial committment over ale due to the extra storage costs. Hats off to those who even trylet alone pull off this brew.
One thing to note from any trip to Pennsylvania by a beer fan are some of the strange laws of vending said beverage. Simply put, they try to deter you from doing so by making it difficult and taboo. To buy a six-pack or a 12 pack you have to go to a bar with a sign that says "six to go" or some such thing. Most with the sign looked like they held ammo swaps on Saturday mornings, too. The beer shops you see are only allowed to sell cases of 24. I took a few photos as you can see below but was advised, when I asked if I could take some with the flash, that taking any was illegal according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Maybe the guy was pulling my leg but he went on about the Liquor Board and how it makes doing business impossible. As a result, we have a few hazy photos to work with buy you get the idea that rough planking shelves and bare concrete floors are what you can expect. Asking directions to the nearest at one pharmacy was greeted by the adults who owned the place with all the embarrassment as if I had asked a 14 year old to point out where I might locate the condoms.
That all being said, the friendly folk at the Home Brewers Digest directed me to a few distributors of worth such as these noteworthies:
But depending on where you're coming from, or going, if it takes you along I-78 near Allentown, make a side trip to Emmaus, PA and visit Shangy's. This is THE supermarket of distributors, with sections for cases of beer from all parts of the world. A great place to shop for beer as a kid in a candy store. Google them; it's worth the trip.This just illustrates the point that if you want to know anything in the way of ale location information, subscribing to the HBD is the way to go.
I have to say that there is no place greater anywhere on earth than Shangy's
SHANGYS THE BEER AUTHORITY
40 E MAIN ST, EMMAUS, PA 18049
Phone: (610) 967-6793
It is about 75 miles from Hershey and it is worth a 7,500 mile drive. You will never again be at a distrubutor that has this selection of beer. Take a suitcase of cash and leave the car half empty... You will need the space for the beer you buy. C'ya!
The best beer distributor is about 30 mins away from Hershey in Shiremanstown (near Harrisburg) - selection is huge. If you're like me you'll wander around in there for a while trying to deicide which beers to adopt. Def worth the short drive! In PA you have to buy an entire case at a time unless you buy it from a bar/restaurant where you can get 6 or 12 packs (its quite stupid). One of the best beer selections at a pub is Kclingers. Again, closer to Harrisburg than Hershey but well worth the drive. They have 2 locations, the one in Etters is closer to Hershey and the bigger of the two: 895 Old Trail Road, Etters, PA 17319. They have an impressive food menu and brew some beer in house. Both those places are right off interstates so the drive is pretty easy. Hope this helps. Cheers!
So what did I get? Two great Variety Pack 2-4 of four styles of beer from both Tröegs in Harrisburg and Lancaster Brewing in Lancaster. I have only sipped a few on the road of these and can say that Lancaster's Milk Stout is one of the finest beers I have ever had. Milk Stout is a faded variety that uses lactose, an unfermentable sugar from milk, to give it body and roundness. A generous use of chocolate malt makes for a beer unlike but still reflective of chocolate milk. Sounds weird. It isn't. Think of an iced mocha coffee. It's still better than that. I have three bottles left and I have hidden them.
On the way back I also picked up Yuengling Traditional Lager, a six of Red Hook ESB as well as one of Ithaca Flower Power. I have now had Yuengling Lager, Nut Brown and Lord Chesterfield, the latter at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca (Ed.: as illustrated). I have yet to have the pure porter, a style which is the progenator of our dearly beloved Guinness and all other stouts. Founded in 1829 and a survivor of the dark years of prohibition, Yuengling is a gem. I also had a porter at BJ's Steak and Ribs in Selinesgrove on the mighty Susquehanna and home to Susquehanna University. A little research indicates that this was likely contract brewed by The Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, a century old brewery which sits off highway 309. Eastern Pennsylvania is one of the few spots in the world, along with London and the Baltic Sea, that has had continuous porter production since the heady days of the early 1800s when the brewing industry was something like 20% of the English economy and porter was the majority of that.
Travel and history and diversity not to mention a sterile source for and storage of water and carbs, the things of life. Too bad the Pennsylvania Liquor Board spends its time on shame and perhaps the weirdest kiddies page I have seen on the internet.
By the way, cost of declaring 60 beer at the border? $6.63 Canadian as we two adults had a 48 bottle free pass already. The helpful customs man said you can bring in and pay taxes and mark up on 45 litres beyond your personal limit. As there are 2 litres in a six pack, that makes...ummm...5 and a half 2-4s each after a 48 hour trip. At an extra cost of around 12 to 15 bucks at the border, go ahead...import...declare...feel free. Think Lancaster Milk Stout all winter.
In Lititz amongst the good and early to bed set. Festooned. All I could think of was "festooned". And of cold beer. Mighty fine looking.
Unlike my recent exposé on Belgian whites, this collection took at seven minute trip to the local LCBO and cost between $2.75 and $3.00 CND per 500 ml bottle. The seasonal selection of beers they bring in is quite good and you can find some nice choices in a single style to compare. These are all English pale ales of a strength that might qualify them as extra special bitters (ESB) rather than the weaker ordinary bitter (3-4% roughly) or the higher test India Pale Ales (7% and over). As I crack them open, I will add to these reviews.
The beers should reflect four things - quality grains, pure water, intellegent yeast selection and a balancing bite of top notch hops. Beyond that there are some characteristics that go to the brewer's technique.
Later: Further research funds have been located and two more examples acquired from the LCBO, Black Sheep and Old Speckled Hen. I know Ale Fan is a fan of the latter, it being from his home town but it would be interesting to get some thoughts on the Black Sheep and other the other pale ales.
Later Still: ...and how could I leave out Fuller's London Pride?
Here are my comments:
- Hopback Summer Lightning - The first beer in the group I have tried is Summer Lightning by the Hopback Brewery of Downton, Salisbury, England. At 5% it is not a huge beer by Canadian standards - where 5% is our norm. It is, however, as lovely as your average Molson's or Labatt's product is not. A hopback is a vessel used in the brewing process before kegging which is basically a bucket of hop blossoms which the beer is allowed to wash over. I would have though with this name, the beer would be a massively bitter ale. It is not. The first thing you smell is the grain - "best Barley malt" says the label. I am used as a lapsed homebrewer to actually knowing the strain of barley malt being used. Have a look at the grain selection at Paddock Wood, Canada's great Prairie homebrew supply shop. I would like to think that the lads at Hopback would like to tell me if this is Maris Otter pale malt or not. The Summer Lightning label, however, tells me more about Zeus for some reason. Nice enough but still somewhat lame branding. And completely unrequired as the CAMRA and other brewing awards on the label proves. A lovely rich ale which would serve anyone well as an introduction to the style.
- Marston Pedigree. Such a interesting beer but as this graph tells, it is a different world since Maggie held the reigns. "Brewed in wood" the cap says but there is little to recommend this ale in light of the other options. Stale? Over manufactured? Bland? It may be brewed in the wood but there is so little of the wood left in the ale that there may as well be a line on the label that says "a tad of caramel added". There should be more than a slight astrigent tang and some caramel to justify the claim to wood brewing. Am I too harsh?
Later: I think I have been too harsh and wonder whether a wood brewed and aged ale is too different an animal to compare.
- Wychwood Brewery Fiddler's Elbow. Hoppy hoppy hoppy but not Burtonized water - below the hops it is fairly soft. It says on the lable that it is a blend of barley and wheat malt hopped with Styrians. I don't know what "hopped with Styrians" means to non-beer-nerds but it is a variant of Fuggles, an early UK hop, which is grown in the Czech Republic. Tangy and with the lack of acidified water fairly green and organic. If you think that Smithwicks is a classic pale ale, you will find this like drinking ice tea that the 20 bags per litre have been left in overnight. Great on a hot day.
- Old Speckled Hen. If Wychwood is a hop fest, OSH is an elegant expression of the same theme. The malt is biscuity, like in some champaign. Then the sweet of the crystal malt and the sweet of the alcohol add up to a butter toffee thing. The hops are pronounced and green on top with a rough bitter edge as well leaving a sour grapefruit tang. The water is not as soft as the Wychwood and there is a faint smokey thing in there, like Islay malt whisky over apple fruit yeast. This is a fine ale with many levels. It must be amazing on tap at Bury St. Edmunds where it is brewed by Greene King. If in Ontario, splurg on the bottle rather than the can. If you can only get the can get the can.
- Black Sheep Ale. This is fairly austere, not unlike a richer version of a Canadian pale ale, perhaps what Molson Stock Ale or Moosehead pale ale red lable might have tasted like 50 years ago. Drier with rougher hops than the Old Speckled Hen. The bitterness has no green to it and it is more grainy than malty - pale malts with maybe a little rolled barley or rolled wheat even. Black Sheep is a yorkshire pale ale so wheat would not be unexpected. Very well balanced and if you are looking for something to start into the English ales from Canada and wanting to avoid the brown crayon water called Smithwicks or whatever, this is a good one to try.
- St. Peter's Summer Ale: The first thing that strikes you, after you have opened the distinctive flask like bottle, is the big body. It is a surprisingly big as Black Sheep was lighter than expected. The hops are very herby - not just grassy green but heavy like basil can be. Every beer I have had from St. Peter's is a revelation and I think this one is the use of liquorice. I had an ale a few years ago called Hop and Glory which had liquorice in it. It creates body and enriches the hop complexity. Both Al Korzonas in Homebrewing, Volume One and Dave Line in The Big Book of Brewing treat it as a background ingredient in big beers like stouts or dubbles. In this case, with a lighter style, it creates a sort of salad in a glass effect through wise hop selection. It might make a great chaser for Pernod or even a poaching liquid for salmon.
- Fuller's London Pride. Balance between hop and malt, sweet and dry, real body and refreshment. Fuller's flagship brand. David Line wrote in his 1978 book Brewing Beers Like Those you Buy
If I had to select just one beer to drink the rest of my days it would have to be "London Pride"; a classic example of a true English Bitter Beer.Twenty years later, Roger Protz in Brew Your Own British Real Ale wrote:
An astonishingly complex beer for its gravity, fine for drinking on its own or with full flavoured food. A multi-layered delight of malt and hops and a deep instense finish with hop and ripening fruit notes.Gravity is the measure of a brew's potential for alcohol. In the bottle, it comes in at 4.7%. What else to say? The placement of the edge of bitter mimics a much higher alcohol ale while the malt display a real fruitiness that is amazing when you know it somes from the manipulation of a grain. I am fairly confident in saying it is Maris Otter pale ale that gives the apple and caramel background. Worthy without a doubt.
- Hook Norton Haymaker. Haymaker is a great name for a pale ale. We think of it in North America as a euphamism for a knock-out punch but it was also a trade, a person who made hay. This ale is evocative - only sold in summer, full of fruit and hop, a reminder that beer, like wine, is a means to store the harvest. At 5.0%, for the UK market it would also be seen to pack a bit of a punch. The brewery's web site states it is only available in July and August. The aroma and first flush in the mouth is rich and floral but not cloying, with a hint in the background graininess that reminds me of Moosehead products like their Ten Penny or Red Label Pale Ale as they were brewed in the 80s, with a bit of the smell of an attic in an old house, slightly stale old wood. Somewhere in there is sweet old stored winter apple as well. Again, it puts me in the hayloft of an old barn when the cicadas buzz late on a hot August Saturday afternoon. I think of all the pale ales I have reviewed this is my favorite, an excellently balanced celebration of good pale malt.
It's a tough job. Over the last month I assembled this collection of Belgian white beers which are cloudy wheat based ales flavoured with dried orange peel, corriander seed and other traditional spices. It is the best form of beer that perhaps reflects what beer might have been like 400 years ago. The four beers are made (from left to right) in Belgium, New York state, Quebec and Belgium and if you click on the name in the title for the picture above you will find the Beer Advocate reviews for each.
Left to right: Hoegaarden, Ommegang, Unibroue Blanch de Chambley, Brussels White
Not content to read about what people thought I decided to rate them each myself in an entirely scientific process:
- Hoegaarden - this is a beer you can pick up in a six for about $11.00 CND at the Beer Store in Ontario. It is mass manufactured, available everywhere but pretty loyal to the original revival of the style. In fact if this beer had not been saved some years ago the entire style may have been lost. It is the standard, yellow and cloudy, retains a good head and has the most pronounced orangey flavour but it is a subtle difference.
- Ommegang - This rural micro-brewery sits a few miles west of Cooperstown NY. It is the least citrusy and freshest tasting, I suppose something I should expect as I bought it at the brewery. It has a nice rocky head that for me is indicative of home style ales. There is something sweet about it in the US micro style that makes me think that it may have a small amount of corn in the mash. At about $9.00 CND for a 750 ml it is the most expensive. I have had both of Ommegang's "dubbel" and "quadrubble" and enjoyed them but, compared to Unibroue or Chimay products, they are too hoppy. These beers, the homebrew guides tell us, should be massively malty with two year old hops drained of all their biting acids.
- Blanche de Chambly - The Canadian entry from Quebec's Unibroue is again available at the Beer Store in Ontario for about $11.00 CND a six pack. It is the least yellow, has a great head. It is a little more lemony than orangey and a bit drier in the Canadian style of ales of having graininess as a pronounced flavour. I have never met a Unibroue ale I have not admired greatly.
- Brussels White - it is a bad thing when the first thing you think of when you sip an ale is minwax furniture polish. Sorry Brouwerij Sint-Jozef. The citrus flavour was like a lemon drop, a yellow lollypop. Gak compared to the rest. It is also the least cloudy and only a skim of yeast at the end of the bottle. The cap was a bit rusty on the edge so it may have been an old bottle but I can't imagine that caused the lemon drop thing. Put this beer down and walk away backwards slowly. At $2.35 CDN for one 330 ml bottle, it is far more expensive than the Hoegaarden and Blanch de Chambly and far worse.
I am fairly pleased to say I have only met one beer I did not like - Garrison Jalapena Ale. Mouth gets hot, take a drink, mouth gets hotter, take a drink, mouth gets hotter...you get the idea.
Belhaven Fruit Beer is not quite that but it isn't quite fruity either. When very fresh raspberries and blackberries have a kind of shrubby taste as well as all that sugar. That is the kind of fruit Belhaven has added to an otherwise moderate 60/ style Scottish ale. Hop bitter, a bit of roast barley bite and then the twiggy fruity thing. Smells subtly like Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries. Disconcerting in a beer. Not as much as it would be if it if it were Cap'n Crunch with the peanut butter berries.
I would probably say I will never have another of these except I have a second in the cupboard.
I was going to call this post Three Summer Ales in homage to the winter version but what with the current Molson ad running on the TV about why would you drink an American beer any more than you would buy a Morrocan snowmobile, I am compelled to point out that most Molson products have a little less of that beer component, barley, and a whole lot too much of corn sugar these days and that an honest evaluation of ales ought to be based a wee bit more on what's in the glass rather than what is said on the ad by the guy next to the 19 year old lassie in the swimsuit. Want a good beer? Look to the USA, I say.
Pete's Wicked Ale, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Lake Placid Ubu Ale
Starting at the left, Pete's Wicked Ale (5.3%) from Minnesota is the archtype American brown ale, what Rickard's Red (not a real Irish red but a caramelized pale ale) dreams of being - flavourful, with a thoughtful selection of yeast and that small bit of dark crystal malt that gives the raisin thang a happening about half way through if you are paying attention. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6%) from California is a new one to me, highly rated by those who like real ale from the USA, in the same general area as my favorite US pale ale Shipyard Export but with a wee bit less up front in the hops department but still pretty flowery, just like Al Purdy would have appreciated when he wrote the poem. Like a Labatt 50 or a Moosehead Pale Ale, there is the flavour of grain hanging around after the swallow. Unlike them, the flavour is better, without that sneaker box cardboard thing. The Lake Placid Ubu Ale (7%) is a big ale from the neighbouring part of northern New York. If Pete's Wicked Ale has a hint of raisin, this is ripe with it. Biggish but still not too big.
Best of all - you can get all three beers a half hour over the border at a grocery store. While there, if it is stinking hot, get some Rolling Rock - the best bowl of corn flakes you will ever drink.
Being in Ontario during the hockey playoffs is the right place to be. There is a pervasive legitimacy about being Leafs fans that you just don't get in the Maritimes with the mix of allegances for the Habs, the Bruins and whatever team is good this week. We watched the win over the Senators last night from the bar of the Merchant MacLiam at the foot of Princess, with the cook at my side and the bar staff standing back to their customers, all eyes fixed to the screen.
The Merchant is a newish pub/restaurant in old digs. The 1840's building is one of the last small waterside warehouses left in town and the inside is low-roof, open-beam.