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.
In 1516, the Reinheitsgebot or Law of Purity was decreed in Germany. It is apparently the oldest still-active piece of food health legislation.
"... we wish to emphasize that in future in all cities, markets and in the country, the only ingredients used for the brewing of beer must be Barley, Hops and Water. Whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the Court authorities' confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail."
However, legal action in Germany with respect to beer dates back to 1165.
I am a huge fan of the not blog Forgotten New York and its regular and comprehensive investigations of some aspect or another of New York's architectural heritage. This week we have a study on some of the oldest bars in New York City.
- Total attendance at movie theatres and drive-ins with sales of $1.2 billion in 2002/03: 15.3% of beer.
- All wheat at $2.47 billion: 31.5% of beer.
- The estimated budget of the Government of Nova Scotia for 2003 of $5.327 billion: 68% of beer.
- All charitable giving of $6,500,000,000: 71% of beer.
- Beer is smaller than the military, however, which has a $13.5 billion budget for 2006: 171% of beer in 2003.
Finally the wee truck from Fitzroy Harbour up on the Ottawa River near Arnprior made its way down to Kingston giving us a taste of this excellent local ale. This is a hoppy beer that reminds me a lot of my recollection of the Dragon's Breath Ale contract brewed and bottled by the old Hart Brewery of Carleton place about (without looking) 35 miles south of Fitzroy Harbour. Candy cane Goldings and grapefruity Chinook hops combine to provide quite a bit of a sour tang to this fairly lightly bodied clean ale. The finish is a nice combination of the slight rough edge of the hops and the light graininess of the pale ale.
The brewery has a pretty good web presence which provides the names of bars where you can buy a pint of tap. It also describes the Sgt. Major IPA as follows:
Our Sgt. Major's IPA is our most intense ale to date. It's a massively hoppy and quite bitter beer, yet one with a nice, full-bodied malt background. It weighs in at 5.5 percent Alcohol (balanced by its big body). It is hopped with lots of Chinook hops which impart a tasty white-grapefruit/spice/resin flavour and aroma (and a total of 68 IBU) making the ale wonderfully refreshing. Being at the low end of the alcohol range for the style, it's as close to a supping pint as tradition allows. While the Sgt. Major's rather considerable bitterness is nicely balanced by its full-bodied maltiness, this is overall a predominantly hoppy ale. The full body of our India Pale Ale comes from lots of English pale ale malt and crystal malt, with a very small amount of chocolate malt. Our all-natural draught ale uses no artificial additives or preservatives.I don't know if that means the bottled version does have artificial additives and preservatives. I would also think that the full-bodied characterization is pushing it a bit in a world where a drive as far south as this is north will get me a Middle Ages Wailing Wench or Druid Fluid. It is, for example, lighter but hopper than Propeller's ESB from Halifax, one of the nicer bodied ales in Canada, but according to the standard scheme of bitters and pale ales a grade below an IPA. But this all is not to distract from the ale, just the adjectives. Like Mill Street Tankhouse Ale, the lighter mouthfeel I think reflects the apparent or possibly emerging Canadian style of pale ale, as opposed to my suggested putative style sweeter fuller Canadian amber but less hoppy. Both are a degree or two off the standard for an American pale ale or its amber sibling and different again from English ones.
Nevertheless, this is very good beer and a worthy addition to quest for the National Six-Pack. The quality of the craftsmanship makes me think a wee trip to the Manx in Ottawa is in order to try out the brewer's draught only Session Ale, a rare ordinary bitter which - if true to style - should not hit 3.5% and ought to be as refreshingly quaffable as a good dark mild.