Tales of a Wayside Brewery

For those of you who read this blog, you know that my two favourite seasonals are autumn, and, especially winter. This one is especially dear to me as it comes from my first ever microbrew. I first tried this brewery’s offerings when I was skiing with my dad. Ever since then, we have enjoyed these beers from time to time. That is why I am reviewing:

Shipyard Brewing Co.: Longfellow Winter Ale

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed the brew after a long day at school to celebrate the beginning of the weekend. The beer sat less than a week in the cellar and was drunk fresh from there in a five ounce tasting glass.

Eye: The beer poured a chocolate brown with a creamy pale tan head. The bottle had a Longfellows mug staring out at us with a purple-tan label over brown glass.

Nose: The nose was reminiscent of a masala chai with lots of spice notes, vanilla, and chocolate, as well as nice citrus notes.

Mouth: The beer was smooth on the front with lots of winter spice and a pleasant hoppiness right behind. In between there was a nice chocolate with a hint of mint, caradamon and vanilla. The taste was quite subtle, so I had to search a little.

Conclusion: I love porter and this is a wonderful example. Combine porterness with winter spice, and I think I’m in love. There’s way too much good beer out there to drink any one regularly, but this is one I’ll keep an eye out for next winter.

Here’s to a good pint,
The Scribe

Taking a Load Off

In general, my two favourite styles of beer are stouts/porters and Belgian sours. In general, beer comes in three (theoretically four) flavours: Lagers, which are top fermented with unroasted grains; Ales, which are bottom or middle fermented with unroasted grains; and Porters, which are bottom or middle fermented with roasted grains. Theoretically, we could have a top fermented beer with roasted grain, a sort of Continental porter, but I’ve never seen one. Any way, porters, so named because they were the preferred drink of, teamsters, drivers, and, well, porters, and tend to be quite dark. All of this is by way of introducing today review:

High Falls Brewing Co.: Dundee Porter

Tasting Conditions: I tried this ale after a day of getting my house back together after returning from my travels. It also happened to be a first short, easy day of school. I used a five ounce, straight sided tasting glass for the taste. The beer was at a cold room temperature and had been in the cellar about three months before tasting.

Eye: The beer was a dark, almost opaque, brown with a airy, almost soapy-looking head. The bottle was dark brown with a red, tasteful logo showing a porter with a stein of beer. This is slightly incongruous as Englishmen tend to drink from pint glasses, not German steins, but I’ll let it slide.

Nose: The nose is bready, as beer tends to be, but there is some subtlety here, and it smells more of ry or pumpernickel than wheat. There is also a bit of citrus and hops in the mix.

Mouth: Ah, the important part. This is interesting, and quite tasty. In many ways, it taste more like a sour ale than a porter. It has none of the expected bitterness. The first thing you notice is chocolate, backed up by a strong vanilla. On the finish there is a roundness provided by apple, orange, and perhaps cardamon.

Conclusion: This is an excelent beer. It came in a very inexpensive sampler case with five other Dundee offerings for under $10. If the rest of the Dundee brews are of similar quality, this is both cheap, and very good. See if you can find this brew near you.

It’s so good to be back,
The Scribe

What To Do For the Winter Olympics

So I haven’t posted in about a month. What can I say? Travel’s a bitch. But not a bad bitch. It’s actually one of the betters ones. Except when you’re in coach. Then flying is miserable. Anyway, I spent two weeks in Chicago until New Year’s and then spent another two weeks in the 2010 Winter Olympic host cities, Vancouver and Whistler, BC. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, but I’ll try and give you a decent recap.

Chicago:

Hopleaf: As I’ve said before, the Hopleaf is my favourite beer bar in the city. And they serve more brews than any other Chicago bar.  Check out my lengthier review for more. While there, I enjoyed the Delerium Tremens Ale, reputed to be the finest beer in the world. It’s good. Real good. But as Belgian sours go, it’s not too special.

Chief O’Neil’s: The Chief’s is our favourite Irish pub in the city. The have acceptable craic, and pour a good, but not perfect, pint of plain. Standard Irish pub fare and a good location for when we are out shopping round out what makes this bar good. They have a wonderful whisk(e)y selection with both old and new world distillates. Of course, they focus on the Irish whiskey but good selections Scotch, Bourbon, and rye can all be found behind the stick. Their pint of stout is quite good, and fairly opaque, but doesn’t compare to Nash’s in the Pale.

While there, I learned that Guinness is holding a competition for “best pint.” Their scoring rubric seems to have more to do with prominently displaying the Guinness logo than anything else. Of course, given Guinness’s long history of marketing genius, I don’t know why we should expect anything else.

Park 21: This new restaurant from the same people behind Carnivale, a restaurant sensation is practically the same. While the service is impeccable, the atmosphere pleasant and vibrant,  and the wine list good, the food is mediocre at best, and the bar program leaves much to be desired. I suggest if you must eat there, you stick with vine, beer, or neat spirits.

O’Hare Airport: It is a sad truth that while traveling, we must spend a good deal of unpleasant time in airports. For the drinking public, however, it is getting better. While Patron has become de regour at most bars, I saw many airport bars making a concerted effort to stock at least one premium offering in each category, including Hendrick’s gin, a variety of sippable rums, good Bourbon and rye and belike.

Vancouver:

The Chef and the Carpenter: We only spent one night in the city, and we went to this wonderful French restaurant after the old school. The Caesar salad is still made fresh, tableside, and with a real egg yolk. Quite possibly the best Caesar I’ve ever had. The rest of the food was equally good. Their cocktail program was outstanding. The maitre d’hotel was a competent barkeep, and while they did not have a bar menu, he could mix up all the classics with a practiced shake or stir from a surprisingly well stocked bar. If you find yourself in Vancouver, I recommend you visit this outstanding Robson street establishment.

Chow: While I was there a year ago, I never mentioned this fine and progressive restaurant serving the fine Pacific Rim fusion cuisine. Another restaurant with an impressive drinks program including fine beer, wine, and, of course, classic cocktails. You certainly can’t go wrong here.

The Cat’s Paw: Another gem from last year, this Granville Island bar has innovative cuisine and reasonable prices, and is, by and large, filled with locals. Another great place to take a load off.

Whistler

The Dubh Linn Gate: This has been our longtime apres hangout. The best beer bar in Whistler, though that doesn’t say much, with a good selection of Scotch whiskies as well, and excelent food, this is as good a spot for dinner as for taking a load off after a hard day on slopes.

Black’s Pub: A reasonably indifferent bar with little to speak for it. While it has good bar staff, an indifferent drinks program and reasonably standard beer menu, as well as non-distinct food doom this to my “eh” list (and not in the way the Canadians say it either).

Milestone’s: A step up from Black’s. A fairly nondescript cocktail menu at least is supplemented by interesting local microbrews and better food. They offer the Wild Horse Winter Ale a refreshing, medium bodied beer with just a hint of winter spice. It is much less spiced than most American winter offerings which is quite a bit more refreshing.

The Cinnamon Bear Bar: Hotel bars tend not to be good, and whether I hit them on an off day, or something else, this is no exception. There are literally no redeeming features to this bar. Avoid it.

Merlin’s, The Girabaldi Lift Company, and Dusty’s: These three mountain-owned bars are surprisingly good. While the beer selection isn’t what it has been in years past, they still stock the Alexander Keith’s Pale Ale, a reasonably standard pale ale after the British style, and their Amber Ale, a heartier, more flavourful brew on tap. This, combined with good food, make this a reasonable place to recover. Dusty’s is supposed to have wonderful barbeque, but I admit to never having tried it. Similarly, both Merlin’s and the GLC have distincive personalities and menus. All have live music and are steps from the slopes.

Ceeta’s Bistro: This bar has a reasonable beer selection, and good, relatively inexpensive sandwitches. We were there for the Canada-Russia game of the World Youth Hockey Championship, which was epic. We also had the Okanagan Spring Pale Ale, a relatively non-descript pale, and the Okanagan 1516, an even less flavourful brew. Unfortunately, Ceeta’s is likely closing soon, so Whistler will loose this quarter century old establishment.

Rim Rock Cafe: This is not somewhere you go for the drinks, not because they do not have a wonderful bar, outstanding wines, and good beers, but merely because the food is so good. One of Canada’s top ten restaurants, if you are in Whistler, and can remotely afford it, you need to try it. One of the best meals of my life.

Hope this list has helped you if you are traveling out there. There are a lot of positives on this list, but I have been to Vancouver and Whistler enough to avoid many of the bad apples, though not all, as the list suggests. Again, I apologize for the lack of pics.

May wind fill your sails,
The Scribe

The Session: What’s in My Glass

session-logo-smOooo…Matt over at World of Brews threw down the gauntlet this month with a simple but loaded question:

What is your favourite beer?

Well, Matt, if you wants to ask the questions, you gots to be able to take the answers. I’ll borrow an Ed Hamilton (from the Ministry of Rum) classic retort:

Whatever happens to be in my glass.

No. Seriously. Think about it. Who has one favourite beer? Honestly, if you have a favourite beer, you haven’t drunk enough. Is your breakfast of champions brew the same one you enjoy as a hair of the dog? (Of course not, since your hair of the dog ought to be ginger ale, orange juice, and a generous pour of Angostura bitters. It tastes as good as it sounds, but boy does it work.) I’d rather a Woodstock Inn Autumn Ale to go with my apple pie, but before dinner, I’d probably go with their Pemi Pale. Is Beirtuit (the drinking game) really the same with a beer that costs more than $15 per case?

I probably drink more Pemi Pale than anything else, but that is also because I have ahuge supply. At the same time, at last count, I had over a dozen different beers within five yards of my computer, and you can be sure they all have their day in the sun. With all that said, it wouldn’t be the Session without a beer review, so since I’ve been really enjoying it lately, why don’t I suggest a brew from my favourite brewery:

Woodstock Inn Brewing Co.: Autumn Ale Brew

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed this brew after quite a long hard day of life, with a very late dinner. I used a Harpoon seven ounce straight sided beer tasting glass to try this seasonal lager. I got the bottles from the brewery and they sat for maybe a month at room temperature before being consumed.

Eye: This is a dark reddish-brown ale. On the pour, it was quite fizzy, foaming up rather like a soda. After the surge settled, it continued to produce Champagne-like bubbles. The bottle was very Halloween with orange, yellow, and black dominating. The label featured a bunch of apple-headed witches stirring a cauldron of beer.

Nose: The nose had lots of apples and spicyness. The aroma can best be described as the smell of fresh baked apple pie, with just a bit of hops and ferment underneath.

Mouth: The first sip revealed lots of winter spice: cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The cinnamon dominated the finish, with the nutmeg close in front. There were also fairly constant apple notes, of the sweeter, softer variety. The front end was quite sweet with sugar notes. The middle revealed that you were, in fact, drinking beer with a nice hoppy bitterness. The beer was also almost chewy in the mouth.

Conclusion: This is a yummy brew, though definitely on the sweeter side. It would be perfect with desert, especially, and this is from experience, if said desert involved baked apples. Other wonderful uses include warming up after a cold day. Altogether a yummy brew from my favorite brewery.

Picture shortly.

So drink down whatever is in your glass, and head over to World of Brews to catch the roundup,
The Scribe

I Like Beer, You Like Beer, We All Like Beer!

To borrow from Freddie R. That’s right. This month at the Dram is beer month in honor of Oktoberfest, which, of course, actually happens in September… Anyway. I have some good stuff on tap for you this month:

  • Reviews: Of course, it wouldn’t be beer month without beer reviews, and I got plenty of ’em just waiting to make an appearance.
  • Bars: I’m hoping to swing by the Publick House, and possibly the Sunset Grill for some brews.
  • Breweries: I swung by the Harpoon Brewery the other day, and probably the Sam Adams Brewery as well.
  • Cocktails: I am deeply intrigued by beer cocktails, and now I’ll get a chance to try some out.
  • Monthly Events: The Session and MxMo should be fun again this month.

So stick around and enjoy,
The Scribe

Big Ol’ Beer

Today I set out to review another leftover from my housemate’s party. The guy who brought over the Sierra Nevada had great taste, and luckily for me, the majority of my housemates like their thin and relatively tasteless. That leaves all the big, bold brews to be imbibed by ahm…there’s no word that describes me that begins with a “B” so I will have to end my alliteration early. All of these “B”‘s are suggestive of the beer I am about to taste, labeled as “Bigfoot.” Since this is wine month here at the Dram, I had to review a barley wine and this is a goody. So, without further ado:

A Full Glass

A Full Glass

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: 2008 Bigfoot Barley Wine Style Ale – 25th Expedition

Tasting Condition: I enjoyed this brew after a pleasant evening and a nice dinner. I drank this beer cold from the fridge in a 16 oz. English pint-style glass.

Eye: In the glass this ale is a dark, cloudy amber with lots of gorgeous, creamy head. The head has good staying power, suggesting a fair bit of protein. The bottle is much like other Sierra Nevadas in stubby brown glass.

Nose: The nose is mostly hops and cloves with just a hint of mint.

Mouth: This beer is very interesting in the mouth with an almost indescribably, but pleasant flavour. There is a lot of hoppiness on the finish, but the start is very weird. I would almost suggest beef stock as one of the tastes, as well as some interesting spices, including a good bit on ginger, and lots of mint and bay leaf. All together, it is rather interesting.

Conclusion: This is a wonderful beer, and definitely one I am happy to have in the house. With so many thousands of wonderful beers out there, this is not outstanding enough for me to absolutely buy again, but if I saw it in the store, it would certainly complicate my decisionmaking.

Stay brewish,
The Scribe

The Session: A Celebration

For those of you who are new to the Dram, what I do here is blog on beer and cocktails, in roughly equal portions. This month I am also blogging on wine. However, in general, you can find reviews of beer, usually three per month, plus beer cocktails, and other cocktails as well. Anyway, onto the Session:
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a six pack of Tuckerman’s, which I usually drink when I get down from the eponymous backcountry ski area, one of the deadliest in New England. Otherwise, I tend to drink a sparkling wine for celebrations. However, this ale made this selection hard. In addition, since this is wine month here at the Dram, I had to find a barleywine, which is a style I don’t tend to drink. Then, serendipity struck.
This weekend was my roommate’s twenty-first birthday. This seems like the sort of the special occasion asked for by our good host. One of our guests even brought a little Sierra Nevada barleywine bottled under the name “Celebration Ale.” Honestly, could the synergy be any better?

It is an interesting beer. It’s a miserable winter seasonal, because it is not much of a winter warmer. However, it made an excellent summer cooler. It is my honor to present:

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.: 2007 Celebration Ale

Tasting Conditions: I enjoyed this winter warmer after work one day. I drank it from the bottle from, which had been sitting in the fridge for a few days. I drank it from a British pint glass of one imperial pint with room for some head proud of the pint mark.

Eye: This is a wonderfully honey amber ale. It had a lot of surge on the pour, but it subsided fairly quickly. The bottle is a fairly standard Sierra Nevada bottle, though it was in a winter theme.

Nose: There was a lot of good spicyness here, as well as some good hops, and some pleasant herbal notes.

Mouth: In the mouth this was a sweet ale with a pleasing bitterness. It was surprisingly refreshing for a winter beer, and had some Belgian tripel notes. There was also some sour, though more along the lines of cranberry than citrus.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this ale as a summer libation. However, I am not sure how it would taste in the dead of winter. In addition, I find winter ales to be the best seasonals. While this was good, other winter warmers do a better job in this regard.

Be sure to check out the wrap-up over at the Barley Blog.

May we have many more special occaisions,
The Scribe