Monday Beer Club – Meeting #6

The Agenda

You have probably noticed that the items on today’s agenda all look similar. This was intentional. The idea is to keep you from jumping to conclusions based on colour, and instead focus on the nose and taste. We were instructed to look for esters (characteristic of ales), hops (indicates dry hopping), and alcohol (how strong the beer is) and then let that guide our selections. I love the idea in theory. Let’s see how we do in practice.

Number 1: (far left) The nose was fairly light with hints of brown sugar and dried fruit. The esters (brown sugar and dried fruit flavours) came through stronger on the taste with an initial sweetness that was replaced by a mild bitter aftertaste that grew stronger over time. This didn’t taste like a high alcohol beer, making it a great session beer.

Our guess: Mind Your Table Manners (Belgian Table Bier). And the answer is … Mind Your Table Manners. Excellent!

Number 2: The nose was very light, with just the tiniest hint of caramel. The taste was smooth with a slight sweetness and subtle esters. There was very little bitterness and a sweetness fades quickly leaving a pleasant, balanced aftertaste.

Our guess: Beez Nutz. And the answer is … Rebel Rebel. Oh dear. Moving right along…

Number 3: Again, the nose was very light with hints of caramel, dried fruit, and hops. The taste was stronger with more hop bitterness and caramel, which faded to leave a mild bitter aftertaste.

Our guess: Rebel Rebel. By the time we got to marking, we knew this had to be wrong because the second beer was Rebel Rebel, but we had to stick with our official guess. The answer was … Keep Ya Head Up which is a dry-hopped amber ale. Of course, when I want back and looked at my notes, there it was … “hops on the nose” but I got sidetracked with the caramel and bitterness. Next time.

Number 4: (far right) Again, the nose was hard to place, but the taste was smooth, rich, and sweet. The mouthfeel was rich, coating your mouth with tasty goodness. The alcohol was pretty obvious and it balanced the sweetness – this is a perfect after dinner beer.

Our guess: King Harvest (a Belgian Dubbel). And the answer is … King Harvest. This is a favourite, so I’m relieved that I got it right.

That’s it for now. See you Monday at 4:00.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting # 5

The Agenda

The agenda for today’s meeting was unanimously approved. The topic is … beer.

Number 1: (far left) This beer is straw coloured (SRM 3-4) with a light haze. The nose is subtle with hints of lemon and pineapple. The taste is light with minimal hop bitterness that is only apparent in the back of the mouth. This is a light and refreshing beer, perfect for warm spring days on the patio. Let’s hope we get some of those soon.

Our guess: Live Session. And the answer is … Kashmir. Ohhh boy. We are not off to a good start today.

Number 2: We rated this beer as SRM 15. It was very clear with the colour of a typical English ale The esters (typical of ales) were readily apparent with aromas of caramel and dried fruit. Caramel and nuttiness were also clear in the taste, though the sweetness faded quickly leaving a clean mouthfeel with a mild bitterness that slowly emerged as the caramel and dried fruit flavours faded. Lovely.

Our guess: 1. Rebel Rebel, and 2. Beez Nutz. And the answer is … Rebel Rebel. We will take it as a win, though we were soundly chastised for guessing Beez Nutz, since that beer is much darker and sweeter. Clearly more practice is needed.

Number 3: This one was a bit lighter, with SRM 10. It had obvious sour fruit notes on the nose and these were even more pronounced in the taste. It had a long balanced aftertaste, making it a very refreshing quaff.

Our guess: Pear Necessities. Bullseye! This was a bit of a gimme, but we need all the help we can get.

Number 4: This beer was very dark, at SRM 35. We detected fruity notes on the nose but the taste was smokey and effervescent. The taste was surprisingly clean (given the colour) leaving a pleasant smokey bitterness on the upper palate.

Our guess: 1. Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz. 2. 10 Track Commandments. And the answer is … Black Magic Woman. Damn! Damn, damn, damn. I noted the “fruity notes” on the nose, which screams “IPA” and then I ignored it. Note to self: when you detect fruity notes, think hops, and when you think hops, think IPA. No doubt about it – more practice is required.

Soooo … we continue with a barely passing grade of 50%.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting # 4

The proposed agenda for today’s meeting was approved, without modification. The theme for today’s meeting was … beer.

Number 1: (far right) This beer was the colour of pale straw (SRM 2) with a light haze. the nose showed definite notes of citrus … grapefruit and lemon. The taste was light, smooth, and refreshing.

Jane’s take: Goes down easy.

Our guess: 1. Live Session Vol III or 2. Kashmir. And the answer was (drum roll…) Live Session Vol III. (Batting 1000 for now. This won’t last for long.)

Number 2: The colour of dark straw, we rated this beer as SRM 3 1/2. The nose was very light, with perhaps hints of lemon pie. It was very effervescent, with hints of lime and a light sweetness, but virtually no bitterness on the aftertaste. Very drinkable.

Jane’s take: the Prosecco of beer.

Our guess: 1. Lola, or 2. Kashmir. And the answer was … Walking on Sunshine. Now that was embarrassing. We’re down to 50% now.

Number 3: At SRM 10, this beer was much darker than the first two. There were hints of caramel and honey on the nose, while the taste was quite sweet, with honey notes. The balance was excellent, with no lingering bitterness at all.

Jane’s take: I could chug this.

Our guess: Beez Nutz. We were so confident on this one, that we didn’t even bother with a second guess. And, of course, we were completely wrong. It was … Rebel Rebel. And now, we are down to 25%. Sheesh.

Number 4: This beer was darker still, with an orange-red tint (SRM 17). We got maple, molasses, caramel, and port on the nose, which followed through in the taste. It was like sipping a fine port wine, coating your mouth with a pleasant warmth that faded gracefully and slowly, retaining perfect balance all the while. Lovely.

Jane’s take: I liked it the best. A sipping beer.

Our guess: 1. King Harvest, or 2. Stay Warm. And the answer is … King Harvest. We are taking that as a win, and giving ourselves a passing grade of 50%.

Believe me, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The Monday Beer Club won’t be meeting next week, but see you all again in two week’s time.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #3

At Monday Beer Club, the focus is on the beer, as it should be.

We had a simple request today. Pour a flight that will help us understand the difference between an ale and a lager. This is what we got.

Beer # 1 (first on the right): This beer was fairly clear, and the colour of straw ( SRM 3). The aroma was … well … like beer. The taste was clean, with a light hop bitterness and an aftertaste that fades very quickly leaving just the faintest hint of sweetness. We also noted hints of melon.

Our guess: Kashmir. Answer: Haus of the Rye-sing Sun. Well that was embarrassing. I told you it wasn’t as easy as it looks. Though to be fair, Wes told us it had been brewed to taste like a lager, so we’ll give ourselves 10% marks because … I’m making up the marks.

Beer # 2 (2nd from the right): This beer was crystal clear and a pale gold colour (SRM 4) in the glass. It had a full mouthfeel and a lingering sweet aftertaste, with hints of cinnamon and caramelized sugar.

Our guess: 1. Haus of the Rye-sing Sun, or 2. Keep Ya Head Up. Answer: Wrong, and wrong. This was Lola. We seem to get this one wrong every time.

Beer # 3: Deep amber and very clear in the glass, this beer had a definite smell of smoke. The taste was equally smoky, with a passing “sourdough” taste as you swallow. It had a surprisingly clean aftertaste that faded very quickly.

Our guess: Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz. Answer: Yes! Bingo. Finally. Thank God.

Beer #4: Deep amber brown and cherry wood in the glass, this beer had definite notes of dried fruits and caramel on the nose. The taste had … “a whole lot going on in there”. We struggled to find a better way to concisely describe it, but failed. We did note pepper, lemon rind, sweet potato and alcohol in the taste. Like we said – a whole lot going on in there.

Our guess: 1. Beez Nutz, 2. Keep Ya Head Up. 3. Stay Warm. Answer: Beez Nutz. We are counting this as a direct hit, even though we had to take three guesses. That gives us 50%, which is a passing grade. Like I said, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Note that the only lager in this flight was the very dark Schwartz bier. Goes to show you just how much we have to learn.

See you next Monday at 4:00.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #1

Stu West perfectly captured the Monday Beer Club (MBC) motto:

I know what I like, and one of the things I like is beer. I’m in.

The rules are simple. We go to a local brew pub (Brew Revolution) at 4:00 PM on Monday (Duh) and order a flight of locally brewed beer. Our input to the bartender about the type of beer we want is … nothing. Absolutely nothing. The flight will be a complete mystery, and the challenge is to see if we can figure out the beers in the flight. It’s harder than it sounds.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there doesn’t appear to be any logic in the order of the beers. That’s because … there isn’t any logic in the order of the beers. If they put the beers in the order that they thought we should taste them, it would give us a hint, and that isn’t the point of MBC.

We started with the 2nd beer from the handle (on the right). This beer is a pale yellow with a hint of fogginess. The nose is citrus with a bit of grass. the taste has definite citrus notes with mild hop bitterness that continues to build after you swallow, but leaves a clean aftertaste. We decided this would be a perfect beer to drink on the patio on a hot summer day.

Our guess: Kashmir (1st guess) or Live Session (2nd guess). Answer: Live Session – so we were close…

Next: 4th from the right: This beer was crystal clear, with a honey/amber hue. The nose was light with a hint of malt. It reminded me of an English bitter. The taste had a bit of a caramel aftertaste with a bit of balancing bitterness. It wasn’t too alcoholic, and left a pleasant mild bitter aftertaste. We decided it was perfect for a late winter rainy day, which is exactly what we saw outside.

Our guess: We were not at all sure about this one, suggesting Beez Nutz, Haus of the Rye-sing Sun, or Keep Ya Head Up. We were confused and it showed. Turns out we were even more confused than we thought – ti was Lola, an “Oslo Lager”. (I told you this was harder than it sounds…P)

Number 3: closest to the handle, on the far right: This beer was a beautiful clear mahogany (SRM 15) colour with a hint of malt and grapefruit on the nose. The initial taste is fairly mild with the malt and hops in balance, but the immediately fades, leaving a pronounced grapefruit and pine resin flavour. You can also taste a lingering caramel aftertaste with a bit of alcohol.

Our guess: Drop It Like It’s Hopped (West Coast IPA). Nailed it – finally!

We finished with the 3rd beer from the handle: This beer was black. Very black. The nose suggested campfire smoke, and the taste confirmed this, though the taste was surprisingly light given the dark colour. It was very crushable, and not too alcoholic.

Our guess: Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz. Another direct hit.

Final score: two direct hits, one near miss, and one “what the hell were you aiming at”. At the end of the day, a definite success. There will be more meetings of the Monday Beer Club.

Name That Beer

I confess that I’m a beer geek. I enjoy beer tastings structured around a theme, like IPAs or ESBs. But sometimes, when you know what is in the glass, you taste … what you know you’re supposed to taste. So lately, I’ve started thinking about blind tastings where you have no idea what you’re tasting. We tried it today by including a “mystery ale” in the flight. I wanted to see how the experts (aka the brewers) approach tasting an unknown beer.

  • Mystery Ale. This beer is a pale straw colour with a straw/grassy nose along with hints of lemon-haze and mint. The taste has a definite lemon flavour that is reminiscent of a shandy. It’s quite effervescent with an earth/fermented character that reminds me of silage. I was hoping the brewers wouldn’t recognize this as a special “wet hopped” brew they made using home grown hops. Alas, I was disappointed, and they quickly identified the beer as one of their own experimental brews.

John’s Take: This is really quite good…

  • Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz: This Schwarzbier is black with a garnet hue. It smells of powdered chocolate with smokey/bacon overtones that evoke memories of campfires and good times. The taste is balanced and mild, fading quickly but leaving a faint lingering campfire smoke taste.

John’s Take: Stale chocolate cake.

  • Stay Warm: This “Winter warmer” beer is a lovely ruby/copper colour with a brown sugar and plum sauce nose. The taste is like dried plums with moderate sweetness balanced by a noticeable bitterness. Perfect to keep you warm on a cold winter day.

John’s Take: Not my style.

  • Fuller’s Imperial IPA: This beer is meant to be aged, and this particular specimen has been lurking in my cellar for several years now. The colour is rich with hues of cherry wood and rosewood. The nose is reminiscent of amaretto, licorice and “Blueberry Tea”. When you take a sip, it coats your mouth with a buttery richness and flavours of dried apricot, amaretto, and caramelized fruit.

John’s Take: Smooth as silk

Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

You probably already suspected that the beer style “English bitter” originated in England. However, some people are surprised to discover that Bitters aren’t particularly … bitter. Certainly not when compared to the West Coast IPAs we tasted last time. This style is all about balance and drinkability. And the ESB – or Extra Special Bitter – is just an English Bitter with more of everything – hops, malt, and alcohol – while maintaining a balance of all the flavours.

With that out of the way, let’s look at our beers for today.

1. First up: Brew Revolution Rebel Rebel. This beer was included in the 2021 Beer Calendar from Nita Brewery for December 6th. This beer shows a pleasing golden honey/apricot colour in the glass. There is the slightest hint of dried fruit on the nose, but this comes through much stronger on the taste, with caramel and dried fruit complemented by a balancing bitterness. This is an easy drinking ESB with a clean aftertaste.

John’s take: Lots of caramel, but it doesn’t stick around.

2. Next we tasted Creemore Springs Urbock. This beer pours with a rich mahogany or cherry wood hue. It has strong aromas of brown sugar and maple toffee. It has a rich velvety/malty mouthfeel with hints of scorched caramel. The taste is quite dry, with just a bit of residual sweetness.

John’s take: It has a lot to like.

3. We included a true English bitter with Lancaster Bomber ale, which was dark walnut in the glass. The nose was very fruity – so much so that it almost felt like Welch’s grape juice had been added to a craft beer. This came through in the taste with malt sweetness offset by an almost artificial grape candy flavour.

John’s take: This is my least favourite … but I’m happy to have it in a flight.

4. We finished with a Brew Revolution Winter Warmer that was still in the fermentation tank. The colour was a hazy dark walnut. The taste hinted at good things to come, with elements of dried fruit, bread pudding, raisins, butter tarts, chocolate/orange and pumpernickel. We are definitely looking forward to tasting this one when it is finished.

John’s take: Too soon to tell…

West Coast IPA

The India Pale Ale (IPA) beer style is a child of the British Empire, or so the story goes. Traditional British ales couldn’t hold up under the stress of a long ocean voyage to India in the days before refrigeration. To keep them from spoiling, brewers added more hops and increased the alcohol, since both are preservatives. At first people drank IPA out of necessity, but over time they grew to like it, and a new beer style was born. When you look into the history of alcohol, this happens again and again. After all, you don’t drink Gin and Tonic in England because you worry about catching malaria…

Over time (again, so the story goes) the style softened until the English IPA in a typical British pub was lighter and easier to drink than the original IPA. And then, in the 1980’s the American craft brewers adopted the style and either “took IPA back to its roots” or “made it their own”. Either way, American IPAs emerged that were significantly higher in alcohol and far more aggressively hopped than their English counterparts. The first craft brewers to adopt this style were on the west coast, and so it came to be known as West Coast IPA.

We started this flight with Brew Revolution Drop it Like Its Hopped. This beer is very clear in the glass with a lovely mahogany colour. The nose is mild, with overtones of apricot and pine. The taste is initially very smooth, but then a grapefruit bitterness builds along with hints of cinnamon, caramel, and just the faintest suggestion of dried fruit. The aftertaste lingers, leaving a wonderful balance between fruit, bitter, and sweet.

John’s take: I could drink this. (Coming from “Pilsner boy”, this is high praise indeed.)

Next up, we tasted Beau’s Full Time IPA. This was by far the lightest beer in today’s flight with a light yellow colour and a nose of ripe lemon. The taste was surprisingly mild, reminiscent of straw and lemon. It was pleasant enough, but the consensus was that it was rather nondescript.

John’s take: I wouldn’t order another one of these.

The third beer on today’s flight was Brimstone’s Sinister Minister IPA. This beer was noticeably hazier than the others, which isn’t that surprising as it is unfiltered. The colour has a light copper hue and a nose of peaches and navel oranges. The taste starts strong with definite blood orange notes and bitterness at the front of the mouth, but then it “falls off a cliff” quickly fading away.

John’s take: I probably wouldn’t order this again either.

We finished today’s flight with Amsterdam Brewing Company’s Boneshaker IPA. This beer also had a light haze (another unfiltered IPA) with a slightly darker copper colour. We could detect caramel, resin, and fresh cut oranges on the nose. The taste was like fresh orange slices, taking one of us back to the little league games of his youth. This beer tastes just a little sweeter, and a little less bitter, than Drop it Like Its Hopped even though the IBU rating is higher. It seems the sweetness offsets the higher IBUs.

John’s take: I don’t mind it at all. I like it actually.

That’s all for today. What should we taste next?

Vienna Lager

Which one is which???

The mind can play tricks on you. If you know what you’re “supposed to taste”, then that’s probably what you’ll taste. It’s what makes a blind tasting so interesting – you really need to focus because you simply don’t know what you’re tasting until after you’re on the record.

Brew Revolution’s Vienna Lager reminds me of Creemore Springs Premium Lager, so I wanted to set up a blind tasting that included both beers. To make it interesting, we included two versions of BR’s Vienna (from the can, and on tap), Creemore Springs Premium Lager, and Waterloo Premium Amber (also characterized as a Vienna lager). The flight was poured behind the bar, and we started the tasting with no idea about the order of the beers.

Number 1: Our first mystery beer was crystal clear in the glass showing a lovely honey golden colour with hints of copper. The nose was very clean with just the tiniest bit of grainy sweetness. The taste was clean with light grassy herbal flavours. The aftertaste left a slight bitterness in the back of the mouth, which made it refreshing and very crushable.

John’s take: “Oh yeah. Can I have another?”

Number 2: Our second mystery beer was brilliantly clear with the colour of amber (like something out of Jurassic Park) and a light copper hue. The aroma was more pronounced than number 1, exhibiting floral and fruity notes with hints of dried fruit. The taste was smooth with a slightly sweeter aftertaste than No. 1. It had a lovely long floral aftertaste that was reminiscent of bread pudding, leaving no hint of bitterness on the palate.

John’s take: “I’d buy it for sure, but I liked the first one better.”

Number 3: Our third mystery beer was a lighter colour bordering on golden with similar floral and fruity notes to No. 2. This beer was noticeably sweeter than the first two, with hints of butterscotch followed by a hit of alcohol. It left a distinct sweet aftertaste in the mouth.

John’s take: “Like drinking buttery alcohol.”

Number 4: Our final mystery beer was hazy amber in the glass – by far the haziest of today’s flight. The nose brought to mind dried alfalfa bales (in a good way) while the taste was clean and simple leaving very little aftertaste.

John’s take: “It has a very narrow taste and it’s impatient – it doesn’t stick around. Just the way I like it!”

A quick look after the initial tasting left no doubt about the favourites…

And now, for the big reveal. Remember that until this point we had no idea which beer was which.

Beer No 1: Brew Revolution’s Vienna Lager on tap

Beer No 2: Creemore Springs Premium Lager

Beer No 3: Waterloo Premium Amber

Beer No 4: Brew Revolution’s Vienna Lager from the can

So there you have it. In a blind tasting, Brew Revolution’s Vienna Lager was the clear crowd favourite. Creemore Springs Premium Lager was a close second, while Waterloo Premium Amber was just a little too sweet and alcoholic (6.8%) for most.

Aging Beer: Part 1

Most people think that wine is meant to be aged, while beer should always be consumed fresh.  It isn’t quite that simple. It’s true that many wines will improve with age, but others should be drunk as soon as possible.  And while most beer is at its peak the day it’s bottled, there are age-worthy beers that can become more interesting with time.

First let’s talk about beer that you should never age.  A pilsner, with its clean crisp taste, could develop a readily apparent off-taste as it ages. An IPA probably won’t get an unpleasant taste, but the vibrant hop character will quickly fade.  And since the pronounced hop taste is the main point of an IPA, time can turn a delicious IPA into a bland and unremarkable pint.

So, what type of beer might be worth aging? There are three rules for beers that will age, known as “the S’s”, which are:

  • Strong beer, generally with more than 8% ABV
  • Sour beer, including Lambic ales
  • Smoked beer with smoked malts, or other complex flavours

You can also look for beers that are bottle conditioned, or bottled with live yeast, as this will allow the beer to continue to ferment over time. adding to the complexity.

Now let’s pour a flight and get tasting.

Flight of Fancy

We started with a beer that should not be aged – Walkin’ on Sunshine from Brew Revolution. The first sample (on the far right) was on draft, from a batch that finished brewing just last week. This is a NEIPA style, and true to form it is very hazy in the glass. John (the pilot) described it as “overcast”. The colour was like fresh apricots. The taste evoked stone fruit, including apricot and peaches, along with navel oranges. Although this beer only has 6 IBU, there was a slight “grapefruit rind” bitterness in the aftertaste giving it a refreshing balanced finish. It’s easy to see why this is such a favourite.

John’s take: Give me a minute … I think of Orange Fanta. This takes me back to my youth.

Next we tasted the exact same beer, but this time a can from a batch brewed 2 or 3 months ago. This time, the beer was pale yellow, with only a very slight haze, almost looking like condensation on the glass. You could still smell apricots, but more apricot pits than the fruit. The taste had the same elements as the fresh sample, but everything was very subdued. This is clearly a beer that is meant to be drunk as young as possible.

John’s take: Everything flattened out, and the alcohol came to the top.

And now, for a beer that has the potential to age.

Whoa Blackberry – old and new

Our second beer was Whoa Blackberry (Bam-a-lam) Imperial IPA. This beer is age-worthy with its alcohol content of 10% ABV, even though it’s an IPA. We started with this year’s anniversary release, which was quite hazy and the colour of rose hips (or perhaps, power steering fluid). The nose was reminiscent of cooked berries – warm blueberry pie, blackberry jam on toast, or a raspberry tart. The taste was very dry, and showed tart fruit on the tongue (like a tart blackberry jam) along with hints of licorice.

John’s take: …this is really good. I’m digging it.

We finished with a sample of Whoa Blackberry that has been aging in the bottle for about 2 1/2 years. This beer looked like cognac or amaretto in the glass – mahogany colour and crystal clear. The aroma was rich and complex with currents, dried fruit, almonds and maraschino cherries. And alcohol – there was no mistaking the high alcohol content here. It coated your mouth with sweet (toffee) and tart (rhubarb) flavours. You almost thought you were drinking a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.

Wes’ take: Two different beers in the same sip. It starts as toffee, and then at some point it stops, and becomes a lingering alcohol dryness.

John’s take: Not my favourite.

And that is probably the perfect message to take from this tasting. Some beers can develop intriguing flavours as they age, but they won’t be to everyone’s taste.

… and drink your Walkin’ On Sunshine while it’s fresh!