Monday Beer Club – Meeting #8.5

Monday is as much a state of mind as it is a day of the week. So I figure it’s fine for Monday Beer Club to meet on a Tuesday. And since we’re stretching the boundaries today, we also met at a “guest brewery” – Sawdust City in Gravenhurst Ontario. Here is the agenda for today’s meeting.

My request to the bartender was simple – include Juicin’ in the flight. All the beers had a similar profile – hazy with lots of hop character. There were 18 beers on tap, but by eliminating some of the obvious ones (e.g., it’s pretty clear it doesn’t include a stout) we narrowed it down to 6-8 possible candidates. Should be easy to figure out which is which, right? Wrong!

Number 1: (far left) This beer was brimming with pineapple and tropical fruits with very little hop bitterness.

Our guess: Limberlost Wild IPA. And the answer was Gnarnia Lil’ IPA. Not off to a good start here…

Number 2: Very little bitterness & lots of hazy body. I thought I got hints of stone fruit here.

Our guess: Everyday Magic. And the answer was Juicin’. This was very disappointing because we know how Juicin’ tastes … or we thought we did. Hmmmmm

Number 3: Medium mouthfeel with a lot of tropical fruit and not too much bitterness.

Our guess: Our initial instinct was to guess Juicin’, but once we realized that was the second beer, we changed our guess to Everyday Magic. And finally, we were right … with a little help. As an aside, this beer has higher IBU than the first two, but I just couldn’t taste it. I need to keep working on this it seems.

Number 4: This beer was a bit sharper, but didn’t taste too alcoholic. I almost thought this could be a session beer. (Hint: boy was I wrong there…)

Our guess: Our first guess was Gnarnia Lil IPA but that was the first beer, so we changed our guess to Limberlost Wild IPA. And the answer was … Lone Pine West Coast IPA. Whoa boy, was I wrong. High alcohol and high IBUs and I’m thinking a session beer. Seriously? Need … more … practice.

Number 5: (far right) I was getting a bit of funkiness and a mild sour taste. Pleasant and refreshing – this beer was distinctly different than the other 4.

Our guess: At this point we had ruled out a number of options, and with only a few hints we guessed Limberlost Wild IPA … and we were right. With our hit rate today, we accepted, giving us the stellar score of … 40%. Sheesh.

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #8

All the beers in today’s flight included the same “mystery ingredient”. That was all we were told, and we were asked to try to guess the ingredient. We had no idea what it might be. And when I say we had no idea, I mean we didn’t have a clue … in so many ways.

It was a warm day on the patio, and here was the lineup.

Number 1: (far left) Very clear, with just a hint of amber. The nose reminded us on apple juice an pear juice. The taste was light and fruity, with a hint of sweet and bitterness.

Our guess: …. not a clue. And the answer was, Haus of the Rye-sing Sun.

Number 2: This one was moderately cloudy in the glass with the colour of straw. We got peach, stone fruits, citrus and “caramel-icity” (whatever that is) on the nose. The taste was rich and full, but it quickly faded leaving a clean light aftertaste.

Our guess: …. still not a clue. And the answer was Kashmir.

Number 3: Very hazy in the glass with the colour of ripe mango. The nose and the taste both reminded us of lime with a fairly strong bitter aftertaste. All of today’s beers were refreshing, but this was the best. John’s take was “best on the beach”.

Our guess: With a few hints we eventually guessed “Live Session‘ and finally we got one right. We’ll take it because we need all the help we can get.

Number 4: (far right) This beer was very hazy and the colour of pink grapefruit. One sip and it was clear this was a sour. It had a clean refreshing aftertaste, but you have to like sours if you drink this. John’s take was “pucker factor of ten”. Not for everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy sours you’ll love this one.

Our guess: Radio Guava.

And the mystery ingredient? Turns out it was wheat, which typically gives beer a hazy appearance. So much still to learn…

Monday Beer Club – Meeting #7

What is the difference between an ale and a lager? The technical answer is “different yeast” but that doesn’t really help much when you raise a glass in the pub. So this week, we asked Wes to give us a brief tutorial. He said we should look for esters in an ale. We said “what’s an ester”. He said “oh boy”… Not really. He said to look for flavours of dried fruit, raisin, spices (e.g., cloves) and apple. A lager can be a little trickier, since the essence of a good lager is a clean crisp taste, so I think the idea is to look for a clean crisp taste, without any hints of esters. Should be pretty straightforward, right? Wrong.

Here was the lineup for the tasting.

Many people think that the difference between a ale and a lager is colour – lagers are pale and clear, while ales are dark. Wrong again. On the left we have one ale and one lager, and it’s the same on the right. But enough talk – time to demonstrate how little we know.

Number 1: (far left) The nose had hints of citrus, and something that we couldn’t put a name to. I know – not exactly helpful. But the taste was clean and crisp with a mild bitterness that grew sharper over time.

Our guess: Lager. And the answer is … Jump In the Lime, which is in fact a lager. And that smell we couldn’t put a name to was the lime rind. Obvious in hindsight, but then it usually is.

Number 2: We got spice (cloves, allspice) and raisins on the nose. The taste was soft and round with raisins, apples, spices and a fruity aftertaste that lingered until it was overtaken by a slight bitterness – perhaps bitter almond?

Our guess: It seemed pretty clear to us that this was an ale – it hit all the right notes.We went further and guessed that it was Haus of the Rye-sing Sun. We were right on both counts. Alas, our winning streak was about to end.

Number 3: The nose reminded us of bacon cooking over a smoky campfire. There was more smoke on the taste, though it was surprisingly clean after we swallowed.

Our guess: Lager, and we thought it was Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz. We were wrong on both counts – it was Smoke On the Porter, which is an ale.

Number 4: (far right) We got hints of dried fruit (cherries?) and raisins on the nose, along with smoke. The taste reminded us of smoke (again) dried cherries, and spice. It had a full round mouthfeel that coated the mouth.

Our guess: Ale. We were wrong. It was Who Wears Schwartz Schwartz. I have no idea where we were getting the spice and dried cherries from.

And once again, we are batting 500.

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…