journal of a self proclaimed beer connoisseur

General

Site moved

Hey beer lovers!

Please head to www.beerisseur.ca for the new site.

I’d really appreciate it if you updated your blogrolls or other links to the new address!

See you there…


Next Act Cask Night – Alley Kat Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen

Date: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Venue: Next Act
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Bananas Foster Dunkelweizen
Category: Dunkelweizen
ABV: estimated 5.00% (they didn’t tell us!)
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

The beer was given a lovely introduction by Jeff from Sherbrooke who was the brain behind the bananas foster idea.

It came straight from the cask tap to our table with a few potential stops on the way for it’s brethren to be delivered to their new homes. No more than a minute or two.

It arrived with a very thin layer of head so I can only assume that retention wasn’t very long. The beer was a hazy milk chocolate brown with tan head. I can see the color better in my picture as there was limited lighting at the pub.

I had a hard time identifying much in the aroma given the setting. I really just smelt some generic graininess. There is a sweet touch to it.

The taste was initially sweet up front with hints of banana. I presume this is the effect of the wheat and/or yeast used in the beer. The sweetness was balanced nicely by some bitter hops. The overall taste was quite sweet and I believe it is brown sugar I am picking up on. It is quite tasty and the hops do well to balance this out. Otherwise it might have been just too sweet.

Mouthfeel was smooth and carbonation was moderate. Even with agitation the carbonation wasn’t producing any head to speak of.

A tasty treat at cask night but I wouldn’t be drinking it regularly as I wouldn’t be able to handle the sweetness.

Rating:



William the Bastard – Label and two week tasting

Here is the (simplistic) label we designed for this batch:

It is a little bit on the “long” side but it should still fit on our bottles nicely. Next batch I hope to get into color labels and I will just have them printed at the local print shop.

Yesterday (Monday, February 1, 2011) we cracked the last 1 liter bottle of beer that we had filled. It was not completely filled like the others so it makes a good choice for the first taste test.  We popped it open – and I mean popped. I pushed the swing top lid and a very loud pop resulted. Good sign that we got it carbonated.

The beer poured beautifully with just over one finger of head. So far so good.

As we took our initial smells we both agreed that there was a bit of a funky aroma going on with this beer. I am too inexperienced at home brewing to know exactly what or why this is. I have a suspicion that it is just because our beer is still so green and needs to bottle condition a few more weeks.

It has been in the bottle for about 2 weeks and our understanding is that it is thought to be best to wait 1 month before drinking it. Hopefully over the next little while the aroma mellows out to something more pleasing.

As for the taste…it was green but very good. The weird smell was definitely not in the taste of the beer. It is still young but was quite tasty. I can already see that our adaptation of this kit from a Cream Ale to a Northern English Brown Ale has been successful. I hope some more complexity develops in the flavors but as it is now it is already clearly the style we were going for.

We each downed just under a pints worth and were left satisfied with our efforts and hopeful for the remaining 21 liters.

I’ll post pictures next time I open one up.


In-depth: Beer in North America – Where are we and how did we get here?

Purpose

What I want to do with this article is delve into what the current beer industry and beer scene in Canada and the United States looks like and what some recent and not-so-recent events have done to get us here.

The simple truth is that our countries, compared to European countries, are adolescents in terms of National history but even more so when it comes to beer. The history behind beer and other alcoholic beverages in North America has a profound and pervasive effect on the beer we can easily obtain at our local liquor stores.

I want to get into the difference between macro breweries, micro breweries, and craft breweries and discuss how they simultaneously produce the same product (i.e. beer) but entirely different products. This will touch on issues of economics, greed, corporate responsibilities, and passion for beer. (more…)


In-depth: Aging Beer

If you have started to get into the craft beer scene you have probably started to read various sources of beer reviews or ratings. You may be surfing on ratebeer or beeradvocate and have obviously somehow found this blog.

Through these travels you likely have encountered examples of beer that has been aged months up or years. Many beers continue to improve with age.

I know in my reading I have come across numerous instances of this. What confused me was that I would see some beers that were considered to get worse with age. These beers were recommended to be consumed as soon as possible. This actually applies to virtually all mass-produced beers you will find.

This led me to wonder what the difference was and how I could identify beers that would benefit from me purchasing and aging them. Lots of beer aficionados will purchase beer of a particular vintage, sometimes numerous bottles, then leave them to sit for a few years. You may then sample the same beer of different vintages or agings. This is known as a “vertical” tasting. (more…)


In-depth: Beer in Munich

Background

My wife and I were in Munich for about 4 days in September of 2009. While there we learned a great deal about the local beer, it’s history, and the beer culture so ingrained in the German state of Bavaria. Munich immediately seized a special place and meaning for me and I continue to be fascinated by all things beer. This has lead me to write this piece to share what I know about beer as it relates to Munich.

While we traveled we took a “Beer and Brewery” tour with a local guide that also taught English classes to the local Bavarians. He would always invite his English class students along on the beer tour to provide them an opportunity to polish up their English and to add an authentic presence to the tour. Not a bad idea in my opinion.

I should note it was these gentleman who informed me that people living in Munich or elsewhere in Bavaria do not often consider themselves “Germans”. They prefer to be called “Bavarians”. I can’t speak to how much of a biased comment this was. This is me in the front and the two Bavarian dudes along for the tour in the back:

Me and some locals at the Hofrbrauhaus

I don’t have a specific idea of what I want to write about – so this could get long…click to keep reading

(more…)


Ratings retrofit

I hadn’t really thought about it – but I don’t currently have any way for someone to gauge my general “ranking” or opinion of a beer. For that reason I am going to undergo a “ratings retrofit” and amend all my reviews to date to include a rating. I typically do this on http://www.ratebeer.com anyway, so I will just round those ratings to the nearest whole number.

I am going to rate beers out of five pints.

1 pint is a disgusting liquid that should be injected back into the horse (or moose) weiner. These are beers I wouldn’t ever drink again even if they were free.

 

 

5 pints will represent a heavenly brew that beer lovers should go above and beyond to obtain. We are talking about beers that epitomize their respective styles.

I will then use these ratings going forward for new reviews.


Beer Tasting – Unibroue Night

I am planning a beer tasting night on February 5, 2011 with 4 of my closest friends and fellow beer lovers.

Really the night will just be a hang out time with the guys but we are going to make the beer drinking center around beers from Unibroue and share our thoughts on each one. I sent a list to everyone to choose their top 5 picks. I’ll tally the votes up and see which 5 have the most. Check back after February 5th and I’ll post my review on each of them.  You can see a quick summary after the jump or go to http://www.unibroue.com to check them out.

(more…)


Sugar Bowl Cask Night – Alley Kat Belgian Wit

Date: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Venue: Sugar Bowl
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Belgian Wit
Category: Witbier
ABV: estimated 5.00% (they didn’t tell us!)
Brewed in: Canada (Edmonton, AB)

I didn’t really take the time to seriously take notes on the tasting of this

beer because I was extremely thirsty and hungry after standing for an hour and a half to get a table. I was lucky there was still beer left in the cask! The Sugar Bowl is a great venue and this is a fantastic event but it was certainly pushing the limits in terms of capacity.

Anyway, on to the beer. The beer poured an extremely cloudy yellow. Belgian Wit beers are unfiltered so the cloudy was expected. The color of the beer was a bit of a surprise for me. It looked appetizing. The beer was brewed with orange and coriander so you can expect something a little citrusy.

There was a very frothy and foamy white head on the beer which left a lot of lacing on the glass. Retention was average.

The beer smelt of oranges, I really didn’t note a lot else.

You could taste the wheat beer base to this with a bit of the funky notes from Belgian yeast. The overpowering flavors were of oranges. The coriander was there but was subdued. I think the beer was a bit heavy on the oranges. It almost tasted like someone mixed some wheat beer with Orangina.

The beer was enjoyable but I think leaves some room for improvement. I did not order a second one but instead opted for a couple other beers off the Sugar Bowls extensive menu.

Reviews on those to come.

Rating:



Decisions, decisions

You may have read that I am trying to drink every beer I can out of a book I received that assigns a beer to every day of the year. I am still attempting that; however, my research on the beers is revealing that probably about 10% are available here. That means it would be about 36 beers over the year or 3 a month.

In the meantime I still want to have some other beers and try some new ones. The struggle I am having is that I will continue to buy the same good beer if I don’t have some other method of helping me choose.

I have been categorizing my beer tastings into the BJCP beer categories and have also listed those on a separate page of the blog. I am thinking I will try and get my hands on a beer from each of the styles. This will be a long-term goal as I think some will prove difficult to find.

I like this idea because if I didn’t do this I would likely have a far higher proportion of Stouts and Imperial Stouts (for the winter) and wheat beers (for the summer) on my list.

I started to search each category out on the web and find what the top rated beers in each category are. There are already some categories where it looks like there will be slim pickings.

For example, the Lite American Lager category houses such great (failures) as Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light etc. I actually managed to find some in this category that were rated decent on Ratebeer.com. For example, Bitburger Light got 17 / 100 overall and 95 / 100 in its category (low alocohol). Coors light got zero overall rating and 2 / 100 in its category.

The trouble is only the shitty ones are available here…

I refuse to put those “beverages” on my blog and take them seriously so the Lite American Lager category will have to wait until I find one of the decent ones.


Chatoe Rogue

When I reviewed Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager recently, I completely forgot to talk about what Chatoe Rogue is and how it relates to Rogue.

Chatoe Rogue is a line of Rogue beers that have been produced using ingredients that Rogue has grown themselves. That means the grains and hops were grown on the farm(s) owned by Rogue.

They label these beers with “GYO” for Grow Your Own which is a movement supporting that very idea.

It all started sometime within the past few years when there was a hop shortage in the market. The brewery was basically ashamed at the thought of telling their brew master, John Maier, to cut back on his hop habit. So, in response, they started growing their own.

The hops were so successful that they expanded into barley.

From the one beer I have had I can say it sure seems to be working!


Opinions: Pourhouse Bier Bistro

Pourhouse Bier Bistro

I don’t plan on making this a blog about reviewing pubs or other watering holes but I can’t shake the feeling that I need to air my thoughts on this place. Maybe someone along the way will read it, learn some things, and make some improvements to a pub or restaurant somewhere out there. Maybe even the Pourhouse itself?

Background: On Saturday we went out for a friends birthday and chose to go to the Pourhouse Bier Bistro (www.thepourhouse.ca) on Whyte Ave in Edmonton. We arrived to a moderately busy place with I would guess about 10-20% of the tables available.

It is important to note that this bistro is obviously trying to establish itself as a first-class location for beer connoisseurs in Edmonton. For that, I commend the Pourhose and wish it the best. BUT…this subjects an establishment to a whole new set of standards and expectations from these specialty customers.

On to the nitty gritty.

(more…)


In-depth: Trappist and Abbey Beers

The title may have lured you to this post; however, allow me to immediately explain the difference between the two types of beer and eject Abbey Beers from the remainder of the discussion.

Abbey beers use traditional recipes for brewing beer and may or may not be associated with an actual Abbey. In Belgium there are some marketing devices in place to help one determine if the beer is actually from an Abbey. The ones that aren’t typical brew the beer of a past abbey under license as the abbey may have ceased brewing sometime in the past.

The types of beer I am interested in discussing are Trappist beers. There are three strict conditions to be considered a Trappist beer:

  • the beer must be brewed within a Trappist Abbey;
  • the brewing must occur under the supervision and responsibility of Cistercian monks; and
  • the majority of the revenue must be dedicated to charitable work.

This, to me, is a very intriguing list. Pair that with the fact that any beer geek can tell you that authentic Trappist beer are consistently some of the absolute best brews attainable…anywhere, and you have a very interesting conversation.

Take another read through that list and answer me something: how many other beer producers you know have any rules even remotely similar to this? All three of these points are going to have a pervasive effect on the beer brewed.

(more…)


Periodic Table of Beers


Beer Glassware 2.0

Alright, I have finally found a store in Edmonton that will sell me various beer glassware at reasonable prices. And I mean very reasonable. They are called Russell Foods.

http://www.russellfoods.ca – check their site out.

If they have a location in your city or you are from Edmonton you should pay them a visit. They had a very classy showroom with all glasses on display. I was able to just grab the floor model, bring it to a salesperson, and wait. Then they priced out each glass.

I was able to buy approximately 30 glasses for about $90. Your standard pub glass is $1.25!

To compare, building this order on that Pub Glasses website would have cost about $200 to ship to Canada.

It feels good to finally have found a retailer to fill this need. The only thing I found very odd was that they did not have a respectable wheat beer glass! Very puzzling…


Beer Glassware

So I have been on somewhat of a quest to track down a store where I can buy specific beer glassware. If you have done your research (or you are from Belgium) you already know that the vessel from which you drink your beer has an effect on the whole experience. Besides merely aesthetic uses there are more tangible benefits derived when you drink your beer from the correct glassware.

Apparently there are not a lot of individuals in Edmonton to justify even one such retailer existing here. The only store I can find is a restaurant supply store. They do sell the glassware that I am looking for but only in large quantities (i.e. 3 dozen). I would tell you who this retailer is but that would only be marketing for them and I don’t believe they deserve any free marketing from me considering they can’t sell me what I want.

These people do though: www.pubglasses.com

At Pub Glasses I was able to find most if not all the glasses that I was looking for. You should go to the site and check it out. They even have a bit of information regarding what beer to drink from each class. I have found better resources for this:

The true benefit of the glassware is disputed. Personally, I just think it adds another element of diversity and appeal to acquire the “correct” glassware for each beer or beer style and use them. This will also give some variety to the pictures I take for the site!

As a caveat about the Pub Glasses site, I noticed in my order that they were charging quite a bit for shipping to Canada. I played around a bit with my order and I discovered that two types of glasses (the napoli and dimpled mugs) seemed to be driving the shipping charges. When I dropped these two items from my order there was zero cost for shipping. I tried both these glasses on individual orders and the site adds quite steep shipping charges.

So in summary, play around with your order if you have shipping charges – you may be able to get out of them! If you live in the US you are lucky anyway – flat rate shipping for you.

Update: They emailed me with the shipping charges for my order which were $90. So I cancelled my whole order. If you live in the US it is still a good deal!


Alley Kat – Vanilla Coffee Porter

Date: Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Brewery: Alley Kat
Beer: Vanilla Coffee Porter
Category: Robust Porter
ABV: estimated 5.50% (they didn’t tell us!)
Brewed in: Canada

So I made it to Cask Night with my brother-in-law and two friends. It was a great time! The beer offered was indeed from Alley Kat. It was a unique variant of their seasonal coffee porter. Strangely enough – it was extremely similar to the Mill St Coffee Porter I reviewed on the site a few days ago.

I took a picture with my crappy phone as I didn’t think to bring an actual camera. Oh well. As you can see we got our fair share. I had 3 pints.

The main difference from the usual coffee porter was the use of premium coffee beans supplied by a local coffee shop – Java Jive. The beans were of higher quality than usual and were vanilla beans.

The beer has very similar tasting notes with a very strong coffee flavor and hints of vanilla. It was an awesome beer and I am happy I had the chance to try it before it was gone in less than an hour.

Rating:



Next Act – Cask Night – Jan 4th, 2011

There is a “Cask Night” tonight at a place called Next Act. Details:

8224 – 104th Street (aka just off Whyte and Gateway)
Edmonton, AB
Starts at 6:00 PM and goes until the beer runs out.
Brewery supplying the beer: Alley Kat

This is going to be my first time attending the Cask Night at Next Act but will almost certainly not be the last. I plan to get out an enjoy more of the events in the local beer and pub scene this year. The key is getting in touch with good sources.

These are the type of events that are intentionally not marketed. It is considered a sort of reward for regulars. If that is you – we’ll see you there! I’ll post an update with my after event opinions

 


Prost!

If you enjoy beer then we have something in common. I don’t know how you found this site, but you did.

In essence, this site is going to serve as a “beer journal” for me. I plan on writing about anything I feel like that relates to beer. This may include reviews on beers I drink, pictures of beer, information on my home brewing efforts, articles on beer, or links to beer information. Who knows?

For Christmas I received a book called A Beer a Day: 366 Beers to Get You Through the Year.

This is a seriously awesome gift for me. I now have something to look forward to every day of the year – even in a leap year!

I already know I won’t be able to obtain every beer in the book due to the limited selection available in the fine city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I do plan on acquiring every beer I can and drinking it on the intended day. I’ll hopefully remember to photograph the beer and make a post on the general tasting notes and impression.

I’ll likely do something similar for all the other beers I drink along the way.


Beer Tracking

In 2009 my wife and I spent 7 weeks in Europe spanning August and September. This was so painfully close to Oktoberfest that they were already setting the tents up. Unfortunately, that was as close as we got – besides getting “ein krug” of beer from each of the six approved brewers everywhere we went in Munich.

During our time in Europe I took as many opportunities as I could (while balancing “other” priorities) to sample any and all beers I could find. In a feat of prophetic genius I accurately predicted that I would forget about all these beers if I didn’t have pictures. I endeavored to snap a picture of each new beer. I was not 100% successful but I did get some.

I now have decided that tracking every beer I ever drink should be a priority in my life. Last night this culminated in one of the nerdiest things I have ever done (there have been many). I built a Beer Tracking database in MS Access from scratch.

I have a Management Information Systems Minor which required me to take a couple of courses on databases in University. This is the first time it has proved useful.

So thanks to this nerdgasm I can now add information on Beers, Breweries, Beer Styles and Countries to my database and link them all together. I built it so the flag for the source country of the beer and the beer itself appear as a picture. The fun part is going to be going back through my pictures in Europe and identifying the beers to add to my log.

I haven’t decided if I will go back and add all the beers I can remember. Or if I will only add the ones I drink going forward. Chances are I will add beers I don’t anticipate having the chance to drink again.

I can only imagine anyone reading this is laughing at my expense and making fun of me (I know my wife did). You want to know the funny thing about teasing me about building this? If you are another beer lover reading this…you probably want a blank copy.