Day 128 and Beer Club

Two classes on Thursday; packaging and sensory.

The first packaging class was all about the history of liquid containers, then looking at the pros and cons of glass and aluminum bottles, cans, kegs, casks and PET. Lots of information, 98 PowerPoint slides worth. We didn’t get through it all, as Rob shared a lot of anecdotal information that he has gained from experience over the years.

I feel that the most important slide was #7, that this is one that knowingly or unconsciously I’ll be coming back to the most:

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Sensory class was next, with a new professor. Victor is a BJCP judge who I met briefly while stewarding the OBA’s last year, and is teaching us all about beer styles based on the BJCP style guidelines (2008). This class was mostly an introduction to the BJCP, and ended with me emailing a few people within a decent driving radius who were hosting entrance exams in 2015 to see if anyone has a seat (Yes, got one in Buffalo in August).

Beer Club

The first one of the year was a wild card. It looks like there is a class in the culinary theatre now until 7:30, so we are in the smaller theatre style classroom in the basement. There were 8 home brew submissions, including my own chocolate oatmeal stout, which decided to gush. Really looking forward to understanding more about yeast and carbonation so I can figure out what’s going awry. Luke mentioned that it might just be the scale that I am working in – 1/4 tsp extra priming sugar makes much more of a difference in 1 gallon batches than it would in 3 or 5 gallons.

The commercial craft portion was all American beers gleaned from Premium Gourmet in Buffalo:

First beer club, 2015

Like a dope, I forgot to write any notes, but I do remember that my tastebuds quite liked the Firestone Opal and the Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale.


US vacation, the beer version

My beloved and I had planned our 10th anniversary vacation back in April, before I was let go from my job of 12 years, before my life was turned upside down. I had thought a few times about cancelling it due to my change in finances, but am glad that Keith convinced me otherwise. We had not gone anywhere together for almost a year when finally got on the plane in December, and it was time to reconnect. Actually, getting on the plane was a bit touch and go – we left on the day of the ice storm. After two cancelled flights and 4 long lines, we got on one of the only flights out of Toronto.

I had thought about what beer to try while in the states. I had flipped through Stephen Beaumont’s book, The Pocket Beer Guide, that I had got during Cask Days, but hadn’t made any notes or thought of any must-haves. I decided to just see what happened along our travels.


And travel we did. This odd butterfly shape covered over 3600 kilometers of some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.

Grand Canyon Brewery Sunset Amber Ale

The first day was spent getting supplies and getting out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. We arrived around 3:30, just enough time to check into our cabin and go watch the sunset over the rim only a few paces away.

grand canyon

It seemed appropriate to order a Sunset Amber Ale by Grand Canyon Brewery to accompany my dinner. It hit the spot, but like my dinner, there was nothing that made it unique or noteworthy. It had a pleasant sweetness, but was a bit milder/lighter than I was expecting. Very drinkable.

Grand Canyon Brewery Starry Night Stout

Monument Valley was the next stop, where we stayed at The View Hotel on Christmas Eve. Highly recommend this place – staff was friendly, food was hearty, and of course, the views are fantastic.

We sat bundled up on the balcony after dinner, and watched the sun go down. The hotel is dry as it’s on the reserve, but I’d bought a few bottles of interesting beer before leaving the Grand Canyon. I opened the Starry Night Stout and sipped it from a plastic cup while watching  the stars pop out in a crisp, clear sky.

monument valley

It poured nice and dark, with minimal foam. It had a great smokey/molasses nose, which carried through to the taste. It had the right balance for me, and had a minimal bitter aftertaste.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Christmas Day found us meandering to Zion Mountain Ranch near Zion National Park, where we had booked a cabin. Ten years before, we had had our best and most memorable Christmas dinner at their fledgling restaurant, the Buffalo Grill. We know you can’t recreate a magical moment, but we wanted to make a new one. The three course prix fix Christmas dinner was delicious and completely overshadowed any beer I might have had with it. I thought about taking notes, but was enjoying the evening with my guy too much.

After dinner, we walked back to our cabin in the dark with the stars to guide us. And the flashlight app on our phone – it was still too dark  even with the incredible display of stars reflected on snow.

The cabin had a feature I couldn’t wait to try out – a huge claw-footed Jacuzzi tub! I filled it with bubbles, poured myself the Midas Touch I had bought at the Grand Canyon and listened to’s Groove Salad while Keith made a fire in the fireplace. I don’t know what your description of heaven is, but this was pretty close to mine.



I did not take a photo of the bubble filled tub, the candles and Christmas lights arranged on the window sill or of the beer. I was too busy enjoying the moment to be pulled out of it. You’ll have to imagine it.

The Midas Touch was amazing, a perfect beer to celebrate with. Smelled of grapes and malt with the faintest saffron undertone. Sweet and dry, with the initial honey flavour giving way to fruit and a hint of spice. I was disappointed when it was gone, but not sure how much more I could drink in a sitting; I think the sweetness could get a bit cloying after a while.



Gratuitous photo of our morning view – buffalo grazing outside our cabin window with the cliffs and valleys of Zion National Park in the background. Definitely a life-is-good moment.

Shock Top Belgian White

No meandering the next day as we bolted for the coast to drive the Pacific Highway. Interstates are not fun, but the conversation was great, the audio book, Ready Player One, was engaging and the the road snacks were plentiful. We got to San Luis Obispo just after sunset, and headed downtown for dinner. They had a major street closed off for a farmer’s market, and we bought oranges, home made hummus and pita, and locally grown nuts before heading in to Mo’s Smokehouse for ribs.

The choice of beer was between Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Shock Top’s Belgian Wheat – I went with the Belgian as I felt a lighter, brighter beer would go down better. The Shock Top Belgian Wheat seemed to have more citrus going on than in other Belgian wheat beers I’ve tried, but it worked to counter-balance the sweetness of the bbq sauce on the ribs.

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve

What a day! Sunny and warm with incredible views as we drove along the Pacific Ocean. We stopped to walk along beaches, look at elephant seals, and have a picnic lunch while listening to the waves crash beside us. It took us all day to go only 375 kilometers, ending at Half Moon Bay just south of San Francisco. We got there just in time to catch a brilliant sunset and watch the surfers race to get one more wave in before it got too dark.


Dinner was take-out pizza that was surprising good, and a bottle of Rogue’s Santa’s Private Reserve. The tasting notes on the bottle promised “a roasty, malty flavor and a hoppy spruce finish”. What I got was an off-flavour mess that tasted of imitation butter and pine. Not pleasant. Disappointed, I poured it down the sink and got a Coke from the vending machine in the lobby.

Indian Wells Brewery Orange Blossom Amber

Back on the interstate to head east toward Death Valley. It was a bit surreal to be driving through the green lushness of the growing region of California and have it turn to arid desert by just going over one mountain pass. We stayed the night in Ridgecrest, home of a naval base in the middle of the desert, speaking of surreal. We decided on steak that night, and were recommended a place called Caseys within walking distance from our hotel.


On a whim, I ordered the Orange Blossom Amber. It poured an almost neon orange colour, the colour of C-Plus pop. The comparison to orange soda did not end there. Both the smell and taste were of over-powering sweet orange that would have been better as a dessert beer than with dinner. Even then, it might still be too much. Not to my taste at all.

Lindemans Framboise

The last day was a warm and dry drive through Death Valley and back to Las Vegas. After a dinner so memorable I can’t even tell you where it was much less what it was, we headed back to our spa suite at Mandalay Bay to pack and relax on our last night of vacation. While Keith watched Family Guy in the main room, I drew a bubble bath in the huge spa tub, poured myself a glass of the last bottle of beer in our cooler and watched a Harry Potter movie. Yes, a tv in the bathroom. I was very careful not to drop the remote control in the tub.


I have to admit, I really prefer a bit of tart or sour more often than not. The Framboise was a treat for all my senses – I loved the deep raspberry red colour of the beer in the glass with the faintly pink head. The smell of tart raspberries fills the glass, with little or no discernible malt or hops tones. The taste is all nicely tart/sour fruit – Granny Smith apple to start followed quickly by the ripe raspberry.

Perfect end to a perfect vacation.