Beer Advent Calendar 2014

I finished my advent calendar a little late. Ok, a lot late. Between one thing (illness) and another (food coma courtesy of That Damned Canasian), it went a bit (a long bit) past the 25th. And then I forgot that a blog draft does not equal a blog post.

Belatedly, here is what was in my advent calendar, in numerical order:

Days 1-5

1. Mikkeller k:rlek: check this post.

2. Mikkeller Black: check this post.

3. Neustadt Springs Big Dog Porter: a gift from a derby friend, it was lovely after the taste bomb that is the Mikkeller Black. The red wine added gave it an interesting tang, but I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of it.

4. Bellwoods Roman Candle IPA: Lots of citrus and pine, with some lemon pepper on the tongue. While I’ll never be an IPA disciple, I would drink this again.

5. Weyerbacher Insanity: A bourbon barrel aged barley wine gifted to me by a classmate. What’s not to love? Lots of vanilla and dark fruit, with whiskey and anise notes.

Days 6-10

6. Evil Twin Imperial Biscotti Break: I will freely admit to already being a tad tipsy when I tried this, but I do remember a great sweet malt and biscuit flavour, with vanilla and chocolate playing nicely together. Need to find some more.

7. Geuze Fond Tradition: I keep coming back to this very drinkable sour when I want something to break to my winter desire for dark and sweet beer.

8. Black Oak Triple Chocolate Cherry Stout: this was inadvertently cellared for a year, as I forgot it in the back of the beer cupboard. Oops. The year treated it well, bringing out more cherry and chocolate while smoothing out some of the bitterness I noted.

9. Great Lakes Brewery Canuck: It was in the fridge, left over from something or other. I know there are many who enjoy it, but the pink grapefruit bitterness is too much for my palate.

10. Brasserie des Quatres Lunes Saison Automne: I spent 20 minutes trying to get the cork out, breaking the corkscrew I bought while on our anniversary trip in the process. I was really too pissed off to enjoy it by the time it hit my glass.

Days 11-15

11. Double Trouble French Press Vanilla Stout: Where other coffee/vanilla stouts come across as sweet or cloying, this one is nicely balanced between the smoothness of the vanilla and the bitterness of the coffee. Definitely buying more.

12. Barley Days Yuletide Porter: This beer had stuck in my mind all year after drinking it with Jen at The Hole in The Wall last holiday season, so I was pleased to see it in bottles at the LCBO. I feel that the cherries are less prevalent in the bottle than I remember the draft to be, and it has a great chocolate taste that works well with a trashy novel and a bubble bath. Just sayin’.

13: Tea Time – English Bitter with tea (homebrew): I had made this last year as a test for Emma Christensen’s upcoming book. There was a wee bit of an issue with over-carbonation, and I was left with about 2 ounces of beer once it stopped foaming. The English bitter style beer was quite dry, and the black tea addition gave it a nice lingering aftertaste without any tannins.

14. Mort Subite: I drank this after the work holiday party where the evening finished off with cheap tequila shots and other things. I’m going to assume it was true to the brand, with a strong cherry tartness.

15. Coconut Porter (homebrew): A donation from a classmate. He had warned me it might be a little light on the carbonation, and he was right. There was lots of sweet coconut and chocolate in the aroma and taste – it was like drinking a Mounds chocolate bar. Delicious!

Days 16-20

16. Smoked Cherry Ale (homebrew): I made this in late summer. The recipe said to let it age 6 months; at this the 4 month mark the cherry and the smoke seem in a good balance. Can’t wait until February, will compare it with the batch with just the regular malt.

17. Wellington County Dark Ale: Really malty with mild fig, nuts and chocolate notes. Really glad I drank it instead of cooking with it (although I’m sure it would make a nice fondue addition).

18. Omnipollo  Nebuchadnezzar: It was a crappy kind of a day, so I drank rather than tasted.

19. Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball: My mid-week landlord brought me back a bottle from his Vegas trip, because he thought of me as soon as he read the name on the label. Liked the strong malt backbone of caramel and biscuit, offset by a moderate hop bitterness. Lots of alc0hol heat in the finish.

20. Rochefort Trappistes 10: Yes. Oh gods, yes. So wonderful.

days 21-25

21. Nogne O Underlig Jul: A wonderful seasonal, with herbs and spices blended in a way that just say Christmas to me.

22. Turtle Island Squashed Pumpkin: Note to self – drink the beer, don’t hoard the beer. I’d kept it too long and the wet cardboard smell of oxidation was prevalent.

23. Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout: Drank this by a roaring fire in a snow-covered Northern cottage. It was perfect for that perfect moment.

24. Sawdust City Red Rocket Stout: Love the chocolate and espresso, but the cayenne is just too much burn for me.

25. Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine 2012: I could not have picked a better beer for Christmas than this one. Boozy and full of dark fruit smells and tastes – just like my grandma’s christmas pudding!



Day 36

There were no classes today (thank you, oh schedule gods!) so I caught up on sleep and homework until mid-afternoon when I headed to the school for beer club.

I had put my name in the hat to be the class rep for beer club, and was kind of surprised to find I’d been picked. A little sad too, as that meant that I was no longer able to apply for the Caps, Corks and Forks team. C’est la vie.

Beer club is broken into two parts, the first being the free part where some students bring in homebrew for a group tasting. I have to say that the stand-out homebrew was a milk stout by Nick, one of my classmates; smooth and rich with some great vanilla and caramel notes.

The second part of beer club comes with a small fee of about $5. Tonight was an Oktoberfest theme with a great spread of Oktoberfest German food prepared by the chef school – far more food than I had anticipated. Think dinner rather than canapes.

For the beers, Hugh and Nate had put together a selection of imported Oktoberfest beer as well as the Oktoberfest 4-pack from Beau’s. Once those had been opened and presented, leftovers from the last beer club came out. And this is where I learned that I quite like Saison du Pump by Great Lakes, even though I am not a huge pumpkin beer fan.

Some of what I sampled


Brewers Backyard

Keith was working Canada Day, so I was very happy to finally connect with the guys from Great Lakes Brewery to work the Brewer’s Backyard for them. It was held in one of the galleries of the Brickworks, a space I really enjoy.

The theme for this Backyard event was the Group of Seven, and they had seven vendors in total: 4 breweries (GLB, Nickelbrook, Left Field and Oast House), one cider provider (Spirit Tree) and two food vendors (Kanga Meatpies and Sugar Pie Honey Bunch). I did get to introduce myself to Mandie at Left Field to thank her for her help with my survey, but I didn’t really get a chance to see any of the other breweries or try any of their wares.

The most Canadian picture I could possibly take.
The most Canadian picture I could possible take.

I was pouring Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA, Chill Winston Grisette and the newly re-branded Canuck Pale Ale. When the Audrey Hopburn ran out, we switched to Red Leaf Lager. Out of the four, I’d have to say the Red Leaf appealed the most to my taste buds which will take sweet malt over bitter hops any day. I’m definitely in the minority on a hot humid day, judging by how many chose the Audrey Hopburn and Canuck.

I’d have to say the turnout was underwhelming. The city had pretty much emptied on Friday, and it showed here. The heat, humidity and lack of ice were drawbacks as the beer on tap foamed and took forever to pour.

But it was fun. I got to talk to people who love beer, learned a bit, and laughed a lot. It was  a family event, and just watching kids run around the gallery and play in the puddles made me smile. A good day well spent, as me dad would have said.

girl in puddle

SOBDL’s First Bevy

bev·y, ˈbevē , noun
a large group of people or things of a particular kind.

Jen Shute, from Ltd Supply, and I were at The Hole in the Wall bar in the Junction one snowy night, talking about life, the universe and everything over a few beers, as one does when one is in a good bar with good beer and good company. She mentioned the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies during one of our conversational swings, and told me how her and four of her friends who work in the industry were starting up a tasting group with the first event being the end of January. They envisioned it as a bottle-share/tasting group, small and private, to be held in someone’s house.

I was excited. I know of a few other bottle shares, but my desire to go hasn’t quite overcome my social anxiety of being a female n00b in a room of men. I bought a ticket as soon as they went on sale after New Year’s.

Social media spread the word of the Inaugural Bevy, and the event was featured in Toronto blogs and papers. The number of attendees grew too big for a private home and an event space was found. Due to the liquor laws, it was sadly no longer possible for the event to be a bottle share, and several local breweries donated kegs, growlers, bottles and cans of small and big batch beer for the ladies to imbibe.

Kudos to the Ladies: Jen, Erica, Magenta, Renee and Jaime! You can tell a lot of planning and elbow grease went into making this a great time for the 90 women who bought tickets. There were tasting note card, pins, name tags with conversation starters, a candy buffet and a great music playlist in a rustic loft space above Merchants of Green Coffee.



It looked like everyone was having a blast. I wish I could say that I was one of them, but I just wasn’t feeling it. My own fault really – I’d slipped on the ice and wrenched my bum knee, and no amount of Voltarin or ibuprofen was enough to make a dent. I went anyway, and sat on one of the few chairs not covered by coats and watched the party swirl around me. I couldn’t help notice that I was the oldest of the revelers by a fair amount, a fact that normally wouldn’t bother me but on that night just combined with the aching knee to bum me out. I used my three tickets to get a big glass of the Great Lakes Brewery Harry Porter and the Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Bean (so delicious, I went to GLB the next day to get a bottle of my own to make proper notes on and enjoy), and then headed home to an ice pack and a cup of tea made for me by my beloved.

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 1

photo 1This was the first formal class in my beer education. I’ve been reading and drinking, but felt that a more structured framework at the beginning might be best for me.

That’s how I came to be stumbling around outside Great Lakes Brewery in the dark, looking for the door. It might be close to the lights of the highway, but their parking lot still gets pretty dark once they turn the store lights off. I bumped into a few other people in the course, and we found our way up to a space on the second floor.

Roger Mittag, the teacher, is both knowledgeable and engaging, so the time went quickly. Most of this first class was taken up by going over the ingredients and brewing steps. It felt like review after reading Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher, but repetition of  concepts is never a bad thing.

The last half hour was what I had been looking forward to the most – tasting concepts. It’s easy to read about aroma and taste, but so hard to put into practice without some guidance. What does banana, coriander or biscuit really smell or taste like in a beer? Expanding my knowledge about my palate and developing the language to describe it are going to be critical in this pursuit of a job in the beer industry.

I liked the group dynamic, being able to talk through the aromas and tastes. My notes on what we tried:

  1. Sleeman Cream Ale – Colour: golden, clear. Aroma: grape/wine. Flavour: low impact, slight biscuity/grain taste
  2. London Pride Pale Ale – Colour: clear honey, off-white foam. Aroma: toffee, apple, fig, honey. Flavour: low impact, slight nutty/grain taste, like grandma’s walnut bread.
  3. Guinness – Colour: black with ruby hints. Aroma: coffee, burnt oatmeal, molasses, smoke. Flavour: molasses, smokey campfire.
  4. Great Lakes Crazy Canuck – Colour: gold, hazy. Aroma: heavy citrus, pink grapefruit pith. Flavour: grapefruit peel. I had a real problem with this one. A sinus infection was making itself known and the headache was making me feel nauseous. It was all I could do get it down, between that and over-the-top (for me) grapefruit bitterness. It might be a while before I can drink anything like this again.

I took the transit home with two of my classmates, Jen from Ltd Supply Kitchen Brewery, a blog I’ve been reading for a while, and another Jen, this one from Beerlicious, the event group behind the Toronto Beer Festival and the Ontario Brewing Awards.

It was great to talk to women interested in beer as much as I am. I’m looking forward to more conversations.