School, Day 0, in which I thank a lot of people

How to explain how I felt yesterday as I sat in a classroom for orientation, listening to people talk about the program I spent so much time and effort getting into. I think giddy covers it best.

(We’re going to gloss right over the nerves, anxiety, self-doubt and near-crippling panic that I experienced in the preceding 48 hours. The less said about that the better.)

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Yes. We drank beer during the orientation info session. I can safely say we were the only program that did. They had 5 styles, but I felt that trying all five with no breakfast might be a mistake so I settled for samples of the NC Teaching Brewery saison and Septemberfest. Both made me wish I’d had breakfast.

I met most of my classmates. It appears that I am the only estrogen-based life form, which should make the next 16 months interesting. As well as from Ontario, there are two guys from the US, one from Calgary and another from Fredericton. I was as chatty as a nervous former teacher could be, so I’m pretty sure they know more about me at this point than I know about them. Note to self: sshhhhh.

Today is the first day of classes, and a fairly light one at that; an hour of Math of Finance at 11:30 followed by two hours of Computer Applications, which seems to be basically a self-learning software to guide one through the basics of MS Office. As someone who has taught it for the last 12 years, I am really hoping I can fast track through it.

I should go and have breakfast then shower and get dressed. But I can’t help but linger here over my coffee and think about how fortunate I am.

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First and foremost, I have to hand it to my beloved. He was the one that planted this little seed in my mind by replying “Brewmaster Goodale has a nice ring to it” when asked what I should be when I grow up. He has been nothing but supportive and wonderful throughout the last year while I was recovering from having the rugged pulled out from under me and then planning and working toward this next stage. He is quietly sacrificing much. He is shouldering a larger financial burden while I’m a student, has seen his vacation cut short from 2 weeks as planned to 5 days to accommodate some work that came up for me, and is keeping the home fires burning solo while I’m at my mid-week home across the lake. He is, in a word, wonderful, and I am quite lucky to have him in my life.

While Keith keeps telling me I made it this far due to hard work, I could not have done it without a lot of help in one form or another from just about everyone I know.

  • my brothers Brian and Doug, and my sister-in-law Linda. They have been my cheerleaders in unexpected ways and have offered much needed moral support and offers of financial assistance (which I hope I don’t need). I am grateful for how they have my back.
  • The Moose, our friend who is graciously renting me a room in his house in Winona. I hope he still wants to be my pal after being my mid-week landlord for the next while!
  • The “beer girls” – Erica at Black Oak, Jen Murphy at Beerlicious and Jen Shute. I met them at the Prud’homme beer course and they have been invaluable sources of information and assistance whether it be a letter for my Second Career application or connecting me to beer folks so I can make some extra money doing LCBO tastings. You guys rock!
  • Bella Dodswell of The Career Foundation, who helped me navigate the paperwork minefield that is a Second Career application. My application would not have been successful without her cheerful advice.
  • Juliette, who is still willing and able to pick up the phone and talk me off a ledge, even though we live on opposite sides of the world from each other and are separated by a half a day’s worth of time zones. The woman has mad skills and I am proud to call her friend.
  • Lori is another friend from far away who is kind and generous with her time and herself. I appreciate her more than I can ever say.
  • Caroline, aka the Hoppy Beer Witch, who is funny and interesting, and who has been instrumental in whetting my interest in the BJCP.
  • Robin Le Blanc, the Thirsty Wench. I have only spoken with her a few times, but we have many common thoughts on social justice and equality. She has given me much to think on in terms of working to expand the diversity of brewing, while introducing me to people in the industry.
  • Toronto brewers, who helped my application by taking time to complete my survey: Steve at Liberty Village, Tomas from Spearhead, Jeff from Indie Alehouse, Mary Beth at Granite, Mandie at Left Field, Dave at Kensington and Doug at Junction Craft. Shout outs to Tina from Junction Craft and Paul from Flying Monkeys in Barrie who have patiently answered my many questions about the business on several occasions.
  • Nate Ferguson and Alan Brown of Niagara College, for giving me a tour of the college and patiently and promptly answering all of my email questions, no matter how big or small.
  • The women at the Admissions department of Niagara College. They gave me invaluable advice during the application process and their emails were always fun and friendly.
  • my derby pals, my former colleagues, former students, friends and friends-of-friends, and perfect strangers, all of whom said “wow cool” when I told them of my plan to become a brewmaster. No one said I was too old, too female, too unexperienced or too anything; everyone has been amazingly supportive and interested.

And for this, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I quite honestly could not have done this without you and I am grateful.

Let me buy you a beer next time I see you.


(cross posted from my personal blog, It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time)

A week of beer

I didn’t plan on attending three beer events in one week, really I didn’t. Or at least that’s what I keep telling my liver, who knows me better than to believe this.

If it’s Friday, it must be the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies

I met Caroline early in the evening, and we added a few stamps to our passport before heading to the Artspace on Shaw Street for the seventh SOBDL Bevvy.

The beer: The trouble with waiting so long to write a post is forgetting what I drank. Unlike other events, I took no pictures to act as virtual memory. I remember there was one I really liked, one that was dead awful, and a few others that fell somewhere in the middle. Not especially helpful, I know.

The vibe: An odd mix of high school dance and girls night out. As well as running into some derby girls, I spent some time talking with Kait, who I know from the Prud’homme classes, and her friend Jacqui, who is one of the most kick-ass women I have met in a long while. Caroline introduced me to Tina from Junction Craft Brewing, and I spent some time talking with her about her Seibel experience. I was glad to get some time to chat with Jenn S., and left pretty happy to have spent some time among like-minded women.

SOBDL swag
SOBDL swag

Toronto Festival of Beer on Sunday.

I swore I wasn’t going to go another Toronto Festival of Beer after my last experience at the Fort York location. Not that there was anything particular horrible about the last one, just that it’s not me. But the price was right (free) and my beer-lovin’ friend Katherine and her husband were around, so off we went.

The beer: I went with the view to see what offerings were available from the East Coast and Ommegang, and to try the new Gose Buster from Liberty Village. I have to admit to being disappointed by the selection in the international & East Coast tent; I don’t think it was anything I can’t find at the LCBO.

But the Gose Buster, oh man that was delicious! I was glad I got a full glass at the beginning, because they were sold out of it when I went back for seconds later in the afternoon. I’m going to be watching their twitter feed to find out where they’re going to be distributing it in Toronto.

Other high notes was the Noo Broo by Beaus, the beer made in collaboration with Margaret Atwood, and Flying Monkey’s Brimstone, a porter made with roasted fennel that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

The vibe: Still not me. It was amusing for a while to observe drunk white frat boys in their natural environment, but there’s only so many stupid cardboard hats and and only so much commercial beer marketing silliness one can take. When it got to the point where we are planning our routes on going where it doesn’t smell like puke and it’s harder to thread our way between the stumbling, staggering twenty-somethings, then it’s time to go.

And even though the venue is nicer than how I remember Fort York (nice to have shade and a breeze!), I won’t be back. In the words of Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon franchise, I am too old for this shit.

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Should be called the Festival of Silly Hats
The detritus at the exit.
The detritus at the exit.

Hart House on Thursday

This was a refreshing change after the TFOB; imagine, a beer event for grown ups!

The beer: I only used the eight tokens given with my ticket. I tried six, and went back for seconds of Oast House’s barrel-aged hefeweizen and Amsterdam’s Travesty. Wellington’s Rhubarb saison was very refreshing and went well with the barbecue. The ginger lemonade hop vodka cocktail was…interesting. And the ginger beer from Mill Street was a bit of a misstep, not enough ginger for my taste.

Five of six tried.
Five of six tried.

The vibe: perfect chill. The setting sun reflecting off the old stone bricks of Hart House, the great mix of acid jazz and chill house spun by the dj from CIUT, the great food, the conversations – it could not have been more up my alley. As my friend Danette says, so far up my alley, I should have brought my bowling shoes. Loved it, and will definitely make it to next year’s.

Inside the Hart House quad.
Inside the Hart House quad.

Cask Days 2013

Cask Days 2013 is the first beer event I’ve gone to in about 8 years. The last one was at the Toronto Beer Festival when it was still at Old Fort York. I’d gone one year and had a great time with some friends tasting beer and enjoying the sunshine. The next year it should have been called Frat Boy Fest. I spent most of my time dodging drunken 20-somethings with 6-packs reconfigured as hats and avoiding the increasing puddles of sick as the afternoon went on.

I didn’t go again. To quote Danny Glover’s character in Lethal Weapon, I am too old for that shit.

Fast forward to now. I’d heard good things about Cask Days, and decided to try the casks on Saturday and volunteer on Sunday. I asked my beer-drinking friends if they wanted to join me for Session 1, but they all had plans. I’ll be honest, I was a bit uncomfortable at the thought of going on my own (yes, I’m a introvert with hermit-like tendencies), but I forced myself to go. I can only learn so much by sitting at home reading blogs on the internet. I printed out my tickets and a list of all the casks, highlighting those that  sounded interesting.

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I signed up for the First Access and Tasting session with Stephen Beaumont so I could get some guidance around the British casks that were on hand. It was worth every penny. I would have likely not tried any of these lovelies:

I didn’t take any notes at the Cask Days, a mistake I won’t make again. Middle-age memory is fickle. I enjoyed them all, but I do remember thinking that I enjoyed the Wells & Young Courage the most. Which is more than I thought I’d remember. You see, two of the cast members from my TV guilty pleasure, Lost Girl, were in the session as well. I found it hard to concentrate on the beer when I was busy trying not to act like a dorky fangirl in front of Kris Holden-Reid and Paul Amos.

I set out on my own after the session. I was quite happy to be on my own, as it allowed me to go where I wanted and be more open to random conversations. I talked to a Viking for a while, and ran into the Thirsty Wench who then introduced me to Nate Ferguson from the Brewmaster program at Niagara College. They introduced me to sour beers, and encouraged me to try the Storm Imperial Flanders, for which I will always be grateful. So delicious.

I found that asking people, “what’s the best beer you’ve tried so far?” was a perfect conversation starter. I soon abandoned my highlighted list, and tried many of the recommendations. I tasted a lot of novelty beers; Liberty Village’s Gummi Beer,  Grand River’s Beetifide Bohemian and Hockley’s Jaffa Cake all had interesting flavours at first sip but palled by the third or fourth. I met Cheezweezl and her husband by chance, and they directed me to the coffee goodness of Amsterdam’s Full City Double Tempest and its neighbour, Amsterdam’s El Jaguar, a chocolate chili stout that was so good I tweeted that I would marry it if I weren’t already married.

I ran into Andy, a former colleague, who has the same love of beer and punk rock as I do. Of course we would run into each other there. We compared notes and wondered what we would have to do to get the DJ to play more Clash.

Andy and I joking with the guys at the Quebec casks. Photo Credit: Connie Tsang (http://connietsangphotos.com)

The next day I volunteered and was working the Manitoba and Alberta casks. The day was still cold, but the rain held off, and the brief bursts of sunshine made the day wonderful. I had a chance to meet Ralph Morana of BarVolo and learn a bit about the proper care of a cask, and had a great time pouring the beer and talking to people.

I finished the weekend very impressed by the work and dedication of the Cask Days organizational team and the volunteers – it takes a lot of work to make these many pieces fall together effortlessly.

I can’t wait for next year.

A selection of beer tshirts that caught my eye.
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Found these in my pocket when I did laundry. Hopefully, I’ll remember where I stashed them when I head to Cask Days 2014.