Hart House Beer Festival

Finally, the event I waited for all year arrived: the Hart House Beer Festival.

I took my friend Katherine (aka That Damned Canasian), and we wandered around the venue (what is that open spot in the middle of Hart House called? do they call it a quad? a square?), sipping good beer, eating some great food and listening to great beats courtesy of CIUT’s Higher Ground.

There were more breweries than last year, but not a lot of brews I couldn’t find at the LCBO or Beer Store, which was a bit disappointing. I got to try Mill Street’s Ginger Cat, a ginger wit that I was curious about, but only comes as part of their seasonal sampler. I will freely admit to being a ginger-holic, and so was underwhelmed by the ginger in it. I tried Double Trouble’s Revenge of the Ginger next, which had a nice ginger heat balanced by the hop/citrus finish.

Standouts for me were Oast House’s cherry Berliner Weisse and Amsterdam’s Shape Shifter, a lovely barrel aged strong ale that made it all better.

When I remembered to take photos of what I drank
Nice space, and they didn’t pack us in like sardines.
Obligatory arty-ish night shot.




Long weekend

My beloved and I made the 4-hour trek north to my nephew’s cottage near Killarney for the long weekend. I love it there because not only am I blessed with family that I like hanging around with, the cottage is completely unplugged and off the grid so we can all focus on enjoying our surroundings and time with each other.

My favourite part of going up there is sitting in this chair on the dock and talking with my family:

dock chair
Best seat in the house

while watching sunsets like this:

This has not been PhotoShopped in any way.

and drinking beers like these:

Left Field Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale: This was the big hit. We all liked the nutty and malt notes, and wondered why I didn’t bring more of this.

Local 7 Session Saison: Still not loving it. As my brother said, it’s nice but it doesn’t make me want another glass of it

Missions Springs Bombshell Blonde: tasty but not exceptional. Great with snacks on the dock.

White House Honey Ale (homebrew): I was not impressed with this when I first tried it in December. All of the harsh notes I remember have mellowed and made a drinkable beer. Again, everyone wondered why I didn’t bring more.

Mill Street Spring Thaw Maple Ale: I was surprised at how much I like this. The maple is a low sweet note at the beginning that’s nicely offset by a slight bitter finish. Much nicer IMHO than other maple beers I’ve tried with a heavy cloying finish.

Mill Street Portage Ale: “Pretty mild but thirst quenching” was the campfire consensus.


Beer Day

Started my day with this announcement on Twitter:



1) Making Beer

Truthfully, I am not sure how this batch is going to turn out. You can only read so much about a new endeavour before you jump into it, but I think I would have benefitted from having someone experienced in home brewing on my speed-dial for the day. I tried not to over-think it, but that proved near impossible.

I made the White House honey ale that I ordered with the one-gallon brewing kit from TorontoBrewing.ca. It’s an all grain kit; I wonder if it would have been better to try an extract first.

It went great (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself). There were a few hiccups that have me questioning whether it will work or not.

  1. my thermometer broke. I was watching a bunch of YouTube videos, and a lot of the guys were using a cooking thermometer like this one that we used for our turkey, so I thought hey, why not. It would be easier to read and monitor than the glass mercury one that came with the kit. However, it went crazy at some point and now reads over 200F when at room temperature. Thankfully, I had the glass one to switch in, but I have no idea what happened before I did.
  2. there was no hot break. I drained the grain bag, turned up the heat under the kettle and waited, but got nothing even remotely resembling the pictures or videos I’ve seen. I did a quick Google search, and it doesn’t appear that it will wreck the batch, but I’m kind of disappointed to not see it.
  3. the stuff is boiling happily and it’s time to add the bittering hops with the finishing hops coming in after the hour-long boil. However, I have one package of hops. Cue over-thinking. Did I miss one when I opened the grain package? is it still in the grain bag? Yes, I did open the grain bag up and sift through the contents to find nothing. I did more Googling which confused me even more. Luckily, the guys at TorontoBrewing.ca answered their phone on a Sunday. “Use half now, half later.” Or at least I think that’s what he said. Hope so…that’s what I did anyway.
  4. I was very careful about sanitizing everything that came into contact with the post-boil liquid. Except, as I realize now, the thermometer that I used to check the temperature during the cool-down, the thermometer that I rested on the wet counter every single time. Sigh.

Now I wait.

2) Writing about beer

Ta da!

3) drinking beer

This Vanilla Porter from Mill Street is quickly becoming my go-to beer. And it goes really well with vanilla johnny cake.



In my fridge

I have a good/bad habit of picking up single bottles of beer whenever I am around a Beer Store or LCBO. Good in that I have a interesting selection of different beers in fridge to quench any thirst. Bad in that there is very little room in our fridge for actual food.

I tend to stash the beer in the crispers, aka the drawers of despair (fruit and vegetables go in, we forget we’ve put them there, goo comes out). However, the stash has overflowed to the top shelf to the point where it’s in my way. Time to figure out what’s even in there.

Actually, I think it’s time to stop buying the beer, and start drinking the beer.

In my fridge, August 2013

  • Mill Street: Coffee Porter, Belgian Wit  and Tankhouse Ale. Left from a sampler pack bought a while ago. Not super keen on any of them right now, but keeping them in case that changes.
  • Black Sheep Brewery: Monty Python’s Holy Grail. Had to buy this as I am a huge fan of the movie. Cannot bring myself to open it for some reason. I think I’m secretly afraid it might be awful.
  • Sleeman: Honey Brown Lager. Part of a mixed lot bought by my friend Karen to help further my beer tasting. She’s a good friend to have!
  • St. Ambroise: Pale Ale, Apricot Wheat and Raspberry Ale. Another sampler pack, as I like the fruit beers in the summer. Finding the Apricot Wheat a bit more cloying than usual, but perhaps that’s just me.
  • Grapefruit Stiegl Radler. Impulse buy. Seems like a good beer for sitting on the dock on a hot summer day.
  • Amsterdam: Mid Summer Saison, 416. Amsterdam’s brewing facility has moved into my neighbourhood, making it far too easy to stop in to see what’s in their fridge. I keep coming back to the 416 after trying it during one of their tastings, the Mid Summer Saison was bought because I wanted to try a saison.
  • Wychwood, Hobgoblin. Another beer bought by Karen. She liked the label. This seems like something more suitable for cooler weather and Halloween.
  • Lake of Bays:  Spring Maple. Another impulse buy.
  • Stella Artois. Part of the Karen Mixed Bag. I’ve had Stella before, so know what to expect.
  • Niagara College Teaching Brewery: Butler’s Bitter. When I found out there was a teaching brewery where you could buy the beer made by students, I had to go see.
  • Creemore Springs: Sunny and Share Citrus Saison. Bought in Killarney because it looked summery, something I might want to drink on the dock while watching the sun set. It rained, so the beer came home with me.
  • Hacker-Pschorr: Weiss and Munich Gold. Bought because I wanted the bottles for my home brewing experiment. According to the research I did, I could buy empty swing-top bottles at a brewing store for a bit more than buying them full of beer at The Beer Store. It was like buy the bottle, get the beer for free! Yes, I know there are other options, but this gave me a valid reason to go to The Beer Store.

So there it is, what I am starting this (adventure? journey? misguided attempt at reality-avoidance?) off with.