Queens of Craft

Commuters and devices

I had a ticket to go to Queens of Craft in Guelph on Wednesday. I decided to take the GO train out and get a ride back with my beloved who was working in Kitchener. I’ll be honest, I was looking forward to taking the train, because I thought they were a nifty way to travel, speedy and scenic.

Note the past tense there? It took this one ride to realize it was not scenic, romantic or interesting. It was mind-numbingly boring. I watched people who do this every day, who commute from Georgetown and Guelph and couldn’t help but hope their jobs were worth losing this much of their precious time over. I can’t see any situations where I would voluntarily put myself through that on a regular basis. I’d only rethink my position if they put in a bar car.

Muskoka Detour IPA

Pulled out the trusty Google Maps on my phone once I got to Guelph and walked the few blocks to the venue, where I was mildly concerned to find I was the only person there. Eventually the organizers and panelists came back from dinner, the crowd started to fill up the tables and the samples started pouring.

Like many others there, I was disappointed at the time constraint. The venue had a salsa night that started at 9, which meant that each of the panelists had only 8-10 minutes to talk about their particular area of craft beer, their female POV in it and to present a beer. This proved to be not even close to enough time. The panelists were rushed, and I can’t help but wonder what information I missed out on. The Thirsty Wench went into more detail about her topic, Beer Blogging Basics, on what else, her blog, but there was zero time for a Q and A or even a follow-up chat as most people hit the road for home when 9 o’clock came and we were pushed out by the increasing volume of the salsa music.

Amazing women, amazing beer.


There just something about the whole women-in-(insert male dominated field here) that I am becoming less and less enamored with. I do agree that there needs to be few gender barriers on fields, but this whole focus on the binary male/female bias only is honestly less than it could be. As this great sign I saw at Pride last year said, binary should only be for computers.

The support of these organizations is great if you’re a woman looking to break into a male-dominated field. But I think there’s a point where the segregation might be just shooting ourselves in the foot, and I don’t see how that is going to help us all in the long run. I was talking to a woman in IT a few years ago about a particular women-in-computers groups, and asked why she hadn’t joined. She thought a moment and replied that they were comfortable to be in but that change didn’t really come from within a comfort zone. She also asked a question that stuck in my mind: how does a women’s club that looks like a men’s club do anything to break down the men’s club?

How indeed.

A week or so ago, this exchange on Twitter that caught my eye between Neko Case (who I admire) and Playboy (who I don’t):


It resonated. She had other tweets that followed, about being Peggy Olson-ed (she’s good, you know, for a woman) and about the whole “women in ….” thing. And I thought, yeah, this.

I don’t want to be a kickass “woman in beer”. I want to be a kickass brewer in  beer.

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 4

Monday was the last session of the Beer Enthusiast level of the Prud’homme courses. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I signed up for the next level, Beer Specialist, even before writing the test.

We started the class with an overview of putting the right beer with the right food. This is a concept that I’d like to delve into more. Roger talked about the three C’s – complement, cut and contrast. A few examples were given, but this was just a small fraction of a bigger topic.

The next topic was about cooking with beer. Honestly all I could think about through this whole section was the glorious smell that fills the apartment every time I make the Guinness-braised steak and vegetable stew! Next thing I want to try is to bake with it; I’m definitely having a go at the vanilla porter cupcakes, if I can refrain from drinking the vanilla porter first. Man, that stuff is good. I’m not the only one to think so either, going by the empty spot on the shelves in my local LCBO.

20131127-200705.jpgWe also had two separate tastings. The first was Belgian beers, and I think I fell a little in love with #3.

  1. Dupont Saison
    Appearance: cloudy, straw
    Aroma: a bit skunky, sour, spice like Blanche de Chambly
    Flavour: boozy, lemon pepper, pickle, citrus pith aftertaste
    Finish: sharp champagne dryness
  2. Leffe Blonde
    Appearance: clear (filtered), rich gold
    Aroma: light apple
    Flavour: apple, bubble gun, cream soda at finish
    Finish: lots of sharp bubbles, sweet finish.
  3. Trappist Rochefort 8
    Appearance: hazy brunette, beige foam
    Aroma: vanilla, caramel, eastern spice (garam masala, cardamom, 5 spice powder), a bit like the Redpath sugar barn
    Flavour: boozy, chocolate, molasses
    Finish: tingle.burn from the alcohol
  4. Chimay Tripel
    Appearance: cloudy, pineapple gold, creamy foam
    Aroma: banana, apple
    Flavour: bubble gum, pear
    Finish: carbonated/fizzy, citrus pith at end

And there was more! Next there were three rounds of food and beer pairing, two beers with 2 kinds of food in each round. My notes are a bit of a scribble (I think I was too busy enjoying it all), but I know it was a real eye-opener. Some of the pairings really worked, others not so much.

Round 1: Fat & Protein.
Jever Pilsener and Amsterdam’s Downtown Brown with spring roll and prosciutto. The Jever worked really well with spring roll, but turned sour and metallic with the prosciutto. The spring roll took away away all the warm nutty flavours of the Downtown Brown while the prosciutto was enhanced by it.

Round 2: Cheese.
Steamwhistle and Trois Pistoles with Beemster and Danish blue. I’m not a fan of Steamwhistle on it’s own, but it both cut and complemented the Beemster nicely and brought out some nutty flavours. It completely disappeared with other cheese – it just couldn’t compete with the blue cheese. The Trois Pistoles didn’t do much for the Beemster, but really brought out some of the underlying sweetness of the blue while taming a bit of the harshness.

Round 3: Dessert
London Porter and Mort Subite Framboise with almond chocolate pudding and chocolate covered cheesecake. Let’s just say that pudding and porter don’t go together and leave it at that. Porter really does go with the cheesecake, the richness of both the beer and the dessert met someplace warm and lovely. The cheesecake was too much for the Mort Subit; one of the guys observing likened it to a Viva Puff. You don’t get enough of the raspberry in those either. The Mort Subit did work well with the pudding by cutting the sweetness and enhancing the chocolate flavour rather than fighting with it like the porter did.

Oh and there was the test. 40 multiple choice and 20 incredibly easy fill-in-the-blanks. I know I got 3 wrong (it’s impossible to escape the inevitable post mortem), and I’m sure I got a few others wrong. All in all, I’m sure I’m good to go for the next session.

At least two others from my session will be joining me at the next one, Jen from Ltd Supply and Jen from Beerlicious. I’m very glad, as we seem to have clicked and it’s great to have a few like-minded women around to go and drink beer with!

Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 3

After we got the quiz out of the way (9 out of 10 on this one,TYVM), we did a quick tour of Great Lakes Brewery. This was my fourth tour of a working brewery, and took some photos and notes to compare to those taken at my other tours.

They had just brought in their new copper vessel, and were roughing in the placement of the dials and lines with cardboard cutouts. I wish I could have shown this picture to some of my past students – do mock-ups and rough things in first, it will save time and headache later!


It’s not a big brewing space, but there was a area for the experimental brews, and the fermentation and ageing cellars are enormous by comparison.


A lot of this class was spent looking at draught systems. I was surprised to see that it accounts for only 9% of beer sales across Canada; I’d always thought it more. Roger went on to explain that it used to be more, 12% in 1997, but when the economy goes bump, people will cocoon and drink at home rather than go out to bars.

We looked at draught systems (CO2, beer mix, mixed gas and air compressors), and went through some troubleshooting flow charts to help diagnose issues. I love flowcharts – I’m a geek, what can I say?

I shuddered to remember how some of the places I waitressed in treated their draft. Like the Bar That Shall Remain Nameless, where we always had so many complaints about the draught. It’s no wonder; it was run by an air compressor that lived in the musty basement beside the bathrooms. Ick.

After we were grossed out by worse case draught scenarios, it was time for the tasting – wheat beers this time!


  1. Blanche de Chambly, Belgian wheat. I do love this one.
    Appearance: cloudy, buttery gold, lemon meringue pie, creamy head
    Aroma: clove from the coriander, citrus
    Flavour: spice, lemon peel
    Finish: lots of carbonation
  2. Hacker Pschorr, German
    Appearance: cloudy, honey
    Aroma: banana
    Flavour: mild citrus, Juicy Fruit gum
    Finish: smoother, not as carbonated
  3. Erdinger Dunkel Weisse, German
    Appearance: chocolate/mahogany coloured
    Aroma: Banana bread (faint)
    Flavour: banana bread, walnut, caramel (later)
  4. Weihenestphaner Weissenbock, German
    Appearance: cloudy, butter
    Aroma: boozy, sharp
    Flavour: bubble gum, spiced apple, banana
    Finish – thin bubbles,



Prud’homme Beer Enthusiast, session 2

We started this class with a quiz. I had read over the workbook and my notes briefly, and decided I was good.

I wasn’t. Good thing this one didn’t count.

We spent the first part of the class getting an overview of the history of beer. I found out that the Sumerians had a goddess of brewing, Ninkasi, and learned a bit about the role that monks and religious orders played in brewing. I am intrigued by this intersection of beer and religion, and have requested a couple of books from the library.

Roger also talked about beer culture and glassware, topics that I really skimmed over in Tasting Beer. I think I should revisit it.

photo 2
1 through 4, going left to right

It was also the night of lager tasting! Roger had given us a copy of the beer flavour wheel, which certainly helped with the vocabulary.

  1. Miller Genuine Draft
    Appearance: clear, pale straw
    Aroma: apple
    Flavour: almost non-existent
    Finish: I get what dry means now
  2. Pilsner Urquell
    Appearance: clear, golden
    Aroma: coriander, pear, pineapple (?)
    Flavour: biscuity, soda crackers, slight pepper
  3. Kostritzer
    Appearance: root beer, mahogany, brown with red tint
    Aroma: chocolate, cherry, vanilla – Dr pepper
    Flavour: tea w. brown sugar, pumpernickel, black licorice
    Also pointed out – faint wet cardboard smell, oxidation
  4. Holsten Fesbock
    Appearance: clear, sherry-coloured
    Aroma: figs, vanilla, prune
    Flavour: rum, figs, fruitcake > toffee, biscuit > green tobacco

photo 3One of Roger’s former students is observing the class to teach a later session. We had talked about the Samuel Adams Utopias in class 1, and he promised to bring in his empty bottle to show us. Even empty, the aromas that came out of that bottle were heavenly: mellow sherry and dark fruit and oak to name a few. It might be a while before I can afford one, but it has certainly gone on the bucket list.

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.