Beer and Chocolate!

Happy Valentine’s Day from us here at the Black Creek Growler. As an early Valentine’s Day present, i’m writing a couple of days ahead of the usual Friday afternoon posts. What is the number one food associated with Valentine’s Day? If you guessed chocolate, you’re right. Chocolate is an indispensable part of Valentine’s, whether it’s receiving some on the day of, or buying a ton of discounted chocolate on February 15th. Here at the Black Creek Brewery, we always think of things in terms of beer, so this post will help you find a beer to pair with your Valentine’s day gift.

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A Victorian Valentine from the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

IPA
Many beer purists believe that IPAs can’t go with chocolate. The bitterness of the IPA and the sweetness of the chocolate is said to clash. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Chocolate doesn’t have to be just sweet and milky. If you can find a dark chocolate with peppers, sea salt, or any other twist that makes a chocolate less sweet, you can find an excellent pairing to go with an India Pale Ale.

Stout or Porter
The coffee and caramel notes in a porter or stout match perfectly with many types of chocolate. However, it is recommended to choose a chocolate that also has a hint of coffee or caramel in order to compliment the beer you’ve chosen. If you choose a stout that’s on the sweeter side, you can even venture into the dark chocolate caramel territory. However, if your stout or porter has a more bitter coffee flavor, choose a darker and more bitter chocolate with more of a mocha or espresso note.

Fruit Beers (such as a Lambic)
Choosing a fruity lambic ale can offset the sweetness of chocolate. Feel free to pick a sweeter chocolate to pair with this one, as a sweeter chocolate will not overpower this beer.

Best Bitter
Choosing a lighter Best Bitter allows you to pair with a lighter chocolate. If you’re not the biggest fan of darker chocolate but still want to try a beer pairing, choose a maltier beer. Our Canadian Frontier Best Bitter is sweet yet malty, and would pair well with a nice milk chocolate.

Of course, beer is ultimately very personal. There are some beer enthusiasts who believe that beer and chocolate will never go together. Others don’t mind what beer goes with what chocolate, as long as both taste great. It’s all up to you and your personal tastes to decide whether or not your Valentine’s Day will be filled with beer and chocolate!

Hops to you,

Dani

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How to review a beer

In one of our previous posts this blog outlined how to set up a DIY beer tasting, similar to one you could experience in our brewery. If you really want to take it up a notch, you can learn how to review a beer like a pro. It’s perfectly okay to describe your beer like a newbie – perhaps it’s “bitter” or “light,” but can you describe the aromatics? The mouthfeel? If you’d like to impress your friends during your next beer tasting, read on to learn how to review a beer like a seasoned expert.

Brewery Sampler
A flight down in the Brewery

First Glance
As soon as a pint or a flight is placed in front of you, what do you notice first?  The answer is likely the appearance of the beer. Even a newbie knows that not all beer looks the same. Beer can range from the palest gold to pitch black, and everything in between. Hold your glass up to the light to get a look at the different color tones. Also – can you see through your beer? If not, the beer is likely unfiltered and still contains yeast and sediment from the brewing process. How thick is your beer? How foamy? How creamy? How carbonated? Taking note of all of these factors helps you to judge the beer in front of you. It also helps you to realize how much of a range beer truly has.

Smell
Once you’ve sized up the look of your beer, you can move on to its aromatics. Taste and smell go hand in hand, and smell is a huge part of the sensual experience of food and drink. If you’ve ever seen a beer or wine connoisseur swirling their glass around, they’re not just doing this to look fancy. Swirling your beer in the glass is said to aerate it, and pull out more of the natural fragrances. Different beers have different smells – malty beers tend to have a much different aroma than hoppy ones. For example, our Black Creek Porter has been described as smelling roasty, burnt, and slightly nutty, similar to coffee. In comparison, our India Pale Ale smells citrusy, floral, and tropical, like a grapefruit. Take note of what you smell as a clue about the flavor profile you are about to experience.

First Sip
After making note of look and smell, you can finally get down to the most important part: tasting the beer. First impressions are everything, so your first sip will tell you a lot about the beer you are reviewing. It’s always a good idea to cleanse your palate before you dive into the first sip – water and neutral foods such as bread can help to reset your taste buds. This is especially important if you just sampled a different beer, or if you just had a meal with overpowering flavors.

During your first sip, really savor the feel and taste of the beer on your palate. What flavor notes are you getting? Beer can be extremely complex, with multiple flavor notes and distinct aftertastes. Are the flavors similar to what you noticed during the smell? Is the beer balanced, or is it too mild or too bitter? All of these questions are things to pay attention to as you taste your beer. As you continue to sip, you can also ponder the most important question of all when it comes to a review – do you like this beer?

Mouthfeel
When I was a beer newbie, this word seemed strange to me. Mouthfeel? What is this concept and is it really that different from taste? To the seasoned beer reviewer, the answer is yes. Simply put, mouthfeel is the sensations you are experiencing as you sip the beer. For example, adjectives such as carbonated, creamy, crisp, and watery are all ways to describe how a beer feels when you drink it. This is an important part of tasting a beer, and mouthfeel makes more of a difference than you may think. For example, purists of real British style ale expect a certain mouthfeel when they sip their beer. British ales are naturally carbonated, like the beer we make at the Black Creek brewery. The mouthfeel of a British ale can make or break the perception of how authentic it truly is.

Final Impressions
Beer reviewing may seem a little overwhelming, but it can be a very enjoyable experience. It’s very rewarding to slow down and experience a beer mindfully, and to understand the flavor notes and complexities that beer has to offer. The final impressions of a beer truly come down to your personal tastes. Was the beer enjoyable? What did you like and dislike? As we say down at the Black Creek brewery, beer is very personal. Therefore, don’t be shy about thinking of your own personal tastes as you review.

So next time you’re enjoying a flight or a pint, slow down and size up your beer. Hopefully it’ll get a good review!

Hops to you,

Dani

The Story of India Pale Ale

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A map of British India

 

One of the most popular styles of beer that we serve down in the Black Creek brewery is our historic India Pale Ale. Visitors who are fans of a hoppy, fruity, and bitter tasting beer tend to enjoy our IPA – it is balanced, smooth, and refreshing. As they sip their IPA sample, they are treated to the history of the India Pale Ale by our brewmaster.  One of the most popular questions he gets asked is – “Why is it called an India Pale Ale?” They are usually surprised to hear that the IPA’s roots trace back all the way to colonial times – to India during the time of the British Raj.

In the early days of British rule, the colonizing Brits were likely taken aback by the cultural and environmental differences between Britain and India. One large difference was the climate – it was hot and humid all year long. In this time period, beer brewing depended on the temperature and was usually a seasonal pursuit. This type of hot weather was not conducive to brewing, but beer was still required to satiate thirsty soldiers serving on behalf of the Raj.

In this case, necessity was the mother of invention. It was not possible to send beers such as malty brown ales over to India, as they would spoil on the months long journey by ship. The proposed solution was to double up on a natural preservative already found in beer – hops. This natural preservative ended up being the solution, and extremely hoppy beers managed to survive the journey to India, maintaining an acceptable taste and freshness.

However, the IPA did not retain its popularity between colonial times and now. With the end of the colonial period (and the dawn of refrigeration), the desire for India Pale Ales dwindled. Brewers instead opted to brew weaker Pale Ales instead, which were much less hoppy and bitter. It seemed as though the India Pale Ale was destined to be forgotten by time, right along with the sherry-cobbler cocktail and the gin sling… so why is it that every other craft beer on the market seems to be an IPA?

The India Pale Ale has made a comeback in the last few decades, all due to a newfound interest in craft beer brewing in the United States. American craft brewers became bored of the traditional lagers that were crowding the market, and were apt to try something new. This included brewing old English recipes, such as the forgotten IPA. American  brewers have put their own spin on the India Pale Ale – American (and Canadian) IPAs tend to be more fruity and citrusy than the traditional British version of the IPA. This winning combination of bitter and fruity has made the India Pale Ale one of the most popular types of craft beer on the market today. So next time you order a Boneshaker, a Lagunitas, or even a Black Creek historic IPA in the brewery, you can think of the rich and complex history that brought that India Pale Ale to you.

Hops to you,

Dani