Interview: Beer Reviewer Robert Arsenault

Hello beer-lovers!

We are back with another special interview edition of the Growler. This week, I’m thrilled to welcome beer reviewer Robert Arsenault. Under the guise of the “Drunk Polkaroo,” he’s been brightening up my Instagram feed for a while! I’m stoked to have had the chance to catch up with him. 🙂

Photo de Drunk Polkaroo.

KT: It’s clear that you’re very passionate about craft beer—how did you get into it?

DP: To be honest, a few years ago I was a dedicated macro beer pounder. I was in a really bad place and drinking a lot when a friend introduced me to an app for my phone called Untappd. It tracked your beers and gave you badges for trying different ones. We started to compete on finding new beers and I started to drift into craft beer as a result. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I started doing short reviews on Instagram, it became a bigger part of my life.

KT: We love your vibrant Instagram with its daily beer reviews. Do you feel that social media has helped boost the craft beer movement?

DP: I think Social Media and the people who do it well at the breweries help to boost not only the profile of that brewery but the industry as  a whole. Interacting, commenting and sharing their fans’ photos has given rise to a whole host of people who are trying to catch the eyes of the managers, and it makes the beer drinking even more fun. Feeling connected to the brewers, even online, encourages people to take their time, appreciate the beer and share it with others.

KT: Your pictures are beautiful, and we love how they show each brew to its best. What goes into setting up your shots?

DP: If I have the time, I do try to find a beautiful way to showcase the beer, or the reason I am enjoying it. Sometimes it’s an outdoor shot, which is great for natural colour and light, or I add some props from around my house for a little fun. For every one though, I am taking pictures when I drink the beer and that dictates a lot of the shots. I was not a great student of art in school, but craft beer has inspired me to look for beauty I didn’t know existed.

Photo de Drunk Polkaroo.
Gorgeous – check out Drunk Polkaroo’s Instagram for more!

KT: Lead us through one of your tastings—what do you look for, in a beer?

DP: The first thing I do when I choose a beer is think about what I am doing that day or night. Is it a social gathering, or a quiet night in? Slow sipping Imperial or crushable session beer? Once I pick from the fridge or cellar, I get a clean glass, hopefully the proper style of glassware for the beer to be consumed, as it does matter to a degree. Rinsing it always before I open the beer, to remove any dust or residue. When I pour it, I take my time, watching it build the head, cascading the carbonation down and finally lifting it up to the light to gauge the colour and consistency. Smelling, swirling and smelling again, I want to get the aroma before I try it.

I leave room at the top specifically so I can get a good sniff of what is going on in there. Almost as important as the beer itself. Finally, I take a small sip and let it swirl around, trying to capture the first impression and nuances of the first sip. I try to close my eyes and block out all distractions to be present and mindful inside the texture and flavours of the beer. Another small sip and then I begin to pick out the subtle and not-so-subtle notes. It can change as it warms and depending on the style, a tasting can take anywhere from a half hour to 2 or 3. I like to enjoy every moment as much as I can, especially with beers I may only try once. It is also a way to try and curb my old habits of overindulgence. I appreciate everything that each beer brings to my glass and I try to convey that in my reviews.

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And he certainly does! The Drunk Polkaroo’s thoughtful, passionate reviews always brighten my day – and remind me why we write this blog in the first place…

For the love of beer. 🙂

You can follow the Drunk Polkaroo at the links below:

Instagram!

Facebook!

Twitter!

Until next time!

Katie

 

New in Town: Getting into Craft Beer

Very often in the Black Creek Brewery, we meet people who haven’t really tried craft beer  “I’m not really sure what I like,” they say, in low tones. “It’s all so new to me.”

I can certainly sympathize with that! At some point, it’s new to all of us. And so, if you’re just starting out exploring craft brews, here are a few tips to help you feel at home.

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Be Open-Minded

I’m always so impressed when people who “aren’t sure about beer” join us for a sample. It takes courage! When you’re first starting out, try everything. In my early days learning about beer, I tried never to order the same beer twice. Sure, you’ll hit a dud from time to time, but you may also discover a wholly unexpected new favourite.

Take Notes

Mentally or physically: either way works. But if you find something you really like, take note of it! What style is it? Who brewed it? Try something similar and see if you like that, too. Slowly, you’ll start to build a personal database.

For instance, I’ve had enough pilsners to know that it’ll never be my favourite beer. On the other hand, Ed is well-acquainted with my documented love of stouts and ginger beers…

PumpkinAle1

Read Reviews (with a grain of salt)

Sites like Untappd, Beer Advocate, and Rate Beer are wonderful sources of information. Not only do they provide vital stats for most beers (style, ABV, IBUs, etc.), they often have ratings and reviews as well. If you’re on the fence about a beer, it can be helpful to see what other people are saying.

That said, remember what we say in the Black Creek Brewery: “Beer is very personal.” It’s all right if you disagree with a review. In the end, your palate won’t lie to you.

Pay Attention to Tasting Notes

Reviews can be handy for tasting notes, though! At first, it can feel overwhelming: “How am I supposed to identify cinnamon in this Winter Ale? What undertones of fig and raisin? What do you mean by grassy hops?”

Tasting notes are your cheat sheet. They help you learn the language of flavours and aromas. Soon enough, you won’t need your friendly Beer Expert to point out the toasted grain flavours: you’ll be doing it on your own!

Practice, practice, practice*

*responsibly

Like anything else, beer gets easier with practice. You train your palate, you recognize individual breweries’ quirks, and you grow familiar with different styles. I can’t recommend flights enough. Not only can you try a range of beers, you can do so in moderation. 😉

Beau's All-Natural Brewing's "Ich Bin Ein Bearliner" is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!
Beau’s All-Natural Brewing’s “Ich Bin Ein Bearliner” is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

Talk to People

Reviews are great, but it’s no match for actually talking to people. I’ve learned so much from Ed, and from chatting with other Beer Experts. So come try a sample at the Black Creek Brewery. Take brewery tours; ask for recommendations; chat with beer experts about their brews. Beer is a social beverage—there’s no need to go it alone!

*

And of course, above all else…

Have fun and be safe.

To Queen and Country!

Katie

Interview: Toronto Booze Hound

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Hello beer-lovers! Today, we bring you a very special edition of the Growler. Toronto Booze Hound is a wise, insightful voice on the Toronto beer review scene. Run by Kole McRae and Shawna O’Flaherty, they’ve been sharing brews and news for over two years! I recently caught up with Shawna to chat about our favourite topic.

KT: We’re always interested in origin stories! Can you tell us how you got into craft beer?

S: I got into craft beer pretty early, when I was probably 18-19 (the legal age in Quebec is 18 and I lived there till I was 27). Brutopia was near my university and they had $4 pints on Mondays so it was a popular hangout in 2002-2004, when I was in university. Before that I had tried Molson and Sleeman products and it never really clicked. Dieu Du Ciel was in my neighbourhood and a francophone friend brought me there to try a smoked beer for the first time. I was hooked. There was a huge linguistic divide in the beer options in Montreal back then – even now you’ll get radically different results from Google in Montreal depending on your search language.

I got Kole into craft beer. Actually a Sawdust City beer was a test on a very early date at Bar Volo, and Kole was man enough to drink a beer named Princess Wears Girl Pants with me.

We’re getting married at Beer Bistro this spring.

KT: What do you, personally, look for in your beer?

S: Oh boy, that’s tough. In the winter I want something full bodied, rich in flavour like a stout. In the summer a sour really cuts the heat. I like beers that are true to style, I like beers that push the boundaries. I like balanced beers. I like light sessionable beers and I like heavyweight boozy beers. I particularly like when they pair well with food and compliment the flavours. I don’t really go for pilsners, lagers or wheat beers unless it’s very humid out.

KT: Toronto Booze Hound has been running for over two years now! Have you found that your reviewing style and/or palate have evolved?

S: I think I’m more in tune with style guides for beer and can offer a more balanced criticism. I’ve taken many classes now on beer and wine at George Brown College and that helps me develop my palate and interests. When we started, I would not drink sour beers and now I love them! Brettomyces has grown on me too. The beer scene has changed a lot since October 2014 in Toronto.

KT: And finally, you have an impressive array of badges on Untappd. Which is your favourite?

S: Any of the travel badges, or the “from the source”. Apparently we recently untapped our 50th from the source beer so that’s 50 distinct beers at their brewery or brewpub. We always seek out breweries or vineyards when we travel.

untappdbadge2

Thank you very much to Shawna for chatting with us! You can follow Toronto Booze Hound here, and across various social media platforms (links below). Check them out!

Follow Toronto Booze Hound:

Instagram:

Twitter:

Facebook:

Untappd:

-Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild vs. Sour Ales

Hello, beer-lovers!

Welcome back to the Growler! I hope that you enjoyed the holiday season. Long-time readers will not be surprised that I spent mine gallivanting through the United States. (We hit up a brewery, distillery, and cider mill/winery all on the same day. It was awesome.)

But now I’m back, and looking a little closer to home. I was reading this article about Bar Volo’s new offspring, Birreria Volo, when something caught my eye: “Sour and spontaneously fermented beers are the focus…”

“Hold up,” quoth I. “When I visited Pen Druid Brewing a few weeks ago, they talked a lot about wild fermentation, but I don’t remember them being particularly sour.”

Tasting at Pen Druid, in Sperryville, VA.
Tasting at Pen Druid Brewing (Sperryville, VA).

The difference between wild and sour ales is not one to contemplate when the beers in question are 7.8% ABV (their . However, it is a good topic for the Growler.

The wonderful Urban Beer Nerd blog reminds us that “…there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer.” I think we can all agree that sour beer tastes…well, sour, but “wild beer” is a little trickier. BeerAdvocate defines American Wild Ales as “…beers that are introduced to ‘wild’ yeast or bacteria…” while Jeff Alworth’s Beer Bible says, “The category of wild ale includes any beer that derives its central character from wild yeast and bacteria” (p. 528).

But see, I have to agree with Urban Beer Nerd: every definition distinguishes between “wild yeast” and “bacteria.” Both play roles in fermentation, but they’re different microorganisms that result in different flavours.

Take Pen Druid’s “Golden Swan” Wild Blonde. It’s a blonde ale made with a wild yeast culture (genus Brettanomyces, rather than Saccharomyces). While it’s certainly got a “funk” to it, it doesn’t have the sour tartness of a lambic or a Flemish ale. Compare that to their “Saturnalia,” an “all-Virginia soured Blonde.” That one had a sour bite.

So in the end, I think UBN and The Oxford Companion to Beer have it right:

Brettanomyces yeast strains = Wild Ale

Brettanomyces yeast strains AND/OR bacteria = Sour Ale

No matter what you call them, though—they taste pretty good to me. And with Pen Druid now so far away, it looks like it’s Birreria Volo for me!

To Queen and Country!

Katie

New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Just in time for our Two-Day Pioneer Harvest Festival, our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops grown onsite, this seasonal ale has turned out very well indeed. Usually, beer is brewed with dried hops (actually, modern beers are brewed with compacted hop pellets, but that is beside the point). With the Wet Hop Ale, Ed has used hops straight from the vine.

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Ready for harvesting!
Ready for harvesting!

Coming in at 5% ABV, this beer is a deep gold colour, almost a light amber. Brewing with wet hops is like cooking with fresh herbs rather than dried: the nose is quite delicate and floral. Naturally, this ale is hop-oriented, but they aren’t very aggressive. Floral and citrus notes come through to start, with a hint of underlying earthiness.

Since this brew requires hops that have just been harvested, we can only make the Wet Hop Ale once each year (it’s become my personal sign that autumn is fast approaching). Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. It’s becoming more popular with other breweries, too – I just picked up a fresh Autumn Hop Ale from Amsterdam Brewery that I’m very excited to try! 🙂

The Wet Hop Ale will be available only at the historic brewery whilst our stocks last. And in another sign of approaching autumn, our Stout and Porter are back in the fridges!

-Katie

PS. Save the date! A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser and celebration of craft beers, wines, and spirits, is Saturday, October 3rd. Shake and shimmy at this 1940s-themed event and support a great cause (restoration of our historic buildings). For more information and tickets, please click here!

This year's Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!
This year’s Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!

Sour Ales

Hello, beer-lovers!

As part of my quest to expand my palate, I have been tackling beers beyond my usual English/Irish/Scottish-style ales. For the past little while, I’ve been sampling beers from the continent, enjoying German weisses and witbiers, but most particularly—Belgian sour ales.

Sour ales are very different from what we do at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. Down here, we cool our wort very quickly—it’s quite an endeavour to get it from kettle to cooling ship to cask as soon as possible. See, wild yeasts and bacteria naturally occur everywhere. If you’ve got a piece of fruit nearby, you probably have some wild yeasts, too! Not all yeasts are created equal: some create very odd flavours indeed. Likewise, some bacteria devour the sugar in wort and turn it into acid.

Ed running wort through the cooling ship.
Ed running wort through the cooling ship.

So generally speaking, we try to avoid those microorganisms getting into the beer. However, sour ales specifically seek them. Sour ale brewers deliberately encourage bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus and wild yeast strains like Brettanomyces to set up shop in their wort. These microbes impart a tartness and sourness to the beer that’s very different from our ales here at Black Creek. An article on NPR phrases it very well: “Sour beers are to the adult beverage world what yogurt is to dairy. It’s beer that’s been intentionally spoiled by bacteria—the good bacteria.”

Some of the most common varieties are lambics, gueuzes, and Flanders red ales. Lambics are a variety of spontaneously fermented Belgian ale. When cooling, the wort is exposed to open air overnight. Unlike our “crash cooling,” this allows those sourness-producing bacteria to help ferment the beer. Gueuzes are blends of various older and younger lambics, while Flanders red ales are an ale often inoculated with the Lactobacillus bacteria, and left to mature in oak casks.

My Untappd has been getting some exercise. Rodenbach is one of the oldest sour ale breweries - it was founded in 1821!
My Untappd has been getting some exercise. Rodenbach is one of the oldest sour ale breweries – it was founded in 1821!

So what do these beers taste like? They remind me very much of red wine. It’s a fruit-like tartness—I’ve gotten a lot of cherry and raspberry. The level of hop bitterness is noticeably low: practically absent in some places. Certainly not an unpleasant taste, just a very unusual one, particularly for someone so used to our historic ales!

That being said, it’s worth remembering that early Victorian beers likely would have had some sourness. By the 1870s, breweries were the largest consumers of harvested ice, and the science of fermentation was much better understood thanks to Pasteur’s work in the 1860s, but prior to that it’s quite likely that brewers would not have been entirely able to keep their wort free of wild yeast and bacteria.

My favourite sour ale so far? A Berliner Weisse from our friends over at Beau’s All-Natural Brewing. It’s still very tart, but more like citrus than cherry. Like so many things in beer, it’s down to personal preference. 🙂

Beau's "Ich Bin Ein Bearliner" is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!
Beau’s “Ich Bin Ein Bearliner” is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

What unusual beers have you tried lately?

Cheers!

Katie

We’re Not Alone! Historic Brewing at Colonial Williamsburg

Hello, beer lovers!

We hope that you are enjoying the signs of spring: warmer weather, more daylight, and pale ales and maibocks starting to edge out the porters and stouts on the shelves of the LCBO. (Our Irish Potato Stout is still kicking around though, and we recently saw the Empirical Ale downtown.)

A short-ish note this week, as fate (and ill-positioned tea) have temporarily deprived me of my computer.

There’s only about a month until the Black Creek Historic Brewery begins its 2015 season. While we wait, I grew curious—are there other historic breweries out there?

Sort of. I was fascinated to find that Colonial Williamsburg has been doing work on eighteenth-century brewing. Much as it was for nineteenth century Canadians, beer was a part of everyday life for the Virginians of the 1700s. Frank Clark, historic foodways supervisor at Colonial Williamsburg, notes that beer was the preferred choice of beverage, as the water was often contaminated. If you’ve visited us at Black Creek, you know we usually bookend this statement with many qualifiers and caveats. However, Clark observes that in the case of eighteenth-century Williamsburg, the wells were demonstrably contaminated by sewage, and the water table was only about twenty-five feet deep, meaning that salt water sometimes mixed with the fresh (remember, Williamsburg is pretty close to the coast).

(Check out the video here!)

Much like us here at Black Creek, Colonial Williamsburg has a small brewery onsite, mostly for demonstration purposes. I haven’t been able to find many pictures of it, but based on the clip in the video below, it looks like a fairly similar set-up: small batches, no electricity, everything done by hand. Unlike Black Creek, however, the beer produced onsite is not consumed:

“The beer we make is in such small quantity, and such dangerous conditions, that we could never sell it to the public.”

Well, sure, eighteenth and nineteenth century beers were more likely to go off due to infection. But I think that we’re living proof that you can safely and effectively brew historic beer for general consumption! I’ve watched Ed clean and sanitize before/after brewing: it takes a lot of attention to detail, and a low of elbow grease, but it can certainly be done, if you wish.

Brewing at Williamsburg. Looks familiar. :)
Brewing at Williamsburg. Looks familiar. 🙂

But scale of brewing is certainly another consideration. We make about 70-ish litres per brew (it varies), which equates to about 18 gallons. Colonial Williamsburg’s onsite capacity is about half that, and they are a much bigger site with a much higher number of visitors. I can see why that wouldn’t end well.

And so, like us, they are partnered with a modern brewery. In their case, recreations of eighteenth century brews are produced by AleWerks: a craft brewery in the town of Williamsburg itself. Currently, they’ve got two historic brews sold at Colonial Williamsburg: the Old Stitch (an English brown ale) and Dear Old Mum (a spiced wheat ale). Personally, I love the names—and the beers themselves sound pretty good too!

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Making the pilgrimage to Colonial Williamsburg has been a goal of mine for a few years now. With brewing dotting their demonstration calendar, and the lure of this Old Stitch (I love brown ales), it looks like I may need to start making more concrete steps to achieve it.

I just need to figure out how to transport a growler over the border…

Cheers!

Katie

Guest Blogger Tee Morris: Two of a Kind – Beer Pairings in Steampunk

Today, we welcome back author and beer aficionado Tee Morris, who has introduced me to many delicious American craft beers. We hope you enjoy his exploration of beer and literature! 

You might remember me as the blogger that introduced you to Untappd, the social network for beer lovers. Well, at the end of the month, I have a novel coming out called The Diamond Conspiracy; and this steampunk novel of mine was a reoccurring subject between me and beer blogger and historic interpreter Katie Bryski while she stayed with us for an extended visit. Upon finishing an advance copy, Katie and I proceeded to our tradition of visiting local breweries and alehouses, her trip beginning with a visit to Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia, and ending with a delightful King’s Feast Dinner at the Dogfish Head Alehouse of Fairfax, Virginia.

(Old Bust Head's growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)
(Old Bust Head’s growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)

At the King’s Feast, we were focusing on what beers pair up best with dishes, and that was when Katie asked me, “Do you ever wonder what your characters would drink?”

Pairing beers with characters? Sure, why not?

Character: Eliza D. Braun

Beer Pairing: Smoked IPA

An agent from the farthest reaches of the British Empire, New Zealand native Eliza goes against the standard norms at the home office in London, England. She is bold, powerful, and memorable; and so is an exceptional India Pale Ale. However, as Eliza loves her incendiary devices, a Smoked IPA is the perfect pairing with this firecracker.

Character: Wellington Thornhill Books, Esq.

Beer Pairing: Porter

Porters are smooth, offer a wide variety of flavors (depending on how they are brewed), and grow darker in color the longer you enjoy them. Porters—and yes, I’m including Black Creek’s own porter which earned 4.5 caps from Untappd—are always immensely satisfying. That’s why a Porter is best paired with Wellington Books. A man of the manor born now serving at the Queen’s pleasure, Books is a walking analytical engine who harbors an inner darkness.

(Speaking of dark beers - our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)
(Speaking of dark beers – our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)

Character: Brandon D. Hill

Beer Pairing: Lager

HWHTaproom
The Half Way House taproom.

 

The lager is the working man’s drink. This does not mean that the lager cannot be a refined brew for a sophisticated palate. That’s the charm of a good lager. It can appeal and satisfy a wide range of gentlemen; so is also Brandon D. Hill a wide range of gentleman. Lager would be Brandon’s brew, whether he is enjoying a night at the opera or a good brawl at a Whitechapel pub.

Character: Bruce Campbell

Beer Pairing: Ale

A very specific ale: Arrogant Bastard.

You are what you drink.

Character: Sophia del Morte

Beer Pairing: Stout

Pairing up a stout with an assassin like Sophia may seem odd as stouts are usually associated with warmth, comfort, and social settings by a fireplace; but that’s how stouts work: they get you to lower your guard. Stouts like Black Creek’s own or Old Bust Head’s Mocha Macchiato Stout catch your attention with exotic flavors like coffee, chocolate, and rich malts. With the right brewer, stouts will completely catch you by surprise with balanced, efficient, and effective brews, all under the cover of darkness.

Just like Sophia.

These are my characters, characters that I know, but what about your favorites? If Sherlock Holmes were to take a break from sleuthing at Black Creek this March Break, what would he prefer—a sharp IPA or a moody Stout? Or, returning to Victorian science fiction, what if you found yourself 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the Canadian harpooner, Ned Land? What would you be sharing with him? (The time period is right. He might have enjoyed a delicious brew from Black Creek.) Think about your favorite characters from literature, television, or film, and leave your own pairings here. We would love to hear what you come up with.

-Tee

When he’s not enjoying the odd pint or four, Tee Morris is an award-winning writer and podcaster of fiction. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine, is about to see their fourth adventure, The Diamond Conspiracy, hit bookshelves in March 2015. Their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, also offers a window into their steampunk world. He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

PS. Did you know that TWO of Black Creek’s Beer Experts have connections to Tales from the Archives? Katie’s written for the podcast, and Blythe has lent her considerable acting talent!

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3 Comments

Filed under Brewery Events, Other Breweries

3 responses to “Untappd: A Social Network for Beer Lovers (with Guest Blogger Tee Morris)

  1. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
  2. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
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A Match Made in Heaven: Beer Pairings at Dogfish Head

Hello beer lovers!

We’ve finally made it into March, which means that there are a scant two months until the Black Creek Historic Brewery reopens its doors in May. But despite the cold, I am not one to rest on my laurels. No, in my quest to expand my palate, I have again turned south of the border.

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I have a lot of respect and affection for Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Dogfish Alehouse in Fairfax, VA for a beer and food pairing. As friends of Black Creek know well, our “Say Cheese! Say Cheers!” events pair craft beers with artisan cheeses. This “King’s Feast” went a step further, pairing three of Dogfish’s Ancient Ales with a three-course meal.

By now, it’s no secret that pairing beer requires just as much art as pairing wine. Indeed, beer has even more ingredients to play with in creating a flavour profile: malts that span from caramel-sweet to espresso-bitter; floral, citrusy, earthy, grassy, and piney hops; bready and fruity yeasts, and all the spices, nuts, chocolates, fruits, and vegetables (yes, vegetables—remember our Sweet Potato Ale?) you can name.

Properly pairing is an art that I am by no means qualified to expound upon…yet. Generally speaking, though, the aim is to ensure that neither the beer nor the food is overwhelmed. A lighter-bodied pilsner probably won’t stand up to a rich beef roast—but a heavier stout or porter might. You can also contrast and counter flavours: think how the acidity of tomatoes calms the saltiness and savouriness of cheese. That light-bodied pilsner won’t get overwhelmed by something like seafood—and the hops bitterness can cut the fattiness of fish like tuna and salmon.

So, what pairings did Dogfish Head offer?

Course I: Theobroma and Appetizers

All of the beers at this event come from Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series—these are beer recipes recreated from chemical analysis of drinking vessels found at archaeological sites. Theobroma hails from pottery fragments found in the Honduras, attesting to an alcoholic beverage brewed with cacao.

So basically, a chocolate beer that looks like an IPA. Beautiful, beautiful cloudy orange colour.

 

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For me, the cocoa nibs were actually quite subtle: the main flavour I got from this beer was a chili bite (and yes, there are chilies in it). There was some citrus on the aftertaste, and this is more where the cocoa came through, almost like a chocolate-orange sensation. Alas, I can no longer eat cheese, but I suspect that this sharper, citrus-chili taste would have cut the richness of the cheese plate before me. As it is, it did work wonders quenching the thirst produced by two salty dishes of nuts. At 9% ABV, it also left long-lingering warmth in the belly.

 

Course II: Midas Touch and Meat

I would just like to say that I have never seen so much meat on a plate meant for one person. Possibly 1/3 of a chicken, a giant turkey leg, and lamb. Also vegetables. I may never need to eat again.

 

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I hope that’s not the case though, because I quite enjoyed the Midas Touch. Midas Touch was the first of the Ancient Ales, recreated from residue left in drinking vessels found in the Midas Tumulus tomb in Turkey. This ale is a sweet-yet-dry brew that seems to combine elements of beer, wine, and mead. Honey and light fruit notes (most notably melon and grape) dominate the flavours. It’s a beer with a medium mouthfeel, but it certainly does have an edge to it—something like a dry white wine. The sweetness and fruitiness worked well with the white meats on offer, and that edge also cut through the fattiness of the lamb. Also 9% ABV.

 

Course III: Chateau Jiahu and King’s Barley Cake

I’ve had the Chateau Jiahu before. This beer hails from an archaeological dig in China’s Yellow River Valley; evidence suggests that it is one of the world’s oldest brews. Like the Midas Touch, this beer blends elements of wine, beer, and mead. Honey and grapes balance a very sweet, very light maltiness; sake yeast lends just a bit of rice-like nuance as well.

I will admit that after that monster meat plate, I was not up to more than a few bites of the King’s Barley Cake, which was a dense cake studded with apple and accompanied by fruit and cream. Although it comes in at 10% ABV, the Jiahu was one of the lighter, sweeter beers on offer tonight, which kept it from overwhelming the cake. My beer-tasting companion Tee Morris assures me that drinking and eating the two together enhanced the flavour of both.

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And so?                   

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Saying that this was a fine, fine event is quite an understatement, but Dogfish Head: this was a fine, fine event. And of course, my warmest and most heartfelt thanks to Tee and his father for a wonderful evening, filled with good beer, good food, and good conversation. Now that’s a pairing I think we can all agree on!

-Katie

 

THAT Super Bowl Ad: Budweiser 2015

Can we talk about Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad for a minute?

Yes, that Super Bowl ad. See, this one. Right here. It’s only a minute long, so take a quick peek.

Let’s go through it bit by bit.

0:00-0:04: We start out okay. Look, it’s a big brewery! Look, hops! This is a Budweiser commercial; I’m cool with that.

0:04: Then this flashes across the screen: Proudly a macro beer.

MacroBeer

For one second, I am intrigued. Is Budweiser stepping back from claiming to be something it’s not? Are they reclaiming a “negative” label in a thoughtful, respectful, and creative way? After all, some people really like macro beers. That’s fine—we’re totally cool with people drinking whatever makes them happy.

0:06: The Clydesdales! I like the Clydesdales. They remind me of Black Creek’s own Clydesdale, Ross. Maybe this is about putting a new spin on macro beers.

Or…not.

0:10: It’s not brewed to be fussed over.

FussedOver

Here is a man drinking beer. The beer is dark, in what appears to be a chalice-style glass, possibly a tulip (hard to tell, with the angle). If this guy is really a beer snob, I hope he’s drinking some variety of Belgian dark ale—it’s often recommended that you serve those in chalices.

More to the point, this man has thick, rimmed glasses, a neat shirt, and a twirly mustache. I think we need a better look at this mustache, actually.

It is pretty glorious...
It is pretty glorious…

This man is a hipster. Alas, hipsters come with a lot of stereotypes, pretentiousness and self-importance among them. “Thus,” Budweiser says, “if you fuss over your beer, you share those characteristics.”

At this point, I’m shaking my head, but sure, there are clichés about beer snobs. Down in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, we try very hard to dispel that image. As anyone who’s had a drink with us knows, we have a strict policy of No Judgement.

But this is a Super Bowl ad. Budweiser is defending itself as a macro brewery. I don’t like the stereotype of craft-beer-lovers-as-snobs, because it hurts craft breweries, and I think playing up stereotypes is lazy marketing, but I haven’t popped any veins yet. Mostly, at this point, I’m just wishing we could all leave each other to drink what we like in peace.

0:16: It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish.

Exactly. It’s a thirst-quenching beer. That’s fine. Honestly, if people like the taste of Budweiser, then they should drink it. If they’re okay with it, I might recommend a few craft beers they might also like, but I’m never going to judge someone on their beer tastes, or make them try something. Again, that’s not our policy.

Alas, judgement is Budweiser’s policy, but again, it’s a Super Bowl ad. I do understand why a company isn’t saying, “Let’s spend a fortune to tell people to drink whatever they want!”

Unfortunately, it’s about here that logic flies out the window.

0:19: This is the only beer beechwood aged since 1876.

BeechwoodAged

But…I thought we’re not fussing over Budweiser? Why, then, do we care about its beechwood aging? Isn’t that something that (gasp) craft beer lovers might care about?

(My author alter-ego would also like to point out that the phrasing makes it sound like Budweiser has been aging its beers since 1876—as in, for 139 years. That would be quite a beer.)

0:27: It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting.

Oh, look, more hipsters. You can tell because they are all bespectacled, and they are sharing a flight that arrived on a wooden board with different glassware for each style.

Here, I would like to point out that “drinking” and “dissecting” are not mutually exclusive. Part of the enjoyment of drinking beer (for us, anyway) comes from figuring out what those flavours and aromas are. Admiring the way ruby highlights come through a dark porter is part of the package that makes beer appealing to all the senses. Taking that first sniff is another thing that you can enjoy.

Budweiser is also aware that to distinguish all of these flavours, aromas, and characteristics, you do have to drink the beer, right?

0:28:-0:31: The people who drink our beer….

Are people who are filmed with a blurriness strangely reminiscent of intoxication. Interesting subtext. I kind of prefer the hipsters’ airy, brightly-lit brewpub, myself. Although, I’ve suddenly realized: the only females we’ve seen in this ad are women serving Budweiser. We haven’t seen any girls drinking beer, either. Even the hipsters are all male.

GirlWithBeer

I guess women don’t drink beer? And I guess they don’t hang out with nerdy hipsters, so clearly, you have to go to the blurry bars to find them. I almost typed all that with a straight face, but then I didn’t.

The thought of Budweiser seeing me pour samples in my hoops makes me smile.

0:34: The people who drink our beer like to drink beer.

If I have this right…the ad is saying that the people who fuss over and dissect beer, who pay so much attention to detail, including the proper glassware…don’t like to drink beer.

What?

0:40-0:42 Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.

PPA

I have several things to say about this. First, I feel bad for our poor hipsters. I’d also like to look at the specific word choice of “sip.” Sipping” is restrained. It is controlled. It is quiet. It is deliberate. It also prolongs the time it takes to drink your beverage, which means it takes you feel its effects more slowly. It also means you drink less beer.

Clearly very different from the blurry, raucous bar of a few scenes prior, where partying blokes and lads are buying lots and lots of Budweiser. Also—so, let’s say a guy prefers the airy, brightly-lit brewpub? Does that make him less manly?

No, it means he prefers airy, brightly-lit brewpubs. I shake my head again.

The other hilarious thing about this bit is that Pumpkin Peach Ale actually exists. Elysian Brewery, a craft brewery in Seattle, brews a pumpkin/peach brew called “Gourdgia on My Mind.” To cap it off, Anheuser-Busch is in the process of acquiring Elysian.

So…they just insulted a beer…made by a brewery…that they will soon own….

What?

But wait. Maybe they didn’t know about Elysian’s brew. Maybe they were trying for absurdity and it’s all a coincidence.

So…they don’t know what the brewery they’re acquiring actually brews…

What?

0:43-0:46 We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.

BrewingUs

Proper grammar is also for hipsters.

0:58: This Bud’s for you.

For whom, exactly? For the people that already drink Budweiser? I assume so, because I certainly don’t think that they’ve won over any craft beer drinkers with this ad. Which means, essentially, they spent $9 million telling people who already drink their beer…to keep drinking their beer.

What?

After Viewing

At first, I was inclined to approach this ad with our usual no judgement attitude. Some people genuinely like Budweiser, or Coors, or whatever macro beer you care to name. That is fine. Drink what you like, in the most literal sense. But this is where idealism hits reality:

Ideally, we’d all just happily drink the beers that make us happy. Realistically, beer is big business. I will support people’s right to drink whatever they like, but I can disagree with macro-breweries’ interactions with craft breweries: whether through ads like this, buyouts, or sweetheart deals with the LCBO that hamstring smaller brewers.

Two different things: the drinkers and the business. At the end of the day, though, this ad gives an awful lot of exposure and attention to craft beers—ironic, considering that it was supposed to be about Budweiser.

And now…I think there’s a honey-ginger winter warmer in my fridge that needs dissecting. 😉

-Katie