Tag Archives: OCB

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

 

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Society of Beer Drinking Ladies – All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival

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It was long a matter of regret that in all my years as a Beer Expert and resident Beer Journalist, I had not attended a Beer Festival. Curated beer tastings, yes. Other breweries’ tours, yes. But ill luck and circumstance had prevented attendance at a larger event.

Clearly, this had to be remedied. Last Saturday, November 5th, former beer expert Steph and I went to the All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival, organized by the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. If you’ve not run across the SOBDL before, they are a vibrant group of beer lovers:

We are a group of Toronto ladies passionate about all things craft beer. On the last Friday of every month, we hold a “bevy” in a secret location, where we explore delicious craft beer in the company of other fantastic women. Join us at our next event.

So I duly turned up at the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns, tickets in hand. While I waited for Steph, I saw something really cool.

Women. Women of all sorts – getting out of cabs, hopping off the bus, walking up with huge grins. Down in the Black Creek Brewery, we see this every day: craft beer is for everyone. But the sense of camaraderie was palpable; the atmosphere charged with excitement, but still low-key.

When Steph and I got our drink tickets and stepped inside, we both stopped.

“Wow.”

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Imagine the cavernous, high-ceiling barns filled with breweries and chalkboards proclaiming their offerings. Directly ahead of us, a display of malt and hops. To the right, SOBDL merch. And tables stretching as far back as we could see – table upon table upon table of beer. We grinned at each other.

“Where do we start?”

I’ve manned the Black Creek Brewery table at various events, but this was my first time on the other side of the table. We quickly fell into a rhythm: check out the beers, chat with the other ladies, choose a beer, duck against the wall to compare tasting notes. For me, the hardest part was deciding between beers I’d tried and loved, and beers I’d never had before. I won’t go through all the beers we tried between the two of us – suffice it to say we ended up purchasing extra drink tickets – but here are a few highlights.

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Beau’s All-Natural Brewing: Pilot Batch 1

Beau’s All-Natural Brewery is raising funds for the Rwanda Brewery Project – a woman-owned and operated craft brewery in Rwanda. Entrepreneur and soon-to-be brewery owner Fina Uwineza brewed this beer in collaboration with Beau’s, using non-traditional ingredients like cassava and banana.

It was a delightful blonde ale – the banana paired really well with the light malts, almost like a nice hefeweissen. I’ve had cassava on its own before; it tastes not unlike potato. Still, this beer was light and fresh – I got rather more citrus than I was expecting!

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(PS. You can support the Rwanda Craft Brewery project here – only about a week left on the Kickstarter!)

Royal City Brewing Co.: Earl Grey Porter

My understanding is that this one ran out partway through the night, so I’m glad Steph and I found it when we did!  This is Royal City’s winter beer – a porter infused with Earl Grey tea. And goodness, it’s uncanny! This could almost be a cold black tea with plenty of bergamot, but a luscious chocolatey undertone reminds you of its true porter nature.

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Nickel Brook Brewery: Raspberry Uber Style Weiss

This was a beer that I needed to try again, although I’ve had it before. This is a Berliner Weisse: a sour wheat beer. While I’m a fan of sour beers in general (beers partially or wholly fermented with lactic acid bacteria, to give it that distinct tang), this one ups the ante by aging on Ontario raspberries. It’s gorgeous in the glass – an almost jewel-like pink – and equally delicious on the palate; the raspberries’ tartness blends perfectly with the style’s natural sourness.

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All in all, it was a delightful event: wonderful, supportive vibe; an excellent assortment of beers; and exceptional organization. Much thanks to the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies for putting on this event – it was wonderful!

So, if you’re looking to chat with other beer-lovers and try some innovative and unusual brews, a beer festival may be the place for you. Keep your eyes peeled!

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-Katie

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Beer Glasses 101

A well-crafted beer is a fine, fine thing indeed. It’s the sort of beverage you savour, enjoying to the utmost. And if you want to make the experience truly complete, you can sip your brew from the appropriate glass.

That’s right: just like wines, certain styles of beer are best served in certain styles of barware. It’s not an absolute perquisite, but it does help show your beer off to its best advantage. There’s a wide range of glasses out there, but here’s a “sample flight” for you!

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Pint Glasses

Two different types here: US “shaker” pints are simple affairs that hold 16 oz. Their straightforwardness is well suited to many American styles, particularly pale ales.

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The British “Nonic pint,” by contrast, holds 20 oz. It’s most distinguished by the lip at its top: not only does this give you a better grip on the glass, it’s helpful when stacking them—as is the case in many cosy British pubs. The extra 4 oz can hold more beer, or accommodate beers with more head—it’s a good all-around, everyday glass.

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Flutes

Long, narrow, and slender, these beauties almost look like champagne glasses. Not too far off the mark, they pair well with lambics and fruit beers, as they show off those styles’ lacing, carbonation, and help concentrate their complex aromas.

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Tulip

Also good for beers with strong aromatic profiles! The tulip is a stemmed glass: the top pushes out (much like a tulip) and the sides curve down to a bulbous body. Try them with Belgian ales, lambics, Scotch ales, and saisons.

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Chalice

Similar to the tulip, but with a wider bowl. This glass works well with heavy, malty beers: bocks, Belgian ales, and stouts!

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Weizen

As the name suggests, the weizen is designed for wheat beers. Its long body draws attention to wheat beers’ pale, hazy colour. A bulbous top accommodates their thick heads, and locks in the characteristic banana/bubblegum aromas.

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Pilsner

Not unlike the flute glass, a slender and tapered body captures a pilsner’s effervescence. A very versatile glass, it’s great for lagers of all varieties.

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Snifter

How many times have we seen a classic movie hero swirling a snifter? Swirling releases aromatic notes. They generally hold 6-8 oz, which makes them a good match for beers with a high ABV. Try them with trippels and quads, imperials and strong ales—even barleywines!

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So there you have it—choosing a beer is only part of the fun! Choosing a glass to go with is equally entertaining!

Katie

 

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LCBO Beer: Apricot Ale

There’s nothing like summer in the city! Especially when we have a new beer on the LCBO’s shelves. 😉

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Everyone enjoyed the Apricot Ale so much, we’ve made a commercial version! Now you can enjoy it all summer long. The Apricot Ale is 5% ABV and a deep, burnished orange hue. Apricots and fruity aromas come through very nicely on the nose: a sweetness with just a touch of peach/nectarine-like musk. Apricots carry the flavour as well, mellowing from an initial sweetness as it moves over the palate. It’s a balanced body: not too heavy for summer, but a confident presence. Hops come through on the finish, with a dryness that demands another sip.

As always, it’s wise to check availability with your local LCBO before venturing into the summer heat!  We hope you enjoy, and we look forward to seeing you at Black Creek this summer! (Don’t forget, it’s Kids In Free all summer weekdays, save for special events!)

Cheers!

Katie

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New Brew: Maple Brown Ale

We hope you had a lovely holiday! A new specialty beer has hit the fridges down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery. For July, we have our Maple Brown Ale.

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Ed used our classic Brown Ale as the base for this recipe, before adding a litre or so of pure maple syrup. As it happens, the addition of maple syrup can be a tricky part of the brewing process. It’s 98% sugar, which means that the yeast love it, and want desperately to ferment it. Too heavy a hand, and you can end up with a too-high-ABV, unbalanced beer.

But of course, this fine balancing act wasn’t a problem for Ed! The Maple Brown Ale is a subtly sweet beer, coming in at 5% ABV. You can just detect the maple on the nose, but initially, the usual caramel flavours of our Brown Ale abound. It’s a very smooth beer, a bit heavier on the tongue than our classic Brown. The maple syrup really comes into play on the finish. After swallowing, the maple taste rushes up, lending the beer a sweet finish.

Find out more about the Maple Brown Ale below, in the next installment of our web series!


Even after Canada Day, we still have some growlers left in the fridge, so hurry down before it’s all gone, eh? 🙂

Katie

PS. I could be wrong, and I hate to be a tease (well, not really)…but I think Ed might be plotting again. 😉

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Queen Victoria Walks into a Bar: Matching Beers and Historic Figures

A few weeks ago, we had award-winning author Tee Morris join us here on the Growler to pair beers with the characters in his novel. That got me thinking—Tee has a pretty good idea of what his characters might drink, but what about the historical figures that surround us here at Black Creek Pioneer Village? Plus, I enjoy matching people to beers they might like.

So, if one of our “people of the past” could choose any one of the beers we brew down in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, which would it be?

After some research, some pondering, and a few cackles, I think I’ve got some answers:

John A. MacDonald

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Here at Black Creek, we focus quite a bit on the 1860s, and you can’t get into 1860s Canadian history without talking about John A. MacDonald. Our first prime minister was also a notorious tippler—not perpetually drunk, but capable of astonishing binges. Apparently the governor-general sent more than one letter lamenting MacDonald’s tendency to periodically vanish on drinking sprees.

Since whisky seems to have been his beverage of choice, I’d pair Johnny with our Whisky Barrel-Aged Brown Ale. At 6% ABV, it’s slightly higher than most of our offerings, which I’m sure he’d appreciate (even if his liver wouldn’t). As well, the vanilla and oak flavours imparted by the aging process would probably hold great appeal!

Queen Victoria

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She lent her name to the time period. Her portrait hangs all through the village—including on the brewery wall. She helmed the era’s dominant power. We certainly need to think about Queen Victoria!

She was a hearty eater, a quick eater, and she had a sweet tooth. Though the upper classes were used to rich food, it seems her tastes were relatively plain. That being said, she was fond of fruits and tea-time treats. And so, I’d probably recommend our Raspberry Porter for our good Queen. Sweet and fruity, it’s a lovely dessert beer: not too heavy, and a good choice for those who don’t often drink beer (Victoria liked claret and whisky—combined).

The real question of course, is thus: would she be amused?

One hopes so.

Daniel Stong

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The Stongs were Pennsylvania German—go far enough back, and you’d probably find a few lager-lovers in the family. However, we only brew ales here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery.

As the owner of a fairly sizeable farm, Daniel Stong would have been accustomed to long hours of physical work. After a day in the fields, I think he would have appreciated a beer with some body to it, something rich and complex. At the same time, when you’re tired, you don’t necessarily want something too heavy—and I think he’d have liked something to quench his thirst, too.

Hence, the Rifleman’s Ration. It’s about the right time period, too: this beer commemorates the War of 1812, and Daniel and Elizabeth Stong built First House in 1816: the year after the war ended.

Rowland Burr

Rowland Burr lends his name to the village of Burwick, from whence our Burwick House hails. He was also a temperance advocate. He can have some mulled cider from the Half Way House kitchen.

Mary Thompson

Alexander and Mary Thompson were the husband-and-wife team that built and ran the Half Way House. Alexander died in 1867, whereupon Mary continued running things until her own death five years later. From medieval times, women have often been involved in brewing and tavernkeeping—after all, it’s largely domestic work. (I’ve said it before, and I shall say it again: bread and beer are both made from grains, water, and yeast—hops and process make up the difference.)

I think Mrs. Thompson would enjoy our Lemon Balm and Mint Pale Ale. It’s definitely a thirst-quencher (and you think Daniel Stong had it rough: domestic work is no less physical!), and in a strange way, the lemon balm and mint have always reminded me a bit of tea. The perfect pick-me-up!

Daniel Flynn

Step Behind Closed Doors: Weekdays at 12:30!

Step Behind Closed Doors: Weekdays at 12:30!

If you’ve been on our Behind Closed Doors tour, you’ve almost certainly seen Flynn House. The Flynns were an Irish family, boot and shoemakers by trade, who settled north of Yonge and Finch in the 1850s—a few years after the influx of Irish immigrants that resulted from the Great Famine.

Of course, the easy thing to do here is to recommend our Irish Potato Stout. Stout and potatoes, what could be more fitting?

I don’t like taking the easy way.

So, for Mr. Flynn, I’m recommending the Rye Pale Ale that we did two years back. Roggenbiers are specialty German beers, but rye beers have taken off amongst North American craft breweries, too. Adding rye malt to the grain bill introduces spicy flavours—reminiscent of rye breads, funnily enough. Some brewers push the hops, too, resulting in a really flavourful beer that keeps you on your toes: something I think Mr. Flynn would appreciate!

What do you think? What historical person would you most like to have a drink with, and what would you order for the two of you?

(I do think that Emily Brontë and I could get through a few of Sigtuna’s Midvinterblots…)

-Katie

 

 

 

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