Steam Whistle Brewing

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So a few weeks ago some friends and I took a tour of the Steam Whistle Brewery here in Toronto.  I highly recommend it, even if you’re not a big fan of the beer it was super fun.  And, as a these friends found out, Steam Whistle tastes so damn good when its fresh.  We were drinking beer bottled that morning, which I think really did make a difference.

If you do a tour, book ahead.  There are three ‘different‘ tours, but really its just whether or not you want to walk around with a sweet branded beer glass, a 6 pack, or a 12 pack afterwards.  The tour itself is the same.  It’s fun, our guide was hilarious, it’s a relatively small group, and you get a bottle to drink as you go.  Now, Steam Whistle only makes one type of beer, but at the brewery they do offer an unfiltered version which is a little heartier, more raw, or as our guide said, elemental.  (And only at the brewery, you can pick up a 1 litre bottle of this nectar, served on tap.)

They pride themselves on using only the real four ingredients you need for beer: water, barley, hops, yeast.  The brewery itself is powered by 100% bullfrog power, they’re pretty ecologically conscious, using steam heating and thicker bottles which can be cleaned and reused longer than other beers.  I have a bit of a soft spot for all this sort of stuff, so check out the ‘Green Initiatives‘ on their website.

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Not sure what exactly is going on here but…Science!

The beer itself has been one of my favourites for quite a while.  Especially on a patio on a hot summer’s day.  For anyone who doesn’t know, Steam Whistle is a pilsner.  5%.  You might regret it if you intend to drink five or six in a night, it does start to taste a little skunky as the night goes on, but that’s something I’ve found with most pilsners.  There are no preservatives, so each bottle is best enjoyed within 90 days.  If you can find it on tap (which isn’t too hard, at least close to Toronto) give it a try.

I’ll admit that on this I’m already biased, but I give the Steam Whistle a solid 9 out of 10.  (And a straight up 10 after a day working in the sun.)

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Go robots go! Make me beer!

The Scarecrow

Scarecrow, by Wychwood Brewery

Scarecrow, by Wychwood Brewery

Alright, it has been a long while since I’ve posted anything at all…seems that’s always the case, so maybe I just have to acknowledge that I just write these posts slowly.  Not, George RR Martin slow, but still pretty slow.  This post isn’t going to be much more than a warning, but it’s an important warning.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who has perused the beer section of the LCBO (the provincial corporate monopoly conglomerate for anyone not from Ontario…) has seen a bottle of Hobgoblin growing dusty on the shelves.  There’s a reason it’s dusty.  It sucks.

Well, Wychwood has another beer.  Scarecrow.  It’s an organic golden pale ale.  The bottle says it’s 4.7%, but I don’t believe it.  It’s not as bad as Hobgoblin, but not by much.  Smells skunky, and tastes watery.  The hops are almost there, but done badly.  Like a beer that hasn’t quite made it over the line into real quality…or they got too much flak over the Hobgoblin being too strong a beer so they just watered it down.  In any case, just steer clear of this one.

My rating: 1 out of 10.

Leave it on the shelf.

Leave it on the shelf.

Granville Island Brewing, Lions Winter Ale

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When it is cold, I crave a certain type of beer.

At the very first sip, this reminds me of Whistler Brewing Company’s Chestnut Ale.  Please allow me to repeat, reminds me of.  Delicious, especially on this -20 day, when I really should be packing to move apartments (and I’ve just burnt three pieces of bacon…sadness ensues), but not quite the Chestnut.

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First, the specs.

5.5%, and an IBU rating of 22.  Made by Granville Island Brewing.

Now, this is a robust beer, and the label says to pair it with comfort food.  Strong notes of cocoa, vanilla, and definitely caramel.  Not as balanced as it could be, there is a bit of a jager-like medicine taste.  (Which, oddly enough, the burnt bacon seems to reduce.  Well, bacon is a comfort food, I suppose.)

Nice, almost ruby colour.  I bit of head, but it faded quickly.  the vanilla and caramel really come through in the scent.  There is not much sweetness to it, which I enjoy.  Maybe the sweetness, which I don’t really enjoy, has been cancelled out by a slight addition of hops.  There also not much aftertaste, the beer fading quickly from my palette.

Oh, wait, look at that.  the Granville Island website says a perfect pairing is with bacon.  Even with burnt bacon, I agree.

I’ll give this a solid 7 out of 10.

 

Adventures in Homebrew 2

Victory

Victory

Victory at last

March 30? Really, that was the first and only post for my home brewing adventures?  Well, happy new year indeed, here is the stunning sequel.  We’ve done more than a dozen batches since then, tweaking our recipes, tools, and equipment, and I must say that things are starting to get good.  Yes, that is right.  Starting.

To be honest, I’ve lost track of all the minute changes (and the big ones), but its safe to say our knowledge and skill at brewing beer in the comfort of my home has developed greatly.  And it is also safe to say that I still have a long way to go.  A long way.  Really, this process is full of so many subtle variables.

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12 Gallons on our Bayou Classic burner

After four or five failed attempts, which were only just drinkable, things were looking bad.  We were contemplating stopping, but every time we brewed we had purchased something new for our set-up.  A new burner, sight gauge, yeast starters.  That, and we’d just bought enough grains and hops for several sessions.  So, despite wanting to quit and head back inside to play video games, we continued on.  We’ve made an oatmeal stout.  We made a dry-hopped IPA, called Victory because of the type of hops we used.  We made a chocolate porter, but had to use some stout grain and changes on the fly.  And slowly, things began to change.  We began to anticipate the slight changes to temperature, controlling any boil overs, ready for the hot breaks and knowing how to adjust for heat loss during the brewing process.  I’m not sure exactly when, but by the tenth or eleventh, or maybe the twelfth batch, we had something that we were excited for our friends to try.

After the boil, into the carboy.

After the boil, into the carboy.

Generally, we brew 12 gallons at a time.  We have two 6 gallon glass carboys, and to get this final volume means starting with 14 or 15 gallons of water.  This accounts for any loss during the process, though it means having to adjust the quantity of initial grains for the recipe.  The wort is boiled all together, then split into the two carboys for fermenting.

The terms are making sense now (mostly) though anyone I’ve spoken with who has years of experience seems to understand that this is a long process.  After this first year we feel we’re beginning to get consistency in our brews, though really our consistency has been for three batches.  More testing needed!

We’ve taken care of the slight infections, though better equipment helped a ton with that.  Occasionally there were hints of green apple, which is a trait of a young beer, still in need of conditioning.  Making your own yeast starters seems to be key as well, though to be honest I don’t have much of a grasp on that yet.  Slowly, but surely.

Our most recent batch was a milk stout.  So far, it seems to be a bit thin, but it has only been in the bottle for a week.  Tried one last night, definitely early, but I wanted something to compare it to later.  We use a priming sugar after fermenting, and not a lot happens when its only got a week to bottle condition.  I’ll let it sit for another month, or two, and see how it changes.  So far, the waiting seems to be the hardest bit.  Hopefully, it won’t take another 9 months for me to write another post, but no promises.

After the hot break.

After the hot break.

Liberty Ale

Liberty Ale by Anchor Brewing

Liberty Ale by Anchor Brewing

We Canadians can be such snobs.

Hey look, a good American beer!  Check this out.  Made by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, Liberty Ale is a good, clean strong beer with a distinctive bouquet and a slight bitterness.  It’s 5.9%, a little cloudy and naturally carbonated by a process called ‘bunging’.  Never heard of that before, have to check it out.  If anyone knows ‘bunging’, fill me in.

The Anchor Brewing site is pretty slick, and as a designer I’m kinda inspired by their use of typography.  If I ever get out to San Francisco I’m checking out the brewery.  They’ve got a few types in the beer stores here, and after this one I’m game to try anything Anchor puts out.  Hopefully more show up, Anchor seems to have quite a selection.  If anyone knows where I can get a pint or two on tap, again, let me know.

Easy rating for this little morsel.  8 out of 10, with a chance that on tap on a summer patio its a straight up 9.

Slightly cloudy, and naturally carbonated.

Slightly cloudy, and naturally carbonated.

 

Scrimshaw Oyster Stout

Oyster Stout from Barley Days in Picton

Oyster Stout from Barley Days in Picton

 

Oysters?  Really?  Uh…alright, I’ll try it…

I’ve mentioned Barleys Days Brewery before, but it definitely warrants more posts.  I used to live out that way so yes, I am a little biased, but this little brewery is a really sweet place if you’re ever passing through Picton.  They’re friendly, with a little tasting bar and some taps set up in you want to just sit and have a pint.

This is their oyster stout, called ‘Scrimshaw’.  I didn’t know much about oyster stout before having this, but if you want some reading up on it here’s a link to some up what it’s all about.  Want a summary?  Okay, you’ve been good.  Back in Victorian England people drank bittersweet stout while eating oysters.  They liked the taste together.  For a while, ‘oyster stout’ just meant you were having them, together.  Then some dude in the late 1800’s realized oyster shells worked as a good clarifying agent to his brew.  Then some other dude just stared adding oysters shells directly to his wort, boiling them in with the barley and hops.  Then, finally, some third dude took out the shells and added the oyster meat into the boiling wort.

scrimshaw oyster stout

Bitter and dry, yes, with subtle oyster undertones.

Well, back to this one, the Scrimshaw from Barley Days, is pretty good.

The Barley Days site says this beer has hints of coffee and chocolate, though I don’t really find that those notes come through.  It’s an Irish stout, dry, without much head.  A light beer brewed with oysters and oatmeal.  The oysters, so the bottle says, are single bed  Green Gables Oysters from New London Bay, PEI.  4% alcohol and an IBU of 25, this would be a great stout to drink on a cold night, in a pub on the seaside, and indeed, eating oysters.

Oh wait.  Hang on, it’s been a few minutes since I’ve finished my first and the chocolate and coffee is lingering, just there on my taste buds…

Oh boy, I think I like this one.  Not a summer beer, not a beach beer to sip on after a day in the sun.  This is a beer for a cold autumn evening.  This one gets an 7 of out 10, though I’ll see how the night goes.  It might go up a point.  I definitely want another.

Irish Stout, brew with oysters.

Irish Stout, brew with oysters.

Europe Trip, 2014

 

Left to right: Ossian, Belhaven, Deuchers

Left to right: Ossian, Belhaven, Deuchers

Scots should stick to whisky.

Alright.  It has been a while.  A long while.  Things have been busy, along with a few weeks travelling trough Iceland, Scotland, Portugal, and the Azores (which is still kinda Portugal, but not at all).  The trip involved a lot of whisky, port, cider, and some pretty foul beer.  Since then, a summer has passed, and writing this blog has gotten away from me.  I’ve been brewing with friends, and tasting and trying everything I can.  Firstly, I would like to sum up my trip.  (Though it has been months, I’ll try to get the drinks down in some readable form.)

Iceland

Reykjavik

We started in Iceland, which doesn’t have much in the way of beer.  Gull was the only available beer on the flight (I know, a flight is not often local beer, but it wasn’t a good start), which kinda seemed like Iceland’s equivalent to Bud or Blue.  (Okay, I know nothing is as bad as Blue, but you get the point, right?)  Regardless, if the choices on your flight are limited, just get the red wine.  The other photo was Viking, which I don’t really remember.  It was better than Gull, but not by much.  (If the Gull was Bud, Viking is Canadian.)  But come on, you’re in Iceland, so go drink some vodka, or some Brennivin.  Next stop, Scotland!

From Oban to Mull.

From Oban to Mull.

Oban

Scotland was everything I wanted it to be.  To be honest, the beer left me wanting, but the whisky more than made up for it.  Up above, I had a Galleon of Gold Blonde Ale made from the Isle of Mull Brewing Company.  Tennants is good, Innis and Gunn is great, but to be honest…most of the beers I had were pretty forgettable.  Magners has some great ciders that I’ve never seen here, and Thatchers cider needs to cross the pond, but nothing else struck me.  whisky, on the other hand, had me surrounded in a warm glow pretty steadily.  That, and the stunning landscape.  Seriously, who put all those waterfalls crashing down those glens?

Bakers

Flights at Number 2 Baker Street

Stirling

The picture above was in a nice little pub in Stirling called Number 2 Baker Street.  There was a good selection, with flights offered to get a good sampling.  Ossian on the left, 4.1%, drink it warm.  Belhaven IPA in the centre, 3.8%, served cold.  and on the right is Deuchers, 3.8%, another to drink warm.  The Ossian was alright, but I couldn’t tell you now what made it taste different from the others.  Really, though, I’m not complaining.  With that much whisky, you don’t go to Scotland for the beer.

London

After Stirling, we took a train to London for a quite stay until flying south to Portugal.  We ate in Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Gatwick airport, where I had their own craft brewed lager, Libertà.  Nice hops, and a bit fruity, the Libertà was a very refreshing change from the beers of Scotland.  This was a good, crisp craft beer.  I don’t know if you can get it anywhere else, or just at the Jamie Oliver restaurants, but if you have the chance, give it a try.

Thank You Jamie Oliver.

Thank You Jamie Oliver.

Portugal

From London we went to the Algarve in Portugal.  (We ended up in Porto after that, in the countryside, and then flying to the Azores, all of which is beautiful, but has little or nothing to with beer.)  All through Portugal there is Sagres, and there is Superbock.  Superbock was alright, but I preferred Sagres.  Both have a few different types, both have a brune, and I think Superbock has a stout.   The Sagres was a good lager to have of a hot day at the ocean beaches.  There aren’t any microbreweries, so the selection is the same from one end of Portugal to the other, including the Azores.  All in all a great trip, with some new tastes and some amazing stories.

In Portugal, Sagres is the beer for me.

In Portugal, Sagres is the beer for me.