Practically Irish Brings Craft Beer to Pickering

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There are a growing number of breweries opening up in the Durham Region, which is amazing if you live in the area. Practically Irish is one of the new additions to the growing list of craft brewers in the area.

Practically Irish officially started in June 2014. The idea came about like most great ideas, over a few beers with friends. In this case, it was between long time friends and homebrewers Brian James (President) and Dwayne Fernandes (Brewmaster). Their dream started back in 2012, after attending OCB Conference, which after creating a business plan and working out all the details, they took possession of an industrial unit in January 2014. As things started to take shape, Brian and Dwayne brought in Alex Bitterman, who is Vice President and Sales and Promotions. Not only are the 3 friends working hard to complete the brewery, they have hired a couple of assistants in addition to having had tons of help from friends and family.

Currently they are running on a 250L system, which with help from an overseas investor will allow them to double their production in February 2015. Practically Irish is already looking to expand with the addition of a bottling line, 8 new fermenters and a new Brite Tank. As of right now, they are brewing their Blonde Ale which can be found in bars and restaurants in Durham Region and 9 bars in Toronto. They are already expanding their selection with a Midnight Milk Stout, which I was lucky enough to sample and I must say it was amazing. Already there are plans for a Cream Ale and an ESB in the Spring. Practically Irish is also in talks about the possibility of opening a brewpub in Pickering at a later date.

The retail area of the brewery will be fully completed and licensed in early February 2015. They are located at 1033 Toy Ave, Unit 8, Pickering, ON. So give them a follow on twitter (@pracirishbeer) and check out their site at practicallyirish.com for all the information on their opening date.

7 Beers to Introduce Your Friends to Craft Beer With

Pickering LCBO with a fantastic OCB display.  Summer 2014.
Pickering LCBO with a fantastic OCB display. Summer 2014.

With how much I talk about beer in my daily life, one of the most-raised inquiries is “Where do I start?” I find that, generally, people who haven’t tried local (for whatever reason – usually lack of brand knowledge, or non-availability) have a pretty open mind, and would love to support the craft industry if they could find a beer they liked. I usually hear that they had a bad experience trying someone else’s IPA or stout (“I don’t like dark beers!”, they dramatically state), and it’s turned them off to expanding their taste completely.

So here, ladies and germs, is the list – 7 beers (in order!) that will show off the best OCB has to offer in the light-and-non-offensive-to-a-macro-palate beers.

Remember now, it probably took you years to get to that bourbon-barrel aged dry-hopped Imperial Stout; don’t be mean to new craft drinkers. Encourage them to explore pressure free, and simply make recommendations when asked.  LCBO links included for your (and their!) visual shopping pleasure.

 

  1. Amsterdam (416) Local Lager

“But (big beer) is the only one I like!”

Well, this is about as close to the perfect summer-day beer one can get. At 4.16%, straw-pale, and light as a feather, Amsterdam’s ode to the Toronto area code is the simple, easy to drink, palatable introduction to craft, or as I like to call it, “What beer really tastes like”.

 

  1. Lake of Bays Top Shelf Lager

“I don’t like Ales. They’re too bitter.”

Well good, because this is another one you might like. With at least some body, and scratching the surface of a malt taste, this well-rounded lager will please any thirsty person. A bonus point for appealing to hockey fans in it’s branding, which (through my experience) actually draws inexperienced drinkers to it.

 

  1. Mill Street Organic/100th Meridian Amber

“I’ve had this before!” / “I love the Hip! WHERE THE GREAT PLAINS BEGIN!”

Probably. A widely circulated light lager (thanks, Mill St!), I find Organic is usually the only option for craft at some smaller-scale bars, especially on the outskirts of Toronto. More of the easy-to-drink style, and looks appealing in it’s clear bottle. A little bit more “beery-ness” (A word I invented just now) as well, which leads us to the Amber.

If they’ve already experienced Organic, 100th Meridian is a fantastic alternate. (Pour it into a glass and watch your friend’s eyes widen as they exclaim “It’s too dark, I’ll hate it!”. Giggle condescendingly.) It is fresh, clean, and most of all, likely different from what your pal is used to tasting, which is always important.

 

  1. Steamwhistle Pilsner

“I DON’T LIKE THE AFTERTASTE.”

Quiet, you. Welcome to Pilsnertown (though I guess we can just call it Plzen). With a taste and flavor profile any Toronto beer fan could pick out of a lineup with relative ease, Steamwhistle is the first and only Pilsner on the list. Take time to explain the malt and Saaz hop combo they’re tasting, and remind them of your (read: Mike’s) favourite Czech proverb: “A fine beer may be judged in one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.”   Make sure this one’s in a glass for the full experience. For the bonus round, take ‘em straight to the brewery for fun, a tour, and free beer.

 

  1. Collective Arts Saint of Circumstance Blonde Ale

“Why are all the labels different?”

Collective Arts did something really, really cool with their packaging, by making different series bottles and labels featuring “indie” artists and musicians, as well as collaboration with local Toronto radio station Indie88. Beer wise, they’re also doing incredibly awesome small-batch beers, like this citrusy low-ABV blonde ale. Your new craft buddy will appreciate its not-so-subtle orange and lemon flavours as well as a distinct, crisp (but not intimidating) bite that sets it apart from its nearest comparison (The orange guy with the mohawk).

 

  1. Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale 

“Do I have to drink the whole bottle?”

And now, for something completely different. Trying to explain what makes a Lagered Ale a Lagered Ale will be fruitless, so I’d usually introduce this as “It’s beer, and it’s new, so f**cking drink it and tell me what you think”.   Beau’s most circulated offering, this favourite of mine really profiles a solid, crisp lager with a bitterness that, (if you’ve followed this list) by now, shouldn’t intimidate your new craft fan. That, I think, is the best descriptor of Lug Tread for a new beer drinker: different. At least to me, when I had it, I didn’t know how to describe what I was tasting… but I knew I hadn’t tasted it before. And yes – you do have to finish the bottle. What did I tell you about the Czechs?

 

  1. Muskoka Detour IPA

“An IPA? OMGWTFBBBQ SERIOUSLY? NO. TOO MUCH HOPS. WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THIS?!?!”

Because it’s 30 IBU, and damn solid as an intro to the world of IPA that all of us snobs love. A great chat to have with Detour is the absolute unworldly variance of what an IPA actually is, and how intense a hop profile they can get. Again, the introduction to craft should be about the fun and interest in trying something different, and exploring what the “style” or “label” means behind the brewery’s philosophy or the kind of beer in your glass. Muskoka’s golden IPA smells sweet and even slightly cirtusy, and though you can absolutely taste the dry-hopped intensity, I don’t think this is intense enough to turn anyone off of IPAs entirely.

With my introduction to craft now complete, I feel like a reminder is due: This list is intended to spark an interest in the story of local craft brewing as well as a “there are other options out there” attitude with new craft drinkers.  

With that in mind – may your glasses be full, your friends open-minded, and your craft-snob integrity intact.  Cheers!

What do you think of my list? Comments or questions? Hit me up on Twitter or Instagram and tell me what you think.

Black Cab Stout (Fuller’s Brewery)

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Origin: Chiswick, London, England

Beer Style: Stout

Alc./Vol.: 4.5%

IBU: 40

Malts: Ale Malt, Imperial Malt, Crystal Malt, Chocolate Malt, Golden Malted Oats

Hops: English Fuggles, Goldings

Suggested Glassware: Snifter, Nordic

Suggested Serving Temperature: 5-8° celsius

Availability: Year Round

Where to buy: Only on draft in select Bars and Restaurants

This review is for another beer from Fuller’s Brewery in London, England. Black Cab Stout is named in honour of the iconic London Taxi. This stout was meant to bring you back to the days when porters and stouts were the drink of choice of London beer drinkers. Brewed with the knowledge of London’s oldest family brewer, this stout was on a journey to make that the case again.

The Black Cab Stout was true to it’s name, pouring a very dark, rich black. As the beer poured in my snifter glass, I instantly noticed a beautiful cascading, that settled in a medium bodied tan head. I did not notice any visible settlement, and could not tell the clarity of the beer due to the true black colour. The aroma was fantastic. Right off the bat, I could smell the roasted characters of the beer. That wasn’t the only notes I could smell. I noticed the bitter dark chocolate, which really mellowed out the roasted characters of the beer. The aromas were very well balanced and honestly had me excited to take my first sip.

The first sip definitely was just how the beer smelled, roasty.  Just like Fuller’s describes the beer, “When you’re making a stout as rich and complex as Black Cab, you don’t skimp on the malts. Our brewers use five different types, some of which are heavily roasted to give the beer its distinctive dark appearance.” But with all that malt, the dark chocolate could really be noticed. It was a perfect balance in my opinion. The two very different characteristics really played well off each other. Those weren’t the only two things that stood out to me. I noticed a light coffee note to the beer in the mouthful. It really coated my tongue and went perfect with the dark chocolate and roasted malts. In the tail end of the beer, I had a slight bitterness sit on the roof of my mouth. All those notes blended very well together, and played into each other with a very smooth transition.

This is definitely a stout that I could see myself drinking during the winter months of the year. Currently, it is only on draught in a select few bars and restaurants, but if you see this beer on tap, give it a try because you wont be disappointed. It is a light stout at 4.5% but very full bodied and full of flavour. I would also like to thank Premier Brands Ltd. for providing me with this bottle to sample.

Shoot me a message or follow me on Twitter (@_bottomlesspint) and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

Limited Edition Imperial Stout (Fuller’s Brewery)

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Origin: Chiswick, London, England

Beer Style: Imperial Stout

Alc./Vol.: 10.7%

IBU: 150

Malts: N/A

Hops: Sovereign, Centennial

Suggested Glassware: Snifter

Suggested Serving Temperature: 5-8° celsius

Availability: Year Round

Where to buy: Select LCBO locations

This review is for a very special beer from Fuller’s Brewery in London, England. I was lucky enough to be given a bottle of their Limited Edition Imperial Stout.  As Fuller’s described “This limited edition brew is a unique collaboration between brewery and beer writer. Melissa Cole brought her vast experience to the tasting table and helped us deliver a stout worth writing home about.” This Imperial Stout sits at a whopping 10.7% and as the box says, can be cellared for 9 years. This beer was bottle conditioned in a 500ml bottle, placed in a well designed yet classic box.

This Imperial Stout was very unique. The beer poured a rich black, with a thick tan head which faded rather quickly as the beer sat. Being that the stout was bottle conditioned, there was a little bit of settlement in the glass. Like a lot of stouts I drink, I allowed the beer to warm to slightly below room temperature, which I find really helped the beer to open up and experience the full flavours and aromas. This beer has a wide range of of aromaticDSC02827 notes to it. I first noticed a sharp alcohol smell to the beer, which didn’t last long. After that first smell, the true character of the beer really started to show. I experienced a hint of roasted dark chocolate, with light notes of dried fruit. The aromas didn’t stop there, at the end of noted a slight floral smell, but was very subtle.

From the smell and appearance of the beer, you would expect a very strong and over powering beer, but this was the complete opposite. This Imperial Stout actually had a very nice balance of bitter and sweet, with a hint of floral notes.   At my first sip,  I instantly noticed bitter dark chocolate, which had a very creamy character to it. Now, I don’t know if it was just me, but I did notice a slight smoke or tobacco taste. That could have been from the roasted notes of the beer, but I definitely could taste some smokiness to the beer. The finish of the beer was very nice. The beer had a nice floral finish to it, that took away all the bitterness of the dark chocolate. According to Fuller’s, they use dried rose buds which gave a hint of Turkish delight. Personally, I didn’t notice the Turkish delight but like I said, I did notice the floral notes.

I was extremely impressed with this stout. At this time of year, stouts are definitely one of my go to beer styles and this would be one I would be drinking on a cold winter’s night. This beer was very warming and for a 10.7% stout was very easy drinking. Mind you, I could only drink one of these a night, but it would be worth it.  I personally think that this beer would be better with a little age on it, but if you can get your hands on a bottle grab one and give it a try. I plan to cellar a couple of these for a few years and review them again once they have some age on them.

Shoot me a message or follow me on Twitter (@_bottomlesspint) and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel Raspberry Chocolate Ale Now Available at the LCBO

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The pink bottle is back! Rogue Ales has collided with Voodoo Doughnut yet again to create Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel Raspberry Chocolate! This is the third beer in the Rouge Voodoo Doughnut collaboration. This unique artisan creation contains a baker’s dozen number of ingredients including pretzels and raspberries from one of Voodoo’s signature doughnuts. This very unique beer is now available at the LCBO in 750ml bottles, priced at $10.95.  Check online (http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/search?searchTerm=Rogue) at the LCBO for store availability as it is just rolling out into stores.

Tasting Notes: 860e11a2-dc47-4ca4-9f4d-2a319385310b

The aroma begins bready with subtle toasted malts, and milk chocolate, before developing a hint of raisin.  Midway through the aroma there are notes of raspberry and slightly salty pretzels before a long, lingering chocolate finish.  The aroma at least hits all the expected notes, with the right mix of doughnut-y malts, raspberry, pretzel, and chocolate.

Food Pairing:

Deserts, Crème Brulee, Donuts.

Ingredients:

2-Row, Munich, C120, Chocolate, Black – Kiln Coffee & Rogue Farms Dare™ and Risk™ Malts; Rogue Farms Rebel Hops™; Pretzels, Rasberry Extract, Chocolate, Pacman Yeast & Free Range Coastal Water

 

*Information provided by Premier Brands, Ltd

Happy Pilsner (Beau’s Brewery)

Origin: Vankleek, Ontario, Canada

Beer Style: Bohemian Pilsner

Alc./Vol.: 5.3%

IBU: 30

Malts: Pilsner, Carafoam, Acidulated (All Organic)

Hops: Organic Hersbrucker

Suggested Glassware: Pilsner Glass

Suggested Serving Temperature: 5-8° celsius

Availability: Seasonal (Oktoberfest)

Where to buy: Beau’s brewery or select LCBO locations

This review is of Happy Pilsner, which is my second beer from the Beau’s Oktoberfest pack. Like the name says, Happy Pilsner is a pilsner, no brainer right? Beaus’s first brewed this traditional lager for their 2010 Oktoberfest party, so 4 years later they were very happy for this beer to return.  My love for pilsners had me excited to try this beer and compare it to some of my other favourites.

Happy Pilsner (I’m just going to call the beer “happy” so I’m not saying pilsner so much) came in the Beau’s traditional 600ml bottle with beautiful label art. The beer poured a hazy pale blonde colour with a thick, pure white head. Once the beer was in my glass, I instantly noticed very floral/herbal notes. It was almost like I was smelling a freshly steeped camomile tea. “Happy” had a bouquet of aromas coming from it. Not only did I smell the floral/herbal notes, I also noticed notes of lemon and grassy aromas which finished off with sweet honey. In all, it was a great smelling beer that had a great freshness to it.

My first sip did not disappoint…. you could say I was pretty happy. Right away I tasted the herbal notes that I noticed in the smell. It honestly tasted like I was drinking a cold camomile tea. That quietly changed into a slightly more bitter, yet citrus palette. The beer was not overly bitter and was not an over powering citrus flavour, but yet it was well balanced with the herbal notes and the bittering effects. I noticed that the mouthful of the beer did leave a dry, almost champagne effect on my cheeks. “Happy” has great lacing down the glass, and retained a thin, white head, right down to the last drop.

My overall impression of this beer was very happy. As I said before, being a pilsner fan, I was very excited to try this beer and I was not disappointed at all. I would definitely recommend this not only to people that like pilsners, but to anyone because the beer was very enjoyable and easy drinking. So, if you can still get your hands on the Oktoberfest Mix Pack at your local LCBO or you’re lucky enough to get to the brewery, do it! You won’t be disappointed.

Shoot me a message or follow me on Twitter (@_bottomlesspint) and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

Old North (Lake of Bays Brewing)

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Origin: Baysville (Muskoka), Ontario, Canada

Beer Style: Porter

Alc./Vol.: 8%

Suggested Glassware: English Pint/Shaker

Suggested Serving Temperature: Leave it in the snow outside your house for half an hour before consuming

Availability: Seasonal (Late Fall/Winter)

Where to buy:  Lake of Bays brewery or select LCBO locations

Evenin’, all. Mike here; I’m @beermostly on Twitter and Instagram – Matt has been kind enough to extend his hand to a fellow beer lover and begin what I’m sure will be a fantastic partnership here at The Bottomless Pint with guest reviews. Let’s dive in.

Ah, stout and porter season. Warm your soul with beers to intimidate your significantly less-snobby friends!

Old North Mocha Porter holds a special place in my heart. At its launch, I got very excited at the idea that coffee, one of my favourite drinks, could be woven into my other favourite drink… beer. It also holds this special place because on Christmas morning 2012, I realized I hadn’t refrigerated my beer selection for that day. In a panic, I stuck the tall bottle in a snowbank on my back deck for about half an hour, and during gift opening time (among many a chocolate covered almond and stolen pieces of peameal bacon from Mom’s frying pan) I cracked the bottle and poured (what would that day be) my morning coffee.

Sentiments aside, this is a beautiful beer to look at. The 750mL bottle is perfect for sharing. Into a wide mouth glass pours a light brown head on an opaque dark chocolate brown body whose carbonation is mid-range, with a lingering foam and a floating, delicate lace on the glass and the top of the beer all the way down. The 2014 version is 8% – one higher than last year’s.

At first sniff, you get a scent not unlike the one you get when you empty your used grounds from your coffee machine – a wet, roasty smell that, for the inexperienced nose, would intimidate. Drinking a first sip, you are greeted with a velvety, deep malt and chocolate flavour that can only be described as “more-ish” – very, very pleasant and incredibly medium bodied beer with bubbles that make you lick your lips.

Through the glass, the coffee flavours shone through. Sourced from Diesel House Coffee Roasters, the flavours extend a warming bitterness that makes drinking this at 9AM on Christmas Day absolutely acceptable. With minimal alcohol taste (but lots of punch after an entire bottle), the beer finishes with an espresso flavour and warm, tasty, rich body that becomes better as you drink it. An absolute treat!

10629696_10152292408845904_6492939900423753687_nMike Burton is an advertising student, lover of Toronto, and a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. He asked us to tell you that. In the grand scheme of things, this means nothing, but feel free to follow his entertaining Twitter and Instagram feeds @beermostly.

Straight Up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario

Straight Up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario from Peter Lenardon on Vimeo.

A documentary exploring the peculiar system of alcohol retail and distribution in Ontario

The beverage alcohol system in Ontario is unique in the world. A government monopoly and a few private companies enjoy preferential access to the province’s consumers. Meanwhile, about 300 Ontario breweries, wineries, and distillers face a number of bureaucratic and structural barriers that effectively shut them out of the market in Ontario. This film tries to explain the origins of the beverage alcohol system in Ontario, and what it means for producers and consumers in the province today.

Dial “Z” for Zwickel (Beau’s Brewery)

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Origin: Vankleek, Ontario, Canada

Beer Style: Zwickelbier

Alc./Vol.: 5.7%

IBU: 27

Malts: Pilsner, Munich, Acidulated, Carafoam, Caraaroma (All Organic)

Hops: Strisselspalt, Triskel (All Organic)

Suggested Glassware: Mug or Stein

Suggested Serving Temperature: 7-10° celsius

Availability: Seasonal (Oktoberfest)

Where to buy: Beau’s brewery or select LCBO locations

This review features a beer from the Beau’s Oktoberfest mix pack. It will be one of four reviews I will be posting, as I drink my way through the pack.  Dial “Z” for Zwickel is a zwickelbier style beer which is,  as the Beau’s website states, “Closely related to kellerbier, zwickelbier literally means beer sampled directly from the maturation vessel in the beer cellar. This German-origin beer takes on the character of the base style: in the case of Dial ‘Z’, an amber lager.”

Dial “Z” poured a a dark copper colour with a hazy clarity to it. The beer had no visible settlement at the bottom of the glass or during the pour. Once poured into the glass, I instantly noticed the freshness of this beer. Right off the bat, I could smell lemon grass notes with a sweet smell of bread/yeast. I also noticed light hints of caramel aromas. The beer poured with a very think head in my stein, which faded out to a thin off white colour. The head left little lacing on the glass as I drank the beer.IMG_6981

At first taste, I experienced fresh lemon grass and citrus notes. There was not a lot of bitterness to Dial “Z”, but had more  sweet bread and yeast notes. The beer was a medium body, with a light creaminess to it. The beers carbonation really brought out the freshness of the beer, and helped bring out all the flavours. Dial had a dry finish to it but the dryness did not take away from how fresh this beer really was.

My overall impression of this beer was amazing. It was something I really enjoyed and never experienced before. The freshness of the beer really blew me away. It was easy drinking and definitely a beer I wish I could get my hands on year round. So, if you can find the Oktoberfest Mix Pack at your local LCBO or your lucky enough to get to the brewery, be sure to go and pick up a couple to try for yourself.

Shoot me a message or follow me on Twitter (@_bottomlesspint) and let me know what you think.

Cheers!

Calabaza (Northumberland Hills Brewery

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Origin: Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

Beer Style: Pumpkin Ale

Alc./Vol.: 5.0%

IBU: NA

Malts: NA

Hops: NA

Suggested Glassware: Tulip, Goblet, or Snifter

Suggested Serving Temperature: 3-5° Celsius

Availability: Seasonal (Fall)

Where to buy: Northumberland Hills Brewery, Cobourg Ontario

This review features my last pumpkin beer of the season from Northumberland Hills Brewery, which is located at 1024 Division St in Cobourg, Ontario. This is my first beer review from NHB, but it sure won’t be my last. If you are in the Cobourg area and haven’t been to the brewery yet be sure to go by or check out my brewery tour post at http://wp.me/p4Nse2-5r. Like I stated before, Calabaza is a pumpkin ale just like the name states, but like all the pumpkin ales out there this one is slightly different in taste and balance.

Calabaza poured a pale orange colour with a slightly murky look to it. The beer had no visible settlement at the bottom of the glass or during the pour. Once poured into the glass, I instantly noticed a sweet pumpkin smell that filled my nose. As the beer sat, I started to smell hints of nutmeg and clove with a slight hint of toffee. The beer displayed little to no head when settled, that also resulted in no lacing on my glass.
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At first taste, I experienced sweet pumpkin. It was not overly sweet, but had the characteristics of fresh pumpkin. The pumpkin notes had a slighlty earthy flavour to it, which helped to balance out the sweetness. As I enjoyed the beer it slowly started to transition from sweet to notes of spice. I picked up hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. Calabaza is a light to medium bodied beer, that contains tiny micro bubbles which covered my tongue. There was a slight creaminess to the beer, but it was more dry than creamy. The beer finished with a mouth drying  taste of clove and citrus, which left my taste buds wanting another sip.

My overall impression of this beer was excellent. It was a very balanced and easy drinking beer. I do wish there was more creaminess to the beer and that it had a little bit more spice to it. Calabaza hit all the right notes to a pumpkin beer and was the perfect beer to drink with a sweet dessert or as an after dinner beer.

I give this beer an overall score of 40/50. Be sure to go and pick up a couple to try for yourself. Shoot me a message or follow me on Twitter (@_bottomlesspint) and let me know what you think.

Cheers!