Friday, August 22, 2014

Harvest Time

The first whiff of this lager is great. I got excited. Lots of aroma from the can (and probably best drank from the can) - tropical fruit / citrus aromas, just as promised. Not far behind, though, there's something about the aroma that comes across bordering on popcorn or buttered popcorn. I don't think it's an error - on big whiffs, it just seems like the combination of the malt profile & hops (not sure which NZ one is in this) combine to make something a bit in that direction. It's not overwhelming, but it bothers me that it's there. Otherwise, it's crisp, refreshing, has a nice clean citrus-y finish, is different enough from Beach Chair, not as good as Landing Day, and will probably appeal to lots of folks. I'd say drink this one cold, as the nice aroma (and a bit of the flavour) degrades as it warms.

Monday, August 11, 2014

2014 PEI Beer Festival

This September 5th and 6th, a Friday & Saturday, sees the PEI Beer Festival return, promising "another amazing weekend of beer tasting, food pairings and entertainment." This year, the festival will be held indoors, at the Delta Prince Edward - which, after undergoing renovations last year, is quite a nice & modern spot. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, August 12th, at 11:00AM at as well as the PEI Brewing Company on Kensington Road. There are also fest + hotel packages available through the Delta. There are three different tasting sessions to choose from: Friday evening, Sept. 5th, Saturday afternoon, Sept 6th, and Saturday evening, Sept 6th. Afternoon sessions are $30, and evening ones are $40. Tickets include all beer samples, live entertainment, special cask contests (no clue what that is yet), games and more. Ticket prices also include a service fee and taxes, of course.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

(Mostly) Beer Trip To Maine - Geaghans Restaurant & Pub

Once we got to Bangor, we were starving and thirsty. I recall eating some sort of chicken sausage, cheese, and tomato sandwich thing. It was good, but super-filling. Geaghans, as far as I can tell, was a lot like a few other stops in Maine, in that they only served their own beer. I get it, but it's a little disappointing as a customer. Don't let that deter, you, though. They have a good little selection of their own stuff, and the food / atmosphere were good. I decided to try out a sampler of some of their brews with my lunch.

Left to right:

Smiling Irish Bastard - with a name like this, you'd expect some sort of stout, or maybe a red ale, it's actually an American Pale Ale, brewed with Cascade - "American strong, like Officer Bernie Welch, a legend in the Bangor Police Force." It was OK - light grapefruit and bitterness.

Dad's Oatmeal Stout - Made with Chinook and U.S. Goldings, this was an easy-drinker. Smooth, but not too thick. Nice enough stout.

Bangor Tiger - Maine River Drivers (you know, the guys that rode logs on the rivers) were known as Bangor Tigers. This is supposed to reflect them - a strong 6.5% ale, 62 IBU, not for the faint of heart. It was bitter, with a bit of citrus. A bit one-dimensional.

Wake Up Wheat - they say this was their take on an American Adjunct Dunkel (which they made up). For me, it was the clear winner of the bunch. It was a total chocolate coffee porter, but light. Sumatra coffee, oats, fresh-brewed coffee, vanilla beans, choc malt... pretty involved, but darn tasty.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Gahan House Expands To Halifax

A few days ago, the good people at The Gahan House tweeted that they were expanding to Halifax. 
I'd like to put this out there for folks, to confirm that they are indeed taking over the place that was once the beloved Hart and Thistle. As far as I know at the moment, no brewing staff from PEI are slated to make the move. It sounds  like most / all staff there will be new to the company. I wish them the best of luck there - I'm sure they'll make it a highly successful / quality destination, which should please the beer-loving folk who miss the old H&T.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

(Mostly) Beer Trip to Maine - Bringing Beer Back

This year, my patient and encouraging Mrs. and I decided to go to Maine, and that we'd try to visit as many beer destinations on the way (for me) as we could. Some of my site visits were all too quick, but at least I can say I have tried the place out, and if it's worthy of a return trip or not.

I'd like to highlight some spots that I went to, and beers that I tried, in a series of posts, starting today.

Before we even went down, the first thing I had to figure out was what my limit was in terms of bringing back beer. I even went so far as to talk to a customs agent at the airport to clarify a couple of things for me that the online rules didn't point out. Basically, in terms of beer, the rule is:
  • if you stay in the US for 48 hours or more, each person is allowed to return to Canada with 8.5L of beer (no matter what the ABV is)
  • if you go over that amount, you'll have to pay tax / duty on whatever the overage is, not your first 8.5L
So, that meant my wife and I were allowed to bring back 17L of beer. Problem is, many cans / bottles in the US are only marked in ounces, and not all mL/oz ratios on cans/bottles are the same... which lead to some frantic number crunching in the parking lots of a Shaw's and Christmas Tree Shops store. I don't know how picky border agents can be, but I didn't want to push my luck. Essentially, one fluid ounce is 29.5735 mL. So, a 355mL can is labeled 12 ounces, a 650mL bomber = 22 ounces, a 750mL bottle is 25.3605... wait, that's when it gets a bit dirtier. Once you hit a pint, many US bottles say "1pt" and then the ounce total. For what it's worth, a US pint is 16 US ounces. So, imagine my fun adding up pints and ounces to convert to mL and L before we returned. My initial estimations were off, and we were over by a bit, but it all worked out. Just be honest and well-documented at the border, and you'll probably be sent on your way pretty speedily. 

I bought some beer here and there on our trip (Allagash, Bangor Wine & Cheese, In'finiti, Oxbow, Shaw's), but the vast majority of what I bought was at the Hogan Road Deli in Bangor. Even with a GPS, we missed the place at least twice. It's in one tiny end of a CITGO station - it's not its own little place at all, which was kind of what I expected from their website. Inside, it's like any other gas station, except for how much beer they cram into a small portion of it.

Basically, all of the beer they carry is good, well-rated, or really really good / well-rated. It's just some refrigerated shelves on one wall, the refrigerated shelves at the ends of two rows, and one two-sided (and fairly short) row of shelving that has all their beer. The selection, especially for someone like me, from somewhere like here, is mind-blowingly good. All the Maine breweries - Allagash, Maine Brewing Company, Smuttynose, Rising Tide, etc., brewers like Dogfish Head, Jolly Pumpkin, Clown Shoes, Victory, Founders, Evil Twin... and European brews like Fantome, magnums of St. Bernardus... Christmas beers I want... meads in stoneware... just so much to pick from.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to make it to the Bier Cellar in Portland, but I wouldn't have had room for anything anyway. Next time, I'll try to balance out visits to both places.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Picaroons' Brewer's Bash

Last year, we headed out with a rig full of beer and a few empty kegs to return to the mainland. This year, I return with a toddler (it must have been some bash last year).

I haven't been to too many beer fests over the years (five or six, maybe), but last year's Brewer's Bash stands out as the best one. Why? Well I'll give you a few reasons:
  • It's twelve hours long, and you can come and go as you please.
  • It's only Canadian beer, and includes beer from every province and one territory.
  • Last year, there was something like 60 breweries and 300+ beers. This year, I counted 64 brewers, and most likely more offerings (don't know how many yet, as there's no pre-bash list this year). 
  • The breweries don't cheap out - in more than one way, but the one I want to emphasize is that they don't just serve their most mainstream / cheapest stuff. There was (and will be this year) some rarer and more expensive stuff to try out. 
  • Fredericton's got free WiFi downtown (why doesn't everywhere?!).
  • It's a great crowd, complete with interesting people - like the balding guy with the long hair, goatee, lab coat, and glittery ball that he kept rolling in one hand while drinking with the other all day. Don't believe me? Check the picture. 
  • Nearby eats. King Street Ale House, The Snooty Fox (which provided me with some kind of spring roll-like bacon cheeseburger fried things late that night - just the right thing), that sushi place kitty corner to Officer's Square... all good options. 
  • The price. $25 for eight samples, plus the musical entertainment later. Last year was a personal fave of mine, the Skydiggers, with Deep Dark Woods. This year, it's Zeus (another big fave of mine) with a couple of soulful backing acts, Cydni Cain and the Chronos Band, the latter of which sounds like one tight bunch with some serious groove. 
  • So much variety to imbibe, for everyone from the new-to-beer person to the beer snob/geek. 
  • It never felt crowded. Lineups were never that long - mind you, there are 50% more people there this year... but I think it should still end up comfortable. 

Don't have a ticket for this Saturday's Bash? don't despair. They are still looking for volunteers for four hours of work (leaving you up to eight hours of drinking). Check out their page for more.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Palomar Ale

Buying Mill Street's variety packs is kind of like gambling - I know there is a great chance of disappointment, but I can't help myself. I have never had a flawed Mill Street beer, but they definitely have a few brews that are weak - at least to me, anyway (I'm looking at you, Stock Ale). Don't hate me, it's just my own personal truth. That being said, they also have some good beer, too.

This one is in the middle. On paper, it sounds like an interesting beer - chipotle and lime, in an American red / amber ale.

Well, the chipotle does come through, and is light enough that it won't offend anyone. It's a little smokey, and has the slightest heat at the back of the throat. There's a little zip to it, too but I almost can't tell if it's from the lime or the hops, as there's no easy-to-differentiate lime flavour to it. I think it's there... lightly... but it's not strong, for sure.

What will the next seasonal variety pack hold? Well, I'm sure it'll have a few that are interesting-sounding, and at least a couple that are good, and probably a couple that aren't. The sixer's never a total bust, but it's never a total win, either.