England: Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2006 v 2011, London

In December 2010, I decided that I had to get at the task of drinking the Fuller’s Vintage Ales that I had been hoarding in the stash. I figured I needed to compare beers that were brewed five years apart and posted the ’05 v. ’10 results. Now, it’s time for the second edition comparing 2006 to their 2011. First, one thing to note is that I am using 200 ml German glasses for this experiment. See, the thing is, this was the week that the pint was dissed to a lower point than I have ever seen it dissed. My choice of glassware reflects that brave new world where reasonable measures of beer are a thing of the past. Still, I am sure these tiny tiny Teutonics will not let down this litre of greatness as they are wonderful wee things in themselves.

I reviewed the 2006 back in the day. It has clearly improved according to that description… or maybe my powers of description have. It now gives off an aroma of fresh bright orange marmalade on malt bread. Oddly, the scent is much stronger than the 2011 which gives off some booze and a bit of beef broth with not a lot more… or at least not nearly as much.

In the mouth, again there is no question that the 2006 is a bigger more complex beer at this point in its life. It’s got the malty smoked thing I noticed in 2006 and I get the green fig as well. But the texture is no longer what I likely meant when I wrote grain. It’s more like baseball glove leather now. Quite sweet as well. But well cut by what I had called black tea hops. They are now melded much more neatly together to give a sort of rose water effect. The 2011, by comparison, tastes of beer. There is a fresh acidity but the malt is a bit undeveloped. I had a 2006 Thomas Hardy Ale yesterday and it informs that idea. That pleasant little variety of acids that are in both ’06s of the last 24 hours sit dormant in the 2011’s pear juicy sweet ball of pale malt. The ’11’s box and insert card tells me that the malt is organic but not the variety. In 2006, the malt was Optic which the OCB tells me is the most widely planted variety in England.

First 400 ml down. Unlike the 2005 v 2010 comparison, I would not suggest the younger beer is cloying. It has a rustic hopping that is a bit twiggy and a bit menthol. Goldings, organic First Gold and Sovereign hops were used according to the box. They give a bit of a licorice effect at this point which may unpack into marmalade with time. I will let you know in 2016. The 2006, by contrast, relies on Fuggles and Super Styrian hopping. The OCB tells me that the Super Styrian – as opposed to the pending Super Dooper Styrian – is itself a form of Fuggles. From my lost homebrewing days, my world of English beer is divided into three: Goldings, Fuggles and Northern Brewer. I think 2/3s of this are demonstrated before me. The older beer leans to the hedge. The younger is more floral. Quite content to be the Mayor of Simpleton in such matters, it’s a distinction that works for me.

The head of the 2006 is worth comment – fine, densely packed off white bubbles giving a very appealing visual creaminess and a lovely maker of rich lacing. Otherwise the two beer appear to be quite similar. The elder is a bit clouded but I don’t care about the sorts of things. Each a very attractive deep orange amber ale.

700 ml gone and I am just going to enjoy the rest.. This is as high a point in my beer experience as any – and one that only cost me about 15 bucks and just half a decade. I am little proud of me. I was very sensible to start this series, to start saving these beers. The process may well see me out now that I think of it. There are far worse markers of another year’s passing.

Your Weekend Bullets For The End of January

Will February be as soft as January? I make these observations thinking one day I will maybe go back and check how bad each winter has been year after year. But I don’t. These things just languish. Like so many dreams. Contemplating leaving other things aside first, however. The cable TV and direct line telephone are under the budget department’s eye. When we had the power outage the other day the land line failed us due to the electrified base the wireless phone depends upon. Why not just have another iPhone for about the same price? At least cable TV brings me 7 months of baseball.

♦ Quite right. Use of a martini glass does not make for a martini. Your government store in action.

♦ “As usual, the Flea is right: “I don’t expect I will be back to H+M any time soon. If you work in a “creative industry”, or hold any sort of intellectual property in any medium, I suggest you don’t either.”

Neato. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) shaking hands during his lifetime with both John Quincy Adams, born 1767, and John F Kennedy who died 1963.

♦ As we have fun watching the GOP Super PACs lead to the GOP eating itself, consider, too, the guilt of the Tea Partiers whose great-granddad didn’t fill out the right paper work.

♦ Now I know why my Mother was enthroned as the Brisbane Queen in 1949.

So, there you go. I have to make this something more than an eight day commitment. But there is beer blogging to do, you know. Lots of beer blogging.


Friday Bullets For A Week Of Actual Winter

What a funny season. Thaws, rains, freezes, winds, blackouts and snow with thunder. Reminds me more of the east cost than the center of the continent. OK, the eastern edge of the center. The debates go on for the GOP. Seems like every candidate is a bit sketchy but each distinctly so. Newt said that the media made it harder to attract good people to public office. Is the contest proving the point? Romney is still the most interesting character as his life has been so complex and alt. Mormonism, corporate savior and undertaker, the last man to buy Brylcreem.

♦ Loners and geeks outraged at outrageous slur against their lifestyle.

♦ I am pretty sure I met this man at college but had no idea that he had a life so well spent.

♦ I love the Soviet style use of anti-hero in this article.

♦ It boggles my mind that Ontario pays HST / GST to Ottawa and Alberta does not. Looks like 1 billion or so too much into the Federation. Can we get a rebate?

♦ Andrew Coyne really is a simplistic thick numbskull sometimes. Rather than discriminating all that is needed is an oath of office that manages the loyalty aspect. No need to create a huge class of second class citizens. But thanks for suggesting it.

♦ Framing one’s politics as conservative and being in favour of marriage is in direct opposition to swinger life style. Choose one or the other and stand by your decisions. But don’t pretend it’s not a core question of integrity.

There. Was this a big week? Who knows? Maybe next week will be really big. Or is that something we’d like, err, just to avoid.


Friday Bullets For The Week Of The Blackout

The power went out. From 3 pm to midnight yesterday. Sat around in one room for the evening and marveled at the power of the battery. I tweeted and listened to radio. Ice was to blame. Ice from the sky. Fortunately, it appears to have rained all night washing away the coating. A few trees in the neighbourhood fell. Now, there is good reason to have those ribs in the freezer:

♦ I like beer as much as the next guy. Probably more. But I am not sure why one of Ontario’s less interesting brewers deserved $1,000,000 in tax support annually.
Really? I assume the PM does not know every implication of every Federal legal brief. And besides. If the brief was correct in relation to same sex marriage, it also means that the same is true for different sex marriage – if you don’t meet a foreign level of consanguinity in your home country, a Canadian marriage would not be valid. No one believes that.
♦ Let’s be clear, then. I am the guy who backed Harper this week, not the National Post. No Senate reform, please. No need to entirely lock up Federal governance, Steve.
♦ Scots apparently are not free to make up their minds. Time to revive the Declaration of Arbroath. “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.” Makes you weepy just thinking about it.

There. Done. Gotta work one more day before the gorging of rib fest begins. Thanks, blackout, for reminding me to make time for ribs.

I Hear Some Traitors Get ‘Merican Cable TV, Too

Is there nothing as fraught as a Canadian of any political stripe claiming that we are being manipulated by the United States?

The ammunition for Ottawa’s broadside against the pipeline’s opponents is drawn in part from the work of a relatively little-known blogger from North Vancouver. In the last 15 months, independent blogger and single mother Vivian Krause has become a one-person clearinghouse on how U.S. money is helping finance Canadian environmental activism. Ms. Krause has used her “Fair Questions” blog to document the money trail behind what she calls the “U.S.-funded campaign against Canadian oil” – research that’s been used by defenders of the oil sands, including the lobby group Ethical Oil, to blunt criticism of the tarry resource.

While “ethical oil” is one of the silliest ideas going it’s obviously not as bad as the blood diamonds or blood chocolate of some other energy sources. Yet it sure isn’t so pure as to deserve the label ethical. Let’s just call it “relatively a lot better” oil. That being the case, there is a valid political debate over whether methods of extraction or delivery or price or any number of other things are as good as they might be.

There is a parallel debate going on near here in central New York about another method of extraction, hydro fracking. And there is debate. That is a good thing. But that might be only be a good thing in America. Because, according to the story, folks would “like to see the Gateway pipeline succeed, but after decisions made by Canadians alone.” That’s asbestos logic. There’s money in outsourcing so don’t ask those who have to take on the associated issues. Especially Americans. Because we are generally so dislocated from them, separated. Aren’t we. Makes sense.


Friday Bullets For Yet Another New Year

Why do we moan about another birthday but not New Years? Consider the alternative. It’s me and the cat this week and I have been inordinately busy. The electrician has been in. The stash now has a light switch thanks to the electricians coming in on Wednesday. One wall has one coat of light sandy old paper sort of colour instead.of a grey plummy tone that looked like great auntie’s lipstick. I changed the furnace filter. I bought a toilet flap. I need to watch it. Handy is not a word associated with me.

♦ Paying a consultant to edit wikipedia to remove bad things people say is a bad business strategy.

♦ These new stats lead me to ask… what if Mr. Harper is not the economic wizz he admits he is?

“…she’s upright…”

♦ What did you learn from Iowa? Can you even name the states that border Iowa?

♦ My in-laws are looking much better all of a sudden.

There. Caught up with the week. Tonight I strike a greater blow against plummy lipsticked walls. Viva! Viva!!!


Beer Cocktails: A Glass Of Port And One Of Stout

I have had my doubts about beer cocktails ever since I heard the term. I don’t trust that the attempt to create a new niche – and then, of course, the jostling to become guru of that niche – bodes well for actual experience being foisted upon us all. Plus, I am of an age that does not find me in bars watching however much I like them. I have to rely on my own wits. Any that usually keeps me from experimenting too much.

Yet, there is something about port and stout that I like. The “ye olde” nature of it perhaps? I have certainly had a love of ports as well as Spanish sherries, Hungarian tokays and other “sticky” wines that actually predates my love of good beer. These are the drinks of childhood holidays, ex-pats comforting themselves with rich tastes of trade and empire. I came across the concept five years ago and have been tinkering with blends since at least 2008 and, while I approve, I have not found myself converted.

Until today. I realized my problem might be the requirement of blending in the glass. Sure, you might say, that is what a “cocktail” is but, if we are honest, is not the shot and chaser a cocktail, too? And, frankly, is it not even more guru-tastic to use more than one piece of glassware to create the effect? Hands up everyone who agrees. There. It is settled.

Today, I poured a glass of Feist Colheita 1998 port and a pint of Grand River’s Russian Gun Imperial Stout. Both share a rich dryness when tasted in succession that I think would blend well in the same glass. But they also have so many complimentary tastes when tasted separately which are drowned when put together. The lingering dry cocoa licorice of the strong stout is washed by the heady tannin berry of the port. Both have a hint of chalkiness, too. Each are fine drinks in their own right. Together, a partnership.

So, first big news of 2012? It’s OK to use two glasses. Good old double fisting is now surely guru approved. Second big news? If you have a stash it’s now time to get the cabinet, too. Your own little gin palace tucked in a corner of the dining room.