Ontario: Robust Porter, Great Lakes, Etobicoke

I was handed this beer at last week‘s beer event. I just would like to mention that this is one of the best Ontario-made beers I have ever had. Part of their Project X series, it’s on limited release and, sadly, limited production. Too bad. Thick sheeting mocha cream head over deep dark ale. Thick aroma, too. Cocoa and mint. Pumpernickel and cream. If I had thought of a beer future back in the 90s, it might have been this. Before hop mania. Before sour. When malt and roast reigned. This has it. Masses of dark malt with dry roast coffee as well as sticky date and raisin notes all carried along with a rich light sour even yogurty yeastiness. It is heavy. In the best sense. As heavy as you wished your coffee in the morning could be.

I think I recall Troy telling me as he passed the bottle that this was named after Burt Reynolds. Can’t recall why.

Book Review: But Are These Really Beer Books?


ganse1Beer books. I have read enough of them but they are not the whole extent of the books I read related to my interest in beer. One of the most interesting things for me about my interest in beer is how is it woven though the community and through time. On top up there is my recently acquired copy of 1969’s breakout best seller The Gansevoorts of Albany: Dutch Patricians in the Upper Hudson Valley. It does appear on Google books but not much of the text is available. Below that book us the second edition of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte. I am hoping each will be, in its way, a book about beer or at least a book that explains how we can think about beer.

First, the Gansevoorts. The most amazing thing about this family for our present purposes is that they gave up brewing in the early 1800s after the best part of two centuries of brewing… in North America. There is a lot to learn about the context of how brewing began and has continued for around 380 years in the capital city of New York state but the main thing to understand is that when the British finally took over the Dutch colony in 1674, it did not remove the population. In a way, it is like a mini-Quebec in that, through the Dongan Charterof 1686, the people of Albany were allowed a level of self-government that continued its Dutch political culture. In roads into that were only made after the French and Indian War of the later 1750s which led to the fall of New France. Interestingly, the indications I have seen of a indigenous strong Dutch wheat beer seem to fade along with that political culture replaced in the first decade of the 1800s with the ranges of small to XXXX ales more in line with the Yankees of neighbouring and expanding New England culture that lived on until swamped in turn by later German immigrants and the advent of large scale lager production. Earlier, under that cultural protection, the Gansevoorts can be traced back to the 1650s when a brewer had a daughter whose husband took up the brewing trade himself, passing the business on to their son, whose beer based position and wealth allowed his sons to prosper and lead the Revolution… and to run the brewery until it was demolished in 1807.

We have data. So much data. But it is out there in jangled family trees, in newspaper ads and in boxes on archive shelves which have remained unopened for years. How to find it all and how to put it into some order? I have an idea for an interactive timeline that effectively displays what otherwise could sit on a wiki like this. But I need help. Hence Tufte. I am thinking of his commentary on the 1869 graphically illustrated map of Napoleon’s doomed march into and out of Russia. Except it would be the Hudson River Valley and it would be about almost four centuries of of beer rather that one really poor military campaign. Something of a cross between that and the schematic diagram of the London Undergroundmight work. Maybe.

Beer books? Two wonderful books and each can tell me plenty about beer or about thinking about beer at least.

Garden 2012: The Return Of The Risk Of Frost

We were fooled. Warm has been replaced by cold. Next week there is a risk of frost. Fortunately, we did not go too far down the road of planting. The peas are just taking their first peak above soil and the blue hubbard squash has been transplanted into pots that can be brought inside. Seeing as I have not even done the taxes, this is good timing. The Arkansas leeks and Cherokee Purple tomatoes seeds were only planted in the trays yesterday waiting down in the basement to decide when it is time to sprout. Very early days.

Lots of time for digging, however. Me and the lad were out this morning digging out a root ball of an ex-shrub. It took secateurs, shovels and an axe but the score ended up Nature 0 Mankind 1. I appear to be at the one shrub stage of life. Whacking away at the damn thing did not exactly set stars spinning about my head but a second might have. I wonder at what point the gardening shifts from telling me how out of shape I am and move on to letting me know the effort is worth it.

Garden 2012: The Return Of The Risk Of Frost

We were fooled. Warm has been replaced by cold. Next week there is a risk of frost. Fortunately, we did not go too far down the road of planting. The peas are just taking their first peak above soil and the blue hubbard squash has been transplanted into pots that can be brought inside. Seeing as I have not even done the taxes, this is good timing. The Arkansas leeks and Cherokee Purple tomatoes seeds were only planted in the trays yesterday waiting down in the basement to decide when it is time to sprout. Very early days.

Lots of time for digging, however. Me and the lad were out this morning digging out a root ball of an ex-shrub. It took secateurs, shovels and an axe but the score ended up Nature 0 Mankind 1. I appear to be at the one shrub stage of life. Whacking away at the damn thing did not exactly set stars spinning about my head but a second might have. I wonder at what point the gardening shifts from telling me how out of shape I am and move on to letting me know the effort is worth it.

None

Brewers’ Plate 2012 And My Happy Schooling

What a pleasant Wednesday. I ate. I sipped. I asked myself a lot about how people in downtown Toronto spend their Wednesday evenings. I did not think I got swept away in pairing mania but, and it is a subtle but so bear with me, there were many wonderful combinations to be found.

For example, Beau’s Mates with Dates and the cheese made from water buffalo milk from Montefort Dairy was a really interesting side by side but it was not one of the proposed pairings on offer. Similarly, a deftly tucked away bottle of Ten Bitter Years from Black Oak went very well with the dessert crepe being given away in a booth but that was not the beer on offer because the crepe had Ontario black walnuts. The chef and I talked about the weirdness of the texture of the crepe and nuts with a very bombish IPA. But we agreed that there was a twigginess in the hops of the beer that worked with the walnuts which tasted like you face would after an hour of chainsawing hardwood.

So did I pair? Probably. Was the event a good one. It really was. I am going to just post this now but add some more thoughts as my day’s class on contract drafting proceeds. Unless it is riveting. Which it could be. You never know.

Garden 2012: Today I Did Dig And Split The Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of my favorite things. Spring food. Sour and astringent. It makes the years since childhood contract. A cup of white sugar into which a raw stem was rammed, the stalk chewed as if on a dare. Stewed rhubarb leading to the earliest bowel related humour at our table, pretend mad dashes for the washroom mid-dessert. Pies. Lard rich crust glazed with a crackle of rhubarb filling. Later, as a young married couple, we made weak rhubarb juice on a slow simmer that was cooled then mixed with cheap Ontario white wine as a particularly fine weekend drink. Today, I dug up and separated the rhizomes, halfway between thick carrots and thick sweet potatoes. I separated them in the patch where the compost bin used to sit and gave them a long soak of water from the hose. What was one plant should now be six. If I had a farm, I would have a rhubarb house. I understand the best in England are built over coal mines with only the light of one candle to ensure the stems are as pale as possible.

No yard should be without rhubarb.

Ontario’s LCBO Has Nation Based Beer Quota?

Interesting comment on Ontario’s LCBO, the province’s sole wholesale import beer buyer. The comment is from an Estonian supplier newly selling its beer into this my local marketplace:

In an April 11 statement, A. Le Coq said its product should arrive on store shelves in the province’s major cities this week. The brewery’s director Tarmo Noop said that entering the Canadian market was a long and difficult process. “In Canada the government puts very strict controls on alcohol sales and in connection with that, very tough regulations are in effect for both importers and imported goods,” he said. As an example, Noop said that only one brand of Estonian beer could be sold on the market at one time. The company also had to redesign its packaging to meet local regulations.

Really? Is this just for Estonia or do all nations have to send us only a few of their brews? How many German, French or Italian beers can be on the shelf at one time? Where is the chart of these national quota levels and who came up with it?

Garden 2012: Peas Are In The Ground… Repeat… Peas Are…

Easter long weekend saw an assault on nature or at least that sort of nature that exists in a mid-60s subdivision. We have great plans to eat where we did mow so the following tasks were undertaken:

♦ ugly basketball hoop with sun-rotted plastic base disassembled;
♦ awkward juniper chopped down and ax play appreciated;
♦ willow and pear trees extending into neighbours’ space pruned with saw;
♦ 10 x 10 feet of front lawn removed, sheep poo inserted;
♦ 21 feet or so of sugar snap peas planted; and
♦ compost bin in-grown with tree roots attacked, defeated and moved.

Children now old enough to be useful if paid. Chives survived the winter. Cabernet Franc grape vines ordered. Cardoon and leek seeds in the house.

Now Twenty Years Since The Bosnian War Began

What a simple and strong tribute as reported on the BBC above. I have an odd three point connection to the Bosnian conflict as I lived in my former home of PEI when refugees were filtered through Canada’s smallest province to acclimatize them to a new home. In 1998, I played on a PEI soccer team with many Bosnians including one who had played first division football. And, years earlier, we were teaching in Poland when the former Yugoslavia began to fall apart in civil war. I saw TV twice in those months in late 1991. Once to see a soccer game and once to see the shelling of Dubrovnik. Also, in my former former home prior to PEI but after coming back from Poland in the mid-90s I met and even represented Canadian soldiers who were in the UN force that liberated Sarajevo with a proper vigor that the current Canadian government frankly seems to deny.

The stories from these three points in that decade combined giving me that sort of weighing awareness that made the news difficult to follow on one hand but saw me asking more. In the pre-pop-Internet world that meant maps and shortwave. Listening to the news fading in an out from Radio Belgrade, Croatian radio as well as B92 gave a sense. I remember when Arkan was killed a Bosnian friend inordinately connected came to my office to ask how that could have happened. I had to give him, a former Red Army soldier, a lesson on the SAS, vulnerability and other such things. He had no idea but told me much that taught me about the later NATO bombing of Serbia.

A red chair for each of the dead. Better than Yeats. Few signed up for a cause in the 90s.

None