That Musty Box Of Fuller’s Vintage Ales

First conclusion of the experiment: the boxes are far less mould caked
when not left in a corner of a cold room for a decade.

OK, it wasn’t so bad. I was worried there for a bit but its gonna be OK. Turns out I have doubles. I have leeway. But, come to think of it, this box holds ten years of Fuller’s Vintage Ales, 2007 to 2016 and it’s high time I tucked into them. First, I bought them and tucked in right away. Later, I would do some comparing and contrasting, like the .05 v .10 and the ’06 v ’11 but I didn’t keep it up. I just stock piled.

I used to stockpile. Like those Stone Vertical Epic Ale annual releases. Like the Thomas Hardy ales. I ended up giving away Stone’s 05-05-05 to 12-12-12 more out of a sense of boredom than anything. By the end of the project it was a parody of itself. Reports were that a third were great, a third were fine and a few plain sucked. Such is the path of big US craft. Yet, they gave more joy to those gifted than my THA’s are given me now. Yik. Malt reduced to soy sauce. Hops now only offering the residue left after I boiled down my childhood ’45s. So glad I saved them. So, tonight I begin my attack the box at the back of the cellar.

First up and this Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2015 is not giving me the joy. There’s an astringent green vegetable taste in the middle of my pint where, you know, rosy cheeked English youth gathering in autumn’s harvest should be gamboling… cavorting even. But it’s clear and the colour of a love match between a lump of amber and a chestnut – which I will grant you is a bit of a range. And it raises a good head. As ale it is not fouled. BAer review speak of a wooden bitterness. I get that.  Don’t want it. But I get it. Yet… as it sits it moves from astringent green vegetable to astringent exotic orange-like citrus fruit you couldn’t pronounce but thought you would buy anyway because “hey, it’s Christmas!” and then you find it dried out a bit at the back of the shelf weeks later, closer to February than December. Which is better. I now get some husky grain. I can even see Seville marmalade from here. Even if made by my cray cray great-aunt well past her marmalade glory days. Household helpful hint: open this and let it breath for an hour.

I had to wash both bottles of the 2014. The first one I pulled out was stored upside down and it’s showing a need to sit for a bit. Cloudy. And both have stage one designate substance issues on the box and label. In the mouth, again with the musty staleness. Gonna let it sit a bit but at least its not paying homage to a green pepper. Later. Better. Still maybe infanticide as the flavours have not resolved. There is a hay loft grainy dry as well as a a rich earthiness. If my garden compost tasted like this I’d be ecstatic. Thinking about it, Gouda and mushrooms on toast. That would work well with this. Later still, the narrative is adds a dry stone aspect. I am now walking on a path on a hot day through rocky fields like those in our nearby fine wine region.  The hops after an hour have a rich sweet field herb and mint aspect. I once owned a scythe and an acre garden needing tending. This is taking me back there.

[More later. An on-going project… until it’s all gone.]

A few days later, the 2013. Bottle washed and cap popped. Cold. Canadian cellar in February cold. Gotta let it sit but the first sniff and sip are promising. Cream, grain and rich sweetness.  Unlike its two juniors, nothing off yet. Receding beef brothiness shifting towards sweet stewed apple. But mainly a mouthful of husky graininess. And cream. Brie cream, though. The cream made by the Brie cows. There’s something going on there. A Brie thing. Brie-like. Maybe. Thick viscous stuff. But no earthy brooding and nothing like Seville marmalade. Fresh and open an hour later. A lovely beer.

One more week has passed. The 2012 just opened had a far less challenging bottle. Cold from the final few boxes in the beer cellar it is stunning, exemplifying what I absolutely love about great beers. Masses of cream cut orange marmalade.  I curse 49 year old me for not buying cases and cases of this. Kumquat even. I say that as a man who just this very afternoon roasted two chickens stuffed with kumquats. Just saying. Go eat kumquats if you don’t understand. Tangy, fresh, intense, bright citrus. I am pouring half an inch at a time into a dimpled pint mug and ramming my nose in, sucking the aroma in deeply.  [That, by the way, is how to drink fine beer according to me.] As it warms, the graininess starts to assert itself. So now it is like wholewheat bread with a double cream and marmalade spread. I should be graphing this, with different brightly colour lines tracing the taste every fifteen minutes. I am going to leave it there. I am having a moment. OK… ten minutes later weedy herbal notes as well as a nod to beef broth come out. Stunning.

Not Beer: Welcome To Seed Catalogue Reading Time


I know I mentioned I am sick of winter but did I mention I am sick of winter? I did? OK. Did I mention that I am already gearing up for spring planting. With any luck, three or four weeks from now I will take out the bag of soil I keep in the basement all winter, dump it on the ground and ram in a bunch of pea seeds. It’s my way of shaking a fist at the lingering frost. Peas like a few other common vegetables survive early frosts quite well. Not hard in these parts to get a few crops in that might start providing some salady bits before mid-May. The first peas are as good as the first tomatoes – except they come two months earlier.

It’s not the only bet I will have at play in the garden. I’ve left parsnips and leeks to overwinter. More than one pot of soup to be made of the sweetened roots. Saison Dupont’s true partner is fresh spring harvested parsnip. I pulled that batch up there out of our suburban front lawn a couple of years ago. Need fresh seed for the 2016 crop. There’s parsley and chives and maybe a few other herbs under the drifts waiting to send out fresh shoots, too. The other great spring crop is bok choi. I only learned this two growing seasons ago when I bought a pack on a whim. It grows like mad in the cool spring air and again in a second season in autumn. Ten bucks gets you 1,000 seeds if you buy the commercial grower size packs. That’s a lot of small shoots, a lot of dinners.

I am convinced one of the best ways to understand beer is to understand all the things you can eat and drink. Better than buying hydroponically fed, commercially produced veg growing food will give you an earthier experience as well as a small but direct appreciation of agriculture and some of the tensions plants face. Beer, after all, is a result of our relationship with edible plants.

Beets, Beet Greens, Fence Posts And Poppies


A busy Remembrance Day. Elementary school assembly hall at 9:15 am then right over to the main City of Kingston gathering. I say the main one as there is another which starts about 15 minutes earlier for the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery about 200 yards away, then one for the Burma Star after the main one, then one after that at the naval memorial. All are well attended. And well protected. A large police presence with other sorts of security moving around us. All well received. Except by that guy with the black back pack on the bike. Seriously. He went on his way after a good searching.

Lunched. Being off work while the kids are at school does wonders for the luncheon scene. Luncheon dates need a revival. Our first time at Carmelinda’s. No avacado to be seen but a solid and surprisingly good chicken sandwich. Thence to Home Depot for stuff to further fix the fence. 12 gauge metal plate to screw in across a week spot. $3.39. It must be 45 weeks since the ice storm of last December. I have the fence 78% fixed and will have to get through another winter in that admittedly enhanced state even if the rot is in. It actually feels fairly solid even if it’s all jury rigged. Cheap and jury rigged. Needs to be cheap seeing that the new in-the-wall oven is coming in two weeks. Why?

Oh me nerves. Convection oven fan motor fried right at the end of roasting the chicken for dinner. It made a funny noise and, when I looked in the oven, the fan at the back was glowing bright orange like the coals at the foot of the gates of hell. Race downstairs. Shout to the kids to get upstairs. Thinking of how to call the fire dept. Pull fuse for oven. No flames when I get back upstairs. Leave oven door open to let everything cool. Then find a really good bottle of port. Because the chicken was, in fact, done. Like the oven. And roasted chicken and roasted convection oven fan both good with good port.

That was Saturday night. Me on Facebook, Oh. Me. Nerves. So, a new oven is coming.

And then the beets. Maybe 15 pounds of them? A third of a bucket with a full bucket of greens. Chopped the greens, sauteed them in olive oil and garlic, added a little ham, a little mustard. Kids ate it with a 60% rate of enthusiasm. I’ve seen worse.

Garden 2013: A Week Into July And Where Are We?

So, there are beans. A patch of soldier beans from Johnny’s seeds that should flower and pod, then fade and die before any are picked. Dried beans for winter to be slow baked with molasses and bacon. Bombastic bowel-tastic beans waiting for an evening with Hockey Night in Canada as a blizzard howls outside. The bok choi and mustards have flowered with the advent of heat. The lettuces are still coming on with new sowings. Grapes are looking very good as is the tower of potatoes. There are hundreds of sugar snap pea pods waiting to be picked now. The lad ate a raspberry from his own property today.

More seeds will be planted before work this week. Tender carrots for September and October need to get in the ground now. You mail order seeds in February to plan for spring. You sow seeds in July planning for autumn. It’s never about now.

Garden 2013: Lots To Eat… Including By Rabbits

Rabbits. I have seen them around the raised beds out front in the mornings when I head to work. But I had no idea that it had come to this. Beet eating. Frigging cheater pants rabbits are eating my beets and swiss card even if they are leaving the mustard greens, spinach and basil. Thing is… I like beets. Which is, of course why I planted them in the first place. For my eating, not theirs.







Out back there are parsnips, carrots, bok choi, onions, leeks, grapes, radishes, lettuce, peas and the amazing tower of potatoes. A chipmunk is eating the sunflowers but I feel less offended by that. I don’t eat sunflowers or chipmunks. And I am not allowed to trap the rabbits to eat them. It is an unfair deal. The tower of spuds is the year’s biggest innovation. Multilayer rings of seed potatoes on the outside of the tower, compost rich soil in the core and layered between the rings. They grow out the top and through the sides of the mesh. We’ll see what happens.

Garden 2013: The Last Of The Parsnip Crop


One of my favorite things to do is to not do something. Last year, I planted parsnips, onions and carrots in the square of soil by the front door. The carrots got dug up in early October and the onions were lifted a month earlier. But five parsnips were left in the ground all winter. Where they apparently grew. I had to dig around each root down around a foot and pull on the damn things. I left at least a quarter inch width of each in the ground. They came out with a snap.

Garden 2013: It’s Still March But Planting’s Begun

It has begun. A sunny Saturday reaching up towards maybe 7F today. I took down the cold frame that sat out back all winter and found one lone red lettuce plant growing along with a fair number of carrots. Leeks survived, hilled, out back and out front. Parsnips are starting to poke up enough green to betray their hiding spots.





Soups of ginger and parsnip are a-comin’. Peas have already been planted twice and some of the onion seedlings in the basement might actually survive. Rhubarb is a red ball pushing up through the leaves. But, best of all, that is the plot of garlic planted last fall showing itself.

Garden 2012: Root Vegetables For Thanksgiving Dinner


Three types of carrots. The smaller ones to be roasted with olive oil. The bigger ones will be shredded and mixed with parsley, garlic and rice wine vinegar in a salad. Add to that swiss chard with tarragon and orange zest as well as box choi with fish sauce and lime juice. Not to mention small onions roasting under the dripping beef. Lawn food is good.

Garden 2012: Making Meals From The Harvest

Yellow carrots. Small onions. Mine. Bought the seeds for the carrots in early March from Stokes. The variety is Yellowbunch and the seeds cost $2.25 a packet. Been eating them for likely 2 months now. Next year I am buying ten times as much. I believe I planted the carrots from May 5 until mid-July. Some are over a foot long now. Others are tiny like those above. The green bits taste like parsley when lightly roasted. Next year the spuds will be mine as well. I am building a tower, a crib, a box. Fill with soil. Ram spuds in through the sides. Potato high rise. A spuddy ziggurat.

Garden 2012: Onion Harvest Day Is Now… As In Now!

onions2012Onions are no so much a vegetable as a necessity. At the old farmstead, I planted 2000 onion sets a year. This year, a quarter of that on about ten square feet of where the front lawn was removed last Easter.

They may last until Christmas. Unless I make a whopping pile of onion jam or something nutty like that. The smell of harvesting them with your bare hands is exotic. If onions, something we ate 1,000 years ago, were not common they would be a spice. Next year, more.