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.
What a mess. I hadn’t realized the label was made of hard card stock stuck on with two-sided sticky tape. I might take it down to the lab and get James’ near teen DNA off of it. Bottle 131 of 200. By opening it, I probably just threw away the 100 bucks I could get from some guy in Kansas on eBay. Sent as a sample by the brewery when they were but boys a few years back. I decided to open it after watching a little Horatio Hornblower that was accompanied by a Bourbn County stout. No doubt you have known that moment, too.
As promised, it is all Islay on the nose, the beloved smoky low Islands Scots whisky. Land of my fathers. Because the stout sat in a barrel of the 1968. My mother’s cousin-in-law was a canny and, for the Clyde, stylish post-war whisky broker in the southwest so I am sure he would approve. He certainly would recognize it. Deep deep mahogany under mocha rim and froth. Aroma of the malt but in the mouth it is sharp. At first, a hammer of old Dutch man’s licorice with all the salt that goes along with seaweedy Islay – then something like a stout with something like a whisky. It isn’t really anything like “balanced” and I wonder, honestly, if it is more of an artifact than a beer. Dry and a little like something I would call harsh but on the lovely side of harsh. Descriptors like “whopping”, “foolish” and “two by four to the head” come to mind. Planky. Sae halp ma bob. That is all I can say.
One sole BAer went mad for this early Holy Grail like example of experimental 21st century UK brewing.
I heard the news today. Chaos Theory was being delisted. Discontinued. One of the sure signs of a brewery moving into a next stage is rationalization and we have seen a bit of that with BrewDog. They have new staff and a new range for their experimental beer ideas. But once upon a time they were not rationalizing. They were a wee bit irrational, in fact, as they used to send me samples… including samples of prototypes. These two beers have been in the stash for at least a year. I think I got them in November 2008 along with a following email from James actually saying “sorry it took me so long to send them” even though it was free beer and I was Canadian. They have held up well. The prototype shows some crown cap rusting but the proper labeled version is quite clean. At over 7%, there’s no issue as to condition with the best before being over six months from now. Let’s have a go.
The two beers appear roughly the same – medium amber orange with a swell white froth and foam. On the sniff, the prototype is a bit richer but both are raisin tart with prototype leaning towards a really gorgeously complex set of orange peel, allspice, baked raisin edgings. In the mouth, the prototype suffers a tiny bit from a drabness – even with the swirl of malt richness – which could be time but also tastes like a bit of cardamom. There is a bit of a husky quality to it that butts heads with the fruit richness, too, the aroma’s promise. A little bitter and even mineral in the finish even with the barley candy playing out. Still, big and fine and I’d have bought it if it ever made the shelves.
Theory put into practice is a notch finer. The note of the finishing hops stands out more clearly – tangerine peel, candy cane and even maybe a hint of coffee bean. In the mouth, there’s a little less to work with than the prototype but there’s more control even with all the bitterness. Softer water with weedy hops over peppermint and peppery hops over rich cream malt. Pear in the malt. Also big, pretty brash but not off kilter. A very well made beer that the BAers gave big respect.
BrewDog has been doing all things for (and to) all people including taking a brash, cheeky culturally appropriate stance that I love more than even each of their beers. But like childhood’s end, it’s no longer all about adding. Sometimes there is subtracting in life.
“It smells like the granary when it’s filled.” I think that is what I was told but it makes sense.
It pours – imagine – rather deep brownish and has a rich mocha froth and foam. The nose in delightful. Fig and chocolate, milk and bread crust. Like a rich child’s breakfast in 1710. The mouth expands with both smooth and whisky sharp. Not Lowland, Campbelltown. Barely a “hodge yer whisht” from the land of my forefathers off the far eastern side of Arran. An amazing swishy mouthful of softness, grain, roast and shadow of burn. Batch 17 in the Paradox series. “Awfy braw” were Oor Wullie asked.
BAers don’t do subtle. The lips tingle from the water of life.
It was an intense stretch of negotiations. I begged. They were repulsed. I whined. Then…they pitied and came on board. We of A Good Beer Blog are always thrilled when a new sponsor signs up and we like to explore all sorts of ways to get along all in the cause of what might be thought of an alternative take on craft lagers and ales. The fine folk at BrewDog cover a few bases – they make incredibly good and innovative beer while meeting a sensitivity to the emotional needs of a North American bound fan of the Greenock Morton. It’s good to be in such a relationship. I’m all a giggle at the idea of them joining people like the hoteliers of Prague and, of course, the good good people at Ontario Craft Brewers. I think we’ll float the ad in the tops stories for a while. See how that works. Click on it and you will no longer even be here.
And this is part of a big plan we call the big plan. We are always looking for these sorts of new pals. It’s kind of like a support group for this one beer fan with a writing problem who finds himself bearing the full weight of a jurisdiction with monopolistic beer practices of limited variety, overly taxed price structures and friends who ask “can I have another one of those?”. Proceeds go to beer travel by car and beer acquisition by hand picked selection at some of the nicest stores in Quebec and the US north-east. That’s right: cash = stash. Simple math. And we dicker and we try to figure out a bazillion ways for you to join in whether by an ad or a sample or just by that Google ad cheque in the mail. Why? Because we love what you the beer hound, beer maker, beer writer, beer vendor and beer bar owner do. All proceeds include the tax man’s share (at least five ways if I was to think about it) and acquisitions go in part to the local beer nerds I am cultivating…though in larger part to me. Gotta be honest.
Do you have what it takes to sponsor or otherwise the support the program of good works we are undertaking at A Good Beer Blog? I bet you do. I do.