Session 127: Autumn’s Here, What To Drink?

Alistair has asked us to write about Oktoberfest beers for this edition of The Session but, like others, I like in a fairly sparsely serviced area. Boak and Bailey faced a similar problem and tried to see if there was a modern British equivalent. Sadly, they concluded not. But if we look back perhaps there was. This passage below is from a book titled Art and Nature at Home and Abroad From 1856:

September ale. Hmm. What was this stuff? The slaves to style will no doubt tell us that because it hasn’t been listed in the BJCP guide now it never really existed then. But as we have learned from archival brewings like Taunton ale, mid-1850s New York brewed IPA or cream beer we see again and again that the people of the past weren’t stupid and that sorts of beer labeled as this or that met the expectations of those drinking them.

The problem is not so much determining if it was as what it was. I have to admit a few things. I am writing this on an iPad mini and, while I co-wrote two books on it between laptop deaths, it is slow going. Plus I am in the middle of moving the kid into college. Perhaps another has already unpacked it. Dunno yet. So with the promise of a future exploration – let me suggest that what it tastes like, if the passage above is to be believed, is what Keats described in his poem. Autumn.


Maine: Interlude 2007, Allagash, Portland

Twenty-four bucks? What was I doing last decade? I have only a few of these aged big bottles left. I gave up a long time ago on trying to keep the cellar up. One of the few beers left from the days of glory, the era of beer blog ad revenue. I was throwing around the cash like a madman. Pretending that I mattered like some current era communicator. Stan actually mocked me about this beer in particular. But that was back in the day when folk weren’t questioning the fleece. Or at least when 2000 brewers weren’t making something good and sour for half the price. You know, the 75 comments under that post from some pretty interesting names are all… pretty interesting – but it’s as if they thought we would all be drinking $60 beers by now. Really? How did that turn out? Market forces thought otherwise. Bulk fine craft FTW!

It’s 40º C out there. Seven week drought might end tomorrow. Worst summer for rain since 1888. Nutty. I just need a reasonably interesting beer. I just need it not to suck. I pulled it out of the cellar, stuck it in the fridge by the orange juice and the milk bags. [Canada. Go figure.] Hey… it doesn’t. It’s good. Still and a bit thick but in no sense off. Fresh with a lighter lingering finish than expected. The colour of aged varnished pine. An orange hue at the edge. On the nose, warm whisky sweet with autumn fruit, brown sugar and grain as well as a fresh Worchestershired yogurty hum. Pear and fig. The baked fruit crisp you dream of. The second half pint pour generates a lovely subdued tang when rinsed about the gums. Like 90% barley wine with maybe 10% old gueuze. Or less. Just a hint. And all those whispers of rich deep malty grain huskiness still there. Lovely.

Am I glad I spent $24 for this nine years ago? I’m sure I don’t care. Do you know how much I have spent on diapers and winter tires since then? It makes me want. And I just want a thick bacon sandwich. I have asked a child younger than this beer to bring me a chunk of the slab of Vermont cheddar we are working on. Fabulous. Rewarding. The espresso of a grain field. Big BAer love and deservedly so.

The Earth Turns Again And All Of A Sudden…

Previous celebrations: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2014 and
2015. Unlike last year, this March comes in after a soft winter. Plenty of warm stretches and only one heavy dump of snow in mid-February. No viral plagues. In the furnace room, weights were lifted and planks were even planked. The season’s seeds have been in hand for weeks with the package of parsnips showing up just yesterday, last year’s crop a few weeks from harvest once the thaw comes. Maple soon.


Thank God It Has Come And The Frost’s Going

Previous celebrations: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. This March comes with the first day to hit -2C in weeks. Snows and deep freezes. Norwalk visited last week and another bug two weeks before. Exam marks came back with praises earned. And Scotland again.


What To Do In This Wintery Winter?

What to do with a weekend in the middle of February? 11 reps of various dumbbell things along with 30 minutes on the recumbent bike in the basement. I am pretty sure that the bike is good training to sit on a recumbent bike in a basement. Then, eleven or nine loads of laundry. Laundry is a good therapy. I am even ironing shirts once in a while. If I am going to wear a tie, the shirt is going to be seersucker even in winter. A portion of life is dedicated to ensuring you feel like you are in pajamas even if you look ready for business. Roasting. Made a pork roast with pear, ginger and Madeira sauce yesterday and then had it cold on a bun for breakfast. 325F oven turned down to 300F until an internal temp of 140F. Dijon mustard on the crisscrossed fatty side placed up. Looking out the window at the filling driveway is good fun. Three weeks to march and maybe six to peas in the ground. People make Glasgow. Peas may signal the spring but people make Glasgow.

A Blog For The Ages Rears Its Ugly Head…

Once upon a time I received an email. Can’t find it now but it was a notice that either then National Archives or the National Library of Canada was archiving the posts at this blog as a part of the record of the phenomenon. Whatever it was it is pretty much done. Once upon a time I applied for an ISSN for the blog. Imagine that. Blogging in the end was killed off by blogging as much as anything. At least the political blogging was. People will point to Facebook and Twitter as the reasons for the demise of blogging a few years back but really it’s the taking on of the word “blog” by paid journalists who were writing internet columns as much as anything that killed off the interest in the amateur comment maker observing on the world. I was lucky. I was paid to blog the Federal Election for the CBC in 2006 right around the time I was giving up on the CBC for good. Boy do those observations on Jian look good now.

I started this blog when I was 40. Now I am 51. Think I will start it up again. If only to fingure out who the Red Sovine of blogging is or, now, was. If only to post photos of breakfasts like the one above from this last August when I visited Nardini’s in Largs, Mom’s hometown in Scotland. So that generations of Canadians hereafter will know.


Beer Shopping: Oliver’s Beverage, Albany, New York


oliv1So, did you know I went to Albany, New York last week? It was a five hour drive down last Tuesday and another five back the next day. I enjoy the drive inordinately as it is a drive back in time south through lands settled in the early 1800s, along following the Erie Canal finished in the 1820, past pre-contact Mohawk communities, past the noses and down into the Hudson Valley first settled by the Dutch in the 1610s. And there is a great beer store. Which sorta covers two of my interests fairly well. The beer store is Oliver’s Beverages, nicknamed the Brew Crew, associated with but legally distinct from Albany Wines and Spirits presumably due to the state’s liquor laws. It’s all there in the photo above.













Craig, as master of ceremonies for the trip, took me there on Tuesday night and I went back to buy a mixed box to take home on my way out of town. This is a point to be understood clearly. It is amazingly handy for the traveling beer nerd. You pass the place if you are driving from Boston to any points west of Albany. You pass the place if you are driving from Quebec or any part west of it in Canada to New York City… or Boston. It sits near where Interstate 87meets Interstate 90 and is only, as we say, one jig and one jog from exit 5. Handy does not explain how handy this place is for the motoring beer nerd.

Second… and appreciate this coming from me… I think this is the best beer store I have ever seen. Let me explain “best”… it is massive. 1500 types of beer. I did not count. I was told. But the selection is mind boggling. And I mean this as someone whose mind in fact boggled. If you click on the two thumbnails above to the left, you will see Craig illustrating the scale of the place by first pointing to a bottle near the camera. And then running to the far end of the aisle and pointing at one there. I have a rule about US beer stores. I touch no bottle for five minutes as the whole boggling thing is to be expected. Twice this year I have read the phrase “well curated” in relation to a beer selection offered at an establishment. Screw that. I want it all. I did notice an absence of Girardin but there wasn’t much else I would miss.

The prices were also quite fair. Dupont Bon Voeux was $11.59 before the 10% mixed case discount. Ale Smith Nut Brown was $6.49. And, while it is not curated, there is curator. If you click on the thumbnail to the centre-right you will see Nico, the craft beer selection manager down at the end of another aisle. Nico, as he kept loading shelves, had all the time to chat with Craig and me on both visits, was very knowledgeable about beer nerd culture as well as his stock. I asked him about the effect of the scale of the selection and we discussed how the store was organized in such a matter that it helped the buyer cope with that. Styles and breweries are gathered within an overall geographical location, There are also shelves and shelves of ciders and perries and such.

It is in a way an artefact of this point in time. The physical space, the need to organize, the warehouse style shelving, the data all around you on signs, cards, stickers, labels and bottles. I am increasingly aware of how I am informed by space. If you look at the thumbnail to the far right up above you will see another example. It’s taken on Beaver Street just by the intersection of Green. The corner is the site of the mid-1700s King’s Arms, the 1776 flashpoint of the American Revolution in the Albany area and the founding business of the Cartwright clan of Loyalist Tories that were key to the establishment of my city of Kingston Ontario and in fact, the entire province and indeed the nation of British North Americans. But that, oddly, is not my point in posting that picture. Do you see how the street distinctly turns to the left? That turn expresses something a hundred years older than the King’s Arms, the southern design of the palisades of the original settlement. You can see it in this map from 1770 but, more particularly, you can see it in the 1695 map Craig posted to describe the community in the 1600s Dutch era. The intersection of Beaver and Green is located to the left, mid-way up. Beaver Street arcs in parallel to the settlement’s wall.

Which is interesting. Which reminds me that you can see things even when they are no longer there or, even, see things implicit in a space. Like the wall of the palisade that hasn’t been there for the best part of 300 years. Or the sound of that tavern brawl two hundred and thirty-seven which, in part, led to the creation of two countries. Or the state of good beer culture from the scale of a store.