Let’s talk about sexist beer marketing

Ben's Beer Blog

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Women drink craft beer.

It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but apparently it needs to be said.

So I’ll say it again, this time with dramatic punctuation: Women. Drink. Craft. Beer.

They drink a lot of it and the number of women who are discovering the craft beer industry is growing every single day.

As of 2013, women account for 25% of total beer consumption by volume in the United States and they account for 37% of total American craft beer consumption.

A recent poll suggests that beer is now actually the first choice of alcoholic beverage for US women aged 18 to 34 (Take that, white wine).

Women work in craft beer, too. According to a 2014 Auburn University study, the United States brewing industry is now roughly 29% female.

And while statistics on gender-specific drinking habits here in Canada aren’t quite so robust as those…

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Summer Seasonal Beer – The Collective Arts Mixer Pack

Collective Arts, based in Hamilton, is one of my favourite Ontario breweries.  I’ve always loved their Rhyme & Reason Pale Ale and State of Mind Session IPA.  The packaging has always been something I found very novel, with different works of art from local artists appearing on the bottles and cans.

So I was very excited to try the Summer Seasonal Mixer Pack consisting of 3 new beers: Hefeweizen, Gose (go-zah) and Papaya Saison.  I’m very happy to say they did not disappoint.

Of the three the Hefeweizen is a quintessential summer patio beer.  It’s a refreshing German style wheat beer that pours a cloudy deep gold.  It has the banana and clove aromatics that are typical to this style and this case they are a pleasing balance of both.  Imagine having a good thick slice of white bread covered with Juicy Fruit Bubblegum spread.  I know such a thing doesn’t exist, but really, it should!

The Gose, is a Leipzig style salt beer that may sound strange, but is really a very crisp and refreshing beer.  The nose is mainly coriander, with sour dough bread and a subtle briny note.  It had a slightly tart flavour, that in my opinion could have been a little more tart and a little saltier.  But I believe with this mixer pack they are targeting people who may not have tried a style like this before, so I understand the subtly being used.  Overall this is a beer I could drink several of just sitting in the sun relaxing on a dock or patio.

The Papaya Saison was the one I was most looking forward to trying.  It had all the trappings of a good French Farmhouse Ale, with notes of white pepper, lemon peel and honey.   While the papaya is quite light on the nose, it’s definitely present in the taste.  As soon as it hits your tongue the tropical papaya fruitiness dominates, followed by the citrus and white pepper flavours.  The finish is very dry, typical for a Saison, but always leaves you wanting more.

Overall this is a great selection of summer styles and something I’d pick up again.  Its available at the LCBO in 6 bottle mixer packs for $14.95 and is their first stab at a seasonal/limited listing.  If I were you I would get yours while it’s hot!

Collingwood Downhill vs Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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One night I was having a few beers over at my friend Mick’s place and he urged me to try Collingwood Downhill Pale Ale again, saying it was as good as a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This was a bold statement considering that Mick knew how much I loved that particular beer.  I should mention that Mick is the Toronto Rep for The Collingwood Brewery and believes very deeply in the product he’s selling. I should also mention that I’m already a huge fan of Collingwood’s Fireside ESB and use it as an example of the style in the Prud’homme classes I teach.

I had previously tried Downhill shortly after Mick started working for Collingwood. Back then it was in a white can and Mick tells me it was a different recipe and process. At that time I wasn’t overly impressed with it and placed it in the category of an “okay beer” that I wouldn’t turn down if offered to me, but not one I would seek out on my own.

My entire opinion of Downhill Pale Ale changed when Mick gave it to me to try again at his place. When I poured it in the glass it immediately reminded me of the copper colour of Sierra Nevada, which set it apart from most APAs on the market. The rich caramel and toffee aromas blended very nicely with the orange and grapefruit notes from the American hops. It smelled and tasted like marmalade on toast and was very much like my favourite beer.

It is my favourite beer for very good reason.  My first taste of Sierra Nevada came when I had it at Beer Bistro several years ago while I was completing my Prud’homme Beer Sommelier Certification. It was the most amazing and well balanced American Pale Ale I’d ever had. I loved it so much that for my final project, I designed a vertical beer dinner using it for every single course including dessert. To this day I still think it is the best beer to pair with pretty much anything because of it’s balance and versatility.

My love for this beer has not diminished over the years. I’ve even been on a beer nerd pilgrimage the Sierra Nevada Brewery itself in Chico California, which was absolutely amazing.  I love this beer so much I generally have some in my fridge at all times. Thankfully it’s now widely available in Ontario, so I don’t have to drive to Buffalo to get it anymore.

Because of Mick’s spirited advocacy of his beer I wanted to try them head to head and to be completely fair I did a blind comparison of both. And to ensure my senses were properly tuned, and on the advice of my friend Chris Schryer, I had a third glass poured of one of them and I was not told which. So there were two the same and one different.  The goal with doing that is to pick the odd one out and determine which one was better.  If you aren’t able to pick the two that are the same beer, you really aren’t able to objectively judge either of them.

So how did Collingwood Downhill Pale Ale fare against one of my favourite beers of all time?

Pretty damn good!  It had the same great colour and aromas, although it’s slightly hazier than Sierra Nevada.  Flavour wise they are both very similar, but it was the overall balance that set them apart… but only slightly.  The Sierra Nevada is extremely well balanced with the malt sweetness and hop bitterness and they work so well together that it’s a very pleasing taste sensation.  Downhill also has great balance, but the bitterness comes out slightly ahead in terms of dominance.  But it is a very subtle difference and does not at all detract from the fact that this is a fantastic example of a an American Pale Ale.

Sierra Nevada is coming from California and Downhill is coming from just under 2 hours away from my home, so freshness is a major factor.  I’m  also a big fan of locally made beer, so it gets extra points for that.

The final verdict is that while Sierra Nevada is still my favourite APA, I’ll likely keep a few cans of Downhill in my fridge as another great go to American Pale Ale.  Cheers Mick!

 

 

Chocolate Beer from the Spice Islands

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St. George’s Harbour, Grenada

The Spice Island of Grenada in the West Indies isn’t well know for its beer selection, with Carib and Stag being the most commonly available brands.  It is however quite well known for producing things like rum, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger and chocolate.  I thought it might be interesting to come up with a beer recipe that combines some of these ingredients

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Douglaston Spice Plantation – allspice, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, cacao, bay leaves & ginger

After visiting a chocolate plantation on the north side of the island, I learned exactly how chocolate is made and why it pairs so well with beer.  It’s the cacao beans, which are found inside large pods, that are used to make chocolate.  The beans are removed from the pod with the white pulp still surrounding them and it is left to ferment in large vats for 7 days.

This process breaks down some of harsher tannins and gives the bean a much fuller body and richness that we know and love in chocolate. The wild yeast that ferments these beans (Saccharomyces) is very similar to what ferments beer, which is probably why chocolate and beer work so well together.

Inside cocoa

Beans inside cacao pods

Following fermentation, the beans are laid out in the sun for another 7 days to dry.  Once dried they are sorted, roasted and crushed to separate it from the husk.  Broken pieces of the bean are also known as cacao nibs.  The refining process goes on from that point to make chocolate, but it’s the nibs I want to use to make a beer with.

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Drying racks for cacao beans

The most common style of beer to make use of those nibs would be either a porter or a stout, but I wanted to try something a little less conventional.  Surrounded by the big beautiful blue salt water ocean, the island of Grenada itself gave me the idea to add some sea salt into the mix.  Think about how great salted dark chocolate tastes and how that combination might make an interesting beer.

I initially thought a Chocolate Gose might be the way to go to merge these flavours.  Gose beer is a traditional German sour wheat beer that has salt and coriander added to it.  The sour aspect of the style might prove problematic with the chocolate, so I’ve opted to try a Salted Chocolate Stout instead.  I also wanted to incorporate some of the other island ingredients such as nutmeg and rum and figured they would blend well with this particular recipe.

So this is the recipe I’m going to use for a 5 gallon batch:

12 lbs 2 Row Pale Malt
1 lb Chocolate Malt
1 lb Munich Malt
1 lb Oats, Flaked
12.0 oz Carafa II
8.0 oz Special W Malt
4.0 oz Roasted Barley
1.00 oz Nugget [13.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min
Belgian Golden Ale (White Labs #WLP570) Yeast 9
Cacao Nibs (following primary fermentation)
Nutmeg (following primary fermentation)
Sea Salt (following primary fermentation)
Rum soaked oak chips (secondary)

Once I brew this, I’ll post again with the results and tasting notes for the beer.

Small Batch Festivals & The People’s Pint

People's Pint #SmallBatchBrews

People’s Pint #SmallBatchBrews

Throughout the year there are numerous large festivals dedicated to craft beer in the province.  Generally speaking large festivals have a pretty wide variety of beer available from a number of different breweries.  But these festivals do have a downside; the number of people who attend.   What I mean by that is when it’s not handled properly by the organizers, having too many people can mean longer lines for everything; to enter the event, to buy beer tickets/tokens, to get beer and food and very importantly to use the washroom.

On the other hand smaller festivals, while much more intimate, tend to lack a wide selection of beer.  They often have the same stuff you can get pretty much anywhere and rarely are there any one-offs or unusual brews.  The upside is that there is more time to talk to individual breweries about their beer and in some cases speak with one of the brewers who actually make the beer.

So how do you get great variety in a much smaller and less crowded setting?

Welcome to the People’s Pint Brewing Collective.  It is a small festival with only 100 tickets available, but it features 20 different unique beers from 15 different brewers.

The first People's Pint Event in May 2015 at the Gladstone Hotel

The first People’s Pint Event in May 2015 at the Gladstone Hotel

We bring together award winning amateur and professional brewers to each create small batches (19L) of a single one-off beer.  This leads to an amazing amount of choice, but doesn’t overwhelm you with too many possibilities.  Patrons attending this Small Batch Festival are able to speak to the brewers directly and can conceivably try all the beer being offered.  This brings together the best of both worlds.

Originally this concept started with homebrewers creating the beer in their kitchens, basements or garages around the city.  But legally the only way to serve that beer was to belong to a private club and the events were only open to club members.  Trying to promote this sort of event blurred the lines of legality and so we decided to explore another avenue.  The best option in this case was to get the beer legally brewed at a bricks and mortar brewery.

We approached several breweries in the city and asked if they’d be willing to host outside brewers under their roof and allow them to brew beer under their license.  Happily every single brewery we approached said yes and were very supportive of the entire concept:

Rainhard Brewing Co.Junction Craft BrewingMuddy York Brewing Co.Indie Ale House Brewing Co.Great Lakes Brewery & the newly opened Folly Brewpub all graciously hosted our brewers.  Many thanks to all of them for making this happen!

People's Pint Custom Glassware

People’s Pint Custom Glassware

Our next event is coming up on Sunday November 15th and will be limited in size but with very unique beers like: “Cookie Monster” a chocolate stout, “Peater Drinklage” a smoked pale ale, “Redrum” a Belgian Dubbel flavoured with pecans and rum soaked raisins and “Saison’s Greetings” another Belgian style beer that tastes like Gingerbread.  A complete list of what is available can be found at the People’s Pint Website.

The Lansdowne Brewery

The Lansdowne Brewery

Another very supportive brewer in the community has stepped forward to host our event, Jeremy Coghill, one of the owners of the Lansdowne Brewery.  We are very thankful for this and are very happy to have our event with them.  They are located at 303 Lansdowne Ave, and while not yet selling their own beer they are serving excellent food and top notch locally brewed beer from other amazing breweries.

If you are interested in attending our upcoming Small Batch Event, get your tickets before they sell out, only 100 tickets will be offered for sale.  Ticket includes a custom printed tasting glass and all the samples you can drink.  You can get them here.

But don’t wait too long they will sell out fast.  Hope you will join us!

Craft Beer in Copenhagen

Mikkeller Pub in Copenhagen.

Mikkeller Pub in Copenhagen.

For a long time Denmark has been well known for producing the very iconic Carlsberg Pilsner.  It is a brand that has sponsored the FIFA World Cup and has created some pretty cool marketing campaigns over the years.

But Copenhagen isn’t just Carlsberg anymore.  Thanks to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a high school teacher, and journalist Kristian Klarup Keller, everything has changed.  Back in 2006 these two homebrewers created Mikkeller, which is a “gyspy” brewery with no real bricks and mortar facility to call their own.  They wanted to “challenge beer friends with intense new tastes”, drawing inspiration from the American breweries that “aren’t afraid to play and break all the rules”.

Mikkeller has a couple of pubs in Copenhagen, which serve as a home base, but continue to brew all over the world, collaborating with many well know brewers.  The beer they make really does push the limits and they aren’t afraid to try new and different things such as a black imperial pilsner or a sweet and sour naturally fermented beer they call “Kung Fu”.

Thanks to the world wide success and recognition of Mikkeller beer, Denmark now has well over 100 new micro breweries, with many new brewers hoping to cash in on the current craft beer trend sweeping the world.

Excellent Beer & food at Nørrebro Bryhus

Excellent Beer & food at Nørrebro Bryghus

One of the other early entrants into the craft beer scene in Copenhagen was the Nørrebro Bryghus, which opened it’s doors in 2003.  They shared a similar philosophy of creating new and unique beers that weren’t readily available in Denmark.  Their Bombay Pale Ale is a Danish take on the American IPA and it is well balanced with plenty of grapefruit and citrus hop flavours. Their original brew pub is still one of the coolest spots in the city, with a laid back vibe, excellent beer and food with very attentive, but not intrusive service.  It’s a place that you can really experience the Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced hugh-ga). In essence hygge means “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people”.

Fermentoren, a place with so much great beer!

Fermentoren, a place with so much great beer!

Fermentoren in a formally industrial section of the city is another great place to experience hygge.  They have a very warm and cozy environment, great for the often cold, grey and rainy northern European days.  The draft list is unbelievable with offerings from many of the smaller, harder to find, Danish brewers.  While they don’t have a kitchen providing food, they do encourage you to buy food from the numerous vendors in the surrounding area and bring it in.

Variety of styles in Carlsberg's Jacobsen beers

Variety of styles in the Carlsberg Jacobsen line up of beers

The love of craft beer in this country has even influenced brewing giant Carlsberg.  They have created a very popular line of Jacobsen beers, which are named for their original founder, JC Jacobsen.  They are edgy, interesting and high quality beers that are widely available at grocery and corner stores throughout the city.

Copenhagen is a great place for beer, but in typical Danish fashion they don’t brag about it, they just let everyone come and discover it for themselves.

Do “bought out” breweries really start making lesser beer?

If anything this infusion of cash will actually make the beer better. I’ve noticed many inconsistencies lately with Mill Street beers, many to do with packaging issues. But I also just had an excellent experience at their brew pub. The beer was great, food pretty amazing and the service was top notch. I’m looking forward to being able to order a Mill Street beer at more mainstream establishments too (like the Rogers Centre). It’ll help open up the world of craft beer to so many more people than before.

Ben's Beer Blog


Four days ago, following the news that local AB InBev subsidiary, Labatt, had purchased Mill Street Brewery, I wrote something about the news for Toronto Life.

While it was my intent to take more of a “positive” approach to the news than you might expect most craft beer fans would, the article did actually outline my own feelings about the takeover fairly accurately. And if you haven’t read the article yet, I can summarize my response for you fairly succinctly with one word; namely, “Meh.”

And while the reasons I’m “meh” on the news are myriad (and detailed in the article. Seriously, just go fucking read it), I received quite a few negative responses to my take, and, as you can imagine, Mill Street has taken some abuse about the news, too. Because it’s the internet, the responses vary widely from reasoned and logical arguments about where beer-drinkers…

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Beer and Food Pairings 101

Beer and Food at the Benelux Brewpub in Montreal

Beer and Food at the Benelux Brewpub in Montreal

Most people have a much easier time figuring out what wine to have with dinner than they do what beer.  But food and beer pairings are way more versatile and enjoyable than wine in my opinion.  Trouble is most people aren’t entirely sure what to pair with beer because there are so many variables.  I generally start by checking out what is on the beer menu before I decide what food to order.  That usually helps to narrow it down a little.  But if you are in the mood for a specific food item start there and find a beer that best matches it.

But what do you do next?  As luck would have it I came across this great info-graphic at Buzzbin that helps to summarize the choices.  (I suggest saving each of the photos and keeping them handy on your smart phone for quick consultation.) It has narrowed it down to 10 basic beer styles, it simplifies things and it is quite helpful.

Pilsners are light straw to golden in colour with a dense and rich head.  The flavour is simple with light grain and hops bittering.  it has a clean and refreshing finish.

Pilsners are light straw to golden in colour with a dense and rich head. The flavour is simple with light grain and hops bittering. it has a clean and refreshing finish.

Wheat beers (found under many different names, such as Hefeweizen and Wit) are refreshing, pale in colour, sometimes cloudy and unfiltered, and highly carbonated.  Fruity flavours are common.  In addition to the graphics listed brunch food like Eggs Benedict also pair well with wheat beers.

Wheat beers (found under many different names, such as Hefeweizen and Wit) are refreshing, pale in colour, sometimes cloudy and unfiltered, and highly carbonated. Fruity flavours are common. In addition to the graphics listed brunch food like eggs benedict also pair well with wheat beers.

Pale ale is usually light-coloured beer that is both malty and hoppy.  Pale ales (or bitters) from England are often  earthy and spicy, where as American pale ales are a little lighter, usually with grapefruit and pine characteristics.

Pale ale is usually light-coloured beer that is both malty and hoppy. Pale ales (or bitters) from England are often earthy and spicy, where as American pale ales are a little lighter, usually with citrus and/or pine characteristics.

Lagers are crisp and refreshing with a smooth finish from longer aging. Most lagers are a pale to medium gold colour, have high carbonation, and a low to medium hop flavour.

Lagers are crisp and refreshing with a smooth finish from longer aging. Most lagers are a pale but can also be a medium to dark amber to jet black colour.  They have high carbonation, and a low to medium hop flavour.

The saison is a complex style of beer; many are very fruity and spicy in aroma and flavour, with mild to moderate tartness.  They tend to be semi-dry and vary in colour from pale to reddish amber.

The saison is a complex style of beer; many are very fruity and spicy in aroma and flavour, with mild to moderate tartness. They tend to be semi-dry and vary in colour from pale to reddish amber.

IPAs range in colour from very pale golden to reddish amber.  They are moderate to medium bodied with herbal and/or citric character, and are known for their bitter aroma and flavour.

IPAs range in colour from very pale golden to reddish amber. They are medium to full bodied with herbal and/or citric character, and are known for their bitter aroma and flavour.

True to it's name, brown ale is a dark amber colour.  They have a higher level of malt, which makes them more earthy and less bitter.  Flavours vary from sweet to slightly hoppy, to malty.

True to it’s name, brown ale is a dark amber colour. They have a higher level of malt, which makes them somewhat sweeter and the hops used make it earthy and less bitter. Flavours vary from sweet to slightly hoppy (earthy/herbal), to malty.

Bock beer is a rich, complex, malt forward, low hop style of lager, with a dark amber to brown hue.  Among the heaviest and maltiest, yet smoothest, of brews, they are very rich in flavours of dark fruits and chocolate.

Bock beer is a rich, complex, malt forward, low hop style of lager, with a dark amber to brown hue. Among the heaviest and maltiest, yet smoothest, of brews, they are very rich in flavours of dark fruits and hints of chocolate.

Stout features a rich, creamy head and is flavoured and coloured by roasted barley.  Stouts often use a portion of unmalted roasted barley to develop a dark, slightly astringent, coffee-like character.

Stout features a rich, creamy head and is flavoured and coloured by roasted barley. Stouts often use a portion of unmalted roasted barley to develop a dark, slightly astringent, coffee-like character.

Porter is a dark, almost black, fruity-dry, top fermented style.  An ale, porter is brewed with a combination of roasted malts to impart flavour, colour and aroma.

Porter is a dark, almost black, fruity-dry, top fermented style. An ale, porter is brewed with a combination of roasted malts to impart flavour, colour and aroma.

One final thought when doing beer and food pairings:   What grows together, goes together.  So beer from a certain region or country generally pairs well with food from that region or country.  A good example would be cheddar cheese and English bitters or pale ales.  Enjoy!

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings and Cameron’s Lager

I’m a huge fan of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and chicken wings, but I’m also a huge fan of oven roasted cauliflower. So this vegan fusion looks like an amazing thing to try! As far as beer pairing with this I would opt for either the Cameron’s Lager Dan is suggesting in here or if you want to amp up the spicy try a very hop forward American Pale Ale, like Clifford’s Pinball Wizard or Rainhard Armed and Citra.

BrewScout

I mentioned in my last recipe / beer pairing that I’m awfully fond of spicy food. I also really like when cooking doesn’t take a lot of effort. This healthy, vegan recipe is super easy.

I’ve been playing around with Buffalo Cauliflower Wings since last summer – pretty happy with where I’ve got it now.

You could simplify this further by choosing just one type of flour, but I find the combination of buckwheat and whole wheat makes the batter just gluey enough, without gumming up inside the cauliflower’s little pockets.

I downed this batch with a bottle (or two) of Cameron’s Lager (5.0%); a tasty, refreshing German Pilsner that washes away the heat from the Buffalo Sauce, so each bite has all the flavour of the one before.

TIME NEEDED

About 25 minutes, start to finish

INGREDIENTS

Stage 1

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup water

Stage 2

1 head of cauliflower

Stage…

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A Great Food Pairing for a Flight of Beer

Beer Flight at Pelican Brewing in Oregon

Beer Flight at Pelican Brewing Company in Oregon

Ever been to a brew pub with just too many great beers to choose from?  Places like that can be a little overwhelming, but it really is a great way to get a little variety and try something new.  In many of these types of places you can usually order a flight, which are about 4 ounces each and can be 4 to 8 different samples.  It’s great because you can sample everything you want and still be able to comfortably walk out of the place when you are done.

The only downside to ordering a flight is how they can sometimes be poured.  Many places don’t pour each glass with enough head on it to truly appreciate how the beer smells and tastes.  But thankfully some places really understand the importance of head on a beer and they should be thanked when they pour it properly.

Flight at the Rogue Brew Pub in Oregon

Flight at the Rogue Brew Pub in Oregon – They know how to pour a great flight! 

The other very cool thing you can do with a flight of beer is order food and experiment with the different flavours and see how it complements or contrasts with the beer.  There are several great menu choices that will give you a number of interesting experiences, but the best one for me has been the Cobb Salad.

Traditional Cobb Salad

A Traditional Cobb Salad

A traditional Cobb Salad consists of iceberg lettuce, blue cheese, bacon, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado and chicken.  There are variations on this that can include other things such as seafood, but this is the usual combination.  It is also generally served with each of the component ingredients placed on the salad in separated sections, which makes it ideal for a taste experimentation.  Beer and salad pairings are very underrated and an interesting way to enjoy both.

With your flight you can experiment with different combinations and really understand how a great beer and food pairing works.  I still remember the first time I had an imperial stout with blue cheese, it was heavenly!

Be sure that when ordering your flight to pair with food you choose several different styles and try beers you wouldn’t normally order.  It’s only 4 ounces and if you really don’t like it, it’s only 4 ounces!  By doing this you may discover a style of beer you wouldn’t normally order and find a new favourite, especially if it works well with the food.  These sorts of beer and food pairings are a great exploration for your tastebuds and an excellent way to go outside of your comfort zone to discover new combinations.