Contest: Win an Amsterdam Cruiser bike

Check it out – win a very cool Cruiser bike from the fine folks at Amsterdam Brewing. Details in Ben’s Beer Blog.

Ben's Beer Blog

Cruiser_Bikeonly

There are two things I like about summer: drinking sessionable, hoppy beers and riding my bike.

That’s why when Amsterdam Brewery recently announced that they were giving away the above-pictured totally bitchin’ cruiser bike branded with the logo of their equally bitchin’ 4.9% golden pale ale, Cruiser Ale Day Pale Ale, I was perhaps less-than-subtle in showering praise on said bike on Amsterdam’s social media.

The “like-love” didn’t necessarily net me the result I wanted (I was really hoping they’d just be so into my enthusiasm that they’d send me a bike) but it did snag me a great opportunity for you, my loyal readers.

Yes, the ‘Dam Good Beer People are letting me give away a bike to a reader of Ben’s Beer’s Blog.

To enter, simply tweet a message telling me where you’d take your first ride on your new Cruiser cruiser if you won. Remember to include the…

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Podcast Ep. 10 – All About Homebrew

Mick McNamara and I sat down with Matt Gibson to talk Homebrew on the Sounds Like Beer Podcast.

sounds like beer

It’s been a month since my last episode, but I finally stopped running around long enough to put an episode together.

On this episode we’re talking all things homebrew with Mick McNamara and Doug Appledoorn. When you hear the word home-brew, I think a lot of people picturethose cheesy “U-Brew” places in strip malls where you can pitch yeast into an extract solution, and come back two weeks later to bottle some cheap, inoffensive lagers and red ales. But that’s not what home-brew is really about. These are artisinal, hand-crafted beers made with care and creativity in kitchens, garages and backyards all across the country. Blogs and forums dedicated to brewing have been popping up all over the internet for years, and homebrew suppliers are opening storefronts in high-rent areas. Clearly, home brewing is a key aspect of the craft beer revolution, and I wanted to know what draws people in to…

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The Ontario Brewers League is a Great Idea!

The Ontario Brewers League

The Ontario Brewers League

A new organization, called The Ontario Brewers League has been created by Sebastian Lesch, John and Jimmy Peat, who are also the intrepid founders of the Longslice Brewery.  TOBL is exactly what the craft beer industry in this province needs.  It’s a cooperative organization that works to the benefit of it’s members.  Membership isn’t just restricted to “bricks and mortar” brewing operations; it’s open to contract brewers, sales and promotions companies, licensees and anyone who generates income from the commercial production of beer in Ontario.

It’s greatest strength is the potential it has to bring the entire craft industry together.  Starting up a brewery is an expensive and resource intensive undertaking.  Bringing both new and established breweries together isn’t just wide-eyed idealism, it’s actually pretty smart and something that can benefit the industry as a whole.

Working together helps the industry grow and that is beneficial in so many ways.  It promotes job growth and adds more money to the provincial economy.  It achieves this by sharing knowledge and expertise as well as resources.  When you combine all of these things, not only does it benefit the craft brewing industry but all the individuals involved prosper as well.  It has worked very well for the Ontario Wine industry and it worked for Craft Brewers in Oregon.  The Craft industry in Oregon accounts for nearly half of all beer sales in that state, compared to around 6% here in Ontario.  Competition shouldn’t be with other breweries, it should be other alcoholic beverages like wine and spirits.  The way TOBL is organized it’s in a position to do this because it’s all about inclusiveness and collaboration.

TOBL is starting off with pooled deliveries and plan to expand the resource sharing to other areas.  The recent changes to beer distribution legislation have made it possible for breweries to share delivery trucks and services.  This is huge considering many new start up breweries are contracting at other facilities and many of them happen to be brewing in the same places.  Having shared delivery makes sense economically and environmentally.

They also plan to share legal services, so that together, they can navigate the new regulations and make the most of the legislation.  Looking for loopholes can be tricky and once discovered will be shared with everyone.  Again this benefits the entire industry.  They are leaving the lobbying and promotional efforts to the OCB (Ontario Craft Brewers), but hopefully one day they can form some kind of strategic partnership and really make a huge difference.

Another very interesting thing they plan to offer is group health benefits to it’s members, which also makes sense.  Small businesses can’t really afford to do that and having a larger group ensures that rates are lower and much more affordable.  It also allows all of these small breweries to attract talented people and give them rewards they wouldn’t normally be able to offer.

TOBL is also interested in beer education, for both employees of the breweries and the licensees they sell to.  Having bars and restaurants who know how to properly pour and serve a beer, not to mention learning the importance of cleaning draft lines, can only improve the overall experience for consumers and their enjoyment of beer.  All of these things contribute  to selling more craft beer.

There really is an amazing number of things that can be achieved with this organization.  Kudos to the guys for starting it up and taking on this task.  Overall if they can keep it a transparent and collaborative organization, it can only mean great things for craft beer in Ontario.

Brasseurs Artisianal: The Craft Beer Scene in Montreal

The Montreal Craft Beer Scene

The Montreal Craft Beer Scene

In my early twenties, I had the good fortune to live in Montreal for a few years.  Back then it didn’t have much of a craft beer scene, aside from McAuslan and Unibroue, both providing staples like Griffon Pale Ale, Blanche de Chambly and Maudite.  In fact my first craft beer experience in Montreal was a bottle of Maudite, or “Damned”.  I’ve always loved the label with the canoe of the damned flying over the Notre Dame church in Montreal.   It’s an Abbey style dubbel and at that point in my life I’d never tasted anything quite like it.  In fact I still regularly enjoy Maudite; I keep a case or two in my cellar because it ages so incredibly well.

Mondial de la Bière

Mondial de la Bière

Fast forward almost twenty years and the craft beer scene has a completely different landscape from what it had back then.  This past weekend while at the Mondial du la Bière, Montreal’s largest annual beer festival, I was extremely impressed to find out just how many small artisanal brewers were making excellent brews in La Belle Province.  It ranged from the familiar like Dieu de Ciel!, Trou de Diable and Cheval Blanc, to many others that I’d never heard of before like Jukebox, Brouhaha and Noire et Blanche.

What really struck me though was the variety of styles that were brought to the festival.  There were a fair number of excellent pale ales and IPAs, but there were also quite a few examples of not so common styles like Berlinerweisse, Gose, Gueuze and more Brett beers than I’d ever seen in one place.  The entire list of what was on offer was truly awe-inspiring and was thoroughly enjoyable to sample.

Outside of the festival, Montreal has a number of exceptional brewpubs making really interesting beers.  We were able to visit three of the literally dozens of them during our brief weekend stay; Benelux, Le Saint Bock & Dieu du Ciel!

Benelux – 245 Rue Sherbrooke West

Benelux Brewpub on Sherbrooke

Benelux Brewpub on Sherbrooke

This brewpub has a very laid back atmosphere and a pretty diverse crowd of patrons.  We were able to try seven of the twelve offerings available and were completely blown away by their Berlinerweise.  They call it “Berlinoise” and it was seriously the best example of the style we’ve tried outside of Berlin.  The beers are served in style-specific glasses and were very reasonably priced.  We accompanied our beer with a sampling tray of dry roasted almonds, olives and artisanal Quebec cheese.

Le Saint Bock – 1749 Rue Saint-Denis

The Randalls at Le Saint Bock

The Randalls at Le Saint Bock

Not only was the tap list impressive in it’s size and diversity, they also had a ten tap “Randalizer” or Hop Rocket.  If you’ve never experienced beer on a Randall, it’s a cylinder filled with flavoured additives that the beer runs through before exiting into the glass.  We tried several of these including an APA that was infused with whole leaf Citra hops, apricots and orange zest.  Another one we tried was a black IPA infused with coffee and garam masala.

Dieu du Ciel – 29 Laurier West

Brett beer on the terrace

Brett beer on the terrace

The Dieu du Ciel brewpub on Laurier has great little terrace out front and the Disco Soliel, their IPA brewed with Kumquats, seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to the sun filled afternoon.  They have an impressive line up of beers including a nitrogenated “India Cream Ale”, which was like drinking a grapefruit flavoured cream-sicle. Along with the beers on tap they also had a few really nice bottled beers including their Denière Volonté (Last Will), which was refermented using Brettanomyces yeast.

Le Paradis de la bière

Paradis de la Bière

Lastly, no visit to Quebec would be complete without a visit to a Depanneur (Convenience Store) to buy beer.  However not all Depanneurs are created equally.  If you find yourself at the Dieu de Ciel brewpub, you’ll be very happy to know there is a fantastic Depanneur that has dubbed itself “Paradis de la Bière”, just down the street.  Super Marché Rahman (151 Avenue Laurier West) comes pretty close to beer paradise in it’s selection of hard to find local brews.  While there I managed to pick up some rare releases from Jukebox, Castor and case of the Disco Soliel from Dieu du Ciel.

Montreal is a great beer city and one that I look forward to returning to again!

Brewing with Sarsaparilla: Root Beer Flavoured Ale

Old School Label

Old School Apothecary Style Label

You would think that making a root beer flavoured beer might be something strange.  After all root beer is traditionally a soft drink and a little too sweet to be considered as a beer flavour.  But there is a way to take all the best aspects of root beer, namely the sarsaparilla aroma and infuse it into an interesting and not at all sweet beverage.

The first step is actually obtaining some Sarsaparilla.  You want the real thing, not root beer extract or any sort of artificial flavour, that is key to making this beer successfully.  Sarsaparilla is generally available at health food stores and resembles crumbled wood.  When you open the package and smell it you can understand immediately where root beer gets its distinctive aroma from.

You can make a tea from Sarsaparilla and you’ll get all the same aromas but strangely very little flavour.  Root beer is actually made from a variety of ingredients including anise, vanilla, sassafras bark and honey.  To successfully make Sarsaparilla Ale, you want the aroma and you want some flavour but no too much.  Best way to achieve this is by adding a couple more ingredients, namely bourbon and honey.  The bourbon gives it a little complexity and the honey adds a touch of sweetness needed to balance it all out.

The base beer in creating this recipe is an American Amber Ale – but this version is light on the aroma hops at the end, but still in keeping with the BJCP style guidelines.   The key to the root beer aroma is how you add the Sarsaparilla.  It’s best to have at least 2 ounces and split in half.  The first half will be added to the near the end of the boil to extract as much flavour as possible.

The second half will be used during secondary fermentation.  At this stage it has to be made into a tea, to sterilize it and extract some of the flavour and aromas.  Use about 500ml or 2 cups of water that has been boiled for at least 5 minutes.  Add the remaining Sarsaparilla and allow it to cool to room temperature.  To avoid contamination put it in a mason jar with the lid on tightly.  Once it has cooled add the entire mixture to the fermenter and let it age for another 5 days.

Sarsaparilla Tea in a mason jar.

Sarsaparilla tea in a mason jar and the base amber ale, prior to secondary fermentation, is on the right.

Just before kegging the beer, add 3/4 of cup of bourbon and about a 1/4 cup of honey.  It’s best to put both in one container and mix them together, the honey will dissolve into the beer faster.  If you are opting to bottle the beer use the honey as your priming sugar and add the right amount for the batch you are bottling.

For those of you wishing to give this one a shot my recipe is below.  I made this one and served it at first People’s Pint Event at the Gladstone Hotel:


Old School Sarsparilla Amber Ale

American Amber Ale (10 B)

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Time: 60 min

Ingredients
8 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)
1 lbs Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
12.8 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt – 60L (60.0 SRM)
9.6 oz Munich Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM)
6.4 oz Carafoam (2.0 SRM)
6.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)
4.0 oz Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)
1.6 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM)
0.50 oz Centennial [10.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min
0.62 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] – Boil 30.0 min
0.25 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)
8.00 oz Agave Nectar (Boil 5.0 mins)
1.00 oz Sarsaparilla (Boil 5.0 mins)
1.0 pkg Safale American (US-05)
1.00 oz Sarsaparilla mixed into 2 cups of boiling water to make a Tea (Secondary 5.0 days)
3/4 Cup Bourbon
1/4 Cup Honey (if kegging)

Est Original Gravity: 1.061
SG Est Final Gravity: 1.013
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.2 %
Bitterness: 32.6 IBUs
Est Color: 12.6 SRM

Mash Steps
Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Mash Temp 152.0 F – 60 min
Mash In Add 14.41 qt of water at 163.7 F
Batch sparge with 2 steps (2.03gal, 4.25gal) of 168.0 F water

Ale Tales: Discovering Craft Beer in Southwest Ontario – Part 4

Iron Spike beers pay tribute to St. Thomas' railway history.

Iron Spike beers pay tribute to St. Thomas’ railway history.

This is the final instalment in a four part series exploring Ontario’s Southwest.  The full post is also available here on the Ontario Southwest website.  Part three (Jack’s Gastropub) can be found here.

Ontario’s Southwest is not yet on the radar of Ontario’s Craft Beer boom, but in places like Windsor and St. Thomas, where innovative brewers are making some exciting beers, that is rapidly changing. Ontario has a rich history of artisanal production, industrial innovation and trade in the Great Lakes Region. Southwest Ontario has a bounty of quaint towns, rolling farmlands and foodie delights to discover. The Erie shore has a long been a wine growing region and now craft beer has emerged as a natural compliment to the region’s many other attractions.

Railway City Brewing Company – St. Thomas

Railway City Brewing Company

Railway City Brewing Company

The old Talbot Trail along the north shore of Lake Erie will takes you through Elgin County and right into the city of St. Thomas. Colonel Thomas Talbot oversaw the building of the Talbot Trail in the 1820s as a link between Detroit and the Niagara Region. Along that storied trail you’ll also find a number of railway lines, more than 26 in fact, converging in the city of St. Thomas, earning it the nickname Railway City.

Honouring that long and proud tradition is the Railway City Brewing Company. With beer names like “Iron Spike Blonde Ale” and “Black Coal Stout” they definitely take full advantage of the railway theme. One of their flagship beers is called Dead Elephant Ale, a full flavoured American style IPA that pays tribute to “Jumbo”, who was a P.T. Barnum Circus Elephant killed by a train in St. Thomas in 1885. There is actually a full-scale statue of jumbo that can be found in St. Thomas and it’s worth a look just to see how incredibly large this majestic animal really was.

A life sized statue of Jumbo the Elephant in St Thomas

A life sized statue of Jumbo the Elephant in St Thomas

In addition to their regular line up of beers Railway City also have an excellent array of seasonal beers such as their Sham-Bock, a dark maple syrup infused lager and their Flagon Slayer, a hop-less Gruit brewed for the Oxford Renaissance Fair in June.  And their “Witty Traveller” Belgian wit beer recently won a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards.

The tour is highly recommended as the guides such as Stephanie Pennacchietti take you through the brewery and explain the entire brewing process in layman’s terms for all the non-beer geeks out there.   It is highly informative and enjoyable and ends with a tasting of all the beers Railway City has on offer.

Railway City Brewery

Railway City Brewery

The Railway City Brewing Company is located at 130 Edward Street St. Thomas. (Tel: 519-631-1881, URL: http://www.railwaycitybrewing.com/) They are open Mon, Tues, Wed, Sat from 10am to 8pm, 10am to 10pm Thursday & Friday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday. Tours of the brewery are offered on the hour starting one hour after they open and prices are $5 or $7 per person depending the option you choose.

Dream Foodie Escape Contest

You can explore and enjoy all of these great destinations in Ontario’s Southwest, just go to oswculinary.com enter to win a four day foodie escape and experience the region’s culinary offerings.

Ale Tales: Discovering Craft Beer in Southwest Ontario – Part 3

Craft Beer at Jack's Gastropub in Kingsville

Craft Beer at Jack’s Gastropub in Kingsville

This is the third instalment in a four part series exploring Ontario’s Southwest.  The full post is also available here on the Ontario Southwest website.  Part two (Motor Burger and Craft Ales) can be found here.

Ontario’s Southwest is not yet on the radar of Ontario’s Craft Beer boom, but in places like Windsor and St. Thomas, where innovative brewers are making some exciting beers, that is rapidly changing. Ontario has a rich history of artisanal production, industrial innovation and trade in the Great Lakes Region. Southwest Ontario has a bounty of quaint towns, rolling farmlands and foodie delights to discover. The Erie shore has a long been a wine growing region and now craft beer has emerged as a natural compliment to the region’s many other attractions.

Jack’s Gastropub and Inn 31/L’ll Heart and Soul – Kingsville

Just outside of Windsor on the north shore of Lake Erie is the quiet and picturesque town of Kingsville, home to Jack’s Gastropub and Inn 31. From the number of people sitting in its screened veranda you can tell it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

Lake Erie Perch and Pickerel are a staple on the menu at Jack's Gastropub

Lake Erie Perch and Pickerel are a staple on the menu at Jack’s Gastropub

A friendly small town atmosphere is combined with an impressive menu featuring excellent local food items such as Lake Erie perch and pickerel cooked several different ways, an extensive list of local wines and a tap list featuring many local craft beers. Dessert is something special here too, with choices such as banana spring rolls and house made donuts with spice rum caramel dipping sauce.

House made donuts with spiced rum caramel dipping sauce.

House made donuts with spiced rum caramel dipping sauce.

Jack’s has guest rooms upstairs at Inn 31 and also at the L’il Heart and Soul within walking distance down the street. The rooms are quiet, very comfortable and well appointed. Guests are made to feel welcome and at home by the staff at Jack’s; they are actually a great part of the overall enjoyment of the experience of staying there.

Jack’s Gastropub and Inn 31 are located at 31 Division Street, Kingsville. (Tel: 519-733-6900, email: info@jacksdining.com URL http://www.jacksgastropub.com). They are open from daily from 11:30am to 9pm, closed at 8pm on Sundays and Mondays). Reservations are recommended for dinner.

Dream Foodie Escape Contest

You can explore and enjoy all of these great destinations in Ontario’s Southwest, just go to oswculinary.com enter to win a four day foodie escape and experience the region’s culinary offerings.

Ale Tales: Discovering Craft Beer in Southwest Ontario – Part 2

This is the second instalment in a four part series exploring Ontario’s Southwest.  The full post is also available here on the Ontario Southwest website.  Part One (Walkerville Brewery) can be found here.

Ontario’s Southwest is not yet on the radar of Ontario’s Craft Beer boom, but in places like Windsor and St. Thomas, where innovative brewers are making some exciting beers, that is rapidly changing. Ontario has a rich history of artisanal production, industrial innovation and trade in the Great Lakes Region. Southwest Ontario has a bounty of quaint towns, rolling farmlands and foodie delights to discover. The Erie shore has a long been a wine growing region and now craft beer has emerged as a natural compliment to the region’s many other attractions.

Motor Burger Restaurant & Nano Pub – Windsor

Trekka APA - Ella single hop beer

Trekka APA – Ella single hop beer

In addition to its bootlegging past, Windsor has also traditionally been known as an automotive town. With its proximity to the Motor City of Detroit, it is a center for auto and parts manufacturing. Therefore it’s only fitting that the Motor Burger Restaurant and Nano Brew Pub honour that tradition; firstly with an automotive themed menu and secondly with its very innovative and industrious Nano brewing facility in it’s basement.

Burgers are the obvious attraction here and they serve a range of different burger types with car themed names like the “El Camino” (chorizo sausage burger), the “Lamb-Orghini”, the “Fire Bird” (panko encrusted ground chicken burger), “Twin Barracudas” (haddock sliders) and the “Smart Veg-Engine” vegetarian burger. Each is made fresh and cooked to order, so they recommend a starter so you can “sit back and enjoy the ride”.

Burgers and Beer at Motor Burger

Burgers and Beer at Motor Burger

While the food is fantastic, the most interesting thing part about Motor Burger is the beer. They boast an impressive list of regular and seasonal brews. They range from easy drinking light pale ales like their “Headlight” to a brown porter called “Whiplash” with all the colours and flavours of the beer spectrum in between.

For those partial to hoppy beers Motor Burger features four different American Pale Ale and IPA seasonals in the late spring like the Chop Top IPA and the Trekka APA. The Trekka uses a single Australian hop called “Ella” which has fruity, anise and floral notes. The single hop is added in 5 separate stages during the brewing process to give this innovative beer a very distinctive flavour and aroma.

If you can’t decide exactly what beer you want to try you can order a 4, 6 or 8 sample flight that is served in a replica cylinder head with the names of each beer written on it in grease pencil. The staff are very knowledgeable about the beer and happy to answer any questions.

The Nano system at Motor Craft Ales.  DIY ingenuity at it's best.

The Nano system at Motor Craft Ales. DIY ingenuity at it’s best.

Most patrons wouldn’t guess there was even a brewery on site, but Motor Burger’s impressive tap list is fed by a Nano brewing system that is absolutely awe inspiring because of it size. It’s essentially a pilot system that larger breweries use to make test batches of beer. Co-owner Jay Souilliere says having such a small system allows them to be more experimental and offer a more interesting range of beers. Taking risks isn’t as expensive on this small scale and usually leads to amazing creations like their Jalopy Jalapeno Ale, which is available in their bottle shop to go.

Motor Craft Ales Fermentation Cellar

Motor Craft Ales Fermentation Cellar

Motor Burger & Motor Craft Ales are located at 888 Erie Street East in Windsor. (Tel: 519-252-8004, URL: www.thisismotor.com). They are open Monday-Thursday 11:30am-9:00pm, Friday 11:30am-10:00pm and Saturday 12:00pm-10:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm to 8:00pm.

Dream Foodie Escape Contest

You can explore and enjoy all of these great destinations in Ontario’s Southwest, just go to oswculinary.com enter to win a four day foodie escape and experience the region’s culinary offerings.

Ale Tales: Discovering Craft Beer in Southwest Ontario – Part 1

Walkerville Argyle Amber

Walkerville Argyle Amber

This is the first instalment in a four part series exploring Ontario’s Southwest.  The full post is also available here on the Ontario Southwest website.

Ontario’s Southwest is not yet on the radar of Ontario’s Craft Beer boom, but in places like Windsor and St. Thomas, where innovative brewers are making some exciting beers, that is rapidly changing. Ontario has a rich history of artisanal production, industrial innovation and trade in the Great Lakes Region. Southwest Ontario has a bounty of quaint towns, rolling farmlands and foodie delights to discover. The Erie shore has a long been a wine growing region and now craft beer has emerged as a natural compliment to the region’s many other attractions.

Honouring Walkerville's Bootlegging Past

Honouring Walkerville’s Bootlegging Past

Walkerville Brewery – Windsor

Windsor is home to the Hiram Walker distillery, during Prohibition in the U.S., gained a reputation as a bootlegger operation. Canadian Club whiskey would find its way across the Detroit River by any means possible; floating it across the water, tunnels under the river and by driving cars laden with booze over the ice in winter. This successful distilling business also extended to brewing.   The first incarnation of the Walkerville Brewery opened in 1890 and prided itself on brewing “Honest Beer”, meaning it was made with only the best ingredients of the highest possible quality and standards.

Tasting Bar at Walkerville Brewery

Tasting Bar at Walkerville Brewery

While that original brewery eventually closed its doors, a new Walkerville Brewery has been established using those same principles. Housed in one of the original Hiram Walker buildings known as “Surge Plant 16”, the new modern stainless steel brewery retains much of its historical character and charm. With names like “Honest Lager”, “Loophole Ale” and “Geronimo IPA” there is a clear nod to Walkerville’s bootlegging past.

Nicko Mammonas gives a spirited tour of the Walkerville Brewery

Nicko Mammonas gives a spirited tour of the Walkerville Brewery

The brewery offers one-hour tours lead by its very knowledgeable staff. Nicko Mammonas, a sales representative and tour guide, was so passionate about the beer you couldn’t help but feel excited and enthusiastic about it. He reiterated that the brewery is committed to a “farm to table” approach, and says his favourite beer “is always the one straight out of the fermenter”. To illustrate that the tour begins with a guided tasting of all the fresh beers they have available, including seasonal beers like the Argyle Amber.

Walkerville Brewery Tasting Room and Bottle Shop.

Walkerville Brewery Tasting Room and Bottle Shop.

Guests are invited to bring their beer along with them to be enjoyed on the tour and immediately following, are treated to a full pint of their favourite brew. The tasting room itself has been nicely separated from the cavernous brewery space with the addition of a few glass partitions and a lighted grid above. It gives that space a little intimacy while allowing you to soak in all the visual aspects of being right inside a working brewery.

The Walkerville Brewery is located at 525 Argyle Rd in Windsor. (Tel: 519-254-6067, email: info@walkervillebrewery.com, URL: www.walkervillebrewery.com). The bottle shop and tap room is open Sunday to Wednesday from 11am to 6pm and Thursday to Saturday from 11am to 7pm. Tours are $7 and include a beer at the end. Reservations for tours are highly recommended as they fill up on weekends especially.

Walkerville Beer aged in barrels

Walkerville’s beer aged in barrels

Dream Foodie Escape Contest

You can explore and enjoy all of these great destinations in Ontario’s Southwest, just go to oswculinary.com enter to win a four day foodie escape and experience the region’s culinary offerings.

 

Not Just Any Garden Variety Beers

Green Thumb IPA with Fresh Ginger

Green Thumb IPA with Fresh Ginger

I had the good fortune to meet with Victor North, one of the owners and the brewer at Garden Brewers of Hamilton, Ontario.  He brought me a couple of his beers; The Green Thumb India Pale Ale brewed with fresh ginger root and the Piperales Smoked Amber with black pepper.  I was a bit apprehensive about trying beers with these particular added ingredients, because they can completely overpower a beer and make it difficult to have more than one.  I’m happy to say that both of these beers were very easy to drink and I could have easily have had more of them.

First up was the Green Thumb IPA.  It poured a beautiful deep apricot colour, leaning toward a bright amber hue.  The nose was a rich bouquet of fresh ginger, which was the dominant aroma, but it was supported with subtle notes of black currant and tropical fruits like mango and cantaloupe.  Lying just below all these fresh aromas there was also a slightly toasted bread crust malt aroma.

The flavour was well balanced with just the right amount of ginger, enough to enjoy but not so much that it dominated the beer.   The tropical fruit flavours inherent in the ginger, really shine through and add a very bright and fresh character to the beer. The hop bitterness lingers with a pleasing amount of ginger flavour in the finish.  It is definitely thirst quenching and easy to knock this beer back.

Because of the nature of these beers I thought it would appropriate to have them with a little food, and these beers did not disappoint! I paired this one with oven roasted Tandoori Chicken and fresh broccoli micro sprouts.  The ginger was a great complement to the heat of the Tandoori spices and the bitterness of the hops really amped up the overall flavour.  Following dinner I had a second glass with my dessert of baked apple blossom covered in greek yogurt with black currants and pomegranate.  The ginger worked really well with the sweetness of the apple and complemented the fruits in the yogurt.  I happen to think this beer would pair very well with many different foods.  The bottle label suggests pairing it with glazed salmon, sushi and bibimbap, all things I would very much like to try once I can get my hands on more of this excellent beer.

Piperales Smoked Amber with Black Pepper.

Piperales Smoked Amber with Black Pepper.

Next up was the Piperales Smoked Amber with fresh black pepper.  Again I was a little worried that the smoke and the black pepper would be a little too much.  If anything I probably could have had a little bit more of both.  But finding that perfect balance is something Brewer North is still tweaking but doing so in very small increments so as not noticeably change the overall experience of the beer.  Either way I still found it easy to drink and an excellent session beer.

The colour was a rich dark whiskey amber with ruby highlights and poured with nice thick ivory head.   The nose was deep caramel with smokey and earthy undertones, with a hint of black pepper.  It reminded me of a pot of molasses being slowly heated in a cast iron cauldron over an open fire.  Everything combined in a pleasingly subtle way and was not overpowering.

Flavour was rich in caramel sweetness with a slight burn of black pepper. It was so subtle though I kept going back for more. The beer was quite thirst quenching with a pleasing and slightly lingering finish. The sweetness of the malts played nicely off the smoke and the heat of the black pepper. On it’s own it was a quite sessionable, but screamed for food pairings.
Piperales Smoked Amber paired with a variety of foods

Piperales Smoked Amber paired with a variety of foods.

I tried it with a variety of small samples: tamarind coated almonds, organic beef jerky, spicy smoked sausage and dark chocolate. In every single case it paired well with each example and brought out all the best qualities of both the food and the beer. The almonds brought out the nutty characteristics of the darker malts and the beef jerky played off the smoke and the caramel richness. The spicy smoked sausage obviously brought out the smoke, and the black pepper really matched well with the heat in the sausage. But the best pairing by far was the dark chocolate, which made the whole combination taste like a campfire s’more. Before I knew it the entire beer was gone and I was definitely wanting more.
Both beers are ones I would seek out in a bar or restaurant and experiment with different food pairings.  They are complex yet simple enough not to be daunting to the average beer drinker.  Can’t wait to try them again!