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Monthly Archives: November 2011

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The Great Beau’s Kerfuffle of 2011

Let me explain something about the way the news cycle works in the beer world. It’s a lot like the way the news cycle works on major cable networks. Stories tend to come out early in the week. Mondays and Tuesday s tend to be flush with press releases, and this is a good thing for beer writers because you usually end up having a column that’s published later in the week for the reason that people just don’t seem to want to think about beer on a Monday.

Well, some people do, but most of those cats are a little weird.

I tend to file columns for Sun Media on Wednesday or Thursday, which means that if something interesting happens after my filing deadline, it’s probably not going to make it into the paper at all. Usually, people like Josh Rubin at the Star will have covered it on the day. Since Josh is pretty thorough, this means that whatever that topic is tends to get relegated to my blog because it would seem like an irrelevance by the time it made into the next week’s paper.

Also, my column’s mandate is, theoretically, to have a national focus, which means that sometimes stories that effect a very small geographic area, even within my bailiwick, just don’t make it. It’s for this reason that I didn’t write about Beau’s delivery program this week. I researched it and found that even though the story contained the kind of general feel-goodery that you get from charitable donations and beer, it was too small an area. The delivery zone is parts of Ottawa, and while that’s neat, it’s hard to justify when you’re looking at a short list of “K1” postal codes.

Of course, the story got a buttload bigger because this is Ontario and nothing is ever simple. It will probably continue to spiral over the next week. Mom called earlier and I was going to explain the thing to her, but she had already heard about it on the CBC on the drive home. Some people have the AP wire; I have a beer nerd mom.

Beau’s works periodically with a charitable organization called Operation Come Home, which works with underprivileged youth. They’ve been around for 41 years, so this is not some fly by night charity. Until now, Operation Come Home has operated a service whereby they collected empty bottles from people. The Buy Your Beau’s Online website is currently redirected, so I’m going from memory here. I believe the idea was that you were donating the deposit from the bottles to Operation Come Home and you got a tax receipt for charitable donation. This is much better than slogging boxes of empties to the beer store yourself, since you get a nice tax write off and underprivileged youth get services they wouldn’t get otherwise.

At some point Beau’s and Operation Come Home decided that it would probably be a good idea for Operation Come Home to operate a delivery service for Beau’s within Ottawa. Again, a neat idea, given that you get a nice beer and maybe eventually a tax write off when you return the bottles and underprivileged youth get to perform a function within society and Operation Come Home gets to keep somewhere upwards of half of the delivery fee. I think it was something like $8.25 per delivery, but like I say, the website is down.

That press release reached my email November 23rd at 4:43 PM.

Apparently, everything was set up properly. Beau’s ran the legality of the thing by the AGCO according to Troy Burtch over at Great Canadian Beer Blog, and everything came up aces. They were all set to go until another brewery complained. The Buy Your Beau’s Online program has been suspended indefinitely. The AGCO has not divulged which brewery complained as yet, but will have to if Beau’s decides to appeal the decision.

This press release reached my email November 24th at 5:37 PM.

All told, the program existed for 25 hours, which is not bad if you’re a mayfly.

I don’t know why, but I’m finding it somewhat difficult to register the proper amount of outrage. Possibly it’s because of the amount of relief. If I had filed the Sun Media column on this topic, I would currently be frantically rewriting it in order to update the story and get it to my interim editor, Glenn. I’m relatively familiar with the 3AM deadline; I’m in an undergrad program, after all.

Mostly what I’m doing is trying to figure out what happened. Apparently the problem is not that the delivery service employs at risk youth (which I would have some qualms about, were they not adequately supervised. There’s a significant amount of oversight, so I’m not all that concerned) but rather that the beer would have come from the brewery and not through The Beer Store. Since Beau’s is not in The Beer Store, this is impossible.

In order to get a listing in The Beer Store, there is a listing fee. In this particular circumstance, this seems extortionate. In order to go ahead with the program, they would be forced to pay the initial listing fee and per store listing fees.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that another craft brewery is the complainant in this case. First of all, there aren’t whole big bunches of them in Ottawa. Secondly, another craft brewery would probably suffer from jealousy over not having thought of the idea first. Thirdly, if the owner of another craft brewery complained, they would have to know that their name would come out eventually and that the backlash would ruin their profile within the community.

So, that leaves large breweries: The ones who own The Beer Store. I don’t know which one, but I’m betting it’s not Sapporo.

The justification must be adherence to regulations. I can understand that. It’s petty, certainly, but understandable. The problem is that it’s a PR nightmare once the name of the large brewery comes out, and it will eventually. Whoever complained shut down a program that was probably going to provide thousands of dollars in revenue monthly to a worthy charitable organization.

I mean, what spin do you put on that? Beau’s are lawbreakers? That’s a terrible idea. It makes them Robin Hood, plus they had obtained permission from the AGCO. I don’t think anyone is bold enough to try the obviously evil “exploitative of at risk youth” gambit, but there’s a possibility we’ll see that spin down the line if there’s desperation.

This is a stopgap legal measure on somebody’s part, and it exists for a great reason: If Beau’s is allowed to do this, everyone will be. It cuts out The Beer Store in a relatively ingenious way and gets beer to consumers. Breweries would be able to put their flagship brands and seasonals up online and sell them directly to the consumer. Increased awareness and viability for small brewers; the large breweries can’t afford the legal precedent, especially with their volumes dropping.

Nice Try, Steve Beauchesne. Lawyer up and keep at ’em, because a blog post, no matter how much it appeals to emotion, isn’t going to do it this time.

Bud Light Platinum OR Consider the Elephant

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about evolutionary biology. My understanding of the subject is not perfect, since it’s informed mostly by Stephen Jay Gould’s book Bully for Brontosaurus, the film Jurassic Park and Grade 12 biology. It’s probably because of this loose understanding of the subject that I feel comfortable applying a model for evolutionary biology to large breweries.

Who's a cute little Elephant antecedent? You'm is!

Consider, for a moment, the Elephant. The Elephant didn’t start out as a huge plains dwelling mammal. In fact, it’s closely related to the hyrax. The theory is that Elephants were at one time quite small mammals, about the size of pigs. They were called Moeritheres. I don’t have a picture of the Moerithere, because it’s long since extinct. It’s probable that there are a number of evolutionary dead ends between the Moerithere and the Paleomastodon, but all you need to know in order to understand the transition from Moerithere and Paleomastodon is that at some point it must have been advantageous from an evolutionary standpoint for these antecendents of the Elephant to become quite large.

Not pictured: Snuffleupagus

It probably had to do with the environment in which they lived. Maybe there was a lack of predators. Maybe a number of other creatures of similar size in their environment became extinct, creating a larger amount of resources for the growth of the Paleomastodon. It doesn’t really matter. What we know is that they thrived and got larger and eventually, the amount of biodiversity within the Proboscidea line grew smaller.

In the last million years or so, there became fewer actual species. The American Mastodon is now extinct, as is the Stegodon. The Mammoth was probably killed off by human hunters about 5000 years ago.

We’re left with two Elephants: African and Indian. They’re extraordinarily large land dwelling mammals. They require a huge number of resources to be able to sustain themselves. It takes a lot of land to feed an Elephant. They’re the size they are because it was, at some point, evolutionarily advantageous to be that size.

Evolution takes a long time, so any threat to the environment of the Elephant like other species encroaching on their territory or a lack of food source won’t have any immediate visible effect, other than maybe causing some unfortunate safari member to get trampled while taking a nice close up shot with a DSLR. If the Elephant adapts, it will not stop being an Elephant. It will just become a different type of Elephant in order to try and take advantage of its surroundings.

At least, such is my understanding.

In this analogy, it helps to envision large brewers as organisms.

Initially, in North America at least, there were a number of very small breweries. There wasn’t a huge transport network, so small breweries existed by supplying beer to local areas. Small breweries thrived. They did really well for a long time, getting sustenance from sales.

Then, there was an extinction level event in the form of prohibition. Some of the breweries adapted to their environment by selling malt extract or making other products. A number of them closed their doors forever; evolutionary dead ends due to a lack of adaptability.

Following the repeal of prohibition, the breweries that survived grew immensely due to the fact that there was less competition from an evolutionary perspective. They became large regional breweries in many cases, and the amount of biodiversity in the beer world shrank.

In the last fifty years or so, due in part to magnates like E.P. Taylor, the number of different breweries shrank as the larger ones purchased the smaller ones. It was evolutionarily advantageous for the larger brewery-organisms to grow. Mass production meant that profits soared. We reached the point where there are only three species of large brewery roaming the plains, trumpeting their victory and sharpening their tusks: AB In-Bev, Molson Coors and SAB Miller. They are, like the African and Indian Elephants, quite similar to each other genetically.

The problem, then, for the large breweries is two-fold:

1)      There are only a finite number of resources (customers) to supply them with sustenance, which means that continued growth is no longer desirable or even possible from an evolutionary standpoint even though it is demanded by shareholders.

2)      The environment is changing and microbreweries are competing for those resources. It is helpful here to think of microbreweries as an entirely different species encroaching on the territory of the large breweries. Perhaps something in a Neanderthal.

I told you that so I could tell you this:

Bud Light Platinum is the newest release from AB In-Bev.

It is, according to the L.A. Times, going to be 6% alcohol and contain 137 calories.

It’s an offshoot of Bud Light, which is problematic when you consider that it contains more alcohol than regular Budweiser. It’s not a light beer at 6% alcohol. In Ontario, it would be classified as a strong beer. At 137 calories, it contains slightly fewer calories than regular Budweiser. It will apparently be slightly sweeter, though. I imagine that they are using the descriptor “platinum” because some bright spark in the marketing department said “Hey! That’s one better than gold. My Amex card is platinum.” All of this makes my head hurt.

For some reason, this is being touted as the magic bullet that will stop the decline of the Budweiser brand and gain acceptance with the craft beer people. It won’t.

Let me explain: It’s the same Elephant, but with a racing stripe. It’s an attempt at evolutionary diversity. The problem is that the new brand is going to be fighting for the same resources as the existing brand. The only people who are going to drink Bud Light Platinum are the people who already drink Bud or Bud Light. What is going to happen here is that there will be a sudden surge of interest in the product during its launch, which, given that the schedule calls for January 30th, will be heavily promoted during the week before the Superbowl on February 5th.

Sales will be brisk initially due to the novelty factor and the timing. Following the launch, it will simply compete against Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Light Lime. In short, instead of reviving the brand, it will actively decrease the customer base of the other brands in the family as it competes for the same customers. To me, it seems like a bid for a brief influx of cash in the face of declining North American shipping; Especially when you look at the Q3 report.

You might ask yourself why, if they want to crack the craft beer market, are they doing this? The people who already drink craft beer are not going to respond well to it. They will probably scoff derisively. Why don’t they just sink some of the talent and resources that they clearly possess into creating and marketing a new brand of craft lager or pale ale?

I’ll tell you why: like the Elephant needs a huge amount of food, large breweries need a certain amount of profit growth to continue existing in the form into which they have evolved.  The behavior being exhibited in launching something like Bud Light Platinum recurs across a number of markets. It’s an attempt at diversification of the existing species in an ongoing evolutionary sense, but it’s all based on the same DNA. The Elephant can’t simply stop being an Elephant and be something else.

In the meantime, the Neanderthals are learning how to make spears.

In Which I Attempt To Be Polite To Bureaucrats

I was walking through the LCBO at Summerhill last night on the way back from Niagara College looking for something to drink. Not review, but drink. Sometimes you just want a beer with dinner. If I wanted to review something, I would have picked up a bottle of Trafalgar’s new India Ink Black Pale Ale, or maybe Muskoka’s Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, or even Unibroue’s 17. Any of those would have been interesting beers to review; not all of them in a positive way, necessarily.

I just wanted a beer to drink with dinner, so I got a Crazy Canuck.

Here’s the thing: Looking around the LCBO Summerhill these days, you would never know that we had a lack of beer selection in the province. I understand completely that this is a flagship store and that it’s not like this everywhere. There are stores that don’t get the really interesting stuff. In fact, this accounts for the majority of stores. I just want to point something out to you.

This is a list of the beers that have made it into the LCBO between September and December. It is an incomplete list because they are now bringing in so many beers as part of the general list that they do not always get my attention. I have grabbed the lists from bartowel, which explains the formatting.

263988 / Fuller’s Past Masters Double Stout / 500 / 7.5 / $3.75
263954 / Fuller’s Golden Pride / 500 / 8.5 / $3.75
263962 / Fuller’s India Pale Ale / 500 / 5.3 / $3.75
266841 / Fuller’s Old Winter Ale / 500 / 5.3 / $3.75
263970 / Fuller’s Past Masters XX Strong Ale / 500 / 7.5 / $3.75

237693 / Cannery Maple Stout / 5.5 / 650 / $5.80
254656 / Ayinger Celebrator / 7.2 / 330 / $3.45
173658 / Garrison Imperial I.P.A. / 7 / 500 / $4.25
234047 / Bacchus Flemish Old Brown / 4.5 / 375 / $4.50
236091 / Celt Bronze Crafted Ale / 4.5 / 500 / $3.65
233486 / Marston’s Pedgree V.S.O.P. / 6.7 / 500 / $3.50
233494 / Wychwood Goliath / 4.2 / 500 / $3.50
236992 / Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale / 7 / 500 / $4.60
173534 / Southern Tier Choklat / 11 / 650 / $9.85
504670 / Fuller’s 1845 Bottle Conditioned Ale / 6.3 / 500 / $3.50
125153 / Affligem Dubbel / 6.8 / 330 / $2.75
239475 / Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Triple / 9 / 500 / $5.95
244376 / Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique 2011 / 10 / 750 / $9.95
237875 / Box Steam Funnel Blower / 4.5 / 500 / $3.55

254896 / Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale / 9.0 / 650 / $8.95
248179 / Brasseurs de Montreal La Stout Ghosttown / 6.6 / 341 / $2.85
247635 / Wychwood King Goblin / 6.6 / 500 / $3.50
67710 / Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale / 5.5 / 650 / $4.95
90738 / St Ambroise Pumpkin Ale / 5.0 / 4×341 / $9.95
182287 / Southern Tier Pumking / 9.0 / 650 / $9.00
132761 / Dieu du Ciel! Corne du Diable IPA / 6.5 / 4×341 / $11.60

LCBO 187005 LAVA, Smoked Imperial Stout – 500 ml – Iceland
LCBO 171413 St Ambroise Russian Imperial Stout – 341 ml – Quebec
LCBO 264341 Nogne 0 Imperial Stout – 500 ml – Norway
LCBO 188870 Box Steam Dark & Handsome (Old Ale) – England
LCBO 090845 Great Lakes Winter Ale – 750 ml – Ontario
LCBO 186999 Traquair Jacobite Ale – 330 ml – Scotland
LCBO 135194 Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout – 650 ml – New York
LCBO 250944 Brooklyn Monster Ale – 355 ml – New York
LCBO 264358 Dominus Vobiscum Double – 500 ml – Quebec
LCBO 250472 Affligem Tripel – 330 ml – Belgium
LCBO 270405 Solstice D’Hiver – 4 x 341 – Quebec
LCBO 222236 Lake of Bays Mocha Porter – 750 ml – Ontario
LCBO 054106 Trafalgar Smoked Oatmeal Stout – 650 ml – Ontario

Fullers Vintage Ale
Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale
Christoffel Winter Bier Jug
Jenlain Or Biere Blonde
La Chouffe
Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale
Unibroue 17 Grand Reserve
Samuel Adams New World Triple
Mill St. Barley Wine
St.Peters Winter Ale

Sam Adams Utopias 2011

Note that this list doesn’t include things like the Grand River Highballer Pumpkin, which was released without being on a list. It doesn’t include a bunch of small batch Ontario releases. It doesn’t include the upcoming Garrison brewery feature. Not including the gift packs that come out at Christmas, the specialty releases include something like 50 beers in four months. Granted, they’re not all winners, but the effort counts for something.

Gift Packs:
Biere Du Boucanier Mix Pack
Samuel Smith Selection
Erdinger Gift Pack
6 Exclusive Belgian Ales
Amsterdam Entertainer
Historic Ales Of Scotland
Rickard’s Taster Pack
Bavarian Alps 3 Collector Bottle Gift Pack
OCB Holiday Discovery Pack
St. Ambroise Gift Pack
Innis & Gunn Connoisseur Oak Collection
King Brewery 3 Kings
Taste Of Belgium
Alexander Keiths Barrel Gift Pack
Faxe Premium Gift Pack
Old Speckled Hen Bottle and Glass
Tiger Gift Pack
European Beer Mix Pack
Duvel Twinpack with Glass
Maredsous Chalice Gift Pack
De Koninck Belgian Gift Pack
Mill Street Organic Gift Pack
Mill Street Tankhouse Gift Pack
Mill Street Coffee Porter Gift Pack
Chimay Grand Reserve Canister
St. Bernardus Gift Pack
St. Peters Twinpack with Glass
Sapporo Holiday 2011 Gift Pack
Stella Artois Chalice Gift Pack
Steam Whistle Gift Pack

There are 30 gift packs. I concede that you may not like all of them. I don’t care, as long as there is a Samuel Smith’s gift pack somewhere with my name on it.

That’s 80 specialty products in four months. That doesn’t include Ontario seasonal and craft products that get listed without much fanfare. The total number is probably closer to 100. I just wanted you to see this all in one place, so that the amount of variety could sink in. When I was at Summerhill last night, I got a visual representation of this, and it’s impressive. They have maybe half of this stuff, since some of the earlier releases have sold out. It’s still enough beer to make you wander around the section for 15 minutes trying to figure out what to get.

In addition to this, they seem to have relaxed the “Won’t somebody think of the children” department to allow for the release of Smashbomb Atomic IPA during the summer. Dan Aykroyd’s vodka even made it into the store recently, despite the crystal skull bottle. We might even get Delirium Tremens back at some point.

There are still problems. The specialty releases are in a limited number of stores. The store to store transfer can be difficult to initiate, judging from all of the anecdotal information I’ve gathered. The release dates are sort of sporadic across the stores that do participate. The store by store inventory is not always reliable.

When talking about the LCBO, I have generally ceded the point that the LCBO is a huge bureaucratic endeavor and does not turn on a dime. If the above list suggests anything, it’s that the LCBO has been doing that over the course of the last year or so.

The selection may not be to your liking. You may think that the number of low alcohol British beers hurts the releases because they don’t travel all that well from England. You may want more of a certain style. IPAs, popular in the US, don’t seem to get the same play here, possibly due to the lack of warehouse refrigeration. Because of the sheer number of products showing up, some of them will not be in the quantity that allows for a certain beer to remain on shelves for more than a week. These are reasonable criticisms.

The LCBO has, though, shown that they are willing to expand the selection available. I don’t think it’s possible to argue that they haven’t. They’re clearly trying to provide quality beer. It would be disingenuous to suggest that they have not improved massively over the last year. I suggest that from this point on we should probably try positive reinforcement.

Next time you find yourself sitting down to blast them on an internet forum over not including something that you want, I want you to write them a polite email about your concern and send it off to them, while keeping in mind the following:

1)      These are actual people, so using phrases like “jerks who will be first against the wall when the revolution comes” or questioning the legitimacy of their parentage is probably counterproductive.

2)      They are actually trying.

3)      They have probably not received a whole big bunch of polite, congratulatory emails from the public on this subject before, so this may actually have an impact on future selection.

It’s never going to be perfect. They will never be able to satisfy everyone. You are not going to get incredibly rare beers from small brewers in the states because the lead time on acquisition for those is probably insurmountable and the quantity is very low. It is my suspicion, however, that since the LCBO is now demonstrably interested in providing a wide variety of high quality beer, they are probably now willing to listen to the people who actually drink the stuff.

It’s worth a shot, anyway.

Cask Days @ Hart House

In Ralph Morana’s ever expanding quest to take over the beer world, Cask Days 2011 has to be seen as a massive success. That being said, it wasn’t without gambles. Any time you move a beer festival to an outdoor location, you face a number of variables that are beyond your control. The truth is that it all came together perfectly this year.

One of the things I use to gauge the success of a cask festival is how the English ex-pats think of it. These are people, after all, who get back across the pond periodically to enjoy real ale festivals that are generally much larger than those we have in Canada. This year Cask Days actually managed to put blissful looks on their faces, and I talked to three or four ex-pats who lauded the thing as being a “proper festival.”

There were a number of things that helped to pull this off. The first is the setting. Hart House lends an air of sophistication to a beer festival. People tend to behave themselves when you put them in a massive university courtyard in a way that they wouldn’t necessarily do in other places. Perhaps it was the imposing nature of the structure or the nearly surreal carillon ringing from the bell tower that had this calming effect. At least during the first session, no one got out of hand.

The bells! The bells!

One of the key ingredients in this success was the massive variety of beer on offer. There were 82 separate casks, which is amazing when you consider the genesis of the event. When I started going to Cask Days four years ago, there might have been something like 40, and they would all have been from Ontario. The fact that this event has expanded to include BC, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and England is no small feat. Think about the amount of organization that it must take to get that many brewers on the phone, let alone to get them to ship casks of their beer out to coincide with the last week in October. Astounding.

Should have sent a poet.

The other thing that worked to everyone’s benefit was the fact that it was cold. It was, for me anyway, just about the right temperature to be serving cask ale at. I know that some folks seem to like it at eight or nine degrees Celsius, but I prefer it at around six, chill haze be damned. It’s going to warm up in your hands anyway, so I feel like having the flavours open up in front of you is a good thing.

George Eagleson: Urban Cowboy

People dressed up for the weather, in windbreakers and parkas and a surprising number of cowboy hats. Many people fought to find a place on the north side of the quad so that they could stand in the sun and warm up. This is just enough adversity to create a shared experience. It’s not so much adversity that it becomes the focal point of the day. It would be hard, for example to properly enjoy cask ale in a lifeboat after listening to the band play Nearer My God To Thee while this ship goes down. It would, however, create a sense of community, at least until the cannibalism set in.

Local Hat Enthusiast Greg Earp

The branding on all of the material involved with the festival was excellent, and most of the credit for this goes to Tomas Morana, who has become something of a savant in terms of graphic design. At some point before the festival, he took the time to design tokens with the event logo on them. These are so vastly an improvement on having paper tickets in your pocket that I don’t know where to begin. In the old days, they used to issue strips of paper with little dotted lines on them so you knew where to tear the tickets. Try finding a single ticket in one of your many pockets after you’ve sampled 14 quarter pints of beer. The tokens are a stroke of genius.

I wasn't going to include this picture, but I did because of tokenism.

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that I didn’t end up drain pouring a single beer. In previous years there have always been one or two beers that I tried that I couldn’t get through despite the fact that the sample might have been five ounces. The leap in quality is tremendous. The brewers are now taking this seriously, and by trial and error over the course of the last seven years most of them have learned how to properly cask beers.

Somehow, both the Central City Red Racer Citra Pale Ale and the Storm Fresh Hop IPA survived the voyage from BC and were excellent. One would have thought that the Trois Mousquetaires Barrel Aged Baltic Porter would have stolen the show in the Quebec tent, but Dunham’s Oak Aged Cranberry Ale was magnificent; tart, with that hint of wood that aids the mouthfeel. I suspect that it may have been bolstered by a touch of wild yeast. All I know is that Dunham clearly bears watching.

Gordo thought he got out of frame. Gordo was wrong.

Niagara College put forth a good effort, and our booth was manned by Gord Slater, who is pictured here in a very dapper hat which was provided by Don Cherry’s Burlington Glamour line of couture (there is the distinct possibility I will be expelled for this joke). The Bultersberg Barley Wine was very good and I feel as though the other beers benefitted from dry hopping. Niagara students Austin Roach and Andrew Bartle collaborated with Volo’s House Ales to create Gold Dust, which was a solid attempt at an American style Porter.

Ontario actually measured up to the other provinces. Mike Lackey from Great Lakes created a 100% Brett IPA which I imagine will take the best name prize: Fangboner. Yes, it’s a silly name. Try saying it aloud in a high pitched voice, or singing it to the tune of goldfinger. It also created an awkward situation when you were being served by one of the girls manning the booth. “Excuse me young lady, could I trouble you for a Fangboner? What’s that? No, just a quarter pint Fangboner. This is the Fangboner? Great. Here’s your token. Fangboner.”

"Hey, what can we call this beer? It needs to be wholesome enough to play in Peoria....I've got it. Fangboner."

Cameron’s continues to do interesting things. Apparently their There Is No Dana, Only Zuur Sour is the result of months of barrel aging. It was tasty. The only legitimate criticism I have for it is that the beer is that it didn’t really peak at any point on the palate; one flavour all the way through. Good beer, though and it gets high marks on the Venkman Quotient.

Don't open the tap all the way. Important safety tip, Egon.

Best of all though was Sawdust City’s I Swear, Sugarpants, It Was Your Idea. I didn’t think much of Sawdust City’s first offering. I think the ingredient from every province thing they did with Great Weiss North was gimmicky and a little busy on the palate. I don’t think anyone knew enough of the ingredients to be able to pick them out. This, on the other hand, was marvelous. It’s a brown ale with coffee malt and lactose brewed with a sort of garam masala chai steep that was added as a flavour addition at the end of the boil. It tasted like a chai latte. I don’t actually like chai, and this was excellent. More than that, it was exciting. I don’t know exactly how he pulled it off and made the flavours work together, but he did.

Looking at this picture, I'm seriously considering taking bets on whether Sam Corbeil owns a waterbed and attends key parties.

This was the best Cask Days event ever. Make no mistake, it will probably be even better next year. I have only two regrets:

1)      We trampled the Hart House quad’s lawn pretty badly. Some landscaper is going to be pissed.

2)      Instead of sampling more beers, at some point I decided to use four tokens to buy a pint of Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodisiaque on cask.

Actually, that second one probably isn’t a regret.