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Monthly Archives: October 2012

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Cask Days By The Numbers

It’s fairly easy to take an annual event like Cask Days for granted, but since this is the eighth anniversary, I thought I’d show you something pretty neat about the development of the festival. It’s mostly interesting because it mirrors the development of the Ontario beer scene almost directly.

2005:

Cask Days starts up. Initial online buzz suggests that there will be 12 casks. This rapidly expands to 21 as brewers realize that they can get in on the action. All of the beers are from Ontario, which is not surprising. Looking at the list, the most adventurous offerings are Scotch Irish Sgt Major and barrel aged versions of Black Oak Nut Brown and Granite Peculiar. There was also a Trafalgar Abbey Ale.

It was pretty representative of what was happening in Ontario at the time. This is to say that while there were some solid offerings from F&M and Wellington and a number of the usual suspects, no one was really breaking any ground, except for the fact that there were a lot of casks in one place. That was novel.

Timeframe: 2 days, 1 session each day

2006:

This is where things start to happen. Those shocking new upstarts from Beau’s are in attendance. It’s the first year that homebrewers are involved in the form of Biergotter. It’s also the first time that Dieu Du Ciel is available on cask in Ontario.

In terms of Ontario breweries, it gets slightly more interesting. George Eagleson made a Pear Ginger Oatmeal Stout I wish I had gotten to try (George makes some great stuff when he gets weird.) The event features an Imperial IPA from Scotch Irish and a couple of Imperial Stouts.

While it is getting more interesting, there are still only 25 casks. Clearly, it hasn’t quite caught on yet in the public imagination. You’d still be happy with the lineup today if it were at any other pub.

Timeframe:  1 day, split into 2 sessions

2007:

The year mirrors 2005 more closely than 2006. For the first time, a beer from another country is served in the form of Fuller’s ESB. There are 29 casks, but this is partially because there are now more breweries. Grand River makes its debut (worth mentioning because Mill Race Mild is a great cask beer). A solid event, but no one is crushing the ball.

Timeframe: 2 days, split into 4 sessions

2008:

Bigger than the previous year by half, we’re back into adventurous territory. Church Key has a Purple Loosestrife Mead, which hits like a hammer and a Tobacco Road version of their Holy Smoke that I remember swilling in some quantity. There are a number of breweries participating for the first time, including Amsterdam, Barley Days and others. Great Lakes is starting to produce a number of casks. Fuller’s remains a constant. 44 casks.

Timeframe: 3 days, split into 5 sessions

2009:

This is the first year that the branding takes on its now iconic look, which is due to the design expertise of Tomas Morana (seriously, go back and look at the event materials over the last five years and tell me the guy hasn’t developed a unique style.) No longer content with merely having some casks on a patio on the weekend, Cask Days stretches to a week. While the main event still takes place Friday-Sunday, there is a pregame event throughout the week with 22 casks and a Thursday night recap of the first IPA Challenge. This brings the total number of casks to 72.

The selection has grown to the point that it now has to be separated on the patio into Ontario regions. While there are many highlights from Ontario, the key feature is the addition of casks from Benelux, Dieu Du Ciel and Hopfenstark (with Fred in attendance, looking a bit swashbuckler-y.)

Timeframe: Oct 26-Nov 2

2010:

No longer content with a single week, Cask Days expands to a month long moveable feast which roams from Vankleek Hill to Cambridge. The pre-event features 19 casks in the English style. The Thursday features the two previous winners of the IPA challenge. The main event features 53 casks.

High on their success as a nanobrewery, Volo has 8 beers (this was before the House Ales branding) all of which are more interesting than anything offered in 2005. In addition, there are now five participating Quebec breweries. The highlight is Mike Lackey’s Triple IPA, which I seem to remember being called Tennish Anyone. My friend Vanessa threatens him with violence if he doesn’t brew it again.

Timeframe: Oct 1- Nov 1

2011:

No longer content with the space available at Bar Volo, Cask Days relocates to Hart House, which is a much larger venue, capable of holding something like 500 people. More breweries than ever before take part as a result of the increased space.

The pre-event lineup during the week has 19 casks and six Fuller’s beers are featured on the Friday night. The country is represented from coast to coast, making this the first truly national beer festival. Quebec ‘s section has expanded to include almost as many beers as the entirety of 2005’s entire festival. Fuller’s has a booth of their own, as does Niagara College.

The total number of beers available exceeds 100

2012:

No longer content with the space available at Hart House, Cask Days relocates to The Brickworks, which is a much larger venue, capable of holding a small army.

The pre-event lineup is legitimately the size of the 2005 version of cask days. Half Pints has its own event on Thursday night (Humulus Ludicrous, people. Go get it.) The main event features 110 casks from across the country including three gluten free options. There is an entire section for Pumpkin beers. There is an entire section for Collaboration beers. Authors will be signing books. There will be DJs. At this point, it’s a face-painting booth away from graduating from beer fest to carnival

Total number of casks is 132

Look at this graph:

Clearly, we should all be very, very afraid.

Cask Days has average growth of about a third (1.32011) since it started in 2005. This means, if I am extrapolating correctly, that by the year 2017 Cask Days will last the entire season of autumn, feature 544 casks including some from upstart brewers in Venezuela, and will take place in the newly annexed borough of Morana Downs (formerly East York).

I, for one, welcome our new Cask beer overlords. If you haven’t bought a ticket for this year’s event yet, you should. You want to stay on Ralph’s good side.

Beer And Food: Jamaican Curry Chicken and Nightmare on Mill Street

A large number of people like Pumpkin beer, and this is very largely because it tastes like fall. It has those pumpkin pies spices in it that make it reminiscent of coming in from raking leaves before Sunday dinner. That being said, it can be a little difficult to find something to do with Pumpkin beer, since it already tastes like dessert. They’re typically fairly sweet and they contain a mixture of allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and any number of other things depending on the brewery.

The obvious thing to do is to serve it alongside pumpkin pie. If you’re particularly adventurous, you might even want to try it alongside another dessert like ginger cake that has a selection of the same spices. This might be alright for home consumption, but if you’re at a beer dinner, that sort of double barreled approach might not really be welcome after about five courses. At that point, it’s a whipped cream topped overload.

Since I’m always looking for something interesting to do with beer and food, I googled the ingredients that go into pumpkin pie. Sure enough, if you throw those ingredients in to google, you come up with jerk chicken.

Initially, this seemed like an ideal solution. I checked through a bunch of online recipes and then dug through The World Cookbook for Students in order to find something that would give me a reasonably effective version that I could try at home. I failed pretty badly, but mostly on the basis of equipment. I don’t have a grill that I can use for this kind of thing.

That’s when I realized that I know a professional cook who might be able to furnish some insight into my problem. I’m lucky enough to know La-Toya Fagon from Twist Catering from another life. At the time, I had no idea that I would end up writing about beer, but she had already managed to secure some pretty promising weekend gigs as a cook. After I left that job, I lost track of her, but cut to three years later and she’s on Marilyn Denis’s show doing a cooking demo. It turns out she’s doing Mediterranean inspired Carribean food.

Talk about a stroke of luck.

The Beer

The beer I’m working with in this case is Mill Street’s Nightmare on Mill Street. It’s a good candidate for pairing as a pumpkin beer for the reason that it is restrained. First of all, the base recipe is a wheat beer, so it’s not a high alcohol beer. It clocks in at an even 5% and is brewed with actual pumpkin. The orange colour and head retention are good. Plus, the spice blend is nicely balanced. Some of the pumpkin beers out in the LCBO overbalance in favour of cinnamon or ginger. That’s fine if it’s to your taste, but if you want to talk about a prototypical pumpkin beer, this is it. The spice blend was inspired by brewmaster Joel Manning’s wife’s recipe for pie, which is a nice thing. Well done, Mrs. Manning.

They sent over some sample bottles for me to play with, and on my recommendation sent some to La-Toya.

The Recipe

I got in touch with La-Toya about jerk chicken, but she played around with a couple of recipes and had a better idea. The problem with jerk chicken is that because the spice blend is so similar, you’d be pairing it with beer on a complimentary basis. That was more or less what I wanted to avoid by skipping the pumpkin pie and dessert angles. I’m sure it would work, but she came up with a pairing that’s a great deal more interesting.

JAMAICAN CURRY CHICKEN

1lb boneless skinless thighs

4 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 tbsp curry powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

6-7 pimento seeds crushed

1 medium onion diced

1 bell pepper diced

1/2 Scotch bonnet pepper

6 spring’s fresh thyme

4 medium size potatoes

2 c. water

 

Heat oil in pan till smoking level. Cut up chicken in bite size pieces, place in a bowl. Add in all ingredients except potatoes and water. Place chicken mixture in pot, stir, and cook on high add water. Cook, till it comes to a boil, stir, lower heat until chicken is almost cooked. Add in potatoes. Cook until water is thickened.

 

Serve over steamed white rice or with roti.

 

The Pairing

This is what your food looks like if your professional cook friend takes the pictures and sends them to you.

Now, this is a vastly different flavour profile than what I started out with, and in terms of cooking curry at home, I’m lost at sea. What better way to learn than by doing?

The reason that this works is because of the pimento seeds (which I discovered are allspice after 10 minutes of standing in the spice aisle) and the thyme. The thyme plays with whatever earthiness is in the beer as a result of the hopping as an aroma, while the allspice comes through in the heat at the back of the palate. Now this makes a great deal of sense as a pairing because the heat from the Scotch Bonnet is just enough to make you want a mouthful of a cold beer. The spice mix from the Pumpkin beer chases the heat with the carbonation, but from a sensory standpoint it lends even more depth to the curry by suggesting spices that it doesn’t necessarily contain. Salting slightly higher than normal is not a bad idea because of the steamed rice and the constrasting sugars in the beer.

Now, when I mentioned I might be doing this on facebook, Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn suggested that you’d probably want quite a sweet pumpkin beer if you were going to pair with Jamaican food. I can certainly see how he would have been right if we’d gone with jerk chicken. Because we went with curry, I think that the slightly wheaty finish on the Nightmare on Mill Street works pretty well. Also, from the standpoint of personal preference, I have to suggest that you really want a lighter alcohol pumpkin beer than some of the monsters out there. The dish is spicy enough that you are likely to want more than one beer with it. Safety first.

And this is what it looks like when you do it at home and are not interested in plating. Still tasty.

WHAT DID WE LEARN

1)      The proper soundtrack for this dish is Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come

2)      La-Toya Fagon knows what she’s doing, which is not exactly a surprise since she always struck me as extremely competent. She managed to steer me to a more complex pairing from a less complex one. Good eye, and I think a good appreciation of what I’m trying to do.

3)      If it says ½ scotch bonnet, don’t go adding a whole one, especially if you’re new to the flavour profile.  I know you probably won’t have anything you can use the other half in, so just discard it. I mean, it cost you 10 cents, so this is no time to be miserly.

The Indie Alehouse

There’s a story they tell about Robert The Bruce, which may or may not be apocryphal.

It goes like this:

While he was on the run from the English at some point in 1306, he was hiding out in a cave somewhere near Ireland, which at the time was not exactly the bustling hub of commerce that it is today, or at least, was ten years ago. Lacking much in the way of entertainment (You can only play so many games of count the cave before you realize that the total will never be higher than one) he watched a spider attempt to build a web across a wide expanse on the roof of the cave. The spider couldn’t quite make the distance, failing several times to connect point A to point B. The spider, who was determined to finish the web in order to support his wife and thousands of eggs, kept trying. Eventually, it managed to create a three bedroom web with an adjacent garage and hot and cold running flies.

Robert The Bruce, who never got over the strange middle name he was given by his parents, took inspiration from the spider and realized that he must never give up in his fight against the English. He returned to Scotland and kicked a certain amount of ass. The story has become a parable on the importance of resilience in the face of hardship.

The story of the Indie Alehouse is like that, except that it features fewer arachnids.

They got swag!

I met Jason Fisher for the first time during Toronto Beer Week 2011, when he had a launch for some of his beers at The Rhino. At the time, he had a location for the Indie Alehouse scouted out and had a couple of beers that were ready to go. He had a brewer lined up in the tiny form of Kevin Somerville. Renovations were under way and he was going to open as soon as it was feasible. I wondered about the location of the brewery, thinking that Dundas and Keele might not support such a place. He seemed assured.

Jason Fisher, attending to minute detail.

The next thing I heard was several months later when it became apparent that he was cursed. The way I heard it was that the boiler was being installed when the workmen dropped it down the stairs into the basement. As the story goes, he was so used to things going wrong that he heard the noise and didn’t even look up from what he was doing, having become more or less resigned to being the Toronto beer scene’s Job.

Over the next year, he would have licensing difficulties with the city and have to meet the whims of inspectors over the positions of equipment. He would get a new brewer in the hulking form of Jeff Broeders. He would, eventually, open the doors on the 4th of October, nearly a year and a half after he started the process.

Having had a year and a half to work on the place, while clearly not ideal from some points of view, has created an interesting space. Jason has had time to work on every facet of the Indie Alehouse, from the design of the tables (solid, functional, using repurposed wood from a local church) to the board in the gift shop (whose trim he painted himself). He made the design choices himself from the traditional tin on the ceiling to the dark hardwood floor to the vintage draft fridge behind the bar. It’s roomy and functional without hitting you over the head with either of those qualities.

The Indie’s antique draft fridge lends the bar a sense of nostalgia without becoming entirely focal.

The location, which I had had qualms about has actually benefited significantly from the year it took to open the brewpub. It has gentrified and continues to do so. The number of people anxiously staring in through the locked door during my visit was staggering. They had managed nearly 150 covers the previous evening. People are excited.

The menu is manageable; small enough that it should produce obvious fan favorites over the first few months of being open. As Jason explains, “we’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven,” and the menu consequently focuses on those two amenities.

The brewery has about 55 BBL worth of fermenters, with a 10 BBL brewhouse. The basement is full of carefully organized wooden barrels, which are being used primarily for experimentation at this point. “If you’re a brewpub and you’re not brewing weird stuff, what’s the point?” says Jason.

I think that they’re pointing out that the beer they serve is ale, not that they have come up with a new beverage called beer-ale.

The mainstays, the Instigator IPA and the Breakfast Porter, are both solid beers, as they should be after a year and a half of experimentation. They certainly make up the backbone of the beer list, but they don’t tell the whole story. The more adventurous offerings are the way to go here.

There’s Broken Hipster: a Belgian Witbier and probably the lightest offering on the menu at 5%. It has coriander and manages to use two different varieties of orange peel, both bitter and sweet, which creates a fairly nuanced citrus flavour in the mid palate. It would be an excellent summer refresher and I suspect it would pair pretty well with the Shrimp Po’Boy on the menu (you know you’re in trouble when you’re halfway through a sample and planning a return visit).

There’s Spadina Monkey: a Belgian Raspberry Sour with lactobacillus. I’m not sure that this will be on the menu indefinitely due to the smell it produces when brewed, which might be off putting to patrons. As long as it’s on the menu it’s worth a shot, because it manages to be properly tart without giving up nuance of the raspberry or that wheaty texture. I think it’s good the way it is, but there’s apparently a bunch of it in chardonnay barrels. Apparently it adds complexity without stripping too much of the tart character.

There’s the Barnyard Belgian RyePA, which is excellent in its own right. It has a significant rye mouthfeel and that grape-y ester that sometimes crops up in American style Belgians. It would run the risk of not quite working except that the galaxy hops provide some tropical fruit notes that bear it out.

Finally, there’s the Pumpkin Abbey beer. It’s not a normal pumpkin beer. It’s 9.5% and it’s fermented with a Belgian trappist yeast. The pumpkin was roasted with black pepper, which, as an addition to the range of typical pumpkin spices and vanilla, manages to brighten up the final product significantly. The spices are balanced. There’s no reliance on diacetyl to make the pumpkin pie experience work. It is, I think, the best pumpkin beer going. I think it makes Southern Tier Pumking look heavy handed and clumsy.

The growler fillers do tend to look very slightly like a futuristic stasis chamber.

For all that, the most impressive part of the Indie Alehouse is Jason Fisher; watching him drift around the retail store and the bar, inspecting everything in minute detail to make sure it’s all ready. The change from the last time I saw him is immeasurable. He moves around with purpose. He’s smiling. He has every right to. He fought and he fought and he fought and he fought and eventually, he won.

Creativity in Action – Doppelbock

One of the things that I try to encourage whenever possible is creativity in the creation of beer, and I feel like there’s no segment of the beer world more ripe for creative brewing than the Doppelbock. Truth be told, I’ve had several Doppelbocks and there is some leeway in terms of flavour, but the big thing seems to be coming up with a good name.

The difficulty here is that many of the good names are already taken by companies that have brewed beer in the past. Cameron’s has their Deviator Doppelbock, which we can only hope will be returning this year. Half Pints seems to be coming out with one called Isolator.

The suffix is the important thing. Because Paulaner named their original Doppelbock Salvator, you’ve got a run on people using the –ator suffix in order to create beer names.

So far, I’ve seen:  Incinerator, Renovator, Debilitator (try getting that through the LCBO), Discombobulator (another one the standards and practices folks might balk at), Perkulator (Coffee flavoured, naturally), Eradicator (big with Kids In The Hall fans), Dominator (big with Fifty Shades fans), and about three different breweries producing a Procrastinator.

I’ve come up with a few which don’t just sound cool; there’s some thought going on here.

ABACINATOR:

This is a specialized number because of the specialized brewing technique used. As we’re all aware, abacination is the practice of heating metal until it’s white hot and then using that metal to blind someone.

Clearly, the way to take advantage of this practice in practical brewing terms is to use a technique from Stein Beer. In Stein beers, they superheat a piece of granite and then drop it into the kettle, thus boiling the wort. In this case, you want to superheat a metal ball and drop it into the kettle. Not only is it slightly safer than granite, because it won’t explode when dropped, it will also likely hold its shape for repeated usage. Fun!

Because it’s superheated, you end up with a sugar coated piece of metal which can then go in the secondary fermenter, hopefully allowing for some natural carbonation.

Pros:You’ve always wanted to superheat a sphere of stainless steel, right? I mean, the great thing is that if you lower it gently into the wort, you can pretend it’s giving you a thumbs up a la Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sort of one of those single, manly tear moments.

Cons: There is the possibility for violent and painful death if you screw up. Also, the sphere can’t talk, so it won’t tell you that it knows now why you cry.

DELIVERATOR:

This is the kind of thing that you have to be a bit careful with announcing if you aren’t already in contact with Neal Stephenson. The first thing to do is approach him on twitter or through his agent and ask his permission to make a beer loosely based on the career of his protagonist in Snow Crash. This is not as unlikely as it sounds since the Cyberpunk masterwork is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The Deliverator is, of course, a samurai pizza deliveryman.

This creates something of a difficulty because you need to somehow engineer a Doppelbock that goes with pizza. This can be very hard because of the acidity in the tomato sauce. Probably, it would end up being something more like a supercharged Vienna Lager, using a lot of Pils and Munich malt, slightly paler in colour than classic examples of the style in order to allow some hopping to shine through.

Pros: You could probably get a lot of publicity making a beer called Deliverator if you managed to get the author on board. You’d also be able to ask him what the hell is up with Enoch Root anyway. Is he immortal? Is there a cogent explanation for that other than that it’s a convenient plot device?

Cons:You don’t really want to annoy Neal Stephenson. He’s a big, intimidating dude.

Don’t mess with Neal Stephenson.

ELIMINATOR:

Eliminator would be a sort of big brother in spirit to Texas’ own Shiner Bock. It’s a deeply Texan beer not only in heritage, but in terms of the labeling, which would clearly owe a great deal of credit to the 1983 ZZ Top album of the same name. Plus, given the content of the album, it’s clear that the beer would require a certain viscosity in order to display legs on the side of the glass.

I know it’s an odd gimmick, but it’s pretty iconic looking

If you wanted to get really esoteric, you could use Rogue brewery’s new technique for harvesting yeast in order to make the beer extra special. Rogue is now famous for having produced a beer with yeast harvested from their brewer’s beard. If ever there was a beard lustrous enough to support a small microclimate, it belongs to ZZ Top. You could harvest two separate strains from Billy and Dusty and do a side by side tasting.

Pros: You might even be able to get the Eliminator care to show up at a launch event if you asked really nicely.

Cons: You don’t wanna know where those beards have been. Also, brewers have already used this name, although my reasoning is cooler.

Just as a warning, you’ll want to avoid these ones:

Defenestrator – Beer so bad you just want to chuck it out the window

Van Terminator – Hits you like a flying dropkick

Baconator – You should probably be watching your cholesterol

 

These are the kind of thoughts that prevent me from being taken seriously by the marketing folks.

Has He Lost His Mind: Iron Brewer 2012

What would you do with these ingredients?

Base malts:

Muntons Marris Otter

Dark Bohemian Pilsner Floor Malt

CMC Superior Pale

Specialty Malt

Oak Smoked Wheat Malt

Dark Bohemian Wheat Floor Malt

OiO Barley Flakes

OIO Wheat Flakes Toasted (Torrified) OIO

Brewers Oat Flakes (Quick)

OiO Rye Flakes Toasted

Thomas Fawcett Chocolate Malt

Best Malz Chit Malt

Franco Belges Caramel 120 Malt

 

Specialty items:

Raspberry Puree

Lemon Peel

Ginger Root

Whirlfloc Tablet

 

Hops:

- Amarillo

- Challenger

- Legacy

- Magnum

- Willamette

- A certificate for whole Bertwell hops

 

Yeast:

Safale US-05

Saflager S-23

Mauribrew Weiss

Safbrew T-58

Possibly a new cask yeast

 

If you’re anything like me, you’d have to look up exactly what chit malt is and what legacy hops taste like. If you’re a professional brewer, you’d probably still have to look up some of them. After about fifteen minutes of staring in positive befuddlement at the list, you’d probably have a pretty good idea of what you could do with some of the ingredients; of the kinds of flavours that you might be able to coax out of them. You might shout “Eureka!” or if you don’t want to picture a damp, naked, Archimedes combing the streets of Syracuse for a writing implement, you might get that faraway look Hugh Laurie gets when he realizes exactly which disease the patient has.

The Master Brewer’s Association hosts an annual event that facilitates this kind of improvisational whimsy: THE IRON BREWER. It is a popular event these days; so popular in fact that this year’s 15 competitors were chosen from a lottery of nearly twice that many applicants.

Master Brewer and all around nice guy Paul Dickey served as Emcee for the proceedings. Here he is pictured humouring a photographer.

Brewers like the ability to improvise, especially when they get the opportunity to do it for a small audience of likeminded individuals. One of the significant components of the event is that no two brewers will look at the list of ingredients and come up with exactly the same beer. Everybody has different tastes and skill sets. Fortunately for the audience, all of the competitors are highly trained.

I’m moderately trained. Looking at those ingredients, I might have come up with something like this RASPBERRY PORTER type of thing. I would assume that you get some body from the oats and rye and the caramel would bring a touch of nuttiness, although at 120 Lovibond, probably more color than anything. The Chocolate malt is almost exclusively there for color and to provide a small backbone for the raspberry to play off. I went with Legacy hops because the raspberry might work well with the blackcurrant notes and I went with Willamette to give it an English feel (fuggle variant). I chose US-05 because I’m scared of the T-58. It’s mostly for bottle conditioning.

Alternately, I’d be tempted to try this GINGER LEMON WHEAT BEER. I don’t know whether that has enough diastatic power to get off the ground, but it’s worth a shot. The chit malt will give it a touch of green barley character and the oak smoked wheat malt… well, you’ve got to use it, haven’t you? It’s the big shiny red button. Challenger is a relatively neutral Northern Brewer style bittering hop, so I feel the Amarillo will really come through on the nose with the ginger root and lemon peel.

I don’t actually have a joke here. This is just a good picture of Alan Brown and John Hodd.

I should tell you that no one really did the same things that I would have. They did much more interesting things.

Michael Hancock, for instance, did a Ginger Ale called Flirting With Ginger. If I understand the explanation correctly, he created a starter for the beer that incorporated the ginger root in order to drag as much flavour as possible out of it. Like me, he was tempted by the Smoked Wheat Malt and used every bit that was provided to him. The result was a one off smoky ginger beer where the ginger came through right in the middle of the palate. As he notes, it’s not really enough ginger to be an authentic Ginger Beer. Pretty tasty, though.

I’ve made this one zoomoutable so you don’t gotsta squint.

My Co-Author Mark Murphy decided to brew an Oatmeal Brown Ale. It was pretty thoroughly drinkable if a little buttery. I think with a little revision, I could see that one on tap. He left some of the ingredients in the box, but you have to brew what you feel. You should buy his book. Heck, you should buy my book. It’s the same book, so I’ve just saved you at least a single mouse click. (I’m starting to feel like Jay Sherman.)

Mark Murphy is a very organized man. You might think he labelled those jars just for the competition. You would be wrong.

Dan Unkerskov and Scott Pautler from Lake of Bays worked together to create something closer to the ginger/lemon beer that I would have gone for. Wisely, they eschewed the smoked wheat malt. Somewhat oddly, they put the lemon peel and ginger root in right at the beginning of the boil. I’ve always figured that aromatics go in towards the end, so I was surprised to see the ginger and lemon come through to the extent they did. Possibly you could do both. It was nice to see the specialty ingredients used in a straightforward way with a clarity of vision. This is probably why they took third place. Either that or people were voting for Dan’s moustache.

I feel like I should point out that all of the ingredients were optional. Jon Downing from Niagara College didn’t feel that way about it. He made three beers and used all of the ingredients. In order to get around the fact that you were only really meant to brew one beer he made all three with a continuous mash, essentially using the second runnings of the first mash to brew the second beer and so on. A brewing centipede, if you will. It’s a pretty neat concept, and quite virtuosic if a bit muddled. I think the best part about this was the first beer, which was sort of like what a Berliner Weisse might be like without the Lactobacillus. Educational and interesting, which is, let’s face it, his job.

Jeffrey Woodworth. If heart were legs, he’d be the tallest brewer in Ontario.

In the end, everyone represented themselves very well. Special mentions go to Jeffrey Woodworth (drinkable yet challenging), Jamie Mistry (flat out drinkable) and Chris Williams (who would have gotten away with it if he had had a Saison yeast.)

Your winner is Andy D. Preston Esq. He will be appearing with Ted “Theodore” Logan at some point in the future.

The sure, confident gaze of a triumphant master brewer. Bask in the magnificence! Bask, I tell you!