St. John's Wort Beery Musings And Amusing Beers

The Ontario Brewing Awards – A Thoroughly Biased Annotation

It is worth noting that Brewing awards tell you one very important piece of information: Which breweries entered beers for consideration. Labatt did. Apparently Molson did not. (Edit: Thanks to Mark Murphy for pointing out that they did, in fact, enter their Rickard’s brands. Not really a good strategic choice to take on craft breweries in categories where Rickard’s had little chance of succeeding. Canadian or even M might have had a shot.) Here we are then, with an entirely biased set of annotations for the awards given out.

North American Light Lager
Gold: Labatt Breweries of Canada – Bud Light
Silver: Sleeman Breweries – Old Milwaukee Light
People’s Choice: F & M Brewery – Stone Hammer Light

Well, that certainly matches the category title. St.Louis and Milwaukee are well represented in the Ontario Brewing Awards. This result will be meaningful if we can manage to annex Wisconsin.

North American Lager
Gold: Brick Brewery – Red Baron
Silver: Labatt Breweries of Canada – Brava
People’s Choice: Creemore Springs Brewery – Creemore Premium Lager

Good for Brick. It’s nice to see the oldest Ontario craft brewery get out there. Also, I’m beginning to wonder how the People’s Choice awards were arrived at.

European Style Lager
Gold: Labatt Breweries of Canada – Crystal
Silver: Cameron’s Brewing Co. – Cameron’s Lager
People’s Choice: Creemore Springs Brewery – Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner

I’ve never actually heard of Crystal. I wonder whether I’m missing something here. I’m going to get on the horn to Labatt and see if they want to send over a sample.

Amber Lager
Gold: King Brewery – King Vienna Lager
Silver: Nickel Brook Brewery – Nickel Brook Organic Lager
People’s Choice: Nickel Brook Brewery – Nickel Brook Organic Lager

Category makes sense. Unsurprising that King wins, since that’s an excellent beer. Might want to produce more of that one, since it has been difficult to get a hold of previously.

Dark Lager
Gold: King Brewery – King Dark Lager
Silver: Brick Brewing – Waterloo Dark
People’s Choice: King Brewery – King Dark Lager

Again, glad to see King doing well. I have a soft spot in my heart for Waterloo Dark, since it’s available at Paddington’s Pump down at the market. It’s really the only beer you should consider pairing with “The Oink With Cheese.”

Bock
Gold: Mill Street Brewery – Franconian Bock
Silver: Amsterdam Brewery – Spring Bock
People’s Choice: Amsterdam Brewery – Spring Bock

About right. Both are good beers, but I think the Franconian Bock might have been a little more polished. I had the Amsterdam Spring Bock when it was quite fresh and it had some rough edges. Still a good beer though, and a nice example of the style.

Honey/Maple Beer
Gold: Sleeman Breweries – Sleeman Honey Brown
Silver: Labatt Breweries of Canada – Lakeport Honey
People’s Choice: Brick Brewing – Laker Honey

I don’t care about this category. At all. I tend to avoid maple and honey even when they’re used in big beers, since I dislike the mouthfeel it imparts. Congratulations to the winners, I guess. Well done. Huzzah!

German Style Wheat Beer
Gold: Denison’s Brewery – Denison’s Hefeweizen
Silver: Muskoka Brewery Summer Weiss
People’s Choice: Hop City Brewery – Lawn Chair ‘Classic’ Weisse

Again, about right. Seems like a tougher category than some of the others, because those are all really good. Grand River 1913 was in this category for some reason I don’t completely understand. It didn’t have a chance being judged to that style. Too bad.

Belgian Style Wheat Beer
Gold: Amsterdam Brewery – Amsterdam Orange Weisse
Silver: Mill Street Brewery – Belgian Wit
People’s Choice: Mill Street Brewery – Belgian Wit

I would have called this an upset, since the Mill Street Belgian is more traditionally a Belgian Style Wheat Beer. Then again, the Amsterdam Orange Weisse was tasty last year. Good job, Amsterdammers.

Cream Ale
Gold: Labatt Breweries – Labatt 50
Silver: Sleeman Breweries – Sleeman Cream Ale
People’s Choice: Labatt Breweries – Labatt 50

Cinquante for the win, I guess. I’m not sure it’s a Cream Ale. I guess that doesn’t matter. It could probably have been entered as an American Pale Ale or a Blond Ale or a Golden Ale. I wonder if Muskoka entered their Cream Ale.

British Pale Ale
Gold: Grand River Brewing – Plowman’s Ale
Silver: Mill Street Brewery – Extra Special Bitter
People’s Choice: Grand River Brewing – Plowman’s Ale

Glad to see Grand River dominating. Also glad Mill Street entered their ESB, which is a nice beer.

North American Pale Ale
Gold: Hop City Brewing – Happy Hour Premium Ale
Silver: Flying Monkeys Brewery – Hoptical Illusion
People’s Choice: Mill Street Brewery – Tankhouse Ale

Kind of a tough category, in the sense that they all have different qualities and it would more or less come down to the judges’ palates on the day. You could cycle the results into any permutation and they wouldn’t surprise me.

British India Pale Ale
Gold: Grand River Brewing – Curmudgeon IPA
Silver: Mill Street Brewery – India Pale Ale
People’s Choice: Grand River Brewing – Curmudgeon IPA

Interesting to see essentially a repeat of the British Pale Ale category. Grand River is doing something right.

North American India Pale Ale
Gold: Flying Monkeys Brewery – Smashbomb Atomic IPA
Silver: Amsterdam Brewery – Bonecrusher
People’s Choice: Flying Monkeys Brewery – Smashbomb Atomic IPA

Not surprising. Slight typo there on the awards that were given out. Here is a list of alternate names for the Boneshaker suggested to me by the Amsterdam staff:

Skulldingler, Skinrusher, Bonegrinder, Thighchafer, Ol’ Femur Snapper, Amsterdam’s Patented Lymph Node Exploder, Ow! My Vertebrae! IPA, Kneecapper (Now with hops!)

Amber Ale
Gold: Cameron’s Brewing Co. – Cameron’s Auburn Ale
Silver: Amsterdam Brewery – Big Wheel
People’s Choice: Railway City Brewing – Iron Spike Copper Ale

Pretty predictable result, there. Nice to see Bill Coleman from Cameron’s light up like a kid with a new lego set when given the award.

Dark Ale
Gold: Railway City Brewing – Iron Spike Amber Ale
Silver: Muskoka Brewery – Muskoka Dark Ale
People’s Choice: Black Oak Brewery – Nut Brown

Kind of a tough category here, as well. Might have to revisit the Iron Spike Amber.

Porter
Gold: Amsterdam Brewery – Two Fisted Porter
Silver: Mill Street Brewery – Coffee Porter
People’s Choice: Amsterdam Brewery – Two Fisted Porter

Both good.

Stout
Gold: F & M Brewery – Stone Hammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout
Silver: Muskoka Brewery – Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout
People’s Choice: Muskoka Brewery – Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout

I would have thought of the Muskoka Stout as an imperial. F & M’s Oatmeal Coffee Stout is pretty much above reproach, though. Deserved win.

Imperial Stout
Gold: Grand River Brewing – Russian Gun Imperial Stout
Silver: Amsterdam Brewery – Tempest
People’s Choice: Grand River Brewing – Russian Gun Imperial Stout

I guess I’m going to have to stop by Amsterdam and see if some nice person will get me a sample of this here “Tempest” which is apparently still under development. Good rule of thumb: If your beer wins an award without having made it out of R&D, you’re probably onto something.

Fruit Beer
Gold: Great Lakes Brewery – Orange Peel Ale
Silver: Amsterdam Brewery – Framboise
People’s Choice: Grand River Brewing – Blackberry Wheat

Flavoured Beer
Gold: Mill Street Brewery – Lemon Tea Beer
Silver: Brick Brewing – Red Baron Lime
People’s Choice: Mill Street Brewery – Lemon Tea Beer

I feel like those two could have been combined into a single category, since both Lime and Lemon are technically fruits. Good on Great Lakes, though.

Strong Beers
Gold: Grand River Brewing – Jubilation Winter Ale
Silver: Great Lakes Brewery – Winter Ale
People’s Choice: Nickel Brook Brewery – Cuvee

Seems about right.

Congratulations to Grand River and Amsterdam. Nice Showing, guys! You’re going to need bigger trophy cases.

So What Can We Learn From Duggan’s?

One of the nice things about the craft beer industry is that generally speaking, everyone wants everyone else to succeed. Also, in the rare instances in which this is not the case, both parties are usually too drunk to effectively fight a duel to the death. It’s very much a case at this point of cumulative success across the market. One brewery succeeding will mean that other breweries will get more business. Of course if a brewery folds after it has succeeded it usually means that the other ones will pick up the slack on whatever sales that brewery has made.

Duggan’s didn’t exactly fold. The #9 IPA is still being produced out of Cool Brewery in Etobicoke. I hear the (#5?) Asian (Sorachi) Lager will be joining it (I’m beginning to think that one might be slightly over branded). But, one day last month they had the brewpub doors closed for them. There was a tense period there while people determined whether they would be afforded the opportunity to reopen. They were not. I don’t like the way that they were closed (I have friends working there), but I’m not sure how surprising it is that it happened.

Here’s the thing: Duggan’s was in a precarious situation from the start. For whatever reason (probably because the equipment was there and it looked like a lock) they decided to take up the space that was occupied by Growlers about a decade ago. The space is ridiculous. Dining Room probably seats 75, not including the patio during the summer. I haven’t been out there, but let’s call that 40 if it’s a decent size. The bar could probably seat 40. The basement event space could fit 100 without a great deal of trouble.

That’s over 250. The square footage must have been insane. I can’t imagine what the rent was, but think about the massive pain in the ass that must have been on a monthly basis. You need to rent the space, you need to hire enough staff to make the place look occupied. Mill Street, for instance, is opening a brewpub in Ottawa, but they envision it as a destination. Even Pearl Street in Buffalo, which seats a huge number is kind of a destination spot. Duggan’s wasn’t a destination. Its interior was essentially a void without much in the way of decoration; White walls, with the occasional outcropping of brick.

Now, I’d been in there maybe five or six times and I almost never saw the basement in use. Or the bar. Or the patio. But, in fairness, the main dining room was usually pretty busy.

Apparently, it was so busy on a consistent basis that they went through a very large amount of the beer brewed on premises. This doesn’t take into account the beer that was sold offsite. There were a lot of Duggan’s  seasonals around in other pubs. Some of the beers were so successful that they couldn’t keep up with production. The lagers didn’t always have time to lager. The ales didn’t always fully attenuate. I guess if people come to a brewpub for lunch, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be beer on tap, even if that beer is a little green.

That’s the crux of the thing, of course. Huge amount of space with a huge amount of rent, large amount of staff (I have cards from three people whose titles were some variety of “manager”). So you’ve got to make the rent on the place, which means that you’re selling the beer you’re brewing offsite, which adds revenue, but makes the quality of the beer suffer because in order to meet production, you have to take shortcuts. So they went along for a while, with the appearance of success. It looked like a successful brand.

There were other issues, of course.

The Porter: This was their best beer and they took it off the menu for 8 months or so last year. It was a delicious, roasty London Porter. If you look at the stories that were published about the closing, the Porter is mentioned in every fourth or fifth comment. Maybe I’m naïve and idealistic, but I think that if you create a high quality product, success will just follow it. I think they took this off in order to make way for a seasonal tap. Too bad. Launch it in bottles.

The Menu: There was a lot of choice on the menu. Probably too much. This might be the result of the fact that they had a good lunch trade and needed a diverse menu to be a draw in the neighbourhood. Think of the sunk cost in terms of ingredients just in order to make the kitchen function day to day, though. Especially with the space. Who knows what the crowd size will be day to day? Who knows how many of them will order schnitzel? You have to keep a lot of stuff on hand just in case.

The Oysters: How do you even source these? They had six varieties sometimes. What if no one orders them that day? That must have happened. It seems like a losing proposition to me. Even if the raw bar was displayed in the window, I’m not convinced that it was a sufficient draw to bring people in. It did, at the very least, give people behind the bar another way to look busy. It’s hard to look idle when you’re constantly tending to seafood with buckets of ice and grimacing slightly.

Social Media: The place launched without a website. People found out that it was open through Bartowel. When they finally got a website, it looked like Geocities. It still has not been updated to tell us that they have closed. Reappropriate it for branding the beer coming out of Cool already! You still have a dog in the fight, for God’s sake.

Also, they started a Facebook page on March 14th, after having been open for about 16 months. One wonders what the impact might have been if they’d had one at the beginning. Obviously, if you’re going to put seasonal or one-offs on tap, people need to know that they’re there in order to be a draw. Twitter. Myspace. Friggin’ something.

Overall, here’s what we can learn from Duggan’s: Ambition is good up to a point. If you start out too big, though, you end up in a situation where you have to make compromises on your core competencies in order to continue and that becomes a vicious cycle.

Also, that space should be something else because it’s untenable as a brewpub. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then anyone who occupies that space next should get no sympathy when they crash and burn.

I actually suspect that Duggan’s will do better without the brewpub. The #9 IPA is pretty good. The Lager will hopefully get time to condition if it’s brewed at Cool. Maybe he can find somewhere to brew small batches and release seasonals into the LCBO.

Here’s a thought: Start with the Porter.

Southern Tier

While my editor at The Sun would probably be shocked to learn that I’m covering the international beat, it was my pleasure last Saturday to get up at oh-dark-thirty and accept an invitation on the behalf of Roland and Russell (Thanks, guys!) to visit Southern Tier in Lakewood, New York. Now, I’m not exactly a ball of fire at the breakfast table, so getting to the departure point involved great lashings of coffee.

Doug: Bon vivant, man about town and inventor of the 1970's dance craze The Hamilton Amble

I was lucky enough to get to sit next to my friend Doug on the bus on the way down. I mentioned Doug last year at about this time in reference to choosing which beers to try at Mondial. He’s developed something of a mental warehouse over the years on a number of subjects and isn’t shy about sharing his thoughts, which makes eight hours more or less fly past. I’ll skip the details of the journey except to remark that bus trips, if they are long enough, never really advance past the way that they were in grade six. There will be no bathroom. People will rediscover their inability to sleep sitting up and end up sprawled all over the aisle. Some hapless goon will have had the fiesta platter the night before to the chagrin of all passengers within six rows. It’s a very effective way of ensuring that enthusiasm builds for arrival at your destination; also a compelling argument for windows that roll down.

And so it was, with a small and slightly road weary cheer, that we pulled into the Southern Tier parking lot in time for lunch.

It’s hard to write about the Southern Tier operation without a certain amount of frustration if you’re an observer of the Ontario beer scene. I had done a little cursory research on the brewery and their offerings prior to the trip and it turns out that there’s a beer that they only make for the area that they’re in: Chautauqua Brew. It is, I think, an acknowledgement of the fact that breweries need to make things that people want to drink. It’s a lawnmower beer and is apparently only outsold by Busch Light in the area around the brewery.

Troy Burtch shares a tender moment with a brewery

I started with that sample, and as light bodied refreshing crowd pleasers go, it’s a fine beer. It’s just that it’s not the kind of thing they’re known for in Ontario. We’ve had the IPA, which is still listed in the LCBO, and the Pumking, Choklat and Crème Brulee beers. If you’re from Ontario, it’s easy to get the impression that they make large, full flavoured world beaters exclusively. Not so. They brew a full range of beers: Pale Ale, Porter and a handful of wheat beers in addition to the imperial series and a number of oaked beers.

All of the ones I tried, without exception, are standalone beers. One of the things I’ve noticed about the states is that a lot of the beers that came out of brewpubs in the states are sort of designed to go with food. They’re versatile in that respect, in that they can go with more than one dish. The flavours can become somewhat muddled because of this, or are intentionally blunted somewhat. Look at, say, UBU from Lake Placid. Good beer, but with versatility of function. The Southern Tier beers are seemingly designed with an exclusivity of purpose: To excel on their own.

I’ll say this for them. If you dislike one of their beers, it’s probably going to be because you dislike the style and not because of an intrinsic quality of the brew. I, for instance, didn’t like the Hopsun or 422 wheat beers. I can’t really hold that against them because they’re still well made.

I think this level of design and execution probably stems from the fact that these guys are nerds. Huge nerds. This is the window of the office that looks out onto the brewery. Yes. That’s a Boba Fett action figure.

I guess it might be Jango Fett, but still: Nerds.

Matt, the owner, was full of useful information. Southern Tier is 3rd in the US in terms of distribution within 300 miles of the brewery. Their production has expanded massively over the last three years, from 18000 barrels to 30000 to 60000. Their bottling line does 10000 bottles an hour. Consider, momentarily, that Creemore which is a big deal in Ontario produces 50000 hectolitres a year, or about 42,600 barrels (so says google, almighty conversion overlord.)

I'm not sure whether this adequately conveys the largeness.

What exactly am I meant to do mentally with this information besides go and have a bit of a sulk? I’ve never seen a brewery this size with this amount of diversity before. I’m used to thinking in terms of much smaller volumes. 50 litres, mostly. 5 hectolitres at a time tops. How the hell do you get to the point as a brewery where creating an established line of imperial beers and quality standards on your own terms is possible? I have no idea, but I’ve come away with some impressions.

The first among them is that Southern Tier relies almost entirely on the quality of their brews to spread their reputation. The labeling is more or less limited to a standard font on a colorful background. For the imperial series, they include a graphic that fits with that conveys not only the identity of the beer, but part of the thought process behind it: A red tractor, a smiling Jack O’Lantern, a horse with a feedbag or a hop with a crown. Minimal. Not much pretension. Just a quality product.

Secondly, the tour is completely transparent: Here’s what we’re doing. That’s where we store things. Ingredient storage is through there. I haven’t ever seen that many hops in one place. The artificial flavourings aren’t hidden out of sight somewhere at the back of cold storage. I was about to comment disparagingly about the fact that there was artificial chocolate flavouring, but as Doug pointed out to me, you can’t really argue with the results.

They've got top men working in their warehouse. Top men.

Mostly, the impression that I came away with was that Southern Tier has succeeded basically because of their virtuosity at brewing and their justified confidence in their products. Much of the time in Ontario, there’s concern about brewing beers that are too flavourful; that the market won’t accommodate the decision to be interesting. It’s nice to see a situation where a brewery can succeed by designing the best beer it’s possible for them to make and then selling it.

So, while it’s a lovely modern brewery with all sorts of shiny metal and moving parts, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this information. If anything, the knowledge that it’s possible to succeed as a brewery based mostly on skill and competence is a good motivator.

That's a lot of spent grain.

It should also provide motivation for the Ontario brewers who will no doubt have to compete with them for draft lines come December. It looks as though there are plans afoot to bring them into the province. I don’t know which beer it will be. Maybe an imperial. Maybe part of their regular lineup. It doesn’t really matter, since they’re all good.

Don’t Worry About the Government

The St. John men can really pull off the whole muu-muu look.

Tuesday was the fourth annual Ontario Craft Brewers Legislative Tasting at Queen’s Park. It was the first one that I’ve managed to attend, and it prompted some interesting revelations about the old family tree. As it turns out my long deceased relation Joseph Wesley St. John was actually Speaker of the Provincial Legislature from 1905-1907.

You know you're either important or dead when your name is engraved somewhere.

He died in office. Since I wasn’t exactly sure whether this was meant literally, ie. that he snuffed it while signing papers on the second floor or whether he was merely the elected representative at the time, I decided that it was in my best interest to dress up for the event. I got my dapper on. I looked like 87 dollars the hard way. I was, in short, nattily attired.

This is just as well. No one wants to be lying in bed late at night as the sound of rattling chains and flashes of light begin to emanate from the kitchen because great uncle Joe has decided to haunt you for wearing a t-shirt to parliament. You don’t want ectoplasm in your butter dish.

It’s an interesting event. Most of the time if you go to a beer event, you don’t have to check in with a press office or make yourself known to security. Most of the time, you just sort of shamble in and see what’s on offer. People frown on shambling in an Edwardian dining room, unless you are geriatric. The 16 foot ceilings are particularly daunting, conveying the impression that while there is certainly a great deal of beer to sample, it would be best if you went sparingly.

The event is a good one, not necessarily because you’re likely to sample anything new, but for the goals that it attempts to accomplish. This was the fourth annual Legislative Beer tasting, and my understanding is that it is mostly the result of the effort of Steve Peters, Speaker of the House and the OCB.

Between Steve Peters and Rob Morra, there's about four people's worth of facial hair

It’s a good idea. It promotes Ontario beer to members of the provincial government and Queen’s Park staffers. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that at some point some of these people may have influence in decisions that affect the OCB. For a couple of years, there has been talk of founding craft beer stores outside of the purview of the existing beer store. If that’s the kind of thing that you want to get done, it’s good to provide a positive experience of the product in question.

Fortunately, this was exactly the venue for that sort of thing. This year’s event included 18 separate breweries and 61 beers. The goal of the event is to provide a democratically chosen selection of beers for the Legislative Dining Room and other Queen’s Park locales. There are six categories in which people are meant to vote, and one category where the Speaker decides on a beer. It’s a closed ballot, so there’s no possibility of malfeasance or electoral fraud.

My understanding was that there had been minimal press coverage of the event in previous years, but I’m not entirely sure that I understand why. It’s humanizing. I don’t claim that we (like the Americans) need to choose our politicians based on whether you could have a beer with them, but it’s refreshing to see Dalton McGuinty hanging around with brewers. I’m given to understand that he’s something of a craft beer enthusiast. I like that he demonstrates some taste.

His Reverential Dalton-ness & The Great Lakes Boys

It’s easy to vilify politicians of any stripe from a distance. It’s somewhat more difficult to do that when you see an MPP struggling to eat dark ale injected striploin off a side plate without adequate cutlery while trying to balance a schooner of beer in the crook of his arm. Even a small amount of jostling from the crowd will mean a trip to the dry cleaner.

I suppose that the best part of the event is that supporting local businesses that produce excellent beers is about as far from being a hot button issue as you can get. I certainly can’t find an argument against it.

I think that the only part of the event that fell short was the sound system. About halfway through the proceedings, there were speeches. Steve Peters made a speech, and John Hay (President of the OCB) made a speech. The event took place in two separate rooms, and while the room with the podium may have been receiving loud and clear, it was impossible to tell that there was a speech going on in the neighbouring room. John Hay is a relatively soft spoken man at the best of times, so it was no surprise that the noise began to build as he spoke.

I know little of Steve Peters politically, but let me assure you that he has a formidable set of pipes, as he was forced to call for silence on a number of occasions. As a Speaker, he is definitely a woofer.

The winners were announced yesterday, and I list them here:

Golden Lagers, Pilsners & Light Beer Mill Street Brewery: Mill Street Organic Lager

Refreshing Ales Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company: Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale

Amber Lagers, Ales & Honey Beer Old Credit Brewing Company Ltd: Old Credit Amber Ale*

Malty Dark Lager or Ale Kichesippi Beer: Kichesippi 1855

Bold Flavoured Ale, Stout or Porter Railway City Brewing: Railway City Dead Elephant Ale

Wheat Beer & Specialty Nickel Brook Beers: Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner

Speaker’s Selection Flying Monkey’s Craft Brewery: Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale

I can’t claim that it’s the most adventurous selection that I’ve ever seen, but it’s a fair representation of what’s available and of what’s popular. It’s worth remembering that for some of the people doing the voting, this may have been their first exposure to Ontario craft beer, so a beer with flavours that hit like the Sergeant-at-Arms’s mace is unlikely to have done very well.

It’s nice to know that visitors to the Legislative Dining Room will be able to experience some of what the OCB has to offer. It demonstrates pride in the province and in the ability of small business. More than that, it captures the attention of government personnel; something that could be invaluable in the near future.

Steve Peters! OCB Members! Bartle, for some reason!

In Which My Local LCBO Closes Down

Sunday, about the time that the Blue Jays were demonstrating how not to score any runs, I went to the fridge to get a beer. It seemed to me that there was very little point in yelling at Juan Rivera for being a goldbricking layabout while completely sober. It’s sort of inexplicable behavior. If someone were to walk in and see you making insulting gestures towards a baseball game on the screen, the only way that could be acceptable is if you had had a beer.

The only problem was that there wasn’t any beer. Not even any reviewing beer. I’m not much of a multitasker, but I can definitely make notes on a beer while shaking my fist at Juan “The Human Brick” Rivera. They don’t even get conflated.

For instance: Golden/straw colour. Light body. Should get on base by stepping in front of pitches. No noticeable hop finish.

I thought to myself, “I’ll just pop down to the LCBO and…”

I knew that there was something important that I was forgetting. When I stood up and looked out my window, I saw that the parking lot at the Yonge and Davisville LCBO was empty. The store actually shut down on the 16th.

I knew that already. Of course I did. I had been in there to see if they had gotten anything new a week before and the only beer that they had in the place were those very expensive bottles that were brought in as specialty items. Little Korkny. Infinium. Ola Dubh 30. (I can’t figure out why the 40 should have sold out when the 30 was the better value.) They sat at the back in a shelving unit that had once been refrigerated, but which at this point had been turned off and now looked shabby in an unlit way; like the bottles had been relegated to the island of misfit beers.

It turns out that there’s a force more powerful than the LCBO: Condo developers.

For a number of years, I was lucky enough to live close enough to an LCBO to be able to pop out and get a beer if I felt like one. People coming over? Off you pop. I can literally look out the window and see the sign on the store without getting out of the chair I’m currently sitting in.

Of course, a new LCBO has opened up on Yonge street at Manor road. This can’t be considered any great distance. It’s something of a neighbourhood beautification project, replacing as it does the Mystique Lounge. I had never been inside the Mystique Lounge, but having walked by it late at night on the way back from a friend’s house, I can tell you its sidewalk was the place you were most likely to see a fistfight in midtown Toronto.

Maybe it’s because they just opened, but the beer selection is nothing to write home about. The most upscale thing on offer was Innis and Gunn original. The standees were full of cases of Old Milwaukee. It was encouraging to see that they had already sold out of Mill Street Tankhouse, but overall, it was unimpressive. The store is slightly less than half the size of the old Davisville location.

This means that for the first time in a very long time, I’m going to have to think ahead. The next closest location is Summerhill, which is within walking distance (downhill) but probably not within walking back distance (uphill carrying enough beer to last a couple of weeks). This is not a bad thing. The ambiance is nicer there, and there’ll be some exercise. I may be forced to actually keep a small cellar. The record for cellaring in my apartment is four months for a bottle of Dark Lord 2010.

I finally see what people are talking about when they claim that they’d like to see beer sold in convenience and grocery stores. The problem, I guess, is that it wouldn’t necessarily solve anything, since the selection would probably be a series of macro and value brands in most locations. Anything that results in the likelihood of purchasing beer of lower quality because of convenience is almost certainly counterproductive for craft beer enthusiasts.

Plus, think about the lead time on something like that. You’d have to train all of the employees. You’d have to find the space to open a store like that. There would be renovations. Independent stores would be unable to operate using economies of scale like the government employs. Plus, think of the successful depanneurs in Montreal like Rahman. So much inventory that you feel like you’re going to knock a case over if you sneeze. It would be a giant, expensive mess for a while at opening.

I’m not saying it’s not worth doing, but the number of obstacles is daunting. Also, the societal impact is unlikely to be as pronounced as people claim.

In the meantime, I have produced a list of beverages that it will be acceptable to drink while saying increasingly negative things about Juan Rivera should his batting average fall below .100 this evening:

Coffee, Tea, Water, Lemonade, Horchata, Cognac (only if your criticisms are particularly highbrow: “Oh, I rather say, Reginald. Perhaps he would be better suited to Whist.”) Milk and, of course, Diet Mr. Pibb.

It’s important to have a contingency plan.

Niagara College Grand Opening – Brewmaster Meals

One of the main things that I hadn’t considered about Niagara College was the existing programs. It will probably not come as a surprise to regular readers that I have done quite a bit of research into the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program, what with being a prospective student. The truth is that I hadn’t given any thought to the other programs that they offer. There’s the winery, of course, but there’s also a pretty prestigious culinary program down there.

I showed up early to the grand opening on Wednesday, since I’m on a freelancing journalist’s budget and that meant cadging a ride off of whichever good natured commuters were willing to stump up. Fortunately, I know a couple of the Brewery Program students. Andrew Bartle (who blogs infrequently, but whose beer reviews are practically poetry) and Mark Murphy were nice enough to help me get down there.

As it turned out, I had some time to kill upon arriving and I stumbled around in order to get the lay of the land. The culinary building is impressive; Chef jacketed students crashing through the hallways, discussing the amount of time chicken wings need to spend in the fryer. Wafting aromas from the various classrooms meant that it was hard to nail down exactly what was being worked on in which classroom. I’m relatively sure that there were Cinnamon buns being baked somewhere, but it was hard to nail down. Perhaps most impressive was the gallery of chefs who had come down to help out with the program. Rick Moonen. Susur Lee. Ming Tsai. Hubert freakin’ Keller.

I had been invited on a media junket, meaning that I was around for lunch and dinner, both of which had been paired with beer. Possibly because of the comparative youth of the program, many of the beers being used were from outside breweries, which is what you want. Seamless integration into the existing market is a strong selling point for the brewing program. If you’re going to tout real world experience as a feature, you have to take into account your competitors.

Having been to the Brewer’s Plate the previous week, I suspected that the meals produced by Benchmark at Niagara College would be of a tasting portion size, since that was my only frame of reference. Michael Olson was on hand and had designed the menu. Everything about Michael is big. Big frame. Big personality. Big sense of humour. A welcoming host for the evening.

Michael Olson, explaining.

The portions, as you have probably intuited, were also quite large. Not that I’m complaining. It was interesting to see what he was able to do with the pairings, given that he had time to design the menu and play with the concepts.

Lunch

For lunch, you actually had choices for the appetizer and the entrée. Impressive, given that both dishes were to be paired with the same beers. This seems to have required a certain amount of lateral thinking on the part of the chef, and I found myself somewhat torn between the choice of entrees.

On the one hand, you had a classic pairing the likes of which you might find in Bavaria.

“Brewmaster’s Manifesto” – Hommer’s Ham, Smoked Sausage and Little Schnitzel with Beer Mustard, Spaetzle and Juniper Braised Cabbage

Or

Lager Steamed Fresh BC Salmon in Parchment with Sweet Peppers, Celeriac and Quinoa

Both of these served with Saint Andre Vienna Lager.

Heh. "Little" Schnitzel.

On the one hand, I’d never had fish served “En Papillote,” and I like Quinoa, so I was sorely tempted by the lighter option. I ask you, though: How can you turn down a dish with a title like “Brewmaster’s Manifesto?” It’s impossible. Add to this the fact that I’ve been hooked on spaetzle since Budapest, and it becomes a no brainer. The pairing worked well, but that’s not a surprise given that the style of beer is indigenous to the region that the food comes from. The nuttiness of the Quinoa would have been more difficult to pull off as a pairing, but I’m sure it would have highlighted the malt and body of the Vienna Lager.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The dessert was Sticky Toffee Date Pudding with Milk Stout Caramel paired with Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. It was incredibly moist and rich, and it was approximately the size of your head. I can’t really do it justice in description. Easily the best Stick Toffee Pudding I’ve ever tried if only because of the light, spongy texture. One of those situations where the pairing doesn’t even matter because of the quality of the dish.

Dinner

Dinner came on the heels of a two hour cask tapping and beer sampling event, so good humour and red cheeks abounded on the way into the dining room.

Good to know that the cask decal budget is in place.

Terrine of Quebec Foie Gras (Duck) with Spent Grains Brioche and Bok Jelly paired with Niagara College Teaching Brewery Educator Dopple Bock.

Photograph. THEN eat. silly pseudojournalist.

This was an interesting pairing given that the Educator Dopple Bock was fairly subtle. It weighed in at about 7% alcohol, but I’m not sure that you would have been able to tell. Relatively light bodied, but with the malt sweetness you get in that range. If I had to pair something with Foie Gras, I would be tempted to go with a hoppier brew to try and cut the lingering fatty texture, but this ended up supporting that element. Interesting.

Erie Whitefish “Waterzui” with Hothouse Peppers, Yukon Gold Potatoes and Sweet Shallots – in aromatic coriander citrus beer broth paired with Muskoka Summer Weiss.

Waterzui

This was delicate. Mike was joking with us that his wife was joshing him about it being feminine. Interesting to see the dish served, given that the broth was poured at table. James from Muskoka pointed out that the Weiss was not meant to have any elements of orange peel or coriander. The pairing did contain both of those elements and the sweetness from the shallots created an interesting situation where the dish suggested notes that were not actually in the beer, meaning that the alternation between tasting the dish and the beer resulted in a single range of flavours that were not strictly present in either. Easily the most successful pairing I’ve ever seen.

Wort Sorbet

Wort Sorbet. Should see whether we can sell the idea to gelato stores.

Traditionally, a sorbet is used as a palate cleanser. This was a light sorbet flavoured with wort from the teaching brewery. I’m not sure that it actually worked as a palate cleanser since it imparted its own subtle flavours, but it didn’t need to because I think it was put there to do something more clever than that. The lingering malt sweetness from the sorbet led directly into the beer pairing for the next dish: Neustadt 10W30 Brown Ale. If that was the intention, great googily moogily is that an incredibly complex concept.

Roast Tenderloin of Black Angus Beef on Barley Root Vegetable Stew and roasted Garlic Lemon Hollandaise.

Even I think that was a lot of beef.

Protein well cooked. Medium rare on the outside, rare in the middle. The description of the Barley Root Vegetable Stew doesn’t really do it justice as it was more of a buttery pearl barley risotto with what seemed to be a large dice roast root vegetable. Delicious, but less adventurous as a pairing than the first two courses. Brown Ale and Beef is a staple pairing of English and faux English carveries the world over, and therefore well worthy of inclusion.

Dessert

Dark Prinz Espresso Torte with Laurel Cream paired with Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout

Dark Prinz Torte with Candied Dark Prinz Malt, Laurel Cream

Interesting. I’m not sure that I liked the pairing of the torte with the Imperial Stout. I know that the combination of flavours works in theory, but I feel like there’s an astringent note in the mid palate of the Imperial Stout that didn’t quite jibe with the torte. The Laurel Cream (flavoured with bay leaves. I didn’t know this was a thing.), on the other hand, combated that note, so it worked when the elements were composed. I would have been tempted to try a Laurel Cream Eton Mess with it, but I suspect that might not have stood up this well. The texture of the candied Dark Prinz malt really added to it.

To Sum Up

I think that the benefit I hadn’t seen previously of attending Niagara College is that you would have the opportunity both to try and to think about some fairly sophisticated food pairings. Imagine someone with that context starting their own brewpub. I don’t suppose that the students get into the dining room often, but just having a sense of what’s possible would be invaluable.

The Brewer’s Plate 2011 edition: Top Chef St.John’s Wort

Oh yeah. I guess it was a TTC barn.

This was my first year at the Brewer’s Plate dinner. I have to say that my experience of events like this is coloured somewhat by the fact that I watch a lot of Top Chef. Regular, Masters, All-Stars, I’ll probably even watch the Canadian one when it starts up on April 16th. I know some chefs, but it’s not like I’m talking shop with a lot of them. Mostly, I read. Bittman, Bourdain, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I own Nigella Lawson cookbooks, and I’m not ashamed of it. While the camera on her show may be in soft focus, her prose is sharp and entertaining. I once checked Fergus Henderson’s book out of the TPL. He writes like a particularly sinister Neil Gaiman character.

I like this stuff. I just don’t have the budget for it, what with being a quasi-legitimate journalist.

This year the Brewer’s Plate was at the Wychwood Artscape Barns, which aside from doing a pretty good Pink Floyd album cover imitation, is also a farmer’s market during the summer. I knew it was going to be a good night. If you’re being consoled about breaking a glass by a man on stilts who is dressed in a tuxedo before you even have a drink in your hand, you’re probably in good shape.

Could someone please photoshop a flying pig into the background?

First off, there’s no way to talk about an event like this one comprehensively. For instance, most of the breweries had more than one beer on offer, so there’s no point in trying to do a recap. My colleagues mock me gently periodically about the length of my blog posts, and if I tried to talk about the beers on offer, this would be somewhere in the vicinity of a Coelho novel (Veronika decides to drink?).

For this reason, this post is hereafter: TOP CHEF ST.JOHN’S WORT!

For a lot of people, the highlight of the evening was Chef Tawfik Shehata’s battered fish taco. It was served with a smoked tomato salsa and what was apparently a candycane beet slaw. Personally, I felt that the batter, which involved Steamwhistle, could have been a little crunchier as a textural element. I understand why people liked it. It stood out as one of the only light dishes in the building. It worked well with the beer pairing, mostly due to the fact that there was a little acidity to the tomato which contrasted the slight sweetness and crisp finish of a Pilsner.

Fish Taco!

Another reason that this dish worked particularly well was that it was served on a corn husk. I’m not sure whether you’ve ever attempted to navigate a room of 400 slightly inebriated jostling people with a full sized plate and cutlery, but it’s an unenviable and awkward task.

The majority of the dishes were late winter fare. One of the problems in using local seasonal ingredients in early April is that you end up seeing a lot of radish and watercress as garnish. It is what it is.

Perhaps the hardest dish to actually consume was Chef Brad Long’s stew. I believe I heard that the protein was Muskox. While it was served on a full size dinner plate, and I had to get my blogger friend Matt Caldwell to hold my beer, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Mildly gamey, and the root vegetables held their texture very well. It was also fairly heavily seasoned, which helped it stand up to the Beau’s cask Beaver River IPeh. As you can see, I neglected to take a picture until after starting in on it.

The stew of a neglectful photographer

I did not try Brook Cavanagh’s buffalo ricotta stuffed morel, although, I think it was probably the most intricately plated dish at the event. It seemed to have a large number of elements in play. Shaved radish, shallot confit and preserved Brussel sprouts all seem like they may have been extraneous to the core of the dish. It was paired with Wellington’s Russian Imperial Stout. Points to La Palette for attempted complexity.

A whole lotta garnish.

I think the dish that worked best with the beer pairing was Lora Kirk’s Black Oak Nut Brown Ale braised pork belly. The confession I have to make here is that I had never actually tried pork belly before despite cheering on Kevin “Pork Jesus” Gillespie for much of Top Chef season six. I think the sweetness of the brown ale worked nicely with the unctuous fattiness of the pork belly, and it complimented nicely the crispin apple slaw which she had somehow imparted with a smokiness that I didn’t expect. I went back for seconds on this one and that’s probably the reason that I’m going to slip into a coma as soon as I upload this post. Also, the cheddar biscuit was a nice touch. You can rarely go wrong with a cheddar biscuit.

Lora Kirk's Braised Pork Belly

The only dish that I didn’t think worked was Michael Steh’s cheddar and broccoli soup. It was a composed dish with a sort of barbecued or pulled pork on the bottom and pork crackling used as a garnish. I think that the intention was for the fattiness of the pork to work with the slight saltiness of the cream soup. I didn’t care for it, but I’m not a soup guy. Also, I’m not a food writer, so y’know, caveat emptor.

Michael Steh's Cheddar and Broccoli Soup

The more I think about it, the best dish of the evening was Jamie Kennedy’s. I don’t know from Jamie Kennedy. If you asked me opinion of Jamie Kennedy, I would say he was quite tall. But on this occasion, I think he probably created the best standalone dish. It was a Tortiere Strudel. I know. More pork. In this case, it was served on a base of thinly shaved pickled celeriac, carrot and ginger with a sort of mustard relish. Taken by itself, the tortiere was fine; it had all the spicing you’d expect from a standard French Canadian tortiere. As a composed mouthful, as a single bite, the other elements brought some brightness and acidity that elevated the dish.

Also, there was chocolate. And tiny cupcakes. And maple sugar. Did I mention the inevitable food coma? I think I did.

Chocolate! I didn't have any, but the layout is tasty.

I cut out of Brewer’s Plate early in order to go get an espresso. As soon as I saw someone in a papier mache replica of the Fox mask from the cover of Genesis’ seminal album Foxtrot, I knew it was time to call it a night. Surrealistic whimsy is a great thing, but not when you’re blissed out on pork belly.

Here’s the verdict.

Jamie Kennedy: Best Standalone Dish.

Lora Kirk: Best Pairing.

You: Buying a ticket next year.

Smashbomb and Social Responsibility

It’s a new season! The little lame balloon man whistles far and wee! Those little blue flowers whose name I always forget are only a couple of weeks away (a quick google tells me they’re probably Scylla). It’s supposed to hit 60 this afternoon, and if the price we have to pay for that is a pretty significant thunderstorm, then who really cares?

Not unsurprisingly, business is picking up in the craft beer world as well. Almost immediately on the heels of the Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco, interesting things started happening.

I didn’t get to the CBC this year, but I am given to understand that it is basically a collection of serious minded individuals coming together to forge relationships and share information. This is done by drinking enough Pliny the Elder to give a Rhinoceros cirrhosis. All throughout the week, pictures would get thrown up on facebook. Steve from Beau’s drinking everything that Russian River had on tap! Mike Lackey from Great Lakes standing idly outside various pubs and breweries! A whole contingent of Canadians singing the national anthem in some atrium or other!

Since then we’ve had the acquisition of Goose Island by Anheuser-Busch. I’ve written about that a little bit in the sun.

It’s also shaping up to be an interesting week in Toronto. The Monk’s Table is putting on a series of events for Tartan day, and that should be interesting. Will it change my mind on Innis and Gunn? Probably not, but maybe the IPA will be different.

Wednesday is going to be the Brewer’s Plate, and this will be my first time attending that event. I’m looking forward to it. Good food prepared by local chefs, paired with beer. That’s enough reason for anyone to want to go there. Tickets are $125.00, which seems a little steep, but it’s for charity, so… I dunno. Probably value for money if you’re into local fruit picking.

That’s not what I want to talk about today, though.

Today I want to talk about Flying Monkeys.

One of the things that has impressed me about Flying Monkeys is the fact that their brewmaster displays a certain amount of savvy when it comes to product development and interacting with the community in general. He’s got an account on Bartowel.com and he’s not afraid to interact with the beer nerds. I suspect that a lot of people don’t want to do that for the reason that the beer nerds can be a contentious lot and they’re as likely to grumble about minutiae as they are to accept a beer out of hand. I think that a lot of this has to do with the way that a beer is sold to them.

Peter Chiodo, at some point, hit upon the very clever idea that they can be catered to. He used the Bartowelers as a product development panel for his Smashbomb IPA which went through several revisions over the course of the summer and fall of last year. It’s a beer that’s got a flavour profile well outside of mainstream acceptability.

I got my dad to try it the other week when we were at Highway 61 on Bayview. “Smells like cat pee,” he said. “Tastes like I’m sucking on a pine forest.” Those are both legitimate tasting notes for the beer, which I understand uses a lot of Citra hops (at least it did last summer.) I explained that it was an acquired taste, while he ordered a Muskoka Dark.

One of the interesting dynamics of an internet forum is that dissenting views are typically ridiculed. At this point, if you were to go on Bartowel and post a less than glowing review of Smashbomb, you’d start a flamewar the likes of which haven’t been seen since the allied bombing of Dresden. Savvy market development there. It allows the beer nerds a certain feeling of ownership for the product that they have helped to hone.

Speaking of offensive jokes about armament, Smashbomb failed to make it past the LCBO’s social responsibility panel. One can only guess what the exact reason might have been for this. Maybe it was the mushroom cloud on the packaging. Maybe the warlike nature of the name SMASHBOMB ATOMIC IPA is the kind of thing that needs to be censored lest it poison our water, privatize our health care and crash our planes in the Libyan No Fly Zone. Maybe they simply worried that the garish colour palette and design features would give people seizures.

Who knows?

The LCBO social responsibility panel is a law unto itself. It’s understandable. They’re a large provincial moneymaker and they don’t want to get sued. I can dig it.

So the Smashbomb IPA will be going into certain select beer stores, and in the meantime Flying Monkeys have been developing some other products. I hear there’s a Barley Wine that weighs in around 18% and might take your face clean off.

But I’ve been thinking.

If you were a brewer looking to make a point about the LCBO social responsibility panel, this would not be a bad way to go about it. Create an elite cadre of online forum members who feel as though it’s THEIR beer. They’ll almost certainly write letters and put some pressure on the LCBO to pass the thing. Of course, the LCBO isn’t going to backpedal on a decision like that.

The thing is that this was almost certain to be their decision, right from the outset. If Flying Monkeys just wanted to sell some beer, they probably would have named the beer something else at the beginning, or they could have run it up the flagpole with the LCBO at some point in the development process to see whether it could be sold there. There could have been caution. They could have tested the waters.

The controversy actually garnered a small amount of legitimate media coverage this morning on CFRB. That’s some free press for a brewery that doesn’t have a huge advertising budget. I’m wondering whether this is a continuation of the savvy that Peter Chiodo displayed with the product’s development. I wouldn’t put it past him. It would set Flying Monkeys up with a sort of outlaw brewing image, which is the kind of thing that could catch on in Ontario at this point.

If he’s picking a fight, it’s an obscure fight to pick, especially with what is probably a relatively niche product. Ultimately, the success or failure of Smashbomb IPA depends on how much people want their beer to smell like cat pee. I think that there’s a rabid inbuilt market for the beer in the beer nerd community. Maybe distributing through the beer store is not as big a gamble as it seems in this case.

We shall see.

Edit: and half an hour later he’s on CBC One talking about how the packaging is intentionally edgy.

BB Barfly Bottle Opener

Last week around this time I was down at the Amsterdam Brewery for a product launch. Now, I know from having been to a number of them that launching a beer is a pretty hard thing to attract people to in Toronto. Imagine how difficult it must be to get people to turn up to a product launch for a bottle opener! Brian Becker, the guy behind the launch managed to get a pretty good turnout considering the difficulty level involved.

Basic black.

It’s a pretty cool bottle opener, as you can see. If you ever wanted to look like you should be facing down Chow Yun Fat in a drinking contest in an alley while doves fly around, then this is the product for you! It comes in a range of attractive colours and is made in Canada, which is nice.

While I can’t openly endorse a product without compromising my journalistic integrity, I feel like Brian might need some help getting the word out. For that reason I’ve recorded a radio spot to help him. Of course we’ll need sound effects in post production, but this is not a bad dry run. Could use some shattering glass and a wilhelm scream or two.

Nothing's cooler than basic black.

All The Beer In The World

Dateline – Weehauken, New Jersey

According to his blog, All The Beer In The World, Steve Hackenbush of Weehauken, NJ has today completed his quest to sample and rate all of the beers produced by mankind.

This seemingly impossible achievement marks the end of a thirteen year project for Hackenbush, aged 37.

“Well, one day back in ’98, my boy Lumpy Mike said I should get a beer while we were out at T.G.I.Friday’s. I didn’t want a beer, you know? Mudslides were more my thing. But when I got back from the bathroom, there it was,”said Hackenbush when reached for comment.

“I guess he didn’t know what he was getting in to.”

Currently, Hackenbush has amassed over 165,000 ratings on Judgebeers.com, a prominent site frequented by beer enthusiasts. According to the website, he has given all of the beers ever brewed an underwhelming average rating of 4.73/10.

“Well, you know. Some of those mass produced beers from China just suck. I mean, have you ever tried that fermented Yak’s milk  beverage from Tibet? I have. Not pleasant.”

Upon the revelation of the completion of all of the beers available on the planet, Steve’s controversial blog post “I Win At Beer” was revealed to be little more than a tirade aimed at “Lumpy” Mike Colaggio, including phrases like “Well now who’s a pussy, Lumpy Mike? That’s right! I drank the beer. I drank ALL the beer.”

Judgebeers.com forum member P1NT_D4DDY69 immediately questioned the legitimacy of Hackenbush’s accomplishment: “That’s not even possible. He must have had 40 beers a day! And how did he get them all? I can’t even track down a 2003 vintage Thomas Hardy. It completely violates the laws of physics and causality. He even has a rating for one released exclusively on tap in Oregon yesterday! I’m calling bullshit.”

“Some of those beers are pretty high in alcohol. By all rights he should be dead,” opined visibly repulsed nutritionist Debbie Wilcox. “A Healthy diet is all about moderation, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Sure, some of those beers are served with orange wedges, but that hardly counts as a serving of fruit.”

“Haters gonna hate,” stated Hackenbush from his parents’ basement in Weehauken. “At least I finally showed that jerk who the real man is.”

Michael Colaggio, a successful office manager and father of two now residing in Salinas, California was shocked to discover that this grudge still existed after thirteen years. “I had forgotten all about that. I left him a voicemail the day after it happened to apologize. I had had a few too many drinks and I was trying to impress the waitress by getting Steve to drink a beer. Man, that guy hated the stuff.”

“I said I was sorry. At least I got her number.”

Judgebeers.com’s owner, Jay Stafford, has hired accounting firm Deloitte and Touche to conduct an audit of the 165,000 plus ratings, citing the fact that the work of verifying their authenticity was far too tedious for one man. At the time of writing, the outlook is promising, despite some repetitive language in the reviews. The adjective “hoppy” has been used 77,483 times with “fruity nose” running a close second at 42,896. Third place is occupied by the phrase “maybe this’ll show that douchebag.”

When asked what was next for him, Hackenbush replied “I should probably get into the office and start working on that Y2K thing.”

“Maybe I’ll take a nap first,” he added.