“Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society— the social ramble ain’t restful.” That was Satchel Paige that said that and while he may have been a good pitcher, his way with a witticism was probably better than Berra. That comes of knowing who you are.
The problem with a month or two of publicity is that it will strip all the continuity away from a skill. If you go out signing books and doing TV and having fun, it’s hard to get back to whether some hop character is pomelo or tangelo or key lime or yuzu. You come up dry and think “orange” until you get your eye back in. Nose back in? One of those. “I ain’t as fast as I used to be, but I’m a better pitcher.” He said that too.
I set out to review beer that people sent one night a couple weeks ago. Usually I will do four on the same evening and look for some throughgoing line. The first two baffled me. One can shot a spume of foam into the air and I didn’t get to the second until the mop got a workout. The second required guidance from the brewer. The third and fourth just didn’t happen because that’s enough wall to tell me to desist for an evening.
CHARLIE WELLS DRY HOPPED LAGER
The folks at Charles Wells sent over a lovely package. You know. Beer. Glassware. New notebook (an actual damn career highlight. Send notebooks. Seriously.) Temporary tattoos. A well intentioned and thoughtful presentation box which will stand me in good stead If I ever need to wrap a fancy present. Someone at the agency took the time to write a note on stationery in longhand from Charlie himself. Impressive stuff from that Wells lark. That PR firm is a keeper.
The can exploded all over the kitchen floor. Luckily I had a reservation at a British Consulate do the next day so I got to try it again. The cans were probably fresher and that ought to have stood ol’ Chuck in good stead.
A good idea that doesn’t quite work. My context for Wells will always be those awkward 2L bottles of IPA from the summers I spent in Kingston during University and I fear that may be affecting me, although not much. The brand is well enough differentiated that it shouldn’t matter. The problem is, I think that the combination of hops don’t quite live up to the billing here. The bittering is apparently Styrian Goldings and the dry hopping is Galaxy and Ella, but they’re so restrained that the aroma doesn’t quite live up to the text. A fine romance, with no kisses. It’s one thing to undershoot a flavour profile, but if I didn’t know they were meant to be in there it would never occur to me they might be. A little sour as well. Good bones, but it needs a push.
LITTLE KNOWN BREWING JE NE SAIS QUOI
The great frustration of having catalogued damn near everything is that you turn your back for a moment and some bugger has snuck in and shelved a beer. The company in question is Little Known Brewing from Barrie and run by Steve Thibault, who I know a little from back in the day in the Toronto scene. This was before he founded 49th Parallel. He’s the reason Ontario has Fat Tug and Red Racer. These are both good things.
Je Ne Sais Quoi is hardly ineffable. In fact, I might eff it up pretty good. It has what the French call a certain I don’t know what, but what I’m going to guess is a hell of a lot of Centennial hops for a 4.2% session IPA. It’s really too bitter to be sessionable unless you are that drinker that is new to bitterness and challenging yourself. The balance is in question here. I’d set a low guess at 55 BU. Normally when I write tasting notes I’ll jot the canning date down in order to be sure the hops didn’t fade. Trust me. The hops didn’t fade. I’m going to recommend you replace it with the Red Racer ISA so he still gets the concession. Nice fella.
MACLEANS BENT SPOKE SESSIONABLE IPA
I have a lot of time for MacLean’s. This is our second Charlie of the day. The MacLean’s brands don’t really get enough credit. The Farmhouse Blonde is maybe the best one going in Ontario when it’s fresh and their ESB would beat Fuller’s standing fresh. Spicier and a little more robust. That’s a bold statement when you consider the pedigree. Marmalade in a can is that Fuller’s.
A 3.9% Session IPA is a bit of a doddle for MacLean’s. It’s got a light biscuit malt backbone and hints of lemon and grapefruit in the aroma. It is not by any means complex, but it does that marmalade-y thing at a lower ABV and during the summer, I feel like that’s exactly what a certain genre of beer drinker wants; the complexity of an ale but with a light English Golden Ale profile. Simple. Spicy. Well balanced. It will probably refresh the people of Hanover for the next couple months.
WELLINGTON UPSIDE IPA
I had to email the brewer on this one. It’s not what you’d expect. If you read “Vermont ale yeast” and “oats and flaked wheat” on the can and the hop profile is explained as “grapefruit, peach, and tropical hop flavours” that comes with an expectation: Straight up Vermont IPA. The Bernie Sanders Special. The throwdown in Stowe-Town. I’m talking Conan and I don’t mean the Cimmerian.
Meeting the expectation of the marketing text is important. Before the beer comes out, a brewer has all the time in the world to talk to the marketing folks and explain the concept. If everyone can get on the same page and craft language that explains the product adequately, then no one goes home angry from the LCBO.
After the beer comes out if the language isn’t right, you get hectoring emails from bloggers and journalists asking, basically, “Hey Marvin. What’s the deal, man?”
According to Marvin Dyck, brewer at Wellington, the bitterness is a little high for the style and the colour is a little light for the style. In fact, he claims it to be a “Northeastern IPA” which I imagine to be somewhere between old school East Coast IPA and Vermont. Somewhere around Worcester, Mass. It has a lot of Centennial in it as well, but nowhere near as much as the Je Ne Sais Quoi. Actually, my tasting notes are from a few weeks ago and as I’m drinking it today some of the pine character has receded, leaving a more approachable beer. Still bitter for the style, but Wellington is working toward something. It’s interesting to watch them make the transition to more contemporary styles 34 years in.