St. John's Wort Beery Musings And Amusing Beers

Tag Archives: Michael Hancock

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



– Amarillo

– Challenger

– Legacy

– Magnum

– Willamette

– A certificate for whole Bertwell hops



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!

Toronto Beer Week – Beer Culture Events

One of the best things about the events listing for Toronto Beer Week is the fact that there are a lot of events that are taking place that otherwise wouldn’t. Just the fact that there is likely to be an influx of interest in the subject tends to mean that there’s a lot of leeway for trying out new things to gauge the level of public interest; While it’s not particularly difficult to get people to drink beer, it’s more difficult to get them to attend an event that’s tangentially related to beer:  Beer and history, beer and music, beer and writing. There are also events that challenge the presumed knowledge of beer nerds.

These are, after all, events that have to do with the ephemera of beer culture. Because they’re all so different, it’s as well to just dive in to the previews.


Highway 61 Southern BBQ

1620 Bayview Ave

First Annual Lager Taste Challenge-  $25/ TICKET

Come out and join us for our first annual Craft Beer Lager Taste Challenge! Where we put your beer palate to the test with 5 different brews. The Top 5 connoisseurs will each be rewarded with great prizes – not to mention that every participant gets a bite and a pint to start! So give us a

shout if you’re feeling lucky at 416-489-RIBS (7427)

Now this looks like it might be fun. I’m not entirely sure how they’re going to go about it, but I suspect that you’ll be given five sample sized glasses of beer and a list of what they MIGHT be. The best part is that because they’re lagers, which beer nerds tend famously to eschew, anybody might have a shot at winning this. Maybe they’ll cover the tap handles with paper bags to give it more of an air of mystery. All I know is that you should try a side order of their baked beans since they’re superbly molasses-y, (which may not be a word).

Accessibility:  4/5

Price: 4/5


C’est What

67 Front Street East

10:00 – 11:30 pm

Not Always In Good Taste – a beer writers-in-the-round, Free admission.

Writers include: Stephen Beaumont, Greg Clow, Nick Pashley, Ian Coutts, Steve Cameron, Troy Burtch, Robert Hughey, Aonghus Kealy, Josh Rubin

This should be interesting if only for the amount of personality present in the room. You’ve got Stephen Beaumont, who’s about as legitimate as beer writers get. You’ve got Aonghus and Josh from newspapers. Ian and Nick have published books this year. Troy and Greg are bloggers in the process of making good. (I don’t actually know Robert Hughey or Steve Cameron, so I’m loathe to try and sum them up in slightly less than a sentence. Seems dismissive.)  You’ve got people representing all levels of beer journalism. I have no idea what they’ll talk about, but I get the feeling that whatever it is, it’ll be amusing. I hope they field questions. Maybe I should prepare a list. “This question is for the panel: If you were a beer, what kind of beer would you be?”

Accessibility:  2/5 It covers a lot of different readerships, but you’d need to want to know about it.

Price:  5/5 You can’t beat free.


Toronto Beer Quest

brought to you by Beerology and Camaraderie

Toronto Beer Quest is an urban adventure where teams of two solve clues about beer, photograph themselves together at the clue location, and reach the finish line to qualify for prizes. The event has one goal: provide a fun way for Torontonians to experience beer through fun, history, and strategy. Prizes, sponsors, and other event developments will be announced on the Toronto Beer Quest Facebook page at

Event details:

Check-in at 11:00am, event starts at 12:00pm

Tickets are $30 (earlybird) or $40 for a team of two participants at

I’ve got to say that originally, I didn’t quite get the concept for this one, but I was talking to Mirella Amato  from Beerology on Saturday and she makes an interesting case for it. We’ve all been on guided tours, and I think I’m right in saying that attention tends to wander after a certain amount of time. You might be on the Maid of the Mist, overcome by the majesty and power of Niagara Falls and then twenty minutes later, you just want to take off the poncho and go get a coffee and maybe check your email. In this instance, where there are prizes involved for guiding yourself through the tour, your attention can’t afford to wander. Plus, in order to get a photo at each checkpoint, you actually have to learn things about the brewing history of Toronto. She’s managed to make the guided tour interactive and competitive. Deuced clever and you get some exercise before hitting the bar at the finish line.

Accessibility :  3/5 You need some special equipment and an interest in history.

Price: 3/5

Finally, I’d like to talk about a number of events that are cropping up which fall under this category if only because they are of the “have a beer with…” variety. Meet the brewer. Meet the journalist. It makes it sound as though they should be standing on a pedestal in the corner surrounded by velvet ropes, guarded by large men in black suits.

Ken and Adrian from Black Oak are hitting The Only Cafe on Tuesday and Bar Volo on Thursday. Those events should be fun, not only because they’re approachable and interesting guys, but also because they make some really tasty beers. Please take very small sips in front of Ken; it will save him from thinking about the next inevitable wave of deliveries.

Michael Hancock is going to be at the Monk’s Table on Thursday talking about his favourite subject: Weissbier. He’s a truly interesting guy and one of the most dedicated and exacting brewers I’ve ever met. You could learn a thing or six from Michael Hancock.

Bar Volo has the founder of Trois Mousquetaires  on Saturday and they’ll be launching 8 beers from that brewery. If you’ve ever wanted to see whether your French holds up while drinking a 12% beer, this is your opportunity.

The Local on Roncesvalles has representatives from Great Lakes in on Tuesday to discuss their Pumpkin Beer. Every year the Halloween treats go on sale earlier. There will also be live music, so this will be a good night out even if you don’t want to talk to a brewer.

Next time, I’m going to talk about events that are about beer as a standalone entity.