Like I mentioned earlier, I came home from the Canadian Brewing Awards with a large number of relatively interesting beers. I’ve noticed that some people have the ability to keep rare and interesting beers in their cellar for long periods of time. I marvel sometimes when people mention that they’re drinking a four year old bottle of something. While I’m sure that I could probably stow away some Thomas Hardy in the closet and leave it untouched, I’m not particularly suited to cellaring things. It’s a small apartment and my curiousity inevitably outweighs my ability to ignore quality beers. If you open the hall closet to get the ironing board out and are suddenly confronted by a bottle of Three Floyds Dark Lord, it’s a sure bet that the Dark Lord is going to win out over removing creases in a Brooks Brothers button down.
As such, I decided to kick off Toronto Beer Week on Sunday night, hosting my own event for a handful of industry professionals and dudes I know from Volo. The St.John’s Wort Toronto Beer Week Humourless Trudge Towards Inebriation was a rousing success; Mostly in the sense that it cleared out my cellar so that I can finally iron in peace.
I had a number of interesting beers on offer, but they were predominantly high alcohol Barleywines, IPAs and Stouts. People will tell you that the hallmark of a successful tasting is a small number of quality beverages served at the proper temperatures with food that pairs nicely and proper lighting. In the case of the SJWTBWHTTI, we had issues with the small number of beverages part. Midway through the evening we had to call in more people to help out.
The highlights of the evening were some of the rare beers that Troy Burtch managed to slip me after the judging was over. Hart and Thistle’s Hop Rock Candy Mountain is a good example of the kind of thing that you’d be hard pressed to find a bottle of in Ontario if you weren’t a quasi-legitimate beer journalist. Unfortunately, it was one of the beers that was in a smaller bottle and it went early in the proceedings. When people talk about appreciating beer, there’s talk of hop bitterness and this had Citra in such quantities (65 IBU in this case) that it created a noticeable pong as soon as the bottle was opened. For all that you can swirl a sample of beer in your mouth or make copious notes, I think that the true sign of beer appreciation is when a silence falls over the room in the wake of the first sip. In the case of Greg Nash’s Hop Rock Candy Mountain, this silence lasted nearly ten seconds until people started laughing.
There were other highlights as well: Phillips Deadhead Barleywine was a nice surprise, with slightly more aroma than body. Bilboquet’s Corriveau Oatmeal Stout was a lovely companion to the chocolate cake brought to the party by my Super Junior Custom Correspondent Deluxe, Catherine Strotmann. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was what I assume was one of possibly three bottles of Central City Red Racer Imperial India Pale Ale that made it to Ontario.
We opened the bottle and we sat there discussing it with our designated BJCP and we came to some conclusions. It’s a little vegetal and they’ve maybe scaled up the alcohol more than they scaled up the hop bitterness. We wondered exactly how alcoholic it was and attempted to look it up on the internet. There are no reviews on ratebeer. Beer Advocate claims that it`s about 9%; It certainly doesn’t taste like it. It’s a lot like a scaled up version of the Red Racer IPA and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s brightly, tropically fruity, yet substantial in a way that the regular version can’t be. It’s an exciting beer and it’s a shame that I can’t think of a way to make the comparison more compellingly visceral. Normally for a comparison of two such high octane properties, you’d want a Jeremy Clarkson voiceover and a white suited racing driver.
For me, the highlight of the evening was being able to unveil the St. John’s Wort Shameless Publicity Grab IPA, which everyone seemed to like, or at least managed to choke down without outwardly visible distress. It’s a beer that I’m relatively proud of if only for the reason that it`s about my fifth attempt at brewing, and it is actually drinkable in a way that most previous attempts haven`t been.
Possibly as a result of the previous night’s tasting, I missed the opening cask tapping for Toronto Beer Week. I forgot to set the alarm and as a result, had to watch the video of Bill White and Steve Peters on Youtube and then subsequently on Global TV’s nightly news. Judging by the amount of coverage that resulted from it I think that it was actually a safe bet not to have to report on it. The fact that Ten Bitter Years was featured on the nightly news probably means that the next batch will sell out in slightly less than a day once it’s announced, so you’re going to want to be on the lookout for that. Maybe you can bribe Ken and Adrian to hold on to a case.
For me, the highlight of Monday was the fact that my homebrew actually managed to come in third in the American IPA category of the homebrew competition for Toronto Beer Week. It was a hotly contested category of thirteen and I managed to acquit myself rather well. The truth is that I would have been content not coming in last, but being near the top of the category is a proud moment. The winner of the category was Biergotter, with their Hopocalypse. In amateur brewing terms, entering a category with Biergotter is a little like challenging Brock Lesnar to step into a steel cage. Even if there are only two of you in there, you`ll be lucky to finish in seventh place. They’ve been brewing in collaboration with Charlevoix and Dieu Du Ciel and they consult Volo on their Cask beers. Not only is there no shame in losing to them, just the fact that my beer was apparently competitive is reassuring in that I might have some idea what I`m doing.