Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beer and Cheese: Cabrales blue and Keepers Stout

Any excuse to buy a six pack of Keepers Stout is a good one. A dead easy beer and cheese pairing is blue and stout. This weeks choice was Cabrales blue from Spain. This Spanish cheese is a mix of raw cow, goat and sheep milk. It is aged in naturally occuring limestone caves for two to four months. In this moist envirmonment, the naturally occuring penicillium mold goes to work. Unlike other blue cheeses, this mould is not injected into the cheese, but allowed to work naturally from the outside in. The result is a pungent aroma that is caracteristaclly blue. Cabrales is a creamy and crumbly cheese which can be somewhat spreadable. If you love that eye watering tart, funky and acidic blue flavours, then this is the cheese for you.


When you add the dry and sweet flavours of an Irish stout, good things happen. The sweet flavours balanced the tart and sour notes of the blue cheese. While the dryness of the stout and bright carbonation worked to lift the heavy creaminess and fat off the tongue. This accentuated the richness of the 45% milk fat blue. A slice of sweet apple brought out more of this stouts chocolate sweetness. Yup, it's an easy pairing and I'm OK with that.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Caffeinated Beer and Hangovers

Science is wonderful! This gem was presented at the Alcohol Hangover Research Group annual
meeting in 2012. In this study a handful of 21-30 year olds were paid $150 bucks to drink either beer or caffeinated beer, then their hangover score was determined in the morning. Apparently between 3-17% of students believe caffeinated prevent hangovers. I guess a slap to the back of the head is not scientific reasoning. So these lucky kids were given Hurricane High Gravity, with or without a whack of caffeine, until their blood alcohol hit 0.12 g% BrAC. In other words, nicely liquored on the cheap. DISCLOSURE: I have drank Hurricane before, but not in this quantity. My drinking buddies have this inside joke about drinking cheap gas station beer; but that is another story. So the result after waking up has no surprise. Over 60% of these lucky kids had hangovers. Shocking. Caffeine also had no affect on hangover severity. Despite the caffeinated beer delivering about 383mg caffeine, sleep onset and duration was not affected. Although these wired kids thought they slept better and were more alert in the morning. The researchers felt this study dispelled the misinformation that caffeinated alcoholic beverages prevented hangovers. I could have done the same with a bullhorn and a case of Redbull.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Coffin Kicker Porter Phillips

I could be wrong but is the first draught only release by a non-brewpub brewery? Lighthouse has had experimental growler fills but has not made a big deal about them. Wouldn't it be great if this idea caught on. It might lead to more experimental brews, less packaging use and more Untappd check ins. Maybe the last one isn't so important.  I have a great idea; how about if a local brewery sets up a 'pop-up' growler fill station at a local market. This is also selfish, as Moss Street market is only a few blocks from my house. I digress and dream. How did the Coffin Kicker taste?

Coffin Kicker = 5/10 
 
The nose was usual porter style: milk chocolate, roast, pencils and stale coffee. I happen to find the aroma of stale coffee appealing. It was an oddly creamy sip and not high in the roasted astringency department. This porter was straightforward and tied together roasted coffee beans, 33% cocoa mass and dark berries. One might think it was a little on the thin side, but I thought it increased quaffability. The finish added a little glycerin like coating. Overall a nice, simple and unflavoured porter.
 
Taste +3
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content 0 5%
Value +1 (a simple tasty porter)
Appearance +1 (Growlers always get top marks)

Glassware: Anything is fine, even the simple shaker.

Food Pairings: You could draw in other roasted foods like BBQ burgers, steak or vegetable kabobs. In contrast use the roasted, dry character to balance out sweet and rich foods like brownies or mac and cheese. For a cheese pairing try a mild blue like Blue d'Auvergne or an aged cheddar.

Cellar: nope

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hard Rain DIPA by Hoyne

It has been a while since the Hoyners have released anything new. I believe the last truly new one was the Entre Nous in July. Come to think of it, it has been rather quiet in the new release category for most breweries. That is if you ignore Phillips and Spinnakers. I tried four new beers at Spinnakers last week that did not have any press releases, all quite good. The Rainforest Logger was very nice, for a lager that is. But today I open the cap on a double IPA from Hoyne. Lots of hops going on including a new one called cytra? Perhaps it was a typo by either Hoyne or Canadian Beer News. Anyways double IPA means double everything: double hops, double malts, double flavour and usually double cost. How did the Hard Rain double up?

Hard Rain = 3/10


Is it just me or does this beer smell like it has been dry hopped beyond all recognition? Perhaps it is all the nugget hop giving off that grassy herbal aroma. Certainly some spicy pine too. This beer is all about the hops: spicy, herbal, pine, cedar and bitter orange. But there are no malts to back it up. The malts of a DIPA should be apparent and syrupy, to barely balance the hops. Even just compare the colour with the Twenty Pounder from Driftwood. The Hard Rain just looks thin in comparison (Matty has much better lighting than I do and the Pounder still looks dark). When I hear DIPA, I expect certain things. Call it a extra/double pale ale and then I know what to expect. This beer is drinkable if you dig your hop bombs. Perhaps I am just being overly critical and jerk-like in my old age? You decide.

Taste +2
Aftertaste 0
Alcohol Content +1
Value +1
Appearance 0 (usual fun Hoyne poetry but no real description of how beer will taste)

Glassware: Definitely a fancy IPA glass. If no, then anything clean will do

Food Pairings: Lots of cedar and pine going on here with sweetness. Should enhance flavours of cedar plank salmon. For cheese something robust like a aged cheddar or Beemster.

Cellar: nope

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beer and Cheese: Torte Mascarpone and Category 12 Saison

Another week another cheese, this time it was the Torta Mascarpone. A rough translation of 'torta' is cake or pie. Torta Mascarpone is a cake with alternating layers of Mascarpone and Gorgonzola cheeses.  Mascarpone is an Italian equivalent to a soft creamy cheese like ricotta.The Torta has a smell similar to a blue cheese and cream cheese mixed together. The spicy and funky aromas of the blue were there along with the citric tang of the Mascarpone. These flavours melted together to form this wonderful funky, tart and citric creamy delight. It was a spreading cheese as the Mascarpone made the combo very soft. The perfect beer would be something with ample carbonation to help lift the fat off the tongue. An ideal beer would also need a residual fruity sweetness to balance the tart Mascarpone and funky blue-veined Gorgonzola. A saison immediately sprang to mind.


Yes, I know this is cheating; every fatty cheese goes well with a saison. The classic Saison Dupont would be too dry and floral hoppy with this milder blue combination. So I picked the Category 12 Unsanctioned Saison. I wouldn't call the C12 a saison, it is too malty. I think the Unsanctioned is closer to the French style saison called biere de garde. The saison style is more familiar to beer drinkers than biere de garde.



This combination was beer and cheese heaven. The carbonation of the C12 lifted the fatty cheese off the tongue to reveal a citric, fruity tartness. There was enough fruitiness in the C12 to draw out the lemon citrus of the Mascarpone. Malty sweetness balanced out the bitter and tartness of the blue Gorgonzola.

New week I shall try and find the idea cheese pairing with a Victoria classic: Lighthouse Keepers Stout.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Legacy Ale Barley Wine by Swan's

It might be a little late in the season for a barley wine. Barley wines invoke images of cold evenings curled up next to a crackling fire while reading Chaucer. In my demented world, barley wines are enjoyed while feeling the warmth of an overclocked GPU while playing online video games. Does pwning some person named Chaucerdude232 count? I digress. Last year this was my favourite beer. How could you not enjoy a pre-aged barley wine for only $7?

Legacy Ale = 8/10


I found this years version a little hot and syrupy. It was still quite nice, but it had big expectations placed upon it. The alcohol warmth and apricot sweetness became apparent as soon as I removed the cap. Sweetness was a major flavour of this barley wine; lots of peaches, apricots and marshmallow. The booziness and mild earthy hops tried their best to temper the syrup. Still, it was a tasty barley wine that is ready to drink now. I'm looking forward to seeing if the alcohol calms down in about six months.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content +1 10.3%
Value +1
Appearance +1

Glassware: Chalice or tulip

Food Pairings: The dish would have to be big, rich and fatty. How about duck pate?  Desert might be nice. I'm thinking apricot upside down cake. As for a cheese, a blue would be bold enough to stand up to this warming beer. It might pair well with a quality feta; the salty feta would be a good contrast to this sweet beer.

Cellar: Might be worth the effort. The malts are pretty thin, but if the alcohol fades....

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spinnakers Belgian Porter

Why can't someone just release a normal porter? There are flavoured porters, imperial porters and now a Belgian porter. The porter is a wonderfully drinkable beer. It is a perfect blend of equal parts
roast, chocolate and earthy hops. I'm not sure how a usually spicy yeast will play upon a balanced dark ale.

Spinnakers Belgian Porter = 7/10

The nose is very porter-like with dark fruits/berries, dry chocolate and a slight bit of ash. There is a mild hint of the spicy yeast flavours apparent in the nose. This porter is a smooth sip with one surprise. A slightly minty hop flavour is balanced with bittersweet chocolate, dried berries and potted plant. The Belgian yeast only provides the slightest of spiciness. It is most noticeable in the short lived, calm spicy chocolate linger.

Taste +4
Aftertaste +1
Alcohol Content 0 6%
Value +1
Appearance +1


Glassware: A tulip would be optimal but anything will do

Food pairing. Think of things roasted, earthy or fruity. Might be nice with a spicy Mexican chocolate cake. I would choose a grilled Portabello mushroom burger.

Cheese: This beer could stand up to some potent cheeses. A mild Stilton would be nice or a smoked Gouda.