Review: Zeste Saison

BrewerLe Castor Brewing Company
Brewed in: Rigaud, QC
Percentage: 4.5%
FoundDépanneur Proprio Marché Les Deux Soeurs Inc., Mont-Tremblant

This brewery is rapidly earning my trust and love by consistently delivering deliciously innovative brews. This springtime saison is designed to excite the senses at the prospect of warmer days ahead and, after this Ottawa winter, I think we all could use some warmer weather to pair with delightful beer.

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Zeste Saison is brewed with three types of malts, both grapefruit juice and zest, cracked pepper, and traditional saison yeast. The beer pours slightly murky and pale straw in colour with consistent carbonation and a sticky white head with stay power. A sharp nose of grassy grains and cracked pepper is unmistakable. The sharp carbonation works harmoniously to deliver the grapefruit zest before the razor sharp pepper notes reassert themselves on a clean finish. Be forewarned it’s an aggressively peppery saison but if your into that, find yourself some Le Castor in La Belle Province!

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Review: Immodest

Brewer: Nickel Brook Brewery
Brewed in: Burlington, ON
Percentage: 9.0%
FoundNickel Brook Brewery

Steve scored us a sample of this brew last Fall and I knew I would have to wax poetic if I was ever again so fortunate to taste this ode to hops. Serendipitously, my day job sent me off to a conference in Hamilton, where Burlington’s Nickel Brook (though soon to be a Hammer resident) was pouring at the soirée. The rep informed me that Immodest IIPA had just been brewed and a couple skids of cans remained at the brewery. Fast forward to the next day and I am slipping out of my conference and down the 403 to load up my rental with this incredible IIPA.

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The beer pours an opaque murky golden orange with a robust sticky white head. The nose is a gorgeous crescendo of citrus and sharp hops. The delivery is easy with a tropical tease and a bitter pine bite. The body, carbonation and high ABV work together to provide the perfect platform for this beer. A lingering resin of hop oil coats the throat as sugary lacework decorates a rapidly emptying pint. I’ve sampled a lot of IPAs (my Untappd account is both proud and concerned) and I must say that, in my experienced opinion, this beer is one of Ontario’s best and would hold it’s own against some big American brews too

Canned perfection.

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Review: Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate Ale

Brewer: Rogue Ales and Spirits
Brewed in: Newport, OR
Percentage: 5.4%
Found: Uptown LCBO

Jordan St. John wrote a good piece on beer a few days past, listing various “beer facts” including this nugget:

“Interesting” is different than “good.”

I will admit that I fully expected this choco-jam-pretzel-cruller-beer to be interesting and not necessarily good. I bought their maple bacon beer previously and thought Wow! You can really taste the salt!; which really is more of an “interesting” tasting note than a “good” tasting note. But being the sucker consumer I am, I saw a new beer at the LCBO and needed to try it. I was pleasantly surprised: It was actually an alright tasty brew.

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The obnoxiously pink bottle pours out a dark ale with a fading beige head and a glimmer of amber red. The strong raspberry nose immediately filled my kitchen while lesser undertones of dark malts and chocolate required a closer inspection. The beer starts slow on the palate before building to a malty and chocolate finish. A world of flavour contained within this Pepto-hued bottle. The beer is well rounded, especially considering the ambitious and downright terrifying ingredient list. This may be a rare example of a brew that manages to be both “interesting” and “good”.

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Review: 30 Cent Black IPA

BrewerPit Caribou and Le Castor
Brewed in: Anse-a-Beaufils, QC
Percentage: 7%
FoundBroue Haha

Two of my favourite French Canadian breweries combine to create this black IPA. The name is owed to the combination of the breweries’ names of caribou (a quarter) and beaver (a nickel) which, added together, is worth 30 cents. Coincidentally, that’s also the bottle’s return value, so it’s like a free beer!

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This adorably decorated bottle contains a midnight black with almost quickly fading beige head and a faint amber glow along the edges that catches in my beer-inspecting headlamp. On the nose is exotic aromatic hops noting of pineapple and mango: Unexpected. The taste is again sweet upfront before a little bitter tease and an acidic dark coffee finish. I wouldn’t have assumed the sweet floral arrangement and dark bitters would have worked but sweet baby Bonhomme it does! It’s nice when a beer takes you on a roller coaster of complexity that leaves you both thrilled and exhausted by the end.

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Review: Lost Train

BrewerDominion City Brewing Co.
Brewed in: Ottawa, ON
Percentage: 5.5%
FoundDominion City Brewing Co.

The beer pours coal black with a beige head that immediately fade to a subtle ring. A deep roasted malt bouquet is accented with darts of chocolate and coffee deliciousness. Strong bodied brew with a crisp delivery of black coffee and a dry finish. An exceptional sessionable stout and another winner from DCBC.

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The name of the brew comes from one of the Capital’s greatest mysteries – the lost underground beer train of LeBreton Flats. Henry Brading opened Ottawa’s first brewery in 1865. Through consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, Brading’s beer empire passed into the hands of Edward Plunkett Taylor and grew, eventually occupying several buildings throughout Ottawa.  Rumour had it that an underground train transported the golden nectar from the brew house to the warehouse. The brewery was closed in the 1960s and the former structure was demolished in the 1980s. Years later, city workers discovered the train deep beneath Ottawa. I’m sure someone will eventually unearth this historical treasure; I can’t wait to ride those rails.

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Brahts N’ Brahs – Sausage Making Was The Next Logical Step

During my last mash rest, I was putting my feet up and having a homebrew, and my thoughts began to wander. I felt content – having gone from brewing kits to good, all-grain beer, to working as a brewer in just a few years. And yet a sneaky little bastard of a thought crept across my mind – What else can I make from scratch?” 

Sausage – the next logical step.

There is a shared trait in all people who enjoy craft beer, or who brew their own. It is a inherent curiosity – a commitment to the idea that there are always new flavours to be discovered, and new ways to experience old favourites. The idea of combining a fantastical assortment of ingredients and cramming them into a vessel like a mad scientist describes both past times perfectly. Sausage makers, like brewers, are typically generous hosts and very good at sharing with their fellow brahs.

5 lbs of Glorious Pork Shoulder

5 lbs of Glorious Pork Shoulder

Without getting in too deep (there are better places to learn this than here)- sausage making requires very affordable cuts of meat, a meat grinder/ food processor (or ground meat if you’re a poser) and a sausage stuffer. I rock and roll with the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer units, and they do the job beautifully. You take good meat, grind it, mix with spices and herbs, and stuff it into natural casings. If you meet someone who uses artificial casings, go back in time and never meet them because that is gross. Here’s the whole process in a nutshell:

1 – Cut meat and wash casings  2 – Chill meat  3 – Grind  4 – Season  5 – Stuff
6 – Enjoy

Grinding it out

Grinding it out

Sausage not only pairs well with beer (Oktoberfest right?!?) , and is amazing cooked in beer, but in it’s creation it also shares many of the principles of making great beer. Preparation, attention to detail, and sanitation are the keys to success. Prep your meat and clean your gear the night before, and you’ve already started on the right foot. Pick a good recipe (Anything from Bruce AidellsComplete Sausage Book or the warlocks at ManBque is amazing) that isn’t unnecessarily complicated. As in making beer, each ingredient you choose must serve a purpose, and not just be for showing off. Bourbon sausages, I’m looking at you.

Coming from a brah with a belly full of beautiful sage and thyme pork country sausage, I encourage you to take the low-risk, high-reward step into making your own sausage. Your friends, family, and future attendees of barbeques will thank you. Grind on brahs.

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2014 – The Year in Beer

Well, 2014 is drawing to a close. We here at Brew Brahs are a reflective bunch, many of our meetings end in an emotional sharing session… We’d like to take a few moments and reflect upon this year of beer and how craft beer fared.

The brahs themselves fared well, although like every repentant craft beer drinker, we are resolving to getting into shape for 2015 and sweating out some of those hops (Note: Save exact line for next years post).

Without further ado, we present our version of the year in beer – enjoy brahs!

Favourite Beer of 2014

Sfitzpat - Was it the massive one-off Russian Imperial Stout? The barrel aged Quad? No. For me, the beer of the year goes to the beer that graced my fridge m,ore often than any other. And for this, I turn to Great Lakes’ Crazy Canuck. The dry, aromatic citrus notes of this pale ale drive me nuts every time. As if loving the beer wasn’t enough, they also re-branded the can with a stoic lumberjack and a tongue-in-cheek Canadiana blurb. Well done GLB – you continue to occupy my valuable fridge real estate.
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JcDuff - My beer of the year was also a GLB offering but I’m picking My Bitter Wife IPA, with honourable mention going to the super-drinkable Kilannan Altbier. Wife is tropical hoppy goodness with above average IBUs and ABV served in a bomber; all of which equated to the perfect balcony beer for me this Summer past. Several times I bought out the LCBO stock, fearful that no more Wife would be appearing on the shelves. Never a bad choice.
Favourite Brewery of 2014
JcDuff - Brewery of the year has to be Dominion City Brewing Company. They were generous enough to entertain our ridiculous interview back in the Summer (Bob Seger rules!!) but seeing the crew working at various beer events and at the brewery showed that they truly took customer service to heart and enjoyed what they were doing. Throw in the fact that they brew innovative and tasty treats such as Earl Grey Marmalade saison, Two Flags IPA and Galloping Hessian pumpkin ale and you’ve got a winning recipe. I’d dare to say these guys could be the hippest brewery in Ottawa since BTP.
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Sfitzpat - I’m going with Bellwoods. I started my year off with a Bellwoods visit – and some dynamite beer pairings with duck hearts and sausage. I find myself talking about this visit almost a full year later. I haven’t yet been disappointed with any beers I have from them, and am honoured to have their Cat Lady IPA poster grace my walls. With their upcoming expansion, Bellwoods has this brah salivating and excited about what’s to come.
Best Beer Experience of 2014
Sfitzpat - Going to have to go with Bellwoods again. After a Masters thesis defense, their food and beer brought me back to life. A honourable mention goes to Dominion City Brewing Company. who consistently welcome every visitor with enthusiasm, a witty remark, and great beer. I’ve never been happier that my parents live in the East end of Ottawa. What’s for dinner Mom? I’ll bring the beer.
JcDuff - Best beer experience for me was the Brewery Market (though Beau’s Oktoberfest, with their best beer and bands line-up, made this a difficult decision). The market was so simple – beer token table, brewery booths, a park and BBQ – but this simplicity allowed for more focus on the sweet sweet brews. It was a beer event with a tranquility to it; people standing around enjoying good beer and good conversation.
Beer News of 2014
Both Brahs - The absolute gas-pedaling the Beer Store has taken in the media and over social media this past year is probably the biggest industry news. The promotion of the fact TBS is foreign owned, their control over recycling, their control over restaurant pricing and so much more was eye-opening for many Ontarians. Through in the political ties, backroom deals and unconstitutional alcohol laws into the mix and you’ve got some fascinating stuff floating to the surface in 2014. While we’re rather indifferent to the dismantling of TBS, we are in favour of better access to better beer.
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