Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lagunitas Lil' Sumpin' Extra Ale: A Rare Treat

I was at my folks’ place this weekend, and what did I find? Why, a delicious Lagunitas ale. The historical records on the Instagram say that I bought a six pack of Lil’ Sumpin’ Extra ale 53 weeks ago during a trip to Minnesota. Needless to say I was pretty stoked when I found it! I brought it home with me so that I might be able to taste it in the comfort of my own home. This is the story of that tasting.

First taste - Sept. 8 2015
Shakopee, MN
The Lagunitas Brewing Company, located in Petaluma, CA (with a satellite brewery in Chicago) has been around since 1993, started by Tony Magee; a music-loving former Xerox salesman. Tony is also the author of the book “So You Want to Start A Brewery?” Now that is an amazing - albeit scary - read. I highly recommend it; it’s definitely a Cinderella story. But I digress...

This delicious double IPA rings in at 72.51 IBU and 8.5% ABV, and pours a clear, coppery colour with a white, frothy head. It smells amazing; after a year of aging it the booze is starting to come out as the hops have faded a bit, but the result is the sweet - but not cloying - aroma of maple syrup. It’s got some yeasty notes as well, and a light floral aroma as well. The brew smells well balanced, sweet vs. bitter, which I believe is also a result of the aging. It may not be, though, it’s been a bit over a year since I’ve had a fresh one!
Home tasting - Sept. 20 2016
Ottawa, ON
Once I get a sip of a Lil’ Sumpin’ Extra, I taste pretty much the same as I smelled: maple syrup, a bit of booze… it would actually be a nice little warmer in the coming months. Again, the sweetness wasn’t cloying, and it balanced out well with the softened hop flavours. There is still some hop bitterness in there, but the malts are definitely higher up on the food chain. The beer finishes out with an earthy, molasses flavour, and the booze stays with us the whole way.

Overall, I’m quite glad that I accidentally left this beer in my parents’ cellar. It was a pleasure to drink, and - since I’m not bound for the states any time soon - a rare treat. This might be a good treat to pair with a pecan pie, which would also be a delicious fall treat. If you can get your hands on a Lil’ Sumpin’ Extra, I highly recommend it. If you cannot - since it was a limited release, I suggest trying to at least get your hands on a Lil’ Sumpin’ Sumpin’ ale. Or any of the Lagunitas brews (now available here in Ottawa!) This brew was definitely a treat, both fresh and aged, and I certainly hope to find it again in the future!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spring is here? Get me a beer!

First and foremost, I have held off on releasing this post due to the fact that Spring seems to be taking its sweet time getting here. Then I thought to myself... "maybe if I write this post, Spring will get here faster!" Hair-brained? Yeah, probably. Anyway, it's sunny and warm today, so I'm going to have a beer and provide my humble opinions on several options for tasty treats to help you better enjoy the spring!

What's so good about Spring?

One of my favourite aspects of spring is the constant temperature change. No sarcasm. The... let's call it versatility... of the springtime climate calls for a diverse collection of beer in the fridge; every time the temperature changes, my beer cravings change as well. I love darker beer during the colder days with less sun. I desire something lighter, a bit sweeter, with a nice hop balance on the warm days when I can sit in the sun on a balcony or patio. I gravitate more to the bock-style beers when it's a bit warmer, but the sun isn't bathing us in her light.

Drinking in the rain

You know what they say: "April showers bring May flowers!" Although we haven't had an epic amount of rain in Ottawa this month, and May is just around the corner (Beltaine tomorrow!), it's still chilly and rain is imminent, so they say. At this time of year, the fresh smells that accompany the rain are second to none. Green grass and fresh flowers springing to life are a delight to the olfactories. With that in mind, drinking a beer with great grassy and floral aromas is a must. For me, I love a good IPA that's got great floral aromas, and a good balance. An example of this style would be Lake Effect IPA by Great Lakes Brewery, or Bicycle Craft Brewery's Velocipede IPA.

The Sun may shine, but the air didn't get the memo...

Some days it might be sunny, but the earth simply doesn't pick up the warmth. Well, there's a beer for that! This is where I gravitate more to a Bock. Generally a Maibock or a Dopplebock. If there is a bit more of a hoppier note, all the better. I like the relative sweetness and higher ABV (5.5-7.5%) during the colder days, as it adds some warmth to the beer, even if it's served cold. Two of my favourite examples of a good Bock are Big Rig's Hoppin' Maibock and Springbock by Amsterdam. I'm also a big fan of a super cold lager on a cold, sunny day. To be honest, Sleeman's Silver Creek has been a favourite of mine in this space, but two local brews that have taken over my fridge in the lager section (yeah, my beer fridge has sections) are Whiprsnapr's Root of Evil Pre-prohibition lager and Big Rig Gold lagered ale.

I like my beer to match the weather, especially when it's cold and dark.

Although a day that is cold and dark might lack joy, a beer of the same character is exactly the opposite! If the Sun won't hold forth and the air is frigid, I reach for a black lager or a super cold black IPA. Sometimes serving a beer too cold can mute some of the key flavours and/or aromas, but on a Spring day that's also muted and somewhat oppressive, it fits. When considering black lagers,  Whiprsnapr's Black Sunshine can add some flair to a drab day. Big Rig's Schwartzbier can also turn dark day frowns upside-down. For a black IPA, Kichesippi's Wuchak Black is on point,  and from our American craft beer brethren, Minnesota's Bent Paddle makes a kick-ass black ale. From a homebrew perspective, my own Black Tusk Black IPA is my jam for this type of weather.

There are actually warm, sunny days, you know!

For the days when it's appropriate to don a pair of shorts and hang out on your favourite balcony or patio, I tend to swill a lighter, fruitier beer. This might be a wheat beer (German or Belgian-style), a Saison, or a fruit-forward IPA. These styles of beer help those who would imbibe the sweet nectar taste the sunshine, as well as feel it! Lower alcohol may be a good thing on a day like this, as it stands to reason that a few hours of session drinking will be in the cards. Great examples of sunny day brews are Beyond the Pale's Saison Tropicale or Pink Fuzz, the Ottawa-famous Earl Grey Saison by Dominion City, Big Rig's El Hefeweizen, or Cassel Brewery's White Fog. From my own collection of homebrew recipes, I prefer my Wonder Weizendunkel or Yonder IPA, which uses only Falconer's Flight hops for floral flavour and aromas, and accents of tropical fruit.

Spring is in full effect, and I hope that this brief guide will help you choose the right beer to help you tough out all of Mother Nature's mood swings! Here's hoping for some great patio weather and smooth sailing into Summer!

Mikkeller Bar San Francisco: A Mecca of Sorts

I am writing to you from 36,000 feet in the air, on the long road home from San Francisco to Ottawa, with a brief layover in Toronto. Dur...