Pitcher

What do you order when you’re getting a pitcher of something? It’s an entirely different question than “What’s your favourite beer?” Since it might not be – it might be the only beer you and a group of friends can agree upon.

“Fancy Beer”

I’ve mentioned before that my dad is set in his ways, beverage wise. He always has a 2-4 of something artificially flavoured with lime, a can with colour change technology stolen from hot wheels cars I played with as a child or a patriotic sounding beer that’s actually half owned by another country.

People like what they like. Eventually we all get set in our ways and why wouldn’t we continue to do things that we enjoy? There’s very little risk in grabbing something you’re familiar with. But, you know me, I like trying new beers. This means I like to see other people try new beers too. I like that surprised look on someone’s face when they like the first sip of something they were not expecting to enjoy.

Last summer I had a battle plan. Dad likes light beers which are smooth and easy on the hops. Not generally my cup of tea* but I do enjoy the occasional lager. I was sure that him and I could find something we both enjoy. Now, this was just shortly before Mill Street’s Lemon Tea beer came out, so I didn’t have anything in mind that would be an alternative to his lime flavoured mass marketed beer. I considered Kings Pilsner for a while but eventually settled on Steamwhistle. Light and refreshing, but hoppier than the fare he’s used to. Maybe that was my undoing.

I arrived at his house with a cold six pack. When he offered me a drink, I offered him one. As he drank it, I even told him the inspiring story behind the beer. How three gifted men who loved their jobs were fired when their company merged. How drunken camping talk of “You know what? We don’t need them! We can brew our OWN beer!” actually lead to that very event. It’s a story my dad should identify with. Changes at his work forced him into retirement early. Not a bad deal, but what do you do to keep busy? Why not something you love doing?
We talked, and we finished our bottles. After which dad went to the fridge and pulled out a colour-change can.  ”I’ll stick to this, but thanks for the fancy beer.”

…Since when was local beer fancy?

*I vote that “Not generally my pint of ale” should be a phrase.

The Watermark

The Watermark, although a great place to relax for a drink, is lacking something.

They have a promotional video on youtube which I would call accurate. They’re a traditional irish pub on the waterfront. When the wind dies down, their expansive patio is an excellent location. While the beer selection isn’t as extensive as some of my favourite pubs, there are local favourites for everyone (Mill Street makes a few appearances on tap.)

Although the food is alright, it’s nothing special. The thing that really breaks it for me at the Watermark though is the service. Having been there maybe a half dozen times, I’ve never had an issue getting a seat on the patio. I’ve always been seated quickly. Sometimes even drink orders are taken timely.  Then, something happens. I don’t know if it’s an issue of absent minded wait staff or under staffing for the large patio… but our server disappears. You better be ready to order by the time those drinks do come, too. Otherwise they’ll be long done by the time someone comes around to take your food order.

I really want The Watermark to be higher on my list. For that to happen, I’d like to see more local breweries represented on their menu. The food doesn’t particularly bother me, but it doesn’t wow me either. If they want me there for more than just a few drinks, it needs to improve. Most of all though, service. If nothing else at the Watermark changes, the service needs to.

The view of boats on Lake Ontario is far too good to waste on a mediocre pub. Please, Watermark. Give me a reason to return.

The Rebel House

Patios in Toronto are sort of an art form. Mix one part good real estate, one part view, add a dash of good weather…and things still might not come together.

It’s gotta be hard, especially downtown. How can you create an environment that is a casual patio escape in the heart of a city? You’ve got busy streets and construction, and really no control over how tall the surrounding buildings are.

The Rebel House gets it right. Located steps from Rosedale Station, I didn’t even know they had a patio until the summer hit. Located out in their back yard, it’s a great after work escape from the city.
Strategically, they have surrounded the small yard with a high wooden fence and filled it with greenery. The patio is mostly covered by a Parachute, too. The city disappears.

Their beer menu is loaded with Ontario brews. (Of note – not yet on their online list but on tap last time I was there – Spearhead Hawaiian Pale Ale) They’ve taken care to hire staff that know a little bit about the beer they’re serving. If you’re typically a drinker of, say, Canadian, tell them – and they’ll suggest you a delicious substitute on tap.

The quality of the food matches that of the beer. You’re not going to find any boxed and re-heated stuff here. Matching a good meal with the right beer on this patio makes for a perfect evening.  I had their Buffalo Burger, a friend went with the Rebel Wrap. We were both pleased.  I’ve previously had their wings too – they’re delicious and maybe not what you’re expecting since they’re more of an asian style – you get the entire wing.

I would recommend the Rebel House to anyone looking for a good meal with quality beer. Especially in the summer when you can find a seat on their patio.

Hops

Maybe it’s just me noticing, but it seems that every brewery I tend to like either has, or is in the process of putting something hoppy in their lineup. Are hops the new “with lime”?*

I’ve written at length about Smash Bomb Atomic, Arrogant Bastard and the like. This past week I finally got to taste Spearhead’s Hawaiian Pale on the back patio at the Rebel House.

It seems like where hoppy beer used to be a specialty thing tucked into the corners, it’s front and center. Just this weekend at Rib Fest, you could get cups of Crazy Canuck right beside all the standard fare.

I understand that light, crisp and easy drinking lagers are the bulk of the beer market. It’s what people enjoy, especially in summer heat. Most of the most popular and profitable beers fall into this category. However it’s nice to see easily accessible alternatives that appeal to my pallet. There’s no way this is special treatment for me – so does it mean hoppy beers are catching on? Or are brewers taking a chance and just putting it out there to see who sips?

*Beers with added lime flavour are terrible.  Hops are delicious.

Maple Beer Float

Do not be alarmed, this is delicious.

When you think of a float, you’re probably thinking ice cream with coca-cola, or root beer or even cream soda. Beer is also a good selection for this. Beer and ice cream actually go surprisingly well together if you pick the right beer.

Here, I’ve selected Nicklebrook’s Maple Porter. It’s dark with a caramel coloured head and you can taste the maple that goes into it. Sadly you will not yet find this in the LCBO. A case of this requires a trek to Burlington to their brewery. Worth the effort!

Really though, a road trip isn’t required to enjoy a delicious beer float. There are pubs here in Toronto that offer them on the desert menu, and there are many beers at the LCBO that would work. Coffee porters, chocolate stouts… I’ve even heard of Guinness being used.

What you’re looking for in a beer to match with your ice cream is something dark and rich. Dark beers often have smell and taste notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel – all these things you would add to ice cream anyway. Use that as a guide.

Also – since they were nice enough to call me “The Beer Guy” – the ice cream is from Lansdowne Cone. I’ll be returning for more.

So I guess the question is…

…Who on the Boston Bruins has better taste in beer than the rest of their team?

Of all the beer consumed at the post Stanley Cup celebration, it seems only 11 beers on the night’s tab register as “not bud light”. I’m curious to know what those were. Also who was the lone Cognac? Weird.

Flying Monkeys – Alpha-Fornication

If you’ve ever taken the time to visit this blog before, even once, you’ll know my love for hoppy beers. Hops, that unique and bitter plant related to hemp and cannabis, is what gives beer it’s “bitter” flavour. Very basically, more hops equals more bitter. Where as some people tend towards lighter beers, sweeter beers and more drinkable beers, I’m a bit of a hop head.

Hoppiness is rated on a scale. Just like you can rate how hot spicy food and peppers are, you can sort all the beers you’ve ever tried on the scale of International Bitterness Units.  Beers like Arrogant Bastard, Hopping Mad, Hop Addict, and Flying Monkey’s other super hoppy beer, Smash Bomb Atomic.

I even enjoy beers that aren’t experiments in “how unbelievably hoppy can we make this beer?”  Beers like Tankhouse, Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale. Even Steamwhistle has a higher IBU rating than most Pilsners.

Flying Monkeys has outdone themselves though, by creating sort of an experimental dare with Alpha-Fornication.  A beer with 2500IBU.  Two and a half thousand. When most of the beers I just listed are less than 100. There is no way this is a session beer. You’re not going to pick up a six pack of this and drink it all evening. You’ll likely find one is enough. Or for most people, less than one.

In the mean time, I’ll continue harassing Stone Brewing to sell Arrogant Bastard in Canada, and cheer on the release of Smash Bomb in the LCBO (soon, right?)

Spearhead Brewery

Looks like I need to visit C’est What soon and get a pint of this stuff.

BlogTO writes:

“…brewery owner Dimitri Van Kampen unveiled his Hawaiian Style Pale Ale, a beer he says is “bold, hoppy and refreshing, with notes of citrus and zest. It’s like aloha in a bottle.”

Yum! Actually there are an impressive number of pubs in Toronto that seem to be carrying this to start off. Can’t wait to try it!

 

Las Vegas

I really need to get myself a real camera. This blackberry doesn't cut it in dark bars.

 

“This city wasn’t build on winners, brother. It was built on losers.” The cab driver kept one eye on the road as he tried to talk us out of returning to Las Vegas Boulevard for blackjack at The Mirage.

Although I didn’t get to see the craft brew scene in Vegas as much as I had hoped, I had a blast. There is so much to do in that city that you can’t even get close to taking it all in with just a week.

One brewery I did pop my head into was Chicago Brewing Company which operates out of the historic Four Queens Casino down on Fremont Street. I got to sample some of their delicious IPA once I told them I was a bit of a hop head. They seemed friendly and knowledgeable. Though it included wine instead of beer – Hugo’s Cellar, also in the Four Queens, is a must for dinner. However, next time I’m in Vegas, Four Queens won’t see me on the floor. Now a smaller, older casino, they tend to sweat the money and it can be a little uncomfortable to win compared to some other places.

Also of note was the general beer selection at the various casinos. Lots of the usual suspects, Bud and Coors, Corona, Heineken, but I was surprised when I pressed them for something with more character that most casinos had Sam Adams. Maybe this is shocking because it’s slightly less common to find here in Toronto, but most casinos stocked it. Although I will admit, I strayed to lighter fare while outside in the heat or playing swim-up blackjack by the pool at the Tropicana.

You haven’t seen the last of me, Vegas.