Tag Archive: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout


Now that you know when you can buy booze this season, it’s time to figure out the best options out there no matter what your tipple. And seeing as we’re all broke-as-fuck from buying too many Christmas presents and engaging in a variety of holiday activities, I’m all about getting you the most bang for your buck.

(All of my selections have been carefully-vetted through the time-honored process of me getting drunk with my friends. It’s the only way to go.)

Wine

While I know that I don’t focus much on wine on this blog, I do buy and consume a lot of it. My go-to red of the moment is the Fuzion Alta Malbec Reserva. Smooth and fruity, it’s medium body makes it a perfectly-acceptable sofa companion or accompaniment to a meal. I have to agree with the LCBO; this is a terrific value at $9.95.

My choice for white is the Cono Sur Viognier ($14.95). This varietal is meant to be drunk right away and with a fruity aroma that belies its low acidity, it’s easy to do just that either with spicy food or as an aperitif. Soft and well-balanced, it’ll set you back a bit more (and it’s not as easy to find as the red above) but it’s well worth it. (If you can, try and find the “Vision” version of this release. It’s just like this but even better.)

As far as bubblies go, I’m going to have to stick with the Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut ($11.90). Outperforming sparkling wines twice its price, it’ll still be good when you whip up some mimosas on New Years Day.

Beer

Folks can be notoriously recalcitrant when it comes to trying new beer so it’s best to have three or so types on hand. The trick is to pick three that are attractive enough to persuade ‘em to switch it up. The following will definitely do the trick…

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (355 mL, 10% ABV, $2.60) is the quite simply the best beer of its kind to come along in ages. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout notwithstanding, this is a serious contender that is dangerously-easy to drink. Like a creamy dark chocolate truffle, this stout is neither too malty or bitter and will leave you feeling pretty warm by the time you finish your third bottle. Do yourself a favor and pick up a case at Queen’s Quay LCBO. Most other locations will have a couple bottles lying around but it’ll be gone soon enough and this stuff is meant to last for years.

Flying Monkey’s Hoptical Illusion (6×355 mL, 5 %ABV, $11.95) is also a solid purchase. For those who like their beer hoppy, this brewery admirably steps into that role while still being approachable. While not as complex as Mike Duggan’s No. 9, you can buy twelve of these and that’s all you’ll really need. I like to think of this beer as a good opener for people intimidated by really bitter beers.

Lastly, for those who need a lager look no further than Estrella Damm (500 mL, 4.6% ABV, $2.25). I’ve heard all the arguments about imported macro-lagers and I simply don’t care. This beer is incredibly crisp and doesn’t skimp on the carbonation. The best part is it has none of those weird, lingering aftertastes that ruin the finish of so many domestic macro-lagers. I’ll take a dry finish when I’m drinking all night…

Spirits

The thing to remember is that one wants to stay in the sweet spot between local derivatives (Smirnoff), overpriced imports (Grey Goose) and trendy tangents (pretty much any flavored vodka). Think a smaller company with something to prove and you’ll probably find a decent spirit.

‘Tis the season for whiskey and rightly so! While Centennial 10 Year Old is still my favorite and best value to boot, it’s getting increasingly harder to find and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s gone before we’re even halfway through winter. With that in mind, I’d go across the pond and pick up a bottle of Teacher’s Highland Cream ($24.95 or Té Bheag. The former is an acceptable mixer while the latter is worth the extra $11 if you’re going to be drinking it neat.

Vodka-wise, I’d still pick up a bottle of Zubrowka Bison Vodka. For those who don’t like their vodka aromatic, a bottle ifIceberg will do and it’s only $23.

Broker’s Premium London Dry is fairly good gin and a steal at $24.60.

One has a lot of choices when it comes to rum but I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to try something new. Havana Club Anejo Reserva is perfectly acceptable and currently $2 off the $26.95 price tag. Or you could go with the El Dorado 5 Year Old which is only 5 cents more and just as good. Many other rums are available for only $5 more so will get you something even better so evaluate your budget and plan accordingly.

Tequila’s a little trickier. Saddled with some of the most unfair mark-ups I’ve ever seen, you can find amazing tequila in the States for one-third the price but here, the cheapest brands are home-grown and nothing worth writing about. Go for El Jimador’s Reposado ($32.95)or don’t bother getting any.

With all or some of the above, you’ve got the makings of a fine party and you won’t be breaking the bank.  Buying everything on this list (with extras when it comes to the wine and beer) will only run you $250. Get 25 of your friends and the party becomes even more affordable.

Just don’t buy the big brands. You don’t need to and most of the time, you’re spending more than you have to.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, the Akia is one of my favorite bars.

Not only are Charlie and Vivian willing to take risks with new products when the majority of their current clientele drink only Budweiser (why do so many Asians drink Bud anyway?) but if you happen to come semi-frequently and have a favorite beer, they’ll probably hold some for you. My friend Gil and I drink Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, this other fellow usually goes for Tsingtao and John, the resident, affable know-it-all will have Molson Export and nothing else.

They have a bottle of Żubrówka on hand (my suggestion) and they said they’ll bring in some Centennial as well. Their prices are very fair and they treat everyone who walks into their bar as a potential friend.

And yet the Akia is not busy. Their weekends are dead and even happy hour (generally the point when bars like this do most of their business) is not as good as it should be. Charlie sat down at my table tonight and asked me why. After listening to his concerns, I brought up several points for him to consider.

1. The bar has a bad rep.

The Akia has a lot of history. For the past decade, it’s been a dive bar that bums, gangsters and cokeheads flocked to for its anything-goes, laissez-faire attitude. You could go there and know that the owners wouldn’t hassle you. The cops also generally stayed away although this changed as time went by.

Most passerbys might not be aware of everything that went on inside but you can bet they saw the motley assortment of people entering, leaving and smoking their cigarettes outside. One of the first assessments many potential guests will make of a venue is the crowd and I would imagine many of the folks in the tonier area north of the bar probably avoid the Akia for that reason.

The best way to overcome this is through word-of-mouth, some careful flyer distribution and a careful application of the convert-one-person-they’ll-bring-their-friends approach.

akia2. The sign sucks.

The second thing that a potential guest will look at is the sign. It can tell you a lot about the place. Akia’s sign is old, too foreign and rather cheap-looking. The bits about the “grill” and “cafe” are definitely misleading and the subheading on the sign on the left advertising the products available makes it seem a bit low-class. The whole sign seems designed to attempt to appeal to everyone by throwing out words without considering what the establishment can offer.

The colours, make me think of Ikea and are a bit too convenience store and not enough neighborhood bar. This sign has been here longer than I have and it should be trashed.

I’d do away with the garish colours and go for earth tone with a white or red type. It shouldn’t be too hip or too grungy either… Like Czehoski but with less of a look-at-me attitude.

3. They have a great location they’re not taking advantage of.

That, in a nutshell, is what the Akia should be. When I think neighborhood bar, I think of the Gem or the Only and while I have a definite bias towards individualistic establishments that have an eclectic jukebox, good beer and interesting people, I don’t think I’m way off base here in proposing that kind of template for the Akia. Hell, they already have the first two; all they need is the third.

The area between the Danforth and Gerrard is full of young couples and families who would probably be up for a casual weekday pint without having to go more than a couple blocks in either direction. Sure, East Chinatown is predominantly Asian but there are still quite a few young artist-types who might dig it too. And as much as I like Queen St. East, I don’t always want to go down there.

4. The interior is not inviting.

The ceiling is this dull, rusty colour and three of the walls are beige. The wall behind the bar is a nice, rich red and the lights are kind of sexy but two good bits can’t overcome the vomitous mess closing in on all three sides. The chairs and tables, while a bit bare-bone, are workable and the TVs are fine. The tiles on the floor suck but since replacing them would be very expensive, I think they’d be better off sticking with a new paint job.

I’d leave the one red wall and paint the rest of them dark brown or black. The wood panelling and trim should be sanded down and varnished; this would give it a much classier feel and make up for the cheap seating.

5. They don’t have a patio.

To the north of the bar is a rather large rectangular piece of asphalt that is not being used for anything. It would make a perfect patio and although it would look out onto the Don Jail, it would get a fair bit of sun and allow the smokers to sit and drink instead of congregating around the entrance.

According to Vivian, the third-last owner enquired with City Hall about building a patio and was told that there were issues of “hydro access”. I told her she should check this out herself and see if there was some kind of work-around; there’s no harm in asking.

Even without a patio, I think that making nice with the neighbors, changing the sign and repainting the interior would definitely give the Akia a chance to attract a different crowd. These things do take time but Charlie and Vivian would be improving the area and they’d probably make some money too.

They seem to be willing to overhaul their image and I’d be happy to help; we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Mine does.

Not only that but the Akia Bar & Grill (just north of Gerrard on Broadview, left side of the street) carries Steamwhistle Pilsner and Mill St. Stock Ale as well.

When I stop coughing like a possessed consumptive, I know where I’m going to be drinking my stout.

As mentioned by Dr. Bamboo, Thursday Drink Nights exist as a means for like-minded individuals to gather in a chat room and trade and discuss cocktail recipes whilst actually making them with whatever they have stocked in their home bars. There’s usually a theme and apparently, amendments to proffered recipes can come fast and furious, with each one adding a different nuance and, of course, everyone gets shitfaced.

While I have yet to participate in one (my own bar is ill-suited to this kind of thing at the moment and it’d drive me crazy operating with the handicap a government monopoly leaves me with) I thing the idea is fantastic and I’ve often wished for company while trying out the latest purchase.

Taking advantage of some visiting friends, I handed them each a glass and we proceeded to get into the latest beer offerings from the LCBO. The drinking party was made up of Lowell, my brother with a rubber arm when it comes to alcohol; Rodney “The Professor” Snooks, my soon-to-be-ex roommate and philosopher and his girlfriend, Kate (I don’t know much about her but she seems nice and she’s originally from England so she’s gotta know something about beer).

pietraFirst up was Pietra, a “strong beer” from Corsica. Weighing in at 6% ABV, its claim to fame is the inclusion of chestnuts in the recipe. It’s also bottle-conditioned for eight weeks. I can’t think of many French beers I’ve liked beyond Kronenbourg 1664 (both Fischer and Boris were disappointments) but this was kind of different and I thought it might be interesting.

The first thing I noticed was the pineapple smell. It was lightly carbonated and I thought it had a bit of a metallic aftertaste. Lowell thought it tasted flat and it reminded him of a UK bitter. Neither of us could detect any chestnut flavor and thinking back, I can’t think of it as anything but mundane. I wouldn’t drink it again.

Next up was Stuart’s Natural Session Ale, a local beer from Scotch Irish Brewing. Billed as a light beer, it’s only 3.7% ABV and is bottled in a stubby which I’m always fond of. I also really liked the picture of the Scottie dog on the label. I’d never liked anything else they offered but I figured I’d give them one more chance.

stuartsUnfortunately, the beer was an epic fail for all of us. Rodney shook his head and walked away, saying “I don’t know…” (which proved to be the most positive thing any of us could find to say about it) and that’s all we got out of him for the rest of the night.

I noticed a slight taste of honey but this was overshadowed by a weird sour mouthfeel and it smelt kind of doggy. Lowell thought it tasted like “a wet newspaper at the bottom of a kennel” and Kate agreed, noting that it “lies there and dies on your tongue”. I drank it but I didn’t like it; I wouldn’t call it sessionable.

Wanting to get the hell out of our backyard, we moved across the ocean to Germany for Köstritzer’s Schwarzbier, a canned dark lager (4.8% ABV).

kostrikerLowell thought it smelt “cheesy” and Kate agreed. I didn’t pick up on that at all but my first sip packed a wallop of liquorice. While there was some chocolate in there, my overriding impression was of those nasty black candies that everyone leaves at the bottom of the bowl and I couldn’t shake it.  Lowell thought that it would probably taste better at the brewery and he’s probably right. Kate was happy that it tasted better than the ale that proceeded it and we could all get behind that.

To get the bad taste out of our mouths, we moved on to Hockley Stout which promised to save our tongues by pouring “like liquid midnight”, even from a can. With a relatively-low ABV (4.2%) I was hoping I might have a new stout to stock my fridge with.

hockleySmelling of caramel and chocolate, I found it light, smooth and refreshing with both notes of coffee and a continuation of the chocolate. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable stout and certainly better than Guinness.  Lowell disagreed, labelling it “foamy” and “vacuous”; like “a soda-pop with no fizz”. He liked the Schwarzbier better. Kate thought it was “complex” and she liked the smell of tamari that she was getting from it.

By this point, we were pretty drunk (despite portioning out the beer, we’d been drinking it pretty quickly) so we wrapped the evening up with Fuller’s London Porter. Porters generally differ from stouts in terms of strength so I was expecting something even smoother than the stout that had proceeded it.

fullersI wasn’t disappointed as the chocolate smell and taste was woven with this lovely creaminess which stretched out into a nice, long finish that reminded me of one of my mum’s chocolate malt pie. Like the Hockley Stout, the carbonation was mild and I could easily see myself drinking two or three of these over the course of a night. Lowell and Kate also liked it and even went so far as to proclaim it the best beer of the night. While the localist in me wants to get behind Hockley, I have to agree; the London Porter was exceptional and I’ll definitely go back for some more.

We never got into Young’s Double Chocolate Stout which I think beats all of the above handily but I’ll get into that next time, along with the second half of the LCBO’s spring beers release.

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