Molson CEO claims his beer deserves consumer loyalty + five more links

20
Jul/09
0
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A quietly-funny beer advert from Down Under. We should be following their example instead of the Americans. If the beer still tasted bad, at least we’d be smiling.

Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog links to an article in the Globe & Mail where the new CEO of Molson Coors laments the diversification of the beer market in Canada.

Quite frankly, I’m appalled by his talk of brand value and loyalty without any mention of what the company’s products are doing to deserve it; I won’t shed any tears if they were to disappear tomorrow. The whole system’s rotten anyway… and is Mr. Perkins calling us cheap? I say his beers are overpriced.

According to Jamie Boudreau, we have a new gin in Canada that goes by the name of Victoria. Since it’s from B.C., I’m betting red-tape and petty provincialism will prevail but I may yet see a bottle in Ontario someday. I’d dearly love to be wrong…

Another liqueur I’ll probably never get to try is from the States and an alcoholic version of root beer (sort-of) besides. Dubbed “Root” it looks delicious and is the result of a partnership between the makers of Hendrick’s Gin and collective called Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Yet another reason for me to take a road-trip and soon.

If you’re not working, a great way to spend this Thursday evening would be crawling amongst the bars of King St. West. Besides sampling some terrific beer, you could win tickets to Toronto’s upcoming Festival of Beer.

Speaking of which, I’m actually attending for the first time this year. Most of the time I procrastinate in applying for a press pass and end up not going but my brother bought a ticket for me and so August the 9th (a Sunday) will find me throwing tokens at vendors, getting sunburnt and being very, very drunk. I’ll try and take notes. If you’re going, let me know; we might even bump into each other (literally).

Doug of The Pegu Blog writes about yet another cocktail (the Dark ‘n’ Stormy) whose name you cannot mention unless you use copyright-holding company’s liquor in the recipe. While I don’t give much of a shit for issues of intellectual property, it’s an amusing tale nonetheless and Gosling’s is good stuff.

Colossal LCBO summer ‘09 release beer review

14
Jul/09
1

(This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one can be found here.)

To put it simply beer night was a success. We may not have discovered much good beer but we had a helluva time trying.

With 19 beers to get through (plus extras for insurance) and a lovely potluck spread, we were all set for a completely unbiased and measured review. We decided to start off with the fruity wheat beers followed by the regular wheat beers and lagers and finish up with some of the darker ales.

IMG_1316First up was the Wittekerke Rosé (250 mL, 4.3% ABV, $.2.40), an incredibly girly beer from Belgium’s Brouwerij Bavik. When I picked up this beer at the LCBO, I was repelled by pretty much everything it represented; the casual, joined font of the title (which I’m guessing is supposed to appeal to non-beer drinkers), the tagline “The Fruity Pink Beer”, the long-legged silhouette of the lady and the inclusion of aspartame in the recipe.

Now, I’m not one of those guys who dismisses beers that look or taste “girly”. I like Pink Killer, Früli and Apricot Wheat Ale amongst others and I’ll never turn down a beer I haven’t tried. Still, I was prepared to hate Wittekerke Rosé and my prejudice didn’t change with the first sip.

For all intents and purposes, it tasted like a cooler to me. The Lush thought it tasted like rosy gingerale but not as effervescent. The Connoisseur was amazed that there wasn’t a law somewhere against calling this beer (try Germany). The Alcoholic compared it to white zinfandel and finished it but somewhat grudgingly. She thought it would be a good mixer and I had to agree although only in the spirit of finding anything good to say about this beer. For the next minute or so, recipes for beer punch were floated around but having to buy a bunch of bottles just to make it was an issue with pretty much everyone. The Pothead wanted to know why the fuck the brewery would put aspartame in this beer and I have to say I’m wondering the same thing.

The incredibly-pronounced aspartame aftertaste was what really killed this “beer” for me. It was like drinking a really shitty soda; the fake sweetness kills whatever other flavors might wanna come through. Stay away from this one at all costs. It’s an overpriced cooler and it’ll probably give you cancer.

IMG_1318We tried a personal favorite of mine next; Van Diest Früli Strawberry Beer (250 mL, 4.1% ABV, $2.35), another fruity beer from Belgium. I’d enjoyed this one when I had it on tap at Smokeless Joe a couple of years ago and it’s one I still pick up a couple bottles every now and then.

Maybe the aftertaste from the first beer was plugging my tongue because this Früli didn’t do it for me. It was far too sweet and reminded me of a strawberry daquiri. I still dug the strong aroma of strawberry but everyone else gave it a thumbs down.

The Alcholic was convinced it tasted like Dimetapp mixed with soda water and while the Pothead wondered if it might have the makings of a good smoothie in it. Nearly everyone thought it was way sweeter than the Rosé and I’d have to agree; this is definitely a different beast from what you can get on tap.

Try it at Smokeless Joe or wherever else you might see it but I’d avoid buying a bottle. Make yourself a Strawberry Basil Balsalmic Mojito instead, produce your own strawberry liqueur or even buy a bottle of Fragoli (500 mL, 24% ABV, $23.45).

Trust me, it’ll be better than this.

IMG_1319After overdosing on the sugar, we decided to tart it up a bit and opened Chapeau’s Lemon Lambic (250 mL, 3.5% ABV, $1.80) which is produced through “spontaneous fermentation” using wild yeasts that are only available in the area. I find ‘em far too sour for my liking and even though fruit lambics are generally a bit sweeter, that damn sour aftertaste comes in swinging before the beer hits the back of your throat.

We all hated this beer. I poured the rest of mine down the drain and keep in mind this is a 250 mL bottle split in six. None of us could imagine drinking an entire bottle of this.

The Connoisseur compared the smell to an unholy combination of puke and Alka-Seltzer while the Lush branded it “skunky” and refused to have anything more to do with it. The Pothead said he’d drink anything but and the Alcoholic issued perhaps the most damning statement when she said that if this was the last bit of alcohol on Earth, she’d rather be sober.

Personally, I don’t get it. I’d rather make some lemonade and spike it or have any kind of ale. Hell, I’d rather drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade! I don’t like lambics and I don’t think an overly-artificial lemon taste makes them more palatable.

IMG_1320It was with a fair bit of trepidation that we approached the next beer on the list, the Exotic Lambic (250 mL, 3.5 % ABV, $2.40) from the very same brewery. The exotic on the label referred to pineapple which is one of my favorite flavors, especially where cocktails are concerned, but it was still a lambic and I didn’t think this would be any better than the Lemon.

Surprisingly, we all found it quite pleasant in comparison to the previous beer. The aroma was cloyingly sweet and artificial (think cleaning product) but the taste was acceptable from what we could make out with the same flavor you might get if you drank one of those pineapple sodas they import from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the nose almost completely overwhelmed any pleasant effects although it did lessen the naturally-sour aftertaste of the lambic.

I really don’t understand why anyone would want to drink this. If you like pineapples, go buy one or get some juice and throw some dark rum in there. Hell, make it a sour and you’re still better off. Beer-wise, there are so many good products coming out of Belgium that it’s almost a crime to waste your time on something like this.

IMG_1321Next up was a beer that’s been around for awhile: Amsterdam’s Framboise (4×341mL, 6.5 % ABV, $11.95). I’ve it on tap at a variety of bars and I don’t mind it all that much but I take issue with Amsterdam on one issue and it’s a biggie.

Back in 2003, they purchased Kawartha Lakes Brewery which had been producing a Raspberry Wheat. While they continued to produce most of the KLB line, it’s been widely discussed how the flavors seemed to change, especially with the Raspberry Wheat which was pretty much a competitor to Amsterdam’s Framboise.

While my memory’s been doused in suds one too many times, I remember the Raspberry Wheat being particularly good and I’ve always enjoyed the odd pint at C’est What?. With this in mind, I wanted to do a direct comparison to the Framboise and see how they stacked up or (worse) if they’d become indistinguishable from each other.

The Pothead thought it smelt and tasted like weed and while it might be argued that he’s a bit biased, we all agreed there was definitely an aroma of marijuana emanating from our glasses. The Connoisseur dismissed it as Benilyn (why do so many fruit beers have a medicinal quality?) in an otherwise-decent beer but thought it had a good mouth-feel. The Alcoholic said it reminded her of why she doesn’t like beer with berries. The Lush thought it would be a good Christmas beer.

I liked the tart finish and while it’s not a beer I’m particularly devoted to, I wouldn’t turn away the odd bottle either. It’s got a nice level of carbonation and none of that fake sugary sweetness that dominated the other fruit beers we tried but it still tastes more like a raspberry concentrate flavor than anything fresh (but then again, I’m not quite sure how it could taste any fresher).

IMG_1322Of course, KLB Raspberry Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) had to come next. The Connoisseur was pleased that it looked and smelt like actual beer. The Pothead liked how subtle the fruit flavor was but the Lush swore she detected notes of apricot and apple amongst the raspberry.The Alcoholic was happy that she’d finally found a fruit beer she could actually drink and thought it would make a good caeser chaser.

I must admit to wondering why they called it a raspberry wheat when there’s nothing in the makeup of this beer that would suggest it; no spices, unfiltered sediment, crispy graininess or effervescence. The carbonation was quite low and it had a smooth mouth-feel and a bitter finish.

I enjoy this one but it loses points for not being wheaty enough; I’d almost go so far as to add half-an-ounce of whatever fruit liqueur you enjoy to a pint of your favorite wheat beer for an arguably tastier beverage. Chambord would work pretty well…

So which beer is better? I like Framboise well enough for it’s high ABV and a better raspberry flavour but the KLB is a better beer overall, especially at C’est What?

IMG_1323Our next beer was the Raspberry’s sister, Amsterdam’s Pomegranate Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) which was a considerable letdown after the KLB. Opinions varied considerably with the aroma being compared to everything from a “christmas tree” to “cat piss” to “rather nice with a bit of citrus”. I dunno, it smelt like fruity gum with a bit of malt to me…

One thing we could agree on was that it was weak and watery. Any presence of beer almost seemed like an afterthought with this artificial pommy taste dominating a small bit of hops. The carbonation was definitely higher than in the KLB and closer to the Framboise.

Again, much like the KLB, Amsterdam’s stretching the definition of “wheat beer” by quite a margin. I don’t really get why they thought pomegranate would be a good idea unless, like Greg Clow pointed out on Taste T.O., they probably figured it was an easy marketing point. In the end I can’t say I really care because so far, the only way I like my pomegranates is in a syrup (otherwise known as Grenadine); keep it out of my beer!

Look for part three next week where I finish up the wheat beers and delve into darker territory.

How to build a basic bar + five more links

7
Jul/09
0

clawThe Kitchn shows those who don’t know where to start all the prequisites for a good bar at home. Liqueur-wise, I’d add Amaretto to the list and I’d have both whiskey and bourbon on hand but the beauty of a template lies in building on it. Have fun!

If you don’t appreciate an Old-Fashioned you’re missing out. Jay Hepburn of Oh Gosh! tells you why.

News flash! Beer bellies are due to genetics and not excessive drinking (which just makes you fat all over). Now get back to yer pint!

Meaghan Dorman of SpiritMeAway samples a cocktail made with Glenfiddich. It sounds delicious but since I can’t get any Velvet Falernum around here, I’ll just have to take her word for it.

If you, like me, live in Ontario you’ll probably make at least a couple trips a year to the US and Quebec for beer and spirits you can’t get in our monopoly-dominated province (like Velvet Falernum). Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog offers practical advice on travelling with beer.

Lastly, if you liked my recipe for strawberry-cardamom syrup, you might also enjoy the Cardamom Rose Cocktail.

(Photo: Yeah, I had no booze-related pics on hand so I picked something random. Enjoy!)

How to make strawberry syrups

7
Jul/09
6

IMG_1344I’m a summer kind of guy. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “fuck winter” I’ll definitely give it a disapproving glance and go back to bed if given half the chance.

This is, in part, why I’m so happy that summer is finally here and I can spend my days biking everywhere, reading books in the park and generally spending as much time as possible outside.

The second reason why I like this season so much is the fresh produce! With at least one of the many farmers’ markets operating pretty much any day of the week, loads of varieties are readily available and for those willing to go further afield, terrific deals can be found.

The end of June and the beginning of July is the time of year when strawberries ripen. For less than $20 you can go to most fields around Toronto and pick about 12 quarts filled to the brim with juicy, sweet, sun-ripened strawberries. I went to one in Bowmanville with my mum but a Google search will turn up dozens of likely options. You should wake up early and get there by 10 ‘cos there are less crowds that way and the sun’s not quite so hot. Go up one row and down another and you’ll have all the fruit you need!

It doesn’t get much better than that.

While my mum was all set for making jams and pies, I had a grander ambition: I wanted to make syrup. (I briefly considered making a liqueur but decided against it because I couldn’t afford any 100-proof vodka at the moment.) I also decided to add some interesting twists and settled on some rhubarb from my mum’s garden and some cardamom seeds.

After looking at a variety of recipes, I settled on one from CountryLiving.com. I modified it because I wanted to have a couple of bottles on hand instead of just a cup.

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB SYRUP

4 cups chopped rhubarb
3 3/4 cups sliced strawberries
3 2/3 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups water

In a large saucepan, combine all four ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

IMG_1346The chopping and slicing can take awhile so be sure to entertain yourself while you’re at it. I watched a bootleg copy of the second Transformers flick because I wanted something that wouldn’t require too much attention but wouldn’t leave me bored either.

It mostly did the trick but I gotta say, if you paid for it you’re a sucker. Michael Bay seems to be doing his damnedest to supplant Uwe Boll as the worst-director-who-keeps-on-getting-work. You know he’s bad when a dude named McG makes a better movie.

(For an interesting article about McG, check out Esquire. For an equally-interesting F.A.Q. trying to explain Transformers 2, go to Topless Robot. If the reviewer interviewing himself doesn’t make you laugh, the numerous comments from outraged fans will.)

For the Strawberry-Cardamom syrup, I basically used the same recipe but there were a few changes.

STRAWBERRY-CARDAMOM SYRUP

4 cups sliced strawberries
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 oz vanilla
1 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 cup cardamom seeds

In a large saucepan, combine all six ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

One thing you I should mention about this is if you buy the cardamom pods, you’re gonna have to get all of those seeds out by splitting the pods. This can take time but it’s worth it because they’ll be fresh and if you get ground cardamom, you’re gonna have a helluva time straining it. You’d probably have to get cheesecloth and if all you have is a fine mesh, you’re better off sticking to the seeds.

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The best part about making syrup is the taste-testing! There’s always a spare ounce here or there that you can make something delicious with and by the time I’d bottled the fruits of my labor, I had a nice cocktail to sit back with.

FRAISO BLANCO

1 oz Corzo Blanco tequila
1 oz strawberry-cardamom syrup
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
tonic water

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add first three ingredients and stir thoroughly. Top up with tonic water.

So there you have it! Syrups are pretty damn easy and while they don’t last as long as liqueurs (they tend to lose a bit of their flavour after the two-month mark) they also make excellent gifts. Alternatively, just halve my recipe or play around till you find some happy medium of your own. Some excellent alternatives to cardamom include basil and sage; I’m sure you can come up with some on your own as well.

So far, I’ve made orgeat (almond) syrup and now I have two kinds of strawberry to add to my recipe book. Raspberries are coming soon and before I know it, there’ll be peaches… it’s shaping up to be a great summer!

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