Tag Archive: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

The best booze to buy for New Year’s Eve

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.)


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.


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…


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.

Massive LCBO spring ’09 release beer review

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

It’s been a long time coming. So many new beers have come out in the past few months that between finding time to drink them and finding people to drink them with (which is harder than it sounds), I’ve had precious little time to actually write about them!

Still, most of ‘em are still available and some of ‘em are even worth checking out if you haven’t already done so.

img_0220My current favorite is the Great Lakes Green Tea Ale (650 mL, 4.2 % ABV, $4.95) . I first had a bottle with my friend Alex and we both found it quite refreshing.  I hadn’t much enjoyed the brewery’s other products but this one is definitely the best of the bunch.

It pours with minimal head but has a nice, golden, cloudy hue. The lack of carbonation initially surprised me but I grew accustomed to it as I drank more.  The nose was fruity with a bit of caramel which continued on with my first sip. The aftertaste where was I began to detect a bit of that green tea but I didn’t get much ginseng until the end.

By the end of the bottle, the tea flavour was a bit more pronounced which gave the beer a bit of an astringent feel but I still enjoyed it overall. Definitely one to try, especially if you want to pair it with some spicy food. It’s generally available everywhere but check the LCBO website first before you head out to pick it up. This beer is easily shared or you can drink it on your own.

If this is any indication of the leaps in quality that the Great Lakes Brewery is making, I think I’ll be looking forward to this year’s Orange Peel Ale. Recommended.

img_0219Alex and I also tried the Rogue Brutal Bitter (650 mL, 5% ABV, $6.95… ouch) . Pouring a golden orange colour with one helluva thick, foamy head, it had overtones of caramel maltiness and a bit of citrus and hops in the nose. The taste also started off sweet but finished pretty bitter (although not as nearly much as the name might imply). It did had really good length.

I’ve never been a fan of Rogue’s beers; I know they’re popular but they just never did it for me. This one was alright but I wouldn’t drink more than one and I’d probably split the bottle. Also I found it to be just a bit too expensive considering I didn’t love it. The Brutal Bitter is discontinued but you can find it with a bit of effort.

img_0223The third beer that we tried was another offering from Rogue called Kell’s Irish Style Lager (650 mL, 4.8 % ABV, $6.35).

Despite the confusing name (what’s an Irish lager anyway?) it tasted lot like an American lager. It poured a clear golden colour with a average head that shrank quite quickly. The aroma suggested malt with a bit of hops and an herbal, grassy quality that wasn’t entirely unpleasing.  The taste was surprisingly bitter and didn’t give me nearly enough of the malts that I could smell but there was a yeasty presence that didn’t sit with me all that well.

At least it was crisp enough to leave me wanting another swallow but overall, I was left wanting something else. Kind of like most basic American-style lagers except more expensive. Like their Brutal Bitter, Kell’s is also discontinued but your best best is the Summerhill location if you really want to seek it out.

img_0221Having exhausted our lighter options, Alex and I went with a doppelbock for our next beer; Doppel Hirsch Doppelbock (500 mL, 7.2% ABV, $3.95).

I’ve never liked any of the doppelbocks I’ve ever tried. They’re far too sweet for me and a hefty alcohol percentage doesn’t really interest me either.

Pouring dark with a light tan head, it gave off a sweet, raisin smell which mingled with this weird maltiness I couldn’t quite place until I tasted it and amongst the wheat and dried fruits was this malty, metallic flavour that ruined the finish for me.

The Doppel Hirsch is discontinued but you can get one at the St. Clair and Keele location or Queen’s Quay.img_0222

After the Doppelbock, we needed something a bit lighter so we went with Cameron’s Dark 266 (341 mL, 4.5% ABV, 6x$11.95).

Unfortunately, it was a bit too unsubstantial for us. I was a bit confused until I did some research and came to the conclusion that was more of a dunkel (or dark lager) than brown ale. This reminded me a lot of Upper Canada’s Dark. It’s rather boring but I like it chilled in a frosty glass.

Pouring with a dark, cola colour there was a minimal head. The aroma was all malt with some molasses and cocoa and the taste was equally straightforward, ending with a bit of hops.

The Dark 266 is not discontinued but finding it can be a bit of a trick. Your best bet is the Summerhill location but Bay and Dundas has a few kicking around too.

img_0217Alex and I followed up this completely-average beer with something extraordinary: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (500 mL, 5% ABV, $3.25). Not technically a spring release, this stout was (very wisely) given a general release by the LCBO and you can now find it everywhere.

It pours a dark, dark brown with a dark beige head that holds up well. Aroma has a nice blend of malt, coffee and, of course, chocolate. The taste is more of the same, just more intense with a bit of barley peeking through and a little bitterness to finish.

This beer was easy to finish and I’ve bought it several times since. It’s perfect for sharing but just as easy to drink on it’s own; I could very well have several of these over the course of a night but I’m just that kind of guy. Recommended.

img_0224Alex and I finished up with a trio of beers from Trafalgar. Released as a boxed set and not-so menacingly titled Triple Threat – Very Strong Beer (200 mL, 15% ABV average, 3x$10.95) they are that indeed.

The Black Bullet is apparently a Belgian triple and while my memory of what exactly constitutes a triple is hazy (so many nights at Beer Bistro…) all I got when I tasted this was a lot of sweetness with a strong aftertaste of alcohol. Since we were drinking these after eating, I suppose you could treat it like a icewine but it has none of the finesse one might expect from a benchmark example of the latter.

img_0226The Korrupter didn’t taste much different, even though it’s supposed to be a barley wine. With Alex, his partner and I sharing a bottle, it was just enough to be acceptable without going overboard but I don’t doubt that was because we weren’t having more than about 75mL each. I’m not a fan of this type of beer in general but Mill St. did it better with their winter release.

Critical Mass has some fruit flavour in there but the sweetness and booze dominate. I can’t imagine drinking an entire bottle of this.  Where are the hops? Shouldn’t there be some bitterness in there??

img_0225Ostensibly brewed for shock value and rushed into production to meet licensing restrictions, this pack is yet another example of Trafalgar pushing a concept at the expense of taking the time to develop a truly great beer. Not surprisingly, this product is discontinued but you can find it at Summerhill. I say go with some icewine instead.

Overall, I would stick with the Green Tea Ale and the Double Chocolate Stout. The majority of these are not worth going back for seconds and when it comes down to it, that’s the big question that I think ultimately determines a beer’s worth.

I’ll have the second half of my beer review up next week.

How to redesign a bar

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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