Beer: Cross-training for Your Palate

I’ve been up to something these last two weeks. The work week ends, I find myself with some spare time, and my feet make their way to – gasp – craft beer events!

Between a cask beer festival a couple weeks ago and a great event called Brewer’s Backyard this past weekend, I have had the pleasure of sampling some delicious brews lately.

Lovely day for a beer festival.

Lovely day for a beer festival.

I know what you’re thinking – I thought this was a wine blog! And of course you’re right – but as the title suggests it’s also about tasting with intention and giving your palate some valuable practice, and Ontario craft beers are certainly worthy of that.

It’s a great time to drink beer in Ontario. There are so many breweries doing so many interesting things – from using unconventional ingredients to using ancient recipes to collaborating with each other to create new things entirely. It seems like every time I go to the liquor store there are more offerings to try. Seems a bit like the wine industry, doesn’t it?


This one was delightfully malty with great body.

I tasted a healthy number of beers over the last two weekends. Here are a few I especially enjoyed.


Duke of Ghent – Royal City Brewery

This was an English golden ale brewed with Belgian yeast. It was a little biscuity, and the Belgian yeast helped it taste a bit like other Belgian ales you’d find in the shop. It had great body and a solid, confident flavour. If you come across this beer (or any Royal City brews, really) I highly recommend.


Continuity Baltic Porter – StoneHammer Brewery

I can’t remember ever having the pleasure of sampling a Baltic Porter until last weekend, when I realized what I’d been missing – pure deliciousness! Baltic Porters (named for the fact that they were first brewed in the Baltics) are usually fairly high in alcohol and bridge the gap between more common British-style Porters and Russian Imperial Stouts – meaning that Baltic Porters are usually dark and opaque in colour, and strike a balance between the mellow chocolatey notes of the former and the sweet tang of the latter. I found this particular beer in keeping with that balance, and loved the way the tanginess added dimension to the sweetness.


Brakeman’s Session Ale – Junction Craft Brewing

I will be honest, I am not usually a fan of session ales. They’re built to be mild, so that you can drink a few in one go (hence the name ‘session’) but it’s exactly that mildness that leaves me a little bored. Not so with the Brakeman’s. Yes, it’s more mild than an IPA or a Porter, but this one still had great body which kept things interesting. And, as an added bonus, you can find this one in the LCBO.


So many beers, so little time...

So many beers, so little time…

All of the beers I tasted at these two events were interesting, complex, and made by thoughtful, intelligent brewers. There are so many beers you can bring the same sense of intention and adventure to that we’ve talked about with wine. Next time you crack open a bottle try and tease out some of the different smells and flavours going on.


Are you a beer lover like me? What are some of your favourites?

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