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Beer, Red Wine

Adventures in the LCBO – volume 2

I picked up some things at my local LCBO this week and, of course, wanted to share it with you. Here’s what I got.

Porto 6 2012 Red Blend


Let’s hope I like the wine as much as I like the label.


I saw this one recommended by someone in my Twitter feed, though I can’t for the life of me find where exactly. I generally like Portuguese wines and the price was right so I picked it up. I opened it last night and, unfortunately, was disappointed. It tasted like it was trying to pack too much flavour in, it was too tannic for me. A shame, really, but you can’t win ‘em all. At least I’m only out $13.


Kaiken 2013 Malbec Reserva


Simple, yet beautiful.


This one is much more of a sure bet. I’ve had Kaiken Malbecs before and always enjoyed them. I started following the winery on Twitter a few days ago and have been craving their wine ever since. This is a big, warm wine that goes great with the colder weather we’re starting to get. If you’re looking for something new I definitely recommend taking a chance on Kaiken.


Great Lakes Brewery Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA


I see what you did there, GLB.


Oh, Great Lakes Brewery. I love you so much, I just can’t help myself. This little beauty is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale. It’s a bit more mellow than other IPAs out there, with a hoppiness that’s more middle-of-the-road than burn-your-face-off. GLB makes great beer and I’m sure this one will be no different. If you like IPAs or Belgian-style beers you should pick this one up.


Left Field Brewery Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale


Take me out to the ball game…


Allow me to introduce you to Left Field Brewery! Left Field is a relatively new brewery based in Toronto. It’s adorably baseball themed, hence the name Eephus, which baseball fans might recognize as the name of a type of pitch. This beer is a lovely little oatmeal brown ale, and is the only Left Field beer available in the LCBO. It’s a mellow beer – creamy and malty and would be lovely to curl up with on the couch. If you’re looking for an easy and approachable brew you should get to know Eephus.

As always, you can follow me on Vivino or Untappd to see what I think of my new purchases.


Return of the Fall Beer Round Up

I love fall beers. You know I love fall beers. It should come as no surprise that I somehow found myself in the craft beer section of the LCBO this week, buying another group. What did I bring home, you ask? Well, let me tell you!



Hop along, little beer.

Amsterdam Brewery Autumn Hop Harvest Ale

This beer uses the ‘wet hop’ brewing technique. Wet hop beers really only come around at harvest time, when the hops are freshly picked and before they have the chance to be conditioned. Wet hop beers are more mellow and fresh tasting than their dry hopped counterpart, which makes sense because the beer has a fresh ingredient in it. Think of it as the difference between using fresh herbs or dried herbs in cooking. If you are a beer drinker but usually shy away from hoppy beers I’d suggest giving the wet hopped varieties a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.



Love the stubby bottle.

Black Creek Brewery Pumpkin Ale

Black Creek Brewery is an interesting place. In addition to being a full-fledged brewery with a roster of standard beers as well as seasonals, it’s also part of Black Creek Pioneer Village, a heritage site, complete with period costumes and guided tours. Their pumpkin beer first debuted in 2013 but it wasn’t until last fall that I had the opportunity to try it. It’s another good example of a pumpkin ale – a solid, balanced beer with pumpkin flavour that doesn’t overpower things, and that satisfying breadiness I love in an autumn beer. It’s not my favourite pumpkin ale (as we all now know) but it’s a solid beer and once I recommend.



Awesome label, non?

Grand River Brewery Highballer Pumpkin Ale

Grand River is another local Ontario brewery, and another one I enjoy keeping an eye out for in the LCBO. This pumpkin ale is more on the pumpkin pie end of the tasting spectrum (as opposed to the straight-up pumpkin end) and is brewed with pumpkins grown by the brewery’s owner – adorable! The beer is solid and would be a great addition to your pumpkin beer roster.



Always a pleasure.

Great Lakes Brewery Pumpkin Ale

I know – again! I couldn’t help myself! Seriously, I don’t care whether you think you like pumpkin beers or not, if you like beer at all you need to drink it. Once you do you will have achieved maximum autumn enjoyment.
Next up – we return to regular wine blog programming. Until the next haul, that is.


Fall Beer Round Up

I enjoy beers all year round, but there’s something special about autumn beers. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve started seeing fall beers roll into the LCBO and have been gleefully snapping them all up for optimal autumnal enjoyment.

Here’s what I’ve bought lately.



Adorably traditional label, if I do say so myself.

Creemore Springs Brewery Oktoberfest Lager

Creemore makes a really solid Oktoberfest style lager. As you might expect, Oktoberfest lagers match the cooler weather, meaning they have more body and often stronger flavours than, say, a summer wheat beer. This one particularly is a great introduction to Oktoberfest lagers – it’s not too much and makes for easy drinking on a chilly autumn evening.



You know Linus feels about the Great Pumpkin? That’s kind of how I feel about this beer.

Great Lakes Brewery Pumpkin Ale

This beer, man. I think it might be my great autumn love. Not to be too hipstery about it, but I have loved this beer for years, way before pumpkin everything became all the rage. Unlike some other pumpkin beers that simply mix in pumpkin or pumpkin pie flavours at the end of the brewing process, GLB incorporates the pumpkin and spices right into the brewing. This makes the pumpkin-ness much more part of the beer, and prevents it from just tasting like a regular beer that someone sprinkled Club House pumpkin pie spice onto the top of. This beer is delicious. It has great body and depth of flavour. The sweetly satisfying maltiness is there in spades and happily absent is any sort of intense hops. This beer would be a great accompaniment to a Thanksgiving dinner for the non-wine drinker.



Not gonna lie, the title of this one makes me giggle.

Great Lakes Brewery Saison Dupump

This is another gem from GLB (really, they’re all gems). This brew is a Beligan saison and again, has been made with pumpkin spices added during the brewing process. It’s a little more mellow than the Pumpkin Ale – I’d recommend it for anyone who likes lighter beers.



Lookin’ good, you two.

Mill St Brewery’s Oktoberfest and Nightmare on Mill St Pumpkin Ale

I picked up a 6-pack of these two about a week ago, and have been pleasantly surprised. The Oktoberfest is a solid offering, warm and malty and great for autumn. The Pumpkin Ale is, again, brewed with pumpkin and spices right in it, and leaves me feeling like I just drank a pumpkin pie. Sounds kind of weird, but I mean it in the best way possible. I’m always a bit wary of Mill St, because they’re one of the bigger brewers and I find their beers a bit uneven in terms of quality, but these two are a welcome addition to my fall beer roster.

All this, and just the first haul! I can’t wait to see what else pops up at my local LCBO.


Tasting My Way Through the Beau’s Oktoberfest Mixpack

I’ll be honest with you, I love Beau’s Brewery. Like, LOVE them.

Beau’s is a great Ontario craft brewery. They’re one of the bigger craft breweries in the province in terms of market share and brand recognition and, like most craft breweries I know of, put out great short-term beers in addition to their flagship beer, Lug Tread, and their seasonals.

They also have a huge Oktoberfest celebration every year at their brewery in Vankleek Hill with tons of music, beer, and general good times. I WILL go one year! I can’t go this year because I’m doing social media for a new food and film festival, which you should totally come to if you’re in Toronto October 4-6 (how’s that for a shameless plug?).

Every year Beau’s polls their fans to decide on the four beers that should be included in their annual Oktoberfest mixpack.



Can we talk about the artwork for a second? Always awesome.


This Year’s Beers

Just like with wine, one of my favourite things to do is try new beer, so trying out the Oktoberfest mixpack is something I look forward to every fall. I saw it in the shop this past week and couldn’t wait to take it home and try each beer.

So – let’s get tasting!



Up first, Boghopper, in all it’s caramel-coloured glory.


Dunkelhopfenweiss, 6.3% alcohol

The description calls this one a “dark and hazy wheat beer with an amped up hop presence”. It’s got a lovely caramel colour and that thickly opaque unfiltered look. The nose is sweet and malty, all warm and inviting. The flavour was earthy and spicy, with a clean, almost sharp finish. The hops are definitely there, and might be a turn off if you’re hops-averse, but I’ve had my fair share of super intense IPAs so this was completely fine by my palate.



The slightly blurry (my bad!) Gose.

… And Boom Gose the Dynamite

Gose, 4.6% alcohol

This one is another hazy wheat beer, but the hops have been switched out in favour of brewing an old German style called Gose. There’s a saltiness that exemplifies this style of beer, and I definitely get that when the beer hits the front part of my tongue. I didn’t know what to expect with this beer – I haven’t had many goses and so was a bit wary. But it’s got a brininess that I really enjoy.



So clear you can see right through it!

Haters Gonna Hate

Kölsch Bock, 8% alcohol

Can we just talk about the look of this beer for a minute? That golden hue! That clarity! Be still my beer-loving heart!

The brewery says this one is an extra-strong version of their flagship beer, Lug Tread. And is it ever! At 8% alcohol this beer isn’t messing around. The nose is is surprisingly, well, tropical! I smelled mango more than anything else. Flavour is smooth and round with a nice cleanness and a satisfying breadiness that I love in a good beer. It’s also more on the sweet/smooth malty of things, as opposed to the sharp/pungent hoppiness you get from other, more aggressive beers.



Orangey pumpkin-y goodness YUMMMMM.

Weiss O’Lantern

Pumpkin Weiss, 5.6% alcohol

Mmmmmmm, pumpkin beers. Seriously, is there anything better? (hint: the correct answer is ‘no! pumpkin beers are the best!’) The colour is a bit darker than Haters Gonna Hate (don’t you just love these titles?), and strikes me as just a bit more pumpkin-y than the others, all orangey and autumnal. This guy is another wheat beer but this time the brew is spiced with pumpkin-y things – clove, ginger, cinnamon, a bit of orange. The nose is super creamy with a bit of spice, just like a pumpkin pie – no, seriously! And the flavour is more of the same deliciousness – creamy, pumpkin-y and with just enough spice. But! It’s pretty clean and crisp tasting, it doesn’t have quite the big breadiness I tasted in Haters Gonna Hate – I wonder if alcohol volume has something to do with it? One last tidbit – apparently is more than 350lbs in a batch of Wiess O’Lantern. Holy pumpkin!!


Thoughts on the Mixpack as a Whole

  • I like that the Beau’s chose four beers that were quite different from each other. There was no bottle that I had where I thought ‘I’ve just had this’. Even though three out of four were wheat beers (!) they all had their own thing going on. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
  • The only drawback is that these beers only show up in the mixpack. I really wish I could get these on their own.
  • Only getting to try one bottle of each is a bit of a tease, I’m going to have to keep an eye out in case I can get my hands on another mixpack.

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?

Beer, Red Wine

With A Little Help From My Friends

Last week was my birthday, and I had some friends over last weekend to celebrate. And my friends, lovely people that they are, know me so well that they treated me to some great gifts – of wine!



Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011

I love the big personality of a Malbec, and think South America does them really well. Since Malbecs tend to have strong flavours and a lot of body I will probably have this wine with something with a similarly strong flavour, like a steak or a hearty stew. Or maybe I’ll just savour it on its own.



Nicolas Laloux Les Chais 770

(I couldn’t actually find a link to this wine – curious!)

This one looks like a blend, but I am still interested to try it. To be honest, I am always interested in trying wine, since every bottle, every sip brings me closer to knowing what I like and being able to pinpoint more accurately what I’m tasting. The friend who gave me this wine gave me a 1 litre bottle, so I might need some help finishing this one!



Chateau Marjosse 2010

‘Wait a minute,’ you might say, ‘this one doesn’t say which varietal it is!’

Well, you’d be right. Many French wines don’t state the grapes used to make their wines, and it’s not because they are trying to hide something from you – they actually expect you to know! This wine is from the Bordeaux region, which means it is most likely a blend of some combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and, in rare cases, Carménère. I am particularly excited to taste this wine because I’ve been on a bit of a streak educating myself on French wines, and also because I’ve also heard that 2010 was a good year for Bordeaux wines. (A good year basically means that the powers that be in the wine world have deemed wines made from grapes picked in that year to be particularly well-made. Yum!)


I was also given some beer and cider. I know, they’re not wine, but beer can be just as complex and interesting – not to mention delicious!


[left to right: St. Bernardus Abt 12 quadrupel (Belgium), Cremant Cidrerie St-Nicolas (Quebec), La Trappe quadrupel (Netherlands)]

I have to admit, I love beer, and have a particular weakness for quadrupels, so I’m excited to try this beer. I’ve seen it in the shop and always wondered what it tasted like, and am grateful to my friends for treating me to this delicious-looking Belgian quad!

One of my friends brought one bottle of this cider for me, and one for us to enjoy at the party. I was a little wary because I am not usually a fan of sweet things, but this cider was light and crisp in addition to its sweetness – I found it completely delicious!

I’m excited to try this beer too! Quads tend to be strong in flavour and usually have a higher alcohol content (about 9%, as opposed to about 6% of most other beers), which can turn some people off, but I find them complex and completely satisfying.


As you can see, my friends really spoiled this birthday girl. If you’re looking to try new wines asking for them as gifts for an occasion like a birthday is a great opportunity!