Category Archives: Reviews

Well, will you look at that.

the pentultimate stout

We're all very poud parents.

It seems that I have something in common with Eric Asimov, drinks columnist and blogger of The Pour, both at the New York Times. Besides the odd notion of writing about drinking, we each enjoy a good stout. Thing is, though, Asimov likes my stout – or at least the stout I’m paid to make. (article.) Continue reading

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AHU: The wide world of deps

Depanneurs are peculiar stages for the drama of life. If you’ve been in one, you’ve been in 20, but everyone has a favourite. There is a cozy familiarity one has with the dep closest to their apartment. Maybe the old man behind the counter smiles when you come in, but it’s a shame that beer in Montreal is sold almost exclusively in deps, which are little more than glorified newsstands peddling cigarettes, forties of Molson dry, and overpriced groceries despite such minor charms.

Where to buy good beer is the question I’m asked the most. It seems that people are interested in drinking quality brew but reluctant to shell out $7 a pint at a bar. But never fear! There are deps that suit your purpose if you’re after something more than a Molson Ex. Well, actually, some aren’t deps – in fact they may scoff at the stereotype that beer needs be sold next to bottles of Porte d’Enfer. Nevertheless, these four establishments are the best purveyors of local, craft-brewed beer in the city. Along with a description, each review has the manager’s pick, my own, and a reason to go more than once.

Marché Atwater

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Tack one more resolution onto 2009

Here’s a novel idea: Once in a while, 100-200 words on two beers tried within the last seven days. No limit or expectations on either the beers or their reviews. Ready? Go.

Beer #1: Frontenac blonde ale biere_frontenac2

Beer #2: Le Mild-End, Dieu du Ciel! dieuduciel1
Le Boudoir (850 Ave Mont Royal E.) wins for best bar name in recent memory, but it also wins the puzzler award for its tap of Frontenac blonde ale, a delicious but mystifying beer. The bartender said it’s brewed by the folks at McAuslan in St-Henri, and while a vague review on an obscure reviewing site provides corroboration, there is no evidence of Frontenac on the McAuslan page or anywhere else. All information points toward a Montreal brewery that existed in the early days of the 20th century. The brewery, founded by Mr. Beaubien himself, shook the beer world by slashing the cost of their product, inciting a price war. Despite all the rabble-rousing, Frontenac failed to put its money where its mouth was and folded back in the 1920s. The pint at Le Boudoir was a tasty, less dry, and less hoppy version of the Griffon blonde, but if McAuslan isn’t owning up and Frontenac closed shop way back when, who made it? Was it the ghost of ales past, ales present, or ales yet to come?

UPDATE: I found out while working at McAuslan that Frontenac is a label they slap on Griffon blonde for reasons unexplained. I think it’s not the brightest idea, in terms of branding and confusion on the part of the consumer, but they’d probably say “Pay us for the keg and you can call it whatever you want.” I asked who brews Frontenac; the answer, I do (or did).

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A while ago I spoke with Dieu du Ciel’s brewmaster Jean-François Gravel about a piece on the importance of tradition in brewing. Rather than giving credence to one specific practice, Gravel’s beer reflects the multitude of traditions. With that in mind, I approached a session beer (a.k.a. “mild”) that graced Dieu’s blackboard as “Le Mild-End.” The trend of brewing in North America has generally favored the bigger, stronger, bolder beers. The concept of a session beer, one that is low enough in alcohol that you can drink four or five and not stumble home, comes from the Brits. Unfortunately, the practice has succumbed to the double IPAs, Imperial stouts, and other extreme beers from this side of the pond. I ran into Gravel as I ordered my Mild-End and he explained that the beer had been on the tap list five years ago, but was dropped because of low demand. We chatted about ambivalence toward beer that registers as unfamiliar. Beer without hops can be good! Le Mild-End sure was. Full-bodied and sweet without being syrupy, wonderful caramel and biscuit flavors shone in the malt – a fine beer whether you’re having one pint or four.

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AHU: A winter wonderland of beer

As wool socks and long johns are awakened from their summer hibernation and seeing your breath becomes as familiar to the eye as 4:30 p.m. sunsets, an annual question is once again raised: How the hell will I keep warm this winter? But keeping your body toasty is a no-brainer – just make sure your Christmas list says MEC repeatedly or try to find someone to help you warm up that down comforter of yours. Still, the only thing that can warm both body and soul is simple and time-tested: booze. Continue reading

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AHU: A match made in heaven

photo by Lucy Segal

photo by Lucy Segal

There are many theories as to why beer goes so well with barbeque. They range from the scientific (I’ve actually read that beer can absorb carcinogens on meat cooked over charcoal), to the sociological (the connection between working class food and drink), to the culinary (“if something tastes good, don’t question it”)

I like to think that beer should be drunk with barbeque because the two share an amazing regional quality. Ribs, like beer, are unique to wherever it’s made. Each regional variation of barbeque has its own sauce, and the belief that all others are inferior. In North Carolina, vinegar-based sauce is king, whereas South Carolinian barbeque has a mustard-base; that familiar tomato-y stuff most of us think of as “Bar-B-Q sauce” hails from Memphis.

As a Yankee with no sauce to pledge allegiance to, when I chow down on ‘que I try as many as possible with hopes of chancing upon just the right combination of flavours. The same approach should be taken to pairing beer with barbeque, and with all food. We need to go beyond the image of a suburban dad manning the grill, “kiss the cook” apron on, ice-cold light beer in hand. Continue reading

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Where to drink if you’re in New York and it isn’t Craft Beer Week

Or, What Josh Schaffner taught me about getting drunk in the Big Apple

This is part two of a previous post in which I interview Josh Schaffner about NY Craft Beer Week, the beerfest he created. Below are reviewed a collection of bars that Schaffner included in his beer crawls, but luckily for us, they are all awesome year-round.

The Diamond 43 Franklin Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-383-5030) thediamondbrooklyn.com

The industrial warehouses that make up this area of Greenpoint make this bar a diamond in the rough (pun very much intended). The essence of this bar is a lowkey establishment that doesn’t have the longest tap list (8), but certainly one of the most carefully crafted. Pairing regional brews from the northeastern US and beyond with time-tested staples from Europe, The Diamond is often a smaller brewery’s introduction to the New York beer scene. Continue reading

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