Aphorisms on Beer (and some Canadian brews)
In creating the “Living in Canada” series, the wifey pointed out I over-elaborated on the topic of beer (heh!) so, I decided to extract those dialogues and post them here instead. 😉
On the subject of beers, I realize one’s own personal taste dictates what is palatable– so, like wines, some like reds and some like whites.
In the movie “Canadian Bacon” John Candy’s character got himself in quite a bit of trouble saying Canadian beer sucks. Was his protest valid? Well, let’s see..
Let me preface by saying I primarily like full-bodied (not hop-heavy) ales. I don’t enjoy most light beer, pilsners or lagers, I do love creamy or dark beer. I consider food pairings over alcohol content, drinking for taste not just to get a buzz.
I like Guinness, Kilkenny, Boddington’s Pub Ale, Innis & Gunn’s Oak-Aged brew, Anchor Brewing’s FogHorn, Bellhaven, a good Belgian like Chimay, stuff like that. Descended from a Scottish highland clan, where the beers are dark and full flavored, it’s easy to understand I like my beers that way too.
Yep, but I’m no prude– I’ll settle for a bar’s drinkable equivalent. I wish Canada was a Mecca for beer and had fantastic pubs like the UK, but smalltowns like Sundre and Olds certainly don’t.
As well, Canada is (mostly) stuck in the clear lager/pilsner era, like the US was in the 1970’s.
Yes, there are some microbrews, for example Grizzly brewing in Canmore, WildRose in Calgary, and Rickard’s, which makes a variety of decent mass-produced beer at several strategically placed cities. Rickard’s White is a close match to the US-made BlueMoon.
Some breweries will play it safe, like Calgary’s Big Rock, which makes a variety of lagers and light ales. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that– sure they’re well crafted and generally palatable– yet formulations are so closely matched, it makes me wonder how the brewmaster’s variants are so indistinguishable.
Another example- is it just me or are Alexander Keith’s flavors nearly the same? Worse still (IMHO) cheaper beers many prefer (e.g., Boxer, Moosehead, Labalt, Molson/Canadian and Kokanee, though Kokanee Gold and BigRock’s Alberta Genuine Draft aren’t bad.
Given this critique, it’s safe to assume I don’t like most US lagers or pilsners either (e.g., Budweiser, Coors, Miller), though I’ve had known exceptions to this rule.
For example, Miller’s AmberBock tastes like a watered-down AnchorSteam to me (which I happen to like, having lived and worked within walking distance of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing).
I also really like Samuel Addams’ Summer Ale, though I don’t care for their flagship Boston Lager. That’s funny, see, because Jim Koch convinced me to switch to his better brews, teaching me how subtle things like the shape of the glass and temperature can vastly change the taste or enjoyment of said beer.
At one time, I loved Sam Addams Boston Lager, preferring it to my then favorite Miller Genuine Draft, which, looking back, I enjoyed quite well, but today? Now I feel it tastes like a boring sort of barley-flavored soda-water. I suppose people’s tastes change over time.
Regarding taste, a cheap pilsner can taste better if poured into a frosted glass and slice of lemon added, while a slightly chilled ale poured into a room temperature pint glass (with properly shaped bowl) will taste 10x better than it would simply sipped straight from the bottle. Wheat beers flavor can be drawn out if you add a slice or orange, and we all know the preferred way to drink a light cervesa is to add a wedge of lime right into the bottle. Some beers taste better in bottles, some better in cans, but given the option I’ll always take it poured in a glass –not because I’m a fancy-pants yuppy– Just call me a beer aficionado. The reasons are:
(1) I want to see how clean the place I’m eating at is; How they wash their glasses gives an idea how they might clean their plates and flatware.
(2) I like to look at the beer’s clarity, head, carbonation, lacing, legs, etc. You can’t grasp that staring at the outside of a can or bottle.
(3) I need to gauge how fast I’m drinking beer, I have a tendency to gulp. (hah!) Putting beer in a glass helps me sip it slower and enjoy it longer.
As a student of zymurgy (ok, seasoned home-brewer), all this rhetoric and ritual influences my preferences. Am I a beer snob or the next Michael (not the singer, the beer guy!) Jackson? Nope, just a guy who likes his beer a certain way, and challenges you to see beyond the land of clear pilsners, perhaps you’ll find new favorites or look at beer tasting as a rewarding culinary hobby, or solidify why you like that same beer you’ve been drinking the past 10 years.
Hey, I’ve only lived in Alberta a short time, and this country is the 3rd largest in the world. Maybe there’s a Canadian beer mecca hidden some other place? BC? Ontario? PEI? One sure thing is, Canadians like beer just as much as any country (if not more!) so I’ll endeavor to enjoy it, becoming more Canadian one brew at a time.
One last stab to the UK or US expat, the beer sizes here seem smaller and (like most everything else) costs more per serving than you may be used to.
I recall most US beer to be in 12oz or sometimes 40oz, UK and Euro beers are a 16oz pint, 22oz, or 1 Liter (yard?) bottles.
My glasses at home are pint glasses- I’m not used to having so much space left after pouring my brew! Why are Canada’s beers smaller? It may be metrics or import fees, I don’t know — for reference, let me guess Canada’s brews are closer to 10oz. per bottle. That doesn’t seem bad, what’s 2 ounces ? Yeah, multiply by 6, and you get 12oz, in other words, 5 beers per 6 pack. Think 12 packs, 24 packs.. So likely reason yanks say Canadian beer sucks: US people, used to drinking 12oz beers, may feel jipped; finishing off a brew, we’re still thirsty. Potential solution? Have another.
There seems to be a shortage of herbs and grains in Alberta, though they do have the best Canola, Blueberries, and Beets I’ve ever had. I read the barley is good, but haven’t found a decent beer brew-supply house yet.
On that note.. There is a nice little store in Red Deer (on 54th near Taylor) called Valentine’s Wine & Beer making supply. They don’t sell bulk grapes or grains or malt by the pound, but they do have a nice variety of box kits (pre-brewed beer wort ready for first fermentation, or partially completed wine where you’ll have a batch ready in 5 weeks!)
Sure, part of the process is done for you so it’s not really brewing right, nonetheless, I was gifted 2 beer kits as a Xmas present, as close as I’ve come to making it from scratch lately, so I’ll be happily fermenting it soon!
Don’t be shocked but many prefer to drink their beer with clam juice, that is, half a glass of beer and half clamato (i.e., bloody Mary) mix..
Guess that’s all for today’s rant ^^