The Rogue Anthropologist

By now I am sure everyone in the craft beer world has heard about the Smithsonian’s search for a beer historian/scholar. A position that could easily be considered a dream job for many of us beer enthusiasts. While the job posting was painfully clear that the hire will not be paid to travel around drinking craft beer, the details of the job are very interesting for me personally because this opportunity may be the rare unicorn that would allow me to combine my education with my hobby. 

In university and graduate school I studied Anthropology. I love this field because it is diverse and curious. From my education I developed a deep appreciation of culture and history as well as learning to think critically about the role of culture in all facets of the world around us. After graduation I came to realize that I would be continuously trying to show how anthropology would be a good fit with various jobs; rarely have I seen an anthropologist wanted sign hanging from a store window. Sometimes it felt like the degree I had chosen would never really fit and I would not get the chance to do what I trained to do.

When I decided to start writing about craft beer I found it impossible to not turn my anthropologist’s gaze on the topic. Thankfully my background and my hobby dovetailed because the resurgence of craft beer is, by its very nature, cultural. Blogging about beer, for me, is not only about reviews and festivals but it is also about the people, the image, the art, the community and more. It is fun because there is such a wealth of areas to be explored. On my Twitter account I call myself the Rogue Anthropologist and what I hope to convey with this handle is that I am quite literally ‘in the field’ exploring this emergent craft beer culture (that and I really like Rogue Ales).

So back to this dream job.  To put my skills to use showing this incredible culture of craft beer to a wider audience would be an unique opportunity so fingers crossed my application makes it onto someone’s desk. A job posting for a Rogue Anthropologist may not come again in my lifetime…

https://youtu.be/G3u6RfOufJQ


On Trend

Often craft breweries seem to pick up on a unique flavour, hop, herb, flower etc. and next thing you know there are countless options on the shelf boasting said ingredient du jour. I feel like hibiscus may be a somewhat slow-burning example of this. At first, I recall having one hibiscus craft beer and it was good, then another brewery followed suit and it was good, then… Well you get the picture.
This brings me to the current beer in my glass, Hibiscus Saison from Guelph’s Royal City Brewing Co. This beer pours a rose gold colour, a bit hazy and with tons of airy bright white head. Slightly funky on the nose typical of the saison style and perhaps a bit of fruitiness, this may be the hibiscus influence. First few sips and I would know this is a saison but not sure I can discern the hibiscus flavour. Truth be told, any of the other hibiscus beer I have tried is equally subtle with the star ingredient imparting a tepid, tea-like character or a slight fruity or berry taste but one that is not too sweet. A fairly light-bodied beer with impressive head retention and some carbonation. Finishes on the slightly spicy side. Overall a decent saison but not sure I would say the hibiscus was a crucial factor here. Maybe I need to sample some straight hibiscus tea to get a better handle on what this edible flower is bringing to the bottle.


Hibiscus image from https://funflowerfacts.com/2013/07/17/13-fascinating-uses-for-hibiscus


There’s no taste like home

Recently I received a wonderful gift in the mail, three new beers from Steamworks Brewing Company. It is like somehow the beer gods knew I was feeling quite homesick and bestowed these three offerings upon me – also pretty sure the new Sales and Marketing coordinator may have had her hand in there as well.
The treasures in my mailbox included two limited releases the White Angel IPA and Tropical Tart Ale as well as one seasonal release YVR ISA. timely selections in light of the fact Ontario is in the midst of a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature is rising, it isn’t surprising that she can, really can-can …. Oops off on a bit of a digression there perhaps the heat has gotten to my brain. Thankfully though my palate has been spared.

YVR India Session Ale is a lightly hopped 4.4% session beer that pours clear straw gold colour with lots of bright white head. Big citrus hop nose, good carbonation and lots of flavour packed into a very accessible beer. All citrus and tropical notes at the front followed by a subtle bitter finish. Light bodied and perfect for a patio pint. I really love session styles, especially in the crazy humid days we have been having. If you think IPA’s are a bit too much this brew is a great segue. As always beautiful bottle artwork.

Tropical Tart Ale is as advertised a 4.9% ale with tons of passionfruit flavour. This beer pours a hazy gold with lots of airy head on the initial pour. Like the YVR, the nose on this beer is all about the tropical fruit, reminds me of papaya, but also a little bit of that sourness that kind of puckers the back of your cheek. Effervescent and a little too easy to sip, light sours are really one of the best summer options out there in my humble opinion. There is also some yeastiness on the finish giving it a subtle hefe quality. A very pleasant surprise. If this beer makes it easy I will be picking up some more.

White Angel IPA is a 6.9% hybrid of IPA meets Hefeweizen. Pours hazy straw gold with lots of thick white head that leaves nice legs on the glass. Lots of carbonation. Spicy almost funky nose, all hefe, with the IPA character coming through after a couple of sips. Not as hop forward as I thought it may have been. At first, White Angel seems like a fairly light beer but the strength really begins to come through the more you sip. Of the three I sampled this one is not my favourite but it is an interesting blend of styles and the slightly higher ABV lets the big flavours -spice and hop- come together nicely.

Thanks Steamworks Brewery for a little taste of home!


Something’s Brewing in Peterborough

Very belated update: so I found this post that somehow managed to get lost in my drafts and never make it to publication … So, I am going to share it with you now with the caveat that Smithworks is now known as Smithhaven and they are no longer new to town lol. 

It is always great to see a new brewery set-up shop in your hometown. You, the always curious beer geek, gets the chance to try something new and the craft beer community gets just a little bit larger and a little bit more diverse. And if you are really lucky and very quiet someone somewhere will put down their Molson product and try craft beer for the first time.

Last week I visited Smithworks Brewing Company in my childhood hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. Smithworks is not located in the trendy(ish) downtown or in the gentrifying East City but unassumingly in a industrial part of town adjacent to the Lays Potato Chip factory.

From the outside the brewery is not much to write home about, a storefront in a brick plaza, but the tasting room inside is spacious, woody and adorned with all the requisite beer trappings i.e. Beer swag, a take-away fridge, a large bar and a smattering of ready-made food stuffs.

Chatting with the guy behind the bar I find out the brewer is Graham Smith and the brewery will be focusing solely on Belgian beer, not craft beers (ouch). The only beer currently being served and bottled is their hefeweizen.

When I hear a brewery is focusing on Belgian beer tiny alarm bells go off and my inner beer critic skeptically ponders why any sane person would try to out Belgian Belgium, I mean you are emulating beer royalty how can you ever hope to measure up?

But hey you gotta swing for the fences right?

The Smithworks hefe poured a nice straw gold colour with lots of white head and the familiar banana and clove nose. First few sips are nice, it is not too yeasty and the fruitiness is subtle without overpowering the beer. Light in body and clean on the finish. I only tried a taster so I can’t get into great detail but I have to say this hefe might be enough to win me back over!

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TFOB 2016 … I Love Swedish Beer

 

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This weekend was the 2016 Toronto Festival of Beer and as a belated Birthday present I was treated to the VIP Hoptomized treatment on Friday (a very good friend indeed).

If you have never been to this beer event I have to highly recommend going the VIP route, which buys your early entry, ten tokens, dinner, a private lounge area and the very best part? Access to indoor plumbing!

Seeing that it was pretty much 40 with the humidity every little perk was so appreciated.

It was my second year attending the festival and, truth be told, I was initially thinking it would pretty much be a repeat of the 2014 line-up, which had an awful lot of Big Beer presence and not nearly enough small brewery representation. While Big Beer did loom (with flashy displays, flashy lights and flashy swag) there was also an unequivocal gem …Sample Sweden.

Oh yes I said Sweden and beer festival. Not meatballs, not ABBA, not Volvo (though they were all represented) but Swedish beer! Move over Belgium there is a new beer powerhouse on the horizon and this upstart does beer very, very well. Not just the standards but the near-to-my-heart wild ales and farmhouse styles.

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I think it is fair to say, by now, I know my way around a craft beer and, as such, I really know what I like so much so that if I could only sip one style of beer for the rest of eternity it would be wild ale. In order to reach the insufferable heights of self-awareness, I have tried sours from many, many breweries and so when I say I was floored by the offerings from Swedish breweries Brekeriet, Omnipollo and Duggan that is high praise indeed my friends. Saisons, gose, wild ales, barrel aged sours …I was in beer geek heaven so much so that I may have effectively wrecked my palate for the next several weeks.

After my epic sour bender I was not even sure what I was tasting when I moved out of Sample Sweden to tip my glass at some of the other offerings.That is not to say I did not do my due diligence and sample widely just that maybe those post-sour breweries did not get the full attention of my tastebuds.

A few memorable non-sour offerings that stood out included this year’s Unibroue Ephmere Blueberry, Great Lake Brewery’s Imperial Stout and Collingwood’s ESB.

As for the festival itself it was very well organized. Situated at Bandshell Park with easy access to transit the location is pretty well perfect for a beer festival. Lots of trees, close to the water, tons of seating room, varied food options and space for breweries to set-up large displays. There was also live music in the evenings; Friday’s line-up included Jelleestone, Maestro and House of Pain.

For the nerdily inclined, such as myself, beer school was also in sessions offering beer pairings (beer with cheese and beer with chocolate) and beer education (know your colours of beer). Oh and for those easily seduced by swag, me again, you can come home with a goody back chock full of beer mats, temporary tats, sunglasses, key fobs etc.

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The not-so highlighty parts? Well, as I alluded to above there is no doubt Big Beer still rules Ontario and there is almost literally no way to get around them (anyone else see Budweiser city-block sized set up?). But maybe the best way to really drive home that craft is where its at is to have this kind of all-inclusive event showcasing the best and the less best that beer has to offer.

Also, painfully aware I am no longer a Left Coast resident when I went to grab my free food and the server asked why a vegetarian would come to beer fest lol – he seemed genuinely confused by my presence – so no fear that I would overeat with all that beer.

Overall an amazing day and now I am diligently sourcing out a Swedish beer connection…

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Kawartha Craft Beer Festival

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It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to put my beer skills to work so when I saw a local beer festival advertised I heard the hoppy siren song…

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The Kawartha Craft Beer Festival took place in Peterborough Ontario this weekend. The venue was Millennium Park, which is located alongside the river in the city’s downtown. The park provided a picturesque setting with lots of green space to sit and sip. The organizers had several food options, live music and a total of eleven brewers and one cidery in participation. So while technically it was the smallest beer festival I ever attended they put on a good show nonetheless.

 

I am still really getting to know the Ontario craft beer scene so there were lots of new-to-me breweries to explore (one of the best things about beer fests) as well as some familiar faces.

A lot of the breweries stepped up on their serving options, maybe to compensate for the smaller size of the festival, with multiple booths pouring from kegs, bottles and cans.

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Compared to many other festivals I have attended this was a pretty subdued drinking crowd; I do not recall seeing a single drindl or even a person in costume! To be fair this is only the festival’s second year so give it time for the fanboys and fangirls to come out en masse and I definitely was not the only note-taking, picture-snapping, beer geek in attendance so just a heads up Peterborough.

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A few of the standout brews for me were the festival-only option from Port Perry’s Old Flame Brewing Company, a regular line-up beer brewed with stone fruit and the Saison from Bobcaygen Brewing Company based out of, well c’mon guess, Bobcaygen.

I also have to give an honourable mention to Church-Key Brewing Company from Campbellford who brought a Brett beer, which I was so happy to see …for this sour gal it was like finding a long lost friend. Sadly, this Brett brew did not pack the funky, sour wallop I had hoped for but kudos for bringing some sourness to the province.

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My gluten-free hubby (who also happens to be my only hubby) made do with the two offerings from County Cider Company, who brought a Ginger Peach Cider and their very nice, dry Waupoos cider. He also indulged in some olfactory appreciation of my selections.

Overall a pleasant evening spent sipping beer alongside the river and a great reminder of what I have been missing as of late. Perhaps I have been away too long, beer my old friend…

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A lil’ something new on my grocery list…

  

After too many years of cross-border shopping while having all kinds of envy at the complete obviousness of selling beer in the grocery store, FINALLY us Ontarians can now pick up our craft beer with the rest of our dietary staples.

Instead of bemoaning the fact that it took us as a province this long to put bottles on the grocery shelves or that the selection is meagre or that the seperate checkout is still working through the kinks rather I am going to simply enjoy the moment.

I knew it was coming, the news alluded to beer in grocery stores being on the horizon for months now but it was not until I saw the sign from above (the Superstore in Oshawa) that I became a believer.

  

Even better this sign did not deceptively lure me in only to break my heart with a provisio beer soon or beer next year but quite accurately beer was most indeedly-doodly here.

   
 
As I alluded to above the actual nuts and bolts of beer in the grocery store are still being revamped. 

While I was in the Superstore that fateful day the very helpful store worker walked me through the process. Beer can only be purchased at the tiny checkout situated between the two aisle end caps where they stock the beer. The initial offerings are somewhat sparse though I was told the shelf space for beer is slated to grow in the near future. Also, when beer is allowed through the regular checkout lanes there will be only a select number of lanes where cashiers are trained in the fine art of deciphering those under 25 (the age under which you will be id’d) and pretty sure you will never be in the self-checkout with your craft beer.

Nonetheless, no whining or complaining on my part, beer is here and we will happily work out the kinks as we grow!


Just get Glutenberg

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This post is long overdue.

I mean really, really long overdue.

When my husband first found out he had celiac disease and could no longer drink conventional beer he went through the usual grieving process, which included the desperate attempt to find a beer that could somehow emulate the taste of his beloved stouts.

A very sage person gave us one piece of advice prior to my husband’s decision to tilt at windmills; “Just get Glutenberg“.

Of course my hubby was never one to learn the easy way so he tilted away trying anything and everything with the gluten free proviso.

There were many, many, (too many) misses and just the tiniest few smatterings of hits and what exactly did he learn from all this independent surveying? “Just get Glutenberg”.

Now before anyone starts championing their favorite one-off, needle in the mash tun, gluten-reduced brew I want to repeat “Just get Glutenberg”.

Being the ever dutiful wife that I am, I did try my fair share of sips of his (sorta) beers and while there were some contenders in the light beer styles like pils or lagers when it came to a beer with some kind of flavour resembling a traditional craft beer Glutenberg honestly and truly gets the job done.

As you can probably tell from the photo my hubby enjoys the Red and the Belgian Double but he pretty much has at least one style of Glutenberg in the regular rotation since his diagnosis.

The thing I appreciate, as a “regular” beer drinker, is that Glutenberg has translated the craft beer ethos to gluten free beer. While many other gluten free beers on the market seem to be content to proffer an offering or maybe two, Glutenberg does seasonal limited releases, they do big high ABV beers, they take a crack at complex styles and complex flavours, or in other words they make the effort and it shows.

Happily the gluten free market seems to be growing (not happy that more people have celiac disease) and that means demand for gluten free beer is growing. Like the monumental rise of craft beer for the wheat-able folks there is a vast army of wheat-unable drinkers just waiting to be tapped.

So if you or a loved one has had to say adieu to their beloved craft beer I have the following piece of advice to offer, which you can take or leave as you like…

“Just get Glutenberg” or drink single malt!


My (Very Visual) Beer Tour

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Now that I am back in starving student mode I have found myself having to be a wee bit more discerning when it comes to my craft beer hobby. Gone are the days of bringing home whatever random beer catches my eye …first world problem indeed. Nonetheless like any good student I also know when to throw caution to the wind, chuck the books and spend a day going on a beerventure with a couple of enthusiastic comrades.

 

Our beer road-trip began early one Saturday morning with a stop at the recently opened Brock Street Brewing Company, located on “the most refreshing street in Canada” aka Brock Street in Whitby, Ontario. We were so keen to get things started that we actually arrived before they were legally allowed to serve alcohol so we had to be satisfied with a quick tour, some great swag and bottles to go, of course.

 

After our first stop we literally went up the street landing at 5 Paddles Brewing Company, which thankfully by this time, was both open AND able to turn on the taps. Here we were able to sample the line-up from tiny table-sized canoes whilst sitting atop old kegs converted into barstools replete with cushions up-cycled from grain bags. A really neat space inside if somewhat unassuming from the parking lot.

 

Next on the itinerary the Old Flame Brewing Company in Port Perry, Ontario. Truly a standout in terms of location, this brewery is housed in a historical local building, the former Carriage Works, and the re-purposed space makes amazing use of the architecture, which mixes old and new materials. Also, I was very impressed with the whole layout of this brewery and tasting room not to mention the fact they had Bluegrass drop-in jam happening on the Saturday we visited.

 

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in Barrie, Ontario was next up and, to be honest, this was the one that the whole trip was built around for me. I love this brewery’s quirky, fun take on craft beer not to mention their killer marketing strategy “normal is weird”. This brewery is putting a ton of beer out of a relatively small space and as such, there is not much in the way of a tasting area though staff informed me that a new (and larger) pub is opening very soon. Flying Monkeys was resplendent with swag and generous with tasters. They even offer regularly scheduled tours of the operation behind the scenes.

 

Last but not least was Barnstormer Brewing Company and Pizzeria (yay carbs to soak up the beer) also in Barrie, Ontario. A microbrewery tucked in the back of a very busy pizzeria and pub. While we did not get to tour the brewing facilities they do have tables looking into the brewery portion so you can get a sense of how the magic is made. A much smaller operation than Flying Monkeys but they are producing some interesting unfiltered craft beers.

 

Overall a very good day and as for the beer highlights? Well, I don’t like doing reviews based solely on taster flights but if I had to name a favourite stop of the day I would have to say Old Flame Brewing Company in Port Perry, Ontario for overall impressions and 5 Paddles Brewing Company for some unique craft beers though I still have a few take home bottles to sample so we’ll put a pin in it for now…


Beer by Campfire Light

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I know I have been a little off the radar as of late but I like to think I have good excuses for not getting around to writing my blog posts. It is really not for lack of ideas, I am quite adept at that part, it is just the actual sitting down at my computer and typing part that trips me up.

I blame it on the fact I have worked too many years as a Princess Leia like slave to my desk – yup, in my mind I am literally chained to my desk, which I picture as a slovenly beast from a distant galaxy and I must type up endless reports and documents for it’s amusement while I wait for someone to come rescue me or at least afford me the opportunity to strangle something and free myself.

But lets put a pin in that while I get back to the topic at hand, why does beer taste so much better around a campfire?

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Seriously, has anyone done any scientific studies on this? If not, I volunteer.

Labour Day weekend found me and a couple of friends car-camping with our trusty red plastic coolers, gas station bought bags of ice, enough firewood to keep burning man in business, and, of course, several (dozen) summer worthy beers like Muskoka Detour, Beau’s American I.P.A., Naughty Nellie, Waupoos Cider, Daura Damm (gluten free for the hubby), Smithworks Kellerbeer, a few types of Radlers all made better by the warm nights, mosquitoes, lakeside smells and smores.

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I really do not have much in the way of beer reviews to impart but I do have a few observations; summer and IPA are meant to go together like summer and baseball, everything tastes better when you are sitting in a camping chair in front of fire and wearing a glow stick, beer always has been and always will be a communal experience, and take the time to enjoy your last few sips of summer before the pumpkin beers start emerging from the patch!

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