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Kawartha Craft Beer Festival

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It is always nice to revisit a beer festival in subsequent years to see how the festival is evolving and to reflect back on one’s thoughts the first time around. This is the second year I have attended the tiny, but enjoyable, festivities at Millennium Park in Peterborough, Ontario. The festival is situated in a small park alongside the river and for the craft beer festival a few food trucks roll in, there is live music and breweries, of course though alas not many – this may be a direct consequence of the choice of venue. Situated as is there is very little space for this event to grow and attract more breweries, which is too bad. Hopefully, as the craft beer scene continues to grow exponentially this festival may have to relocate to really diversify the beer options.

That being said, for those new to the Kawarthas there is good representation by the local (read within easy driving distance) breweries. For those of us revisiting the festival there is not a whole lot new to explore in terms of new kids on the block but luckily a few of the breweries brought some “off-menu” options for sampling. One thing that is markedly different about the craft beer events I have visited in Ontario from those in the Pacific Northwest is the seeming reluctance of breweries to really dazzle with their line-ups; where are the cask beers? the fest exclusives? the vertical tastings? It seems many play it pretty safe bringing the usual suspects you find at the LCBO and at the breweries. I do get the appeal of bringing beer that potential future customers can seek out easily but you got keep your existing fans satiated as well!

Okay, so now that I have that off my chest, I will say it was a really fun festival. The beautiful weather did not hurt and overall a very neat and orderly kind of crowd who sought shade under the massive tented seating area. One new food feature was the addition of beer macarons; a little sweet for my taste but a neat addition. I appreciated that the space was full but not so much so that you could’tn get through a drink line quickly or find a space to park it with your brew. I sampled somewhat selectively, I think this is the downside of being a long-time beer nerd, choosing things I had not tried before or things that seemed a bit “off menu”.

A couple of worth mentions for me included the peach tea beer from Old Flame Brewing Co. and the bourbon barrel aged cider from Empire Cider Co.  There was also a very interesting looking option from Churchkey Brewing Co. that had rosemary and grapefruit but alas by the time I got there they had sold out – and it was only midday on the Saturday (bring back-up beer next time guys).

Overall, good time had by all but fingers crossed I will be dazzled next year …third time is a charm right?

 


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


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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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 Neck of the Woods

On the long and longer road trip through Ontario from British I happened to find myself in Kenora right around lunch time. As luck would have it Kenora, Ontario is home to Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, which just so happens to serve both beer and food!

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Lake of the Woods is located in an old fire hall in the heart of this very pretty town. The converted fire hall is a very big space boasting a large restaurant, a patio, a room with a pool table, arcade games en route to the washrooms, a gift shop, a stage for live music and the brewery of course.

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I am a sucker for breweries with historical connections so I think a fire hall made for fantastic brewery site.

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The menu is pretty standard pub fare but they do have vegan and gluten-free options, which was impressive for basically the middle of nowhere (aka Northern Ontario). Though I have to warn other celiac sufferers my hubby got ‘glutened’ from items on their menu so perhaps steer clear of the food stuffs just to be safe.

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I wrote about my beer selection in a previous post but just as a quick reminder, I tried their Last Call Rye and Ginger beer a very spicy brew that lived up to its name. Copper colour with lots of white head and decent carbonation. A slightly sweet malt forward nose with a bit of spice. First few sips were light-bodied and sweet with a warming quality from the ginger not the alcohol content. As you continue to drink the heat of the ginger and the tang of the rye really become more pronounced. A tough beer to pair with food but an eminently drinkable brew nonetheless.

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Lake of the Woods has a great gift shop with tons of beer swag from t-shirts to camouflage hats to belt buckles all with their very nice logo and in very cottage country colours and patterns. The gift shop also had a growler fill station and bottle sales.

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The big surprise for me was how empty the place was. Good beer, decent food, interesting space but perhaps things really pick up on the weekends and/or closer to summer. If it was not such an insanely long drive to get back to Kenora I might just make this place a regular destination.

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Beers Across Canada

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15 years. I have lived in British Columbia for just shy of 15 years and now I find myself saying goodbye to this most beautiful province as I, the hubby, our assorted pets and Juliet (our u-Haul) make our way across the country.

While it is always hard to say goodbye it is also exciting to think of all the new places and all the new craft beers I am going to explore in this next phase of our lives.

To commemorate my transition I thought I would mark each evening with a beer local to wherever I happen to land for the night.

First up is my final British Columbia beer, well to be clear my final BC beer consumed as a resident of the province, not my final BC beer ever. Anyway I digress as tonight with dinner I began my journey with a pint of Mt. Begbie High Country Kolsch on tap in Revelstoke home of Mt. Begbie Brewing.

This Kolsch pours a bright clear gold colour with very little head and lots of carbonation. There is a slightly yeasty slights sweet nose, it is very light bodied and you get subtle a sweet grassy flavour, mild hops and some wheat beer character. The finish is quite dry. Overall a really nice beer after a long day on the road.

Stay tuned as I continue to drink my way across Canada (not while I am driving of course).


New Brew Friday

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Kelp Stout from Tofino Brewing Company a 6% ABV stout brewed with seaweed.

Kelp stout Pours deepest black brown with lots of mocha coloured head that has decent staying power. A chocolate malt nose, full bodied but not in imperial territory, lots of cold coffee on the finish. The kelp comes through with a salty taste that displaces the usual sweet character in a robust stout. Personally I like this umami addition, which complements the minerally character of Tofino brews. As desserts the world over have shown us the addition of sea salt brings out a whole new dimension to dark sweet things. The problem with this stout for me is my initial impressions did not carry through to the bottom of the glass. By the time I finished this one I was totally kelped out, it just became too much. If I had tried this beer as a taster I would have said I loved it but an entire bottle and I am much more on the fence. Overall, Kelp Stout is definitely worth a try but bring it to a bottle share and let everyone have a little taste or a little kelp goes a long way!


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