Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Thirsty Ambassador

It's really strange writing essays for competitions. One, word limits are indeed limiting of expression. I am a general believer in "less is more" however, in this case I could have written a book on my beliefs, values, Newfoundland, my education in music and it's very close connection to why I am a brewer and musician by profession and still do both for personal enjoyment.

This essay was written as an application to attend and represent the Canadian Food and Wine Institute for a conference for the Food and Beverage Department at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta.

Note: in the essay I sneak in the word "Beer" into the Canadian Food and Wine Institute. I'm a brewer... just sayin'...


As a student of the Canadian Food, Beer and Wine Institute I am a part of a growing community of people dedicated and passionate about their craft, its art, its science and education. When incorporating passion into this industry there is a noticeable upward trend in the learning curve, a trend that does not seem to end. The creative bodies involved are bringing so much to the table in the way of discovery and innovation, while remaining true to the science and history. This process has elevated this Institute to the standards and integrity which it now holds. Others are inspired to enter such a flavourful environment and a growing craft. As a true believer that fermented beverages have been a strong building block of civilizations, I have chosen this career path in brewing sciences that I believe will craft a life of flavour, discovery, well being and good cheer. As a passionate student of my craft, I see myself as a great student representative and ambassador for the Canadian Food, Beer and Wine Institute.

As a true Newfoundlander I grew up with food, drink (when I was of legal age, of course), music, art and good cheer. It was a very colourful cultural environment to grow up in and there was so much to discover. Our food may be heavy with salt fish and root vegetables, yet in contrast the Island of Newfoundland also produces some of the most beautiful berries bursting with flavour such as my beloved bakeapples or cloudberries, as many may know.

I view my values in my craft much like I view Newfoundland's culture. There is a strong backbone, meat and potatoes, as the staple diet of education. There has to be a strong work ethic and understanding of the basics. These are the basics, the rhythms, the songs and dance at the kitchen parties all passed to me through family and friends. This also instills the values of the importance of family, friends and team work. I link this to ingredients in the mash-tun and kettle. Brewers need the malt, hops, water, and yeast to ferment the product but as a craft it will require an education for the current students, and an education that can later be passed on to another generation.

When the basics are obtained, the colours and flavours can then be added to spice up life a little. Using the example of the colourful berries in the spring and summer: they become the art and the personality that is brought to the party. As a culture we welcome the new, the spring, the flavours and art inspired by these elements. This is the play, the improvisation, the innovations, and the good cheer that blend into the kitchen. My kitchen happens to be a brewhouse and I welcome various colours, flavours, spices, and character and culture that is introduced into a beer. The creative will thrive and build upon the basics.

The last ingredient to make brewing a craft is furthering education. The Canadian Food, Beer and Wine Institute is where we learn the science, the chemistry, biology, mechanics, math, history and ability to analyze the fruits of our labours. A craft is a never ending learning experience that will forever be expressed in different ways from the colourful crafters and consumers involved.

I am also a musician that seeded from just being creative with friends. It inspired me to attend Memorial University of Newfoundland and graduate with a Bachelor of Music (Classical - Percussion/Performance). As an educated musician I also gained an appreciation for educating as well. It is difficult to surpass the feelings of being inspired by a mentor, professor, instructor or friend, then turning around and inspiring and teaching someone else.

I do indeed see myself as a great student representative and ambassador for the Canadian Food and Wine Institute because of my education, experience, dedication, passion and good cheer. I am truly dedicated and passionate about this industry. I feel that this sort of event could inspire and educate me. Also, I believe I have a lot to offer as a student of this institute.

By: Andrew Bartle

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cigar City: Jai Alai - White Oak India Pale Ale

Cigar City are based out of Tampa Bay, Florida. The good ol' U.S. of A! I've had the opportunity to sample their beers over the past few years and I have to say that they are not just hype. If you don't know about this brewery, go hunt them down. I've lucked into having retired snow-bird parents who head down to Florida to miss at least six months of Newfoundland's ten month winter. Sorry, Nfld! Summer didn't come this year. At least I got some beer out of it and a heat wave too boot...Holy smokes, Toronto, she's warm!

People pass me a lot of beer these days. No, I haven't found a "beer fairy" as Jordan St. John seems to have found. I am merely a low-level brewer working in the trenches every day and still far from the rockstar limelight that some writers and brewers seem to get. This is not exactly why I entered this field of work all the same. I'm already a rockstar for doing what I do best and that is playing drums... ha!? Regardless, I've been sipping a lot of great beers these days. I've grown to love every brew that I brew, or at least have a connection with it. If I know the packaging date or brew #- I generally know what the weather was like that day. Maybe I get way to into what I do. Maybe I just have some strange memory that will observe all surroundings and many things that are the least bit important. I digress... I opened a beer passed to me that will be unnamed and sent to the sea of dead fish, poop, and/or Ninja Turtles. Then I instantly needed something to cleanse my palate and serve as a night cap. My little beer fridge has gone through some cleaning and didn't have much but my own brews and some very special ones. After a longer than I expected evening shift at work quality control wasn't on my mind nor was some sort of celebration.

I saw something special, but not too special. Something that needed to be drank fresh. An IPA. oooooh! An American White Oak Aged beer. Ooooh! A 12 oz. serving?! Even better. No need to share or feel guilty. Or should I feel guilty? Cigar City's American White Oak Aged India Pale Ale.

This pours a rich hazy amber with a very vibrant orange glow. The head is egg-shell white, tight bubbles and fairly thick from a vigorous pour. The head is quite impressive for a barrel aged beer. The haze reminds me of St. John's fog rolling over the harbour. Well, it looks like a real IPA.

I had to comment on the appearance first because I've been debating this aroma for quite sometime now. I've had the opportunity to barrel age beers in new oak for a while along with being able to analysis some wines on new American oak. My initial reaction was " could this be too oaky?!" and then by the time I thought about the appearance I realized, this is just right. There is a lovely dominate fresh wood aroma (morning wood anyone?) but buried beneath the splintery wood there is a great variety of hops and sweetness that comes through. Peaches, lemongrass, lime zest, golden raisins, a little caramel sweetness blended with the piney resins of the hops. Don't be confused by the aroma of oak vs. pine. The pine is an obvious trait of hops, the oak really does carry a lot of weight in this beer for aroma. The hops used accent the oak. I can't say they compliment, but simply accent and make you appreciate what this beer is trying to do. I hate to make this comparison as I may ruin lighter oak aged beers and wines for some but, that lightly toasted oak sometimes comes across as sterile popsicle sticks... you know when the doctor puts that over-sized popsicle stick in your mouth and makes you say "ahhhhhhhhhh"...yeah. well. That kind of aroma. You are saying "ahhh" so you have to inhale at some point and that's through your nose. The same way you appreciate tequila and some other spirits. When you taste and smell the original Jai Alai, it makes a lot more sense. I keep putting my nose in this. It's wonderful!

The flavour follows through with lovely biscuit and pale ale malts that give a great sweetness. The crystal/ caramel and/or caramunich malts are very delicate in sweetness. I get a great deal of peaches or nectarines that linger on the center of the tongue while the oak and woody flavours direct themselves to the tip of the tongue, slightly drying it out. This isn't offensive as that sweetness is in the centre and the IPA bitterness is very subdued and not as bitter as I'd expect. The back of my tongue is not craving water or other flavours. Simply satisfied with the resins left from hops. There is a lot of lime zest or pith, rather. This leads me to believe there could be some sorachi ace hops involved. I'm just really digging that peach, apricot, nectarine sweetness that makes you forget about the bitterness and woody notes that dry out the front and back of the tongue. This beer really centres your palate. It's a dry finish, which should be expected.

The carbonation seem a little lower than normal for a bottled beer. It really makes a smooth, crushed velvet (have I heard the Mill St. radio commercial too much today?) mouthfeel. There is nothing all that astringent about it considering it's a oak aged beer. Keep in mind, the purpose of this beer is to sense the woody notes.

If I were to pair this with anything I'd go with an avocado and brie sandwich on a very hearty multi-grain bread with a whole grain mustard. The avocado has a great buttery and earthiness that would greatly compliment the oak and cut the bitterness.
If you must pair it with meat...smoked anything. Seriously, a great smoked pulled pork sammy on Wonderbread would still make this beer come out on top.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Founders Nemesis 2009: Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Wheat Wine

This is an Anti-Establishment Ale which is right up my alley. "Every batch diabolically brewed to decimate ordinary-average-run-of-the-mill tasting beer."

Maple bourbon barrels... I drool just looking at the label. I had one of these back in April of 2010 and I've been eying one in the back of my fridge ever since. It's easy to get excited about beer when it comes from Founders and I'm curious about how this aged. My valentine this year is a beer and I'm okay with that.

This pours a beautiful dried apricot-rusted yellow with a brilliant, yet hazy orange glow, with flakes of yeast, potential calcium flakes, and proteins swirling around lightly like a snow globe. The head is tight and protein dense, eggshell white and slowly fades to a film coating the top of the surface. This beer looks stunning.

There is a very nice caramel sweetness that tingles the nose at first, followed by that oak, bourbon and earthy maple notes just perfuming through the wheat bite. Wheat sometimes has a way of being grainy, bready and fruity. Banana break and maple glazed walnuts are a predominate aroma in this beer that weaves between the boozy 12% alcohol. I'd be lying if I said you couldn't sense the alcohol from a few whiffs of this brew. Granted, bourbon barrels have a way of adding to this boozy, dried apricots and berry warmth. I'd like to stress that this is a warm dried berry warmth not a cherry hotness. Like any good Canadian, I love maple syrup and this just has such a gentle, earthy maple character. It's woody and adding to a little hop balance to all of the wheat and malts. The barrel gives it a little oxidized aroma that simply gives this beer depth amongst the easily depicted aromas.

The flavours of this beer seem to start on the back of the palate with a lovely bitterness and sparged wheat astringency. This light tingle slowly sinks into the pocket of the tongue with apricots, peaches stewed in caramel. The caramel turns to an oaky, woody dry-sweet and watery glaze on the tip of the tongue. For the most part those tingles of maple in the nose are lost in the depth of this brew. The banana is lost but that lovely wheat and nut bread just glazes over the tongue and pinches the cheeks with the splintered-barrel flavours. The bourbon is the over all lingering expression of this beer that finishes very clean and slightly sweet. The finish is not much different than a nice bourbon that just lays nicely on the back of the tongue.

The carbonation is very moderate and the body is fairly thin considering this looks like a chunky beer and at 12% it's surprising me. Trust me that it's full bodied, but I love the bourbon characteristics that it holds in the mouthfeel. Maybe "full" is wrong to describe this, as it reminds me more of a fluffy marshmallow that is simply dissolving in my mouth. Bourbon has a sweetness that dominates the back pocket of the tongue, there are enough hops to leave that bitter coating on the very back of the tongue, and the roof of my mouth and tip of my tongue just splash in the light watery residues left over. This is something you just have to sense in the mouth all the flavours are spiked by where the sugars, wood, or lack of sugars tend to remain after every mouthful.

This is a great style of beer that isn't over done not to mention the creativity of the brewers to have it aged in maple bourbon barrels is this reason why Founders rule. I drink this and I think of an outstanding weissenbier blended with a dunkel on steroids with a marshmallow mouthfeel and sweetness that just tickles the palate.

As for food pairings, this beer needs an arugula salad with a cilantro & yogurt salad dressing topped with pinenuts, walnuts and golden raisins. The arugula has such a grassy, earthy flavour that would just be perfect for the oaky flavours that linger from the beer. Cilantro also has that green flavour that will cut the beer flavour yet compliment the light hopping of the beer and the bourbon finish. I think salad due to the residual water left in the front of the mouth. This pairing could happen with either beer or salad coming first. You can break this flavour orgy in the mouth with an artisanal wheat bread made with grated beets. A nice dry bread and sweet soil beets with a light olive oil dip will simply cleanse the palate without disrupting the flavours that can blend. Keep in mind, wheat is dry and astringent. This beer has a slight astringency from the wheat and a nice bread with a little oil can go with almost any beer of this depth. (I'd also recommend this with salmon sashimi and a little wasabi.)

For those craving a little more sugar, I wouldn't judge you for popping a big fluffy-white-anti-establisment marshmallow in your gob while drinking this sucker.

Dig in. Indulge. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alley Kat: 15th Anniversary Cascadian Dark Ale

*Before we start I'd like to make a note about my feelings on "Cascadian Dark Ales" or "Black IPA's"... I just don't like them! The label, the genre, the style, the flavours, etc. "Why are you a hater?" Well, when you consider that in the early 1700's Porters or "Stout Butt Porters" were around 6-9% ABV and 65-85 IBU's this seems to fit these Black IPA's pretty well. This sort of recipe carried on into the early 1900's with a few speed bumps along the way. Rock n' Roll had similar experiences. I do understand the idea of the carafa(de-bittered/de-husked black malt) but some are not using this. Also, "Black IPA" doesn't make sense. I-India... this beer has nothing to do with voyages or trades to India or whatever myth/legend/fact/history you want to believe. P-pale, well dude, Black ain't pale. A-ale, well 1 out of 3 ain't bad. As for "Cascadian" I see that as being lame. Everyone makes a pale ale and they use whatever hops they want. Good for them. Don't make a style as complex as this and base it on the one and only hop you can/should use. You don't see single hop IPA's being labeled as SPA (Simcoe Pae Ale) or CIPA (Centennial India Pale Ale). Okay! Yeah! I totally get the idea of what the beer should be when you get the name, but I still see this just as much as a bastardization as Keith's calling their sugary-beer (most likely a lager) an IPA. Just sayin'. If the B-A or BJCP needs another style call it a Black Bitter or X-TREME ROBUST PORTER. Now I'm being foolish, and I am not trying to take away from the quality of the beer.

This is apart of the 15th Anniversary series that Alley Kat has put out along with a Belgian Tripel, Apple Wit (Cider?), Smoked Porter, and Ginger Beer. A great idea and a lot of work for the brewers. This particular Cascadian Dark Ale is a salute to Cascade hops and the brewers of Cascadia.

I'm guilty of a heavy pour that flowed pure, opaque, jet-black, with a rocky-eggshell white head. The head was a little large (due to my aggressive pour) but great retention none-the-less. The head is similar to when you pour a rootbeer float.

The aroma is very interesting off the top. I've been sticking my nose in this for a while and it keeps getting more and more interesting, yet less and less complex every time (Tip for tasters: The olfactory system has a limit for senses and will become fatigued very quickly. So when you are not sure what you are smelling in your glass anymore, smell the skin of your sleeve, and it kind of resets everything). First on the nose, I get a cola like sensation that reminds me of Crush Birchbeer (only available in Nfld and some Sobey's across Canada where Nfld'ers are abundant...think: Fort Mac). Now, that quickly changes to roasted barley, sweetened coffee, chicory (think smelling a Tim Hortans cup that used to be full of black coffee w/o sugar and has time to cool down), then citrus and tobacco. More tobacco than citrus, it comes across like flavoured rolling papers, where the paper part is leaning towards light oxidation followed quickly by licorice root or star anise and as it warms it takes on characteristics of spiced rum. The citrus is lemon-lime and CO2. Overall I perceive the nose to be very simple despite how "loud" it is.

The flavour hits roasty right off the tip of the tongue, flows to a milk chocolate, molasses, licorice sweetness in the centre of the tongue, and finishes with that dry tobacco, mint, and light lemon-lime citrus bitterness on the finish. The finish is surprisingly dry and kind of makes me grin despite the acidity of this beer. There is a sourness (which is in every beer, hopefully) that makes the middle-back of my tongue tingle in good ways. Overall there is a big Coca-Cola flavour going on with lots of root-like qualities, roasty bits, and a long lingering sweetened licorice that remains closer to the front of the tongue. The bitterness is there as a sheet that coats the back half of the tongue but it is not as powerful as I'd like it to be. The sweetness never covers the back of the tongue or palate. Think of oil on a hot pan that moves away from the heat, well the sugar is moving away from the bitterness and flows to the front of the tongue yet remains pocketed in the bucket of the tongue.

A lot of what I described in the later half of flavour contributes to the mouthfeel, which is a nice carbonation, which I'd consider quite high for the style. The body is full, but not rich. It is really dry, but not astringent other than a little roast kicking around. This beer puts a test to the palate to wonder if you are sensing bitterness or astringency due to roasted grain or hop bitterness. This is a dry beer, but even so it's slightly watery on the finish, which aids in drinking this beer quickly.

This beer as a whole was very well done. I really dig it for what it is. It says exactly what it says it is. If this were a regular offering at a reasonable price I'd buy this in 6 packs of 12-packs. Seriously, great beer and bravo to the brewers. I look forward to sampling the other 15th Anniversary beers from Alley Kat. again, bravo on a well crafted brew!

As for food pairings: I'd put this with a bag of Doritos Sweet Chili Heat or Hawkins Cheezies, put the feet up and watch the game. Life is simple sometimes, no matter how complicated a label may seem.

My First

* I'm going to give the warning that I'll throw out names without description or any previous mention. Why? Because I can.

For any of you who know much about St. John's, Newfoundland, the music industry, University living or life in general, drinking alcohol can be hard to thwart off. Whether you care to give in to pressures of circumstance or not- it was everywhere when I went to University. Going to socials, meet and greets, concerts, parties, the pool hall, or just waiting for the next class at the campus pub. It is indeed a social lubricant and helps people overcome or indulge in social awkwardness.

I'll admit I saw far more awkwardness than anything else, perhaps leading me down the path of just saying "No thanks, I'll pass." when it came to having a beer. Looking back I saved a whole hell-of-a-lot of money that way, which was good considering I didn't have any to begin with. I used to work two or three jobs during summers putting every penny away for tuition. I lucked into cheap/damn near free rent by living with my sister and lived off of cans of zoodles (until I became a vegan, then things got weird) and processed white-bread. It helped meeting a girl who lived at home and had a mother that loved it when I ate her food. (What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? - Homeless.) Wokka wokka!

Money issues got a little better when I started making a few (and I mean a few) bucks pulling off the singer/song writer deal downtown. I actually made more money doing that than as a drummer playing for every other band within the city. That was about the time I started "indulging" in the vegan lifestyle. As I made the switch from Zoodles to cans of beans, hummus, and lots of noodley type dishes. It forced me to learn how to cook and bake or I would have starved even more so.

Vegetarian was one thing that I started at the age of 16 with the exception of that one night when I was 17(?) when Clayton convinced me to eat one of Harold's balls... They were the most epic-meat balls ever! Vegan...what was I thinking? I've recently learned that some people just can't handle that kind of lifestyle and expect to maintain that thing people call life. I'll openly admit there were a lot of things that aided in how unhealthy I had become over the years of living a vegan lifestyle.

Back to the topic: When accepted into the Music Program at MUN, the percussionists seemed to have a way of socializing that generally revolved around pints after a concert. I always just sat around drinking water until I finally cracked at that one party at my prof/mentor's house. I was asked if I wanted a beer and I just figured "why not!" There was no reason for me to refuse and something about the whole event seemed right. When someone you really look up to and trust offers you something, you generally accept. This is the same person that really opened up and changed my views about music. He had suggested I listen to John Abercrombie - Cat n' Mouse, and he really gave me the insight of what it is to improvise without letting go of technique or vision. It may sound a little radical, but Rob was the kind of guy who made me value life through music. Lessons and rehearsals always seemed to reach beyond technique and simply playing the written music.

A beer called 1982 Traditional Ale from the Quidi Vidi Brewery was put in my hand. At this point I had no idea that the brewery used to be called "Northern" the beloved brewery that my Uncle used to drink gallons of every time he visited. I didn't pour it into a glass like I figured I should have, just drank from the bottle. I remember it kind of hitting my tongue and filling my mouth with flavours that were bitter, still kind of sweet, grainy, and at the time it felt like it was full bodied. The bitterness is something I really remember due to being a coffee junkie and loving that sensation. I nursed that beer for the better half of the social gathering. I nursed it because I really enjoyed the flavour, the sensation, and the surroundings. What better vibe than to be in a room full of peers, mentors, and friends dorking out on drum talk and listening to Tom Waits. What had I been missing out on my entire life? This substance called beer, so rich, fulfilling, bitter, pleasing both cold and warm leaving residual sugars on my tongue and a little gas in my gullet.

How was I supposed to know one beer could spark this sort of passion for beer and everything it has to stand for? To this day I still have a soft spot for that beer and drink a fair bit of it every time I visit my family back home. Recently I did have it and unfortunately it didn't have the bitter beings of the nice English style amber ale it used to be but more of a sweet cream ale (heavily oxidized as well). Complete transformation happened to that beer, but it still holds a place in my heart.

That was the first beer, so I might as well respect it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Vegetarian Walks into A Steak House

Seems like the beginning of a really terrible joke. However, once upon a time this situation occurred to me. It was after a season of Dinner Theatre shows in Grand Falls-Windsor, in which I had acted and preformed in the live band and it was time for the cast/staff year end dinner/party at the Mount Peyton Steak House.

Yeah! I know, I acted?! Go figure. Seems strange.

Dude, there is nothing more awkward than a vegetarian in a restaurant that specializes in selling meat on sizzling hot plates. It's like being the kid on holidays in Florida with a broken arm. Yeah, you know the kid; the one with the garbage bag tied around his arm sticking out of the swimming pool like a large blackish-brownish-green flag. Did I mention that happened to me? Childhood... isn't it fantastic.

Well it seemed like a good enough reason for a drink or two considering it was all going to be paid for by the boss. It was like the summer end bonus for a good season of performances. Well, the restaurant was about as fancy as it gets in GF-W so most people were going for fancy drinks and I was still curious about the substance called "beer." The establishment didn't seem to carry any Northern Lager or Northern Light, so what now?
-"I'll have a Heineken, please."

WHAT?! Even to this day I know it was a better choice than Canadian, Blue, or Coors Light. Keeping in mind Northern was the only thing anyone could even consider "craft" or truly local in Newfoundland at the time.

I was thinking to myself: "Well, here we go. My first beer, I should pour it into a glass the way I was told to respect a beer. I bet people will think I'm lame for that, oh well, I'm already a skateboarder and play drums in a ska-band; it's not like it can get any harder to pick up chicks."

...and as I go to pour it into a glass someone decides to back up from the table, elbows out and knock the glass of beer over on the table. Strike two for the vegetarian.

-"Waitress, let me get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini!"

So, there it first drink. It wasn't beer, but it may have sparked my interested for big "piny" double IPAs.

You may be wondering by now: "When did you have your first beer?"

Stay tuned sports fans.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Belgium: Fat Tire

First off, I really have to say how awesome New Belgium is as a brewery in terms of it's energy conservation. It has water recycling, using natural gas, it is greatly wind powered and damn near self-generating power. The brewery really cares about the earth. That alone is worth checking out this brewery.

Secondly, the packaging is great. The Belgian style brown bottle with a ring around the neck, neatly labeled "New Belgium."

What can I say about the Fat Tire Amber Ale? It was named after Jeff Lebesch's (The founder and brew master) mountain bike trip through Europe, traveling from brewery to brewery. This was his original homebrew recipe, and his claim to fame. From basement brewery to a "mass" produced commercial beer, it has kept it's integrity and original recipe. Props!

This pours a crystal clear rusted orange that shimmers in the light, topped with a tight bubbled eggshell head, two fingers deep from the rim of the glass. It has wonderful retention as it dissipates to a fuzzy film over the beer and lacing rings down the glass with every sip. Well, I'm impressed. This isn't the kind of head you expect on an amber ale, Belgian inspired or not.

The nose is soft and very delicate with many subtleties. The spicy yeast sparks the nose and opens up for the rest of aromas to waft in. When I say "spicy", think of the essence of cloves or pepper wrapped in aromas of freshly baked rye bread and hints of sulfur. This is followed by lovely caramel notes, and almost buttery (not diacetyl). There are low levels of apple and an earthy pear skimming across the beer that finishes on the nose as a grassy hop finish for balance. The yeast and the munich malt sweetness are so crucial for this beers bouquet. Toasty, caramel, apple, and just the right amount of earthiness from the hops. It almost has a bit of shiitake mushroom note hidden in there. I will note the beginnings of oxidation present in the aroma, though it's not offensive, simply present.

As soon as this hits the tongue all of those very interesting characteristics in the nose are amplified. Not to 11, but they become fuller and round on the palate. There is a nutty flavour that dominates the back of the tongue and the upper part of my mouth and the tip of my tongue. The middle is holding that nice toasty sweetness of caramel, the pear and apple are not present, though that earthy, grassy hop simply tickles the tongue cutting the sweetness. The munich malt is giving this a lovely biscuit flavour. This is a semi-dry finish, a sweet balanced beer that cuts and leaves very little residual sugars on the tongue. The sweetness is there just long enough before you crave another sip.

The carbonation is moderate, a nice round body, slick and slightly filmy. Just balanced in the way it dances sweetly over the tongue.

This beer may not be mind blowing, but I think this is the kind of beer that defines "balance" when all the big shot critics talk about beer. I think round. I think of the way that Sibelius uses timpini parts in his Symphonies (particularly Symphony No. 1 in E Minor) so interwoven within the orchestra with an even known presence of moving things forward. A delicate touch of "wow... I'm impressed."

This is a beer I could party with...respectfully.

This is a beer I would love to pair with portobello mushrooms sauteed lightly in olive oil and rosemary on a bed of aromatic rice. I love the texture of mushrooms when they just get a little soft, the earthiness of the fungi, and the oil and rosemary would just blend beautifully with the sweet and toast of this beer.

Also, think Thai eggplant. The kind of sloppy, soft, buttery eggplant with spices to defy the sweetness. The beer then becomes a little over powered, but the beer will instantly seem a little sharper in the finish. This isn't a very acidic or bitter beer, so it will not cleans the palate, simply add some sugar in the mouth.

Also think lamb,a bit of black pepper and rosemary would do just fine to garnish the flavours within.

I picked up some semi-soft surfaced ripened Oka cheese with mushrooms and it's got a buttery, yet slightly soft chew that is very nice compliment. Not too sharp... balanced.

I'd ride this bike again.

Thanks to Lackey for the brew!