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Craft Beer

Holiday Cheer

Last Minute Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers

December 18, 2017
Beau's New Lang Syne

It’s just a week or so until the big day and you still haven’t found the right gift for the wine, spirits or beer lover on your list? Need to pick up something for that holiday party? No problem, we’ve got you covered!

Pommie's Cranberry CiderPommies Cranberry Cider – Whether you’re picking out a holiday drink for get-togethers or picking a gift for the cider lover on your list, Pommies has you covered. This Ontario cider company has a holiday-themed cranberry cider this year and it’s actually pretty great. It’s just the right mix of tart and sweet and I’m definitely going to be enjoying a few cans over the holidays.

Wayne Gretzky Cocktail KitA Wine Club Membership – A monthly delivery of wine? For a dedicated wine lover a wine club membership can be a fabulous gift. I often suggest the Vineland Estate wine club to those who ask, as it features a host of activities and events alongside the wine deliveries. And if you have a wine or spirits lover who happens to be a hockey fan too? The No. 99 Wine & Cocktail Club offers a pretty sweet deal. Wayne Gretzky’s winery offers both wine and spirits and Shawn and I got to sample one of their fun cocktail packages, hand-picked by their estate mixologist. It featured a custom double-jigger, orange bitters from Dillion’s Distillers and wildflower honey from Rosewood Estates along with Wayne Gretzky’s Artisanal Muscat – a wine-based spirit. It created some very fun cocktail options and would be a pretty fantastic gift to find under the tree.

Beau’s New Lang Syne Belgian Tripel – I enlisted Shawn’s help to review this 750 ml specialty beer from Beau’s. Wine barrel aged (in Pinot Grigio barrels) and bottle conditioned, this would be the perfect gift for a wine aficionado who enjoys a well-made craft beer. Shawn was impressed with the genuine flavours and warm, bitter finish. There was orange on the nose, as well as nuts and clove. It had a thick, creamy texture and sweet, slightly malty palate and stands up well to tripels made in Belgium. A fun gift to ring in the holidays or the New Year.

Anneliese Pinot GrigioA nice bottle of wine – You really can’t go wrong with a good bottle of wine. I’ll be picking up Campo Viejo Reserve for those on my list and a well-priced Cotes du Rhone is always a great option. Looking for something white and easy-drinking? Shawn and I recently sampled the Nugan Estate Anneliese Pinot Grigio, which is a crisp and refreshing Australian option that’s easy to find at the LCBO and has lots of pear and green apple on the nose and a fruit-forward, nicely balanced palate. This is a good option for a holiday party of a hostess gift.

What am I hoping to find under my tree this holiday season? Champagne, of course, and great Tempranillo from Rioja. Good whiskey never goes out of style either.

What about you? What do you grab when you’re down to the wire and you need a great gift option?

*All of the items featured here were provided as samples. Opinions, as always, are my own. Well, Shawn reviewed the beer and he really, really liked it.

Craft Beers and Brews

North American Craft Beer Experience

May 12, 2016
Wellington Brewery Craft Beer

Each year, Shawn and I attend a lot of events in the city and the ones by Drink Inc. Events always impress us—the doors open on time, they’re busy but not so crowded that you spend your whole night in line, samples are reasonable in both size and price, food is plentiful and affordable and the atmosphere is fun and relaxed. Last year, we declared their Toronto Wine and Spirits Show the perfect date night (one we hope to repeat when it returns from June 16 to 18) and I have to say the North American Craft Beer Experience was also a really nice night out.

The North American Craft Beer Experience Event by Drink Inc. EventsWhen it comes to beer, I’m at about the stage where Shawn was with wine five years ago. I’m still the person drinking beers that are sweeter and lighter, while he has moved on to more sophisticated sipping. Still, he was great about finding introductory beers he thought would help improve my beer palate. We even found a fruit-based beer we both enjoyed—Broadhead’s Bodacious Blue Berry, which Shawn thought was quite well done for a fruit beer and I enjoyed because it was light, fruity and very far from an IPA (I still haven’t quite developed a taste for those).

Revenge of the Ginger Craft BeerWhile Shawn found Drink Inc.’s El Lado Oscuro “The Dark Side” Salted Caramel Dark Ale a bit too sweet for his tastes, I enjoyed it and I also liked trying my first beer shandie from Big Rig Brewing out of Ottawa (one of our favourite places to visit in that city) and Just Craft Soda. I don’t usually drink any sugar-sweetened soda, but Just uses natural ingredients and a shandie involves just a little bit of soda, so it was nice to give this a try. I can see enjoying a shandie on a patio in summer as an alternative to sangria.

We both found beers to enjoy from Wellington Brewery out of Guelph (he liked the Terrestrial India Brown Ale and I liked the Kickin’ Back Dry-Hopped Session Ale) and I discovered that a dark beer pairs well with spicy food. A good learning!

Shawn’s pick of the event was Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale from B.C.’s Parallel 49, but he thought the overall selection of craft beers at the event was broad and impressive, while not being overwhelming. It was also fantastic to be able to have conversations with staff from the breweries at pretty much every booth—a great way to learn more about each of the beers.

And now I’ll turn it over to Shawn for some tasting notes about beers he enjoyed checking out!

Gypsy Tears Craft BeerGypsy Tears Ruby Ale by Parallel 49 Brewing Company
ABV 6, IBU 40, dark amber (Ruby!) in colour, lasting off white head, good lacing
Nose: prominently banana, molasses, ginger, slight chocolate, peach
Taste: plum, banana, slight maple, citrus, chocolate, very slight coffee, medium-full bodied, medium-low carbonation
Definitely a favorite of the day! Very well balanced hop and malt flavors, smooth drinking and can be had with a wide variety of foods. 9/10

Terrestrial India Brown Ale by Wellington Brewery
ABV 5.9, Great dark brown colour, off white lasting foam, good lacing
Nose: toffee, caramel, slight coffee, citrus (orange peel), pine
Taste: nutty, caramel, slight cola, coffee, slight chocolate, piney hop flavor
Another one my favorites of the day. The malt and hops balance each other out excellently. Would go great with barbeque or deserts 9/10

Finest Kind IPA by Smuttynose Brewing Company
ABV 6.9, IBU 65, dark amber/golden in colour, white average lasting head, unfiltered
Nose: orange, pine, dates & honey
Taste: citrus (grapefruit), honey, quite hoppy, long pleasantly bitter finish, full bodied, medium carbonation
Overall a very good IPA, when I first tried it I would have guessed the IBU’s to be 40-50, very well balanced for having an actual IBU of 65. I would say this beer is a definite 7.5/10

Bard's Gluten Free BeerOriginal Sorghum Malt Beer by Bard’s Tale Beer Company
ABV 4.7 IBU 15-20 (very low bitterness), golden slightly amber in colour, little to foam
Nose: bubble gum, oatmeal
Taste: iced tea, slightly fruity, almost no hops, light malt, light body, good carbonation
Not a favorite of mine but definitely a good option if you have to avoid gluten. Krista liked it and would give it a better mark than me. Based on flavour alone I’d say 5.5/10. Based on the extra effort involved in making a gluten free beer I’ll say 7/10

*Shawn and I attended this event as media guests. All opinions are our own.

Food & Wine

5 Things to Love at the Restaurants Canada Show

April 26, 2016
Pluck Tea Southbrook Berry Blend

If you work in the restaurant industry in Canada, the Restaurants Canada show is one of the best events of the year. It’s a fun and informative opportunity to learn about new products and services that can improve your business and impress your customers. A trade event, which is only open to those in the restaurant industry, it’s a great way to track emerging trends and find new and delicious things to add to menus. Here are a few things I hope will be appearing at local eateries soon.

Sloane Tea artisanal tea blends1.    Artisanal teas – I’ve long been a fan of Toronto’s Pluck Tea, who were once again showcasing their products here. Sloane Teas also had a booth and I was torn between two of the best cups of tea a girl could ask for – they’re both delicious. I hope more restaurants will start to realize that having quality tea available is just as important as having good bottles of wine on the list.

PEI Mussels on Mondays are a great option2.    PEI Mussels – While I’m all about oysters, I have to admit I don’t eat enough mussels. So I was pleased to see PEI Mussels making a case for restaurants to choose Canadian and offer more options. I’m hoping Canuck mussels in white wine sauce will start appearing on more menus soon.


Pure Leaf iced tea offers unsweetened options3.    Unsweetened iced tea. When I gave up sugar-sweetened drinks in September, I missed having a cold beverage to sip. Enter Pure Leaf. I like the black tea with a little milk as an alternative to soda or juice and I really enjoyed trying the new unsweetened green tea. While I usually like a glass of wine with my restaurant meals, this is a great option when you’re going for a non-alcoholic beverage. What do I need to do to get this offered at the salad place where I gravitate for lunch on days I don’t bring my own?
William Street Beer Company Ontario brewery

4.    Local craft beer. It’s everywhere these days and I love seeing restaurants supporting local breweries. From William Street Beer Co. to Mackinnon Brothers, to High Park Brewing and everything in between, there was lots of local goodness on display. Shawn and I are already planning a few weekend trips to visit some of the Ontario communities that have joined the beer revolution.
Fever Tree Tonic Water and Ginger Ale

5.    Good quality mixers. So Fever Tree is far from new, but ever since I took my recent Spirits course, I’ve been obsessed with cocktails made with high-quality ingredients. While Fever Tree does have sugar, putting it on my very, very occasional treat list, it’s so much better for my body than a cheap tonic. I can understand the ingredients in the bottel and it just creates a much more high-quality (but not inexpensive) cocktail.

What are you hoping to see more of at restaurants in the year to come? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social!

Book Reviews, Craft Beers and Brews

The Best Beer in the World: One Man’s Global Search for the Perfect Pint

March 29, 2016
Mark Dredge's The Best Beer in the World Book showcases the best beer from around the world.

Today, I’m happy to hand the blog over to my husband, Shawn Davidson, who was kind enough to review The Best Beer in the World by Mark Dredge for me. A newly minted beer student, Shawn is the perfect person to tackle this review (and he’ll be handling even more craft brew coverage moving forward).

The Best Beer in the World by Mark Dredge appeared in our mailbox at just the right time for me, as I‘m currently looking into making a career transition into the beer industry. I found this book to be a good way to begin my formal education, as I started reading it just before starting my first beer course at a local college.

The Best Beer in the World is full of educational and historical facts, lots of great tasting notes and descriptions of the adventures (including a couple quite drunken ones) that Dredge has taken around the world while looking to discover his favorite beer. I found the chapter on Belgian brewing particularly interesting and coincidentally read it two days before Belgian brewing history was covered in my class. The chapter helped me gain a small understanding of Belgian brewing and I felt a lot more informed while in class. One fact this book and my class truly drove home is that one chapter in a book or a three hour class will only give you a very small understanding of Belgian brewing history. It’s an extensive topic that I look forward to learning much more about.

This is a book I will keep handy for its insight on many of the world’s great beers and especially as a guide to assist in my travels. Dredge went to several destinations I hope to visit and several that I have visited and will again. For example, I’ll be in Amsterdam for the third time this summer and the book’s “City Guide” will definitely enhance my beer experience and provide some new experiences. I visit Germany every year; but this summer will be my first time driving through southern Germany and visiting Munich. Dredge’s section on Munich made me look even more forward to visiting and the book’s “City Guide” will certainly come in very handy with our planning.

Dredge is very knowledgeable about beer history, brewing and tasting. Several times I was fascinated that his tasting notes could be as in depth on his twelfth or fifteenth beer of the day as with his first or second. I guess, as with wine, it comes with experience but unlike wine there seems to be much less spitting in the world of beer!

As well as being very informative and educational, this book was a lot of fun to read. You get a real sense of the adventure Dredge was on as you read about the places visited and the beers tasted. Of course, with the amount of beer consumed in order to write this book there were some epic hangovers—and  he didn’t shy away from describing a couple. One in particular sounded absolutely horrifying considering the environment he was in and the amount he described consuming the day before. But he had a job to do and got right back to the task at hand.

Does Dredge choose a “best beer in the world” or even a personal favorite? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find that out! He shows passion and respect for all kinds of beer while writing and you definitely get a sense that I.P.A’s and pilsners are right at the top of his list. He gets quite in depth with lagers (quite the write-up on Budweiser!), and many craft beers and definitely shows appreciation for the English ales of his home country.

Dredge really drives home the fact that great beer is not simply what’s in the glass. It’s so much more than that. The people you’re with, the history and being where the beer is made all factor in. Everything from what’s going on in your life at the time to the weather can be huge factors in deciding what a great beer is or if it’s one of your favorites. This was a concept I could relate to and agree with. Dredge goes on to describe a “holiday” beer that is truly one of his favorites, even though most locals think it’s terrible and hate it with a passion!

The biggest and perhaps only change I would make here is adding more Canadian content. He mentioned Montreal, which was great (no mention of Unibroue?), but he spent a lot of time spent on the U.S. West Coast without a visit to Vancouver for its many brewpubs and microbreweries. A very small complaint and I hope he has the chance to visit some of the Canadian craft brewers for a future edition of this book.

Overall a great read that I would recommend to anyone from total beer enthusiasts to those looking for a fun introduction to beer.

What do YOU think is the best beer in the world? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.

*I received a review copy of this book, but all opinions are my own.