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Oakes Weekly - May 15, 2003

Big Beer Weekend part two...
Beer Travels May 15, 2003      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

<P>Part Two...

<P>Saturday continued after a break to find a much-anticipated pickup from Friday's stop at Victory - V12. I didn't get into this one much. It only scored average for me, and I enjoyed it much better a few months ago when the label said Unibroue 11. Quebec micros impressed me - Barberie for their Blonde Biologique and IPA, St. Antoine Abbé for their Blond 5. I finally had Foroya Bjór Portari, though it wasn't all that wonderful. But still, I'm even keener for specialty products of strange places than I am for mainstream ones.

<P>On Sunday it was time to visit Philadelphia. A few went to go see the no-hitter that afternoon, while dabosk preferred to give the old FU to the FU Centre like the bitter Leafs fan he is. I personally enjoyed wandering through the Italian Market, where I picked up some Llangloffan, an absolutely wonderful Welsh farmhouse cheese made from a herd of just 20 organically fed cows. After a quick walk through the historical park area, it was time for a Philly cheesesteak. I'm still feeling the effects of that in my colon.

<P>Finally we made it to Monk's. It's a pretty small place, and I was glad I found the back bar as the front seemed disorganized in terms of layout, with tables jutting out of odd places and the sunlight only getting about three feet in from the window, leaving a dazing effect on the eyes. The back bar is even smaller, which will lead to problems if there are any smokers. We had two beside us and I just about choked to death. How a serious beer bar can allow smoking in cramped spaces is beyond me - the same thing absolutely ruined Zum Uerige for me and if there were any more people in there it would surely have ruined Monk's. The beer list is of course fantastic. The Belgian taps don't impress me as much as most people, at least not for beers that are normally bottle-conditioned. Beer is best served while still alive. The Fantôme Saison was a good example of this - very dry and appetizing, but didn't have the normal Fantôme complexity. I'd never had this beer before so maybe I'm just wrong in my assessment of the situation, but I have to wonder what bottle-conditioning would have done to this beer's development.

<P>From there I finally had the long-hunted Hercule, and it was certainly intense. I'd been previously warned that I probably wouldn't fawn over it like most people do, but I did at least enjoy it. Besides, I usually am tougher on beers than most people. I followed this with Guldenberg, another of De Ranke's beers. I'm not sure what style of abbey ale they were shooting for, but they hit neither. No worries, though, it's still an excellent beer.

<P>Later on, I enjoyed Piste Noire from Brasserie de Cimes in France. This is a shimmering orange (think New Belgium Bière de Mars) of a Belgian session ale (at 5.9%, a good Belgian session abv). Oeral from De Dolle worked some magic with me, though I was a little taken aback by an overt cheesiness (this from a guy who thinks Roquefort is for kids, but hey, I just don't want to drink my cheese, that's all). Still, it finished as one of my favourites of the entire weekend. Firestone Walker's Reserve from California also placed well. This is a simple porter, but it is a very good simple porter. Another winner for me, but one which I think would go down as a real love-it-or-hate-it beer (Jacob Lövenlund notwithstanding) is Hallali, from Faiseurs of Switzerland. Thanks to Bov, I got to enjoy this smoked sour ale - a combination that I think would have a pretty small fan base but I'm definitely in that group (anybody have any Grodzisk in their cellar?)

<P>The new Vertical Epic was a huge disappointment. Nothing special was happening with this beer, and above all I'm not sold on letting this age for ten years. 't Zelfde from Bosteels was a decent beer not normally found on these shores, and the event was capped off with a De Dolle Special Brouwsel. It foamed up like a madman, and I have trouble liking overcarbonated beers. Flavourwise I liked it, and it scores well for that, but I just find it hard to enjoy a mouthful of even the tastiest fizz (see Cisco Moor Porter).

<P>So you can see, a pretty hairy weekend overall. A few too many brews perhaps, but that's life. My top three would be Oeral, Firestone Walker's Reserve and Hallali.



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