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Oakes Weekly - Sept. 18, 2003
La Goût de Québec
September 18, 2003
Written by Oakes
This past Saturday was another opportunity for one of Ratebeer’s strongest communities to get together. In fact, we were joined by JGB...well, who can remember all those numbers but Jeremy came in from Rochester, NY to sit in on our little sampling session. The occasion was joey_capp’s return from Quebec with a stash of significant stature. Not really that much of an occasion, actually, but we like to get together every month or so. Last month was the Toronto Beer Festival, July we had a Radekfest, June was the St. Lawrence Market Beer Festival, next month the C’est What Beer Festival followed in November by the Royal York Festival of Small Brewers and in December we’re having a Christmas party. Like I said, we get together every month or so. I strongly encourage other Ratebeer communities to do the same. Good people with a common interest would have a hard time not having fun.
So of course since we were having a big tasting session I spent the previous night doing a number of re-samples. Köstritzer Schwarzbier comes in cans now. Jackson hails this as the pinnacle of black lagers, but it is far from it. And not just because it comes in cans. It doesn’t even have the sharp, earthy dark malt notes it had when I first tasted it. It seems headed in a sweeter, more caramelly direction. Actually, the much-rumoured (but I’ve yet to specifically confirm) demise of Purkmistr, the increasing scarcity of the last batch of Falcon Gammelbrygd and the decline of Köstritzer has really put the boots to the reputation of schwarzbier in general. There are several excellent examples, but most of those are either very hard to find, or for whatever reason get no respect (Sprecher Black Bavarian, specifically).
The next morning, wandered down to the Mill Street Brewery to see about some six-packs. Sold out. But at least they had their new stout on tap. It was well-made and satisfying, if unspectacular. They still make you drink out of a goddamn plastic cup when you drink outdoors. I’ll state for the record that plastic cups outdoors is not standard procedure in Toronto. Further, it is wasteful. Further, it is insulting to serve civilized adults their beverages in containers designed for frat boys and other assorted hooligans. Do they really think I’m going to smash my glass on the ground in a fit of drunken buffoonery at 11:30 in the morning? Anyway, that’s not the brewery but the bars in the Distillery District, and at least those bars still have the good sense to only serve that which emanates from the Mill Street Brewery.
Not satisfied that I’d been warmed up enough for the tasting, I stopped in at the Winking Judge in Hamilton on the way to Joey’s house. I was disappointed to see they’d dropped Denison’s Weissbier - Magnotta’s Wunder Weisse just doesn’t cut muster. So I opted for a pint of a beer I hadn’t had in a while - Stonehammer Pilsner from F & M. Wow, has this beer gone downhill. They’ve hacked out most of the hops and a good portion of the malt, too. What used to be a very solid pilsner is now bland gibberish. I quickly switched to Scotch Irish.
Jeremy arrived from Rochester in time to have a couple pints of Canada’s better beers and then it was on to Joey’s. We paraded quickly through such wonderful fare as Mona Lisa and Muchacha (the latter lager cut from the same illustrious cloth as Stepan Razin Studencheskoye - bafflingly awful insomuch as even the most well-trained of beer tasters will have trouble sorting out the multiple and compound flaws that led to such creative off-flavours). We also got caught up in some label-beer games. Sorting out label beers really does require the help of Ratebeer, so it was a little unfortunate that the site was down at the time.
We progressed into some stronger and more inventive fare (Southampton Publick House, Unibroue) before settling in for a side-by-side tasting of McAuslan Vintage Ale from 1999 & 2000. The old notebook was basically put away at this point (as was I), and really I enjoyed a lot of beers from this tasting that I’d had before. I think there comes a time at every tasting when it’s best to put the pen down and just savour what’s in the glass. The growler of Sydney Street Stout from PEI was especially good for that very reason. Rating beer is fun, but you know what? So is drinking beer.
The last beer was a gluten-free beer, La Messangère. This was made with rice and buckwheat, of all things. I don’t know much about gluten, but this beer was very light, and very weak. It strikes me that hops probably don’t have a lot of glutens (ok, I didn’t look it up so I could be wrong) but they avoided using those just as surely as they avoided using barley. Personally, if I required a gluten-free diet, I’d drink gin long before I drank something like this.
We also were treated to Quebecois food over the course of the evening, and for me this was probably better than tasting all those mediocre Quebec beers. First off, Habitant pea soup is actually quite good. I was surprised, since I’d always recoiled in disgust at the mere thought of eating pea soup. This stuff is ubiquitous at Canadian grocery stores so check it out next time you’re in the neighbourhood and want a native experience. We also had tourtière (which is actually Acadian, but who’s splitting hairs) - a traditional pork pie. The recipe apparently comes from the family of soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and truth be told wasn’t as good as the one my mother makes. It stands to reason this kind of superiority over the leader of the nation would put me in higher standing. I’ve always maintained that I would make a fine Supreme Dictator of the Universe. Dessert came a little later - sugar pie. It is sweeter than sweet, but still has an addictive quality that cannot be denied. I had too much, and had to come down from both alcohol and a sugar high at the same time. It could have been worse, actually. I remember those cheap wine nights back in university as notable examples of too much sugar & alcohol at the same time.
All fuzziness aside, it was a good time had by all, as per standard operating procedure, and I look forward to the next local gathering. Anyone who has not yet attended a Ratebeer gathering should probably look into it. We have three different Christmas parties going the first weekend of December, and if those are out of reach you could always start your own. We wouldn’t all spend nearly as much time on the site as we do if it weren’t for the people, so it only seems right that we meet one another every so often.
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