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Oakes Weekly - May 20, 2004

Time for Another Rant Week
Oakes Weekly May 20, 2004      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

So what’s new this week? Well, let me tell you. It’s one thing to have to suffer the indignity of shopping at the Beer Store. This retail outlet is one of two in Ontario. It is owned by the Big Three macrobrewers and many of these stores force you to point at the bottle of beer on the wall, while the staff have to actually fetch it for you. It’s quite degrading to not even be allowed to grab your own six-pack. They sell all the microbrewers’ beers, but take some profit for themselves so that the macros make money even when you buy a microbrewed beer. Not a bad racket at all.

The only alternative is the government-owned LCBO. Better? Well, try this on for size. About six months ago an importer announced that they were going to bring in Cantillon. The prices were quite good value, and we never see anything close to proper lambic here so there was a lot of demand. A second shipment, with new beers including the famed St. Lamvinus, was added.

Delays happen – no worries. It’s the nature of importing alcoholic beverages that snags occur. The beer finally arrives in Ontario and that’s when the real fun begins. The LCBO, like any good government agency, trusts no one and must do all their own testing. So the product goes to “lab”.

The Cantillon beers failed “lab”. In other words, according to the standards written out in the LCBO beer handbook, Cantillon beers are too acidic to be beer fit for consumption. This being the same agency that a couple of years ago stocked eons-old mouth-puckering Falkensteiner Ur-Schwarze. Now the latter beer had gone bad, but evidently was still okay for sale (for months) while Cantillon is deemed unfit for sale. Never mind that they brew the way the style is supposed to be made. Never mind the long lineup of beer aficionados waiting to drink it. Never mind the opinions of knowledgeable writers who have far more extensive experience in lambic than anyone on the LCBO staff. What do any of us know about beer anyway?

Finally, the Gueuze gets released. It goes on sale at a couple of bars and flies out of there. Bear in mind that by this point, Cantillon has cancelled the second order and decided they don’t want to do business in Ontario any more. The Rosé de Gambrinus is released on a “lab exemption”. The Kriek, however, is still stuck.

You see, cherry pits contain trace levels of cyanide. We all know cyanide is bad stuff, but the government has no problems with it being in cigarettes. However, in beer this is a big issue? Never mind that the Belgians have been drinking kriek for centuries without problems. Maybe the LCBO reckons they’ve built up an immunity to cyanide.

Look, I’m not a scientist of any type. I’m not a chemist, biologist, biochemist or even a dub legend. I’m just a guy who figures that if the rest of the world can drink something for five hundred years problem free then people in Ontario today will probably come out okay. Given that the LCBO has previously released such krieks as Liefmans, Boon and Quelque Chose – all made with the same cherries as Cantillon – I’m having trouble figuring out why they’ve got their knickers in a knot now. Maybe they’re scared of something they don’t understand. Maybe they are scared that people will want more quality beer in their lives.

Either way, it makes no sense to screw over the importer, licensees and beer lovers for no reason. Just one more reason why we need to blow the whole thing up.

I can almost smell summer, and I can almost smell the summer beers, too. The Danish Beer Festival looks like the official kick-off of the summer festival season, and with June featuring the Great Japan Beer Festival, the Mondiale and Brewtopia, things are about to get rolling in a serious way.

Let’s talk lemons. I understand the whole lemon-in-the-weizen bit. Truthfully, I don’t really find it all that offensive unless I’m trying to rate the beer. But here’s a couple of pointers for you bartenders out there from us beer lovers.

First, ask the customer if he/she wants a lemon. Not everyone does. Second, it goes on the rim, not in the glass. Third, it must be a lemon. If all you’ve got is a lime, don’t use anything. Fourth, for the love of God no lemons in my witbier or dunkelweizen. You can put it in my hefeweizen if I agree to it, and I couldn’t care less about kristalweizen because I don’t drink it. It just looks wrong. American wheat – ok, maybe, but I order this rather infrequently since 90% of examples of this style suck. Rye beer – don’t bring that lemon anywhere near it, even if it was fermented with a weizen yeast.

Thanks for listening.


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start quote They sell all the microbrewers’ beers, but take some profit for themselves so that the macros make money even when you buy a microbrewed beer. end quote