Tag Archives: Craft Beer

Wrapped up in Mumme bier

This past weekend, my son and I had the good sense to work our way through the Beau’s 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack. Although the Vienna Lager was my favourite (such a nice one), I was most intrigued by Return of the Mumme.

vienna-lager
Beau’s Vienna-style Lager, from the 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack

A few years ago, when I started developing an interest in historical brewing, I came across Mom (or Mum, or Mumme) as a style once popular in The Netherlands and England.

Originally from Brunswick (Braunschweig), in the German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), it’s a style of ale that most likely dates back to the 14th century. The earliest known record, from 1390, refers to Mumm being provided for a local feast.

Predictably, the style not only varied from one brewer to the next, but also evolved over time. The traits that seemed to be consistent however, were its dark brown appearance, the addition of hops, and a sugary, malt-forward character, sometimes to the point of being syrupy sweet. Old German records speak of a lovely and pure beer, suggesting no additives. English records, as well as later German ones, list off different ingredients being added, from spices like cloves, cardamon or cinnamon, to more surprising additions like birch, pine, beans or even eggs.

Mumme beer became the city’s most lucrative export, which was a pretty big deal considering Brunswick was part of the Hanseatic League, a network of European cities that largely controlled trade across the continent. To be the chief export of such a major trading centre is testimony to mumme’s massive popularity in other regions. Making that even more interesting, Brunswick isn’t a port city. The beer would have to very durable to survive being carted in barrels over some 200 kilometres of rough road before being loaded onto ships. Eventually it would travel as far as the Caribbean and India.

1893-double-strength-ship-mumme
An 1893 ad for Ship Mumme, brewed stronger for long voyages to distant ports. The Nettelbeck brewery (1492) is the oldest surviving producer of the style. 

In England, which had its own robust brewing community, Mom imports from Brunswick were banned for a few years to give locals a chance to sell their own interpretations of the style without the inconvenience of the genuine product competing in the same market. In the 17th century there were even dedicated Mom Houses in London. There’s speculation that what was produced in Brunswick was the more pure style, whereas the English brewers were sold false recipes with plenty of additives.

Brunswick beer would have taken on some of its barrel’s characteristics on the journey to England as well, which would explain why the English palate would have expected more ingredients than simply malt, water and hops.

mum-making-of-mum-1811b
An 1811 English recipe for Mum, from witteklaviervier.nl

Here’s where we jump ahead to Beau’s Return of the Mumme. The Vankleek Hill crew are a rather clever bunch and seem to put a good amount of thought into pretty much everything. Mumme translates to “disguise” or “wrap up” in German. The mummy on the label is more than simply a play on the word mumme.

mixpack
Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack, 2016

True to what I’ve been able to learn out about the style, Beau’s version is quite a dark pour, rich and malty, and does contain hops (which is not a given with Beau’s). They’ve chosen to go with a more playful interpretation of the style, adding “organic black tea from India, Sri Lankan cloves and a blend of Egyptian spices including caraway seed, marjoram and thyme.” Thankfully, no eggs.

Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time trying to figure out all the aromas and flavours. This was more about sharing beer with my son than dissecting a style that isn’t clearly defined in the first place. What I did notice was a metallic bite to its malty, burnt caramel body, a sweet molasses-like aftertaste, and a soy sauce quality that lingered. After reading Return of the Mumme shares characteristics of a modern Altbier, that makes sense. I often find myself describing Alts in a similar manner.

This weekend I’ll be in Düsseldorf, specifically because I’m curious to try Altbier in its native environment. I won’t make it to Brunswick, as I’m cycling and my schedule doesn’t allow for it, but I’ve already started looking for craft beer shops where I hope to find a vessel or two of Braunschweiger Mumme.

Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack is in stores now. Beau’s Oktoberfest (the epic party) runs this weekend in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.

Vermicelli Salad & Nickel Brook Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse

Adapted from The Toronto Star

When I completed Level II of my Prud’homme Beer training a few years ago I was certified a Beer Specialist, which is a pretty useful designation if you know what to do with it.

My investment in beer education paid me back many times over with writing jobs and opportunities to educate clients about beer. It gave me a measure of credibility when I started RunTOBeer. Most importantly it taught me a whole lot about what’s happening in Ontario’s industry and connected me in a way online training could never do.

But Level III (certified Beer Sommelier) always sat just out of reach, somewhat teasingly. I didn’t register for Prud’homme planning NOT to finish all three levels, but the final course (at the time – a fourth level has since been added) placed plenty of weight on food and beer pairings, with a particular focus on cheese.

As a vegan, that complicated things for me. The beer world still generally dismisses plant-based diets, even though vegan cuisine is evolving quickly with plenty of experimentation producing outstanding results. Much like beer itself, increasingly focused on flavour and innovation, vegan cuisine is now far more appealing to a broader audience.

Vegan cheese is not only much more widely available, but flavours and textures have improved dramatically. If cheese is going to be my biggest obstacle to completing Prud’homme, it’s no longer insurmountable.

So I’ve registered to start Level III in October.

Now, with that on the horizon, it’s time to re-commit to blogging with a greater focus on beer and food pairings.

I’m starting with vermicelli salad because it’s been my favourite recipe lately. It’s so simple to make, uses easy-to-obtain ingredients and requires almost no clean-up. It’s brilliant as a meal for one or as a starter before the main course.

I paired it with Nickel Brook‘s outstanding Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse, the fruity tartness of which sits nicely with salad’s sweet chili sauce. The beer’s light, effervescent body is a very nice companion to the freshness of the vegetables.

2016-11-15-14-21-48Vermicelli Salad

TIME NEEDED

About 15 minutes.

20160909_172150Stage 1 – Dry vermicelli noodles.  Just cover with hot water and wait for them to get soft.

INGREDIENTS

Stage 1

1 handful dry, thin rice noodles (vermicelli)

Stage 2

1 tsp olive oil

1 cup smoked tofu

1 handful chopped green beans

Stage 3

1/4 cup grated carrot

Sweet chili sauce, to taste

Stage 4

8 – 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 avocado, sliced

Fresh mint leaves

Smoked tofu, tomoatoes, fresh mint, green beans, grated carrots and avocado.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place uncooked vermicelli noodles into a large, heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir occasionally, until soft.
  2. In a non-stick pan (I use a wok), heat Stage 2 ingredients (oil, green beans and smoked tofu) until the beans begin to brown.
  3. Strain vermicelli noodles and add to a large salad bowl. Add green beans and smoked tofu.
  4. Stir in Stage 3‘s grated carrot and enough sweet chili sauce to achieve your desired flavour.
  5. Top with Stage 4 ingredients (halved tomatoes, avocado, fresh mint leaves
  6. Serve with Nickel Brook Brewery’s Raspberry Über Berliner style Weisse.

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BloomsdayTO is tomorrow!

When I started planning this run I figured I would probably have about half of the 21 venues I was visiting taking part. That all but two offered to help me collect funds for Northern Alberta is pretty damn special.

This is absolutely one of my favourite things about Toronto’s craft beer community. I can send an email to just about any brewer and know that I’ll reach someone who doesn’t have to consult half a dozen others on something as simple as setting out a jar for one day. The overwhelming support from so many individuals is what makes it feel like community, more than industry.

Kudos, by the way, to Folly Brewpub and Steam Whistle, both of which already raised money for Fort McMurray through their own initiatives and still enthusiastically jumped on board with mine.

(the icon on the top left pops out the directory)

This is obviously my last update before I start bouncing between breweries tomorrow, with my RunTOBeer co-captain Rich Kuchinsky (the man loves beer as much as I do, and running even more!).

The RunTOBeer community has been incredibly supportive of this, already donating nearly $400.00 and sending lots of online love. Several members will be joining me at various stages of the journey.

Last night a few Tribe Fitness members joined me for a run and pitched in another $80.00. Big thanks to Heather Gardner for helping organize that.

Even if you can’t make a donation you can still help by sharing the message. Thursday, please use your social media accounts to let people know they can support a local brewery and help other Canadians get back on their feet, all while doing themselves a favour by picking up great beer. Use the Hashtag #BloomsdayTO when you do. I’ll be watching for it.

Finally, you can track my journey on Instagram & Twitter by following me at @BrewScout. I’ll be updating at every stop along the way.

This is the final list of breweries accepting donations on June 16th, in the order I’ll reach them. Please give them your support.

  1. Muddy York
  2. Left Field
  3. Louis Cifer
  4. House Ales (BarVolo)
  5. Steam Whistle
  6. Bellwoods
  7. Folly Brewpub
  8. Blood Brothers
  9. Burdock
  10. Halo
  11. Henderson
  12. Lansdowne
  13. Bandit
  14. Indie Ale House
  15. Junction Craft
  16. Rainhard
  17. Great Lakes
  18. Cool Brewery
  19. Black Oak

BloomsdayTO – Six days to go!

With BloomsdayTO now less than a week away, a few quick updates:

  1. 19 of 21 independent Toronto breweries have now offered to accept donations on Thursday, meaning if you want to support this cause it’s going to be very easy to do so. Even if you just have pocket change after picking up some bottles or tipping your server, drop it in the jar and I’ll happily collect it. Everything adds up.
  2. I mentioned in my last update that I was looking for a venue to celebrate following the run. Turns out I’ll be heading to Tequila Bookworm – where RunTOBeer’s 2015 Golden Tap Award is lovingly on display. If you’re interested in joining, a room is reserved upstairs.
  3. Finally, even though the run is Thursday, realistically it’s going to be early the following week before I can make it make back to all the breweries to collect. With that in mind, I’ll accept one last round of donations at The Loose Moose on Sunday, June 19th, when RunTOBeer celebrates Father’s Day and closes out Ontario Craft Beer Week with Side Launch Sunday. There’s no cost to run, Side Launch Wheat and Mountain Lager will be available to all runners and my good friends Jordan St. John & Robin Leblanc will be present to sign copies of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. There will also be prizes, including round trip transportation and free entry to the Collingwood Beer Run, four tickets to September’s Craft Brew Cruise and a sweet bundle of Side Launch Brewery swag.

(the icon on the top left pops out the directory)

These are the breweries in the order I plan to see them (subject to change). CONFIRMED denotes breweries that have acknowledged their willingness to accept donations:

  1. Muddy York – CONFIRMED
  2. Left Field – CONFIRMED
  3. Louis Cifer – CONFIRMED
  4. House Ales (BarVolo) – CONFIRMED
  5. Steam Whistle – CONFIRMED
  6. Amsterdam BrewHouse
  7. Duggan’s
  8. Bellwoods – CONFIRMED
  9. Folly Brewpub – CONFIRMED
  10. Blood Brothers – CONFIRMED
  11. Burdock – CONFIRMED
  12. Halo – CONFIRMED
  13. Henderson – CONFIRMED
  14. Lansdowne – CONFIRMED
  15. Bandit – CONFIRMED
  16. Indie Ale House – CONFIRMED
  17. Junction Craft – CONFIRMED
  18. Rainhard – CONFIRMED
  19. Great Lakes – CONFIRMED
  20. Cool Brewery – CONFIRMED
  21. Black Oak – CONFIRMED

The Recovery Drink

When I used to blog about beer more frequently I often mentioned my prairie roots. Having lived in Alberta before and after privatization, it was easy for me to call out the Beer Store on the steaming piles of bullshit it used to dump on Ontario.

I probably wouldn’t have ended up in the beer industry if not for coming of age in a province that was so much more forward-thinking in terms of alcohol retailing. The love of craft beer I developed in Alberta compelled me to contribute to Ontario’s scene, both through my writing and RunTOBeer.

You don’t need me to tell you about the unprecedented devastation happening right now in Northern Alberta. You don’t need me to explain the recovery is going to be costly. It’s a terrible situation and you’re probably going to get sick of hearing about it before the clean up even starts.

So even though what I’m planning is still more than a month off, I want to start talking about it now, while Fort McMurray is still something that holds your attention.

On Thursday, June 16th, I plan to run close to 50km, stopping by nearly every locally owned Toronto brewery, from Muddy York in the northeast, to Black Oak in the southwest.

Why June 16th?

That’s Bloomsday, the day the world celebrates James Joyce’s Ulysses. Inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, this highly acclaimed monster of fiction chronicles one day in the life of two men – Stephen Dedalus and (more notably) Leopold Bloom – as they separately wander the streets of Dublin, stopping for a drink here and there.

I’ve paused at many of the spots visited on June 16th, 1904, including Davy Byrnes Pub (part of the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl) and the Bleeding Horse Pub. I’ve passed an afternoon inside the James Joyce Centre, which coordinates the official Bloomsday events in the Irish capital.

Around the world others will mark the occasion with walking tours, pub crawls, literary readings, academic workshops or film screenings. There are so many ways, some more intoxicating than others, one could spend the day.

True to my RunTOBeer roots, this Bloomsday I’m going for an epic beer run.

Why Craft Breweries?

Recently, while running around Toronto’s west side, I passed Folly Brewpub on my way to the new Halo Brewery. Then I passed Junction Craft Brewery, Indie Ale House, Bandit Brewing and Lansdowne Brewery before arriving at Bellwoods Brewery. I could have easily changed up my route to see Henderson Brewery and Burdock Brewpub without adding any significant distance. That got me wondering how many more breweries I could hit up in a single trip.

My personal Odyssey begins at the Muddy York Brewery in the city’s northeast and winds its way through nearly 50km of sidewalks and trails. By the time I reach Black Oak Brewery in the southwest I expect to check in at 21 locally owned breweries, pausing long enough to try something refreshing at all that are open.

June 16th is only two and a half weeks after the Ottawa Marathon, but my own Bloomsday is not a race so I’m not worried about pushing myself too hard. Instead, I’ll be taking this one slowly and enjoying the broad range of styles produced by Toronto’s craft brewers. An oatmeal brown ale at Left Field, an IPA at Great Lakes, something sour at Blood Brothers… it’s going to be a flavour-filled day.

Although I’ll likely tweak it between now and the middle of June, this is the approximate route:

Bloomsday_Instagram

Some places won’t be open when I arrive, which means I’ll have nothing more than a social media check-in to show for my efforts. By the time I get to Black Oak, at the end of the journey, it will be closed. Where I’ll go for my recovery beer is just one of several minor details I still need to figure out.

What I’m most interested in right now is enlisting the venues I’ll be visiting to accept donations on that day. I’ll do my best to encourage the public to visit a local brewer on June 16th, but I can’t run with wads of cash, much less buckets of change. If breweries can collect for me on that day, I’ll transfer 100% of the proceeds to the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts for Fort McMurray and share the total with whatever media are interested in a good news story from Toronto’s independent brewers.

If you can’t contribute that day, you can still help.

Among the things I could use:

  • a clever name and possibly a slogan. The Bloomsday Recovery Drink is the first thing that comes to my mind but if you’ve got something better I’d love to hear it
  • a custom branded technical t-shirt
  • P.R. services
  • printing services for posters
  • pails for venues collecting cash & coins on the day of the run
  • tweets or Facebook posts to share the message

Anything you can do to help share the message would be greatly appreciated.

If your brewery is on this list and you’re willing to help, please let me know.

These are the breweries in the order I plan to see them (subject to change):

  1. Muddy York – CONFIRMED!
  2. Left Field – CONFIRMED!
  3. Louis Cifer – CONFIRMED!
  4. House Ales (BarVolo) – CONFIRMED!
  5. Steam Whistle – CONFIRMED!
  6. Amsterdam BrewHouse
  7. Duggan’s
  8. Bellwoods – CONFIRMED!
  9. Folly Brewpub – CONFIRMED!
  10. Blood Brothers – CONFIRMED!
  11. Burdock – CONFIRMED!
  12. Halo – CONFIRMED!
  13. Henderson – CONFIRMED!
  14. Lansdowne – CONFIRMED!
  15. Bandit – CONFIRMED!
  16. Indie Ale House – CONFIRMED!
  17. Junction Craft – CONFIRMED!
  18. Rainhard – CONFIRMED!
  19. Great Lakes – CONFIRMED!
  20. Cool Brewery – CONFIRMED!
  21. Black Oak – CONFIRMED!

I’ll do my best to provide several updates between now and Bloomsday. Please check back.

The Importance of Explaining Beer

Junction Craft Brewery Engineer's IPA, from June's BrewBox
This Engineer’s IPA from Junction Craft Brewery is a damn fine beer, however…

Last month I got the May care package from The BrewBox Co. and was forewarned that one bottle from Junction was off. The brewery knew that when it shipped and promised a make-good in this month’s box (ie. the damn fine beer pictured above). But I don’t understand why Junction would have released the other beer in the first place.

Beer drinkers discussed the faulty beverage. They rated it on Untappd. They brought down the brewery’s generally positive reputation.

I remember interviewing a brewery rep (from a different company) a few years ago and being told if something experimental doesn’t work they just give it a ridiculous name, keg it, ship it to pubs as a one-off, then move on to the next. How long can you get away with that before beer drinkers stop trusting you?

Junction Brewing Lambton Yard, with as much head as I could coax.
Junction Brewing Lambton Yard, with as much head as I could coax out of it.

When I mentioned this on Instagram, I got the following comment from the owner of Junction Brewery:

The beer in question was not bad. It was a low carbonated cream ale. Instead of going to the trouble of trying to explain why this beer was low in carbonation by style, we opted to just replace it with something less complicated like our new release Engineers IPA. We recently dumped a whole batch of another beer that made it into cans and did a full recall.

To be clear, I never said it was bad. I said it was off. Cream ales should have medium to high carbonation.

But let’s give Junction the benefit of the doubt. If, in fact, that was the way it was intended, why wouldn’t you explain it? Every BrewBox goes out with an envelope stuffed with opportunities to talk about your beer. As you can see, Junction has taken advantage of the opportunity before.

Found inside past BrewBoxes
Found inside past BrewBoxes

To release a beer you know isn’t normal, then not explain it… that’s still not doing your brewery’s reputation any favours. Scrolling back through the Untappd reviews, it’s clear I wasn’t the only one forewarned about the beer. Even the co-founder of The BrewBox Co. called it out.

Some were merciful enough not to score it, but still left some unflattering comments
Some were merciful enough not to score it, but still left some unflattering comments

Interestingly, when Tallboys poured the same beer on tap, it had a “lovely creamy head that lasts.” I guess Junction also neglected to tell them it wasn’t supposed to be served that way.

Untappd reviews for Lambton Yard on tap
Untappd reviews for Lambton Yard on tap

I like Junction. I’ve visited often and consumed plenty of its styles. My Untappd profile shows 17 different ones.

But whether this beer or the lack of a decent explanation was the mistake, there’s a important lesson here for any brewer releasing a beer that doesn’t live up to its style.