Tag Archives: Lifestyle

How to taste beer, sort of

How to taste beer, sort of

I’ve previously mentioned that I am no connoisseur of beer and that I do not wish to be. 

But…

I watched a video on beer tasting and now I’m an expert.

I’m joking of course.  But I have become a little bit more interested in the tasting process and started to educate myself as a way to spot more differences in beers and to help me write about them and express myself better.  I’ve also learned some new words recently and found out how to play with colours in black and white pictures.  This all means that the posts from now on may be read a little better and also appear a little more varied.  Or not…

2017-08-20 - 292 - Dieu du Ciel Brise-Vent arty _500beers

No. 292 – Dieu du Ciel Brise-vent!

I didn’t know what to expect from this beer as I have no idea what sea buckthorn is.  So I continued in ignorance (that’s how I generally do things), and applied my new tasting methods.  This involves rather simply only pouring a couple of ounces into the glass, swirling it a lot to allow it to breathe and release the flavours, sniffing it a lot then drinking it slowly.  It’s not much but it seems to have made a difference as I found a lot more in this beer than I have with many others.  That could just of course be the magic of sea buckthorn.

2017-08-20 - 292 - Dieu du Ciel Brise-Vent poured _500beers

It’s a cloudy yellow colour with a bubbly fizzy head, as you can see, and on the nose, after extensive sniffing I got that it was sour.  Seriously, after all the build up, after watching serious people tasting beers and getting so much from the aroma alone, I got one word.  Though, I have had the cold, so that’s maybe somewhat forgivable.

Fortunately, on tasting I was able to glean a lot more from this beer.  It had a little sourness in it and was quite refreshing on first taste.  It felt more like a wine however.  The first thing I noticed was tannins hitting the back of my mouth like a red wine.  I haven’t noticed this in a beer before.  I then began to notice that the initial hit felt very much like a white wine.  I could feel the grapey-ness of a sauvignon blanc (something I am familiar with).  There was an acidity in this beer that also distinctly felt like a wine.  From the aroma, I had been expecting a berliner weisse style beer – a sort that I don’t really like, but from the taste I got a wine hybrid.

2017-08-20 - 292 - Dieu du Ciel Brise-Vent desc. _500beers

On googling sea buckthorn I saw that tannins are indeed present in sea buckthorn oil which possibly explains where I got that from, but the sense of drinking a white wine still bemuses me.  I’ll have to track down another beer made with sea buckthorn to compare.

This gets 7/11 for being good, for the price, for accuracy (the French description above does mention tannins and dryness), for having something different, for drink-again-ability, for recommend-ability and for the fact that I would go out of my way to try this again.

Something tells me this would go well with something spicy, Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese perhaps.

This beer was an experience, which was exactly the point of trying 500 different beers in a year.

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One-upmanship, lists, photography and education…

One-upmanship, photography and education,
or how I learned to stop worrying and love beer…

One-upmanship

With blurry memories of a pub crawl that may have gotten out of hand in December 2016 and suggestions of alcoholism in mind, I was looking for something to do for the new year.  In truth, I had cut down a lot on beer in 2016, but was still prone to the odd ill-advised heavy drinking session once every couple of months.  I had also cut down on going out as often – I used to love a good brunch, a couple of beers and a football* match at the weekend to relieve stress from work.  I decided to address these two issues by coming up with a resolution that would help me rebuild my tolerance to beer and that would also allow me to get out more and rebuild a social life that I had left behind for various reasons.

On a less psychological level, I was also starting to get tired of drinking Harp, Guinness and the occasional red ale and so decided to search for a new favourite beer.

And so, 365 beers in a year began!

Upon researching this challenge, I found that quite a lot of people seem to do it each year.  This was a little annoying so I started considering ways to make it more challenging.  What about a leap year of beer?  Drinking one beer more would be the very definition of one-upmanship, but the next leap year isn’t until 2020.  So I thought screw it, I’ll do 500 different beers in a year.

Lists and photography

 It began quite simply by trying a beer, making a note of it in my phone and giving it a mark out of ten.  Then I ended up buying a little note book to keep a list of the beers – on the insistence of a friend, who seemed genuinely concerned that I may mistakenly try the same beer twice.

From then it developed into taking a picture of each beer as proof – thought a picture can only prove that I have been in the presence of the beer, not that I drank it.  You will just have to take my word for it that I’ve tasted all these beers.  Having said that, it has been difficult, but also fun trying to find different ways to take pictures of beer and make them look a little different.  The early pictures, most of which will be put online before the end of the year, are all similar – grainy and badly lit.  I got a new phone in February and since then the pictures have been of a better quality.  The featured image above, is from a small reflection that I found in a picture of beer number 250 – La Corriveau.

The logical next step was to start this blog to keep a record of the year.  Now I have a spreadsheet with information on all the beers I’ve tasted so far and several folders of pictures of beer and beer memorabilia to write about and post.

Capture

Education

All this may seem a little odd, however, I have learned quite a lot from this experience.  Here are a few thoughts…

I’ve a better knowledge and appreciation of the different types of beers.

I’ve a better knowledge of my own preferences and why I prefer them.

I’ve discovered many different bars that I would never have gone to before.

In researching the beers, I’ve learned a lot about the local craft beer culture and also how beer is made.

I’ve learned quite a bit of technical French vocabulary.

I’ve also learned a bit about Québécois and Canadian culture and folklore.

And most importantly I’ve found out how to say no after one beer (it’s rare but it happens now).

Hopefully, this has provided a little insight into the reasoning behind trying to drink 500 different types of beer in a single year.  If not, feel free to leave a comment.

*proper football, the sort that involves kicking a ball with your foot unless you’re the goalkeeper

Half way there! No. 250 – Le Bilboquet’s La Corriveau

Half way there!

Yesterday I hit the half way mark in my attempt to drink 500 different beers in a single year.  That’s 250 different beers down in 203 days, which leaves 250 to go in 162 days – difficult but not impossible.  I just happened to be in Sherbrooke for this momentous day and they put on a firework display, just for me!

No. 250 – Le Bilboquet’s La Corriveau

I had found several beers online that I would have liked to buy from Au Vent du Nord in Sherbrooke (the magical place I was introduced to on my previous Sherbrooke outing), but unfortunately, I left my notes in Montreal and my memory failed me.  I was however drawn to La Corriveau from Le Bilboquet, as I have tasted a few beers from them already and they were all good…  

2017-07-22 - 250 - Le Bilboquet La Corriveau image _500beers
I like beers with nice pictures, and I like beers with nice pictures and a story even more.  I asked my friend what La Corriveau means in English and was told of a legendary witch-like murderer.  Apparently, in the eighteenth century a woman killed her husband and was hanged for her efforts.  The legend developed from there…she may have killed her first husband too and rumours of other murders grew with time.  That was Marie-Josephte* Corriveau.  Curiously, according to my brief research, her husband was found dead on 27th January, my birthday and she was hanged on 18th Aprilmy friend’s birthday.  Perhaps something spooky brought us to this beer…or perhaps it’s all just coincidence.

2017-07-22 - 250 - Le Bilboquet La Corriveau poured _500beers

My friend in Sherbrooke would have a beer once in a while but would not have tasted a beer like this before so I thought of getting her thoughts as well as it was a special occasion.  She seemed to like and be surprised by the strong coffee aroma.  This is something I’ve gotten used to over the year – feel free to read all my posts and take a drink each time you see the word coffee.  I claim no responsibility for the results.  The taste and texture of the drink was also unexpected – she found a sweetness in it and seemed to enjoy the thicker, richer texture of a stout.  She gave it an 8/11 and I may have encouraged someone to try my favourite style of beer in the future.

As for my own thoughts…
This was indeed a good choice for the big number 250.  A rich coffee aroma and a strong hint of dark chocolate.  The head was as frothy as cappuccino I had had earlier in the day but did not last long, perhaps due to the intense heat (it was over 20c, that’s intense to me).  To taste, the texture was sumptuous.  The froth of the head gave way to a creamy stout that went down more like a porter but had the stronger coffee flavours of a good stout.  From the initial fizz on the tongue and a mild hint of sweetness to the nicely balanced bitter aftertaste this is a pleasure to drink.  It lacks the warmth of the majority of other stouts I’ve tried, but they have ranged from 6% to 10%, whereas this is a little weaker.  Maybe it’s an Autumn beer rather than a Winter beer.

2017-07-22 - 250 - Le Bilboquet La Corriveau desc. _500beers

Yes, it’s good.
Yes, it’s worth the price.
Yes, the description is accurate (great vocab too, first sighting of the word unctuous).
Yes, I would drink it again.
Yes, I would recommend it.
Yes, I would go out of my way for it.
Yes, I’d go out in a snowstorm for it.

I’d give it 7/11, however as it’s a special occasion I’m going to give it the average of my mark and that of my friend (8/11) – so 7.5/11 it is.

So that’s number 250, I’m only going to be putting individual posts up for beer that get at least 6/11 from now on, with a series of posts to come featuring pictures and marks for the other 100+ beers I haven’t written about yet and that I won’t have time to cover in detail.

*As far as I can see this is the correct spelling of her name.

The Two Pint Theory, Nos. 35 – 39

The Two Pint Theory, Nos. 35 – 39

I think most people who take the odd beer here and there are aware of this but numbers 35 to 39 weren’t great so I thought I’d write up my notes on what I refer to as the Two Pint Theory…

I like bowling.
The problem is that I’m not very good at it.
That is until I’ve had about a pint and a half – then suddenly, things start to improve
No more gutter-balls, the odd strike, and a little more luck on spares.

It is the magic of being two pint drunk that causes this.  The confidence of being socially awake and relaxed but not drunk.  I’ve found that this applies in many other circumstances too.  I play the drums and am more likely to improvise something challenging at this tipsy stage, what’s more important is that I’m more likely to get it right because physically I’m loosened up and mentally I’m awake.

The trouble is though that it is a narrow window, which seems to last for about thirty minutes to an hour and then it’s gone.  Proper drunkenness begins to set in from pint three onwards and that’s that.  Unfortunately, stopping drinking doesn’t prolong it.  If it did two pints for breakfast would be recommended each morning.

It’s not just me, is it?

No. 35 – 37 – Molson Canadian, Molson Ex and Coors Light

 

These are all standard light beers that I tried approximately four weeks into the challenge as they were the only choices I hadn’t had by that point.  Scoring wise they’re all 2/11 – for not being bad, being accurate and I would maybe recommend them to someone who likes light beer.  They’re just not my cup of tea.

No. 38 – Granville Island Co. English Bay Pale Ale
2017-01-28 - 38 - Granville Island Brewery English Bay Pale Ale _500beers

The beer drinking highlight of the evening (the real highlight of course being a glorious victory at bowling).  The competition wasn’t particularly strong though (and the comparisons with the bowling continue!).  Anyway, this was a good pale ale, the picture doesn’t really make it look great, but I liked the appearance and it tasted fine.  It gets 5/11 for being good, worth the price, accurate, for drink-again-ability and recommend-ability.

 

No. 39 – Farnham Brown Ale
2017-04-02 - 39 - Farnham Brown Ale poured _500beers

Possibly due to being from a tin, this was a little flat and the flavour was somewhat bland.  It looks like a brown ale and there are mild hints of a good brown ale hidden here but it’s very mild.  Maybe better on draft?  I’m not going to bother finding out – I’ve had too many brown ales that are a lot better.  It gets 3/11.

 

 

Drink responsibly, it’s better…

This is a thing I noticed at the Montreal Beer Festival recently, which seems to fall in line with several things that I have noticed this year so far, since starting the drinking challenge.  Here are a few hastily written notes…

  1. Sens du goût plus développé/A better developed palette
    By tasting and trying to rate each beer rather than sinking them asafp, I’ve learned quite a bit about what different types of beer should taste like.  I’ve also figured out that my own particular preference lies in darker beers, which I think may be linked to getting older but I’ve no proof of that other than my own drinking history.
  2. Plus de plaisir à déguster/A more pleasurable tasting experience
    Pretty much as above, drinking for the taste rather than the effect has made me appreciate not just the beer but the social aspect a lot more.  At the risk of sounding philosophical, the emphasis is on discovery rather than getting drunk and hoping for the best.
  3. Pas de gueule de bois/No hangovers
    This is the best thing I’ve noticed – a better tolerance to the effects of beer by drinking one or two (or three or four) regularly rather than getting smashed at the weekend on seven or eight beers.
  4. Sommeil plus réparateur/More restful sleep
    Sleeping after drinking was never easy.  A few hours here and there, getting up for a drink of water or chocolate milk for some reason and odd dreams which may have been real or not.  After a lot of beer before it would take me 24 hours to recover properly, the night after being a proper recovery sleep.  This is no longer necessary, as I don’t get that drunk anymore sleeping to recover is easier.
  5. Plus d’énergie, meilleure forme, meilleur contrôle du poids/More energy, better form, better weight control
    I noticed in March that with consistent but not excessive alcohol intake comes great responsibility.  It’s very easy to put on weight and it has become a priority to eat somewhat more healthily and do more exercise.  With consistent but not excessive beers, it’s easier to find a balance between the things that are good for you and the things that are bad.
  6. Changer de conducteur désigné/A change of designated driver
    I don’t really care about this as the public transport in Montreal is pretty good!  I would simply add that I have had to walk home at 3 or 4am a lot less this year so far (only once I think, but that wasn’t beer’s fault – damn shots).