Local Beer: Union Jack Brewery

unionjackAndrew and I recently got around to trying a couple of different selections from one of the local breweries. The Union Jack Brewing Company opened in May 2015.  Initially their beers were only available in-house but they just recently managed to get their beers into the Beer Store.  A number of local restaurants also offer their beer on tap.

Algoma Pale Ale

The first Union Jack Beer I tried was a tall can of their Algoma Pale Ale.  Given my love of IPA style beers I was excited to try this selection though a bit leery given how many overwhelmingly hoppy beers have been labeled as IPAs recently.  Thankfully this wasn’t a beat you over the head with hops situation – the Algoma Pale Ale was well balanced with notes of hopes, malt, and subtle pine.  I really enjoyed this selection and it would be something I would definitely pick up again.

1870 Amber Ale

Andrew and I both tried this selection on draught at a local restaurant.  Though described in the style of an American pale ale, this felt more like a traditional amber selection to me.  I’ve really been enjoying the complexity but smoothness of amber ales recently and this was a good example of something simple but tasty.  Malty undertones and little to no hop taste.

Rapid River Cream Ale

Only Andrew has tried this one so far (okay, I stole a sip of his beer but not enough to comment on it).  It was a number of weeks ago that he had this particular beer – but remembers liking it if nothing else.  I figure that just means we have to try it again to confirm that it was good.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Beer of the Month: Break of Dawn IPA

Some how two months have already flown by and another beer shipment arrived in the mail this week.  The month’s selection includes three beers beers from three different breweries – four bottles of each beer.  The first one we’ve tried is the Break of Dawn Session IPA by Black Oak Brewing Co.

Black Oak is a craft brewery that was originally started in Oakville in 1999.  It now calls Etobicoke home and the brewery prides itself in brewing in small batches.

The beer poured a slightly hazy golden colour. The Break of Dawn beer is described by Black Oak as having notes of grapefruit and mango with a hoppy finish.  I found there was a very subtle citrus taste but there was way too much hop for my preference.  There seems to be a trend recently to make every IPA style beer overwhelmingly hoppy.  I love hops. But I like when they are subtle and you can still taste other flavours in a beer.  Needless to say I wasn’t a huge fan of this selection and unfortunately there are three more bottles of it still.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Great Lakes Brewery: Pumpkin Ale

PumpkinAleIt’s fall! My favourite time of year.  I love the changing colours in the trees, the approach of Thanksgiving, cozy warm sweaters, boots, and pumpkin pie.  My love of pumpkin is pretty deeply rooted – it has been my go to request instead of cake at my birthday for as long as I can remember.  Conveniently, my birthday is right around Canadian Thanksgiving so pumpkin pie is usually easy to come by.

In recent years there has been a bit of an explosion of pumpkin spice or pumpkin flavoured things.  Hot and cold pumpkin beverages abound – though I’ve found they often miss the mark in taste and pumpkin qualities.  Despite former letdowns I recently picked up a Pumpkin Ale by Great Lakes Brewery.

The beer poured a slightly orange-red colour with minimal head. It smells like a great mixture of pumpkin and spices – namely nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. The taste wasn’t bad, it didn’t fall into the common pumpkin beer problem of being a mouthful of way too many spices.  The pumpkin wasn’t all the prominent but it was a good tasting beer with a slightly pumpkin note.  This was surprisingly light and subtle a good beer if you’re looking for something fall inspired but not hit you in the face pumpkin.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Beer of the Month: True South of 7

The True South of 7 beer from 4 Degrees Brewing is the final of the four different selections Andrew and I received in the latest beer of the month shipment.  This beer is the counterpart to the North of 7 beer that was also included in the shipment.  And similar to the North of 7 beer I really enjoyed the can design and the linking of the beer name to a geographic region (namely Hwy 7 in Southern Ontario)

This was a fairly standard pale ale that poured a pale amber with minimal head. This was definitely a sessionable beer that was smooth and fairly standard.  There was a slightly citrus note and a very subtle amount of hops.  A step above your generic beer but not anything world shattering in terms of taste.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Beer of the Month: Peace Wheat and Longwoods Lager

The most recent beer of the month delivery included two beers from Strathroy Brewing.  We’ve had a few beers from this particular brewer in the past as part of the beer of the month club and didn’t mind them.  This month’s selections were a similar experience — they were decent but didn’t stick out in my mind as fantastic.

The 1915 Longwoods Lager poured a pale yellow with minimal head.  It had a clean taste to it with a slightly citrus note and was very smooth for a lager.  No harsh aftertaste or bitter notes.  Fairly run of the mill but perfect on a sunny day.  Andrew and I enjoyed the first sample of this beer under a shady tree in Muskoka chairs – perfect drink for that kind of afternoon.

The 1815 Peace Wheat ale was a much darker colour than I would have anticipated.  It was also slightly bitter which is a bit unusual for a Belgian style ale.  There was a malt note and a very flight bit of hops in the taste.  Similar to the Longwoods Lager this was a very smooth drinking selection that was good but not exceptional.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Listening – Torchwood: Fall to Earth

26024075Ianto Jones! On a spaceship! Fall to Earth is the second release in the first batch of the Big Finish Torchwood audios. The basic premise of the story – Ianto is stuck on SkyPuncher, the first private spaceflight, and he is the last surviving passenger trying to navigate the spaceship back to safety.  And his only point of contact with Earth is via Zeynep an insurance call center agent. 

I loved this as a solo Ianto story it is packed with adventure and humour.  Gareth David-Lloyd does an excellent job of conveying Ianto’s personality in the audio medium.  He’s slightly awkward, funny and full of curiosity and creative solutions. The flirting between Ianto and Zeynep seemed more in line with Jack’s personality than Ianto’s but seemed to fit if you looked at it as Ianto trying to lighten the life threatening situation.

The plot and setup of the story revolving around a phone call is surprisingly simple but it the story still manages to have some twists and turns that make it edge of the seat listening experience.

If you like Torchwood, particularly the second season, or are a Ianto fan you will really enjoy this story.  Well worth a listen.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

On the Road Again

Part of my daily work routine includes spending two hours in a car.  I am a commuter and I drive one hour each direction as part of my work day.  I commute from rural to urban and public transit isn’t an option.  I have carpooled in the past but I’m currently driving solo.  The drive is in Northern Ontario so I actually cover about 100 km of road in an hour, it’s mostly highway and other than the occasional snow storm it is generally an easy drive.  I sit on cruise control and listen to a lot of podcasts, books, and CBC.

Office Space Commute.  Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

Office Space Commute. Not an accurate representation of my commute which has no traffic.

I know that many people commute, sometimes for their entire working career.  It’s fairly common in urban settings that commuting is an accepted part of life. That’s a less common mentality in Northern Ontario and I occasionally strange looks when people find out where I live.  And I do love where I live – it’s rural, we have a huge amount of space for gardens, forested trails, and I like the laid back pace of the small community we live in.  It’s 15 minutes to the cottage and family is a short drive away.  In some ways I can’t imagine living anywhere else – we got married in a field at our house and there already so many memories attached to this space.

In November I will have been doing this drive for six years.  On the conservative side this means I’ve spent over 2,600 hours in my car, driving on the same chunk of the trans-Canada highway. I struggle with the cost, the time, the environmental impact and whole range of other factors associated with the drive (animal run-ins included).  On the other hand, I do like the decompression and listening time I get in the car. But I’ve been struggling a lot recently with a sense of disconnection from community that seems to be aggravated by commuting.

At times I feel like I don’t spend leisure time in the city where I work and I also don’t spend quality time in the rural community/small town near where I live. It’s a bit like living in between spaces, being part of both but while simultaneously feeling like you’re on the outside of both communities. Partially it has to do with exhaustion and there only being so much time in the day.  I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling this more so since Little Miss was born. I want to spend time with her and she currently goes to bed crazy early, if I come straight home from work I get about 1.5 hours a day with her — which is a drop in the hat on the grand scale of things, but is better than nothing.  If I do errands after work, have coffee with friends in the evening, or anything else in the city there’s a good chance I don’t see her at all that day.  I know this will change as she gets older but I imagine things also have the potential to be complicated in terms of juggling my commute, after-school care, and her extra-curricular activities (especially if those activities take her into the very city I’m commuting from).

I also struggle with participating in evening activities in the small town, mostly because of the burned out feeling that comes with the drive. There’s a much more limited selection of activities in that small town, so staying in the city is the only option is you want to do something like catch a movie or eat takeout pizza (yes, really – the nearest pizza place is an hour away from my home).  A similar thing often happens on weekends – there may be an interesting culture based activity on the city, but by that point in the week I have zero desire to get back into the car and drag the whole family on a drive that feels all too familiar.

I’m genuinely curious about how other commuters bridge that connection gap and how they find balance in their driving/work/leisure/family lives.  Perhaps I’m simply not doing a good job of seeking out meaningful connections in those two different communities (or picking one to focus on) and using exhaustion is an excuse – I don’t know.  And I’m not sure what the right answer is to finding balance and I’m sure it’s different for everyone and might change depending on life circumstance.  Back in the car I go.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Beer of the Month: True North of 7

Two the most recent beer of the month club selections were from 4 Degrees Brewing Company, a small craft brewer in Smith Falls.  One of this month’s beers was the “True North of 7” lager.  The beer was alright, a standard lager that was smooth drinking but nothing special.  I did some reading and apparently the beer was brewed by Jason Cook, who was responsible for creating Bud Light Lime.  He brewed the “True North of 7” selection on a contract.  I suppose that explains some of the blandness and my unimpressed feelings around the beer.

The beer is branded to appeal to cottagers, campers, and hunters.  The graphic design on the tall can was well done and had a bit of a Canadian redneck northern feel.  But a nice looking container doesn’t makeup for poor tasting beer. The beer was described as having subtle hoppy notes, however that seemed pretty much none existent.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Canadian Ice Wine Black Tea Blend

Iced_WineWhile in Traverse City recently I visited a wonderful tea shop – the Spice & Tea Merchants shop.  It’s a cozy little store with wonderful smells of spices and teas.  I probably could have spent hours just gawking at all the tea.

I bought a couple of teas while there, one of which was a “Canadian Ice Wine” black tea blend.  The tea blends ice wine, black tea, white tea, and freeze dried grapes.  I’ll admit I bought it just because it seemed very different and it was Canadian based even though it was being sold at a shop in the US.

The tea really smells strongly like grapes. The taste is a bit more subtle – the black tea is fairly prominent and is complimented by a fruity undertone.  It’s an interesting combination.  I’m not sure it would start buying it in bulk but I’m definitely glad I tried it.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Paddle for Pints

First beers of the day at the Filing Station

First beers of the day.

Last weekend Andrew and I went on an adventure to Traverse City.  The main reason for this trip was so that we could participate in Paddle for Pints, essentially a wonderful combination of kayaking and craft beer.

It was a rainy day but we still had a wonderful time kayaking and sampling a variety of tasty beers.  The event took us to four separate breweries/brewpubs where we each sampled a range of tasty beer.

The Filing Station Microbrewery

Registration and the first brew stop of the day.  After registering for the day and receiving our t-shirts and swag bags we had some food and a couple of drinks before starting the kayak adventure.  The pizza we ordered was a delicious thin crust treat.  On the beer front Andrew tried the Salem Raspberry Pale Ale and I had the Ironwood Amber Ale.  Both were a good start to our day – not overwhelming and subtle enough to be enjoyable when paired with food.

Right Brain Brewery

Artwork at the Right Brain Brewery

Artwork at the Right Brain Brewery

The first brewery we paddled to was Right Brain.  I loved the atmosphere of this brewery, it was a community space, art gallery, and beer hall all mixed together.  It was also surprisingly kid friendly with a toy area, board games, and lots of cool stuff to look at.  We saw a number of families hanging out in the space during our visit.

I tried the Irish Goodbye red ale to start and Andrew has a pint of the Flying Squirrel Brown Ale.  I really enjoyed the Irish Goodbye, it was a dark amber colour with a bit of sweetness mixed in with subtle hops.  We also split a tall can of the Northern Hawk Owl.  Andrew picked this one out but it was one we both enjoyed and one I wanted to try just because it had a cool sounding name.  The Northern Hawk Owl was a bit more generic than the Irish Goodbye, it had some malt and very subdued hop notes but was pretty smooth drinking.

Rare Bird Brewpub

Rare Bird was the smallest location we visited – or at least it felt pretty small with all the paddlers plus the regular lunch crowd packed into the pub.  There was some really interesting woodwork in this brewpub – the tables were made out of single slabs all cut from really large trees and one of the walls included reclaimed wood from industrial packing crates.

Andrew tried the ‘Dam Paddlers’ beer which was crafted especially for the Paddle for Pints events and I sampled the Hopricot.  As you might guess my beer was hoppy and made with apricot.  It was a surprisingly good and layer combination.  The Dam Paddlers beer was also a bit of a surprise, it had a lot of lime and despite being labeled a cream ale it was surprisingly light.

The Workshop Brewing Company

Workshop Brewing Company

Workshop Brewing Company

Another really interesting physical space – the Workshop had an industrial feel but had a surprisingly warm touch to it.  It was also fairly family friendly with games, books, and lots of space.  We saw a number of families with small children enjoying some food and just hanging out in the space.

Andrew tried the Plumb Bob and the Pipe Wrench.  I ordered the Plumb Bob for him – and had I read the description more closely I probably wouldn’t have picked it, it was very coffee flavoured.  I had the 20-pound Sledge IPA and the Bastard Rasp.  As one would expect the IPA was on the hoppy side and was a fairly standard IPA.  The Bastard Rasp was surprisingly good – it was a wheat ale with a raspberry kick.  I had fears that it would be overly sweet but it was well balanced and easy drinking.

Overall this was a great day filled with kayaking, delicious local beer, and visiting new places.  The event itself is a bit expensive but it was a really unique experience that I’m really glad we took the time to do.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+
1 2 3 4 5 6 15