Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Season of Beer

This is without a doubt the summer of beer. Not only am I working for the Pump House Brewery and one of its restaurants the Barnyard BBQ, but I’m up to my ears in beer. Now, that might seem like a beautiful problem to some of you but I don’t drink twelve beers in a week unless there’s a party in there. But I don’t party that hard. So I just keep accumulating beer. And more beer. And more beer...

The story starts at the Atlantic Beer Festival which was started and is still ran by Pump House owner Shaun Fraser. It’s a great event with just over 100 different beers this year and drawing in about 2000 people. Being the good guy that I am, I volunteered my time. What the hell, I thought to myself, I work a bit and drink beer all day. Everybody wins.

Well I spent the day preparing pulled pork sandwiches and drinking beer after beer after beer. And we didn’t have those small 4 ounce glasses. No sir. We had the full 16 ounce glasses. The result is that I was getting more and more generous as the day carried on. The patrons were happy. And I was giddy. Then I was sick of beer. Can you believe that? Sick of beer!

Well that day ended with me taking home a whole bunch of leftover beers from the festival. Shaun was given a few dozen 24 packs of beer which was supposed to be for some volunteer party. I didn’t attend no such party and I don’t think there ever was one. The beer just disappeared within the confines of Mr. Fraser’s yellow SUV and was never seen ever again. Oh the joys of owning a brewery!

From the Fuller’s booth I swiped a Headstrong Pale Ale and a Fuller’s London Porter. The Headstrong was a pretty typical pale ale. It was hoppy but not too hoppy. A good aftertaste of citrus. All and all a great example of the style. As for the porter, it was also loyal to its style. Rich, chocolaty, and smooth with a slight bitterness. I enjoyed this porter much more than the Halifax brewed Propeller London Style Porter. The latter was also chocolaty and rich but the bitterness and an overpowering strength of taste turned me off. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t up to my triple taste test that night but I preferred the Fuller’s Porter to the Propeller. People from Halifax seem to like it bitter. Real bitter.

Along with the Propeller Porter, I sampled the O’Hara’s Celtic Stout and the German Edinger Dunkel. I wasn’t a fan of the O’Hara. It had a much stronger taste than what I’m used to in a stout. I’m no beer-geek but all other stouts I’ve drank were smoother than porter and the flavours not overpowering. A bit of a burnt, rich flavour but not a slap in the face which wasn’t the case with the O’Hara. However, the saving grace of these three beers was the dunkel. A German wheat beer complying with the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, it had a beautiful smooth flavour true to the wheat beer style and balanced with a bit of dark chocolaty flavour more intensely present in Irish style stouts. This beer was a real treat. Something you could drink more than one of. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I wasn’t quite in the beer drinking mood but still...the dunkel was fantastic compared to the stout and the porter. Although the Montreal St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout comes in at a close second...smooth and dark. Yum.

Finally, we come to my two favourite Pump House beers. Though mostly available in New Brunswick, these beers are a great example of local craft brewing. The Scotch, for its part, is a style of beer that focuses on its rich earthy flavour of malts and, more specifically, on the peat malts which are the cornerstones of all single malt Scotches...hence the name, Scotch Ale. It’s a smooth beer that has the richness appreciated by all real beer drinkers who want something with body but aren’t up to something heavy like a stout or a porter.

My second favourite of the Pump House is the Red Ale. Though I prefer an Amber to a Red, what makes this particular beer special for me is the particular batch this bottle comes from. I spent on day in the brewhouse with one of the Pump House’s brewmasters Greg Nash. Now for anyone who knows anything about Canadian Micro Breweries, the name Greg Nash is a model of what a brewmaster should be. Previously working at Garrison’s where he crafted the Unfiltered Imperial Pale Ale and a Black Lager that I’m trying to convince him to brew again, he was poached by the Pump House. I worked with Greg all day, asking every question I could think of. From gravity readings to mashing temperatures to the difference between an ale and a lager to the best book for anyone interested in home brewing (it’s The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing by the way). It was a nice day even though I had to crawl into the mash tun and wash that hotbox. I learned alot and, two weeks later or so, I’m sipping on a beer I helped to make from scratch. Eat your heart out beer geeks!

Beer, it's not just for breakfast anymore.

1 comment:

helen said...

Great Article Spoon. My husband would love to work at a brewery me thinks. Doubt i would ever see though. I get most of his beer online from places like TheDrinkShop
I like an occasional ale myself and that pumphouse red ale sounds really tasty.