Scottish things are usually pretty fun. From what I hear, the weather is mostly crappy in Scotland, so the locals have invented creative ways to pass the time:
- Kilts – (some) of them choose to wear a skirt without underwear on cold, damp days. Crazy.
- Bagpipes – they are loud, look like they require a LOT of effort both in the carrying and blowing fields, and most of the songs sound the same. But why not, right Scotland? I’m guessing it’s more of a pride thing, where only the strongest of lung and arm shall play bagpipes.
- Haggis – the original Turducken
- Loch Ness monster – lore is always fun, even if it’s a scary dino-monster. My kids are obsessed with dinosaurs, so this actually seems pretty cool. Does Canada have an equivalent that other countries seek out? Sasquatch? Yeti? Abominable Snowmonster? Wampa?
- Scotch whisky – what’s not to love? It warms you up, makes you relaxed, all why appearing to be dignified.
- Golf – That’s a funny game that practically no one is very good at. But there’s a DRINK CART that comes around to make it better. Thank you, Scots. Plus, golfers can (and should) wear those little beret hats with the pom-poms. Adorbs.
So, given how great Scottish things can be, I was thrilled to see a tall boy can of Tartan Pants in our fridge – a Scotch Ale from Big Rig Brewery in Kanata, ON. A dark beer, with 6.4% ABV, this Scotch Ale is a tasty one. Think bold flavours like smoke and molasses. The first sip instantly set me back to Royal City’s Bamberg Smoked Lager that I love so much.
I wish it had a bit more carbonation to give it a creamier head, although, it sat in our fridge for about a month, so it wasn’t quite fresh. I feel like my dream beer would be a Scotch ale with nitrous, to give it that velvety mouth-feel I love so much about Guinness.
I think this Scotch Ale is a delicious and fun way to mix up the beer fridge offerings. If you’re a fan of Scotch whiskey, or other things Scottish, I would highly recommend checking it out. And it’s under $3, so, c’mon.
I’ve included it beside a pic of my man, Paul McCartney taken by his wife Linda while they lived as a family in Scotland.
Montreal is a magical city, as most people know. There are more restaurants per capita in Montreal than New York City. Montrealers are known for their fashion, passion and creativity, and joie de vivre. (They have BYOB picnics at city parks!)
Lesser-known to me was the massive craft brewing movement happening in the 375-year old port city – I had no idea it’s home 33 to craft and microbreweries. And, for a city that can sometimes seem a little snobbish, that label does not extend to their breweries. In fact, it seems Montreal’s friendly brew pubs rather embrace collaboration and the co-operative spirit.
The sample platter at La Brasserie Harricana is akin to what you’d find at a typical Quebec Christmas party. Delish!
Not only can you find hundreds of unique, locally-brewed beers in Montreal, but you have your choice of drinking destinations, from more authentic pubs to high-end dining establishments. My favourite spot has to be La Brasserie Harricana on Mile-Ex, with its marble countertops, pink leather club chairs, and gold light fixtures, not to mention incredible local food and 22 beer on tap, all their own or collaborations with other breweries. This place has a special woman-vibe too, likely due to owner and CEO Marie-Pier Veilleux, and all-female staff (at least during our visit).
La Brasserie Harricana looked, smelled and tasted amazing.
The abundance of choice at these brew pubs is awesome, but it’s these small batches that limit the breweries to only sell beer to be consumed on-site. Which means out-of-towners like us can’t take some of the local flavours home. But, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So, we sampled to our heart’s content.
We tried over 30 beer (mostly shared between Greg and I in galopin/sample-sized glasses) during a 28-hour stretch, covering styles such as Imperial stout, rose hibiscus wheat beer, American IPA, plum-infused Belgian sour, smoked light Gratzer, Hefeweizen, local honey-infused blonde ale, ordinary bitter, lactic saison with honey, saison with Madagascan pepper, dubbel, white beer with cranberries and raspberries, New England IPA, best bitter, Belgian amber (that was fermented with fresh plums and aged in red wine barrels), Cognac sour and dry stout to name a few.
We joined a beer tour which took us around the up-and-coming Rosemont area, giving us a glimpse in to the amazing beer destinations the locals (and tourists) can enjoy. It was a cool area, but I recommend spending two or more hours at one place, sampling their range of standard and seasonal brews, and talking to the staff. They are proudly educated on the beer and brewery they work at, and love answering questions, all without a hint of haughtiness.
I get why Montreal is becoming a popular beer destination, and I see no sign of it slowing down. These are good people, who love what they do, and create diverse, high-quality products. I’m giving this whirlwind weekend two thumbs up, and I hope it’s created some wanderlust for you.
Here are some of the other spots we visited:
Suzanne is a-brewing at Dieu du ciel.
Dieu de Ceil
Dieu de Ciel is one of the oldest brew pubs in Montreal, with an impressive range of styles, including their famous Imperial stout, Peche Mortel.
L’Isle de Garde
Broue Pub Brouhaha
WILD NORTH GOLDEN CHAI ALE – LAKE OF BAYS BREWING COMPANY
I’m declaring it: winter cold season is over. Can I get a hell ya?
I wish I knew a statistic that showed how Canada’s productivity takes a nose dive every winter from the time we spend holed up on our couches beside boxes of Kleenex instead of at work. Add to that the toll colds and flu take on your important senses, like smell and taste, and it will make anyone dream of a Snowbird retirement.
Fortunately, I only battled two major colds this winter, but the most recent one had my taste buds on the disabled list. When Greg brought home a tall-boy can of Lake of Bays’ Golden Chai Ale, I was stubbornly defiant that I could power through and enjoy this beer. After all, it was so unique! I never heard of a brewery using chai flavouring and I was incredibly anxious to try it.
I was wrong. I couldn’t taste a thing. It looked beautiful in its dark, golden loveliness. But I couldn’t smell it, and only felt the carbonated bubbles on my tongue.
Luckily, Lake of Bays made more than one can, so I was able to try again, with a healthy immune system this time. Now, I could really savour all that this ale offers. It smelled like a sweet chai latte, but on first sip, was more dry than I was expecting. The spicy aftertaste of cinnamon, cardamom and clove are so delicious and different than any other beers we’ve tasted. If you’re a fan of chai tea and beer, you are going to love this. And at 5.2% alc./vol., it’s very drinkable, so I’d suggest buying a few cans.
As the can says, “Spring is finally here,” and I’ll cheers to that.
What the brewery says:
“Fresh, spicy aromatics introduce this effervescent brew. Real Chai tea offers a hint of cardamom, cinnamon and clove. Ontario hops and a splash of pure orange zest round out the finish.”
BAMBERG SMOKED LAGER – ROYAL CITY BREWING
This week, we found a new beer that really blew our lids. We haven’t stopped talking about it since our first taste earlier this week, so we went back today to get more.
Royal City’s Bamberg Smoked Lager (a smoked German amber lager) is really something. It’s so different than other Old World lagers we’ve had, but that’s what makes it great. As Scotch fans, we loved the dry, smokey flavour that only gets better with each sip. At 5.75 ABV it’s so smooth, so drinkable, you will ask for a refill, and then likely another.
The name comes from the Bamberg region of Germany that’s known for their smoked beers (called Rauchbier), where green malt is dried over beechwood that gives the beer a natural smokiness without being overpowering. Royal City imports the smoked malt used in this beer straight from Germany to stay as authentic to the style as possible.
We bought a one-litre sampler of it direct from the brewery, but came back a few days later because we wanted to try it again. Luckily, Royal City had bottled it in 500mls by then ($4.50 each) , so we could take more home with us.
Twenty women walk into a bar to drink craft beer. It’s no joke. It’s the Fem Ales revolution.
This past Sunday I had the pleasure of joining several other beer-loving ladies at The Grand Trunk Saloon in Kitchener, where we raised a glass to womanhood and well-crafted brews.
The event is the fourth one hosted by the group since its inception last fall. Thanks to an invite from my friend Claire, it was my first time attending, and won’t be my last.
Two of the organizers, Lisa Kargis and Charlotte MacKenzie, explained how the group began as a few acquaintances from several backgrounds (service industry, tech), with a similar passion for Canadian-made craft beer. A Facebook group acts as home base to share news and event info with their followers, and has already amassed 275 members, including brewery folk (like Patience Hartford from Descendants Beer and Beverage Co.), bartenders and drinkers like me.
Although the industry is still slow to market to women drinkers, there has been a good local response to this interest group. And as Lisa describes, the energy is different when it’s solely women drinking beer together. You get a new sense of confidence in your drink order, and there’s no pressure to feel like you need to know everything about craft beer. It’s OK in this group to ask questions and learn. Drinking and learning are some of my favourite things.
However, this group of strong women isn’t just focused on drinking beer. They’re donating a percentage of their event ticket sales to the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region. Very cool.
HEY! Porter and arancini ball heaven.
At this event, we got to snack on the Grand Trunk Saloon’s tasty appetizer menu (hello arancini balls!), and enjoy three pints of the local suds on tap. They were featuring Together We’re Bitter’s Maggie’s Farm House APA, Descendants’ Dry Hopped Lager, Black Swan Brewing Co.’s IPA and Junction Craft Brewing’s HEY! Porter. Since Descendants is a regular in our household, I opted for the other three and was very pleased.
The Farm House APA is hoppy, sweet and fresh, but not as sweet as the IPA, which had awesome pineapple notes. Saving what I thought would be my favourite for last, the Porter was out of this world. Strong roasted flavours of coffee and chocolate made it the perfect dessert to an incredible afternoon.
I will be back, Fem Ales, and I will bring a larger posse!
For some interesting stats on women’s craft beer habits and beer can designs, check out this (very lengthy) blog post: https://bensbeerblog.com/2017/02/02/lets-talk-about-sexist-beer-marketing/