Friday, 19 August 2016

My August 2016 Canada Craft Club Delivery

Today I went to the post office and picked up my favourite kind of mail ... beer! Yes, my Canada Craft Club package had arrived.

We did all the work so you don't have to. We've scoured the planet and found true gems especially for our members — delivered direct to your home or office every month.

Our packs are delivered in discreet packaging (so no one swipes your brews) and prices include shipping. You can trust that every single beer has been hand-selected for your pack by Canada Craft Club’s experienced tasters and experts, some of whom sit on tasting panels in prestigious worldwide brewing competitions. What this really means is that we tasted, tested and rated every single beer before giving them our stingy stamp of approval for our treasured members. We try to shake it up for you, and fill your pack with beers you might not have had or can’t get anywhere else.

Every month I receive two 650 ml bottles of beer from two different brewers. So far the variety and quality has been excellent and this month is no different.

Inside this box was a bottle of Hitachino Nest White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery and a Les Quebecoises from Brasserie Thiriez.

Sounds like I have some great tastings ahead of me this month.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book Review - "Saint's Blood"

I am a huge fan of Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoat series. I have read and reviewed the first two books in the series, Traitors Blade (2014) and Knight's Shadow (2015). I was so happy to see Saint's Blood, the third book in the series come out in April.

How do you kill a Saint? 

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle. 

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.

The story is told in first person by a very exhausted and weary Falcio Val Mond, who with his closest Greatcoat friends, swordsman Kest and archer Brasti, who again, or perhaps more properly, still, are trying to save the nation of Trista and install the dead king's young daughter, Aline, onto the throne.

I'm not one who likes or reads much fantasy, but I have been very caught up in each book of the Greatcoat series, this one included. The pace of Saints Blood is frantic and exhausting. There are heroes of the highest order, villains who are most evil and blood thirsty, and the people of the land who do not know which to follow..

I don't want to say much about this book as it might spoil some stories in the first two. When I picked up my first Greatcoat book, I had hoped for an excellent swashbuckling story. This entire series has given me more.

Saint's blood is 576 pages long and not one dull moment.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The 2016 Roundhouse Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival

Today Teena and I were at the 4th annual Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival. We have been to all four summer festivals plus two winter festivals they have held. The beer is always good, the people who attend all friendly, but today it was also a battle against the elements, extreme heat and rain.

It was hot just standing in line to get in. Right away I went and had a delicious pale ale from Maclean's Ales.

Next up was a Sunlight Park Saison from Left Field Brewery.

Chainsaw sculptures done by Robbin from Robbin's Amazing Art. Every cut is done with a chainsaw. It was very interesting to watch

I made a new friend from Barnstormer Brewery. They make a great Flight Delay IPA.

A nice Waterfront Wit from Walkerville Brewery.

I went back later for Geronimo IPA.

Here comes the rain.

10 minutes later, bright sunshine!

The Hibiscus Saison  from Royal City Brewing was delicious.

I had never heard of Stouffville Brewing Company and enjoyed their Red Falcon Ale.

I made two visits to Black Oak Brewing. The first for their Beat the Heat wheat beer. I returned later for their ultra delicious Ten Bitter Years.

Ominous clouds came rolling in bringing some more rain with them. Then 10 minutes later, blue skies.

An IPA from Stack Brewery, who came down all the way from Sudbury.

More rain. Finally Teena and I said to heck with it and just sat at a picnic table and let it rain on us.

Teena and I.

A beer from Lost Craft Brewery.

I really enjoyed the ESB from Hendersons Brewing.

Some people took advantage of the shelter provided by the caboose from the Railway Museum during the rain.

Some crowd shots.

This is the only craft beer festival that I know of that has a railway crossing

I really like Monty's Ryed Pale Ale from Old Tomorrow.

We both had a Stax from Chimney Stax Baking. It is a rolled cheese bread. I had mine with bacon and it was fabulous.

I love Brimstone's Brewery's Sinister Minister IPA.

We were still hungry and I was happy to see Teena return to our table with meat pies from The Pie Commission. It was filling and really good.

My last beer of the day was pour by a shy lady from Lake of the Woods.

Teena and I had another fun day at this festival. It's not one to miss.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Beer of the Week - John H.R. Molson and Bros. 1908 Pale Ale

I love craft beers. They are full of flavour. Once in awhile if I end up in a place that doesn't serve craft beer, (gasp!), I'll order a Molson product. Back in the winter though, Molson came out with a unique beer, John H.R. Molson 1908 Pale Ale. What makes this so unique is that this beer is a re-creation of a beer recipe a brewer found by brewer Keith Armstrong in the company archives.

An article in the March 4, 2016, Toronto Star describes some of the difficulties in making this recipe as authentic as possible and how they over came them. The recipe was very clear about what quantities and which exact ingredients should be used, but things like barley has changed over the years making it difficult to create the exact malt that needed to be used.

To quote from the article, “Just to stop and say ‘what was going on in 1908?’ I mean, the boundaries between Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba weren’t set until 1912. Alberta didn’t join Confederation until 1905. It’s pretty amazing to think that we’re doing something that would have been done the same way back then,” said Armstrong.

So, how is the 1908?

It pours a cloudy amber colour with a slightly off white, meringue like head. Lot's of malts and a little caramel come through in the aroma. Nice lacings are left along the inside of the glass, showing it is made with pure malt with no adjuncts like rice added.

The aroma didn't tell of any hops in this pale ale, but they are there in the taste. On my first sip, the malt comes through but then the hops start making their presence known quite quickly. I taste the malt sweetness, then I sense a bit of bitterness coming, which grows continually right through the finish.

Molson Coors says the 1908 is being offered as a limited release. Why? It's far better than anything else they brew. They had to buy Creemore, to have a decent tasting lager in their portfolio and then they had to buy Granville Island Brewery to have a decant tasting ale to offer customers. Now they create or recreate a very nice pale ale made with their own in house brewers, and only offer it for awhile. If this was an everyday offering, I would be buying it along with the craft beers that I really enjoy.

Mind you, the limited release was started in February of this year and is still available at The Beer Store, so maybe the limited release is just a marketing gimmick.

Molsons Lakeshore Blvd Brewery, 1966. Photographer Unknown

Beer of the Week Stats

Beers Profiled 325
Breweries 296
Countries 48

Friday, 5 August 2016

Plucked at The Theatre Centre

Tonight Teena and I went to see the opening night performance of Plucked, being performed on the main stage at The Theatre Centre. It is part of the 2016 SummerWorks schedule, whose festival runs from August 5 to 14.

There were many reasons to go see this play. Teena and I both enjoy live theater, the Theatre Centre is a short walk from home, we have been to plays at Summerworks before and have enjoyed how out of the box most of them are.

One of the main reasons to attend this play is that the daughter of our friends Qianna MacGilchrist, is one of the main characters in Plucked. She recently completed her first year in the acting program at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal. In high school she went to Unionville High School as part of their Arts Unionville Drama Program. It was exciting to see her at Summerworks.

The description of the play is interesting:

Infusing comedy, bluegrass music, and a complete lack of sentimentality, Plucked is set in a world where fear turns women into chickens, eggs are high currency, and vaginas are near-dangerous possessions. Plucked skewers patriarchy without holding punches. It exposes hard truths about fear and family. It’s funny because it’s fake; it’s vulnerable, but it’s okay because it ends with a curtain call, but it’s not okay because it’s familiar. Plucked is, after all, a true story. It’s just full of lies.
The play is as absurd as it sounds, but in a very excellent way. Now you might think this is a bias review. Believe me if I hated it, I would not have lied in a review, I just would have skipped doing this and watched the Jays game, but I really enjoyed it. The rest of the audience did too.

People were laughing and I was totally caught up in the plot, crazy as it was. No play works well without great acting. Yes, I truly loved Qianna's performance as Fourteen but tonight I saw no weak actors. Tim Machin, who is not only the music director but played Rooster, told the background story in song, while playing the banjo, and became part of the story, and was fabulous. Sochi Fried, who played Abigail was excellent. She plays an excellent chicken. Even when the action was on the other side of the stage, she would still be pecking or cleaning, and, yes, I bought her all the way as being a chicken.

There are only six performances left. The play is well worth seeing.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Book Review - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King has written many great books, so when I found out that he had written a book titled On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, I had to give it a read.

Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King's On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

The book is basically broken up into three parts. The first covers maybe 40% of the book and is about his life, the struggles he had early in life, which wasn't an easy one, and his rise to success. It was a fabulous read. He is so brutally honest about his life, his faults, and successes.

The next part, maybe 40% again, is about writing. It is not only filled with hints and tips about the art of writing itself but also how he has set up his physical creative space, the room in which he writes. I really envied his desk! It was very interesting when he explained how/where he pulled out the some of the ideas for scenes in his books or where he may have got an idea or inspiration for a complete book. He writes in the same manner I think most fiction writers do, myself included, in that he has a story idea, but no story board or planned plot. He lets the story write itself.

Hey! I write like Stephen King, although not as talented, or successful, or rich or ...

A couple of notes I pulled from the book and wrote on my white board:

  • When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all of the things that are not the story.
  • Paragraphs are the beat of a book.
  • Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's. (I found this one so very profound and so true of every great writer)

The last part of the book is about the actual writing of this book, the accident he had while writing it, and how the two are tied so well together, that the story is better than most fictions.

This is a great book that any Stephen King fan or up and coming writer, should read.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Simcoe Day at Fort York

This afternoon, Teena and I walked over to Fort York for Simcoe Day activities. Ontario cities and towns have today off as part of their Civic Day holiday weekend. In 1968 Toronto named this weekend after John Graves Simcoe, who was the founder of Toronto. Simcoe also ended slavery in the Canada's, although with some limitations in 1793.

Here is a view looking eastward towards the fort and the city behind it from the military graveyard.

This is a lookout behind the new Fort York visitor centre where there is an excellent view of the fort and city.

The Battle of York was fought from just west of and across the Exhibition grounds.

Old and new. An 1812 cannon in front on newly built condos.

The entrance to the fort with the fort behind.

The Blue Barracks to the left and centre blockhouse.

The magazine which was built in 1814.

The officers' mess.

An officers room. Those boots look quite heavy!

The officers' dining room. Officers seem to have it rather good.

This is the first time I have seen the basement open. Here is the original cooking fireplace from 1815. Down here too are two rooms built in 1837 to store and protect the money held by the Upper Canada Bank in Toronto.

Making cherry pies.

Another city view.

There were dance demonstrations. A short dance lesson followed.

There was a military march and drill presentation. The soldiers were of all ages and they all looked like professional soldiers of the period. Well done! The sound of 50 bayonets being slapped onto the tips of their muskets at the same time, sent shivers down my spine.

 The drum and fife corps.

Here come John Graves Simcoe himself to give a short declaration and inspect the troops.

This was so cool and so loud. They did not fire their muskets at once but do so one, right after another, left to right, all the way done the line ending with a blast from the cannon. It only only took about fifteen seconds to complete.

Afterwards they marched off in formation.

The second magazine (left) and eastern barracks. It was the first time I had been in the brick magazine, which inside show cases the battle of York on both floors.

A cannon protects the fort from the encroaching city.

It was a fun day at the fort. Originally I was going to do something else and Teena suggested we hit the fort. I always have a fun time there and next year I would like to go for Simcoe Day again.