Saturday, August 1, 2015

Beer of the Week - Three Beers from Northwinds Brewhouse

Teena was in Collingwood a few weeks ago on business and a couple of doors down from where she had her meeting was Northwinds Brewhouse. She surprised me by bringing home a variety of beer from a place I had not heard of.

It took three years of planning by owner, Geoff Conway, before Northwinds Brewhouse finally opened its doors to the public on August 6, 2014. The restaurant can hold 100 and they have 16 taps featuring their own beer, guest beers and ciders. They decided early on not to have any one "flagship" beers but to always offer a variety. Now to try a few that Teena brought home for me.

Swamp Sour Ale with Haskaps
My first beer from Northwinds is a Swamp Sour Ale, made with Haskaps.  So, what is a haskap?

Haskap is a deciduous fruit bearing shrub, growing to approximately 1.5 – 2 metres tall. The fruit is a blue colored elongated berry about 1 cm in diameter. “Haskap” is the name given to this fruit by the Japanese. Other names include edible honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle and honeyberry. The species is native to northern Japan, Russia and Canada. It is, in fact, more closely related to tomatoes as well as the Snowberry and Elderberry. It is not related to blueberries or cranberries.
I was surprised when pouring the Swamp that was not amber but almost the colour of a rosé wine. It had a white head that disappeared quite quickly. There was something reminiscent of blueberries but not quite in the aroma, which obviously would be the haskap.

This is a really nice sour ale, one with some complexity to it. The ale has a bit of a watery mouth feel to it when sipped, then comes in a varied mix of berry flavours. I looked up haskaps after I finished my beer and the haskap website said that haskaps have a taste  which is a cross between blueberries, raspberries and black currents. That must be the unusual berry flavours I was detecting. The beer finishes with a wonderful sourness, not sour enough to make one pucker, but one to be enjoyed. This is fabulous summer ale that I would have again.

Old Baldy Farmhouse Ale
The Old Baldy pours a light coppery colour, with maybe a tinge of orange in it. There is some cloudiness in it as this is an unfiltered beer. The Belgium saison yeast gives off it's own unique aroma and I can also detect a little orange or citrus in it.

Belgium style farmhouse ales are also known as saisons and this one is very nice. Saisons have a distinct flavour and this is immediately felt on my first sip. There is some sort of citrus in this that I am enjoying and it finishes on a sour note, one that I quite enjoy. It's nice that this is quite sessionable weighing in at just 3.5% APV. Another beer that would be welcome in my fridge again.

Three Stage XPA
Another lower alcohol beer that comes in at 4.6%, the Three Stage XPA (Extra Pale Ale) pours a surprising golden colour. I had been expecting amber. It has a white head that took a little time in dissipating. This beer must use west coast hops as there are citrus tones in the aroma.

The beer starts out quite light tasting but then some bitter citrus hops come through in a very nice finish. In no way does the bitterness take over the beer but is quite pleasing. I find this an enjoyable ale, another one good for a hot summer day.


Teena said she would let me know the next time she is heading up to Collingwood but I think it would be fun  for us to head up for a weekend and have supper here.

Beer of the Week Stats

Beers Profiled 286 
Breweries 256 
Countries 48

Friday, July 31, 2015

My July Beer of the Month Delivery

With the end of each month comes a fun delivery to our door, my Beer of the Month box of assorted beers. Every month I receive a dozen beers from Amazing Clubs.

This month I received four bottles of Grizzly Beer, which is a lager from Cheetah International Brewers. Also in the box were four bottles of Ginger Beer from Trafalgar Ale and Meads. That should be interesting. Last but not least comes an offering from Cameron's Brewing in Oakville of four Vanilla Cream Ales.

Lot's of interesting beers to try in the dog days of August!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The James Hotel, Chicago

Teena and I stayed at The James on East Ontario Street, a couple of blocks away from the subway. That made it much easier for us to come in from Midway Airport and get back to it. $3 for a subway ride vs whatever a cab would have cost.

The James had this interesting display in the lobby. My suitcase is old and on its last legs. Teena said I should add it to the display. It's now in the dumpster here at home.

The windows looked out across the way to rooms on the other side. We were only in our room at night so that did not matter. The rooms were bright and the air conditioning was turned on so the room was cool when we first arrived. It was a scorching hot day so that was much appreciated.

Our room was quite large and the large bottles of shampoo and conditioner were quite minty and refreshing.

The staff were extremely friendly and helpful. I went across the road to Trader Joe's for a small bottle of rum and some Diet Coke and was surprised that they didn't sell Coke. I returned to the hotel and was told by the doorman that the James did not have vending machines and the closest store was three blocks away. Then he offered to go himself! Wow, is that service or what! I said no and wandered up myself.

Teena was to get some ice. She called down to the front desk to ask where the ice machines were. They don't have any due to the noise but she could get ice from the front desk, or they would bring her up some. Great, great service.

Next time we're in Chicago, we'll be staying at the James again but picking up some cola on our way in.

The Food of Chicago.

Many people when they go away enjoy eating at fancy restaurants. We like pub grub. Most people when they heard that Teena and I were heading to Chicago for four days said we had to have a Chicago deep dish pizza. I like thin crust pizza and surprisingly as much as we both enjoy pizza, never had any while away.

Our first stop after checking into our hotel was for lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery.

I had the Bacon Chicken Mac 'N Cheese. It was delicious, meaty, cheesy and had just a little spice heat to it. I would get it again in a heartbeat. Teena had wings tossed in a hot sauce that she said was just OK.

After touring Navy Pier, doing the ferris wheel there and taking a sunset cruise aboard a tall ship, we went for supper at O'Callaghan's on W Hubbard Street.

I had the fish and chips but substituted Onion Rings for the chips. The fish was cod and was excellent. The portions were a little smaller than usual but the perfect size for me that late in the evening. Teena had chicken fingers and waffle chips which she said was fairly basic and just OK.

I knew where we would be having breakfast the next morning. About a ten minute walk from our hotel was a Yolk. When I was in Chicago last year with with my buddies on a baseball trip, we ate at Yolk a couple of times.

The portions are huge. I had Eggs Benedict which came with diced red potato and a healthy portion of fruit. It was fabulous. Teena had two eggs and meat. She chose the ham and it was huge! I would always recommend Yolk for breakfast to anybody heading to Chicago.

That breakfast lasted us through a full day of exploring Chicago. That night Teena and I ate supper at the Blackfinn Ameripub on W Kinzie Street.

I had the Pub Burger on a lettuce cap with Mac and Cheese on the side instead of fries. Both were excellent. Teena ordered Chicken Parm. She said the pasta was terrific but had to send back the chicken as it had a funny taste. I tried it too and yes, it did. She had the wings instead with BBQ sauce and enjoyed them.

On Wednesday, we headed to Wrigleyville to catch a Cubs game and ate at The Irish Oak. I found it interesting that there were Denver Bronco items all around and the bouncer explained that they are the only Denver Bronco pub in Chicago, which makes sense as all the others are likely Chicago Bear pubs.

I had the fish and chips made with Atlantic cod. The cod was delicious but the fries came already salted and with way too much salt on them. Teena had the burger, which she said was good, and mashed potatoes instead of fries, which she said was delicious.

After the Cubs game, we went across the street and ate ate Goose Island Brewery.  Teena had the wings in BBQ sauce. The wings were huge and she said they were delicious. I ordered plain wings and Wisconsin Cheese Curds. My wings were huge too and crispy. The curds were battered and deep fried. I had hoped for a bowl of curds but this was fun to try. It seems preparing them this way takes the squeakiness and salt away. They were just OK.

Before flying home to Toronto today, Teena and I had breakfast at the West Egg cafe.

Once again it was breakfast served in huge portions. Teena had Pork Chops and Eggs, which she said were good and would get again while I had a breakfast called the Grabowski.

The cheese and onions with the polish sausage was great and I enjoyed the home fires. I would order this again.

So you see, Teena and I are not fancy eaters but sure enjoyed eating our way around Chicago.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Watching the Cubs Win at Wrigley Field

Today Teena and I headed out to Wrigleyville to watch the Chicago Cubs take on the Colorado Rockies in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

It was hot.

We attempted to walk around the outside of the stadium, but is was all under construction. Hate to have a fire on game day and need this firehouse to respond.

On the foul poles flies the names of the Cubs Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees. Ferguson Jenkins from Chatham Ontario, is one of my all time favorite pitchers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991, winning 284 games in his career and a Cy Young award in 1971, which not only was a first for a Canadian, but also a first for a Chicago Cub.

Yes I came away with a Jenkins jersey.

One of the new cool things that the Cubs do with their new scoreboards is flash a picture and stats of the Cub player being introduced, and on the other show his signature.

The lineups for today's game. Being from Toronto, Teena and I were so surprised to see that Jose Reyes was traded from the Jays to the Rockies. It was fun seeing him in the lineup for his first game with his new team.

The famed Wrigley Field Ivy.

First pitch.

Jose was second in the batting order. he got a hit then was thrown out trying to steal second.

Our view. See the seats in the second picture. They are across the street.

Many houses have them.

Or customers could sit in the a/c.

Some people love to go to the Caribbean or Bahamas. Give me Wrigley any day.

Some action.

There was a huge crowd for the game, considering it is an afternoon workday, a Wednesday afternoon.

The Ace of my fantasy baseball team, the Rumrunners, is Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.

The final inning.

Cubs win!

What a great afternoon! I am so glad that Teena got to experience the atmosphere of this stadium. In fact with most stadiums the fans just leave, the Cubs raise the "W" flag and play the Cubs song ... and very few leave until it is all over!

An sunny afternoon at Wrigley Field with a Cubs win. Nothing to me could be better than watching a Blue Jays victory!