Session 101

Okay, it wasn’t actually called that, but I’ve been thinking of it as the third annual Session 99 beer festival…hence 101. Officially, though, it’s just called Session Toronto now.

Since the festival had moved from 99 Sudbury up to Wychwood Barns, taking Uber there and back — especially on such a stinking hot day — was a worthwhile splurge. And when I say stinking hot, I mean hot enough that pretty much everyone was sweaty and various degrees of stinky. I was stupid enough to wear jeans, and spent the whole afternoon yelling, Nick Miller-like, at the sun. Going inside didn’t help as the humidity in there was worse…especially when it came time to make my one and only bathroom stop. It must have been over 50° in there with the humidity, and by 7pm the situation had become something less than sanitary. I vowed never to go back in, no matter how dire the bladder situation became.

Right, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the beer…so much of which was outstanding this year.

  1. Oast House ‘Hef’ hefeweizen
  2. Sawdust City ‘Red Rocket’ coffee stout
  3. Left Field ‘6-4-3’ double IPA
  4. Great Lakes ‘Thyme Lord’ saison
  5. Beau’s ‘The Tom Green Beer’ milk stout
  6. Spearhead ‘Jamaican Fire’ ale
  7. Wellington SPA
  8. Lake Of Bays ‘River Walker’ summer ale
  9. Highlander Brew Co. ‘Lion Grass’ summer ale
  10. Muskoka ‘Dragon slayer’ tripel
  11. Indie Alehouse ‘High Maintenance’ Belgian strong ale
  12. Central City ‘Red Racer’ IPA
  13. Flying Monkeys ‘Machete’ oatmeal stout
  14. Muskoka ‘Dragon slayer’ tripel (again)
  15. Left Field 6-4-3 double IPA (again) as we stopped in to buy me a shirt
  16. Black Oak saison

Also: a killer pulled pork sandwich from Hogtown Smoke, and cupcakes (Spearhead Moroccan brown ale teacupcake, Canadian mancake) from The Sassy Lamb.

We left shortly before closing, and walked around the corner to The Stockyards to pick up dinner. Sadly, it seemed like all the other Session-goers had the same idea, and when we heard the chef yell that it would take at least thirty minutes for any fried chicken orders, we bailed. We picked up some wings on the way home, and ate them with an ice-cold Shawinigan Handshake from Trou du Diable. Beer day for the win.

Tawse, Five Rows, Hidden Bench, Stratus…and now Pearl-Morissette

It’s dangerous having a friend in Niagara. Especially when that friend is gracious enough  to invite you over (for the second time in as many months) to enjoy their pool and join them for dinner, as they did this past Saturday.

Joined this time by our friends CBJ+M, we planned to hit a few wineries on the way down. Our first and most anticipated stop was Pearl-Morissette, the one winery I’ve continually heard that we must visit. We were a little hesitant since I’d heard similar things about Marynissen which turned out to be an utter disappointment, but we had little reason to fear.

Once we actually found the place — there are no signs, no parking lots, no tour buses or bachelorette parties (thank heavens) — we realized we’d stumbled into something pretty special. It’s very much on a working farm, and not fancy…we gathered, in a barn, around a lone board perched atop some barrels. François, the winemaker, guided us through tastings of each of their wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Cab Franc), starting with barrel samples of the 2012, then the 2011s still ageing in the bottles, and finally the bottled 2010s.  He took the time to explain his adventure with each wine, the struggles and victories and lessons. No tasting, this: we were listening to a craftsman guide us through his past four years’ work. We took twelve — four of each — home, and bought four more for our hosts. CBJ+M took a half dozen as well, and Pearl-Morissette became an instant favourite for all of us. Frankly, we could have called it a day there and been happy.

Nellie and I did have a purpose, though: to stock up on some summer wines. So we stopped at Creekside to pick up some bottles and eat lunch on their deck (the food? excellent), stopped again at 13th Street (which was incredibly busy), and made the day’s final winery stop at Southbrook. We made one final pickup at Oast House Brewers for some saison and country ale before arriving at our friends’ house. Some hellos and tours and cold beers later and we were into the pool, not to depart until it was nearly time for dinner.

Our friends stuffed us with enormous steaks, potatoes the size of footballs, garlic scapes, Penfolds Bin 389 Cab/Shiraz, and strawberry shortcake. Following some electronic competitiveness we all crashed upstairs.

Rain threatened the next day so we kept our return trip plans basic, stopping at Hidden Bench and Thirty Bench for some quick purchases and having a huge lunch at the local pub The Butcher and Banker. We arrived home, sorted our 24 new bottles into their proper homes, and immediately dispatched one of the new arrivals (a Thirty Bench rosé) to celebrate an enjoyable weekend.

Photo by woody1778a, used under Creative Commons license

20 years ago today

This day twenty years ago was one of the happiest of my life. I watched my Montreal Canadiens defeat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 to win the Stanley Cup in five games. Sure I’d been alive for five Canadiens cup wins up to that point, but don’t remember ’76 through ’79, and was only vaguely aware of the 1986 cup win. I didn’t become a hardcore fan until the early 90s, and by 1993 I was obsessed.

It’s all stuck with me so clearly. I can still remember the results of each game in order. I can still name the forward line combinations and defense pairings to a man. I can picture all the crucial points in the playoffs. Vincent Damphousse winning game 3 of the first round against Quebec, the only time the Habs were really threatened. All those overtimes against Buffalo and the Islanders. Guy Carbonneau asking to shadow Gretzky after 99 ran roughshod over Kirk Muller in game 1 of the final. Eric Desjardins’ improbable hat trick in game 2 after coach Jacques Demers rolled the dice with an illegal stick call. Patrick Roy winking at Tomas Sandstrom. John LeClair owning overtime in LA. Demers dressing Donald Dufresne for the final game so he could get his name on the cup. Carbonneau, the captain, letting Denis Savard lift the cup first.

Until that point the Canadiens had never gone more than seven years without a cup win. While it’s nice to celebrate the 20th anniversary of an unexpected win, it’s sobering to think of how much the team, and the league, have changed. Not just for the Habs: no Canadian team has lifted the cup since that night in Montreal, two decades past.


Photo by woody1778a, used under Creative Commons license


One of the brothers is in town, and we’ve been having some low-key Dickinson-esque fun. Last night we went to Wvrst to have some tasty sausages and beer, got into a deep discussion regarding Game Of Thrones, and shot some strangers in a few Call Of Duty deathmatches.

Today we  perused St. Lawrence Market, sucked back some Fahrenheit coffee, introduced him to The Newsroom, strolled happily among the dogs at Woofstock, had some frigging delicious sandwiches at the Hogtown Smoke food truck, and drank cold beers in the warm sun on the patio at the Bier Markt.

“A person who claims an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge.”

First thing about yesterday: it was hot.

Second thing about yesterday: the mother-in-law returned from a side trip and, along with Nellie, promptly got to work washing the windows and cleaning up the balcony. I rewarded them with cold beer from Beer Academy. We drank them, and a bit of Benjamin Bridge Nova 7, on the balcony to celebrate.

Third thing about yesterday: we had reservations at Richmond Station. It was, as usual, tremendous. We started off with salad and a radish dish, all just incredibly fresh. Then Nellie and her mom each had the lobster bisque while I had the scallop crudo with jerk spice, all paired with a 2011 Domaine Breton “La Dilettante” Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Then for our mains Nellie had the halibut, while her mom and I had the duck. I’d say it was  pretty much the bets duck  I’ve ever had, and I’ve had me some duck. The pairing for that round was a beautiful 2011 Christopher Pacalet Gamay. The feature dessert of the night was an amazing-looking deconstructed cinnamon roll but we just didn’t have an inch of room left. We came home and drank our final bottle of Shypoke Charbono.