Project FiftyBrew status: project cancelled

Over a year ago I set out to drink what BeerAdvocate determined to be the fifty best beers made in Canada, labeling the endeavor Project FiftyBrew. Within six months I’d tackled nearly all of them, with only two remaining: The Wellington Iron Duke and the Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale. The Iron Duke was no problem; six-packs are available at any number of beer stores near me. But the Full Moon would be trickier. First, Alley Kat is made in Alberta and is hard to find here, even at places like Volo where they have limited stock and sell out quickly. Second, the Full Moon is an older beer, one Alley Kat might not even produce anymore. I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking #49 knowing I could never have #50, so I’ve put off buying the Iron Duke.

I’d still love to finish off the list some day, so if any Western Canadian readers come across a bottle of Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale, could you please wrap it up and mail it to me? Otherwise, I’ll admit defeat and call off the project.

Still, even if that officially ends the journey, I’m pretty happy with the 31 new beers that I probably never would have tried had I not given myself this little challenge. Thanks beer, for all you do!

In the home, hoppy stretch

During my long radio silence (I’m pretty sure this is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging…sorry!) there’s been much progress made on Project FiftyBrew:

  • I have now officially knocked off 39 of 50
  • I have six at home in my fridge, courtesy of friends driving them here from Kentucky and Montreal:
    • Dieu Du Ciel Fumisterie
    • Dieu Du Ciel Solstice D’hiver
    • Unibroue Éphémère Cassis
    • Unibroue La Terrible
    • Unibroue Quelque Chose
    • Unibroue Raftman
  • There is a bottle of Propellor London Style Porter waiting for me at my brother’s house in Nova Scotia
  • I can get the Wellington Iron Duke at a local beer store, and last time I checked Volo still has the Alley Kat Olde Deuteronomy in stock.

That leaves two problem children: the Alley Kat Full Moon Pale Ale (which Volo seems to be out of at the moment) and the Unibroue Eau Benite. So if anyone living in Alberta happens to come across a bottle of the Full Moon, mail it to me, ‘kay? Likewise anyone living in Quebec if they seen an Eau Benite at their local dep.

Right, where's that key to the gym?

It’s been a week of long hours punctuated by extravagant eating. Nellie kicked off the week with a test dinner (she likes to test out potential dinner-party meals on me, which I’m just fine with) consisting of salad, prosciutto-wrapped shrimp and gnocchi in a pancetta tomato-cream sauce, paired with bottles of Riesling and Pinot Grigio.

On Monday I had a work thing at North 44, still one of Toronto’s most consistent & solid restaurants. I didn’t realize it at the time but I ended up ordering the same meal I’d had there almost exactly a year earlier: butternut squash ravioli with oxtail ragout and sage, and the 12 oz. USDA rib eye. And then some kind of coconut thing for dessert.

On Wednesday night I met M2 at Volo to do some catching up. They have a particularly good tap list on right now; I had a Denison’s Dunkel and a Great Lakes Winter Ale, as well as the 38th beer on my Project FiftyBrew list: a Wellington Russian Imperial Stout. Most important, though, was a few hours spent with an old friend and, let’s face it, mentor. It happens far too infrequently for my liking.

Last night was another catch-up with old friends, this time with two old mates from university, including CBJ, briefly in town from Cincinnati with his wife. The other friend and his wife made beef bourguignon and poured us copious amounts of wine and port and limoncello as we sat in their beautiful apartment and talked into the wee hours. And to top the evening off, CBJ had smuggled three more Project FiftyBrew beers across the border — and the fact that I have to import Quebec beer from northern Kentucky tells you all you need to know about inter-provincial liquor import laws. Anyway, I now have bottles of La Terrible, Quelque Chose and Ephemere Pomme in my fridge. So…win.


I have now reached #34 out of 50 on the Project FiftyBrew list, after drinking a Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps and a Tree Hophead IPA last weekend, and a Wellington County Ale just now.

I’m definitely going to hit a wall soon though. Volo has another four on the list, the LCBO has two more and there’s one (the Garrison Imperial IPA) in my fridge, but after that…it gets sketchy. Two are Dieu du Ciel beers that I never see anywhere and five more are Unibroue that are rarely if ever in Toronto. The other two are from Garrison (no problem, I’m on the east coast all the time) and the Wellington Imperial IPA, which I’m sure will rotate into local taps now that the weather’s turned cold. Both those seven from Quebec could be problematic.

Road trip to Montreal, anyone?

At long last

As I type this my wife is packing her suitcase. My new Blu-ray copy of Last Of The Mohicans is playing. I have a glass of Fielding Chardonnay Musqué. And I am on vacation.

One year ago today we were wrapping up our trip to France. That’s the last time (save a random day here or there) I was on vacation. And with all the hours I’ve been putting in, believe me when I say that I need one.

So, I shall spend the coming week enjoying northern California and all the craft beer and delicious wine therein.

Oh, speaking of: I drank Project FiftyBrew #31 earlier this week: a can of Hockley Dark. Tres bien.


Over the past few nights I’ve knocked off six (!) Project FiftyBrew entries. Volo has been, as expected, a goldmine of Canadian beer. Over two visits I had:

  • Dieu du Ciel Route des Epices
  • Scotch Irish Sgt Major IPA
  • Scotch Irish John By Imperial Stout
  • Dieu du Ciel Dernière Volonté
  • Central City Red Racer IPA
  • St. Ambroise 20th Anniversary Vintage Ale

Lots of interesting stuff in there. I don’t like IPAs that much, but I’m developing a taste for them, and especially liked the Sgt Major. The Route des Epices was as advertised (like there was cayenne in it) and the Dernière Volonté was pretty normal (but tasty) by comparison. The St. Ambroise Vintage Ale was, unfortunately, a barley wine and not to my liking. But I have a job to do, so I drank it down. Hopefully I’ll gain some kind of taste for them; I believe there are two or three more on the list.

Happily, I’ll be back at Volo this Monday. They have at least six more that I have to hit.

"Just kidding."

I didn’t survive this week at work so much as I climbed out of it. Pushing through this cold (again? seriously? dammit!) I suggested a pub near the Ryerson before our second-last TIFF film. Much to my surprise they had several Unibroue bottles behind the bar, including #9 on the Project FiftyBrew list: Don de Dieu! Kickass. It was very nice, by the way…tasted much smoother than a 9% beer should.

We had time to kill and full bellies, so we walked home, dropped our stuff and then walked back to the Ryerson. I was so wiped that I needed coffee; our barista at Starbucks mistook my ‘sticks of shame’ t-shirt for an indication that I actually speak Japanese and tried to converse with me. My blank stare pretty much answered that question for her. We strolled up to the Ryerson and the oh-so-familiar line-up spot: the concrete wall running along church, a tired movie-goer’s best friend. Oddly enough we were shown in to the theatre 35 minutes before the scheduled start time. That never happens.

Speaking of Japanese, many of the people in the audience spoke it. That’s because we were there to see Confessions (tiff | imdb), aka Kokuhaku, Japan’s submission for best foreign film Oscar. I think I like it more now than immediately after I watched it…it felt a little long at the time, but now I appreciate all the story threads it had to pull together. The filtered slo-mo was beautiful for a while, as was the droning soundtrack, but it wore a little thin in the second hour. Still, very good. It deserves a B, says I.

Tonight is all about relaxing. I could only get about 3 hours of coherent work in at the office today, and tonight — while Nellie is off doing girly things with other girlies — I plan to do nothing more strenuous than write this blog post to the following soundtrack:

  • Ida Maria . “Oh My God”
  • DevotchKa . “How It Ends”
  • Uncle Tupelo . “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”
  • We Are Scientists . “Pittsburgh”
  • The Tallest Man On Earth . “Graceland”
  • FemBots . “Count Down Our Days”
  • Vampire Weekend . “Ottoman”
  • Rogue Wave . “Electro-Socket Blues”

Those last two were from the closing credits of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, playing in the other room, and about as highbrow as it’s gonna get around here tonight. Peace.

Corne du Diable / Noire de Chambly

I’m making a surprising amount of progress on Project FiftyBrew. Last night I met some colleagues in town from Chicago and took them to Volo. Both big beer fans, luckily for me, as that place is a FiftyBrew gold mine.

I started with a Noire de Chambly, #39 on the list. A nice light dark (if that makes any sense), if not quite the equal of their Blanche.

My second glass was a Dieu du Ciel Corne du Diable, #10 on the list. As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan of IPAs, and this one was no different. Drinkable, but not something I’d order again.

Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque / Mill Street Coffee Porter

Yesterday, on our way to TIFF10 film #2, we stopped in at Beerbistro. They had two Project FiftyBrew beers on their list: Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque and Mill Street Coffee Porter.

The coffee porter was okay…what can I say? It tasted like coffee, and I don’t really like coffee. I was also very full from lunch and my previous beer. I should probably give it another go some other time, but…meh.

The Dieu du Ciel Aphrodesiaque, on the other hand, was fan-freaking-tastic. As in, one of the best stouts I’ve ever tried. It somehow tasted like chocolate AND vanilla simultaneously. It wasn’t heavy or chalky, it was just…tasty. This will not be the last time I drink this beer.

St-Ambroise Pale Ale

Last night, after dinner at REDS, we popped over to Smokeless Joe for a beer. Or four. Happily I was able to knock off another Project FiftyBrew entry: McAuslan Brewing’s St-Ambroise Pale Ale. I was hoping to do more than that, but they were all out of Hockley Valley Dark, Mill Street Coffee Porter and Scotch Irish Sgt Major’s IPA.

No matter. Kaylea suggested a Traquair Jacobite Ale (which happens to be rated #10 among UK/Irish beers) and it was so good I had a second bottle. I circled back to Canada for my final drink, a Unibroue Fin du Monde. Which is on the list, but lord knows I’ve had it before.

Time to speed this up. I think brunch at Beerbistro is in order.