As I pen this column, I still savour the afterglow of this autumn’s profusion of crafted seasonal brews — fresh piquant wet hop ales, spicy pumpkin ales, rich satisfying orange Marzens, warming amber harvest ales and the first of the big dark brews of the frigid quaffing season. Autumn 2014 saw the best selection of local and imported crafted seasonal brews that I can recall. It’s a great time to be a craft beer fan, with so much choice on tap at your local craft beer oasis.
This column will be a shameless plug for gift shopping — mostly for those who have a special foam-head they want to buy for, but may be a bit unsure where to start. If you haven’t the requisite beer nerd knowledge to hunt down the exotic brews a manic beirophile craves, don’t stress — this is gift-certificate-at-his-favourite-watering-hole territory. Or you can shop the beer gift packs that appear at the LCBO. But, if you want to put something special under the tree, something that won’t fail to delight the most ardent beer lover, you can’t go wrong with specialty glassware, or unique/collectable bottle openers or other breweriana —signs, coasters, trays, mats, tap handles, etc.— all of which are prized collectables in brew nerd culture.
Appropriate glassware is an essential part of the proper presentation and enjoyment of artisan-crafted beers. Yes, the different shapes of beer glasses have a purpose. This is so important that many world class beer cafés in Europe will not serve beer unless the proper glassware is available:
Design: Tall and slender, rounded out into a bulge at the top.
Reason A nice thick cap which forms in the top bulb really increases the enjoyment of a wheat beer, holding in all those great spicy phenols and fruity esters — a full complement to an unfiltered hefeweizen’s taste. It also gives a visual show of the brew’s heading, effervescence and opaque coloring.
Beer Styles: Weizen, Heffeweizen, Witbier, Weizenbock, Gose
Design: Tall glass, slender, tapering at the bottom, sometimes with a stem.
Reason: The height of the glass allows the beer to show off its colour and carbonation. A nice head can be built at the wider top opening, which will trap the floral-biscuity aroma of the beer while the bubbles spiral up from the bottom of the glass to feed the head.
Beer Styles: Pilsner, Helles Lager, Maibock, Dampftbier, Steam Beer
Design: 100 ml -200 ml straight-walled cylinder, usually thin glass. The name translates as “pole,” used in Cologne and Leipzig.
Reason: Highlights the effervescence and aids in “quaffing” more than one beer.
Beer Styles: Kolsch, Gosebier
French Jelly Tumbler
Design: Thick ribbed tumbler in 1 and ½ pints
Reason: Originally used for making preserves, became the preferred glass for serving Belgian witbiers and lambics.
Beer Styles: Witbier, Weissbier, Lambic
Nonic (UK Pint)
Design: Basically cylindrical, wider at the mouth than the bottom, with a slight bulge just below the rim. One of the most common beer glasses, with several European variations.
Reason: Wide mouth allows proper amount of head to form. Glass won’t slip from hands when sweating because of the grip bulge. Easy to handle, stack and store.
Beer Styles: Lager, Pale Ale, ESB, Mild Ale, IPA, Stout, Porter, Beer cocktails
Design: Round and squat, thick sides, with a handle.
Reason: Allows a large quantity of beer, with plenty of room for head. Sturdy enough for sliding down the bar and for toasting. Use handle to hold the beer without warming it. A quaffer’s delight.
Beer Styles: Golden/Amber Ale, Lager, IPA, Porter, Bock, Stout, Cream Ale — any session beer.
Design: From plain to elaborately decorated fired stone vessel — usually 1 liter, often with a hinged lid.
Reason: Traditional Germanic beer vessel keeps beer cold, closed cap keeps head and beer fresh (and insects or other airborne objects out of your beer), hard to break.
Beer Styles: Pale lagers, Marzens, Hellerbier, Edelhell, Altbier, Dunkel
Design: Elegant and tall, resembling a champagne glass with a slightly shorter stem
Reason: Presentation — allows the colours of the beer to tease the eye as the natural bubbles spiral up the sides, particularly lambic fruit beers. Design aids carbonation retention.
Beer Styles: Lambic, Faro, Weizenbock, Saison, Printemps, bottle-conditioned sparkling brews
Design: The tulip glass has a bulbous body, supported by a stem. Narrows and then widens at the top. The Thistle’s bottom bulb more pronounced and is the only glass for scotch ales.
Reason: Use stem to hold the beer without warming it. The mouth design promotes a nice hefty head, trapping delicious flavor within the beer, and holding its aromas close.
Beer Styles: Scotch Ales, Pale Ale, Strong Ale, Old/Reserve ales, DIPA, Lambic, Gueuze
Design: Large heavy body, wide mouth opening, supported by a thick stem. Bottom walls of glass are thick, sometimes becoming thinner near the mouth.
Reason: Traditional monastic ale vessel. Scores in the bottom of the glass allow continual carbonation, and often support up to two full inches of head.
Beer Styles: Belgian IPA, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Trappist, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel, etc
Design: The bottom bulges into a bowl shape, tapering into a narrow mouth, just as traditional cognac and brandy glasses.
Reason: Head and aroma retention. Meant for refined beers with a strong bouquet aroma, to give nose access to these beers as they warm in the glass.
Beer Styles: Barleywine, Strong Ale, Pale Ale, IPA, Eisbock, Double Stout, Robust Porter, Tripel, Quadrupel,
Design: Unique glassware for fun and beer games. The yard and foot glass are named for their height. Typically a long cylinder with a trumpet mouth bulging out into a bowl at the bottom. The boot glass resembles a boot, and is usually of thicker glass.
Reason: The yard glass is mostly used for pub contests, to see who can drink the most beer the quickest. Legend has it this contest was developed by stagecoach drivers, who drank much in a hurry — a stand is needed for these. The boot glass owes its origins to a crafty general who bragged if his troops won he’d drink beer from a boot.
Beer Styles: Usually mild or moderate session ales and lagers.
Where to shop? Support your local retailers:
www.trimen.com (formerly Restaurant Equipment & Supply)
Malt Monk’s Pick o’ the Month
Despite the novelty name, Nickelbrook’s Pissed Off Pete’s Pumpkin Porter (limited availability, on tap only) is a seriously good, sturdy dark brew with a decent malt backbone and a spicy-roasty demeanor. It taps off a shimmering deep dark brown cola color with ruby highlights and holds its creamy off-white cap well. The aroma is big with roasty-cocoa, a very slight smokiness then highlighted with pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, some cloves) plus a barely detectable musty herbaciousness mingling with the hop tones. The flavour is a delight with elements coming together on the palate in a well-managed amalgam, giving a great sense of enjoyment and comfort as it slowly goes a bit dry, in a clean roasty-zesty finish. Great brew with a goofy name — rebrand it and my money says it would be a popular seasonal in bottle or can.
Foam Watcher News
Beer Lab Brewing Company is up and running in London. The business plan calls for small batch, barrel aged artisinal beers to be sold on tap solely at Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium. Beer Lab Brewing is a collective enterprise involving Adil Ahmid, Milos Kral (of Milos pub) and the “Denim Bros.” So far they have produced an interesting well-hopped pale utilizing Citra, Nelson Sauvin, and Mosaic hops called “Hellooooo Nurse,” a heavy session ale. Brown Porter and other great barreled offerings are in the conditioning stage. Capacity is small so the released brews are gobbled up quickly — best to keep informed when one goes on tap. There is a Facebook page for release info.
THE MALT MONK is the alter ego of D.R. Hammond, a passionate supporter of craft beer culture. He invites readers to join in the dialogue at maltmonksbeerblog.wordpress.com