Beer! Innovation! Tasty!

Usually when one think of beer, the first image is of mass produced yellow fizzy stuff that large masses of people drink. Sponsors of so many sporting events, and more corporation than flavour. See a logo flash, you know exactly what the product is.

Then comes people who are curious, those who are willing to push boundaries for not only food, drink, art, technology. These are the innovators, the explorers, those who want to push the boundaries and get more out of life. Saskatoon is becoming more connected with these passionate people.

Call it a side effect from the recent boom in being the hottest economy in North America. Some would say it is a direct result of potash industry focusing on Saskatchewan. And some have been quoted as having sexier beer.

I call it momentum.

Innovation and passion for distinctive crafts are moving beyond the larger mainstream market. It just takes a matter of looking locally in the right places.

Saskatoon, downtown, and record breaking temperatures on a January evening. Mother nature getting confused if it was late March or January. There is a distinctive prairie brown dust and dirt that seems to coat all vehicles. Warm winds keep bringing promise of new change, people still have that little enthusiastic spring in their step. Strange considering that at this time of year, we should be getting through the coldest part of winter. A lot of people are smiling, there is something beyond the ordinary and routine happening everywhere.

Which is where I arrive. The comfortable Winston’s English Pub with its vast selection of beer. And the star of the evening, a new local crafted beer from Paddock Wood that has been produced for first tasting. Got in early as I wanted to get something to eat before the casking. Went with the crowd pleasing Sheppard’s Pie, not done to traditional recipe, but enough to satisfy my hunger. Happy to report that their menu has expanded since the last time I was in.

Met up with Rob from Paddock Wood, spotted him from the distinctive t-shirt as done by Hard Pressed Desk.  (Hope there will be more of these t-shirts available.) We talked about the craft and from being in a close community, the ‘I know you from’ conversation was inevitable. Definitely a sign of those who have grown up and lived on the Canadian prairies.

Some of the (un)usual suspects from Beer Lovers of Saskatoon group showed up, anxious to find out what the beer will be like. Some speculation, determination and investigation, brought forth that it was going to be a blend of Paddock Wood’s already two popular beers, the Loki and the 606. (Reviews per links, check them out!)

Tapping was done by the brewer of the distinctive barley wine of Mano’s in Saskatoon. He reported that it was the cleanest tapping that he had ever done and he had done hundreds. (I’ve got video of it, but it’s really dark, will post it up on this post later once I’ve fiddled with it. Stay tuned!)

Onto the brew! The aroma that I first picked up was pine nuts, other people reported that they could only get that distinctive citrus hop smell. Not much head at all, or large carbonation, but then realizing on quicker inspection, the bubbles were so fine you could not see them. Deep dark brownish mustard or a deep amber in colour. If you didn’t know, it could almost be considered a Red beer(link) upon appearance. Hops flower and sediment from the keg was very finely suspended, not noticeable at all at first. First taste, brought forth that pine nuts clean then kicked into the citrus spectrum moving from cool orange to pleasant grapefruit. The body and mouth feel was buttery creamy and gorgeous but not too heavy. The finish or back end taste switched from the Loki to the style of the 606. Malts came out, more mild warm tones of malt, but not caramel. No bitter end or dryness, just a hint of some sweetness. Definitely a brilliant transition from the double IPA of Loki into the English pale ale of the 606.

And that was the first sip.

As I thoroughly enjoyed my way down the pint, and the brew warmed with my hand. There was a little bit of change in the flavor. More of the 606 malt style became prevalent and less of the Loki character. This told me that the timing on this brew was absolutely perfect. Any more aging or waiting for this would have changed the overall character of the beer.

Managed to get a taste of what came off the bottom of the first keg, and it was super sweet in flavor. Almost Paddock Wood Pic-a-Pop. (Yes, I’m dating and regionalizing myself with that mention.) The second keg after the tapping from the brewer seemed a bit more carbonated and slightly different off the top, bigger lacing and cleaner sized bubbles. Seemed to be a bit spicier with the active bubbles than the first cask. Overall the distinctive characters were still there, the big hoppy creamy boldness of the Loki, finishing with the well balanced malt of the 606.

Other people reported that if this was available for the refillable growler sized jugs, they would be “fired up” for it. (You know who you are.) And it was funny to see the pattern. People lined up for the first pint, took a couple of sips, then suddenly everyone started texting or updating their status on Facebook or Twitter, or texting people they knew to get them to come for a taste. There was quite a lot of laughs and smiles after that first pint had been quaffed. A good groove had been set, and as someone mentioned, that was the hops flower setting the mood. The staff at Winston’s were equally happy and pleased to share stories and reviews of other beers that were not the standard. People who never met before jumped in and talked with complete strangers about how great it was. Definitely a distinctive friendliness and handshaking that the crafted brew put on the crowd.

For a first casking at Winston’s of a locally brewed beer, it’s is quite satisfying to see that the standards are being raised. Not only with the beer but local awareness.

So what was this beer called? Some called it a Super 606, which in some cases could be with the larger body provided by the Loki. But then again, it could be called a Super Loki as some of the characteristics of that brew were replaced by the malt finish of the 606. I called it a Chimera, a creature with multiple parts from different animals; a bionic brilliant brew of tastiness. (We have the hops, we can rebuild him… it… err…) Or overall Damn Good Beer, the DGB. For official information, ask at Paddock Wood.

But what is next? If anything I can see this as a regular event, as there was appearances from other brewers from Saskatoon. As for Paddock Wood, there was mention of a couple other different brews that may come about. Including possibly a barrel aged brew in the style of Innis and Gunn, and my suggestion of  my latest favorite  Red Hammer being aged in Dark Rum barrels seemed to be a great idea. Also mentioned possibly of batches featuring regional hops to show off their individual flavors. Definitely great ideas to further the experience of already seasoned beer aficionados.

Just keep your taste buds, palette and pint glass open and ready. And keep an eye on the websites and feeds for Paddock Wood and Winston’s There will be tastiness and smiles for those who are driving innovation and passion for craft brewed beer.

Aren’t we lucky?

I’m still here,


Beer Review – Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

This past Friday brought colder temperatures and a thirst for really good beer. Headed to Winstons, asked for their recommend for a honey nut, and was pleasantly surprised with Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale

Yes, I know it’s in a glass with the name of a prominent brewer who produces a world class stout… but that’s not what is important. What is in the glass is what I’m talking about.

Initial nose and aroma was great, brilliant combination of caramel tones over deep coffee. Truly a different introduction of what was in store. The first taste of the beer started like a porter, but cold and smooth like a really good red, this is a medium body and not for your average lager drinker. Deep ruby amber in colour when held up to the light. Even after topping off the pint with the remainder of the bottle, still held a good bit of the head.

Decent head size about an inch, but I’m not measuring in the bar. Nice lattice remained on the side after the head diminished. Tight and active carbonization, almost spicy on the tongue if left too long. But that actually played nicely with the rich nut flavors of the ale.

Speaking of which, nice roasted walnuts and mild hazelnuts present, caramelized sugar, dark chocolate, dark coffee, barely any hop aftertaste and the only slightest hint of citrus on the aftertaste. Very clean finish. Almost compare this to a porter, but not as cloying as some that I’ve tried. It finishes very clean and almost dry.

Its a good fall beer with great character. Those of you who are just starting into beer sampling may want to try something a little less complex, like the Newcastle brown ale. Please don’t dismiss this first time around if you don’t like it. I’m just happy that you are expanding your tastes and getting out of the mainstream beer.

I’m still here,

Beer Review – Czech Mate – Paddockwood Beer BONUS Food Misdemeanor

Huzzah! Behold! Food AND drink porn!

Not bad for an improv food misdemeanor

Tonights selection for supper, includes a really good piece of cod and sushi from Charlies Seafood Market. (Located next to Mystic Java, 8th and McKercher.) The cod took really minimal time on medium low heat on the grill. Did a quick little spice rub/coating using rye bread croutons, onion flakes, paprika, chili flakes, black peppercorns, seasalt and some flour. Done on the upper grill, keep an eye on it. I couldn’t find any decent peaches on the way back.

Yes, I said it. Peaches.

I’ve had it before, and the addition of a slice of peaches on cod, is an amazing combination. If it is fresh from deep fryer for fish and chips, make sure the peaches are really cold. The sweetness of the fruit and temperature difference will be able to bring out amazing flavors in any piece of cod. Try it out once, life is too short.

The sushi from Charlie’s is consistently good, great selection for quality that is offered. Smoked salmon with cream cheese, oyster, and octopus. Little drizzle of soya sauce, couple dabs of wasabi, and it is flavor time! Salad is my usual mix of baby greens, croutons, sunflower seeds and russian salad dressing. Because I need to eat more greens, and it works better color wise for the photo.

Onto the beer! I thought I had done a review of the Czech Mate, but I have not. This is an excellent summer beer for those looking to quench their thirst. Those looking for a basic lager will be confused at the complexity of this czech style beer. Slightly cloudy on pour, bright golden hues, tiny bubbles, and really small amount of head. This maybe due to what I’m reviewing are not recently brew. I’ve found that Paddock Wood beer gains extra flavor and mellow tones if you allow the beer to sit for a while. Like a month. Keep it cold and in a dark place, and you will be amazed at the result. Little less on the carbonation after this amount of time. The body is lessened and is not as filling as the recent brewed or fresh from keg. Sharp on the front, mellows out with a hint of the citrus hoppy tartness on the backend which is a signature of Paddock Wood beer. There isn’t much to improve on this. Overall, another good beer from Saskatoon brewers, try it out when you find it.

I’m still here, still up for tasting new beers, trying out new recipes,