Monday, July 22, 2013

An Account of our Expedition to Southern Tier Brewing - First and Second Attempts

August 15th, 2012 - 12pm, Base Camp: Allegany State Park, New York.

My dear friend,

Our preparations are well underway to reach the summit of the Southern Tier on the morrow.  The weather looks promising for an early afternoon ascent, and spirits remain quite high among the members of the expedition.  They feel optimistic, I think, though they seem a tad confused about the nature of the trip, which is certainly understandable under the circumstances.  We left WIFI range six hours ago, and so I'm certain that our inability to consult our maps and travel information sites are also playing with the team's emotions.  Tonight, myself and my fellow team leader enjoyed several stiff drinks around the campfire, and regaled each other with tales of days gone by.  It was, I hope, a fine beginning to what I hope will prove to be a successful mission.

I hope this letter finds its way back to you, and finds you well.  

Your servant, 

August 16th, 2012 - 10am, Base Camp


I feel our celebrations the night prior were perhaps more exuberant than prudence would have suggested.  My head is abuzz, my muscles ache and twinge, as my body flushes out the last of the spirituous beverages.  My vision appears to be slightly compromised, though this may be a result of altitude sickness. The taste of food no longer appeals to me, but I consumed my rations all the same to keep up my strength for the final push.  Despite our condition, the team was quick to disassemble the camp, and our trusty pack mule - lovingly named "Corolla" by the men, no doubt a name picked up from some unsavory tavern of ill-repute - was laden with equipment and ready to move.   The weather remains fair, and we are well.  

The expedition presses on.  

Your dear friend,

August 16th, 2012 - 2pm, Interstate 86.

The road before us is bumpy and full of potholes.  The locals insist that they are working tirelessly to improve the road, but this does us little good, and so he journey westward is taking longer than we had anticipated.  One of the crew-members mentioned that she required "a sub, or something" - a curious remark indeed.  A submarine on a brewery expedition - have you ever heard such a thing?  The altitude must be befuddling her senses, so I will keep my eyes on her.   
Morale is hanging by a thread.  We persevere.


August 16th, 2012 - 2:26pm, Lakewood NY


My dear, dear friend: all is hopelessly lost.  

As one with many years of brewery-teering behind me, I have of course mentally steadied myself  against any possible hiccoughs in our journey, but nothing could have prepared me for such as what befell us as when we approached the summit.   Rather than finding a clean, bright view of the surrounds as expected, the brewery itself lay in disrepair.  Trucks and other vehicles surrounded the entrance, and the sounds of hammering and nail- gunnery sent us into a panic.  Yet we pressed on, as we always do, and dismounted from Corolla as close to the entrance as we dared.  We tentatively approached what was unanimously decided to be the front of the brewery, our palms wet with the sweat of anticipation, our tongues parched from thirst.  We were so very close.  Before us stood two great doors, which we attempted to pry open, but even with all of our combined strengths we could not make the door budge in the slightest.  As we stood there in utter confusion and disarray, the queerest sight befell our eyes: a woman from within the depths of the great malty beast emerged from the darkness like a spectre or some work of phantasmagoria, and opened the doors with superhuman ease.  The two parties stood transfixed for a moment or two, and then she spoke:

"You two looking to visit the brewery?"
I was filled with a sudden flurry of optimism, but maintained my composure.  "Indeed we are: we require ales and any other provisions you can spare as proof our our reaching the summit."
"I'm sorry, but the brewery and retail store doesn't open until 4.  We're also working on improving the tasting room, so it's a bit noisy today."
"But surely we could-"
"Sorry folks, we'll see you a bit later."

And with that the doors sealed shut.  

I found myself utterly despondent - to be this close to success, only to have the cruel vicissitudes of fate utterly thwart our valiant efforts, was almost too much to bear.  My co-leader steadied herself, and declared that "we aren't waiting for two hours, we need to get back home." Of course she was right, though this did nothing to ease my aching heart.  We have no choice: for the good of the crew, we must turn back.  We will make the attempt next year, if I can find the strength in me to do so.

Yours, faithfully,

July 16th, 2013 - Waterloo Towne Square

My dear George,

We are off again to make another strike for the summit, mad though we may be!  We have consulted the weather charts and the stars to ensure a favorable journey.  Yesterday, I contacted the brewery, and they assured us that they are "totally open this week" and that "The Empty Pint is open Wednesdays from 4pm onwards." All the signs are in our favour, and so glory demands that we make another attempt as soon as possible.  Our faithful Corolla is raring to begin, once again laden with camping provisions.  

This time, we cannot fail.  We must not fail.

Your servant,

July 17th, 2013 - Interstate 86, 3:45pm

Despite the locals' assurances that the roadways would be well-cleared by the time of our next expedition, clearly very little had improved.  The route was bumpy and uncomfortable, with detours and something called 'lane closures', a confusing event which required steely nerves and quick reflexes from our navigator to successfully traverse.  But we made do.  Our stalwart co-leader informed us that Corolla required feeding at the earliest convenience, and so we shall make one final stop before our last push to the summit.   

I can feel it, George.  I know we will do this.  

Keep us in your prayers,

July 17th, 2013 - The Summit

George, we have done it!!  We knocked the bastard off at 4:45pm, local time, and celebrations are currently in full swing.

We arrived within sight of the summit at half past four, and our eyes were met with a glorious sight: the construction vehicles and chaos of the previous summer had long since departed the area, leaving behind no evidence of having ever been there in the first place.  The route to the apex was clear - there was nothing standing in our way - except, of course, those awful, dreadful doors which barred our way before.  I gathered all of my strength, summoned from within me all those unhappy passions from the first attempt, and pulled at the broad doors.  Success!  The doors flew open with incredible ease, and we were inside. 

To our great dismay, we quickly discovered that we were far from the first expedition to reach the summit, but such glories are best awarded to better men and women who have the good sense to consult the website prior to making their ascent.  No matter - the only victories in life which truly matter are the victories against oneself, do you not agree?  

The summit camp was gloriously refurbished, with a delightful patio facing the gardens, a full view of the brewing kettles, and - best of all - a long bar sporting taps of the finest ales and lagers to be had.  My companion and I quickly oriented ourselves to our surroundings, and summoned the bartender to order our first round of ale.   I myself was intrigued by their recent addition, a delightful summer Saison - "Sonnet", I believe they called it, - which proved to be a fresh and citrussy brew with notes of lemon zest, herbal hops and a mild earthy funkiness.  I savored this brew, as did my comrade, who chose to sample their Live Pale Ale, a generously hopped ale which proved most refreshing.  

Flush with thoughts of our victory, we ordered another round: this time a pint of nitro-poured 2xStout, a bold, roasty dark ale with rich malty sweetness, toasted bread, coffee and dark chocolate.  A delectable concoction, if I say so myself.   My companion opted for a seasonal offering, known only as Compass, which to my surprise was uniquely brewed with rosehips.  The Compass proved to be a favorite of hers, as she enjoyed the tropical fruit from the hops and mild perfume quality to the brew.  The beers had slaked our thirst most expertly, however our stomachs continued to unleash their noisy cacophony, and so we availed ourselves to a couple of pulled pork sandwiches - these proved to be most enjoyable.  

Having deemed our celebrations to be complete, we set about the happy business of acquiring souvenirs to commemorate our great expedition.   My comrade inquired about the availability of a certain pumpkin ale - the so-called Pumking.  To our great fortune, the bartender informed us that a batch of the autumnal drink had been bottled that very day, though through some mechanical error of some sort, several bottles had been filled incompletely, and were available for sale at heavy discount - what luck!   We happily purchased a handful of these underfilled brews, as well as a couple of souvenir glasses - not to mention some bottles of other intriguing brews, bid our farewells, and carefully stowed our new purchases in the ever-faithful Corolla.   

Having taken one last glance at the summit, we departed into the gleaming summer sunset.  Our spirits were high, and so we spent the majority of our descent discussing the particulars our next great adventure.  

After all, George, one must always have another summit to climb, another brewery to visit, another expedition upon which to embark.  

As always, we press on.

Your very faithful servant, 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Detroit Bock City: A Visit to Comerica Park!

Sad news from Detroit, as the City's Emergency Manager officially filed for bankruptcy, an incredible low point after so many decades of decline.  It's a move that might serve to stop the city's financial bleeding, but it is also one that could prove to be a serious threat to city employees, both past and present, whose pensions could potentially be at serious risk.  It surely is a bitter pill for the people of Detroit, and Michigan as a whole, to swallow.

So what happened?  The fate of Detroit since the 1960s has brought about by myriad factors, but with one particular trend having the greatest impact: the decline of the Michigan motor industry.   With American car manufacturers - particularly GM - having to cut costs to compete with foreign markets, among other things, the working population was forced to move on, reducing the city's population by nearly 28%. Less population means less taxes from which to pay for essential services, and with workers and their high paying jobs moving out to the suburbs and beyond, the City of Detroit (which for some strange legal reason, couldn't just annex those suburbs to gain some tax dollars), the downtown core and its surrounds became a haven of unemployment and abandoned buildings.  The concept of White Flight - spurred on by race riots in 1967 - also contributed to the decline of the downtown, and those that were left behind were bequeathed a city centre in truly rough shape.  The decline in manufacturing continued unabated, and so by the 1980s, the city was in dire straits.  Massive areas of the city were abandoned and left to decay, and essential services - like traffic lights and emergency response - were drastically reduced.   This fate was not Detroit's to suffer through alone; around this time, the GM plant in nearby Flint was closed, utterly devastating the city and inspiring Flint native Michael Moore to make his first major documentary, Roger and Me in 1989, which showcased the effects of GM's decision on the once mighty motor town.   In recent years, there have been revamped efforts to try to revive the state of Michigan and its largest city through outside management of city finances, and efforts from Washington to try to bail out the auto industry, as well as a major tourism campaign - Pure Michigan - with advertisements narrated by Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, Tim Allen, extolling the natural beauty of the state.  But it's hard to see much in the way of improvement.  I truly hope that by keeping the city's creditors at bay, and by encouraging the government to step up its efforts to aid the city's recovery, this bankruptcy decision will mark the beginning of a period of civic improvement.  But suffice to say, things in MoTown are in pretty rough shape indeed.

Despite all this, I've always been interested in checking out Detroit, being the closest major American city to me - other than Buffalo - and yet so seemingly out of reach.  With things being the way they are, it seems to be the case that most people would just avoid Detroit entirely - usually with a Robocop related joke or to.   But others from the area are quick to point out that it's not all doom and gloom in Detroit.  There are, after all, nicer suburbs worth checking out, and the city centre has been the source of considerable improvement in order to drive up tourism.  I feel the same way about Buffalo, a 'Rust Belt' city that is often dismissed for similar reasons, but which I enjoy visiting a great deal.  You just have to know where to go.  But my main fascination with Detroit relates to that old American past-time - baseball.    The Detroit Tigers are one of those mysterious, legendary teams that has been around since the very beginning of baseball, being a charter founding member of the American League and with a history spanning three centuries.  They aren't a dominant team like the Yankees or the Cardinals, but they've always been around, and they manage win the World Series or compete for it every decade or so.  Its cap sports one of the classic logos in baseball lore, a simple black-letter D that speaks back to a time when Mr. Burns could use a nickel to catch a trolley to the Polo Grounds, buy a steak and kidney pie, and invest in that up-and-coming Boston Opera Hat Company.  A classic logo should never need redesigning, and I'm glad the Tigers continue to embrace it.  My grandfather was a Tigers fan for most of his life, as Toronto was without a Major League team until he was past retirement age in 1977, and so I've always had a soft spot for them.

And so, despite all the warning signs to the contrary, my baseball-loving friend and I made the trip down to Detroit to catch a Tigers game.   Thanks to some careful planning and a well charted route, we had a terrific time.  Of course, we had some damned tasty beer along the way.   Indeed, Detroit isn't all bad - in fact, some areas are quite nice indeed - especially around the major stadiums.  You just need to know where to look.

We got a hotel on the cheap - and a decent one at that - right downtown, just a short walk away from Comerica Park, but before checking in, we made the drive out to the wealthier suburb of Dearborn to hit up an excellent beer store, Merchant's Fine Wine, which has a terrific selection of Michigan crafts.  Lots of Founders and Bells, but also some new ones unfamiliar to me, such as Atwater and New Holland.  With a decent haul safely stowed in the trunk, we headed back to the downtown.  One thing I certainly did notice is that yes, the downtown - like that of many an American city - was relatively empty, both of cars and of people.  And yes, there were a fair share of rundown buildings, but nothing truly awful; then again, we did choose our route carefully.  After checking in to the hotel, we hit up a truly exceptional downtown pub - the Grand Trunk Pub - which sports a classic, long American bar area, vaulted ceilings (from its original days as a ticket centre for the Grand Trunk Railroad), and a waiter whose knowledge and interest in the English Premier League made for interesting dinner conversation.  The pub looks like something out of the Prohibition Era, somewhere where people have quaffed pints before Tigers or Red Wings games for generations.  And it also had a terrific, all Michigan craft beer lineup.   A pint of Bells Oberon, HopSlam and New Holland Saison later, and we were off to the game!

Michigan Beer Fact!  Did you know that it is against state law to serve beer in a branded glass in a drinking establishment?  That means no brewery or beer names can be on the glass, so all beer is served in plain, unadorned glassware.  Breweries like Bell's and Founders thus limit their production of branded glassware; even beer stores like Merchant's rarely have them available for sale.

Despite being a new stadium, Comerica Park is steeped in history, and has that wonderful, open feel to the older stadiums of the pre-Expansion era.  Despite the somewhat cheesy entry way, the interior sports a wall of ivy in centre field, statues of Tiger greats like Ty Cobb and Sparky Anderson, and tributes to over 100 years of Tiger history - a classic American baseball stadium.

Now, I'll be picking on the Skydome a great deal here for many reasons, and so I want to take this opportunity to affirm my undying loyalty to the Toronto Blue Jays.  Our stadium isn't the worst in baseball, not by a long shot, but it's far from the best.  Don't get me wrong: a day downtown with the Dome wide open in the sunshine is a truly exceptional experience, but after watching games in both old Yankee Stadiums and now Comerica, I feel that the Skydome really needs to make some improvements to increase fan enjoyment.  It can start by being far less stringent about where fans can be at a particular time.   In Comerica, rather than restrict you to a particular zone due to your seating location, once I had my ticket scanned, the rest of the park was mine to explore. Nobody bothered us, and so we were free to check out all the lounges and special areas before the game.   The food at Skydome is pretty lousy as well, though there have been a few additions recently to the otherwise pizza, hotdogs and "nachos" fare.

But of course my biggest beef with the Skydome is the overpriced, limited selection of beer, which is so bad right now that I usually make a special point to not have a beer at all out of protest.  It's not a hipster thing, it's a wallet thing - I simply cannot justify spending ten or eleven dollars on a beer that I don't really like. Granted, this season the Dome finally has its first craft beer available - Steamwhistle - which should be better news if it weren't for the fact that Steamwhistle is literally a stone's throw away from the Rogers Centre (and should have been available for years now), and were it for the fact that it remains the only craft beer option available.  It's something, I suppose.  But in every conceivable way, Comerica Park has Skydome beat in terms of beer - and it's something that could be done so very easily in Toronto.  So Rogers Centre, Matt's Beer Den is calling you out.  

This is how you should do beer:  

See this?  That's a cup of barrel-aged, locally-brewed, Russian Imperial Stout.  Which I bought on draught, at a baseball game, for NINE FREAKING DOLLARS.  Not ten, not twelve, nine.  To put that in perspective, the Labatt's Blue and Bud Light around the Stadium sold for around eight bucks, so it's about a buck difference.  This was an exceptional glass of beer, something I never in my wildest dreams would have assumed I could buy at a ballpark, but there it was, in all its glory.

Too hot out for stout, you say?  Comerica's got you covered, for on draught they have:

- Bell's Oberon     - Bell's Two Hearted IPA       - Motor City Ghettoblaster
- Founders' All Day IPA     - Arbor Brewing Strawberry Blonde     -  New Holland Belgian Blonde Ale
- Bell's Kalamazoo Stout    - Atwater Java Stout   -  New Holland Full Circle Koelsch.

And that doesn't even count their bottle selection.   All this was made possible by the recent opening of the Michigan Craft Beer stand in right field (by no small coincidence, located immediately behind our section).   An island of refuge in a sea of BMC offerings, the Craft Beer stand is a wonderful idea that gives the fans some variety in their beer purchases, as well as encouraging the Michigan Craft Beer industry, which is a very impressive industry indeed.  The staff there were friendly and knowledgeable about their product, and even suggested other brands (the cashier, seeing me about to pick up an IPA, mentioned that he had recently tapped the keg of the aforementioned Bell's Black Nose Imperial Stout, if I was interested.  Wonderful, wonderful man...).   And this place was busy too!  There was always a good lineup of fans ready to try their next craft beer, with many of them discussing how excited they were to see these brews available at the stadium.

Craft brews not your thing?  No worries - the Blues and the Coors Lights and the Bud were still available exclusively everywhere else, so that the big players - which of course, put up the big bucks - still maintain a near hegemony over the stadium.   But for those, like us, who want something different upon which to spend our beer dollar, the Michigan Craft Beer stand was a welcome sight.   I spent more on beer that evening than I think I have in the last four or five Jays games that I have attended.

So here is my challenge to you, Skydome.  Build one of these stands in your ballpark.  Just one, at least; I'm not advocating for a violent beer revolution here, but rather for a small concession to us beer geeks who yearn for something else.  Toss it in right field or somewhere accessible; I'll happily walk over to get one. But most importantly: make it all Ontario craft brews.  Throw on some Mill St. Organic, Tank House, Amsterdam Big Wheel Amber, Flying Monkeys or Spearhead, maybe a Welly or two - Toronto has a healthy, growing craft beer industry: tap into it!   Build something like this, and I assure you, they will come.  I realize that craft beer can be challenging to keep on tap, far more so than your standard fare.  I also realize that the vast majority of ball fans probably don't care, and are perfectly content with a Keith's or Blue Light or Budweiser.  That's fine, I don't care what they drink.   But a little extra effort will go a long way.  More of my money, and the money of those who love good beer, will go into your coffers by the end of the night, I assure you.

Okay, rant over.

The rest of the game was fine, a classic night out at the ballpark, made more special with glasses of All Day IPA and Ghettoblaster.  The Tigers played well at first, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run shot, but in the end, the White Sox prevailed.   After an evening capping beer at the Grand Trunk again, we retired for the night, and headed home the next day.   We survived a weekend in Detroit unscathed, and I would happily do it again.   Detroit may be down right now, but with some smart planning and a bit of research beforehand, there are lots of opportunities to check out the city without worrying about a Peter Weller type situation.   Lots of great beer to be had, both from the city itself and from the state of Michigan.

Go Get 'Em, Tigers!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Viticultural Pursuits

I started a new job as a bartender last month, and I have to say it's great to be back behind the bar serving drinks and meeting new customers, though it's a very different sort of place from the pub I worked in for several years.  Rather than being a campus bar where craft beer, sarcasm, board games, Simpsons-inspired daily specials, and trivia nights fill up the weekly schedule, this is a full-fledged bar in a classy downtown restaurant, with a bar well-stocked with mysterious concoctions like Amaro and Campari, and where the martini and cocktails list is several pages long, and the wine list even longer.  While there's still some different beers to be had on tap to which I can provide some helpful knowledge and expertise, I'm still well outside of my element.  It can be challenging, but I've learned a great deal over the past few weeks, and that's the most important thing.

While beer will always be my passion, recently I find myself increasingly drawn to other Potent Potables in the greater world of booze, and want to learn more about them.  This is not to say that I've reached my peak with beer - far, far from it.  Fully exploring the world of beer is a project that would take several lifetimes to achieve, and I fully intend to make a serious go at it.  But the fact of the matter is I feel I have a pretty firm grounding in the many different styles of beer, how they are produced, and who are the big players in the craft beer scene, and so I think it's time to start exploring other realms of drinkery as well.   Expand my horizons, walk new paths, that sort of thing, especially when it affects my work.  But don't worry - the blog will still be here, and will still receive (haphazard) updates from me about new discoveries, beer news and other flights of beer fancy that I embark upon!

The one beverage that continues to confuse and fascinate me over the years has been wine.  I can safely say that, despite working at a restaurant that puts a high emphasis on wine and having consumed the stuff throughout my drinking career  - I still don't know shit about wine.  Well, I know a few things, I guess, but I couldn't tell a good wine from a terrible one, or a Merlot from a Cab Franc (Right? That's a type of grape, isn't it?).  There are reds I like ("that one is fruity, that one is smoky, that one is dry"), and reds I don't ("too red").  I just know that wine is something that I occasionally have with dinner, or at a wedding, and that it's something adults tend to start getting really interested in as they start settling down, resulting in a series of playful cocktail napkins and t-shirts extolling the benefits of good wine, but I haven't made much of a stab at all in figuring it all out.  Until now.

Fig 1: The Wine Making Process
I guess part of my reluctance towards exploring wine is related to my obsession with beer.  Since some Armenian or Iranian king declared that wine was the drink of royalty, civilization and culture, beer has been on the defensive.  From that point forward, cheap, barbarian beer had no chance against the awesome majesty of a goblet of wine; the Greeks simply ignored it, the Persians ditched it.  Because of this, wine has always been associated with high society, special occasions, and a higher standard of living; meanwhile beer is the drink of the working schmo, like Norm Petersen, Drew Carey or Homer Simpson.  I recently watched the entire series of Downton Abbey and there's a very telling scene where the aristocratic Lord Grantham and his family are reluctantly hosting a couple of uncouth Irishmen, who clearly have no interest in any pre-dinner wine or the other typical beverages of the elite, and so they ask the butler to bring them some beer.  The look of utter disdain and disapproval on Carson's face when he announces that he will have to check the cellar shows just how lowly-regarded beer is in that household.  

And so it seems that part of the whole new craft beer 'movement' has been to distinguish itself from wine or, conversely, show that beer is similar or even superior to wine, because it can be enjoyed in ways normally associated with wine (beer tastings, beer travelling, pairing with food, cellaring).  I admit myself a bit guilty of this, eschewing wine for beer almost as a matter of principle.  After all, how different are red wines from each other, really?  Certainly not as different as a glass of imperial stout is from a Czech Pilsner, an American IPA or a Belgian lambic.  But recently, I have been asking myself...why?  Why not do both?  There are similarities and crossover moments between the two beverages that showcase how both can, and should be appreciated.  As just one example, certain beers, like Belgian dark ales and certain IPAs have wine-like qualities, and recently there has been a trend to use decidedly 'wine-like' hops, such as New Zealand's Nelson Sauvin variety in big pale ales.  Really, though, the question I have to ask myself is: why should I cut out an entire world of drinking possibilities due to some pissing match whose origins are in Antiquity?  

Through a happy strike of providence, while perusing the shelves of a well-stocked Detroit beer store before attending a Tigers game (blog entry on that forthcoming!), I found an example of this possible unity between Team Beer and Team Wine.  A beer brewed alongside Syrah wine grapes! Of all the good fortune!  One that brewed by one of the giants of the craft beer world - Dogfish Head of Delaware, no less!  I took this as a sign from above to carry on my noble, Bacchanalian quest to learn more about wine.  But like the infant dipping his big toe into the water, afraid to jump all the way in, I'm perfectly content to dip my toes into the world of wine in this little way first, while still remaining comfortable on the safe shores of beerdom.

Beer: Dogfish Head Sixty One
Brewery: Dogfish Head (Milton, Delaware)
Type: American IPA
ABV: 6.5%

SUSPECT WINE KNOWLEDGE ALERT!  Again, to remind everyone, I really don't know shit about wine, so this section will probably be full of omissions, errors and downright lies.  You have been warned.

As the story goes, in recent months Dogfish founder Sam Calagione and the rest of his cohorts have taken to drinking their flagship beer, 60 Minute IPA with a little splash of red wine in the glass - just to give the beer a little something else.  They so enjoyed the combination that earlier this year, they experimented with a brew that did just that - combined the hoppy bitterness of the 60 Minute with the dry, spicy and fruity notes of must from Syrah wine grapes, grown in California  Syrah is the French term for what we call Shiraz (which I have learned recently is pronounced Shi-razz, not Shi-rah), and the world seems to be divided over what the grape is called, with France, the US, Argentina and Europe opting for Syrah, and with colonial buddies Canada, Australia and South Africa.  Syrah is a fuller bodied wine, which usually has a darker fruit taste to it (like currant or blackberry), and with an astringent, peppery finish.  Depends on where its grown, the year and such, but that's about all I know about Syrah.  The result of all this is Dogfish Head Sixty-One, which is the 60 Minute with that one extra ingredient.  This brew is Dogfish's first year-round release since 2007, which is quite surprising, considering how many seasonal brews are in their repertoire.

So how does this all look like when put together?

Poured into my stalwart drinking champion, the new Duvel goblet, which I feel really deserves to have some quality brews inside, after the mighty career of its predecessor.  The wine quality to this brew is evident immediately, as rather than the tawny, caramel colour of its 60 Minute IPA base, Sixty-One has a lovely light red wine hue - similar to the colour of a good Pinot Noir.   Pour produces a half inch of light pink foam, which recedes into a thick ring with some streaks of lacing.

Interesting nose of grape skins, muskiness, grapefruit, caramel, a bit of chocolate, currant.  Swirling this brew is an absolute must.  Certainly intriguing, to say the least.

Tasty brew - I'm enjoying this one a great deal.  Since it's been quite a long time since I've had a 60 Minute, I'm finding I'm able to enjoy the brew for what it is, rather than as a comparison, which helps a bit.  Dry red wine, grapefruit hops, mild black currant and cherry, a touch of yeast, and a dry bitter finish with a hint of pepper, though not as strong as in a bold glass of Syrah. Interesting beer.

This is a brew that I have spent a considerable amount of time sipping in an attempt to pull all the pieces together, and so far the result has been pretty good. There's a lot to pick out here, and so this brew would be both an excellent slow sipper or a fine summer afternoon quaffer.  Take your pick.  I'd really need to sit this one next to the 60 Minute to see what has been changed or improved between the two, but as it stands I count myself as a fan of the Sixty One.  (Grade: B+)

Looking forward to a summer of good beer and good wine, and I wish the same to all of you!