I originally wrote this for www.chartattack.com:
Beers As Bands: Comparing 25 suds to rock 'n' rollers
by Steve McLean
Toronto’s 10th annual Festival of Beer took place at Fort York from Aug. 5 to 7, giving thousands of people a chance to sample more than 200 different brews.
While there was also a music component to the event, Steve McLean was more interested in beers that reminded him of bands than paying much attention to what was happening on stage. After two days of intense research, here are his findings:
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is a dark, elegant beer from Montreal with strong Canadian roots, but international flair and appeal. The band equivalent is The Dears.
Tiverton Bear Dark Lager is a cold-filtered lager made with no preservatives. It has a black colour and a full-bodied flavour with a slightly bitter, malty taste. This authentic Canadian beer is Edward Bear, which had a hit with "Last Song" in 1972.
Hoegaarden is a Belgian white beer that’s light and slightly fruity with a hint of bubblegum after-taste, which definitely makes it Plastic Bertrand, a Belgian bubblegum pop/new wave act who had a European hit with "Ca Plane Pour Moi" and who also sang another fave of mine, "Hula Hoop."
Niagara Brewing Company Honey Brown is a new honey-coloured beer that lacks the substance of other beers from the brewery, including Eisbock, Gritstone and Millstone. Since the taste is unexceptional, and Niagara Falls is the honeymoon capital, this beer is Honeymoon Suite.
Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout is a six-per cent-alcohol brew from Oakville, Ontario that’s thinner than most stouts. It has a chocolate aroma and tastes like black forest cake, but not as sweet. That led me to label it as the German pop-metal band, Scorpions.
Black Oak Christmas Porter is very malty with a hint of coffee and a dose of cinnamon. It’s very nice and I wish that it was available all year-round, just like I wish that Burl Ives was still alive.
Black Oak Whiskey Barrel Oak Woody Nut was the longest named beer at the festival. The light brown beverage is aged two weeks in a Jim Beam barrel and reminds me of Janis Joplin, who really liked her bourbon and may have been a bit nuts.
Niagara’s Best Blonde Premium Ale was launched on May 20 in St. Catharines, Ontario and has a taste that’s close to a lager, but sharper and more full-bodied. Its blonde colour and confusion about what it wants to be makes it Twisted Sister.
Robert Simpson Confederation Ale was launched in Barrie, Ontario seven months ago and has already won a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards. This complex but balanced golden ale is definitely The Golden Dogs.
Oddly enough, after having a few Confederation Ales that reminded me of The Golden Dogs, I ordered a Cameron’s Dark 266 that was served to me by Jessica Grassia of The Golden Dogs. I liked the three-month-old, 4.5-per cent alcohol Dark 266 better after my second one, which gives it the staying power of the dynamic reggae band, Black Uhuru.
Amsterdam Framboise has a very dark red colour and a solid raspberry flavour, though not as strong as some Belgian lambics. But its boldness reminds me of the Dutch avant-punk band that was a leader in the Amsterdam squat movement, The Ex.
Stratford Pilsner is brewed by Joe Tuer, who I went to high school with in the Festival City. The brewer is also a big music fan so I gave him the opportunity to equate his beer with a band and he unequivocally stated "Slint." That iconoclastic indie rock band wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I suppose that I can be talked into certain things after downing a few easy-drinking pilsners.
Kawartha Lakes Raspberry Wheat is one of my favourite summertime beers. Its slightly sweet, subtly fruit-infused flavour offers up reminders of Eric Carmen’s early ‘70s pop group, The Raspberries, which had a smash with "Go All The Way." I could go all the way with this beer.
Neustadt 10W30 is a mild, malty dark ale that’s popular in the U.K. The 5.5-per cent alcohol beer from Neustadt, Ontario is very refreshing, but its oil-related name makes me think of cars and mechanics, so I’d make this the equivalent of British garage rock band, The Troggs.
Upper Canada Pale Ale was just relaunched as a lager alternative. The yellowy gold brew isn’t as hoppy as most true pale ales, but this is a good choice for Keith’s drinkers who want to go a bit more upscale. It reminds me of a Canadian band that would like to be English, but aren't. This beer is Hot Hot Heat.
Upper Canada Red came out in February. This upscale alternative to Rickard’s Red has a nice bouquet and the ale has a malty, slightly fruity flavour. This beer is classy, without being pretentious, which tells me that it ought to be Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/actor Colin Linden.
Trafalgar Mead from Oakville, Ontario comes in a variety of flavours, including blueberry, raspberry, black currant, wildberry and citrus. Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages and, with nine per cent alcohol, it packs a punch. Meads always reminds me of medieval times, so the Trafalgar selection gets a nod to Tenpole Tudor.
Wellington Imperial Stout isn’t too heavy and doesn’t have as much head as some stouts. But it’s smooth and has a slightly nutty taste. The Guelph, Ontario product is imperial, but for and of the people, just like The Constantines.
Glengarry 91/Shilling Scotch Ale is a hand-pumped, 8.5-per cent alcohol cask-conditioned real ale from Ottawa. It’s slightly sweet and surprisingly mellow considering the high alcohol content. It’s very unique in character and flavour, as is British Sea Power.
Captain Cascade also comes from Ottawa’s Scotch Irish Brewing Company. It’s an extremely hoppy real ale and reminds me of a British band that makes you hop and doesn’t come along every day: The Specials. That group featured singer Lynval Golding; the brewery sometimes uses Goldings hops.
Patagonia is a 4.9-per cent alcohol lager from Argentina that comes in a clear bottle to display its extremely pale gold colour. It was better than expected and has more European characteristics than you find in most beers from Central and South America. I don’t know any bands from Argentina, so let’s just pretend that Sepultura is from there and not Brazil.
Mill Street Belgian Style Wit Bier is only available on tap in the summer from the Toronto brewery. This cloudy witbier is my favourite Mill Street product. It has a nice aroma with an orange peel infusion and a hint of banana that had me singing the "Banana Splits Theme" by The Dickies.
Mill Street Stock Ale is a classic Canadian ale that’s a little more flavourful than Molson Stock Ale. This very pale, easy-drinking brew is The Tragically Hip.
Rogue Half-e-Weizen is a Belgian-style, unfiltered wheat beer flavoured with coriander seed and ginger that has a much stronger flavour than most hefeweizens. This unfiltered 4.8-per cent alcohol beer is from Oregon and reminds me of Everclear.
Belgian Peches is a peach-flavoured 3.5-percent alcohol wheat beer from Belgium with a cloudy colour and a tangy taste that, for obvious reasons, says Presidents Of The United States Of America to me.