The Jon Bubb Beer Challenge
When I announced my intention to have a biggish birding year, one of my friends innocently(!) suggested that sampling a different beer for every bird seen was some sort of tradition. The provenance of this claim is unknown, but Jon is a straight shooter and former Royal Marine and thus trustworthy on the subject of drinking traditions, so I had little choice but to take on the birding beer challenge.
Simple enough, or so it seemed…
Birding and beers have a long and storied friendship. In the UK, where I cut my birding teeth, a visit to the pub was the normal end to a good day of birding. In Canada this is less true – stopping at Tim’s is more common (a poor substitute in my mind). But most birders can be talked into a post-ornithological pint with minimal arm-twisting.
We are also living in the golden age of craft beer, with hundreds of brews available and new micro-breweries popping up everywhere. So in principle there should be 250 beers available, even in our benighted province where the beer market is a government monopoly.
Oh, and I like beer.
There is a fly in this ointment, of course. On the best day so far this year (1 Jan, natch) I added 31 species to the year list. On no day this or any other year have I sampled 31 pints of beer. So I have been trying to play catch-up on the beer front while falling farther behind all the time.
However this post marks beer #100. I had planned to sample something special for the one hundredth beer species of the year, but due to poor accountancy skills I squandered the number 100 slot on the boringest of beers – Heineken. The pictured brew is more what I had in mind. It rings in at number 104.
A few general observations so far:
- Why are Canadian craft beers unnecessarily strong? A session ale should be in the 3.5-4% range, especially if served in pints. The minimum for Canadian craft beers seems to be 5%, and 6+% is common. Lynn theorizes that this is because hipsters drink only one beer at a time and then waste their remaining in-pub hours debating its merits… 🙂
- Yes, modern IPAs are interesting and voguish. But something close to 80% of available craft beers are IPAs. There are other beer styles known to humankind. Our local brew pub likes to brag about the number of craft brews they have on tap, but almost all of them are variations on IPA.
- Where are the English-style bitters? A mere handful are being made. And again GUM Department Store the LCBO doesn’t help – on a typical day they will have one English bitter on sale, hemmed in by hordes of pedestrian imports and a plethora of nearly-identical IPAs. They once carried the excellent Propeller Extra Special Bitter from Halifax, but they have de-listed it in favour of Propeller IPA. Grrr.
- Everything from Muskoka Brewery, Mill Street and Nickel Brook is good. Perth Brewery and Prince Eddy are very promising and will require further investigation.
The Best of the First 100
So I am 104 beers into the Beer Challenge and so far I have not tasted an actively bad brew. A few, however, stand out from the others and deserve mention. Herewith my recommendations. I have not attempted to rank them, save that the number one beer is my Number One Beer:
- Fuller’s London Pride
|Prince Eddie’s Brewing Co||Milk Shaka Stout|
|Skeleton Park||Amber 6.6|
|Stone City||12 Star Session Ale|
|Spearhead||Moroccan Brown Ale|
|Boshkung Brewing Company||35 & 118 Cream Ale|
|La Micro Brewing Co||Conejo Mago IPA|
|Muskoka Brewery||Mad Tom|
|Muskoka Brewery||Moonlight Kettle|
|Boshkung Brewing Company||North Country Kellerbier|
|Bobcaygeon Brewing Company||Firestarter|
|MacKinnon Brothers||Red Fox Ale|
|Black Creek||Canada 150 Best Bitter|
|Shepherd Neame||Spitfire Kentish Ale|
|Manitoulin Brewing Co||Cup and Saucer English Ale|
|Sierra Nevada||Pale Ale|
|Creveceria Nacional Dominicana||Presidente|
|Mill Street||100th Meridian|
|555 Brewing Co||Footprint IPA|
|Prince Eddy’s||Milkshaka Stout|
|Granville Island||Pale Ale|
|Four Fathers Brewing Co||Shevchenko 9 Ukrainian dunkel|
|Manitoulin Brewing Co||Cup and Saucer English ale|
|Railway City Brewing Co||Black Coal stout|
|Nickel Brook Brewing Co||Head Stock IPA|
|Nickel Brook Brewing Co||Equilibrium English-style ale|
|Amsterdam Brewery||Boneshaker unfiltered IPA|
|Black Creek||Canadian Frontier Best Bitter Ale|
|Mad and Noisy||Orange Pale Ale|
|Upper Canada||Repatriation Lager|
|Perth Brewery||25 Thistles Anniversary Ale|
|Br. Verhaege Vichte||Duchesse de Bourgogne|
Of course I cannot consider these results scientifically valid until I have replicated them…
Beer Challenge Rules (as determined by me):
- Sample Size. Ideally each beer should be imbibed in its natural form. For draft beers this means a pint glass; bottles or cans should be decanted into an appropriate-sized glass. I will allow half pints in a pinch, but samples do not count.
- Do radlers count? I deem that they do. Especially Waterloo’s Grapefruit Radler. Allowing the odd radler or shandy makes up for all those 7% IPAs.
- Neer beers (i.e. alcohol-free beers) do not count. That said, I can recommend two good ones: Grolsch and Molson’s Excel.
- In this era of trade wars and other sorts of strategic stupidity it is important to stand up for your friends and boycott the products of the countries that are intent on doing us harm. So rule number 4 is: no beers from fascist countries, from countries sliding towards fascism, and from countries run by populist demagogues.
To avoid offending anyone’s ancestral home (and to lessen the risk of hacking attacks) I will not name the offenders. Suffice it to say that I will have to continue the Beer Challenge without the help of Baltika, San Miguel, Tsingtao, and whatever swill they drink in Venezuela. Peroni is no great loss anyway, but foregoing Zywiec is a blow. I will survive.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale remains on the list. For now.