Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Schneider Weisse


In my first beer post I wrote that beer is usually made with barley malt. The major exception to that rule is wheat. Wheat beers are a Belgian and German specialty. Witbier (think Hoegaarden or Blanche du Chambly) and Hefeweizen are incredibly distinctive, approachable, and tasty(!) styles of beer. The focus this week, by special request, is hefeweizen.
Hefeweizen is a weissbier (wheat beer) from South Germany. The Hefe refers to the yeast that gives a unique flavour and cloudy appearance to these beers. These aren't the only type of German weissbier. The sour Berliner weisse, the malty Dunkelweizen and Weizenbock, and the clear Kristalweizen are all beers made with wheat. Hefes are typically made up of about 50% wheat. The yeast really defines this beer. The phenols come across as banana, cloves and other spice, and contribute to a neat bubblegum flavour.
There's a long and interesting history of weissbier in Germany related to the famous Reinheitsgebot beer purity law. I won't bore you to death with it, but if you're interested check out this entry by Ontario beer guru Greg Clow. Today's first beer, the Schneider Weisse, is a direct beneficiary of that history. The Schneiders purchased the rights to brew wheat beer in Bavaria from the Bavarian rulers in 1856. The result is one of the most respected, and oldest, wheat beer breweries in the world.
Let me finish by saying wheat beers were my entry to the world of good beer. More specifically, witbiers were, at first I actually wasn't a fan of Hefeweizen. However, over a couple trips to Germany I fell in love with the style. There is nothing better than a draught Hefeweizen in a Bavarian beer garden on a sunny day. Seriously.


Schneider Weisse
Hefeweizen
G. Schneider & Sohn
Kelheim, Germany
5.4%

I'm using a traditional hefeweizen glass, an Erdinger. They're tall, usually a half litre, with a skinny bottom and wide top. Once poured, the Hefeweizen is one of the most beautiful beers in existance. In this case, the dirty brown/copper beer fills up most of the glass, while the big marshmellow head expands to fit the top of the glass.

A bit of spiciness on the nose. Nice wheat aroma, usually comes across as a sort of barnyard smell, in a good way. There's also nice malt in there, in the Hefeweizen it usually comes across as a bit of brown sugar, or very subtle caramel. The standout aroma in this case is carmalized apple, which lurks behind everything else. Very nice.

I've always liked describing the hefe taste as "dusty", and this is no exception. This beer is lighter on the banana flavours than most, which is usually the flavour in Hefes. In this case there is a bit of spice to the taste (cloves), but mostly I get a lot of apple flavours, like a very light cider. Bit of nuttiness to the malt. The finish is juicy, with a yeast, or dusty as I said above, flavour.

Not a long review, but the Schneider Weisse is one of the more straightforward ones.
Other good examples of the style available in Ontario are the Weihenstaphener (we should also have their dunkelweizen at the moment) and the Waterloo Wheat. Also give the True North a shot at the Beer Store. Once in a while we'll get the Franziskaner, which is, some might say, one of the best in the world. For those of you in Southern Ontario, be on the lookout for Dennison's version, a fantastic Ontario take on the style.


Wish you were here!

The Citizen is publishing the schedules of local MPs during the prorogation under the title Wish you were here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

LCBO Spring Beer Release

The four most exciting times of the year for an Ontario beer geek are the LCBO seasonal releases. The Spring Release info is now out:

LCBO No / Product Name / Retail / ML
67173 / Traflagar Oak Aged Rye / $4.25 / 650
106237 / Höss Doppel-Hirsch Doppel Bock / $3.95 / 500
157552 / Christoffel Dry-Hopped Nobel / $3.30 / 330
157560 / Hog's Back Traditional English Ale (TEA) / $3.95 / 500
157651 / Schneider's Organic Wiesen Edel-Weisse / $2.95 / 500
157834 / Gouden Carolus Ambrio / $3.10 / 330
468660 / St. Louis Gueuze Lambic / $4.85 / 375
615633 / Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale / $4.95 / 650
909770 / Rogue Brutal Bitter / $6.95 / 650
TBC / Railway City Brewing Dead Elephant / $3.50 / 500
174532 / Grand River Brewing Russian Gun Imperial Stout / $4.50 / 500


The Doppelbock is decent enough. The Christoffel should be a decent, though expensive, pilsner. The Schneider's Edel-Weisse is a very good wheat, well worth it. Gouden Carolus is always a good bet as a strong Belgian Ale. Great Lakes seasonals are good for a bottle or two, not that complex, but tasty enough. Brutal Bitter is an excellent American ESB, one of my favourites. I'll be picking up the Railway City, which I haven't tried, but I assume it's a standard Canadian-style IPA. The Grand River is what I'm most excited about, I just hope it gets provincewide distribution.

As for the others, stay away from Trafalgar, they have serious quality control issues and their beers aren't very good. Hog's Back isn't terribly exciting, but it's a nice english ale if you're in the mood. St. Louis Gueuze is a horrible interpretation of a remarkable Belgian style, I'd skip unless you're aching to try a lambic.

Look for all of them starting March.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Liberals Talk Policy

The replacement of much of Ignatieff's inner circle prompted much sneering from the Conbots a couple months back. Donolo was dismissed as tired, old, and tarnished by the Chretien years.

I think, however, that we're starting to see some dividends from the house cleaning. While the focus has been on Harper since he locked the doors, the performance of the Liberals has been noteworthy... if only because they haven't stepped in it. We haven't seen any gaffe's out of the office of the OLO. More interesting, we're starting to see real policy come out.

First it was the suggested prorogation bill. While it wasn't popular with the left, it certainly helped put some space between Ignatieff and Harper. Now we have three solid proposals regarding job creation:

Cash advance for some manufacturers
Youth employment boost
Tax incentives for entrepreneurs


Not particularly exciting stuff, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the CPC pick it up for the next Speech from the Throne, but we're finally getting some meat out of the opposition. More importantly, it shows that the Liberals are at work while the government tweets from California and gets caught making stupid statements about the House in every small town paper in the country.

I think we'll continue hearing these bits and pieces of policy come out up to the "thinker's conference" in March when an overall vision will come together, with federal education policy as the key plank.

More of this and these polls could easily start turning in the Liberal's favour.

Turbocynic

As a pollster by profession I thought this clip from last night's RMR was pretty great.

One of the things I find most distressing about the current state of the media is the fascination they seem to have with what stupid people think. This need to "have a conversation" with consumers is bizarre, not least because I doubt it has any noticeable impact on their bottom line. Do you know anyone who checks The Globe and Mail over, say, The Star, because the comments are better? Would you stop checking the CBC news online if they disabled comments?

Online polls are even more absurd. Media corporations know they'll fall victim to "freeping" if they set up a poll about anything remotely contentious. Yet they continue to do it as though the results are indicative of anything at all.

Wishful thinking, but it would be nice if the news corporations locked teh stoopid back up in the box instead of exposing us to insanity that never would have seen the light of day if we still relied on a one-page "letters to the editor".

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Does it count now?


Well, I'm back. First off, congratulations to the Ottawa organizers on a very fine event, these people knew what they were about.

It was a beautiful day in the Capital, though a tad, uh, crisp. I arrived at about 1:30 to find a decent sized crowd. True to expectations the protestors were a diverse group. This wasn't a gaggle of NDP students from Carleton. I'd suggest that the majority of demonstrators were over 25. The labour unions made up the heart of the gathering with the quieter public servant-types milling around the edges, as is usual at Ottawa protests. As Kady O says over at her place (full live-blog of the event) it was certainly grassroots, with a lot of homemade singage.

The speakers were quite good. The protest was on message, for the most part (climate change was very much a favourite theme) without any awkward messages from those on the podium. Speeches that I heard included a public servant, a Nortel employee, a former member of the armed forces, and a Green Peace bigwig.

Best of all was the entertainment. When I arrived the crowd was being serenaded by the Raging Grannies, who had written a handful of funny songs for the event. The highlight, by far, was an appearance by Arrogant Worms member Trevor Strong (I think, apologies if that isn't right). He began with an observation that anything that got a few thousand Canadians off the fence must be pretty serious. He sang a hilarious song called The Proroger (to the tune of The Wild Rover) that had the crowd in stitches. He followed it up with the Beaver song, also worth a listen if you've never heard of the Worms. A couple other musicians participated, and I enjoyed all of them. To whoever was working the talent, job well done!

I met Mr. Ignatieff as he was walking up at around 3:00 I think. Layton started things off. He did well. I never know how I'm going to feel about Jack, sometimes he really rubs me the wrong way, but he was good today. The Bloc member said a few words en francais. Ignatieff... well, honestly I'm not sure how he did. As soon as he took the podium some yutz standing directly behind me started screaming things at him. He looked like a Dipper but he yelled like a Conbot (THIEF!!! was his favourite). A bearded fella came up and gave buddy some rather choice words which frightened him in to silence... for a second, then he started screaming again. More, louder, choice words and then a lady came up and also asked him to stop. She stuck around and spoke to him for awhile to keep him shut up. Eventually he got away from her and went and stood in the thick of it where he started to yell again. People started pelting him with snow balls. All this to say I only got the last sentence of Iggy's speech, I was more concerned with ending up in the middle of a brawl and having my ugly mug on The National fighting with a hippy.

After the politicos spoke the crowd dispersed for the most part. Elizabeth May had not yet spoken but not many waited around to hear her lovely voice. All-in-all a good event. It's nice to see people get involved, especially in a notoriously boring and conservative place like Bytown. So, now we wait and see what the national media make of it and what it does to those polls.

Final crowd estimates I've seen range from 3,000 to 4,000.

Iggy
King Steve


Bad picture of the Raging Grannies


Why we're Protesting

Shorter Jason Kenney:

I think most CPC ministers would agree with me when I say that democracy is a major pain in the ass.

I'll be on the Hill at 1:00, get out there everyone!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted


Bitter & Twisted
Harviestoun Brewery
Alva, Scotland
English Blond Ale
4.2%

Last week we did an American lager. This week I picked up a pretty standard ale. Harviestoun is a great brewery out of Scotland. One of their more famous beers is Old Engine Oil, and, an aged version of that called Ola Dubh (which, by the way, has been in the LCBO for the past couple weeks. They've been selling fast, but if you can find one, it's worth the price.). To get us started on ales, I was looking for Fuller's more malt forward London Pride or ESB, but my local was fresh out. So I picked up a bottle of Bitter & Twisted.

B&T is labeled a Blond Ale, but it spills over a bit to the English IPA category given the pretty generous hopping (by UK standards). A Blond is a light, sessionable (that is, light and low in alcohol), and moderately hopped ale. The term Blond Ale means different things in different countries, so make note that this is most definitely an English/Scottish version. You'll want to serve this a little warmer than you would a lager like the Brooklyn.

B&T pours a nice gold. Little bit cloudy, but not to worry. Head settles pretty quickly. Nice, sticky lacings all the way to the finish. Doesn't look too carbonated, which was done on purpose. You may have heard of Real Ale. The British have a wonderful tradition of cask ales, beers naturally conditioned and carbonated in casks drawn through a hand pump. These have lower levels of carbonation than any beer you've ever had. So, UK brewers, and North American craft brewers, will often sell beers with noticeabley less carbonation than the fizzy MolsBatt's products.

It has quite a citrussy hop aroma, especially for a UK beer. Bit of a sugary sweetness behind the lemon zest though.

Carbonation is actually a bit surprising, it's very crisp and does a good job of waking up the taste buds. Bitter lemon from the hops right up front accompanied by a typical English bitterness. Those would be the Styrian Goldings. These standard UK varieties give off a subtle bitterness as opposed to the resinous, piney, bitterness you get from American brews. The hops are the show here, which is a bit disappointing since I was looking to show off some malt this week, but no bother. You do get a taste of the malt in the finish, even after you've swallowed. There's a bit of a apple sweetness combined with a touch of honey there, that would be an ale malt. It's also a bit "juicy". Not as distinctive as some of the darker types of ale, but it's there.

B&T is a good beer, we're lucky to have it at the LCBO and it reminds me that I should buy it more often than I do. I hope you were able to spot a difference in the character of this ale compared to the hoppy lager from last week. I promise I'll pick up a malt-forward beer for next week.

Canadians get Dumber

And the Americanization of Canada continues.

This hardening attitude among Canadians is revealed in a new Angus Reid public opinion survey that found 62 per cent of respondents favour capital punishment for murderers, while 31 per cent believe that rapists should be put to death.

The figure is a significant boost from the last such survey, in 2004, when 48 per cent favoured capital punishment for murderers.

The next federal election will be fought on crime and "small government". Locking people away and firing public servants. Should play well to their base and, unfortunately, a growing number of normal Canadians.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breaking: Health Services in Deloraine, Manitoba not up to Mayo Standards!

Brock Lesnar is not amused:

Lesnar ... says he had felt unwell for some time when he became ill at a hunting lodge at a Canadian location he refused to disclose. He said it was three hours from the nearest medical facility.
...

"It was like I was in a Third World country. I just looked at my wife and she saved my life and I had to get out of there." Lesnar's wife, former WWE wrestler Sable, took the six-foot-three, 285-pound giant away from the medical facility in "excruciating pain" and "drove 100 miles per hour" across the border to Bismarck, North Dakota.

...

Lesnar refused to disclose any details about the Canadian facility he visited, but claimed the care he received in the U.S., and later at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, was far superior and thus was evidence that the U.S. health-care system is the best in the world.


Now I don't want to insult the good people of Deloraine, in fact I suspect Mr. Lesnar could have been anywhere between Moose Jaw and Brandon. Interestingly, take a look at a map of North Dakota and consider all the towns he had to go through to get to the State capital.

Nonetheless, all Canadians should be ashamed that we can't provide non-citizen cage fighters world-class medical care in the backwoods of Manitoba.

UPDATE: The third world facility in question was in Brandon, and they're left a bit baffled by Mr. Lesnar's comments.

TMI

Shorter Charles Moore:

The only reason people care about prorogation is that the media actually reported on it. Jerks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ignatieff in Ottawa

So I managed to skip out of work early yesterday to catch Michael Ignatieff's last stop on his campus listening tour. To start off, I like Ignatieff. I've heard him speak several times and my experiences have been at odds with the man portrayed in the media. He's a great speaker, he can be quite passionate, and his intelligence comes through in this sort of setting, something you don't get from the cherry-picked sound bites that you see/hear in the media. And so I went to the University of Ottawa to see if I'd been mistaken, if he really is the arrogant, wishy-washy elitist he's portrayed as in the national media.

Busy event, but that doesn't say much, there are more than enough West Wing extras in Ottawa to fill up a room when a party leader comes to speak. Fortunately, this wasn't a young liberal meeting. Judging from the questions and the few people I met in line (including a Wild Rose member for God's sake), there were a variety of political views among the 250 or so students that showed up. Amusingly, security was quite strict. Ignatieff's people were evidently worried about the expected Green Peace protest and were on the lookout for embarrassing signs. Even after everyone was seated, staffers picked out people in the crowd with their coats on for a secondary "search".

Alan Rock introduced Iggy about a half hour late, but the crowd behaved themselves. The man launched right into his stump speech for the tour, you can check it out at RedTory's place. The most interesting part of the event was the question period, so I've gone into those below.

Q1: Oilsands. Ignatieff dodges, talks about climate change in pretty general terms.
Q2: Why did the Liberals support mandatory minimums. Dodge. Liberals aren't not tough on crime, but they are smart on crime apparently.
Q3: Responsibility to protect. We need a strong military to fulfill our international duties.
Q4: Oh God... oilsands question #2. Ignatieff is a tad more specific, it's up to Alberta to "slow development", not the federal government. The Liberals are not in favour of a moratorium.
Q5: International finance and state sovereignty, footnotes and everything, someone just got out of their global politics 101 course. Ignatieff begins by stating that he feels Canada's strong financial sector is vindication of government interference in the market and control over national financial institutions. Nonetheless, international organizations are required to deal with issues on an international basis.
Q6: Ouuuu a separatist! Yay Canada, Yay Quebec, smiles all around. That was nice.
Q7: Oilsands again. Shoot me.
Q8: How about a youth climate summit? Nice idea.
Q9: Seal hunt, the girl might be on the verge of tears, why won't the Liberals speak out against the "crushing of baby seal skulls"? Eek. Ignatieff: It's not a hunt, it's a cull and seals aren't endangered. Libs will continue to support the seal hunt. Applause surprisingly.
Q10: Education question. This is where Ignatieff shines, he's clearly passionate about it. Two main points. He believes in a national strategy, it should be easy for students to study in any province they want, to create a "national experience". Secondly, he recognizes the budget constraints that we're facing but cutting money to things like granting councils is "the dumbest thing you could do".
Q11: Foreign aid. He has a big problem with it, calls himself a Pearson Liberal, but foreign aid doesn't work.
Q12: Education again, specifically the cost of higher education. Keeping tuition low doesn't work. Lower tuition in Quebec does not result in higher participation rates. If you get the benefit of higher education, you should pay for it. That said, he wants Canada to have the most generous, best targeted, student assistance program in the world.

So there you go. I'm sorry I didn't go in to that much detail over the environment stuff, but, frankly, it bores me. Especially when it's pretty clear that you aren't going to coax some shocking new policy out of him.

It was pretty clear that he wanted to talk about education. I don't think it was just because of the audience either. He stated up front that basing our economy on regional natural resources and a manufacturing sector that isn't going to come back is a rotten idea. The future lies in intellectual property and being the most international country in the world. Ignatieff is accused of having no vision. Bullocks. He knows what he wants Canada to look like at 150, vision isn't the problem. I'm just not sure he knows how to get there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

durante bene placito regis

Denying rumours of his resignation, Vic Toews today said:

"I serve at the pleasure of the prime minister."

Now I'm not going to make a mountain out of this. For all purposes, the cabinet does serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister. Nonetheless, the use of this thoroughly American cabinet phrase, with its royal origins, still struck me as funny given recent happenings.

For more on this interesting phrase, read this Safire article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/13/magazine/13wwln-safire-t.html

(h/t BigCityLib for the story)

EDITED TO ADD: Not to say that Toews is technically correct. As an MP, Vic Toews obviously does not serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blippy

I was going to comment on CPC sycophant Paul Benoit in today's Citizen but it looks like Mr. Sinister beat me to it.

Instead, I'll share something non-political that struck me as truly bizarre. The newest thing in social media is called blippy. It's a twitter for your credit card. You sign up and it automatically broadcasts your every purchase to the world. As someone who has a hard enough time understanding the attraction of twitter, this just blows my mind. For the life of me I can't imagine why anyone would sign up for something like this.

Unfortunately, I don't doubt that the venture will be a smashing success and we can all look forward to knowing when our acquaintances from highschool buy a tube of Compound W or box of Preparation H. Fun times...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Night Beer: Brooklyn Lager


Before we start drinking, here's a short intro to beer.

Ingredients
At its core beer is a combination of malt, hops, and water exposed to a little miracle of nature called yeast.

Malt: Beer is fermented grain. For the vast majority of beers out there malted barley is used. The brewmaster has a huge variety of choice when it comes to malt. Standard malt flavours are grain, fruit, chocolate, caramel, coffee, smoke, nuts, earth, etc. etc. etc. Here's a list of malt types from the excellent Beer Advocate website.

Hops: Hops are the primary flavouring of most beers. It can be useful to break them down into regional groups. You have the subdued bittering hops of the UK, the grassy, peppery, and floral hops of continental Europe, and the jump up and smack you in the head citrus and piney American hops. Throughout the ages many different things have been used to flavour and preserve beer, but hops is where it's been for the past few hundred years. Here's a helpful sampling of hop varieties from Beer Advocate.

Water: Goes without saying that you need water to make beer. Brewmasters take great pride in their water. Historically, quality water sources are what have made various cities famous for their breweries. The best example of this is probably Burton upon Trent in England, which developed as a brewing centre thanks to the high proportion of salts in its water.

Yeast: The transformation of malt and water into beer was long considered a miracle. Today, we know all about yeast, but it's still a pretty magical trick that nature pulls. Long standing breweries will have their own yeast character that puts their footprint on every beer they brew. Fullers in London, for example, has a characteristic marmalade flavour in most of their beers that is instantly recognizeable.

I won't bore you to death with the chemistry. There are plenty of websites if you're that interested in the brewing process, but I enjoy the drinking. The above descriptions should give you a feel for the infinite variety of beers that one could produce. Whereas wine is, essentially, just rotten grape juice, every beer is a work-of-art, built by a brewmaster to achieve a specific vision.

Types
Lager: Lagers are the most familiar types of beer to most North Americans. To lager is to store a beer somewhere cool for several weeks. Over time lager yeasts developed. Lager yeast works at the bottom of the beer. The end result is usually a much clearer beer. The rise in popularity of lagers coincided with mass production of glass. When glass replaced pewter and stoneware as the drinking vessel of choice, people naturally wanted a better looking beer. Pale lagers fit the bill. Lagers include macro-lagers (i.e. Canadian, Bud, Coors), bocks, marzens, helles, and dunkels.

Ale: Ales ferment on top and at a higher temperature. As ale yeast works, the resulting esters often create sweet fruit flavours. Ales include brown ales, milds, india pale ales, Belgian ales, bitters, porters, stouts, and hefeweizens.

Brewing Nations
Unfortunately Canada's beer doesn't measure up in the way Molson commercials would like you to think. I'd suggest that the great brewing nations, in no particular order, are: Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, and the United States. The Czech Republic gets an honorable mention for Pilsner.

Drinking Beer
Finally, a couple things to remember about tasting beer. First, never drink it out of the bottle. Second, beer shouldn't be served ice-cold. For most beers, 20 minutes in the fridge should do the trick, although there are specific temperature suggestions for different styles. Third, don't be afraid of head. The foam at the top of your beer is full of hop oils that will contribute to the aroma. As any sommelier or chef will tell you, all the senses are important when you're eating/drinking. Appearance, aroma, and mouth feel are all important aspects of beer tasting.

The Beer (Finally)
Brooklyn Lager
Brooklyn Brewery
Vienna Lager, 5.2%

I was torn about what I should pick as the first beer for this. Part of me wanted to dive right in and get something crazy, but I didn't want to scare anyone off. So instead I went with something relatively familiar, but still excellent. Everyone's first beer was probably a lager, but chances are, if you're Canadian, it wasn't like this. The Vienna lager, which is the style the Brooklyn is based on, is a lager developed in, you guessed it, Vienna. The standout feature of the Vienna is the darker malt character with a nice caramel finish. The Brooklyn effort adds in a generous American hopping, putting it in to the amber American style category if you're being picky. This beer is a good start because you'll be able to pick out what hops taste like immediately.

The Brooklyn Lager is light caramel in colour. You should get a medium, snow-white head off the poor that settles to a nice film over top. As you drink it you'll probably get nice lacings all the way down. Quality beers will usually have a head with good retention that sticks to the side of the glass as you drink.

The nose on this beer is the first hint that it's a yankee brew. Take a handful of good sniffs. You'll pick out some pine and a hint of citrus. These are the trademark flavours of American Northwestern hops like Cascade. You should also pick up some familiar lager smells, like subtle grain and just a hint of caramel.

First taste should spoil you on macro-lagers for ever. If it doesn't, you're doing it wrong. Remember those brash American hops I mentioned earlier? That's the tongue scraping bitterness that attacks right out of the gate. In North America bitterness has a negative connotation, our palates are trained to like sweet things. Now's the time to embrace bitterness. As the resinous pine flavour rolls over the tongue you should get a taste of the sweet, slightly nutty malt body of the beer. There's a lasting bitter aftertaste, the hops having coated most of your mouth.

The Brooklyn is well carbonated, as a lager should be. The carbonation wakes the tongue up and accentuates the flavours of the beer. It also provides a refreshing crispness that is all important for most lighter lagers.

Viennas are good for grilled meats and moderately strong cheeses. The darker malts play off the caramelized sugars in cooked pork, chicken and even steak. The Brooklyn is even better in this respect given its generous hopping, which cuts right through fat.

So there you are! Hopefully you picked up something new and you're not all snoring away in front of the computer screen.




Thursday, January 14, 2010

He's not dead yet...


Three polls out yesterday afternoon on the woes of the CPC. First came Strategic Counsel followed by Angus-Reid and now EKOS. All of them show the Liberals and CPC essentially tied. While I'm sure it's not fun being a Harper aide today, I doubt Liberals are popping champagne. For the life of me, I can't see prorogation as an issue sticking around until the next election, whenever that might be. The press has been running with this for about a week now. Can anyone see them hanging on for another month? Two months? Six months? It might get a bit of a bump during the nationwide protests being planned for the 23rd (though I doubt that since they're on a Saturday), but it will still be another month until the House is sitting again.

As much as it pains me to say it, in this case I think Canadians are picking up on the mood of the media more than anything else. Prorogation will be a distant memory when the next election is called, overshadowed by a successful (or embarrassing) Olympic Games, and, more importantly, a throne speech in which Harper will announce that the government is going to stick a knife into the public service and start carving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beer


First off, apologies for the false start. After the madness that was the holiday season, I returned to work to find a huge pile of work on my disk and, because I'm a glutton for punishment, spent my spare time applying to grad school. I'm happy to report that the work is done and, to my (and my wallet's) shock, I'll be attending the London School of Economics this year for my masters'.

Unfortunately for those of you who share my affliction, an interest in Canadian politics, it's time for something completely different. Says right there on the right, this blog is about politics and beer. I don't have it in me to comment on politics everyday. I could, however, blather on about beer forever. It's an obsession. Has been for about five years, when I took my first trip to Belgium. The walls of my condo are covered in vintage Guinness posters. I have an IKEA Billy Bookcase specifically purchased for my embarrassingly large collection of beer glasses. I've been known to buy into special orders from Belgium, the US and, weirdly, Denmark. I'm that guy who never has any "normal" beer in the fridge when he hosts a party.

I love the stuff. And, lucky for me, unlike the uh... "stability"... of our current political situation, the Canadian beer scene is in a state of flux. Ontario brewers are finally starting to get creative. The LCBO, that infamous holdover from prohibition, is finally showing an interest in quality beer from Canada and around the world. Even a couple years ago I never would have imagined having access to an Imperial Coffee Stout from Quebec, bitter American IPAs, oak aged ales from Scotland, or a stout brewed to taste like creme brulee. It's a good time to be a beer geek.

So, where does the beer come in at King of the Shiners? I'm envisioning a weekly feature, a virtual tasting. Every Friday I'll pick a random beer from the LCBO and put up a brief description of the beer, the style and my personal tasting notes. My hope is that some of you might be brought into the beer geek fold, and that those of you already there can have another spot on the web to discuss your favourite beverage. It's a way to enjoy a quality product, relax, and forget about the shitshow that is Canadian federal politics for just a moment.