Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts
Showing posts with label canada. Show all posts

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Guest Post: Summer Nights Drinking with Steady Flames

It's been a while since I had a guest post on Fuggled, and we have a returning writer here today, Renée Francoeur. Rather than witter on myself, here's Renée....

There were three women out on the lake in a giant, multi-coloured, inflatable tube. One, sitting upright with the poise of a ballerina, had a Nymphaea alba woven into her dark Spanish hair, and a stick she was using as a Venetian oar. The other two, sprawled out on their bellies, had tossed off their bikini tops, one hand each sunk below the tea-coloured surface.

In the other hand, of course, there was beer. Specifically, a 568mL can of Old Flame’s Perry Loved Mary West Coast Style IPA. The saying goes “…till the bitter end. But Mary loved another.” Let me tell you, if unrequited love had more of a hoppy scent to it and a lingering aftertaste of orange infused wheat (instead of acid reflux and tonsil stones), well, I may have been still somewhat happily dancing around Perth County, waiting for a bricklayer to throw me a bone. As it is, I’ll just take another cold one.

It had been years in the making: this reunion of women. My five best friends from university (who now are all oh-so-conveniently scattered across the globe) and I had snuck away to a cottage on the shores of the artificially filled Lake Scugog in Ontario. There was no one we knew nearby. No distractions. No boyfriends. No obligations. Just puzzles, board games, inflatables, bottles of sunscreen, one badly selected scary movie, a fridge full of vegetables and steaks from the family-owned Willowtree Farm market, and of course: beer. The Canadian-crafted, microbrewed, the guy/gal-with-the-recipe-was-a-friend-of-a-friend kind of good, wholesome shit, too.

I was one of the two ladies belly-down on said tube, sipping Perry Loved Mary, created in the heart of Port Perry, a charming town with the old pioneering whiff of Upper Canada, not 10 minutes away from our cottage. I like to keep it local on vacations—especially so if the brewery is housed in an old brick building creaking with history and antiques.

“I hope it’s been established I’d be the one to survive in the wild,” Cristina (the one with the lily pad flower in her hair) said, pushing us to shore with her rather impressive twig.

Sabrina and I dipped our hands further and attempted to paddle, tugging waterweeds (Lake Scugog is actually flooded marshland and Scugog is Ojibwe for “marshy waters”).

“Now, we had no stick yesterday and got back just fine,” Sabby said, making a whirlpool with her wrist. How I’ve missed her strong Quebecois accent (along with the way she’ll creep up behind you when you’re cooking and envelope your back and ribs in a quick, tight embrace).

We sipped our beers, the cans reflecting the beaming sunlight; we were diamonds in a swamp afloat a rainbow. And it showed on our faces as we tumbled onto the mossy bank; Sabrina losing her bottoms, me clambering on all fours to run to the bathroom, and Cristina daintily stepping on land with the help of an extra hand.

Later in the week we managed to toss on something more than string bikinis and tour into town. Old Flame Brewery was our first stop. It didn’t disappoint.

My grandfather’s great-great uncles had enough of the coal dust in Wales and dove into the carriage business around the Niagara region in the late nineteenth century while my great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Harris, took up farming in East Nissouri county.

Old Flame has made its home in the former Ontario Carriage Works, erected in 1884. I imagined those uncles touring this building in the 1890s as part of their work, perhaps aloof in striped trousers, velvet-collared overcoats and top hats (it was said they did well for themselves). Their hands behind their backs, boots covered in saw dust, peering at wooden spokes and the like. And now here I am, sampling malt and taking in authentic ceiling beams, still showing off their charred skirts from two major fires.

The girls and I plopped ourselves down at a fascinating table made of reclaimed wood with various malts and hops on display under glass. Off to the side was an old buggy that brought back memories of the doctor’s mode of transportation from my childhood viewings of Little House on the Prairie. The sitting area was bustling with a party on the new patio that extended out to the parking lot and an older couple at a table made from a vintage washing machine I later learned.

“Try the blonde,” said the older woman, after she offered to snap a photo of us.

“And if any of you are named Mary, they have a beer for you,” her husband added as they shuffled out.

It was just past noon so up to the bar we went. One “She Left Me Blue” (a 4.8 per cent blueberry ale that turns into a heat quenching shandy when mixed with ginger ale) and one Dirty Blonde (Kellerbier style lager), please. We were even permitted to take our glass pints with us throughout the tour. Thanks to an arm from Tiffany, I managed not to spill as I navigated around the tubes and grates in my high heels to get back to the see the massive fridge.

The tour marked the first time I sampled malt: a roasted one they use for the brunette (an aftertaste of burnt popcorn anyone?) and the one they used for the blonde (like chewing on wheat).

The crew at Old Flame was phenomenal: knowledgeable and friendly and our guide was hilarious in a relatable awkward kind of way (my apologies for forgetting your name). The hometown vibe is electric in there: service is personal. There are no assembly lines, no rushing or panic. I told the girls I could have spent all day on that patio, sampling everything they had. Old Flame may be playing off the memory of bygone romances and first kisses you can taste years later but everything about it whispers family. Maybe that’s what knotted it all together for me: a rising (thanks to the yeast of course) sense of loyalty. Try as hard as we might to bury and block, we all have old flames whose faces we’ll carry with us into the graves. Old first love, blasting though innocence, has a lasting impact. And after the heartache and the pain and the business of leaving bends the clock hands for a decent amount of time, there’s solely energy there. We can stay true to those kind of memories and the moments we felt we could trust ourselves to take such leaps: pure courageous unstoppable love. That is the crux, they say. It’s as we stay true to our blood and as we should stay true to good local brews.

(Yes, I ordered She Left Me Blue the first time I walked into Newmarket’s new Ground Burger Bar and yes I wanted to shout and wave at the staff manning Old Flame’s tent at the Jazz Festival—I recognized our guide!—but alas I was caught behind a fence and attempting to make it through another cringe-worthy cityboy date without an overdose of humiliation.)

Old Flame has another motto, too: life is better when you’re in love.

As an anti-institution-of-marriage pessimist still nursing a heart that was grated out into a liquid pig manure covered field, even I agree. And I’m so lucky to be in love with the Ninkasi goddesses I spent that week with on Scugog. They remind me of big, bold love and to honour all the love and fires around me. Out in the swamp, drinking beer, our spirits flickering unruly and constant towards each other, this is the flame.

This is Renée Francoeur’s 2nd guest blog post for Fuggled. See her first here

She is a 26 year-old journalist/writer who works in the magazine business in the Greater Toronto Area. She's worked as a news reporter in Red Deer, Alberta and Fort Smith, NWT as well as throughout Ontario and loves meeting new faces in new places. She is an organic gardener, local food and anti-fish-farm advocate, part-time poet, intersectional feminist, baker, and overall small town womyn. She loves Northern and social justice news, coconut coffee porter, goats, wild buffalo, whooping cranes, old tombstones, forgotten country bridges, late breakfasts with her kickass parents and operas with her little sister. She is currently working on a collection of short stories (when she's not driving down back roads or playing pool in gastro pubs) and hopes to one day call Yukon home with two potbellied pigs named Winifred and Beatrice.

Photos courtesy Tiffany D’Souza

Friday, March 23, 2012

Just a few women and their beer in the heart of Canada’s capital - Guest Post

Today I am very happy to have a guest post from Renée Francoeur, someone that I "met" (you know what I mean) through the good graces of Twitter. There are some more details about her after the post, so I will duck out without further ado!

This is a toast to Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer.

When I first moved to Ottawa for school I knew little to nothing about beer.

In fact, a beer to me was a solely a Coors Light – that was the standard. The wheaty smell of those Coors beer caps was a way I identified my uncle Kevin and the scent of summer of their cottage on murky Lake Huron.

It was also a lightning bolt flash back to New Years Eve 2005 when a friend had stolen two from her mother’s fridge for us to try under a blanket of snow, down a back road, walking in ripped, acid-wash jeans and screamo band t-shirts we thought made us stand-offish and cool.

Everyone drank Coors. Except my father who, true to his western roots, had about three Kokanees every year – if that.

But I should have known the artistic, microbrewed family of the golden grain beverage would eventually worm its way into my thirsty heart – by a fluke I ended up with a case of beer I’d never heard of before for prom. Then I was really the cool, aloof kid. Imported from the Netherlands. Bavaria, it was called. Heineken has nothing on those green bottles.

Ottawa, for the seemingly boring grey pantsuit city of politics it is, has a plethora of dark corner bars with academic personalities.

I came to relish quite a few of them. Especially Clocktower on Bank, Irene’s and of course the often forgotten O’Gradys, tucked down in the south side.

But, for the glory of craft beer and our favourite spot for gatherings, I have to mention the Arrow and Loon, perfectly located in the Glebe where many of us poor Carleton students lived in tiny apartments on the third floors of old houses with fire escapes and bathrooms the size of linen closets.

Here, I discovered real beer. It also led to a hell of a project for an arts reporting class.

Every now and then it happens; you come across a place worth branding into your memory, a place whose half wall wainscoting and scuffed up hardwood floors gets under your fingernails like savory smelling sawdust.

The Arrow and Loon in Ottawa did that.

Since those days of my undergrad, I’ve gone for a pint in too many places to recall across Ontario (including the Wheat Sheaf, Toronto’s oldest bar – check it) and now I’m drifting into small bars in Alberta (recently drowned a glass of Wild Rose Wheat ale at the locally owned Cities gastro pub in Red Deer and wasn’t sorry for it) . . . but nothing holds me like the Arrow and the Loon.

There’s just something so homey about a place where the waitress recognizes you . . . where you can get a good, local burger for half price . . . where the list of beer is lengthy and full like a garden on the cusp of harvest . . .

Upon my first visit to the Arrow and Loon, my friend Valerie and I asked the bartender to recommend a beer.

“Kichesippi,” he said without hesitation.

I liked the way the name – Algonquin for “great river” – fizzed on my tongue.

From the first sip of that all malt pale ale, so citrusy and dashed with a whisper of a zippy bitterness that swipes clean your palate, we were soldiers of the local brand (you can’t get Kichesippi anywhere else but within the Ottawa region).

Who knew beer wasn’t supposed to be watery? Who knew it could fit on a gradient of flavours, to be fitted with foods like the over-done society of wines?

We got ourselves to a brewery. And we went on a tour. And these women learned about their barley, hops, fermentation, and how to uses herbs and fruit as natural flavouring.

At the time, we didn’t know of any other places we could get Kichesippi (though we later found ourselves at a wine bar of all places where we could go for our honey-coloured liquid) so we stayed true to the Arrow and Loon.

Breakfast dates commenced there. Afternoon catch-ups after a studious week of essays or exams. Waupoos cider evenings to soothe mid-semester anxiety. Pitchers of some type of apricot ale straight from Montreal for tear-stained nights of healing hearts that had been through the sewer system and down the falls at Hogsback. We’d go watch UFC fights there and order Kichesippi or Beau’s lugtread lagered ale, handcrafted with organic malts.

Turned out Valerie and I knew how to order better beer than most boys we took there (they lacked experimental appetites when it came to their choosing their hops).

Our time at the Arrow and Loon was short – I only discovered their cask beers as I was packing up, saddled with my degree, to move 600 km away for a magazine job.

What I would give now to sit down at one of their dark wood tables for two, out on the patio in the quiet night, and ask Valerie about her day over a cool glass of Kichesippi.

Ah those glory university drinking days. It was the time. It was the place. We were the women. And the craft brew went down good and easy. Bulls eye of an arrow shot.

Renée Francoeur is a 23 year-old writer and proud feminist. She's currently working as a reporter in Red Deer, Alberta. She loves vegetable gardening, baking from scratch, watching brick houses go up, singing Cher and Reba at the top of her lungs while dancing in the kitchen with her mother, exploring old tombstone inscriptions, and eating and of course drinking local.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eau Canada!

Some countries are inextricably linked with beer; Belgium, Britain and the Czech Republic for example. Other countries bring to mind wine; France, Australia and Argentina. Others are linked with spirits; Ireland, Russia and Poland. One country I had never thought of in connection with alcohol at all was Canada. That was until I saw beers from Unibroue in the L’Eclerc in La Souterraine. A quick text message to Beer Culture’s Evan Rail for his opinion of them and one of each available was soon in the shopping trolley.

Starting with the least alcoholic of the three, the 7.7%ABV Eau Bénite pours a dark gold with a big frothy head and lots of lovely bubbles. The nose was full of fruit and spice, and at the same time somewhat musty. Taste wise, the Eau Bénite continues the fruity theme from the nose, sweetened with honey and gingery spiciness. This beer put me in mind of the La Goudale I had enjoyed earlier in the holiday, although with a fuller body and a smooth softness in the throat.

Slightly stronger at 8%ABV, Maudite pours dark brown with a big cream head which hung around doggedly. The nose was dominated by licorice and gingerbread, the perfect Christmas aroma! The taste though was rather surprising, lots and lots of caramel, backed up by cloves – almost like a light Christmas pudding, with a very subtle bitterness underscoring the sweetness. Despite the somewhat hefty kick of alcohol, Maudite is very smooth and was like drinking liquid fudge.

Last up came the big hitting 9%ABV La Fin du Monde. What a magnificent beer this is, light amber and a thin white head, with a floral nose and touches of clove and banana. This was somewhat similar to the Eau Bénite but bigger, with a more pronounced fruitiness and refreshing spiciness. Again, given its ABV, this was a superbly smooth beer and not at all harsh.

Not only were the beers excellent, the labels were very well conceived and executed – including on the back of the Maudite a recommendation of the type of glass to use – hence using one of my dad’s brandy snifters. I have learnt that Unibroue have a somewhat extensive range of beers, which I trust will be easier to find in the USA - rather than relying on a random meeting in France - so a quick plea to my Canadian readers, please let me know what other treasures you guys have been keeping hidden!

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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