Archive for May 30th, 2012

That’s Mister Beer, to you, pal

- May 30th, 2012

A while back, I tried my hand at a pretty simple home brew kit, Mister Beer Bottle Brew.

Toss a yeast pill in a bottle of fresh beer mix and in a couple of weeks, you have yourself some delicious suds.

Except, it didn’t go as well as hoped. Kind of flat; not very flavourful.

But after some backlash from fans of the product and some positive PR from the company president, I gave Mister Beer another try.

The results? Mixed, but much better.

Mister Beer sent a selection of all of their beers, Red, Blonde, Cerveza, Pilsner, and Brown. Fellow Scoundrel Shawn Logan gave the Brown Ale a try, while honorary Scoundrel and Beer lover Dave Naylor, a fan of red and copper beers, was giving the Red Lager a try.

I took home the Blonde, the Cerveza and the Pilsner. And I liked them in that order as well.

Knowing that 14 days in my cooler-temperature townhouse wasn’t enough, I let all of them sit four full weeks fermenting. It may have been overkill, but I didn’t want results similar to my previous attempt.

In addition to the yeast pill, the Pilsner came with a “hop flavouring” capsule. Thinking “I love hoppy beer,” I opted to give it a try.

When it was finished, the beer had a clean, crisp taste, and a decent bitter note on the finish, but left almost a metallic aftertaste that, after sampling the other two varieties, I can only assume is from the hop pill. Were I to buy this one again, I would opt against the additive if I tried it again.

The Cerveza was serviceable, a decent drinking beer, with a frothy head, light amber in colour and a crisp finish. Not my favourite of the bunch, but it was OK.

The Blonde, meanwhile, was the standout. More flavourful than I expected for such a light-coloured beer, with lemon notes, even a little apple, the right amount of sweetness and a crisp finish. I’m glad I opted against the lime flavouring pill that came with this one too, given how the hop pill turned out for me. Even if it didn’t detract from how the Blonde presented itself, I don’t think this one needs any help. This would be my recommendation, and one I’d buy in the future.

But I still think the directions could be a little more clear, to indicate, that if you want your beer done in the two weeks, it needs to be kept at 25-28C and if you keep your house at 18-20C, as do a lot of people, it could take upwards of four weeks.

Summer sippin’ (UPDATED)

- May 30th, 2012

pineapple ginger margarita
The delicious Pineapple Ginger Margarita. Photo courtesy Earls

Now that we’re finally approaching summer (and here’s hoping Calgary avoids the usual June monsoon), we can start thinking patio.

I know for many of you, patio means pitchers of beer. But a man cannot live on beer alone.

As I learned in my youth, spending many a hot afternoon on the rooftop patio at Edmonton’s Black Dog Freehouse sipping Bombay gin and tonic, there’s nothing more refreshing than fine spirits and crisp flavours, over ice.

I know a good cocktail can be a pain. Getting quality ingredients, and preparing them in the proper fashion is work. Muddling, mixing, sugaring, stirring, shaking. It’s a chore. But there is quite the art to making a great mojito or margarita from scratch, and it’s way better than the lime-ish slush you get at a lot of restaurants.

But that fresh, from-scratch approach is cropping up on patios this summer.

Cameron Bogue, beverage director for Earl’s Restaurants, told me he wanted to bring a “simple and fresh” approach to the company’s cocktail program.

“The prime reason for me to work for Earl’s was a fresh-made drinks program,” he said.

The company already promotes the same philosophy in their kitchens, so he “knew he’d be able to execute and in-house bar program as well.”

While the bartenders may not have enjoyed the new workload, with syrups made in-house and lemons and limes juiced daily, Bogue said they were on board with his philosophy of what makes a great cocktail: “good base spirit, something sweet, something sour and something unique.”

And it’s hard to argue when you taste what’s on offer, like the pineapple and ginger margarita. It’s a combination you wouldn’t expect, El Jimador tequila, lime, ginger simple syrup and muddled fresh pineapple, and it comes with a kick in the form of a sugar/salt/cayenne-rimmed glass. I had a chance to make a home version of the drink, pictured above, and while it was more work than I’d like to take on regularly, I’d happily order it while enjoying a sun-baked Calgary afternoon. It is all the things Bogue wants in a good cocktail. And it tastes great.

Bogue said he’s pleased with the creative concoctions, including the Honey Badger, the Earls take on a whiskey sour made with Jack Daniels, house made honey syrup, apple juice and fresh squeezed lemon juice; and the Plan B, a gin-based cocktail based on an entry in a chain-wide staff contest, which features Bombay Sapphire gin, blueberry puree, fresh basil, house made simple syrup and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

A full list of delicious bevvies can be found on Earls’ website, or at a location near you.

Meanwhile, over at Cactus Club Cafe, they launched their 98 Days of Summer with a trio of seasonal specialty drinks. From May 27 to Sept. 3, the chain is running a list of 17 different weekly drink specials, but it’s the trio of summer-only libations that catches the attention.

There’s the Watermelon Margarita, made with Cuervo Gold tequila, fresh squeezed watermelon juice and lemon. The Sunset Soda, a vodka and soda topped with a splash of peach bellini. But tops on my “want to try” list is their spin on a Gin N’ Juice (for all you Snoop Dogg fans out there) — a gin and tonic with a splash of grapefruit juice.

If that doesn’t whet your whistle, I’m not sure what would.

Cheers, and try not to get a sunburn.