Author Archives: Travis Oke

About Travis Oke

Wine writer / consultant

Festival at the Welly

Wellington Brewery held their annual Cask Festival today – a collection of inspiration, collaboration, and creative brewing. How creative?  Some of the casks contain pomegranate, sumac, prickly pears, and Lego candy [you can re-read that last one if you like].  It really is a great party. There seems to be an absence of Jalepeno and Ghost pepper this year – which is okay because last year the Ghost pepper stout almost made me barf – for reals.

I learned that a good comment, when you don’t know what you’re talking about is “”Fresh mown hay maybe?” Thanks Brother-in-Spain-who-was-in-Guelph.

And cask fests aren’t only about beer.  The Sumac infused Sumacintosh by West Ave actually tasted of ketchup chips and tahiti treat – it was soooo good.

You also kick your kid brother’s butt at old school pinball [time and time again].

Eat foods from the 39 Carden Street food truck

Ask two people you don’t know to put their heads in the cask buddy photo thingy, so that you don’t feel silly on your own.

and play some bean bag slant board – the game really is this easy.

 

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Penchant

I confess that i do have a penchant for French wine.  Even the inexpensive French wines make me happy.  It’s a beautiful country full of mostly beautiful people speaking a language that i’m 4% fluent in [thanks Duolingo for that “encouraging” update].  This white from the Vallée du Rhône Luberon is only $12 and it’s delicious.   Also, it’s referred to as the white chicken wine in this maison.


Ü is for Ümlaut

The full title of this blog post is, Ü is for Ümlaut. My quest for Funk, Oud Bruin, and Church – how Science became relevant again.

This past weekend i decided to tour three of my favourite breweries for the first time.  My pilgrimage began at the Funk Lab of Nickel Brook Brewing Co. where Science is being made relevant again by these clever people in Burlington.  Funk and sour and fruit make for delicious science.  I’ve been a fan all summer of the Ceres and the Raspberry Über where vegetables, fruit,  bacteria and yeast excite both the palate and the imagination. It’s the miracle of science. Also, any brewery that celebrates the Ümlaut is my kind of place.   Oh yeah, the sommelier glass i got was also worth the trip. Ü is for Ümlaut.


At the Exchange Brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake [the town with more hyphens than your town], my goal was to nab bottles of their heavenly nectar – Oud Bruin. What i found was a tasting flight with a bonus sample [because the bar “messed up” – heh]. I particularly loved the Peppercorn Rye Saison, the White IPA, and the award winning Foreign Exchange Stout.  Also, they made my Instagram account look instantly better [@travisoke].

 

So, yes, I went to a couple of breweries and to church this weekend.  Silversmith Brewing Company is situated in a renovated church building in Niagara-on-the-Lake where i became one of the congregation.  I loved the Bavarian Breakfast Wheat and the Golden Ale, but the Rosewater Kellerbier led the worship for me that day.



Saisonal worker – Muddy York

This past week I volunteered at a fantastic microbrewery in East York – The Muddy York Brewing Co. Traditionally, seasonal workers on farms in France were paid and supplemented with 5 litres of saison beer for their labours.  In the true spirit of the saison workers – and because it sounded like a ton of fun –  Jeff and Susan at the Muddy York Brewing Co. in Toronto agreed to trade off my time for a pint or two.

Day 1 – Like a true migrant labourer [migrating from Guelph to East York] i was put to work painting a wall with chalkboard paint so that brewmaster Jeff Manol can let everyone else know what’s brewing, when it will be bottled, and what’s up next.  It really isn’t an overstatement to say that i built the “Oracle” of the Muddy York and have set them up for all their future successes. Also, i cut the grass in the beer garden and had a pint of Gaslight Helles with my lunch.

At the end of a physical day Jeff tapped into three of the barrels that contained the sweet nectar of Bacchus. Two Macallan scotch barrels containing Muddy York magic, and a frikin’ Chateau Lafite sauternes barrel that is aging heavenly barley wine. Video proof that it really happened!

I drank that!

Day 2 – Having proved myself through painting and landscaping, I was promoted to the bottle labelling machine.  I labeled the Helles and the Stormglass IPA bottles.  Cool labels huh?  Susan, brewmaster Jeff’s partner, is the designer of all things that look amazing at the Muddy York.  I like the Muddy York Gaslight Helles much better than the one made locally in Guelph. Perhaps, Jeff theorized,  that the water in East York is much softer than the hard water in Guelph and that changes the taste quite a bit. Anyone who lives in Guelph knows that the water is so hard that one simply resigns themselves to tossing their coffee maker every 16 months.  The East York water, and the Jeff the beer wizard,  make a great German style Helles Lager.

Look at me go! Those are my freckles.

And I had a Stormglass IPA with my Harvey’s veggie burger and frings for lunch with my daughter M in the freshly mown beer garden.  Pretty good day n’est pas?  In the afternoon, with a belly full of delicious, i sorted empties and got to add the hops to the batch of Major Small Best Bitter.  Weeeeeeeee.

Day 3 – This felt like my most useful day of all.  I finished sorting the empties, carried them to the back room, ate a pizza for lunch, had another Stormglass IPA, and carried all the kegs into the back room as well.  All this work cleared up the front of the shop where the bar is.  Susan was so happy i thought she was going to cry [actually she did shed a tear and thought she hid it from me]. She told me that she hadn’t seen that part of the floor for 9 months. Also, learned how to work the bottle washer – another promotion!

So in three days i got two promotions!  Pretty good huh?  Maybe next time i get to work the bar.

Working in a microbrewery is not glamorous – I sweated a lot – but it’s amazing. There is a lot of hard, dirty work that seems to never end.  I don’t believe anybody thinks that cleaning out a fermentation tank is anything but hard work. However, you do get to make and taste beer, so that makes it a great trade-off for me.

Maybe next time i get a promotion to clean the fermenter! Please Jeff?

 


Nickel Brook’s Goddess

What am I drinking this summer? Sorry, before i can get to that [scroll down for a photo if your attention deficit is really low today] – can i just say that i can’t believe there is a Nickelback 2017 tour.

This summer i can’t stop drinking the Cucumber and Lime Gose, “Ceres”,  from Nickel Brook Brewing Co. in Burlington. What is this “gose” thing that you just made up Travis and who is “Ceres”? It’s a sour beer with sea salt, cucumber, and lime juice with some Lactobaccilius to ferment the lot. And it’s freakin’ awesome. Gose is pronounced “gose-uh”, which is far easier to say than Gewürztraminer (pronounced [ɡəˈvʏɐtstʁaˈmiːnɐ]) – but i’m afraid that people may be hesitant to order it because they don’t want to make a mistake and sound stupid. So here’s my plea to all bartenders and servers out there – don’t correct us please. Just say something like “excellent choice my good patron”. Oh, and Ceres is the Roman goddess of agriculture. She sounds both smart, and pretty doesn’t she?

Ceres comes from Nickel Brook’s Funk Lab, where they make such clever wild concoctions as , Raspbery Uber Berlinerweisse, Ceres Cucumber-Lime Gose, Inquiry Brett Saison, Uncommon Element Brett Pale Ale and Cuvée Reserve Ales. I want them all. Now!


She is pretty isn’t she?  Sorry I had to use a glass from Muskoka – i haven’t made it to Nickel Brook for the right glass to serve it in, and nobody there thought ahead to send me one.

And to my tour guide the bodegas in Spain, no I’m not Chad Kruger.

You can find Ceres at your local LCBO and on tap at the finest establishments near you.


Summer drinks 

I’m really hopeful that summer is upon us.  The Weather Channel people tell me that i can take the top off of my Jeep and leave it off for the next 5 days! That sounds like summer to me.

If you’re looking for summer sippers – and why the heck are you reading this if you’re not – i have three to choose from.

 

“Seize Soixante-Quatre blanc” is as much fun to drink as it is to order. There’s nothing like a touch of pretentiousness to start off the summer. And speaking just enough French to be annoying does the trick for me. Refreshing with just a touch of citrus, it’s a pretentious summer-time favourite in la Maison Oke.  So are tomato plants.

Bottega has a new pink pinot grigio that is light and refreshing. How refreshing? It lasted 10 minutes at the summer BBQ i brought it to last weekend. “Bella”. And so pretty too. Wait, that’s what “bella” means.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the “Fresca” look of this vodka soda. SocialLITE does a fine flavoured vodka soda that at 4% is the perfect hot summer drink. There isn’t a hint of sweetness to be found – even in the Pineapple-Mango flavour. They are so good that you may  buy these all this summer once you start. With only 80 calories, 4% ABV, and no added sugar it’s an easy summer pick.


Insider on Cider

I spent most of last week in the business of research and espionage – finding out the incider secrets to producing, kegging, and partying with cider.  The friendly, but unsuspecting victims of my espionage?  Sulker’s Cider [now brewing cider at a secret location in Guelph] – more specifically  Matt and his partner N. I blogged about them last year in Cider: The Final Frontier.  I infiltrated the world of cider through friendly connections – my daughter, M, who has played the role of “best friend” to these people for years – heh.

What i found was dry  cider flavoured with hops, kombucha , passionfruit, rose-hips and hibiscus, and several other ciders that i do not pretend to understand [actually i pretended to understand everything while i helped Matt and N keg and sample the cider].  Later this weekend I partied with them at a launch party at Her Fathers Cider Bar in Toronto [a good city to stay anonymous in – important in the espionage business].

When any of these get on tap at a bar near you demand one from your server. Or ask politely.

These were my my favourites from the launch party.

  1. Sulker’s Dry-hopped Kombucha blended cider. 6.0% – blended dry-hopped cider and kombucha. It appealed to my sour loving palette
  2. Sulker’s Super Dry. 6.3% – clean with minimal sweetness- hints of tannin
  3. Tie – Sulker’s Super-Dry with Rose-Hips and Hibiscus because they remind me of collecting rose-hips for gramma, and the Super-Dry with Pasisonfruit because who doesn’t love passionfruit – the most alien looking of all fruits.

This is what the party looked like …

Kombucha and Rose-Hip / Hibiscus

Pretty Sulker’s Cider bottles

While at the party i snooped the basement and found this source of nectar

This is what the research looked like …

Me pretending to sample while i took note of the wall of hardware behind me

I don’t pretend to know what this is – but i pretended while espionaging

I actually did know what these were – but i pretended not to

Oh, i didn’t bother to change anyone’s name to protect anyone in this article.  All the characters are NOT fictitious.