To Beer or Not To Beer (Part 2)


You didn’t think Part 2 was coming, did you? You probably thought I’d abandoned ship on my backbreaking task to edumacate myself on all things beer, where I vowed to learn about its intricacies and complexities and frothy, hoppy goodness, only having instead fallen down a wine rabbit hole, never to resurface to pay my bar tab again….

As my dear old Dad says when questioned about his smoking habit: nobody likes a quitter.

I do have an actual day job, though, that requires me to stay slim (insert eye roll) and fresh-faced and camera-ready, which means I can’t drink all the livelong day just to please you fine people, as much as I would like to. But I have found some time in there to explore the world of beer as I said I would, and I do have some further, rather asinine musings to share with you on the subject.

For those that missed Part 1 of this arduous journey (which means you’re not a regular subscriber to this blog, thank you very little), I began this quest to shed a new light on the subject of beer for all of us wine-worshipping purple-teethed fools out there who can’t seem to put down our glass of pinot long enough to try something new. I’ve always been a little intimidated to order a beer in a bar, mostly because I have no idea what in hell I actually like and don’t like, and let’s face it: not every bar you go to is going to have a wine selection that goes beyond cheap-ass “white” or slighty-less-cheap-ass “red”. So I decided to embark on a new learning curve to figure out the world of beer.

Having flown to my hometown of Vancouver, B.C. to shoot a TV show (“Supernatural”, in case you were wondering. And yeah, they’re as hot in person as they are on TV, blah blah blah), I decided the present was as good a time as any to visit a real live brewery. Vancouver has no shortage of popular microbreweries in town, so I figured if I was going to find a type of beer that I loved, I may have some modest success here.

After recruiting yet another beer-fearing besty of mine– Becky, whom you met here and who is the kind of best friend who will do anything for me, the list of which includes letting me talk smack about her driving, flying thousands of miles to visit me when I’m homesick, and holding my hair while I puke– we headed to Vancouver’s original brew pub to sample some beer. The Yaletown Brew Pub is a popular hangout for the uber-trendy crowd looking to “slum it” with some thin crust pizzas while watching the game, a bar many a Vancouverite has frequented at least once in their priviledged lives. It’s all brick walled and brass, friendly and comfortable enough not to make you feel like a jackass when ordering a beer you know nothing about. Becky gave me free reign to do the ordering (actually, I think her exact words were, “Let’s get this shit over with so I can drink a Chardonnay.”), so I went with the Mainland Lager, which sounded rather safe, and the Downtown Brown, because I liked the name. I’ve also noticed a pleasant little pattern with all things labeled Brown in the beer world, liking their slightly sweet and nutty flavours more than the hoppy stuff found in IPAs. The Mainland Lager was pretty mild and nondescript, but both of us found it a bit too hoppy, preferring the Downtown Brown by a hair, which was still a little too heavy for either one of us to imagine ordering more than one of. We finished what we could and skipped off to find a glass of champagne, announcing our Beer Work done for the day. (What a couple of chicks.)

Yaletown Brew Pub

On our second outing, we decided to see what all the fuss was about over at Granville Island Brewing, a very well-known and well-loved microbrewery on Vancouver’s tourist-heavy Granville Island. Their Taproom (which is a beer term for tasting room– look at me learning!) is really fun, a large and roomy space with communal tables and a bar, and a glass wall showcasing their brewery in all its cute little glory. We decided to taste them all, which they make super easy with their nifty little Taproom Taster, a selection of three beers of your choosing currently on tap. I chose the Island Lager, the Cypress Honey Lager, and the Robson Street Hefeweizen, while Beck went with the Brockton IPA, the English Bay Pale Ale, and the False Creek Rasberry Ale.

It's like playing a board game! Except your game piece is a beer shooter! I love games!

As suggested by our fabulous server (fabulous meaning she loved Firefly), we started off with the Brockton IPA. This wasn’t my bag, way too bitter for my tastes and just not enjoyable. The only thing I really liked about it was watching Becky make an ass of herself by calling it an “ippa”. And come to think of it, every IPA I’ve tried I haven’t enjoyed, so it might be safe to say that IPAs in the beer world are my sauvignon blancs in the wine world: ain’t ever gonna like it so I might as well quit trying. The second one up was the English Bay Pale Ale, which was decidedly less bitter and more malty, kind of like a smooth burnt toffee. Becky deemed it undrinkable, but I didn’t mind it, especially after the skunk-just-sprayed-in-my-mouth IPA. We sampled the Island Lager next, which seemed light and refreshing, but after a few sips of that I was over it. Becky pronounced it just okay, but “wouldn’t kick it out of the cooler” if it was the last thing available at the beach party.

This is the look I get from my girlfriends every time I make them drink beer
The Process as described at Granville Island Brewing

Next we tried the Cypress Honey Lager, which was quite tasty to both of us, bright and smooth and just tart enough, like sipping a French rose on a hot summer day. This was also the first beer I could see maybe perhaps almost going with some sort of a cheese plate, a nice little companion to an applewood smoked cheddar or a smoked mozzarella. I was also getting hungry. Becky was getting indigestion, by the sounds of it, whispering, “I’ve burped, like, a hundred times since we sat down”, while simultaneously burping in my ear.

some of our tasters

We moved on to the Robson Street Hefeweizen. This was a bit strange, sort of sweet and tangy, and not at all like the other beer we’d had previous. I’d always been told that a Hefeweizen may be the beer to win me over, but this one in particular just wasn’t doing it. We couldn’t place the aftertaste, which was fruity and burnt at the same time. The closest we got was Becky holding up a stop-the-presses hand and announcing a Eureka-like, “BANANA MARSHMELLOWS!” at the top of her lungs, which made me realize she was a 6 outta 1o on the drunk scale already.

Our last sampling was the False Creek Rasberry Ale, which was by far the favourite of the day. A little sweet, zesty, fruity, smooth and just gorgeous, kinda like my hairdresser. It was the first beer taster we fought over, and the only one I could see downing a whole pint of. I was initially a little disappointed that our favourite happened to be the girliest beer of them all in my eyes, until I noticed several burly-looking dock-working gentleman ordering that very beer. Furthermore, it turned out that coincidentally right across town my husband was sharing a pitcher of Rasberry Ale with his buddies, gulping it back with a vengeance in all its girly brilliance. Finally, we had found a beer that we could appreciate and marvel over, and even purchase a six-pack of to enjoy on a sunny afternoon (Becky: “STRAWBERRIES ON A FRIGGIN’ BOAT!”).

To summarize? Things were looking’ up. And that beer was start to go down mighty fine. But unfortunately for me, Granville Island Brewing’s Rasberry Ale isn’t as common place as it should be, and one can’t be proclaimed a beer-lover with only one bleedin’ beer on their favourites list.

So I’m going to keep on trucking. I’m headed to Toronto for the next few months for yet another show (where I <gasp> do not ride in and/or fix a spaceship whatsoever), so if you have brewery/microbrew/great pub suggestions for me in the old T-Dot, I’d love to hear them. Until then, I’m just gonna drink this glass of pinot here, because it looks lonely.

53 Comments Add yours

  1. Shane says:

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to find any of their stuff at a pub/restaurant, but the Unibroue brewing company makes some excellent beer that you can probably find at an LCBO store. My favorite is Maudite, but La Fin du Monde and Trois Pisotoles are also excellent.

    1. Mike says:

      Unibroue can be found all over Toronto, but the most popular at the moment are Blanche de Chambly… my personal favorite of all time was a beer they produced in limited quantities called “Quelque Chose” that had wonderful cherry tartness, with spice… it was best served slowly warmed (no, really) in the winter, almost like a mulled wine or cider, and was great. You have to search high and low for that one, however.

      1. Shane says:

        I live in Burnaby, and through fortuitous use of google have found only one or two restaurants in the Lower Mainland that serve Unibroue. Color me jealous.

  2. Rick Z says:

    Been brewing for 10 years now, allow me to be your beer sherpa.

  3. Mike Gilson says:

    If you are ever in the Seattle area, I could recommend all kinds of stuff. If you are ever in Portland, you should stop by any one of the McMenamins locations, and try a sample of their Ruby Ale. If you liked the Raspberry Ale, you’ll probably enjoy the Ruby.

  4. Mike says:

    I’ve got all kinds of recommendations for Toronto drinking spots, most of which are great places to get many of the local beer from microbreweries… and although I understand your reticence with the IPA style, don’t give up! There are many, many variations that can make one’s toes curl.

    I’d be happy to meet you at C’est What, a favorite of mine, a surprisingly large venue that’s also wonderfully cozy, and make what recommendations I can of their wonderful selection. Find me on Twitter, or through my site.

    How awesome is their manifesto:

    “Un-diluted, single batch brewing. Each brewing batch makes one beer and is not diluted after fermentation.

    All natural ingredients. The ingredients used should be easily recognized as natural and, if processed, must retain their essential character. An ingredient list must be disclosed.

    Fresh. Beer tastes best fresh. Pasteurized beer will not be served at C’est What.

    Our beer list is Canadian made only.”

  5. Mike says:

    PS: I’m not on their payroll — their beer selection makes it so easy to be evangelical.

  6. Astin says:

    Tweeted a bunch of Toronto stuff to you when you put out the call a few days ago. Just going to re-iterate on the beer front: Bar Volo (Yonge & Wellington) and Beer Bistro (Yonge & King) are probably the most extensive beer lists in the city. Also, great food at both (although I’m more partial to Beer Bistro).

    C’est What (Front & Church) is a bit more downscale from those two, and has a few of their own brews along with a solid selection. Allen’s (Danforth and Broadview) falls between them, with a good beer menu, tasty burgers, and a hell of a whiskey list too.

    Bier Markt (multiple locations, but the one on The Esplanade is likely best) has a big menu, but it’s pretty hit and miss on what they actually have in stock. Plus, it gets clubby as the night goes on. The other options stay restaurants/pubs.

    The Three Brewers is best avoided, only their own mediocre beer available, and only okay food. Very touristy-located.

    Local (in-city) breweries are Steam Whistle, which only makes one beer (their Pilsner), and Amsterdam, which makes a selection of okay beers, including a raspberry.

    Ontario is improving the craft brewing area, but I think Quebec beers still reign supreme, even those that have been bought by larger companies. If you like fruit beers, I highly recommend the McAuslan Apricot Wheat (Quebec, but available all over the place). You might want to try a white beer like Blanche Du Chambly (Quebec again), which is citrusy. Unibroue has an apple beer as well (Ephemere). Or a really good one is Dieu Du Ciel’s Rosé Hibiscus (guess what flavour).

    Also, if you dislike IPAs (not everyone’s pint of beer), try going with some higher-alcohol strong beers instead. They tend to be sweeter and less hoppy. Maudite, Fin Du Monde, and a bunch of other Unibroue labels fit this category. Dieu Du Ciel has a bunch of interesting options as well, but they can be harder to find in Ontario, as they’ve only recently been made available here. Just be careful, 8, 9, or 10% alcohol content can make you wonder why you’re tipsy so much earlier than usual.

    Have fun in Toronto!

    1. Mike says:

      Great list – Astin has the truth of it; I’d add some full-of-character (but not-so-upscale) favorites like Castro’s and the Only Cafe in the East end for great charm and selection, and the newer Town Crier at John and Richmond, for an alternative to BierMarkt.

    2. Jeremy says:

      Bar Volo is definitely a great spot to pick up beer that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the country, as well as some great local brews and cool events where they’ll bring out a cask or two of something special. They have a patio if you get there by a decent time, the inside is pretty small and the place fills up fast on busy nights. Their tap menu changes regularly, but they update it here:

      From what I remember the food there is quite good as well, though my judgment may have been suffering at the time.

      The bottle list can get pricey, for example a 650mL bomber of Stone IRS that you’d spend $8-10 on 2 hours away in NY was something like $25 at Bar Volo. I stay away from stuff like that unless it’s a bottle of something rare, but they have tons of decently priced bottles and the drafts are usually $5-7.50.

  7. Max says:

    For coming from wine to beer the IPA in not one most folks like. Hell most beer drinkers don’t start of liking them. But some you may want to try would be. These are the beers that got my wife into liking beer.

    Abita’s Purple haze (Raspberry and wheat), Strawberry Harvest (strawberry lager) and thier Andygator ( Doppelbock). That last one I love with good gumbo or any spicy rich food.

    Lindemans Lambics: These are sweet fruit beers that don’t taste like what most people think a beer should. It is almost like a light port or a real juicy red. They come in a few flavors and they are all good and are corked!

    Wheat beers, lagers and pilsners are good places to start and going to local mircobrews are always a good place to try new beers. The only one that I do really try to avoid is lambics. These beers are a hard one for places to master and can get an off taste fast. Also just like wines you can get a bad bottle. With most small batch beers you will get a banana or band aid taste. That is from some sort of contamination during the brewing process.

  8. Tom Lee says:

    This article shares waaay to much of a parallel with my beer adventures. If any other readers make a trip to the UK, the Ale scene is really something over here. CAMRA, CAMpaign for Real Ale is really taking off again, and its an exciting time for beer drinkers up and down the land.
    Depending on the region your in, there is normally a wide variety of local and county wide brewers. For example, i’m from Dorset, where the local brewery is Badger Ales. Where i’m studying in Wales, the big brewer is Brains. However, a local brewer which is making a big splash is Ottley Beers. A small family pub/brewer, they have won the CAMRA ale contest with bucket loads of gold medals.

    Let alone the numerous ale and beer festivals up and down the country, especially in the summer, for a proper beer trip come to the UK ^_^

    ps… i sound far to much like a travel salesman ¬_¬

  9. Rob Philip says:

    You are *so* funny. You couldn’t get me to drink a Chardonnay on a bet, but I’ll knock people over going for the bitterest, hoppiest IPA the place sells. Fruit beers should be used to attract insects in the garden away from your plants.

    Ever since living in Germany I’ve loved Hefeweizen (German for “yeast white”) and in a truly “real” one you should see some yeast floating in it… Glorious on an “OMFG it’s hot” day…

  10. Mike says:

    I loved you as Kaylee and Dr Keller, but this blog is just pure enjoyment 🙂 If you are ever in London, then then I would love to take you to a good beer pub: for “Real Ale”, look for the CAMRA recommendation. After that, the next best are probably the Belgian bars, then….

  11. Daniel Sato says:

    Based on what you already liked, you might try a couple of other beers.
    The first is from Abita in Louisiana. It’s called Purple Haze, and is a wheat beer with some raspberry puree.
    The second is something from Hangar 24 in Southern California. Try their Orange Wheat, it can be found at some stores, Bevmos, and bars around the Los Angeles area.

  12. Tony says:

    I think you need to spend some time trying nothing but Belgians. There’s a decent variety, but I have a feeling you’ll have better luck. Pretty much the opposite of IPAs.

  13. I don’t know if you’ll be able to find it in Toronto, but if you spot Founders Blushing Monk Raspberry Belgian Ale anywhere, snap it up! I’m not ordinarily a fan of fruity beers, but it is exquisite. Another nice beer from your favorite state is Kona’s Wailua Wheat, which is brewed with passionfruit.

  14. Josef says:

    I’m not a huge fan of IPA’s either, the only thing I can stand that’s close to it (it’s labeled as a “Not quite pale ale) is Magic Hat #9. If you get a chance to come to NC (or you may be able to find these outside of NC) you should try a Red Oak Amber, which is nice and flavorful, not too bitter and not heavy, it’s a good everyday beer. Another good one which is really local to NC is either the Aviator Hot Rod Red which is another red amber or their Devils trampling ground, which is a Belgian. Sounds like you’d probably like Belgian’s in general so maybe try a Blue Moon from ye olde grocery store.

  15. Aaron says:

    One of the best beers in the world right now is Arrogant Bastard Ale. Wins all kinds of awards (just ask Google). The brewery, Stone Brewery, is in Escondido which is between LA and SD, very very nice.

    1. Jeremy says:

      Stone is a fantastic brewing company. I visited it back in January but they were closed, however I’ve tried most of their lineup. They make some amazing stuff like Sublimely Self Righteous, Stone’s 15th Anniversary Black IPA, Stone Imperial Russian Stout, etc… Their regular offerings like Stone IPA and Arrogant Bastard are also solid.

  16. Josh says:

    One beer that you would probably like, and is available pretty much everywhere, is Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Really easy to drink, very pleasant, and pretty light on the palate. There are some other blueberry beers from a handful of brewers that are also quite good, but sometimes the sweetness of these brews gets a little overwhelming. But they do at least blue your teeth for you.

  17. Rob Morley says:

    I’ve tried a fair few beers (lagers, stouts, bitters) had to give allot of the fun drink ups, apparently it’s not good for you to drink till you fall down, Boo!!
    Anywhos, I’ve tested a few fruit lagers, strawberry, blackcurrent, very nice can’t remember the brewer, not because I was drunk… Oh alright then! There was one lager I had once, called LCL in NewCastle, I kid ya not it only affects ya legs, completely sober from the waist up, as you can imagine make the walk home very interesting!
    Love the blog Jewel! :0)

  18. I’ve been drinking beer quite a while (at least, as I perceive it lol, I’m only 22, but as a true Briton I was drinking well before the legal age), around a fair portion of the world – in my experience, the best beers have been in continental Europe. My favourite is Ottakringer Helles, but it’s gotta be at the source (Vienna)! I’ve tried importing it and it’s not so great. Like, at all. Another favourite of mine is Rochefort 8, but I can only stomach about a glass a week. It’s so sweet, so rich, so full flavoured… It’s just a bit much for me, as delicious as it is.

    For a twist, try Desperados. It’s nectar! Best from a bottle, too.

    I dunno how accessible any of these drinks are in North America, but if you’re ever in Europe you should give them a blast.

  19. Daniel says:

    If you feel really brave, go for a beer cocktail. Lindeman’s Framboise (raspberry ale) with a chocolate stout (I’d go with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout) is an amazing combination.

  20. Anika says:

    The pursuit of beer is a noble one indeed! I enjoy beer and wine in equal measure. If you ever need a girlfriend who won’t need to be forced into beer-drinking, you’ve got one right here, is pretty much what I’m saying.

  21. Chris says:

    If you can get it in Toronto, after hearing your like for the Raspberry Ale, I’d recommend the Pump House Blueberry Ale. It’s a New Brunswick micro brewery, so not sure if they ship that far yet. Also, McAuslan’s makes an Apricot Wheat Ale under their St. Ambroise label (produced in Quebec if I’m not mistaken)

    1. Mike says:

      I visited Pump House on a bit of a tour of the East Coast (mostly with beer-related destinations) and didn’t care for the Blueberry that much, but along that line, I could recommend the Raspberry KLB (on tap, not in bottles). Great for a summer’s night.

  22. Renate says:

    I’d like to thank you for that suggestion Daniel. I’ve had Young’s, and love it. Mixing it with a raspberry ale is a fabulous idea!

  23. mrmike says:

    I’ll second or third the Unibroue reccy and add that lambics or sours may ve in your wheelhouse. New Glarus Belgian Red is very familiar territory to many oeniphiles. You might also like bourbon aged beers and some of the sweeter darks in small quantity.

    In the fruity beer world there are also some great beers like Aprihop from DogFish and Potosi Tangerine IPA that balance the “ippa” bitterness with fruit notes and might surprise you.

    Finally, if you can find a bar to mix you a proper Berliner Weisse MIT himbeer you might find the weisse family grows on you.

  24. rudy says:

    All IPAs are going to be bitter on account of the higher amount of hops. India Pale Ale’s history comes about when the British Empire had to ship beer rations to their troops in the East Indies. By the time the beer arrived, it was spoiled from the high heat and transport. Solution was found by brewing high alcohol content with more hops, which inhibited Lactobacillus growth. Thus grew the IPA that could survive the trip to the India market.

    Anyway, if you liked the raspberry ale, give Lindeman’s Framboise and Wittekerke Rose a try. The Lindeman’s is really raspberry-ry, the Wittekerke more subtle.

  25. Sarah says:

    If you’ve liked most of the brown ales you’ve tried I would highly recommend Rouge’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar.

  26. Erin says:

    I won’t give suggestions for bars and pubs in Toronto, but definitely try some Mill Street beers. My personal favorites are Tankhouse Ale and Stock Ale. I am a relatively recent beer convert, it was only when I discovered that not all beers taste like mass-produced lagers and pilsners, that I started loving the beer.

  27. Kevin says:

    My go-to beers are by pyramid ale out of berkely, their hefiwiezen is my absolute fav (with a squeeze of citrus) and in the summer nothing beats their apricot ale… Sometimes you can find their hef on tap…

  28. Karen says:

    I don’t have any suggestions of good pubs in Toronto, but I’d like to fifth or sixth the recommendation of Lindeman’s Framboise. It’s a bit like drinking raspberry juice spiked with champagne — except that it’s got a heck of a lot more kick than you’d ever guess from the taste.

    As another mostly “why is beer all there is to drink in the cooler” type of gal, the only pub I know and recommend is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall faux British establishment called Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena (CA, not TX). Once a year they have a Belgian beer festival, complete with tasting-sized servings of about 50 different brews on tap. The thing I’ve learned from these tastings is that it’s hard to go wrong with Belgian beer, especially if it was brewed by monks (I have no idea why monks make better Belgian beer, but even the ones that weren’t precisely my cup of tea were still immensely drinkable).

    Drinkability doesn’t solve the burping issue. If there were a remedy known to mankind, a lot of the guys I knew in college would have remained just as attractive at the end of the date as they seemed at its start!

  29. Steven says:

    Portland is definitely a good place for beer. The microbrews here are amazing and we have the most breweries than any other city in the states. Plenty of selection out here.

  30. Sara says:

    I can’t stand IPAs myself, I recommend saison/farmhouse ales. They also fall within the Belgian category, and as an added touch aren’t over the top fruity but still maintain a citrus taste that helps to tame the hops flavor. Perfect summer beers.

  31. Kevin says:

    Nice post! It’s so good to see non-beer drinkers expanding their horizons. You’ve actually convinced me to try some wines here and there. (any suggestions for a beginner?)

    If you’re in TO and want to try out some breweries, Steam whistle is a good place to start at the roundhouse in downtown. Mill st brewery has a coffee porter you might find interesting. And if you’re feeling very adventurous flying monkey (their motto is “normal is weird”) has a beer that tastes exactly like orange juice that they’ve been bringing to the craft beer shows in the area. They’re in Barrie though (40 minutes north of the city) but worth the trip.

    Lastly, depending on how long you’re in the area Kitchener has the biggest Oktoberfest this side of Munich in (you guessed it) October.

    Enjoy your time in TO!

    Ps, you were recently at Polaris. A friend of ours got you to sign a picture for us because we couldn’t make it with our new daughter. I understand if you don’t remember (conventions being as hectic as they are) but Cody, Kevin and Chloe-Lee say: thank you very much!

  32. Warren says:

    Feer not there is many raspberry beers out there. One particularly good one that can be found all over the midwest is the Dark Horse Raspberry Ale from Dark Horse Brewing out of Marshall, MI.

  33. Geoff Engel says:

    I’ve got lots of comments on this sort of thing, from the inside. Disclaimer: I’m an international brewery consultant and professional brewer.

    RE: breweries in Portland: McMenamins is somewhat overrated. I’d actually argue for visiting some of the independent breweries, where they get to experiment a lot more. While IPA is still very popular here, there’s been a huge amount of interest in less bitter beers in the past year or two, probably as a reaction to the huge amount of IPA on the market.

    RE: IPA: There are a wide range of IPA’s on the market. While most of them will be very bitter, there’s an amazing difference in flavor you can get from different varieties and usage of hops, from perfume to pine to floral. I could make you an IPA on the low end of bitter that tastes of grapefruit, just from hop additions.

    RE: Hefeweizen: You’re going to get banana/clove/band-aid flavors from hefe, especially American hefeweizen. It has to do with the phenol production that is a characterizing feature of hefe yeast.

    RE: Pyramid, especially the hefe and the apricot: Don’t. Pyramid was my first job out of brewing school, and the brewers wouldn’t drink the beer. I traded my monthly case to pay my utilities. Their hefe is the worst I’ve ever had (tastes exactly the way band-aids smell) and the apricot flavoring comes out of 55 gallon drums. We had to tear the labels off so that the recycling guys wouldn’t find out.

    RE: Lucky Baldwin’s, Pasadena: DO! Excellent selection, great English-style pub atmosphere, and the food is actually pretty good for a non-gastropub, or at least it was last time I was there which was five years ago. I took a silver in their barleywine festival while I was brewing in Sacrament0…

    One beer you might try, although I don’t think it’s available outside Oregon yet: Black Mamba from Gilgamesh Brewing. Gilgamesh does a lot of…odd…brews, and Black Mamba is completely unhopped. It’s flavored with black tea among other things. Interesting stuff.

    1. Karen says:

      Geoff Engel: I really didn’t mean to denigrate Lucky Baldwin’s by calling it a hole-in-the-wall, and I agree wholeheartedly about the wonderful food (no matter how many people say horrible things about British food, the “Old Country” was the genesis of so many American staples that I’ve always found the terminology unfair in the extreme.

      The fact, however, is that Lucky Baldwin’s has only a tiny doorway in Old Town Pasadena through which you step down into what seems less like anything less like a pub than I can imagine. This entryway offers displays of such delicacies as Marmite, “mushy peas”, a British “version” of ketchup, and a few other condiments, mixed with T-shirts and mugs advertising British Football and Rugby teams.

      Ignore all of this. Once you pass through this tiny front room, you’ll enter an even tinier room with benches and tables. Although there are two more equally tiny rooms (similarly furnished), the food and beverages that come through the literal hole in the wall (from the bar and kitchen) are well worth the effort it takes to find the original hole in the wall that admits you to the establishment.

      There is, in fact, an area with “garden” seating adjacent to an alley, but why would anyone (but me) go to a British-style pub unless you want to watch Wimbledon (and not just the action on the main court), Football, Rugby, or just want to eat some of the best chips this side of the Atlantic?

      For those who want good beer, the wide selection of brews on tap on an everyday basis is apparently enough to make many who actually like beer go into ecstasies. I’m more into the food, but who am I to judge someone who wants to share some good eats and an excellent selection of Belgian brews?

      As a result, I feel compelled to reveal my dirty secret: a glass of Belgian Trapist beer served with a blue-cheese burger is my version of nirvana. Strictly speaking, this combo is not on the menu, but the servers have never seen anything wrong with substituting Stilton for Cheddar when I’ve asked. Since the price has always been the same, I’ve been known to forgo the beer for the burger alone.

      Michelin four-star it’s not (although maybe it should be), but when you can have a terrific burger with your choice of three different mustards, two different “sauces”, two types of pickles, and red onions, combined with fine Stilton and a wide variety of choices of beer — well, I’d call that heaven even if all I drank was water.

      Again, I’m not really a beer drinker, but I’ve somehow come to believe that Belgian Beer isn’t really beer — unless it’s part of the world-wide marketing phenomenon that starts with an “H” and ends with a “kin”, in which case, I’ll take a pass.

      In the meantime, I’m craving one of their burgers. It’s a little late tonight, but tomorrow is always a day away….

  34. Cécile says:

    It’s nice to see you trying some beers 🙂 You can also try the alcohol-flavoured types of beers. I quite like the one with tequila, or whiskey. I’m definitely not surprised that you prefer the “fruity” one.

  35. Ferretz says:

    Well, being an Australian I feel I can comment without authority but with volume on beers and which of them are passable. Forget anything brewed in pomgolia for a start; English beer has all the flavour, aesthetics, and general desirability of English wine (same can be said of their cricket team for that matter.). American beer can, for our instruction here, be considered English beer with moar water.

    There are two beers worth drinking in the world. From Aus, Coopers Pale Ale, and the belgian beer Gouden Carolus. The rest of them are just pretending. What they are pretending to be is another question, one which I feel sure nobody can rightly answer, particularly if the answer is “beer”.

    If you find either of these in any bar you are pretty much golden. If you find they are not available, well, you might get drunk and fall over but you will lack that certain style that says either “I drink beer made by those invaded by the FRENCH of all people good god”, or “I drink beer made by those who understand pulling a kangaroo from the esophogus of a crocodile for dinner with mates is just Friday night”. If you pay attention you can see this lust for proper beer in the eyes, and the odd occasion, when you open a door you really really should have left shut, on the hips, of those who appreciate a real beer. But only if you are lucky dammit, Lucky lucky lucky in love.

    Good luck Jewel, I pray to myself (I follow the Peter O’Toole line whereby one understands they are God when they realise that, while in prayer, they are just talking to themself) that Firefly manages some sort of fold back in time to a point where it is again mondo cool among the math community, hence clearly securing its future existence, just to make Jayne leer at Kaylee some more.

    Good luck, and Me Bless.

    Btw, also try lambic beers but I am far too manly and hairy chested to admit any sort of personal desire for something brewed from raspberries.

  36. JPB says:

    Dogfish head, 120 minute IPA

    It is expensive as beer goes… about 10 bucks a bottle US… If you ever try it and somehow end up not liking it, I will send you a bottle of wine (likely a PN or a Cab Sauv) from one of my favorite vineyards…

  37. Gary says:

    I’m not particularly surprised that you’re trying beer. I AM surprised that you’re actually finding some varieties enjoyable (given that you are a long term wine fan). If you’re ever interested in seeing how beer is made, lemme know next time you’re in Atlanta (think Dragon-Con).

  38. Jill says:

    You might like Dogfish Head’s “Raison d’Etre” – it’s a bit spicy, but very smooth and mellow tasting at the same time (yeah – SO not a food writer, me). Also get your hands on a nice Belgian ale – Duvel is lovely, for instance. If you’re ever shooting in Boston, hie thee to a BBQ hole in the wall in nearby Somerville called Redbones. Sit at the bar in the back, watch them pull pork and do other wonderful things (not to mention place little free taster plates of whatever they’re making in front of you) and order a Duvel. You will not be sorry.

  39. Joel says:

    Some humble suggestions:

    New Glarus Brewing –
    Spotted Cow
    Fat Squirrel
    Coffee Stout

    New Belgium Brewing –
    Fat Tire

    Breckenridge Brewery –
    Oatmeal Stout
    Vanilla Porter (good!)

  40. Peter says:

    I hate ‘me too’ postings, but here I think some reiteration is still warranted. I have a muted sense of bitter, so IPA’s and the like don’t bother me, but my wife responds as you do. Hence, I’d strongly advise steering away from pale ales and toward the darker beers. Even some stouts have a bitter component, so I’d highly recommend porters.

    And if, as several folks have mentioned, you should somehow take a wrong turn and find yourself in Oregon, there are several here worth trying. The most widely available of them is probably Deschutes Brewery’s Black Butte Porter from Bend. They do a limited edition annual run (e.g Black Butte XXIII) that’s usually fantastic.

    One more thought: The McMenamin restaurants in Oregon are charming places to drink and eat (and stay, if you happen to be at one of the historic inns) but the beer is only average among the microbreweries of the region. There are many, many, many other craft breweries in Oregon, and in Portland in particular. And Portlanders do love to eat, should you need that form of indulgence in order to justify yet another beer-drinking exploration.

  41. Dave says:

    While I’m a wine fan and my wife loves wine, she was first a self-avowed beer snob. I’ve seen her standing at a bar in New Orleans staring at a huge blackboard with over a hundred beers listed like a kid in a candy store trying to decide where to start. Being from Cleavland, she loves the beer from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. I’ve been up there a couple of times with her and have liked several of their beers, but the more full bodied/bitter ones still don’t work for me. Haven’t liked any IPA’s yet, but have learned to appreciate a wider range of beers since hooking up with her. Great Lakes beer is only available in 13 states. So, if you are in that area look them up. Like most microbreweries, they have some cool named beers like Burning River Pale Ale, Eliot Ness Amber Lager and Lake Erie Monster. I think you might like the Dortmonder Gold Lager since it is one of their lighter ones.

  42. Stef says:

    I’m not a beer drinker either, but my husband is a HUGE stinky, bitter, IPA-drinker so I end up getting dragged to breweries and beer pubs and the like on a semi-regular basis. Finally, after like 10 years of this, I found a beer that I like enough to WANT to drink – it’s a Framboise Lambic Ale in the Peche flavor. That flavor thing is important. I tried the raspberry half a dozen times when I just HAD to order something, but the peche kept me coming back for more. Good luck!

  43. Callum says:

    It’s hard to find a fruit beer as good as Fruli ( – a delicious strawberry beer. Tactical Nuclear Penguin ( is another beer worth a try, even if only in a “been there and survived” sense.

  44. Jeremy says:

    A beer suggestion that I think a lot of people with an appreciation for wine/champagne would appreciate are two beers called Consecration and Supplication. They come from a brewery called Russian River in Santa Rosa, about 30 minutes North of San Francisco.

    The two beers are American Wild Ales and are sours, however they have an incredible finish that comes from aging the beer in spent wine barrels and adding live yeast. Consecration is aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels and Supplication is aged in spent Pinot Noir barrels. They are highly carbonated and feel like almost like champagne (complete with a thick bottle and a pop-out cork), with an initial taste of green apples and a young wine with lots of tannins, but the body and finish taste like a mature and full-bodied wine along with subtle dark fruits like cherries. A hint of oak also comes out in the finish.

    Absolutely incredible beers; Consecration was my preferred of the two.

    If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend picking some up. I imagine they should be available at beer stores around California and perhaps elsewhere in the West if you can’t make it up to Santa Rosa. They aren’t as rare as their more famous beers like Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger.

    As a sidenote, it’s probably advisable not to go there at night. To put it simply, the atmosphere at the brewery sucked when I went on a Friday night. It’d be nicer during the day away from all of the loud live music and people who think that they’re at a club coming by your table looking for free drinks.

    Also, I don’t know if anyone mentioned it, but Beer Advocate is a great site for beer reviews, ratings, and basic information about different styles, etc… Very handy when you have a tap or bottle menu full of stuff that you aren’t sure about. Just pull up the site, enter the beer, and see what it’s rated and if it sounds like something you’ll enjoy.


  45. Joe Zasada says:

    Most people haven’t experienced the full range of flavours in the bitter spectrum – that’s why the IPAs may seem a bit overwhelming at first. Think of them like Merlot – no one ever likes a good Merlot when they first start drinking wine but after a while you tend to gravitate towards them. Try Hop Stoopid from Lagunitas or Red Racer IPA and you will get different bitterness experiences.
    If fruit beer is your thing, there are a few you gotta try:
    Aprikat from Alley Kat Brewing in Edmonton
    Austrailian Mountain Pepper Berry from Amber’s Brewing Co. in Edmonton
    Blackberry Porter from Cannery Brewing in Penticton
    Raspberry Porter from Tree Brewing in Kewlona

  46. David says:

    I Love You Jewel! I think You Are Great! Here’s to a Bottle of Fine Wine!

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