To Beer or Not To Beer (Part 3)

Let me be straight up to begin with: this will be the third and final installment of my beer-related endeavours. There are several reasons for this. Number one being that all my friends are winos God love ’em, so finding people to beer taste with has proved problematic (and I can’t go it alone. Because I am not in a Sheryl Crow song.). Number two being sometimes the only thing that’ll fit the bill at the end of a long hard day is a nice cold glass of very expensive champagne. And number three? Beer and I just don’t have a lot in common. We’re like two people who really like the idea of each other, who try to date and make it work for the sake of “being open” only to realize that they just don’t have a whole helluva lot to talk about. In truth, the only time I can finish an entire beer is at the end of the night after I’ve eaten/drank wine and I’m already feeling pretty pickled. Beer, it seems, has become a better bootie call than a boyfriend.

But I’m a closer. And I like to really give something a fair shot before I shut it down completely. And there have been a few beers I haven’t hated, and beer does have its place (at BBQ’s when you’ve run out of Viognier, for instance, or on the beach where they don’t have corkscrews). And lucky for me, one of the few friends I have who actually likes beer was in town: the notorious and hilarious Canadian Goldie Hawn, Cindy “Buzz” Busby.

We headed just down the street from my Toronto hotel (yep, still here) to a place called Bier Markt, which I have actually in fact not spelled wrong. It’s a lively place with literally a booklet of a beer list, and super sweet bartenders who are more than willing to accommodate you on finding a beer that’s just for you. Or at least willing to accommodate two chicks. Especially when one of them’s Cindy.

See what I'm saying?

Bier Markt’s got this nifty thing on the menu called the “Taster Caddy”, which is six sample glasses of beer from the flight of your choosing, all lined up in an adorable little row. I decided to go with the “Vive La Belgique” in the hopes that it came with frites, and Cindy chose the “Europe Bound”, because she’s never been there.

Caddy Shack!

And man oh man, was that an intimidating amount of beer. After ignoring the suspicious/dirty/”will you marry me?” looks from the fellas in our immediate vicinity, we dove in to the Belgique taste #1: the Hoegaarden White Ale. Clear, crisp, refreshing, and even a tad (don’t hate me) ladylike, this was one of the top three beers I’d tasted on this little beer venture. It was pure summer camp in a bottle. And besides that, as Buzz so eloquently put it, “Who doesn’t love a good Ho?”

Belgique’s #2 taster was the Palm Amber Ale, which was too bitter for me, and had a rather strange aftertaste that reminded me of something I couldn’t place. Buzz knocked it back and pronounced it “Thanksgiving in a bottle!”, which made me realize that bitter aftertaste was a lot like the one I get after family functions. Just kidding, Mom! Haha!  Taste #3 was the Leffe Brune Abbey Ale, a thick and pungent beer that punched me in the jowls and had a funky “banana smell” according to Buzz. Decipher what you will from that one.

Taste #4 was a Stella Artois Lager. I figure this one was pretty common place, since it was a name I’d actually heard of. It reminded me of #1 in that clean, crisp way, but it was missing a bit of the sweetness. Or as lovely Cindy decided to loudly claim, “You can’t beat a good Ho!” Our 5th was the Leffe Blond Abbey Ale, which was similar to the other Leffe we had but maybe with a little more apricot? (Is that right? I guessed.) But #6 was the beer I had been waiting for: The Fruli Strawberry Wheat Ale, sweet, juicy, summery, and delicious, like a strawberry rhubarb pie. That someone poured beer all over. I was finally one hundred percent in love with a beer, and this was one I could bring home to meet the parents.

If this isn't the look of love, I dunno what is.

On to Cindy’s Europe Bound Taster Caddy. Our first was the Stiegl Lager, which, compared to the sweet little love affair we’d just had, was a downright divorce. After one sip I was out, while Buzz went on a full-fledged half-drunk rant. (ie. “Putrid as hell, like a waterslide’s vagina! No, like a waterslide’s vagina’s afterbirth!”, which garnered more perplexed/suspicious/dirty/”PLEASE marry me!” looks from our fellow patrons) Good thing taste #2 was another pleasant surprise: the Erdinger Weissbier from Germany. Tropical, citrusy, and beautifully bright like a sunset, this was another I could fathom going on a second date with.

#3 was a Kronenbourg 1664 Lager, which was a bitter, wheaty “NOPE!” for me. (Cindy was still talking about waterslides.) #4 was a repeat of the Leffe Blond Abbey Ale, and #4 (oops I mean #5) was the Pilsner Urquell Lager from the Czech Republic. Once again, it was too bitter and hoppy for me, but Buzz pronounced it a “Maritimes Beer!” before launching into a song about a drunken Irish person falling out of his boat. Our 6th and final taste of the day was a total whammy called the Koningshoeven Quadrupel Ale, one of those thick and funky beers that may or may not have caused actual hairs to immediately sprout on my chest. After a few karate-like noises and a hacking cough or two, we determined it a strangely addictive beer, something that takes a few sips to get past before you realize its charm. Like me!

All in all, my favorite beers in this little drunken tutorial I’ve been on have not surprisingly and somewhat sadly been the girliest beers. I wish I could say I could get down on a Guinness with the best of them, but I just can’t trick my taste buds or my stomach into appreciating those beers for what they are. I need sweetness in my beer, something to cut all that hoppiness and pungentness my lady palate can’t take. Give me something fruity, or something fresh and clean that I can drink without making a sour face. Unlike precious, precious wine, I don’t think I’ll ever be truly a beer lover… just more of a beer liker. I’m still into having a Granville Island Rasberry Ale at a beach party, or a Blanche de Chambly Wheat Ale on a sunny day on the boat, or even a Fruli Strawberry Wheat Ale on the wrong side of midnight when I feel like getting a little crazy. What can I tell you? I’m a little predictable. So you’ll know what I’m about to say next:

Beer? Don’t lose my phone number.

46 Comments Add yours

  1. Amelia says:

    You must try Beer Bistro while you’re here! Lots of great beers and AMAZING food. Their duck confit corndogs are to die for.

  2. Kirsty says:

    I love Hoegaarden. I imagine you might have tried Blue Moon – that’s kind of similar and very, very nice.

  3. Jakebrap says:

    “Beer, it seems, has become a better bootie call than a boyfriend.”

    Awesome phrasing, majorly jealous of all the beer!

  4. Nannig says:

    How do you compare beer range to wine range, like from the light fruty white beer to the dark stout on one side, and from the light fruity white wine to the heady strong red wine?

  5. Jim Schmidt says:

    I’m no serious beer drinker myself, but I discovered a local brew – Great Lakes Brewing’s “Edmund Fitzgerald” porter. It’s quite amazing – rich and complex, like drinking a beer made of chocolate and coffee. It comes highly rated by the beer web sites I found it on. I think it’s only available in or around Michigan, so I guess if you’re interested, you’ll have to stop by and check it out 🙂

    1. Angela says:

      I love that one! Such a flavorful porter. I think that, with the right food, Jewel could find certain porters appealing. As you said, they tend to have coffee and chocolate notes. Some have hints of fruit mixed in as well.

    2. Tracy Anderson says:

      Wow! I have to find that porter somewhere and try it! I wonder if I can find it anywhere around here in Seattle???

  6. Dan says:

    The Bier Markt probably has a good selection of St Ambroise/MacAuslan beers in stock; they’re a Montreal brewery and they make the best Apricot Wheat beer I’ve ever tasted. If you like lighter fruit-tasting beer, I highly recommend that one – I tried it by accident in a bar down on Queen West a few summers ago and will never go back.

    Also try Innis and Gunn, a Scottish beer with some amazing vanilla in it.

  7. Carrie Blackburn says:

    Have you ever tried lambic? I believe it is technically considered a beer, but it is all sweet, fruity goodness in a bottle. I’m particularly fond of Lindeman’s Peche.

  8. Tim says:

    PLEASE marry me!

  9. Robin says:

    If you prefer lighter beers and fruity things, you should try a framboise (raspberry lambic) the next time you’re in the mood for such things. 🙂

    Personally, I love a good red or brown ale, porter, or chocolate stout, but don’t particularly like most wines. Between the two of us, we kinda balance out booze-wise. I’ll drink your share of the beer if you’ll tackle my share of the wine. Deal?

  10. Robin says:

    Oh, you might also like mead. It’s made from honey.

  11. Jason says:

    I second the framboise. I think it would be a better fit. It’s a bit to sweet for my taste, but my wife loves it. Here’s a link to bevmo with a pic:

  12. John says:

    From what you’ve described I’d say, try ice cold Wyder’s Dry Pear hard cider. Very light and dry, sort of like a dry 4% alcohol pear wine.

  13. Paul says:

    Even though you are not a beer girl…really enjoyed reading your attempts to be.

  14. kitten says:

    I need to meet your friend. And if ever you’re in Arizona (particularly in the summer, in which case, my sincere apologies) try a Four Peaks Peach Ale. It’s beautiful.

  15. Nick says:

    At least you tasted some proper beers.

    Hoegaarden is one of my favourite summer beers, light and fruity. Should be served in an ice-cold glass with a slice of lemon. Lovely and refreshing.

    Leffe should be drunk carefully as it’s properly strong for a beer and Stella is colloquially known here in the UK as “wife beater” as a few pints usually leaves people drunk, angry and ready for a fight. o.0

  16. Larry says:

    If you ever in Delaware (or general area), look out for Midus Touch by DogFishHead. It was named 2010 geekiest beer of the year and is AMAZING. Based on a 3000 year old egyptian recipe combine ale and mead…honey and hops.

  17. Darren says:

    I think you’re really missing out on some great craft brews. Things you would probably be more interested in like sour ales such as Russian River’s Supplication: Brown Ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with three strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus and sour cherries.

  18. I think women and beer dont get along because unlike mixed drinks where you have two and your good, beer is a 4-6 drink event. The beer you tasted is very run of the mill to. Hoegaarden, stella ehhh, the others sound alright. If you like sweet beers go out and find these three.
    1. Punk’n ale by Uinta brewing
    2. Strawberry Ale by Samuel Smith
    3. Apricot Ale by Pyramid

    1. Dina says:

      Women and beer “don’t get along” because there’s a social expectation that women hate beer.

      But we don’t. Not all of us, anyway!

      (Although to our esteemed blogger here – you drink what you like, no harm no foul. I’m glad you gave it a try, though!)

    2. Geoff Engel says:

      Don’t, for the love of gods and all that is holy, drink Pyramid Apricot. I used to brew the stuff, and there’s no actual fruit in it.

  19. JimFromJersey says:

    I’ve been following your adventures in beer-dom, and I applaud your stick-to-it-iveness. Were you at all surprised to find that you like beers that share the flavors of wine?

    Agreed with Larry. If you’re ever on the east coast of the US, (NJ, PA, DE) do try Dog Fish Head’s Midas Touch. It’s gooood drinkin’!

  20. Sheilagh says:

    You might actually really enjoy Guinness (on tap, not froma can/bottle!) over a rich chocolate ice cream. Sort of a chocolate float, with a bit of ice cream cone melted in. Delicious!

  21. Andrew says:

    They say you can train your taste buds to like most things by trying a little bit regularly for twenty goes. If you don’t like it though then why do it?

  22. Chris says:

    From this brief story, I think it’s safe to say I’m in love with Cindy.

  23. Angela says:

    You’d probably do well with doppelbocks, since they tend to be fairly sweet and higher in alcohol content – ranging from 7 – 12%. They’re never hoppy, and the only bitterness you get comes from the booze.

  24. David says:

    Biermarkt is actually the combination of the german words for beer (obviously) and market (a little less obvious) 😛 Also I like the Erdinger Weißbier, but what you should really try are the german Pils beers, like Jever Pilsner or Flensburger Pilsner. They may be a little bitter for your sweet taste but maybe Buzz would like them. And the Pilsner Urquell is imho one of the best beers I’ve tasted…
    Greetings from the beer country Germany 😉

  25. Eric says:

    Since you’re such a wino, I mean, a lover of wine, try an Ommegang, which is described as a “bergundian brew.” It’s a lot stronger than the average beer, but also has flavor characteristics that are more like a red. Personally, I love Ommegang’s Three Philosphers which is a dark cherry beer. Amazing stuff.

  26. Harlan says:

    I personally love beers and ales, I am also partial (but less so) to wines too. Those here that like to try interesting ales, here are a few of my favourites:

    Nessie’s Monster Mash (Cairngorm Brewery)
    Hobgoblin (Wychwood Brewery)
    Black Sheep Ale (Black Sheep Brewery)

  27. Chris says:

    I’m a little concerned that your “Belgique” contained 4 of 6 made by Anheuser-Busch InBev, essentially the Walmart of beer. Belgium has some much better beers to offer, to be sure. I would expect better of a place called “Bier Markt”, anyway.

    Considering how much you love wine, you should try Duchesse De Bourgogne, a Flemish ale that kinda tastes like beer and red wine had a beautiful daughter together.

    1. Meredith says:

      Yeah, sadly the Hoegaarden was the only decent beer out of the combination.

      Next time go for some Trappisten (if you make it to Belgium…ever). List of delicious beers:

      Rochefort 8 or 10
      Blue Chimay
      Duvel (FTW!)
      Abbaye d’Roc
      Delirium Tremens
      Bush Noel

  28. Geoff Engel says:

    I maintain, as I commented in one of the other beer threads, that if you are ever in the Portland, Oregon area, let me know and I’ll take you on a beer tour. Now that I’ve got an idea of what works for you in beer, I think I can fine-tune something tailored specifically for you.

  29. Matt says:

    LOLOLOL!!! Jewel, you’re killin’ me! Between the “waterslide’s vagina” and the “PLEASE marry me!” looks, I think I REALLY want to party with you and the Buzz. I’m just afraid of all the precious libations I’d waste on all the unintentional spit takes through the course of the evening. Don’t worry: I’ll bring a mop. 😉

  30. A says:

    When To Beer (when eatting pizza).
    When Not to beer. (when there’s no pizza).

  31. Dale says:

    Hey Jewel, loved the latest adventure in Beer you had. Biermarkt is one of my favourite places to try new brews whenever I can make it down to Toronto. Were you at the King St. or The Esplanade location? Having been to both, I prefer the Esplanade, but that’s just me. As soon as you mentioned being there, I immediately hoped that you’d try the Fruili. I may be a guy, but I love that beer and always have one if it is available, usually saving it for last, like a great dessert. Other fruit tasting beers you might want to try out are Kawartha Lakes Raspberry Wheat Beer, which is a bit heavy but very flavourful and Nickelbrook’s Green Apple Pilsner which tastes exactly like green apples. Finally, if you are still kicking it around Toronto or happen to be returning next summer around the beginning of August, take the time to attend the Festival of Beer. It’s like the Biermarkt only outdoors with lots of variety and some good food as well. Okay, well this went a bit long, but a thanks is also in order: between your blog and Mallozzi’s I have along list of restaurants in Toronto to check out. Look forward to reading your future culinary adventures (I recommend you hit up a Smoke’s Poutine some night…).

  32. Carol says:

    Coming late to this beer party and being married to a half-Belgian (Flemish origin, not French) and travelling to Belgium at least 2 or 3 times a year, my recommendations are firstly “Step away from the Stella”….please….if you want a really crisp and fantastic light drinking beer then go for Maes Pils every is far superior in every way!…for the sweeter fruit flavoured then Mort Subite (Sudden Death) Kriek (Cherry) and Frambozen (Raspberry) Beers are the absolute best imho…I loathe some Wheat Beers so don’t touch Hoegaarden with a barge pole, but Duvel, Palm and Leffe Brune are stonking….if you want to fall under the table quickly then go for Kwak or Verboden Frucht – at least you’ll pass out admiring the wonderfully quirky and beautifully crafted glasses – yep each beer in Belgium has it’s own glass and woe betide any self-respecting cafe owner if they don’t serve it up in the right one, including the delightful Delirium Tremens with it’s glass covered in little pink elephants!..

    Belgium has the finest beer in the world and so much of it is available now….it also has fantastic food – rivals France for sure….if you’re ever in need of a guide round some of the more “hidden gems” of cities – don’t go to Bruges when Mechelen or Ghent are far less crowded and just as beautiful imho and whatever you do visit Antwerp – it’s an up and coming stylish area for living, dining and drinking – then me and my hubby are available for tours!!…;)

    Carol x

    1. Ellen Sette says:

      i agree, i don’t understand why everyone goes for Stella, Maes Pils is much better , or Jupiler
      (yes i am from Belgium ! living in Roeselare), we have the best beers !!

      we have Westvleteren (the 3 variations) at home 🙂
      cannot get that in the café’s, we drive to the abbey to buy some crates after we placed an order, we don’t live that far off from the abbey of Westvleteren.

  33. Warren says:

    Your career of wine tasting really prepared you to write well about trying beers. I don’t think you should be defensive about preferring fruit-infused beers. Brewers developed them specifically to get more people into the beer market. Many “old school” beer drinkers hate them. How is that different than your taste in wine compared to someone who drinks Taylor’s or . It makes sense that if you don’t like most “traditional” lagers and ales that you might prefer beers that take the drink to new places.

    Thanks to the commenters for suggesting a whole new list of beers to try. I’ll dedicate my next gout attack to you.


  34. Joey says:

    Just found this blog and this was the first post I read. I have the same problem finding friends to go beer-tasting with. And dont feel bad about liking the sweet and fruity “girlie” beers….I’m a big strapping manly man and I cant stand the “Alcoholic Oatmeal in a can” beers!!

  35. Danica says:

    Now THAT is a half-drunk rant! HA!

  36. X-Lydia says:

    If you’re ever in Ventura, CA come to Surf Brewery on Market Street, they brew many beers and ales you might like.

  37. Ellen Sette says:

    when i see pictures of U.S. beers i go uuuch, it looks like pee … sorry ! no wonder you don’t like beer….

    come to Belgium for the real beer !
    and you’re always welcome at my home to taste Westvleteren beer, Jewel !

  38. jfeldt says:

    Have you heard of beer/wine hybrids?! I thought of you, which was strange as I don’t personally know you. But still, you were the one human I wanted to share this with-

  39. Rob says:

    Whilst European, Canadian and Oz beer is always worth a sup, British beers and ales are imho the finest on the planet.
    How could even such an experienced palate as yours not be tempted by a pint of “Old Leg Over”, “Fox’s Knob” and “Willies old Groyne”???
    That’s before you even try a London Pride, ESB, Black Sheep or XXXB.

    A proper British ale to a lager is like a Clos des Papes to a box of Jacobs Creek.
    I think finishing your beer tutorial before checking out what the good old UK has to offer is like settling for Xiong Mao Niao…

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