Monday, April 30, 2012

Welcoming in May



I love beer release parties. Not only do you get to taste something that isn't about to go away (not right away, at least), but you also get to learn more about the beer, see the facilities in which the beer is made, and speak to the folks that have a hand in making the brew.

It's a festive celebration.

Jillian pours a pint of 1855 at Kichesippi Beer Co.

So, I found myself at a beer release party, sampling new beer and trying some of the brewery's regular fare. Some local food was also on hand; namely, pastries from Life of Pie, Pascale's Ice Cream (I never thought I'd ever try cheddar and bacon ice cream in my life—until this weekend), and fabulous sandwiches and stew from The Piggy Market. By the time I left the event, I was stuffed.

Wasn't that a party?

Honestly, I haven't been to many beer release parties, but so far my favourite has been the release party that I attended yesterday at Ottawa's Kichesippi Brewery. And the beer that was released is their seasonal beer, Maibock.

Maibock, also known as helles bock, is a traditional German-styled strong lager. And this offering from Kichesippi follows close suit. Here are the details:

Maibock
Ottawa, ON
$11.75, 64 fl oz growler (plus $4 deposit); 6.3% alc/vol

Maibock has a lovely light copper colour with a lingering, white foamy head. And this strong lager is incredibly clear. It's a gorgeous beer to look at.

On the nose, I caught very faint hops: not what I expect in a maibock. With a maibock/helles bock, I expect more hoppiness (hoppiness is a robust maibock). The aroma was clean and light—not that I'm complaining or anything.

In the mouth, the hops came to life. They were plentiful without being overpowering. I also detected some citrus—perhaps some orange. The finish was clean with no lingering aftertaste.

I picked up a growler from the celebration and tried more of the beer when I got home. I found that as I let my glass open up, the hops became more pronounced on the palate, but not on the nose.

Kichesippi Maibock is an extremely drinkable lager. It is well-balanced with its hops, its citrus tones, and its alcohol level. Though it's a strong beer, you wouldn't know it to taste it. And that's a very good thing.

This maibock will be available, in growlers, directly from the brewery. And if you contact the brewery, I'm sure they'll be able to tell you which pubs and restaurants will be offering it.

But it will only be available for the month of May, so don't wait too long to try it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Photo Friday: Diner


Last week, the family and I spent three-and-a-half days in Buffalo, NY, for a dance competition. It was the first time that any of us had been to this city and I have to say, it was a nice place to visit.

Sure, there was evidence that Buffalo was feeling the effects of the economic slowdown, but we did our best to inject some cash into their economy. A bit.

One of the places we visited was an old diner that had been restored to its former glory: the Lake Effect Diner. It was cosy, clean, and the food was pretty decent—not haute cuisine, but good, solid diner food. Served with a smile.

Typical comfort food.

Not having my D-SLR but wanting to capture some memories, I did what I could with our Canon point-and-shoot. Here's some of what I caught.





For comparison, I also shot some photos with my iPhone. Here are those shots:



Which shot(s) do you prefer?

If you're ever in Buffalo, stop in at the Lake Effect. I recommend the pulled-pork sandwich, washed down with an Oreo-mint milkshake. Decadent. Delicious.

So, what's your comfort food when eating out?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Pearl of Buffalo


When I first learned that I would be going to Buffalo for my daughters' dance competition (they rocked, by the way), I thought, oh yeah: beer and wings, baby! 

I mean, we've go to eat, don't we?

Lori and I searched the Buffalo tourist office almost immediately and found a brew pub that was also famous for its chicken wings. And the tourist video made that pub seem like a fun and lively place that even the kids would enjoy.

That place was the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery.


Pearl Street is located in the heart of Buffalo, tucked among some great architecture. The pub is in an old building, built in 1841, in what was once known as the most evil square mile in America. The four-story building now houses a grill house, pub, brewery, and restaurant. And with the giant beer tap hanging on the corner, there's no mistaking it.

When we arrived, late Friday afternoon, Lori and I thought so little time; so many beers to choose from. So, to make it easy, we ordered the Teaser—10 two-ounce glasses that held all of the brewery's offerings. We would share in the tastings and then choose our favourite. When I had my favourite, I would write my review.

And maybe bring some home.

To summarize the Teaser, I took sips and then decided yes, if I liked it, or no, if I didn't. Here's the lineup:

  1. Lighthouse Light Blonde: no. Too light; not enough flavour.
  2. Wild Ox German Wheat: no. Nothing wrong with it; just not to my taste.
  3. Trainwreck Smooth Amber: no. It was okay. Only okay.
  4. Lake Effect Hoppy American Pale Ale: yes. Great flavour; tons of hops.
  5. Street Brawler Oatmeal Stout: yes. Bold, dry, with rich coffee flavours.
  6. Saber's Edge Double IPA: yes. Massive flavours; rich hops. A keeper.
  7. Blue-Eyed Blonde Blueberry Blonde Ale: no. I'm not really into fruity beer.
  8. Don Cherry Cherry Wheat Ale: no. To me, it tasted like cough syrup.
  9. Raspberry Stout: no. Lori liked it, but to me, the raspberry was overpowering.
  10. Chocolate Stout: yes. Made with real chocolate, the stout flavours only complemented the chocolate. Amazing stuff.
Only four of the 10 samples really grabbed me, made me stand up and take notice. And the Trainwreck wasn't that bad, so I'd say that I would actually drink half of the beer samples again.

So which beer did I settle on? It was a toss-up. I loved the Chocolate Stout, but I went for...

Saber's Edge Double IPA.

Deep copper in colour, this IPA had a luscious creamy head that lingered through most of my drinking. The nose was full of hops without overpowering. And in the mouth, I tasted an incredibly bitter grapefruit.

And this double IPA had a kick. According to the staff, this beer weighs in at 9 percent alcohol, yet the alcohol isn't prominent. I was surprised to learn the potency after finishing most of my glass. I neither tasted nor felt the alcohol.

But I didn't drive back to the hotel, just to be sure.

Pearl Street can be proud of their Saber's Edge, as well as the other offerings that I enjoyed. What did I walk out with? A growler of the Chocolate Stout. It's dessert in a glass.

And because Buffalo is only about five hours away, I can see myself visiting again in the near future.


And the kids did like the place. Even our pickiest eater loved the Buffalo wings. That's almost unheard of!

Cheers!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Photo Friday: Sunset Bridge


I love that we're getting into the nicer weather. Warmer days, mild evenings. I love that the days are getting longer, that soon we'll be enjoying those late summer evenings when the sun will fall below the horizon later and later.

On an evening the other week, the family and I were heading westbound along the Ottawa River Parkway, when we saw a gorgeous sunset. Normally, there's nowhere to pull over on the Parkway, but we were near an old, abandoned on-ramp, near the Bayview transit station. The on-ramp hasn't been used in decades, was once part of the transitway. So I took advantage of the situation, pulled into that lane, and then backed our vehicle down the ramp, well away from the flow of traffic.

Though my D-SLR is out of commission, Lori had her camera with her. I borrowed it and snapped a few pictures.

Like this one.


And this one.


What shooting these photos did for me was to appreciate the coming of the long, lazy days and to reflect on what a lovely city we live in.

It also made me miss my camera. A lot.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reviewers Wanted


My novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, has been out for about six weeks now, and I'm pretty proud of it. But that's just me.

Here's where you come in.

If you are a blogger who reviews books, I'd like to give you a copy of my book. In return, I'd like to get a review from you. Post it on your blog.

That is all.

If you're interested, contact me at roland_axam@yahoo.ca and we can work out the details from there.

And if you've already read my book and want to share your thoughts, please leave a comment. Better yet, tell two friends to read the book.

For information about how to order your copy, go to my book's blog site.

Thanks.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top Five—Reprise

In my effort to bring some of my posts from the Brownfoot Journal to The Brown Knowser, I thought I'd ease in, bringing old posts to the new blog gradually—you know, when I'm either out of time or out of ideas to write something new.

One of my more popular posts from the Brownfoot Journal actually caught the attention of one of the people that is mentioned in this post (all right, I tweeted her and gave her the link; but she didn't have to go to the post, read it, and respond!). We still tweet each other from time to time; most recently, yesterday (okay, she tweeted the world and I responded; but then she replied, so there!).

So here is the post about my top five. It's been revised because a few months later, I changed one of the ladies in my lineup. I wanted a top six, but Lori put her foot down.

What's my top five? Read on...

Do you remember that episode of Friends, when Ross and Rachel made a list of celebrities who, should the occasion ever avail itself, they could sleep with without incurring any wrath? I'm sure that many couples who watched that episode laughed at the show, but immediately talked about What if?? and came up with lists of their own.

Did you?

Lori and I did. I had a couple of choices off the top of my head, whereas Lori had to give it some thought. Gary Sinise was at the top of her list and came after a few seconds of thought, but she had to struggle to come up with her list. She said that I was really the only one on her list, but I said that was a cop-out.
I don't know what made me think of the list today, but when I asked Lori who the other men were on her list, she said she didn't want to share. How selfish, I said, but again her answer was that I was the only one on her list that mattered.

See? Selfish!

I, on the other hand, like to share. And so, here's my top-five list of ladies that I would do if I got the chance, and for whom Lori would give me a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. The list has changed over the years—that's allowed, right?

Jennifer Aniston: Hey, she kind of started it, didn't she? And if a geeky Ross like David Schwimmer can get her, why couldn't I? Aren't I geeky enough?

I've had the hots for Jennifer Aniston since the first season of Friends, and when she and Brad Pitt broke up, I wanted to be there to comfort her. Despite her superstar status, Aniston has come across as being real, being the girl next door. Some women have come and gone from my list, but Jennifer has always stayed on top.


Salma Hayek: Salma has also been a founding member of my top 5 list. She oozes sexy. And with her Latino roots, how could she go wrong. I fell in love with her in Fools Rush In (hey, that film, with Matthew Perry, brings her one degree from Friends) and it was in Frida where I fell in love with her acting talent. When she made appearances on Ugly Betty, I would watch the show, but only for her—I hated that show.

Lori approves of this choice for my list (secretly, I think Salma is on Lori's list). And that's pretty cool.

Kate Kelton: Who? She was the Tic-Tac girl for a number of years. The first time I saw her, it was for only 30 seconds. But it was the most-seductive 30 seconds I had ever experienced. From that time on, whenever we recorded a television show and fast-forwarded through the commercials, I would actually stop and back up to the beginning of the commercial, just so I could watch Kate. When she puckered up to blow her minty breath, I would pucker up too, hoping that someday our lips would touch. She also does a Cadillac commercial that makes my pen, well, you'd have to see the ad. Kate also appears in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle and, most recently, Bullet In The Face. She's just so, so incredibly hot*. And you can also find her on her Web site. And here. Oh yeah: and as I said, we occasionally chat on Twitter.


Stana Katic: I really got into Castle this season, mostly due to Stana's hotness and the building tension between her character and Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion—another Canadian). When I watched the season finale last week, I think my heart skipped a beat with the cliff-hanger ending. If Detective Kate Beckett ever leaves the show, there will be one less viewer. One of the up-sides to me bumping Natalie Brown is that I have replaced her with another Canadian. That's gotta count for something, right? I'm now following Stana on Twitter, but not in a creepy way (though I may notify her about the existence of this post).




Sarah Slean: She's a beauty with a killer voice. I loved Sarah's music before I even knew what she herself looked like. When I saw pictures of her, I thought her beauty was just icing on the cake. When she came to town a couple of years ago, I bought tickets right away, made sure that Lori, Sarah (my Sarah, who also loves Sarah Slean), and I got as close to the stage as we could. Last November, when Sarah returned to Ottawa, Lori and I bought our tickets right away (our kids were left behind and I'm still living that one down; next time, they're both coming).

I'm a big fan. I follow Sarah on Twitter, and a few months ago she started following me (so honoured!). So I don't think Ms. Slean will ever get bumped off my list.

So there you have it, my list of five**. Who's on your list?


* If Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary was ever made into a movie, I'd want her to play the role of Tanya. I, of course, would be Roland!

** Lori, who is generally okay with my list, likes to remind me how there's not a single blond among my top five. I always tell her that she's the only blond for me.

Monday, April 16, 2012

One Jumbo Beer


This is a first: never before have I consumed a beverage that commemorates a tragic moment in history. But it was fitting that I drank a tragically named beer on the anniversary of another event that ended in tragedy and also has Canadian ties.

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the largest ship in its day, I tried an IPA that was named for the largest elephant of its day.

The only disappointment I had with this beer is that it didn't come in a jumbo-sized can.

Dead Elephant India Pale Ale
St. Thomas, Ontario
LCBO: $2.75, 472 mL can; 6.5% alc/vol.

This IPA is named for an event that occurred on September 15, 1885, in St. Thomas, Ontario—home of the brewery. Is it any wonder that a St. Thomas brewery that is named for the railway (which was once a major industry in the town) and by which the elephant met its demise? On that fateful day, when P.T. Barnum's circus was in town, Jumbo the elephant was in the railway classification yard when he was struck and killed by a locomotive. Legend has it that Jumbo tried to save a baby elephant, Tom Thumb, from being struck by the train. Wikipedia tells the story in great detail, so I'll send you there rather than having you read what I'd only be paraphrasing.

This post, after all, it about the beer, not a dead elephant.

Dead Elephant (the beer) is a gorgeous, clear, lightly glowing hue of amber—almost orange. The light, white foamy head lingers, and even as I slowly sipped the ale a full lace covered the top of the liquid.

On the nose, I caught faint traces of citrus and very light hops. The nose is quite deceiving, making me think that there wasn't going to be much in the way of flavour. I was wrong.

The IPA has a robust taste without being overpowering; almost like the gentle circus animal. It's full-bodied without bowling you over. I caught inviting notes of orange peel in the mouth. And although this is a strong ale, at 6.5 percent, the alcohol doesn't come into play on the flavour. Though, I did feel it by the end of the glass (having had no lunch didn't help).

Dead Elephant finishes dry, almost like tea. But I would have liked to have had a longer finish. Dead Elephant, it seems, comes to an untimely end, just like Jumbo.

I quite enjoyed Dead Elephant. It made for pleasant drinking on a Sunday afternoon. My only recommendation for the brewery is this: if you're going to name it after one of the biggest elephants known, the animal whose name now defines a size, put your beer in a bigger can. Call it jumbo-sized.

Then, you'd have an unforgettable beer. (Get it? Unforgettable? Elephant?)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Photo Friday: Metrics


It's sort of like navel gazing.

For years, I've been tracking visitors to my blogs, determining how many people have viewed posts, where these people live, which posts they like the most, and how they arrive at my blogs. Originally, I would only check these statistics occasionally, just to see if anyone at all was reading my writings, looking at my photos.

These days—especially since I launched The Brown Knowser, I check the stats on a daily basis. Sometimes, several times a day. The more followers and visitors I receive, the more I try to determine if the post I've published is appealing to my readers. If the post is popular, I try to repeat that type of post.

Not surprising, the most-popular posts are for my Where In Ottawa contest. Everybody loves a challenge, especially when a prize or bragging rights are at stake. My beer reviews come a close second and are slowly surpassing my contest.

One post that has slowly worked its way up the ranks of popular posts has had me scratching my head, wondering why it is drawing so much attention. It's my Instagram post, Light Play.

For me, it's not a special post. Two photos, shot when Instagram was fairly new to me. The first, shot while I was watching one of my kids play soccer. The sun was going down, the game was wrapping up, and we were packing our chairs and cooler, preparing to head home. I liked how the sun apparitions split in a pattern as it shone through a tree on the edge of the pitch, and so I shot it. When I processed the photo in Instagram, the name "Light Play" came to mind; hence, the title of the blog post.

The second shot was taken as we were heading home, and I stopped for gas. Clouds had rolled in and the sun, now below the horizon, was casting dramatic colours against those clouds. An airplane was on its final approach to the airport (can you find it?), and so I took the shot. Believe it or not, I used no dramatic filter on that shot. That's what the sky essentially looked like.

Like I said, the shots are okay, but they're not great. They're not my best work. So why is my Light Play post so popular?

I turned to my Google metrics for that answer. I noticed this week that there had been a spike in hits to this blog post. I looked up the keywords that had been used to get to my blog and noticed a spike in Google searches for "Instagram photography." And so I went to Google and typed those words into the search engine.

Give it a try.

One of the results of that search is a site that offers Instagram photos. If you click it, you get pages and pages of random photos. On page 4, I saw this:



Do you see it?

If you click the image (in Google, not the picture above), the photo pops up and provides a link to my blog.

Mystery solved.

Of course there's been a spike in Instagram hits. With the news that Facebook is buying the 18-month-old photo app company for one billion dollars (insert Dr. Evil pinky to corner of mouth), people are naturally checking out this lucky, lucky business.

I should feel honoured that my photo is getting clicked.

So, to all of you shooting Instagram photos: see if you can spot your work on the Net. Chances are, more people are checking out your work than those following you.

And as for the navel gazing, just wait: I'm planning to show more stats about my blog when The Brown Knowser turns one year old. And then you can see what I look at every day.


Don't worry; it's not my actual navel.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nothing to See Here


This post is using the premise of Seinfeld: it's about nothing.

I didn't write a post today because I've been focusing on my new book, Gyeosunim, and instead of writing something for this blog I've been putting final touches and applying HTML to the rough draft of Chapter 1, which will appear tomorrow. This evening, I will read the rough draft for one last time, make any last-minute changes, and then prepare to publish it.

I can't stress enough that this is a rough draft and will no doubt change over the course of the writing process. Songsaengnim changed several times until I gave the final okay to my publishers.

I hope that you will read the rough draft and provide any comments. I can take it.

So this post is about nothing. But thanks for reading anyway.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beer for Breakfast


Saturday-morning breakfasts are fairly ritualistic in the Brownfoot household. I get up and make breakfast before our endless running back and forth between dance classes and practices begins. The family breakfast of choice is homemade, whole-wheat pancakes.

The type of pancake varies. Often, I mush up bananas and add them to my mix. Typically, I throw in a few chocolate chips to appeal to the kids (who am I kidding? We all love 'em!). For St. Paddy's Day, I even added a bit of green food colouring and shaped the pancakes to resemble shamrocks. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a shot of my first attempt. Trust me: the others looked far worse.

This past Saturday was no exception to our pancake tradition, except that this week we woke up late and Lori made the pancakes while I rushed one child to a jazz class, only to learn that because of the Easter weekend, classes were cancelled (but comp practices were not). And so we returned home to a lovely stack of pancakes with maple syrup.

This year's early thaw was hard on the maple industry. While sugar shacks were able to start production sooner than usual, the high temperatures shortened the sap season. I wonder how that's going to affect the cost of maple syrup?

That didn't seem to matter for the folks at Trafalgar Brewing Company—a.k.a Trafalgar Ales & Meads. These Oakville brewers have put together a beer that seems all about the maple syrup.

Maple Bock
Oakville, Ontario
LCBO: $4.95, 650 mL; 6.5% alc/vol.

Maple Bock is a traditional bock, with a deep reddish-brown colour, though the head didn't last long at all. It was gone by the time I poured the beer, grabbed my camera, and composed my shot. But I did love the colour of this lager.

The maple in this beer hit me squarely on the nose, mixed with a slight dough, and I immediately thought, "pancakes." This brew smelled like the breakfast I had earlier that morning.

In the mouth, there seemed to be very little fizz, though I'm quick to add that by no means did this bock taste flat. I was reminded of a cask-conditioned ale: there was life in this glass. And, again, the maple syrup dominated. Yet, though the flavour of maple syrup was strong, it was not as sweet as maple syrup; there was no cloying in the mouth.

The finish was quite clean. Though this is a strong beer, the alcohol is nicely balanced. Maple Bock is a clean lager with intense flavours and a nice, light finish.

I enjoyed this bock. I told Lori that I would gladly have it again. I might even put some in our next batch of pancakes.

Not really, but I would consider sipping a glass with my pancake breakfast. A breakfast of champions!

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