Food for Thought or Thought for Food?

It came to me in a flash of what I may reflect upon one day to have been pure inspiration. For years I have been a ‘go-to’ person for all things food-related, be it creative recipes, techniques, favorite restaurants, or where to find a particular ingredient or tool.

I should be clear that I have no formal training in the area of food preparation, unless you consider my near obsessive attendance at cooking classes – so to describe my relationship with food as passionate would be an understatement. I am, what some would call a serious amateur in the realm of food. My friends have called me a gourmet; they have also called me a food-snob. I am okay with any and all of these terms, as I consider them to be essentially accurate – depending on the context.

So I have made the transition into the blogosphere, imagining that this might serve as a means of sharing my passion for food with a wider audience. I realize that I am not the first person to think of this – however, my perspective is uniquely mine, and I choose to share it with the hope that others may find it helpful, or at least amusing. If you should choose to feast on my offerings, bon appetit!

Welcome to Sense and Sensuality – a blog about Food and other earthly pleasures.

A Few Days Later…The final Mystery Gift Box Beer: Dubble Trubble Rum & Raisin Belgian Dubble

And so as my craft beer advent calendar adventure comes to an end, I am compelled to reflect on the experience. It was more of an effort than I’d imagined and I’ve learned that while I’m not one to shy away from high ABV beer, I am not a big fan of the Belgian style, which tends toward funky fruity booziness that I’d rather get by eating brandied cherries. Similar to the mysteriously popular pumpkin beers infused with allspice and clove, I prefer to get certain flavours from food, not beer.

Which brings me to the final offering – a collaboration brew to end the case. Dubble Trubble is a Rum & Raisin Belgian Dubble. Before even opening it, I was dubious; more food-flavoured beer?!? Heavens help me.

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You can see, I was dubious enough to pour only a 3 oz taster glass; however, I was pleasantly surprised by this brew. Pouring red-amber with a meagre cream-coloured head, this is actually a reasonably drinkable beer. The nose is boozy, like you’d expect from a ‘strong ale’ but to my surprise, this one weighs in at a mere 6.5% ABV. The delicate carbonation gives it a rather pleasant mouth feel, and the flavours are well balanced. Speaking of flavours, the palate on this one doesn’t scream raisins, but they’re definitely there, I got more caramel maltiness. As for the rum? Well, I don’t get that except perhaps in the boozy smell.

Maybe my palate has finally recovered from the cold. Maybe I didn’t give the other beers enough of a chance. Either way, this Dubbel may not be my favourite beer of the bunch, but it’s far from the worst, and a reasonable finishing effort for the box.


Vow of Silence Belgian Strong Ale

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2872.jpgWell, it would seem that as the selections were made for the final days of this calendar, the contributors decided to give consumers more ‘bang for their buck’ in terms of high ABV beers.

Vow of Silence is the final Parallel 49 offering in the Mystery Gift box, and unfortunately, it falls into the same category as Thor’s Hammer for me. I will admit that I could not finish the glass. Perhaps it was the recent memory of quaffing NyQuil before bed, but I swear this is what this beer tasted like to me. It didn’t make much effort to hide it’s 9.8% ABV, and for what it’s worth, this beer tasted like fermented fruits and high-fructose corn syrup. Not my thing.

From what I’ve seen on the ‘net, it is a good example of the style (Belgian Strong) so my Pacific Northwest hop-craving palate may simply not be sophisticated enough to appreciate this particular beer. This could be another product that does well with some cellaring, given the fruit-forward character and high ABV. That could well deal with the sugary undertones and make for a drinkable beer in a year or two.


Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2869.jpgIn Norse mythology, Mjölnir is the name of the hammer of Thor, a Norse god associated with thunder. Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as a fearsome weapon, capable of leveling mountains. So perhaps it is by virtue of it’s hefty 11.5% ABV that today’s selection comes by it’s name.

Let me own a particular failing of mine: I am not fond of barley wines. They are, for all intents and purposes, big boozy beers that can (and often should) be cellared to allow them a chance to properly develop. The label of this limited release bourbon barrel-aged brew suggests it may be enjoyed now, or cellared for up to five years. I think that cellaring may mellow the very forward (ok, bordering on in-your-face) bourbon character. All I tasted (and to be fair, I could not finish even the small sharsies glass) was boozy bourbony beer. A couple of sips in, I was done.

If you like this style of beer, then you probably will like this one. I searched online, and found a number of people clamouring for bottles, and the label does say it’s an award winning brew. I just can’t bond with the style.


Ugly Sweater Milk Stout

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2868.jpgWhat’s with Ugly Sweaters? How does this formerly humiliating family obligation (i.e. to wear the tacky Christmas-themed sweater your dotty aunt gave you at family functions) suddenly become a trend so upbiquitous that even the NFL and NHL are involved? I may die not understanding…but at least one good thing has come from this trend…or at least is associated with it.

Milk stouts are similar to your basic stout, with the addition of unfermentable sugars (such as lactose) that tend to soften (or sweeten) the more edgy character of roasted malts, which can often taste a lot like bitter black coffee.  Milk stouts tend toward having a smoother flavour profile, and Ugly Sweater is no exception.

This is a rather drinkable, and at 5% ABV, an all-night beer. If you like darker, slightly more toothsome brews, then Ugly Sweater is your choice. If you are fortunate enough to get this from a Nitro tap, even better. The nitrogenation adds a silkiness to this brew that is truly remarkable; however, you won’t be getting that from the bottled version. Still, it is a very respectable milk stout that addresses my darker wintertime beer craving.


Central City Imperial Porter

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2865.jpgMy second ‘catch-up’ beer is a new one to me: Central City Imperial Porter. This formidable brew pours inky black, with a prolific caramel coloured head that settles quickly. The palate takes most of it’s cues from the bourbon barrels the beer is aged in, along with solid coffee back notes and a lingering boozy finish.

Weighing in at 9.0% ABV, this may be best shared, particularly if you’re buying it in a 650 mL bomber. An excellent choice for pairing with holiday sweets, it’s coffee-bourbon flavour is a solid counterpoint to all the seasonal sugar.


Salty Scot Sea Salted Caramel Scotch Ale

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2863.jpgGetting back on the horse, after a few days of malfunctioning taste buds, I found an old friend in the Salty Scot. With a general trend toward caramel-forward, vanilla laced winter ales in the Lower Mainland Craft Beer community, the more subtle flavour of the sea salted caramel is a welcome change. This brew pours…well…caramel-coloured, with a lively effervescence that leaves a thin off-white head. The addition of sea salt makes for a slightly less sweet overall flavour, along with being right on-trend gastronomically.

A nice seasonal offering from P49 – worth gifting to someone unfamiliar with the Scotch ale style. Generally known for caramelized malts and higher ABV than standard ales, Scotch ales vary widely in interpretation. Salty Scot weighs in at 7.5 % ABV, so mind you watch how many of these smooth drinking brews you enjoy.


We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming…

I mentioned in my last post that I was stricken with a cold. Well, that blossomed into a full-blown sinus infection, impacting my desire, if not my ability, to continue opening/reviewing the beer in my advent calendar.

I tried. I ought not to have, but I did. Day 18 was the Red Racer Imperial IPA from Central City Brewing.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2855.jpgI like this beer a lot – hence the effort – but it was woefully misplaced. What I know about this beer is that it is the bolder, brasher, hoppier cousin to the Red Racer IPA reviewed on Day 16. What I can tell you from drinking some (not all) of it yesterday is that it had a vaguely floral, almost juniper-gin-like nose, resinous piney palate with a boozy, strongly bitter, finish. I know there are far more subtleties to this beer, but between the congestion, the medication, and my general sense of malaise, they were lost on me.

I regret to say that I got only about a quarter of the sleeve down before giving up. It broke my heart. This IS a good, if not great incarnation of what Double, or Imperial, West Coast IPA should be. So, I’m afraid I will be temporarily abandoning my beer box until my tastebuds return and my sniffer decongests.


Sahti Claws

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2852.jpgI will preface this entry with the caveat that I have come down with a cold since my last tasting, and so my assessment of flavours is likely not as sharp as it could be.

Sahti Claws is one of P49’s more … unusual … offerings, albeit one I have tried in the past. I always imagined they were punning on Santa Claus, not realizing Sahti was actually a style of Finnish beer. Who says drinking beer can’t teach you anything?

A higher ABV brew at 7.7%, which is apparently characteristic of the Sahti style, the balance of hops, malt, and herbal infusion (mainly juniper, which gave the brew a distinctly floral undertone) generally smoothed out what could have been a fairly boozy beverage. Pouring deep red-amber, with a modest off-white head that vanishes almost as soon as you’re done pouring, this low-carbonated beer gives a drinking experience that reminded me of a porter – almost flat carbonation, nice caramel flavour with a bite-y hop finish. Save for the floral undertone, this could be a well-crafted ESB, or English Style Pale Ale.

Overall, this falls into the category of ‘good for one’ with me. Maybe it’s the high ABV, maybe it’s the floral character, maybe it’s my cold. This is a sipper for me. I have no context in terms of style, as it is the only Sahti I’ve ever tried.


Red Racer IPA

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/f7b/5387587/files/2014/12/img_2850.jpg I love West Coast IPAs. Maybe it’s because of their distinct flavour profile, some of which tend toward resinous, others toward citrus, and still others that embrace both. Maybe it’s because they have a generally higher ABV than lagers or pale ales, which gives a definite bite to the palate, and linger like a fine wine.

Maybe I’m just a hipster…oh wait…no, then I’d be drinking PBR out of the can, and talking about how craft beer is so yesterday.

At 80 IBU, Red Racer’s IPA is a good example of an IPA that tends toward resinous. It pours golden-amber with a moderate off-white head that dissipates quickly, but leaves lacy trails down the glass. The flavour is sharp, with a solid lingering bitterness. Not a gateway beer for the uninitiated. Overall, it’s a worthy choice if you’re looking for a solid West Coast IPA.


Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale


One of the first offerings I tasted from P49 when they first burst onto the Vancouver Craft Beer scene was this hop-forward ruby ale. Ever since, I’ve had a dead spot in my brain that prevents me from calling it by it’s actual name (Gypsy Tears) in favour of  “Ruby Tears” which confuses servers everywhere.

Names are hard.

Regardless, this is a lovely, accessible brew offering mid-range hopiness (40 IBU) with a 6.0% ABV punch to the kidneys. Out of the bottle, she pours a lovely red-amber with a modest off-white head that trails lace as you drink. When the weather turns toward winter, I prefer darker beers, and this one is definitely a great fall/winter brew.