27 January 2008

Tale of two brews

Ok Rudy, I'll bite, or should I say drink? The man behind LAGDP has been mentioning over and over again the Canadian Classic Film "Strange Brew": The adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Fellow blogger CancunCanuck posted in December the brothers McKenzie version of the 12 Days of Christmas, which is really really funny. But I won't talk about these Canadian icons, but of their (our) beloved beer. Or should I say beers? Well, I will focus on one beer in particular, the one I call "the pride of Toronto": Steam Whistle. Last June I had the pleasure of hosting my father in his first trip to Canada. He came for my convocation ("acto de graducación" pues) from my MA. My father worked for some years as an accountant at Cervecería Centroamericana, the producers of Gallo Nuestra Cerveza. So I thought it would be nice to take him to a micro-brewery here in Toronto. It happens that Steam Whistle Brewery is located at the foot of the most emblematic construction of Toronto, the CN tower. These are some photos taken from and at the brewery.

In the tour, which included a taste of their beer, we were told that this brewery only "craft" one product, the pilsner Steam Whistle, which is made only with four ingredients: Spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast. Their motto is "make one thing and make it good". This "micro-brewery" is located on an old train station, thus the name Steam Whistle. It is actually quite "hoppy" and it might be an acquired taste, but maybe less so than other types of beers produced in Toronto, like Mill Street Brewery Coffee Porter. But is not my intention to either describe every single beer and ale brewed in Toronto, not it is to create a beer blog. I am just replying to Rudy's insisting question of "what kind of strange brew" are we drinking up here, usually aimed to LD and to my person. LD, as far as I know, is not even a beer drinker. Me, on the other hand, have discovered that the suds I used to drink as a young child actually come from a very tasty beverage. I was not particularly fond of Gallo, and when I visit my family I try to drink Moza whenever I can(a bock type of beer, also produced by Cervecería Centroamericana S.A.). Beer is a serious business both in my motherland and in my newland. But it was in these latitudes that I discover that there is no such thing as one beer or one type of beer, and I finally understood what the hell is an ale (and I am not talking about Canada Dry Ginger Ale).

There are many more micro-breweries in Canada and some of the best that I know (well maybe because are the ones that have products more easily accessible) are in Ontario. You can check the website of the Ontario Craft Brewers for an extensive list of these local entrepreneurs and their beloved products. When I first came to Canada, I lived in Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W), two intertwined cities located about 2 hours South-West of Toronto, for three years and a half. I even worked conveniently across from The Brick Brewery in uptown Waterloo. In those times I developed a taste for Honey Brown beer, regardless of the brand. Here in Toronto when I am in the mood I usually have a Sleeman's Honey Brown, brewed in Guelph, a city between Toronto and K-W. Lately, though, I have preferred the best selling import in Canada: Stella Artois, brewed in Leuven, Belgium since 1366 (no it is not a typo, since the mid 14th century and by the same family!). Even though I was not able to visit the brewery, I did spent a couple of days in the city of Leuven this past Summer.

Belgium, among other things, is well known for its beer. Now that I think about it, it is an officially bilingual country, with a parliamentary democracy and a monarchy, with an interesting mixed of immigrants, somewhat crappy weather, that is proud of its beer. Hmmm... sounds familiar, doesn't it? In any case, I took some pictures around town and particularly of the area where InBev, the brewery that produces Stella Artois is. Here they are:

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL)is the alma mater of a Chilean friend who recently defended his doctoral dissertation and it is the current casa de estudios of my old friend Ale, another fellow blogger behind Desde Kinshasa and Congo Days. KUL buildings are all over town, but one of the most iconic ones is the Library and the monument located in the plaza in front of it:

In the Wikipedia entry for KUL it mentions how KUL, the flemish university split from L'Université de Louvain in the last quarter of the 20th century. It states that the library was divided alphabetically "in a typical Belgian fashion" between KUL and Louvain, whose campus was relocated to a town created on the Wallon (French speaking) side of the country called Louvain-la-Neuf (literally the new Leuven). Here are more pictures of the streets of Leuven (the original one):

The last one is a picture of the psychologists' pub called Pavlov, which unfortunately I didn't visit. Maybe when I am doing my nest next trip across the pond I'll have time to hang out and taste more of the great beers produced in Belgium. There is actually an interesting blog I stumble upon which tries to count the different types of beers produced in Belgium. They are almost reaching the 200th beer and I don't think they are counting the more commercial ones like Morte Subite, Leffe, Hoegaarden, or even Stella Artois. Here is me enjoying a glass of Morte Subite at El Metekko in Brussels:

Thus it ends my tale of two brews or of many many brews and the countries that proudly brew them. It seems that not only have I betrayed my motherland by not being a fanatic of Gallo, but I already moved on from the local "strange brews" to prefer the taste of a refreshing import. So, whenever I write a post or a comment that seems more skewed than normally you can blame it on Stella... STELLA!!


CancunCanuck said...

Yet another thing we have in common Señor, a love for beer and the micro brews of Ontario. I worked for the Upper Canada Brewing Company in their last years before they were bought by Sleeman. I had a variety of jobs there but my favourite was giving the brewery tours. My old boss Greg Taylor is part of the team behind Steam Whistle, I know many of the people who are a part of it. Great family businesses and yummy beers.

I drink Mexican beer, but I don't savour it. I find myself craving Alexander Keith's, Amsterdam Framboise, Stella, an oooold one from Upper Canada called "Rebellion Lager" and Creemore.

Great to see your face Manolo, you look kind of how I thought you might. Salud!

AntiguaDailyPhoto.Com said...

I second CancunCanuck... yet another thing we have in common.

I too drink just about any brew except for Gallo most of the time. I drink Gallo when it's the only brew available, which in Guate is often.

I drink Moza as often as I can and I think it's the best brew made here. I am fond Brahva Beats lately, made by Cerverceria del Río, now renamed InBev Centroamérica.

Also, I did my beer trip to micro-brewery mecca of Portland, Oregon for a taste of the strange brews around this beer city.

My favorite brews are New Castle and Guinness. Although I like to try Stella next time I get chance and the Steam Whistle (why not).

CarmenDeBizet said...

Dude. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Or something like that. I, for one, do not drink beer...unless it's hotter than hell and there is nothing else available. However, I have tried ceviche accompanied with a cerveza and let me be perfectly honest. It. Is. Good. I have taken another fieldtrip now (first the yo-yos, now the beer[s]). Hehehe. Mala influencia vos. ;-) I drink rum and coke by the way, E is the one slurping on beers.

Manolo said...

Canucka In the tour they told us the story of how Upper Canada gave origin to Steam Whistle. Now Sleeman was bought by the makers of Saporo from Japan, so the bigger fish always eats the big fish. Is there such a thing as Mexican beer? Just kidding. Actually, the "best selling import" in Guatemala is Tecate. I've been thinking about getting some Amsterdam Framboise @ the LCBO, the rest you mentioned (besides the one no longer in production) I have tried and have my seal of approval.
Rudy I don't feel as bad knowing I am not the only beer drinker chapín that doesn't worship Gallo... well, my mom drinks Monte Carlo. InBev, eh? It seems finally someone is able to make the competition to the Castillos. Ah, and for the Steam Whistle you WILL HAVE TO come to Toronto, mi casa es tu casa like the gringos say ;-)
Carmencita I think it's called "Cuba Libre" although I've heard it called jai-bol (think Spanish pronunciation). Oh, and there is nothing like a pint of Guinness in the cold of Winter, Rudy would agree. I cook with beer, and sometimes I even put it in the food (bad joke, sorry). Actually I've been trying to perfect my Stella batter for the fish in fish'n'chips.

Brenda said...

Manolo, in response to your comment on my blog about baking bread.
Manolo, to use this recipe and traditional yeast you will need to make certain modifications.
1. You will need to use approximately 25% more yeast.
2. You cannot just mix the traditional yeast in with the flour. You need to put it in about 1/4 cup of warm water and 1 teaspoon of sugar and let it dissolve for about 5 or 10 minutes (until bubbly), then you can mix it into the wet ingredients and then add the dry ingredients.
3. The rising times will be very different. I can't give you the exact times for rising; but a good rule of thumb is to let the dough rise until almost double before punching it down.
Instead of trying to modify this recipe, you might be better off just doing a search online for a recipe using "traditional" yeast. Then you would have better directions than mine and it might give you better results.
Hope this helps.

CarmenDeBizet said...

Yeah. I call them Cubas Libres as well, more so with family and friends, but I chose to use the label "rum and coke" in the comment 'cause I've been admonished for using the term Cuba Libre before...political commentary or what not...in my view, I was just asking for the drink man! Just. The. Drink. *Sigh*