Falling for Fall Beer

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It’s that time of year again: a chill in the air, scarves and boots, and of course, pumpkin spice everything. And I mean everything. So when the liquor store shelves began filling up with pumpkin spice beers, it was time to investigate. With almost every micro brewery producing a fall beer, it only made sense to wade through the lot, and suss out the good, bad and the ugly (tough job but someone had to do it). We picked out five and got down to business.

Collective Arts Sour Pumpkin Saison $3.45

img_0462Don’t overlook the word sour, this stuff packs a real pucker. But once you get past it, it’s actually a neat little beer. Reminiscent of the sour Belgian beers that are also wildly popular right now, this pint brings a fun seasonal twist to a style that has been around for centuries. Good for a festive sip, but probably not a drink all nighter.

Score: 3/5 Pumpkins

 

 

Amsterdam Autumn Hop $3.00

Hoppy as heck, but will make any IPA lover smile. Crisp and lightly bitter this is beer was img_0461easy to drink and full of flavour. My only complaint: there wasn’t really anything to set it apart from other IPAs that are on the market year round. Was it yummy? Sure was. Was it memorable? Not so much.

Score: 4/5 Pumpkins

 

 

Big Rig Tales From The Patch  Pumpkin Porter $2.75

img_0464I think I had the highest hopes for this one. As a diehard porter lover, I was imagining something rich, sweet, like a cold pumpkin spice latte of sorts. I was way off. It felt light and stringy, like uncooked pumpkin guts. The acidity was over the top for a porter, and there was no characteristic creaminess. It may have been the first time I’ve ever done this but it was right down the drain for this festive brew. I should mention that besides this rare miss, Big Rig is a phenomenal brewery and has hit it out of the ball park with all of their other creations.

Score: 1/5 Pumpkins

 

Parallel 49 Schadenfreude $5.90

img_0467Made with Munich malt, in a traditional Oktoberfest style, this pint knocks it out of the ball park. Rich in texture with little hints of pumpkin, and cinnamon, this flavourful treat hits at only 5% abv. so it’s easy to drink (maybe too easy). It comes in a 750ml bottle, but the price is still a little steep for mass consumption – I assure you it is worth every penny. The winner of the taste test for sure!

Score: 5/5 Pumpkins 

 

 

Samuel Adam’s Oktoberfest $14.95 (6 pack)

img_0468For comparison sake we decided to throw in an import. Similar in style to the Schadenfreude, the Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest is creamy and full of candied fruit and toffee flavours. A little happier than it’s Canadian counterpart, but still easy to drink, and offering lots of seasonal spice. However, we tried this last, right after the Schadenfreude, so there was it was tough competition. The American was good, but you just can’t compete with Canada on this one.

Score: 4/5 Pumpkins

 

The verdict? Kind of like pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice beers are fully of flavour and novelty value. It’s exciting to see what craft breweries come up with each year, and fun to test out the good. It’s back to our old stand by on our next trip to the store, but for one night, it was a fun experience.

Has anyone else done some taste testing this season? What have you tried? Any different opinions on these ones?

Stuck in the Vortex

Late one night, after a long day of work and a long evening of studying, I was laying in bed exhausted and ready to fall asleep. Except I didn’t. I was trapped in an Instagram vortex and there was no getting me out.

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Underpants the Dog

I had just discovered Underpants the Dog, and there was no stopping me from looking at every picture ‘she’ had ever posted. I was sucked in, nearly an hour past, and it was far past my bedtime-what the heck was I doing?

But I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who gets sucked into this mindless vortex of social media use. Be it endlessly refreshing a Facebook feed or pointlessly retweeting everything that seems half amusing, it seems that this behaviour is fairly common place. In fact there is even a form of shock therapy to users put a stop to mindless computer use.

I recently came across and article called “How to Break 5 Soul-Sucking Technology Habits” and it got me thinking: even though I realize mindlessly browsing Facebook can be a bad habit, what else am I doing in my life that is inadvertently causing me to be dependant on the internet.

One such topic discussed was “Falling sleep while watching Netflix”. Gosh, I do this netflix-screenshotalmost every night. Thinking that I was being money savvy and frugal, I canceled my very expensive satellite account and signed up for Netflix. So each night rather than watch the news before bed, I had just been flipping on some cable melodrama and dozed off. And now the more I think on it, how is this not any worse than flipping through hours of Instagram. I am gaining nothing of value, where I was at least getting a little information out of the news, and I was staring mindlessly at the TV rather than getting a good night’s sleep. Perhaps tonight I should pull out a book…

Another bad habit I hardly realized I had formed was “Googling Everything”. I admit I am a bit of an IMDB junkie, the second I recognize a face, its straight to IMBD to figure out what else they were in. Similarly, if I forget a word, or statistic that I once new, Google is the first place I turn. This would probably take me five minutes of thinking, but why do that when I could pull it up in less than ten seconds? Why use brain power when I can just rely on the internet to think for me? I think this one is self explanatory, and I have since tried to put a few minutes of active thought into my own questions before I rely the all mighty Google to be my brain for me.

Those are my confessions, friends, I have a little (although I’m trying to be more mindful of it) bit of an internet dependancy. So, I’m wondering if anyone will fess up too? What is your bad technology habit?

Giving Thanks For Good Wine

So it’s that time of year again, when families gather ’round for Thanksgiving festivities; meals are served, and wine is poured in abundance (perhaps for the meal, perhaps to deal with the gathering of the family). For me, wine is an essential part of any Thanksgiving (for both reasons). But nothing can throw off a great turkey than a wine that tastes like turpentine, and this can easily happen with the wrong pairing. I’m a bit of a foodie, okay make that a lot of a foodie, and have developed a bit of an addiction to my favourite food ‘vlog’ Food Wishes. So in a nod to social media, I thought that I would share some Youtube recipes that I have had my eye on for the long-weekend, and some pairings that are sure to make both your tastebuds and your family happy.

Turkey & Chardonnay

A classic. This pair is a old as they come, but a true and proven delight. A buttery, chardonnay is a perfect companion for a savoury, oven baked turkey. The chardonnay has just enough acid to bring the often mild tasting bird to life, and to cut through the heavy gravy without feeling too heavy. cq5dam-web-1280-1280Chardonnays come both oaked and unoaked but for a turkey, oaked is always my go to. Pick one from California, I particularly love ones from the sunny, southern regions like Santa Barbara. Saturday is turkey day in my home and we will be sure to be opening this gem from Mer Soleil.

 

 

Prime Rib & Bordeaux

Just say “Prime Rib” to be and I’m shivering with excitement. This is easily my favourite food to cook, and I love it because it can pair fairly flexibly with a number of wine styles, cq5dam-web-1280-1280depending on how it is cooked. Personally, a good Bordeaux is always a safe bet, as they are generally a blend of Cabernet and Merlot, two grapes big enough to stand up to a nice big ‘hunk’ of meat. If you have the time to hunt one down, and don’t mind spending a couple extra dollars, look for a Pomerol – Merlot is the dominant grape here and gives a rich, velvety texture. Another great and budget friendlier choice is Saint-Emilion, another Merlot forward Bordeaux. Take a sniff, and see if you can smell any herb-y aromas, for me this pairs perfect with a great rosemary rub!

Cheese & Ice Wine

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Canada’s Ice Wine Pioneer, Inniskillin

I get a lot of funny looks for this for this but I’m really not a dessert food fan, but I do sometimes like something a little sweet at the end of a meal. My go to is Ice Wine and a couple of pieces of cheese (and some fruits too, because you know, it’s healthy and all). We are so lucky to live in one of the very few countries in the world that produce this liquid delicacy. Made from grapes that are frozen on the vine and pressed out and fermented to produce a sweet, vicious, alcoholic gold. Ice wine can pair nicely with a number of desserts, but for me a small glass with a plate of something rindwashed or slightly blue takes the cake over cake any day. Don’t like stinky cheeses? Test out a glass of ice wine with this stunning tartine.

Apple Pie & Moscato D’Asti

In spite of my aversion to dessert foods, there really cannot be a Thanksgiving post without mention of apple pie. My family are apple pie fanatics, and usually pair theirs with a big glass of ice cold milk. Do they go well together? Absolutely. Is milk half as fun as wine? Absolutely not. So we’re scraping the milk this year (at least for the grown-ups) and pairing up our holiday delight with a little Moscato D’Asti. unknownMoscato’s are crazy popular this year due to their extremely sweet nature and accessible price point, but beware some can toe the line of alcoholic syrup. Look specifically for ones from Italy, and even more specifically ones that are labeled Moscato D’Asti. These are lightly effervescent, sweet, and are brimming with flavours of peach and poached apple, giving your apple pie something to be thankful for.

I hope this guide helps to steer you in the right direction as we move closer to the holiday weekend- may your turkeys be juicy, prime ribs flavourful and pies flakey. However if this all fails, just remember to add more wine.

Wine-ing About Social Media

The wine industry is an incredibly fun industry to work in, it is an industry that typically denotes leisure time, cooking, and gathering with friends. But its also a subject that seemingly shrouded in a bit of mystery. Many people tell me they love wine, and when I ask what they love, they say something like “Umm red?”. Well, what kind? There are literally hundreds of types of red wine… “The yummy kind?” they supposed. What is yummy wine? ‘Yummy wine’ is an endlessly subjective term. So how can you determine what is yummy wine to you? Or how do you learn what to look for in the huge, beautiful sea of labels? Use social media, of course!

Figure Out What Flavours You Love

This can be tougher than it sounds. You often can tell that you love the flavour of something, but can’t quiet put your finger on what exactly it is that you love. Aroma charts can be a major asset. They give lists of flavours, and connect with with the wines they are

 

Different-Types-of-Wine-v2.jpgcommonly associated with. Pinterest is filled with endless amounts of these charts, that put some of the weirdest wine descriptors into easy to understand terms (Barnyard, anyone?). More over, many of these great pins will connect you with websites abundant in cool posts, such as this fabulous wine flavours chart from Wine Library.

Find a Writer You Love

Regularly, wine shops will post scores in front of their wines to encourage customers to purchase them. What do these scores mean? Honestly, to the everyday consumer, not a lot. I am often told that someone had purchased a bottle of wine because it said “95 Point” and got it home and had no clue why they didn’t like it. Let’s pretend that wine scoring is like Master Chef, and the contestants are cooking Eggplant Parmesan. The sauce must be done right, the cheese shaved right, and the eggplant cooked to the right texture. There are metrics to cook a perfect eggplant parm, but does that mean I’m going to like it? Heck no!

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It’s almost the same way with wine, there are metrics to a good Chianti, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to love it just because it’s well made. With this in mind, there are times that these scores can point you in the right direction. As I said before, wine is highly subjective, and many critics will highly award wine styles that are to their flavour preference. One critic who is know for this is “The Million Dollar Nose” Robert Parker Jr, who has a loyal band of followers, sometimes jokingly called “Parker-ites”. Known for his love of big, full bodied, intense red wines, Mr. Parker often awards highly to wines falling into this category. For me, 95+ “Parker Points” is almost guaranteed pure, liquid gold. If a bottle has this esteemed designation, it’s a sure sell for me. Read reviews, and look for look for writers who seem to enjoy similar wines to you. A great place to find a quick feed of wine reviews? Twitter of course! Here are a sample of some great writers in-and-about the Twitterverse:

Facebook Your Favourite Winery

Because many wineries are still small businesses at heart, connecting with their customers is essential. Ontario is home to over 150 wineries, many of whom regularly connect with customers on their Facebook pages. Not only is this a great way for them to get feedback on their products, but it’s also a great way for them to advertise. But how does this help you?

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These pages are often brimming with tasting notes, invites to tasting events, and news about new products. If you happen to live, or visit any of Ontario’s wine regions, make sure you are connecting with places you are interested in, who knows you might even score a free invite!

So there you have it folks, some simple and free ways to connect you with a world of wine information, available to you at home (where you can learn with a glass in your hand).

Cheers everyone!

 

 

 

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Com0011 Blog 2: Insta-Sales & Losses

Having worked in the wine industry for nearly a decade, I think it’s safe to say I’m pretty discerning in my beverage choices. I meticulously scour critical reviews, spend my 9-5 working with wine, and then my free time talking about it, and obviously drinking it. I am often willing to indulge a little more for what I believe will be a good product, and don’t believe in gimmicky labels or the brands that are readily advertised on television. Wine snob, maybe, but really it’s like anything, if you spend enough time around it, you know what to look for. But there are always exceptions to every rule.

Insta-Sales

This little anecdotal exception starts with Instagram. While looking at pictures of celebrity puppies and delicacies being served up in the big city, a paid advertisement pops up on my feed-The Little Grape That Could. The concept was simple: with every bottle of the Argentinian wine purchased,  the customer could choose the Canadian charity of their choice to donate a portion of the bottles costs. I was mind-blown- I could imbibe and feel altruistic! I’m only kidding, but I thought the concept was tremendously unique and a  great angle to approach an industry that often feels self-indulgent. I immediately went out and purchased a bottle, picked my charity and poured a glass. Now here’s the kicker, the wine itself was far less than impressive. Of course I was disappointed, but it didn’t change my view of The Little Grape That Could, in fact I went back and purchased more. I still encouraged my friends to purchase the product. I was still so tremendously impressed by their program, that a sub-par product didn’t matter, it was the whole package that sold it. Now sadly they only produced one vintage, and I am again on the hunt for products that pair their wine with a social conscience.

This short-lived, wine love affair (a fling, if you will) of mine was all thanks to Instagram, because there is a distinct likelihood that I never would have looked the way of a kitchy-labled, $11 Cabernet. While social media can be vessel to send your message -in-a- wine-bottle out into the sea of like minded Instagramers, the flip side is that not everyone is going to agree with the messages you are sharing.

Insta-Losses

I was raised to believe that religion and politics were not casual topics of conversation and to always tread carefully with what I say and who I say it to on those topics. I’m a pretty open-minded person, ‘live and let live’ if you will. Needless to say, I won’t be posting any of my political views on here, but I will say this- I have zero tolerance for intolerance. If there is a quick way to lose my business it’s to post something hateful and close-minded. But I digress…

I follow a large number of industry related accounts on Twitter from sommeliers to wineries, to casual wine enthusiasts. One such account belonged to a winery I was a pretty big fan of, they consistently produced amazing quality wines, and in spite of the price point being just above what I usually like to spend, I faithfully bought their products when available. However, late one evening I noticed a post on their account endorsing some radically right-wing ideas, an article that was arguably close to hate-speech. Yikes! The post disappeared shortly thereafter, but the damage was done. In a matter of a couple clicks and a few seconds they had lost a faithful customer. Was the post representative of their company values, or a just a clumsy mistake? I don’t really know, but I suppose that’s the power of social media; an absent-minded user, or a momentary lapse of judgement can be the preverbal executioner’s axe.

My question to my classmates is this: Have you had any make or break social media experiences? Was there a particular post that sealed the fate (positively or negatively) for your consumership of a product?

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PS. Here is a quick list of other wine companies who have great social and environmental programs, just incase you need a good excuse to pick up a bottle of wine this weekend

COM0011 Blog 1: Fun Facts with Memes

I’ve always been a social media user. My first foray into social media was with the now nearly defunct MySpace, where angsty teens (I was one too) shared digital clips of punk songs and lamented the tribulations of black hair-dye and disconnected parents.It was a fun way to connect with friends, and show off your digital social status.

Growing up in the early ages of the internet, my parents had ingrained in me a solid fear of the internet boogie-man, who was lurking in every chatroom preying on little girls like me. Or the “Foreign Prince” who intended to rob me blind after offering me a million dollars. My father recently went as far to remind me that canned beet recipes I find on the internet my not all be safe for use. My parents are fairly young, and internet savvy themselves, they paid close attention to the news, and watched our online actions like hawks. I deeply appreciate their vigilance, as my brother both grew up with a safe knowledge of the online world, and have yet to fall victim to any scams, predators or unsavoury beet recipes.

But what about everyone who didn’t have this kind scepticism ingrained into their minds?

The first time I had this discussion was with a member of my husband’s family, after she shared a meme (a photo usually accompanied by text) with what I felt was harmful misinformation about a political situation. “It must be true, why else would someone post it in the first place”. After that we started keeping an eye on these kind of posts, and were shocked to find the tremendous amount of fallacies being passed off as facts through Facebook memes. Posts regarding political policies, taxation, historical ‘facts’, and even the recently popular ‘life-hacks’, were swirling around the Facebook accounts of our aunts, mothers, and their friends.

To highlight the inaccuracy of meme “facts” one Pinterest user began posting photos of Taylor Swift, overlain with quotes from fascist dictators. The photos attribute quotes made by the likes of Stalin and Hitler, to the pop princess. I jokingly shared a photo with my husband knowing he would appreciate the irony, only to have a family member note how inspirational she is. A prime example of the ease of spreading inaccurate information.

Here is another example that I recently stumbled across on a family member’s Facebook page.

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While smearing one’s toes in peanut butter is pretty benign (and admittedly funny to imagine someone doing), I did find a meme that suggested creating a mustard gas to rid one’s house of bed bugs. This was a major red flag for me. I immediately called the family member who had shared the photo, and explained the implications of following the posted recipe. She was shocked and horrified.

Finally, the meme that scared me the most. A post was recently share by a friend of a friend, offering “facts” on a particular religious group, and promoting the use of violence and the spread of hate. Scrolling through the comments I was shocked by the amount of credulity given to the photos; people were taking the memes at face value, spreading judgement, fear and xenophobia. It terrified me that this type of information was moving so quickly, and being eaten up by so many people, who otherwise seemed like rational individuals.

So my question is: are memes the new internet boogie-man? Is the innocuous photo of a bug, paired with a recipe for a potentially deadly gas recipe the new “foreign prince scam”? Will I one day have to instil an almost excessive skepticism of Facebook in my own children?

To my classmates I ask: where do you draw the line in what you believe online?