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Spirits Untapped

Investigating the spirits of both the living & the non-living that inhabit bars and breweries

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Beer Label & Artwork

Skulls and Passion for Beer

In our frequent visits to various breweries and great beer locales, Liz and I discovered 5 Paddles Brewing Company in img_9728Whitby. It was immediately apparent, almost from the moment we walked in, that we were stepping into a place where the passion for brewing and consuming great beers was strong.

Once we started talking to one of the 5 Paddles (the nickname the owners of the brewery have given themselves, since they all have a “mash paddle” in both the operation and the brewing of the beers), the pure raw passion came through loud and clear.

When you’re speaking with someone at that brewery, you’re not speaking with a part-time casual employee who might only be there to serve customers. You’re speaking with one of the owners who are all deeply ingrained in the brewing and operations of the business.

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Throughout the mini-tour we were offered as part of our discussion, (including hearing intriguing and delightful stories about virtually every single piece of equipment that was cobbled together through hard-earned acquisitions via Mike, the brewery’s “Kijiji Whisperer”) as well as in the simple yet friendly and inviting decor of the place, it immediately felt like home to us.

We learned that these guys call themselves a Nano-brewery (smaller than a micro-brewery) and that, regardless of how many additional tanks and equipment they might eventually acquire, they’ll always be Nano in spirit and approach. They met through a local home-brewers network and their common passion for brewing and drinking great beers are what led to the start of this amazing business which continues to be a labour of love.

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But, better than that all the great sentiment and passion, beyond their friendliness and enthusiasm for what they do, their beer itself was amazing. Would you expect anything less?

We tried a “canoe flight” of all the beers they had on tap and ended up taking a few home to enjoy later. In Your Face (IPA) and Home Sweet Home (Pale Wheat Ale) and Midnight Paddler (Stout) were three of my absolute favourites — although, admittedly, I can’t say I didn’t love all the ones I tried.

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A fun side-perk of the trip for me was the affinity that one of the brewers had to skulls (much like my own). And the decor of the brewery reflected that in a fun and playful manner. (Not to mention the cool label on their core IPA)

Hmm, with Halloween coming up, I should get myself some more bottles of In Your Face that delightfully refreshing IPA.

Priceless Collections at Collective Arts

Before my more bold adventures into the enjoyment of craft beer, one fun thing I liked to do when traveling was wanting to try the local beer. Beer that you just couldn’t get “back home” or beer that was unique to the local geography, culture, etc.

Local was always an important aspect to me, and still is, when I travel. It’s fun to explore things that are unique about each location; both Liz and I treasure those discoveries as we travel together.

But the local aspect was why I was a fond supporter of the old Lakeport Brewing Company in Hamilton and proudly bought their beer even when friends scoffed at me for buying that somewhat “lesser” known local discount brand instead of the large name brands that were more popular.

Of course, after time, the Lakeport brand grew in market share. Their prices, after all, were attractive, and the beer they produced was as good as any of the large mega breweries. So good, in fact, that one of the big ones had their eye on the market share Lakeport was taking. Not all that long after Labatt targeted them and then bought them out in 2007 they shut the operation down (don’t get me started on the anger to have a multi-national corporate ruin a good local thing and local jobs – something Hamilton has suffered from multiple times), it was upsetting that we didn’t have a local brewery right in Hamilton.

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A display wall at Collective Arts Brewery – my kind of incredible art gallery

But enter Collective Arts Brewing who, in a partnership with Nickel Brook Brewing Co bought the plant, gave Hamilton not just a local brewery, but an amazing craft brewery with an incredible focus on craft and art.

Collective Arts aims to fuse the creativity of craft brewing with talented local and emerging artists and musicians. Their support of the artistic community is as strong and unique as their wonderful selection of incredible tasting beers. I mean, check out the amazing showcase of indie artists and musicians in the Collective Arts BLACK BOX SESSIONS.

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Black Box Sessions featuring amazing indie musicians

So many incredible indie artists to discover and explore. It’s an incredible treasure trove and phenomenal musical talent. But let me get back to the beer . . .

Their initial offerings, and still among their most popular staples, available quite broadly, at least in Ontario through The Beer Store, the LCBO and selected grocery stores, include Rhyme and Reason (Extra Pale Ale), Saint of Circumstance (Citrus Blonde Ale), State of Mind (Session IPA) and Ransack the Universe (IPA).

Though I try my best not to re-check in a beer I have already had on Untappd, Collective Arts gives me a solid reason to do so. When you purchase a six-pack, for example, of a series, you get unique art and notes on the bottles. Causing me to want to post some of the check-ins and sharing the image of the art.

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Some of my check-ins on Untapped showing the unique art

The small retail shop of the brewery itself is an artistic expression, complete with wall murals, a room filled with wall to wall bottles showcasing just some of the amazing artwork the brewery has included on their bottles, sampling, other fun merchandise and swag and an older school pin ball machine.

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John Blouin‘s Collective Arts Guitar

But one of the things that is a delightful surprise is the incredibly value priced re-fills for growlers and grunts (or rounds). Makes it so hard to believe that such delicious and flavourful craft beer can be had at such an incredible price.

So many reasons to adore Collective Arts. So, so many reasons.

 

Feel free to share a link to your favourite art, music or taste from Collective Arts by commenting or linking to it in the comments below.

A Nightmare on Mill Street

I know it’s a bit early in the season to post about pumpkin beer, but because August just popped its head in and said “Surprise, I’m here!” my mind is already racing forward to thinking about the wonderful seasonal beers that will soon be upon us. In particular, Nightmare on Mill Street by Mill Street Brewery.

There’s so much about this beer that I adore.

The name is, of course, brilliant, adapting a classic horror movie franchise with the brewery’s own name. The artwork of the burning pumpkin is uniquely beautiful (it ranks in the realm of the type of art that I would seriously consider for a tattoo – just the pumpkin part, of course – not the lettering); and it wonderfully captures the fall season (and Halloween) which are my absolute favorites.

Not to mention, of course, that I adore pumpkin beers. And this is a magnificent example of a truly amazing one.

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Image adapted from my Untappd Checkin

I first enjoyed this beer back in September of 2013 and, every fall since I have enjoyed getting more.

My simple comment:  “Amazing wheat and pumpkin beer! Will certainly be getting more of this.” In fact, in the fall of 2014, Liz and I took a special trip up to Mill Street Brewery in the hopes of getting it in more than the dual six pack that it regularly is packaged in (ie where you get 3 bottles of it along with 3 bottles of another seasonal Mill St brew – Oktoberfest – which is a good beer, but not admired nearly as much as their pumpkin gem) or even by the growler or the keg. (We have a “Kegorator” with a tap that’ll accommodate a 20L Keg). Alas, it is only available in those half six packs, making it a high demand, harder to get in mass quantity beer.

One other thing that I also enjoy about this beer is the Brewmaster’s Notes from the listing for the beer on the Mill St website:

“I had no idea how to make this beer so I asked my wife for her pumpkin pie recipe and based it on that! Great pie translates into great beer as it turns out! A modern interpretation of the old pioneer brews from the American colonies in the late 17th and 18th Centuries made using pumpkin since malt was scarce. Might be the best Mill Street beer name ever…!”

My only hope is, now that Mill Street Brewery has been acquired by a massive international brewing conglomerate that it doesn’t take away from their history of producing excellent high quality craft brews like this one. Let’s hope that the brew-masters can continue to do the great work that they started in 2002 when Mill Street Brewery first opened their doors in Toronto’s distillery district.

 

Lazy Bones

 

We found this awesome beer from Rain Hard Brewing at the Because Beer festival in Hamilton, Ontario. Mark has a soft spot for beer labels with skeletons on them. Maybe that’s because they remind him of Barnaby Bones.

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