STANLEY PARK BRUN—Delivered into my grateful paws

When a rep from Stanley Park Brewery emailed me promo materials for its seasonal dark ale, I thought I was being punked. Because, if you ever wanted to transport a small bear from semi-hibernative winter depression to crazed Joyeux Noel by appealing to his “writer’s ego” and then dash his spirit by announcing it was a hoax, that’s how you’d do it.

So I was both awed and frightened by the email. But mostly manic—I was so excited that I replied to myself instead of to the rep. If I hadn’t cc’d my mum, who did manage to respond to Stanley Park Brewery, my blathered thanks would have gone nowhere except my own inbox. 😉

Several days of fretting ensued. Perhaps, I thought with increasing paranoia, my mother is in on the hoax.

DSCN2714But it was the real deal, my fellow inebriates. Yesterday afternoon I acquired a sixpack of STANLEY PARK BRUN, a Belgian-style winter ale crafted by Canada’s first “sustainably-focused brewery.”

What does this mean?

It starts with a big-ass wind turbine that powers the brewery. While this is the primary way Stanley Park Brewing reduces its carbon footprint, the devil is in the details, and they’ve got those covered too:

  • Advanced mash tuns reduce energy consumption and effluent production.
  • An advanced boiling system curbs evaporation.
  • The separation of kettle from whirlpool further reduces effluent by streamlining the efficiency of each.
  • Wet milling maintains husk integrity to further curtail effluent outflow.
  • A malt-cleaning process improves efficiency by removing non-brewable materials.
  • Beer is transported in lightweight stainless-steel kegs, lowering fuel demands.

DSCN2716If you think I’m singing the praises of Stanley Park Brewery because they invited me to review their beer, you’d be only partially right. You see, they sent a bunch of interesting marketing materials, which I gratefully read, and which made me all the more excited to sample the product. The super-efficient measures they’ve taken to produce STANLEY PARK BRUN, it turns out, also contribute to higher product purity by eliminating “off” flavors that hitchhike along with crushed husks, unwanted proteins (I’m thinking they mean bugs), and residual hop material.

Okay, so the marketing materials are pitched just right for this gullible little bear who fell in love with the courier driver simply because he had beer-related propaganda for me. I almost kissed him on the mouth, friends, and most human beings don’t like that.

How does STANLEY PARK BRUN taste?

Think Belgian-style ale, and you might expect orchard fruit, possibly over-ripe, with typical Belgian sour notes. Think brown ale, and you might expect uncomplicated sweetness. Think either, and you might expect more alcohol than 5.1%.

That accessible, approachable 5.1% is really my only quibble with STANLEY PARK BRUN. If a Belgian-style ale is going to occupy my fridge, I want to get hammered on it. But ultimately I was content with a warm buzz.

brunMoreover, the feared rotting fruit was not a factor. If anything, STANLEY PARK BRUN hints at fruit—and not sour cherries or pears that have been lying on the ground for a month, but nicely contained raisins and other dried-fruit flavors taking a subdued position behind nuts, cocoa, and warm bakery notes. At 18 IBU this beer is friendly—no hop-bullying here, just warm, well-balanced malt with a lovely dark-amber hue.

The effervescence was a surprise. Usually brown ales offer a little less fizz, but STANLEY PARK BRUN is sparky, a not unwelcome quality. It plays a bit of a trick in terms of mouthfeel, though, making the ale seem a little thinner than it actually is. After sitting in a glass for a while, the beer’s true texture reveals itself as a smooth, lingering palate-coater with interesting Belgian-style harmonics in the finish.

Does beer taste better when the bear drinking it gets treated like a real reviewer?

Maybe…just maybe. More to the point: I don’t usually call the shots when it comes to LBHQ beer purchasing. (Surprising, right?) They don’t allow bears in the liquor store, which means I rely on the kindness of my parents to buy beer, and sometimes they just trail around the liquor store and then walk out undecided (with nothing!). Stanley Park Brewery’s kind suggestion that they try its brown ale meant that, just for one day, I didn’t have to beg my parents to choose a beer. Just for one day, I could be an independent bear choosing a Belgian-style brown ale for us, and become the magnanimous pourer for my parents (who are allowed only one each). My immeasurable thanks goes to Stanley Park Brewery for salvaging my fragile ego and validating the whole LBHQ enterprise.

OLD BOY ALE—A calming brew for when there’s a killer in the house

My Fellow Inebriates,

As a generality, animals that are predators have forward-facing eyes—all the better for chasing other animals. Animals that are prey have side-mounted eyes—all the better for scoping out the periphery.

Eyes in front, likes to hunt.

Eyes on the side, likes to hide.

Thus—and this argument is often advanced by those who believe vegetarianism is unnatural for humans—animals with eyes in front (lions, tigers, wolves) are usually carnivores. Wall-eyed animals (bunnies, sheep, squirrels) tend to be herbivores.

Take this duck, for example.


Okay, so ducks are kind of in the middle. They’re omnivores—they eat insects, weeds, small fish, and whatever you chuck at them in the park.

Now take this duck. No really, please take this duck.Minolta DSC

Carnivorous Duck is the most amoral animal at LBHQ. In fact, he’s the only animal who’s ever attempted to eat the kids.

He’s been off my radar recently, confined like Hannibal Lecter to the spare toybox. And let’s face it, if one of my brain cells forgets to remind the other of hazards such as Carnivorous Duck, the threat of predation gets falsely diminished.

I only thought of him because of this pic from 2006.

Scary, me, Glen Bear, and Carnivorous Duck, late 2006. Only Glen was happy about the snow.

Scary, me, Glen Bear, and Carnivorous Duck, late 2006. Only Glen was happy about the snow.

As placid as it is, as comfortingly wintry, I felt unsettled after yesterday’s post. That’s when I realized, CD has been loose in the house for a while. Then when Emily asked about him, it all flashed at me malevolently—Carnivorous Duck is at large, and Glen Bear is missing.

Would CD be ambitious enough to eat a polar bear? I mean…a bear?

He always said he wouldn’t eat me or Scary because we were rancid. But then he’d kind of laugh, and his eyes would narrow. Carnivorously.

The key is not to think about it. Fortunately my dad bought more Parallel 49 beer—OLD BOY ALE, a classic pub-style ale ringing in at 5% ABV and 25 IBU.

old_boy_bottlesWhen you’re terrified of predation and worried you might find a polar bear carcass somewhere in the basement with little beak marks on it, a rich, mellow brown ale with slight off-white foam and minimal lacing is a good reminder that the world is generally a good place. Yes, there are monsters, and some of them live at LBHQ, but how can you dwell on them while inhaling caramel-coffee-toffee-malt with well-behaved fruitiness hanging politely in the background? On the palate OLD BOY ALE bursts with mild nuttiness, bakery notes, earthy hops, riding along with moderate carbonation, a semi-creamy mouthfeel, and the quintessential pub-ale aftertaste. It tastes like another. And another. If I saw this on tap at a bar, I’d get under the tap.

Although it’s characterized as a bitter, OLD BOY ALE is more of a gentle brown ale. Definitely a good winter beer—a soothing, reassuring beer without too much bite but still supplying lots of interesting flavors. Paws up for sure.

You know what it’s like when you’re all alone and you feel like you’re being watched? Well…it feels like something is watching us right now. With forward-pointing eyes. But it can’t have any OLD BOY ALE, because we finished it. Let’s hope Glen isn’t finished as well.


PETE BROWN TRIBUTE ALE—Better than thongalicious

When my girlfriend Dolly saw yesterday’s thong pictures she disavowed any connection with me. Not for the first time, of course, but this time she was explicit.

Cuddly and reasonably innocent


And with that she was looking at Fluffy Bear again. Pointing out that the kids could just as easily have put Fluffy in a thong as yours truly didn’t acquit me. She said I’d attracted the thong. That I’d sent out a thong vibe to the universe. That nobody ends up in a thong who doesn’t really want to be in one.

Of course I wanted to crawl into the bottle immediately. Not because I was sad but because my ass was chafed from the makeshift g-string. Even the kids, after fashioning it, had had second thoughts about the project and abandoned it. I waited for my dad to get home and rescue me, but when he arrived he was too preoccupied to notice. Finally my mum released me from the thong, but not before snapping some pics.

This insult came after my parents declined a Canada Day barbecue featuring Grey Goose and lemonade. Their weekend was too hectic, they said, and they couldn’t make it. Nor did the sound of distant fireworks compel them to open our last bottle of wine.

So I hope my American friends are having a more festive celebration today than we did on July 1. Let’s hope you’re not in the grip of a thong or recovering from wearing one, and that you have some good hooch to celebrate the day with. For my wonderful American readers, a suggestion from California:

This is another tasting I owe to the incomparable Christine and her canvas bag. Brewed in Healdsburg, CA, PETE BROWN TRIBUTE ALE pours a deep rich brown with a gorgeous, languorous tan head and big, thick lacing. Immediately it bodes greatness.

I should mention we sampled this brew on June 30, long before any thong notions had developed. (Were the kids even thinking “thong”? Who knows?) We’d just tasted OLA DUBH and followed it up with a decent but slightly barnyardy Carmenere, so while PETE BROWN TRIBUTE ALE had a tough beer act to follow, our tastebuds had been brought back to earth somewhat by the wine (plus my mother’s weird cooking). Would this second beer hold its own?

First olfactory impressions are of malt and caramel with toasty nuts and brown sugar. These aromas are generous and presage a substantial and generous mouthfeel. Even if, for the sake of argument, you had premonitions that you’d be wearing a thong a couple of days later and that the rope would cut you between the cheeks, this ale’s heady redolence would be enough to short-circuit those negative fears and envelop you pleasantly.

At 6.3% alcohol, PETE BROWN TRIBUTE ALE is a big beer. The initial shot across the palate is bready with mocha and caramel. My dad used words like “good” and “nice”—but let’s remember my dad is a guy who couldn’t be bothered to notice my ass being flossed for several hours. PETE BROWN TRIBUTE ALE coats the tongue with deliciously smooth malt and punchy fizz that settles down creamily as the beer transits to the back of the mouth, where it delivers a long-finishing mild-hop finale to complete a marvelous flavor arc.

Wearing a thong? We’ll never know for sure.

This beer rocks, people, and if you can get your mitts on some in time for the fireworks, you definitely should. Just remember that some beer stores don’t permit patrons to buy beer while wearing a thong.

Once again my infinite thanks goes out to Christine, who chose this particular brew because of the bear on the label. Not only does Christine have exquisite taste in booze, but I’m certain:

  • She would never put a bear in a thong.
  • She would never leave a bear in a thong.
  • She would never dump a boyfriend if she found him in a thong.
  • She would never take exploitative pictures of a bear in a thong.

May your Fourth of July be flowing with beer and free of thongs*.


*The idea of being thong-free has been knocking around in my head since I read this post by Red.