INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER—Charge it to the corporate card

“You wouldn’t even know the difference if you had to wear a hairshirt,” said my mother when she saw the liberties I’d taken in describing her childhood Catholicism. “Your moustache isn’t even scratchy. In fact, I can’t even see it.”

It’s true, the moustache hasn’t gained much traction on this already furry face. I thought, if I just put my mind to it, I’d have this epic Fu Manchu growth going on by late November, but nothing doing. So I’ll have to donate money to the cause instead. Or give my dad a prostate exam.

None of my fellow inebriates will be surprised to learn, however, that my parents keep the LBHQ enterprise on a very lean budget. When I told them I wanted to make charitable donations, purchase seasonal greeting cards, and buy a crate of gin, they told me I’d have to use the “corporate card.”

Turns out the corporate card is a beat-up, unusable piece of plastic, maxed out and ripe for denial. Who knew my parents could be so mean?

It reminds me of the time they almost finished the INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER. They were almost at the dregs, people, when it dawned on them that the resident reviewer was not there. (I was looking for Glen, polar bear and vodka expert, who’s been missing, along with the camera charger, since we moved to the new LBHQ.) There was only one bottle of this clear, mahogany elixir; they’d split it between them, the gluttons, and their portions were down to fumes—vanilla-caramel-malt fumes with gentle oak and molasses. A Scottish ale I would have given my moustache for, damn it.

When I appeared, they actually looked guilty and let me have the remainders. Forgetting about Glen and the camera charger (and Movember, a worthy charitable cause for those of you with deeper pockets, or any pockets for that matter), I slurped it up.

At 7.9% alcohol, INNIS & GUNN WINTER TREACLE PORTER is perfect for getting ripped on a cold day. A stunning marriage of lightly toasted malt, sticky toffee, well-behaved hops whose fruitiness is a mere hint, crisp carbonation, medium body, and a lingering, peaty finish, this porter is less porter than ale, but what sort of bear would quibble? This shit is divine. For the sake of the tremendous layering of flavors alone, it’s worth grabbing while it’s available—which it won’t be after winter.

Fortunately, the bottle came in a specialty pack that included two other varieties and an INNIS & GUNN beer glass. How could my dad possibly buy just one? A week later he returned to the store and bought another so he and my mum could drink from identical glasses. I can only assume he’ll take a third trip next week on behalf of yours truly…

Or perhaps he’ll tell me to go and buy my beer glass with the corporate card. This isn’t over, Dad.

Parallel 49 does it again, twice!

My neighborhood booze shop is full of new products, including its annual explosion of bears looking for homes (for $11 you get to keep one and its twin gets donated to charity). This year’s bears are cheeky-looking little characters who probably dive into the booze as soon as the last liquorstore employee goes home for the night. In other words, they are up-and-comers—potential rivals even, one of whose number might well end up in Santa’s sack on the way to LBHQ, to be hit on by my furvert girlfriend Dolly.

Bears aside, the liquorstore is stocking two new Parallel 49 offerings: BLACK CHRISTMAS CDA and UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT.

If you put these two brews on a Venn diagram, they’d look like this:

They are both inky and viscous, one with a prickly, hoppy presence and thick, chewy mouthfeel—the other super-friendly and sweet, just like a cuddly sweater.


As my dad said when we opened the specialty bomber, “These guys really know their stuff.” Indeed, two of Parallel 49’s brewers have chemical engineering degrees, a better use for which than brewing beer I cannot imagine. BLACK CHRISTMAS is brewed with fresh 100 Mile hops, whose forwardness have the potential to dominate excessively—BUT Parallel 49 pulls it off. Stopping just short of in-your-face hoppiness, they’ve crafted a viscous, chewy, strong beer, blackened by toasted wheat and wafting subtle Christmas aromas such as raisins and pine. Once again, the key is subtlety. The hops may be strong but not to an ass-kicking point, their bitterness being mitigated by some nuanced tasting notes that make you go mmmm. Pound this stuff in quantity and it’ll flatten you with its 6.9 alcohol percentage. But you wouldn’t pound it, because it’s pretty thick. Well, I would pound it. But only because I knew we had UGLY SWEATER waiting in the fridge.

Parallel 49 wanted to put the Grinch on the BLACK CHRISTMAS label but the idea was kiboshed by the Liquor Distribution Branch (because the Grinch appeals to children). News flash: beer appeals to children. If we poured Miss P a glass, she would drink it, but we’re keeping it for the big people and wild animals.


What the hell is a milk stout, I wondered? Turns out, if you add lactose to the brew you end up with a delectable, creamy viscosity without punching up the alcohol (the lactose doesn’t ferment), achieving the quintessential session ale (a moot point since UGLY SWEATER is too delicious to nurse for long).

Malty, toffee sweetness is the top note, with cappuccino hints and just enough bitterness to remind you this is a beer, and a damn good one. So fetching is UGLY SWEATER and so generously does it coat the palate that you cannot nurse it, in a blink it’s gone, and you’re left wondering if Miss P somehow sneaked half your bottle while you weren’t looking. UGLY SWEATER is wonderful. I would give half my undiscovered nards for Parallel 49 to launch it as a year-round brew. For now it remains a winter offering, so get your paws on it while you can.

My dad is right—these Parallel 49 guys totally know their shit. Even if you’re not a fan of hoppy beers, and even if the idea of milk ingredients turns you off, breaking out of your comfort level and trying these beers will pay off in lovely drunken dividends.


I threw down the hairy paw (read: gauntlet) this morning in a challenge toward the only human in the mostly estrogenic LBHQ capable of taking it on.

“Dude, you have less than two weeks to get your stache on.”

I was addressing my dad of course. Despite the ongoing flirtation peri-menopause is having with my mother, a decent moustache is well out of reach for her…this year. So it’s up to my dad and me to be Bloggers for Movember.

Poor Dad. Only rarely has he ever tried to grow a stache—each time a failure! Some guys look great with facial hair, and my dad can pull off five o’clock shadow, but an honest-to-goodness moustache? Ha! My dad looks like a tool with a moustache, which I suspect is why he said it’s “not gonna happen” this November.

He even cited his work regulations—apparently the very large company he works for regulates facial hair. OMG!

If you’re wondering why I’m so confident about winning this would-be throwdown against my dad, consider that I already have a moustache. I just have to shave 95% of myself and leave a bit of fur under my nose. Voilà!

This was pretty much my path today. The razors were in the bathroom. It’s much easier to get that little plastic tab off a Daisy razor head than it is to open a bottle of wine, let me tell you. There I was, poised to sculpt my latent moustache, when three little girls came screaming into the bathroom wearing Disney princess dresses. The youngest immediately dropped drawers to deposit solids in the toilet. The others went into a flurry of clothing exchange, obscuring Miss V’s plops with their 4-KHz exuberance. My ears exploded and the razor skittered off into the sink, from which my mother sternly retrieved it. There would be no bear shaving on her watch, she said, particularly in front of her two daughters and their playdate witness.

“P and V are used to shit like this,” I remonstrated. “They like it.”

“No they don’t,” she said. “They’d rather put makeup on you, which would be almost as difficult to undo, so make yourself scarce.”

“But I need a moustache. I’ve already committed to Bloggers for Movember. I’ve liked the Facebook page already. And I have only recently garnered the attention of Le Clown, whose charitable fundraising effort this is. If you thwart my moustache you’re basically endorsing prostate cancer. You’re telling prostate cancer to go forth and multiply.”

“That’s a bit strong, LB.”

“Speaking of strong, do you recall the alcohol percentage of LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER?” (This is what is called a gratuitous segue.) “I think it was 6.5%. Do you remember?”


“Because at a respectable ABV it would address my DTs in short order, and one could settle for drinking it slowly; moreover, with its moderate level of fine carbonation it wouldn’t interfere too much with one’s moustache. Assuming one was allowed to groom oneself a moustache.”

I don’t recall my mother ever calling any of her other children a douchebag.

Fact is, and I’m not even going to save this for the final punch, LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER is the best beer I’ve had all year. With its comic-book-style Grim Reaper label and scary moniker, it’s freaky not just for its Halloween theme but because—holy crap, people—it won’t be here for very long. In fact, when we returned a second time to the liquor store for more, it was all sold out.

Let’s break it down, my fellow inebriates:

LOST SOULS is an inky cola color with a tan head. Across the room you might take it for a Guinness, but then you’d be surprised by its snappy carbonation. Aromas of sweet malt, espresso-touched chocolate, subtle spices and just-perceptible pumpkin waft from the glass. On the palate LOST SOULS delivers a rich baker’s-chocolate wave of toasty malt and mild pumpkin, reaching into you like a succubus and stealing your very soul. Yes, guard your soul, people, if you’re lucky enough to sample this Parallel 49 product before it evaporates into post-Halloween nonexistence. With its bewitching flavor palate and satisfying viscosity, LOST SOULS will own you. (Maybe eternally.) I would sell my soul for another, people. And don’t tell Le Clown, but I would probably sell my nascent moustache for it too. Except I won’t; damn it, I’m growing that fucker.

Visit Le Clown for full details (click the picture).