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.

Excrementitiously green without dye—the Chicago River

OMG, look what they do to the Chicago River every year.

What’s the deal with dyeing the Chicago River green every year for St. Patrick’s Day? I thought the picture was photoshopped at first, but Chicagoans actually do this annually, my fellow inebriates. WTF?

I mean really—WTF? Where did this idea come from? From a historical perspective, throwing dye in the river is almost as arbitrary as throwing partially treated poo into it. At what point did this sound like a good idea?

The story is told with unapologetic glee by Dan O’Leary, who equates the Chicago River’s yearly “spectacular transformation” with the parting of the Red Sea. In 1961, plumbing engineer Steve Bailey, in an effort to locate a waste line being emptied into the Chicago River, poured green dye into the waste system and then checked to see where the color would appear. Overjoyed by the change from murky, excrementitious green to vivid Leprechaun green, Bailey suggested the city dye the entire river green every year to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day. Strangely, the city went for it, and Bailey helmed the operation, pouring 100 pounds of fluorescent compound in the first year, then playing with the amount over the next two years until he arrived at 25 pounds, enough to make a “carpet of green” for one day.

With dye

Bailey thought this was awesome; he was passionate about St. Patrick’s Day and wanted to dye all kinds of things green. You’d think Chicagoans would have questioned what chemical was entering the water, but it took until 1966 for environmentalists to point out that the oil-based dye was harming aquatic life. This cracked Bailey up and, despite not giving a shit about that sort of bleeding-heart concern, he concocted a new vegetable-based dye. This concession may well have killed him, as he died that year. Then again, maybe he just ate a lot of Ulster fry-ups.

Without dye

The Chicago River is one of the filthier rivers, with an estimated 70 percent wastewater. Over a billion gallons of sewage is poured into it every day, begging the question: Isn’t it green enough? And if Chicago thinks it needs to be greener, why not actually “green” the river?

Although money is predictably tight, private companies such as the Wisconsin brewer Leinenkugel have stepped up to raise both cash and awareness through Friends of the Chicago River.

I’d never heard of Leinenkugel beer. Our Canadian government-run liquor stores don’t carry it, so I don’t imagine I’ll get the chance to try it. Thinking about Leinenkugel’s concern for clean water gives me…well, delirium tremens, if I’m being honest. I’d love a beer right now.

So what is Leinenkugel beer like? I wish I knew! Apparently they have a damn fine amber ale. Anyone care to write a guest review?