UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT—Locked deep within the LBHQ fridge

My Fellow Inebriates,

I made another attempt on the fridge today, this time to get an UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT.

How long did my parents remain unaware of my predicament? Who knows… Finally one of them yanked me out.

“Wait!” I pleaded. “I need that that UGLY SWEATER!”

Dad: “Buddy, you’re already wearing an ugly sweater.”

Mum: “You kind of are an ugly sweater.”

 

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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.

BLACK CHRISTMAS CDA

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.

UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT

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.

The Parallel 49 Brewing interview…plus a Mountie, some gin news, and a groundhog in a bowler hat

My Fellow Inebriates,

Let’s face it, when it comes to remembering stuff, neither of my two neurons exactly has its axon on the answer button. So I’ve been very remiss toward one of my favorite fellow beer reviewers and two very kind booze purveyors:

Beerbecue tweeted me to ask about the legalities of LBHQ Canadian Cream.

Naturally I hadn’t thought about getting busted (nor had I honestly thought of sharing the liqueur, internationally or otherwise; it represents about four good days of blotto). But beerbecue instilled the fear of Mounties with this picture.

Mounties are notoriously honorable and this one is probably no exception. Regarding the Canadian Cream biz, it probably wouldn’t accept a hush bribe, and then I’d end up in jail where someone would forge the orifice I don’t yet have.

♦ ♦ ♦

Julia Gale sent me a lovely newsletter mentioning that BROKER’S GIN has been relisted by the BC liquor authority.

This whole thing has been an absolute odyssey, so much gratitude goes to Julia for listening to my whining. Once we get that delicious hooch back at LBHQ we’ll have our much-threatened Gin Shoot-Out Part Deux.

If this groundhog has a Broker’s Gin bowler hat, I imagine mine must be in the mail.

♦ ♦ ♦

Anthony Frustagli of Parallel 49 Brewing was kind enough to do an interview with me.

Since only house-trained bears are allowed at the brewery, we did our Q&A via email. Be warned, this is a real interview! It contains actual answers and information, which are anomalies for this space.

LB: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us about Parallel 49 Brewing. I’m still reeling from how good LOST SOULS CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN PORTER was. I’ve been tasting SCHADENFREUDE this week—quite bold and spicy. As soon as I bought it, I noticed a ton of other pumpkin beers. I was also surprised to note it’s a lager rather than an ale. Where does SCHADENFREUDE sit on the pumpkin-beer spectrum in terms of flavor profile?
AF: It’s the only pumpkin lager that I know of. We designed it that way because as a lager it has a much lighter body than most of the ales out there, so we didn’t have to spice it as aggressively as some of the other pumpkins. At the same time, the bready malts in Oktoberfests provide a perfect backdrop for the spices.
LB: Do you get a lot of feedback on specialty beers such as SCHADENFREUDE? What would it take for this to become a year-round product?
AF: Feedback on the seasonals has been fantastic. In fact, an article in the Globe and Mail today called SCHADENFREUDE “one of the best pumpkin beers in the country.” Having said that, it is staying as a seasonal beer.
LB: What do you see as your market demographic?
AF: Our demographic is people interested in new, exciting, well-crafted beers.  We’ve only had product in market for about five months, so our demographic hasn’t changed much.
LB: Is craft beer suffering the same doldrums [as macro beer], or is it able to weather the vicissitudes of style/popularity?

AF: Craft beer numbers are soaring, showing double digit growth every year for the past decade. I think macro drinkers are moving over to craft beer more than they are switching to wine or spirits…. Differentiating ourselves from macro beer is not hard at all. Macro beer is amazingly homogeneous in terms of both flavour and image. Convincing macro drinkers to give you a shot is the hard part. In terms of production and planning, “craft” shouldn’t immediately imply “small.” There are many amazing craft breweries in the US that are HUGE (relatively speaking). Small-batch breweries are not necessarily craft, and craft breweries aren’t necessarily small. A brewery’s commitment to the quality of their product is what determines if they can be considered a craft brewery or not.
LB: Is brewing more art or more science? Both?
AF: Very much both. Our top two brewers both have degrees in chemical engineering, and are both avid home brewers. Designing great beers is an art; actually making the beers as designed (and on a large scale) is definitely a LOT of science.
LB: There must be a lot of stories about how everyone at Parallel 49 got into brewing. Is everyone at Parallel 49 passionate about beer?
AF: We all are insanely passionate about craft beer. In fact, we all left relatively secure, well-paying jobs because we wanted to work in a field that was a little closer to our hearts.  
LB: How do you decide what sort of beer to produce and market? Do you ever butt heads?
AF: All five of us, along with our brewers and sales reps, have weekly meetings where we sit down and taste each and every beer in production or testing right now, and ask ourselves how we can improve on those. At the same time, we try to answer the question “what would be really awesome to drink right now that I just can’t find anywhere.” That’s how our beers are born.
LB: Which beer is your personal fave? How much does personal taste play a role in deciding which beers to market?
AF: Our motto is “Driven by thirst.” We brew the kinds of beers that we want to drink. Personal taste is pretty much the most important factor in deciding which beers we bring to market. Do I have personal favourite? Depends on the date, weather, my mood, time of day, alignment of the planets, etc. In other words, no… I don’t have a favourite 🙂
LB: Have you ever produced a beer that just didn’t work out?
AF: Several dozen. They never see the light of day outside the brewery though.
LB: What’s your next new beer? Or is it a secret? How soon can we get a taste?
AF: Our next seasonal is UGLY SWEATER MILK STOUT…and we also have a salted caramel Scotch ale, and a cascading dark ale being released in 650ml bottles in mid-November.

LB: Are you getting a lot of traffic in the Parallel 49 tasting room?
AF: Yes, the traffic through the tasting room has exceeded our expectations several fold.
LB: Do you have any advice for tasting-room visitors?
AF: Please bear with us 🙂  Our growler program has exploded beyond our wildest forecasts (we have over 1000 growlers out to market in just over three months) and we only have one growler filling station. We’ve ordered two more, and they will be installed soon.
LB: What do you like best about brewing?
AF: Drinking beer 🙂  And watching people enjoy our beers.
LB: Do you allow bears in the tasting room?
AF: Are they house-trained bears? 🙂

The Parallel 49 brewery and tasting room can be found at:

 1950 Triumph St.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

V5L 1K5

Tel: 604-558-BREW (2739)