The theme for the night was Canadian Comfort, so that's where the craft beer bar came into play (along with moose silhouettes, lobster rolls, poutine and live music from a folkin' awesome local band, The Doozies).
Several hours of research with the LCBO's product locator app led to a selection of four beers. My criteria included: beers I like, beers I felt I could talk intelligently about, breweries I'm familiar with/have been to, a varied selection of styles, and what was in stock seasonally and locally in a large quantity. Here's what that led to:
Beau's Night Marzen
5.5 % ABV
Marzen, a lager, is the traditional Oktoberfest style of beer named for the month it was brewed in (Marzen is German for March). The brew would then be lagered in cellars through the summer to be released for Oktoberfest celebrations. Oktoberfest beers are traditionally very sessionable (that's beer-geek lingo for "easy to drink a couple of without falling on your face") and this offering from Beau's is no different. At Exposed, there were many attendees who came to the bar asking for "whatever is light" and giving me a weird look when I pointed to Night Marzen, which pours a coppery colour. 'Twas even more fun to see their faces after a sip or two, realizing that beer can have flavour without being strong.
Highlander Twisted Spruce
Twisted Spruce fit perfectly with the Canadian Comfort theme of the event, and it had high rotation in our beer fridge this summer (since discovering it when visiting the brewery in the spring) as I found it to be a great weeknight BBQ companion. This beer is made with spruce tips hand-harvested 60 feet from Highlander Brewery in South River, Ont. At Exposed, I heard a couple of "is it going to taste like Pine-Sol?"s, which to be honest, was my initial thought before I tried this beer, as well! (It doesn't! It's not very sprucy at all, but the tips give this crisp beer its oiliness.)
Muskoka Winter Beard: Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout
This beer is brewed with roasted dark chocolate malts, cocoa, 70% dark chocolate and fresh Muskoka cranberries. White girls of the world: this is my version of warm socks and a peppermint mocha in a red cup beside a crackling fire on a snowy day. Exposed attendees were drawn to the pretty corked bottle and the promise of chocolate and cranberry. While most people told me they couldn't taste the cranberry (I can't either, but thinking it helps balance the sweetness of all that chocolate?), people loved this beer.
And the crowd favourite...
This style was the most fun to talk about at Exposed because it is so unique, and most people had no idea what the difference between wet-hopped and dry-hopped beer is.. You see, "wet hop" means hops (which are flowers from a plant) are added to the brew fresh after being picked--rather than dried, which most are. Ontario hops are harvested in the fall, and like most plants, have a short shelf life after they are picked. This is what makes this beer a true "seasonal." The crowd seriously loved this beer, many coming back for seconds or bringing their friends over to try it and hear about what makes it different. Many people commented that they wish it was available in the summer because it would be a great patio beer (I concur!), and when they learned about its limited seasonal availability many wrote down the name or took a picture of the bottle so they could pick up some of their own at the LCBO!
View more awesome pictures from the event over at Laura Makes Pictures. Thanks again to the RMG for having me.
Top two photos by Grant Cole for The RMG.