New Beers for July Part 1 of 2

I am back again for another update on new beers hitting my shelves, and bringing the hype for these skilled brewers and their delicious, delicious beers. This time I get to introduce you to a newcomer to the Alberta scene and really, they are only a couple years old in the Halifax scene as well. 2 Crows is a small team that brews modern style beers, well crafted and well thought out. Their beers came in limited quantities and are meant to fly off the shelf. They have a spot front and center in my fridge for those who want to grab them and go.

Other than that, the ever so amazing Founders Canadian Breakfast stout has arrived, and you absolutely do not want to miss out on that! The rest I’ll let you see for yourself, but first, just a reminder that there are 3 beer tastings happening through the summer, starting next week. Check them out here!

Coronado Marine Dream ($4.29 for a 355mL can)

Ninkasi Truly Yours ($21.29 for a 6-pack of cans)

Wild Beer co Ninkasi ($15.49 for a 750mL bottle)

Glutenberg Olallie ($19.49 for a 4-pack of cans)

Collective Arts Ginger Lime Berliner ($4.29 for a 473mL tall can)

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout ($8.19 for a 355mL bottle)

2 Crows All In ($7.49 for a 473mL tall can)

2 Crows Maestro ($7.19 for a 473mL tall can)

2 Crows Fantacity ($5.79 for a 473mL tall can)

2 Crows Pollyanna ($5.99 for a 473mL tall can)

Steamworks Cucumber Ale ($3.29 for a 473mL tall can)

Breakside Rainbows and Unicorns ($11.09 for a 650mL bottle)

Town Square Megawatt NEIPA ($17.39 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Town Square Beets by Sinden ($17.49 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Blood Brothers Paradise Lost ($12.99 for a 500mL bottle)

That’s about all the news I have for you right now. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a little more, but you can also stay up to date via Twitter where I am @ShawnsBrewsCGY!


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NAS Whisky Wars

by Curt

NAS whisky.  Non-age-stated whisky, for those not up on their whisky geek acronyms. The concept refers to those products that now sag the shelves in the Scotch whisky sections of your favourite spirit sellers, boasting clever names, garish packaging and a very noticeable lack of numbers on the label.  You know the digits I’m referring to. The ones that often influence the decision-making when it comes down to purchase time. The much-lauded/occasionally-resented age statement. The big, bold numbers that tell you just how long that precious amber liquid in the bottle has spent slumbering away in a barrel in some dark corner of a warehouse beneath the grey skies of our beloved Scotland.

So, just how important is that number on the bottle?  Depends who you ask. I suppose one way to gather a bit more data in the quest for enlightenment would be to pit some of these NAS malts against comparable age-stated compatriots and see who comes out on top, right?  Hmmm…perhaps. But not really. Because the debate really isn’t about good or bad. But we’ll come back to this shortly. In the meantime, dram versus dram. Winner decided via show of hands from those in attendance.

Cool idea for a tasting, right?  Yup. But someone has to talk about it.  Someone has to be the referee between the malts that were toeing up to battle head-to-head for supremacy.  Wonder who that someone could be?

It’s no small secret in the whisky world that I’ve been quite vocal with my stance on the subject.  Not only that, but I’ve been burdened with both a moral compass that steers me far from the philosophy that justifies NAS whisky and a deep-seated polyamorous affair with a few of the distilleries and brands most directly responsible for leading the foray into NAS territory.  Reconciling these two has been trying at times, to say the least.

Call me a cynic, but I can just see Andrew and Evan gleefully rubbing their hands together as they plotted this out over drams of Ledaig or Loch Dhu or whatever it is they sip in the solitude of the malt lair (ahem…Andrew’s office) and pencilled in my name next to ‘event host’.

So…sure.  Why not? Throw the new guy into the middle of the big controversy and let the proverbial sh*t hit the proverbial fan, right?

It would almost be a cop-out at this stage of the game to say that NAS whisky is the most controversial subject in the whisky world.  It may well be, but at this point, we’re beating a dead horse in front of an indifferent audience. The debate still rages on some blogs and forums, of course, and it does still generate a huge amount of dissension and vitriolic industry apologism (as well as countless unmerited attacks by brand ambassadors unwilling to separate their day jobs from consumer empathy), but the most stinging of the barbs and arrows slung in this war between sippers and sellers were fired several years back now.  Hopefully we’re at a point of civil discourse and forward-thinking.

I recognize that it’s not exactly a good time to quote Kevin Spacey, but let’s insist this is a movie quote, and not a Kevin Spacey quote per se.  And the reality is this is nothing more than a paraphrasing of the great Charles Baudelaire: “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

In a way, that’s what NAS whisky is really about.  Convincing the consumers that what they’re looking for on the label is irrelevant, inconsequential and…in a truly incredible leap of logic…that those age statements are actually a hindrance to progress.  When you boil it down to brass tacks, it’s all about audacity.

Having said that (causing saying any more would become a blue pill/red pill situation)…

I could have stacked the deck when it came to picking the line-up for this event.  I had half a mind to, but it would have been both contrived and disingenuous. And being disingenuous is what got us into this mess in the first place.  Not my style. The fact that I refer to it as a ‘mess’ should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about this matter.

My goal was to play it straight.  Let the whisky speak for itself and, while it did so, to share a few words about why the whole concept stinks like week old fish in the trash can.

And why did I want to do it this way?  Simple, really. This debate has never been about quality, no matter what the industry would have you believe.  It’s about transparency and allowing the consumer to have access to the information that allows them to make informed buying decisions.  Ultimately transparency puts all other arguments about the NAS controversy to bed. Because what happens when the discussion turns to transparency and its relation to quality is that there is an elephant in the room that inevitably gets addressed by the astute in the room.  The elephant is called ‘Price’. As soon as that factor is taken into account, suddenly age becomes more than relevant. It becomes paramount. How do we know what a ‘fair’ price is if we have no idea just what we’re drinking? And this…this…is the crux of the discussion that ensued.  While we chatted – and yes, it was a dialogue, not a diatribe – we let the whiskies tell their own tale (of the tape).

So…I dialed back the vitriol, boned up on a few releases I hadn’t spent too much time with in the recent past, and pulled together a range of whiskies that were bound to be both palate-pleasers and low-hanging fruit in terms of having easily-digestible nuggets of lore for expounding upon and discussing with the good folks who snapped up seats for this event.

First up:

Macallan vs Macallan

Is there a more polarizing brand out there when it comes to the NAS debate?  Doubtful. Macallan may not have been the first culprit, but many critics argue it has maybe been the worst.  The 1824 series the brand launched in 2012 set the bar (quite low, unfortunately) as to what is generally acceptable for NAS marketing tactics.  I mean, we’ve swallowed obtuse Gaelic references, wee Scottish beasties, historical nuggets and linguistic gymnastics, but shifting your entire brand’s marketing focus to colour?  Really? This range was not-so-affectionately referred to by many out there as the ‘stripper series’ due to the rather unfortunate adoption of monikers such as ‘Gold’, ‘Amber’, ‘Sienna’ and ‘Ruby’ for the four expressions in the stable.  But what’s in a name, right?

We threw one of these releases – Amber – up against the new(ish) Macallan 12 y.o. Double Cask.  Not the same old Mac 12 we once knew and loved, but a hybrid dram with far less depth of sherry influence than its predecessor.  Similar stylistically. Similar price points. Fair fight.

After letting ‘em duke it out for a few minutes while yours truly rambled and muttered, old man style, about the pitfalls of buying into any sort of campaign that markets opacity as a virtue, a show of hands said the winner was…

Amber.  Who knows how old she is, but let’s assume this ‘stripper’ is at least legal (let’s say that’s about 10 in whisky years).  Either way, she was pretty enough to pip the new 12 year old.

Round two:

The Berry Bros take on John Glaser and team Compass Box

Two blends with a substantial amount of age in their back pocket (but in one case, an undisclosed amount of age, to be clear).  The two whiskies throwing haymakers in round two were Kensington Wine Market bespoke bottlings released in 2017 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Calgary’s best liquor store.  The Berry Bros release is a fantastic 25 year old dram, delicate and clean, with a price tag far below what a 25 year old of this calibre should be wearing.  The Compass Box KWM Blend is an ultra-complex dram with a helluva pedigree and some absolutely stunning component whiskies.

In the end…

Compass Box scores the knockout.  NAS, perhaps, but while the bottle may not disclose all the details, that doesn’t mean we can’t.  Pop into the shop for a wee taste and a bit of pulling back the curtain on this one, if you find time.  We’ll let you in on a few secrets.

Round three:

Amrut Peated Port Pipe vs Ardbeg Uigeadail

Some similarities. Some differences. But close enough in style to be in the same weight class.

I wanted some peat in the line-up. It’s fun to talk about volatiles and half-lives and the merits of drinking your ‘liquid turf’ young or patiently waiting for mature peated malts. Not only that, but this little bit of friendly sparring allowed me to showcase a whisky from beyond the Scottish borders and a little off the beaten path. Always fun.

Breaking down preconceptions is one of the many job perks, I must admit. Uigeadail has a more earthy and robust peaty profile than even the most heavily smoky of Amrut’s offerings, but that’s not where the truest difference is to be found. The Islay bruiser also has a deeper vein of salinity and a medicinal edge that only comes from the coastal rain-saturated peat harvested from the oceanic regions of Scotland. Namely, Islay.

The Amrut, at a mere four years on, punched well above its weight class, but in the end was no match for the monstrosity of Ardbeg’s old school uppercut. Uigeadail, in all its smoky, sherried splendour, won out easily, in spite of much love shown for the syrupy and jammy top notes that cushion the sharpest tors of the Peated Port Pipe.

Three matches on the card. And in every case, the NAS offering won out. Fair ‘nough. But the seeds were sown, and by the end of the night, the questions that were flying spoke volumes as to which side of the fence the audience sat. I’ll say no more. Wink, wink.

But we had to close out with one more for posterity. And to drive home a point.

No battle here, just a chance to wind down and chat over a nice young drink that goes to show that whisky can be both young and delicious. That is incontestable. I wanted to include a dram of Kavalan Solist in the night’s range. Solist is another non-Scotch whisky that is bottled at about three or four years of age and drinks well-beyond its years. It is drams like this – not held to the same regulated standards as Scotch whisky (due to them not falling under the jurisdiction of the Scotch Whisky Association) – that make us question why its not becoming more commonplace to just say it and be proud of it: “I’m a five year old whisky, and I’m bloody delicious”. One day perhaps, one day.
This particular Solist was matured in ex-Portuguese wine barrels and is marketed as ‘Vinho Barrique’. Its intense and incomparable fruitiness is like nothing else on the market. Something about the subtropical climate in Taiwan brings out an amazing exotic and spicy edge to the whiskies produced at Kavalan. The casks breathe easy in the warmth and humidity and the depth of wood saturation can rarely be matched elsewhere on the planet. As for flavours? Nutty, with deep, dark fruit notes, Chinese five spice, orange zest and marzipan. Brilliant stuff. And a heck of a closer that should make anyone out there suspend their biases and admit that young whisky can be spectacular. In this day and age, there’s really no need to hide behind the cheat of NAS.

I could have spun the narrative differently, of course, but you don’t make a legit point when it’s based on manipulation and deceit. Instead, we keep the dialogue open and friendly, the information clear and easily-digestible and we march toward a day when the regulations that govern these things are put in place by parties with less of a vested interest in ensuring their fiscal bottom line supercedes the longevity of reputation.

- Curt
Twitter: @allthingswhisky
Instagram: @curtrobinson7

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Champagne, Bubbles and More!

by Abi

There something about cracking open a bottle of bubbles, especially when there is nothing the celebrate. Sparkling wine has this connotation that it is only a celebratory drink, which was created during the Belle Epoque, a celebration era in France between the years of 1871 (end of franco-prussian war) to 1914 (the beginning of World War One). Yet, sparkling wine has been around for centuries and has always been enjoyed just like red or white wine. So why do we still feel like Champagne or Cava are only to be enjoyed during celebration? This tasting was the focus on the beauty of sparkling wine, the diversity and elegance of it and to promote the fact that it can be enjoyed any day of the week.

Here’s what we sampled this evening:

CVNE, Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (the Northern Spanish Wine Company), was founded in 1879 in Haro, a small town in Northern Spain which many refer to as the beating heart of Rioja. This Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) made from a blend of grapes (Macabeo, Xarel Lo, Parellada) is terrific value coming from such a prestigious winery. Fresh and young, it shows a wonderful fruity bouquet with slight hints of yeast. Very fresh in mouth with a light sweetness that adds to its deliciousness; strong and consistent. Try as an aperitif and to accompany fish and seafood, pasta and rice dishes. $21.99

Costadila Bianco Col Fondo 2017
Costadilá is one of a handful of producers in the Prosecco region that are redefining the way we think about Prosecco. These producers have re-ignited the completely natural and ancient way of making Prosecco called Methode Ancestrale. The resulting wines are called Prosecco ‘Col Fondo’ because they are shipped un-disgorged ‘with sediment’. This helps the wine remain stable without the addition of any sulphur,” according to the importer. “This wine is not disgorged and the lees remains in the bottle. There is no dosage. This Methode Ancestral process produces wines with a light naturally produced frizzante and an enjoyable 11% alcohol. This is the perfect holiday celebration bubbly….Think peaches, baked bread and grapefruit pith with a fine bubble. $29.99

Schlossgut Ebringen Pinot Noir Brut NV
Schlossgut Ebringen is a small scale production coming from Baden in Southern Germany, where they focus on organic, sustainable and terroir-driven wines. This traditional method sparkling Pinot Noir Rose is made from the grapes grown on the cooler vineyards, allowing for an elegant acidity to show through the wine. It is outrageously complex, with notes of red berries, fine yeast and that beautiful minerality that Schlossgut is famous for. $44.99

Bride Valley Brut NV
Bubbles from England, one of the world’s up-and-coming wine regions. If you haven’t tried a bottle yet, track this down so you can see what all the fuss is about. After 50 years in the wine trade, critic/writer Steven Spurrier and his partner Annabelle decided to make wine. In England. This crisp sparkling wine is dry and delicious, with notes of flowers and toast. Pair with oysters or sushi, or just enjoy by itself as an expressive, unusual Champagne-style sparkling wine. A blend of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Noir. $50.99

Champagne Laherte Frères Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
Laherte Freres is a grower-producer located in the Cote de Blanc, Champagne, as becoming one of the top figured for micro-producers in the region. The production is moving towards more transparency of its wine, using natural yeast, little to no sulphites, but also maintaining minimal intervention in the cellar and in the vineyard. Laherte Blanc de Blancs is made from their best parcels of Chardonnay (located on the south slopes of Epernay and the Côte des Blancs). This wine is very representative of the purity and the minerality of Chardonnay. $74.99

Vouette et Sorbée Blanc d’Argile NV
Bertrand Gautherot used to simply sell his grapes to other Champagne producers, but it wasn’t until his good friend, Anselme Selosse, demand that he makes his own Champagne. Since 2001, Bertrand has been doing just that and is continuously mentioned with the likes of the new champagne superpowers, Dominique Moreau (Marie Courtin), Pascal Agrapart and Cedric Bouchard. He is situated in Aube, in the Cote de Bar subregion of Champagne, which is geological and geographically closer to Chablis than it is the rest of Champagne. His Blanc d’Argile shows this beautifully, with it jokingly being considered a sparkling Chablis by Bertrand himself. This wine is incisive, with elegant complexity and fine, delicate bubbles. Spending 20 months in barrel with lees contact, it develops notes of shortbread, yellow plum, apple and honeysuckle, with other elements of blossom, lemon rind, grapefruit piths and herbs. The finish is soft and long, proposing the thought that you should always have Vouette et Sorbee Champagnes on hand. $114.99

Champagne Agrapart Venus Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2010
To end off this tasting, I decided to pour a wine that most, if any of the people attending would of heard of. There is connotation with Champagne (and with wine in general), that the more money you spend, the better it is. Now, this wine is $200 more than the rest, but compared to other champagnes in this price point (ie. Krug, Dom Perignon, Cristal), you aren’t necessarily paying for the name. Compared to these champagnes, Champagne Agrapart is relatively unknown, and only produces miniature amounts of champagne a year compared to the bigger houses. Located in Avize, in the Cote de Blancs, Champagne Agrapart is a grower-producer, focusing on bringing terroir of Avize to consumers. This particular Champagne is their most exclusive, coming from a single Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyard in the heart of Avize. The vineyard sees no heavy machinery, with only men and horse named Venus working on the land. It saw about 6 years on lees before disgorgement, create a wine with beautiful complexity. Notes of brioche, yeast, biscuit, mineral, wet stone, blossom, citrus and touch of apple. I should mention that this wine was served in a Burgundy glass, allowing the wine to breath and show its full potential. $359.99

Overall this tasting showed a wide variety of sparkling wine styles, and with the lovely cheese board from Peasant Cheese, we were all able to explore different aspects of the wines. The customer favourite for the evening was the Vouette et Sorbee Blanc d’Argile with 10/18 votes!
Thank you to everyone who attended the tasting!

- Abigail Pavka

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SMWS Canada Outturn for July 2018

July is upon us and Canada Day has passed.  That usually means one thing for many in Calgary: bring on the Stampede breakfasts and the Stampede hangover. But for SMWS members it also means something else: Another round of SMWS Outturn fun!

Quite the lineup this month. Here is a quick stat-based rundown:

  • Only one bottle coming in at a price north of $200.
  • Four of the seven bottles are priced at less than $150.
  • One Campbeltown distillery bottling from a number we have not seen much of recently. The last bottling was in the Fall of 2017 and was an excellent young bottling that did not last long on the shelves. How will this 93 stack up to the previous one?
  • Two Islay distillery bottles, both under 10 years in age.
  • A Cognac first seen in the Special Spirits Release this past May to round things off.

Also worth noting is the diversity of style showcased in the first four of the lineup. The 9.126 is lush and vibrant in style – a crowd-pleaser of a cask strength single malt. The 112.19? You might not have anything like it in your collection. To me, this is a very unique whisky. The 36.135 also shows differently than many bottles out there – the Society’s own tasting notes can attest to that, which seem to be taken directly from a dinner menu or Foodies’ blog post. Don’t let the strange notes stop you from trying it though – for many this bottle was one of the highlights of the night.

All that being said, let us go talk a bit more about 112.19. This particular distillery number comes with an interesting bit of background information from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society headquarters.

112 hails from one of the few distilleries being codified by the SMWS under multiple designated numbers depending on the style of spirit created. There are a few other distilleries that receive multiple classifications, one of the more famous being a fan-favourite Campbeltown Distillery.

Here is what the SMWS says about this particular Highland Distillery’s case:

“The Society already has two different codes for bottlings from this distillery – 112 and 122. Both were produced using its distinctive straight neck pot stills, which were designed specifically for the distillery when it was built in 1964. The stills have a pot still base and a straight neck. The spirit still has fixed plates, while the wash still doesn’t.

Here’s where the difference comes in. Bottlings with the Society code 112 were distilled using a process of still head cooling, which creates higher collection strength for the alcohol and a lighter, more malty spirit.

Bottlings with the code 122 were distilled without using the process of still head cooling, resulting in a lower collection strength for the alcohol and a fuller-bodied, fruity character. Most of them were also heavily peated. We believe the difference in the process – and the difference in the whisky’s character because of it – merits the different numbers we’ve assigned to the bottlings.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

All of this information, plus the information on previous releases that are still available (such as the extra bottle we put in our lineup – previously released SMWS C4.1) can be found on our website here. If any SMWS bottles show as being out of stock on our website please contact us – we might still be able to get more. As always we would like to give a big thank-you to our awesome neighbour’s Peasant Cheese for supplying the small bites for the tastings.

Enough with the preamble. On with the program!

Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky

9.126 – Ice cream in an orchard
This 11 year old Speysider is 56.7% after maturing in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 189 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “Sweetly floral aromas filled the air as if we were walking through a blossoming orchard. Heather, violets, hibiscus and roses combined in a heavenly amalgamation with ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Behind the perfume lurked a juicy core of plums and apricots with apples, sweet pears and runny honey. Water revealed aromas of sticky toffee pudding and banana fritters with rum and raisin ice cream, whilst the palate developed notes of soft leather, sandalwood and fresh herbs. The woody character continued into freshly felled trees with the familiar fragrance of natural vanilla. The finish embraced a waxy feel with the lasting freshness of lemon zest on mint ice cream.” $137.99

112.19 – Quirky, kooky, funky
This 17 year old from the Southern Highlands comes in at 56.2% after maturing in a 2nd fill barrel
Flavour profile: Juicy, oak & vanilla
Outturn: 250 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “This is a bit of an oddball, straight out of left field – it may be kooky but it’s cooking with gas, idiosyncratic but copacetic – the nose has cereal and grassy notes, biscuits (digestives, lemon puffs, Hobnobs) and sherbet lemons; putty, clean plastic, emulsion, sanded wood and cigar ash. The palate is sweet and viscous with more biscuity flavours, but also quirky, funky features – anise, cinnamon, sorrel, Angostura and faux leather. Water makes it creamier and sweeter, both in the nose and on the palate – the latter finding a wink and an inkling of Haribo Tangfastic fizz.”$174.99

93.79 – Oiled up and frisky
From Campbeltown, this 10 year old was matured in a 1st fill barrel and is 56.9%
Flavour profile: Young & spritely
Outturn: 197 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “It was immediately sweet and oily as walnuts and hazelnuts mixed with clotted cream over pears poached in rum. However, cutting through the oil came the mouth-cleansing freshness of menthol and spearmint alongside salted lime sorbet and green bark. The palate carried a hot spice with cloves and cinnamon whilst the sweetness of baked apple pie dried towards burnt banana skins, peanuts and dry wood. Effervescence was present with Angostura bitters in champagne and a garnish of garden mint. The addition of water released a sweeter and lighter side, retaining the frisky freshness but with a more maritime emphasis with oyster shells, fish boxes and clean sea spray.” $129.99

36.135 – Exotic, exciting, edgy
This 19 year old Speysider comes in at 56.7% and was matured in a refill barrel
Flavour profile: Spicy & sweet
Outturn: 138 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “We were preparing an Indian spiced salad using dry curry leaves, fenugreek and mustard seeds, mango chutney, red chili, coriander and mint. To drink we had jasmine scented green tea accompanied by Caribbean spiced gulab jamun – golden fried balls of milk pastry soaked in honey and saffron syrup. With water we got aromas of a bowl of Malaysian bird’s nest soup (you might want to try it before looking it up) and Moroccan pickled aubergines with garlic, coriander and cilantro. The taste, zesty avocado salad with roasted walnuts, celery and mustard cress sprouts all washed down with a glass of sweet spiced red vermouth de Jerez.” $193.99

10.125 – Charred sticks in a honey pot
This 9 year old from Islay was matured in a refill barrel and is 61.1%
Flavour profile: Lightly peated
Outturn: 224 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “A mineralic edge of crushed flint combined with salty sea breeze and freshly sanded oak with its vanilla laced sweetness being reminiscent of pink wafer biscuits. A delicate smoke shrouded the glass like charred bonfire embers but with a sweet coating of runny honey. With water a light fruitiness evolved with freshly juiced blood oranges and tangy gooseberry tart beside a rock pool. The palate carried a delightfully nutty character with salted pistachio nuts wrapped in a creamy blanket of thick milk shake and cranachan. Blackcurrant jam and sultanas followed before a lasting finish of sea salt on lemon skin.” $137.99

53.244 – Vanilla Chimney stacks
This 7 year old from Islay comes in at 58.8% after maturing in a refill hogshead
Flavour profile: Peated
Outturn: 306 bottles
Panel’s tasting note: “An abundance of delightfully sweet and light aromas enticed us into a world of tinned fruit cocktail syrup, roasted chestnuts and custard tarts with singed pastry edges. Delicate smoke came through like a vanilla chimney stack and the final remains of a beach bonfire being quenched by salty sea waves. The palate was juicy and big with sweet barbecue smoke and bramble jam mixed with honey roast peanuts. Sooty dust joined sticky cough sweets and liquorice on a platter carved from salt infused driftwood. Becoming even sweeter with water it carried a nutty appeal until the end with fine wood tannins, soft leather and smoked German beer on the finish.” $147.99

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New Beers for the Month of June part 2 of 2

by Shawn

We are now past the end of June, we’ve already forgotten about the solstice, and the city is getting ramped up for the annual big ol’ stampede celebration.

Through the last half of the June, I was able to host a Canada day tasting as well as secure a small amount of yet another US cult beer (CBS anyone?) and an exciting brewer out of Halifax, both of which are arriving this week. I don’t mean to get too ahead of myself here though, I just wanted to tease you a little. There are still a bunch of really cool beers that came on the tail end of June, and I’m going to list those out for you here. A few of these I’m particularly excited about (super session, trillium, Brewdog, Dankwood).

Founder’s Dankwood BBA IIRA ($8.39 for a 350mL bottle)

Blindman Super Session ($19.89 for a 4-pack of 20oz stove-pipe cans)

Fuggles & Warlock Gin and Lime Pilsner ($17.69 for a 4-pack of cans)

Meinklang Urkorn Ancient Grain Beer ($5.49 for a 330mL bottle)

Omnipollo and Brewdog I Wanna Be Your Dog ($13.99 for a 355mL can)

Omnipollo and Trillium Covered in Puppies ($9.49 for a 330mL bottle)

8-Wired Cucumber Hippy ($6.70 for a 440mL can)

Wild Beer co Jambo! ($15.49 for a 750mL bottle)

We find ourselves heavy in quality rather than quantity for the latter half of June. That Dankwood and Omnipolllo/Brewdog collab is an insane beer, by the way, so make sure not to miss out on those. Aside from new beers, we also released our summer tasting schedule that includes some pretty awesome beer tastings. Check out the tastings page and jump on some of those seats before they fill up!

That’s about all for now. Until next time, cheers!

Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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Canada Day Beer Showdown

by Shawn

Oh, Canada! You impress me so much with your thriving beer culture and skillful brewers. I remember 6 years ago when I first started at Kensington Wine Market, the main sources for real craft beer were the US and select overseas brewers. Sure, we had some amazing Quebec and east-coast beers too, but it was the import market that was truly thriving. I’m grateful to be here to see the rising tide for Canadian brewers. To see folks like Bellwoods, Four Winds, Blindman and so on, start up and gain a huge following so quickly out of the gates is really incredible.

Thankfully Alberta’s market is open enough that we can support both Canadian and import beers, which is part of what makes us the best beer scene in Canada. But to stay on topic, this post isn’t about imports, no, this is all about tasty brews from our home and native land. It’s time for an all-out brawl among some of the country’s best to see who may reign supreme. Of course… we’re trying a bunch of different styles, so it’s not a direct 1 to 1 comparison, but you get the idea! Check out what we tasted below!

Dageraad De Witte: BC’s Belgian beer authority (and brewery of the year at CBA) have crafted a real treat with this Flemish wit. The usual suspects are all here, malted and unmalted wheat, coriander and orange peel, but the addition of Lactobacillus gives this beer a refreshing, lovely tartness. ($10.09 for a 650mL bottle)

Burdock Three: Three is a can-conditioned sour saison. Light, crisp with plenty of citrus, light funk and some wine-like fruitiness. An incredibly solid beer to showcase Burdock’s skill with yeast. ($6.19 for a 350mL can)

Blindman Super Session ale: or those who love the hazy and juicy trend, but wouldn’t mind having 3 beers before the end of the night (like me), Blindman has got you covered for this summer! The Super Session is like their NEIPA, but brought down to 3% ABV. All the silky (though lighter) body, and fruity hops you can handle! ($19.89 for a 4-pack of 20oz stovepipe cans)

Collective Arts Liquid Arts Fest IPA: For their Liquid Arts Fest this year, Collective Arts has put together this insanely fruity IPA. The so-called milkshake IPA has plenty of mango and passionfruit, along with the lactose and heavy hopping you’d expect. The flavour is VERY reminiscent of childhood citrus punches such as High C and Five Alive. ($6.19 for a 473mL tall can)

Dieu du Ciel Solstice D’ete: A highly acidic beer due to the lactic fermentation. Its aromas are acid, tart, with tons of rich raspberries. Though on the lighter side, its acidity is quickly felt on each side of the tongue before leaving all the room for the wonderful fruity taste. ($20.29 for a 4-pack of bottles)

Outcast Neon NIghtmare: A big, robust IIPA from Alberta’s favourite gypsy brewer. Double dry hopped for ultimate hop intensity, dank fruits and hop oils floating on a sturdy, moderately sweet malty base. ($20.49 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

Railyard Nitro Stout: Silky and lightly sweet, with soft chocolate and on top of lightly toasted bread. Canned nitro leaves it very lightly carbonated and allows the oat-rich body to show it’s silky quality and subtle sweetness. ($17.39 for a 4-pack of tall cans)

No beer tasting is complete without the tasty snacks, so the Peasant Cheese Company provided us with some cheese and meats, and with all of that, we were able to hash out some favourites. The favourite among nearly everyone was Railyard’s nitro stout, followed by Burdock Three, then tied for 3rd was Dageraad and Outcast. My guests have spoken! My favourites were a little different…that Solstice D’ete is legendary and will forever be #1 in my heart. Make sure to try some of these beautiful beers, and others by these same brewers, because they are certainly some of the best this country has to offer. Cheers for now, stay tuned for more fun tastings through the summer!

Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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The Spirit of Canada

by Evan

Canadian Whisky as a concept is very much in flux. If you go back in time by a decade the idea of what defines Canadian Whisky was a lot more clear. With the craft distillery boom very much in swing and a lot more of these producers having stock old enough to be called whisky, we are now seeing a greater depth in style than ever before.

We are living in exciting times. Let’s see where some of thee younger craft distilleries around us are at:

Dubh Glas
Dubh Glas Distillery in Oliver, BC is now three years old. Kensington Wine Market has its own barrel ageing away at the distillery and is now passed the two-year mark. Their Noteworthy Gin lives up to its name and is worth tracking down (when it isn’t sold out!).

Eau Claire Distillery
The Turner Valley Distillery released their first Single Malt Whisky earlier this year. Sadly it was sold only through the distillery and also sold out quickly. There first Rye Whisky release may be on the horizon though and a sample I tasted was very promising…

Burwood Distillery
This Calgary distillery is a relatively new kid on the block, having only been in operation since May/June of 2017 and only having started laying stuff down later that summer. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. Burwood does a very good Vodka and Gin as well as some cool and unique Honey Eau de Vie and Honey Liqueur.

Last Best Distillery
Our store also has a barrel with Last Best Brewery and Distillery right here in Calgary. It is about 19 months old right now. They also have excellent beer by the keg and are in the middle of an ambitious plan to release a new Gin for each week of 2018 as well.

Victoria Caledonian Distillery
Vancouver Island seems to be a busy place for distilling – already to home to both Shelter Point and Victoria Gin as well as Sheringham Distillery. Victoria Caledonian Distillery in Saanich has been operating since September of 2016. No Whisky yet beyond some blended malts that they sell and an aged spirit. They also do beer.

This is just a small sampling of the distilleries operating in our neck of the woods right now – even just within 200KM of Calgary, I neglected to mention both Wild Life Distillery and RAW Distillery in Canmore, Park Distillery in Banff, and probably a few more.

The only disappointing news is that nothing new has come out of Calgary’s own Alberta Distillers since Canadian Club 100% Rye and Alberta Premium Dark Horse Rye were released a few years ago. All of those amazing barrels of whisky they have ageing away only to be sold off to some other company to take credit and acclaim or blend away to oblivion in their own bar rail stock. Would it be too much to ask for a return of the 25 or 30-year-old? Or even better – something at Cask Strength?

But I digress. Let us get back to the fun aspect of Canadian Whisky. Our lineup included a majority of bottles that were not around at this time last year. When we do this again next year, I am confident that I will be pouring an entirely new lineup than as well. This lineup only includes one big brand as well. The rest of the bottles are from smaller distilleries. One of these bottles actually hails from the oldest operation Single Malt Whisky distillery in North America.

The Lineup:

Mapleshade Repose Barrel Rested Spirit
From Goodridge & Williams Distillery in Delta, BC comes the Mapleshade Repose. Too young be called whisky, they are calling this Barrel Rested Spirit. It was released to showcase the path that the distillery is on and their first true whiskey should be hitting shelves later in 2018.

Distilled from Malted Barley and Wheat, Mapleshade Repose was then aged for about a year – starting its life in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-red wine french oak barrels from Mission Hill Winery. $36

Dillon’s Three Oaks Rye Whisky
This Rye is dubbed ‘Three Oaks’ as it was aged in a combination of new Ontario Oak, New American Oak and first fill ex-Bourbon casks.

Dillon’s Distillery is located smack dab in the middle of Niagara Wine Country within Ontario. Dillon’s Rye Whisky comes in a 500mL bottle at the strength of 43% ABV. Created from 100% Ontario Rye Grain with 10% being malted and the rest unmalted, this is a true Canadian Rye Whisky. $36

Crown Royal Bourbon Mash
Made from a mashbill of 65% Corn, 32% Rye and 3% Malted Barley. Aged in a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and charred virgin oak barrels. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Virgin Oak is a big part of what makes Bourbon and other American Whiskey more full flavoured in comparison to what we think of as the lighter style of Canadian Whisky. This is probably why we are seeing more Canadian Whisky producers utilize them in newer products.

While the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau or TTB originally the Bourbon Mash Label, upon review they decided it was not appropriate for a non-American Whisky to be called such. All bottles of this Canadian whisky destined to be sold south of the border are now labelled Crown Royal “Blenders’ Mash.” $45

Odd Society Single Malt Whisky
Odd Society Spirits is a small batch distillery located in Vancouver, BC. With a big focus on the bar and cocktail scene, the distillery produces everything from Vodka and Gin through to Creme de Cassis, Amaretto and even Vermouth. Bottled at 43% ABV and available in 500mL bottles, this is their first available Single Malt Whisky. Released in small batches, it was distilled from 100% British Columbia grown malted barley and matured in oak barrels for three years. $83

Canadian Rockies 21 year
Canadian Rockies 17 year
The Canadian Rockies Brand was introduced a few years ago with the Canadian Rockies 21-year-old Canadian Whisky. It has recently been expanded into a lineup of Whisky, with the re-introduced 21-year-old being joined by a younger sibling 17-year-old Canadian Whisky, as well as the American Rockies Bourbon from south of the border. More releases are planned for the future.

The Canadian Rockies 17 and 21-year-old whisky were both sourced from Highwood Distillery of High River, Alberta. The 17-year-old is bottled at 50% ABV and the 21-year-old is 46% ABV. $82 and $70 respectively

Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Release 09
The 9th release of Yukon Single Malt from Two Brewers is a return to their “Special Finishes” program. We are very happy to see it bottled at 46%. Two Brewers was the Canadian Micro Distillery of the Year in the “2018 Canadian Whisky Awards”. Release 02 was also a PX Finish, but a different mash and in the distillery’s opinion a completely different whisky. It is a blend of whiskies from 4-8 years of age, with 40% 6 and 20% 8 years of age. The whisky was finished in PX Sherry for 7 months before bottling. $100

Glen Breton Ghleann Dubh 13 yr Peated Single Malt Whisky
From Glenora distillery which is located near the west coast Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the Ghleann Dubh is a peated whisky from the longest operating single malt whisky distillery in North America.

Ghleann Dubh means ‘The Dark Glen’ or ‘The Black Glen’ in Gaelic and refers to the valley in which Glenora distillery resides. This is the first bottling that I am aware of that apparently used Canadian peat. $116

And that was the lineup! Crowd favourites for the night were the Two Brewers, followed by the Ghleann Dhub and the Crown Royal. Thanks as always to Peasant Cheese for the meat and cheese pairings!

Cheers and until next time,
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky

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Happy Canada Day Long Weekend from Kensington Wine Market!

Celebrating 151 Years of Everything That Makes Canada Amazing!

In a world as big as it is with a population reaching towards the 8 billion mark and Canada only making up a minuscule almost 37 million I feel unbelievably lucky, almost like having won the lottery to have been born in this beautiful country! There are so many unbelievable things about Canada and I would love to share with you some of my favourites:

Having the freedom to travel to so many other countries without even having to apply first or ask if they will allow me into their country. If I ever got sick I never had to even think about if I had enough money to cover my medical expenses. There has always been untouched nature in very close proximity, all I have ever needed to do is go for a walk and experience it. I can’t even remember the amount of times that I have come face to face with a bear. Shouting from the top of a mountain. Looking up to the skies and seeing the Northern lights that seemed to dance to their own music. Swimming in rivers so clear (and cold) that you can actually see the fish swimming beside you. Saying hello to your neighbour and even if you don’t understand each other they are still so friendly. Trying to be inclusive to everyone and thinking about others. Saying sorry because someone stepped on your foot and they say sorry back. Driving down a highway and only seeing farmer’s fields and blue sky from horizon to horizon. Going to the mountains and seeing more Canadian animals than in the zoo. Having days where the sunlight can literally last all day. Having well paved roads even in the middle of nowhere. Being able to try food from almost any other country in the world. Having an unbelievable and possibly some of the best selection of alcoholic beverages in the entire world (this could be more applicable mainly for Alberta, but still amazing).

Dave Tyler

To celebrate the wonders of Canada we are going to be focusing on Canadian beverages this weekend and none of them have any extra NAFTA circumventing tariffs on them.

From Friday June 29 until Monday July 2:
All in stock Canadian wine will be 10% off!
All in stock Canadian beer growler refills will be 10% off!
All in stock Canadian Gin and Whisky will be 10% off!

To celebrate the wonder that is Canada we are going to also be tasting wines from a couple of our favourite Canadian wineries!

We will have a few wines open from Lock and Worth and Nichol wineries.
They are both small wineries from the Narramata Bench region in the Okanagan area. Matthew SherLOCK and Ross HackWORTH are the 2 driving forces behind both of these wineries. They are focused on making delicious wine that comes from small vineyards and minimal intervention to let the grapes express themselves at their best!

Come in this Saturday, June 30th, 2018 from 2 – 5PM to try these delicious wines! We will have them open and all in-stock wines from Nichol and Lock & Worth will be discounted by 10% off regular price.

Lock & Worth Sauv/Sem
77% Sauvignon Blanc + 23% Semillon coming from 6 acres planted in 1999 on dry river bed (gravel) in Oliver. Raised in neutral French oak for 6 months. Gently filtered. Focused and almost lithe, both on the nose and palate. Citrus pith, melon, hay, lemon verbena. Bright, fresh and long. Bottles un-fined and un-filtered making it slightly cloudy.
Regular Price: $33.99

Lock & Worth Merlot
Coming from 2 acres planted in 1995. With Sandy soils and from the Naramata Bench. Grapes were gently de-stemmed with 5 days of skin contact. They were then basket pressed and Fermented in neutral French oak for 7 months. This is NOT what you may have come to expect from Okanagan Merlot. Light to medium in body, this is definitely not a big or heavy wine here. Despite the fact that this single vineyard produces amazing and serious fruit which could handle extended time in barrel they feel that the wine should highlight the inherent fruit qualities and not oak or heavy extraction. Bright, light ruby. Sweet red plums, savoury herbs, fine tannins and refreshing acidity. Medium bodied, supple and driven. This is unfined and unfiltered and is slightly hazy.
Regular Price: $33.99

Nichol Pinot Gris
The team behind Nichol has been creating wines exclusively from grapes grown in Naramata since 1993. The Pinot Gris is bright apricot in color with aromas of fresh peach, apricot and gooseberry. Tangy flavors follow along with a hint of honey and mineral notes. Silky on the palate with good acidity and a crisp, stone fruit finish. Chill this delicious sipper. A wine that is both sumptuous and refreshing any time the year!
Regular Price: $21.99

Nichol Syrah
World-renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson named the Nichol Vineyard Syrah among her top 25 in BC when she visited the region in 2009. We agree! The first Syrah was planted at the estate in 1989, and the balance of the site’s 5.5 acres were planted in 1990. The wine that comes from these vineyards is full-bodied, with red to dark berry, damson plum and sage notes. One that should age quite nicely, too!
Regular Price: $47.99

Nichol Pinot Noir
The Okanagan has a fine reputation for producing top-notch Pinot Noir, and here’s one reason why: owner and winemaker Ross Hackworth’s focus is to maintain a small estate winery, and he strives to grow world-class grapes. This Pinot Noir is made in very small batches with all the TLC you can imagine. It features aromas and flavors of cherry, salmon berry, earthiness and ripe plum, and it will pair beautifully with salmon, chicken or cheese.
Regular Price: $41.99

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Gin Is In

by Comrade Hunter

After having our shelves loaded to buckling with new gins swarming the market, it was about time that we had another Gin class. The consumer has spoken and they are thirsty for white, juniper infused spirit; a demand distillers are happy to satisfy. The newest offerings available on the market are seemingly more impressive, each round of gins trumping the last. In my previous posts regarding the state of gin I forwarded a concern that the fidelity of the consumer to one specific gin may be short lived (lest it be from those old standard bearers of the gin industry) and that the gin market may be reaching its zenith. But perhaps what I failed to note was that if the market continues to spawn new and exciting spirits, distillers will be forced to reach for higher levels of quality and diversity. This forced evolution of a saturated market may see to the true reckoning of a gin “golden age.” All that one must hope for is that said distillers are willing to change, redirect course, and above all, take risks with the distilling medium they have at hand. My hope for the future of gin would be to see those bottles I first showcased years ago resurface as new, reborn expressions. If white spirit is to act as surrogate untouched canvas to the artist-distiller, the state of the industry will reduce down to these artists’ visions and their ability to enact them. But does Gin need such pomp? I’m sure my gin compatriots in attendance of the class Gin is In can attest to the contrary.

Here is what we tried that evening for Gin is In.

The most vibrant and lively spirit of the evening; Jawbox delivers something both enjoyably nouveau while holding true to classic gin stylizations. What does this mean? Well, I don’t know, maybe that its dry, juniper-heavy nose is cut with a helping of off-dry white and tropical fruits. The floral character of this spirit is dashed by these vibrant and delicately sweet tones lending to a unique interpretation of London Dry Gin. One of my favourites for the evening. $58

A burlier version of the Jawbox, offering a richer spirit profile with more oily tones. The density of the palate creates a slightly more unctuous spirit, something likely the result of either the grain bill of the gin and/or the distillation method. I was similarly impressed by this spirit, the oily character of the palate showcasing some of the fatter, richer tones of the botanicals used to make this gin. $64

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Tea Infused
Another favourite of the night, a recurrent theme throughout the night. I was pleasantly surprised to find each of these gins to be of notable quality, something I can’t say has been the case for past gin tastings. This bottling is the result of infusing gunpowder tea to the spirit, adding layers of savoury herbaceous tones without being entirely savoury. This infusion works wonderfully well working out to a gin with notes of cigar, assam (I haven’t tried gunpowder, but the nose of this gin reminds me of assam tea), hibiscus, lilac, and a touch of parma violet. The tasters were quite happy with this spirit, alongside myself and my colleagues. – $62

Thompson Bros. Organic
The curveball of the lineup, Thompson Bros.’ gin is full of strange characters ranging from fire pit roasted agave to damp tobacco and mint. This may be the result of their Scottish distillation roots wherein the use of malted barley in the mashbill in conjunction with their pot distillation. The earthen, more savoury characters that develop as a result of these factors are quite enjoyable and offer a unique take on the spirit. Of course, these characteristics are amid the robust yet drier than typical juniper character. Loose sencha tea leaf, fresh cut grass after the rain, and a wafting of steeping grains before fermentation.  $66

Osmoz Classic
From our favourite cognac producer, the Osmoz gin is the creation of Chateau Montifaud. Their age old distillation techniques passed down through the family over the last five generations leads to a mastery over the distiller’s art, or at least that is what one might say upon trying this gin. The Osmoz Classic is vibrant, full bodied, likely the result of its base spirit being crafted from grape distillate, a silky robustness woven throughout the gin providing a cushioned feel to the spirit. Expect fleshy white fruits on the palate, lilac, slight diesel tones on the nose, and an accosting experience in The Bay’s perfume section. Another impressive and favoured gin of the night. $55

Osmoz Citrus
Like its sibling, this spirit is crafted with grape distillate keeping true to its more oily spirit. The critical difference is that of this spirits focus on citrus, highlighting lime cordial, grapefruit pith, meyer lemon, alongside zesty, tangy orange peel tones. This release is the real gamut of citrus tones while exhibiting similar tones of its classically stylized sister albeit more delicate. Both ranked similarly for the tasters and would hold as my favourite of the two Montifaud gins. $55

From a new distillery in Calgary, Alberta, this gin was one of the most richly built spirits. Near honeyed, this spirit offered waxy, richer tones than the ones previously showcased. The opulence of this spirit I believe would lead to a more “straight-up” style of gin, intended to be consumed chilled and by itself. Expect springtime gardens, nectary sweet with a bit of apricot and pear preserves. $55

Zuidam Jonge Genever
Clocking in as the largest bottle of the night, this one-litre behemoth of traditional Netherland distillation filled the role of the usual anchor: an old tom gin. I figured that given the sweetness of this jonge genever one could replace their usual old tom and try something new. The tasters and I reached the conclusion that this is a gin done quick kind of spirit, holding true to some of the gin tropes such as juniper driven, floral, refreshing, etc. whilst having a potent richness lending to a spirit that doesn’t need any tonic to round it out. Throw it in the freezer, keep it nice and chilled, and when you are ready for a refreshment simply pour a glass and enjoy. I prefer such styles myself, for summertime is the time of languid drinking, sitting under the sun and exerting oneself as little as possible. $58

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New Beers for the Month of June part 1 of 2

Hello to all! It’s time again to give you the lowdown on what tasty new beers I’ve been able to acquire and make available to you all! Hand-picking my beer selection, and tailoring it to you beer geeks and casuals alike is a full-time job, heck, it’s MY full-time job, and you just know I love it. I love it nearly as much as a shower beer, or a NEIPA so hazy, you’d think it was a glass of Metamucil. Alright, alright, I’ll cut it out with the cheese ball stuff. You think of something to put in here twice a month and see how quickly you run out of ideas! Anyways, here are all those beers I mentioned arriving thus far in June, and stay tuned for more… maybe even the fabled Founders CBS?

Deep Cove Watershed Yuzu Wit $20.49 for a 6-pack of cans

Evil Twin I Always Felt Closer to IPAs Than I Have to People $7.19 for a 473mL tall can

Collective Arts Liquid Arts Fest IPA $6.19 for a 473mL tall can

Vancouver Island Ukidama Lychee Saison $2.79 for a 355mL can

Founders Rubaeus $18.79 for a 6-pack of cans

Ninkasi Prismatic IPA $21.19 for a 6-pack of cans

Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing $19.69 for a 6-pack of cans

Burdock Tuesday $6.19 for a 355mL can

Founders PC Pils $18.89 for a 6-pack of bottles

Four Winds Wildflower Saison $16.59 for a 750mL bottle

Belching Beaver Sour Series 5 $16.99 for a 375mL bottle

Innis & Gunn Mangoes on the Run $3.29 for a 350mL bottle

Ninkasi Pacific Rain Pale $22.09 for a 6-pack of bottles

Gigantic Massive! $19.49 for a 650mL bottle

Gigantic Massive! Barrel aged $26.99 for a 650mL bottle

Alright, so that’s about it for now. On that last one, if you haven’t tried the Burdock beers yet then I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Nearly all are gone except Tuesday and Three, so I would suggest not missing out, especially on the Brett apricot or Saison du Must.

Cheers for now, until next time!
Twitter: @ShawnsBrewsCGY

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