Archive for May, 2011


Instead of a tie or some tools for the barbeque, how about giving the beer loving dad on your list some books about beer for father’s day. Over the last few years, two or three dozen have been published, some excellent, some good, and a couple about the same quality for books as “lawn mower” beer is to the real stuff.

Here are three excellent books:

Randy Mosher’s TASTING BEER: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE WORLD’S GREATEST DRINK (Storey Publishing, ISBN 978-1-60342-089-1) discusses history, major styles, beer and food, and presents a great deal of technical information in a very readable form. It’s lavishly illustrated and has lots of interesting graphs to help the novice reader understand the subject. If you could only have one beer book, this would would be the one.

Garrett Oliver, the world renowned brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, had headed to England after finishing college. Here he discovered what beer could really taste like and how it made good food taste even better. In THE BREWMASTER’S TABLE: DISCOVERING THE PLEASURES OF REAL BEER WITH REAL FOOD (ecco:ISBN: 978-0-06-000571-9) he starts with the usual background information, history and techniques of brewing, and then devotes close to three hundred pages on various beer traditions, describing the style and then explaining why and how each style should be paired with specific types of food. A graceful writer, he knows and loves both food and beer — and his knowledge and love come across on every page.

BREW NORTH: HOW CANADIANS MADE BEER AND BEER MADE CANADA (Greystone: ISBN 978-1-55365-467-4) isn’t just a coffee table book with pictures of old and new breweries, brewing personalities, beer labels and promotional stuff, it’s a smoothly written look at the history of beer in Canada — from the time of the early settlers to the first decade of the 21st century. Talking about the great variety of beer now available to Canadians, author Ian Hill says, says “it’s like multiculturalism in a glass.” It wasn’t always that way, and his very interesting essays show how closely the brewing, selling and drinking of beer have been linked to the social and cultural development of Canada.

You could also consider buying the dad on your list a subscription to a beer magazine. There are more than a couple of six packs of them, but here are two of the best.

TAPS: THE BEER MAGAZINE is a Canadian publication that’s comes out quarterly. In addition to news from the Canadian beer scene, it includes articles about brewers and breweries, food and homebrewing. There are reviews of new beers in each issue, along with articles about the beer scene outside of Canada. For information about TAPS, check on the website:

ALL ABOUT BEER: CELEBRATING THE WORLD OF BEER CULTURE comes out every other month. It too has articles about breweries and personalities along with reviews of recent beers — from around the world. Two of my favourite regular features are “Stylistically Speaking” and “Beer Traveler.” The first begins with a discussion of a specific style and offers tasting notes on examples of the style. The second describes the journeys of author Brian Yaeger, who visits parts of the United States that have rich concentrations of microbreweries and brewpubs. For information check out

By all means, if you buy one of these books or magazines for Dad, stop at your favourite liquor store and buy him a couple of bottles of really good beer. He’ll enjoy sipping as he reads.


Fridays with Barley — The Lagers of Paddock Wood

Last weekend, we made our month-end trip to Sherbrooke Liquor Store. After gazing at all the wonderful beers from places around the world, we settled on Saskatoon — Paddock Hill to be precise. There isn’t a Paddock Hill in Saskatoon. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ve seen any hills on my trips there.

Paddock Hill is an English location that Steve Cavan chose as the name for his homebrew supply store and later microbrewery. It was where he’d ordered many of the supplies he’d needed when he was a hobby brewer. He was also, by the way, a lecturer in Classics and Philosophy at the University of Saskatchewan and a very good chess player.

It being nearly May, we were lingering in the maibock section of the cold room when I spotted the bright red box containing bottles of Paddock Hill’s version of the style. That’s when I decided to pick up a six-pack, along with the brewery’s other two lagers, Czech Mate and Black Cat and make the evening a Saskatoon lager tasting festival.

Although I’m not a great fan of maibock, I enjoyed Paddock Hill’s take on the style. The 7.3 per cent ABV beer poured a dark amber colour with a tan head. The malt notes dominated, although there was some hop bitterness. Medium-bodied, it finished clean and dry.

I looked forward to the Black Cat Lager, which I hadn’t tried before. It was a schwarzbier, a relatively hard-to-find style that I’m really beginning to enjoy. Opaque dark brown, with a tan head, it is lightly carbonated and light-to-medium bodied. The hops and malts were balanced nicely and there were slight coffee notes. It is 5.4 per cent ABV. Overall, it was a very refreshing drink.

Czech Mate is probably the best prairie pilsner around. I first tried it four or five years ago, and now, when I’m not in an ale mood, I’ll often pick up a six-pack. Light golden in colour, light in body, and effervescent, the saaz hops give it a crisp, refreshing mouth-feel. This is a really great summer beer.

I’m told that Steve Cavan no longer lectures in classics at the University of Saskatchewan, but that he is still playing a mean game of chess. And he certainly is brewing some of the best lagers east of Ontario.