Wednesday, April 02, 2008

BEERNADA - Ambush on Wellington: Stronghold of the Northern Frontier

Wellington County Brewery, Inc. is located in the farm-cum-alt_bumpkin community of Guelph, somewhere between Toronto and London (N.B., London, Ontario). During the month of March, the brewery advertised an "open house" where the general public could visit the homely Iron Duke House, pay $5 (CDN) and receive (generously) free samples of the property's brews along with a short tour of the fermentation facilities. Little did they know that Beernada and his staff were galloping to the Duke's residence like a beaver seeks its logs...(By "galloping" I mean Johnada and the Wifey drove me and The Scientorian on the 401).

I chose not to warn them in advance of my premeditated, stalwart attempt to overthrow their operation on the last day of this "open house." (N.B., I've narrowly defeated advances from other reputable institutions such as L. Ron "Hubba Hubba" Hubbard's Church of Scientology, and, according to my personality test, I have a reputation for successful acts of dissidence). However, I was not (nor my army of four) prepared for the Red Hot Tomatoes (or, rather, "hot red"!...this, according to Johnada's The Wifey, as she bit down hard on her right index finger). The RHTs are clearly spies from the LCBO (damn Commies...can't you come up with a less obvious secret service organization?...i mean, "Red"? really...), but my agility prevailed and I was able to usurp their operation "Toilet Water" (which is to say, they wanted to cull all respectable ales from Wellington's repertoire). Therefore, my attempted coup morphed into a militaristic defense of Wellington. With my signature clandestine tact I blended seamlessly in with the weekend staff at Wellington, even going so far as to adopt the name "Squirrly Spuds." I was slick as lard on a stick (which is a Canadian euphemism for filing taxes...I assume this means filing taxes in Canada is easy; I know they are in Johnada).

On the tour of the fort, our fearless leader at Wellington (Brad) dished us the unpalatable reality...the LCBO is sucking all of the life out of beer throughout Ontario. As noble as the province's campaign "Oh, oh, oh...good things Ontario," their centralized system of liquor importation and distribution is systematically killing their promising, homegrown brewing industry (if their wine industry, which they unabashedly tout, was worth much, their success might be a harbinger of good things to come for the Ontario brewing industry, but I'm afraid they have adopted the American system of corporate capitalism here--see Johnada's blog on The Beer Store). This was no territorial dispute, but the battle was of legendary proportions. Keeping calm, I casually wiped the sweat from my brow when our allied leader told our patriotic group of rebels that "Wellington might phase out the Imperial Stout." WHAT? Does this mean Wellington isn't filing taxes? Whatever "phasing out" means in Canada, I don't like the sound of it.

Imperial Stout is a style of ale invented for Catherine the Great of 18th century Russia. Catherine fell in love with the "stout" style of ale when she visited England and requested shipments of the specialty beer delivered to her in St. Petersburg. Because the voyage from London to St. Petersburg would take long enough that the traditional English stout would spoil on the way, the English brewers increased the alcohol content, and sometimes also the hop content, to ensure an unspoiled delivery for the populist ruler. Thus, Imperial Stout, a rich and sublime version of the typical style, was born. It is a relatively rare style today, and traditional recipes even rarer. Wellington proudly brews (because the Duke thinks that Catherine is "hot" -- in his own words) a Commonwealth version for the colonies called "Imperial Russian Stout" (based on the original motherland recipes), available seasonally in bottles and in the cask. I had the great fortune of tasting the cask version of the beer at the recent C'est What? Stouts and Porter tasting (visit again soon for a recap of this event...the entire country of Johnada was in competitive attendance). This beer is jolly good! So what does it mean that Wellington, under pressure by the LCBO for bigger and bigger sales lest they be "phased out," is considering the discontinuation of their Imperial Stout? I will only mention that Pandas, Koalas, and American Burying Beetles are also near discontinuation. The loss of this Wellington Imperial Russian Stout should be considered equal to the extinction of any of Earth's animals (most notably, the Yangtze River Dolphin...need I point out the obvious parallel between the LCBO and Communist China here?).

This is why I propose a petition to save Wellington Imperial Stout from extinction. If you agree, then please comment to this post and/or send an email to Wellington at Comments to this post will be forwarded to Wellington by me, Johnada's Minister of Booze and the Official Johnadian Ambassador of Ontario Beer.

The Iron Duke House had on tap Wellington's Arkell Best Bitter, Special Pale Ale ("S.P.A"), County Dark Ale, and Trailhead Lager. I promise to review all of these in the future (but brace yourself for an unforgiving review of Trailhead). I was especially disappointed that the Imperial Stout and Iron Duke were not available as draughts (but thanks to the weekend staff -- Brad and Linda -- for the supplementary tasting of Iron Duke!), and the lack of cask options, at the source, from a brewery that advertises "real ale" (indeed, they are members of CAMRA), was discouraging. But, I continue to have the opinion that Wellington is the best brewery in Ontario, thanks due, in no small part, to their astonishingly subtle and rewarding Iron Duke Strong Ale (which I have to promote from my earlier rating of 4 to a Molson rating of 4.5...I'm holding out a 5 for a personalized recipe from whichever brewery in Ontario is brave enough to challenge Beernada).

And, thus, the revolution began and ended in Guelph on a sunny Saturday in March. If 2008 doesn't hail in a year of brewing preservation, let it please save poutine, ever so popular in Ontario and Qu├ębec, from an uncertain death.

- Zak Aromyces


Johnada said...

Dr. Aromyces,
Lest you get a bigger head than you already have, keep in mind that you are my staff not vice versa.

I will sign the petition, but only because of Brad.

P.S. Some nice ladies let you take a picture taken with them and you deem their operation Toilet Water? I can tell you're new to politics.

Anonymous said...

I love the Imperial Stout. Bring back the bottles.

Scott said...

I've never had the Imperial Stout, but I'd sign the petition. I like their other beers. 2008

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