Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Beer O'Clock: Keeping a Diary

For a relatively smart guy, I'm not that smart.

Luckily, I have friends who keep me in check.

For years, I've been tasting wine and beer, keeping notes, and sharing them when I get the chance. I have recorded notes on scraps of paper, on my iPhone, on my iPad, and even in my head (I have a great memory for flavours).

But I've never had a true method of keeping track of what I'm drinking. Until now.

A couple weeks ago, I received a package in the mail from a buddy of mine in Guelph, Stuart. Because of the size and feel of the package, I thought immediately that it was a book. I was excited, thinking that Stu had published another book and was surprising me with a copy, or that he had found a really good read and was passing it on.

The book was neither, but pleased me nonetheless.

It was a beer diary.

In the accompanying note, Stu said that he wasn't sure if I already had one of these, but when he saw it he thought of me and my reviews, and decided to send it along anyway.

You know me so well, my friend. You knew that I needed one of these diaries but that I'm not organized enough to get one myself. I love you, brother.

This diary conveniently fits in the front compartment of my camera bag, where I carry cables, business cards, a pen, and loose slips of paper. The papers are gone, now replaced by this beautifully bound book.

I wanted the first beer that I placed in this journal to be special; luckily, I didn't have to wait long. What better than to put a beer by my favourite brewery in a diary from my best friend?

Mill Street has a couple of seasonals that are available in growlers at their brew pub in Ottawa. One, I felt, was appropriate at this time, coming out on the heels of Robbie Burns Day. It took me an extra week to try it: I had my first pint in the pub and brought a 750 ml bottle home.

I actually brought two bottles of beer home, but the second bottle will appear tomorrow, in my Beer O'Clock blog.

Today's beer review will be mixed with a pseudo-review of a food dish that my wife makes, that she and I love, and that went nicely with the beer that I was reviewing.
Tartan Scotch Ale
Mill Street Brewery
Toronto, ON
Brew pub: $7.65, pint; $8.95, 750 ml; 7.2% ABV
Beer O'Clock rating: 4 out of 5
A clear, deep toffee colour with hints of red, the head is a creamy, light beige that lingers down to the bottom of the glass. 

On the nose, I detected malted, spicy caramel with a hint of coffee. In the mouth, this ale is a slightly sweet toffee with a bit of clove, and is well-balanced with the alcohol, which comes to meet you in the finish but does not overpower.

I really like Scotch ales and I think that this is perhaps the easiest-drinking one of any that I've ever had. I often associate a Scotch ale with a sweet, toasted, and malty beverage, whose alcohol level leaves your nostrils flared. I often have only one pint of a Scotch ale in a sitting. This time, I enjoyed the pint that I started for my review and then continued drinking the 750 ml bottle throughout dinner. And dinner was a great match.

Not burned: the charmoula marinade bakes dark on the top.

On Saturday night, my wife made one of our favourite dishes, charmoula fish. This is a classic Moroccan dish that uses a cumin-based marinade. In the dish, we layer a casserole dish with potatoes, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and top it off with fish—typically haddock, but this time we used cod.

The cumin is quite powerful but actually tempered the toffee in the ale. The alcohol, though mild tasting, came up in the finish and married well with the marinade. Scotch ale and charmoula on a cold winter's night is the perfect comfort food.

The recipe for the dish can be found on the Epicurious Web site. Try it.

And be sure to wash it down with some Scotch ale from Mill Street.

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