Robin LeBlanc and Jordan St. John return for their monthly banter regarding all things beer…
Robin LeBlanc: Jordan, it’s grey and miserable out.
Jordan St. John: Robin, I’ve taken to referring to it as the Horrible Creeping Fog. When I wake up, I can infrequently see my hand in front of my face. This is, naturally, because I’m too lazy to raise my arm.
R: Now that you mention it, there is something rather sinister about it. It kind of reminds me of that horror film. You know, the one about the fog.
J: You mean The Fog?
R: No. But give me a moment, it’ll come to me.
J: It’s like something off of a Scottish moor. It’s damp, it’s clammy, and it’s dummy thick [sic], Robin.
R: And don’t forget cold. The kind of damp cold that pierces the clothes and goes right into the bones. It’s times like that when I always turn to a cozy beer.
J: I can picture it now. You’re coming in through the door, shrugging your coat off, maybe adjusting the thermostat, and thinking about soaking your feet in a bowl of hot Dettol, when you reach in the fridge and pull out something sweet and malty.
R: But you don’t drink it right there and then. You give it a bit of a chance to warm up a bit. Maybe the time it takes to put a nightshirt on and some choice socks or slippers.
J: I guess back in the day I might have referred to that as a fireside sipper, but let’s be honest here: Nearly everyone lives in a condo. Cozy Beer makes a lot more sense as a demarcator for that sort of thing.
R: Exactly. And it’s a genre of beer that is just that. A comforting beer to wind down and warm up to. A beer that in many ways is like a hug in a mug.
J: It’s the kind of thing that you’re going to savor over the course of an hour or so. Something that really challenges you to let your brain unwind and your muscles unclench.
R: And yet, palate-wise, can sink back into that chair with you. Now, it may be nostalgia talking, but I feel like the English styles really lend well to this. Your ESBs and your milds and your browns. They’re quite familiar with a cold foggy day there in England and I’m not surprised they made beer to fight it.
J: Oh, I love a Mild. There’s something about the genial pub snug about it. They’re lower in alcohol so they make for a convivial afternoon of chat, but there’s also that deep toasted bread and treacle character to them. In the really good ones, the yeast plays a significant role in the flavour profile, stretching out into overripe pome fruit. Burdock’s Mild, which is the one I’ve had most recently, has a little bit more roast than some of the authentic English versions, but it’s still a delightful bit of comfort coming in out of the rain.
R: I think it’s impossible to have a conversation about Ontario’s offerings in this category without mentioning The Granite. The Best Bitter Special on cask is a thing of beauty when it’s cold out.
J: The lower carbonation is a factor there, isn’t it? The texture of it is relaxed. It would be an entirely different flavour profile if it weren’t on a handpull.
R: Yeah. Just smooth, the roast caramel notes come in nicely, and you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s going to be alright.
J: You know what slots directly into that group? Innis & Gunn, and just about anything they make. Years ago, I was invited to a beer dinner and towards the end, the crowd was shouting out their preference for the different cask treatments that had come out over the years. Now, every single one of those middle aged men had a tweed flatcap, but it’s worth pointing out that if you want gentle caramel, toffee, vanilla, and a sort of general warmth, it’s hard to do much better than Innis & Gunn’s basic model. I sort of like the Carribean Rum Cask version, which means I’ll need to buy a flatcap.
R: Said as if you don’t have one.
R: Well, there you go. Incidentally, I’d also put Clifford Porter into the cozy category. It just soothes.
J: Porter definitely fits into that range. I suppose you could drink it cold, but the flavours are robust enough that they will stay with you for half an hour while you nod off in your winged armchair with your Biggles novel.
R: Or your erotic Star Trek fanfic, whatever one might feel comfortable with at that time and place.
J: Oh My.
J: It’s also worth shouting out some of the local establishments that go out of their way to provide comfortable seating next to a roaring fire. C’est What has a marvelous circular hearth area that will dispel the freezing mist.
R: And it should be said that Volo has the dark lighting, warming old wood colours, and plenty of cask ale to escape the elements.
J: Yeah, you definitely want it as Hygge as possible. Just snug as a bug in a rug with a hug in a mug.
R: Exactly. Well, all those rhymes and scenarios have got me feeling rather cozy and ready for a beer to match it. I think it’s my round. What’ll you have?
J: Normally, a pint of lager, but I think the tweed cap wants a Scotch Ale.