26 August 2009

Pillitteri Estates Select Harvest

While at my mother's for dinner last week, we ran out of wine. Scrounging around her liquor cabinet came up with this tarnished gem that my mother had picked up on a winery tour with my sister. This self-described "sweet red wine" is produced by Pillitteri Estates in Niagra-on-the-Lake in Ontario, and has an abv of 11.2%. The bottle was a 2004 vintage, and we uncorked it having no idea what it would taste like. However, this bottle would soon prove to hold a nsaty surprise.

The initial nose on pouring the orangy-red liquid was of straight medicine. Raising her glass to her nose, my mother commented that it "smelled off." Hesitantly, we raised our glasses and drank. The flavour assaulted the tastebuds with a sickly sweet medicinal flavour that was more pronounced that the initial nose. It literally made me think "this must be what Southern Comfort's chardonnay-swilling aunt must taste like!" Keep in mind, I had never drank "late harvest" or so-called "ice wine" before, so it may just be that the style didn't agree with me. However, this stuff was downright nasty. As my mother lowered her glass, she remarked that she had drank low-quality homemade wine that tasted better than this crap. Caveat emptor.

17 August 2009

Tusker Quality Lager

Imagine driving six and half hours through the Serengeti. Tired and parched you see a local tavern up ahead, where you stop for food, rest and an ice-cold ale. As your eyes adjust to the darkness within, you find see this elephant-headed logo an an advertising poster for a local beer. You order one and as you pour out the amber liquid, you think this is going to be either a terrible experience, or possibly the greatest beer I have ever had...

I was not on the Serengeti when I tried this one. However Brian did relate a story about some friends that did travel to Africa and experienced a scenario much like the one I described above. After arriving at the tavern, his friends ordered a local beer called Burpee. While three of the four beers brought to the table were fine, one of the party thought their Burpee was a "little off". The other three friends took a sip, agreed and then complained to the waiter. The waiter took on whiff of the questionable bottle, and immediately replaced it with a fresh one. Unfortunately, one sip was all it took to place everyone's digestive tract on "nuclear holocaust" on a trip through Africa's wilderness where a decent toilet is pratically unheard of. As such, we all had serious reservations when we cracked this one.

Inspecting the bottle did not provide much information other than the product has been produced since 1922 by Kenya Breweries Ltd. in Nairobi, and has an ABV of 4.2%. As I passed around the samples, we all noted that this beer did not have any kind of offensive odour, and was devoid of any kind of sea monkeys. With a hearty "cheers!" we tipped our glasses and drank. Surprisingly, this beer was actually very decent. While not being some kind of flavour explosion, it was not bitter, too sweet, overhopped or excessively malty and did not have any kind of lingering aftertaste. Michelle earnestly stated this beer was good and Brian added Tusker is the "second beer from Africa I like" (the fist being South Africa's Castle). All in all, I thought Tusker was a very refreshing beer that I can see gracing my refridgerator again. If I were the Serengeti on some kind of safari, I'd be grateful to find it available in a local pub in the bush. While Tusker may not be anything truly exceptional, it is a great refreshing brew for the dog days of summer - or an African safari across the Serengeti.

09 August 2009

Greene King Abbot Ale

Another common sight at the LCBO is this disaster from Suffolk, England (sans the little lego man sitting on the can, of course). The cream and red can was deceptive enough, however seeing "brewed longer for a distinctive full flavour" should have been the tip off that this English ale was going to be a disaster. During my tenure at running this blog, I have found that most beer and ale that describes itself as 'full flavoured' are usually of the variety that end up in the toilet - either immediately after the initial tasting or immmediately following a bad drunk on them. Further inspection of this one found it had a modest abv of 5% and stated this about it's contents:

Abbot Ale is brewed longer to a unique recipe. This makes it a full flavoured, smooth and mature beer. It is brewed in the heart of Suffolk where master brewers have been perfecting beers of real character since 1799. So whether you are looking for a beer to enjoy with food, or simply on its own, Abbot Ale is the perfect choice.

Brian was a little hesitant when I brought this one over possibly due to the portrait of what we assumed to be the Abbot this ale is named after. Unlike the Corporal on the Corporal Brown's bottle, the Abbot is actually smiling. However, we soon found out the reason for that smile, and it was not the kind you should be pleased about seeing.

I popped the can and poured out two samples. The beer was brown and had very little head. As Brian raised his sample to his nose and exclaimed "smells good!" in the most sarcastic voice he could muster. This beer literally smelled like pain. With a shudder we raised our glasses and throwing all caution to the wind, we drank. The brew was malty, had a very bitter profile and literally attacked the throat on the finish. Surprisingly it was not bland like many English ales, but it was very hard to drink. "The Abbot is a corrupt soul," noted Brian looking at that crooked little smile on theAbbot's face as we both agreed that this one simply sucks. Perhaps the recommendation to enjoy Abbot Ale with food may in fact be so you can wash the flavour completely out of your mouth in the event you are served something that actually tastes worse than this hideous disaster. Corruption, indeed!