Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pre-Emptive Simpsons Burn, Story of My Life

Yes, I remember this too. Yes, I'm canonically the same weight and only about six months younger than Homer (I only recognize pre-2000 continuity, Homer is 38 and 239, and it's been ten years since I watched a new episode. When the Simpsons was in its prime, though, there was no better comedy on TV). Yes, shut up. I stand by my narrowly-focused self-centered political rant. More pending.




Argh, just argh. This is the exact same approach the Provincial Liberals are taking in Ontario - to put all "vices" out of the reach of the poor, with the assumption that people who can afford the government's punitive markup will, I guess, also be inherently able to indulge responsibly somehow? This will, of course, turn the down-on-their-luck into clean and sober hard workers (because if someone of less-than-optimal income drinks, it is invariably a problem, and probably the reason).
Also, as everyone knows, the money anything intoxicating would have brought into the economy organically, say, by being a desirable product people are allowed to sell at a fair price and buy without moral judgement expressed financially, poofs away because healthcare. It's not only sound economics but a moral obligation to tax the everloving crap out of anything that can be labelled "evil, but just permissible if you pay up, drunky". Invariably, ensuring the price of anything marginally naughty increases at a greater rate than overall inflation will make everyone realize the only vices they really need are hard work, fresh air, and watching the occasional hockey player or martial artist pound another human's face to mush in extreme close-up.

This is to say nothing of marijuana legalization, which is going to be an underplanned, underimplemented disaster that does nothing to disrupt the black market and ends up with a net increase of Canadians in jail over minor amounts of cannabis changing hands. Of course, that's the end goal of modern prohibition - not to have alcohol, cannabis, and yes, tobacco be managed but to have them be evil. The benevolent government might not punish you directly for partaking, and will gladly take a cut of the profits, but they will still brook no other authority in terms of getting you messed up. I don't even want to hazard a guess what a joint will cost at the LCBM (yes, Liquor Control Board of Marijuana, and I stand by it) under a sale structure designed by the Federal Liberals and implemented by the Provincial ones.

Anticipating this and future price increases, I'm pledging to step up my callousness and greed in order to free up enough budget to stay moderately goofed. No more fair trade products, charitable donations, 20% tips or treating friends to coffee, for starters. Sunny ways my hairy middle-aged butt. See - now I'm going to say stuff like that all the time. A fairly-priced Canadian-made craft beer would go a long way to cheer me up, but of course any joy that comes from sin is false and short-lived and comes with a free bunch of politicians demanding a cut.

I'm going to do some serious research and see if we've had a passable leader since John A. then make a tired joke about how said historical grave can now be used as a rudimentary turbine.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Hey! A Groundhog!

It's been a baffling and annoying six months, and the world's probably going to blow up. Fine. Good. Whatever. It's hard to deny it was headed that way anyhow.

Regardless, I've been watching The Laughing Salesman NEW on Crunchyroll, and either I'm getting too old and liberal or that is one noticably anti-woman program. Five episodes in and women seem to be felled exclusively for flagrant vanity or treachery, while men (ever noble) meet with their ill fates for an excess of ambition in work or sport, or their adorable weakness for sentimentality.

Outside of the above, there's also a seeming disconnect between the graveness of the sin and the severity of the punishment inflicted - I'm going to chalk this up to a cultural gap or the writers' personal grievances (spoilers follow), because it just reads weird from my side.

Deliberately trying to cheat the titular Salesman and get around the restrictive rule placed on your 'infinite' credit?
Aged up what looks like eighty years into a wizened old geezer.
Fair enough, I guess, for intentionally trying to subvert the rule instead of just openly breaking it. Hubris: punished. Vintage Aesop there. But, of course, to a vainglorious womantype, this is a fate worse than Hell itself.

Seizing the role of a jerky boss and disrupting a new-age workplace merits
being driven literally frothing-mad and used as a theme park exhibit forevermore
- a little harsh, but in this age of everyone disturbing the shit and/or upsetting the apple cart just for the sake of it, one could argue it's not completely unwarranted.

Lying about loving your aging mother's cooking then trading lunchboxes on the sly (that and failing to come clean when given the opportunity), however, results in
public humiliation, your girlfriend leaving you, your mother being psychologically scarred for the rest of her days and your having to eat gludgy, unpleasant 1950s lunches for the same duration.

A runner sharing your explicitly-identified-as-secret speed boost item with the person you just started dating? Good going - thanks to that darned womanly capriciousness,
you're now trapped in an ironic Hell running against an unending crowd who all have the same power-up, because she just had to blab it on social media...
...seemingly forever, since the tale ends with a tellingly good-drawing'd scream. That just seems excessive.

Now, jumping into a marriage proposal based on an idealized mental image? That shit gets you
Those womenfolk again, I tell ya.

Still, all in all not a terrible watch. The Salesman, Fukuzou Moguro, is a character kind of like if Dilbert's Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light had access to properly Hellish torments - although the penalty for excessive interest in clubbing, particularly on work hours, is more like a classic 'darning'. The cruel, ironic punishment inflicted on this poor protagonist is...
getting stuck with the (admittedly massive) tab.
It seems like there's a pretty wide range of penalties for "bad office behaviour".

I'd be amiss not to point out that the denouement always comes when, a la Willy Wonka or God, the episode's protagonist disobeys the one condition that Moguro places on their "gift". However, the same desires that lead the focal characters to accept in the first place invariably lead to this outcome.

And this, folks, is what studying Social and Political Philosophy ends up doing to your brain - it wrecks cartoons for you. That should be all the encouragement anyone needs to just say no.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Why I Am Stupidist

First things first, it's far too early and both sides were far too deeply flawed from the outset to actually pass moral or even political judgement on the outcome of the American election. Yes, the victor is a loudmouthed ass and probably not a great person in many respects, but this was still Morton's Fork defined. Do you want the establishment goon or the yammering loon? At least here we're usually offered a third semi-viable additional choice in the form of "a quack from the moon".

[From a self-centered-hidden-behind-self-effacing* Canadian perspective, Clinton would likely have proven just as much of a trade protectionist – that's just the way the wind is blowing – and either side in power likely means further impediments to the cross-border flow of maple candies and funny, round bacon (thank you, P.J. O'Rourke). Fortunately, our new best friends who we sell stuff to (Canada, Earth's overly chummy weed dealer), Belgium, would seem to have a built-in market for our other primary natural resource, four-dollar cans of beer.]
[*Yeah, it's kind of our thing. We're smug, but we point out our own dopey hat.]

One fact that is undeniable, however, is that the dumbest outcome definitely occurred. Donald Trump, in two months, will lead the free world. Whether or not that's worse than the alternative will be a question for history, but it's very difficult to deny how abjectly dumb a situation this has turned into.

It is crucial to distinguish the dumbest outcome from the worst outcome - while moral value has to enter in the calculation of overall dumbness to some extent, it's far from the deciding factor. The worst outcome, to assume a consequentialist moral stance for the sake of brevity, is the one that causes the most suffering for the most people. The dumbest outcome isn't decided in terms of consequences - nothing is less dumb than measured foresight. The dumb outcome, to those who bring it about, arises entirely from mystery and leads into same. The connection between causes, events and consequences is vague at best, which makes everything that happens a bizarre surprise that happened for no reason and will have completely random results. The dumbest outcome is, in short, what occurs when an outcome a cartoonish simpleton would consider to be a positive outcome given the least possible context and insight - collides with reality, whether social, economic, or the basic laws of physics. Why? Because it would work that way in wrestling.

This is why I am Stupidist [and you have to say it just like that, so you sound like a moron, if you subscribe to the same beliefs. It's just how it works. The speaker has to be embarrassed putting the concept forward, it's crucial to the whole design. If you can begin your statement with "I am Stupidist" and keep going, your attitude is now in the right place to fully subscribe - it's the new "I only know that I do not know", but much more annoying and terrible].

Stupidism proved disturbingly accurate predicting the arc of this election where any evaluative system that gives humans any kind of credit, especially once they're in a group, completely failed to. Yes, it's easy to claim that after the fact, but I have more than six months of emails back and forth with my Dad that will back that up. Building from the one fundamentally simple, always-overlooked principle that human decisions are made by humans, thus employing schoolyard/wrestling logic precisely as the situation demanded, Stupidism made the alleged 99-to-1 call correctly. If you really want to see six months of emails between me and my Dad...hi there Pa, I appreciate you're one of my three readers but you already have copies.

The Stupidist outlook holds that whenever human decisionmaking is a factor the dumbest outcome is the most likely, given that the average human is dumber than average [which only makes mathematical sense if you accept there can't be negative intelligence so the regress terminates at zero - which is, to a first approximation, everyone's base intelligence]. The rate of regress also increases proportionately with the number of people in communication with each other, as fifteen minutes on Earth will undeniably attest to.

This theoretical simpleton's grasp of cause-and-effect exists in a bubble of ignorance, wishful thinking, and just plain flawed basic math skills. It sounds like Stupidism should only hold predictive value in a democracy, but it works with, for example, old Soviet Russia too. The structure of the decision-making body was different, but its composition wasn't – humans. We are collectively (or even individually - this still holds for the lone castaway on a tiny Far Side island who chops down the only food tree to spell out "HALP", then buries the whole project in sand to hide it from thieves) to a first approximation just dumb enough to not all blunder into the sea, ergo all decisions made by any number of us will necessarily reflect that.

For uncannily predictive Stupidism through the ages, see the works of Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Stephen Leacock and Mike Judge, or go even further back and look at Aristophanes. In "The Clouds", the catalyst of the entire story and the driving force of the narrative right up to Socrates' death is everyone involved making the stupidest possible decisions at every opportunity, based on inaccurate premises (presented to them or simply assumed), wishful thinking and good old spite-over-self-preservation (this third one including the hero of the piece in one respect and the Greeks offing him in another). Hobbes' Leviathan explores the nastier bits of the same idea, and the inevitable response that humans are so dumb they need to be treated like zoo animals by their leaders for their own good. The flaw, of course, is that those leaders - by definition - would also be human. No wonder we want to make up omnipotent sky giants to credit our reasoning to, the entire species has witnessed the quality of human reasoning ever since the first cro-magnon carved the first rudimentary boat and the rest of the tribe immediately decided the best course of action was to shit in it. That's applied Stupidism - the majority wanted a big chief to paddle the poo canoe, and they got their exact wish. It will be an eternal mystery to most of them as to why the boat ride is so unpleasant and who keeps getting all this crap everywhere. For good or for ill, it's just plain dumb.

"If you want a picture of the future,
imagine Bluto crapping in a canoe - forever.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Ding! Ding! Wrestling Fight!

Well, the synthesis between professional wrestling and American politics is finally complete. I've seen more than one obnoxious bad guy finally win a championship and give an awkward speech strongly implying the victory has turned him good. That's not going to stop the folding chair from coming out the first time he's challenged.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Stack Brewing PIPA

This can't be stressed enough - support your local brewery. Do it for entirely selfish reasons. It sucks to find out after the fact that you missed Secret Beer, so shop brewery-direct and go early and often.  
PIPA (Pumpkin IPA, naturally) existed for all of three days, and it would have been a genuine shame to miss it. Where most beers of this type lean heavily toward "spice" over "pumpkin", PIPA is much more pumpkin-dominant, and in general one curious specimen of a Hallowe'en concoction.
PIPA presents as a West Coast inspired IPA with a promise of something slightly unusual on the nose - cloudy and amber-orange, it leads with a burst of Seville-peel hops and a milder scent of sharp, tart yeast. The pumpkin flavour comes almost as a surprise once the impact of the hops fades, with characteristics both of sweet pumpkin flesh and the oddly compelling sugary char from the down-side of the roasted skin. Spice flavour is more of a suggestion, bringing a general "spicy" flavour with none particularly distinct. The restrained use of spices may in fact account for an expected characteristic that was missing - despite the strong hopping and the inherent waxiness of pumpkin, PIPA avoids any unpleasant soapy or scented traits. I suspect that, more than anything else, it may be an excessive use of ginger in conjunction with heavy hopping that imparts these. Update: I went to the brewers for the scoop on this one - this year, Stack used a single one of those enormo fall-fair pumpkins for the entire run of both Last Bite and PIPA, and those have much less waxy/vegetal flavour to impart than their smaller cousins.
After breathing for a few minutes, the yeast - with a slightly sour pizza-dough tang similar to New Ontario Brewing Company's Sour Sumac* - becomes more evident, and the pumpkin flavour even more distinct. The bitter orange aroma of the hops fades slightly behind them as the beer loses its chill, still strong but more complementary to the unique backing flavours. This is a beer you can walk away from for a minute provided you have more trustworthy cats than I do. Hopefully, Stack considers a proper run of PIPA next year - I'm not sure one more pint of this is going to be enough for me forever.
*Just a few days after writing that a sumac beer could potentially be brilliant, I was proven right when this appeared on draft at the pub and was seriously fresh-a-licious. I never thought I could accept a 3% beer, but this new crop of light sours is seriously changing my outlook.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Big Rig Brewing Tales from the Patch

Big Rig Brewing gets one million points for embracing weird tastes. For just one recent example, despite having no additional flavouring falling outside the Bavarian Purity Act other than mild and unassuming wheat malt, Release the Hounds Black IPA gave an undeniable impression of artificial grape for some reason. That's not just the report of my marijuana-fogged senses, either - in my semi-objective "tell me what this tastes like" test, The Lady of Marmot's marijuana-fogged senses arrived at the same conclusion. Fortunately, weird tastes rule my entire land (every day, just ask anyone) so Big Rig Brewing pretty much immediately earned my fandom.
I must begin by stating unequivocally that the Skittelbrau Homer sought has finally been realized - this is Candy Beer. Thankfully, the only evident note of fruit flavour is pumpkin (hooray for the chance to be pedantic about produce classifications) - Tales from the Patch is pure Kraft caramels and above-average-quality candy corn. These flavours are developed to such an extent that  despite being an oatmeal porter, Tales from the Patch's "beery" characteristics are barely perceptible.
Taking an opposite tack to the "general late autumn" stylings of Wild North Pumpkin Ale, Tales from the Patch goes all-in on Halloween, starting with the label art featuring an undead hand clutching a leering jack-o'-lantern. A jack-o'-lantern, it should be stressed, that not only glows in the dark but turns into a skull when it does. It's a little more "Halloween Limited Edition Gourmet-Style Caramel Cup! (The Four-Dollar Treat)" than the lovingly painted pumpkin zombie of Last Bite, but full credit is given for enthusiastic embracing of the gimmick here.
Another point of interest before the first can is even opened - Big Rig proudly announce the inclusion of milk sugar in the recipe, which admittedly made me a little leery. Sugared beers are not always in my sphere - Beau's went on kind of a demerara sugar kick lately that really failed to lock with me. Big Rig earns more Halloween points right from the outset, though.

Tales from the Patch leads off with a huge sweet nose, like a Tim Horton's drive-through window back before they were terrible crossed with a "Country Vanilla" scented candle. Vanilla dominates the scent, backed by cinnamon and perceptible sweetness. Tales is light-bodied for a porter, and unusually mild for an oatmeal beer. Dark leather in colour, it forms a huge cap of resilient imitation-vanilla (achieving a taste this close to imiation with the real thing is a twisted achivement in its own right) foam, sufficient to support two hair elastics with ease but not a dime.

On the first sip, Tales immediately brings to mind Kraft vanilla caramels and good-quality candy corn - something like Brach's, not the buck store crap. This is very far into the "dessert" class of pumpkin beers, even moreso than Stack's Last Bite. Vanilla caramel, cinnamon and sugary squash are the dominant flavours, and the expected aggressive characteristics of oatmeal porter are entirely secondary, even missing, in their presence. In some respects, this is more like a very unusual soda - excellent for what offers, but not especially beer-like. Tales also has the singular most uncanny resemblance to the actual flavour of pumpkin pie out of all the beers I've tried this season. It's more like a good-to-very-good grocery store pie than a Grandma's - the spices are potent but straightforward, and your stance on imitation-whip is likely to very much colour your opinion of this beer. The malty base, strong vanilla presence and presence of milk sugar give Tales from the Patch an uncannily creamy texture all the way through, including a lingering whipped-topping sensation right through the long-lived aftertaste. Mouth-coating and sweet, the final moments of Tales echo the initial aroma of cinnamon-tinged milk caramel.

I don't normally go in for milk stouts, and can go either way on vanilla in beer as a general concept, but as Halloween treats go, this just works. Will four cans hold me for the year on this flavour? absolutely. But I'm still looking forward to the two I have left, and that last one has a scoop of ice cream and a fun-coloured straw calling its name.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Lake of Bays Brewing Wild North Series Pumpkin Ale

Wild North Series Pumpkin Ale is something of a unique animal among this season's potions. It's easily the least "pumpkin-spicy" I've tried so far, but it's also the one that I'd most like to defy the laws of pumpkin brew and stick around to join my regular rotation through the winter. Alas, it's not to be - fans of seasonal novelty goodness must, for our own sanity, accept it's essential ephemerality.

Wild North Pumpkin opens with a strong hit of ale yeast and hints of spice, lacking the spice punch many of its contemporaries unleash at this moment. A dark shade of strong-tea bronze, it fizzes enthusiastically but settles quickly - the modestly-dense body and restrained sugariness don't lend themselves to the foamy vanilla-spice head common to many pumpkin beers, and a glass proper suggests a prime pint of amber more a malty dessert.

Wild North Pumpkin's spice notes become more evident on approach, with the mild but distinct astringency of cinnamon harmonizing with the toffee and earth aromas of the malt-dominant core. At only 10 IBUs, This is a milder brew that lends itself to a hearty swig, ideally accompanying a sandwich on dark, coarse bread. It's also robust without being particulary heavy - also owing to the well-developed malt and yeast character - further contributing to its positive qualities as a pairing beer, and presents a short bittersweet finish marked by cinnamon and ginger .
Pumpkin beer pretty much becomes my primary sustenance during October, but with most varieties between two and six is more than sufficient for me over the eleven months that follow. I've already gone through twenty or more Wild North, and I plan on hoarding a few more for later before winter mulled-ale season sets in. I don't know why - though I suspect never being able to untaste Holiday Spice Pepsi is a factor - but those do so much less for me than pumpkin beers that, once the gourdly grog is done for the year I just trend toward old reliable stouts until the spring Saisons start appearing.

With sparing spicing and pumpkin character that's more of a suggestion, Wild North Series Pumpkin Ale doesn't quite deliver everything one expects from an Ontario pumpkin spice beer, but by virtue of that is a more versatile brew that works on its own level. It definitely needs its complement of spices to come together, given the barely-present hops, but as an ale first and a pumpkin confection second, it succeeds on a different level than its contemporaries.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Stack Brewing Last Bite Pumpkin Porter

Stack is the hometown brewery, and I have to admit a little bit of a bias. Like pretty much everything I like about this city, Stack doesn't necessarily "do" subtle. Something about a proud history of grinding up meteorite guts by essentially building the bowels of hell on top of them, then using explosions, acid and giant metal teeth to refine the result into heavy metal, may influence its essential in the opposite direction. Subtle, as should be obvious, has never really been my thing either.

Still adorned by Rob Sacchetto's Jack-O'-Lantern zombie - a modern classic of Halloween beer artwork - Last Bite Pumpkin Porter, now in its third year of release, is in many ways a prototypical Stack beer. It packs bold flavours, unity of content and theme, and stands at the heavy end of its alcohol class while carrying it exceptionally well. This is, after all, from the same brewery that makes Stack '72, a seemingly impossible easy-drinking 9% alcohol, 82 IBU Imperial India Pale.
As porters go, Last Bite is heavy in alcohol at 6.5%, heavy in body, and certainly spiced to match. The duo of ginger and allspice is prominent from first opening the can right through to the last hints of the aftertaste. Last Bite leads with a nose-tweaking waft of sweet, dark malt and pie spices, which transitions very well into the structural earth tones. Built on dark caramel malt suggesting baking chocolate and molasses, along with the health-food-store-air pong of ginger and a slight hint of sugary roasted-vegetable char come together in an off-dry whole (having aperceptible sweetness, but almost surprisingly dry for a dark pumpkin-spice offering).
Unlike some of its contemporaries - particularly Highballer from Grand River and Lake of Bays' Brewing's Wild North Pumpkin Ale - Last Bite is unabashedly a one-and-done beer. Named, the label recounts, after the final bite of pumpkin pie, a glass is fittingly a singular experience, not well suited to seconds. There's a filling finality to reaching the end of a pint, and it really does feel like the conclusion of an indulgence - one which has already passed the point where it will ultimately lead to regret, also the point at which true satisfaction is achieved.
Reviews still to come:

...a bottle of Flying Monkeys Paranormal I've been aging since 2014. Let's see if they were joking when they said you could do that!

Mill St. Brewing Nightmare Pumpkin Ale

The best issues to comment on are always the old ones that have long since been discussed out - yeah, I'm the one commenting at the end of that two-year-old thread that hasn't had a reply in the past 700 days - so I'll being by mentioning that I haven't been drinking as much Mill St. since they were acquired by Labatt's (themselves part of the Ahneuser-Busch Inbev conglomerate). Naturally, they have every right to expand, but conversely they can't need my pittance of a drinking budget that much as part of such a large and powerful organization. I managed to keep up enough spite to avoid them entirely until West Coast IPA showed up on tap at the pub - you can't be bitter with that much hoppy goodness. Well, you can, and that's sort of the entire point, but there's no call to degenerate into wordplay here.
Politics aside (I can't help the occasional digression, damn university turned me into a hippie liberal and I never recovered), far be it for me to miss this year's run of the former Nightmare on Mill St. - it really doesn't feel like Halloween without some, from the classic copper colour (which my photos taken in the dimly lit porch with the Lady of Marmot's tablet really don't capture - in real life it's not darker than Red Racer) to the flaming jack-o'-lantern on the label, this is a Pumpkin Ale with all the capital letters. Researching this would take approximately three minutes but completely ruin my fun, but I'm going to speculate the pun-spoiling name change may be related to the very large legal department of the very large corporation that now owns Mill St. taking into consideration the copyrights of one New Line Cinemas and a certain stab-handed villain who may still be marketable yet.
A freshly poured Nightmare Pumpkin Ale has a crisp, sharp scent, with aromas of allspice, clove, and the faint sourness of yeast. Belying its relatively light body, Nightmare forms a smooth, stiff vanilla-scented head, and while the bulk dissipates quickly, flecks of foam persist well into the glass - for anyone who hasn't tried Nightmare as a beer float, this is about the best possible argument to do so: you can have more of just that part, but plus ice cream.

Regarding vanilla; while malt is of its greatest pairings, it can easily be over- or mis-applied. Too much turns the result into something European schoolchildren of the 1950s might enjoy mixed by the teaspoon into whole milk. Nightmare avoids this unfortunate scenario, with vanilla as a dusky undertone rather than the dominant taste. While the first sips bring the expected burst of allspice, the yeasty wheat-ale core of the brew is accentuated over the seasoning, with warm vanilla and the understated astringency of cinnamon and mild hop (an understated combination of Nugget and Tettnanger). The actual taste of squash is sparser, contributing more of an overall "roasted" impression than a distinct taste in its own right.

In my review of 2014*'s Nightmare on Mill St., I stressed two points in particular - that the flavour makes the (at least claimed, no brewery is above some spoooky halloween bullplop. 33!) spice blend's origins as a pumpkin pie recipe seem entirely plausible, but that an excess of flavours in seeming competition with each other resulted in something kind of overwhelming. Either their recipe of my sense of smell has become more muted in the two years since, as Nightmare Pumpkin Ale
seems now to strike a solid balance - proper seasonal flavour without ending up bottling a melt-shake (thank you, Homestar Runner, for an incredibly useful word there). Nightmare is one of the lighter selections I've tried this season, both in terms of body and the well-used but non-crushing spice, but still comes through with the expected hit of sweet fall baking.
Now that I've been spoiled on more ambitious (though occasionally unsuccessful) pumpkin IPAs and heavyweight hallowe'en porters, Nightmare doesn't stand out quite like it used to, but shows there's call for the classics.

*2015,  the Year of the Dead Groundhog, will not be discussed further. Neglecting the poor rodent for more than a year all be worth it if the worldbuilding I put all my writing time into turns into anything.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Collective Arts Art-Brewing: Collective Project / Sour Pumpkin Saison

It's best to embrace new brewing trends wholeheartedly as they come along, because you never know how long they'll last. Sour beers won me over remarkably quickly – the flavour profile is pretty radically different from what I generally drink, with even my beloved over-hopped IPAs sporting entirely new sensory combinations. Not to mention, Coriolis Effect from Sawdust City carried me through seeing Corb Lund at the Townehouse, letting me deny every impulse my body could throw out and actually stay up until 1:30 AM for the third encore, without having to resort to drinking coffee (or, gah, regular light beer) at a concert.

Sour Pumpkin Saison from Hamilton's Collective Arts promises a triple whammy of yeast, acidity and autumn spice, and makes good on at least two of those. As always with Collective Arts (it seems like it's kinda their thing), Sour Pumpkin Saison has eye-catching labels – the latest run of Ransack the Universe had tigers – but they appear to have gone with a single design for their Hallowe'en offering, with a cat-masked girl on a (presumably haunted) bicycle providing a spooky counterpoint to the carefree lass who adorns Red Racer.
Pouring a Sour Pumpkin Saison immediately rewards you with aromas of light brown bread, allspice, and the distinctive sour ale sharpness like cracking into a jar of homemade pickles. Allspice is the most evident spice both in the head and body, as is characteristic of an Ontario pumpkin spice ale, but harmonizes very interestingly with the sourness and backing spices (particularly cinnamon) to give an impression of sumac – and leading me to wonder if a pumpkin spice beer that actually did contain sumac could potentially work, even as a non-sour. The overall aroma comes across as almost condiment-y, and I'm already thinking of noodle bowls this could greatly enliven in place of sherry. Semi-relatedly, a quarter-can of Lake of Bays Brewing Wild North Pumpkin Ale (review to follow) made for some outstanding molé-inspired refried beans.
Lightly carbonated with short-lived foam, Sour Pumpkin Saison is similar in heft, colour and texture to perennial favourite Highballer Pumpkin Ale from Grand River Brewing – but that's largely the extent of the similarities. Sour Pumpkin Saison has a strong, pleasant 'fermenty' taste, with aromatic yeastiness like light brown bread – think fresh 60% whole wheat – and a sourness more reminiscient of straight lemon juice than the vinegar or sauerkraut-like tang of other sours I've recently enjoyed. The sour aspect dominates on the palate, but there is a subtle, earthy hint of pumpkin throughout, and the spices become more prominent on the aftertaste – particularly clove, barely noticeable at first but outlasting the other flavours in the end. As I anticipated, hops ended up being a minimal presence, hard to distinguish behind all of the more dominant tastes. Ultimately, the spices don't stand out as much as I'd prefer – developing that nascent sumac note further could have had interesting results indeed.

For the strength and depth of flavour, Sour Pumpkin is surprisingly easy-drinking; sourness and lingering yeast build up on the palate, but this is balanced by long-lasting, astringent clove. I still find the word “sessionable” inexplicably loathsome, but I have to admit it applies – Collective Arts' first pumpkin-spiced offering joins Wild North Pumpkin in a category I used to populate with Highballer alone – a novelty (not that this is an inherently bad thing, see first paragraph) flavoured beer that can carry an entire evening on its own.