Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is generally published every second Thursday at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on Twitter @tpersaud.
Sparks Street Mall will be open to a whole new kind of pedestrian traffic this weekend as WinterBrewed takes over the outdoor strip.
The weekend also marks the halfway point of Beau’s ambitious month of “feBREWary.” The five-week stretch sees the Vankleek Hill brewery releasing seven different beers, and hosting a boatload of events including tonight’s Winterbrewed launch party at Bridgehead Roastery. (This is more of a party for their Winterbrewed beer — a coffee-beer collaboration with Bridgehead — than it is for the WinterBrewed festival. But it’s also, kinda, sorta for the festival as well. Yes, it’s all very confusing. But, really, it’s a chance to drink some great beer so do you really care?)
When you stumble across Beau’s spot on Sparks Street, you’ll notice a few variations of gruits. Co-founder Steve Beauchesne explained to us a few weeks ago that he wants his brewery to become a world leader in this ancient style of beer.
This is an opportunity to taste beer the way it might have tasted pre-1515. In fact, their Dubbel Koyt, which they’ve just released, is a gruit based on a recipe from the early 1500s that was uncovered by beer researcher Ron Pattinson.
“Fifty percent of the grain is oats,” Beauchesne explains. “It has got to be one of the most unique mouth feels that I’ve ever had. The oatmeal has this slick quality to it.”
Not only that, but its flavour morphs with each sip. At first my palette had to adjust. “The initial response is, ‘I don’t think like this,’” Beauchesne says. My thinking didn’t go that far, but I certainly wondered what I was pouring down my gullet.
But by the fifth or sixth sip the oats really came to the surface. It coated my tongue like oatmeal you find at hotel buffets that have been sitting out for way too long. Yes, that pasty goop they charge you $8 for. It’s horrible when that happens with oatmeal. I discovered it’s great when it’s Dubbel Koyt, though.
I suggest trying it at least two to three times during WinterBrewed. Have it when you arrive, try it again an hour later, and grab one last sample before you go. You should notice how different it tastes each time.
Beauchesne says the more you drink gruits, or any style of beer you’re not accustomed to for that matter, the more your body will adjust.
“You can educate someone as much as you want, but the human taste bud is a very peculiar thing,” he says. “It’s similar to the first time someone has an IPA, the reaction is something like, ‘Oh, this might be poison!’ But once you get used to the flavour, it’s quite wonderful. And we’re finding the same thing with our gruits. The more people are getting accustomed to it, the more they want it. Every year we see a bigger and bigger response for it.”
So, save a few drink tickets for the Dubbel Koyt this weekend. And try the BogWater, Oiseaux De Nuit (a pumpkin gruit) and BogFather (Imperial version of BogWater). You may just fall in love. And if you don’t, well, there are an endless number of other styles to sample!