February 03, 2012

Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity . . .4.

Some years ago, I instituted a theme for the month of February: I would dedicate one post each Friday to one of my favourite things. Over the years I've covered such topics as food, literature, movies, even personal grooming.

It's been about three years since I last did this, so I've decided to revive the F5 tradition. Today and the next three Fridays, I'll have a few words about what I like to eat, drink, read, watch, do, or whatever else strikes me. I will also, for the first time on this blog, reveal my one food weakness.

But today we're going to start with . . .

F5 #1: Mmmm. Beer.

I can remember my first beer easily enough: it was my 19th birthday, and my roommate treated me to a pitcher of Labatt's Blue, as well as a rye and Coke or two, and a few B-52s. In the ensuing 22 years, I've grown up a bit and learned to hold my liquor better. But to this day I still have an aversion to both Blue and rye and Coke.

That aversion didn't extend to beer in general, fortunately. It wasn't long before I found Molson Canadian more to my liking. That was satisfactory for a year or so. Then, I started hearing good things about imported beers, and I was curious, and consequently I fell in love with the opposite extreme—Guinness. Draft Guinness, a beer so thick it's opaque, it has a pond-scum head so heavy you can draw a happy face in it and it will stay there until the pint is gone, and drinking it obviates the need for dinner. Of course, a diet of draft Guinness could get to be an expensive habit. Fortunately, at the time, it was still possible to buy bottled Guinness at the beer store (brewed under license by Labatt's), and although it wasn't as thick and rich, it was still mighty tasty.

In the intervening years, I've settled somewhere in the middle: my go-to beer is generally a dark ale of some kind. My brand of choice was Upper Canada Dark Ale for years, until Sleeman bought them out, and I wasn't as impressed. For everyday beer, I have since tended toward Rickard's Red, or Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. Yes, it's yellow, but it's still an ale. I also recently discovered the Guelph-based Wellington Brewery, whose superb beers suffer not a bit from being so close to Sleeman. Their Wellington County Dark Ale is an occasional treat.

At one time I went to the liquor store on a weekly basis, and picked out two different cans or bottles from the beer cooler, and in that way went through nearly everything the LCBO had to offer. German lagers and British or Irish stouts were good; Dutch lagers, less so. I tried Belgian Trappists' beer, but the first time I tried to open a bottle, the cork blasted out after I'd untwisted the wire cage all of a half-turn. It marked the ceiling, and that made me gun-shy. (I never found the wire cage.) But the threat of injury wasn't enough to dampen my enthusiasm for beer. There are too many varieties in the world, and too little time.

My one weakness: Potato chips

Nothing goes with an everyday beer quite like a bowl of chips, especially regular ones. But when the chips aren't meant to be a buffer for alcohol, I'd rather have flavoured ones. I have a particular soft spot for sour cream and onion. However, in Canada, we also have a range of President's Choice chips, in many interesting and exotic flavours—which, amazingly, almost always taste exactly like what they claim to be. The Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese variety are the best of the current lot.