Tradition is such an integral part of our lives. It gives it structure; it gives us place; it gives us identity. I remember hearing an interview with a Jewish Canadian cookbook author who was talking about the importance of the Shabbat in developing her love and reverence of cooking – because she cooked for her extended family each Friday and through these meals she developed a “tradition” which anchored her and her family and gave them a sense of place and identity. It was an ah-ha moment for me in understanding why food is so important to culture … and why it is so important to me.
The intro might seem a tad heavy or serious to introduce a beer but, truly, this is a beer that for the past 5 years or so has become a summer “tradition” in my life. (Segue is now complete.) It is one of the absolute tastiest beers out there … and it is hands down my favourite summer-time beer and ranks up there with my love of G&T’s and mojitos for summertime love in a glass. And the tradition? McAuslan’s Apricot Wheat Ale is my reward to myself every week once I finish mowing the lawn. It is absolute and total refreshment!
I hadn’t had a bottle of this for more than 6 months, dating back to last fall … which predated my blog’s development. I’ll admit, after my disappointment of re-tasting Mad Tom since I started my blog, I was a little worried what I’d rediscover when I opened another bottle of McAuslan’s Apricot Wheat Ale.
But I had to wait ….
… and wait longer than expected.
So after slagging The Beer Store for its lack of depth in terms of carrying local microbrews, this is now my time to give it a pat on the back and turn my derision instead to the LCBO – the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. For the past five years, I’ve bought my Apricot Wheat Ale at the LCBO … so when I went in a few weeks ago to stock up for the summer, I was surprised to find none on the shelf. I inquired with one of the service agents who after a brief check of the computer and inventory informed me that “The LCBO has discontinued carrying it. We had to reduce the number of beers we are carrying and this one was eliminated.” My mouth dropped. “What? Do you know how good this beer is?” “If you want a wheat ale, I’d recommend Warsteiner or …” and he droned on pointing to foreign beers. I was appalled first by the fact that he thought these beers were the same … but more because the LCBO in all its wisdom had chosen to sell me on foreign imports when one of the best wheat ales out there is brewed 2 hours away in Montreal. I hope someone from the LCBO reads this gives the crown corporation’s head a shake. (Update: Someone from McAuslan’s Brewery actually read this and has confirmed for me that the LCBO has not discontinued to carry this beer. However, what does seem to be the case is that the LCBO is substantially reducing inventory on it which means the beer is not available everywhere. Last I checked, only half the stores are carrying it in the Ottawa area. The good news is that LCBO is very good about doing special orders or bringing stock in from different stores to an outlet near you. Still, a disappointing development but the news isn’t all bad.)
Why am I so passionate about a “fruity” beer? I grant you, nothing about my beer choices so far would suggest that I like fruity beers – but that’s why this is such an amazing beer. The apricot is used as the sugar in the brewing process – as such, the beer isn’t overly sweet nor does the apricot disguise this as a real beer … or a real wheat ale. This isn’t like the Belgian Früli. What makes this more astonishing is that I’m also not generally a fan of wheat ales. With the exception of Erdinger (which I quite like), I find them watery and kind of ‘sour’ tasting. It works here, though, because this is balanced with a wonderful aroma of apricot preserves that carries through from first taste to last … and that refreshing ‘sourness’ is for beer drinkers what buttermilk is to those who like to drink buttermilk on a hot, humid day (yuck!). No, it’s not a big bold beer; yes, there is an absence of head and yes, I’d say it is a bit too refined for its own good – I don’t think it should be filtered. However, putting the purist expectations aside, I challenge you to answer: does it taste yummy? Yes. Does it quench your thirst? Yes. Do you want to have another as soon as finish the first? Yes. Truly, if a beer was a teddy bear, this would be an adorable brew … and it will have (and does have) mass appeal for this same reason. Serious beer drinkers and casual drinkers both will love this beer; men and women; young and old. Truly, it is a unifying beer which will continue to make converts wherever it is served.
Enjoy … and have a great summer.
Stats: Fruit Wheat Ale. 5% ABV. Montreal, Quebec.
Colour: Yellow-orange – colour of apple juice.
Mouth Feel: Light and crisp; medium carbonation; buttery finish.
Purchased: The Beer Store or LCBO
Pairings: Grilled Flank Steak Tacos with Papaya-Mango Lime Salsa.