Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beerfest: Day 1

Here is a preliminary look at the 2008 Montreal International Beer Festival – going by the name of the Mondial de la Bière de Montréal – and the beers I tried while I was there today, the 29th of May, 2008. For those in the area who might want to attend, it is still running until the 1st of June.

Of Montreal’s festivals, the beer festival is one of the largest, attracting thousands of people every day for five days and crowding them into a space half the size of a football field. It is an especially crowded event and picking out a space to call your own can be problematic, nevertheless, it is thoroughly worthwhile.

As this is merely a preliminary review, I will stick with the beers that stuck out for me (there is a list of nearly two dozen beers in my notes and to run through all of them would be a waste of my time and yours):

La Bock de Joliette – 6.1%: Made by a local Microbrewery called L’Alchimiste, this one’s my hands-down favourite so far. Its taste is smoky, with a hint of caramel and zero aftertaste. It is nearly like toffee going down and the blend of smoke, malt, bitter and sweet is nothing short of flawless. If I had to recommend the beer festival for any one beer, it would have to be this one.

Aventinus 8%: A german beer from the makers of Warsteiner Premium, this one is strong and fruity. The aftertaste is a little odd, though not at all unpleasant and the scent of it before the first sip is absolutely divine. The amount of sediment this one leaves behind is almost disturbing and was worth a hearty laugh upon discovery.

Bog Water 6.6%: An Ontarian brew, this one is chocolaty in the extreme; it actually tastes like dark chocolate, though it retains the memory of its origins and the caramel stout base comes through clearly. A thoroughly enjoyable brew. Unfortunately, the line up at this particular kiosk was long and crowded, so be sure you really want it before trying to get a hold of a glass.

Delaware Fort 18%: That’s right, eighteen percent. This is an unbelievably strong beer, with an almost winey taste to it. The malt, as you might believe, comes through quite clearly and, in spite of this, it manages to be very enjoyable – mostly due to a pleasant, fruity bouquet and an aftertaste which I’d qualify as enjoyable, if a little long to dissipate.

There were others, but I think I’ll wait until Saturday has passed and I’ve had another day of sampling all the delightful brews on offer at the Mondial before writing up my final report. If you do decide to go, I hope to see you there and I sincerely hope this review helps. What a fantastic way to spend the day!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It isn't Over... Yet.

An acquaintance of mine, a certain Seth Eagelfeld, recently wrote an interesting article for his blog entitled Is It Over?, which addressed an issue which most people with a nose for history have at least managed to get a vague sense of, in recent years. Specifically, he lamented what he perceived as the death of progress and originality in American culture, referring briefly to most, if not all facets of that culture.

His editorial began my mind working and here I present the results of my musings; there is a flavour of this in my comments to his post, but I wish to elaborate.

American culture (and I refer here to North American, english culture, generally), or the industry of culture in North America, has changed narrowed its focus since the golden ages of the sixties and seventies and, in doing so it has essentially removed art and beauty and most importantly content from almost every artistic & literary medium available in the mainstream today.

The focus, of course, is profit margins and dollar sums; every year must bring more revenue and satisfying content does not accomplish that - or at least, it doesn't appear to do so. The angle of attack has been, in all appearance, to make consumer culture (culture made for consumption, that is) addictive, in the same way that heroin or nicotine are addictive and with a similar result:

The products sold are disposable and contribute nothing to the growth of intellect or imagination, they are quickly purchased, quickly thrown away and by the time they've made a dull thud at the bottom of the waste-basket the next generation is ready for public consumption and that many more dollars change hands in an arrangement which has become almost entirely one-sided.

The social reasons for this I cannot begin to fathom, although they would undoubtedly make for a fascinating sociological research paper, but the economic reasons are obvious; they are a natural result of the capitalist drive to produce more for less while all the while charging ever more (I respect the value of the market to our society, and the fact that consumers are willing to purchase the refried crap being sold to them does seem to indicate that it isn't entirely without merit, but there is certainly something to be said for the art of less commercial times).

That being said, there is hope in the form of the less popular, less well known bands, artists and writers who - by virtue of being "undiscovered," must work many times as hard to attain even one tenth of the popularity and acclaim of their corporation-backed colleagues. It is in these people that the truth of our society and politics and families can be found; they offer us our real, true culture and it is because of them that people of intellect can, after a fashion, remain sane.

One thing Seth referred to in the link above that strikes me as almost anthropic is that the music and literature we have from decades and centuries ago is almost all of a quality that modern artists cannot hope to match in their lifetimes; it could well be that a sort of historical natural selection has already killed and weeded out all the unpleasant swill from ages past that people of that generation saw with the same uncompromising, critical eye that Seth himself uses to view the products of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.