3 Things – January 27th, 2012

In keeping up with this weekly column here are three things I’m pondering this week.

    1) Colour additives to spirits.

Believe it or not many of your favourite spirits out there use special colour additives to look the way they do. Even most of the finest single malt whisky’s use colour. Blended whiskey, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey….. The list goes on. American Whiskey (so bourbon) in fact is one of the only real notable exceptions where the production process and regulations specifically exclude the use of colour. To be more specific distillers use a form of caramel coloring to modify the appearance of the spirit to ensure consistently across the product line and to ensure what you are buying looks exactly as you expect it to. Don’t worry though it adds nothing to the flavour of the drink. Once I learned this I was bothered. It seems misleading or borderline unethical. I mean at $140 a bottle do you really need to modify the colour? The spirits are distilled to taste a certain way and should that not be how you evaluate them? The colouring has serious marketing and business benefits and in that way I totally get it. Plus to the untrained palate the colour helps you determine your preferences and guide your buying decisions. It helps determine the difference between an Islay and Speyside scotch, or a amber and dark rum. I’m sorry to be the one to break this news to you if this is coming as a shock, however my recommendation would remain that you don’t let it guide your buying decisions. Also don’t stop bragging or analyzing the beautiful colour of a spirit at your next dinner party, they do look wonderful, plus most people won’t know this anyways.

2) Craft Beer

In case you haven’t noticed Toronto is really becoming quite a hub for craft beer. The market is certainly here as consumers get more and more educated on beer options and as the popularity of beer and food pairings continues to grow. Beer bars are popping up seemingly every week and many of them are excellent. The prices still reflect the market unfortunately but we have to make due. We are now producing quite a few quality beers here at home. Flying Monkeys, Muskoka Cottage Brewing, and Beau’s are all now readily available at the Beer Store so you don’t even have to find one of the craft beer hotspots to get them. So if you continuously drink Bud, Coors, or even Pabst Blue Ribbon you should give some of the micro breweries a shot, you might be surprised. Or the next time your in a beer bar order something you’ve never heard of that is higher in alcohol and comes in a 600ml bottle. The world of beer is huge and just like wine there are many great surprises to be found within it.

3) Product availability at the LCBO and Beer Store

I get asked a lot on twitter about product availability at both the LCBO and the Beer Store. But this is one area where I certainly have to give both companies a lot of credit. If you check out either of their websites you can not only search for product by keyword, or a variety of other terms, but you can even check availability of the product at your local store. Buyer beware however, at the LCBO at least, because any product availability of less than 5 units probably means they actually don’t have it… So call the store before you go.

– Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman



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