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Scotland's Innis & Gunn makes great beer

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I love people who share.

And while a lot of folks share on a regular basis, and do so quite willingly, there are others who are horrified by the idea.

Let me explain. And to do so, I’ll tell a story.

I was with a bunch of colleagues from the Broadcast Educators Association of Canada (BEAC) — I was on the board of directors — in Toronto about three years ago, and three of us had gotten in earlier in the evening than the rest of the board members. So we went to a fabulous Italian place for dinner, the name of which I wish I could remember. But I can’t.

Anyway, the BEAC president at that time, Laurel-Ann Hardie (and isn’t that the BEST name you’ve ever heard? It’s her married name, too — she married Jim Hardie. You just can’t write that stuff and have anybody believe it) and I were trading tastes of our meals with each other and really enjoying being able to sample more than one of the delicious offerings the restaurant had created.

I asked our other colleague, who shall remain nameless — he’s now retired and living in another country, if he wanted a taste of my meal. His eyes went wide. He shook his head slightly as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. It was obvious he was shocked. Then he politely but firmly said, "No thanks."

So I learned a very valuable lesson that night, which is simply that while I, and most of the folks I regularly break bread with, are into sharing, not everybody is.

Fast forward to April 8, 2013. I’m with colleagues again, this time in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention. One of my work partners, documentary filmmaker extraordinaire Graham Street, and I joined a group of his former co-workers from Calgary-based Pyramid Productions at Gordon Ramsay’s newly opened Pub & Grill in Caesar’s Palace for a late-night dinner.

I, of course, ordered Pinot Noir to go with my Scottish salmon, which was, incidentally, delectable. But Graham, a dark beer fan, ordered the Innis & Gunn Limited Edition Stout, which is matured in Irish whiskey barrels for 60 days and is reputed to be Ramsay’s favourite. When it arrived, he had a sip, proclaimed it ‘fabulous!’ and then, gentleman that he is, promptly asked me if I’d like a taste.

This time, it was me who was shocked. And delighted!

I said, naturally, "Sure I would!"

So he passed me his glass, I had a sip, and LOVED it!

I actually had one more swig before I handed it back. This was REALLY good beer. It was reminiscent of the wonderful Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter I’d had in Victoria a few times, but without the chocolate finish. The Innis & Gunn Stout was rich, dark, and served chilled, unlike Guinness, for which I’ve never been able to develop a taste.

Anyway, it was that tasting episode in Vegas that prompted this column. While I focus almost all my attention on wine, occasionally, with my editor’s blessing, I branch off into spirits, beer and liqueurs, and this is one of those times.

Incidentally, I liked the Innis & Gunn Stout SO much that I went looking for it here at home. And with the assistance of Kathy DeRoo, product consultant at the Corral Centre Liquor Mart, I was reminded that, several years ago, I’d tried the Innis & Gunn Original, which is aged in oak barrels for 77 days, and thought it was the best beer I’d ever had.

I still really, really like it, but I’ve taken a bent lately for darker beers. And I’m looking forward to picking up some of the Innis & Gunn Stout at Manitoba Liquor Marts, since according to the website, it’s available here for $3.85 for 330 ml bottle. But it’s a seasonal product, and is considered a "winter beer," so we won’t see any more of it around these parts until the fall.

However, there are some other Innis & Gunn products which might be even better suited to some people’s tastes. In addition to the Original, there’s the Rum Cask Finish, which is aged for 57 days in recycled casks previously used for storing and aging rum — this sells for $3.60 a bottle. The I & G Spiced Rum Finish is also a limited edition product, and it’s aged for 47 days in oak barrels with oak chips from Caribbean spiced rum barrels. But the Spiced Rum Finish is a little pricier — $5.01 a bottle.

According to Innis and Gunn's website, the whole process of whiskey — or rum-tinged beer was discovered in a reverse accident. The original intent was to create a scotch whiskey with ale flavours. To do this, a special beer was created that would be stored in the whiskey barrels. After the beer had conditioned the barrels, the plan was to discard it and replace it with the whiskey. The brewers noted that the process had an agreeable effect on the beer, and thus aging the beer became an end in and of itself.

Anyway, if you’re into something impressive, check out Scotland’s Innis & Gunn line. And soon, I’ll have more for you on Canadian beers that are available for your summer sipping pleasure.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 25, 2013

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I love people who share.

And while a lot of folks share on a regular basis, and do so quite willingly, there are others who are horrified by the idea.

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I love people who share.

And while a lot of folks share on a regular basis, and do so quite willingly, there are others who are horrified by the idea.

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