This is William Shatner

with Bushwakker’s Tartan Tzar Russian Imperial Stout. I’ve still got a bottle sitting on my shelf – it was aged with Macallan-soaked wood chips. Way ahead of its’ time for Canadian beer, and it got the gold for the Imperial Stout category in the Canadian Brewing Awards as a result. If you get your hands on it, expect lingering complexity behind strong molasses flavour and a really dry mouthfeel.

Which reminds me of another famous Bushwakker drink: they’re releasing their holiday-fave Blackberry Mead on December 3rd. Doesn’t look like their brewery expansion is complete, because they’ve only grown this year’s batch by two tanks, so get there early! Last year they sold out of 4000 bottles in a couple hours. This year’s mead bumps the ABV up by 3% to 11.5%, so who knows what to expect flavour-wise; past years have varied from sickly-sweet to pretty well balanced. Still no explanation why people would line up for the stuff, though – maybe it has to do with festive cheer? It is true that I can think of no better place than Bushwakker’s for a holiday get-together. Seriously, you can’t beat their nachoes.

Andrew’s top 5 reasons for going to Bushwakker’s Brewpub in Regina, Saskatchewan:

  1. Kai’s Munich Helles Bock. Probably the best summer beer in the universe, it’s a pale lager with enough complexity (and some beautiful cereal/wheat crispness) to reward the person who drinks several pints of it.
  2. The fries. Oh god the fries. So good. Ask for malt vinegar.
  3. The music. I played countless St. Pattie’s Day gigs here with a celtic rock band, but the best live jazz in Regina can also be found on the Bushwakker stage.
  4. The nachoes. Fine, I put two food items on here, but allow me to justify my views: these are the way-too-loaded, heaping-mountain-of-cheese-and-bountiful-toppings nachoes that only exist in fairy tales. They’re also unjustly cheap. Some chip vendor is being severely ripped off, I venture.
  5. The beers. They can be sometimes hit-or-miss, but that comes with the territory: they brew a ridiculous number of different styles year-round. They’re mostly an English-style brewery, but for the hop-crazy, just show up on the first Friday of the month for First Firkin Friday, when an especially hop-filled keg will have a tap hammered into it by a lucky customer.

Cape Breton, day 2: Hiking through the Highlands National Park

I visited Cape Breton on a blogging trip from October 11th to 13th for Extreme Group and Destination Cape Breton. They gave me a couple ideas of what to see and full editorial control – so what you’ll read here is no-holds-barred travel blogging fun.

I got up after a long night of music and scenic drives to a bright new day at the Bras d’Or Lakes Inn. The Inn is known for its great food, and a breakfast buffet ($10 when you book the room) gave me a final chance to enjoy the warm dining room and the great view.

Today, I decided it was time to do some hiking. I would go up the west side of the Cabot Trail to the beginning of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where a three-hour guided hike was launching from the interpretive centre just north of Cheticamp. The trails are about 9 km long, they go up 265m of mountain, and wind through three distinct forest types. The cost? Free. Check out the video below for trees, streams, and friendly Texans:

Q: What is another way of saying that the hike had tired me out?
A: I was ready for lunch, so I went to the Red Shoe Pub. It’s owned by a couple Rankin sisters, so you can bet on hearing some of the family’s famous Cape Breton musical talent if you make the trip. I showed up in mid-afternoon with a fantastic appetite, which sort of off-set the lack of music. The place was still packed, and the beer tap list featured Garrison and Propeller standards and seasonals. I had the Garrison Oktoberfest Brau, thinking that it would pair nicely with my absolutely amazing fish and chips. It turns out I was wrong: the crisp fish batter’s seasoning was a fresh citrus and pepper combo that made the heavy mouthfeel of the Brau completely out of place. Pro tip for next time: the Garrison Hopyard pale ale would do this haddock justice – and with food like this, there will definitely be a next time.

I had a couple hours before I would meet the rest of the Extreme Group’s contingent for supper and a tour of the Glen Breton distillery, but thanks to incredibly bad cell phone reception, the minor task of updating my social networks and booking a hotel for the night became a major side project. The problem: my Fido/Rogers phone would not work northwest of the 105.  I found an unprotected wi-fi network, thinking I could do some planning and calling from Skype, but the signal was too weak. I resolved to drive back towards where I last had reception to fire off a tweet or two, and by the time I was finished, it was time to learn about whiskey. That, though, is for another post – check back tomorrow!