Monday, April 11, 2011

Battle Royale No 6: You Musn't Call a Ginger "Ginger" Unless You're Ginger

Last night found me attending a rather ill-advised bocconcini-off.
What is a bocconcini-off, you ask (and well you may)? Well, apart from the obvious answer -a blind taste-test to determine which brand of bocconcini is best- a bocconcini-off is mostly a Really Bad Idea. I consumed so much squishy white cheese that, despite the fact that I am normally 100% lactose tolerant, my lower intestine rapidly turned into a some sort of noisy, anti-cheese Nuremburg Rally. I think my duodenum grew a little toothbrush moustache.

But then it occurred to me (in-between bouts of explosive flatus not dissimilar to the cannonfire of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture) that I had it coming for assaying cheese and not doing my real job: I've been very lax in the beer-judging department. In between fiddling about with ridiculous sandwiches and forging letters from the Craft Brewers of BC to fool hair-band enthusiasts, I've not bothered to put a Battle Royale together for a month. For shame.

As such, various other blogs (I'm looking at you, Dave) have surged in to take advantage with three-way battles, sneers at Alexander Keith, and crappy MS-Paint illustrations. Hey! You ain't heard? I'm the damn Mayor McCheese of crappy MS-Paint-town, so all you Fry-guys can take a seat.

It's about to get all ginger up in this bitch.

Actually, I mean that quite literally: this time, ginger-laced beers go head to head.

Now, "ginger" is a word that might have many negative connotations for some. After all, and thanks to Trey Parker and Matt Stone for pointing this out, we have no souls. Also, we tend to catch fire in direct sunlight, so some might think being ginger is a bit like being a vampire.

It's not. Vampires are pansies.

Vampires own fey little Volvo hatchbacks and wear eyeliner and drive around chasing after bony, hatchet-faced little emo-girls who are actually lusting after shirtless, back-waxing werewolves anyway. Ginger people do things like slide face-first down a bobsleigh track on about 2/3rds of a toboggan, win a gold medal and then drink an entire pitcher of beer. Also, we tend to be vikings. Put that in your cape and smoke it.

So ginger beer has a lot to live up to. It can't be some lame, pink-colored, semi-gingery light beer like the kind that would be made with the shavings accompanying mediocre sushi. No, it should be fiery and intense and have little pigtails like Pippi Longstocking.

Okay, not that last part, but it better be more Reed's than Canada Dry, and it should bring the heat in a way that would make Gimli sputter and drop his axe on his foot.
Phillips Ginger Ale vs. Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Beer

Round 1: Fight!
At first pour, foreshadowing indicates that this won't be a contest of equals. The Phillips offering might be one shade darker than their Phoenix Lager, but it pales next to the murky, reddish turbidity of the Hitachino Nest. Based purely on colour, the Japanese Real Ginger Ale should have more root.

...But it doesn't. Not even close. As expected, there's a fuller malt character in the Hitachino Nest but as for ginger, well, it's scarcer than thrilling speeches in a Canadian Election. The Phillips, on the other hand, has more ginger than a Canadian Election has long boring speeches. I think that metaphor worked out rather nicely.

It might not be everyone's brew-addling agent of choice, but the ginger in the Phillips brings a nice added heat to the finish, and of course colours the nose immensely. The Hitachino Nest is extremely reserved by comparison.

Round 2: Fight!
The food pairing for ginger beer is pretty damn obvious: sushi. Where to get good sushi on Vancouver Island is another issue. If you're in Vancouver, reach down and pick up a rock. Good, now close your eyes, spin around three times and throw it as hard as you can. Hear that outraged scream? That's a world-class sushi chef you just provided with a broken nose.

In Victoria, it's not quite so easy. You can actually get pretty reasonable sushi at Thrifty's, but a lot of the other take out places are a bit more expensive. Our favourite is Fujiya, a full-on authentic Japanese food-store.

You'd think Japanese snack food would swing the pendulum towards Hitachino Nest's offering, but the spicy tuna roll and Phillip's Ginger Beer waltz together like Godzilla vs. Mothra: the sex-tape. Wait, that's gross.

What I mean to say is that the Phillips actually seems better suited for pairing with the sushi, given the fact that it actually smells and tastes of ginger. No need for round 3.


Phillips takes the win for the home-town team!

Post-Battle Review:

Like Tim Minchin says, "You mustn't call a ginger 'ginger' unless you're ginger." In that case, is the Hitachino nest really qualified to go flinging the epithet around? Barely. It certainly carries a fuller, maltier body, but if you're on the hunt for something with a little more punch, try Phillip's version instead.

Phillips Ginger Beer
Recommended if:
-you're already a Phillips fan
-you're looking for a nice pairing with some nigiri sushi
-you're Gilligan

Not Recommended if:
-you're a pasty little vampire with a silly haircut
-you can't handle a beer with a little heat
-you're Eric Cartman

Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Ale
Recommended if:
-you're an out-and-out Japanophile
-you're looking for a bit less bite and a bit more malt
-you're an owl

Not recommended if:
-you're looking for the gingeriest of the ginger beers
-you need a bigger bottle
-your head is the same shape as the guy on the label. Because then you should go see a doctor. Like right now.


  1. Love the head-to-head ginger battle. Definitely noticed the heat in the Phillips!

    I also checked out these two gingerrrrrific beers (good call on the sushi pairing with the Phillips):

  2. In case anyone is wondering: Bari (all sizes) won the bocconcini-off, Salerno "medium" was pretty darn good too; avoid anything Tre Stelle & Scardillo. Bel Gioioso had a random win with its giant bocconcini log as well. YUM!