The Black Dice Cafe
1574 Dundas Street West
*The sign currently reads “Vida Cafe,” but that will be changing soon enough.
My friend Hideki is opening a bar this weekend in the Dundas and Lansdowne area, which is slowly becoming a hipster hotspot, as the nearby strip of Ossington at Dundas has become saturated with ironic mustachioed men and star-tattooed women, as well as the yuppie (yuppster?) Queen West crowd. The Dundas and Lansdowne area is also home to another new hipster locale, the Hen House. The Black Dice Cafe is going to be a 1950s biker inspired rebel-without-a-cause type bar. I haven’t seen it yet, but I know that one of the many things to look forward to is Hideki’s vintage jukebox, which will be spinning a collection of classic 7” singles. The Black Dice Cafe opens for business Saturday, September 12 at 6pm.
Now, The Black Dice isn’t going to be a beer bar, but, as a beer guy, I offered Hideki my assistance in helping him select a suitable beer list for his spot. I was able to give my advice about the beer bottle and can selection, as Hideki had already made his draught list, which is pretty good. The Black Dice Cafe will feature four taps, on which Hideki will pour: Wellington Special Pale Ale, Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale, the Great Lakes seasonal selection (he will start with a few weeks of Orange Peel Ale, and will then have the very tasty and highly sought after Pumpkin Ale), as well as Sapporo.
When I made my bottle and can list, I had no idea of what capacity Hideki had at the Black Dice Cafe, or what his budget was. So, I made a relatively modest list that could very easily be built larger or smaller. I wanted beers that would follow the theme of the bar and cater toward the hip, locavore clientele that I imagine the bar will attract. My list was in two parts: season-round stock and beer for fall. I’ll have to wait until Saturday to see what made the cut. I hope to see you there, too!
Bottle and can recommendations for season-round stock
Mill St. Tankhouse Ale
This is about as good a North American style red ale as you are going to get. It is deep copper with a complex malt body and plenty of hops in both the nose and the finish. Delicious. Besides, the old-style bottle with its applied ceramic label is classy looking and has a very nice mouth feel.
Hockley Valley Stout
This beer is to replace Guinness, which Hideki is not going to carry on tap, but he had considered having in cans. The Hockley Valley Stout holds just as much volume as a Guinness can, and is a great stout with a malt complexity that finishes with hints of coffee and chocolate. The mouth feel of the Hockely Stout wont be as smooth as Guinness, which uses nitrogen to produce its fine bubbles, but I’m okay with that.
This is an amazing American beer produced by an amazing American brewery. Brooklyn Lager is probably my favourite lager in the world (Neustadt Lager is a close second). This beer is light to medium bodied and has a subtle fruit notes and a nice hop finish. Brooklyn lager is a real winner and beer drinkers will appreciate its addition to the list. As well, the logo is reminiscent of the old Brooklyn Dodgers script, which is definitely Americana at its finest.
Cameron’s Cream Ale
A style originated on this side of the ocean; a true original, just like James Dean, Steve McQueen and JFK, although, this beer has had a better fate. Cream Ale gets its distinct smooth characteristics on account of its production: traditionally warm fermented ale yeast is fermented in cold storage, the way lager yeasts are fermented. In the case of Cameron’s Cream Ale, the results is a medium bodied brew with a golden reddish colour, a light malt profile with a mildly hopped finish, a classic brew that even the rebel bike gangs of the 1950s would call one of their own.
Molson Stock Ale
This beer is for the hipster crowd — an affordably priced beer that has some ironic cache to it — a beer rejected by the mainstream but one that still maintains a nostalgic and kitschy quality. In Toronto, the beer of choice for the hipster community is, for the most part, Labatt 50 (there are others, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Shlitz come to mind). But Molson Stock Ale is another hipster favourite, which, despite its amazingly retro logo (I believe is the same logo it has had since its heyday in the 60s and 70s) seems to be lagging behind in public house visibility. I like Molson Stock purely for its aesthetic. As far as taste and quality goes, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but it is a macro North American blonde ale done well: medium to high carbonation, adjunct notes (corn), a light to medium body and with a middle-sweet malt taste, little hop finish and clean aftertaste — it will do the trick, and more often than not, the price is right.
Bottle and can recommendations for fall beer
This beer was easy to recommend, and not because it is far and away one of my favourite brews, but because the upside-down motor oil jug used for its tap head would fit perfectly into the 1950s vibe that Hideki is creating. It is my hope that this beer will become a season-round draught item. With a name like 10W30, Neustadt has set this brew up as one bad motherfucker. Its complexion is deep, dark brown, so dark that in the light of most pubs it seems black. But behind the name and darkness is a lovely, sweet malty brew with little hopping, lingering coffee and chocolate notes, and a surprisingly thin body.
Black Oak Nut Brown Ale
This beer makes me think of fall in Canada. It is dark and robust with a great roasted nut flavour. I don’t see it offered at many pubs, and that’s a shame, because this beer is a Canadian classic.
Mill St. Coffee Porter
The verdict is out with some people on coffee beer, but for me, this coffee porter is a great extension of the malt complexities typically found in the rich porter beverages. Mill Street’s offering is a dark, mildly effervescent brew with an off white head (on account of the coffee, and perhaps the roasted malt?) with a great coffee kick that contains some nice chocolate notes, as well as a moderate bitterness that is quite enjoyable. Like standard wine porters, this is a great after dinner beer.
Neustadt Scottish Pale Ale
A great fall offering. This beer is amber, like Scotch ale, but effervescent and hopped like pale ale. The combination is a medium bodied, affair with a great malt presence, a little smoke and a dry hopped finish.
Church Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale
A personal favourite, Holy Smoke Scotch Ale is produced by one of Ontario’s best and most unique craft-breweries, Church Key Brewing of Pethrick’s Corners, just outside Campbellford; the brewery, runs out of a late 19th‑century Methodist church! Holy Smoke is a major-league Scotch ale. Deep, dark brown—almost black—this ale subverts the norm for Scotch-ale alcohol content (which is usually low) with an ABV of 6.25 percent. The brew is medium-bodied with a healthy malt flavour and little hop taste. The aroma is that of barbecue, bacon and smoked peat. I’ve actually heard it described as liquid barbecue! The smoky flavour and aroma are the result of imported Scottish smoked whiskey malt. It is a unique adventure, that’s for sure!