Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Good Pub - What I Look For

Ever since I was a small kid I have always had a fascination with beer. Not drinking it, but collecting bottles from all over. I spent my public and high school summers working on the back of a garbage truck where I had the opportunity to browse through recycling bins (can you picture it) searching for exotic bottles. Being close to cottage country had its benefits as cottagers brought imports that I wouldn't have seen otherwise as the small village I grew up in is predominately Molson drinkers.

Looking back, I believe that this was the start of my quest to seek out the abnormal beers. Collecting the different bottles made me realize that there is more available other than the brand the bikini clad hot girl was holding in commercials.

So, over the years I would search out places that serve craft beers or imported beers that aren't necessarily easily accessible, which lead me to pubs. And here I am today, writing about them. Since I started this blog, many people have emailed me asking, what is it that I look for when I go to pubs? Why do I only write about some and not all the ones I attend? I guess its time I'll pick five things I look for and share them with you.

Independent Owners
1. Have you ever been to a Fox and Fiddle in Toronto and listened to bad music, drank bland beers and ate deep fried food? And then travel to Kingston to another Fox and Fiddle and thought you were back at the TO location? Independent, inspired, and dedicated pub owners offer so much more than franchise pubs do. Beer menu's rotate occasionally as does the food menu because independent owners are free to do as they please. They are passionate about their pub and they put their heart and soul into running it. Just as an artist paints a picture of something they love, pub owners create a place that reflects their ideal "third place" besides home and work.

The Local
2. I look for a town's local. And by local, I mean a place that may have been there for years, serving the community. The location of a local is important. Locals become popular due to their proximity to homes, offices, bus routes etc, and people tend to gather to discuss social/political issues or to relax with a beer after a hard days work. The Henry House in Halifax fits the bill perfectly. It is always packed with people but the parking lot remains empty. The history of the a town's local is also fascinating as it is sometimes situated in a old building that was once a prominent figure in the town.

Memorabilia - Building
3. Sometimes when you walk into a pub in a small village you get a history lesson while enjoying the cozy surroundings. The Spitfire Arms in Windsor, NS has a large collection of WWII plane artifacts, and has many stories on the walls about the village. As a tourist, or just out for a drive, you learn a little about each town you visit which makes your pub visit all the better. Some also occupy historic landmarks like old jails, old banks and coverted hardware stores and the owners pay homage to what was once there by decorating the pub with collectibles and memorabilia that relate to the building. I prefer to drink in a place like this than one with all stainless steel with no "character".

Good Beer
4. Good beer selection!! A pub has to have a good beer selection to set them apart from the big chains. I am not against macro brewed beers by any means, I just like a full flavoured beer with different tastes in different styles. Nothing peeves me more than walking into a place and seeing Molson, Blue, Coors, Bud, Corona as the only selection on tap. Their all similar in taste (well, aren't they). There is adventure in trying something new, something you have never tried before and some pub owners have found that niche. C'est What in Toronto (who I will profile soon) serves only Ontario Craft beer and feature some cask conditioned ales because George Milbrandt, the owner, wanted to feature something different and unique to the Ontario market.

Character - Ambiance
5. Once I leave a pub and start the drive back home or the walk, I want to be able to say to someone, "what a nice spot, the place had so much character". Some people think of a pub's character as the design, the layout. I agree, but I feel that character comes from everything that I have already mentioned bonded together. Owners make it comfortable, quality beer make it searchable, being local makes it popular and the structure makes it memorable. This creates character and delivers the right ambiance for customers. And good music, NO Avril!! That's what I look for in a pub; what do you look for??



Anonymous said...

Hey Troy, I am enjoying your writings, and thanks for not bashig the macro brewer too much.

I am heading to New York in two weeks. Do you, or any of your fellow bloggers, have a favourite "spot"? I am going to be in Manhattan, from the Upper West Side down to Lower Manhattan and will also spend a couple of days in Brooklyn. Other than going to the Packers/Giants game on Sunday afternoon, my time is all my own and I plan on working up a thirst as I walk around the Big Apple.

Too bad about M. Jackson. I will tip an ale for him tonight.

Chris Mosher

Troy Burtch said...

Heartland Brew Pub

Here is a link for google maps showing a whole bunch to choose from.,+New+York,+United+States+of+America&fb=1&view=text&sa=X&oi=local_group&resnum=1&ct=more-results&cd=1

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