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.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Discovery Pack Heading Back to LCBO

Back in October, the Ontario Craft Brewers released a Discovery pack that featured six different OCB beers. Wellington Special Pale Ale, Mill Street Organic Lager, Great Lakes Red Leaf Smooth Lager, J.R. Brickman Pilsner, Walkerville Amber Lager, and Lakes of Muskoka Cream Ale.

The Discovery Pack received a fair bit of flack from the beer geeks as four of the beers were lagers and two were lighter ales, beers that aren't considered fall/early winter brews. But the OCB did a great job marketing it, brewers did a good job selling it and the LCBO staff were happy to push it. It made for a good conversation starter at dinner parties, helped bring awareness to the OCB members (the pack included tasting notes and a OCB pamphlet) and its always good to have a variety sitting around the house for surprise visits.

Surprised at how well the Discovery Packs sold in the LCBO's, the OCB was asked to release them again. I had heard that it wouldn't be until the fall when a new Discovery Pack (this time with more diverse autumn beers)would be released, but news coming from the OCB themselves claim the same Discovery Pack is on its way back to the LCBO as we speak.

Next time your out buying beer for a get together or you are interested in trying some OCB beer, pick up the Discovery Pack and read all about the benefits of good craft beer while enjoying some good lagers.

Four New U.S. Additions to LCBO General List

Some readers may already know this but just keeping you posted. The following U.S. craft beers will be available at select LCBO stores in May:

Sam Adams Summer Ale $12.65 per six-pack of 355 ml bottles
Anchor Steam $10.35 per six-pack of 355 ml bottles
Rogue Dead Guy Ale $13.95 per six-pack of 355 ml bottles
Southern Tier IPA $12.00 per six-pack of 355 ml bottles

All these products will be joining the LCBO's general list, which means they will be available year round (with the exception of Sam Adams Summer Ale). I'm not sure if it's a typo or not, but a 6 pack of Anchor Steam for $10.35 is a great deal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Beer Barons To Launch Weihenstephan

Beer Barons Launches An Award Winning Premium Wheat Beer In Canada From The World’s Oldest Brewer, Weihenstephan!

Although the beer is not Canadian, and the Bier Markt is not a pub, I am posting this because I am a huge fan of Weihenstephan and Weissbier's in general. Denison's Weiss, need I say more. Many German wheats have modeled themselves after this iconic brewery and I know I am thankful for that.
Here is the press release:

Enjoy the German “Durst auf Leben!” - Thirst for Life! Beer Barons is launching an award winning premium high quality wheat beer, “Hefeweissbier” in Canada, from the world’s oldest brewer, Weihenstephan (pronounced Y – en – Steffan) – with a special kick-off in Toronto on Thursday May 8, 2008 at 6:30pm at the Bier Markt!

Beer Barons is hosting an exclusive invitation-only launch party to introduce beer aficionados to the delicate flavour of this internationally renowned beer. Guests get to enjoy six distinctive styles of Weihenstephan beers, expertly matched with menu offerings from the Bier Markt.

“Hefeweissbier” is a smooth traditional German wheat beer that has a savoury aroma of light citrus, cloves and yeast that are balanced nicely with the lightness provided by the wheat. It has a full-bodied taste with fruity banana overtones, spicy clove and citrus flavours. The “Hefeweissbier” contains an interesting diversity of taste, with a rich yeast essence. This beer is best paired with meals that are light in flavour – perfect with any salad, meat, poultry, fish or shellfish dish. Be one of the first in Canada to taste the pleasant mosaic flavours of "Hefeweissbier."

“Hefeweissbier” is brewed by Weihenstephan, a world-renowned brewery in Germany that began nearly a thousand years ago as a monastery brewery of the Benedictine monks and is recognized worldwide – with a stamp of approval from Canada’s Brewmaster, Bill White, spokesperson for Beer Barons.

“The brewery enjoys close links with the famous brewing school, University of Weihenstephan, which shares its name. Look for Weihenstephan's award winning weiss beers coming soon to a store near you in Ontario," exclaims Bill White. “Join us in the experience!”

Weihenstephan is a state-owned enterprise in Freising, Bavaria, Germany, producing 12 premium quality beers with worldwide distribution to over 30 countries. It serves as the “university for brewmasters” at the Faculty of Brewing at Munich’s Technical University.

“Hefeweissbier” is here! It will be available at participating LCBO retail outlets on May 31, 2008.

InBev Needs More Money - Hikes Prices

Not settled with global domination, brewing giant InBev is set to announce an increase in price for their big named products like Stella and Becks, as was reported today by the Associated Press.

The increase is needed to offset the soaring costs for raw ingredients and will affect the consumer in the end.

So, when the price increase comes into effect and you have the choice between a six pack of Becks or a six pack of Ontario brewed Great Lakes Horseshoe Lager for $11.50, the choice is simple, and hey, your probably going to enjoy it a lot more.

Click here for full article as it appeared in the Toronto Star.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Southern Tier Beer Dinner Wrap-Up

Southern Tier IPA is one of those everyday beers that Ontario beer lovers have come to adore, through private orders and various beer destinations throughout the GTA. Months, even years of yearning for the delicious brew will finally reward their patience as the LCBO has announced that the hop forward IPA will grace the shelves as a general listing.

Friday night, good beer drinkers, writers, bloggers, LCBO personnel and an Ontario beer sales rep, gathered at an historic Toronto landmark aptly named the Academy of Spherical Arts, to celebrate Southern Tier’s entrance into the Ontario market on a large scale.

Vlado Pavicic and his energetic wife Liliana, owners and operators of the Roland and Russell Import Agency, hosted the memorable evening with fine foods, very fresh beer and a fantastic atmosphere. Ticket sales were very good and at $75 a pop, people got the most bang for their buck.

The doors opened at 6pm and a tour of the historic building was in order. The structure, located at 1 Snooker Street (formerly 1 Hanna Avenue) dates back to 1905 and was home to the Brunswick Billiard Factory, a company dedicated to the construction of elaborate pool tables, 14 of which sit in the restaurant for regular use today. Opened in 1991, the Spherical Arts features high ceilings that have been left in their natural state as exposed wooden rafters extend from side to side, end to end. Local art graces each wall and antique furniture is situated throughout the fully carpeted establishment.

Richard Williams, owner of the Spherical Arts, described how the name was created with an interesting story from his youth. Williams admittedly confessed to skipping many classes in high school, which led his teacher to proclaim he would fail the course only to succeed in the spherical arts. Great story and a fantastic name for such a venue.

Back to the dinner.

Liliana stepped to the mic after forty minutes of meet and greets and got the dinner underway. She made some introductions, thanked bloggers and the LCBO staff for their hard work in promoting Southern Tier and thanked Alan McLeod (A Good Beer Blog) for sending the introductory email that got the ball rolling. McLeod had sampled some Southern Tier products years ago and was so impressed he notified Roland and Russell to have them check it out (thanks Alan!).

After introductions and welcoming speeches by co-hosts Cass Enright (Bar Towel) and Greg Clow (Beer,Beats,Bites & TasteTO), the first pairing was delivered to our table.

Now, like I have mentioned before I am no foodie nor pretend to be, so I’ll stick to the beer, which happened to be Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale with the butternut squash, pear and cheddar soup. The Extraordinary Ale was, well, Extraordinary. It has a nice hop aroma and taste, balanced malt profile and went great with the soup.

Round two was my favourite pairing of the night. Baked black cod with sweet potato, rapini and a walnut butter sauce was paired with Southern Tier’s 6.0% porter. Again, there was a nice hop presence, which blended nicely with the chocolate and coffee notes and the burnt malt. It matched perfectly.

Pairing three was interesting. Southern Tier’s IPA was meant to cut through the heat of the Spicy chicken panang with scented rice, crisp garlic and onions, and it did, but the chicken was so damn hot it forced me to drink two bottles of the IPA (in fairness, my fiancé has celiac disease so she shouldn’t have been drinking it in the first place).

Dessert was beautiful. Chocolate mousse and raspberries, paired with Southern Tier’s Raspberry Ale, brought out the intense raspberry flavouring of the beer. The kitchen staff did a fantastic job pairing all the food with the beers, making my night.

In between servings, Enright, Clow, Southern Tier owner Phin Demink and brewer Paul Cain, all took turns speaking, with each providing stories about the beer and the brewery and also holding a question period for everyone in attendance.

After all the food was consumed, it was back up to the bar to share some stories with other beer writers like Josh Rubin from the Toronto Star, who has got to know the Southern Tier guys quite well and plans to have a story for the Star soon; Alan McLeod (whom I had never actually met face to face with before), shared some insight into the beer blogging world and provided some interesting stories. Others included Enright, Clow, and though not a beer writer, but a beer seller, Jon Graham from Cameron’s, who I always enjoy having a pint with.

It is events like this that help remind me why I love beer so much. It was a diverse crowd who all share a passion for the products, showing no signs of pretentiousness, having a great time sharing stories, becoming friends, celebrating a proud moment together. Beer brings all sorts of people together like no other beverage can.

Congratulations Roland and Russell and Southern Tier.

***The LCBO plans to have the IPA on the shelves mid May.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Beer Dinner at Safari Bar and Grill: Guest Writer Duncan Rowland

The following post was written by guest writer Duncan Rowland who has previously written a profile on this blog about the The Olde Angel Inn in Niagara on the Lake. Enjoy!

On Thursday April 10 I attended a beer & food pairing dinner at the Safari Bar & Grill (1749 Avenue Road). The official title was “European Beer Dinner”; however all of the beers save one were from Belgium. No big deal really; they had to call it something.

The food was provided by the local butcher Ken McDonald, proprietor of The Friendly Butcher at 3269 Yonge St., and the beer was courtesy of two brokers, McClelland Premium Imports and Wine Guy Imports. With the event hosted by Roger Mittag, of the website, I had no doubt that it would be a pleasant evening; the fact that the event was a 10 minute walk from my house made attendance pretty much mandatory.

The event was attended by 16 locals, including the Friendly Butcher himself. Steve the owner of the Safari did the introductions.

The first beer was a Deus Brut des Flandres, a Belgian that, per the pamphlet provided, “undergoes a lengthy, costly maturation in the Champagne region of France.” In greater detail, the beer is fermented in Belgium, then subject to the bottle turning and yeast removal process that makes champagne unique. The beer was served in a tulip glass and to be honest, looked and smelled a bit like ginger ale. But, I stress to add that it really did have a unique taste and was quite pleasant and fulfilling. At 11.5%, it was easily the strongest beer I’ve had, and one glass was fine for me, but I had two all the same.

The appetizer course was seared yellow fin tuna, which was excellent and went very well with accompanying beer, the Austrian Stiegl Lager. Although the Stiegl was the simplest beer on offer, it was the most satisfying, with a very full body. I would recommend trying this if you see it on tap or at the LCBO. I can picture it matching well with barbecued lamb or other red meats.

The main course was a roasted pork chop the size of a baseball glove, served with squash, sautéed onions, asparagus and pears. The pears seemed like a novelty, but they went really well with the meat. The paired beer was the Affligem Abbey Beer. It’s not a popular sentiment, but I really don’t seek out many Belgian beers, and this was no exception. As with many of the Belgians I’ve sampled, there’s too much of a taste of spice to enable it to be a really pleasant drink.

The last food course was a chocolate torte with strawberry ganache, paired with, not surprisingly, a fruity wheat beer, in this case the Friuli Strawberry Wheat. This pairing worked very well, and I was only too willing to take over my neighbour’s serving when she declined to drink hers.

By this point, the party was in full swing and in a very un-Toronto fashion people were talking with their neighbours and exchanging business cards and opinions on the Montreal – Boston game and the first round of the Masters’. Steven then announced that there would be a bonus round of another beer imported by the Wine Guys importers. I have to confess that I can’t recall the name of the beer (I’m going with “Tripel Karmeleit”), but it was served from the most enormous bottles I’ve seen. They had to have been at least 100 ounces. I have some pictures taken with my phone, but the lighting is too poor, so it looks like the server is holding a giant tuna or oversized fire extinguisher in his arms. I’d like to tell you what it tasted like, but I can’t really recall. It was fizzy.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Wine Guys then brought out bottles of Pauwel Kwak, a beer served in the traditional “coachman’s glass.” Again, it is a bit of a stretch to describe it beyond stating that it was a fairly smooth, easy drinking beer.

By this time I was enjoying the atmosphere, listening more than talking (which is the opposite of what usually happens), and trying to learn more about the importing business. I’ll close by stating that the event was thoroughly enjoyable and a success from my point of view. I certainly hope that it was a success for Roger, Ken the Friendly Butcher, the Safari, and the two importers. Their combined efforts made the evening a lot of fun. I’d like to see this event repeated in the future, especially at a location 10 minutes’ walk from my home.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Mr. Beaumont

Stephen Beaumont, the well known and respected Canadian beer author and educator is celebrating his birthday today. Here's wishing him a great day!!! Cheers.

Time to Step Up - Southern Tier Beer Dinner

Beer dinners. There is something about them that excites us, stirs anticipation and offers an opportunity to meet others that share in our passion. They teach us about the outstanding qualities beer offers when paired with the right meal and leave us with a greater appreciation for the individuals who created it.

Over the months I have heard first hand from other beer geeks (fans/lovers/enthusiasts) about the lack of such events in Canada's largest city. With the exception of regular events at Beerbistro and the Abbot on the Hill, beer dinners weren't all that common. Until recently.

Lately there has been a multitude of web postings about different events where the focus is on pairing food with a certain brand or from a wide array of different brews. Bringing beer to the for front has been great, but I think there has been some trouble attracting more people than just us die-hards. In order for these events to continue on a regular basis, not only do we need to support what we've asked for for so long, but we have an obligation to attract others who might enjoy them as well.

Roland and Russell are hosting their Southern Tier IPA launch dinner tonight at the Academy of Spherical Arts, and for only $75 you can enjoy a four course meal matched with four different Southern Tier beers. Southern Tier is a relatively young brewery based out of Lakewood, NY, but the hype their IPA has achieved has created a demand for the Ontario market, who are thirsty for a regularly available IPA in bottle format. The R&R team have worked hard at making this happen through distribution with the government run LCBO and tonight they want to celebrate with folks that have made it happen and hopefully introduce it to new consumers.

This should be a sold out event. Southern Tier owner Phin Demink will be on hand to discuss the brewery and his products, which should be an interesting discussion. (The previous information that was posted was inaccurate regarding TasteTO and Bar Towel - sorry for any confusion and inconvenience this may have caused). As mentioned, this is a beer that has gained a strong reputation for its flavour, aroma, hop presence and consistency, and has been largely pushed by beer geeks in this city. And now it's time to step up and support this initiative by ensuring events like this will continue.

Being from a small community to the north of here, spending $75 on a professionally prepared four course meal with four different well craft beers is unheard of. In Toronto, Bay street boys and government workers have no problem spending $75 at the Bier Markt after work, they don't know the deal their missing tonight.

So, if your looking for something to do tonight, single or whatever, contact the Academy at 416-532-2782 or Roland and Russell at 5416-801-9885 to reserve a ticket or two. I'm sure you won't regret it.


Butternut Squash, roasted pear and cheddar soup
- Served with Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale

Baked black cod with sweet potato, rapini and a walnut butter sauce
- Served with Porter

Spicy chicken panang with scented rice, crisp garlic and onions
- Served with IPA

Bitter Chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries and sauce
- Served with Raspberry Ale


See you there!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

King Brewery & Brew Pub??

It appears that King Brewery owner Phil DiFonzo has his sights set on expanding the business, from what I gathered after reading an article in the King Township Sentinel newspaper.

For the future, King Brewery is considering a more versatile location within the township in order to facilitate a more event structured restaurant atmosphere where tourists can come and enjoy themselves.

"Maybe a beer gardens venue, where people can get schnitzel or sausage and have your freshly poured beer right from the brewery," said DiFonzo. "I think that environment would be god for beer drinkers, as well as King Township."
I like the sounds of that already! Ontario only has a handful of brew pubs (that I can name off the top of my head) and compared to other provinces we have a lot of catching up to do. And Nobleton, ON is a nice getaway out of the city and not to far away. The King Brewery is spotless, everything is well maintained and the folks are terrific people, it would make for a perfect Saturday afternoon.

King is also set to launch their spring seasonal Pilsbock. If you couldn't tell by the name, the beer is a mix between King's original pilsner and a bock. It will be available on draught at selection locations and at the brewery, and plans are to have it grace the shelves of the LCBO and Beer Stores one day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Drum Roll Please..Some Awards To Share

Propeller Brewing Co. in Halifax, NS recently notified me of their recent haul of gold medals at the latest World Beer Championships.

India Pale Ale - Gold
Extra Special Bitter - Gold
Pale Ale - Gold
London Style Porter - Gold (late last year)

That makes 3 gold medals in a row for the IPA and the ESB, both outstanding beers and favourites of mine that I miss dearly here in Ontario. I think that everyone who enjoys 'good' beer and has had the pleasure of sampling some of Propeller's products would agree on their consistency, and these recent medals prove that John Allen and co. know what their doing.

After reading Josh Rubin's article in the Toronto Star today about Fuller's Director of Brewing, John Keeling, and his rating of Ontario pale ales, I'm thinking he would love Propeller's British style ales (it was great to see Keeling loved the Black Oak Pale Ale).

In other award news, the World Beer Cup recently announced the winners of 91 categories of beer, which included three Ontario breweries, one Quebec brewery and one British Columbia brewery.

Category 37: American-Style Dark Lager, 18 entries
Bronze - Waterloo Dark, Brick Brewing Co.

Category 41: Belgian-Style White (or Wit), 35 entries
Bronze - Mill Street Belgian-Style Wit, Mill Street Brewery

Category 78: Golden or Blonde Ale, 39 entries
Bronze - Red Cap, Brick Brewing Co.

Category 48: Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale, 24 entries
Gold - La Fin Du Monde, La Brasserie Unibroue

Category 37: American-Style Dark Lager, 18 entries
Silver - Canterbury, Pacific Western Brewing - Prince George BC

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Molson-Coors Named Canada's Olympic Beer

Molson-Coors received word today that they will be the host beer for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics after striking a deal worth anywhere from $3 million to $15 million in sponsorship fees. Thus ends the search for the official beer of the Olympic games and the beginning of some sad faces in the British Columbia craft brewing industry.

Welcome to Canada! Here's a sub-zero Coors Light to swallow, careful though it goes down too smooth but leaves no aftertaste eh!

Read more about it here.

TAPS: C'est What Video Podcast

Just as the new TAPS magazine is slated to hit shelves throughout Canada, TAPS Media has released a new video podcast of the C'est What Blind Porter/Stout tasting that took place back in March.

Interviews were conducted with George Milbrandt (publican of C'est What), Cass Enright (Bar Towel founder), Mirella Amato (Taps contributor/Beerology), Bill George (LCBO/Certified beer judge) and some beer fans of all ages.

The response TAPS received after airing the Mill Street podcast was full of positive reviews and Mill Street is even incorporating it into their advertisements. This is something the media team plans to continue with the help and support of local breweries and publicans. A video podcast of March's Cameron's Cask night should be available soon as well.

To view the video, please visit and become a subscriber. It's free!

On a side note, the new magazine features an extensive interview with Leanne Rhee of the LCBO. Ms. Rhee is the category manager of beer for the entire fleet of LCBO stores. The LCBO's summer release is also listed in the mag. Other articles include news from both the east and west coasts, dunkel and schwarzbier profiles, green breweries, ask the brewmaster, food and beer pairings, what's in a name (pub names) and more. Be sure to check out your local Chapters/Indigo in the next week.

Oh, and the outtakes at the end, I guess it was close to my tenth. That is not my day job.

Cameron's Cask Night: April 24

The Cameron's crew is at it again as they announce yet another cask night out at their Oakville brewery.

Following last month's infamous Dark Cherry Lager Cask, this month's Cameron's 'Let's Drink the Cask Night' will be on Thursday April 24th, from 6:00 - 8:00pm

Cameron's Cask Nights are a casual and intimate monthly event at the brewery. The guestlist only event is free of charge and mainly a chance for us to share a glass of our latest creation with our friends, supporters and our local community.

For those who have not been to the brewery before, this is a great chance to meet the folks behind the scenes and to tour our facility. As well, it's a great time to pick up some brewery fresh Cameron's beer.

We will be tapping the Cask at approximately 6:15pm.

Whole Foods Markets have graciously donated some delicious food for the event. The food will be available at 6pm.

As always, the event is capped at 60 people to keep it intimate and to ensure everyone gets a taste of the cask. RSVP's always come flooding in, so confirm your attendance as quickly as possible.

Due to the good weather and overall cheer at the brewery, we encourage everyone to invite a guest (or a few) to join them this month. Just indicate how many people will be coming with you on your RSVP.

For any questions or to RSVP (if you haven't already), email

For more information or to get directions, visit this Cameron's link.

We also now have a blog so check it out.

Hope to see you all on Thursday.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meet Rob Creighton: Grand River Brewing

Meet Rob Creighton - Brewer at Grand River Brewing Company

Grand River Brewing Company is one of the latest additions to the Ontario brewing scene and has done extremely well awakening taste buds close to home and far away. There are currently four year round brews being produced at Grand River: Plowman's Ale, Mill Race Mild, Galt Knife Old Style Lager, and Town Hall Lager. The brewery also produces some mouthwatering seasonals like Highballer Pumpkin Ale, Jubilation Spiced Ale, and most recently Ploegers Vlaams Rood.

1. How long have you been with the brewery?
Grand River Brewing opened June 26th, 2007 in the Galt Knife building in the historic, 'downtown Galt' area of Cambridge. We're about 5 km south of the 401 on the road south to Brantford. My role here was originally as consultant to Bob Hannenberg and Jane Southgate, the owners of the brewery. They offered the brewing job to me and I thought that getting back into the brewhouse was a good idea.

2. How long have you been brewing - working in the brewing industry
30 years - started as a student in 1977 at Labatt London, worked in all three Labatt plants while getting a degree in Urban and Regional Planning - yup, that was useful. Left Labatt when Upper Canada started in '85. Started UC's brewing, fermentation and packaging operations. Left in '88 to go into the brewpub world. Consulted with 6 brewpub's, many of them using extract systems. Went to Algonquin Brewery in Formosa in '89 for another start-up. Started in brewing and moved over to start and manage packaging in '90. Left Algonquin when they were bought out by a Brick/Molson deal in '97. Went to Lakeport for the installation and start-up of a canning line. Left the brewing industry in '98 to work for CCL Industries selling packaging solutions to the brewing industry. In essence, I got to travel to most breweries in North America to help out with packaging problems. My friends thought I was paid to travel around and drink beer. I did other consult's along the road. I helped dismantle the Celis Brewery in Austin Texas and move it to Webberville Michigan and I helped with packaging start-ups at Cool Brewery in Brampton. Got off the road in 2003 by taking a supervisors position at Nestle Waters in Aberfoyle running big bottling lines. Decided never to do shift work again in '04 and went to F&M in Guelph to help with sales and marketing issues. Left F&M to start Grand River Brewing.

3. Describe your passion for the beer industry
I like it, what can I say? As I say in my tours when people ask what it's like being in the brewing industry - I could be making tampons for a living.

4. Grand River's plans for the summer?
The water here is exceptionally hard. Harder than Creemores or the City of Guelph. Our beers are about flavour. The amount of calcium and magnesium in the water provides for very dry finishes and minimal hop aroma. We intend to explore a variety of styles for lagers and ales with the twist that is added by our water. This summer we have a German Helles made with very pale malt, German Mittelfruh and Hersbruker hops and we will probably also do some form our berry infused wheat beer once we have local berry crops available. Our first efforts at bottling (other than our growler) will happen this summer.

5. What's new at the brewery? Lots of walk ins, tours, any new beers in the planning?
What isn't new at the brewery? We have what will be a tourist attraction in Cambridge. It is an old knife foundry that made machine knives. It has very unique windows that allow both morning and afternoon light in and we are only 1/2 finished the construction. We intend to maintain the look and functionality of the building. Long term, we hope to have a functioning hospitality room and tasting bar themed to match the historic, industrial feel of the area when Galt was the industrial heartland of Canada in the mid 1800's to early 1900's. Tours will be regularly scheduled (they're sort of as someone is available to do them now) and we hope to host some interesting beer focused events. As for future beers, I'm a big fan of Bock beers and hope to do one in the fall. We also are talking to suppliers about wine and whisky casks for aging. Our Ploegers Vlaams Rood is a variation of a Flanders red sour ale but with the big hop contributions that characterizes our Plowman's Ale. The Plowman is a heroic figure in Belgian history celebrating the link between agriculture and industry and man's harmony with nature. Our version is definitely out of Belgian style. We did not have the ancient wooden casks to sour the ale so we soured the mash instead. The sour and high abv are there but the hoppiness is high for the style. Many of its drinkers are thinking that it will age well so we are putting a limited amount in 750 bottles with synthetic corks for laying down.

6. Your ideal beer and food pairing?
Meat...let me repeat that...MEAT! Love all forms with a variety of beers

7. Why did you get into the business?
It was a great paying job when I was 17 (I lied about my age). After that, inertia took over.

8. Best time to have a pint?
What time is it?

9. How long have you been with the OCB?

We joined in May of '07

Friday, April 18, 2008

Creemore Launches 12pack Pilsner Bottles

Creemore Springs Premium Lager was one of the beers that got me hooked on craft products. I drank a bunch of it when I was first starting out on my beer quest and still have the odd one now and then. Ever since Creemore was purchased by Molson-Coors people have waited for the product to decrease in flavour and quality. To my experience though it hasn't changed a bit, and just last year they launched a Traditional Pilsner for their 20th anniversary which has flown off the shelves.

To mark the success of the newest member of the family, Creemore will be releasing 12packs of the pilsner at Beer Stores throughout Ontario. I haven't stepped foot in a Beer Store (other than to return empties) in a long time, but this may get me back in during a trip to the cottage.

"Traditional Pilsner is proving to be another locally-produced favourite among consumers," says Karen Gaudino, Director of Sales and Marketing. "The demand has grown steadily since we launched and we're so pleased to be able to increase its availability through the Beer Store as well."
The Traditional Pilsner is brewed in the classic pilsner style with a nice floral, spicy hop presence and a clean finish. It pours an attractive golden hue with a nice thick white head. The toasty malt aroma compliments the small, but present hop notes. I tried this at the brewery unfiltered with white fish and cabbage soup and it was outstanding. The pilsner can also be served with a roast pork, soft cheeses and it goes great with a ball game on the telly.

The 473ml cans will still be available at select LCBO's for those of us that don't know what the Beer Store looks like.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spitfire Arms: Windsor, NS 5th Anniversary

One of my favourite pubs back in Nova Scotia is celebrating their 5th anniversary this weekend - for readers in NS, make a day trip and enjoy the festivities. Congratulations Spitfire!!

Here is a press release from publican Troy Kirkby:

Well folks, it's difficult to imagine that this coming Saturday April 19th it will be five years to the very day that The Spitfire Arms Alehouse opened for business.

Where has the time gone? I've witnessed many changes here in Windsor since first arriving to town in the spring of 2002. When I reflect on the successes we've enjoyed here at the pub, there is a single key element to which I owe my thanks and that is to everyone who has passed through our doors.

Thank you all for your support, friendship, loyalty and continued custom. Without my exceptional team of employees and you, our customers, 29 Water Street is nothing more than an expensive hobby!

Before I let you know what we have planned for the party on Saturday, I thought it would be fun to throw a few stats around to put things into perspective. These are approximations on my part but accurate for all intent and purpose. Here we go!

As you know we hand cut our chips. Since 2003 we have served 40,000 pounds worth.

When I opened with only 8 draught lines, people though I was crazy and that it would never work. Today we proudly serve beer from across Canada and the World via 17 draught lines. To date that works out to be in the neighbourhood of 300,000 pints served!

If I ever took our Fish and Chips off the menu I'd probably close my doors! You've said it time and time again that we produce one of the best in the Province and about 75,000 orders can't be wrong.

This next figure proved arduous to calculate. It's likely that most of you have been here more than once, or were able to sneak in on a regular basis. The Spitfire Arms Alehouse has hosted in excess of 350,000 visitors over the past five years of business. That is an amazing number! And once again, we Thank You.

Enough of the sentimentality, here's what's going on Saturday April 19th, 2008.

We hope that you will join us all day and night! As a token of our appreciation there will be prizes, birthday cake, our good friend Hal Bruce is here to entertain you with live music in the evening and we will kick off our latest contest - a trip for two to the Moncton Beer Festival on May 31st.

We hope to see you here for the Spitfire Experience!

Ontario Brewing Awards

Last night I spent my time judging beers for the Ontario Brewing Awards at the Bier Markt in the Toronto's Esplanade.

There was a lot of bad press surrounding last year's awards as Steelback won numerous categories. Many people were critcizing the judging because the panel were not all certified beer judges. Nevertheless, I figured it would be a good way to drink some beer and learn some new stuff.

There were seven different categories (North American Lager, Cream Ale, Amber Lager, Pale Ale, Honey Beer, Dark Ale and Porters/Stouts) to go through with no more than seven samples from each style.

I am by no means a "true" beer judge, although I did have me style guidelines handy and thought I did a respectful job while having a bit of fun. Some beers were recognizable the moment I smelled it, and were confirmed after the scorecards were handed in. That felt good. Out of all the beers I tasted, I was most surprised by Robert Simpson's Confederation Ale. I have never been a fan of this beer, I know many people who are, but I was not one of them. Until last night. From what I got out of the sample (I finished the entire cup) was not what I ever remembered the cream ale to be. I was plesantly surprised, but Michael Duggan (who formulated the Tankhouse recipe during his Mill St days) is brewing there now, so no surprise needed. Maybe the consistancy of RS's brews will improve with the recent development.

I was joined at the roundtable by Beerbistro's Brian Morin, OCB Marketing Exec Lisa Dunbar and OCB public relations Nic Schultz, LCBO beer guru and certified judge Bill George, Bier Markt general manager Robert Medal, beer judge John (didn't get his last name), and others whom I did not know (John, Ralph and Dan). The tasting got under way shortly before 7pm as the first tray of NA American Lager appeared on the table. Beers were scored on apperance, aroma, mouthfeel and overall impression; based on a 20 point score card. Some were good, some were bad.

The Awards Ceremony/Press Pub will be held on Wednesday April 22nd at the Bier Markt from 3-5pm. We will be handing out the awards and the Gold Medal Winner Consumer Sampling Event will immediately follow the Awards Ceremony from 5-7pm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meet John Graham: Church Key Brewing

Meet John Graham- Brewer/Owner/Keg Washer at Church Key Brewing Company.

Graham has earned a solid reputation over the years for the outstanding beers he brews at his historic building in picturesque Northumberland County.

He opened the church doors to the public back in 2000 with the introduction of Northumberland Ale, a beer that would go on to win numerous awards over the years and be the start of great things to come.

Recently, this Federal Green Party member took the time to answer 10 questions about his passion. For more information on the Church Key Brewery, check out his website at

1. How long have you been operating the brewery?
A: In 1998 I was working for Amsterdam Brewing in Toronto, I was starting to tire of the commute so I started working on a business plan, I bought the Church property in Aug. of 1999 and did renos over the winter. Northumberland Ale was launched to one of the local Golf Courses July 23rd 2000.

2. Why did you get into the business?
A: Because no one else will hire me to do anything else.

3. How long have you been brewing - working in the brewing industry?
A: Before Amsterdam which I started at in 1993, I ran a Brew On Premise up in Aurora. I was homebrewing before that.

4. Brief history of the brewery and the building.
A: The building is an 1876 Methodist Church it was changed to a United in the twenties and decommissioned in 1997. I purchased it in 1999 and the rest is history. Amen!

5. Describe your passion for the beer industry
A: I love that I can use brewing to both earn a living and have the creative, artistic outlet that I need. I don't think I could sit at a desk.

6. Church Key's plans for the summer?
A: We are looking into the Full pint (By the Glass: AGCO) tasting bar option that way we could showcase local bands (my other passion). It will make the brewery an even better destination. **(On a side note, I think the "By the Glass" option is a great idea that more breweries need to take a serious look at-TB).

7. What's new at the brewery? Any new beers in the planning?
A: I've got one of my farmer friends tapping birch trees and we are going to make a pioneer style birch beer using all local ingredients.

8. Your ideal beer and food pairing?
A: I love to cook with beer. Matching Holy Smoke with mussels that have been cooked in it with some shallots and a soft ripe cheese stirred in.

9. Best time to have a pint?
A: Your palate is most keen in the morning before lunch and long after breakfast. Not that I do that everyday. I am ussaully filtering then and it tastes fresh and tax free right off the bright.

10. What is your favorite Church Key beer?
A: love them all I would have an easier time telling you which of my sons is my favorite.

The Church Key Brewery is located in a old Methodist Church on the outskirts of Campbellford, Ontario, and features a retail store that is open seven days a week from 10am to dark.

They currently have the following beers available in bottles: Northumberland Ale, Cranberry Maple Wheat, Holy Smoke, West Coast Pale Ale, Lactese Falcon, and Grains of Wrath DIPA. Never one to sit idle, Graham is currently working on a pioneer birch style beer that will no doubt be flavourful.

You can contact Church Key at:
Phone Us: 1 877 314-BEER
Email Us:
Write US: 1678 County Rd#38, Campbellford, Ontario, K0L 1L0

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Brewer's Plate Wrap Up

Craft beer, amazing food, beautiful building, good music and nice people made the first annual Brewer's Plate a wonderful success.

Green Enterprise Toronto held their first Brewer's Plate dinner at the historic Berkeley Church this past Friday, before a large contingent of foodies and beer lovers, and proved once again the beer and food go hand and hand.

Six highly respected culinary restaurants were present and their creations were paired with six high spirited Ontario craft brewers. Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, La Palette, Veritas, Cowbell, Gladstone and the Rebel House whipped up some amazing dishes using beers from Cameron's Brewing Co, Wellington, Church-Key, Steam Whistle, Mill Street and Black Oak & Denisons. All were delicious but the standout of the night (in my humble opinion) was Church-Key's Lactese Falcon - beer battered Ontario Pickerel and frites prepared by chef Jamie Kennedy. The acidity of the beer matched the deep fried pickerel to a tee and the funky odour of the Falcon was something uniquely different in a beer batter usually reserved for light lagers. I could have ate 10 plates, but relax, I only had one! Besides, there were many other delicacies too.

So, the beer side of things. Cameron's was represented by marketing man Mike Laba, who was serving up some fresh Cameron's Auburn Ale, which tasted spot on. I drank more than my fair share. Black Oak and Denison's shared a booth and were providing thirsty people with Double Chocolate Cherry Stout and Weissbier respectively. Steam Whistle had, well, Steam Whistle pilsner, which is always a nice palate refresher. Mill Street was offering samples of their Belgian Wit, Coffee Porter, Tankhouse and I think their Organic, but don't quote me on that. Wellington's Pale Ale and Church Key's Northumberland Ale and the aforementioned Lactese (Sour Brown) Falcon were also available.

A lot of the people present were self confessed 'wine drinkers' and it was a lot of fun seeing their reaction to the DCCS and the other big beer there, Church Key's Lactese Falcon. It was also interesting during the latter hours of the night when females where approaching the beer vendors and asking a bunch of questions about ingredients and what they should be tasting. It was a different crowd than most beer events and hopefully there will be some converts.

All and all it was a great night with some nice music, although it was a touch to loud. Thanks to the brewers for their hospitality - I even got to pour a couple pints for Cameron's!

For a complete write up on all the dishes, check out the fantasic post by Sheryl Kirby over at TasteTO.

125 Places to Have A Beer List

The May issue of All About Beer has listed 125 places to have a beer before you die and a handful of Canadian places made it on the list, three from Ontario.

#10 - The Great Canadian Beer Fest (Victoria, BC)

#17 - Mondial de la Biere (Montreal, QC)

#18 - Horizon's Cafe, CN Tower (Toronto, ON)

#49 - Woolwich Arms Pub (Guelph, ON)

#113 - beerbistro (Toronto, ON)

Nice to see a lovely establishment like the Woolwich Arms make such an impressive list, and to crack the top 50.

The list was compiled by Rick Lyke, a well known drink writer out of the U.S. Funny though, I thought my place would have cracked the top 10.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Southern Tier Dinner Reminder

There is only 11 days left until one of the most anticipated beer dinners of the year takes place at Toronto's Academy of Spherical Arts, as Roland and Russell import agency welcome Southern Tier IPA to the Ontario market.

Tickets are $75.00





Here is the confirmed menu, and it sounds absolutley delicious. As I sit here and finish my last bottle of ST IPA I can't wait to get there and partake in the night.

Butternut Squash, roasted pear and cheddar soup
Served with Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale

Baked black cod with sweet potato, rapini and a walnut butter sauce
Served with Porter

Spicy chicken panang with scented rice, crisp garlic and onions
Served with IPA

Bitter Chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries and sauce
Served with Raspberry Wheat Ale


A New Segment

I will be adding a new segment to the Great Canadian Pubs and Beer Blog starting this week. It will feature a question and answer format with some of Ontario's best brewers and brewery representatives.

I have extended an invitation to many breweries to take part in this and the response has been great. It will give you, the reader, a better perspective on some of the people who brew the beer you drink and hopefully offer up a little humour along the way. The segment will also let any brewer submit any editorial piece they want to get off their chest, while providing a behind the scenes glimpse into the brewery. Most beer fans might be aware of the people, the breweries etc, but this is a great way for beginners and those interested in learning more about the Ontario brewing industry to get a better understanding of the culture.

I hope that you enjoy the small posts. Feel free to post comments, ask questions and try new products, you'll be rewarded.

First up, John Graham from Church Key Brewing Company - stay tuned!

Volo's 20th Anniversary Celebration: April 20th

April marks the 20 year anniversary for Volo, a well known Toronto beer destination on Yonge Street, just north of Wellesley. Owner Ralph Morana will be opening the doors on Sunday April 20th, from 12pm-10pm for a special celebration featuring some terrific beers from Ontario brewers.

The line-up includes:

Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout
Grand River Mild/Plowman's ale Blend
Cameron's Pomegranate Cream Ale
Amsterdam Framboise
Church Key West Coast Pale Ale Oaked
Durham ESB


Church Key Grains of Wrath DIPA
King Pilsbock Unfiltered
Nickelbrook Cuvee 07 Strong Spiced Ale
Great Lakes Chocolate Orange Peel Ale
Stratford Common Steam Lager
Barley Days Sugar Shack Ale
Granite Gin Lane Barley Wine
Neustadt Big Dog Porter
Durham Hop Addict IPA Hop Infused
Grand River Ploegers Vlaams Rood

So, as you can see, it's quite a list that doesn't have to beg for attention. It appears that Great Lakes is having a little fun with their Orange Peel Ale, which to me sounds delicious and some other breweries are playing with some creations. This should no doubt be another great event for the curious beer drinker in all of us.

Admission will be free and the patio will be open for business (the casks will be tapped here). So head over to the famed Volo and shake Ralph's hand. After all, he has done so much for the Toronto beer scene.

Congratulations Ralph, and the rest of the Morana/Volo team.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Imperial Pub: Toronto, ON

How is it that I had never heard of this place? I get emails all the time from people providing me with their favourite place and their recommendations to check it out. Personally, I had never heard of the Imperial Pub, located on Dundas Street just east of Yonge, until I opened my inbox last week and a reader pointed it out to me. It just happens to be a 5 minute walk from work, so I thought I'd check it out after a long day of correspondence.

As soon as I walk into a new pub, within 20 seconds I can safely state whether it's for me or not. Walking into the Imperial pub I could tell I liked it in 5.

A Brief History
Back in 1944, a 30 year old man by the name of Jack Newman takes over what was then "Glover's Cafeteria," a hotel owned by the Chief of Police for York Region, and Newman renamed it The Imperial Hotel. You see, back in the early 1900's only hotels and inns could serve alcohol under strict Ontario liquor laws, so the Imperial Hotel featured nine rooms in the upstairs section of the building in order to comply. Downstairs was home to the 'drinking room,' which would go on to be called the Aquarium Room in the 50's and featured a Seeburg Jukebox that played soft jazz. Newman's goal was to provide the area with a classy drinking spot, a place where the rowdies and roughnecks didn't want to venture.

During the 1960's, it was decided that the hotel rooms would close to proceed with an upstairs pub after the liquor laws changed. The area would soon be called 'the Library room' as Ryerson students made it their hangout, and hundreds of hardback and soft covered books graced numerous shelves and cases around the perimeter of the pub. It was also during the 60's that the Imperial Hotel lost its status as a hotel and became a 'public house.'

Like all drinking establishments at the time, the Imperial Pub (as it is know called), had women and men separated by a wall in the Aquarium room and it wasn't until the 70's that it was changed. Now all sexes can co-mingle as they sup on their pints.

In 1998 the City of Toronto tried to close the doors of the pub to make way for the development of Dundas square. After several protests, petitions and public outcry, the pub was spared and it still stands were it has been since the 20's.

Another interesting fact is that the pub is still independently owned by the Newman family, and it remains almost unchanged in appearance and laid back operation as it was back in the 60's. Today Fred Newman runs the show and various other family members hold positions within the walls of the storied pub.

The Library Room: Upstairs
For my first visit to the Imperial I decided I would start with the upstairs level, the Library room, to indulge in a pint of Wellington and chat with the regulars and locals. I met Fred and spoke briefly about the history of the building, the scenery and the liquor laws of yester-years.

The first thing I noticed was the colourful carpeting that blanketed the entire floor. Greens, reds, purples, swirling around in a funky pattern seemed to blend in well with all the other items situated upstairs. There are 7 or 8 leather couches throughout the room, many wooden tables and chairs that I'd bet have been there from the early days of the pub, an attractive gas fireplace that roars to attention in winter, iron barred light fixtures dated back to the 40's, many books, lots of plants by the window overlooking Dundas street, a wrought iron structure greeting you at the top of the stairs, a Foosball table, pool table and large screen tv and other knick knacks scattered about.

The room itself is an open concept, with red brick beams and pillars throughout, providing the feeling of a large living room. A man states just that as he scutters up to the bar for a pint, "been coming here for years, comfortable place, a home away from home almost." The clientele is as diverse as the city of Toronto itself. Young Ryerson students, young professionals, middle aged couples, the down and out and some elderly folk all provide a different image of the glowing pub. It makes for interesting conversations as each individual has different opinions based on their age bracket and background.

The bar isn't huge, it isn't small, it's just right. 8 bar back stools surround the heavy, dark wood bar with chestnut coloured leather patterns stitched on. It typifies an old hotel saloon bar, nothing fancy, just a straight up bar to serve pints over. No stainless steel, no sparkling wine glasses, and no pretentious bartender. Our bartender is actually a barmaid, a rough, tough looking barmaid who states she has been working behind the Imperial Pub's bars for sixteen years and they'll have to carry her out when she dies. She is very engaging, yet bold enough to capture the attention of those misbehaving. She is my kind of barmaid, she may not know a lot about craft beer, but she's not a robot like some other bartenders.

The draught beer line-up is limited to Amsterdam Blonde, Steam Whistle, Mill Street Tankhouse, Carlsberg (good soccer hangout), Moosehead and Wellington Pale. Bottles range from mainstream, to micros, to imports, Sam Adams Boston lager was even available. Amsterdam and Wellington were the best movers during my visit.

The Library Room in the Imperial Pub is a great old pub for all ages to enjoy. A place where you go to the bar to order a pint, to meet new people, to engage in conversation with strangers. I fell into a discussion with a Hard Rock Cafe employee who provided me with a glimpse into why this pub is so successful. "I come here with people from work when we complete our shifts as it offers us the atmosphere to relax, de-stress, to socialize, to get comfortable with a solid pint and meet others. It's also a good destination to come read alone as the soft jazz lingers in the background." Nicely put.

Friday, April 11, 2008

2008 ALES Open Homebrew Competition

Ale & Lager Enthusiasts of Saskatchewan

I received this media release today and thought I'd post it for all those homebrewers out there. You never know, the eventual winner of this might end up with a Canadian brewery one day.

Media Communique:
Friday, April 11, 2008, For Immediate Release

Certified beer judges from Alberta, Saskatchewan and California will be wrapping up judging of 23 first round categories of homebrewed beer today at the 2008 ALES Open Homebrew Competition. The competition also serves as the Canadian Regional Qualifier for the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrewing Competition (the largest homebrew competition in the world), to be held in Cincinnati, OH, June 21-23.

Running a large and prestigious competition requires certified beer judges. Beer judges are not only experienced brewers and tasters, but they must also study detailed texts on brewing techniques, styles, history, and defects, in order to pass a 3-hour hand-written exam. Upon successful completion of the exam, the judge becomes certified by the internationally recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).

Scoring of each entry is on a 50-point scale, with judges assessing entries on five elements (aroma, appearance, flavour, mouthfeel and overall impression) in comparison to defined style guidelines for each of the major categories and nearly 100 sub-categories.

This year well over 200 entries from homebrewers across Canada are competing for honours for individual brews, as well as points towards personal brewing awards. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in each category, with gold medal winners competing against each other for “Best of Show” brew.
Beer judging will be in progress today from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at the Bushwakker Brewpub, 2206 Dewdney Avenue, Regina.

For further information contact Mark Heise at 527-2073 or

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Brewers Plate: Get Your Tickets Before Their Gone

Tomorrow night is the big night for Green Enterprise Toronto, Local Food Plus and Slow Food Toronto as they present: A Local, Sustainable Spring Feast Celebrating Independent Brewers, Chefs and Food Artisans

Tickets are going fast so call today and help support your locals.

What does a great local feast look like in early April in southern Ontario? Artisanal cheeses, breads, and sausages, roasts and stews of wild game and root vegetables, local greenhouse produce, pickles and preserves of every description, fruit pies, and of course, libations from our great local breweries.

Friday, April 11, 6:30 to midnight, The Berkeley Church, 315 Queen Street East

Featuring finely crafted beers from Black Oak, Cameron’s, Church-Key, Mill Street, Steam Whistle, and Wellington. To compliment dishes from Cowbell, Gladstone Hotel, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, La Palette, The Rebel House,and Veritas as well as variety of individual food artisans and live jazz bands.

$150.00+GST per ticket.

We expect a sellout crowd of 300. To reserve tickets with VISA/MC call 416-644-1012

This first annual event celebrates slow food, local-sustainable food and farming, and import substitution in the winter/spring season in the Toronto region. The event also supports the work of Green Enterprise Toronto

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Great OCB Article from Edible Toronto

In my daily website searches I usually come across some pretty interesting posts, columns, notes, videos etc, and today while reading Val Stimpson's comments on the OCB blog I was directed to an article written by OCB marketing guru Mary MacIsaac.

The article "Sipping Along: World Class Brewing On Your Doorstep" was published in a new quarterly magazine called Edible Toronto, which is dedicated to connecting consumers with local growers and producers, food artisans and chefs, farmers' markets and food retailers.

MacIsaac touches on a small piece of the Ontario brewing history and how over the years it has come to represent the LCBO's fastest growing segment. "LCBO volume sales of Ontario craft beer increased by more than 40% this past November and December compared to the same period in 2006," said LCBO's Category Manager of Beer Leanne Rhee.

The Ontario craft beer route is becoming increasingly popular with city dwellers who want to get out of the big smoke for the weekend, and MacIsaac offers a vivid narration of what to experience along the way. She does such a good job in my opinion that I wanted to head straight out of town for a brewery to indulge in some fresh lager and ale while taking in the local foods, wares and hospitality.

Any fan of what the Ontario craft brewers have to offer we enjoy MacIsaac's article. Go ahead, read it, and get out on the road to visit your local brewery.

2008 ALES Open Homebrew Competition

Ale & Lager Enthusiasts of Saskatchewan

Media Backgrounder
April 7, 2008

From April 8 to 12, 2008, the best homebrewers from across Canada will compete in Regina at the 2008 ALES Homebrew Open and American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Canadian Regional Qualifier.

Now in its 15th year, this competition of homebrewed beer, cider and mead is organized by Regina’s ALES club, and is hosted by The Bushwakker Brewpub @ 2206 Dewdney Avenue. The event is sponsored by numerous local and international beer-related companies and organizations.

Medal winners from this competition advance to the AHA’s National Homebrew Competition (June 21-23 in Cincinnati, OH), which is the largest competition of its kind in the world. The ALES club has been the proud organizer of the Canadian Regional Qualifier since 2004.

Prizes and medals will be awarded in 28 categories of beer, cider and mead as classified by the internationally recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). Certified judges from Saskatchewan, Alberta and California will be evaluating entries in accordance with BJCP style guidelines and scoring systems.
Homebrewing is a fast-growing hobby in North America, and is an offshoot of an appreciation for the hundreds of styles of craft beer, cider and mead, and is also closely linked to an overall appreciation for quality food and drink made from the finest of fresh and natural ingredients.

Homebrewers use non-commercial equipment and methods to produce classic and experimental styles using basic raw materials such as malted barley, fruit, honey, hops and pure varietal yeasts. The quality of homebrewed beer, cider and mead is frequently equal to, or better than, the best commercial offerings.

Contact Mark Heise at (306) 527-2073 or for additional information

TO Wine and Cheese Show

I was lucky enough to snag a couple of tickets for last weekends TO Wine and Cheese show held at the Mississauga Convention Centre and had no trouble convincing a friend to come along.

I hadn't really done my homework and I had never been to a wine and cheese show, so I didn't have a clue as to how many breweries would be in attendance (I was assured there would be some before I took the tickets).

Because of the Toronto Rock game the night before, and helping celebrate a friends birthday, I wasn't really in the mood to drink too much and thankfully so. Drink tickets were a buck a piece, but some vendors were asking for a minimum of three for a sample. Some wine vendors were asking for upwards of 15 tickets for a 2 oz sample of their products. I am reminded why I love beer! Better tasting for a better price.

Well, it was a good thing we found John Graham from Church Key Brewery and his church pew booth as he took care of us. He had his Lactese Falcon (formerely known as Flanders Sour Brown Ale), Grains of Wrath, West Coast Pale Ale, Northumberland Ale and Cranberry Maple Wheat. Check out his descriptions of each beer. We spent a considerable amount of time there talking with John about the state of Ontario's independently owned pubs.
I took a good size sample of the Lactese and walked over to the Quebec artisan's cheese booth and pick out the stinkiest piece of old hard blue cheese and paired the two. Perfect match!! The vendor was amused, so I offered her a smell of the beer and a sip to go with it. Was she ever impressed.

Luckily John had a bottle of the Lactese for me to purchase, which I plan on cellaring for a year to see how well it ages.

Peter Lopaty, owner of Esprit Import Agencies was also there and we talked in great length about his history working with the LCBO. It turns out the Dogfish Head 60min IPA won't be released this month as planned and possibly not even during May as some difficulties have arose. The Beerbistro dinner with Dogfish Head owner Sam Caligone sounded amazing before but it sounded even better after Lopaty shared some secrets into what will be offered at the event. I'm looking forward to this dinner. Esprit was offering samples of Chimay White and Red, Duvel, St. Peters's Golden Ale, Sam Smith's Nut Brown, and others for the low price of one ticket per sample. Good man.

There wasn't much else to write home about. The food was delicious and the cheese was terrific. Steam Whistle, Creemore, Cool, Pilsner Urquell, Big Rock and a few others were the other beer vendors there and we made our rounds to each throughout the day.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Session #14 - Beer People

April 4th, the first Friday of the month, time for Session #14 on Beer People chosen by Stonch over at Stonch's Beer Blog.
Choose someone you know personally. That person might be a brewer, a publican, someone who sups at your local, or maybe just a friend who is passionate about beer. Let's read some pen portraits of your companions on the path to fermented enlightenment.
I'm digging this month's topic, and I had a hard time pondering who to choose, there are just so many. Really, anyone I have a beer with constitutes a beer person in my book.

Stonch mentions that the phrase "beer is a social lubricant" is a little too euphemistic for him, but it works for me. I have met many, many hospitable people in the pubs and beer bars I venture into, locals, regulars, publicans, average people like me and other beer lovers who have all touched me in some way (no pun intended), and it's all thanks to beer!

But if I had to choose my one beer person, it would be my lovely fiancé. She has been very patient, understanding, quite willing to learn and at times enthusiastic about my pursuit of finding a great pub or a terrific craft beer. She accompanies me on many out of town travels to small country pubs, breweries and beer runs and always helps me put a pen to paper to tell a better story. She acts as my second nose, as she has a terrific sense of smell and usually picks up stuff that I never even detected. She was a beer lover years ago, sadly she discovered she was living with Celiac disease and is now regulated to drinking cider or wine. She puts up with a lot, but has never interfered in my hobby. She is also great when it comes to meeting people in the industry as she has a bubbly nature that draws people closer.

Okay, I'll have to name some more because my fiancé can't always be with me. Drinking a beer in a pub during the late afternoon provides a person with the opportunity to meet some interesting individuals. It's more relaxed, easier to saddle up next to someone and start discussing the news or the beer your drinking. You can go into a pub by yourself and leave with new friends. Some of the best beer conversations I've ever had have been with complete strangers. I have gotten to know many publicans that I enjoy drinking a pint with. Ralph at Volo, Ron at the Granite, Bill and Donna from the Henry House and George from C'est What are all great people to share beer stories with over some well crafted beers.

The boys back home (both Orillia and Halifax) are my beer people as well, although I don't get to drink with them that often anymore. They may drink the mainstream lagers and I stick to the craft stuff, but we have a great time watching hockey, having a couple after a fastball game, in the fish huts and some of the best have come after doing an afternoon of yard work. These guys are beer people, not in the sense I consider myself to be, but beer people nonetheless who I love drinking with. Sitting around someone's house on a Friday night having some beer over dinner is fantastic and creates lasting memories.

The industry people. I could name off a long list of people I love sharing some pints with. The fella's at Cameron's are a fun, energetic group pushing good beer, John Bowden from Great Lakes, George Eagleson from F&M Brewery is a blast, beer writer Greg Clow has helped teach me some tricks to this game along with sharing some fabulous beers, Cass Enright, the founder of Bar Towel, Canada's Pub Guy Bill Perrie, Beerology's Mirella Amato, Bill White, Stephen Beaumont and many others. It's great to talk shop with these guys/girls and everyone has different views into the industry, which makes for interesting conversations.

And last but not lest, myself. I think every beer drinker enjoys having a drink by themselves, in the comfort of their favourite chair with a good book and a unique beer. But, for me, it's out to the pub where the beer tastes better because of the people. Speaking of pubs........see you there.

Pumphouse Brewery Welcomes Back Greg Nash

Well it didn't take long for the colourful Greg Nash to land another brewing job. News coming from Beer Advocate, posted by an employee of Pumphouse Brewery in Moncton New Brunswick, has Nash re-joining his old employer for another kick at the can (or should I say tank?)

This is welcome news to beer fans in Atlantic Canada. If you read this blog regularly, you will have noticed I am a big fan of what Nash brings to the Canadian brewing industry, as he showed during his time with the Garrison Brewing co.

I spoke with him yesterday afternoon and he confirmed that he has accepted an offer from Pumphouse. "I am thrilled to be back with Pumphouse and look forward to working with the brewing team. I should be starting within two weeks, but I have already gone out to get some supplies and I am anxious to get back into the brew house and having some fun", Nash stated.

Pumphouse has two brewing locations, one for distribution and the other in their brew pub, where Nash feels he'll be able to let loose and play around with some recipes.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on the Garrison Brewing Co and the Pumphouse Brewery now that they've swapped brewers.

OCB Podcast

As it turns out I say "um" a lot when doing any kind of interview, which I have to work on.

A couple of weeks ago, over some beers at Beerbistro with some OCB representatives, I was asked if I'd be interested in doing a podcast for the OCB blog. I am a big supporter of some OCB beers so I jumped at the chance. We discussed how I got into the blogging world and when and why I started to appreciate finer beers. It was a fun time and I hope I got my message across clearly (even with the mispronouncation of a couple words).

You can listen to the podcast by visiting the OCB's blog. Only the first half of the podcast was released, but let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

What Beer Will You Be Drinking: 2010 Olympics

Budweiser was named the official beer sponsor of the 2006 Olympic games in Turin, and the 2002 games in Salt Lake, in Atlanta in 1996 and 1984 in LA.

Labatt was named official beer sponsor of the Calgary winter games back in 1988. Are you starting to see where I'm going with this?

A story on today has the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee searching for an official beer sponsor to be announced later this year. A recent survey resulted in many favouring a Canadian owned beer to represent the games, which leaves Molson and Labatt on the outside as both are now foreign owned.

Some locals feel that it should be a British Columbia produced beer like Granville Island or Spinnakers in Victoria, and feature creative names like "Luger lager, Legacy lager, Salchow Stout."

Chances are the sponsorship will go to one of the big brewers like Molson or Labatt's, as they have the money to back up advertising initiatives like tv commercials, national newspaper ads etc. But it would certainly be nice to see a smaller microbrewery on the west coast pull through and land the sponsorship. Propeller brewery was victorious in getting their beers on the Trailer Park Boys movie, so hey, you never know!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Abbot on the Hill To Launch Bavaria & Koningshoven

If you looking for a special outing with the honey on Tuesday April 15th, head over the the Abbot on the Hill and indulge in a little bit of heaven. Premier Brands is presenting a three course meal to welcome the arrival of Bavaria on draught for the first time in Canada and La Trappe (Koningshoven) Bock. Tickets will be $60 dollars and there will be two seatings. The first one will begin at 6:30, followed by an 8:30pm seating.

Join us April 15th as we officially launch two of Europe’s finest beers. Bavaria - Holland’s Premium beer, and largest family owned brewery and Koningshoven Trappist Bock. The only Trappist Bock in the world and the first time in the Western Hemisphere. There is only one keg in Canada and we have it!!
Reservations will be required. Please call(416) 920-9074 to book your reservations today.

Soft shirred quail egg
Ceviche tuna
Homemade pumpernickel toast

Koningshoven Trappist Bock
Oven roasted venison tenderloin stuffed with apple – wild rice
Candied juniper berry demi glace
Roast shallot whipped white turnip
Buttered brussel sprouts

Koningshoven Trappist Quadruple
Sugar fried brie wedge
Homemade beer sorbet

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Are We To Judgmental?

Are we to Judgmental? I think most breweries will agree with me. That is, if their product is something we're not too fond of.

I recently found myself deep in discussion with someone in the beer industry about the reviews and criticism that some Ontario beers receive on various websites and blogs. When I started this blog, I made a personal choice not to deeply criticize or post offensive material on a beer I didn't enjoy or a brewery I don't appreciate. It's just something that I feel is right. There are a lot of people in the Ontario beer industry that have their entire life wrapped up in the brewery and who am I to tell them they've made a bad product?

Shortly after I had this discussion, a thread on Bar Towel started to grow with heated comments after a certain brewer posted his thoughts on the beer community in Ontario. It got me thinking, "Are we to judgmental as beer geeks?" (sorry Alan, had to use the term)

We beer lovers are always searching for something new and exciting and we make our feelings be known. Bar Towel, Beer Advocate and Rate Beer are all great websites to do just that, as their open forums allow anonymous posters. Bar Towel has been instrumental in the rise of some Ontario craft brewers as they've helped promote and sell their products through word of mouth. Members have also been behind the push to get Ontario brewers to experiment with different ingredients to produce some unique beers.

But once these beers get produced, we are the first ones to jump on them and criticize the style, flavour, and smell if they don’t reach our expectations. For example, Church Key Brewery took a chance and brewed a sour flemish ale back in the fall that had people singing praises for John Graham (brewer). Then it all changed once they tried the beer. As quickly as it was hyped, it was quickly shot down. That's all fine and dandy. You don't like the beer, great, that's your opinion, but the words used to describe it were over the top. This is just one example and this isn't just limited to Bar Towel, I can’t stress this enough, without the site I might still be drinking Lucky Lager with the boys back home. This type of talk occurs all over and I hear it from breweries first hand.

Did this prevent Graham from experimenting in future batches? No, but what about the other brewers out there who regularly read these rough comments? How does it affect their breweries? Does this prevent them from experimenting themselves? All I'm saying is that as beer lovers and good beer drinkers, shouldn't we be concerned with the all the positives happening across the province?

On the other hand, when we like something we let everyone know about it. And that is great. We take pride in our beer knowledge and we rightfully should. But please remember that people are making a living doing this and shouldn't be ridiculed because they made something we didn't like.
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