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, September 30, 2009

Local Pub Crawl: September 30 - October 6

Every Wednesday I'll be posting a round-up of of local pub updates relating to new beers being tapped, events/festivals, tastings taking place, or new initiatives that readers might find interesting. All the information is straight from the pubs themselves.

Griffin Gastropub: The Griffin is currently featuring Hockley Valley Brewing Co. for the month of October with the Traditional Dark and the Stout on tap, and the Georgian Bay Dipper in cans. On October 25th (the last sunday in october) they will host their "Brewmasters Dinner" where a representative from Hockley will join the Griffin chef to create a four course beer paired gourmet dinner. Two seatings are available, one at 5pm and one at 8pm. You can book your seats by calling us at 705-646-0706. As always live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the best selection of craft beer north (Bracebridge, ON) of the GTA.

Bar Volo: HMH Beer Negotiates would like to invite you to spend an evening with Microbrasserie Dieu Du Ciel! on Saturday October 3rd. The Founders and brewers will be present to celebrate the release of their Peche Mortel(Imperial Coffee Stout) and Corne Du Diable(American IPA) into the LCBO. The tasting will take place between 7pm-2am at Volo, where you will be able to try a handful of Dieu Du Ciel beers on tap and cask! Admission will be $10.00 which includes a Dieu Du Ciel glass!. $2.00 will be donated to Sick Kids charity. If you would like to return the glass you will receive $8.00 back at the end of the evening. This is a 19+ event with a capacity of 100 people. Beers are subject to change.

They'll also be be tapping Trafalgar Hop Nouveau, Heritage Hop Fresh, Church Key Scarlett Pilsner and Scotch Irish Black Plain Porter(cask). They also have Durham ESB on Cask!

The 3 Brewers: The recently opened 3 Brewers is currently offering customers a new seasonal, Harvest Season 7 Grain Ale. The beer is described as a delicious light bodied ale made with Barley, Wheat, Spelt, Corn, Rye Oats and Buckwheat. The beer is on tap now and runs as long as supplies last.

Feathers: Feathers will be starting a new month long program at their Kingston Road pub called "October-Feathst," which will start next week.
Every Tuesday in October Feathers will be featuring a different brewery, food specials, prizes and give aways.

Oct 6th: Okanagan 1516 Bavarian Feast.
Oct 13th: Wellington and Steam Whistle.
Oct 20th: Creemore and Oyster-boy
Oct 27th: Guinness and live Celtic music.

C'est What: The Fall Festival of Craft Breweries is finally here, well Friday. C'est What will be hosting their 21st annual festival to celebrate the fall season with a large number of unique Ontario craft beers. Click here for the list.

The Roy Public House: The Roy may not be the best place in the city to head to for a craft beer, but the pub is a great spot to go for food and they do offer some drinkable macros. They're now pouring Boddington's Pub Ale and Keith's Red to compliment the rest of their draught line-up. The Roy has also added a couple of veggie items to their menu. The veggie burger is getting good reviews, as is the new Curried Veggie Pie. Check out the complete menu at:

West 50 Pourhouse & Grille: The Mississauga beer bar will be hosting Oktoberfest celebrations from Wednesday Oct.7th – Wednesday October 21st. The entire event will be sponsored by Erdinger Weissbier and feature a traditional German menu, along with beer tastings Wednesday Oct.7, 14 and 21 from 5pm-8pm. The event will culminate with a traditional Oktoberfest Feast on Wednesday Oct.21st $35.00 per person inclusive with a portion of proceeds donated to the Eden Community Food bank.

Dora Keogh's: Head down to the authentic Irish local tonight to check out this evenings session featuring Tim and Pat. Music starts at 9pm.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ontario Beers in Manitoba

I learnt something the other night at the CBA gala. There are a number of Ontario breweries sending their beer over to Manitoba for sale at the Provincial liqour retail stores (MLCC) - and it's selling very well.

I knew that Mill Street has been sending beer out there for a while now, and continue to ship out a number of their product, including the Barley Wine during the winter. The MLCC website also lists Mill Street's Tankhouse, Coffee Porter, and Organic Lager as being available.

John Bowden at Great Lakes recently told me they're sending their Devil's Pale Ale and Pumpkin Ale out to the home of Louis Riel for a limited time and it is listed at respectable pricing, $2.85 and $6.25 respectively.

And Hockley Valley Brewmaster, Andrew Kohnen, let me know that they've been sending their three canned product (Georgian Bay Dipper, Traditional Stout, and Dark Traditional Ale) to the MLCC for a couple of months now, and things are looking good. Kohnen stated that sales have been great, so good that they've sent off 7 pallets so far.

Good to see some good beer leaving the province to be enjoyed by our neighbours to the west.

The Pub Radio Show Now Repeating on Monday's

The Pub Radio Show that I help out with is receiving some good traffic since we started it four weeks ago. Whether people are listening on the actual 102.7 dial or tuning in via the internet, the producers made the decision last week to air repeats of the show on Monday evenings at 8pm.

So far we have interviewed Jon Graham from Cameron's Brewing Company and profiled the brewery, chatted with Chris Goddard and Colin Banting from Steam Whistle about the Roundhouse and the future for the 'Good Beer Folks', had John Bowden in studio to sample the recently released Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale, and profiled Innis and Gunn. There have been some pretty good bands in studio as well and host, Bill Perrie, has spoken about a number of good pubs.

You can listen online by visiting Whistle Radio, or by tuning into 102.7fm (although range is limited). Regular air time is Saturday at 4pm and the show will be repeating on Monday nights at 8pm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

2009 Canadian Brewing Awards - The Winners

North American Style Lager
Gold: Alpine Lager, Moosehead Breweries (NB)
Silver: Original Draught, Sleeman Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Rocky Mountain Pilsner, Russell Brewing (BC)
Honourable Mention: Carling Lager, Molson Canada

North American Style Premium Lager
Gold: Premium Lager, Lakes of Muskoka Brewery (ON)
Silver: Premium, Great Western Brewing (SK)
Bronze Old Style Pilsner, Molson Canada

European Style Lager (Pilsner)
Gold: Stonehammer Pilsner, F & M Brewery (ON)
Silver: Pilsner, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Bronze: Steam Whistle, Steam Whistle Brewing (ON)

North American Style Amber Lager
Gold: N/A
Silver: Buzz Beer, Cool Beer (ON)
Bronze: Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager, Great Lakes Brewery (ON)

Bock - Traditional German Style
Gold: Amsterdam Spring Bock, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)
Silver: N/A
Bronze: Hellesbock, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

North American Style Dark Lager
Gold: N/A
Silver: Fort Garry Rouge, Fort Garry Brewing (MB)
Bronze: Dark 266 Lager, Cameron's Brewing (ON)

Light (Calorie-Reduced)Lager
Gold: Sleeman Light, Sleeman Brewing (ON)
Silver: Premium Light, Great Western Brewing (SK)
Bronze: Alpine Light, Moosehead Breweries (NB)

Wheat Beer - Belgian Style White/Wit
Gold: Honey Thistle Wit, Bushwakker Brewing (SK)
Silver: Belgian Wit, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Wheat Beer - German Style Hefeweizen
Gold: Whistler Weiss Bier, Whistler Brewing (BC)
Silver: Hefeweizen, Tree Brewing Co. (BC)
Bronze: Hefe-Weissbier, Lakes of Muskoka (ON)

Wheat Beer - North American Style
Gold: Grasshopper Wheat Ale, Big Rock (AB)
Silver: Sungod Wheat Ale, R & B Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Dooryard Summer Ale, Northampton Brewing (NB)

Strong or Belgian Style Ale
Gold: La Fin Du Monde, Unibroue (QC)
Silver: Winter Warmer, Garrison Brewing (NS)
Bronze: Dominus Vobiscum Double, Microbrasserie Charlevoix (QC)

North American Style Amber/Red Ale
Gold: Yukon Red Amber, Yukon Brewery (NWT)
Silver: Auburn Ale, Cameron's Brewing Co. (ON)
Bronze: Devil's Pale Ale, Great Lakes Brewing (ON)
Honourable Mention: Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)

Cream Ale
Gold: Cream Ale, Cameron's Brewing (ON)
Silver: Cream Ale, Lakes of Muskoka (ON)
Bronze: KLB Cream Ale, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)

North American Style Blonde/Golden Ale
Gold: Gulf Island Brewing, Gulf Island Brewing (BC)
Silver: Honey Blonde Ale, Russell Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Picaroon's Blonde Ale, Northampton Brewing (NB)
Honourable Mention: Summer Ale, Granite Brewery (ON)

English Style Pale Ale (Bitter)
Gold: ESB, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Silver: Black Oak Pale Ale, Black Oak Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Old Brewery Pale Ale, Nelson Brewing (BC)

North American Style Pale Ale (Bitter)
Gold: Old Yale Pale Ale, Old Yale Brewing (BC)
Silver: Chico Pale Ale, Bushwakker Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Tank House, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Honourable Mention: Timberline Ale, Howe Sound Brewery (BC)

Barley Wine
Gold: 2008 Barley Wine, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Silver: St. Ambroise Vintage Ale, McAuslan Brewing (QC)
Bronze: Swan's Legacy Ale, Swan's Buckerfield (BC)

India Pale Ale
Gold: Hop Head Double IPA, Tree Brewing (BC)
Silver: No. 9 IPA, Mike Duggan - Cool Beer (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Brown Ale
Gold: Nut Brown, Dead Frog Brewery (BC)
Silver: Rail Ale Nut Brown, Howe Sound Brewing (BC)
Bronze: True North Copper Altbier, Magnotta Brewery (ON)

Scotch Ale
Gold: N/A
Silver: Scotch Ale, Phillip's Brewery (BC)
Bronze: Iron Duke, Wellington Brewery (ON)

Gold: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewing (QC)
Silver: Keepers Stout, Lighthouse Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Traditional Irish Stout, Hockley Valley Brewing (ON)
Honourable Mention: Midnight Sun Espresso Stout, Yukon Brewery (YT)

Strong Porter (Baltic)
Gold: Grand Baltic Porter, Garrison Brewing (NS)
Silver: N/A
Bronze: N/A

Imperial Stout
Gold: Russian Gun Imperial Stout, Grand River Brewing (ON)
Silver: Imperial Stout, Wellington Brewery (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Gold: Palliser Porter, Bushwakker Brewing (SK)
Silver: Black Toque, Phillip's Brewery (BC)
Bronze: Coffee Porter, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

Fruit & Vegetable
Gold: Chocolate Porter, Phillip's Brewing (BC)
Silver: Raspberry Weizen, Pump House Brewing (NB)
Bronze: Jalapeno Ale, Garrison Brewing (NS)

Special Honey/Maple Lager or Ale
Gold: Special Honey Maple Lager, Old Credit Brewing (ON)
Silver: Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Honey Brown Traditional, Dead Frog Brewery (BC)

Brewery of the Year - Mill Street Brewery (3rd year in a row)
Beer of the Year - Yukon Red Amber Ale

Heritage Brewing to Throw Hop Party

Ottawa's Heritage Brewing Co. will be hosting a Hop Party on Tuesday September 29 between 5pm - 7pm to celebrate the release of a new beer that was brewed using fresh hops grown in Prince Edward County by Larry Roche.

The brewery is encouraging anyone interested in trying this new beer to stop by the brewery, talk beer, sample the new creation, and go on a brewery tour.

Heritage Brewing Co.
866 Campbell Ave.
Ottawa ON K2C 2A5.

Tonight's the Night - Canadian Brewing Awards to be Announced

Tonight's the night where brewers and brewery representatives from all over Canada fly into Toronto to celebrate and recognize the winners of the 7th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards (hosted and operated by TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine).

Back in August, breweries from coast-to-coast submitted their product for judging, choosing from 25 categories to enter. 18 BJCP judges had the daunting task of tasting and scoring over 280 beers - from the smallest of breweries to the largest national ones.

Last year we held a packed house at The Richmond, where Mill Street Brewery walked away with their second consecutive Canadian Brewery of the Year award and Garrison Brewing Co. also captured their second consecutive Beer of the Year award for their Imperial Pale Ale. Will they extend their streak to three? How will be the big winners tonight?

Check back tonight in between 7:30pm and 8:00pm for all the results.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Local Pub Crawl: September 23 - 29

Every Wednesday I'll be posting a round-up of of local pub updates relating to new beers being tapped, events/festivals, tastings taking place, or new initiatives that readers might find interesting. All the information is straight from the pubs themselves.

Mill Street Brewpub: Head down to the brewpub in the Distillery District to have a pint of Mill Street's newest seasonal - Oktoberfest Marzen, while supplies last.

C'est What: Toronto's craft beer friendly pub is busy putting together a list of beers that will be available for their 21st Annual Fall Festival of Craft Breweries. See yesterday's post about what you will find at the bar.

Feathers: In addition to the new draught line-up, Feathers has recently added added a steak night on Thursdays:
- 5oz N.Y Striploin Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Red Onions, Cucumber and Stilton on Mixed Greens with House Vinaigrette - $11.99
- 10oz Striploin with Tarragon Butter, Mashed Potato and Vegetables - $16.99

Our Striploin is supplied by Close to the Bone and cut fresh in house

The Monks Table: Is working hard to get things ready for the Bar & Bench charity event.

Bar Volo: Volo is always switching up and rotating their draught lines, and this week you'll be able to find Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale and George Gale & Co.'s Best Bitter Special from the UK. Volo has also just launched a bottle beer sale for summer/last call beers - 20-40% off.

The King Edward: The cask of Headstrong is gone so the folks at The King Edward have tapped the first of 2 casks of Wellington SPA and running the cask/keg/bottle comparison. And the guest keg belonging to Grand River's Bumbleberry Wheat is almost gone, so go in and get some while it's there.

Fynn's of Temple: This Saturday Fynn's is hosting a 250th anniversary celebration for Guinness and next Thursday they'll be holding a Autumn Bash - guest appreciation party from 5:30pm - 8:30pm with live music and Steam Whistle sampling.

Black Creek Brewery (Restaurant): The Black Creek Historic Brewery will be holding a 100 Mile Harvest Celebration Dinner this Saturday (26th) in their on-site restaurant. "Celebrate the bounty of Ontario’s harvest season. Enjoy a delicious three-course gourmet meal featuring locally grown ingredients paired with selected Ontario craft beers. The evening will include a tour of the brewery, and a chance to learn about local food and sustainable living." Ticket cost $75 for non-members and $67 for Black Creek members, and they can be purchased by contacting 416-667-6295.

Starters: Roasted Tomato and Fennel soup
Main Course: Seared Pork Chops with Apple Chutney served with Seasonal Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes
Dessert: Spiced Pumpkin Pie with fresh Whipped Cream

Ceili Cottage: After hosting a huge Guinness 250th anniversary celebration a week early, that included lobster dinners, the Cottage is included more lobster in their weekly hash dinners. Wash it all down with a pint or two of Durham's Tommy Knocker cask ale.

If you are a pub owner/operator of a local establishment, or a manager of such a location, and you'd be interested in submitting information about your place, please feel free to contact me at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Canadian Brewing Awards - Thursday Night

The 7th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards Gala is taking place this Thursday night to celebrate the best in the Canadian brewing industry and to recognize all the winners from the judging that took place in August.

Just like last years awards, I will have the entire list of winning beers posted here on the night of the gala - real time. So remember to check here around 8pm local (Toronto) time.

There was a significant increase in brewery participation this year, and there are some surprising, and not so surprising results. 8pm local time - read it here first to find out who won brewery of the year and beer of the year .

C'est What Fall Festival of Craft Breweries: Beer List

C'est What's 21st Annual Fall Festival of Craft Breweries is less than two weeks away (October 2nd), and judging by the just released beer list, it would appear it's going to be a terrific evening.

Amsterdam: Oranje Weiss, Oktoberfest
Big Rock Warthog (bottle)
Barley Days Dark Ale
Black Oak Oaktoberfest (cask)
Beau's Nightmarzen
Church-Key Scarlet Pilsner
Mike Duggan's #9 IPA (cask)
Denison's Dunkel
County Cider: Peach Cider (bottle)
Creemore Urbock
C'est What: Al's Cask Ale (cask), Big Butt, Hazelnut Chocolate Ale, Coffee Porter, Homegrown Hemp Ale, Caraway Rye Beer
Durham Black Katt
F&M MacLean's Pale Ale
Grand River Highballer Pumpkin Ale (cask)
Granite Double Hopped IPA
Great Lakes: Pumpkin (cask), Devil's Pale Ale
Heritage Harvest Lager
King Unfiltered Dark Lager
MacLean's Brown Ale (cask)
McAuslan: Vintage Ale (bottle), Pumpkin Ale (bottle)
Mill Street: Rye, Oktoberfest
Muskoka Dark Ale
Neustadt 10W30 (cask)
Niagara's Best Drummond Dark Ale
Nickel Brook Marzen
Flying Monkeys Hopapotamus
Railway City Dead Elephant Ale
Unibroue Ephemere Cassis
Steam Whistle Pilsner
Trafalgar Hop Nouveau
Pioneer Brewery TBA (cask)
Wellington Imperial Stout

Admission to the festival is free and sample tokens can be purchased for the low price of $1. Doors open at 5pm and the festival runs until 10pm.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meet Gordon Fuller: Creemore Brewmaster

Meet Gordon Fuller, the longtime Brewmaster with Creemore Springs Brewery Ltd. Fuller is the man behind the scenes, working the copper kettle, consistently churning out terrific Creemore products like the Traditional Premium Lager, Pilsner, UrBock, and just recently, an exceptional Kellerbier.

I met Fuller for the first time back in 2007 when I attended a food and beer presentation Creemore was hosting for food and drink writers, and I've had the pleasure of bumping into him again at various events. He loves his work and he loves his products. Meet Gordon Fuller.

How many years have you worked in the industry?

How did you get into brewing beer?
I started making beer at home before I was old enough to buy it.

How long have you been brewing with Creemore?
20 years

Where were you before?
Amsterdam Brasserie and Brewpub, Rotterdam Brewing Company

Can you provide a little history on the brewery?
Creemore was founded by 3 retirees: an advertising/marketing exec; a fitter/welder; and a glass bottle manufacturing exec. Our spring is on land once owned by the bottle manufacturing exec. Ownership was passed to two octogenarian financiers from Toronto in 2000. Molson bought the brewery in 2005. The flagship brand, Premium Lager, was the only beer we made until 1997, when urBock was introduced as a seasonal in celebration of our 10th anniversary. Pilsner came along in 2007 to celebrate 20 years. We pride ourselves on the consistency of our beers and dedication to excellent service.

What is your best selling beer?
Creemore Springs Premium Lager

Which provinces currently sell Creemore products?
Ontario, Alberta, Quebec

Tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know about.
I spent my childhood summers in the bush in the NWT at my father’s biological research station.

How successful have the seasonals been for the brewery?
We think very successful

What's your favorite beer style?
Czech pilsner

What is your ideal food and beer pairing?
I find beer goes with just about everything.

Pick one Creemore beer to drink forever.
Premium Lager

What has been the highlight of your brewing career?
When Creemore needed a new brewhouse, I designed it and oversaw the installation and commissioning. At the Rotterdam, I made 12 different beers in 12 months—that was fun too.

Best time for a pint?
After a hot sunny afternoon in the garden.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Highway 61 - Southern Barbeque: Toronto, ON

Highway 61 Southern Barbeque
1620 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M4G 3B7
(416) 489-7427

Back in July I was at the University of Toronto's Hart House Craft Beer and Summer BBQ when Great Lakes Brewing Marketer, John Bowden, introduced me to Highway 61's bar manager, Matthew Clappison. Bowden mentioned that Highway 61 had been open for a while and it was a place he thought was worth checking out - due to the enthusiasm the owners shared for selling craft beers and promoting their many virtues. Clappison meanwhile, invited me out to the bbq joint to see what they're all about and just this past weekend I finally made it there for a couple of pints and a plate of southern bbq deliciousness.

Opened on February 23, 2009 by three partners, the southern bbq style restaurant is also home to a terrific beer menu that features beer produced here in Ontario.

Ken McGarrie, Kerry Knoll, and Nick Sinnett, wanted to open a BBQ restaurant in Toronto that would capture the attention of carnivores city-wide and in doing so they realized that bbq'd ribs, pulled pork sandwich's, and dry rubbed wings just didn't go well with mainstream beer. As McCarrie (from Chicago and big fan of the American craft brewing industry) and Sinnett (described as a beer freak) were already fans of craft beer, it was an obvious choice to go with small batched products at their establishment, as the diverse styles and tastes suit the food found at Highway 61.

Located at 1620 Bayview Avenue, not far from the Eglinton Subway Station, Highway 61 is situated along a strip that has a number of restaurants ranging from Asian inspired noodle shops to generic watering holes; it seems this section of town offers area residents a choice of everything. The two storey building stands out from their neighbours, however, with the barn boarding that makes up the facade. A small 12 person sit down patio graces the sidewalk and it is kept shaded by the two Mill Street umbrella's.

Walking in through the front door you'll come upon a set of stairs leading upstairs and to the right is the entrance to the street level dining and bar area. More on the upstairs later.

The street level area features clean hardwood floors and more barn boarding that stretches from floor to the ceiling. The barn boarding is the perfect material to use in a place like this, providing a worn, weathered, and rustic appearance - western, saloon-like. Knoll, who joined me for a pint during my visit, explained that the panelling was left over from the previous owners who inhabited the building before them but the three owners thought it was perfect for what they had in mind.

A collection of Jazz and Blues posters hang from the walls on both sides of the slim room and are joined by some beer signage, old movie posters and other old posters and knick-knacks. There is long thick bench seating running along the right side of the room with a number of four person tables, and more tables are in front of the large open windows that lead out to the patio. This is prime seating on the street level - lots of sunlight and good for people watching.

The small bar is located at the back of the room and has four bar stools to perch yourself on while talking to one of the friendly bartenders. Speaking of bartenders, McGarrie makes it known that each of them, plus the servers, receives some form of education about all the beers that they get in from the various small breweries. "We have a beer of the week that we start profiling on Monday's. $3.50 pints and $10.00 pitchers, and we try getting someone from the brewery to come in and speak with the staff and talk to the customers," stated McGarrie.

On tap during my visit: Cameron's Dark 266 Lager, Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale, Nickelbrook Organic, Wellington Special Pale Ale, Trafalgar Harbour Gold Pilsner, Taps Charleston Lager, Saint Andre Vienna Lager, Mill St. Belgian Wit, Granite Summer Ale, and Highway 61 Lager (produced by Great Lakes). McGarrie, the man who takes responsibility for bringing in the craft beers, states that they have played around with the line-up by rotating taps and they'll continue that practice into the future. "We'll have Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale on soon, then come the festive season we'll swap it for the Winter Ale, and we'll switch up the Cameron's Dark with another one of their beers sometime soon, and so on. It allows our customers to continually try new beers and showcases the different options available from the different breweries."

And beer sales are going pretty strong. "The Monday night featured beer promo is a big hit, and I think because we don't even offer mainstream beer by the bottle that people have had to open their eyes to the craft beer and once they taste it, thumbs up," said Knoll, who had to be convinced by his two other partners that it was a good idea to sell craft beer. "I wasn't to sure before we opened, but when I tasted the different beers and saw how diverse they were and felt they would match with the meats better, I was sold."

Upstairs is where the live bands perform four nights a week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday) and there is another full service bar and double the seating capacity.

The attractive wooden bar is shaped somewhat like the number 3 and has room for 12 leather bar back chairs. It is more attractive than the small bar downstairs, but then so is the rest of the upstairs. Tiled flooring and polished wood gleam as the sunlight streams through the large french windows that stretch across the width of the building. The windows are open, offering a nice cool breeze for the people sitting right up front, and it almost feels as though you are sitting on a patio. There are more posters upstairs that hang from more barn boarding, which are fun to scan over.

What about the food? Well, I'm not a critic, but I heartily endorse the ribs here. They're terrific! Actually, the food critics have also endorsed the ribs at Highway 61. Chef Michael Bonacini and restaurateur Peter Oliver recently conducted a rib showdown featuring meat from Highway 61, All Star Wings & Ribs, Eddy's Steak House, Phil's Original BBQ, Place for Steak and Sea Food and many more establishments. The two tasted the all the ribs blindly and it was the moist, meaty ribs from Highway 61 that were named the winner. "We were pretty stoked to hear that," said McGarrie as he showed me the full page of results in the North Toronto Post magazine.

The smell from the kitchen is wonderful and I witnessed a number of walkers stop near the entrance and peer in after getting a whiff of the sauces and the slow cooking of the meat. I ordered the Memphis Mini. For $18.49 I got a heaping plate of pulled pork, 3 sauced ribs, 5 slow smoked wings (awesome), baked beans and some coleslaw, all of which was washed down with a pint of Saint Andre's Vienna Lager. Highly recommended. And thank god there are think napkins.

Highway 61 is also pretty well known for their live music sessions that take place 4 nights a week. Blues, Jazz, and Southern Rock, can all be heard coming from upstairs, right next to the bar. Jack de Keyzer, Cassius Periera, and Dylan Wickings are just a few of the musicians who grace Highway 61's makeshift stage, and customers are loving it. "We have been toying with the idea of offering customers with music on Saturday nights in addition to the four we already have," said McGarrie. "People who can't make it out Friday night are asking us to have someone play on Saturday, so we're looking into that."

So there you have it. Ontario craft beer - pulled pork - slow cooked wings - tender meaty ribs - wicked sauces - good music - and three owners who care about their profession, all great qualities of a good drinking establishment in my books. Next time you find yourself in the area, stop by, take a big whiff of the aroma creeping through the front door, and head in. You'll be glad you did.
Highway 61 on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pulled Pork and .......

Tonight's been kind to me. Pulled pork sandwich's and terrific coleslaw with a bunch of amazing Canadian beer.

Greg Nash's IPA from Pump House (before he left the company): A+ in aroma, flavour, and overall impression
Garrison Imperial Pale Ale
R&B's Red Devil Pale Ale
Wellington RIS
Russell IP'eh
Bullrush Barley Wine

Now on to a Garrison Wet Hop! Times are good tonight indeed. Look for a profile on Highway 61 tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

George Wendt Heading to Beau's

Beau's All Natural Brewery is throwing a big Oktoberfest bash at the Vanleek Hill Fairgrounds on Saturday October 3rd, and to help them celebrate the occasion, Cheers funnyman, George Wendt (aka Norm), will be making his way to the festival to entertain ticket buyers.

In a message from Beau's sent through Facebook:
A special heads up to the Beau's Army, before word gets out through the press... George Wendt (who played Norm on Cheers) is coming to our Oktoberfest on Oct 3!

I'm so excited I'm beside myself.

I want to make sure that Beau's Army gets first crack at meeting George before our Oktoberfest sells out.

If you call the brewery and book 10 tickets for your friends, you get two tickets for free. If you call and book 20 tickets, you'll get two free tickets, two free t-shirts, and two free Litresteins.
Oktoberfest will get underway at 11am and run until 9pm, and the folks at Beau's have a number of events planned for the day - keg toss competitions, tours of the brewery, homebrewing demonstrations, bbq demonstrations, hay wagon rides and more. If you purchase your tickets in advance (by calling the brewery) they will only set you back $12, at the door they'll cost you $15. The first 1,000 ticket buyers will also receive a free gift.

And last but not least, Beau's will be offering two beers throughout the day: Lug Tread Lagered Ale Night and their new seasonal Märzen Oktoberfest Lager.

Call Beau's for more details - 1-866-585-BEER (2337), or visit their website:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Local Pub Crawl: September 16 - 22

Today marks the first edition of a new segment I'm calling the Local Pub Crawl. Every Wednesday I'll be posting a round-up of of local pub updates relating to new beers being tapped, events/festivals, tastings taking place, or new initiatives that readers might find interesting. All the information is straight from the pubs themselves.

The King Edward: The Ilderton, ON pub has Headstrong Pale Ale on the handpump right now, which will be followed by Wellington SPA. Whenever The King Edward has the SPA on the handpump, they run a cask/keg/bottle tasting where individuals can get a 12oz of cask SPA, 12oz of keg SPA and a bottle of SPA to do a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the same beer. Their guest keg right now belongs to Grand River Bummbleberry Wheat.

Feathers Pub: Since taking over the 27 year old establishment, publican Reid Pickering has introduced some new beers to the draught line-up at that include: Denison's Weissbier, Black Oak Pale Ale, Waupoos County Cider, Killkenny and Harp.

Feathers is also hosting their "Season Opener Whisky Challenge" next Monday September 21st at 7pm, $70.00.

Fynn's of Temple - September 24th: Guinness 250th party (5pm-8pm) sampling, giveaways, etc

Granite Brewery: On September 19th, the Granite is hosting the CASK! group and their first ever Social event. Come out between 3-6pm for some pints of cask conditioned ale.

Bryden’s: Tash, the owner of this wonderful little pub at Bloor and Jane, has recently transformed the draught menu to include a number of great Ontario craft beer and has initiated a weekly rotating line-up. This week you can find Headstrong Pale Ale, County Durham Hop Addict, and Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale all on tap in addition to the other number of craft beer available.

Bar Volo: Volo has just released a number of events that are taking place at their Yonge and Dundonald location. Click here for the entire list.

C'est What: Mark October 2nd on your caledars as C'est What will be hosting their 21st annual Fall Festival of Craft Brewers. No admission, samples as low as $1 - Doors open at 5pm and event runs until 10pm.

Ceili Cottage: Sunday September 20 - Leslieville's newest local has a big day of celebrations planned for Guinness' 250th anniversary (although the big day is actually the 24th, owner Patrick McMurray will be in a plane on his way to Ireland - so he throwing an early party). From 12pm-12am, The Ceili Cottage will have:
  • Traditional Irish Sessions by Ena O'Brien and friends
  • Irish Dance showcase by The Gilchrist-Canavan School of Irish Dance
  • Oyster Eating contest featuring Linda Li - the 2009 Canadian, and 2nd in the World Champion Oyster eater!!!
  • $5 pints Guinness and Harp
  • $15 for 12 Malpeque oysters, $35 Lobster Supper, Cookin' with Guinness Chef's specials as well!

Highway 61: The Southern BBQ joint has a number of things going on;

  • Monday Night, $3.50 Pints/$10 Pitchers of one of our featured OCB draughts, featuring a live performance from The Stevie Gee, Bee's.
  • Tuesday Night, A bucket of 4 Red Baron for $10, as well as Brian Blains Tuesday Night Blues Campfire.
  • Wednesday Night is $4 bar rail drinks and our very special guest performer, Gabe Salem
  • Friday Nights we feature Dylan Wickens and Cassius Perreira, a dynamic blues duo with youthful sound.

*Stay tuned for a review of Highway 61 in the next couple of days, as I made my way there last Sunday for some pints and ribs.

If you are a pub owner/operator of a local establishment, or a manager of such a location, and you'd be interested in submitting information about your place, please feel free to contact me at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bar Volo - Cask Days, Quads, Tastings! Mark the Calendars

Get out your day planners and start booking off weekends in October and November, as Bar Volo, one of Toronto's most beloved beer bars, has released some 'save the dates' information about a number of events they plan on hosting in the upcoming months. And man, do they ever sound amazing. Many of the details about each event will be announced here as soon as they are released.

Dieu Du Ciel Meet and Greet
Saturday October 3rd 2009
Dieu Du Ciel! Trade and Media Tasting
2:00-4:00pm by invitation only

An Evening With Dieu Du Ciel!
7:00pm - 2:00am - Public Tasting

HMH Beer Negotiants would like to invite you to spend an evening with Microbrasserie Dieu Du Ciel! on Saturday October 3rd. 2009.

The DDC founders and brewers will be present to celebrate the release of their Peche Mortel (Imperial Coffee Stout) and Corne Du Diable (American IPA) into the LCBO. The tasting will take place between 7pm-2am at Volo (587 Yonge Street), where you will be able to try a handful of Dieu Du Ciel beers on tap and cask!

Beers Available:
Aphrodisiaque: Cocoa and Vanilla Stout
Corne du diable (Horn of the devil): American Style IPA
Dernière Volonté (Last will): Abbey-style blond beer
Péché Mortel (Mortal Sin): Imperial Coffee Stout with Coffee
Rigor Mortis ABT (Rigor Mortis ABT): Quadrupel
Rosée d'hibiscus (Pinkish Hibiscus): Hibiscus Flower Wit
Solstice d'hiver 2009 (Winter solstice 2009): Barley Wine
+ 2 Surprise Casks!

Admission will be $10.00 which includes a Dieu Du Ciel! Glass. $2.00 will be donated to Sick Kids charity. If you would like to return the glass you will receive $8.00 back at the end of the evening.

This is a 19+ event with a capacity of 100 people. Beers are subject to change.

Volo Cask Days
Tuesday,October 13th,2009
Cask Days 2009 Tickets go on sale @ 12:00 Noon

October 26,27,28th
Pre-Cask Days 2009: Traditional English Ales (20 Pins)
Three day event during regular business hours - Details TBA - No Tickets Required

October 29th, 2009
Pre-Cask Days 2009: Revisiting the Final Four
The final four in the Ontario Cask IPA Challenge revisited for a second tasting (Granite's Hopping Mad, Sgt. Major's, Mike Duggan No. 9, Durham Hop Addict). - Details TBA

Friday, October 30th, 2009
First Tapping
Cask Days 2009 Session 1: 4pm-8pm
Cask Days 2009 Session 2: 9pm -1am

Saturday, October 31st, 2009
Cask Days 2009:Brewers Breakfest 10am-3pm
Cask Days 2009 Session 3: 4pm-8pm
Cask Days 2009 Session 4: 9pm-1am

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
Cask Days 2009 Rap-Up - No Tickets Required

Monday,Novermber 2nd, 2009
Cask Days 2009:$5.00 Pint Night!

Beer Tastings in November
Moylan's Brewery Tasting - Details TBA
Phillips Beer Company Tasting - Details TBA

The King of Quads A Quadrupel Latteral Tasting
Friday November 20th, 2009
Beers: Rochefort 10 / St.Bernardus Abt 12 / Achel Extra /
Westvleteren Abt 12 / Rigor Mortis ABT 12 / Koningshoeven Quad.
Details TBA

A Hopfenstark Tasting
Saturday,December 12th,2009
A Night With Fred - Hopfenstark Tasting Event with brewer present - Details TBA

Ontario's First Porter and Stout Cask Challenge
January 2010
First Annual Ontario Stout/Porter Cask Challenge!
Details TBA

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Meet Sam Corbeil: Mill Street Brewer

* Formerly of Mill Street. Corbeil is now working on a new brewery - Sawdust City Brewing Co.*

Meet Sam Corbeil, brewer with Mill Street, a regular TAPS magazine contributor, and a beer and cheese educator.

Corbeil, sporting a mustache that Lanny MacDonald would most definitely be proud of, has been with Mill Street for two years now with previous stints at True North Brewing (Magnotta) and Flying Monkey's (previously known as Robert Simpson) and he has an interesting story on how he got into the industry. You can usually find Corbeil behind the booth at festivals, pouring samples of the beer he helps produce, but for now, here he is, with his daughter Olive.

How long have you been in the brewing industry?
I’ve been employed as a brewer since July of 2006, so just over 4 years now. But I left my job in advertising in January of that year to attend the six month long, Certified Brewmasters Course at the VLB in Berlin (I had no previous brewing experience what-so-ever). So, I suppose the long answer is, I’ve been in the brewing industry for about 4 and one half years.

What was your light bulb moment? When did you realize you wanted to brew for a living?
Towards the end of the summer of ’05, probably about this time of year actually, I was taking a trip through France and Belgium with my wife and two friends. We stopped in Brussels to attend (and by attend, I mean drink our faces off) the Belgian Beer Weekend Beer Festival. After seeing and tasting all those different beers and seeing the joy it brought to everyone there, I was pretty much hooked.

But the light bulb moment was probably when I got back to Canada and started work again. Sitting down at my computer, inside my claustrophobic, dull grey cubicle, it felt like that scene from the “Temple of Doom”, when Indy is in that cave and the spiked walls are closing in on him.

I figured, “Balls to this!, I’m not getting crushed by no dirty spikes. Time to leave the rat race.”

So I jumped onto the ol’ interwebs and began searching for beer schools or other ways to get into the beer industry....and a few months later, I’m in Berlin and the rest as they say is history.

How long have you been with Mill Street?
I’ve been at Mill Street since August of ’07, so just over two years now.

Where besides Mill Street have you brewed?
My first brewing job was with Mike Ligas and Simon Cowe at True North Brewing in Vaughan (Magnotta). They were great to work with and I truly learned a lot there. They’re still a fabulous brewery and make great beers. I was there for about 6 months when I left to join Jim Price at The Robert Simpson (now Flying Monkey’s) Brewing Company in Barrie. I was there for just under a year when the hour long commute from Toronto to Barrie started to wear heavily on my soul. I was living on King St., just about as far downtown as you can get, so when a job at Mill St, opened up, I jumped at the chance to take a job closer to home.

What is the best part about brewing?
I’d have to say, learning something new every day. Beer has been around, in one form or the other, since about the dawn of civilization. And humans have been spending the better part of those millennia trying to perfect the art of brewing. (It’s absolutely amazing how much time and energy humans have spent trying to discover and perfect ways of not having to deal with reality)

So there is certainly a lot to learn. And believe it or not, something comes up almost every day that gives you the opportunity to learn. It never gets dull.

Your column in TAPS (Confessions of a New Brewer) is a big hit with readers. Give us a taste of what’s coming up in the Fall issue.
(*insert southern accent) “Why Mr. Burtch (blushing and fanning myself with a kerchief), I do believe you are givin’ me the vapours!” (why did I spell “vapours” like a Canadian, when I was speaking like an American...weird) Anyhoo, my next Taps contribution is a tawdry tale of sweet summer love gone awry. A heart wrenching saga about two lovers sadly falling out of love during the long hot days of summer. Well, not really. But sorta. But not. I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out!

You do beer and cheese pairing seminars in Leslieville. What has that been like?
It’s been fantastic. I first approached Michael (the owner) at Leslieville about two and a half years ago. I came across their shop online and saw that they were doing Wine & Cheese seminars. I emailed him that day and told him, “I don’t know much about cheese, but I know a little about beer. How about doing Beer & Cheese classes?”. He was totally into it. We got together and along with Christie (the manager) we worked together and cobbled together our first class. We’ve been doing classes steadily since and it’s given me the opportunity to learn a lot about cheese and what really makes a great pairing.

We’ve even crossed over to include Beer & Wine & Cheese classes, with Julia Rogers, who runs the Wine & Cheese seminars at the shop. If you ever need to know anything, and I mean anything, about wine or cheese, she’s your gal. She really knows her stuff.

The reaction from the public has also been fantastic as well. Most folks come in with an open mind and are there to learn. And it always feels great teaching people about something you have a real passion for.

Also, I get to “test” beer & cheese pairings all the time. Not a bad gig.
(Shameless self promotion....If anyone is interested, there will be a whole slew of upcoming classes this fall at both the Queen St East and Queen St West locations of the
Leslieville Cheese Market.)

What is your favourite beer and cheese pairing – or food and beer pairing?
I don’t like to pick favourites, but since you asked, I have to go with stout and Stilton. Not only do the roasted malt flavours of the stout meld wonderfully together with the buttery, nutty blue. But the creamy texture of the cheese and the silky smoothness of the stout, when they meet on your god!

And to go one step further...Put that cheese on top of nicely charred medium rare burger with sweet sautéed onions smothered on top and keep that glass of stout beside it. And you got yourself a winner there mister!

What's your favorite beer style?
Again, I really hate picking favourites, especially when it comes to picking beer styles… but seeing as you got me all wound up and thinking about stouts, I’d have to say a big, bold, American Imperial Stout. Something along the lines of Great Divides Oak Aged Yeti, or Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout. It’s not just the flavours I love, but the aromas are incredible. Sometimes I don’t know what I like better, just sitting there and smelling the damn thing or drinking it! Well, actually the desire to drink it and quickly become inebriated eventually wins over. And it’s not that I don’t like any other country’s Imperial Stouts, there are many great ones out there. I just really love the brash, in-your-face, American attitude that comes across in their over-the-top offerings.

What has been the highlight of your brewing career?
The very first time I got to brew by myself.

After six months of schooling, a few weeks of apprenticeship in Germany and a few more weeks of training at True North in Vaughan. When I finally got to brew by myself, it was a pretty big deal. Well, at least to me.

According to your (Mill Street) Twitter Account, you guys are coming out with another slew of seasonal beers. Can you tell us a little about the new ones that are being developed (Oktoberfest Märzen, Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale, and Roggenbier)?
Well gosh, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. The best part about having all these seasonals, is coming down to the pub to try them. We’re actually pretty lucky at Mill St. Having the brew pub affords us the opportunity to make all these fun seasonals without disrupting our regular production up at the big plant. Also, it’s a pretty wicked place to go out on the pint.

Where do you see the Ontario brewing industry in the next 5 years?
Hopefully it keeps on growing the same way it has been for the past few years. It seems that each year more and more people get the message about what good beer is all about. Over these past few years craft brewers have been chipping away at the market share held by the big three. It may not seem like much, but every little percentile is a big victory for us wee guys. And with more and more great breweries popping up around the province, it really pushes us to make better and better beer. How can that be a bad thing for anyone? Every time I go into the LCBO, I see more and more great beers on the shelves. It’s been a renaissance of such for the beer in the province over the past few years and hopefully it continues.

And you, were do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I’m not much for trying to predict the future. I mean, if you had of told me 5 years ago that I’d be answering questions on a “Meet the brewer” segment. I would’ve been looking for a fire extinguisher to put out your pants because I would’ve thought they’d be on fire from all the lies you were telling.

Really, it’s just too hard to tell what’s going to happen next week, let alone five years from now. The last five years have been a pretty fun ride for me, so I think I’m going to just keep riding that wave and see where it takes me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Duggan's Brewery - What's Brewing

I spoke with Michael Duggan the other day to see how things were going with the new brewery and I'm happy to report that everything seems to be moving along nicely. With the exception of a couple of small issues, things have been going pretty smoothly and plans are to be open by the end of the month. Duggan confirmed that he has been brewing twice a day and there are already a number of beers underway at the new location: Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Bock, Pale Ale, and a Stout.

And speaking of Duggan, I cracked open a 500ml bottle of his Number 9 IPA tonight (a left-over from the Canadian Brewing Awards judging) and damn, did it ever taste fine.

The Number 9 pours a lovely mahogany with a rocky thick off-white layer of head with good retention that never quite leaves. Once it does thin lacing appears around the pint glass. It is pretty dark for the style, a brown IPA if you will. There's a lot going on in the nose - caramel malt, a touch of roasted nut, and plenty of citrus hop notes of tangerine and kiwi that share space with that pine needle aroma. Medium bodied and lightly bitter (not one of those crazy hop bombs) on the tongue, this IPA bares a nice citrus flavour that is well-rounded and nicely balanced with soft cloying caramelly malt. A very well done IPA, and produced here in Ontario! Looking forward to its release in bottles.

The Pub Show - Whistle Radio

Just a reminder for those of you who find yourself inside this afternoon that the second taping of the new Pub Radio show will be airing at 4pm on 102.7fm. Jon Graham from Cameron's Brewing Co. joined us in studio to talk about the 'Beer of the Week' - Cameron's Auburn Ale, singer/songwriter Glenn Marais played some songs and talked about his fundraising efforts (please check it out), and I talked about some of the things that took place over the last week in the beer industry and talked pubs with host Bill Perrie.

Click here to listen to the show online.

There is also a Facebook if you're interested in becoming a fan.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If You Built It, They Will Come...

The Intelligencer, a Belleville area newspaper, is reporting that Hastings County Economic Development manager Andrew Redden has initiated a study involving six commerce students from Queen's University to develop a business case for brewing beer in the area.

Redden states in the article that Hastings County, which is well known for their abundance of cheese factories, would make a great place for one or two local breweries and he has already identified a number of potential sites where such a brewery could operate.

Beer and cheese in Hastings County - sounds good to me. It would also make for a great beery day trip: Church Key, Barley Days, Waupoos, hop farms (which are less than an hours drive from the area)

Click here to be re-directed to the article.

Hart & Thistle to Show Beer Wars Movie

Greg Nash sent me an email the other day about something he has been planning for a while now - being the first Canadian establishment to offer customers the chance to view Beer Wars . It will be Canada's first screening of the movie, which received a good amount of press in the US months ago.

On Saturday September 26th, at 8:00pm, Nash and the Hart & Thistle (Halifax) staff will be hosting that screening in the Dunnottar Room. Tickets only cost $20, which gets you an abundance of popcorn, nacho chips and salsa, and one Hart & Thistle beer. Tickets can be purchased via PayPal through Nash's personal blog where you can also read about other happenings at the Hart & Thistle.

Hart & Thistle
1869 Upper Water St
Halifax, NS B3J 1S9

The Movie:
With some of the biggest names in the craft brewing industry appearing in the film, it is a must see. You'll see interviews and hear opinions from the likes of Charlie Papazian, Sam Calagione, Greg Koch, Jim Koch, Todd Alstrom, Michael Jackson, Kim Jordan and Garrett Oliver to name a few. You'll learn how some of the massive conglomerate powerhouse brewers attempt to crush craft brewers to keep North Americans drinking their mainstream, bland corn and rice beers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Brunswick's Selection Lager & Light Tanking

I saw this coming. Actually, I think a lot of people saw this coming. I just didn't think it would have taken this long.

The CBC is reporting that sales of the cheap New Brunswick government-owned beer, Selection Lager & Light, which is produced/contract-brewed by Moosehead Breweries solely for NB Liquor Corp, are in the dumps.

Selection Lager and Selection Light sold a combined four cases of beer at three of the province's largest retail outlets on Labour Day, according to NB Liquor's inventory lists.

Selection Lager, Light sales (cases of 12 cans)
March (19 days) 26,677
April 18,237
May 18,972
June 15,323
July 10,759
August 10,500

The NB government launched the mainstream/cheap-inspired beer back in March, putting more of the same bland product on the shelves, only this time they would take a bigger cut of the profits and eat into the sales of other breweries. The initiative was also launched much to the displeasure of two local craft breweries, Pump House and Northampton, who have both publicly said that they were never contacted to produce the beer; even if they couldn't handle the output required.

How did the government even allow this? A government run liquor selling their own beer, in their own stores, at a lower cost than competitor's, who are in fact paying the government to sell beer?

Craig Pinhey, my tasting partner with TAPS, wrote a great piece on the whole mess back in March - click here to have a read.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Meet Mike Tymchuk: Founder of Wild Rose Brewery

Meet Mike Tymchuk, the Founder and General Manager of Calgary's Wild Rose Brewery. The brewery was established in 1996 and has been through the ups and downs most small breweries experience, almost closing for good in 2003. Yet Tymchuk and his staff persevered and today the brewery is seeing increased sales figures and are now dabbling in seasonal products that have caught the attention of beer geeks across Canada.

I met Tymchuk at the Canadian Brewing Awards Gala last year where he picked up two medals, including a silver medal for their Barley Wine. As with all brewery owners, Tymchuk definitely has a passion for the Canadian craft brewing industry and here's hoping he'll continue to lead Wild Rose into a bright and prosperous future.

Where is the WR Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
Wild Rose currently operates out of an old military Quonset hut on the old Currie Barracks site in Calgary, Alberta next to the popular Calgary Farmers’ Market. We currently have seven regular brews and are engaged in a Seasonal Release program as well. Our seven regulars in order of performance are; Wild Rose WRaspberry Ale, Wild Rose Velvet Fog (an unfiltered Canadian Wheat Ale), Wild Rose Brown Ale, Wild Rose IPA, Wild Rose WRed Wheat, Wild Rose SOB (Special Old Bitter), and Wild Rose Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
Wild Rose Brewery opened in the Foothills Industrial Park in Calgary in the fall of 1996. Operating as a draught only brewery for the first seven years, in 2003, we entered into the world of packaged beers with a flip top one litre bottle that we used for over two years. Currently Wild Rose bottles six varieties in a standard 6-pack format, available in over 400 liquor stores province wide.

What is your best selling beer?
In the Summer, definitely WRaspberry Ale. In the winter months, Velvet Fog gives our WRaspberry a run for its money.

What's new at the brewery? Events, new beers, milestones, awards?
What isn’t new often seems like a shorter list. First, lots of new hardware since we have had to respond to a 30-40% growth environment for the last few years. This fall/winter we are installing a silo, a faster bottling line, six new 60 HL fermentors, and will be renovating/expanding the Taproom. We are also expanding our Seasonal Release program from 6 beers a year to 9-10 brews for next year.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
I was working as a Sous Chef at Spinnakers Brew Pub in Victoria, and was invited into the brewery in 1987. My passion for craft brewing has kept me engaged in, and challenged by the industry for 22 years.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
Believing that most of our peers are as dedicated as we are to preserving the integrity of our craft, and the quality of our goods.

Where can someone find your products?
In finer liquor stores and beer joints province wide (Alberta).

Tell us something about WR that not a lot of people know about.
The doors were almost closed for good in 2003.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
Nimbleness. Often new policies and programs are developed over a beer at the end of one day, and are implemented the next.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
I can think of two highlights. Over the years, I have done a few installations overseas in China, Japan, and the Philippines. The job in the Philippines stands out in that when I arrived, they walked me into an absolutely naked room where the brewery (including a steam boiler) was to be installed. 21 days later, we celebrated with beer that we brewed served on the draught system that I also installed.

My other highlight is every Friday when I see our Taproom full of happy people enjoying our hospitality and our beer.

Cold clean lager or big hoppy pale ale?
Big hoppy pale ale.

Name your favourite non WR produced beer.
Anything from Phillips Brewery in Victoria.

How successful have the seasonals been? And what has been your favourite?
“Wildly” successful. My favourite is either our Imperial IPA we released last spring (mostly because it sold out 3 times faster than any of us would have forecast), or our current seasonal, a Dunkelweisse, mostly because I’m sure it’s going to push a few wannabees over the edge into the world of cool beers.

Best time for a pint?
After we have successfully stood up yet another 60 HL tank without incident.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Tale of Two Tastings

It's not very often that I find myself with a free night. A night with nothing to do - no writing, no deal making (for TAPS advertising), no wedding planning. I had some free time during the last couple of weeks so I decided to help out a local craft brewery with some tastings they had planned for an LCBO store near my home and a Beer Store not far away.

I have done many tastings for a couple of craft breweries in LCBO's but never in a Beer Store, so I was very curious to see how the two sessions would differ and thought it would be an interesting topic for posting on. The first tasting took place on August 27th at the LCBO and the Beer Store tasting just took place on Friday night, September 4th.

The government retail outlet runs tastings all the time. Wines, spirits, and beers can be tasted by customers throughout the week as many of the large wineries hire individuals to stand behind the tasting booth to pass along free samples while reading from the back of pre-made tasting notes. I don't like this method. It doesn't make me feel like they really care about the product.

Anyway, back on topic. The LCBO prepares the booth for you. They bring extra cases from the walk in fridges to help with the display; with the thought that the grander the display the more likely incoming customers will notice it and stop by. All this is usually done by the 'Beer Guy/Girl' who also make display cards that feature the price of the product being sampled and tasting notes provided by the brewery. The individual doing the tasting is responsible for bringing along a snack (I prefer to bring pretzels) and ice. So, upon arriving, all the taster needs to do is get the beer on ice and put the snack in the bowl, and then get at it.

The LCBO serves individuals from all walks of life, from white collar professionals to the homeless and everyone in between. This makes tastings interesting. You can immediately spot someone walking through the doors who may be interested in hearing about the product and these are the people you want to target. Then there are the people who see 'free' samples of beer and 'free' pretzels who approach and just wants a couple of drinks. You do the whole spiel and then it comes to the price - "wow, no thanks, but maybe next time." I love that line, especially when you see them leave the store with three bottles of Maximum Ice. However, that being said, the majority of people that stop by the booth are generally interested in learning something, or tasting something different, and I've found some success in turning these people onto the particular product for at least one evening, which is rewarding.

The Beer Store
Friday night. The start of the long weekend. I had planned to be 3 1/2 hours up north at the cottage drinking a Lakes of Muskoka Hefe-Weissbier on the dock, but a medical emergency in the family prevented that, so I offered to do the tasting.... at the Beer Store.

Every Ontario citizen that reads this blog is probably having the same thoughts that I did about a Beer Store tasting, especially tasting a craft beer - "it's going to be an interesting night, dealing with the kind of people that hang outside the front doors and the kind of people who only drink one kind of beer and never veer from it." And it was, to a certain degree. Naturally, and with good reason, I had already typecast the Beer Store as a place that would be an inhospitable environment for such a tasting, but I was in for a surprise.

Just like the LCBO beer guy/girl, the Beer Store manager had everything all ready to go. He had brought a number of cases from the back to arrange a display, moved the large Bud Light Lime display so I wasn't standing directly beside it, and he provided the ice for the tasting. We spoke about Ontario produced craft beer and his exact words were - "I love to support the little guys as much as possible. They make great beers, but education is key in winning over the people that continue to buy the same thing time and again." That was definitely good to hear from someone who receives his cheque from the owners of the Beer Store.

The customers. From 4:30 to about 7:00pm there were a number of people who stopped by and sampled the beer and had some questions about it. I did my little speech about the positives of craft beer and why this particular beer had taste that they may not have ever experienced before. The first three gentlemen, all in the early forties and looking professional, all left the store with a case each. The taste of the beer seemed to capture their interest and hearing why they were tasting the things they did worked in their favour.

After 7:30pm or so it went downhill from there. Red Baron Lime sales took off. Multiple cases of Molson Canadian, Keith's, and Carling left the store. People at this time were entering the store and heading straight to the cashier. No attention was paid to the tasting booth, or the infamous wall of choices for that matter. I decided to pack it in early and head to home.

LCBO - fresh, fresh beer (bottled August 27 and selling on August 29th), customers who show interest to try the product and learn about it, cleaner stores, overall better environment

Beer Store - willing to assist, more interest than initially thought, provided a cooler to pre-cool the beers during sampling

LCBO - not to many come to mind. The staff aren't as educated about the beer as you'd like to think (some have never tried it).

Beer Store - dirty store, bottle return brings in some sketchy folks who want nothing more than copious amounts of samples, older product (I sold another product from the same brewery and the customer blew dust off the top of the box - the date stamp was still in good standing (end of June)), and you are surrounded by advertising for cheap beer.

It was certainly interesting to see the differences in how the two stores operate. The Beer Store plays loud classic rock and re-plays Beer Store tv behind the counter while the LCBO plays soft music. The LCBO id's everyone that looks under 25 while I didn't see even one person get carded by the Beer Store. The Beer Store turned two people away and both cashiers took turns going outside the store to tell the one women to leave - the LCBO employees would never do so.

Overall, as you may have guessed by now, the LCBO was/is a better place to educate people on the merits of craft beer and the LCBO system as a whole is way more conducive for the sale of craft beer. However, the Beer Store wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Pub Radio Show

Bill Perrie loves beer. He loves pubs too. He has worked in the industry for over a decade promoting both large macro-breweries and small micro-breweries. He has run his own bar, worked as a brewery sales rep, has had five books about beer and pubs published, and now he is the host of the Pub Radio Show on Stouffville's Whistle Radio 102.7fm.

Perrie came to me some months ago to inquire whether I would be interested in coming aboard and being part of the hour long show and it didn't take me long to respond with a yes. I will be assisting with tasting the 'beer of the week' with the guest brewer, and I'll also be doing a small segment on the beer news of the week.

The show will air every Saturday afternoon at 4pm to 5pm; however, it won't be live, just yet anyway. Taping takes place every Wednesday night and this past week was the first session. I helped taste Innis and Gunn with Perrie and TAPS publisher Rob Engman (Innis and Gunn rep was sick and could not make it) and spoke about last weekends Golden Tap Awards, the lime beer lawsuit, Jim Brickman, new beers in the works and the promotion at Cameron's. Perrie also had Al Connelly of Glass Tiger in studio, spoke with Engman about the Canadian Brewing Awards, and interviewed the publican of the Earl of Whitchurch. It was a first good show and I think it will only improve with time.

And for the record, I have never done this before, so if you happen to tune in on Saturday, please forgive my first attempt. I promise to get better. I always thought doing radio would be easier than standing in front of a camera for a TAPS podcast, but I found myself a tad uncomfortable... and it wasn't even live.

102.7FM - this Saturday - 4pm to 5pm.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cameron's Brewing - The Power of 9

The following is a condensed press release issued by the folks at Oakville's Cameron's Brewing Co.

Oakville, ON - Cameron’s Brewing Company is the only brewery in Canada to offer their beer in a 9 pack. The distinct nine-bottle cube is a favorite among craft beer drinkers because “six is never enough”. To celebrate the coinciding day in the calendar -9/9/09 - Cameron’s Brewing Company will be offering a one-day only sale out of their Oakville on-site retail store. Everything in the store from t-shirts to hats to beer will be priced at $9.99. The celebration is the Power of 9.

“It is a unique date in the calendar for us – all things 9,” said Jason Ellsmere of Cameron’s Brewing Company. “We decided to open our doors and offer everything for $9.99. With this being a brewery only promotion, we hope to see a lot of new faces from our community.”

Cameron’s sells their beer through the LCBO and Beer Store, but this Power of 9 promotion is only available directly at the brewery. The on-site retail store will be open from 9am – 9pm on Wednesday September 9th. The renowned 9 pack which normally sells for a premium price will be offered as a four brand mix pack for $9.99 (plus taxes and deposits) for one day only. Cameron’s emphasizes buying local premium products. Their North American made American Apparel Cameron’s T’s which normally retail for $25 will also be $9.99 (plus taxes and deposits).

The brewery is located at 1165 Invicta Drive – off of the North Service Road between 8th and 9th Lines. For more information on Cameron’s Brewing, visit their website or call the brewery 905.849.8282.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hurricane Harvest - Pump House Anniversary - Provincial Funding - Pub Radio Show

There has been a bunch of beer news recently that has been somewhat overshadowed by yet another lawsuit filed against Brick Brewing by Anheuser-Busch In/Bev regarding their Red Baron Lime. No need to touch on it, I think anyone who reads about it in the hundreds of newspapers its been covered in knows (or should know) it's a farce.

Pub Radio Show
Canada's Pub Guy, Bill Perrie, has announced that he will be hosting a weekly beer show on Stoufville's CWIS 102.7 FM. Perrie, who recently released his 5th book on Ontario pubs, plans to invite guests from the brewing industry to do beer reviews, talk about new beers for seasonal releases, discuss styles, and more. He also plans to feature a new pub each week, inviting the owner to take part in the show to chat about their establishment in greater detail. The first taping takes place tonight and featured guests include: Rob Engman, owner of TAPS Beer Magazine, Nic Rennie - Canadian Brand Ambassador for Innis and Gunn, Al Connelly (Glass Tiger) and the Crab Bucket Orchestra, and myself, who will sit in with Perrie every week when interviewing guests. The first episode will run on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 5th) at 4pm.

Northampton Brewing (Picaroon's) Receives Provincial Funding
The CBC ran a story on Friday about Northampton's recent delivery of their Picaroon's brands to some private Nova Scotia beer retailers to "test the market" before deciding to export their beers elsewhere. Sean Dunbar, owner of the small Fredericton brewery, mentioned in the article that the New Brunswick government provided $30,000 in funding that he will use to purchase machinery to assist in labeling bottles, along with machines to load the product onto trucks. He also stated that he will be working on expanding the brewery this winter, adding more tanks and opening up a retail store.

Hurricane Harvest Double IPA - Hart & Thistle
Quick Mash Nash (Greg Nash) has posted some interesting news on his brewers blog over at the Hart & Thistle regarding the hop harvest he organized two weeks ago. On September 4th, people are invited to head to the Hart & Thistle Gastropub and Brewery to sample the beer that was produced in response to Hurricane Bill. Hurricane Harvest Double IPA, a wet-hop beer produced with the hops that were harvested before the storm hit the area, will be released for the first time at the harbour front brewery beginning at 7pm. Nash also posted updates during the brewing process for this beer, and there are some great pictures of the actual harvest to browse through.

Pump House Celebrates Their 10th Anniversary
The Times & Transcript is featuring a story today about Pump House Brewery and their upcoming 10th anniversary tomorrow, September 3rd. 10 years ago tomorrow, at 4pm, Ray Auffrey ordered the first pint at the brewpub on Orange Lane and tomorrow Auffrey will get the honour of pouring the first 4pm. In the article Pump House owner, Shaun Fraser, had some interesting things to say, including the news that he recently purchased canning machinery that will open up the possibility of export to the U.S. and into Europe. He also mentioned that he has always wanted to be Canada's first national microbrewery and with only Quebec and Saskatchewan left on his hit list, Fraser and Pump House are close to achieving that goal. And finally, Fraser mentioned that they (Fraser and his wife) are looking at franchising their pub along with introducing their own line of food products. Interesting news indeed.
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