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, December 28, 2011

Happy Holiday's From Great Canadian Beer Blog

Sorry for the lack of posting lately.  I've have recently been preoccupied with work related stuff (how have you been enjoying the winter issue of TAPS The Beer Magazine?) and have been on holiday's since the 23rd, which I will remain on until January 3rd. During that time I made a decision to try my hardest not to sit in front of a computer; meaning no blog posts.

I'll be resuming the blog after January 3rd with some new content, including more Meet the Brewers interviews along with more Meet the Bar Owners, and industry representatives. I'll also be contemplating a new direction with the blog - new ideas, more tasting notes, and I'll be getting back to writing about pubs and beer bars with more frequency again.

In the meantime, I hope all you dear readers had a great Christmas and are enjoying your holiday's with good beer and good cheer!

See you soon!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tree Brewing To Get LCBO Brewery Feature

As first reported on Bar by Chris Stirling, Director of Sales for Tree Brewing Co., the LCBO will be offering a number of Tree beers for a 'brewery feature' in 2012.

Through 25 stores across the province, the LCBO will be featuring five of Tree's beers, all in 650ml bottle format. Ontario residents will be able to find Raspberry Porter, Hefeweizen, Captivator Doppelbock, Hophead Double IPA, and a new beer the brewery has never released before.

I spoke with Stirling today by phone and he indicated that the 'brewery feature' will begin in May.

"We're very excited for the opportunity," said Stirling. "Having five of our brands featured at the LCBO is a great way to showcase our brewery to Ontario residents. And I really think that people will enjoy our new beer!"

Tree made its first foray into the Ontario market this past winter (February 2011) when the LCBO brought in a limited amount of Tree's Hophead Double IPA which promptly sold out within a week. The brisk sales helped Tree's year round IPA (Hophead) to get a listing with the LCBO retail system that North American Craft currently represents.

Canadian Beer News Dinner Series #2 Announced

Greg Clow, the publisher of the Canadian Beer News website, has announced the details for the 2nd dinner of his Canadian Beer News Dinner Series.

Scheduled to take place on Tuesday February 21st at Toronto's L.A.B. Restaurant (651 College St.), the 2nd dinner will feature beers from Etobicoke's Great Lakes Brewery, including a number of one-offs, which will be paired with the unique ‘cucina moleculare’ crafted by L.A.B.'s chef Howard Dubrovsky.

Tickets to the six course dinner are available for $95 per person including tax and gratuity by calling L.A.B. at (416) 551-5025. Seating is very limited for this dinner as only 20 are available.

More information about Great Lakes and L.A.B are available on Canadian Beer News.

Dead Frog Winter Mixer12 Packs Now Available In Ontario

It was back on April 7 of this year that I first posted about the Dead Frog Brewery coming to Ontario through North American Craft, and I received word the other day that the Aldergrove, BC brewery's Winter Mixer 12 Pack is now available at various self serve Beer Stores and LCBO combination stores.

The mix pack features 3 each of the following beers - Lager, Nut Brown, Pepper Lime Lager, and Mandarin Orange. Not earth shattering beers, but a good idea when introducing people to different flavours for the first time.

The Winter pack will be available until late March, which will then give way to Dead Frog's Summer mixer pack. Dead Frog will be available year round as a general list at retail.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Meet Patrice Godin - Acadie Broue Inc.

Meet Patrice Godin, the founder, brewer, packager, delivery driver, and more at Acadie-Broue Inc., New Brunswick's smallest brewery. 

It is a small brewery. Godin produces his beers on a 50 litre system in his garage, right next to his car! He received his official permits to brew commercially in 2010 and brews four beers that are only available on tap at one location in Moncton - The Laundromat Espresso Bar. La Bringue won a bronze medal this year at the 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards in the North American Style Amber/Red Ale category.

Godin still has a full time job aware from his small brewery, but the response to his beers has him dreaming big. Many Haligonians had the opportunity this past summer to try a number of his beers as Acadie Broue was a participant at the Halifax Seaport Beerfest. 

Meet Patrice Godin!

You're a one man show! Where is Acadie-Broue situated and what beers do you currently produce?
The brewery is located in Ammon, a small community on the outskirts of Moncton NB. The brewery is literally 50 meters just outside the city limits as I was trying to avoid zoning restrictions. The brewery sits in a vacant un-heated garage. I currently produce four beers; a Saison called Tintamarre, a Sticke Alt called Patente, a North American Brown Ale called Bringue and a Dark Saison called Boloxée.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
My friend and I started a beer club in 2001. We we’re judging, analyzing and ranking 3 different beers every Wednesday. After three years it was getting hard to find new beers and the selection available at our provincial liquor corporation was stagnant. It was then that we decided to brew our own commercially to improve variety available to local beer drinkers. We’ve looked on the web and found a 50 litres electric system for sale in Québec and bought it in 2004. I’m still brewing on this system today. In the meantime my brewing partner moved on to start his own distillery.

I was initially brewing in my basement but the zoning was not appropriate to sell commercially so I had to move to Ammon. My brewery is so small that I was able to move it with my Mazda Protétgé. It took me 6 years to get all the permits to finally start brewing commercially. I have a full time job so it was hard to get it going but I finally gathered all I needed by mid-July 2010.

What's new at the brewery? 
I recently purchased a 23L oak barrel from a local Oktoberfest event and I’m experimenting with it. I never thought I would condition beer in a barrel but I love it. I’m currently developing a Berliner Weisse, souring one half in the barrel with lactobacillus before blending it back. I visited Berlin in 2008 and really enjoyed the style. It is one of the most complex session ales.

In 1943 a German submarine on a secret mission came to pick up POW escapees in my hometown of Maisonnette in Northern NB. The beer will be named after this secret mission (Kiebitz). We are trying to get in touch with the descendants of the German detachment and have them visit the site and most importantly try my beer of course.

Also I won a bronze medal in the North American Amber/Red Ale Category for my Bringue at the 2011 CBA. I’m really proud of the achievement since it was only my third batch for this beer and my first participation in such an event. I just submitted it out to see what component I could improve, it was a total surprise.

How did you get into the brewing industry?
If I can answer this question more philosophically I would say that I got into the industry because I wanted to offer Acadian themed beers to people who are curious or in love with our unique culture.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry? 
As a new brewer I feel like we are still a small family closely knit together. The brewers are very helpful and willing to help each other out. The breweries don’t see the others as competition. The market is still fairly new and there is lots of room to innovate so to me it’s a great time to be a brewer in Canada.

Where can someone find your products?
I don’t bottle so my products are only available on tap. Currently there is only one bar serving it in town called The Laundromat Espresso Bar located at 382 St. George Street in Moncton. This cosy café specializes in imported bottled beers and serves seasonal beers from local brewery on tap. It is a must see if you like beer and are travelling in Moncton.

Tell us something about the Acadie-Broue that not a lot of people know about.
When residents heard that I was moving my brewery in their neighbourhood they started a petition against the project. The document was presented at town hall the same night I was getting the OK from the planning commission. It added hours of deliberation but reason prevailed. Among their arguments; there will be a rat infestation, the traffic from transport trailers will increase and a spill could contaminate their water supply which would get the whole town drunk.

Really? Well, how is the local support now?
Excellent! The beer drinkers around here are just starting to learn about all the different beer styles. Personally I see this as an opportunity to teach them something by producing hard to find styles while they provide me genuine feedback on what they perceive in my beers. It was nerve-wracking to launch a Saison for my first beer in such an environment but the locals were open and ready to taste something new. They are now asking me to produce new styles.

What is the highlight of your brewing career - to date?
Definitely the launch of my very first beer in 2010. Nothing beats rising your own creation “legally” in a bar to toast with family, friends and supporters.

Name your favourite non Acadie-Broue produced beer?
With my beer club I take note of all the beers I drank and so far after 3000 beers my best ranked is a Düsseldorf Alt beer named Zum Schlüssel. I traveled to Düsseldorf Germany to visit the Alt breweries and this one alt was not only the best beer in town but my favourite ever. When you look closely at the style you’ll find everything you want in a beer; it is an ale with lager qualities and it is bitter yet malty, what else do you want.

Best time for a pint?
For me it is around 11h00 am. You’re well rested, you breakfast is long gone and your taste buds are ready to roll. In case my boss is reading I mean 11h00 am on weekends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Brewery Market Back This Sunday - 'Twas the Beer Before Christmas

Twas the Beer Before Christmas
Time: 1 - 5pm
Location: The Stop’s Green Barn-Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie Street

Cass Enright is pretty excited about this Sunday; and with good reason. The founder of the Brewery Market has everything in place to welcome back the popular Sunday event, which has been on hiatus since October 23rd.

"We want to celebrate winter with the Brewery Market events this season. So we're embracing it head on with beers and food to warm you up, and blankets to stay cozy," said Enright.

The 1st 'winter edition' of the Brewery Market welcomes back Jason Fisher and his Indie Alehouse, who have brewed up a special Christmas Spiced Porter (with gingerbread) exclusively for the Brewery Market. Joining the special beer will be Indie's Breakfast Porter, Belgian IPA and Hoppy IPA. There will also be a Chinese Hot Pot, Buddha Dog hot dogs and fire-roasted artisanal marshmallows.

"I'm really hoping that 'Twas the Beer Before Christmas will become an annual holiday tradition," said Enright who has already announced the dates for the January edition (January 15th)

The Brewery Market takes place between 1 - 5pm with proceeds supporting The Stop Community Food Centre.

Sawdust City Ol' Woody Alt Release Party

Sawdust City Ol' Woody Alt Release Party
Time: 4:00pm
Location: The Monk's Kettle, 3073 Bloor St West

The Monk's Kettle, one of Toronto's newest craft beer bars (and not to be confused with the Monks Table), will be teaming up with the Sawdust City Brewing Co. on Thursday December 15th for the release of Ol' Woody Alt, the second beer commercially produced by Sawdust City.

Recently opened in Toronto's west end (Bloor and Royal York), The Monk's Kettle is a warm and inviting pub with a great beer selection to complement their simple yet enjoyable food menu. The release party will provide you with an opportunity to sample the Ol' Woody Alt, which Sawdust City brewmaster Sam Corbeil describes as, "a traditional Dusseldorf Alt, the quintessential session beer. Malt forward with bunches of bready munich malt flavour, its balanced with German nobel hops that give it a strong bitter kick on the finish. Great with hearty meat dishes or on its own on a crisp fall evening." It will also be paired with an appetizer prepared by The Monk's Kettle.

Samples of their Golden Beach Pale Wheat will also be available, the last of it until the summer.

The Ol' Woody Alt will be available shortly at select bars and pubs across Toronto.

Next up for Sawdust City - Lone Pine IPA

Monday, December 12, 2011

TAPS The Beer Magazine - Winter 2011 Issue Contents

TAPS The Beer Magazine - Fall 2011 Issue
Up front disclosure: It is no secret that I am employed by TAPS Media, the parent company of TAPS The Beer Magazine. From time to time I've posted material on this blog (before and after being hired) with respect to work that has appeared in TAPS. My intention when posting said material, and the material below, is only meant as news, nothing more.

p.2 From The Editor by Karla Dudley
when it comes to the sense of taste, what tastes good is not so simple…

p.9 Bar Snacks
coast to coast industry news

p.17 Did You Know by Oliver Dawson
Brewing in Africa has been practiced for well over 10,000 years! In fact, long before European settlers colonized different regions of Africa, indigenous brewers were making beer from a variety of ingredients including sorghum and maize.

p.18 Down The Hatch by Troy Burtch
Mike Lackey, one of the brewers with the Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke, ON, is known around Ontario as an experimental brewer who pushes boundaries the province hasn't witnessed before.

p.19 The Business Of Beer by Rob Symes
when it comes to the sense of taste, what tastes good is not so simple…

p.21 French Connection by Mirella Amato
Laura Urtnowski was twenty-six years old when, along with her boyfriend Bernard Morin and his brother Jean Morin, she founded Les Brasseurs du Nord in 1987. Better known by the brand name of its beers, Boréale, the trio’s brewery is now the second-largest craft brewery in Québec and still growing……

p.26 Trappist Orval by Chuck Cook
My last visit to l’Abbaye Notre Dame d’Orval in Belgium was in 2006 and there have been some big changes since then. First, the name has changed to the Orval Trappist Abbey brewery, and they have added a brand new state of the art brewhouse. Orval is located near Florenville in Luxembourg Province, close to the border of France, and was first settled by Benedictine monks from Italy in 1070. It has a long and turbulent history.

p.30 Adventurous Amber’s by James Burla
When most beer drinkers across this country think of beer in Edmonton, elaborate and international flavour is probably not what they think of first. Despite what the rest of the country believes, Albertans know that this is the case when one talks about Amber’s Brewing Company.

p.32 Beer Letters by John Holl
the 1-800 number on the packaging has led to interesting messages...

p.33 British Seasonal Ales by Martin Sayers
...when the white stuff does arrive it can lead to national panic and paralysis. Schools shut up shop, roads close and people are left stranded in railway stations and airports across the country as the transport system is thrown into chaos. Last winter even Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport, was a victim of the weather and planes were left grounded for days. However, one national institution that does not grind to a halt during the winter months is the pub. In fact, the UK’s hostelries tend to fill up with people seeking solace from the cold...

p.37 Confessions Of A Brewer by Sam Corbeil
I’m writing this latest article on the eve of my very first commercial brew. Well, not my first first, I’ve actually brewed well over a thousand commercial brews for a number of different breweries throughout the past six years, but this is the first time it’s ever going to be one of my own recipes that gets sent out into the world for public consumption and approval.

p.38 Best Beer Bars by Craig Pinhey
What makes a good beer bar? A place needs to meet one or more criteria to be a truly great beer bar. If it only meets one, it has to have a great beer selection. Even a total dive can be my local if it has the right beer. Other things like tasty food, tasteful music, friendly staff, funky décor and a ‘je ne sais quoi’ ambiance can combine to make an enjoyable experience, but without good beer it wouldn't even be an adequate beer bar.

p.40 City Of Hops And Barley by Matthew Bellamy
In the aftermath of the rebellions of 1837-38, British authorities sought to restore law and order to the upper colony. In 1838, they dispatched a bloodthirsty colonial administrator, Sir George Arthur. As the lieutenant governor of Britain’s main penal colony off the coast of Australia, Arthur had spent the last 14 years of his life literally whipping Britain’s exiled convicts into line. British colonial administrators hoped that he would do the same to the dissidents in Upper Canada.

p.43 The Impossible Porter by Matt J. Simmons
…a beer that grew up on the dusty streets of London should not be subjected to flavours that belong in a Chinese restaurant. Instead, it should swim with a dark, roasted flavour, like venison sausages that were cooked over a campfire or bitter black smoke wafting from coal-burning chimneys in 18th century England.

p.44 In Depth by Troy Burtch
The Moosehead story is an interesting one; dating back to the year Canada became a nation. From Susannah Oland’s humble beginnings in a backyard in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to becoming one of the major brewing companies in the country, Moosehead Breweries Ltd. has been with us since 1867 and has been a significant participant in shaping the history of the Canadian brewing industry.

p.48 The Perfect Pair featuring Chef Donna Dooher
With over 25 years of professional experience in the kitchen, Donna has established herself as a prominent figure in the Toronto hospitality community. Donna expanded her successful catering business Avant-Goût in 1990 to create an intimate restaurant called Mildred Pierce. Built in the west end of Toronto’s warehouse district, Mildred Pierce introduced its guests to a unique dining experience and established brunch as a culinary trend in the city.

p.51 Women In Beer by Stephanie Whitaker
Marketing manager Olivia Bassa admits that when she was hired by Premier Brands about three years ago, she drank only wine and vodka. “I confessed in the interview. I didn’t want to waste their time or mine and admitted that I did not drink beer at all. Growing up in a Polish household, wine and vodka were the drinks of choice,” says Bassa. Not too long after she was hired, she vacationed in Cuba. “Pretty much all they offer in Cuba is rum and beer, and I can only drink so much rum and juice so I turned to beer. Not great beer, but this is when I first started drinking it,” admits Bassa. When she came back to Canada, she started trying different styles of beer. “I really started enjoying it.”

p.53 Adventures Of A Craft Beer Foodie by Tracy Phillippi
Brewers were ‘sustainable by accident’; they used fewer resources and drank locally produced beer because it was their only option. As Canada’s only historic brewery, producing unpasteurized and unfiltered ales without the use of electricity, Toronto’s Black Creek brewery has taken their commitment to pioneer sustainability to the next level by creating Canada’s first one-mile beer last November 2010!

p.54 Stews ‘n’ Brews by Chef Michael Olson
Winter brings out a certain survival instinct in Canadians whereby we will do our weekend errands but what we really want is to be at home where it is warm and there are great things to eat and drink (and where the always-fleeting possibility of the luxurious afternoon nap exists). This is the kind of weather that makes me wish for rich, braised things like curry or potpie or beef stew. These slow-cooked unctuous flavour bombs are a symphony of aromas and tastes, blended together and nurtured by gentle heat to yield a result that is greater than the sum of its parts.

p.58 Tackling That Titanic Turkey by Mike Tessier
The best beverage to pair with turkey is a seasonal topic that gets covered on just about every foodie website, blog and in all the major media outlets. It seems like every cork-dork and wannabe sommelier spew their thoughts on what fermented grape juice will take on the big bird. Most wine experts recommend an oaky white wine, while the more adventurous ones will suggest a Pinot Noir or a spicy Beaujolais Nouveau to wash down the large bird. They are all wrong!

p.60 Cheese Please by Sam Corbeil
Winter has arrived and we turn our attention away from those warm summer days of backyard BBQs and poolside patio parties, towards indoor dinner functions and fireside sing-alongs. ‘Tis the season for entertaining indoors, and what better way to entertain than by hosting a beer and cheese pairing soirée for your closest compadres?

p.62 Quaffs, Questions & Answers by Mirella Amato
interview with Chris Swersey, who began his brewing career as a homebrewer, moving into commercial brewpub production in 1992. His beers won several awards in American and international competitions. Chris attended the Siebel Institute, and also provided practical brewpub training for Siebel students while at Mickey Finn’s in northern Illinois. Chris now serves as Competition Manager for the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, and as Technical Brewing Projects Coordinator for the Brewers Association.

p.66 The Great Gods Of Beer by Luke McKinney
Gods are useful, that’s why we have so many! Every major civilization has had a pantheon, from vaguely relaxed everything-spirits through bossy schoolteachers to soap operas about incest and killing each other. Gods provide excuses to celebrate, help when times are hard, and offer to take some of your problems away; by that definition beer itself is a god, which is why many cultures worshipped deities whose entire job description was telling us, ‘Beer is great!’

p.68 TAPS Holiday Shopping Cart
a few gift ideas guaranteed to please the beer lover...

p.71 Festive Beers by Jason Foster
On the Prairies, winters are always white and often cold. It is the kind of weather that makes getting into the festive spirit quite easy. Without a doubt, Canada’s Prairie craft brewers have no trouble slipping on their Santa hats. Want a light, spicy beer to go with holiday turkey? How about a rich dessert beer? Or maybe a hearty winter ale to warm you up on a frigid evening? Prairie brewers have it covered.

p.72 Editorial: Infected Or Infectious? by Craig Pinhey
…one person’s fatal flaw is another’s ‘value added complexity.’ I have often had to reword my wine or beer presentations after folks reacted to the word ‘infection.’ Strangely enough, that word has a negative connotation for some people! Now I might say a beer has “sourness that adds complexity” rather than “a Lactobacillus infection.” It is all in the nuances.

p.74 TAPS Pictures Of The Past
random pictorial moments from a year gone by…

p.76 Iron Brewer 2011 by Bill White
On September 30, 2011 the Black Oak Brewery was the stage for the 2nd Annual MBAA (Master Brewers Association of the Americas) District Ontario Iron Brewer Competition. Following the very successful format of 2010, Paul Dickey sourced and delivered a package of brewing materials to each of the eager contestants...

p.78 Carboys In My Laundry Room by Christine Beevis
When Ron Haigh announced to his friend Greg that he’d finally popped the question to his high school sweetheart of many years, the first thing his new best man proposed was that they get brewing.

p.81 Master Brewers Meet in Minneapolis by Bill White
when it comes to the sense of taste, what tastes good is not so simple…

p.82 Tasting Notes
Beers from across the country. This issue: Nutcracker Porter, Munich Eisbock, Christmas Beeracle, Obscur Désir, Frappabord & Russian Imperial Stout

p.84 Homebrewing Recipe by Eric Ecclestone
Spiced Imperial Porter

p.85 Sources
this issue’s contacts list

p.88 My Shout by Stephen Beaumont
Working on the beer beat as long as I have, I’ve witnessed plenty of growth. In Canada, across North America and around the world, what started as a modest ‘microbrewing’ movement has evolved into a craft beer explosion.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

TBW HomeBrew Competition - Weinberg's Kama Stoutra w/ Great Lakes Brewery

Zack Weinberg was one of the winning homebrewers from the 2011 Toronto Beer Week HomeBrew competition and his prize was a brew day with the Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Etobicoke.

Together with Great Lakes brewer, Mike Lackey, Weinberg brewed his Kama Stoutra Indian Imperial Stout that will be featured at the January edition of Project X (a monthly event hosted at Great Lakes). In this short video, Weinberg fills you in on the ingredients he uses to produce the beer and describes the experience of brewing his beer on a commercial scale.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meet David Woodward: Tofino Brewing Co.

Meet David Woodward, the brewmaster at the Tofino Brewing Co. in Tofino, BC. 

Woodward came to Tofino after spending some  time with the Whistler Brew House, where he was known for brewing a number of big beers in a variety of different styles. He brought his experience (trained in England) to the small coastal town (pop. 1650), much to the pleasure of Tofino Brewing Co. co-owners Bryan O'Malley, Chris Neufield and Dave McConnell, who opened for business earlier this year.

The brewery has produced four beers for the locals (Tuff Session Ale, Hop Cretin IPA, Fogust Wheat Ale and Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter) who have welcomed the brewery with open arms. Tofino sells their product at the brewery in growler format, in two sizes actually. Tofino recently introduced customers to a smaller 1 litre growler, which joins has the popular 1.9litre growlers that locals continue to buy at a healthy rate. And, keep an eye out for Woodward's creations at your local (BC) liquor stores in the near future as it appears some Tofino beer will soon be bottled. 

Meet David Woodward!

Where is the Tofino Brewing Co. situated and what beers do you currently produce?
TBC is located on Industrial Way just 5 mins on the way into Tuff City if you're coming into town. Just keep your eyes out for some blue signs on the road pointing the way into our place on the left. Walk on in and we'll be happy to give you a sample our our craft beer and show you around our compact little brewery!

Describe the history behind the brewery.
I can't really take credit for the start of the brewery as I came in a little later.. The idea of starting a small craft brewery in Tofino had been kicking around in the back of founder Bryan O'Malley's head for quite a long time. Bryan, a Tofino local with a family history of brewing, began sharing his dream with members of the community who shared his love for great beer and was quickly able to put together a small group of partners. Soon after, Tofino Brewing Company was born.

What is your best selling beer?
Our best selling beer is our Tuff Session Ale which is a West Coast Style Pale Ale. As the name says it's a very sessionable and drinkable Ale. For complexity we use liberal English Specialty Malts for a complex body and toasty flavour and aroma. It is well bittered with Oregon grown Warrior and Cascade for flavour for aroma and has a nice subtle ester profile from our ale strain. I'm quite proud of this beer as we didn't take the easy route and feel we had to dumb things down for our customers by brewing a overly malt forward, somewhat sweetish Amber ale.

What's new at the brewery?
Well we've been open for less than a year so everything is new! We had a very successful start due to as soon as the doors opened the beer was flying out the door which is great feedback! We won best beer at the Mt Washington beer fest this summer for our Tuff Session which was cool. New beers next year will be some different seasonals and I'm happy to be bringing our Hoppin Cretin IPA on full time next year due to very enthusiastic response from our customers. Plus next year look out on your local shelves for some bottled Tofino Brewing Co beer.

How did you get into the brewing industry?
I started studying brewing in England back in 2002 and worked over there for a few years. When I came back I got a gig at the Brewhouse in Whistler which is part of the MJG empire. After five years doing the Brewpub thing I was looking to get back to my roots on the island. Once I got in contact with Brian O Malley and Chris Neufeld and heard their plan for a Brewery here in beautiful Tofino I was like "Sign me up!"

Tofino is a small place. How have the locals supported the brewery?
The locals have been extremely supportive of us, which has been great. From the months of construction to opening day we had all sorts of curious folk popping by and being really excited about having a truly locally own brewery in their town. People here are very supportive of local business and help each other out here in Tofino which I've really come to admire. I've also been pleasantly surprised how developed the palate for Craft Beer has been on the West Coast of Van Isle. We've had great feedback with our Hoppin Cretin IPA and hope to launch more interesting seasonals next year.

Where can someone find your products?
Currently we're on Tap at several locations in Tofino including Shelter Restaurant, The Maquinna Pub, The Dockside Pub and Restaurant, and Tuff City Sushi. We're expanding to a few locations in Ucluelet (or as the locals call it "Ukee") and have been in tap intermittently at The Alibi Room in Gastown over on the mainland for most of the past year. When you're in Tofino if you come on by the brewery you can purchase a growler with a fill or bring on by another 64 oz growler and we'll give you a refill.

Tell us something about Tofino Brewing Co. that not a lot of people know about.
We all like to wear flannel here? No everybody knows that by now..

Which Tofino Brewing Co. beer do you find yourself drinking most these days?
Most days Tuff Session Ale but recently i've been drinking quite abit of our newest seasonal Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter. I'm a big fan of good coffee and was quite happy to collaborate with Mike Farrow of Tofino Coffee Co. to select a variety of beans that would work well in our beer. We had a very strenuous afternoon of brewing various beans and roasts, spiking dark beers and sampling the results to see what worked best. Sometimes the lengths you have to go to in this job can really suck...!

What is the highlight of your brewing career - to date?
So far - this gig, honestly! After working for a larger corporate structure like my previous employment it's been a great change to be involved with a brewery from the ground up and to have a real impact regarding shaping brands, setting production goals, and just helping run a Craft Brewery!

Name your favourite non Tofino Brewing Co. produced beer?
I don't have specific favorites right now honestly... To sip and savour anything by Cantillon... For a dark beer North Coast Old Rasputin. And I have been known to reach for a IPA on occasion...

Best time for a pint?
Once the cleanings been finished, the FV temps been checked and the grains been measured out for the next days brew then bottoms up!

Check out the TAPS The Beer Magazine short video with Tofino Brewing Co. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Meet Tariq Khan: Brewer at Big Ridge Brewing Co., Surrey, BC

Khan in San Francisco
Meet Tariq Khan, brewer at the Big Ridge Brewing Co. in Surrey, BC.

"Drink Fresh Beer" - Big Ridge is owned and operated by the Mark James Group who were established in 1976 and now has several other restaurant and brewery venues like Yaletown Brewing Co., Taylor's Crossing Restaurant & Brewery and the Brewhouse High Mountain Brewing Co. A native of Montreal, Khan has been the brewer at Big Ridge since 2008 after spending years working for breweries in the U.K., where he obtained his brewing education at the University of Sunderland.

Khan produces a number of styles for the regular line-up, including  rotating seasonals, one of which is named after him (Wrath of Khan Imperial Stout) and he is currently working on some new recipes that customers can soon try.

Meet Tariq Khan!

Where is the Big Ridge situated and what beers do you currently produce?
Big Ridge is situated in Surrey, B.C. Our present beer line-up is: Harvest Lager, Rodeo Red (pronounced Ro-dayo), Chimney Hill Wheat, Clover IPA, Old Sullivan Porter, and a seasonal which is currently "Wrath of Khan Imperial Stout".

Describe the history behind the brewery.
The Big Ridge Brewing Co. was opened in late 1999. We have recently re-located to a new location, (actually across the street in Spring 2010).

What is your best selling beer?
Our best selling beer is: Harvest Lager, however sales of IPA, Porter, and Seasonal have been steadily increasing over the years. We are developing our own beer scene here in the 'burbs', which is growing !

What's new at the brewery?
We currently have a new seasonal on tap - Wrath of Khan Imperial Stout (9%ABV). We also host a Brewmasters dinner every 2 months and a cask night every Friday at 4pm. This year Big Ridge won People's choice award at CAMRA Vancouver’s Fest of Ale – Spring Sessional on April 16th 2011 for it's "Pale Bitter" ale (3.6 %ABV)

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
I received, as a gift, a beer appreciation course that was taught at the University of Montreal. I had always been a fan of beer but at that time I was exploring the world of beer in much greater depth. I also got bitten by the homebrewing bug and soon developed a desire to go into professional brewing. I later (along with my girlfriend Trudy) packed up and moved to Sunderland, U.K. where I studied Brewing at Brewlab at the University of Sunderland. I spent another 5 1/2 years working for various breweries in the U.K. before deciding to move to B.C. and accepting the job as brewer for Big Ridge. My passion is an appreciation of the brewers art and a love of all beer styles.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
The scene is constantly changing here in Canada and progressing. More and more people are getting into Craft beer. It's an exciting time to be a Canadian Craft brewer.

Where can someone find your products?
Big Ridge beer is mainly available at our brewpub on draft and cask. The only other location you can find our beer is The Alibi Room in the Gastown area in Vancouver.

Tell us something about Big Ridge that not a lot of people know about.
Big Ridge hosts a Brewmaster's dinner every 2nd month with a regular and Vegan menu. Big Ridge beers are unfiltered and vegan friendly(even cask)

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
We have closer contact with the consumer especially in a brewpub, and we have more creativity especially when doing seasonals. Everyday there's something different to do in the brewery as well which keeps things interesting.

What is the highlight of your brewing career - to date?
Highlight: Coming up with new seasonals such as Belgian IPA and getting a great response from the beer/brewer community.

Name your favourite non Big Ridge produced beer?
Dieu Du Ciel "Corne Du Diable" (Horn of the Devil) IPA. Classic!

Best time for a pint?
Friday cask night after the brew day is over!

December CASK! Social

From CASK! Toronto

The next CASK! Social will take place on: Sunday December 4th
Time: 12pm
Location: Victory Cafe
581 Markham Street, Toronto, ON

Last Ever CASK! Social (until 2012)
Our friends at the Victory Cafe are holding a cask ale festival this coming Sunday, December 4, and we're all invited! Our last CASK! Social of 2011 will be part of the celebration. Yes, we know our Socials are held on Saturdays, usually from 3-6, but let it not be said that we're inflexible (at least now that some of us are doing yoga). The Victory Cafe Winter Cask Festival will begin at noon, upstairs at 581 Markham Street in the shadow of Honest Ed's. These guys don't think we're capable of drinking more than a dozen casks from nine of our favourite local breweries. They don't know us. The CASK! Social will begin at noon so we can get there before anything has run out, and will continue as long as you like (or until the beer runs out). There will be no admission charge for this very promising event.

We are aware that this is a busy weekend for beer lovers, what with a festival in Buffalo and our pal Ken Woods hosting an event at Black Oak on Saturday, but our funfest is way easier to get to, has a bunch of casks, doesn't require a passport, and you don't have to deal with annoying border guards in both directions (honestly, have you ever tried to go to Etobicoke?). Hope to see you at the Victory.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Beau's BYBO During Question Period - Queen's Park

Buy Your Beau's Online (BYBO). I wrote about the operation being shut down last Thursday evening, shortly after it was announced. The unique home delivery program that Beau's created with Operation Come Home, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting street youth, began on November 24th after getting the go ahead from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and was subsequently curbed later the same day after the AGCO received a complaint from another brewery.

There was immediate chatter on Twitter, Facebook and a number of other beer blogs and newspaper websites that followed and helped to explain the entire situation.

Since Thursday, there have also been a number of positive messages that have emerged, including a number of tweets from Beau's themselves providing individuals following the situation with brief updates. One such update mentioned that Beau's was already discussing the matter with their MPP who then spoke with Premier McGuinty.

With the large media coverage, and due to Beau's being Beau's, this situation made it's way to Queen's Park question period yesterday, and while not available to view online through the Legislative Assembly of Ontario's website, Beau's have put up a video on YouTube that highlights PC MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) speaking about BYBO. MacLeod did a nice job getting the message across, and the Attorney General (Honourable John Gerretsen), while sounding like a true seasoned politican, did say that his government/office was looking into it and would be "... working out the situation as quickly as possible because we think it's the right thing to do." Video below.

Back in May of this year there were a number of industry representatives that sat in front of the Ministry of the Attorney General's staff (George Milbrandt - C'est What, Cass Enright - Bar Towel, Jed Corbeil - Griffin Gastropub and Session 99 and myself) where discussions took place about the archaic regulations in the Liquor Licence Act. The four of us were proud to hear that a number of our suggestions were adopted along with some other changes. This discussion, home delivery, was never brought up, but the conversation is long past due.

This may well be the situation that helps government to take another hard look into the Liquor Licence Act and how many of the regulations don't make sense in today's market place. The Act was created at a time when only a handful of breweries operated in the province and have yet (in most updated circumstances) to adapt to the growth in our brewing/retail industry along with the impact that craft breweries have on the province.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet Bryan Carver: Gahan Brewery, Charlottetown, PEI

Meet Bryan Carver, brewer with the Gahan Brewing Co. in Charlottetown, PEI.

Carver, a construction worker by trade, got into the brewing industry by chance. When Gahan was building their bottling plant, Carver was one of the contractor's on site and he be-friended Gahan's Brewmaster Trent Hayes, who eventually got him into brewing beers for the brewpub (Gahan Brewing Co. has a brewpub and a larger brewing and bottling facility).

With some staff changes, Carver went on to be brew full time at the brewpub, brewing a number of brands that aren't available in bottle. He now spends his days between both locations, which he says keeps things interesting.

Meet Bryan Carver!

Where is the Gahan Brewery situated and what beers do you currently produce?
Gahan Brewery is located in Charlottetown, PEI. We have a brewpub and bottling plant currently producing our beer. At the brewpub we make Sir John A's Honey Wheat Ale, Island Red, 1772 IPA, Harvest Gold Pale Ale, Sydney Street Stout, Iron Horse Brown Ale and usually have a seasonal beer on too. We bottle the Honey Wheat, Red, and just recently our IPA and Brown Ale have been added to the line up.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
The first inception of the brewery was a 3 barrel system located at a Lone Star Cafe in Charlottetown back in 1997. In 2001 a larger brew house was purchased and moved into an historic property in Old Charlottetown. Demand grew beyond the production capability and in 2007 a new DME 20 hectoliter system was set up at our current bottling plant.

What is your best selling beer?
Sir John A's Honey Wheat and Island Red Ale have been pretty much neck and neck in sales. We have been seeing good growth with our IPA and our seasonal beers sell pretty well at the brewpub.

What's new at the brewery? 
We just started bottling our IPA and Brown Ale. Next we are getting ready for an expansion that will give us a bit more room to grow, as well as exploring canning options available to a brewery our size. We also just won a Gold at the Canadian Brewing Awards with our Sir John A's Honey Wheat Ale, which was our first medal and a great feeling at the end of another busy summer.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
Definitely the people. I have been very fortunate getting to know many top notch people from all over the world, all passionate about beer. There is a great sense of community in a relatively small industry, especially in this part of the country.

Where can someone find your products?
Our bottled beers are available at PEI Liquor Commission stores and growlers are available at the pub. A lot of restaurants across the Island carry our beer too, Albert and Crown in Alberton, Ship to Shore in Darnely and Island Stone Pub in Kensington just to name a few.

Tell us something about the Gahan Brewery that not a lot of people know about.
We are a small crew of a few guys that love beer and spend a lot of time making sure that all aspects of the operation are well taken care of. During the summer we are run off of our feet for three months, which is unfortunate because we hardly get to enjoy the beauty of PEI in the summer. At least we have beer close at hand!

PEI is a small province - how is the local support?
Local support is great! The Gahan House is one of the busiest restaurants on the Island. I can't believe the amount of people that come in every day of the week. During the summer we can hardly keep beer on the shelves at the liquor stores.

What is the highlight of your brewing career - to date?
Getting our IPA into bottles was a great highlight. The beer selection on PEI is limited and getting a strong hoppy ale on the shelves was way past due. Also, George Wendt was in Charlottetown a couple of years ago performing in 'Hair Spray'. He walked past a co-worker as he was moving garbage cans of spent grain and proceeded to say "You do good work, God's work!" Knowing he said that put a grin on our faces for weeks.

Name your favourite non Gahan Brewery produced beer?
The beers I have had from Central City have been great, their Red Racer IPA is terrific. Picaroon's Best Bitter is another great beer that I wish was in my fridge more often.

Best time for a pint?
Sunday Afternoon, without question.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Canadian Beer News Announces New Dinner Series

Greg Clow, the publisher of the Canadian Beer News (CBN) website, is pleased to announce the start of the Canadian Beer News Dinner Series.

The CBN Dinner Series will bring together some of Canada’s top breweries and beer importers with outstanding chefs and restaurants to create unique and exciting beer and food pairing experiences.

The first such dinner will take place on Tuesday December 6 at The Windsor Arms Hotel (18 Saint Thomas Street, Toronto) featuring beers from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co., which will be paired with gourmet vegan food prepared by Chef Doug McNish.

Schedule for dinner:
6:30 PM – Reception with passed hors d’oeuvre & beer pairing
7:15 PM – 4-course Dinner with beer pairings

The $95 per person ticket will allow individuals to sample a variety of Beau's beers, including a number of their rarer brands from their Wild Oats Series and their Greener Futures Bourbon Barrel Aged Series. Each food course will be paired with a different beer and tasting notes will be presented by Beau’s co-founder Steve Beauchesne.

Clow let me know by email that tickets are moving very well, with less than a 1/4 of the tickets remaining, so you better act fast if you're interested in attending.

(NOTE: Ticketing for this event is being managed by the Windsor Arms Hotel. For any questions or issues related to ticket ordering, please contact Christine Korda at or 416-934-6022.) CLICK HERE TO ORDER TICKETS

Beau’s All Natural Brewing is a family-run and totally DIY beer company based in Vankleek Hill, a small town about an hour east of Ottawa. They brew interesting, award winning, tasty beers using the highest quality, all natural ingredients like certified organic hops & malts and local spring water. Best known for their flagship brand, Lug-Tread Lagered Ale, they also brew a number of seasonal and one-off beers, and are well-known for their support of charitable initiatives in their local community and beyond.

Doug McNish is one of the foremost vegan/raw food chefs in the world. After losing 100 pounds on a plant based diet, he decided to change his career path and become a professional vegan chef. He is a Consulting Chef at The Windsor Arms, where he has developed vegan options for the hotel’s dinner and brunch menus. Doug is a contributor to health and wellness websites and various magazines, has been broadcast on both local and national television, and is currently writing a raw food cookbook to be published in March 2012.

Consecutively voted the #1 hotel in Toronto by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, the Windsor Arms Hotel is nestled on a quiet street ideally located just steps away from Yorkville, the heart of Toronto’s most fashionable shopping and entertainment district. An aura of warmth, discreet luxury, and the latest technology combined with our exceptional level of service makes Windsor Arms Toronto’s most luxurious boutique hotel. The Windsor Arms is host to the Courtyard Cafe – open for Sunday brunch and special events; Prime Steakhouse – open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the Tea Room for traditional afternoon tea; and Lounge 22 for tapas and cocktails.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Buy Your Beau's Online... AGCO Says NO Go!

The news you are about to read is not pleasant. In fact, it stinks. Bloody Ontario and their damn archaic alcohol rules and regulations.

The awesome folks at Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. have been talking about a new and exciting program for a number of weeks  that was launched today - Buy Your Beau's Online (BYBO). The delivery program allowed individuals to pre-order their Beau's beer, or merchandise online, which  would then be delivered to Ottawa area homes by Operation Come Home,  a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting street youth. There was to be a $15 delivery fee that would go straight to charity. You can read more about the program here.

I know right! A great idea! A forward thinking idea! Imagine, adults being able to order their beer from a brewery and have it delivered to their home with some of the proceeds going to charity - everybody wins!

Well, immediately after Beau's launched BYBO earlier today, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) promptly shut it down. The reason, according to a blog post written by Beau's Co-Founder Steve Beauchense, was this:

That’s right, after less than a day of operation, BYBO has been closed, after another brewery (we weren’t told which one) complained. The complaint has nothing to do with the service or the fact that at-risk youth were involved, but over a technicality involving what I believe to be a typo in the regulations around home beer delivery services.

Brutal right?

Beauchense went on to provide more insight into the situation with the following paragraph:

Our retail store operates as an authorized beer store by the LCBO, but the regulation around home delivery uses the wording ‘operated' instead of ‘authorized’, which is how it is worded to allow us to sell to special occasion permit holders, and retail customers. It is interesting to note that the Beer Store, which is not operated by the LCBO or government is somehow allowed to sell to home delivery services.

I was able to reach Beauchesne by phone shortly after the news broke, and although he and the rest of the Beau's team are upset with this, they pledge to do what they can to ensure BYBO happens. "Obviously we don't have a team of lawyers, so our ability to fight this is limited," said Beauchesne. "We will work with Operation Come Home to see what options are available to us."

Beauchesne did tell me that they just found out that Operation Come Home can appeal this decision to the AGCO, which would allow them to find out the identity of the complainant. "The AGCO approved the delivery licence application knowing how the operation would work, and all it took was one complaint..." Operation Come Home does have the delivery licence, but the wording of the regulation ultimately means that they would have to purchase the beer from The Beer Store in order to deliver it, a place where Beau's isn't available.

The saddest thing about all of this is the youth who would benefit most from this. "We had two youths ready to go, so this hurts," said Beauchesne.

Now, to the brewery out there that complained (based on what was written in Beauchense's blog post) - you should be ashamed of yourself. Beau's, since they've bursted onto the Ontario craft brewing scene, have done nothing but come up with great ideas. Ideas that essentially benefit the Ontario beer drinker. This is why they are successful. There is no room for petty jealously. Focus on your own business model and worry less about what other innovative and inspiring breweries are doing. You'll never get ahead with this attitude.

Readers and beer drinkers of this province - if this story irks you as much as it does me, please contact your local MPP and let them know.

Meet Jason Fisher: Indie Alehouse, Toronto, ON

Fisher with mash tun
Meet Jason Fisher, Founder and President of the Indie Alehouse, a new Toronto brewery (in progress).

Fisher has been dreaming, and planning, about opening his own brewery for over 25 years now, and he is close to reaching that goal as the Indie Alehouse inches closer and closer to opening. Located in Toronto's historic Junction area, the Indie Alehouse will operate as a tied-house, selling bottles and growlers of their beer out of an on-site retail store and will have a fully functioning kitchen and seating for approximately 100 people. 

The Indie Alehouse is situated at 2876 Dundas St West, just west of Keele Street. The brewery will be a welcome addition to the Junction as it was the last Toronto neighbourhood to remain 'dry' (1904 - 2000). 

Meet Jason!

The Indie Alehouse - what can you tell us about it?
The Indie Alehouse is a small microbrewery in the west end of the city, near High Park in the ‘Junction’ neighbourhood of Toronto. To a casual observer we look like a brewpub that also sells beer-to-go at a store on the side. But partially because of technicalities in the licensing as well as because of our philosophy about the business, we are actually a brewery with a restaurant and retail beer store attached all in one space. Seems like the same thing, but to us it helps put focus on three distinct areas – Beer Production, Food, and offsite beer sales – all of which are equally important to our brand.

How are the plans coming along? When do you plan on opening your doors?
This has become the question I hate the most, since I have not got the right answer in years of asking, and saying ‘soon’ is not a great answer, but soon. Plans have been mostly useless because each day something comes up that messes with your ‘plans’ but I knew going in that was the way it would be and have been able to ‘roll with it’ most days. Most days. The day the boiler fell down the stairs or the day the HVAC quote came back 300K over budget were ‘exceptions’ to the roll with it approach. The outlook right now is that we should have the restaurant side all finished work by early December and the brewery side 2-4 weeks later. Then final inspections and who knows what else will come up but there is still hope of a 2011 opening, if not very early 2012.

Some Toronto bars have seen some of your beers already. What other styles will you be producing?
We’re luck that our Brew Master, Kevin Somerville, is also the program coordinator at Niagara College Teaching Brewery so we have been able to have our beers made to our standards by the college and offered in the city. So far we’ve made 4 beers – A Belgian Wit with ginger and lavender, our ‘Breakfast Porter’ with lots of oats, chocolate and coffee, our West Coast IPA and a Belgian IPA. We also plan to make a 5th beer and a variety of rotating seasonals but that lineup is not 100% set yet. A sour-raspberry, spicy saison, Russian Imperial Stout, among other are in the running for 5th beer. We also want to do a lot of one-off and barrel aged beers that are very hard to find and exclusively at our location only.

What will set you apart from other breweries?
It sounds funny to say to people who are not knowledgeable about the craft beer industry, but we want to be like some of the great American small craft breweries who are content to make a big impact with a small footprint. We’re not interested in world domination, or even Toronto domination. We will be on tap in very few accounts in the city – probably less than 10 places for the first few years. We will make only ales, no light lagers or pilsners. Just bigger, stronger, bolder beers. We want to make our beers in small batches only – no mass production, no mass sales (so no LCBO or Beer Store). Small, quality focused, big-bold beers, targeted to more adventurous drinkers tired of blander beers. We want to be the “advanced class” for craft beer. It doesn’t mean everything is extra bitter or high alcohol, or we will be snobby or all ‘hipster about things - just beers made well focusing on bigger flavors. We’re lucky to be able to do this because of the work of a few other local brewers who have laid the groundwork for us in Toronto, so we plan to take advantage and go to the next level. Also, because of our – brewery, restaurant, beer store setup and philosophy we can interact directly with customers about what they like and react to our market easily.

What did you do before embarking on this venture?
I don’t even want to think about it… ☺ I mostly worked in jobs I didn’t like, wishing I worked in a craft brewery. I worked for two very large multi-national corporations and one very small entrepreneurial company in sales and marketing. Sometimes the jobs were fun, sometimes they were awful, but I did my best to learn along the way and hope to put all of that to use at The Indie Alehouse.

Why did you get into the brewing industry?
I made my first homebrew – from a ‘John Bull, Export Ale’ kit I got a Zellers in 1985 in Gr.10 for my science project. It was awesome. At least that’s how I remember it now. I got an A – although the teachers did express some concern that a 16yr old was making ‘very drinkable beer’ in a lab on school premises. I emphasized the yeast / science elements of the ‘experiment’, but had to take my learning to my basement. I always loved things that combined art and science in school and work and as I travelled I learned more about great beers – spending time in Europe and the United States exposed me to so much I couldn’t get at home, I knew this would be a good business as well as more fun than working for a big corporation.

How has the response been from the community? Are they excited to be getting a brewery in their neighbourhood?
I knew the response would be good but I never imagined it would be as good or as positive as it has been. I honestly get an average of 40 people emailing me per week, over the last 6 months from people excited about our opening. I think it’s partially the demand for great beer in the city is bigger than ever, partially our location in an area that is very underserved (there is not much west of Yonge and north of Bloor in Toronto), and I hope, partially because of our approach to the business. Also I have to say, that a lot of bars and other breweries have been VERY helpful and supportive. It’s so nice to not be viewed as competition and more as a partner in this venture. I feel like I owe a lot of people already for the help I’ve been getting, and I’ll make sure to pay it back or forward when I get the opportunity.

Tell us something about Indie Alehouse that not a lot of people know about... yet!
Have I mentioned the boiler fell down the stairs? (I still lose sleep at night about this) – and let’s see, I wrote my first business plan for a microbrewery 25 years ago and walked around with it in my bag for 15 years incase I met someone who could help me. And on the food side of the business, I’m very lucky to have the help of two world class chefs in the city – Todd Clarimo, (formerly Oliver Bonacini and now head of Trump Toronto food and beverage) and Albino Silva (Chiado, among others) have been amazing in helping set up the menu, kitchen design and a million other ways. I can’t wait for the food.

What has been the biggest challenge to date?
Not being able to control time and space, Everything is a challenge! Money and Time – with more of either it would be much easier. And the boiler fell down the F@$#*&g stairs, so gravity has been a challenge too.

Tough question - Name your favourite non Indie Alehouse produced beer.
Favourite beer? Really? Impossible – way too many to choose from. I have a strong love at the moment for beers by Stone and Dogfish Head in the US as well as New Glarus ‘raspberry tart', Black Oak ‘ten bitter years’ and just about anything make by Mike Lackey at Great Lakes in his one-off series of funky beers.

Best time for a pint?
It sounds cheesy, but any time with friends is a good time for a pint. Everyone in the city is crazy about pints on a patio in the summer, but for me a pint by a fireplace on a cold night is just as good or better and we have a lot more opportunity for that in Toronto.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brewstache Beerfest @ Amsterdam Brewery

There will be an abundance of facial here at the Amsterdam Brewery this Friday night as the brewery will play host to their 1st annual Brewstache Beerfest in support Movember.

As you can see from the advertisement on your left, there is a $20 admission fee to attend, with all proceeds going to prostate cancer research and awareness. Admission includes 2 beer sample tokens. Tickets can be purchased at the brewery's retail store at 21 Bathurst Street, Toronto, or by calling the brewery at 416.504.6882.

There will be a great selection of local Ontario craft beer on tap, along with a number of cask conditioned beers (see list below).

Amsterdam will also have The Toasted Tangerine food truck coming down cooking up a special Movember menu incase you get hungry, and there will be live music throughout the night.

Here's the list of breweries/beers that are participating:
Amsterdam Brewery - Citra Kolsch, TBW Homebrew winner (Black IPA), Barrel Blend, Coffee Mild
Great Lakes - Burt Reynold's Reserve Stache (Belgian IPA)
Stone Hammer - Imperial Oatmeal Coffee Stout
Cheshire Valley - Snidley Stache (IPA @ 50 IBU)
Black Oak - MOstacher in the Rye (Roggenbier)
Denison's - Dunkel
Wellington - County Dark Ale (Cask)
Beau's - Pumpkin Weisse
Nickel Brook - Sir, Your Moustache Tastes Sour (Brown Belgian Sour)
House Ales - Bellwoods cask

Video - Driftwood Brewing Co., Victoria, BC

Up front disclosure: It is no secret that I am employed by TAPS Media, the parent company of TAPS The Beer Magazine. From time to time I've posted material on this blog (before and after being hired) with respect to work that has appeared in TAPS. My intention when posting said material, and the material below, is only meant as news, nothing more.

I had the opportunity to travel to Victoria, BC this past May to attend the wedding of some Ontario friends who now call British Columbia home.

My wife and I landed in Victoria on a Wednesday morning, ready to see the town... and to visit a number of the local craft breweries. The beautiful city boasts a number of terrific breweries like Phillips, Swans, Vancouver Island, Lighthouse, Canoe Brewpub, Spinnakers and Driftwood.

We were staying in one of the guest houses at Spinnakers, which I highly recommend doing if you find yourself on a trip out west, and we made it a goal (ok, I made it a goal) to visit each and every place, have a beer at each one, take a brief tour of the brewing facilities and record a small video for TAPS Media (see note above).

One of the first places we made it to was the Driftwood Brewing Co., makers of beers like Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine, Farmhand Ale, Driftwood Ale, Crooked Coast Amber Ale White Birch Wheat, Fat Tug IPA (2011 Canadian Beer of the Year) and more.

I had the chance to check out their barrel-aged and sour beer program (Flanders Red just came out - Bird of Prey), sample some beers, and chatted with one of the co-founders, Jason Meyer, who took some time to go on video.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cloak & Dagger Caskfest

The folks over at Toronto's Cloak and Dagger pub have announced that they will be holding a weeklong Caskfest starting next Monday.

From November 21st - 27th, the Cloak and Dagger will be tapping three new casks each day. People will find casks from Granite, Blak Oak, Beau's, Durham, Great Lakes, Flying Monkeys, F&M and more.

The Cloak will also be providing some food samples off of their new menu throughout the week.

Should you find yourself out at the Cloak for Caskfest and you have a Twitter account, try using the #oncask hashtag to let your followers know what's on cask. #oncask was brought about during Cask Days this year as a cool new method to spread awareness of cask ale in Ontario. You can also follow the @OnCask account. (Chris at Toronto Beer Blog has more on that, click here to read it)

*The Cloak also have a website now!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November CASK! Social

From CASK! Toronto

The next CASK! Social will take place on: Saturday November 19th
Time: 3:00 – 6:00 pm
Location: Dominion On Queen
500 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON

Greetings, Thirsty Cask Ale Drinkers,
Our next CASK! Social will be held on Saturday November 19th 3:00 - 6:00pm at the historic Dominion on Queen, 500 Queen Street East, Toronto. The Dominion has been a Corktown landmark since 1889, and is now proudly serving cask conditioned ale. There will be several cask ales available for us, one of which might just be a tasty stout from F & M Brewery. The rear lounge, complete with brewing memorabilia, has been reserved especially for us. See you there!


Mirella, Maz, Robert & Nick

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Toast for Those That Fought

Today is Remembrance Day. At 11am we are to take some time to stop and reflect on the peace and freedom we have today due to the sacrifice of so many before us.

I would like to raise a glass today for all the men and women who have served this great nation in battle, and in peacekeeping efforts, and to those who continue to serve us today.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dieu du Ciel Receives Federal Funding

Josh Rubin, the Toronto Star's Beer Columnist, sent out a Tweet on November 8th that indicated that Dieu du Ciel (DDC) would be getting some sort of funding from the Federal government, and yesterday it was announced that DDC would receive $300,000 to assist them in increasing capacity and productivity at their brewery in Saint-Jérôme, Quebec.

Jacques Gourde, Member of Parliament for Lotbinière–Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, made the announcement yesterday in Saint-Jérôme. “Our government is proud to support enterprises that, like Microbrasserie Dieu du Ciel, are doing everything they can to increase their productivity and export their products to new markets,” said Mr. Gourde. “Moreover, this contribution from our government will help stimulate economic growth and job creation in the region.

The $300,000 is a repayable contribution through the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions and the Business and Regional Growth program. According to the CED website, the program aims to "strengthen the conditions conducive to the sustainable growth of Quebec’s regions and small- and medium-sized enterprises"

The press release on the CED website also states that DDC will be using the financial assistance to acquire a new, faster bottling line and fermentation tanks. The brewery also intends to install a conveyor, an accumulation table, a warm room and a refrigeration system.

Consumed: Alley Kat Cringer Cranberry Ginger Ale

I've been meaning to get around the drinking this latest offering by Alley Kat Brewing Co.  for over a week now. The two bottles, the newest of their Big Bottle Series, kept staring me in the face every morning I came into work. It's getting close to press time (winter issue of TAPS) at work so things have been a tad busy. I managed to crack the top of the Cringer Cranberry Ginger Ale this afternoon though, and I'm glad I did.

The 4.8% beer produces a big billowy white head that forms a layer of protection atop the hazy golden liquid in the glass. It doesn't seem to fade, even after multiple sips. It's quite attractive.

The nose is nice, interesting. Exactly as you'd think, given the name of the beer. Fresh ginger dominates, almost as though it was cut and added yesterday. It's matched by a delicate sweetness and candied cranberries that create a flowery aroma with a bit of lemon zest.

It's nice and soft on the palate up front. Pleasant finish that starts sweet before yielding to a bready malt backbone that then gives way to the ginger, the star of the show. It all ends with a lingering presence of ginger coating of the mouth. Not too sharp though as the malt profile kicks in and balances out all the flavour. The cranberry presence is subtle, adding just enough fruity (sweet) notes to play nicely with the ginger.

I'm digging it. The bottles came with an Alley Kat opener that has a resealer attached to it for those that can't finish an entire 650ml bottle...I didn't need it.

Alley Kat Big Beer Series

Home Delivery of Beau’s Beer Coming Soon to Ottawa

Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. is getting set to launch a new home delivery aspect to their business.

Slated for roll-out on November 24th, individuals in the Ottawa area will be able to order Beau's beer online and have it delivered to their home by Operation Come Home, a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to assisting street youth. The service is called “BYBO,” which stands for “Buy Your Beau’s Online.”

From Beau's press release:
“Offering home beer delivery through a charitable organization is a pretty revolutionary model,” explains brewery co-founder Steve Beauchesne. “The fact that Operation Come Home was already collecting and returning our empty bottles through BottleWorks made the collaboration a bit easier though,” he adds. “For years people in Ottawa have been telling us they love our unique packaging and specialty beers, but find the hour’s drive out to Vankleek Hill difficult. This service is great for folks in Ottawa, and helps at-risk youth at the same time.”
Interested individuals will not only be able to order Beau's beer, they'll even be able to order Beau's merchandise. You can head to or Payment is accepted via PayPal and the ordered items will be delivered in the evening within 72 hours. There is a delivery fee of $15, which is will be collected by Operation Come Home, who will provide a charitable receipt. Empty bottles of Beau's will also be collected if the customer requests.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Video - Daniel Girard, Garrison Brewing Co.

Up front disclosure: It is no secret that I am employed by TAPS Media, the parent company of TAPS The Beer Magazine. From time to time I've posted material on this blog (before and after being hired) with respect to work that has appeared in TAPS. My intention when posting said material, and the material below, is only meant as news, nothing more.

Back in August I was asked to host a beer dinner at Brussels Resturant and Brasserie in Halifax to help kick off the 5th annual Halifax Seaport Beerfest. The dinner was a complete success and a lot of fun, using beers from Le Trou du Diable, Spearhead, Shipyard and more. Brussels did a great job with the pairings and I'll I had to do was talk about how everything went well together while providing some quick notes about the industry.

The next day it was off to the actual beer festival to represent TAPS The Beer Magazine (my day job). After joining some of the Garrison Brewing Co. team in the brewhouse for a couple of samples I shot a short video with Daniel Girard, Garrison's Brewmaster, which was later used alongside the "Down The Hatch" column in the Fall issue of TAPS.

Girard discusses the brewery's LCBO Brewery Feature, which is fast approaching. He also talks about various Garrison beers.

Each issue of TAPS features an interview with a Canadian Brewmaster, which is accompanied by a short video interview. Dension's Michael Hancock was the first. Watch the video here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Amsterdam Tempest Stout Back For A Day - International Stout Day

For those of you who missed out on getting your hands on some of Amsterdam Brewery's Tempest Imperial Stout back in the summer, now might be your chance.

The brewery will have a very limited number of bottles available today at their retail store as a means to celebrate International Stout Day, which is today.

Here is a review that Rob Symes wrote for the Tempest back on July 8th.

by Rob Symes:
There’s a storm brewing at the Amsterdam, though this kind of storm only includes a wind warning if consumed with a side of chilli nachos. Amsterdam’s newest beer – Tempest Imperial Stout – joins a small stable of Ontario examples of this weighty style. The buzz on the rating sites is that this brew delivers and that an increasingly experimental direction is paying dividends for the Bathurst Street outfit, and we’re ready to join the chorus.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the packaging for this beer is sexy, dark and sinister. A back and white image of the high of a hurricane casts a shadow over the label, but it’s the waxing that really grabs your attention. It’s rare to see a bottle dipped in wax in Canada. The practice is becoming increasingly prominent in the US – partly to indicate bottles suitable for aging, partly because it looks so damn good, and partly because it improves the appearance of a bottle and increases the chances of the sale. With a few notable examples (Half Pints Burly Wine springs to mind) our brewers have left waxing to their legs and chests, so it’s encouraging to see a waxable style on the market, and a fantastic job done of making the bottle look good.

So, the bottle looks good, but what of the contents? Another thumbs up, and a classic appearance, with a bordering on midnight body and a couple finger of dirty tan head that leaves abundant lacing. A few bubbles lazily make their way up the glass, indicating that the requisite full body is in place. The aroma is the weak point, lacking the fullness of Southern giants like Great Divide’s Yeti, but it still delivers a decent punch, mixing old coffee grounds with a light lactic note. It’s very much in the vein of a traditional English take on the style, and that continues in the flavour, which delivers a good coffee hit, followed by anise and bitter chocolate. I heard that the IBUs for this came in quite high, but it seems more subtle and drinkable than expected, and the bitterness seems to emanate more from the roast than anything. The posted ABV of 9% is nicely integrated – you can tell this is a big beer, but at no point does it cross the line into boozy. The medium body helps to boost the flavours, and a pillowy carbonation bulks things up somewhat. Things improved further as it warmed, and a little below room temperature is probably the best serving point, allowing the full range of flavours to make their presence felt.

Canada’s most populous province sorely lacks imperial stouts, and this entry from Amsterdam is a welcome addition. Its bad boy looks and robust flavour makes for a satisfying quaff, and for those interested in cellaring, this should hold up relatively well.

Amsterdam Tempest Imperial Stout is currently available at the brewery retail store: 21 Bathurst Street, Toronto.
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