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.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet George Milbrandt: C'est What? - Toronto, ON

George Milbrandt - C'est What?
Meet George Milbrandt, the man behind on of Canada's most visited beer destinations - Toronto, ON's C'est What? Brew/Vin Pub Restaurant.

Milbrandt has operated C'est What? since 1988 with a strong focus on showcasing local products, including beers that you really couldn't find anywhere else at the time. This set C'est What? on a course continues today. Milbrandt wanted to support the smaller breweries that were starting to spring up around '88 and this helped create a unique establishment that was unlike any other in Ontario, possibly Canada.

Today C'est What? boosts an amazing line-up of draught beers (over 35), cask conditioned ales, unique one-off's, beer festivals and most recently participating in the first ever Toronto Beer Week. Visitors come from around the world to taste the best of Ontario craft beers and local Torontonians continue to hold up the bar. It's a true testament to Milbrandt's vision 22 years ago.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?
Although my training is in in architecture an early mid-life crisis hit when I was 27 and I decided to to open up a pub. I counted on my love of beer and home brewing as well as few friends in the industry to get things going. The only friend to stick with the project through opening was, like me, a neophyte to the restaurant business. This should have been a hint but, naively, we persevered.

What is the best part of operating a pub?
There are very few jobs that bring such joy to the world. A restaurant full of smiling faces is the best reward for your efforts.

What is the worst?
From unclogging urinals to cleaning up vomit, there is more to running a pub than pouring pints.

How do you go about selecting the beer for your establishment?
Research, research, research. It’s a tough job, but drinking is the key to product selection. Joking aside, we have very specific criteria for the beer that we feature:

1. Un-diluted, single batch brewing. Each brewing batch makes one beer and is not diluted after fermentation.

2. All natural ingredients. The ingredients used should be easily recognized as natural and, if processed, must retain their essential character. An ingredient list must be disclosed.

3. Fresh. Beer tastes best fresh. Pasteurized beer will not be served at C’est What.

4. Our beer list is Canadian made only.

The selection process also includes ensuring that the widest range of styles is available among the thirty-five we have on tap at any given time. Each brew passes a staff taste taste and most importantly, the beer has to be embraced by our customers to stay on tap.

Where did the name of your establishment come from?
The idea for C’est What came out of a desire to be a truly Canadian pub not a knock-off of something from another culture. We should be proud of our multi-cultural heritage and this began with the original French-English accommodation. Besides I couldn’t resist the idea of people shouting C’est What over a crowd of talking people in a pub.

What has been the biggest change in the beer industry since you started your business?
We are not the only beer missionaries around anymore. In 1988 there were only a handful of what we now call craft breweries in Ontario and no pubs or restaurants that would give them a serious chance. Today we have about forty small breweries in Ontario and just about every new independent bar that opens in Toronto has a decent beer selection.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Prohibition has been gone for over eighty years but we are still suffering under rules that control the sale of alcohol more than guns. The government monopoly of the LCBO and the foreign owned monopoly of The Beer Store are indefensible in any logical or objective sense. The first best step in loosening this control would be to allow licensee sales of beer and wine for home consumption. Along with this should come wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry.

What do you get up to when your not at your establishment?
Travelling is always fun. Although I do get caught up in the “busman's holiday” trap of visiting a lot of pubs while on vacation. Then again, where else are you going to get a true sense of the place if not by rubbing elbows and clinking glasses with the locals?

If you're not drinking at your own bar, where do you head to for a beer?
Any one of the number of good beer bars in the neighbourhood like beerbistro or Duggan’s Brewery.

Name the last beer you consumed?
It is my job to keep tabs on the product we serve so I tend to go through at least a dozen different beers every week. The last brew to pass quality control was Black Oak Nut Brown Ale.

C’est What? Brew/Vin Pub Restaurant
Toronto, ON

Established February 13, 1988

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