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


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sad Day in Beer Land

Michael Jackson, the world's foremost author about beer, has died. Jackson was an English born beer writer with many-many books and encloypedia's about beer's history, tastings, cooking with beer and pubs all over the world. He was a living legend to all those in the world that are consumed with the beer industry and was a sought out role model for those aspiring to write about beer. He was 65.

Here is his last article, featured in All About Beer:

A Good Pub - What I Look For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Halifax Dancer

Here is a treat that I happened to come across today. For those that are familiar with the Lower Deck in Halifax, NS, this will be no surprise; but should get you laughing.

For the readers that aren't familiar with this dancer, here's the story. The Lower Deck offers live local music seven nights a week in their historic building. There is supposed to be a "no dance" zone in front of the stage, but staff have given way to this dancer/crazy mover. Here is a link to a video posted of Halifax's favourite shaker.

Enjoy, and trust me, it's for real!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pubs and Publicans: The Secrets of America's Top Taphouses

So, two weeks ago, I'm browsing the beer sites on-line and I come across the All About Beer magazine website and see that the upcoming edition will feature a cover story dedicated to some of America's best public houses (pubs). Needless to say I got excited and left my office that night in search of the magazine.

I live in Orillia, ON at the present moment and figured the bookstore in the mall would have it among the many other magazines they carry. So I drive over and start the search. Nothing. Okay, let's try Wal-Mart, they have a large magazine selection. Nothing. Weird I think, but, hey, this is Orillia I remember. Someone recommends the Cigar and Magazine shop downtown, "they have everything" I'm told. So back across town I go and when I get there I am told that they stopped carrying it months ago; lack of purchases. I guess there aren't many beer geeks living here (not the best place to open a brew-pub?).

So, to make a long story short, no store in Orillia carries the magazine. Luckily, I spoke with a friendly staff member at All About Beer based in Washington DC. She told me that all Chapters sold them, but she would send me a complimentary copy. I guess she sensed my enthusiasm. A week later I received my copy in the mail.

The article focused on a handful of American tap houses, ale houses, inns and pub's that have gained notoriety over the years for their vast beer selection. So, because this magazine is hard to obtain in rural areas or areas without a Chapters, here are a few highlights of the article.

The Brickskeller Inn in Washington, DC holds the title in the Guinness Book of World Record for having 1,300 bottles of different beer available for purchase. The Inn is located in a old boarding house built in 1912 and current owner Dave Alexander has his enormous beer memorabilia collection set up like a museum.

The Great Lost Bear in Portland, ME features over 50 draught selections, but what makes them really unique is the web-cam featured at the bar. Customers can check how full the pub is from home before venturing off for some drinks and can actually see the tap handles telling them what's on tap that week.

The Falling Rock Tap House in Denver has a shrine of over 2,200 empty bottles on display, 69 taps and a revolving line of bottles that can range anywhere from 120-170 bottles at any time.

The Capital Ale House makes sure that each server that is hired goes through an intensive beer course that is followed up with seminars on Belgium beers, German Lagers, Ales etc. They also have 77 taps.

I found a recurring theme throughout the article that all the pub owners mentioned, became successful due to their passion for the pub and beer industry. This article could be a useful tool for wanna-be pub owners one day (myself included). I can only hope that with my passion, I can build my future pub to be as successful as these ones are.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cellarman's Ale House: Midland, ON

Midland, Ontario is a village on the edge of Georgian Bay that is home to 16,800 residents who take pride in the town's clean apperance, tidy store fronts and attractive historic properties. With the help of some friends, I found a tresure, tucked away off the main road in downtown Midland called the "Cellarman's Ale House" on King Street. Established in 1997 by Nicole and Dan Lamers, they named their cozy pub after the cellarman; "the keeper of fine draught in a public house". In early times, pubs had to store their beer in cellar's to keep it cool and fresh and it was the cellarman who was responsible for bringing up the casks, or carrying jugs of beer up from the cellar.

The building isn't hard to miss as the pub is situated behind two other buildings that are seperated by a walkway. If it wasn't for the large sign on another storefront signalling us towards the pub, we could have walked the entire downtown looking for it. But a hunt for a good pub builds excitement and anticipation.

Walking up the to front door was just a treat in itself. Old wooden doors with no windows greeted us at the main entrance and once opened, a ray of sunlight dashed into the dimly lit pub. It felt like one moment you were in the 2000's but as we pulled open the door we were taken back to a simpler time.

Once inside, you'll notice the bar to your immediate left where the 12 draught towers were situated. There draught menu consisted of Kilkenny, Harp, Smithwicks, Guinness, Strongbow, Hockley Valley Dark, Keith's, Keith's Red, Stella Artois, Bud Light, Hoegaarden and a house brewed called Cellarman's Lager produced by Ontario's Great Lakes Brewery. Nothing too spectactular, but plenty of choice between some decent macro's and good micro's in Hockley Valley and Great Lakes. Prices were pretty fair for a pint, and the food was excellent (Chicken Feta sandwich). The bar is surrounded by 10 stools and bar seats which suits the "L" shaped bar and just enough to keep everyone comfortable.

The decor consisted of old beer memorabilia like European bar towels, beer banners, mirrors, bottles and along the back wall books were placed behind the bench seating. The chandliers were wrought iron, the style you would find in a castle and gave off a light amber glow. They were perfect for this pub. Chalk boards with specials, prices and promotions were above the bar along with other old collectables. There is a wall that seperates two rooms but has 3 arched openings and old maroon carpeting covers the floor.

Our server Jen, who was very pleasent and knowledgable, informed us that the building once housed a car garage and most recently a pizza shop. Although she couldn't provide a year for when the building was erected, I estimate that it was build around the 1950's. The music consisted of easy listening and the volume was kept to a relaxed volume. During the summer months the pub has a live band every Friday night and once a month when summer dies down. There was only one television in sight and Jen mentioned that it's used for hockey playoffs and big sporting events only.

Overall: The Cellarman's Ale House is a great little pub in a very attractive water-front village. There were regulars chatting with Jen which is always nice to see, which tells me that the locals support the pub. The food was great and the beer tasted fresh. It was a nice comfortable visit in a warm and inviting pub. It would be a nice place to bring a group for beers and socialize or go by yourself mid afternoon for some peace and quiet with a book. Whenever I find myself passing through Midland again, I will be sure to stop by and have a pint.

337 King Street
Midland, ON

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Offering from Steam Whistle

August 22, 2007
A NEW gift offering, perfect for any beer lover:

Steam Whistle’s Retro Wall-Mounted Opener
(Toronto, ON, August 2007) - Steam Whistle Brewing, producers of Canada’s Premium Pilsner, are gearing up for the Holiday season with their unique, vintage-inspired Wall-Mounted Opener, available as part of a holiday gift pack for just $24.95 at LCBO stores and Steam Whistle’s Retail Store.

The opener is fitted with a magnetic back for easy placement right on your fridge, or comes with mounting screws for a more permanent spot on the wall of your ‘rec’ room, bar, garage, cottage or back deck. The gift box also includes two 341mL bottles of Steam Whistle Pilsner to enjoy once the opener is in place.

With the introduction of this collectible opener, Steam Whistle has re-created a special moment of refreshment for beer drinkers: With that cold bottle in hand, lever the cap against the opener, listen for the crisp release as the beer is opened and the nostalgic clink! when the metal cap falls into the handy cap catcher. Then, open the second bottle for a friend and toast your efforts.

“Our beer drinkers appreciate the freshness that comes with the old fashioned, non-twist cap,” asserts Steam Whistle President, Cam Heaps. “This holiday season, we wanted to give them something they can keep within reach and use regularly. And, it’s a nice change from the common gift boxes of beer and glassware.” He adds, “It’s the perfect gift for any beer drinker!”

The collectible wall-mounted openers will be available for purchase in November 2007.

About Steam WhistleSteam Whistle, an independent brewery housed in Toronto’s historic John St. Roundhouse south of the CN Tower, has a singular focus of making just one beer of exceptional quality that Canadians can be proud of. They brew their refreshing Pilsner with traditional brewing methods and only four, natural ingredients. Steam Whistle Pilsner is packaged in signature green glass bottles and shipped fresh across Alberta and Ontario to Beer and Liquor Stores as well as licensed bars & restaurants. Steam Whistle welcomes more than 60,000 visitors to the Roundhouse each year to the on-site retail store, for a tour or to attend one of the many on-site events and art shows.

To learn more about what they do really, really well visit

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mill Street Brew Pub: Toronto, ON

Mill Street brewery has done what every small brewery in Ontario hopes to achieve as they have just expanded their operation in order to meet demand nation wide. Brew master Michael Duggan (no longer with the company)along with Jeffery Cooper and Steve Abrams opened the doors to Mill Street back in 2002 making them the first commercial brewery to open in East Toronto in more than 100 years. Located in a beautiful spot and tourist destination, the Mill Street brewery occupies a building in the Distillery District. Since gaining Canada's acceptance as a reputable brewery, Mill Street had to expand and thus moved their brewing operation to a warehouse outside of Toronto. Instead of letting go of their great spot in the distillery district, the company decided to renovate and create the "Mill Street Brew Pub".

Walking into through the front door you'll notice the retail store on your left. Here you'll find many of Mill Street beer products in six packs, singles and growlers. Along the back wall you can purchase t-shirts, sweaters, hats and other apparel all emblazed with Mill Street's logo.

Walking back out of the retail store, you immediately enter the huge brewpub. To your right you will notice the large glass walls encasing several vats, cooling tanks and fermenters that are in the middle of producing beer that will be served at the pub. They were actually in the middle of brewing their fruit beer and I was fortunate enough to sample some that was being kegged. Mill Street has 11 of their beer's available for the public to choose from which was a surprise to me as I never knew they brewed that many.

Beers available:
Award winning Tankhouse Ale
Stock Ale
Award Winning Coffee Porter
Wit Beer
Cobblestone Stout
Extra Special Bitter - which at the time was available in cask
Mill Street Pilsner
Organic Lager
Raspberry Fruit Beer
Helles Bock
India Pale Ale (wish it was in bottles

The Layout of the brewpub: There is a huge front patio that has to sit more than 100 people and also probably used for special events. The dining area is exposed, wide open, high ceilings with rustic wooden beams from the original building and the area is capable of seating hundreds. Mill Street beer posters, brewing artifacts and tools are scattered throughout the pub on walls and in cases. There is a fireplace near one of the exits, but I assume it is a gas fireplace as opposed to a wood burning one. There is a very attractive bar located in front of the brewing equipment that also serves some good single malts. Shakira and other pop music plays loudly in the background which I don't like to much. First I don't like Shakira and secondly it makes it hard to carry on a conversation.

Our server was great. She had answers for all of my questions and never hesitated to bring me more samples. She helped explain the history of the brewery/brewpub which was very nice and helpful. My fiance and I split the beef nachos which were excellent and filling. The Tankhouse Ale complemented them very nicely.

In all, it is a great place for tourists to visit and for those that appreciate great craft beer. Although it doesn't really fit into my definition of a pub, due to the sheer size of the place, I will be going back for a full meal and I might as well have a few pints while I'm there.

Toronto, ON


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Golden Tap Winners

We arrived at the beerbistro by 4:30pm and quickly got around to sampling some of the 80 beers available. This was my first time attending the Golden Tap Awards so I didn't know what to expect.

The event was very organized and credit must be given to Cass Enright, the founder of Walking into Beerbistro, we were greeted at the door by restaurant staff who provided beer caps as tokens for the evening. One token cost $2 and that provided you with a three ounce sample pour.

There were many more adults present than a beer fest which meant less drunken students and more swirling, sniffing and judging. Brewers and owners of the various micro-breweries were on hand fratenizing with their customers and prospective buyers. I had some pleasent conversations with the Keefe brothers Ron and Kevin; owners of the Granite Breweries and Kevin mentioned something that's in the works out east in Halifax; stay tuned. Bill White was in attendance and we shared some good stories and talked about various breweries and where the beer scene is heading. I also spoke with Matt and Steve of Beau's micro brewery outside of Ottawa and you could see the love they have for their product. They also won beer of the fest for 2006. Nicholas Pashley who wrote the book "Notes on a Beermat, Drinking and Why It's Necessary" was there and I was able to tell him about how much I enjoyed his book.

What made this event nice was the fact that everyone in attendance was passionate about quality beer and building the Ontario Craft beer industry. Essentially, everyone was on the same page.

By 8pm, just before the awards were to be handed out, the crowd was still growing. When Cass took the mic to announce the winners, the place was packed, and Cass mentioned that this was the largest crowd yet. He also mentioned that had received a record number of votes this year. Up 82% from the last year!!

Out of all the beer that I sampled, I found Church Key's West Coast Pale Ale the best (my vote for beer of the fest). With a deep golden hue, nice heavy mouth, hoppy profile (guessing either dry hopped or added late), with a good balance of malt, yeast profile smell of tangerine. Excellent brew. I also really enjoyed County Durham's Hop Addict. Very hoppy, very aromatic, nice lingering aftertaste. Reminded me of a Propeller IPA. The beer that I did not enjoy was Trafalgar's Oatmeal Stout.

Here are the winners:

Best microbrewery in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - Mill Street Brewery
Best microbrewery in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Church-Key Brewery
Best beer brewed in the GTA - Mill Street Tankhouse Ale
Best beer brewed in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale
Best bar in the GTA in terms of draught beer selection - C'est What
Best bar in the GTA in terms of bottled beer selection - beerbistro
Best bar in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Winking Judge
Best brewpub or tied house in Ontario (including the GTA) - Mill Street Brewpub

Here are the winners of the Editor's Circle awards: These awards were picked by a select few from and the criteria was set for those that made a great contribution to Ontario's beer scene in the last year.

Michael Hancock: Denison's (dedication to quality and preseverance)
Great Lakes Brewing (for brewing one off's, engaging in experimentation)
Roland + Russell (importers: bringing Ontario various import beer)
Volo Cask Days (Great beer event and promoter of cask ales)

Overall: This was a great event to get out and meet with the people that are responsible for the Ontario beer segment. All brewer's were friendly and never hesitant to discuss future plans, future beer and explain the taste profiles. Everything ran smoothly and the food was excellent. I had a great time and already look forward to next year. Congrats to the winners.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Golden Tap Awards

Tomorrow marks the 5th year of the Golden Tap Awards presented by founder Cass Enright at Toronto's Beer Bistro: 18 King St East. Doors open at 4pm and are followed by presentations beginning at 8pm. Admission is free but tokens can be purchased for drinks and food throughout the night. These awards are exclusively dedicated to Ontario's Craft Beer Industry and the pubs that support them.

All awards will be handed out at the event on August 18th, across the following categories:

• Best microbrewery in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
• Best microbrewery in Ontario (outside of the GTA)
• Best beer brewed in the GTA
• Best beer brewed in Ontario (outside of the GTA)
• Best bar in the GTA in terms of draught beer selection
• Best bar in the GTA in terms of bottled beer selection
• Best bar in Ontario (outside of the GTA)
• Best brewpub or tied house in Ontario (including the GTA)

Some of the Ontario Craft Beer featured will be:

Beau’s Lug-Tread Lagered Ale (not currently available anywhere in Toronto)
Great Lakes Project X and Orange Peel Ale
Nickel Brook Organic White
Church-Key West Coast Pale Ale
Trafalgar Oak Aged Dry
Grand River Ploughman’s Ale and Mill Race Mild
Mill Street Belgian Frambozen
Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout and Summer Saison
Denison’s Weissbier
Cameron's Dark 266
King Dunkel
C’est What Caraway Rye
Scotch Irish Stuart’s Organic Session Ale and Black Irish Plain Porter

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why I Drink in A Pub

I once heard from a beer company that had research stating that Canadians consume 80% of their beer in their home or the homes of others while the remaining 20% enjoyed the perils of beer in a pub or bar.

Me, being a pub loving guy felt sick. I asked myself the question; “Why are so many people drinking alone at home?”

1. I tend to frequent pubs knowing that I am supporting local establishments that aren’t run by huge corporations. Private owners put their heart and soul into their pub and usually spend their life savings getting it off the ground. By frequently visiting these places I feel like I am helping them earn a living, helping them realize their goal of owning a successful business, and creating friendships with the most hospitable people.

2. Pubs are great for meeting new people and engaging socially in a relaxed atmosphere. I love going into a local or visiting a different cities’ local and starting up a conversation with the barkeep or a regular at the bar. Drinking beer is a social activity. I always said that if I were to start dating again (I am engaged so that won’t happen) the first date would take place at a pub. The good ones don’t play loud, obnoxious music so it’s easy to carry on a conversation. You wouldn’t have to spend a fortune and it would be a good test to see if she would enjoy the pub ambience (my fiancé loves pubs!). Also, some people enjoy café’s to sit and read with a cup of coffee. I prefer the pub. Especially one with a fireplace blazing on a cold winter day with a nice stout or IPA.

3. You can learn a lot about the city you are in simply by visiting their pubs. More often than not, pubs have newspaper clippings on the wall regarding something that happened in the city or features a display of artifacts from times past. All pubs tell a story when you walk through the doors and the pubs are usually owned by an individual that came from that city.

4. Obviously I go to pubs for the beer! I am a craft beer drinker by heart and I love nothing more than walking into a pub and seeing an eccentric beer menu. Now, I know 80% of beer drinkers drink their beer away from pubs, but what are they drinking? I don't agree with those that argue that spending $5 for a pint is too much when they can buy a six pack of Laker for under ten bucks. Laker is worth just that, a good beer in a pub is worth more because your getting more out of it. I know I wouldn’t spend $5 for a pint of Budweiser, it’s not worth it. I’d rather get a micro brew or import. But then again I say “drink less, drink better” just as Unibroue Brewing would say.

5. The great thing about going into a pub to have some food and drink is that you don’t have to clean anything up when you are done. That’s what tipping is for. If you have a group over to the house for some beers, you’re left with the undaunted task of cleaning up empty bottles, ash trays, do dishes etc. I also don’t have enough branded beer glasses for each different version of beer I drink and most pubs offer this service.

So there you have it. These are five reasons why I love going to a local with a group of friends. Embrace your locals, help support the local economy and enjoy each and every story you hear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Gahan House: Charlottetown, PEI

Located in a historic house just off the main street in Charlottetown, The Gahan House Brew-pub serves as one of PEI's tourists destinations. It is the only brewery in the province and brews beer for a number of pubs/restaurants on the island.

The Gahan House was built in 1880 by the Gahan clan and stayed in the family until the early 1900's. It was then used as a convent house by the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation and in the 1960's it became a rooming house before finally being sold to a local businessman who turned it into The Gahan House Brew-Pub in 2000.

The building itself is very intriguing and we came across other tourists peering in the windows and reading the historic markers on the brick walls. As you enter the pub you immediately come to a L shaped bar with numerous tap handles serving: Sir John A's Honey Wheat Ale, Harvest Gold Pale, Coles Cream Ale, Island Red Amber, Iron Horse Dark Ale, Sydney Street Stout and India Pale Ale. I had the IPA which was excellent. Very hoppy and aromatic, it tasted similar to Dogfish Head 60 min. I also had the Stout, which was decent. Nice and creamy and easy drinking.

It was a Friday night and the place was packed. They just renovated a back room and turned it into a dining area. We sit in the front of the pub where I am more at home. The music is terrible and way too loud, but the beer and food make up for that. There is a nice collection of beer bottles behind the bar and empty growlers are situated throughout the pub. Their is a nice island in the middle of the pub surrounded by bar stools. It is a very nice pub inside and out with exposed wooden beams, original brickwork and hardwood floors. I wasn't a fan of the purple dimmed lighting over our table though. It didn't really fit the historic building motif.

The brew-pub offers tours of the downstairs brewery in the summer months for a small fee. Trent, the brew master, takes me downstairs and shows me the equipment and explains the method behind his madness. He truly loves his job.

Overall: A decent place to go. I would have preferred it a little quieter but I can't have everything. Great beer, terrific IPA and good food. This is PEI's best pub by far.

126 Sydney Street
Charlottetown, PEI

The Spitfire Arms: Windsor, NS

"A great public house"
I had read some reviews regarding The Spitfire Arms and all came across positive. I drove the hour from Halifax to Windsor and was pleased to see the pub sitting along the main street of this small village.

Upon walking into the pub, a large u shaped bar hand-made from oak greets you in the centre of the room. Glassware hangs overhead which is supposed to be a no-no, but it just looks so damn good. There is also beer memorabilia above the bar which is interesting to look it. Troy Kirkby, the owner, believes that every beer he has on tap must be served in the appropriate branded glass and served on the appropriate coaster. This is very visually appealing and creates a better drinking experience in my mind.

The beer line-up includes: Guinness, Harp, McAuslan Cream Ale, McAuslan Apricot, St.Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Propeller Bitter, Garrison Nut Brown, Rickard's Red, Rickard's Honey Brown, Heineken, Peculiar (Granite's), Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe Blonde. It is a good beer menu that Kirkby wants to build on in the future. It is also bold because in a place as small as NS, nearly ever pub/bar serves Keith's on tap, but Kirby wanted a "better beer menu" which he's committed to.

The pub is named Spitfire Arms due to Kirkby's fascination with WWII fighter planes the "Spitfires". He has his collection of war and plane memorabilia on display at the pub and patrons can browse through it all. The walls are full of plaque mounted newspaper clippings about the pub, beer posters and mirrors and pictures of customers. Kirby prefers to play classic music and jazz at a lower volume which is very nice and relaxing. I hate hearing Britney Spears in a pub!!

Overall: Good food and what appears to be a well put together food menu. I had a great salad. The beer menu is very good and considering the size of the village it is ballsy. I applaud Kirkby on this. It is a very attractive pub and at 35 years old, Kirkby has done a great job.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Granite Brewery: Toronto, ON

After spending a glorious year on Canada's east coast in Halifax, NS, my fiance and I made the 1900km trek back to Ontario. We loaded up the Envoy with our entire life and set off. Just east of Montreal we noticed a huge storm approaching and within minutes we were fully sucked into a wind cluster. I have never been so scared in my 25 years on this planet. I turned to Jessica after we were safely out of harm's way and mentioned I needed a beer.

Well, the second day back in Ontario and a new house in Toronto, we took the TTC over to the Granite Brewery on Eglinton. Halifax also had a Granite, in fact, the Halifax located superseded the Toronto landmark. Brother's Kevin and Ron Keefe own these respective pubs and brew traditional English Ale. As mentioned in the first post on the Halifax Granite, Toronto's brew pub offers Peculiar Ale, India Pale Ale, Best Bitter Special, Best Bitter, Keefe's Irish Stout, Summer Organic Ale, Barley Wine and a Raspberry. All delicious. I believe that when we attended, the Best Bitter Special and the IPA were the only two offered cask conditioned. Beauty!

Walking into the Granite you notice a large bookcase that extends the entire length of the right wall. Encyclopedia's, novels, history books and other reading material fill the shelves along with empty growlers. This room features some bench seating and square tables that can accommodate probably 30 patrons. It has old carpeting which adds to the rustic appearance of the pub.

The bar is located on the left side of the front entrance. It is a beautiful, long, curvy bar with stained glass etchings embedded in the wood above. The hand pumps for the cask ale are visible and the other tap handles all face out for customers to parose. In front of the bar are many round wooden tables that seat two. Above the tables is a large green wooden canoe suspended with wires.

Continue pass the bar and you come to the brewing area. Full length windows provide customers to catch a glimpse of the equipment. Continue into the back area of the pub and it transforms into a restaurant/dining area. Further to this is a back patio and front sidewalk patio.

The pub is a must visit for beer lovers/pub lovers if you ever make it to Toronto. On top of excellent beer you need good quality food. The Granite won't let you down. Not the best in the world, but good standard pub grub with a few highlights. You won't be disappointed.

The Granite also features a store that sells growlers (1.89 litres/a jug), hats, books, glassware and t-shirts. Free underground parking available as well.

245 Eglinton Ave East
Toronto, ON

The Knot Pub: Lunenburg, NS

The Knot Pub Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

In 1995 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) added Lunenburg to their World Heritage list and anyone who has ever visited this beautiful town has been taken back by it. The Knot Pub is located on the main street leading into downtown Lunenburg and it’s not hard to miss it. The building is a small wooden structure that looks like it should be in a fairy tale book but it plays home to a nice cozy little pub. Looking through the small ship sized window in the front door, you can see the entrance into this quaint pub and suddenly the excitement takes over you. Inside you’ll notice that the bar is located to your left just pass a small island of tables and booths. It’s a small curvy bar that only seats five, though a good selection of imported bottled beer and draught comes from behind. Propeller brewery brews a house ale called “Knots Ale” that is superb. The inside of the pub was created to look like the inside of a ship and the attention to detail is great. Rope and other sea artifacts line the walls along with flags and the furniture appears to be very old and rustic. Nice music comes from the speakers like “American Pie” and “Piano Man” which makes for a nice drinking atmosphere. Local musicians take over Saturday nights and play maritime music for many university students who make the trek home from Halifax. The Knot pub serves amazing food for a good price and the portions sizes are great. This establishment gives true meaning to the word pub.

Beer Menu - Draught: Propeller, Stella Artois, Keith’s, Garrison’s, Guinness

O'Carroll's Irish Pub: Halifax, NS

O’Carroll’s Irish Pub
, Halifax, NS

As far as pub food goes, nobody in Halifax can match the bangers and mash that O’Carroll’s serves up. O’Carroll’s is a two sided establishment, as one side of the building features a fancy dining experience while opposite the fantastic pub on the right. Known for their food, O’Carroll’s does an outstanding job with their pub by serving good beer with the warmth and hospitality that a pub should. The Irish pub has a beautiful horse shoe bar intended for patrons to communicate with ease rather than the accustomed straight and narrow bar. Many beer and whiskey posters adjourn the walls which are almost mandatory in a pub, while the exposed wooden beams and brick show the age of the building. Located in the pub is a black grand piano that acts as both a piano and a table complete with a set of chairs. Bring in a group and sit around the piano while a local band plays traditional maritime music and don’t expect to pay any cover charge. Pretty soon your feet get stomping and your hands get clapping and before you know it you are singing along with everyone else in attendance. The best Guinness pour in Halifax, great happy hour prices between 4:30pm – 7:00pm Mon-Thurs and terrific pub food, make O’Carroll’s a must stop destination.

Beer Menu – Draught: Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Clancy’s, Carlsberg, Bud Light, Propeller, Garrison, Rickard’s, Pumphouse, Guinness, Kilkenny, Harp, Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde, Hoegaarden, Belle Vue Kriek, Bass and Boddingtons.

The Red Stag Tavern: Halifax, NS

The Red Stag Tavern
Alexander Keith’s Brewery, Halifax, NS

Opened in 2006, The Red Stag Tavern located in the Alexander Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street is like taking a step back in time. Walking into the Red Stag you will notice the arch door way that was created as representation of the arched corridor leading from Keith’s Hall to his brewery where Mr. Keith would brew his fine beers. Old wooden tables and chairs along with both original brick from the 1860’s and exposed beams complete the historical theme that the Red Stag was striving for. One of the highlights of their beautiful bar is the engraved Stag’s Head that is etched into the wooden bar and covered with glass and the rich collection of Keith bottles and memorabilia. As you can guess, Keith’s is the biggest seller on the beer menu available in bottle or draught and each bartender will serve you in their crisp white shirt and tartans. The pub consists of three levels: roof top patio overlooking the harbour, middle floor hosts special events and larger crowds and the main level is the pub and dining area. The Red Stag Tavern offers an extensive pub menu with terrific fish and chips, fabulous nachos as well as catering for special events.

Beer Menu – Draught: Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois,
Leffe Blonde, Boddingtons Pub Ale, Budweiser, Bud Light

Lower Deck: Halifax, NS

Lower Deck: Pub-Beer Market-Taproom
, Halifax, NS

A fabulous tourist hot spot and widely considered to be the most seeked out pub in Canada, the Lower Deck exemplifies the much hyped maritime hospitality. This is a must stop on any tourist’s agenda and you won’t regret it. The Lower Deck is home to a great lineup of the best local bands that entertain seven nights a week with a mix of Celtic, old Canadiana and rock music and Alexander Keith’s draught flows from the taps. This pub serves more Keith’s draught than anywhere else in Canada which is a testimate to their success. Located in the Historic Privateers Warehouse on the Halifax waterfront, The Lower Deck has a large patio that surrounds the lower level and is joined by the Tap Room on the third floor (events) and The Beer Market on the second floor, which is widely considered an extension of the popular Lower Deck Pub, offering Great food, a fully stocked Bar and a D.J. with dancing every weekend.. The motif is largely comprised of Alexander Keith memorabilia and large wooden tables with benches that take a beating whenever the music starts. Original brickwork, low ceilings and beautiful stone flooring shape the interior image of the Deck. The history regarding the building (privateer’s warehouse) is enough to make you stop in and take a look around. You might as well have a pint while you’re their.

Beer Menu – Draught: Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Stella Artois, Boddingtons, Bud Light

Maxwell's Plum: Halifax, NS

Maxwell’s Plum
Halifax, NS

Maxwell’s claim to fame in Halifax is their statement of having more beer on tap than anywhere else in Eastern Canada with up to 60 selections. A three level establishment, the Plum is a must try for those that enjoy venturing out into the beer world. As you walk through the entrance, the bar is located to the right and there you will be greeted by the friendly bartender who is more than willing to help you with your style of beer. Free peanuts and a traditional pub setting go along with a great happy hour where you can get a delicious Pumphouse Blueberry Ale. Maxwell’s bar is open till 2am along with the kitchen seven days a week offering drinkers the best of both worlds. The beer selection includes local draught like Propeller, Garrison’s, and Pumphouse, with European imports and other Canadian micro-brews. On a side note, the Plum is one of only three places in Halifax that offers McAuslan St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout on tap.

The Split Crow Pub: Halifax, NS

The Split Crow Pub
Halifax, NS

The Split Crow Pub was voted the best “happy hour” establishment in Halifax by the readers of the popular newspaper The Coast. The Split Crow is named after the first pub that was created in Halifax in 1749 by a Mr. John Shippey who called it The Spread Eagle. He had it built at the corner of Salter and Water streets but it is now located in an historic properties building on Granville Street near the harbourfront. There is a wide selection of beer to choose from, including the three microbrews: Garrison, Propeller and John Shippey's (brewed by Propeller). The selection of Shippey’s beer includes: Split Crow Cream Ale, Shippey’s IPA, Rafter Red Ale, Amber Ale, Crow Select and Porter (a personal favourite), all very good choices. Shippey’s was at one time brewed on the waterfront but Propeller brewery has since taken over in the brewing of the ales. The pub boasts a large clientele ranging from university students to mature pub lovers all of which enjoy the live music and Keith’s fine beers. Just a short walk up from the harbour, it’s a good destination for drinkers and pub fans. For menu items and a complete beer menu, visit their website.

Old Triangle Irish Alehouse: Halifax, NS

The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse
Halifax, NS

The home of the Old Triangle Alehouse is the historic building that Joseph Howe wrote about the Halifax government for Haligonians in 1848. The Old Triangle was created by three Irishmen: Kevin Evans, Brian Doherty and Gerry Guest who transformed the pub into a three tiered drinking establishment. The first floor is home to the “Tigh An Cheoil (house of music) where local performers take the stage seven days a week. Walk the few steps up to the “Pourhouse” where you can sit at the bar or pull up a table to enjoy the festivities. Another set of stairs takes you to the “Snug”, where you can tuck themselves away and enjoy the perils of drink and friends. The Old Triangle focuses on giving customers a lasting experience by instilling their motto of “food for the body, drink for the spirit and music for the soul”. The Irish Alehouse provides an entertaining time with a wide array of beer selection. Many local draughts on tap include Propeller, Garrison, Keith’s and Clancy’s but they also feature many European imports like Guinness, Smithwicks, KilKenny, Harp etc. For a complete lineup of their beer selection, visit their website.

The Henry House: Halifax, NS

The Henry House
Halifax, NS,

The Henry House is located in the original home of William Alexander Henry, one of Canada’s Fathers of Confederation. The house was constructed in 1834 and Henry called it home while serving as Mayor of this great city in 1870.

The beer is great here, and if you read the beer menu closely, you’ll notice that it’s the same that’s being served at the Granite. The thing is, Granite brews all the beer that is served at the Henry House. The five English style unpasturized top fermented ales go along great with the atmosphere of the pub.

There are three levels to the Henry House, but drinkers will be most interested in the basement that plays host to the pub. The downstairs lighting has been dimmed giving it an English style edge and is furnished with old train booths and old furniture. Rustic wood, original granite brick, and a fireplace embedded in the wall encompasses the interior while rafters and beams have been left exposed for all to see.

Like any well presented pub, the Henry House has a small display of beer bottles incased from around the country along with postcards that past guests have sent back. The Henry House is a great destination for drinkers to go waste the hours away with a good book or a friendly chat with the bartender while enjoying craft brew that even William Henry would have loved.

Beer Menu - Draught: Best Bitter, Best Bitter Special, Peculiar, Irish Stout, Ringwood, IPA, and a mixture of light and dark bitters, Propeller, Garrison and McAuslan’s.

Halifax Alehouse: Halifax, NS

Halifax, NS

The Halifax Alehouse is located on Brunswick Street down the road from the Halifax Metro Centre. The focus is on providing customers with a great beer experience while they enjoy the sight of servers dressed in 1800’s style uniforms. The Alehouse boasts knowledgeable servers and a draught room where all the beer is pushed out of the kegs by “beer gas”, giving the beer drinker a true taste of this great beverage. Customers have the opportunity to have a look at the keg room and see how the Alehouse pride’s itself in serving great beer. The furniture in the Alehouse is comprised of old oak beer barrels with tops that serve as tables and many bottles of beer from around the world are incased and on display. Beers from Belgium, Ireland, Canada and the USA make up the list for what’s on tap and you can choose a bottled beer from England, Canada, USA, Scotland, Germany, Mexico and the Netherlands. Check out their colourful beer menu and read interesting facts and quotes regarding the greatest drink on earth.

Garrison Brewery: Halifax, NS

Garrison Brewery
Halifax, NS

Recently, Garrison has taken up new digs in at across from the infamous Pier 21 Historic site. Launched in 1997 with “Irish Red Ale”, Garrison success has since led to the creation of four year round ales; Nut Brown Ale (a 3 star rating by Stephen Beaumont), Tall Ship Amber Ale, and Raspberry Wheat Ale with one winter and two specialty beers. One is Jalapeño, a spicy yet sweet beer. The doors at Garrison are always open for visitors to come in and have a look around. Singles or growlers along with t-shirts and glassware are available from the beer store. A minimum of 20 people is needed to partake in a brewery tour. But, if you manage to join a group, you will be shown a fabulous time. You are provided with the knowledge of pouring the perfect pint, learning how the brewery got started and of course, trying the beer.
Owner: Brian Titus

Propeller Micro-Brewery: Halifax, NS

Propeller Brewery
Halifax, NS

The award winning Propeller Brewery was created on John Allen’s desire to consume quality beer and with the help of friends and family he opened the doors to his establishment in 1997. Propeller brews four year round beers; Pale Ale, Extra Special Bitter, London Porter and Honey Wheat and has just recently released a 6.5% IPA and seasonal pumpkin and Christmas Ale. Propeller has the honour of being named “best microbrewery 2006” in Halifax beating out Garrison’s and Rogue’s Roost by the readers of The Coast newspaper. Located on Gottingen Street in the North end of Halifax, Propeller offers tours, taste tastings and a cold beer store that offers clothing, six packs, growlers and more. Gather a group of 10 or more people and pay $15 to take a tour and learn all about the beer.

Rogue's Roost Brew-Pub: Halifax, NS

Rogue’s Roost Spring Garden and Queen St, Halifax, NS

“Just try the damn beer” is the motto that the knowledgeable servers at Rogue’s Roost live by as they challenge patrons to experiment with beer selection. Located at the busy intersection of Spring Garden and Queen Street, Rogue’s brew pub has been serving Haligonians for years. The Roost offers Rogue’s Red, Bulldog Brown, Raspberry Wheat, Cream Ale, Oatmeal Stout, India Pale Ale on a regular basis and serves seasonal brew that includes Peated Porter, Pale, Barley Wine and Imperial Stout. The Rogue offers a great window seat overlooking the movement of people on Spring Garden, or have a closer look at the people traffic while sitting outside on their patio. But the best seat is near the bar looking to the right at the beer vats through large windows and visualizing the brewing process.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Granite Brew-Pub: Halifax, NS

Granite Brewery
Halifax, NS

The Granite is no longer situated in the Henry House, but has taken up permanent residence at 1662 Barrington Street. The Granite Brewery offers 5 English-style ales that have been brewed on site. They are top-fermented, unpasturized ales which are brewed with all natural ingredients. Best Bitter Special, Peculiar, IPA and more are on tap along with local draught. A Summer Organic Ale is presently being served for the curious beer drinker. The setting in the Granite has a traditional English pub feel with its dimmed lighting and old wooden furniture. A nice mirror overlooks the long slender bar and adult contemporary music lingers in the background. The open windows let drinkers watch the movement of the busy city go by or you can sit in the back and read a book. Memorabilia like glassware, t-shirts etc are also available.

Beer Menu – Draught: Best Bitter, Best Bitter Special, Peculiar, Irish Stout, Ringwood, IPA, and a mixture of light and dark bitters, Propeller, Garrison and McAuslan’s.

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