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, October 31, 2007

Beer Appreciation Week #4

Instead of meeting on Sunday at George Brown College, the class headed to the Granite Brewery at to take a tour of the brewery and to sample all of the beers.

There was a section of tables reserved for our group ahead of time and we all gathered in the back by the actual brewing area. The fireplace was on and the music was great which created such a great setting for a night of tasting.

Ron Keefe, owner of the Granite, who also happens to be the instructor of the course, started us off with a taste of his India Pale Ale. This is a great beer as it is cask conditioned and served via hand pulled. Brewed using Golden Kent hops and dry hopped with fuggles, the aroma is very nice. Some of the people in the class had never been to the Granite before and were quite impressed with the IPA.

Ron talked about how he came to owning a brewery/brew pub and told us about some of the interesting bylaws in this city. He explained how the brewery has progressed throughout the years by adding new beers and expanding the back patio for summer months. After finishing the IPA, Keefe took us into the brewing area to explain just how beer is produced. He showed us the ingredients, told us their purpose and showed step by step details from start to finish. I always learn better through visual stimulants and this was the best way for the class to gain a better appreciation for beer.

We headed back out to our tables and sampled the Ringwood Ale and the Ringberry Ale side by side. I am a fan of Keefe Ringberry even though I am not a huge fan of fruiter beers. We picked out Swedish berries in the nose of the beer. Following those beers we tasted the Best Bitter and Best Bitter Special side by side to see if we could tell them apart. Well, you'd have to have no sense of smell not to tell them apart. The BBS is dry hopped in the cask and served with a strong floral aroma. It is a beautiful beer. The last tastings of the night belonged to Peculiar and Keefe's Irish Stout. Both excellent beers and two of the founding beers Keefe brewed in his early days.

Keefe, the ever gracious host, brought out food and provided us with a growler of Peculiar and Bill Perrie's book Craft Breweries of Ontario. It was a fun night and some of us stayed a little later chatting with Ron about all things beer. He is a passionate man when you get him on the subject and he was never hesitant to answer any questions. Best class to date.

Until next week, drink up!!

For more information on the Granite see my previous post or visit their website at

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Someone's Reading My Blog

Greg Clow, a great beer writer in Toronto, has recently mentioned my blog on his site with some very nice and encouraging words. Clow also assumes responsiblity of the news content that gets added to my favourite beer website Check out his site Beer, Beats and Bites to read some of his fantastic work and leave him some comments.

Thanks Greg!!!

Some time ago, I was lamenting about the fact that the number of Canadian beer bloggers seemed to be disproportionately low in comparison to our American counterparts. There hasn’t been a huge change since then, but I’m happy to report that at least one newcomer has joined our ranks, with more enthusiasm than the rest of us combined.

Great Canadian Pubs & Beer was launched by a young fella named Troy Burtch back on August 13th, and in less than 2 months, he’s already made 47 posts on, well, pubs and beers in Canada. It took me something like 7 months to reach that same point. Yikes!

I really like what he’s doing with his blog. While it’s fine and good to rate and review beers, and debate the merits of a particular style, and delve into some of the business behind it, and so on and so forth, beer lovers need to remember that beer is a social drink, and where you drink can be just as important as what you drink. A whole bunch of us wrote about this for an instalment of The Session a few months back, but it’s great to see someone writing about beer and pub culture on a regular basis - especially from a Canadian perspective. It’s something that Pint & A Smoke was set to focus on, but that blog is seemingly abandoned now, so I’m glad someone else has taken up the gauntlet. Or the pint glass, rather.

Welcome, Troy. Keep it up.

TAPS Beer Magazine

Over the last couple of months, I have been working with a number of people trying in vain to get the TAPS beer magazine back up and running. It has been a challenging task, but fortunately there will be issues rolling off the press soon.

TAPS was a quarterly magazine that featured articles on beer, spirits, sports, and also included TAPS girls. It had columns from around the country and even some that were from aboard such as Belgium and Paris. I remember picking up my first copy of the magazine in Halifax and thought that some of the content was really good but that the pictures and features that had nothing to do with beer brought the magazine down. The TAPS girls were a distraction and the columns on roller derbies and golfing were out of place.

Well, a year later and with new owners, TAPS Beer Magazine is back. Rob Engman, a self described "good beer" fan, has recently taken over ownership and is taking the magazine in a whole new direction. Gone are the TAPS girls that took up too many pages; gone are the whiskey and vodka stories and gone are the car and sport stories.

This magazine will focus strictly on BEER!! There will be stories on Ontario Breweries, new beers, pub profiles, people in the industry, book/blog reviews, industry insiders, pub jokes, and a page. We have and will be visiting beer events like Cask Days, Independent Boast and Toast and Press Releases and reporting on them. We will be showing up at breweries and taking you, the reader, on a tour without leaving your house. We will talk about what is happening all around the province in regards to new beer releases, new pub openings and really anything we can think of. There are some great writers that will be working on content for the magazine that have been in the beer industry in some capacity for years. Each one is passionate about growing the beer segment in Canada and love the challenge of being a beer writer.

The re-birth of the magazine is slated for the middle of December and it will feature the highlights from the judging at the Canadian Brewing Awards as well as highlights from the Gala itself. Other stories will cover some events already mentioned and more. We are working hard to ensure that this can and will be the best beer only magazine in Ontario and possibly one day in Canada.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, comments or would like to advertise with the magazine, please contact me at for more information. Also, check out the website and sign up for the podcasts. Currently there are 22,000 subscribers and we will be releasing more in the future.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Whelan's Gate Irish Pub: Toronto:ON

Comfortable, intimate, warm, inviting and snug, are just some of the words one could use to describe the atmosphere of the independently owned Whelan's Gate Irish Pub.

Located at , this popular pub had been serving locals for over 15 years in a nice old building with plenty of character. There are two levels at Whelan’s and a patio located at the front building.

The main level features a small bar at the back of the room along with five tables. Beer posters, signs, cans and bottles are scattered throughout this level rounded out with a mix of fall/autumn decorations. Old weathered hardwood floors and wooden beams look great with the white stucco ceiling and original brick that has been left exposed. There are a couple of televisions showing hockey and other sporting highlights, but are drowned out by Pearl Jam blasting from the speakers. Tolerable on a Friday night but hopefully not on a weekday afternoon.

Upstairs was just as nice. More tables can be found as well as some booths. There is a also a back room used for hosting a large group. Again, hardwood floors, wooden beams and old wooden furniture made for a nice setting with the dimmed lighting. On the night I visited, there was live music. The bar staff informs us that musicians rotate between gigs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The singer was great and entertaining which added to my night.

The beer selection consisted of some imported beers and a couple of micro-brewed beers. Amsterdam 2 Fisted Stout, Oktoberfest and Blonde, St. Ambroise Pale Ale, Kronenburg 1664, Stella, Strongbow, Labatt 50, Keith's, Keith's Red, Creemore Springs, Smithwicks, Harp, Kilkenny and Guinness, which happens to be a big seller. The bar is nice and dated and an old beer fridge can be found behind it which is creative decorating. You don't seem to see that everyday in a pub.

I spoke with a couple of regulars who have been coming to Whelan's for years due to the hospitality and kindness they receive from the staff. They also understand they are supporting an independent owner and it makes them feel good doing so.

It was a great visit with some good friends who have made it their local. With the exception of the loud Pearl Jam music downstairs, Whelan's Gate is a terrific pub that all classes of society will enjoy.

Toronto, ON

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meeting Russ Rowlands: Industry SOS

I wasn't able to make it out to the first Independent Boast and Toast organized by Russ Rowlands at Rowers Pub two weekends ago, so we met up at Toronto's oldest pub The Wheatsheaf for a pint and to talk about the future of his company: Industry SOS.

First we talked a little about the event and Russ was pleased with how everything went. He hoped that the event would have attracted more people but he understands he made some rookie mistakes that won't happen again. But the people who were there had a great time from what I heard and drank a lot of quality craft beer. He mentioned that the Ontario brewers who participated served up some great beer and had a good time taking to the customers.

I asked Russ why he started his business and how he came about the idea. He has worked in the hospitality industry since he was 14 years old doing all sorts of jobs ranging from cooking to managing, in mostly independent restaurants/pubs. It wasn't until he became a general manager of an unnamed franchise restaurant that he saw a opportunity to help out the little guy. You see, Russ witnessed how franchise places treat employees like a number, focusing on the bottom line instead of creating a inviting atmosphere to work. The franchise's goal, as is the case for most large restaurant companies, is to get customers in and out as quick as possible therefore making more money. He also witnessed how the big box restaurants were starting to move into the city, forcing out smaller independent owners who couldn't battle a price war.

Russ didn't like what he saw so he started Industry SOS as a way to help independent owners out with everything from serving to payroll analysis, surveying the customers and actually managing the place. He offers advice, guidance and ideas on how to increase customer base, or most importantly; how to retain customers. One big goal is to ensure that the servers, dishwashers, cooks and everyone behind the scenes are kept happy, because a miserable server can make or break a pub.

Back to the event. Russ plans on hosting another one in late January or early February. This time around he plans on having more of a marketing budget and with the help of beer bloggers and word of mouth, he estimates it will be more successful than the first.

Congratulations Russ on your business and I wish you all the best. I am a huge supporter of independent pub owners and quality craft beer and mixing the two together to help build awareness is just great.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Volo Cask Days 2007: Toronto, ON

My first reaction after leaving Volo's Cask Days: WOW!!

I had never been to Volo before; since I was living away in Halifax and just recently moved here to Toronto I never had the chance. But I managed to get a ticket through TAPS beer magazine to attend Volo's third annual Cask Days.

Volo is known for their terrific beer selection and their dedication to local products like Ontario Craft Brewers. It is a small location at in Toronto that offers a nice relaxing and intimate setting. Great music, great food and outstanding staff, round out all the qualities that make Volo a fabulous place.

This event caters to the real ale drinkers as cask ale is typically referred to as 'real ale'. It is beer that has been taken from the fermentation tanks early and let to ferment in the cask. It is typically unfiltered, unpasteurised, and possesses no additional gasses. This produces a fresher beer that offers better aroma's than say, a draught beer. (Click here for more info)

As I walked down Yonge Street and approached Volo, I could see rows and rows of the casks perched on the patio and I increased my walking tempo. I got inside for the first session of the day that included a delicious breakfast and a preview of all the beer available. So far so good.

Once 11am hit, Ralph Morana (owner) introduced himself to the crowd and promptly went outside and tapped the first Cask, officially starting the drinking. I started off with a Keefe's Oak Chipped Irish Stout made by Ron Keefe at the Granite. According to Ron, he added dry oak chips and a small amount of hops to the cask of his regular Irish stout to give it some added flavour. Most breweries in attendance were members of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and represented themselves well. Many of the breweries created some terrific one-offs like Hockley Valley's Traditional Dark with Vanilla Beans, or Magnotta's Weizen flavoured American IPA called Fog on the Tyne and Black Oak's Bourbon Barreled 2005 Nutcracker Porter.

In total there were over 20 breweries represented with 30 different casks in different styles. There were the hop heavy beers, stouts and porters and even a home brewing club's beers (which were terrific).

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I plan to attend both days next year. It was a great event to get out and talk to the brewers, as most were in attendance. As always, it was fun to talk to other people that share the passion for quality beer. Volo is a terrific place and a top destination for beer drinkers. As a matter of fact, I am heading there again tonight for some more delicious pints.

See you there.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Beer Appreciation Week#3

After a very enjoyable Saturday at Volo for their Cask Day event, I managed to get up and head off to my beer appreciation course at George Brown College on Sunday to listen to Ron Keefe (instructor) tell us about Lagers.

As soon as everyone arrived, Ron poured us all a sample of a warm lager that tasted like golden lake water with corn in it. The idea was to taste what one of the most popular beers tastes like when warm and without a lime wedge; yep, it was Corona. What an offensive taste, well, really there was no taste. I haven't drank a full bottle of this Mexican beer in ages and I am reminded why. Anyways, it was a good example of how bland some lagers can be.

Ron talked in length about how lagers came to be. He cited glassware as one reason why breweries started introducing lighter coloured beers. Because you could see thru the new glassware, you could see what you were drinking and people were being turned off on the colour of the porters, stouts, and dark English Ales. Lagers were born and now 90% of all beer consumed fall under the lager category.

We were fortunate again as we watched another Micheal Jackson Beer Hunter video on the fight between the Czech Republic Budvar beer and the American Budweiser. Both claim to be the original Budweiser and the battle is still before the courts. Jackson toured the historic Pilsner Urquell brewery that all lager beer pays credence to today. Even though the video's are a bit dated, they are still a great tool for educating beginners on some of the finer beer details.

Ron also talked about the effect that water can have on the body of beer. We took a light lager (Budweiser) and added a bit of salt which created a fuller body. He talked about how breweries can alter water for the different styles they brew.

We sampled some good lagers of different styles. We tasted and judged Budweiser, Czechvar (Budvar), Kostritzer Schwarzbier, St. Andre Vienna, Brooklyn, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Steam Whistle, Holsten Maibock and Pilsner Urquell. All beer is available at the LCBO.

My eyes were opened to the Rauchbier. Nice smoky smell of crisp bacon or an outdoor campfire. This is the first smoke beer that I really enjoyed. Big winner of the day was Brooklyn Lager. I love the hops.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The New Discovery Pack from the OCB

For the first time in the short history of the Ontario Craft Brewers Association, they have unveiled their first ever “Discovery Pack” that consists of six different beers brewed by six different breweries. "The OCB Discovery Pack came to fruition in response to the OCB's customers - you asked, we responded." said Mary MacIssac, Director of Marketing for the OCB.

The announcement was held at the gorgeous Summerhill LCBO location in Toronto before a mixed crowd of media personnel and people from the beer industry. While the main focus was on the introduction of the new pack, the OCB also held a beer and food pairing session that was conducted by acclaimed Chef Ezra Title from Chez Vous; who prepared delicious dishes made with local products and local Ontario beer. Also on hand was Divira Ovadia, who had recently won a contest on the Debbie Travis television program From the Ground Up. Ovadia explained tips and tricks on how to spruce up your table for the festive season along with ideas on how to highlight different beers using unique glassware.

The OCB claims that the Discovery Pack will be the first of a series that the OCB will role out throughout the next year. It is a way to get people to try these exciting beers without purchasing different six packs each time they visit an LCBO. Inside the six packs is a product information sheet outlining some of the beers being brewed here in Ontario for the winter months. The outside of the Discovery Pack also includes tasting notes for the six individual bottles inside. It will be available for customers starting November 4th at 150 LCBO locations across Ontario for $11.95.

The OCB Discovery Pack consists of four lagers and two ales from some of Ontario most distinguished craft brewers. The list includes:

1. Mill Street Organic Lager (Toronto, ON)
2. Great Lakes Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager (Toronto, ON)
3. Wellington Special Pale Ale (Guelph, ON)
4. J.R. Brickman Pilsner (Waterloo, ON)
5. Walkerville Amber Lager (Windsor, ON)
6. Lakes of Muskoka Cream Ale (Bracebridge, ON)

The OCB is made up of 29 small craft and regional breweries throughout the Province that engage in making fresh quality beer. They brew exciting and inspired beer that is made to be enjoyed by someone unlike large breweries who brew beer that means not to offend anyone. Learn more about the Discovery Pack, recipes and glassware tips by visiting their website at

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Fitzgerald Public House: Toronto, ON

On one of my many walks down Queen Street East, I happened to stumble upon the Fitzgerald Public House located at at the end of the streetcar line. I have probably walked by this place half a dozen times already as it’s hard to miss. You can tell by the picture.

The Fitzgerald Public House has occupied the building since 1978 and is now owned by a husband and wife combination. I entered the pub around 1pm and I found myself to be the only patron inside. I took a seat at the very old, cherry stained bar, located on the main level of the two storey building and ordered a beer. Katie, my server, brought me a pint of Mill Street Organic Lager to quench my thirst from all the walking. I glanced down the bar to see what else is available and to no surprise I find a bunch of national brand lagers. Rickard’s White, Canadian, Stella, Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Guinness, Strongbow, Carlsberg and Mill Street round out the draught list.

After glancing around the pub and speaking to Katie, I come to realize that this is a very comfortable place to consume a beer. The music is nice and relaxing as Frank Sinatra and other classical numbers ring down from the speakers. The 10 bar stools surrounding the ‘L’ shaped bar are covered in what I assume to be velvet, which is nice to sit on. Everything in this pub appears old, without the help of paint. I noticed an old church pew acting as bench seating in a corner off the left of the bar that added tons of charm. The lighting has been dimmed offering a nice amber glow throughout the pub. The hardwood floors are old and weathered and combined with the wooden pillars and the old Toronto Maple Leafs pictures on the walls, reminded me of an old saloon from a western movie.

Up a flight of creaky old stairs you’ll find the Fitzgerald’s Lounge. There are many couches and love seats that are situated near the windows looking out over Queen Street. Games like Clue, Snakes and Ladders and Scrabble are made available for customers to play, and Katie mentions it’s a good place to have a first date. The bar is curvy with a beautiful painted mural over head. There are some imported beers available upstairs in the Lounge as it tends to cater to a different crowd then downstairs.

The Fitzgerald also has a large patio at the rear of their main level that gets lots of use in the summer months.

Katie and I talk about the status of pubs along this stretch of Queen Street and she told me that Fitzgerald’s caters mainly to regulars. Many people that live or work in the area usually stop by for a pint after work, play a game of darts or come to watch the Leafs in action with some buddies. In the summer months though, Katie says the pubs sees many visitors as people come from all around to visit Toronto’s beaches. It is a nice mix of people and many return every summer for some drinks and food.

There are only two things that appeared out of place in a pub with so much character; the Big Buck Hunter arcade game near the entrance to the outdoor patio and the pull down screen and projector that play sports later in the nights.

The Fitzgerald Public House is a nice intimate pub that I will make sure to visit again soon. The upstairs lounge would be a nice destination after a busy week of working to go and relax with a loved one over some drinks.

Toronto, ON

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Beer In the Works At Beau's Brewery

I was checking out Beau's brewery blog (How to start a brewery (in 1 million easy steps) and noticed a posting that claims that they are in the stages of test brewing a new style of beer to be made available this winter. The post claims that, like Lug Tread Lagered Ale, this beer will be one of a kind in the Ontario market.

Another post states that Beau's has bought some bottles recently and Lug Tread will be available in select LCBO's and at their brewery retail store early in the new year. Toronto may start getting some of Beau's beer in the near future.

For more information about Beau's, check out Steve's blog at

Monday, October 15, 2007

Beer Appreciation Week #2

After taking last weekend off due to Thanksgiving, we reconviened at George Brown College to take part in the second session of Beer Appreciation instructed by Ron Keefe from the Granite Brewery.

Ale was the focus of the day which suited me well as I am an ale drinker. Ron started the class off by having us sample Sleeman's Cream Ale and judge it using the 50 point judging system. It's not bad taking a part time college course and the first thing you do when arriving is drinking a beer.

After Ron talked about all the different styles of ales available everywhere, he had us watch one of Micheal Jackson's Beer Hunter video's about British ales. This was a treat for me as I have never saw a Beer Hunter video to date. It was very interesting and I learned some new stuff about Cask ales that I have never heard of before.

After the video we got back into the tastings. We started off with a Marston's Pedigree in spirit of Jackson. The funniest tasting we did was comparing an Anchor Liberty ale with a Alexander Keith's IPA. Wow, what a difference. I have had Anchor before and I very much enjoy it and rated it very high. I love the smell of the hops on the nose created by dry hopping. Very nice. After the IPA(s) (you know what I mean), we got into St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and Guinness. I love the St. Ambroise so I wasn't really interested in tasting the Guinness. And finally we did a blind tasting of Scotch Irish Black Irish Plain Porter and Innis and Gunn Oak Aged. Both very nice.

It was a good class and as mentioned, I learned some more stuff about Cask ale just in time for Volo's Cask Days here in Toronto.

Wellington 473 ml Cans Available

Wellington Cans Now Available at the LCBO and Brewery Retail Store

Wellington Brewery have recently announced that their Trailhead Lager and Wellington County Ale, will now be available in 473ml cans for $2.35 and $2.50 each respectively.

The cans are available at the LCBO across Southern Ontario and the Brewery Retail store located in Guelph.

Trailhead Lager (4.5%):
This Vienna style lager is characterized by a careful balance of malt sweetness and clean, crisp hop bitterness.

County Ale (5%):
Wellington's most decorated beer is a dark traditional ale with a rich bouquet, matured slowly to deliver exceptional smoothness and balance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Canadian Brewing Awards

Yesterday was quite an eye opener for me. I helped run the 2007 Canadian Brewing Awards hosted by TAPS media at the Duchess Pub in Markham and I was delighted to see the number of enteries made by the breweries across this country.

The day started out at 8:30am carrying boxes upon boxes of packaged beer from 231 different national, regional and craft breweries in 21 different categories. Putting them into the fridge in order with their corresponding order was quite a task and took a good 2 hours. The bottles and cans were each given a number to represent the category they were entering in and the brewery they were from. For example, Fin Du Monde from Unibroue may have had the number 10-43-1 labelled on the bottle and that was matched to a judging sheet for the judges.

My job was to take out the corresponding bottles/cans when their respective categories were ready to be judged and pour them into the small wine glasses. I managed to drop only one glass, so needless to say the day went smooth for me.

Around 10:30am the judges started to arrive. Other awards have been cast in a negative light for using people in the media to judge or semi-celebrities. TAPS brought in 8 certified judges from all over Canada to sit at the tables to smell, swirl, taste and judge. It was very fascinating listening to the judges at different tables discuss the beers they were sampling. These men were all very knowledgable and some could even guess which brewery the beer came from even though it was in a unmarked glass.

The judging wrapped up around 7:30 and all the paper work was submitted to the statistican to be entered today. Stay tuned for the results.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Halloween Extravaganza: Steam Whistle Brewery

Press release from Steam Whistle brewery announcing their Halloween Extravaganza event held at the Roundhouse. Tickets are available to purchase on-line at

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lion on the Beach: Toronto, ON

Last night I met up with a friend of mine that I haven't seen in almost a year and decided to head down Queen Street East to have a couple of pints at the Lion on the Beach. The pub was highly recommended by a reader of this blog so I felt it was my duty to visit and comment on it. I have heard that it is a busy spot in the summer with tourists coming up from the beach to have a couple cold ones on the two patios on each side of the building.

As we entered through the Queen Street entrance, we came upon the bar to our left. We decided this would be the best place to sit and get some information about the place. Fortunately for us, Glen, a regular, was sitting beside us having a beer after work and he helped detail the history surrounding the pub.

Glen estimates that the actually building dates back to the early 1900’s and was once the home of a Dominion Bank of Canada. He also mentioned that the Lion on the Beach has occupied the building for 14 years serving the local residents of the Beaches area. He claims that he has been a regular customer for the past seven to eight years, meeting friends after work to share some stories. This was a good start to the visit as there is no better person to talk to about a pub than the people who visit religiously.

The inside of the Lion on the Beach consists of wall to wall wooden beams and pillars that have been painted a dark chocolaty colour. The colour emulates a Tudor style British interior that stays within the theme of the pub. The floor is covered with dark carpeting throughout the place and the walls are graced with random local photos from past to present. Glen likes the different photos because they don’t all fall under the same theme and it makes you want to know more about them.

The bar itself was nicely decorated in an autumn and Halloween theme and the large mirrors behind the bar with Lion on the Beach logo’s were very attractive. The bar was dimly lit by the light glowing from a string of Christmas lights over head and small candles directly on the bar. Glassware and pitchers were hanging above the bar in racks and above them were different signs in wood describing the variety of alcoholic drinks they offer – like spirits, ports, whiskey etc. There were 15 stools surrounding the straight bar that had a slight curve at the end, which made it easy to talk to others at sitting at the bar.

The beer selection caters mostly to mainstream drinkers. The draught line-up consists of Bud, Bud Light, Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Carlsberg, Creemore, Guinness, Boddingtons, Bass, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Stiegl. The bottled beer is made up of Canadian, Blue, Bud, Molson Export, Blue Light, Coors, Sleeman Ale, Moosehead, MGD, Steam Whistle, Corona, Cider and Heineken. I find it harder to choose from a list like this than one that is extensive and unique. I have had them all before and they are all unassuming, but craft beer is not everything when visiting a pub. What the Lion on the Beach lacked in quality craft beer they made up for it in atmosphere and hospitality.

I noticed two dart boards by the front of the pub and Glen confirmed that you can indeed play darts by asking the bar staff. We almost got into a game but we had to get going. I feel that I will be back to challenge Glen one day.

The music was not for me as I feel pop music is not condusive with my thoughts on pub atmosphere. Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Madonna are all great for a nightclub, but not a pub that mainly caters to an older crowd. But there is live music on the weekends.

Overall it was a nice visit and many thanks go out to Glen for providing all the tidbits. My friend had a clubhouse and soup for $8.95 that he claimed was delicious and economical for the portion he received. Glen sums it up, “It is a nice environment to come after work with my buddies to have a beer in great a pub.”

Toronto, ON

Put Away The Corkscrew

* Press release from Ontario Craft Brewers* What a great title for this event.

**** I should have informed you of this earlier, but this event is invite only for people in the industry. It is not open for the public to participate in, but I will post a write-up afterwards. The meaning for posting the release was to inform you, the readers, about what the Ontario Craft Brewers Association is currently working on to promote the great beers they sell. Sorry for any confusion.*****

Put Away the Corkscrew this Holiday Season-Deck the Halls with Bottles of Ontario Craft Beer

If you're searching for ways to spice up grandma's turkey recipe and want to know the latest trends in Holiday décor - look no further – the Ontario Craft Brewers want you to join them to find out everything you can do with Ontario Craft beer this holiday season. From recipes to food pairings, glassware to center pieces, the OCB has teamed up with food and décor experts to share tips and tricks to show you the finer side of beer.

Drop that this unique beer showcase you will get a sneak preview of the OCB’s first ever OCB Discovery Pack (not available in stores until November 1st ), taste some of the freshest winter seasonal beers and learn about the finer side of beer. Experts will show you how to:

Cook like a pro with Ontario Craft beer this holiday season

Chef Ezra Title, Chez Vous who specializes in food preparation using ingredients from local and organic farms

Set a table featuring specialty beer glassware and this season’s hottest holiday trends

Dvira Ovadia, winner of Debbie Travis’s From the Ground Up will provide tips and tricks on this seasons hottest trends and new ways to entertain with beer

Distinguish different beer flavours and ingredients from resident OCB beer expert, Karen Behune Plunkett, President, Walkerville Brewing Company & other OCB Breweries

When:Thursday October 18th, 2007
11:30am – 1:30pm

Where:Summerhill LCBO
10 Scrivener Square, Toronto

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Look Out Toronto, Here I Come

I have been extremely busy over the weekend, with it being Thanksgiving and all, and packing boxes for my move to the big smoke. Yep, that's right. I am leaving the small town of Orillia where I worked and leaving the even smaller village of Brechin where I grew up, to head south on the 400 hwy to live in Toronto.

I am excited for this move. I get the chance to start over again, find a job that excites me on a daily basis and lets me experience the hundreds of terrific pubs in this city.

Many readers of this blog have been kind enough to email me with their recommendations on which pubs I should visit and profile. I don't like to let people down so I will do my best to get to each one recommended. This week I plan to visit Smokeless Joe's on John street and Lion on the Beach on Queen St East, so stay tuned for a post on them this week.

I will try to get as many posts on the blog this week as I can, but bare with me as I get settled in to my new city.

Upcoming Events:
October 13th: Canadian Brewing Awards Judging at the Duchess Pub in Markham

October 14th: Independent Boast and Toast with Industry SOS at Rowers Pub Toronto

Friday, October 5, 2007

Drinking in a Legion

Last night I found myself drinking in a legion while a group of us were participating in a hockey draft. I have only drank in my local legion twice in all my years and this time I took a second to reflect on the surroundings.

Legions are a good place to go for a cold beer and a history lesson. While we were sitting there having some drinks after the draft, an elderly legion patron made his way over and fascinated us with stories of his fertile grandfather. He went on and on about his grandfather having 26 children with two wives and going through 48 loaves of bread a week. He had us in tears as he described his prolific grandmother's.

Legions may not have the best beer selection, but they do offer hospitality. I was shocked to see cans of Guinness in the beer fridge especially in the village we were in, as people there are predominately Molson or Coors Light drinkers. Which by the way was on tap along with Blue. But it really isn't about the beers at a legion. It is about sitting around a table and shooting the breeze with a bunch of regulars, sharing stories, experiences in a relaxing place.

They are a big part of the communities they are situated in, running fundraisers, holding events, and providing a place for seniors to wet their whistle so to speak. They are welcoming, inviting and as in our case, engaging. From what I've heard, most legions also have a display of war artifacts that offer insights into our past.

Last night I felt at home, part of the community. It was a fun night and I hope we go back soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

C'est What's 19th Annual Fall Festival Wrap-Up

I have been a bit tardy getting this post on the blog as I have been busy with other stuff lately. I have also written a longer version of this story that may well end up in the upcoming edition of TAPS beer magazine slated to be released in November.

C'est What's? 19th Annual Fall Festival of Craft Brewers took place Friday Sept 28 before a packed house of beer enthusiasts'. There was a terrific line-up of ales and lagers produced by some of Ontario best brewers.

Every year this event is held by publican George Milbrandt to promote the diverse offerings brewed right here in Ontario. Many breweries contribute to the event by producing seasonal beers or one offs that could be sampled for the small price of a loonie.

Great Lakes and Grand River Breweries introduced their Pumpkin ales which went over very well with the crowd of mostly males over the age of 25. Scotch Irish and Durham County breweries produced a kellertrubes lager and India Pale ale on cask respectively, that had people reaching for more. This could be a good sign of things to come for drinkers in Ontario as the brewers are starting to brew some new and interesting beers. More favourites included Church Key's Flanders Sour Brown, Grand River Ploughman's Ale and C'est Whats Hazelnut Chocolate Ale.

One of the great things about this event was that some of the brewers and brewery owners showed up and made themselves available to answer questions regarding their beer. Ken Woods from Black Oak discussed his plans about relocating his brewery to the Toronto area and to expand distribution. It is always interesting meeting the person responsible for brewing beers that you consume.

Overall the event was another success and Milbrandt was a gracious host. He confirmed that this was the largest crowd in the 19 years and credited it to the brewers who are brewing new and exciting beers. I had a blast meeting other beer bloggers and brewers and look forward to the next event at the Canadian Brewing Awards.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pub Atmosphere

I have posted before about the distinct atmosphere that some pubs offer us in Why I Drink in a Pub. It is one of the main things I look for in a good pub when venturing out to try somewhere new. Atmosphere can be anything like: smoky, loud, empty, cozy, dark, arty,etc. and some can be downright different. Atmosphere can make or break the success of a pub.

Many pubs today are trying to hard to re-create the atmosphere of pubs from Ireland, Scotland, England and Belgian even though they cater to mainly Canadian individuals. Owners have the idea that they will be taking their customers on a trip to a far away pub without the customer ever leaving the comforts of their own city.

Some pubs have been very successful emulating this model. Franchise pubs like the Fox and Fiddles, the Firkin chains and The Foggy Dew’s have set up shop in large metropolitan cities. They are empty to me, they breed no character and most of all, they try to pass themselves off as something their not. They offer deep fried food, frozen entree's, arcade games, loud music and many televisions. This may seem appealing to others, but this takes away the social aspect of visiting a 'real' pub with a group.

Drinking is social. Drinking in a pub is a social activity that couples participate in. By adding additional distractions to the mix you take away the very meaning of visiting pubs. Pubs are meant for people to share drinks, enjoy food or unwind after a hard day's work.

Traditionally, pubs were a spot where town hall meetings took place, a place where the family came for lunch and a place that offered rooms for resting. Over the years, many pubs have lost that very meaning due to the invasion of faux pas franchise pubs and government regulations. Atmosphere is what brings us to these establishments. We want a place that suites our interest and makes us comfortable.

Atmosphere can be a wide range of things mixed together. The atmosphere I look for when entering a pub is warmth. I am not talking about warmth in the means of temperature, but warmth from within the walls of the pub. Usually regulars and independent owners have created their own touch in the establishment, which creates atmosphere the way they want it to be. They are not instructed by someone far away to decorate this way, or that way, or to design the pub to specific model. My ideal atmosphere might look like regulars sitting at the bar talking intimately to the bartender or playing cards in a back corner. Its warm and inviting, somewhere you would want to go to get away.

Great pubs have great atmosphere, seek them out for the experience.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Beer Appreciation: George Brown College

I am currently taking a part time college course in Beer Appreciation held at Toronto's George Brown College. I have completed some other beer courses in the past, but I am looking forward to this as we will focus a little more on craft beers.

Ron Keefe, the owner and brewmaster of the Granite Brewery on Eglinton Street in Toronto, is the instructor for the course and he plans on educating the nine students on the history of beer, the different styles, how to match beer with food and most importantly - how to taste beer.

Some of the students have no experience when it comes to beer which should make it an interesting course for them. Hopefully they will gain a better understanding of the beer industry and beer in general, to help with future decisions at the beer store.

In the first class, after introductions, Ron discussed the history of beer and the theory of how beer came to be. We talked about the differences between Ales and Lagers and the different ingredients that are found in beers. We were shown different hop pellets and various malt profiles, which made a good visual stimulate.

Near the end of the three hour session, Ron removed some beer from the fridge and we went about tasting. We sampled Mill Street Coffee Porter, Mill Street Tankhouse, Creemore Lager, Brooklyn Lager, Sgt. Major IPA, St.Ambroise Pale Ale, Black Oak Nut Brown, Walkerville Lager, and Saint Vienna Lager. We were shown how to sample and how to rate the beer through aroma, body, taste and appearance. Me, being a hop lover, thought that the Sgt. Major and Mill Street's Tankhouse were winners. The line-up was a little different to some of the participants as they have never tried these beers before and were not used to the hoppiness of some.

It was an excellent start to what sounds like an excellent course. I look forward to watching some of the beer hunter videos that recently deceased Micheal Jackson was responsible for. I will keep you posted.

No class next week as Thanksgiving calls. So make sure to grab some Pumpkin Ale to savour with your pumpkin pie.

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