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, July 31, 2008

The Henry House Part 2

“We had a founding member of “Campaign for Real Ales” (CAMRA – an organization that was created in 1971 in the UK Campaigning for Real Ale, Pubs, and Drinkers' rights due to the high number of mega breweries attempting to purchase establishments and sell watered down lagered beer) come to visit us here in the pub and he absolutely loved the ales. He lives in Mahone Bay now and his son brings him to visit us every now and then for some pints”, exclaims Donna. Along with the Granite’s ales, the Alsops brought in local micro-brewed beer like Propeller and Garrison along with McAuslan beers from Montreal to compliment their selection. This created a well-rounded line-up that appealed to someone with a palate for full flavoured beer. At the Henry House you will not find the likes of Keith’s, Blue, Canadian etc on tap, but it is available by bottle. “Our goal is to not try to convert people’s taste to real ales, but to offer a wide selection of beer for everyone to enjoy in the comfort of the pub”, says Donna.

The Henry House consists of four floors, but only three are open to the public. The fourth floor has apartments that were customary in British pubs for the owners so that they wouldn’t be far from the action. The third floor of the house is used for private functions, group parties, etc. This summer, the floor will be hosting a wedding, which is a first for the Alsops. The dining area is on the second floor with an L-shaped bar, exposed granite walls, old portraits and antique furniture. And finally, the basement is where the pub is located, and what an attractive pub it is. The ‘local’ as Donna would have you call it, is a place where friends and visitors alike can mingle over fine ales, partake in pleasant conversation with barkeep Mel, or hunker down with a good book.

The atmosphere in the pub is reminiscent of a British establishment, but with a flair of maritime hospitality with people socializing, having a great time. It is a warm, intimate, cozy pub that is ideal for a first date or meeting friends after work for a refreshing drink. Patrons range in age from graduate students to more elderly experienced drinkers. Donna states that there is a fair share of regulars that grace the pub daily creating enduring friendships. The pub’s granite walls are cool to the touch and the exposed wooden beams and rafters take you back in time. There are only two small windows to the outside world that offer a ray of sunshine and with its rustic wood furniture, dimmed lighting, stone fireplace and dartboards, you will be reminded of pubs from Britain, but you won’t have to leave the country to experience them. “We have visitors from England, Scotland, and Ireland who come to Halifax for either business or pleasure and they end up here. They all say that our pub reminds them of pubs back home and we often hear back from them by means of pictures or postcards upon their arrival back home”, boasts Donna.

Saturday nights the pub comes alive with the sound of traditional Celtic music. Musicians gather in a corner booth and play well into the night on their fiddles, flutes and penny whistles. The patrons are clapping, tapping their toes and basking in the delightful entertainment. As you walk through the doors and down the stairs and step foot into the pub, you are reminded of simpler times and worries seem to drift away with the gentle flow of the music.

For now the Alsops are quite content with the direction their pub is headed. They have been so successful that they have been approached by entrepreneurs to head up more pubs; to create a chain. “We’re happy with what we have right now and we see no change for us” admits Donna. “We are very happy that we came to Halifax and pursued this idea, everything has been terrific”.

The Henry House owners will continue to keep customers satisfied with their warm and inviting hospitality, their generous helpings of food, and their terrific English style ales. So come in, grab a seat and enjoy the comfort of good times, great beer, and terrific food. You won’t leave disappointed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LCBO Blamed for Factory Closing

Did you read the news yesterday? A glass factory in Toronto was forced to shut down due to a number of financial reasons, resulting in 430 people without employment. The company issued an international press release listing the reasons for the closure and one of those reasons focused on the LCBO.

The company stated that the LCBO has been focusing on tetra-packs and non-glass containers as part of their 'green' recycling program. Because of this, the glass company felt that the LCBO was partly to blame as the manufacturing of glass for alcoholic beverages continued to decline to the point of the company losing significant amounts of money. They figure the LCBO is encouraging alcohol suppliers to switch from glass containers to either plastic or the aforementioned tetra-pack.

The LCBO issued a statement that only 4.5% of sales account for non-glass containers, which is relatively low when you factor in the fact that the LCBO grossed over $4 billion dollars last year. What wasn't released in the LCBO's statement, but was relayed to me from someone inside the government owned retail chain, is that 74% of the 4.5% of non-glass containers sold in LCBO stores belongs to the aluminum beer can category.

Just an interesting take on the story.

Hart House Presents Local Craft Beer and PIG!!

Looking for something to occupy your time tomorrow night? The Hart House, located on the grounds of the historic University of Toronto campus, will be hosting a local craft beer festival and summer bbq starting at 7pm. Everyone knows how well bbq meats are complimented by beer, but a variety of different craft beers is just ever more exciting.

Twelve local craft breweries will be on hand offering samples of their quality lagers and ales. The list includes the likes of: Great Lakes Brewery, Grand River Brewing, Cool Beer Brewing Company Inc., Creemore Springs Brewery, Mill St Brewery, Wellington Brewing Company, Cameron's Brewing Company, Big Rock Brewery, F&M Brewery, Barley Days, Black Oak Brewery, and Hockley Valley Brewing.

Also, Mirella Amato, a contributing writer with TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine, the creator of the and Toronto's Cultural Craft Beer Expert will be on site to provide tips on how to enjoy craft beer and answer any questions related to our favourite beverage.

The meat will be provided by Mario Pingue of Niagara Specialty Meats, according to the invaluable food website TasteTO, and there will be salad's, corn and other vegetarian options available. It's 7:30am right now and I am craving a nice slice of pig with a beer in my hand.

The live musical entertainment portion of the evening will feature performances by Brittlestar, Dinosaur Bones and Nachtmusik. I don't know who they are but I'm sure they will be quite good.

The Hart House is located on at the University of Toronto campus. U of T students can pick up tickets for the low price of $20, while non-students can snag one for $30. Tickets can be purchased on-line by visiting As mentioned, the event starts at 7pm and runs until 12am. Couldn't think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening in the city. You should come down and check it out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Win Free Toronto Festival of Beer Tickets Reminder

This is just a gentle reminder that the deadline for submissions for your chance to win 2 free Toronto Festival of Beer tickets is fast approaching.

Click here to read last week's announcement. The contest closes this Thursday, July 31st at midnight with the winner to be announced August 1st. All you have to do is submit a short story (paragraph/rant/opinion...) on your favourite local pub or your favourite craft beer or a combination of the two.

Thank you to all those who have already participated and I look forward to reading some more, so get writing and send your stuff to me at .

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why the Fuss Over Imports?: By Walter Leipurts

The rant below belongs to Walter Leipurts, owner/operator of WL Designs who handles various brewery accounts as part of his business. Stay tuned for more rants from Leipurts in the future.

I just received a colourful flyer from the LCBO with a focus on imported beers. The last few pages were dedicated to our Ontario products but I couldn’t help but wonder why a government-owned company was pushing imports over domestic products. I suppose they would have an argument if our local beers were inferior or we lacked sufficient variety, but we know this is not the case. Also, you’ve seen the TV ads pushing fresh local produce such as apples over the imported stuff. You can see where I’m heading... Beer is like young children and babies - none of them travel well. Also, what is the guarantee of freshness and environmental viability of these imports? We have no way of checking. As well, consider the energy used to transport this stuff, which has become an issue with skyrocketing fuel prices and carbon impact. The LCBO also might be the vehicle for these Europeans etc. with breweries the size of AB in St. Louis to dump excess product onto our market. Think of the selection of Ontario beers as well as the guaranteed freshness. We have a range of tastes and styles from the slightly flavoured Club Soda that is Coors Light all the way to the various Stouts that our micros produce. Is it the usual misconception that imported is better? We have the best water, barley and hops in the world. Let’s dump the inferiority complex and stick with the world class beer that just happens to be produced in our own back yard - Ontario. Arrange for a brewery tour - you’ll be surprised at how much pride local micros take in their products and how accommodating they are- - you’ll leave feeling pretty darn good and satisfied.

Have something to say? Send me a write-up about anything to do with the brewing/pub industry and have it posted on this site. Send your post to .

The Henry House, Halifax NS: Part 1

The following is an article I put together during my time in Halifax about one of my absolute favourite pubs: The Henry House. It was supposed to run in the Summer issue of TAPS; however, due to space restrictions of the new edition it had to be removed. Every Thursday evening when I was living near the ocean, a group of us would head down to the pub every Thursday evening and good times were always had.


In 1985, Kevin Keefe a brew master by trade, purchased the building at 1222 Barrington Street to re-locate his Ginger's Taven, which was the 2nd brew pub in the nation at the time (the craft brewing industry had yet to grapple the country). The move allowed Keefe to expand his brewing capacity of English style, unpasteurized ales and he called the new location the Granite Brew Pub. Here Keefe brewed ales like Peculiar, Best Bitter’s, India Pale Ale, Stout and more using only natural ingredients with no preservatives or artificial carbonation. His ales along with his terrific food menu created a following and it didn’t take long to see that Keefe was onto something. Not long after, due to the Granite’s success, Keefe’s brother Ron opened a larger brew pub and store in Toronto, ON that has helped create the Ontario craft beer scene. It wasn’t until 2001 when a man by the name of Bill Alsop would happen to visit the Granite and change Keefe’s operating plans for the future.

In September of 2001, Bill Alsop would get in his car and make the drive from his home in Toronto, ON to Halifax to get his daughter settled into her new residence at Dalhousie University. As the story goes, Alsop figured he needed a couple of days to make sure his daughter had everything she needed before he got on his way. After meeting her roommates though, Alsop was left to wander the city during the day while his daughter socialized. By sheer chance, Alsop stumbled onto the Granite Brew Pub and was fascinated by the grand architect of the building’s granite and ironstone structure. Hailing originally from England, Alsop was quickly reminded of homes back in his native country. Upon entering the establishment Alsop fell in love with the ambiance of the place, the beer and the pub. He called his wife Donna on his cell phone and promptly asked her if she wanted to purchase the pub. Her response, “sure”, and for a year and a half, the Alsop’s did everything they could to convince Kevin Keefe to sell them the building.

It is believed that the house was originally built in 1834, yet some visitors and historians alike have told the Alsop’s that the house might have been constructed closer to 1812. It was built in the suburbs of Halifax on what was known as Pleasant Street which was home to other wealthy Halifax descendants. It was built with granite that was shipped over seas from Scotland, and ironstone from Nova Scotia creating a strong foundation. The building’s architect as a side hall building is unique in itself and led the house to garner distinction as a Historical Property. The house would go on to be the home of one of Canada’s most influential leaders of the 1800’s in a man by the name of William Alexander Henry.

Henry was born in 1816 in Halifax but moved away to Antigonish where at 24 years of age he became the youngest member of the House of Assembly. He went on to be named the Attorney General of Nova Scotia, a job which relocated him back to Halifax in 1854 and prompted him to purchase what is now known as The Henry House. Henry wasn’t done there. He went on to be a founding father of confederation, helped write the British North American Act, and was the first Supreme Court Judge appointed from Nova Scotia.

After Henry’s departure from the house, the building endured years of new residents and was primarily used as a home. It was in the 1960’s, where some renovations took place in the house to create a fine dining restaurant. The owners decided to name the restaurant “The Henry House” paying homage to the man who once lived there. The downstairs pub was created and named “Little Stone Jug” and not much has changed since. In 1985 Keefe entered the picture and the Granite Brew Pub was created.

After the Alsop’s purchased the building in 2003, they relocated to Halifax from their home in Toronto to embark on a venture. Both retired and with no experience in the hospitality industry, they didn’t’ know what to expect. They knew that the Granite Brew Pub had a loyal following of people that appreciated great ales and terrific food so their first decision was a simple one: keep Granite’s ales on tap and don’t change the menu too drastically. One decision the Alsop’s made was to change the name back to “The Henry House” out of respect to the man who once lived there.

Like in every great pub, you must serve great food. The Henry House’s food goes above today’s standard pub grub like deep fried wings and deep fried potato skins by serving delicious pub food prepared by Chef Eric Orickle, with specialties like the Ultimate burger, Bangers and Mash, and Steak and Kidney Pies which are all crafted by hand. The burgers are the most popular item on the menu next to their beer, and Donna credits their success to Orickle’s preparation and attention to detail. Everything on the menu is fresh, bought locally and prepared the day of. All sauces, dips and soups are made in the morning ensuring freshness and Orickle creates wonderful daily specials that leave you completely satisfied. But the Henry House isn’t just known for its terrific food. No, the Henry House is known for its beer, its hospitality and its good nature.

When Keefe sold the building to the Alsop’s in 2003, Bill already knew that Haligonians and Nova Scotians alike were finding the Granite’s ales interesting in taste and flavour and the pub had developed a loyal fan base. Bill, being from England and all, loved the ales himself and thought he shouldn’t mess with something so good. So the Alsop’s stuck with Keefe’s ales and to this day Keefe delivers the fresh cask conditioned beers and kegs to the Henry House personally. The lineup of ales include: the award winning Peculiar ale (that was designed after the famous “Old Yorkshire Peculiar Ale” in England), Best Bitter, Best Bitter Special, India Pale Ale, Keefe’s Irish Stout, and Ringwood Ale. There are also mixed beer creations like the Black and Tan, Lunatic Stout and more. The Peculiar, Bitter and Best Bitter Special are all cask conditioned, which means the beer is still fermenting in the keg and later it is pushed out with beer gas through hand pumps which prevents CO2 that causes bloated-ness.

Stay tuned for Part Two

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More on Mill Street vs. Distillery Group and Sleeman

The National Post is running a story on the Mill Street vs. Distillery Restaurants Group and Sleeman saga today.

John Sleeman: "they have every right to be upset (about banner over door) that was a mistake."

Click here to read more....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cask, Pubs, Weissbiers, Awards, Oh My....

A litte news round-up from the world of beer in Canada.

*The core members of the CASK Toronto group have recently announced that there will be a follow-up to their very successful summer cask festival held back on July 13th at Victory Cafe. Word has it that Victory will host a winter festival sometime in January which is terrific. There aren't many beer events that happen during the cold snowy month of January and this will definitely lift those dark day blues.

*As mentioned on this blog earlier this week, the Gahan House brew pub has recently started bottling their Sir John A McDonald Honey Wheat and Red Island in 500ml bottles for distribution in the PEI Liquor Commissions.

*Cass Enright, over at provides readers with more stories about the red tape and dysfunctionality within the Beer Store conglomerate, as he tells the plight of Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. in Vanleek Hill. Turns out that Beau's beautiful ceramic style top bottles are not being returned to the brewery as standard bottles would be. Instead the Beer Store is smashing them, purportedly for recycling purposes.

*TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine has released details for the 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards. The CBA's are entering their sixth year and more and more Canadian breweries, big and small, are entering more products year after year. Judging is taking place on September 6th in Markham at the Duchess of Markham pub with 12 certified beer judges sniffing, swirling, tasting and rating. TAPS also released information regarding the awards gala. The Richmond, located in Toronto, will host the gala as brewer representatives from around the country will gather and try each others award winning brews. Members of the public are encouraged to attend the gala.

*Donna Alsop, the owner of The Henry House pub in Halifax, NS (and one of my favourite ever) emailed me this week to inform me that they have added an outdoor patio, providing more room for the always busy pub. Cask conditioned Granite beers on the patio of an historic building with the smell of ocean air in your lungs, I can't imagine anything better right now.

*A loyal reader of this blog sent me an email early this week to direct me to a chapters/indigo link featuring a brand new book titled: "Sociable, the Elbow Bender's Guide to Maritime Pubs" authored by noted local Wolfville musician Bob Connon. I have yet to obtain a copy to review, although I have talked with Connon and hopefully I should have one shortly. From what I've heard from some pub owners in Nova Scotia is that the book in wonderfully done, full of beautiful colour photos and well written with informative profiles.

*Weihenstephan Hefe-Weissbier came into the province this year with a bang, as the team at Beer Barons Imports threw a posh party at Toronto's Bier Markt back in May. So how has it sold? Sean Fleming, owner of the Barons, states that Weihenstephan is selling so well that it might soon be gone. 14 pubs/beer bars are currently carrying the 500ml bottles and sales are strong (for a full listing visit Beer Baron's website). As well, 1200 cases of the beer were received by the and there are roughly 200 left in the warehouse and only 150 in the retail stores, as of July 22.

*And last but not least, the funniest news of the week comes from a forum on Bar Towel about Mill Street, Sleeman's and the Distillery District. Turns out a new poster who calls himself Izaak wrote a long, sloppy post in defense of the Distillery Restaurant Group and blasted Mill Street. He also went on to say that Steam Whistle is a small time craft brewery. Well, news editor Greg Clow did some investigating and it appears that Izaak posted from the Boiler House, a restaurant in the Distillery. I don't like calling people out but Izaak, come on man, use your head

Have a great weekend.

Picture(s) of the Month

Good man pouring a Stonehammer Dark Ale -Victory Cask Festival
Granite Best Bitter Special and Cascade Hops at Victory Cask Festival

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Win Free Tickets to the Toronto Festival of Beer

Ever heard of the Toronto Festival of Beer? One of Canada's most celebrated beer events at Toronto's Historic Fort York.

Well, I happen to have two tickets to giveaway for the opening night (Thursday August 7th) and I thought that this would be a good time for a small contest. Are you interested?

Here's what I'm looking for:
A short profile of your favourite local pub or your favourite craft beer or any story involving the two. The winning entry will not only get the two tickets, but they'll also get their submission posted on this blog.

Some rules will have to apply though.
1. The pub and/or craft beer submission must have a Canadian content;
2. Please keep it to less than 800 words;
3. Winner must be of legal drinking age to win the contest (duh!); and
4. Agree to have a beer with me at the festival

So here are some details for the Thursday night:

99.9 MIXFM presents the Bowmans Ball, featuring The English Beat live on Thursday August 7, 2008.
Online prices (GST incl.)*:$40
Gate prices (GST incl.)**:$50

The festival is entering its 14th year and over 30,000 people attended last year's event. You can sample more than 250 brands of beer produced by small breweries, regional breweries and big breweries while indulging in bbq'd food, music, and much more. This is a great way to get tickets to the festival if you've never been.

So, if you're interested in participating, shoot me an email () with your submission, your name and contact information by no later than Thursday July 31st. The winner will be announced Friday August 1st.

This will be the first ever contest / giveaway that I have done on this blog, but it certainly won't be the last.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gahan House Brews Available in Bottles

I just came across some great news today that the Gahan House Brew Pub in Charlottetown, PEI will be selling 500ml bottles of their Sir John A. Honey Wheat and Island Red beers at PEI Liquor Commission's across the province. For $3.50 each you can pick up a well crafted island beer brewed in the historic Gahan House just off the main street.

I spent some time in Charlottetown PEI when I was living in Halifax over a year ago and fell in love with the old city. The Gahan House was one of the first places we stopped when we arrived and I was lucky enough to get a private tour and tasting with the brewmaster and brought many growlers back to Halifax. Their IPA was reminiscent of a lighter Dogfish Head 60min IPA and it was damn good (I don't know what it's like now).

Here is my old review of the place, albeit short.

TAPS & The Canadian Brewing Awards

Contact: Carole Hines, Taps Media Events Co-ordinator

***Taps Magazine Presents the 6th Annual CBAs***

Taps Magazine is pleased to announce the 6th annual Canadian Brewing Awards. The call for entries has just recently gone out for this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards. The deadline for entries is August 15th and all products must be received by August 22nd. Judging will be held on September 6th with the awards gala to follow on September 25th at The Richmond in Toronto. Applications and rules for entry can be found at

The CBAs are the premiere competition for Canadian-brewed beer, with judging overseen by 12 certified beer judges with no commercial links to the industry. Awards are decided in over 20 categories, with each entry being judged on appearance, aroma, flavour, mouth-feel and overall impression.

The CBAs are proudly presented by Taps Magazine, Canada’s only beer magazine. Focusing on Canadian beer, Taps is an excellent source of news and trends in Canadian beer, and the bars and taverns that serve it. It’s also a good place to find fun facts, beer culture, recipes and food and beer pairing.

For more information on the Canadian Brewing Awards or Taps Magazine, please contact Carole Hines, or go to

Monday, July 21, 2008 - Independence, Variety, Choice

Len Owens, owner of the Golden Kiwi Pub and Grill in Cambridge, ON has commenced a website dedicated to raising awareness to the hardships independent pub owners of Ontario must face in their daily operations. Offering quality beer at quality prices while competing with chain pubs who receive the perks large breweries throw around. He is fed up and he is not taking it anymore. was recently unveiled on the heels of all the exposure in the media about the Beer Store, best beer bars in the GTA and the small brewers, and Owens figured the time was now to get things going.

His website (which looks promising) plans to offer a directory of freehouses across the country, helping drinkers of fine beer locate places without restrictions, while supporting the breweries that make quality beer and support local flavour.

Owens is calling out other owners of Freehouses to sign up and become partners in the fight, to work together. Grand River Brewing Co., Castle on King and Augusta's Winking Judge are confirmed so far and I hope others will soon join.

So what is a Freehouse? I'll let Owens explain:
Freehouses, as they became known, were not tied to any one brewery by ownership or the beer they chose to serve. Today’s freehouse will often have beer from many different breweries and some will have a sign proclaiming the establishment as a freehouse.
It is obvious that I am a strong supporter of freehouses. I seek them out when out experiencing a new pub. I rarely go into a place that has a 'contract' with a brewery so to speak. So I'm jumping on the bandwagon and encourage you to do the same. Lend your voice in support along with the great freehouses in this country.

Here is an example of what Owens is talking about based on personal experience, even though it doesn't involve a craft brewer, it still tells a story about the cutthroat business:

When I was living in Halifax I heard a story while working for a large brewing company. The company was made aware from a loyal customer that a pub in the downtown area was pouring a rival brewery's beer from one of our taps. A worker went in to investigative, ordered a pint of the stuff and confirmed it was indeed not the proper beer that should have flowed from that particular draught tower. Thinking maybe someone just hooked up the wrong keg to the line he went back over the next week and it was still the same. It was alleged that the rival brewery had approached the pub with promise of free beer, cash kickbacks for every keg sold and lots of advertising and promotional wares. Needless to say, the company involved pulled all their products from the pub and a once friendly relationship quickly turned sour.

Combine the recently created CASK Toronto movement, the Freeourbeer site and the opinions of other beer bloggers and media personnel, there is now a pretty substantial voice in the craft brewing industry. Keep up the noise, persistence pays off in the long run.

* Picture of Len obtain via*

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Stinking Rose Pub Sold to Church Key Brewing

I received a message today from John Graham, the owner/operator of the Church Key Brewing Co. stating that, while not yet official, he has bought The Stinking Rose Pub in Campebellford, ON, not far from where the brewery is located in Pethericks Corners.

Here is John's message, which is also posted on Church Key's website.

Not all is official yet, waiting for licenseing to change over. But the word is out so I will share my excitement. Church-Key Brewing has purchased The Stinking Rose Pub, from original owners Ron and Dianne. We look forward to making/keeping the pub the centre of conversation and libation that The Rose deserves. We will be meeting with all of the Church-Key and Rose staff this week to work out details.
Change over is slated for Aug 1st. Keep tuned in for details. Sorry to Tobey, Dianne, Harold and others for not saying anything on Thursday night, I had just signed the deal and was busting at the seams to tell but, could not yet.

I am excited for John and his family and now there's a voice in my head is telling me to get over to The Stinking Rose shortly after he takes over the reins. Congratulations!

More information to follow once it becomes available.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Got PUNK'D...IPA That Is!

Why the exclamation at the end of the title? Because I thought it was necessary after downing an incredible Punk IPA brewed by the bad boys at Scotland's BrewDog Brewery.

As the public melts here in Toronto I figured last night was a great time to finally crack the top on this Scottish brew, a brew that I so kindly received from the fine folks behind the Roland and Russell Import Agency (thanks guys). Alan at A Good Beer Blog has already commented on Punk's brother Rip Tide and told the interesting story of the brewery's fight to offer a 12% beer (Tokyo) in the land of 40% whiskey's. Stephen Beaumont told us all about BrewDog's Paradox Islay, a beautifully whisky cask aged imperial stout in the last Session.

Now, readers of this blog know that I don't really profile beers and when I do it's usually a Canadian one. I want to do more and plan on doing more. Anyway, I thought I'd tell you about Punk. But first a little about the BrewDog Brewery.

From what I've read and what I've been told, the guys that own and operate the brewery are crazy about beer...great beer. Opened in April of 2007 by a guy named Martin Dickie and a guy named James Watt (both my age!), BrewDog brews a number of terrific beers that include: Hardcore IPA (explicit imperial ale), The Physics (laid back amber), Rip Tide (twisted merciless stout), Hop Rocker lager (redefining a genre), Tokyo (intergalactic fantastic oak aged stout) and Paradox Islay. They also brew a number of cask conditioned ales to compliment their diverse line-up and proudly brew a number of special cask offerings for events. They've already won 2 World Beer Awards for the World's Best Strong Pale Ale and the World's Best Stout-Imperial. Not bad for a brand-spanking new brewery.

It turns out that Martin and Watt were fed up with bland beer and decided that in order to drink better they would have to take brewing into their own hands. And that's exactly what they've done. One of their many tag-lines is "At BrewDog we are selfish, we make the beers we want to drink," which is something every true beer drinker wants to hear from brewery owners. They also state that beer was never intended to be pumped full of additives, preservatives and other really scary stuff, it was intended to be flavourful, rewarding and well crafted. They sound like geniuses to me.

As Alan mentioned, BrewDog has been getting some bad press in relation to their marketing efforts for Tokyo as can be read here. I don't have a bottle to try, but now I'm craving one more than ever.

So, Punk eh? Delicious. The beer pours a lovely hazy pale gold and is a touch cloudy with little to no white head. It is reminiscent of a cask conditioned ale and is simply stunning in the glass (but what well crafted beer isn't?) I take a picture and think of taking two, but the beer is calling out to me..drink me now dammit. I have to smell it first though and I'm glad I did because it has a beautiful smell of glorious hops which provide a sweet earthy nose, piney and a little fruity/citrusy. It is full of aroma but not over-powering as some IPA's are. The taste - awesome. Nice bite due to the hops, thirst quenching in this insane heat, the sweet malty profile nicely balances out the hop content providing a well rounded example of a 'post modern pale ale' that works both the English style and the American style into its profile. I want to savour this beer, but it goes down way too easy.
Tasted - 341ml bottle, 6% alcohol.

This is a beer any true beer drinker would appreciate. Nice in the hot weather, would be great with spicy food, easy drinking, yet complex and full of flavour. Contact Roland and Russell for more information on how to obtain some for yourself.

Some other fun quotes from BrewDog:

  • Taste our Lager and we are pretty sure you will agree that the fine line between insanity and genius has just become a little more blurred.
  • A beacon of non-conformity in an increasingly monotone corporate desert.
  • Beer was never only destined to be made by huge faceless corporations who only care about profit margins and volume sales.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toronto Star's List of Best Beer Bars

I look forward to Wednesdays. It's the middle of the week, plans are being constructed for the weekend and Josh Rubin's 'What's Brewing' column appears in the Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper, with the largest readership in the country.

Today's issue featured a story by Rubin titled 'Best beer bars, bar none' that was inspired by the loads of people who frequently ask Josh where to go for a pint and some good food. In the article, Rubin invites readers on an imaginary tour of some of the best places to consume a beer in the greater Toronto area as he highlights 10 beauties with a short description of the establishment and suggestions for what to try.

Here they are in no particular order:
Le Select Bistro
Caffe Volo
Beer Bistro
Dora Keogh/Allen's
C'est What
Mill Street Brew Pub
Granite Brewery
West 50 Pourhouse & Grille
The Rhino Restaurant and Bar
Victory Cafe

Rubin also highlights a couple of places outside of the GTA that include St. Veronus Cafe in Peterborough and the Castle on King in Waterloo, both terrific places that I have yet to visit. There was also honourable mentions to the Esplanade Bier Markt, Smokeless Joe's, Castro's Lounge and Abbot on the Hill.

In Rubin's eyes, these places ranked higher above the rest of the many fine pubs and bars in the Toronto area based on their ability to stock hard to find beers, size of the beer list and great food. While I wholeheartedly agree with all of the places Rubin mentions, and I am thrilled to see Castro's Lounge get an honourable mention (very underrated pub), I would have added one more place to his list while excluding the Meat..Bier Markt. The Feathers Pub on Kingston Road. It may be a little east for many downtowners to travel, but the Feathers offer everything anyone expects in a traditional pub. Nothing fancy, homemade English style food, cask ale, craft beer on tap with a handful of delicious imports, very relaxed and comfortable with no hint of pretentiousness.

Overall I thought it was a great list and it echo's my thoughts when readers abroad email me asking for my suggestions.

It's nice to see beer getting the attention is deserves in Canada's largest paper and equally nice to see these terrific pubs get a well deserved plug. Now get out and enjoy them.

What's New @ Beau's All Natural Brewing

Steve Beauchesne, co-founder/owner of Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. started up the 'How to Start a Brewery (in 1 million easy steps)' blog way back on May 25, 2006 as a way to keep in touch with their devout fans.

Yesterday Jen (Beau's resident know it all, as it says on their website) provided readers with some new information about the brewery that you might find interesting and I recommend you pop over to his blog to check it out for yourself.

Some of the highlights of the 'Kibbles and Bits' post include: a new summer seasonal-Festivale, a new filling machine to increase efficiency, an update on recently injured brewmaster Matt and a new policy on bottle returns.

Good news from a fun brewery.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sleeman Street Brewpub?? WTF

Back on June 16th I was down at Mill Street Brewpub to meet up with a sales rep with regards to a private tasting. As I walked up through the back patio I noticed something strange. Sleeman patio umbrella's were everywhere. I stopped dead in my tracks and wondered WTF is going on here. Now Sleeman banners hang in between buildings everywhere in the Distillery and even over the front door to the brewpub.

First I thought it might have had to do with the lawsuit Sleeman's launched against Mill Street late in 2007, but the sales rep I was meeting informed me that it had nothing to do with it.

Every restaurant in the Distillery district is owned by the Distillery Restaurant Group (DRG) and for some reason the group has taken a stance against one of their most successful occupants in Mill Street brewery. Back in 2002, before it was brewpub, the Mill Street brewery blew a breath of fresh air into the distillery giving them a resident who promoted local flavour and played off the historic presence of the area. That all changed in January as the DRG went with Sleeman's for their all their public spaces and Mill Street was bumped out.

"I believe in competition, it's healthy, but when you fly a banner (Sleeman's) over OUR front entrance, its a slap in our faces," stated co-founder Steve Abrams. "I'm disappointed that our landlords have chosen to promote a large foreign-owned company when there's a fantastic brewery right at their doorstep. We're good tenants and actively promote the Distillery in our marketing campaigns. For me, it's heartbreaking."

Abrams went on to say that Mill Street worked very hard over the years trying to keep the DRG happy and was surprised to see all the changes occur over the year. "We have been and continue to be a favourite tourist destination in Toronto and visitors are now scratching their heads when they come here for beers on our patios." Mill Street or Sleeman's? Fortunately you can't order a Sleeman's at the brewpub, so the confusion pretty much ends there.

It's just not happening at the brewpub though, I have noticed many more pubs with the Sleeman patio umbrella where there are Mill Street offerings on tap this summer than ever before. One example would be The Boardwalk Pub in the Beaches, a big Mill Street account (5 taps) and this summer their patio is lined with Sleeman's umbrella's. Are they starting another 'beer war,' something that we haven't really witnessed (or you haven't, I might be to young) since Molson and Labatt's raged war on each other in the late 80's early 90's? Is seems to me that Sleeman is targeting Mill Street's recent success.

Abrams also stated that Mill Street would never go over to the Roundhouse for example (where Steam Whistle is located) and hang a Mill Street banner over the entrance. One, the landlord would be committed to keeping Steam Whistle happy (as they pay rent) and secondly Mill Street just wouldn't slap another respectful brewing company in the face.

The topic has also appeared on Bar Towel and founder Cass Enright and I had a great talk about it at the Victory Cask Festival on Sunday. This could be the beginning of some interesting months in the Ontario brewing industry. It's just weird!

Abrams, "It's truly a sad day when you come to work and see this hanging above your brewery." "The DRG can do business with whomever they choose. We love being a part of the Distillery. It helped put us on the map. We're part of an incredible community of artists, designers and entrepreneurs. It's just sad."

The DRG was not contacted for comment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More YellowBelly News

It seems that the YellowBelly Brewery didn't actually open on June 27th as I reported after returning home from my trip to Newfoundland. In fact, the YellowBelly didn't open for business until last Friday, the 11th. Frank McDonald, a proud Newfoundlander and consumer of craft beer, informed me of this in an email Saturday afternoon after visiting St.John's newest watering hole. Here is his email.

The Yellowbelly Brewery finally opened. It opened to the public Friday, July 11. Almost two weeks later than was forecast.

I popped in for a quick beer yesterday afternoon (Saturday). The Irish Red is better than it was two weeks ago. Very good beer indeed. Best looking head on a beer I've ever seen, and the flavour really comes through when served at a better temperature than the very cold samples we had. The Yellowbelly was pretty busy and everyone seemed to be enjoying the beer. I'm going back again later this week on my days off, and bringing a couple of my friends.

So now anyone planning a trip to one of Canada's friendliest cities will have the opportunity to indulge in some quality craft beer that Newfoundland has been without for many years.

InBev + AB = Who Cares

Here is the Toronto Star's article detailing the takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, the world's second-largest beermaker. The cost? $52 billion dollars.

Global domination, simply put. Pretty soon you'll be at a cafe in Belgium and you'll see Bud Light on the bloody beer menu. That's all I'll be posting about this as I don't really care.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CASK Toronto

Over the last couple of months, a handful of beer enthusiasts, brewers and pub owners have been meeting at various locations to discuss the state of cask conditioned ale (or real ale) in the city of Toronto.

These discussions have led to the formation of a brand new advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness of local cask conditioned ale and to promote it to a wider audience. CASK! seeks to improve the availability, selection and quality of cask ale in Toronto, and ultimately across Ontario.

Membership in CASK! is free for individuals, and we will soon be introducing a Commercial Membership level with a nominal fee for brewers and licensees. Watch this website for details on future meetings and other ways you can get involved. I'll also be posting more information as it becomes available.

In the mean time, check out the CASK website to obtain a list of fine establishments in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario that currently serve cask beer. You can also find the list of Ontario brewers who actively participate in the brewing of cask ale.

There will also be more information provided for those interested during CASK's first event this Sunday at Victory Cafe from 12pm - 7pm. As mentioned earlier on this blog, 10 beers will be available from five breweries.

You can contact the CASK group at if you have any questions or comments.

Get Real… Ask for Cask!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Beer Store - My 2cents

'Bad Brew,' the three day series written by Toronto Star’s Dana Flavelle, started last Friday and was to wrap up Monday. However, things still seem to be rolling. Unless you've been sleeping under a rock or reading this from another province, you've already heard about this. Flavelle authored an in-depth series about the method in which Ontario citizens are forced to purchase alcohol, more specifically, buying beer from the Beer Store.

The series was broken into many parts and included titles such as: Do you know who owns the Beer Store? Express stores hurt small brewers, Cornering the beer market, The real reason beer cost more than it should, Ontarians thirsty for answers, Petition protests beer monopoly and Beer monopoly petition grows. It was very well written and well researched as it included quotes from craft brewers, the Ontario Craft Brewers Association president, the president of Canada’s National Brewers, the Premier’s office, the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Association and the Liberal government.

The series has caused quite a stir in the brewing industry as well as the online community of beer bloggers and beer websites. Cass Enright, the founder of Bar, has since created a new website dedicated to 'freeing our beer' ( and a gentleman in the blue collar city of Hamilton has started an online petition that will later be sent to Premier McGuinty and his Liberal government. Alan over at A Good Beer Blog has chimed in on the subject and the discussion on Bar Towel has reached 103 (at the time this was written). The Star's website has also seen their fair share of comments in relation to Flavelle's writing as John Bowden from Great Lakes, John Wiggins (founder of Creemore) and Jeff Nelson (President of Canada’s National Brewers) have all taken part and offered their insights.

The Beer Store proudly boasts that they sell over 300 brands from 75 different breweries yet the majority of that beer is actually owned, or the rights are owned by Molson-Coors, Labatt Breweries and Sapporo. If you take a look at the Beer Store's website and do a search for 'all brands', *Molson-Coors owns/represents 42 brands, Labatt 48 and Sapporo 35 (*based on my calculations-numbers may be off slightly). Subsequently, OCB members represent 48 brands, mostly coming from Brick Brewery in Waterloo, the godfather of local breweries. I should note that there are 29 breweries represented by the OCB. That number is staggering. 29 breweries equal only 48 brands while 3 multi-national breweries represent 125 at the minimum, and own one of the two places in the province where you can legally purchase beer to take home. If I were a craft brewer I’d welcome craft beer retail outlets.

While this may surprise some readers, it must be pointed out. Some of the craft breweries in Ontario are strongly opposed of having convenience stores sell their products. Why? It's a good question that requires more time and understanding. Essentially the breweries would have to look into hiring a distributor to ensure their beer gets to each location, which for some is simply not an option. There is also the issue of the big breweries powering their way into these convenience stores and buying the majority of shelf space. If you walk into a store today and go to the pop section you'll see two fridges, Pepsi or Coke. Would this happen in the case of beer? I know Quebec does it and it is successful. The grocery stores in the States do and the small breweries are successful. It would take time to build it up.

Would smaller breweries entertain the idea of 'Craft Beer stores' such as the wine racks found in certain grocery stores? Why not! After all, McGuinty came out yesterday and said he wants to see more Ontario wines sold here in the province, so technically he should welcome the idea of having craft beer stores. Nay. Why? Because he feels that underage drinking would skyrocket. I guess wine is more sophisticated and he figures teenagers won't be shopping in these wine shops (Wine Rack has 160 outlets) or stealing from them. I bought all kinds of booze, beer, wines, whiskey etc. when I was in high school from both the Beer Store and the LCBO. I even worked for a short time at the LCBO and I know beer would sometimes be sold to minors. Was it done on purpose? Hell no, there’s just no way to curb it. If they want it, they'll get it.

The Beer Store does have its benefits though. As mentioned in the series, the Beer Store is a leader in recycling efforts; helping to ensure bottles are re-used and cans are re-molded. The lines are fast; you’re in and out without over-spending on other items like what happens at the LCBO. Their cold storage is something that the LCBO should consider for their back areas. I know some of them have a cold room where they can store the excess beer, which is great for consumers. Kegs, you can…pardon me, you HAVE to purchase kegs from the Beer Store should you be hosting a party or own a pub/restaurant. Come to think of it, those are the only positives I can come to think of.

The bad things are glaring and Ms. Flavelle showcased them brilliantly. They charge way to much for shelf space, stock smaller brands at the back of express stores, advertise the big brands with large posters around the inside perimeter of the stores, withhold financial forecasts, outcomes and plans, don’t provide kickbacks to non-owners, are dirty, have un-educated employees (in beer knowledge) and charge way to much for floor displays. I don’t understand how three brewing companies can own a retail outlet and charge smaller breweries a fee to sell their beer. It makes absolutely no sense that today’s government, or past government’s for that matter, have let it continue over all these years.

Unlike some of the members of Bar Towel and possible readers of this blog, I am a fan of the LCBO for the most part. I have interviewed Ms. Rhee, Category Manager of Beer (see spring issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer magazine) and heard the improvements and heard the positive things planned for the future. I’m not old enough to remember how lousy the beer section used to be at LCBO’s, but there is no doubt they are improving. They are open to the idea of promoting local craft brewers and even recommend it at various times throughout the year. That being said, we want to see more selection. Problem is, and I don’t think I’m the only one how would agree on this, is that beer geeks don’t tend to purchase entire cases of beer. Instead they (we) settle for a six pack, one beer to rate, one in case the first one’s off and one to cellar (if do-able). The other three are then used for trades or group tastings. There is nothing wrong with doing that, I do that, but the vast majority of beer drinkers tend to purchase a couple of flats a month and they prefer to stick with what they THINK is good beer at a discount price. This is why the Beer Store works.

Are independent retail stores the answer? I don’t know. Would it even help with the importation of foreign beer, as it would still have to go through the LCBO testing process? Again I don’t know, but here is where Dalton can help the small brewers. Permit the LCBO to sell more than just six packs. Let them sell twelve packs and flats. Give the brewery representatives the opportunity to select which store should receive what size of package or at least work with store managers to make sound decisions. He can listen to the panel that recommended change back in 2005 and break down the monopoly.

So what can we do in the mean time? Write letters to the Premier, to opposition leader John Tory, to your local newspapers, sign the online petition leave comments on Enright’s new website, join the Bar Towel and post your comments, purchase beer from your local brewery, support the LCBO (money goes back into the tax payers hands and they will only continue to improve) and for god sakes, don’t shop at the Beer Store. We have to make sure that this positive media coverage doesn’t die down. We can’t let it be yesterday’s news.

And most importantly, Support your Locals!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fun Things Brewing with the OCB

What a corny title.

I have been meaning to post on this for some time, but things just kept getting in the way. Better late than never though.

The Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) have been busy with some recent marketing ploys to get people to their website, and hey, it's working.

OCB Flip Cap
They have developed a 'OCB flip cap' game that features Black Oak Brewery president Ken Woods' voice and has you flipping OCB beer caps with the click of your mouse into a pint class. If you hit the cup you get five points, if you put the cap in the glass you get ten points. I swear to you that this game is addicting. I sometimes find myself playing at work (don't tell anyone) and it can last a while. My scores haven't been the greatest though as I get a little impatient waiting for the pint glass to move back and forth across the screen. So, what do the high scorers receive. Well, nothing, unless you enter your name in the contest.

Once the contest wraps up there will 30 people selected via random draw. There will be 29 secondary prizes handed out that will consist of OCB and OCB member products like t-shirts, hats, glassware, coasters etc.. But the grandprize should have the serious beer drinker licking their lips with excitement - A chance to brew your own beer, under the guidance of a certified OCB brewmaster, and then entertain 20 of your closest friends in a closed party where you will drink your creation. Not bad eh! So visit the the flip cap game today, register and enter the contest. You might as well grab a delicious OCB beer while your playing (unless your still at work). The contest runs until September 1st.

Ultimate Craft Dining Experience
The OCB, in partnership with 92.5 Jack FM, will be hosting a memorable dining experience at Toronto's Granite Brewery for a lucky winner and 19 of their friends. Yep, that's right, dinner for the lucky winner plus 19 of their friends. Not a bad way to spend an evening. Drinking cask ale and eating some of the Granite's quality handmade food seems like a great time to me. All you need to do to enter the contest is to visit the OCB website and sign up for your chance to win.

The night will begin with a guided tour of the Granite's small brewery (pretty fun and informative) then a beer and food pairing will take place, followed by dinner. The Granite will also provide a complimentary room for two at Best Western Roehampton Hotel, which will be accompanied by a complimentary "Growler". So if you win, remember me. Contest closes July 14th.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bar Towel: Golden Tap Awards

Cass Enright, the founder of Bar Towel, has recently announced on his website that the voting for the 2008 edition of the Golden Tap Awards is now open for the public's input.

The Golden Tap Awards were founded by Enright six years ago in an effort to recognize the achievements of craft breweries, pubs, and beer in Ontario. There are eight categories for the public to cast a vote in ranging from the best microbrewery in the GTA to the best beer pub in Ontario that's located outside of the GTA.

Unlike other beer awards that are judged by certified beer judges or media personnel, the Golden Tap Awards allow beer drinkers from all walks of life to vote for their favourite Ontario produced craft brew and awards are handed out based on overall numbers. It's a good measuring stick for breweries to see where they stand in the public's perception.

To compliment the general voting, Enright has put together a group of Bar Towel members to be part of an Editor's Circle, a group that will vote on no set categories recognizing significant achievements in the Ontario craft beer industry. This will be the 2nd year for the Editor's Circle. Great Lakes Brewery, Roland and Russell Import Agency, Michael Hancock of Denison's and Volo's Cask Days were all recipients of the inaugural Editor's Circle awards for their outstanding achievements in 2007. There will also be a small craft beer festival featuring Ontario brewers and voting will take place for a 'beer of the festival.'

Voting commenced on July 6th and will run until August 9th, so make sure you visit the website and cast your vote today. The awards will be handed out on August 23rd at Beerbistro with doors opening at 4pm for the 8 o'clock presentation. Last year's event was a huge success with an increase in both voting and turnout for the awards. Admission is free and drink and food tickets can be purchased at the door.

Victory Cafe Cask Festival - List of Beers

Fans of real ale have something to look forward to this weekend as Victory Cafe is hosting a Cask Festival this Sunday (July 13th). A list of participating breweries has just been released and while the not as extensive as the line-up forVolo's Cask Days, this is the start of some good things to come in Toronto for fans of the unfiltered brew.

The List:
Summer Ale, Granite Brewery
Hop Head, County Durham Brewing Co.
Hop Bomb IPA, Black Oak Brewery
Granite IPA, Granite Brewery
Plowman’s Ale, Grand River Brewing
MacLean’s Pale Ale, F&M Brewery
Signature Ale, County Durham Brewing Co.
Best Bitter Special, Granite Brewery
Triple X, County Durham Brewing Co.
StoneHammer Dark Ale, F&M Brewery

As mentioned here earlier, Victory will be hosting the cask festival on their patio as part of 'Pedestrian Sunday's', the summer festival in Mirvish Village. The cask festival's goal is to introduce new drinkers to the wonderful world of real ale and to celebrate the local brewers who believe in the product.

There will be a $6.50 admission to the event which provides you with a souvenir tasting glass and 2 half pint sample tickets. A $10.00 admission fee includes access to a food buffet. The festival begins at 12:00 and runs until 7:00pm.

in the heart of Mirvish Village. Come down and enjoy some terrific beer produced by some terrific brewers in a comfortable and relaxing environment. You won't leave disappointed.

See you there.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Barrie Brews & BBQ Festival Reminder

Just a friendly reminder for all those reading this blog in the Barrie and Orillia area, and those up for a day trip, that the Barrie Brews & BBQ Festival is taking place this weekend at Centennial Beach. Live entertainment, rib cook off, tons of bbq'd meat and cold beer.

Robert Simpson, Barrie's local brewery situated in a lovely building on the waterfront, will be joined by Toronto's Great Lakes brewery to provide customers some well crafted lagers and ales.

Free admission to the event.

The Session #17: Drinking Against the Grain

The subject for July's Session as chosen by Rob DeNunzio of Pfiff! could be summed up thusly: Drinking anti-seasonally. Think of this as the unorthodox cousin of such topics as "beer and food" and "beer and music". Beer and weather, perhaps? More like beer despite the weather, I guess. Cracking open a Guinness on the beach, finishing a day of yard work with a Speedway Stout, or whatever else you do that raises an eyebrow, do us all a favor an take a few moments to share your non-conformist tale.

I am getting bad at having these done on time. Last night I fully intended to sit down and crack open a beer that would be classified as a winter warmer or good for a cool rainy day in front of a fire. But life throws curve balls and last night I took a swing and missed, thus this post will be completed based what I would have drank and why I feel it would have gone against the grain of the beautiful summer night, down by my places in the beaches.

Stephen Beaumont was the first person to post on Session #17 early last week, as he had to head off to sunny Mexico to tie the knot (congratulations!!). He used Paradox Islay, a delicious Imperial Stout produced by Scotland's Brew Dog Brewery as his beer of choice. I received a bottle from my good friends at Roland and Russell Import agency two weeks ago and planned on using it for this post. But Mr. Beaumont did such a wonderful job and to avoid embarrassment by trying to emulate his post, I will change gears.

So, drinking against the grain? Well, I truly believe that there is a beer style out there for any occasion. Hot or cold, raining or snowing, sunny or gloomy, having a meal or socializing, there is a beer that I can choose from my stash that will compliment the situation perfectly (in my opinion). So on a beautiful sunny afternoon a flavourful pilsner like King Pilsner from King Brewery or Creemore Springs Pilsner on the patio of a local independently owned pub would be perfect. An English style pale ale from Black Oak would quench the thirst and provide that hoppiness I adore all days of the year.

One beer that doesn't necessarily fit the bill for a hot summer night would be Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen. A beer that is smoke infused, features aroma's of a charred campfire and burnt bacon and has a medium body. It would not be the first beer I'd reach for in the dog days of summer. But what a beer it is. If you are closer to the source, Church Key's Holy Smoke would work for this experiment as well. These beers are perfect with caramelized big bbq'd meats, or sitting around the fire at the cottage, but that's kinda difficult when you live in an apartment in Toronto.

I guess in retrospect it is kind of difficult to go against the grain when it comes to beer. It may be a hot and humid day that requires a thirst quencher, but firing up the grill and barbecuing a big steak with stinky cheese will require a hearty, full bodied ale to compliment the meat. This is where is gets tricky. However, if I'm sneaking some cans down to the beach or indulging in some cold ones after a ball game, I'm gonna go for beers that better suit the atmosphere.

This whole post doesn't really make any sense and I'm wondering why I'm even going to post it. But post I will and make what you want of it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008 Eulogy of the Pub

Browsing through the beer news today I happened upon who has a large drink feature that included an article by Paul Maidment. Maidment provides readers with his thoughts on the status of the English pub. Very interesting and entertaining read. Click here to read the story.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Magic Oven: Queen St. East: Toronto,ON

Pizza and beer. Is there any other combination that goes together as well as pizza and beer? Especially great, locally produced, independently owned, all natural pizza full of wonderful colour and mega flavour?

Magic Oven is a Toronto based franchise that was founded by husband and wife team, Tony and Abby Sabherwal back in 1997. Due to their tremendous success, the Sabherwal’s have since opened up five more locations throughout the city and also offer catering services. Magic Oven focuses on making outstanding pizza's with all natural, local and organic ingredients as well as providing those with dietary restrictions the option of choosing between a gluten free, whole wheat or organic spelt crusts and even vegan or lactose-free cheese. Picture Pizza Hut on steroids, without the grease, cheap and fatty ingredients and better value. It's a place that caters to the most basic pizza eater - the carnivore with a meaty pizza, to the most sophisticated with their signature pizza consisting of an organic spelt crust topped with a 24 karat gold leaf.

For over a month I took great interest in the sign displayed in the window of 360 Queen St East, just east of Parliament street, notifying the general public that a new Magic Oven restaurant would soon occupy the once run down location (formerly Only In Paradise Café). What really caught my attention though was the fact that it would be a pizza and 'pint' restaurant, something Toronto is sadly lacking. Magic Oven locations are primarily walk in's and take out counters, with the exception of the smaller bar at the Danforth location, but this one promised to be different, complete with a large sit down dining area and back patio. Everyday on my streetcar ride home from work I would anxiously peer out the window to see if there was life inside the building and just two weeks ago, June 16th to be exact, the newest member of the Magic Oven family opened their doors.

Monday night my fiancée and I headed down Queen St to indulge in one of the great pizza pies and indulge we did. The first thing I looked for upon entering was the bar to see what was offered on tap. Much to my pleasure, the draught handles were all from reputable large and small craft breweries and no multi-national mainstream lagers were present. Creemore Springs Traditional Lager, Okanagan Springs Pale Ale, Blanche De Chambly, Mill St. Tankhouse, Belgian Wit and Organic Lager, Steam Whistle, and Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsner were all standing to attention, waiting to be consumed. Don’t let the Moosehead draught tower surprise you though, it’s not on tap. So why these beers? Tony proclaimed that these are the beers he currently enjoys drinking in the comfort of his home, or out at another restaurant, and wanted to introduce them to his loyal customers. It is a solid line-up and a great start for the new direction of this Magic Oven location. Based on the diversity of the draught line-up, one could easily match their pint with their pizza selection.

Walking in through the front doors you'd think you just stepped into a new pub; that is if you didn't pay attention to the large Magic Oven Pizza sign hanging above the two large bay windows that overlook Queen St. It has that pub feel and appearance without the smell of stale beer. There is wood everywhere. Not in the sense of a faux pas Irish pub. Rustic wooden support beams, a nicely polished cherry hardwood floor throughout the dining area and a beautiful large wooden bar located to the right upon entering. The bar comes lined with 6 wooden bar back chairs and vases full of flowers sit atop. The left brick wall has been left exposed providing more character and a small water fountain ornament provides the gentle soothing sound fountains are known for. The high ceiling is covered with rusty gold coloured dimpled tin which reflects that of an English pub and the absence of televisions make for a perfect spot for socializing without made man distractions. The music varies from old classics to new age rock and I didn’t hear one Jessica Simpson song. Although new, there is a lot personality in this place.

There is a great patio located in the back of the restaurant that features a retracting roof, much like the Skydome…..I mean Rogers Centre (sorry Teddy, it will always be the Skydome to me). There are two trees poking up through the roof on each side of the brick laden patio which provides just enough shade to keep patrons cool in the long hot days of summer. The dining area and patio allow for 65 customers and another 10 or so can fit at the bar, bringing the capacity to around 75. So, what about the pizza?

The pizza is simply fantastic. I could go on and on about the hundreds of different local ingredients used in their creations, but I would rather you try it for yourself. We ordered the BBQ Magic pizza: Tangy bbq sauce, grilled chicken, portabello mushrooms, bacon and asiago cheese. I hadn’t had a Steam Whistle on draught for quite some time and I thought it would match well with the grilled chicken and asiago cheese and it turned out to be a spot on pairing. The earthiness of the pilsner complimented the fresh ingredients and let the tangy bbq sauce come through and shine on its own. Visit Magic Oven’s website to view more of their award winning pies, like their Tropical Magic, a pizza covered with pineapple and coconut that would work well with Blanche de Chambly, or their Meaty Magic that a Mill St. Tankhouse would be incredible with. The prices are terrific for the quality your getting, ranging anywhere from $13 for a basic pie to over $100 for that aforementioned gold leaf pizza.

Our server Drew was fantastic. Efficient, friendly and speedy were his main attributes, which made us feel comfortable immediately. While the dining area wasn’t bursting with customers, he provided us with exceptional service and took the time to provide some information about his newest employer. Spero Kalis, general manager of the full service location is thrilled about the possibilities of doing some craft beer and pizza pairings and plans are in the works for their first one. “We have a pizza for everyone and a beer that will work wonders beside it,” stated Kalis. Tony is also excited about having beer dinners at the new location as he exclaimed during a recent telephone conversation.

This new Magic Oven is really magic and will no doubt see a steady flow of customers in the coming months….pardon me, coming years. A rustic comfortable setting with great food and the right beer to go with it makes for a winning recipe.

Magic Oven
360 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

And a Happy 2nd B-Day to Beau's

It also happens to be Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.'s 2nd birthday today.

Beau's has seen tremendous support since starting up two years ago and over the winter I had a chance to catch up with Steve for some pints at Beerbistro and got my hands on some lovely swing top ceramic bottles of their Lug Tread Lagered-ale and Bog Water Dirty Brown Ale which I posted about here.So, Happy Birthday to the big family over in Vanleek Hill who will be holding a grand party no doubt.

Congratulations Steve and crew, keep up the hard work and producing your excellent beers!
Newer Posts Older Posts Home

Winter Ale