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.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Volo Cask Days Updated List

There are still a bunch of tickets available for purchase for numerous sessions of Volo's 4th annual Cask Days event.

Friday Oct 17, 12-4 - 81 left $40
Friday Oct 17, 6-10 - 8 left $35
Saturday Oct 18, 10-12-4 - 4 left $65
Sunday Oct 19, 12-4 - 32 left $35
Sunday Oct 19, 6-10 - 75 left $35

The list of breweries participating has also been updated. Here is the list as it appears on More still to come.

Beau's All Natural Brewing, TBA
Scotch Irish Brewing Co., Corporal Punishment Brown Ale
Barley Days Brewery, Wind & Sail Dark Ale
Church Key Brewing, West Coast Pale Ale
Hockley Valley Brewing, Traditional Irish Stout
Robert Simpson Brewing, *TBA
King Brewery, Unfiltered King Pilsner
Magnotta Brewery, *Unfiltered Hopped Real Lager
Maclean's Ales, Maclean's Pale Ale - Dry Hopped
Neustadt Springs Brewery, TBA
Wellington Brewery, Iron Duke Strong Ale
F & M Brewing, *George's Double Red
Grand River, Mill Race Mild
Stratford Brewing, Empire Common
Pepperwood Bistro/Brewery, Cream Ale
Nickle Brook Beer, *English Bitter
Trafalgar Brewing Co, Smoked Oatmeal Stout
Cameron's Brewing Co., TBA
County Durham Brewing Co., Hop Addict IPA
Mill Street Brewery, Green Hopped Tankhouse
Granite Brewery, Peculiar Strong Ale
C'est What, TBA
Amsterdam Brewing Co, Pale Ale - Dry Hopped
Great Lakes Brewery, Pumpkin Ale
Black Oak Brewing Co., Nut Brown Ale
Saint Andre Brewing, *Doug's Hop Masher Ale
Denison's Brewing Co., Dunkel Lager
Scotch Irish Brewing Co., Sgt Major IPA
Church Key Brewing Co., Purple Loosestife Mead
County Durham Brewing Co., Hop Head IPA
Wellington Brewing Co., Arkell Best Bitter
F & M Brewery, Stonehammer Dark Ale
Grand River Brewing Co., Plowmans Ale
Mill Street Brewery, Coffee Porter
Granite Brewery, *American IPA
Amsterdam Brewing Co., TBA
Great Lakes Brewing Co., *TBA
Black Oak Brewing Co., *Pale Ale
Church Key Brewing Co., *TBA
Durham's Brewing Co., TBA
Wellington Brewing Co., County Dark Ale
Niagara's Best Beer, Niagara's Best Blond - Dry Hopped
Railway City Brewing Co., Iron Spike Ale

Olympic Fundraiser: Abbot on the Hill

This Thanksgiving weekend why don't you come out and join the staff of the Abbot on the Hill as they launch, for the 1st time in Ontario, the Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen at their Oktoberfest Olympic fundraiser.

The Abbot on the Hill will only be open to ticket holders on Saturday October 11th & Sunday October 12th. Tickets can be purchased directly from the Abbot on the Hill at . and can only be purchased in person. It should be noted that this event will sell out.

Your $20 ticket entitles you to admittance, a choice of five authentic traditional Oktoberfest dishes for your dinner/ brunch, door prizes, silent auctions featuring signed paraphernalia from our Olympic athletes, and if you are one of the first fifty in the door you keep you authentic branded glassware.

Proceeds from the two day event benefit five young ladies from the Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and one of the Men’s Eight Man Rowing teams. There will also be some Olympic athletes in attendance to chat with the crowd and sign autographs.

Unlike other Oktoberfests in the province this event will not feature generic lagers from massive corporations, but ONLY authentic Oktoberfest beers, and traditional Oktoberfest food.

So, what beers will be featured you ask?

  • As previously mentioned, the Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen will be available on draught for the first time in Ontario,

  • The Konig Ludwig Weisse. Named after Crown Prince Ludwig who later became King Ludwig I,

  • The Hacker Pschorr Dunkel Weisse featuring Hacker-Pschorr's centuries-old, exclusive yeast strain, Hallertau hops and 60% malted wheat and 40% malted barley,

  • The Hacker Pschorr Pils the classic favourite and one of the 1st beers to be imported to the United States in the 19th century,

  • Warsteiner Premium Verum & Dunkel. Warsteiner is brewed with fresh Arnsberger Forest spring water sourced at the brewery in Warsteiner, Germany. Soft water helps create the smooth taste and thick creamy head. Brewed according to the German Purity beer law of 1516.

So as you can see from the press release above, this event sounds like an all around good time with some terrific beers and all for the low price of $20 a ticket. Get yours today and help one of Toronto's friendliest beer bars assist our Canadian Olympic athletes in the years to come!

For a copy of the Menu E-mail Adam at .

Picture at top borrowed from

Monday, September 29, 2008

Canadian Brewing Awards Gala Wrap-Up

I wrote this in a hurry as my weekend was packed with adventure (bachelor party) and hockey pools, so forgive me if this post jumps around a bit.

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks I have been part of a team that spent many hours trying to put together a terrific gala that would recognize the best in the Canadian brewing industry. All that tireless work paid off on September 25th, as TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine hosted a posh celebration at 'The Richmond' in front of a packed house of brewers, brewery representatives, media personnel and other members of the industry like LCBO and Beer Store managers.

The doors opened to the invite only guests shortly before 6:30 just after all the finishing touches were completed. Each invitee received a sampling glass and a program detailing the schedule for the night ahead. Beers from the winning breweries were shipped earlier in the week and had been chilling on ice for a couple of house. Excited guests were eager to step up to the serving area for a taste of some of the best beers Canada has to offer. Hits of the night belonged to Alberta's Wild Rose brewery for their Barley Wine, and Garrison's Imperial Pale Ale, which won a gold medal (tap handle) in the IPA category as well as winning the distinction of Canada's Beer of the Year (also won last year).

With many of the guests present, the Esplanade's Fionn MacCool's pub, who had donated food, started delivering platters of tuna sliders, beef taco wraps, french fries, veggie and cheese trays and more snacks to various tables, keeping everyone's stomach satisfied.

There was also a silent auction taking place for a handful of pricey wares. Toronto Maple Leaf tickets, dvd players, phones, hockey memorabilia and OCB materials were part of the auction and proceeds were ear-marked for the Dreams Take Flight Foundation. This silent auction was new to the beer scene and one that people could appreciate.

Stephen Beaumont was the MC for the night and he took the mic at 8pm to officially start announcing the winners, who up until then still had no idea what they were winning. They only knew that their product had medaled. Introductions were made and after a brief technical mishap Beaumont welcomed the first set of winners to the make-shift stage. Beaumont was brief, to the point and ensured the progression of the award winners was timely and efficient. The crowd seemed loose, yet you could feel the curiosity in the air.

After getting through 12 categories in rapid succession, Beaumont broke for a short intermission and people went back to mingling. It was great to see so many east and west coast brewers/owners in attendance chatting with their counterparts from Ontario and Alberta. Greg Nash from New Brunswick's Pump House brewery discussed the LCBO standards with a number of the provincially run beer retail employees, a colourful member of Phillips Brewery from BC was making friends with the crowd of Ontario brewers and the large group of Mill Street employees and supporters occupied the upper mezzanine and watched their products clean up, going on to win Brewery of the Year again. More and more support flowed in from breweries all over the nation, both large and small. However, the absence of many notable Ontario and Quebec breweries was noticed and plans are too attract them early in the 2009 year to plant to seed for next years awards.

It was great to see people like Michael Hancock of Denison's win an award. Hancock has previously mentioned that he doesn't like to enter his beer into awards, but this year he took a chance, bottled his Weissbier into a 500ml bottle and came out with a silver medal. Grand River's silver medal and Picaroon's two medals were both great to hear announced and listening to Brian Titus's speech for Beer of the Year was uplifting.

With the awards all handed out and photographs taken, a group of us decided to head over to Smokeless Joe's for a couple of pints. A number of east coast brewing representatives made the short walk down Richmond street and were joined by some folks from Cameron's, Great Lakes and Phillips. Cameron's Dark Lager flowed from the TAPS as we celebrated its Gold medal and Joe was still around to provide us with a good time. After a while I made (staggered) my way to the door and headed home. As I rode the streetcar to my abode, I looked back over the previous hours and realized that we had in fact pulled off a great night to which we can all be proud of.

Congratulations to all of the winners! It was great seeing you all and thanks for coming.

To read more about the judging, pick up the latest issue of TAPS at your local Chapters/Indigo or select magazine retailer.

Photo Credits from top to bottom: Gold, Silver, Bronze tap handle trophies, Denison's Michael Hancock and Stephen Beaumont, Garrison's Brian Titus with his Beer of the Year tap handle and Beer Store manager.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ontario Brewers To Receive Government Support

Read the story here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Complete List of 2008 Canadian Brewing Award Winners

Here are the list of winners from tonight's 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards Gala.

North American Style Lager
GOLD – Carling, Molson-Coors Canada (ON)
SILVER – Laker Lager, Brick Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Cool Beer, Cool Beer Brewing Co. (ON)

North American Style Premium Lager
GOLD – Lighthouse Lager, Lighthouse Brewing Co. (BC)
SILVER – Old Credit Pale Pilsner, Old Credit Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Great Western Premium, Great Western Brewing Co. (SK)

European Style Lager (Pilsner)
GOLD – Pilsner, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – Rocky Mountain Genuine Lager, Fernie Brewing Co. (BC)
BRONZE – Traditional Pilsner, Creemore Springs (ON)

North American Style Amber Lager
GOLD – Millennium Buzz Beer, Cool Brewing Co. (ON)
SILVER – Dutch Amber, Amsterdam Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Red Leaf Smooth Leaf Lager, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (ON)

Bock – Traditional German Style
GOLD – Helles Bock, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – Nickel Brook Ice Bock, Best Bitters Brewing Co. (ON)

North American Style Dark Lager
GOLD – Cameron’s Dark Lager, Cameron’s Brewing Co. (ON)
SILVER – Two Rivers Red, Fort Garry Brewing Co. (MB)
BRONZE – Waterloo Dark, Brick Brewing Co. (ON)

Light (Calorie Reduced) Lager
GOLD – Brewhouse Light, Great Western Brewing Co. (SK)
SILVER – Coors Light, Molson-Coors Canada (ON)
BRONZE - Moosehead Light, Moosehead Brewing Co. (NB)

Wheat Beer – Belgian Style “White”
GOLD – Tessiev’s Witbier, Buckerfield’s Brewery (Swans) (BC)
SILVER – Belgian Wit, Granville Island Brewery (BC)
BRONZE – Blanche de Chambly, Unibroue (QU)

Wheat Beer – German Style Hefeweizen
GOLD – Hefeweizen, Tree Brewing Co. (BC)
SILVER – Denison’s Weissbier, Denison’s (Michael Hancock) (ON)
BRONZE – Whistler Weissbier, Whistler Brewing Co. (BC)

Wheat Beer – North American Style
GOLD – Sungod Wheat Ale, R&B Brewing Co. (BC)
SILVER – Velvet Fog, Wild Rose Brewery Ltd. (AB)

Strong or Belgian Style Ale
GOLD – La Fin Du Monde, Unibroue (QU)
SILVER – La Maudite, Unibroue (QU)
BRONZE – Surley Blonde, Phillips Brewing Co. (BC)

North American Style Amber/Red Ale
GOLD – Yukon Red Amber Ale, Yukon Brewing Co. (YK)
SILVER – Cameron’s Auburn Ale, Cameron’s Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Fire Chief’s Red Ale, Pump House Brewery Ltd. (NB)

Cream Ale
GOLD – Sleeman Cream Ale, Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (ON)
SILVER – Cameron’s Cream Ale, Cameron’s Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – True North Cream Ale, Magnotta Brewery Ltd. (ON)

North American Style Blond or Golden Ale
GOLD – Stock Ale, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – Griffon Extra Pale Ale, McAuslan Brewing Co. (QU)

English Style Pale Ale (Bitter)
GOLD – Picaroons Best Bitter, Northampton Brewing Co. (NB)
SILVER – ESB, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
BRONZE – Swans ESB, Buckerfield’s Brewery (Swans) (BC)

North American Style Pale Ale/Bitter
GOLD – Tankhouse Ale, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – Plowman’s Ale, Grand River Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – SOB (Special Old Bitter), Pump House Brewery Ltd. (NB)

Barley Wine
GOLD – Barley Wine 2007, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – Barley Wine, Wild Rose Brewery Ltd. (AB)
BRONZE – Barley Wine, Pump House Brewery Ltd. (NB)

India Pale Ale
GOLD – Garrison Imperial Pale Ale, Garrison Brewing Co. (NS)
SILVER – Hop Head India Pale Ale, Tree Brewing Co. (BC)
BRONZE – Amnesiac IPA, Phillips Brewing Co. (BC)

Brown Ale
GOLD – Hockley Dark Traditional English Ale, Hockley Valley Brewing Co. (ON)
SILVER – Swans Appleton Brown Ale, Buckerfield’s Brewery (Swans) (BC)
BRONZE – First Trax Brown Ale, Fernie Brewing Co. (BC)

Scotch Ale
GOLD – Scotch Ale, Pump House Brewery Ltd. (NB)
SILVER – Scotch Ale, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

GOLD – St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewing Co. (QU)
SILVER – Hockley Stout Traditional Irish Ale, Hockley Valley Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Cobblestone Stout, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

GOLD – Coffee Porter, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
SILVER – John Sleeman Presents Fine Porter, Sleeman Brewing & Malting Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Man’s Best Friend Porter, Picaroons, Northampton Brewing Co. (NB)

Fruit & Vegetable Beer
GOLD – Longboat Chocolate Porter, Phillips Brewing Co. (BC)
SILVER – Pommegranate Wheat, Amsterdam Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Framboise, Amsterdam Brewing Co. (ON)

Special Honey/Maple Lager or Ale
GOLD – Great Lakes Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (ON)
SILVER – Honey Brown, Niagara Falls Brewing Co. (ON)
BRONZE – Old Credit Holiday Honey, Old Credit Brewing Co. (ON)

Beer of the Year - Garrison Brewing Co. - Imperial IPA (Highest scoring beer of the judging) (two years in a row).

Brewery of the Year - Mill Street Brewery (ON) (two years in a row).

2008 LCBO Gift Packs

Listed below is the official LCBO gift pack release that will start hitting stores shortly. Sorry there's no pictures yet, some are on the way.

Westmalle Gift Pack with Glass $13.95 660ml
This attractive gift box contains one bottle each of the world famous Trappist Ales Westmalle Dubbel and Westmalle Tripel along with a stunning cut crystal logo'd chalice.

Samuel Smith's Selection Box $12.95 1650ml
This is an attractive gift box containing one 550mL bottle each of Samuel Smith's world-famous Oatmeal Stout, Pale Ale and Nut Brown Ale along with a classic tulip pint glass displaying the Yorkshire Rose, Smith's emblem and two authentic pub coasters. The box gives tasting notes for each beer as well as food pairings.

St Peter's Twinpack with Glass $11.95 1000ml
This is an attractive gift box containing one 550mL bottle each of St. Peter's Ruby Red Ale and St. Peter's IPA along with an impressive logo's pint glass.

Stella Artois L'Etoile (gift pack Chalice with glass) $6.95 330ml
One 330mL Stella Artois bottle and the elegant Stella Artois 330mL chalice presented in a high quality cylinder packaging. Stella Artois is a flavourful yet exceptionally thirst-quenching beer with a wonderful hop aroma. Stella Artois compliments lighter tasting foods such as mussels, pastas, cheese and seafood.

Fruili Strawberry Beer (4 units) $14.50 1000
White Fruit Beer is a classic Belgian beer style that has its roots in the beginning of brewing. Fruli is smooth and rounded and it is packed with natural fruit flavour. Enjoy the extremely refreshing and delicious taste of Fruli in a very stylish "Fruli" glass.

Marston's Pedigree $11.95 1000
We only use natural Burton spring water and traditional varieties of barley and hops (Maris Otter Barley, Fuggles and Goldings hops), rather then less expensive, commercially grown, modern hybrids. Unique in this world, it is still brewed in the oak casks of the Burton Union to preserve its unique character, consisten quality and taste. Many brewers have abandoned this traditional method of brewin over the years due to its extra cost and labour intensive maintenance which requires a skilled cooper to constantly service the wooden casks. It has been the commitment and belief of each Marston's Head Brewer to preserve the extra effort that goes into each brew that makes Marston's Pedigree such an exceptional beer. When you want a truly exceptional premium ale, Don't compromise, choose Pedigree.

Mill Street Barley Wine $11.95 500ml
Mill Street Barley Wine is a unique and innovative seasonal offering. The strong yet malty flavour is a great compliment to cuisine or served alone as a post-dinner beverage. It's flavour characteristics are fruity and sweet yet it still possesses a definite beer profile. The 2008 Mill Street Barley Wine will be packaged in a high quality 500mL ceramic bottle.

Exclusive Belgian Ales $16.20 1980ml
Six award-winning, bottle-conditioned "living beers". Three traditional beers from Bornem Abbey, two powerful barleywines, Gulden Draak and Piraat, and refreshing amber Breugel. With alcohol ranging from 5.2% to 10.5%, this is a heady taste of the best that Belgium has to offer.

Christoffel Bier Winterbier Jug $29.95 2000ml
Christoffel Blond is a world-class, assertively dry, Pilsener style lager, considered by many to be the World's Best Pilsener. Enjoy it in the beautiful 2L jug decorated with a colourful winter scene in the European "Winterbier" tradition

Maredsous Gift Box with Glass $14.95 990ml
This is an attractive gift box of 3 well known Abbey ales plus an attractive glass with the abbey logo.

Deuchars IPA $16.25 500ml
Caledonian Brewery's award winning beer with Scotland's own International Best Selling Author Ian Rankin present a golden India Pale Ale with a brilliant blend of malt and hop character making it extremely smooth and drinkable.

Wernesgruner Party Keg $23.80 5000ml
A fine German pilsner, Wernesgruner has hoppy notes, which are well balanced by an underlying maltiness. This well-carbonated beer has a dry, refreshing finish. The keg is a convenient 5L size.

Bitburger Premium Beer and Glass $13.00 1980ml
Bitburger is a classic pilsner from Germany's Rhineland. Light, aromatic and clean-tasting, it opens with a round, sweet maltiness followed by a dry, hoppy finish. This gift contains 6 bottles of Bitburger Premium pilsner and a branded glass.

Hobgoblin Glass and Bottle Gift Set $6.95 500ml
Hobgoblin is brewed using chocolate malt and some crystal malt. This gives the beer both the dry biscuit flavour with the elements of chocolate coffee from the Chocolate malt, and the sweet toffee flavours from the crystal malt. Fuggles hops provide a full, robust, rich almost marmalade background flavour. This is the flagship brand of the Wychwood Brewery. A bottle of the dark ruby coloured Hobgoblin and a branded glass in a delightfully embossed tube make up this delightful seasonal gift pack. The metal container is very sturdy and can be re-used in a variety of ways.

Biere du Boucanier Mixed Pack $16.95 1980ml
This mixed pack contains two bottles each of Boucanier Red, Dark and Golden. Three excellent Belgian ales produced by renowned brewery Van Steenberge.

Chimay Gift Pack with Glass $13.95 990ml
An attractive gift box of famous Trappist Ales.

Maredsous Gift Box with Glass $14.95 990ml
This is an attractive gift box of 3 well known Abbey ales plus an attractive glass with the abbey logo.

Taste of Belgium (Gift Pack) $19.95 990ml
A special selection of Belgian brands including: Stella Artois, Hoegaarden and Leffe Blonde and their signature glassware, representing the finest of the Belgian brewing tradition. Stella Artois: a slightly fruity lager, in which a subtle Saaz hop aroma can be recognized. The hop aroma has no pronounced citrus, floral or green character. Hoegaarden: authentic Belgian wheat or white beer with a cloudy/white appearance. Fruity, spicy (clove, coriander), herbal and citrus (orange) notes. Slight sweetness, slight and a low bitterness. Leffe Brune: Dark chocolate coloured with a slight nutty character and a subtle sweetness.

Erdinger Bavaria $10.45 1000
Erdinger Weissbier is the No. 1 Wheat beer in the world. This pack includes the flavourful "Dunkel" along with the world-famous "Hefeweizen". You can enjoy both in the famous Erdinger Bavarian Exclusive Weissbier glass.

De Koninck Belgian $14.45 1320
De Koninick ("The King" in Flemish) is the famous beer of Antwerp, Belgium. Enjoy all 4 styles of the De Koninck range in your very own famous De Koninck "Bolleke" ("small bowl" in Flemish) glass.

Corona 710 ml Gift Pack $10.95 710ml
The Corona Extra gift pack includes a 710mL bottle of Corona Extra, two Corona glasses and a bottle opener. Smooth-tasting Corona Extra is the premium quality imported beer of choice in Canada. Made with the finest ingredients, this superb brew is a favourite with true beer connoisseurs.

Coronita Gift Pack $14.95 207ml
The Coronita gift pack includes 6 207mL bottles of Coronitas and one full-colour Coronita bucket. Smooth-tasting Corona Extra is the premium quality imported beer of choice in Canada. Made with the finest ingredients, this superb brew is a favourite with true beer connoisseurs.

Christoffel Winterse Bok Brown Jug $27.95 2000ml
A bottom fermented bock beer, deep brown with reddish shine. Hearty and strong, one of the best bocks in Holland. Enjoy it in this elegant 2L brown painted jug.
Grolsch Premium Lager 1.5 Litre $11.95 1500 ml This product is a 1.5 litre magnum bottle of Grolsch Premium Lager. Grolsch Premium Lager is brewed slowly for a smooth, distinctive taste, using all natural ingredients, malted barley, hops and water.

Steam Whistle Brewing $27.95 341ml
Steam Whistle, brewer of Canada's Premium Pilsner, offers this Retro Wall-mounted Opener for your home bar, cottage or chalet. Open your beer with style! Steam Whistle beer is a medium golden colour, fresh hop aromas and flavours with a crisp, clean finish.

DAB original keg $21.95 5000ml
DAB offers a fabulous crisp, bull-bodied, and mildly-hopped taste of excellence.

Triple Threat $9.95 3x200ml
Contains three of Canada's strongest and most fascinating beers, Korruptor, Critical Mass and Black Bullet. These beers were the most popular beers at the Toronto Festival of Beer.

Historic Ales of Scotland (Year Round) $13.05 4 x 330 ml
This gift pack includes brews made from heather, elderberries, goosberries and spruce (yes, spruce).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beer Dinner with Garrett Oliver

A Friday night beer dinner in Toronto recently provided me with a couple of firsts. First time meeting Garrett Oliver, brew master of Brooklyn Brewery and champion of beer and food pairings, and another first as the dinner was held at a pub, a Prime Pub.

Fionn MacCool’s recently announced a craft beer promotion that a number of their establishments are participating in from September 8 to November 30. To help promote it, Prime Pubs (who owns a number of places) brought in Oliver to host a bunch of media personnel that featured three of Brooklyn’s signature beers. Each beer was paired with individual dishes to which Oliver provided a highly entertaining and educated speech regarding why the pairing was chosen.

Let me take a small step back before I get into the dinner.

Upon arrival we were greeted at the door and quickly ushered to the bar for complimentary glasses of Brooklyn Lager, a new addition to Fionn’s draught line-up. It was interesting to see all the other patrons at Fionn’s ordering glasses of the lager as they watched our group walk away with ours. Normally known for their sales of Keith’s and Guinness, I observed a large amount of Brooklyn being served.

As Josh Rubin (Toronto Star) sat interviewing Oliver, the rest of us talked shop and rummaged through out gift packs like kids at Christmas; well at least I did. I finally had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with Oliver before the dinner started, asking him questions that will be featured in the winter issue of TAPS: Canada’s Beer Magazine.

I found Oliver to be an engaging and patient listener who carefully dissected each question before providing a beautifully prepared response. He was a wonderful speaker, very articulate without coming across as arrogant. I asked him questions about the Brooklyn brewery, new beers on the market, his dealings with the LCBO, inquired about his knowledge on Canadian beers and talked about his world renowned book: The Brewmaster’s Table.

After completing the interview I took up my seat beside friend and fellow beer writer Greg Clow and buckled in for the three course meal. Oliver addressed the crowd, which included the entire pub as our group wasn’t secluded from the rest of the Friday night contingent of pub-goers. He spoke about the diversity of beer, the ingredients in bread and cheese (very interesting) and shared a little background information for the rest of the media. Once finished, the first plate of food was served.

Atlantic Salmon with a maple-citrus glaze was served with a glass of Brooklyn Local 1 and the match was nice as the carbonation of the Belgian style ale cut through the fatty oils of the salmon. Round two was chicken tikka masala boxty complimented by Brooklyn’s East India Pale Ale. The chicken wasn’t very spicy which was the goal and Oliver himself said the matching would have been better with more spice. A sirloin burger, actually, a big sirloin burger was the third dish and brought back the glasses of the lager. Nicely done.

Oliver also visited each table numerous times to greet all the guests and thanked them for attending. He shared some stories with our table about the slow food movement and why he is so passionate about good food and good beer.

At the end of the night, Oliver and the rest of the Prime Pub crew headed over to the Bier Markt for what would be their first stop along many as Oliver wanted to see what Toronto beer bars offer. Earlier in the day he had visited C’est What and was pretty impressed with what he had. He had wanted to get back to Beerbistro, but unfortunately due to the flood they weren’t open. I followed along (only to Bier Markt) to take some photo's for the magazine and had another chance to share a pint with Oliver one-on-one. His passion is certainly infectious and his knowledge is astounding.

It was a good night, full of laughs, good speeches and good beer.

For full details on the event and pairings, be sure to check out the winter issue of TAPS as Clow’s wife Sheryl will have a full report.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TBA: 2008 Canadian Brewing Award Winners

Just a friendly reminder to check back here on Thursday, September 25th around 8pm to see the complete list of winners from this year's 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards.

There were 24 categories ranging from Light lagers to Brown Ales to India Pale Ales to Barley Wines, that were judged by 13 certified beer judges. There are some big surprises, so make sure to tune in.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Beau's Bottles Come Back Through New Program

Bottle returns through Operation Go Home

Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. has been having some issues getting their attractive ceramic bottles returned from the Beer Store, and over the last couple of months Beau's has been working on a plan to get their bottles back in one piece. Here is the latest news.

Great News everybody...we've found an awesome solution to our bottle return issue (the Beer Store won't give them back to us).

We've partnered with Operation Go Home, an Ottawa based youth shelter, to get the bottles back to us.

Starting November 1 we will hold a monthly bottle drive on the first Saturday of the month at various places in the city. The project will employ up to 8 street youth at a time with the plan to have them 'graduate' out of the program on a regular basis, so that over the course of the year, literally dozens of unemployed street youth will gain employment experience and confidence and hopefully get off the street.

As part of the project, we are hoping to set up permanent bottle return depots in the city...this is where I need your help. We are looking for places that can temporarliy hold bottles. If you have a business that has the space and want to help with this project, please email me at or call me at .

This is very exciting news and it is great to turn a problem into a real win-win situation.



So, good news all around.

The English Pub: Michael Jackson

The English Pub: A Unique Social Phenomenon

This is not a new book. In fact it's very old.

I was walking down Queen Street East when I stumbled into a small, un-organized, used book shop with a name I can't begin to remember and I came across this fabulous read by the late Michael Jackson. I have always wanted to purchase this book but it has been incredibly hard to find and expensive, if going the on-line route. You can buy a copy for $129.31 on!

Well I was luckier than that. I only paid $15 and twenty minutes later I was sitting in my favourite chair flipping the colourful pages with a Brakspear 'Double Drop' Bitter by my side.

This was Jackson's first of many books and was published in 1976 at the time when the UK pub business was stagnant and just years after Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was organized. The 170 pages contain beautifully written material on everything from the history of the pub, to pub signs to pub games and all the good stuff in between. Jackson wrote from the heart, which is both aspiring and inspirational to a pub loving person such as myself. I jumped chapter to chapter, turning pages and admiring the photographs of some of Jackson beloved pubs.

Jackson wrote about how the pub has influenced British culture in both the large metropolitan cities and the country-side villages. Each place craving out a niche that is unique in their own right. He paints a picture of their importance in British society as he quotes, "In the country especially, the pub is an organic part of the community," and he discusses how other countries have their cafes, dark bars and seedy booze shacks, but the English own the pubs. "When England presents itself to the world at large, the images usually include a pub," Jackson states in the last chapter , The Living Local: Social Changes in the Pub.

However, with the success and popularity of the storied English pub, has come imitators the world over, along with fake Irish pubs. These fake pubs have brought with them full food menu's and place an importance on the gastronomic nature of their being. This pleases a many of pub patrons in today's society and I enjoy gastropubs myself; however, I, as well as Jackson, appreciate that the availability of food should not blemish the drinking.

"Pub is a three-letter word that serves so many purposes"

The world's most famous beer author ends the English Pub with words that should be forever etched in stone and words that I strongly believe in - "Those who love the institution will continue to investigate it. Because no two pubs are the same, the search can never reach a conclusion. Therein lies its joy."

It has been just over a year since Jackson passed away from a heart attack after battling Parkinson's disease for many years, and reading The English Pub for the first time I felt I developed a better understanding of the man who opened the doors for serious beer writers across the world. And to that I raise my glass.

* I also found an original copy of Jackson's Beers of the World in near perfect condition at the same store - $10.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Abbot on the Hill Czechvar Launch: October 6th

Czechvar Pilsner is making its 1st appearance in Ontario, come October, and the Abbot on the Hill will be hosting a launch party on behalf of the Czech Republican brewery.

A delegation from the Czech Consulate will be representing their country's most famous beer, as the Counsel and Vice - Counsel will be in attendance. The menu, which is Czech inspired, was stamped with their approval.

On October 6th, join the staff of the Abbot and consulate representatives for the launch of Czechvar Pilsner for the first time in Ontario on draught.

The room upstairs will be open to the public and the Abbot are doing a three course prix fixe menu for only $30.00. The $30 will include a pint of Czechvar and three fabulously prepared dishes created by the terrific kitchen staff.

Here is the menu.

  • Shaved Duck on a bed of arugula with Blueberry Vinaigrette and duck liver dumplings
  • Zapekane Rezne ( a layered pork and cheddar cream sauce )stuffed tomato in bread crumbs
  • Palcinka (crepe stuffed with strawberry and chocolate)sweet cottage cheese

Public dinner seating is at 8 PM, following an early evening media/trade reception. Call to reserve a seat.

There will be more Abbot on the Hill information to follow shortly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dementia Double IPA: Pump House Brewery

**Hop Bomb Alert**

Someone forgot to Greg Nash and the rest of the brewers at Pump House Brewery that there is a hop shortage in the brewing industry right now, or they simply seemed to ignore it. And thank god they did.

Over 100 IBU's (international bitterness units) are packed into this 341ml bottle of Dementia Double IPA, a product worthy of some attention in Canadian beer circles.

Tipping the bottle over the side of the pint glass gets the orangey/copper (just light than our famous pennies) coloured beer flowing and delivers some huge piney/resiny aroma's reminiscent of a Christmas tree. Some grapefruity, citrusy notes join in on the fun and compliment each other nicely. The hops kick you in the head and then slap you in the face once the daze wears off. The smell of the high alcohol (8.2%) wafts straight up from the glass and there are also some hints of vanilla and honey on the nose with a subtle touch of toasted malt.

The pour also produces a big fluffy cap that protects the beer from oxygen penetrating and each sip (yes, this one is a sipper) leaves behind white lacing. Each mouthful leaves my gums tingling and shocks my tongue. So much for the lager I thought about drinking later in the night.

The sharp notes of the insane amount of west coast hops used in this beer are clearly evident (Cascade, Amarillo, Tomahawk, Northern Brewer and Columbus hops). Very bitter, but also nicely balanced with some honeyish malt lingering in the background. An excellent beer with a nice warming finish that would go great with a curried shrimp dish or some dark chocolate.

The East Coast of Canada is quickly becoming a hot spot for quality produced IPA's as Pump House, Picaroon's (North Hampton Brewing), Propeller, Garrison and Rogue's Roost have all gone big on the hops. Hopefully the trend is making its way into the Ontario industry!

I like the name of the beer too, and a great label. Sadly we here in Ontario won't ever see it in the LCBO, as we all know the history of the LCBO's naming policy (Delirium Tremens).

Pump House Brewery
5 Orange Lane & 131 Mill Road
Moncton, NB

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Beau's Golden Tap Acceptance Video

The boys from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. filmed an acceptance speech that was to be aired at the Golden Tap Awards on August 23rd but the video wouldn't work. Of course by now, they know what they went on to win that night. However here it is for you to enjoy.

Congratulations Beau's!!

Left to Right: Matt (Brewer), Papa Beau, Steve

C'est What 20th Annual Fall Festival of Craft Breweries

George Milbrandt, publican of the quirky pub C'est What, notified me earlier this month to confirm the dates for his 20th annual Fall Festival of Craft Breweries. October 3rd from 5:00pm to 10:00pm has been set aside for the curious beer drinker in us, to head his way to sample some fine craft beer and some one-offs.

As with every C'est What beer festival, there will be no cover charge for admission. And for the low price of a $1, you can get a sample of some of the confirmed brews that are listed below. Please note that there will be plenty more beers announced as the date inches closer.

Amsterdam - Oktoberfest
Church Key - Rosemary Ginger Ale
Grand River - Pumpkin Ale
Great Lakes - Pumpkin Ale
Hopfenstark - Blanche De L'ermitage, Post Colonial IPA, Saison Station 55
Midland Beer Works / Hockley Valley - Georgian Bay Dipper
Niagara's Best - Blonde Dry-hopped Cask
Nickelbrook - Oak-aged Kriek
Rail City - Copper Ale
Scotch Irish / Heritage - Corporal Punishment
Sleeman - Okanagan Pale Ale
True North / Magnotta - Altbier

There is a lot of excitement for the confirmed Hopfenstark beers, especially the ever so delicious Saison. Last year's festival also brought out Grand River's Highballer Pumpkin Ale which was very good. Church Key's Lactese Falcon Sour was also available last year with mixed reviews (I enjoyed it and have since) and this year owner John Graham is bringing a Rosemary Ginger Ale which should turn heads.

I'll update the list as it becomes available.

Unfortunately I won't be able to attend this year as I have a wedding rehearsal to be at.

Creemore Mocks Film Festival

Press Release from Creemore Brewery

Enter or Attend the 3rd annual home-grown film festival Creemore Mocks!
You can win $$, fame and beer swag!
Seeking submissions, event volunteers and mockumentary lovers
Pre-festival filmmaking workshops to be held at Creemore Springs Brewery

Creemore Springs Brewery & Purple Hills Arts & Heritage Society present…

The quaint and quirky Ontario village of Creemore announces its third annual, locally-grown Film Festival encouraging budding artists and filmmakers to dig up equipment, cultivate an idea for a mockumentary movie and watch their idea blossom during the official screening at the festival event in Creemore. Deadline for film submissions is Friday, October 10 at 4 p.m.!!

Entrants are also welcome to register in advance for two filmmaking workshops: an Introduction to Mockumentary Making held by Mike Dyer, founder and director of fabulous festival of fringe film followed by an Introduction to Editing taught by a film instructor from Humber College (for both Apple & PC platforms). Register for workshops quickly, as there is a maximum of 20 participants.

Saturday, September 13, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - INTRODUCTION TO MOCK MAKING
Sunday, September 21, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - INTRODUCTION TO EDITING
Saturday, October 18, 7:30 p.m. - CREEMORE MOCKS FILM FESTIVAL

WORKSHOPS will be held at Creemore Springs Brewery, , Creemore

CREEMORE MOCKS Film Festival will be held at Station on the Green, 10 Caroline Street West, Creemore

First Prize: $500 (sponsored by Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage
Second Prize: $473 (sponsored by Creemore Springs Brewery)
Third Prize: $300 (sponsored by Creemore Echo)
Student Prize :$500 (Sponsored by Humber College)

DETAILS: Visit for entry forms, submission and event details. And check out for last year’s films.

Nestled in a valley between the Mad & Noisy Rivers, Creemore is a cultural hub brimming with local artists, galleries, studios, festivals and educational activities. It’s the ideal environment for a creative and unconventional film festival.

CONTACT: Christine Mulkins, Publicist

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dominion on Queen: Toronto, ON

I was in need of a beer. It was a hot day and after a long day at the office I decided I deserved one. I jumped on the 501 Queen streetcar and headed east toward the beaches. As the car stopped at Queen St. East and Sumach street I peered to the left and took notice of the Dominion on Queen pub and realized I had yet to step foot in the historic building. I jumped off the red rocket and entered the pub to see what it’s all about.

The pub is located right on the corner of Queen and Sumach and is attached to the once famous Dominion brewery. The huge Victorian structure was built by Robert Davies in 1878 and served the citizens of Toronto until the doors closed in 1936. One article I came across mentioned a rumour that stated Robert had owned 144 taverns in Toronto during the height of his wealth. His father, Thomas Davies had erected the Don Brewery years before in 1850. Robert was also the brewer and it seems he knew a thing or two about brewing. In 1911 he won a number of gold medals for his ales, lagers and porters at Chicago's World Fair. After years of neglect, the Dominion brewery received a face lift from the Sorbara Group between 1987 and 1990 and today businesses of all varieties occupy the site.

The pub is a large brick building that still features the markings of previous enterprises that have called this location home, and the once prominent hotel situated above the pub serves as a rooming house today. Downstairs where the pub now resides was originally a drinking room for the hotel patrons. A nice little bit of history.

Walking back towards the pub I noticed a sign located on the outside on the right hand wall that read, "Local and Regional Craft Beer" so normally it peeked my interest. I entered through the front entrance of the Queen St sidewalk and made my way down the long narrow hallway and into the right hand side of the pub. I did a quick scan and figured it showed some promise.

I stepped up to the bar and glanced over the tap handles: Mill Street Tankhouse, Organic Lager, Neustadt 10W30, Steam Whistle, Wellington Country Dark Ale, McAuslan Cream, Great Lakes Orange Peel, Stratford Pilsner, Denison's Weissbier, Moosehead, Tuborg, Carlsberg, Magners and a house brew called White Seal Lager. I settled for a Denison's as the hot and sticky weather prompted me to, and it was the right choice as it went down smoothly with the sharp carbonation of the German wheat beer quenching my thirst.

As I mentioned, I had entered the right hand side of the pub off the narrow hallway. This area is wide open, with many tables and chairs that create a look straight from a 50’s diner. There is lots of wood paneling throughout this area and large windows offer some terrific natural lighting that shine on the many framed antique beer posters that provide a sentimental touch. Just off the right side of the bar you’ll notice the kitchen that sends the aroma of pub food through the air. There is a decent sized staging area located near the large front window looking out towards Queen Street for the local musician’s that entertain the locals every week.

The bar was long and curvy and situated towards the back of the pub. Half the bar acts as a serving station and the other half features 8 bar back stools bringing you close to the action. Unfortunately there was no action the afternoon I made an appearance as the pub was almost completely empty, which would typically make for a great conversation with the bartender, but even that was negated. There is a collection of pitchers and glasses hanging in metal racking over head and two rows of liquor bottles grace the back wall. There is a large television with a muted sports program playing and the bartender mentions that regulars enjoy watching soccer matches on weekends. One thing missing from the bar area is a pricing list of the beers available which I find helpful at times.

There is a beautiful spacious patio on the Sumach Street side that sees large numbers during the summer months. Many times I have ventured by and noticed how busy it appeared. The shading of the umbrella’s and from the building itself is welcoming. It’s a good place to people watch as well, as this stretch of Queen Street East is currently re-branding itself. Individuals from the nearby shelter and residents of the rooming house above the pub, co-habitat with young parents that frequent the newest shops and with those who are working on their first homes.

The Dominion on Queen is also well known for their Jazz and Blues music that takes place on Sunday afternoons, usually performed by local talent. There are currently Tuesday night jam sessions with plans to extend them to Friday and Saturday nights.

The whole pub is split into three large separate rooms. I have already described one; the second room is located on the left side of the entrance and features some more tables and chairs and a pool table, and the third room has been designated as an event room that is located behind the second room. It is a good sized pub that would be a great location for hosting a beer related event.

One thing I never did confirm was the date that new ownership took over and made it what it is today. So if anyone knows, please share. I guess it offers me the excuse to go back for another pint…or two.

Toronto, ON

*With some help from

Monday, September 15, 2008

Volo Cask Days 2008

It's that time of year again. The weather starts to change, days become shorter, leaves start fading and Bar Volo hosts their annual Cask Days at the corner of Yonge and Dundonald Streets in Toronto.

For four years now Ralph Morana and company have been treating fans of Cask ale (and the occasional lager) by inviting local craft breweries to create a unique firkin for public consumption. The event continues to evolve into one of the premier events in Ontario with beer drinkers coming from all over. Last year a group drove from Montreal to take part.

Volo isn't a huge venue but it offers an intimate feel that adds charm to the event; however, Morana felt that he could use another day to get more people in without overcrowding, so he added two Friday sessions that should ease the flow of people.

Here are the sessions:
October 17th
Fri 12-4 Media Preview
Fri 6-10

October 18th
Sat 12-4 Meet The Brewers
Sat 6-10

October 19th
Sun 12-4
Sun 6-10

Morana has also listed an extensive line-up of breweries that have confirmed their participation, with more to follow as the October 17th date approaches.

Scotch Irish
Barley Days
Church Key
County Durham
Hockley Valley
King Brewery
Maclean's Ales
F And M
Grand River
Mill Street
Great Lakes
Black Oak

The ticket process is currently being worked on and details are to follow shortly. However, expect them to go on sale during the last week of September and as always, they will sell out fast.

"Once tapped, cask beer only has a few days to be consumed at its peak. We call these days Cask Days" - Ralph Morana, Volo owner.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Meet John Bowden: Great Lakes Brewery

Meet John Bowden - a man of all trades at Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke, ON (second from left in the picture).

Great Lakes is the oldest operating Toronto craft brewery and produces some terrific year round and seasonal brews such as Devil's Pale Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Orange Peel Ale, Red Leaf Lager, Winter Ale and more. They won an astounding 4 medals in the 2007 Canadian Brewing Awards and recently starting exporting to Nova Scotia. Enough from me, let's here from the man behind the scenes - John, take it away.

What is your role with Great Lakes and how long have you been with them?
I was hired a little over two and a half years ago to be our representative/sales guy to the LCBO. Since that time, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of other roles, including licensee sales, marketing, promotions, events, and pitching in for deliveries, bottling or whatever else needs to be done.

Describe the history behind Great Lakes.
The brewery was started in 1987, and was based in Brampton by the original owners. Two beers were brewed at this time; Great Lakes Lager and Unicorn Ale. However, the original owners ran out of money and the brewery closed in 1990. It wasn’t long before current owner Peter Bulut purchased the brewery, and Great Lakes was back up and running soon after, relocating to our current building near Royal York and the Gardiner Expressway by 1992.

We offered our beer on draught only, beginning with our Golden Horseshoe Premium Lager and adding Red Leaf Lager in the mid 90s. We purchased a bottling line in 2000, and began offering our beers (including a new addition, Black Jack Lager) through the LCBO.

We launched Devil’s Pale Ale at the 2006 Toronto Festival of Beer as a one-off, but began selling it year-round in the fall of 2007 in our signature 666 cans. The success of Devil’s Pale Ale encouraged us to brew a line of seasonal beers, including our Orange Peel Ale, Pumpkin Ale, and Winter Ale.

How well is the Devil's Pale Ale selling?
Let’s just put it this way – we are just able to keep up with demand, and looking to purchase a much faster canning line. We’re also starting to get some new licensees into the beer, so we expect to keep growing the draught side of things especially as Halloween approaches.

How successful have the seasonals (Orange Peel Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Winter Ale) been for Great Lakes?
Great! We knew they’d be popular, but we were stunned by the incredible response when we launched each beer. They’ve allowed us to be creative and introduce new styles that have been lacking in the province until now. As a result, we’ve attracted a whole new base of consumers who are looking for something flavourful and unique in their beer. Not to mention the media attention we’ve earned too! From the Globe & Mail to the Toronto Star and beyond, our seasonals have received great reviews.

What's new at the brewery? Events, new beers, milestones?
We’re just about ready to launch this year’s release of Pumpkin Ale, along with a large push for Devil’s Pale Ale. The month of October is shaping up to be a crazy one, as these 2 beers are a natural fit for Halloween. We’re working on a release party for the Pumpkin Ale in early October...details to come!

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
Where to begin? I guess my introduction to craft beer was about 3 years ago when I worked and backpacked through the Rockies and the West Coast. I was floored by these aggressively flavourful ales out of Victoria, Vancouver and particularly Seattle. I visited every brewery I could find and tasted more beers than I can remember. When I got back to Ontario in late 2005 I was determined to land a job in craft brewing and help create unique and robust beers that I felt our market to be lacking. I feel the new beers we’ve released in the past two years, combined with those from other OCB members, are showing that both consumers and brewers are starting to catch up to what’s happening in other provinces and states. That said, I’d still like to brew a big, bold and hoppy IPA one of these days!

What is the best aspect of being in sales/marketing for a craft brewery?
The ability to wear multiple hats. I enjoy being able to spend time talking with LCBO staff, knocking on licensee doors, providing my input for new beers and marketing ideas back at the brewery and so on. As we’re a small company, we all have a hand in shaping the direction we want to go.

Describe the relationship between Ontario breweries.
Unbelievable. I never imagined that such a competitive industry would have some of the most helpful, hardworking and friendly people I’ve ever met. I think everyone realizes that we’re all fighting the same fight, so we’re always happy to help one another out when needed, be it sharing knowledge, ingredients, equipment or whatever else to make better beer. There were about a dozen of us from Ontario craft breweries (including us, F&M, Cameron’s, Church Key and St. Andre) that were down in San Diego for the World Beer Cup and we may as well have all been from the same brewery. I remember the president of Stone Brewing giving a speech and telling everyone about his sales techniques, which seems like an odd thing to do. But he said that the more business and awareness other craft breweries generate, the better it is for all craft brewers at the end of the day. It’s a very fraternal relationship.

How many accounts does Great Lakes currently have?
Wow, how many accounts...well we service the GTA, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, London, Collingwood and points in between. It’s over 200 accounts for sure.

What food would you serve Pumpkin Ale with?
This is a great evening beer, so I’d pair it with foods like turkey, roasted chicken, or seasonal desserts (pumpkin pie for sure). It’s also great by itself as an evening drink.

Tell us something about Great Lakes that not a lot of people know about.
Our building won a Vincent Massey Award for Architectural Innovation in the 1950’s. It’s worth a stop by to check out some of the unique retro features, along with our historic brewhouse.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
We can be way more adventurous! The big brewers are too big to experiment with over-the-top beers, so that’s where we have a huge advantage. Although these styles of beer still have a limited appeal, times are quickly changing. As we also have tiny budgets, we’re forced to come up with more unique beers and marketing edges to attract our attention. Our Devil’s Pale Ale is a great example of both.

So there you have it, a little history about John and the brewery he takes great pride in.

Fionn McCool's and Craft Beer

I support my locals. That is one of the reason's why I started this blog, to help spread the word on terrific independently owned pubs and beer bars along with locally produced craft beer. I rarely venture into a chain pub as it just doesn't work for me; however, I understand that a good number of people regularly do so I decided to post this edited press release from Fionn McCool's pub division.

Another reason for posting it is because when a large chain recognizes that craft beer is starting to make a significant impact in the brewing industry and demand is high, acting on it is noteworthy, even if it is a large corporation. Places like Smokeless Joe's, Bar Volo, Beerbistro, The Rhino and more have been doing this for years and have been successful at it. I will continue to go there. But this provides someone like me (and maybe you) with the chance to order something other than a Guinness or another multi national Canadian lager when enjoying a night out with fans of the chain pubs.

Fionn MacCool’s to feature connoisseurs’ favourite Craft Beers from September 8th – November 30th…

TORONTO – September 8, 2008 – Beer lovers who seek out the flavour, aroma and colour of an exceptional beer, are now able to savor a rare collection of craft beers at Fionn MacCool’s. From September 8th to November 30th, Fionn MacCool’s will showcase a hand-picked collection of five of the most delicious craft beers from around the globe.

Featured Craft Beers of the World include:

· Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn, New York: Created by a former journalist and banker, this lager started out being sold from the back of a truck. A Vienna-style lager with an amber gold colour and a floral aroma. (16 oz/ABV 5.2%)

· Anchor Steam Ale, San Francisco, California: In business since 1896, the Anchor Brewing Co introduced their ale in 1975. A dry-hopped ale with medium bitterness and a subtle flavour of caramel. (12oz/ABV 4.9%)

· Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware: This IPA heralds from Delaware’s first brewpub. An East Coast beer known for its citrus hop character. (12oz/ABV 6%)

· Bulmer’s Dry English Cider, Hereford, England: In 1887, a family recipe and family apple orchard resulted in the birth of traditional cider. Bulmer’s is stone pressed and delivers a crisp, clean flavour. (19oz/ABV 4.5%)

· Fischer Tradition Ale, Schiltigheim, France: Renowned for their brewing tradition since 1821, Fishcer Brewery makes traditional ale characterized by a rich head, round flavour and fruity aroma. (22oz/ABV 6%)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Brewing Hop Mess: Pump House Wet Hop

Greg Nash, the brewer who brought credibility, respect, and bold new flavours to Garrison Brewery last year, before being let go after brewing the Canadian Beer of the Year, is at it again. This time at Pump House Brewing Co. in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Nash spends a lot of his time at the brewery helping brew Pump House's signature beers, but he still manages to get down to the brew pub to whip up some experimental batches. One of the latest include his Double Imperial Dementia IPA, a beer with over 100 IBU's, tons of character and it is extremely flavourful. However, it is his new creation that has people talking and thankfully Nash put together a short video to better illustrate his madness.

Check out this video as Nash and other brewers make Eastern Canada's and possibly the rest of Canada's first ever 'wet hop' beer, which is also made with all organic ingredients. Introducing Imperial Wethop Red Ale. Fermentation is complete and the lucky citizens of New Brunswick will soon be able to taste it on tap down at the brew pub.

Follow Nash and the rest of the Pump House brewers as they play with recipes, share stories and profile styles at their Brewers Blog -

Ontario Farmers Turning to Hops?

There is a good story regarding the plight or rebirth (depending on your opinion) of hops in today's Toronto Star written by 'What's Brewing' columnist Josh Rubin.

Click here to read the full story as it appears on the Toronto Star's website.

It's worth the read as Rubin explains the reasons for the drought, the increased prices and what Ontario farmers and brewers are doing about it. The hop shortage dilemma is not new for those of us who follow the brewing industry closely, yet it appears that things might be starting to brighten, at least that is what I took away from the article.

Neustadt Paints a Portrait

Neustadt Springs Brewery has been receiving a lot of press lately, due in large part to Steve Peters, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Back in June of this year, Peters led a tasting for his fellow MPP's at Queen's Park in an effort to choose six Ontario craft beers to be the official Legislative beers for 2008/09 year. Peters also chose a 'speakers' beer that turned out to be Neustadt's Scottish Pale Ale, thus the heightened attention.

Since then Peters has gone on to win an Editor's Choice award at the Golden Tap Awards, had his efforts highlighted in the summer issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine, interviewed for a podcast for the OCB website and he was recently presented with a beautiful painting from Val and Andrew Stimpson of Neustadt.

We felt honoured that the Speaker of the House (Steve Peters) chose Neustadt Scottish Pale Ale as his beer of choice for 2008/9.

The fact that he was making history, by choosing only Ontario Craft beers to be served in Queens Park was a big step forward for our industry.

We felt he deserved to be recognised for promoting Ontario Craft beers, so we commissioned Gary McLaughlin from Riversong Gallery to paint a picture of the speaker. But we wanted to keep it a surprise, so we worked closely with his office manager Anna who was sending us e-mails and pictures secretly. We then had to find a pretext to have him visit Neustadt. Lo and behold we managed to do it all without him finding out, when he came to visit last Friday and was presented with the portrait he was over the moon.
What a great painting! The OCB logo above the Speakers head and a can of the Scottish Pale Ale in place of a mallet. Terrific, thumbs up indeed. It is nice to see Peters receiving some accolades for something that should have been done long ago.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Canadian Brewing Awards Judging: Sept.6th

Saturday was a long day. A fun day. An interesting day.

While most people were still in bed sleeping off the effects of Friday night, I was on my way to Markham to work the bar for the Canadian Brewing Awards judging. I arrived shortly after 9:00am to the Duchess of Markham pub located on Main Street and started preparing for the 10:30 start time. Small stemmed glasses were arranged on trays and were individually marked with the corresponding identification numbers (category, brewery, # of entries). The first two categories were pulled from the fridge, allowing them to warm slightly.

The judges started to arrive and mingle amongst themselves. Last years CBA judging featured only 8 judges, but due to the record number of beer entered this year 13 judges were recruited. For some it was a chance to catch up with a friend they haven’t seen in a while and conversations about the brewing industry were shared along with other beer related stories.

Just after 10:30 the judges took their seats and buckled in for their long daunting task of sampling from 24 categories ranging from light lagers to German Hefeweizens to Barley Wines coming from all corners of the country. I poured the beer into the appropriately marked glassware (thanks Kristina) and ensured that there was just enough left for myself to sample. There were some beauties.

The trays were then dispatched to the judging tables and the certified judges (BJCP) blindly reviewed the products appearance, colour, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and more. The beer in the tasting glasses was swirled around to awaken all the flavours and glasses are held up in the air to score the beers colour. Then discussions take place between the group; chatter about the beer, why the scores were marked the way they were and so on. Once each table completed a category, a new one was poured and identified before landing on their table for another go.

This took place until the last category of the day was completed, which was at precisely 7:10pm as the Barley Wines were tasted. So everyone had a long day as you could imagine. However, this group of judges decided to stick around and help finish off some of the remaining India Pale Ales that were rated and did their best to polish off some growlers (don’t worry, they were provided with a free shuttle home). I was behind the bar serving these dedicated beer lovers and serving them some IPA’s they’ve never experienced before (knowingly) was a real treat.

I myself was very lucky on Saturday as I mentioned. I was able to sample each beer that I cracked open from each category, from each brewery in Canada that submitted. I had the advantage though of knowing what I was trying and made sure some extra’s went home with me for sharing. There were some notable breweries absent from the judging that I would have loved to sample, but nothing is perfect.

This years judging turned out well and now we must wait until September 25th to unveil the winners at The Richmond in downtown Toronto as TAPS: Canada’s Beer Magazine (who run the CBA’s) will be hosting a posh gala. Stay tuned for more details as they happen and the full list of winners once their announced on the 25th.

Pictures compliments of Karla Dudley, editor of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Pub Conversation to Remember

A while ago I sat at the bar of a pub I'll leave unnamed, and listened unintentionally to the bar staff talk about stuff behind the scenes, things patrons don't necessarily hear everyday. I'm not sure why the bar staff continued discussing the negative aspects of their employment, as I was sitting three stools away with my notebook open while nursing a nice cold pint.

During their conversation I starting thinking about other conversations that I've overheard at various times during my frequent pub visits, and let me tell you, there are some crazy ones. But this one takes the cake.

The above mentioned conversation at the Toronto pub I'll leave unnamed, was funny and disturbing. Disturbing came first, then the funny. The two females were deep in conversation, sharing their encounters with the rats in the basement when they were wrestling with the full kegs. This news immediately brought my feet from the floor to bottom rack of the stool and had me scanning the entire room for any movement of the hairy rodents. This is not something you want to hear anywhere and they kept going on and on.

After they finished their story my pint class was suddenly empty and I was asking for the cheque. It was then that an older gentleman walked in from the street dressed in sweatpants, velco-hole filled shoes and the tightest white t-shirt. He proceeded straight to the bar. I knew that I would miss a great encounter, so I held off on paying the bill and sat back on the bar stool. The man called the two female bar staff to his end of the bar and pulled out a business card. The look on the faces of the two females was priceless. The one female threw the card back in the face of the rough looking fellow and told him to get out of the pub. He turned around and stopped, looked back and said "just consider it" and he walked out. The girls looked my way and asked "do we look like strippers?" To which I replied "uhhhh, I don't know. Why?" Turns out the man was walking from pub to pub, restaurant to restaurant handing out business cards as a recruitment process for one of Toronto's seediest strip joints.

So there you have it - rats and strippers all within a half hour visit and only in a pub.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lunch with Stephen Beaumont

Congratulations go out to Brent and Andy for winning the VIP tickets for the Black Creek Brews Fest as they were the first two to correctly name Beau's Festivale as newest offering from Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.

Today I was also provided with two tickets for Lunch with Stephen Beaumont to give away. So, the first person to send me an email with the name of Beaumont's personal website will have the chance to partake in this exciting event, as well as experience the rest of the Black Creek Brew's Fest! HINT: It is listed with the other beer/pub links on this site.

Here are the details:

Saturday September 6th at 1:30p.m. at the Black Creek Brews Fest

Internationally acclaimed beer writer Stephen Beaumont has been documenting the world of beer, spirits, food and travel for over fifteen years. Join Stephen for at the Half Way House Restaurant in Pioneer Village for a three-course meal; each paired with a different beer selected by Stephen. The lunch begins with an introduction to beer pairing after which guests will have a chance to speak one-on-one with Stephen as he joins each table.

The two tickets, valued at $30.00 each, include full admission to the Black Creek Brews Fest and all of Pioneer Village.

Tickets for "Lunch with Stephen Beaumont" can also be purchased at the venue, but avoid taking chances, call to make a reservation at .

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

VIP Tickets to Black Creek Brews Fest

With the Black Creek Brews Fest just days away (Sept 6&7), I thought it would be a good time to give away two VIP tickets.

Some of the highlights of the event include:

  • Lunch with Stephen Beaumont - Three courses accompanied by three beers introduced by Beaumont;
  • Cheese and Beer Pairing with Julia Rogers - tastings of local cheeses with local micro beers;
  • Great Food (with suggested beer pairings) and tutored tastings with Mirella Amato;
  • Roger Mittag, the 'Professor of Beer' will lead guided walks through the village as he explains the history of beer; and
  • the Canadian Brewerianist Society will exhibit beer memorabilia.

To win your VIP ticket (good for either day) send an email to with the name of Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.'s newest beer.

Celebrate Ontario's rich brewing history and today's craft brewers in a family-friendly setting. Black Creek Brews Fest takes place this Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am to 4:30pm. There will be live music, 9 Ontario craft brewers, tutored tastings, great food, interactive educational sessions, brewing history and much much more.

Black Creek Pioneer Village is located at , Toronto (one block east of Jane St., south off Steeles Avenue, right next to York University). General admission to Black Creek Pioneer Village is $13 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $9 for children 5-14. For more information, please visit

The 'Cottage' Beer

I was up at the cottage this weekend (not mine) and was sitting down by the water on the dock with a can of Steam Whistle in my hand, and started to think about the 'cottage' beer. I gave it some thought but it wasn't until I passed the neighbour a bottle of Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale did I really start thinking about it. A brown ale at the cottage seemed a little out of place, especially since we were down at the water's edge, there was no food in sight and drinking was on the agenda for the day.

Everyone has their favourite 'cottage' beer or camping beer...I think. When I'm at home or visiting someone else's chateau, I usually have a mix pack of bottled craft beer under my arm when greeted at the door, yet when I'm up at the cottage Steam Whistle is the beer for me (along with beers from Muskoka Cottage Brewery).

Before the cans came out I would trudge through the rough down hill terrain that we call a walk way, with a suitcase pack of the green bottles on my shoulder. I welcome the cans. Easy to transport, nice clean taste, earthy aroma's, easy to drink and a journey back to the days I was just getting into the craft beer movement. It's also practical to purchase as other people that aren't into big IPA's, brown ale's or Belgian beauties can enjoy them too.

There is something about the cottage and sitting about a campfire or hanging out on the deck that calls for an easy drinking beer in can format. I'll admit it, I was never big on cans, always preferring to drink straight from the bottle, but it's different at the cottage. Normally I drink from the proper glassware, but again, at the cottage the tulips, flutes, and pint glasses are non-existent and the beer flows straight from the can.

So what is your cottage or camping beer? Cans or bottles?

Old picture of Steam Whistle bottle perched on a Muskoka chair facing the sun. How I wish I were there right now.
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