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.


Friday, February 27, 2009

The Publican House Brewery: Peterborough, ON

I'm headed back home this weekend to do some long overdue ice fishing (where you can guarantee a lot of beer will be consumed), and I thought I'd share my profile of the Publican House Brewery in Peterborough - as it appeared in the Winter Issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine.

Peterborough, Ontario has a population of 74,600 and is home to the notorious Trent University and Fleming College. The city is situated 1 ½ hours northeast of Toronto and 3 ½ hours from Ottawa and is bordered by beautiful scenery known as the Kawartha Lakes. The city and its surrounding area is fast becoming a hot bed for beer activity with popular pubs like St. Vernous, the Deli Ritz, The Stinking Rose pub and the Church Key Brewing Co.

Recently, a new brewery has been capturing the attention of curious passerby’s as The Publican House Brewery opened their doors, joining the list mentioned above. Owner Jon Conquer spent the last five years working on a business plan that would allow him to get back to brewing beer for distribution and the first growler left the retail store on October 3th, the first official day of business. The brewery is located two blocks north of Peterbourgh’s locally focused downtown markets and situated smack dab in the middle of student housing. “We have a killer location,” stated a smiling Conquer while showing me around the 30hl brew house. Said Conquer, “The brewery is right in the mix of the student housing, within walking distance of downtown, far enough away from the nearest LCBO and Beer Store and next to the old Peterborough Arms Pub (which is part of the brewery), we are attracting drinkers of all ages.”

Conquer’s name may be familiar to those who take interest in the Ontario brewing industry as he was part owner and primary brewer of the now defunct Kawartha Lakes Brewery (the Amsterdam Brewing Co. bought the rights to the KLB brands after the brewery closed its doors and now brews them for wide scale distribution). “KLB was a brewery that grew way to fast, way to soon and it hurt us in the long run. I started working on a business plan for a new brewery the day it all ended and after five years and two days, I’m proud to be back in the industry.”

There are big plans for the Publican House Brewery. “I plan on brewing eight different styles at different times throughout the year to keep drinkers palates on edge,” Conquer boasts. Explained Conquer, “There are enough light lagers and mainstream beers being brewed for sale in this province and the Publican House is all about producing quality ales for the curious drinker.” Their signature beer is simply called House Ale and will be produced year round. It is available at local Peterborough Beer Stores in single 473ml cans and also from the brewery’s retail store in growler, can and keg format. “The House ale has been selling extremely well at the brewery; so much that we have run out numerous occasions.”

Conquer also brews a pale by the name of Square Nail. Named after all the old square nails found during the re-modeling of the Arms, the pale ale recently made a surprise appearance in Toronto during Bar Volo’s Cask Days and was extremely popular. “I am very proud of the pale ale. It is a sessionable beer with a good hoppy character that will hopefully open some eyes.” Other beers include a summer seasonal called Wheat OC Rousse, a winter season called Irish Ale, Stone Wall stout, Head of Trent Fest, Real IPA, Eight or Better Belgium style ale and Conquer has left space available for a surprise experimental beer from time to time. “Our neighbour’s to the south are all about experimenting with various styles and it works very well for them. I think Peterborough is ready for this,” proclaimed the owner.

The retail store features a small tasting bar where Conquer is taking advantage of the recently legislated “By the Glass” regulation. “This Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) provision allows us to sell a 12oz samples to potential customers while they are enjoying the brewery,” stated Conquer who believes more Ontario breweries should take a closer look at. “Were brewing craft beer for Peterborough and the Kawartha area and getting people into the brewery to taste what we can offer is a big priority in winning over new beer drinkers. Getting our beer into their hands, while charging a modest fee for the beer, is an added bonus.”

The brewery is located right beside the once popular Peterborough Arms pub and was part of the package in Conquer’s decision to open his brewery in this location. Previously owned by the Arrow Pub group (Woolwich Arms, Bow and Arrow), the Peterborough Arms sold more beer than any other pub in the area and Conquer has big plans over the next two years. “Phase one will include opening up the 130 seat patio and serving barbequed food.” Conquer continued, “phase two will include opening up the actual pub and running lines from the brewery into the bar area for a Tied House, something this province is lacking.” Being realistic in his goals, Conquer acknowledges that instead of attacking one big elephant, it would be easier to tackle two smaller ones and plans on opening the pub in two years time. “The patio will be open by next summer; however, the building won’t be operational as a full tied house for a couple more years.” The blue prints and artist rendition prints are fixed to a wall in the brewery and things look fantastic.

The building is fascinating. Built by OC Rousse in 1877, the large Victorian structure looms over the brewery and stands out among the other old homes in the area. It is an exciting new development for the city of Peterborough and who knows it better than Mayor D Paul Yotte, a fan of the new beer Conquer brews daily. “The Mayor has visited the brewery for samples on more than one occasion and is a big fan of the beer and our goals for the area.” The tied house, when complete, will no doubt attract many day visitors from around the province; people coming to try the new beers and relax in the pub, which will be beneficial to the city.

The retail store is open seven days a week, giving customers the opportunity to visit and taste what’s available. The doors are open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 11pm and on Sunday from 11am to 6pm. There is glassware, coasters, growlers, and cans ready for purchase, and chances are Conquer will be there to greet you with his infectious smile. “I’m back and looking forward to brewing some complex beers for consumption.”

The Publican House

Peterborough, ON K9J 2V5

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Steam Whistle Launches Beer Blog

I think this might be a growing trend, breweries setting up a blog on their website, informing customers of what's new, what's happening, and where to get there product. There are some good ones out there, like Beau's (How to Start a Brewery in 1 Million Easy Steps), Cameron's Blog, Pump House's brewer's blog, and Picaroon's Brewer's Log. And now Steam Whistle announces they've started a blog on their website. I think it's a great idea and hope to see more and more breweries take part.

You can check out Steam Whistle's blog by visiting: There are already a couple of entries posted for you to browse through.

Steam Whistle Brewing has launched a Beer Blog. The Beer Blog shares news and views about life at the brewery and topics related to brewing. Bloggers will include a collection of staff members from various departments to present varying points of view.

Video Archive: TAPS Media vs. C'est What March 26, 2008

On March 26, 2008, C'est What held a blind porter and stout tasting, and TAPS had the pleasure of attending, capturing some video footage that ended up as a video podcast.

I was going through some of my old files and I came across the video, and I thought it would be fun to share. Out-takes and all.

It wasn't really my tenth sample - maybe my sixth pint?

All TAPS video podcasts are available by subscribing for free on Itunes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cameron's February Cask Night - SOLD OUT

Just as fast as Cameron's Brewing Co. announced the February date for their monthly Cask Night, I received a follow-up email saying that the event sold out in less than 85 minutes.

They did indicate the March Cask Night will take place on March 26th.

If you want to get out and sample some Auburn Ale, or Cream Ale, visit the National Home Show in Toronto that started back on February 20th and running until March 1st, as Cameron's is the featured brewery.

Other news from the small brewery in Oakville - Cameron's has received two nominations for this year's Oakville Awards for Business Excellence. Oakville's Environmental Leadership Award and Oakville's Small Company of the Year Award - here's wishing them luck!

Pepperwood Beer Festival Re-Cap

I really enjoy the Pepperwood Beer Festival's. Last years event was really well done, with a bunch of good Ontario craft beer. It may have been a little crowded but packed festivals are always a good time. Passionate beer drinkers all milling about, chatting with brewers about their beers, some trying new stuff for the first time and enthusiastically telling their friends about its qualities. This is why I enjoy the Pepperwood Festival.

It caters to drinkers of all seasons, and by seasons I mean - all varieties. You'll find the people who have been tasting and scoring beers for years with their notebooks out on the table, people there just for something to do, younger people who are there to learn about beer and taste beers that are new to them, and you'll find women. It makes for an interesting festival.

The festival at the Pepperwood Bistro and Brewpub this past Sunday was as described above. I was there selling issues and subscriptions of TAPS and had the privilege to meet a number of readers (for both the magazine and this blog). The breweries present were all pouring a variety of their brands and the atmosphere was light and relaxed.

The Pepperwood went through an expansion recently, which helped spread the festival around the bistro(last year all breweries were squeezed into the back area of the bistro). It helped to relieve traffic jams at the beer booths. Black Oak was pouring their freshly bottled Double Chocolate Cherry Stout, Beau's was offering their Bog Water Dirty Brown Ale, Premier Brands was winning people over with some Koningshoeven Quad, Grand River had there new IPA on ice and Nickel Brook was showcasing their 2008 Cuvee, Uniek Kriek and Maple Porter.

Pepperwood's resident brewer Paul Dickey pulled off a delicious oak chipped aged Innis and Gunn clone and also served up his Chipotle and Mild ales. Cameron's, Sleeman's, Great Lakes, Amsterdam, Carlsberg and Mill Street were the other breweries in attendance and many were running out of product as the winning door prize recipients were being called shortly before 5pm.

Kudo's to the Pepperwood for throwing a beer festival with class.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Event Reminder: Pepperwood and Castro's

Pepperwood Beer Festival
Feel like heading down the QEW today to take part in a beer festival? Why not. The Pepperwood Bistro and Brewpub are holding their annual beer festival today from 2-5pm and will be featuring a number of Ontario craft brewers and one national brewery: Amsterdam, Barley Days, Beau’s, Black Oak, Cameron’s, Denison’s, F&M Brewery, Grand River, Great Lakes, Mill Street, Niagara, Nickel Brook, Sleeman and Trafalgar. Tickets are $35 - .

I attended last year and it was a real good time. I'll be there today selling TAPS magazines, stop by and say hi.

Castro's Lounge Monthly Tasting
If you feel like drinking some good beer in a pub while learning a bit about the style, the history and the taste; then head on down to Castro's Lounge on Toronto's Queen Street East to take part in their monthly tasting. Host Chris Schryer will introduce attendees to his family, or more specifically, beers that represent various people in his family. From lovely locals, to opinionated Brits, to sexy Netherlanders, the tasting runs the gamut, and features a few harder to find bottles.

The tasting is accompanied by an optional meal of fancy grilled-cheese sandwiches and salad (much like Chris might serve you if you dropped by his place for lunch). The tasting is $25, and the meal is an additional $10. I attended the last tasting and it was well done, some good fun.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Sad Day in Halifax

As first reported on BeerAdvocate, the Granite Brewery located on Barrington Street in Halifax will be re-locating to the north end of the city and Ginger's Tavern will be closing their doors for good.

Kevin Keefe, owner and operator of Ginger's and the Granite, plans to continue brewing his beers for the Henry House and other pub locations and will be working towards his other operation in Windsor, Nova Scotia - the Green Man Pub where canning options have been brought up.

It turns out that Keefe was contacted months ago by a group who are purchasing many of the buildings on Barrington street and an offer was made; as such, Sunday February 22 will be Ginger's last day. A sad day for local musicians, cask ale drinkers and stonch pub supporters.

I have fond memories of the Granite (Halifax location) when I called Halifax home. I remember walking into the pub, ordering a pint of Peculiar and watching the Blue Jays get pounded by the Minnesota Twins on the large screen. It was noon on a Saturday, a warm day, the windows of the pub were open, letting in some fresh air. There were many people enjoying the day, reading books, sitting at the bar talking to the bartender; it was my kind of place. I would often head back to the Granite for pints when I was in the area (or not at the Henry House) and I'll always remember the feeling I'd get the second I'd enter. It will be missed.

Ginger's was a place I had only visited a handful of times, and all to listen to the live bands. It was a great place to go for to tune in with local musicians and the Granite beers always suited the mood. It's closing will have an impact on the local talent in Halifax.

A source close to the story told me that Keefe has a lot of beer in storage, enough to supply his clients and customers happy for a month or so. So get down to Ginger's and the Granite this weekend to help send off a Halifax landmark. I would if I could.

Good luck to Kevin Keefe and his dedicated employees.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Griffin Gastropub: Bracebridge, ON

Bracebridge is a beautiful little city located in the Muskoka's, a 2 hour drive north of Toronto off hwy 11. Home to the Lakes of Muskoka Brewing Company and surrounded by an abundance of wildlife, lakes and cottages, Bracebridge attracts many summer visitors who navigate their water ways and many winter visitors to take advantage of the many snowmobile trails. Bracebridge is also well known for supporting their local businesses as they boost a successful downtown shopping area full of family run storefronts. Recently, Bracebridge welcomed their first craft beer only destination when the Griffin Gastropub opened for business back in August, much to the pleasure of the town's locals.

I stopped in for a visit on my way back from the family cottage in Dorset last weekend to have a chat and a pint with Jed Corbeil, a co-owner of the Griffin, and I had a wonderful time enjoying some food and pints on a nice winter afternoon.

The vine (ivy) covered brick building (completely covered in the summer/fall) is situated off Bracebridge's main street on Chancery Lane and dates back to the 1930's. "We were told when we took over the building that it was constructed in the 1930's and for may years it was home to a bunch of lawyers," stated Corbeil as he sipped from a glass of Heritage's Stuart's Session Ale. Walking from the main street you come across an arch-way that leads to the back of a couple of buildings, down a cobble stoned walk-way. You come into a clearing and there stands the front door to the Griffin.

The heavy wooden door opens and lets a glimpse of light into the entrance before we head into the main room, which is through a french door to the right. The first sight your eyes rest upon is the long wooden table in the middle of the room surrounded by big comfortable wooden chairs. To its left and right beside the door is an electric fireplace that heats the pub and offers a small glimmer of light even on the beautiful sunny day Bracebridge was experiencing. Further along the wall is the original safe left over from the building's days as a law office. Completely secure in its concrete foundation, the safe was not to be touched when the Griffin shut down during the month of January for renovations. "We fixed up the pub around the safe and actually exposed some of the original brick wall near the back of the seating area," claimed Corbeil. The exposed room gives way to the right as you hit the bar and here you'll find more tables and leather benched seating. It is not a large pub, it's 60 person capacity is broken into three areas: 30 inside, 20 outside on the front patio and 10 upstairs in a private dining area. "We're looking into a rooftop patio, which would help increase our capacity."

"When we took over the building in August, we were actually taking over another pub," said Corbeil. "We plowed away for a while but realized that we wanted to fix the smoke stained ceiling, decorate a little differently, add some new wood and a new bar, so we shut down in January and put our own touches into the place." They added pine wainscoting around the perimeter of the pub, installed an oak top bar, upgraded their seating to add a touch of class. The small 'L' shaped bar is surrounded by five or so wooden bar back chairs and the solid oak bar top features a soothing grey paint. When I look around I see a country pub full of wood, almost like drinking at a cottage itself, with a hint of sophistication. A nice blend really. They also serve some good beer too.

"We had a hell of a time at the start with trying to whine our regulars off the Canadian and Keith's brands," mentioned Corbeil while I enjoyed a pint of Robert Simpson's Flying Monkey (ESB). "We decided that once the kegs in the cellar were gone, we'd bring in Ontario Craft Beer products only and some of the local drinkers weren't to fond of that." Losing a chunk of regulars is something that most pub owners would cringe at, but Corbeil figured for the 50% or so that they lost, they've welcomed 75% more with their new approach. "We noticed that the Keith's drinkers that stuck around because of our laid back atmosphere started drinking bottles of Great Lakes Horseshoe Lager and decided it wasn't all that bad. For the new customers that come in daily, and we do get many new faces coming in all the time, the experience of trying new beers for the first time is in experience in of itself." All that being said, you'll often find a load of local residents at the pub as it truly is a local pub in every sense of the term.

The bar holds ten draught lines that were pouring Mill Street Cobblestone, Tankhouse, Muskoka Cream Ale, Nickel Brook Maple Porter, Nickel Brook White, Robert Simpson Flying Monkey, Peeler Cider, Steam Whistle and two more that have escaped my mind. The bar fridge is usually stocked with 30 - 40 different OCB bottled products, ranging from light lagers to Imperial Stouts. "We brought in a case of John By Imperial Stout not knowing how well it would sell and by the end of the first night we completely sold out of it; then the Black Irish Plain Porter." That may not sound like big news here in Toronto, but I grew up in the area, and let me tell you, to hear something like this is encouraging. The whole area is Molson territory, people are born and breed into the Molson culture, so this is a testament to the changing palates and curious minds. Corbeil also states that since they've decided to sell only craft beer they've noticed the selection at the LCBO grow with them. "There were four OCB products at the local Bracebridge LCBO months ago - there are 17 now, which is just so great to see."

The Griffin is also very active in beer dinners, hosting one on the last Sunday of every month featuring an OCB brewery. "We held our first one in October when we selected Great Lakes as the brewery of the month. By being named brewery of the month, the brewery gets two of their products on draught and four bottled beers are usually ordered and stocked. Then the dinner will normally be a four course offering using four or five of their beers. It's been very successful..and fun." Grand River followed Great Lakes in November, then December featured Mill Street. In January the pub was closed and this month Nickel Brook was named as the monthly brewery. Corbeil also let me know that Amsterdam (although not an OCB member) will be the brewery of the month in March. Tickets for the beer dinner run at $50 and usually include a half pint to start things off.

There is also live music three times a week and Corbeil and his partner occasionally perform much to the amusement of the pubs patrons. "We play a little bit of everything," claimed Corbeil. When there are no live bands the music is played at a soft note as one of the pubs main features is conversation. And there are many of them occurring as we sit and talk.

So why did Corbeil and his partner decide to venture down the craft beer route? Well Corbeil's older brother Sam is a brewer with Mill Street (also a contributing writer with TAPS)and his passion eventually wore off on Jed. "He is the most passionate beer person I have ever met. When he was experiencing new beers or training in Germany to brew, his excitement and knowledge rubbed off on me and here I am today. I had no experience in the pub industry before embarking on this venture, but I knew that if I took the plunge I would want it to reflect what I believe in, and that is craft beer."

It was a real pleasure sitting down with Corbeil listening to his goals, his ideas and his successes. His enthusiasm as a pub owner is contagious and exciting. It is this reason why I believe the Griffin gastropub will be a success for years to come.

Bracebridge, ON P1L 2E3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Beer Always Near at the Cottage

I just made it back from the cottage after spending four glorious days cutting down trees, enjoying the fresh air, snowshoeing, ice fishing (only caught a cold) and drinking some great Canadian beer in front of the fireplace. Feet up, music on and free from the noise of the big city. It was a nice getaway offering some much needed rest.

Some Mill Street Tankhouse and a growler of their Tripel (Betelgeuse) were consumed as was a Garrison Winter Warmer and a Swan's Appleton Brown Ale. I even made it over to Bracebridge on the way home to share a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with Griffin Pub owner Jed Corbeil for a post that I hope to put together (for the blog) sometime this week. On the way home I stopped in for some dinner with my father, who surprised me with a six pack of Kasteel Cru that he acquired from a Molson employee.

Now I'm back in TO and I have a TAPS deadline to focus on; there's work piled up on my desk (day job) and I need to review some beers.

Upcoming Volo Events - Cheese and Chocolate

I received the following information from Tomas Morana of Volo outlining two upcoming events that may capture your interest.

Craft Beer & Artisan Cheese Tasting
In support of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation

Learn about the craft of brewing specialty beers and the art of making some of
the world’s finest cheeses, and enjoy pairings of five hand-crafted Ontario beers with local artisan cheeses.

Jamie Mayo & Ralph Morana will present the intricacies of these fine samples.
This is a benefit supporting cancer research through the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Come enjoy some great beers and cheeses and support a great cause!
Sunday March 1st. 3pm-5pm
Advance tickets are required
Tickets are $50 and available from Lori Fox Rossi or at Volo ( )

Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout Lateral Tasting
Meet the makers Adrian Popowycz & Ken Woods and enjoy a lateral tasting of Black Oaks Double Chocolate Cherry Stout in three different containers; bottle, keg and cask. This trio will be accompanied with homemade chocolate. It will be held on Thursday, February 26th @ 4:00 pm while supplies last.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gone to the Cottage

I'm off to the cottage for four days. Away from the crowded streetcars, the noise, and the hustle and bustle of a large city. I haven't been up to the cottage yet this winter so I'm really looking forward to this. There will be a number of beers making the trek with me from Toronto to Dorset. A couple of Propeller Russian Revolution Imperial Stouts and some Garrison Baltic Porter will fit the bill for fireside drinking.

I won't be posting anything in my absence, so here are some posts pulled from the archives for those interested:

Check out Whelan's Gate - Whelan's Gate Irish Pub, Toronto, ON

Back in 2007 I share my thoughts on the best pub season - Winter: My Favourite Pub Season

Please let me introduce you to the owner/brewer of the Granite (Toronto) - Meet Ron Keefe

Again, the 2008 Canadian Brewing Award Winners - The Complete List

Have a great family day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Yukon Brewing Company – Headed to Brew in England

My inbox has been filling up with emails this week about new beer releases, pub news, and event information, and moments ago I received an email from a reader with the following press release that I found interesting.

Alan Hansen, the head brewer at Yukon Brewing Company, will be headed for England in March to brew up some batches of Lead Dog Ale. He will be joining other master brewers who have been invited from New Zealand, Finland, and the US. The Yukon Brewing Company will be the first Canadian brewery selected to brew beer for the JDW Beer Festival in England.

The beer that is brewed in March will be available at the 18 day long festival that will take place in April. This is no small event – it is expected that over 3 million pints of beer will be consumed over the 18 days. The festival is a “Real Ale” festival.

The Lead Dog Ale was selected since it is perceived as a beer that will make an excellent real ale. It is already natural and unpastuerized, and in England it will be packaged in the cask unfiltered. While the Yukon version of the beer is carbonated, it is lightly carbonated – as a real ale, with only natural carbonation, the flavours in the beer will be accentuated.

Stephen Beaumont and Greg Clow reviewed the Lead Dog Ale for the Winter issue of TAPS Beer Magazine and both were in agreeance that the beer was top notch. Hopefully the individuals attending the JDW Beer Festival will concur with the two beer writers and lap up the Yukon brew. The brewery will make a fine Canadian representative in England.

Next Castro's Lounge Tasting

The following is a message I received from Castro's Lounge today regarding their next tasting. As you may recall, I paid the Lounge a visit last month to take part in their Belgian tasting and had a good time with some good beer.

Come join us on Sunday, February 22nd at 3pm for a beer tasting celebrating Family Day. Your host, Chris Schryer, will introduce you to his family, or more specifically, beers that represent various people in his family. From lovely locals, to opinionated Brits, to sexy Netherlanders, the tasting runs the gamut, and features a few harder to find bottles. The tasting is accompanied by an optional meal of fancy grilled-cheese sandwiches and salad (much like Chris might serve you if you dropped by his place for lunch).

The tasting is $25, and the meal is an additional $10. Please RSVP to book
a table, (, , 2116e Queen St East), though walk-ins are always welcome.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

LCBO Spring Release

Spring 2009 - Premium Specialty Beers *Retail prices subject to change

The LCBO has released their Spring line-up and here it is for the first time, complete with the LCBO's tasting notes.

LCBO#/ Product Name/ Size/ Country/ Retail Tasting note

100495 PIETRA 330 Corsica, FRANCE $ 2.55
A specialty bottom-fermentation beer with 6% alcohol strength and a beautiful amber colouring. It is brewed using tradition and craft methods from selected malts and Corsican sweet chestnut flour. Mixed to the malt during mashing, the chestnut is used as a prime ingredient rather than as flavouring. Strong and delicate, solid and soft with a touch of bitterness, the cold PIETRA reveals its generous nature.

Made with 25% malted rye, pale ale malt, dark crystal malt and noble German hops. Rye beers are an ancient form of beer originally known as Roggenbier. Trafalgar's Rye beer is produced unconventionally with darker malts for a slightly darker colour than typical rye beers and a low amount of hops so the malted rye and oak flavours can dominate. Oak Aged Rye is aged with freshly cut oak for a distinctively mellow and refreshing flavour. Try with a slice of barbequed or roasted pork.

A classic hand-crafted Canadian Cream Ale, refreshing but substantial, and deep gold in colour. A blend of two-row pilsener and pale ale malts with just a touch of roasted barley, this beer goes through extended periods of cold aging on western red cedar and is finished off with Spalter hops imported from England.

A tasty, Alphine Doppelbock beer using 75% dark-roasted malt which gives a distinct malty, full bodied, yet velvety soft taste with slight bitter hop notes.

A unique, refreshing and slightly herbal taste, brewed with fresh green tea and ginseng. Pairs well with sushi, shrimp and seafood

Pouring a slightly hazy reddish-gold with a creamy white head, the beer has an inviting aroma of bready malt and citrus-like hops, with some floral and slightly soapy backing notes. The crisp body makes it a great palate cleanser when eating spicy and/or greasy food, as does the flavour, which is hop-forward without being completely over the top with the bitterness. Some notes of grapefruit and spruce rise and linger in the finish, but won't tear your tastebuds to shreds.

113399 KELLS IRISH LAGER (Rogue) 650 UNITED STATES $ 6.35
A clean honey and malt taste with a touch of apple on the tail-end

A clear, golden yellow Trappist beer that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. It is a complex beer with a fruity aroma and a nice neaunced hop scent. It is soft and creamy in the mouth, with a bitter touch carried by the fruity aroma. An exceptional beer, with a great deal of finesse and elegance. And with a splendid long aftertaste.

It pours a dark brown colour with flashes of ruby and a thick beige head. The aroma is rich with notes of earthy malt, toffee and chocolate, and those same notes come through in the flavour, where they're joined by a bit of coffee and some dried fruit (notably prunes and raisins. The body is full with a very soft mouthfeel, and the flavour starts sweet on the palate, but has a moderately dry finish, providing great balance.

Beautiful hazy orangish amber color with a pretty manilla head. Wet clay, dried citrus, fresh oregano, and tree bark aromas. A round, frothy entry leads to a very dry, tart medium-bodied palate with toasted nuts, singed citrus, tart cherry skin, and faint spices. Finishes with an earthy hop fade and a touch of pith.

65763 URBOCK 23 330 Austria $ 3.00
"Cognac of beers" is gold in color with a complex aroma. Malty with caramel notes and apricot flavours. A beer this strong and this pale s a real rarity and a true work of art. Serve with steak or pate or sip after dinner with a cheese course.

*Look for these beers to start hitting store shelves in early March.

Wild Rose Seasonal Imperial IPA

We’re dying for IPA’s here in Ontario. Sure we have Granite’s Hopping Mad, Durham County’s Hop Head/Addict, Heritage (Scotch Irish) Sgt. Major’s, Magnotta's True North IPA and Grand River’s recently released Curmudgeon. Not a lot considering the number of breweries operating in our home province, and even less as only one of these beers mentioned can be found for sale at the LCBO and one at the Beer Store. All the others must be purchased and consumed at select pubs, bars and restaurants.

The east features a number of well-balanced IPA’s in both the American and English styles. Propeller’s IPA is always magnificent, Picaroon’s Yippee IPA is respectable, so is Garrison’s Imperial IPA along with the Dementia IPA series produced by Pump House. Quebec also has a number of breweries pumping out some beauties. As well, the provinces west of Ontario have seemed to notice the popularity of the style south of the border and breweries like Phillip’s, Swan’s, Half Pints and R&B all sell some outstanding IPA’s.

Which brings me to one of Alberta’s newest beers. Wild Rose Brewery, located in Calgary, spent the late months of the fall brewing up a new Imperial IPA to be included with their other seasonal releases and was launched on January 16th to much anticipation. Tina Wolfe, marketing director at Wild Rose, mentions that IPA’s are one of the fastest growing styles in the craft beer industry and “we wanted to offer our patrons with this seasonal treat.”

The brewery states the newest addition to their growing seasonal line-up is created in the style of a double IPA but made with a unique Albertan twist as it features select Alberta two-row barley and crystal malt that compliment three varieties of hops (Cascade, Chinook and Bravo). “The seasonal Imperial IPA joins our other seasonals like our Cherry Porter, and will be part of our goal of releasing a new seasonal every couple of months,” stated Wolfe.

I was lucky enough to obtain a few of the 500ml bottles of the new beer and last night I finally got around to popping the swing top cap and savouring all it offers.

The orangey – copper beer pours into the pint glass producing a large billowy white head that looks stunning. It takes minutes to finally dissipate which allows my nose to enter the glass without getting a noseful of foam. What I did get is pine needles. Strong pine needles and fresh cut wood; like walking through a bush. I don’t pick up to many citrus notes in the nose, a little kiwi and maybe some tangerine. Big hop flavour in the taste but a big malt backbone that stands up to the hops and at times smooths things out. I got more hop up front before it gave way to more citrus notes of orange and sweet grapefruit. The alcohol is evident (8.5%) as it sends a warming sensation down my lungs, thinning out as I drink on. I’m liking how ‘big’ this beer is, yet how balanced it is and how drinkable it could be. An A in my books.

Wild Rose has been around since 1996 starting out as a draught only brewery. They now brew and bottle four year round beers with their Velvet Fog, Brown Ale, WRaspberry Ale and WR IPA. They also produce a variety of draught only ales for purchase either at their brewery or at select pubs in the area.

Wild Rose Brewery and Taproom
Currie Barracks #2
4580 Quesnay Wood Drive SW
Calgary, Alberta T3E 7J3

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grand River Curmudgeon IPA

I got a note from Grand River brewer Rob Creighton this morning stating that the brewery held another successful tasting last night, their IPA tasting. "Another great event last night with the launch of the Curmudgeon IPA," stated Creighton in the email. "We added a variation to this one as Len & Judie Owens of the Golden Kiwi provided cheese plates and munchies to help moderate the effects of some
strong beers."

The new IPA produced by Grand River (Curmudgeon) checks in at 6.5% abv and approx. 70IBU's using English Pilgrim hops for bittering and Fuggles to finish, according to Creighton. "I think it would be accurate to say that the Curmudgeon provided a distinctly drier 'back of the throat' bitterness that typically comes with our water and yeast combo."

An interesting angle to the beer comes from the bottle the IPA is found in, as Golden Kiwi owner Len Owens' face is pictured on the bottle. "I think it will work well and has received a lot of positive feedback. For a nice guy, Len makes a great curmudgeon," said Creighton.

He also passed along some other information sharing the news that The Kiwi will host a beer dinner on Thursday March 23rd at the Kiwi in downtown Cambridge that Grand River will participate in.

The next tasting at Grand River will feature Stouts and Porters that may include a monster Imperial Stout. Head out to Cambridge on March 10 and take part.

Newfoundland Beer Fest: March 27 - 28

Press Release from the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation

Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) is proud to present our first annual Beer Fest. This 2 night event will take place March 27 & 28, 2009 from 7-10pm at the St. John's Convention Centre.

With a souvenir sample cup in hand, come employ your senses and experience over 40 different types of beer and a variety of ciders through interactive samplings and demonstrations, while listening to live music and enjoying a variety of food in a beer garden atmosphere.

To Purchase Tickets ($49.99)
Online (
Friday, February 20th at 10:00 am or Howley Estates Liquor Store, 10 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's Saturday, February 21st at 10:00 am

Early Bird Bonus!
The first 400 tickets sold (200 online & 200 in store) for Friday nights show and the first 400 tickets sold (200 online & 200 in store) for Saturday nights show will receive a $10 NLC Gift Card. Limit to 4 tickets per night per transaction.

It is nice to hear that Newfoundland Labrador will be holding their first ever Beer Fest. Hopefully the smaller brewers (3 that I know of) will be in attendance offering their products to consumers uninterested in the Molson's, Labatt's and Inbev imports.

LCBO - Take a look at this, along with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation Halifax Seaport beer fest and throw together one of your own - bigger than the Summerhill tasting, with live music and at an off site venue.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Black Oak Brewer in the News

Black Oak brewer Adrian Popowycz is in the news today as the free daily Toronto Metro paper conducted an interview with him for their 'Learning Curve' section.

Click here to read the full interview as it appears on the Metro website.

Bring back the long hair Adrian.

*photo - Adrian on the left

Garrison Grand Baltic Porter Earns Gold

Congratulations goes out to the Garrison Brewing Company for their recent gold medal win for their winter seasonal Grand Baltic Porter - as scored by the Beverage Testing Institute. I received the following press release from Garrison owner Brian Titus who was thrilled with the high rating, but not surprised. "This is one incredible beer that has sold extremely well this winter," stated Titus over the phone during a recent conversation.

Here is Garrison's Press Release:

Baltic Porter Wins Big at World Championships!

Chicago, IL - January 26, 2009 – Award-winning Halifax microbrewer, Garrison Brewing Co., has scored big in the latest round of tastings at the World Beer Championships in Chicago. Since 1981, The Beverage Tasting Institute has run annual tasting panels to provide the industry and consumers with fair and impartial tasting reviews.

Garrison’s latest winter seasonal, “Grand Baltic Porter”, received a gold medal & “Exceptional” rating with a score of 94/100.

“Dark reddish brown. Interesting aroma of honey, pomegranate molasses and sour cherry jam follow through perfectly on a round supple entry to a fruity-yet-dry medium body with granola and cherry notes prominent. Finishes with a very long cocoa dusted nut fade. A superb flavored porter.”
(The Beverage Tasting Institute)

Impressive in its’ own right, the score is also the highest rating ever received by an East Coast brewery in any style. “I’m very happy with the results. This is a truly complex and original brew and it’s great to see a flavoured porter like this be recognized.” said Garrison Brewmaster, Daniel Girard.

Grand Baltic Porter was brewed in the traditional lager style which originates from countries bordering the Baltic Sea. It was brewed with a complex blend of dark malts and the uncommon addition of molasses and the infusion of dates during the boiling process, which created a rich, fruity (berry-like) and malty sweetness dominated by licorice and caramel notes. It is a great compliment to rich dishes, such as beef stews and general tao chicken; it is also excellent with chocolate based desserts.

Garrison also received a silver medal for its’ seasonal “Martello Stout”. Rich flavours of toffee, melted chocolate and roast espresso make this a tasty, easy drinking stout. “Grand Baltic Porter” is available directly from the brewery, through private stores in Halifax and in select NB Liquor stores until April.

Look for more tasting notes on the Grand Baltic Porter as TAPS magazine will be reviewing it in the upcoming Spring tasting panel.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Oscar Meet Charles - Abbot on the Hill Events

I received some news from our friends at the Abbot on the Hill today regarding two events they will be hosting on the 21st and 22nd.

On Saturday the 21st, join the Abbot with friends and family to help celebrate Charles V's birthday. The ruler of the Roman Emperor seemed to have a preference for a mug of beer rather than the more sophisticated wine, which has led to numerous breweries naming beer in his honour. Take part in a 3 course Beligan menu price fixe with three different Het Anker beers, who have commemorated his life with a variety of beers - The Gouden Carolus Series: Gouden Carolus, Gouden Carolus Tripel, Gouden Carolus Ambrio.

Tickets for the event will run you $40.00, a steal for the quality of food the Abbot produces.

There were also be an exclusive beer served just for the occasion, as Het Anker will have their Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw available, a beer brewed only once a year for Charles the V's birthday.

*Reservations are recommended - Supplies are limited.

Then on Sunday the 22nd, for those that follow the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the Abbot will be throwing an Oscar bash sponsored by Tuborg Gold. There will be prizes for the best dressed ladies, free oysters and poached shrimp, and a beer basket prize for the best dressed man. There will also be an Oscar pool to take part in while you watch the event from one of the tv's behind the bar.

There is no cost associated with attending the event; however, reservations are a good idea to ensure enough platters are prepared.

A Rough Weekend

I had planned to sit down at the computer on Saturday afternoon and do some writing for the next issue of TAPS, try to sell some advertising for the magazine and review a bottle of Imperial IPA brewed by Wild Rose. I didn't get any of that completed.

I spent Friday night recovering from a long and exhausting week, only had one beer - a John By Imperial Stout. My first of the season. I was very impressed once again with this beer. Pours midnight black with a huge mocha wavy head before giving way to an impressive aroma of roasted malt, dark coffee, chocolate, light alcohol and also a little smoke. The taste provided a rich silky espresso mouthfeel with a small touch of warming alcohol, notes of cocoa with hops adding a tinge of bitterness in the background. Very nice.

Saturday morning was terrible. I had a meeting with the bank and it was then that I noticed $1000 had been taken from my account through illegal means just hours earlier. Bastard(s)!

Anyway, friends from back home surprised my fiance and I with a visit to Toronto. Mac is a homebrewer and a huge fan of beer. He has actually won a couple of medals in the competitions he's entered and his mild brown ale is always nice. The guy will drink anything you put in front of him - Garrison Imperial IPA one minute a Busch the next. He knows how to appreciate all beers and understands how each one serves its own unique purpose. So my plans of writing and sampling quickly blew out the window as Mac wanted (needed) to get to beerbistro.

I got there just after 4pm and the place was packed; however Mac had managed to get some great seats right near the bar. He was in heaven. It was just the two of us as the girls were doing their own thing and planned to hook up with us later. Well the pints of Durham County's Hop Addict were flying. What a great beer. Great nose, great appearance and most importantly - great flavour.

Friend Cass Enright showed up to share some drinks just as we were about to head over to the Victory Cafe for some more pints, and the girls joined us. In less than 10 minutes, after a subway ride (quite the event for the Orillia folks and a couple of Newf's), we were in front of the Victory. It was packed; both upstairs and downstairs. We spent some time upstairs with all the artists and free spirited people, trying to get in some words over the music. I've never been to the Victory that late, and never upstairs when this atmosphere was present. Luckily we grabbed a booth downstairs and more pints were consumed. County Durham's Red Dragon on cask to be exact. We did our part to keep County Durham in business for another day!

Back home Sunday morning. Sister in from out of town. Greasy breakfast nice and early. Head splitting. Begging for a couch. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the afternoon not really doing anything productive. I had to man up later though as the parents in law were making their way over for dinner where a couple more drinks would be put back.

Monday morning. Still begging for a couch.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beer Geekism

There is a great thread running its course over at BeerAdvocate that is definitely worth exploring - Top Ten Signs Your A Beer Geek. I love it.

Some of the highlighted answers hit so close to home:

Bringing the appropriate glassware over to someone's house so you can enjoy the beer with the respect it deserves. I don't know how many times I have been ridiculed for this. When I go back North to a friends house, all the guys come over to watch a hockey game with their Bud Light or Canadian and I'm sitting there with a mix six pack of various Canadian and American bombers with a glass that would mesh with their styles. They all comment on that. Just recently at one of my fiance's friends places I pulled out my own glass when we arrived. After explaining to me that she wasn't poor and that she did indeed have glasses in her house, I had to go through the whole story about me being a beer geek (enthusiast) and needed to ensure I had the right glassware.

When you've turned your girlfriend/significant other into a beer geek, too. Well, I was on the way to converting my girl into a beer geek, until celiac disease roared its ugly head. She was starting to appreciate all the different styles, how different beers matched foods and how to appreciate the atmosphere surrounding craft beer. Now she drinks cider; although she is excited to try Nouvelle France new Rouge (red) Messangere.

When you spend a half hour in a beer store...and leave without buying anything because they don't have anything "good." Me being in Ontario, I only venture into the Beer Store to take back my empties, which always draws pleasant conversation about the different bottles. But I have walked into LCBO's, walked around checking out the shelves and walked right back out without making a purchase. Maybe not due to the fact that they don't have anything good, but because they may not have anything new; which is often the case.

I always find myself making and accepting recommendations at the beer store. I have done this myself, a couple of times. It's fun, while rewarding. It's great to see someone staring at the different choices, go to reach for Stella, stop for a moment and look back. That's when I've spoke up and offered a suggestion - try a King Pilsner from Nobleton instead, or grab a 9 pack of Cameron's Cream. Sometimes people leap at the recommendation and are very appreciative.

There are many more listed on the forum that I am guilty of - like taking to long picking out a variety pack, confusing people with the name Michael Jackson, and remembering the smell of a beer by looking at the label.

Yes, I am a beer geek, or a beer enthusiasm. I'm not to keen on the title beer geek. I don't keep a journal of beers I drink, or score them (not that there is anything wrong with that - it's a good hobby to have). I'm more of a social beer enthusiast that writes (or tries to) about the social aspects of beer.

What makes you a beer geek/enthusiast/nerd/lover/fanatic?

My Incomplete Session #24 - Tripels

Beer is best when it's shared, and a strong beer is just right for sharing. Belgian Tripels are big beers with a flavor profile that is enjoyed by both experienced and new beer fans. Be it an intimate evening, or watching a ball game on TV, a Tripel is made for sipping and sharing. For Session #24 the theme is "A Tripel for Two." What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member, or lover?

Today is Friday. The first Friday of the month, and that means it's Session time. I haven't taken part in the last couple of Sessions due to conflicts in my personal schedule and today I'm faced with the same dilemma.

Here I am, sitting at work, thinking about Tripels. David over at Musings Over A Pint chose the subject for the 24th edition of the Session and I don't think I'll have time yet again to get a full post completed. If I was back in school I'd be getting an F on this assignment.

I guess I could have cracked open one of the Tripels I have in my collection last night to prepare a glowing review to be posted today. But I didn't and now I'm wishing I had.

I have a couple bottles of the Koningshoeven Tripel that the LCBO brought in at a very reasonable price; a couple of bottles of Unibroue's La Fin du Monde in my fridge, some Westmalle, Chimay White, Piraart and some more. And they're all still there. I'm killing myself. It's 8:30am as I write this and I'm wishing I was back home, feet up, book in hand, sipping from a chalice holding a beer the Belgians made famous.

Then I thought, 'Well maybe I'll do a small post on the style,' but that is boring, and I'd be surprised if the people that read this blog don't already know about the history of the Tripel and their qualities. So this is what you get.

I actually plan on receiving some Mill Street Betelgeuse growlers (new Tripel recently released) tonight for sampling and I may, just maybe, get something posted for this weekend. And to answer David's question - "What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member, or lover?" Well, I'll pick the Mill Street, but I'll be drinking it alone as the fiance has celiac.

I'm sure I'll be feeling it tomorrow!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Little Bit of the Devil for Valentine's Day

Stephen Beaumont has provided some dessert and beer pairings for Valentine's over on That's the Spirit, and though the romantic day is still over a week away I thought I'd share a recipe provided by the Ontario Craft Brewers that even Cupid would love.

Devil’s Chocolate Pie
- created by Chef Anthony Mair-

Treat your Valentine to this hearty coupling of full-bodied beer and sweet, tasty chocolate!

Craft Beer:
½ cup of Great Lakes’ deliciously naughty Devil’s Pale Ale or your favourite craft dark ale (Hockley Valley Dark Ale, Scotch Irish Plain Porter, Granite Keefe's Irish Stout, Scotch Irish John By or to add some coffee notes - a Mill Street Coffee Porter)

2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese
½ cup of butter, softened
½ cup of sugar
10 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup of 666 Devil’s Pale Ale or other dark beer
12 oz of sweetened whipped cream
1 graham cracker pie crust

1.Cream butter and cream cheese in a large bowl
2.Add sugar and mix thoroughly
3.Melt chocolate chips in a small saucepan over medium heat
4.Add craft beer and stir until well combined. Cool slightly.
5.Gently mix chocolate beer sauce into cream cheese mixture.
6.Fold in 8 oz of whipped cream (reserve the rest) and turn mixture into prepared crust.
7.Refrigerate until set.
8.Top with remaining whipped cream.

Pair with a dry stout or sweet porter (see OCB products listed above). Serves 6 to 8 people.

Now fella's, I think even the cave man in us could pull off this recipe and look good doing it. And while doing it, don't be shy to have a bottle, or can, nearby to get you through it.

Recipes compliments of

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

News From Calgary's Wild Rose

It would seem that beer drinkers in Alberta are quite fond of a couple Wild Rose draught only products - WRed Wheat Ale and SOB (Special Old Bitter), as comments poured into the brewery inquiring why the brewery wasn't bottling them. It turns out that customers sending so many letters/emails worked as the brewery will now be bottling the two brands and will be making them available for sale in six packs come spring. If you can't wait until then, remember you can pick up a 'party pig' at the brewery. The WRed Wheat Ale and the SOB will join the other bottled Wild Rose products like their WRaspberry Ale, Brown Ale, Velvet Fog, I.P.A.

In other news from Wild Rose, their recently released seasonal, Imperial IPA, has been selling exceptionally well. The brewery held a launch party in their Taproom back on January 16th with a cask conditioned version and it was drained in 37 mins. The 500ml bottle is available at select liquor stores in Alberta. Stay tuned for a review here shortly.

They have also updated their food menu for the Taproom, added some fresh choices to compliment their old school favourites. Visit their website to see the changes.

Tree Hop Head vs. Green Flash Hop Head Red

Rick Green runs the BC Beer Blog out on the west coast and the other day he posted an excellent read on a dispute between Kelowna's Tree Brewery and California's Green Flash Brewery over the name Hop Head.

Turns out that Green Flash has a beer by the name of Hop Head Red Ale that was being imported into BC (since Aug. 08). Tree Brewing, who produces a delicious IPA named Hop Head IPA, had their lawyers contact Green Flash insisting that they cease using the name Hop Head in BC, a move Tree feels was necessary to protect their trademark.

Based on the blog entry, it seems that Green Flash has decided to stop importing that brand for the time being, rather than get into a pissing match in court.

Read Green's post here, where he dissects some other cases involving ligation between breweries over naming rights.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

TAPS/Beerology Audio Podcast #4

Back on October 30th I wrote about Mirella Amato (beer writer/speaker and founder of teaming up with TAPS Media to record audio interviews with brewers, pub owners and craft beer fans.

She started things off with a discussion at Volo's Cask Days event about cask conditioned beer and examined its growing popularity in North America. The second focused on Winter beers. She spoke with Ontario brewers to see what they look for in a good winter warmer and how to enjoy them. And the third podcast, released in January, dealt with the state of the local Ontario craft brewing scene.

In keeping with the promise of releasing a new audio podcast on the first Monday of each month, Amato and TAPS take us to Quebec for the February edition, and fourth in the series, to chat with a select group of Quebec brewers.

All the podcasts are free, easy to subscribe to, and make for a good listen on your daily commute into work. To subscribe, simply go to iTunes (free) and run a search, or RSS. Or check out the Beerology or TAPS magazine websites.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dieu du Ciel Best Brewpub: Ratebeer 2009 Awards

Ratebeer recently released the names of the winners for their 2009 Best of Rate Beer Awards which include a number of Canadian destinations. Categories included best beer (Canadian beer), brewpubs, best beer restaurants, best beer bars, and best breweries to visit. The winners are determined by the tallied scores each ratebeerian gives a certain location and then awarded either a gold, silver or bronze.

Best Beer Restaurants
#6 - Beerbistro, Toronto,ON
*(also, kudo's to #8 finisher - Cole's, Buffalo, NY

Best Beer Bars
#11 - Volo, Toronto, ON
#42 - Smokeless Joe, Toronto, ON

Best Brewpub
#1 - Dieu du Ciel, Montreal, QU
#12 - Bedondaine et Bedons Ronds, Chambly, QU

Best Breweries to Visit
#37 - Steam Whistle, ON

The list of the 50 best Canadian beers has also been announced and it contains a shit load of Quebec beers, most notably Dieu du Ciel's exceptional beers. Click here for the list. It's great to see a small brewer like Bruce of Durham County get some recognition for two of his beers.

Congrats to all!

When the Beer Runneth Dry: Victory Winter Cask Festival

The folks at the Victory Cafe pulled off another coup on Saturday as they hosted their second consecutive successful cask festival, so successful in fact that they ran out of the 13 casks by 5pm.

I arrived to the event shortly after 12:30pm, hurting head from the night before and all, and was surprised to find both the bottom and top levels of the Victory to be full of early cask drinkers. "There was actually a line-up that formed just after 11am," stated Maz Brereton, co-owner of the Victory and member of the CASK! group. "We are absolutely thrilled to see this many people interested in cask beer."

George Eagleson, brewer at F&M, was one of the first people I encountered when I walked thru the door so we headed over to his cask of Coffee Oatmeal Stout for the half pint sample. We stood at the bar and talked about some things that F&M have in their sights (nothing that can be mentioned yet), but he did inform me that the stout has sold exceedingly well, so well that places were running out of it very fast. "We debated brewing another batch, but we decided that it was a good run and we'll take that into account next year."

Tim Blakeley from Best Bitters Brewing Co. (Nickelbrook) arrived just in time for a round of his 2008 Cuvee. Weighing in at over 7%, the spiced ale had some peppery notes and burnt sugars blended with some fruitiness that masked the alcohol pretty well. I found it to be a little more balanced than the 2007 version and quite nice. So did other people as the Cuvee was the first beer to be emptied.

My cell phone rang, it was a friend who was waiting in the line-up outside - it was roughly 3pm. I peered outside and was astonished to see such a line. Nicholas Pashley, the witty beer drinking novelist, was working the door and commented that the place was at capacity; something they didn't expect. "What is really interesting is the mix of people here," Pashley said. "There are lots of females and young people, which is very encouraging to see."

Back at the bar Brereton stated that the summer cask festival that was held in-conjunction with the CASK! group attracted 86 people over the seven hour event, so they were expecting numbers along those lines. This was not the case though. Due to all the eager drinkers, the casks started running dry shortly after 4pm and by five the last one was drained. However, people were still milling about, helping drink some of the Maclean's Pale Ale on cask at the bar.

It was a great event, very well put together. The weather wasn't to bad outside, a few snow flurries here and there, but the warmth of the pub on a winter afternoon was all anybody could ask for. The beers, 13 in total, and of the ten I sampled - were terrific. Granite's Hopping Mad was magnificent and the Neustadt Lager (with Japanese Hops) was interesting.
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