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, March 31, 2009

Garrison Ultimate Brew-Off

After finishing the post about Amsterdam brewing a Doppelbock based on a recipe listed on Bar Towel, the folks at the Garrison Brewing Company forwarded me the following press release (see below) announcing a new annual competition they're hosting for Maritime home-brewers.

I recently talked to Brian Titus, owner of Garrison's, who filled me in on his idea. "Most professional brewers start off home-brewing, so this is a great way to let them showcase their skills on a commercial level while getting engaged with Garrison," stated Titus." Everyone at the brewery is looking forward to trying the beer that gets submitted, and we do expect some terrific stuff."

This is a terrific idea that should peek the interest of homebrewers living on the east coast. The winning entry, as you'll read below, gets a pretty nice prize - the chance to brew the recipe at the brewery with Brewmaster Daniel Girard, which will then go on to be packaged and sold as a Garrison seasonal.

Here is the announcement:

Welcome to the first annual “Garrison Ultimate Brew-Off”, an annual competition for hot-shot home-brewers across the Maritimes.

Participants will be asked to produce a 5 gallon/20litre batch of beer based on a pre-determined beer style. Each entry will receive a written review with the top four each receiving a prize. The best beer overall will be scaled up to commercial size by our Brewmaster, Daniel Girard, which the home-brewer will assist in brewing as a Garrison seasonal! This is intended to be an annual event, with a different style chosen each year.


  • Entrants must be home-brewers (non-commercial brewers) from either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
  • Beers produced on the premises of commercial brewers are not eligible;
  • Beers must be within BJCP Style Guidelines to win ( The 2009 style is “STANDARD / ORDINARY BITTER;

Beers must be:
1.) all-grain; or,
2.) extract with hops &/or malt.

  • Purchased “complete kits” are not eligible. Brews must be properly documented (brewing sheet attached) & fully reproducible; Unfiltered beer is completely acceptable;
  • Total of 2 litres (6 x 341ml, 4 x 500ml, etc.) submitted for review & judging purposes;
  • $10 registration fee entitles all entrants to a souvenir t-shirt & two tickets to the gala event;
  • Registration deadline is April 30, 2009. Samples must be received by Tuesday, May 19, 2009.
Review, Judging and Awards Reception:
  • All entries will receive a written evaluation (including suggestions if applicable) by our award-winning Brewmaster, Daniel Girard.
  • The top four (4) entries will be selected by Daniel Girard for final judging by BJCP certified judges;
  • Awards will be handed out at a reception on Thursday May 28, 2009 at Garrison Brewery () and finalists are asked to bring a quantity of their brew for attendees to sample.
  • The Gold Medal winner will be invited to join Daniel in brewing a full-sized batch of their recipe for packaging & release as a limited edition seasonal. They will also receive two flats (48 bottles) of the finished beer, a $75 Noble Grape gift certificate & be presented with a trophy that will remain on display at the brewery;
  • Prizes will also be given out for Silver, Bronze & Honourable Mention, including gift certificates from Noble Grape.
Good Luck & Drink Independently!

** Garrison retains the right to name & brew the finished product without royalty, compensation or limitation.

Garrison Brewing Company

Halifax, NS

Monday, March 30, 2009

Amsterdam Strong Spring Bock - Dehydrator

Anyone that's interested with the craft beer industry in Ontario know that one of the places to go to get 'up to the minute' information is the Bar Towel website. The public forums are a great way to share information with a network of people who share the same passion for beer. It was on one of these forums that a homebrewer by the name of Derek Hyde posted one of his recipes - a Doppelbock recipe, after he found out he didn't win the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) contest to be a brewer for the day.

You see, last year the OCB ran a contest where individuals submitted their names for a chance to win an opportunity to help an OCB member brew for a day. The winning recipient wouldn't be creating anything new, they would just be assisting, and watching the brewmaster work his/her magic, learning about the whole process.

As I mentioned, Hyde didn't win. Instead, in September, he went to Bar Towel and created a topic called "If you won the craft brewer for a day...." and let everyone know what he would have liked to have done if his name was pulled from the ballot box. Little did Hyde know that Amsterdam Brewmaster Jamie Mistry was looking to do a new seasonal for the spring months (as Amsterdam recently added 480hls of fermentation capacity, giving them more flexibility to do more seasonals and test brews). The recipe caught the attention of Mistry, prompting him to send a message to Hyde inquiring if it would be fine to use his recipe at the brewery. *Just to note, Amsterdam is no longer a OCB member*

Hyde meanwhile was thrilled to have a commercial brewery interested in one of his recipes and had no objections to Amsterdam doing this what-so-ever. "I put the recipe together according to my taste, so I'm thrilled that Amsterdam brewed it and that other people are enjoying it," stated an excited Hyde after the beer was released at the Amsterdam retail store. "I didn't get involved in the brewing process though, but Jamie was great. He didn't just take the recipe and run with it, he was interested in all of the technical details of how I did the decoction mash (temperatures and rest times), as well as the specific hop additions during the boil. He really did try to reproduce the brew, without making any compromises."

"What interested me was that he (Hyde's recipe) attempted a triple decoction and it sounded like fun," stated Mistry early two weeks ago. " The three brewers and myself really enjoyed it, especially the decocation part. The brewery will definitely make more beers with this method."

The beer, which was released back in early March and called Amsterdam Strong Spring Bock (aka - Dehydrator), pours a very deep mahogany with hints of ruby red, and produces a wavy tan head with lingering retention. Each sip leaves behind rich lacing on the pint glass. Dark fruitiness with some noticeable peppery notes, sweet caramel, and a small touch of alcohol, which is masked very nicely, stands out in the aroma. The tongue picks up a bit of spicing up front, peppery (very subtle mind you), slight smoky-burnt caramel, sweet dark fruit, cherries, honey, a touch of dark chocolate, and a slightly warming alcohol burn. The Doppelbock is fairly bitter, medium to full bodied, medium level of carbonation, with a dry finish. Easily drinkable, and nice to share with friends.

When Amsterdam hired Mistry back in the summer of 2008 I went down to the brewery to talk to him and plant manager Andre Klinker, and both men stated that they would be tweaking the Amsterdam general products while incorporating some new brews into their line-up. This is the first of a number of seasonals that Mistry plans on brewing. He mentioned that they would like to produce a Schwarzbier and a Porter that would most likely only be available by heading down to the brewery for a six pack.

What a great story. It shows that a brewery is listening to the beer enthusiasts' out there. Not only are they listening, but Amsterdam actually did something to prove that they understand the market is changing. They took a risk that captured the attention of Toronto beer geeks and the venture has proved to be successful. Go for Amsterdam.

And Hyde, well, he is back at it, he recently started a new thread on Bar Towel titled "Ontario Craft Brewer Challenge" where he is asking other homebrewers to submit recipes in the chance another craft brewer might decide to incorporate it into their production. Who knows, we might start seeing a new trend in the industry. As for seeing his recipe in bottles at the retail store, Hyde thinks it's "really cool."

Available at the Amsterdam Retail Store $14.95 six pack
21 Bathurst Street
Monday - Saturday 11am - 11pm
Sunday - 11am - 6pm

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mikkeller Jackie Brown Ale

As I was sitting at the computer last night my alert notification program popped up reminding me that tickets for the April 15th Danish beer dinner at beerbistro were going on sale in the morning, which is now today. It also reminded me that I had a fresh bottle of Mikkeller’s Jackie Brown Ale sitting in my beer fridge that needed to be consumed.

I’m a big fan of the Mikkeller beers. I absolutely love the Beer Geek Breakfast, a beer that has so much going on but it so easy to drink. Mikkeller’s Stateside IPA is another strong product that found a home in my fridge, holding strong against a number of American IPA’s in a tasting a few months ago. And then there is the Jackie Brown Ale, a nice beer perfect for the cool spring months.

A colour reminiscent of a chestnut brown poured from the 650ml Danish bottle that was similar to that of a light pop (cola). The pour produced a rapidly expanding layer of foamy protection that stuck around fighting off beers worst enemy - oxygen. The toasting and roasting of the malts provided a nutty aroma, close to that of walnuts, joining a smell of a fresh cut hay-field in the summer. There is a light smokiness in the first couple of mouthfuls, which eventually succumb to more of a sweet caramel touch with a moderate bitterness in the follow through. Hops are evident in the Jackie Brown, but they play nicely with other palate punchers likes notes of coffee, honey, and dark chocolate. The 6.0% is a little more milder than some of the other Mikkeller products I’ve been fortunate to try, but I think even Pam Grier would be willing to slay Quentin Tarantino to get her hands on a bottle of this beauty.

Danish beer dinner at beerbistro, Wednesday April 15th, hosted by the Roland and Russell Import Agency. Eight courses of Danish cuisine deliciously prepared by chef Brian Morin paired with beers from Norrebro and Mikkeller. Tickets are on sale as of today at a cost of $120 plus applicable taxes and gratuities. To purchase tickets, please contact: Kathleen McGinn or Cheri Dueck at beerbistro by calling .

*And for the record, I am not promoting this event in exchange for a ticket. I am promoting this event because I believe in the quality of the beers being brought in, and I believe in the business values practiced by the Roland and Russell Import Agency.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meet Jonathon Sherman: Owner Steelback Brewing Co.

This guy has been through a lot in the last year. I mean, he took over a brewery at 25 years of age, and not just any brewery, but one that was in dire shambles with a reputation for inconsistent products and a marketing budget far exceeding incoming sales figures.

Yes, Jonathon Sherman has been through a lot. He has stripped Steelback down to its core and has been slowly and methodically putting the pieces back in place. Gone are the tall tub cans. So are those ridiculous plastic bottles that drove customers mad. The services of the always colourful Frank D'Angelo were no longer needed. Steelback was shedding its past image, looking toward a brighter future. The company recently made a splash in the brewing industry when it was announced that they joined the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), something Sherman had in mind when the re-branding was initiated, even if it meant going through some hurdles.

I recently met up with energetic owner over a pint of their new seasonal Red Maple Lager to discuss his decision to join the OCB, talk about the transformation of the brewery, and see what may be in store.

Meet Jonathon Sherman (now 26 years old):

Steelback was just accepted into the OCB. Why did you want to join?
It was something that I wanted to do since our big re-launch. The old Steelback was rife with inconsistency, bad marketing, and produced way to many beers. I felt like we needed to get back to basics and gain some back some credibility. Joining the OCB shows that we are serious about change, and shows how much was have tried to separate the brewery from the old guard. Also, gaining the OCB Stamp of Approval on our products is a great way for customers to see that a change for the better took place. The OCB does some great things, things like the Discovery Pack, which introduces beer drinkers to beers that may not have been discovered otherwise. This grassroots marketing is something we like and hope that we can contribute to in the future. I also wanted to join the OCB because of the teamwork. Being part of a group of dedicated individuals fighting for market share is something I believe in.

What does Steelback hope to gain from joining - other than credibility?
Well, the number one thing is the OCB Stamp of Approval. This is big. We also hope to gain friendships with the other breweries. We want to be part of that comroderie that the OCB members are known for.

You have to be one of, if not thee youngest brewery owner in Canada. What has it been like?
It's been pretty wild. Pretty exciting. Most young entrepreneur's look to start off on the right foot, I started off with a sinking ship. While it has been fun, it has also been very challenging. The first thing I did was surround myself with experience. I hired Ian MacDonald who is a veteran beer guy to run the daily operation of the brewery. He has been great. As for me, I am a hands-on owner. I like to be out in the field with the sales reps, visiting our accounts and getting to know the individuals who support our vision. I am learning more and more about the industry everyday and I often joke around with friends that my experience comes from my days as a consumer..if you get my drift.

We all know about the re-launch, but can you explain the decision to cut the Steelback line-up from 11 beers to 5?
There were many factors.
1 - We wanted to get back to basics. Brew a handful of beers and give our undivided attention to them.
2 - The old Steelback had so many different brands that they were essentially competing against each other. Some stores only stocked 2 or 3 while some stocked 5 or 6. That made it difficult for people to find our beers. Eliminating all those brands has saved a lot of confusion.
3 - Fewer raw packaging costs. You save a lot of money when you cut back on numerous brands.
4 - I wanted to get away from the tub cans and the plastic bottles too. Putting everything in standard bottles and selling them in six packs, along with the re-branding, has given us a better image.

Your products mainly cater to the everyday beer drinker. Will beer geeks ever write about a Steelback beer?
I certainly hope so...and I think so. Yes, we do have 5 beers that are mainstream, easy drinking beers. We are a brewery built on that. However, as part of our craft beer segment, releasing seasonals or producing one-offs is something we would like to do, and will be exploring. We just produced a Red Maple Lager that is only available on draught and it has been very successful. We also got some new brewing equipment to do test brewing, so hopefully we can start doing some unique stuff soon.

Many OCB members participate in beer events like Volo Cask Days and different tasting sessions. Do you see Steelback engaging in these sort of events now that you've joined the OCB?
Yeah, we're totally into that. We already do some intimate events closer to the brewery, letting people taste the difference of change. We want to be fully involved in the craft market as these different niche events help set smaller breweries apart from the large guys. A lot of people think Steelback is a large brewery. We have a large brewery, be we are craft in size. Pumping out the same five beers only bores people over time and doing special beers for events is something that we are interested in. It will be nice to participate in events with the other OCB members.

Who do you look up to in the brewing industry?
I love the Creemore model and I think we have worked off that model since the re-launch. Do good products at a craft level, focus on draught accounts (that way the beer gets into the hands of people without paying for a whole case), put faith in our quality, and working from our backyard outward. Like Creemore, Steelback packaging has been re-branded with images of local scenery. David Kincade, who runs a branding consulting firm, has been a great help in getting us back on our feet. He's someone I looked up to for professional help.

What is your favourite Steelback beer?
Hands down, no question - the Dark Lager. Dark Lager by a long shot. The new Red Maple is great, but I love the Dark. It's drinkable, flavourful, and complex.

The Dark Lager won a Gold Medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2007, just after the re-launch, and brought with it some criticism.
I don't blame people for their words. They probably tried the beer when it was sold in the plastic bottles, or tried it after it spoiled. I could understand why they didn't like it. The beer the judges tasted was fresh, bottled in glass, and the recipe had been tightened.

Any last words?
I guess I could say that we have come a long way in one year and we are very thrilled to be a member of the OCB. It is a privilege to join forces with all the other great craft breweries and it will be great to work with them. We will continue to grow, continue to improve, and promise to get a lot better. Keep an eye on Steelback.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The beerbistro Cookbook

Just thinking about the recipes and beer recommendations contained in the colourful pages of this book, is enough to ignite my salivary glands. Like Pavlo's dogs, everytime I hear the word beerbistro I start to water at the mouth. I have yet to see a copy, but I can imagine writers Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin have done a magnificent job of bringing the beerbistro culinary culture into the home of beer aficionado's and food lovers alike.

Morin the Chef/Owner of beerbistro, and Beaumont the beer writer and Beerbistro partner, have put together , which is currently available for pre-ordering on, before the official April 10th release date. Word is that some pre-ordered books are being delivered as early as yesterday. There are also copies available at beerbistro, and Beaumont mentioned on Bar Towel that the highly talented duo may do some sort of book signing next week.

Here is Amazon's description of the book, which was published by Key Porter Books here in Toronto.

In beerbistro Cookbook , writer Stephen Beaumont and chef Brian Morin show how you can take your beer to a whole new culinary level. Covering everything from getting to know your ales and lagers to appetizers, mains, cheese, beer cocktails, and even beer pastry, first-timers and foodies will find something to whet their appetites and wet their whistles. Informative sidebars provide tips and hints on everything from how to pour beer to what glassware to pour it into. True-to-life photos will take you behind the scenes to see exactly how these mouth-watering dishes are made. They will make you hungry for more. Recipes include: Blonde Ale Vegetable Pakoras, Grilled Porter, Pulled Pork Quesadillas, Curried Butternut Squash and Ale Hummus, Drunken Portobello Mushroom Sandwich, The Ultimate Frites, Apple Ale Back Ribs, Navajo Spice Rubbed Oatmeal Stout Chicken, Maudite Onion Confit, Beer Butter Tarts, Beeramisu, Stout Macadamia Nut Brownies, and Beerscream.

I think this new book will look great joining the other Beaumont collections in my ever growing beer library. Get out and grab a copy today!

Fynn's of Temple Bar to Host Beer Dinner

The independently owned and operated Fynns of Temple Bar on King Street West has announced plans to host a four course beer dinner on Monday April 27th starting at 6:30pm.

"Once again, we are happy to have Food Network Canada's very own Thirsty Traveler, Kevin Brauch back at Fynn's for our second beer tasting event," stated Robin Wynne, manager of Fynns.

"The feedback and response from the first one was so overwhelming, that we had to get Kevin back to host another night! Again, the beer tasting dinner will be 4 courses of beer, with 4 courses of food, and possibly a fifth toast beer on top of that, for $50.00 per person! We sold out last time at 100 people, so get your tickets fast by reserving your name and table for the night."

I contacted Wynne to get a list of the beers that they will be featuring; however, he confirmed that he and Brauch usually make the decision two weeks prior to the dinner. "We take a look at our vintages list, talk to the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) about any new unique products on the market, and we do try to find at least one Bavarian produced beer that is in limited numbers."

The last beer tasting held at Fynn's included a couple five beauties, plus an extra toasting beer - Creemore UrBock, Dogfish Head 60 min IPA, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Innes and Gunn, Mill Street Tankhouse and for the toast, Black Katt Oyster Stout.

Interested? To book your reservation and to ensure your place for the evening, send an email to .

Fynn's of Temple Bar

Toronto, ON

Monday, March 23, 2009

CASK! Ale Crawl - Coming Soon!

Don't forget about the Cask Ale Crawl taking place the April 3-5 weekend hosted by the CASK! group. Head out to grab some pints of terrific Ontario produced cask ales at these participating locations.

Granite Brewery (245 Eglinton Ave. E.)
Granite Best Bitter Special
Granite IPA
Granite Hopping Mad

Mill St. Brewpub (Distillery District, 55 Mill St.)
Mill St. IPA

C’est What (.)
C’est What Al’s Cask
County Durham Hop Head
Grand River Curmudgeon IPA
Grand River Plowman’s Ale
Neustadt Big Dog Porter

Rhino (1249 Queen St. W.)
County Durham TBD
Black Oak TBD

Victory (581 Markham St.)
Compass Starlight Ale
County Durham Signature Ale
Nickel Brook Sour Cherry Ale

Volo ()
C’est What Chocolate Hazelnut Ale
Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout
MacLean’s Country Organic Ale
Neustadt Texas Tea Stout

The crawl gets underway at 5pm on Friday the 3rd, and remember, there will be no admission charges at the fine establishments.

Garrison Private Order Update: SOLD OUT

Shortly after posting the previous entry, Enright emailed me to let me know that the final four cases had been ordered. Good on everyone for ordering.

Garrison Private Order Update

The sales numbers for the first ever private order from the Garrison Brewing Company have been a tremendous success for Cass Enright. The founder of Bar Towel (who created his own corporation to import a variety of Garrison beers) has been astonished as the speed at which the beer has ordered. "We made the announcement last Thursday, and by 6pm tonight, we only have 2 cases of the Imperial Pale Ale left, and 2 cases of the Sugar Moon Maple Ale left."

Once the remaining cases are ordered, Enright has the task of emailing each customer an LCBO ordering form which must be signed, dated, and have credit card information listed to cover the deposit on your order. Once the customer completes that form they will have to fax the original document back to Enright who will then submit the total package (all order forms) to the LCBO for the beer to be ordered. "Hopefully it won't take to long to arrive after that," stated Enright.

So for those of you who are sitting on the fence deciding whether or not to participate in this order, now is the time to act. Go to to submit your order before it's to late.

Also, Enright has posted the first story of his venture on his FreeOurBeer website - the website in which he has dedicated to exploring the beer retail system in Ontario.

Chief Beer Officer Scott Kerkmans

Scott Kerkmans, The Four Points by Sheraton Chief Beer Officer, was in town last week attending a number of conferences and I managed to steal some of his time to conduct an interview for the summer issue of TAPS.

Let me tell you, this guy has an amazing job - touring Four Points international locations promoting the Best Brews Program that the hotel chain has initiated. He also gets to create beer menu's, judge in competitions, write about the industry, host beer dinners, educate staff and servers, and so much more.

Kerkmans had a busy week here, doing interviews, taking part in beer dinners, and appearing on Canada AM where he pimped out a number of craft beer, including Great Lakes, Steam Whistle, Unibroue, Mill Street, and Trafalgar. Click on Canada AM to view the footage.

I know it's a long time away, but look for my interview with Kerkmans in the summer issue of the magazine.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Danish for a Day: April 15th Beer Dinner

Last year was the year of the beer dinner. Three high profile American brewers/owners flew into Toronto to host great evenings filled with terrific food and unbelievable beers.

Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery, Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head, and Phin DeMink from Southern Tier all showcased their products and helped raise the bar for beer dinners here in Ontario.

The Roland and Russell Import Agency were behind the Southern Tier dinner last April, and almost a year to the day of that one they have announced plans to bring some world class Danish beers to Toronto for another highly anticipated dinner, at the one of the best beer bars in the world - Beerbistro.

Here is the press release:
Beerbistro and Roland + Russell proudly invite you to a great evening celebrating Danish cuisine and craft beer on April 15th.

Throughout the evening, Brian Morin and his team will be offering eight courses highlighting a chef’s interpretation of traditional and modern Danish cuisine. Each dish will be perfectly matched with one of eight spectacular beers being specially brought in for this event. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to taste beers from two of Denmark’s finest breweries – Norrebro Bryghus and Mikkeller. One of the world’s leading beer experts, Canada’s own Stephen Beaumont will provide an unbiased and passionate sketch of Denmark’s vibrant craft beer landscape.

Tentatively confirmed for this evening is Anders Kissmeyer, the man behind Nørrebro Bryghus and one of Denmark’s most recognized artisanal brewers. Featured beers are: Mikkeller’s Warrior IPA, Jackie Brown, Beer Geek Brunch, Stone Alesmith and Nørrebro’s La Granja, Skargaards Porter, Paske Bock and Old Odense.

To close this evening on a high note, a special beer will be served as a nightcap. We are leaving the name of the beer a mystery, but we can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Tickets go on sale March 27th and are available at a cost of $120 plus applicable taxes and gratuities. To purchase tickets, please contact: Kathleen McGinn or Cheri Dueck at

As part of the lead up to this dinner, I will be reviewing a bottle of Mikkeller's Jackie Brown American Brown Ale, offering a glimpse into only one of the terrific beers that will be on hand on April 15th.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hey Ontario! You Ready for some Garrison Beer?

I have written about the Garrison Brewing Company from Halifax, NS many times since I created this blog. I have also profiled a number of their beers. And now it is my great pleasure to announce that Garrison will now be available for private ordering here in Ontario!

But before I go any further, please let me tell you how it has come to be.

Remember that three-part series that the Toronto Star ran in the summer about the Beer Store and how beer is sold in this province? Remember ‘Bad Brew’. The one that caused a big stir in the beer industry, leading one man from Hamilton, ON to initiate a petition to outright ban the Beer Stores; the one that caused a local MPP to stand up in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and read the petition aloud to his colleagues; the one that irked Cass Enright, the founder of the popular Toronto beer forum Bar Towel, to put together a new website titled “Free Our Beer” aimed at running stories about the way our province regulates the sale of beer.

Enright started that website with one mind in goal – to reform Ontario’s beer retail system, from a craft point of view. Which leads me to my next story.

I was having beers with Enright one night back in December and we were sitting around his place talking about our recent rejection from the LCBO regarding an FOI (Freedom of Information) request we had made, searching for a list of all rejected beers over the last two years and the reasons why they were turned down.

I believe we were having a glass of 21% beer from Denmark when Enright mentioned that we could be going about this all wrong – instead of trying to request information, why not get an import agent license and bring in a beer? This way, one would be able to walk through all the stages an individual must go through to get beer on the shelves at our arms-length government liquor stores.

The following week a call was placed to Brian Titus, owner of Garrison’s asking him if he would be interested in signing up for this new endeavour. He was! Ok, so now how to go about getting the proper credentials to import beer from one province into another?

Enright did his homework. He talked to other importers, picked the brains of some LCBO staff, and contacted the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, who issue importer licences. Meetings, fees, and a signed contract got the ball rolling, and today the licence sits on Enright’s desk. What’s the name of the business? None other than Bar Towel of course! Actually, its Cecktor Limited, Enright's corporation behind this venture.

Titus meanwhile, was growing more and more excited about the possibility of entering the Ontario market, even on a small scale. In a recent phone conversation with Titus, I mentioned that his Imperial Pale Ale would be a great start for the Ontario market and his excitement grew even more. “The thought of Ontario citizens finally being able to drink the 2007 & 2008 Canadian Beer of the Year is beautiful,” he stated. “It will be nice to actually get our beer into the hands of all the people who have emailed over the last couple of years wondering why they couldn’t buy our beer in Ontario.”

So what exactly will be coming in? For starters, the Imperial Pale Ale at $51 per case (12x500ml), Garrison's newest seasonal Sugar Moon Maple Ale also at $51 per case (12x500ml), and flats (24) of mixer sixers that will contain Tall Ship Amber, Irish Red Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, Martello Stout, and Jalapeno Ale at $52 a flat (4x6 341ml).

Getting back to that whole Free Our Beer, dedicated to reforming Ontario’s beer retail system, from a craft point of view thing. Enright has been keeping meticulous notes on each step that he has undergone. It’s interesting stuff, and he's going to begin writing about his experiences on Free Our Beer. And hopefully, as this enterprise moves ahead, more information will become available about other products out there that are searching for shelf space here in Ontario. If so, I’ll be sure to post them here on the blog.

How to sign up for a case? Very easy. Go to, fill in the blanks when prompted and then wait for an LCBO order form that will need to be signed and dated before being submitted with your credit card number. A 25% deposit will be charged by the LCBO as a confirmation of your order. This deposit will not be charged right away, but when the entire order is delivered to the LCBO. The remaining cost will be charged once you pick up your order from the LCBO upon arrival.

Here is the press release:

TORONTO, March 19 - The Bar Towel, through its partner corporation Cecktor Limited, is proud to announce that it has been appointed the exclusive agent in Ontario for Garrison Brewing Company of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We are thrilled to announce this exciting new venture for The Bar Towel and our new relationship with Garrison,” said Cass Enright, President of The Bar Towel. “The Bar Towel has always stood for promoting craft beer in Ontario, and now we will be able to help contribute to this directly with one of Canada’s premier breweries in Garrison,” he continued.

The Bar Towel intends on doing things a little differently as a brewery agent in Ontario. All dealings with the LCBO and other regulatory bodies will be documented on Free Our Beer (, a web site begun by The Bar Towel in summer of 2008 to raise awareness about the challenges craft beer drinkers face from a retail point-of-view. “We believe that Ontarians deserve the best that the beer world has to offer,” said Cass. “And we intend on shedding some light, from the inside, what it’s like to be in the beer business in Ontario.”

A private order will be the first way that beer lovers in Ontario can try Garrison’s ales. Starting immediately, consumers can join a private order to purchase full cases of the following:

The multiple-award winning Imperial Pale Ale
The new seasonal Sugar Moon Maple Ale
A mixed-six of different brands including Irish Red Ale, Tall Ship Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, Martello Stout Ale and Jalapeno Ale.

Consumers interested in being a part of this order can find out more information and apply online at

“This represents a big leap forward not only for The Bar Towel, but for beer lovers of Ontario as well,” Cass continued. “Hopefully passionate beer fans will be able to try some new beers as a result of this,” he concluded.

Garrison Brewing Company is an award-winning independent Halifax microbrewery, producing distinctive, unpasteurized, all-natural ales in small batches. Now in it’s 11th year, Garrison distributes widely throughout the Maritimes and has nearly doubled sales since moving to the Halifax Seaport three years ago.

The Bar Towel is Ontario’s premier online destination for craft beer lovers in the province. The Bar Towel is the founder of the Golden Tap Awards, a leading awards event recognizing beer achievements in Ontario and Free Our Beer, a web site dedicated to craft beer retail reform.

For more information, contact: Cass Enright, President, The Bar Towel, , .

To submit your order, click on the flashing banner that will be a main stay on the blog, or head over to Bar or where you can fill out a form. Have any questions? Please feel free to contact Enright directly at , or contact me here at .

**Stay tuned for some more information about some neat things taking place at Garrison. Things that include Hong Kong, a home brewing competition, and new beers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Meet Don and Bobby: Propeller Brewing Co.

Meet Don and Bobby, two brewers from the Propeller Brewing Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and producers of award winning English style ales. People just can't get enough of Propeller's beers. Their IPA, London Style Porter, Extra Special Bitter and their seasonals like the Russian Revolution Imperial Stout, and Pumpkin Ale, continue to sell out, causing the brewery to undergo some expansion in the last couple of years. Behind the beers stand two men - Don and Bobby, and they graciously took the time to get together to take part in this segment of 'Meet the...'
*Bobby on left, Don (with hat) on right.

How many years have you worked in the industry?
Don-22 years,
Bobby-20 years

Have you worked together before?
Don-Yes, Bob and I work together at a couple of other breweries.
Bobby- We worked together at Maverick and Vancouver Island.

How did you get into brewing beer?
Don-You wouldn't believe me if I told you.....,
Bobby-There is two ways to get free beer, you can become a rock star or make it. I can't sing or play guitar so I started brewing it.

How long have you been brewing with Propeller Brewing Company?
Don- Just over two years now.
Bobby- I have been with Propeller for about one and a half years.

Where were you before Propeller?
Don-Maverick Brewing Company in Edmonton.

Can you provide a little history on the brewery?
Don-Propeller Opened it's doors in 1997 producing two brands Propeller Extra Special Bitter and Propeller Pale Ale. It was really a one man operation back then, John Allen (Founder and President of Propeller) did most of it. At the time the Nova Scotia market was dominated by large national and multinational breweries, but the locals were thirsty for change and Propeller's British styled ales quickly won over many customers. Since that time Propeller has grown tremendously.

What is your best selling beer?
Don- Extra Special Bitter.
Bobby- Oh yeah, its the best selling micro-brewed beer in Nova Scotia.

Do you notice a difference in style from the East Coast breweries to those from the West Coast?
Don- No, not in today's market, really. There's a lot of quality beer being produced across the country.
Bobby- West coast breweries tend to be a little more advanced in equipment and marketing.

What is it like brewing on Canada's East Coast?
Bobby-Snowy, and you gotta keep the equipment tied down in hurricane season.

Describe the beer culture in Nova Scotia for readers in other provinces.
Bobby- They drink a lot of beer out here, Nova Scotians are social people who like to have a good time, and what better way is there than to slip off to a pub and enjoy a pint, or get out and see a live show with some good friends. I think really good beer brings people together, although that's not a Nova Scotian phenomenon.

Where can someone find your products?
Don- On tap our products are at the finer pubs and restaurants throughout Nova Scotia. Packaged product can be found in BC, Alberta, New Brunswick, and of course, Nova Scotia. **(And Ontario in the very near future)

How successful have the seasonals been for Propeller?
Don-People always get excited by them.
Bobby-They sell really well.

Rumour is that there are two new beers in the works. Can you share some details?
Don-New beers? Not that I know of...,
Bobby-Really? Cough eer... I'm always the last to know.

Best time for a pint?
Don-Late morning.
Bobby-Hmm, Is it wrong to say when I get up?

What's your favorite beer style?
Don-Helles or Euro Pilsners.
Bobby-Pilsners, Hefes, depending on my mood.

What is your ideal food and beer pairing?
Don-All Meat Pizza and Pilsner Urquell.
Bobby-Ribs and De Koninck

Pick one Propeller beer to drink forever.
Don-Tough......maybe Bitter, maybe Porter.
Bobby- IPA if I had to make a choice.

What has been the highlight of your brewing careers?
Don-Too numerous to mention.
-Everyday is a new highlight.

Wanna Work For A Brewery This Summer

What a great summer job. Working for a brewery, bottling beer, working in the brewhouse, and doing it for Beau's All Natural Brewery in Vanleek Hill, ON.

Here's a message from Steve from the Beau's Facebook page:

"We're looking for a student to do bottle-filling for us for weekends until school lets out and full time once the school year is over.Because this job is not working with the public bilingual is not a must (English or French is cool), but it is a long day of physical work."

Pay is $9.25/hr + 10 litres beer/week.

If interested send me your resume by email or drop by the brewery.


Beau's All Natural Brewery

Vanleek Hill, ON K0B 1R0

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Maybe a Stout Tonight?

St. Patrick's Day has never really meant too much to me. I have rarely ventured out into the cramped faux-Irish pubs, have never ordered more than two pints of Guinness, and I have never bought into the whole "Keith's me...I'm Irish" moniker - which makes no sense(Alexander Keith was Scottish). Besides, everyday seems like St. Patty's Day to me.

March 17th belongs to Guinness, and now somewhat surprisingly Alexander Keith's (well, not really surprisingly as we know how significant the marketing from the large breweries can be). The large chain pubs are running all day festivities, splashing large Guinness banners around their establishments, hoping to attract one-day-a-year beer drinkers. Green dye was scooped up in bulk and now waits behind the bar to be added to a light lager, a sight I can't appreciate.

I'd prefer to go out to one of my locals for a quiet pint with a small group of close friends; go where the throngs of people are avoiding, and sip on a well crafted local stout. So if you're like me, remember to look out for these dark treats tonight at your local independent pub.

Keefe's Irish Stout - Granite Brewery (suggested pub: Granite)

Black Katt Stout - County Durham Brewery (suggested pub: Victory Cafe)

Publican House Stone Wall Stout - Publican House Brewery (suggested bar Volo)

Double Chocolate Cherry Stout - Black Oak Brewery (get a fresh six from the brewery)

John By Imperial Stout - Heritage Brewery (suggested pub: Griffin Gastropub)

Wellington Imperial Stout - Wellington Brewery (suggested pub: C'est What)

Mill Street Cobblestone Stone - Mill Street Brewery

Mill Street Milk Stout - Mill Street Brewery (only at the brewpub)

Hockley Valley Stout - Hockley Valley Brewery (LCBO)

Two Fisted Stout - Amsterdam Brewing Company

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout - McAuslan Brewery, PQ

Neustadt Texas Tea Stout - Neustadt Brewery (suggested pub: Victory Cafe)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Winter Send Off With Garrison's Winter Warmer

The end of winter is in sight as there are now only five days until the first official day of Spring!

The winter wasn't that bad here in Toronto, or at least I didn't think so. But I'm ready for the warmer weather, the long bike rides down the boardwalk, the start of the baseball season, and the beginning of all the beer events shaping up. Last night I thought I'd say "So Long" to the gloomy days of the winter past with a glass Garrison's Winter Warmer, a newish seasonal from the ever developing brewery in Nova Scotia.

The 500ml bottle is attractively decorated with red foil over the cap and features a colourful purple label featuring a shovel stuck in a pile of snow. Living in an apartment, in the city, I don't have to shovel, but back home, shovelling was something I enjoyed doing, and something I missed this year. Thanks Garrison.

A mahogany coloured brew poured into the glass after I carefully removed the cap from the red foil. Gentle spices rose from the chalice as I brought it to my nose. Cinnamon, burnt sugars, a little touch of a citrusy zest, pitted cherries, and light molasses, all working together to provide a nice aroma. It felt slightly overcarbonnated, but it settled with each sip, adding a pricking sensation on the tongue. More spices in the mouth. Sweet sugars, more cinnamon, some red wine features and a small warming boozy smack from the 6.7% alcohol contained in the bottle. The stickiness from the Winter Warmer was pleasant as the flavours stuck around and hung out on the front of my tongue, reminding me of the previous sips.

A well-crafted, solid Winter Warmer from a brewery on the rise. A great way to welcome the first signs of Spring.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

An IPA Showdown at Volo: April 5th

Volo will once again be turing their establishment into hop heaven as Ralph Morana has announced his plans for a three round IPA Cask Challenge, the first taking place on Sunday April 5th.

18 pins of cask conditioned IPA, with some Pale Ale's, will be going to battle, head-to-head in a single elimination tournament on the first day of Volo's challenge, competing against other local breweries for bragging rights.  "There are going to be a couple of new IPA's for people to sample here for the first time," stated Morana recently over a couple of fresh cask conditioned pints of Sgt. Major's IPA. "Magnotta and Cool will be sending some IPA that will be tapped for the first time, and I imagine they will have a strong showing."

Individuals will sample from the many pins, score the beers they taste, and the winning beers will move on to the next round, which will take place on an undetermined date in May. People will know what beers they are sampling, but there will also be an eight member judging panel tasting all the beers blindly in order to score without any bias. The eight member judging panel will consist of brewers, beer writers, a member of Beer Advocate, one member of Ratebeer, and certified beer judges.

The doors to the event open at 12pm and the capacity will be capped at 100 (this includes the patio, so prepare to bring a jacket). There will be no admission fee, but tickets for food and samples will be available for purchase.  

Sample sizes will be sold in 1/4 pint or 1/2 pint sizes, though the prices have yet to be determined.

Come early, stay late, and score accordingly. The challenge runs until 6pm.

Full List of Beers:
MAGNOTTA IPA (Rumored to be different than their True North IPA)

**Round two will be tasted blind** Confirmed Tuesday evening.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beer Paintings

What a great time last night. The Great Lakes Green Tea Ale launch party was another success, in a location they weren't sure would attract a sold out crowd. Were they wrong. The place was packed with many people trying the Green Tea Ale for the first time. I enjoyed this batch more than the first offerings from the brewery - no lemons please!

The Dominion on Queen was decorated green and white, the live band was rockin on stage, and the Asian inspired food was delicious. There were the usual beer lovers in attendance, but again, like I've mentioned here before about events, there were a lot of new faces in the crowd. These craft beer events in Toronto just seem to keep attracting more and more believers.

Anyway, Beer Paintings. The Dominion is old, very old. In fact, they're celebrating their 120th anniversary of serving beer this year (stay tuned for an interview with the publican, complete with pictures of his collection). Shawn, the owner, has made some changes to the pub recently, starting a museum, re-doing their beer menu to offer more diverse choices, and adding paintings of buildings in the area along with beer paintings created by a local artist, Gary Smith, which by the way are for sale.

I had the opportunity to meet with Gary last night, and he showed me some of his work that graces to walls of the Dominion. See photo's below.

This is my favourite. I may have to go back and pick this beauty up myself. Gary spoke about the history behind Rasputin and it felt like he has a deep love for this painting. $900. *Gary pictured.

This one is of the Green Tea Ale, and it was just finished in time for the launch. Sorry for the quality of the photograph. It doesn't do justice for what the painting looks like in person. $225.

Dark Ale and ham. Wouldn't this look lovely hanging in your kitchen. $325.

This is a painting of the building across the road from the old brewery (to the west of the pub sits the home of the old Dominion Brewery). Robert Davis was the owner and this building was home to all the brewery employees back in the late 1800's, early 1900's. The sign above the door still reads "Davis Terrance." $225 unframed.

Visit Gary's website to see more paintings, and to get his contact information. You can also contact the Dominion if interested in purchasing one of these paintings - hint, I like the Rasputin one!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Green Tea Launch Tonight at the Dominion

I'll be heading over to the Dominion on Queen Pub tonight for the Great Lakes Green Tea Ale launch party. For those who have never been to a Great Lakes launch, tonight would be a good time to make it your first. There will be a bunch of finger foods, samples of their newest seasonal, and a live band to round things out. Their events are always well attended, are lots of fun, and efficiently organized.

The doors for the event open at 6:00pm so send an email to to get on the guest list.

Dominion on Queen

Toronto, ON

*I've profiled the Dominion on Queen here before, back in September, and found it to be a nice place to go for a pint. Since my visit, the Dominion has re-vamped their beer menu to include a couple bottled vintages, and brought in some imports for draught.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CBC's Living In Toronto: Beer Pairings

Josh Rubin, the author of the 'What's Brewing' column in the Toronto Star, was featured on the CBC's 'Living In' program today, matching different Mill Street products with food down in the Distillery at the brew pub.

Click here to be re-directed to the video.

Some good exposure for Mill Street and Rubin's column. Good work Josh!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Now Open - The Roy Public House: Toronto, ON

After a good night out at Volo, and The Painted Lady (where Cameron's Brewing held a party for their licensee's), Biergotter's Eric (Viggo) and I headed back towards the Beach(es) on the Queen Streetcar and happened to notice that The Roy Public House was officially open. With a quick look at each other and a slight nod we jumped off the 501 and entered the newest resident to Leslieville.

We grabbed a piece of floor that wasn't occupied (it was very busy) and chatted with the owner while taking down a couple pints of Wellington County Ale. They did a tremendous job of transforming the location from its former decor left over from Kubo Radio. Lots of wood, Canadian wood stained in Toronto (keeping it local), an electric fireplace, exposed brick and dark coloured patterned carpeting.

"This was the first day we were opened and it has been an unbelievable day," stated Mark, who owns the pub.  Two of the ten tap handles belong to Wellington, one to Creemore, and one to Waupoos, and the rest are owned by the big fella's.  While I like walking into a pub and seeing an extensive beer menu, pubs aren't just about the beer selection, so beer geeks who enjoy a good session beer every now and then shouldn't dismiss The Roy just yet, and Mark did mention this is a starting point.  I guess we'll see how it goes.

I'm intending to go back by the end of the week to sit and chat with him over some food and drinks, so a full write-up is sure to come. In the meantime, here are some pictures and a link to their website.

On the Trail with CASK!

The CASK! Toronto group have a couple of events taking place in April to highlight the deliciousness of cask ale that involve a pub crawl and a beer dinner.

During the April 3 -5th weekend, the CASK! group will be encouraging fans of the cask ale to venture out of the house to embark on a 'cask ale' crawl that will take you to six different pubs in Toronto. People will have the opportunity to try some of the best cask beer in the city while getting in some good pub time. Head out to the Victory Cafe, C'est What, Volo, The Rhino, the Granite, and the Mill Street Brew Pub

From CASK!:

Cask Ale Crawl (April 3rd – 5th various locations around Toronto)
Gather your friends and join the Cask Ale Crawl – an informal trail around six of Toronto’s best cask ale pubs. There is no fixed schedule or sequence, and no admission charge, just show up at each pub and sample the specially selected cask conditioned ales on offer. Up to 15 different cask ales in total. Pick up a festival passport at any participating pub and collect stamps at each stop to be entered into a prize draw. The event runs all weekend, starting on Friday April 3rd around 5:00 P.M. until Sunday April 5th (at each pub’s discretion and while supplies last). All pubs on the Crawl are accessible via TTC. Final list of beers available at each pub will be posted nearer the time.

Also, as I've had posted on the events section, the Cask! group will be holding a Beer Dinner at Toronto's Granite Brewery that will feature cask conditioned beers from Grand River, MacLean's and, of course, the Granite. The four course dinner will feature a different cask beer for every course, a guest speaker, door prizes and I would imagine - an informal tour of the brewing area. Tickets are $65 and can be obtained by contacting Robert Hughley at .  The dinner will be in support of Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada. 

From CASK!:

Beer for a Cure Gourmet Cask Ale Dinner (April 25th Granite Brewery & Restaurant)
Four-course dinner matched with cask conditioned ales in support of Prostate Cancer Research Foundation of Canada. Featuring new cask ales from MacLean's Ales and Grand River Brewing, plus additional cask ales from Granite Brewery. This event will be a real treat for anyone who likes good food and great real ale. And with St. George’s Day falling on April 23rd, this event is also being held in honour of England’s patron saint. The evening promises to be hugely entertaining with a guest speaker, silent auction and door prizes.

Meet Greg Nash: Brewer - Pump House, NB

Meet Greg Nash, brewer with the Pump House Brewing Co., and a self confessed hop addict. I first met Nash back in 2007 when he made the 1800km drive from Halifax to Vaughn to accept the Beer of the Year Award at the Canadian Brewing Awards for his creation of Garrison Imperial Pale Ale. He is a great guy to sit and have a beer (or two) with as he has some great brewing stories and his enthusiasm for his job is infectious. After brewing with Garrison, Nash headed back to Pump House where he has had the opportunity to play around with recipes, creating new beers, something curious beer drinkers are all to happy to see.

Ladies and Gentlemen - Greg Nash.

What beer is in your hand right now?
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA, wait that one's gone - on to an amped up Pump House IPA.

How did you get into brewing and what training do you have?
I started homebrewing in an attempt to make something I couldn't buy, or at least fresher than I could buy. I attended the American Brewers Guild in California and graduated in '96.

When did you realize that being a brewer would be your profession?
After a few years of hardcore homebrewing. By the early '90's I realized my love of the hobby should be pursued and turned into something more lucrative. Now I realize I've ruined the worlds best hobby.

What is the best part of being a brewmaster?
Free beer of course! Seriously, the never ending learning curve, love for the product and camaraderie within the industry.

What has been the craziest beer you've ever brewed?
Tough question, I have fond memories of a few "special" brews but I'm going to go with Pump House Dementia Double IPA. Whenever people asked what I thought of it my reply was always the same, 'I'm not sure yet, my mouth is still in shock and awe'.

Of all the beers you've brewed during your career, which one are you most proud of?
Dementia Double IPA.

While you brewed at Garrison, you developed the Imperial Pale Ale that won the 2007 Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards when it was relatively new. Proud moment?
Of course :)

Every time we talk it sounds like you're having a blast brewing with Pump House. How much are you enjoying your second stint with the brewery?
I'm having a great time here tightening things down at the micro and letting loose down at the brewpub. Honestly though the craft brewing industry is always a ton of fun.

Tell us about some of the new beers you've brewed in the last year?
Often it's a collaboration between myself and Glen Kervin, the regular brewer at the pub, it's teamwork all the way for us and Glen is doing a fantastic job with great attention to detail. Here's some of our most recent beers:

IRA - dry-hopped India Red Ale

Hop Mess - wet-hopped Imperial Red Harvest Ale brewed with over 50kg's of freshly picked local hops

Anise Brown Ale - brown ale pounded hard with star anise in the boil

Dementia Double IPA - IIPA on steroids

IPA - we halted production on our IPA in August '08 then released
the new reformulated amped up version a couple months later

Baltic Storm - Baltic Porter brewed with peated malt

Maltitude - Russian Imperial Stout infused with with locally roasted espresso beans, demerara sugar and rauch malt

Schwarzbier - classic German Schwarzbier

Raspberry Weizen - not so classic hefe-weizen with a 200lb raspberry twist

Cacao Brown Ale - Brown ale on cacao beans

SOB - Special Old Bitter reformulated with tons of west coast hops to be released very soon in 6-packs - unfiltered
I think it's safe to say that you're a hop freak. Where does your thirst for hop bombs come from?
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co did it to me in the '80's, my thirst for hops seems to have grown steadily since then.

What are the benefits of brewing beer in a brewpub?
Brewpubs are great for experimental brewing and honing in on the mainstay beer process, and the instant customer feedback is the best.

How do you think the beer produced on the East Coast (of Canada) compares to brews from other provinces?
We have some fantastic beer being produced here on the East Coast, it wasn't always that way but I think most of the other provinces are growing along with us. Phenomenal beers are coming from all over the country now, it's so good to see the craft brewing industry in Canada come into it's own. I think we're just starting to come out of the closet and can't wait to see what the future holds.

Nash as we know him.

Monday, March 9, 2009

CBC Knows Craft Beer

Last Thursday (March 5th), the CBC's The National ran a story on the growing craft beer market in Canada and featured interviews with Wild Rose owner Mike Tymchuk and Garrison owner Brian Titus, along with shots of the Propeller brewery. The 2 minute video speaks of the rising sales of micro-brewed beer, which is projected to see sales increases of up to 35%, and highlighted the fact that there is a strong market for beer when times are tough.

As most of you who read the blog know, this is something that has been a long time coming, and something many of us have been advocating. More and more media outlets are starting to focus on the 'little guys' and we're seeing more and more public acceptance of these craft beers. From beer dinners to sporting events, the craft market has managed to wrestle away some percentage points from the national breweries, and do so on the backs of the product, not the marketing (although I think the support local tag line has helped play a marketing role in the background).

Mike Tymchuk had a great line on his comparison between craft beer and the beer produced by the large breweries: "We liken it to dining on tenderloin for a year then someone puts a Big Mac in front of you. It just isn't going to have the same appeal. You may eat it, but you'll seek out that tenderloin pretty quick again."

The video also states that the large breweries are seeing an increase in sales; however, I heard just last week from a valid source that the their sales numbers are down this year, losing footing to the microbreweries. Not to significant, but enought to make them start paying attention. We can't find out in Ontario though, as the Beer Store does not make their sales figures public.

Click here to view the video. After the ad promotion runs its course, drag the cursor to the 7min mark and watch away.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Nothing to do with Beer Video

The following video had nothing to do with beer.

My fiance's brother got together with a couple of co-workers and put together a video for a Doritos contest titled 'Two Guys and a Chick.' Check it out. It you like it, throw a vote down in their favour.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Propeller ESB Heading to LCBO

Hearing this news last night, and confirming it with Roland and Russell today, has me all excited.

Propeller Brewing Co. is one of my favourite breweries in Canada. They pump out some terrific beers, staying consistent with each batch brewed. When I lived in Halifax I was a regular customer, frequently walking home from the brewery with two growlers tucked under my arms. I have a sentimental attachment to the brewery and the beers, so being able to head to my local LCBO for a six pack of the Extra Special Bitter is exciting.

When exactly is it coming? It is set to be released this summer, retailing at $13.50 for a six pack of 341 ml bottles.

* What an ugly floor eh? Shiny though.

LCBO's The Inside Story: Meet the Makers

The LCBO is currently running a month long promotion aptly named ‘The Inside Story,” an initiative where consumers will have the opportunity to “Meet the Makers” – as in the individuals behind some of the biggest companies in the beer, spirits and wine business. Started on March 1st and running until the 28th, brewers, wine makers, distillers, brand representatives and company owners will be visiting various LCBO stores province wide to meet the people who purchase their products, offering personal tasting notes, sharing some history on their products, and discussing the art of their profession.

Last night I was invited to attend the launch party for this promotion at Reds Bistro and Wine Bar where each of the 30 companies who are participating in the promotion were serving their products. Mill Street, Creemore Springs, Sleeman’s, and Pilsner Urquell are the beer companies featured, and Joel Manning (Mill Street), Gordon Fuller (Creemore), John Sleeman (Sleeman’s), and a Pilsner Urquell representative were on hand pouring beers from their portfolio.

“This is a great promotion for beer drinkers in this province as they’ll be able to meet with some of the people responsible for brewing the beer they buy,” stated LCBO Media Relations Spokesperson, Chris Layton. I agree.

Here in Ontario, especially Toronto, and probably other craft brewing friendly cities nation-wide, getting to know the brewers or brewery owners of a small operation is not that hard to do. Show up to a local beer event and chances are you’ll be able to talk with the person who throws those hops in the kettle while enjoying a pint of their beer. However, for the general public (not the hardcore beer enthusiasts’), this promotion will provide them with a unique opportunity to meet the individuals at their local LCBO store in person.

There will be 28 tutored tastings, and more than 40 consumer tastings taking place at select stores throughout the province. For example, Sleeman's, Mill Street, and Creemore will be in Ottawa on Friday March 13th from 6:30pm - 8pm to share their stories. A ticket for $40 will get you access to samples. Click here to see events taking place in your area.

Back to the launch event. Looking around I noticed that I was the only media person there representing any sort of beer publication. There were wine writers, spirit writers, photographers and food and drink writers covering the event, but only I for beer. So how did I cover it? Well, I hung out with the brewers and brewery representatives and drank their beer for free and chatted about new developments at two breweries, which will be confirmed here later this month.

I met John Sleeman for the first time and had a great discussion about Ontario craft beer, specifically discussing the beers from Grand River and Mill Street. He was a very interesting man to speak with, very enthusiastic about beer and certainly optimistic about sales during this recession we’re in. I asked him about Sapporo buying Sleeman’s and he said everything has been going great and he is happy with the way things have gone. While I wanted to bring up the Dead Frog lawsuit and the Mill Street issue that happened in the summer, I thought it wasn’t the proper venue to hold such a conversation, and it would be better to keep listening to him talk about his passion for beer.

There were LCBO beer category representatives in attendance as well, and a game of ‘name your six desert island beers’ came up. Pretty hard to do on the spot. During this discussion it was announced that Propeller ESB (brought to you by the Roland and Russell Import Agency) will finally be coming to the LCBO soon as a general listing. More details to follow.

It was a good time catching up with some of the brewery representatives and the LCBO employees, and the media relations and marketing team did a good job blending all the makers together. There were some good appetizers (oysters and lobster corn dogs rocked) and the beer served spoke for itself. Share the 'Inside Story' with co-workers and encourage them to get out to one of the tastings in your area.

* Photo 1 - LCBO's Chris Layton addressing the crowd
* Photo 2 - John Sleeman
*Photo 3 - The entire group that will be part of the Inside Story
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