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.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let the Celebration Begin

*Pic from

Friday, February 26, 2010

St. Patrick's Week @ The Ceili Cottage

A few weeks ago I found myself at the Ceili Cottage sitting at the bar putting back a pint of McAuslan's St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. Eoghan, one of the bartender's at the Cottage, was sharing some of their plans for St. Patrick's 'week' celebrations, and today I received an email from him that outlines some of those plans.

On Friday March 12, the Cottage's entire outdoor area (where the ice pad & fire pit are currently) will be transformed. A fully enclosed, walled, floored, and heated tent will occupy the space and it will be home to a number of events leading up to and including the 17th. The tent will also have it's own bar that will serve pints of Guinness, Smithwicks, Kilkenny, and Harp and there will also be a range of Bushmills Irish Whiskey (the bar located inside the Cottage will still be serving beers from the normal line-up).

On Saturday (the 13th) starting at 12noon, the Cottage will kick-off the festivities with Irish Dancing performed by members of the Gilchrist-Canavan School of Irish Dancing, who occupy the space at the rear of the Cottage. There will also be live Irish music performed from 1-4pm by the Mere Mortals and from 9pm - 1am by .

Here are the rest of the details, including the 13th, that the Ceili Cottage has in store for costumers:

Saturday 13 March - St Practice Day: 12noon - 2am
19 & older after 5pm, proceeds of the $10 admission at the door go to the Gilchrist-Canavan School of Irish Dancing which is located at the rear of the pub.
Draught Guinness & Bushmills bar will be located outside in the marquee, with the regular full bar inside.
Kevin Brauch, the "Thirsty Traveller" will have signature cocktails.
*The Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dancers will perform.
*Live music with the
Mere Mortals from 1-4pm & from 9pm - 1am. *St Patrick's Menu

Sunday 14 March - St Patrick's Day Parade - 12pm - c. 11pm
*Post Parade family day - kid's fun & parents welcome as well.
*The Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dancers.
*Live Irish Trad Session with Ena O'Brien & friends from 2pm.
*Ceili Dancing - bring your shoes and learn a few steps!

*St Patrick's Menu

Monday 15 March - Industry Night - 5pm - c. 12am
*The Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dancers.
*Live Bluegrass with Brian Taheny from 6pm.
*The St. Patrick's Open - Oyster Shucking Contest at 7pm. Pro & Am's - Cash & swag prizes.

*St Patrick's Menu

Tuesday 16 March - Session Day - 5pm - c. 12am
*The Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dancers.
*Live Irish Music from 6pm with Ena O'Brien & friends
*Biggest Trad Irish Session this side of the pond - all welcome to join in!
*St. Patrick's Menu

Wednesday 17 March - St Patrick's Day - 12pm - 2am
19 & older after 5pm, proceeds of the $10 admission at the door go to the Gilchrist-Canavan School of Irish Dancing which is located at the rear of the pub.
Guinness Draught & Bushmills bar. Kevin Brauch, the "Thirsty Traveller" will have signature cocktails.
*The Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dancers.
*Live music with the
Mere Mortals from 1-4pm & from 9pm - 1am.
St Patrick's Menu & Paddy's Matchmaking

The Ceili Cottage
Toronto, ON

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Video Now Working

I posted a video yesterday but I received a number of emails this morning stating that it wasn't working properly due to settings I had placed on it. Those settings have been changed and the video is now working for all to see. I guess I had mistakenly made the video 'private' not public. Sorry for the confusion.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Boston Beer Co. & Moosehead Breweries Announce Distribution Venture

Today marked the new beginning of a new five year Canadian distribution venture between Canada's largest independently owned brewery and the largest independently owned brewery in the United States: Moosehead Breweries and the Boston Beer Co., better known at Sam Adams.

Jim Koch, owner/founder/brewer of Boston Beer and Andrew Oland, Moosehead President and sixth generation member of the Oland clan to lead the brewery, announced the news today in front of a large crowd of industry personnel at Toronto's Drake Hotel. Koch, a craft beer legend and pioneer, mentioned that Sam Adams Boston Lager was originally represented in Canada by another pioneering brewery, Brick Brewery in Waterloo, and then later by Sleeman's, which is now owned by Sapporo of Japan.

I was able to interview both Oland and Koch about this news and that material will appear in the spring issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine. In the meantime, here is video I shot of the press conference. First speaker is Andrew Oland and second is Jim Koch. Please note that this video does not contain the full speeches that were given by each man. *And sorry for the quality of the video. The glare from the window didn't help.

Also, here are some highlights of the press conference:
* Sam Adams Boston Lager will be available in all ten Canadian provinces in bottle and draught format
* Seasonal products and other Sam Adams brands should start making their way across the border an onto store shelves
* Moosehead approached Koch years ago to see if they could out an agreement but Koch had to decline at the time - he know says good things come with patience
* Both men are extremely proud to be entering into this venture together as it celebrates the independence of the beer industry

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

MSNBC - More Than Just Molson!

Here is a segment from the Today Show where Canadian craft beer gets high praise from Lester Holt and Phil Lempert, MSNBC's food editor. The two men sample a bunch of BC beers and do the whole 'light vs. dark and heavy' thing that drives me nuts, but I'm sure the breweries that were involved aren't complaining. The video has a very good title, More Than Molson! Best Canadian Beers, but it seems that they only showcased BC breweries. Select beers from Phillip's, Swan's Buckerfields, Driftwood, Canoe Brewpub, and Vancouver Island were all tasted.

There were a couple of comments that Everett said that surprised me. One, he mentioned that craft brewers from Canada are better than the Americans, and two, that our craft beers are stronger. Let the comments begin!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, February 22, 2010

Next CASK! Social Announced

The next Cask Social, hosted by the Toronto CASK! group, has been set for this Saturday at The Granite Brewery.

This is the 5th such 'Social' and each time it is held at different Toronto locations (mind you this is the Granite's second time hosting) where customers can ask for a pint of real ale any day of the week.

I've been to three so far and each time I've had a fun time with good beer. For people out there who have a soft spot for cask but have never attended a social yet; you should. It's a great way to meet new people while experiencing different Toronto establishments. Also, there is no fee for admission.

From the CASK! group:
We are happy to announce that our fifth CASK! Social will be held this coming Saturday, February 27th 2010, at the Granite Brewery, on Mount Pleasant just south of Eglinton, from 3pm to 6pm. Ron Keefe’s three fine cask ales will be on offer and, if you’re thirsty for more Granite ales, growlers can be purchased to take away. If you’re bringing a designated driver, there is free parking underneath the building. The rules remain the same: turn up, be genial, drink cask ale. We can’t make it any simpler. Watch this space for news of March and further socializing.
Cask Social!
Saturday Feb. 27 3pm - 6pm
The Granite Brewery - Toronto, ON

Cheers to Jon Montgomery!!

We lost to the US last night. It's not the end of the world, but it sure felt that way when Ryan Kesler scored one of the prettiest open net goals I've ever seen.

I was drinking bottles of Garrison's award winning Imperial IPA for good luck, but even that didn't help... and it also didn't help ease the pain of watching our guys fall to the American squad. Tuesday night vs. the Germans it is then.

But the Olympic games have more than just hockey (I know, shocking isn't it). Like the Skeleton. Manitoba's Jon Montgomery won a gold medal the other night and celebrated in true Canadian style - with a pitcher of beer.

I was one of the estimated 4.6 million viewers who tuned in to see his gold medal performance, and his walk through Whistler's pedestrian-only town plaza, which was awesome (even if the beer itself was Molson Canadian - I'm speculating). And shockingly the local police didn't issue him a ticket for having an open container of alcohol in public, especially since they've been trying to curb alcohol issues with closing liquor stores earlier.

So today, when our nation needs a pick-me up from last nights US robbery (thanks Ryan Miller), here is a picture of Montgomery with another beer in his hand before a large crowd. Reading through some online content it seems Montgomery is the number one Canadian athlete that most Canadians would love to sit down and have a beer with.

I haven't been able to find a picture of his actual walk through Whistler, and I'm guessing I won't. It seems the mainstream media hasn't run with the photo.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Free Our Beer Post

Head over to Free Our Beer to read Cass Enright's latest post on his adventure in importing beers from Halifax's Garrison Brewing Co. It's a great piece on the paperwork required to submit when trying to get a beer listed in a seasonal release program.

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Imperial Stout from Ontario & An Oatmeal Stout From Alberta

Work has been very hectic the past couple of weeks (real job) and I'm looking into the barrel of what is the TAPS writing deadline, so this is a "I'm real busy and have no time to write anything new post." (And in my effort to try putting a post up everyday, this will have to due)

The following tasting notes appeared in the Winter '09 issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine.

Russian Gun Imperial Stout - Grand River Brewing Company, Cambridge, ON 9% abv
Grand River won a gold medal for this 9% Imperial Stout at this years Canadian Brewing Awards, and I can see why. The almost black stout is lighter in colour than other Imperial RIS I’ve come across, but it is ever aromatic. Molasses, figs, refined alcohol, woodiness (vanilla), burnt coffee, caramel and some black cherry notes all shine through on the nose. Much the same on the palate, this RIS is very well balanced and ends nicely with a nice soft, smooth finish. Grand River does a nice job concealing its strength and too many of these in a row will have you reading the R on the label the ‘right way.’

Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout - Wild Rose,Calgary, BC 5.2% abv
Alberta is known for their oil fields and Calgary’s Wild Rose Brewery has cleverly selected a terrific name for this black as midnight oatmeal stout that was hand-bottled for this tasting panel. The pour produces liquid tar that no light can penetrate with the scent of coffee, chocolate, and sweet black licorice wafting upwards from the tasting glass due to the roasted dark malt. The body is smooth and a little lighter than expected, given its low carbonation, but there is a fair bit of bitterness to play alongside the heavily roasted malt and coffee notes. I’m thinking this would be nice with a dozen oysters.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Garrison Black IPA: Garrison Brewing Co.

Over the 2 ½ years that I’ve been doing this(blogging) I’ve probably mentioned Halifax’s Garrison Brewing Company twenty or so times in various blog posts. From new beers to beer reviews and homebrew contests, I’ve given Garrison a lot of press.

I deemed their Black Lager my favourite new Canadian beer of 2008, covered the importation of their IPA into Ontario, posted reviews of their Winter Warmer, Grand Baltic Porter, Imperial Pale Ale (now IPA), and interviewed Daniel Girard, Garrison’s Brewmaster. I guess I have a soft spot for them, something I probably gained while living in Halifax. Or is it due to the fact that they brew damn good beer and they have fun doing it?

When word came out a few weeks back that Girard would be releasing a new unfiltered Black IPA members of BeerAdvocate were thrilled. Owner Brian Titus saw the postings on BeerAdvocate and commented that his business partner had been down in San Diego and noticed that Black IPA’s are the current new rage. They got the idea to do their own and now the finished product sits in my glass for sampling; but not for long.

The unfiltered Black IPA is a hybrid mix of Garrison’s Martello Stout and their Imperial IPA (and then dry-hopped) and pours pitch black with some slight red hues appearing against a lit backdrop. A thick creamy mocha head rises with each pour until it forms a snug cap atop the black liquid. The smell of fresh green hops is the first thing I pick up when I raise the glass up to my nose followed by hints of roasted coffee beans. (6.2%abv)

Dark coffee and bakers chocolate hit the palate first but get pushed aside by a wave of hops that offer a citrus and pine punch that tingles the tonque. Those coffee and chocolate notes come back again in the finish, along with a touch of smoke, and do play quite nicely with the hops to create a balanced dry finish. The Martello Stout and the Imperial IPA go well together and it seems Girard has nailed this new seasonal. A very well done beer in my books!

If they keep producing beers like this, and giving me the chance to sample them, they'll be up to 50 blog post mentions in no time.

Where can you get a bottle? You’ll have to head to Halifax and visit the retail store, or get involved with a trade with someone who can get their hands on some. The brewery only released a very small quantity, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this beer, or a variation of it, makes another appearance in the future.

Garrison Brewing Company

Halifax, NS

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Olde Stone Brewing Company: Peterborough, ON

Peterborough, Ontario is home to many things - Trent University, Sir Sanford Fleming College, the world's largest hydraulic lift lock (for the Trent Severn Waterway), Canada's Canoe Museum, and the OHL's Peterborough Petes hockey team. Peterborough is also home to a number of great beer establishments: St. Vernous Cafe & Taproom, Publican House Brewery, Ritz Deli North and the Olde Stone Brewing Company Brewpub & Restaurant.

My wife and I were sitting around the house yesterday morning wondering how to spend our Valentine's Day. BarVolo was hosting their first annual Black Sunday Cask Porter and Stout event, we could head there? Ceili Cottage's small ice rink (with a couple of pints) was tempting and close by? The family cottage was empty and a day of snowshoeing up north was discussed, but we eventually decided to jump in the car and take a drive somewhere we haven't been in a while - Peterborough.

We made it there in less than two hours and parked the car in front of Jon Conquer's Publican House Brewery. I hadn't been there since the fall of 2008 when I met Conquer to interview him for a TAPS article. We went inside and chatted with the lone employee who was washing growlers. She mentioned that the brewery is doing quite well right now. They are slowly getting their products into local bars and restaurants on draught and their canned beer, House Ale, should be in Beer Stores by May. I picked up some cans and together with my wife we headed back out to the street and headed into the heart of Peterborough's downtown.

Unfortunately many of the small storefronts were dark and shops were closed for the day, so after a brief walk around the area we headed back towards the Olde Stone Brewing Company and Brewpub for some lunch and some drinks.

The Olde Stone has been a fixture in Peterborough's downtown since 1996 and is located on the busy George Street. The all-ale brewpub features four regular beers and one rotating seasonal and are produced by Doug Warren who got his start with the Upper Canada back in the 80's. But more on the beer later.

The brewpub is split into two distinct establishments. When you walk in off the street you are faced with a dilemma - the door to the right takes you into Hot Belly Mama's, a Cajun inspired restaurant that features all the Olde Stone beers, and the door to the left leads you into the Olde Stone pub. We peeked into Hot Belly's Mama but I'm a pub guy, so we chose the door to the left and walked into the large, yet thin brewpub. Lots of wood. That's the first thing I picked up on. Creaky hardwood flooring with many miles on them set the tone and compliment the large thick wooden tables and chairs, offering a charming, rustic appearance.

The brewpub also features a fully exposed red brick wall that bares a mural of the original Olde Stone brewery. (The menu stated that there was an Olde Stone Brewery and Pub in operation during the late to mid 1800's not far from the current location) There are two chalkboards mounted on the brick wall that inform customers of what's on tap - both Olde Stone creations and guest taps from other Ontario breweries. There is also a garage door at the front of the brewpub that opens up in warmer months to create a streetside patio.

The bar is located at the back of the establishment and instead of the usual 'L' shaped or 'U' shaped bar the Olde Stone has a somewhat triangle shaped bar with enough seating for up to 12 people. Above the bar rests an old cooper malting mill. In front of the bar you might notice a warming glow on your behind. In the colder months at least, as there is a fully functioning stone fire place that the bartender stokes and keeps fuelled every so often. A large mirror hangs above it and separates rows and rows of shelving that hold beer bottles from all over the world.

All the brewing equipment is located in the basement and is behind large glass doors allowing customers to peer in and see Warren hard at work.

So back to the beer. As mentioned, there are four regular Olde Stone beers that are on at all times which are always joined by a seasonal - (regulars) Red Fife American Style Wheat, Pickwick's Best Bitter, Or Dubh Stout, and Wilde Old Ale, with the current seasonal beer being an IPA. I chose the sampler option on the beer menu, giving me the chance to try all the beers Warren produces, and at $5.60 for the five 4-ounce samples, it's a great deal.

The Or Dubh Stout was great. Heavy roasting of the malts produces a good amount of smoke in the nose and on the palate with touches of chocolate and some slightly bitter coffee notes. It finishes nice and dry and has me wishing I didn't have to drive back to Toronto. I feel the same way after drinking my samples of the Pickwick's Best Bitter (English style BB with a good hop presence, similiar to the Granite's), Wilde Old Ale (plum notes with a chocolately body and good bitterness in the finish - named after Oscar Wilde), and the IPA (an Ontario IPA with a good balance between malt and hop, but on the hoppier side). The Red Fife Wheat is made for those who prefer an easy drinking lighter ale. All very well done. Joining them on draught was Mill Street Belgian Wit, Mill Street Organic, KLB Raspberry, Creemore Traditional Lager, and Wellington Trailhead Lager. And a 20 oz. pint of the house beers will only set you back $4.99 (+tax)!

It turns out Warren is at the bar having lunch. We briefly chat while I sit in front of my samples and he explains the newest seasonal, The Pursuit of Hoppiness. "I made a New Year's Resolution to keep upping the hops in my IPA and then wait to hear the reactions of our customers. The first two batches went great and they were warmly accepted. After the third batch however, which was really hop forward, we heard that it might be too hoppy, so I took this one back a bit. The IBU's on this one are in the high 70's though," stated Doug.

The Olde Stone Brewing Company and Brewpub is well worth the visit to Peterborough. Good food, great beer, nice atmosphere, friendly servers, and a wonderful ambiance.

The Olde Stone Brewing Company

Peterborough, ON

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Mr. Corbeil

Another terrific publican also celebrated a birthday yesterday.

Jeb Corbeil, the passionate co-owner of Bracebridge's The Griffin Gastropub, turned the big 30 yesterday, and I'm sure he and the rest of the staff at the Griffin, celebrated in style.

Corbeil and Curt Dunlop took over the building and the existing pub in August 2009, which was big on Alexander Keith's and cheap pints of domestic lager. The two men stripped it down, renovated the inside, and re-opened with a focus on craft beer, and a new name. Today they only serve beers brewed in Ontario and that has attracted a whole new clientele to the pub, and it shows that craft beer can survive outside the big markets like Toronto.

The pub also selects one Ontario brewery to be their brewery for the month. That title provides the brewery with access to two tap lines plus the option to stock a number of bottles, and on the last Sunday of the month the Griffin hosts a four-course beer dinner featuring beers from that brewery.

Corbeil is also behind the Muskoka Beer Festival that took place last August in Bracebridge featuring breweries from all over Ontario.

Happy Birthday Mr. Corbeil (on the left in picture. Cameron's Jason Ellesmere on the right)

Happy Birthday Mr. Milbrandt

George Milbrandt, the owner of Toronto's oldest craft beer friendly pub Cest What?, celebrated a birthday yesterday.

Milbrandt opened C'est What? at Church and Front Streets in Toronto back in 1988 and what set them apart from every other pub/bar/restaurant in the city was the fact that they only served Canadian beer, which has made C'est What? a must stop destination during a Toronto craft beer visit.

There are now somewhere in the neighbourhood of forty (yes forty) taps that serve product from all over Ontario; from the smallest of craft breweries to the larger breweries like Steam Whistle and Mill Streets. You'll also be able to find beers from Quebec and Alberta on draught, and choosing a pint of cask conditioned ale is also in the cards as C'est What is one of thirteen Toronto establishments to offer real ale.

Milbrandt's vision some 22 years ago has lead to a great following and like I said, C'est What has become a must visit destination in your search for a pint of craft beer. Bar Towel's Golden Tap Awards have seen C'est What? win the award for best Toronto draught selection in 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, actually winning it every year since the GTA's were created.

Happy Birthday Mr. Milbrant!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Cask Night at Mill Street Brewpub

Just a reminder that tonight marks the first of many Friday Night Cask Nights down at Toronto's Mill Street Brewpub in the Distillery District. Joel Manning, Mill Street's Brewmaster, has created an extra dry-hopped version of his Scotch Ale and he'll be on hand for the 5pm tapping of the cask. Each Friday evening Mill Street plans tap a new one-off cask to be served via gravity from the bar.

Tonight will also see Mill Street release their Chocolate Imperial Stout on tap for the first time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Toronto Pub to Offer Real Ale

Another popular Toronto drinking establishment will start offering their customers the opportunity to choose between draught and cask as Bryden's Pub, located on Bloor St. West and Jane St., just minutes from the subway station, have recently announced they plan on having their first cask available on Thursday.

I visited the craft beer friendly pub back in the summer and had a blast drinking numerous pints of Ontario produced craft beer on their patio with Tash, Bryden's owner. He mentioned back then that he had an interest in adding the cask element to his new craft beer line-up (Tash slowly weened his customers off beers like Hoegaarden, Becks, Stella, etc. for beers like Duggan's IPA, Great Lakes Devil's Pale Ale, Denison's Weissbier, and more) and Thursday he plans to have County Durham's Hop Head available for the first time.

I've since come to know Tash, after that initial visit, and I can say without a doubt that he is very excited about this new attraction. In an email he shared with me yesterday he stated that the plan is to tap a new cask every Thursday evening (starting this Thursday with the Hop Head) and then he'll look into putting on some of the creations the Great Lakes Brewery has been working on. "We are pretty excited for the cask, as the conversion to more local options has gone well," Tash also mentioned.

Bryden's will now be the furthest pub west of Yonge street (in the GTA) to be offering cask.

And if I can offer you a glimpse of what type of publican Tash is, here is a quote I captured from him last year:

"I don't want to be sold by someone, I want to sell someone. I want to believe in a product and sell it. Not be sold by a flashy marketing campaign. I love these beers and I love what they stand for, so they're here to stay."

Muskoka Cottage Brewery Billboard Campaign

This is a pretty cool idea. I've always enjoyed seeing breweries reach out to their customers for marketing insight with things that an office full of ad people might not be able to grasp (grassroots marketing); especially at the craft beer level.

Muskoka Cottage Brewery in Bracebridge, ON are undertaking a bold marketing initiative, advertising the brewery using billboards along Highway 11 heading north towards the brewery. Mike Laba, Muskoka's Marketing Manager, hopes to engage their customers, getting their input into which ads the brewery should use. "I am currently polling our Facebook fans with 3 different billboard concepts (see ideas below). We're interested to know what our fans respond to the best," stated Laba in an email I received last night. Laba is also interested to hear from individuals who might have their own idea for a billboard.

Head over to their to comment on the open source advertising and to help chose the ad you think would be best suited for the brewery to welcome people to Cottage Country.

While I like each one of the ad's I think I'm leaning more towards the first one. I could see that one having the biggest effect. It's the image of the beer in the glass. Which one would you choose?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Garrison Homebrew Challenge 2010: Ultimate Brew-Off

Belgian Style Witbier has been named the chosen style for Garrison Brewing Co.'s 2nd annual Homebrew Challenge: Ultimate Brew-Off.

Following up on the success of last years challenge Garrison owner Brian Titus and Brewmaster Daniel Girard decided to host the event again and are pleased to release the details for this year.

Participants will be required to formally register by February 28th, and be ready to submit a 20litre batch of the Witbier for judging by March 15th. The winning homebrewer will be rewarded with a day of brewing their creation on a commercial scale with Girard at the Marginal Road brewery, and other prizes are being donated by contest sponsor, Noble Grape.

Visit the Homebrew Challenge: Ultimate Brew-Off website for more information.

**Titus mentioned in an email late last week that last years winning beer should be brewed in next couple weeks and said that the label is already designed & the finished product will be released at the awards night April 1.**


The second annual “Garrison Ultimate Brew-Off” is a competition for home-brewers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Participants will produce a 5 gal/20li batch of beer based on a pre-determined beer style. Each entry will receive a written review with the top four receiving prizes. The beer judged best overall will be scaled up to commercial size by our Brewmaster, Daniel Girard, and released as a Garrison seasonal*!

Entrants must be homebrewers (non-commercial brewers) from either Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Beers produced on the premises of a commercial brewery are not eligible;

Beers will be judged according to BJCP Style Guidelines ( The 2010 style is “BELGIAN-STYLE WITBIER”;

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

$12 registration fee entitles all entrants to a souvenir t-shirt & two tickets to the gala event; Registration deadline is February 28, 2010. Samples must be received by Monday, March 15, 2010.

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, April 1st at Garrison Brewery () and finalists are asked to bring a quantity of their beer 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 winners.

Good Luck & Drink Independently!

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

Happy Birthday Mr. Blakeley

Tim Blakeley is celebrating a birthday today and here's hoping he has some terrific beer to help get him through the day.

Blakeley, who is the head brewer for Better Bitters Brewing Company, has been in the industry for over 15 years now, after getting his start in the pub industry at Guelph's Woolwich Arms, and today Blakeley is responsible for the creation of a number of new seasonal products Better Bitters (under the brand Nickel Brook) have been producing over the last couple of years: Maple Porter, Spring Bock, Organic White, Sahti (a Finnish beer brewed with Juniper berries) and Uniek Kriek (oak-aged with sour cherries).

Blakeley has also brought some consistency and creativity to the brewery since arriving almost four years ago, tweaking, and improving the Nickel Brook Ale and Apple Pilsner, and producing the recently released canned, and LCBO available Organic Lager.

Happy birthday Tim!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Scenic Tours: Amsterdam to Basel - Hosted River Cruise with Stephen Beaumont!

Have a honeymoon approaching? Looking for an excuse to visit Europe? Do you love beer? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you'll want to keep reading the following press release.

One of the world's most authoritative voices on beer and travel today is teaming up with Scenic Tours and to host “Brew on the Rhine,” a 13 day river cruise up the beautiful Rhine River from Amsterdam wo Basel, with a multitude of beery stops along the way.

For the past 20 years, Stephen Beaumont has roamed the earth in search of the world’s finest ales and lagers, along the way establishing himself as one of the planet’s leading beer experts. He has written for publications ranging from Playboy to Saveur to The Globe and Mail and looks forward to sharing his expertise and his many, many tales from the road throughout the course of the voyage.

In addition to the many culture and tourism stops along the route from Amsterdam through Starsbourg to Basel, Switzerland, Stephen is organizing a beer aficionado's dream tour, including a visit to Amsterdam’s outstanding riverside Brouwerij ‘t Ij, tastings at Belgian, German, French, Luxembourg and Swiss breweries, a guided pub crawl through Köln, and even floating tutored beer tastings. The exact itinerary is still being sorted and confirmed, but Stephen guarantees that it will be filled with adventures, discoveries and, of course, excellent ales and lagers.

Around the world, Scenic Tours is known for providing ultimate touring experiences for discerning travelers. Their reputation is impeccable and for more than 20 years they’ve been delivering outstanding vacation experiences to travelers who expect the very best of everything.

Their brand new river cruise ships (“Space-Ships”) have state-of-the-art facilities and the service on board is exceptional. They have INCLUDED absolutely everything you could wish for, with nothing left to chance. You’re sure to have a fabulous vacation that is simply great value for money.

There are three features that set their ships apart – Private Balcony Suites, considerably more space in staterooms and public areas and a revolutionary ship design that is unique and exclusive to Scenic Tours. Not to mention, your choice of fine dining in two restaurants, complimentary wines and beer, included ‘FreeChoice’ sightseeing, gratuities and more!

As is the case with larger ocean going vessels it's an absolute joy to relax outdoors with water views and complete privacy, and so 82% of their new river cruise ship staterooms are Private Balcony Suites, unique to Scenic Tours. As you walk into your private balcony suite you will immediately be impressed by the spacious layout and beautiful design. Step through sliding glass doors onto your own private teak balcony - take a seat and settle back in comfort with a glass of beer and watch magical Rhine castles, vineyards and villages pass by. And you can use your private balcony at any time of day or night. You may never want to leave!

Limited Time Offer: 2 For The Price Of 1

The savings: Promotional cruise fare from only $2,848 CDN + port taxes per person (reflects 2 for 1 savings)

The catch: Book Scenic’s 13 day Amsterdam to Basel River Cruise departing October 11, 2010. This will be a unique itinerary for 2011 and is not featured in Scenic’s current brochure. Offer is subject to availability.

Book it: Please contact to book or . Full details

BarVolo Presents: Black Sunday - Feb 14th.

Black Sunday
Valentine’s Day – February 14th 2010, 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Mild’s – Brown – Smoked
Grand River Mill Race Mild
Hockley Valley Chocolate Dip Strawberry Ale
Church-Key Holy Smoke

Black Oak Nutcracker Porter
Duggan’s #8 London Porter
Scotch Irish Black-Plain Porter

Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout
Durham’s Blak Kat Stout
F&M Stone Hammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout
Hockley Valley Hole Mole Stout

Imperial Stouts
Mill St. Chocolate Imperial Stout
Wellington Russian Imperial Stout

All beers will be sold by the Pint (500mL) $6.50
And the Half Pint (300mL) $4.50

*Beers that will be served by the ½ Pint Only (300mL)

One beer from each category will be tapped at a time. Starting with; Hockley Valley Chocolate Dip Strawberry Stout, Duggans #8, Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout, Great Lakes Morning Glory Stout, Mill St. Chocolate Imperial Stout.

Chocolate board tastings from Chocosol will also be available

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brewer Wanted: Amsterdam Brewing Co.

Toronto's Amsterdam Brewery is on the search for an individual to join their brewing team, which is led by Brewmaster Jamie Mistry.

The longtime brewery first opened for business back in 1986 with the Amsterdam Brassiere and Brewpub before closing the brewpub operation to open the microbrewery in their current location at Bathurst and Lakeshore in 1994.

Mistry forwarded me an email indicating that he is "currently looking for a Brewer with a strong technical background, good understanding of brewing, cellaring and filter operations to join our team."

The pay rate will be negotiable depending on the successful applicant's level of experience. Anyone interested in applying for the position, or if you're interested in the finer details of the position, please contact Mistry at:

Toronto Star on Steelback Closing

Today's issue of The Toronto Star features an article by Beer Columnist, Josh Rubin, on the demise of the Steelback Brewing Co. You can read it here.

Since I posted the news last Friday I've still not been able to get through to anyone at the brewery, or through to Jonathon Sherman for that matter. However, this week I did talk to an individual who mentioned that he has heard talks of another brewery looking into purchasing some of Steelback's equipment.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

OCB Discovery Pack No. 4

Anyone remember this post? I originally had this (below) up on the blog on January 11th for about a week. It turned out that I had the information a little to early and the Ontario Craft Brewers weren't ready to launch all the PR stuff yet. I removed the post out of courtesy, but today the OCB launched their material, so here is the original post again.

Check out the picture to the right. This is the 4th edition of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) Discovery Pack, put together in celebration of the Winter Olympics that are taking place in February.

Just like the first three Discovery Packs, this fourth installment includes six different beers from six different Ontario breweries.

Black Oak Nut Brown Ale (was in Discovery Pack #2)
Flying Monkey's Hoptical Illusion
Old Credit Amber Ale
Cameron's Cream Ale
Mill Street Coffee Porter
Wellington Special Pale Ale (was in Discovery Pack #1)

I'm told that the new six packs will start showing up on LCBO shelves at the beginning of February, just in time for the Olympics (the new Discovery Packs are now starting to appear on store shelves throughout the province at various LCBO stores - LCBO #168351) for $11.95. The design on the box is great, with the red and white with maple leafs scattered throughout the red portion. No word yet if any of the packs will be headed to B.C. for the Ontario camps.

Friday Night Cask Night at Mill Street: UPDATE

Last Friday I mentioned that the Mill Street brewery has plans to start a weekly Friday Night Cask Night down at their brewpub in Toronto's Distillery District, creating special one-off casks available for the one night only.

The first such night was to take place this Friday (5th), but last night I received an email that the first tapping will actually have to be pushed back one week to next Friday, the 12th. It turns out the brewpub had a previously scheduled private event that has the entire restaurant closed to the public.

So, the first Friday Night Cask Night at Mill Street brewpub, featuring a extra dry-hopped version of their Scotch Ale, will now take place on Friday February 12th. Tapping at 5pm. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Palais D'Hiver 2010 - Through the Looking Glass

Over the last couple of years the University of Toronto's Hart House has seemed to have developed a taste for craft beer, offering students and the public chances to visit the beautiful building (and courtyard) to sample various Ontario craft beers during highly attended and well run events.

One of those events is the Craft Beer Festival and Pig Roast that takes place every July, which, in my opinion, is one of the best beer related events that takes place in Toronto.

Which brings me to the following email I received about an upcoming event the Hart House is hosting, and one that would make for a great (late) Valentine's Day gift.

TORONTO: On February 19th, 2010, the Great Hall at Hart House will be transformed into a dark and seductive circus for the senses during the spectacular annual event, Palais d’Hiver. This year’s Alice in Wonderland inspired gala features stunning acrobatic performances, a burlesque peepshow, CIUT 89.5 DJs and a unique selection of winter seasonal beers brought to you by Beerology.

Step through the looking glass at Palais d’Hiver and explore five delicious interpretations of the word ‘beer’. Sample Betelgeuse Strong Golden Ale with pear, peach and bubblegum notes, or try Tilted Kilt ‘wee heavy’ and get carried away by its comforting sweet character. Sip the rich, complex and chewy Gin Lane Ale barley wine, a classic winter beer style. Savour the gingerbread flavours of Winter Ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, honey and orange peel and delight in the bold dark chocolate flavour and tart cherry finish of Double Chocolate Cherry Stout.

Whether they are interpreting the classic styles of Belgium, Scotland and England or having fun spicing things up, find out how different Toronto brewers envision the perfect beer to sip by the fire on a cold winter day.

Participating Breweries:
Amsterdam Brewing · Black Oak Brewing · Granite Brewery · Great Lakes Brewery · Mill Street Brewery

Event Partners: Hart House · Beerology · Zero Gravity Circus · NOW Magazine · CIUT 89.5 · Captain Printworks · Glamour Puss Burlesque
What: Palais d’Hiver: Through the Looking Glass
When: Friday, February 19th, 2010 at 9:00 PM
Where: Toronto, ON, M5S 3H3
Tickets: $50 Adult / $40 Student (19+) /

For more information contact:
Jeff Cameron, Strategic Communications Support

Monday, February 1, 2010

Are We Worthy? Stone Brewing Company Beer Launch at BarVolo

I just received the following email from Tomas Morana of HMH Negotiants and BarVolo. Volo has been working on this news for quite a bit now so I'm happy to help them announce the following event. All I can say is nice! Nice, nice, nice!

Volo would like to announce the first ever availability of Stone Brewing Co. beers in Ontario! Based out of Escondido, California Founders Greg Koch and Steve Wagner have built Stone into one of the top rated, most recognized breweries in the World! Join BarVolo on Sunday February 7th, for an afternoon of worthiness. Is Ontario Worthy?

Sunday February 7th, 2010 @2:00pm – 8:00pm

For this event, Volo will only be serving Stone beers by the bottle.

Stone Levitation Ale
Stone IPA
Stone Ruination IPA
Arrogant Bastard
Oaked Arrogant Bastard
Double Bastard 2008
Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2008
Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine 2008
Stone Vertical Epic Ale 06.06.06
Stone 12th Anniversary Ale Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

Try an Arrogant Bastard Flight
3 x 5oz samples – Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard

Meet Gary McMullen: Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB)

The following interview, minus the intro, appeared in the fall issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine alongside an interview with the President of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), John Hay.

McMullen founded the Muskoka Cottage Brewery in Bracebridge, ON in 1996 with his friend Kirk Evans, who unfortunately passed away after the brewery was up and running. Over the thirteen years the brewery has been operating Ontario residents have been able to drink the likes of a Weissbier, Cream Ale, Dark Ale, and a Premium Lager, all of which continue to bring in medals at the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. This fall the brewery released their first seasonal in years with a Harvest Ale, a beer I found to be quite well done with a nice hop bite, good malt balance and very sessionable.

On top of running his brewery, McMullen also serves as the Chair of the OCB. The interview focuses mainly on his work in that capacity.

How long have you served as Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) - Ontario Small Brewers Association?
I have been Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers since 2005.

What does your role as Chair of the OCB entail?
I work closely with our President, John Hay, the Board of the Association and our members to continue to form and guide the strategic direction of the Ontario Craft Brewers. Also, there is always time invested in working with our membership to understand their concerns and ideas and to help them gain a better understanding of the political/regulatory environment that our industry operates in. When you get more than 25 entrepreneurial organizations sitting around a table, it can be a real challenge to find the right balance sometime. But this entrepreneurial flare and the differing views of our membership is a big part of what makes us so special and unique.

What has been your proudest achievement while serving the OCB?
As an Association, we have taken some great steps forward in the areas of taxation policy and over all regulatory environment, and I am proud to have been part of the team that brought these events to positive conclusions. However, I think one of the proudest moments for me was when we officially formed the Association. At that time I was heading up the finance area and Howard Thompson was Chair. I always take great pride when a new member joins our Association. They see the value that has been created....

You're not only the Chair of the OCB, you are also the brewer and owner of Lakes of Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, ON. How do you handle all the responsibilities?
Busy for sure! There is always more to do than the time allotted! But the truth is that I have been able to surround myself with great people. This makes my responsibilities both manageable and also enjoyable and satisfying. Working with John Hay (President of the Association) makes the job of Chair very manageable. John is a consummate professional - well respected, and he is always moving our objectives forward. Inside Muskoka Cottage Brewery I now have a great management team who really keep the ship going in the right direction... I am grateful for that.

What does the next six months look like for the OCB?
The fall is always a time for our Association to stop (for a second) and take a look in the rear-view mirror to see how we have attacked our plans and to re-check our collective views on the future. We will have many discussions and the culmination will be a refreshed focus on the near-term objectives for the current year, and a 'clearer' view into the Crystal Ball of the great future of our Association and its members.

We will work closely with the government on taxation policy, access to retail opportunities for our members, and as always we will work to continue to educate our members on these issues.

How successful have the OCB Mixed Discovery Packs been?
The Discovery Pack has been extremely successful for our association. Our Marketing Committee, which is chaired by Peter Bulut Jr. from Great Lakes Brewery, has done a tremendous job bringing the Discovery pack to the very successful stage that it’s at now. Thanks Peter!

Name some goals you would like to accomplish before your position as Chair ends.
Well the sun is setting on my term as Chair! A new Chair should be in position prior to Christmas of this year. A few of the items we have focused on over the past several months include changes to the membership structure, which will accommodate the growing and diverse membership; continue to work closely with the government of Ontario on key opportunities to improve the ability of our members to compete in a lop-sided marketplace, and the successful implementation of a modified association structure with fewer committees and twice monthly executive teleconference meetings - which is open to all members!

Describe the relationship between the current Provincial Liberal government and the OCB?
We have a very positive working relationship with the Government of Ontario. I believe that they have come to know our Association as a forward thinking organization that comes to them with solutions rather than problems. We will continue to engage the government on key opportunities such as better access to retail for our members. This can be a win for consumers, the government themselves, and our members. The concept of a beer retailing system (The Beer Store) owned by three multi-national companies (all foreign controlled), with limited oversight is quite frankly unacceptable and unsustainable in the modern world. There are ample solutions that can work for all stakeholders and we all need to keep working to find them.

So you think the government could be doing more to assist Ontario craft breweries with sales?
The Ontario government is very supportive of the craft brewing industry and the LCBO is a great environment to expose consumers to our products and to build awareness of our brands. We work closely with the LCBO on programs and opportunities to grow our members volume. We appreciate this positive working relationship. Nonetheless, it is my personal opinion that in order for craft brewers to be able to achieve their true potential, the retailing system in Ontario will need to change. The reality is that the majority of the beer in Ontario is sold through a system that is owned by the three largest competitors. If the political will is not there to change The Beer Store, or to provide more transparency, then other non-government owned competition needs to be explored. There are many positive options that can be explored.

What is the main purpose of the OCB?
The main purpose of the Association is to promote the interests and activities of craft brewers in Ontario, and to provide a forum for the discussion of issues of importance or interest to the industry and its members, and to share information and opinions for the mutual benefit of industry members.

How beneficial was that $8 million Ontario Craft Brewers Opportunity fund to the 25 members of the OCB?
The Fund is very helpful to our members and we appreciate the support that the government is providing. Craft brewers have roughly 20% of the jobs in the Ontario beer industry right now, and we are continuing to grow and attract investment dollars. I believe that the opportunity fund is a great investment for the government. In a tough economic environment craft brewers continue to grow and create jobs - both in the major urban centres and also in small town Ontario. Imagine what we could do with say, oh, a few Craft Beer Stores!
Newer Posts Older Posts Home

Winter Ale