Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Cask Days Have Arrived! barVolo The Place To Be This Weekend

If you follow beer in this province then you already know about barVolo's Cask Days.

The premiere event showcasing the wonderful product we know as cask ale has been taking place all week down at the popular Yonge Street bar but today the main event kicks off when the doors open at noon.

Until Monday November 1st, barVolo will be serving the following beers (while they last). Tickets are very limited at this time, so head over and try to snag some right now.

Volo Collaboration Beers (Produced at Volo)
Volo + Biergötter "V" Black IPA
Volo + Biergötter The Punishment Due IRA
Volo + Biergötter Matt's Marathon Mild
Volo + Biergötter + Dieu Du Ciel! Export Stout
Volo + Biergötter + Charlevoix Viva La Vita Cocoa Milk Stout
Volo + Biergötter + Les Trois Mousquetaires "Ceci n’est pas une pipe"
Volo + St.Andre Wozniak Parti-Gyle 2.0
Volo + St.Andre Jobs Parti-Gyle 2.1

Quebec Casks
Benelux Cuda IPA
Benelux Strato Black IPA
Charlevoix La Vache Folle ESB
Dieu Du Ciel! Corne Du Diable IPA
Dieu Du Ciel! Alban Elved Harvest Ale
Dieu Du Ciel! Pionniere Imperial Black IPA
Dieu Du Ciel! Peche Mortel Imperial Stout
Hopfenstark Greg - American Foreign "Harvest" Stout
Les Trou Du Diable Le Sang d’encre Stout
Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique Dry-Hopped

Ontario Casks
Granite Landlords Daughter Porter*
Railway City Double Dead Elephant Ale*
Barley Days County IPA*
County Cider Co. Farmhouse Cider*
F & M Stonehammer Beta Red
TAPS Belgian IPA
Church Key Like Water For Chocolate Imp.Porter
Beau's Night Marzen
Clock Tower Wishart Bitter
King Unfiltered Vienna Lager
Wellington Oast House Ale
Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout
Nickel Brook Trillium IPA
Duggan's #12 Ontario Ale IPA
Black Oak Nutcracker Porter
Black Oak Transvestite Tipple Pale Ale
Great Lakes Miami Weissendunkel
Great Lakes Triple IPA *tba
Lake of Bays TBA
Heritage Five Finger Jumbi Dark
Scotch Irish Vanilla Bean Black Plain Porter
Publican House Square Nail PA Dry Hopped
Durham Black Eye 2010
Hockley Valley Coconut Cream Pie
Muskoka Cherry Porter
Muskoka Harvest Ale 2010
Flying Monkey Netherworld Pumpkin Spiced Ale
Magnotta Fog On The Tyne Revisited
Black Creek TBA
Mill St Roggenbier
Amsterdam CJM Royal Brown Ale
Chesire Valley Mild
MacLean's Ales Scotch Ale
Cameron's Double Oak Aged Jack and Coke
Trafalgar Bert Well Pale Ale

All beers and event information is subject to change
Cask Days 2010 is a 19+ / Non-smoking event
Accepting cash only
ATM machine available downstairs
Taxes are included in listed prices
Sample tickets are not transferable between sessions
Beers will only be served in Cask Days 2010 glass
All remaining tickets will be donated to charity
Cask Days 2010 tickets are non-refundable
Food will be available for purchase
Last call announced 45 minutes before session ends
Please drink responsibly. Don’t Drink and Drive.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mill Street Brewpub Turns 4

The folks down at the Mill Street Brewpub, in the historic Distillery District, are celebrating their 4th anniversary today with live music, complimentary snacks, an oyster bar, giveaways and more starting at 7pm... Oh, and a cake!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TAPS The Beer Magazine Video Podcast - Mondial de la Biere

Back in June TAPS The Beer Magazine was in Montreal for the 17th annual Mondial de la Biere to sign up new subscribers and to meet with the talented men and women in the Quebec beer industry. Though it has been many months since the festival, TAPS has recently released a short video podcast.

You can subscribe to the free podcasts by visiting the  Or you can visit the TAPS website to view a number of video podcast the magazine have put together over the years.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Way Overdue Toronto Beer Week Thoughts

Toronto Beer Week (TBW) was just wrapping up exactly one month ago today and here I am behind the eight ball with a very late post on the subject - My Pro's and Con's.

I believe I've mentioned it here before, but before going on, and for the sake of transparency, I should state again that I was/am on the Executive Committee for TBW and one of its co-founders.

A Humble Start
Beginning back in March of this year, a number of individuals starting discussing the idea of holding the first Beer Week in Toronto but it wasn't until a trip to the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago that John Bowden, Cass Enright and myself actually started to get serious about it. We talked to some Ontario brewery representatives who were present in Chicago and we talked with some British Columbia brewers to see how the Vancouver Beer Week was shaping up (VCBW took place in May, after the Craft Brewers Conference). Upon returning to Toronto the TBW talk heated up and a committee was formed to start the process of getting the event up and running. We believed Toronto was ready for it and could handle a full week of beer events.

After months of meetings, hitting the pavement and working on logistics, our committee brought beer to the forefront in Toronto from September 20th to the 26th. It was the main focus in the city. The mainstream media (Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, National Post, NOW) all jumped on board and provided us with great coverage. There was also great support from online media (blogTO, beer and food bloggers) that we were ecstatic about.

Here are some of my Pro's and Con's

Passports - The TBW Passports were a great success from our point of view. There were many licensees, breweries and drinkers that commented on the passports with overwhelmingly positive remarks. Each passport, in case you couldn't get your hands on one, featured a map of Toronto on one side that was highlighted with each participating licensee and brewery and the other side featured small bio's of each participating business.

These passports can be used for pub/restaurant suggestions as they cover the city. So, if you're heading to the west end and you're not sure where to find a good bar with a good craft beer selection, use the passport to see what's in the area.

Licensee Participation - This was key for the success of the week. When we were planning TBW we set a goal of signing up a minimum of 30 licensees - we ended up with almost 50! The response from the publicans surprised even us in the beginning. And after the week was complete, those we've followed up with were more than happy with the turnout their establishments received.
Troy, Fred (Charlevoix), Daniel (Garrison), Cass Enright

Quality of Events - The Ontario Craft Beer Week (June 2010) featured a number of events throughout the province but I felt that many of them lacked substance. Don't get me wrong, there were a number of very good and well organized events during their week, but TBW events had a lot of meat on the bone. New beers, brewers in attendance, beer dinners with international breweries, tastings with beer educators and writers, festivals and much more. There were events for everyone, across the whole city.

The TBW Logo - It will define the week. You see that logo and you are immediately reminded of the week.

TBW Homebrew Competition - Rob Symes, another individual on the Executive Committee (myself, Symes, Enright, and Bowden) developed the TBW Homebrew Competition, organized the judging, got great prizes and worked with Amsterdam Brewing Co. to get them to brew the winning entry on a commercial scale in February. He did an amazing job for a first year competition and the homebrewers responded by entering over 90 beers!

......I'm still trying to think of something.

No, in all seriousness I felt that the week went better than even our committee expected it to go. The people of Toronto, once we got our message out to the public, wanted this. The support from the public was unbelievable. We heard so many stories of licensees seeing new faces, getting returning customers, and at one place in particular, the cask ale continuing to run dry every other day.

One con that I personally have is the TBW website. I was the person that created and maintained the website this year. We used a free service and I believe it showed. The events had to be entered manually everyday, in the same format, and the application we were using provided me with numerous headaches when entering in information. Next year we'll have a 'real website'.

I would also like to thank our great sponsors who provided artwork, advertising and more. Thanks to NOW Magazine, TAPS The Beer Magazine, Bar, Industry Images, Canada Coaster, Igniter and Axis Gear.

And a very special thank you to the Honourable Steve Peters (Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario) who tapped the Mill Street cask to kick-off TBW - to Adam Grant of the Monks Table: A Gourmand House for hosting the TBW Media dinner in August to help spread the word! - and to Mill Street brewery for hosting the media launch.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Meet The Honourable Steve Peters - Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario

John Hay (OCB President) and Steve Peters, 2008
The following interview appeared in the Spring 2010 Issue of TAPS The Beer Magazine on page 61. To obtain a copy, or other back issues of TAPS (dating back to 2007), shoot me at for details.

*I've known Steve for three years now and I can say without hesitation that his passion for the historical aspect of beer, and his support for local breweries, is amazing. So much so that when the Toronto Beer Week committee was looking for someone to tap the ceremonial 'first cask' to welcome in the week, we looked no further than Steve.

Steve Peters has a pretty cool job … and a pretty great hobby. A career politician, Peters is the Member of Provincial Parliament for the riding of Elgin Middlesex-London and he is also the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. He is also a huge craft beer advocate and sees changes on the horizon for the Ontario brewing industry.

Since being elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1999, Peters has held various cabinet positions over the years, serving as Minister of Agriculture and Food as well as the Minister of Labour. In 2007, after being re-elected by the citizens from his riding, Peters was elected Speaker of the Legislature by his fellow MPPs.

One of his first initiatives in his role as the Speaker was to increase awareness of Ontario products at Queen’s Park (home of the Legislative Assembly). Peters, being a long time beer drinker, breweriana collector, and staunch supporter of local breweries, looked no further than the members of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) to assist him with his goal.

The Speaker, along with John Hay, President of the OCB, have organized two successful annual tastings of OCB members product at Queen’s Park, which are attended by MPPs and Legislature staff members. Individuals have the opportunity to sample the various beers and choose favourites in different categories and the winning beers will then have sway for a years time throughout the Legislature.

Peters, who has a hectic and busy schedule, recently sat down in his office to talk with TAPS’ Troy Burtch about his efforts to showcase Ontario breweries, his love of the fermented beverage, and his interest in brewing history and collecting beer relics of yesteryear.

Q - Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, craft beer advocate, long time breweriana collector, that’s quite the combination?
A – I always have fun with beer. I am a beer drinker. I’m not a wine drinker or a spirits drinker – strictly a beer drinker. I enjoy my beer! I grew up in a household with my father who enjoyed beer and two grandfathers who enjoyed beer. As someone who is interested in history, in Ontario history, I’ve discovered our brewing traditions in our province goes way back. It fits in quite nicely with me because in my own community (St. Thomas, ON) we had two breweries that started in the 1830’s, one in ’32 and one in ’33. One operated all the way until prohibition and the other closed in the 1880’s. As a collector of local memorabilia I have bottles from those breweries; I have a keg, a wooden crate, a glass mirror, and advertising from those breweries. It’s nice that I can tie some history into my love of beer as well.

I would say that part of my love of beer comes from my days as Minister of Agriculture. I spent two years doing that, trying to advocate and encourage people to buy local, buy Ontario, buy Canadian, and one of the things I did after I was elected Speaker, in 2007, was to ensure that we did what we could within this Legislature to promote Ontario product. We serve only VQA Ontario wine and for the past two years now we’ve proudly had local craft beer here – chosen by members and staff of the Legislature.

Q - Where did this passion for beer and collecting come from?
A – It was a family thing, I would certainly say that, as I mentioned earlier. But I can remember even in University in the 1980’s going into the Beer Store and we would buy a different brand of beer each week just to taste all the different ones. I remember one of my favourites for a long time was a Labatt product called Gold Keg. It was a nice beer, but long since disbanded.

Q - You’re a member of the Canadian Brewerianist Society. How did you get involved with collecting beer memorabilia?
A – I started collecting antique bottles around 1972, and I started to find bottles from the St. Thomas area and one in particular happened to be a beer bottle. I then became interested in the history of brewing in St. Thomas. I had no idea about a brewery once operating in my hometown, so my interest grew and led me to start looking for more beer bottles from the area. I joined an organization, which was then called the Canadian Brewerianists’ in 1982, a group that was dedicated to the history of Canadian brewing with members collecting everything from coasters, beer trays, caps, bottles, cans, posters, you name it. So I’ve been a member and a subscriber to their magazine for over 25 years. I attended their annual convention in Toronto in my first year (1982) and it opened my eyes to the diversity of breweriana collecting in Canada. I’ve made a lot of good friends all across the country that like beer and like collecting.

Q - Every collector has something they’re most proud of…..what’s your treasure?
A – Ahh! That’s a tough one. I have a lot of treasures. My number one piece? I guess it would be a mirror. It measures about 3 feet by 8 feet and it says “Ask For Rudolph and Begg Beer” and they were a brewery in St. Thomas. The mirror hung in a hotel, behind the bar and it disappeared before I was old enough to drink. It was gone for over 35 years. I got a call one day from a friend of mine who said, “Steve, a guy has moved back into town and I think he has the Rudolph and Begg mirror.” I got in touch with the gentleman, who had moved all over Canada with the mirror in his possession, and I was able to acquire it from him.

Not so much a treasure, but in the summer of 1995 a buddy and I discovered where the Rudolph and Begg bottle dump was. We got permission from the owners of the property and we rented a backhoe. We cleared all the top layer of earth and spent the summer digging through the old bottle dump and finding one whole bottle for every five hundred broken ones. It was quite a thrill.

Q - You played a key role in introducing Ontario-produced craft beers to members of the Legislative Assembly and fellow MPPs – what sparked this initiative?
A – The spark? Ensuring this building, which belongs to the citizens of Ontario and has been our Legislature since 1893, with over 300,000 visitors a year, that this building showcase the province; show off the great products we have in Ontario. As Speaker, one of my initiatives has been getting those products in the house. We have been serving VQA wines for over twenty-five years, chosen by MPPs and staffers, and I thought we should be doing this with beer. We worked with John Hay, the President of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), and we modeled our beer initiative after the wine. We have six different categories plus a Speakers beer, the categories chosen by the OCB. We brought the breweries in and we’ve had two years of beer tastings here at the Legislature where MPPs and staff sample and pick the winning beers that will be served over the next year.

Q - What has the feedback been like from your fellow MPPs since you started the OCB tastings two years ago?
A – It’s been extremely positive. I think from the standpoint of people who have, over the years, been used to drinking beer from large breweries, this was their first experience at trying a craft beer and they quite enjoyed them. And by having the wide number of samples it gave them the opportunity to taste the different tastes coming from all over Ontario. I think people are extremely conscious of doing what they can to support businesses that are home-grown and operate in our own backyard, including breweries, and I’m a big believer in planting seeds and pouring beer on them and watching them grow.

From discussions I’ve had with other MPPs I’ve learned that they’re now aware of the local breweries in their respective ridings, which is great. I was just in Eastern Ontario touring around with MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde and one of the places he took me to was to Beau’s All Natural Brewery in Vanleek Hill, ON.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halifax Rolls Out Lounges Licences

The CBC has posted an interesting article on their website today regarding 'lounge licences' on Quinpool Road in Halifax. A regional council has agreed to allow for licensees to apply for a new lounge licence that would permit a licensed establishment to serve alcohol to patrons without forcing them to order food.

Under old rules, if an individual wanted to order a drink from a restaurant along Quinpool they'd have to order some food to accompany said drink.

The new lounge licenses need to be approved by a community council after a public hearing, and if a licensee is successful, the lounge must take up less than half of the establishment in space.

Welcome to 2010.

Click here to be re-directed to the article.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back From Europe...and full of beer!

I'm back on Canadian soil after spending two great weeks in Europe, making stops in Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris.

My wife and I departed Toronto on October 2nd for our first trip across the Atlantic and things didn't start off on the right foot. Flying over Newfoundland & Labrador it was announced that the plane would be turning around and heading back to Montreal due to issues with the right engine. Three and a half hours later we were back in the air to Amsterdam.

We spent three days touring the canals, sitting in cafe's along the canal edge, tasting beer from the local Brouwerij 't IJ, taking part in the Heineken Experience, browsing through the wonderful Cracked Kettle beer shop, and visiting the museum's and historical properties. It was a fun filled, albeit packed, three days. Then it was off to Bruges.

After settling in to our hotel room at the beer-centric, Hotel Erasmus, we strolled over to the famous Markt to get a glimpse of the wonderful old buildings. Cobblestone roads, horse and buggies, chocolate shops and  small cafes all line the Markt and make for some interesting people watching.

When the clock struck 4pm we found the small alleyway that is home to 't Brugs Beertje. We found Daisy (the owner) behind the bar pouring beers for a number of American's and locals alike. We found a table and settled in for a long session, which included a in-depth conversation with Johan Brandt, owner and brewer of the Brouwerij Smisje, and Daisy herself. After saying our goodbye's we staggered off to Cambrinus before heading back to hotel for a nightcap that included numerous glasses of 2008 Orval at the hotel bar. The next morning I interviewed Daisy for the winter issue of TAPS and I found her love of good beer has truly shaped her path in life. She is an exception woman, and one hell of a publican.

We visited a number of other brasserie's in Bruges over the next two days, including a great visit to De Halve Maan brewery and a number of bottle shops, and loved every minute of it. I would go back in a heartbeat! Unfortunately we had a train to catch to Mechelen.

20 minutes after getting off the train we were standing in the lobby of the famous Het Anker Brewery Hotel. This historic brewery consumes a huge lot on the corner off a busy street and is home to the brewery, a hotel, brewery offices and as of two weeks ago - a brand new brewery restaurant with a great retail store. We had some lunch and I made my way through a number of their products before heading out to see the old town.

The next day my wife and I were led on a personal tour of the grounds. The history surrounding the brewery is astounding and they've done a great job to preserve it. Throughout the grounds you can see old equipment, bottles, the malt house, the cooper cooling tank on the roof of the brewery, the secure part of the brewery that houses the valuable Scotch barrels (under lock and key), and images of year's past. For two hours we climbed steep stairs, poked our heads into the brewing tanks, spoke with the brewing staff and heard the interesting history behind the names of each beer.

We finished the tour, had lunch, then headed off to climb the highest tower in Mechelen before catching another train to Brussels.

Our hotel, Metropole, was magnificent. I would recommend it to anyone planning a visit to Brussels. We made sure to visit during the weekend when the prices of hotels are significantly cheaper (from 400 euros during the week to 115 on weekends!).

We did a lot during our three days in Brussels. We visited the Brewer's MuseumDelirium Cafe (which I was disappointed in), a la Becasse (lambic pub - lambic served in ceramic jugs), a la Mort SubiteBeer Planet, and Cantillon.

Cantillon was something that will be remembered for years. Jean Van Roy was there to chat with me over some of his beer and the place was busy with tourists taking tours. The brewery is a special place, almost out of place in the bustling Brussels. The city grew up and built itself around the old brewery.

On our last night in Brussels, before heading off to Paris, we found a great establishment off a busy street, tucked away down a dim light alleyway called Au Bon Vieux Temps - I didn't want to leave. The building dates back to 1695 and it feels as though you're drinking in the basement of a church, with the stained glass windows on each side of the place. Locals and tourists drinking together in harmony!

Here are some pictures from the trip. I'll eventually get to posting more in-depth profiles of some of the places visited in the upcoming weeks.

Deus at 2BE

't Brugs Beertje

Old Bottles at Het Anker in Mechelen


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bryden's: Toronto, ON

Because I'm gone for an extended period of time, I thought I'd schedule some old posts to appear over the next two weeks. This post originally appeared on June 23, 2009.


Toronto, ON

If you visited Bryden's pub at Bloor Street West and Jane more than six months ago you would have glanced at the tap handles and noticed the same thing you do when you walk into any sports bar - multi-national products: Keith's, Stella, Hoegaarden, Moosehead, Becks, etc. A lot has changed since December as the draught line-up has gone through a tremendous overhaul and it starting to gain some much deserved attention.

The stretch of pubs along the area is littered with brands like Guinness, Rickard's and Keith's, and Bryden's, even though they offer Keith's and Guinness, are now doing their part to separate themselves from the pack by offering draught options rarely seen west of Bathurst. "Right now I've got Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale, GL Red Leaf, GL Horseshoe, Steam Whistle, Mike Duggan #9, Koningshoeven Tripel, Mill Street Organic and Tank House, St. Ambroise Cream Ale, Wellington Pale Ale, Grand River Galt Knife, Denison's Weissbier, Hacker Pschorr, Guiness, Keith's, Stella and Black Thorn Cider on tap, and a bunch of good craft beer in the beer fridge," said Tash.

"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," stated Tash, long time owner of Bryden's. "I love these beers and I love what they stand for, so they're here to stay."

"We have been slowly taking off the big guys for the little guys and so far the remarks from our customers have been great. Denison's Weiss replaced Hoegaarden and although it is a different style people have been quite enamoured with it." It was clearly evident as we sat on the patio. It was a hit with the crowd as customer after customer came out from the bar with the popular Toronto weissbier.

The topic of cask conditioned ale came up in conversation and Tash mentioned that he plans to do something with the wonderful drink in the future. "It's definitely something I'm considering. We'll probably do a small introduction with a couple of casks on a weekend, just to start off small and get the regulars interested."

The atmosphere inside Bryden's feels eerily similar to a backyard party. In a good way. Because the pub is small (capacity of 50 inside) everyone is part of the crowd. I'm told Bryden's was more sports bar than pubish in the past, but I got a good pub vibe from the place. "We are well supported by the local residents and I think that has helped create a nice relaxing atmosphere both inside the pub and outside on the patio," says Tash.

Mismatched furniture litters the inside of the pub. Well used and seasoned, the old chairs and couches look like pieces you'd put in the rec room of a basement, but damn are they comfy. There is a large four seater couch at the back of the pub beside an over sized Victoria style chair that is in front of a long slender coffee table, offering a great spot to bring a group for some pints to watch a hockey game on one of the three televisions. The tables and chairs used for eating are also an array of different styles, sizes and colours, putting a unique touch on the pub. The walls are decorated with beer signage from the big breweries who used to have more presence here, however, there are some micro-brewery signs here and there. There is a nice 30 person patio out front (see pic) that is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence decorated with some planted flowers. The patio is covered with two large patio umbrella's helping shade the people (even if they are Stella), which adds some comfort for the scorching hot days we're about to go through.

Bryden's has a lovely little 'L' shaped bar on the left side of the establishment that can accommodate up to 10 bar back chairs. The all wooden bar has a low lying overhead that has wire racks holding a number of chalices and tulip glassware, along with a bunch of hearty beer mugs for the regulars. A handful of 'stuffed' animal heads are plaqued and attached to this wooden overhead (don't worry PETA, their toys). The 4 brass rails running up the bar to the overhead ad an English touch and the bartender was very social and friendly, an added bonus here in Toronto and something that helps set a pub apart from their competition.

Each beer served at Bryden's comes in the appropriate glass, a big plus, and the beer coming from breweries that don't have branded glassware is served in a regular pint glass. No mistaken identity. The draught towers are nice and clean and are easy to read, which helps when it comes to making a decision about which beer to choose. There is a large mirror behind the bar partially blocked by a large amount of spirits and liqueurs bottles and the beer fridge is stocked with a variety of local craft product, imports, and some generic lagers for the unadventurous.

The food at Bryden's was terrific. I was there with some guys from Great Lakes Brewingand we ordered up a bunch of appetizers which included a to-die for quesadilla. Sliced pears, diced peameal, walnuts and brie cheese, dipped in a garlic aioli sauce. On Monday and Tuesday appetizers can be purchased for the low price of $6 and pitchers of Great Lakes Horseshoe and Red Leaf Lager are priced at $9.

Bryden's is a great pub that deserves some attention from those who follow the Toronto beer scene on a regular basis. There are certain pubs in Toronto that I've come to love and I think I've found a new west end hangout. Whether going to the pub by yourself or with a group of friends, Bryden's is a place that makes you feel welcomed, and the staff show their appreciation for your service with their outgoing and personable nature. A nice find just steps from the Jane subway station.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Olde Stone Brewing Company: Peterborough, ON

Because I'm gone for an extended period of time, I thought I'd schedule some old posts to appear over the next two weeks. This post originally appeared on February 15, 2010.

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 & TaproomPublican 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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Huether Hotel - Lion Brewery & Restaurant: Waterloo, ON

Because I'm gone for an extended period of time, I thought I'd schedule some old posts to appear over the next two weeks. This post originally appeared on May 27, 2008.

There are certain moments in your life that can't escape your memory: your first kiss, purchasing your first car, first house, getting married, the birth of your child and many more. I have yet to experience three of the above scenario's but to make up for them I'll tell you about the Huether Hotel in Waterloo, ON, or more notably, The Lion Brewery Restaurant located inside.

You see, I can still vividly recall the first night I stepped foot into the historic building and hopefully I always will. My fiancee was in University at the time at Wilfred Laurier and her and her roommates often frequented the Lion Brewery Restaurant (LBR) to celebrate birthday's. I had the pleasure of joining them on one such occasion and I was immediately hooked. It would seem that every weekend I visited her in Waterloo that we would make our way over to indulge in some pints of their brewed on-site beers or taste the many signature dishes on their menu. Everytime we visited we had good service, the beer were always good and the atmosphere and ambiance never disappointed. This is why I still keep going back. It has taken me too long to keep a post about one of my favourite drinking destinations.

The building that the Huether Hotel and the LBR occupies dates back to 1842 and from 1899 to 1930 was owned and operated by the Kuntz Brewing Company before they merged with E.P. Taylor's Carling conglomerate. During Kuntz' time in the building the hotel had several different proprietors and it was in 1953 that John Peter Aldys and his partner purchased the building and subsequent businesses, thus starting the Aldys legacy in the area. John's son Bernie and his wife Sonia would later go on to manage the hotel and in 1975 they purchased the property off the senior Aldys and they still run the show to this day.

The LBR, named after the Lion Brewery that once occupied the side building adjacent to the hotel in the early 1900's, is located just off the street level and down some rickety, weathered, old wooden steps. Entering the main hallway you'll come across many framed newspaper clippings and accolades that have been compiled over the years and provide customers with some nostalgia regarding the famed monument.

LBR was opened in 1987 after four years of extensive labour, a job that included clearing two caverns (ice rooms from the old breweries??) of several tons of rubble. When the renovations were complete the brewing tanks where installed in one of those caverns and beer was pumped directly to the bar. Because of the increasing popularity of Waterloo's newest brews, the Aldys made a decision to re-locate the tanks to another section of the building and use the caverns for hosting large parties or alternate seating during busy nights.

So, let me get back to my most recent visit. Last Saturday, after we headed west down the 401 to the Grand River Brewing Co, we made a bee-line to the Huether for a late lunch and a sample tray of beers. And there are a fair number to choose from. Lion Lager, Adlys Ale, Huether's Premium Lager, Light Lager, Black & Tan (Lager/English Ale), Speciality Brew (summer one Weiss), Honey Brown Lager, English Ale and Wuerzburger Lager.

We arrived just before 4pm to a near empty place and had our choice of tables. We choose to sit up near the bar and just off the kitchen, which juts out into the eating area. I settled on the sample tray that consisted of the English Ale, Wuerzburger, Black and Tan and the Weissbier. I found the Wuerzburger to be the standout winner while the Weiss was not at its best. The rest were alright, nothing to knock your socks off, but good nonetheless. The paddle is only $3.75, so it wouldn't hurt to have two trays to sample all the beers.

The room is beautiful, simply put. The rustic wood, natural stone flooring and walls, solid wooden and brick supports, all blend together nicely with some modern stainless steel from the kitchen, which creates a cabin in the woods feeling. I find it comforting. As mentioned, the floors are flat natural stone that are moderately raised here and there, reminiscent of a cellar you might find in an old farm house. The west side wall is of solid rock foundation that hasn't been altered in the building's 166 years of existence. Small windows provide some light into what would otherwise be considered a dungeon. Hours can be spend down there and you can emerge into the darkness of the night without even realizing it. The walls are covered with antiques, some from the many breweries that have occupied the building. There is also a large stone fireplace located at the back of the restaurant that comes alive during the winter, and features a beautiful painting of a lion by Sonia Aldys on a shelf above.

The 37 foot straight bar stretches from the main entrance all the way to the kitchen and sports some pretty amazing German style draught towers, all differently coloured. There are 10 bar back stools, one being occupied by a older gentleman who seems concentrated on the book in his hand. The music is barely audible, which I appreciate, and I'm sure our reader friend does too. Admittedly, our server, who doubles as the bartender, claims she's not a big beer person but I'm okay with that as she oozed enthusiasm and seems committed to ensure we have a good time. There are a couple televisions behind the bar on mute showing some sports.

The atmosphere is terrific, it reminds me why I love this place. The food is great (although not to great for celiac's), the beer is good - definitely worth trying and the building is very memorable. I would recommend this place to anyone interested in historic buildings, quality food, handcrafted beers and good times.

*The Huether Hotel, LBR, Cafe 1842, and Barley Works are located at 59 King Street North, Waterloo, ON.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taps and Tales: Toronto, ON

Because I'm gone for an extended period of time, I thought I'd schedule some old posts to appear over the next two weeks. This post originally appeared on December 11, 2008.

IMG_1933.jpgDanforth is well regarded for the number of restaurants that line the streets, restaurants people from all over the city flock to during the weekends for an inspiring and entertaining meal. From Coxwell to Broadview you'll find Greek restaurants, speciality food shops, greasy spoon diners, and a handful of good pubs with names like Allen's, Dora Keogh's, the Only Cafe, Auld Spot and Sarah's Cafe. Four days ago, after four months of round the clock renovations and strenuous research, a new pub has joined the scene and is located just west of Greenwood Avenue, mere steps away from the Greenwood subway station. The place is called Taps and Tales.

As mentioned, the newest addition to the strip opened their doors just four days ago and has been busy welcoming in guests at a rapid pace. I recently had the chance to venture in out of the cold to have a conversation with Harry, the general manager and Jasmine, the assistant general manager over a pint and some wings.

As I walked into the pub I noticed how nice and clean everything appeared to be. A shiny deep chocolate covered wooden bar, clean glass on the picture frames, sleek leather booths, clean polished hardwood floors and a fairly long draught line near the front of the bar, this places oozes brand new. A posh and sophisticated appearance, yet a pub atmosphere can be felt in the air.

I meet Harry at the bar and the talk immediately starts with his reasoning for selecting his current draught line-up. When it comes to beer Harry describes himself as a newbie, someone interested in expanding his knowledge, and his enthusiasm is evident in his voice. "I'm not a big drinker, but when I would find myself having a beer it would normally have been a Heineken, or something mainstream. Since I've started working on the creation of Tap and Tales, I've thrown myself into the craft beer world and I can't get enough." He added, "the people I've met in the industry are unbelievable people who have spent the time helping me and the staff understand the products, not stopping at their own beers."

Before opening Harry knew that he would have to get out into the area to see what else was being served to paying customers and he noticed the same thing was taking place in many of the watering holes; domestic lagers at cheap prices. It wasn’t until he started visiting the Only Café, a neighbour to the west, and Sara’s Café, neighbour to the east, and realized that they sold interesting products and they were retaining customers. “Castro’s, Sara’s and the Only were really helpful when deciding what draught line-up to put together,” exclaimed the general manager. “I tried the beers, enjoyed them and started to wonder if craft products were the way to go, besides, I wanted to open a place that supported the local players.” “Our place hopes to be a local for the residents around the area and we hope that they will embrace our selections."

He says all this as I sip on my pint of F&M Stonehammer Dark while scanning over the other tap handles that include: Black Oak Pale Ale, Mill Street Tankhouse and Organic, Denison's Weissbier, Creemore Traditional Lager, Guinness, Steam Whistle, Big Rock Traditional, McAuslan Cream and Apricot and Strongbow. "We've had a couple of people walk into the place since the doors opened and came to the bar asking for a bottle of Blue. The look on his face when I tell them we don't serve stuff like that is priceless. Needless to say, I don't think they'll be back." Harry has also included a number of well known beers to his large bottled list. Unibroue Fin du Monde and Blanche de Chambly, Young's Double Chocolate, a couple of Mort Subite, Duvel and more, and range in price from $4.75 to $13.00.

Harry and Jasmine also confirm that they will have Southern Tier IPA very shortly, joining only a small number of other Toronto establishments currently stocking the nicely balanced hop bomb. "We very excited about the Southern Tier," stated Jasmine, who found out about the beer when shopping at an LCBO recently. "I've talked with Roland and Russell (importers) about the beer and we will be getting it very soon," Jasmine stated.

Every pub needs a good bar to lean on and the Taps and Tales provides a nice long 'L' shaped bar on the right side of room. Krystal was working the bar and provided plenty of conversation; a great feature in a bartender and something that I find many Toronto pubs lack (not the good ones anyway). Ten bar stools and bar back chairs welcome weary passer-bys and put you right in front of the 13 tap handles. Low hanging light fixtures are above and candles provides added lighting on the bar top. There are two tv's found in the pub and Harry mentions that he had soccer fans in mind when installing them. There are a number of spirits situated directly behind the bar and are joined by two beer fridges; one of the left and one on the right, each fridge featuring a picture of the Toronto skyline.

This is one feature you’ll notice when you walk in, many old Toronto pictures line the walls from the entrance right to the back of the pub near the washrooms. There is a wide black and white canvas spread of an old 506 College streetcar hanging on the wall by the bar that sums up the theme of the new pub. “We wanted this to be a Toronto place, a simple pub to come and socialize with friends and family; to relax and enjoy each other’s company, much like it was done in old Toronto,” proclaimed Harry. “The pictures are all from Toronto and some date back to the late 1800’s, each one tells a story, a tale if you will, and that is what this place is all about,” he added. Jasmine, states this is how they came up with the Taps and Tales name. “We have the taps so we wanted to incorporate that into the name and tales, well, pubs are all about conversations, telling tales of the past, tales of present, and here, creating new tales. This is how we settled on the name.”

The layout consists of 4 sets of large booths situated to the right, complimented by a number of round tables for smaller groups. The front area features a clear garage door that will open up to the street (and sidewalk patio) in the summer months and is surrounded by refinished brick. "The old business that was here before was a Fish and Chip shop," stated Jasmine. "We have totally gutted what was here and put our own fix on it." A nice feature in the booths is the outlet that controls the lighting above. Dim it yourself for a private conversation or crank the light up if your reading. The pub also has free wifi, but me being old school, I don't like a pub with people typing away - go to a coffee shop for that.

Heading towards the back of the pub you'll walk up a step and enter a small room that contains two flat leather couches surrounded by a coffee table that is situated in front of a glowing gas fireplace and mantle. "We have big plans for this section," said Harry. "From hosting birthday parties to New Year's parties to poetry readings and book club meetings, we hope people come in and feel at home." The area does resemble a living room as there are no other tables present, and the warmly dimmed lighting adds a piece of tranquility away from the bar area.

The area surrounding the pub is a mix of young professionals, young families and down and out er's, and is a little east of the hotspots on the Danforth, but I think if Taps and Tales sticks to their game plan and stays the course, they'll be just fine. I nice little posh Toronto themed pub that will be re-visited again soon.

Taps and Tales

Toronto, ON
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