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.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Kichesippi Brewing Co. Welcomes New Brewmaster

I mentioned in my Beau's Winterbrewed post last week that I was in Ottawa over the family day weekend, which provided me with the opportunity to finally stop into Kichesippi Beer Co., formally the site of the Heritage Brewing Co.

Paul Meek, Kichesippi's founder and owner, who is also the new owner of the building, the Heritage brands and the Sgt. Major's brands, was on hand to show me around the brewery, which is going through some renovations, sprucing up the aesthetics. He shared some new information with me that will have to remain under lock and key for now (and it is exciting), but one piece of news that can be shared is the imminent arrival of Kichesippi's new brewmaster - Don Harms, formerly of Halifax's Propeller Brewing Co., who is expected to start next week.

"We're very excited to bring Don to Ottawa to look after the brewing operations," stated Meek. "Ancil Hartman, who has been brewing here for years, will continue to do what he does, but Don will tighten things up by bringing his vast experience to the brewery."

There are some other things in the pipeline taking place behind the scenes at Kichesippi, which, when they're ready to be announced, they will be posted here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More And More People In Ontario Buying Craft Beer

I posted the Dalton McGuinty video last evening that shows him encouraging Ontarians to "seek out some of those really interesting and tasty craft beers that are being brewed right here in Ontario," and it seems that more and more people are - according to the LCBO's 2009-10 sale figures for beer.

Net Sales
Domestic Beer - $365,179,000 up 6%
Imported Beer - $573,706,000 up 3.9%
Total Beer - $938,884,000 up 4.7%

Volume Sales
Domestic Beer - 97,981,000 litres up 5.9%
Imported Beer - 132,980,000 litres up 2.2%
Total Beer - 230,961,000 litres up 3.7%

Ontario Craft Beer (OCB) sales at the LCBO for 2009-10 (which are included in the Domestic Beer total), are as follows:

Net Sales
OCB - $10,310,887 up 45.9%

Volume Sales
OCB – 1,955,584 litres up 45.7%

What's really great about the bottom numbers is that the 45.9% increase is the fastest growing segment in the LCBO system!

Chris Layton, the LCBO's Media Relations Coordinator for Corporate Communications, explains:

"While OCB beers represent a relatively small segment of the overall beer category, they have consistently been the beer segment (and in fact segment at the LCBO) showing the most growth over the last five years, up 40 to 50 per cent in sales year over year. This trend continues. If you look at sales for the last 12 months (from February 2010 to January 2011), OCB dollar sales were up 44.3 per cent and litre sales were up about 44 per cent. Note this represents strong double digit growth increases over previous strong double digit growth increases."

However, close to 80% of all beer purchased in Ontario is still sold from the Beer Store, a staggering number that we'd all like to see decrease over time. We only have two main retail outlets in which to purchase our beer, so go to the LCBO, put money back into the province. Keep showing the decision makers that craft beer is where it's all!

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but if you know someone who buys Stella Artois, get them to try a six-pack of King Pilsner from Nobleton, ON instead. It's a wonderful product and 55 cents cheaper than Stella... and it's produced right here in our backyard.  Or get them to reach for a Beau's Lugtread Lagered-Ale instead of the clear stuff contained in a bottle of Miller Genuine Draft. We all have to do our part!

Experience the difference.

Beau's Winterbrewed Party

Small display upon welcome
I happened to be in Ottawa over the Family Day weekend for some relaxation, some time away from beer. We all need a short break sometimes.....

Well, it turned out that I was going to be in Ottawa on the same day that the Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. was throwing a launch party for their latest beer in their Wild Oat series - Winterbrewed. Naturally, I had to pay a visit, breaking the vow I had made to myself... and my wife, that it would be a beer free weekend.

Beau's teamed up with Bridgehead coffee, an independent chain of cafes in Ottawa who focus on fair trade and organic coffee from small-scale farmers, to create Winterbrewed, an amber ale infused with Nicaraguan speciality coffee. The launch party was being held at one of Bridgehead's many locations (Sparks St), which was a nice change from the brewery/pub atmosphere; beer, coffee, and tea all being served simultaneously. And, in order to serve beer at the cafe, Bridgehead and Beau's had to apply for a special permit and offered the proceeds of the ticket sales to Beau's charity, Operation Go Home.

We arrived just shortly after 5pm for the media tasting. Steve Beauchesne, co-owner/founder, and a number of other members of the Beau's team were there chatting with some of the local Ottawa press, hanging out by a small display they made for the event. I met up with Jeff O'Reily, the general manager of nearby D'Arcy McGee's pub, who has started writing about beer for the Ottawa Metro newspaper, and he's committed to telling the story of craft beer in this province!
Beau's Winterbrewed meets Bridgehead Coffee

It's always great catching up with the guys/girls from Beau's as I don't get to do it that often. (And I can't wait to see Beau's advertisement in the Summer issue of TAPS... it includes me and some fingers... don't ask) We chatted for about an hour as we sampled the Winterbrewed and watched as the crowd grew in size. By 7pm you could hardly move in the cafe - the Beau's crew knows how to attract a crowd.

So, my thoughts on the beer? I liked it. It's nothing like what I was expecting. Very interesting and complex, yet easily drinkable and would be enjoyed by both beer and coffee drinkers.

Rustic cooper in colour with a strong head, the aroma was a mixture of earthy herbal notes, a dose of weakened coffee and it had some sweet fruity characteristics that co-mingled nicely with the coffee. The 5% medium bodied beer featured sharp coffee notes on the palate with each sip, before opening up with some subtle touches of chocolate, raisin and some mild fruit notes (peaches?). A touch sticky, the carbonation in the Winterbrewed cleanses the palate after each drink and finishes dry with some nice bitterness. And after a couple of generous samples, I was feeling the coffee buzz!

*And sorry folks, Beau's has sold all 1000 bottles of the Winterbrewed, so it's no longer available...until next year?*

Steve Beauchesne pouring a sample

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ontario Premier Suggests Craft Beer

If it wasn't for a Facebook post from , I'd have never have seen this short video from , who encourages people to check out the craft beers of Ontario when asked about the Beer Store.

Toronto Beer Week Six-Month Countdown Event


February 23, 2011 (Toronto, ON) - While St. Patrick’s Day may be on March 17th, craft beer drinkers will be awaiting the 19th with anticipation, as Toronto Beer Week (TBW) marks the start of its six-month countdown by inviting beer lovers on a drinking tour of some of the city’s finest establishments. The 2011 edition of TBW will take place over ten days in September from the 16th to the 24th, but drinkers can get a preview of the fun on March 19th.

Two pub crawls will hit the streets of the city at 2pm. A downtown crawl will be hosted by Cass Enright (founder of the popular and and Rob Symes (news editor on and contributing writer for TAPS The Beer Magazine). The crawl will begin at the Queen & Beaver at reet, before proceeding to The 3 Brewers, Duggan’s, beerbistro and C’est What.

At the same time, a second crawl hosted by Troy Burtch (Director of Sales & Marketing with TAPS The Beer Magazine and creator/writer of the Great Canadian Beer Blog) and Nick Pashley (author of ‘Notes on a Beermat’ and ‘Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada’) will hit Kensington Market and the Annex. After meeting at The Cloak & Dagger (reet) the next stops will be Caplansky’s Delicatessen, Burger Bar & Tequila Tavern, The Harbord House and the Victory Cafe.

A number of one-off beers will be available at most participating locations in addition to an already stellar lineup of brews. Food and drink promos will also be available at certain locations.

TBW crawl host and notorious propper-up of bars, Nick Pashley is a fan of pub crawls, and provided this quote in the run-up to the March 19th events: “Why a pub crawl? If you have to ask, this might not be quite for you. Some of us who can't wait for Toronto Beer Week have put together not one but two pub crawls. The concept is simplicity itself: turn up, buy beer, drink same, tip the bar staff, chat amiably with fellow pedestrians, move on to next pub and repeat as required. Bask in the company of Cass and Rob downtown or Troy and Nick in lower midtown, visit a few fine pubs, and drink excellent craft brews. You have better things to do?”

While there is no fee to participate in either crawl - other than your beer... we’re not that generous - RSVPing is recommended. For the downtown crawl email numbers to Rob at , and for Kensington Market / the Annex email Troy at .

About Toronto Beer Week
TBW is a series of events dedicated to the celebration and advancement of the craft beer movement. TBW will showcase authentically brewed and flavourful beer, the talented brewers who create them, and the licensees who proudly support them. It’s all about good beer – no bland, mega beer permitted!

TBW is a collectively owned organization involving some of Toronto’s most seasoned and passionate beer industry members. Our team includes publicans, brewers, media, marketers, and authors, all bringing their valuable experience and vision to create a significant event that reflects the best interests of all participants.

For more information, please contact:

Cass Enright
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Rob Symes
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Troy Burtch
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meet Darren Smith: Lake Of Bays Brewing Co.

Darren Smith doing his best Bob MacKenzie impression
Meet Darren Smith, the owner of the Lakes of Bays Brewing Co. in Baysville, ON.

Open less than a year, Smith's brewery currently produces one flagship beer in their Pale Ale, which, in my opinion, has developed nicely into a solid sessionable beer since the brewery opened. The brewery also released a very tasty Mocha Porter this winter as part of their new seasonal series, which will soon be joined by another product this spring that Smith is keeping under wraps for now.

A beautiful brewery with a great retail store, LOB makes for a nice drive up north for a visit. Due to its location, the brewery is a big hit with cottagers, snowmobilers, and boaters, and provides a great resting spot for weary travellers from the south.

Meet Darren Smith!

Where is the Lake of Bays Brewing Company situated and what beers do you currently produce?
The Lake of Bays Brewing Company is located in . We currently make a Pale Ale (year-round) and a Mocha Porter (seasonal). We have another seasonal and another year-round beer in the works right now, but I ain’t saying any more than that. You’ll just have to find out when they come out!

Describe the history behind the brewery
The Lake of Bays Brewing Company was founded by Darren Smith (me). I started to think about opening my own brewery while I was at university in Montreal, but could never quite figure out where I would actually put it. At the same time, my father bought a commercial property in Baysville, without knowing exactly what he was going to do with it. We were sitting having a pint around Christmas 2007 and, well, you can guess what happened. Fast forward three years, and I am the proud owner of a shiny new brewery, while my dad is the proud owner of a shiny new brewery building. This makes him my landlord, which isn’t such a bad deal.

Incidentally, after deciding to open my own brewery, one of my uncles discovered a bit of family brewing history in the form of Thomas and Jane Lea, my great-great-great-grandparents. Have a look on our website for the whole story:

What is your best selling beer?
Our best seller up to this point is our Pale Ale. It’s a moderately hopped American-style pale ale with some malty sweetness and a pleasant, balanced character to it. However, this is a little unfair to the Mocha Porter, which has also been a great seller, but must unfortunately contend with the fact that it’s only sold for the winter season, whereas the Pale Ale gets the entire year to pad its sales figures. Jury’s still out on this one.

What's new at the brewery?
New fermentation equipment, new automated labeller, new delivery vehicle, new staff, new beers, new distribution channels, everything’s new and constantly changing here. We’ve only been around for about 10 months now, and things don’t show any sign of slowing down.

In terms of milestones, we passed the “125 LCBO locations” mark a couple of months ago, and just listed our products with The Beer Store. We’ll be expanding our Beer Store distribution throughout this year as listing fees permit.

Lake of Bays Brewery
Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it?
Why did I get into brewing? Sheer insanity, I think.

Just kidding.

I got into this industry because I love beer! Drinking beer is fun, but making it is even more fun! There’s so much complexity, from science to engineering to financing and business management, that goes into making our beer what it is. I enjoy the almost endless opportunities to experiment and expand my understanding of all the parts of the process, from when the malt comes in the door (or into the silo) to when the bottles go off the shelves in an LCBO or Beer Store location.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
Everyone is quite friendly and willing to help each other out. It’s pretty rare in business to be able to call up one of your competitors and ask for advice on how to improve your product or better reach consumers. I guess anyone can do that, but in craft brewing, the person on the other end of the line doesn’t tell you to go jump in a lake.

Where can someone find your products?
LCBO locations, bars & restaurants and (brand new!) some Beer Store locations. Plus we have an on-site retail store in Baysville, but for some reason we have trouble convincing people to drive three hours to get their beer there. We distribute throughout Central & Northern Ontario and the GTA. Check out our website for links to the LCBO’s inventory tracking system:

Tell us something about the Lake of Bays Brewing Company that not a lot of people know about
We’re not allowed to send unwanted beer down the drain anymore, because we did that once and it disabled the local sewage treatment plant. Such is life in a town of 350 people.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
1. Use of higher-quality and more natural ingredients.
2. Ability to grow a great bushy beard and still fit in with one’s industry peers.

I was going to say “ability to experiment with new and varied beer styles” as well, but I think it’s more correctly a willingness to experiment that sets smaller breweries apart. The big guys have the equipment, technical know-how and people to perform far more experimentation than us strung-out, multi-tasking microbrewers, yet their product line-ups invariably feature dozens of variations on your standard easy-drinking industrial lager, and little else.

Best time for a pint?
NOT first thing in the morning. Never, ever taste beer directly after your morning coffee and Frosted Flakes. It can lead to unjustified paranoia about your product’s flavour and also impede your productivity for the next hour or two.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
The first time we pushed multiple brews through our brewhouse in one day, way back in April of last year, before we even opened. It was a real test of our procedures, and the first time we ever brewed a batch of beer without some major malfunction tripping us up. That was a good feeling.

Cold clean lager, big hoppy pale ale, or a nicely roasted stout?
Either a moderately-hopped pale ale or something really nice and roasty.

Name your favourite non Lake of Bays produced beer
I like Black Oak’s Double Chocolate Cherry Stout. Deeeeelicious.

How successful was the Mocha Porter seasonal?
Well, we’ve only done one thus far, so I guess my choices are limited! Our Mocha Porter is a coffee chocolate dark beer, with a nice roasty flavour and a surprisingly dry character for a winter seasonal. It has been a real success for us – we sold more than twice as much this season as we initially anticipated, and we’ll be bringing it back next winter for all you diehard fans out there. It tastes really good in (and with) chili, among other things.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Event: Rock Out With Your Bock Out - Amsterdam Brewing Co.

Toronto's Amsterdam Brewing Co. will be throwing a launch party on Thursday February 24th to celebrate the release of their seasonal Spring Bock, and they'd love to have you attend.

Hello friends!
Please join us at the Amsterdam Brewing company on Thursday, February 24th from 5 to 8 pm as we celebrate the launch of our seasonal beer Spring Bock. Beer samples, free food and good times will be had as we kick off the spring brewing season with a bang! 
Rock Out with your Bock Out. Hope to see you there.
The Spring Bock, which has a great story behind it, is now available at the brewery's retail store on Bathurst and Lakeshore and will soon be on LCBO store shelves across the province as part of the Spring release.

Niagara College Decadence Event - 3 New Student Beers

The following post was prepared by Mark Murphy from the Niagara College Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management course.

This weekend the Niagara College Brewmaster program is taking part in the college's Decadence event - A celebration of chocolate and icewine (and beer!). Under the guidance of brewmaster Jon Downing, the students prepared three special beers, and some have offered their own tasting notes!

Black Forest Schwarzbier - 6.5% abv:
"Pours a rich black with mahogany hues and a wispy white head. The aroma is a lovely chocolate and tart cherry while the pilsner and munich malt (malz) still have the opportunity to shine through, giving it a true schwarz character. The taste of this beer is everything you'd find in a black forest cake without the heaviness. There is a great milk chocolate sweetness that catches the pocket of the tongue as the cherry and lactose sugars climb the sides of the tongue to the tip with a clean, yet sharp tartness. There is a lovely bitterness from the hops that sits nicely to balance out the sweetness of the beer. The lactose in this beer adds to a lovely silky mouthfeel that remains light yet covers the whole palate. This beer blends beautifully with a black forest cake or for those looking for something fat free, by itself!"
 - Andrew Bartle, Newf via Toronto

Icewine Wheat - 7% abv:
"Aromas are somewhat similar to a saison, in that it's dry, floral and reminiscent of a funky Belgian yeast. The icewine juice combined with the hallertau hops combine to give a very pleasant riesling like beer with heavy floral tastes and a slight drying bitterness. The beer is light bodied, has a medium carbonation and is a brilliant golden colour."
- Andrew Bullied, Calgary

Chocolate Bockbier - 6% abv:
"The chocobock features a nice sweet malt aroma with notes of alcohol warmth and chocolate. The
chocolate aroma becomes more pronounced as the beer warms. An initially sweet flavour gives way
to a pronounced drying cocoa presence with roasted notes and a nice lingering alcohol warmth. An
excellent accompaniment for any chocolate dessert."
- Austin Roach, Toronto

Two decadence events specifically highlight these beers:

Beer and Chocolate:
Join Brewmaster Jon Downing and sensory expert Jennifer Wilhelm to discover the many ways these two age old indulgences complement each other. Experience unique beers, decadent chocolate treats and take away a gift to help you enjoy your indulgences even more!
When: Saturday, February 19th 2:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Room: E110 at the Niagara on the Lake Campus, 135 Taylor Road
Cost: $20

Chocolate and Icewine Gala:
- National Student Pastry Competition
- Delectable Food Stations
- Icewine Tastings
- Special Brewmaster Tastings
- Interactive Chocolate and Icewine Displays
When: Saturday, February 19th 6:00 p.m.
Location: Canadian Food and Wine Institute (Niagara on the lake campus)
Cost: $75
(Must be 19 years or older.)

For full details on all of the weekends events and to order tickets, please visit

Hope you can make it out!

Kichesippi Beer Co. Now Offers Growlers

Paul Meek, the owner of the Kichesippi Beer Co. in Ottawa, ON, has informed me that the brewery will start offering customers the chance to purchase Growlers of their Natural Blond as of today. And attractive growlers I must say.

“The concept here is it’s brewery fresh,” says Meek. “You’re going to come to the brewery and ... we’ll fill it right up for you, right in front of you.”

Growlers will be available directly from the brewery, which is located at .

Also, it should be pointed out that 50 cents from each growler purchase will be donated to Juvenile Diabetes research, a cause close to Meek's heart as his son suffers from Type 1 juvenile diabetes.

With the introduction of the new growlers, Kichesippi will join the likes of these other Ontario craft breweries that offer the popular 2L container: Beau's All Natural Brewing, Granite Brewery, Grand River Brewing, Mill Street Brewery, Black Creek Historic Brewery, Duggan's Brewery, The Publican House Brewery, Niagara College, and Railway City Brewery

*Here is a little video from Ottawa's A Channel News about the Growlers

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meet Will & Ross: Opera Bob's Public House - Toronto, ON

Will on the left and Ross on the right
Meet Will & Ross, publicans of Opera Bob's Public House on Dundas West near Ossington in Toronto.

I had the pleasure of meeting both gentlemen in June of last year, when I first paid the pub a visit to do a review on this blog, and was happy to hear that both feel the love for craft beer. They were also able to share the story behind the name, which they've done again here in this short interview, something they get asked on a daily basis.

Meet Will and Ross!

How long have you operated your establishment
Just made two years on Jan 25th

How did you get into the hospitality industry?
Will: I started in the industry bussing dishes to help finance my trip to South East Asia and Australia after University. I tended some bar while I was overseas as well.
Ross: As wait staff at a few diners on Queen st

What is the best part of operating a pub?
Will: The people. Our regular clientele are great folks, and I enjoy providing a friendly environment where they can have a good time.
Ross: The great people that you meet and get to drink with.

What is the worst?
Will: Cleaning up
Ross: When the home team loses (ie: Canada World Juniors)

How do you go about selecting the beer for your establishment?
We tend to keep our taps local. We have an Opera Bob's Beer Club that meets once per month to share new brews. We get a lot of our ideas from there. We have also found a few at craft brew festivals.

Where did the name of your establishment come from?
Opera Bob is our friend Robert Pomokov's nick name…he is a part owner of the place, and yes he is an opera singer.

What has been the biggest change in the beer industry since you started your business?
Will: Tall tins have become very popular…and the HST.

If you could change one thing about the industry (pub/bar/restaurant), what would it be?
Will: I think that the government can be a little 'overprotective' sometimes.
Ross: For people to be a bit open minded with their beer selections...try something else on , just once

What do you get up to when you're not at your establishment?
Will: I really enjoy grilling…I have both a propane and a charcoal grill, and continue to grill regardless of weather. I also enjoy a good dinner out.
Ross: sports

If you're not drinking at your own bar, where do you head to for a beer?
Will: Depends on the neighbourhood I guess, but I usually head down the road to the Crooked Star.
Ross: Crooked star

Name the last beer you consumed?
Will: Mill Street Tankhouse
Ross: Beau's Lug Tread

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Barley Days Brewery Oak Aged Sugar Shack

Barley Days Brewery in Prince Edward County have announced,  via a press release, that they have joined other OCB members in barrel aging one of their products.

Joining other OCB breweries like Black Oak (Ten Bitter Years in Oak Bourbon barrels)Grand River (Oak Aged Sour), Trafalgar Brewery (Oak Aged Rye - 2008), Cameron'sGreat Lakes Brewery (Winter Ale, Devil's Pale Ale, a Belgian Saison (yet unnamed), and non-OCB members like Amsterdam (Boneshaker IPA, CJM Brown Royale), Barley Days filled an American oak barrel from The Carriage House Cooperage with maple syrup and their Sugar Shack ale for maturation.

According to the press release, Barley Days added a twist to the mix. The American oak barrel being was steamed before it was filled, which will impart more subtle oak flavouring.

“You don’t want the oak to overwhelm the taste of the beer,” says Nichols. He believes this steamed barrel will be the perfect complement to the richness and maple notes of Barley Days Brewery’s Sugar Shack Ale.

“It’s about going back to our roots [in beer brewing],” says Nichols.

The ale will stay in the barrel until it is ready for bottling, sometime after the middle of March. It will be sold as a special premium release and will only be available at the brewery.

Prud'homme Beer Certification Goes Online

, the founder of the beer education company, Thirst For Knowledge Inc., is proud to announce that his Prud'homme Beer Certification Course (Level 1 - Beer Enthusiast) will soon be available online for individuals to participate in the comfort of their home.

Level 1 is a six-hour self directed course that focuses on: Brewing Concepts - Understanding Beer - Beer & Food - Draught Beer Quality - Pouring & Serving, and is shaped for hospitality providers, retail beer sellers, brewers and distributors of beer and the beer enthusiast.

Mittag has posted a video on YouTube (below) where he states that the online program will be launching on March 1, 2011.

For more information, contact Mittag at or visit his website at

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Victory Cafe - New Ownership

Rumours started circulating a couple of weeks ago that the Victory Cafe in Toronto's Mirvish Village, popular with local beer enthusiasts', artists, and patio lovers, was undergoing an ownership change. The details of said rumours were sparse and there was no word from the Victory about a change.

Until Monday of this week when I received an email confirming the details, which indicated that friends, Maz and Neil Brereton, two very friendly faces at the pub and former co-owners, will no longer be involved with the Victory.

I've been told that it is a completely new owner and details about how this will affect the beer line-up, the beer events that the Victory are well known for, the food and the everyday operations - are unknown at this time. However, some breweries I spoke with are concerned with the possible direction the new ownership might take the longtime craft beer bar.

Hopefully the new owner has seen the value in what the Brereton's and Blake Smith have created and will leave the Victory Cafe, as we know it, intact; or build on their foundation.

All the best to Maz and Neil in their future endeavours, and a rounding 'Cheers' for their passion and commitment for showcasing cask ale, great beer and providing great times!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Muskoka Cottage Brewery Unveils Newest Seasonal - Muskoka Summer Weiss

Today, shortly after 3pm, Muskoka Cottage Brewery unveiled their newest seasonal on their

The new "Muskoka Summer Weiss" will be available sometime in early April in select LCBO's. The beer, as you can see to your right, will be packaged in Muskoka's seasonal 750ml swing-top bottles and will retail for $5.95. The Summer Weiss will also be available at select pubs/restaurants on draught, and at the brewery in Bracebridge, ON.

Coming off of two very success seasonal releases, Harvest Ale and Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout,  both of which attracted a lot of media attention, and more importantly achieved good reviews on beer blogs and websites, the Summer Weiss, with a new label design, should excite fans of Muskoka here in Ontario.

From Mike Laba, Muskoka Cottage's Marketing Manager:
Seasonally brewed, Muskoka Summer Weiss (“vice”) is crafted with visions of summer in mind. Unfiltered and naturally hazy by design, the balance of wheat, barley and subtle hopping makes this an intriguingly aromatic, flavourful and sessionable summer wheat beer.
We used our popular Hefe-Weissbier as the base for this beer and have made a couple tweaks to brighten it up and make it a touch more sessionable for the summer season.
We know consumers are looking for a refreshing beer in the summer with tremendous amounts of flavour and we are very confident this wheat beer will live up to that request.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NC Brewmaster Program - Students 101: Chris Freeman

Back in December I started a small feature on the first ever students enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program at Niagara College. The first student profiled was Mark Murphy, who also provided his thoughts on the first semester in a post last month.

With the assistance of Murphy, who will be coordinating this with his fellow students, I'd like to continue with the student introductions and allow them to provide updates on how the course is progressing. 

So, without further ado, meet Chris Freeman.

When did you learn about the brewing program at Niagara College?
I first read about it in the newspaper several years ago when it was still being developed. When I read the article, I immediately began to dream of what it might be like to run off and study brewing. It was akin to dreaming about what you would do if you won the lottery. I was pretty settled. I had already studied and completed a degree. I was in my early 30’s, had two kids, and a steady job as an office manager. My wife and I had also just purchased our first home in Toronto. I loved beer and had just started homebrewing; but to move and leave everything to begin again seemed like too much of a risk.

What happened between then and now?
My desire to homebrew began to rage out of control! I was fortunate to work with an avid homebrewer who was kind enough to teach me how to brew. Together we brewed a rich amber ale, the likes of which you would never find at the Beer Store or LCBO. It was then when I saw the possibilities in homebrewing. The next beer I made was on my own and I wanted go all out. I made a Christmas ale with everything in it but the kitchen sink: chocolate, vanilla, orange, cinnamon, star anise, honey and I can’t remember what else. Against the odds, it turned out to be a good beer and is definitely one of my most memorable. I also have a keen interest in cooking, so I was drawn to what spices and different non-traditional ingredients would add to a beer. I actually have to be quite disciplined about making a straight up English bitter or porter. For me, homebrewing has been filled with the joys of making great beer and the frustrations of having to dump batches because of bone-headed mistakes. No matter what, I always desired to know how I could change my process to make my beer better.

So what was the turning point? When did you decide to take the plunge?
When I discovered that the program at the college was a go and that applications were being accepted for 2010, I decided I had some serious thinking to do. I liked my workplace, but my passion did not lie in administration and bookkeeping. As well, one night, over a few homebrewed imperial stouts, my brother and I hatched a plan to start our own brewery. The only hiccup in the plan was that neither of us knew anything about the industry or much about brewing beer commercially. This was the moment of truth, were we really going to try and do this?

With the encouragement of my family and close friends, I decided to go for it. More importantly, my wife was on board and she is my most enthusiastic supporter! After going to night school to get the science prerequisite, I submitted my application and crossed my fingers.

How is it going now?
In September, I moved from Toronto to Niagara with my wife and now three children. I have just completed the first semester of the program and it is exactly what I was hoping for. The first semester was a general overview of the industry and the commercial brewing process. Now we are getting all the wonderful things you would never learn as a homebrewer: the biology and chemistry of brewing. The students are all great people who are enthusiastic about beer and incredibly supportive of each other. The teachers are dedicated to the success of students and are doing everything they can to share their knowledge and give us opportunities. And one of the best parts has been that as a full-time student, I have had a more time to homebrew!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tim Hudak And Buck-A-Beer

I read the comments that Tim Hudak, the leader of the Progressive Conservative party in Ontario  made yesterday about the cost of beer in this province, and I was going to write something about how we should be focusing on higher quality beers that the LCBO have been showcasing at tolerable prices.

I was going to, until I read the great post by my buddy, Cass Enright, over at his Free Our Beer site. You should go read it now.

"Bring On The Expensive Beer"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Toronto Beer Week Announces Dates For 2011 Week


2nd annual event to be held September 16-24, 2011

February 7, 2011 - TORONTO – We are pleased to announce that the 2nd annual Toronto Beer Week (TBW) will once again be taking over the streets of Canada’s largest city. Working off a tremendously successful week in 2010, TBW promises to be bigger and better this year, and due to popular demand will be expanding to add an additional weekend. 2011 will now see 10 days of beer-related events celebrating quality craft brews, and the amazing places you can enjoy them.

For seven days in Fall 2010, the city of Toronto was transformed into heaven for craft beer drinkers as over 50 bars, pubs and restaurants participated in the city’s first ever beer week. They were joined by 17 breweries, 3 brewpubs, and 5 import agencies who delivered on their promise to deliver an outstanding week of great beers, events and venues.

2010 featured an extensive range of memorable events, including brewery dinners, beer festivals, one-off special casks and much more. It could also claim to being a truly citywide event, as good beer bars all across Toronto joined in on the fun. This vast range of events and locations made TBW a celebration of beer that appealed to Torontonians sense of diversity and exploration. A world-class week for a world-class city!

The 2011 edition will commence on Friday September 16th and will run until Saturday September 24th, with plans to include even more unique experiences for beer drinkers. “Last year was a huge success for us, more successful than we ever imagined, and we’d like to build on that and bring Toronto residents much more in 2011,” stated co-founder, Troy Burtch.

“Our team heard a lot of feedback after our inaugural week and the consistent message was that we could stretch out the 2011 week to offer more events, beer dinners, pub crawls, home brew competitions etc. Also, the new 10-day format allows for more individuals living outside the city to travel to Toronto to participate. We heard from a lot of people who made Toronto a travel destination during the week and we’re proud to help boost tourism numbers in this great city.”

The TBW team will once again be working with breweries and licensees to create events that suit their independent character, and deliver outstanding and memorable experiences to all attendees. “We’re exploring new and exciting ways to promote the Week and encourage awareness of the incredible beers that are now available in Toronto, as well as the unique venues that sell them, said Burtch.”

To find out about all the latest developments visit us at or follow us on our and pages ().


About Toronto Beer Week
TBW is a series of events dedicated to the celebration and advancement of the craft beer movement. TBW will showcase authentically brewed and flavourful beer, the talented brewers who create them, and the licensees who proudly support them. It’s all about good beer – no bland, mega beer permitted!

TBW is a collectively owned organization involving some of Toronto’s most seasoned and passionate beer industry members. Our team includes publicans, brewers, media, marketers, and authors, all bringing their valuable experience and vision to create a significant event that reflects the best interests of all participants.

For more information, please contact:

Troy Burtch
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Rob Symes
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Cass Enright
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

John Bowden
Executive Committee, Toronto Beer Week

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Sun Media Beer Reporter - Jordan St. John

I'd like to congratulate Jordan St. John on his new position with Sun Media as their beer reporter.

Jordan, the man behind St. John's Wort blog, recently started writing for Sun Media, replacing Aonghus Kealy, also known as "Suds" who is now working for the Toronto Star as an editor.

Jordan and I have been friends for quite some time now, and last year he helped me out tremendously with his volunteer service with the Canadian Brewing Awards (CBAs) and manning the TAPS booth at Mondial de la Biere. As you can tell from his blog posts, Jordan is a passionate guy when it comes to good beer and it's good to see someone with so much heart get this vacant position.

Congratulations, Jordan! Well deserved.

His first article can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Meet James Yii-Jen Tien: Muskoka Cottage Brewing Co.

James with his grandfather on his 98th b-day..with beer!
Meet James Yii-Jen Tien, head brewer with Muskoka Cottage Brewery in Bracebridge, ON.

Tien has an interesting story to tell; coming to Canada and falling in love with brewing, landing a job with Muskoka and taking over day-to-day brewing duties,  formulating new recipes - including the popular Harvest Ale and the Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout and working through an expansion at the brewery. 

Meet James Yii-Jen Tien 

Where is the Muskoka Cottage Brewery situated and what beers do you currently produce?
We are sitting in downtown Bracebridge, the heart of Muskoka, the greatest Ontario cottage country. Cream Ale was the first brand and currently we had Premium Lager, Dark Ale, Hefe Weissbier, Harvest Ale (seasonal), Pilsner Light, and Double Chocolate Stout (seasonal).

Describe the history behind the brewery
Founded by Gary McMullen and Kirk Evans, Muskoka Cottage Brewery opened for business in 1996. The Brewery began with 3 employees and now employs a team of over 30. The whole building was built by wood and brick with a stone foundation and was used for selling grains and animal feed; therefore, there are 6 silos in the centre of building.

What is your best selling beer?
Cream Ale, the unbeatable crisp and refreshing beer with a wonderful malt and hop balance.

What's new at the brewery?
I am working on the 2nd stage expansion with the 4th BBT and a bottling line set up in order to achieve a fast company growth and marketing needs. We had a great success on the latest seasonal beer – Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (DCCS). Lots of feedbacks and comments from everywhere. In 2011 there will be Summer Weiss, Harvest Ale and DCCS lined up for a great seasonal selection. Very soon, we will also have a delicious hoppy beer released for all year around.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
Honestly, I hated beer until meeting with my aunt’s friend - JC Jang about 15 years ago, since I tried once when I was too young. My father and his friend used to drink beer often on weekends and I was bugging them for a taste. My goodness, it was an awful beverage I had before. But when JC showed me his homebrew and it was tasted so GooooD! It was an ALE which I believe was my first ALE rather than a light clean lager.

So when I finished my MSc in Food Chemistry and moved to Canada I decided to give myself a try in brewing industry, then here I am. I started in fall 06’ as a brewer then focused on filtration and quality control. Now most of my time is spent on R&D, expansion, and managing the whole production. I am just like any other beer lovers, I collect bottles, coasters, and caps since 15 years ago. I also use the Beer Me! website to help me find breweries and brewpubs when I travel around the world.

Whenever/wherever I travel there is a beer. Besides, creating new beers in the brewery I also homebrew(facility was given from JC when his wife said to him ”Give to James, you are getting old!”) in my apartment where I had ever burned a stove top (then I got a yell from my wife…). Making beer is such a fun work!

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
People here are great. We share experiences to each other. We borrow and lend materials if our neighbours need, just like you run out salt and gently knock the door of people live beside you. You know, working with these people are awesome!

Where can someone find your products?
People can find MCB products from The Beer Store, LCBO and licensees in Ontario, MLCC in Manitoba, and some stores in Alberta. If you need an assistance feel free to send an e-mail or give us a call.

Tell us something about Muskoka Cottage Brewery that not a lot of people know about.
My brewers and I often have a beer tasting in my office on Friday afternoon. We taste different beers every time. So if you are lucky to see my office full packed with people, do not shy to join with us!

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
I personally believe as a craft brewer we are allowed to use all kinds of malts, hops, and yeasts to create a yummy and crazy beer. Plus, we have more flexibility to release some special edition and seasonal beers.

Best time for a pint?
Most of time I have a pint when I cook. I think this helps me think about what I am going to prepare for tonight and cooking my dishes with a bit of beer sometimes adds flavours.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
2010 was my biggest year. My Rye Pale Ale won a second place in MBAA District Ontario Iron Brewer Competition, also you can find a full article from TAPS Magazine Winter 2010, and my two recipes –Harvest Ale and DCCS were truly welcomed in fall and winter.

Cold clean lager, big hoppy pale ale, or a nicely roasted stout?
All depend on when, whom I drink with, food pairing, and what my mood likes… Like now, a cold white winter I will have a stout rather than a cold clean lager.

Name your favourite non Muskoka produced beer
King Pilsner/Vienna Lager (ON)

How successful have the seasonals been? And what has been your favourite?
We believe people want to try new flavours so either the Harvest Ale or DCCS all worked great. I like Harvest Ale more.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brewers Plate 2011 & Brewing With David Crombie

Brewers Plate team w/ Crombie & Bulut Jr.
Last Friday I found myself at Great Lakes Brewery where former Toronto Mayor, David Crombie, was about to help brew a Belgian Wit with a gentleman by the name of Nick, who's winning bid at last years Brewers Plate auction landed him the chance to brew a beer with "the happy warrior".

At 10:30am, after receiving his very own Great Lakes brew shirt, Crombie and Nick were helping Great Lakes owner Peter Bulut Jr. crush some malt to start the brew. Both men pitched in throughout the day, sparging, stirring, tasting; pretty much lending a hand throughout the entire process.

Crombie, who seemed amused with every step of the process, stated at the end of the day that in all his 75 years this was the most he's learnt about beer, and he had a great time doing it.

The Belgian Wit, which was named "Crombonickoo's Got The Wit", will be bottled for the two men to share and enjoy.

The brew day also provided Chris Lowry, the founder of the Brewers Plate, with the opportunity to share a few things with us about this year's event.

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