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, May 30, 2011

Spearhead Brewing Co. Getting Set To Launch

The guys behind the Spearhead Brewing Co. are an enthusiastic bunch. There's no denying it. For anyone who has met the group of hardcore beer enthusiasts behind the new brewing co., you know what I'm talking about. For those that don't, well, get any of them alone for five minutes and you'll understand what I'm implying.

From Dimitri van Kampen (President and Founder) to Stephen Rich (Assistant Brewer and Beer Sommelier) to Ari Starr (Business Manager) and the rest of the team, these guys are getting set to deliver on their promise to offer Ontario residents Beer Without Boundaries.

I first met van Kampen over a year ago during a lunch meeting at C'est What. His business partner, Martin Villeneuve, was also there and together they laid out their plans for the future of Spearhead Brewing. Even then I sensed the enthusiasm in their voice as both men spoke with passion about their goals, and the excitement in each sentence they spoke was encouraging. After leaving the pub I remember thinking that if they put as much energy into the brewery as they did talking about it, that Spearhead would one day make some noise in the Ontario brewing industry.

Fast forward to present day, the test batches of their flagship beer, Hawaiian Pale Ale, are behind them and the first commercial brew (I attended and shot some video) took place on April 26 at the Cool Beer Brewery (they are contract brewing there) where it awaits its debut on June 16th at Toronto's barVolo.

The Hawaiian Style Pale is a very hop forward West Coast pale ale with a very tropical nose that showcases the likes of mango, pineapple and passion fruit. A small amount of concentrated Pineapple juice is added to the brew during the secondary and adds to the menage of the tropical bouquet. Much of the same on the palate with a slight zest and a pleasant lingering bitterness.

I know some of the other brands the new brewing company has in their portfolio, and I have no doubt that we'll be seeing them on tap one day down the road.

While it may have taken the guys behind Spearhead a long time to get to the point of brewing commercially, it hasn't taken them long to line up accounts. The Hawaiian Style Pale Ale launches on the 16th at barVolo and barVolo only, but by the 17th there will be 30 pubs/restaurants across Ontario with Spearhead appearing on tap (see list in press release below).

Spearhead will also be involved during the 2nd annual Toronto Beer Week... with big plans to do it up big! Visit their website for more info.

Press release from Spearhead
TORONTO – May 30, 2011 – Something new is brewing in Toronto: Beer Without Boundaries™. Unique, all-natural, unfiltered beer brought to you by Spearhead Brewing Company. On June 17, 2011, this local, family-run, craft brewery begins pouring its first pints at more than 30 establishments in Toronto, Guelph, London and Muskoka.

Spearhead Brewing Company was founded by Dimitri van Kampen, a Toronto-born beer geek and foodie who wanted to create bold, distinctive beer that would get people thinking differently about the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage. Like fine wine, great beer should be savoured, not sucked back in the bottle. Great beer can complement and contrast the finest foods and turn an ordinary meal into a feast. “At Spearhead,” said van Kampen, “we want to create exciting beer that challenges traditional style categories and people’s perceptions of beer.”

A lawyer by trade, van Kampen’s true passion is craft beer and, in particular, the extreme brewing movement that has taken the United States by storm over the last decade. A few years ago, he discovered home brewing and started dreaming up beer recipes using non-traditional ingredients like fruit and spices to create beer with complex, unanticipated flavours. “When making our beer,” said van Kampen, “we don’t want to fit in. We want to stand out. We don’t want to conform to expectations. We will always test our imagination and the imagination of our customers.”

Beau's All Natural To Launch Festivale AltBier Tomorrow

Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. will be launching their Festivale AltBier tomorrow evening at Toronto's Biermarkt (600 King St West location) and they are looking for thirsty beer drinkers to help them celebrate the occasion.

The launch will begin at 6pm with samples and pints of cask conditioned Festivale, their take on a German style AltBier. George Kash, a popular local entertainer, will be on site performing live oompah music and games.

No reservations required, no admission fee.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ontario MPP Gives Props To OCB Breweries At Queen's Park

I was just sent a that appears below and I thought it was worthy of a post.

The video features Ontario MPP Helena Jaczek, who gives a shout out to the Ontario Craft Brewers, informs her colleagues of the upcoming OCB Beer Week and urges sitting MPP's to explore the beers produced in Ontario.

Jaczek, who represents the riding of Oak Ridges-Markham, which includes King Brewery, made sure to give King a good plug in her speech, including a nice mention of the brewery's most recent gold medal win at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards.

It's always nice to see and hear our politicians talking the positive 'good beer talk', which seems to be happening more and more these days. Election year it may be, but I think the tide is actually starting to turn at Queen's Park. Our elected officials are slowly starting to recognize the craft beer movement taking place in Ontario and are taking the time to understand it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Beery Weekend In Toronto - Drink Up

This weekend may be a good primer for the upcoming Ontario Craft Brewer OCB Beer Week, which is taking place in June (19-26), as there is a lot on the go this weekend here in Toronto. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can all get out and enjoy some wonderful beer and some sunshine.

Friday May 27th
Wvrst - 609 King Street West
Well, it's not really an event, but Toronto's newest beer friendly restaurant opened last night and by all accounts things went well. So, what better way to kick off the weekend than a trip to this new spot that specializes in Sausages (20 different varieties). Wvrst is designed to look and feel like a German beer hall and is offering a number of solid beers from local Ontario brewers like Denison's, Black Oak, King, Church Key, Kensington and more. You'll also find beers from Germany, Belgium and other Canadian provinces like Quebec (Dieu du Ciel in bottles). Click here to view the menu

Saturday May 28th
Great Lakes Annual Spring Charity BBQ - 12:00 to 6:00 PM
Location: Great Lakes Brewing Company 
It's that time of year when we all fire up our BBQ's after the long cold winter months, which means it's also time for the Great Lakes Brewery annual Spring Charity BBQ! I've had the pleasure of attending a number of the BBQ's in the past and they're always a great time. As always, there will be Beer, BBQ, live music and a kids fun zone with games and prizes.

The beer line-up you ask? I've been told that there will be a cask of Lackey's Caskey available, along with kegs of My Bitter Wife, Devil's Pale Ale, Crazy Canuck Pale Ale, Orange Peel Ale and Green Tea Ale. A great time of year to try a number of Great Lakes core brands alongside some of their seasonals.

George Kash will once again by the MC for the day, which is always a good time (he drinks a beer upside down in a headstand position). Proceeds from this years BBQ will be donated to the Franklin Horner Community Centre. The Centre is located in Etobicoke and provides a meeting space for community groups along with programs for families with children under six, youth, seniors/older adults and newcomer groups.
., Etobicoke

Amsterdam Brewery Heading To The Beach

Amsterdam Brewery and Castro's Lounge, a popular beer bar in the Beaches (I still say Beaches...), are teaming up to offer residents of Toronto's east-end a late afternoon/early evening special tasting, which will feature a number of seasonal Amsterdam products.

The beers included in the social tasting include Amsterdam's one-off collaboration brew, Pink Ribbon Mild (proceeds to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation), as well as Boneshaker IPA, Boneshaker IPA Double Dry-Hopped, Tempest Imperial Stout and Oak-Aged CJM Brown Royale. Select beers will be served both on tap and cask. There is no admission fee for this tasting, just pay as you go.

Sunday May 29th
The Brewery Market
Location: Wychwood Barns - 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Brought to Toronto by Cass Enright, the founder of Bar,, Golden Tap Awards and co-founder of Toronto Beer Week, The Brewery Market is a one of a kind event that will be launching this weekend and will be running on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.

Each Sunday will feature a different Ontario brewery (see list here) who will be at the Wychwood Barns Farmers Market pouring samples of their product. The Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery from Barrie, ON will be the first participating brewery and they'll be serving Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale, Amber Ale and Antigravity Light Ale on draught and samples of Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale and Smashbomb Atomic IPA will be poured from bottles. Denison's Brewing Co. will be up next on June 5th. Partial proceeds to The Stop Community Food Centre, co-presenter of the Brewery Market.

From The Brewery Market's website:
The goal of The Brewery Market is to give you the chance to try out the best beers available in Ontario in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Each week a different craft brewery will be featured, with a number of different beers available. 11 breweries in total will be featured in The Brewery Market’s summer 2011 series. Come back each week for a profile of the upcoming brewery.
Barn #4, 601 Christie Street

Muskoka Mad Tom Launch Party
Location: Marben - 6:00 PM
As mentioned here two weeks ago, Muskoka Cottage Brewery is set to release their newest offering, Mad Tom IPA, and they'll be hosting a launch party on Sunday evening at Toronto Marben's restaurant during their very popular monthly pig roast. For only $25 a person, individuals will be treated to ALL you can eat pig and pints of the new IPA. Muskoka's events page on Facebook mentions that tickets are selling fast, so call ahead and make a reservation today!
488 Wellington West

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

6 Questions About The Beer Store's New Beer Boutique

Since news broke in April about The Beer Store's plans to introduce Toronto citizens to the first of what could be many Beer Boutique's, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Dave Paterson, The Beer Store's new Brand Manager. I've been out to the Beer Store's headquarters for a couple of meetings with respect to the new Boutique and had the opportunity to look over some proofs of the projected retail store and we discussed some of the changes that the Beer Store will be undertaking in the next couple of years.

The Boutique, which is slated to open in Liberty Village (120 Lynn-Williams St) towards the end of June, will, as you can see in the picture to the right, be more visually appealing than traditional Beer Stores throughout Ontario. The store will be offering smaller package sizes (singles, 6-packs, 12-packs) that will be easier to handle for individuals getting on and off public transit, will not accomodate bottle returns, will introduce customers to tasting seminars and glassware tips, will be a completely open self serve atmosphere and the store will bring back the much loved 8-pack carriers that the LCBO once had before getting rid of them, but with a twist. In my opinion, all improvements for the 84 year old company.

During our last discussion, I thought it would be appropriate to ask Paterson a number of questions about the new Boutique, giving him the opportunity to share some more information with the readers of this blog. I, like some of you, had questions about how this new store will differ, in selection, than regular Beer Store locations, and I believe that Paterson and the rest of the Beer Store team that are working on this Boutique have done a good job approaching it from a different, less traditional angle - working towards something new for beer drinkers in Ontario.

His answers to the 6 questions I posed to him are below.

The Beer Boutique. Can you provide the readers with the background story?
The Beer Boutique has been in play well before I joined the organization. In response to consumer insight studies, our leadership team started to develop the Boutique concept. We are extremely excited about The Beer Boutique and the experience it will deliver to the beer customer.

How will this store, appearance and layout excluded, be different from the rest of the Beer Store locations?
With all due respect the appearance and layout play a key role in differentiating our new retail concept. The boutique embraces the heritage of the brewing industry. Copper elements combined with exposed brick, beam and plank flooring will contribute to a friendly shopping experience. This store will have our largest brand offering to date. Along with great beer we will offer our customer beer samplings, food pairings and beer knowledge sessions. The Beer Boutique is committed to enhancing the overall beer experience. To that end we will be selling beer glasses so that the consumer can enjoy their style of beer in the proper beer glass.

There are rumours of more Beer Boutique's opening across Ontario in the near future - can you comment on that? And if so, I hear another one is rumoured to be opened in Toronto by years end.
The Beer Boutique is a unique concept and is not right for every community within our trade area. However, that being said, we are exploring many sites that do fit our model. We will be making an announcement later this summer regarding a second location in the GTA.

Getting more smaller craft breweries into these stores must be a priority, judging by the direction the Ontario beer market is heading. Is the Beer Store looking to attract more craft breweries and their seasonal products?
We have had many meetings with the craft brewers and based on the interest level shown we assume that our craft offering will continue to grow. We are constantly working to provide our customers with a selection of great beer, both seasonal and core.

Is the Beer Boutique the Beer Store's response to the shift in consumer spending at the LCBO level? Or because TBS understands that they need to freshen their urban image?
The Beer Store has a set strategy when it comes to improving our retail effectiveness. The Boutique concept is one of many tactics that will be executed this year. We believe that The Beer Boutique speaks dynamically to the urban consumer who we have recognized as a customer that we need to better serve.

And finally, is there anything else taking place within the Beer Store that you'd like to share?
The Beer Store is evolving. We have invested in significant customer research and now will be taking action. We will be launching a new consumer centric web site (since launched) and mobile app this summer. We are more focused than ever on creating a great shopping experience in all of our stores. We are working diligently and change takes time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Press Release: Countdown To Ontario Craft Beer Week

The following is a press release from the Ontario Craft Brewers with news about their 2nd annual OCB Week

One Unique Week of Tastings, Pub Crawls, Brewer Sightings, Beer with BBQ, Cheese, Chocolate & Cocktails, Music, Art & Good Local Fun

TORONTO, ON – (May 2010) – Plans are underway for the second annual ‘Ontario Craft Beer Week’ hosted by Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) from June 19 – 25, 2011. Ontario Breweries, pubs, restaurants and venues are busily creating unique events that will showcase and celebrate the great flavours and popular culture of Ontario Craft Beer. New beer-themed occasions are being added to the website regularly.

“Craft beer weeks have become a hugely popular part of the local beer movement in North America,” says Steve Beauschesne, of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. and co-chair of Ontario Craft Beer Week. “Here in Ontario, we’re creating a world-class beer experience in our own backyard through grassroots events and tasting opportunities. It’ll be a great way for Ontarians and tourists to discover fresh, local beer, experience beer and food matching and support local businesses.”

Here’s a sampling of event highlights and Ontario Craft Beer Week themes:
Go Ahead and Make Dad’s Day: Celebrate Father’s Day by taking Dad for a tour and tasting at one of Ontario’s local craft breweries:
  • Cameron’s Brewing Co. hosts its annual Father’s Day BBQ at the brewery – beer, food & free tours.
  • Grand River Brewery tours and samples by the glass for a loonie.
  • Granite Brewery in Toronto will give Dad a pint in a special free Granite Father’s Day glass.
  • Bring Dad down to Great Lakes Brewery between 2-4 p.m. for beer and BBQ treats.
  • Mill Street Brewery has three Father’ Day events planned at The Local in Barrie, The Griffin Pub in Bracebridge and the Cherry street Diner in Toronto.
  • Muskoka Cottage Brewery Steamship Cruise: A four hour tour of Muskoka lakes with good craft beer, delicious food and entertainment.
  • Neustadt Springs Brewery is hosting an Open House on Father’s Day in Neustadt, ON.
  • Old Credit Brewing Co. in Port Credit throws its annual Father’s Day tour and tasting with a take home gift of glassware.
  • Railway City Brewing is hosting “Bring Dad to the Brewery” in St. Thomas, ON.
  • Wellington Brewery Father’s Day Open House (12-4 pm) with tours and samplings at the brewery in Guelph (including Welly One-Off limited edition cask). $5 per person.
Father’s Day Pub Crawl:
  • On June 19, the Second annual Cass & Troy's (Epic) Pub Crawl is an "Outside In" affair. Toronto Beer Week organizers Cass Enright ( and TAPS The Beer Magazine/beer blogger extraordinaire Troy Burtch will each lead a group of revellers from opposite ends of the city and meet in the middle for an epic craft beer tasting blow out.
BBQ and Beyond! Chefs across Ontario will add craft beer to their menus and smokin’ hot bbq recipes with plenty of perfect beer matches.
  • Hwy 61 in Toronto is planning something spectacular as always with local beer & BBQ specialties.
  • Great Lakes IPA Triple Tap Takeover at the Rhino: a week-long rotation of single, double and triple, black and belgian IPA's.
  • Grilling with Great Lakes at The Only Café (June 22).
  •  Beach BBQ & Brews Festival at Toronto’s Woodbine Park (June 17-19) will feature several craft brews, tasty food and a cool lakeside location.
  • Blue’s Brews & BBQ in St. Thomas (June 18-19) at the Historic Caso Station features live music, great bbq&beer.
Ontario’s craft beer-friendly bars will be sure to celebrate OCB Week each in their own dedicated way:
  • Hamilton: The Winking Judge
  • Ilderton: The King Edward Restaurant & Pub
  • Kingsville: Jack’s Gastropub
  • London: The Morrissey House
  • Ottawa: Arrow & Loon, Elmdale House Tavern
  • Toronto: Beer Bistro, Burger Bar (Kensington Market’s new brewpub), Cloak & Dagger, DeSotos, The Dominion on Queen, The Feathers Pub, Grapefruit Moon, The Miller Tavern, The Rebel House, The Rhino, Victory Café, Café Volo
Craft Beer & Cheese: Ooooh la la….A heavenly match.
  • Guelph: The Cornerstone (June 21): a guided tasting of artisan cheeses paired with local craft beer, courtesy of Ouderkirk & Taylor and Wellington Brewery.
  • Kingston: Olivea (June 23): Five fabulous artisan cheeses from Fifth Town Artisan paired with five organic brews from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company.
  • Let’s see if Mill Street’s Sam Corbeil does a beer & cheese thang with Leslieville Cheese Co. (tbc)
  • Mirella Amato of Beerology/Barley’s Angels will lead beer & cheese pairings at Session 99 (Toronto craft beer festival ).
Indie Beer meets indie culture: The first ever Battle of the Brewery Bands will unmask the musical brilliance of some of Ontario’s finest brewery folks.
  • Musicians from Beau’s, Great Lakes, Mill Street and Wellington (and more) will perform at a hip downtown Toronto venue (full line-up TBC).
  • Art of Beer (TBC): A radical, beer-themed art show is in the works for Toronto beer and art fans. More to come.
  • Session 99 (June 25): Jason Collett (Broken Social Scene), New Country Rehab, NQ Arbuckle & The Blue Mushroom Circus Sideshow
Women, Beer & Chocolate: Mirella Amato of Beerology/Barley's Angels’ is planning tasting events throughout the week, among them (details & locations still TBC):
  • Beer & chocolate pairings (TBC - June 23): premium chocolate matched with premium beer – sinfully delicious.
  • Beer cocktails with guest cocktail expert & author Christine Sismondo (TBC - June 20): the latest and greatest bar trend.
  • Special guided tours at Session 99 (June 25): Guided tastings and beer & cheese pairings. Learn how to taste and experience craft beer from an expert.
  • Speed Dating/Beer Tasting? Sounds like a perfect couple! Stay tuned, more details to come.
  • Toronto Beer Lovers Meet Up Group. They’ve already held events at Black Oak Brewery and Great Lakes; new details should emerge about their OCB Week plans.
Cask Conditioned Ale & Off-Off Brews:
  • The Third Annual Cask Ale Crawl hosted by CASK Toronto is scheduled for the weekend of June 17-19. Order cask beer from any of the more than 10 participating pubs in Toronto, and get your passport stamped to win amazing prizes.
  • Toronto craft beer mecca C’est What hosts its annual Spring Festival of Craft Breweries (June 21-25) bestowing pub goers with eighty brews over five days with a dozen new drafts and three new casks each night. Samples cost a loonie.
  • Beerstock II (June 23) will rock Mississauga as West 50 Pourhouse and Grille hosts a beer festival featuring over 50 brands from Ontario Craft Brewers.
  • Guelph Ale Trail Beer Dinner at the Woolwich Arrow Pub (June 19)
  • One Off Beer Dinner at The Harbord House with Great Lakes Brewery (June 20)
Meet the Makers: Renowned Ontario brewmasters will be out in full force during the week, hosting tasting events and attending local celebrations.
  • SESSION 99 (June 25), a craft beer festival will feature 35+ craft breweries from North America in downtown T.O. Kicks off with a toast to us from Brooklyn Brewery’s renowned brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
  • The Brewer’s Plate people have planned a VIP Masterclass tasting event hosted by Beau’s. Deets to follow.
  • Grand River Brewing/GRB Beer Club session (June 22); a special gathering to celebrate the brewery’s fourth anniversary with meads, ciders and fruit beers.
  • King Brewery Tap Takeover (June 24) at The Only Cafe.
  • Stand by for full details on OCB Week event plans from OCB members: Barley Days (Picton), County Durham Brewing Co. (Pickering), Flying Monkeys Brewery (Barrie), Hogsback Brewing Co. (Ottawa), Kichesippi Beer Co. (Ottawa), Lake of Bays Brewing Co. (Baysville), Maclean’s Ales (Battleaxe Brewery, West Grey), Niagara’s Best Beer (Niagara Falls), Niagara College Teaching Brewery (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Nickel Brook Beers (Burlington), Skeena Brewing Co. (Perth), Stratford Brewing Co., Trafalgar Brewing Co. (Oakville).
Brewery Collaborations: Ontario Craft Breweries are working (and playing) together to advance their industry by collaborating on beer events, casks, mixed OCB Discovery Packs, etc.
  • Beau’s Pan-Ontario Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer: Blended beers from OCB breweries will age in bourbon barrels and be released at various OCB Week events
  • Brewing under the Stars (June 20): The new patio at Toronto’s Stout Irish Pub will double as an outdoor mini-brewery as brewers from Great Lakes, Camerons, F&M and Biergotter actively brew a collaboration beer under the stars. A previously brewed collaborative one-off will be poured.
  • Etobicoke’s Finest: The brewing masterminds at Black Oak Brewery and Great Lakes Brewery have already brewed up a special batch of beer that’s aging in all its west end glory and will be featured at Bryden’s Best of the West; a week long fest where a majority of taps will be dedicated to west end brews.
  • Guelph’s Greatest: Welly and F&M Brewery are working on a collaborative beer to rock the socks off the good citizens of Guelph.
“Ontario has definitely become a major craft beer centre,” says Jason Ellsmere of Cameron’s Brewing Co. and Ontario Craft Beer Week co-chair. “Increasing sales and consumer demand for local, premium products is proof that Ontario Craft Beer is a leading force in the Canadian beer market. We’ll be brewing up a huge batch of fun for Ontario beer lovers and foodies.

Interested parties with Ontario Craft Beer Week ideas should contact their local brewery or send an email to . New details, when they are available, will be posted on the OCB’s new website for Craft Beer Week,

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back Home - Blogging To Resume

I just returned from a lovely trip to Victoria, BC and area (hence the absence of any new posts), getting the chance to drop into a number of breweries and brewpubs along the way.

I'll be getting to some new posts throughout the week, mostly related to my trip, where I was fortunate enough to visit Spinnakers, Phillips Brewing Co., Driftwood Brewing, Vancouver Island Brewing, Swan's Buckerfield's, Canoe Brewpub, and Tofino Brewing.

Until then - happy Victoria Day!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Great Lakes Karma Citra Wins 3rd Annual Ontario Cask IPA Challenge

Saturday morning had me up unusually early for a weekend morning. Not only did I had a bunch of Toronto Beer Week stuff to prepare (for the next two week onslaught of signing up 2011 bars, pubs, restaurants, breweries and importers), but I was also scheduled to be one of the judges on the nine person panel for the 3rd annual Ontario Cask IPA Challenge at barVolo.

We started to assemble at Volo shortly after 10:30am and by 11am we were right into the first flight of samples*. We sat four people to a table, to help encourage discussion, and by the fourth glass we were actively discussing each sample - pro's, con's, aroma, mouthfeel, etc.

The judges consisted of two BJCP certified judges (Wayne Reeves and John Tyler), two media personnel (Jordan St. John {Sun Media} and myself {TAPS The Beer Magazine}), two beer enthusiast's (Nick Pashley and Ashok Argent-Katwala), two RateBeerians (Paul Bazinet and Joe McPhee) and one non-IPA producing brewer (Michael Hancock). The mix of backgrounds, judging-wise, is a neat concept. While some judge based on the BJCP style guidelines, others judge on personal appeal, which makes for a good discussion. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

Shorty before 1pm our score-sheets were handed into Cask Days founder Ralph Morana and we all scattered for the cask's sitting out on the patio. Even after scoring 23 IPAs we still wanted more.

The crew at barVolo did a good job updating curious minds on the results via the @caskdays account and by Sunday afternoon some of the results were coming in, allowing us judges to see how we scored the beers. And some of those results were interesting when looking over the scores I provided for some of them.

barVolo posted the results today on their Cask Days website, announcing that Great Lakes Brewing Co. won the challenge for the 2nd year in a row with their Karma Citra IPA. It was number 11 on the list of beers and I can tell you that each judge (at the table I was at anyway) had it ranked as the number 1 beer of the bunch.

Top Four:
1.Great Lakes Karma Citra IPA(37.71)
2.Camerons Coalition of the Willing(36.57)
3.House Ales Eastside IPA(36.87)
4.Flying Monkeys(34.50)

While Great Lakes won the event, I'm most impressed with the showing by Cameron's Brewing Co. Cameron's dabbles in the occasional one-off for certain events, and for their Cask Nights, but recently it was revealed that they've started a pilot program at the brewery in order to start doing some more experimental stuff. Seeing them finish in the top four is encouraging, and it shows that they can do it! And hopefully they'll continue.

Congratulations to the barVolo and Cask Days team for pulling off another successful Ontario Cask IPA Challenge! And congratulations to Great Lakes and Mike Lackey for producing the winning entry - for the 2nd year running.

*all product was judged blindly

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wooden Cask - The Dominion Brewery Co. Limited

My wife's family has a cottage up in the Muskoka's near the small village of Dorset and on one particular weekend we made the 30 minute drive north into Huntsville to do some rainy day shopping.

We stumbled upon a small antiques store that was having a 30% off sale so we headed down the stairs to the basement unit and began rummaging through the store's material. We're not antique buyers by any means, but I always enjoy ducking into antique/scavenger stores to see if they have any old beer or brewing stuff.

I've found old ceramic ashtrays for 50 cents, old tap handles and bottle openers, and picked up some old posters here and there. I've attended some of the brewerianist shows and touched some pretty amazing old brewing records, bottles, brewing equipment and promotional material. It's interesting to see the progression of change that the Canadian brewing industry has gone through over the years. I guess it's peaked my interest, and like I said, I now go into antique stores to see what they've got.

Which leads me back to the store in Huntsville. They had a nice little section of beer memorabilia. Tap handles, glassware, wall-mounted bottle openers, ashtrays and some old bottles (full bottles) on their shelves but none of them really struck a cord with me.

Thinking I'd struck out, we headed for the exit. However, while walking by the cash register I side stepped a small object sticking out from under a table. I didn't think anything of it until I had completely passed it. Almost to the stairs by this point, something popped into my head and told me to go back and have a look at it. As I got closer I noticed a spout at the bottom of it and when the rest of it came into view I knew exactly what it was - a small wooden cask.

I looked down at the top of the same cask and read the words out loud - The Toronto Dominion Brewery Co. Limited: 3 1/3. Awesome. I knew the Dominion Brewery, which was located on Queen Street east and Sumach in Toronto (structure still standing - next tot the Dominion on Queen pub), closed down shortly after prohibition was repealed and a quick search on my phone let me know it was 1936.

So, this little wooden cask, with branding on both the top and bottom, dates back to before 1936! The Dominion Brewery was owned and operated by Robert Davies who opened for business in 1878. It's also stated that Davies owned 144 taverns throughout Toronto in his day.

I don't know exactly how old the cask is, but it is in very good condition. Two of the rungs are loose and need a soak in water (for the wood to expand), but it seems to have all the original parts.

If anyone reading this has any idea about how old
this could be,  (Click on image to see it in hi-res)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Muskoka Brewery - Mad Tom IPA

Who was Mad Tom? Some say he was a logger from the north who met his fate in the Muskoka's during a poker match. Others say he was a bootlegger who may have decided to venture off the beaten path where he met his demise along a lonely riverbank around Bracebridge. There is one thing about Mad Tom that we can be sure of - he liked his craft beer....and he had a wicked moustache!

Earlier today I posted that Muskoka Brewery would be unveiling a new brand of beer on their that would join their Dark Ale, Muskoka Premium Lager (now called Craft Lager) and the Cream Ale in their regular line-up, and Mad Tom IPA made it's debut shortly thereafter.

Described by Muskoka as:
"Inspired by late night stories around the fire, Muskoka Mad Tom will instantly grab your attentnion. Dry-hopped with Cascade and Centennial hops, this IPA has a vibrant aroma, depth of flavour and crisp citrusy undertow like no other. So brace yourself, and crack one open for old Mad Tom."

Muskoka floated an IPA on the market for about a month now under the Cabin Fever #1 name, allowing people to get a sneak peek of what was to come. However, the Mad Tom has undergone some minor tweaking according to Muskoka and will be slightly different than previous versions.

The 6.4% and 64 IBU IPA features a variety of hops, including: Chinook, Centennial and Sorachi before being dry hopped with Cascade and Centennial. 355ml bottle six-packs will start hitting select LCBO's in 2 weeks and select Beer Stores in 3 weeks across the province. Draught will also be available throughout the province just in time for the May long weekend.

I also mentioned in the earlier post that Muskoka is not only debuting a new beer, but that they will be releasing all new branding for the entire brewery, including a move back to bottles (though they'll still have cans). A significant undertaking indeed. The new packaging will start appearing in retails stores in the upcoming weeks.

Muskoka Brewery To Show Off New Packaging

Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, ON is getting ready to unveil a new beer to their regular line-up, which will start hitting 300+ LCBO's and 200+ Beer Stores in about three weeks time.

Along with the new beer, which will be offered in 355ml bottle six-packs, the brewery will be introducing drinkers to their brand new packaging.

A new logo has already been released via their (on right) and today the brewery will offer a sneak peek at that new packaging and will be providing some details on the new beer at 1pm.

The revamp will affect their entire brand (glassware, coasters, table tent-cards), all their beer products, and has been a significant undertaking.

I've had the chance to have see the new branding and I really like the new look. It's fresh. It tells a story. It's imaginative. And it's something new for the Ontario market. We all know that branding plays a significant role in people's purchasing habits, especially beer, and I believe Muskoka has found a theme that perfectly combines their northern Muskoka surroundings with their core values in selling craft beer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2011 Ontario Brewing Awards - Winner's List

Winners of the 2011 Ontario Brewing Awards (OBAs) were announced tonight at the Dominion on Queen in Toronto's Corktown district. There were 24 breweries involved in the competition from various parts of Ontario, including first time entries from Labatt Breweries of Canada and the Niagara College Teaching Brewery. There were 135 entries into the 22 categories.

Roger Mittag, who runs Thirst for Knowledge - Beer School and the Prud'homme Beer Certification program, organizes the OBA's on behalf of Libation Nation, Toronto Festival of Beer and, and enlists the help of Paul Dickey, a BJCP Grand Master judge who looks after the judging.

North American Light Lager
Gold: Bud Light, Labatt Breweries of Canada
Silver: Old Milwaukee Light, Sleeman Breweries
People's Choice: StoneHammer Light, F&M Brewery

North American Lager
Gold: Red Baron, Brick Brewery
Silver: Brava, Labatt Breweries of Canada
People's Choice: Creemore Springs Premium Lager, Creemore Springs Brewery

European Style Lager
Gold: Crystal, Labatt Breweries of Canada
Silver: Cameron's Lager, Cameron's Brewing Co.
People's Choice: Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner, Creemore Springs Brewery

Amber Lager
Gold: King Vienna Lager, King Brewery
Silver: Nickel Brook Organic Lager, Nickel Brook Brewery
People's Choice: Nickel Brook Organic Lager, Nickel Brook Brewery

Dark Lager
Gold: King Dark Lager, King Brewery
Silver: Waterloo Dark, Brick Brewery
People's Choice: King Dark Lager, King Brewery

Gold: Franconian Bock, Mill Street Brewery
Silver: Spring Bock, Amsterdam Brewery
People's Choice: Spring Bock, Amsterdam Brewery

Honey/Maple Beer
Gold: Sleeman Honey Brown, Sleeman Breweries
Silver: Lakeport Honey, Labatt Breweries of Canada
People's Choice: Laker Honey, Brick Brewery

German Style Wheat Beer
Gold: Denison's Weissbier, Dension's Brewing Co.
Silver: Summer Weiss, Muskoka Cottage Brewery
People's Choice: Lawn Chair 'Classic' Weiss, Hop City Brewery

Belgian Style Wheat Beer
Gold: Amsterdam Oranje Weiss, Amsterdam Brewery
Silver: Belgian Wit, Mill Street Brewery
People's Choice: Belgian Wit, Mill Street Brewery

Cream Ale
Gold: Labatt 50, Labatt Breweries of Canada
Silver: Sleeman Cream Ale, Sleeman Breweries
People's Choice: Labatt 50, Labatt Breweries of Canada

British Pale Ale
Gold: Plowman's Ale, Grand River Brewing Co.
Silver: Extra Special Bitter, Mill Street Brewery
People's Choice: Plowman's Ale, Grand River Brewing Co.

North American Pale Ale
Gold: Happy Hour Premium Ale, Hop City Brewery
Silver: Hoptical Illusion, Flying Monkey's Craft Brewery
People's Choice: Tankhouse Ale, Mill Street Brewery

British IPA
Gold: Curmudgeon IPA, Grand River Brewing Co.
Silver: India Pale Ale, Mill Street Brewery
People's Choice: Curmudgeon IPA, Grand River Brewing Co.

North American IPA
Gold: Smashbomb Atomic IPA, Flying Monkey's Craft Brewery
Silver: Boneshaker, Amsterdam Brewery
People's Choice: Smashbomb Atomic IPA, Flying Monkey's Craft Brewery

Amber Ale
Gold: Cameron's Auburn Ale, Cameron's Brewery
Silver: Big Wheel, Amsterdam Brewery
People's Choice: Iron Spike Copper Ale, Railway City Brewery

Dark Ale
Gold: Iron Spike Amber Ale, Railway City Brewery
Silver: Muskoka Dark Ale, Muskoka Cottage Brewery
People's Choice: Nut Brown, Black Oak Brewery

Gold: Two Fisted, Amsterdam Brewery
Silver: Coffee Porter, Mill Street Brewery
People's Choice: Two Fisted, Amsterdam Brewery

Gold: StoneHammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout, F&M Brewery
Silver: Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, Muskoka Cottage Brewery
People's Choice: Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, Muskoka Cottage Brewery

Imperial Stout
Gold: Russian Gun Imperial Stout, Grand River Brewing Co.
Silver: Tempest, Amsterdam Brewery
People's Choice: Russian Gun Imperial Stout, Grand River Brewing Co.

Fruit Beer
Gold: Orange Peel Ale, Great Lakes Brewery
Silver: Framboise, Amsterdam Brewery
People's Choice: Blackberry Wheat, Grand River Brewing Co.

Flavoured Beer
Gold: Lemon Tea Beer, Mill Street Brewery
Silver: Red Baron Lime, Brick Brewery
People's Choice: Lemon Tea Beer, Mill Street Brewery

Strong Beer
Gold: Jubilation Winter Ale, Grand River Brewing Co.
Silver: Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewery
People's Choice: Cuvee, Nickel Brook Brewery

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Votes Have Been Tallied - OCB Beers In At Queen's Park

Well, is this post ever late...

Steve Peters has done a lot for the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB). Over the last four years the outgoing Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario has invited member breweries of the OCB into Queen's Park for a tasting with MPP's, Queen's Park staffers and a number of local beer media and brewerianists. Everyone gets to meet the brewers, sample their product and nimble on an outstanding selection of Ontario produced cheeses.

Each year, at the conclusion of each tasting, individuals lucky even to attend are asked to submit ballots with their nominations for the best beer in six different categories. When the votes are tabulated the winning beers will then be featured exclusively at Queen's Park for the year. Peters, who is a big supporter of local product, chooses a "Speaker's Beer" to round out the number to seven.

Over the years the tastings have become quite popular as more and more Queen's Park representatives make their way down to the event to sample some of Ontario's finest, and this year saw the largest turn-out to date. Even Premier McGuinty and Ontario's Lieutenant Governor made and appearance; though both men choose not to indulge in any samples.

This year was especially popular because it is the last time that Peters will be hosting the tasting as he has decided that he won't seek re-election in this years provincial election. Like I mentioned at the beginning, Peters has done a lot for OCB members over the years and let's hope that the next Speaker of the Legislative Assembly will come in and continue on what Peters started four years ago.

The April 19th tasting featured 18 breweries with 61 different beers being sampled. Those breweries included:
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, Lake of Bays Brewing Co.,  Muskoka Cottage Brewery, Nickel Brook Brewing Co., (Grand River Brewing, Black Oak Brewing Co., Great Lakes Brewery, F&M Brewery, Wellington Brewery,  Old Credit Brewing Co. Ltd., Neustadt Springs Brewery, Niagara College Teaching Brewery, King Brewery, Cameron’s Brewing Co., Railway City Brewing), Mill Street Brewery and Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.

The winning OCB brands were selected in the following categories:

Golden Lagers, Pilsners & Light Beer
Mill Street Brewery - Organic Lager

Refreshing Ales 
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company - Lug Tread Lagered Ale

Amber Lagers, Ales & Honey Beer 
Old Credit Brewing Co. - Amber Ale*

Malty Dark Lager or Ale 
Kichesippi Beer - 1855

Bold Flavoured Ale, Stout or Porter 
Railway City Brewing - Dead Elephant Ale

Wheat Beer & Specialty 
Nickel Brook Beers - Green Apple Pilsner

Speaker’s Selection 
Flying Monkey’s Craft Brewery - Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Visit To Southern Tier Brewing Co. In Lakewood, NY

Saturday April 30th - 8am: 16 beer lovers from Ontario boarded a bus in front of Union Station in Toronto to head south across the border to the booming Southern Tier Brewing Co. in Lakewood, NY. And despite the early start, everyone attending was in good spirits and were looking forward to hitting the road.

The trip was organized by the Roland and Russell Import Agency, the official agents of Southern Tier in Ontario, and for only $65 individuals were provided with transportation, free samples of the Southern Tier line-up, all you could eat food and a personal tour of the growing brewery. 

Here's how the day broke down, for those of you who couldn't make it... and there's even (bottom of post).

The worst part of any cross-border trip, especially on a bus with other folks who are dying to get to a brewery for beer, is the wait at the border. On the Bar Towel bus trip to Buffalo back in November both the entry to the US and the re-entry into Canada were long and painful. As we approached the border during this particular trip we all held our breath and we breezed through the first checkpoint, only to wait 1 hour for our bus to be pulled into the second bay for inspection. After a quick chat with border officials our group got back on the bus and we were off again, with no scheduled stops impeding our itinerary, and packed with a couple of beer movies (Beer Wars, LCBO/OCB video) the hours flew by.

We entered Lakewood shortly before one 1pm and drove alongside a beautiful lake that directs you almost all the way to the brewery. At 1pm the bus made a left hand turn into an industrial park and a gorgeous Southern Tier Welcome sign informed us that we made it.

We pulled up to the front entrance of the brewery and everyone marvelled at the size and beauty of it. Rock paths with a small stream of running water lined the driveway and a small bush around the brewery gave it a rustic vibe for a brewery situated in an industrial complex.

Everyone jumped off the bus and two Southern Tier employees greeted us at the door and ushered us inside where tasting glasses were quickly put in our hands. There were 14 beers to choose from, including the ever popular Pale Ale, IPA, 2x IPA, UnEarthly IPA, and Jah-va. Once everyone had a full glass we were led outside to their back patio to bask in the sunlight while eating delicious pulled pork sandwich's, pasta and sausage salad and coleslaw. Everything went down great with Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale.

After we couldn't eat anymore we headed inside for more samples from the open bar and moved on to the brewhouse. Phin DeMink, Southern Tier's Founder and President, made an appearance and welcomed everyone to his brewery before Mike, ST tour guide extraordinaire, explained each of the beers Southern Tier brews. He also made sure our glasses were full before, during and after the personal tour.

Southern Tier opened in 2003 and grew so quickly that they had to expand. The original brewery is just down the road from the new one that we were standing in (opened in 2009) and now produces 60,000 barrels (70, 408 hectolitres), which brings them right to capacity already. Their most recent success has seen them lease the old brewery again for logistics and storage as the new brewery, even with room to expand, is full.

The brewery exports product to 29 US states and 12 countries around the world, and according to Southern Tier, they don't go looking for export markets, they come to them.

I asked about how the relationship is with the LCBO and all they would say is now that they're listed, it's easy. Hard in the past. One thing that they did mention is that Ontario is the only export market that Southern Tier does different labels for - the only export market in the world! They don't change a thing for Sweden, but a province only a couple of hours away needs unique packaging?

Today, Southern Tier produces about 28 different beers annually and their 2x IPA recently became their number 1 selling brand, bumping their regular IPA to number 2. DeMink also mentions that he has a new set of blue-prints on his desk about another expansion that's necessary to keep up with demand, and with room to grow (he owns all the property around the brewery) there is opportunities to do so on their current site.

With the tour complete and numerous (and hearty) samples consumed it was back out to the bar for one last drink before our trip home. Rules about purchasing beer or swag were quickly overlooked as the eager group wanted to bring stuff back across the border. A lot of growlers were filled, mixed packs were put together, t-shirts were purchased - Southern Tier's retail store was booming. And the great thing - no one had to pay any duty at the border crossing, which by the way, only took 25 minutes!

It was a great day and well worth the $65 price tag.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Brewery Market - Coming Soon...Toronto

Without going into detail, I recommend you follow on Twitter to get updates on a cool new idea being introduced by a good friend in Toronto very soon. And while you're at it, you might as well bookmark

I can say that it will be great for the beer scene here in Toronto!

.... hint, keep Sunday May 29th open!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Propeller London Porter In Six Packs

I just received a press release from the Propeller Brewing Co. in Halifax, NS that indicates that the brewery will be introducing their London Style Porter in 341ml bottle six-packs for the first time.
Propeller Brewing Company is set to release six-packs of London Style Porter to Nova Scotia’s four private liquor stores this week. This product was originally limited to the popular “bomber” or 650ml single serve bottle. This additional format will give craft beer customers more choice. John Allen President of Propeller Brewing Company says “Recent expansions to our production line have now made it possible for us to act on what consumers have been requesting for some time now”.
The six packs of the London Style Porter will be available starting this Thursday (May 5th) at the brewery's retail store and at select Halifax private liquor stores. The brewery also indicated that they will still be packaging the porter in 650ml bottles which will continue to be sold at NSLC locations throughout the province.

Biking Across The Country... And Drinking Good Beer

Reid - about to hit the road again
Yesterday I packed some items into a backpack, dusted off my bicycle, grabbed a raincoat and headed out on Toronto's bike path to meet Graham Reid at the Steam Whistle brewery. It was to be a day of riding around Toronto, drinking some craft beer along the way.

Reid is the young guy behind the TrueCanadianBeers website. Sometime last year the 20 year old decided that he wanted to pedal across our vast country on his father's 1970's bike; nuts, I know! After making up his mind that this was something that he'd actually do, Reid started thinking about ways that he could make his trip a little more unique, a little more fun - visiting Canadian craft breweries and brewpubs is what he came up with.

He was working on a farm in Greece on a work exchange program and his father sent him a copy of the fall issue of TAPS The Beer Magazine, which helped shape his goal. Upon coming back to Canada, Reid, who once biked from Canada to Mexico, started contacting various breweries and whipped up a website (which is only temporary, he has another website that will be launching after his trip that will include video's, interviews with brewers, and more) and mapping out his travels.

Six weeks ago he started the journey in Halifax, stopping at Garrison, Propeller, , Rouge's Roost and Hart and Thistle. Next it was New Brunswick with stops at Picaroons and Pump House. In Quebec he visited Dieu du Ciel, Benelux, La Barberie and more, and yesterday he was in Toronto where I joined him on the bike on behalf of TAPS. We wanted to make sure that he had a good experience and got good face time at certain breweries.

Our first stop was Steam Whistle, a brewery he is very familiar with. Reid stated that Steam Whistle was the beer that made him realize that beer has flavour and it set him off on a quest to try as many different beers as he could. We chatted with Sybil Taylor, who took Reid on a personal brewery tour and Steam Whistle graciously provided him with his very own Steam Whistle biking shirt.

After a short trip across Front to Bathurst we were at the Amsterdam brewery. We were treated to a number of samples, including Amsterdam's new Imperial Stout (!) and another personal brewery tour. After a brief interview with Amsterdam's Marketing manager, Blake van Delft, we set off for the 9km ride to Great Lakes in Etobicoke.

Checking out Steam Whistle's system
David Bieman was there to greet us when we finally made it. Reid barely broke a sweat. I on the other hand was exhausted and starting to wish my seat was a little more forgiving...

Reid interviewed Bieman, getting answers about the products brewed at Great Lakes and the history of the brewery. Mike Lackey, Great Lakes pilot brewer, ushered us into the brewhouse for a quick tour and taste. We sampled the Crazy Canuck while we strolled through the entire brewery.

By this time we were both quite hungry. It was decided that a trip to Bryden's was in order but climbing into the front seat of the Great Lakes hearse sounded better than biking, so we hitched a ride to the west end pub where we had some lunch and drinks with Lackey and John Graham, sales rep with Muskoka Cottage Brewery.

With bellies full of food and beer, it was time to say goodbye. I headed back home on the bike (sore today I'll tell ya) and Reid headed his way, getting ready for the next leg of his travels - west.

Check out his twitter account and his website
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