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, October 31, 2011

Tree Brewing Co. Looking For An Assistant Brewer

The team at Tree Brewing Co. in Kelowna, BC, are looking for an Assistant Brewer to join their squad.

From Tree - We are currently looking for an energetic individual to join our brewing team who is passionate about brewing and willing to learn to work with a manual system. Previous experience would be an asset however if we find the right person, we would train from the ground up. We are looking for a long term employee. All our brewers are here 6 or more years and we like the consistency that gives us.

Sounds like a great opportunity to get into the brewhouse! If you are interested in getting more information about the position, please contact Stefan Buhl, Tree's Brewmaster at .

Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout Returns With New Name & Artwork

Muskoka Brewery released their Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout (DCCS) last winter as part of their ongoing seasonal release program, and the beer did so well at both retail and licensee outlets that the northern brewery is bringing it back again this year, albeit with a new name and new artwork.

We've all seen the changes the brewery has gone through since May, redesigning their products and packaging, and the Harvest Ale was the latest product to bare new label artwork.

However, as of November 7th, people will be able to see and purchase the new 'Winter Beard' DCCS as 240 LCBO stores across Ontario will have the beer stocked for take home purchase and it will start appearing at bars/pubs any day now. It will also be available across Alberta and Manitoba in due time. The beer is currently available at the brewery's retail store as of tomorrow and the 8% 750ml bottle will retail for $10.95.

The beer won over a lot of people last winter and Rate even named it the "Top New Beer of December 2010" where it still maintains a 94 rating on the user generated ratings website. Here is the video the brewery made last year, showing the making of the beer. 

From Winter Beard DDCS sell sheet (below):
What could be more reminiscent of a frigid Northern winter than a cozy beard and a warming Muskoka seasonal brew? Our Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout is rich and sturdy with roasted dark chocolate malts, real cocoa, 70% dark chocolate, and freshly harvested local cranberries. Pair that with a slightly higher alcohol content and you'll find yourself sharing this bottle of joy all winter long. Beard not included.

In other Muskoka news, the brewery have recently confirmed that they've been able to get some of their product into a variety of restaurant chains, including Prime Pubs, the Keg, Jack Astors, and Canyon Creek, which is great for craft beer drinkers who usually have a tough time finding a beer to their liking at establishments like the ones named above.

Mike Laba, Muskoka's Director of Marketing, also told me that the Mad Tom IPA is now the brewery's number one selling brand, by a long margin, replacing Cream Ale at the top of Muskoka's core brands.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Highlander Brewing For Sale

I came across this posting on Kijiji today after being alerted to it by some individuals who have some interest in the industry, so I thought I'd re-post it here, with the owner's permission.

Brian Wilson, the founder of the Highlander Brewing Co. in South River, ON, confirmed that he is selling the brewery and everything that goes with it.

"Yes I am selling. Too much for a one man band so to speak. I am the brewer, filter chief, bottle washer, packaging wizard and delivery-man. I am selling this as a turn key business. We ve done all the hard work. On average 100 cases weekly to the LCBO's alone...," said Wilson in an email.

Via Kijiji:
Well established Microbrewery For Sale. Ever wanted to own your brewery...home brewer ready for the next step. Turn key operation will offer contract training. Complete brewery 10HL brew house combi mash tun hot liquor tank 4 Uni tanks, malt mill, 6 brite tanks. 4 head bottler crowner. Company has huge data sales base. please contact via email..NO tire kickers! 16000lbs of stainless steel..No trades ..Vendor can aid in financing.Please respond via Email. Distribution includes delivery van. Well established brand.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brewery Trader - New Tool For Purchasing Brewing Equipment

Mario Bourgeois has been working on opening his own brewing company for some time now and like any start-up he's been looking for good used brewing equipment to get his Cassel Brewing Co. up and running in Casselman, ON.

"I’ve been quite into looking for used brewery equipment and the industry is seriously lacking a one stop shop like Auto Trader, so I got my hands on, it is a free listing site," said Bourgeois over an email exchange., as Bourgeois stated, is a free online site where breweries and homebrewers alike can post equipment that they'd like to sell or trade with others. The site was launched a few weeks ago and already has a number of items for sale, and has a number of items listed under 'wanted'. There will be more listing in time, as the site progresses, but this site, along with (a great resource for brewers), offer individuals an easy method to buy, trade or sell brewing equipment.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Ottawa Brewery Opens - Broadhead Brewery

Ottawa is once again welcoming another brewery to the capital city as the Broadhead Brewing Co. opened for business yesterday.

From their website:

Broadhead is a scrappy little beer company that aims to do big things. It's the underdog - a long shot, a dark horse. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in spirit. With five feisty, flavourful ales brewed through good old-fashioned hard work and know-how, Broadhead proudly pays homage to the perfect pint.

The brewery, which is the work four homebrewing friends in the greater Ottawa area, is situated at 81 Auriga Drive (unit #27) in Ottawa and they have plans to produce five different beers ranging from a Pale Ale to a Stout. Individuals can currently purchase 20L kegs of their Underdog Pale, Backbone Standard and Long Shot White. Future beers will include Gritstone Amber and Dark Horse Stout.

Josh Larocque, one of the founders of the brewery, mentioned during a brief phone conversation that they are working on a keg fridge program that will allow customers to purchase a fully functioning keggerator ready to go; lines, tower and all, at a very reasonable price, just to enjoy the Broadhead beers. He also mentioned that an order of growlers have been ordered and they should be ready to sell in November.

Check out their website at

Monday, October 24, 2011

TAPS The Beer Magazine - Fall 2011 Issue Contents

TAPS The Beer Magazine - Fall 2011 Issue
Up front disclosure: It is no secret that I am employed by TAPS Media, the parent company of TAPS The Beer Magazine. From time to time I've posted material on this blog (before and after being hired) with respect to work that has appeared in TAPS. My intention when posting said material, and the material below, is only meant as news, nothing more.

p.10 Bar Snacks Coast To Coast Industry News

p.15 Truly All Canadian
With ingredients such as birch syrup from the Yukon, partridge berries from Newfoundland and teas and berries from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, this ale was designed to exhibit all of Canada.

p.16 Down The Hatch featuring Garrison's Daniel Girard by Troy Burtch
Girard lived and worked overseas for many years, including Japan, and after graduating from the prestigious VLB Berlin, Girard made his way back to Canada.

p.18 The Business Of Beer by Rob Symes
The first article in a series looking at the business of brewing. We kick off with beer’s journey from simple ingredients to something we know and love

p.21 French Connection by Mirella Amato
With the recent expansion, Grisé is very much looking forward to creating a few new brands and is also thinking of reviving a few classic Le Bilboquet recipes that haven’t been brewed in at least eight years. “One has to have some fun. I hate falling into a routine and producing beer just because it needs to be made.” he explains “It helps keep my creative juices flowing.”

p.23 Brewing A Brewery by Matt J. Simmons
Chapter Four in the ongoing series about starting a microbrewery... Lately, the brewery has become the one juggling ball to hit the floor and roll under the fridge. Will we fish it out? Sure, we’ll move the fridge eventually, and we may even do some cleaning while we’re under there. But for now...

p.24 Brew School
Year one is in the books. The inaugural group of students with Niagara College's Brewmaster and Brewery Operation Management program made it through their first year of studies. All 24 of them. We thought we'd ask a number of those first year students some questions to see how year one went and what they're looking forward to in year two.

p.28 Ode To The Great Pumpkin by Mike Tessier
As All Hallows Eve approaches, and the nights get colder, a spell is seemingly cast on brewers all over the world. Like zombies they start sacrificing small pumpkins in their brewing cauldrons...

p.30 Quaffs, Questions & Answers featuring Terry Lock by Mirella Amato
Terry Lock is the chairman for the European Beer Consumers Union. The EBCU was founded in 1990 by three beer consumer organizations, representing Belgium, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom, in order to allow these organizations to lobby effectively at EU levels. The ECBU has become the recognized voice of beer consumers across Europe.

p.32 Hell Bay by Craig Pinhey
The south shore of Nova Scotia, particularly the area near Liverpool, is famous for the privateer vessels that travelled the coastline in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the war-torn years of this seafaring town. Privateers raided Liverpool on several occasions; targeting French vessels but also doing battle with the British militia. They were not quite pirates, and perhaps didn’t say ‘arrgh, ye mateys’ all the time, but privateers were surely ruthless, and might have proclaimed, “I’d kill for a beer,” and meant it.

p.34 Adventures Of A Craft Beer Foodie... by Tracy Phillippi
The year is 1860, and you and your immigrant family are travelling to the St.Lawrence Market in Toronto. You arrive at the ‘Half Way House’ on Kingston Road in Scarborough. You saunter in, but rather than a taproom, yet your surroundings resemble a modern-day community centre. For this is a time when small-scale, craft beer was the centre of community socializing and an integral part of a healthy human diet.

p.36 Overnight Success by Greg Clow
Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge, Ontario is a brewery that has overcome 15 years of obstacles and rolled with the punches thrown at them by a constantly evolving craft beer marketplace...

p.39 In Depth by Troy Burtch
Internationally renowned, Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver.

p.45 Judgement Days
As the Canadian Brewing Awards continue to grow with the participation of more and more breweries each year, the number of beers submitted also rises. Thiwas apparent with almost 500 beers entered for consideration in 2011. With 84 Canadian breweries vying for gold, silver, and bronze medal tap handle trophies in 39 different style categories, we needed to increase the number of judging days and sessions while attracting more judges than ever before.

p.46 All The Winners!
The 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards complete list of winners.

p.49 The Perfect Pair
Premier chefs Mark McEwan and Michael Smith create delicious dishes for beer pairing, exclusively for TAPS.

p.53 Weekend Blunch by Chef Michael Olson
I like the idea of brunch, I do, really. But I don’t want coffee with food, and yogurt is not as appealing as it should be, sorry. Stay with me on this one though, I really like the idea of having friends over for a relaxed weekend lunch where we can enjoy some delicious food and look for some new beers. BEER + LUNCH = BLUNCH.

p.58 Savor by Chuck Cook
The intent of SAVOR is to be the premier beer and food pairing event in the USA. From June 3rd-4th, in Washington, DC, 72 independent American breweries were represented, pouring 144 different beers over the two sessions, on a Friday and Saturday night. Two expert chefs paired each craft beer with various delectable dishes..

p.63 Confessions Of A Brewer by Sam Corbeil
Left and Leaving: Leaving is a selfish time, a time to focus on yourself and that’s okay, because it’s once you’ve left that you start to really think about other people and what you’ve left behind. When you’ve left a job, you’re gone; it’s over, it’s final...

p.64 The New Scotland by Matt J. Simmons
...a few days earlier, I stood at the bar in a country pub with a pint of English bitter, picking the locals’ brains for what to expect from their northern neighbours’ brewing styles. “There aren’t any good beers up there,” one local said. He raised his glass to his lips and grinned. “You’ll want to stick to sampling whisky, mate.”...

p.67 Chile's David & Goliath by John Holl
What I came to realize is that Chile, a country known and celebrated for its wine, is experiencing the first real growth spurt following its craft beer birth. There are estimates of as many as one hundred breweries spread throughout the South American country and more being planned with each growing month. If you haven’t heard much from Chile or tasted their beers yet, I’m sure that will change in the coming years.

p.71 High On Gravity by Craig Pinhey
As a homebrewer, I wanted to make two kegs of 3.5-4% bitter, one for me and one for my friend, so I made a strong ale of around 7-8%, hopped the bejeesus out of it, and then split the batch, adding sterile water and dry hops as I kegged it. And it turned out fine. I did not feel guilty.

p.73 Flying The Flag For Proper Beer by Martin Sayers
This year CAMRA – The Campaign for Real Ale – celebrates its fortieth birthday and anybody with a love of British beer will be familiar with the huge success that the group has had in championing traditional styles of beer, ale and cider and the pubs that serve them. What began life as a small gathering of beer drinking enthusiasts has become one of the biggest pressure groups in Britain, with over 120,000 members and a reputation as the most successful consumer group in Europe.

p.75 Cervezas In The Sun by Connie Proteau
Baja Brewing Co., or the BBC as the locals like to call it, is the first and so far, only craft brewery that makes its home on the over 1200 kilometre stretch of land on the west coast of Mexico known as the Baja California peninsula. The brewery is the brainchild of a young man from Colorado. As a college student, Jordan Gardenhire had a penchant for dabbling in homebrewing coupled with a desire to live the surfer lifestyle.

p.77 Keeping It Local by James Burla
A visit to beautiful Vancouver Island is a trip every Canadian should take, but a secondary trip into the Gulf Islands is the really hidden gem. Many brewmasters start their career as homebrewers and after sharing their creations with others often become an integral part of a new craft brewery. This is how it happened for Murray Hunter and Gulf Islands Brewing.

p.79 Tuff Enough For Tofino by Matt J. Simmons
Tempestuous waves crash violently onto the sand as surfers, clad in the ubiquitous neoprene uniform of the Pacific coast, struggle to stay upright in the churning water... and BC’s newest brewery surfs on early success...Tofino Brewery

p.81 True Taste Of Flavours by Luke McKinney
Every field develops its own language, and beer reviewers have a more specialized dialect than a Navajo R2-D2. They discuss fruity tastes more often than Adam and Eve, with better results, and are the only people in the world to regularly use the word ‘ecru’ (because ‘greyishyellowish- brown’ doesn't sound very tasty). Which begs the question: how do notes of pineapple and banana get into a beer?

p.83 Carboys In The Laundry Room by Christine Beevis
What's your homebrew setup? Unlike craft or commercial brewing, with their systems costing tens of thousands of dollars, home brewers seem to be able to cobble together a brewing system from just about anything lying around at home, or available for purchase at Home Depot. Here’s a sampling of a few Halifax-based homebrewers’ setups and their thoughts on the pros and cons.

p.86 Tasting Notes
Fat Tug IPA - Driftwood, Hopyard Pale Ale - Garrison, Blanche - Brasseurs du Monde, Discovery Low Gravity Ale - Spinnakers, Mill Race Mild - Grand River, Vienna Lager - King Brewery

Tasting notes provided by Stephen Beaumont, Roger Mittag, Chester Carey, Greg Clow, Craig Pinhey and Troy Burtch

p.88 Homebrewing Recipe - by Eric Ecclestone
This issue: Belgian Dubbel.

p.89 Brewers, Barkeeps, Redcoats & Rebels by Matthew Bellamy
Few heard the heavy oak door slam shut behind him as the barkeeper John Montgomery entered the tavern that bore his name. The colonial drinkinghole was in a state of frenzy. This fact alone, however, did not distinguish the night of December 4th, 1837. Colonial taverns were often ruckus places, serving as civic centres for elections and meetings, as entrepots for commerce and trade; as sites for social events, from horse races to auctions, boxing matches to craft workshops, balls to religious gatherings and sometimes, as on this night, they acted as hothouses for rebellion.

p.92 My Shout by Stephen Beaumont
My most recent trip, at time of writing, was to London for the biggie of the European beer festival circuit, the Great British Beer Festival. It was not my first such voyage, as I have travelled to the GBBF numerous times in the past, even arriving early enough to judge one year, but as with all such prior trips, it was uniquely illuminating. Here are a handful of the lessons I learned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sawdust City Brewing Co. - Gravenhurst, ON - Coming Soon

*Up front disclosure. The following post features an update about a new brewery in which my employer has ties to. Please note that my intention when posting the material below is only meant as news, nothing more.*

It's official - the lovely region north of Toronto, affectionely known as Muskoka, is set to get another brewery with Sawdust City Brewing Co. close to breaking ground in Gravenhurst, ON. The brewery, with plans to be open to the public on Gravenhurst's Wharf in late spring 2012, will join other northern breweries like Muskoka Brewery and Lake of Bays Brewery.

Sawdust City Brewing, baring the original name of Gravenhurst (known as a logging village), will be situated right on the shores of the Gravenhurst Wharf and will be operated as a tied-house, producing beers with names like Skinny Dippin' Stout, Lone Pine IPA, Golden Beach Wheat and more.

Rob Engman, President of TAPS Media, and Sam Corbeil, formerly of Mill Street Brewery, are the two founders of the brewing company, with Corbeil handling all the brewing duties. A graduate of VLB Berlin, Corbeil has worked for a number of Ontario craft breweries before connecting with Engman to bring Gravenhurst their first craft brewery.

The two men are getting set to break ground this fall, with a projected opening date in the spring, but they've been busy contract brewing at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus. You might remember hearing about a beer that they recently debuted that was brewed in collaboration with the college, Great Weiss North, which was featured at the Craft Beer Garden at Toronto's CNE where it received positive response from the public. The beer, as I posted on this blog back in August, is brewed with an ingredient from each Canadian province and territory, making it a unique offering.

The brewery has received their manufacturer's licence and will soon be brewing enough product to get out to select pubs and restaurants in the north and some will be made available in GTA. Their first 'commercial' brew day is fast approaching.

You can follow the progress of Sawdust City as they have an active blog where they'll be sharing stories about getting up and running -

Here is a little video about the Great Weiss North

from on .

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Brewery Market Back This Sunday

Back, by popular demand!

The Brewery Market, which took a brief hiatus after Toronto Beer Week wrapped up, will be back this weekend, much to the delight of its fans, and will celebrate a (late) Oktoberfest.

Beers from Black Oak Brewing Co., Cheshire Valley Brewing Co. and the Kensington Brewing Co. will be available and doors are open between 1pm and 5pm. You'll be able to sample the following beers - Black Oak Oaktoberfest, Cheshire Out of this World Galaxy Pale Ale, Kensington Augusta Ale

As always, the Brewery Market will have food to go with the local craft beer. This weekend, instead of pizza, there will be German food, which will still come out of the pizza oven. The food will be Oktoberfest inspired.

Since the Brewery Market started out on May 29th, they have introduced people in Toronto's St. Clair and Christie neighbourhood to 11 different Ontario craft breweries and have gone on to raise over $14,000 to help The Stop’s food programs.

The last Brewery Market event of 2011 will take place on December 18th and the first two of 2012 will be held on January 15 and March 18.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brewed In Canada - 10 Year Anniversary

I was going through my beer library the other night looking for some notes on a brewery who was in operation during the early 1900's, and like I've done so many times since I've emmersed myself into the beer community I reached for Allen Winn Sneath's Brewed In Canada: The Untold Story of Canada's 350-Year-Old Brewing Industry.

I found the part I was looking for, read the piece, then, like so many other times, I flipped through the book stopping to read bits and pieces that I actually hadn't intended to. It's a fascinating book and was the first to capture the history of Canadian brewing in great detail.

Towards the end of the book there is a timeline that lists major news/events (like brewery openings, closings etc.) and I noticed it ended at 2001. I turned to the front of the book and realized that it was published in 2001 as well, which was 10 years ago.

I decided to contact Sneath about the books 10 year anniversary only to learn that he doesn't follow the industry anymore. We chatted for a little bit about the book and he commented on the fact that the 432 page tome "needed to be written," and "it was the only one of its kind when it was released."

I had always wondered if there would ever be a revised edition, a new book with updates on the industry and maybe a comprehensive index. However, in speaking with Sneath, there are no plans for an updated version.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Video - Toronto Beer Week 2011 Launch

On Friday September 16th, members of the Toronto Beer Week Ltd (TBW) team gathered at the Amsterdam Brewery with members of the local media, brewers, brewery representatives, publicans and passionate craft beer drinkers to officially kick off the 2011 edition of TBW.

Cass Enright (Bar Towel, Brewery Market, Bar Towel Imports, TBW) was onsite to tap the first cask of the week, Amsterdam's Framboise (a 2011 Canadian Brewing Award gold medal winner), shortly after 12pm to welcome in the 2nd annual beer week.

The launch was a great success and did in fact start the 9 days of beer events off on the right foot. The City of Toronto deemed TBW as an Event of Municipal Significance and the with that we have some big plans already brewing (sorry for the pun) for the 2012 edition.

For those of you who couldn't make it to the launch, here is a full length video for you to enjoy.

Also, don't forget about the TBW Share Your TBW Memories contest. Send us your photos, or your videos, or draw us a cartoon, or write a piece about Toronto Beer Week, and you could win valuable prizes from the following establishments: C’est What, Monk’s Table, Stout Irish Pub, The Abbot, The 3 Brewers**. Entries will be judged by the infinitely wise TBW board members, over a beer of course. By submitting your contributions you give permission to Toronto Beer Week to post them on the TBW website. You will, needless to say, be credited. Just not paid. If we had any money, we’d spend it on beer.

We've already received some pretty solid entries, so get your's in soon. We'll be making some decisions by the end of October! Send your submissions to for your chance to win!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Peters, A Champion For Local Beer

Well, the Ontario election took place last night and the riding (Elgin-Middlesex-London) that was synonymous with the Honourable Steve Peters saw a new member of parliament elected.

Peters, the outgoing Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, held the riding for many years, dating back to his first win in 1999 after serving time as Mayor of St. Thomas, but he announced earlier this year that he would not be running again, hence the new face heading to Queen's Park.

During his time as the Speaker, Peters, who is a member of the Canadian Brewerianist Society, introduced his fellow MPPs to Ontario Craft Beer over four years ago when he hosted beer tastings featuring beers from the OCB. MPPs and their staffers would go from booth to booth, sample and score the beers and the winning entries would be available for one year in the Queen's Park restaurant.

With all of his hard work, Peters was able to make these tastings into something more than just a regular beer drinking event. He brought in Ontario cheeses to pair with the beer, he'd deliver passionate speeches about the industry, and last year he convinced the Premier, Dalton McGuinty, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley, to grace the crowd with their presence (although Dalton didn't consume any product).

Hopefully his successor will continue organizing these events with the help of the OCB.

I've come to know Peters quite well over the years and I can say that his voice, his passion for craft beer, and his dedication to supporting local breweries and businesses will be sorely missed down at Queen's Park. When the Toronto Beer Week committee was looking for someone to tap the ceremonial 'first cask' to welcome in the week in 2010, we looked no further than Steve; and he gladly accepted and did the honours in great fashion.

Ontario craft beer drinkers lost a great voice at Queen's Park last night, but here's hoping that Peters energy and commitment to supporting the men and women of the Ontario craft brewing industry has rubbed off on other MPPs still gracing the Legislator.

Here's a look back at an old interview I did with Peters for TAPS.
The following interview appeared in the Spring 2010 Issue of TAPS The Beer Magazine on page 61. To obtain a copy, or other back issues of TAPS (dating back to 2007), shoot me at email for details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q - You choose a ‘Speaker’s’ beer as part of the tasting – how do you make your selection?
A – Whatever the Speaker likes (with a laugh). The first year I went with Neustadt Springs Scottish Pale Ale – a) because I like Val and Andy Stimpson (the owners), and b) because I really enjoy that beer. But I toast my glass to the Stimpson’s for what they’ve been able to achieve in Neustadt, utilizing that old brewery. It’s a great piece of history that dates back to the 1860’s or 1870’s and knowing that beer is still being produced there using the same water source that Mr. Huether (famous brewing family in Ontario during the 19th century) once used to brew his beers is pretty great. I appreciate the heritage, but at the same time, it’s a good beer.

The second year was Mill Street Tankhouse. Of all the Mill Street products the Tankhouse is my favourite. It’s an interesting, flavourful beer. I use it to introduce craft beer to visitors at Queen’s Park, and even at my house. I find that it’s easy to hook people on the taste.

Q - Will the tastings occur every year?
A - Yes, the tastings will continue to take place each year – every June. We’ll start to work with John Hay and his group again shortly to organize another tasting.

Q - Bar recognized your dedication to showcasing the beers of Ontario at the 2008 Golden Tap Awards. What did that mean to you?
A – (The Speaker turns around to show me his vast collection of awards, including the one presented by Cass Enright of Bar Towel)

Right behind my desk! It’s always a great feeling to be recognized, but I think if it wasn’t for these breweries and their commitment to brewing a quality beer, then we wouldn’t have the opportunity to showcase it. I think we all need to be salespeople for local product. I look at people like Ralph Morana at Bar Volo (Toronto beer establishment) and what he’s doing promoting beers from all over the province with weekly rotations of his draught menu. I look at my friend Suzanne van Bommel and her chef M. Earl Wilson with M.E. & Suzie’s Restaurant in Port Stanley, trying to push Ontario products. I was certainly gratified to receive the award but I’m only doing what I believe in and that is trying to sell Ontario, particularly encouraging people to drink Ontario craft beer.

Q - The present day government has done a great job assisting the small breweries of Ontario. Could they be doing more?
A – Well, I was proud when I was the Minister of Agriculture that we were able to work with the Minister of Finance at the time to get the initial $5 million allocated for the craft breweries, and then to see that announcement again in 2008 of additional assistance to the industry. I’m proud to advocate that.

I think we need to be prepared to sit down and have a long hard discussion with the owners of Brewers Retail (The Beer Store – AB/Inbev, MolsonCoors, Sapporo). We have got to find a way to assist those small breweries with getting a greater presence in the Beer Store. I commend the LCBO for what they’ve been doing, but most people, including most of my friends, buy their beer from the Beer Store, not the LCBO, and we have got to be able to find a way to get beers from small craft breweries into those stores.

The other thing I’d like to see change is in the way beer is distributed in the province. One of the challenges many small breweries face is distribution. A lot of them consist of one person acting as brewer, bottler, marketer, delivery driver, etc. I would love to find a way that we could assist the craft brewers with the creation of a distribution system that would see a group of regional breweries in Southwestern Ontario for example, get together to help each other.

I also think there has be to greater discussion on this, because I know a lot of people have been advocating on behalf of it, is the sale of craft beer in corner stores or ‘craft beer stores’. That is something that I think politicians need to sit down and discuss with the convenience store industry. I think it’s worthy of looking at, but it needs to have some real good discussion first. It works elsewhere in Canada and in the US.

Q - Where do you see the Ontario brewing industry in the next ten years? What do you hope to see?
A – Well I think there are a couple things that come to mind. One is that I find that, and I have a lot of respect for the brewing industry in Ontario, is that as I travel around Canada I see the breweries are a little more adventurous then here at home and I would encourage more breweries in Ontario to look into that.

The other thing I would like to see would be more partnerships between the breweries and the restaurant industry. There is a strong desire for local foods and the local food movement, and we need to make sure that as people are thinking about food they are thinking about beer that way too.

And thirdly, I’d like to see some breweries spring up in places that could support them. Look at London, ON. They haven’t had craft beer in London in more than ten years, longer probably.

But the biggest thing I’d like to see change in Ontario is more access to the Brewers Retail for smaller breweries, and if that means that the government needs to step in to conduct a review, then so be it.

Q - Importing beer from another province into Ontario is a pretty arduous task that is tightly controlled with rules and regulations. As a fan of good beer, would you like to see more Canadian craft beer available in Ontario?
A – Yeah, for sure. I’m a big believer in that trade goes both ways and that we cannot expect borders to be open if we’re closing our own. I know that the Premiers have been talking about removing barriers to inter-provincial trade and I think the craft brewing industry could be an excellent area to look at. I’ve heard of the challenges and the hoops Half Pints owner David Rudge has to jump through, through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to try and get product to Ontario. I’ve talked to Morana at Volo and heard his challenges when it comes to bringing in beer. Food safety and quality have to be first and foremost, but we need to find a way to reduce these barriers to get these great products into Ontario and onto our shelves.

Q – You’ve touched on this briefly, but Ontario allows for private wine retail stores in places like grocery stores but does not allow speciality beer stores. Quebec, Nova Scotia, Alberta, and BC have private beer stores. Will Ontario ever expand beyond private wine stores?
A – We use free trade as the rationale for not getting beer into some of these stores, the wine stores were grandfathered because of free trade. But I don’t think we can always be ‘boyscouts’. I think we have to take a look at what other jurisdictions are doing. I’ve traveled in the different States and I’ve seen the ‘Made in Michigan’ stores, and I’ve seen the ‘Made in Pennsylvania’ stores and this type of store would be great in Ontario, especially for craft beer. If other provinces in Canada are doing it and some states south of the border are doing it, I think the time has come that we can take a hard look at them.

Q - Ontario has a rich brewing history that you’re quite aware of from your time with the Brewerianist Society. Is there anything the provincial government could be doing to assist the society in the preservation of that history?
A – There is currently no provincial funding for the Brewerianist Society. It would be nice. Beer is part of our heritage. It goes back to our earliest days. That’s what I’ve appreciated most about the society – our dedication, personal dedication, to preserving beers history, and an important part of it. Yeah, I would love to see the Museum of Civilization or something like that to come along and say ‘we’re going to start collecting Canadian Breweriana. Is there government funding, no, it’s a dedication of love, that collector bug that’s in everybody, and that’s what makes it so special.

Q - The Premier has recently stated that the government is looking at options to pay off the current Provincial debt which include the possibility of selling the LCBO. Any chance this could become a reality?
A – I guess we’ll find out in the budget that is set to come in the Spring. The government undertook a review of the LCBO back in 2005 and the decision was to hang onto them. If selling it off is seriously considered there would have to be a good cost/benefit analysis completed. I mean it brings close to $2 billion in revenue a year! I will say that the one thing that strikes me with the LCBO is that they do an outstanding job at regulating the sale of alcohol. I think anytime that you start to potentially start to water that down you can allow for greater access for underage drinking, or irresponsible sale and serving. The LCBO has been a good friend of the craft brewing industry .

Q - Your riding features a craft brewery (Railway City) in St. Thomas. What has the brewery brought to the community?
A – I can step out my front door and I can look at the brewery! When they opened, it was the first time in over ninety years that beer was brewed in St. Thomas! They have brought a commitment to the community. They have worked with a wide variety of groups to assist them in promotions and in turn they have been able to serve their product. It has helped to increase the awareness in taste in the city by offering citizens a taste they’ve never experienced before. It has been great for St. Thomas.

Q - And finally. Best time for a pint?
A – Ah, right now. I enjoy a good pint in the evening at the end of the day, when my business is done.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hop City Canning Barking Squirrel

These new cans are pretty damn good looking. We all know that nice packaging helps sell beer, and now that Hop City has their flagship, Barking Squirrel, in cans at the LCBO, I suspect they'll see a good turnout at the cashier.

As you can see in the image to the right, the cans are all black with the cool image of the squirrel eyeing up a fresh hop cone. The white text bounces off the can and everything is nice and clean, easy to read.

Looks will get you to buy it once, but the product inside the can is what will determine whether you purchase more. Hop City has done a good job with this beer, producing an easy drinking amber lager that works for both serious beer enthusiasts' and new beer drinkers alike.

I first mentioned Hop City back in November of 2009 and reading that old post reminds me that Hop City has already been around for two years now, as of yesterday (October 5th).

The Barking Squirrel is now available in select LCBO's (267773) and is starting to appear on the online database. $2.65 per can. 2010 silver medalist at the Canadian Brewing Awards.

Monday, October 3, 2011

King Brewery Looking For Brewing Help

Beer Barons Inc., the parent company of the King Brewery in Nobelton, ON, are currently seeking some brewing help to start immediately.

From Beer Barons:
"If you have an interest in entering the brewing industry, this is your chance to work directly under the supervision of the Brew Master at King Brewery. We’re currently seeking full time Brewers/General Labour. Please send your resume to .”

Video - The Iron Brewer & Long, Dark Voyage To Uranise

Organized by the -->Master Brewers Association of the America's, District Ontario -->, and run by Cheshire Valley's Paul Dickey, the Iron Brewer, now in it's second year, took place on Friday at the in Etobicoke, ON.

The premise of the Iron Brewer is simple. Participating brewers are given some brewing ingredients and are told to go away and brew something in 30 days for the contest, using only the provided material. What they brew is left up to their discretion and as the video below shows, Sam Corbeil of Sawdust City Brewing brewed an Imperial Stout with an interesting name.

A beer produced by James Yii-Jen Tien of Muskoka Brewery was crowned the champion at the end of the day after the judges tasted all the products on hand.

Ken Woods (Black Oak), Jamie Mistry (Amsterdam Brewery), Luke Pestl (Bellwoods Brewery), Jon Downing and Kevin Sommerville (Niagara College Teaching Brewery) and Paul Dickey (Cheshire) all all interviewed in the video.

from on .
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