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.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008: Beer Year in Review

I’m sitting here recovering from a hectic holiday season, getting ready for New Year’s, and I’m reflecting back on the year that is nearing the end. 2008 was a good year to write about beer. Many things happened, many things were experienced for the first time. I had the opportunity to drink a lot of terrific beers from all over Canada and from other parts of the world. I attended many events and festivals that ranged in size from the Toronto Beer Festival to the small intimate crowd of a Cameron’s Cask Night. I was fortunate enough to indulge in some world-class beer dinners and experience a boat full of beer launches. I hosted and spoke in a number of TAPS Media video podcasts, both scary and exciting. I met many great people who work in the industry and formed some great friendships.

Over the pass year we’ve witnessed the birth of Anheuser InBev; read the Toronto Star, the largest daily paper in Canada, call out politicians for their lack of control over the conglomerate known as the Beer Store; watched as the Minister of Finance reached out to the LCBO to increase buck a beer prices; saw the resignation and possible retirement of Jim Brickman – the godfather of craft brewing in Ontario; watched as Mill Street crushed the competition in the Canadian Brewing Awards to win Canadian Brewery of the Year two years in a row, same with the Garrison Brewing Co. in Halifax, they won Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards for the second time in as many years for their Imperial Pale Ale; observed the smallest of breweries introducing unique and inspired products; heard how the Legislative Assembly of Ontario decided to only serve Ontario Craft Beer; and lots lots more.

It has been an exciting year for a beer writer/blogger and I’ve done my very best to get you the news as soon as I get it, or share a pub profile when I get the chance to visit a new place. I have posted 310 times in the past year! Way more that I thought.

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so let’s take a look back at 2008 and see what I wrote about.

January – I tried one of the best beers of 2008 in Garrison’s Black Lager. Simply terrific. I also managed to get out of the house to write profiles on three Toronto pubs: The Rebel House, The Bow and Arrow and the The Rhino. January was also the month that the Hockley Valley Brewing Co. announced that they would be killing off their Hockley Gold Ale in favour of their popular Stout, which went straight to general listing at the LCBO.

February – The biggest news to hit the Ontario craft brewing industry was Perry Mason, the founder of Scotch Irish Brewing (later sold to Heritage Brewing Co.), leaving Heritage to pursue other interests. “Hi folks, 
Just a note to say that I am no longer with Heritage Brewing. I am now free to persue “other projects” 
Although I may not be directly involved in the beer industry at present, I will keep a keen eye on what’s going on and I will pop up at certain venues from time to time. Rest assured, I will be reading this essential resource everyday and I am not done in this business yet.
All the best,
Perry”
I made my way to the Cloak and Dagger, Smokeless Joe’s and a guest writer profiled the Olde Angel Inn (Niagara on the Lake). Three really great pubs that deserve continual visits. C'est What celebrated their 20th anniversary and Mirella Amato, fellow beer writer, introduced Beerology.com, a website dedicated to helping educate citizens on the benefits of craft beer.

March – My fiancé and I moved into a new place in the city and it was then that I realized how difficult it was to move boxes and boxes of a beer bottle collection. Steam Whistle let me know that they were busy getting a canning line put together to can their signature pilsner in 500ml cans. I profiled the Crow’s Nest in Newmarket, ON and wrote a snippet about a new brewpub in Nova Scotia (Port and Pub). However, the big news in the Canadian brewing circles was the departure of Greg Nash from Garrison Brewing. Nash was the brewer of the Imperial Pale Ale that won the 2007 Canadian Beer of the Year award and helped bring respectability back to Garrison with a handful of terrific new styles. It was later revealed that Nash would head to Pump House in New Brunswick to brew there and Daniel Girard (formerly of Pump House) would head to Garrison to take up brewing duties there.

April – April was a busy month, a month that saw me write 35 posts! The most read post was titled “Are we to judgmental?” It was in this post that I discussed the way in which beer gets criticized. Some good follow up comments too. I participated in my first Ontario Craft Brewers Association podcast, visited one of Toronto's most well known drinking holes in the Imperial Pub, judged the Ontario Brewing Awards (last time – unless it gets better counterparts) and took in the awards show, headed to Volo to help celebrate their 20th anniversary and I introduced a new category to the blog where I ask brewers, sales reps, marketing directors and pub owners questions relating to their business. John Graham of Church Key was the first victim. The highlight of the month went to the Southern Tier beer dinner hosted by the wonderful Roland and Russell Import Agency at the Academy of Spherical Arts. Owner Phin DeMink was in attendance, the food pairings were excellent and it was here that I met Alan (A Good Beer Blog) for the first time.

May – Where did it all start? Session #15 asked the question and I provided an answer. Great Lakes Brewing Co. held a great Orange Peel launch party at Victory Café, Beau’s Brewery in Vanleek Hill introduced Bog Water Dirty Brown Ale (terrific) and I profiled Grand River Brewing Co. in Cambridge along with the Huether Hotel and Lion Restaurant in Waterloo, ON. May was the month that I met Sam Calagione. Sam was in town for the 10-course Dogfish Head dinner at beerbistro that now stands as the pinnacle of all beer dinners. Sam made the comment that out of the thousands of beer dinners he’s been too, the beerbistro one ranks in the top three. Simply magnificent, and the fact that I was lucky enough to seat at the head table with fellow beer writers Cass Enright (Bar Towel founder) and Greg Clow (Canadian Beer News) made it all the better.

Quick timeout – Beer break – Fat Cat Barley Wine

June – I took it easy in June. I went away to St. John’s Newfoundland for a wedding and to abuse my liver. A pub-crawl down George street, a visit to Quidi Vidi microbrewery, and a pub profile on a great little pub called Christian’s and more. I had a great opportunity to visit the YellowBelly Brewery and Pub while it was still under construction. Owner Craig Flynn and world-renowned brewer Liam McKenna, who also poured out some samples of their American wheat, English style IPA and Irish Red, gave me the grand tour. This was also the month that it was announced that Queen’s Park would only serve a select few Ontario Craft products, therefore eliminating imports and macrobrews for MPP’s and their guests to choose from.

July – Busy month. There was a lot going on. Dana Flavelle of the Toronto Star wrote a wonderful three-day series titled “Bad Brew” about the crazy realm of the Beer Store. It was terrific to see this problem highlighted in Canada’s largest circulated paper. The articles led to Cass Enright creating a new website called FreeOurBeer.org, a website dedicated to reforming Ontario’s beer retail system from a craft point of view. The articles also aroused a Hamilton, ON man by the name of Derek Howard who started an on-line petition to stop the Beer Store, which received attention from all the big media outlets. CASK! Toronto was established, Beau’s Brewery celebrated their 2nd anniversary, Church Key Brewing Co. purchased a small pub by the name Stinking Rose, the Gahan House Brewpub in Charlottetown PEI released to of their signature beers in bottles, Sleeman hung banners all through the Distillery District that received a fair bit of attention and Josh Rubin, Toronto Star’s beer writer, shared his 10 favourite Toronto beer bars. Victory Café and CASK! held their first cask festival on a summer day and I profiled a brand new Magic Oven restaurant with a craft beer flair.

AugustGreat Canadian Pubs and Beer Blog turns 1! Never thought I would go on this long, but sure glad I did. I see year 2 in the future for sure. Bob Connon released a terrific pub guide for the Maritime Provinces called “Sociable! The Elbow Bender’s Guide to Maritime Pubs,” the Toronto Festival of Beer took place and thousands of drunk idiots gathered to slide in the mud, Amsterdam shuffles the brewing team by welcoming Jamie Mistry as the new brewmaster and Andre Klinker as the new brewery operations manager, my fiancé told you all about her struggles living with a beer nut and the Golden Tap Awards took place at beerbistro. I was part of the Editor’s Circle panel and I was delighted to help pick out Cameron’s Brewing Co., Queen’s Park Speaker Steve Peters, St. Vernous and beerbistro’s Dogfish Head dinner as winners. The Prince Albert Public House in Mount Albert was also profiled.

September – Garrett Oliver flew into town to host a Brooklyn beer dinner at Fionn MaCool’s of all places. The speeches were good, but the food was subpar. A great night after dinner though. I attended the beautiful Abbot on the Hill for their launch of Czechvar on tap, helped organize the Canadian Brewing Awards judging and was responsible for pouring (and tasting) each beer submitted, Greg Nash (Pump House) released a video of him and his crew producing a Wet Hop Amber Ale and I headed out to the Dominion on Queen to indulge in a few pints. September belonged to the Canadian Brewing Awards gala though, as we had all the winning beers from across the country shipped in for sampling. Brewers and brewery representatives flew in from all over Canada to receive their awards and the night was a complete success.

October – Alexander Keith produces Stag Head’s Stout, a weak bodied stout that is lighter than a Guinness. MPP Ted Chudleigh sticks to his stance and reads Derek Forward’s Beer Store petition in the Legislative Assembly, Volo held their 4th annual Cask Festival that featured some great beers from Quebec, Ontario and England. Hops Direct, a United States hop supplier held a presentation at the Toronto Granite Brewery before 60 members of the Ontario brewing industry, Nicholas Pashley re-releases his 2001 book Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and why it’s Necessary, TAPS:Canada’s Beer Magazine and Beerology’s Mirella Amato team up to record audio podcasts, and the Granite (Toronto location only) introduces a new IPA to their line-up called Hopping Mad.

November – I made my way to Rochester New York for other business and ended up at Beers of the World, a beer boutique that made me salivate upon entering, Volo held a reading featuring Nicholas Pashley, I visited Ken Woods at his new Black Oak brewery in Etobicoke (not ready just yet), had $3 pints of Wellington at Kubo Radio in Toronto (now under renovation), the Castle on King in Waterloo announces that they must close their doors, and I attended the Gourmet Wine and Food show with Cass Enright and pondered why the OCB didn’t have a large section highlighting their respective breweries. I also posted my thoughts on why upscale restaurants don’t feature craft beer after being let down during a dining experience in the city. The big news belongs to the Dead Frog Brewery in BC as they were hit with a lawsuit from Sleeman’s (no suing two craft breweries).

December – For three Thursday’s I conducted tastings at a local LCBO for Cameron’s Brewing Co., providing me with the chance to talk to craft beer fans, mainstream beer drinkers and hardcore booze bags all in the same setting. It was a fun experience. Readers got to meet Ron Keefe of the Granite as he answered various questions about his business, Wild Rose brewery in Alberta announced a new seasonal Imperial IPA their working on, YellowBelly Brewery in NFLD finally released their St. John’s stout to much fanfare and the Minister of Finance asked the LCBO to increase the buck a beer prices. Also, Grand River announces three dates for a beer educational experience at their brewery; and last but not lest, I wrote this year in review while managing to drink only two terrific Canadian produced craft beers.

Thank you to all of you readers who have made this blog a popular attraction and for helping give me the motivation to continue writing each and sometimes everyday.

Stay tuned, my top ten list of 2008 will be posted shortly.

2 comments:

Christine said...

Way to go Troy! Keep 'em coming! Cheers and Happy 2009.
Christine Mulkins

Troy Burtch said...

Thanks Christine. I'll do what I can for 2009.

Cheers,
Troy

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