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.

PLANNING AN EVENT? GOT A NEWS TIP? INTERESTED IN ADVERTISING? SEND A MESSAGE TO troy (at)greatcanadianbeerblog(dot)com

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Premium Beer Debate?

There is great post written by UK beer and pub author Pete Brown over on his blog. It's definitely worth the read, and some good feedback has been added too.

Here's the link http://petebrown.blogspot.com/2008/02/fine-beer.html

14th Annual Pepperwood Bistro Beerfest Winners

Last Sunday the Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery in Burlington held their 14th Annual beerfest before a large crowd of thirsty beer drinkers.

Mill Street, Black Oak, Grand River, F&M, Great Lakes, Trafalgar, Cool (St. Andre), Denison's, Nicelbrook and Pepperwood's own brewer Paul Dickey, all took part in the festival offering tastings from their portfolio's of beer. Each person who attended the event was presented with the opportunity to vote for the best beer. The brewery that produced the beer that got the most votes was offered a draught line at Pepperwood - a guest tap.

Here were the results:
1st - Pepperwood (who brewed a good cask of West Coast Pale Ale)

2nd - tie - Nickel Brook & F&M (Pilsner and Dark = quality craftsmanship)

3rd - tie - Mill Street & Trafalgar

4th - tie - Black Oak (Double Chocolate Cherry was a hit) & Grand River (the sour was terrific)


A more complete write up will appear in the next issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine due out April 1.

Another Lakeport Product?

I don't consider myself to be a beer snob. I do consider myself to be a beer lover, a beer lover who enjoys quality beer. So I try to distance myself from talking or bashing the big brewers who brew their beer not to offend anyone as opposed to brewing for the purpose being enjoyed by someone. But as I read the news this morning about buck a beer pioneer and newly acquired Labatt baby Lakeport, I couldn't resist.

The headline read 'Lakeport Brewery Launches Lakeport Ale'. Not satisfied with the amount of products already offered, Lakeport has introduced an Ale to their line-up. I was shocked by the amount of different products Lakeport offers - Lakeport Pilsener, Lakeport Honey Lager, Lakeport Red, Lakeport Light, Lakeport Strong and Lakeport Ice. I never knew they produced a variety like this, so it wouldn't be fair of me to judge them and call them terrible - but this is my blog so I will. I bet the beer is crap. I love hearing people say that mainstream beer is easy to drink and quenches your thirst. I have trouble downing a bottle of our national beers anymore. I can't stand the pop like carbonation.

Why did Lakeport add an ale?
"Adding an ale to our family of beers was really inspired by our loyal Lakeport drinkers. They asked us to create a great tasting beer and we are proud to deliver great tasting Lakeport Ale at a fair price," says Tom Rolfe, Lakeport Brand Manager.

I highly doubt this. I know a couple of Lakeport drinkers from back home who prefer it because of the cost and I went to school with guys that would regualary drink it, and there is no way they would call up Lakeport and request an ale. Who is their right mind would? I worked at the LCBO for a brief stint some time ago and talked with the people that buy Lakeport or Laker or Lucky and these are not the type of people looking for change.

Maybe this ale, which will sell for $24 for 24 (+ tax) might hold some flavour (sarcastic) and might be enjoyed by someone(truthfully). But that someone will not be me. Cheap knock off beer only hurts the rest of the industry, hurts the local brewers who produce terrific ales and lagers but have to charge more, and in my opinion helps with binge drinking.

Just my two cents - now off to drink a Peche Mortel!! (thanks Greg)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Olde Angel Inn: Niagara on the Lake, ON

The following pub profile was written by guest writer Duncan Rowland who has also written for Bar Towel. Here he profiles the cozy Olde Angel Inn at Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. Enjoy!!
*********************************
My parents have lived in Niagara on the Lake for the past 15 years. I've been visiting the Angel for roughly the last seven of those years, and it remains one of my favourite pubs in Ontario. I still have no idea what happened for the first eight years. Then again, my father is the guy who, after I implored him to bring back Boag and Sons' Premium Lager (my #1 beer, and you can't get it anywhere in Canada) from his visit to Australia, didn't bring back any because he didn't think it tasted good.

Anyway, the Angel is a popular and inviting pub with a good roster of draft beers. It is never empty, the staff are very attentive and welcoming, and there is no music to drown out the conversation. Apparently they do have live Celtic music some nights, but I usually visit during the afternoon; maybe they know my tastes.

The beer selection encompasses some Ontario micros, their house beers (courtesy of Niagara Falls Brewing), and a lot of UK product such as 80 Shilling, Newcastle Brown and so on. If you're looking for a cask pump you're out of luck, however there should be something for everyone.

The last time I was at The Angel I struck up a conversation with the couple next to me. They were visiting NotL from Dunkirk, in southwestern New York state. They had randomly dropped by the pub for a drink and were not disappointed. I asked what beers people drank in their hometown, and they said, believe it or not, mostly Blue and Blue Light! I introduced them to Gritstone, which they liked.

If I have one complaint about the Angel, it would be the size of the bar, which has been sacrificed for more tables and chairs. In all the times I have visited, I've sat at a table twice, preferring to polish the bar top even if I’m visiting with my seven-year old daughter, who has herself remarked that the 2% milk tasted better when she sat at the bar.

The Angel has a few competitors in NotL; however none match it across the board for selection, atmosphere and service. NotL itself has so much to offer, with mild weather, great scenery along a well-maintained bike path, plenty of wineries, and an improving dining scene. If you are going for these aspects, you owe it to yourself to seal the deal with a visit to the Angel Inn.

Introducing Beerology: A New Beer Website

A good pal of mine recently launched her very own website dedicated to her unwavering love of beer. www.beerology.ca, a new beer site in Ontario that is geared towards both beer connoisseurs and beginners alike.

Mirella Amato, the creator of the site and who also happens to write for TAPS magazine on Quebec beer news, has dove head first into every aspect of the beer industry, learning as much as she can in order to turn that knowledge around and educate others.

Since 2006, I have devoted myself full-time to the study of beer. I also decided to take advantage of my performance background in opera, and promote local brews through freelance work with a focus on public speaking and education. Now, I very much enjoy organizing and guiding beer-tasting sessions, and collaborate with a number of other companies that give me the opportunity to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for beer.
You may have saw her on Legourmet TV hosting an episode by interviewing a brewer, or doing a tasting with a sales rep, or you may have talked to her at any beer event in the Province, she seems to be everywhere promoting craft beer. She is also a member of the Canadian Amateur Brewers' Association, where she decided to become a certified beer judge. Last week she did a tasting at the Hart House (University of Toronto) before a large group and although I couldn't make it, I heard she did extremely well.

The new site has links to every Ontario brewery, some pubs, blogs, notes on how to taste beer, and guidance for signing up for a guided beer tasting. She has also posted some of the video clips you can watch her in and some beer articles published in various media outlets.

So, if your looking at doing a beer tasting in the near future and you think you may need some guidance, tips or ideas, a good start would be checking out www.beerology.ca and than contacting Mirella.

Beerology guided beer tasting sessions are a hands-on approach to learning. While it is great to read about beer in books or online, nothing compares to tasting it with a group of people and a guide who will point out flavours, provide fun facts, and answer questions. That’s exactly what Beerology provides; a fun, sociable, interactive way to learn about beer.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Killer Pub Manager, Baked Beans and a Beer Festival


* Most pub owners I've ever had the pleasure of meeting have come across as great people who work very hard and love what they do. Publicans are supposed to be hospitable, accommodating, knowledgeable, and fun, but someone forgot to tell that to a former pub manager in Britain. Steve Wright, a former pub manager of a pub that has not been named, was found guilty yesterday of killing five prostitutes in Ipswich back in 2006.

* Quick, who loves baked beans? Anyone? Well, I enjoy the odd side of baked beans with a pork roast or smoked ribs; there are some delicious varieties out there. Heinz, the corporate giant best known for their ketchup, are rolling out some new brands of the beans and to capture public interest they have hired sommeliers and beer connoisseurs to match the beans with beer products. Weird, maybe. Interesting, definitely. While I enjoy matching food and beer together to create a whirlwind of wonderful experiences in my mouth, beans and beer take it a step back. Beer has been trying to emulate what wine has been so successful in doing for years and to have a huge company state that beer and beans have the perfect marriage is like the old adage of saying beer only goes well with pizza, hot dogs and burgers.
Look what else Heinz is doing:
Now onto the bit I REALLY love. To bring the new concept of beer and beans to life, Heinz has created the ultimate pub experience by producing the first ever beans bar serving perfectly poured pints of beans on tap. The beans on tap bar will be touring around University bars in the UK.


* The Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery in Burlington is holding their annual Beer Festival this Sunday and word is out that it will be better than before. The event starts at 2:30pm and runs until 5pm. Tickets are $30, which includes samples and delicious snacks prepared by the chef. Last years breweries included Nickel Brook, Black Oak, Brick, Creemore, Denison’s, Great Lakes, King, Labatt-Stella, Lakeport, McAuslan, Mill Street, Niagara, Pepperwood, Taps, and Trafalgar. TAPS magazines will be available for free and input is appreciated. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Double Chocolate Cherry Stout: Black Oak Brewery

I had already drank a couple of good beers this past weekend before I got around to having a Double Chocolate Cherry Stout from the Black Oak Brewing Company. I had the Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23 and then shared a bottle of Unibroue 17 with Greg Clow, (who also happened to bring back 18 beers from Montreal for me) before sitting my sights on Black Oak’s latest seasonal offering.

Black Oak, a small brewery located in Oakville, ON, is home to President Ken Woods and head brewer Adrian Popowycz, who consistently produce very good beer. They brew a Pale ale that features a nice hop profile and pairs well with spicier foods, a Nut Brown ale that is wonderful with pork roast, and seasonals like their Nutcracker Porter, Summer Saison and the DCCS. The Nutcracker won a gold medal at the 2007 Canadian Brewing Awards while the Pale Ale won a bronze.

The appearance of the DCCS is pitch black with a nice creamy head that didn't want to leave. The cream coloured foam creates a resemblance to the foam you might find in your latte and provides a nice silky mouthfeel. Small traces of lacing wrap around my glass making this pint look like a million bucks. It certainly smells like a million bucks too. Obviously there is a strong sour cherry presence, yet not overbearing, which I prefer. The cherries are mixed together with traces of smoky malt, chocolate, brown sugar and a hint of coffee aromas. It smells delicious.

It goes down nice and smooth leaving a creamy coating on my tongue. You’ll pick up the cherries and chocolate on your first sip and pick them up on your last. This beer is great with desserts like cheesecakes, ice cream or brownies. And speaking of brownies, don't hesitate to incorporate a little DCCS into your brownie recipe. It's quite a treat.

The DCCS made its 2008 debut at C’est What’s 20th anniversary party and is available at various other pubs, to which Woods has posted on Bar Towel.

Hi Everyone
So Far we have the 2xChocCherryStout at the following Pubs:
Beer Bistro
Caffe Volo
Dr. Generosity
The Rebel House
Magpie
Musa
The Bow & Arrow
Victory Cafe
Renaisance Cafe


You can buy 6, 12, or 24 packs from Black Oak’s retail store for $12.25, $22.75, and $43.25 respectively.

Cheers!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23

So far I have really only stuck to profiling Canadian produced beers and pubs which has been great. There are some great beers being brewed in Canada and with my home in Ontario, I tend to focus on what I can readily obtain. But I think the odd time won't hurt to include various imports that will be made available to purchase in Canada.

I had the opportunity to meet with Vlado and Liliana, the proprieties of Roland and Russell Import Agency, at the Pepperwood Bistro recently to share some beer stories and to forge a working relationship with TAPS: Canada’s Beer Magazine.

Gracious people that they are, they supplied me with a bunch of beers that they currently have in their possession from some of the breweries they represent. I noticed that one of the beers they gave me, Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23, is set to be part of the LCBO’s spring release that will becomes available in March. A rainy Sunday night seemed like the perfect time to crack one open and take some notes.

The Forstinger – Stohr family has owned the brewery for over 200 years and is best known for their long list of bock style beers. One of their best known beers is Samichlaus, which they started brewing after acquiring the rights from the Hurliman brewery in 1997. But that’s for another time, another story.

The Urbock 23 pours a golden straw-like colour with a tiny white head giving why to a barely visible white lacing around the glass. The aroma is full of malty characteristics with a pinch of the warming alcohol. A fruity yeast profile provides a macintosh apple smell with some toffee tones. I find myself swirling and sniffing more than actually drinking the beer, the aroma is wonderful.

There is a delicious punch to this beer. Malty overtones with toffee like smoothness give off a sweet taste yet there is a mild bitterness in the follow through. When the 9.6% alcohol touched my gums it numbed them for a moment but the high alcohol content wasn’t overwhelming. It leaves a nice aftertaste that lingers around until the next sip, which excites me as much as the first one.

This was a great beer to sip on right before dinner while it continued to rain outside. It was a nice full bodied bock that will definitely look good on the shelves at the LCBO. The bottle itself is very attractive with the black and gold labels, which should catch the eye of curious drinkers. Enjoy!

Thanks R&R.

LCBO Beer Spring Release

When I had the opportunity to speak with the LCBO's category manager of beer a month ago, I inquired about their upcoming spring release. After exchanging emails after the meeting, I had my hands on a hard copy of the list with the promise not to post it until a later date.

Well, with March fast approaching, now is a good time to share the release with you. And it appears to be a pretty solid line up with a range of different styles. Beside the name of the beer is the score from www.ratebeer.com

Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23 - 3.32

Westmalle Tripel - 3.81

Rogue Brutal Bitter - 3.73

Trafalgar Oak Aged Rye - 3.09

Duchy's Original - 3.07

Brasserie Duyck biere de Printemps

St.Louis Gueuze Lambic - 2.71 (already at Summerhill)

Weltenberger Kloster Asam Bock - 3.85

Orval - 3.90

I think this list will please most of the beer geeks in Ontario, though I'm sure there will be those that will snub their noses at the choices made by the LCBO. There always is. I don't want to share to much of what we discussed during our meeting, as it will appear in the April issue of TAPS, but I will mention that the LCBO is dedicated to bringing in more and more craft beer choices along with more well known imports, in the upcoming years.

I tried some of the Rogue beers while living in Halifax as Premier Wine and Spirits, a small private liquor store, offered a number to choose from. But I never did try the Bitter, so I look forward to that.

There are also some missing beers from the list that I've heard COULD be in stores very soon; Propeller Extra Special Bitter and London Porter from the Propeller Brewery in Halifax, NS and Southern Tier IPA from the Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, NY. Both Propeller beers have won numerous awards and accolades in both national and worldwide competitions and Southern Tier is a very respected microbrewery in their own right. It turns out that the Roland and Russell import agency has worked very hard to get these beers listed and Ontario drinkers will reap the rewards.

*******The Propeller beers have not been accepted as of yet,,,sorry for the confusion****

Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

An Irish Pub with English Posters - Not In Quebec

I came across an article on CTV’s website about an Irish pub in Montreal that is being forced to change some of their posters and menu’s to include French language.

McKibbins Irish Pub was recently told by the Office de la Langue Francaise that they would face a $1,500 fine if they didn’t remove some beer posters from inside the pub. It turns out that the posters are those that you would find in any faux Irish pub, but because they don’t have any with French on them, the OLF is after McKibbins.

The report states that many French drinkers that consider McKibbins their local, have said how ridiculous this has been. There were some people in the pub having some drinks that felt that the lack of French signs warranted a call to the OLF in order for action to be taken.

I wonder if this is the case for other Irish pubs located in foreign countries like France, Germany, Czech Republic etc? I understand why the Province of Quebec wants to maintain their language, but the last time I checked, there are those that speak English making their home in Quebec. Even though it is a faux Irish pub, putting up signs in French would take away from the pub’s character. Those signs are probably replica’s that advertise for products unavailable at the pub and are only posted to enhance the Irish pub culture. I don’t imagine I would have a problem walking into a French pub with all French posters and ordering a pint of something, and that’s not because I can speak French (I can’t) but because beer has a universal language.

The pub owners have extended an invitation to Premier Jean Charest to visit the pub to point out which signs are in violation of the language restrictions. Because of all the media attention this story has received, you never know, Charest just might show up.

Which brings up a question I asked myself: Which politician would I enjoy having a drink with in a pub? I’ve met Bob Rae before and he was a great guy in person, and watching him on the Mercer Report was hilarious. So I would like to have some pints with Rae. On the provincial side of things it would have to be Belinda Stonarch. I would get a couple of drinks into her and get the scoop on the whole Tie Domi story.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Family Day Road Trip

So what are your big plans for the first Family Day holiday? Some people will be doing home repairs, others will be taking it easy in front of the tv, but might I suggest something?

Why not plan a road trip that revolves around some of the Ontario craft breweries in your region? Load up a vehicle (make sure you have a designated driver) and head out in search of beer at its freshiest.

Theh OCB website has a very detailed OCB road map to help you plan out your route. For the Toronto area you can plan on visiting Steam Whistle at their historic roundhouse brewery right next to the Skydome (pardon me, I mean the Rogers Centre). Steam Whistle has developed a great tour and the amount of samples they provide is great. After Steam Whistle, head over to the Mill Street brewpub in the Distillery District for some lunch and try to 13 beers they brew on-site. New right now is their Winter Bock. C'est What is close by for lunch and here you can drink a variety of OCB beers while in the comforts of a warm pub. After lunch, head over to Amsterdam Brewery, then to the Granite Brewery where Ron just may be brewing a new batch behind the glass wall, then head off to Cool Brewery off the Gardiner Expressway and end up at Great Lakes Brewery where you can go on another tour and sample their assortment of beers. That is just Toronto.

Maybe a trip up North is what your after. If that's the case, stop in at King Brewery in Nobleton, ON, just a few kms off the 400hwy. Talk with brewmaster and owner Phil to learn some interesting facts about beer and brewing techniques. Get back on the highway and drive straight to Barrie where you can visit the Robert Simpson Brewery on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay. From here you may wish to take a detour and drive to Creemore where you are transported back to a Norman Rockwell painting. Visit the Creemore brewery, a brewery that helped start the ball rolling in Ontario. Have lunch at a small cafe and dine on local produced and hand made foods. Back on the highway and up to Bracebridge to visit Lakes of Muskoka Brewery, a small building just off the main street.

If you want to head west, you can stop and visit F&M and Wellington in Guelph, Brick Brewery in Waterloo have lunch at the beautiful old Heuther Hotel Lion Brewpub. It is one of my favourites. Then head over for an experience of a lifetime with a visit to Neustadt Brewery in Neustadt. Val and Andy may even take you into the cellar's to see where it all started.

The golden horseshoe that surrounds Toronto, Oakville, Burlington and Hamilton is full of terrific craft breweries dying to treat you to a good time. Start at Black Oak where you can purchase some Double Chocolate Cherry Stout, then head over to Cameron's where the fella's will treat you to a good time. Nickel Brook, Old Credit, Trafalgar, Niagara's Best and Taps can all be included and lunch can be had at Trafalgar tied house.

And finally to the East. Start in Pickering at County Durham, try the hop head and hop addict. Get back on the highway and stop at Barley Days Brewery, Church Key Brewery, Heritage and Beau's. There is a lot of driving for the East tour, but you'll be rewarded with fresh beer. Have lunch at the Kingston Brewpub on your way through the area.

So there you have it. Something to do during this 'Family Day' long weekend in February. Call the breweries ahead to ensure they are open for tours and/or that their retail store will be open.

Buckle up and please don't drink and drive.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congratulations C'est What!!

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of C'est What? one of Toronto's best beer destinations and well known indie music venue.

Tonight, starting at 5pm, C'est What is opening their doors to the public and offering 1988 prices on select drinks and food. There will also be door prizes and a good line-up of local musicians. But I'm looking forward to the different one-offs that have been brewed to commemorate this great achievement.

C'est What was one of the first, if not thee first, to only offer craft beer products at the pub which helped spawn the Ontario Craft Brewing growth during the 1990's and early 2000's. George Milbrandt, publican, has promoted the Ontario brewers for all these years and because of that we are able to enjoy terrific beer from all corners of the Province.

Congratulations George and the team at C'est What! See you tonight at the pub. Check out www.cestwhat.com for more details on the anniversary party.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Smokeless Joe: Toronto, ON

Most treasures are hard to find. They usually get discovered by sheer luck; whether you stumble upon one or inadvertently recognize one. Smokeless Joe's is no exception. If you have never heard of the pub your not alone. Tucked away in the basement of an old brownstone on John Street just south of Queen, Smokeless Joe's has made their name with their vast selection of bottled beer. The pub is located in an area with a handful of franchise restaurants which Joe's has to compete against, but they can't hold a candle to the beer served up at Joe's.

In 1995, a man named Joe (weird) opened up this tiny pub and instantly created a niche for himself by importing a variety of Belgian beers, German lagers, American hop bombs and beers from other Provinces while maintaining a no smoking policy (before it was law). In 2001 Joe sold the pub to another man by the name of Joe and it was decided that nothing would change. The new Joe was behind the stove when I visited and we had a great chat about the history of the pub and the state on Ontario craft beers. He is a passionate man when it comes to beer and he takes great pride in knowing that his pub heightens the profile of craft beers in Toronto. Eddie, the bartender/server/host was terrific. Everytime someone new entered through the downstairs door he greeted them with a big hello and spent time explaining the concept of the pub. A lot different than the bartender from Cloak and Dagger.

There were six beers on draught when I visited, all of which are good quality. I settled with a Konigshoeven Triple which was delicious. It was perfect as the warming alcohol felt great on a cold night; it was a nice winter warmer. The bottled selection as I have already mentioned is huge. 14 pages to be precise and those don't include the new stuff. Like Volo and the Rhino, you are likely to find beers from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, US and many more from countries known for their beer making abilities. There are large chalkboards behind the bar, on a side wall and on a door informing customers of some releases they can order. All the beer was served in the appropriate glassware which is great. I caught a glimpse into the beer fridge at the back of the pub and I imagined what it'd be like getting locked in there at night.

Smokeless Joe's is small. Very small. Eddie mentions that the inside capacity is set at 28, 14 more added during the summer when the small patio opens. You have to walk a set of small stone steps under another set of green wooden stair leading to another entrance in the building. The pub is well hidden, without knowing exactly where it is you may just walk right by it (I have myself). Walking in through the front door you are almost immediately seated at the bar, just to give you an idea of how tight it can be. Lots of wooden bar back stools, exposed brick and stone walls, hardwood floors, pot lighting and rustic artifacts provide this pub with charm. The walls are also lined with many plaques and framed awards from various media award programs celebrating Joe's successes.

The bar is long and curvy starting almost at the front door and ending near the bathrooms. There is a fabulous display of foreign beer bottles and money from other countries. It is not a fancy bar, no shiny shelving, no metal rails, just straight up saloon style bar. Here is where Eddie shines. His personable nature makes it easy for seasoned beer drinkers or newcomers alike to feel comfortable ordering. Behind the bar and down near the end is a set of stove elements where Joe is busy heating and cooking his food. And it is good. Smokeless Joe's is a good spot to visit if you’re in the mood for oysters. They have the awards to prove it. I had the BLAST. Bacon, lettuce, avocado, salsa and tomato sandwich with potato salad and chips. A typical bachelor's meal and it was outstanding.

It's a place you only go in for one and end up drinking four. You only want to stay for an hour and two or three hours later you'll finally climbing the steps back up to John Street to catch the streetcar home. This is why I love doing my drinking in a pub. It is costly, but you leave with new friends, gain some new perspectives on life and try a variety of hard to find beers. The crowd at Smokeless Joe's is diverse as well. Parents with their young child, people up from the financial district, students, hippies and some in their latter years. One pub bringing all these people together - only a church can do the same. Smokeless Joe's is exactly what I look for in a pub.


Friday, February 8, 2008

LCBO Survey

In light of the recent topic being discussed over at The Bar Towel regarding 'pet peeves' of the LCBO, I thought I would post a survey to gauge where readers stand on LCBO service.

Personally, I have never really had any issues with LCBO staff with the exception of a couple telling me I couldn't purchase single bottles of Brooklyn Lager. My dealings with store managers has been terrific and the people in the corporate office have been top notch.

The discussion on Bar Towel seems to be directed more or less at the selections and the apperance of empty shelving. I have in my hands the spring and summer release but I have promised not to post on it..yet. There are some treats.

So, please fill out the survey. I will forward the results onto my contact at the LCBO for their interest as I did earlier with the questions (the results will be in the April issue of TAPS).

Up next - Smokeless Joe's

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ontario Brewery Going Extra Mile


I tend to read as many beer blogs and beer sites as my time permits and the OCB blog is one I regularly peruse. Yesterday there was a story posted by Cameron's Brewing Company's marketing guru Mike Laba that made me smile while reading it.

Here it is:

Pat Ryan of Modesto California visited Toronto in the summer of 2007. He tried our Auburn Ale at a pub and upon returning home, Pat told his wife that this Ontario beer he tried was better than ‘Mother’s Milk’. Knowing that Pat couldn’t get our beer in California, Pat’s wife surprised him with a rather unique birthday present - she sent him back to Toronto with his brother for a few days to check out some sites and to visit Cameron’s Brewing Company.

We hosted Pat at the brewery, put him to work and let him package a few 9-packs of Auburn to take with him.

We decided to give Pat the VIP tour of Toronto by taking him to a few of our favorite accounts in the city…

Thanks to Pat for a great visit to the brewery and thanks to his wife Debbie for making it happen.

Is this not a great story? Not only is it a prime example of how hospitable people are that work in the beer industry, but it is a glowing example of how one business can make a someone's dream a reality. This is good business from a marketing perspective. Toronto tourism also benefited from Cameron's kindess as well, as the Cameron's crew showed their vistor some of what Toronto has to offer. If you have ever been lucky enough to meet the folks out at Cameron's Brewery you would realize how much fun this would have been for Pat Ryan.

Good job guys!! And if it wasn't for the OCB Blog site, no one might have heard this story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Esteemed Brewer No Longer With Heritage

Perry Mason, the well-known and very respected brewer/former brewery owner has just recently announced that he will no longer be working with Heritage Brewery in Carleton Place, Ontario.

Mason is best known for introducing a strong selection of creative and inspiring beers such as Sgt. Majors IPA. His one-offs were always a treat, and they didn't last long.

Here is the message Perry left on Bar Towel.
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


Here's hoping he starts something new in the not to distant future or teams up with another brewery.

The Cloak and Dagger: Toronto, ON

With my fiancĂ© out having a girl’s night I decided I would check out a pub that many readers have recommended I try. I headed down College Street to the Cloak and Dagger located just east of Bathurst. It was a damp night and there was no one on the street so I figured it might be a slow night at the pub. Walking up to the front door I approached a male and female who were having a smoke. The female mentioned that she would be with me in a second. Be with me in a second? Um…. okay. I assumed she was the bartender and that no one was inside watching the bar. I was right.

There was three guys sitting at the bar watching the start of the Leafs game on the large projection screen and I immediately noticed the excessive volume of the game. Not a great start. But let’s put that behind us.

The six year old Cloak and Dagger is another pub known for their draught selection as they offer many Ontario Craft beers along with a couple of Unibroue products. It is a small place with very dimmed lighting, dark paint and a good sized patio in the warmer seasons.

As you walk into the pub there is a small staging area to your immediate right for live bands to perform. I find this spot a little odd as it offers the only sunlight into the place and would make a perfect spot for a row of bar stools offering customers a nice window seat. There are four wooden booths that can hold up to six patrons each and four high tables each of them with a little candle offering a hint of light. There is one section of brick wall while the rest is covered in cherry coloured wood with decorative paneling.

As mentioned, it’s not a big place. It is very narrow and not very long, but that helps provide character. To round out character though you need a supporting cast and the Dagger has a couple of items that do just the trick. When you enter the pub you will notice an old weathered piano sitting against the left hand wall. Rumor has it that it actually gets played every now and then when a patron has one to many, or tries to play. There is also a snug near the washrooms at the back of the pub that features an old tall standing black radio. I envisioned families in the 40’s – 50’s sitting around it listening to the Leafs game, back when they were a contender.

The bar is small but very attractive. Six bar stools occupy the ‘L’ shaped bar and all the draught towers are above the bar making it easy to read through them all. And there are some dandies to read. Creemore Premium Lager, Creemore Urbock, Creemore Pilsner, Church Key Holy Smoke, Wellington County Ale, Stratford Pils, Great Lakes Winter Ale, Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale, Steam Whistle, Mill St Tankhouse, Mill St Organic, Guinness, Kilkenny, Harp, Smithwicks, KLB Raspberry, Moosehead, Strongbow, Nickelbrook Winter Bock, Blanche De Chambly and Wellington on cask.

Maudite is sometimes available, but unfortunately it was not on my visit. I had the Holy Smoke and it’s nothing like what I remembered it to be from the summer, leading me to think it was off. Behind the bar is an array of odd collections of glass plates, money, beer posters and beer mirrors.

Colin, co-owner of the pub, mentions that the Cloak and Dagger is very local friendly as they make up most of their clientele. No need to look far as the three guys I mentioned earlier are getting louder and louder and swearing more and more. This is definitely a place you go with the guys and leave the girls at home. It is also a place that thrives on liquids as I didn’t see anyone ordering any food.

I only had a couple of concerns in the Dagger and they had to do with a: the noise of the hockey game and b: the female bartender. She was swearing up a storm behind the bar and regularly walking past me on her way out the front door for a smoke. I know, it’s a pub, still. I even over heard her talking to a man who was interested in trying the Great Lakes Winter Ale. After providing him with a sample she simply stated “I don’t think you’ll want a pint of that, or a pint of the Holy Smoke.” She then start telling the man about certain beers which was making me itch to get up and correct her.

But I still had a good time. I think the pub would be totally different during the daytime and I will go back to review. I would recommend others visit to give it a whirl, just make sure you ask for a sample for laughs.



Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Amy Winehouse Supports British Pub

The back pages of Toronto's free daily newspaper The Metro are usually filled with gossip about celebrities, none of which I really give two thoughts about. Today though on my way into work I flipped to the back and noticed the headline, "Winehouse rallies behind British pub."

It turns out the Winehouse is a fan of The George Tavern, a pub that can trace its roots back to 1654 and is in danger of losing its natural lighting as developers plan to build a high rise apartment building next door. It says artists and directors have praised the atmospheric lighting for many years.

Winehouse decided to help out by lending her name to support the pub selling $50 t-shirts that say "Save the George". Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I mean having Winehouse endorse anything could be a lighting rod for controversy, but it does put the George Tavern on the map.

Maybe Stonch can go pick up a t-shirt and fill us in on the situation.

Up next, The Cloak and Dagger Pub.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Some Saturday Morning Reads

Thanks to Greg Clow informing Bar Towel readers that the Discovery Channel was airing a beer related show profiling Steam Whistle, Church Key, Dieu Du Ciel and others, I found it necessary to pull myself up from bed to check it out. I was glad I did. Watching the Dieu Du Ciel segment my mouth starting watering. I cannot wait for the day when I am sitting in that brew pub drinking some of their wonderful beers. Who knows when that day will come, but the program reminded me to start planning.

Toronto is busy shoveling themselves out of yesterday's snow storm (and no, no army was called in) so I sat at the computer and did some catch up reading back stories from newspapers and blogs about beer. Here are a few links worth reading:

BRICK TAKES ON NEW PARTNER IN SHARE DEAL
Brick Brewery seems to be in the news every month updating readers on the status of the company. This news is good for Brick and will hopefully lead to a continuous and prosperous future.

Regulating Under the Influence: Canada's Competition Watchdog Drunk on Beer Stats

Ontario Beer — the Price is 'Fixed'
National Post writer Terence Corcoran looks at the Ontario Beer prices and determines that combined Government 'floor prices' and the beer industries helping create those 'floor prices', that the Ontario beer prices are in deed fixed. He also examines the role that the federal Competition Commissioner's office is playing in understanding this market.

The Sessions
And of course there are the sessions. This month had beer writers discussing Barley Wines. Check out Brookston Beer Bulletin for past sessions.

Now, time for me to get out there and find another unique and interesting pub!

Cheers!
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