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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Picture of the Month


George Eagleson, brewer at F&M, dunks his head deep into a bushle of hops at Wednesday's hop information session at the Granite Brewery while beer writer Robert Hughley looks on.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hops Direct Visits the Granite

The smell of hops were in the air on Wednesday night over at the Granite Brewery, and not because Ron Keefe was brewing up anything special. No, it had to do with Bob Latimer, an Ontario hop buyer/importer who hosted a hop information session with his Mabton, WA supplier Hops Direct before a packed house of brewers from all over Ontario.

I've heard from a couple of sources that this was the first time that many seasoned brewers could remember a hop grower traveling to Ontario to speak to industry representatives directly and many brewers were thrilled to be in attendance. Ron Moir headed down from his Heritage Brewery in Ottawa just for the occasion and was one of the first brewers to get his hands into the various samples Hops Direct brought from their farm.

The information session commenced shortly after the 6pm projected start time with approximately 45 individuals representing many of the small breweries in the province. Amsterdam, Great Lakes, Cameron's, Black Oak, Pepperwood Bistro & Brew pub, Olde Stone Brew pub, Cool, Trafalgar, Heritage, Lakes of Muskoka, Granite, Durham, F&M, Nickel Brook, Denison's, Saint Andre, Grand River, Hockley Valley, and King all sent representatives to the event and all were in a good festive mood, catching up with one another and discussing their trade. Latimer introduced the wife of Stacy Puterbaugh, operator and third generation owner of Hops Direct (I cannot remember her name - sorry) and spoke a little about their farm, how they operate and provided a current update on the global hop situation. Latimer also spoke about his relationship with Hops Direct and mentioned that his first ever order was around $6000 and his latest was $76,000. Wow.

Many brewers asked questions about the pricing structure that has been in the news of late, along with questions about spoilage, the leaf hop vs. pellet and about new varieties on the market. It surprised me to hear that most of the Ontario brewers only use pellets and the only time they use the hop leaf is for special brews or one-offs. Bruce Halstead from Durham County made the comment, "I never use rabbit food in my beer, I only stick to the flower."

After running through a slideshow presentation, us invitees were ushered to the corner of the room to rub each of the 10 varieties of hops (leaves) laid out on a table. There was Mt. Hood, Chinook, Cascade, Magnum, Cluster, Galena, Tettnanger, Golding (US), Willamette, and Sorachi Ace. Greenish-yellow-sticky hands followed and a trip to the washroom was in order. I don't know why Major League Baseball doesn't adopt hop for grip. I mean, rub some together in your hands and grip it and rip it.

The information was interesting from my perspective as I've never been that up close and personal with the cute female flower. It taught me about the cannibalization of hop growers in the United States, larger farms swallowing up smaller growers much like the brewing industry saw in the period between 1960 and 2000.

Hops Direct also produces Hop Tea, Hand-Made Hop Soap, Hop Asparagus and Pickled Hop Shoots for customers to purchase and I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of bars of Hop Garden Bar and Hops-n-Roses soap. The Hop Asparagus was a tasty treat that I would purchase for beer tastings if it were sold around here regularly. I also snagged a beautiful hops themed t-shirt.

It should be noted that the Granite supplied a table of mixed appetizers to get our bellies full while Hops Direct picked up the bar tab. And the Hopping Mad was flowing, so I'd hate to see the bill at the end of the night.


Photo#1 - Table of Hops
Photo#2 - Hops direct speaker with brewers
Photo#3 - Having fun with the hops

TAPS and Beerology Team Up For Podcasts

Mirella Amato, published beer writer/speaker and founder of the Beerology website, has recently teamed up with TAPS Media, who runs TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine, to produce monthly audio podcasts featuring interviews with brewers, brewery executives, and craft beer fans.

The audio podcasts, hosted by Amato, produced by 96.3fm's Joel Schonewille, and in association with TAPS Media, will provide listeners with an insiders look into the Canadian brewing industry, as Amato ventures out to events, samples various beers, talks to those closely associated with breweries and shares her views on current trends.

The first podcast was released today on both Amato's website and TAPS' website and revolves around Volo's recent Cask Days. Amato managed to speak with the colourful George Eagleson of F&M brewery, Volo publican Ralph Morana, Black Oak's brewer Adrian Popowycz and Pepperwood Bistro and Brew Pub's Paul Dickey, who all shared their time and expertise explaining cask conditioned beer.

"I really hope people will tune in monthly and educate themselves in craft beer, discovering new flavours and breweries along the way," stated a proud Amato. These podcasts will also compliment the video podcasts that TAPS Media currently produces for free subscribers, and together the two will provide a strong voice to beer drinkers nation-wide.

The first Monday of every month will feature a new podcast and you'll never miss an episode if you subscribe (free) in iTunes, or RSS. Or check out the Beerology or TAPS magazine websites.

Photo - Amato talking to Tim from Nickel Brook at a recent event

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bar Towel 10th Anniversary Party Details

Cass Enright, good friend and founder of www.bartowel.com, has recently announced the finalized plans for the 10th Anniversary party taking place on November 4, 2008. Please check out Enright's post below.

OK, we've got a location for the night - upstairs at the Victory Cafe. There will probably be a cask or two available at the bar upstairs.

It'll be a casual pub night, but there was some talk of having a Bar Towel meet-and-greet recently, so let's use this for that.

There's also the US election that night, so the Victory will be showing that on the big screen upstairs, so we can also toast a victory of another sort.

So please come out and have a couple of drinks. Would be nice to meet some of the folks on the forum.

Doors will be at 6pm.
Come out and introduce yourself to the other passionate beer enthusiasts for a good time.

Turkey Pot Pie with Cameron’s Auburn Ale, Wild Mushrooms & Autumn Vegetables

I love cooking. I love cooking with beer. So when the Ontario Craft Brewers send me new recipes, I take notice and the urge to share them with you takes hold. Here is a beauty that is perfect for the cooler days that lie ahead.

Turkey Pot Pie with Cameron's Aurburn Ale, Wild Mushrooms and Autum Vegetables


Pie Dough:
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, 1 inch cubes
1/3 cup ice water
pinch of salt

Add flour, butter and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until texture resembles course bread crumbs. Add ice water, remove dough from the food processor form into a flat ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least one hour. When dough has chilled remove from freezer and roll onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/3 of an inch thick. Place the pot pie baking dish on top of the dough and trace with a knife half an inch from the edge of the baking dish. Keep pie crust covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Filling:
1 (5 to 6-pound) bone-in turkey breast
2 cups Cameron’s Auburn Ale
4 cups turkey or chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a large dice
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into a large dice
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into a large dice
1 purple-topped turnip, peeled and cut into a large dice
1 onion, diced
2 cups wild mushrooms
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large roasting pan, bring Cameron’s Auburn Ale to a simmer and cook for three minutes. Add stock and bring back to a simmer. Season turkey breast with salt and pepper, place in the roasting pan and roast in the oven until just cooked through and thermometer inserted in the breast reads 165 degrees F. Transfer the turkey breast to a plate and let cool. Chop the turkey into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

Transfer cooking liquid to a saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce to 2 cups. Melt 3 tbsp of butter in the liquid and add the carrots, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, onions and wild mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until all vegetables are tender. Transfer vegetables to a plate and pour liquid into separate bowl. Melt remaining butter over medium heat, add flour and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid (without the vegetables) bring to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the turkey, vegetables and herbs and mix thoroughly. Check seasoning and set aside to cool.

To assemble pies, fill a casserole dish with the filling. Brush edges of the dish with egg wash and lay pie dough over top, lightly pressing edges to ensure dough adheres. Brush top of pie crust with egg wash and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

For more beer-inspired recipes, check out www.ontariocraftbrewers.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet Sean Dunbar: Owner Northampton Brewery NB

Meet Sean Dunbar, owner/brewer/marketer extraordinaire of Northampton Brewery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Dunbar recently visited Toronto to accept a handful of Canadian Brewing Awards and we had a chance to catch up to discuss our favourite hobby - beer. Not only is Dunbar a terrific brewer, he is a terrific individual who is one of the most passionate craft brewers I have come across. He has interesting views on the industry and was a delight to talk to. Find out more about him below.

Cheers!


Where is the Northampton Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
Northampton Brewing Co. is located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. We currently produce beer under the brand name of Picaroons Traditional Ales.

We have the following beers in the portfolio:
Best Bitter Ale
Irish Red Ale
Simeon Jones River Valley Amber Ale
Dooryard Summer Ale
Winter Warmer
Blonde Ale
Dark and Stormy Night
Maple Cream Ale
Yippee IPA
Man’s Best Friend Porter
Timberhog Stout

Describe the history behind the brewery.
The brewery was originally opened beside an existing pub in 1995. We maxed out the little 8 HL system and finally got around to expanding to a 30 HL brewery in 1999. The expansion was a disaster and we went out of business. It wasn’t the beer’s fault. After considering and discarding some other career choices, I scraped up $ 30,000.00 in 2000 and started again with the old 7 HL system from the original Granite Brewery in Halifax. I pledged never to expand again and worked out of a 1000square foot warehouse for about five years. We pretty much just sold what we could produce, almost all of it in the Fredericton area. The constant demand finally got to me two years ago and we found an old 15 HL Peter Austin system that had brewed originally at Reds Brewpub in the West Edmonton Mall. That’s been up and running in a larger facility for about a year now. We still sell all we can brew.

What is your best selling beer?
Year –round, Picaroons Best Bitter is our best seller.

What's new at the brewery? Events, new beers, milestones, awards?
Jeez. Let me see…. We brought out six new styles in bottles last Spring so I’ve pledged to hold off on new beers for a couple of months. Our Winter Warmer launches for the season on November first so we’ve been busy brewing that to fill the pipeline. We did pick up a couple of CBAs in September and that was nice. We hosted an AC/DC party event last week at the brewery, in conjunction with a local radio station. Pretty tame, really. We had hidden all the sharp instruments and plastic wrapped the whole place but it seems AC/DC fans are getting older, and calmer. And they kept asking if we had rum.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
I got in by accident and grew to love making beer. I am passionate about beer and about beer’s place in our society. I really do think brewers who make good beer are helping to make the world a better place.

What is the best aspect of owning a craft brewery in Canada?
I have more friends than I did when I was a lawyer.

Describe the relationship between the East Coast breweries.
I think we’re all pretty cooperative, especially when we’re away from home or fighting a common foe. Within the various provinces, the rivalries definitely exist but we all seem to play fair for the most part. As far as I know we’re all still speaking to each other.

Where can someone find your products?
Picaroons Traditional Ales are available in bottles at most NB Liquor stores in New Brunswick most of the time. We have licensee accounts throughout NB as well, but only a few.

Tell us something about Picaroon's that not a lot of people know about.
None of us who brew the beer have had any sort of formal training.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
We have the flexibility to take chances.

How was your recent trip to Ontario for the Canadian Brewing Awards?
It was quick. I flew up, went to the event, had a few beers a Smokeless Joe’s afterwards and flew back the next morning. The beer was great, as was the hospitality.

Best time for a pint?
Right after a long brew day.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
Honestly, the best thing to ever happen in my career was the first time I stood in line at a liquor store and watched someone I didn’t know buy my beer. I still get the same kick every time it happens.

Picture: Dunbar accepting an award from Stephen Beaumont

Monday, October 27, 2008

CASK! Toronto Takes Us to Buffalo

The fine folks behind the creation of the group CASK!, are pleased to release the latest information about their fantastic idea for a beer lover's bus trip.

On Saturday December 6, 2008, a luxury coach bus will be departing Front Street (in front of Union station) in downtown Toronto to head south to Buffalo for a visit to the 1st annual Buffalo Cask Ale Festival taking place at Cole's and Mr. Goodbar (just doors down from each other). A $75 ticket includes the cost of the bus (which by the way will have a porcelain throne), admission to the festival, your first pint and lunch at Cole's. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday. On a bus with other beer enthusiasts, sampling from 15 casks and being merry and cheerful before the rush of the Christmas season arrives.

To buy a ticket, please visit the CASK! website and click on the paypal option. The trip will require at least 40 ticket buyers in order to be financially fiscal, and failing to do so will result in the event being cancelled (but I know there are more than 40 cask ale fans in Toronto/GTA who'll step up). All tickets must be purchased by November 25th and can only be obtained by individuals 21 years of age or older (US alcohol legislation). The bus will be leaving Union station at 9:00am and will leave Buffalo at 6:00pm. There will be no beer allowed on the bus, which will limit the trips to the loo, but I would imagine there will be some great stories shared.

Visit the CASK! website to learn more about the great organization and the plans/ ticket information regarding the December 6th event. Hope to see many readers there!

Back on Track

I haven't been posting nearly as frequent as I normally do..but I have valid reasons. My fiance stepped on a plane marked for India on Friday and is gone for two months to work in a hospital. The work involved in getting her ready to depart and spending a touch more quality time with her took time away from writing.

Also, much of my free time this past weekend was spent in good company at Volo, where many pints of terrific cask beer was consumed. Again, taking time away from writing.

Things are getting back on track though as I have a Meet the..with Sean Dunbar of New Brunswick's Northhampton Brewery (Picaroon's), a book review of Nicholas Pashley's revised 2001 book 'Notes on a Beer Mat, Drinking and Why It's Necessary,' a re-cap of my Volo weekend and a profile on the Publican House - Peterborough's newest business and a place I visited on Saturday.

So stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Troy

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 30th: Cameron's Cask Night

Cask Night Thursday October 30th (Devil's Night) at Cameron's Brewing Co.

Last month's Cask Night was simple, yet delicious creation. The cask was named L-Squared because it was a balanced mix of our Cameron's Lager and our Dark 266 Lager and then dry hopped with a Golding Hop - one we have never used before. The end result - a very drinkable, yet flavourful dark lager mix.

This month’s Cameron’s ‘Let’s Drink the Cask Night’ will be on Thursday October 30th (devil's night), from 6:00 - 8:00pm.

Costumes will be welcomed to this Cask Night. There will be prizing for best costumes. Adam at the brewery has already predicted that he will take home the top costume prize. Don't fret if you are coming from work and don't have a costume, you will still be more than welcome to attend.

Cameron’s Cask Nights are a casual and intimate monthly event at the brewery. The guestlist only event is $5 for admission however, your admission covers a selection of food from Whole Foods Markets as well as a glass of the cask and two additional drink tickets. As well, your $5 admission can be applied to a beer or swag purchase on your way out.

For those who have not been to the brewery before, this is a great chance to meet the folks behind the scenes and to tour our facility. As well, it’s a great time to pick up some brewery fresh Cameron’s beer for the weekend.

We traditionally tap the Cask at approximately 6:15pm. Whole Foods Markets continue to graciously donate some delicious smokehouse selections specifically made to pair with the casked brew.

As always, the event is capped at 60 people to keep it intimate and to ensure everyone gets a taste of the cask. RSVP’s always come flooding in, so confirm your attendance as quickly as possible.

We encourage everyone to invite a guest (or a few) to join us. Just indicate how many people will be coming with you on your RSVP.

For any questions or to RSVP (if you haven’t already), email
mike@cameronsbrewing.com

Our on-site retail store will be open throughout Cask Night for those that want to pick up beer for the weekend.

For more information or to get directions, visit this
Cameron’s link.
We also now have a blog so check it out.

Hope to see you all on Thursday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Volo Cask Days 2008 Re-Cap

Friday morning wake-ups are always exciting. Knowing the weekend starts hours away is always a good time. But waking up last Friday was especially exciting as Volo’s much anticipated Cask Days was close to commencing and I had a ticket with my name on it.

The weather was perfect as I approached Volo from Dundonald Street, and through the sun I could see a flurry of activity coming from within the walls. Ralph Morana and crew were busy putting the finishing touches on the fourth annual cask festival and were anxiously waiting for the many guests to start arriving.

The small eccentric café featured six stations where ticket holders could obtain samples from the various breweries who participated. There were 34 breweries represented, offering 50 cask conditioned ales and lagers along with multiple (13) draught choices, a new high for cask days. Each station was then broken into regions: Ontario Toronto, Ontario East, Ontario West, Guest (England/Quebec), Ontario North and Ontario North-West. To compliment the dizzying array of cask beers was a cheese table where you could redeem a ticket for a sample plate of artisan cheeses. Beside the cheese table was a bread table full of tasty little snacks, life savers when sampling many glasses of beer.

Guests were greeted at the front entrance and were provided with a gift bag consisting of a sampling glass (smaller than past years, but very nice for sampling), a program, 10 drink tickets, 1 cheese ticket, a chocolate and a small bag of treats. Just after 12:00pm, the first glass of cask ale was poured into the happy hand of a thirsty guest and with that, Cask Days was underway.

I caught up with Ralph (who was sporting a new t-shirt as many firkins blew back at him when tapping) and listened intently as he explained his excitement and his passion for cask days. He is truly a remarkable publican who cares deeply about the craft brewing industry here in Ontario. Morana, along with brother in-law Carl, sons Tomas and Julian and the rest of the Volo crew have grown this event from its humble beginnings four years ago into the successful and much acclaimed festival it is today.

I mingled with some other beer writing brethren and discussed the qualities, dislikes and surprises of the beers sampled while elaborating on our reasons why this event is so popular. It’s the beer of course, and the way the event is organized. I ran into Bar Towel founder Cass Enright and knew then that my day was going to get better. Enright and I always have a good time when were around beer and Friday was no different.

We met the guys from Dieu du Ciel, Luc and Stephane, and had a great discussion on the difference between Quebec and Ontario breweries. I also shared the recent issue of TAPS with Stephane. He claimed that Greg Clow’s description of the Derniere Volonte he reviewed was perfect, a description he couldn’t have written any better. We tried their cask conditioned Penombe Black IPA, which was fantastic, and sampled some other Ontario beers in comparison. Stephane, who is a co-owner of DDC was happy to meet Enright face to face as Cass has stayed at the brewpub from time to time and the two never crossed paths. We drank with them for a bit and found them both to be extremely personable and likeable guys who think the world of Morana (Morana is part of HMH that represents DDC and Hopfenstark in Ontario). Their relationship will help sell their products to the Ontario market for sure.

There were a number of Ontario brewers and brewery representatives in attendance, many of whom had created some unique one-offs. Last year’s event drew numerous creations from our home town breweries and this year was no different. In fact, there were more creations, 17 to be exact.

Because of how the sessions were set up, some beers were not available during the Friday afternoon/evening time slots, so I wasn’t able to try them. But I’ve heard many great things about the rest and you can read what Mr. Stephen Beaumont thought of some here. And read Josh Rubin’s thoughts here.

Of the beers I did get to sample I thought these one’s stood out from among the others (in my opinion).


Cameron’s High Hop Silver (was labeled Clove and Dagger on Friday)
DDC’s Penombe
Saint Andre’s Hopsmasher Parkdale Harvest Ale
F&M’s Stonehammer
Granite’s Peculiar Strong; and
a more one-sided Robert Simpson’s Pale Ale.

The Peche Mortel and Hopfenstark’s Blanche de L’Emitange, along with Denison’s Dunkel (2007) were great on tap.

It was another great day at Volo and I only wished I’d gotten back to take part in more sessions (instead I had to help my fiance monitor brain activity in 12 year old female hockey players in Aurora). The Volo staff, courteous as they always are, were extra helpful and were terrific to deal with. This is a quality that is often overlooked at events such as this, but something that adds to the overall mood of the festival. Good work to all the breweries that made a brilliant effort to surprise our palates with fantastic brews, and big congratulations to Morana for throwing another great Cask Festival.

**The charity for this year’s cask days was for Colon Cancer Canada; in memory of Ralph’s father Tommaso Morana who past away earlier this year.**

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Meet Stefan Buhl: Tree Brewing Co.

Meet Stefan Buhl, brewmaster for the award winning Tree Brewery in Kelowna, British Columbia. By all accounts Buhl is a dedicated brewer who is proud of his work, which is terrific by the way. So grab a beer, sit back, and get to know a west coast brewer.

Where is the Tree Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
We are located in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, BC.

We produce Kelowna Pilsner, Rebel Original, Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale, Cutthroat Pale Ale, Hophead IPA and Spy Porter as our year round beers.

We have our regular seasonals Midwinter Spiced Ale, Hefeweizen and Raspberry Porter. We will also release 2 or 3 limited edition beers every year starting in December 2008.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
Tree Brewing started in 1996. We are located in the original location on Richter Street in Kelowna. I have been with Tree since the fall of 2000.

What is your best selling beer?
Hophead IPA

What's new at the brewery? Events, new beers, milestones, awards?
We won Gold for our Hefeweizen and Silver for Hophead IPA at the 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards. We will release our first new specialty in the beginning of December. The brewing staff is very excited and we hope our customers will be happy with the style we picked. Stay tuned!

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
I was looking for a career in 1989 and brewing sounded interesting and it worked out great so far. I did an apprenticeship in a brewery in Germany and love my job ever since.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
For me the best aspect is to be able to live and work in Canada. Working in a job I love and living in Kelowna is a bonus.

Describe the relationship between the West Coast breweries.
We are a member of the BC Craft Brewers Association, and have good relationships with many other breweries. We all share the same passion for growing the appreciation and awareness of BC craft beer. We are the only craft brewery in Kelowna, so we don’t have the same proximity that many others have on the island and lower mainland.

Where can someone find your products?
British Columbia and Alberta liquor stores, as well as many restaurants and pubs.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
We are very flexible and have the chance to create each beer as we see it brewed best.

Best time for a pint?
When you ever you feel like one.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
19 years of living a good life in a great industry and no end in sight.

Cold clean lager or big hoppy pale ale?
I go for hoppy, ale and lager’s.

Name your favourite non Tree produced beer.
Meckatzer Loewenbraeu Weiss Gold Export Lager

Monday, October 20, 2008

OCB Discovery Pack #2

Last fall the Ontario Craft Brewers Association released a discovery pack that consisted of four lagers and two ales aimed towards capturing new drinkers. It seemed to work. The $11.95 discovery packs sold out very quickly and had to be re-stocked just in time for the Christmas holiday. It was also re-released in April due to its success and prompted the OCB to re-visit the idea this fall.

The second edition of the discovery pack is slated to be released onto the LCBO shelves any day now (actually November 1st) and features six different beers from the first pack. They are - Robert Simpson Confederation Ale, Mill Street Tankhouse Ale, Trafalgar Elora Irish Ale, Black Oak Nut Brown Ale, Cameron's Auburn Ale, and Nickel Brook Apple Pilsner.

The discovery pack will be available in more than 170 LCBO outlets province wide and includes tasting notes on all six beers along with educational notes on the craft brewing industry in Ontario.

Many Bar Towel members and other beer enthusiasts were perplexed with the first discovery pack claiming it to be weak and uninspiring, leading the OCB to reiterate that the new pack was targeted towards a different market. And I'm sure that the selection chosen for the second discovery pack will have some people shaking their heads as well as the pack does not include any porters, stouts or barley wines, all good styles for the upcoming months of the winter coldness.

There are a handful of breweries making good porter/stout in this province that are members of the OCB and their products would have been a nice addition to the pack. Hockley Valley's Stout (Silver medal at CBA's), Black Oak Nutcracker Porter and Double Chocolate Cherry Stout, John By Imperial Stout and Black Irish Plain Porter from Heritage, and Barley Days Yuletide Cherry Porter would all have been nice additions. But again I think the target market for the discovery pack is those drinkers that don't normally try such diverse products and the beers chosen should work well with their, dire I say it, inexperienced palate. However, that being said, I think this selection of beer is much better than the first offering with quality flavour in the Tankhouse, Black Oak Brown Ale and Cameron's Auburn Ale.

I agree with the OCB stance of offering these discovery packs and I like the way they promote them to the general public. I remember seeing people scoop them up at the LCBO and claim that they've never heard of some of the beer. It is a great way to reach new potential buyers and will hopefully lead to a quarterly offering.

Free Our Beer Website Updated

Cass Enright, founder of www.bartowel.com, launched a new website back on July 8, 2008 called Free Our Beer in relation to the series of articles the Toronto Star ran about the Beer Store.

After taking a bit of a hiatus to focus on the Golden Tap Awards and other endeavours, Enright has recently posted three new columns to the site.

Here they are:

Dreaming of California
Ted Chudleigh Chimes In
Ultimate Source: Part One

I feel it important to share this site with you and encourage you to share it with others who may not understand the way that the Beer Store is operated here in Ontario.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Are you Hopping Mad?

I was in the area of the Granite Brewery last night so I jumped at the opportunity to duck into the pub and try the newest addition to the Granite's family of beers: Hopping Mad.

The 6% cask conditioned ale arrived to my table and I immediately stuck my nose into the glass to get a big whiff of hoppy goodness. I must have looked out of place as the other clientele in the Granite did not look the type to sniff and make notes about the beer they were drinking. Regardless of the stares, I pushed on, sniffing away.

The Hopping Mad is a medium copper/auburn coloured ale that came with a white bubbly head that gently faded away with each sip. The nose of the beer consisted of sweet caramel malt and fresh floral hops, very nicely balanced. The last smell came as the beer was almost drained and the pint glass was near empty - beautifully aromatic.

With that out of the way, I raised the glass and took a large mouthful. Grassy/earthy qualities were picked up along with a little citrusy grapefruit notes to compliment the caramel flavouring from the malt. The strong presence of hops left a lingering smooth bitterness and finished dry on the tongue. Very nice. The temperature was perfect, slightly chilled. Made along the lines of the American style IPA's with the English flair of the cask conditioned variety that the Granite is known for.

I asked Monte (bartender) how the beer had been selling at the pub and he was surprised how receptive customers have been, it's been selling great. "People see something new added to the line-up and are curious to try it. When they do, they usually like it and order more." The Granite bumped their regular IPA off the menu in favour of the Hopping Mad and I don't imagine there will be many complaints.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Beer Arriveth

I stopped by Volo tonight to pick something up and noticed all the casks getting lined up outside on the patio. Black Oak's Ken Woods was there helping move some patio furniture around and arranging the firkins while Ralph worked on some other tasks for the start of the big event that commences tomorrow.

Ralph confirmed that the Dieu du Ciel and Hopfenstark products arrived and were already received, picked up, and are now waiting to be tapped.

Here is the latest list for this weekend's Cask Days:

Barley Days Brewery, Wind & Sail Dark Ale
Hockley Valley Brewing, Black Forest Stout
Maclean's Ales, Maclean's Pale Ale - Dry Hopped
Wellington Brewery, Iron Duke Strong Ale
F & M Brewing, George's Double Red
F & M Brewery, Stonehammer Dark Ale
Stratford Brewing, Empire Common
Pepperwood Bistro/Brewery, Pepperwood Mild Ale
Nickel Brook Beer, Nickel Brook ESB
County Durham Brewing Co., Hop Addict IPA
County Durham Brewing Co., Hop Head IPA
Mill Street Brewery, Green Hopped Tankhouse
Mill Street Brewery, Coffee Porter
Saint Andre Brewing, Doug's Hop Masher Ale
Wellington Brewing Co., Arkell Best Bitter
Grand River Brewing Co., Plowmans Ale
Niagara's Best Beer, Niagara's Best Blond - Dry Hopped
Railway City Brewing Co., Iron Spike Copper Harvest Ale
Great Lakes Brewery, Pumpkin Ale
Great Lakes Brewery, Peach & Pepper Ale
Great Lakes Brewery, Oatmeal Chocolate Stout
Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C., Fuller's London Pride
Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C., Fuller's ESB
Granite Brewery, Peculiar Strong Ale
Granite Brewery, Hopping Mad Pale Ale
Trafalgar Brewing Bewleys Breakfast Ale (Black Tea Brown Ale)
Cameron's Brewing Co., Clove & Dagger Ale
Cameron's Brewing Co., Brewers Surprise Ale (TBA)
Amsterdam Brewing Co, KLB Pale Ale
Amsterdam Brewing Co, Framboise
Robert Simpson Brewing, Pale Ale
Scotch Irish Brewing Co., Corporal Punishment Brown Ale
Scotch Irish Brewing Co., Black Plain Irish Porter
Neustadt Springs Brewery, Elderbrau Lager
Black Oak Brewing Co., Homegrown Hop Bomb Pale Ale
Black Oak Brewing Co., Sweet Potato Nutbrown Ale
Church Key Brewing, West Coast Pale Ale - Wet Hopped
Church Key Brewing Co., Purple Loosestife Mead
Church Key Brewing Co., Tobacco Road
King Brewery, Unfiltered Hopped Pilsner
C'Est What, Homegrown Hemp Ale
Denison's Brewing Co., 2007 Dunkel Lager (Tap)
Grand River, Mill Race Mild
Grand River, 2007 Grand River Jubilation Spiced Ale (Tap)
Dieu Du Ciel!, Vaisseau des Songes IPA
Dieu Du Ciel!, Penombre Black IPA
Dieu Du Ciel!, Péché Mortel (Tap)
Dieu Du Ciel!, Rigor Mortis Abt (Tap)
Dieu Du Ciel!, Corne Du Diable IPA (Tap) (
Hopfenstark, Post Colonial IPA
Hopfenstark, Saison Station 16 (Tap)
Hopfenstark, Blanche de L'Ermitage (Tap)
True North Brewery, Trilight - Well Hopped Real Lager
Beau's All Natural Brewing, Night Marsen
Cool Brewery, Twisted Millennium Buzz
Publican House Brewery, Square Nail Pale Ale (Tap)


56 listed!!


*Photo taken last year*

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TAPS: Fall Issue Review

When invited guests of the 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards departed the Richmond for the evening they were provided with a gift bag that included the newest issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine, the fall issue.

This was the second issue that featured the new look of the front cover and the fourth issue released under the new ownership, which is inching closer to their first anniversary of the re-launch.

The Fall issue is one of the best in my opinion, as the contributing writers all submitted exciting and engaging stories from the beer world and the many colourful pictures jump from the page. You'll notice that three new faces have joined the TAPS writing team as 'Professor of Beer' Roger Mittag was welcomed to the magazine along with British Columbia based freelance drinks writer Joe Weibe as well as Greg Clow's wife Sheryl Kirby who heads up TasteTO with Clow.

The magazine has also added a tasting section where six of us, including the Toronto Star's Josh Rubin, taste and review Canadian beer. This issue saw Propeller IPA, Tree Cutthroat, Great Lakes Pumpkin, Creemore Pilsner, Old Yale Sasquatch Stout and Dieu du Ciel Derniere Volonte get the spotlight.

Here is a breakdown of the content you'll find within the pages of Canada's only beer magazine.

Stephen Beaumont shares his expertise in setting up a high end beer dinner with the right beers;

Greg Clow tells a beautifully illustrated tale about the history of Porter and lists a number of respectable breweries in Canada that get the style right;

Bill Perrie talks about his view on the high and mighty Beer Store and what would happen to small craft breweries should grocery stores start selling beer;

Mirella Amato takes us to Quebec to Le Trou du Diable brewpub and profiles some members of the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association and their deep homebrewing passions;

Roger Mittag shares an inside look at the Canadian Brewing Awards Judging that took place back in September with notes on the judges, how judging is performed and what the atmosphere was like;

Craig Pinhey discusses the new wave of light beers from large macro breweries that are popping up along the East Coast and profiles the beautiful book "Sociable" that was written by Bob Cannon;

Bill White gives us beer and food pairings as well as a report from the World Brewing Congress he attended;

Joe Weibe carries readers on his shoulders while he travels across Victoria BC on an Ale trail;

Sarah Otto evaluates organic and gluten free beers for those not blessed with a wheat tolerance;

The complete winners list from the CBA judging is included; and,

I finally had the Henry House article published, albeit a smaller condensed version and I shared some insight on the new Railway City Brewing Co., Volo Cask Days, Roland and Russell Import report and some smaller tidbits throughout the mag.

Pick up your copy today at select Chapters/Indigo stores, Book City, independent newsstands or contact the magazine through the website at www.tapsmagazine.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Little Rest and Relaxation

After another busy week with stops at the Abbot on the Hill for the Czechvar release party, a work party at a local pub, the father in-law's birthday party and Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen launch at the Abbot on the Hill, I needed a bit of rest. I apologize for not getting anything up on the blog over the weekend, and as you can see below, I didn't get that rest.

I woke up on Saturday morning with a sore throat and faced the difficult task of dragging myself out of bed to attend two funerals (a new record for me). The day was long and the need for a good solid beer was calling my name; however, due to this stupid sickness I didn't want to waste a beauty as I wouldn't really get a lot of taste or smell; like the bottle of Beer Geek Breakfast I so craved.

Sunday was brunch time at the Abbot on the Hill as Octoberfest rolled into town. The Hill had Hacker Pschorr's Octoberfest Marzen on draught for the first time in Ontario and had prepared some authentic German food. I had a couple pints of the marzen along with my bratwurst over pumpernickel bread with poached eggs and hollandise sauce. The Hill was also running an Olympic fundraiser and featured many collectible items up for auction.

Sunday was also the fiance's family's Thanksgiving. I hugged the end of the couch with a bottle of Grand River's Mill Race Mild, a delicious sessionable ale rich in flavour and body, and with a little medicine earlier in the day, I was able to actually enjoy it. With dinner brought Brooklyn Local 1 to the table. It was perfect with the turkey and yams. When the pumpkin pie was brought out a bottle of Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale followed and the two meshed perfectly. Others tried it for the first time and realized that the two worked so much better than the red wine they were currently consuming with the pie, much to my delight.

Which brings me to yesterday. Still feeling terrible (actually getting worse) I headed back up to Orillia for my family's dinner. I hid in a corner reading Stephen Leacock's 'Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town' sipping La Fin Du Monde trying to get some rest from the crazy house full of little cousins. I was beat by the time I got home late last night and back to work this morning.

So after voting tonight, I plan on resting in front of the television, gathering the energy to make it to Volo this weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cask Days Welcomes Hopfenstark and Dieu Du Ciel

Volo Cask Days is a phenomenal three day event that has gained increased popularity since Ralph Morana held the first one four years ago. Ontario breweries continue to raise the bar by producing a number of one-offs and speciality beers strictly for the event, and again, this year will feature a number of bold creations that are sure to capture the attention and admiration of the true beer fans and beer raters. “Year after year the men and women of Ontario continue to impress me with their creativity,” stated Morana.

There will also be a number of Quebec beers to compliment the onslaught of participating breweries from Ontario as Morana has confirmed that 2 casks from Dieu du Ciel will be available along with a small keg from the outstanding Quebec brewery Hopfenstark.

Dieu du Ciel will be sending casks of their Penombre black IPA and Vaisseau Des Songs IPAwhile a cask conditioned keg of Postcolonial IPA will be sent by Hopfenstark.

Drooling yet? “There’s more,” says Morana.

Dieu du Ciel will also be represented with fresh kegs of their Péché Mortel, Rigor Mortis (not sure which one) and Corne du diable IPA, which will all be available for patrons to sample. There may also be a member of Dieu du Ciel on hand (Friday sessions) to answer questions about their award winning beers.

Not to be out done, Hopfenstark will have 2 draught lines as their Saison Station 16 and Blanche de L'Ermitage are making their first Ontario appearances. Members of the brewery are also expected to pay Volo a visit and are intending to stay for the duration of the weekend festival.

“Having both of these terrific Quebec breweries here at Volo for the first time, at our Cask Days, means a lot,” stated Morana as he told me about the struggles he went through to get the beer into Ontario. He further elaborated, “This will also be the opportunity for us to introduce the HMH team to the crowd as the official agents for DDC and Hopfenstark. Myself and my brother in-law Carl make up the HMH team and we are ecstatic to represent these breweries in Ontario”.

It should be noted that samples of the above mentioned beers will be priced slightly higher than the other samples, based on the cost to bring the beers here.

So, if you actually needed further reasoning as to why this event should not be missed, DDC and Hopfenstark products should push you in the right direction. Keep your eye on www.caskdays.com for further ticket information and session availability.

Beau's: New Fall Seasonal

Another new seasonal beer is in the works at Beau's All Natural Brewery out in Vanleek Hill, and just it time too, as the last of the Festivale has run dry. "We have been working on a Marzen, which has taken a long time to ferment, but it's tasting amazing," quoted Steve Beauchesne, owner of the up-and-coming brewery. "We wanted to release it earlier, but it's getting better everyday."

Beau's plans to release the Marzen, which has yet to be named, on Oct 18th. They will be hosting a launch celebration at the brewery from 1pm to 6pm, complete with Oktoberfest-style food and live music.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Can't make it out to Vanleek on the 18th? Don't worry, us beer fans in Toronto will have a chance to sample the Marzen at Volo's Cask Days as Beau's will be sending a firkin of the new product.

Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale Launch Tonight

Got no plans tonight?

Then head over to the Victory Cafe, the terrific pub in Mirvish Village to help welcome back Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale. Just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend, this pumpkin flavoured ale is always a sure hit at the dinner table, especially with a big serving of sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie.

The festivities kick off at 6:00pm with a live band, delicious finger foods (pumpkin themed) and a selection of Great Lakes products. After being reviewed in the Toronto Star yesterday, Great Lakes is expected a large number of fans to attend tonight so get there early and grab a spot.

Here's what I thought about this year's batch - taken from TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine.

The fall months have been a long time coming, and released just in time to welcome them with open arms is another one of the Great Lakes seasonals; Pumpkin Ale. The beer pours a clear amber colour with a thin white rim of sturdy head and leaves behind a bit of lacing. Hints of pumpkin come wafting from the mouth of the glass and are joined by other earthy aromas of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, which are all added during the brewing process. The taste consists of the above mentioned ingredients, and a small spicy hop presence combined with sweet malt balances this autumn brew out nicely. Serve with a slice of mom’s homemade pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving.

Ontarians Deserve More Choice: MPP Chudleigh

Uniting beer drinkers
Ontarians Deserve More Choice
By Ted Chudleigh, My View, Halton MPP
*Obtained from http://www.burlingtonpost.com/opinions/article/211254

Oct 08, 2008

Beer me!
The taste and availability of clean, cold Canadian beer is now controlled by foreign interests.

The Ontario beer market has been in a constant state of flux since the introduction of modern brand marketing more than 20 years ago.

First it was tall bottles. That was supposed to be a death knell to the bottle collection program. It didn’t happen. Then it was twist off caps, a growth in package choices, light beer, low carb beer, and . . . well you get it.

Now that consolidations have swept the beer industry, leaving Canada’s brewers in the hands of foreign owners, it’s a good time to re-consider the retailing of beer in Ontario.

Ontario’s big three brewers own the retail arm known as The Beer Store. That means that the profits attached to retailing beer go to the head offices of InBev of Belgium, Colorado’s Coors’ and Sapporo of Japan.

Ontarians deserve the same convenience enjoyed by people in most other jurisdictions in North America, where there are multiple outlets for beer. Surely selling beer in grocery stores is not going to bring an end to our civilization.

What it will bring is greater choice, lower prices and a wider range of retail outlets. The public would also get a wider range of bottle return locations which would encourage a better level of participation in the return program — good for the environment.

I understand about 300,000 trips are made to beer stores each week. If those trips take people an average of one kilometre out of their way Ontarians are burning fuel for about 300,000 kilometres a week — enough for a significant impact on our air quality.

Other people are concerned about the security issue — feeling that underage drinkers would have easier access to alcohol. However, with proper regulation, including the ability to pull a retailers’ licence to sell beer in the event of a violation, this should not be a problem.

Burlington resident Derek Forward started a petition asking the Ontario government to change its regulations on the retailing of beer. He has collected thousands of signatures.

I will be reading these petitions into the record at Queen’s Park to encourage the government to enter the 21st century and ditch the current Soviet-style retail arrangement.

This idea is catching on. Business associations which represent retailers are interested in pushing the government on this issue. They recognize that the ability to offer beer to the buying public enhances their profit margin, protects jobs in Ontario and helps build their business.

We have considered this change before. David Peterson campaigned on it. Some say his failure to implement the promised change was a significant factor in his election defeat and the surprise reign of Bob Rae’s NDP.

I’ll leave you to draw you own conclusions about what might happen if we don’t move ahead with wider beer retailing opportunities — certainly an opportunity to reduce emissions, improve bottle collection and secure Ontario jobs will be missed.

That’s why I have provided a printable copy of the petition at www.tedchudleigh.com for your convenience. I must have hard copies of the petition in order to read them into the record at Queen’s Park. Cheers.

Ted Chudleigh is the MPP for Halton riding.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Alexander Keith's Stout

I used to be a Keith's drinker during my late high school and college years and collected everything bearing the trademark Stag logo. I moved away to Halifax and worked for Labatt and was involved in the Keith's family of beers. I grew up quickly though and realized the positives of the Canadian craft brewing industry.

The 'real' history of Alexander Keith is fascinating, one that has really been lost in today's macro beer marketing. Lately, while scanning various beer forums and websites I noticed a thread on Beer Advocate regarding a new Keith's product called 'Keith's Stout'. It was released just in time for Keith's 213th birthday.

I imagine many readers of this blog had the same first thought that I did when hearing about this Stout: Skeptical. Which brings me to tonight.

There is a chain pub near my office and I had won a night of free appetizers for a group of co-workers. This particular pub had Keith's stout on tap and I had to try it. The sample glass arrived at my table and another co-worker asked if it was Keith's Red Amber, not knowing what I had ordered. Which tells you that the colour was not jet black, but with many shades of red, Coca-Cola like. Nor was there any of that mocha or creamy coloured white head that many stouts feature. The glass was very cold so I let it warm up a bit. It didn't really help. The aroma has faint cocoa and coffee notes but thin at best. The taste, well, it tasted like a lager with dark roasted malts, a dark larger if you will. The carbonation was high, again, giving the impression that this sample resembled that of their lager.

I had the co-worker taste it. He's a semi beer fan who boldly said, "I don't like it, tastes kinda sour and sugary." Not surprising.

I felt the same way. I didn't like it (not that I expected myself too) and pictured Alexander Keith the man drinking this stuff. I don't think he'd like it either. It's discouraging to know that the average 'Molson Canadian' drinker out there may try this and think every stout will taste like this.

Bring on the craft beer stouts, it's getting to be that time.

**Photo borrowed from www.keithclan.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Big Rock Espresso Stout and Winter Spice Ale

For those of you living in Alberta making the big bucks; tuck a little aside for two re-introduced Big Rock brews, as the brewery based out of Calgary has announced its plans for McNally's Winter Spice Ale and their Espresso Stout.

The McNally's Winter Spice will be available as a gift set that includes four bottles of beer, two beer glasses and some ginger cookies from Cookie Occasion (a Calgary based company).
*Brewed with both pale and caramel malts it gives off a warm amber glow and, upon first sip, the depth of flavour is revealed: notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a hint of ginger. This seasonal brew has an alcohol content of 6% and is sure to warm your heart –and cheeks!
2 reviews on ratebeer.

The Espresso Stout is also back for its third year backed by popular demand. It will be available for purchase in 6 packs at select outlets. Not so great ratebeer reviews.

Big Rock products are sold in eight provinces and three territories in Canada and, oddly enough, they are also available in Korea. For more information on Big Rock Brewery visit bigrockbeer.com.
*Taken from Press Release*

Railway City Brewing Co. Update

Since opening for business back in April of this year, Railway City Brewing Co. has been busy getting their beer out to new accounts, keeping old accounts happy and making sure they get involved in some beer events close to home and here in Toronto. Their beers recently made an appearance at the Golden Tap Awards back in August and one of the three brands have since been on tap at Volo and C'est What.

Here is some other news from Railway City.

Well, they have updated their website to provide interested beer drinkers with a list of every account their beer is sold in, including C'est What, where those from Toronto are encouraged to go try it for the first time.

Look for their first ever Cask at Volo Cask Days October 17-19, they're not sure how it will turn out, but they're happy to be contributing to a great beer event such as this.

Not long ago, Railway City participated in a Harley Davidson Customer Appreciation event where they sold a keg in less than 20 minutes and 5 kegs in less than 5 hours.

New to the pub scene will be Railway City's new coasters with their bold logo. If you're a pub representative, give the brewery a call to see how to get some for your establishment.

Also, Railway City has brought in some additional consultants to help with some improvements on the brewing side of things and to work with the brewing team to increase their knowledge, while ensuring consistency is maintained.


Great to hear some good news from one of Ontario's newest craft breweries.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ontario's Best Pubs - Book Give-away

Last week I posted a short interview I conducted with Bill Perrie, Canada's Pub Guy, so I thought it would be a good time to give-away one of the books he authored back in 2005. Ontario's Best Pubs was written shortly after Canada's Best Pubs was released and features profiles on a number of pubs throughout the province.

The book is laid out by city, in alphabetical order, and includes pubs of all shapes and sizes, from the large chain owned pubs to the smallest independently owned establishments. Each pub profile also features a photograph of either the building or the interior layout. Perrie describes the atmosphere, the food and beer menu's, the physical location and more. The book acts as a guide when your out there on the road visiting new towns and villages, pointing out the pubs Perrie thinks are worth checking out.

How to win a copy? Send me an e-mail (greatcanadianpubs@gmail.com) with "Ontario's Best Pubs" in the subject line and name an Ontario pub that Perrie mentioned during his interview.

A winner will be chosen at random when the contest closes at 8pm tonight. Good luck!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Busy Week for the Abbot on the Hill

Just a friendly reminder that the quaint Abbot on the Hill gastropub will be hosting two events this week at their Yonge St location, just north of the Summerhill TCC station.

Tomorrow night the staff of the Abbot will throw a launch party for Czechvar, a beer steeped in history and great in taste. The beer will be available on draught for the first time in Ontario and members of the Czech Republic consulate will be on hand to soak in the festivities. Here are the details.

Also, this weekend will see Olympic athletes gather at the pub for an Oktoberfest Olympic Fundraiser with brunch and dinner seatings. Click here for more information.

Two fun events in a great place should make for excellent times.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Session #20 - Beer Memories

After taking a brief hiatus from participating in the monthly Sessions I decided to get back in when I saw this month's topic: 'Beer Memories'. The topic was chosen by Bathtub Brewery Beer Blog who are also graciously hosting.

I have many good memories that involve beer, ones from my youth when I first held a macro lager to my lips. More memories from my late teens when hockey, baseball and rugby matches meant getting together with the boys for some drinks afterwards, those were some good times with some good stories. Other memories have been created since I embarked on this craft beer and pub writing, tasting and promoting journey. Events like the Canadian Brewing Awards, Dogfish Head Beer Dinner, Volo Cask Days and the day classes with Ron Keefe last fall have all created good memories, as have trips to places like the Granite, C'est What, Propeller, Cameron's, Mill Street, Bar Volo (which include conversations with Ralph) and my frequent night caps at Halifax's Henry House. The list can go on and on.

I'm sure you're all probably tired of my mentioning the Henry House, I've wrote about it before numerous times and the story is also featured in the Fall issue of TAPS, but here I am to tell you about how it is the best beer memory I have.

When I was living in Halifax and breathing the ocean air, I would make the 2 minute walk from the front door of my apartment building over to the Henry House every Thursday evening with a handful of close friends. We would gather in the basement pub, order food and delicious cask conditioned ale and catch up with one another. We would converse with bartender Mel, who was always quick with a joke or a sarcastic comment. We would always say that we only had a two beer limit before heading home, but we rarely stuck to our guns, sometimes staying until closing.

The owners, Bill and Donna, were/are fantastic people who always treated us right. They were accommodating, quickly realizing how much their pub meant to me and the others and they never hesitated to venture over to our table for a conversation. Combine all these elements together and you can realize why I miss it so much. My fiance and I got engaged at Peggy's Cove and to help celebrate the occasion we all (big group) headed to the pub where we were greeted with toast's from Mel and Donna, much to our bewilderment. The memories created by the staff will never be forgotten on my part and whenever I think of Halifax or hear about the east coast brewing industry, I can't help but remember all the good times I shared in the pub.

As I mentioned earlier, there are so many other memories that I'll be able to hang onto forever. Like the time I interviewed Sam Caligione from Dogfish Head when he was in Toronto. One of the first beer books I ever read cover to cover, over and over, was Caligione's "Brewing up a Business" and when I heard he was coming to Toronto for a beer dinner I knew I had to meet him. I was lucky enough to steal him away from the crowd for 30 mins to ask him some questions and now everytime I drink a Dogfish product I'll remember that interview.

Same can be said for meeting and interviewing Garrett Oliver late last month at Fionn MacCool's. His book, Brewmaster's Table, is another beer book that I can't live without and meeting the larger than life beer figure was pretty special to me.

On the beer side of things, whenever I see a bottle Old English malt liquor in the liquor store or see a discarded one on the street, I remember the first time I couldn't see straight. Or when I am offered a Molson or Coors product I think about the after rugby parties in high school. So many craft beers have provided me with lasting memories that I am grateful for and I know there are many more to come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Denison's Dunkel is Back

I popped into Bar Volo last night for a meeting, and low and behold Michael Hancock of Denison's was there, drinking a pint of his signature Munich style Dunkel.

On draught for the first time in a while, Hancock asked if I wanted one and how could you say no. Glad I accepted because it had been a long time since I last had one. Very nice and perfectly sessionable, this beer caters to both beer enthusiast's and the person just starting out on a craft beer drinking journey.

The Dunkel will now be available year-round as there is no problem with capacity at the Cool brewery, where it is currently being brewed under contract. "It will be tricky trying to re-introduce the brand after having it off line for so long. It could have been ready in the summer, but I decided to hold off until to the fall to bring it back," stated Hancock. The Dunkel has already started to roll out to establishments across the GTA and into Kitchener.

After my meeting was finished I headed back up to chat with Volo owner Ralph Morana and Hancock and ended up staying longer than I had intended. We discussed Cask Days ticket sales, which by the way are going strong, but as mentioned here earlier this week, there are still some up for grabs. Morana also shared some of the beers that will be available and my god, I think drool actually fell from my lip. Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Meet Canada's Pub Guy: Bill Perrie

Bill Perrie is Canada's Pub Guy. Years ago while doing an on air radio show, Perrie was given the moniker after completing an epic journey from coast to coast, stopping at pubs of all shapes and sizes along the way. Over the years he has penned three pub guides (Pub Guide to Ontario, Ontario's Best Pubs and Canada's Best Pubs) along with another colourful book about some Ontario Craft Breweries. He is a strong supporter of all things related to beer, both on the national and regional level, and a proud member of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine where he writes, sells advertising and stands in front of the camera.

I recently asked Perrie a couple of questions about his love for pubs, his experience traveling the nation and what project he is currently working on.

How many pubs have you visited in Canada?
That’s a tough one Troy! I have written about 750 in total after visiting around 1500 as the Pub Guy. Add another 400 or so over the years as non work related (On my days off ;))

What do you look for in a good pub?
Friendly service. I like feeling welcome at a bar and not like I am interrupting someone's day. A good draught selection, if a bar can’t support many taps at least have a local micro. So basically a happy face and a good beer and I’m in a good pub.

How long have you been touring Canada's pubs?
9 years now, I have taken a break for a while so am itching to get back out there and do another book. I missed so many places and many more have opened up not, to mention the ones that people have told me about.

Describe your pub crawl from NFLD to BC
It was actually the other way round, I thought if I had started in Newfoundland I would have never got off the island. The greatest thing about the whole experience was seeing what a beautiful country Canada is. I had never been out of Ontario so it was also an awakening for me. I loved the vastness of the Prairies and when I first saw the mountains approaching Canmore I could not believe the beauty, I had to pull over to take it all in. B.C was amazing, I am a huge animal lover and to see Elk, Moose and Black Bear at the side of the highway was incredible. I found the people of Quebec to be very helpful, contrary to what I had been told; of course the East Coast was fantastic, great people and a sense of belonging. I loved P.E.I., that was the province that surprised me the most, so friendly and great pubs. Newfoundland was exciting, it’s a country on its own, great people; lots of Moose so never drive at night. The other great thing about the trip was the fact that I had no agenda, I went wherever people told me a great bar was and in truth the bars were amazing where I met many many interesting folk who still keep in touch.

Which province featured the nicest bartenders?
Nice as in polite or as in looks? I’ll answer both; nice P.E.I., looks Alberta.

Name your favourite pub in Ontario.
I love the Duchess of Markham, The Winking Judge in Hamilton, The Old Mill in Ashton, The Highlander in Ottawa, Kildare House in Windsor, it's too tough to say, there are many pubs that are such a pleasure to visit.

What's so great about pubs, why the fascination?
In Scotland the pub was your local community centre, it’s where you went everyday after work to catch up with your pals, on the weekends we went there after soccer games and on Saturday nights everyone brought their wives and girlfriends. It was your home away from home. I love when I find a pub over here that has that same "community" feel.

How important are good owners to a pub's success?
It's the difference between a pub making it or not, hands on owners are the best however they do have to have a personality, I know many pubs that are less frequented because the owners are surly or sit with their own little clique at the bar. Many corporate pubs work well, they have a good G.M. the staff are trained to be nice and knowledgeable and you will always get good food and a large draught selection but it’s a plastic atmosphere and not the real warmth that can be found in an independently owned bar.

What do you like best about the beer industry?
I like the choices available; it’s a pleasure to pick up any beer which suits my mood.

Pint or bottle?
In a busy bar I mostly go for pint, when not sure about how often a tap has been used then bottle.

What's your take on music in pubs?
Maybe it’s my age but I am not a fan of loud music that takes away from conversation, I don’t mind tunes in the background.

Sports bar, traditional pub, gastropub, beer bar - Which do you prefer?
It does not really matter to me as long as the staff are friendly and there is something I like on tap. Although a lack of tv's are preferable.

What projects are you currently working on?
I want to do a new book next summer, I am hoping for a national one again. Right now I am just glad to be a part of TAPS; it’s a great look at the world of beer.

So there you have it folks, straight from the mouth of Canada's Pub Guy.
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