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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
One of the developments is their weekly barbecue that takes place in front of the brewery on Friday evenings. Between 4 and 6 pm, customers who stop by the brewery to pick up their favourite Great Lakes product can enjoy a free sausage on a bun while chatting with a Great Lakes employee. I headed out there one Friday after work and witnessed first hand the appreciation the customers had for this project. The barbecue will run every Friday evening (4-6pm) until the end of summer.
But the big development taking place at the brewery was only confirmed today.
Project X was launched today with a post on the Great Lakes Blog. The project will be a monthly event where the brewery will tap an exclusive 'one off' cask conditioned beer created specifically for the event and the first such night will take place on Thursday July 9th between 6:30 and 9:00pm. The cost of admission to each monthly event will only be $10 and that will provide you with access to samples of the 'one off' beer, some beer themed food, drink tickets for some Great Lakes regular products, and a brewery tour.
You can also become a member. And it's easy to join the exclusive Project X membership. There will be an additional $10 fee that will grant you access to all the stuff mentioned above, and the $10 membership also includes a special t-shirt and a commemorative membership card. To sign up you will just need to show up for an event and register at the front counter of their retail store.
Bowden also let me know today that they are currently brewing the first edition of Project X, and the style of that beer won't be announced until it gets tapped on July 9th. The brewery put in a new pilot system just for this project, and to have a little fun with recipes. Project X hopes to grow into more than just a montly event, as Bowden mentioned that it would be cool to one day bottle some of the 'one off' beer for retail at the brewery's store.
Great Lakes is situated in Etobicoke just off the Gardiner Expressway at Islington. However, for events such as this it is always a good idea to leave the car in park and take public transit. Hop on the GO Train to Mimico station and make the short walk to the brewery, or you can take the bus from the Royal York subway station.
For more information about Project X, or becoming a member, you can contact the brewery through their website or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, June 29, 2009
Volo Announces Finalist's for Ontario Cask IPA Challenge:
Garrison Brewery to Grow Hops Locally:
Halifax's Garrison brewery has been in the papers recently thanks in part to their announced partnership with Ross Farm, part of the provincial museum system, as they will be working together to grow hops locally for future brews. Owner Brian Titus was quoted in the Chronicle Herald as saying, "a crop of Cascade and Willamette hops was planted at the end of May from root cuttings from the Lazy Acres farm near Wolfville. The goal is a brew made with 100 per cent local ingredients, and this will bring us closer."
Garrison Brew Master Announces the Ultimate Home Brew Contest Winner:
TAPS co-contributor, Craig Pinhey, authored an article for Halifax's The Coast newspaper about Garrison's Ultimate Brew Off contest that they recently held. Back in March, Garrison challenged Maritime homebrewers to brew an ordinary bitter to its specific style with the winner getting the chance to brew the recipe on a commercial scale, which would be bottled, and sold at the brewery and local NSLC retail outlets. Brian Harvey of Halifax was named the winner at a gala held at the brewery at the end of May.
Propeller Whips Out New Website:
Good friend and Propeller Sales and Marketing representative, Andrew Cooper, sent out a press release a couple weeks ago letting all Propeller fans know about the brewery's new website. The new site is sleek, and easy to navigate with loads of information. It also has a cool feature that lets individuals rate the Propeller brands and post comments about the beers. "We want our customers to be part of what we do here, whether they live around the corner or across the country. This will bring us closer together," stated Propeller President and Founder, John Allen.
Yukon Brewery Places Second in London's Real Ask Festival:
After 18 days of serving more than 3 million pints at the JD Wetherspoon Real Ale festival, organizers tallied the scores of the 50 casks from breweries from around the world, one that included Lead Dog Ale from the Yukon Brewing Company. When the dust finally settled, Yukon was notified that they finished 2nd, beating out 47 other breweries. Congratulations!
Brewing for a Living:
Yonge Street Pub Crawl:
Sunday, June 28, 2009
1000 Murray Ross Parkway
Toronto, ON M3J 2P3
Press releases are great for getting a point across, whether explaining something that's about to happen or about something that has already happened. When I received one from philpott communications about the Black Creek Historic Brewery a couple of weeks ago it did a great job informing me about Ontario's newest small brewery. It was nicely done, and laid out a nice picture, but it didn't do justice for what I was about to see last Monday.
Black Creek Pioneer Village is located near York University off Jane and Steeles and is home to a re-creation of life during the 1860's. Opened by the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority in 1960, the village features 40 heritage homes, shops, mills, barns, and other buildings to resemble a village as it would have looked in the late 1800's. The Half Way House Inn (a restored inn built in 1849) is one of these buildings and is now home to the Black Creek Historic Brewery.
The brewery officially opened on Monday June 22nd when the Honourable Provincial Minister of Heritage, Aileen Carroll, tapped the first barrel on the steps leading into the Inn. The brewery, opened with the help of a Provincial grant and private interest with Trafalgar Brewing Co., recreates a working brewery as it would have been in the mid 1800's and is situated in the basement of the Inn. The brewery is currently producing five beers: India Pale Ale, Pale Ale, Porter, Stout, and Dark Ale, and there are plans to brew a number of rotating styles - like a Barley Wine and a Mild.
I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to attend the grand opening on the 22nd, and as I mentioned, the press release didn't prepare me for what I was about to take part in. I had good expectations to begin with, but I was amazed with the detail that went into re-creating the brewery. After a brief walk through of the 'Ontario Brewing History' gala inside the actual village museum we were led by a man in a period costume playing the fiddle to the Inn where speeches were made and the barrel was tapped. From there we headed inside the Inn to the Taproom where we were poured a sample of the IPA, which was very nice. A touch of oak from the barrels shone through on the palate and the dry hopping was pleasant and refreshing. From here it was onto the Half Way House Kitchen where a sample of the Porter awaited us with some cheese straws. The Porter was sour, and lacked those chocolaty notes Porters are known for. Not for me.
The large basement of the Inn, which is where the brewery is found, also features a pub that will be serving up the beers produced on-site, along with a handful of other locally produced Ontario beers. We headed there next and had samples of the Dark Ale and the Pale Ale. Both very nice and extremely drinkable. The Dark had a nice roast profile to it and the Pale had a good earthy quality to it with a sharp hop bite. From my understanding the Pale will be packaged and sold through the LCBO come fall, which will most likely be done at Trafalgar under the Black Creek branding. It will be interesting to see how these beers turn out after spending some time in the oak barrels. The last stop on the tasting tour was at Roblin's Mill where we sampled the Stout.
Most of the equipment inside the brewery is made with copper and wood, one of which is the mash tun. The 200 litre wooden bin is filled with barley and stirred by hand and the wort is then sent to the brew kettle for boiling. When complete, the brewer will draw the beer into a bucket and pour it through a linen (cheesecloth) and from there it settles onto a large copper cooling sheet. Once it is cool enough the brewer will move the slots to the corresponding oak barrel and the beer will flow downwards into a funnel to age in the barrel. It is all done by hand, according to traditional methods. We watched as the brewer completed this process and he confirmed that they will be brewing every day. It was pretty damn cool.
Visitors to the village can enjoy a lively brewery tour lead by knowledgeable interpreters, starting daily in the Half Way House Tap Room at 12:30 and 3 p.m. You can sample the beers in the brewery or head over to the pub for a bite and a pint. Growlers are also available to purchase.
Here is the brewery in pictures.
From Field to Firkin: Beer History Tours
Tours are offered twice daily at 12:30 and 3 pm until December 31st (except December 25th and 26th). Learn the whole story of how beer was made, starting with how the ingredients are grown right through to sampling the beer. You can see where grain was milled and how barrels were made at the Cooperage. The cost is $4, which includes three samples in the brewery. Tickets are available at the Black Creek Pioneer Village admission desk. (Subject to availability. Village admission requires a separate ticket).
Special events are held through the season. To avoid disappointment, you can pre-purchase tickets to special Brewery events by calling 416-667-6295.
Field to Firkin: An Evening of Beer History
Every Friday evening in August and September
Enjoy an extended brewery tour with our lively staff. Meet the Brewmaster and sample a variety of beers. Round out the evening in the Pub with homemade root chips. The first pint is on us.
Call 416-667-6295 for tickets
Friday, June 26, 2009
Good news comes from Stephen Beaumont today, as he has posted some terrific news concerning Fat Cat Brewery on his 'That's the Spirit Blog'. It turns out that Fat Cat will be continuing operations on a month-to-month basis. Here is a paragraph from Beaumont's post. (Click here to be re-directed to Beaumont's entire blog post)
This morning, however, brought good news, as Bunny sent me an email announcing that the Fat Cat indeed has nine lives – or more like twenty-nine, by the sound of things -- and will continue operations on a month-to-month basis until a buyer for the business can be found. Which means, British Colombians, that their terrific IPA will continue to be available for some time to come.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Girard has been in the game for a number of years and brewed many award winning beers here in Canada. In 2005, while at Pump House, Girard's recipes paved the way for the brewery to be named the 'Canadian Brewery of the Year' at the Canadian Brewing Awards and years later Girard would go on to brew the 2008 Canadian Beer of the Year with Garrison.
When Cass Enright and I headed to Halifax to meet with Garrison owner Brian Titus, I was looking forward to finally meeting Girard for the first time after hearing so much about him from Titus. Unfortunately Girard was gone on vacation and the meeting did not happen. This is the next best thing.
How many years have you worked in the industry?
About 11 years. 2.5 years in Japan, 1 year in Germany and over 7 years in the Maritimes.
How did you get into brewing beer?
After a major in East-Asian Studies, I moved to Japan where I worked for about 4 years. I began working for a supplier of brewing equipment. Half of the customers I dealt with were Brewmasters (many who were German, some were Japanese and others were North-American) working in brewpubs, micro or large-scale breweries. At some point of my stay, I had to re-evaluate whether I would come back to Canada or keep on making a living in Japan. I decided I wanted to go back to Canada. I began by working as a brewer and translator in a medium size brewery (in Japan) for a few months then I left Japan for Germany where I started the brewmaster course in Berlin by the VLB (Institute of Brewing and Malting in Berlin). Once I graduated, I came back to Canada and found employment in the Maritimes.
Where were you before Garrison?
The Pump House Brewery in Moncton, NB. I worked there as brewmaster from July 2001 to June 2007. I was responsible of all aspects of the production during those six years. I had been deeply involved in the expansion of the new packaging plant. It has been a good working experience. Moncton is where I started to experiment in developing new products and processes (R&D) and gain expertise with food and beer pairing.
How long have you been brewing with Garrison?
I have been working here more than a year now. I started in March of 2008.
What is your best selling beer?
Irish Red Ale - our first & still our strongest.
What is it like brewing crazy beers on the East Coast?
It's great! I really enjoy being able to produce them. It seems that people on the East Coast crave the extremes. It might not have always been that way, but it certainly is right now. It's very exciting. The sky is the limit.
Which provinces currently sell Garrison products?
All our core brands (Raspberry Wheat, Tall Ship Amber, Irish Red, Nut Brown and of course, Imperial Pale Ale) are sold over Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We've also started shipping seasonals as well, such as Grand Baltic Porter, Sugar Moon Maple and this summers' Hopyard Pale Ale.
As many people know, some of our products will soon be available in Ontario thanks to Cass Enright of The Bar Towel.
Tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know about.
Before I started working at Garrison, I tried to start my own little brewpub. I lacked of time and money to get going, but the exercise of putting the numbers together with the business plan opened my eyes and I understood the brewing business better. I believe it made me a better employee since I am more aware of the business aspect.
How successful have the seasonals been for Garrison?
Very successful. Most of them were sold out in a heartbeat. It is great to be able to make products that become popular while pushing boundaries because of the high alcohol contents or the use of special ingredients. It seems the customers ask for more.
What's your favorite beer style?
Hard to say. I like diversity; as long as the beer is flavourful.
What is your ideal food and beer pairing?
I have to bring up more than one pairing: Baltic Porter and stout with chocolate cake, German or Belgian style wheat ale with salad and vinaigrette, West Coast pale ale (should I rather say East Coast?) and India Pale Ale with Mexican, Thai or Cajun dish, and finally, a nice Barley Wine with foie gras.
Pick one Garrison beer to drink forever.
I must go with the … ImPA (Imperial Pale Ale).
What has been the highlight of your brewing career?
Actually there have been two: one is the Canadian Brewery of the Year 2005 when I was in Moncton (I am very thankful to both assistants at the time, Qian Zhang, who still works with me, and Glen Kervin). The achievement, the media coverage and the customers' response that followed was simply phenomenal; the other one was my joining Garrison in March of last year. I am appreciated for my hard work and respected for my expertise; my career is not all about money.
Best time for a pint?
With a meal after a long and hard day of work.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I had heard that Feather's founder/owner, Ian Innes, was looking at selling the authentic British pub for quite a while now, but all was quiet until about I contacted Innes a couple of weeks ago for some clarification and he confirmed that a sale was taking shape. Today I was notified that the sale has gone through.
Scottish born Innes opened the pub back in 1982 after moving to Toronto in the late 60's, doing what he says is every boy's dream. Feather's was run his way for over 25 years, re-creating the famed British pubs of the UK with terrific comfort food, warm hospitality and a decent beer line-up, which included a cask conditioned ale.
When I first moved to Toronto people were telling me to make sure I visited the pub right away as it sounded like my kind of place. I fell in love with it during that first visit back in November 2007 and I often take visitors from out of town there for some pints, and I've yet to hear any negative comments.
I for one will be raising my glass in Innes' honour tonight and I wish him all the best in whatever he gets up to.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
2455 Bloor Street West
If you visited Bryden's pub at Bloor Street West and Jane more than six months ago you would have glanced at the tap handles and noticed the same thing you do when you walk into any sports bar - multi-national products: Keith's, Stella, Hoegaarden, Moosehead, Becks, etc. A lot has changed since December as the draught line-up has gone through a tremendous overhaul and it starting to gain some much deserved attention.
The stretch of pubs along the area is littered with brands like Guinness, Rickard's and Keith's, and Bryden's, even though they offer Keith's and Guinness, are now doing their part to separate themselves from the pack by offering draught options rarely seen west of Bathurst. "Right now I've got Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale, GL Red Leaf, GL Horseshoe, Steam Whistle, Mike Duggan #9, Koningshoeven Tripel, Mill Street Organic and Tank House, St. Ambroise Cream Ale, Wellington Pale Ale, Grand River Galt Knife, Denison's Weissbier, Hacker Pschorr, Guiness, Keith's, Stella and Black Thorn Cider on tap, and a bunch of good craft beer in the beer fridge," said Tash.
"I don't want to be sold by someone, I want to sell someone. I want to believe in a product and sell it. Not be sold by a flashy marketing campaign," stated Tash, long time owner of Bryden's. "I love these beers and I love what they stand for, so they're here to stay."
"We have been slowly taking off the big guys for the little guys and so far the remarks from our customers have been great. Denison's Weiss replaced Hoegaarden and although it is a different style people have been quite enamoured with it." It was clearly evident as we sat on the patio. It was a hit with the crowd as customer after customer came out from the bar with the popular Toronto weissbier.
The topic of cask conditioned ale came up in conversation and Tash mentioned that he plans to do something with the wonderful drink in the future. "It's definitely something I'm considering. We'll probably do a small introduction with a couple of casks on a weekend, just to start off small and get the regulars interested."
The atmosphere inside Bryden's feels eerily similar to a backyard party. In a good way. Because the pub is small (capacity of 50 inside) everyone is part of the crowd. I'm told Bryden's was more sports bar than pubish in the past, but I got a good pub vibe from the place. "We are well supported by the local residents and I think that has helped create a nice relaxing atmosphere both inside the pub and outside on the patio," says Tash.
Mismatched furniture litters the inside of the pub. Well used and seasoned, the old chairs and couches look like pieces you'd put in the rec room of a basement, but damn are they comfy. There is a large four seater couch at the back of the pub beside an over sized Victoria style chair that is in front of a long slender coffee table, offering a great spot to bring a group for some pints to watch a hockey game on one of the three televisions. The tables and chairs used for eating are also an array of different styles, sizes and colours, putting a unique touch on the pub. The walls are decorated with beer signage from the big breweries who used to have more presence here, however, there are some micro-brewery signs here and there. There is a nice 30 person patio out front (see pic) that is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence decorated with some planted flowers. The patio is covered with two large patio umbrella's helping shade the people (even if they are Stella), which adds some comfort for the scorching hot days we're about to go through.
Bryden's has a lovely little 'L' shaped bar on the left side of the establishment that can accommodate up to 10 bar back chairs. The all wooden bar has a low lying overhead that has wire racks holding a number of chalices and tulip glassware, along with a bunch of hearty beer mugs for the regulars. A handful of 'stuffed' animal heads are plaqued and attached to this wooden overhead (don't worry PETA, their toys). The 4 brass rails running up the bar to the overhead ad an English touch and the bartender was very social and friendly, an added bonus here in Toronto and something that helps set a pub apart from their competition.
Each beer served at Bryden's comes in the appropriate glass, a big plus, and the beer coming from breweries that don't have branded glassware is served in a regular pint glass. No mistaken identity. The draught towers are nice and clean and are easy to read, which helps when it comes to making a decision about which beer to choose. There is a large mirror behind the bar partially blocked by a large amount of spirits and liqueurs bottles and the beer fridge is stocked with a variety of local craft product, imports, and some generic lagers for the unadventurous.
The food at Bryden's was terrific. I was there with some guys from Great Lakes Brewing and we ordered up a bunch of appetizers which included a to-die for quesadilla. Sliced pears, diced peameal, walnuts and brie cheese, dipped in a garlic aioli sauce. On Monday and Tuesday appetizers can be purchased for the low price of $6 and pitchers of Great Lakes Horseshoe and Red Leaf Lager are priced at $9.
Bryden's is a great pub that deserves some attention from those who follow the Toronto beer scene on a regular basis. There are certain pubs in Toronto that I've come to love and I think I've found a new west end hangout. Whether going to the pub by yourself or with a group of friends, Bryden's is a place that makes you feel welcomed, and the staff show their appreciation for your service with their outgoing and personable nature. A nice find just steps from the Jane subway station.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Engman laid out his plans for the re-vamping of the magazine and I was immediately hooked. After purchasing the rights to TAPS, Engman decided to strip it down, bring in new writers and new staff and make sure that the focus was strictly on beer; something the previous magazine severely neglected. Since then Engman and I have become good friends and I am very thankful for him bringing me onboard.
Happy Birthday Rob!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Vlado, along with Liliana, represent a number of terrific breweries from across the globe and are some of the nicest people I've ever come across. Vlado is a hard working guy clearly in the import business for the love of the product and it resonates in their business.
For all of you who've purchased a product brought into Ontario by Roland and Russell I encourage you to raise a glass to celebrate his birthday!
*photo* - Vlado on left, Cass Enright on right.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I remember sharing emails with Bunny Goodman, Operations Manager of Fat Cat, and she mentioned back in late May that due to issues with the landlord plans were to move out of their current location to take up residence in a new spot. "We are just about to move locations, we are still looking but we have to find something soon as we've already given notice to the landlord. We must be out by July 31."
Then the post on Beeradvocate that has the link to the flyer posted by Bunny on Probrewer.com.
An email was sent to Bunny to see what was taking place and the response I received was not one that any true fan of craft beer likes, or wants to hear. "We're shutting down. We had a sale in the works but that crumbled. We're exhausted and having problems with the current landlord. So, if you know of anyone out this way or would want to move to the island and have a small microbrewery....."
Unfortunate news indeed. There were a couple of products produced by Fat Cat that I quite enjoyed. The Barley Wine was a nice beer that I shared with a number of people who had some good things to say about it, and the Spring issue of TAPS featured a profile on their IPA with reviewers, Josh Rubin and Roger Mittag, writing positive remarks.
So here's wishing a Fat Cat and all their employees the best of luck in their future endeavours, and cheers to your years of making quality beer!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
35 Elm Street
"It feels like we just crashed somebody's living room party."
The Queen and Beaver Public House, which is owned and operated by Jamieson Kerr, who also owns Crush Wine Bar, is situated between two restaurants at 35 Elm street, a quiet side street just off of Yonge, and upon entering I think those were the first words out of my mouth when the group I was with took our seats in the middle of the second floor room.
The two floor establishment, which opened on Monday (June 15), has been designed to resemble an authentic British pub, and ironically its housed in an old Victorian building.
Queen and Beaver: Pub - Our Definition
Throughout history, the pub has been the place for people to relax, to celebrate, to mourn, to talk, to drink and to eat. This is tradition and we love it.
The first floor is divided into three dining areas, each secluded from each one another. To the right of entering is a small sun room with a number of couches, chairs and tables all facing out to Elm street and over look the sidewalk patio. This little room is decorated with a number of mirrors, mismatched furniture and tacky yellow wallpapering.
Walking further into the pub, still on the right, you'll enter the dining area that is nicely laid out to accommodate 40 or so customers. This area features low hanging lighting, a polished wood floor, red brick columns, a couple of old oil paintings and the ceilings bare some beautiful Victorian style mouldings. The bar is at the front of the room and is surrounded by six bar chairs. A chalkboard hangs to the left and lists the drink menu.
Back out to the wonderfully decorated front entrance and down the hallway leads you to a secluded back room featuring a lone kitchen table for private gatherings. The room is completely covered in wallpaper and a large screen television is fixed to the wall while a dimly lit chandelier hangs from the ceiling. This would be a great room to bring a close group of friends to celebrate a birthday or to to celebrate an anniversary.
The pub upstairs is where I feel more at home though, so it's up the carpeted flight of old stairs to the second level. Wooden planked flooring is the first thing I noticed upon reaching the top of the stairs, it runs throughout the entire floor.
When we entered the upstairs loft it was pretty full and seating was scarce. We managed to grab a couple of chairs and a couple of ottomans and as we sat down the room suddenly became quiet as the other patrons observed our actions - hence the "It feels like we just crashed somebody's living room party" line I mentioned earlier.
Looking around at all the leather couches, big cozy lounge chairs, the bookcase full of a wide variety of books, the framed Manchester United soccer jersey on the wall, the many framed soccer photographs, and the exposed brick walls, it felt like we were in a basement living room; and that is exactly the goal of the Queen and Beaver - to recreate the 'real' culture of the public house, a place to eat, drink, talk, relax, feel at home.
There is another full service wooden 'U' shaped bar upstairs next to the entrance and is guarded by a the pubs mascot - a wooden beaver. There are a number of seats surrounding the bar that are all in service during our visit with people who already appear to be regulars (even though it was open less than 8 hours). In front of all the couches and leather seating is a large plasma television hanging on the brick wall to show soccer games, which should attract a loyal following of footy fans.
One of the pubs best features rests outside the windows of the second level - a terrific patio with enough seating for upwards of 30 people. Large elm trees (hence the name of the street) provide a sheeting of shade, which would make sitting on the patio a lot more comfortable even on the hottest days.
So if you're going to open an authentic British gastropub you better have some cask conditioned ale. Kerr has chosen Wellington's Arkell to satisfy this essential piece of pub culture, unfortunately there was none to be found during our visit. However there was an exceptionally fresh pint of Denison's Weissbier put in my hands by our studious server and the others claimed they've haven't tasted such a fresh pint of Creemore Springs Traditional Lager in a long time. These were the only two beers available on opening night but you can expect to see a number of other well crafted beers like: McAuslan Cream Ale, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Fuller's Chiswick, and Czechvar (Budvar) Pilsner. The cost of a pint at the Queen and Beaver sits at a hefty $7, but you're not just paying for the beer in the glass, but the atmosphere in which you are drinking it. I do find it a little hard to swallow paying $8 for a pint of cask ale, before taxes, but again it's the experience. Though, my session would likely end at two pints at these rates.
The food, which I didn't get to, is prepared by Chef Andrew Carter and looked exceptional. Most of the mains fall under $20 and judging by the items listed on the food menu, it seems reasonable. The Queen and Beaver will also be serving brunch on weekends.
Full attention has been put into bringing a true British pub to Toronto's downtown and I think Kerr has succeeded admirably. A fine dining experience downstairs, a pub-living room atmopshere with a sports twist upstairs, along with two nice patios and great character, make this pub a winner in my books. Like the Feather's pub (British) in the Upper Beaches, the Queen and Beaver Public House should have no problem retaining customers and last well into the future.
**Pictures were taken the day after I visited, after the pub just opened**
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
275 Yonge Street
After 3+ years of negotiations and tireless work trying to crack the Ontario market, Les 3 Brasseurs, or The 3 Brewers as they're going by in Toronto, opened June 15th on Yonge Street just south of the newly developed Dundas Square. It has been an interesting time watching the building transform from an empty shell on a prime piece of Toronto real estate into what it is today.
"The building that sat here before only had one floor and when we took it over it was a complete shell. We pretty much built this place from scratch," stated Gerry Kakaroubas, one of the owners of Les 3 Brasseurs. "We are really excited about finally being open here in Toronto, a city that appears to be interested in the craft beer movement that is sweeping North America." Kakaroubas was in town to watch over the first few days of operations before heading back to his home in Montreal and was very pleased with the turnout on day one.
Les 3 Brasseurs was established by a family of brewers back in 1986 with the first establishment opening in Place de la Gare a Lille in Northern France. The company became so successful that many more sites were opened in France, 28 to be exact, and the company soon set their sights on the Quebec market. There are now five locations in Montreal each with capacities nearing 300, and each location produces and serves the same beers, using the same recipes.
The Toronto location is no different than the others, layout excepted. The same five beers are brewed on-site and seasonal products are expected to be offered to customers in the very near future. "We have been brewing here in Toronto and we currently have our four draught beers available," stated Kakaroubas as he lead a group of us on a tour of the entire restaurant/brewpub. "Right now you can order our Blond, Amber Passion (Red), Belgian Wit, and Virago Brown Ale from the tap lines, and our La Belle Province bottled beer is currently fermenting downstairs." La Belle Province is an Amber brewed with maple syrup. Unlike other brewpubs, The 3 Brewers won't be selling growlers or the La Belle Province for take home, not yet anyways.
Upon entering the Toronto location you are immediately standing in front of the glassed in brewing vessels. The copper kettles are polished and shining, catching the attention of each individual who enters. Heading past the brewing area you'll come to the long attractive 'L' shaped wooden bar with a copper topping. You'll find 15 or so bar back chairs waiting to accommodate you.
The bartender pours pints from the copper covered draught tower, which hides the lines that come down from the cooling tanks holding the finished product. No kegs here, everything comes straight from the tanks. "We plan to brew 28 days a month in this location," said Kakaroubas. "In Montreal we brew 30-35 batches a month, so we're playing it safe here for now, but we'll see what happens."
Above the bar sits a number of wooden barrels and old wooden beer crates baring Les 3 Brasseurs lettering, which are suspended on a loft-like barn floor. This bar, although new, shiny, and sleek, has an old European feel to it. It could be because one of the brewers was standing behind the bar talking to customers, pouring beer with his apron on.
In front of the bar is a long island seating area with more high bar back chairs that face the opposite wall of the bar and separate the room. A number of booths are in the front of the island, but are separated by etched glass atop the lengthy island, offering a little privacy.
Back out to the front of the building. There are a bunch of tables situated close to the large windows, which open up to offer patrons an unobstructed view of the always busy Yonge Street. The windows were open last night and the nice gentle breeze coming in off the street was pleasant. The open windows are also a great way of attracting customers. Many people walked by, glanced in, turned around and came in to check things out, sometimes walking in through the window. "I think we'll get a lot of foot traffic stopping by. Whether it be shoppers from the mall across the road, or people leaving the theatre."
Right in the middle of the pub is a set of stairs that take you up to the second level where more seating awaits. When walking up the stairs you'll notice a large wooden sign illustrating the brewing process in graphic format. To the immediate left of the stairs is a brick encased gas fireplace that will be pleasant to sit near during our cold winter months. Although the second floor is large and spacious, it still retains a small cozy atmosphere with a number of small 'snugs' tucked away on the rear wall. There are a number of small tables right next to a couple of windows that put you right above Yonge street, a good place to people watch. The east side of the building features the fermenting tanks, surrounded by glass panels and is decorated with green hop stenciling. And just like the copper tanks below on the first floor they're nice and shiny.
Up another flight of small stairs and you're on the third level where another full service bar is in full swing. More seats, some attractive wooden brewing barrels hanging from the ceiling with chains, along with the bottom of an old maltster and more beer crates and scattered beer signage are all situated on this floor and create a nice visual affect.
One more flight of stairs and you're almost shaking God's hand. There is a private entertaining area that can accommodate up to 50 guests that Kakaroubas states will be used for birthday's, special events, and private parties. A large skylight brings in a lot of natural light that transmits down to the 1st floor and creates a beautiful glow off the tanks.
As you can gather, this brewpub is huge. Kakaroubas mentions that capacity is set at 300 and on busy weekend nights I have no doubt that this place will be rocking from street level all the way to the top. The music can be a little loud and abrasive, but it did settle down as the night wore on. All the servers were friendly and courteous and to show how serious they are about their business Kakaroubas has brought over a number of experienced staff from Montreal locations to work here in Toronto. "Some of the cooks, servers, and managers have relocated to Toronto from Montreal to get us up and running and one of the brewers recently came back from brewing at the Papeete location in the French Polynesia to brew here."
The beers are well made, subtle, not crazy, but definitely done right. After sampling all five during our visit I walked away thinking that the Belgian Wit was the best of the bunch - nice and refreshing, thirst quenching and true to style. The price per pint is quite reasonable too. A pint of the Blond and the Red cost $5.50 and the Wit and the Brown will set you back $5.85. Pitchers run for $13.95 and $14.95 and a sample of the four draught beers cost $6.75. And The 3 Brewers also offer the option of purchasing a one litre glass at $8.75 - $9.10, a great deal for the hefty mug, or schooner as the boys out east call them. A bottle of the La Belle Province cost $11.45 and we had ours poured by the brewmaster himself, making sure the bottle didn't touch the glass. The beer geeks out there will also be happy to hear that the Toronto location will take part in the seasonal beer program that all other locations offer. "We will be doing new beers every two months or so, like a Christmas beer, an Oktoberfest, a Spring beer, and more," claimed Kakaroubas.
I was impressed with my first ever visit to a Les 3 Brasseur location and I welcome the Toronto brewpub with open arms. Ontario needs to see more of this. Lord knows we have the room. It's a great addition to the local beer scene and I hope it attracts both the most serious of beer drinkers to the inexperienced.
***Video courtesy of Cass Enright.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I sat down with one of the owners while I went through their beers and he shared some history about the business after leading me on a tour of the building. It is huge. I didn't think it would be so large. I previously posted that the capacity would be set at 275 but the owner informs me that the three level brewpub will actually seat 300.
The place was fairly busy during the lunch period, but I suspect that the place will be hopping come 5pm. The food looked great, the layout is very nice and spacious, and the skylight shining down upon the brewing tanks offered a nice glow off the polished devices.
I'll be heading back tonight for some full pints and some dinner, so more to come later - including pictures.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
One of those ideas was for the installation of a patio at the rear of the building, something Adam feels would increase business substantially during the warmer seasons. So the lawyer was contacted, construction quotes were obtained, and plans moved forward to add a patio. The plan is to build a small patio, similar in size to the one down the road at the Rebel House, with 10 foot walls. Adam also mentions that there wouldn't be any music playing on the patio - out of respect for nearby tenants. But since then the AOTH received some negative feedback from individuals that are not in favour of this endeavour. While there are many people that would love to see more space added to the popular pub, it appears some feel that there would be too much noise and disturbance.
Because of this, Adam and Melissa (Adam's wife and co-owner) decided to host an informal Question and Answer Town Hall Meeting tomorrow night at the pub to show how adding a patio would be good for the neighbourhood without interrupting the lives of local residents, and to answer any concerns raised. The Q&A meeting will take place between 5pm and 7pm and supporters of the AOTH are encouraged to drop in and show their support.
In other AOTH news, Adam (who just happens to be one of the best publicans in the city) mentioned that they are going to be introducing a new beer program at the pub. On Tuesday nights the AOTH will be offering 5oz tasting flights of three Belgian ales - Wednesday nights will be called Weisse Wednesday's as flights of three Weissbiers will be offered - and Friday nights will belong to flights of three different London Pride products.
And you may have heard about Adam and Melissa's decision to change the name of the pub due to its old ties to the Abbot pub located further up Yonge. They have introduced a contest to have customers submit prospective names for the pub with the winner to be announced at the end of summer. The ones that catch the attention of the owners are being written on a chalkboard in the pub and there have been some good ones (I like 'The Drunken Oyster' personally). Whoever submits the winning name will receive VIP access to all the beer launches, whiskey nosings, wine tastings, and any other special event that happens to be taking place. Not bad eh!
Contact Adam at email@example.com for more information.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
There were no girls in bikini's, no dudes slapping each other in the face, no mountains changing colours, and there were no stupid gimmicks or dumb quotes like, "I'm so mad at my boyfriend." No, the commercial was all about the beer, something rarely seen in Ontario. The imagery was nice, the lead up to the whistle blowing was well done, and the message came across loud and clear.
"We were approached by an ad agency who had produced it on spec and we loved it. We’ve been quite overwhelmed by the positive response – emails, calls, texts and a whole lot of talk on Twitter about the ads too," stated Steam Whistle's Director of Marketing, Sybil Taylor. Not bad for their first ever television ad.
In other Steam Whistle news, the brewery have recently been running a test with 20 Beer Store locations in the city, studying the sale of their 500ml cans in suitcase style 4packs, gauging customer feedback. The four packs have been selling well in Alberta since early last fall and retail for $11.95 here in Ontario.
Still looking for a idea for Father's Day? Why not hit up the Roundhouse with the old man. Steam Whistle is offering free brewery tours for Fathers on their special day (June 21st, just a reminder). Not a bad way to start off your day. Our grab a twelve pack and throw a retro bottle opener his way. This is the fifth year in a round that Steam Whistle is offering a vintage style retro bottle opener; and its a beauty.
Saturday June 20th - Mark it on your calendars ladies and gentleman. Bar Volo has announced that the 3rd round (semi-finals) of their Ontario Cask IPA Challenge will take place the day before Father's Day, starting at 12 noon.
Mike Duggan Number 9 is up against the Granite's Hopping Mad, while Scotch Irish Sgt. Major will go toe-to-toe with County Durham's Hop Addict.
Just like the second round, all beers will be tasted and scored blindly, with the winners moving onto the finals (date not yet released). Samples can be purchased in 1/4, 1/2, and full pint servings.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
"We hope to be up and running by the 2nd week of June, but there are always delays with construction. Hopefully it will continue to go well and we'll open by our proposed date," stated Gerry.I walked by the establishment today at lunch and its looks great. All the signs are up, a menu hangs by the door, the glass windows were being cleaned, and there were people inside milling about. I noticed a sign on the door that stated that the brew pub will be open on Monday June 15th, so there you go, they proved me wrong.
Monday, June 8, 2009
I ran into Corbeil a number of times over the next couple of months and was pleased to hear that the idea was turning into reality. The Bracebridge City Council and members of the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) were contacted and fully supported the plans for the festival. Then just last month I was having a pint with Corbeil on his patio and he mentioned the date was close to being finalized and things were all starting to fall into place.
Today I'm happy to pass along the news that the Muskoka Beer Festival will take place on Saturday August 29, 2009 at the Anne Williams Park in Bracebridge, running from 12pm to 8pm and will feature terrific live music, great locally prepared food, and pretty much all of Ontario's small craft breweries.
In a conversation with Corbeil earlier today he confirmed that tickets for the one day festival can be obtained from the website, which went live late last night, and will cost $20 + tax. Individuals can pay for the tickets using Paypal and have the option of either picking them up at the Griffin pub, or having them mailed for an extra $2 fee.
I'll be posting any new news that comes along regarding this festival, but for more information feel free to contact Alison at 705-646-0706 or through email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact Jed by calling (705) 646-0706 or through email at email@example.com
Muskoka Beer Festival
Saturday August 29, 2009 12pm-8pm
Anne Williams Park: Bracebridge, ON
Tickets: $20 + tax
Hosts: The Griffin Gastropub
A month or so ago I became a Canadian citizen, and the impending celebration had me thinking about what to celebrate with. For some bizarre reason champagne has managed to corner the market in this department, but I’m a) not splashing out at least $50 on a bottle and b) a beer drinker. Luckily relief came from one of the rarest forms of beer in the market – a Bière de Champagne – beer brewed with champagne yeast to produce the sparking spritziness and pop that we would expect from a veuve cliquot. What’s even better, this beauty is from Canada. Au Maître Brasseur is a Quebec brewery with two champagne-style beers under their belt already, so if you love beer and have a celebration coming up you might want to hit these guys up. Anyway, here’s how I found their beer, La Fûtée Blanche:
This is an impressive looking beast of a bottle. 750 ml, corked and caged with gold foil around the neck - it looks all the part of a champagne beer, and pours into our champagne flutes the colour of apple cider with an impressive white mousse. While the head dies down somewhat it is adequately sustained by the high carbonation and lays down the odd streak of lace. Its a nice appearance, though I do feel a clearer beer would have been a better choice for the style.
The aroma is a tad subdued, but is characteristic of a malt-forward wit. Orange peel and coriander mix in with apple and pear. Overall, its clean and seems appropriate for a champagne style - I mean I'm not expecting to be punched in the face by the aroma as soon as the cork is popped.
The flavours are nice, leaning heavily toward a Belgian Wit, but with more fruity esters than I'd normally expect. Orange, coriander and wheat make up the expected character, but banana and apple also make their presence felt. The finish is crisp, with a fresh orange sharpness cleaning the palate. Its a delicate, but delicious range of flavour which I really appreciated, and my wife loved.
The carbonation is perhaps the most marked characteristic of this style. A true biere de champagne should recall that we call champagne 'bubbly'. La Futée Blanche just scrapes in. I really expected a higher, more aggressive level of carbonation, but didn't find it here. While the carbonation was high it seemed more transient in the mouth, which is a minus for the style, but a plus for me. My fear was that I'd find this style of beer to be too bubbly and, if poorly done, bloating. Fortunately I really enjoy this mouthfeel - the carbonation is soft and gentle in the mouth, despite the high number of bubbles. Also, while, it doesn't linger to long, it does do an excellent job of refreshing the palate.
The drinkability is high. We had a 750 ml bottle, and it was gone before we knew it. So why don’t you ditch the traditional bubbly and jump on the beer bandwagon?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
34 Clarence Street
Kingston, ON K7L 1W9
Kingston, Ontario is a city that has won me over on many occasions. It has a beautiful and vibrant downtown core, is close to the water, features many magnificent turn of the century limestone homes, the population stretches from young university students to youthful retirees, and it is steeped in Canadian history. It is also home to a healthy drinking culture, likely established during its hay day as a military city. There is another reason why I love the city of Kingston - The Kingston Brewing Co., or better known as the Kingston Brewpub.
In 1986, four partners decided to transform a historic 19th century building that once served as Kingston’s telegraph office, into Ontario's second brewpub after prohibition (the first? The Atlas Hotel in Welland, which is no longer in business). And two weekends ago I finally found the time to pay a personal visit. After visiting the local downtown farmer’s market, a group of us headed in the direction of the red brick building, clearly identifiable by the red 1947 ‘paddy wagon’ that sits out front.
The brewery, which produces wine, pop, cider, and beer, is probably best known for the legal battle with Guinness over the naming of one of their beers. In 1992, Hart Breweries in Carleton Place was awarded the contract to brew and bottle Dragon’s Breath Pale Ale for Kingston Brewing. The beer was bottled and sold in local Kingston Beer Stores before changes occurred years later, which saw Hart Breweries take over the sales and marketing of the pale ale.
Hart, wanting to get the beer into the LCBO system, decided to re-package the Dragon’s Pale Ale in 750ml bottles and witnessed quite a following. It also attracted the interests of Guinness, who had a beer being sold in the LCBO called Dragons Stout. Hart was slapped with a trademark infringement (due to the name, even though bottles and labels were very different in shape and colour) and a legal battle ensued. The result: Hart Breweries ended up closing (not because of this), thus ending the run of Dragon’s Breath in LCBO and Beer Store retail outlets, and Guinness and Kingston Brewing made a deal that the term could be used only in Kingston, and only to promote the restaurant/brewery. Today, at the brewpub, the cask conditioned pale ale still goes by the Dragon’s Breath name, and the once bottled version of the pale ale has been renamed Dragoon’s Breath to honour Kingston rich history of military dragoons.
Back to the pub. There is a split patio on the sidewalk that you have to walk through to get to the front door and the first thing that we noticed upon entering was the vast amount of beer memorabilia on the walls. We took our seats and within minutes we had a flight of house beers to sample.
There were four available during our visit: Framboise Royale, Regal Lager, Dunkelnacht Dark Lager, and the already mentioned Dragon’s Breath pale ale (cask). The first sip I took was from the pint glass holding the cask conditioned pale ale and it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was off. Buttery, wet leather nose, and sharp fruitiness in the taste. The second pint was the Dunkel, which I found to be in top form, a newer batch the manager related. There are two other beers brewed under contract for the brewpub – Dragoon’s Breath by McAuslan and Whitetail Cream by The Lakes of Muskoka Cottage Brewery.
Not only does the Kingston brewpub produce their own beers, they also support other local, and not so local, craft breweries. Beau’s, Church Key, Heritage, Steam Whistle, McAuslan, and many more, can usually be found on tap, along with other brands like Guinness, much to my surprise given the history between the two companies.
As I mentioned, the pub is full of beer memorabilia. It hangs from the ceiling, covers almost every inch of the walls, and consists of beer ashtrays, bar towels, tap handles, posters, brewing equipment, glassware, coasters, mugs and much, much more. I've never seen so much in one place at one time. For someone that's quite interested in this particular hobby, it was a sight to behold. In speaking to the manager, he informed me that the pub has just as much if not more stuff in storage and it is quite the experience to look through it all. He also mentioned that many of the items on display are gifts from regulars upon returning from vacations. The owners also attend many shows and flea markets to obtain the rare collectibles.
The pub is so full of the memorabilia that some people I know think it makes the pub look tacky, and cluttered. I think that's what gives it its character. When I took my seat and looked around I felt comfortable and relaxed, it felt like drinking in a large cottage. To compliment the collectibles, the pub is full of wood. Wooden rafters run the length of the pub, wooden partitions separate the tables, nooks and booths, and it all looks and feels rustic. Brick walls and the exposed original stone foundation also add to the character of the pub; a real pub feel. There are a couple of televisions playing sport programs, but the volume is on mute and we are treated to the pleasant sounds of chatter coming from other patrons, which just exceeds the soft classical music playing in the background.
The manager leads our group past the busy bar area and into the small brewhouse where a product is in process of being brewed. The brewpub offers customers the opportunity to check the system out when requested, all you have to do is ask.
We head back to our table and get ready to head out. That's when I looked around one last time and realized how big the place is. There is a back courtyard, a front patio, an upstairs event room, and the main pub level, which all equate to a 230 person capacity.
It's quite the spot. A good place for collectors to waste hours with a variety of good beers to keep them company. I'm told that the brewpub is a very local establishment, a place that has retained customers from the day they opened their doors. While I would have liked to sample a fresh batch of the real ale, the other beers we sampled were quite nice, and having a selection of other quality Ontario craft breweries helps to ensure each customer has a number of styles to choose from and supports others in the industry.
I'm a fan.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I have been moderating comments here for about a year; a move I felt necessary after someone left some words about an establishment that were pretty awful, and frankly without merit. Some comments have slipped by me (by my own error), but were removed after I had the chance to review them. This won't happen again. Like the couple I have received over the last two days.
Leaving a comment with your name, or nickname isn't as hard as it may look. Simply choose the 'name/url' option and put something in the required field. I'll still be reviewing the comment, though, and if I feel it's unwarranted or slanderous, it will be deleted and won't be posted. I understand most of these 'one-off' comments aren't coming from frequent readers, but I still find it necessary to post.
All that being said, I would like to see more comments posted here on the site, and I encourage you to do so. It would be nice to stir up healthy discussions with others who share, or oppose your thoughts. But healthy is the key word.
Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Trouble didn't end there as Labatt filed a lawsuit against Brick over the packaging of Red Baron, which Labatt claims is too similar to the Brava brand. The case is now before the courts.
Which brings us to today. The Financial Post is reporting that Brick has now filed a lawsuit against its founding father, Brickman, for $1 million for "wrongs against the corporation" for several years causing "significant damages."
Sad indeed. With loses of $7.5 million last year, Brick is hurting and all this negative PR material surely can't help their situation. It has been an interesting story to follow, and judging by this latest news, it could get a whole lot messier.
**Updated** The Globe and Mail has since released a more in-depth story, providing more details surrounding the lawsuit. Click here to be re-directed.
Monday, June 1, 2009
I visited the Kingston Brewing Co. brew pub last weekend, hosted a beer tasting this past weekend, tonight's the launch for the Kronenberg 1664 Blanc at the Abbot on the Hill, and sampled some terrific beers, so look for posts on these once I find the time.
Thanks for reading!