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.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Highs and Lows of 2009 Canadian Beer

Like I mentioned in the previous post (and here's a high five if you read the entire thing), the 2009 beer year was a ton of fun to be involved in. This year I thought it would be interesting to post what I perceived to be the highs and lows of 2009, so let's take a shot at it, which will be followed up by my (which is subjective) best of the year list.

* Great Lakes Caskapalooza (see below)
* Numerous pub openings in Toronto that are offering craft beer (Twisted Kilt, Ceili Cottage, Queen & Beaver, 3 Brewers, Duggan's
* Two new brewpubs open in Toronto's downtown core (3 Brewers and Duggan's)
* Mill Street releasing variety packs to the public and producing monthly seasonals
* Mill Street winning Canadian Brewery of the Year 3 years straight
* The number of small breweries pumping out seasonals
* Cask ales increasing popularity across the country
* The LCBO showing some respect for beer, bringing in some great stuff
* Golden Tap Awards honouring Jim Brickman
* 11 Alberta breweries collaborate to produce a beer for charity

* The number of lawsuits involving Brick Brewing
* Brick Brewing suing founder Jim Brickman for $1 million
* The initial launch of the LCBO's beer selector online program
* The way the New Brunswick Liquor corp. handled the contract involved with the brewing of a government owned beer sold in government controlled retail stores
* The gimmicky Lime Beer segment that took Canada by storm this past summer

Best Beer Story of the Year
Great Lakes Caskapalooza: Great Lakes Brewery, Etobicoke, ON
The Toronto Festival of Beer was all but lost on me this year. I had no intention of going, until John Bowden let me know that Great Lakes would be bringing 20 cask conditioned ales, complete with their own refrigeration unit and psychedelic background to Toronto's oldest beer festival. It was a huge success and an inspiration that change, at an event like this, can work.

Runner Up - 11 craft breweries from Alberta team up to brew a charity beer

Best New Canadian Brewery
Driftwood Brewery: Victoria, BC
I remember getting an email from a dear reader in 2008 who wanted to let me know that a new brewery was opening their doors in Victoria. Soon after they opened I was able to get my hands on bottles of each of their beers and found them all to be very well done, and ballsy, especially for a new brewery: Brother Bart's Brown Belgian Ale, Farmhand Saison, White Bark Ale (wit), Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine, and the Driftwood Ale (a nice session beer with nice amounts of hopping).

Best New Release (either regular or seasonal)
Creemore Kellerbier: Creemore Springs Brewery, Creemore, ON
I didn't really have to think about this one too hard. When Creemore released this beauty back in the summer I absolutely loved it from the first sip. Low carbonation, nice hopping, thirst quenching yet full of flavour, were all factors in winning me over.

Runner Up - Black Oak 10 Bitter Years: Black Oak Brewery, Etobicoke, ON

Best Beer Dinner Attended
Danish Beer Dinner - beerbistro, Toronto, ON
There were a couple to choose from, but the Danish beer dinner that was held in April at beerbistro takes the cake. A nine-course dinner (+ a special 10th beer) with bang on pairings, was well worth the $150 price tag and continued to show why beerbistro is a leader in hosting events like these.

Best Canadian Beer Blog
A Good Beer Blog - Alan McLeod, Kingston, ON
While Alan, whose been doing this (blogging) for years, doesn't post on Canadian content that much, I found myself reading from his site more than ever in 2009 as he had numerous posts that generated solid discussion from bloggers around the globe. And his annual Yuletide Photo contest is great.

Runner Up - Love Good Beer, British Columbia

Best New Toronto Pub (I live here so I'm keeping it to Toronto)
The Ceili Cottage
When the Ceili Cottage finally opened their doors in July, I was probably the most excited person other than owner Patrick McMurray. The Cottage is very near my place (within walking distance), has cask conditioned ale, terrific food at reasonable prices, has a great atmosphere with live sessions on Tuesdays, smoked peat moss that fills the air with a smell other than stale beer, and has a handful of pleasant staff members.

Best Beer Book
Cheers! A Intemperate History of Beer in Canada: Nicholas Pashley
The beerbistro Cookbook: Brian Morin and Stephen Beaumont
This was tough. 2009 had a slew of beer books published including: Hops N Glory by Pete Brown, Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher, The Naked Pint, World's Best Beers by Ben McFarlane, and more. I choose Cheers! and the beerbistro book because a) they were both written by Canadians, and b) they were both terrific. Cheers! is typical Pashley, which translates into a funny and entertaining read, and the cookbook makes me want to be in the kitchen, creating something Morin has perfected so many times at his restaurant.

Best Event
Volo Cask Days(week): Bar Volo, Toronto, ON
I really don't have to say anything further, just click here to read all the posts on it. 70 casks, 40 breweries, 7 days. Just like a strong barley wine, Volo Cask Days just keeps getting better with age.

Runner Up - Toronto Cask Ale Crawl: CASK! Toronto

Thank you for your continued support in 2009! Here's wishing you and your family a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 2009 Beer Year in Review - A Look Back

Another year is coming to an end and it was quite a year in the beer industry. I've been fortunate enough to be involved with another successful Canadian Brewing Awards that had more participants and product than ever submitted before; TAPS magazine continues to evolve into a serious beer resource made available across the country; and I became a co-host on the Pub Show at a small independent radio station in Stouffville. I made it out to some beer dinners, spent a bunch of time in pubs around Toronto, made it back out to Halifax to visit Garrison, Propeller, the Henry House, and more, and I drank some damn fine beer in the good company of others. And I've managed to keep this blog up to date with almost daily postings.

Here's a look back at my experiences during the 2009 beer year.

January – After attending a great party (Georgepalooza) at Toronto’s Cloak and Dagger a buddy and I headed to Buffalo to take part in Cole’s Rare Beer Festival where I had the opportunity to sample the 2007 Sam Adams Utopias, the strongest beer in the world at the time. I paid a visit to Mississauga’s West 50 Pourhouse, an establishment with over 100 draught lines. I interviewed Steam Whistle’s brewmaster, Marek Mikunda and posted two interviews that appeared in TAPS: Canada’s Beer Magazine – Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione and Leanne Rhee, the LCBO’s category manager of beer.

February – February brought with it the sad news that the Granite (Halifax) would shut its doors on Barrington street for good, giving up the pub business (Ginger’s Tavern) in order to open a small brewery in the city’s north end. Tree Brewing got into it with California’s Green Flash brewery over the use of the term Hop Head (Tree Hop Head vs. Green Flash Hop Head Red). Garrison earned a gold medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute for their Grand Baltic Porter after scoring 94/100 at the World Beer Championships. I visited the great little pub in Bracebridge, ON, the Griffin Gastropub and I’ve been back many times since. And two new IPA’s were released: Grand River Curmudgeon IPA and Wild Rose’s Imperial IPA.

March – Pump House Brewery starts bottling their SOB in Moncton, NB; The Roy Public House opens in Toronto but only features beer from one craft brewery; Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin release a wonderful book – The beerbistro Cookbook; Cass Enright (Bar founder) announces that he has started an import business and will be representing Garrison Brewing in Ontario (the first private order sells out in four days); I interviewed extreme brewer Greg Nash who was with Pump House at the time, Steelback owner Jonathon Sherman, and Propeller’s two head brewers Don and Bobby; Etobicoke’s Great Lakes brewery launches their Green Tea ale at the Dominion Pub; and Toronto’s Amsterdam brewery introduces a new Doppelbock (Dehydrator) that was based on a local homebrewers recipe.

April - What a busy month. The Ontario Brewing Awards were announced and Mill Street took home seven medals; Alexander Keith’s announces that the Labatt brewery in BC will start brewing Keith’s for the west; Mill Street launches their first seasonal sampler six pack; Mill Street’s brewmaster, Joel Manning, takes some time to answer some questions; Roland and Russell Import Agency organize a Danish beer dinner at beerbistro with beers from Norrebro Bryghus and Mikkeller and feature Anders Kissmeyer from Norrebro; Black Oak opens their new brewery in Etobicoke after months of delays; Bar Volo’s first ever Ontario IPA Cask Challenge commences and attracts many; Volo owner, Ralph Morana, welcomes brewing equipment with the plan to start brewing his own beer for the bar; CASK! hosts Toronto’s first ever Cask Ale Crawl through the streets of Toronto; Granville Island in Vancouver launches Brockton IPA, named after the Brockton Oval in Stanley Park; I visited the Local Pub in Toronto; and I posted an interview with Brooklyn’s brewmaster Garrett Oliver that originally appeared in an issue of TAPS.

May – Exciting news hits Niagara as the local college announces plans to start working on a brewmaster certification program; Volo’s IPA Cask Challenge continues; Kevin Keefe opens the doors to the new Granite brewery in the north end; Black Creek Pioneer Village announces plans to start an historic brewery on their property in partnership with Trafalgar Brewing; Ontario MPP’s choose seven craft beers to be served exclusively at the Legislative Assembly for 2009/10; I received a ridiculous response to a letter I wrote the Premier about the beer retail system in Ontario; and Scotland’s Innis and Gunn brewery launches a Canadian Cask version of their Oak Aged beer.

June – Great Lakes brewery announces a new initiative, Project ‘X’; I interviewed Garrison brewmaster, Daniel Girard; Ian Innes, founder and longtime owner of the Feather’s pub in Toronto sells the pub to Reid Pickering; two new establishments in downtown Toronto open their doors – the Queen and Beaver and the 3 Brewers; Brick brewing sues founder Jim Brickman for $1 million; I paid a visit to Toronto’s newest brewery, Black Creek Historic brewery; rumours that Fat Cat shutting down proved false and the Cat still meows; I profiled Bryden’s pub and the Kingston brewpub; and Steam Whistle releases their first ever commercial.

July The Ceili Cottage opens in Toronto to much delight; Creemore brewery knocks one out of the park with a new beer, Kellerbier; Greg Nash leaves Pump House to head back to Halifax to look after brewing operations at the Hart & Thistle brewpub; the LCBO launches a new feature on their website (beer selector) that fails right off the bat; Michael Duggan’s No.9 IPA wins Volo’s IPA Cask Challenge; I paid a visit to Neustadt and toured their beautiful old brewery; the voting commences for the 7rh annual Golden Tap Awards hosted by Bar Towel; Victory CafĂ© holds another successful cask festival; and the University of Toronto’s Hart House hosts their 2nd annual craft beer fest.

August Beau’s win big at the 7th annual Golden Tap Awards taking home best of the fest and best craft brewery in Ontario; I interviewed Nickel Brook’s head brewer, Tim Blakeley; Coors Light launches an ad mocking Torontians in BC; Canadian Brewing Awards judging takes place in Etobicoke; Abbot on the Hill re-brands, taking a new name The Monk’s Table; Great Lakes brings 20 different cask ales to the Toronto Festival of Beer, which took place at the CNE grounds for the first time; and this here blog turns 2.

September - Bill Perrie's Pub Radio show launches with me acting as a co-host and Cameron's sales rep Jon Graham is the first guest; I interviewed Wild Rose founder and president, Mike Tymchuk, Creemore Springs brewmaster Gordon Fuller, and Mill Street brewer Sam Corbeil; Duggan's Brewery in downtown Toronto starts to take shape; I visited the new bbq joint Highway 61; and the Canadian Brewing Awards gala took place before a packed audience of brewers and brewery representatives from across the country and the results were posted here first.

October - Nick Pashley's latest book, Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada is released; Bar Volo's 5th annual Cask Days takes place over 7 days featuring over 70 casks from 40 breweries; Southern Ontario Brewers (SOB) take over the Amsterdam brewery and homebrew all day; Mill Street threw one hell of a beer dinner at their brewpub where the Nightmare on Mill Street Pumpkin Ale was launched; 11 Alberta breweries got together and whipped up a collaborative beer for charity; MolsonCoors, using the Creemore Springs name, purchases BC's Granville Island brewery; Muskoka Cottage brewery releases a very good seasonal; and I got married.

November - I interviewed Richard Mclelland from Scotland's BrewDog brewery; helped brew some beer on Great Lakes pilot system (went over pretty good); a Microfest and Conference was announced for the fall of 2010 in Halifax; Mill Street releases a Roggenbier; Black Oak celebrates their 10th anniversary by releasing a beer they call 10 Bitter Years; I posted an interview with Anders Kissmeyer of Norrebro Bryghus that first appeared in TAPS; and the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) released their 3rd Discovery Pack, this time in cans.

December - I had the pleasure of sampling the world's current strongest beer - BrewDog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin; posted a number of last minute gift ideas for the beer lover; interviewd Matt Phillips, owner of Phillips brewery; shared an interview with Chief Beer Officer Scott Kerkmans that appeared in TAPS magazine; Mill Street releases yet another seasonal, Weizenbock; and PEI's Gahan Brewery opens a production and bottling facility in Charlottetown (the Gahan House brewpub is still in operation as well).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Volo Releases Jaw Droppin' New Years Eve Line-Up

New Year's Eve parties/celebrations have usually been let downs for me. Something either goes wrong, or someone's sick, or the weather is terrible. The whole celebration thing has been lost on me. My wife and I discussed our options this year: order take-out and stay in with some good bottles or head out with a group for a night of debauchery. We ended up making plans with some out of town friends (debauchery), which will end up being a good time, hopefully, but if you find yourself in Toronto, with no real concrete plans, get yourself, and some of your friends, to Bar Volo.

One doesn't need an excuse to visit Toronto's fantastic beer bar (if you do there might be something wrong with you), but if for some reason you do, I think the following beer list that Volo will be offering would definitely count as one.

Free admission, no dress code, no reservations, and open until 2am.

On Tap...

Dieu du Ciel! Peche Mortel
Dieu du Ciel! Rigor Mortis Abt
Scotch Irish John By Imperial Stout 2008
Grand River Russian Gun Imperial Stout 2008
Grand River Jubilation 2008
Publican House Square Nail Pale Ale
County Durham Hop Addict IPA
Black Oak Ten Bitter Years
Mill St. Weizenbock
Beau’s All Natural Lugtread Lagered Ale
Denison’s Weissbier
Unibroue Ephemere Cassis
Beaus Bog Water (cask)
Black Oak Nutcracker (cask)
Durham E.S.B. (cask)
William Sir Perry Pear Cider
Niagara’s Best Spiced Apple Cider
Rosewood 2006 Ambrosia Mead
County Cider 2004 Ice Cider

+ New bottles from Paddock Wood, Central City, Moylans, Dieu du Ciel!, Charlevoix, Phillips, Driftwood, Brooklyn, St.Bernardus, Trois Mousquetaires and many more!!!

Those plans for the house party aren't looking so hot right now.

Bar Changes

My buddy Cass Enright, the founder of Bar, a leader in online Ontario beer news, has recently been toying around with his site and has made some changes for the better, adding a new Canadian forum to the discussion board.

These changes, along with a new publishing format for Bar Towel's homepage news site, are signs of the new direction Enright wants to take his ten year old site on. People have been reading Bar Towel for years, getting up to the minute news on the Toronto, and now more than ever the Ontario beer scene. However, Enright feels that Bar Towel is now in a position to also serve as a resource for all of Canada, posting press releases on beer launches in British Columbia to discussing items relating to breweries in Nova Scotia; making Bar Towel a one stop shop (just don't forget this little old site).

BeerAdvocate (an American site) has a Canadian group in their forum that gets some good traffic and it would be nice to see those posters come to Bar Towel and join in there.

Along with the new layout Enright will be welcoming some new writers to the site to generate more discussion, post beer reviews, and update the news section with information as they receive it.

So head over there now and start a topic on the Canadian forum - get involved in the daily LCBO chatter that takes place or post a review of a beer you just drank from Quebec.

That Dreaded Hangover

Good morning! And welcome back after a short holiday break.

One of the hazards of drinking copious amounts of beer is the morning after, waking up with that dreaded hangover. This weekend I experienced another one, and after dragging myself out of bed in the afternoon I decided to re-read the terrific chapter Losing the Will to Live: Surviving the Hangover from Nicholas Pashley’s Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why It’s Necessary, where he offers up various remedies to cure the beast within.

I have probably read this chapter on 10 separate occasions, just to get a laugh and to remind myself that there are others out there sharing in the same misery. It somehow eases the pain, albeit 10 minutes or so. Pashley’s listed remedies - Jumping into an icy lake (as the Scandinavians do)? Out of the question. Cucumber juice? No thanks. Raw eels and bitter almonds? Not for me.

It used to be a big, greasy breakfast to get me out of my funk, but that doesn’t seem to work anymore as getting to the hole-in-the-wall diner seems to be getting tougher and tougher with age. The hangovers seem to get worse and worse with each passing year.

I’ve recently discovered a new life saver – Booster Juice. Man I love this stuff. Over the last couple of months there have been some late weeknights, be they beer dinners or special beer events, which have resulted in me not being too fresh in the morning. I don’t write about beer and pubs for a living, no, I work for the government during the day, so waking up mid-morning and lounging around is just not an option, and Booster Juice has been there for me to help get me through the morning/day.

Which leads me to this question - What do you do to relieve the agonizing effects of a hangover? Other than sleep it off?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I'm going to be giving the ol' blog a rest for the next couple of days as I head north to celebrate Christmas with the family, so this will be the last post until next week.

Here's wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas Morning Beer

A number of years ago I started a little Christmas tradition in my family; cracking open a couple of bottles to accompany gift opening and delicious quiche for breakfast.

I remember the first year, 4 years ago. I was living in Halifax and flew back home in time for Christmas and went to the LCBO in search of a beer that would suit the mood well. I choose Wychwood's Bah Hambug, and it did the trick.

The next year I went with Mill Street's Coffee Porter, which is terrific first thing in the morning (I shouldn't have to explain why, coffee!), and last year it was Phillip's Longboat Double Chocolate Porter, also terrific.

Last night I was sitting around the apartment getting stuff together for the drive home when it hit me - I haven't selected my Christmas morning beer yet. I totally forgot. Then I thought it would be fun to have you help me choose from the following list that I've narrowed it down to, if you don't mind.

Unibroue Quelque Chose
Tree Raspberry Porter
Great Lakes Winter Ale
Garrison Winter Warmer (I had one last night, very nice)
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
2007 & 2008 Nickel Brook Cuvee

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Drinking Tactical Nuclear Penguin

Looking at the picture to the right you'd think I'm sporting a shit eating grin. Well, I am.

After work today a couple of people met up at beerbistro to have a little pre-Christmas tasting that included three outstanding beers: Mikkeller It's Alive, Meantime London Porter, and the show stopper - Tactical Nuclear Penguin from Scotland's BrewDog brewery. The Roland and Russell import agency represent each brewery mentioned and they graciously shared some of their 'taster' bottles with a handful of some lucky people.

There has been a lot of hype and a lot of press around BrewDog's newest offering from beer writers and tickers around the world. It seems that everyone has chimed in after James Watt and Martin Dickie released their video, showing the world, via their website, how they came up with the 32% beer and there I was today, sitting in one of the best beer bars in the world sipping a generous sample of the beer.

Let me start off by saying that I've had the opportunity to taste the Sam Adams 2007 version of their Utopias. I did so last January at Cole's Rare Beer Fest, and quite enjoyed my small sample, so going into the tasting I had visions of that night in Buffalo. The Tactical Nuclear Penguin was much nicer, in my opinion, than the Utopias, and everyone at the table shared similar feelings.

The pour produced a rusty dark brown with some reddish hues shining through the bottom and didn't come with any head, appearing almost cask like. After reading the short story on the bottle the glass was lifted to my nose and a whirlwind of aroma's leaped from the glass and smacked me upside the head. Booze, peat smoked moss, soaked raisins, chocolate, roasted coffee beans, licorice, and a hint of smoky vanilla were all hanging out with each other. A long inhale led to a lingering burning sensation at the back of the nose and lasted up to the first sip. Whoa!

Oily/silky medium to full bodied, the Penguin numbed my gums on the first sip while offering notes of smoked bacon bits, burnt caramel, chocolate, burnt coffee, and earthy wooden touches from the barrels the beer was aged in before undergoing its freezing. It wasn't cloying, something I was afraid it would be, and the lingering aftertaste was fantastic while the heat it produced was nice and nowhere near overbearing.

The 32% was surprising well hidden (well, not really, but hidden well enough to throw off the high abv) and I found myself continuing to reach for the glass shortly after setting it down. It wouldn't be far off to say that I'd find myself finishing an entire bottle throughout the course of the night, but it'd be better to share.

Its availability in Ontario consisted of the three empty bottles sitting before us on our table, but there are talks of a dinner taking place this spring that might provide people in attendance with the chance to try it.

LCBO, if you're reading, contact Roland and Russell and inquire about this beer. Maybe a Vintage release? If you'll bring in a $450 bottle of scotch, you can bring in cases of this for beer lovers can't you?

*Please note that none of the above beers are currently available at beerbistro*

Winter TAPS Magazine Released

Just a quick note, the winter issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine has been released and should start appearing on store shelves anytime now. It's another 98 pager, filled with some excellent reading that will get your through the holiday season. My writing includes a look into Black Oak's recent 10 year milestone, an interview with Beer Wars producer Anat Baron, and includes a small gift guide.

Look for copies at Chapters/Indigo locations throughout Canada or other fine bookstores.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Countdown's On - Very Last Minute Gift Ideas: Stuff

Four shopping days left and if you're like me, you'll just be getting started. So far I've thrown out some book titles that would make a great addition to the beer library and I've mentioned some educational courses that would go over well with fans of the drink. Hopefully you've shared some of the ideas with your significant other, put the bug in their ear so to speak.

If you are still searching for that (very) last minute beer related gift here are some more suggestions that will crown you best gift buyer of the year. *Most of these can only be purchased in Ontario*

CRAP - Craftbrewers Recycled Art Project (CRAP) is the brainchild of F&M's head brewer George Eagleson. Eagleson takes old malt bags and turns them into wallets, bottle carriers, tote bags, and reusable shopping bags and sells them at a great price on his website, One of my favourites is the 3 hole desk organizer made from old hoses taken from the F&M brewery which retails for $38.00. Check out the website for more info.

Steam Whistle Retro Bottle Opener - This is the third year the popular Toronto brewery has released these right in time for the Christmas season. The handy wall mounted opener would make a great addition to your home bar, to the beer fridge in the garage, or to your beer memorabilia collection. And it does come with two bottles of their signature Pilsner. Where can you purchase one? You can find some at the LCBO retailing for $29.95

Steam Whistle Brewery Tour - Speaking of Steam Whistle, why not surprise your father with a tour of the famous Toronto Roundhouse where Steam Whistle is located? The interactive tour includes a walk around the brewhouse lead by an entertaining Steam Whistle employee and samples of their Pilsner. For $10.00 you can go on the tour, sample the product, and leave with either a retro bottle opener or sample glass. For $15 you get the 6 pack tour; $14.00 for the 4 pack can tour; and $26 for the 12 pack tour.

beerbistro Gift Certificate - If you live in or around the GTA, a gift certificate for a meal at beerbistro is enough to brighten any beer drinkers day. Here you'll find terrific beer inspired cuisine, wonderfully created by Chef Brian Morin, and a beer list that will make your head spin. beerbistro is located at 18 King Street East -

OCB Discovery Pack #3 - The third edition of the very successful Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) Discovery Pack features six individual cans from six different small Ontario breweries: Great Lakes Devil's Pale Ale, Neustadt Lager, Trafalgar Irish Red, Nickelbrook Organic Unfiltered Lager, Muskoka Cottage Cream Ale, and Wellington County Dark Ale. The packaging is easy to spot on LCBO shelves and rings in at a good price at $14.95, making it a great purchase for Christmas parties of for wrapping and putting under the tree.

Beer, Beer, Beer - The LCBO did a great job with their picks for the current winter release, bringing in a handful of terrific beers like Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout, BrewDog Punk IPA, Southern Tier's Creme Brulee, Ola Dubh Special Reserve 12, and just recently, 2006 & 2008 Thomas Hardy's. Why not put together a special mix pack of the different beers? Two of each, or one of each? If you fancy locally produced beer, try the Denison's Weissbier in canned format, or Hockley's Valley's underrated Stout. Pick up big bottle of Great Lakes Winter Ale or search out a bottle of Mill Street's 2009 edition of their Barley Wine.

You could also contact Bar Volo and get a gift certificate as they have numerous bottles and cans from craft breweries throughout Canada that are worth experiencing.

Beer Wars - When I was a kid I'd always get the Rock em Sock em Don Cherry movies for Christmas. The tv was devoted to those movies all Christmas morning, giving my parents some much needed rest. Why not relax in front of the tv yourself? Watching a beer documentary? Anat Baron's Beer Wars follows around Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione while taking a deep look into the American brewing industry. A great watch. $19.95

Beer Gear - Most breweries throughout the country have some sort of a retail store that sell glassware, bottle openers, t-shirts, hats, and other miscellnous items. If the person on your list has a favourite brewery, look them up online and see if they have an online retail store you can order from. Or better yet, visit the brewery, purchase the item(s) and get some samples to bring home.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PEI's Gahan Brewery Opens Bottling & Production Facility

Charlottetown's only brewery, the Gahan House Brewery, has officially opened a bottling and production facility on Walker drive, not far from the Gahan House on Sydney Street, according to the article in today's The Guardian.

According to the article, Sir John A's Honey Wheat and Island Red will continue to be bottled (they're currently being bottled and sold through ten PEI Liquor Commission stores), but on a larger scale, enough to cover stores across the island. Kegs will also be available for sale at the new brewery location. With the increase in volume, Kevin Murphy, the President of Gahan Brewery, states in the article that they are now in a better position to begin exporting their beer to other provinces, including Ontario.

The Gahan House (brewpub) will continue with operations as normal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Countdown's On - Last Minute Gift Ideas: Beer Education

Seven shopping days left. That’s it. I’ve already listed some of my suggestions for the beer lover in your life, books, but let’s take a look at some hands-on educational opportunities that will be a huge hit for the craft beer drinker on Christmas Day.

Granite – Be A Brewer For The Day
Reading about beer is one thing, experiencing the daily rigours of brewing beer on a commercial scale is another, and Toronto’s Granite Brewery provides you with that opportunity.

Ron Keefe, the brewer/owner of the Granite has been offering citizens the chance to ‘be a brewer for the day’ at the Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton brewery for some time now, doing everything from working the mash to pitching the yeast. For $150 you can join Keefe in the brewhouse for the day, learning about his English style ales, the intricacies of cask conditioned ales, getting a better perspective of the ingredients used in brewing, along with having some lunch and some samples of the Granite’s line-up. You’ll also receive a certificate of completion at the end of the brew day.

Visit for more information or call the brewery at 416-322-0723.

Serious Beer
Vancouver’s Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts offers a comprehensive eight-week beer program with the next course running from January 13 to March 17. For $475 students will be educated on beer styles from various brewing countries, the history of beer, brewing techniques, the role ingredients play in beer, and taught how to properly taste. The admission fee also includes a text book, the cost of tasting, and a certificate upon successful completion of the course.

The deadline for registration is January 6th.
Call (604) 734-4488 to register.

Beer Appreciation
A couple of years ago, when I moved back to Ontario from Halifax, I enrolled in a Beer Appreciation course at George Brown College in Toronto to meet some new people, taste some beer, and to learn a little more about the brewing process. Ron Keefe was the instructor then and still is today offering students a great teacher with many years of experience. The cost of the six-week course is $339, which includes a text book, tastings, discussions on the brewing process, the history of beer, ingredients, and a site visit to the Granite’s brewhouse. This course is a great way to introduce your friends to craft beer.

The next course begins on January 11 and takes place every Monday evening.
Call (416) 415-5000 ext. 2517

Better With Beer
Bill White knows beer. He spent 30 years as a brewmaster with Labatt and led the Oland Specialty Program. He also set up the Labatt Beer Institutes that can be found in different provinces throughout the country. These institutes feature a classroom and a bar and Labatt employees, trained by White, would lead education seminars on all their products. Fast forward to today. White no longer has any ties to his former employee and has a heart for craft beers. He runs his own business, Better With Beer, where he hosts beer tasting parties, hosts beer dinners, and provides educational talks to bar and restaurant staff. If you want to throw a beer dinner in the future, give White a call at 905.949.2312 or send him an email at to see if he's available. No website.

Mirella Amato teaches people about beer for a living and she loves it. She loves talking about the history of beer, discussing the styles, helping you experience craft beer the way its deserved to be experienced, showing you how to serve, and she puts everything together for her comprehensive beer tasting sessions. Shoot her an email at or head to her detailed website for more information.

Thirst for Knowledge
After spending numerous years in the sales business with Labatt, Roger Mittag set off to education Ontario citizens with his Thirst for Knowledge beer programs. He recently created the Prud’homme™ Beer Certification three level program. Level 1 - Beer Enthusiast (for anyone interested in learning more about beer: $249+gst)), Level 2 - Beer Specialist (for individuals in the hospitality industry: $499+gst), Level 3 - Beer Expert (for those who want to educate others in beer related program fields: $799+gst). Head over to for more information on Mittag's courses.

*It should be noted that all the above people, with the exception of the Vancouver Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, are all friends and with the exception of Keefe, all are contributors to TAPS magazine, of which I'm apart of.

If you know of any other courses offered in other parts of Canada that I'm not aware of, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Would Santa Even Drink Labatt 0.5%?

I read an article in the Toronto Sun yesterday about some controversy relating to an advertisement that Labatt is using at select Mac's Convenience Stores, and I can't help but agree with Labatt's on this one.

The controversy has to do with Labatt's de-alcoholized beer and a quote on the ad, Leave one out for Santa. He's driving. The Sun reports that some consumers aren't happy with the ad as it promotes the wrong message about drinking and driving. The article quotes Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University, who has takes a strong stance on the ad. "They're positioning that you can have a beer and you're still safe to drive, but they can't control how many of those 0.5pc beers people consume. "They thought being this lower alcohol would get them off the hook, but I don't think it does. This is a silly ad and if they've got a decent product, it should be powerful enough." How many would you have to drink to drive under the influence? Anyone know?

Labatt's responded by saying it's a simple message about not drinking and driving. "It's reminding people, especially during this holiday season, when people are going out to celebrate, not to drink and drive.... Some of the posters direct people to, which is a website to plan ahead and reinforcing people not to drink and drive," said Catherine Pringle, corporate affairs manager of Labatt Breweries. I agree. I actually think the ad is quite clever (taste of beer aside).

But what about the children. My god, the children. What will they think when they see the ad? They can't buy the stuff. Dad probably ain't drinking the stuff, and if it ended up with the milk and cookies for some reason pity the fool who'll put it down the gullet.

The most surprising thing about this is not that people are upset, but that MADD Canada doesn't have a problem with it. Doesn't MADD have a problem with anything associated to any alcohol? Even 0.5%?

**Pic from the Toronto Sun**

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two East Coast Black Beauty's Released

My buddy Andrew Cooper of Propeller Brewing Co. forwarded me a press release today regarding the launch of their annual seasonal, Revolution, their Russian Imperial Stout.

I reviewed the Revolution back in March of 2008 and just re-reading my post has me looking forward to the newest batch. I plan on doing a vertical with the 8% RIS sometime this winter as I have bottles dating back to 2007.

The beer was released today and will be available at the brewery and at select private retail stores in Halifax.

Another Halifax brewery released their winter seasonal last week as Garrison brought back a tweaked version of their annual Grand Baltic Porter, the beer that scored 94/100 last year at the World Beer Championships.

Some friends were over on the weekend and we polished off two year old bottles and left me with none; however, a box arrived the other day from Garrison and I was thrilled to see the Porter inside.

Available at the brewery and at select private retail stores in Halifax.

Two great beers for the cold months of winters fury. Don't miss out.

The Countdown's On - Last Minute Beer Related Gift Ideas: Books

The Winter issue of TAPS will be out next week and for those of you who support the only Canadian beer publication who'll find a last minute gift guide that center's around, well, beer, and beer related items. The list is a pretty good one. I helped put it together, but with less than 10 shopping days left, I figured I'd do another here on the blog, spread out over the next week.

There's no shortage of ideas for the beer lover in your family. Cases of beer under the tree decorated with colourful ribbons - beer books about styles, history, and education - beer memorabilia items like glassware, clothing, accessories and more - brewery tours - homebrewing supplies - educational seminars; as I said, there is no shortage of ideas.

Today let's take a look at books for the beer lover.

Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada
Nicholas Pashley, the author of Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why Its Necessary, recently had a new book published by HarperCollins: Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada. The book is available from coast-to-coast in fine bookstores (and some not so fine bookstores, as Pashley would say) and, like Notes on a Beermat, Cheers! is a delightful read that will have you reading well into the night. The book retails for $19.95 and can be ordered from HarperCollins website.

Brewed in Canada & The Canadian Book of Beer
Do you have a friend in mind that has some curiousity about your love for beer? Know someone who has expressed interest in learning more about the history of the brewing industry in Canada? Any true Canadian beer lover will have heard about the book Brewed in Canada by William Allen Sneath. The book takes a great look into everything that beer has touched in Canada. Yes it lacks an index, but don't let that stop you from ordering it from Amazon.

If you want to start your friend off with lighter reading, check out Steve Cameron's new book, The Canadian Book of Beer. The book was launched in the summer and is a smaller, easier read than Sneath's book. It just scratches the surface, yet provides enough information to get your buddy on their way. I like to think of it as a Cole's notes version of Brewed in Canada.

Tasting Beer: An Insider's Guide to the World's Greatest Drink
Randy Mosher is a widely celebrated beer writer out of Chicago who penned Radical Brewing, a book that's very popular among both aspiring homebrewers and the most seasoned basement brewer. This year Mosher penned another book that deserves a spot in your beer library: Tasting Beer. Mosher touches on everything in this book; styles, tasting vocabulary, throwing a tasting party, includes diagrams of the senses, provides a history of our favourite beverage and breaks down beer styles by country of origin. A great gift for any beer drinker.

The beerbistro Cookbook
Stephen Beaumont is Canada's most recognized beer writer. He's written five books all on the subject, six if you include his latest - The beerbistro Cookbook, who he wrote with beerbistro owner/chef Brian Morin. This is a book you must own. You'll love it. Your girlfriend/wife/partner will love it. The book features recipes straight from the beerbistro kitchen, which if your not aware, is one of the most recognized kitchens in the beer bar industry the world over. Beaumont offers pairing ideas, provides notes on hosting a beer dinner, and gives pouring and presentation tips. Where can you get it? Here on Amazon, or straight from beerbistro itself.

Hops 'n' Glory
The popular author of highly acclaimed beer books Man Walks Into a Pub and Three Sheets to the Wind, is back with possibly his best work yet. Pete Brown takes readers on an epic adventure from Burton-on-Trent to the heat of India while protecting a special cask conditioned India Pale Ale, doing his best to recreate the voyage the beer is famous for. Brown mentioned the following on his own blog yesterday: "Hops and Glory has sold out. Macmillan have sold 4550 copies, and there are no more left." Fear not Canadians, you can still find copies, although minimal, through Chapters/Indigo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

WinterCity Celebration of Beer Dinner - beerbistro Feb. 9th

From beerbistro newsletter:

WinterCity Celebration of Beer Dinner - February 9th, 2010 featuring beers that are considered the leading innovators of their style

This unique culinary event showcases and celebrates the diversity of beer as a beverage, as an ingredient and an accompaniment to fine food.

Seven courses highlighting the Toronto Culinary landscape, are paired with seven beers, including the original pilsner, Pilsner Urquell and other brought in exclusively for this event. Enjoy creative fresh market beer cuisine such as an elk and dried blueberry hot dog with caramelized onions and creme fraiche.

Please check our website for a detailed description of each course closer to the event date.

6-7pm: Beer Hour
7pm: Dinner - $125 per person including taxes. Call 416.861.9872 for tickets to the event.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Interview with Chief Beer Officer Scott Kerkmans

**The following interview appeared in the Summer '09 issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine.**

Imagine waking up every morning knowing that your whole day would be devoted to marketing the beauty of the beer industry; getting dressed and heading off to the next destination to educate enthusiastic people on all the qualities of beer; traveling the world to develop and set up beer menus and hosting beer dinners in restaurants both large and small. Doesn't that sound like your dream job? Well, 29 year old Scott Kerkmans is living that dream, and he is loving every minute of it.

Back in 2006, the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel chain (Starwood Hotels and Resorts) began a worldwide search to name a Chief Beer Officer to lead a new project they were embarking on - the Best Brews Program. Kerkmans had to beat out over 7, 800 other applicants from 31 countries to be crowned the first ever, Four Points by Sheraton Chief Beer Officer, and he's been on cloud nine ever since.

He was in Toronto recently, attending a number of conferences, and we managed to meet up to discuss his highly coveted job over a couple of pints of course.

Congratulations on your 2nd anniversary as Four Points by Sheraton's Chief Beer Officer (CBO). What have the last couple of years been like?
Incredibly fun and incredibly successful. The Best Brews Program receives great customer feedback, which makes us really happy to hear. It's always rewarding to hear customers compliment the program, and to hear that we are helping change the taste buds of people throughout the world.

What does a CBO do?
I manage our Best Brews Program at all our participating locations. I mostly train our staff on how to handle beer, serve beer, and how to respect beer. I also spend quite a bit of time on test marketing our program with various products, whether it is a food and beer pairing or just gauging what's hot in the industry. I tend to do my fair share of beer dinners, which are always fun. And I do a lot of promotion for Four Points as well.

You've mentioned the Best Brews Program? Can you describe it?
The first Best Brews Program started out of the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) location. The general manager was passionate about beer, so passionate that he had over 100 varieties in stock to choose from. Four Points noticed how successful this model was and decided to start rolling it out to other locations. By 2006, it was gaining so much exposure and was building so fast, that Four Points had to hire someone to overlook the entire operation. We have since taken it international.

What the program is though, to get back to your question, is our idea of having at least 4 draught options with half of them being local or regional selections and 12 bottle choices with half of those being local or regional. In other words, not all of the options are local, just half. The other half of the beer selections are quality national or international craft beers.

How many Four Points are currently participating in the Best Brews Program?
There are 23 countries participating in the Best Brews Program with 136 locations worldwide. There are 90 locations in North America alone, and Canada is well represented with 19, which we are working at expanding.

What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
I don't really have a typical day, or week for that matter. I get to travel around to our different properties to speak with the staff about serving techniques, provide educational material to managers, tour various breweries to hopefully create a healthy working relationship, and promote our Best Brews Program at trade shows, festivals and select beer events. I am also a certified beer judge and I like to judge the odd competition. Everyday is a great day full of new experiences.

Tell us how you did it? How did you beat out over 7,800 other applicants to obtain the position?
Well, I think I had four factors working for me. One, I was a professional brewer for a number of years prior. Two, I sold beer through a distributor, which provided me with a good working knowledge of how beer gets sold in America. Three, I was the first employee hired by DRAFT Magazine to write about beer; and four, I was/am so passionate about the industry. I think I used all four experiences during the hiring process. To get the job I decided to submit a short video explaining why I wanted the job and why I would be great at representing the Four Points initiative. That video caught the attention of the Four Point's executives and the rest as they say, is history. It might have also helped that I took them a bottle of my homebrewed beer and a bottle of Mead. (Laughter)

Didn't know Four Points by Sheraton was a place to go for a craft beer. What changes have you brought to the hotel since you've started?
Introducing customers to local and regional craft beer for one. It is so rewarding when you hear the stories of travelers who get to try a new beer for the first time in one of our hotels. The Best Brews Program isn't really concerned with sales (even though they have been great!); we are more concerned with customer satisfaction. There is a curiousity surrounding beer now, just as the wine industry experienced years ago, and putting our program in place to ensure people can get to satisfy that curiousity is awesome.

When working with staff members, do you see more people already exhibiting some degree of beer knowledge?
Primarily you'll see a lot of novices that get easily excited about the beer industry, but who don't possess any real knowledge of styles, or knowledge of brands outside the national brewers. It can be a real eye opener for them when I share information about the brewing industry, especially when discussing the craft market. Most new servers, or managers for that matter, are unaware of what is out there, but they embrace it once they have some education behind them. That is a very rewarding part of my role.

I can imagine that you've traveled a lot, visiting some great brewing nations. Which country would you say is on the rise in terms of beer selection and quality?
To tell you the honest truth, Canada has impressed me lately. As an American we can't get that many Canadian beers in our hands unless we travel to a Canadian city. But when you do get here (to Canada) there are a lot of unique beers starting to be produced. Canadian breweries, from what I've experienced, tend to stick to style guidelines more than we do in the US, and they do a damn fine job of it. However, I'm tasting more and more 'new' stuff here, and I'm liking it. I've also noticed how cheap the great imports are in the liquor stores. It must be nice walking into a LCBO and getting a bottle of Orval for under $4. I really believe that the Canadian beer scene is on the rise, in terms of craft produced beer.

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in New Mexico and that is where I started home brewing. I have moved around the US quite a bit, to Salt Lake at one point. Man, do they have some weird drinking laws. I currently call Denver home now.

How did you get into the beer industry?
Like so many others - home brewing. When I was about 20 years old, my brother bought himself a home brewing kit. After trying to make a couple of high alcohol brews that turned out terrible he gave up. On my 21st birthday he gave me the kit and I started brewing right away. I dedicated more attention to the art then my brother, and before I knew it I was making a living brewing beer for a brewpub in Albuquerque. I worked my way up to head brewer before heading off to brew in Alaska. Then it was off to Phoenix to sell beer, and finally to DRAFT to work as their Beer Director.

Beer Director for DRAFT Magazine? Interesting. How smooth was the transition from writing about beer to educating people about beer all over the world?
Good question. Well, I think I combined all of my past beer experience into one ball and utilized each skill when it was required. I still do some writing for drink magazines, and I have my own blog; but I think my background has provided me with enough knowledge to ensure confidence in my work with the public.

What has been the highlight of your 2 years in the position?
I don't think I can narrow it down to one. There have been so many. Going to Oktoberfest in 2007 was amazing as was touring our Asia Pacific locations. I was able to judge in the first ever Asia Beer Awards - that was definitely a highlight that I'll always cherish. But I think that the biggest highlight would probably be just getting the job in the first place.

You've touched on the Canadian brewing scene already? Any favourites?
I don't have any one favourite. As I have mentioned, I am impressed with how Canadian breweries brew true to style beers. While the majority may not be big or extremely bold, they are very drinkable and quaffable. I think the beer culture in Canada is extremely vibrant and definitely heading to where the US market is, yet steeped in tradition with pride for the national breweries.

What can Canadians expect when they walk into a Four Points by Sheraton establishment?
They will be able to expect to find beers that they may be familiar with if they're from the area, and could expect to see some that they're not. Canada is great for our program. If someone living in Ontario travels to British Columbia and stays in one of our hotels, they will be able to drink a beer brewed locally (or regionally) that they may not have been able to otherwise. Our program offers travelers who don't have the time to venture out to the breweries, or other pubs, the chance to experiment with quality craft beers.

What a job!
People ask me every single day if they can have my job, or ask if I need an assistant. There is a natural curiousity surrounding beer and it's a topic people can discuss for hours, and for a multi-national hotel chain to realize this, and act upon it, is unbelievable, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

So, do you need an assistant?
Haha. Not yet!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mill Street Pumps Out Another Seasonal

Mill Street launched yet another seasonal beer the other night down at their brewpub in the Distillery District - Vanilla Porter. Joel Manning, Mill Street's Brewmaster, shared his tasting notes with me and describes the new porter in detail.

"Deep mahogany colour made with pale malt, caramel malt, roasted barley and raw flaked wheat. It has an outrageous amount of pure, organic, Mexican double strength vanilla extract in it to give it a very smooth and rich (but not over-powering) vanilla aroma and palate. The nose is slightly fruity with plum aromas from the yeast and malt and smokey bittersweet chocolate notes from the roast barley. These flavours in combination with the caramel accented vanilla produce a very light aroma reminiscent of sweet pipe tobacco. The Vanilla reappears late in the aftertaste but never becomes cloying. This sounds like something that you would have half a pint of and not want any more, but it is subtly enough flavoured to be a very sessionable beer. We are very proud of this one! "

As I mentioned last month, after attending their Roggenbier launch, Mill Street has a number of other beers they plan to release in the upcoming months.

Mid December - 7.2% Weizenbock which Manning states is the most authentic German brew Mill Street's done to date.

January & February - Manning will release his Imperial Stout in February that will use chocolate from SOMA, their next door neighbour in the Distillery District. The Scotch Ale will be back again this year, as will the Betelguese.

Author Nick Pashley on CBC's Q

Nicholas Pashley, the author of Cheers! An Intemperate History of Beer in Canada and Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why Its Necessary, will be on CBC's Q radio show this morning at 10am with host Jian Ghomeshi. Pashley was out in Stouffville with me last night taping an episode for the Pub Radio Show and promised he wouldn't pull any antics similar to what Billy Bob Thornton did with Ghomeshi interviewed him in April. Should be a great interview.

Listen here.

Birthday Wishes to Bar Towel Founder

Bar founder, Free Our founder, Bar Towel Imports Founder, Bar Towel Radio host, Golden Tap Awards founder and organizer, and local craft beer champion, Cass Enright, a good friend of mine, is celebrating a birthday today.

It's been a busy year for Enright. Bar Towel celebrated a 10th anniversary, he successfully imported a pallet of Garrison product for private order and is working on the second order (while documenting the challenges on his Free Our Beer website), and the Golden Tap Awards were the biggest and best to date. Here's hoping the guy can relax with a beer (or two) tonight. Please join me in wishing Enright a happy birthday!

**Pic - Garrison Brewmaster Daniel Girard, Enright, Garrison Owner Brian Titus

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meet Matt Phillips: Founder of Phillips Brewing Co.

Meet Matt Phillips, the founder/brewer of Victoria's popular Phillips Brewing Co., named BC's Brewery of the Year three years running.

It hasn't always been easy for Matt Phillips. In 2001 the man put everything on the line to ensure his artisnal brewery survived, doing so without the help of bank loans, instead using numerous credit cards to purchase his equipment. The location of the first brewery was also the place Matt lived, rolling up his bed in the morning and showering at the local gym. Over the years Phillips has outgrown two locations and continues to grow at a healthy rate. It's an incredible success story, one that shows you can succeed if you put your mind to it. And Canadian beer drinkers, who are able to get their hands on Phillips beer, are no doubt pleased that Matt stuck to his guns and persevered.

Where is the Phillips Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
We moved to Downtown Victoria in the spring of 2008 from our former home on the other side of the bridge….it means that we can get coffee (it takes a lot of coffee to make good beer), and gives us space for a tasting room. We do eight beers on a year round basis – IPA, Amnesiac Double IPA, Black Toque India Dark, Blue Buck, Slipstream Cream, Phoenix Gold Lager, Longboat Double Chocolate, Surly Blonde Triple, plus at least one seasonal every month.

Describe the history behind the brewery.
I started the Brewery in the Summer of 2001 – I was unfinanced, and so chose VISA and Mastercard as my patrons of the brewed arts. I got some used gear, built a small bottling machine, and worked and lived in a small warehouse, bottling in the mornings, delivering in the afternoons, and brewing at night. Since then we have assembled a great crew, with a wide variety of backgrounds that are key in bringing out the new beers.

What is your best selling beer?
Our Blue buck is number one – it is a relatively malty pale ale – one that had another name originally, but due to a trademark dispute changed names….

What's new at the brewery?
Well everything is always changing around here, always tweaking equipment, or adding new toys, always working on the next new beer. We love the winter because it allows us to do some seasonals that are a bit beefier – Barley wines, Dopplebocks, and Imperial stouts are in tank right now. Awardwise, we just picked up the northwest brewing awards best BC brewery for the 3rd year running – for us this is a big one, because it is a readers choice award.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
Well I grew up on the East coast at a time when there were craft beers in New England, but none locally. I got pretty excited by these, and so started homebrewing because I couldn’t get them at home. After university I ended up on the west coast, and was fortunate enough to get a job at a brewpub in Canmore – the Grizzly Paw, which allowed me to hang out in the brewhouse a bit, as long as I had some sort of cleaning apparatus in hand. I was hooked – loved the experimentation with flavours, the subtleties, the process, and most importantly having a beer at the end of the day.

What is the best aspect of working in the Canadian craft brewery industry?
Well, it is such a big country, and we don’t have any national brewing events where all brewers congregate, so I feel like I work in the BC craft industry. That said, brewers are brewers, and no matter where you go, the best part of the beer industry is that people are passionate, fun and open with sharing ideas for beer, problems, or (griping about taxes).

Where can someone find your products?
We are just in BC – mostly in Victoria and Vancouver areas, though there are some pockets of craft beer culture all over this province.

Tell us something about Phillips that not a lot of people know about.
Hmmm…we don’t have a lot of secrets….maybe that the dopplebock we make – the Instigator – is named for the 3rd (and least successful) bottling machine that I built. We called it the instigator because it was the start of all problems in the brewery. I wish we still had it, for memory sake, but I gave it to Ron (our head bottler) with a sledge hammer and a grinder for his birthday, after we bought our first machine.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
Marketing budgets! Actually in a way, I believe this is true. For us our marketing is largely based on the beers that we make. The fact that we can be flexible and innovative with our beers allow us to create a market instead of an image based marketing campaign.

Best time for a pint?
Toss up between a pint after work or a pint with dinner –very different experiences.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
Well I guess having my own brewery. What could be better as a brewer than having autonomy over the types of beers that you make? There have been a lot of cool milestones along the way, but they all add up to improving our ability to make good beer.

Cold clean lager, big hoppy pale ale, or a nicely roasted stout?
Big hoppy IPA. No question.

Name your favourite non Phillips produced beer.
Hopworks Urban Brewery IPA

How successful have the seasonals been? And what has been your favourite?
The seasonals have been great. We don’t do big runs of them, because we want to make sure that they sell out, so the economics of them don’t really pan out, but they are the reason for having a brewery in many ways. I think that if we only did one beer all the time we would have a very different staff here. It is in some ways the driving force of the brewery.

We did a double barreled Scottish ale last year that blew me away – Kentucky bourbon followed by Okanagan Cab Sav barrel. Big flavours, but very smooth and mellow at the same time.

Phillips Brewing Company
2010 Government Street
Victoria, BC V8T 4P1

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Swans Buckerfields Brewery Extra IPA - Victoria, BC

Snow flakes finally fell in Toronto yesterday. After going through the first snow free November in over 100 years Toronto is due to get a bunch of the white stuff (tomorrow it seems).

Around 3pm, while looking out the window from my office space, I suddenly felt like a big bold IPA. Something with a lot of body. Something with a ton of hop, yet nicely balanced with some caramel malt. I got through the rest of my day (barely) and headed home. The door to the beer fridge gets opened and after shifting some bottles here and there I settled on a Swans Buckerfields Extra IPA, a beer I haven't re-visited in over a year.

Swans has been around for quite some time now, opening the doors to the brewpub/brewery in 1989 in Victoria. Andrew Tessier, brewmaster since 2003, produces a number of English style beers that include: pale ale, a stout, brown ale, IPA, Bavarian lager, scotch ale, and raspberry ale, and a number of these beers have gone onto win a number of Canadian Brewing Awards over the years. I have some of those in the fridge as well, but tonight belongs to the boldest of the bunch.

Into the kitchen to grab a pint glass, pop the top, sit back, drink up and relax.

The pale amber hued Extra IPA comes out of the bottle and into the pint glass releasing the aroma of pine needles and mellow citrusy notes. A big billowy layer of foam rests atop the unfiltered 6.8% IPA. Great start. There is some fruity notes on the nose as well that mix in with the aforementioned hops leading into a burst of flavour in the first sip. Bold hops up front, spicy even, before giving way to a slight warming alcohol touch and a mellowing sweetness from the caramel malt that stands up to the hops just enough to create some balance. The mouthfeel is pleasant, finishing dry with lingering bitterness and a warming sensation in the throat. The 650ml bottle is all to myself tonight, and I'm happy to finish it off. This Extra IPA would have matched nicely with a slice of carrot cake or another rich dessert like baklava.

Swans Buckerfields Brewery
506 Pandora Avenue
Victoria, BC V8W 1N6

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Pub Radio Show - Now Available On Demand

Back in September I co-hosted my first episode of the Pub Radio Show with host Bill Perrie. The Stouffville based radio station gave Perrie his own hour long time slot to invite brewers, brewery representatives, industry insiders, and musical talent into the studio to talk beer. Perrie wanted to create an environment similar to that of a pub, some people sitting around the table having some drinks and chatting, and I think the show's done just that. The taping is done every Wednesday evening and airs on Saturday on 102.7 FM between 4-5pm and repeats on Monday's from 8-9pm.

We've had a number of guests head out to Stouffville to be interviewed and to talk up their product. From John Bowden of Great Lakes to Chris Goddard of Steam Whistle, Perrie likes to mix it up with representation from small craft breweries to large breweries like Molson, which helps create a level playing field that really caters to beer drinkers of all sorts. There have been some really good interviews.

Months after the show went on air, Whistle Radio has just recently put a Pub Show webpage together on their main site that features all the clips that we've completed to date, enabling you to go back and listen from the start. Right now each show is broken up into four parts on the webpage, and doesn't identify the guest, but at least they're available.

This week Perrie and I are going to have representatives from the new Hop City Brewery in studio, along with Nick Pashley who will be there to speak about his new book. It should be another good show. Join the Facebook group today to check out photo's of past guests.

Beer Guests to Date:
Cass Enright - Bar Towel Founder
Jon Graham - Cameron's Brewery
Steve Abrams & Joel Manning - Mill Street
Chris Goddard & Colin Banting - Steam Whistle
John Bowden - Great Lakes Brewery
Tony King - Sleeman's
Lisa Dunbar - Ontario Craft Brewers
Peter Bombaci - Miller Genuine Draft (MolsonCoors)
Roger Mittag - Professor of Beer
Nic Rennie - Innis and Gunn

Brewers, brewery owners, sales reps, suppliers, etc., if you are interested in coming on the show shoot me an email or contact Perrie at

Saturday, December 5, 2009

CASK! Social @ Victory Cafe

If you're not one of the many people from Toronto heading south to Buffalo today for Cole's Cask Festival, make sure to head over to Victory Cafe to take part in the CASK! Social event taken place between 4pm - 7pm.

These monthly CASK! Social's offer people the chance to socialize with like-minded people and drink some fine cask conditioned ales. There will be three cask ales available today. Admission is free.

*CASK! Social's are hosted by Toronto CASK! group.

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