Category Archives: beer events

There Are Some Things I've Been Meaning To Tell You…

…and here they are:

  1. My weekly column for Taste T.O. this past Tuesday was a re-review of Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale – “re-review” because I had previously written about it three years ago when it was first launched in cans, but the recipe has recently been tweaked to make it hoppier and much more enjoyable.
  2. Speaking of re-reviews – last night I cracked open one of those lovely 750 ml ceramic swing-top bottles from Beau’s All-Natural Brewing, containing their limited edition Screaming Beaver Oak-Aged Angry IPA, which I had been sitting on since May. I tried a pint of it on cask back in the spring and didn’t care for it at all – it was boozy and sticky and just a big hot mess. But either the three months or so of sitting in my fridge took the edge off the bottled version, or it was a beer better suited for bottle format over cask – either way, I enjoyed the hell out of it this time. Big aroma with the oak, malt and hops playing very nicely off each other, and a flavour that starts sweet, with some notes of caramel and tropical fruit, before it turns dry and bitter with a wonderfully long and lingering finish of pine and grapefruit and wood. Mmmm-mmmm!
  3. Not sure how I missed mentioning this before, but a few weeks back, my buddy Troy over at the Great Canadian Beer Blog did a Q&A with me as part of a series of Ontario beer blogger profiles. Seven of us have been featured so far, and as the blogroll I maintain over at Canadian Beer News shows, Troy will have plenty more to choose from if he decides to continue, especially if he expands to cover all of Canada. Hard to believe that just a few years ago, there were only 3 or 4 of us doing the beer blogging thing in the whole country.
  4. Finally, I’m flattered to have been asked by George down at C’est What? to participate in one of the events they’re holding during Toronto Beer Week. Dubbed “Not Always In Good Taste – a beer writers-in-the-round“, it’s gonna feature Stephen Beaumont, Nick Pashley, Ian Coutts, Steve Cameron, Troy Burtch, Aonghus Kealy, Josh Rubin and myself sitting on stage talking about beer. And drinking some as well, I would expect. Which could be pretty boring, but given that it’s happening at 10:00 PM following several other TBW events, including what is sure to be an epic Brewdog beer dinner at beerbistro, I fully expect that most of us – and most of the audience – will be half in the bag before it even starts. So best luck to whoever is supposed to moderate the damn thing…

Ontario Craft Beer Week: Q&A with Steve Beauchesne and Jed Corbeil

My weekly beer column for Taste T.O. this week is a preview article for Ontario Craft Beer Week, which is taking place and breweries, bars and restaurants all over the province on June 20th to 26th.

The article features a few quotes from Steve Beauchesne (co-organizer of the Week, and co-owner of Beau’s All-Natural Brewing) and Jed Corbeil (co-organizer of Session: A Craft Beer Festival, the biggest event of the Week, and co-owner of The Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge) taken from short Q&A interviews I did with each of them via email. And since I didn’t use the full interviews for the article, I thought I’d share them here…

Steve Beauchesne

What inspired the Ontario Craft Brewers to do an OCB Week? Has it been in the works for a while?

It’s funny, we’ve talked about it for a while, but made the decision to tackle it this year very suddenly. Craft beer weeks have been popping up in Vancouver, San Fransisco, New York and more and they seemed like a great way to build awareness with customers and build on the collaborative nature of craft breweries.

Keep reading this post

Molson Presents a Beer School for Bloggers

Due to the fact that I write about beer (and occasionally other things) in a number of different places, I get a lot of press releases and invitations and freebees. This is nothing new to me – I spent many, many years as a music writer and DJ, and received an absolutely insane number of free CDs, records, concert tickets and other swag – and as such, I’ve become both jaded and realistic about PR and marketing and the people who work in that business. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a lot of really nice PR people over the years, a couple of whom I’ve gone on to become fairly good friends with. But I also have to recognize that my relationships with most them are ultimately based on them giving me stuff in hopes that I will write about it, and nothing more.

In addition to recognizing this, I’ve also developed what I think to be a pretty strong bullshit detector (OK, sometimes it’s a bit too strong), as well as a low tolerance for empty buzzwords and marketing doublespeak. Basically, I’m a cynical bastard who dislikes many elements of our consumer-oriented society, and I take most of the PR bumph that I receive with a huge boulder of salt.

So when I received an invitation a month or so ago to a blogger-oriented tasting event of some sort featuring Molson beers, I was typically ambivalent about it. Not just because I dislike most of Molson’s products, but also because the event was called “Brew 2.0” and the invite used phrases like “social media space” and “blogosphere” and such. I was prepared to ignore it, but I got hooked by two things: the promise of a debut of a brand new beer (Molson or not, I’ll all about trying new beers, since I’m a ratings whore), and the chance to check out the micro-brewery at the Air Canada Centre where they brew Rickard’s Red for on-site sales (not a big fan of the beer, but I always like looking at all the shiny tanks and pipes and things).

Keep reading this post

The Return of Unibroue

(Sorta creepy photo borrowed from evilloop.com)

The title of this post is a bit misleading, as Unibroue never actually went anywhere. But for the last couple of years, their presence was on the wane in Ontario. Their products were being delisted from retail outlets, and while Blanche de Chambly was still a popular draught choice at various in-the-know establishments, most of their other beers had all but disappeared. Quite simply, it seemed that parent company Sleeman (and their parent company, Sapporo) were more interested in expanding the Unibroue brands in the US market than in Ontario, which is somewhat understandable, given the relative size of that market.

Recently, though, there’s been a definite push to re-establish Unibroue in Ontario. 750 ml bottles of several of their beers are now back on LCBO shelves, and a couple of events have taken place in Toronto recently that show they’re serious about getting back to business.

Keep reading this post

The Very Beery Month Of May

Wow, nearly a month since my last post. That’s a long time, even for an irregular and inconsistent blogger like myself. Lotsa things have been keeping me busy – in fact, looking back at my social calendar for the last month, you could say that I’ve just been too busy drinking good beer (+ other things) and eating great food to write about any of it…

Keep reading this post

You'd Think We'd Never Seen An IPA Before

Those of you who don’t live in a jurisdiction with a nanny state style liquor board will probably find this hard to believe, but the fact that Southern Tier IPA is soon going to be available on the general stock list at the LCBO is a Really Big Deal to Ontario beer geeks. For the past couple of years, we’ve had a grand total of three American craft brews available in our retail liquor stores – Brooklyn Lager, Sam Adams Boston Lager and Anchor Liberty Ale – so the impending addition of another fine beer from south of the border has made us happy. (Even better: it will soon be joined by Dogfish Head 60 Minute and Rogue Dead Guy Ale!)

To celebrate the occasion, Southern Tier’s Ontario import agents Roland + Russell have arranged for brewery co-founder Phin DeMink and his brewmaster whose name escapes me at the moment to come up to Toronto for a couple of launch events this weekend.

The first is a dinner on Friday night at the Academy of Spherical Arts, featuring four Southern Tier beers paired with four food courses. Plus Phin and Mr. Brewmaster will be saying a few words, and there’ll be some tag team MC/host action from Cass Enright of The Bar Towel and yours truly. At 75 bucks (all taxes & tips included) for a gourmet meal, several beers, free pool on the Academy’s renowned tables, and the chance to see me make a complete ass of myself, it’s truly the bargain of the year.

And if you’re busy on Friday (or just a cheapass), there’s a free admission “meet & greet” at Volo on Saturday from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, where the Southern Tier duo will be hanging out to chat, and several ST beers will be available to purchase and enjoy. (Yes, I know that the Roland + Russell event page says that it costs $20. That was the original plan – a $20 ticket which included beer samples – but it changed.)

Hopefully, we’ll soon reach the point where a new American beer of quality coming to Ontario will be no big whoop. But for now, it’s a great excuse to get together and do it up right. Hope you can make it.

Beer Steps Up To The Gourmet Plate

Since starting Taste T.O. early last year, Sheryl and I have been going to a good number of gourmet food events, and as you’d expect, the vast majority of them feature wine as the beverage of choice, with the beer choices (if there even are any) often limited to one or two mainstream offerings. So I was pretty stoked a few weeks ago when I found out about the Brewers Plate, a gourmet tasting event pairing (mostly) local food from some of Toronto’s top chefs with beers from some of the area’s best craft breweries, all in support of Green Enterprise Toronto.

The event took place this past Friday, April 11th at the picturesque Berkeley Church, and was a success on pretty much all levels, from the quality of the food and drink, to the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. I’m going to be writing up a full report for the summer issue of TAPS, but in the meantime, here are links to a few write-ups that have been posted by others elsewhere:

Sheryl @ Taste T.O.
Joshua @ blogTO
Troy @ Great Canadian Pubs & Beer
Christine @ Canadian Living: The Foodie-File

Some photos (most taken by Sheryl, ’cause I’m a klutz with the camera) are available behind the cut.

Keep reading this post

Beer – It's What's For Dinner

beerfordinner.jpg

If you’ve been paying attention to The Bar Towel recently – or more specifically, to my news posts and the Beer Events forum over there – you’ll know that there are a crazy number of beer dinners coming up in Toronto over the next couple of months. I’ll be trying to make it out to as many of them as I can, and will post reviews of the ones that I attend, but for those who are in the area and would like to make it out to some themselves, here’s a quick round-up:

Monday, March 24th
Easter Beer Dinner

Abbot On The Hill, 1276 Yonge Street
$65 – call 416.920.9074 for reservations

A special Easter Monday dinner pairing five Belgian beers from import agents Roland & RussellMargriet, St Martin Blonde, St Martin Brune, Gouden Carolus Easter Beer & Boscoulis – paired with a five-course meal, including a main course of Rabbit Fricassee with Apricot Preserves & Spiced Pecans. [more details]

Tuesday, April 8th
Fuller’s Dinner with John Keeling

Duke of Westminster, First Canadian Place, 77 Adelaide Street West
$45 – call 416.368.2761 for reservations

Premier Brands presents a dinner with John Keeling, Brewing Director of Fuller’s Brewery, Chiswick, London, UK. Beers to be served include Fuller’s London Pride, Fuller’s ESB, Fuller’s London Porter & Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew. [more details]

Friday, April 11th
The Brewer’s Table
The Church at Berkeley, 315 Queen Street East
$150 – call 416.644-1012 to reserve

A benefit for Green Enterprise Toronto, co-presented by Local Food Plus and Slow Food Toronto. This first annual event celebrates slow food, local-sustainable food and farming, and import substitution in the winter/spring season in the Toronto region. Featuring finely crafted beers from Mill Street, Cameron’s, Wellington, Church Key, Steam Whistle and Black Oak to compliment dishes from Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, La Palette, Veritas, Cowbell, Gladstone Hotel and Rebel House, as well as variety of individual food artisans, oysters from Oyster Boy, and live jazz bands. [more details]

Friday, April 25th
Southern Tier Beer Dinner

The Academy of Spherical Arts, One Snooker Street
ticket info t.b.a.

Roland & Russell presents a dinner with Southern Tier‘s Phin DeMink to celebrate the arrival of Southern Tier IPA at the LCBO. There will also be a more casual “meet & greet” with Phin on Saturday, April 26th at Volo. Further details t.b.a.

April (date t.b.a.)
Bavaria/La Trappe Beer Dinner

Abbot On The Hill, 1276 Yonge Street
ticket info t.b.a.

Premier Brands presents a three-course dinner to mark the arrival of Bavaria on draught for the first time in Canada, and La Trappe (Koningshoeven) Bock for the first time in the Western Hemisphere. Further details t.b.a.

Wednesday, May 28th
Dogfish Head Beer Dinner

beerbistro, 18 King Street East
$100 – tickets on sale May 1st

A dinner with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, featuring the beer cuisine of beerbistro chef Brian Morin paired with a number of DFH beers, some available for the first time in Ontario. Further details t.b.a.

Beer Academy at Hart House

harthouse_mirella.jpg

Last Thursday night, Hart House on the University of Toronto campus presented their first (and hopefully not last) Beer Academy event hosted by Mirella Amato, a woman who is a relatively new face in Toronto’s beer scene, but a very knowledgeable one.

Attended by roughly 40 people – most of them beer newbies – the evening started with Mirella leading a 90-minute tutored tasting session featuring nine different craft beers:

King Pilsner
St. Andre Vienna Lager
Neustadt 10W30
Mill St. Wit
Black Oak Pale Ale
Church-Key West Coast IPA
Scotch-Irish John By Imperial Stout
Unibroue Maudite
Granite Brewery Gin Lane Barley Wine

harthouse_beers.jpg

As each sample was served, Mirella spoke a bit about the style and the brewery, and also touched on more general beer-related topics (history, ingredients, etc.) between each sample.

All attendees were also given an info sheet with a bit of info about each beer, including availability (LCBO, Beer Store, brewery) and some suggested food pairings. To help with the latter, the second part of the night featured a casual buffet reception, with more of all of the beers and hors d’oeuvre sized servings of the following tasty treats:

Jerk Chicken Drumettes
Grilled Italian Sausage
Grilled Flat-Iron Steak
Panko Crusted Chicken Skewer
Cassava Chips
Mini Venison Burger
Medjool Date Filled With Stilton
Chai Spiced Panna Cotta

harthouse_buffet.jpg

The food and drink events at Hart House are known for having a heavy focus on wine, with little or no attention paid to beer (I recall being offered two or three macrobrews as my only beer options at a holiday lunch there last year), so this event was a good step forward for them. Hopefully, it will spin off and improve their everyday beer offerings, as well as inspiring future beer-related events.

It’s also worth noting that Mirella has just launched the website for Beerology, the umbrella name for her various beer-related pursuits such as writing for various publications (including TAPS), presenting the beer programming on the streaming video website Legourmet.tv, and of course, hosting guided beer tastings. Keep an eye on the site to find out what she’ll be up to next.

Powerful Beer on a Powerless Night

I had a fun – and partly odd – time this past Tuesday night as I hit two different beer-centric happenings.

First stop was beerbistro, where they were celebrating the tapping of several Koningshoeven beers which were appearing on draught for the first time ever in Canada. (In fact, I believe this may have been the first time any Trappist beers have been available on draught in Canada.) The original plan was to feature five Koningshoeven (aka La Trappe) brews on tap – Blond, Dubbel, Tripel, Quadrupel and Witte – but shipping problems meant that only the latter three made it in time for the big night, so the Blond & Dubbel were there in the more commonly available bottled form. Still, it was a rare treat to get even the three, so no one was complaining.

My arrival was later than expected, and the bar area was rammed solid with a mixture of the usual after-work drinks crowd and the Trappist-thirsty beer geek contingent. Luckily, I reached the bar just as Stephen Beaumont was getting up from his stool to do a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with a rep from the brewery who had flown over for the event, so I generously offered to save his seat for him and got myself a glass of the Witte, the one beer of the five that I’d not tried before. You can check my notes on RateBeer for my full thoughts on the beer – I’ll just say here that it’s a really solid witbier, and having it on draught made it even better.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay long, so I wasn’t able to sample any of the others, but I hope to make it back to try the Tripel and Quad before the kegs run dry. I was also unable to stay for the celebratory dinner, with each course paired with one of the Koningshoeven beers, but I’m sure that chef Brian Morin and his crew knocked it out of the park as they usually do with their themed dinners.

My other destination for the evening was the Mill Street Brewpub, where they were holding a semi-private event celebrating their Brewery of the Year honour awarded at the recent Canadian Brewing Awards. The mile or so walk from beerbistro to the pub was a strange one, as there was a scattered power outage that caused some blocks to be darkened while others were fine. A few minutes before I reached the Distillery District complex where the pub is located, my wife called to let me know that the whole District was in darkness, and the staff at the pub was scrambling to serve up what they could by candlelight.

Luckily, the lights came back on literally the moment that I arrived (I tried to take responsibility for the miraculous occurrence, but Sheryl was having none of it…), and we snagged a prime seat before the crowd swooped in. Fellow beer blogger Troy Burtch joined us with his lovely fiancĂ©e Jessica, as did TAPS Magazine editor Karla Dudley. The open bar tempted me to work through a few Mill Street favourites, but the cask-conditioned IPA that I started with was in such good shape that I just stuck with it for the rest of the night.

Pub staff were making the rounds with a seemingly endless assortment of hors d’oeuvres, most of which were palate-pleasing, although the flavour combo on the maple & pesto chicken wings was a bit odd. Local musical legend Big Rude Jake provided some great entertainment for a crowd that was sadly more interested in watching the Leafs lose to the Habs (again) on the big screens. Mill Street co-founder Steve Abrams came by to chat at some point, as did C’est What‘s colourful owner George Milbrandt who was wearing an equally colourful scarf.

As Troy says over on his blog, “It was a good night celebrating Mill Street’s award won because of dedication, hard work and fantastic products”. Not much I can add to that, really, except to offer the Mill Streeters further congratulations on the well-deserved win.