Category Archives: travel

Take A Trip To The Tier

For my Torontonian readers, here’s something pretty cool that’s coming up:

The fine folks at Roland + Russell, importers of many excellent beers (along with wine, spirits and other tasty things) are arranging a bus trip down to Southern Tier Brewery on Saturday, April 30th.

In addition to touring the brewery and meeting Southern Tier brewer/owner Phin DeMink and his crew, there will be pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and yes, some beer to drink.

All of the details, including ticket info, are up on the R+R website.

A Taste of Niagara's Best


As I’ve mentioned previously, the wife and I don’t get out of the city very often, so we were glad to have the chance to take a quick day trip down to Niagara Falls earlier this month with a couple of friends (and fellow beer geeks) to check out the recently opened Niagara’s Best Brewery & Pub.

Folks familiar with the very mainstream and somewhat unexciting Blonde Ale and Logger Lager brewed by Niagara’s Best at their previous brewery-only location in St. Catharines might wonder why we would drive for a couple of hours to visit the new place, and if that’s all they had on offer, we surely wouldn’t have bothered. But brewer Ian Watson has taken full advantage of the increased flexibility offered by a brewpub operation and has developed a line-up of nine regular brews plus a rotating “Brewer’s Special” tap, so there was much more incentive to make the journey.

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Montreal: Mondial de la Bière 2009


As my 5 or 6 regular readers will know, I’m not exactly known for brevity or timeliness when it comes to posts on this blog. A perfect example of this is my report on my trip to NYC a couple of years ago, a bloated series of six meandering posts, the last of which wasn’t posted until a month after I got home. So for this report on my trip to Montreal for Mondial de la Bière, I promised myself that I’d be both punctual and somewhat brief.

Well, it’s a bit over a week since I got home, so I’m not doing so great on the “punctual” part. So let’s see how I can do on the “somewhat brief” part…

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Riding the Rails

I’m sitting on a train about an hour outside of Montreal on my way to Mondial, clumsily typing away on my new iPhone using the WordPress app. I know I’m about the 57 millionth person to do this sort of thing, but it’s still really fucking cool.

I don’t know if I’ll be doing much live blogging while I’m at the festival, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ll probably be doing some Twittering (@beerbeatsbites). For those who are doing the same, use hash tag #mondial2009

Blotto in Buffalo


Being a (relatively) mature 40 year old, I’m well past my years of regularly drinking to the point of extreme inebriation, and subsequently bragging about it to my friends. (Or anyone who will listen, for that matter.)

But man, did I get fucking hammered on Saturday night!

The occasion: a road trip to Buffalo to attend the Rare Beer Festival at Cole’s. It was a trip that was almost scuttled, as one of our foursome had issues with his paperwork (he’s an Irish citizen in Canada on a work visa) and was refused entry into the US. It briefly looked like we’d be heading back to Toronto for an evening of drinking not-so-Rare Beer, but luckily (for the other three of us in the car, at least), several friends were down at the Festival for the afternoon and just happened to be heading back around the time that we were stuck at the border. So Jeff, Paul and I we were able to dump the troublemaker (sorry, Al!) and make it down to Cole’s after all.

Here’s what awaited us…

Troegs Nugget Nectar
Victory Yakima Twilight
Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head Fort
Dogfish Head World Wide Stout
Oskar Blues Whiskey Barrel Aged Gordon
Oskar Blues Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Chub
Oskar Blues Whiskey Barrel Aged Ten Fidy
Ommegang Obamagang (Inauguration Ale)
Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock

Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi
Lost Abbey Inferno Ale
Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam
Dogfish Head Zwaanendale
Brooklyn Brewing Black Ops
Sonoran 100
Flying Bison Blizzard Bock
Malheur Brut Reserve

And that was just the “official” list. More goodies came up from the cellar throughout the evening, including:

Samuel Adams Utopias
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 Year
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16 Year
Harviestoun Ola Dubh 30 Year
New Glarus Belgian Red
New Glarus Raspberry Tart
Troegs Scratch #16
Captain Lawrence Captains Reserve

I’m not sure how, but I managed to put back samples of something like 75% or 80% of the beers on the list – basically, almost every one I hadn’t tried before. Even more amazingly, I took coherent tasting notes for almost all of them.

After that, the three of us – along with our Buffalo buddy, Rudy – decided it would be a good idea to go next door to Mr. Goodbar and split several pitchers of Dale’s Pale Ale. That’s where the grainy cellphone photo above was taken. A photo that I have absolutely no recollection of taking, by the way.

(And y’know, come to think of it, I believe that last time I got so smashed might’ve been on my previous trip to Buffalo. Something about that city…)

Anyhoo – thanks to Mike at Cole’s for throwing a fantastic event, and Rudy and Ang for housing our soused asses for the evening. It was a bit of a rough drive back in the morning, but the hangover was a well-earned. Although I hope not to inspire another similar one any time soon.

Montreal – Part 2: Ass Sandwich


Saturday in Montreal found me suffering a slight case of The Morning After The Night Before, with an empty stomach calling for something tasty and a little greasy, so I was glad when Paul went out to grab a Coke and discovered a promising looking breakfast place just around the corner. Restaurant Mosaik (5201 St-Laurent) was, as the reviews promise, a perfect place for a hangover breakfast – a laid-back vibe, friendly staff, good coffee, and food that’s a step up from diner fare without being too chi-chi. A nice touch was the inclusion of a serving of creton, a traditional Québécois pork pâté that I’d never tried before – horribly unhealthy, I’m sure, but really tasty on toast.

After breakfast (well – given the time, it was closer to being lunch), we took a wander around the neighbourhood and checked out a small location of SAQ, the provincial liquor store chain. Since beer is available in grocery and corner stores, the government-run stores don’t carry much of it, but they’re worth a visit to check out the selection of ice cider, a delicious beverage indigenous to Québéc that’s filled with appley goodness.

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Montreal – Part 1: Pata-Chou!


I’ve only visited Montreal a few times, but two of those visits have played a pretty big role in increasing my interest in craft beer.

The first time was in 2000, when I attended the first instalment of MUTEK, an electronic music and arts festival that is held there every May. My time there happened to coincide with Mondial de la Bière, Montreal’s renowned beer festival, so I headed down to check it out one afternoon. I had always been a microbrew drinker, and enjoyed trying new brews here and there, but Mondial exposed me to beers and styles that I’d never heard of, let alone tried before, and it inspired me to expand my beer horizons once I returned home. Still, it remained more of a casual interest than the obsession it has since become.

It was my next visit just over two years later that helped push me over the edge. I headed there with a friend primarily to represent Piehead Records, a small record label that my wife and I were running at the time, at a concert by three artists we had signed. But we also spent a lot of our weekend visiting some of Montreal’s brewpubs and beer bars – including the now semi-legendary Dieu Du Ciel! – and we came back with a trunk full of weird and wonderful Quebecois beers. A couple of weeks later, I discovered RateBeer, and the inevitable slide into complete beer geekdom soon followed.

Last weekend, I finally made a long overdue return visit to Montreal with three of my regular beer pals, and the focus of the trip was beer, beer and more beer. Hell, we even stayed in the apartment above Dieu Du Ciel!, so you know that we were serious.

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Ice(wine) Ice(wine) Baby


Last Saturday, my wife and I took a day trip. This may not seem like a big deal, but for two people with no driver licenses and two dogs, getting away together for a whole day is a rarity.

The occasion was a bus tour to the Niagara Icewine Festival, with visits to a couple of wineries as well, presented by the fine folks at the iYellow Wine Club. Even better, we got to go for free as media guests in order to research an article on iYellow and their tours for Taste T.O., making it well worth the nominal expense of hiring a dog-walker for the day.

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Those Who Can, Brew; Those Who Can't, Drink


Back when I was doing music writing and reviewing, a lot of people asked me if I wrote or performed music myself. Aside from a failed attempt at learning the guitar as a young lad, the answer was “no”. While I greatly enjoyed listening to music and writing about it, I never had the inclination, the patience, or – quite frankly – the talent to produce anything of my own.

My relationship with beer is quite similar. Unlike many of my fellow beer aficionados, I’ve never done any homebrewing, and I’ve never felt the urge to do so. I’m happy enough to sit back and enjoy the fruits of other’s labours, and help spread the word about the good stuff.

Still, when the opportunity came for me to tag along on the Canadian Amateur Brewing Association‘s bus trip and Annual General Meeting, I was more than happy to join in. Partly because it gave me the opportunity to visit a few breweries (even though I don’t have the inclination to brew, I still like looking at all the shiny gear – I’m a guy, after all…), and partly because I wanted to meet a few of the brewheads that I’d crossed paths with on Bar Towel and other online forums.

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Sick in Seattle 2: The Nausea Continues

As previously reported, I was struck down by a bug of some sort during my trip to Seattle. It started on Saturday morning, when I woke up with what I thought was a mild hangover from my Friday night outing. It seemed unlikely since I really didn’t have that much to drink, but combined with a bit of jet lag, it was a possibility.

After some ibuprofen, coffee and a light breakfast, things weren’t getting any better, so I decided to get out to see if some air would help. It was grey, damp and cool outside, but the fresh air still helped somewhat, so I hopped on a bus downtown to do some exploring.

My destination was Pike Place Market, a massive complex of food stalls, shops and restaurants that makes Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market look like a corner store in comparison. I spent more than 2 hours wandering around, and I’m sure that I didn’t see everything. I saw them throw some fish around at the Pike Place Fish Market, took a good whiff at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, had a tasty snack at Piroshky Piroshky, and avoided the bad hippy buskers in front of the original Starbucks.

Feeling a bit better after my morning constitutional, I decided that I was up for lunch at The Pike Pub & Brewery, a spacious brewpub located a block or so from the Market. I ordered up a sampler flight of a half-dozen beers, and found them all to be pretty solid examples of their respective styles. Well, except for the Weisse – it was kinda bland. But I particularly liked the XXXXX Stout, which had a lot of great coffee and chicory character, and hints of molasses and smoke.

Unfortunately, halfway through my lunch, things started rumbling around again, and I decided that it might be a good idea to head back to my hotel room and take a bit of a break before heading uptown to check out a couple more beer spots. But when things didn’t get any better in the gastro-intestinal department, plans for further outings were scrapped in favour of – well, just laying around feeling generally shitty, really.

So, that was my trip to Seattle. Half great, half lousy. Meh.