Thursday, January 10, 2013

Confessions & Conclusions (Part 1)

Random, unorganized thoughts on a good year in craft beer:

-Sometimes, when it's really hot outside, all I want is an imperial stout and I think it's because I can't have it.

-I don't like having my face torn off by a hurricane of bitterness unless there's some sort of tasty payoff.

-You could barrel age my bathwater and I'd buy it. But if it's no good, and I paid over 10 bucks for the bottle, I'll shake my fist and curse you.

-I've pretended to like beer because the beer snobs around me liked it. And I've pretended to not like beer because they hated it. I'm not proud of this and I won't do it anymore.

-Kwak sucks.

-Hill Farmstead beer is the best beer in the history of the universe.

-I could drink Great Lakes Disturbing the Peach every day.

-Bellwoods Roman Candle and any of Great Lakes' IPAs are as good as, or better than, any IPAs out there (including Jai Alai) and why aren't they canning that stuff?

-Despite the tsk tsks of many, I like to drink my beer a little bit colder than they do and I don't care.

-Aged Orval is one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Young Orval is one of the worst.

-I puke in my mouth a little bit every time anyone says the words session, quaffable or boss.

-I try and I try but I can't get excited about pilsner in any way.

You're welcome.

So, what are your confessions from 2012?

Monday, December 3, 2012

I failed (An apology)

First off: An apology. I failed you. I am weak. Two months into the year of Ontario craft beer and it's over. I couldn't do it.

Let me explain myself:

Over the last two months, I drank A LOT of Great Lakes Beer, and they make great beer. But who else is making interesting one-off beer in the same way? Many of the other one-off makers are too far for me to get to. Amsterdam's good stuff comes out at a slow trickle at best (I'm hoping it's because they just moved and the floodgates are about to open). There just hasn't been enough out there to keep me going. And sticking to only one brand of beer--in this case Great Lakes--defeats the spirit of craft beer. I just didn't have access to a wide enough variety of beer to keep my satisfied.

Also: I feel like I'm at the point where I've tried almost everything I have access to. And here's the kicker: I'm not learning anymore. The whole beer thing, for me, is fun because I'm always learning. But if I can't drink the non-Ontario stuff, I lose the context of our beer scene with respect to others. I can't compare anymore. My education is at a stand still and that's no good.

Also, Dude: Westy 12 is coming to the lcbo. So's Rochefort 10 and a bunch of other world class Belgian stuff. This is what I've been waiting for and I have no intention of missing this.

So, yeah, I'm sorry if you feel mislead. My intentions were good, and I honestly went into this hoping to do it. I learned that I can't live on Ontario beer alone. I don't think we're there as a province. But then again, maybe it's less a judgment on Ontario, and more on me and craft beer in general. I'm not sure I could survive on any one region's beer alone (I realize the word survive is a strange one to use). I think the easy conclusion to draw would be that Ontario's craft beer scene isn't up to snuff. But that would be wrong. I had a great 2 months and am very happy with where our scene is. And when taken together with a few select imports, I'm a very happy man.

I'm not going to dwell, though. The blog will remain the same-I'm still dedicated to Ontario craft beer. The quest continues. But without the guilt.

Life's too short for guilt. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a Heady Topper in the fridge with my name on it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cameron's RPA

For 3 days, I was dying to write this blog post. Alas, I was sick, and dying, and wasn't in any mood for beer. Or, more precisely, my stomach wasn't in any mood for beer.

Meanwhile, I was taunted by six bottles of Cameron's Rye Pale Ale jingle-jangling in my fridge each time I reached for the Britta to re-hydrate. Mocking me with their yellow label and their glass and their hops and their malts and their yeasts and their spicy rye flavours.

But now I'm better, and tonight I cracked one open, and it was a real treat.

I'm a fan of anything our craft brewers do that's outside the norm, that's filling a void in our scene. Rye Pale Ale is a great beer, and has forced me to look at Cameron's in a new light. Whereas before, I looked at them more as, like, a comfortable cardigan: You knew what you were getting, and it was comfortable. I didn't really think twice about them. Now, I see them as more as, like, a sweet, tight, yellow sweater vest. So tight, in fact, I turn around and stare at them when they walk away, snap my fingers, and say "da-yum."

So, what's a Rye PA (or RPA)? It's an IPA (we've got a lot of those already) with rye in there too. The rye adds an interesting spicy flavour to the mix, and adds to the texture of the beer. So, close your eyes and picture this:

CAMERON'S HOUSE TASTE (You know it from their cream ale and their auburn ale, etc) + CITRUSY IPA + SPICY RYE = Cameron's RPA

For some better tasting notes, from people who are better at this sort of thing than I am, check out the reviews on

Cameron's RPA, which is 6.6% ABV, is available at the brewery, for now, and at your finer beer bars.

It's a seasonal beer, but if you like it, encourage them to make it year round, and let's hope they listen. It's a great addition to the Ontario beer scene.

Now go away before anybody sees me drinking this, I can probably milk this man cold for another day or two.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Find your local breweries

Today, I'm taking a little pause to reflect on my Ontario beer odyssey so far. And you're in luck, I'm going to impart a little bit of wisdom. Have a seat, this will be mind blowing. 

Here's my advice for you: Find your local craft breweries, and get your beer straight from the source whenever possible. It's the freshest way to get your beer--no languishing in warehouses before getting to you. You'll also have the pleasure to see the place your beer was made and, if you're lucky, you might get to meet the folks that make your beer, chat them up. No cold soviet era like storehouses, real people make real beer. And that sense of community is what makes getting into craft beer so much fun.

In addition, at least at my local breweries, they often save the best stuff for the brewery store. Many brewers sells their big market stuff through the lcbo, but save their small batch goodness and seasonals (this is the real good stuff) for the brew store.

Without these brewery stores (props go to Great Lakes and Amsterdam so far...), I'd have a pretty long year ahead of me. Instead, over the past week, I've been able to get an Imperial Russian Stout, an Imperial Black IPA, a Vanilla Imperial Espresso Stout, and a smoke beer which otherwise would have been out of my reach.

To find your local breweries, a good place to start is the Ontario Craft Brewers website. Check out their brewery map here: (Note that there are other craft breweries in Ontario that don't belong to OCB).

If you're in Toronto, BlogTo recently wrote a piece on their "top 10 non-Beer store beer stores" in Toronto. Check it out here:

Of course, the lcbo has its place, and, when paired with your local breweries, can help create a fulfilling craft beer experience for you.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Uh oh. Mad Tom's here - and he's even madder.

Muskoka Brewery's Twice as Mad Tom IPA has hit lcbo shelves. I've been a bit fan of the original Mad Tom since it first came out, it's one of our very best Ontario IPAs (in my humble opinion), and was one of our very first widely available IPAs. 

And now, with Twice as Mad Tom, Muskoka is once again filling a huge void in the lcbo's inventory: a locally brewed double IPA. 

This is going to make my year of Ontario beer even more enjoyable. Double IPAs (DIPAs) are one of my favourite styles, and I was sweating there for awhile that I'd have to drive out to Black Oak Brewery for their 10 Bitter Years every time I wanted one. Now I just need to drive five minutes to the lcbo for a top notch DIPA. 

This DIPA is much different that 10 Bitter Years though (neither better not worse, just different).

It clocks in at 8.4%, and, while very hoppy, it generally eschews the punch in the face hop attack of many DIPAs for a more layered, flavourful approach-to wonderful effect. This citrus is there, in fine juicy form, and the malts back it up nicely. Don't get me wrong, dude's hoppy. But dude's deep too. Like, Jordan Catalano deep. 

I like it. Try it.