Beer-washed cheeses ain’t cheap—and their delicate flavours could get lost in a grilled sandwich. So why not infuse beer into the bread instead? I tried Steam Whistle pilsner with an easy-melting Alpine-style gouda — the beer’s lightly grassy and the naturally bready flavours found a friend in the creamy, mildly fruity cheese.Read More
Beer and cheese are easy lovers: They’re both farmhouse products, they start from grasses, they’re fermented and aged. Cheese balances sweet and acidic, while beer walks the tightrope between sweet and bitter. They both share funky fermentation flavours—they can be fruity, nutty, grassy, toasty, bitter, earthy or honey sweet. So it makes sense that European monks began washing, soaking and infusing their cheeses with beer centuries ago (try Chimay à la Bière for an old-school example).
Now, with more artisan cheesemakers importing to, and starting up here in Canada, we’re finally getting to taste what it’s like when local beer and small-batch cheeses come together. Here are four beery-good cheeses to check out. Just remember to crack open a beer with that cheese board, eh?
One of Quebec’s oldest microbreweries, Brasserie Charlevoix, located in Baie St. Paul, about 1.5 hours outside Quebec, has been brewing beer for 16 years. Yet it has just eleven beers in its lineup—bucking the current trend of releasing new and zany bottles every few months. They’re also bucking the Quebecois impulse to grow their business by exporting to thirsty drinkers in the U.S., especially in the face of restrictive interprovincial red tape. While Charlevoix has expanded in recent years, they plan to share their brews with the rest of Canada before going south. Doesn’t that just feel right?Read More
When paired with the just the right luscious treat, frothy beer can be your weapon of seduction. Here are my top three Valentine’s Day beer and food pairings to kickstart that hot, hot heat.Read More
In March, Premier Kathleen Wynne will unveil promised changes to the way we buy beer in Ontario—but WTF will they be?
No matter who I talk to, from craft brewers, to beer writers to the Beer Store's foreign owners, AB-InBev, MolsonCoors and Sapporo—it seems no one is expecting radical changes to Ontario's beer ecosystem. (For a great rundown on what's happened thus far, check Ben Johnson's post). I'm not expecting something radical either, but I'm more optimistic than most that the Liberals spring budget will take baby steps towards beer drinking democracy in Ontario. So what am I predicting? Let's take a look at Crystal's Ball:Read More
Here's what you need to know about Burlington's first-ever winter beer fest:
- 14 breweries pouring pints, including Beau's, Muskoka and Nickel Brook and newcomers Bayside and Barnstormer Brewing.
- Two artisinal cideries — Brickworks and Shiny Apple — will be sampling the hard apple tipple too
- The night before the fest, you can get fancy at a 7-Course, 5-hour Brewmaster's Dinner (with pairings introduced by the brewers, $125 pp) and a free-flowing reception before and after. Check out the menu below.
- It's INSIDE! YEAH! At the Waterfront Hotel downtown Burlington from noon-11 p.m. on Saturday, February 7th.
Contest Closes at Midnight Monday February 1, 2015. I'll be announcing the winner on Twitter on Tuesday, Feb 3rd so watch that space!
CONTEST RULES & REGULATIONS: Must be a resident of Canada. Must be 19 +. Contest winner gets a pair of tickets to the Saturday portion of the festival. Transport not included.
It's time to take back winter! Rather than retreating from the cold, Steam Whistle's winter beer fest encourages you to grab a brewskie and get in there!
Bad news? Advance tickets are sold out. Good news? There will be a few tickets available at the door. (The first 500 peeps to enter the festival get a free Steam Whistle toque). Best news? I have two tickets to give away this week!
What’s to drink (more breweries joining in weekly):
• Amsterdam Brewing
• Beau’s All Natural Brewing
• Big Rig Brewery
• Black Oak Brewing
• Block Three Brewing
• Cameron’s Brewing
• Flying Monkeys Brewery
• Great Lakes Brewery
• Highlander Brew Co.
• King Brewery
• Lake of Bays Brewing
• Mill St. Brewery
• Muskoka Brewery
• Niagara College Teaching Brewery
• Oast House Brewers
• Railway City Brewing
• Side Launch Brewing
• Steam Whistle Brewing
• Thornbury Cider
• Underdog’s Brewhouse
• Wellington Brewery
What’s to eat (more to come):
• Chimney Stax, Mr. Corn, Pappas Greek, Smoke's Poutinerie, Sugar Mammas!
What’s to do:
• Sample brews from some of Ontario’s best craft brewers and eats from local food trucks
• Show off your retro ski and winter wear – prizes for the best getups
• Roast Marshmallows on outdoor fire pits
To enter, just do this:
1) Subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter (mandatory)
**Contest closes at midnight EST on Friday, January 23rd. Winners Announced Saturday, January 24th.
Last night, Global TV's Consumer SOS reporter, Sean O'Shea, aired this segment looking at The Beer Store's surprise move to offer small brewers a share of the ownership. I was interviewed, along with Great Lakes owner, Peter Bulut Jr., and Jeff Newton, president of Canada's National Brewers. (Currently, The Beer Store a privately-run corporation owned by by foreign beer giants, AB-In Bev, Sapporo and SAB Miller).
This video made me think about just how cheated Ontarians are when it comes to shopping for beer. It makes me cry a little.
The bottom line for consumers is this:
We deserve better. We deserve more than two minutes in a cold lineup feeling the pressure of the guys returning their empties behind us to decide what to buy. We deserve more than choosing our beer from among a wall of tiny labels—where only the beer giant store owners products are given prominent placement. We deserve not just to touch the goddamn bottle and read the entire label before we buy it, but to taste it before we spend $10 on a large bottle. We deserve to talk to a salesperson who knows and loves all varieties of beer, and can point us to new brews that we might just fall for—or at least be able to recommend a great match for the roast chicken we're cooking for dinner.
While we're at, we'd also like: Growler refill stations, brewer and expert-led tastings and workshops, the ability to create our own mixed six-packs, cellar-aged beauties, and access to rare bottles.
We deserve a beer store that feels like we're inside of the minds of a beer lover and Tory Burch (that last one is a personal choice).
But for now, I'll settle for this:
This morning, The Beer Store released a proposal to “open up ownership” of the beer retail chain (owned by Molson Coors, Labatt’s and Sleeman’s, each of whom is in turn owned by a foreign entity) to all microbreweries in the province, offering them “preferred shares” and lowering some of the fees that breweries have to pay to get their beers sold in The Beer Store outlets.
But Gary McMullen, president and founder of Muskoka Brewery—one of the largest microbreweries in Ontario—says craft brewers were not informed or consulted on this process.
The new proposal is nothing more than “a Hail Mary plan to try to hold onto something that The Beer Store owners are losing their grip on," says McMullen.
One major complaint of small breweries about the Beer Store system is the high cost of listing a product with the chain. Under the current operation, brewers must pay a “Base Fee” of $2880 for each product they’d like to sell, and then pay another fee to every store that they want to carry that product—$230 to the first 233 stores, and $54. to any remaining in the Beer Store’s 456-store chain.
The Beer Store’s new proposal offers to waive the base fee on two products, and give each brewery free listing fees in the five stores nearest to their brewery.
“Throwing out five free listings is completely tokenist,” says McMullen. “By doing so, The Beer Store is trying to split up small brewers.”
Indeed, offering a lower listing fee and a preferred share—which gives every brewery a right to vote in Board elections—might just be the carrot-and-stick approach needed to win over some upstart breweries who are desperate to get their flagship products in front of more consumers.
The other big offering in the Beer Store proposal is to give each brewery a piece of the pie through “Preferred Shares,” either “Class E”, for $1000 or “Class F” for $100 each, depending on the brewery’s size. The share grants the owner the right to vote at the Board of Directors elections, access to financial reporting, and in the case of the Class E share, a portion of capital gains.
While the new “owners” can vote for who sits on the Board, the new structure will remain dominated by the Beer Store’s majority owners, Labatt, Molson Coors and Sleeman’s. Together the three owners will have 14 seats compared to three reserved for all other breweries.
“One preferred share won’t even get you a muffin at the table at the Annual Meeting,” says McMullen, shrugging off the offering.
McMullen says The Beer Store has invited all breweries to a conference call at 8 p.m. tonight, so they can “listen in on what the opportunity is.”
The proposal comes on the heels of weeks of sustained media pressure and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s promise to reform The Beer Store by this spring, after a report by The Toronto Star releasing a secret agreement between the LCBO and The Beer Store that outlines a promise by the LCBO not to sell anything larger than a six-pack, making The Beer Store the only outlet for 12 and 24-packs.
“This proposal is a move by the Beer Store and its owners to try to take the agenda back,” says McMullen.
“We’re not going to engage with them on this consultation. From Muskoka’s perspective it’s nefarious and more of the same. How could you possibly contemplate working together with people in good faith when they sideswipe you with something as large as this?” he asks.
As for an official reaction from the Ontario Craft Brewers Association—their official comment so far, is "no comment," (see below). But hopefully we'll here more in the next couple of days after the conference call that Beer Store President, Ted Moroz, invited craft brewers to come in on last night.
Official OCB response:
"The announcement today by The Beer Store regarding opening ownership to Ontario's small brewers came as a complete surprise to our members," said Cam Heaps, Chairman of Ontario Craft Brewers.
“It certainly does not address our major issue of improving access for consumers. Before we can comment, we need more information; we have a lot of questions."
Heaps pointed out that there is a Government process in place regarding beer distribution in Ontario and the OCB wants to continue to work within that process.
"Our goal continues to be fundamental change to Ontario's beer distribution channels that will result in a doubling or tripling of the jobs currently created by the craft brewers as well as the ability to reach our full share of market potential," said Heaps.
"We were not consulted on any of this and as such, we just do not have enough information to comment right now. It is as simple as that."
Yesterday, Ben Johnson posted that Toronto's Beer Academy, an experimental brewery located at Victoria and Richmond Streets (prime Toronto real estate on which to promote and sell owner Molson Coors' craft beer brands, Creemore and Granville Island products) will shut its doors permanently.
Johnson's unnamed source also reported that the space will shut for renovations until mid 2015 when a Creemore brewpub will open in its place; and that "entire staff of The Beer Academy—including all the retail staff, the General Manager, the on-site chef, and the tour guides--have been unceremoniously fired just in time for Christmas."
Last night, the PR company working for Six Pints's Specialty Beer Company (the Molson Coors division that operates its craft and specialty imports) reached out to me. This morning I talked to Six PInts General Manager, Jennifer Davidson about what's going down. She detailed the staff firing, and confirmed the Beer Academy name is no more—but she was vague about the new concept, except to say that Creemore would be at the forefront, and Granville Island, not so much. Oh, and she is very excited about it.
When pressed on whether it would indeed be a Creemore Springs Brewpub, she answered, "it "won't be called Creemore Springs Brewpub." Hmmm. OK.
Here's our quick Q&A:
What's going on with the Beer Academy and will a Creemore Springs Brewpub be opening in its place?
We are closing for significant renovations and opening with an interesting, unique concept—the Creemore brand being one of the brands we're considering. But it's not as straight forward as a Creemore Springs Brewpub. The timing is Fall 2015.
We did have to let 11 people go—seven of which were casual, part-time staff. They're great people and it was a difficult decision for me as I work with them everyday. We did give the group double the amount of customary notice [that's four weeks instead of two], and really treated people well financially. It's unfortunate that the timing does fall over the holidays. We told staff at the beginning of December.
So is the Beer Academy concept done?
It won't be called the Beer Academy. Although that name could find its way in there, I see the arm of Beer Academy being more about beer education and beer training, so the name beer academy could live on that way.
But it's also not going to be a Creemore Springs brewpub?
It's not going to be called Creemore Springs Brewpub, no. Creemore is a big brand for us in the province, and we've invested lots of money at the brewery at Creemore recently, so it will be a brand that’s featured.
What about Granville Island?
Well, Granville Island could be available, potentially. We have that portfolio and we know that drinkers here are open to West Coast beer, but it won’t be fronted. We have the Granville Island taproom on the island (in Vancouver) so that brand is more focused for us in the west.
Will Stephen Rich be staying on as head brewer?
Yes. He's young and energetic and he makes great beers, we are happy that he's staying on.
So can you give any more information on the new concept?
We are going to keep the brewing there. Food will be part of it and beer will be at the forefront.
Are the renovations about expanding the brewery, or are we talking cosmetics?
We are making some upgrades to the brewing, but a lot of the renovations will be on concept and design.
The holidays are filled with "I need a beer" moments. Like when your Mom fills your toddler with cookies, winds her up and sets her off on that new steel drum set that she just opened. So from the perfect turkey beer, to great ales for gifting, here are my Top 5 Tinsel Brews:Read More
PAUL HADFIELD, HAD IT GOOD: THE VANCOUVER ARCHITECT WORKED OUT OF HIS GRANVILLE ISLAND OFFICE AND SPENT WEEKENDS AT HIS SKI CHALET WHISTLER. LIFE WAS MAGICAL. THEN, IN 1982, THE HOUSING MARKET CRASHED AND SUDDENLY HADFIELD’S CLIENT POOL DRIED UP.Read More
The first week of frosty winter can be a little disheartening—until you realize that it’s also a time of change on the LCBO’s shelves. Festive, seasonal beers are trickling onto the shelves, and there’s no better way to salute the snow than with a beer designed to keep you warm and cosy. Here are the three beers (and one cider) that I can’t get enough of at the LCBO right now.Read More
“I use beer to shine leaves on my big rubber plant,” says Alma Lekic, a Toronto-based gerontologist “works wonders.” Beer’s acidity also make it a natural polish for gold, silver and copper jewelry. Just drop tarnished jewelry in beer, leave overnight, (or longer if the piece is really nasty,) and polish with a dry cloth. Use flat beer to buff wood furniture.Read More
As the sommelier and wine agent for The Living Vine, an organic wine agency in Toronto, Ontario, Zinta Steprans drinks a lot of vino. But she goes home to beer. "Honestly, I tend to drink more beer than wine," she says. "At the end of a long day of tasting there's nothing more enjoyable than a crisp, cold beer," she says. But for us beer nerds, wine can seem a world apart.Read More
Do you love Unibroue, or really dig oversized beer bottles that could later be turned into table lamps?
In that case, this tasting is for you. Next Thursday, November 27th, Unibroue's brewmaster, Jerry Vietz is making a rare appearance in Ontario, alongside beer sommelier, Sylvain Bouchard and offering 24 people a guided tasting featuring limited release Unibroue products including its newest offering La Résolution, as well as the 2014 vintage release of the Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve. And they'll be paired with dishes from beerbistro chef Michelle Usprech.Read More
I recently wrote a story for Sun Media exploring the beauty benefits of beer (see below) and I'd love to hear what you think: Do you believe beer can help improve your appearance? Have you tried any of the beer treatments I mentioned? Or do you have your own beer beauty secret to share? I'd love to hear your tips or tricks.Read More
If you missed out on my first Fall Beer School class, Hops’ Rubbing & Loving: IPAs & Pale Ales, you’re in luck. Here's all you need to know to how to host a hoppy tasting for your next shindig. Impress your guests with your hop knowledge and serve these six beers with their respective hops. I suggest picking up some whole hops from Toronto Brewing. Before you taste each beer, explore the aroma of the hops by rubbing a few cones vigorously in your hands and then taking some deep sniffs.Read More