The Ontario Craft Brewers would like their own stores, please

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“Though this be madness,
yet there is method in’t”

Last night I attended the 10th annual Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) tasting event at the Ontario legislature.

It’s an event hosted by the Speaker of The House wherein the OCB, a 50+ member group that is currently the only organization advocating on behalf of the province’s small brewers, is welcomed into the Ontario Legislative Building to pour their beers for myriad MPPs and (mostly) their thirsty, bespectacled, pointy-shoed staffers.

I have attended in previous years and wrote about last year’s event in less than flattering terms as a missed opportunity in my opinion given a climate in Ontario that seemed destined for real change to the beer scene.

This year, even more than last, the event seemed rife with potential for some grand statement: the premier of Ontario has made a few opening but vague salvos relating to reforming the province’s beer scene and speculation grows about what might be in the upcoming budget for people who buy and make craft beer–including rumours recently reported by The Toronto Star’s Martin Regg Cohn that we can expect beer in grocery stores soon.

This year, I thought, someone might say something bold that electrifies the crowd.

And I was right.

Sort of. Continue reading

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Budweiser is now officially marketing to people who already drink Budweiser

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Yesterday, Budweiser released the commercial below. In it, the marketing giant who also happens to sell beer successfully continues their new advertising strategy, which is seemingly an effort to troll hipsters; a strategy that they unofficially launched with their now infamous Super Bowl ad that featured bearded scenesters sniffing mutli-coloured beer flights in small glasses and positioning them as diametrically opposed to people who drink “real beer” “made the hard way.”

This new ad is aimed once again squarely at the hipster set (whom they identify without ever saying the word hipster, only by stating their setting: Brooklyn, a word that probably serves pretty handily as a short hand signifier of “all things pretentious and effeminate” to any macro-drinking, flag waving, fly-over-state-dwelling “real person”). In it, they set up a fake bar, put an actor into some hipster clothing (i.e. plaid), and have said pseudo-cool-guy serve unwitting hipsters some ice cold Budweiser.

The stage is set for an epic burn!

But does it work? I don’t think so.

Presumably the folks at the ad agency Budweiser hired to make this farce will think this campaign is a success owing to what I imagine will be high numbers in the only currency that matters these days, traffic, but it’s hard to view this ad with anything close to a critical eye and not see it as a failure, for a couple reasons. Continue reading

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What supermarket sales might mean for local brewers

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Earlier today, The Toronto Star published an article in which Martin Regg Cohn claimed an unnamed source informed him that large grocery stores will begin selling wine and beer in a plan that might be part of the upcoming spring budget.

Torontonians thirsty for changes to our province’s long-outdated beer retailing system were quick to rejoice at what seemed like positive news. But is it really something worth getting excited about?

The idea to allow beer in some of the province’s larger grocery stores means putting the control of Ontario’s beer sales in the hands of yet another third party and, as a result, local brewers’ reactions to the news were mixed.

Jason Fisher, owner of the Indie Alehouse, told me he has concerns about the plan. “My main question,” he told me, “is why can’t local Ontario brewers have their own chain of retail stores? Molson and Labatt are allowed to own stores that sell beer, and now Loblaws can sell beer? Why can’t smaller breweries just open their own stores?”

“[Grocery stores] will likely just be another middle man for consumers and manufactures and it will mean less profit for the people making beer and ultimately higher prices for consumers.”

John Hay, the president of The Ontario Craft Brewers, issued an official response today that reiterated his members’ commitment to working with the province, but laid plain the need to have brewers at the heart of any changes. “We do not want to be trapped in the distribution system of any large players,” he said in a statement emailed to media.

You can forgive local brewers for being less than enthusiastic about these potential changes in a retail environment that’s seen many changes promised then taken away over the years.

Read the rest of this post over on blogTO….

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80 alternatives to Guinness to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

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Guinness is a pretty great beer.

It’s got a long storied history dating back to roughly 1770, is arguably one of the most famous beer brands in the entire world, and will forever be the stout against which all other stouts are measured.

It also tastes good. I enjoy an occasional Guinness and you’ll likely find that, if you’re with a fan of good beer but trapped in some shitty bar where the tap lines are all purchased by breweries, that beer fan will likely just order a Guinness because, among the other ubiquitous big names, it’s generally the one consistently reliable and decent beer that’s available virtually everywhere and, provided the beer is fresh and the lines are clean, is an interesting, comforting, rich, and creamy stout.

But come every god damn March, I come to hate Guinness. I detest the idea that we’re supposed to drink more of the black stuff–which already sells in excess of 850 million litres a year–in order to commemorate the death of Ireland’s patron saint. There is so much Guinness marketing crammed down our throats in the lead-up to March 17th every year that it’s enough to make you rage-vomit bile so thick and creamy as to rival the famous dry stout itself.

So this St. Patrick’s day, I say fuck Guinness.

The notion that we have to drink a certain thing on a certain day just because a huge marketing campaign tells us we have to is bullshit, man *flips collar on leather jacket, lights cigarette*

If you must go out and drink or otherwise celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland or mark the occasion of the lifting of Lenten restrictions you almost certainly don’t actually follow, why not drink something else? Continue reading

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Come enjoy beer, bourbon, and smoked meat (with me!)

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A few months ago, I had an opportunity to host an event organized by the folks at Orchestra Marketing that combines the typically forced act of “networking” with the slightly more enjoyable act of drinking beer.

Dubbed “beerworking” the event was an exercise in learning a little about beer while meeting new people and has since blossomed into a popular ongoing series of get-togethers hosted by knowledgeable fellow beer scribe, Crystal Luxmore, for whom I was substituting when I last hosted.

Thankfully for me, Ms. Luxmore again finds herself otherwise engaged for an upcoming event and I’ve been asked to fill in.

Also thankfully for me, this event, taking place on Thursday March 12, from 6:30pm – 9:30pm  has evolved to include not just craft beer, but also bourbon and smoked meat. No really. It’s like they’ve taken a page from my dream journal. All that’s missing is 90s era Tiffany Amber Thiessen.

The event will feature beer from Sudbury craft brewery Stack Brewing who, rumour has it, are gearing up for broader distribution of their heretofore relatively unknown beers, so you’ll have a chance to try a few beers you probably haven’t had before.

We’ll also be enjoying a selection of bourbons from the portfolio of Kirkwood Diamond Canada, including Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare and I’ll make some effort to explain why beer and bourbon go well together (aside from the answer my grandpappy always gave that “you got two hands for a reason!”).

Lastly, because all this good drinkin’ will surely work up a hunger, we’ll be enjoying a selection of cured meats from none other that Toronto’s Caplansky’s.

I know, I know. At this point you’re probably already saying “Just shut up and take my money,” so here’s the link to get tickets

It’s just $50 a person which, considering you’re getting three beers, three bourbons, and three different sandwiches, is a hell of a deal (even if the experience will be marred slightly by having to listen to me pretend I know what I’m talking about).

If you bring a friend you can get a pair of tickets for $90, but considering the event is designed to meet new people, rolling solo is obviously cool, too.

See you there! I’ll be the guy covered in mustard.

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I believe The Beer Store doesn’t make a profit

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The Beer Store often claims they don’t make a profit. Given that they enjoy a monopoly in this province when it comes to retail beer sales, lately a lot of people seem to either be scoffing at the notion that the company doesn’t make a profit or going out of their way to prove that’s not true.

To whit:

I am not among those who think this is one of the Beer Store’s easily disproven talking points that is worthy of derision (to be clear, there are of course lots of those).

That is, I think it’s wholly believable that The Beer Store does not make a profit. And I don’t give a shit. Continue reading

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Filed under Beer, The Politics of Drinking

What the hell is Crazy Beard?

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You may have seen the above-pictured monstrosity on the shelves along with the cider in your local LCBO lately.

It’s “Wild Apple Ale” from Crazy Beard and even though the product is called Crazy Beard “Wild Apple Ale” it lives in the cider section since it isn’t actually a beer. I’m not even sure it would meet strict definitions of cider, but presumably the company is so “Wild to the Core!” they just don’t care about conventional things like “accurately labeling a beverage.”

I have seen the atrocious can on shelves before and while it offended me in a way that only a snotty beer and beverage purist can be offended, I put it off as simply something that doesn’t interest me. Life is too short to rage at all the overly-sweet alcoholic beverages that don’t meet with my approval. However, as it turns out, in addition to the label being questionable from a design standpoint, it seems the can wrap isn’t really the highest quality material either. I was alerted to this fact by an intrepid reader who sent me the picture below this afternoon.

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Yes, it appears that Crazy Beard Wild Apple Ale’s label is hiding something of a surprise under all that wacky design. As my anonymous tipster speculated, this “Apple Ale” might actually just be William Premium Canadian Cider–or at the very least, is sold in William Cider cans. Continue reading

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