Making the connection: Talking beer and food with Crystal Luxmore


Crystal Luxmore is a Toronto-based beer writer whose work has appeared in The Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Chatelaine, The Walrus, The New York Times, CBC and and she was the “Hopped Up” columnist for what was easily Toronto’s best weekly magazine, The Grid (RIP).

She’s also a Certified Cicerone and a Prud’homme Beer Sommelier.

Accordingly, it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about beer. This month, as part of my ongoing efforts to explore the relationship between dining and beer, I chatted with Crystal via email about beer, food, and why beer isn’t afforded the same respect as wine–yet.

Ben Johnson: As a cicerone and prud’homme certified beer sommelier, do you put a lot of thought into beer and food pairings when you’re dining at home or eating out?

Crystal Luxmore: I do, but I don’t sweat it too much. At home, I see what’s in my beer and main fridge, and usually choose the best possible match from what’s already chilled once dinner is ready. At a restaurant, I do think about it, but sometimes I’m more interested in trying a new one-off than finding the perfect match for my burger. Luckily with beer, it’s so versatile and easy to pair that if you’ve got great food and a great pint, you’ll be satisfied.

BJ: I feel like once you start paying attention to what beers work with what foods, you can’t NOT pay attention. It’s like a new level of snobbery when I’m with friends. First it was, “oh don’t drink that.” Now if I say, “well don’t drink THAT with THAT” I feel like I’m going to get punched in the head.

CL: Yeah. I would punch you in the face if you told me that. Taste is subjective and everyone’s palate is different, so what you think is right, is right—but only for you. Continue reading

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The Friday Link Roundup 22.08.14

UntitledThe Friday Link Roundup is a feature wherein Ben’s Beer Blog lazily points you to other beery things worth reading on the interwebs this week.

Weird beer From whale bone to moon dust and brain, Cool Material looks at some of the weirdest beers ever made.
 Moody tongue
Former Goose Island brewer, Jared Rouben, just unveiled his new company’s “Moody Tongue,” a pilsner made with shaved truffles that retails for $120 a bottle. 
Baseball beer The Washington Post explores and ranks baseball teams with the best beer. Appropriately Toronto is mentioned exactly zero times.
 Wes Anderson
Paste Magazine asked bartenders to create cocktails based on Wes Anderson movies because why the hell not?
Lastly, what better way to celebrate the fight for marijuana reform than an elaborate weed-infused dinner at the home of intoxicant-enthusiast and Ben’s Beer Blog spirit animal Hunter S. Thompson? via munchies




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Great draught selection is no longer enough


Over the course of the last few blog posts, I’ve been trying to make the argument that “good” bars and restaurants need to incorporate thoughtful draught selection into the dining and drinking experience they provide. It’s something I feel strongly about and I hope that my writing as of late has contributed to the conversation on the subject.

Recently, however, I had an experience that made me realize that the inverse is also something worth talking about; namely places that do incorporate a thoughtful draught selection really ought to be held to account to provide a “good” restaurant experience.

I have a feeling that this post might piss some people off, but the thought came to me Saturday night when I popped into C’est What for a few pints.

I’ve been there plenty of times before, but this was the first time it ever dawned on me that C’est What is, to put it frankly, pretty awful. Continue reading


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The best beer I’ve ever had: Mark McEwan

Previously I’ve asked “beer folks” to talk to me about memorable beers for my ongoing series, The best beer I’ve ever had. Recently, I put the call out to chefs and restaurateurs to detail their “best beer” experiences for me in hopes of exploring the important connection between food and beer.

For today’s installment, Mark McEwan shares his story. McEwan is the Chef/Owner of North 44, Bymark, One, McEwan and Fabbrica. He is also the author of Great Food at Home and Fabbrica, the star of The Heat and Head Judge of Top Chef Canada.

Mark McEwan

For the past three years, my executive assistant Jordie, executive chefs Andrew Ellerby (One, Fabbrica, McEwan), Brooke McDougall (Bymark), and I head down to Barbados in November for the Food, Wine and Rum Festival.

The four of us work for 12 hours a day prepping items for their main event, called Ambrosia, where 1200 guests enjoy appetizer offerings from six international chefs and six on-island chefs at the polo club [i.e. the ridonkulous Lion Castle Polo Estate.~ Ben.]

We are known for showing up at the prep kitchen with a great playlist, speakers, and cold Banks beer to get us through the days of 100-degree temperatures inside the non-air conditioned kitchen. Continue reading


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Big Rock Brewery invades Ontario

Bob Sartor


We’re going to be seeing a lot more of Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery here in Toronto.

News broke this week that not one but two brew pubs would be opening in Liberty Village next year, one of them is The Three Brewers and the other, Calgary’s Big Rock Brewery.

The Three Brewers news isn’t all that ground-breaking—there’s already one in Toronto, banners have been out at their future site for a while and, let’s be honest, their beer has never exactly been mind-blowing—but the Big Rock news, it seems, is pretty significant in terms of Toronto’s beer scene and it’s even a little bit bigger news than what is actually being widely reported.

For some background, the news that Big Rock was opening a brewpub here first broke when they issued a statement. That statement was picked up by the Calgary Herald and then fell under the watchful eye of the omniscient Greg Clow who posted the scoop to Canadian Beer News, and, subsequently, it was picked up by Toronto Life for  “The Dish.”

And so, when it came time to post my own version of the “two brewpubs” story for blogTO , I wanted to see if I could get something that hadn’t been shared publicly yet so I took an unprecedented step: I called the people I was writing about. Continue reading


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Stepping up the game: A conversation about beer and food with Bar Isabel’s Guy Rawlings

Bar Isabel

Appropriately, when I first try to contact Guy Rawlings, he’s busy hoarding beer.

The self-proclaimed “General Manager in a chef’s body” has just learned that Les Trois Mousquetaires’ Hors Serie Gose, part of the LCBO’s long-delayed 2014 summer beer release, has finally hit store shelves and he’s loading up. When I reach him, he’s pushing a shopping cart full of the stuff, having just cleaned out the Dundas and Dovercourt location of the liquor store, and he’s juggling a cell phone trying to get his haul home.

“Sorry,” he says. “Can I call you back?”

His ability to seek out (and covet) good beer is one of the reasons I want to talk to Rawlings.

A chef by trade, Rawlings’ name has been attached to a handful of the city’s best restaurants in the last few years including the Black Hoof, the now-closed Lucien, the also-now-closed Brockton General, and Room 203, his own “event space and food lab” where he threw intimate, multi-course, private dinners featuring elaborate, collaborative and foraged menus. Continue reading


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The best beer I’ve ever had: Jay Meyers

Previously I’ve asked “beer folks” to talk to me about memorable beers for my ongoing series, The best beer I’ve ever had. For the month of July, I put the call out to some of Toronto’s best chefs, restaurateurs, and bartenders to detail their “best beer” experiences for me in hopes of exploring the important connection between food and beer.

For today’s installment, Jay Meyers details his best beer experience. Meyers is the head mixologist at Hudson Kitchen.

Jay Meyers

The best beer I’ve ever had was during the summer between my first and second years of university. A bunch of my friends and I fixed a week up at a cottage near Kearney in early August. There were very few of us who had moved away from our hometown and even fewer of us who had any responsibility.  One of those days up at the cottage started with a conjoined paddleboat and floating dock, anchored in the middle of a lake with a bag of beer tied to the anchor, and ended with a Huntsville parking lot dance party and a brief but pleasant conversation with the OPP. Continue reading

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