A “paid-for” monopoly is still a monopoly

monopoly board

If you follow beer politics—or “Beerlitics” as no one calls it—you’re probably aware that recently the provincial government received (yet another) recommendation on how the province might handle the hideous bitch goddess we know as our province’s retail alcohol beverage industry.

In case you’re not in the know, here’s the scoop: Tasked with helping the government find ways to make some money with its existing assets in order to help manage Ontario’s $12.5 billion deficit, TD Bank CEO Ed Clark recently headed up a panel that had some suggestions about what we might do to whip up a little cash and maybe address some nagging provincial issues–among them the provision of hydro services, the LCBO, and that prohibition-era, lager-hawking, house-of-worshipers-with-twelve-packs-on-their -handlebars we all love to hate, The Beer Store. (Suggestions, incidentally, that he delivered in an address at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 17, 2014)

Claiming he’d rather create a doable list than add “to the list of reports never implemented” (zing!) Clark recommended a few things related to booze, including allowing the LCBO to sell 12-packs of beer, introducing online ordering for pick-up at local outlets, opening big warehouse-style stores and, my personal favourite, implementing a mandate for the LCBO to exercise its negotiating muscle a little more when purchasing alcohol, noting “We were troubled that the LCBO doesn’t use its buying power to lower costs —despite being one of the largest buyers of wine and liquor in the world,” echoing something I’ve said before and reinforcing my long held suspicion that Ed Clark clearly reads my blog. Continue reading


Filed under The Politics of Drinking

Beer and sick Asian food at DaiLo

*I received financial compensation for this post.

Shane Mulvany at Lopan
To my mind, there are few things more disparate than Chinese food and a Big Mac and, if you were able to somehow bring these items together in one dish, my first guess wouldn’t be that it would end up as much more than a mess.

But that was before I had dinner at DaiLo.

Located in the former home of Grace at 503 College, an area which now boasts La Carnita, Snakes and Lagers, and Bar Negroni and will likewise soon welcome Grant Van Gameren–the guy behind Bar Isabel–right next door at 505 College, DaiLo reunites sommelier/front of house manager Anton Potvin and Chef Nick Liu, a duo that formerly found success together at Niagara Street Café. Continue reading


Filed under Dining

When it comes to beer, taste isn’t all that matters


In case you’re not among the 23,405 people who stopped by my blog on September 22, you aren’t one of the visitors who are still finding Ben’s Beer Blog in numbers that put my former best traffic days to shame, or you haven’t stumbled onto one of the many outlets who picked up the story after I wrote about it, you should know that for lack of a better term, I basically exploded the internet last week with a story about Shock Top, a beer that is made by Labatt and one for which they were planning a less-than-honest advertising campaign.

Obviously the story received the level of attention that it did because most people feel upset about the news that a large brewery was attempting to pretend to be a small brewery in order to increase sales of one of their beers. Indeed, by and large, that has been virtually everyone’s reaction–with a small but notable exception: Among the comments for that post, in the responses on reddit forums, and via twitter, there has been a small but vocal minority whose response has essentially been, “Who cares?”

This minority, some of whom I’ve talked to directly and others who felt the need to comment anonymously, have made roughly the same argument with varying degrees of tact and merit and that argument is “If the beer tastes good, drink it.” Continue reading


Filed under Craft Brewing

The Friday Link Roundup 09.26.14

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

Mergers On brewing industry mergers and the vaguely scary future of global beer consolidation via The New York Times
Evil Twin Brewery’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjegsø has a dispatch from Mexico for Vice to explain why craft beer there is exploding. 
beer tree For anyone who’s spouse won’t let them homebrew because of the ugly jugs, this might be the world’s most visually interesting homebrew kit. 
Draft Magazine introduces us to Wild Run Brewing, a craft brewery making good beer in an RV park‘s former game room.
Australia’s favourite hangover cure is coming to America via Bloomberg
The Atlantic has a surprisingly interesting (and lengthy) look at the history of the shaker glass.

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Labatt is planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign for Shock Top



Shock Top is a beer made by the massive, multinational brewing company AB-InBev.

People who drink craft beer know that Shock Top is a beer made by AB-InBev and its local consortium Labatt, and those same people who know that Shock Top is a Labatt product often speculate that the line between Shock Top and actual “craft beer” is likely left intentionally hazy so that Labatt might conceivably pass Shock Top off as craft beer–which it most certainly is not.

And while we, the stout sniffing cognoscenti, have always known in our heart of hearts that Shock Top is part of the macrobrewery effort to get “crafty” as a means to compete with (and presumably crush) small brewers, it doesn’t make it any less galling to actually see that strategy laid out on paper.

But now we can. Continue reading


Filed under Beer, The Politics of Drinking

Thank you

Last night I was awarded the inaugural Golden Tap Award for The Best Beer Writer in Ontario.

In case you’re unaware or you’re somehow not among the many I pandered to directly or indirectly to vote for me, the Golden Tap Awards are awards chosen by the general public, who can pick their favourites in a variety of beer categories online.

There are many people who feel that this method of selection unfairly favours those with the best social media presence. It has oft been a source of contention among beer folks, for example, that Beau’s All Natural Brewery are able to be named the best brewery in Ontario year after year–they were unseated last night for the first time in five years–because while they do indeed make decent beer, they also campaign for awards like this aggressively.

I’m not going to dwell on the structure of The Golden Tap Awards (I’m pretty sure that other writers have and will, in print or otherwise), because I have no illusions about what these awards are and I will readily admit that I campaigned (hard) to win.

I haven’t written any books about beer, I don’t have any formal certifications or training related to beer, and I’ve never worked in the brewing industry. Indeed I often rely on those with more expertise and who’ve been doing this longer than I have for help. Jordan St. John, who writes about beer for QMI, maintains the blog St. John’s Wort, and who wrote two (two!) books about beer this year, remains my most frequent source of borrowed knowledge and, since I started writing about beer three years ago, has essentially acted as the beer version of wikipedia for me when I’m writing a story or otherwise just curious. So too have I called upon the imitable Crystal Luxmore for her wealth of beer knowledge, asked the veteran Stephen Beaumont for guidance, gained insights from food and beverage aficionado David Ort, and, as we all do in the beer writing game, blatantly mined the work of the wily Greg Clow for my own references and purposes.

That said, I am extremely passionate about beer and that passion goes into my writing. Continue reading


Filed under Beer

Wining and Dining at The ACC

Call it a throwback Thursday if you want, but this post originally appeared on Post City in November of 2013. I recently had occasion to revisit it and thought it might be worth sharing again (i.e. I’m a little busy right now and this is an excellently lazy way to get a little blog traffic today!)


W hile recent years have done much to lower our expectations when it comes to the athletes who call the Air Canada Centre home, there is a group of people who happen to work in the same building who put in a remarkable effort every single Leafs and Raptors game (not to mention Toronto Rock games and all the concerts).

They are the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment food service employees and, while the city has clearly grown all too forgiving when it comes to “off nights” from both the Raptors and the Leafs, we’re far less apt to show forgiveness when it comes to the beer and hotdog we buy at the game, so these people need to be on their game.

Thankfully, it’s a responsibility they take seriously. As Robert Bartley, Senior Director of Food and Beverage will tell you, “We like to think of it as hosting a dinner party for 18,000 people every night.”

Indeed, the ACC is one of only a handful of professional sports facilities that opt to cook for their dinner guests themselves. Most sports facilities, like The Rogers Centre down the street, contract third parties to handle foodservice. The Jays, for example, have left the foodservice to Aramark, a massive US-based foodservice company that handles sports facilities in addition to educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and even prisons. Continue reading

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Filed under Beer, Dining