Belgian Moon: Anatomy of a “crafty” beer

Seriously enough

Here we go again.

Canada is about to be the benefactor of a “new” beer thanks to the increasingly greasy quest for big brewers to create/market/re-imagine/co-opt brands that deliver some sniff of “craft” credentials.

That is, Molson-Coors has announced that Blue Moon, a hugely popular beer sold by Miller Coors in the United States is coming to Canada.

Er, coming back to Canada for the first time?

Staying in Canada?

Shit, I don’t even know where to start with this one.

So let’s start from the beginning: Blue Moon is a Belgian-style, cloudy, unfiltered wheat beer that advertises notes of coriander and citrus and is served with an orange wheel garnish. It was developed by Coors. Its labelling says it is a product of Blue Moon Brewing Co. In the United States, it is usually mentioned in at least the top three names of beers that seem developed by big brewers to intentionally mislead people into thinking it is a craft beer. Case in point, this statement from the American Brewers Association, issued in December of 2012: Continue reading

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The Toronto Distillery Co. is taking legal action against the LCBO

Toronto Distillery Company

The Toronto Distillery Co., a local maker of organic spirits, is in a fight with the LCBO about unpaid fees that could threaten the company’s existence.

The company is taking legal action against the LCBO because they say the LCBO is unfairly requiring them to pay taxes on booze they sell directly from their distillery; a tax that they say is “inconsistent with Canada’s constitution.”

Their argument stems from the Constitution Act of 1867 which states that all taxes in this country need to be legislated. That is, they need to be presented in the house (federal or provincial) and then voted on. As such, the Toronto Distillery Co. claims that current fees for onsite stores that are imposed on distilleries and created by the Ministry of Finance (and not voted on), are not consistent with this law.

The current fees related to booze sold onsite, The Toronto Distillery Co. alleges, are based on the same mark-up the LCBO uses on the booze they sell in their actual stores. That is to say, if a distillery opts to sell liquor from their own premises, they are forced to mark up their prices 140% and pay the LCBO a hefty fee. Continue reading

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Toronto artist Dave Murray and Grolsch’s 400th anniversary

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If you’ve been reading my beer-writing for a while, or following me on social media, you’ll know that I’m kind of nerdy about cool beer label art. Yes, it’s really just an extension of a brewery’s marketing and has little bearing on what’s in the container, but when it’s done right or when an effort is made to collaborate with local artists or produce a label that is unique, I really dig it.

A couple years back I wrote an “article” for blogTO featuring the art on Toronto’s breweries’ labels. That “article” may or may not have been an excuse to bring a whole bunch of beer up to my inlaws’ cottage, but it did allow me to learn a little more about the process some of our local brewers use to develop label art. Some, like Mill Street, were predictably not so exciting (a design team develops the labels. Effective, but not exactly riveting stuff). Others, like Bellwoods, Great Lakes, and Indie Alehouse, employ local artists to develop art that is an extension of their companies’ general philosophies. 
 

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Let’s talk about growlers

Growler

With the recent news that changes to Ontario’s liquor laws could mean the LCBO will start to carry and fill growlers, it’s probably a good time to ask some questions about this development.

Namely, does anyone really give a shit?

The benefits and pitfalls of recent proposed changes to Ontario’s liquor laws, specifically as they relate to beer, have been debated fairly extensively as of late, and probably will be until the changes actually come into effect some time in the 3rd millennium, but not much has been made of the odd little item about growlers, and so it’s worth considering whether or not the potential “mainstreaming” of those fun little jugs is a good thing.

But before we get there, let’s cover some basics for the uninitiated. Continue reading

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Contest: Win an Amsterdam Cruiser bike

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There are two things I like about summer: drinking sessionable, hoppy beers and riding my bike.

That’s why when Amsterdam Brewery recently announced that they were giving away the above-pictured totally bitchin’ cruiser bike branded with the logo of their equally bitchin’ 4.9% golden pale ale, Cruiser Ale Day Pale Ale, I was perhaps less-than-subtle in showering praise on said bike on Amsterdam’s social media.

The “like-love” didn’t necessarily net me the result I wanted (I was really hoping they’d just be so into my enthusiasm that they’d send me a bike) but it did snag me a great opportunity for you, my loyal readers.

Yes, the ‘Dam Good Beer People are letting me give away a bike to a reader of Ben’s Beer’s Blog.

To enter, simply tweet a message telling me where you’d take your first ride on your new Cruiser cruiser if you won. Remember to include the hashtag #winacruiser as well as the hashtag #bbb so I know you heard about the contest here.

I know, two hashtags, what is this, soviet Russia?

For those of you who don’t have twitter, first of all, welcome to 2015, and second of all, you can enter via comment, below, as well.

As with all contests I’ve run previously, I’ll put all entrants into a hat and pull one winner at random; but I’ll also enter any entrants that make me laugh into the hat twice to double your chances of winning–so be funny!

As a condition of the rules of this contest, the winner may be required to double me on their new bike while I drink a six pack of Cruise All Day Pale Ale.

Contest closes July 20, 2015.

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The Ontario Pale Ale and why I hate it

Amber

In case you’re new to my blog, you should know: I love Ontario beer. I also love pale ales. And yet, I hate the Ontario pale ale.

To be clear, “Ontario pale ale” isn’t actually a style in the strict BJCP sense of the word, but rather a term I use to classify a rather distinct subset of beer made in this province that goes by all manner of name from IPA to American Pale Ale, to Pale Ale and more. And, truth be told, it isn’t even a particulary bad kind of beer.

But still, I hate it. Continue reading

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On selling out

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You’ll never understand it
Try to buy and brand it
I win, you lose, cause it’s my job
To keep craft beer elite.
This beverage ain’t your fuckin’ industry.

~Fat Mike, if he were a beer blogger, probably. 

As it is with music, there is an important distinction in beer between what we might define as that which is indie and that which we might deem corporate.

Craft beer, you might say, is  something generally akin to your favourite band that’s still playing local clubs, manning their own merch tables, and banging out records on a small record label–or even no label at all. Much like craft breweries, indie bands maintain a devoted local following because they make a quality product and there is a perception that they do what they do because they love it and they’re not just in it for the money, man.

By the same token, we might readily compare big breweries to something along the lines of a boy band or the Spice Girls: a sort of fabricated version of the concept of a “band,” assembled by people with an understanding of the market and a unique ability to create a product that will have mass appeal. It’s often a profoundly successful “product,” but to those who are passionate about the scene, it’s a watered down, passionless version of what should be a good thing.

This is a simplified analogy for sure, but to me there are actually a lot of parallels between craft beer and independent music, the most notable of which is that rather icky feeling we all get when a treasured brewery or band suddenly becomes financially successful. Continue reading

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