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.

As with virtually anyone who gets into craft beer, the more involved I get with this industry, the more I want to learn about it and the more I want to write and share stories about it.

I’d like to think that some of that passion (in addition to my “vote for me” twitter and facebook blitzkrieg) contributed to me winning this award.

I actually don’t write about beer as a source of income. This blog makes no money and never will and the pittance I make for writing for blogTO would barely suffice to cover the internet service provider charges required to submit my semi-regular posts there.

I write about beer because I love both writing and beer.

And so as I said, I have no illusions about what this award represents and yes, part of that means that my “campaigning” efforts were successful, but it also means that a large number of people, coerced or not, thought it worthwhile to vote for me. It means that I am sharing my passion and that, evidently, people like to read what I have to say about beer.

And that’s pretty fucking cool.

So sincerely, to those who voted for me and everyone who continues to read the things that I write about beer, thank you.


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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Contest: Win two tickets to The Beer Experience


One of the things I don’t like about beer events (and yes, I’ve mentioned a few things before) is the tendency for brewers to trot out mostly the same old beers to these things.

I know it’s a bit unfair to expect brewers to create a new beer for every beer event, but wouldn’t it be sweet if there was an event where all the beers being offered were being offered for the first time?

Well, there is actually.

The Beer Experience promises just that. According to their promotional material, “Each brewery [involved] has either brewed something totally unique specifically for this event, or they are bringing you a brand new brew that hasn’t hit the shelves yet!”

The promise of a lineup that’s entirely beers you’ve never had before? Officially awesome, yes? Continue reading


Filed under Events

The new Bellwoods Brewery might not have a bottle shop

Wizard Wolf

A couple weeks ago Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery officially announced their intention to open a second brewery on the corner of Dovercourt and Dupont. I likewise provided further details in my signature “hey-I-already-knew-about-it-because-I’m-cooler-than-you” style in a post for blogTO and the response on the interwebs was nothing short of ecstatic as twitter exploded with well-wishes and excitement about a new place for craft beer fans to get Bellwoods’ delicious beer (even the goddamn blogTO comments section was all positivity for once).

The news is clearly awesome, but there’s a bad news element to the situation that I opted to leave out of my original article in order to help ensure that the Bellwoods folks received only much-deserved optimism and happiness about their expansion. Well, the time for happiness has passed and, as is often the case when it comes to the brewing industry in Ontario, the time for rage is upon us.

The new space might not be allowed to have a retail store. Continue reading


Filed under Beer, The Politics of Drinking

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


Filed under Beer, Dining