Contest: Win two tickets to the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival


UPDATE: Contest closed. Thanks everyone for your interest in this contest, but I’ve chosen a winning entry. Congratulations to Vanessa Neshevich for the following  winning beer and food pairing suggestion. She lost points for excessive exclamation marks, but made up for it by quoting Homer Simpson:

Tallboy’s Koreatown burger (kimchee, bacon, cucumber and green onion mayo AUGH!!!!!!!!) paired with a King Vienna Lager to go with the creamy mayo and delicious kimchee flavours!

“I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”
-Homer Simpson-“

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival.

Now in its third year, the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival is organized by Steam Whistle and its laid back vibe, grassy setting, and the ability to attend both days for the cost of one ticket has had at least one local beer writer speculating publicly that it might be one of Toronto’s best craft beer festivals.

As is sometimes the case, beer festivals can become less and less appealing as they get older and grow increasingly corporate-minded, but it looks to me that this one, with its focus on Ontario craft beers and local food trucks, is determined to remain true to what makes a good beer festival, in my opinion.

That’s why I’m happy to offer up two free tickets to the festival to one lucky reader of Ben’s Beer Blog.

In keeping with my theme this month of celebrating the relationship between food and beer, I want you to tell me what food and beer pairing available at the festival you’re most looking forward to and why. Pick a beer that’s being poured and a dish that’s being served and tell me in the comments below why you just can’t wait to cram them both in your suckhole.

On Monday July 28th the contest closes and I’ll pick the best/most entertaining entry to receive two free tickets. Preference may or may not be given to people who spread word of this contest via twitter.

Photo credit: Jesse Milns


Filed under Dining, Events

The problematic relationship between small brewers and new restaurants


Starting a restaurant is a risky and expensive endeavour. In Toronto especially where there is a plethora of great places to eat and a handful of new places opening (and closing) every week, it’s exceedingly difficult for new restaurants to set themselves apart from the crowd and even if a new restaurant manages some modicum of success, it’s likely that for the first little while their profit margins will be razor thin.

Accordingly, restaurateurs often look for places to cut costs and rely on innovative marketing techniques and partnerships to get themselves known. Many restaurants in Toronto start their businesses as pop- up shops or food trucks hoping to build a reputation for their food so that they might either save up the capital or seek backers for the larger financial investment required to start their own restaurants.

To anyone with any involvement in the craft beer industry, this story might sound fairly familiar. Continue reading


Filed under Bars, Dining, The Politics of Drinking

The best beer I’ve ever had: Justin Cournoyer

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 this month, 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, Justin Cournoyer  shares his story. Cournoyer is the Chef/Owner of Actinolite, where the menu changes according to what’s in season and the result is a dining experience that prompted The Globe and Mail’s Chris Nuttall Smith to dub Actinolite”one of the most essential places to eat in Ontario, if not in Canada.”


Most days, there just isn’t enough time. As a chef, restaurant owner, husband and father, downtime is not something I’m used to. Most of the week I’m in the restaurant, and when I’m not, my thoughts often wonder back to it. What do I need for service tomorrow? Is the fish going to come in on time? What’s going to break down today? That’s why it’s important to make the most of the time you do get.

Such was my thinking last summer before the restaurant shut down for a much-needed vacation. With my wife stuck at work, I decided to take my then three year old son, on an impromptu adventure to Copenhagen. It’s easy to get trapped into the daily routine of service, and to lose the inspiration one needs for creativity. I wanted to soak in as much food culture as I could, to experience the delights of Amass, Relae, and Manfreds. To recharge really.

And in between seven course tasting menus and weird natural wine, came Mikkeller. Out and about on a single rented bike, Toby and I would stop in for a midafternoon tipple, then return again after dinner. In the same glass as his father, my son would have the fresh-pressed apple juice they made daily. I would make up gibberish and tell him it was Danish. He’d speak it back to me.

As for the beer, the one I remember best is the Vesterbro Spontanale, an unfiltered lambic on tap that summer. It was sour, with loads of grapefruit, rhubarb, and lemon. Of course it could have been a Blue Light, for all I cared. Just to spend time with my boy, half a world away from the pressures of the restaurant, was enough to make everything taste sweet.

This summer, as we close for vacation, I won’t be making the trip again. I’ll be welcoming the birth of my second child. I suppose whatever I drink that night is likely to taste just as sweet.

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Why don’t restaurants give a shit about beer?

Draft Taps

When it comes to food, wine, and spirits, most of the city’s restaurants have things down.

Look to any ranking of the city’s best restaurants and you’d be hard-pressed to find any among them who haven’t taken some time to cultivate a thought-out list of wines. Since arguably the dawn of going-to-another-place-to-eat-things-made-by-other-people, a separate menu or even a fucking table topper with a list of available vintages has been a practically mandatory requirement.

And it has it been likewise well established that the closer and fresher the ingredients restaurants use to cook their meals, the better said meals will be. Indeed, if you’re in a restaurant that isn’t touting locally-sourced ingredients somewhere on their menu, I’d venture that you’re not in a very good restaurant.

So too are virtually all bars and restaurants embracing “cocktail culture.” You can hardly swing a Hawthorne strainer in this town without hitting a muddling bartender who will insist you call them a mixologist while they whip up their house-made honey kombucha with shiso and Horchata.

So why the hell is virtually no one in the city giving beer the same level of respect we snotty Torontonians demand of virtually every other substance we cram in our suck holes?

Well, throughout the next month, I’m fixing to find out. Continue reading


Filed under Beer

The Friday Link Roundup 07.04.14

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

Barrel age In addition to beer, folks these days are barrel-aging everything from hot sauce to coffee to mustard and pickles. As a result, according to this article in Modern Farmer we’re actually facing an impending barrel shortage. 
Homebrew Want to really up your homebrewing game? Try the all organic method. This book will teach you how to “brew sustainably by growing ingredients yourself, recycling water, using solar energy, and achieving zero waste.” Pretty fucking ambitious!
Yoga beer In “exercise I can get on board with” news, it’s Detox Retox, a growing trend in yoga classes paired with a post-class beer and often held at a brewery. Sign me up! via The New York Times
Crystal Luxmore And finally, in some shitty local news, Toronto’s best free weekly magazine, The Grid, has closed its doors. Sadly, that means we’ll no longer have beer writer Crystal Luxmore’s great, bi-weekly Hopped Up columns, so why not go read them now while you can (and to find out what’s next for Crystal, for god’s sake, subscribe to her newsletter, would ya?)


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A first look at Sawdust City’s new brewery


“If I have to answer another fucking email from people asking when we open.”

It’s early on a rainy Tuesday morning in Gravenhurst, Ontario and Sam Corbeil, Brewmaster at Sawdust City, is half-joking about what he admits is a pretty good problem to have: Future customers are eagerly anticipating the opening of his brewery and continue to contact him to find out when they can buy his wares. “I’ve already got two emails today and it’s not even noon,” he says, laughing. Continue reading

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Great Lakes Brewery’s Canuck is no longer Crazy

Crazy Canuck

Typically when it comes to beer, my philosophy is that taste is the only thing that matters. And that is true, to an extent, but there’s something to be said for a well-designed label.

Beermakers here in Toronto have, for the most part, embraced some design aesthetics when it comes to the logos that adorn their brews (See my August 2013 blogTO post on the best labels in the city and their stories) and the humble beer logo has evolved into a collaboration of design by local artists, a marketing opportunity for local bands and filmmakers, and all manner of hipster-friendly hand drawn shenanigans. But there’s been one great beer that’s always been left behind and it’s Great Lakes Brewery’s Crazy Canuck. Behold the monstrosity pictured above. There’s multiple maple leafs, a loon, a toque–and for some reason it’s black, gold, and red. It’s fucking hideous. Continue reading


Filed under Beer