Where is your beer brewed?


In the craft beer world, opinions about the merits of contract brewing are pretty varied.

Without wading into the debate (again), I do want to discuss one thing that I think virtually everyone takes a disliking too, and that’s when a contract brewer or brewing company attempts to be dishonest about where it is that their beer is  actually made.

Frankly, I don’t know why people think it benefits them to claim they own an actual brewery when they don’t (whether they claim this explicitly or implicitly), but there is a trend as of late for some “brewers” to be shady about where it is that their malt actually meets water before they slap a label on the beer and try to sell it to the world. Most brewing companies are, of course, happy to tell you where their beer is made (I asked a lot of them for this article and they answered me), but there are still some that are less-than-forthcoming about it. Given that I’m a big proponent of transparency when it comes to the brewing, production, and marketing of beer in this province, I thought I’d add simply a little more clarity to the issue today. Continue reading


Filed under The Politics of Drinking

We’re probably not going to “upvote” the Beer Store away


As part of a consultative approach they’re taking to shaping the provincial budget, the Ontario government has introduced Budget Talks 2015, an open forum wherein Ontarians can have their say and presumably, let the government know where our priorities lie in terms of provincial financing in the next year.

On paper, this is a great idea. In my opinion, accessible, consultative, and open processes for shaping policy should be the norm for all governing bodies.

In execution; however, it turns out this is a somewhat flawed approach. Case in point: changing the retail beer scence.

A number of items have sprung up on the list of discussion topics for Budget Talks 2015 that deal with the current retail beer scene.

As of this posting, there are actually six different ideas related to “beer.”

I first became aware of this entire process when someone alerted me to the item, “Allow Private Retailers to Sell Beer, Wine and Alcohol” a few days ago and noted that, for some reason, it was being heavily downvoted. Obviously, I swung into full #beermayor mode. Here was an opportunity to have our say and tell Ontario that we craft beer fans wanted some real change! And it was being downvoted? How was this possible?! Continue reading


Filed under The Politics of Drinking

If I owned The Beer Store

Ben Store

As an increasingly large chunk of the population of Ontario knows, The Beer Store is owned by three multinational brewing companies, AB-InBev, Molson-Coors, and Sapporo.

And while these three companies recently opted to open up ownership to other breweries in Ontario, it doesn’t seem likely that the ownership stake they’ve offered other brewers will allow their potential new owners very much say in how The Beer Store runs its business (specifically, the new owners will have access to two seats on a five member board so unless my math is incredibly flawed, the three companies that currently run the place will still get the final word on how the province’s only retail beer outlet handles their day-to-day operations).

Of course these are all points I’ve already made elsewhere. I remind you of all this today simply to point out the rather obvious fact that I don’t own the Beer Store.

I don’t own any part of AB-InBev, Molson-Coors, or Sapporo and I don’t own an Ontario brewery that might opt in for even one of these newly-available symbolic seats on The Beer Store’s board.

I, Ben Johnson, have no say in how the Beer Store runs.

But let’s pretend that I did. Continue reading


Filed under The Politics of Drinking

Are the Blue Jays breaking the law by not offering better beer selection?


The Toronto Blue Jays are the only team in Major League baseball that doesn’t offer local beer at their baseball games.

Obviously, this sucks.

People who like baseball often also like beer. People who like to go support their local baseball team might conceivably also like to support their local breweries.

The Toronto Blue Jays organization apparently doesn’t give a shit about these people. Instead, they are happy to award exclusivity to the foreign-owned entity that was willing to cough up the biggest chunk of dough for the right to be the only beer sold at the Rogers Centre (if you’re still not sure who exactly I’m talking about, look no further than that glaring Budweiser logo that adorns most of the Toronto Blue Jays’ left field).

There was of course a glimmer of hope recently in March of 2013 when I broke the news that Steamwhistle–the folks making baseball-ready pilsner literally across the street from the Jays–would finally be allowed to sell their beer at the Rogers Centre.

Of course, being able to drink Toronto beer at a Toronto baseball game was short lived and almost exactly one year later, conceivably because the folks at AB InBev had had enough “competition,” I was breaking the news that the Good Beer Folks had been unceremoniously given the boot.

There’s been some rumbling in the interim–notably a petition created by Phil Cacace, the owner of the great Toronto bar, Tall Boys, some scant media coverage, and at least one perennially-irascible Toronto beer writer who has made a point of raising the issue on twitter every once and a while but, for the most part, we’re all pretty much resigned to accepting watery lager to drink while we take in live games of Toronto’s generally watered-down version of professional baseball. Continue reading


Filed under Beer, The Politics of Drinking

Cans vs. bottles: Further perspective from Steam Whistle Brewing

steam whistle

On Thursday, in a post I wrote about Nickel Brook’s Naughty Neighbour coming to can format, I offered up a bit of my own opinion along with the news.

In addition to a tangent about unions and my excitement that a great session ale was coming to a larger format, I offered up my two cents on why I prefer beer in cans over bottles. Among the insightful, humorous, and signature delightfully entertaining points I made in that post were my observations that cans offer the best protection against both light and oxygen and therefore offer the freshest possible means to enjoy a beer. 

Today, in response to my points, I received an email from Sybil Taylor, who is the Communications Director of Steam Whistle Brewing. Incidentally, she’s also married to one of the guys listed as a co-founder and she was the brewery’s first official employee. Sybil took some issue with my assertion that bottles can’t offer as fresh a beer, notably given Steam Whistle’s particular attention to detail in this area. In order to present both sides of this argument, with Sybil’s permission, I’ve opted publish the email she sent me. 

I wanted to write to set the record straight on this fact – at least as far as Steam Whistle is concerned. I’m not certain if what I’ll explain is the same for other brewers but in our case, our bottles do probably offer the best form of beer packaging out there. Our cans would run a very tight second. Continue reading


Filed under Brewing

Nickel Brook’s Naughty Neighbour is now available in cans


In case the title of this post and the image above didn’t make it abundantly clear: Nickel Brook’s Naughty Neighbour is now available in cans.

You can find the 473mL cans now at the LCBO for $2.80.

Personally, I’m excited about this for a few reasons.

First and foremost, I’m a big fan of the current trend toward sessionable pale ales. There has been an argument made as of late that “sessionable” is basically just a nice way to say the beer facilitates binge drinking. Frankly, I’m OK with that. Yes, I am a nerdy beer-sniffing snob and am capable of approaching beer with a discerning, critical eye, nose, and mouth, but there are also times I feel like drinking three, four, five, even six of the same beers in one sitting. And Naughty Neighbour is actually chief among my beer choices when I opt to do so. The 4.9% American Pale Ale is aromatic, with all the grapefruity, citrusy, bitter goodness I love in a pale ale but at wholly reasonable 4.9% (and I know it seems like I’ve been giving a lot of love to Nickel Brook lately, but let’s face it, they’re making some good beer). Continue reading


Filed under Beer

No, I won’t share your infographic on my blog

The following is an email response I sent to “Liyonala” this morning while I was sitting on the toilet. She was following up to a previous inquiry about my interest in posting some content she was “excited” to see on my blog. 




The infographic you are asking me to share on my blog is about marketing, and my blog is about beer. I didn’t respond to your first email that suggested “readers of my blog enjoy posts on similar topics” because the claim is patently false and anyone who had taken even a cursory glance at my writing would be able to glean that. I assumed that you were either just spamming me or were a person who had suffered major head trauma. Either way, I decided no response at all was the best approach.

​Now that you have sent this second email, I feel compelled to respond.

I understand that it has become popular for advertising and marketing companies to enlist people to create “infographics” in an attempt to draw web traffic. They are short, pithy, and image-based ways to get people to click links and, to anyone who wasted their life getting a degree in marketing, they might seem like a perfect approach to ensnaring “millenials,” a largely-fictional demographic invented by these same marketing people who ridiculously presume that humans born around the same year must share inherent purchasing and consumption habits. I get that. I’ve accepted it. Infographics are a “thing” now and, as a result, and I get a handful of requests like yours every week. Continue reading


Filed under Beer