Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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The curious case of Von Bugle Brewing

I really like Steam Whistle.

I have for as long as I can remember. They make an excellent Czech-style pilsner and, provided you’re having it fresh and not from a green bottle that’s been exposed to the sun, it’s about as reliable a beer as you’ll find in any pub in Ontario, if not Canada. That’s, of course, largely because they make an effort to maintain all the draught lines pouring their beer and they’ve invested in a lot of expensive technology to ensure that the beer that gets to your mouth is always fresh as possible. 

Of course Steam Whistle, for some reason, has its haters. It’s a big company and has a pretty heavy-handed marketing presence and that isn’t always a turn-on for the die-hard craft beer fans. For my money though, Steam Whistle is also owed a pretty large debt of gratitude by this province’s craft brewers and craft beer drinkers for being among the brewing pioneers that broke down a lot of the early barriers to independent craft beer production and sales in Ontario. They fought a lot of fights so that brewers who came after them didn’t have to, and any one who chooses not to drink their beer because “the company is too big,” or some iteration on the theme of them being “too corporate” is, in my opinion, being ignorant of the Toronto brewery’s history and importance to the scene. 

Steam Whistle cares a lot about making good beer and they seem to care about the state of craft beer in Canada. 

And that’s why I really can’t figure out what the fuck they’re up to with their latest move.  Continue reading


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Max’s Big Beer

There’s obviously never a bad time to buy some local beer, but some times are better than others.

In two days, thanks to a fundraising collaboration between Hamilton brewery, Grain & Grit and Max’s Big Ride, a charity ride to benefit Duchenne muscular dystrophy, it will be one of those better times.

The charity is named after seven year-old Max Sedmihradsky, this happy guy.

From the organization’s website: Max rarely stops talking and one of his favorite topics is all of the things he’s going to do when he’s older, like learn to skateboard, ski and play hockey and soccer with his friends. The problem is that Max has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a terrible disease which doesn’t allow his muscles to develop like other kids, so unless we find a cure, he will never get a chance to do the things he dreams about doing in his future.

For the past three summers, Max and his dad, Andrew, have ridden a cargobike 600 km between Hamilton and Ottawa to raise money to help find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Continue reading


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Toronto’s East End brewers to announce a collective

All 10 bricks-and-mortar breweries currently operating in East Toronto have joined forces to form a brewing collective. The aptly named Toronto East Brewing Collective includes Brunswick Bierworks, Common Good Brewing, Eastbound Brewing Co., Godspeed Brewery, Left Field Brewery, Louis Cifer Brew Works, Muddy York Brewing Co., Rorschach Brewing Co., Radical Road Brewing Company, and Saulter Street Brewery and the group is set to release a statement announcing their formation later this week.

David Wallace, who handles Sales and Marketing for Muddy York Brewing Co, says the collective came not only from a shared vision of like-minded people who live and work in the area, but also a desire to put some focus on a region that can sometimes be overlooked.

“Most of the breweries in Toronto who have been the beneficiaries of media hype (deserved though it may be) are all clustered in the west end,” he says. “There’s already this ridiculous ‘cultural divide’ that makes people in the west end feel like traveling east of the Don Valley requires a full day of logistics planning and we’re hoping to dispel much of that nonsense.” Continue reading


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Where Ontario’s candidates for Premier stand on retail beer, and why it doesn’t matter

Over the past few days, much ado has been made about the candidates running to be the premier of Ontario and their various positions on beer sales in this province.

Doug Ford got the party started on May 18th by releasing an official statement through the PC party that he would “expand the sale of beer and wine into corner stores, box stores and grocery stores all across our province.”

In response, Kathleen Wynne opted to hold a press conference on Tuesday  that was, at best, embarrassing, in which she doubled down on her ongoing policy decision related to retail alcohol and invited no less than the CEO of MADD and the head of OPSEU, the union that oversees the LCBO, to join her. Basically, she confirmed she’s sticking to the grocery store plan she enacted (which, to be fair, was actually the biggest change to retail alcohol sales in something like 70 years).

Andrea Horvath, who presumably didn’t want to miss out on the fun of distracting voters from actual issues, then commented and suggested that an NDP government might actually review the entire idea of selling wine and beer at grocery stores all together—which seems entirely consistent with a pro-union NDP. They opposed the idea of beer in grocery stores at the outset. Continue reading


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Exciting partnership opportunity

Ben’s Beer Blog is very excited to announce a unique partnership opportunity.

Today, for the first time ever, I am offering Ontario craft brewers a way to introduce their brands to a whole new audience of my direct acquaintances as well as connect with some of the province’s top-level influencers. 

Yes, I have put a small fridge in my garage and I am seeking breweries interested in helping me fill it. 

Referred to locally as Bobo’s, my garage has already become something of a hot spot in North London and has hosted many local influencers. I am seeking a partnership that can help a local brewer expose their brand to a growing number of London, Ontario beer drinkers that includes marketing and communications professionals, commercial real estate developers, academics, and my neighbour Andy. Continue reading


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Is the hammer about to drop on Ontario beer?

According to my sources, it will soon be announced that Stone Hammer Brewing in Guelph is closing its doors for good.

While I have not been able to reach the company for confirmation, I’m told that last week employees were told to head home and asked not to return and that production of beer had ceased permanently.

And while it’s unlikely that “lack of shelf space” will be listed as the official cause of death for Stone Hammer Brewing, the closure has me — once again — wondering if the inevitable purge of Ontario craft beer is about to begin.

It’s a topic I seem to be asked about with increasing frequency whenever a reporter is doing a story on craft beer and stumbles upon my blog seeking “industry expertise.” Can Ontario continue to sustain this growth of craft breweries? My answer is always the same, and it’s “No. It’s not sustainable. Something’s gotta give.” Continue reading


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Revisiting Ontario’s Master Framework Agreement with The Beer Store

In 2015, in response to Ontarians’ frustrations about The Beer Store—a private corporation owned by three of the world’s largest brewing companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, Molson-Coors, and Sapporo—the Provincial Government and The Beer Store entered into a new agreement, dubbed the 2015 Master Framework Agreement.

Last week, I wrote a post about the fact that it seemed to me like The Beer Store might not be living up to its end of the bargain with respect to the 2015 Master Framework Agreement, specifically their obligations to improve their customer experience.

In light of the fact that the province is handing out money to craft brewers, the industry is booming, and we’ve added even more grocery stores to the list of places we can now buy beer, it once again occurred to me that my choice of subject matter last week was pretty consistent with criticism I’ve heard that I only focus on negative things. Continue reading