Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


Drinking Shocktop

Quite some time ago, I realized I was getting close to having 5000 followers on twitter.

Accordingly, I tweeted that, should I reach that milestone within the next week, I would purchase and drink the variety mix pack from Shock Top and record the experience. People seemed enthused by the idea of a beer snob drinking Shock Top.

I reached 5000 followers the next day.

For those who don’t know, Shock Top is a beer that is marketed as a “Belgian Stye Wheat Ale” but is in fact liquid garbage. First produced in 2006, the beer is made by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a marketing company that controls roughly a third of the world’s beer; however, this beer is rather dubiously marketed as a craft beer. It actually says on the can that it is from “Shock Top Brewing Co.” and, in bars, it is typically positioned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV to compete with craft beer among consumers who don’t know any better. I once enjoyed a considerable amount of traffic on this very blog back in September of 2014 when I managed to get my hands on a marketing brief prepared by Canadian Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV subsidary Labatt that suggested they were planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign to promote Shock Top in Canada as craft beer after market research revealed how many of the beer’s drinkers were misinformed about the beer’s origins.

The original Shock Top is something like a Belgian Witbier–in much the same way that the Olive Garden in the Magic Valley Mall in Idaho is something like Tuscan dining.  Originally released as Spring Heat Spiced Wheat in 2006, the brand was a rather transparent attempt by ABI to release a shitty witbier that would compete with Blue Moon, another shitty witbier, this one created by Miller-Coors with the obvious purpose to trick dumb people into thinking they were drinking craft beer and to compete with the growing small brewer segment. Here in Canada, Shock Top, the beer marketed as a product of a non-existent craft brewery in St. Louis, is actually brewed in Labatt’s facilities in London, Creston, Edmonton, Montreal, Halifax, and St Johns. Blue Moon is marketed by Molson-Coors in Canada as “Belgian Moon” because a Toronto craft brewery hilariously bought the rights to the name Blue Moon in Canada. In a pinch, you might also drink Rickard’s White if shitty witbier is your thing as it seems to be essentially the same beer, but with perhaps a different ratio of butt beer.

But I digress. You came here to read about me drinking this shit. Continue reading


Beer is very healthy

Craft beer is booming in North America and, while the industry is fun and vibrant and its growth is doing much to support local economies, did you know that a recently-released study can be very narrowly interpreted to imply that beer is healthy?

It’s true! According to A Professor at Whatever Fucking University did a study that got picked up by the newswire this time, beer has significant health benefits.

“Sure, beer has healthy things in it,” says Professor, in a severely truncated quote I cherry-picked to support my flimsy thesis and traffic-grabbing headline. Continue reading


In praise of awful bars

There’s something great about an awful bar.

As a beer writer, and one that has—admittedly—adopted tastes and a tone of voice in my over half a decade of semi-professional drinks writing that some folks have interpreted as rather snobby, I am almost as surprised to admit it as you might be to hear it: I sometimes love going to terrible bars.

And make no mistake, I’m not talking about “dive bars;” that subset of drinking establishments that are sometimes (and more often than not, intentionally) a little rough around the edges, but have a redeeming quality like amazing tacos, great draught, cool cocktails, etc.


I mean that much larger swath of establishments that pepper most north american landscapes both suburban and metropolitan and that, from a snobby alcohol-enthusiast’s point of view at least, really have no redeeming qualities. Continue reading


This is not a stouts and chocolate Valentine’s Day post

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and whether you’re revelling in your choice to be single, lamenting your fate at being alone, or ironing your dancing pants and putting the finishing touches on your plans with that special someone, we beer lovers all have one thing in common this time of year: We’re being bombarded with clumsy and desperate attempts by marketers and beer writers alike to bring together the idea of beer and valentines in a transparent attempt to create some topical traffic and/or brand engagement. Because romance.

Some of these savvy communicators and influencers will recommend beers with red fruit in them since these beers have a red-tinged appearence appropriate to the heart-themed occasion (fun!) and some might do a round-up of local beers that have love in their name, hearts on their label, or involve a cheeky reference to sex (sexy!).

Of course, as is the case every year, far more of these fellow creative types are likely to produce a litany of phoned-in listicles explaining to us, once again, why this is a great time of year to pair some dark beer with some chocolate.

Ugh. Continue reading


Your guide to dry January

It’s once again that time of year when some among us, having just barely made it through the holidays, like the smoldering wreck of a car crawling over the finish line of an endurance race, attempt to seek some relief by embarking on what is commonly referred to as “Dry January.”

While it is a common occurrence every year, it never gets any easier. And so I thought, even though the month is half finished, it might be a good idea to address the difficulties of dry January with a quick guide. Hopefully, with my suggestions, you will survive the next two weeks and you will never again have to struggle with the annual difficulties of figuring out just how to react to and behave around a friend who has made the unfortunate decision to abstain from alcohol for 30 days.

First, know that you are not alone. Many other people have gone through what you’re going through and you too will get through your friend’s brief flirtation with sobriety. Continue reading

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Mind the Gap Mondays at The Morrissey House

The Morrissey House, on Dundas Street in downtown London, is a decidedly decent place to drink. It’s a cozy, multi-room spot in a one of the classic two-storey yellow brick victorian homes for which this area is known. It has that familiar, mismatched-furniture, just-slightly-dingy vibe of a no-nonsense pub. There’s rib-sticking fare on the menu, they host things like trivia nights—it feels like a lot of other pubs you’ve visited. Except in London, it’s not really like those other pubs. That’s because, in 2014, owner Mark Serré stopped buying any draught from The Beer Store and now deals directly with local brewers. So unlike that place you’re nostalgic for from your time at University, The Mo, as its known to some who frequent it, forgoes the ubiquitous shitty lineup of Stella, Coors, and Rickards and instead boasts 18 draught options from Ontario’s craft breweries.

There is also increasing evidence that, in addition to being a quite decent place to drink, it’s run by decent people. Case in point, the Mo’s new “Mind the Gap” Mondays promotion.

On January 6th, in a blog post on The Moirrssey’s website, Serré announced that Mondays would henceforth be dedicated to bringing awareness to the gender pay equity gap in Canada. His concept is pretty simply: Because women are paid, on average, 13% less than men in this country, any woman visiting The Morrissey House on Mondays will enjoy a 13% discount on her lunch or dinner. Continue reading

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Remembering the closure of Lakeport Brewing

In February of 2007 Labatt Brewery, owned by AB InBev, purchased Hamilton’s Lakeport Brewery for $201 million. In March of 2010 they announced that they would be closing the Hamilton facility and shifting production of all Lakeport brands to the London, Ontario Labatt’s facility.

This is, obviously, pretty old news but I had occasion to revisit it recently for a forthcoming article and thought it was worth sharing again for a couple reasons. First, there is probably many a craft beer fan who hasn’t actually been following beer news since 2010 and might not know the tale and second, it’s pretty remarkable to consider that 2010 moment in Hamilton’s beer scene given how far it has come since.

As Hamiltonians will remember, there was some uncertainty about what might happen at the Lakeport facility when its closure was announced, and Labatt did offer some incentives to future lessees of the brewery with one important caveat: Whoever took over the building next could not be a brewer. And so, when companies like Calgary-based Minhas Creek Brewing Company announced interest in the space, Labatt declined, allegedly shooting down a total of three beer company offers, including one from Rochester-based North American Breweries that would have saved all the jobs at the facility and likely even created more. Instead, Labatt opted to shutter the doors on the facility until the lease expired and they fired 143 people. Continue reading