Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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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


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What to expect from Ontario beer in 2018

Because it’s that time of year, here are the things that I think are going to shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2018.

Weed
When it comes to the craft beer industry, it seems kind of crazy to me how little attention is being paid to the legalization of marijuana in Canada. To my mind it is impossible to suggest that the destiny of any meaningful changes to our beverage alcohol sector won’t now be intrinsically tied to all things pot.

Government resources are right now being dedicated to drafting new legislation, debating policies, and creating laws that will govern how each province will handle the prospect of legal weed. And if you’re a pot fan or a policy wonk, these are exciting times, but if you had any hope that you might see meaningful changes to your respective province’s liquor laws anytime soon, I’ve got some bad news for you: Much of the resources and political capital that would be needed for progress in the world of beer are going to be focused squarely on sticky-icky for a while. Continue reading


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The Friday Four 12/15/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking.

Kensington Brewing Co. 
Mango Low Boy, Neu Rodes, and Temper Temper

My craft beer journey actually started with Kensington Brewing Company.

It was 2011 and Toronto’ foremost digital journal of record, blogTO, had put out a call for a beer writer. I was a writer who liked beer so I threw my hat in the ring and submitted an application.

Then,  I had a lot to learn about beer.

Thankfully, as anyone with experience in craft beer will know, most of the folks working in or enjoying craft beer are happy to chat so I quickly found people eager to school me and share some insight. One of the very first people to do so was Brock Shepherd, who, at the time, was the founder and sole employee of the eight month-old Kensington Brewing Company. He was also the owner and operator of Burger Bar, which even as late as 2011 was something of a rarity in that it was a restaurant where the beer on tap was entirely local craft beer and there was even a cask engine. There were also occasional health code violations, but I considered that all part of the charm.

I met Brock under the guise of digging for a story–and eventually wrote this one, about how Augusta Ale was soon to arrive in bottles (even though I’m not entirely sure it ever actually did)–and I ended up sitting and chatting (and drinking) with Brock for at least a few hours.

Brock was one of my first interactions with someone who had that certain passion for craft beer–the kind where some annoying wannabe writer shows up when you’re trying to run a business but you end up chatting with him for hours just because you dig craft beer. At that time, Brock was getting some media buzz for attempting to grow usable hops around Kensington Market and was planning to open a nano-brewery in the back of Burger Bar while continuing to contract brew his production beer under the watchful tutelage of Paul Dickey (at the time, this was still a novel idea and not a marketing plan they teach you at Niagara Brewing College. I kid, I kid). Continue reading


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30 years of Great Lakes Brewery

At this point, Great Lakes Brewery has largely cemented their status as a great Canadian brewery and has earned their place in most Canadian beer fans’ hearts.

I’d wager that, right now, almost everyone reading these words has at least one GLB beer in their fridge. And why not? They make great fucking beer.

But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the killer version of Great Lakes that most of us know and love is a fairly recent innovation considering that the company has actually been around for 30 years. Purchased by Peter Bulut Sr. in 1991, Great Lakes was, at the time, a small brewery in Brampton with an 18 hectolitre system that made their beer using syrupy malt extract brewed on an electric kettle. And so, roughly the same time they bought the business, they bought a mill and a masher to make beer from proper malt, and immediately outgrew the brewery’s fermenters. Taking possession of the company in April, Bulut had to move his operation to a 30,000 square foot building in Etobicoke by August, and today that’s the building the brewery still inhabits.

Bulut quickly found success in the 1990s Toronto restaurant scene which was, at that time, largely dominated by Greek families. Having come from a Greek and Serbian background and having been raised in an Italian school, Bulut was a man of languages and would often adapt the dialect of whomever he was speaking with and tell restaurateurs he was actually from the same village as them. It proved to be an effective ruse and, as a result, he ended up selling a lot of beer.

Like, a lot. Next time you drink a Karma Citra, be thankful for the hardworking Greek people of Toronto and their patrons who drank a shit ton of Great Lakes Lager in the 1990s to make that IPA possible for you. Continue reading


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The Friday Four 11/24/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking. 

Cowbell Brewery
Shindig Huron County Lager

Somehow, during all the hullabaloo about the opening of the Disneyworld of Beer, aka Cowbell in Blyth, I missed the news that they created a lager and launched it on their opening weekend, dedicating it to “the hard working men and women who built the Blyth brewing facility.” Shindig Huron County Lager has apparently been available on tap at the brewery ever since and, a press release I received Wednesday tells me, has been so popular, the company has decided to make it their fourth canned beer.

Shindig is described as a “remarkably crisp, clean and refreshing beer” and will be available in 355ml cans at The Cowbell General Store and The Beer Store. Maybe it’s all the dark and boozy winter-appropriate offerings I’ve been into as of late, but a new lager in small cans (from a company that has thus far produced some solid offerings) sounds right up my alley this week. And just think of the extra sales they’ll see by confused consumers who think it’s a new Bellwoods beer.


Oud Beersel
Oude Geuze Vielle

I became aware this was available here in Ontario because I follow Keep 6 Imports on instagram and did an LCBO online order (apparently these aren’t that hard to find if you live in TO, but, as people tend to forget, some folks actually don’t live in Toronto).

As it’s an Oude Geuze, this is a blend of one, two, and three year-old lambics, and is an effervescent, slightly fruity, subtly funky, tart lil’ beauty. There’s a touch of wood and some earthiness that grows as it warms. Is there such a thing as a “go-to” lambic? If  so, this would be a candidate. I bought ten of these. I wish I bought more. I’m drinking one right now. Continue reading