Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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The definition of craft beer

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There is seemingly no craft beer debate more constant–and arguably more annoying–than the ongoing debate over the meaning of the word “craft.”

Every few months or so since 2005, when the board of the Brewers Association first voted to draft a definition of what a “craft brewer” is, it seems like the debate again rears its ugly head on twitter or on the blogosphere and we are treated to a now-familiar littany of opinions from beer writers, websites, advocates, brewers, and bar stool pontificators on what exactly “craft beer” means and whether or not we even need such a term.

Local beer blogging’s resident grumpy old man, Alan McLeod, got me thinking about this frustrating debate again earlier this week when he brought the topic up in a post about the similarly elusive quest to define craft beer’s looming (or is it?) “bubble.”

In his quick revisit of the “craft” debate that has enjoyed renewed vigor since the BA began arbirtrarily changing its definition so that Samuel Adams continues to meet the terms, McLeod ultimatley reasons that “[The word]” now includes so much meaning – so many meanings – that it no longer has little specific meaning.”

McLeod also touched on the thoughts of famed spirits writer Lew Bryson, who in a recent interview pleaded “Just call it beer. It’s beer,” and McLeod likewise revisits a 2014 Toronto Sun piece by his occasional co-author, the esteemed Jordan St. John Esq., who landed on a similar conclusion when he opined that ““Craft beer” has served its purpose as an idea and we need to move past it.”

And so it is not without due respect to these and the many other beer experts who have asked rhetorically “who can define craft beer” that I say to them today: Well, I can. Continue reading


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Anderson Craft Ales delivering good things in small packages

I love beer in 355mL cans.

Unfortunately, here in Ontario, the government-run LCBO (one of only a few places brewers can actually sell beer) prefers to stock 473mL beer cans. Additionally, given that 473mL cans cost about as much as 355mL cans, economies of scale mean that it’s more cost effective to sell beer in tall boys (i.e. you can buy less of them to package more of your beer). What this means is that the smaller 355mL format is fairly unpopular among craft brewers in the province.

This scarcity, paired with some nostalgia for the days before I drank good beer, is probably what drives my love for the little guys but, whatever the reason, I’ve been waiting patiently for a local craft brewer to put a good beer in the coveted wee cans.

That day has arrived.

And, as luck would have it, the brewery that opted to do so has just opened roughly five minutes from my house.

London, Ontario’s Anderson Craft Ales officially opened their doors on August 6th 2016. Continue reading


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Haiku reviews: Waterloo Brewing Co’s Sour Weisse

Haiku reviews is a feature wherein I invoke the brief and impressionistic style of poetry to devote exactly 17 syllables to reviewing a beer.

Waterloo Brewing Co’s Sour Weisse

Post summer-bike-ride,
Weird neighbour offers lem’nade.
Refreshed; you feel strange.

What they have to say: “A sour, tart, fruity, and highly effervescent wheat ale with no residual sweetness. It’s lower in alcohol at just 4%, making it the perfect summer quaff. Best served in a wide-rimmed chalice to allow the ale to foam, and take in its frothy nose.”

Part of Waterloo’s new Brewmeister Series of small-batch brews “crafted for the informal beer drinker” (?) this beer is exclusive to the Kitchener-Waterloo and Waterloo’s own retail store for a limited time.

Want to send me a beer for the haiku review treatment? Drop me a line.


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Introducing the beer that’s also a record

Is it a beer? Is it an album? It’s both!

In what might be an industry first, South River Ontario’s Highlander Brew Co has teamed up with Epitaph Records to create a beer with a label that is also a playable record.

The beer, Oxblood Pale Ale, features a stick-on label that is actually a flexidisc record featuring the song “Oxblood,” by Southern California-based band Plague Vendor.

The idea is that, if you peel off the label, you’ve got a record (Warning: Do not try to play the beer bottle before you peel it off. I ruined four turntables trying to).

The song from Plague Vendor, whose online bio touts their “voodoo punk” style, which is of course “a dance-fueled rock aesthetic tinged with shadowy darkness,” is decent, and if you’d like to check out the tune before you buy the beer, you can hear the track here. I personally prefer my darkness less shadowy but it is a nice tinge. Continue reading


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Haiku reviews: Beau’s All Natural’s Buenos Dias

Haiku reviews is a feature wherein I invoke the brief and impressionistic style of poetry to devote exactly 17 syllables to reviewing a beer.

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company’s Buenos Dias Gruit
The orchard’s soft breeze
Brings salty scents of the sea.
Fucking lovely day.

What they have to say: “Beau’s Brewery is welcoming the long days and long evening shadows of summer with two new beers that play off each other like day and night. Called “Buenos Dias” and “Buenos Noches,” both beers feature organic lime juice, lime and orange peel, and sea salt. While Dias is a day-drinkable 4.5%, Noches is brewed to a bolder, imperialized 9% ABV.

The aroma of Buenos Dias offers pronounced citrus notes, with subtle coriander undercurrents. Zippy lime flavour is accented with a wicking salt edge in the mouthfeel. The finish is quick, clean and dry. The profile of Buenas Noches is similar, but with more intense citrus, and a finish that is slightly warming. Buenos Dias will be available throughout Ontario and Québec, while Buenas Noches is a brewery-only limited release.”

Want to send me a beer for the haiku review treatment? Drop me a line.


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Sorry Bud Light, I’m not buying your “equal pay” stumping

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In a TV spot that aired for the first time yesterday, Bud Light, the marketing team that sells America’s best-selling and least-flavoured beer, attempted to “tackle” the issue of gender pay equality.

The ad is a continuation of the beer company’s pseudo-political ad campaign that debuted during the super bowl which featured Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer stumping for the “Bud Light Party.”

In this new ad, Rogen and Schumer attempt to humorously address the very real issue that women still make less money than men and are often required to pay more for the same products–everything from hair care, personal products, and mortgages. The tagline is “Bud Light costs the same no matter if you’re a dude or a lady.”

I won’t link to either ad (because that’s what they want) but you can be sure that the humour is about as thin and watery as the product its being used to hawk. And here’s why: It’s super hypocritical. Continue reading


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Mike Lackey: The Proost Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire is a famous questionnaire about one’s personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses once given by the French writer Marcel Proust. Ben’s Beer Blog has co-opted this format in order to provide a revealing look at people making beer and working in the beer industry in Ontario. As such, I’ve renamed it The Proost Questionnaire, since “proost” is the Dutch word for cheers. Clever right?

Mike Lackey is the head brewer for Etobicoke’s Great Lakes Brewery. Here, the man responsible for some of your favourite IPAs goes deep to talk about his favourite jacket and his secret love of bees.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Having a beer with the game on in the backyard.

What is your greatest fear?

My wife one day realizing that she can do way better than me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Living in the same neighbourhood, keeping the same job and keeping many of the same friends through most of my life.

What is your favorite occupation?

Playing hockey. Continue reading

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