Dispatch from the Samley Cup


Monday night, seemingly by chance, I found myself at the judges’ table of Samuel Adams’ 3nd Annual service industry homebrew competition, the Samley Cup.

I’m not entirely sure who dropped dead or otherwise decided that they couldn’t be a part of the decision-making for the event, but the result was that I got a last-minute email and this angry, eff-bomb dropping beer blogger found himself seated among an esteemed panel of beer folks who actually know what the fuck they’re talking about.

We were tasked with choosing a winner among seven finalist teams of homebrewers, all there representing an Ontario bar and all vying for the top prize: a trip to Boston to tour Samuel Adams brewery. Since the event was held at the Bier Markt on the Esplanade, it was sure to be a good time worthy of a mayor; however, we were out on the mainstage of the bar and, sadly, not in the Rob Ford cocaine room.

Among those also seated on stage at the judges’ dais last night were Cass Enright, founder of The Bar Towel; Mirella Amato, Master Cicerone; James Hume, Beer & Cider Product Manager for the LCBO; Dean Gianocostas and Fred Mendes of Sam Adams; Sarah Parniuk, booze writer for NOW and bartender at Cold Tea; Robin LeBlanc, aka The Thirsty Wench;Crystal Luxmore, Cicerone and beer writer for The Grid; and Greg Clow, founder of Canadian Beer News.

Then there was me, an amateur beer blogger who’s still reeling from being able to use the word “dais” properly two sentences ago.

What a weird word.


Anyway, the folks at Samuel Adams put on a great shindig so I thought I’d at least share some of the things I learned at last night’s event.

The excellent looking and classily-served “Cinnamon Hop Breakr” from the Bitter Blondes of Bier Markt Don Mills.

Homebrewing in this province seems pretty awesome. 

It’s probably a bit of a generalization given that the beer we sampled last night was from a group of finalists in a homebrew competition, but speaking as a guy who usually has relatively little involvement in the homebrew scene but has had some as of late, I’m super impressed at the beer people are making at home.

All the bars involved last night–The Bungalow in London, Beer Bistro in Toronto, Toucan in Kingston, Rock Bottom in Windsor, Dymond’s in Burlington, Bier Markt Donlands, and Rockport in [city I can’t remember and can’t confirm with Google since Rockport is a common name] brought their A game. Few beers presented last night would be easily discernible from beer sold commercially and the best beers of the evening were really, really good.

The new word for an early contender in a beer competitions is “tabler”

Owing to the desire it produces in people to hide the beer under the table in order to continue drinking it throughout the remainder of the competition or tasting, good beers presented early in the process shall heretofore be referred to as tablers.

Photo c/o of the sneaky Crystal Luxmore who apparently won’t hesitate to sell out a hop-loving fellow beer writer.

Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch is a lot like John Hammond from Jurassic Park

Aside from the fact that Koch created Samuel Adams beer and John Hammond created dinosaurs and aside from the fact that one runs a successful brewery and the other is a fictional character in a story where a prehistoric amusement park goes awry, Jim Koch and John Hammond are a lot alike. OK, actually they are nothing alike but Jim Koch opted to “greet” participants of last night’s event via a video message and it vaguely reminded me of a scene in Jurassic Park. So… they have that one thing in common.


There are no refills on Utopias

If Samuel Adams is offering a multi-course dinner paired with beer and the last course includes the $114.95-a-bottle, 28% ABV Utopias, no amount of trickery might net you a second helping. Your server is aware you already had one, the Sam Adams reps will laugh when you ask for more, and an intrepid photographer, hoping to get a picture of the judges of an event, will strike out when you demand he seek another round in exchange for the honour. Just be happy you got some at all, or enter next year’s Samley Cup competition and win Best Name or Best Packaging, honours bestowed on the crew from The Toucan for their beer The Usual and the folks from Rock Bottom for the label on their beer Holy Grail Rye Ale. These distinctions won these two teams each a signed-by-Jim-Koch bottle of Utopias to take home last night.


We’re all still suckers for a great IPA

The big winner last night was a repeat of last year (sort of) as a new team from Toronto’s own Beer Bistro (last year’s winner) took home the Samley Cup. I’m not saying this proves that the province is still obsessed with IPAs or that this style of beer is inherently favoured by beer nerds but the province is still obsessed with IPAs and this style of beer is inherently favoured by beer nerds.

Anyway, as the saying goes, there are no losers here–aside from all the teams that didn’t win–and a good time was had by all. All the beers were great but the winner, for me at least, was clear. Beer Bistro deserves their free trip to Boston for IP Rage. It’s a great, hoppy little number that my esteemed colleagues noted had grapefruit notes and excellent mouthfeel, an opinion with which I concurred by rating it a classic tabler.


PS -Shannon Mulligan’s introductions were terrible.

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