Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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I’m Batman

I have heard it referred to as the Irish Exit. Some call it the French Goodbye. Before the term became more widely associated with ending a relationship by ceasing all communication, the act was also known as ghosting.

Whatever you call it, it basically just means leaving the social gathering you’re attending without letting anyone know you’re leaving.

I call the act “pulling a Batman,” or simply “Batmanning,” after the preferred means by which the caped crusader usually ends his interactions with Commissioner Gordon.

The well-intentioned boss of Gotham’s police will turn around mid-sentence to find that the costumed crime fighter has simply vanished. And I’m here to tell you that we could all stand to be a little bit more like Batman. Continue reading


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A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of beer drinkers in brewpubs and breweries from being a burden on their parents or other patrons

It is a melancholy object to those who choose to frequent brewpubs and breweries when they are forced to see communal tables, patios, and even bar tops populated by tired, weary parents sipping pints with their children in tow.

Almost everyone who chooses to go out to a local brewery for a tasting flight or just a pint or two would agree that having to see living breathing proof that other humans in your community have chosen to procreate is an experience that is inversely proportional to actually enjoying that beer-drinking experience. Human children are, at best, a nuisance. They’re loud, they spill things, and they demand unreasonable things like glasses of water, or, depending on their age, crayons or activities that can take the attention of bartenders or servers who could be doing more productive things like bringing more beer to legal-aged paying customers.

That said, it seems unfair to punish those beer drinkers among us who have had the misfortune of breeding, whether by accident or by design, simply because we may not be able to find childcare during the period in which we require alcohol, which, I can attest with certainty is just as often as the childless require it, if not much more. Continue reading


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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.

No.

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


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Column: The top five places for (good) beer in London

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In addition to the ol’ blog, some of you might be aware that I write a bi-weekly column for the local publication Our London. About a month ago, I wrote a column detailing the scant places you might find a good beer in town. I thought I’d repurpose it here as it might be helpful to any thirsty blog readers who might be headed to The Forest City soon.

1. Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium

Anyone who drinks good beer in London won’t be surprised to see Pub Milos atop this list. With an owner who goes out of his way to bring unique Ontario beers to his Talbot Street locale, Pub Milos’ 27-tap draught menu is unparalleled in London and is arguably among Ontario’s best. The food is very good, the staff are all either certified cicerones or working to become certified, and it’s right downtown. The place does beer the way I wish all bars would. ‘Nuff said.

2. The Morrissey House

In 2014, owner Mark Serre stopped buying draught from The Beer Store and now deals directly with local brewers. The result is 18 draught options that feature options you can’t find elsewhere in the Forest City, including offerings from London’s breweries and beer from Windsor to cottage country, including regular options from the excellent Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke. There’s an increasingly decent selection of 35 craft bottles and cans and a decent menu. Occupying a converted “London Brick” mansion, “The Mo” offers a somewhat dated ambiance, but is suitably cozy and offers a great patio.

3. Bungalow

Frequently packed thanks to being the only pub in convenient walking distance for those who live in Old North, the seriously-good burgers and respectable draught lineup are certainly as much to blame for its popularity as its convenience. A welcoming watering hole, Bungalow offers a draught lineup that skews toward craft but won’t frighten the uninitiated. Approachable craft beers like Steam Whistle and Samuel Adams Lager abound with occasionally experimental offerings like Muskoka Brewery’s rotating Moonlight Kettle series or a Beau’s All Natural one-off. The place promises a “neighbourhood hub” and it delivers.

Read the rest of my column over on the Our London site here.


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Former Dieu du Ciel brewmaster opening east Toronto brew pub

Bim's Place

If you’ve been paying any sort of attention to craft beer in Canada for the past decade or so, you already know the name Luc “Bim” Lafontaine.

Bim started working at Montreal’s famed Dieu du Ciel! Microbrasserie in 2001, became the head brewer in 2007, and made a name for himself making beers that were fairly universally considered among Canada’s, if not the world’s, best.

He’s known as something of a “brewer’s brewer” if there is a such a thing, and has earned a level of respect in the industry such that Hill Farmstead gets excited when he stops by to do a collab. Continue reading


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‘International destination’ beer bar coming to Toronto’s Little Italy

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Tomas and Julian Morana, two brothers whose family is behind Bar Volo, Cask Days, and–through their import business Keep6Imports–a large chunk of the cool import beers you can find in better Toronto restaurants and bars, have confirmed that they are opening a new bar.

As Toronto Life pointed out yesterday (damn you for scooping me! *shakes fist*) the location of the long-rumoured “second Morana family bar” has finally been revealed as Little Italy. Specifically, the bar will be at 612 College Street in the former home of Souz Dal Tiki Bar next to The Royal Cinema.

I spoke with Tomas Morana and he filled me in on some details. Continue reading


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Toboggan Brewing Co: Mr. Smith’s Interesting Experiment

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If you spent any of your twenties (or earlier) in the city of London, Ontario, it’s pretty likely that you had at least an evening or two at Jim Bob Ray’s, a bar that has long been a staple of The Forest City’s student nightlife scene.

Indeed, if you went to the University of Western Ontario (I will not indulge my alma mater’s rebrand as *shudder* “Western”), your feelings about Jim Bob’s arguably shaped your approach to London’s nightlife. It was either “We’re going to fucking Jim Bob’s?” *groan* or “We’re going to fucking Jim Bob’s!” *fist pump, shotgun a beer*

Now, however, regardless of how you may feel about the (in)famous spot at 585 Richmond Street, the days of Jim Bob’s reputation as the quintessential London university drinking experience are numbered: Very soon the place will cease being “Jim Bob Ray’s” and will become Toboggan Brewing Co.

Opened in October of 1993 by Mike Smith, a longtime veteran of London’s bar and restaurant scene,  Jim Bob’s has actually already begun its slow makeover to a craft brew pub. Full disclosure: Mr. Smith is a longtime friend of my family’s. Mike spent Christmas eves at my house when I was a kid, my dad actually “worked” at an establishment he owns as something of a post-retirement lark, and a picture of me at age 12 is even hanging among the many that adorn the walls of one of his bars, the London institution, Joe Kool’s.

Personal connection aside, I find Smith’s plan to turn Jim Bob’s into a brewery fascinating for a number of reasons; not the least of which is that I think the success or failure of the move will serve as a perfect litmus test for the current state of Ontario’s craft beer scene. Continue reading