Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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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


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The problematic relationship between small brewers and new restaurants

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Starting a restaurant is a risky and expensive endeavour. In Toronto especially where there is a plethora of great places to eat and a handful of new places opening (and closing) every week, it’s exceedingly difficult for new restaurants to set themselves apart from the crowd and even if a new restaurant manages some modicum of success, it’s likely that for the first little while their profit margins will be razor thin.

Accordingly, restaurateurs often look for places to cut costs and rely on innovative marketing techniques and partnerships to get themselves known. Many restaurants in Toronto start their businesses as pop- up shops or food trucks hoping to build a reputation for their food so that they might either save up the capital or seek backers for the larger financial investment required to start their own restaurants.

To anyone with any involvement in the craft beer industry, this story might sound fairly familiar. Continue reading


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Excuses I’ve heard for purchased tap lines

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Please forgive me while I drag this dead horse out of the stable so that I might beat it once more, but did you know that the practice of purchasing draught lines in bars is illegal?

Obviously you do know that, because you read my blog and are therefore brilliant, well-informed about beer, socially conscious, and, one can assume, extremely attractive physically. But if for some reason you were out of town or asleep when I wrote about the subject for Torontoist back in January, allow me to sum up the issue in a single sentence: The practice of paying a licensed establishment or providing that establishment incentives in order to guarantee a brewery’s exclusivity in that licensed establishment is illegal under the province’s liquor legislation, and yet it still happens all the time. 

And, as I discovered while writing that article and have confirmed in the time that’s passed since I wrote said article, bar owners and big breweries are typically wholly aware this practice is illegal, but, to put it bluntly, don’t give a shit. Continue reading


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Drinking in the park is not a “hipster” cause

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If you follow me on twitter, first of all sorry, and second of all, you know I’ve been heavily promoting my own petition to allow alcoholic beverages in city parks.

And while I’m sure it’s a little obnoxious to have me spamming up your twitter feed, it seems to be working. Crazily, the petition I started over my lunch hour has amassed 2600 signatures in under 48 hours (and climbing–every time I refresh there’s a handful more).

My intention is still to approach city officials first (something I’ve already done, although my own city councilor Joe Mihevc and the councilor for Ward 19 Trinity Spadina, Mike Layton, have not yet returned my emails), although it seems like the issue might be one that needs to be addressed by the province as yet another item under the AGCO that needs revision. Regardless, I’m dedicated to figuring out who I need to talk to and how many signatures I’ll need in order for them to listen, so I’m going to keep at it (apologies in advance to the twitterverse).

However, it’s troubling that so much of the conversation on this issue–on twitter, on comment boards–seems to be couched in an “us vs. them” mentality. Those who seem to oppose drinking in the park seem pretty quick to characterize those in favour of it as “a bunch of hipsters” and their arguments seem to be that those who drink in the park are messy, loud, and disrespectful and are prone to pissing on the nearest tree. This is troubling for a number of reasons. First, with so many reasons to dislike hipsters (see: ironic racket sports, mustache wax), it seems silly to choose their enjoyment of sunshine and adult beverages as a reason to disparage them. Continue reading