Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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30 minutes with Scott Simmons, the new President of the Ontario Craft Brewers

Back in August, the Ontario Craft Brewers announced the appointment of a new association president.

The former CEO of Golf Canada, Scott Simmons was also Vice President, marketing and business development for The Beer Store, and he led that organization’s development of a long range strategic plan.

The OCB currently boasts 82 members and is the only organization representing the interests of small brewers in the province. Accordingly, the role of president is one that could conceivably be pivotal in shaping the future of craft beer in Ontario. I reached out to Simmons and managed to catch him during a free half hour when he was literally driving to Queen’s Park to chat beer with provincial politicians and we discussed what he’s been up to in his first 12 weeks on the job, what we can expect next for beer in Ontario, and, importantly, what a newly-craft-converted and self-described “blue collar” guy from Brantford (who went to high school with Gretzky no less) likes to drink. What follows is an edited transcript of the things Simmons was willing to go on the record about (also worth noting: I knew we only had 30 minutes, so I tried to cut to the chase).

 

Ben’s Beer Blog: “Ok, you probably saw this one coming, so lets start with it. Craft brewers in Ontario are still “the little guys,” and to my mind, there are a few big guys they have to do battle with and one of them is The Beer Store. You come from The Beer Store. How do you reconcile that? I’ve talked to some OCB members and, the consensus is generally “who better to help us in that system,” but there are also a lot of guys that want to blow up that system. In March 2015, I watched Darren Smith, the owner of Lake of Bays Brewery and the Vice Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers, give an impassioned speech directly to provincial politicians, basically saying “Let us have our own stores.” I still think that’s the best possible scenario here: Let craft brewers open their own stores. But given your Beer Store background, does this signify that the OCB is content to work within that system, or are stores still a goal?”

Scott Simmons: “I think it’s still a goal for sure. But as you know from your work in the industry, every thing is political. Everything is a negotiation. I think that, my personal opinion, the craft brewers kind of lost the battle for their own stores—for the time being at least—when the grocery store plan got announced.”

BBB: “I agree.”

SS: “I think when they announced grocery, cross-selling and individual stores fell off the table for the time-being but it’s certainly something that I’m going to keep advocating for. And to your point about the little guys and the big competition with Molson and Labatt—for sure, but I try not to think of it as so contentious. They’re not evil and all this. You know, they’re good people.”  Continue reading


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Sexist beer marketing: Meanwhile in Nova Scotia

A  few months ago I wrote a blog post discussing sexist marketing in beer and I called out–and chatted with–some Ontario breweries about marketing efforts I felt objectified women.

In the interim, there have been some changes worth noting. Whitewater Brewing, the Ottawa Valley area brewer who makes “Farmer’s Daughter Blonde,” has quietly updated the branding for that can and appears to have renamed their seasonal “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” to the decidedly less cringe-inducing “Watermelon Blonde.”

Niagara Brewing Company, the makers of “Amber Eh!,” an American-style Amber that features a semi-naked female lumberjack on the can, took the less strategic but still effective approach of responding to my repeated inquiries by simply blocking me on social media. I guess that works.

The other breweries mentioned have, to date, continued business as usual; including continuing to use the cans that I discussed.

As first reported here in August, Garnet Pratt Siddall, the then-newly-appointed chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers who spoke candidly with me for my article about sexist beer in the industry, has been terminated as the CEO of Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Co.

I’ve also confirmed with the OCB that she has likewise subsequently resigned as the chair and director of that organization. It remains to be seen who her replacement will be and, as such, it’s unclear whether the de facto figurehead of Ontario’s only organization advocating for small brewers will share Siddall’s interest in making changes related to offensive marketing.

Interestingly though, one of the most promising changes to come about since my article, and apparently as a result of it, comes not from Ontario, but rather from Nova Scotia. Continue reading


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The best beer I’ve ever had: Doug Lounsbury

As part of an ongoing series, The best beer I’ve ever had, I put the call out to other beer folks and ask them to detail their “best beer” experiences for me.

For today’s installment, Doug Lounsbury shares his (illegal) story. Lounsbury is one of the founders of the Georgetown Craft Beer Festival , now in its third year and taking place Saturday Sept. 16th, from 11-6pm.

This story might not be politically correct, as my best beer memory actually came at very young age.

When my father was in his mid 30s, he decided to move away from the city and give farming a shot. I was born a few years after this transition.

In the early 70s, when I was young, rural living was much the same as it is now. It meant early hours and hard work, with friends and neighbours helping each other out; especially at harvest time. My father had pigs, corn, and hay and it is hay that that led to my best beer memory.

In late summer, all of our neighbours would move from farm to farm assisting in the harvest. The hay was in bales and the men would follow the tractor and trailer, throwing the bales into neat stacks. Every man was needed for this backbreaking job and so who was left to drive the tractor? Well, at all of five years old, that job fell to me. My instructions were simply to keep the steering wheel straight and, on the turns, someone would jump up and maneuver it for me. I’m not entirely sure how many times I got to do this, but it is ingrained in my memory for one important reason: Beer.

When we were done I remember we all gathered in the shade and everyone had a Labatt’s Blue. I was having water, but I distinctly remember my dad let me have a taste of his beer.

I remember it being cool and bubbly.

To this day, whenever I finish working in the garden or cutting the grass, I have a cold beer and it brings me back to those days. Of course, these days it’s usually Steam Whistle, not Blue.


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Gingera for Redheads


#BEERFORGINGERS

Gingera is a representation of a redhead’s delicate physicality and a ginger’s fiery disposition. The two contrasting tempers, present in the redhead essence, are depicted through the pale, translucent bottle and spicy, unfiltered taste.

Gingera was born to prove that redheads can succeed anywhere without having to adapt and sacrifice just because they were born with a slight mutation of the MC1R gene on chromosome 16.

Redheads have long been disregarded in the sun- and patio- loving beer industry just because they burn more easily when exposed to UV rays and can’t absorb sufficient Vitamin D due to low concentrations of eumelanin in their body. But owing to determination and the fact that their hair is red, are now poised to redefine the perception of beer. Continue reading


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A conversation with Richard Sigesmund of Gleemer Imports

If you’re a fan of craft beer in Ontario and have spent any amount of time participating in the conversation about the scene online, it’s likely you’ve run into Richard Sigesmund.

A perennial critic of the province’s beer scene, Sigesmund generally isn’t afraid to tell anyone how he really feels about a certain beer, brewery, or trend and, on occasion, the conversation has been known to get a little heated. As of this post, for example, he has unfriended me on Facebook (though we still trade barbs on twitter and we chatted via email for this post).

To call him a fan of Belgian beer would likely be putting it lightly. Sigesmund travels to the region at least once a year and interned as a brewer there. He’s also an avid home brewer and has collaborated on a few brews with Toronto’s Muddy York brewing. And while he’s fairly quick to share his thoughts on the superior beer scene in other regions, unlike most Ontario beer-critiquing twitteratti or self-righteous beer bloggers (ahem), Sigesmund is poised to put his money where his mouth is later this year when he officially launchers Gleemer Imports, his very own Ontario beer agency “importing liquid happiness from Belgium and beyond.”

I chatted with the fledgling agency owner to see what we might be able to expect from Ontario’s newest beer importer. Continue reading


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Are beer drinking Saskatchewan football fans getting a rough ride?

Beer drinking fans of Saskatchewan’s CFL team appear to be getting something of a rough ride when it comes to their choices this season.

That’s because the Roughriders’ new stadium, which opened in August of 2016 and is slated to host its first regular season CFL game on Canada Day, appears poised to pour Molson-Coors products exclusively, despite much lip-service paid to craft brewers in the run up to Mosaic Stadium’s opening.

Now, exclusivity in arenas and stadiums likely won’t be all that shocking to most readers given that in Canada we’ve become accustom to a team entering a “partnership” with either Molson or Labatt (despite the fact that it is technically illegal in Ontario). Jays fans will note the all AB-InBev beer lineup at the Rogers Centre and fondly recall the shit show that resulted when the organization dared to offer Steam Whistle for one glorious season.

But the Saskatchewan Roughriders aren’t a privately owned team run by Canada’s biggest telecommunications company and their new stadium isn’t owned by any private entity. Continue reading


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How to talk to your friend about drinking shitty beer

Have you noticed that a friend or family member is still drinking beers like Budweiser, Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Miller Light, or even Pabst?

It can be difficult watching someone you care about drink shitty industrial lager. You may feel torn about how to discuss foreign ownership, adjuncts, and the fact that much more interesting beer exists. But while the conversation about dad beers is never an easy one, it’s necessary.

Before talking to your friend about their shitty drinking habits, it’s important to understand that they may not realize they have a problem. Some people happily picking up a 2-4 with a NASCAR shirt in it or grabbing a “suitcase” of “crushable” cans for a trip to the cottage may deny they have a problem entirely. Regardless of your friend’s reaction, stay calm and know that you have their best interest in mind.

First and foremost, collect your thoughts and think about what you’re going to say ahead of time. A supportive message will be received better than negative, hurtful language. This is a difficult time for your friend, so your reassurance will help them realize they’re not alone. Millions of people have learned to put down the industrial lagers and drink well-made, interesting beer. Macro abuse should be discussed sooner rather than later. The earlier you have the conversation, the quicker your friend can seek treatment and start accompanying you on brew pub visits, ordering flights of small batch beer, and taking part in your bottle shares. Continue reading