Side Launch Brewing is discontinuing Mountain Lager, breaking my heart a little

I don’t usually take to the ol’ blog just to talk about a brewery discontinuing one of their beers, but sometimes a thing will just stick in my craw and I gotta get into it. Plus I’ve had a couple beers tonight. So come with me on a grumpy journey, won’t you friends?

I can now confirm some shitty news that I first heard rumblings about through social media: Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Company is discontinuing Mountain Lager, their near-perfect 4.9%, 27 IBU Helles lager.

This will no doubt come as disappointing news to many an Ontario beer fan because, quite simply, Mountain Lager is one this province’s best made lagers. It fairly quickly become a fan favourite after launching and is arguably the beer that ushered in this province’s current “crispy boi” (sorry) obsession. It is a staple in my home and if you too enjoy having a subtly-hopped, impeccably crisp beer in your fridge for in between hop bombs and puckering sours, it is likely a staple in your home, too.

I first heard that this great beer might be going away after posting an image of Side Launch’s new Northbound Light Lager to my Instagram feed, when someone suggested this was a beer that would replace (replace!) Mountain Lager. Shortly thereafter, some LCBO employees forwarded me emails they had received from Side Launch’s inside sales team confirming that yes, Northbound Light Lager will be replacing Mountain Lager and taking over its SKU in the LCBO. Continue reading “Side Launch Brewing is discontinuing Mountain Lager, breaking my heart a little”

Why does the beer at London’s city owned golf courses have to suck?


For a few reasons, I’m not really a golfer. First and foremost, I’m not good at it. Secondly, I actually like spending time with my family and so the prospect of eating up multiple hours of a weekend being frustrated on a golf course is far less appealing to me than being with my wife and son on one of the two days a week I get to spend with them. Thirdly, there’s a nagging tree-hugging snowflake part of me that can’t help thinking there are better uses for picturesque wide open spaces than charging people in silly pants to chase a little ball around them.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, while I could probably occasionally overlook all of the above and go golfing simply to enjoy being outdoors with friends drinking good beer, it’s almost never the case that I get to do that. Because the beer at most golf courses, of course, sucks. It is almost always the usual gamut of industrial lagers and, frankly, it doesn’t much matter to many people who are out golfing because it’s hot out and it’s the weekend someone just drove a little car full of beer right up to me and my buddies so I’ll take two of whatever the heck you’ve got on ice.

I get it. Beer at golf courses sucks because it doesn’t really have to be good. The owners of golf courses, much like most bar and restaurant owners, are very likely to simply go with the brewing company that offers them the best deal and thus pour whatever lowest-common-denominator cold shit keeps the throngs of sweaty, sunburned linksmen happily whacking away at their balls.

But to my mind, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s 2019 and it should be a given that people in this province like golf. We have a whopping 811 golf courses in this province. It is also an increasingly obvious fact that Ontarians have developed a taste for locally-made craft beer. Depending on who you ask, the market share for craft beer is at about 8% and it is growing every day. Surely between theses two demographics there is some overlap. So who wouldn’t be able to see an obvious opportunity for appealing to both of those markets and supporting local business by opting to provide some craft beer to golfers?

Well, certainly not the City of London, Ontario. Continue reading “Why does the beer at London’s city owned golf courses have to suck?”

What to expect from Ontario beer in 2019

Because it is again that time of year where we do this sort of thing, here are the topics that I think will shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2019.

The failure of DME Brewing Solutions
In late November, I wrote here about the receivership status of Diversified Metal Engineering (DME), one of North America’s biggest manufacturers of brewing equipment. In that post, I suggested that there would be many breweries–Canadian and otherwise–effected by this closure. Shortly after I wrote about the issue, Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star wrote about the closure of DME and how it will effect local breweries, specifically the Indie Alehouse, whose owner Jason Fisher told the Star he was waiting for about $800,000 worth of brewing equipment to expand his brewery that he was now unlikely to ever see. Shortly thereafter, Good Beer Hunting picked up the story, expanding on it and chatting with a handful of Canadian brewers. In that story, GBH noted that DME owes “at least $20 million to 370 businesses and banks, and an unknown amount to another 382 individuals and companies.” Continue reading “What to expect from Ontario beer in 2019”

One of Canada’s largest manufacturers of brewing equipment announces receivership

Earlier tonight, the government of PEI announced that Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) has been thrown into receivership.

DME operates two brewery equipment manufacturers, Newlands Systems (NSI) in Abbotsford, BC, and DME Brewing Solutions in Charlottetown. They represent one of the largest brewing manufacturers in North America and, between them, the companies have built more than 1,600 breweries.

PEI’s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Sonny Gallant, along with Economic Development and Tourism Minister Chris Palmer issued a written statement tonight, saying they were aware of the company’s receivership.

With the news, the growth of craft beer in the country might be about take a hit, and there is potential that more than a few current craft breweries could face financial problems from which they will not be able to recover. Continue reading “One of Canada’s largest manufacturers of brewing equipment announces receivership”

The beers I don’t share on Instagram

Recently, Crystal and Tara Luxmore, David Ort, and I decided to make a semi-regular attempt to write something on the same theme, rotating which of us proposes the theme. This concept has no name yet and we’ve only loosely defined the parameters, but here it is. For this first edition, I threw out the idea of ‘The beers I don’t share on instagram.’


As a beer writer, or blogger, or influencer, or beer whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-me, much to the chagrin of my friends and family, I tend to share a lot of myself, and by extension, my beer drinking, on social media.

Given most people’s natural tendencies toward making themselves look better on social media (no one, of course, looks the way they really do in most selfies, no one actually eats such artfully-plated meals at every seating), you might think that the beers I choose to share on my Instagram feed are carefully curated to be impressive or to attract more followers, or maybe even appease the beer companies who occasionally send me beer in hopes that I will share them with my uniquely-targeted following.

But they aren’t. Continue reading “The beers I don’t share on Instagram”

Putting away pints: Are cellars worth it or just expensive beer purgatory?

This piece originally appeared in print and online for the first edition of The Growler, Ontario’s Beer Guide.

When I mention my beer cellar, my wife usually rolls her eyes.

Mainly she does this because she knows when I say something like, “I’ve got some really good stuff in the cellar right now,” I’m actually referring to rows of dusty bottles on the metal shelving that I bought at Home Depot and put in our basement.

And while, of course, it is a tad pretentious to refer to these shelves next to the laundry tub as a “cellar,” it doesn’t take much more to have a functioning beer storage space. Indeed, the ideal conditions for storing beer are essentially just a cool, dark place where you can fit a bunch of big bottles.

Tomas Morana is the co-owner of Birreria Volo, arguably one of Canada’s best beer bars. He’s also a co-founder of Keep6Imports, a company that works to bring rare and funky imports to Ontario. At Birreria Volo in Toronto’s Little Italy, the cellaring program is very much part of the venue’s draw and he takes it seriously. Continue reading “Putting away pints: Are cellars worth it or just expensive beer purgatory?”

Brewers can now report bars asking for illegal freebies online

It is illegal for breweries to offer keg deals, cash, or other financial incentives to bars in exchange for selling their products.

Yes, I’ve written about this more than a few times over the last five years (including once again for my upcoming column in the fantastic quarterly publication The Growler. Catch the latest issue on newsstands soon!), but in case you need a refresher, here’s Regulation 720 from Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act:

A manufacturer of liquor or an agent or employee of a manufacturer shall not directly or indirectly offer or give a financial or material inducement to a person who holds a licence or permit under the Act or to an agent or employee of the person for the purpose of increasing the sale or distribution of a brand of liquor.

Well guess what? It is also illegal for bars to ask breweries for keg deals, cash, or other financial incentives in exchange for selling their products. And now you can snitch on them.

Because I have written about this rampant practice a few times and because there aren’t many other avenues to have these conversations, a few years ago I started to receive emails from frustrated breweries across the province. Mostly, brewers would forward me the blatant requests for free shit that they get from bar owners and front of house managers on a virtually daily basis. The tone has always been “Here’s another one!” but the subtext to me was always “What the hell can we do about this?”  Continue reading “Brewers can now report bars asking for illegal freebies online”

Cam Heaps, Steam Whistle co-founder, announces retirement

Earlier today I caught wind of the fact that Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery had called an all-staff town hall meeting for some kind of announcement.

As is occasionally my wont, without any intel available I lazily stipulated on Twitter that I thought the announcement might be about either a sale of the company to a bigger brewery or some kind of venture related to legalized cannabis. As it turns out, the announcement was actually that Cam Heaps, Steam Whistle’s lone remaining co-founder, had announced his retirement from the company. Continue reading “Cam Heaps, Steam Whistle co-founder, announces retirement”

Toronto Beer Week and AB InBev

infiltration
[in-fil-trey-shuh n]
noun
a method of attack in which small bodies of soldiers or individual soldiers penetrate the enemy’s line at weak or unguarded points in order to assemble behind the enemy position and attack it from the rear, harass enemy rear-area installations, etc.

Toronto Beer Week, which was created in 2010 by a group of like-minded publicans, beer writers, cask ale supporters, homebrewers, and craft beer enthusiasts, launches today.

The week-long celebration of local beer was originally launched with no sponsor investment and a stated purpose of helping promote the city’s burgeoning craft beer movement.

This year, it seems like that’s definitely changed.

Each consecutive year has seen TBW grow even larger in scale and, in the opinion of some grumbling beer nerds, become more and more marketing-focused in its attempts to attract evermore new participating bars and breweries.

In May of this year, Toronto Beer Week was acquired by St Joseph Media, the company that produces Toronto Life and Fashion magazine, and many of these same beer nerds wondered what this would mean in terms of the tone and direction of the nine day series of once craft-beer-focused events.

As the event week begins its ninth year today, it seems to me that we might have a clear indication that TBW has officially jumped the shark given that it now includes Goose Island Brew Pub among the list of participating breweries. Continue reading “Toronto Beer Week and AB InBev”

Owen Sound’s Mudtown Station

With over 270 breweries in Ontario, it is increasingly easy to embark on a little beer tourism almost everywhere you go in the province.

So this past week, on an extended vacation with the family at my in-laws’ cottage in Southampton, when I had an urge to get out for a little while and have a beer, I was thankful to have a few options in the area.

Finding no takers who wanted to join me, I opted to embark on a solo mission–and may or may not have been secretly thankful for some alone time. Sleeping in the same bunkie as your flu-ish wife, your five year-old, and a puppy with some kind of weird stomach thing that made him spray foamy diarrhea tends to detract from the relaxing vistas. But I digress.

Having already that week hit up my most local cottage brewery, Outlaw Brew Co on the main strip of Southampton, I opted instead to explore the fairly newly-opened Mudtown Station, which was about 30 minutes away in Owen Sound.

Opened roughly three months ago, Mudtown Station is owned and operated by Morag Kloeze, who comes to Owen Sound by way of the Niagara Brewing College and Neustadt Brewery, and most recently as the brewmaster at Tobermory Brewing Co. Kloeze and her parents had an opportunity to lease the CPR station in their home town of Owen Sound and Mudtown was born.

The Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound area actually has a fairly storied history in Ontario’s liquor lore, featuring a legacy of bootlegging and prohibition that some local tourism material touts in a “Saints and Sinners” tour you can take of places to eat and drink in the area.

So it is kind of a fun irony to see Owen Sound become home to not only a new brewery, but also one of Ontario’s few female brewmasters and co-owners. The city is essentially the birth place of Ontario’s prohibition movement and in 1847 was home to the formation of the first Canadian chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Owen Sound was actually legally dry from 1906 to 1972. Presumably 66 dry years can make a town thirsty, so thank goodness for Mudtown. Continue reading “Owen Sound’s Mudtown Station”