Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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How fresh is your beer?

Beer is typically best enjoyed as fresh as possible.

It’s not something most people think about when they roll up to the Beer Store to buy a case of their favourite lager and it’s definitely not something bar-goers scrutinize when a busy bartender snaps the cap off a bottle she just fished out of the fridge behind the bar, but it really should be.

Conscientious shoppers will happily scrutinize the freshness of the almond milk in the fridge at their grocery store and many people will toss meat and half loaves of bread that have passed the seemingly arbitrary “best before” date slapped on their respective labels; yet these same consumers, blissfully unaware, will happily neck a four month old Budweiser from their local.

And that’s a shame, really, because perhaps even more so than your almond milk, hot dogs, or wonder bread, beer really does taste a lot better when it is consumed as close as possible to the day it was put in the bottle or can.

There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule and a handful of beer styles might actually get better with a little aging – an experiment that I caution you to pursue at your own risk – but for the most part, fresh is best. Ask someone who has had Pilsner Urquell in Plzeň what he or she thinks comparing it to the can procured at the local LCBO. Ask someone who’s bartered for a month-old Heady Topper to try one brewed a couple days ago. Drink a pale ale directly from your local brewery then find a three-month old version at your liquor store. The difference is clear. Continue reading


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What to expect from Ontario beer in 2018

Because it’s that time of year, here are the things that I think are going to shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2018.

Weed
When it comes to the craft beer industry, it seems kind of crazy to me how little attention is being paid to the legalization of marijuana in Canada. To my mind it is impossible to suggest that the destiny of any meaningful changes to our beverage alcohol sector won’t now be intrinsically tied to all things pot.

Government resources are right now being dedicated to drafting new legislation, debating policies, and creating laws that will govern how each province will handle the prospect of legal weed. And if you’re a pot fan or a policy wonk, these are exciting times, but if you had any hope that you might see meaningful changes to your respective province’s liquor laws anytime soon, I’ve got some bad news for you: Much of the resources and political capital that would be needed for progress in the world of beer are going to be focused squarely on sticky-icky for a while. Continue reading


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The definition of craft beer

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There is seemingly no craft beer debate more constant–and arguably more annoying–than the ongoing debate over the meaning of the word “craft.”

Every few months or so since 2005, when the board of the Brewers Association first voted to draft a definition of what a “craft brewer” is, it seems like the debate again rears its ugly head on twitter or on the blogosphere and we are treated to a now-familiar littany of opinions from beer writers, websites, advocates, brewers, and bar stool pontificators on what exactly “craft beer” means and whether or not we even need such a term.

Local beer blogging’s resident grumpy old man, Alan McLeod, got me thinking about this frustrating debate again earlier this week when he brought the topic up in a post about the similarly elusive quest to define craft beer’s looming (or is it?) “bubble.”

In his quick revisit of the “craft” debate that has enjoyed renewed vigor since the BA began arbirtrarily changing its definition so that Samuel Adams continues to meet the terms, McLeod ultimatley reasons that “[The word]” now includes so much meaning – so many meanings – that it no longer has little specific meaning.”

McLeod also touched on the thoughts of famed spirits writer Lew Bryson, who in a recent interview pleaded “Just call it beer. It’s beer,” and McLeod likewise revisits a 2014 Toronto Sun piece by his occasional co-author, the esteemed Jordan St. John Esq., who landed on a similar conclusion when he opined that ““Craft beer” has served its purpose as an idea and we need to move past it.”

And so it is not without due respect to these and the many other beer experts who have asked rhetorically “who can define craft beer” that I say to them today: Well, I can. Continue reading


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Update: Matt Soos Project Brew Memorial Fund established

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Back in November I shared a story about the passing of Matt Soos, a 2014 graduate of Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program. Matt passed away just a few months after commencing work as a brewer at Muskoka Brewery.

In that post, I wrote about Natterjack Toad, a 7% ABV Belgian Strong brewed with pistachios and created from one of Matt’s own recipes. Matt’s friends and family traveled to Muskoka Brewery in Granvehurst to brew the beer and the proceeds of its sale were to go toward a scholarship in Matt’s name.

A few days ago I received an email from Dan Soos, Matt’s older brother, letting me know that on February 19th, Matt’s family presented a cheque to Niagara College in the amount of $31,800 for the creation of the Matt Soos Project Brew Memorial Fund. Continue reading


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Mill Street’s production brewery is for lease

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Charming 45,325 sq/ft brewery is the ideal spot for a mid-sized craft brewery looking to upgrade or an adventurous entrepreneur who loves beer and has more money than sense.

Gently used by a pioneering Toronto craft brewer who needs to vacate the space in a hurry thanks to a business offer they simply couldn’t refuse, this luxurious space on a 2.62 acre lot features roughly 20,195 sq/ft of new construction, a sunken living room and hardwood throughout. Steps to transit and the the shops of Scarborough Town Centre. 

OK, the above listing isn’t real, but it’s pretty close to the interesting “property for lease” notice recently posted by global real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield.

Yes, the brewery at 300 Midwest Road in Scarborough, better known as the production facility of one Mill Street Brewery is currently up for lease. Continue reading


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Brewer Matt Soos honoured with a memorial beer

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For anyone who has had much involvement with Ontario’s craft beer industry, you get to know fairly quickly that “industry” probably isn’t even the right term for this group.

Yes, they are making and selling a product and running a business, but for the most part, the people making and selling beer at small breweries in this province are much more of a community than they are an “industry.” They all know the same people, they sometimes went to school together, they usually face the same struggles, they are often sharing resources and–increasingly–they even brew their beer in the same parent facility.

And while there can occasionally be some infighting or gossip about petty things like who’s swiping kegs from other brewers, who’s “copying” someone’s latest beer style or label, etc. it is, for the most part, a community that works together, collaborates on ideas, and shares in each other’s achievements as craft beer grows in Ontario.

They also come together as a community when they are faced with tragedy. Continue reading


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Toronto’s Burdock Brewery is the real deal

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It isn’t all that often that, in my semi-professional adventures as a beer enthusiast, I can say I’m smitten, but after having visited Toronto’s Burdock–a bar, restaurant, and music hall that also happens to have a brewery onsite–I must admit to my smittenness. Er, I’ve been smote. They smited me?

What I’m trying to say is that I like the damn place.

Considering options of where to drink before this year’s Golden Tap Awards, my friend Leon (whose hairy arm appears above) suggested Burdock and, truth be told, even though I hastily rehashed a press release wrote an article detailing the release of their first beers, I had not yet actually been to Burdock, so I was eager to check it out. Continue reading