Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Let’s talk about Untappd

Untappd irritates me.

Sure, there was a time in my life, as there is in most budding beer nerds’ lives, when I wholly embraced all that Untappd had to offer. A crowdsourced collection of tasting notes at my finger tips, a way to track beers that I tried, and even a built in humble-brag system that lets me not only tell people what cool beer I was drinking in a cool bar but also alert all my social media followers that I’ve just earned a badge for surpassing a benchmark like 25 IPAs consumed in one month. It was fun. It was engaging. It was well designed.

But now I think it might be one of the worst things to happen to beer drinking since Adolphus Busch decided he wanted to shag Lilly Anheuser.

Here’s how I came to this conclusion. First, on crowdsourcing tasting notes: I’ve realized I don’t actually care what most people think about a given beer. On the one hand, Untappd is great in that it democratically allows everyone to provide feedback about a beer, and yeah! power to the people.  But on the other hand, who cares about people? Untappd makes every neckbeard with a smartphone think he or she is Michael fucking Jackson. Do I really give a shit that “Jeff T.” thinks Bellwoods Brewery’s Farmhouse Classic “has a weird tangyness” or that “Kyle M.” thinks Instigator IPA from Indie Alehouse is “Really good”? No. No I do not. Untappd is the Yelp of beer, but lazier. If I’m looking for a good restaurant, I don’t want to know that John from Schenectedy gave it one star because he was seated under a drafty vent, I want to know what an actual fucking restaurant critic has to say.

Beer is the same way, and I’m sorry for being snobby here, but most people don’t know a cream ale from a California common, so why the fuck would we want an app that lets all of the people drinking beer (all of them!) share their opinions directly with the world? Continue reading


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Five great uses for The World Atlas of Beer that do not involve reading

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First published in 2012, The World Atlas of Beer by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont is a beer book about which many nice things might be said.

It might be said that it’s fairly remarkable in that it is sweeping in scope; taking you on a beer tour with brief stops in literally almost every part of the world; yet somehow manages not to be tiresome or overwrought in its aims. With excellent illustrations and photographs, one might also say that this book, billed as “the essential guide to the beers of the world,” is as interesting to look at in passing as it is to read in depth and that it would make a fitting coffee table book for lovers of beer both professional and novice.

The book touches on the history, the science, and the art of beer and features everything from basic beer definitions, to explanations of the nuances of style, to pairing, pouring, storing and cellaring beer, and so one might easily say that this is a good candidate for the only beer book you might ever need.

Of course, I’m not going to say any of those things. Continue reading


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Anderson Craft Ales delivering good things in small packages

I love beer in 355mL cans.

Unfortunately, here in Ontario, the government-run LCBO (one of only a few places brewers can actually sell beer) prefers to stock 473mL beer cans. Additionally, given that 473mL cans cost about as much as 355mL cans, economies of scale mean that it’s more cost effective to sell beer in tall boys (i.e. you can buy less of them to package more of your beer). What this means is that the smaller 355mL format is fairly unpopular among craft brewers in the province.

This scarcity, paired with some nostalgia for the days before I drank good beer, is probably what drives my love for the little guys but, whatever the reason, I’ve been waiting patiently for a local craft brewer to put a good beer in the coveted wee cans.

That day has arrived.

And, as luck would have it, the brewery that opted to do so has just opened roughly five minutes from my house.

London, Ontario’s Anderson Craft Ales officially opened their doors on August 6th 2016. Continue reading


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Introducing the beer that’s also a record

Is it a beer? Is it an album? It’s both!

In what might be an industry first, South River Ontario’s Highlander Brew Co has teamed up with Epitaph Records to create a beer with a label that is also a playable record.

The beer, Oxblood Pale Ale, features a stick-on label that is actually a flexidisc record featuring the song “Oxblood,” by Southern California-based band Plague Vendor.

The idea is that, if you peel off the label, you’ve got a record (Warning: Do not try to play the beer bottle before you peel it off. I ruined four turntables trying to).

The song from Plague Vendor, whose online bio touts their “voodoo punk” style, which is of course “a dance-fueled rock aesthetic tinged with shadowy darkness,” is decent, and if you’d like to check out the tune before you buy the beer, you can hear the track here. I personally prefer my darkness less shadowy but it is a nice tinge. Continue reading


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Local listomania!

Hey dudes,

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been (Shh, I like to pretend there are people that frequently check my blog hoping for new content), I’ve been focusing my beer-and-booze-related writing efforts over on blogTO, a site where I actually get paid a little bit to write.

In case you missed it (Shh, I like to pretend there are people who actually click the links I share on twitter and facebook), I’ve written a few list-focused posts for blogTO as of late, and the result is that, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve now got all your Ontario beverage options covered for a while.

So I have provided the linked images below in order to cover all your local-drinking and Ben Johnson-reading needs until I have some time to devote to Ben’s Beer Blog again; but that might be a while because I’m currently working on a number of–you guessed it–list-focused posts for blogTO. Continue reading


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The world’s easiest beer-making kit

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The emailed press release was intriguing.

MB Bottle Brew was boasting that they had launched the “World’s Easiest Beer Making Kit.” It was supposedly an all-natural, preservative-free, fermented-in-the-bottle-beer that takes just two minutes to make and is ready to drink in 10 to 12 days.

Perhaps most interestingly to a guy who spends a considerable amount of his paycheque on beer, MB Bottle Beer was touting the fact that it costs half the price of regular beer.

My Spider Sense was telling me to hit delete because a beer that advertises itself based on its low price point and the ease with which you can make it yourself typically suggests to me that it will taste like toilet.

But there was something about the email that I kept coming back to. Maybe it was this part: Continue reading


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Innis & Gunn Canadian Cherrywood: So how’s the beer?

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Calling it a “special thanks to their loyal Canadian following,” Scottish brewers Innis & Gunn have recently released their fifth-annual, limited-edition brew: a scotch ale that has been aged over Canadian black cherrywood with maple syrup added.

Frankly, along with bacon infusion, I can’t think of a flavour that’s been more overdone as of late than maple syrup, so this definitely isn’t a beer I would have picked up at the LCBO if I just happened to stumble upon it; however, the folks at Innis & Gunn were nice enough to send me a bottle to sample–and I’m happy they did.

This is a pretty interesting beer. Continue reading