Drinking Shocktop

Quite some time ago, I realized I was getting close to having 5000 followers on twitter.

Accordingly, I tweeted that, should I reach that milestone within the next week, I would purchase and drink the variety mix pack from Shock Top and record the experience. People seemed enthused by the idea of a beer snob drinking Shock Top.

I reached 5000 followers the next day.

For those who don’t know, Shock Top is a beer that is marketed as a “Belgian Stye Wheat Ale” but is in fact liquid garbage. First produced in 2006, the beer is made by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a marketing company that controls roughly a third of the world’s beer; however, this beer is rather dubiously marketed as a craft beer. It actually says on the can that it is from “Shock Top Brewing Co.” and, in bars, it is typically positioned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV to compete with craft beer among consumers who don’t know any better. I once enjoyed a considerable amount of traffic on this very blog back in September of 2014 when I managed to get my hands on a marketing brief prepared by Canadian Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV subsidary Labatt that suggested they were planning an expensive, intentionally misleading ad campaign to promote Shock Top in Canada as craft beer after market research revealed how many of the beer’s drinkers were misinformed about the beer’s origins.

The original Shock Top is something like a Belgian Witbier–in much the same way that the Olive Garden in the Magic Valley Mall in Idaho is something like Tuscan dining.  Originally released as Spring Heat Spiced Wheat in 2006, the brand was a rather transparent attempt by ABI to release a shitty witbier that would compete with Blue Moon, another shitty witbier, this one created by Miller-Coors with the obvious purpose to trick dumb people into thinking they were drinking craft beer and to compete with the growing small brewer segment. Here in Canada, Shock Top, the beer marketed as a product of a non-existent craft brewery in St. Louis, is actually brewed in Labatt’s facilities in London, Creston, Edmonton, Montreal, Halifax, and St Johns. Blue Moon is marketed by Molson-Coors in Canada as “Belgian Moon” because a Toronto craft brewery hilariously bought the rights to the name Blue Moon in Canada. In a pinch, you might also drink Rickard’s White if shitty witbier is your thing as it seems to be essentially the same beer, but with perhaps a different ratio of butt beer.

But I digress. You came here to read about me drinking this shit. Continue reading “Drinking Shocktop”

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 “Let’s talk about Untappd”

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


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

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 “Anderson Craft Ales delivering good things in small packages”

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 “Introducing the beer that’s also a record”

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 “Local listomania!”

The world’s easiest beer-making kit


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 “The world’s easiest beer-making kit”

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

A quick review: Hop City Big Mouth Pale Ale

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You might have had this beer in its previous incarnation when it was “Happy Hour Pale Ale,” but about three months ago it got rebranded as Big Mouth Pale Ale. I never bothered to try it as Happy Hour and I just happened to pick one up at the LCBO last week.

In short, this beer rates a “meh.”

When I poured it, I noted that it had nice carbonation and a decent foamy head, and I also noted with some excitement that there was a notable citrusy hop aroma owing to the inclusion of cascade hops and UK Kent Golding hops. Continue reading “A quick review: Hop City Big Mouth Pale Ale”

Middle of the (Ramblin’) Road

Ramblin' Road

There’s something downright folksy about new Norfolk brewery Ramblin’ Road. What with their “off the beaten path” style, the dropped ‘G’ in their name, the proud claims to being Ontario’s first Brewery Farm, it seems like it’s a company of simple folks who just opted to start making beer on their farm–I half expected the sample beers they offered to send me to arrive in a cart being pulled by a donkey.

The truth, of course, is that it is largely schtick. Sure, the brewery is located on a farm and sure the founders have a history in farming, but the reality is perhaps slightly less romantic than the down home image they seem to be putting out there. Ramblin’ Road brewery is actually a brewing venture by Picard Foods, a company that has for the last 20+ years farmed, processed, and distributed peanuts. In fact, you’ve probably eaten some of their snack foods. Ramblin’ Road came about when Picard opted to get into the brewing business and received a $1.2 million low-interest loan from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario in order to purchase brewing equipment. The name, labeling, and folksy attitude (and the slick website and social media campaign to get it out there) are actually the product of Blade Creative, a Toronto-based branding and advertising company that has been “building brand communities since 1991.” Blade Creative are also the folks who were nice enough to make sure Ramblin’ Roads beers got into my hands–by courier, incidentally, not donkey.  Continue reading “Middle of the (Ramblin’) Road”