Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Beer is supposed to be fun, remember?

Beer is fun.

Right? Beer–that is, drinking it, learning about it, making it–is fun! That’s why we’re all talking about the stuff and it’s why you bother to take time to read a beer blog (Thanks, by the way).

But man, sometimes it seems like we forget that and every once in a while we turn into a pretty cynnical bunch of snifter-swirling, stout-sniffing snobs (see: most of the things I write, for example).

And so sometimes it might be worth taking a considered look at the impact and target of our collective snark and maybe reign in the spray, just a touch.

Case in point, the Old Fashioned Cocktail Beer from Toronto’s Henderson Brewing, released last night at a party with the Martini Club at Dominion in Toronto.

A few days ago, the folks over at blogTO slapped together a post about the beer that noted it was “the country’s first official beer cocktail” and the beer nerds on twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere were pretty quick to pile on.

What makes this a cocktail beer, they asked each other, noting that it sounded much like a common rye beer. The gimmicks, others mused, are just too much. Continue reading


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Let’s talk about sexist beer marketing

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Women drink craft beer.

It seems like a pretty obvious statement, but apparently it needs to be said.

So I’ll say it again, this time with dramatic punctuation: Women. Drink. Craft. Beer.

They drink a lot of it and the number of women who are discovering the craft beer industry is growing every single day.

As of 2013, women account for 25% of total beer consumption by volume in the United States and they account for 37% of total American craft beer consumption.

A recent poll suggests that beer is now actually the first choice of alcoholic beverage for US women aged 18 to 34 (Take that, white wine).

Women work in craft beer, too. According to a 2014 Auburn University study, the United States brewing industry is now roughly 29% female.

And while statistics on gender-specific drinking habits here in Canada aren’t quite so robust as those recorded by our YUGE neighbours to the south, even a cursory glance at our local brewing scene would suggest that here in Ontario women are embracing craft beer just as wholeheartedly. Continue reading


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Brewmancer: The Awakening

A few days ago, reports indicated that AB InBev, the world’s largest beer company, was seeking a possible acquisition of Coca Cola. The news, which comes shortly on the heels of AB InBev’s $107 billion purchase of SABMiller, means that the international beer company is eyeing plans to catapult them to a status of one of the world’s largest corporations with a global monopoly on beverages. The following excerpt is a glimpse into the future that market experts have predicted would likely result from such a merger. 

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Dusk was already creeping over the wastelands when Bretta arrived home. The wrinkles of her clothes were filled with sand, her canteen was empty, and the battery on her respirator was dangerously low. She was going to be in shit.

And for what? She thought as she thumbed the meagre pouch of cereal grain in her pack and climbed down the shaft to the Warrens.

Powering down her scanners and taking off her goggles in the cool air of the open caverns, Bretta saw her neighbours chatting while they rinsed air filters in the in a drum under the cracked Dasani pipeline that provided the ward’s water and she smelled the early evening Warren smells of frying Devil Worms and Bark Beetles. For a second she forgot about the trouble she was in and was just happy to be home to rest after long day.

But she didn’t even have time to knock on the shelter’s door before it opened with a pneumatic hiss and her mother, Myrcena, knocked her on the forehead head with an open palm.

“Where the hell have you been?”

Her mother didn’t wait for an answer and instead hurried past and scurried up to the surface with her binocs.

“I wasn’t followed, Ma!” she yelled, but it was no use. Bretta left the door open and plopped onto the lumpy couch beside her brother, Quaff. She was dirty and too tired to kick off her boots. Quaff was too entranced by a game on his iPalm to even notice her.

Up top, Mycrena scanned the horizon for unusual shapes or heat signatures, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The towering malting silos loomed in the distance and the shimmering silhouette of the far off INCOCABEV Brewing and Manufacturing District belched a steady yellow torrent of acrid smoke and steam into the air.

Driverless transports dotted the landscape in uniform lines running between the silos and the breweries with a scattered few trickling in from the Beech Nurseries to the east and the Binelands to north, with another trail of tankers carrying finished product south to the colonies at Los Angeles, Santa Melania, and beyond. The skies and the vast expanse of desert, Mycrena noted with relief, were clear.

Bretta was drifting off when Mycrena returned.

“Where is it?” she boomed, wrenching Bretta’s pack from her shoulder.

“Hey! Give me that!” she said. “Where’s what?”

“Don’t play dumb,” Mycrena said, rummaging through the pack. “I know you went to the grain route after your shift. I heard on the scanners that Crafters had crashed a malt transport.”

“Hey! That’s my stuff!” Bretta cried as her mother threw mash tun drawings and a tattered copy of Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide to the ground. And then she found it.

“Ah ha! I knew it,” she said, holding the small bag of malted grain aloft. “What do you expect to do with this, huh? You couldn’t brew a pint with this! You waste four hours of respirator filter? For what? Some homebrewing fantasy?”

Bretta fought back tears as she stuffed her notebook back in her pack. “It’s not a fantasy. Humans will brew again! The elders say they already are in Brookla—“

“There is no more Brooklandia,” her mother cut her off. “The elders are wrong. Get that through your head. Everything East of Missouri has been a wasteland since Trump drained the lakes in the Twitter Wars.”

“You don’t know that,” Bretta yelled, the tears streaming now. “How can you know that? Father Koch—“

“Father Koch?! He’s the worst of them all! A madman, preaching ancient religions as though the ability to make beer again will somehow save us all. It’s nonsense, Bretta.”

“Nonsense?” Bretta yelled. “Is that why the rebellion was fought? Is that why you fought? For nothing? Is that what dad died for—“

“Bretta! Enough!” Mycrena screamed, slamming a rehydrator on the counter. The noise made Quaff fall off the couch. “Enough talk of beer. Go to your room!”

* * *

Once Bretta had stopped crying, she dumped her pack on her bed and smoothed the dog-eared corners of her books; mostly ancient homebrewing guides, reprints of reprints, copies that had been passed around the Warrens since before she was born.

She heard her mother banging pots and pans in the kitchen, kicking and swearing at the old clunking hedrolon as it whirred to life. Bretta closed the door quietly, and crawled under her bed.

The small plant she had hidden there was frail, but definitely still green. She had nursed it lovingly since she had traded some Crafters for the ratty chunk of rhizome and she dutifully took it to the surface every morning for light before her mother awoke. She held her breath as she admired it; turned it slowly. She dared not touch it.

And there it was. It was only the size of a pea, but there was no mistaking it: A hop cone. Bretta gasped.

Then suddenly, the earth around her began to shake. A low vibration at first, but then a terrifying rumble. Sand and dust fell from the walls and she heard crashing as things fell from the walls in the rest of the shelter. The door flew open and Mycrena was there, clutching a terrified Quaff to her. She registered the tiny hop bine in Bretta’s hands and something like rage flickered across her eyes, but now was not the time.

“You were followed,” she said, reaching out her hand, “Come with me.”

Out in the main caverns, Mycrena shoved Bretta and Quaff up the tunnel to the hatch. It was chaos as dirt and dust fell and light from unseen holes above suddenly pierced the Warrens. They scrambled to the surface. Up top, they saw the source of the noise and chaos: Budroids. Dozens of them, far larger than they had ever seemed as a mere spot in the distance, buzzing like giant, menacing, mechanical wasps. They bored their massive drills into the earth all around the opening to the hatch, tunneling toward the Warrens and the camp below.

The Budroid’s cameras swiveled atop their over-sized bodies, tracking as Bretta’s friends and neighbours ran in blind terror, scrambling from holes that now dotted the desert.

“Look!” Quaff yelled.

At first Bretta saw only a cloud on the horizon, growing larger against the sunset. But then the noise met them and they saw that the cloud was actually dust being kicked up as an battalion of fast-moving vehicles thundered across the open desert toward them; dozens of red and white armored Clydesdale M1A2s, their plasma cannons distinct and glinting in the late evening desert sun.

The Warrens were lost.

“Brito…” Mycrena whispered.


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Sorry Bud Light, I’m not buying your “equal pay” stumping

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In a TV spot that aired for the first time yesterday, Bud Light, the marketing team that sells America’s best-selling and least-flavoured beer, attempted to “tackle” the issue of gender pay equality.

The ad is a continuation of the beer company’s pseudo-political ad campaign that debuted during the super bowl which featured Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer stumping for the “Bud Light Party.”

In this new ad, Rogen and Schumer attempt to humorously address the very real issue that women still make less money than men and are often required to pay more for the same products–everything from hair care, personal products, and mortgages. The tagline is “Bud Light costs the same no matter if you’re a dude or a lady.”

I won’t link to either ad (because that’s what they want) but you can be sure that the humour is about as thin and watery as the product its being used to hawk. And here’s why: It’s super hypocritical. Continue reading


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Why is craft beer so white?

Be forewarned: This is a super long post. Like annoyingly long. Like “Really, Ben? Ever heard of editing?” long. But this is a topic with a lot of angles to be covered and a it’s one which I felt required fulsome exploration. Also, it’s my blog and you’ve been reading my shit for free for five years so I can do whatever I want. K, thanks. 

Canada’s craft beer industry is a friendly and welcoming scene.

Spend any amount of time in the company of the people who are making and drinking craft beer in this country and you’ll quickly be drawn in by the engaging events and the comradery that exists even among so-called competitors. Craft beer is fun and this inclusionary atmosphere (along with the interesting beer) is likely a big part of the reason more people are discovering craft beer and why estimates put small breweries’ share of Canada’s beer market at around 10%.

So why then, in an industry that seems implicitly welcoming and inclusive, are almost all those friendly faces white?

Scan a newspaper for news of a brewery opening in your town, check out local website coverage of the latest craft beer festival in your area–heck, just do a stock image search for “people drinking craft beer”–and you’ll see pretty quickly that Canada’s craft beer scene is whiter than a country club fundraiser for sustainable organic mayonnaise.

Toronto in particular, where Canada’s craft beer charge is arguably being led, is ranked among the most multicultural cities in the world, and is the most diverse city in the country with the last available census data stating 47.7% of the city’s population comprises “visible minorities.”

So why don’t any of these people of colour seem to be drinking, making, or selling beer? Continue reading


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Let’s talk about beer awards

Beer Award

Beer awards are kind of bullshit.

They don’t really denote an absolute degree of quality or a level of excellence above all others in the field or category.

What beer awards often actually denote is simply a willingness on the part of a brewery to meet the demands of individual award ceremonies’ rules and style guidelines. That is, maybe a winning beer best met a certain judge’s understanding of the BJCP definition of a certain style or the beer adheres to the individual awards’ strict and often archaic style guidelines, but does that make the beer the “best” example of its kind?

According to the judges who blind-taste-judged the Ontario Brewing Awards, for example, Triple Bogey Brewing Co. brewed the “best” North American Lager in the province last year. But what does that even mean? Taste is subjective, right? You, for example, may prefer the taste of Great Lakes Brewery’s Golden Horseshoe Premium Lager. Who can say how or why those two lagers are different and what makes one better? Continue reading


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Bigger isn’t better: The philosophical currency of craft beer

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Big beer companies appear to be coming for our beloved craft breweries.

In the United States we’ve seen big brewers buy up Pyramid, Magic Hat, Anchor Steam, Kona, Goose Island, Blue Point Brewery Co, 10 Barrel Brewing, and Elysian. Much closer to home, through Labatt, we’ve just seen AB InBev make what will almost certainly be the first of at least a couple moves into the Canadian “craft” market by buying up Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery.

And while our instincts may be to arm ourselves and barricade the doors of our favourite local brewpub–or worse, take to greasy laptops in our collective mothers’ basements in order to fill the internet with cries of “sell out,”–we really probably shouldn’t panic. Because whatever big beer’s designs might be, I don’t think they’re going to work.
Continue reading