Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Sexist beer marketing: Meanwhile in Nova Scotia

A  few months ago I wrote a blog post discussing sexist marketing in beer and I called out–and chatted with–some Ontario breweries about marketing efforts I felt objectified women.

In the interim, there have been some changes worth noting. Whitewater Brewing, the Ottawa Valley area brewer who makes “Farmer’s Daughter Blonde,” has quietly updated the branding for that can and appears to have renamed their seasonal “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” to the decidedly less cringe-inducing “Watermelon Blonde.”

Niagara Brewing Company, the makers of “Amber Eh!,” an American-style Amber that features a semi-naked female lumberjack on the can, took the less strategic but still effective approach of responding to my repeated inquiries by simply blocking me on social media. I guess that works.

The other breweries mentioned have, to date, continued business as usual; including continuing to use the cans that I discussed.

As first reported here in August, Garnet Pratt Siddall, the then-newly-appointed chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers who spoke candidly with me for my article about sexist beer in the industry, has been terminated as the CEO of Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Co.

I’ve also confirmed with the OCB that she has likewise subsequently resigned as the chair and director of that organization. It remains to be seen who her replacement will be and, as such, it’s unclear whether the de facto figurehead of Ontario’s only organization advocating for small brewers will share Siddall’s interest in making changes related to offensive marketing.

Interestingly though, one of the most promising changes to come about since my article, and apparently as a result of it, comes not from Ontario, but rather from Nova Scotia. Continue reading


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For whom the bell tolls: Bellwoods Brewery v. Cowbell Brewing

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ambitious opening of Cowbell Brewing in Blyth. For the most part, news of the 26,000 square foot destination brewery was met with enthusiasm and the responses to the brewery’s opening were almost entirely positive.

But, it would seem, not everyone is so enthusiastic about the coming proliferation of a “beer that rings true.”

Cowbell Brewing, I have learned, has actually been in a quiet legal battle with Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery over Cowbell’s entitlement to register a bell-themed trademark in Canada.

Through the Government of Canada’s publicly available trademarks database, I have learned that Bellwoods Brewery indeed has a registered trademark for its bell design for use in association with beer, operation of a brewery, and a handful of merchandise items. This trademark application was filed  on January 2, 2013 and officially registered on May 27, 2014.

Cowbell Brewery filed an application for their logo on November 19, 2015 and the application includes similar stipulations (though notably includes the addition of “noisemakers, golf towels, golf balls, [and] golf umbrellas,” which those dummies at Bellwoods didn’t think of branding).

A little digging reveals that Bellwoods has formally opposed issuance of a trademark registration to Cowbell for this logo. The opposition is ongoing. Continue reading


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Alberta gov issues fines for inducement, governing body in Ontario confirms they never have

Breweries providing cash and incentives in exchange for exclusivity in bars and pubs is an ingrained part of the beer industry.

I’ve written about this a few times over the years (most recently last week for my bi-weekly column Full Pour in the Metroland Media publication Our London). If you’re new to this issue (or my impotent ranting on the subject), the TL;DR version is this: if you’re sitting in a bar that has dedicated all of its draught lines to one particular brewery or are sitting in a pub that seems to be decorated entirely in swag from one particular company, you can virtually guarantee that cash and / or incentives were provided to that bar in exchange for space on that draught lineup.

The kicker here, of course, is that this entire practice is technically illegal per Ontario’s liquor licence act, specifically Regulation 720:

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.

Again, this isn’t new ground and is something I’ve been talking about since roughly January of 2013 when I wrote the post, In Toronto Pubs, Breweries Battle for Beer Taps With Persuasion and Cash, for the website Torontoist.

In the roughly four years since I wrote that post, nothing has changed about the prevalence of the practice except that, for the first time in my beer writing career, I’ve learned two fairly interesting things about penalties for inducements:

  1. A fine was actually issued to a Canadian brewery for this practice in May, and
  2. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has apparently never issued monetary penalties in response to inducements.

Continue reading


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Five more points about contract brewing

Last week, I wrote a piece for  the Globe and Mail about contract brewing, the practice wherein brewing companies or virtual breweries rent space from larger facilities to make their beer.

Given the constraints of the 800 words I was alotted, there was much I did not have time to dig in on and so the final piece was something of an overview of the practice, with some brief discussion of why it might be growing in popularity–especially in Ontario–with some insight from a business owner, Shehan De Silva of Lost Craft Beer, who has had success with this model, and from a bricks and mortar brewery owner, Jason Fisher of the Indie Ale House, who is generally opposed to this model for what he feels it brings (or doesn’t) to the industry as a whole.

The article was intentionally targeted at the Globe and Mail’s “general audience” and so much of the beer geekery I might have dug in on was omitted. Accordingly the responses from beer industry folks on twitter, Facebook, and my email were passionate and varied. Interestingly, the article seemed to simply confirm everyone’s beliefs no matter which side of the argument you might be on. Both virtual brewers and bricks and mortar brewers have reached out to me in the interim to say I had represented their side well (Not to toot my own horn, but beep fucking beep).

Also of interest, one owner of a contract brewing facility says he was subsequently inundated with calls from interested new brewing companies. Er, sorry / you’re welcome, Ontario?

Anyway, here are some mostly random tidbits I had hoped to include but couldn’t. Continue reading


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Cheap beer is not a “drink of choice”

The following is a response to a recent National Post column entitled, “How cheap beer and its easy, crispy, inoffensive taste became the drink of choice.

Hi Claudia,

I read your column today, and I felt compelled to respond.

But before I do so, I must first address your title, even though I know it was likely an editor’s choice and not yours, but beer is not “crispy.” Crispy denotes firmness and brittleness. Wafers are crispy. Crackers are crispy. Your beer is not crispy. The term you are likely seeking is “crisp,” a lazy beer shorthand often lumped in with the words “clean” and “cold” as a way to pile on modifiers that all essentially mean “this tastes like nothing, and I like that.”

Anyway. To your actual article.

As someone who has written fairly extensively about the beer industry in Ontario for the better part of a decade, I felt obligated to speak up because, to me, you’re promoting some unfair preconceptions about craft beer that continue to make it seem inaccessible, and you’re discussing shitty beer as a choice people are making, and it often really isn’t. Continue reading


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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