Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Catching up with Bellwoods Brewery

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The opening of a second Bellwoods Brewery location in Toronto has been something of a long saga, but on December 17th, the ability to buy their much sought-after beer in another locale became a reality when they opened the doors of a production-focused facility at 20 Hafis Road.

Toronto beer enthusiasts will recall that the beer-making darlings of the Ossington Strip first announced a proposed second location way back in August of 2014, but the proposed site number two was slated for 950 Dupont Street in the former Hamilton Gear and Machine building.

But then there was the pesky and annoying possibility that said second location would be unable to sell bottled beer thanks to a weird rule in the province’s liquor legislation.

That arbitrary 25,000 hectolitre rule was, thankfully, one of the few things changed as part of Ontario’s profoundly lacklustre “revamping” of our liquor laws that came into force on Canada Day of 2016, and so presumably the stage was set for Bellwoods to soon have two bottle shops.

And yet, the beer drinking public continued to wait. Continue reading


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Muskoka Brewery’s one-off beer game changer

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Muskoka Brewery appears poised to bring their A game to 2017.

As I’ve noted of the Bracebridge brewers before, I feel like they’re in something of a weird spot thanks to their size: they’re often regarded by beer nerds as “big craft” thanks to the fact that they’ve been around a while and they’ve enjoyed some commercial success but they’re also interested in continuing to make interesting beer so their offerings don’t always necessarily play directly to Joe Sixpack’s palate. Try, as I once did, giving Mad Tom to your Budweiser-swilling uncle, for example.

So it’s interesting to watch their struggle, which is unique to only a handful of craft brewers in Ontario thus far: How do they keep growing without losing “craft cred?” How do they keep their Cream Ale-chugging local base and appease the Toronto neck beards?

Well, you gotta try some new shit, or risk getting stagnant. 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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Finance Minister Charles Sousa proposes “major blow” to the province’s craft distillers

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Ontario’s craft spirit makers have for some time been fighting an uphill battle to make running a distillery in this province less arduous.

Led in large part by the Toronto Distillery Company, who in 2015 challenged the LCBO on the imposition of taxes on their onsite store that they deemed “unconstitutional,” Ontario spirit makers have been asking the government to amend current archaic alcohol taxation laws to level the playing field.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa just introduced a bill to revamp these tax laws, and it ain’t pretty.

Bill 70, introduced by Minister Sousa on Wednesday, includes a whopping new 61.5% sales tax for stores owned and operated by Ontario’s small and independent distilleries. 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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The Friday Link Roundup – Post City and liquor edition

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I drink things other than beer.

And sometimes I get to write about those things.

David Ort, who, in addition to being a blogger and a cookbook author, is also an editor for Post City magazine, has actually been letting me write occasional non-beer posts for his employer for the last few years, and it’s served as a pretty great way for me to try to learn a bit more about certain categories of alcohol and then try to share my findings and tasting notes with an audience. And let’s be honest, it’s also proved a pretty good way to get the occasional bottle of something interesting and strong sent to the house.

As I grapple with another one of these sporadic musings on spirits (Cognac! Coming soon), I thought it might be a good occasion to revive the near-dead Friday Link Roundup, a feature I’ve been neglecting wherein Ben’s Beer Blog used to lazily point you to other beery things worth reading on the interwebs. For this resurrecting installment, I’ve put together list of some of my Post City musings so that I might inspire your non-beer drinking this weekend.

Cheers.

wildturkey81-601392bb Sometimes enjoying whiskey can feel overwhelming: On Wild Turkey 81.
torontodistillgin-ee0e8234 In Spirit: On J.R.’s Dry Organic Canadian Gin by the Toronto Distillery Company.
casamigosanejo-9a9c12a7 Time to trade-up your tequila: On Casamigos Añejo
wisershopped-ea557631 Bringing the characteristics of beer to a bottle of whisky: On JP Wiser’s new Hopped whisky

 


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Five great beers for a forced obligatory Halloween blog post

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It’s Halloween, which means our houses will soon be filled with candy–either leftover from trick or treaters that never showed or dutifully collected from the neighbourhood by our own kids–and you know what that means: it’s time to capitalize on this annual event with an article that clumsily attempts to link two things as disparate as candy and beer!

Candy, of course, doesn’t pair very well with beer at all with the possible exception of chocolate and some stouts, but even then eating chocolate tends to negate the “chocolate-y” aspects of stouts leaving you to only taste the bitterness and roasted malt characters of the beer.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to force these things together today with some beer and candy pairings because, hey, web traffic. Continue reading