When Doug Ford challenged Ontario brewers in August with a non-announcement that they could now sell beer for $1 a container, many beer commentators, myself chief among them, opined that no quality beer could be brewed at a profit for that price and that lowering the price floor on beer was nothing more than an invitation to big brewers to see how cheaply they might make beer to take advantage of a weird news cycle.
The announcement was, in essence, the firing of a starter pistol to mark the beginning of a new race in Ontario beer to find rock bottom.
The race has slowed in the interim and a few of the participants dropped out along the way, but it seems clear that the finish line is now clearly in sight because this morning, Loblaw Companies Limited announced the arrival of no name® branded beer.
My friends, welcome to rock bottom. Continue reading “Welcome to the bottom”
For a few reasons, I’m not really a golfer. First and foremost, I’m not good at it. Secondly, I actually like spending time with my family and so the prospect of eating up multiple hours of a weekend being frustrated on a golf course is far less appealing to me than being with my wife and son on one of the two days a week I get to spend with them. Thirdly, there’s a nagging tree-hugging snowflake part of me that can’t help thinking there are better uses for picturesque wide open spaces than charging people in silly pants to chase a little ball around them.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, while I could probably occasionally overlook all of the above and go golfing simply to enjoy being outdoors with friends drinking good beer, it’s almost never the case that I get to do that. Because the beer at most golf courses, of course, sucks. It is almost always the usual gamut of industrial lagers and, frankly, it doesn’t much matter to many people who are out golfing because it’s hot out and it’s the weekend someone just drove a little car full of beer right up to me and my buddies so I’ll take two of whatever the heck you’ve got on ice.
I get it. Beer at golf courses sucks because it doesn’t really have to be good. The owners of golf courses, much like most bar and restaurant owners, are very likely to simply go with the brewing company that offers them the best deal and thus pour whatever lowest-common-denominator cold shit keeps the throngs of sweaty, sunburned linksmen happily whacking away at their balls.
But to my mind, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s 2019 and it should be a given that people in this province like golf. We have a whopping 811 golf courses in this province. It is also an increasingly obvious fact that Ontarians have developed a taste for locally-made craft beer. Depending on who you ask, the market share for craft beer is at about 8% and it is growing every day. Surely between theses two demographics there is some overlap. So who wouldn’t be able to see an obvious opportunity for appealing to both of those markets and supporting local business by opting to provide some craft beer to golfers?
Well, certainly not the City of London, Ontario. Continue reading “Why does the beer at London’s city owned golf courses have to suck?”
What follows is perhaps my most cringe-worthy personal beer story. I have told this story to a few people over the years and some have told me that it would make a great entry for my blog. For reasons that I’m sure will become clear when you read this, I have never written this down before.
Tonight I’ve decided that enough time has passed that I feel…not good…but perhaps…OK sharing it. You will almost certainly think of less me when you finish this. But you might laugh. So here goes. Continue reading “The Utopias story”
Because it is again that time of year where we do this sort of thing, here are the topics that I think will shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2019.
The failure of DME Brewing Solutions
In late November, I wrote here about the receivership status of Diversified Metal Engineering (DME), one of North America’s biggest manufacturers of brewing equipment. In that post, I suggested that there would be many breweries–Canadian and otherwise–effected by this closure. Shortly after I wrote about the issue, Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star wrote about the closure of DME and how it will effect local breweries, specifically the Indie Alehouse, whose owner Jason Fisher told the Star he was waiting for about $800,000 worth of brewing equipment to expand his brewery that he was now unlikely to ever see. Shortly thereafter, Good Beer Hunting picked up the story, expanding on it and chatting with a handful of Canadian brewers. In that story, GBH noted that DME owes “at least $20 million to 370 businesses and banks, and an unknown amount to another 382 individuals and companies.” Continue reading “What to expect from Ontario beer in 2019”
Earlier tonight, the government of PEI announced that Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) has been thrown into receivership.
DME operates two brewery equipment manufacturers, Newlands Systems (NSI) in Abbotsford, BC, and DME Brewing Solutions in Charlottetown. They represent one of the largest brewing manufacturers in North America and, between them, the companies have built more than 1,600 breweries.
PEI’s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning, Sonny Gallant, along with Economic Development and Tourism Minister Chris Palmer issued a written statement tonight, saying they were aware of the company’s receivership.
With the news, the growth of craft beer in the country might be about take a hit, and there is potential that more than a few current craft breweries could face financial problems from which they will not be able to recover. Continue reading “One of Canada’s largest manufacturers of brewing equipment announces receivership”
Beer is typically best enjoyed as fresh as possible.
It’s not something most people think about when they roll up to the Beer Store to buy a case of their favourite lager and it’s definitely not something bar-goers scrutinize when a busy bartender snaps the cap off a bottle she just fished out of the fridge behind the bar, but it really should be.
Conscientious shoppers will happily scrutinize the freshness of the almond milk in the fridge at their grocery store and many people will toss meat and half loaves of bread that have passed the seemingly arbitrary “best before” date slapped on their respective labels; yet these same consumers, blissfully unaware, will happily neck a four month old Budweiser from their local.
And that’s a shame, really, because perhaps even more so than your almond milk, hot dogs, or wonder bread, beer really does taste a lot better when it is consumed as close as possible to the day it was put in the bottle or can.
There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule and a handful of beer styles might actually get better with a little aging – an experiment that I caution you to pursue at your own risk – but for the most part, fresh is best. Ask someone who has had Pilsner Urquell in Plzeň what he or she thinks comparing it to the can procured at the local LCBO. Ask someone who’s bartered for a month-old Heady Topper to try one brewed a couple days ago. Drink a pale ale directly from your local brewery then find a three-month old version at your liquor store. The difference is clear. Continue reading “How fresh is your beer?”
Recently, Crystal and Tara Luxmore, David Ort, and I decided to make a semi-regular attempt to write something on the same theme, rotating which of us proposes the theme. This concept has no name yet and we’ve only loosely defined the parameters, but here it is. For this first edition, I threw out the idea of ‘The beers I don’t share on instagram.’
As a beer writer, or blogger, or influencer, or beer whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-me, much to the chagrin of my friends and family, I tend to share a lot of myself, and by extension, my beer drinking, on social media.
Given most people’s natural tendencies toward making themselves look better on social media (no one, of course, looks the way they really do in most selfies, no one actually eats such artfully-plated meals at every seating), you might think that the beers I choose to share on my Instagram feed are carefully curated to be impressive or to attract more followers, or maybe even appease the beer companies who occasionally send me beer in hopes that I will share them with my uniquely-targeted following.
But they aren’t. Continue reading “The beers I don’t share on Instagram”
This piece originally appeared in print and online for the first edition of The Growler, Ontario’s Beer Guide.
When I mention my beer cellar, my wife usually rolls her eyes.
Mainly she does this because she knows when I say something like, “I’ve got some really good stuff in the cellar right now,” I’m actually referring to rows of dusty bottles on the metal shelving that I bought at Home Depot and put in our basement.
And while, of course, it is a tad pretentious to refer to these shelves next to the laundry tub as a “cellar,” it doesn’t take much more to have a functioning beer storage space. Indeed, the ideal conditions for storing beer are essentially just a cool, dark place where you can fit a bunch of big bottles.
Tomas Morana is the co-owner of Birreria Volo, arguably one of Canada’s best beer bars. He’s also a co-founder of Keep6Imports, a company that works to bring rare and funky imports to Ontario. At Birreria Volo in Toronto’s Little Italy, the cellaring program is very much part of the venue’s draw and he takes it seriously. Continue reading “Putting away pints: Are cellars worth it or just expensive beer purgatory?”
It is illegal for breweries to offer keg deals, cash, or other financial incentives to bars in exchange for selling their products.
Yes, I’ve written about this more than a few times over the last five years (including once again for my upcoming column in the fantastic quarterly publication The Growler. Catch the latest issue on newsstands soon!), but in case you need a refresher, here’s Regulation 720 from Ontario’s Liquor Licence Act:
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.
Well guess what? It is also illegal for bars to ask breweries for keg deals, cash, or other financial incentives in exchange for selling their products. And now you can snitch on them.
Because I have written about this rampant practice a few times and because there aren’t many other avenues to have these conversations, a few years ago I started to receive emails from frustrated breweries across the province. Mostly, brewers would forward me the blatant requests for free shit that they get from bar owners and front of house managers on a virtually daily basis. The tone has always been “Here’s another one!” but the subtext to me was always “What the hell can we do about this?” Continue reading “Brewers can now report bars asking for illegal freebies online”
Earlier today I caught wind of the fact that Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery had called an all-staff town hall meeting for some kind of announcement.
As is occasionally my wont, without any intel available I lazily stipulated on Twitter that I thought the announcement might be about either a sale of the company to a bigger brewery or some kind of venture related to legalized cannabis. As it turns out, the announcement was actually that Cam Heaps, Steam Whistle’s lone remaining co-founder, had announced his retirement from the company. Continue reading “Cam Heaps, Steam Whistle co-founder, announces retirement”