Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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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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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


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Mill Street’s production brewery is for lease

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Charming 45,325 sq/ft brewery is the ideal spot for a mid-sized craft brewery looking to upgrade or an adventurous entrepreneur who loves beer and has more money than sense.

Gently used by a pioneering Toronto craft brewer who needs to vacate the space in a hurry thanks to a business offer they simply couldn’t refuse, this luxurious space on a 2.62 acre lot features roughly 20,195 sq/ft of new construction, a sunken living room and hardwood throughout. Steps to transit and the the shops of Scarborough Town Centre. 

OK, the above listing isn’t real, but it’s pretty close to the interesting “property for lease” notice recently posted by global real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield.

Yes, the brewery at 300 Midwest Road in Scarborough, better known as the production facility of one Mill Street Brewery is currently up for lease. Continue reading


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On selling out

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You’ll never understand it
Try to buy and brand it
I win, you lose, cause it’s my job
To keep craft beer elite.
This beverage ain’t your fuckin’ industry.

~Fat Mike, if he were a beer blogger, probably. 

As it is with music, there is an important distinction in beer between what we might define as that which is indie and that which we might deem corporate.

Craft beer, you might say, is  something generally akin to your favourite band that’s still playing local clubs, manning their own merch tables, and banging out records on a small record label–or even no label at all. Much like craft breweries, indie bands maintain a devoted local following because they make a quality product and there is a perception that they do what they do because they love it and they’re not just in it for the money, man.

By the same token, we might readily compare big breweries to something along the lines of a boy band or the Spice Girls: a sort of fabricated version of the concept of a “band,” assembled by people with an understanding of the market and a unique ability to create a product that will have mass appeal. It’s often a profoundly successful “product,” but to those who are passionate about the scene, it’s a watered down, passionless version of what should be a good thing.

This is a simplified analogy for sure, but to me there are actually a lot of parallels between craft beer and independent music, the most notable of which is that rather icky feeling we all get when a treasured brewery or band suddenly becomes financially successful. Continue reading


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Are the Blue Jays breaking the law by not offering better beer selection?

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The Toronto Blue Jays are the only team in Major League baseball that doesn’t offer local beer at their baseball games.

Obviously, this sucks.

People who like baseball often also like beer. People who like to go support their local baseball team might conceivably also like to support their local breweries.

The Toronto Blue Jays organization apparently doesn’t give a shit about these people. Instead, they are happy to award exclusivity to the foreign-owned entity that was willing to cough up the biggest chunk of dough for the right to be the only beer sold at the Rogers Centre (if you’re still not sure who exactly I’m talking about, look no further than that glaring Budweiser logo that adorns most of the Toronto Blue Jays’ left field).

There was of course a glimmer of hope recently in March of 2013 when I broke the news that Steamwhistle–the folks making baseball-ready pilsner literally across the street from the Jays–would finally be allowed to sell their beer at the Rogers Centre.

Of course, being able to drink Toronto beer at a Toronto baseball game was short lived and almost exactly one year later, conceivably because the folks at AB InBev had had enough “competition,” I was breaking the news that the Good Beer Folks had been unceremoniously given the boot.

There’s been some rumbling in the interim–notably a petition created by Phil Cacace, the owner of the great Toronto bar, Tall Boys, some scant media coverage, and at least one perennially-irascible Toronto beer writer who has made a point of raising the issue on twitter every once and a while but, for the most part, we’re all pretty much resigned to accepting watery lager to drink while we take in live games of Toronto’s generally watered-down version of professional baseball. Continue reading


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When it comes to beer, taste isn’t all that matters

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In case you’re not among the 23,405 people who stopped by my blog on September 22, you aren’t one of the visitors who are still finding Ben’s Beer Blog in numbers that put my former best traffic days to shame, or you haven’t stumbled onto one of the many outlets who picked up the story after I wrote about it, you should know that for lack of a better term, I basically exploded the internet last week with a story about Shock Top, a beer that is made by Labatt and one for which they were planning a less-than-honest advertising campaign.

Obviously the story received the level of attention that it did because most people feel upset about the news that a large brewery was attempting to pretend to be a small brewery in order to increase sales of one of their beers. Indeed, by and large, that has been virtually everyone’s reaction–with a small but notable exception: Among the comments for that post, in the responses on reddit forums, and via twitter, there has been a small but vocal minority whose response has essentially been, “Who cares?”

This minority, some of whom I’ve talked to directly and others who felt the need to comment anonymously, have made roughly the same argument with varying degrees of tact and merit and that argument is “If the beer tastes good, drink it.” Continue reading