Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.

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A Canadian-made Sierra Nevada beer comes to Ontario today


In August, 14 beer-loving Canadians traveled to the Mills River, North Carolina brewing facility of famed pioneer craft brewery Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. for a collaboration.

The result of that collab, the unfortunately named “The Eh! Team” beer, is a peppercorn-spiced farmhouse saison that has just hit the draught lineups of a handful of great Ontario beer bars, all of whom were on hand for the beer’s creation.

The beer was made as part of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp collaboration series that welcomed Ontario beer writer Crystal Luxmore and the owners of Picton’s County Canteen, Kingston’s two Red House pubs, Toronto’s beerbistro, Birreria Volo, Bar Hop, and the Indie Ale House. Continue reading


The Ontario Craft Beer Guide is for geeks

Despite what virtually all of the Ontario breweries, beer writers, and various beer-scene hangers-on that I happen to follow on social media have been telling me for the last week or so, Jordan St. John and Robin LeBlanc have not written a beer book.

I mean, technically, of course, they did “write a book,” the soon to be released Ontario Craft Beer Guide, but what the authors–one a former nationally syndicated beer columnist and the other the current beer columnist for Torontoist, both of them prolific bloggers–have actually written is a unique and thorough snapshot of the beer industry in a region that is on the cusp of a very large boom.

Craft-beer sales in Ontario rose a whopping 26.6 per cent between 2013 and 2014 according to the last available data from the LCBO and, according to the Ontario Craft Brewers, their share of beer sales has increased nearly 220 per cent since 2010. “Craft” is by far the fastest-growing segment of beer in the Ontario market. The Ontario Beverage Network formerly known as Mom n Hops has 300 breweries on its list of beer-making-operations that are either currently open in the province or are in the planning phase, and that number is up from just 100 three years ago. To put it bluntly then, craft beer in Ontario is going fucking gangbusters.  And so it’s an extremely interesting time for the arrival of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide which, in effect, will serve as an excellent and ridiculously detailed archive of Ontario craft beer essentially right as it’s coming into its own. Continue reading

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Making the connection: Talking beer and food with Crystal Luxmore


Crystal Luxmore is a Toronto-based beer writer whose work has appeared in The Toronto Star, Toronto Life, Chatelaine, The Walrus, The New York Times, CBC and and she was the “Hopped Up” columnist for what was easily Toronto’s best weekly magazine, The Grid (RIP).

She’s also a Certified Cicerone and a Prud’homme Beer Sommelier.

Accordingly, it’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about beer. This month, as part of my ongoing efforts to explore the relationship between dining and beer, I chatted with Crystal via email about beer, food, and why beer isn’t afforded the same respect as wine–yet.

Ben Johnson: As a cicerone and prud’homme certified beer sommelier, do you put a lot of thought into beer and food pairings when you’re dining at home or eating out?

Crystal Luxmore: I do, but I don’t sweat it too much. At home, I see what’s in my beer and main fridge, and usually choose the best possible match from what’s already chilled once dinner is ready. At a restaurant, I do think about it, but sometimes I’m more interested in trying a new one-off than finding the perfect match for my burger. Luckily with beer, it’s so versatile and easy to pair that if you’ve got great food and a great pint, you’ll be satisfied.

BJ: I feel like once you start paying attention to what beers work with what foods, you can’t NOT pay attention. It’s like a new level of snobbery when I’m with friends. First it was, “oh don’t drink that.” Now if I say, “well don’t drink THAT with THAT” I feel like I’m going to get punched in the head.

CL: Yeah. I would punch you in the face if you told me that. Taste is subjective and everyone’s palate is different, so what you think is right, is right—but only for you. Continue reading

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Bar Hop announces new “Hop Talk” series

Bar Hop bartender Matt Bod laughing at something hilarious I said

Bar Hop bartender Matt Bod laughing at something hilarious I said

Bar Hop, the craft beer destination that won the Golden Tap award in 2013 for the Best Bar for Draught Beer Selection in Ontario, has announced a new monthly event series.

Billed as “Hop Talk,” the series will be a mini tap takeover of sorts wherein a featured brewer will not only have five of their beers on tap, but will also be present to talk about the beer with customers.

The event will be free to attend and in addition to the standard 5oz sample portion sizes, the organizers have mercifully allowed patrons to also order an actual effing pint. Continue reading