Ben's Beer Blog

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The Friday Four 12/15/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking.

Kensington Brewing Co. 
Mango Low Boy, Neu Rodes, and Temper Temper

My craft beer journey actually started with Kensington Brewing Company.

It was 2011 and Toronto’ foremost digital journal of record, blogTO, had put out a call for a beer writer. I was a writer who liked beer so I threw my hat in the ring and submitted an application.

Then,  I had a lot to learn about beer.

Thankfully, as anyone with experience in craft beer will know, most of the folks working in or enjoying craft beer are happy to chat so I quickly found people eager to school me and share some insight. One of the very first people to do so was Brock Shepherd, who, at the time, was the founder and sole employee of the eight month-old Kensington Brewing Company. He was also the owner and operator of Burger Bar, which even as late as 2011 was something of a rarity in that it was a restaurant where the beer on tap was entirely local craft beer and there was even a cask engine. There were also occasional health code violations, but I considered that all part of the charm.

I met Brock under the guise of digging for a story–and eventually wrote this one, about how Augusta Ale was soon to arrive in bottles (even though I’m not entirely sure it ever actually did)–and I ended up sitting and chatting (and drinking) with Brock for at least a few hours.

Brock was one of my first interactions with someone who had that certain passion for craft beer–the kind where some annoying wannabe writer shows up when you’re trying to run a business but you end up chatting with him for hours just because you dig craft beer. At that time, Brock was getting some media buzz for attempting to grow usable hops around Kensington Market and was planning to open a nano-brewery in the back of Burger Bar while continuing to contract brew his production beer under the watchful tutelage of Paul Dickey (at the time, this was still a novel idea and not a marketing plan they teach you at Niagara Brewing College. I kid, I kid). Continue reading

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The Friday Four 11/17/2017

The Friday Four is a (new) weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking. 

Brasseurs du Monde
Célébrante 375

Included in a handful of beers my brother brought me from the dep near his house in Montreal last time he visited, this beer is a “mellow blonde beer with champagne yeast.” The label listed tasting notes that suggested I could expect “low bitterness” and noted “it delivers honey, pear, orange and lemon flavours.” I didn’t catch most of these notes and instead this came off as a sort of overly-boozy blonde with an almost overbearing rounded pear note. I didn’t actually finish it. Sorry, brother. I include it here though to note what might be the first instance of  casual colonialism I’ve ever seen on a beer label. Brewed to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, the label includes this gem: “With courage and preserverance, Maisonneauve and his settlers founded Montreal on the site of an Iriquois village called Hochlega 375 years ago.” Right on the site of an existing village. What courage!

Sawdust City
Long Dark Voyage to Uranus

Previous batches of LDV have been a weird and impressive balance of rich, bitter, and dry that somewhat manages to be far more dangerously smooth than its hefty 9.5% imperial ABV would suggest. Possibly one of the best imperial stouts in the province–and definitely the best beer I know of that involves butthole word play–LDV is slated to return to LCBO shelves November 23rd and appears to already be on tap at a couple bars.

Block Three Brewing Co.

On Monday, I undertook the overdue task of cleaning out my second beer fridge. Yes, there are two. I had a ton of beer that I knew I’d never drink (i.e. because it was terrible) or that appeared to be past its prime per its date stamps. It turns out I had a Frankenstout from November 2016 in the fridge and, given its lowish (5%) ABV I wasn’t sure how it might have held up. Turns out it was just fine. I took a whiff from the bottle and had to get a glass. Rich aromas, semi-dry finish, etc. and not over-bearing. A very nice accompaniment to pouring other beers into my laundry tub.
I forgot to take a picture so here’s Boris Karloff. 

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout

The folks at Beau’s sent me this variant of their popular Tom Green Beer milk stout about a month ago but I’ve been too much in denial to admit the winter months I associate with stouts are  here to dig in on the dark stuff–as you can see from the inaugural Friday Four, I’ve accepted that winter is around the corner and I’m diving into dark beers wholeheartedly. Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout is a black-brown with reddish highlights and it was doing that crazy growing head thing where I had to keep an eye on the glass to watch the ever-expanding off-white foam creeping higher. There are nice roasted malt and subtle chocolate flavours in this one and, while the tasting notes suggested sweet “dessert-like” cherry, I detected would I’d call a semi-sour smooch (a technical term) of sour black cherry. Very nice beer.


What are you drinking this weekend?


Never mind Oktoberfest, here’s Craftoberfest

When I was in university, I travelled to Kitchener to attend the annual Oktoberfest event there, and it was nothing short of terrible.

The pilgrimage to the K-W included sleeping on the floor of a frat boy friend of a friend and it coincided with a lamentable period of my youth that all men seem to go through where we find it humourous to hit each other as hard as possible in the balls. While my group of friends always had a gentleman’s rule that these shots were permissible only when administered open-handed, the agreement was not enough to prevent my two best friends from nearly fighting each other in the middle of a polka-filled hall of dirndl- and lederhosen-bedecked revellers that evening.

Accordingly, I will likely forever associate my experience at Oktoberfest with a terrible night of drinking and the anxiety of perpetually fearing blunt force trauma to my penis and testicles. And while the organizers aren’t responsible for me associating Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest with being hit in the balls, it seems to me an apt metaphor for the annual event. Continue reading


Column: The top five places for (good) beer in London


In addition to the ol’ blog, some of you might be aware that I write a bi-weekly column for the local publication Our London. About a month ago, I wrote a column detailing the scant places you might find a good beer in town. I thought I’d repurpose it here as it might be helpful to any thirsty blog readers who might be headed to The Forest City soon.

1. Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium

Anyone who drinks good beer in London won’t be surprised to see Pub Milos atop this list. With an owner who goes out of his way to bring unique Ontario beers to his Talbot Street locale, Pub Milos’ 27-tap draught menu is unparalleled in London and is arguably among Ontario’s best. The food is very good, the staff are all either certified cicerones or working to become certified, and it’s right downtown. The place does beer the way I wish all bars would. ‘Nuff said.

2. The Morrissey House

In 2014, owner Mark Serre stopped buying draught from The Beer Store and now deals directly with local brewers. The result is 18 draught options that feature options you can’t find elsewhere in the Forest City, including offerings from London’s breweries and beer from Windsor to cottage country, including regular options from the excellent Great Lakes Brewery in Etobicoke. There’s an increasingly decent selection of 35 craft bottles and cans and a decent menu. Occupying a converted “London Brick” mansion, “The Mo” offers a somewhat dated ambiance, but is suitably cozy and offers a great patio.

3. Bungalow

Frequently packed thanks to being the only pub in convenient walking distance for those who live in Old North, the seriously-good burgers and respectable draught lineup are certainly as much to blame for its popularity as its convenience. A welcoming watering hole, Bungalow offers a draught lineup that skews toward craft but won’t frighten the uninitiated. Approachable craft beers like Steam Whistle and Samuel Adams Lager abound with occasionally experimental offerings like Muskoka Brewery’s rotating Moonlight Kettle series or a Beau’s All Natural one-off. The place promises a “neighbourhood hub” and it delivers.

Read the rest of my column over on the Our London site here.


Beau’s All Natural adds a full time IPA to their lineup

I don’t usually do detailed beer reviews any more, but sometimes I try a beer that makes me feel like talking.

Vankleek Hill’s Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. is about to release an IPA that will join their roster full time. Appropriately, it’s called Full Time IPA.

Here’s why I dig this: You could argue that the IPA trend in Ontario is on its way out (I mean you could. I probably wouldn’t listen), but we’re definitely ushering in a return to traditional, “simpler” styles like pilsners and lagers. And so Beaus, who are arguably best known for their kolsch-style beer, have decided to to offer a up a full time, hop-heavy beer because, why the hell not? Continue reading


Five great beers for a forced obligatory Halloween blog post


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


The Ontario beer state of the union

Ontario Flag

On Thursday, at Beer Bistro in Toronto, awards were handed out to the fan favourites in a variety of categories for Ontario’s beer scene for the 2016 Golden Tap Awards.

The occasion, which likely skews a little too heavily toward Toronto beer bars and breweries, is probably about as good a way as any to take the pulse of the province’s current beer trends, and thus seemed to me like an appropriate time to reflect on the Ontario beer scene generally. Also, yes, I won one of these awards again last night and so I feel compelled to actually contribute something instead of resting on my laurels.

And so I had a few beers and thunk on it, and I’ve concluded that the craft beer scene in Ontatio is great.

But it’s time to get serious. Continue reading