Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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30 years of Great Lakes Brewery

At this point, Great Lakes Brewery has largely cemented their status as a great Canadian brewery and has earned their place in most Canadian beer fans’ hearts.

I’d wager that, right now, almost everyone reading these words has at least one GLB beer in their fridge. And why not? They make great fucking beer.

But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the killer version of Great Lakes that most of us know and love is a fairly recent innovation considering that the company has actually been around for 30 years. Purchased by Peter Bulut Sr. in 1991, Great Lakes was, at the time, a small brewery in Brampton with an 18 hectolitre system that made their beer using syrupy malt extract brewed on an electric kettle. And so, roughly the same time they bought the business, they bought a mill and a masher to make beer from proper malt, and immediately outgrew the brewery’s fermenters. Taking possession of the company in April, Bulut had to move his operation to a 30,000 square foot building in Etobicoke by August, and today that’s the building the brewery still inhabits.

Bulut quickly found success in the 1990s Toronto restaurant scene which was, at that time, largely dominated by Greek families. Having come from a Greek and Serbian background and having been raised in an Italian school, Bulut was a man of languages and would often adapt the dialect of whomever he was speaking with and tell restaurateurs he was actually from the same village as them. It proved to be an effective ruse and, as a result, he ended up selling a lot of beer.

Like, a lot. Next time you drink a Karma Citra, be thankful for the hardworking Greek people of Toronto and their patrons who drank a shit ton of Great Lakes Lager in the 1990s to make that IPA possible for you. Continue reading


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Sexist beer marketing: Meanwhile in Nova Scotia

A  few months ago I wrote a blog post discussing sexist marketing in beer and I called out–and chatted with–some Ontario breweries about marketing efforts I felt objectified women.

In the interim, there have been some changes worth noting. Whitewater Brewing, the Ottawa Valley area brewer who makes “Farmer’s Daughter Blonde,” has quietly updated the branding for that can and appears to have renamed their seasonal “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” to the decidedly less cringe-inducing “Watermelon Blonde.”

Niagara Brewing Company, the makers of “Amber Eh!,” an American-style Amber that features a semi-naked female lumberjack on the can, took the less strategic but still effective approach of responding to my repeated inquiries by simply blocking me on social media. I guess that works.

The other breweries mentioned have, to date, continued business as usual; including continuing to use the cans that I discussed.

As first reported here in August, Garnet Pratt Siddall, the then-newly-appointed chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers who spoke candidly with me for my article about sexist beer in the industry, has been terminated as the CEO of Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Co.

I’ve also confirmed with the OCB that she has likewise subsequently resigned as the chair and director of that organization. It remains to be seen who her replacement will be and, as such, it’s unclear whether the de facto figurehead of Ontario’s only organization advocating for small brewers will share Siddall’s interest in making changes related to offensive marketing.

Interestingly though, one of the most promising changes to come about since my article, and apparently as a result of it, comes not from Ontario, but rather from Nova Scotia. Continue reading


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What’s in store for Ontario beer next year?

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Last week I rounded up some of the biggest developments in beer in 2015 and it got me to thinking about the year ahead. Here are some of things I predict what we might see in beer in Ontario for 2016.


Small scale innovation

Grocery store sales are not going to be the tipping point for Ontario beer.  As I noted in last week’s post, that development doesn’t seem all that ground-breaking for me. I think it’s possible that, as the grocery store program rolls out over the next couple years, there might be some outlier chains and independent grocers who opt to support local and craft beer exclusively; however, given that Farm Boy, who were rumoured to be aiming at 100% craft beer on shelves, has opted to stock big beer on store shelves, I think it’s more likely that grocery stores will simply bring us more of the same beer we already have access to through the Beer Store and LCBO.

Instead, I think 2016 will continue to bring interesting and innovative solutions to Ontario’s unique legislative problems by way of small businesses and entrepreneurs. I predict a rise in home-delivery services that bring unique craft offerings to people in areas where distribution is difficult and I predict the coming of increased numbers of niche-market bars and restaurants that can offer rare imported beers given how hard it can be to bring in beers from other markets.  The forthcoming new bar from the family behind Bar Volo that will focus on barrel-aged and sour imports, to my mind, could be the first of many. Continue reading


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Loblaws set to launch beer sales

superstore

Early next week Loblaws will announce the details of their pilot program to be among the first grocers in Ontario to sell beer.

The grocery chain’s stores are among a select 450 Ontario grocery stores who will be allowed to sell beer by 2018 and they are also among an even more select 60 stores who will be allowed to sell beer “before Christmas,” a date that grows ever closer, despite what the weather might have you believe.

Ben’s Beer Blog has learned that, with an eye to that “Christmas” launch, Loblaws will likely be hosting a press conference next week where Premier Kathleen Wynne will be on hand to help the retailer announce the details of the launch of their beer program.

I’m going to add a big disclaimer here that I have been unable to verify all of what I’m about to reveal, but for the most part, I have the details that will be announced. Continue reading


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Six beer pairings for dealing with toddler behaviour

Cars and raspberry beer

For roughly the last four months, I have been the primary caregiver for my two year old son.

Yes, I’m a stay at home dad.

The experience has taught me a lot of things. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience to share the summer with my son and each day brings new joy as I get to see the world through his eyes and blah blah blah.

Yes, yes, all that.

But it’s also taught me some really useful things too: namely, that beer is a really important part of parenting.

Seriously. I’ve learned to appreciate beer on a whole other level.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not drinking all day or parenting my son under the influence. I still (usually) wait until around 5pm to crack a beer–I’m not a savage–but when I do, it often tastes far, far better than any beer I ever knew as a childless, amateur beer drinker. Because now almost always, more so than ever before, when I DO crack that beer, god damn it, I have earned that beer.

Accordingly, I’ve also learned that there are some beers that are just far better suited to helping you unwind at the end of certain days than others are. That is, there are without question certain trying circumstances that demand a beer at the close of the day, but I’ve found there are actually certain circumstances that lend themselves better to being remedied by specific beers.

As a public service, here are the perfect beer pairings to deal with six common toddler behaviours. Continue reading


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A beery list of beer lists

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In case you weren’t aware, I also write about beer for local website blogTO. Often, that website asks me to write posts for them in list format. And so, for no reason other than to cure your Monday blues, I decided to compile a collection of them here for what is surely the ultimate in internet entertainment: A list of lists.

Why the hell not? 

20141311-LouisCiferfridge 10 breweries where you can buy growlers in Toronto
20130503-590-MillSt7 The top ten local beers in Toronto for summer 2015
2015425-breweries-toronto The top ten breweries to visit near Toronto
05062013-castros590-02  The top 30 places to drink beer in Toronto by neighbourhood
20121217-old-breweries-toronto-ed The ten oldest breweries in Toronto
2015218-toronto-brewery Five Toronto beer brands you probably haven’t heard of
20111229-craftbeers5 The top ten ways to learn about beer in Toronto
06252013-wren590-05 The top ten underrated beer bars in Toronto
20111221-beer Five Toronto beer trends that need to die in 2015
20111227-parkdale-beer NOSTALGIC BONUS LIST: The top Toronto beer news from 2011 (My first ever list for blogTO. Smell the earnestness!)

 

 

 


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Let’s talk about growlers

Growler

With the recent news that changes to Ontario’s liquor laws could mean the LCBO will start to carry and fill growlers, it’s probably a good time to ask some questions about this development.

Namely, does anyone really give a shit?

The benefits and pitfalls of recent proposed changes to Ontario’s liquor laws, specifically as they relate to beer, have been debated fairly extensively as of late, and probably will be until the changes actually come into effect some time in the 3rd millennium, but not much has been made of the odd little item about growlers, and so it’s worth considering whether or not the potential “mainstreaming” of those fun little jugs is a good thing.

But before we get there, let’s cover some basics for the uninitiated. Continue reading