Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Catching up with Bellwoods Brewery

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The opening of a second Bellwoods Brewery location in Toronto has been something of a long saga, but on December 17th, the ability to buy their much sought-after beer in another locale became a reality when they opened the doors of a production-focused facility at 20 Hafis Road.

Toronto beer enthusiasts will recall that the beer-making darlings of the Ossington Strip first announced a proposed second location way back in August of 2014, but the proposed site number two was slated for 950 Dupont Street in the former Hamilton Gear and Machine building.

But then there was the pesky and annoying possibility that said second location would be unable to sell bottled beer thanks to a weird rule in the province’s liquor legislation.

That arbitrary 25,000 hectolitre rule was, thankfully, one of the few things changed as part of Ontario’s profoundly lacklustre “revamping” of our liquor laws that came into force on Canada Day of 2016, and so presumably the stage was set for Bellwoods to soon have two bottle shops.

And yet, the beer drinking public continued to wait. Continue reading


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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


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Top five Ontario beers for numbing the unceasing pain of your existence

Suicide pact!

There are many great reasons to drink Ontario craft beer these days!

With no shortage of new and exciting beer being produced by the province’s ever-growing number of small breweries, there truly is a style of beer for virtually all tastes. Working your way through the many varieties available–from a dark, chocolaty coffee stout to a tart and fruity barrel-aged sour beer–can be a fun adventure and a way to experience new things.

And it feels good to support local companies. Buying beer from your local craft brewer means you are supporting a small business that is creating jobs in your backyard. Often, buying craft beer means getting an opportunity to meet the very people who made your beer and learn all about the businesses and the people you are supporting with your purchase. Buying Ontario craft beer isn’t just fun, it can also be rewarding!

Of course craft beer, like all beer, contains alcohol; and so consuming these exciting and interesting beers that you’ve purchased directly from your local craft brewery is also an excellent way to try to quiet, even momentarily, your constant and unrelenting thoughts about the fact that we are all ultimately totally alone and that life is essentially meaningless. Continue reading


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Let’s talk about beer awards

Beer Award

Beer awards are kind of bullshit.

They don’t really denote an absolute degree of quality or a level of excellence above all others in the field or category.

What beer awards often actually denote is simply a willingness on the part of a brewery to meet the demands of individual award ceremonies’ rules and style guidelines. That is, maybe a winning beer best met a certain judge’s understanding of the BJCP definition of a certain style or the beer adheres to the individual awards’ strict and often archaic style guidelines, but does that make the beer the “best” example of its kind?

According to the judges who blind-taste-judged the Ontario Brewing Awards, for example, Triple Bogey Brewing Co. brewed the “best” North American Lager in the province last year. But what does that even mean? Taste is subjective, right? You, for example, may prefer the taste of Great Lakes Brewery’s Golden Horseshoe Premium Lager. Who can say how or why those two lagers are different and what makes one better? Continue reading


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Beyond The Beer Store: What happens now?

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In terms of media coverage and developing news, it seems like it’s been a hundred years since The Beer Store dropped the bombshell announcement that they would be offering up an opportunity for a token gesture “ownership” stake to Ontario’s brewers.

Crazily, it’s actually only been 12 days since that happened, it just seems like it’s been forever because the Beer Store has been in full-fledged damage control mode ever since, buying up major ads in newspapers and issuing a press release almost every day since (even issuing three in one glorious day).

The response has, of course, been swift, vicious, and, amazingly, mostly unanimous: Nice try Beer Store, but this dog ain’t gonna hunt.

I started a blog post with the intention of covering the steady stream of news and reactions that the release generated, but frankly it was too much work to stay on top of. With every major daily weighing in, TV stations clamoring for brewers to chat with, and anyone with a keyboard and an opinion contributing to the conversation, I stopped tracking it all and opted to just sit back and watch as the number of Ontarians pissed off at our current retail beer scene grew exponentially every day. Come on in to the pool of rage, everybody. The water’s fine!

There’s a lot of interesting things still being said out there (personal recommendations of late include Dan Grant’s recent piece for NOW and an editorial conversation in today’s National Post between Chris Selley and Jonathan Goldsbie), but there’s something that seems notably absent: Any real consideration for what happens next.

That is, while we’re all happily (and justifiably) piling on the Beer Store’s PR blunder, I thought I might try a different tack and offer up my two cents on how Ontario’s beer scene might be fixed, and how we might all look forward. Continue reading


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The top 10 local beers to drink this winter in Toronto

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It’s that time of year, when the neighbourhood-branded toques come out and we snuggle that slightly stinky stranger on the subway just a little closer to stay warm. It’s also a time when our taste in beer migrates toward the darker, boozier offerings to keep Jack Frost from nipping at our noses – among other extremities.

Here are my picks for local beers to drink this winter in Toronto.

Bellwoods Brewery’s Bring Out Your Dead
Bellwoods Brewery’s ridonkulous imperial stout, aged in cognac barrels for over a year, is rich, warming, and scarily smooth for its potent 12.2% alcohol content. Save this one for one of those days you drop your gloves in the slush and get splashed by the streetcar and need a magic elixir to turn things around. This is it. Available at the Bellwoods Brewery retail store in 650mL bottles.

Mill Street Brewery’s 100th Meridian
Who says winter beers need to be as dark as Frosty’s eyes and as strong as the smell of your hockey equipment? 100th Meridian is the newish organic lager from Mill Street and with just a slightly heartier malt profile than most lagers, is the perfect refresher for after-snowman building or post shinny. Available in 341mL six packs at the LCBO and Beer Store.

Indie Alehouse’s Zombie Apocalypse
Dark, boozy, and a little scary, Zombie Apocalypse is a lot like your twice-divorced uncle on Christmas Eve. For a getaway from family this season, shut the blinds, put on sweatpants, pretend the world no longer exists and enjoy the brief silence with this roasty 10% imperial stout. Until the undead/inlaws come knocking… Available in 750mL bottles at Indie Alehouse’s retail store.

Read the rest of this post over on blogTO…