Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Drifting into the argument like wild yeast…

Opinions in Ontario brewing are a lot like assholes and IPAs: These days, everyone has one.

There seems to be a lot of beer writing occurring as of late on the subject of beer writing itself—so I thought I too would jump on the masturbatory, navel-gazing bandwagon and offer my two cents and pretend that this little space I’ve carved out on the internets has any sort of influence at all.

The “conversation” largely began on the prolific and insightful “A Good Beer Blog.” Author Alan McLeod had offered up his opinion (as beer writers are wont to do) on an interesting little project being conducted by a co-operative of Ontario brewers who, in a nutshell, are attempting to brew beer adhering to ancient Belgian techniques that will, hopefully, see the beer fermented by wild indigenous yeasts the Brewers are hoping will drift into the open brewing vessels.

This is a broadly simplified explanation, and many other media outlets have done a much more detailed job, so feel free to seek them out if you want more information on the project (though be forewarned, none of them seem to answer my first question about the whole process, namely, won’t birds poop in the beer?!). Continue reading


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When drinking local becomes a problem: Locarexia Nervoso

I have a problem.

I didn’t realize it was a problem until quite recently but a couple events have made it quite clear that it’s real and it’s something I need to deal with.

The first time I knew I had a problem was following a softball game. My team, comprising a number of work colleagues, opted to hit a bar in order to drown our sorrows following a 20-10 routing and, since it was the nearest bar to the diamond, we had the unfortunate experience of visiting The Dog’s Bollocks on Queen.

Now, to be clear, I don’t really mean to slag The Dog’s Bollocks–I recognize that it is a pub and that its most endearing qualities are intended to be its cheap draft, bar food, and numerous TV screens.

I’m no dummy. I wouldn’t expect gourmet from an establishment named after an animal’s nut sack. But my experience was not great–and it’s largely due to my psychological issue. Continue reading


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Danforth Shmanforth: To the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival!

Unless you live in a cave, you’re probably aware that this weekend is the annual tribute to most things Greek of the Danforth (think more souvlaki and Greek music, less economic collapse and political turmoil).

In fact, this weekend is the 19th annual Taste of The Danforth,  Canada’s largest street festival, which, according to their website, welcomes over 1.3 million visitors (I’m assuming that’s cumulative…).

And while I’m a big fan of gyros, the odd bottle of Mythos, and the Taste of The Danforth generally, this year I think I’ll skip it.

Instead, I’m heading to the first annual Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival, taking place, appropriately enough, at Roundhouse Park. Continue reading


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Drinking Ontario – The Rifleman’s Ration

For the past week or so, I’ve been at a cottage which is situated virtually on the beach at Lake Huron and which, for whatever reason, has virtually no cell phone reception, and no trace of anything like an “internet service provider.” Accordingly, as you might imagine, I’ve had very few decisions to make every day aside from how early I should crack my first beer and when I need to fire up the barbecue for lunch. I’ve also had ample time under the influence to create stupid word combinations–or stuwocombos–in an effort to save time.

It’s possible I got too much sun.

Anyway, in order to prepare for my vacation, I first took a trip to the Summerhill LCBO, aka my happy place. As a sort of experiment and a means by which to drunkenly preach my own fiercely local brand of craft beer evangelism when people joined my wife and I at the cottage, I made it my mission to bring up almost exclusively Ontario-made beers. Continue reading


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Six Things You Didn’t Know About Steam Whistle

20120618 - Steam Whistle tap.JPG

Arguably no beer is more implicitly associated with Toronto than Steam Whistle. Their easy-to-drink style and prominence in most bars in the city makes Steam Whistle a reliable go-to beer for a lot of beer-drinking Torontonians and the tourist-friendly location of their brewery means that Steam Whistle is a requisite stop for a lot of visiting Jays fans looking to get a bit of a buzz before surrendering to the $9-for-a-watery-macro-lager nonsense that is the Roger’s Centre. Like it or not when people think beer and Toronto, they most likely think Steam Whistle. But how much do you really know about Toronto’s biggest craft brewer?

Here are six things you probably didn’t know about that beer in the distinctive green bottle. Continue reading


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Your Roadmap to Craft Beer in Toronto

There’s probably nothing more frustrating than being out in the city, suddenly struck with a powerful thirst and you find yourself surrounded by nothing but franchise bars pouring macro-lagers.

It’s these rage-inducing times–when servers offer up Blue when you ask for something local–that led me to create this, a Roadmap to Craft Beer in Toronto.

It’s just a custom Google map (so you may find it easier to navigate through Google as opposed to in this embedded map), but I endeavoured to include the finest bars offering up craft beer in the city, as well as local breweries, and Toronto-area LCBOs so that you’ll always be able to find the closest craft beer.

May you never be forced to drink a Stella again!

This should probably be an iphone app or something (if it isn’t already) but I don’t have the technical know-how or patience for that (I drink a lot). If you’re an app developer, please feel free to steal this idea so that I may a) use it and then b) sue you.

Got a great beer bar that I missed? Let me know about it in the comments section.


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Beer? Cocktails? Liquor? Problem solved.

There’s been a lot of debate lately in the world of Toronto alcohol enthusiasts over the merit of cocktails.

Toronto lifestyle publications like the Grid and blogTO seem to have amped up their cocktail coverage, and stories abound in the dailies about the complex new places that mixology is taking Toronto’s drinkers.

The mixed-libation trend seems even to have spilled over (pun!) into the world of beer.

Beer cocktails seem to have reached a new level of prominence and you can even find beer cocktail recipes from certified cicerone, beerologist, and blogger, Mirella Amato in the current issue of the LCBO’s Food and Drink magazine.

[Semi-related sidenote: Back in March the beer cocktail debate really began to rage (as much as online writing about beer can rage…) when Andy Crouch, author of BeerScribe.com called for “Death to Beer Cocktails.”

Ezra Johnson-Greenough, founder of The New School craft beer commentary blog then responded with a somewhat-less-than-subtly-titled “Andy Crouch is a Big Fat Idiot” and various other beer bloggers joined the fray on both sides.

The fracas ultimately culminated in Toronto’s own Stephen Beaumont calling for cooler heads to prevail by noting the “Futility of Either/Or Thinking.”]

In short, things seem to be getting pretty crazy in the world of Toronto libations in general and, as Christine Sismondo summed up in an excellent HuffPo article this week about how exactly we got here, the “mixology” craziness has even reached a point where “today’s professional craft cocktail makers create syrups from scratch and hand-carve ice to achieve specific levels of coldness suited to the level of dilution required.”

Uh, alright then.

Toronto bartenders, it seems, are going to great and weird lengths to one-up each other with the most original concotions and some of them seem to bringing all the annoyingly pretentious aspects of foodie-ism to my favourite past-time; namely, getting drunk.

Continue reading