Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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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


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

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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.


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Ontario is getting tanked

Left Field Brewery New Tank

Apparently there was a sale on brewing equipment this month.

That seems to be the most valid explanation for the fact that a handful of Ontario breweries all opted to up their capacity and production capabilities this past couple weeks by adding a considerable amount of volume to their respective brewing operations.

Toronto’s Muddy York Brewing upped their capacity by 33% this week when they got in three new 7bbl (10hL) jacketed fermenters. Owner Jeff Manol tells me that this will give him the ability to lager things a bit more and do some bigger beers that can age (yay and yay). He hopes to have the new tanks in once they repaint their floors and finish the new glycol lines, and after that he says the company is set to build their taproom bar and hopefully have a tasting room open by June at the latest. Nice.

Left Field Brewery, also in Toronto, celebrated a fourth anniversary this month by not only coming to visit me (and other people) in London for an 11-tap takeover at Pub Milos, they also put in three 40bbl (40!)  fermenters and a 40bbl brite tank–upping their game from five fermenters and one brite. NICE. 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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10 totally true facts about Toronto Beer Week

tbw

In a few hours, Toronto Beer Week will kick off with a launch party at the Summerhill LCBO.

The next week will feature a slew of events in and around the city and even an official beer, Interloper, a barrel-aged, blended farmhouse beer made by Indie Alehouse and available at the LCBO, participating TBW bars and at Indie’s bottleshop.

That much you probably already knew.

But to help you make the most of your Toronto Beer Week and give you the inside scoop, I’ve put together this list of 10 totally true facts about Toronto Beer Week.

Everything written here is totally 100% true. Obviously. Continue reading


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Mike Lackey: The Proost Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire is a famous questionnaire about one’s personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses once given by the French writer Marcel Proust. Ben’s Beer Blog has co-opted this format in order to provide a revealing look at people making beer and working in the beer industry in Ontario. As such, I’ve renamed it The Proost Questionnaire, since “proost” is the Dutch word for cheers. Clever right?

Mike Lackey is the head brewer for Etobicoke’s Great Lakes Brewery. Here, the man responsible for some of your favourite IPAs goes deep to talk about his favourite jacket and his secret love of bees.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Having a beer with the game on in the backyard.

What is your greatest fear?

My wife one day realizing that she can do way better than me.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Living in the same neighbourhood, keeping the same job and keeping many of the same friends through most of my life.

What is your favorite occupation?

Playing hockey. Continue reading


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Contest: Win two tickets to The Craftmas Beer Experience

You checked our shitters, honey?

CONTEST CLOSED: 

Congratulations to Phil for his winning comment and xmas movie and beer pairing:

Die Hard paired with Maclean’s Pale Ale because Yippy Ki Ay Mother Fucker!

Call me a sentimental son of a bitch but a comment that references my favourite Christmas movie, names an Ontario craft beer, and drops an eff bomb seems to me like what the holidays are all about. Congrats, Phil! Enjoy the Craftmas Beer Experience.

This holiday season, the folks who have brought The Beer Experience to Berkeley Church for the last two years as part of Toronto Beer Week are getting into the festive spirit.

The innaugural, aptly (if awkwardly) named winter equivalent, Craftmas Beer Experience, promises much of the same elements that have made The Beer Experience a success the past couple of years–and Ben’s Beer Blog wants to send you and a friend to the event to check it out.

Happening at District 28 near Toronto’s Port Lands on Thursday December 4th, The Craftmas Beer Experiences promises unique and festive beers from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co, Black Oak Brewing, Cameron’s, Creemore Springs, Great Lakes Brewery, Junction Craft Brewing, Kensington Brewing Company, Mill Street, and Wellington, among others. There will also be food provided by Matt Basile’s Lisa Marie Food Truck.

Tickets, which include five drink tokens, can be purchased in advance for $25 each, but for one lucky Ben’s Beer Blog reader Christmas is comin’ early, because we’re giving away two tickets! Ho, ho, effing ho.

In the spirit of the season, to enter, simply leave a comment here letting me know your favourite Christmas movie, the perfect beer to pair with it, and why.

On Monday December 1st, the contest closes and I’ll pick the best/most entertaining entry to receive two free tickets. Preference may or may not be given to people who spread word of this contest via twitter.

(Use your real email address when you comment so that I know how to contact you)