Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Five more points about contract brewing

Last week, I wrote a piece for  the Globe and Mail about contract brewing, the practice wherein brewing companies or virtual breweries rent space from larger facilities to make their beer.

Given the constraints of the 800 words I was alotted, there was much I did not have time to dig in on and so the final piece was something of an overview of the practice, with some brief discussion of why it might be growing in popularity–especially in Ontario–with some insight from a business owner, Shehan De Silva of Lost Craft Beer, who has had success with this model, and from a bricks and mortar brewery owner, Jason Fisher of the Indie Ale House, who is generally opposed to this model for what he feels it brings (or doesn’t) to the industry as a whole.

The article was intentionally targeted at the Globe and Mail’s “general audience” and so much of the beer geekery I might have dug in on was omitted. Accordingly the responses from beer industry folks on twitter, Facebook, and my email were passionate and varied. Interestingly, the article seemed to simply confirm everyone’s beliefs no matter which side of the argument you might be on. Both virtual brewers and bricks and mortar brewers have reached out to me in the interim to say I had represented their side well (Not to toot my own horn, but beep fucking beep).

Also of interest, one owner of a contract brewing facility says he was subsequently inundated with calls from interested new brewing companies. Er, sorry / you’re welcome, Ontario?

Anyway, here are some mostly random tidbits I had hoped to include but couldn’t. Continue reading


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The problematic relationship between small brewers and new restaurants

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Starting a restaurant is a risky and expensive endeavour. In Toronto especially where there is a plethora of great places to eat and a handful of new places opening (and closing) every week, it’s exceedingly difficult for new restaurants to set themselves apart from the crowd and even if a new restaurant manages some modicum of success, it’s likely that for the first little while their profit margins will be razor thin.

Accordingly, restaurateurs often look for places to cut costs and rely on innovative marketing techniques and partnerships to get themselves known. Many restaurants in Toronto start their businesses as pop- up shops or food trucks hoping to build a reputation for their food so that they might either save up the capital or seek backers for the larger financial investment required to start their own restaurants.

To anyone with any involvement in the craft beer industry, this story might sound fairly familiar. Continue reading


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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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Indie Alehouse is Brewing Some Fantastic Beers

Jason Fisher had been dreaming of opening a brewpub for years. But his long, difficult struggle to get the Indie Alehouse open was finally coming to fruition and he was about to share his beer–recipes for some of which he had held onto for years–with the world.

Five minutes after finally getting a liquor licence and becoming legally entitled to pour the fruits of his labour for thirsty residents of the Junction, he opened the doors and welcomed a customer–a Junction resident–who told him how excited she was that the doors were finally open on the neighbourhood’s first brewpub. So she placed her order–for a glass of wine. Continue reading