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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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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Old Man Johnson IPA is coming to Bryden’s

Perhaps the beer should have been called "Dork in a sweatshirt"

Perhaps the beer should have been called “Dork in a sweatshirt”

A month ago, I contacted the folks at Great Lakes Brewery to see if I might come out to do little profile and photo spread for blogTO (a post that, aptly, ended up being called “Behind the scenes at Great Lakes Brewery“). When I called, the always congenial Troy Burtch, GLB’s resident social media dude and sales rep, said “Why don’t you come out and brew a collaborative beer with Lackey?” As you can imagine, my answer was something along the lines of “Fuck yes.”

And so on a rainy Friday last month, I got the opportunity to brew a beer with Mike Lackey, a guy who’s been making beer for over 20 years and who’s responsible for some of my favourite local options of the past little while. And when I say “brew a beer with” I mostly mean “added the stuff he told me to add then manned the brew kettle while he disappeared and reappeared sporadically to make sure I didn’t hurt myself/burn the place down.” Continue reading