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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Are beer drinking Saskatchewan football fans getting a rough ride?

Beer drinking fans of Saskatchewan’s CFL team appear to be getting something of a rough ride when it comes to their choices this season.

That’s because the Roughriders’ new stadium, which opened in August of 2016 and is slated to host its first regular season CFL game on Canada Day, appears poised to pour Molson-Coors products exclusively, despite much lip-service paid to craft brewers in the run up to Mosaic Stadium’s opening.

Now, exclusivity in arenas and stadiums likely won’t be all that shocking to most readers given that in Canada we’ve become accustom to a team entering a “partnership” with either Molson or Labatt (despite the fact that it is technically illegal in Ontario). Jays fans will note the all AB-InBev beer lineup at the Rogers Centre and fondly recall the shit show that resulted when the organization dared to offer Steam Whistle for one glorious season.

But the Saskatchewan Roughriders aren’t a privately owned team run by Canada’s biggest telecommunications company and their new stadium isn’t owned by any private entity. Continue reading


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Bigger isn’t better: The philosophical currency of craft beer

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Big beer companies appear to be coming for our beloved craft breweries.

In the United States we’ve seen big brewers buy up Pyramid, Magic Hat, Anchor Steam, Kona, Goose Island, Blue Point Brewery Co, 10 Barrel Brewing, and Elysian. Much closer to home, through Labatt, we’ve just seen AB InBev make what will almost certainly be the first of at least a couple moves into the Canadian “craft” market by buying up Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery.

And while our instincts may be to arm ourselves and barricade the doors of our favourite local brewpub–or worse, take to greasy laptops in our collective mothers’ basements in order to fill the internet with cries of “sell out,”–we really probably shouldn’t panic. Because whatever big beer’s designs might be, I don’t think they’re going to work.
Continue reading


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On selling out

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You’ll never understand it
Try to buy and brand it
I win, you lose, cause it’s my job
To keep craft beer elite.
This beverage ain’t your fuckin’ industry.

~Fat Mike, if he were a beer blogger, probably. 

As it is with music, there is an important distinction in beer between what we might define as that which is indie and that which we might deem corporate.

Craft beer, you might say, is  something generally akin to your favourite band that’s still playing local clubs, manning their own merch tables, and banging out records on a small record label–or even no label at all. Much like craft breweries, indie bands maintain a devoted local following because they make a quality product and there is a perception that they do what they do because they love it and they’re not just in it for the money, man.

By the same token, we might readily compare big breweries to something along the lines of a boy band or the Spice Girls: a sort of fabricated version of the concept of a “band,” assembled by people with an understanding of the market and a unique ability to create a product that will have mass appeal. It’s often a profoundly successful “product,” but to those who are passionate about the scene, it’s a watered down, passionless version of what should be a good thing.

This is a simplified analogy for sure, but to me there are actually a lot of parallels between craft beer and independent music, the most notable of which is that rather icky feeling we all get when a treasured brewery or band suddenly becomes financially successful. Continue reading


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Wining and Dining at The ACC

Call it a throwback Thursday if you want, but this post originally appeared on Post City in November of 2013. I recently had occasion to revisit it and thought it might be worth sharing again (i.e. I’m a little busy right now and this is an excellently lazy way to get a little blog traffic today!)

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W hile recent years have done much to lower our expectations when it comes to the athletes who call the Air Canada Centre home, there is a group of people who happen to work in the same building who put in a remarkable effort every single Leafs and Raptors game (not to mention Toronto Rock games and all the concerts).

They are the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment food service employees and, while the city has clearly grown all too forgiving when it comes to “off nights” from both the Raptors and the Leafs, we’re far less apt to show forgiveness when it comes to the beer and hotdog we buy at the game, so these people need to be on their game.

Thankfully, it’s a responsibility they take seriously. As Robert Bartley, Senior Director of Food and Beverage will tell you, “We like to think of it as hosting a dinner party for 18,000 people every night.”

Indeed, the ACC is one of only a handful of professional sports facilities that opt to cook for their dinner guests themselves. Most sports facilities, like The Rogers Centre down the street, contract third parties to handle foodservice. The Jays, for example, have left the foodservice to Aramark, a massive US-based foodservice company that handles sports facilities in addition to educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and even prisons. Continue reading


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Hops and Bolts: So how’s the beer?

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You may or may not have seen the intriguing art that festoons the can of Mad and Noisy’s Hops and Bolts at your local LCBO store or plastered on walls around the city and in print ads in newspapers and magazine. And you may or may not have, like me,  seen the cool art and the word “hops” figuring prominently in the name of the beer and thought, “Fuck yeah” and happily bought an eight-pack of tall cans with no hesitation.

And if you’re like me, you were thoroughly disappointed. Continue reading