Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Muskoka Brewery’s one-off beer game changer

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Muskoka Brewery appears poised to bring their A game to 2017.

As I’ve noted of the Bracebridge brewers before, I feel like they’re in something of a weird spot thanks to their size: they’re often regarded by beer nerds as “big craft” thanks to the fact that they’ve been around a while and they’ve enjoyed some commercial success but they’re also interested in continuing to make interesting beer so their offerings don’t always necessarily play directly to Joe Sixpack’s palate. Try, as I once did, giving Mad Tom to your Budweiser-swilling uncle, for example.

So it’s interesting to watch their struggle, which is unique to only a handful of craft brewers in Ontario thus far: How do they keep growing without losing “craft cred?” How do they keep their Cream Ale-chugging local base and appease the Toronto neck beards?

Well, you gotta try some new shit, or risk getting stagnant. Continue reading


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Five local stouts you should drink, and why you should drink them

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Despite nearly five years writing fairly regular “top [number] beers for [occasion]” posts for blogTO, I’m actually not a huge believer in the idea that you need to change your drinking habits based on the seasons.

Drink juicy IPAs in the winter if you want. Enjoy boozy, barrel-aged beasts in the throes of August. Drink Pumpkin beer never. Whatever.

That being said, I do find that I tend to crave darker beer around the time the leaves start to change and so this seems like as as good a time as any to take a look at what I feel is an oddly-overlooked category here in Ontario, namely stouts. Now I know there are plenty of brewers who make great imperial stouts, and I know that there are brewers who make seasonal, occasional, or one-off stouts, but frankly I’m not sure when we decided that that dark beer was something we only needed from time to time and when we decided stouts needed to have double digit ABV, be bourbon-barrel aged, or include chili-peppers, or vanilla.

And so with that in mind here are five well-made, widely-available, year-round stouts (and one probably-soon-to-be-year-round) that are worth checking out this fall. Or winter. Or whenever. Continue reading


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The Ontario beer state of the union

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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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Muskoka Brewery celebrates 20 years

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Muskoka Brewery was probably part of your discovery of Ontario craft beer, even if you don’t think they were.

Since they opened the doors in 1996 with a cream ale and steadily became more adventurous as Ontario beer drinkers’ palates evolved, their growth as a company has essentially mirrored the growth of Ontario’s craft beer scene. It’s almost certain that they’re responsible for bringing people on board with the idea that supporting local beer is rewarding and then, by degrees, that beer can be a little more adventurous than the shit people typically buy at The Beer Store.

This year Muskoka Brewery is celebrating their 20th anniversary and, to mark the occasion, they have a handful of cool things going on. Continue reading


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Update: Matt Soos Project Brew Memorial Fund established

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Back in November I shared a story about the passing of Matt Soos, a 2014 graduate of Niagara College’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program. Matt passed away just a few months after commencing work as a brewer at Muskoka Brewery.

In that post, I wrote about Natterjack Toad, a 7% ABV Belgian Strong brewed with pistachios and created from one of Matt’s own recipes. Matt’s friends and family traveled to Muskoka Brewery in Granvehurst to brew the beer and the proceeds of its sale were to go toward a scholarship in Matt’s name.

A few days ago I received an email from Dan Soos, Matt’s older brother, letting me know that on February 19th, Matt’s family presented a cheque to Niagara College in the amount of $31,800 for the creation of the Matt Soos Project Brew Memorial Fund. Continue reading


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Brewer Matt Soos honoured with a memorial beer

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For anyone who has had much involvement with Ontario’s craft beer industry, you get to know fairly quickly that “industry” probably isn’t even the right term for this group.

Yes, they are making and selling a product and running a business, but for the most part, the people making and selling beer at small breweries in this province are much more of a community than they are an “industry.” They all know the same people, they sometimes went to school together, they usually face the same struggles, they are often sharing resources and–increasingly–they even brew their beer in the same parent facility.

And while there can occasionally be some infighting or gossip about petty things like who’s swiping kegs from other brewers, who’s “copying” someone’s latest beer style or label, etc. it is, for the most part, a community that works together, collaborates on ideas, and shares in each other’s achievements as craft beer grows in Ontario.

They also come together as a community when they are faced with tragedy. Continue reading


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A first look at Sawdust City’s new brewery

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“If I have to answer another fucking email from people asking when we open.”

It’s early on a rainy Tuesday morning in Gravenhurst, Ontario and Sam Corbeil, Brewmaster at Sawdust City, is half-joking about what he admits is a pretty good problem to have: Future customers are eagerly anticipating the opening of his brewery and continue to contact him to find out when they can buy his wares. “I’ve already got two emails today and it’s not even noon,” he says, laughing. Continue reading