Ben's Beer Blog

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The Friday Four 12/15/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking.

Kensington Brewing Co. 
Mango Low Boy, Neu Rodes, and Temper Temper

My craft beer journey actually started with Kensington Brewing Company.

It was 2011 and Toronto’ foremost digital journal of record, blogTO, had put out a call for a beer writer. I was a writer who liked beer so I threw my hat in the ring and submitted an application.

Then,  I had a lot to learn about beer.

Thankfully, as anyone with experience in craft beer will know, most of the folks working in or enjoying craft beer are happy to chat so I quickly found people eager to school me and share some insight. One of the very first people to do so was Brock Shepherd, who, at the time, was the founder and sole employee of the eight month-old Kensington Brewing Company. He was also the owner and operator of Burger Bar, which even as late as 2011 was something of a rarity in that it was a restaurant where the beer on tap was entirely local craft beer and there was even a cask engine. There were also occasional health code violations, but I considered that all part of the charm.

I met Brock under the guise of digging for a story–and eventually wrote this one, about how Augusta Ale was soon to arrive in bottles (even though I’m not entirely sure it ever actually did)–and I ended up sitting and chatting (and drinking) with Brock for at least a few hours.

Brock was one of my first interactions with someone who had that certain passion for craft beer–the kind where some annoying wannabe writer shows up when you’re trying to run a business but you end up chatting with him for hours just because you dig craft beer. At that time, Brock was getting some media buzz for attempting to grow usable hops around Kensington Market and was planning to open a nano-brewery in the back of Burger Bar while continuing to contract brew his production beer under the watchful tutelage of Paul Dickey (at the time, this was still a novel idea and not a marketing plan they teach you at Niagara Brewing College. I kid, I kid). Continue reading


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The Friday Four 11/24/2017

The Friday Four is a weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking. 

Cowbell Brewery
Shindig Huron County Lager

Somehow, during all the hullabaloo about the opening of the Disneyworld of Beer, aka Cowbell in Blyth, I missed the news that they created a lager and launched it on their opening weekend, dedicating it to “the hard working men and women who built the Blyth brewing facility.” Shindig Huron County Lager has apparently been available on tap at the brewery ever since and, a press release I received Wednesday tells me, has been so popular, the company has decided to make it their fourth canned beer.

Shindig is described as a “remarkably crisp, clean and refreshing beer” and will be available in 355ml cans at The Cowbell General Store and The Beer Store. Maybe it’s all the dark and boozy winter-appropriate offerings I’ve been into as of late, but a new lager in small cans (from a company that has thus far produced some solid offerings) sounds right up my alley this week. And just think of the extra sales they’ll see by confused consumers who think it’s a new Bellwoods beer.


Oud Beersel
Oude Geuze Vielle

I became aware this was available here in Ontario because I follow Keep 6 Imports on instagram and did an LCBO online order (apparently these aren’t that hard to find if you live in TO, but, as people tend to forget, some folks actually don’t live in Toronto).

As it’s an Oude Geuze, this is a blend of one, two, and three year-old lambics, and is an effervescent, slightly fruity, subtly funky, tart lil’ beauty. There’s a touch of wood and some earthiness that grows as it warms. Is there such a thing as a “go-to” lambic? If  so, this would be a candidate. I bought ten of these. I wish I bought more. I’m drinking one right now. Continue reading


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The Friday Four 11/17/2017

The Friday Four is a (new) weekly feature where I mention some beers I either drank this week, am currently drinking, or am looking forward to drinking. 

Brasseurs du Monde
Célébrante 375

Included in a handful of beers my brother brought me from the dep near his house in Montreal last time he visited, this beer is a “mellow blonde beer with champagne yeast.” The label listed tasting notes that suggested I could expect “low bitterness” and noted “it delivers honey, pear, orange and lemon flavours.” I didn’t catch most of these notes and instead this came off as a sort of overly-boozy blonde with an almost overbearing rounded pear note. I didn’t actually finish it. Sorry, brother. I include it here though to note what might be the first instance of  casual colonialism I’ve ever seen on a beer label. Brewed to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, the label includes this gem: “With courage and preserverance, Maisonneauve and his settlers founded Montreal on the site of an Iriquois village called Hochlega 375 years ago.” Right on the site of an existing village. What courage!


Sawdust City
Long Dark Voyage to Uranus

Previous batches of LDV have been a weird and impressive balance of rich, bitter, and dry that somewhat manages to be far more dangerously smooth than its hefty 9.5% imperial ABV would suggest. Possibly one of the best imperial stouts in the province–and definitely the best beer I know of that involves butthole word play–LDV is slated to return to LCBO shelves November 23rd and appears to already be on tap at a couple bars.


Block Three Brewing Co.
Frankenstout

On Monday, I undertook the overdue task of cleaning out my second beer fridge. Yes, there are two. I had a ton of beer that I knew I’d never drink (i.e. because it was terrible) or that appeared to be past its prime per its date stamps. It turns out I had a Frankenstout from November 2016 in the fridge and, given its lowish (5%) ABV I wasn’t sure how it might have held up. Turns out it was just fine. I took a whiff from the bottle and had to get a glass. Rich aromas, semi-dry finish, etc. and not over-bearing. A very nice accompaniment to pouring other beers into my laundry tub.
I forgot to take a picture so here’s Boris Karloff. 


Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout

The folks at Beau’s sent me this variant of their popular Tom Green Beer milk stout about a month ago but I’ve been too much in denial to admit the winter months I associate with stouts are  here to dig in on the dark stuff–as you can see from the inaugural Friday Four, I’ve accepted that winter is around the corner and I’m diving into dark beers wholeheartedly. Tom Green Cherry Milk Stout is a black-brown with reddish highlights and it was doing that crazy growing head thing where I had to keep an eye on the glass to watch the ever-expanding off-white foam creeping higher. There are nice roasted malt and subtle chocolate flavours in this one and, while the tasting notes suggested sweet “dessert-like” cherry, I detected would I’d call a semi-sour smooch (a technical term) of sour black cherry. Very nice beer.

 

What are you drinking this weekend?


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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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80 alternatives to Guinness to drink this St. Patrick’s Day

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Guinness is a pretty great beer.

It’s got a long storied history dating back to roughly 1770, is arguably one of the most famous beer brands in the entire world, and will forever be the stout against which all other stouts are measured.

It also tastes good. I enjoy an occasional Guinness and you’ll likely find that, if you’re with a fan of good beer but trapped in some shitty bar where the tap lines are all purchased by breweries, that beer fan will likely just order a Guinness because, among the other ubiquitous big names, it’s generally the one consistently reliable and decent beer that’s available virtually everywhere and, provided the beer is fresh and the lines are clean, is an interesting, comforting, rich, and creamy stout.

But come every god damn March, I come to hate Guinness. I detest the idea that we’re supposed to drink more of the black stuff–which already sells in excess of 850 million litres a year–in order to commemorate the death of Ireland’s patron saint. There is so much Guinness marketing crammed down our throats in the lead-up to March 17th every year that it’s enough to make you rage vomit bile so thick and creamy as to rival the famous dry stout itself.

So this St. Patrick’s day, I say fuck Guinness.

The notion that we have to drink a certain thing on a certain day just because a huge marketing campaign tells us we have to is bullshit, man *flips collar on leather jacket, lights cigarette*

If you must go out and drink or otherwise celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland or mark the occasion of the lifting of Lenten restrictions you almost certainly don’t actually follow, why not drink something else? Continue reading


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Win tickets to the Back Alley Beer Festival at Stout Irish Pub

Stout

Here are two things you should already know:

  1. Ontario Craft Beer Week officially kicks off on June 16th and continues until June 23rd.
  2. Stout Irish Pub on Carlton near Parliament is the best bar in Cabbagetown.

Here are two things you probably didn’t know but you are going to like:

  1. Stout Irish Pub is hosting the awesomeley named “Back Alley Beer Festival” on Saturday June 15 to put you and your liver through the paces as a perfect warm up to OCB Week by pouring beer from over 20 different great craft brewers
  2. I’m giving away four free passes to said awesomely-named event.

All you have to do for a chance to win is post a comment on this very post letting me know why you prefer to drink Ontario beer. I’ll randomly select two winners and each winner will win a pair of passes (so use your real email address when you sign in to comment).

Your free pass will include your admission (which the plebs will be shelling out $20 for) and five tickets each good for a 5oz sample drink.

TWIST: While I’ll select the winning comments at random from a hat (an actual hat!) every comment that I find funny will go into the hat twice, meaning you get a second chance to win if you can just make this dead-inside beer blogger muster a chuckle.

So….why do you prefer to drink Ontario beer?

Pot-sweetening update June 12: The folks at Stout have just offered up 10 Stout-branded frisbees as runner-up prizes. First beer, now frisbees? Can this contest get any better?!