The best beer I’ve ever had: Troy Burtch

Recently, I shared an occasion that had me considering the emotional connection one can have with a beer-drinking experience when I wrote “The best beer I’ve ever had.” I put the call out to other beer folks and asked them to detail their “best beer” experiences for me for a series aptly titled, The best beer I’ve ever had.

For this entry, Troy Burtch, sales and social media guy for Great Lakes Brewery, publisher of The Great Canadian Beer Blog, and co-founder of Toronto Beer Week, talks about his best beer experience(s). 

The short answer is that I’m still on the hunt for the best beer experience, trying as many beers out there as possible. That being said, there have been numerous times where I’ve pulled myself up to a bar, supped a pint, and exclaimed to myself that that was the best beer I ever had.

Here are a couple of those instances…

Years ago–and I mean years ago–I was the President of the Students’ Administrative Council at the college I was attending. One of the perks of the position was the involvement in running the student pub on campus. Right before the new school year started, a colleague and I were tasked with the hard job of meeting with different beer reps to see how we could work together for the year. We met with Labatt’s (who were pushing Alexander Keith’s and Labatt Blue), Molson’s (Canadian and Coors Light) and a rep from a new brewing company in Toronto – Steam Whistle. Being a Keith’s drinker at the time, I was swinging in their direction…until I tasted the Steam Whistle, and, well, today I’m a craft beer drinker. The beer, a cold bottle provided to us by the rep, was the perfect beer for that moment.

An epiphany.

We were meeting outside on the pub patio and that bottle of Steam Whistle was damn near the perfect beer–the best I had yet to have, until one day in 2008 at the Victory Cafe…

I was working for the Ontario Government at the time, writing the Great Canadian Beer Blog in my spare time and contributing to TAPS The Beer Magazine (Canada’s Beer Magazine at the time), and I decided to walk from College and Bay to the Victory Cafe (Bloor and Markham) to cover the Orange Peel Ale launch party being thrown by Great Lakes Brewery. It was a hot day. The walk built up a huge thirst. I arrived at the Victory early for the launch so I went downstairs to have a pint at the bar with Peter Bulut. Jr., President of GLB. The bartender informed us that he had just tapped a pin of Granite’s Best Bitter Special, a beer I love, and that he could draw me the first pint. I’ve had this beer many many times before, but something about this pint was unbelievable. I’ll always remember that pint to this day. And the two that followed!

There have also been moments during trips to Belgium that blew my mind where I was drinking very old Orval draught with the owner of a local beer. The setting was right. The beer was simply amazing. The people I was surrounded by made everything perfect. Those glasses of Orval were the best beers I’ve ever had…that night.

I also had bottles of Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde and Maudite on every table for my guests during my wedding, side by side with the complimentary wine, and each sip from those bottles that night were the best…

Like I said, I’m still searching for the best beer ever, but to be honest, I hope that I never find it.

I hope that the moments that lead to the thought “this is the best beer ever” continue to happen regularly, and frankly, with the amount of beer I find myself drinking, I don’t think that will be an issue.

Actually, the Audrey Hopburn Belgian IPA I’m drinking right now as I type this is probably the best beer I’ve ever had…until tomorrow.

The best beer I’ve ever had: Crystal Luxmore

Last week, I shared an occasion that had me considering the emotional connection one can have with a beer-drinking experience when I wrote “The best beer I’ve ever had.” I put the call out to other beer folks and asked them to detail their “best beer” experiences for me for a series aptly titled, The best beer I’ve ever had. For my first guest entry, Crystal Luxmore, beer writer, editor, Certified Cicerone and a Prud’homme Beer Sommelier, talks about her best beer experience. 

I was at Real Sports Bar and Grill at the Air Canada Centre, killing time before the Jays game. I was eating wings and watching my sister, husband, and brothers-in-law down pints because I was eight months pregnant and hadn’t had an entire pint of beer since finding out the news 7 months before.

I refreshed my email and saw a message titled: “Certified Cicerone Exam Results – Crystal Luxmore.”

I’d seen this message once before — in January — when I had come a few percentage points short of the 80% needed to pass. So in May, I’d flown to Chicago to sit the exam one more time, hoping to pass the sucker before my baby came.

This time I read as far as:

On behalf of Cicerone Program Director Ray Daniels and the Cicerone Exam Management Team, I’d like to congratulate you on passing the Certified Cicerone® exam!

before screaming “Yes!” and breaking out into a wild grin.

Ten minutes later I decided it was time for the first full pint of my pregnancy — I chose Creemore, one of the first great Canadian craft lagers of my generation and still a favourite of mine.

Never have beer and wings tasted so good.

I suspect, however, with only a week to go until my due date, that the first full bottle of beer I have after giving birth might taste even better.

The best beer I’ve ever had

On Friday July 19, 2013, my son was born.

As is to be expected, his birth did not go entirely as we had planned it to go. It was a traumatic experience for him, for his mom, and for me. As a result of his traumatic birth, he didn’t get to stay with us for very long before he was whisked off to the newborn intensive care unit for observation.

He’s fine, but the fact that he spent his first two days in the world in an incubator on a different floor of the hospital than our recovery room made for a pretty emotional start to his life (for his parents much more than for him I’m sure—we had to wake up every three hours to come down to feed and hold him, he was warm and safe and sleeping and probably didn’t even notice).

As anyone who’s had a baby can likely attest, you don’t get much sleep in the first little while. On top of that usual lack of sleep, we had the emotionally draining experience of having to frequently visit—and then leave—our son throughout the night. All told, by the time he was actually with us in our hospital room on Sunday July 21st, we’d probably had less than 10 hours sleep in the 65 hours since we had taken a cab to the hospital at 4am on Friday morning and a good portion of the time we’d been awake had been spent crying.

Needless to say, we were frazzled.

On the night our son finally joined us in our room, my wife spent a considerable amount of time holding and breastfeeding our son until she finally slipped into what I imagine was the first real sleep she’d had in some time. When she did, I took over (the holding, not the breastfeeding) and turned on the TV. It was then that my father-in-law offered me a beer—something that my in-laws had slipped in with the food and clean clothes they’d brought to the hospital “just in case.”

It was in this state—emotionally drained, tired to an extreme I’d never before experienced, and overjoyed to finally, permanently have our son with us—that I drank what was without a doubt the best beer I’ve ever had. My newborn son was in my arms, there was a baseball game on the TV in our room—a Baltimore Orioles/Texas Rangers game that history tells me the Rangers lost 4-2—and I was finally able to relax. The beer, incidentally, was a can of Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA, but frankly I’m not sure that matters all that much. Mad Tom is without a doubt a great beer, but truth be told, I don’t think I even finished it.

This experience has inspired me to explore the emotional component that sometimes accompanies a great beer and I’ve asked a handful of “beer folks”–brewers, writers, and industry folks–to detail their best beer experience in a series aptly titled “The best beer I’ve ever had.” I’ll share their stories with you here in the coming weeks.