Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Amsterdam’s Iain McOustra on what to expect from the brewery’s new Barrel House

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“We have sourced a small 3 hL brewhouse from a manufacturer located in Cambridge, Ontario. Our focus at the Barrelhouse will be on farmhouse ales and barrel-aging.

We have been working with barrels and brettanomyces since 2010 but it is difficult to do so in a working production brewery. Our new location will be a safe space to experiment with different Brett strains as well as aging with bacteria cultures. Our goal is to continue developing our house wild yeast strain while using the space to test different brewing techniques and raw ingredients. It’s essentially a lab, separate from the production brewery, that we can use to focus on making farmhouse ales that we love to drink.

It’s going to be a lot of fun and each of our brewers will have a chance to rotate through and learn about brewing with wild yeast and bacteria.

The majority of our barrels will continue to be stored at the Esandar Brewery (around the corner from the Barrel House). We don’t have enough room to store the entire program onsite at the Barrel House.”

~Iain McOustra, Brewmaster for Amsterdam Brewery, on the company’s forthcoming third location, which will open at the end of September. For a couple more details, check out my brief post in Toronto Life yesterday, here


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For whom the bell tolls: Bellwoods Brewery v. Cowbell Brewing

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ambitious opening of Cowbell Brewing in Blyth. For the most part, news of the 26,000 square foot destination brewery was met with enthusiasm and the responses to the brewery’s opening were almost entirely positive.

But, it would seem, not everyone is so enthusiastic about the coming proliferation of a “beer that rings true.”

Cowbell Brewing, I have learned, has actually been in a quiet legal battle with Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery over Cowbell’s entitlement to register a bell-themed trademark in Canada.

Through the Government of Canada’s publicly available trademarks database, I have learned that Bellwoods Brewery indeed has a registered trademark for its bell design for use in association with beer, operation of a brewery, and a handful of merchandise items. This trademark application was filed  on January 2, 2013 and officially registered on May 27, 2014.

Cowbell Brewery filed an application for their logo on November 19, 2015 and the application includes similar stipulations (though notably includes the addition of “noisemakers, golf towels, golf balls, [and] golf umbrellas,” which those dummies at Bellwoods didn’t think of branding).

A little digging reveals that Bellwoods has formally opposed issuance of a trademark registration to Cowbell for this logo. The opposition is ongoing. Continue reading


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Mill Street beer is now available at the Rogers Centre

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Following the news that the company had been purchased last week by Labatt, Mill Street announced last night via twitter that their beer would now be available to purchase at the Rogers Centre.

Given that Mill Street is now technically owned by the largest beer company in the world, AB InBev, this isn’t really the “craft-beer-at-ball-games” news that many Toronto baseball fans have been hoping for ever since Steam Whistle was unceremoniously given the boot last March; however, it does mean that there is a finally a “Toronto brewery’s” beer for sale at The Rogers Centre.

So…yay? Continue reading


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Are the Blue Jays breaking the law by not offering better beer selection?

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The Toronto Blue Jays are the only team in Major League baseball that doesn’t offer local beer at their baseball games.

Obviously, this sucks.

People who like baseball often also like beer. People who like to go support their local baseball team might conceivably also like to support their local breweries.

The Toronto Blue Jays organization apparently doesn’t give a shit about these people. Instead, they are happy to award exclusivity to the foreign-owned entity that was willing to cough up the biggest chunk of dough for the right to be the only beer sold at the Rogers Centre (if you’re still not sure who exactly I’m talking about, look no further than that glaring Budweiser logo that adorns most of the Toronto Blue Jays’ left field).

There was of course a glimmer of hope recently in March of 2013 when I broke the news that Steamwhistle–the folks making baseball-ready pilsner literally across the street from the Jays–would finally be allowed to sell their beer at the Rogers Centre.

Of course, being able to drink Toronto beer at a Toronto baseball game was short lived and almost exactly one year later, conceivably because the folks at AB InBev had had enough “competition,” I was breaking the news that the Good Beer Folks had been unceremoniously given the boot.

There’s been some rumbling in the interim–notably a petition created by Phil Cacace, the owner of the great Toronto bar, Tall Boys, some scant media coverage, and at least one perennially-irascible Toronto beer writer who has made a point of raising the issue on twitter every once and a while but, for the most part, we’re all pretty much resigned to accepting watery lager to drink while we take in live games of Toronto’s generally watered-down version of professional baseball. Continue reading


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Contest: Win two tickets to The Craftmas Beer Experience

You checked our shitters, honey?

CONTEST CLOSED: 

Congratulations to Phil for his winning comment and xmas movie and beer pairing:

Die Hard paired with Maclean’s Pale Ale because Yippy Ki Ay Mother Fucker!

Call me a sentimental son of a bitch but a comment that references my favourite Christmas movie, names an Ontario craft beer, and drops an eff bomb seems to me like what the holidays are all about. Congrats, Phil! Enjoy the Craftmas Beer Experience.

This holiday season, the folks who have brought The Beer Experience to Berkeley Church for the last two years as part of Toronto Beer Week are getting into the festive spirit.

The innaugural, aptly (if awkwardly) named winter equivalent, Craftmas Beer Experience, promises much of the same elements that have made The Beer Experience a success the past couple of years–and Ben’s Beer Blog wants to send you and a friend to the event to check it out.

Happening at District 28 near Toronto’s Port Lands on Thursday December 4th, The Craftmas Beer Experiences promises unique and festive beers from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co, Black Oak Brewing, Cameron’s, Creemore Springs, Great Lakes Brewery, Junction Craft Brewing, Kensington Brewing Company, Mill Street, and Wellington, among others. There will also be food provided by Matt Basile’s Lisa Marie Food Truck.

Tickets, which include five drink tokens, can be purchased in advance for $25 each, but for one lucky Ben’s Beer Blog reader Christmas is comin’ early, because we’re giving away two tickets! Ho, ho, effing ho.

In the spirit of the season, to enter, simply leave a comment here letting me know your favourite Christmas movie, the perfect beer to pair with it, and why.

On Monday December 1st, the contest closes and I’ll pick the best/most entertaining entry to receive two free tickets. Preference may or may not be given to people who spread word of this contest via twitter.

(Use your real email address when you comment so that I know how to contact you)


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Why don’t restaurants give a shit about beer?

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When it comes to food, wine, and spirits, most of the city’s restaurants have things down.

Look to any ranking of the city’s best restaurants and you’d be hard-pressed to find any among them who haven’t taken some time to cultivate a thought-out list of wines. Since arguably the dawn of going-to-another-place-to-eat-things-made-by-other-people, a separate menu or even a fucking table topper with a list of available vintages has been a practically mandatory requirement.

And it has it been likewise well established that the closer and fresher the ingredients restaurants use to cook their meals, the better said meals will be. Indeed, if you’re in a restaurant that isn’t touting locally-sourced ingredients somewhere on their menu, I’d venture that you’re not in a very good restaurant.

So too are virtually all bars and restaurants embracing “cocktail culture.” You can hardly swing a Hawthorne strainer in this town without hitting a muddling bartender who will insist you call them a mixologist while they whip up their house-made honey kombucha with shiso and Horchata.

So why the hell is virtually no one in the city giving beer the same level of respect we snotty Torontonians demand of virtually every other substance we cram in our suck holes?

Well, throughout the next month, I’m fixing to find out. Continue reading


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Fewer beers at events, please

Beer Festivals

As we enter June, we’re essentially entering prime time for summer beer events in and around Toronto (here, for example, is a handy list of ten such events) and while Session Toronto, Cask Days, The Toronto Festival of Beer, et. al, all tout the number of beers that will be on hand as something a badge of honour, I’d like to propose that where beer selection is concerned, less is actually more.

It seems to be a mark of success to show that the number of beers at a festival has grown exponentially from one year to the next. Cask Days, for example, boasted 230 different beers this year from 140 different brewers, up from 150 different beers the year before.

While this sounds awesome, I actually think it’s more overwhelming than it is exciting. You can’t possibly drink 230 beers at one event, even if you were to attend all three days of Cask Days, so quite simply, it’s too much. I know that the organizers of beer events (Cask Days in particular) work very hard to bring in unique and interesting offerings for their events, but with no way of trying all of them, I just find massive beer lists stressful. Continue reading