Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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The “straight” goods: Toronto Distillery Co.’s First Barrels Whisky

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The first new distillery in Toronto since 1933 has just launched the city’s first 100% organic whisky, and in addition to bringing about “the rebirth of whisky distilling in one of the historically great whisky cities of the world,” its makers are hoping the bottle and its contents might start a conversation about whisky standards in Canada.

Launched in 2013 by Charles Benoit and Jess Razaqpur, the Toronto Distillery Co. was borne of two high school buddies’ shared passion for whisky. Given the requirement for whisky to age, the start-up company located in the Junction (directly next door to Junction Craft Brewing) has, like most new distillers, largely been selling organic gin and “new make” grain spirits, an unaged whisky that you might know by the less refined moniker “moonshine.”

Until now. Continue reading


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Someone put hops in my whisky

This article ran on Post City’s website as “JP Wiser’s new Hopped brings the characteristics of beer to a bottle of whisky” on October 8, 2015. 

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It was probably inevitable that, as interest in hop-forward craft beers rose at the same time there has been a renewed interest in whisky and dark spirits, that there would be an increase in attempts to market some combination of the two.

For the most part, outside of my own proclivity for pouring a few fingers of whisky alongside a pint of beer, this marriage has come by way of beers that attempt to bring you the flavour of whisky. Sometimes it works, as when Chicago’s Goose Island ages a stout in bourbon barrels to make the spectacular Bourbon County Stout—arguably the beer that started craft beer’s barrel-aging trend. And other times, as in the dreadful English import Old Crow, which is essentially a lager with a shot of bourbon flavour, it most certainly does not work.

There have, however, been few attempts to bring the characteristics of beer to a bottle of whisky.

Enter JP Wiser’s Hopped.

Made with a blend of five- to nine-year-old Canadian whiskies, JP Wiser’s Hopped Whisky is “dry hopped” at the end of its aging process—a technique borrowed from brewing wherein dried hops are essentially steeped in the beer, imparting the juicy aromatics of hops without as much of the bitterness that’s obtained from hops in the boil.

Read the rest of this post over on Post City


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Scotchy scotch scotch: Tasting the Balvenie line-up

Three Balvenies

Unlike my discovery of craft beer, which can pretty handily be traced to the time I started writing about beer and has therefore been well documented, I’m not exactly sure how or when I started to like scotch.

Perhaps it’s true that a taste for scotch is something that you simply develop as you get older because without even noticing it over the years, I seem to have gone from someone who didn’t drink scotch, to someone who has a relatively decent assortment of the stuff.

Continue reading


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Still Waters Distillery: So how’s the booze?

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A couple weeks ago I was on something of a whisky kick; penning a post for blogTO about fledgling distillery Toronto Distillery Company, announcing the release of Still Waters Distillery’s first single malt whisky, and even finding new reasons to rant about the province’s liquor laws as a result of said writing.

Somehow, in the shuffle, I forgot to include my thoughts on what should always be foremost when it comes to booze and beer: the taste.

I was lucky enough to be shipped a small sample of Still Waters’ very limited first release (the 46% version) and, while it’s a touch late to inform you about whether or not you should line up to get yourself a bottle when they were released (back on April 27th), here are my notes on the province’s only commercially available micro-distilled whisky. Continue reading


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Another screaming example of why Ontario’s liquor laws need revising

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Today a post I wrote went up on blogTO announcing the release of a single malt whisky distilled by Ontario’s first micro-distillery, Still Waters. My previous conversations with Barry Stein and Barry Bernstein about their booze have been enlightening–prompting me to write about the fact that most “Canadian” whiskies aren’t really Canadian at all and then later, based on my new understanding of Canada’s booze laws, I wrote about a whisky on Ontario’s shelves that seemed to be in defiance of those laws.

As with these previous conversations with the Barrys, my recent correspondence with them about their impending release likewise proved enlightening, unveiling yet another way that our province’s liquor laws are hurting Ontario businesses. Specifically, it was revealing that Barry informed me that a majority of their whisky–made just north of the Big Smoke in Concord Ontario–is destined for out of province sales elsewhere in the country, north of the border and even overseas. Continue reading


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You Should Already Be Drinking: Forty Creek Whisky

*I received financial compensation for this post. 

I‘ve never been all that interested in Canadian Whisky.

It’s sort of a shameful secret of mine given that I’m clearly an enthusiast of alcohol and also fiercely (some might say stupidly) local when it comes to my beer consumption. But the Canadian stuff has never really done much for me. Perhaps it goes back to my days of drinking excessive quantities of Canadian Club before high school dances, but I’ve always found rye, and by association, Canadian whiskies just too sweet and more often than not, I’ve opted for Canadian whisky’s decidedly more established cousin from Scotland.

Thankfully though, I was recently invited to attend a whisky tasting led by Forty Creek’s own master distiller John Hall, and I got a bit of an eye opener: Canadian whisky can taste pretty good. Continue reading


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Whisky Police

Back in May, in a post titled, “How Canadian is Your Canadian Whisky?” I introduced you not only to Barry and Barry of Still Waters Distillery, but also to some of our province’s and our country’s liquor laws.

In particular, you may recall that Barry and Barry started distilling their award-winning vodka only as a means to raise a little capital while they waited for their whiskies to age, owing to the fact that Canadian laws dictate that whisky in this country needs to be aged at least three years.

Well shortly after writing that article, Continue reading