St. John's Wort Beery Musings And Amusing Beers

Beer 4 Boobs

One of the problems with writing a national column has to do with the fact that it becomes pretty difficult to justify reporting on events that are purely local. Sometimes, I’ll see upcoming events that I want to plug, but it’s just not feasible due either to timeline constraints or due to the size of the audience that the information is relevant to. Take, for example, the Beer4Boobs event that’s going on at Bar Volo on Sunday, March 25th. It’s on Sunday, which is the day the column runs, so reporting on it does no good whatsoever. Capacity for the event is maybe 250 people over the course of the entire day, and promoting it Sunday morning is only going to be useful to people who live in Toronto, and probably the majority of them will have heard about it by then.

The thing is that it’s an interesting event and a good cause. It’s a lineup of beers made by very talented female brewers. All of the beers are one offs, and there are at least seven of them on offer. Admission to the event is twenty bucks, and there’s going to be a raffle with some very nice prizes available. All proceeds go to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. It’s an idea for an event that came from California and which is spreading across North America.

The brewers include a couple of students from Niagara College Teaching Brewery: Kellye Robertson and Jennifer Nadwodny. I got to try their beer the other day as it was being kegged, since I was standing around in the Niagara College brewery, learning stuff. It is apparently called Cocoa Inferno. I think that it would probably be bad form to talk about the beers before the day, but if their beer is any indicator of the amount of creativity that has gone into the process, this is going to be a good event.

Additionally, I should point out that I really like Freya’s Tears as a name for a beer. I don’t know who came up with that name, but well done, mystery brewer! I look forward to trying it, since I feel like there’s a conceptual element behind it and I enjoy that kind of thing.

So, follow the hashtag #Beer4Boobs on Twitter! Like them on facebook! Show up at the event and support a worthy cause! Drink a delicious beer and help people not get cancer! Buy a whole bunch of raffle tickets and you might even win a bunch of high quality swag!

I appreciate that that’s not a very long post, and that it’s not a very funny post, but sometimes it’s just about getting the word out.

So You Want To Be A Brewer: House Ales/St.John’s Wort Gin and Juice IPA

Before I started writing about beer, I worked a job at a publishing company. It was not a particularly fulfilling job, but one of the perks that it had was location. It was located right down the street from Bar Volo. I suppose that at this point, I’ve probably been going to Volo off and on for about five years, and it’s amazing to see how much the place has changed in that time. They’ve started an import agency with Keep6imports. Their annual Cask Days event has become large enough that it now has to be held at an alternate site. They’ve even branded their on-site nanobrewery as House Ales.

Consider for a moment that this is a pub that has evolved to the point where it requires four websites to keep everyone up to date with their activities. When I started going there, they barely had one.

If you're waiting outside of a bar at 7:00 AM, and you're sober, people look at you funny.

I don’t know if it’s because I was a regular there for a long time, but every beer that I’ve brewed as a collaboration has somehow ended up on tap at Volo. There were the Lazarus Breakfast Stout and Imperial Element, which were collaborations with Mike Lackey at Great Lakes. There was the Manitou Sumac Saison, which was a collaboration with Paul Dickey.

It’s kind of a kick having your beer served at the best beer bar in the country. That’s what Volo is, according to ratebeer. For some brewers, I suspect that being on tap at Volo is just another day at the office. After all, when you’re producing thousands of hectoliters a year, it must be pretty hard to get excited about where it’s going to be served. At that point, the main priority has to be moving a lot of whatever that beer is. In my case, since the biggest batch I’ve managed so far is something like a hundred litres, it’s exciting.

I still can't believe anyone's crazy enough to entrust me with electrical equipment.

I was at Volo on the first brew day with the Blichmann system, and I’ve watched them develop as a brewery. Some of the beers have been really good and some of them have been less good. It’s like that when you’re experimenting with small batch recipes, especially during the first year. They’ve now gotten to the point where they’ve got a couple of brewers in Jason Tremblay and Jon Hodd.

The thing that I like most about House Ales is that there’s some conceptual continuity. I suspect that the Hip-Hop series of beers that they’ve done is mostly there because of Tomas and Giulian Morana’s tastes in music. It doesn’t seem like Ralph would have come up with RUN E.S.B. or NOTORIOUS I.P.A.

I’m very lucky because I don’t currently have any constraints to my creative process in terms of brewing. For that reason, I get to come up with an idea for a beer and then make it work. It doesn’t have to be marketable, since there’s not going to be a lot of it. It just has to be tasty.

First wort hopping. For that extra.. uh.. thing.

In this case, I knew that I wanted to design something that related to the Hip-Hop series that House Ales does. I figure that if you’re going to play on someone else’s turf, you ought at least to follow their rules. I also knew that rather than just giving the beer a Hip-Hop pun as a name, I wanted to come up with something that was conceptually valid and would carry through into the flavour. As it turns out there aren’t a whole lot of ways you can go conceptually.

I suppose that you could probably make a beer with just a whole lot of a really resin-y Simcoe hops for that authentic bong rip flavour and call it The Chronic. I don’t know. My lack of fluency in the genre really limited my ability to play. Eventually I settled on Gin and Juice for two reasons

1)      Because I like G-funk.

2)      It was pretty much the only thing I could think of that would translate.

I figured that if you’re going to make a beer called Gin and Juice, both of those elements need to be right up front. You’re going to need a lot of citrus and tropical fruit flavours out of the hops, which more or less means  that you have to use a lot of late additions for aroma. The most fruit flavour I’d seen out of a hop recently was from Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy, so the recipe initially called for those, with some cascade for citrus specifically. While we had to alter the ingredients on the brew day, Jason Tremblay had some really good ideas for substitutions.

See that slick of oil? Yeah, that might have some hops in there.

The Gin part is a bit trickier. Since gin gets most of its flavour from juniper berries, that’s pretty much what you’re going to have to use in order to get that flavour. I suppose that you could probably throw them in as an aroma component around five minutes from the end of the boil, and that would definitely give you some flavour. The problem is knowing how much flavour it might give you. In a batch of about 85 liters, how much juniper do you want to use? Also, how are the juniper berries going to interact with the hops? Once it’s in there, you can’t take it out. In the end, we decided that it would be better to go with putting the berries in the secondary fermenter.

I don’t know exactly what it’s going to taste like, but it’s sure as heck going to be interesting. Probably it will be on tap at Volo towards the end of March. Thanks go to Ralph Morana for letting me use his equipment and Jason Tremblay for making sure I didn’t set anything on fire.

So You Want To Be An Author: On Writing About Beer

If you grow up in a house with a pretty decent library, it’s almost a given that you’re going to end up as a reader. My parents are readers, and as they get older, we end up having pretty good discussions about books. Their tastes have diverged wildly over the last twenty years or so. Mom now reads and enjoys Neal Stephenson and Jasper Fforde. If we’re wondering whether she’s gotten to a book yet, we just ask “how’s the stack going” since she has about twenty books on her bedside table at any one time. It’s like literary Jenga.

Dad and I have pretty good conversations about historical books. He’s usually in the middle of some kind of biography. I think the most recent one was Teddy Roosevelt. We’ll talk about C.S. Forester and Bernard Cornwell and George MacDonald Fraser and Charles Portis, and how the fictional chronologies for these characters work. How can Flashman possibly be in Strackenz at that point in history and how come no one notices his duelling scars when he returns?

I think that it’s probably because of this familial sense of literacy that when I was asked whether I wanted to write a book, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s a book about beer! “How hard could that possibly be?” I thought. I write about beer. Surely, this is going to be a piece of cake. Easy money. Candy from a baby.

Writing about beer in a short format is something I tend to do extemporaneously. I’m not planning this sentence, for instance. Sure, there are long term strategies involved if you want to have any kind of impact or readership, but by and large it’s a bit of a dawdle. Go to a place, do a thing, drink a beer, write about it. Even if you’re writing for a newspaper column, there are only so many things you can write about if you want to be relevant. What’s happening this week? Is there a new thing? Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, people will send you beer to review. If you need to fill space, you can always rant about the beer store.

That’s almost entirely unlike a book.

What I’ve learned is that if I’m writing for the blog, I can contradict myself. Like Whitman says in his sampler: “I am vast; I contain multitudes.” If I don’t like something, I can say so. If I change my mind later, I can say that I changed my mind.

You can’t do that in a book. A book has to be internally consistent. It requires a certain amount of coherence in order to be understood. You can get away with plot holes big enough to drive a truck through if you’re writing fiction. All that matters is that the mood of the piece is encompassing. I’ll give you an example.

Q: Who killed the chauffeur in The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler?

A: It never gets resolved and has bothered people for decades. It doesn’t matter because there are about six truly wonderful sentences in the book and he has a gift for simile and you can feel Cahuenga boulevard under your feet.

If you’re writing non-fiction, a primer on all grain home brewing, for instance, you can’t do that. You can attempt to be mildly whimsical and you can work jokes in when possible, but by and large, you’ve got to get as much useful information across as possible in the shortest amount of language possible. Especially because there’s technical jargon and you don’t want people who paid 15 bucks to sit there scratching their heads about exactly what the hell you mean when you say “lauter” or “refractometer with ATC” or “oh for the love of god, don’t open the fermenter, ‘just to have a peek,’ you idiot.”

If you have no idea what the hell you’re doing, you’re in trouble. You can’t google “how do I write a book” without getting the websites of deluded self-obsessed whackadoos who think that they’re going to self publish the next great American novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which one assumes was started by very bored people, possibly in Portland). I imagine you could probably buy several books on writing non-fiction, read them over the course of a lengthy period, amalgamate the salient points into a strategy that you think will work for you, research your topic and begin to write.

My co-author, Mark Murphy, and I didn’t really have time for that. Try writing a book in 37 days some time. It’s an experience.

I more or less used the P.G. Wodehouse method, which is where you write the elements that need to be included on index cards and then arrange the index cards in an order that makes everything work. P.G. Wodehouse did this on a pool table. I used blu-tack and a picture window, so that I could draw on the window with dry erase markers.

When you’re writing, and I think this is probably true of any kind of writing, it’s a superb feeling when you’re powering through and everything is going to plan. You’re getting a lot accomplished. You’ve had maybe a pot of coffee and the neurons are firing and the fingers are flying at 70 words a minute and you are a rock star. You’re just crushing it.

When you’re writing, and I’m sure this is true of any kind of writing, it’s a special kind of hell when nothing is working. You’re staring at a blank word processor and your eyes hurt and you’ve reworked the same paragraph nine times and the chapter is the wrong shape and nothing makes sense and you are an insignificant speck on the belly of the universe. You’re just miserable.

You get to the point, eventually, when you’re more or less done with research and writing and because you’ve got a flatplan that dictates the number of pages and the length of those pages, you have to edit the work of both authors so that there’s a cohesive style. That’s been the last six days and nights. It has been educational. I am out of coffee and I haven’t shaved in a week.

I wanted to do a good enough job that it will require a minimum amount of effort on the part of the publisher. I don’t know if they talk to each other, but it can’t hurt to have a reputation for being easy to work with.

The good news is that it’s finally more or less done. We have submitted a manuscript, and we’ve got a publisher lined up. The book will be out next autumn. It’s apparently called “How to Make Your Own Brewskis: The Go-to Guide for Craft Brew Enthusiasts.”

Less than two years to go from first blog post to national beer columnist to brewing student to published author. Great Googily Moogily.

After my mid terms are over, I’m going to sleep for a week.

Hogtown and Double Trouble OR Let’s Do Launch.

Brewers will tell you that the summer is their busy season. You’d never know it based on the amount of activity happening this month; So far we’ve had a festival at The Only Café and a couple of beer launches.

I don’t really talk about the Only Café very much, and I’ve never been able to work out why that is. It might be that I like the place so much, and that it’s generally so cramped that I don’t want to see it get even more crowded. Sure, they’ve got a lot of craft beer on tap and in bottles. Sure, the prices are amongst the lowest in the city. I think the reason I like it is that it looks kind of like what might happen if you gave a bunch of high school kids of the Pink Floyd listening stoner variety free reign to design a bar. Also, there are board games and cards, which is ideal if you just want to hang out and play cribbage.

The festival they had there on the weekend had a number of interesting offerings. Railway City were trying out a couple of test batches of summery beers, which is something of a departure for them. I think the Pomegranate one they’re working on has legs, but this first attempt might be a little overly sweet. Sam Corbeil’s Sawdust City booth was pouring his Imperial Stout “Long Dark Voyage To Uranus,” whose label is inspired by Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I’ve enjoyed that beer on previous occasions, but I think that it’s hard to appreciate it when it’s really cold out. Tasty, but the environment hamstrung it a little. So it goes.

The best thing about the Only Café’s festivals is that Fabian seems to have managed to convince the guys at King Brewery to show up with an unfiltered, dry hopped version of King Pilsner. Now, King Pilsner is a solid, dependable, offering. It’s well made and it never changes. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad one, and I’ve been drinking it on and off since 2003. The unfiltered, dry hopped version is marvellous; pretty much perfect for the environment on the patio in February as well. Given my druthers, I would have walked out with the keg. I like variety as much as the next fickle blogger, but if you told me I could only drink one beer for the next year, it’s that one.

Brewery Launches

The fact that I was talking about equilibrium in Ontario and the launch of new craft breweries in my last post was not a fluke exactly. What I wanted to do was explain the way that I’m now looking at new breweries in Ontario. It may not seem like the best way to develop a taxonomy for new microbreweries is to look at evolutionary modeling, but I’m fairly confident that it’s as good as any other thinking on the subject. I put it to you this way: I would rather think in moderately abstract terms than learn the specific obfuscatory language attributed to marketing. At some point in the last month, I saw Bud Light referred to as a ‘velocity brand.’ Doubleplusgood.

Hops and Robbers

Saturday saw the release of Double Trouble Brewing’s Hops and Robbers at the Burger Bar.

The beer is an India Pale Ale; a hybrid somewhere between the English and American styles with a crystal malt backbone. Claude Lefebvre and Nathan Dunsmoor are the brains behind Double Trouble, but the brewer is Paul Dickey. Paul is much in demand these days, possibly due to the fact that just about everything he brews is balanced and drinkable. He’s got Cheshire Valley. And Kensington Brewing Company’s Augusta Ale.

The beer itself is pleasingly floral and piney, with some biscuit notes. It doesn’t grab you by the throat with its alcohol content. It’s completely drinkable, which is by design. There’s some subtlety of flavour here, which is nice to see in a market where you could easily sell a 90 IBU IPA just by naming it Faceblaster. It’s basically rock solid.

I think that Hops and Robbers would probably do pretty well if it were confined to Toronto. Although it might not ever be a breakout hit if left to establish a reputation on its own, it will succeed based mostly on the fact that it’s got Claude and Nathan behind it. Claude is like a bottle of five hour energy without the niacin flush. He’s behind North American Craft, which essentially outsources sales for breweries looking to tap into markets they don’t have representation in. Creating their own beer makes perfect sense, because NAC and Double Trouble already have a top flight sales and distribution team in place.

Hops and Robbers would do well without that advantage. With the advantage, they might go interprovincial. Hell, with Claude behind it, it’ll beat NASA to Mars.


I'm sure that when they were settling Muddy York, people said to themselves, "ayup, this is good pig country."

I was invited to a Hogtown event over the summer, but I didn’t write about it. It was a test situation and they had a Blonde Ale and an IPA. The IPA was great (maybe even top five in Ontario), but the Blonde Ale was pretty average. It was drinkable, but it wasn’t going to set the world on fire.

I was surprised, then, that at their launch yesterday at the Duke of Devon, that I was drinking an entirely different beer. They decided to launch with a Kolsch style beer. You have to call it “Kolsch Style” because if you don’t, the citizens of Cologne will rise up as a man and beat you insensible for violating their EU protected designation.

I’m not a huge fan of the style, but I found myself really liking Hogtown’s beer. It’s got a delicate floral noble hop nose and a significant amount of carbonation. The pleasing, slightly metallic finish lingers on the palate. I was impressed that it cut through the bar snacks that were floating around, although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that. German style beer and sausage rolls; no brainer. It is helped by the fact it’s crystal clear and looks pretty in their chosen glassware. That’s a good job by their brewmaster, Jay Cooke.

Here’s the thing. The Hogtown folks are corporate, Bay Street types. That’s a departure from the norm in Ontario, where the people behind breweries tend to fit into the “rag-tag band of misfits” kind of mold. This is actually a strength for Hogtown, because they seem effortlessly able to market to their own demographic. The Duke of Devon, for instance, is an odd place to have a beer launch if you’re an Ontario microbrewery. Near as I could figure it, half the people coming through the door were in post-work, post-gym mode, about 34 years old and climbing the ladder at Deloitte.

Hogtown has apparently been outselling everything down there this week. I suppose word travels fast through the underground PATH.  They will likely continue to do well based on the fact that this is more or less an untapped market for craft beer. You should have seen the place. It was jammed.

Also, they’re to be commended on their patience. I think they knew that the Blonde Ale wasn’t going to do it and the IPA would have a lot of competition. They waited six months and found something that would work. Restraint: Who would have thought?

On The Likelihood Of Success OR Consider The Finches

One of the things that we don’t talk about very much in the Ontario beer scene is the initial outbreak of craft brewing in the province. I have the feeling that the reason for this is that it was pretty depressing for a very large number of people.

Over the Christmas break, I glommed on to a copy of Jamie MacKinnon’s book, The Ontario Beer Guide, published in 1993. It is subtitled “An Opinionated Guide to the Beers of Ontario,” which gives you some idea of the slant he took on the beer scene. It is not, it has to be said, a great deal different than the views that current commentators find themselves espousing. We like the underdogs. It’s a very interesting book for a number of reasons, one of which I will almost certainly talk about in a subsequent blog post. Also, MacKinnon is an entertaining author.

The thing that caught my immediate attention while I was leafing through it on Boxing Day was that he claimed on page 171 that Ontario would have more than 50 brewpubs by 1995. Initially I thought that this was a wildly optimistic prediction, but I’ve spoken to some other beer writers who recall that there was a period when it looked like it would go that way.

Apparently, there was a brief period in the early 90’s when there were four brewpubs on Eglinton between Yonge and Mount Pleasant. The Granite is still there, of course, but The Spruce Goose is now Philthy McNasty’s. I remember the Spruce Goose mostly as a result of the fact that they had Pinball. At 13, I was too young for beer, but I was intrigued by the multiball feature on the Jurassic Park table. Incidentally, in retrospect, the hubris of naming your business after an insane billionaire’s failed attempt at aviation was probably a poor choice. It would also probably be best not to name your hang-glider company after Icarus.

Mackinnon’s book systematically sets out to rate all of the beers in Ontario (except for Great Lakes’ Golden Horseshoe, which was too new at the time). Let’s consider the list. There’s Brick, who only continue to offer one of the beers that was rated. Conner’s is gone. Creemore is owned by Molson. Hart is gone. Lakeport is owned by Labatt and their original facility was scrapped. Niagara Falls Brewing Company is now The Syndicate. Northern Algonquin Brewery is gone, although some of their Formosa brands persist. Northern Breweries are gone. Pacific Brewing Company only exists in BC. Sleeman is owned by Sapporo. Upper Canada is owned by Sapporo (and the dark ale is a shell of its former self).

Arguably, the only brewery who has survived in a recognizable form is Wellington. The success rate for the small independent breweries listed in The Ontario Beer Guide in 1993 is about 3/13. About 23%.

In terms of brewpubs, of the 31 listed in the appendix to the book, the total number of survivors is 5. The Granite, Kingston Brew Pub, Tracks, Charley’s, The Lion. That’s not a completely accurate figure, as Denison’s and Amsterdam evolved into other things. Call it 7/31. About 23%.

If you started an independent beer related venture in Ontario prior to 1993, the aggregate chance of your having succeeded to the present day without having sold your business or having gone bankrupt is therefore about 23%. I didn’t even have to do any additional math.

That’s a 77% failure rate. Not as bad as Goldman Sachs, but not great.

Failure and collapse are parts of any ecology, even ones that appear to be thriving. Consider Darwin’s Finches. The Galapagos Islands are a relatively isolated environment and Darwin’s finches are part of the ongoing scientific study in evolution. Over time, something like fifteen species of finches have managed to evolve into individual roles in the Galapagos.

For the purposes of this analogy the one on the top left likes IPA.

They have all developed different beaks so that they can take advantage of different food sources. There are finches that eat the seed of a certain type of cactus. There are finches that eat the flesh of the same cactus, having evolved beaks that can get between the needles. The Woodpecker Finch uses various tools to get at the food source it’s after. There’s even the Vampire Finch, which has been known to sustain itself by drinking the blood of boobies.

Man, this blog post is really finch heavy. Next time I'm going to write about something awesome like Monster Trucks. Did you know that Truckasaurus doesn't have a 77% failure rate? Truckasaurus never fails.

The point is that while this is a miracle of diversity from some points of view, these are only the species that made it. At some point along the way, there must have been more finches. From an environmental perspective, the Galapagos are relatively untouched. There must have been intervening species that did not evolve sufficiently to take advantage of the food sources available. Some fall by the wayside.

In point of fact, most of the species of finches that have ever existed in the Galapagos are long since dead or significantly altered. Evolution continues anyway: a 2006 study says that evolution in terms of beak shape is possible in less than 20 years.

For the purposes of this analogy, it’s helpful to think of small independent breweries and brew pubs in Ontario as finches.

They are small, adaptive organisms, all about the same size, who have developed different beaks in order to take advantage of the different food sources available to them. If they are located close to other species, they will have to evolve in an entirely different way so as not to deplete the same food sources. Some environments will simply not support them. Before the ecology reaches a state of equilibrium, some of these finches will become extinct.

Now, Ontario isn’t like the Galapagos. For one thing, the food source is expanding. There are more craft beer drinkers than there have ever been before. The thing that has me worried is that the number of craft breweries and brew pubs seems to me to be expanding at a rate that is equal to or greater than the speed at which the number of craft beer drinkers is expanding. There is probably an equilibrium point, but I don’t pretend to know what it is.

There are a lot of new Ontario craft breweries starting up. Many of them are making some very tasty beers. Lots of them are outside Toronto. One of them is entirely fictional.

Now, we may not be anywhere near the equilibrium point for the ecology in terms of beer in Ontario. I hope we’re not, as many of the people who work for these breweries are friends of mine. Further, there will be more start-ups over the next five years as Niagara College students decide they want to brew their own beer and the craft beer market in Ontario catches up with other markets.

The failure rate might not be 77% anymore for independent breweries and brewpubs in Ontario over a 20 year period. It certainly seems as though it has gotten lower. The important thing to remember is that we’re in the middle of a boom, and it probably will not last indefinitely. There will be equilibrium.

All Hail Truckasaurus!

Molson M – Their New Commercial

I was sitting on the couch, watching Guy Fieri tell Lou Diamond Phillips that his ribs were the “bomb diggity” or “winner winner, chicken dinner” or some other vaguely positive California white guy thing. He may have used the adjective “hella.” I’m not really sure. I was paying the sort of half attention that a celebrity cook off merits. I remember that Cheech Marin can cook, if that counts for anything.

The thing that shocked me was that during the commercial break, I saw the new Molson M commercial. I believe in giving credit where it’s due, so I figure that I should probably talk a little bit about the commercial, if only for the reason that I think it’s a marked improvement on previous Molson ad campaigns.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll provide a link to it so you can go away and watch it and then come back.

The problem that I’ve had with previous campaigns run by Molson is that, in the case of Canadian at least, the commercials didn’t ring true. In addition to the fact that very few of the people who live in Toronto have ever seen a swaying field of barley, the Canadian commercials raise a difficult logical fallacy: The No True Scotsman argument.

The No True Scotsman argument can be applied in a number of different ways, but essentially it runs like this: No True Scotsman wears underwear with a kilt. You are wearing a kilt, and while you may put salt in your porridge or have an affinity for single malt or speak fluent gaelic or hail from Aberdeen or own the complete works of Rod Stewart or have a long, proven ancestral line harkening back to Robert the Bruce, you are wearing boxer briefs under that kilt and I don’t care that it is a rental, you are wearing boxer briefs and you are therefore not a Scotsman.

Since not X then not Y, even if the tautology is demonstrably false based on extenuating factual evidence.

The thing about the Molson Canadian ads is that historically, they have asserted things about you, the consumer. You like mountains and lakes and rivers and you’re out there on God’s green earth communing with a herd of elk whenever possible.

Similar claims have been made recently by a series of Tide commercials that suggest that no true Canadian would ever consider putting off doing something because it’s cold out. This is, of course, a load of bollocks. If it’s -60 with the wind chill, I can practically guarantee you that you’re better off with a snuggie and a hot cocoa and a selection of hibernatory naps. Consider the words of Alden Nowlan:

this is a country

where a man can die

simply from being

caught outside

You’re not less sensible than a poet, are you? No, I didn’t think so. Clearly, it’s a false statement on the part of the cold water Tide campaign. They then go on to make an unrelated statement about how since you can go outside in the cold, your clothes should be washed in cold water. This makes me unremittingly angry, and I have to turn off the TV and go lie down for a while.

Bit of a digression there.

Anyway, Molson M’s campaign is a change in strategy for Molson in that it does not assert anything about you, the consumer. That’s a big step forward because the ad is suddenly about the product.

I think that it’s successful because it’s clearly meant to be inclusive of an urban market, which is, let’s face it, what Canada is predominantly comprised of. It displays people who are masters of their crafts doing what they do. There’s a ballet dancer doing what I assume is some kind of grand jete. There’s Mark McEwan, flambéing something with a taciturn look on his face. There’s a graffiti artist composing a mural. A drummer, banging away at a snare. A tattoo artist, applying ink.

Finally, it cuts away to a Molson brewmaster, Jonathan Lowes doing some stuff in a brewery. He’s crushing hops in his hands and smelling them. He’s pulling a sample from a tank. To be fair, it’s hard to represent brewing to a mainstream audience because the process is probably not something they’re really familiar with. It’s visually difficult. The important thing is that the continuity carries through to allow the tagline to assert that “every medium has its master.”

It also manages not to be explicitly exclusive of rural markets. Doing something well is universal. A subsequent commercial could easily focus on rural artisans.

Not only is it clever because of the assertion that brewing is art, which is being drilled into the public consciousness, it manages to rebrand the product. I don’t see the word “Microcarbonated” in there anywhere, do you? I’ll tell you why that is. The general public cares less about microcarbonation than the honey badger, who, as we all know, is preternaturally unconcerned. If you didn’t know about this brand, you would think, based on this commercial that M stands for “Master” because of the fading text at the end.

Is brewing art? Yes, it is. Is Jonathan Lowes a master of that art? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of him before. You don’t get to be a head brewer at Molson by being a chump. Let’s assume that anyone who can perform that job has a lot of training and is significantly talented. It would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. He almost certainly is. The question will always remain whether the product is art. Craft beer drinkers will certainly not think so. I do not think so, but I admire the mechanics behind it.

I don’t know if a mass produced thing can be considered art. Hotel room paintings are not a Manet original, but they fulfill the criteria of being cheerful and lending color to the room. Is the dichotomy that nags at me one of production? Is it the difference between an impressionist’s single canvas offering and a silk screened Warhol reproduction?

The important thing is that the commercial has forced me to ask questions and think about the product. It is assertive, but about the product, rather than the consumer. That is an improvement, and whoever came up with that campaign should probably be given a large bonus.

Can Beer Bars Survive North Of Bloor?

One of the things that I find irksome about living at Yonge and Davisville (aside from the inevitable late night taxi fares, which are one of the apparent hazards of being a beer writer) is the fact that otherwise intelligent people who live south of Bloor seem to think of it as being somewhere near Moosonee, geographically speaking. This is not only untrue, it’s simply hurtful. I’ve been chased off of campsites on the Moose River by black bears, whereas I might actually be the largest predator at Yonge and Davisville. If you’re in Moose Factory and something is banging on your wannigan trying to get at a loaf of bread or a jar of honey, that’s a bear. If you’re lying in bed in an urban setting and you hear someone stealing  beer from your fridge, that’s probably me. I guess there’s some overlap if you’re carrying beer on a portage, but probably only if it’s any good.

The point I’m getting at here is that life doesn’t end at Bloor Street. I didn’t realize that there are people who don’t think of Yonge as the main dividing line in Toronto. Some misguided urbanites believe that Bloor is the actual cutoff line, and they always seem a little amazed when they’re required to board a train going north.

“Hills!” they think. “My God, there are hills! This cannot be Toronto. My fixie bicycle will not ride on this terrain.”

It’s amazing because they’re somehow not being intentionally disingenuous about this. These are the fortunate people for whom the suburbs simply don’t exist. They will never shop at a centre owned by RioCan unless they do it ironically. The last time they went to Ikea, they bought enough Billy bookshelves to last a lifetime, cognizant of the fact that a constant supply of hex keys means that they’ll never have to see the 401 again.

All of this goes some way to explaining things about the way craft beer is laid out in Toronto.
Go ahead and name me five beer bars in the 905 part of the GTA. There’s The Feathers, (ed. note: People on twitter, especially @davidsunlee, have been quick to point out that Scarborough is not the 905 and that my portrayal of Scarborough as being part of the 905 is divisive and cruel and unusual and that I am a big ol’ poopyhead with no geographical understanding of the city and that probably my mom brought me up wrong and that my father very possibly has a wooden leg with a kickstand. I apologize, my family apologizes and the termites in my father’s wooden leg apologize.) although when I hear about them, mostly I hear about the selection of whiskies. They do have some very nice Cask selections. There’s West 50 in Mississauga, and from what I’ve seen of them, they have interesting events. The problem is “how do you get to it if you don’t drive?” Well, you just don’t.
It seems to me like there is not a lot of conviction that craft beer pubs can exist past the 401. The good news is that I think we’re heading in that direction. Over the Christmas break, I went to a couple of places that are trying to use beer as a draw outside of the downtown core.

First of all, there’s the newest offering from the people at the Bier Markt, who have decided to open a location at Don Mills and Lawrence. This sort of makes sense because some of the clientele that would frequent the Bier Markt’s other locations probably live somewhere near the Bridle Path. It’s a well laid out location and it offers the same variety of beers and the same quality fare that are available at the other Bier Markt locations. It’s a case of transplanting a successful model to a new location, and the location itself bears some talking about.

I hadn’t been to the mall at Don Mills and Lawrence since I was in high school. At the time, it was a down at heels mall without a lot of interesting features. I think the highlight might have been an A&W in the food court. In a stunning act of capitalist reclamation, it is now more or less an extremely upscale drive thru buytopia that features box stores for chains that I didn’t know we had in Canada. I mean, I suppose I knew that Tommy Hilfiger had their own stores, but I didn’t realize that could happen here.

The selection of beers reflects the setting. It is wide and varied and upscale and proper. All of the brands are established brands. This is clearly a corporate setting, and it shows. The correct glassware is used for everything and it seems to me like the model developed in the other locations has left nothing to chance. That may sound negative, but my feeling is that it’s right for the neighbourhood. These are professionals doing this thing. Let’s face it, if you’ve spent a long day manipulating the world of high finance or sitting comfortably as VP of a division that’s way over budget, and drive up to the Banana Republic to buy some dress chinos for the cottage and you decide to whet your whistle, you don’t want some schmuck recommending something you’re not going to like.

I kind of liked the place, since there’s a part of me that appreciates intricate attention to detail and efficiency and wants to make the trains run on time.

For a more organic feeling, there’s Coco Rogue, which is a relatively recently established place near Yonge and Eglinton. It’s not exactly a pub, since it was initially envisioned as a place specializing in Belgian chocolate. While there’s no shortage of people who are interested in chocolate, they have decided to revamp their menu in order to incorporate heavier belgian fare and European beer. Not only do they have the typical Moules Frites, but some truly interesting dishes that incorporate chocolate. I look forward to trying the vegetable mole on my next visit. Clearly, mole sauce isn’t Belgian, but I figure that it’s worth trying if only because they’re going to incorporate some of that Belgian Chocolate into it. Similarly, the chocolate fondue must be of an exceedingly high quality, although I didn’t try it.

The draft selection is going to be relatively minimal, and I heard Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale being

floated as the staple beer. There will also be a wide selection of products from Roland and Russell on hand for the bottle list.

The most interesting thing is that because it was initially a chocolate lounge, the layout is not necessarily what you would expect. The second floor contains some very comfortable group seating with low leather couches and mood lighting. While it was designed for groups to share fondue, it would be a good place to relax and enjoy some very high quality bottles with friends. The first floor has a baby grand piano and old movies projected on the wall. Not everyone is down for Bogart hovering over the room in a white dinner jacket, but I like a surreal touch, me.

The menu is solid, the beer list is solid and the decor is eclectic and slightly funky. I think it will be interesting to see how it continues to evolve. The main concept I came away with is that chocolate has its own terroir, as do wine and beer. I think that there’s a lot of room to play with that idea.

I hope that both of these places do well. As high quality imports and craft beers continue to grow in the market, it’s this kind of experimentation with new neighbourhoods that will go a long way to creating converts.

The Death March of the Poinsettia

For the last few years, the company that owns the building I live in has decided to have activities to celebrate their tenants. This works out pretty well. Once a year in the summer, a truck with some pretty impressive built in grills shows up and everyone gets to have burgers. It’s nice. I still don’t know anyone in the building, so there’s a lot of polite smiling and nodding. No one pretends to know anyone’s name and we all get along fine on the basis that there is nothing involved in the situation other than happily eating a meal we didn’t cook ourselves.

It’s the building management company that’s responsible for my sole annual Christmas tradition:  The Death March of the Poinsettia.

Because Christmases are a year apart, I always forget that at some point in early December one of the building’s superintendents is going to be tasked with going door to door with a cart and dropping off what is essentially a festive Mexican shrub. In years past, they would post a notice saying that you could have one if you wanted one. Recently the Poinsettia has become more or less mandatory, like a dysfunctional office holiday get-together.

Phase one is upbeat. It’s nice to come home to any kind of present. Usually, if there’s something sitting outside my door, it’s a beer delivery, but a cheerful red plant is nice too. It’s joyous and it’s attractive and it’s pleasantly wrapped in festive ephemera. It’s kind of fun, and a reminder that the Christmas season is coming down the pipe. There will be candy canes and dinner with family and evenings with friends. Everything will be pleasant, except for the fruitcake, which will be consumed out of a grim sense of obligation.

Phase one, if you’re a bachelor type person who is in the middle of commuting four hours a day to brewing school at an improbable distance, ends with setting the Poinsettia down on the kitchen counter and then proceeding to ignore it intensely for the immediate future. The form that this ignoring might take differs greatly from year to year, depending upon your obligations and interests. Maybe you’ll be playing a video game instead of enjoying the Poinsettia; maybe you’ll be learning how to use a financial calculator. All that matters is that the Poinsettia will sit untended for a good solid week. Extra points are awarded for completely failing to take it out of the protective sleeve that it came in.

Phase two might come at any point after the first week or so. Maybe you have a moment free and begin to think to yourself, “Now, I know there was something I was supposed to do.”  Typically, this happens early in the morning because the Poinsettia occupies a space next to the coffee maker. Sufficiently caffeinated to face the responsibility of owning a plant, you are finally ready to come to grips with the Poinsettia.

Because you’re caffeinated, rather than just watering the plant and putting it next to the window so it can get some sunlight, you become an expert on Poinsettias by dialing up Wikipedia. You learn that it has a latin name(Euphorbia Pulcherrima), and the reason that it’s associated with Christmas (apparently, it bloomed as a Christmas miracle for an impoverished Mexican girl), and that it was named after the first U.S. Minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. You also learn about the care and handling of the Poinsettia. That watering it too much will lead it to wilt; that not watering it enough will lead it to wilt; that putting it in anything other than direct sunlight will lead it to wilt. You become concerned about the fact that putting it next to the window means that it will be directly above the radiator and that it will be too hot.

Finally, having carefully removed the protective sleeve and having watered the plant, you elect to place it next to the window on top of the bookshelf, where, by your estimation, it will get the light it needs, but not be too hot. Unfortunately, this is out of your eyeline on a day to day basis, and you will therefore immediately go back to ignoring the Poinsettia.

Somewhere in the week before Christmas, I hit phase three. Phase three is a good reminder of why it would be a very bad idea for me to own a pet. I get emotional about the Poinsettia, you see. I look up from playing, oh I don’t know… Skyrim, and see that the petals and bracts on the Poinsettia are starting to get tired. Maybe a leaf has wilted so completely as to fall off and the white sap that courses through the plant has dribbled out. It’s a sad looking plant at this point, not unlike that last ratty Christmas tree left on the lot at the end of the day.

I take pity on it and water it far too heavily, thinking to myself, “Well, this is no way to treat a living thing,” and I chastise myself for not taking better care of it. There’s some guilt, but also a certain amount of anger about the fact that I never asked for the Poinsettia. It just showed up outside the door one day. The death of this plant is not on me. It is not my fault that some well meaning person has completely misread my ability to care for an exceptionally hardy shrub.

And eventually, I think back to childhood. I think back to sitting on the sill of the picture window in the library at our house, next to the Poinsettia which would inevitably arrive before the Christmas tree did as a result of whichever worthy charitable appeal was hawking them that year. I remember the sense of satisfaction of knowing that some things would always be a constant. Christmas would always be magical. The presents would always be what you wanted. The turkey might be dry, but no one would care. Someone else would take care of the Poinsettia and water the Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, by this point in phase three, a level of existential doubt has crept into the proceedings. You wonder what your worth can possibly be if you can’t even water a plant. You also wonder whether man is doomed eternally to participate in endeavors that he does not choose.

Phase four is solemn. It involves the disposal of the now dead Poinsettia into the dumpster out back of the building. This calls for a gentle touch, but the walls of the dumpster are too high to deposit it lightly within. While hurling it over the side of the bin, it’s hard not to note that everyone else’s Poinsettia has survived. Depression sets in briefly, until you realize that you’re free.

You have escaped the trappings of Christmas that have been foisted on you by an extremely caring and generous corporate entity. You’ve managed to avoid a tradition that you don’t really understand. You promise yourself that in future, you’re only going to participate in the traditions that you want to participate in at Christmas: Only the things that make people happy. That’s what’s important. Good food, good conversation, time spent with loved ones. You’ll feel good about yourself, and you’ll buy people just the right presents and everything will be beautiful.

It’s a promise you make to yourself that will last until next December, when all of the above events will recur.

Shiny Happy Vegans OR We Got Beets!

I don’t really understand vegans. This should come as no real surprise to anyone who knows me, especially if they’ve seen me anywhere near a platter of appetizers at a beer event. If the beer blogger was a species and we were doing a hinterland who’s who episode, it would be something like: “The northern reticulated beer blogger is an opportunistic omnivore and we’re going to need more hot wings on the buffet table, stat.”

I mean, I appreciate many of the arguments for vegetarianism. I understand it from an intellectual position. There’s the issue of food chain biomass. You can probably feed ten people with the resources needed to feed one animal. In addition to that, cows produce methane in vast quantities and it’s ruining the environment. Also, you’ve probably seen videos of the factory farmed chickens and had terrible nightmares afterwards. Also, no one wants to eat the cute animals. Otter kebabs are out.

Clearly, vegetarianism and veganism are defensible positions taken by responsible people. It’s a reasonable choice. It’s not my choice, but I understand it.

It’s just that this is not food that I’m familiar with. I don’t know what the standard is for vegan food, so when Greg Clow from Canadian Beer News emailed me a couple of weeks ago to invite me along to a vegan beer dinner at the uber-swanky Windsor Arms, I hemmed and hawed for a bit because I knew that I would eventually be doing this write up and that there would be bits of it that I almost certainly would’t like. It’s the first in a series of beer dinners for Greg, so I didn’t really think that coming down on the dinner like a ton of bricks would help anyone.

The vegetarian food that I’m used to raises my hackles slightly because it reminds me slightly of Baudrillard’s treatise on Simulacrum. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. In the past, I have purchased Yves’ Vegan Hot Dogs. Now, the entire concept should throw you because a hot dog is a meat slurry that is formed into a tube by intestinal casing; this is if you get the really good ones. The vegan ones are a soy slurry that are simply formed into a tube. I don’t understand why you would attempt to replicate the form if you were vegan. Just the concept that you are eating something that is a reproduction of what is essentially viscera should be offensive. The form speaks to an ugly truth; that being a subversion of an existing construct which is nonetheless a reminder of the thing which is being avoided. It exists alongside the item it’s mimicking.

It seems like that’s a legitimate criticism, and I’m sure I’m not the first to point it out.

I figure that if I’m really honest about it the best I’ll be able to do is to not offend anyone personally while criticizing things I don’t know about.

Doug McNish: Vegan Ubermensch

Our chef for the evening was Doug McNish, who’s a remarkably upbeat man and clearly very talented and passionate. He’s got a compelling backstory as well, having lost 100 pounds after switching to a plant based diet. This made him decide to become a professional vegan chef. He’s something of a media personality in his own right, with a cookbook due out in march and numerous TV appearances under his belt.

The beers were provided by Beau’s and the ambience was provided by the dazzlingly metropolitan Windsor Arms. I like the idea of eating at the Windsor Arms. I’m told that A-list celebrities stay there. I figure that if it’s good enough for Mick and Keith, It’s good enough for me.

This is the obligatory menu and cutlery shot.

The Hors D’oeuvres were threefold. Tempeh Crab cake with spicy chipotle aioli and baby seedlings. Crisp Polenta with a  slow cooked barbecued burdock root. Nori rolls with creamy sunflower seed lemon ginger pate, red pepper, avocado and cucumber and a sweet lemon, ginger and tamari reduction. These were paired with Lug Tread.

The polenta was an early flash of genius and paired really well with the Lug Tread. None of the flavours overpowered each other and it was a lovely mouthful with some decent depth of flavour. The Tempeh crab cake was my first experience with Tempeh (as far as I know) and it emulated the texture very nicely. I didn’t care for the Nori Rolls, mostly because the closest thing I’ve had to that is a maki roll and I found that I missed the texture of the sushi rice. It seems like an important textural element that was missing, allowing for a vaguely mushy bite. I would suggest that I was alone in this assessment, but I noticed that no one else was jumping at those trays when the servers came by.

The first course was Crispy Fries smothered in black bean chili, a vegan cheese sauce, cashew sour cream, tempeh bacon bits and green onion. It was paired with Beau’s Dr. Jekyll, which is a blend of their Marzen and Lug Tread. This worked extremely well, but I notice that the components are just different enough that it is really its own dish, rather than a simulated chili cheese fries. The cashew sour cream was, if anything, slightly tangier than a regular sour cream. The tempeh bacon bits did have a smoky flavour you’d associate with pork, but kind of more of a pork belly sort of thing. It worked well with the beer.

Chili Cheese Fries. Better than those at T.G.I.McGrizzlebee's Family Jamboree.

The second course was a Red Beet Ravioli stuffed with a creamy red pepper dill cashew ricotta cheese and served with a red pepper marinara sauce. Doug was quick to point out, after getting out attention by wailing on a skillet with a wooden spoon, that this was raw food. The assumption is that by avoiding heating anything past 105 degrees farenheit, you retain nutrients that would otherwise be cooked away.  This means, I guess, that instead of a pasta, the casing for the ravioli is raw beet. It was paired with Mr. Hyde, which is Beau’s Roggenbier/RyePA cross.

We got beets!

This was, incidentally, where I realized that I was more than slightly out of my depth. I’m not really used to the texture of raw beet. My mental map includes al dente pasta, but not the crunchy  texture evident here. It’s odd. The filling was extremely rich, which I supposed stands to reason when you consider that it was mostly cashew. I was also not familiar with a raw red pepper marinara sauce, which sort of replaces the depth of flavour you might get out of a traditional simmered marinara with a freshness. I understand the form, but I don’t understand the simulacra. This is not a criticism of the dish, really, but an explanation. If I had a criticism, I would suggest that it could have been a touch spicier in order to take advantage of the rye character of the beer.

The third course was grilled chermoula rubbed tofu with braised collard greens, sweet potato quinoa croquettes and a spiced almond butter beurre blanc. Chermoula is apparently a north African seafood seasoning. It’s an interesting dish because it incorporates a lot of disparate elements. Chermoula is distinctly old world, while the croquettes are mostly new world ingredients. It’s distinctly comfort food, though and puts me in mind of a fish fry somehow. Sort of greens and hush puppies, you know? The collard greens were excellent, by the way. Braised in vinegar with jalapenos, they had just enough heat that the beer pairing of Beau’s Bog Water (Bog Myrtle Gruit) couldn’t quite catch up with them and you ended up wanting more of both.

It was at this point that I tweeted "Wooo look at me, I'm a vegan"

The dessert was raw food as well: Warm Apple Crumble with sticky toffee caramel sauce and coconut banana puree. The beer pairing was Beau’s Dunkel Buck, which has pretty significant notes of chocolate and banana. I don’t know whether the pairing worked. I had trouble with the dessert, but mostly because of my frame of reference. The only time I encounter raw apple is when I eat an apple. It doesn’t really make sense to me in other contexts, except maybe on a cheese plate.


It was an interesting experience, and a bold choice for the first in a series of beer dinners. Everyone had fun, which I think was the important thing. If the remainder of the events in Greg Clow’s series are as well thought out and as well presented as this one, we’re in for a treat.

I’m finding myself conflicted by the dinner. I would not have missed it. I like the idea of vegan beer pairings intellectually. I find that beer pairings are typically pork heavy. This is the result of generations of happy Bavarians roaming the landscape with a bellyful of Weisswurst and of Britons mirthlessly choking down a Sunday pub lunch. The problem is that while I have a lifetime of pub grub under my belt, I have no basis for comparison for this food. I suspect that it was extremely good as vegan fare goes, but I don’t really know. I do know that the pairings worked about as well as they do at any beer dinner. Three out of five ain’t bad.

The Great Beau’s Kerfuffle of 2011

Let me explain something about the way the news cycle works in the beer world. It’s a lot like the way the news cycle works on major cable networks. Stories tend to come out early in the week. Mondays and Tuesday s tend to be flush with press releases, and this is a good thing for beer writers because you usually end up having a column that’s published later in the week for the reason that people just don’t seem to want to think about beer on a Monday.

Well, some people do, but most of those cats are a little weird.

I tend to file columns for Sun Media on Wednesday or Thursday, which means that if something interesting happens after my filing deadline, it’s probably not going to make it into the paper at all. Usually, people like Josh Rubin at the Star will have covered it on the day. Since Josh is pretty thorough, this means that whatever that topic is tends to get relegated to my blog because it would seem like an irrelevance by the time it made into the next week’s paper.

Also, my column’s mandate is, theoretically, to have a national focus, which means that sometimes stories that effect a very small geographic area, even within my bailiwick, just don’t make it. It’s for this reason that I didn’t write about Beau’s delivery program this week. I researched it and found that even though the story contained the kind of general feel-goodery that you get from charitable donations and beer, it was too small an area. The delivery zone is parts of Ottawa, and while that’s neat, it’s hard to justify when you’re looking at a short list of “K1” postal codes.

Of course, the story got a buttload bigger because this is Ontario and nothing is ever simple. It will probably continue to spiral over the next week. Mom called earlier and I was going to explain the thing to her, but she had already heard about it on the CBC on the drive home. Some people have the AP wire; I have a beer nerd mom.

Beau’s works periodically with a charitable organization called Operation Come Home, which works with underprivileged youth. They’ve been around for 41 years, so this is not some fly by night charity. Until now, Operation Come Home has operated a service whereby they collected empty bottles from people. The Buy Your Beau’s Online website is currently redirected, so I’m going from memory here. I believe the idea was that you were donating the deposit from the bottles to Operation Come Home and you got a tax receipt for charitable donation. This is much better than slogging boxes of empties to the beer store yourself, since you get a nice tax write off and underprivileged youth get services they wouldn’t get otherwise.

At some point Beau’s and Operation Come Home decided that it would probably be a good idea for Operation Come Home to operate a delivery service for Beau’s within Ottawa. Again, a neat idea, given that you get a nice beer and maybe eventually a tax write off when you return the bottles and underprivileged youth get to perform a function within society and Operation Come Home gets to keep somewhere upwards of half of the delivery fee. I think it was something like $8.25 per delivery, but like I say, the website is down.

That press release reached my email November 23rd at 4:43 PM.

Apparently, everything was set up properly. Beau’s ran the legality of the thing by the AGCO according to Troy Burtch over at Great Canadian Beer Blog, and everything came up aces. They were all set to go until another brewery complained. The Buy Your Beau’s Online program has been suspended indefinitely. The AGCO has not divulged which brewery complained as yet, but will have to if Beau’s decides to appeal the decision.

This press release reached my email November 24th at 5:37 PM.

All told, the program existed for 25 hours, which is not bad if you’re a mayfly.

I don’t know why, but I’m finding it somewhat difficult to register the proper amount of outrage. Possibly it’s because of the amount of relief. If I had filed the Sun Media column on this topic, I would currently be frantically rewriting it in order to update the story and get it to my interim editor, Glenn. I’m relatively familiar with the 3AM deadline; I’m in an undergrad program, after all.

Mostly what I’m doing is trying to figure out what happened. Apparently the problem is not that the delivery service employs at risk youth (which I would have some qualms about, were they not adequately supervised. There’s a significant amount of oversight, so I’m not all that concerned) but rather that the beer would have come from the brewery and not through The Beer Store. Since Beau’s is not in The Beer Store, this is impossible.

In order to get a listing in The Beer Store, there is a listing fee. In this particular circumstance, this seems extortionate. In order to go ahead with the program, they would be forced to pay the initial listing fee and per store listing fees.

Now, I don’t believe for a second that another craft brewery is the complainant in this case. First of all, there aren’t whole big bunches of them in Ottawa. Secondly, another craft brewery would probably suffer from jealousy over not having thought of the idea first. Thirdly, if the owner of another craft brewery complained, they would have to know that their name would come out eventually and that the backlash would ruin their profile within the community.

So, that leaves large breweries: The ones who own The Beer Store. I don’t know which one, but I’m betting it’s not Sapporo.

The justification must be adherence to regulations. I can understand that. It’s petty, certainly, but understandable. The problem is that it’s a PR nightmare once the name of the large brewery comes out, and it will eventually. Whoever complained shut down a program that was probably going to provide thousands of dollars in revenue monthly to a worthy charitable organization.

I mean, what spin do you put on that? Beau’s are lawbreakers? That’s a terrible idea. It makes them Robin Hood, plus they had obtained permission from the AGCO. I don’t think anyone is bold enough to try the obviously evil “exploitative of at risk youth” gambit, but there’s a possibility we’ll see that spin down the line if there’s desperation.

This is a stopgap legal measure on somebody’s part, and it exists for a great reason: If Beau’s is allowed to do this, everyone will be. It cuts out The Beer Store in a relatively ingenious way and gets beer to consumers. Breweries would be able to put their flagship brands and seasonals up online and sell them directly to the consumer. Increased awareness and viability for small brewers; the large breweries can’t afford the legal precedent, especially with their volumes dropping.

Nice Try, Steve Beauchesne. Lawyer up and keep at ’em, because a blog post, no matter how much it appeals to emotion, isn’t going to do it this time.