St. John's Wort Beery Musings And Amusing Beers

St.John’s Wort – Year One

When I started blogging last year at this time, I didn’t really know exactly how everything was going to shake out. Mostly I started writing about beer because I didn’t get into the first class at Niagara College and I thought to myself that it was eventually going to be a competitive program. I thought that it would be a good idea to display willingness and have something that I could point to when the second crop of admissions came up. Something that said I had thought relatively deeply about the problem of beer in Ontario and Canada. Originally, the blog was a means to an end.

It wasn’t a huge stretch. I have a degree in English and a facility with a turn of phrase. Sometimes it makes the writing come off a little glib and my natural inclination towards making judgments on the value of things and evaluating thought processes makes sure that I’m just mildly controversial enough to be taken seriously. I owe a lot of what I have been able to do to prevailing wisdom that exists within the beer nerd scene in Ontario. In this case, there are a lot of things that are obvious to the majority of beer nerds. A lot of the more senior beer writers in the province have their own approaches, so I try to say things that everyone is already thinking that haven’t been properly vocalized if I see that as a necessity. Sometimes I say things no one cares about. It’s mostly a wash.

You may remember the article I wrote about Trafalgar. Most of the beer nerds in Ontario have the same opinion on Trafalgar. I’m sure they’re nice people, and I don’t mean to pick on them. It’s just that sometimes you need someone to step up and state the thing that is overwhelmingly obvious.

It’s like Frank Zappa said. “I’ll do the stupid thing first and then you shy people follow.”

Since starting out a year ago, I’ve somehow managed to do the following:

-Volunteer as a sales rep at Mondial for TAPS Magazine.

-garner 21000 blog hits

-be the returning officer for the Canadian Brewing Awards (for nearly an hour I was the only person who knew who won. Pretty darn neat.)

-get four nominations for the Canadian Food Blog Awards (a bit of a red herring since self nominations were involved)

-be profiled for Tasting T.O.

-Get hired for a national column in the Sunday Sun with a theoretical readership of 1.2 million (on page ~56. Who knows how many people I actually reach.)

-Take third place in the IPA category for Toronto Beer Week’s homebrew competition with the St.John’s Wort Shameless Publicity Grab IPA

-Brew a Christmas IPA that (and this is the thing I’m proudest of) got a friend of mine a girl’s number.

-Design two recipes for collaboration brews with Mike Lackey at Great Lakes. Both of which, if we brew another batch and send them to BeerAdvocate members for their ratings, would probably sit in the top hundred beers in Canada on that website.

-Host an Ola Dubh beer tasting at The Monk’s Table (Adam Grant goes on record as the only man ever to rent me a dress.)

-Help judge the 3rd annual Ontario IPA challenge at Bar Volo

-Submit an entry to the Oxford Gastronomica beer writing contest (I didn’t win, but the winner was undeniably a much better entry. Go check it out.)

-Get accepted into Niagara College for the brewing program

I think that we can all agree that that’s a good year. It’s practically a blimp. I had a goal and I reached it and there’s all this other stuff that happened along the way that has been massively educational.

That said, I feel like I should thank some people. It hasn’t escaped my notice that far from being some kind of slightly literary tipsy ubermensch, this is a thing that people are essentially allowing me to do. I have been able to succeed so far because folks have bought into the concept of me doing this thing.

First off, Nick Pashley. Reading his books allowed me the license to think of beer writing outside of the construct of whether something is good or bad. He talks a lot about the human element of drinking beer and of going to pubs and somehow manages to be sophisticated, witty and urbane even after a third pint. He and his wife Anne sort of remind me of Nick and Nora Charles. I’m of the opinion that everyone should at some point take the time to bask in his gentle good humour.

Stephen Beaumont. He probably knows more about beer than anyone I’ve met. Sometimes I ask him for help in forming an opinion because he has more information than just about anyone. The odd thing is that I’m not sure I’ve read any of his books. Also, he reminds me a little of Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine. It may just be the gunslinger moustache; fitting since that’s kind of what he is.

Ralph, Tomas and Julian Morana for helping me see how the bleeding edge of the Ontario beer scene works. Mirella Amato for periodically taking the time to explain to me what exactly it is I’m tasting. The bloggers (Troy Burtch, Greg Clow, Matt Caldwell, Chris Schryer, Matt Warner, Chris Talbot, Chris Grimley (edit: not to mention Alan Mcleod. Where would we all be without him?) deserve thanks for exchanging in open and frank discussions and for being a lot of fun to hang out with. Bill White for being the only man with a handlebar moustache that I can take seriously. Ken Woods for demonstrating the amount of commitment this is going to take.

Andrew Bartle and Mike Lackey deserve thanks because they’ve helped me learn how the actual hands on elements of brewing work. Mike Lackey especially deserves credit for making me promise myself never to try brewing anything with garlic.

Aonghus Kealy for pointing me towards THE SUN and Rebecca Zamon, my editor, for making my columns accessible while realizing I need to maintain my street cred.

I should thank Mom for not pointing and laughing. Without her I would be blogging about Olde Englishe from under an overpass.

Finally, though, I should thank St.John’s Wort’s sole employee, Catherine Strotmann. At last count she had been promoted to Senior-Uber-Deluxe-Extra-Crispy-Correspondent-Royale-With-Cheese. If she ever gets around to submitting something about the Merchant Ale House (piece assigned 5 months ago), I’ll be astonished. Deadlines whip past her like particles in a Hadron Collider. I’m thinking of removing some superlatives from her title.

(edit: Alex Nixon has taken the time to point out that he is my West Coast Correspondent and I am reminded suddenly that he has a piece outstanding about Central City from at least six months ago. I hope that he doesn’t take the oversight badly. If he does I won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.)

I wish I could say I had more in store for year two, but in truth, I’m still making this stuff up as I go along. That said, if you’re a brewer with a pilot system and want to collaborate, I have a couple of neat tricks up my sleeve. Get in touch at Jordan.stjohn@gmail.com

6 Thoughts on “St.John’s Wort – Year One

  1. Awesome to see you hitting your stride with this stuff, my friend. I still think I’m fancy when I drink Magic Hat, so you have much to teach me. Congratulations on making it happen.

    • Nothing wrong with the Magic Hat. The #9 has had some influence in the market here.

      Besides which, being a blogger in Toronto has nothing on being an arctic lawyer with more beard than a Grateful Dead reunion for originality.

  2. Alex Nixon on May 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm said:

    I see that my late submission has resulted in my demotion from Senior West Coast Correspondent to West Coast Correspondent.

    Seriously though, I really should get going on the Central City piece.

  3. Senior-Uber-Deluxe-Extra-Crispy-Correspondent-Royale-With-Cheese Catherine Strotmann on May 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm said:

    I shall finish this task with haste now! It doesn’t hurt that I’m going there with EJ soon. As for my title, remove crispy and I may be the cause of a literary scandal to rock the province, with my photoshop skills you may be wearing a speedo drinking a bud light lime… -tweaks moustache-

    It’s amazing it’s been a year, to be honest it’s felt like more due to just how successful you have made a small idea to credit yourself for school, become an actual enterprise! Well deserved, and still my favourite blog to read.

  4. Ian Coutts on May 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm said:

    Jordan,

    If you do go ahead and attend the program at Niagara, I hope you do not throttle back on your writing too much. I enjoy your prose.

  5. Grimes on June 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm said:

    Congrats my friend! You should develop an app to put all of your posts in audio format as your low toned smooth prose puts me In a naturally relaxed state while learning a thing or two about our favourite beverage. Also said app would probably rival T-pain’s in terms of success.

    Keep up the great work and all the best for year 2!

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