Five Under-Appreciated Toronto Beer Bars

It’s Friday!  You will, no doubt, be having a beer this weekend (if you read this blog, anyway).  I’ll keep your reading light for this occasion.

With that in mind, I wanted to send you to some new places for your drinking pleasure for tonight, this weekend, or anytime.  These are bars that, despite having a good tap list, great food, a cool atmosphere (or all three), don’t get the love I feel they deserve.  In no particular order and by no means exhaustive:

Tequila Bookworm

I still need to know who does that cool writing on the menu board.

Located at the intersection of Queen & Portland, this nondescript little watering hole is probably my favourite in this area. The bartenders here are extremely knowledgeable about the product they’re pouring, and they’re always good to have at least one of each popular style (as opposed to a menu full of IPAs). With cocktails on tap, an affordable but delicious bar food menu, and great deep cuts of well-known artists always on, they’re a surefire friday post-work spot. Bonus points – they have an upstairs area that you can rent out privately that is extremely affordable, and a tiny patio (once the weather warms up).

Mascot Brewery

The Craft Beer DJ of Toronto, Mr.Grump. He’s actually incredibly friendly, and a great dude.

Ok, so you aren’t really a party person. We get it, you hate fun. However, if you call yourself a beer fan and haven’t yet tasted Siobhan McPherson’s beers in the time she’s been brewing here, you’re simply missing out. It’s the opinion of this writer that the Mascot Pilsner is the best example of the style in the province, and true to trend, they are pumping out tons of popular styles in the 14+ taps they have in house. Their fruited sour game is also on point with a passionfruit sour that is a real thirst-quencher. Awesome food and fun staff as well as a lively atmosphere means you should probably check it out. If you decide to turn your nose up at it due to not liking the musical stylings of Bubblegum Bikini or DJ Grump, that’s fine – more pilsner for the rest of us.

Northwood
Nestled away at Bloor and Crawford (just east of Ossington) is Northwood. The vibes in this bar are straightforward; small, quiet, serious, high-quality. The cocktails carried here rival some of the best in the city on originality and straight-up enjoyability – the beer selection speaks to the same. With several rotating taps as well as a decently-sized bottle selection from both Ontario and Quebec, this bar constantly impresses me. Bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly and are always the first to crack a joke (and if you ask REALLY nicely they might play the kind of music you want to hear). Snacks are tasty. The only real point of contention here is the price point – this is upper echelon stuff here, be prepared to pay medium-high prices on everything. But still – go.

Another Bar
Adorned with 8-foot classic portraiture of Elvis, Freddie Mercury, and Johnny Cash (among others) is Another Bar. It’s a pretty nondescript spot, generally lacking in particular attention to detail with decor. They have the Leaf game on there, a functioning jukebox, and tables strewn about. Occasionally you’ll find a band there. However, Another Bar shines in the way that matters – they have a huge selection of Ontario craft beer. They’re the closest bar to me with the Muskoka Moonlight Kettle beers on tap, which rotate monthly. I’ve also found every new GLB release here, and the options rotate frequently. If you have a big group of people seeking a great place to have a few, this is the spot. Bloor, west of Ossington.

Laylow Bar

Laylow’s vibes are always chill, and it’s an awesome spot to hear hip-hop songs you haven’t heard in 20 years.

If you follow me on any of my social accounts, you’ve seen me comment on this spot before. Beers are made on the smallest system i have ever seen (I don’t even think it qualifies to be measured in hL) and change constantly – probably once every two weeks, if not more often. Dan and his squad have set up this spot as a church of hip-hop (which goes well with a Belgian ale, if you’re looking for pairing recos) and beer, with a great imported bottle selection as well as a rare guest tap, which is always a local offering. Head to College and Dufferin for this spot, and look for the bar full of people listening to KRS-One or the Killa Beez’s deepest cuts.

What’d I miss? Flip me a comment, tweet, or IG message @beermostly.

 

Mike Writes About Stouts

Oh hi, friend. It’s a cold evening in Toronto tonight, so I wanted to go over some cool factoids in regards to everyone’s favourite winter beer: Stout.

Stouts originated from porters, made in England many hundred or so years ago. They are typically made with heavily kilned malts (that is to say, the barley is roasted to varying degrees of darkness) prior to being packaged and sent out to breweries.  This contributes colour and a lot of the flavours associated with stout – roast, sear, charcoal, chocolate, and coffee.

It’s my contention that this particular depth of malt character is what provides the best canvas for something called adjuncts. An adjunct, by definition, is “a thing added to something else as a supplementary, rather than an essential part” – so it’s something made to change or enhance a stout.  You’ve probably heard this phrase in reference to adjunct lager which sometimes use corn rice or other grain extract to support the malt bill for less money than full barley malt.

Common adjuncts to stouts include chocolate or cocoa nibs (which is the activated, roasted cocoa bean with husk), coffee, wine, or spirit barrel aging (second use barrels including but not limited to rum, bourbon, or whiskey). Aging within these vessels post-fermentation contributes varying flavours like leather, alcohol, oak, or an even further char.

With the above said, I wanted to run by my reading audience why I think Stout is the best style with which adjuncts can be added – as well as some fine examples of the style. So, to work:

  1. Malt Base OP – This is lacking in a lot of other beers that use adjuncts. Let’s keep in mind that a beer recipe does not have a star per se; it requires all aspects of the recipe to work together in harmony in order to shine.  Stout is the Hamilton of beers (or insert your favourite musical here).

 

  1. Enhancement over Change – Contribution of existing flavours means the adjunct actually supports the existing product as opposed to introducing something entirely new, which can be a gamble. That is to say, when one adds chocolate or coffee to a stout, they are enhancing existing flavours – not trying to move the beverage in a different direction (like, for example, a fruited IPA).

 

  1. Old Man Stout – They age well! Most stouts are ok to be aged in package for months or sometimes years where flavours develop, dry out, yeast allows maturity, etc. If you’re going to cellar any beer, let it be a stout.

 

  1. A Stout Tastes As Sweet – Think about the divisions of styles within stouts. This makes for an interesting experiment in what flavours play best with sweet/dry/irish/oatmeal examples. Even just within the single style of stout, there are tons of variations, and like a fingerprint, no two are alike.

 

  1. The Dark Side – Stout is one of the best beers to introduce to your non-beer nerd friends. I love pouring out a stout to the horror of the new drinker’s face; then letting them know about why they should give it a chance, and to ease them into it; then, seeing the relief when they talk about how much they like it.

I’ve plugged in some examples of great Ontario stouts below for perusal and discussion. These are some of my personal favourites that stand out as a unique example of the style!

Stonehammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout – This has consistently been one of my favourite stouts in the province, and I almost always have it in my fridge. The malt base in the beer is smooth, which is heightened by the use of oats in the mash.  This creates an excellent canvas to which a layer of coffee is added – rich, roasty, carbonated well, and a slight coffee-induced bitterness on the finish which is both refined and standoffish. A true-to-style adjunct stout that does not mess around.

Bellwoods Bring Out Your Dead – This opaque, black, headless stout is aged in cognac barrels, which basically turns the beer into candy.  On the precipice of sickly sweet, with a nose of oak, dark chocolate ganache, and the right amount of dark fruit, this is truly Bellwoods’ dark and sticky magnum opus.

Sawdust Long Dark Voyage To Uranus – I’d bet good money that Sam Corbeil, brewmaster at Sawdust City, still snorts with laughter occasionally at the name of this beer.  A 9.5% Imperial Stout, which is accurately described as crushingly bitter, is a 101 in recipe development.  Fresh, it delivers an alcohol-forward chocolate bombardment accompanied by flavours of roasted walnuts and pure charcoal.  Aged, it comes through with milk chocolate calm and an incredible velvet mouthfeel. Truly incredible and one of the more unique beers in Ontario brew-dom.

Amsterdam Double Tempest – Always accompanied by a party for its release day in November every year, Double Tempest is an Imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels. This is one of my favourite stouts to do a vertical with – which is when you get multiple years (what some would call vintages) of release and taste them side-by-side, noting the developed changes and flavours within.  Stored properly, Double Tempest can hang with the best in it’s style – Amsterdam, though not without criticism recently, is often overlooked as a high-quality beer provider due to their size.  XX Tempest kicks that notion directly in the junk with this consistently incredible stout, full to the brim with semi-sweet chocolate and bourbon sherry vibes.

Muskoka Shinnicked Stout – Roasty. Coffee. A fun name.  What more do you want?  Muskoka created this beer late 2016, with distribution in the winter 2017.  Named after the colloquialism of the feeling one gets when jumping in an off-frozen lake, this is a standard coffee stout, with great flavour depth and a really rich café vibe.  So good, and available in winter survival packs.

Shinnicked. Mmmm.

Indie Ale House Zombie Apocalypse – Every year, Indie throws a Stout Night, where there are usually just over a dozen different stouts available for sampling from several breweries.  This usually coincides with the yearly release of their flagship imperial stout. A true dry stout, this is very much like it’s flagrantly honest proprietor, Jason – no BS. It gets you with a chunky mouthfeel and alcohol up front, with bitter astringent coffee and caramel sweetness. A true gem.  It also comes in barrel-aged, which I haven’t had yet, but I’m sure is lovely.

Godspeed Stout – Luc Lafontaine and his team at Godspeed bucked the trends of milky IPAs and lacto sours this summer by coming up with straightforward, delicious beer, including this stout.  It comes in at under 7%, is extremely drinkable with next to no alcohol taste, and does extremely well as a session beer.  Part of the initial Pitch and Pray series, it should be in your fridge right now.

Rainhard Sweetback Milk Stout – This is my favourite beer that Rainhard makes. A lot of people are floored when I tell them this, but it’s true – the layering of this innocent milk stout has not been matched by any other brewer in the province so far.  The name Milk Stout is derived from the use of unfermentable lactose inserted into the brew, which contributes to mostly mouthfeel, as well as residual sweetness.  This drinks like a milkshake – chocolate cake vibes without a hint of dryness. It’s also made year-round, for your year-round appreciation.

Blood Brothers Guilty Remnant White Stout – Whoa, a white stout?  Come on, now.  Basically, as opposed to using roasted or kilned dark malts that give a stout it’s signature colour and flavour profile – white stouts use standard pale malt, but rely on the adjuncts we’ve discussed to emulate those flavours.  Interestingly, this sweet beer is reminiscient of white chocolate and oatmeal – and it also comes in a fruited Raspberry edition (since sold out).  A weird beer for sure, but I mean, it’s Blood Brothers, so it’s to be expected.

– – –

The point is this: stouts should not be feared.  They should be celebrated, and more than anything, drank with excitement and fervor.   I hope you learned something! Until next time, keep your wits about ye.

– Mike


Got more to say?  Find me on Twitter or Instagram @beermostly and let me know!

On the hiatus

Mike explains where the hell he’s been, and where TBP is going.

It has been 10 months since The Bottomless Pint last published an article.

But yesterday, I came to a conclusion.  We’re needed back, I think.

It seemed for a while there, TBP lost it’s voice.  There is so much good content being circulated on the internet and social networks surrounding beer editorials, brewery visits, and op-ed pieces about any old thing in the industry. You, dear reader, have tons of great options and resources for content.  I felt like we weren’t needed; like all I needed to say was being said. Brewery blogs stepped up their game and told you quickly and concisely about beer releases.

I also lost most of the blog participants.

Matt Renda, who founded TBP, has moved on to champion his own massive and exciting project that I can’t wait to help him share with the world when it’s born.

Victoria Rombis stepped away and moved on in blog land, and still works for a good friend to TBP, Muskoka Brewery; you can find her all around Ontario singing the praises of their fine Moonlight Kettle series.

Beth Hughes went on a months-long cross-continent roadtrip, and has returned to her work at Junction Craft Brewing as a sales rep for Western Ontario.

I also had a ton go on in 2017 – but that’s a story for another time.  Full disclosure – I sling beers a few times a month at the brand new Kensington Brewing Co in Toronto.

So, I’ve found this voice again. The Bottomless Pint, it seems, has been refreshed.  The glass is beer clean.  It’s a real crispyboye this time, with some extra bitterness in this batch that I think you’ll like.

There’s a lot of terrible, brutal, cheap, meaningless content creeping onto Instagram and other parts of the internet that does absolutely nothing for beer lovers.

I want to do something for you, to provide a value nobody else either can, or currently is. They say to stick to what you’re good at.

So here’s the new platform: you’re interested in beer, right? Good. We’re going to teach you about it, and why it’s cool, and anyone who says otherwise can go to hell. No press releases, we’ll let you know that on IG and Twitter @beermostly so it’s quick and snackable content.  No more news aggregates, there are great examples of those already. Shortly you’ll be able to find us on Facebook, too.

But not boring shit. We know you don’t care about a beer’s letter grade or /5 ranking or any of that stuff, or that I like the color of the can, or that anything other than the beer and it’s experience is highlighted.

I’m going to teach you the coolest parts of being “into” beer.  How to pair it with food. Where the best spots are to get one, to take your friends, or on a date. I’m going to teach you how to introduce your friends and coworkers and families and s/o’s about it without sounding like a jerk.  You’ll learn about the sex and bro-driven culture that infects beer, and why it’s bad for everyone.  I’ll recommend books.  Other blogs. Why you should stop buying ABInBev beers. If you’re incredibly interested, we’ll talk brewing science and off-flavours, too. This is a conversation, not me on a soapbox.  Wanna know something, or have a gripe, or question?  Hit me up.  My contact info is on the About page.

We’ll have guest writers.  I’ll make breweries write about something cool and bring it to you on the inside scoop. This is for you.

I expect a slow start. However, we’re back. The Bottomless Pint is full, with an excellent pour, and we’re ready to talk beer.

Stay tuned.

– Mike

 

In The Year 2040

Pictured: the Ontario beer scene in 2040.

It’s been 23 years since Gary McMullen, co-founder of Muskoka Brewery, stepped away from the brewery he cofounded, and eventually become the first person to ever successfully motorize a floating Muskoka chair and speed around the lakes of Bracebridge and Muskoka, donning an ever-longer beard, and only responding to the name ‘Tom’.

Ontario, once a thriving craft beer destination, has been in decline for years, and nobody is quite sure when the tipping point was.  Some say it was the year Jordan Rainhard stopped making Armed N’Citra, or the day Mike Lackey of GLB switched to making exclusively brown ales.  However, we at The Bottomless Pint, now a print magazine for aging craft beer fans, point to a single event: During The Great Drought of ’33, when no C hops could be found due to massive water shortage in parts of the US and Europe, contract brewers thought ahead and bought up every single hop contract they could find, in a plea to increase their relevance and sell their hops back to brick-and-mortar breweries at an inflated cost.  This was the tipping point for many brewers, with over 350 of Ontario’s 400+ breweries going out of business, due to falling interest, hop shortages, a renewed Sarsaparilla beverage market, and the resurgence of low-carb diets.  Those breweries that remain are only the hardiest, those who prioritized quality, as well as progression of their craft.  I’ll never forget the day Jason Fisher of Indie Ale House packed up for a life of quiet meditation in the mountains of Tibet.  Or when Blake Sugden of Brickwords cut his beard off in frustration.  Or when Jordan St.John had to move into one of Cool’s brite tanks just to get by.  

The state of the industry has since been that of ruin. Escarpment Labs, once famed for their carefully cultured and unique yeasts, had to sell their patents, and now makes funky yeasts for bread and bakers around Ontario.  Some unnamed investors bought up Beau’s, Steamwhistle, and Amsterdam, and then turned the breweries into wholesale sweater-vest outlet stores / graphic design agencies.  Bellwoods Dupont remains unopened, for their landlord still hasn’t gotten back to the email they sent in 2016.  Mark and Mandie of Left Field Brewery purchased the Blue Jays and finally forced what was what known as the Rogers Centre (now the Norm Kelly Centre For Sports) to bring craft beer to sports fans.  In what was supposed to be a shining moment for beer in Ontario, new PM Kellie Lietch then suprisingly outlawed beer from all non-private residences and sporting events, citing “Alcohol is the cause of dissent, and who knows what else.  Seriously, who knows?  I do not.”

Now truly under a stranglehold of sudsy security, all those still interested in beer must acquire it through The Liquor Store, an amalgamated company run by those who once ran The Beer Store, in an Orwellian system of paper slips, order numbers, and frustrating walled-off coolers.  Simply put: the fun and exploration has been taken from craft beer.  Combined with economic struggles, dwindling curiosity, and lack of inspiration, beer in Ontario is all but finished.  


Could this be the future that craft beer in Ontario is doomed for?  I sure hope not.

Wake up, beer fan, it was all a dream!  Only one statement of the above is true: Yesterday, Gary McMullen, a cofounder of Muskoka Brewery, announced his departure from the brewery he helped build and eventually open in June 1996.   He entrusts the position of president to Todd Lewin, former VP of Sales and Marketing, to continue leading the charge for Muskoka.

Gary McMullen, left, and Todd Lewin, right. Photo via Muskoka Brewery.

Without talking to Gary, I found this to be surprising and shocking: I hadn’t yet heard of this occurring.  Someone started a brewery when I was a child, and built it over a lifetime, and has now departed (what McMullen’s plan is now has not been made public).  23 years worth of work – and truly, an empire to be proud of to show for it – got me thinking: Who, in the next 23 years, will we see do the same?  Who will be able to say in this period of time how proud they are of the work they and theirs have done, and depart from it?  What breweries exist now that will still be around in 2040?

I thought this would be a pertinent time to write about the future of craft beer, but instead, i’ll ask for your help.  What makes longevity?  What is the formula for success that Gary and the late Kirk Evans figured out that brought them from a small family operation to the massive, 130+ staff company that they are now?  I don’t rightly know, and frankly, this writer hasn’t been around long enough to be able to project that kind of assertion.

As they say,  “pages intentionally left blank” – for us to answer over time.  Those who know much, much more than I about craft beer’s history in this province have written – and will write – about what’s to come, but I am far more focused on our responsibility to these breweries we love.  In an age without social media and the ability to sound off to hundreds of people at a time, Muskoka grew itself with a great product and well placed advertising, sure, but it mostly grew itself from clearly passionate leadership.  They made a product that they were proud of, and still are.  As they should be, I think.

So now, to prevent the Craftocalypse, it’s really up to us, beer fans.  Some very easy ways to support your craft brewers are:

  1. Buy beer from the brewery when you can, but when you can’t, be sure to ask for it at your LCBO.
  2. Tell your friends.
  3. Tell the brewery.  I can’t stress it enough that while breweries hear how much people love their product, they hear far more negative, in the day-to-day.
  4. Attend events they throw – there are literally hundreds of events a year you can attend and speak to company reps and even brewers – and beer is often on special or free.
  5. Support other small businesses in the same way, if you have the means.  Small business economy is reciprocal.  Small bars and restaurants often carry small brewery beers, and keeping that loop of dollars flowing in from all directions is they  key to growth and sustainable business.
  6. Get a job at one.  Easier said than done, but if you find a job that suits your skill set, I know firsthand that working at a craft brewery is an awesome, yet challenging job.

Be vocal, be present, and be honest.  It’s our job as fans and advocates to keep craft beer alive.  Breweries live on our dollars.  Vote with your wallet!  Support the local economy, and all the while, enjoy the continually-growing, fun scene that Ontario beer is right now – for it may not always be around.  It sounds grim, but it’s a possibility, and if that scares you like it does me – you know what to do!

With that rant, poorly structured article, and beer fanfiction, I bid Mr. McMullen a happy… retirement?  Whatever it is you’re up to next, take a bow on your way out, sir.  In case you missed it, we’re big fans.

Not goodbye, but so long, Gary, and thanks for all the beer.

– Mike

 

Toronto Breweries or Brewpubs I Look Forward To Drinking At This Summer

Yes, I know it’s March, but we got a taste of spring last week that I’m clinging to, so bear with me here.

It’s probably pretty well established by now that beer is truly a summer beverage (my dad, who generally only drinks Stella to my chagrin, refuses to drink it unless it’s hot out), though people like me find something to imbibe with year-round.  It’s undeniable though, that there is truly something about a cold beer on a hot day that is unlike any other feeling.  Your writing team at TBP are huge fans of beer as a social beverage, and on that note, I was inspired to write about my personal favourite spots to grab a pint in the warm seasons.  Note of course that these are my picks for the reasons listed, and though these are the first of many spots I’d recommend, there is no WAY that this list is exhaustive.  Please see Chris’ Better Beer Bar map for great places that may be more local to you to get some wonderful Ontario Craft Beer.

Anyway, moving forward!

Left Field Brewery –Gerrard/Greenwood

Left Field is more than a brewery – it’s a community hub.

Baseball is pretty synonymous with summer, so it makes sense that this baseball-themed brewery, where the huge garage door opens in summer for a pseudo-patio, is a hot spot for both locals and tourists alike.  You’ll find some of Toronto’s best beer here – from the roasty Eephus brown ale, to the Maris* pale ale and through all of their seasonal offerings, Mark and Mandie’s team at Left Field have created not only one of Toronto’s best breweries, but a bustling community hub for families, couples, groups, and doggos.  Complete with a great tap list (that rotates with seasonal offerings) as well as a bring-your-own-food friendly atmosphere, Left Field is the complete package for all demographics looking for a fun summer afternoon.  I live at College and Ossington, so this is a quick ride on the 506 streetcar for me.

Rainhard Brewery  – St.Clair/Symes

Try to go to Rainhard on days it’s not raining hard to enjoy the best parts of this brewery.

Accuse me of suffering from fanboy-ism, but Rainhard is making some of the best beer around.  I have noted before that I believe Hop Cone Syndrome, an IIPA, is the best hop-forward beer I have ever had in the time I’ve spent in Ontario beer (next batch out week of March 19).  The team recently adopted the use of short cans for their core offerings of Pilsner and Armed N’Citra Pale ale, which is a fairly unique choice in Toronto brewers.  Their tap room is gorgeous – bar and barrel seating and standing room, and if you hang out by the huge windows and open garage door right next to the brite tanks, it’s a really cool, industrial spot to have great beer and shoot the breeze with Jordan, Derek, and sometimes Andrew (who has been there every time I’ve visited).  Ask for True Grit Brett Saison if you can, and if not, go with the Pilsner or Hop Cone Syndrome.

Blood Brothers Brewing – Dovercourt/Dupont

The new Blood Brothers spot has awesome imagery as well as quality beer for sale by glass or bottle. Limited seating, but worth going early for.

Blood Brothers was once located in a very small hallway in a pretty nondescript industrial complex.  It has since moved to a bigger hallway (haha) and a bigger production brewery, where Paradise Lost and Torch can continue to shine.  Their stylish and bright taproom, reminiscent to me of what a Pharaoh’s tap room would look like, is sure to shine this summer, with extensive taplists and bottles to go.  Try the Torch and the painfully underappreciated Shumei IPA.

Folly Brewpub – College/Dovercourt

Folly’s atmosphere and amazing beer/food combos are great for groups of fun-loving people and a great afternoon out.

Christina and Chris’ beers are pretty close to my heart, as they make variations of Farmhouse and Saison beers, my favourite style.  This particular brewpub shines both because of the wide range of flavours their beer offers at a time, but also because of chef Anthony’s inspired menu.  Lunch or dinner is eaten well here, with my recent favourite being the Sticky Ribs.  I also like the different Why Not Wednesdays, which offers a unique off-menu dish that any of the staff will help you pair with a beer. Go and get dinner and a Flemish Cap, their old world Saison; or to annoy everyone, ask when Mise En Saison will be back.

Bellwoods Brewery – Queen/Ossington

My good friend Malick, who runs the blog over at The Mad Mix. A great blog for youth marketers. Anyway, this is him at baby’s first trip to the Bellwoods patio.

To not include the OG Bellwoods spot in this list would be remiss.  Bellwoods has been making award-winning beer for a while now, and they aren’t slowing down any time soon.  Recently expanding with an absolutely massive production brewery in North York at Hafis Road, Bellwoods has never seen more volume (and this summer is predicted to not close their bottle shop because they have no beer to sell, which has been a problem in past years).  Their barrel program has expanded as well, which will hopefully bring us more greatest hits like Motley Cru, Grandma’s Boy, and the ever-elusive Skeleton Key.  Their patio at Ossington is sublime, with muted tones and candles on every slightly-worn-in picnic bench.  Get Farmageddon if you can, with the falafel lettuce wraps, and bring all your friends.

Bar Hop Brewco – Richmond/Peter

Bar Hop Brewco on a sunny summer day.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of BarHop’s newest beer collabs, which are made both on site at Bar Hop brewco and in collaboration with Amsterdam Brewery.  Brewco has a particularly gorgeous patio on the roof, where they offer up more than 25 taps of amazing Ontario, US, and International beers as well as snack or family-style fare that is some of the best in town.  It’s usually pretty busy, so try to get there before day’s end at 5PM, but it’s worth a decent wait.  Try Tremolo #2, a brett saison, and bring your sunglasses.  Patio should open whenever the temperature is pretty consistent.

Agree?  Disagree?  Did I miss something better?  Sound off on Twitter or Instagram to me, @beermostly.

  • Mike

Rainhard Brewery x Three Sisters Kitchen to host Beer & Olives Pairing Night

Beer and Olives, you say? An interesting pairing – i think you just might find me at this event out of sheer curiosity!

On Thursday, February 23 from 5-9PM, Rainhard Brewing is hosting, teaming up with Three Sisters Kitchen to bring you a beer and olive pairing event – a pairing I’m interested in seeing the mechanics of, myself! The Three Sisters kitchen make all-kosher (whereas Rainhard’s beer is “uncertified kosher”) olives and tapenade spreads, which are to be paired with four excellent Rainhard beers:

Hearts Collide 2017 – Imperial Stout
Bock – German Dark Lager
Revolution #3 – Dry-Hopped Sour Saison
Barrel Series #2 – Sour Brown Ale Aged in Oak with Raspberries and Cherries

The real standout here is the Barrel Series #2 Sour Brown Ale, which will be released for the first time at this event!  I’m told the remainder of this very special beer will be left in barrels for a while longer (maybe even a long while longer!)

Ticket price includes free samples of olives, tapenade and chips, plus your choice of two 5oz samples or one 12oz glass of beer. Additional food and beer will be available for purchase!

John Showman and Friends will provide the evening’s entertainment, and you can Grab tickets here!  This is sure to be a unique event with unique beers.

See you all there!

– Mike

 

Merit Brewing to open in downtown Hamilton

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In some very exciting news this morning, we learned that Merit Brewing, the brainchild of Tej Sandhu, Jesse Vallins and Aaron Spinney (former Sawdust City brewer) has been formally announced, with it’s location at 107 James St. North.  Congratulations to Bottomless Pint friend Tej and his team!

Check out the text of the full release below!


It’s not often you get to build your dream alongside other talented professionals that you also call friends. MERIT Brewing Company is the realization of that dream for Tej Sandhu, Aaron Spinney, and Jesse Vallins.

MERIT will operate out of 107 James St. North, which will be home to an expansive taproom serving 14 rotating offerings brewed in-house by Aaron (formerly Head Brewer, Sawdust City Brewery), a kitchen directed by Jesse (Executive Chef, Maple Leaf Tavern) that is focused on sausage and beer-friendly bites, a rear patio, and a retail store that will have beer available to-go in 500ml bottles and 2L growlers. “The downtown brewpub is a homecoming of sorts for Tej and I” says Aaron, who met Tej while studying marketing at Mohawk College during Tej’s studies at McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business. After graduation, Aaron went on to excel as a brewer at some of Canada’s most well recognized breweries after completing the initial class of Niagara College’s brewing program (2010), and Tej continued to further his career in the music industry.

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They bonded over the exploration of craft beer, love of cooking, and excitement about the growth of Hamilton. “Since food is such an important part of the enjoyment of beer for us, when we had the idea to start MERIT we knew we wanted to find another partner who saw the importance in the connection” says Tej. Through some mutual friends, the pair met Jesse and knew he would be able to provide the same creative spark with MERIT’s food as they would with the beer and business. “It’s very exciting to be involved with a project like this. Beer and sausage are a tried and true combo, and two of my biggest passions in life. I’m really looking forward to working with classic pairings, but also delivering the unexpected.” says Jesse, who will remain at Maple Leaf Tavern while playing an active role in developing MERIT’s recipes and food business.

Built on the shared passion for growing community, the trio sees MERIT as their way to support and drive creativity in the city. Tej adds, “We’re excited to join the likeminded community of young entrepreneurs that have been leading the re-development of the downtown core, and to further Hamilton’s artistic growth through beer and food!” Aaron continues, “Much like the artists in the city, we want to push boundaries, expand people’s horizons, and to create genuine art in a glass.”

While an opening date is not yet set, the team is working hard to open its doors to the community soon.

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Beers of the Year 2016: Mike Burton

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A highlight for us this year was brewing with the wonderful people at Royal City! I took the picture.

Before you people accuse me of being late, I’ll have you know that I wanted 2016 to finish before telling you what I thought of this year in beer!

2016 saw our blog continue to grow; all 4 writers have been working hard (two within the beer industry, our very own Beth Hughes at Junction and Victoria Rombis at Muskoka #ladiesdrinkbeer) to maintain active and well-honed social presence to bring our own flavour of op-ed content to you wonderful readers.  We’ve been a little slow on those lately for various life changes both positive and challenging (Congrats to Matt on the purchase of his first home), but we thank you for sticking around for our unique points of view.  Thanks for being great, readers.  We still love you.

I had a truly difficult time sticking three new beers from 2016 that stuck out to me.  The industry has grown so significantly, even in the short time The Bottomless Pint has been around, that we have hundreds of beers to assess.  After some therapeutic drinking,  meditation, and existential crises, I have been able to settle on my three favourites from 2016.  Pull up a comfy chair and listen to your friend Mike.

 

Folly Brewpub – Loquacious (Pinot Noir Barrel Aged Quadrupel w/Brett)

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Surprise, there’s a Brett beer on this list.  Christina Coady and Chris Conway, co-brewers at Folly brewpub, have always caught my eye (and my tastebuds) with their takes on experimental and sometimes wacky Farmhouse beers.  This glorious creation, Loquacious, is a take on a Belgian Quadrupel (using a ramped up malt bill from their Bruin, Inkhorn), aged in a Pinot Noir barrel with Brettanomyces Lambicus (a strain similar to that utilized in open-vat fermentation in koelschips in the Senne River valley in Belgium that create Lambic beer such as Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen).  This ruby-red beer is massive at 11% ABV, and has tart notes of plum, cherry, leather, and funk that come together to create a blend of Rodenbach and Jacobins vibes that dry out on the palate and change as the beer warms.  Absolutely incredible, creative work from Coady and Conway.  Well done, Folly. (No longer available)

 

Rainhard Brewing – Hop Cone Syndrome (IIPA)

Jordan Rainhard created a masterpiece with Hop Cone.  There isn’t much to say here, sadly – Rainhard has created the best IIPA in Ontario with this beer, and I have personally thanked Jordan for its creation on several occasions.  It is floral, intense, and astringent in the best way.  The juicy melon and citrus notes from the Mosaic and Citra hops come together with an absolutely perfectly balanced malt backbone to deliver a hop punch directly to the dome, but never overwhelms.  Best drank fresh, obviously.  (No longer available, may return seasonally in Spring)

 

Half Hours On Earth – Yalla Yalla Citra (Tart Farmhouse Ale dry hopped w/Citra)

If you haven’t had anything from HHOE and don’t plan on going to Seaforth, Ontario to get some, you can order their beer online and have it shipped to your door.  They specialize in Farmhouse Ales, specifically tart or sour beers, with inspiration coming from Belgian and Trappist ales as well as Lambics.  This Yalla Yalla Citra was like lemon juice in a glass, sans bitterness – it was beautifully tart, with notes of lemon and grass in the nose.  I also specifically remember it being a beautiful vibrant yellow colour, lending to its citrus quality even further.   Watch for big things from HHOE, who already have a collaboration with at least one other Ontario brewery in the books.  (Currently available)


Well, with 2016 a wrap… tell us, folks!  Did I miss one?  Am I way off?  Tweet me @beermostly, and stay tuned for our other writers’ lists to come!

 – Mike

Toronto’s Winter Brewfest Returns for 2nd Event

Well, well.

Seems that Toronto’s Winter Brewfest is determined to secure a place in the GTA; announcing on Monday that they would be returning for two days of beer, food, and fun at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition place for  March 24-25, 2017.

You may remember this name from the well-attended but poorly reviewed event last year – where the organizers took heat for inflated beer costs ($4/4oz on average), a jammed venue, and a few other missing pieces.  Read about our point of view from last year here.

This year’s event promises a few key changes:

 

Cashless RFID Wristbands – you’ll be able to charge up your wristband both pre-event and on-site with Brew Bucks (1 BB = $1), and upon requesting a sample, will simply be tapping your wristband for payment.  This is anticipated to relieve lines, and if it works anything like it did for RepublicLive’s WayHome this year, it should accomplish that.  Other features include a list being emailed to you with the beers you tried, so you won’t have angry twitter followers complaining about all your Untappd checkins.  Okay, this is neat.

 

Capped Pricing – With the absolute clusterfuck that was last year’s pricing, Brewfest has remodeled itself this year to be significantly more affordable – 70% of 4oz samples will be available for 2 BrewBucks, or $2, with any beer 6.1% ABV or higher coming in at 3 Brewbucks ($3).  This puts Brewfest at the middle-upper of Ontario craft beer festivals, and will certainly attract a larger crowd.  For some context, last year’s average was $1 an ounce – so you’re looking at nearly a 50% smaller investment here.  Let’s hope these prices don’t hinder great beers being brought in (There are 150+).

 

Venue Improvement – Last year’s Brewfest featured 37,000 feet of jammed, drunk audiences to a DJ, whose name I don’t care to remember, pounding the latest and greatest in some kind of house music (please god don’t bring this back) – and people were unhappy being “sardined” (that was the word I heard that made me chuckle).  It seemed the organizers underestimated how attended the event would be, so on the second day, added some more space.  For this event, they have more than doubled alst year’s commitment, up to 80,000 square feet, and promised more room for food trucks, places to mill about and drink with your friends, and maybe even some places to sit down and take it all in.

 

Beer Experts – Last year’s servers were volunteers, more than half of which didn’t even show up for their shifts.  It’s been noted that this was a horrible occurrence and beyond the control of the organizers, but none the less, contributed to overworked and under educated staff.  This year, Brewfest will be bringing in those with Cicerone qualifications (which level TBD, but don’t be surprised if there is a mix – I’d think the Cicerone CBS are more than enough for this role) as sort of like those people in Ikea that can guide you to the right shade of cushion for your Elsebet.  Seriously though, there will be well-marked staff to guide you and your friends to their style and brewery recommendations.  I like this, as they will use their experience to guide people to expand their tastes and their knowledge.

 

With the above changes, it sure seems that Brewfest has made a commitment to impressing the Toronto market and throwing an event that tries to push off the negativity that last year’s event has brought them.  In my article last year, I said I didn’t want them to come back in the format they were in – and it seems they’re seeking to address many pain points they were informed of.

After reading and speaking to the organizers, I have to say – it seems that this time they’re ready to throw a great event, readers!  If you’re interested, tickets are $20 here.  Oh yes, that also includes your first drink (3 BrewBucks).  Let us know on Twitter what you think!

As always, full release below.

– Mike


Toronto Winter Brewfest – Press Release – Dec 21 2016

BC’s Wheelhouse Brewing Co.

The following is a post in our ongoing welcoming of guest writers to the Bottomless Pint.  Find out more about Dylan in his bio below the article.  


Prince Rupert, a small fishing town of about 13 thousand people in Northern BC and home to Wheelhouse Brewing Company. Opened in 2013, The Wheelhouse set to fill a void that the small city was missing and they did just that. Walk into the cozy brewery and you’ll get the instant feeling of community. Fishing décor, dim lighting, open doors and the sound of strangers having conversations provides the perfect environment for a small-town brewery aiming to be everyone’s go-to drinking spot.

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Whellhouse Brewing Co.’s expansion being built

The Wheelhouse came together when Craig, the head brewer at Wheelhouse and a few of his friends (now partners in the brewery) decided to try homebrewing for the first time. Like many novice homebrewers do, the boys bought some kits from Dan’s Homebrewing Supply in Vancouver, owned by the late Dan Small. The beginners began their brewing experience with a grain/extract batch of Pale Ale.  Eventually the homebrewing lead to conversations about starting their own brewery and planning, without an actual timeline, began. The homebrew meet ups turned into business conversations over a few beers and slowly, a business plan was pieced together.


Fast-forward to 2016 and Wheelhouse Brewing Company is doing just fine. Owned and operated by Kent, James and Craig, three of the guys who began their homebrewing experiences together. The brewery was the winner of Prince Rupert’s 2013 Rookie Business of the Year and Canadian Beer Awards Bronze Medalists in the smoked category.
I met with Craig at Wheelhouse Brewing Company. He was nice enough to share some words with me during the end of his brewing day in order to get a more in depth look at the plans for the brewery and himself as a brewer.

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Craig, head brewer at Wheelhouse Brewing Co.

Craig became more invested in the brewing aspect of the brewery than the others and continued on as the head brewer. He currently brews about 5-6 batches a week on the 4-hectolitre system, qualifying them as a nano brewery at the end of each year. Currently the two most popular beers brewed by Craig at the Wheelhouse are the Flagship Pale Ale and Gilnetter Golden Ale. The First Mate White IPA being his personal favourite of them all.
Craig spoke on the expansion plans of the brewery. Currently only open to the public Thursday through Sunday, he prefers not to be in everyone’s way while he brews on the other days. The current expansion being built will hopefully be finished by mid spring, allowing for more brewing and drinking space.
Fairly limited with what yeast they can currently handle at the brewery, Craig expressed that the expansion will allow for him to begin experimenting with new beers, possibly integrating some Belgian styles that he enjoys to the brewery.  Amongst the current trend of craft breweries making beers simply to push the envelope and potentially losing sight of quality, it’s important to note a few points that were said to me by Craig during our conversation.  “I don’t need to take over the world,” He said when discussing the current state of the craft beer industry, “I would rather brew everyone’s go-to beer”. The boys at Wheelhouse are very well in tune with their current market and aware that people are not requesting the newest and most complex styles in Prince Rupert, however they plan to keep introducing newer styles to their market step by step.

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The menu at Wheelhouse Brewing Co.

Thankfully for them, not everyone is looking for the newest sour or aggressively hopped IPA. The Wheelhouse Brewing Company is consistently producing quality beers that people can rely on every time they drink them and hopefully with the expansion plans, the brewery will be able to introduce new varieties while still remaining consistent to their locals.
Nearing the end of our conversations, Craig was nice enough to give me an early taste of a Saison he’s been working on before its release. It has since been released and did very well in the uncharacteristic heat Prince Rupert experienced this Summer. We shared a beer and wrapped up our conversation as a truck was arriving to pick up some kegs, which Craig loaded himself.
Wheelhouse Brewing Co. has kept us beer geeks sane with sporadic and very limited cask releases. Most of these casks contain ingredients local to Prince Rupert, keeping the hometown vibe alive and creating a product truly unique to Wheelhouse.


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Dylan Palozzi, fresh out of Brampton, ON, quickly fell in love with the world of beer a couple years ago. He spends his time cramming as much beer knowledge as he can, in hopes to one day know a thing or two. Currently living in Prince Rupert, BC, a small fishing town on the north-west coast. He is passionately working as a CYW, rolling around on his skateboard and seizing every opportunity he gets to explore new beers and places.  Find him on twitter here.