A Funny Thing Happened At Toronto Winter Brewfest

***Editor’s Note*** we were contacted by organizers, and have given several rounds of feedback for improvement on the festival, and we have decided to release the article as it was originally written and in good faith that it still constitutes important feedback and is an accurate representation of the way the festival ran. – TBP

I’d like to preface this writeup with two things: Suzy and her team at Lilybelle Communications, as well as the Brewfest staff were receptive and contemplative of all the criticism they received; also, I don’t usually write intentionally negative posts, so prepare yourself for the long read ahead – It’s just that sometimes, when we see shitty things happening in the beer community, we have to call them out.

As i’m sure you’ve probably heard by now, there’s been quite a bit of – err, hubbub – surrounding this weekend’s Winter Brewfest in Toronto.  We actually gave away two tickets for the sold-out Friday session (both Friday and Saturday sessions sold out) last week which made one twitter follower very happy.

Our twitter winner made a sign.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 7.23.59 PM

Frankly, a majority of the feedback you’re hearing is accurate.  A lot of the aspects of the business model and way this festival was run failed in the transplant from Ottawa/Gatineau to Toronto.

Toronto’s Winter Brewfest had been promoted really, really well – on the back of the already successful Ottawa Winter Brewfest that brings together Ontario and Quebec breweries, for a couple of years running.  Speaking with Alex and Nick, two of the organizers, they lauded Ottawa for being such a welcoming and kind crowd, having a great time, and understanding the struggles they had (such as 50 of their lines freezing for almost two hours as part of their festival was outdoors on the coldest weekend of 2016 so far).  Ottawa went off, to quote, “without a hitch, we can’t wait for next year.”

Our four writers were lucky enough to land a two-day media pass for both sessions of the Brewfest; the organizers were clearly proud of what they had built here and were keen to show it off.  Entering the Enercare Centre, we were welcomed by staff that swept up quickly in, gave us a guided tour of the different booths (they had 4 or 5 “bars” set up with multiple taps and breweries run by volunteers; only Amsterdam, Mill St, Collingwood, GLB, High Park, Beau’s, Creemore, and Gainsbourg had their own tent/pour station), as well as the 4 or 5 food trucks and two token stations.

Here it is, complaint number 1:  The people pouring beer were categorically poorly trained.

At the bar nearest the main food area, Beau’s refrigeration trailer was home to 50 taps, all numbered on chalkboards.  This made it easy to walk up to the bar, say “Can I have a number twenty-three, please?”, hand them your glass and tokens, and get 4oz of beer back.   At the other two bars, there was no such system – meaning that I had to ask for the beer by name.

Not a big deal.  Except that when i asked for the LTM Gose, I got the Berliner.  Not a problem.  I go back right after i’m done the (excellent) Berliner Weisse, and ask the same person for the LTM Gose, explaining that previously she’d given me the Berliner.  “Oh.  Well, what’s the difference?” was the response.  It’s understandable as a beer nerd that somewhere, some way, not everyone loves or knows as much about beer as I do.  I don’t expect a Prud’homme-esque rundown of a beer’s flavour profile at a festival.

It’s here that I really discovered the value in having your brewery reps at these events.  I don’t care if I have to ask for every beer by name, wait in ten minute lines, or fight off hockey bros (more on that later) to get to the beer – but I want to talk about the beer.  I (and presumably most other people) attend these events to taste a variety of new, different, or special beers.  The people that make or sell the beer are the ones who need to be pouring it.  It’s not about making a simple mistake and pouring from the wrong tap.  I couldn’t care less about that – it’s that they had no system of support, no knowledge, no reason to care.  The volunteer base was tired, worn out, running around like crazy, and frustrated with the job they had to do with no knowledge of the product they were pouring.  This is the fault of the organizers, not the volunteers.

Complaint number two:  The price of beer samples was heinous, astronomical, outrageous, etc.  

Assuming you’ve attended a beer festival before, you know they are (generally) not the cheapest of days out – but they aren’t the most expensive, either.  As a rule of thumb, we usually see about $1 per 4 oz.  Cask Days is $2.50 per 5 oz , and last year, twitter was aflame with people complaining about how pricey that was.  Even one of my favourite positive people and Cicerone Crystal Luxmore said it “was the most expensive I’ve ever attended, and I’m not sure why” – ouch.  I was getting messages, calls, and tweets from people, begging me to talk to organizers and “ask them what the hell this is supposed to be”.

Winter Brewfest ranged between $2 and $6 for a 4oz pour, with the hard average being $4/4oz, which works out to being approximately $20 per pint.  Offended yet?  Yes, it’s true, this is the standard in both Montreal and Ottawa.  Maybe we are spoiled for choice in Toronto; the competitive atmosphere here might keep it lower than in other geographical areas.  I don’t think the organizers studied the market well enough, or researched other comparable festivals, or asked the greater beer community to prevent what happened.  People were (understandably) in an uproar:

Go search who @brewfesttoronto on Twitter to read the whole list of complaints, but did they ever take a BEATING on Friday night from social networks. Wow, I don’t envy the social team. Also, check out the top right guy’s twitter feed if you want some (stream of consciousness meets alcohol-laden) laughs.


Really though, a great way to describe this festival was it was four times the price of the Roundhouse Festival and twice the price of Cask Days, with not even half the number of rare/unique beers.  Shudder.

Even being there, if you were being given free beer, was incredibly difficult to stand.  Speaking of which…

Complaint number three: It was absolutely jammed and as loud as a club 

This one is the real kicker.  So by now, you’re picturing yourself with an empty wallet, the most expensive beer you’ve ever held in one hand, and a twelve dollar poutine in the other.  Unfortunately, you can’t eat it, because there are no available tables or seats, and everyone is pressed shoulder-to-shoulder (much like in a club) while listening to DJs (much like in a club).  Wait, did they just try to create BrewClub?

In all seriousness, dear readers, this event was massively oversold.  Between the poorly laid out bars (in the middle of the narrow walking areas, making them even more narrow) and the general mass of people that the room was rated for, it was absolutely the busiest I have ever seen any beer festival be.  Shouting orders at volunteers, not being able to carry conversation with your friends or brewers, and general discomfort from the drunken antics of many a hockey bro (seriously, this one guy got about 6 $4 samples of a light lager, downed it, and went back for the next one) really tore apart any remaining feeling of desire to remain at the actual festival.

How do we resolve this point?  Well on the Saturday event, the organizers rented more space (25% more) and it lightened up parts of the venue, but the fact is that most of the beer was crammed into the lower third of the venue closest to the gate, so it didn’t do much.  They need to take a page from the Roundhouse festival and feature as many vendors along the perimeter as possible, in our opinion.

In Summary

Ultimately, this event was well-attended.  That, and you can’t please everyone, right?  So what’s the solution?

Unfortunately, what you also can’t do, is (whether by lack of information, a surplus of ignorance, neither or both) gouge people trying to support the craft beer community and culture.  We’re pretty used to it.  Whether buying from the LCBO or when Cousin Randy drags us to *insert chain restaurant here* for Wing Wednesdays and the only drinkable thing is a $9 bottle of Mill St. Organic from the Premium menu, we’ve seen it before.  But don’t treat us beer fans like a captive audience.  Or, maybe this is just us being spoiled asshole Torontonians living up to our stereotype.  Or, as is the balance of the universe, maybe the answer lies somewhere in between.

At the end of the day, I felt like this:  The Toronto Winter Brewfest was a perversion of the popularity that the microbreweries have amassed. Ultimately they’re to blame for their own success, but it’s a combination of the gleaming future they want and the exclusivity beer fans want.  I had a hard time believing we weren’t being had as the best idea for a cash grab since my cab driver told me he didn’t take Debit or Credit on the way over.

I’ll finish with a quote from a brewery rep that made me laugh:  “And another thing, it was turned into a fucking carnival! Pour-your-own, DJs and their loud music, games, $1 or more per ounce, it was packed when I got there, and the reps were all dead eyed; probably feeling the same way. I don’t want to go back.”

And the worst part?  The amazing beer I had from Le Trou du Diable, Beau’s, Left Field, and Gainsbourg is completely overshadowed by all of the above.

I don’t want them to come back.  Not like this.

– Mike

Great Lakes Brewery Turns 29!


Happy 29th Birthday to one of our very favourite Ontario craft breweries, Great Lakes!  They’re throwing themselves a little celebration, and told us about how their fans could get in on the action:
This Friday (Feb 12), Great Lakes turns 29 years old. It was February 12, 1987 that the business was incorporated in the province of Ontario.
To celebrate the anniversary GLB will be offering customers free GLB cake beginning at 12 noon.  We will also be pouring some pretty big Imperial Stouts! People visiting the store can sample the following beers for only $2 each (but sadly, will not be available for bottle purchase):
 – The Imperial Bout (Imperial Vanilla Bean Coffee Stout)
 – 25th Anniversary Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout
 – Behind the Wavy Wall Imperial Stout
 – Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Solstice Stout
If you’re around the brewery tomorrow, Stop by GLB, grab some cake and a stout sample, and toast a happy birthday to one of the best breweries in the country!
If you can’t make it out to the retail shop, pay attention to GLB’s social media (Twitter and Facebook) all day long (starting at 7:01 AM) for #GLBTurns29, a fact and a photo every 29 minutes detailing the brewery’s history!  Don’t forget to post and tag your own GLB memories too!
­Here’s one just for you all:
#GLBturns29 – GLB was one of three breweries to be showcased at the @LCBO growler station debut at Summerhill location. 
­Happy Birthday, you beauties – you look better and better every year.  Cheers!
 – Mike

The Bottomless Pint x do416 Collaboration Announcement



Hello, dear readers!

We wanted you to be the first to know – our little blerg is growing in one of the best ways possible.

Today, we welcome do416 to the craft beer community, and we join them as the official Craft Beer Event Curator of one of Toronto’s best event sites.  With our large networks combined, our aim is to connect us beer fans (experienced and new alike), breweries, venues and artists of all mediums to bring awareness, appreciation, and a sense of discovery to the world of craft beer – in concert, of course, with Toronto’s best musicians, artists, performers, and speakers.

What does this mean for you?  Expect better event coverage on the blog, with more giveaways and special VIP access to events, only for Bottomless Pint x do416 readers and social followers.  We want to be your one-stop shop for beer news and discovery, and over the coming months, we’ll show you why!

Of course, you’ll still get the same editorial fun you’ve come to expect from us at TBP over the last couple of years – staff and community management remain the same, it just means this little passion project of ours is taking up more time in our lives – and we couldn’t be happier.

Join us at http://do416.to/bottomlesspint, follow us, sign up for the weekly newsletter, and tell us what kind of events you want to see your favourite breweries at – we’re listening, and we can’t wait to work with breweries and venues to curate fun, beer-centric events that our readers want to attend.

Cheers, and we’ll chat soon!

 – Mike, Matt, Beth & Victoria


Comments?  Congrats?  Questions?  Tell us everything:

Mike @beermostly
Matt @bottomless_pint

Beth @ThisYearsBrew

Victoria @_VictoriaBrews

Best Beers of the Year: Round 3 – Mike Burton

2015 was a hell of a ride for us here at the Bottomless Pint.  We made great strides in reach, finally found our real roster of funny, engaging writers, and solidified a real starting place for ourselves in the beer community.   Thanks to everyone who read, shared, commented, argued, or mentioned us this year.  We look forward to an excellent 2016.

Naming and describing the three best beers I had this year was a real challenge – there were so many stellar releases from breweries large and small that stood out.  With that said, my frame of mind in choosing these three were that they changed the game in some way – whether a newness to my palate, excellent blending, or cool and unique ingredients.  2 of these three you will be able to find again to experience for yourself, so without further delay, here are my three favourite beers from 2015.

  1. Bellwoods Barn Owl #2 – Brett Barrel Pale Ale with Yellow PlumsScreen Shot 2015-12-18 at 6.37.28 AM

This was by far my favourite Bellwoods release of this year, and i’m sorely disappointed that I only bought three bottles.  With a brett funk to start, quickly followed by a beautiful just-so sweetness and a subtle dryness that compares to a white wine, this blend is balanced, tasty, and an absolute treat.  More forward flavours include a honeydew melon and oak, and the effervescence contributes to an active mouthfeel that I haven’t tasted since (nor likely will again).  It was released at the height of summer, when it assisted in the relaxation that can only come from lazy & hazy summer Saturdays by the pool or lake.  The bottle of this I am retaining in my cellar is for a very, very special occasion – I wish I could say this was coming back, but your only way to try it is from Bellwoods’ reserve bottle list, or buy one from a bottle trader.  Go out of your way to get this blend.  I’ve never felt sad over an empty glass like I have with Barn Owl 2.


2.  Amsterdam Howl – Farmhouse Ale w/Brett

Amsterdam consistently put out incredible beer this year, from Shapeshifter, Maverick and Gose, El Jaguar, and Testify.  Howl, however, stands out in this collection as a truly refreshing, complex, drinkable Saison-style beer that I am regretfully told is not going to return until some time in early 2016 as a part of Amsterdam’s vastly underrated and criminally underpromoted Adventure Brews line.  Made in combination with saison yeasts and of course brett, and each iteration being a different blend, Howl has a delightfully fruity ester and a complex taste profile that matures its way through the glass, with notes of malt sweetness, an alcoholic spice, grass, cantaloupe, papaya, and a touch of hop bitterness.  Without spending this entire paragraph complaining about the fact that FOR SOME REASON THIS HASN’T BEEN MADE A REGULARLY BREWED FIXTURE BEER, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING OVER THERE, AMSTERDAM?,  I heartedly encourage you, dear reader, to pay close attention to ‘Dam’s social media for Howl’s next feature at a bar or growler release.  Some fun trivia is that this is my mom’s favourite beer, and even she complained on Twitter asking for another batch.  Don’t upset my mom, Iain and friends.  Make more Howl. (Side Note: I also tried this bottle conditioned; quite frankly the additional carbonation makes it less enjoyable)


3. Sawdust City 7 Weeks of Staying Up All Night – Saison w/ Pink Peppercorns and Lemon Zest

Things that make you go HRRRNG.  This beautiful, opaque gold saison was the beer-track to my summer, and I drove to Gravenhurst to get more of it because it was so delightful.  A low-ABV brew with a bright white head that never leaves the glass, 7 Weeks kicks in with yeast esters on the nose and a subtle citrus sweetness with categorically no bitterness.  It is well-attenuated, crisp, and just dry enough.  As far as sessionable beers go, this takes the cake – although, because it wasn’t in LCBOs, I had to exercise at least some discretion in drinking my 18 cans.  Also, it’s really fun to say the entire name to someone, as you can practically make a sandwich in the time it takes you to say it.  I’ve professed my love for this brew both in person and online, and i’ve been assured by Sawdust that it will be returning next summer.  Thank heavens.


Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 6.39.14 AMAs a final note, I’ll leave you with my favourite event of the summer: the Indie Boat Hop. Victoria and myself decided to embark on this unique beer float-about; a three hour tour (heh) around the Toronto harbour, on a pirate ship, drinking a
mazing selections like Bellwoods’ Brettallica, Nickel Brook’s Raspberry Uber… you get it.  Put on by the folks at Bar Hop and Indie Ale House, it’s a fantastic way to enjoy the summer and drink heavily in the sun.  Pictured is me, then some idiot jumped in and gave the camera the finger.  What a tool.   If you’ve never been, be sure to grab some tickets next year, and we can float around the harbour drinking together.  Cheers, readers.


– Mike


Beer In Context (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Drink In The Moment)


The Only Bar, on the even of Sawdust City's Tap Takeover. Not pictured: Sean Norris' insane handlebar 'stache.
The Only Bar, on the eve of Sawdust City’s Tap Takeover. Not pictured: Sean Norris’ insane handlebar ‘stache.

I’m sitting at the Only having a pint. Tonight is the Sawdust City tap takeover – an event even I couldn’t wangle an excuse to not attend. I really like the vibe of the Only, in that it doesn’t know what it is. Is it a Betty’s clone crossed with Starbucks before Starbucks was cool? To me, it is a man cave-esque bar (where the philosophy of your design aesthetic is to visit Value Village to find shit to throw on your walls) leads into an equally eclectic, cozy, warmly-lit coffee bar, fully equipped with a community table and mismatched furniture. I fucking love this place.

The community table at the Only is a popular spot.
The community table at the Only is a popular spot.


I’ve touched briefly before on my opinion on the context of beer drinking. In fact, it’s one of the big reasons why the writers on this blog are charged with writing something, anything, as long as it’s about beer and it’s not a review. We’ve done them before (when the blog was one guy starved for ideas), but the more we tried to figure out what we were about and where our place was in the well-saturated Ontario Craft Beer blog scene, the more we realized how subjective and meaningless (to us) reviews were. It became obvious with some speed that we loved beer, we loved the community, we loved the exploration – but most of all, we loved opening people’s minds to the inclusivity and depth that is the Ontario beer scene.


So, off we set to launch a medium with which to find the balance between informational and fun to read. We want to include everyone, of all interest and knowledge levels, in the beer scene we love so much. There was born one of our favourite abbreviations: BIC, or Beer In Context. This, we decided, is how we’re going to speak to both the uninitiated yet curious beer fan, as well as the discerning Cicerone, and everyone in between.


Beer In Context is the idea that one’s enjoyment (inclusive of memory of nerdy things like aroma and flavor) of any given beer or beers is both related to and more memorable if recalled in the context in which it was consumed. It’s not hard to grasp; the 5 W’s of a beer simply mean an environmental recollection of an entire evening or situation.


I first went over the idea of BIC with myself when I went to Bar Hop – alone. I had a dinner to attend in a couple of hours, and with time to kill, I wanted to see what summery stuff was available at my favourite bar.   As it is on summer evenings, BH was crammed with people; the Jays game on the telly, and a lone seat at the bar awaited me. I had no book, no newspaper, no laptop – I decided to just enjoy the atmosphere, Twitter, and the 7 Weeks Of Staying Up All Night by Sawdust City that I tried for the first time that day.


For someone like me with a chronically poor memory, I sure remember those two hours really, really well. I remember the date. The Jays’ opponent. The name of the two ladies to the left me at the bar who asked me what to have. The smell of the sandwich in the hands of the guy to my right (who was jotting down notes of some kind in a notebook feverishly with his other hand for over an hour). Most of all, I remember being floored by the beer. Every ester note, every sip, every new discovery I made through my analysis of this saison. Weird, right? That a beer could stand out so much, and with such detail, that it makes one’s evening more memorable? To me, they are hand in hand, one not remembered without the other.


To you, the beer fan, I say this: try to keep the context of one’s beer in mind. Compare it to the next time you have it. Consider what you ate with it, where you were, who you were with. I dare say that you’ll never be bored of a beer again – I promise.


– Mike

Labatt Purchases Mill St. Brewery, Invests $10M in Brewery Operations

Striking a chord in the hearts of beer lovers across the province, Mill St Brewery has been purchased by Labatt.  Cue violins.

These guys and girls make great beer. I hope it stays that way.
These guys and girls make great beer. I hope it stays that way.

Mill Street brewery opened in 2002, and has since been a key player in the craft beer movement in Ontario.  Popular beers include the only-craft-option-at-Jack-Astors Organic Lager, the first-ever-Ontario-pale-ale Tankhouse Ale, and this writer’s favourite dark ale, Distillery Ale (please, please, PLEASE DON’T CHANGE THIS).  They’ve also recently released Tankenstein IPA into the hands of the LCBO, a great foray into the highly competitive (and extremely delicious) IPA market.

From an editorial perspective, the reactions have not been extremely mixed.  Disappointment reigns supreme, as beer snobs everywhere divert their money to smaller breweries that are not corporately owned.   Another concern is quality of product – will the recipes get cheaper to make for mass consumption at the expense of a quality product?  All questions that can only be answered by time – and tasting.

We’ll keep you in the loop on social for now, so for more developments, check out our Twitter feeds.  Bottomless Pint is here, and I can be found tweeting through the 5 stages of grief here.



The Summer of Saisons

I went on a bit of a spiritual journey this summer.

Normally (aka previous summers) my beers of choice have been pretty regular: a cold Pils, a nice session IPA, or even a solid Helles or lager from time to time.  I think this goes for most of us beer people: if we’re outside relaxing, we like to have a few beers, not go BJCP on everything we drink, and enjoy the bliss that the heat of the sun and a cold beer brings, as the summer sunshine comes and goes far too quickly here in the Great North.

In my frequent browsing one May morning of my local LCBO’s shelves, I discovered a trend:  There are a lot of local Saisons being made.  I had never really explored the Saison before, mostly due to the fact that prior to this summer, there weren’t as many being made locally that my LCBO carried (and granted, I probably didn’t look very hard at this style).  Wish I’d discovered them sooner! (For those who don’t know what a Saison or Farmouse ale is, click here.)

Something I really love about summer is that I seem to remember the new beers I had contextually – the scene, my mood, the music playing when drinking it.  I think the environment really contributes to a beer drinker’s happiness in the moment, and in my blog writing, helps me to remember what I’ve had.  With that in mind, i’ve decided to tell you about my top five Ontario saisons – in no particular order – with some extras!  See if you can enjoy them the same way I did!

Sawdust City 7 Weeks of Staying Up All Night Picnic Table Saison

Where I had it first: Bar Hop during that massive July heatwave

What song was playing: I Got A Name – Jim Croce7

I list this first because, quite frankly, it is fucking stellar.  Came to me in a glass at Bar Hop around 5PM, where I sat with a couple hours to kill waiting for a friend of mine (and writing ideas for articles for this blog).  It had been a particularly stressful and hot day that day, and I’d seen this beer praised on social endlessly.

Notes of the inclusive pink peppercorn and lemon zest are immediately evident in the aroma, as well as a pleasant (yet thin) yeast ester that is present in the flavour, too.  Very light-bodied, fruity, and with medium carbonation, this is a complex beer I discover something new in every time I drink it.  I literally drove to Gravenhurst to get some.  You should too.  No word on if it will be back for next summer. Update: it’ll be back next summer. REJOICE.

Oast House Saison

Where I had it first: My backyard on a weekend when I had nothing to do but cut the grass

What song was playing: I Don’t Want To Know – Fleetwood Mac


Anyone who wandered into the LCBO this summer saw a corked bomber bottle of this on the shelves, emblazoned with the comforting and familiar Oast House branding.  I enjoyed this while doing nothing but listening to the Spotify playlist my family had prepared for our little backyard relaxation sessions where we sit around and drink while playing with the neighbour’s cats that they leave out all the damn time.

Extremely faithful to the style, this one is incredibly balanced with an alcoholic spiciness in the flavour, a funk that is not easily forgotten in the aroma, an extremely light malt body, and a distinctly low-carbonation mouthfeel that made this entire bottle very, very easy to drink (and very hard to share).

Left Field Sunlight Park Saison

Where I had it first: Steamwhistle’s Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival

What song was playing: Something by Plaid on Flannel, i don’t remember

Dominated by citrus (grapefruit zing with lemony sweetness) in both aroma and flavour, this stands out as having a fairly grassy hop profile – while not overbearing, it certainly is there; complemented by a ever so slight tartness and the higher carbonation on this list.  Mandie & Mark picked a great name for this beer, as it is quite literally the defining qualities of a summer afternoon – sunny, grassy, and ever-so-refreshing.  “More-ish” is how I describe Sunlight Park.

Amsterdam Howl Farmhouse Ale

Where I had it first: Out of a growler on the first hot summer weekend of the year on a patio

What song was playing: Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder

I only had one pint of this because my mom drank the rest, after proclaiming it was her favourite beer in the known universe.  So there’s that.  It won an award in 2014 and came back this year!

Spicy.  Alcohol is the forward profile of this saison, with lots and lots of yeast complexities and a very (nearly overbearing) funk, thanks in part to the 2 Brettanomyces strains inclusive in this beauty .  As i got through my glass, I was greeted by a medium grain maltiness and a low-yet-notable floral hop character.  If you’re a Brett fan, you’ll love Howl.  If not, suck it up, because you’ll still like Howl.

Muskoka Moonlight Kettle Summer Saison

Where I had it first: A hot brew day in Mathew’s apartment

What song was playing: Matt screaming in the background of the Jays game about the beer he was making

When Matt (the guy I write this blog with) and I get together, there’s a lot of fawning over beers.  The rule at his place is as long as you bring beer, you may take whatever is in his two fridges full (“why are there vegetables in the beer crisper?” he loudly asks his lovely and tolerant girlfriend, Deb.)  So, I picked the Moonlight Kettle series beer – i’m told now has it’s 2nd installment, an APA.

Colouring on this saison was definitely the darkest I’d seen,  with an upfront yeast and clove presence in the thick white head (which, i must say, had the best retention and lacing of this bunch).  Very complex with a very present malt backbone, Moonlight Kettle was the heftiest beer in this bunch alcohol-wise, but hid it beneath beautiful carbonation and farmhouse funk.

– Mike

Honorable mentions include Bellwoods Farmhouse Classic, Collingwood Saison, and Cameron’s Into The Shade Saison.

Disagree with my analysis or picks?  Sound off in the comments!

Pints, Samples, and Bottleshops: A Guide

So. You’ve dropped into your favourite local brewery on a gorgeous day in the lovely province of Ontario, and you are hit with the sudden urge to sit down and have a pint. What could be better, right? A fresh pint, straight from the brewery, where the beer was probably brewed mere days ago. Great idea!!

Except it’s not, because unfortunately, a lot of the breweries across Ontario aren’t actually allowed to give you the beer they so artfully create by the glass. By this point, us Ontario Beer Drinkers should just be used to the red tape that we have to get through just to enjoy some home grown wobbly pop (don’t even get me started on growler regulations). Alas, this still catches many people by surprise. *sigh*

Basically, there are four different types of licenses that breweries can get. There are tons of conditions and variations to these licenses, but for the purposes of this article I’m hoping to keep it simple. Buckle up, I’m about to take you on a colourful (and hopefully not boring) regulatory ride through the different liquor licenses so that you can get a better idea what a brewery has to go through just to serve you a fresh pint.


  1. Manufacturer’s License

This is the most common, and it is a license obtained through the AGCO in order to sell products that a brewery produces in the LCBO. This type of license is technically secondary to a federal license under the Excise Act (2001) and has to be acquired prior to the making and packaging of any beer. From what my research tells me, this has to be renewed every year. This is your basic Government of Ontario Starter Package License in order to make yummy beer, and one of its main purposes is to collect tax. Cute!


  1. “Tied House” Liquor Sales License

This type of license works best for breweries that want to have a bottle shop on site. It is under the manufacturer’s license, and it allows manufacturers to sell and showcase their own products. Under this license, manufacturers do not have to follow rules of having a variety of different brands for the consumer to choose from, like the LCBO has to. There are more specific regulations that go along with this license in regards to manufacturer’s that also have special events in their spaces.


  1. “By the Glass” Liquor Sales License

Here’s where it gets complicated. This is the license needed to be able to sell pints at a brewery, and a manufacturer’s license is needed first. Beer can only be sold from 11am-9pm on any given day, and servings cannot exceed 12oz. What is important to understand is that some breweries will need to have all three of these licenses, just to please the occasional person who wants to have a pint straight from the brewery. For example, if a brewery has a Tied House License, this does not mean a customer can buy a bottle from the retail fridge and drink it on the premises and be able to get around needing a By The Glass License. Are you good and confused yet??
Mandie Murphy, co-founder of Left Field Brewing, told me about the issues she finds with having a “By the Glass” License. She explained to me:

“The purpose of the license as defined by the AGCO is that it’s aimed at promoting the manufacturer’s product and either providing an enhanced tourist experience or fulfilling an educational purpose. There are many events that we would like to host with the intent of fulfilling either of those goals after 9pm but the license restricts us from doing so.” However, she does see the benefit of having a Tied House License, because “sampling before purchasing is one of the key reasons people choose to buy beers directly from a brewery instead of from the LCBO or Beer store.” She is optimistic in hoping that someday soon, Ontario will take notes from B.C. and create legislation that allows breweries to pour other manufacturer’s beers or wines in their Tap Room, as a way to enhance the tourist experience and fulfill an educational purpose, as is stated directly in the verbiage of Ontario liquor licenses. So basically, even when you find a license that works for you, it isn’t always a perfect solution.


  1. The Brewpub License

In certain occasions, a brewery with a liquor sales license may obtain a Brewpub endorsement under section 57 (1) of the Liquor License Act. This seems like a great idea, right? However there are catches to this license as well; not every brewery has aspirations of becoming a brewpub. Also, there are regulations under this license stating how much interest of the business the license holder must have (51% to be completely silly and specific) and also, the brewpub cannot serve any brews that are above 6.5% ABV. So yeah, that 14% barrel-aged porter you had your eyes on? Not happening today, my friend.

On top of these licenses, Jason Fisher, the owner and self-titled Occasional Brewer at Indie Alehouse informed me that a Federal permit is also necessary, along with many permits from the City. “You need the city stuff to get the AGCO to give final approval, and that process was, and may still be, chaotic to say the least.” Jason went further to explain that the listed Provincial licenses were, unfortunately, the most expensive and complicated. Michael Clark, Brewer and Owner of Bellwoods Brewery, echoed Jason’s sentiments, and highlighted that municipal zoning is “the worst part about opening a brewery in Toronto.” Jason did take time to note that he, as well as many other Ontario brewers, has had great experiences with the staff at the AGCO, and everyone in the Ontario brewing community helps each other out during this process. He tells me “If it were ever automated and put on line it would be so much easier. There was talk about ‘modernizing’ the AGCO a few years back – not much has come of that.” Jason is very optimistic for the changes that City Councillor Mike Layton will (hopefully) be making to make life easier for future brewers.

Now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “why does she care so much about any of this?” Well, the purpose of explaining these licenses to you, my incredibly good-looking reader, is that I want you to understand the complicated process that a brewery must go through to sell you a pint, when I’m sure it seems like such a simple thing to do. It is an incredibly difficult process, and one that includes a lot of risks, as our friends at Left Field Brewing can tell you.  My advice to beer drinkers: if you really appreciate the beer that a brewery creates, trust that they have the license that fits them and their values the best, and go to a bar that sells their beer if you’re truly dying for a pint. I bet the people at said brewery would love to give you a list of a few bars in the neighbourhood that pour their brews. Or, visit the bottle shop, and go home and drink a few bottles of your favourite brew with your pants undone while watching Netflix – whatever wets your whistle. But please, avoid hassling the good people at the breweries across Ontario that are doing their best with the licenses they’ve got to provide folks with some good, locally made craft beer.

Special thanks to Mandie from Left Field Brewing, Jason from Indie Alehouse, as well as Carmen and Michael from Bellwoods Brewery for letting me quote them, and also to Tom Paterson, president of Junction Craft Brewing Inc. for helping me out with my research!


– Victoria


About the Author

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.37.58 PMThrown headlong into the Toronto craft scene by her

adoration for the sustainable and local business, 

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies.  

She works in the bottle shop of one of Ontario’s

best craft breweries, and adores the children she 

teaches dance, a good book, and investigating new beer. 

Find her on twitter here.

Where are all the badass ladies at? SOBDL Bevies, that’s where.

Ahem, is this thing on??
Hey folks, my name is Victoria and I’m new to the blogging scene. For the most part, I leave the beer-writing to those with infinitely more cred than what I’ve got in my repertoire, but I recently went to my very first bevy, and I wanted to share my experience (and hopefully light a fire under the butts of other ladies lurking in the shadows, too afraid to bevy it up)! Let me start by saying, I’m not here to do an in-depth review of the beer that was available. I’m here to give you my opinions of the event as a whole, and talk to you about the phenomenal beers I had. Because shit, they were phenomenal.

I attended Bevy0017 of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies on June 26th with a lovely lady coworker of mine. It was held at the Monarch Tavern, tucked away in Little Italy in the College-Bathurst area. I’ve been a craft beer drinker for about two and a half years now, and I have come into contact with the awesome ladies behind SOBDL quite a few times; whether it be at Roundhouse festivals, cider launch events or at brewery tours while they were doing their day jobs. Due to previous work constraints, I had never been able to make it to a bevy…until this glorious evening.

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A true tap takeover. – Photos by Ren Navarro

As soon as I walked into the Monarch, I knew it would be an amazing evening. All that could be heard was laughter, good tunes, and the type of high decibel conversation that only hoards of beer-drinking women can accomplish successfully. ‘Twas brilliant.

Making my way to the bar, I ordered my first beer of the night which was the Bevy Brew (which we subsequently finished in about an hour) called Wasted Away Again in Mojitoville from the great folks at Sawdust City. At 4.8%, this was everything I thought it could be and more, embracing the salty and lime aspects of mojitos and somehow still tasting like beer. The lime made for a nice tangy finish, and gave it a telltale mojito aroma. It went down far too easily. Also at the bar, next to the gorgeous ladies pulling pints for us all night, some great BBQ was served up from the equally gorgeous people from Baju BBQ. Yum.

@torontoerica had some important bevy tips for everyone. – Photos by Ren Navarro

Apart from the bevy brew, I felt there were three standouts from the beer selection that evening. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Church Key Brewing- Holy Smoke 6.2%

I don’t even know where to start. This is a Scotch ale infused with so much richness and smokiness that honestly, it tasted a bit like meat. Before this evening, I didn’t know that could be a good thing, but holy shit was it ever tasty. I should note that by “tasting like meat” I don’t mean it had a particularly fleshy taste, I just mean that the malts used created such a savory and bold taste to the beer that it gave you a sweet reminder of bacon. Feel me?? Fuller in body and darker in colour, but light enough on the tomgue that it wasn’t overbearing after a few sips. Also, this beer acts as a wonderful conversation starter. I made me some new friends over this lovely brew.


just a few of the lovely SOBDL #bevy0017 participants. – Photos by Ren Navarro

2. Left Field Brewery- Sunlight Park Saison 5.7%

The combination of citrusy goodness and toasted wheat flavours in this saison are, in my opinion, unparalleled. It has the zippy and sour tastes of a traditional saison but the yeast profile and lemon flavours are highlighted nicely as well, giving it a lot of depth. Amazing balance, incredibly light and easy in body. Just beautiful.


3. Great Lakes Brewery- Limp Puppet Session IPA 3.8%

Not going to lie, this one blew my mind a little bit. Unfiltered, so the lemon and grapefruit flavours were able to shine without being too overbearing or bitter, and the lower ABV left a lighter feeling on the tongue than other IPAs tend to have. If you’re usually afraid of IPAs, this one is sessionable enough that it may just convert you into a hop-head. Ridiculously good.


So basically, I drank beer, ate BBQ and felt all the good feels. The group of women (and group of men after midnight) that this event attracted was unbelievably friendly, great at dancing, and dare I say, incredibly attractive. Shoutouts to you, girl I met in the bathroom that told me she liked my lipstick.

Ren, Magenta, Erica, Jen and Jamie, you ladies truly know how to make a gal feel welcome. Thank you for creating this avenue for women to gather, share and experience new things. I will definitely be at many of the future bevies to come.

I should also mention that a portion of the ticket sales was donated to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Swoon.


** Although these monthly bevies are geared towards women, this event is welcoming to women of all shapes/forms/identities etc. And the men are even allowed after midnight!! **




About the Author

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 9.37.58 PMThrown headlong into the Toronto craft scene by her

adoration for the sustainable and local business,

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies.  

She works in the bottle shop of one of Ontario’s

best craft breweries, and adores the children she

teaches dance, a good book, and investigating new beer. 

Find her on twitter here.

Brickworks launches Queen Street 501, not delayed like its namesake

In case you haven’t heard, not all adult-beverage loving Torontonians are hop-heads.   Put down your pitchforks, people, and pick up your bushel baskets – it seems that the term “craft cider” is here to stay.


Brickworks Ciderhouse is a local craft cider brewer (Toronto-famous for Batch 1904, their first retail cider now available at your local LCBO) with a flair for the unique. Their products only contain apples (a single ingredient, flash pasteurized) from within 300km of their cidery in Toronto. Without reviewing it, it’s fucking delicious, especially for summer patio season; if you have not yet dabbled in the world of local cider, I implore you to give it a try.

(as with all of my articles, here’s a link to the LCBO finder, you’re welcome)

I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch party for Brickworks’ newest cider, Queen Street 501 – aptly named after the longest streetcar route in North America – a semi-sweet apple cider, made from a blend of 8 types of apples.

The party kicked off at Betty’s (website link) on King East, an appropriate atmosphere for the hipster in us all. The crowd was rowdy – media types, lifestyle bloggers, and contest winners all poured in to say hi to Blake “Sugsy” Sugden (Brickworks’ Event Manager) and the rest of the friendly folks at Bricksworks.

Talking with Blake, it was easy to see why Brickworks has instantly become a tasty (and now very well-syndicated) hit. “We’re proud”, he says, when asked about their instant hit with Batch 1904, ”people love our stuff, and we’re going to keep at it.” Between their constant attendance at events, impressive list of bars that stock their Batch 1904 (and a decent handful of bars that carried Queen St. 501 pre-release), and their unique, minimalist can art (Amy Patterson, 2013 CASSIE Award winner and all-around design genius), the Brickworks brand is one Torontonians can identify with, and more importantly, easily identify as a stand-out product among the dozens of competitors to be found at any haphazardly-organized LCBO cider section.

From there was an awesome treat – Brickworks commissioned a restored old streetcar to bring guests from the launch at Betty’s, along the Queen Street 501 route, and back to the Firkin on King for the launch party.

Check out some photos from the launch (care of Victoria Rombis and VOCAB Communications)and stay 100% ontario for life!

– Mike
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