5 Things I Wish All Beer Nerds Would Start Doing

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4 Beer Nerds in the wild drinking from their local watering hole. The Festival-branded 5oz glassware is native to their geographic area.

In the craft beer world, we like to brand ourselves as a welcoming and friendly industry that is filled with people and companies that are more like friends than competitors. Yet, there’s still so many people too intimidated by condescending beer nerds to get into craft beer, people that back away hesitantly from their local breweries clinging to their wine glasses with white knuckles.  Humour me here, let’s pack away all of our certifications and beer biases for a hot minute and get back to why craft beer is so great- community. Too far up your own butt to know how to do that? Don’t worry, I got you covered- in a fancy listicle format because who doesn’t love listicles??  HERE’S HOW:

  1. Stop bashing people’s beer choices.

If you think you’re going to switch somebody off of a corn-based macro brew to your barrel aged saison by berating and belittling their beer choices- you’re going about it the wrong way. I know, we all get a bit caught up in the excitement and wonder that is locally made, quality driven, and naturally created beer. It’s easy to become blinded by passion for quality and complexity in your beer and let it take over your better judgement. That’s why I’m here. So don’t. Okay? It’s mean and it’s not cool, especially when you know that person paid money for that beer.

2. Remind yourself that craft beer is for everyone- not just you and your super rad friends.

Remember when men used to think women couldn’t drink beer? That was pretty terrible and no fun at all. Can we please just let everyone enjoy beer now? Don’t overlook a person or rule them out because of the group of people they associate with. Don’t assume Brad in the Leafs Jersey only enjoys crushing Budweiser in the locker room, he is just as capable of enjoying and respecting craft beer as you are.

3. Be confident in your own preferences and tastes, and let that be enough.

Be confident enough that you don’t have to try to validate yourself by bullying someone else into agreeing with you about what specific orchard fruit is on the nose of that Belgian ale you cracked open. Shoving beliefs of any kind down a persons throat is generally a terrible idea, but it can be pretty discouraging to a person just starting out their foray into craft beer. I’ve said it before, but beer is totally science, so take a hint from scientists and encourage people to prove you wrong and give you different results from the particular beer experiment in your hand. Any time I’ve spoken with Brewers about their beers, they’re intrigued and open to hearing about what flavours and feelings you get from their brew, so don’t take it upon yourself to decide that there can only be one correct way to experience any given beer. Science, bitch.

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Bar Hop Peter St.- Natural habitat of the wild Torontonian Beer Nerd. Photo by Mike Burton.

4. Understand that craft beer is not the be all and end all of beverages.

The Craft Beer world is amazing, but there are many different worlds our there that are amazing to a lot of people. Let’s talk about Brad again. Maybe he’s crushing a Budweiser. What you may not know is that maybe he’s hesitantly enjoying that Budweiser because last night he dipped into his private scotch collection that he’s been grooming for years and got a little too crazy and just wants something different today. Brad is a genius when it comes to scotch and knows a whole lot more than you, and places a lot of value in scotch rather than beer- but you didn’t know that when you interrupted him and trashed his beer choice. Respect that, appreciate it, and give that Brad some props for having a beer at all. Because he’s a whole lot closer to being persuaded to drink craft beer than a full-on beer hater. Feel me? It is okay for people to not enjoy beer.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’ve met a lot of people who have been in the beer industry for longer than I’ve been alive, and they are the first ones to reach over and shake hands and make friends and buy rounds, and most of the time they aren’t the ones bashing anyone else. Remember that beer has been around for a pretty long time, and just because you developed a passion for it when it started to become trendy, does not make you an expert. Be forgiving and allow yourself to enjoy a beer without scrutinizing it too carefully, or attend a party without trying to convert someone to craft beer. It’s just beer after all, we’re all going to carry on living our lives after we finish our pints. And don’t get me wrong, if you love craft beer, please indulge in all of the resources and literature and certification programs there are in this world and soak up every piece of information you can. Learning is seriously the best. Just remember why you liked beer in the first place, and allow yourself to take it easy every now and then.

Thats all for now. Feel free to disagree with me, or if you’d like, add to this list. I’m open to discussing with anyone who has an open mind. Let’s try a bit harder to live up to the reputation of the inclusive community that we started out as and are known as, and appreciate the different places and backgrounds that all beer drinkers come from.

*exhale*

How To Make A Simple Beer Advent Calendar – The Best Gift Ever for a Beer Fan

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Do you remember the pure bliss and joy of opening up an advent calendar as kid and enjoying a treat every day? Well you can recreate that for yourself, a beer loving friend or loved one by making them a homemade beer advent calendar. You may have seen some pre-assembled one’s from different breweries or even put together by stores, but making it yourself is another great way to personalize a gift. Before you is a simple guide to putting together an advent calendar full of beer for that special friend or family member in your life who simply loves to try all different kinds of beer. Reading this after December 1st? Don’t worry, you can simply recreate the best ever 12 Days of Christmas by halving it or put a few lower alcohol beers in the begging so it’s easy for the receiver to catch up quickly. Beyond picking up the beer, the whole process can be done in less than an hour, but will deliver 24 days of sudsy cheer leading up to Christmas day.


Step 1 – Get All The Beer & Supplies Together

Advent - Step 1

First and foremost, go out and get 24 (or 12) different beers. In this case, variety is the key component so don’t be afraid to take few chances with your selections, just be sure to keep it interesting and if possible at least partially geared towards the tastes of the individual you are making the calendar for. Is your friend a hop head? Be sure to load it up with lots of big IPA’s, if they like imperial stouts, go for big, dark, heavy beers and have fun with it. While out shopping, try to grab two equal sized beer or wine boxes that fit 12 bottles a piece or a big box that can fit up to 24 beers without the bottom falling out of it. Grab your boxes, your beers, scissors, some tape and some wrapping paper then you are ready to start making the calendar.


Step 2 – Wrap The Beer

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Perhaps the most challenging step for the wrapping challenged folks like myself is actually wrapping the beer! Thankfully, this is quite simple, just measure and pre-cut your wrapping paper in appropriate sizes to fully cover each bottle type. Wrap the paper around the bottle and secure it with tape, fold in the bottom and secure with tape, and finally at the very top create a small, flat fold over towards the spot where the paper line and fasten one more time with tape for a neat finish as pictured above. At the end of the day, just make sure it’s covered.


Step 3 – Remove Flaps & Tape Boxes Together

Advent - Step 3

The goal here is to create a super box by removing the top flaps and securing the boxes to each other along the widths. The top flaps are easy to cut off with scissors, but you’ll need to use lots of packaging tape to secure the boxes together, especially along the bottoms. Since the boxes are already strong enough to hold twelve large bottles of beer or wine you don’t need to worry too much about reinforcing them, however it never hurts to add a little extra protection just in case. The more tape the better to be honest and be sure to lift from the bottom to prevent any damage to the box or beer.


Step 4 – Wrap The Box & Put The Beers In Random Order

Advent - Step 4

Once the box is assembled, it’s best to remove the inside dividers and wrap the box with wrapping paper. Start with a very large piece of gift wrap and fold it over the ridges of the box to cover up the edges. Although it’s not pictured, I used my scissors to cut the paper to allow it to fit without scrunching up the paper too much. You may have to play around with it a little bit, but it’s pretty straightforward once you find a system that works for the paper and boxes you have. It also helps to put some paper or stuffing in the bottom of the slots for the smaller bottles to keep them fairly level with the taller ones when you put the beers in. Be sure to evenly distribute the various bottle sizes to in order to keep the weight balance fairly even.


Step 5 – Print Out Labels And Affix Them To The Beers

Advent - Step 5

I recommend printable mailing labels as they are super easy to print out and affix to the paper (they work great for homebrew labels too). All you need is 12 to 24 of them depending on the size of your calendar and you are good to go. Don’t have labels, us whatever you feel like using to label the beer, everything from a sharpie to masking tape works well enough to do the trick!


Other Helpful Tips Ideas & Warnings

  • Remember, these are super heavy, so lift from the bottom and lift with your legs (not your back). This calendar will likely weigh anywhere from 30 to 50 lbs depending on the size of the bottles you use and the last thing you want to give for Christmas (or receive) is a wrecked back or broken bones.
  • It’s tempting to have a beer while putting this together, but to avoid cutting yourself, breaking a beer bottle or injuring your body I recommend waiting until after you’ve completed the job.
  • Regarding bottle size, it’s good to mix it up, or at minimum pay close attention to the alcohol volume. Try to find smaller bottles for the bigger beers if possible, or move the big ones to the weekends. Many of us love big beers, but a 22 oz bottle of 12% abv Barleywine on a work night doesn’t make for the most productive morning or day after.
  • You can use tissue paper, brown bags, newspaper, or basically anything to wrap the bottles. At the end of the day, it won’t matter much as the liquid inside the bottle matters the most.
  • Don’t fret about getting it perfectly right, honestly the thought and the variety counts more than anything here, so have fun with it.
  • Finally, find some to exchange with next year. You can build it all year long by picking up cellar dwellers in the new year and the ‘consume fresher’ beers in the late fall.

Have you ever made a beer advent calendar for someone else? Or yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience!

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!

Cheers!

– 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.

7 Beers to Introduce Your Friends to Craft Beer With

Pickering LCBO with a fantastic OCB display.  Summer 2014.
Pickering LCBO with a fantastic OCB display. Summer 2014.

With how much I talk about beer in my daily life, one of the most-raised inquiries is “Where do I start?” I find that, generally, people who haven’t tried local (for whatever reason – usually lack of brand knowledge, or non-availability) have a pretty open mind, and would love to support the craft industry if they could find a beer they liked. I usually hear that they had a bad experience trying someone else’s IPA or stout (“I don’t like dark beers!”, they dramatically state), and it’s turned them off to expanding their taste completely.

So here, ladies and germs, is the list – 7 beers (in order!) that will show off the best OCB has to offer in the light-and-non-offensive-to-a-macro-palate beers.

Remember now, it probably took you years to get to that bourbon-barrel aged dry-hopped Imperial Stout; don’t be mean to new craft drinkers. Encourage them to explore pressure free, and simply make recommendations when asked.  LCBO links included for your (and their!) visual shopping pleasure.

 

  1. Amsterdam (416) Local Lager

“But (big beer) is the only one I like!”

Well, this is about as close to the perfect summer-day beer one can get. At 4.16%, straw-pale, and light as a feather, Amsterdam’s ode to the Toronto area code is the simple, easy to drink, palatable introduction to craft, or as I like to call it, “What beer really tastes like”.

 

  1. Lake of Bays Top Shelf Lager

“I don’t like Ales. They’re too bitter.”

Well good, because this is another one you might like. With at least some body, and scratching the surface of a malt taste, this well-rounded lager will please any thirsty person. A bonus point for appealing to hockey fans in it’s branding, which (through my experience) actually draws inexperienced drinkers to it.

 

  1. Mill Street Organic/100th Meridian Amber

“I’ve had this before!” / “I love the Hip! WHERE THE GREAT PLAINS BEGIN!”

Probably. A widely circulated light lager (thanks, Mill St!), I find Organic is usually the only option for craft at some smaller-scale bars, especially on the outskirts of Toronto. More of the easy-to-drink style, and looks appealing in it’s clear bottle. A little bit more “beery-ness” (A word I invented just now) as well, which leads us to the Amber.

If they’ve already experienced Organic, 100th Meridian is a fantastic alternate. (Pour it into a glass and watch your friend’s eyes widen as they exclaim “It’s too dark, I’ll hate it!”. Giggle condescendingly.) It is fresh, clean, and most of all, likely different from what your pal is used to tasting, which is always important.

 

  1. Steamwhistle Pilsner

“I DON’T LIKE THE AFTERTASTE.”

Quiet, you. Welcome to Pilsnertown (though I guess we can just call it Plzen). With a taste and flavor profile any Toronto beer fan could pick out of a lineup with relative ease, Steamwhistle is the first and only Pilsner on the list. Take time to explain the malt and Saaz hop combo they’re tasting, and remind them of your (read: Mike’s) favourite Czech proverb: “A fine beer may be judged in one sip, but it is better to be thoroughly sure.”   Make sure this one’s in a glass for the full experience. For the bonus round, take ‘em straight to the brewery for fun, a tour, and free beer.

 

  1. Collective Arts Saint of Circumstance Blonde Ale

“Why are all the labels different?”

Collective Arts did something really, really cool with their packaging, by making different series bottles and labels featuring “indie” artists and musicians, as well as collaboration with local Toronto radio station Indie88. Beer wise, they’re also doing incredibly awesome small-batch beers, like this citrusy low-ABV blonde ale. Your new craft buddy will appreciate its not-so-subtle orange and lemon flavours as well as a distinct, crisp (but not intimidating) bite that sets it apart from its nearest comparison (The orange guy with the mohawk).

 

  1. Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale 

“Do I have to drink the whole bottle?”

And now, for something completely different. Trying to explain what makes a Lagered Ale a Lagered Ale will be fruitless, so I’d usually introduce this as “It’s beer, and it’s new, so f**cking drink it and tell me what you think”.   Beau’s most circulated offering, this favourite of mine really profiles a solid, crisp lager with a bitterness that, (if you’ve followed this list) by now, shouldn’t intimidate your new craft fan. That, I think, is the best descriptor of Lug Tread for a new beer drinker: different. At least to me, when I had it, I didn’t know how to describe what I was tasting… but I knew I hadn’t tasted it before. And yes – you do have to finish the bottle. What did I tell you about the Czechs?

 

  1. Muskoka Detour IPA

“An IPA? OMGWTFBBBQ SERIOUSLY? NO. TOO MUCH HOPS. WHY ARE YOU GIVING ME THIS?!?!”

Because it’s 30 IBU, and damn solid as an intro to the world of IPA that all of us snobs love. A great chat to have with Detour is the absolute unworldly variance of what an IPA actually is, and how intense a hop profile they can get. Again, the introduction to craft should be about the fun and interest in trying something different, and exploring what the “style” or “label” means behind the brewery’s philosophy or the kind of beer in your glass. Muskoka’s golden IPA smells sweet and even slightly cirtusy, and though you can absolutely taste the dry-hopped intensity, I don’t think this is intense enough to turn anyone off of IPAs entirely.

With my introduction to craft now complete, I feel like a reminder is due: This list is intended to spark an interest in the story of local craft brewing as well as a “there are other options out there” attitude with new craft drinkers.  

With that in mind – may your glasses be full, your friends open-minded, and your craft-snob integrity intact.  Cheers!

What do you think of my list? Comments or questions? Hit me up on Twitter or Instagram and tell me what you think.

Beer: The Kidney Stone Killer

Kidney stones are intensely painful and overwhelmingly afflict men. A study in 2011 showed that drinking one beer per day reduced the risk of developing kidney stones by 40%, primarily because the high water content helps keep kidneys clean and in working order. Drinking beer can also temporarily expand the tubes between the kidneys and the bladder, which might help a stone exit less painfully. In Poland and the Czech Republic, there’s even a “medical beer” program. If you drink beer to treat urological condition, the government will refund the money you spend on beer.

Beer and your Body

The health benefits of the world’s second most drunk beverage

1. Strong Bones
Beer contains a rare nutrient, silicon, which strengthens bones. Drinking beer has even been found to decrease change of getting none diseases.

2. Strong Heart
The Nutrition Journal did a study on beer and found that beer reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems. Other studies have found similar heart benefits of beer.

3. Healthy Cells
Beer contains antioxidants which rebuild cells and contribute to long life.

4. Lower Chances of Cancer
Hops contain polyphenois, which lower bad cholesterol levels, kill viruses, and even fight cancer. Micro beers contain more hops than commercial canned beers, so these contribute greater health in these areas.

5. A Plethora of B Vitamins
Each beer contains many B vitamins, which are to, among other things:
-Ease Stress
-Reduce heart disease risk
-Aid memory
-Build and strengthen muscle

So go and enjoy great local craft beer and say cheers to your body!

Sources:

http://www.wholeliving.com/134086/benefits-b-vitamins

http://news.discovery.com/human/health/beer-healthy-bones.htm

http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/s0899-9007(13)00108-1/abstract

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442463947

http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-drink/6-surprisingly-healthy-beers

http://www.esquire.com/the-side/food-and-drink/healthiest-beer#slide-1

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/15/surprising-health-benifits-beer/

Make your own Beer Shampoo plus Conditioner

Beer is a shine-inducing volume-amplifying, nutritious supplement for your hair, but you don’t have to shell out the big bucks for the big effect. Just try these recipes to take advantage of all its beautifying effect for a fraction of the price.

Shampoo: 1 cup of regular shampoo plus 1/4 cup of mild scented beer. The alcohol cleans, the beer shines and volumizes and the yeast nourishes.

Conditioner: 1 cup of warm, flat beer plus 1 teaspoon jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is non greasy and will contribute to the moisturizing of your hair.

For best results, the beer should be unfiltered and unpasteurized.

The Expiration Date for Beers

It’s easy to tell when your leftovers have mutated and grown into a new life form. It’s more difficult to notice that change in a year-old can of beer. As a handy guide, most beers now have a “pull by” date, which tells the store when to take the beer off the shelf. That date is usually 180 days after bottling, although very strong IPAs will probably start to break down after three months. Other beer have a “born on” date, indicating when it was actually bottled so you can decide for yourself whether you think it’s fresh enough.

I will also be posting an article about aging beer and which beers can be aged.