Pumpkin Beer is Cancelled; Märzen is The True Fall God

That’s right.  They are cancelled.

When you’re as opinionated as I am, sometimes my rants and hot takes suffer from “cry wolf” disorder – meaning, they happen so frequently that people do not pay any attention to them.

However, my contempt for the inevitable fall invasion of pumpkin spiced beers is always met with real opposition. The boooos rain down upon me in a choir of negativity, with notes like “who do you think you are?” and “I love pumpkin beers!”, cementing the popular opinion that I am blind to the spicy gifts of gourd-centric brews.

But my anti-pumpkin sentiments actually come from two different places.  While it’s true, that I have never tasted a pumpkin beer that I have liked (nor one that I find well-made or different enough to quantify exception), my real offense is that these poorly-made beers serve as a distraction to what I believe to be one of the best beer styles not only of the season, but year-round: the German festbier, Märzen.

A quick history on Märzen: A 1553 Bavarian law prohibited the production of beer between the end of April and the end of September. Märzen, which is (generally) amber-coloured with slight bitterness and a dry finish, was brewed in March (or in German Marz, hence its name), cellared through summer, and opened in early fall, often for the Oktoberfest celebrations.  People have been drinking Märzen in time with welcoming the fall season for hundreds of years, and its impact is felt all along the Rhine, with traditional Märzens being brewed all along Austria, Germany, and even the Czech Republic.  It truly is a beer for the season – typically higher in alcohol, with hints of sweetness and noble hop aroma reminiscent of wet leaves and grass.

I’m a born problem-solver, to my own detriment. Trust me, I’m working on it.  But as always, I’m here to solve your problem.  So what should I drink, you ask righteously, instead of pumpkin-spiced beer, jerkface? I’ve got several honest and high-quality options for you here, and they are all available at the LCBO, for both your convenience and enjoyment. In no particular order:

  • Brewery: Beau’s
  • Beer: Farm Table Märzen

This beer is the one that kicked it all off for me, many years ago. Released originally as Night Märzen in 2008, it joined the Farm Table series of beers soon after.  Dry and slightly bitter, this is one of the best examples of this style I have ever had.

  • Brewery: Anderson
  • Beer: Autumn

This came to me about a month ago and is now available in sweet orange sick-packs at your local LCBO (more out towards their home in London but a fair amount in TO).  It is really, really, really good – which is frankly to be expected from Anderson.

  • Brewery: Waterloo
  • Beer: Festbier

A pretty solid effort from Waterloo here.  In case you didn’t know, the Kitchener-Waterloo region is home to the world’s second largest Oktoberfest event (second only to the one in Munich)! Definitely a better choice than the rest of the beers available at this festival, which included Molson Canadian and Creemore (don’t ask).

  • Brewery: Brock Street
  • Beer: Brocktoberfest

A Marzen indeed, but not a good one.  Don’t bother.  This is a PSA.

  • Brewery: Hofbrau
  • Beer: Oktoberfestbier

One of the OG Marzens!  A true German classic.  Bready malt forwardness with awesome hop aroma.  If you can get it, get some, and experience what Ontario brewers are trying to emulate.

  • Brewery: Muskoka
  • Beer: Harvest Ale

SIKE!  Not technically a Märzen. However, the profile suits being on this list – significantly more hop presence, and also an ale, but this is a classic darker fall beer that is aligned with the tastes on this list, IMO.

  • Brewery: Rainhard
  • Beer: Smarch Weather

The name of this beer is a Simpsons reference, meaning that this it was truly made for me (it wasn’t, but it feels that way).  Absolutely awesome, and I think a limited run, so get on up to the Aleyards and pick some up from my friends there.

So yeah, I’m bitter that Märzen, in all its tradition and glory, is overshadowed by some poorly-made adjunct ale. Gimmickry has always had a place in beer, but this particular occurrence does nothing for beer in general.  It’s niche nature means that those who like it, love it; those who don’t like it don’t care.  Also, unlike other trendy beer styles (kettle sours, milkshakes, etc), pumpkin beers won’t serve to onboard new drinkers to craft, because they don’t have a relatability to them – wine fans may be into sours due to retention of tannins from barrels and dark fruit flavour depth, whereas cocktail drinkers may onboard to fruit/milkshake beers – so that means, pumpkin beers may appeal to… I don’t know, those who want to lick my kitchen floor after I make stuffing?

– Mike

It all started with a tweet

The following is a guest post, written for The Bottomless Pint. See the end of the article for this writer’s bio. Have an article idea?  Drop me a line – beermostly AT gmail.com.


Let’s set the scene. It’s a Saturday night after a Toronto Sports Game (go sports!), and whether I like it or not, I end up at a Front St. bar, meeting with a few friends who had also been at the game. I head to the bar to order a beer, I grab the menu to take a look at their surprisingly awesome beer list. I’m about halfway through the list, when a large, burly looking, inebriated white dude leans in and says “You know, I really like number 6.” Annoyed and unprepared, I say, “Oh yeah? Why’s that?” Much to my surprise (not), he didn’t really know what beer he was drinking, he had no tasting notes or real recommendations, and he seemingly just wanted to hear himself speak. So, I told him not-so-politely that I didn’t need his recommendations, and I was fully capable of selecting a beer for myself. I’m paraphrasing, but if you know me, you can imagine what I really said. And then, I tweeted this:

Granted, this dude absolutely chose the wrong lady. I’m not the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed rookie that I once was. This stuff happens to me too much, and so I tend to be a bit saltier than most women might be in the same situation. So I sent out this tweet to make light and bring humour to an all-to-familiar situation, took a deep breath, and then I let it go. Cut to the next day, where the tweet has 80+ likes, 2 retweets, and 8 different replies; mainly in the form of hilarious GIFs asking whether or not this dude was still alive. There was even a good one from the owner of this blog, comparing me to Ron Swanson in a Home Depot (I chortled approvingly). As I read through the replies and watched the likes roll in, I started realizing that there are a lot of other people, men and women, who are just as tired and -yes, salty- about this stuff as I am. It was humbling, enraging, and inspiring.

So where do we go from here? Well, let’s talk. The concept of toxic masculinity is really what seems to be at the core of instances like this; the same concept that empowers men to cat call, mansplain, and generally Act a Fool. As a woman in the beer industry, I face situations like this quite often. I’ve spoken on sexism in this industry several times, including here and here. But when I talk to my male friends about this, they are still surprised and in shock, and they sometimes can’t believe that these types of things happen to me. For those of you who are still blissfully unaware of these microaggressions, I’ve compiled a small list.

Some of the real things actual people have said to me (and my sassy inner dialogue during these moments):

“So, do you like beer?”

NO THIS HAS ALL BEEN AN ELABORATE RUSE, I HATE BEER I JUST DECIDED TO BE A BEER SALES REP FOR THE MONEY.

“If you like beer so much, how are you so skinny?”

Imagine if I came to your workplace and asked you about your weight?

“So, what, does your dad own the brewery?”

Yes, that’s the only plausible reason I could have a job at a craft brewery.

“Is that your boyfriend’s car?” (Referring to my branded brewery vehicle)

SING IT WITH ME, LADIES. Shoes on my feet, I bought em. Car I’m driving, I bou- wait, actually it’s technically a company vehicle… but anyway I DEPEND ON ME.

“So you’re just the pretty face then?”

When I get this one, I usually I just stare blankly while a piece of me dies inside.

“Wow, you actually know a lot about beer!”

I love a fresh, spicy, backhanded compliment in the morning.

“You’re sexy when you’re angry/serious/bossy.”

As if my sexiness was dependent at all on moods, *tosses hair.* But seriously, when thoughts like this enter your head, have you ever considered just not talking????

“You remind me of my ex-wife.”

She was probably a Goddess, you are trash.

And if these little treasures aren’t enough to convince you, here are a handful of things that happen to me, and not to my male colleagues:

  1. Needing to be walked to my car because I was catcalled in an LCBO parking lot
  2. Getting followed for several blocks and targeted in a parking lot
  3. Being told my appearance has to do with why I’m good at my job
  4. The use of subtle gendered language like “abrasive,” “aggressive,” “intense,” “demanding,” and my personal favourite, “bossy.”
  5. Receiving lines of questioning about my relationship status and sexuality while trying to work

I just feel like my lady ancestors did not pioneer the art of brewing in the 18th century for this type of nonsense happening in 2018. You know? Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted attention or whether you’ve seen it happen, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been there. Recently, I’ve had male colleagues and friends ask me what they should do in these situations. Or, they explain to me that they witness similar occurrences and they come to me wondering if they could have done more. To me, these conversations mean the world. I’ve only been in the industry for a few years, but it feels these aren’t conversations that we were having even 2 or 3 years ago. Men bringing these important questions to the forefront makes me feel validated, it makes me feel acknowledged, and it shows that they are tired too. They want to be a part of the solution. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you do too.

Realistically, there is no prescription. There’s no one answer, no objectively perfect thing for you to do when you want to interfere and shut a toxic interaction down. But what I can tell you for sure, is that there have been countless times where I’ve wished someone was there to step in and help me. Someone to be the one to put an end to unwanted attention, when I felt the confines of my job and upholding a brand image would have been jeopardized by shutting it down myself. This happens all the time with servers, bartenders, brand ambassadors, and plenty of other customer-facing positions; the microaggressions are shrugged off so she can save face and continue doing her job. In this industry specifically, it can be a really hard thing to navigate – interpersonal relationships are the foundation of how business is done. Creating meaningful relationships while keeping it professional is not easy.

For my final list, here are some things that I have put together that I, as a woman beer rep, want people to start doing. I want to acknowledge that these are based on my lived experiences, and experiences that I know enough about to comfortably speak to. Please understand that there are various intersections of marginalization that I cannot authentically capture or represent.

Things you can do:

  • Believe her, when she comes to you saying she’s experiencing something unwanted or uncomfortable.
  • Ask her, discreetly, if she wants help. If yes, step in. Sometimes, she’s got this.
  • Change the conversation. If you hear someone making comments about her appearance/making an advance, be the one to commend her on her skills, talent, knowledge, etc.
  • Stop assuming. Don’t ask her male colleague technical questions before you ask her. Don’t explain rudimentary concepts to her that you wouldn’t go out of your way to explain to a male in the same position.
  • Be observant. Check in with your friends, notice if someone is making her uncomfortable. Don’t shrug it off.
  • Call him out. Male to male accountability, specifically, is a very impactful thing. It’s problematic that boys prefer listening to other boys, but hey. That’s kind of where we’re at.
  • Check yourself. Is your opinion needed? Is your advice solicited? What are you adding to the conversation? It’s good to listen.
  • Ask questions. Look outside of your own experiences, think about what it’s like for people that walk through the world with less privilege than you.
  • Give her a platform. Turn to her expertise, let her take the lead. Call your male coworkers out when they interrupt her. Ask her opinion, and respect it.
  • Do more. Don’t settle. Demand more of your peers, your colleagues, your employers. Raise your expectations for your friends. Stop being complacent. Challenge yourself.

That’s all I’ve got, for now. But I think it’s a good start. If you have more to add, or want to talk, or maybe need a hug, reach out – I’m here for you. The most important thing is just to have these conversations and to be brave enough to ask for better from each other. I didn’t write this piece to bum you out, though. So I leave you with this: the link to the twitter thread where you can see all of the hilarious replies to the tweet that started at all. To each of you who took the time to respond, you are a beautiful internet unicorn and I adore you. 

PS- If you made it all the way through that and are still here, here is a bonus tweet about some really special human beings. They know who they are.


About The Writer

Victoria Rombis is a Sales Rep for an excellent Ontario Craft brewery, but her views are her own.  She’s written for The Bottomless Pint intermittently during her career.  She likes crushing the patriarchy and getting caught in the rain. Follow along on her journey on twitter @_VictoriaBrews and on Instagram @victoria_r.


 

Ontario Craft Beer Writers, Ranked

Hey friends!

Spring is in the air, and with that will come with an onslaught of beer tastings, festivals, and reviews. As we know, numbered rankings are something i think are an effective, empirical way of discussing and ranking beer!  I’ve compiled a list below reviewing the best reviewers for you to review, so that you know (based entirely on someone else’s palate) which reviewer’s advice to listen to, which will help you, dear consumer, to know what beer to immediately jump in your car to go get, and which to avoid at all costs.

 

Ben Johnson – @Ben_T_Johnson

Ben lives in London, ON, which probably immediately removes any remaining credit or relevance he had to the beer scene.  A 4-time Golden Tap award winner for his writing, Ben can be found passively judging things and people that do not fit his narrow view of “great”.  Frequently seen indulging in different hobbies such as smoking cigars and barbecuing various meats, Ben is an ardent supporter of beers of all origins, including those of high-quality beer manufacturers ABInBev and Labatt. 3.75/5.

 

Robin LeBlanc – @TheThirstyWench/@WornOldHat

Robin hasn’t been heard from since The Great Binging of ’14, when she committed herself to rewatching every single episode of what she refers to as “The Scifi Ultimate Trifecta” – Dr.Who, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Star Wars series (in Machete order).  She was last seen attempting to make beer in her backyard using only old porridge and yeast she harvested from Jordan St.John’s hair. 2/5.

 

 

Jordan St. John – @Saints_Gambit / @Jordan.StJohn

Known for riding the coattails of great beer writers like BlogTO staff and The Sun’s Food and Drink section, Jordan is one of the louder-mouthed writers of this province.  Most recently he was accused of stealing Robin LeBlanc’s script for The Ontario Craft Beer Guide two years in a row and publishing it, branding himself as a “co-writer”.  It was later revealed that the guide was actually written by LeBlanc in collaboration with Josh Rubin, who is significantly more pleasant than St.John.  He can be found often at Fionn McCool’s demanding to know when the last time they cleaned their lines was, or in the cemetery adjacent to his home, singing “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits at an uncomfortably loud and invasive volume. 5/5.

 

Stephen Beaumont – @BeaumontDrinks

*allegedly* a picture of Stephen Beaumont.

Stephen’s existence is debatable as he has never been seen in person, by anyone, ever. He has allegedly authored many beer books, all of which are very boring and not owned by very many people worldwide. In 2015, it was alleged that Mr.Beaumont did not actually like beer, and that his passion and purpose for worldwide travel was, in fact, finding the perfect bar stool to purchase for his own home bar (at which Appletinis are exclusively served). Shamed, he departed for Southeast Asia early this year to explore the newest technology in seating. 4.8/5.

 

Drunk Polkaroo – @DrunkPolkaroo

Robert aka Drunk Polkaroo got his name from when he attended a beer festival/chili cookoff, and ranked a friend’s chili 2/5, citing poor mouthfeel.  The friend in question, dressed as Polkaroo for the children’s chili cookoff nearby, took exception to his snide commentary, and the argument came to fisticuffs. Since then, Robert has skyrocketed to the upper echelon of Instagram beer reviewers, known for his aggression and impatience towards those who disagree with him. 3/5.

 

Ontario Craft Beer Expert – @OntarioCraftBeerExpert

Image result for no photo

Easily the most credible resource in all of craft beer reviewing.  Literally flawless execution, amazing photography, and perfect beer ranking. 6/5.

 

 

 

 

Lauren Richard – @BeerGirlCA

Lauren is a Cicerone, which is someone from the country of Cicerland.  She keeps bringing it up. Known for her overwhelming appreciation for tacos, Lauren recently developed an allergy to beer not served from a short can. She is afraid of boiling water, cats, and anyone named Chris. 4.4/5

 

BAOS – @BAOSPodcast

Craig and Scott are most well-known among the Instagram and Snapchat beer communities.  In 2017, Craig had his iPhone 7 permanently sewn to his right hand “purely for convenience, mate”, in a move he immediately regretted once iPhone 8 came out.  Scott is notably the calmer and cooler of the two, which is displayed in his incredible politeness and tolerance of Craig’s incoherent rambling in an unidentifiable accent (which linguists predict is either Antarctic, or simply, not of this planet). However, they’ve inspired millions to try the #GetItInYa challenge, which challenges users to eat a can of their Get It In Ya! IPA they made with Sawdust City, tab and all.  4.5/5.

Mike Burton – @beermostly

Image result for leonardo dicaprio beer

Nothing but hot takes and a failed blog. Although, he occasionally posts insightful lyrics regarding heartbreak and the unfairness of life in general.  He also hates on new beer trends which is super annoying.  I mean, the guy doesn’t like Milkshark.  Who cares what he thinks?  0.5/5.

 

 


In case you couldn’t tell or if a Google of someone’s name above brought you here, the above article is entirely satire. None of the writers included are bad people, and frankly, 99% of the above is entirely manufactured. April Fool’s Day falls on April 1 every year.

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!

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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Nickel Brook to Release Café Del Bastardo through Bottle Shop

Nickel Brook will be adding another beer into their Bastard family. This time it will a barrel-aged imperial stout with six pounds of coffee from Burlington’s Tamp Coffee Co. added to the barrels. Café Del Bastardo will be a limited run of 2500 bottle that will be available  on Saturday February 11 in the bottle shop.

For all the details on the release see all the details below


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nickel Brook to Release Café Del Bastardo through Bottle Shop

BURLINGTON, ON – Feb 3, 2017 – Nickel Brook is excited to announce the release of the latest member of the Bastard family, Café Del Bastardo, at the Burlington Bottle Shop. On February 11 2017, Café Del Bastardo will be available exclusively at the Nickel Brook Bottle Shop in 750ml wax-sealed bottles.“We only have a few thousand bottles of this amazing beer, so we hope everyone that wants some is able to get their hands on it” says President and Co-founder John Romano. “It’s a really interesting variation on Kentucky Bastard, with the coffee beans bringing a new layer of flavour and aroma.”

Café Del Bastardo is the latest iteration in the growing barrel-aged ‘Bastard’ family from Nickel Brook, adding six pounds of whole-bean coffee from Burlington’s Tamp Coffee Co. to a select few Kentucky Bastard barrels.  The result is an intensely aromatic beer with bright coffee, bourbon, vanilla and malty mocha notes, followed by warming booziness.  Only about 2500 bottles will be available starting at 10AM on Saturday January 27 in the bottle shop, with a very limited number of kegs going to better beer bars across the province.

Details of licensees pouring Café Del Bastardo on draught will be available on Nickel Brook’s social media feeds.

About Nickel Brook Brewing Co.
Nickel Brook Brewing Co. was founded by John and Peter Romano in Burlington, Ontario in 2005.  They have since expanded operations to Hamilton, Ontario when they co-opened the Arts & Science Brewery with Collective Arts Brewing.  They are committed to using only the finest natural ingredients from around the world, and brew them in small batches for the highest standard of quality.  Nickel Brook continues to be an award-winning Ontario craft brewery that constantly strives to push the boundaries of brewing culture.
864 Drury Lane, Burlington, Ontario
www.nickelbrook.com/ @NickelBrookBeer

Beau’s Strong Patrick first of Wild Oats Series to see national distribution

Looking like Beau’s is adding another beer to their Canadian wide distribution, and this time it is a beer in the Wild Oats Series. Strong Patrick, an Irish-style red ale will be joining Lug Tread in 7 provinces.  Strong Patrick is available now at LCBOs across Ontario, as well as dépanneurs and grocery stores in Québec, as well as many bars and restaurants in both provinces.

Read the full release below.


Irish-style red ale to be available in BC, Alberta and Manitoba (bottles and limited draft), widely available in Ontario and Québec, plus on tap in Nova Scotia & New Brunswick

(VANKLEEK HILL – Feb. 3, 2017) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Beau’s Brewing Co. is following up Canada-wide distribution of its flagship Lug Tread Lagered Ale in 2016 with wider distribution of its Wild Oats Series, beginning with Strong Patrick Irish-style red ale. Strong Patrick will be available in 7 of 10 Canadian provinces beginning this February, as a limited-edition two-month release.

British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba will have it retailing by the bottle in those provinces, with limited quantities on draft at craft-friendly establishments. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will see it tapped as well at restaurants and pubs this month. First brewed in 2015, Strong Patrick has to-date been available only in Ontario, Québec and New York State, where it has been well received.

“We’re excited to start sharing our Wild Oats Series beers across Canada,” says Beau’s co-founder Steve Beauchesne. “We created this series for the craft beer drinker who is looking for bold flavours or interesting interpretations of beer styles. With Wild Oats we get to innovate and push the boundaries of what people expect from a particular style, or really, even beer in general. I can pour Wild Oats Series beer at events, and see in that moment that we are literally changing how someone thinks or feels about beer.”

Luscious and malty, Strong Patrick is a strong barrel-aged interpretation of a traditional Irish-style red ale. Part of each batch was aged in whiskey barrels, and then reintroduced to add subtle wood and vanilla nuances. It has the toasty caramel and toffee notes characteristic of the style, complemented by whiskey flavours and alcohol warmth imparted by the barrel-aging process. Like all Beau’s beer, it is certified organic.

In addition to the first-time availability in western and eastern Canada, Strong Patrick is available now at LCBOs across Ontario, as well as dépanneurs and grocery stores in Québec, and numerous draft locations as well in those provinces. And as always, local fans of Beau’s are welcome to pick up Strong Patrick and the full complement of other Beau’s beers currently available by the bottle at the brewery’s retail store in Vankleek Hill, open 7 days a week from 10 am to 6 pm.

Beau’s All Natural is an employee-owned independent Canadian craft brewery. Founded in 2006 by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s brews interesting, tasty beers using best-quality certified organic ingredients & local spring water. In addition to flagship Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Beau’s portfolio of award-winning beers include the “Wild Oats”, “Farm Table” and “Gruit” Series. Beau’s has been a recipient of more than 100 awards for brewing, packaging design and business practices, including 2 Gold medals at Mondial de la Bière (Strasbourg, France, and Montréal, Québec); 6 Gold medals at the Canadian Brewing Awards, 7-times “Best Craft Brewery in Ontario” and 7-times “Best Regularly Produced Beer in Ontario” at the Golden Tap Awards. As a Certified B-Corporation, Beau’s meets higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Beau’s beer is available across Canada and in New York State. Beau’s is the Official Brewery of Ottawa 2017. Oh yeah!

Website: www.beaus.ca

Twitter & Instagram: @beausallnatural

Facebook www.facebook.com/beausbrewery