Thursday, 20 September 2018

All the shenanigans at the OBAs 2018

This Twitter pic on the night of the Golden Tap and Ontario
Brewing Awards comes from the camera of Shelley Beirnes
(@BSGShelley) who works for BSG, a company that supplies
breweries with both ingredients and technical support. Without
sponsors, you can't pull these events off so thank you to Shelley!
Okay, so I've dealt with the announcement of the Golden Tap Awards 2018 Best Beer Writer of the Year in my last one. If you missed it, it was my buddy, Robert Arsenault. If you don't know who that is, you can also call him Drunk Polkaroo. And if you're still not sure who that is, just go with "Your Majesty" or "Most Esteemed Writer." You should always bow. I do. But, hey, if you can do a good curtsy, go with that. He accepts both. And I may just get a Knighthood out of this. Sir Donny of Hop Haven or some shit like that. Don't worry. I'll still drink with you. Like Polk, I'm a man of the people.

But while the night for me was mostly about Polk, it wasn't completely about Polk as other stuff happened, too. Lots of people there and turns out I knew more than a few. Though some stories do still involve Polk... because hey man, shut up, he was my ride back to Oakville! So let's dive into the 2018 Golden Taps and Ontario Brewing Awards night, shall we?

So anyway, I got to meet Jordan St John and Robin LeBlanc, the co-authors of two editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. At this point, I should mention I haven't actually read their books, which go into elaborate detail on the Craft Beer Movement in Ontario from the beginning to, well, now. But I will buy them now that I have met them both. I like to check out the authors before I invest my cash. Except for comic books. There's a trust factor ingrained from youth there. But their work does sounds like stuff that a guy who writes about craft beer should probably know and appreciate.
Okay, with the help of Erin, left, and John, right, both Robin
and Renee Navarro got together at Little Beasts Brewing in
Whitby and created the "Really Good Friends Saison", which
was a damn fine beer. The name comes from what you say to
Grandma or Uncle Bob when they ask about your same-sex
partner. You know, "Just friends." But part of the proceeds
went to PFLAG Durham (parents and friends of lesbians and
gays) so that's cool. It's an early contender for my Best Saison.
That said, I doubt anyone's surprised I've just been winging this all along. (My brain: "And will continue to do so regardless of what I read on the crapper." Me: "Shut up! I'm not typing that!")

Jordan is the guy I basically met as he was coming through the front door. So he had little choice but to talk to me. Some people are blessed with bad timing. We chatted there and at several other junctions through the night including an after-party bar for a night-cap. He seems like a really great and incredibly astute guy on all matters beer. But here's the thing. He's a writer. You want the real sense of a writer? Read their work.

I did exactly that. He recently visited Brussels, the capitol of Belgium, where all those tasty beers originate and wrote a piece on that. A little chunk of it was beer; there was tons of their history and their present. All capped off with some phenomenal photography involving their architecture. I'll include the link at the end but I was captivated after the first photo. One helluva writer, too.

Robin was working the room as she knew everyone there and when she finally came in my direction, I did exactly what I have long instructed my son, David, to do for either gender.
On the left is Scott Pepin, one of four co-owners of Brock
Street Brewing. On the right is the young man who says
he's a better carpenter than Jesus. Oh wait, I said that,
not him! Well, I stand by it. Think Noah could have used
a little help with that boat? I ask you. Where was Jesus?
Now, we wait as Don slowly determines his eternal fate.
Put out your hand for a handshake. If they want a hug instead, they'll let you know. I put out my hand but Robin called an audible for the hug so yeah, you don't argue. Like David, I'll always take the hug.

Didn't get a chance to really talk to her until later. But when I did, well, you know how you meet with someone in person that you only know online to actually talk for the first time? Whether you realize it or not, your guard is up, at least a little. That is, until she opened with "How's David?" Yeah, my guard disappeared faster than the superheroes at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. So we had a wonderful talk about my boy, another about a sibling in her own family and then, her story about Las Vegas!! She had won an award for a food blog and scored a free trip there. She didn't have much free time - just one day from the sounds of it - but it seemed like a great time. So I found the link to her Vegas story and read it. And I smiled. Everything I love about Vegas, she does not. I absolutely love the noise, the lights and the undeniable cheeziness of the strip. She's not a fan. She found an awesome comic shop - something we do have in common - and went straight for the indies whereas I would have been all over the Marvel, DC and Image stuff.
Drunk Polkaroo poses with Renee Navarro, the
other half of the "Really Good Friends Saison"
by Little Beasts and the lady telling us all that
beer could use some diversity. Craft beer isn't
just for white males, it's brewed for ALL of
us!! Everyone! Her Twitter: @35mmMonkey.
It was an absolutely fascinating read on the exact same place - from the complete opposite direction. I loved it so I'll link to that at the end too. Such a cool lady, as well as fantastic writer. So glad to finally meet her.

Let's move on to my man, Josh Beaven, my younger brother from another mother. I was there maybe 20 minutes, when I heard, "Donny! Donny!" Turning around, I saw Josh, one of the seven-member crew who did the Whitby Craft Brewery Invasion in December. I knew he was going as he had posted on Facebook that he was invited to be on the Brock Street Brewing party bus heading to the the OBAs. No handshakes here. Total hug moment!

I consider it very cool to just know this guy because he has fantastic, self-taught skills that I certainly don't. A carpenter by trade, he is the dude who will be putting a lot of the final wooden touches on the retail portion of the new Brock St Brewing at Dunlop and Brock Street in Whitby. And I can guarantee you this right now. When my man, JB, is done, it's gonna look bitchin' as shit.

But I also knew THE question would come back up. "When are we gonna do one of those limousine brewery tours again?" Lemme do Vegas in October, buddy, and we can arrange that next one afterwards. Because, shit, that was a whole lotta fun.
Now here's a man with an interesting story. Mark Woitzik,
centre, book-ended by Drunk Polkaroo (YOUR 2018 Best
Beer Writer of the Year) and some skeevy hippie looking
dude, is not only a craft brewery co-owner in Whitby but
also a very successful lawyer in that town. My Whitby pal,
Johnny, still maintains that one day Mark will be the Mayor. 
The age range of the participants was mid-20s to late-50s and we all had this in common. We loved drinking great craft beer from breweries like Brock St, 5 Paddles, Little Beasts and Town Brewing and tooling through Whitby in a limo. Some activities cross generations without a seam. Apparently, drinking in a limo is one. Who knew?

But here's a little story. When I was in Vegas for New Years Eve to see the Toronto Maple Leafs play there against the Golden Knights, Josh messaged me to ask for my home address so he could send me some Beer Mail from Brock Street and also a proper Brock Street pint glass. Why? So I would come home to Canada and have some fresh Ontario craft beer. Love this dude. It was a "Lemme get your picture" night, for sure.

So let's move on to Mark Woitzik, shall we? Okay, Mark is one of four co-owners of Brock St Brewing, along with Cliff Vanclief, Scott Pepin and Victor Leone. But Mark is the one in charge of their social media so he got to know of me quite well a couple years back.
Carpenter Josh poses with Brock St Brewing's gold, silver
and bronze at the OBAs. Josh later posted a video of them
winning the gold for their Bohemian Pilsner in which you
can hear me yell, "That's what I'm drinking right now!
Get it in ya!!" Ah yes, a moment caught in time. Funny.
I was mentioning Brock St in this space with some frequency simply because I very much liked them. When David and I first visited back in July 2016, Taylor, the sweet young lady at the counter (yes, I still remember her name and no, I don't know why I just walked into the kitchen), saw him peeking into the back and invited him to go check out the big shiny vats. He was gone like a missile. I mean, he left a damn vapour trail. I took like a dozen pictures of him back there. Young boys, shiny stuff - you know the drill. He talked about it all the way home - or at least, 20 minutes into the drive on the highway at which point, he feel asleep (as he always does.) Prior to that, I had met some of their young crew at a  Burlington Winter Beer Fest where they were taking on all comers with a mini ping-pong table. They smoked my ass. I think I got one point. Then in the Summer, they got a mini pool table and called me out on Facebook for a match. Turns out that was Mark. (I passed because that's a long drive just to get my ass stomped again.)

Now back in September 1991, Mark was paralyzed after severing his spinal cord during a university initiation accident. Being in a wheelchair didn't slow him one bit.
I got your Whitby Craft Beer Mafia right here, being
represented by John and Erin of Little Beasts Brewing
and Mark, Victor and Scott of Brock Street Brewing.
Between the two breweries, SIX awards returned to
Whitby after the Golden Tap and OBAs that night...
He continued on, got a law degree, opening a successful law firm in Whitby with a partner before he was one of four life-time Whitby residents opening Brock St Brewing in April 2015. Believe it or not, with four breweries in town, Brock St is the longest established at just three years old. So when Little Beasts Brewing collected their Best Newcomer Award last Thursday, Brock St knew that feel, having won it in 2016.

But as the night progressed and the drinks multiplied, Mark took me and Drunk Polkaroo aside and said he wanted us to create our own beer in one of his specialty three hectolitre tanks once their new three-storey brewery-restaurant-private club opens, likely opening towards the end of November. Polk and I just looked at each other and he said instantly, "Triple IPA!" Yes, likely followed by another Triple IPA using different hops the following month. Mark, we're down if you still are. I'll let (yass, "let"... right) your staff kick my ass at mini pool table if that's any incentive.

My hometown homeys, Cameron's Brewing, had a great night at the OBAs, collecting six trophies, just as Wellington Brewing did, making both the big winners of the night.
Jason Britton, top centre, and his brewers hold up the six OBAs
they won last Thursday. At the time, Jason told Drunk Polkaroo
and myself, they had big new beers coming down the pipe. It didn't
take long to find out as just two days ago, Cameron's announced
the release of Haze Across The 7 C's Pale Ale, the first in a series.
I'll talk about Wellington soon as I tried both their Welly Rebooted Volume 3 and Volume 4 four-packs at the same time and want to include those, one of which was a gold medal.

So back to Cameron's. Polkaroo and I caught up with Cameron's Brewmaster Jason Britton, who told us the brewery was released some big stuff very soon. "An IPA?" I instantly asked. He smiled, as he's grown used to that question from me and said, "Even better." It didn't take long to find out what. Two days ago, the brewery announced they were launching Hazy American Pale Ale Keg Series, with the first outing, Haze Across The 7 C's, now available. It's not being canned but is available for growler pours. Have I mentioned the brewery is literally two minutes down the hill from me? (Three if I get caught at the one light.) They are about to see a lot of me and my growlers in there.

Anyways, as I said, Wellington and also Longslice Brewing's wins at the OBAs will be coming up in separate as both are doing big things right now that deserve separate attention in this space. Very soon. I promise.

Okay, as I said earlier both Jordan St John and Robin Leblanc wrote some excellent pieces and that I would link to them here. Here's Jordan's piece: An Outsider's Look at Brussels followed by Robin's piece called: Vegas, Baby, Vegas! But Scooby Doo Gang, I'll be back really soon with that new Cameron's beer, as well as the look at Wellington and Longslice. Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Drunk Polkaroo FINALLY gets his big night...

Here he is at the podium. That exact moment when he went from the
Drunk Polkaroo to the award-winning Drunk Polkaroo at the Golden
Tap Awards ceremony at The Berkeley Church in east Toronto on
Thursday, September 13th. This year, the Golden Taps were held in
conjunction with the Ontario Brewing Awards so, wow, what a night!
On Monday, September 10 late at night, I got a Twitter message from my buddy Rob, who most of you know better as Drunk Polkaroo.

I had taken to referring to him as Best Beer Writer in Ontario for 2018 in our private messages, thinking THIS would be the year he would finally get that title at the Golden Tap Awards. 

As we all know, Ben Johnson, who is an excellent journalist, had won the title for an unprecedented four years' straight. Which is precisely how long this one particular award has been around - four years.

However, I made a serious miscalculation last year. I bet Polk that he would win the Best Beer Writer. But here's the thing. Johnson wrote a piece on Sexism in Ontario Craft Beer Labels and Marketing in early 2017 that was pretty much worthy of the crown all on its own. Just reading it, I knew it took him three, maybe four months, to cull that amount of information, quotes and response to the issue. He then pulled it all together into one really stellar piece. Possibly one of the best pieces I've ever read. That's not easy. So maybe last year was not my best time to actually bet on it. 

But, of course, I made that bet anyway, based on the sheer volume of beer writing and videoing Polk does in one single day, every day of the year. Instagram craft beer posts, Twitter craft beer posts and daily video craft beer reviews!
Kathryn, aka Mrs Polkaroo, now has to cop a loftier
and referential approach to her hubby, Rob, on texts.
"Can you take out the garbage?" will now be "If it
will not sully your hands, could you please take out
the garbage, Mr Award Winner?" Not gonna last long.
And hey, just for shits and giggles, he'll write a blog or two every week. So I made that bet and then lost that bet, also losing my dignity (as Donny Vegas) and worst of all, a six-pack of fine craft beer.

That why I would only privately guarantee him he would be a winner this year. In previous years, I had been saying it on social media and I feared I had given him the Pro-Line Jinx. That simply means if you bet on the Maple Leafs to win their game, they will lose. Every time. Even if they're five-goal favourites. So I gave Polk only quiet, private assertions that he would take it this year.
People were jammed around Polk all night after he
won the award, including Sawdust City Brewmaster
Sam Corbeil. Just three weeks prior to the event, Sam
and the rest of the brew crew from Sawdust drove to
the famous Grotto owned by Polk and Kat with a pile
of beer just because. They ate, they drank, they swam.

So back to Monday's private message. He told me it looked like he'd lost again because he hadn't heard anything. Why, I asked back, when was the awards night? Thursday, he replied. Oh shit, I said. He was right. If you haven't heard anything three days prior to the event means, yeah, that's a no news is bad news scenario.

The next night, just two days before the Golden Tap Awards, I got another message from Polk. He asked if I could keep a secret - like pinky-swear, hand-on-your-heart, scratch-your-ass keep a secret. Sure, I replied. I mean, I don't really listen all that closely to people at all so technically, that makes me an excellent secret-keeper. About 10 seconds later, another message popped up. Just two words. It said:

I. WON.

I. Lost. My. Shit! I jumped up so quickly that my chair, even on roller wheels, hit the ground behind me hard. I'll paraphrase the rest of the convo in teenage girl.

Me: OMG. So happy!
Him: OMG. So humbled!
Me: OMG. I'm so going!
Him: OMG. Hitch a ride with us!
Jordan St James, the co-author of two editions of The Ontario
Craft Beer Guide with Robin LeBlanc, chats with Polk in the
aftermath of the Golden Tap and Ontario Brewing Awards. It
was a night where MANY people would be talking to Polk,
making it probably his best night ever. Dude is a social beast!
And so it was set. I would hitch a ride with Polk and the lovely Kathryn and off to Toronto we would go Thursday night. But folks, lemme tell you, even on the drive in, it was like he still had "do-I-deserve-the-win" doubts about it. At one point, on the drive to collect the award, he decided the award must be "Favourite" Beer Writer, not "Best." That's the only way he would have won, he surmised, because Ben is a better writer. (For the record, people, it's Best, not Favourite. Also, he knows that now.)

This is the same conversation we had last Summer when Polk was convinced he would never win as long as Ben was writing about beer. No, I pointed out even back then, they were very different writers. Both, in my old editor eyes, are equally excellent writers. They simply bring different strengths to the table. Ben's style is very hard-hitting, brash, take no prisoners. You almost feel like there's bits of blood around his desk when he's done. Polk's style is that easy-going, how-you-all-doing, this is what I love about Ontario Craft Beer friendly chat.
While, of course, Polk won Best Beer Writer, Erin, right,
won Best Newcomer Brewery at the Golden Tap Awards
just minutes before (or after - it's a blur) for Whitby's
outstanding Little Beasts Brewing. More on her and the
other winners in tomorrow's blog. But, man, great night.
Ben is that crazy-ass, bracing, naked jump into a ridiculously frigid lake at the cottage. Polk is the hot cup of cocoa, the cozy fireplace and warm blanket wrapped around you after that skinny-dip. Both great. Very different.

Okay, let's fast-forward and get to the damn event itself at The Berkeley Church in east Toronto. It's two floors of craft brewers, craft beer fans, food and great craft beer. Which bids just one question. Why is this not an ACTUAL church?? Hell, this godless heathen would go. I might never leave. No other church in the world would ever be able to make that claim.

So Polk, Kat and myself walk in, knowing he's won. But no one else knows. And I mean, it's packed with every big name in the Ontario Craft Beer Industry. Owners, brewers, employees, fans - everyone. No mascots, though. Ontario craft breweries don't make that kind of dough - you know, #MascotMoney. Budweiser has Clydesdales; craft brewers made actual beer that doesn't like Clydesdales' piss. It's a trade-off. I like our end better.

So, of course, with two ceremonies coming up - one for the Golden Tap Awards, the other for the Ontario Brewing Awards - we grab beers and mingle.
The lovely Kat snaps off a selfie with herself, Robin LeBlanc,
Jordan St John, the co-authors of The Ontario Craft Beer
Guide and, of course, her hubby, the Drunk Polkaroo. Says
Polk: "Three of my favourite people in one photo. I don't get
to hang out with Robin and Jordan much but I treasure when I
can." Having met both that night for the first time, I get that.
Also, Robin has mastered the skills of doing the party horns and
still holding the beer glass. Skills like that will stead you well!
It's not a huge place, though sizable enough for a slammin' party, so I was spotting people I know in the industry, left, right and... okay, that's odd... not one was centre. Statistical anomaly?

Saw John Romano, owner of Nickel Brook Brewing, Oshawa's coolest carpenter Josh Beaven, Mark Woitzik, owner of Brock St Brewing and my brother from another mother. And so many more. But you know what? That's tomorrow's blog. This here's about my dude, the Polk. Your 2018 Golden Tap Award's Best Beer Writer of the Year! Oh damn, gotta get to that part!!!! Pretend you didn't read that. It was still a secret. Or was it?

Kat confessed to me that she had spilled the beans to friends at Muddy York Brewing before the announcement. And I almost did to Jordan St John, co-author of two editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide with Robin LeBlanc. You see, I was wearing my Drunk Polkaroo-Donny Vegas Inception T-Shirt. Long story short, it's a cartoon of Drunk Polkaroo wearing a picture of me wearing a T-Shirt of the actual Polkaroo from Polka Dot Door. (If you actually want to know, it's in my last blog about artist David Buist. You can see the link top right.) So I explained the whole Polk-Donny Inception thing to Jordan and he asked, "Does that mean he...??" I nearly nodded yes but caught myself, shrugged and smiled, "If he does, it's because of this shirt!" After the whole T-Shirt explanation, Jordan simply said, "I really like the follow-through," meaning that it started as a silly Twitter suggestion and turned into an actual article of clothing.
The thing about Polk is that he's anything but a
beer snob. Instead, I would call him a Craft Beer
Enthusiast, you know, if you have to label things.
(You really don't have to! It's fine if you don't.)

So the Golden Tap winners are up first but this hall, man, it is jammed with brewers and brewery workers, mostly for the Ontario Brewing Awards, which follow immediately afterwards. Every table along the walls around the building has beers you can sample. Many also have food - which is good because if you work at a craft beer brewery, you want those food freebies.

Most of the brewery crews are from out-of-town and have been in Cabbagetown for the day. Some, several, most... none of the folks there are feeling any pain. So Golden Tap organizer Cass Enright, the man who started the event, as well as runs bartowel.com, a comprehensive beer-everything website, is up on stage and begins to read out winners.

(Let me quickly explain that while the Ontario Brewing Awards are judged by actual brewers, doing blind taste-testing, the Golden Tap is voted on by you, the beer-drinking public. It is basically The People's Choice Awards for beers and breweries in Ontario.)

I immediately get to the front. I have no idea when Polk's name is gonna be read into the microphone but I wanna be up close and personal when it is. So basically, I'm leaning on the stage, just waiting.
"Hey, Peter Bulut, owner of Great Lakes Brewing
in Etobicoke, how do you feeling about Drunk
Polkaroo's big win at the Golden Tap Awards?"
We'll take that thumbs-up as a positive thing.

Winners are announced. Each is heartily applauded. Winners come up, get their certificate and exit stage-left.

Now keep in mind, I have my back to the audience. Finally, Cass says, "... and the winner is Robert Arsenault, the Drunk Polkaroo." The place goes ballistic! This gynormous sound-wave bitch-slaps me from behind. The shock-wave makes my eyes bleed. Internal organs rupture. Equilibrium is gone. Okay, not really, but holy shit, it was loud! People went absolutely nuts.

He basically gets mobbed by friends and admirers when he comes off the stage and lemme tell you something else for free, he was the Belle of the Beer Ball for the remainder of the night. Now, most of these people know him up-close-and-personal after three years of his Polkapalooza Craft Brewery Road Trip Tours to, now, many dozens of breweries across Ontario. Some have stayed open late just to accommodate the arrival of Polk and Kat in their towns.

He has long been Craft Beer Royalty in Ontario... but now, he has the crown.
The first time Polkaroo and I met, photo courtesy of
my boy, David. I think the reason we became good
friends is that it looks like we are both dressed by
Stevie Wonder. Make that Steve Wonder on drugs.
Except for one thing. It hasn't actually been that long. I always thought we met back in 2014 or so. Not even close. As I checked back, my first contact with him was on March 31, 2016, just two and a half years ago. And I think he'd only been at this beer video thing for about a half year at that point.

That's a lot of progress in a remarkably short period of time. When I first saw his work, I loved it. Just this regular dude with a colourful shirt and a fedora on, sitting behind his basement bar, talking about beer. On the ride in, Polk cracked, "Three years ago, I was just a fat drunk. Now I'm a fat drunk with an award!" His perspective but certainly not mine. The weightiest think about him in my mind is his accomplishments, going from someone nobody knew to someone everybody truly loves and respects in such a short time. Weight? His words carry more of that than his body.

The bonus to a Joe Lunch-Pail like himself winning, he added, is that now other regular folk may start following suit and try their hand at beer writing. I hope he's right. Ontario's Craft Brewing Industry can use all the support it can get. But hey, Matt Allott, the owner of Manantler Craft Brewing in Bowmanville, caught Polk hitting the stage on video and it's worth the watch right here at: The King Gets His Crown! But Scooby Doo Gang, I'll be back tomorrow with that look at all the shenanigans at the 2018 OBAs tomorrow! Until then, I remain as always...


Thursday, 13 September 2018

The art wizardry of David Buist...

David Buist "hoped" I would like the caricature he did of
my son, David. Uhhh, no. I didn't like it. I loved it. Besides
being an incredibly thoughtful gesture about a young fella
who is my pride and joy, he also totally nailed the picture.
I'll be honest. It doesn't take much to throw me. While my physical body is firmly rooted on terra firma due to gravity reasons (until Premier Rob's Brother tries to repeal the Law of Gravity using the "Not Withstanding" clause), my mind is usually drifting up there in the clouds. It's very pretty. You all look like ants from up here. Puny, puny ants.

When I looked through a bunch of old public school report cards - now decades old - that my Mom had saved (because that's what Moms do), there was a recurring theme in many of the teachers' comments. It was "Donald can be a daydreamer." These days, that's called ADD - attention deficit disorder - and I think some parents put their kids on medication for it. That's like that make me glad that I was born when I was. It seems to me if you're on medication, you are more unlikely to gaze out the window and imagine the Hulk and Thor smashing it out on the very ground where recess is held. I used to. Thor usually won. It's the hammer. You can't beat the hammer, man.

But again, I suppose I can be caught offguard because it happened recently. One day I was on Twitter and I saw the little private mail alert.
Every artist has to have a self-caricature and thus, David
Buist created his. Having never met him, I'm not sure if
he captured himself perfectly but there can be no fault in
his choice of attire. Especially with the season coming up.
I clicked on it and saw it was from Hamilton cartoonist-artist David Buist and he had done a new caricature. Not of me. He'd already done that. It was of my son, also named David. His message was simply: "Was trying some more caricatures and gave a shot at your son. Hope he likes it. I couldn't find a perfect picture to use so I used a few and hoped it worked out."

I was stunned. As you can see above, he nailed it. That picture was David... and then some. Like the Grinch, my heart swelled to be three times larger that night. So now, it's like up to a walnut. Also my eyes got leaky. I hate that. I don't know what that's called but it makes it all hard to read stuff. (Offstage Whisper: "It's called crying, you moron!" Me: "Shut up!!! I was not!!")

Now it's one thing to do a caricature of me. I was flattered that someone thought I warranted the attention.
When I was in Las Vegas during the Stanley
Cup run back in June, some radio station
went on Twitter and said, "Send us your best
cartoon and we'll publish it on social media."
So I instantly went to David, sending him a
picture of Lady Liberty outside the New York
New York Resort and Casino, wearing the Las
Vegas jersey and said, "Gimme your best."
They never used it but with a good reason.
But it's quite another to do one of my son. You see, that's a huge step up from flattery, landing on a much-higher separate plateau called Honoured and Thrilled. I felt honoured. Hugely so. That's my son, folks. So of course, I thanked him profusely. So that's the story behind that story. But I'm a day-dreamer, remember, so here's another story about artist David Buist that few (or none) of you may know.

Way back in June, I flew to Las Vegas because the Golden Knights were in the Stanley Cup final against beer writer Adam Kemp's much-beloved Washington Capitals. A Vegas radio station on Twitter said, "Give us your best cartoon of your Las Vegas Golden Knights and we'll declare the winner on our social media." So I instantly messaging David, told him of the contest, sent him a picture of the Statue of Liberty (outside New York New York Casino and Resort) wearing a Vegas Golden Knights' jersey and basically said, "Send me a cartoon." Well, within the hour, my phone was chirping. David had done it. So I fired it off to the radio station and said, "Here's your winner," explaining who the artist was, where he was from and all the stuff you tell them.

They frikkin' loved it!!! But there was a hitch. You see, the Stanley Cup was only three games in. Washington was up two games to one and at my urging, David had Lady Liberty hoisting the Cup. The station told me privately that it was one of their favourites but they couldn't jinx the Golden Knights by posting a Won-The-Cup picture. Sports is hugely superstitious. In retrospect, I get that. Bad Karma, voodoo and stuff.
The Drunk Polkaroo-Donny Vegas Inception shirt
was a hit, as I wear a T-Shirt of Drunk Polkaroo
wearing a T-Shirt of me, wearing a T-Shirt of the
actual Polkaroo from TV show Polka Dot Door.
But if they had won the Cup, oh man, Vegas would have seen that cartoon all over social media!! As you can see, I kept the cartoon. Maybe some day. Given their off-season acquisitions, maybe soon? (But not before my Toronto Maple Leafs.) But David's art has been seen in the Vegas strip before so here's another story from the daydreamer.

You see, I was headed down to Sin City for one of my what must seem to be endless trips there during this calendar year and I decided on Twitter to get some suggestions of new Ontario craft brewery T-Shirts to wear along the Vegas strip. I think it was my April trip. So, like I said, I threw it out there on Twitter and, of course, got dozens of suggestions. At 272 and counting, Ontario has no shortage of great craft brewers and when I travel, I like to show 'em off.

Eventually, someone on Twitter said words of the effect of "You should get a shirt of Drunk Polkaroo wearing a shirt of you wearing a shirt of Polkaroo from the TV show." Little light-bulbs went off over heads and Polk tweeted, "David Buist, can you help us out?"

And thus, as it was written in the Ancient Scriptures, the Drunk Polkaroo-Donny Vegas Inception T-Shirt was born, using the design that David sent us not even 20 minutes later. No one on the strip had a clue what the shirt was or what it meant. One college bro asked me if it was a band logo. Of course I smiled and said, "Yeah, brother, killer trash metal band in Toronto, Canada called the Drunk Donny Polkaroos. Check 'em out. They're f**ken dope." With a promise to You Tube it, off he happily went. (I am such an ass-hat. Why does anyone ever listen to me about anything? But he was also pretty hammered so no way he remembered that name.) So yeah, no one knew what the shirt meant or was. But we knew. And I had to give our craft brewers one day off. Also, when David Buist draws you a shirt design, you get that sucker printed on fabric and wear it.
When our man, Drunk Polkaroo, who loves filling social
media with his poems, had a recent Dr Seuss streak in his
odes, David, on his own, decided to put some of them to
art. This is as good or better than anything I've ever seen
in a children's book. And believe me, as a parent, you
become pretty familiar with those. Just a classic style.

So who is the man behind these wonderful and whimsical cartoons? The man who took the time to draw and send me one of my son? That's a good question. So I decided to privately ask him a few of those very questions myself.

Turns out David does programming and database works for a school, a full-time job he smilingly refers to as "nerd stuff." But "I've always been a doodler and loved drawing since I was a kid. Most of my notebooks in school had the margins full of little sketches and characters. A lot of my meeting notes (as an adult) still do today."

But as a married father of three daughters, it's children's book art that he gravitates towards "because it totally fits my style and it allows a lot of freedom. You can really have fun with it. I did my first one, based off a children's song my brother made and we had fun creating it together. I've done a few since and have a few in the works." (More on his most recent release at the end.)
Barrie Beer Brother Hago Vanayan loved David's art for Nickel
Brook's Wicked Awesome IPA so much that he made it into the
background for his phone and sent me this screenshot. When my
man Hago was sent his caricature from the Hamilton artist, he
marveled, "I thought I was looking into the mirror! He totally
surprised me with it. I think I'll be using it as a profile pic for a
while to come." Like I said, you feel honoured when he does it.

David told me he didn't have "a specific person that I look up to in terms of my style but I love going through and looking at all styles of art. I follow a lot of artists on Twitter and it's amazing how much talent is out there. As far as kids' books go, I did love Where The Sidewalk Ends and was a huge fan of Dr Seuss, as well as Robert Munsch. I was also a fan of some of the comic strips like Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side."

Being married with kids means "things are always so busy around my place (so) I've really learned how to cram in my art time when I can. I think my dream job (would be having) no job, though retirement is a ways off. I just have so many (artist) things that could fill my time if I had more to 'waste'."

Now David and Drunk Polkaroo can correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the first beer writer caricature the artist did was for his fellow Hamiltonian, the Polk himself. So I asked Polk what he thought when he saw it.

"The first time I saw it, I was stunned. I couldn't believe anyone would bother being that creative about a fat guy who talked about beer all the time. I got a little choked up when Dave first did those drawings. It's an honour to be immortalized, more than once. He really captures the joy in our hearts, I believe."

And when Polk had a long go of putting a Dr Seuss spin on his many poems, artist David jumped right in and started illustrating it. That thrilled Polk.
One of my all-time favourite David Buist Ontario
Craft Brewery cartoons is the one he created for
Collective Arts' Ransack The Universe IPA that
also featured himself. The colour, the style, wicked.
"The Dr Seuss ones were a point of pride as I was seeing my words come to life in a most unexpected way. Not many people know but I'm a huge Seuss fan. Yertle The Turtle is my fave. (Sidebar: Also mine. It was the first book I could recite as a pre-schooler from beginning to end.) We have had conversations about a possible collab of my words and his art into book form (so) you may see something sometime in 2019." 

And, of course, his thoughts on the classic Drunk Polkaroo-Donny Vegas Inception shirt? "The Inception (shirt) was one of the highlights of Dave's work for me. He is a treasure more people should and will know about in Ontario craft beer and beyond. Dave is a kind-hearted fellow who I got to spend an afternoon drinking beers with a three of Hamilton's finest craft breweries. He's a passionate and creative guy who is just fun to hang out with." 

Okay, as I said, David has just released a children's book with author Travis M Blair called Mythical Creatures Legendary Histories: Haiku A To Z. Here's a Twitter link to a video on it, featuring Travis and David with the separate link to Amazon. Check it out at: David's Cool Chrildren's Book  Looks like a lot of fun. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am out of here. Off with the Polkaroos for the Ontario Brewing Awards tonight, which should be a blast but until next time, I remain, as always...

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Alex's project, big beers and Twitter polls

My former co-worker, Alex, was a Business Major at McMaster
University (he just graduated) and he had to do Marketing with
a group of others in his course. His group landed at Shawn and
Ed Brewing in Dundas where they had to create a marketing
strategy aimed at these craft brewers' new aluminum bottles.
I think the thing I enjoy the most about my job is that I tend to be surrounded by young people as co-workers.

Back when I was a journalist, I worked part-time at a Beer Store in Mississauga through the 1990s and had a blast. I was surrounded by bright, young Generation X types, most of whom are now married with grown kids. Granted, they are all now in their 40s so they ain't kids anymore.

There was a five year break from 2000 to 2005 where I delved into politics on an administrative level and was surrounded by, well, bureaucrats. Nice people for the most part but dealing with constituents, not so much fun. That is, unless you enjoy being yelled at by stranger because it's snowing out and "What are you going to do about that?" Same thing as you, Asshat... wait for Spring.

So when I returned to the Beer Store in 2005, I had a new group of young'uns surrounding me - the Millennials, which are folks born between 1981 to 1996, putting them anywhere between 22 to 37 this year. (Anyone born after 1996 is, apparently, in Generation Z or, my preferred handle, the iGeneration. I think the second one is perfect.)

The older Millennials are pretty much settled into their lives now but the younger ones are just finishing university or college and, well, their lives are about to begin. So it's a lot of fun talking with them because man, you learn a lot of cool stuff. Granted, while I'm not too old to learn new things, I am just old enough to not always remember them.
These two fellows would be Ed Madronich, left, and Shawn Till, right,
the owners of Shawn and Ed Brewing in Dundas. Now I have no idea
how much of the McMaster Marketing study they used. Maybe a little,
maybe a lot but hey, when a free think-tank of your target market gives
you some Marketing ideas, I'm gonna say it's probably wise to pay heed.

So I'm always asking them about school and the things they are learning there because let's face it, the landscape's a lot different than when I was there. Apparently, computers are around now so that must be helpful.

So, at my last Beer Store, I worked with one young fellow, Alex, who had just graduated with his Business degree from the DeGroote School of Business, which is under the auspices of McMaster University in Hamilton. One night while we were working, these aluminum bottles for Lagershed beer, the flagship brew of Shawn and Ed Brewing in Dundas came back with someone's empties.
One of the sales reps at Shawn and Ed's Brewing
gives this 10-foot inflatable bottle of Lagershed a
big old hug. What can I tell ya? There's a lot of
love in Ontario's Craft Beer industry. And hugs.
Shawn and Ed, I don't know what those bottles cost you but we only give folks a dime back for each.

Alex smiled as he saw them and then told me he and a group of others did a project on them for a Marketing class at school. Well, if you're gonna lure me into a story, any innovation in craft beer is all the bait you need. He told me that the class had a number of businesses to choose from, each with a unique business challenge. In the end, his group landed at Shawn and Ed and their challenge was to create a marketing strategy for their new aluminum bottles.

Now because the small brewery, which opened in 2016, does not have a canning line equipment, which, I think, start at about $500,000 and go upwards from there, they decided to use the aluminum bottles. That way, they could still use the existing bottling line but there was a bigger reason the marketing class landed there.

"Because previously, Shawn and Ed only did glass bottles (sold in six-packs) and we don't sell single bottles of regular brands at the Beer Store or LCBO, this allows them to have a single entrant on the shelves," Alex told me. "This has the same volume as a tall can (473-ml or 16 ounces) so this is their equivalent to buying a tall can."

In essence, the aluminum bottle is similar in function to a glass bottle, Alex continued. You still need a church-key to pop the cap. "It's very similarly priced to, say, a Nickel Brook can and it keeps in their values of believing that beer should be drank out of bottle, not cans." True enough - my new store sells them for $3.25 so it's the same price range.

But it's the individual package, rather than, say, a six-pack which is the biggest advantage, Alex said. "Our group that the best venues for sales would be the golf course or any sort of sporting venue you can't have glass at because broken glass (and) people stepping on it. Stuff like that."
Against all odds, I still haven't visited Shawn and Ed
Brewing in Dundas and I say against all odds because
they're really not that far from me. I'll be there soon.

Know that a six-pack of new product in the craft beer industry might be too much of a commitment for some drinkers, whereas a single can (or bottle in this case) is a gimme, this new aluminum bottle "allows them (Shawn and Ed) an easier way for people to try but it also gets them into all of the venues, whether it be a golf course or whether they (wish to try) getting it into the Roger's Centre."

So in the end, Alex's group keyed on the various locales that a single aluminum bottle could land, as well as the issue of not being glass. And that's what he told me in a nutshell. Now to be frank, I have no idea how much or how little of his group's marketing strategy has been used by the brewery. But I'll tell you this, when a bunch of bright young minds, who are also your key demographic and your future, create strategies for you, I'd pay attention. Further to that, it didn't cost the brewery a dime. Can't beat that price-sticker!
When I discovered that Amsterdam Brewing's 3 Speed
Lager came in a 568-ml can as opposed to the usual
473-ml format, I was curious. That is until I did the
millilitre-to-ounce conversion and saw that it was
19.2 ounces, exactly the same as the Oskar Blues'
Dale's Pale Ale I enjoyed numerous times on the Las
Vegas strip during recent trips. Dale's is neck-and-neck
with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale as my American favourite.

Okay, speaking of marketing, our good friends at Amsterdam Brewing created a little bonus for craft lager lovers recently. Walking past our can display (which I seldom touch because I'm more in the heavy lifting department), I noticed something different about one of their products. I am quite familiar with their 3 Speed Lager, which is a nice, mild, grassy and lightly citrus lager that pairs well with a lunch. A good starter beer as I like to call that style.

But because it's paired with other Amsterdam beers on the shelf - in this case, their classic Boneshaker IPA and Pale Rider Dry Hopped Lager (now that is one killer lager) - I couldn't help but notice something. It was taller than the other two on each side. And I mean, by a significant margin. So I checked it out. It was 568-ml as opposed to the usual tallboy 473-ml (16 ounces). So I did what I always do and plugged the 568-ml into Google to see how many ounces that equals. You may notice I do that all the time. I have American readers on here so I want to include measurements they use daily. In America, only drug-dealers use metric. Also ounces still mean more to me as a measurement than anything in metric. Same with Fahrenheit over Celsius.

So when I plugged 568-ml into the conversion chart, it told me that equaled 19.2 ounces. Okay, now that's a number I know! You see, during my many trips to Las Vegas, I have come across a beer exactly that size - Oskar Blues Brewing (Lyons, Colorado) Dale's Pale Ale. For my money, it's one of the best Pale Ales in America, standing alongside Sierra Nevada (Chico, California) Pale Ale.

So, of course, I posted the 3 Speed on Twitter with a Pale Rider beside it for comparison purposes and followed it with a tweet about Dale's Pale Ale being exactly the same size.
It's not long ago you would not have seen these two Great Lakes Brewing
IPAs side-by-side on Donny's Party Porch Patio. The reason is simply

that they are both Tank Ten beers and there is only one Tank Ten in the
brewery so, you know, one at a time. However, that changed very recently
when GLB announced Octopus Wants To Fight was getting year-round
status. That's a break in tradition for the Etobicoke brewery. Also, yes!!
I got back a "Big cheers, Don!" from Amsterdam for their big beer as well as a "Gotta go big!" from Oskar Blues. (Bad news, guys... turns out size matters.) But hey, I guess that's proof that sometimes, good things do come in larger packages. And for the record, that big ol' 3 Speed costs $3.25. A bargoon, my friends.

Okay, now we're on the Twitter world so let's continue with that. About two years ago, I noticed everyone's favourite Ontario beer writer, Drunk Polkaroo, started posting beer-related polls on the social medium. I didn't really think twice about it until one day, I thought, "Hey, that might be fun to do!" Of course, I had no idea how to do it but I figured I'd just ask one of the Millennials at work. (In retrospect, I suppose I could have just asked Polk.)
Okay, how did this beer get its name? Well, the huzzahs go
to Troy Burtch, GLB's marketing and communication dude.
He was scrolling through Twitter one day and someone had
posted a picture of himself drinking GLB at a bar. However,
behind him was one of those tree racks with all the arms for
coats and someone had stuck a sign on it that said "Drunk
Octopus." Bam! Octopus Wants To Fight became a name...

Eventually, I noticed a little bar graph under the reply area - where you link pictures or GIFs - and figured that was probably it. So I was enjoying a Great Lakes Brewing (Etobicoke) Octopus Wants To Fight IPA one day and realizing it was my favourite GLB IPA, I thought, "Let's see if others agree." So on May 11th, I did my first Twitter poll. All by myself, I might add. No, no, hold your applause until the end of the show, please.

The question was simply, "Of these Great Lakes IPAs, which would you like to see year-round?" My four choices were: Octopus Wants To Fight, Karma Citra, Thrust! An IPA and Lake Effects.

I assumed and stated outright Octopus would be the overwhelming favourite. However, Drunk Polkaroo was one of the first on, saying he had done a similar poll one year prior and that Octopus and Karma were virtually neck-and-neck. Minutes later, GLB retweeted my poll so I figured hey, they were curious, as well. I kept my eye on my poll, which runs for 24 hours and damn if Polkaroo wasn't on the money. Octopus and Karma were pretty much even until the end.
Onto my next poll: Which one of these Left Field Brewing
(Toronto) IPAs is best? The Greenwood IPA or their Laser
Show Vermont Style Imperial IPA? Well, I put that out
there on Twitter and eventually got the winner I wanted.
Of the 179 votes cast, Octopus took 36%, Karma City 33%, Thrust nabbed 19% and Lake Effect collected 12%. Honestly, I thought Octopus would be well over 50% of the vote but with the comments tweeted, it became clear all four had their ardent fan-bases.

Now that was back in May so let's fast-forward to a couple of weeks back in August. With suitable fanfare, GLB posted on all of their social media that Octopus Wants To Fight was becoming their first-ever year-round IPA. Months later, this has precious-little to do with my poll and much more to do with their ongoing daily customer response in person at the brewery or on social media. GLB needed a year-round IPA. And as you can see in the picture, I can now enjoy both an Octopus and a Karma Citra with my three-pound shrimp burrito. And believe me, it takes two beers to wash one of those down. Also my horse, Octopus, won so that's kinda cool.

Which leads me to my most recent poll, this time revolving around two beers from Toronto's Left Field Brewing.
Sensing that Brayden's beer was falling a little short in my poll, I brought
in a ringer and said that the Greenwood was the only beer on Midgard
(that would be Earth) that was Thunder God-approved. Thor may have
got Greenwood a few extra votes but in the end, Laser Show took it all.
My local LCBO at Trafalgar and Dundas in Oakville is an excellent place to grab new craft beers - the best in town for certain. So recently, their beer guy, Josh, started beginning in two beauties from Left Field - their Greenwood IPA and the Laser Show Vermont Style Imperial IPA. Both are outstanding. Greenwood, at 6.3% and 65 IBU, is all peach, pineapple and best of all, hazy as hell. But hey, Laser Show is no slouch with its melon, orange and fruit, clocking in at a nifty 8% and 80 IBUs. Now the Greenwood runs $7.25 while the Laser Show is pricier at $8.95 a bottle. So they're "special occasion" beers. And apparently, I must consider Tuesday night or Recycling Day to be a special occasion as I have grabbed a lot of this pair. Like dozens of both at this point. And that lead to an interesting conversation between me and Twitter buddy Brayden (@BraydenMoore1) one night.
My new (yet somehow old) Beer Store brought me back in contact
with Big Rig Brewing's (Ottawa) Alpha Bomb Unfiltered IPA. But
when I poured one the other night, I did what I also do - stopped
about two inches before the top of the glass. The head had other
ideas. Now is it just me or does that over-the-top head look exactly
like an atomic bomb cloud? Didn't stop me from drinking it, okay?

Now Brayden hails from northwest Ontario and since my first newspaper job was a daily in Kenora (about as northwest Ontario as it gets), I applaud him for being handle those winters. I know I couldn't. Back to the point. I was singing the praises of the Laser Show one day and Brayden noted while, he, too, loved it, he would give Greenwood the edge. You know what that means... TWITTER POLL TIME!! (This game's fun.) I gave poll-takers four choices. A) Greenwood, B) Laser Show, C) They're both excellent and D) Worst. Poll. Ever.

In the end because I didn't have a powerhouse brewery retweeting me, there were just 15 votes over the 24 hours but the results were indisputable. Laser Show took 47%, Greenwood nabbed 27%, "They're both excellent" garnered 13% and "Worst. Poll. Ever" also collected 13%. I'll be honest. I was kinda hoping that "Worst. Poll. Ever" would win. Okay, that's enough for today so Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 2 September 2018

The Brock Street (soon-to-be) Boom!

Brock St. Brewing co-owners Mark Woitzik and Victor Leone took Johnny and
I on a tour of the get-closer-to-completion new Brock St Brewing facility located
at Brock and Dunlop Streets in Whitby. Between my restaurant-managing pal
and my beer-loving self, it was a pretty informative tour. Probably looking at a
late-October or mid-November opening and I tell you, I'm planning to be there!
The last time I was on this lot, it was a fenced-off area, strewn with little more than gravel. Gotta be honest, much like me with my shirt off, it wasn't much to look at.

But as any builder can tell you, you have to start at the foundation and then build upward. (Sadly, my foundation broke down by the end of my 20s. I've been the "before" fitness club picture ever since.)

So that was on December 9, 2017, the day of the famous - some would say infamous - Whitby Craft Beer Brewery Invasion where eight of us piled into a limousine, drove to four separate Whitby craft breweries and drank deeply from the well of top-flight craft brewers. The long white limo made it seem a little more sophisticated, at least at the beginning.

However, by the end, you had eight pasty-white incredibly buzzed people from the suburbs, ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s, all singing Wu Tang Clan in a confined area. Imagine not even the 1980s group but an actual flock of seagulls all screeching at the same time. We were less harmonious. And I mean, by a wide margin.
I'll be honest here. I brought Johnny in as a ringer. He has been in the
restaurant industry at the management (or higher) level since the mid-
1980s and I know of no one else who has that set of credentials. He was
there to quiz the guys on the restaurant side of the operation while I was
simply happy to see how the brewery component looked at this point.

But Mark Woitzik, one of the co-owners of Brock St. Brewing, had called me prior to our little adventure and invited us all to see the site of what will soon be the new Brock St Brewing at the corner of Brock and Dunlop Streets in Whitby. I immediately said yes because what idiot says no to a brewery owner? And that's how our big day started last December. In a gravel-filled lot. The rest of the day was well-chronicled so I won't get into that other than to say, "The last hour in that limo is still super hazy."

So anyway, a few weekends back, my son and I were driving out to Whitby to visit my lifelong friend, Johnny and his wife, also a good friend, Trish. To give you an idea of how close we are, David only refers to two couples outside the actual family as Aunt and Uncle. Johnny and Trish are one of them.
That top facade in the top photo was already closed and the
glass was installed when we visited a few weeks back. In fact,
at this point, their vats, kettles and all the equipment needed
for a brewery is likely in place. Their Hopkins Street retail
remains open and will operate at the same time as this new
facility for the foreseeable future. But this is gonna be a jewel.

So when Mark got wind I was returning to Whitby, he immediately texted and asked me to pop by the site so I could see the progress. But because a critical component of the new Brock St Brewing is going to be a upper-scale restaurant, I wanted to bring a ringer with me, a person who could speak to and ask questions about the restaurant end of things. As actress Butterfly McQueen famously yelled in the classic Gone With The Wind, "I don't know nothin' about building restaurants." Actually, her scatterbrained character, Prissy, actually said "birthin' babies" not restaurants but frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn as I know nothing about either.

Johnny would be my ringer. As a Whitby resident, I'm certain he was curious about this new addition to his town's main street. As well, he's been managing restaurants (and positions much higher than that, including co-owning one and Director of Operations for a huge, familiar-to-all chain) since the mid-1980s. So while David opted to lounge around their pool with his Aunt Trish, Johnny and I headed over to the new Brock St Brewing site.

As we approached it, I asked, "What's your guess? About $25 million?" Frankly, I was just throwing out a random number but Johnny acknowledged that it could, indeed, be that much. He would know far better than I could ever. That said, it's just our guess as the price tag is, of course, mum. Once inside the soon-to-be retail area, we were warmly greeted by co-owner Mark and Victor Leone (missing was partner #3 Scott Pepin) and the basic breakdown of "what's going where?" began.
Here's an interesting and hugely historic wrinkle. Mark was
offered the clock from atop the old, long-since-demolished
Whitby Post Office shown here. So at the moment, he is
scrambling to find a clock-maker who can refurbish this
key piece of Whitby history. The clock could potentially be
installed at the top of the building on the corner. The one
fly in the ointment? It's entirely possible that pieces for this
 are no longer made and the clock simply cannot be repaired.
It was originally built in 1911 and it may be tough to fix it.

We started in the retail area, which will eventually involve the wood-working skills of my favourite carpenter, Josh Beaven and I am expecting regular updates from him at this point. When Johnny saw me, he laughed, "Oh, you are ready! You even have their T-Shirt on!" Well, yeah, my Brock St tee, bought for me by Josh, has seen the Las Vegas strip four times in the last year and will once again in October. Damn straight, I'm wearing my Brock St pride to the new site.

Okay, back to the new digs. As Mark was explaining where the draft lines would be coming into the retail area, he noted that he was hoping, given their vastly-increased brewing capacity, that Brock St could do many "collaborations with other brewers in town." Given that the town's population is roughly 130,000 and they have four very vibrant, popular craft breweries - Brock St, 5 Paddles, Little Beasts and Town Brewing - at one brewery per 38,500 residents, that might just be one of the best per-capita ratios in the province, if not the country.

When Mark and Vince started talking about the restaurant component beside the retail, well, that's when Johnny jumped in.
Barrie Beer Brother Hago happily poses in front
of Brock St Brewing during our Whitby Craft
Brewery Invasion last December. To this day,
Hago swears that the guys "could have saved a
million dollars if they'd just named themselves
Hopkins St Brewing." Nah, Brock St's better.
He began quizzing them on the restaurant size, the direction from which the food would be coming, the maximum capacity, number of window seats, potential for a patio... basically, anything restaurant-related. Frankly, I couldn't keep up (okay, I zoned out a little because that's not beer-related) but Mark and Victor had answers for all of his queries.

The funny thing is the brewery is leasing out the restaurant component to established service industry pros in Whitby and while the men were mum on who's actually running it, Johnny confided privately he was certain that he had figured it out. He gave me the name of a group running two upper-scale restaurants in Whitby and is convinced this will be their third jewel. I would give you the name but it was unfamiliar to me and thus, quickly forgotten. But no one knows the industry as well as my friend so he's likely right.

From there, the pair took us into the brewery portion of the three-storey adventure. Okay, this is where a tiny brewery on Hopkins Street will now become a much-larger one on Brock. The new tanks, combined with older ones being relocated from Hopkins, are going to increase their brewing capacity by a multiple of five, if not more. While the space was empty (no longer the case) at the time we visited, it took little imagination to see how humongous this brewing area was going to become in the near future.
This are the four 120-hectolitre (3,170 US gallons) tanks
now in position at the new brewery. Standing nearly
three-storeys high, they are just part of the arsenal that
the new Brock St Brewing will have. Oh, yes, there's
much more. There's 28 tanks in total at the new joint.

Mark explained they would have four 120-hectolitre (3,170 US gallons) tanks, four 60-hectolitre (1,585 gallon) tanks, ten 30-hectolitre (793 gallon), as well as 10 specialty 3-hectolitre (80 gallon) small-batch tanks. That's a lot of brewing capacity right there. In fact, so much so that Brock St can now act as a contract brewer for others without interrupting or delaying their own product in the slightest. After the brewery and the restaurant, that's a third money-making component for the trio.

As well, he told us some of the smaller tanks would be utilizing a new "fully-automated CIP system." What is that? Hey, glad you asked. An automated CIP system is one that high-pressure cleans the interior of the tanks with a flip of a switch. No muss, no fuss. It is the latest high-tech system in the industry. And what are the advantages of the CIP system? "It helps save on chemical usage, is better for the environment and utilizes much less water," Mark told me.
This is the stage the brewery was at when we visited
several weeks back. In fact, the painters were in there
on scissor lifts doing their thing and making the place
look inhabitable. This is a huge frikkin undertaking.
"It allows us to keep the craft element but using modern-day efficiencies to create some amazing beers (with our) 28 fermenting vessels." In fact, with half their 30-hectolitre tanks and all of their 3-hectolitre tanks using the CIP system, it "allows for multiple brews per day." 

Long story short - these guys can now (or rather will soon) crank out a crap-ton of beer. Okay, from there, Victor took Johnny and I up to the second floor where he pointed out the storage area for the brewery's grains and supplies, as well as a banquet hall area with a capacity of 200 people. "We're getting a special kind of (sound-absorbing) wood for the dance floor in the banquet hall," Victor explained, which is very much needed because it is directly above the restaurant.

Of course, Johnny then quizzed him on the every single aspect of the banquet hall (the fourth money-making component) - the balcony area, how the food would get there (on a built-in dumbwaiter), who reaps the benefits (it's split - the restaurant makes money for preparing the food, Brock St makes it for renting the area so win-win) and dozens of other questions that I now completely forget.
Brock St Brewing's going back to Las Vegas, baby, in late
October. You see, I recently bought a seat to the Maple Leafs
game against the Golden Knights on my birthday - February
14, 2019 - but decided I didn't feel like waiting five more
months to visit. So Ontario craft breweries, including our
gang at Brock St, will be well-represented on the strip again.

And finally, Vince took us to the third floor with the super-bitchin' view for the final part of the 19,000-square-foot structure - the exclusive club and fifth money-making component. This is where club members who have bought their way in can relax two floors above the din of the restaurant and retail area. The limited-time membership fee was basically created to bring some outside cash influx to the massive project. Susan, a friend of Johnny and Trish's who joined us for drinks (she's a big 5 Paddles fan) that night, told me the membership fee was $500, as she had bought one for her hubby.

This is an unbelievably huge step for the brewery which first opened its doors in April 2015, making it - believe it or not - the senior citizen in the Whitby craft beer scene, ahead of the three others. Mark pegged their opening date optimistically towards mid-October. So that, of course, means I'm guessing late November because nothing ever happens on time when contractors are involved. But I tell you this for free. By hook or by crook, I will be there Opening Night and there will be many pictures. Count on it. As for Johnny's take on the day? "I think Mark is going to be the next mayor of Whitby," he said, as impressed as hell.  But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...