Monday, 15 July 2019

The view from within The Beer Store

When David and I drove out to Whitby to visit his Uncle Johnny,
a life-long friend of mine, we knew we had to pop into the new
Brock Street Brewing at Brock and Dunlop Streets to check out
the new digs! Here we are in the restaurant component (run
separately) by 12welve Bistro & Tapswerks. The food was really
phenomenal and the beverages of choice? For David, some OJ,
for Johnny, Brock St Blonde and myself, Brock St Black IPA...
Last weekend, my boy, David, and I made the trek from Oakville out to Whitby. Now usually, many visits to breweries ensue when we travel out there (the old Brock Street Brewing and 5 Paddles Brewing are literally around the corner) but we were only there for the day as I had to shuttle him back to his Mom the next morning. David, not Johnny. If I wanted to shuttle Johnny to his Mom, well, she lives around the corner from me in Oakville. But he always declines. Imagine that.

So after we settled in, David went for a couple of dips in Johnny's in-ground pool, becoming, according to Johnny, the first person to use it this year. It was sunny and about 30C so perfect day for it. Also primo Day Drinking weather!

Now Johnny's wife, Trish, and daughter Julia (my god-daughter) were down in Vegas at a dance competition so David quickly dubbed it "The Men's Weekend." That meant delicious junk food with zero nutritional value, many juice boxes for David and well, copious amounts of beer for Daddy and Uncle Johnny as we relaxed pool-side all afternoon and evening.

But first, it was a matter of picking up supplies. As Johnny was home by himself all week, there was zero food in the house because guys flying solo seldom make their own food. We're just that lazy.

Well, not entirely true, I suppose. Once when Lady Polk left Drunk Polkaroo alone for a weekend, he posted a picture of his dinner - eight BBQed hot dogs. No buns. Just the dogs. Funniest and most "guy" food picture I've ever seen.
On the first Sunday he was here with me, David and I
did a little brewery visiting with stops at Great Lakes,
Black Oaks and brand new Stonehooker Brewing. Now
Black Oaks wasn't even open but owner Ken Woods
happily let us in as he was doing paperwork. I wanted
David to meet an Ontario Craft Beer Legend. David
loves everyone so it may not mean much to him. But it
sure as hell means a lot to Daddy. Ken is the man!!

Now I was set. I had brought six Muskoka Detour (Session) IPAs for the afternoon and six Muskoka Hazed and Confused Juicy IPAs for the evening (when Johnny and I tend to talk long into the night and even into early morning.) Bought them at my Beer Store because while it might not be your first craft beer destination, we offer the same six, 12 and 24 price breaks that the brewery does. So we're great for volume purchases, such as mine. And that's just extra money for more beer. Or pesky bills, if you're responsible. (Okay... so then for me, more beer.)

But we needed juice for my boy and of course, Budweiser for Uncle Johnny. And ice. Lots of ice. So we were off to a Whitby Beer Store because, of course, TBS specializes in Bud. Every shape, every size, every container. We are most definitely your only Bud, Canadian and Coors Light beer destination when it comes to volume.

The damnedest thing ever happened in that TBS. While we were waiting, a lady walked up to the clerk and asked him if they had any Corona. No, he explained, they didn't but hopefully soon. Being as it's one of (if not the) biggest seller in the Summer months, I asked him what was going on when we got to the cash, adding that I was also a TBS employee. How could they possibly run out of Corona?
Okay, this was VERY much a chance encounter. My former Nickel Brook
inside sales rep, Charles, (he's moved on to other things) was at Great
Lakes Brewing when David and I popped in. Charles knows David from
way back in the days when he worked at the Nickel Brook retail counter
and David and I would pop in for fresh growlers of Headstock IPA. Well,
the growlers were actually for me but David is my travel companion...

"We haven't seen an LCBO delivery in three weeks," he sighed. Well, if you work at a TBS, your weekly LCBO order is where you get your Corona, Heineken, Stella Artois, basically any beer than comes from out of the province or country. (In the same manner, TBS delivers all Ontario macros and some Ontario micros to the LCBO.)

The harried fellow went on to explain that the Whitby LCBO warehouse had switched to a new distribution computer program whereas as the London LCBO warehouse where we get our LCBO deliveries from had not.

The problem being? "The new program (in Durham) doesn't work," he shook his head. "You should see the LCBO across the street. Its shelves are bare." Oh man, I knew exactly what that was about to mean. You see, that Durham warehouse also supplies most of the Toronto LCBOs and TBS stores. There were about to be A LOT of empty shelves.
Okay, this Twitter post by the OCSA
is disingenuous at best but I honestly
don't think they know that if they get
the right to sell beer and wine, that
their deliveries would ALSO come
the LCBO and TBS warehouses. In
fact, their shelves would be every bit
as bare as these ones in a local LCBO.

Sure enough, exactly one day later, the stories started popping up - online and in the mainstream media. LCBO shelves were going bare. Now if it happened in, say, Timmins, it's a smaller news story. But Toronto? Aye carumba! Whatta mess. And not in the dead of Winter when sales are low. Nope, it had to happen just as the sun and hot weather finally arrived. No wine, no spirits and no imported beer. In fact, the TBS guy told me you'd be lucky to even one Corona in any local restaurants. (Fortunately, I'd never be looking for one though ironically, my store still has plenty.)

Well, I have not waded into the whole Premier Ford And His Trained Seals All Want Beer And Wine In The Corner Stores quagmire in this space yet. For starters, there is a staffed Communications department at the TBS headquarters that deals with contentious issues like this. Suffice it to say, TBS is vehemently opposed to Ford's proposal.

As well, I am a Beer Store employee so anything I say on social media could be considered tainted at best. But TBS would also never ask me to comment on the issue because they have legitimate and qualified folks to do so. I'm just a cash jockey and beer stacker at a retail outlet. As far as full-time employees go, I could best be likened to one-ply toilet paper. Yes, I get the job done but no one, including myself, is exactly sure how. Also, in the same manner as one-ply, it takes me forever to finish the job.

As well, many beer writers flat-out dislike the Beer Store because of the heavy-handed nature of our structure. It's what they consider a monopolistic and monolithic distribution system that heavily favours the macros.
All of the stuff that parents are going through now, most
especially the parents of Autistic children, I can only say
this. Been there, done that during the Mike Harris days
when David was just a wee toddler. Except Ford is worse.
Hang tough, folks. Governments regularly get voted out.
Their words, not mine. I like getting paid. Big fan. That said, I'm seriously glad TBS opened things up a lot more for the craft breweries a few years back. Because TBS guys like me and Ben in Nepean and Paul in Newmarket have gone micro-crazy, trying to get as much craft beer into TBS as possible. Why? Because it's what we drink.

But there have been occasions on social media where because I work for TBS, I have been told I'm... *checks notes* "Satan's Crotch Loofah." That's not fair. I'm Satan's hand-towel at worst. And one of those guest towels he's not allowed to use. (Not a religious man. Does Satan have a wife?)

Also that has nothing to do with TBS. That's just me being me - Satan's guest towel, which I would be regardless of where I work. But this dude has bills to pay, a constantly-hungry kid to feed and, well, very regular trips to Las Vegas that call my name like the siren song of a mermaid. A big part of that is having a regular pay-cheque. Funny how life works.
What is this? Me, like 100 years ago? I do NOT remember
ever being that clean-cut.  However, I absolutely recognize
that dopey expression on my face. "Where am I? What day
is this? This is not my beautiful house!" And even though
this is a still photograph, I stand like this for hours daily.

Anyway, I have stayed out of the whole Beer in Convenience Stores thing until now. Obviously, the convenience stores want beer and wine because, of course, they do. And in this case, they'll ride shotgun with a person I think is a horrible human being to do it. Not being critical of them. Some Ontario craft breweries also believe they will benefit from this and my love for them is both well-known and huge. I very respectfully disagree with them about potentially increased availability of their product should they finally be allowed in convenience stores but we'll get into that in a minute.

Now I am not being critical here because if any Premier can advance your cause, such as Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne did with the grocery stores, well, you jump onto that boat and sail that thank-you ship into the damn ocean, all oars in the water. (Anyone with a nautical background likely just read that sentence and thought, "WTF, man?")

And just like I have friends at the LCBO, I also have a few at the grocery stores who won their bid to sell beer and wine within their stores.
Jeff Mitchell not only manages Brown's Your
Independent Grocer up in Stittsville, he also
is pursuing becoming a Certified Ciccerone.
As manager, he has brought an exceptional
amount of craft beer into his store. He has to
meet the Loblaws planogram for beer but
once he did, everything else became open.
You see, to me, we all do the same thing. Sell booze. So I tend not to think of them as competition but rather kindred spirits.

One of those people is Jeff Mitchell, the general manager of Brown's: Your Independent Grocer (under the Loblaws umbrella - ella, ella, eh, eh, eh.) Brown's is up there in Stittsville, Ontario - a cozy suburb outside of Ottawa. Jeff and I will finally meet next month when a number of us craft-lovin' no-good-niks will descend upon a number of Ottawa breweries. The official name of the event is the Ottawa 613 Craft Brewery Invasion and Jeff is one of the hosts, along with Ottawa Matty, Ottawa Joel, Nepean Beer Store Brother Ben and Ottawa Kev (@deadsquid on Twitter. No, I have no idea. Yes, I'll ask him.) Jeff and Kev are the only ones I've never met. However, to see our group banter on Twitter, you'd think we were all long-time friends. We kinda are, though. Jeff and Kev are just friends I haven't met yet, just as Matt, Joel and Ben all were at one point.

Now way back in December 2015, Brown's became one of the first six grocery stores in the Province that won a licence to sell beer and wine. In actual fact, it was Jeff who explained to me how the Master Framework Agreement (MFA) between the Beer Store, the Province (and by extension, LCBOs) actually works. Grocery stores purchase their beer and wine through the LCBO and it has to be on an approved list. They buy it for exact cost (what the consumer pays) and cannot change or up the price.
On the left is Paul Meeks, the owner of
Kichesippi Beer Company and on the right,
my man, Nepean Beer Store Brother Ben.
Ben got me some of their 1855 Amber Ale
and it's one of the best Red Ales I've had.
Jeff told me if they get a large bulk order, there's a 3% discount but the fact is, that wouldn't even cover the cost of the eight-pack can holders the store uses.

So if you're not making a dime on wine and beer, why stock it? That's a loss leader. Simply this, according to Jeff. It draws people into the store. In a community of 38,000 people with an existing TBS and LCBO, Brown's is now the third place in Stittsville where you can buy beer.

To a craft beer drinker like Jeff, it's a labour of love. In fact, he has brought in so much craft that it's 54% of their beer sales. Yup, Brown's actually sells more craft than macro. That, my friends, is very impressive! It's also the Ontario I hope to live in some day.

So that's TBS, LCBO and grocery stores covered. Now what's up with the convenience stores getting beer and wine?

Well, that's the thing. Nobody knows. Our fearless Premier and his merry gang, whom we'll affectionately call Doug and The Slugs, ripped up the MFA as their last order of business and then called Summer Recess at Queen's Park. Until October. After the federal election. Which, of course, isn't suspicious in the least. It couldn't possibly be that the federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer knows Ford is so unpopular in Ontario that he could tank the all of the Conservative candidates in Ontario come October.
Problem is the Master Framework Agreement between
TBS and the Province is EXACTLY that - a contract. Very
sure you can't just rip that up. One lawyer buddy I talked
to said the courts - and this will go to court - will tell him
very sternly "Honour existing contracts!" That's how and
why contracts exist. But we'll see how this all plays out.
Nah, that's just being cynical. I mean, yeah, he's polling lower than Wynne when she got turfed but when you cut funding to education, health care, child care, Autism and special needs (that is some of the cruelest Ebenezer Scrooge shit I've ever seen), Indigenous programs, stem cell research and, well, I could go on all day so let's stop there. If you're not rich, white and male, he's basically kicked you in the nuts. But hey, he also promised "No lost jobs" during the campaign, still insists there are no lost jobs while teachers, nurses and support staff are getting laid off left, right and centre due to government cuts.

But let's bring this back full circle to my buddy, Johnny, the Bud drinker. "He keeps saying people want this," he noted. "But who exactly? No one I know. I can get it at the Beer Store, LCBO and even Walmart if I need to. How many places do I need?" Exactly.

And if convenience stores do get the right to sell beer and wine, here's another prediction.
I have enjoyed four Rurban Brewing (Cornwall) beers in
the past, courtesy of Beer Store Daughter Sassy Cassy, all
solid brews. But this is the sign in their door today. I now
really love this brewery. Off to do a little team-building!
If it's a loss leader for them as well, just as it is for the grocery stores, you will see Budweiser, Canadian, Coors Light, Corona, one red and one white on their shelves. And that's about it. No one gives away too much shelf real estate for free. And your little Mom-and-Pops convenience stores? You know the ones I mean. Where the wife and husband are the only two you ever see working? No way they can afford this.

Ford came after the Beer Store because he believes TBS is unpopular, which I guess we kinda are with some. But to the average Bud drinker like Johnny? Hey, we're the place you go. Where you've always gone. And that's still the great majority of the beer drinking population. So I suspect we shall soon see who's even more unpopular - the Beer Store or Doug Ford? Gotta admit, I like our odds. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Matty keeps us all on the... Level

This was the picture I had to beat. Curtis snapped this at
the cottage and Matty gave it a Level 104. No, that's not a
branded Lake of Bays Brewing glass. But he had found
an old cottage glass with paddles painted on it, poured his
Paddle On Session IPA into it and *bam* a Level 104 pic!
I'm not even sure I noticed the first few times Ottawa Matty did it. In the grand scheme of the vast universe known as Twitter, it could have passed by, completely unnoticed.

Still, it didn't. Eventually, we started noticing and, well, now it's become this big competitive monster thing. But in the most fun and friendly of ways. Because that's how Matty (and the rest of us) roll.

Ottawa Matty has been scoring our beer pictures. Actually, he has been for a while now. So what's the big deal?

Just this. Whereas we ALL post beer pictures ALL the time, things have been altered a little. Now we're actually thinking about our pictures. Putting some effort into them. I mean, our Ontario Craft Beer brewers put a lot of effort into their product. Now because of Matty, some of us are now putting a little more effort into how we represent that same product on social media via the use of photography.

Some people have always done this, most notably Drunk Polkaroo. I remember Lady Polk telling me once that she'd see him set up a beer for a picture and instantly belly-flop onto the ground to get just the right angle.
"I. Am. A. Golden. God!" yells Ottawa Matty... from the sanctity of
his children's pool. This was last Saturday and I saw it while I was at
work. Knowing Matty was doing a little Day Drinking, in the hot sun,
no less, I hatched my brilliant plan to nab the high score in his Photo
Scoring contest. Did it work? At the moment, you are reading the
words of the Highest Score Holder. That can all change... in a flash.

Barrie Beer Brother (and our favourite soldier boy) Hago has always done likewise. In fact, at Canadian Forces Base Borden, where he still plies his trade, Hago has actually taught Photography classes. During his last stint overseas, Hago was not armed with a rifle. (Well, maybe he was. Probably was.) No, any shooting he did involved a camera as he went over to take pictures, acting as an Official Photographer for CFB Borden, I believe. (Trust me, if I'm wrong, Hago will correct me.)

But the rest of us? Meh, put it on a flat surface, take a quick pic and post it on Twitter. No muss, no fuss - here's what I'm drinking at this exact moment.

At some point, Matty started scoring them, adding comments such as, "Level 82 glassware combo. Bonus points for scenic setting and weathered deck." A "Level XX glassware combo" simply means you're drinking a beer with a branded glass from the brewery whose beer you're drinking. Like I said, I didn't even notice at first. I have a lot of brewery glasses now. In fact, the last time Beer Bro Glenn stopped into Casa Donny (we were off to see Avengers: Endgame on opening weekend and man, it was one crowded shit-show), it was the first thing he noticed. I have little doubt I was briefly his hero... well, until Tony Stark showed us both what real heroes do. Glenn and I have gone more the "Thor gets fat" route.
While my picture "Lake of Bays Peach Paradise... meet peach, pair of
dice" elicited moans from Jackie and Emma, the brewery's social media
pros, it scored high marks with Judge Matty. And he has the final word. 

So I started paying attention to his scoring. Know your judge! He definitely likes pictures of beers in a branded glass, meaning simply if you're drinking a Great Lakes beer, you'll get higher marks if it's in a Great Lakes glass.

So that became Rule #1 for this contestant: Brand that shit up! Then I noticed he seems to prefer outside shots - background foliage, a scenic poolside, wooden decks and the like. (Know your judge!) In fact, I scored very well with a picture of a Cameron's Brewing 12 Mile India Pale Lager, not just because it was Cameron's glass but also sitting upon a "weathered deck." Weathered would be a charitable description of my deck at the moment.
Oh for crying out, Curtis. You're killing me here! When he
posted this Brassroots Brewing's Darkwood Blackberry
Saison picture yesterday, his Level 122 score nearly took me
off the throne. If he had used a Brassroots glass (which I
don't think exists yet), he would have blown me out of the
water. BUT I'M WATCHING YOU, CURTIS!! Don't think
I don't know you're lurking in the bushes, ready to pounce!

And the final Know Your Judge tip? Know his favourite breweries. Living on the outskirts of Ottawa, he has a ton of breweries he loves up there. But outside Ottawa, his biggies are Baysville's Lake of Bays Brewing, Kingston's Spearhead Brewing and Oakville's own Cameron's Brewing. He, no doubt, has many more. These are the ones I've recently noticed.

But I was only sort of paying attention until one day, Huntsville Bucket List IPA Brew Crew member Curtis (@BeerFromCanada) scored a Level 104 for his picture up top of the Paddle On Session IPA. It was, I believe, the first picture to go triple digits. No, it didn't have a branded glass but he somehow found on old glass in the cottage cupboard with paddles painted on. There was some mention of having to fight mosquitoes to get his shot so I'm sure bravery points were tacked on. Hmm, Curtis had now proven that Judge Matty wasn't afraid to go over 100.

So I started posting more and more pictures, paying heed to exactly what was being said in the judging. (See "Know Your Judge!" above.) Got a few Level 100s but more importantly, discovered relevant criteria for his higher scores.
This "rose between two thorns" is Amanda from Spearhead Brewing,
who caught up with Matty and Joel at the recent Orleans Beer Festival.
I warned her that associating with such unsavoury gents could be very
damaging, she nonetheless braved it out. (And Amanda, both guys told
me how fantastic you were that day. So maybe they're not so bad, eh?)
So I waited. And plotted. And schemed. The high score must be mine!!! (If this all seems a tad obsessive, may I just say... guilty as charged.) 

Last Saturday, I saw my opening. While I was at work, Matty had posted pictures of himself drinking Lake of Bays Peach Paradise Milkshake IPA in his kids' splash pool. Day-drinking? Perfect. I would have his judging at its most vulnerable. He has previously admitted that his judging was a little looser after a few wobblies. (Know your judge!)

So I lined up my photograph accordingly, using all the tenets of, well, Know Your Judge, and came up with a brilliant (if not slightly sneaky) photo. One of his favourite beers, two branded glasses, outside props, a lame Dad Joke and a weathered deck.
Curtis here is the Newman to my Seinfeld. Hmmm, actually
given the way I schemed and weaseled my way to a Matty
high score, I'm actually the Newman here. But Curtis, your
pictures? "They're gold, Jerry. GOLD!" Never mind "Know
Your Judge." You gotta know your "Competition" as well.

As you can see above, I lined up a Lake of Bays Peach Paradise Milkshake IPA in a branded glass, had another branded glass filled with peach chunks and beside it, a pair of dice. Drawing Matty's attention to it, I noted, "Lake of Bays Peach Paradise meet... peach, pair of dice."

And I waited. Joel was on it quickly. "Level 200!" he declared. Not long afterwards, Lake of Bays social media pros Jackie and Emma weighed in, as well, with a GIF of Fozzie Bear doing a facepalm. You see, here's the thing. My little play on words was basically a Dad Joke. You know who winces at Dad Jokes? Teenage daughters, as well as those in their 20s. Jackie and Emma fall into the latter category. But you know who LOVES Dad Jokes? Other Dads. Guess what Matty is? Know Your Judge!

Soon Matty saw it. His response? "Level 124 glassware combo. Multiple glassware bonus, weathered deck, canned peach (peach emoji). Peach dice (dice emoji). +6 bonus unlocked." Holy crap, I thought, a Level 124. No one's ever gonna beat a 124.
Cameron's Brewing director of sales for LCBOs,
TBS and grocery sales is my man, Kyle Riddell,
who texted me to pop by because he had a little
surprise for me. Turned out to be a BIG one! I was
not expecting Cameron's Jurassic IPA or their
Skeleton Crew Evil Genius Session IPA to be out
for a few weeks yet. Wrong again. However, we're
still a couple of weeks away from Skeleton Crew
Knucklebone Bone IPA. And just like that, our
friends at Cameron's will have THREE IPAs out.
That is until Curtis scored a Level 122 yesterday with his photo of Brassroots Brewing's (contract brewed out of Sawdust City Brewing at the moment) Darkwood Blackberry Saison. Damn you, Curtis, that's way too close!!! And he even did it without a branded glass because Brassroots doesn't even have those yet. That's like one of the main criteria. He has that and we're talking Level 150.

So I must remain ever vigilant now. It's not just Curtis, either. Sudbury Danny, Nepean Beer Store Bro Ben, Ottawa Joel, Linda Beer, Stittsville Jeff and many more... well, they're all framing their beer pics fancier and more scenic-like these days, asking Matty for scores. Level 124 will be surpassed soon. Things are about to get creative - and maybe a little cray cray - with craft beer pictures this Summer. Should be fun. Matty, you opened one helluva can of worms. Hope you're up for it, brother!!!

Okay, Oakville Boy Donny (that would be me - honestly, I'm the only Donny in town, though we do have a lot of Chads and Brads) was pretty jacked to get a text today from Kyle Riddell at Cameron's Brewing today. Seems he had a surprise for me. It wasn't a subpoena so, you know, that's always good.

So I pop on down as I have a day off and it's just three minutes from my place. And there they were. Two new IPAs - the Cameron's Jurassic IPA and the Skeleton Crew Evil Genius Session IPA. Well, hot snot, Doris, put the church clothes on the children and let's go!
Well, I totally boned up the whole Skeleton Crew connection with
Cameron's Brewing in my last blog, suggesting the brewery was
connected to another in Wisconsin. It's not. Skeleton Crew is the
new wing of Cameron's where they're going to do experimental and
wild stuff like sours, IPAs, what-have-you. Did I mention they're
just three minutes down the hill from me? Happy, happy, joy, joy.
(Yeah, I have no idea what I mean by that, either.)

Okay, I learned a couple of things. First of all, Kyle is a busy dude with over 1,700 accounts to keep track of between the Beer Store, the LCBO and the grocery stores. I took 10 minutes of his day away and felt guilty. (It's cool - beer washed away the guilt. Pretty quickly, too. Actually, it might have been gone when I was behind the wheel of my car. Who really knows?)

Holy frijoles, they hit the jackpot with these two. Kyle mentioned he had enjoyed something of a Evil Genius Session IPA run last night and he looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I'm not surprised. At just 4.5% and 34 IBU, this has some awesome fruit on the nose and a huge resiny pine on the back end. Hello, New Hockey Beer!! The Jurassic IPA, well, whoa! Mango, grapefruit on the nose, light pine on the back end, 6.8% and 68 IBUs. Welcome to the hophead big leagues, Cameron's! Great day for Donny! But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Sunday, 23 June 2019

When Adam from Beau's popped in...

"Holy crap, it's THAT GUY!" says Adam from Beau's. "Holy
crap, it's THAT GUY!" says me. I was pleasantly surprised
when Adam from Beau's popped into my Beer Store a couple
of weeks back. He stopped in with their new Mix-Four, a very
cool gift. The Mix-Four has a couple of newbies in it so yeah,
I wanna piece of that! Their session IPA and Helles Lager are
part of the new pack, as well as Full Time IPA and Lug Tread.
I was working in the back of the Beer Store one day recently when my young coworker, Jordon, our senior part-timer, came back to fetch me.

"The Beau's rep, Adam, is here and is asking for you," he said. "Do you know EVERY craft beer rep?" 

Well, actually, no, I don't. Like not every craft beer rep in the Province. There's a bunch. But I most certainly know the ones that circle my orbit here in the GTA. The ones up in Sudbury or over there in Ottawa? Not so much. But I'm sure they're very cool. Just like Kelly from Saskatoon. Sorry, other Las Vegas tourist from Wisconsin, yes, I know I'm from Canada but no, I've never met Kelly. But I hear she's lovely. There's like 33 million of us. I'm happy if I can keep track of 100. Or even 50.

So anyways, I come out to meet Beau's Rep Adam, knowing full well I don't know a Beau's Rep named Adam. Except I did. You see, while he's not my Beau's rep, he's a Twitter friend. A few days prior, I had posted a picture of Beau's new Good Time Session IPA as part of a big session beer afternoon I had that weekend.
These were the two from the new Beau's Mixed Pack that I was the most
eager to try - their Good Time Session IPA (which I had enjoyed once
before) and most especially their new Helles Lager. Both Wellington and
Muddy York Brewing make exceptional Helles Lagers so I'm always very
happy to see a new brew join the ranks. Summer-Time is Helles Time...

So Adam hopped onto the conversation and chatted away about it. I love it when a brewery rep or their social media pros or even on rare occasions, the owner themselves hop onto our Beer Twitter Brew Crew chatter because, hey, they know their product better than we do.

My thinking is - and my high school teachers would concur - if you can teach me anything, well, that's quite an achievement. Where craft breweries have a significant advantage over high school here is that I actually do want to learn more. Algebra? Yeah, not so much. (Also, four decades later, still haven't used it in real life, much as I predicted all those years ago.) So I had a great chat with Adam before he had to move along and deal with actual customers!
Released a couple of Summers ago, Beau's Full Time IPA made a big
splash in Ontario. As per their usual modus operandi, all natural and
organic ingredients, ending in the brewery's traditional result. Tasty!

But before he left, I got a parting gift of the new Beau's Mixed Four. Okay, the good news first! The company has shifted away from their traditional four-packs of 600-ml (20 ounce) bottles to a more convenient four-pack of 473-ml (16 ounce) cans. Why is that more convenient? The cans fit better in my fridge than the bottles. How does this affect you? It may not. I am primarily more worried about my convenience, rather than yours. Get over yourself. (Joking. Or am I?)

Okay, the even better news now? The pack has two new beauties in it that I think you may really enjoy. (Well, okay, I did. Once again, get over yourself.) As well as the traditional Lug Tread Lagered Ale and Full Time IPA, joining the ranks this time is their new Good Time Session IPA and Helles Lager. So how were the two newbies? Pretty damn good. In the case of the Helles, great, even.
Back when Beau's switched from these 600-ml bottles to 473-ml cans for
their Full Time IPA, I had one thought. Looking up to a top shelf in my
Beer Store cooler, I saw that we had one box of the bottles left. So then I
figured, well, no one's gonna drink those if we have the cans, which oddly
would have been true. So I bought the last dozen. And then I drank them.

The Good Time Session comes out in a Summer that is stocked hard with new session craft beers. Seriously, you can't move two feet without tripping over another good one. *Looking around* Okay, maybe that's just my room. That said, it holds it own over some serious contenders. Some beautiful citrus on the nose of this 4% brew and nicely tangy on the tongue.

The Helles Lager has some serious competition, as well, in the form of Wellington Helles Lager and Muddy York's Gaslight Helles Lager. These two beers are my Helles Bar of Distinction. You're either over them (none yet) or under them. Once again, Beau's proves that they're willing to play with the big guns here. Their 5% Helles is all straw and lemon on the nose, sliding nicely down the throat. Doesn't beat the other two but, man, it hangs in beautifully against some serious players in the Helles Division.
Here's my man, Robbie Levin, with my little big guy,
David, not too long ago at Cameron's Brewing here in
Oakville. I messaged Robbie a few days ago to ask him
a question and found out that he had moved to Barrie
to be closer to his daughter. I didn't know. But man, I
sure applaud that! I believe family always comes first. 
Anyway, it was great to meet Adam. Always fun when you finally meet someone you've talked to a bunch of times on social media. Afterwards, he noted that between my hair and his beard, we could combine to do a great Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. Well, I hope he can sing. I sure can't.

And speaking of Do I Know Every Craft Beer Rep In Ontario (since that's how this all kicked off), no, I don't. I also know Sales Managers and in a few cases, owners.

Case in point. Went into work early one day last week so I could grab some Harvey's (next door to my Beer Store) before my shift. A guy inside Harvey's is waving at me like a man on fire. I thought, "Hold on. Is that... ???"

It was. Cameron's Brewing Man With A Plan (and also their sales manager) Clint. Haven't seen Clint in a while. But always great to see him. He's one of these folks whose enthusiasm is infectious. Not a bad thing for me to catch a whiff of on my way into work, to be frank. I usually don't bring my own. And because I believe there are no coincidences in this universe, I had talked to my Cameron's guy, Robbie, just the night before, only to find out that he left the brewery back in March, moving to Barrie to be closer to his daughter. To me, as a Dad myself, well, that's damn cool.
From no IPAs to three IPAs within a few weeks. Cameron's Brewing will
release its Jurassic IPA (right) very soon and will be following it with two
IPAs that they're brewing up here on behalf of Skeleton Crew Brewing,
out of Onalaska, Wisconsin. On the left is Skeleton Crew Evil Genius
Session IPA (4.5%) while in the centre is Skeleton Crew Knucklebone
IPA (6.5%). All of these images came from the LCBO search website.

There is a young fellow with Clint named Matt. He's Robbie's replacement so yeah, he has his hands full.

So Clint introduced us, telling Matt that I'm this big social media guy (ehhh, not really true) and a big Cameron's supporter (okay, very true.) I consider Cameron's to be one of the more under-rated breweries in Ontario. I also have a feeling that's about to change. Big time. And man, some craft beer lovin' people in the Sudbury, Guelph and Ottawa area are in for some Oakville-style treats very soon!

Clint told me some big beers are coming down the pipe from the brewery. What, I smiled, you mean the new Jurassic IPA and the two you're making for Skeleton Crew Brewing?
Cameron's Brewmaster Jason Britton: "I call
this little ditty Donny Stay The Hell Away From
Me Because I'm Brewing Your Damn IPAs."
Well now, that's music to my ears. Thank you!
Pointing to me, Clint turned to Matt and said, "See what I mean?" Actually, I was told and simply confirmed it with Rona, the Retail Manager at the brewery. A friend had found it on a Twitter site that I think is called LCBO Finds.

This means I can finally stop harassing poor Jason Britton, the Brewmaster at Cameron's. Look, I'm not saying the guy runs into the Employees Only brewery section at the south end of the facility every time he sees my car. But I will say this. He absolutely runs into the Employees Only brewery section at the south end of the facility every time he sees my car.

So coming up (within a few weeks) will be Cameron's Jurassic IPA, which is 6.8%, 68 IBUs and loaded with Citra, Summit and Simcoe hops. The two they're brewing up here for Skeleton Crew Brewing out of Onalaska, Wisconsin - the 4.5% Evil Genius Session IPA and 6.5% Knucklebone IPA - I have no details on as of yet. But I will get deets soon. Well, so long as I see Jason before he sees me. However, Clint told me Matt would be dropping some off to me at the Beer Store, probably this week so you'll all know soon enough. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Back soon with a funny story about how Ottawa Matty's scoring of beer pictures, well, it turned into an actual thing! And you will never guess who the reigning champ is. But until then, I remain as always...

Monday, 17 June 2019

That Lucky Raptors Beer...

Somewhere during the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee
Bucks, I was drinking New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale and when the
Raptors kept winning, I declared it the Raptors Lucky Beer. However,
during the pivotal Game 6 when the Raptors won, I had to drink the
Creemore Boundless IPA because I was trapped in a Molsons bar for a
high school reunion. The Raptors won so I was torn as to which beer I
should drink for the NBA Championship against Golden State. Yikes!
Pro athletes are, by their own nature, superstitious. If they put their equipment in a certain order and the team wins, then you can be damn sure they will repeat the process for the next game.

Those of us who watch the pro athletes are not superstitious. We're just enthusiastic.

Until we become superstitious. That happened very quickly to me during the Toronto Raptors' successful run to the NBA championship.

To be honest, I have no idea what beers I was drinking when the Raptors beat the Orlando Magic four games to one, winning the quarter-final. Ditto for whatever I was drinking during their full seven game push past the Philadelphia 76ers - the one that ended on "The Shot" by Kawhi Leonard, a buzzer-beater that bounced off the rim four times, dropped in and sent us to the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
This photo, taken by Sandi Richardson, organizer
of our White Oaks SS Reunions every Summer,
shows me on the right during the dying seconds
of the Raptors win over Milwaukee that sent us to
the NBA Championship. I have a 'tell.' If I am
touching my face in any way, I am totally nervous.

I honestly didn't start paying attention to what beer I was drinking until well into the Eastern Conference Finals because at that point, luck comes into play for your sports team. And in sports, luck rides fast upon the coat-tails of superstition. 

Okay, those first two games against the Bucks, we got trounced. Like easily. So we're down 2-0 in the series. At about that time, New Belgium's Fat Tire Amber Ale lands in my Beer Store. This is a beer I've had several times during my Las Vegas trips because I love a good red ale as a day starter. However, the American version is brewed out of their Fort Collins, Colorado brewery while up here, it's brewed by Steam Whistle out of their Von Bugle Brewing facility in Etobicoke. So I grabbed a six-pack of it from the Beer Store for Game 3. The Raptors win it in double overtime. So I figure, "Hmmm, maybe it's a lucky beer" and buy more for Game 4, which we won again to even the series. Another sixer for Game 5. We win again so now we're up 3-2 and just one win away from going to the NBA Finals.

And then for Game 6, the fates intervene. I have my annual White Oaks Secondary School reunion at an Oakville sport bar called Monaghan's. They have no Fat Tire there. What the hell am I gonna do now? I'm without my Lucky Raptors Beer! 
I gotta admit that I like our version of the New Belgium Fat Tire
Amber Ale a bit more than the American version from Colorado.
Found theirs to be a touch more bitter while ours slides down like
tasty red ale, a style I thoroughly enjoy. (That makes me a rarity.)

Well, it's a Molson's bar so I gotta call a quick time-out from the bench. Viewing their taps, I see they have Creemore Springs Brewing's (owned by Molson) Boundless IPA. Well, it's not Fat Tire but at least it's an IPA, right? That's gotta be kinda lucky.

So was Boundless an outstanding IPA? No, sir. But it was far more tasty than any of the alternatives in a Molson's bar. I remember as at previous reunion there, they had the Mad & Noisy India Pale Lager (also Creemore... so Molson) on tap and I was perfectly content with that, as well. Being owned by a macro doesn't necessarily mean your product is gonna suck now. There's still some solid Creemore and Mill Street beers out there that I will happily drink. I'm a Beer Geek, not a Beer Snob. Long story short, while I'm drinking the Boundless, the Raptors win to clinch the Eastern Conference. Now I'm curious about the beer. So I Google it as I'm sitting there in a daze over the fact the Raptors are going to the NBA Championship.
In the end, during the NBA Championship, I switched to Lake
of Bays' Starboard New England IPA after a Game 2 Raptors'
loss and rode it until We The North won the whole damn thing.

Okay, it's exactly 5.1%, which explains quickly how I ended up drinking 10 of them during the six-plus hours of the reunion, which included the game. It bills itself as "hop forward." Well, let's be a little more honest and just say "hop inclusive," instead. But I can guarantee you this. Like all craft beers, it's all natural ingredients with no adjuncts because I woke up the following day without a hang-over. Fuzzy as hell? Oh hell yes. I mean, 10 beers? I don't do that anymore. But no hangover. You can function on fuzzy. This would be a decent crossover beer for a macro drinker to brag he or she had finally drank an IPA.

Regardless, this puts me into a bit of a dilemma. What do I drink during the NBA Championship? The Fat Tire that got us most of the way there? Or the Boundless that sealed the deal? So I got a sixer of Fat Tire and drove up the street to another Beer Store to grab some Boundless singles. (My store doesn't carry them. But the other store? Huge craft beer selection.)
Look, even as an employee, I never push the Beer Store as
"Your Craft Beer Destination" or anything silly like that. I'm
a "Brewery first, LCBO second, Beer Store third" realist. BUT
if you need any one craft beer in bulk, such as I did with Lake
of Bays' Starboard IPA, look at the TBS price breaks for six, 12
or 24. Again, most don't seek craft beer in bulk but when it's
the Lucky Raptors Beer, well, you're gonna need A LOT of it!!

So I started with the Fat Tire and stuck to it through Game 1. Raptors win. For Game 2, same two beers - Fat Tire first, Boundless ready on the bench. Well, things are even through to the half but in the third quarter, the Warriors just exploded. The Raps tried to claw their way back, I crack my Boundless in desperation... but it's too little, too late. Series tied at one and man, the Warriors are looking dominant!

Well, I gotta switch beers to shake things up but to what? Then I remembered not only the fun we had at the Huntsville Brewhouse but how much Lake of Bays' Starboard New England IPA the Huntsville Brew Crew drank during our IPA Brew Day and also how much we bought on our way out the door. Dozens of them. Hmmm, that was kind of a Good-Luck-Chuck day for us. We helped make a beer, were treated like royalty, I only got hushed about seven times (which sounds bad but actually is on the low side for me.) The whole day rocked and man, did we feel lucky!

So how did I feel going into Game 3 with an untested Lucky Raptors Beer? Please, you know me. I was as cool as... okay, totally nervous as shit.

And then... well, I'll be damned. In Game 3, we didn't lose a single quarter and cruised to victory, pushing us up 2-1 in the finals. More of the same in Game 4, using Starboard as an anchor! (You see what I did there. Nautical theme? Like Tyrion, I drink and I know things.) We were behind at the half and this time, it was OUR turn for that huge third quarter. Suddenly, we're up 3-1, one win away from the NBA Title Crown.
Here's (from left) Ottawa Matty, Nepean Beer Store Bro Ben and Ottawa
Joel at the recent Orleans Beer Festival. I mean, all of us were thrilled to
see the Raptors win the title but Ben? Man, this guy has been a diehard
since they started 24 years ago. I'll bet if we raided his closet, we'd even
find one of those old purple Raptors' jerseys in there. So while I was
happy for Toronto, Canada, the rest of us, I was most happy for Ben...

So that's two Raptor wins for my new Lucky Raptors Beer, both of which came in Oakland! I hashtagged that #MiracleAtOracle.

Game 5 was mired with controversy. There was an uncalled foul against Marc Gasol at the end of the game that would have put him on the foul line with two shots and insured a potential Raptors' win. Golden State took the game by one single point. Hell, the NBA apologized for the missed call the next day and many of us in Canada were wondering if the fix was in. That the league wanted the American squad to come away with the eventual victory.

So now, I had a big decision to make. Do I switch Lucky Raptors Beer as I did after the Game 2 loss? As stupid as this sounds, it actually weighed on my mind. I waited a day to make my decision. What beer could step in?
Another beauty of a cartoon from David Buist, Hamilton cartoonist and
artist. Once again, liberally cropped for my format (sorry, brother), he
drew this last night before today's big victory parade in Toronto. Nice!

In the end, I stuck with Starboard for two reasons. Number one, we didn't lose so much as have victory taken away from us due to shoddy officiating. (Nice to know the NHL isn't the only one.) And Number two, Starboard already won two games in Oakland already (well, the Raptors helped a little) where Game 6 was being played so to me, that was proof it had the right stuff.

Well, we all know how this Cinderella Story ended. We won by four points, Canada gets its first ever NBA championship (just as the Blue Jays did in MLB back in 1992-93) and for once, a somewhat fractious country was completely united and celebrating for one common like-minded goal.

Until the federal election, at least. But if I can just say one thing. As my high school friend Aruna pointed out, tongue firmly in cheek, it took a group of immigrants (there are no Canadian Raptors) to pull our country together as a unified force. Take that as you will.

But to Jackie, Emma, Tim, Rob and Darren at Lake of Bays Brewing, take a damn bow. Yeah, sure, Kawhi doesn't know what I'm drinking but it's sports... and superstition rules over all. Back soon with big Cameron's Brewing news. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain...

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Spearhead's special touch & Steamwhistle's surprise

A couple of comments - not at all negative - about this
Spearhead Brewing Hawaiian Style Pale Ale caught the
eye of the President and CEO Josh Hayter. So he actually
responded... in a way that neither of us had anticipated.
Allow me to set the stage here, if I may. On May 6, I took flight from Toronto's Pearson Airport to Las Vegas. When I left Ontario, it was maybe 5C, wet and, well, miserable. As it had been for quite some time.

So I spend more than a week down there. It was 30C, sunny, glorious and Vegas being Vegas, very neon, very loud and very fun. Seeing the sun again - or rather, finally seeing the sun - totally recharged me. I felt somewhat human again. Or at least, as close as I ever come to that. The jury's still out. And I figured, hey, I'm not back home until May 14th. By then, it had to be nice, right? Mid-May?

So on May 14, I land in Toronto about 10 am. On the walk through Pearson, I can see through the plate-glass windows that it's overcast, dull gray and had probably rained the night before. The asphalt looked damp. But I'm inside so I figure, well, at least it's probably warm out there.

Step outside to get a cab. It's 5C, still wet, still miserable. The same shit I left. But now in Mid-May. I'm not... what's that word people use?... oh, right, happy.
So this would be Spearhead Brewing President and
CEO Josh Hayter. As you can see, he's not a suit and
tie kinda guy. In fact, there has been rumours that he
sleeps with a baseball cap on and maybe doesn't even
take it off in the shower. Just a regular guy, who also

happens to own a craft brewery. So there's that, too.

But I'm not telling anyone in Ontario anything they don't already know for themselves. We're all living through this garbage weather and in the case of our friends in select areas of the Muskoka Region, add some serious flooding on top of that. So maybe inclement weather consisting of gray days and rain isn't the biggest of my worries. I mean, at least I'm not kayaking through my living room.

But hey, certain politicians assure us there's no such thing as Climate Change, right? I think I've even seen a Republican or two tell us that God will take care of the Earth. (God's ears perk up at the mention of his name. "What? You stupid idiots! I gave you scientists!!")

Anyway, just a few hours after my return, something happened that brought a big ol' chunk of sunshine to my day. The post dude knocked on the door with a package for me. It was from Spearhead Brewing in Kingston and contained two of their new Mojito Radler and two of their Chardonnay Summer Ale. Four cans of Summer landed in my lap, courtesy of Amanda, who takes care of the brewery's social media (among other responsibilities.) Naturally, I was so jazzed that I lined them all up and posted them on Twitter for my homeys and homettes in the Brew Crew to see.
Josh told us a pretty funny story about how he had a
wild night drinking their Big Kahuna Imperial IPA.
His wife had to help him to the hotel room and she
was none too impressed. Hey, it happens to all of us!
In my case, FAR too many times. Many will confirm.

Later that evening, Steve from Southern Ontario Beer Boys saw the pic and posted his own of the brewery's flagship Hawaiian Style Pale Ale, noting, "Partaking in this tonight. Needs a little more pineapple for my liking. Just saying."

I replied that I had "first had it in 2013 and thought it was loaded with pineapple! I think Cool was contract brewing it then. (They were.) But since then, so many have come out, using actual pineapple or puree that yeah, this has lost a wee step. Nothing they can't tweak, though."

And that was that. Just a couple of comments about the beer Steve was drinking at that exact moment on Twitter. Happens 18 million times a day, I'm sure. At least 300,000 with my group each night alone.

Well, that night eventually turned into the next day and sometime that morning, Steve and I (and everyone else) got a bit of a surprise. I guess Amanda saw our exchange and showed it to brewery owner Josh Hayter. He decided to response. By video! I kid you not. I mean, here's this totally regular guy in jeans, T-shirt, ball cap, sitting on a chair, holding a beer and basically talking directly to us.
My first ever mailing from Spearhead was their brand
new Big Kahuna Imperial IPA way back in early April.
Amanda had initially messaged me, introducing herself
and eventually asked me for my mailing address. Now
despite being in the Witness Protection Plan, I gave it
to her anyway because, well, she seemed very genuine.
And then, *boom*, these bad boys landed at my Casa. 

Looking at the camera, he responded: "Hey SO Beer Boys, this is Josh Hayter. I'm president of Spearhead Brewing and I saw you guys chatting about my Hawaiian Style Pale Ale on Twitter and I thought I'd chime in here. So, Hawaiian Style, you're absolutely right. It's not very pineapple-y, it's not a fruit beer. It was never actually intended to be. The Hawaiian Style is a hop-forward, west coast style pale ale. What we do with the pineapple - and we use real juice - is we actually use it just to cut the bitterness off the top of the hops. So you're still getting all that hops flavour through without getting all the bitterness to it. We do understand that there's a lot of really great fruit beers out there and to stay in line with that and be on the cutting edge, we have our new Mojito Radler we just put out if you want to give that a try. It's got a lot of lime and mint flavour to it. And we also have our Chardonnay Summer (Ale) that we brew with actual Chardonnay juice in the process. So thank you guys, if you have any other questions and any comments, feel free to shoot them to us directly. Cheers!"
This is Steve and my face after we saw Josh's video
response to our late night comments about their
Hawaiian Style Pale Ale. A video? Holy frijoles!

Then he took a big sip of his Hawaiian Style Pale Ale and the video ended. You ever see that cartoon wolf whose jaw drops to the table because he sees a pretty showgirl? No? Okay, well, I'm a comic geek as well as a beer geek so I'll let Plastic Man (to the right) illustrate what I'm talking about here. We were stunned but, like, not in our usual way. Stunned thrilled.

Since I tag 10 people every time I post a picture, the responses to the video started to come in one at a time. Brew Crew Buddy Graeme saw it early in the morning, even before I had and commented, "That's a company I will support hands down right there." In a message to me, Ottawa Matty concurred. "Josh's response was above and beyond to me and really got my respect. I have since bought (a handful) of Hawaiian Style Pale Ale and will continue to support them." And so it went, all morning and well into the afternoon. In fact, Josh bantered with us a little on Twitter that day. It was a blast.
These two beers - the Chardonnay Summer Ale and
the Mojito Radler - were fascinating twists on any
traditional beer style. The Chardonnay used actual
grape must in the brewing while the Mojito was a
crazy take on the new-school radler styles out now.

In actual fact, the Hawaiian Style Pale Ale and I go back a few years. I started this blog in June 2013 and when the year was ending and I did my first Best Of list, Hawaiian Style was my first ever Best Pale Ale.

As for Josh himself, in 2016, he took over the brewery from founder Dimitri van Kampen, who created it as a contract brewery in 2011, working out of Cool Brewing in Etobicoke. Josh's singular goal? To build an actual bricks and mortar facility in Ontario. It didn't take him long. By Spring 2018, they had finished construction on their brand spanking new 16,000-square-foot brewery in Kingston. And with the brewery in place, Josh knew it was time to also expand beyond the brewery's Core Four beers - Hawaiian Style, Moroccan Brown Ale, seasonal Belgian Style Stout and Sam Roberts Band Session Ale.

So he tasked 40-year veteran and internationally-respected Brewmaster Tomas Schmitt and his son, Head Brewer Jacob Schmitt to get creative with what was coming out of Spearhead's fermenting vats. I would suggest they are succeeding nicely in that regard and that before long, Spearhead will find its own place in Ontario's craft brewery hierarchy.
When Josh took over the brewery, Spearhead had established a nice
base with this Core Four - the seasonal Belgian Style Stout, their
flagship Hawaiian Style Pale A;e, the Moroccan Brown Ale and the
Sam Roberts Band (Yes, THAT Sam Roberts) Session Ale. All solid.

Three new beers out this Spring and each is pretty impressive. Let's start with the Big Kahuna Imperial IPA, the first ever IPA from Spearhead. Boy howdy, at 10% and 100 IBUs, this one will take your head off. Pine followed by pine with some more pine on the back end! It's like Tomas and Jacob snapped a huge branch off a pine tree and just started slapping you upside the head with it. And be warned, even though you do get an inkling of it with some boozy warmth on the throat as it's going down, this one will knock you onto your arse. It's a hop bomb!

Their new Mojito Radler... well, I fully admit I approached it with some trepidation. I'm not a radler kind of guy. In fact, the only radler I've ever enjoyed was the Schofferhofer Radler out of Germany, which used a wheat ale mixed 50/50 with grapefruit, rather than the traditional lager-grapefruit mix. But brewers are getting pretty creative with their radlers in Ontario, going far beyond the traditional boundaries.
When this 16,000 square foot brewery opened in Spring 2018, Spearhead
finally shook off the shackles of being a contract brewer and got a real
opportunity to start brewing new, fun stuff. They're just getting started!
The only thing I know about mojitos is they are a rum, lime and mint cocktail that my now-grown nieces down like Gatorade. The mint spooked me, not gonna lie, as it was pretty prominent on the nose. But it as far more subtle on the tongue as this 2.4% offering jacks up the lime. Gotta admit, this was a refreshing little beverage that could be fun in the Summer. You know, if Ontario even has a Summer this year. I'll be honest - between this and Lake of Bays' new Red Sky At Night Peach Cranberry Radler, these Ontario brewers might just turn me into a radler fan some day. For that, I both thank you... and curse you. But I do appreciate the boundaries being pushed on a style of which I've always been dismissive.
Steam Whistle has been busy lately, first creating the separate
Von Bugle Brewing in an Etobicoke facility and then announcing
that they will be contract brewing New Belgium's Fat Tire
Amber Ale for distribution in Canada. Now do they have one
more trick up their sleeve? Turns out that, yup, they sure do!!

Which brings us to their Chardonnay Summer Ale. While I, of course, thought, "Well, they'll simply throw some grape peel into the mix and *bam* chardonnay style beer." But no, Tomas and Jacob got a little more creative than that. They collected up Chardonnay must (think peel, grape pulp, everything that doesn't end up in the wine), mixed it all with Aramis and Strisselpalt hops (the latter of which I've never even heard of) to create what could best be described as a white wine-beer hybrid. The 4.3% (definitely Summer style) ale is like nothing I've had in the past. It's light, fruity but you still know you're drinking a beer, albeit one with a heavy wine influence. I couldn't drink a lot of these but I will grab one from time to time. It's quite unique, at least to me. But I'll bet white wine drinkers will enjoy the hell out of this one.

Anyway, Spearhead has become a brewery to watch. And if we kinda forget that for a minute, I'm sure Josh Hayter will pop up on a video and say, "Hey! Where the hell did you bozos go?"
This has nothing to do with Ontario craft beer
but I saw it on Twitter and howled. American
macro brewer Rolling Rock has launched a new
feature called #PerfectlyAverageReviews where
they find dismissive, even insulting, reviews of
their beer and post them online. Gotta be honest.
I love when macros show a real sense of humour!

I recently mentioned on Twitter that I heard Steam Whistle had a big announcement coming up. Where did I hear it? From the same person that told me they were creating a new brewery in Etobicoke and then told me the name - Von Bugle. Next up, he/she told me that the beer style Von Bugle would be brewing was a Munich Lager. Then he/she sent me a picture of the new label. And finally, he/she told me that Steam Whistle would be exclusively contract brewing New Belgium Brewing's (Fort Collins, Colorado) Fat Tire Amber Ale up here for distribution across Canada. I don't know who this person is - their Twitter handle is some vague beer-related name - and the messages are always private, never in public, but he or she has been bang on every single time. And according to this insider, what's coming next was a surprise. Steam Whistle will be brewing a pale ale! Now whether it's under the Steam Whistle or Von Bugle banner, I do not know but I would guess the latter. It may even be a version of New Belgium's Dayblazer Easygoing Ale, for all I know. But my insider has never steered me wrong yet so we'll just have to wait and see. But, wow, big news!

Okay, Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here for today. But coming up next is a visit to my Beer Store by Beau's All Natural Brewing sales rep Adam Wilson and the little gift box he brought me. (Yes, I know I'm getting spoiled. Hell, Stevie Wonder could see that.) Until next time, I remain, as always...