Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Brewery news you may already know

That's my main man, Liam Mckenna, on the left, Brewmaster of Yellow
Belly Brewing in St John's, Newfoundland, beside the boys from Central
City Brewing and Distilling in Surrey, BC - head brewer Zak Plowright, 
Brewmaster Gary Lohin and lead hand Len Tremayne. YellowBelly is
this year's partner for Newfoundland in the annual Across The Nation
Collaboration Pack which features beers from one brewery in each of
the 10 provinces and two territories. Last year was the first year for the
split six-packs and was such a success, Lohin decided to keep it going...
If you're a craft beer lover, you already know the Red Racer line out of Surrey, BC. It's been available for years in Ontario and has some pretty huge popularity, particularly their Red Racer IPA.

But actually, Red Racer is just the beer line of the real company, Central City Brewing and Distilling, which, of course, also produces liquor, as well as beer. But most people are so familiar with Red Racer beers that they've just assumed that was the name of the brewery. So now you know. And you're a better person for learning something new because knowledge is power. Admit it, goddammit! Or don't. Thanos will snuff your ass either way. Snap of his fingers.
That George Clooney-looking bastard
up top is Liam Mckenna and the beer
below is Me Ol' Trout, his brewery's
contribution to the Red Racer Across
The Nation Collaboration Pack coming
all across this country this Summer...

Well. Red Racer Brewmaster Gary Lohin and his gang of rowdies at the brewery came up with an idea to help celebrate Canada's 150 Birthday last year. They enlisted one brewery from each of the 10 provinces and two territories to create a unique beer to be included in split six-packs called Across The Nation Collaboration. Ontario and east to the Maritimes would be in one pack; Manitoba to the west and north in the second pack.

Great idea for Canada's big birthday, right? A taste of every Province and Territory. Well, then something interesting happened. The six-packs flew off the liquor store shelves. Everyone, it seems, was eager to try good craft beer from regions outside their own. In fact, it was so successful that Lohin and his Red Racer gang decided to do it again this year. And this time, I actually know one of the brewers.

My Facebook buddy, Liam Mckenna, Brewmaster at YellowBelly Brewing in St John's, Newfoundland was selected to be the brewery from The Rock. Pretty big honour. Each brewery is expected to submit three different styles and then the Red Racer gang decide which from each to balance out the packs so that it's not all lagers or stouts or IPAs. (Though, Mr Lohin, sir, the latter would rock my world.)

Except Liam didn't announce it on Facebook or Twitter. I actually stumbled across a story from the island's alternative media newspaper website, theovercast.ca. In the story, Liam explained how one of Steam Whistle's founders, Greg Cromwell, who eventually moved to Australia and created Top Shed Brewing down under, popped into his brewery one day. He was in town for a wedding. Cromwell wanted to make a Cream Ale with Mckenna but it was tough pitch as Liam finds the style to be a little too easy, not much of a challenge for a brewer. However, Cromwell persisted and eventually, the pair brewed up the new East Coast Cream Ale. Well, it was a huge hit at YellowBelly so Liam has certainly warmed to it, making it a seasonal. And when Central City came knocking for his three different styles, he included the Cream Ale but tweaked even farther forward with some dry-hopping at the end. Turns out that was the one picked for the Across The Nation Collaboration Mixed Pack. 
As you can see the Across The Nation Collaboration Mixed Packs are
getting their big launch this weekend  So within a month or so, we can
expect the two separate six-packs to start showing up in Ontario's
LCBOs. So very soon, I will be able to try my first YellowBelly beer!

But Liam has given the beer a spiffy new name, Me Ol' Trout, which means... uhhh, it means... I haven't a frikkin' clue. So time to message the brewer directly.

"Me Ol' Trout is a term of endearment here," he told me. (Really? Because that would probably get you clobbered in Ontario.) He added that while the beer is just 4.8% and 18 IBUs, it was "redolent of hops with little bitterness. Pacific Gem and Mosaic are the hops. Dry-hopped both warm and cold with Mosaic. A Cream Ale with a little somethin' somethin'." And while I, too, find the Cream Ale style to be a little mild for my tastes at times (though it can be a solid evening starter), I can honestly say I'm excited about having my first YellowBelly beer. Former Beer Store buddy Tommy Salami, whose daughter goes to university in St. John's, has been to the brewery-restaurant and told me their Fighting Irish Red Ale was fantastic. I've never been this pumped for a Cream Ale, like, ever!

Okay, moving on, something really bad happened in my Beer Store recently. No, no one died or was seriously injured. I didn't rip the arm off a customer. It's way worse than that. An IPA in MY Beer Store went old-code, meaning simply it had passed unnoticed its best-before date. That has never happened to me before.
Beau's All Natural Brewing in Vankleek Hills, Ontario,
called my store last week to tell me their 600-ml (20 oz)
bottles, right, were going to be swapped out for 473-ml
(16 oz) cans. Being as it's my 2017 IPA of the Year, that
will make my life easier. No more going old code for this!
My coworker Patchy was shocked, appalled and even a little disgusted with me. He said words to the effect of "You've let me down! You've let the Ontario Craft Beer Industry down! You've let society itself down!"

You see, we only have a handful of craft IPAs available in my store and if I notice one is coming up on its best-before date, I do the proper thing. I buy it all up and drink it. IPAs deserve a Viking's funeral, not a pauper's one.

And this particular IPA - Beau's Full-Time IPA - was my IPA of the Year for 2017 so it deserves like a Norse God (think Thor) funeral. In my stomach. But because it came in tall 600-ml (20 ounce) bottles, it was stored on a top shelf way up high. It was easy to remember when it was in our store's lobby cooler but it got rotated out. And because it was well above eye level in the back cooler, I simply, well, forgot it was there.
When Oshawa Beer Buddy Paul The Beer Guy posted a picture of a
broken Brock St Brewing pint glass on Twitter, I got a little choked up.
But 20 minutes later, he was back with another Brock St Blonde, again
in a Brock St glass. I asked him how many he had from Brock St and he
answered straight out that he had three. I thought that was odd until I
saw I have three Cameron's Brewing glasses and two from many others.
To my friends at Beau's, I honestly feel badly over the whole situation. However, I have a plan to rectify my wanton carelessness.

You see, Beau's is making it way easier to always remember we stock this beer. Their sale rep called last week to say my store was getting both Full Time IPA and Lug Tread Lagered Ale in 473-ml (16 ounce) cans. Now we store cans at, just above or just below eye level in the back cooler. Same with regular bottles so IPA cans or regular bottles have never gone old-code at any Beer Store where I have worked. Ever. I won't allow it. My coworkers wish I had the same slavish adherence to working hard as I do to protecting IPAs within my store.

Has Von Bugle Brewing, an off-shoot of Steam Whistle,
let the new beer cat out of the bag? Perhaps. This was
sent to me from someone on Twitter after he read my
blog on Steam Whistle opening their second, different
brewery in Etobicoke. It looks legit but we'll see soon.
But that's just ridiculous. I don't know what they're thinking or if, in fact, they're on Meth. But gawd, talk about unrealistic. However, here is a realistic promise I will make to Beau's. Full Time IPA will never go old-code at my Beer Store again! Not on my watch! (Note to self - keep the cans at eye level!!!)  But we have a box of 12 fresh-code bottles up high again that came in last week. We just got the new cans, as well, this week, which, I think means the bottles are being phased out of stores. Those bottles are coming home with me. I am taking no chances with my sketchy memory and vision lines again. I will honour Beau's befittingly but mostly, I will honour myself by not being careless again. Patchy was right to (not really) yell at me.

Okay, a few blogs ago, I talked about how Steam Whistle in Toronto was creating a second brewery, Von Bugle Brewing, in Etobicoke. But I held back on some information about the new brewery and the new beer because I was asked to. Is the new beer known to the public now? It just may be. One fellow, simply named "gg" sent me a picture on Twitter that identified the new beer as a Munich Lager. While most Munich Lagers are pale and gold, there is certainly a handful of amber ones and we did know for sure the new beer was a darker style.
When one craft brewery buys another, it's always a big
news story. So when Old Tomorrow bought out Double
Trouble Brewing a couple of weeks back, they effectively
doubled their size and output. Both companies made some
fun beers that I have enjoyed. Let's see how this plays out.

But we'll know by the end of Summer if this is the real deal as "gg" just found a pamphlet in a bar with a bunch of text on the back about the new beer so he thinks it is. I suspect it probably is, as well, because they are getting closer to opening the second brewery in Etobicoke and they must want to stoke some public interest in the new product and brewery. Either way, we'll know soon enough.

When Old Tomorrow Brewing (Toronto) bought out Double Trouble Brewing (Guelph) two week ago, a few eyebrows were raised as craft breweries buying out other craft breweries doesn't happen often.

In fact, when one fellow on Twitter asked if this had ever happened before, I could only think of two examples - Lost Craft Brewing (Toronto) bought out Sextant Brewing (Toronto) last Summer, which was unusual in that they're both contract brewers. Where does a contract brewer get the cash for that? Lost Craft owner Shehan De Silva spent years working in banks so he knows his way around both money and investment of said money.
I first met Ian Mcdonald Jr at the 2015 Burlington
Beer Festival when his fledgling brewery had but one
beer - their Canadian Pale Ale. While the brewery's
beer line-up has become larger, so too has the brewery
itself with the May 2 news of their purchase of Double
Trouble Brewing. The two breweries operating under
one umbrella will now be called United Craft. Catchy.
And about three years ago, All Or Nothing Brewing (Oshawa) bought out Trafalgar Ales and Meads (Oakville) going from a contract brewery with one beer - their outstanding Hopfenweisse wheat ale - to a bricks and mortar brewery owner. That's a huge step up there.

But a couple of notes about Old Tomorrow and Double Trouble first. Old Tomorrow is owned by Ian Mcdonald Jr and his mother, Pat, founded in 2014. As far as I know that's the only mother-son owner tandem in Ontario. So that's cool. As for Double Trouble, founded by Claude Lefebvre and Nathan Dunsmoor in 2011, well, their flagship beer, Hops and Robbers, was one of the first IPAs I bought on a regular basis when I switched from macro to craft in 2013. It's a milder one to be certain but one helluva starter IPA and a consistent Top-40 seller in the LCBO.

So where did Old Tomorrow get the investment cash to buy out Double Trouble? Hmmm, it seems the firm of Tricapital Solutions represented them in the purchase. The financier on their behalf was - hey, how about that? - Ian Macdonald Sr. There you go. It helps having friends in high places. Anyways, the two breweries will now operate under one umbrella organization called United Craft. I've got to think two smaller minnows joining together to make a bigger fish is a smart idea in Ontario's congested craft beer market.
Here's your chance to get Cameron's Brewing's
outstanding Dark & Sticky India Brown Ale at a
deep discount price of $48 a case. Yup, $2 a can.
Yup, when they decided that it would be seasonal,
rather than full-time, they cut the price to clear it.

Okay, that's it for today but I'll be back with Ontario's best craft beer lagers this weekend because Twitter buddy, Paul G, is wondering where the hell that blog is, given we are crossing into easy beer-drinking weather. (I promised it months ago. D'oh!)

After that... yikes. A lot! A preview of the upcoming Liquid Arts Festival being put on by Hamilton's Collective Arts Brewing, which will feature over 50 breweries from around the world, as well as dozens of artists and bands over a two-day span at the brewery June 15 and 16. That's gonna be insane. (If you just added, "... in the membrane" quietly to yourself, then we can be friends).

My macro lager and Guinness-drinking brother, Gary, was in town for a week in April from Valencia, Spain. Which of the many craft beers in my fridge appealed to him? Also, whatta mooch he is. (Actually, my bad. I made the mistake of telling him to help himself. So that's on me.) As well, what beers did Nepean Beer Store Brother Ben mail to me here in Oakville, followed by a front door visit from Newmarket Beer Store Brother Paul, bearing American gifts? And more brewery news because I only got through half here, believe it or die. (That forces you to believe it a little more.) But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...