Posts in Brewery News

Kichesippi Buys Scotch-Irish Brands

January 25th, 2011 Posted by Brewery News No Comment yet

Following on the heels of their purchase of Heritage Brewing last month, Kichesippi Beer Co. owners Paul and Kelly Meek have purchased the trademarks and brands of Scotch-Irish Brewing as well.

Scotch-Irish was originally founded by brewmaster Perry Mason, who brewed his beers under contract at Heritage Brewing for several years before selling the brands to Heritage owners Ron Moir and Donna Warner and brewmaster Ancil Hartman. Under the original terms of Kichesippi’s takeover of Heritage, the trio were going to retain ownership of Scotch-Irish and continue having the beers brewed at the rebranded Kichesippi Brewery. But with this more recent deal, all three labels are now under the Meek’s ownership.

In a report on Ottawa blog Apt613, Paul Meek notes that “Scotch Irish is quite popular in Toronto and Kichesippi plans on continuing to serve the Toronto community with these liquids.”

[This article cross-posted from Canadian Beer News.]

The Malt Exchange Links Brewers and Farmers

January 12th, 2011 Posted by Brewery News No Comment yet

Writer and local food advocate Signe Langford has announced the launch of The Malt Exchange, a new initiative she is spearheading to help craft breweries in Ontario connect with local farmers and supply them with spent grain from brewing to use as animal feed.

The first partnership initiated by the program will see Toronto’s Granite Brewery supplying around 600 kg of spent barley malt per week to Kawartha Ecological Growers (KEG), who will be feeding it to the various animals they raise including cows, pigs, lambs and chickens.

As a way of bringing the project full circle, Ron Keefe of the Granite and Mark Trealout of KEG have also discussed the possibility of serving meat from the animals that are fed the grain in the Granite’s tied house pub.

Brewers and farmers who are interested in participating or finding out more about the Malt Exchange can contact Signe via the project website.

[This article cross-posted from Canadian Beer News.]

Muskoka Scales Back Pilsner Light, Plans New Brands

January 12th, 2011 Posted by Brewery News, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

In a recent tweet, Brock Shepherd of Burger Bar, a craft beer friendly restaurant in Toronto, stated that Muskoka Cottage Brewery was killing off Pilsner Light, a brand that they launched last spring.

Canadian Beer News contacted Muskoka for confirmation or clarification of this claim, and brewery representative Mike Laba provided the following statement:

The tweet is partly true, but the brand will not be dead.

We always knew our Muskoka Pilsner Light would be mainly a summer brew. We knew volumes would decline as the weather got colder and we would decide at that time whether we would brew it in the winter. At the same time we have taken a hard look at our business, our brand portfolio and where we have found success. It wouldn’t surprise anyone, that we have found the best success in bigger, bolder beers – like our Harvest Ale and Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout. This will shape our direction in 2011 with the addition of a few new seasonal and the addition of a new core brand, which I am incredibly excited about (details available shortly).

As of now, Pilsner Light will not be available on draught for the remainder of the winter season. It will continue to be available at over 100 Beer Stores throughout all of 2011 and if and when we introduce another mixer pack, it will be available there.

So, to summarize… Muskoka Pilsner Light will still be available for our loyal Pilsner consumers at the Beer Store, but it won’t be available on draught as we focus on growing our core brands.

King Brewery Sold to Beer Barons

January 12th, 2011 Posted by Brewery News No Comment yet


Today, Beer Barons announced the acquisition of the award-winning King Brewery. Based in Nobleton Ontario, King Brewery has been in operation since 2002. The Brewery operates a state of the art decoction brew house unique to Canada, and delivers ultra premium lagers that rival the best in the world.

King Brewery has won many awards for its true to style, Czech Pilsner, including Gold at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards for Canada’s best European Style Pilsner. The Brewery has distinguished itself among critics as one of the premier craft brewers in Canada.

Phil DiFonzo, the founder of the Brewery, will remain in his role as Brew Master. “We set out to brew the highest quality beers that Canadians can be proud of. Our equipment and brewing processes are second to none. All the awards and sales growth are a direct result of the quality King brings to the marketplace. In order for King to realize its full potential in Canada, we wanted to bring even more expertise to the table. The management at Beer Barons will provide us with the necessary support to exponentially grow the business.”

In his speech to employees, Sean Fleming, CEO for Beer Barons, outlined the strategy behind the move.

“Beer Barons is committed to importing and producing the world’s highest quality beers. We believe that King Brewery meets these high standards. We are excited about King joining us and the potential King has to offer to the Canadian brewing industry.”

Troy Taylor, Beer Barons’ National Director of Sales and Marketing added, “There is a seismic shift occurring in the Canadian beer market. Canadian beer drinkers are looking for higher quality craft beers and are doing so in record numbers. Canadians have always believed that the quality of beer made in Canada can rival the rest of the world. We feel the quality and brewing tradition at King Brewery will allow us to capitalize on this consumer shift and deliver ultra premium products made right here in Ontario.”

King Brewery currently produces King Pilsner, King Dark lager, King Vienna and seasonally produces King Pilsbock. King Brewery has been recognised nationally, winning over 15 awards in both the Canadian and Ontario Brewing industry since 2002. Its accomplishments include being selected as the 2003 Beer of The Year by the Food and Drink magazine, Toronto Star’s Best Beer of the Year, and has been awarded Gold at the Canadian Brewing awards from 2003 – 2006.


December 6th, 2010 Posted by Brewery News No Comment yet

BEAU'S CABA CABA HEY! 2010 - BoomerweissenBEAU’S All Natural Brewing Co. Is proud to present the 2010 edition of its CABA CABA HEY series of beers “Boomerweiss Weissbier” a collaborative effort from BEAU’S and ‘Home Brewer Of The Year’ John Baine from Dundas, Ont.

Thanks to this unique partnership between the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association (CABA) & Ontario Craft Brewers, the Home Brewer Of The Year not only gets an award and bragging rights, but also gets to help design & brew a beer with the folks at BEAU’S.

John’s award winning entry is called “Boomerweiss Weissbier”. A beer that features an intense banana flavour that goes all the way to 11 and is complimented by clove-like spiciness and a bubblegum aroma. Lively carbonation helps to accentuate this classic hefeweizen’s drinkability.

“It’s great to work with a passionate home brewer like John.” says Steve Beauchesne of BEAU’S All Natural Brewing Company, ”And help take his dream of beer to the next level”

CABA CABA HEY! 2010’s “Boomerweiss Weissbier” is available now for a limited time at BEAU’S Brewery, 10 Terry Fox Road in Vankleek Hill, Ont

A Case for Rarity

November 25th, 2010 Posted by Brewery News, LCBO Releases No Comment yet

Scotch whisky lovers love rarity. Characteristics such as age marking, unusual special editions and unique casking are all part of whisky lore. Drinkers seek out unique products from interesting places and they are especially savoured. In the beer world, parallels to this are evident due to the similarity of the drinks and mindset of connoisseurs. Although not applicable to all beers, more and more feature age marking, barrel-aging, unique ingredients and general ‘one-offness’.  And although certainly not unique to beer and whisky, the rarer and more interesting tends to be much more desirable.

With all this in mind, it’s little wonder these two worlds – Scotch whisky and beer – have collided. The Harviestoun brewery of Scotland has married the two, with great success internationally and now in Ontario. But the five kinds of Ola Dubh, a beer matured in Highland Park whisky casks now available at the LCBO, is an interesting story of rarity.

In winter 2009, the LCBO as part of their Winter Warmers release offered Ola Dubh 12, a strong dark ale aged in casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 12 Year Old Scotch whisky. This made beer connoisseurs in Ontario excited, but even more so was the news that Ola Dubh 40, aged in 40 year old casks, was coming too. Now this got beer lovers going.

The Ola Dubh 12, as it was part of the seasonal release, had a few thousand bottles hit the shelves. The 40, on the other hand, had only 30 cases come to the province, and with an error of logistics, 2/3 of that went to a single store in Toronto. The uniqueness of the products and the enthusiasm for both of them set off a frenzy, with beer lovers searching for them and posting their findings, or frustrations, up on The Bar Towel’s Forum.

Now this is not the first time that beer lovers have gotten excited about a new beer hitting the province. In 2006, when Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA arrived, connoisseurs went after it with vigour. And recently in early 2010, Black Oak’s new 10 Bitter Years sold out quickly, just from sales at brewery.  The beer lovers in Ontario seek out the good finds, no question.

Back to the Ola Dubh. The 40, even selling at an unheard-of $18.95 per 330mL bottle (possibly the most expensive single bottle of beer ever sold at retail in Ontario), vanished. And this haloed to the 12, although having more availability, disappeared in a flash. I even found myself caught up in the frenzy – after seeing some bottles of 12 at Summerhill I was told by an LCBO employee that it would not last. So I bought some, feeling lucky to have had the privilege. The Ola Dubh 40 sold out so quickly and with such buzz that the LCBO ordered 100 more cases, which eventually arrived in spring 2010.

This obviously opened the eyes of the LCBO to Ola Dubh and they wanted to capitalize. They chose Harviestoun to be the winter Brewery Feature, a program whereby a single brewery has a series of beers released for a limited time only in a select number of stores. The first Brewery Feature in early autumn was Dieu du Ciel!, and the Harviestoun Feature offered all five expressions of Ola Dubh – 12 Year Old, 16, 18, 30 and 40, with prices ranging from $5.95 for the 12 up to $18.95 for the 40. Ola Dubh would be back, and in a big way.

According to the LCBO stock of Ola Dubh 40, there are presently over 1,900 bottles available in Ontario, a far cry from the 30 cases a year ago. And there are plenty of bottles available of the other expressions as well. This is great news for beer fans of all kinds, from budding to experienced, as they can easily try the fantastic Ola Dubh expressions this holiday season.

But the frenzy seen a year ago has certainly subsided. Ola Dubh isn’t the rare find it was, but a beer easily found with the help of the LCBO’s online stock system. That begs the question, does rarity make for a more desirable beer? Definitely. Does it make for a better beer? Not necessarily, but it does make for a more interesting one. Does rarity make for good business? It does seem that way, as Ola Dubh’s two-brand limited release turned into a full brewery feature a year later. The rarity of Ola Dubh in 2009 was newsworthy and exciting for the serious beer crowd. But the availability of Ola Dubh in 2010 is good for all beer drinkers, even though it might be a bit less talk-worthy.

Rare products in both the Scotch whisky and beer worlds have been proven sellers for years, which can sometimes translate into perceived quality. After all, the #1 beer in the world according to RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, is a notoriously difficult to acquire drink. Unique, rare and desirable beers seem to be a more common occurrence at LCBO (just wait for the upcoming Sam Adams Utopias). But breweries might be wise to maintain a strategy of rarity with certain products (it seems the last batch of 10 Bitter Years didn’t quite sell as quickly).  Rare beers of premium quality get beer enthusiasts excited and create news.  Beers that are just as premium but not as rare allow all drinkers to enjoy easily.  It’s great to see more of both in Ontario.

Samuel Adams Has a Beer Party in Ontario

October 18th, 2010 Posted by Brewery News, LCBO Releases No Comment yet

When Moosehead Breweries announced their strategic alliance with the Boston Beer Company (a.k.a. Samuel Adams) earlier this year, beer fans in Ontario had reason to be cautiously optimistic.  Having a strong partner on the ground in the Canadian market would give Samuel Adams a good opportunity to have their brands reach drinkers locally, and their complementary brand portfolios pointed to being able to co-exist rather than compete with one another.  This is in stark contrast with Sam Adams’ previous strategic alliance (scroll down), one with Sleeman Breweries 10 years ago.  This, as I predicted on Bar Towel all those years ago, did not lead to an increase in Sam Adams availability for drinkers in Ontario.

Well, it looks like in a short period of time this is not going to be the case with Sam Adams’ relationship with Moosehead. We’re getting some new Sam Adams brands and it looks like Moosehead is putting a lot behind supporting their new alliance, and this is fantastic news for beer connoisseurs in Ontario.

This past summer Samuel Adams Summer Ale hit the shelves as part of the LCBO’s summer seasonal release.  And just recently Octoberfest came out as part of the autumn release, including draught availability as well.  A pattern, perhaps? Yes indeed.

Moosehead and Sam Adams will be following a seasonal release strategy for the Sam Adams brands, with one coming out every few months.  As we’ve already seen, Summer Ale and Octoberfest are the summer and fall seasonals respectively. Coming up next will be Sam Adams Winter Lager (6 packs and draught)  in November, followed by Noble Pils (6 packs) in February. It is excellent to see Moosehead and Sam Adams commit to bringing new brands to the marketplace in Canada with this plan – and it will through next year as well.

But that’s not all.  Sam Adams is also known for their interesting specialty and super-premium beers, and we will also see them in Ontario from time to time.  Just in time for the holiday season, the Summerhill LCBO store will be receiving a special shipment of Utopias, a 20%+ wood-aged brew, in one of the most unique bottles you will ever see.  And retailing at over $100, it’s not cheap but it certainly is memorable and one of the most talked-about beers around.  Look for some special events at beerbistro associated with Utopias and other Sam Adams releases.

And if that isn’t enough, also in December (but possibly in January) the Sam Adams / Weihenstephan collaboration Infinium will be released across Ontario.  Described by Jim Koch as a cross between “a Champagne, a dessert wine and the Samuel Adams Noble Pils”, this is the first of a possible few more collaborations between the breweries and looks like a delicious one.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Sam Adams beers – they were one of the first U.S. craft breweries I sought out when I first started getting into premium beer.  They’re the largest craft brewery in the United States but they still retain a strong connection to craft through multiple examples of innovative beers they’ve released over the years and continue to brew.

Big kudos to Moosehead for taking advantage of their alliance with Sam Adams and bringing some brands that will appeal across the board to beer lovers – from newcomers to craft beer right up to the most serious.  And with their recent announcement of Moosehead Cask Ale in New Brunswick, plus Moosehead’s subsidiary Hop City, this indicates a company that is taking their craft beer seriously alongside their core lineup of brands.  Great to see.

Paddock Wood in Ontario – But Not How You Might Expect

October 10th, 2010 Posted by Beer Store Releases, Brewery News, LCBO Releases No Comment yet

Paddock Wood, Saskatchewan’s first craft brewery, is entering the Ontario market with two of their brands: 606 India Pale Ale and Czech Mate Pilsner. But the tale of how and where the brands are available is an interesting one, and not the usual way a new brand arrives in Ontario.

Earlier in the year Paddock Wood pursued a general listing in the LCBO (meaning the beer would be available all the time, not just as a seasonal release) and also a listing at The Beer Store. What ended up happening is that Paddock Wood was approved for LCBO “Combination” stores – which are stores in rural communities where there is no Beer Store – not regular LCBO stores. So, regular LCBO stores will not be getting Paddock Wood, but the combination ones can do so (according to the LCBO’s inventory, the 606 IPA is available in Paisley, ON).

Believing that regular LCBOs in Toronto would be able to get Paddock Wood (before the “Combination” clarification), the brewery did not list in any Beer Stores in the city. Which is why, at this point in time, you will only be finding Paddock Wood at select Beer Stores or LCBO combination stores outside of Toronto. This is probably the first time a craft brand has hit the province and it is not in Toronto!

But this is going to be changing quickly. Paddock Wood will be listing in about 20-25 more Beer Stores, including Toronto. So beer fans in Toronto, you’ll be able to get it soon enough if you don’t want to take a drive to pick some up.

Both 606 IPA and Czech Mate will be sold for $13.20 per six pack. The 606, named after the 606 jazz club in London, originally began as Paddock Wood’s Rye IPA, but lowered its alcohol percentage at the request of bars in Saskatchewan to 5.4%. Over the last couple of years the hops in 606 have changed but presently it’s hopped with Cascade and Amarillo.

Czech Mate was driven by Paddock Wood’s brewmaster’s (Steve Cavan) challenges finding fresh Czech-style pilsners in Saskatchewan when he was a homebrewer – so he did something about it! This brought about the opening of Paddock Wood so Steve could get the ingredients and make the pilsner he wanted to and so Czech Mate was born.

Currently both brands will be available (if not already) at the following Beer Stores: Kitchener (Bleams Road), Oshawa (Taunton Road E), Peterborough (Landsdowne), Georgetown, Orangeville, Barrie (Bayfield St), Brampton (Bramalea City Centre), Ajax, Lindsay, Guelph (Willow West Mall) and Aurora.

For many years it has been unfortunate to not have access to many Canadian craft beers in Ontario. The founder of Paddock Wood, Steve Cavan, is originally from Ontario and it is great to see some new Canadian craft brands in the province. Welcome Steve & Paddock Wood!

Muskoka Harvests an Impressive New Brewing Direction

October 6th, 2010 Posted by Brewery News, LCBO Releases No Comment yet

Over the past couple of years we have seen craft breweries in Ontario really step up their game to appeal to the serious beer connoisseur.  One of the best examples of this is Great Lakes – a brewery known for almost 20 years for quaffable lagers made a noticeable push to more craft-appealing brews with tremendous success.  What began with their Devil’s Pale Ale led to increased specialties (Pumpkin Ale, Miami Weisse, Orange Peel Ale), events (Project X, Caskapalooza) and eventually an Editor’s Circle Golden Tap Award recognizing their efforts.

Now we’re seeing the same direction being taken by the Muskoka Cottage Brewery.  Muskoka has been around since 1996, well known in the province for their easy-drinking Muskoka Cream Ale.  It’s a fine brew and perfect for “dock drinking” which most certainly is one of their intentions (further proven by their 5L mini-keg, called “The Docker”).

But Muskoka’s recent evolution from Cream Ale into a broadened beer selection has been impressive.  Over the past few years they have added to their core portfolio with the very fine Hefe Weissbier, Pilsner Light, Premium Lager and Dark Ale – a solid lineup of well-crafted beers.  But now they’ve gotten beer-serious with the introduction of a super-premium lineup of seasonals, beginning this fall with Muskoka Harvest Ale.  The Harvest Ale, which debuted draught-only last year, has hit the province this year in over 100 LCBOs in a handsome 750mL swingtop bottle and 60 bars on draught.

Mike Laba, marketing manager for Muskoka was kind enough to provide The Bar Towel with a bottle of their Harvest Ale along with some clever support materials.  But it’s the beer that matters and Harvest Ale delivers.  The beer, honouring the end of the growing season is a strong (6.4%), and rich copper-coloured, malty and dry-hopped beer that is made with predominately all-Ontario ingredients.  It can be purchased at the LCBO as part of its Autumn Ales release and retails for $7.95 per bottle.

Luckily for beer lovers, Harvest Ale isn’t going to be a one-shot deal in the seasonal game for Muskoka.  The brewery is following up the Harvest Ale with what looks like another winner as their winter seasonal: Muskoka Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout.  This 8% dark beer, commemorating Muskoka’s place as a cranberry growing capital, is arriving mid-November and is further evidence of Muskoka taking their brewing to the next level.  It’s certain to be a beer found at numerous holiday parties this winter.

Muskoka, like Great Lakes, is proving that Ontario craft breweries can satisfy different types of beer drinking consumers simultaneously.  From their Cream Ale to Harvest Ale and beyond, Muskoka is offering a diverse beer portfolio that can appeal to just about any taste.  The direction they are going in is impressive and worthy of commendation.  Well done Muskoka, keep it up!