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BAR TOWEL NEWS | Got a beer news tip? Send it to news editor Greg Clow at news@bartowel.com

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July 14, 2008

Beer Retail Revolt Brewing in Ontario

The past couple of weeks have been interesting ones in the Ontario beer scene, as a series of articles in the Toronto Star have led to a lot of vitriol being directed towards The Beer Store, the province's beer retailing oligopoly which is owned by Molson, Labatt and Sleeman.

The original series, entitled "Bad Brew", was written by Star business reporter Dana Flavelle, and was spread over four different articles last Saturday through Monday:

The real reason your beer costs more than it should
Cornering the beer market
Small brewers struggle - The hidden story
Ontarians thirsty for answers

The series spawned a long discussion thread here on Bar Towel and dozens of comments on the Star website, with many of those comments being critical of the Beer Store and the big brewers that own it. There were also a couple of follow-up articles in the Star later in the week:

Petition protests beer monopoly
McGuinty has no thirst for beer sales change
Beer monopoly petition grows

The petition mentioned in these later articles can be found here, and has gathered thousands of signatures and drawn attention from numerous media outlets including CFRB, CKNX, CHCH, CBC Radio and CP24.

Also launching in the aftermath of this series was Free Our Beer, a blog from Bar Towel founder Cass Enright that is "dedicated to reforming Ontario's beer retailing system, from a craft point of view", and which looks set to become an epicentre for this growing movement.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:52 PM

February 05, 2007

Beer News Round-Up

Here's a quick round-up of local beer news & press mentions from the last couple of weeks:

Undoubtedly the biggest news recently was last week's announcement that Labatt has make a friendly takeover bid for Lakeport that looks likely to be accepted. This has been covered all over the place (including a Canadian Press piece featuring some quotes from yours truly) - this handy Google News search link should direct you to many pertinent stories should you want to read up on the deal and what various people think about it. And if you want to sound off about it yourself, you can join the discussion in the Bar Towel Forum.

In his weekly "What's Brewing" column in The Toronto Star, Josh Rubin has recently profiled Scotch-Irish Sgt. Major's IPA, McEwan's Scotch Ale, Barley Days Yuletide Cherry Porter and Thomas Hardy's Ale.

Meanwhile, in his "Suds" column in Metro, Aonghus Kealy started the year with an interview with Todd Fowler, brewmaster at the Molson-owned Rickard's Brewhouse microbrewery at the Air Canada Centre. He followed this up with columns debunking the beer belly myth; previewing Robbie Burns events at The Granite and other local establishments; and reporting on the launch of Guinness Red in the UK.

Over in The Globe & Mail, there were a couple of beer-related articles in their weekend edition throughout January. A review feature on several local winter seasonal beers ran on January 27th (with Stephen Beaumont offering a rather negative opinion of the piece on his website later the same day), and the week before saw an article on beer & cheese pairings.

And perhaps the most interesting of the lot was a Toronto Star interview with Max Nelson, a University of Windsor professor who earned his PhD in classical studies by researching - and brewing - ancient beer.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 05:53 PM

December 29, 2006

Holiday Beers and More in Metro & The Star

The holidays are just about over for most of us, so before they're gone for another year, here's a round-up of the coverage that Metro and The Star have given to holiday (& other) beers in the last couple of weeks.

In Metro, Aonghus Kealy (pictured) has done:

Over in The Star, Josh Rubin has offered up:

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:01 AM

December 07, 2006

Petr Janik on Ontario Pilsners

We were remiss in mentioning that in his What's Brewing column last week, The Star's Josh Rubin presented a feature on Petr Janik, brewmaster at the legendary Plzensky Prazdroj brewery, better known in these parts as Pilsner Urquell.

In addition to talking about the brewing process for the world's original pilsner, Janik also offers his opinions on five locally produced examples of the style: Stratford Pilsner, J.R. Brickman Pilsner, Old Credit Pale Pilsner, Steam Whistle & King Pilsner. He touts the King as his favourite, with the Brickman coming in a close second.

While we're at it, we might as well mention that Rubin has also recently done write-ups on Wellington Imperial Stout and Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale.

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 12:11 AM

December 06, 2006

Beer For The Holidays

In Wednesday's Toronto Star Food section, beer writer Josh Rubin offers some gift ideas for the beer lover on your Christmas list. Some of his suggestions include Beer: The Story of the Pint by Martyn Cornell; the Mill St. Barley Wine Gift Pack; a Granite Brewery Gift Pack featuring an empty growler, a certificate for a fill-up, and four pint glasses & coasters; and the Canadian Edition of the microbrewery board game Brewopoly.

Over in the pages of Thursday's Metro, you'll find Aonghus Kealy getting some tips from Roger Mittag on throwing a holiday beer-tasting party for women - although plenty of men will enjoy his picks as well.

Also getting into the holiday spirit are the Ontario Craft Brewers, who have issued a press release touting their various holiday brews - including Amsterdam Tilted Kilt Scotch Ale, Great Lakes Brewing Winter Ale & Trafalgar Celebration Ale - as well as food & beer pairing tips for your holiday feasting, and some more gift ideas. The full press release appears after the jump below.

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The Ontario Craft Brewers
DECEMBER 4, 2006 - 10:59 ET

Spice Up Holiday Entertaining With Ontario Craft Beers

Ontario Craft Brewers Brew Up Unique Holiday Beers With Ingredients Such As Cinnamon, Orange Peel and Honey

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 4, 2006) -

Attention: news/assignment editors, lifestyle editors, food editors and beer writers.

T'is the season to be merry! The Ontario Craft Brewers are ready to help you celebrate the festive season in style with tips on how to enhance traditional holiday cuisine and add flavour to holiday get-togethers, and gift ideas for beer and food enthusiasts on your list.

Tips for Holiday Entertaining From Ontario Craft Brewers:

Looking for some holiday entertaining ideas? The variety and diversity of Ontario craft beers can add spice up your holiday entertaining. Craft beers will provide a perfect match to any holiday culinary delight.

Here are some quick tips for creating a memorable holiday experience from Ontario Craft Brewers:

- Don't forget to use beer in your food preparation. Craft beer can tenderize meat very well while providing a wide variety of flavours to your favourite recipes.

- Offer a tall narrow glass for your lager drinkers and a wide mouthed glass for the ale lovers in the crowd. Choosing the right glass for the right beer will enhance the overall experience.

Tips for Adding Sparkle to Holiday Cocktail Parties:

- Start off the evening with a refreshing craft lager, pilsner or ale. They are light and refreshing, and won't overwhelm your guests' palates. A few great examples of these styles include Mill Street's Organic Lager, King Pilsner, Robert Simpson Confederation Ale and Maclean's Pale Ale.

- When offering cheese to your guests, forget the wine and try craft beer! Ontario craft beer is a wonderful accompaniment to any cheese. Subtle bitterness and the rich flavours in beer act as the perfect complement to most cheeses.

-- Try Niagara's Best Blonde, Stratford Pilsner or Walkerville Premium Blonde with soft and gentle cheeses like Havarti or mild Cheddar;

-- Creamy cheeses like Brie go well with Amber lagers or Amber ales such as Brick's JR Brickman Amber, Paddy's Irish Red from Trafalgar, Lakes of Muskoka Cream Ale or Wolfgang's German Style Beer;

-- Stronger cheeses like Asiago, Edam or Jarlsberg are great with fuller flavoured beers like Scotch Irish Sergeant Major's IPA, Heritage Traditional Dark Lager, Black Oak Nut Brown or Wellington County Dark Ale;

-- Last but not least, full flavoured cheese like Stilton and Danish Blue are best served with a fruit beer like Amsterdam Framboise or a rich porter such as Glenora Springs Yuletide Cherry Porter.

- Looking for something to go with shortbread and a variety of desserts - try Great Lakes Blackjack or Granite Brewery's Keefe's Irish Stout with chocolates or Neustadt's Scottish Ale with Granny's shortbread.

Tips for Spicing Up Traditional Holiday Dinners:

- A traditional turkey dinner will require just the right beer - KLB Raspberry Wheat, St. Andre's Vienna Lager or Old Credit's Holiday Honey will cause the turkey to melt in your mouth and will accent the cranberries perfectly;

- If you start with a soup or salad, a light, refreshing craft lager like Beau's Lug Tread, Taps' Charleston Lager or Cool Millennium Buzz will ease you into the main course;

- For those of us that opt for one of Ontario's great hams, the match is easy - Nickel Brook's Apple Pilsner, Dennison's Weissbier or Winter Wheat from County Durham will create a memorable experience;

- How do we finish the splendors of the holidays - easy! If trifle is your choice of dessert, complement it with Cameron's Auburn Ale. Hockley Dark is an ideal mate for your favourite fruitcake.

Holiday Craft Beers

Many of Ontario's more than 25 craft breweries have been busy brewing holiday-themed beers with ingredients ranging from cinnamon, ginger and orange peel to honey and cherries. These holiday brews make unique gifts for hostesses and beer and food lovers, and are something special to serve at festive get-togethers at home or at local pubs or restaurants.

Among the selection of holiday beers from the Ontario Craft Brewers are:

- Amsterdam's Tilted Kilt - a sweet malt-based Scotch ale, Tilted Kilt is available at the brewery's retail store in downtown Toronto for $11.75 for a six-pack. Food matches include beef brisket, and leek and potato soup.

- Better Bitter's Nickelbrook Bock - aged for three months, this bock is available in select pubs and restaurants, and the Burlington brewery store for $11.95 for a six-pack. Food matches include stews and cheese.

- Glenora Springs' Yuletide Cherry Porter - available at the Picton brewery for $11.95 for a six pack, as well as at local restaurants, this light beer is made with fresh Niagara cherries and has powerful cherry accents. Food matches include chocolate desserts and fruitcake.

- Granite Brewery's Barley Wine - available at the brewery in a unique 1.9 litre growler for $16.90 (plus deposit) as well as in the brewery pub, this traditional barley wine can be enjoyed as an after dinner drink or with a roast beef dinner.

- Great Lakes Winter Ale - inspired by the Canadian winter, Winter Ale is a true winter warmer. Handcrafted with specialty hops and malts, along with cinnamon, ginger and orange peel, this unique beer is available at the Etobicoke brewery's store. Food matches include gingerbread.

- Heritage Blackcurrant Rye - Blackcurrant Rye is available at the brewery and LCBO stores for $4.95 for a 650 ml bottle.

- Maclean's Scotch Ale - this rich, malty amber ale is a traditional Scottish winter warmer. Currently aging, this draught beer will be available in mid December at pubs including Toronto's Bow & Arrow and C'est What, and Guelph's Woolwich Arms. Food matches include beef, game and desserts such as fruitcake.

- Neustadt's Big Dog Beaujolais Porter - available at the brewery store for $11.95 for a six pack as well as at select pubs and restaurants, this old fashioned English porter is sweetened up with Beaujolais wine. The brew master recommends matching this beer with sweet holiday desserts.

- Old Credit's Holiday Honey - a silver medal winner at the 2006 Canadian Brewing Awards, Holiday Honey is available at the Mississauga brewery's store in 680 ml bottles for $3.00 per bottle including tax. Aged for three months, the beer can be enjoyed with appetizers or dessert.

- Trafalgar's Celebration Ale - available in select LCBO stores and the brewery store in Oakville, Celebration Ale is brewed in the Belgian style, and is rich and spicy with citrus notes and complex flavours. Food matches include desserts and fine chocolate.

The special seasonal craft beers are brewed in limited quantities and only available during the holiday season, or through the winter as long as supplies last. Visit or call Ontario's more than 25 craft brewers to find out more about their holiday celebrations, beers and recommended festive food matches. For the locations, phone numbers and hours for all Ontario Craft Brewers, visit www.ontariocraftbrewers.ca.

Giving the Gift of Good Taste

Looking for that special holiday gift for the gourmet food or beer enthusiast on your list? Any of the more than 125 high-quality, distinctive beers brewed by the Ontario Craft Brewers will make a wonderful gift. The holiday craft beers are a special, limited quantity treat for beer and food lovers.

Many Ontario Craft Brewers offer holiday packaging and special gift packs. A few of gift ideas are: Walkerville Brewing Company and Granite Brewery beers in 1.9 litre growler bottles available at their on-site stores, and Mill Street Brewery's 2005 Barley Wine gift packs at Toronto's LCBO Summerhill store and the brewery store.

A wide range of Ontario's finest craft beers are available at LCBO stores, The Beer Store and directly at the breweries' retail stores.

The Ontario Craft Brewers

The Ontario Craft Brewers are 25 plus small brewers dedicated to brewing great tasting beer in Ontario. The Ontario Craft Brewers brew their beers locally in communities throughout Ontario - from Carleton Place to Windsor and Niagara Falls to Bracebridge. For more information on The Ontario Craft Brewers, visit www.ontariocraftbrewers.ca.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 11:32 PM

November 23, 2006

Beaumont on The Year In Beer

The December/January issue of City Bites has just hit the streets, and in his regular Malt column, Stephen Beaumont gives props to what he considers the best things to happen in the beer scene (plus a couple of whisky highlights) during 2006.

You'll have to pick up a copy (or download the PDF version from their website) to read his complete thoughts, but here's a quick summary of the beery bits: Mill Street Brewpub, Black Oak Summer Saison, Volo Cask Days, Konig Ludwig Weissbier, Westmalle Dubbel, West 50 Pourhouse & Pete Brown's Three Sheets to the Wind.

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:58 PM

November 12, 2006

Beer Bulletins

Here's a quick round-up of some local beer-related bits that have appeared in print and online in the last couple of weeks:

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 05:25 PM

October 11, 2006

New Beer Writer at The Star

Local beer lovers were saddened by last month's announcement by Jon Filson that he would no longer be writing regular beer features for The Toronto Star. But it looks like the paper's commitment to positive beer coverage remains, as they have recently brought in writer Josh Rubin to helm a new weekly feature called What's Brewing.

The column has been running for several weeks now, and has already featured some great locals & imports:

Sep 20th - "A bottle of joe?" (Mill Street Coffee Porter)
Sep 27th - "Beer with divine links is Trappist" (Westmalle Dubbel)
Oct 4th - "Roll out the barrel" (Taps Wine Barrel Lager)
Oct 11th - "What to drink in October" (Amsterdam Oktoberfest)

The seasonal Amsterdam brew also got some coverage in last week's installment of Suds, the weekly column written by Aonghus Kealy for the free daily paper Metro. Other recent articles by Kealy have focussed on Walkerville Light, King Dark Lager & Negra Modelo.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 11:26 AM

September 07, 2006

LCBO Bottle Return System Being Considered

According to an article in today's Toronto Star, the Government of Ontario is considering the implementation of a bottle return system for the LCBO:

Ontarians will soon be charged a deposit on bottles purchased at the LCBO and will be able to return their booze empties to The Beer Store.

No details were available on how much deposits will be or how quickly the system will be up and running for consumers.

But Premier Dalton McGuinty advised his cabinet yesterday about the ambitious new deposit-return program, sources said. It's a public-private partnership with Brewers' Retail, owned by Labatt, Molson and Sleeman.

The report goes on to say that there will be discussions of this initiative during an inner cabinet meeting today, with an official announcement to follow as early as next week. Ontario is currently one of only two provinces to not have a deposit return system for bottles purchased at liquor stores.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 09:50 AM

August 09, 2006

Beer & Cheese Pairings In City Bites

The August/September issue of City Bites is hot off the press, and it includes an article by cheese experts Julia Rogers & Tonia Wilson on beer and cheese pairings. Along with a brief look at why beer may be a better partner for cheese than wine, they offer some suggested pairings for the three beers in Brick's Founder's Series.

This issue also features Stephen Beaumont's regular column, Malt, which is focused this issue on scotch whisky; a cover feature on Sake; an article on smoked cheese by the aforementioned Julia Rogers; and much more. Look for free copies of City Bites at various locations around Toronto, or read it online via a handy PDF version.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 11:39 PM

July 17, 2006

OCB Tour in Sunday Sun

The Travel section of this past weekend's Sunday Sun included a feature article on a tour of four Ontario Craft Brewers members. Receiving visits for the piece were Mill Street, Old Credit, Wellington and Brick.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 09:04 AM

July 15, 2006

Beer Bulletins

A few local beer articles - and one not-so-local one that may still be of interest to Ontario beer drinkers - have appeared in print and online in the last little while:

  • In his weekly Toronto Star beer column, Jon Filson offers up a of mini-profile of Stratford Brewing. The article mentions that their previously draught-only Pilsner is now available at select LCBO outlets.

  • The beers in the LCBO summer release get reviewed by Metro's Aonghus Kealy in his weekly Suds column, and by your friendly neighbourhood Bar Towel news editor Greg Clow in his latest article for local food & drink website Gremolata. The latter is the first in a two-part series on fruit beers, with next week's second part to focus on the fruit beers that are available in Ontario on a year-round basis.

  • The British Columbia edition of The Globe & Mail recently published an article on the lack of U.S. microbrews in B.C. liquor stores. This is an interesting parallel to our situation in Ontario, where the only micro from south of the border that is available via the LCBO on a regular basis is Anchor Liberty Ale.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 04:48 PM

June 21, 2006

Jon Filson on "The Brewer's Tour"

In today's edition of the Toronto Star, beer columnist Jon Filson contributes a feature story on touring some of Ontario's craft breweries. The main article covers visits to Wellington and Robert Simpson, and mentions moves & expansions planned by Glenora Springs and Lakes Of Muskoka. There is also a sidebar article that puts the spotlight on Neustadt Springs and the unique network of caverns located under their brewery.

You may also want to have a look at some of Filson's other recent articles that we've neglected to mention here previously, such as last week's look at weisse beer, and earlier columns on Mott's Red Eye (a questionable combination of Clamato and beer that is contract brewed by Brick) and the launch of canned Creemore Springs.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:54 AM

June 08, 2006

Assorted News & Notes

Beer has been the topic of an assortment of articles in various local papers and magazines in the past little while. Here are some highlights:

  • Stephen Beaumont's contribution to the June/July issue of City Bites is an undercover investigation of the beer service and knowledge at 15 Toronto bars which was compiled with the assistance of five regulars from the Bar Towel Forum. Look for this free publication at various Toronto eateries, or download a PDF version here.
  • The June issue of Toronto Life has a feature on real ale, with mentions of cask-friendly bars such as Volo, C'est What and the Victory.
  • In the June 5-June 18 edition of Canadian Business magazine you'll find "A Tale of Two Brews", a one-year-later look at the Molson buyout of Creemore Springs Brewery.
  • Both Metro and Eye Weekly published articles last week on the best places to watch the World Cup and drink beer from the participating countries.
Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:02 PM

May 31, 2006

Ottawa Business Journal on Scotch-Irish/Heritage Deal

This week's edition of the Ottawa Business Journal features an article on last month's sale of the Scotch-Irish brands to Heritage Brewing. Click here for the online version of the story.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 11:01 PM

May 20, 2006

Beer Articles in The Globe & Mail

It's been quite a weekend for beer in the mainstream press. In addition to the slew of articles in the Toronto Star and their associated regional papers that we reported earlier, The Globe & Mail has two beer features in their Saturday edition:

Beer Wars: Tempest in a pint glass
A story in the Globe Toronto section on the battles being fought between brewery reps for tap placement at bars and restaurants.

Sleeman: A few too many
Cover story from the Report On Business section on the trials and tribulations at Sleeman Breweries.

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 01:32 PM

Beer Articles in Torstar Newspapers

Over the last couple of days, several newspapers in the Torstar chain have been running a series of stories on the state of the beer industry in Ontario & Canada. Here are links to the full set of articles:

Beer and loathing in Canada's breweries
A feature article that takes a wide-ranging look at various aspects of the brewing business, from troubles at the Big Three, to the increasing sales that are being enjoyed by the import, craft and "buck-a-beer" segments of the market.

Forget the froth, this is serious
Further coverage of the discount and premium/import segments, with mention of Cameron's, Trafalgar and Lakeport.

Upstart brewers brewing big sales
Profiles of Wellington County and F&M Brewery.

Is Sleeman for sale?
Profile of Sleeman, and analysis of the recent stories & rumours regarding the possible sale of the brewery.

Brick testing upscale beers
Feature on Jim Brickman and Brick Brewing's new "Founder's Series" line of premium beers.

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Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 08:50 AM

May 14, 2006

Jacob Richler on "Fine dining a la biere"

In this weekend's edition of the National Post, food critic Jacob Richler writes about a beer dinner that he recently attended at North 44 along with Innis & Gunn rep Dougal Sharp. The article - which you can read here - makes it clear that Richler holds to standard attitude that wine pairs better with high-end food than beer, as this excerpt illustrates:

While I like beer -- OK, I like it a lot -- and think that in a pinch it goes well with just about everything from fried eggs to pissaladiere to foie gras poele, beer seldom shows up on the podium as my first choice with food. With choucroute garni, sure. With moules-frites, definitely. With fish and chips, naturally. But with asparagus and morels, I'll take the New Zealand sauvignon blanc, thanks.

Of course, his opinion may have been influenced by the fact that three of the six beers served during the dinner were from the ubiquitous Inbev line-up of mediocre Belgians - Stella Artois, Leffe Blonde & Bellevue Kriek - and of the remaining three, the only truly world-class offering was Duvel.

It's also interesting to note that Richler claims that Toronto has no true "gastro-pubs", where fine food is paired with an extensive beer list. Perhaps it was a different Jacob Richler who wrote this review of beerbistro back in January, 2004...

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 03:26 PM

May 12, 2006

Greg Clow on Where to Find Good Beer in Toronto

Bar Towel news editor Greg Clow has joined the writing staff at Gremolata, a website dedicated to Toronto's food and drink scene. His first article there has been dubbed Where to Find Good Beer in Toronto by publisher Malcom Jolley, and it is a quick primer to some of the highlights of the beer community in our city and province - including, of course, The Bar Towel...

The undisputed nexus of Toronto's beer scene is The Bar Towel. Launched in 1998 by beer aficionado Cass Enright, the site was initially a sort of proto-blog about his favourite beers and bars, but has become better known in recent years for its very active forum where local drinkers, brewers, importers and bar owners gather to discuss the business and pleasure of beer.

Click here for the full article, and watch for Greg's future stories to appear on Gremolata on a monthly (or so) basis.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 04:59 PM

May 03, 2006

Jon Filson on Black Jack Lager

As a sidebar to his article on beer competitions in today's Toronto Star, beer writer Jon Filson gives some thoughts on Great Lakes Brewing Black Jack Lager, the winner of a bronze medal at last month's World Beer Cup. As part of his review, he makes a point of tackling some common myths about darker brews:

While it's true that heavier dark beers are often more suited to winter, this isn't a heavy dark beer at all, to anyone suffering from the common, if irrational fear of darker-coloured beer. [...] So if you're new to the style or have been intimidated by it in the past — or just don't like "dark beer" — here's one to try if, deep down, you suspect you might be wrong or if you just haven't found the one that's right for you.

Click here for the full article.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 01:52 PM

April 26, 2006

Jon Filson on Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

In this week's installment of his Suck It Back column, Jon Filson gives us a write-up on Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA - currently one of Ontario's most desirable beers, if this thread on the Bar Towel Forum is any indication. In fact, it looks like Jon took some cues from the Forum chat for his article:

You're going to have a tough time finding it because it's selling out at LCBOs all over town — it's that good. [...] Bottles ($2 per 355 millilitre) are trickling into stores around the GTA. If you don't snap it up when you see it, all the hardcore beer drinkers out there are going to get it all.

Click here for the full article.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 05:16 PM

April 19, 2006

Jon Filson on Mill St. Tankhouse Ale

In this week's installment of his Suck It Back column, Jon Filson eschews his original assignment of recommending a Mexican beer to accompany the Mexican food recipes printed alongside his piece, and instead recommends a fine local beer - Mill St. Tankhouse Ale. While this may seem strange to those who are used to dousing the fire of spicey foods with bland, tasteless lagers, it is actually in inspired pairing:

[W]hen pairing, equals between the beer and your meal can also take a generic dish to high heights. Strong and spicy can be paired with a hoppy, crisp beer that doesn't just spike the spice, but adds to the overall flavour.

Click here for the full article.

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Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 01:14 PM

Cynthia David says "Cheers to Beer"

In a feature article distributed by Canadian Press and headlined Cheers to Beer, Toronto food writer Cynthia David gives a quick primer for beer neophytes and talks about the increasing popularity of beer and food pairings. The article also features a "Beer 101" side bar that lists several recommended beer websites - including The Bar Towel, of course!

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Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 01:02 PM

April 11, 2006

Jon Filson on King Pilsbock

With all of the excitement regarding his extensive article on the state of Ontario's microbrewing scene in last Wednesday's Toronto Star, we completely missed Jon Filson's mini-review of King Pilsbock, where he wrote the following:

...think dry, crisp, with a maltier, strong, sweet, toastiness coming on and you've got the concept. It's a 7.4 per cent beer, but you'd never know it by drinking it — this is quaffable stuff.

Click here for the full article.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 05:09 PM

April 05, 2006

Jon Filson: "Need For New Beer Is Here"

Toronto Star beer writer Jon Filson has taken cranked up his battle to bring craft beer to the masses with a feature article entitled "Need for new beer is here" that puts the spotlight on the American craft brewing boom, and speculates on why a similar rennaissance hasn't happened on the same scale in Ontario:

Our microbreweries have established themselves as viable businesses — but not yet as creative ones. Instead of developing their own flavours and styles, Ontario micros generally try to replicate European products or mainstream Canadian beers. Light-tasting pale ales, lagers and pilsners make up the largest share of the Ontario Craft Brewers' brands.

The piece features quotes and insights from a variety of industry insiders, including Ontario brewers Phil DiFonzo (King Brewery) and John Graham (Church-Key Brewing), and their American brethren Jack Joyce (Rogue Ales) and Greg Koch (Stone Brewing). And as you might expect from the brewer of a beer called Arrogant Bastard, Koch doesn't mince words when he gives his opinion of our situation north of the border:

In his brewery's early years, Stone required a lot of "free thinkers" who encouraged him and kept selling his beer. He emphasises "required."

"I'm not an expert on Canada," he continues. "But I understand the distribution mechanisms are, frankly, archaic, protectionist and not very functional."

Ouch! It's harsh to hear your rep out loud, isn't it?

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Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 05:33 PM

March 15, 2006

Jon Filson on Sinha Stout

As you might expect given this coming weekend's celebration of a certain Irish saint, Jon Filson's Suck It Back column this week is devoted to stout. But rather than the "stout = Guinness = stout" line that most mass-media beer writers tend to drag out this time every year, Filson suggests that St. Paddy's revellers break out some Sinha (aka Lion) Stout instead:

Guinness is something like the coffee to Lion's espresso. [...] Look for stronger, sweeter and more complex coffee and chocolate flavours, a very low level of carbonation and a quickly dissipating layer of foam. It's also an 8 per cent beer — so this is more of a sipper than a gulper.

For the full article, click here.

(Of course, the big question is: Why is the highly overrated Guinness the only Irish stout easily available to Ontario beer drinkers? Why can't we go to the LCBO or Beer Store and buy some Beamish or Murphy's?)

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 02:08 PM

March 09, 2006

NOW's Pub & Bar Guide

This week's issue of NOW Magazine features their annual Bar & Pub Guide. In addition to listing 150 of Toronto's bars by neighbourhood, the section includes several themed sidebars including "Good For What Ales Ya", a beer bar round-up that includes Smokeless Joe, C'est What, beerbistro, Esplanade Bier Markt, Only Café and The Granite.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 02:47 PM

Mill Street in National Post

Today's edition of National Post features an article about Mill Street Brewery and their expansion plans. According to the article, the new brewery on Midland Avenue in Scarborough should be up and running by late May.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 02:41 PM

March 03, 2006

Mill Street on the move

As discussed on the Bar Towel Forum back in November, Toronto's Mill Street Brewery will soon be moving to a new location in Scarborough. In the Feb/Mar issue of Great Lakes Brewing News, Robert Hughey gives a bit more info about the move and related plans.

He reports that the new location will be a massive 30,000 square feet, and will be capable of producing around 80,000 hectolitres a year, with plans already in place to increase the capacity to 150,000 hectolitres. This increased capacity will ensure a more steady supply of their beer is available at retail and restaurant/bar outlets, and will also allow them to bottle some of their previously keg-only beers such as the Belgian Wheat.

Even more exciting are their plans for the exisiting brewery space in the Distillery District:

[T]he original Mill Street Brewery is going to be converted into a 300-seat brewpub, with 200 seats inside and 100 seats outside on two patios, north and south of the brewery building. There will be 12 beers on tap, showcasing a wide range of beer styles, including a few which will be cask conditioned.

So we'll be getting a more reliable supply of the existing Mill Street beers, easier access to their seasonals, and a line-up of experiments at the brewpub location - great news all around!

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 12:36 PM

March 01, 2006

Jon Filson on Anchor Steam

Following on the theme of his Pilsner Urquell piece from a couple of weeks ago, Jon Filson devotes this week's Suck It Back column to another style-defining classic, Anchor Steam.

Keeping his generally non-beer-saavy audience in mind, he gives a quick history of Anchor Brewing, explaining their role as one of the driving forces behind today's North American microbrewing scene, and he also gives the beer itself a mini-review:

Anchor Steam is called a California Common beer. It's not a common style, but if you want to know what it's like, Anchor Steam is actually the archetype. There are significant hops and an amber colour, but, overall, this is a medium-flavour beer — with a few surprises. Is that a hint of mint in there somewhere? Maybe just a touch.

For the full article, click here.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 02:13 PM

February 15, 2006

The Bar Towel in The Toronto Star

Today's edition of the Toronto Star features an extensive article on The Bar Towel by Star beer writer Jon Filson. The story is based on a recent round table interview with site founder Cass Enright and a quartet of Forum regulars.

Bar Towellers, like the gang of Stonecutters on The Simpsons, form an unofficial elite in the local beer world. That's because, to a large extent, Bar Towel is the beer scene. If you want industry gossip, a list of the latest beers being brought into the LCBO, bar recommendations, places in the U.S. where you can snag hard-to-get ales, or advice from a cagey veteran on how to make your own barley wine, bartowel.com is your one-stop online shop.

We might be a bit biased, but we think it's a great article, and hopefully it'll bring more attention to the site - and more importantly, the great beer that we all love.

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 10:16 AM

February 08, 2006

Jon Filson on Pilsner Urquell

While his Suck It Back column in the Toronto Star tends to focus mainly on local beer news and reviews, this week's installment sees Jon Filson giving some ink to a world classic - Pilsner Urquell. He offers a quick impression of the beer, but most of the short article is given over to a brief history of the pilsner style, and it includes this little jab at the misuse of the "pilsner" name by certain macro-brewers:

Keep in mind there are tons of beers that call themselves pilsner, but are lukewarm examples at best. It's an industry problem: if a beer wants to call itself a pilsner, it just does, even if it's too bland or bad or out of character to deserve the designation. Just consider the ramifications if Loblaws decided to call any cut of meat sirloin and you'll see why that's a problem.

For the full article, click here.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 03:37 PM

February 05, 2006

Best Macro-Beer In Canada - Carling Lager?!?

This weekend's edition of The Globe and Mail features an article by Sinclair Stewart on a blind tasting between eight macro-brews ranging from "premium" brands such as Labatt Blue, Molson Canadian and Keith's, to some old-school brands that have seen better days like Labatt 50 and Carling Lager. Tasted in a round-robin format, the final two were Keith's and Carling, with the lowly discount brand coming out the winner:

If we couldn't grab our favourite microbrew at a local watering hole, if we wanted a versatile beer that was good with food, yet at the same time moderately flavourful and refreshing (why else do we drink mainstream beer, anyway?), the panel was unanimous. The bonus? You get to save a couple bucks.

One can only imagine what the results would have been had they included other discount brews. They could have even had some themed showdowns, like Lakeport Lager vs. Laker Lager, or Steeler vs. Steelback!

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 04:18 PM

January 27, 2006

"The Battle Of Our Beers"

The Dominion - a website and print publication self-described as "Canada's Grassroots Newspaper" - has posted a business article entitled "The Battle Of Our Beers" which investigates the dominance of Labatt/InBev, Molson/Coors and Sleeman in the Canadian beer scene. While most of the details reported in the story won't be new to devoted craft beer drinkers, it's still an interesting read, if only to see how a left-leaning independent news source views the brewing industry.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 04:16 PM

Stephen Beaumont on IPAs

The February/March issue of City Bites recently hit the streets, and in his regular column Malt, Stephen Beaumont tackles the topic of India Pale Ales. He gives a quick history of the style, and explains why local examples like Granite Brewery IPA, Scotch Irish Sgt. Major's, and (to a lesser extent) Sleeman IPA are keeping the spirit of real IPAs alive, while Keith's is doing exactly the opposite. As he says in the closing paragraph:

A Labatt’s rep once said to me that Keith’s is representative of "a style of IPA," which is a bit like saying that Velveeta is "a style" of brie. Both are cheese, just as both are beer, but that’s about where the similarities end.

City Bites is a free bi-monthly magazine focussing on Toronto's food and drink scene. In addition to his Malt column, this issue also features a short article by Beaumont on good winter beer choices, a feature on artisan breads, installments in their regular columns on cheese, wine & spirits, and much more. Look for it at various locations around Toronto, or download a PDF file of the latest issue (and previous ones) from their website.

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 01:27 PM

January 25, 2006

Jon Filson on Hockley Dark

In today's installment of his Suck It Back column, Toronto Star writer Jon Filson gives his thoughts on Hockley Dark from Hockley Valley Brewing:

...a very nice blend of subtle flavours, a little bitter on the finish, a little touch of chocolate, a good amount of fruit flavour throughout. It's obviously English-influenced, so if you're a fan of their brown ales, this is worth a try...

For the full article, click here.

Discuss this topic in the Bar Towel Forum

Posted by Bar Towel News Editor at 02:03 PM

June 03, 2005

Government of Ontario to support small brewers

The Government of Ontario today announced a $5 million, 5-year investment in the small brewing industry. Great news indeed - read the press release here.

This investment represents a big win for the recently-initated Ontario Craft Brewers coalition. See their website here.

Posted by Bartowel News at 06:46 PM

April 18, 2005

Creemore to Molson?

As originally reported in the Bar Towel forum on April 13th, Creemore is being purchased by mega-brewer Molson. This story was covered this past Saturday in The Globe and Mail.

But the Bar Towel had it first - congratulations to our community for keeping it a fabulous source of current beer related information and opinion.

Check out the Bar Towel forum here.

Posted by Bartowel News at 08:58 AM

October 25, 2004

Golden Tap Awards mentioned in eye

The recent Eye magazine (Thursday, October 21st) features a Food & Drink Guide, with an article about the Mill Street Brewery. Within this article is a mention of their recent wins at the 2004 Golden Tap Awards, which is nice to see. The article is a good read, and offers some information on Mill Street's forthcoming barley wine.

Check out the article here.

Posted by Bartowel News at 12:15 PM

July 06, 2004

The Bar Towel Featured in Food & Drink

The Bar Towel has been featured in the recent Summer 2004 edition of the LCBO's Food & Drink magazine, which just hit the stores. Stephen Beaumont generously wrote a piece on the Bar Towel in the "Beer Bits" section of the magazine.

Check it out on page 30. Thanks to Stephen Beaumont and the LCBO for this mention!

Posted by Bartowel News at 09:47 AM