Bar Towel on the Road: Salt Lake City, Utah


Just one of the many beautiful views from the mountains around Salt Lake City.

One wouldn’t think at first blush that Ontario and Utah have much in common. The state of Utah and the province Ontario are separated by 3,000 kilometres, but there is an unexpected connection. Both jurisdictions have interesting, if not downright bizarre, alcohol laws. As such, a visit to Utah is oddly familiar, as we are certainly used to strangeness when it comes to alcohol. But like Ontario, Utah brewers are doing everything they can to make great beer, and bar owners to create memorable spots to enjoy those tasty brews, despite their oppressive rules.

In Utah, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is responsible for “regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages in a manner and at prices which reasonably satisfy the public demand and protect the public interest“. Sound familiar? In Ontario, the ACGO (having assumed the original LLBO mandate), is responsible for “regulating the sale, service and consumption of beverage alcohol…to promote moderation and responsible use”. Although Ontario does not have the Mormon heritage of abstinence which seems to have guided Utah’s laws, they are surprising similarities in core philosophy.



The Brewery Market Returning in 2014

9601313799_2fde9179c5_bThe Brewery Market, after a successful multi-event run last year, returns to Ottawa in 2014 with four dates this year.

This year the Brewery Market will be moving to a new location (but still nearby in the neighbourhood) at Hintonburg Park.

Events this year will be taking place on the following Saturdays: April 26thMay 24thJuly 5th and October 25th.  Specific event details will be announced closer to the dates.  But for now, save the dates and we’ll see you in April!


Brewer’s Backyard Returns on Family Day

G3B-All-postThe 2014 season of the Brewer’s Backyard kicks off on Family Day, Monday, February 17th with an event entitled Goldibocks and the Three Beers.

The event will feature four breweries, each bringing three beers: Indie Alehouse, Amsterdam, Great Lakes and Nickel Brook.  The breweries will be bringing beers that range from lighter in flavour to bolder in flavour, which will include an aged version of Spring Bock, Rebecca and Boneshaker from Amsterdam; Johnny Simcoe, Crazy Canuck and Harry Porter and the Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Bean from Great Lakes and APA, ESB and Maple Porter from Nickel Brook.  Pimenton and Indie Alehouse will be serving up some delicious food, including paella, empanadas and flavoured popcorn.

The Brewer’s Backyard will take place indoors at the Young Welcome Centre of the Evergreen Brick Works from 11am-4pm on Monday, February 17th.  Admission is free and the event is all ages.  We look forward to seeing you on Monday!


Beer Advent Calendars

advent-craftFor the second year now I’ve acquired the Craft BeerAdvent (TM) Calendar. In 2012 it was an interesting mix of European brews. A few of them I had already had, but most of them had never been available here. The anticipation and surprise was really awesome, I felt like a kid again! Those 24 European brews currently have a Beer Advocate average of 3.5, but unfortunately a few of them weren’t quite fresh. For 2013, their selection was entirely from North America and the BA average increased to 3.6 (they averaged 3.2 on Rate Beer and 3.5 on Untappd). Freshness was occasionally still an issue and my personal score for these brews was 3.4. That said, I actually preferred the European mix simply because there was a wider variety of styles that aren’t readily available here.

advent-phillipsNow for 2013, December was even more interesting. Phillips Brewing offered their own “Snowcase” Calendar filled with 24 unique brews. Naturally, I put them head-to-head (and kept notes in The Bar Towel forum). These brews averaged 3.8 on Beer Advocate, 3.2 on Rate Beer and 3.6 on Untappd. My personal score for the brews from this case was 3.7. So comparing the two, it was a wash for the Rate Beer users, Untappd put Phillips 0.1 ahead, BA put it 0.2 ahead, and I put it 0.3 ahead.

Given the price point (~$135), I think the Craft(TM) guys could certainly select some better brews for us beer geeks. Perhaps they’re trying to appeal to the general population, but who’s buying these things? I know it was the beer geeks that snatched them up within a few hours in some locations. The Phillips Snowcase was clearly the better bang-for-the-buck (~$60), and I must say that I’m truly impressed that a single brewery can put together 24 brews of this caliber. There’s not many breweries that are capable of doing that, but it would be really great to see a few try. Perhaps someone could offer a “12 Beers of Christmas” (which would be an amazing gift to find under the tree), team up with another brewery, or perhaps the Ontario Craft Brewers could do a “Secret Discovery Pack”? I’m certain there would be a lot of interest.

Looking forward to 2014…


A Great Year at the Brewery Market and Brewer’s Backyard

BrewBackyardWe’re a bit late with this post, but we wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in our phenomenal Brewery Market and Brewer’s Backyard season in 2013.

This year was our best yet, with five dynamite events in Toronto at the Evergreen Brick Works and three amazing ones in Ottawa at Parkdale Park – all to help support the great causes of Evergreen and Ottawa Riverkeeper.

In Toronto, our events in JanuaryMayJulySeptember and October were our usual fun and laid-back afternoons, with breweries participating that included Great Lakes, Indie Alehouse, Nickel Brook, Amsterdam, Left Field, Beau’s, Granite, Oast House, Grand River, Black Oak, Cheshire Valley and courtesy Keep6 Imports, Charlevoix, Dieu du Ciel!, Trois Mousquetaires, Dunham, Trou du Diable, Hopfenstark, and Brasseurs Sans Gluten.

We took things up a notch this year in Ottawa, tripling our events from last year (JulyAugust and October) and welcoming all of the breweries from the region: Beyond the Pale, Broadhead, Cassel, Big Rig, HogsBack, Mill Street, Kichesippi, Clocktower, Turtle Island, Whitewater, Beau’s and Ashton. But we also had in some out-of-town breweries in the mix this year, including Barley Days, Flying Monkeys and Nickel Brook.

We are extremely thankful to all the breweries that participated – we like to think that the Brewery Market and Brewer’s Backyard features one of the most diverse range of local brewers of any event series that takes place in Toronto and Ottawa. After all, we did have over 30 breweries participate this year!

Food is such a key component to our events, and this year we welcomed some of the best restaurants and vendors around, including Big E’s Grinds, FeasTO, Sweet Sammies, Kanga Meat Pies, WVRST, Sovereign State Cheese, Jamie Kennedy Kitchens, and Chef Pascal Poilbout. In Ottawa, our great partners Hintonburger, Absinthe Cafe and Murray Street Grill kept everyone well fed in the nation’s capital.

But our events wouldn’t run as smoothly as they do without the tireless work of our great staff. Our events this year at the Brick Works were led by Amy Whitham, who oversaw an amazing team which included Kelly Creighton, Samantha Calligen, Lizze McArdle, Suzy Marshall, Charles Lauzon, Gira Moin, Nicole Tomasi, Elyssa Gordon and Donna Bridgeman.

And in Ottawa, Taralyn Marshall, who brought the Brewery Market to town in the first place, once again led our bigger and better series this year, with her incredible team including event organizers Mark Carver and Danielle Quigley, plus volunteers Justin Sadler, Maribeth Butler, Ryan Janssens, Matt Jardine, Charles Lauzon, Jasmine Savoie, Jenny Purkiss, Patrick White and Sean MacGinnis, alongside Riverkeeper volunteers Ashley Brasfield, Lynette Chubb, Colleen Hulett, Richard Lamontagne, Erica Nadeau, Ian Redcay and Christina Sullivan.

Thanks Amy, Taralyn and the rest of the team – you are all awesome and we couldn’t do this without you.

Many thanks go out to our hosts: Evergreen and their continued, amazing partnership and use of the beautiful Koerner Gardens and Holcim Gallery, and the City of Ottawa for our use of the great Parkdale Park. And of course lots of thanks to everyone from Evergreen and Ottawa Riverkeeper who were invaluable partners at each event throughout the year.

But of course our events wouldn’t be possible without the enthusiasm and support of you - all the beer lovers, families, friends, kids and everyone else from Toronto and Ottawa who attended this year. Seeing so many people come out to the Brewery Market and Brewer’s Backyard was truly wonderful, and we dearly hope that you enjoyed yourself this year. And best of all – we’re happy to say that we’re coming back in 2014! So follow us on Twitter and keep an eye out for more details as we confirm our schedule. Thanks again and we’ll see you again next year!


Join us at the Brewery Market on Sunday

After an awesome final Brewer’s Backyard of the year this past Monday, we wrap up our Brewery Market series in Ottawa for the year on Sunday, October 20th.

This year the Brewery Market was a huge success, tripling our events from last year. Across all three events we welcomed all breweries from the Ottawa area, along with some special guest out-of-town brewers, and some of the city’s finest restaurants.

Our final event of the year will also be the biggest one of the year, with eight breweries attending: local brewers Clocktower, Kichesippi, Mill Street, HogsBack and Ashton; newcomer up the Ottawa River Whitewater, and out-of-towners Barley Days and Flying Monkeys. There’s going to be some delicious treats served as always so you won’t want to miss these beers.

On the food front, we’re thrilled to welcome back the duo of Murray Street and Absinthe Cafe, who will once again be serving a collaboration burger – something that was a delicious highlight from whomever was at our last Brewery Market.

Once again, we’ll be at Parkdale Park in Hintonburg – and we’ll have more space in the park to accommodate our larger brewery lineup, so there will still be lots of space for everyone. Admission is free, we’re all-ages, and run from 12-8pm on Sunday, October 20th, rain or shine. And we made a fresh batch of branded mason jars so there’s lots for everyone this time around!

So come out and celebrate the great brewing and food scene in the Ottawa area, and the awesome Brewery Market events we’ve been fortunate to be able to host this year. We hope to see you on Sunday!


Join us at the Brewer’s Backyard on Monday

8068446139_9b1b439302_bOur final Brewer’s Backyard of the year is coming up on Thanksgiving Monday, October 14th and promises to be another good one as usual.  Entitled “Torontoberfest“, this is our take on Oktoberfest, featuring beers of the season, along with some great complementary food.

We’re happy to welcome Beau’s back to our Torontoberfest, bringing a mini-version of their own Oktoberfest to town.  If it’s anything like last year, they’ll have a number of their special Oktoberfest beers, and maybe some green hats as well.  We’re also thrilled to have Black Oak in the mix as well, with their Oktoberfest seasonal and a few other goodies too. And on the food front, we’re having back in local sausage restaurant WVRST, grilling up some delicious sausages along with fresh duck fat frites.

The Brewer’s Backyard is an all-ages event and runs from 12-4pm on Monday, October 14th at the Koerner Gardens and Holcim Gallery areas of the Evergreen Brick Works.  Admission is free, and you can buy food and drink at the event.  We go rain or shine (Holcim is covered) and our proceeds go to help the great initiatives of Evergreen.  We hope to see you there!


Win Tickets to Mill Street Oktoberfest

65-emdOur friends at Mill Street Brewery are having a number of special Oktoberfest-themed events at their Beer Hall, and we’ve got a contest to give away two free tickets to their Oktoberfest Party on October 17th!

The Oktoberfest Party on the 17th at the Beer Hall will feature beers from Mill Street, along with nine other Ontario craft brewers including Beau’s, Great Lakes, Wellington, Lake of Bays, Muskoka, Flying Monkeys, Cameron’s and Nickel Brook.  The party runs from 6pm – 2am and tickets cost $39.95 a piece – but you could win two!  All you have to do is follow us on Twitter and tweet to @bartowel telling us your favourite Mill Street brew, along with the hashtag #OKTcontest.  On October 16th we’ll randomly draw a winner and you’ll receive two tickets compliments of Mill Street.

You can buy tickets to the event, along with learn more about Mill Street’s Brewmaster’s Dinner on October 16th and Oktoberfest menu on the 18th and 19th at the Mill Street Oktoberfest website.  Good luck in the contest and we’ll see you at the Beer Hall during Oktoberfest!


Cask Days 2013

Cask Days 2013 Poster

Canada’s Largest Annual Cask-Conditioned Craft Beer Festival Returns for its 9th Year

Evergreen Brickworks October 19th – October 20th, 2013.

Cask Days has evolved into one of the most coveted craft beer events in North America. Along with featuring over 200 cask-conditioned ales from over 100 Canadian microbreweries, highlighted this year at Evergreen Brickworks will be 36 beers from the United Kingdom, the International Brewery Feature… the roots of “real ale”

As a major contributor to the Ontario craft beer community, the family behind Toronto mainstay barVolo, have taken Cask Days and elevated the beer drinking experience, spearheading one of the largest festivals of its kind. Cask Days 2013 will host over 4000 people over 2 days. From beer introduction & education to promoting a community-focused beer drinking lifestyle, Cask Days offers premium one-of-a-kind brews alongside a standout line-up of beer-focused workshops, art, music, food pairings and one-on-ones with brewers on site.

Buy Tickets  //  Cask Days Website  //  Follow On Twitter  //  Facebook Page  //  Promo Video


Toronto Beer Week Back on Tap Tonight

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 11.19.00 AMToronto Beer Week, a week-long celebration of craft beer in the city, kicks off its fourth edition tonight with a preview event at the Premium Beer Experience at the Berkeley Church on Queen Street East.

The Bar Towel is a proud partner of Toronto Beer Week, having been involved with the event since its inception.  Toronto Beer Week has grown to include dozens of breweries, bars and importers from Toronto and beyond, with a dizzying array of beer events across the city.

If you’re a serious craft beer fan, or just starting to try out new brews, there will be an event for you.  Please take a look at the extensive Event Calendar to see what’s happening around town during the week.

The Bar Towel is also hosting a few events throughout the week – on Sunday we are having a special Brewer’s Backyard at the Brick Works entitled Septembière, exclusively with Quebec beer.  On Wednesday we are handing out the hardware from the 11th annual Golden Tap Awards at beerbistro, with an all-Ontario craft beer festival. We have also helped out Tallboys with a new event entitled the CANpionship.  And yours truly is a judge for Beer Academy’s Beer Cocktail Competition on Monday night.

There’s lots to experience, drink, taste and enjoy during Toronto Beer Week. Don’t miss it!