Posts in Feature

Vote for the 2018 Golden Tap Awards

August 22nd, 2018 Posted by Feature, Golden Tap Awards No Comment yet

The Golden Tap Awards, Ontario’s most democratic beer awards event, is back for 2018.

From now until September 6th, 2018 you can vote for this year’s awards, which recognizes your favourite beers, breweries, bars and more. The Golden Tap Awards have been recognizing the best in beer in Ontario since 2003.

The Golden Tap Awards will be announced on September 13th, 2018 during Toronto Beer Week alongside the Ontario Brewing Awards. More details will be announced about the gala festivities.

In the meantime, time to vote!

Enjoying some Liquid Art with Ryan Morrow

July 5th, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet

In this episode of Bar Towel Radio we have a chat with Ryan Morrow, the award-winning head brewer of both Collective Arts Brewing and Nickel Brook Brewing. We share a beer at Collective Arts’ recent Liquid Arts Fest, the new festival in Hamilton which featured a remarkable slate of beers from around the world. We chat about how Ryan got into the brewing world, the background of the relationship between Collective Arts and Nickel Brook and being a head brewer for two breweries, and the burgeoning beer scene in Hamilton.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:

Red Thread Brewing Co.

Making a Connection with Red Thread

June 10th, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet

In this episode of Bar Towel Radio, recorded at our recent Collingwood Brewer’s Backyard, we have a chat with longtime friend Carl Milroy, founder and partner of the Red Thread Brewing Co. We share a beer and discuss how Red Thread came to be, and what it’s like to launch in Ontario without a bricks and mortar brewery.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:

Wheat Beers and More with Michael Hancock

June 9th, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet

In this episode of Bar Towel Radio we have a beer and a chat with an good long-time friend of The Bar Towel, Michael Hancock. Michael was the brewer and owner at the legendary Denison’s Brewing Company in Toronto, and has been for the past number of years the founding brewer and currently beer ambassador at Side Launch Brewing Company in Collingwood. We had our chat at the Brewer’s Backyard in Collingwood about Michael’s history in beer, some stories about Denison’s, his role currently at Side Launch and the beer scene in Collingwood.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:

Pete Brown and Cass Enright

Having a Pint with Pete Brown

May 8th, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet

Earlier in the year I was fortunate to have a beer and record this special podcast with famed beer writer Pete Brown. Pete and I met at the Camden Town Brewery in London, England and had a great chat about his background in marketing and beer, his latest book Miracle Brew, the Beer and Cider Marketing Awards, the craft beer scene in the U.K. and how it differs from North America, what’s in store for the future, and more.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:

Drink like it’s 1870 with Amsterdam and Gary Gillman’s AK

May 2nd, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet

In this episode of Bar Towel Radio we have a chat with beer historian Gary Gillman and brewer Cody Noland about Amsterdam’s 1870 AK Bitter, a special collaboration beer between Gary and Amsterdam that was a recreation of an historical recipe from nearly 150 years ago. Chatting at the Amsterdam Brewery taproom, we chat about how the beer came out, what it was like to brew in those days, and how technology played a key role in the beer’s development.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:


Legendary Microbrewery Upper Canada Returns with Repatriation

March 28th, 2018 Posted by Bar Towel Radio, Feature No Comment yet
Cass, Oliver & Steve

Cass Enright, Oliver Dawson & Steve Himel

We’re thrilled to take a walk down beer memory lane with our newest episode of Bar Towel Radio. This special episode was recorded live at the launch of Upper Canada Repatriation, a recreation of the original Rebellion Lager by the famed Upper Canada Brewing Company, brought back by Henderson Brewing of Toronto in partnership with Sleeman Breweries. We chat with Steve Himel, General Manager of Henderson and Oliver Dawson, former head of marketing at Upper Canada (and now of the Beer Lover’s Tour Co.) about how the brand originally came to be, what it was like to create “craft” beer brands in the 1980s and 1990s, and how the beer returned in 2018.

This episode was recorded live on March 23rd, 2018 at the launch party at Henderson’s brewery taproom. Special thanks to Oliver and Steve for participating in this episode.

Give a listen to this episode of Bar Towel Radio below or on iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher:

Golden Tap Awards 2017 Announced

September 21st, 2017 Posted by Beer Events, Feature, Golden Tap Awards No Comment yet

Yesterday at a gala event at beerbistro, the 2017 Golden Tap Awards were announced. The Golden Tap Awards are Ontario’s most democratic beer awards event, with all winners determined by public vote. The winners were as follows:

  • Best brewery: Beau’s All Natural
  • Best bar for draught beer selection: Bar Hop
  • Best bar for bottled and/or canned beer selection: Birreria Volo
  • Best brewpub or tied house: Bellwoods Brewery
  • Best regularly-produced craft beer: Beau’s Lug Tread
  • Best seasonal, limited release or specialty craft beer: Great Lakes Octopus Wants to Fight!
  • Best craft cidery: West Avenue
  • Best Beer Design and Branding: Collective Arts
  • Most Innovative Brewery: Bellwoods Brewery
  • Best Newcomer (Bar): Arabella Park
  • Best Newcomer (Brewery): Merit Brewing
  • Best Event: Cask Days
  • Best Staff: Beau’s All Natural
  • Best Beer Writer: Ben Johnson
  • Brewmaster’s Choice: Tooth and Nail Vim and Vigor
  • Best Beer of the Festival: 555 Brewing Footprint
  • Editor’s Circle Award: Ontario Beverage Network
  • Editor’s Circle Award: Half Hours on Earth
  • Editor’s Circle Award: Craft Beer Passport
  • Editor’s Circle Award: Funkfest

Congratulations to all the winners!

The Barrel Beer Festival That Rules Them All

September 18th, 2017 Posted by Feature, On The Road Reports No Comment yet

Barrel-aging beer is a bit of a mystical science – there’s something alluring about putting beer into a barrel and let the wood infusion generate a result. One never quite knows what the flavour is going to be like when a beer is put into a barrel, which is all part of the charm of this brewing art. In recent years, the popularity of barrel-aged beers has exploded. Whether it is bourbon barrels, whisky barrels, gin barrels, tequila barrels or wine barrels – if there’s a barrel that contained some kind of alcohol there will be a brewery that’ll put beer into it.

FoBaB at the UIC Forum

The main hall of FoBaB at the UIC Forum in Chicago.

Barrel-aging beer has been happening in Ontario for a number of years now (Ken Woods from Black Oak was the first to barrel in Ontario way back in 2005), but in recent years its popularity has taken off, with many established and new breweries having regular “barrel programs” featuring numerous barrel-aged beer releases throughout the year. Events such as Volo’s Cask Days, Sawdust City’s Funkfest and other festivals have celebrated local barrel-aged beers, and there’s even dedicated barrel brewery projects emerging, with Halcyon Barrel House within Beau’s and Amsterdam opening up a ‘Barrelhouse’ this fall.

But for those who are truly barrel-aged beer fanatics, there is an event that towers above the rest. The Festival of Wood & Barrel-Aged Beer, commonly known as “FoBAB”, held annually in Chicago is a pioneer in celebrating barrel-aged beer. 2016 marked its 14th annual event (it was started in 2003 by Pete Crowley of Haymarket), making it one of, if not the oldest, festival of its kind in the world.

If you thought barrel-aged beer was just bourbon barrel stouts, think again. FoBAB brings together just about every beer style imaginable aged within just about every kind of barrel available. It’s a marriage of style and barrel that is staggering in its scope – there were over 400 beers and ciders available at the 2016 festival representing 25 different states in the U.S.A.

FoBaB Barrel Wall

Just try and make a dent in this lineup.

Consider the types of wood and alcohol barrels used to age beer at last year’s festival: Oak (American, French), Cedar, Palo Santo, Hickory, Sassafras, Rum, Whiskey (Bourbon, Scotch, Rye), Wine (Red, White, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cab Sauv, Pinot), Brandy, Apple Brandy, Gin, Port, Cognac, Fernet, Absinthe, Tequila, Sherry and Calvados. Things have certainly come a long way from the early days of barrel aging in a used whiskey barrel.

Paired with the barrels of course the liquid that goes into them, and at FoBAB there’s a staggering diversity of styles, much more than the traditional stout. At FoBAB different styles are grouped into major categories including: Classic Beer, Barleywine/Wheatwine, Strong Porter/Stout, Specialty Strong Porter/Stout, Strong Pale Beer, Strong Dark Beer, Fruit Beer, Specialty/Experimental, Wild Beer/Brett, Wild Beer (Acidic) Sours, Wild Beer (Acidic) Sours with Fruit and Cider/Perry/Mead. And within those categories you can find just about every kind of sub-style imaginable. No longer are barrels used simply for a narrow set of styles – all beer can be barreled nowadays, often with delicious results.

As the popularity of barrel-aged beers has grown, so has FoBAB. It is held at the UIC Forum, a large auditorium hall on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, southwest of the Loop. The event is held over the course of a weekend, with an evening session on Friday and two sessions on Saturday. Tickets are always in high demand, but with the move a couple of years ago to the UIC Forum, they are generally easy to get on the first day of sales. Tickets for two of the three weekend sessions are still available for this year’s edition, taking place on November 10th and 11th, here.

DSC05907 copy

The “Food Program” at FoBaB.

The festival is a well-organized one, and is most certainly beer-focused, which is refreshing. You will not find a food truck program at FoBAB, nor any kind of entertainment. The experience here is barrel-aged beer, plain and simple. One is here to drink beer, not get distracted by other things.  And with so many kinds of beers available, it is good to stay focused on the task at hand. It is great to have a festival where it is “all-in” on its mission and fully delivers on the goal. Sometimes I feel like festivals try to be too many things, and in the case of FoBAB, the thing they want to be they do extremely well.

The majority of the festival takes place in the main hall of the UIC Forum, with large banks of beer serving tables running up and down the space. Beer styles are colour coded and beers are numbered, making it fairly easy to find the beer you’re looking for. A nice addition to last year’s festival was the addition of a massive poster listing all the beers available, which helped to not have to fumble around with the program guide. Beers are served in a small glass, but with the strength of many of the beers and the variety available, small samples are appropriate for general enjoyment and selection.

Sometimes there comes a point when your taste buds just need a break from barrel and wood flavours. Luckily FoBAB has a solve for that too, a “beer break station” in partnership with Chicago’s Revolution Brewing, where a number of their main lineup of beers (all non-barrelled) are available. A nice touch to get an IPA palate cleanser.

DSC05879 copy

Many a beer lover’s dream is fulfilled with pitchers of BCBS.

One of the more interesting aspects of FoBAB is the presence of Goose Island. They always have a significant presence at the festival, and with the timing of the event being a couple of weeks before Black Friday (their annual release of Bourbon County Brand Stout), it acts as a preview for what’s to come. And Goose goes all out for FoBAB. At the event they were constantly tapping different beers over the course of the sessions, tweeting out each new beer – making their beer lineup ever changing. Whereas most breweries may only have a couple of beers, Goose brings a huge slate from their Bourbon County and Sour Sisters lineups. Around the craft beer world, there’s always some grousing and hand-wringing with Goose Island due to its ownership by Anheuser Busch. However, in Chicago the love is strong – the lineup for Goose Island was by far the longest of anything else, wrapping around the perimeter of the auditorium.

A further unique aspect of FoBAB is it is also a competition where awards are given out across the style categories. Due to that, they do not release the lineup of beers in advance – the general public only finds out when they walk in the venue and receive their program. It adds an element of mystery to the event itself, with online speculation common in advance to discuss what might be pouring. But breweries bring their “A” game in an effort to win – so drinkers are always guaranteed great brews.

This is my favourite festival of the calendar, and it has been since my first visit back in 2013. With such a great beer scene in Chicago it doesn’t take much to spark a visit, but FoBAB certainly makes a weekend in the city extra special. It you want to take your barrel beer game to the next level, you would not be disappointed in this.