Category Archives: thrifty

Interview with Kjetil Jikiun, brewmaster at Nogne O, Norway

I caught up with Kjetil at a tasting of eight of Nogne O’s beers at the Beer Bistro in Toronto on April 29, 2013.

He talks about how to succeed as a global craft beer brand, Norway’s evolving beer terroir, his brewing philosophies of “diversity” and how he draws the line between following a pure beer style and experimenting with new recipes and ideas in the brew house.

The most exciting thing I learned is that Kjetil is spending a couple of days collaborating on a beer with husband and wife team, Vlado and Liliania Pavicic who own the boutique beer and spirits import Roland & Russell and have quietly launched their own contract brewery, Bush Pilot.

The beer? An eisbock which will be aged in some rare and fancy barrels… no big deal. But we’ll have to wait at least seven months to taste it.


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May 1, 2013 · 8:05 am

10th Anniversary Utopias on sale at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, here’s the lowdown


Hopefully my Grid blog post on the full tasting of Utopias and the ever-awesome Jim Koch will go up before the bottles sell out tomorrow morning, but my editors seem to have gone AWOL, (or they’re in a meeting) so just in case it doesn’t here’s what you need to know to get your hands on a bottle of the 10th Anniversary edition of Utopias, (but you’ll have to beat my quick dialing fingers):

400 bottles go on sale via LCBO hotline 1-800-668-5226 or (416) 365-5900 at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. They’re expected to sell out within hours, max. It’s $114.95 for a 710 ml bottle.

While each vintage is a unique blend, this year’s 1oth anniversary vintage doesn’t have any huge differences from last year’s except that it comes in a special bottle and this year’s edition was aged in Nicaraguan rum barrels, (as well as Tawny and Ruby Red Port, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels). I have tasted it, and confirmed that it is divine.

Oh! And here’s me and Jim, you know, hanging out.


And here’s some info pasted straight from the press release:

About the 10th Anniversary Samuel Adams Utopias Batch:

The 2012 Samuel Adams Utopias brew weighs in a bit above 29 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) – Samuel Adams Boston Lager® is five percent ABV by comparison – and was aged in hand-selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery to enhance the beer’s distinct vanilla and maple notes. The 10th Anniversary batch also spent time in a variety of finishing casks: Tawny Port casks and Vintage Ruby Port casks from Portugal, which contribute slightly more elegant, dark fruit aromas, and Rum barrels from Nicaragua, which add flavors of fig, chocolate, raisin, vanilla, and a slight spice. Using traditional Samuel Adams’ brewing techniques, the brewers begin with a blend of malts that impart a rich, ruby-black color. The distinct hop character comes from the finest Noble hops which impart its unique complexity and balance. Finally, a combination of yeast strains is used during fermentation, including one usually reserved for champagne.

What Founder and Brewer, Jim Koch, has to say:

“With this year’s 10th Anniversary release, we’re sharing the result of complex and carefully timed brewing and aging techniques. In fact, this year’s brew is a blend of batches including some of our original Triple Bock, whose development began in 1992, and then aged in other barrels sourced from all over the world.  This release of Samuel Adams Utopias is proof – 58 proof to be exact – that extreme beers have earned a permanent and respected place in the beer universe, a world now constantly evolving with new craft brewers and excited craft beer drinkers. I hope drinkers in Canada will enjoy savoring Samuel Adams Utopias as much as I enjoyed crafting this beer over the past 10 years.”

The brewers make fewer than 15,000 bottles of this limited-edition beer due to the long aging required.  Samuel Adams Utopias is bottled in a specially designed 10th Anniversary black decanter. Shaped like a brew kettle, the exterior is etched with roots, a metaphor for the 20+ years of complex history and aging of the liquids that make up Samuel Adams Utopias. This limited distribution brew is available in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba beginning in March.

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Craft beer in Santiago

Kissing the six-pack after an arduous trek out the Rothhammer brewery

Kissing the six-pack after an arduous trek out the Rothhammer brewery

This June, after five weeks of hiking, rail, and trekking through the jungles and mountains of Peru, I was ready for some R&R. For our “honeymoon” budget that equated to a decent apartment in wintery Santiago, which was in the midst of a depressing, grey period. I was done with museums, couldn’t afford spas, and was nearly tired of eating out every day.

I actually missed my couch. My king-sized bed. I hated to admit it as I was the one who insisted on going away for five weeks on honeymoon. I was shocked to find that the nomadic 25-year-old me had disappeared, and in its place a newly-married Mrs. Middle-Class Traveller had appeared. She was happy to pay more to have three stellar, pampered weeks away rather than slum it in hostels and jungle huts to stretch her trip out to cover another chapter in the Lonely Planet.

But still, seven long days stretched ahead of me in Santiago before I could go home to a Toronto bursting with summer goodness.

So what to do?

I decided to visit breweries. My husband acted as my photographer and we packed in four brewery visits in three days getting a good handle on Santiago’s growing microbrewery scene. It was a honeymoon highlight (OK, Machu Picchu was pretty good too), and those tipsy scribbles turned into my first feature for enRoute.

I hope you enjoy the story — I’ve posted over 100 photos (most taken by my able husband) from the brewery visits on my Flickr page.




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What variety of pumpkin is best for beer?

Pumpkin Beer Canada

I wrote a story for today’s Globe and Mail on our growing obsession with pumpkin beer in Canada. I started by talking to world-famous pumpkin grower, Danny Dill, who grows the giant pumpkin variety — Howard Dill’s Atlantic Giants — invented by his Dad, a farmer/mad scientist, in the ’70s. Dill Jr. also grows 50 other pumpkin varieties, and he doesn’t necessarily think Giants are the way to go when it comes to making a beer.

Here’s his advice:

“Well I really personally don’t think that Atlantic Giants are as good for pies or beer-making, they’re not as flavourful. But it depends on everything else you’re going to put into it.

“I grew a variety of pumpkin this year and it should be the top pumpkin to do stuff with, I’m already starting to hear some rave reviews. It’s called Winter Luxury, it’s a little larger than a pie pumpkin size, and it’s not really orange, but a tan, buff colour with netted skin, it’s an old time variety from 1862, and just the reviews of it convinced me to grow it.

A blind pumpkin beer tasting I did for the story


I get people coming here to buy pumpkins specifically for pies…   we have a dessert contest every fall and it lets people put pumpkins to the test. One chef told me it was incredibly awesome to work with these pumpkins.”


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Smokey beer is on the rise in Canada, here’s what to look for, and what to pair with rauchbier

My first time with a smoked beer was one of the most memorable sips of my life.

It was a Schlenkerla Rauchbier cracked around 5 p.m. on a porch, just as we were about to barbeque. As I wrote in yesterday’s Globe and Mail story on the smoked beer trend in Canada — it was a bit like taking a bite of a double bacon and smoked-meat sandwich on rye and washing it down with a swig of cola.

And boy was it divine with barbequed German sausage.


My story listed a few great smoked brews available in Canada, but I couldn’t fit them all in — so I wanted to mention some others I discovered here:

Central City Rauchbier
This German-style rauchbier is a big, bold Bamburg-inspired version, there’s still a little of the bacon-like spring seasonal on tap at the Surrey brewpub. $6.25/pint
Central City Brewing, 13450 102nd Avenue – Suite 190, Surrey, BC

Amsterdam & Utopia Smoked Peppercorn Wit
This collaboration brew from Utopia & Amsterdam Brewery was made by curing malt and tellicherry peppercorns over Utopia’s applewood smoker, lending this easy-drinking, citrusy Belgian-style witbier added depth.

I sipped this while drafting my bracket for the Ontario Brewmaster’s Cup contest — vote for your favourite Ontario brew at

At Half Pints Brewery in Winnipeg, brewmaster David Rudge makes Smoktoberfest, a German-style rauch, made with over 90 percent smoked malt, every fall. He says this year’s batch should be available at the brewery by mid-September and at MLCC Liquor Marts in later that month. The brewery is also bringing a batch with them to Toronto in October, I would guess that’s for Cask Days.

Food Pairings with Smoked Beer

I also wrangled some food pairing tips from the brewmasters I spoke to which I couldn’t always make room for, so here is some more of their widsom:

Matthias Trum, Schlenkerla‘s 6th generation-owner

“The traditional combination is hearty Franconian food, so Bamberg-style onions, sausages, beer knuckles — all the stuff you’d get at a Hofbräuhaus. It’s also interesting to combine it with smoked cheeses, venison, smoked fish, anything that has a strong flavour, you don’t want to have a mild flavour with Schlenkerla.

“One interesting recipe I’ve heard of is like an American beer-can chicken, only people are doing it by putting Schlenkerla party kegs inside a turkey — I’m told if you put that in the smoker it’s the perfect combination.”

Stephan Ostiguy, president at Dieu du Ciel! on pairing his Charbonniere (Coalwoman) rauchbier:

“Any red meat works, and it’s interesting with strong cheeses.”

Stephane Ostiguy and I at Dieu du Ciel!’s Montreal brewpub

John Graham owner and brewmaster at Church-Key Brewing on pairing his Holy Smoke, peat-smoked Scotch Ale:

“Pairings for this beer follows same rules as for others, it’s a versatile tipple, so you can serve it with smoked ham hocks or sausages to compliment the smoke, or juxtapose it by serving it with something fishy. I have a great recipe using Holy Smoke as the liquid to cook mussels in, and crumble blue cheese or gorgonzola in there to match the bold flavours of the brew.”

Greg Nash, brewmaster and BBQ-fiend, shared his recipe for Smoked Balticus Porter-marinated barbequed pork ribs:

“I will not tell a lie — I’ve taken home a couple of growlers before and marinated some pork in it over night and served it with Balticus. I  fortified Balticus Smoked Porter into a marinade with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, fresh-minced ginger, garlic and chillis. I marinated the ribs in that for 24 hours and it was almost a shocker when I tasted them cooked the next day, because the smoked Balticus notes were so intense. But once I had a sip of the porter, it all came together. A 24-hour marinade made it super-Balticy, for those who don’t want as intense a flavour, 10 to 12 hours should do.”

David Rudge at Half Pints Brewing, Winnipeg, says:

“In my experience, there is a huge range of smoked beers in the world and there is a huge range of bbq.  Saying that smoked beer goes well with bbq is like saying white wine goes well with fish – a completely nonsensical observation when one takes into account the vast array and availability of both (good and bad).

“I’ve really enjoyed the standard Shlenkerla Rauchbier with a mole poblano before.

“There was a lovely Gratzer (oak smoked Polish Wheat Beer) we had at last year’s national homebrewing competition that would have paired beautifully with the white poplar smoked kielbasa from the Ukrainian Co-Op in Regina.

“I find our own Smoktoberfest to go very well with a simple grilled brats and sauerkraut with lots juniper berries and bacon.”


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Canadian craft beers of summer

I got married! Yeah!

Returning from a five-week honeymoon in Peru and Chile (where it’s winter!) to heat-wave happy Toronto in July was a culture shock, in a very good way.

My first bike ride across town along Queen from the east to Bellwoods Brewery in the west was all tan lines, bikini tops, packed patios and people — lots and lots of people — even some that I know! I waved to my sister as she did her “booty camp” in the park, and then saw Mirella Amato walking her bike across Spadina and Dundas. When Canada’s biggest city begins to feel like a small town, you’ll never want to move again.

Another bonus of returning home after so long away was a pile of mail — including a few magazines with my stories in them.

In Tidings, a Canadian wine magazine that goes out to all Opimian Society members, I wrote an article profiling four Canadian craft brewers who got into their craft by accident. They also happen to be some of the most successful brewers in the country. To read the Q&A with Ellen Bounsall of McAuslan Brewery in Quebec, Franco Corno at Howe Sound Brewery in B.C., Steve Cavan at Paddock Wood in Saskatchewan, and Daniel Girard at Garrison Brewing in Halifax, click on the pdf here: Accidental_Brewers.

I also have two stories in ELLE Canada’s August “games” issue this month (not available online, you’ll have to buy the issue). The first is a trend piece exploring the rise of game playing in pop culture (and my own love/hate struggle with board games), and the second highlights six craft beers that Canadian women should be drinking this summer.

Next, I hope to write about my adventures in Chilean craft beer. I brought home 42 bottles of the stuff and sampled many, many more (with gloves on) and now, with my Beer Club I plan to see how it translates here at home. Ah, back to work.

Craft Beer In Chile, Santiago

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Spring Beer

Wet grass, new buds on trees, the return of bees and birdlife to the city all signal one thing to me — the return zingy, grassy spring beers.


A sampler of Olde Stone Brewing Company's four regular brews and their seasonal — a Cascadian IPA, in Peterborough.

This year’s LCBO haul of 15 spring beers is impressive, the buzz among the beer nerds is that it’s the best LCBO release in memory. I have to agree. I wrote about six of my favourites for my Hopped Up column in The Grid last week. In fact, I love Microbrasserie Charlevoix’s Sainte-Reserve Lupulus so much I’m serving it instead of champagne for the toast at my upcoming wedding this May.

Being a beer writer, I’m obviously into serving the stuff at my wedding — we’re pairing an Ontario beer with every course, and I’m thinking of having the cake designed to match a sour beer I like, instead of the other way around. Booze first, food later. I figured I wasn’t the only bride thinking this way, so I dug deeper into the craft beer wedding trend and came up with tons of stories from beer-loving couples — I’ll post a link here when it’s published.

I should also explain my lack of blogging — I’m designing a new website and blog that will be devoted to beer writing and drinking, so my attention’s been diverted over the last few months. Hoping to launch it within a month or so.


I’ve also made a pilgrimage to Buffalo with my beer club to drink at the Blue Monk, shop for American brews and watch one of our members take on the Buffalo Bandits (Go Colorado Mammoth!)


And I’ve been eating and drinking my way through nearby Port Credit, Kleinburg and Peterborough (great beer city!) for an upcoming Toronto Life guide called Neighbourhoods.

Barley's Angels Toronto Chapter

A real highlight was meeting a bunch of female beer enthusiasts, experts and bloggers at the Toronto chapter of Barley’s Angels last Sunday — we drank two litres of imported beer from McClelland Premium Imports, paired with traditional fare from the kitchen of The Town Crier.


Affligem Dubbel, my favourite beer of the night at the Barleys Angels beer pairing dinner with Guy McClelland

Tonight I’m off to The Mugshot Tavern in the Junction for a talk by a local hops grower and researcher, organized by one of my beer club dudes.  And I’m thinking ahead to Thursday when I’ll hit up Bar Volo’s total tap takeover by Beau’s Brewery and drink some of the beers that brewmaster Matt O’Hara recommends, including the gimmicky Peanut Butter Stout — I’m a sucker for a gimmicky beer that actually tastes delicious — and there’s only one way to find out.

If there are this many spring beer events, I’m a little terrified of summer.

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