Tag Archives: craft beer

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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Best beers to convert wine lovers

There are a lot of oenophiles out there — and it’s sometimes tough to convince them that beer can be just as complex and sip-able as a glass of their favourite vintage. In my experience, especially, a lot of those drinkers are women who got wasted off six-packs of Labatt Maximum Ice in high school and have since sworn off beer for life.

OK, so I don’t have any pictures of wine. Instead I’ll show the sophisticated side of beer-dom, food pairings! Here’s one from a Hacker Pschorr dinner at Toronto’s Beer Bistro, I wrote about it here: http://www.thegridto.com/life/food-drink/five-things-we-learned-at-the-celebrate-women-in-beer-dinner/

That’s frustrating because the world of beer is as wild and wonderfully diverse as that of wine (I swear)! So to help convert wine-lovers into beer-swilling diehards I decided to recommend six very different craft beers to a series of wine styles for the August issue of ELLE magazine.

But then I realized I knew very little about wine, so I asked my curling buddy, and talented sommelier, David Black, who runs the Italian Wine Academy, to help me match some of my favourite Canadian craft beers to certain wine styles.

And the most sophisticated beer event on the Toronto scene, the annual Brewer’s Plate, my take on that is here: http://www.thegridto.com/life/food-drink/five-things-we-learned-at-the-brewer%E2%80%99s-plate/

I chose Paddock Wood’s Czech Mate Pilsner from Saskatoon, Montreal’s St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, Propeller’s Extra Special Bitter out of Halifax, Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale from Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Red Racer India Pale Ale from Vancouver’s Central City and Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue in Quebec. To see which wine styles we matched to each of these brews, click on the pdf of the story.

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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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Thirsty & Miserable: Toronto’s newest beer bar

Opening up her own beer bar has been Katie Whittaker’s dream for years — and this week, in Kensington Market, the longtime bartender lit the tealights along the wood bar at Thirsty & Miserable on 197 Baldwin.

But dreams, once realized, aren’t always what they seem — not only does Whittaker, the sole proprietor, and for now at least, the only employee, get to chat to friendly patrons about all things beer — she also has to fend off loud drunks who haven’t quite figured out that this new bar isn’t the same as the old Cuban spot that used to serve up cheap bottles of Bud.


When I was there, a 6″4 50-something man lumbered over to the bar, towering over tiny Whittaker and demanded a beer.

“OK, what kind would you like?” she asks.


“OK, but what kind?”

“What’s cheapest?”

“Um.. well tap beers are about $6,” she replies

“OK. That.”

… Anyway you get the picture.

Whittaker handled it well, serving him an IPA in the hopes that it’s bitter punch would turn him off and persuade him to leave. The plan didn’t quite work out. He drank it like water, and then wandered to the back of the bar to socialize with some hipsters.

The whole thing doesn’t sound that scary — it’s regular stuff for bartenders and owners I suppose — but as a mere patron, it freaked me out to think of Whittaker behind the bar on a lonely night with a much more menacing drunk or two on her hands. I told her as much, and she agreed, but then pointed to a baseball bat she keeps beside the well-stocked bottle fridge. It’s hard to imagine her actually wielding the bat — it’s twice as thick as her arm.

But from the looks of a recent post on the bar’s facebook page, the native Cornwallian’s is keeping the  onslaught of rowdy patrons in line, at least somewhat:

Thirsty And Miserable: Sometimes you have to kick people out of your bar for harassing the ladies, and sometimes someone will bust your toilet flusher, and sometimes the blind guy and the weird slut with braces will drum on your bar screaming Deicide songs (even after you politely ask them to shut up) and then practically fuck in front of a full bar of people, and sometimes the kid from Bangladesh will drop his passport and steal her leather jacket, and sometimes the annoying guy will order pint after pint of Mad Tom without tipping but it’s alright when it happens in the company of friends.

But she does plan to hire more staff once things pick up, and the mix of her simple philosophy: serve good beer and her frugal nature means the bar is sure to be a hit with craft beer junkies on a budget. So basically every university student and artsy hipster in town.

The bar is charmingly divey — dark red walls lit by tealights, a few black and white photographs, a simple pared-down bar and lots of good, cheap bar — eight rotating taps and a double-door bottle fridge that Whittaker is adding to so fast she’s already scrawling new beers on the printed menu of over 30 bottles. Just in, eight bottles of Beau’s Coffee Dopplebock, a rarity from its Wild Oats series, which shows Whittaker is winning over beer reps quickly.

The biggest dive component is the aroma of the neatly kept but seriously fishy basement washrooms thanks to the fishmonger’s next door. That part is not so nice.

As for food, Whittaker hates bars that make you do things like eat and pay for it, so she offers four simple dishes, tucked in her freezer, at prices that will ensure patrons never order the stuff:


Mmm. Yummy, but I think I’ll stick to the Blue Cap Chimay.

Verdict: A tiny Kensington watering hole patronized by a crowd as eclectic as the ‘hood. The iconic Belgian imports and Canadian crafts on tap will satisfy most micro-beer palettes, and Whittaker knows her suds. Plus hot makeouts on the bar are allowed — makes me hanker for the POF-filled single days of old.


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Beer and barbecue pairings

Jason Rees, Pork Ninjas

A couple of weeks back, The Grid had to cut my Hopped Up column, well, pretty brutally. I was writing about how to pair beer with barbecue, so I spoke to two men that love both things deeply: Ryan Donovan, the butcher at Marben, and Jason Rees, pitmaster of barbecue team, Pork Ninjas.

Sadly Rees was cut from the story (I’m sorry Jason!), he spends a lot of time smoking meat, and drinking craft beer, and I wanted to share his expertise here. I also gave both Donovan and Rees the challenge of pairing beers you can buy or drink in Toronto with their favourite BBQ — and I asked them to comment on one another’s suggestions — most of these were cut too.

So I’m pasting the entire article here for your barbecue-and-beer-pairing pleasure:

Ryan Donovan has the ultimate man cave: a brand-new walk-in keg fridge, its walls lined with barrels of craft brews like Muskoka, Beau’s and F&M. And in the centre, hanging from the ceiling, there’s usually one huge cut of meat or another—loin, ribs, flank. King West restaurant Marben (488 Wellington Street West) is known for its monthly pig roasts conducted under resident butcher Donovan’s watch, and he says the merger is fitting—any carnivore knows that ale and barbecue is a natural pairing.

Donovan, who ran the Healthy Butcher and worked at Cowbell before moving to Marben, learned what beers to match with barbecue from practice, and by talking to the brewers who supply his restaurant.

Donovan reccomends Muskoka’s Mad Tom IPA to cut through the rich, pink meat of a roasted pig. For lighter fare, like grilled fish or chicken, Donovan likes Muskoka’s Weissbier for its sweet banana character, or Duggan’s zingy, No. 5 Sorachi Lager. “When it’s hot outside it’s tough to drink a lot of beer,” he says, “so a lighter, effervescent lager is best.”

Some beers are better than others to drink with barbecue. And while there are some rules of thumb: go for brews that compliment, contrast or cut your food; a sweet taste should be paired with even sweeter beers, tart with tart — brewers, butchers and beer nerds don’t always play by them.

Jason Rees, for example, never serves lager with barbecue. The pitmaster for Pork Ninjas, a Toronto-based competitive barbecue team, Rees spends upwards of 16 hours over a cooker. And that’s when he relies on lager. “I love my double IPAs and imperial stouts but if I was to drink those for 12 to 16 hours, my palate would be completely polluted, and I wouldn’t be able to tell if my spicing was correct.” His go to? Anything by Muskoka, preferably in a can, or Yuengling Lager, which he picks up at Walmart in the States.

Like Donovan, Rees likes the IPA’s ability to cut through sweet, rich barbecue. But he also likes the complimentary pairing of a sweeter brown ale, like Neustadt 10W40, with spicy ribs smothered in brown sugar. What to serve to your Coors Light loving Dad? Try Black Oak Pale Ale, says Rees, “it doesn’t offend anyone.”

At your next dinner party, Rees advises, choosing six kinds of Ontario beer, giving everyone a small glass, and trying different beers throughout the meal, starting with lightest and moving to the heavier, more alcoholic beers.

“Beer is so much easier to pair with barbecue than wine, because when you serve the real spicy stuff, some wines can taste like vinegar. But even a poor beer pairing is still going to be drinkable,” he says.

Jason Rees’s beer and barbecue pairings, Ryan Donovan weighs in

Denison’s Weissbier with burger with goat cheese
Donovan: “I would pair this as well, but only if I could have two beers.”

Sweet and tangy baby back pork ribs with Muskoka Cream Ale
Donovan: “Mmmmmm tangy”

Smoked sausages with Kozliks German Style mustard with Church Key Holy Smoke Scotch Ale
Donovan: “Church Key is one of my favourite breweries, great choice.”

 Jerk Chicken with Muskoka Mad Tom IPA
Donovan: “British + India + Jamaica = Bracebridge.  A classic pairing.”

Grilled chocolate pound cake with scoop of chocolate ice cream & hot cherry sauce with Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout
Donovan: “I’ll bring the beer if you take care of cooking this.”

 Rib-eye steak rubbed with coffee, salt and pepper with Muskoka Dark Ale or Wellington County Dark Ale
Donovan: “Wellington County Dark is one the best beers I’ve ever had.”

Orange marmalade glazed duck breast cooked over Basques Charcoal, (made from sugar maple) with Lindemans Cuvee Rene Gueuze
Donovan: “Orange?????Duck Breast???????? can I have a beer now?”

Note: Most of these recipes are Rees’s and are on his website at BBQBlog.ca

Ryan Donovan’s Beer & Barbecue Pairings, Jason Rees weighs in

Muskoka Mad Tom IPA with Patio Pig Roast
Rees:I absolutely love the Muskoka IPA, but I think it lends itself better to spicy food, and a whole hog has a lot of different delicate flavours. I’d rather see that paired with a pilsner.”

Muskoka Dark with fermented Thuringer
Rees: “The marjoram spice in this sausage would be very tasty with the Muskoka Dark Ale.”

Anchor Steam with BBQ Brisket from West Side Beef
Rees: “I think I would enjoy Anchor Steam with a brisket, but I usually pair it with raw oysters.”

Creemore with anything BBQ’d outside at The New Farm
Rees: “My theory that you need something easy drinking while bbq’ing seems evident from his pick of Creemore. I’ve done the same thing when I can’t find cans of Muskoka, I enjoy Creemore’s Kellerbeir more than their lager.”

Tsing Tao with #76 at Pho Phuong
Rees:I can barely get my nose into a Tsing Tao beer, so it must stay in the bottle and be served extra, extra cold so I can barely smell it. It’s just another large batch adjunct beer that I wouldn’t normally consume… but I will admit to consuming it as a last resort beer on many occasions in the many amazing Asian restaurants in the city.”

Beau’s Lug Tread Ale with a porchetta roast from The Healthy Butcher
Rees: “I have not tried the Healthy Butcher’s porchetta as I make my own, and mine has lots and lots of fennel seeds in it, is cooked over apple wood, and injected with apple juice brine. It would marry well with the Beau’s Lug Tread, but I have a serious love of pork and apple, so I usually drink my porchetta with Wapoos Cider from the County Cider Company.

Rogue Dead Guy IPA with Pulled Pork
Rees: “The Dead Guy IPA is a very well-balanced beer, and I’ve enjoyed it with pulled pork on several occasions.”

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