Friday, 6 April 2018

Steam Whistle splits their cards


The site of many a wild and fun party in Toronto is the Steam
Whistle Roundhouse. It seems that Steam Whistle is opening
a second brewery in Etobicoke at a building they've held for
several years now and have been using as a distribution centre.
In the game of Blackjack, splitting your cards simply means you have the chance to places two bets on different cards. If you are dealt a pair of tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings or Aces, splitting them gives you the opportunity to play the house with two separate hands and wagers, which could potentially be profitable.

If you are dealt a pair of fives or sixes and you split those, Las Vegas will probably pay you to come visit.

And for months now, Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto has been looking to split their cards. The brewery that does "one thing really, really well" is about to add a second one to their arsenal.

Well, not exactly but kind of. You see, this is a little complicated. I have known about bits and pieces of this for months, which means a lot of other people far more important than me (so, basically everyone) must have also known. But I was asked to hold off writing anything by a nice fellow at the new brewery, who promised me free beer and a cool tour at Grand Opening. So I happily agreed. But that does beg the question: How does everyone in the Ontario Craft Beer Industry know the promise of a single free beer is my Achilles Heel?? Am I that transparent? And also... please, don't answer that.

Well, yesterday, the cat was out of the bag as dailyhive.com reported it, which was followed up in a story by Ontario Beverage Network, which linked to the Daily Hive story
This is my Steam Whistle Sales Rep, Craig, and his super-cool Dodge
Charger Steam Whistle ride. Hearing months and months of whispers,
I finally pinned him down at my Beer Store and basically said, "Okay,
what the hell are you guys up to?" He and a few others offered some
nuggets and yesterday's report certainly pads a lot more information.
So now I can tell you most of what I know... but not all.

Several years ago, Steam Whistle got a property in Etobicoke, which it has been using for distribution. I knew this because my Steam Whistle driver, Vince (aka Ginger Jesus), found himself working out of that location. I knew it was in the Evans Avenue-Horner Avenue area of the city so I asked him once, "How close are you to Black Oak (Brewing)?"

"Close enough that I could hit them with a stone," nodded Vince, adding with a smile, "But let them know I've never done that. Or have never even tried."
The Von Bugle Brewery in Etobicoke
will operate as a second and separate
facility, despite the fact it is very much
operated by Steam Whistle. However,
like Steam Whistle, they will make just
one beer. Probably "really really well."

The actual address is 249 Evans Avenue, which puts them just around the corner from Black Oak on Horner Avenue but yes, still a stone's throw away. And to be honest, I have no idea if Steam Whistle owns or lease-rents the building. I assume they own it but you know that old saying about assumptions. "If you assume, you're just a big asshole!" That's the saying, right? It's something like that, anyway.

But many months ago, employees (more than just our Ginger Jesus) heard noise that some of the brewing equipment was going to be moving into the Etobicoke digs from the Steam Whistle's Roundhouse location, which I should mention is right across the street from the SkyDome, home of "Your Toronto Blue Jays!" That's damn convenient. And also never call it the Roger's Centre in front of me. Because I will also maim a man for a free beer. But to paraphrase Vince, "Please note I never have done that and I also have never tried. Also, the influence of several beers convinces me that I have Karate skills. And I do not. So really, this is more about my safety than anyone else's."

So it's been months and months of "What are they doing over there?" for me. Fortunately, I am not the obsessive type because I can be easily distracted by a beer. And the Internet. Also any TV show or movie with super-heroes in it. Random squirrels. Finally, my Steam Whistle sales rep, Craig, popped in - a man I hadn't seen in 1,000 years, give or take 999. So I asked him... what the bloody hell are ye doin', mate?
Okay, this has nothing to so with Steam
Whistle but rather their neighbours at
Black Oak. When they rebranded a few
months ago, I noticed initials carved into
the Oak tree on their Pale Ale. So I asked
their people who they belonged to. They
confirmed yes, it was owner Ken Woods'
parents. I asked Ken, "What were their
names? We think it's John and Mary."
His response? "Yes, pretty close." That
elusive fox! Turns out it was a tree from
his childhood house. So it's a cool story.

Craig's actually of French background and yet, my question makes him sound like I think he's Scottish. But a few beers in me and I also think I'm Scotty on Star Trek, the only bastard on the show to wear a red shirt and live. So really, I have many delusional qualities.

This is now going back a few months now but Craig confirmed they were opening a second brewery, very separate from Steam Whistle but like the original, they were only brewing one beer. He knew the name of the new brewery but wouldn't tell me because it wasn't finalized.

As confirmed by the Daily Hive story, it's Von Bugle Brewing. So that combines two very popular things - the Von Trapp family from The Sound of Music, which is the only family-friendly musical movie I know about escaping Nazis through the virtue of song. And Bugles, the only snack food you spent more time sticking on the end of your fingers than actually eating. Because they taste like crap.

What else did Craig tell me? The style of beer they would be brewing. But I can't tell you that - just in case Craig actually does know Karate. Then I'm screwed. But I think I can safely tell you this. It won't be another Czech-style Pilsner. Why? Because then they'd have to change Steam Whistle's motto to "We do one thing really really well" to "We do one thing so damn well that we decided to do it again but under a different name." As stated by that Daily Hive story, which I'll link to at the end, it's a darker style. But I'll leave it to the Von Bugle gang to tell you whether it's an ale, lager or even something else. Also, there's still going to be enough brewing equipment at the Roundhouse to fill kegs but bottles and cans of Steam Whistle Pilsner are going to be coming out Etobicoke very soon.
Meet my favourite all-time Steam Whistle Brewing employee who
is an unpaid volunteer. "Paul From Shipping". He's Vince's very
beloved Bull Terrior who travels the countryside in Vince's cab.
He's got himself a little bed set-up in there and all the cool toys. 
Same great taste, though, I have been assured because it's the same tanks.

And the now-free, exceptionally large space that's suddenly opened up at the Roundhouse due to the vacating tanks? Well, here's an interesting little tidbid.

It turns out that tons of Toronto people (and even outside-of-Toronto people because we exist, as well) rent their present open banquet area for wedding receptions and other official-type non-wedding-related events. Indeed, I have attended a wedding reception there myself. In fact, because it was an early evening wedding, the groom's party and some guests had spent the afternoon at a Jays' game, drinking. As such, they were slightly (or very much) trashed when it was time for the official stuff. The groom skipped the ball game to clean up some last minute details and was in considerably better shape. However, when I greeted him, he smelled like he had just arrived from a Kid Rock concert, if you catch my drift.

But back to the vacant space at the Roundhouse. According to Craig, the brewery makes a lovely little side-pile of dough, renting out those very facilities, especially for wedding receptions. Makes sense. It's a historic building, hugely picturesque and, well, just a fun and relaxed environment. Now they may have twice as much space to rent out for those shenanigans, according to Craig. So structural changes are coming to the Roundhouse, too. And that's what I know. Except for the beer style, which I ain't sayin'. But Scooby Doo Gang, this is a short column so thank your lucky stars. Oh yeah, that Daily Hive link is here and it's called, ummm: I called you "Daily Hive" link. As for me, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...



















"My favourite definition of craft is that...in industrial brewing, the marketing department tells the brewing department what to brew. In craft brewing, the brewers tell the marketing department what to sell,"

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Collective tour and the #keep5alive drive

Tony now continues his trade at Collective Arts
Brewing in Hamilton, a mere 10-minute drive
from his home. Talking to both him and his wife,
Charis, neither misses the rush-hour commute.
Oh... and that's her hand holding him upright.
On March 23rd, I got a text from Tony Cox saying, "Wish David a Happy Birthday for me." Now I have known Tony since I started this little column in 2013 and became a regular customer at Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington where he was their cellar-man. And David, well, that's my boy.

You see, way back on March 23, 2014, I went into Nickel Brook with David to get a couple of growlers filled with Headstock IPA, which is - and forever will be - one of my favourite IPAs. When Tony came out from the back into retail, I introduced him to my son and explained this was a "big day" as it was his birthday. "Oh, well, then," said Tony to David, "Since it's your birthday, would you like a tour?" David enthusiastically agreed and soon we were in the back where Tony showed him all the shiny equipment. My boy was an instant fan of the big silver canning machine because it was big... silver... and a machine. Boys are ridiculously easy to please. Be big. Be shiny.

Now there's a birthday tie between Tony and myself. My birthday, February 14th, is the same as his father's, who passed in 1988. So, I dunno, maybe it's kinda nice for him to have someone to wish Happy Birthday to on Valentine's Day again. And Tony shares his birthday, May 2nd, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. So my birthday texts (when I remember) tend to be of the "Can you SMELL... what the COX... is COOKING?" variety.
The sexy-ass building, Collective Arts Brewing, is now Tony's
new digs. When he gave me the tour a couple of weeks back,
I asked, "So what do you do here?" His answer: "Whatever
they need me to do." So he jumps around from station to
station here. And he's pretty damn happy to do exactly that.

But every year since that little tour, Tony texts me on March 23rd with birthday greetings to pass along to David. There's no family connection or person or celebrity he knows with the same birthday. So how then does he remember David's birthday?

He just does. Every year. I have no idea how he remembers but I think it's pretty cool he does. I mean, he's not even using a Facebook reminder, without which I'd be seriously screwed because I wouldn't know anyone's birthday ever. Most days I'm happy to simply remember people's names, much less their birthday.

But that's Tony. He's a better person than me (which, in all honesty, just makes him part of a pretty huge club.)

Anyway, moving along, Tony recently shifted from Nickel Brook to Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton. He now has a 10 minute commute to work, which is pretty sweet. And a while back, he asked what day I was off. He wanted to give me the tour of his new digs.
On my birthday - which was a big one - I decided I would pose by
the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign but I took five brewery
shirts with me. In the end, I decided Collective Arts would get the
Las Vegas Sign honours. This is me getting easily five inches of air. I
know, that's impressive, right? An amazing vertical leap like that?
Turns out my son isn't the only one to whom that appeals. Bigly.

As an added bonus, Tony was going to show me their new canning machine. They already have one, obviously, I say, looking at my can of Ransack The Universe IPA. But a new one? Big! Shiny! Silver! That hits all of the check-marks on my list.

And I did see the new canning machine. Kinda, sorta. It was in three separate pieces on industrial-size skids. Covered with tarp. A brush with Kryptonite earlier in the day had left my X-Ray Vision on the fritz. However, I feel certain I can still describe it accurately with a 99.9% success rate. It's big! It's silver! It's shiny! But truth to tell, the trip into Hamilton was a chance to reconnect with Tony and check the insides of the brewery again more than anything else. When he told me he applied there and a week later, I got a phone call from him at my work, I answered my cell phone by saying simply, "This better be you telling me that you got the job at Collective Arts!" (Far Too Late Spoiler Alert: He did.)

After our tour, we were joined by his wife, Charis. Now Charis and I also share some comradery. You see, she collects those cool cat bottles from a German winery and I work at a Beer Store, where those bottles are brought to after consumption of said-Riesling wine. For some reason, they only seem to come out around Christmas. That said, it takes some people a while to clean out their garage. So they dribble our way throughout the year.
Why would I even go to Collective Arts Brewing
without my growler? That's where they keep all the
fresh Ransack The Universe Hemispheric IPA! I may
be foolish about many things but brewery-fresh beer?
Yeah, that's not gonna happen. One of my favourites.
My coworkers have always been instructed to set those aside, should they come back. From there, they are given to Tony, who, in turn, presents them to a very appreciative Charis. He gets the Husband Points. I get a hug when I see her. It's a win-win thing.

So I was joking with her how much Tony hated when I posted a Nickel Brook staff picture of him and captioned it in this space as "Ontario's Sexiest Cellarman." He really hated the photo (hey, I didn't take it!) so of course, I used it several times with the "sexy cellarman" tag because that's what guys do to their buddies. As she laughed, she showed me her phone. Tony's handle in his wife's phone? "A Sexy Cellarman" The poor guy. Even if he escapes me, he can't escape her. But that's the end of the Tony and Charis part, which brings me to Part Two of my Collective Arts Story. Because there's always a Part Two with these guys. (Nah, I'll get back to Tony in a bit.)

It was two days before Good Friday. Young co-worker Jordon and myself were doing our groove thang at the Beer Store. Now here's the thing. Because Easter Weekend is the first real long weekend of the year, a lot of very unfamilar faces do come in.
Hamilton artist David Buist does the COOLEST
illustrations for craft beers in his free time. This is
one of my favourites: his cartoon for Ransack The
Universe Hemispheric IPA by Collective Arts. While
he normally draws for childrens' books or comics,
when he crosses into the adult world, things get fun.
Because, you see, it doesn't matter if you're 25, 35, 45 or even 55 years old, everyone wants those wine, liquor and beer bottles out of the garage or basement before Mom and Dad show up for Easter Dinner. You know, the ones that have building up since Christmas? And you know why? Well, does anyone really want their parents knowing how much booze they plow through? Hell, no! Parents can and will always find reasons to lecture you. You don't hand them the bullets to put into the gun that will kill you with their "concern."

So we get a lot of newbies in the Beer Store at Easter, which is good. It's nice when your place of employment does a brisk business. But part-way through the night, Jordon looked at me and said, "It's weird tonight. It's like some of these people have never been into a Beer Store before." Well, yeah, that's because they haven't. Or at least haven't since last Easter. That means you do get a lot of questions like "I don't remember the name but it has a red or maybe green or perhaps blue label. Is there a beer with a purple label? Which beer is that?" I'm used to it because I have been dealing with it for so long. And also, if I had to find a specific wine at the LCBO but didn't have all the info, man, I'd be just as lost. I know beer. That's it. Wine and liquor? Nope. And as anyone in retail or the service industry, such as restaurants, can tell you, sometimes all you can just smile, be very patient and try your damned best.
One little picture posted on Twitter... so much Twitter chatter. Somehow,
posting a picture of two excellent IPAs - Sawdust City's Lone Pine and
Collective Arts' Ransack The Universe - turned into a side-discussion of
putting Collective Project's IPA No. 5 (New England Style Double IPA)
into the brewery's regular rotation. Will it happen? Well, we don't know,
do we? All we can do is ask. Or beg. Plead. Seriously, whatever it takes...
Sometimes with enough clues, you can help. But just like baseball, there's bound to be a few missed swings along the way. Suffice it to say, it was something of a tough shift. That said, Jordon and I survived it just fine. Still, I'll tell you one thing for free, I was ready for a beer - or two - when I got home.

And that's precisely what I did. I posted a picture on Twitter of a Collective Arts' Ransack The Universe IPA and a Sawdust City Brewing's Lone Pine IPA side-by-side and said words to the effect of, "Rough day. Don't know which of these I'm starting with but they'll both be in my stomach soon enough so it doesn't really matter."
Here this poor beer was... minding its own business when
suddenly it because the centre of a Twitter shit-storm but in a
good way. Long story short: the public is demanding that it
become a full-time release from Collective Arts. I mean, they
can say "no" but we have pitch-forks and torches and the like.
(For the record, Ransack was the first batter, having won the Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo IPA Divisional Playoff. It caught the tiger by the toe, so to speak.)

But within seconds, someone jumped onto the post, noting that he wished Collective Arts' Radio The Mothership Imperial IPA was more readily available. That, in turn, was responded to by my young Nickel Brook homie, Charles - their inside sales dude who calls me once a week to see how much Headstock IPA needs to be replaced at my Beer Store because I've purchased about 87% of our stock. Charles noted: "I agree with you but have you had their IPA No. 5? That needs to be a full-time beer, Collective Arts."

And then it began. I very quietly and subtly responded, "Yes, Collective Arts, (co-owner) Matt Johnston and (media maven) Toni Shelton, just in case you didn't hear Charles, I'll speak loudly. PLEASE MAKE COLLECTIVE PROJECT NEW ENGLAND STYLE DOUBLE IPA No. 5 A REGULAR RELEASE. (Quieter now.) We'd be every so grateful. Thank you in advance."
When Tony took me on the Collective Arts' tour,
I saw this very huge stack of bourbon barrels,
complete with a "Do Not Touch" sign. So, of
course, I touched one as I was walking by. I'm
sorry but wood is not the boss of me. So pushy.
(Okay, for me, that actually is subtle.)

Having been tagged (and on Twitter, thus called out), Toni came onto the thread and noted, "Guys, Matt needs to be told a few times (he's getting to that age *winky face*) so maybe if we keep talking about it, he will listen. I HEAR YOU."

So Craft Beer Diaries (@CraftBeersBlog) helpfully suggested, "Can we put a sign around his neck that rings a bell anytime someone speaks of making IPA No. 5 an all-year beer?"

Responded Toni, "That would certainly make my days at the office more entertaining!" Well, yes, not only that but she'd also hear the boss coming from about 50 feet away. That's handy.

Twitter buddy Graeme (@needmycaffeine) concurred, noting, "Agree 100%. Getting low on my stock. Oh, by the way, it's at the top of my most purchased beers of 2018. It's leading the pack by a dozen."

And finally, S.O.Beer Boys (@SOBeerBoys) finished off by adding, "Four votes from us for more IPA No. 5" but added the clever #keep5alive hashtag. I like that. Gotta have a flashy hashtag. Also there's the fact I bought the last four cans in existence at the brewery.
With NHL playoffs slated to start next Wednesday,
Tony Cox gave me a specialty Toronto Maple Leafs
loonie that he's "had in my pocket for a few months
now." It is now in MY pocket where I hope it will
actually be a good luck charm for our boys in blue.
If I was capable of feeling guilt, I possibly would.

So, lessee, I'm on board with IPA No. 5 becoming permanent. As is Charles. As is Graeme. As is Craft Beer Diaries. As is S.O.Beer Boys. As is Toni Shelton herself.

Who does that leave? (Everyone's heads turn to stare at Matt Johnston.) Ahem, Matt, #keep5alive.

Okay, gang, that's it for today but I've got one coming up about which craft beers turned my macro-drinking brother's head when he flew recently in from Spain. Also I have some killer stuff from Ottawa's Dominion City Brewing, mailed to me from my Nepean Beer Store Brother Ben. And have we inadvertently stumbled across the new release from Muskoka Brewing that will actually cause this stupid freakin' Winter to finally end? We all hope so.

But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...



Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Mystery is a-brewin' at Cameron's...

My old Toronto buddy, Foggy (who was christened Craig but nobody
ever calls him that), his ladyfriend Denise and I check out the band
during Cameron's 20th Anniversary Bash last September. Remember
when it was still warm enough for shorts? Winter, go away... please!!
So what's new at my hometown homeys, Cameron's Brewing?

Well, that's the thing. We don't know exactly. Except that we do know something big besides actual (and exceptional) craft beer brewing is going on. But details are a little hard to come by at the moment.

It all started when I zipped down the hill to the brewery to pick up some beer and a glass for my Beer Store Brother Ben, who toils at the Nepean Beer Store, just outside of Ottawa.

Someone on Twitter had posted a picture of Cameron's Dark & Sticky India Brown Ale and we were all heaping praise upon it because it's - what's that word again? - oh yeah, fantastic! Brewmaster Jason Britton hit a bases-loaded dinger with this one.
Yes, the sign is there but the Cameron's Beer
Store is missing in action. Well, physically, it's
still there but it's a hollowed out shell of its
former self, just two empty rooms at this exact
moment. What will it be rebuilt into? That's
the question on this Beer Geek's curious mind.

But suddenly, Ben comes on and says he hasn't had it and would very much like to. The problem? Dark & Sticky was only available in Cameron's Brewmaster Taster Selection Four-Pack (long gone now as it was released last Autumn) or individually at Cameron's Retail. Being as Ben is located 485 kilometres (301 miles) away, it's a bit of a hike for a single beer. If only he knew someone just, say, a two-minute drive away from Cameron's? Oh wait, he does. That would be me. The dude just up the hill from them. The above-identified Beer Geek.

So I told him to PM his address and I'd send a good, old-fashioned Cameron's Care Package. Ben quickly sent me his geographical info and here's where our story begins. I walked up to the Retail and saw... nothing. An empty locked room with an empty office beside it. On the door was a sign reading, "Ring the bell. Enter through side entrance." Because I am, at times, able to follow instruction (that shrieking laughter you just heard is two ex-wives and a handful of ex-girlfriends), I walked through the side entrance. (See, ladies? See?)

That put me in the brewing portion of the brewery - a mystery-shrouded cave-like expanse within the building only seen by street strangers like myself thousands of times at their many Cask Nights, parties, Bar Mitzvah's and Dean Martin Comedy Roasts.
In the Cameron's Retail, this is what is affectionately called "The Donny
Vegas Six-Pack." (Don't ask them. They'll pretend they don't know what
you're talking about. It's a little game we play.) It's three of those tasty
Dark & Sticky India Brown Ales and three of those equally-tasty 12 Mile
India Pale Lagers. I tell you, these guys keep me coming back for more!

There was a make-shift retail counter and their familiar beer cooler adjacent to it. A nice lady came over to help me. So I bought Ben's beer and a brewery glass but then started in with the questions. Starting with "What the hell is going on here?" Turns out, they're doing a little remodeling up front. She noted she didn't have all the details but she knew they were putting their Growler Station up there, redoing their retail area and perhaps even putting in some seats. So finally, a tasting, drinking section, I asked? Well, she wasn't sure. "I guess we'll find out as it's going on," she smiled.
While I got Beer Store Brother Ben three Dark & Sticky
IBA's and two 12 Mile India Pale Lagers, I threw one of
their Black Forest Dark Lagers into the Beer Mail, as well.
Pretty sure my man Ben was happy with the stash but hey,
Cameron's fresh from the brewery in the mail? Ka-ching!

It was kind of weird because I had been there just a week earlier and everything was as it always was. A little jarring to see my hometown homeys torn asunder. But... a new drinking section? Hey, man, I got time for dat. So I dug a little deeper with a friend there. They confirmed that yeah, the growler station info was correct, there would be more fridge space and there would be some seating, though it sounds limited. However, they added, "It will be more for by-the-glass, not a destination set-up." But they added they didn't think it was going to be a tasting room before your purchase. Ultimately, it doesn't matter because I'm two minutes away. I buy my beer, go home and drink it in the safety and security of the Man Cave.

So what do we know from the clues thus far? Not a destination set-up. A by-the-glass place, quite possibly. But not a tasting room. Confused? I know I am. Well, yeah, I always am but about this specifically, I mean. Even my befuddled friend was clear on the partial secrecy. "They aren't sharing all of the details."
Is it possible the Captain's Log Lager was named after Cameron's CEO
and co-owner, Bill Coleman, the thumbs-up dude here, after his time as
a pirate? Or that the Ambear Red Ale is named after that time he went
one-on-one with a brown bear and won? Or that the rebranded Cosmic
Cream Ale is actually a nod to his time as a NASA astronaut? Well, I
suppose it is possible in that "anything is possible" way. We don't know.

So you know what? Maybe I should just wait like the rest of the public and be surprised when the brewery has finally finished its new interior design, right?

Wrong. To put it into 14-year-old girl parlance, "O-M-G!! This is Cameron's. I love them because they're my hometown brewery. Until I know, I can't even..."

So I gave it another shot. With my brother in town, pile-driving into my craft-laden beer fridge, I was in dire need of a Donny Vegas 12-Pack, which consists of six 12 Miles India Pale Lager (a beer I will be heaping praise upon in an upcoming lager column) and six of their Dark & Sticky India Brown Ale. So down the hill I scooted to the brewery to see if I could find out anything else from a lost, wandering and potentially-chatty worker within the brewery. Now this visit, the "Ring Bell" portion of the sign had been covered up so I followed the remainder of the posted instructions and simply walked in the side-door.
I am standing where an administrative office used to be to take
this photo of the hollowed-out retail area. Once the renovations
are done, a growler stand will be set up where I am standing,
the beer fridge and other brewery products will be on the left
and on the right - yes! - a few chairs for people to enjoy a beer!
(That bell/buzzer was really loud so I suspect one day, an annoyed worker probably covered that portion of the sign. I know I would've.)

Here comes the weird part. Turns out that bell-buzzer thing actually serves a purpose. Because I stood alone at the retail counter for a little bit. Finally, I asked a passing worker if someone was working retail. He was very apologetic.

(Truth to tell, I was there less than two minutes and took the opportunity to wander into the ripped-up retail and make-shift retail to snap off a couple of photos. Was I suppose to wander freely like that? Probably not but hey, when Judgement Day comes, we can just add this to an exceptionally long list of my many misdeeds.)

So the worker walked to the front door, opened it and, yup, pressed the buzzer. A man emerged from a nearby hallway, ready to happily serve me. But hey, here I was, face-to-face with another employee so what the hell, I figured, let's see if he could fill in a few of the blanks.
This makeshift retail area within the actual brewery is actually a
combination of their former growler pouring station and the beer
fridge and products that previously adorned the retail area. Soon,
this'll all be shifted upfront to their brand spankin' new retail area.

And he did, which was actually him giving me confirmation of some of the bits and pieces I had been told so far. The east end of the retail where an administrative office once stood is where they are setting up the growler station. Prior to this, the station was always in the brewery so you handed the jug to them, they disappeared and then reappeared with a filled growler. The beer fridge and related products, such as T-Shirts and glasses, will be on the south wall while on the north wall, right beside the window where the retail counter previously stood? Yes, a small, probably three or four-seat window ledge table "where you can enjoy a beer before you buy some."

Because outside contractors, such as painters and electricians, are involved in the project, he confessed it was a little bit behind schedule. But he optimistically suggested it would be ready in three weeks so about halfway through April.
If you missed the Cameron's Brewmaster Taster Selection Four-Pack,
you missed a doozy. President and co-owner Bill Coleman handed this
bad boy to me when I had wandered in on the first day that the Dark &
Sticky India Brown Ale was available in individual cans. With the Black
Forest Dark Lager, Dark & Sticky and Ambear Red Ale, this lastest
mixed pack was, to my mind, the best and definitely darkest one yet. 
The poor fellow must not have dealt with many contractors in the past so I'm calling it mid-May. Since my neighbours have an extension being put on their house that was guaranteed to be done "well before Christmas" and I continue to see workers tracking mud in and out of their place, I perhaps have a little less faith in estimated timelines.

However, the contractors' portion of what needs to be done isn't extensive from his description so fingers crossed that I will happily be sitting in a brand new retail area by April 14th or so. I'm out of town in Las Vegas from April 9 to 13th and if their new retail was all sexy, sassy and set up when I got back... well, talk about a reason to be very happy I dragged my tired ass home.

Anyways, that's it for today. I'll be back soon with a look at Ontario's best craft lagers, a peek into the inner-working of Collective Arts with my old pal, Tony Cox and even a look at some of the big beers I had during my Birthday Week in Sin City. But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here. Until next time, I remain...











Tuesday, 20 March 2018

When a picture's worth 1,000 words...

My son, David, has what I call the "Batman Angle" down in this pic
which he hoped would find its way into Daddy's Beer Blog. Well, call
me a sucker or a sentimental fool but of course, I'm gonna use this!!!
It's Daddy's proudest moment when his son takes his first beer pic.
The strangest thing happened a couple of weekends back. I had driven my son, David, to London, the city where his Mom and I traditionally do what I like to call the "prisoner exchange." She lives in Sarnia, I live in Oakville so we split the difference when shuttling my boy between his two distant homes.

Later that evening, after he went back to his Mom's, I got a text from her. This sometimes can be bad news, though usually of the "David ate a whole container of ice cream and is now puking" variety. Or perhaps "David has a weird rash on his ass. Any ideas?" And then there's my all-time favourite phone call from her when he was in Grade 4 - "Your son pulled the fire alarm at school!!!" When I couldn't stop laughing, she added to the gravity of the situation by explaining, "This is serious! The fire trucks showed up and everything!" This, of course, put me quite literally on the floor, howling with more laughter, almost unable to breathe.
While David has never taken a beer picture for this blog, he
has been in many pics as he often accompanies Dad to the
best craft breweries. Here he is at Barnstormer Brewing in
Barrie with our favourite dude and soldier Brother Hago!!
.
Once you become parent, you get a keen awareness that Mommies and Daddies don't always have the same senses of humour when it comes to a child's shenanigans. But these are things parents deal with all the time. You simply adjust accordingly. Turns out it's not funny when your child pees on Mommy's shoes, even if they're those butt-ugly purple and black pumps. Just as Moms learn it's also not funny when he takes the scissors to your old high school football jersey (no matter how many times Mom has tried to throw it away.) And if you do find it funny, well, take your laughter elsewhere.

Anyway, back to the text from his Mom. It was two beer pictures of a Belgian Moon wheat in a Guinness glass as you see above. One was kind of from a distance and not as sharp but the other? There it is right up top there. A really great beer picture! It has the tilted Batman angle, favoured by two of the best craft beer photographers around, Drunk Polkaroo and Beer Brother Hago. It came with the message, "Don, David got you two pics for the beer blog."
Last Father's Day, David presented me
with this Toronto Maple Leafs sweater.
Upon learning I would be in Las Vegas,
watching our Leafs on New Years Eve,
he asked if I was wearing his gift to the
game. Well, of course I would, I told him.
It was a great gift so I was thrilled to put
that wool sweater on come game time!
I instantly texted back, "Did David really take these?" Well, she replied, not only did he take them, he also wrote the attached text, pretending to be her.

I know how my boy's mind works. He didn't want to say, "Here, Daddy, please put this in your beer blog" so he pretended it was Mom doing the asking. He thinks it makes a better and stronger case for blog inclusion if it's coming from Mom. That said, he's taken dozens of photos that have appeared here. He's very handy with my digital camera but as my iced-tea drinking boy, he's never taken an actual beer photo on a cell phone because he's never actually had a beer. In fact, the Belgian Moon was being drunk by Mom's boyfriend and David just decided to go into Beer Picture Taking Mode on the spur of the moment.

So I threw the photo up on Facebook, explained it was David's first-ever beer photo and basically said: What do you guys think? Because it's Facebook and David is very much loved by my friends on there, the response was, as expected, overwhelmingly positive. Hago was first on deck, suggesting the picture was worthy of a blog of its own. After that, dozens more weighed in, praising it through the roof. But when Yellowbelly Brewing's (St. John's, Newfoundland) very own Brewmaster Liam Mckenna simply replied, "Brilliant," I knew, well, this was a certified award-winner.

I also put it on Twitter reluctantly because, well, it can be way crankier than Facebook so I prefaced it with "Please no nasty comments about the beer or the glass" and went on to explain it was my son's first beer photo.
This is Shehan De Silva, founder of Lost Craft Beer, in a picture used by
Bay Street Bull for an online story. You see, the financial website follows
"money people" such as Shehan, who worked for a handful of years with
the Royal Bank of Scotland before ditching it all to start a brewery. Now
I personally think that's pretty noble but hang on as we are about to tell
the story of how his gin-joint, Lost Craft Beers, got started back in 2016.
Because Belgian Moon is brewed by a Canadian macro, Molson's and Guinness is far too large to be a craft brewery, I was nervous there might be a few nasty shots across the bow from the many craft beer drinkers on my followers' list. David's not on Twitter but I wasn't prepared to read negative stuff about this photo. But knowing it was my kid, everyone was both cool and awesome. In fact, I ran a poll with very pointed answers, asking should I run this picture in my blog? So 15% answered "Use it in your beer blog." Then 20% clicked on "Why are you even asking?" A solid 25% hit the "Seriously good pic! Use it!" option while an overwhelming 40% opted for "Don't be a dick! Use it!" 

I knew putting the word "dick" in an answer would make it, by far, the favourite. But that's the story of how David got a beer picture in here.
I got my high school friend, Sandy, to hold up my Lost
Craft Revivale Lagered Ale at St Louis Wings here in
Oakville and suggested she was stealing it. The joke
here is that even in high school, Sandy despised beer.
.
And unlike many of my long-winded openings, at least this one has something to do with beer.

Which brings us to the beer portion of this little horse-and-pony show. It seems I've been drinking an inordinately high amount of Kolsch (lagered ales) lately. Not my first style choice when I'm purchasing but it seems to be one favoured by local restaurants. I'm not at all surprised as the style is long considered to be a strong crossover between macro and micro.

First, it was at The Keg, which has always served up a big-time favourite of mine, Collective Arts Brewing's (Hamilton) Ransack The Universe IPA. But my beloved Ransack is no longer there. Fearing the worst when I scanned their beer menu, I was happy to see that Beau's All Natural Brewing's (Vankleek Hills, Ontario) Lug Tread Lagered Ale was added. So when long-time best bud, Dave and I went to The Keg for my belated birthday dinner, I was happily piling back the Province's premier Kolsch with my prime rib dinner. You know what beer goes well with medium-rare prime rib? Any damn craft beer they have! At that point, it's "mainly because of the meat." Dave, who's old like me, will get that reference.
Here's a marketing fact for us.  Shehan De Silva believes their products'
minimalist design makes his three beers stand out more prominently at
the LCBO. He may be onto something. Sometimes less is, indeed, more.
Quick question: Do vegans even know about prime rib because, frankly, I think that might be a deal-breaker!

But there's been another Kolsch in my life lately. You see, my high school buddy, Danny, has played two recent music gigs at St Louis Wings in Oakville and the only craft beer they have in stock is Lost Craft Beer's Revivale Lagered Ale. 

Now, after extensive trips to Europe, notably Germany, Lost Craft founder Shehan De Silva decided their flagship beer when he was kicking things off a few years back should probably be a Kolsch.
In what is now a time-honoured tradition (so it's happened twice), Sandi,
right, the organizer of so many White Oaks reunions, pours a beer for
our musician Danny, left, while Dave the photographer snaps a pic. But
Sandi was pouring Danny a craft beer - the Lost Craft Revivale Lagered
Ale at my suggestion. Danny drinks any beer but he really loved this one.
In my mind, that's a smart choice. You want your first beer to be accessible to beer drinkers at large.

Initially contract-brewed out of Etobicoke's Cool Brewing, De Silva later shifted in 2016 to Common Good Beer Company in Scarborough, which, under the watchful eye of Brewmaster Jamie Mistry, contract brews a large number of small Ontario craft breweries' fare. Don't get me wrong - I like to see craft breweries as bricks-and-mortar facilities unto themselves but even breweries as big as Collective Arts began as contract brewers in Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington. You gotta start somewhere. And if the beer is really good, well, we're less concerned about an actual structure.

So is the Revivale Lagered Ale any good? Oh hell to the yeah, for its style, it's top notch.
During its brief beer existence, Sextant Craft
Brewery put out the Why So Sirius? Pale Ale,
a beer later purchased by Lost Craft Beer and
remarketed as Sirius Premium Pale Ale. Brand
new can but the same great taste and still made
at Common Good Brewing out in Scarborough.
After all, at the 2017 Ontario Brewing Awards, it took gold for the Best Lagered Ale.

As with most lagered ales, it's got a somewhat grassy, grainy nose but there's a light fruit that comes through on the tongue as you're drinking this 4.8%, 19 IBU (international bitterness units) beer that makes it, well, a dandy, little bar beer that's a solid step-and-a-half above the macros on tap.

But you know, it's not always my beer opinion that counts. So when my man, Danny, pulled the plumb St Paddy's Day gig at St Louis Wings, there was a bunch of us there. And one was Sandi, the lovely lady who organizes our White Oaks Secondary School reunions every Summer. She had made the trek in from Woodstock for the gig. But while Danny was playing, she said, "I have to buy him a beer. What do you suggest?" So I handed her my empty can of Revivale and said to get one of those. So she did. When Danny was finished his set, I asked him what he thought of it. "That's a really good beer!" he responded. So there we go. Another man on the path to good craft beer. I'm bringing them over, one musician at a time.

But Lost Craft has two more beers (one with an odd but interesting twist) to look at here so let's start with their Crimzen Premium Red Ale because any time I get a good red ale in my hands, I am the happiest of campers (despite the fact I only camp in comfy hotels because... indoor toilets, bears and stuff.) Whenever I see Crimzen at the LCBO, I always grab a couple of cans because I like having a nice British-style red in my fridge and frankly, a smooth red ale is a great starter beer. This is exactly that. Pouring a nice amber-red (that's a glass of Crimzen in the above picture), this 4.7% charmer is all apple on the nose with some light caramel and spice on the tongue. As a good red should be, it's quite refreshing. Call me a fan.

The third and last beer in the Lost Craft stable is an interesting story in itself.
You may wonder why my buddy, Danny, as well as the
Leafs-Habs game behind him is in perfect focus while I
am but a blur on cowbell. That's just how speedy I am.
Like The Flash, it's hard to get a focused picture of me.
I'm just that fast. And oh yes, the Leafs blanked the
Habs that night 4-0 so it sucks to be a Habs fan now!
In the shared Common Good brewing facility was another small contract brewery called Sextent Craft Brewery which made one beer - the Why So Sirius? American Style Pale Ale. So in February 2017, Lost Craft ended up purchasing Sextent for an undisclosed amount and added a third beer to their ranks - the now renamed Sirius Premium Pale Ale. I find that all very interesting because I have never heard of a contract brewery buying out another contract brewery. As far as I can tell, the beer did not change one lick during the transition - it's still an evenly-balanced mix of malts and hops with no emphasis of one over the other.

Which is precisely what De Silva wanted when he made the purchase. In a release at that time, he noted, "The transaction adds a refreshing American-style Pale Ale that is complimentary to Lost Craft's core year-round product portfolio. Sextant's flagship beer, Why So Sirius? is well-balanced and sessionable, consistent with Lost Craft's brewing philosophy." And, indeed, that is precisely what you get with Sirius. It's a reasonable 4.9%, roughly 35 IBU ale that pours golden with some nice citrus on the nose and light pine on the tongue. So exactly as it was under Sextant. A solid west coast pale ale.
A huge shout-out to this lady, Megan, the manager of the St Louis
Wings outlet in Oakville. She invited Danny to be the entertainment
on St Paddy's Day and man, did we have some good old Irish fun on
that, the most sacred of all Irish traditions. Plus she keeps that tasty
Lost Craft Revivale Lagered Ale icy cold for me when I get there..
.

So there you have it. A column that started with a boy Finding Craft in his photos and a brewery called Lost Craft to finish this up. That's what I call full circle.

Okay, coming up are a few big reads. A lot of us who used to drink macros lagers, such as myself, Beer Bro Glenn and Drunk Polkaroo don't pay too much attention to the style anymore. Is that because there is no solid craft lagers out there, my friends? Oh no no no. I went on a very deliberate hunt and found a few beauties for us to enjoy.

My pal, Tony Cox, recently made the shift from Nickel Brook Brewing in Burlington to Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, a mere 10-minute drive from his Hammer home. So he invited me over to his new digs and gave me the, ahem, "nickel tour." Some big stuff coming out of his new turf.

And while I am returning to Las Vegas on April 9th because I am so goddamn sick of this Winter That Will Not Leave, there's still the matter of the many tasty beverages I had while I was down there for my birthday week in February. So we'll have to investigate what really stood out and how Nevada stacks up in the craft beer sweepstakes! And, of course, where you find the best craft brewski's in Sin City. But Scooby Doo gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here for today. Until next time, I remain as always...








Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Cowbell Caper...

I tell you, it doesn't matter whether it's the biggest concert of the year or
a gig at a bar, my friend Dave, right, always scores front row seats. It's
like he has these magical connections or something. Here, he has our
high school buddy, Danny, practically playing the guitar just for him!!
This is the story of how the St Louis Wings restaurant in Oakville got the cowbell it so desperately needed. Not that they knew it at the time, mind you. Some things you just discover as life ambles along around you.

It all starts with my high school buddy, Danny, who does solo gigs with his guitar all over Ontario. Well, the west of Toronto area anyway. He's played his gigs in places as prestigious as Port Credit and Streetsville, often referred to the Caribbean of the North. Now, he's finally cracked the elusive Oakville market, which is clearly akin to the Mayan Riviera in these northern parts.
This latest gig came when he was at the restaurant one night and saw another musician on the upper level. So he tracked down the manager, Megan, and said, "Hey I do that, too, if you're interested..."
The chalkboard at the front of St. Louis Wings
said it all on February 23rd. Yes, Dan Ford was
coming and yes, those little musical notes let you
know this guy's a musician and perhaps a felon.
"Live music" was yet another helpful clue. It's all
about being able to read between the lines, folks.

So I suspect Megan did what any bar manager would do and checked Danny's criminal record to make sure he had the minimum number of misdemeanors to ensure that he was, in fact, a legitimate musician. Since Danny's penchant for jaywalking (and getting ticketed for said crime) brought his numbers well into the acceptable musician levels, the gig was on for February 23rd. That is, of course, the same day that in 1945, US Marines raised the USA flag into the ground in Iwo Jima, which is relevant in that both Danny getting this gig and that Marine flag thing represent huge victories for North Americans at large. We'll let the future historians debate which victory was more significant. (Okay, it's probably the first one since 20 million soldiers on both sides didn't live to see who won World War 2. But a fresh gig is big, too.)

But Danny texted me earlier in the day to say he would need my assistance on a song. My response was an always-erudite "Huh?" because I have no prior misdemeanors (I'm more of an actual criminal - I rip those tags that say "Do not remove" off mattresses) and thus really don't belong on a musical stage. He assured me my participation could be easily handled - he needed me to play the cowbell at the beginning of one song.
"For America, for the Allies, for democracy and for
Danny Ford getting a gig 73 years from now, we
declare these are not ideal flag planting conditions."

Well, since the cowbell is easier to play than even the tambourine (hell, Betty of The Archies could play the tambourine and she's a damn cartoon), I agreed but of course, had no idea what song it was. I would find out when called upon in Danny's third set of the evening that it was The Rolling Stones' 1969 hit "Honky Tonk Woman." Well, that seemed simple enough... except no story involving either Danny or myself is ever really that simple. My life-long friend since Day One of Kindergarten, Dave, (the handsome clappy chappy in the first picture) was there with his ladylove, Joann, who insisted this could be a musical performance worthy of Facebook Live. Meh, why the hell not? I've posted far more ridiculous things on social media. "But you have to really play the cowbell!" Joann insisted somewhat emphatically.

Well, alrighty then... So my moment in the spotlight (there was no spotlight - why was there no spotlight?) came and I happily started cowbelling. In my mind, I knew exactly when Danny's guitar would kick in. But it didn't. After a brief hesitation on my end, I resumed. Why did Danny miss his cue, I wondered. He's a seasoned musician. He's been doing this for decades now.
After my Cowbell Extravaganza, my best bud, Dave,
told me he was getting lessons from a pro and posted
a picture of a cow wearing a cowbell. However, as a
craft beer drinker, I was able to one-up him on this.
Well, upon YouTube video review when I got home, I actually stopped a full 10 seconds short of the guitar kick-in. Danny was fine. It was me. Again, in my defence, no musical background.

But once I restarted, I just kept going. It was a cowbell extravaganza, as they may or may not say in the music industry. On Facebook Live, Joann filmed the opening part of my performance and then the big close. And then the comments started rolling in. For days afterwards, cowbell memes were created, challenges to my Cowbell Throne were issued, all from high school friends.

Most of the comments were of the "Needs more cowbell" variety, a riff off the famous Saturday Night Live skit but there was one voice of reason amidst the din. Danny's twin brother, Dennis, also a musician, was vacationing down in Mexico with his lovely wife, Kim, during the whole debacle and he took the time to weigh in after viewing the video evidence. "This song needs less cowbell" was his succinct reply. He was not wrong.

However, what I did not realize was that there was a familiar face at the bar that night. My coworker, Patchy, was there with a buddy. Turns out he didn't see me but he certainly heard me.
My poor Beer Store co-worker Patchy was an unwitting
audience member at St Louis Wings when I was showing
off my cowbell skills. It was a total coincidence he was
there but it is, in fact, his regular hang-out, he told me.
When I came wandering down the stairs to the bar's main area with my cowbell, I stopped at the bottom, gave them a little taste of my talent and headed back upstairs. Patchy's buddy, who was facing me, told him, "There's some lunatic over there hitting a cowbell." Patchy told me later, "I only saw you walking back up but I recognized the hair." Rock star hair without the rock star talent or rock star bank account - a concise summation of my life. What was previously confined to a reasonable handful of high school friends on Facebook was about to spread to my work-place.

So Patchy had to show our other co-worker, Trey, the video evidence from the previous night. Knowing that I would be involved in some kind of cowbell calisthenics on that night because I love boring coworkers with all the mundane munitiae in my life beforehand, Trey watched the video of me jumping around like a deranged orangutan, shook his head and simply said, "What a goofball. I thought you'd do it with more style." Trey has know me since 1999 when Prince told us we should party like it was, you know, that year. Why he would think I'd do anything ever with style is well beyond my comprehension.
I think my home-boy Drunk Polkaroo had this on the last
Polkapalooza, which was late last year. In fact, in Blyth,
he and Mrs Polkaroo stayed overnight, above a bakery. In
the end, I was almost as pumped about that as the visit to
the brewery. But I was just having this for the first time.


All of this finally brings me to the beer portion of this alleged beer blog. You see, when my buddy Dave jokingly told me that an actual cow with a cowbell was training him on the instrument so he could best me, I had to tell him I had an unfair advantage. And I told him, "Up in tiny Blyth, Ontario, there is a brewery called Cowbell Brewing. I have been drinking their product for nearly two years and thus, I always have the Cowbell within me."

But I actually had the "Cowbell" within me on this night. I had a day shift and there was still hours before Danny's gig so I went to Oakville's best LCBO in the Oak Park plaza, five minutes up the street from me. Lo and behold, they had Cowbell's Doc Perdue's Boxing Bruin IPA there as their craft selection is fantastic. Reasoning that if I was gonna to play the cowbell, I should drink some Cowbell was justification enough for a pre-show beverage. Also, that's pretty much what I'd do - cowbell or not.

Well, I am glad I finally had this one as it is everything that was advertised.
Twitter friend Jen Heaslip was super clever with this one picture as she
actually put a Grain & Grit In The Palms IPA in a freaking palm leaf. I
have eight or nine different photos of this beer and that didn't dawn on
me once. So @crftbeernkittns (that's Jen), I will say job very well done!
Cowbell Head Brewer Stephen Rich, who leads a team of six brewers, may have a misstep at some point in his career but I certainly haven't seen it yet. Both their Absent Landlord Country Kolsch and Doc Perdue's Bobcat Red Coast Red Ale are winners of awards in my annual "Best Of" year-end lists and the hits just keep on coming with the Boxing Bruin IPA. Using five different hops, they always put a touch a Belgian Candi Syrup in the mix (don't worry - there was no weird sweetness) and the 6.3%, relatively low 50 IBU (international bitterness units) ale pops with citrus and mango flavours. Hoppy and bitter, which is everything we ask for with a good west coast IPA.

And while I have never visited the brewery in Blyth, Ontario (though I will), one brewery that has seen a lot of me lately is Grit & Grain Small Batch Beer, a small but vibrant operation in west Hamilton. In fact, I have popped in there, three times in the last four weeks. The first time was with Beer Bro Glenn, who was a sickly lad at the time. But Joe Mrav, who founded the place with his wife Lindsey, back in October, gave us both a sample of their In The Palm IPA straight from the vat. But you can't (or maybe shouldn't) review a beer from a sample.
I think Glenn tried this when we first visited Grain & Grit
but due to excessive nasal congestion (eeeeww), he couldn't
really taste anything. He missed another beauty from them.

So after my son, David, and I saw Black Panther on a Sunday matinee (if you haven't, go see it - awesome!), we scooted back out to Hamilton the following weekend because In The Palms had just been released two days prior. I had to see if full cans (so six of them, of course - plus others) lived up to the aroma I remembered from the sample. Lemme put it this way. I opened the can on a chilly day outside in a medium breeze to take a picture and all I could smell was grapefruit in the air. I shouldn't have been able to smell anything as I was pouring it into the glass above my head on an upper wall in the wind. But I got blasted with grapefruit, nonetheless. At just 5% but a wicked high 90 IBUs, this one was as punchy as hell. While Glenn remembers getting some pineapple on the nose, I didn't but man, I got tons of grapefruit and a pine back-end on this bad boy, which is just an outstanding low-alcohol IPA.

But I also saw Joe again, as well as Lindsey this time around and have a brief chance to talk to both separately. Great people, friendly as the day is long and truly this small brewery is a labour of love for them both.
No, it's not the season for Saisons (which is actually the
word "season" in French) but at Donny's Bar and Grill,
it's always the season for a citrusy beer so I had to dive
into this warm weather fare before the Spring sprung!!!

But I was back again last weekend because Fairweather Brewing, another new Hamilton brewery on the same street was releasing their Sundrop Wheat IPA and I wanted me some of that. I'll review that in a few days but there was a couple of new offerings in the Grain & Grit retail fridge. Well, at least new to me. Well, Glenn, I'm happy to report that one of their beers is definitely riddled with pineapple goodness - their Pineapple Rye Pale Ale. At 5.3% (yes, this pale ale has a higher ABV than their signature IPA) and 47 IBUs, Brewed with pineapple puree and rye malts, as well as Mosaic and Amarillo hops, this has the light sweetness of the pineapple, the subtle twang of the rye malts and well, the hops give it a nice dry, bitter finish. Head Brewer Alex Sporn just keeps cranking it beauties.

But when I saw Joe this time, I came bearing gifts. I had a pile of those plastic snap-lids for either a four or six-packs of cans. I noticed Grain & Grit used those in their retail outlet. I figure that those aren't free and knowing they're still a small operation, I figured I'd help defray at least a little cost for them.
Childrens' book artist and all-around great guy David Buist, a Twitter buddy, lives
very close to Grain & Grit in Hamilton and when he saw their Light Ray Session IPA
and Circuit Breaker Session Saison in their retail, he said it reminded him of super
hero names. So he created this cartoon for the brewery! Buist is also the creator of
the famous Drunk Polkaroo-Donny Inception shirt that I wore to Vegas last time!!
I also bought a brewery shirt to wear on the strip for my next trip to Las Vegas as I think they have earned that high honour already. I travel to the brewery almost as much as I do to Vegas, after all.

But one more from these guys because I think they're fantastic to close this out - their Citrus Saison. Well, there's plenty of citrus on the nose on this 6%, 38 IBU one with some nice fruit and a bit of banana on the tongue. Pleasantly mild and a solid example of the style.

Well, that closes out this edition but coming full circle, my man, Danny, will be back at St Louis Wings this Saturday for the all-important Saint Patrick's Day gig. Will the cowbell come out and get play once again? Doubtful. I can't see me topping my last performance because, well, I was exceptional and that leaves me just one direction to go. Sadly, that's down. Forget about it. If you need proof, well, here's Manager Megan's brief taping of my last performance on Instagram. I call it: Who's That Idiot With The Cowbell? But Scooby Doo Gang, that's it, that's all and I am outta here! Until next time, I remain as always...