Ontario: Golden Beach Pale Ale, Sawdust City

kwakAh, my least favorite glass ever meets my favourite brewery of 2016. I got the Kwak glass likely the best part of a decade ago and had to wash a decade’s worth of dust off it to celebrate or mark or mourn today’s news. I am not sure I deeply care as I have never liked the beers of Bosteels all that much – though I liked Kasteel in 2004. Jeff has some of the early reports. Suffice it to say that the Great Satan now has a maker of muted B grade Belgian malty things in its portfolio. My world has not altered.

Which is not what I said when a number of mid-central Ontario’s Sawdust City beers started showing up in tins placed on retail shelves here in south-eastern Ontario. Great value at about $2.75 CND each, they all have more then held up their end of the bargain. This 4.5% ale pours a swell yellow gold with a rich white head. On the nose there’s plenty of weedy herb along with a fair chunk of white grapefruit rind over a cream background. The swally is interesting. A brightly ringing bitterness elbows out a modest lemon cream cake foundation. Lots of dry white grapefruit pith from the four hops named on the side of the can. Busy but still attractive. Especially on a day that is hitting 102F with the humidity.

You know, I’ll pour the next beer in another glass and put this monstrosity away likely until I hit my sixties. It’s all more than a little overdone, pointless marketing for a brewery that really hid in a safe spot in the market. Now owned by the forces of evil. Or of the future. Or just of reality. Gnashing over it all is a bit like being angry about that goldfish that died back in junior high. Things change. Things you have ultimately little to do with. Good beer, however, keeps showing up. Like this one from Sawdust City.

Now That It’s Summer Do I Want Gin Or Beer… Or?

yard2016This is the sort of problem I have in summer. Which is another way of saying I have no problems. Summer in the yard. Digging slightly pointlessly until drenched with sweat. Watching the teens push the mower from the prospect of that chair and that shade. What to drink?

I am happy to say I have two local gins in the cabinet – or as local as you get in Canada. One speaks of Quebec’s Arctic with herbs north of the tree line. The other reeks of Ontario’s middle, the bush of the Shield. I don’t expect them to disappear soon as I rarely have a second. It’s not that I suffer but I do find satisfaction fairly rapidly returned from a well placed G+T. I also make sure I have a reasonable utility gin in the cupboard, something with sufficient colonial branding, to ensure the good stuff isn’t wasted on me by me. Gins. Or rather a gin.

Other than one gin what plays upon the mind as the bus trundles homeward? Riesling and Vinho Verde. Two wines that make every other white feel bloated and weighty. Each are madly underpriced, too. Each balances brightness and fruit. And each comes in at the lower end of the alcohol scale. 8.95$ x 8.95% is an attractive Portuguese proposition. Conversely, good Riesling is a very local proposition for me. This 2014 by nearby Sugarbush is a bigger take at 12.5%. From Hillier in Prince Edward Co., it’s full of the rich cream the loam provides. Lightly lemoned sweetened cream. Farmsworth? Limestone shards like those in fields I walked out into last year. Wine from a field and a year.

What of beer? Tenacity pale ale by Ottawa’s Tooth and Nail is as herbal as gin but with none of the levity. It’s a lovely ale. Plenty of graininess standing up against the comforting weedy bitterness. Deep oranged gold, maybe it simply speaks of twelve weeks from now. The season of mellow fruitfulness. Does any beer match the audacity of an unadorned early leaf of lettuce? None. Wine wins every time. But maybe it’s a campfire beer, an Algonquin beer? Perhaps I am too urban… or, rather, suburban. Last night I wasn’t. I was out there, where highway 38 meets 7. Surrounded by mosquitos and haunted by distant calling loons watching the eldest play softball against the league’s Near North team. It would have fit in there well, near where seed aspires to sausage. Really.

The Government Store Has Bad Branding News

Ah, the liquor control system. Government stores controlling the marketplace and then pretending that it’s still a marketplace. The sort of system that announces growlers will be sold in Ontario and then builds one growler stand in just one Toronto store to serve the entire population of 13 million or so. Once in a while, however, it comes up with a great idea:

Several LCBO stores, including the location at Wonderland and Oxford in London, have moved oodles of Ontario craft beer by refusing to tell customers what exactly they are buying. The store puts random cans in plain brown bags and prices the mystery bags for about $12, give or take, depending on what’s inside. An LCBO store in Waterloo recently claimed credit for starting the surprise suds marketing phenomenon, fuelled by young adults seeking to recapture some birthday party-style grab bag excitement.

Planning a career in branding? Maybe you should switch to marketing instead. Because sometimes covering up what’s in the package sometimes is an improvement. Think about it. Folk seem to be unhappy about this year’s new beer brand, America. For the life of me, I don’t see the issue. But I am Canadian so maybe I wouldn’t.

Maybe it’s going to be OK. Maybe it’s this summer’s new thing. Beats the hell outta X-treme, crafty v craft or treating buy-outs like identity theft. Could 2016 be the year that we just want a beer?

Review: Ontario Craft Beer Guide, Leblanc And St. John

ocbg1I have been remiss. Well, late. Not lazy. Late. Distracted? Distracted. Jordan and Robin sent me a digital copy of this book weeks ago and I have only gotten to writing my review now. There’s been taxes to do at the last minute. Children to take to sports or hover over as math gets the best effort we can expect. Evenings like tonight at City Hall giving my best advice to council. I got a hair cut Sunday. At 11 am if you are wondering. But all the while I have kept dipping into this book. I like this book. I like this book for a few reasons. Let’s be honest. I have secondary skin in the game. I co-wrote the history of Ontario beer with Jordan. It’d be nice to think that everyone who buys this book might buy our book, too. But that’s not why I like this book. I like this book because this is the book that got me interested in the beer over the next horizon over a decade ago.

Well, not this book. This form of book. A regional guide. Like the ones Lew used to write. In 2004, I read Lew’s New York Breweries and ever since I have tried to ensure that there were NY beers in the stash – and NY hot dogs in the freezer. He not only told you where to buy the beer but also where to stay, what to get the kids into and what snacks to buy. See, there have been a number of sorts of beer books over the years. Sure, there are the global style guides as well as the food and beer pairing books. But there have been the Brewers Association style guides that started with Terry Foster on pale ale, the History Press histories including the two I helped write, those annual Good Beer Guides from CAMRA and all the home brewing guides, too, back to the Amateur Winemaker books of the 1960s written by C.J.J. Berry and Ken Shales as well as the fabulous David Line. Then there are the wonders like Unger‘s histories of the Baltic and North Sea facing lands from 1000 to 1900. There is Boak and Bailey’s remarkable Brew Britannia and Pete’s wonderful books of a recent and yet some how lost era ago. Before I liked all these and the rest that sit in piles around the house – I liked regional beer guides. Like this one.

Regional guides contextualize beer to a place and time. They have a level of comprehensive detail that is hard to capture in any other sort of beer book. They are as useful as Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Birds, the granddaddy of this entire class of writing. Ontario Craft Beer Guide follows in that tradition with a particular exactness. Exactitude. See, unlike even many regional beer guides, Ms. Leblanc and Mr. St. John tell you exactly what to expect. They explain which breweries are doing the brewing and which are really wholesalers hiring others under contract to a specification. They have a numerical rating guide which – wait for it – does not range all the way from 72/100 to 94/100. Not everyone wins a participation ribbon in this universe. In their system poor beers can earn a 1.5/5 and come with a resulting warning and great ones can be rewarded with a truly rare 5/5. I am having a Rhyme and Reason from Collective Arts right now solely due to the 4.5 they gave it. And they were right.

Do I have quibbles? How could I have quibbles? They were on the road for months seeking out every beer they could! Have I? No. And I actually know a thing or two. Do I like some beers a bit better than they do? Sure, I do – but that’s not often the case and where it is I have reasons. Like I am an older guy who likes slightly maltier beers. Save me the loser facile tropical hops. I can open a can of fruit cocktail, too. But with this level of detail I can transpose my palate to their recommendations and still trust their recommendations. Trust. That’s it. I can trust a book like this. So can you. Mainly because I don’t need to trust it. It’s so reliable. It’s got facts. It’s full of facts. Facts about good beer are actually really hard to find. You want facts about good beer in Ontario? Here you go.

If I didn’t live in Ontario I might say that it’s too bad they didn’t add local context like Lew’s regional rules of boiled and fried wieners but let’s be honest about this, too. Snack food is not what made Ontario. Natural produce? We got it. Local wines and fine wild meats and fish? Sure thing. Local snack shacks? We live on rumours of such things beyond the borders. It might tell me some other reasons I might want to go to North Bay or Sarnia, too. Maybe in the next edition. Or not. When Lew wrote those first guides 12 years ago, the internets weren’t telling me what they are now. We can actually luxuriate in the focus as much as those other facts. That’s good.

Wonder not. Make the call. Buy it.

The Spruce Beer Brewery At Catherine Street, New York

nyroyamgaz14april1779rapplebyThe further down the rabbit hole of the breweries in New York you go in the decades around the American Revolution, the further you get from great success. For many of the brewers of the 1700s that we have looked at so far – in the Hudson Valley from Long Island to Albany – brewing led to fame, military honour, riches and political power. The Rutgers and Lispenards became leading citizens to the south while generations of the Gansevoorts held sway to the north. But others weren’t as fortunate to brew for generations or to align themselves with the Revolution’s winning side. Robert Appleby was one of those. It appears. I write that caution as to the victors go the records.

It’s not impossible to establish some understanding. That records up there? It’s a starting point. A firm one. Let me illustrate with the life of someone from the same era who I had to hunt down from outside the brewing trade as part of my work. Reference came up in a report about a James Pritchard who was one of the early Loyalist settlers of my town – Kingston, Ontario. The report I was reviewing said that not much could be found about who he was. I always figure that’s never correct and in a few hours found out a few things which made him pop into three dimensions for me. After finding reference to a tailor by that name in Philadelphia in the 1750s, he was described in a diary – the Journal of Samuel Rowland Fisher – suffering in Tory jail over a year after the British evacuation in 1778:

“11th mos: 27. Joseph Pritchard was brought into my Room, having been this day tryed at what they call the Supreme Court, for having been employed by the Brittish [sic] when in this City to attend at the Middle ferry on Schuylkill to inspect all persons going in or out of the City & was charged with having since used words greatly derogatory of the present Rulers & being by the Jury, so called, found guilty of Misprision of Treason as they term it, he was sentenced to the forfeiture of half his Lands & Tenements, Goods & Chattles, & imprisonment during the War without Bail or Mainprize . . .

11th mo: 29th. While Joseph Pritchard’s Wife was here, James Claypoole, Tom Elton, William Heysham & John McCollough broke into Joseph Pritchard’s dwelling house & took an account of all his moveables that were there; & on the day following they came again with porters and carried off almost every thing, except a Table, a few Chairs, some books & other small matters, to a house in Spruce Street, near Second Street, where they were publickly sold by Thomas Hale & Robert Smith, appointed by the present Rulers for the Sale of what they call confiscated Estates.”

Ruined by the order of the court, he was still in jail two years later. A court document from 24 October 1781 states: “The Council taking into consideration the case of the following persons now confined in the gaol of the city and county of Philadelphia, to wit: Joseph Pritchard and John Linley, convicted of misprision of treason…” He was finally pardoned and released. He makes his way to New York where he signs the New York Loyalists’ Memorial, a war-end request for reparations. Like many Loyalists, he is in a slow state of transit before appearing on a 1786-87 petition to be allowed to settle in Lower Canada – or what is now Quebec and Ontario. By 1792, he is settled in Kingston, sat as a member of a jury and, in December 1793, is a tailor suing over money he is owed. He was awarded fifteen pounds. He’s made something of the end of his life. His funeral is held in the main Anglican church in town on 10 August 1802. In the end he attains a level of stability and, in the end, there were records enough to put together a pretty good picture of a pretty loyal Loyalist. He’s a favourite Kingstonian of mine.








I think Robert Appleby up there has something of a parallel path to that of Pritchard but there is a little less to go on by way of records. But there is some. That notice way up top was placed in the New York Royal American Gazette of 14 April 1779. See that the brewery was recently opened and he has his first shipment of imported spruce boughs. The description of the location of the brewery sounds a bit like someone wrote it who was not local: “…at the corner of Roosevelt and Rutger Street, near the upper end of Queen Street.” He could be brewing just to survive in Tory refugee-filled Manhattan. The boughs are brought in by ship as the city is surrounded. He survives. One year later, however, he appears well settled in. Doing well. Click on the thumbnail to the left for an ad placed in the same paper on 20 April 1780. He is still selling spruce beers but has added ships beer and is even trading in London porter. He is not alone. Another spruce brewer on Staten Island is advertising in The Royal Gazette on 7 October 1780. A third notice was placed by Appleby on 1 November 1781 again in the same paper which indicates he may be moving up still further in life. It’s the middle thumbnail. A snazzier looking notice. He is now brewing with the best English malt and hops. Presumably not just with molasses as was the army’s way in the 1750s. He has also moved to Catherine Street nearer the dock yards and presumably his customers. Notice also he is bragging up his water supply. It will be “equal in quality to the Tea-Water which which the City is supplied.” All of which is good because, as you will see on the thumbnail to the right, he got married to Miss Peggy Moore on Wednesday, 8 August 1781. He did well. He is “of this city, Brewer” and she is “a very amiable young Lady of great merit.”

It didn’t last. Like James Pritchard who is able to live the last decade and a half of his life settled in Kingston, the Robert and Peggy (Margaret) Appleby are thrown into crisis by the Britain’s defeat and their loyalty to the Crown. They had to move on. The records of the New Brunswick Historical Society show he led a company of Loyalist refugees for Port Roseway, Nova Scotia by the ship Williams which sailed from New York on 20 September 1783. His monetary losses are valued at 600 pounds, a sizable sum. He establishes a business in his new country but it fails and, like Pritchard, he finds himself in prison. After petitioning the government – the news of which even makes the New York Morning Post of 24 January 1789 – he is released and returns to some level of status as a member of the vestry in 1788. Again, it doesn’t last. He moves back to the States, to Virginia with his wife. And, like Pritchard, he is recorded as being originally from Philadelphia.

That is a long story – actually two long stories – to make a point about records and the fate of two Philadelphia Loyalists. But notice that there is a third character, that spruce beer brewery at Catherine Street, New York, down by the ship yards. Even though I am not able to learn very much about the brewing years of Robert Appleby, we do see him start up in New York in 1779 no doubt escaping the anti-Tory movement in Philadelphia after the British capture and then retreat from the city. Then we see him relocate to a well located sweet water brewery. That brewery stays put. That brewery then starts it’s own life history. Because when the story of people can’t be traced to the level of detail in records you’d like sometimes their works can be. Let’s see who shows up.








George Appleby! Who the hell is George Appleby? Ten months after Robert leaves the town someone named George is running a very similar operation out of the Catherine Street brewery. Not his son as he just got married. His cousin? A fluke? Who knows? And he has added a treble spruce beer to his products. What the hell is that? The forerunner to Buckley’s? In 1748, there was a man named George Appleby advertising his blacksmith’s shop teasingly near Rutger’s brewery. He is named in a municipal record the next year. A George Appleby shows up on the provincial militia muster roll for what is now Brooklyn in 1755. He is 28, born in Ireland but listed as a labourer. Same guy? He’d be 21 in 1748. Could be. Only 18,000 people live in NYC in 1760 so maybe. Whoever he/they are someone by that name takes over the Catherine Street brewery in 1784 with the same last name as the former brewer. At maybe the age of 57.

And he seems to succeed. If you look at the thumbnail up there to the left, he is brewing pale ale, brown ale and table beer as well as three grades of spruce beer. I never knew the world needed three grades of spruce beer. He is also looking to hire a cooper. And notice that it’s not just George Appleby – it’s “George Appleby & Co.” It’s repeated in the middle ad from 1785. Who are the members of the company? Partnerships are the norm in brewing well into the late 1800s. Is this a real corporation that early into the independence of the USA? Before 1811 you needed a special act of the New York legislature to create an actual corporation. Puffery? Who know? In any event, if you look at the thumbnail to the right you know you can now stop worrying as by May 1788 it’s all over. The Co is no mo. Georgie boy is off with the next truck driving man he can find and takes up with him. And he moves. He and White Matlack are off to nearby Chatham Street to brew their beer there. And they seem to be movers and shakers given they are on the float along with a Lispenard representing all brewers of New York on the occasion of the 1788 constitutional parade in September of that year.They are somebodies – whoever they are. Notice another thing. They advertises in that last ad that that the new brewery is opposite the Tea-Water Pump. I thought Catherine Street had the tea water. Now it doesn’t? A wee secret. After the war, things like infrastructure break down and people flood the city. The water gets a bit crap. And much of it was brackish and disagreeable to begin with. In the mid-1780s they are already looking for good water. Remember that.












On we move. Time marches on. Keeping up? Keep up. George Appleby may be gone but the Catherine Street brewery is alive and kickin’. In the ad above to the upper left, right under the one for Appleby and Watson’s place in the New York Daily Advertiser of 10 March 1790 there is one for the new operators, Watson, Willett and Co. Their technological advance is they are brewing with real spruce essence, not off the bough. Plus table and ship beer on draught or in the bottle. Ale is gone. The two breweries seem to have a hate on for each other as they have run these ads up against each other for months. But then that doesn’t last as by five weeks later, as we see in the upper right ad, Watson and Willett and Co. gives Watson the boot after a fire with the result that the Catherine Street brewery become run by the partnership of Willett and Murray. The survivors struggle on with part of the hops and barley saved. They keep on keeping on. They seem to be in charge of the place still in 1794. As, it turns out, does George Appleby. He gave notice in the New York Daily Gazette of 21 June 1791 that he was operating out of the Golden Hill brewery of our old pal, Medcef Eden according to the lower left ad. He’d be 64 now, if he is him. The lower right ad tells the tale of how his former partner White Matlack kept the Chatham Street place by the Tea Water Pump and carried on, brewing all alone.

Have you got that straight? I need an interactive map and Gantt chart app for my mobile to keep it all straight. We will leave it there in the early 1790s for now. We’ll be picking it up. There’s a fair bit of foreshadowing in all that. A sort of an era is sort of at an end. The era of easy water? The era of the great ale brewing families? Could be. We will have to see.

Who Else Misses Georgian Mass Drinking Events?

A year ago
, we read about certain Georgian era drinking habits of the early decades of the colony of Upper Canada – what is now Ontario. It includes my favorite observations included in Ontario Beer – in fact, one of my favorites in the entire history of drinking in Canada. It is from the events of 12 and, I suppose, 13 August 1827 at Guelph on the celebration of the King’s birthday:

…all sat down and enjoyed a hearty meal. “After the cloth was removed,” toasts were drunk to everybody and every conceivable thing, the liquors, of all imaginable descriptions, being passed round in buckets, from which each man helped himself by means of tin cups, about two hundred of which had been supplied for the occasion… those who remained continued to celebrate the day in an exceedingly hilarious manner, most of them, who had not succumbed to an overpowering somnolency, celebrating the night too, many of them being found next morning reposing on the ground in the market place, in loving proximity to the liquor pails, in which conveniently floated the tin cups…

A particular achievement in Pete Brown’s book on the history of the origins of IPA, the excellent Hops and Glory is how in contextualizing the history of the beer in the history of, you know, history – a rare enough thing in itself – he describes how the Georgians were quite unlike their grand-children, the Victorians. While they were cultural imperialists, they were not exactly racists. Leadership of the East India Company would intermarry into the royal classes of India just as how in mid-1700s upstate New York a man of the status of William Johnsonwould partner with a woman of the status of Molly Brant. We are in a sense as much or more the inheritors of Georgian free-spirited materialism as Victorian clenched paternalism. Maybe. One thing, however, we now definitely miss out on is the Georgian officially sanctioned staggeringly plastered public celebration.

Consider the celebration described in the newspaper report from 26 May 1766 as set out in the New York Gazette. If you click on the image you will see a bigger image of the first paragraph. A pdf of the whole article is here. A great dinner is described celebrating the repeal of the Stamp Act, that most sensible piece of imperial legislation aimed at helping the American colonies pay the cost of their own protection. Ingrates. Anyway, after the dinner twenty-one 
separate toasts were given. No wonder the article begins with the statement that the evening didn’t devolve into the riot and the mob “as is common on such Occasions“! My favorite toast is the fourth one: “may the illustrious house of Hanover preside over the United British Empire to the End of Time.” Not a long time. To the end of time. Such ingrates. The list is important in itself as it arises just before the interests leading to the Revolution are fully severed but what is also interesting is the last bit of the paragraph just below the toasts.

The Cannon belonging to the Province, being placed in the State-House Yard, the Royal Salute was fired on drinking the King, and Seven Guns after every succeeding Toast. The whole concluded in the Evening with Bonfires, Ringing of Bells, and Strong Beer to the Populace, and gave general Satisfaction to every Person concerned…

How was riot avoided? Free smashings of strong beer to the populace? What a time! What a splendid form of government!! And it was not just at state events or events of general public importance. Click on that thumbnail to the left. It’s from the New York Gazette of 12 August 1751 but it describes a celebration of another sort of birthday in England, a twenty-first birthday party held on 25 May that year for the Marquis of Rockingham at Wentworth House in Yorkshire. I grew up in Nova Scotia – first made a British colony just two years before this celebration – where both Rockingham and Wentworth are place names. Look what happens at the party:

Liquors drank that Day were three Hogsheads of Small Beer, 13 Hogsheads of Ale, 20 Hogsheads of Strong Beer, 8 Hogsheads of Punch, and 4 Hogsheads of Port Wine; besides 8 Hogsheads of strong Beer drank the Day following. There were 10,000 Guests in the whole; 3000 of which, or upwards, were entertained in the House; and after they had dined, the Victuals were carried out into the Booths to the Populace who had strong Beer and Ale much as they pleased… The strong Beer was most of it brewed in the Year 1730…

A few years ago, Martyn wrote about these coming of age, twenty-first birthday celebrations and their massive 21 year old beers brewed in the year of a child’s birth to celebrate their future adulthood. In fact when I came across this story I was just going to send it to him… until I read him “there is little or no evidence of 21-year-old ales before the 1770s or 1780s.”* It seems the news of these celebrations at Wentworth House for Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham** might represent a wee advance in brewing history. Maybe. Martyn might already know this. Probably does.

So there you are. Three mass gatherings of Georgians well prepared for and well able to meet the demands of massive public intoxications celebrating joy. I don’t think I could survive even a few hours of it. Damn Victorians.

*Being a wee bugger, I kept it for myself. Well, really, I kept it for this story. I would otherwise have sent it to Martyn, the very best sort of colleague in this beer writing game.
**A man who, if listened to, may have altered history to a greater degree.

Forget Defining Craft – Here’s What “Small Brewer” Means

jerkIt’s here! It’s here! The new phone book is here!!!!

Well, OK… it’s not that exciting but the Master Framework Agreement dated 22 September 2015 is here. Last April I discussed the process of reforming Ontario’s beer retailing. I won’t really go into it again except to say I am still not convinced it will make that much difference to me as a beer buying consumer. It may well turn out to make a significant difference to less finicky buyers and also the brewers of Ontario. But that will take some time to play out. Give it time. Today, then, in addition to providing you with that .pdf of the final deal amongst the existing retailing interests up there under that first link, well, I thought we might spend some time considering a key definition. Being a lawyer, I always check out the definitions. See, the general idea as described in the Toronto Star today is that about 33% more retail outlets will be licensed in the form of a modest number of grocery stores over the ten year term of the deal. And in many retail outlets more space will be provided for craft or small brewers. 20% of the shelf space.

Well, actually only “small” as the word “craft” only appears four times in the agreement and only in the context of the “Ontario craft beer” subcategory to be used in the merchandising of beer. So… that means the deal is about “small” and, well, let’s be honest… “small” has not been all that “small” when used in these sorts of contexts and in these sorts of laws, is it. Here, then, is the definition in the agreement upon which the whole concept turns:

“Small Brewer” means, in respect of a Sales Year, a Brewer that meets each of the following qualifications in respect of the prior Production Year:

(a) it has worldwide production of Beer in the previous Production Year that was not more than 400,000 hectolitres or, if this is the first Production Year in which it manufactures Beer, worldwide production of Beer for the Production Year that is not expected to be more than 400,000 hectolitres;

(b) it is not a party to any agreement or other arrangement pursuant to which any Brewer that is not a Small Brewer manufactures Beer for it;

(c) is not a party to any agreement or other arrangement pursuant to which it manufactures Beer for any Brewer that is not a Small Brewer; and

(d) any Affiliate it has that manufactures Beer meets the qualifications set out in (a), (b) and (c) above.

For purposes of this definition:

(e) the following will be included in determining the amount of a Small Brewer’s worldwide production of Beer for a particular Production Year:

(i) all Beer manufactured during the Production Year by the Small Brewer, including Beer that is manufactured under contract for another Brewer, whether or not that other Brewer is a Small Brewer;
(ii) all Beer manufactured during the Production Year by an Affiliate of the Small Brewer, including Beer manufactured by the Affiliate under contract for another Brewer, whether or not that other Brewer is a Small Brewer; and
(iii) all Beer manufactured during the Production Year by another Small Brewer under contract for the Small Brewer or for an Affiliate of the Small Brewer; and

(f) an agreement or arrangement referred to in clause (b) of this definition does not include an agreement or arrangement that provides only for the final bottling or other packaging by a Brewer that is not a Small Brewer, including any incidental processes such as final filtration and final carbonation or the addition of any substance to the Beer that, if added, must be added at the time of final filtration.

The Board may on or before the date of this Agreement designate Qualifying Brewers, other than the Original Owners, to be Small Brewers for purposes of this Agreement. Once a Brewer qualifies as, or is so designated as, a Small Brewer it shall remain a Small Brewer for so long as it remains a Qualifying Brewer and does not become an Affiliate of a Brewer that is not a Small Brewer. As of the date of this Agreement, the Board has designated each of Brick Brewing Co. Limited and Moosehead Breweries Limited to be a Small Brewer.

First, notice that the definition relates to worldwide production. This is not a definition which protects Ontario brewers. Considering the network of international trade treaties we are subject to here in Canada that is likely a reality which was generally acknowledged early on. Next, notice that the threshold for small is actually smaller than a lot of smalls you may have seen before. 400,000 hectolitres, Google tells me, is 340,867 US beer barrels. Which means Sierra Nevada doesn’t qualify. Fuller’s does. Contract brewing is out if the actual brewer it itself not a small brewer under the definition. Or if the small brewer, interestingly, contract brewers for another brewer which is itself not small. That’s interesting. One more thing. Notice Moosehead and Brick are deemed to be small. Brick brews around 500,000 hl. Close enough for jazz. Moosehead, however, produces over 1.25 million hectolitres worldwide. Despite this, as it is specifically included in the definition it does not have to pass the test. It and Brick are deemed to be small. Right to the front of the line, Mr. Moosehead.

Think about it. Who has been cut out of the deal from day one? That’s what the definition is about. Who is not included? For those included, the rest of the agreement is what sets out the rules. If you are excluded from the deal entirely according to the definition… nothing else really matters that much.

A Few More Limits In Ontario’s Beer Reform

I am increasingly finding myself far more disinterested in the current reforms of the beer distribution system in Ontario than I am annoyed by them. They seem to be geared to offer little that I expect to alter my shopping experience. But last week there were a couple of hints as to what is going on behind the closed process of government and industry negotiations that are worth noting if only for their entertainment value:

=> First, last Thursday Ben Johnson posted a great interview with the provincial Finance Minister in which he learned “the LCBO will roll out “craft beer zones” to 25 other LCBO locations across Ontario. Similar to the LCBO vintages section, these craft beer zones will feature and highlight craft beer made in Ontario.” It would be similar if there weren’t more than 300 Vintages locations in Ontario. Oddly, 20 years ago, the vintages section carried good beer, mainly imports but some local micros, too.

=> Second, Toronto’s Metro confirmed that there will be annual limits to the works out to the equivalent of 279 six-packs — or about 70 cases of beer — sold daily per store… and also “unspecified penalties for retailers who try to sell more than their allocation”!! I think I mentioned this before but it’s nice to see that it was not just my bad math. So… what does this mean? On a hot Friday in late July does the grocer cut off sales at 2 pm because the daily, weekly or monthly quota was reached?

These weird revelations are in addition to the numbers we have so far that indicate my city of 122,000 people will be lucky to get two of the new grocery store permits. More weirdness that remind me of something I came across some years ago now. Amongst my cult classic publications, I contributed the chapter “Beer and Autonomy” to the book Beer & Philosophy published in 2007. I opened the chapter with a quote from Pete Brown: “more than climate or genetics or anything else, drinking behaviour is governed by culture. And that culture is created by the laws that govern it.” Looking at that now I quibble with one word. Created. I would think now that the culture is expressed by the laws that govern it. I concluded the chapter with the thought that the beer laws of Canada ought to lead one to question the vision the state has of its own citizenry.

The more I read and write about Ontario in particular I find myself wondering if might be better off questioning the vision the citizenry has of itself. These “reforms” are, yes, a bit more than shuffling the deck chairs but are so restricted that they must be messaging something related to cultural identity. Jordan has expressed measured optimism but I can’t shake the feeling that we are dealing with a set of business and political interests that, in the words of one economic development officer spoken years ago in another province, is based on the principle “we pick the winners.” Because the marketplace can’t be trusted to pick the right winners. Because Ontarians can’t be trusted and may not even trust themselves.

Your Vital Links To Beer News For Wednesday Half-Day

craigbbcTwo days back off holiday and I am already taking an afternoon off. Slacker. Well, there was a need to do so but not really to do anything other than mind the wee one. Fortunately there’s afternoon baseball to watch online and lots of beer news to catch up with.

=> First, the best news of all is that I may have figured out a cure to the spam war. When I was in Maine I opened up the comments page on the admin to find myself facing over 5,000 pending comments needing manual deleting. I rolled up my sleeves and figured out a few new things. Result: no evil bad comments for a few days now. Even though the blog’s FB page has neatly stepped in, I can now state with confidence that the comments will be open… as long as this keeps working.

=> Jordan made an excellent point in passing over of FB which needs repeating: “I hope they take about ten percent market share. They will then be eligible for beer store ownership. That’ll put the cat amongst the pigeons.” He’s talking about SABMiller’s enthusiastic return to the Ontario beer market. While I remain unmoved, the petite reform MOU does state that “ownership of TBS will be open to all brewers with facilities in Ontario.” Get it on, SABMiller. Get it on.

=> I was not able to get my butt back down to Albany after driving through the last two weekends coming and going from Maine. Sad as one of the great leaps forward was held yesterday as the BBC programme “Great American Railway Journeys” was in town filming and included the Albany Ale Project as part of the story of its New York episode. As you can see, Craig aka “Showtime” had as natty a sports jacket as host Michael Portillo. Plus I got an email that read “I have spoken to my Director, Tom, and he doesn’t plan on you being on screen on screen on this occasion..” I should have known partnering with a former hand model would end up like this…

=> Another excellent edition of the “Drinker’s Digest” appeared over at Stonch’s place triggering a rather zesty discussion beginning with: “Tandleman has a point there will be certain people with vested interests who won’t be happy to hear it…” Tandy carried forth himself today. Which is associated with this comment on food blogging’s latest ethical crisis by a noted wine writer. As I mentioned in the alternative format, with all due respect, it isn’t at all just about disclosing receipt of resources and benefit as part of one’s writing. That’s just the entry point for the discussion unless you don’t care or don’t understand how it appears to reasonable people when writers accept resources for what they write from the subject matter of the writing.

=> Maureen speaks for me in relation to 80% of the beer books put out in the last five years: “Routson’s beer primer is no better and no worse than 50 others I’ve read in recent years. The usual suspects parade the pages: beer styles, brewing process, cooking with beer, pairing food and beer, “science-y numbers” with which to impress your pals, and tasting notes aplenty.” Personally, I would have used the line a bit ago when we were all supposed to care which beer went with the chilled shrimp and avacado wrap. Note: Jeff gets special dispensation as his book sat with the publisher for two years for some unknown reason. But we can stop with the identa-texts now, right? Write only original beer books starting… NOW!

That’ll do for now. It’s summer. There’s baseball to watch. And a new beer to try. Not telling which. I paid for it myself. No need to tell you anything about it. Bet it will be great. Not telling why.

Ontario: Skeleton Park Session Ale, Stone City Ales


Minimalism. I like this sort of labeling. It’s all I really need to know. Even if the Skeleton Park thing seems to be some sort of out of season Halloween branding. It’s actually the name of a district here in Kingston with its own claim to a particular corner of our a rich history. They have an arts fest there every June, just a couple of blocks from the brewery.

scaspsa1Golden amber cloudy ale under a fine clingy whipped egg white foam. Wafts of orange juice and ginger aromas from the Frankenhops these kids are brewing with these days. In the mouth, fruit cocktail. By which I mean the canned fruit cocktail of the 1970s dinner table. Lots of pear, a little cherry and a base of orange – all with a frame of weedy herbal bittering. By Stonch’s law, it is not much different than a lime and lager. Not a barley sandwich. Yet, it’s really attractive at this strength. Flavours that you see a lot a 7% or more but better suited in this more watery form. Lush. I like.

One thin BAer rating but certainly CAMWA approved.