Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ontario Craft Beer Week: Mill St. Brewery

Okay, yes.  I know I just got back from NYC and I know that I have several beers to review and talk about and just plain GUSH about but…well…the very day I got back Ontario Craft Beer Week began and I just went to my first event for it and…well…my NYC thoughts can wait for now.

Why?  Because I talked to the Brewmaster and one of the Brewers from Mill St. Brewery, who, in the short nine years they’ve been around, have become one  of the most well-known breweries here in Toronto. And in all honesty, I’ve never had the chance to talk to a Brewmaster for any period of time longer than two minutes, so this was a thrill for me.   So to my international readers, I apologize for alienating you.

The event was a “Meet the brewer for a tutored tasting” type of deal at The Rebel House just north of Rosedale station here in Toronto.  A brewer comes in with samples of some of their beers and talks about them a bit.  I arrived ten minutes early and it took me exactly ten minutes to realize that I was sipping a pre-drink beer next to the Brewmaster of Mill St. Brewery, Joel Manning.   I felt a bit embarrassed that I was drinking something from another brewery.

Let me say this about Joel Manning: he is an incredibly smart man who knows his beer and will stop at nothing to get just the right recipe.  And for someone who is Brewmaster, he is remarkably not shaking with stress/coffee consumption and chain-smoking nor is he impatient and curt as most top people in businesses are.  He’s very laid back and enjoys what he does.

Before getting in to the beers they brought that night, Joel gave me a little bit of the history of the brewery and talked about just how committed they are to get the best ingredients.  At this point I brought up their seasonal on-tap-only beer, the Vanilla Porter.  which frankly, made my winter. Well, turns out I opened a can of worms for Joel, who went on for five minutes about all the different type of vanillas he tried and how each region was slightly different.  “I didn’t want it to be a beer that tasted like JUST porter and vanilla,” he said. “That’s boring.  We wanted all the subtle flavours to find their way in and I think we did it with this type of Vanilla.”  Finally Joel went with vanilla from Mexico, which he feels brings out the best in the beer. No complaints here.  And it was interesting to hear about the attention to detail.

Then we went on to the beers they brought: Original Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale. Both award winners and both high-selling.

The Organic Lager is their highest selling beer so far.  Ontario’s first CERTIFIED organic lager, this German Pilsner is about 4.2%ABV and goes down smooth with a slight biscuity taste and a floral aroma to it. However, while it is a refreshing brew, I’m a person who is normally fond of the heavier, more bitter beers, so due to personal taste I’m afraid this just wasn’t up my alley and seemed too watered down.

Now the Tankhouse Ale is a pale ale that I am intimately familiar with.  I’ve taken this to parties with me several times and it’s a great year-round drink.  The spicy taste notes as well as the hints of citrus brought on by the use of Cascade hops just freakin’ DANCE on the tongue.  At 5.2%ABV, this is what I consider a comfortable drink.

But tasting the beers and getting an idea of the flavour notes wasn’t the end of it.  It was at this point Mill St. Brewer Bridgid Young (knowledgeable in the art of brewing and almost as laid back as her boss) stepped in and pulled some of the grains used in both the Organic and Tankhouse as well as (gasp!) a bag of Cascade Hops.  Together they let me sample the grains, which was a HELL of an education in just what they do to the texture of the beer as well as the taste notes.  And I learned how to properly take in the scent of hops: grab a small amount, grind it with your palms, open up and inhale.  And…wow.  It was my first experience handling fresh hops and I was taken aback by the texture and colour of them as well as the smell.  Speaking of the smell, it’s no wonder that I love brews with Cascade hops!  The citrus tones are much more defined and…well, it was quite an experience.

After this great education both Joel and Brigid gave me their cards, invited me to the brewpub, got me a pint of Tankhouse Ale and went off in to the crowd with sample cups to talk about themselves to others, leaving a slightly amazed, slightly in awe woman feeling really grateful for the most educational talk with folks from a brewery she’s had in a good long while.


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I Have Arrived In New York



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FIELD TRIP: Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery (Barrie, ON)

A couple of weeks ago the family and I were on our way to a wedding in Barrie, ON.  There had been talk of either before or after the bride and groom kissed that we’d get to visit and perhaps go on the tour of one of my favorite Ontario breweries the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery.  Due to time constraints it looked like we weren’t going to be able to even visit, but upon looking at the map and noticing that the brewery was EXACTLY one block away from where the happy couple were tying the knot, we made an exception and took a visit.

Formally known as the Robert Simpson Brewery (According to the official announcement of the name change the reason they gave was “Because being named for a dead white guy just isn’t very exciting. Where’s the fun in that? Beer is supposed to be way more fun than a history class.”), this Ontario brewery is known for it’s wonderful design sense, twisted humour and, most importantly, it’s love of just screwing around with beer and coming up with some wonderful brews.  With five year-long brews in constant production along with a long list of specialty brews, these guys keep busy and they love to mess around.

Before visiting the brewery, I was already a fan of the two brews that made them famous. Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale,a beer hoppier than most Ontario brews with hints of citrus, and Netherworld Cascadian Dark Ale, which was originally Netherworld Imperial India Porter, but due to a batch that ended up having coffee tones that smothered any other flavours, was dry-hopped to hell with Cascade hops and…well, that was the result.

Flying Monkeys has also been the source of some recent controversy when the application to put their latest IPA, Smashomb Atomic IPA, on shelves in the LCBO was rejected due to its name and the picture of an explosion on the label.  This reopened the conversation over the social responsibility that the LCBO should or shouldn’t have, whether or not breweries should be censored in their works and the (I’ll admit getting better) short stick that smaller breweries get in a board where companies like Molson and Coors have a tight grip.

Right, there’s the background.  Let’s get to the brewery itself.

I don’t know why, maybe it’s because every week for most of my childhood the LeBlanc Family Car would zoom past the giant Molson Brewery, or maybe that I took a tour of the temple-like Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam, but my mind always assumes that a brewery that provides beer to outside the town’s borders should be freakin’ huge.  I KNOW this isn’t true, as I visited the Brooklyn Brewery which was pretty damn small, but I still seem to fall in to that trap and end up being surprised.

Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery is no exception in this surprise.  Where I expected to see a giant factory by the lake, I instead saw what looked like a quaint store in between two others.  I could easily pass by this place thinking they just sold some beer products and that was it. Inside there’s a few tables, a fridge for their beers, a sampling bar, and a wall devoted to merchandise, which is primarily shirts, glasses and bottle openers.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to go on the one hour tour, but we did have time to sample some of the beers there and talk to the lovely lady tending the bar.  It was also there where I was able to try out the notorious Atomic Smashbomb IPA and talk about it a bit.  And…wow.  An explosion of flavours such as grapefruit, pineapple, melon and citrus with a HUGE punch of hops.  Well…you’d have to have that punch of hops.  Afterall, it was hopped NINE times to get it.  Damned fine beer.  So wonderful that I had two pints of it.  And guess what? Flying Monkeys has been working closely with the LCBO since the media attention Smashbomb got and it has been agreed that, with a change in packaging, LCBOs will be carrying this wonderful brew within the next month or so. And just in time for summer!

I couldn’t leave without getting some merch.  I left with a t-shirt and a pint glass.  My father picked up two shirts and later wished he got more.

My mother and coworker Brian both loved the Anti-Gravity Light Ale and Flying Monkeys Amber Ale, my father loved Hoptical Illusion and ADORED the Smashbomb Atomic IPA, and I was strongly considering buying a keg of Smashbomb (that being the only way it can be bought at the moment).

Before we left I went in to the brewing area with my coworker Brian and excitedly pointed out the kettles, fermentors and other devices and what their purpose was for.  It was an exciting moment for me.  But, like all fun moments, it had to come to an end and we had to save our alcohol-consuming glands for the wedding reception.  We parted with our merch, a six pack of Hoptical Illusion, a bottle of Amber Ale and Anti Gravity Light Ale and a promise to return.

(Should be noted that just down the corner from the brewery was a Chip Truck called Jerry’s Fries, which has the biggest portions ever (I ordered a small and it was about the size of a large) and has the best chips in Ontario.  I’ll testify to that. The man who runs that truck really loves his work.)


Note: Do you like what I’m doing here?  Would you like to buy me a beer?  Would you like to throw in a few pennies that can lead towards buying me a beer?  Or do you want to make sure that I can go to a craft beer event? If so, head on over to the newly created TIP JAR. I’d certainly appreciate it!

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Cooking With Beer: Beer Pizza Dough

So when I first heard that beer can be used for pizza dough I got a little excited.  The source that first told me said that it could be used as a substitute for yeast and water.

Since then, a few have mentioned that only unfiltered beer (beer that still has active yeasts in the bottles) can be used to substitute the yeast while others have said it works just fine without.  Me, I don’t really care.  I just want to make a good pizza.

So with that, I submit to you this recipe found on Restless Chipotle that is both simple and covers the base by essentially saying “go with whatever beer you want, just in case we’re still adding yeast to it”.   It looks easy to make and, judging by how she describes the end product (“One thing I noticed with this is that the dough bubbled up soon after kneading. The baked dough had a lot of air bubbles in it, too. “), makes it sound like a tasty one.

This has me wondering what some nice Belgian ales would taste like.  Or an IPA.  I’ll give it a try hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

And here it is: BEER PIZZA DOUGH

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