Monthly Archives: August 2013

Will It Grow? Part 2: We Rise! We Live!

So, remember when I bought a Cascade hop rhizome, planted it, and then told you folks that I’ll let you know how it goes?

Well…the hops grew.

They started to sprout after a couple of weeks and then once it was fixed up so it had some support to get up on the frame of my porch the vine grew incredibly fast. Thankfully, up here we’ve been getting a lot of rain and sun in equal measures this summer, so they were pretty low maintenence. The cones didn’t start forming until about three weeks ago and every week they seem to get bigger. They make my porch just that much more beautiful.

While the cones are pretty big, they aren’t ready for harvesting yet. Apparently the time to do it is when they actually start to give off that wonderful, citrus-like aroma that I love so much.

As for what to do with them after harvesting…I’m not sure. I originally was thinking of using them to dryhop a homebrew (since I don’t think I got enough hops for a full batch [which is TOTALLY okay because apparently in the first year you don’t get many cones]), but I’ve been in talks with someone who is also growing Cascade hops and there are talks of maybe doing a beer with them. We’ll see!

But so far…I’m really happy that I decided to pick up a rhizome to try out and will definitely be picking up more next year. And even for the beer lover who doesn’t brew their own, hop vines are an incredible decoration for your home.

But anyways, I’ll let you know what happens with these little guys soon. Stay tuned.

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Forest City Beer Fest

You know, after the Toronto Festival of Beer, it was good that Forest City Beer Fest, held in London, Ontario earlier this month, happened.

I was asked by the organizers to be a part of a pre-fest event at the Palace Theatre titled “Breaking the Pint Glass Ceiling”, which would show two documentaries, 2009’s “Beer Wars” and 2011 “Love of Beer” with a one-hour panel in between talking about the current climate in Ontario beer today as well as women within the beer industry. On top of that, I was offered tickets for the festival itself and crash space in London, Ontario from the wonderful Laura Campeau from Silversmith Brewing.

So naturally, I was happy to hop on a train and attend.

I arrived in London a few hours early, so decided to stop off for a late lunch at a place that was enthusiastically recommended to me by readers and the festival organizers, Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium on Talbot Street. Let me just get this out of the way right now: its pretty obvious that whenever you talk beer to ANYONE in London, the big question you get asked is “Have you been to Milos’ yet?”. It’s the closest thing to a central hub in the craft beer community I’ve been to and in the times I went there, it has been fantastic. Wonderful rotating tap and cask selection as well as an incredibly decent bottle selection (with a cellar that many would envy). Plus hell, they have good music playing and cartoons from the 80s/90s playing all the time, so it’s a winner in my books for ambience. I was given a warm welcome by Adil Ahmed and the owner of the bar Milos Kral himself, with excellent conversation, a delicious meal and a bottle of 3 year-old Nøgne Ø # 100 Barley Wine Beer. Yum.

The event that night was really nice. I got to meet Laura in person for the first time and met a whole bunch of really awesome people who were passionate about beer. I had never seen Beer Wars before, and, aside from the jackasses in the seats behind me who wouldn’t shut up, I really enjoyed it (admittedly having a few fangirl moments when some big names popped in for interviews). The panel was also great, featuring a top-notch panel of various people within the industry, from brewery reps, to local homebrewers to…well, me. Sadly though, due to the whole event starting late it was cut short. What would have been an hour of us all talking about the current climate of craft beer today and going in to women in and outside of the industry got cut to about 20-25 minutes. We talked about distribution most of the time and had to quickly shout something at the last minute about the discussion of women in the industry (A HUGE special thanks to fellow panelist and wonder woman Andrea Chiodo from Flying Monkeys for insisting I talk when things were wrapping up). To the credit of the organizers, they hated like hell cutting the panel short and many people who were there suggested that next time just they just screen one film and have the rest of the evening dedicated to the panel. It was far too short, but I’m still glad that I went.

Afterwards the Flying Monkeys crew, Milos, Adil and myself all went to Milos’ where we were all treated to some amazing brews from the cellar (and a few that Peter Chiodo brought with him). It was, to put it mildly, an unforgettable evening.

The next day was the festival itself, held at Museum London. It was modest in size, sporting about 20 breweries with some of their standards and a few one-offs. Some wonderful notables were Oast House‘s “Hef’s Big Wood” barrel-aged Hefeweizen, Silversmith’s very tasty Bavarian Breakfast Wheat and Big Rock‘s Saaz Republic Pilz, a very delicious traditional-style pilsner. There were also wonderful seminars led by Master Cicerone Mirella Amato and Doug Appledoorn of Brauhaus.

My criticisms are pretty few, but if I’m honest, the venue was a bit TOO spaced out, with many places hidden from the general area or completely empty. There was also a security point in between the two main areas of the festival where you just couldn’t walk around with a beer. The only other suggestion I would make for the festival is to feature more one-offs rather than staples. What was brought was a nice mix and in a lot of ways, there were some great stand-outs, but I found myself wanting more special stuff. But hey, those are two small suggestions for a festival in it’s second year, which isn’t bad at all.

The real winners, I found, were the beer-loving public. Everywhere I went people were sampling, talking to the reps and brewers, and even talking to complete strangers about the beer they were trying. After a somewhat disturbing experience with the Toronto Festival of Beer the week before, it really did my heart good to see people who love beer drink it, not to get drunk, but to enliven their taste buds and try something new. I met a wonderful woman, Sarah McCoy, who doesn’t write on a site or anything, but has a book full of notes of beers she’s tasted over the years as well as beer lists of festivals she went to. She was incredibly enthusiastic and was a lot of fun to be around. If she enjoyed Forest City Beer Fest, which she did, then I consider the day to be successful.

So thank you, London, Ontario. Thank you, Forest City Beer Fest. Thank you, Andrea and Peter at Flying Monkey’s, Thank you, Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium. Thank you, Laura Campeau (and Hugo) for being amazing hosts. Thank you, Sarah McCoy. Thank you all for being a part of a really kick-ass first time in London.

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Toronto Festival of Beer

A lot of times when I don’t like something, I tend to say “it’s not for me”. Although I do slip in to it now and then, I believe that as a writer I should inform, rather than set a standard. “What might be right for you might not be right for some”, as the song goes. We’re all individuals with individual tastes and I like to embrace that.

So with that in mind, the Toronto Festival of Beer is not for me.

I was invited to stop by for a “Home brewing 101” panel, put on by Toronto home brewing group Brauhaus and part of Niagara College’s Brewmaster Series, a series of tented events within the festival to educate people about beer.

The panel was wonderful. Led by Doug Appledoorn, co-founder of Brauhaus, my learned fellow panelists (Erin Broadfoot and Pietro Caira) and I talked about our good and bad experiences with home brewing, answered questions, and handed out samples of our own brews. I supplied my Manor House Intrigue Chamomile Brown Ale, which I made back in February with the help of the Brauhaus mentorship program. The whole thing went really well and we got a good amount of applause from the packed tent. Hopefully Brauhaus will get some members out of that!

The rest of the festival was…not too great. If it wasn’t for the marvelous company of my longtime friend Cheryl, I probably would have left soon after the panel. A few one-off beers stuck out, but everything else was stuff that was available at the LCBO. It wasn’t that unique and, well, I can’t say that I wasn’t warned.

But I do believe it has its place. It’s a chance for smaller breweries to win over the affections of the coveted Bro Market, the group of people for whom beer shots, competitive vomiting and dancing to dubstep is a way of life. And don’t get me wrong, it is a popular market. In an effort to get drunk these folks buy 24 packs like there’s some kind of shortage and they need to stock up. I recognize why a business would want that. It should be noted, however, that the smaller breweries are still competing with the bigger ones. Budweiser, Coors and Smirnoff Ice tents were present and huge, with their own dance floors and booth babes handing out stickers and various other bits of swag.

And while I don’t know how successful the festival is at converting the Bro Market to craft beer, I can’t deny it has an effect. “I normally drink Molson Canadian,” an attendee told us. “But then I go to a festival like this and drink a Molson and anything here after that tastes so much better.” And really folks…that’s all I hope for. I don’t really care if a person likes Bud Light Lime Mojito or beer that, to me, tastes like water. As long as they know that there’s something else out there.

My biggest problem with the festival was the way it was run. I really got the impression that the festival encouraged drunkenness, which didn’t appeal to me. Tokens were $20 minimum, which gets you 20 tokens. 5oz samples were around 1-2 tokens each, which doesn’t sound like much, but take a group of people who are used to 4% abv beer and put them in a festival of 6-9% abv beers, well…you see how it can get out of hand. Oh sure, you could use those tokens for food, but I didn’t get the impression that people were doing that. Visions of festival-goers nearly falling down getting more beer poured in to their glasses were pretty frequent and the security guards, god bless them, were kept very busy breaking up fights and carrying people to water stations.

And guys, maybe double up on security to lead people to the bus stop? There were waaaaay too many drunk people roaming in to oncoming traffic. Unacceptable.

So that’s my thoughts on Toronto Festival of Beer. It’s not for me. Aside from a few things that I can’t forgive, I can acknowledge it as a festival that works for some people. I’m just not one of them. Unless I’m invited to another panel, I don’t think I’ll be going again in the future.

But really though, thank you to Brauhaus, Niagara College and my kick-ass friend Cheryl for being the bright stars in this event.

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