Category Archives: beerbars

Sh*t Bartenders Do (But Shouldn’t), Pt. 1

1. It’s a given, I think, that martinis should be stirred and not shaken, but I understand that some easily influenced souls actually prefer a diluted, cloudy mess in their martini glass. Still, when I specifically ask you to stir rather than shake my martini, please ONLY stir it. Don’t give it a stir and then plop it into one of those precious tiny shakers for a good shaking up at the table.

2. A Manhattan contains sweet vermouth, and a sizable amount of it, at that. Please do not mix my Manhattan as if it were a very dry martini.

3. I accept that you may be a very clean-minded individual who washes their hands regularly, but I don’t know that as fact. So please don’t hold my beer glass by the lip when you’re pouring my draft beer. I have to drink from that thing.

4. And speaking of draft beer, when the foam you have poured off one pint settles in a separate glass, it becomes flat beer, NOT beer that is suitable for using to top up my pint.

5. If I ask for a call brand of booze that I can plainly see on your back bar, please believe me that it’s there and what I want. Do not stare at me as if I’m some sort of idiot because you don’t have enough professionalism to actually know the brands your bar stocks.

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Gift Idea #4: Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest

One more book, folks, and it’s a good one!

I’ve been friends with Lisa Morrison, author of Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest, for many years and have been anxiously awaiting her literary debut for most of that time. Thankfully she doesn’t disappoint. CBPN, as we will henceforth refer to this paperback, is an engaging trip from south Oregon through Washington state and across the border into British Columbia. It’s a beery wonderland and Morrison is a most adept guide.

Much like Max Bahnson’s Prague guide, which you might also like to get, Morrison’s…okay, I’m going to get all unjournalistic here and call her Lisa…Lisa’s approach is to put together pub crawls, within cities, between towns and along highways and coastlines. It’s the way most serious beer travellers plan their trips and makes sense in the vast majority of instances. (In BC, Lisa somehow manages to include Surrey’s Central City Brewing in a Sea-to-Sky Highway crawl, which any Vancouverite will tell you is more than a bit of a stretch.) The maps could sometimes be better, but that’s at best a quibble.

The real allure of this book, though, is Lisa’s voice, which is less guidebook-y and more let’s-go-drinking-together. Like Max’s book — which, again, you really should also get — it makes the reading pleasurable and thirsty work, drawing the reader to the locations in question like a moth to the proverbial flame.

The one thing I don’t like about CBPN is the colour scheme, which sees the sidebar brewery profiles and feature pieces, as well as the maps, illustrated in a yellowish-green that is none too easy on the eyes. But like the garish shirt your beer hunting buddy insists on sporting, it is a small price to pay for such good advice and company.

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Filed under beer & travel, beer and beverage books, beerbars, books, brewpubs, pubs

Updated Events Listings

I’ve finally gotten around to updating the events I’ll be participating in over the next little while, including all my Toronto Beer Week gigs. And don’t forget to check out the luxury beer and whisky/whiskey cruise I’ll be hosting in May of next year!

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Back From Paris & London: Guess Where I Drank More Beer?

I spent the better part of two weeks in Paris and London, ending yesterday, which explains the absence of posts here. It’s not that I didn’t have my computer with me or experience things worth blogging about; it’s just that I frankly couldn’t convince myself that sitting in my hotel room blogging was a better idea that being out and about it two of the world’s greatest cities.

Were I to have blogged during my trip, I might have written something along the lines of what Ron just posted over at his blog, entitled, simply enough, I Love Pubs.

Because, while I might not be as much of a purist as is Mr. Pattinson — hell, who is? — I am a great fan of the British pub. I’ve supped in literally hundreds of the places, written stories about them, and hardly ever found a (studiously selected) one I didn’t like. The pub is a great, great part of why I have such affection for the United Kingdom in general and London in particular, even as pointless idiots try to burn both to the ground this week.

The pub is why I often find myself frustrated drinking in my home city of Toronto, since almost every pub in these parts is part of some cookie cutter chain or another, all of which believe that I pub starts with old brewery bric-a-brac and ends with overly cheerful servers in girl’s school kilts. (And what is up with that, anyway!?) Although difficult to explain, a pub is something much more than fittings and fixtures, more, even, that centuries of history and experience. A pub is a social entity, not a physical one, and that is something most patrons and, sadly, customers around these parts just don’t get.

Best first-time pub for me on this trip? Although there were many contenders, most notably the Prince Albert and Draft House, both steps from Battersea Park — and both proof that chains can run decent public houses! — I’ll have to give the nod to north London’s excellent Jolly Butchers, a recently transformed pub which provides ample evidence that cask ale and craft beer, old neighbourhoods and new interiors, families and ordinary punters can all co-exist quite happily.

I miss it already.

 

 

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“The Most Famous and Most Popular Beer in Belgium…”

The above is how began a press release I received yesterday. Actually, I suppose it really began with the headline, one which read: “Calling All Beer Connoisseurs…”

It was about the imminent arrival to a local pair of beer-themed restaurants of a new and limited-availability Belgian draught beer, the aforementioned “most famous and most popular” in all of Belgium.

Its name? Jupiler.

For those unfamiliar with Jupiler, it is indeed the best-selling beer in Belgium, but that doesn’t mean it has anything going for it. Hell, the best-selling beer in the US is Bud Light, and I don’t see “beer connoisseurs” clamoring for that one as if it were some special release of Dark Lord or Pliny the freaking Younger. Best-selling beer in Britain? Carling! (It is still Carling, isn’t it? Confirmation, please, my British friends.) Best-selling weissbier in Germany? The utterly underwhelming Erdinger. Etc.

I’ve never made notes on Jupiler, but I have tried it. It’s as dull and boring as any mass-produced lager, aiming to not enchant with flavour, but flow quickly down the throat as coldly and inoffensively as possible. You want a review? Check out Non-Snob Beer Reviews.

Even so, there are hundreds of thousands of people living or working in the downtown core of Toronto who know only that Belgium is a country associated with beer. For them, the promise that Jupiler is big in Belgium will be read as a glowing endorsement. And as familiar as they are with bud and Coors Light and Molson Canadian — now  available in a low-cal “Sublime” lemon and lime flavoured version! — they will probably gulp it back at $7.52 a glass and think they’re drinking something special.

More’s the pity!

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For Western Canada, a Laudable Initiative

Calgary-based beer importer DeLancey Direct last week announce the launch of a major new draught beer initiative, the “Draught Beer Subscription Program.”

What the program offers bars and restaurants in Alberta and Saskatchewan is the opportunity to rotate their way through seasonal draught beer offerings, which DeLancey will bring in at the rate of two per month. Such brands will be offered exclusively to subscribed licensees.

Explaining the reasoning behind the program, Christian Finz, Managing Director of DeLancey Direct Inc. explained: “The large demand of craft beer on tap in western Canada is rising (and) bars, pubs, tap houses and  high end restaurants are more and more conscious about the beer they are serving to their guests – including of course draught beer. And so they are elevating their beer menus to higher standards.”

Breweries participating in the program include Fish Brewing, Ayinger, Schmaltz Brewing, Paddock Wood and Lindemans. The complete list is available here.

If you run a bar or restaurant out west, I encourage you to investigate further this program, and if you are a regular patron of a place that might benefit from the subscription initiative, let the proprietor or manager know what’s happening. This is a definite positive step for craft beer in western Canada.

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Take Me Back to FrangÓ!

Back when I ran my blog on That’s the Spirit, I had an occasional feature I called “Great Global Beer Bars.” In it, I featured a few of my favourites and explained precisely what it was about them I thought so laudable, places like the Oud Arsenaal in Antwerp – which I mention not just because Arsenal is playing their final group stage Champions League game today – and the One Pint Pub in Helsinki.

Were I still running this series, I would have one more to add today: FrangÓ!

I spent a large chunk of a day at FrangÓ during my recent visit to São Paulo, but in truth I have no idea how I got there. Sure, it was by taxi, but even with my better-than-average (I believe) sense of direction, the twists and turns we took en route had me completely discombobulated. I’m told that it’s somewhere in the outlying reaches of the city, but for more than that you’re going to have to ask Mr. Google.

Which, if you find yourself in São Paulo, you absolutely should do! Because despite its modest exterior and out of the way locale, FrangÓ is a serious beer bar, one which would stand out in any major beer city anywhere in the world. Walk in the front door and you’ll see a small room backed by a bar and a kitchen where, if you’re lucky, various chicken parts will be aromatically slow roasting on a spit over charcoal. In behind all that is another seating area, a little larger than the front, but still small, and a staircase that takes you to the “Choperia,” which is where FrangÓ really opens up.

The principle destination of the hoards of people who descend on FrangÓ every weekend, the basement Choperia veritably brims with beer, in fridges along one wall, in crawl spaces to one end of the room and in a large cage at the other. And what beers they are! Although imported ales and lagers are by North American standards prohibitively expensive in Brazil,

FrangÓ owner Cássio Piccolo with Cervejaria Colorado's Marcelo Rocha

FrangÓ owner Cássio Piccolo stocks literally hundreds of brews from around the globe, including some he says don’t sell particularly well, but number among his own personal favourites.

And that is what truly strikes at the heart of what makes FrangÓ great: it is a place of true and pure passion for beer, in all its forms and almost infinite flavours. Piccolo founded FrangÓ before it was possible to obtain a wide variety of beers in Brazil, but took that as his mandate anyway because he wanted to lead the way forward for São Paulo and Brazil as a whole. He’s still leading.

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Mondial, Better Late Than Never

More real life intrusions yesterday, but back on course today, so here are my observations from the second of my two days at the Mondial de la Bière in Montréal.

  • I was determined to sample more of what Brazil had to offer on my second day at the fest, and so chased down brands from Cerveja Artesanal Falke, Cervejaria Mistura Classica and Wäls, with mixed results. I quite enjoyed the last brewery’s Trippel, which had green apple notes segueing into more of a sugar cane and lime character, reminding me of a caipirinha-inspired ale, and Falke’s Ouro Preto, with its pumpernickel bread nose and heavily roasty body, but was a little more perplexed by Mistura’s gingerbready Extra and burnt tasting and very dark Amber.
  • After Brazil, I paid a visit to Italy and discovered ReAle from Birra del Borgo, a yeasty and fruity ale with plenty of apricot and tangerine notes in the front, but a dryish and zesty finish. Plenty quaffable for a beer of 6% alcohol!
  • One of the odder brews I sampled at the Distribières booth was La Barberie’s Pale Ale Lime et Framboise, a curious mix of fruit and hops that seems to bounce back and forth between lime, raspberry and hoppiness all the way from the nose to the aftertaste.
  • On a non-beer note, I was pleased to learn even more about Brazil’s blooming craft beer scene from Cássio Piccolo from the FrangÓ Bar, which I understand was one of the first beer bars in the country, if not the first. I’m looking forward to visiting this São Paulo landmark sometime, hopefully, soon.
  • All in all, the Mondial was again a fest to be celebrated, a little crowded at times and a little expensive, but certainly most enjoyable if you arrive early and remember that there’s no admission charge involved. Next year it promises to be even better, too, with a planned move to Place Bonaventure and the inclusion of some new and some older features.

So mark June 8 – 12, 2011, on your calendar now and plan to join me at the 18th annual Mondial de la Bière in the glorious city of Montréal, Québec!

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And While You’re At It, Go Ahead and Cook Your Own Food, Too!

There are things in this life I don’t understand, like pedestrians so fixated on their Blackberrys that they walk into lampposts, cyclists who are loathe to actually let their feet hit the ground at a red light and motorists who feel the need to speed at 100 kph to the next red light.

And pouring your own beer at a bar.

I received a press release yesterday touting something called The Draft Master, a new tabletop draught dispenser the manufacturer would have you think is sweeping Ireland. Billed as “a new concept that gives consumers the freedom to pour draft beer at their own table,” it was evidently launched in Eire in co-operation with Diageo and now has “master prototypes” up and running in Canada and the United States.

So you can pour your own beer and pay for it. Yippee!

I don’t know about you, but when I go to a bar and pay more for beer than I would at home, one of the things I’m paying for is service, which includes someone telling me about what’s available on tap, offering me a bottle selection or choice of wine, spirits and cocktails if desired, and POURING THE FRICKING THING FOR ME! Or in other words, why the heck would I want to pay money to do someone else’s job for them?

I’m reminded of the comment Clover Club owner and cocktail magician Julie Reiner made to me when we were discussing bottle service in bars. “If I want to make my own drinks,” she said, “I’ll just stay home.”

Ditto for pouring my own beer.

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Todd English’s Past Bites Him in the Ass

I received a press release recently from the people representing famed New England chef Todd English, touting his new Las Vegas Venture, Todd English P.U.B., which apparently stands not for Public House, as it does over ‘ome, but Public Urban Bar.

Says said release: “One of the highlights at Todd English P.U.B. is more than 50 international bottle, keg and cask beers including rare finds such as Van Diest Fruli Strawberry, Rogue Chocolate Stout and Strongbow Cider.”

Uh, Todd, that’s all fine and dandy, but aren’t you the same chef who a while back was touting the virtues of Michelob? The guy suggesting that we pair it with a flaming dish of something or other, never mind whether the beer could stand up to the flavours or not?  And now we’re to trust your attempts at some erstwhile gastropub-like thingy on the Strip?

Ah, but wait a minute, reading further I glean more:

“The fun begins at the top of the bar, equipped with signature Todd English hourglasses that encase only seven seconds of sand. Down a draught in seven seconds, and the pint is on the house. Guests can challenge their neighbors at the bar to the hourglass drinking game.

Todd English P.U.B. would not be complete without bar games including magnetic dartboards, and beer pong tables. The bar area is also adorned with several plasma TV screens, making Todd English P.U.B. ideal for big game viewing while patio dining.”

So P.U.B. is not about beer and food and the joys of combining the two after all. It’s about chugging beer and playing beer pong. Now I get it. As you were.

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