Sunday, February 14, 2010

Maternity Leave

This is a picture of me from June 2008. Yes, it's been a while but I've been a little distracted with a side project.

There is so much to write about - a trip to Japan covering Kikuchi Brewers & Popeye's Pub, 2008 & 2009 Volo Cask Days, new beer discoveries, a BierGotter's Creme Brulee Java Stout fundraiser for a local children's centre and so much more. So I promise to get back to blogging.

My apologies for the extended absence.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Back to Buffalo: Feb 2008

Day One

After a good attempt to start early we were on the QEW to Buffalo. We got a bit delayed at US Customs but the volume of travellers was very high due to Ontario's new statutory holiday, Family Day. The US Customs officials were very nice and they did the best they could to process the heavy volume of visitors as quickly as possible. We first met some other friends at the Fashion Outlet Mall, had lunch and did a bit of shopping. Afterwards we went to the hotel to check in and freshen up. Our group was looking forward to dinner at the Pizza Plant on Transit Road but they were on a long wait list so we went across the street to Appleby's. They were busy too but they accommodated the six of us fairly quickly and I have to say that not only did we have a great meal the service was outstanding.

After dinner we all headed back to the hotel for a night cap. Bier Guide & Andrew just made it to the store before closing to pick up a growler of Southern Tier Imperial Choclate Stout. This is what Bier Guide had to say about it: "Smooth,velvety and super chocolatey. It was rich but so easy to drink for an imperial."

Day Two

Andrew, Isako, me & Bier Guide in front of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (

After breakfast and saying goodbye to Rick & Sabrina who were headed back to Toronto a day ahead of us, our happy foursome headed to the Albright-Knox. It is a great contempory art gallery in downtown Buffalo. On a grey, wet day like this one, it was the perfect place to be. There was a minimalist collection of pieces from various artists presented with colours being the primary criteria for groupings. They also had many of their permanent collection on display.

Coles Restaurant (

After the gallery, we were all pretty hungry so we decided to head over to Coles for a late lunch/early dinner. Bier Guide had been there in the past & this place came highly recommened by Eric of BierGotter.

The impressive Beer Menu - Bottles & Draught....drooling....mmmmm.

(click on the pictures to enlarge image)

Bier Goddess inspecting her taster very, very carefully.

Premier Gourmet a must for all visitors to Buffalo who seek good beer & fine gourmet cooking ingredients.

Day Three

Bier Guide & Isako had a very bad night of food poisoning. We cannot be sure but the suspect food must have been the blue cheese on their Kobe Beef Burgers at Coles yesterday. It was the only thing that they ate that was in common and it was something that Bier Goddess & Andrew did not have. It was a bad turn of events but at least this happened near the end of our trip.

After a quiet morning of nursing very sore tummies we headed out to Consumer's Beverage - another must see for beer lovers visiting Upstate NY.

Andrew, Tom & Isako.

We made it through the stop at Consumer's Beverage although Bier Guide was struggling just to muster enough energy to pick out a few bottles. We had introduced Tom, who works at Consumber's, to Andrew & Isako to share his beer wisdom and help narrow down the selection. Thanks Tom!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sean M in England

Living vicariously through another is not always all it's cracked up to be. My friend and fellow aspiring Bier God, Sean M, was off again on yet another business trip but this time to England. I've never been to the UK. I knew that he was there for work, away from his family and probably tired from jetlag, travelling and strange surroundings. However it's difficult surpress a feeling of jealousy that was bubbling up in my beer sole. Didn't you just get back from Boston not too long ago?! Some people seem to have the jobs with the best fringe benefits. Anyhow, putting my petty feelings aside, this is what he had to say about the beer experiences he had:

Been in London since Monday and this is the second bar that is all Samuel Smith. Tried the Extra Stout and let me tell you is way better than the bottled stuff. Fresh light and creamy, it's where you want to be. Also had their Wheat Beer as well also very good. Other good beers included all of the Fullers stuff like London Pride, and Spitfire Ale. Even the Kronenberg 1664 tastes better over here! Cheers!

Had Steak and Kidney pie and the wheat Samuel Smith. Heated by coal fireplaces of course! Note the date of the renovations.

Had the London Pride pulled here, no carbonation for the ales of course!

As for the beers, although you don’t want to hear it, there are not a lot of “traditional” old school pubs in London specializing in big heavy ales and stouts. Don’t get me wrong there are more than enough but most Londoners have opted for lighter food and drink as they have a very modern outlook on things. E.g. I have the steak and kidney pie followed by heavy dessert, they would more often eat a salad or light cafĂ© food (Scottish smoked salmon on rye bread with capers, salad with rocket) and maybe a lager. I did find another pub with all of the Samuel Smith offerings, mostly on tap which was great. I had the Extra Stout and it was so fresh, creamy and light, even though it was full bodied. We also had Fuller’s products here and there, and some other more commercial European brews. Other brews that you mentioned would more likely be found up north as England ’s pubs are very regionalized. May be next time!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Volo Cask Days 2007

The third annual Volo Cask Days festival.
October 20 ~ 21, 2007.

It was a beautiful autumn weekend for the 2007 Cask Days. The sun was shining on this sold out event. There were four sessions: (1) Saturday Breakfast with the Brewers, (2) Saturday Afternoon, (3) Saturday Evening and (4) Sunday Afternoon. Bier Goddess had been looking forward to this event for months. Of all the Toronto beer festivals and events, this is the one NOT to miss. It was the second year I had volunteered to help serve and there was no making the same mistake as last year - sensible shoes this time. I needed to pace myself since I had signed up to volunteer at two out of the four sessions. Ralph & Ina, the owners and operators, always do such a great job with all the special events they host that it's a pleasure for me to help out where I can. It also gives me a chance to talk with the brewers & get an inside look at this Toronto creme de la creme festival of All-Cask-Conditioned beers.

Biergotter's Cask Imperial Porter.
Biergotter's other beer, Hopocalypse Redux, won for Best Beer of the Festival as voted by the attendees. (
Fog On The Tyne by Magnotta Brewery won for best beer name.

Ina and Stephen Beaumount, beer writer,chat about beer.

What an amazing turn out beers. Here is the list of special casks that were submitted to this event:
* Volo's Hopocalypse Redux (American IPA, brewed by Beirgotter)
* Volo's Casc Imperial Porter (American Imperial Porter, brewed by Beirgotter)
* Volo's Totally Bitter Ale (brewed by Robert Hughey)
* Denison's Weissbier (Denison's Brewery)
* Wind & Sail Dark Ale (Barley Days Brewery)
* Hop Bomb "S.T.F.U." Pale Ale (Black Oak Brewing)
* Bourbon Barreled 2005 Nutcracker Porter (Black Oak Brewing)
* Hopburn Ale (Camerons Brewing)
* Hop Head IPA (County Durham Brewing)
* Blak Kat Stout (County Durham Brewing)
* Taste of Ontario Harvest Ale (F&M Brewing)
* George's Herbal Mild (F&M Brewing)
* Fuller's ESB (Fuller's Brewery)
* London Pride (Fuller's Brewery)
* Mill Race Mild (Grand River)
* Plowman's Ale (Grand River)
* Best Bitter Special (Granite Brewery)
* Keefe Oak Chipped Steeped Irish Stout (Granite Brewery)
* Devil's Pale Ale (Great Lakes Brewery)
* Pumpkin Ale (Great Lakes Brewery)
* Stewart's Organic Ale (Heritage Brewery)
* Traditional English Dark Ale - Made with vanilla beans (Hockley Valley Brewery)
* Maclean's Pale Ale - Dry hopped (Maclean's & Lagers)
* Fog On The Tyne - Weizen yeast flavoured American IPA (Magnotta Brewery)
* IPA (Mill Street Brewery)
* Left Hook Barley Wine (Nickel Brook Brewery)
* Jackson Best Bitter - Michael Jackon tribute beer (Saint Andre Brewing)
* Perry's Atomic Pumpkin Ale (Scotch Irish Brewing)
* Peppermint Stout - Unconditioned (Tafalgar Ales & Meads)
* Volo's Grains Of Wrath Double IPA (brewed by Church Key)
* Arkell Best Bitter (Wellington Brewery)
* Special Pale Ale- Dry hopped (Wellington Brewery)

I had volunteered at sessions 2 & 3 but I attended session 4 with a group of friends. We had a great time tasting, sharing our favorites and mingling with the other beer fans. At these events, there always seems to be a relaxed excitement. The cost of $35 per session it's a real deal. You got ten 4 oz tasting tickets and a tasting glass. I don't know anyone who ran out of tickets. There were also four beers that were sold in to fundraise for Sick Kids Hospital. (Good on you Ralph!) My favourite beers of the festival were Biergotter's Casc Imperial Porter, for it's velety smoothness and well intergrated hops, and Perry's Atomic Pumpkin Ale, for it's good pumpkin flesh flavours and balanced drinkability.

Above, some of the brewers: (top) Adrian Popowycz (brewmaster of Black Oak), (second in column) Robert Hughey & Bruce Halstead of Durham County, (third in column) Perry Mason (founder of Scotch Irish Brewing Co)and (fourth in column) Russ Burdick & Jan Biega (brewer and brew monkey of Biergotter).

This festival benefitted from the trials & errors of the previous years. The quality of the beers submitted were a notch above past years. I think this is due to the competitive nature of the brewers and the prestige this event has garnered in the Toronto beer community. The cap on the number of attendees per session allowed for a more comfortable experience. We were not all on top of each other and the flow of traffic to get tasters was easy & quick. Also, the rotating invitees at "The Cheese Table" allowed for a fuller tasting experience, especially for those who attended more than one session. The invitees were, Julia Rogers (, Cole Snell (, Ruth Klahsen (, Scott Jensen ( and Alli Miller (of Alli's Bread).

The two best beer t-shirts...gotta love the sense of humour that brewers have. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tickets, Cheese Seminar, Beer Friends

September 2007

On the last Sunday of September there was a special day at Volo. The first thing happening was the Cask Days one day ticket sale. To celebrate the day there was a limited quantity of Fuller's ESB on cask for the early birds. Not only was there a big line up for the ticket sale, they sold out within the first couple of hours! This was the third year of Cask Days & it had gained a certain prestige in the beer community in Toronto as The Festival to attend if you like cask conditioned beer.

I wanted to attend the Saturday night session but by the time I got to the front of the line, I could only get tickets for Sunday afternoon. I called everyone I was getting tickets for and thankfully everyone would be able to attend on Sunday instead. This ment I would be volunteering to serve both Saturday afternoon & evening sessions...I knew then that I would have to be prepared for a long day on my feet. Then I thought, "What if it rains??!" Having promised Ralph, the owner, I'd help out ment no backing out now. Not that I would. This was my favorite Toronto beer event and I enjoy supporting those events I believe in.

Dan & Doug are regulars at Volo. There not only very nice guys but they are also fellow beer enthusiasts. Cheers boys! Don't drink all the Fuller's - save me some!

Biergotter Gang: Eric Ecclestone, Jennifer Root, Russ Burdick & Jan Biega enjoying a pint of ESB and playing some eucher. I'll take some of that action.

Part 2 of the same day: Later, I attended the first of three monthly cheese seminars at Volo taught by Julia Rogers. There were 3 sessions scheduled for the last Sunday of September, October & November. Each session would have a different focus, introducing different cheeses and their different wine & beer pairings. This series breaked for the holidays but new sessions were added for spring of 2008. If you're interested go to the Volo website listed as a link on the blog's right hand side.

(More details on this September cheese session will be posted later.)

Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture (cheese educator & enthusiast)

Tasting Plate: September '07 Cheese Seminar

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 Golden Tap Awards

A table of Bier Gods & Goddesses enjoying their tastings.
(from left to right: Eric, Hilary, Chris, Michiho & Mark)

Once again Beer Bistro hosted the annual Golden Tap Awards on Saturday August 18. This event celebrates and honours the beer makers and beer establishments in Ontario. It was the fifth year of this event and it was packed with beer enthusiasts. Hosted by Cass Enright, the moderator of the Bar Towel website, it brings together brewers and their beers to one afternoon of casual fun and opportunity to sample, sample, sample. At $2 a tasting, it's easy to try a wide variety of beer or something from the table of finger foods.

One of the bonuses of attending is that many breweries bring one-off batches that you can try. These special brews are often only available at the event and you might not ever have a chance to taste ever again. Some at this year's event were Black Oak's Transvestites Tipple and Scotch Irish's Fire In The Hole.

Cass Enright who emceed the awards ceremony.

Michael Hancock, brewer and owner of Denison's, accepting his Editor's Circle Award for his outstanding brewing.

Adrian and Ken of Black Oak Brewing company who won the Best Beer of the Festival.

The 2007 Golden Tap winners:

Best microbrewery in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - Mill Street
Best microbrewery in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Church-Key
Best beer brewed in the GTA - Mill Street Tankhouse
Best beer brewed in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Beau's Lug-Tread Lagered Ale
Best bar in the GTA in terms of draught beer selection - C'est What
Best bar in the GTA in terms of bottled beer selection - beerbistro
Best bar in Ontario (outside of the GTA) - Winking Judge
Best brewpub or tied house in Ontario (including the GTA) - Mill Street Brewpub
Best beer of the festival - Black Oak Transvestite's Tipple

New this year were Editor's Circle awards, to recognize unique and significant achievements in the Ontario beer industry. Four were handed out:

Michael Hancock
Great Lakes Brewing
Roland + Russell
Volo Cask Days

(For past winners see

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Victory Cafe

Victory Cafe, 581 Markham Street, Toronto (

I really wanted to get together to catch up with Bier Goddess Hilary after being away on vacation. We planned to meet at around 4 pm at Ronnie's Local 69 in Kensington Market. An unfortunate sequence of events ended up with meeting Hilary much later at a haunt closer to her house called Victory Cafe in the Annex. I'd never been there before but BG Hilary assured us that it would have some good offerings.

Beautiful Bier Goddess Hilary on a lovely Sunday evening in July.

It was cool but the summer is so short in Toronto, we sat out on the large patio anyways. The first pint I had was the Galt Knife Old Style Lager. It was sweet up front but it changed to a hoppy, dry finish. It was clear, amber in colour and had only a little head.

Some of Victory's offerings are listed here but you should always inquire about any guest taps.

I had the cod feature entree for dinner with stewed chickpeas. As my second pint, I had the Black Oak Saison. It was very good - some spice and malt flavours, refreshing and extremely satisfying. Coincidentally, just this past Friday, Cafe Volo hosted a tasting of Black Oak Saison on tap, cask conditioned and bottled. Tasting it now, I was very sorry I didn't make the effort of going. I understand that both Adrian (Head Brewer) and Ken (President)were at Volo for the tasting. I had the pleasure of meeting Adrian before (see posting on March 24, 2007). Well done Adrian! I've been spreading the word about your saison to all my friends.

This car was parked just a little down the street from Victory.