Tag Archive: LCBO


In the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of going to two distinct festivals in Toronto (sorry Session, I heard you were terrific but I was unable to see past my throbbing hangover after a best friend’s birthday).

The Hart House Craft Beer Festival is in it’s 4th year at UofT. Held in the quad that sits smack-dab in the middle of the aforementioned cultural centre, it’s got an impeccable reputation with enthusiasts and it wouldn’t be difficult to argue that it’s played a large role in the craft beer renaissance taking shape in our city.

Beside the excellent beer, they’ve got a free BBQ and a couple of DJs from CIUT, one of the best radio stations around. Did it live up to my expectations?

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For an experience like in the video above, get yourself a membership to the Toronto Temperance Society. I had the pleasure of checking them out a couple of months ago and their cocktail list is the shit. Exclusive tastings, ultra-professional staff and the kind of atmosphere that allows for a decent conversation don’t hurt either.

Some people gripe about the price but it’s cheaper than a gym membership and you’ll probably use it more.

NEWS

Ontario’s finally becoming a little less staid as the provincial government says it will relax the liquor laws come summertime. Whether this is pandering to voters in the upcoming provincial election or not, I know it will make this year’s festivals so much better. (The Globe And Mail)

In a move designed to gussy up its image a bit, The Beer Store is opening a new concept in Liberty Village called “The Beer Boutique”. While it will feature the same selection as other stores, customers will be able to feel better about buying their beer from a private monopoly. No word on whether the boutique will feature transients returning empties in shopping carts. (PostCity)

A profile of Will Predhomme, the sommelier of Canoe and the fun, fascinating and often tricky world of purveying wine. (Toronto Life)

Even the tea leaf has its own sommeliers now. Andrew Marone and Judy Lin who run t-buds will find the perfect cup for you. (PostCity)

El Gordo, the food court home to Agave & Aguacate, now has a patio. No more standing up while you make a mess of Francisco Alejandri’s tostadas! (Spice City Toronto)

If you think the only good champagne is branded Dom Perignon or Veuve Cliquot, think again. Their blends don’t compare to individual vineyard’s efforts, known as “grower champagne”. (Good Food Revolution)

For those of you excited by that recent Japanese study, let me rain on your parade with a little calorie-counting. Two pints of beer can equal about 45o calories. Two cans of regular soda contain 300 calories. I always felt kind of smug about not drinking soda but I’m going to stop right now (feeling superior that is; I’m still going to drink beer). (National Post)

FOOD

If you couldn’t get enough of his amazing sandwiches, Caplanksky’s is about to increase the ways to enjoy them with two delivery bikes and a food truck! Sure beats a hotdog… (Taste T.O.)

Supermarkets that are open all twenty-four hours of the day can be awfully convenient but get some shopping done at one of the many farmer’s markets operating in Toronto. (The Globe And Mail)

Nick auf Der Mauer, owner of Porchetta (one of my favorite places to eat in the city), shares his recipe for rapini with garlic and chili. I’ll still go to his shop for the sandwiches. (The Toronto Star)

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Huzzah! Best TV spot I’ve seen in awhile. You can watch the apology for it and the apology for the apology here. |AdFreak|

Cross-border shopping is impossible unless you’re willing to stay over for a couple days. Thankfully, the LCBO is finally catching up with America in some ways. You can get St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur (180695, 750 mL, $49.95), Aperol (176834, 750 mL, $22.95) and four different Amaros but where’s my Luxardo Maraschino and Crème d’Yvette?

Despite the snarkiness from some of my colleagues, it’s still nice to see the LCBO bringing in some quality, established products and I really hope they penetrate into the mainstream bar-consciousness. |The National Post|

What if an iconic beer brand died and no one gave a shit? Josh Rubin’s calling the near-future expirations of Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue. Maybe they’ll revamp it like 50 but in a market where people are drinking better, it’s going to be difficult to make them marketable. |Toronto Star|

While I’d love to see more BC wine in Ontario, I’d rather see the rules preventing this not be struck from the books if it means being flooded with cheap, foreign stuff. Maybe an amendment of some kind could work which allows for personal imports/exports? |The Globe And Mail|

Apparently, a new study says that couples who drink together, stay together. Drinking apart or not drinking the same amount tends to make things worse but I feel like that’s the kind of wisdom my papa would’ve laid on me before I get married. No surprises here. |Physorg|

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southern tier pumkingA month and a half ago, I was walking down College St. when I passed Nirvana which, along with its sister restaurants Last Temptation, Red Room and the recently-deceased Green Room; provides cheap food and drink to a largely-student clientele.

The sandwich board cheerfully announced that they now had pumpkin ale on draught and I remember this big grin coming out of nowhere, right across my face as I thought to myself, “Terrific! It’s that time of year again.”

Of course, I had to stop in for a quick pint and even though it was Amsterdam (a weaker example of this seasonal), I was still quite happy to drink it.

Hallowe’en may be over but the season’s not and when I think of what I enjoy drinking most at this time of year, pumpkin ale definitely tops the list (that and whisky).

Not all pumpkin ales are the same of course. A few are quite sweet, others bring the spices to the forefront and some prefer to let the beer do the talking. Fans are generally split between those who prefer an easy-drinking, lighter mouthfeel and others such as myself who enjoy a rich, sweet explosion that references the dessert.

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ask the inebriateRobert from east of here (somewhere around Ottawa I think):

“well hello!

so, was just desperately scouring the interwebs for any advice on shopping for bar tools in Toronto when I happened along your blog. the blog is awesome btw.

it would seem that you might be my last hope as the interwebs have proved fruitless. I spent the last two days going here and there, all around TO, to all sorts of places you’d figure would carry things like Hawthorne strainers, Julep strainers, jigger, muddlers, Boston shakers, bitters (don’t even get me started!), bar spoons, mixing glasses etc..

I have a few hours left tomorrow afternoon to find… everything?anything.. thanks in advance for any advice you could pass along to a very weary traveller!”

You can try Kitchen Stuff Plus at 703 Yonge St. (one block south of Bloor St.) for some bar gear. They have a lovely selection of OXO knives, some juicers and other odds and ends. Williams-Sonoma has some stuff too but they’re pricey and overrated. A stand at the St. Lawrence Market sells my favorite shaker, the Oxo Stainless Steel, in the basement area (look for the stand with all of the kitchen gear; they’ll have other stuff too).

Dinetz at 231 King St. East (just west of Sherbourne St.) has pretty much everything you might want. While you’re in the east end, you can always check out Nella Cutlery at 433 Queen St. East. They mostly service restaurants and the like but their store may very well interest you. If you want to go a bit further afield, try out Cayne’s in Thornhill. They kind of remind me of those ads you see in the Sun but you can’t argue with the prices.

I’ve never shopped here but every time I pass by Calphalon (425 King St. West, just west of Spadina Ave.) they always have spiffy tool displays in the window. Seeing as they supply Williams-Sonoma, they’re probably pricey but they might be cheaper than shopping at the latter. Hell, even if you don’t buy anything, I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.

For bitters, you’re pretty much out of luck if you’re looking for anything but Angostura. The Toronto Institute of Bartending carries Fee Brothers but that’s it. Their store is located at 487 Adelaide St. West (just west of Portland St.). The LCBO carries three types of four types of Amaro, Campari, Cynar, Fernet-Branca and Unicum but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. Be sure to check the website because not all stores will carry them.

On a side-note, you can find lots of fun stuff at Value Village, particularly glassware, and its cheap. Don’t buy crystal; it’s going to break anyway.

Personally, as far as I’m concerned, summer is not over. We have at least another month of amazing weather and I will be a the beach tomorrow, getting my tan on,  not preparing for the next holiday on our seasonal list.

But beer is a finicky creature. One the shelves one moment, it’s gone the next whether due to the vagaries of the LCBO or the buying public. It behooves you to grab the good stuff while you can.

So here’s a list of the best Halloween beers provided by BarTowel, along with an addendum provided by myself; sure to enliven your celebration of all things spooky. (Most of these items are not officially released yet and you won’t be able to search for them on the LCBO website until they are. They should be out soon. Don’t forget to use drinkvine for all of your booze-locating needs!)

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Up to this point, I’ve usually answered any questions I receive directly but I figured maybe some of you out there might be wondering the very same things so I’m going to start posting my answers.

Nik from Toronto: “Did the LCBO, in an attempt to be responsible or something, discontinue all malt liquors (essentially, shit alcohol with a content above 6% or so)? Just curious. Realized that I haven’t had a 40 in a while, nor have I see one.”

I decided to call them up to see what they had to say. The confused lady I ended up reaching had no idea what malt liquor was and it quickly became apparent that she was merely searching for it on their own website.

Since I can do that myself, I let her go and did a quick check which got us the answer we wanted.

You can still get Pabst Olde English 800 (311357, 1180 mL, $5.80) and Red Bull (679860, 710 mL, $3.25) around Toronto. Colt 45 (679845, 710 mL, $3.25) however, is only available in the boonies but you can get the larger size (676189, 1183 mL, $5.35) at Queen’s Quay, Yonge & Dundas and a couple of other locations as well as in multiple locations in Scarborough and North York.

The lady I talked to at the LCBO couldn’t say why the number of stores carrying malt liquor had shifted but I would imagine supply and demand has a larger impact on its availability. Also, the LCBO has been trying to gussy up their image in the past couple of years and it hards to see it fitting in well with their new direction (at least until Colt 45 brings back Billy Dee Williams for nostalgic ad campaign).

The G20 has ruined many things for the citizens of Toronto (road closures, school closures, transit delays, the St. Lawrence Market, uprooted trees, loss of income, loss of patio space, removal of bike stands… new annoyances are added everyday) but it’s going a bit too far when the LCBO decides it has to close 7 of its stores from Friday to Saturday.

To be fair, many of the products that would be found at these locations can be found at others but that doesn’t make it right. I guess a trip up to Summerhill is in order… |Toronto Sun|

One thing the G20 can’t ruin is Ontario Craft Beer Week. Besides the numerous events happening all week long, be sure to check out the Session Craft Beer Festival at Sunnyside Pavilion on Saturday (June 26th). |Ontario Craft Brewers|

The ash from Eyjafjallajokull may have never made it this far but Icelandic beer is coming to Toronto! Skjálfti (168393, 500 mL, $3.95) is a hoppy marriage between a pale ale and a lager and both Josh Rubin of The Star and Greg Clow of Taste T.O. dig it. (If you have trouble using the LCBO  website, don’t forget to log on to drinkvine, the best way to scout out new beers and wines in the GTA.) |Toronto Star, Taste T.O.|

If you want proof why marketers should never, ever come up with a beer brand, look no further than Biker Beer a brew produced out of Nickel Brook that came about because a couple attended a rally on their wedding day. Since no self-respecting biker (or human being) will ever drink this product, I’m betting it will come to be regarded as one of the most inane vanity products  in the history of beer ever.

I bet they even have matching beach towels with their initials monogrammed on ‘em. |Toronto Sun|

Despite what this blog might be saying, you can tell the difference between different wines and the distance between good and bad wine can be pretty fucking far indeed. Just don’t be a pretentious twit. |You Are Not Smart|

Conflict Kitchen is performance art masquerading as a take-out joint. Taking a country that the United States currently has a beef with, it will serve a signature dish and with everyone happily sated, will offer potential dialog in the form of “events, performances and discussions”. Afghanistan is the first subject and we’ll I’ve never tried kubideh (anyone want to make a road trip to Kabul Farms?) I’m always in favor of exposing people to new street-food. |Kubideh Kitchen|

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It’s no secret that the Toronto Festival of Beer has skewed itself more towards the mainstream for quite a few years now. While good beers and times have been found (I will never forget human foosball) the event is definitely an example of quantity over quality.

While I may not dislike it as much as some folks, I was still quite pleased to receive an email from Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil, the duo behind the Griffin Gastropub and the Muskoka Beer Festival, informing me of their plans to hold a craft beer festival in Toronto.

The idea is incredibly exciting… local beers and food should attract a crowd of like-minded enthusiasts and the opportunity to sample some new brews (Tree Brewing from Kelowna, BC is sending their Hophead IPA!) is not to be missed. With 21 breweries attending at last count and each of them bringing 1 to 5 types of beer, it’s going to be a very busy day!

Corbeil and I made arrangements to meet at C’est What? which was appropriate considering the pub is basically a temple to local craft beer. It was quickly apparent that he’s the kind of guy who loves what he does. His passion for beer is definitely there and he knows his stuff but he’s no snob either. Noticing he was well into his pint of Black Oak’s 10 Bitter Years (my favorite of the moment) I ordered myself one as well and we got settled in to talk about Session, the Griffin Gastropub and Ontario Craft Brewers.

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The provincial government’s new tax on cellared wines has proven divisive, with the big boys like Peller Ltd. and Vincor Canada crying foul and claiming that it will drive consumers further into the seductive charms of cheap reds from South America.

Whatever… It’s a good idea. Promoting wines grown and cellared in Ontario and protecting our greenbelt by making vineyards economically-viable productions sounds a whole lot better to me than adding to the coffers of the Canadian arm of a multinational corporation that buys wine in bulk overseas to blend with its local product.

The big boys do have a point though. Without a concerted effort to educate consumers on why they should be taking a second look at VQA, they may very well heed the call of the bottom line and buy foreign wine.

Also, this change needs to extend to the LCBO. Give VQA even more shelf space and extend the selection to include vineyards who were excluded before because of their smaller production runs. Only so many people will pay attention to ad campaigns; making a change at the end of the line could have a far greater impact.

(If you want a real laugh, read some of the comments left by readers of the article, howling with outrage over another tax… These people are truly and utterly without a clue.) |The Globe And Mail|

While I’m not a big fan of the trend towards noisy restaurants with minimal padding, the science behind why this makes people drink more certainly rings true. Apparently, people eat and drink faster when sonically assaulted because they want to get the hell out of there which results in bigger profits for the owner.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but doesn’t this seem like a bad idea? How does this create a pleasurable dining experience? I fucking hate the music at Jack Astor’s; if you’re right under a speaker it’s nearly impossible to converse with the person next to you. I’ll take an old-school bistro with small two-tops any day. |The Daily Beast|

It gives me quite a bit of pleasure to share a cocktail that not only comes from my family’s country but employs a whole lot of their bitters: The Queen’s Park Swizzle. |Rum Dood|

Another classic drink that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is the Blood and Sand. Like Paystyle says, bump up the Scotch and OJ to achieve nirvana. |Happy Hour|

If you love gin as much as I do, you’re gonna love this collection of gin cocktail recipes, freshly-conceived at a recent Thursday Drink Night. |The Mixosoleum|

I’ve broken my fair share of glassware while washing it so sponges that are shaped to clean ‘em perfectly seems like a good idea to me. |The Spoon Sisters|

Ready to move beyond buying your beer in bottles/cans but not into the idea of brewing your own (it’s not that hard but whatever)? Build a kegerator! |Kegerators.com|

Down in New Orleans, this museum turns into a bar at night. They even tie in the cocktails with the exhibits! This is much better (and a hell of a lot more egalitarian) than the AGO’s members-only wine-tastings.|NOLA.com|

Those of us who don’t have access to flying “Upper Class” on Virgin Atlantic have to make do with what we have around us when it comes to drinking on flights. |Jaunted|

And last but not least, impress your friends and pay off hefty bar tabs with this neat trick of opening a beer bottle with a bill. |Wonder How To|