Tag Archive: Mill St. Brewery


The Toronto Festival of Beer has gotten quite a bit of flack in years past for being a vehicle for all of the mainstream brands and this criticism isn’t entirely unwarranted.

I’ve only been going for a couple of years but both times featured plenty of tired brews being sexed up with “booth babes” and loud music, a real-life commercial.  Neither they nor the massive drunken hordes they were serving knew or cared much about beer; the modus operandi could very aptly be summed up as “if it feels good, do it”.

While it can be easy to dismiss this attitude as simplistic and stupid, it can also be a lot of fun with the right friends. I still have fond memories of Human Foosball from two years ago and while a crowd this size will always draw its fair share of idiots, I tend to remember the people I liked.

Bacchanalia notwithstanding, there is some other merit to the event. Great Lakes Caskapalooza!, featuring 20+ unique casks that encompass a wide range of beer styles, has been a consistent favorite ever since it started and I’d expect this year to be no different. Mill Street will have a “busker experience” which I imagine will pair music with their beers.

Last year, all of the Ontario craft beer was featured in the center of the grounds, giving them some much-deserved attention. This year’s attendees include Flying Monkeys, Railway City, Black Oak, Amsterdam, Spearhead and Granville Island, at least a third of which will be featuring seasonals.

Mirella Amato of Beerology will be offering guided tours of the festival on Sunday, at 2:30 and 3pm.

One interesting feature making its debut this year is Mash Up, where 8 breweries will collaborate on developing one-off beers for the festival. Pairings include Beau’s/Black Oak, Nickelbrook/Flying Monkeys, FM/Wellington and Amsterdam/Great Lakes. Expect to see these special brews at each of the brewery’s booths.

I really enjoyed the joint cask by Great Lakes, Amsterdam and Bar Volo that was featured at the Hart House Craft Beer Festival and am definitely looking forward to see what these guys bring to the table this time.

While those who don’t appreciate drunken crowds will stay away, those up for a bit of fun with their beer will probably manage to enjoy themselves. It’s not Session, it’s not even the Hart House Craft Beer Festival but it really shouldn’t be.

I’m just happy I’ve had four festivals to go to this year.

The festival runs from Thursday, Aug. 5 to Sunday, Aug. 7. Thursday and Friday will be evening hours from 4 till 10pm while Saturday and Sunday will be more of an all-day affair from 1 till 7pm.

Friday and Saturday are already sold out but you can still get tickets for Sunday (and avoid some of the weekend crush).

(Photo taken from the Toronto Festival of Beer website.)

COCKTAILS

Got the perfect summer cocktail? Whether it be something original or a clever twist on a classic, Adam McDowell would like you to submit it for his contest. Winners get bragging rights, 15 min of fame and some bar swag. I entered for the hell of it. Rob Montgomery’s already been featured with his Blackberry Cabarnet Caipiroska, a take on the Brazilian caipirinha. (National Post)

NEWS

While the situation for established and aspiring bartenders may be improving, it can still be difficult to source out all of the right products. (NOW)

Why booze doesn’t have nutritional information on the label. (The Globe And Mail)

There are macro-lagers and then there is craft beer and no matter how much Molson-Coors or InBev would like us to believe, never the twain shall meet. They can buy up as many breweries as they like but there will always be some ambitious fella who wants to make beer his way. (National Post)

Mill Street Brewery’s expanding to Ottawa. The way they’re going, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes knocking, looking to buy. (CTV)

If you’re young and Irish and your country’s going to hell, you come to Canada and ask Jimmy McVeigh Sr. to find you a job. (Open File)

Toronto used to be a whisky-town before cheap beer and Prohibition came a-knocking. (Toronto Standard)

FOOD

The best burgers are griddle-smashed burgers. Go to Burger’s Priest and then get back to me. (National Post)

While the Globe might be none-too-subtly trying to suggest birch syrup might be better than maple, I’d posit they both have their own merits. Give the former a try if you haven’t yet. (The Globe And Mail)

And this Saturday, The Toronto Wine and Spirits Festival is coming to the Distillery District.

Details are scarce but I can tell you a few things. Emma Brown and Scott Rondeau (co-founder of the Toronto Festival of Beer) of Power Juncture, a Toronto-based events company are behind this one and with 2010 being its second year, hopefully they have some of the kinks worked out.

There’s going to be loads of food and booze. With around 40-50 vendors serving up all manner of alcoholic beverages and food to pair ‘em worth, you’re going to need to make a pit-stop at Cherry Beach just to give yourself time to digest! Notable attendees include Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company, Innis & Gunn, Kado Enterprise (sake), Victoria Gin, and Mill Street (naturally).

It’s low-key. With less people and a bit of a more mature atmosphere expect less drunken debauchery and line-ups.

The whole thing’s outdoors. It looks like the shitty weather we’ve been experiencing is on its way out and I can’t imagine a better way of spending a Saturday afternoon. Overall, I think the Distillery District is a decent place to hang out.

It’s a pretty good deal. $22 gets you in and with your admission comes 5 vouchers good for whatever food and drink you might want. Additional vouchers cost a buck.

The festival is running Thursday and Friday, from 6 to 11pm. Saturday, its open from 12 to 5pm and it’s back to the regular evening schedule for Sunday.

If you’re going to buy tickets at the event, they’ll run you $30 so buy them online or you can pick  up two for $22 through Groupon but act fast ‘cos that deal’s done in eight hours.

To get there, take the Parliament St. bus south until you reach Mill St.

I’ll be out there on Saturday so if you see me, say hi!

YouTube Preview Image

I really, really love Jen Kirkman. She’s pretty much always funny but I think she’s even hotter when she’s drunk.

Korean scientists have found that adding oxygen bubbles to alcohol reduces the time needed to recover from a hangover by about half-an-hour. They also found that the effects stack so even if you drink a lot of this booze, the effects of the hangover are not as debilitating and happen with less frequency.

Just what people need. A way to drink more often and not pay for it. Why don’t we just snort alcohol? |i09|

Or you could just chase your whiskey with pickle juice which is what I’ll be doing come next Wednesday (St. Patrick’s Day!!) |The Washington Post|

Tired of shitty cocktails made by bartenders who don’t care? Give a robo-bartender a try! (Or you could just patronize good bars.) |Wired|

If you’ve ever made a bad drink, you probably tried to fix it. Seeing as it’s all about balance, here are some great suggestions for reviving dead-on-arrival cocktails. Ginger beer is so easy but I agree with the bitters comment. If an ingredient always makes a drink better, it is really a cheat? |Kaiser Penguin|

We don’t get any of Sierra Nevada’s line up here but the idea in this article that I find interesting is the idea of a good, solid beer being overlooked when something new and stylish comes along. A good example of that up here would be Black Oak’s Nut Brown Ale. Another example might be Mike Duggan’s No. 9 making Mill Street’s Tankhouse Ale seem bland. |CHOW|

The Barbacoa combines ginger and chipolte among other things. I would imagine the peppers work very well with mezcal and the idea of garnishing with beef jerky gets me all tingly. Can’t wait to try it! |Saveur|

If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter, try the Oh Pear. I’d substitute a scotch for the Irish whiskey and I would necessarily use a pear liqueur (maybe a cinnamon syrup?) but it looks delicious regardless. |Imbibe|

I really like the cocktail pitcher but several of these bar tools are must-haves for entertaining at home. Square ice cube trays really are essential. |Valet|

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Or how to entertain at home and make it look effortless.

I’ve been throwing parties since I was a wet-behind-the-ears freshman at art school. Back then, it consisted of a couple 24s of the cheapest beer I could find, a bottle of vodka and some insanely-sweet liqueurs and potent mix of classmates and club-kids. Nudity was a foregone conclusion and the three bedrooms in the house were valuable territories with no-man’s land being the long, narrow hallway.

As always, things change, people grow up (somewhat), you have more money to throw around and your tastes become simultaneously more refined and debauched.

Some things, however, remain the same. Booze + music + crowd = good time. Where it gets interesting is the infinite amount of variables that you can play around with.

Before I wrote this, I Googled for how-to’s and guides and one thing was glaringly evident: the people who throw great parties sure as hell aren’t writing about it. Most of what I found was either incredibly straight or stupid and nearly all of it was useless.

Nobody needs to know how to throw your average get-together or function. A little food and drink and background music will keep squarely within the realm of mostly-forgettable events that serve as social grease for lots of folks.

If you’ve read this far, you probably don’t want that.

While you’re not a frat boy, you haven’t quite given up on life yet. You want your guests to enjoy themselves and you want to have fun.  You don’t want to trash your house (after all, you’ve spent some time and money to get it looking nice like that) and even though you had the foresight to get the next day off from work, you probably want to be in bed by the time the sun comes up. Maybe you even want to make some money.

585 GRRD is here to help.

We started with The Awkward Adolescent Party last year which was exactly what it sounds like. In January, we had Bramazon, which was a birthday for a close friend, Bram. The theme was “excess” so naturally we got dressed up, had a full bar and did all we could to make sure the night lived up to its tag.

Last weekend, we threw Smashed for Timbits, another birthday but for my fellow 585 GRRDer, Ash. The theme (very loosely applied) was “90′s hip hop” and we scaled back the bar to a couple of kegs and Purple Drink which is simply vodka and Kool-Aid. This one featured more of a BYOB element but the bar was empty by about ten in the morning.

By the end of this article, you’re going to be able to see how you can throw the best jam ever (hopefully without getting kicked out of your pad or getting arrested).

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So Christmas is tomorrow, New Years is around the corner and you still need to buy more booze. Obviously, you can’t get anything tomorrow or on New Years Day (for those of who like to extend the party a day or two) and The Beer Hunter’s not much help because of holiday hours.

With that in mind, I thought I’d find out whens and wheres of buying booze in TO for the next week and share it with y’all.

LCBO

No stores will be open on Boxing Day but Dec. 27th will see most stores open from noon till 5pm. Monday to Thursday will also see regular hours of operation but on Thursday, New Years Eve, all stores will close at 6pm. You’re best off hitting up your local store and avoiding the downtown core.

The Beer Store

They’re closed Boxing Day but all stores that normally open on Sundays will do so on Dec. 27th. Just be sure to get there before 5pm. Monday to Wednesday will also see regular hours of operation in effect but they will close on New Year’s Eve at 6pm so don’t leave the party-stocking till the last minute. Better yet, don’t shop at The Beer Store.

Mill St.

There were no holiday hours specified but the retail store is usually open from 11am till 9pm on Saturday. Sunday to Tuesday, it’s 11am till 6pm. Wednesday and Thursday, it’s open from 11am till 8pm. I’d phone ahead.

Steam Whistle

It’s business as usual except on Christmas Day and New Years Day. Boxing Day, they’ll be open from 11am till 6pm.  Sunday (the 27th) they close at 5pm and from Monday to Thursday (New Years Eve), they’re open from noon till 6pm.

Amsterdam

Their website says holiday hours are 11am till 9pm  so I’m going to assume they’ll be open Boxing Day, at least until 6pm. Monday through Thursday sees them at normal hours of operation which is 11am till 11pm. Call ahead just to be safe.

Wine Rack

Gotta love a store that stays open till 11pm! Despite the lack of decent selection beggars can’t be choosers and I’vewritten about some decent options before so if you’re stuck, hit one up and make do. They should be open from Boxing Day till New Year’s Eve and most of the downtown locations are open till 10pm or 11pm. Check before you head out though.

Vineyards Estate Wines

While there are no holiday hours posted anywhere, it’s a safe bet that if the Loblaws, Metro or Sobey’s they’re in is open, they will be too. They’re generally closed by 6pm.

I was at my current local, Hoops Sports Bar & Grill, conveniently located across the street from where I work, and about to order my first brew of the night when I was presented with an unexpected choice.

Sandra, instead of getting me my Rickard’s Red (they’d stopped carrying Mill St. Tankhouse Ale sometime in the fall), told me that the Creemore keg had just been tapped. Now the freshness of a keg doesn’t normally factor into my decision to partake or not but for some reason tonight, it really appealed to me and a set of criteria for ordering beer began to assemble itself in my mind.

1. Is it new or different?

Obviously, the most important question for anyone who truly loves beer. If you’ve never had it before, maybe it’ll be the best one you’ve ever had. Any truly decent bar will have one or two lines devoted to seasonal drafts and you’d have to be daft to pass up the opportunity to sample a pint of Grand River’s Jubilation Spiced Ale, for example. Even if you don’t like it, what’s the harm? You can always pussy out and order half-a-pint anyway…

2. Is it clearly the best beer available?

This is where Mill St. Tankhouse Ale often cleans up for me. Before they stupidly did away with it at Hoops, it was the only beer worth ordering in a line-up that included a full collection of Keith’s products. When it comes to that kind of decision, don’t settle for second-best. The flip-side to this neatly segues into point no. 3 which is:

3. Is it fresh?

It might be the best beer but if hardly anyone ever orders a pint because they’re too busy drinking Keith’s, it might not be up to its full potential. Just like in a restaurant, if you order the special that no one else is having, prepare to be disappointed. One person ordering their favorite beer from time-to-time can take an awfully long while to drain that keg and you don’t want to be the one sampling the lower third of that bastard.

So there you have it. Follow this quick-and-easy set of rules and you’ll probably be happy with whatever beer you end up drinking.

Or not. Maybe you just want a goddamned beer and you won’t even notice the taste because all your throat’s been craving all night is that magical equation of water, malt and hops.

Have at ‘er, I won’t stand in your way.

But for those of you who order a Keith’s, day in and day out, because nothing better comes to mind, try something else. And if I’m serving you, know this… I’m gonna fetch you your shitty beer but I hope it gives you gas and a nasty hangover tomorrow morning.

How to do you decide what you’re going to have?

At the hotel where I work, the most popular beer is Keith’s India Pale Ale.

Obviously, we’re not the only establishment that serves this beer and it’s pretty uniformly popular across the city. It kind of bridges the vague, drinking gap between those older guys who only drink Molson Ex or Labatt 50 or Blue and the little shits who’ll drink whatever’s put before ‘em. Along with Stella, Heineken and Corona, Keith’s flagship brand serves to represent Canada on the international front as Belgium, the Netherlands and Mexico purport to stand for the formers, respectively.

Much like it’s cousins, Keith’s Red and White (we don’t serve it’s ugly little brother the Staghead Stout so I’ll discount that here), Keith’s is not really an I.P.A. at all but a mutant clone, watered-down and designed to appeal to broader tastes; in much the same way Labatt Blue is called a pilsner.

It’s not even as good as Rickard’s (Molson’s brand) but people will continue to order it everyday. Now clearly, the marketing and perceived credibility of the brand affect the likelihood of a consumer being familiar enough to feel comfortable ordering it but I would argue that this actually has very little to do with what people actually order at my hotel.

Can you guess who’s responsible for Keith’s products being the biggest sellers? Why the bartenders of course! They recommend these beers and not because they like them but, in blind subservience to a vicious cycle, recite their names first when asked because they’re big sellers!

I take a different approach. If asked what we have on tap, I mention Mill St.’s Organic Lager and their Tankhouse Ale as likely options. 9 times out of 10, the guest will order one and be done with it. If they press me I’ll mention that we serve a number of  big brands and ask which one they would prefer. Sometimes, only a Stella will do and I’m not going refuse someone’s request. Still, the majority of guests will go with my suggestion and, particularly in the case of the Tankhouse Ale, I’m comfortable offering them a beer I consider to be one of the better ones produced in Ontario.

There are two factors at work here. Many people, when arriving at the critical juncture of the meal where they must choose from a number of options will often go along with a timely suggestion from their server. These people don’t want to have to give a lot of thought to their choice and they’re comfortable letting their choices be influenced by a confidently-knowledgeable server.

The second factor is one of novelty. These guests will often be up for trying something new if it’s well-presented by the server with a minimum of bullshit. I find that many foreigners are extremely keen to try a local beer but many Canadians will go for it as well.

The bartenders I work with don’t give a shit about supporting local products. They take the franchise element of the hotel to the extreme and offer  what they feel will be most comforting and familiar to a traveler.  They just can’t be bothered to concern themselves with the idea of which items are better.

One of them, seemed to be slightly irked by my constant orders for Mill St. beer. She wanted to know why I always sold their beers and did not agree with my assertion that they were the best of what we had to offer. According to her, Keith’s was obviously the best beer because it was the most popular.

This is coming from someone who doesn’t even drink beer. Mind you, she’s a fairly-good bartender for this hotel and a nice person to boot but I simply can’t wrap my head around her view-point.

She thought I was being pretentious in my devotion to our local brewery and while that may be true, I still think Mill St. makes a better beer. You may like Keith’s and Stella and could argue that those beers are different but even if you get technical and hold up Keith’s Red to the Tankhouse Ale, the latter comes out a clear winner. End of story.

So I’ll continue to sell as much Mill St. beer as I can (and if you guys are reading this, I’d be up for some kind of brand ambassador position…) and my coworkers will continue to think I’m odd but I can’t imagine selling anything but what I like myself.

I think servers owe their guests that kind of honesty.

(Photo taken from the Go There Guide.)