Holiday hours for buying booze in Toronto

24
Dec/09
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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.

How to decide which beer to order

25
Nov/09
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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?

What makes certain beers more popular?

21
Oct/09
0

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.)