How to decide which beer to order


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?

One year ago… The Jolly Inebriate anniversary!


Wow, it’s been three days past the date last year when I first started this blog. Due to a hangover, I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate on the day of but this Tuesday finds me in a much more charitable, if not expansive, mood.

To honor the day (and help me digest the lovely breakfast I just made for myself) I put together a little drink that, while admittedly cobbled together from what I had lying around the kitchen, is not too bad and totally in the spirit of The Jolly Inebriate.


1 1/2oz London Dry Vermouth
1/4oz L’abbe Francois Cassis
1/4oz Strawberry/rhubarb syrup
1/2oz Angostura Bitters
Soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the first four ingredients. Top up with soda and stir.

This cocktail has the chief advantage of being perfect for afternoon drinking when you might not want too much alcohol. The larger-than-usual amount of bitters keeps the sweet stuff in check and plays well with the vermouth as well.

You can substitute most of the ingredients for other brands if you wish and the recipe for the strawberry syrup can be found here.

I can’t show you a picture because I’m currently without a camera (a long, sad story involving a fat man and Lee’s Palace during Halloween) but it’s red and murky. You could probably garnish it with a blackberry on a stick but don’t go out of your way; drinks made before happy hour should be consumed with as little fanfare as possible.

How to plan your party + six other links


Man, I’m feeling rough. Too many parties and not enough time at home. For reasons that don’t make much sense now, I’ve been out every night for the past week-and-half and my stomach (at least I think it’s my stomach, my liver could very well be joining in too) has finally told me to fuck off and give it a rest. Next week, I’m going to try drinking once. We’ll see how that goes.

Although I’m not in the best condition to be writing about booze right now, I’ve got a bunch of links for you and they won’t post themselves! Here we go…

For those of you who have trouble with party math ( x number of guests requires x number of bottles), Sebastien Centner of the Globe and Mail offers a spinning wheel that you can print out and assemble, thereby ensuring you’ll never run out of anything.

Beppi Crosariol, also of the Globe, reviews Nicholas Pashley’s new book covering the history of beer in Canada. Looks like a good read.

Speaking as someone who loves a liberal portion of Angostura bitters in some of his drinks, it’s nice to see Oh Gosh!’s Jay Hepburn offer up some recipes that use an ounce of the stuff.

Leaving aside all the other nasty things over-consumption of alcohol can do to you, a Spanish study claims that even heavy drinkers are less likely to suffer from heart disease than teetotalers. I have to ask, why even bother publicizing this kind of information? Anyone who takes it to heart probably should’t be reading it in the first place.

Still, if you’re going to overindulge, you should be prepared for the next day. reviews a new beverage that claims to stop your hangover in its tracks. I haven’t tried it but personally, I’d stick with Gatorade.

The Underhill Lounge offers up slighty-different take on the Savoy Cocktail Book’s Rose Cocktail and if that’s not enough for you SLOSHED! offers a list of ten autumnal cocktails culled from cocktail bloggers all over.

Lastly, the best seasonal liqueur you could possibly make would be from cranberries and Inn Cuisine has a terrific recipe! Using the liquored cranberries is a damn good bonus too.

(Image taken from Married To The Sea.)

NY Times list of dos and don’ts illustrates divide between guests and service industry


Currently making the rounds on Twitter is an article from The New York Times by Bruce Buschel, the main thrust of which is a list consisting of 100 dos and don’ts for restaurant staff. The response has been equally vitriolic and congratulatory, and it seems to be split fairly evenly between industry types and guests, respectively.

The former tend to take issue with Buschel for not understanding how much shit they put up with while the latter seem more than happy to share their dining-out horror stories. To be sure, there are plenty of commentators who occupy the middle ground on a sliding scale and I would lump myself in with them but I think the heated response to this article points to the frustration both sides feel towards each other which is just as much about a lack of respect and understanding as it is about different standards of service.

While I’m all about taking Buschel to task for his “modest” list (not to mention his lack of experience in the industry) he does raise some good points. Rules are good but what’s often missing from a strict interpretation of said guidelines is giving the server the necessary leeway to tweak them as befits each situation.

With that in mind, I’m going to go through Buschel’s list, point by point, and offer my take. (I’m also going to do my best to refrain from incriminating myself re: my current place of employment but I might slip up from time to time. Anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows the difference between not giving a shit and mindlessly following the company line; sometimes you gotta work with what you have.)

How to open a bottle of wine with your shoe + six other links + four more links


For those of you stuck on a street with no corkscrew and a crowd of friends eagerly awaiting to imbibe.

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Do you know the difference between whiskey and whisky? The Kitchn fills us in.

The Pegu Blog reveals just how close we came to losing Angostura Bitters in the latest economic crisis.

In case you can’t find enough uses for apples this fall, SLOSHED! gives us the Bum’s Rush. I think I like apple juice with tequila even more than with Zubrowka

In more serious news, we’re now being told that mixing cocaine and alcohol is bad for you ‘cos it forms a whole new chemical in your liver. There’s a definite British vibe, seeing as this is the Guardian and all, but I can’t say Canada’s on the level with our neighbors across the pond, seeing as our coke’s really quite shitty at the moment (hearsay, I swear!).

In Spain, there’s a bit of a debate going on regarding teenagers and their right to throw public parties called “botellons”. Neighbors talk of noise and vandalism, teens say they’re being scape-goated. Regardless, it sure beats that period of my youth where I hung out in this public park in Whitby, furtively smoking joints and wishing I had some kind of booze.

And proving yet again that Canada’s one of the most efficient squelchers of fun ever, the City of Richmond, the B.C. liquor board and even Ottawa are burying the Dutch in red tape when all they want to do is bring their beloved Holland House tradition to the 2010 Olympics.

God forbid we should let people have a good time. I’m sure these policy-Nazis are afraid that if Canadians realize how much fun the rest of the world is having, they’ll stop putting up with some of the most draconian alcohol laws around.

One day, I’d like to walk around town with a beer in my hand. One day, I’d like to be able to bring my favorite bottle of wine with me to a restaurant for a reasonable corking fee without having the owner jump through bureaucratic hoops. One day, I’d like to be able to decide for myself which liquor store to patronize (and that will be the one that offers stuff I can’t find anywhere else). Hell, I want to be able to buy it at the corner store and then walk back up to my apartment and share it with my friends! One day, I’d like to be able to drink past 2 in the morning because I had work till last call and maybe I’m not quite done yet.

One day…

It seems like it’s been a busy day for booze and I have some more links. Instead of putting up another post, I’m going to add ‘em to this one.

If you’re a construction worker, you probably drink a lot. Top three professions are: construction, agriculture and general labour which is not much of a surprise. The report by the group appropriately titled Ensuring Solutions to Alcoholic Problems also found that male-dominated industries had more incidences with excessive-drinking and job absenteeism.

As far as I’m concerned, the only really interesting bit of information was that service and sales (my area if you will) ranked a solid fourth and fifth, respectively. (I knew we were all drunks but I didn’t know we ranked that high.)

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, based out of Oregon, had not 1 but 12 themed cocktails for their latest event. When not drowning your sorrows in The Yog-Sothoth, you could order everything from a Twisted Tentacle to the Pamakazi of Ibn-Ghazi. While some of them look fairly derivative, I still dig the idea.

Fancy a taste of the world’s strongest beer? Utopia, produced by Samuel Adams, reigns in at a hefty 27% ABV and is a veritable stew of yeasts, malts and hops with a bit of Triple Bock. It’ll cost ya $150 but at that strength and price range, it’s more like a spirit than anything.