Holiday hours for buying booze in Toronto


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.


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.


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.

Should the Ontario government sell the LCBO?


I was quite surprised to read in The Globe and Mail that the Liberal government has hired two banks to look into selling the LCBO and other Crown assets to cover this year’s deficit.

After all, wasn’t this brought up before by Mike Harris et al. (and Ernie Eves before him?) and dismissed when the government realized that selling valuable assets to raise money may help cover their deficit now won’t do much for balancing the budget the next year?

But leaving aside whether it’s smart for the Liberals to divest themselves of one of their best and brightest cash cows, which is best for the citizens of Ontario; sale or no sale?

Judging from the comments on the G&M article, a lot of people are confused as to whether this would be a good thing and while I’m not an unabashed fan of the LCBO, I’m also not about to jump on the privatization bandwagon unless I’m sure that it would really benefit us.

So let’s look at the three of the biggest points being raised and see whether they have any merit or not.

Booze would be cheaper.

Really? That would be nice but most consumers don’t realize is that there In the US, each state has its own laws concerning the distribution and sale of alcohol. Some places are cheaper than others but I still have fond memories of brown-bagging tall-boys in NYC; I went to quite a few variety stores and prices ranged from $1.25 to$2.50 for a Coors Light which is not that radically different but you obviously pay more for the “convenience”. A case of mass-market, domestic beer that costs $36 in Ontario typically costs $22 in Quebec and about $18 in New Jersey.

The reason it’s generally cheaper down in the States has everything to do with taxes. Here in Canada, we pay a 26.5% tax on alcohol which includes a 5.75% liquor mark-up fee. In the US, the percentage of taxes applied to alcohol varies from state to state but they’re nowhere near as high.

I’d be the last person to suggest we get rid of the taxes that pay for our health care system (amongst other things) but I do think the mark-up is ridiculous. Still even if the LCBO were sold and the mark-up was removed, we wouldn’t be looking at the same price levels they have in the States; we would probably be a lot closer to Alberta or Quebec. (Strangely enough, spirits are cheaper in Alberta but wine and beer aren’t. Wine and beer are cheaper in Quebec thanks to provincial subsidies that favor local products.)

And there’s no guarantee the mark-up would disappear. If anything, it’s unlikely it would go anywhere since pricing is regulated by the government to ensure socially-responsible consumption of alcohol which, along with store hours, is one of the primary methods they employ to prevent us from degenerating into a bunch of booze-soaked rummies (so we’re told).

Worse yet, if the entire company was sold and allowed to continue as a monopoly except in private hands, we’d have yet another Beer Store on our hands and you only have to look at Hydro One and the telecom companies to see where that gets the consumer.

Looking at the graph above (snatched from the LCBO website) it’s clear that the LCBO controls too much of market to allow it operate as a second private monopoly, answerable to no one but its stockholders.

The selection would be greater.

Yes and no. While the opportunity for specialists to open shops catering to niche markets is greater, there’d be just as many people carrying the same mass-market swill we see everywhere. With the exception of the bigger stores, most LCBOs only stock what they know consumers in their area will be likely to buy. Most private operations wouldn’t be any different.

One big concern is that while the bigger cities in Ontario would probably have no worse selection than they do now, many smaller towns in outlying areas would see their stores close with no guarantee of any replacement.

The sale of alcohol needs to be controlled.

Deciding who buys booze and when they can buy it is an age-old concern. Some people say there’s no harm in having convenience stores sell beer and wine while others argue that public drunkenness and under-age drinking will become bigger problems.

I’ve always argued that kids should be exposed to alcohol sooner rather than later (presumably limiting all of that surreptitious, binge drinking) but as that’s generally an unpopular opinion to have, I’d also like to point out that those same stores seem to do a pretty good job of preventing kids from smoking too.

Fact is, people will do what they want to do and the best results have always come from education and integration, not prohibition. The laws we already have in place will take care of the egregious offenders; why persecute anyone else?

Despite my beefs with the LCBO, I’ve come to realize that the provincial government is responsible for nearly all of ‘em… the insane mark-up, lack of inter-provincial distribution (where the hell are my Quebec beers and my BC wines?) and inconvenient store hours.

Selling the LCBO doesn’t change any of that.

The powers that be will still regulate the fuck out of whomever’s selling us our booze and unless they decide private operators to cater to niche consumers, we’ll be looking at another monopoly. We don’t need another Beer Store.

What we do need is a reexamination of the liquor laws and regulations that have their background in Ontario’s Scottish-Protestant roots and adjusting them to fit a society that, over the past decade, has become a lot more conscious of when and how they drink, what they want to buy and where they buy it from.

(And a little store downtown selling me limited-release tequila, absinthe and bitters would be nice too.)

Honesty in wine signage + eight other links


After international wine critic Jancis Robinson accused the wine industry in B.C. of being misleading when it comes to clearly differentiating between wines produced in that province and wines blended there, their version of the LCBO and several wineries have pledged to improve their labeling practices.

I’m happy to report that this is already a standard in Ontario. While at the LCBO today, I noticed that the blends were on the left and the VQAs on the right which, while it may seem a small step, is important when it comes to helping consumers make an informed choice.

In other semi-serious news, scientists at the University of Colorado have determined that there’s a genetic difference between people who are alcohol-dependent and those of us with a tendency to consume high amounts of alcohol. Just show your friends this article whenever they call you an alcoholic!

Over at SLOSHED! they’re doing their best to keep us warm this winter with two excellent recipes; the Green Tea Toddy and Pumpkin Cider. My sore throat is thanking them already…

Mixology Monday featured vermouth and I’m happy to say they found some uses for that bottle that many people reach for last. The Old Town Alchemy Co. offers up the White Ladder while Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice presents the Signora Rossa. Both are delicious!

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with this kind of thing but I can’t help but notice that The Washington Post is busy trashing a reality show that features s0-called bartenders competing against each other in “a showdown of skills, smarts and spirits”. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds and contributes to the bartending-until-I-get-something-better mindset.

I don’t read the Toronto Star for reasons I won’t go into here (involves one of their columnists trashing a guy’s reputation in what was an on-going court case) but this is a damn tasty recipe. Tamarinds add a whole new dimension to the margarita.

Lastly, if you’re really into making clear, pretty ice, has figured it out for you. Me, I just want my drinks cold but I admire the ingenuity on principle.

(Photo taken from dogwelder’s Flickr photostream.)

Tequila and Mai Tais


While combing over my recent music downloads (Bruce Dickinson does a decent, apropos cover of All The Young Dudes!) I came across a .doc file of semi-intelligible bar reviews tucked away in the bottom, left-hand corner of my desktop. A week ago, I’d gone on a bit of a tear with some friends that started on Ossington and continued east on College through Little Italy.

Since, I haven’t done a proper review in awhile, I decided to post these scribblings and maybe even bone them up with whatever memories I have left of the night…

Reposado Tequila Bar was our meeting spot. I’ve only ever been there on the weekend and between the limited seating and the jazz bands they usually have in, you might have a difficult time of it. It’s still worth it.

I couldn’t begin to tell you which tequilas I’ve tried there because when you’re handed a 2 oz pour in an extremely-pretty stemmed shot glass, you shut up and drink it. I’ve stayed in the mid-price range and been very well-rewarded. They do offer Corzo Blanco Tequila (which I had the pleasure of imbibing at home after Bacardi sent me a bottle) which would pair pretty well with their freshly-squeezed juice but I recommend going with some of their more complex reposados and anejos for some slow-sippin’ pleasure. Stick to 100% agaves and you’ll do just fine. Hell, you’ll have a good time if you give yourself over to Andrea the bartender. She knows what she’s doing.

Next up, we went to Sutra Tiki Bar in Little Italy. I’d wanted to go to Sidecar but one look inside convinced me otherwise; it was far too brightly lit and when you’re bar-hopping, the last thing you want to do is stand in an empty room anyways.

Now, tiki occupies a very particular niche in bar culture. It comes and goes, surging in popularity as people rediscover kitsch only to disappear again as soon as it peaks. The much-maligned quality of the cocktails doesn’t help either.

There are many ways for a tiki drink to go wrong. With multiple ingredients and garnishes that are meant to evoke tropical fantasies as well as stimulate your taste buds, a “sweet rum drink” is a rather crude understatement.  Using multiple rums, spices, freshly-squeezed juices and home-made syrups is a must.

Take the Mai Tai. Two essential ingredients (orgeat and curacao) aren’t even available in Canada.  If you want to make orgeat this recipe by Rick of Kaiser Penguin is one I’ve used and it’s good. The closest thing we have to Curacao in Canada is Cointreau but you should really just go across the border and pick up a bottle in Buffalo.

What, you ask, is in a Mai Tai? Trader Vic’s family (who came up with the most enduring version) provides three recipes and (one psuedo-recipe) on the website that bears his name and I’ll reprint the first one here:


2 oz 17 year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 oz Rock Candy syrup
juice from one fresh lime

Hand shake and garnish with half of the lime shell in the glass and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

Now obviously, we Canadians run into trouble with the first item in the recipe, the rum. If you’re a bit of a traditionalist, you could go with Appleton Estate Master Blender’s Legacy rum (750 mL, 43% ABV, $89.55) which is produced by J. Wray but I agree with Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice who recommends a good demerara (rum from Guyana).

The only available brand in Canada is El Dorado (you can get two vintage Bristol Classics but they’ll cost you anywhere from $200-$250); their 21 Year-Old (750 mL, 40% ABV, $109.95) would probably work very well.

If you’re feeling really fly, you could use an ounce from each; part of the fun of a good Mai Tai is the mixing and matching of different rums. Regardless of your budget, there’s probably a couple of bottles you can afford.

As for the curacao, you really should make a run and grab a bottle of the good stuff but Cointreau will do in a pinch. Rock candy syrup is not the same as simple syrup, it has a whole lot more sugar, and a decent recipe can be found on the Tiki Central Forum. I don’t even need to get into why you should use a fresh lime do I?

Anyway! Sutra’s Mai Tai doesn’t even come close to the traditional recipemenu2 as you can see from their menu to the right. Substituting amaretto for orgeat is lazy bartending and those juices don’t belong anywhere near a Mai Tai.

I ordered one anyway, just to see what it was like and while it’s not bad, it’s certainly not worth $7.50. Stick with the recipe above because you won’t find one bar in Toronto that can make a decent Mai Tai.

Most of their other cocktails were similar bastardized versions of the classics. A coconut cup with a little umbrella does not a tiki drink make.

Despite the disappointing cocktails, the music was boomin’ and the back patio floor is covered with ankle-deep sand which is kind of charming. There are better bars for the cost of the drinks but you could do worse if you’re with the right friends.

(For more information about tiki, head on over to A Mountain of Crushed Ice.)

We were going to go the College Street Bar but the bouncers carded us and insisted we pay cover. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but there were quite a few of us and, feelin’ rowdy and a bit put-out by the delay, we headed down the street to The Midtown where we were greeted with open arms.

It’s a new bar but it’s still stuck in the first few years of the millenium. Fatman Scoop and Co. were on the playlist and the bar was packed nine-deep with young ginos  ordering round after round of shots. Between the dancing and the Jager-bombs, we fit right in.

Nostalgia can have a powerful draw; we didn’t end up leaving till after last-call so this venue marked the end of our “crawl” but I suppose it was for the best that we didn’t close the night at Bistro 422 with pitchers of rye-and-gingers in hand.

What’s wrong with Cosmos? + seven other links


boozeSamantha Harrigan of Cocktail Culture takes issue with the massive hate-on bandwagon for vodka that everyone seems to be jumping on these days and shares what should be the defacto Cosmo recipe. Read, learn and stop with the excessive use of cranberry juice!

If the elitist in you is still not convinced, head on over to The Land of Forgotten Cocktails where John Myers compares vodka to ” the wall-eyed slag still standing at the end of a kegger who’ll partner up with anybody. Have fun. Wear a condom.”

I take issue with his choice of Smirnoff as an affordable choice for the cost-conscious home bartender. Stoli is only a couple of dollars more and so much better. One doesn’t need to be extravagant but there’s no excuse for stupidity.


If your cognac knowledge is only passable (like me, shhhhh!), head yonder to for an overview by Camper English.

Drink of The Week serves up the most interesting recipe I’ve come across all week-long: the Ultimate Bell-Pepper Cocktail.

What do you do when you fall off the wagon after checking yourself into an asylum for alcoholism? If you’re William Seabrook, you create a cocktail of course! Enjoy this eponymous ode to boozing, I know I will.

The Underhill Lounge offers a Prairie Oyster Cocktail which I’m sure would give many a drinker pause (but only if egg yolks make them nervous). Me, I want to chase mine with Bakon vodka

Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice lays down all of the necessary steps to make your cocktail photography as nice as those pretty pictures you see in Food & Drink.

(I can’t remember where I found this photo. If you recognize it, let me know.)

Canadians enslaved by the LCBO? + eight more links


hokus pokusI missed this when it was first posted but over at the CBC, Neil Macdonald bemoans the lack of private competition for everyone’s favorite provincial monopoly, the LCBO. He makes a lot of sense but it’s really interesting to see how uptight and short-sighted some Canadians are when it comes to talking about privatization.

Ever make a drunken promise you didn’t keep once sober? Wired looks at the science behind this foolishness.

At Taste T.O., Greg Clow gives high marks to Flying Monkey’s Hoptical Illusion. While I’m no hophead, I’m still excited by the direction the (formerly named Robert Simpson) brewery is taking.

The Bar Towel lets us in on a few beer-tastings taking place at Beerbistro and the Black Creek Brewery this fall.

I must admit I admire the kind of dedication it would take to write a blog about one cocktail. Jennifer Rowsom has that level of commitment in spades and she takes purdy photos of caesers. Would I like a caeser? Yes please!

10engines reiterates the importance of correctly utilizing a twist with your cocktail. Read and consider yourselves illuminated.

While New Zealand may be one of the few countries in the world where you can legally own and operate your own distillery, that hasn’t stopped many folks in the South (US of A that is) from making their own moonshine. Salon provides an overview and profiles an interesting man by the name of Col. Vaughn Wilson who makes copper stills and sells them.

The Ottawa Citizen has an interesting four-part series on the trials and tribulations of bars dealing with liquor law regulations.

(Photo taken from Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoche’s Flickr Photostream.)

Bacon mania hits Canada + ten more links


beer liquor eatSarah Boesveld of The Globe and Mail reports on a “bacon trend” that seems to involve the tasty pork product being added to everything from cupcakes to ice cream and serving it with chocolate sauce. I just want my Bakon vodka dammit! I can’t imagine a better Caeser…

Corby Distilleries (owner of Wiser’s, Lambs, Polar Ice, etc. and controlled by Canadian Club’s Hiram Walker & Sons. Ltd which is itself a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard of France… confused yet?) reported a 24 per cent increase in its net earnings which it attributes to its license to distribute Absolut in Canada and the LCBO’s recent strike.

Why am I repeating this? I merely find it interesting and slightly worrying how tangled these companies get with their labyrinth of distribution deals spanning the globe. Basically, everybody owns a little bit of everybody.

I’m very happy to see Cocktail Culture post a recipe of the Bloodhound Cocktail because it means I’ll be able to use the rest of my strawberry syrup.

Camper English of Alcademics tries to make ice clearer by refreezing it multiple times. Besides the visual joke, the numerous responses from other folks make it worth browsing.

He also shows us how to get more mileage out of our simple syrup.

Could you tell a Collins from a Fizz if you saw them in a bar? The Kitchn gives an overview on the two cocktails, their similiarities and their differences.

Over at the The Washington Post, Jason Wilson rebrands the Red-Headed Slut (one of those slutty cocktails from the 90’s) for the new century and ends up paying tribute to a beloved and recently-departed film director.

Vodka & Co. posts three very delicious-sounding cocktails using Bombay Sapphire gin. Feel free to substitute your own favorite spirit but try at least one of ‘em.

Oh Group shares their recipe for shrub. (Make some, you won’t regret it!)

The cocktailnerd reviews the latest round of ginger beers in his pantry. I wish we could get some of these up here in Canada…

Coming so soon on the heels of 3 Brewers opening up a brewpub in Toronto, we have a local brewmaster getting in on the action. Canadian Beer News reports that Michael Duggan (of Mill St. and Cool fame) will be opening up Duggan’s Brewery at the former location of Denison’s Brewing on 75 Victoria St.

So I kind of owe you guys an apology. I’m dreadfully late on some promised reviews and other articles. Besides the party I’ve been busy enjoying summer. Not being at home means not much time between sleeping off the fun and going to work. I promise to do some more writing soon but since this season started so late, I want to enjoy what I can of it.

The party did go well. No slushies but all the guests were ably served by the bar I’d set up. I had to man it because the bartender I’d asked to come in was delayed by a lengthy catering shift elsewhere. Even so, I had a good time (one for me, one for you!) and while it wasn’t exactly revolutionary, it was a reminder of how even the most basic bartending can be tons of fun when you have your friends around you.

(Photo taken from The Stakhanovite Twins’ Flickr Photostream.)

Joining forces with Mommy X!!!


mommy xThe Jolly Inebriate and Mommy X… sounds like the ultimate superhero team-up right? Aside from not-so-soberly fighting the forces of evil, the plan is to write up a little cocktail recipe every now and then for her and like-minded moms who need a happier hour or two (or three, who’s counting?)

It should be tons of fun and it gives me yet another outlet for all of those crazy concoctions I come up with.

I’ve got a couple schemes of my own steamin’ and bubblin’… the next couple of months will be interesting! Expect to see a guest-blogger or two to shift the focus from my own creations to some old classics while I take a look at the inner machinations of everyone’s favorite monopoly, the LCBO.

All of this will lead up to the first-year anniversary of this here blog (and a party, what else?); it’s been a wild ride so far and it’ll only get crazier from this point onward!

(Image taken from Mommy X.)

Colossal LCBO summer ‘09 release beer review


(This is the second part of a three-part series. Part one can be found here.)

To put it simply beer night was a success. We may not have discovered much good beer but we had a helluva time trying.

With 19 beers to get through (plus extras for insurance) and a lovely potluck spread, we were all set for a completely unbiased and measured review. We decided to start off with the fruity wheat beers followed by the regular wheat beers and lagers and finish up with some of the darker ales.

IMG_1316First up was the Wittekerke Rosé (250 mL, 4.3% ABV, $.2.40), an incredibly girly beer from Belgium’s Brouwerij Bavik. When I picked up this beer at the LCBO, I was repelled by pretty much everything it represented; the casual, joined font of the title (which I’m guessing is supposed to appeal to non-beer drinkers), the tagline “The Fruity Pink Beer”, the long-legged silhouette of the lady and the inclusion of aspartame in the recipe.

Now, I’m not one of those guys who dismisses beers that look or taste “girly”. I like Pink Killer, Früli and Apricot Wheat Ale amongst others and I’ll never turn down a beer I haven’t tried. Still, I was prepared to hate Wittekerke Rosé and my prejudice didn’t change with the first sip.

For all intents and purposes, it tasted like a cooler to me. The Lush thought it tasted like rosy gingerale but not as effervescent. The Connoisseur was amazed that there wasn’t a law somewhere against calling this beer (try Germany). The Alcoholic compared it to white zinfandel and finished it but somewhat grudgingly. She thought it would be a good mixer and I had to agree although only in the spirit of finding anything good to say about this beer. For the next minute or so, recipes for beer punch were floated around but having to buy a bunch of bottles just to make it was an issue with pretty much everyone. The Pothead wanted to know why the fuck the brewery would put aspartame in this beer and I have to say I’m wondering the same thing.

The incredibly-pronounced aspartame aftertaste was what really killed this “beer” for me. It was like drinking a really shitty soda; the fake sweetness kills whatever other flavors might wanna come through. Stay away from this one at all costs. It’s an overpriced cooler and it’ll probably give you cancer.

IMG_1318We tried a personal favorite of mine next; Van Diest Früli Strawberry Beer (250 mL, 4.1% ABV, $2.35), another fruity beer from Belgium. I’d enjoyed this one when I had it on tap at Smokeless Joe a couple of years ago and it’s one I still pick up a couple bottles every now and then.

Maybe the aftertaste from the first beer was plugging my tongue because this Früli didn’t do it for me. It was far too sweet and reminded me of a strawberry daquiri. I still dug the strong aroma of strawberry but everyone else gave it a thumbs down.

The Alcholic was convinced it tasted like Dimetapp mixed with soda water and while the Pothead wondered if it might have the makings of a good smoothie in it. Nearly everyone thought it was way sweeter than the Rosé and I’d have to agree; this is definitely a different beast from what you can get on tap.

Try it at Smokeless Joe or wherever else you might see it but I’d avoid buying a bottle. Make yourself a Strawberry Basil Balsalmic Mojito instead, produce your own strawberry liqueur or even buy a bottle of Fragoli (500 mL, 24% ABV, $23.45).

Trust me, it’ll be better than this.

IMG_1319After overdosing on the sugar, we decided to tart it up a bit and opened Chapeau’s Lemon Lambic (250 mL, 3.5% ABV, $1.80) which is produced through “spontaneous fermentation” using wild yeasts that are only available in the area. I find ‘em far too sour for my liking and even though fruit lambics are generally a bit sweeter, that damn sour aftertaste comes in swinging before the beer hits the back of your throat.

We all hated this beer. I poured the rest of mine down the drain and keep in mind this is a 250 mL bottle split in six. None of us could imagine drinking an entire bottle of this.

The Connoisseur compared the smell to an unholy combination of puke and Alka-Seltzer while the Lush branded it “skunky” and refused to have anything more to do with it. The Pothead said he’d drink anything but and the Alcoholic issued perhaps the most damning statement when she said that if this was the last bit of alcohol on Earth, she’d rather be sober.

Personally, I don’t get it. I’d rather make some lemonade and spike it or have any kind of ale. Hell, I’d rather drink Mike’s Hard Lemonade! I don’t like lambics and I don’t think an overly-artificial lemon taste makes them more palatable.

IMG_1320It was with a fair bit of trepidation that we approached the next beer on the list, the Exotic Lambic (250 mL, 3.5 % ABV, $2.40) from the very same brewery. The exotic on the label referred to pineapple which is one of my favorite flavors, especially where cocktails are concerned, but it was still a lambic and I didn’t think this would be any better than the Lemon.

Surprisingly, we all found it quite pleasant in comparison to the previous beer. The aroma was cloyingly sweet and artificial (think cleaning product) but the taste was acceptable from what we could make out with the same flavor you might get if you drank one of those pineapple sodas they import from the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the nose almost completely overwhelmed any pleasant effects although it did lessen the naturally-sour aftertaste of the lambic.

I really don’t understand why anyone would want to drink this. If you like pineapples, go buy one or get some juice and throw some dark rum in there. Hell, make it a sour and you’re still better off. Beer-wise, there are so many good products coming out of Belgium that it’s almost a crime to waste your time on something like this.

IMG_1321Next up was a beer that’s been around for awhile: Amsterdam’s Framboise (4×341mL, 6.5 % ABV, $11.95). I’ve it on tap at a variety of bars and I don’t mind it all that much but I take issue with Amsterdam on one issue and it’s a biggie.

Back in 2003, they purchased Kawartha Lakes Brewery which had been producing a Raspberry Wheat. While they continued to produce most of the KLB line, it’s been widely discussed how the flavors seemed to change, especially with the Raspberry Wheat which was pretty much a competitor to Amsterdam’s Framboise.

While my memory’s been doused in suds one too many times, I remember the Raspberry Wheat being particularly good and I’ve always enjoyed the odd pint at C’est What?. With this in mind, I wanted to do a direct comparison to the Framboise and see how they stacked up or (worse) if they’d become indistinguishable from each other.

The Pothead thought it smelt and tasted like weed and while it might be argued that he’s a bit biased, we all agreed there was definitely an aroma of marijuana emanating from our glasses. The Connoisseur dismissed it as Benilyn (why do so many fruit beers have a medicinal quality?) in an otherwise-decent beer but thought it had a good mouth-feel. The Alcoholic said it reminded her of why she doesn’t like beer with berries. The Lush thought it would be a good Christmas beer.

I liked the tart finish and while it’s not a beer I’m particularly devoted to, I wouldn’t turn away the odd bottle either. It’s got a nice level of carbonation and none of that fake sugary sweetness that dominated the other fruit beers we tried but it still tastes more like a raspberry concentrate flavor than anything fresh (but then again, I’m not quite sure how it could taste any fresher).

IMG_1322Of course, KLB Raspberry Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) had to come next. The Connoisseur was pleased that it looked and smelt like actual beer. The Pothead liked how subtle the fruit flavor was but the Lush swore she detected notes of apricot and apple amongst the raspberry.The Alcoholic was happy that she’d finally found a fruit beer she could actually drink and thought it would make a good caeser chaser.

I must admit to wondering why they called it a raspberry wheat when there’s nothing in the makeup of this beer that would suggest it; no spices, unfiltered sediment, crispy graininess or effervescence. The carbonation was quite low and it had a smooth mouth-feel and a bitter finish.

I enjoy this one but it loses points for not being wheaty enough; I’d almost go so far as to add half-an-ounce of whatever fruit liqueur you enjoy to a pint of your favorite wheat beer for an arguably tastier beverage. Chambord would work pretty well…

So which beer is better? I like Framboise well enough for it’s high ABV and a better raspberry flavour but the KLB is a better beer overall, especially at C’est What?

IMG_1323Our next beer was the Raspberry’s sister, Amsterdam’s Pomegranate Wheat (500 mL, 4.5 % ABV, $2.75) which was a considerable letdown after the KLB. Opinions varied considerably with the aroma being compared to everything from a “christmas tree” to “cat piss” to “rather nice with a bit of citrus”. I dunno, it smelt like fruity gum with a bit of malt to me…

One thing we could agree on was that it was weak and watery. Any presence of beer almost seemed like an afterthought with this artificial pommy taste dominating a small bit of hops. The carbonation was definitely higher than in the KLB and closer to the Framboise.

Again, much like the KLB, Amsterdam’s stretching the definition of “wheat beer” by quite a margin. I don’t really get why they thought pomegranate would be a good idea unless, like Greg Clow pointed out on Taste T.O., they probably figured it was an easy marketing point. In the end I can’t say I really care because so far, the only way I like my pomegranates is in a syrup (otherwise known as Grenadine); keep it out of my beer!

Look for part three next week where I finish up the wheat beers and delve into darker territory.

Beer Night!


Beer_Hunter_MillerAd05MWhen you collect beer like I do, drinking it can become something of a chore; especially if it starts to pile up. I can maybe get through eight or so in one sitting but my notes get sloppy by the fifth and it’s usually down-hill from there.

Inviting friends to help is a good strategy but you can’t just invite anyone. Most folks, when asked about the beer they’re drinking, will usually offer up such gems as, “this one’s bitter” or “this one’s not so bitter” and my favorite, “this one’s pretty easy to drink”. With that kind of feedback, it’s essential to find people who put a bit more thought into their evaluation.

It doesn’t have to be a by-the-book tasting either; one of my favorite comments about a beer was by a friend who compared Stuarts Natural Session Ale to “licking a wet dog”.

Tonight, I’ve invited five friends over for beer and food. The vast majority of them are part of the LCBO’s summer beer release but I’ve included a few old favorites too…

Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse

Erdinger Weisbier

Whistler Export Lager

Heritage Maple Bush Lager

Duchy Originals Organic Ale

Warka Strong

Banks Caribbean Lager

Chapeau Lemon Lambic

Chapeau Exotic Lambic

Fuller’s ESB Champion Ale

Fruli Strawberry Beer

Innis & Gunn Blonde

Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale

Amsterdam Strong Framboise Beer (which I want to compare to…)

KLB Raspberry Wheat (owned by Amsterdam!)

Amsterdam Pomegranate Wheat Beer

Wittekerke Rose

St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 2009

I was unable to procure any Edelweiss (damn LCBO strike!) but hopefully my brother will be bringing a bottle to bring the beer total to eighteen.

Food-wise, we’re going to have sesame seed crackers with smoked cheddar, pickles and walnuts,  mini-wraps (the filling is, at this point, unknown) and some homemade hummus and pita.

It should be a good night.

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