All posts by Dan Grant

Former Contributor to TAPS Magazine, NOW Magazine and the Scandinavian Brewers' Review. Former Beer Writer for the Toronto Standard. Co-founder of RunTOBeer

Provincial Election Fuckery

It’s been a while since I’ve had anything to say about the alcohol retailing system in Ontario, but Tuesday’s media conference orchestrated by our soon-to-be-departing Premier really pissed me off. Suggesting that putting alcohol closer to where people live will somehow increase the instances of drinking and driving, while simultaneously boasting that Ontario’s rates have actually dropped since she gave Ontarians more access points… what the fuck, Kathleen?

She even brought the CEO of MADD Canada along for support. Armed with his opinions, Andrew Murie also told reporters that opening up the system further would lead to an increase in drinking and driving.

Let’s be clear: MADD’s tagline is “No Alcohol. No Drugs. No Victims.” They should add, No Details, because when asked how Ontario stacks up to Québec, he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer.

Let’s be more clear: MADD Canada has been a major beneficiary of LCBO charity for more than a decade. In 2016 alone, MADD cynically collected $2.4 million from a government body that not only promotes alcohol through various media, but also offers bonus Air Miles to encourage you and me to buy even more. Charming. It would be like the Canadian Cancer Society taking donations from the Philip Morris wellness program.

Now let’s revisit the drinking and driving statistics, because I actually have some. A few years ago I contacted the Alberta government to see how things changed when they opened up the system. In 1993, government depots sealed their doors and private liquor stores sprung up like prairie dogs. The most recent stats available when I checked (in 2014 – I would check again but it takes weeks to get answers to the next part) showed the population had grown from 2,975,000 (1993) to 3,971,000 (2012).

In that period of enormous growth, alcohol-involved accidents causing injury or death declined dramatically, from 1,699 (1993) to 913 (2012). That’s a 46% drop despite a population increase of 53%!

In terms of overall driving casualties, those involving alcohol declined from 12.6% to just 6.5%.

Nearly half.

That’s a hell of a lot more compelling than MADD speculation.

And though I’m loathe to give Ford Nation more ammunition, fuck Warren “Smokey” Thomas and the steaming stream of shit he spewed last Friday.

OPSEU’s President (the same festering garbage heap who warned that putting beer in grocery stores would lead to increased instances of domestic violence) referred to the notion of beer and wine sales in corner stores as “utterly stupid and irresponsible.” “Smokey” laments how such a move would be “great for the private sector” (Heavens, no!), while siphoning off revenue from the treasury… as though beer in corner stores wouldn’t be taxed. It would, just like cigarettes, but without the overhead and administration that comes with operating a giant agency staffed by government cashiers and stockpersons.

smokeythomas
“Smokey,” responding to Kathleen Wynne’s 2015 pledge to open up the alcohol retailing system in Ontario

More stats: the LCBO sent a dividend of $1.956 billion to the provincial coffers in 2015/16. Additional revenue from beer and wine (The Beer Store, Wine Rack, licences, etc) added another $582 million. So, $2.538 billion in total earnings from liquor.

In the same year, Alberta’s government collected more than $855 million from liquor sales.

Ontario, that year, had a population of 13,976,000 people. Alberta counted 4,237,000.

So Alberta had just over a third as many people and also collected more than a third of what Ontario reported for revenue. Ever-so-slightly the Western province actually pulled in more per capita from liquor taxes… but also collected property, business and income taxes from the thousands of additional jobs those private liquor stores created. More employment. More revenue. More convenience. Oh, but less labour disruptions and long weekend closures, so there’s that.

For the union’s big boss man to suggest that giving consumers greater access will mean sacrificing hospital beds is as ludicrous as an adult insisting you call him “Smokey.”

Of course in that same news release “Smokey” also claimed that “year after year, the LCBO pours $2 billion a year into the public coffers,” when in fact that only happened for the first time last year.

If libraries get shuttered under a Progressive Conservative government, that’s because Doug Ford has shown an insatiable appetite for dumbing down the population. But on the issue of expanding liquor sales to private retailers, the evidence suggests he’s the only leader actually making sense.

Fuck.

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Wrapped up in Mumme bier

This past weekend, my son and I had the good sense to work our way through the Beau’s 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack. Although the Vienna Lager was my favourite (such a nice one), I was most intrigued by Return of the Mumme.

vienna-lager
Beau’s Vienna-style Lager, from the 2016 Oktoberfest Mix Pack

A few years ago, when I started developing an interest in historical brewing, I came across Mom (or Mum, or Mumme) as a style once popular in The Netherlands and England.

Originally from Brunswick (Braunschweig), in the German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), it’s a style of ale that most likely dates

back to the 14th century. The earliest known record, from 1390, refers to Mumm being provided for a local feast.

Predictably, the style not only varied from one brewer to the next, but also evolved over time. The traits that seemed to be consistent however, were its dark brown appearance, the addition of hops, and a sugary, malt-forward character, sometimes to the point of being syrupy sweet. Old German records speak of a lovely and pure beer, suggesting no additives. English records, as well as later German ones, list off different ingredients being added, from spices like cloves, cardamon or cinnamon, to more surprising additions like birch, pine, beans or even eggs.

Mumme beer became the city’s most lucrative export, which was a pretty big deal considering Brunswick was part of the Hanseatic League, a network of European cities that largely controlled trade across the continent. To be the chief export of such a major trading centre is testimony to mumme’s massive popularity in other regions. Making that even more interesting, Brunswick isn’t a port city. The beer would have to very durable to survive being carted in barrels over some 200 kilometres of rough road before being loaded onto ships. Eventually it would travel as far as the Caribbean and India.

1893-double-strength-ship-mumme
An 1893 ad for Ship Mumme, brewed stronger for long voyages to distant ports. The Nettelbeck brewery (1492) is the oldest surviving producer of the style.

In England, which had its own robust brewing community, Mom imports from Brunswick were banned for a few years to give locals a chance to sell their own interpretations of the style without the inconvenience of the genuine product competing in the same market. In the 17th century there were even dedicated Mom Houses in London. There’s speculation that what was produced in Brunswick was the more pure style, whereas the English brewers were sold false recipes with plenty of additives.

Brunswick beer would have taken on some of its barrel’s characteristics on the journey to England as well, which would explain why the English palate would have expected more ingredients than simply malt, water and hops.

mum-making-of-mum-1811b
An 1811 English recipe for Mum, from witteklaviervier.nl

Here’s where we jump ahead to Beau’s Return of the Mumme. The Vankleek Hill crew are a rather clever bunch and seem to put a good amount of thought into pretty much everything. Mumme translates to “disguise” or “wrap up” in German. The mummy on the label is more than simply a play on the word mumme.

mixpack
Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack, 2016

True to what I’ve been able to learn out about the style, Beau’s version is quite a dark pour, rich and malty, and does contain hops (which is not a given with Beau’s). They’ve chosen to go with a more playful interpretation of the style, adding “organic black tea from India, Sri Lankan cloves and a blend of Egyptian spices including caraway seed, marjoram and thyme.” Thankfully, no eggs.

Admittedly, I didn’t spend much time trying to figure out all the aromas and flavours. This was more about sharing beer with my son than dissecting a style that isn’t clearly defined in the first place. What I did notice was a metallic bite to its malty, burnt caramel body, a sweet molasses-like aftertaste, and a soy sauce quality that lingered. After reading Return of the Mumme shares characteristics of a modern Altbier, that makes sense. I often find myself describing Alts in a similar manner.

This weekend I’ll be in Düsseldorf, specifically because I’m curious to try Altbier in its native environment. I won’t make it to Brunswick, as I’m cycling and my schedule doesn’t allow for it, but I’ve already started looking for craft beer shops where I hope to find a vessel or two of Braunschweiger Mumme.

Beau’s Oktoberfest Mix Pack is in stores now. Beau’s Oktoberfest (the epic party) runs this weekend in Vankleek Hill, Ontario.

Vermicelli Salad & Nickel Brook Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse

Adapted from The Toronto Star

When I completed Level II of my Prud’homme Beer training a few years ago I was certified a Beer Specialist, which is a pretty useful designation if you know what to do with it.

My investment in beer education paid me back many times over with writing jobs and opportunities to educate clients about beer. It gave me a measure of credibility when I started RunTOBeer. Most importantly it taught me a whole lot about what’s happening in Ontario’s industry and connected me in a way online training could never do.

But Level III (certified Beer Sommelier) always sat just out of reach, somewhat teasingly. I didn’t register for Prud’homme planning NOT to finish all three levels, but the final course (at the time – a fourth level has since been added) placed plenty of weight on food and beer pairings, with a particular focus on cheese.

As a vegan, that complicated things for me. The beer world still generally dismisses plant-based diets, even though vegan cuisine is evolving quickly with plenty of experimentation producing outstanding results. Much like beer itself, increasingly focused on flavour and innovation, vegan cuisine is now far more appealing to a broader audience.

Vegan cheese is not only much more widely available, but flavours and textures have improved dramatically. If cheese is going to be my biggest obstacle to completing Prud’homme, it’s no longer insurmountable.

So I’ve registered to start Level III in October.

Now, with that on the horizon, it’s time to re-commit to blogging with a greater focus on beer and food pairings.

I’m starting with vermicelli salad because it’s been my favourite recipe lately. It’s so simple to make, uses easy-to-obtain ingredients and requires almost no clean-up. It’s brilliant as a meal for one or as a starter before the main course.

I paired it with Nickel Brook‘s outstanding Raspberry Über Berliner Weisse, the fruity tartness of which sits nicely with salad’s sweet chili sauce. The beer’s light, effervescent body is a very nice companion to the freshness of the vegetables.

2016-11-15-14-21-48Vermicelli Salad

TIME NEEDED

About 15 minutes.

20160909_172150Stage 1 – Dry vermicelli noodles.  Just cover with hot water and wait for them to get soft.

INGREDIENTS

Stage 1

1 handful dry, thin rice noodles (vermicelli)

Stage 2

1 tsp olive oil

1 cup smoked tofu

1 handful chopped green beans

Stage 3

1/4 cup grated carrot

Sweet chili sauce, to taste

Stage 4

8 – 10 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 avocado, sliced

Fresh mint leaves

Smoked tofu, tomoatoes, fresh mint, green beans, grated carrots and avocado.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place uncooked vermicelli noodles into a large, heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir occasionally, until soft.
  2. In a non-stick pan (I use a wok), heat Stage 2 ingredients (oil, green beans and smoked tofu) until the beans begin to brown.
  3. Strain vermicelli noodles and add to a large salad bowl. Add green beans and smoked tofu.
  4. Stir in Stage 3‘s grated carrot and enough sweet chili sauce to achieve your desired flavour.
  5. Top with Stage 4 ingredients (halved tomatoes, avocado, fresh mint leaves
  6. Serve with Nickel Brook Brewery’s Raspberry Über Berliner style Weisse.

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The Beer Mile – Canada’s Gift to Running

Originally published in Get Out There Magazine

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Beer & running go together like race kits & Instagram, and in Canada, we pair a race and a chaser very, very well.

Beer & running go together like race kits & Instagram, and in Canada, we pair a race and a chaser very, very well. From West to East, in downtown cores, country lanes and wooded trails, Canadian milers love beer as much as Canadian marathoners love beer.

In one discipline especially, The Great White North is in a class of its own. The beer mile is Canada’s gift to the running world. Four, 400-metre laps, each preceded by a full beer. Nearly a litre-and-a-half ingested before you’ve even started your final circuit (and none of that light stuff either – each beer has to be at least 5.0% ABV). Is it even remotely surprising we not only invented the sport, but continue to dominate?

It started back in 1989, when seven friends in their late teens and early twenties got together for the first, unofficial run in Burlington, Ontario. One of those was 17-year-old (underage drinker) Graham Hood, who would go on to finish ninth in the 1,500 meters at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Members of that original seven brought the concept to Queen’s University, dubbed it the Kingston Classic and set down the official “Kingston Rules” which still govern the sport today.

In 1997, Canada’s Seanna Robinson set the Women’s world record in a time of 6:42. Her mark would hold up until 2014.

Still, the sport maintained a pretty low profile until American James Neilson (ahem, born and raised in Canada) became the first person to go under five minutes, in 2014. The video went viral and suddenly runners and beer drinkers around the world woke up to this previously underground phenomenon.

The following year Mississauga’s Lewis Kent set a new standard – a blistering 4:55.78 – narrowly besting the time Australian Josh Harris ran just one day earlier. A fresh-faced 22-year-old who would look equally appropriate in a Mountie recruitment poster as he does in a singlet, Lewis parlayed that success into the first athletic apparel sponsorship deal for a beer miler. Brooks kitted him out and even booked him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, just before he raced Australia’s Harris head-to-head for the first time, at the 2015 Beer Mile World Classic in Texas.

On that December day in Austin, Kent would set a new, world-beating mark of 4:47.0, a second ahead of the Winnipeg’s Corey Gallagher.

I spoke with Kent in July. The National Beer Mile – a series of public races held across America – has been hyping the Western University graduate’s attendance at several of its stops. We met in Buffalo.

Although National Beer Mile events are more about the afterparty than the 1,609 meter circuit, Kent was still focused on remaining competitive. The 2016 Beer Mile World Classic, to be staged in the British capital, was only weeks away.

“I think I still have some time I can shave off,” he remarked. “While I can’t drink the beers much quicker, at 22 years old I am far from my peak running-wise. I still have lots of room to improve, and if I can stay consistent and healthy there is no reason why my mile – and beer mile – time shouldn’t drop.”

But this is how quickly the sport is growing in popularity; how serious the competition has become: the day before the World Classic, 21-year-old Corey Bellemore landed in the U.K. with a last minute invitation to compete. Just a couple days earlier, the Windsor, Ontario track star had unofficially beaten Kent’s WR by nearly eight seconds. The video quality was poor, but there was no mistaking this guy was for real.

On July 31st Bellemore left no doubt whatsoever when he rocketed to the front of the elite field at London’s Allianz Park, continued to extend his lead with every stride and broke the tape at 4:34:35. The second place Brit crossed 13 seconds later.

What is it about this country and beer? Even in the 40+ category, Victoria, B.C.’s Jim Finlayson owns the best three times and is the fastest in any age category for a double beer mile (eight beers, two miles in 11:39). “I think it is ingrained in Canadians,” says Kent. “Whether it’s after a hockey or baseball game, or just a long day at work, it’s a part of our culture. At the end of the day that helps us out when it comes to giving the beer mile respect.”

SIDEBAR – Tips from Lewis Kent:

What advice would you give someone intimidated by their first beer mile?

“At all the beer miles I have been a part of quite a few people do it as a relay. Whether that is four people doing one beer and one lap each, or two people doing two beers and two laps each. If you feel confident attempting the relay then you can try the full distance next time!”

How long before running is a good time to stop eating?

“Three hours”

Any types of food a beer miler should avoid?

“I tend to avoid anything heavy. Stick to bread/wheat products.”

Is it better to show up thirsty or hydrated?

“Hydrated all day, but thirsty on the start line.”

Common rookie mistake?

“Thinking it is easy!”

BloomsdayTO is tomorrow!

When I started planning this run I figured I would probably have about half of the 21 venues I was visiting taking part. That all but two offered to help me collect funds for Northern Alberta is pretty damn special.

This is absolutely one of my favourite things about Toronto’s craft beer community. I can send an email to just about any brewer and know that I’ll reach someone who doesn’t have to consult half a dozen others on something as simple as setting out a jar for one day. The overwhelming support from so many individuals is what makes it feel like community, more than industry.

Kudos, by the way, to Folly Brewpub and Steam Whistle, both of which already raised money for Fort McMurray through their own initiatives and still enthusiastically jumped on board with mine.

(the icon on the top left pops out the directory)

This is obviously my last update before I start bouncing between breweries tomorrow, with my RunTOBeer co-captain Rich Kuchinsky (the man loves beer as much as I do, and running even more!).

The RunTOBeer community has been incredibly supportive of this, already donating nearly $400.00 and sending lots of online love. Several members will be joining me at various stages of the journey.

Last night a few Tribe Fitness members joined me for a run and pitched in another $80.00. Big thanks to Heather Gardner for helping organize that.

Even if you can’t make a donation you can still help by sharing the message. Thursday, please use your social media accounts to let people know they can support a local brewery and help other Canadians get back on their feet, all while doing themselves a favour by picking up great beer. Use the Hashtag #BloomsdayTO when you do. I’ll be watching for it.

Finally, you can track my journey on Instagram & Twitter by following me at @BrewScout. I’ll be updating at every stop along the way.

This is the final list of breweries accepting donations on June 16th, in the order I’ll reach them. Please give them your support.

  1. Muddy York
  2. Left Field
  3. Louis Cifer
  4. House Ales (BarVolo)
  5. Steam Whistle
  6. Bellwoods
  7. Folly Brewpub
  8. Blood Brothers
  9. Burdock
  10. Halo
  11. Henderson
  12. Lansdowne
  13. Bandit
  14. Indie Ale House
  15. Junction Craft
  16. Rainhard
  17. Great Lakes
  18. Cool Brewery
  19. Black Oak

BloomsdayTO – Six days to go!

With BloomsdayTO now less than a week away, a few quick updates:

  1. 19 of 21 independent Toronto breweries have now offered to accept donations on Thursday, meaning if you want to support this cause it’s going to be very easy to do so. Even if you just have pocket change after picking up some bottles or tipping your server, drop it in the jar and I’ll happily collect it. Everything adds up.
  2. I mentioned in my last update that I was looking for a venue to celebrate following the run. Turns out I’ll be heading to Tequila Bookworm – where RunTOBeer’s 2015 Golden Tap Award is lovingly on display. If you’re interested in joining, a room is reserved upstairs.
  3. Finally, even though the run is Thursday, realistically it’s going to be early the following week before I can make it make back to all the breweries to collect. With that in mind, I’ll accept one last round of donations at The Loose Moose on Sunday, June 19th, when RunTOBeer celebrates Father’s Day and closes out Ontario Craft Beer Week with Side Launch Sunday. There’s no cost to run, Side Launch Wheat and Mountain Lager will be available to all runners and my good friends Jordan St. John & Robin Leblanc will be present to sign copies of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide. There will also be prizes, including round trip transportation and free entry to the Collingwood Beer Run, four tickets to September’s Craft Brew Cruise and a sweet bundle of Side Launch Brewery swag.

(the icon on the top left pops out the directory)

These are the breweries in the order I plan to see them (subject to change). CONFIRMED denotes breweries that have acknowledged their willingness to accept donations:

  1. Muddy York – CONFIRMED
  2. Left Field – CONFIRMED
  3. Louis Cifer – CONFIRMED
  4. House Ales (BarVolo) – CONFIRMED
  5. Steam Whistle – CONFIRMED
  6. Amsterdam BrewHouse
  7. Duggan’s
  8. Bellwoods – CONFIRMED
  9. Folly Brewpub – CONFIRMED
  10. Blood Brothers – CONFIRMED
  11. Burdock – CONFIRMED
  12. Halo – CONFIRMED
  13. Henderson – CONFIRMED
  14. Lansdowne – CONFIRMED
  15. Bandit – CONFIRMED
  16. Indie Ale House – CONFIRMED
  17. Junction Craft – CONFIRMED
  18. Rainhard – CONFIRMED
  19. Great Lakes – CONFIRMED
  20. Cool Brewery – CONFIRMED
  21. Black Oak – CONFIRMED

BloomsdayTO

Since I announced my epic Bloomsday Run, I’ve had several people tell me they want to do part of the journey with me. Maybe they could come for the last 10k? Perhaps they could pop in at one brewery and run as far as the next?

That would be great!

Here’s what you should understand though: Black Oak, my final destination, will be closed by the time I arrive, so there’s no big, final bash.

Unless…

Okay, so I’m going to do my best to get a venue locked down for a low key after party, where I can properly refuel. Anyone who finishes with me should definitely come along.

If you complete any other part of the run please tag me (@BrewScout) in pictures wherever you ended up. I would really love to see that!

(the icon on the top left pops out the directory)

In fact, if you’re at any supporting brewery that day to make a donation, please post your good deed somewhere and tag me so I can see it. The more we all do to draw attention to the cause, the more likely others will follow suit.

I’ll be using the hashtag #BloomsdayTO from here on in. Please share it generously.

These are the breweries in the order I plan to see them (subject to change). CONFIRMED! denotes breweries that have acknowledged their willingness to accept donations:

  1. Muddy York – CONFIRMED!
  2. Left Field – CONFIRMED!
  3. Louis Cifer – CONFIRMED!
  4. House Ales (BarVolo) – CONFIRMED!
  5. Steam Whistle – CONFIRMED!
  6. Amsterdam BrewHouse
  7. Duggan’s
  8. Bellwoods – CONFIRMED!
  9. Folly Brewpub – CONFIRMED!
  10. Blood Brothers – CONFIRMED!
  11. Burdock – CONFIRMED!
  12. Halo – CONFIRMED!
  13. Henderson – CONFIRMED!
  14. Lansdowne – CONFIRMED!
  15. Bandit – CONFIRMED!
  16. Indie Ale House – CONFIRMED!
  17. Junction Craft – CONFIRMED!
  18. Rainhard – CONFIRMED!
  19. Great Lakes – CONFIRMED!
  20. Cool Brewery CONFIRMED!
  21. Black Oak – CONFIRMED!