Tag Archives: LCBO

Beau’s All Natural Maddaddamite’s NooBroo

Beau's All Natural Maddaddamite's NooBroo
Beau’s All Natural Maddaddamite’s NooBroo

Inspired by the Margaret Atwood MaddAddam trilogy, Beau’s All Natural MaddAddamites NooBroo Gruit (5.2%) is an unhopped ale, infused herbs and berries.

I prefer some of Beau’s earlier gruits, like St. Luke’s Verse (really tasty) and Bog Water (not bad at all), just as I liked Atwood’s first offering in the trilogy, Oryx & Crake (fantastic!) better than Year of the Flood (it was okay) and MaddAddam (I wanted the pigoons to take out the insufferable, long-winded Toby, from about page 10).

If you’re just getting into Atwood, Blind Assassin, Alias Grace and Oryx & Crake are my three faves. Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale are also excellent. I’d take a pass on The Edible Woman, Life Before Man and Robber Bride.

Oh, and NooBroo is now available at the LCBO. A portion of each sale goes to nature conservancy.


3 Bean Salad & Goose IPA

People who know things recommend you get protein in your system shortly after finishing a long run. They say it helps rebuild the muscles you’ve just torn down, which speeds up your recovery.

Beer not only has protein, but also chromium (important for distance runners and hard to come by in a non-supplement form), sodium, magnesium, calcium and carbs. This makes it a far better post-workout drink than water.

The nice thing about Goose Island’s Goose IPA is it also pairs brilliantly with this protein-, iron- and fibre-rich, three bean salad. Each has citrus, pepper and fresh, earthy characteristics. Together, it’s an easy, delicious combo that just feels right after a satisfying workout.

Bean salad stays good in the fridge for a few days, so make it in advance. After toweling the sweat out of your eyes and uploading your run stats, fill a bowl, crack open the beer and just feel great for a while.

My version is ever-so-slightly adapted from OhSheGlows’ Speedy Three Bean Salad.

Three Bean Salad with Goose IPA
Three Bean Salad with Goose IPA


About 15 minutes prep.

About 4 hours before eating.


Stage 1

handful of green beans, chopped, with the ends removed

19oz can of chickpeas, strained

19oz can of red kidney beans, strained

Stage 2 (The Dressing)

8 tablespoons lemon juice

1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

generous amounts of black pepper

Stage 3

1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped fine

2 green onions, chopped coarse

Stage 4

fresh parsley, chopped fine


1 stalk of celery, chopped

2 radishes, sliced thin

Three kinds of beans
Stage 1 – Three kinds of beans
  1. Add green beans to a pot of simmering water and leave them until they’re no longer crisp — likely about 10 minutes (if you like your chickpeas and kidney beans a bit mushy, you can do the same for them).
  2. Mix all the Stage 2 ingredients (lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, pepper) in a bowl until it has a vinegrette-like consistency.
  3. When the beans are to your liking, strain and put them in a big bowl.
  4. Add Stage 3 ingredients (bell pepper, jalapeño, green onion) – and optional ingredients, if you so desire – to the beans.
  5. Add dressing, and stir.
  6. Cover, and let sit a couple hours in the fridge.
  7. Stir again and throw the covered salad back in the fridge for a couple more hours.
  8. Add parsley.
The Dressing
Stage 2 – The Dressing
Red Bell Pepper, Green Onion, Jalapeño
Stage 3 – Red Bell Pepper, Green Onion, Jalapeño

HINT: It’s best (but not necessary) to leave the parsley until you’re ready to eat. I just chop as much as I need when I dish out my individual servings.


Goose Island Goose IPA
Goose Island Goose IPA

Availability: LCBO, The Beer Store and pubs where Labatt has some influence

Special Notes: This beer uses 2- and 6-row malt, and has won a tonne of awards in the English style IPA category, in major competitions.

Stats: 5.9% ABV, 55 IBUs

Lake of Bays Old North Mocha Porter

Far be it from me to tell you what to drink, but if you’re sitting around in your robe with a box of dry cookies and no place to hurry off to, this one is near perfect.

Lake of Bays Old North Mocha Porter
Lake of Bays Old North Mocha Porter, with chocolate chip cookies

I wouldn’t typically dunk cookies in beer, but then I thought… why the hell not? These particular ones were kind of dull to start with, but after guiding them through the dark water, something more like biscotti emerged from the glass pool.

Lake of Bays Old North Mocha Porter fills a vessel with a beautiful coffee brown, capped with a foamy, toasted marshmallow-like head that doesn’t stick around particularly long.

The flavour is deeply roasted with plenty of bitter, dark chocolate. At 8.0%, there’s some booziness and vanilla bean as well, but mostly it’s cold coffee with a touch of sweetness.

Aside from cookies, this would also go with dense, dark cake, The Lakeview veggie burger (dry, but tasty) or campfires.

I already have plans for my next bottle, but that has to wait until I pick up another ingredient. If it looks as good as I think it will, it’ll show up on Instagram. And if it tastes as good as I hope, you’ll likely see it here  as well.

Lake of Bays Old North Mocha Porter

Availability: LCBO ($9.95 / 750ml bottle), pubs & restaurants.

Special Features: Made with Crazy Goat coffee, from Diesel House Coffee Roasters (Bracebridge, Ontario).

Stats: 8% ABV, 19 IBUs

Killing beer, LCBO style

Yeah, it’s a bit blurry, but not illegible. Take a look at the sticker on this bottle and guess why I’m sharing it.

Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca, at the King / Spadina LCBO
Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca, at the King / Spadina LCBO

If you didn’t figure it out already, here’s a hint: this photo was taken on October 23rd.

Yes, Jolly Pumpkin bottled this ten months ago.

Over the summer, Calabaza Blanca was my favourite beer. Untappd says I had six of them, but those are just the ones I checked in. I’m sure I consumed at least 10.

Most recently I paired one with my Thanksgiving meal. The lightness of this beer’s body does wonders to brighten up a somewhat dense Tofurky roast. I noticed then, though, that it didn’t taste the same as the ones I enjoyed in the summer. It was less refreshing. Also, despite a few days resting in my fridge door, the carbonation unleashed a fountain on my table when I popped the lid.

Calabaza Blanca, it should be noted, is barrel aged, then bottle conditioned, but at just 4.8% it’s not an obvious choice for cellaring.

Calabaza Blanca in better days, with vegan, black bean tacos, hop shoots, red cabbage sauerkraut and sprouted beans
Calabaza Blanca in better days, with my vegan, black bean tacos, hop shoots, red cabbage sauerkraut and sprouted beans

Unfortunately, the LCBO has its own aging program. It’s called negligence.

Even though Calabaza Blanca is produced year round, the current Ontario stock has been warehoused for too long. It’s not the way this beer is intended to be sold.

To be sure of that, I emailed Jolly Pumpkin. Brewmaster Ron Jeffries sent me this reply:

I don’t really recommend aging our beers, as the wild yeast will continue to work even refrigerated and given enough time the beers will become over carbonated.

That being said, they also continue to sour, and a lot of folks like that, and so do age them.

I, myself, enjoy most of the beers at about eight months in the bottle – or younger. I have had Blanca that was five years old before and it was delicious, but a completely different beer. It was sweeter and rounder with a very strong note of candied orange. I preferred the younger bottles, though, as I found them more refreshing and balanced.

So beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think other than over carbonation, you’d be pretty safe at one to two years.”

Safe, that is, if it’s properly stored. At last week’s Ontario Craft Brewers Conference, representatives for the LCBO confirmed the warehouse is not refrigerated. That explains why a good portion of my Thanksgiving beer ended up on my table, while the rest tasted less than expected.

Not that I hope for fewer beer options in Ontario (because, fuck…) but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jolly Pumpkin, which has a stellar reputation, chose not to send more. If my Thanksgiving bottle had been my first I’m not sure I would have been so enthusiastic about buying my next. Especially at $9.20 per bottle.

The provincial government continues to insist we, the commoners, are well served by our current retail options. We’re not.

It takes two separate rounds – literally several weeks – of Ontario lab testing delays before a brew gets even approved for sale to the LCBO.  The neglect that follows is just another indication the crown agency clearly doesn’t understand or appreciate beer.

Shillow Beer Co. Launches in Toronto

I’ve decided to start a brewing company!

The first order of business, even before recruiting someone to write my first recipe, was to figure out a marketing plan. The LCBO is the least expensive channel to reach a large swath of the Ontario market and far more concerned with saleability than what’s actually in the bottle. I’m thinking ahead.

So I’ve chosen to target my beer towards bureaucrats. Toronto is littered with these well salaried individuals. Tens of thousands more are nobly advancing our free and democratic society right across the province. Plus, the LCBO’s Beer Category Manager and Beer Product Manager – those all-powerful gatekeepers that review every single submission – well, they’re on the public payroll too! Can’t hurt to play to their vanities.

Trillium Warrior Stout - “Beer for the noble folks that make our lives better"
Trillium Warrior Stout – “Beer for the noble folks that make our lives better”

Trillium Warrior Stout isn’t just any dark beer. It will be aged on Maple bark, which is said to increase feelings of pride and mental acuity. I’m currently sourcing hothouse hops grown organically in underprivileged communities.

Also it will be hand crafted… by artisans. Yes, artisans!

I haven’t actually contracted the first batch yet (choosing a brewery with excess capacity will be much easier once the LCBO has approved my plan), so I can’t really describe the taste, but I already know there will be roasty notes and it will be well balanced and there will be some sort of pleasing mouth feel and finish. You’ll love it!

Although it goes against my own instincts, I’m also quite taken with the marketing plan of another new venture. Shillow Beer Co. showed up in Toronto with nary a gimmick. Instead, the wife and husband team of Jamie and Ben Shillow introduced a brown ale as their first commercial offering. Sass on The Side doesn’t even have its own Instagram account!

Shillow swag
Shillow swag = small, unassuming buttons

As I may have written a thousand or more times in the past, my first love was a brown ale. Sure, Big Rock Traditional isn’t the most exciting beer on the market, but it didn’t have to be 25 years ago. It was quite simply the best beer on the prairies back then. It could stand on quality and flavour alone. Who knows how well Ed McNally’s first release would have done if it had been released in 2014?

I’m not saying Sass on the Side is the same as Trad, but Shillow’s first commercial batch is also a brown ale (albeit an American Brown Ale, coming in at 5.6% ABV). It’s thoroughly satisfying without being complicated. Is that enough?

Considering its modest place in the market, yes, it probably is.

Ben insists (“I know you guys are writers so I want to be clear…”) this is not intended to be the flagship. Sass on the Side is simply Shillow’s initial offering, designed exclusively for Beer Bistro, where it poured for the first time last week. Jamie – a graduate of Niagara College Teaching Brewery’s program, who also works at Beer Bistro – drew up this recipe to complement several of the menu items (mini-burgers and frites cooked in duck fat were sampled at the private launch).

Other styles from Shillow are on the horizon but we won’t know anything about them until January. I repeat: January. In the meantime you will not be beat over the head with tales of how wonderfully this brewery is filling a void you didn’t realize existed. The focus now is on producing beer, not media releases. Sass on the Side (5.6% ABV) will paddle in a sea of more exotic offerings at Beer Bistro. And it will be just fine.

Sass is a beer, not a revolution or a lifestyle. It doesn’t champion the hero you imagine you’ve become. Its appeal is its unapologetic mission to elevate the experience you have with your food. Frankly, it’s tough to get excited about the beer itself.

But what about Shillow as a company? By starting with a flavourful, balanced (for real), classic beer style and a very reputable point of sale, Shillow is establishing its reputation for substance, not schtick. It’s Neko Case doing country music in the 1990s, but sounding like Patsy Cline in the ’50s.

Brown ale, I feel, is the best gateway style for craft beer. It’s great on its own and easy to pair. It’s safe, but not without flavour. Launching a new brewery with one might be strange by today’s standards, but in a field where breweries try to stand out by being unconventional this just might be oddball enough to work.

Organized Blabber

I had an interesting chat earlier this week with a couple other beer writers. They’ve been around longer than I have. They have a larger following than I do. They get invited to things I don’t.

One of the perks of being a more established beer writer is getting to attend events like LCBO tasting sessions for its new releases.

According to these writers – each of whom I have no reason to doubt – the LCBO is falling further behind each time it brings in new and (by Ontario standards) exotic labels.

Some of the fall styles, they tell me, have been in Ontario for weeks. Well that makes sense, it’s been autumn for a few weeks. The problem is these bottles still haven’t made it to the stores.

Most beer, as you probably know, doesn’t age well. In fact it can degrade fairly quick. The Amager Kåååd Spring IPA (6% ABV) that was imported from Denmark in March, yet continues to linger on several LCBO shelves… I’d be wary of that one.

Kåååd Spring IPA
Downtown LCBO locations still selling a well-travelled beer that’s sat around for eight months.

At last year’s Ontario Craft Brewer’s Conference, the head of one of the more respected Toronto-area breweries mentioned he had just taken control of his own delivery because the LCBO was doing such a poor job moving his beer. The government agency, according to many, simply can’t keep pace with industry growth.

In July, I asked the LCBO directly if it was fair to say the agency lacks the capacity to handle all the new craft beer coming to market. The response explained several ways the LCBO has supported Ontario’s craft brewers, but ducked the actual question.

I guess the Ontario Public Service Employees Union isn’t aware of these worsening conditions because it’s now suggesting the LCBO should take on more responsibility. The labour union, Wednesday, published a media release insisting the province should strip away a lucrative line of business from those small enterprises that currently sell beer and wine in markets where there is no government liquor store.

OPSEU figures the LCBO could make extra cash by expropriating the agency stores’ share of the alcohol trade, keeping the income that currently goes to private, mostly independently-owned businesses.

Related: What's Stopping Ontario's Convenience Stores from Selling Booze?

“The best way to increase the LCBO’s dividend to government without increasing the social harm caused by alcohol is to rein in the LCBO’s Agency Stores Program,” claims OPSEU Majordomo Smokey Thomas. “Contracting in of existing sales” (read: “taking back what was already given”) would bring in an additional $50 million, he says “without increasing the social costs associated with drinking.”

If the labour union is genuinely concerned about siphoning more revenue from alcohol without increasing the risk of social harm, why wouldn’t they focus their attention on the Beer Store instead? Unlike agency stores, which generally serve a population that lives nowhere near LCBO shops, the Beer Store is often located quite close to government real estate. Taking away the Beer Store’s licence to sell would give the LCBO a near-monopoly on urban beer sales in Ontario.  Just imagine the earnings.

Hey, it might even save a few kids. OPSEU also figures “the LCBO model of public ownership is still the best way to minimize the net cost to society of alcohol.” Why it thinks that, I don’t know. It’s not stated in the release, nor does it stand up to unbiased surveys of other jurisdictions. Fact is though, the not-publicly-owned Beer Store has more locations than the agency stores, so by some Smokey kind of logic they’re probably doing more harm.

I’m not saying I believe the government should shutter the Beer Store, just that it’s a more logical target for this seemingly altruistic group. But of course the Beer Store is unionized, so there’s that.

Let’s be clear, what OPSEU wants is fewer outlets that demonstrate how well the non-unionized workforce retails alcohol. More convenience and accountable customer service – these are what OPSEU does not want you to experience. Its motives are so thinly veiled they’re pornographic.

This is the same organization – speaking of matters indecent – that successfully overturned the dismissal of six employees for using government computers to surf and spread porn. That happened while I was a member of the OPS, so you see why it’s really fucking difficult for me to take my former dues collector’s social conscience seriously.

OPSEU chose to attack small business. It did so while proposing more tasks for an organization that continues to fall behind, despite its remarkable advantage in dictating market conditions. The union’s position on stripping revenue from small town employers while claiming moral high ground is as absurd as it is pathetic. If Smokey and Co. can’t be useful in the ongoing discussion of alcohol sales in Ontario, they could at least be honest about their motives.