September 24, 2014

Beau's Oktoberfest: Silent Auction

Oktoberfest is coming.  This event, hosted by Beau's brewery is a much anticipated two day festival of food, music and of course, beer.

Did you miss out on tickets? Yes, Saturday and the two day passes are sold out.

We have a way to help. We have been given TWO 2-day passes. We are hosting a silent auction for the passes, both passes,with the money going to Shepherds of Good Hope here in Ottawa.


If you win the auction you get two 2-day passes.

How do you bid?

Auction opens at 2:00 pm today, September 24th 2014. Auction ends September 30th 2014 at 5:00 pm. Bid after 5:00 pm will be rejected.

Auction starts at $60. That means bid $60 or more. Bids of less than $60 will be rejected. We will keep the highest bid updated via Twitter.

DM us on twitter with your bid starting at 2:00 pm today. We will notify the winner on September 30th at 6:00 pm. Payment is due on delivery of tickets. We will arrange details with the winner of the auction.

Remember the two day passes are sold out and this is for charity. All the money of the winning bid will go to the Shepherds of Good Hope.

August 22, 2014

Road Trip - Visiting Breweries with the Ottawa Beer Bloggers

Road trips are a summer staple. I love them. All the more when breweries are involved and more so when good friends are along for the ride.

Anyone who knows Wort and I in person knows we travel for beer. This whole blog started because we based vacations on number of breweries we could hit in a given area. Add a nice motorcycle drive and we are hooked.

For this particular trip however we left behind the two wheels for more seating. We, along with Matt Petitpas, Sasha Dunfield and Brian Papineau set out towards the Muskoka region with a list of eight stops and a full tank of gas.

Two days before we set off I was able to attend a special Tap to Table lunch with Muskoka Brewery's Gary McMullen. We sampled the Summer Weiss, Cream, Detour, Mad Tom and Twice as Mad Tom. Each beer was paired with a dish designed by the kitchen at Hintonburg Public House.

Spicy beer nuts and Detour are fantastic, blue cheese and Twice as Mad were great but the perfect dish had to go to Cream ale and the chicken poutine. Perfect comfort food.

 Poutine anyone?
 Spicy nuts and Detour

Beets and big hunk of blue cheese, Twice as Mad

Getting to talk to Gary about the brewery's history and the beers was the perfect way to prepare for a trip to the Muskoka region and surrounding areas. His passion for the beer fueled my own excitement for what was sure to be a memorable trip.

We let the breweries know we were coming weeks in advance. There may have been only five of us but if you have been anywhere with even two of the group you know we can be loud and boisterous.

Every place we notified welcomed us with open arms and offers of tours. Many even gave suggestions for other must stop places.  Our list quickly grew from eight to almost twelve. We knew we could not hit them all so we narrowed it down to ten.

Our first stop was Lake of Bays Brewing. Ian was waiting for us and poured us our samples, including the brewery only Lake Monster. As we toured the back we were tickled by the names on the tanks, things like Ethylred the Unsteady and Maltose Falcon.

 Hello Lake of Bays!

 Ian and Athos. Yes the other musketeers are there too.

So many smiling faces. We hadn't seen our hotel yet...

We had a timeline that I preset and I got so engrossed in talking to Darren Smith about beer related things that Ian had to come pull me away. I like to talk about beer, what can I say?

Not leaving empty handed, we headed towards Bracebridge for lunch at the Griffin GastroPub.  The wonderful thing about Griffin is they do a lot of collab beers with Muskoka and other regional breweries. We enjoyed wonderful food and beer we could only get there like Original Jordan IPA and Lemon Verbena Saison.

Stomachs full we made our way to Muskoka Brewery.

Blurry but you can make out the handprints. Takes a lot of people to make a brewery.

Wort and I had been to the old brewery in downtown Bracebridge along with a quick stop at the new one shortly after they opened. This was the first time we were able to tour the new location.

Jake took the large group back into the warehouse. The space was large yet with the barrels, tanks and painting of the iconic muskoka chair on the wall it still felt like a small brewery. They may have gone with more space but they have not lost the intimate feel.


 More barrels!

Check out the colourful cans

We left Muskoka happy with loads of beer in the trunk.

Our next stop was to see what was at the time, the soon to be opened Sawdust City Brewery in Gravenhurst. Even though it wasn't complete (they were laying tiles when we arrived) it was easy to see just how beautiful the brewery was going to be. We were treated to a behind the scenes view of barrels and canning machine.

 Who knows what the boys of Sawdust will make in these but I bet it will be good.

Breweries like barrels and we like barrel aged beer.

The consensus was we cannot wait to go back once they are opened.

Final stop of the first day, after we checked into our less than impressive hotel, was Flying Monkeys Brewery in Barrie.

Well hello Flying Monkeys

We arrived as they were closing for the day but having made arrangements we were able to get a quiet behind the scenes tour of the brewery.  What was striking? The history of the building and the personal touches. There are drawings from the employees children framed and lining the walls of the hallways that lead to the offices. There are black and white photos that speak of the history of the area, the first iteration of the brewery and how long they have been around.

Nothing like a brewery in the middle of an evening thunderstorm, especially when the power goes out

Upstairs in the event room we talked for a long time with Courtney, the brewery's sales manager. She talks about beer with a knowledge and passion that draws everyone in. It is easy to see why she is good at her job and why the brewery makes it possible for anyone who comes into contact with them to walk away with a story.

 Happy beer people are happy.

Our second day began with a pit stop to the LCBO. We hadn't originally planned to stop but given the proximity to Toronto we had a feeling that they might have beer that the Ottawa area doesn't see. We were not disappointed.

Next up was lunch and flights at Barnstormer.


We tried both of their flights and ate some very tasty food. The stand out beer for the majority of the group was the Widebody Galaxy IPA. (Want to see it in their own words? Check out OttBeerBloggers)  For me the Twins Basil was the winner, Galaxy a strong second. I really enjoyed the basil notes of the Twins.

 Thank you pin up lady for our flights

Day two has only just begun. The tiredness hasn't kicked in yet. Still smiling.

From Barnstormer we pushed our way through traffic to get to 5 Paddles Brewing. By the time we got there they only had one beer for sale but luckily a few to sample. The Chupacabra had a nice bite but the winner for the samples was the Strawberry Wheat. The group was unanimous is lamenting the lack of bottles to buy. We did get a fun tour and some of their Steamin' Paddles to take home.

 Still smiling but wishing we had more strawberry wheat beer.

Plastic kegs. So much easier to lift.

Another short jaunt up the road and we made it into Peterborough to the Publican House. We didn't realize how small the retail space was and crowded our way in with those purchasing cans and growlers and looking for BBQ on the patio.  We were warmly greeted and sampled their two offerings.

Hello Publican House.

Cans in hand we made for our very last stop of the trip.

Church Key Brewery in Campbellford is housed in an old church giving it a certain charm that most ultra modern breweries do not have. John Graham, head brewer appeared out of the back of the brewery to welcome us and explained he had been following our adventures via Twitter.

He took us into the back where we chatted as he filtered a brew. John told us about the Ooh Mommy beer and how he experimented with different mushroom teas until he got the blend he liked. With that description how could we not try it?

Visiting Church Key and tasting Ooh Mommy.

The Ooh Mommy was less earthy than I expected and rather nicely balanced. Bottles were bought for further taste testing at home.

We returned home late, tired but very happy. The trip had been a success on all fronts.

We would like to offer thank yous of the biggest kind to breweries who opened their doors to us and welcomed us in with such hospitality that we were speechless. (Well the rest were, I am never out of words)

You all made this trip memorable. To them and to my traveling companions, thank you.

Tired but...still smiling.

June 12, 2014

More Beer and Cheese!

Haven't had enough beer and cheese yet?

Well we sampled many cheeses and a few beers so we put together a small list of what we thought would work together.  Try it and comment if they worked together.

Cheese suggestions:

Wilton Extra Old Cheddar with a good english bitter.
Mapledale Smoked with a pilsner.
Fifth Town Operetta paired with a saison.
Fromagerie Nouvelle France..any of their cheeses, really. Try them with a Belgian!
Any big blue cheese? Match it with a big hopped beer.
Riopelle with a berliner style beer.

Pied de Vent with a farmhouse saison. Big hay notes in the cheese lend itself to a farmhouse style beer.

Beer Suggestions:

Barley Days Wind and Sail with a smoked gouda.

Mackinnon Brothers Pale paired with a soft brie or mild goat cheese
Beau's Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale with raclette

Have a good beer and cheese pairing? Share it with us! 

June 11, 2014

Beer vs Wine - Which goes better with cheese?

This is a big question.

Ask any die hard wine lover and they will tell you that the pairing of wine and cheese is classic, that nothing is better.  They will tell you that the tannins in wine balance out with the high fat, high protein of cheese.

Ask a die hard beer fan and they will tell you that beer and cheese are the perfect pair because the carbonation helps break down and coat your mouth with the cheese, allowing you to taste it more fully.  They will say a good beer will balance out the flavour of a good cheese.

Personally I think the key to this lies in the balance and complimenting tastes.  Both wine and beer have their place when it comes to cheese but is there an ultimate pairing? Is one really better than the other?

With this question at the forefront of our minds we headed to Prince Edward County to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival.

 Lots of cheese

Yes, a festival for all things cheese and cheese related. We arrived at the Crystal Palace on the fairgrounds and were greeted by booths and booths of cheese, wine, artisan chocolates, soda and meat.

 More cheese

Ottawa's own Harvey and Vern's

What better place to decide the best pairing for cheese than at a cheese festival where the products are at your fingertips?

So much cheese to try!

We also attended a tutored talk about Wine vs Beer. Savvy Debbie put together a great tasting where we tried seven cheeses with four wines and four craft beers.

We tried the following wines:
Casa-Dea Sparkling Rose (PEC)
Sandbanks Rose (PEC)
Huff South Bay Chardonnay  (PEC)
Palatine Hills Cab-Merlot (Niagara on the Lake)

We tried the following beers:
Highlander - Lion Grass (South River, ON)
Mackinnon Brothers (new brewery, not yet open to the public out of Bath, ON)
Publican House - House Ale (Peterborough)
County Cider (PEC)

Our wines and beers

Each cheese was tasted on its own and then again with each of the wines and beers/cider.  Debbie encouraged us to find flavours that balance. We then voted on which paired better. Unsurprising the group overall was split with no big winner between wine or beer. It seemed to come down to every one's individual taste and how they found the pairings met to their taste buds.

Not shocking as most foodies, beer lovers or wine lovers will tell you that you have to find what you like, what works for you.

How did we rate them? Well... in a not shocking twist we found overall that the beer paired better than the wines (we are wine drinkers too though so it wasn't a bias)

Ready to compare

Here is how it broke down:

 #1 at the top by the red dot and then move clockwise

#1 - Laliberte Triple Cream Cheese

Paired best with the County Cider. Also went well with Publican House or Highlander Lion Grass. For wine it seemed to go best with Huff Chardonnay or Sandbanks Rose. The cider however lent the best combination of flavours and balance.

#2 - Cross Wind Farm Chevre

This soft goat cheese paired best with the Mackinnon Brothers beer. It really help mellow out the cheese and was best for complimentary flavours.  The Sandbanks Rose also went well for the wines.

A favourite for pairing with cheese

#3 - 14 Aprent Washed Rind

This cheese needed a saison beer. None of the beers offered really did enough for this cheese in terms of balance. The Huff Chardonnay was a good match however.  This was the only one where wine won over beer for us.

#4 - Gunns Hill Five Brothers Washed Rind

This cows milk cheese had similar qualities to a gouda. It was fantastic on its own but the Publican House House Ale cut through the cheese wonderfully.

Publican House

#5 - Chemin Hatley Road

This cheese was slightly fruity on its own.  It went well enough with the Huff Chardonnay and the Palatine Cab-Merlot but the winner for us was the Mackinnon Brothers. The beer really enhanced the flavours of the cheese and vice versa.

#6 - Zacharie Cloutier Washed Rind

Again this cheese on its own was very tasty and it was hard not to eat it all at once. It did pair well with the Palatine Cab-Merlot but once again the better balance came from Mackinnon Brothers.

#7 - Lindsay Goat Bandaged Cheddar

This goat milk cheddar was firm and crumbly.  The Palantine Cab-Merlot was a great match but the moment we tried it with the Mackinnon Brothers and then the County Cider we knew we had a winner. The firm cheese was broken down so wonderfully and the beer helped to enhance the cheese.

So the final verdict for us was 6 for beer and 1 for wine. The carbonation really does help cut through the fat of the cheese and just like any good pairing the right flavours work together.

Did we answer the question definitively? No.  Do we think there is a right and wrong in beer vs wine? No.

Yes, beer does break down the cheese better but in the end it comes to individual tastes. The key to a good pairing? Balance of flavours. For some that might be wine and cheese, for some beer and cheese. Others it might just be the cheese.

For us, we will continue to look for great cheese and beer pairings.

Thank you to The Great Canadian Cheese Festival for allowing us the chance to do such important and tasty research.

May 24, 2014

Seacoast Winter Brew Festival

It was American Craft Beer Week last week and it got me thinking about my favourite American festival. To be honest it is probably my top beer festival. Maybe it is because I have a thing for the east coast of the United States, maybe it is the chowder or maybe, just maybe it is because the festival is so well put together and kicks off Portsmouth Craft Beer Week.

I am referring to the Seacoast Winter Brew Festival.

It is organized by 2 Beer and hosted by Portsmouth Gas Light Co.

This year thirty three breweries and one cidery took over the upper floor and outdoor patio to welcome beer lovers both new and old to the best that the east coast has to offer.

So what makes the festival so good? Well there are two sessions plus an hour for VIP ticket holders only. This keeps the crowd manageable and means room to move and talk to people. Speaking of talking to people the breweries send people who know the beers. There is nothing better at a festival than talking to reps, brewers and those in the know about the beer they are serving.
Portsmouth Gas Light Co. has a great layout for the event which makes moving around and finding things like the bathroom easy.

Food is included and we aren't talking pretzels or chips. This year there was pasta, veggies and other things I am sure I am forgetting but what is important is that the food was good, made in house and helps to soak up the beer samples.

The people at the door, those checking tickets and handing out bracelets were very friendly, courteous and even started the line up a little bit early so that we were ready when doors opened. The crowd itself was also friendly and courteous. Maybe it was the venue, maybe that it is held in February but it lacked the 'pound 'em back' push that some summer beer festivals have.  All in all it is one crowd I do not mind being a part of.

The weather held up beautifully making the patio and the beer selection out there enjoyable. The selection of cigars was nice too.

Getting the V.I.P. ticket is highly recommended. The extra hour as well as the selection of whiskey, scotch and bourbon make the slight increase in cost worth it. It also includes your admission to the first session so budget wise it is the most bang for your buck. This year there was also a large selection of V.I.P. only beers.

As for the selection of beer overall, well you can't go wrong with thirty three craft breweries offering you beer samples. I enjoyed trying everything from Sam Adams, Harpoon to Portsmouth's own Earth Eagle and Smuttynose. Add to that, brand new brewery Stoneface was there with their first beer.

Highlights for festival:

Founders KBS 2013 - Big coffee, chocolate and bourbon notes.

Harpoon Pumpkin Stout - Wonderful pumpkin notes. One of the best pumpkin beers I have had in recent memory. Molasses, lovely spices.

Smuttynose Baltic Porter 2013 - Lighter bodied than last years but still great as an after dinner beer. More coffee than chocolate this time around.

Lagunitas Lil Sumpin' Sumpin' - Very smooth and easy drinking. Nice malt profile.

Founders Backwards Bastard - Tobacco notes, bourbon and a wonderful smoothness.

Earth EagleWormhole Verte - A collab with 2 Beer Guys. Loads of wormwood and licorce/anise flavours. A building bitterness.

Allagash Hugh Malone - Nice Belgian IPA with great depth to the malts and nice dry finish.

For me, the event is everything I look for in a beer festival. Location, ease of movement, friendly people, well organized and great beer selection.

Thinking of checking out New Hampshire? Why not plan for a February trip and enjoy this festival as well as the Portsmouth Craft Beer week that follows.

April 08, 2014

Spring Craft Beer Meet Up

Spring is in the air and once again we are teaming up with Stoneface Dolly's to bring you a meet up of craft beer lovers and breweries. On Monday, May 5th we will once again take over the restaurant to talk and celebrate all things beer.

New to craft beer? Not so new to craft beer? Want to talk to the brewery reps and find out what beers they have now and maybe in the near future?

This is the perfect event for you! Come hang out with other like-minded people.

No charge to reserve your space all you pay for is what you eat and drink. 

Attendees can arrive anytime after 5:30 pm. We will be having a discussion between 5:30 and 6:30 pm about our favourite springtime beers. After 6:30 pm everyone is encouraged to mingle, talk, eat and try the great craft beer that Stoneface Dolly's has on tap.

Just like last time we will have a raffle of some great prizes but we are also adding beer trivia this time! Come see how well you know beer.

Now for the best part. Come hungry as Stoneface Dolly's has put together this menu just for us for that night. Not sure you want to eat? Trust me, their food is fantastic and if that isn't enough to convince you check out your options:
Beef tartare:chive-truffle oil-crostini
Salad: House ranch dressing-pickled jalapeno-blue cheese-apple-crispy chicken skin.
Foccacia: Basil pesto-bruschetta & roasted eggplant, goat cheese spread with caramalized onions and peppers.

Burger: House made pretzel bun/ Beau's beer mustard/ smoked cheddar/ bacon/ tomato jam/ house dressed chips

Kichesippi 1855 Brined pork rack: soft polenta/veg/apple mortada

Barley Risotto: Turtle Island Irish Red/spinach/roasted tomato/herbs/grilled mushrooms

Sausage stuffed Cornish game hen: pomme puree/St. Ambroise apricot glazed veg/natural jus

 Ling Cod: veg/"dill pickle" potatoes/dill beurre blanc

All you have to do to be a part of the fun is click the link and reserve your spot!

Hope to see you on Monday, May 5th!

March 31, 2014

It's been a while!

Hello all!

Things have been busy for us here at For Barley or For Wort. With so much to do, places to go and beer to drink we have had so little time to sit down and tell you all about it.

We had an exciting month of February where we went to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for their craft beer week. Upcoming, we will have four (yes four) posts about our nine days away. 

We will have a follow up to our interview with J.P. Fournier about Ottawa's Winterbrewed as well as our take on how this year's festival went.

We have an event in the works to talk Spring beers and what's happening in Ottawa in the coming months in the beer community so stay tuned for those details.

As you can see there are lots of things coming down the pipe from us!


February 10, 2014

Festibiere d'hiver

Quebec beers are some of the top in the world. The brewers are a decade ahead of Ontario in terms of experimenting and reputation.

I was excited to attend a winter festival that highlighted Quebec beers. The list of breweries and venue had me looking forward to a fun evening.

Upon arrival at the Museum of History I was struck immediately with the beautiful venue and the extremely loud music.  Standing at the top where we turned in our tickets, received our bracelet and bought our sample tickets, the music resounded from the floor below us.

The hall was set up with booths, a cask area, food tables and ticket tables.  Immediately, as I rode the escalator down it was apparent that moving from booth to booth was going to be difficult. The line ups extended and intermingled with each other as well as with the booths across the hall making it difficult to move through.

Upon scanning the sample costs it was easy to see that I was going to need more tickets and that my sheet of 20 tickets for $10 was not going to go far. The first thing to do with that sort of limitation is walk around, note the beers I wanted to try, their costs and see what my budget would account for.

First stop was the cask table where by 7:00 pm (the festival started at 5:00 pm) they still had not tapped any of the casks. The selection was impressive though and I was sure my tickets would be well spent there. Asking the volunteer if they knew when tapping might occur just led to apologies and "I don't know."

As the music blared out its club like bass beat and using hand signals to show that we were moving on we checked out the rest of the set up.

Outside there was a lovely fire and booth which served up a hot beer. Interesting and well worth the trip into the cold.

Inside once more we began our sampling, slowly making our way up the various lines to get the samples and ask questions. It became immediately apparent that everyone working the booths were volunteering and could not tell you about the beers they served.

As the evening went on the crowd grew larger making it very difficult to move around the hall. Communication was borderline impossible.  By 8:30 pm we made our trek back to the cask booth. Once there it was disappointing to find out that they were only tapping two kegs at a time.  It meant that if there was one in particular we wanted we would have to wait it out.

After 11 samples and running out of tickets, unwilling to buy more or wait until 2 am in hopes of getting the casks we wanted, we left the event.

Overall impressions? Well I won't go again but I am glad I went to experience it just once. It is a great way to experience Quebec craft beer if you have never had the opportunity before.  Be prepared for a large crowd and loud music. There are volunteers at the booths, not brewery people, so don't expect them to be able to answer your questions or tell you anything about the beer. Go with the understanding that you will have to pick and choose what you want to try based on your budget, same goes for the food.  Ideally if crowds don't bother you and you can be patient waiting in line as well as have the budget for it go both nights. It is about the only way that you can get a chance to sample everything you might want to try.

I was impressed by the selection, disappointed with how the casks were done as well as how much of my time was spent working my way through the crowd.

My enjoyment of the venue and selection was overshadowed by the feeling of being in a nightclub that just happened to serve really good beer.

January 31, 2014

Beerlympics-The Pre-Game

Logo Courtesy of Brett Jeacle

Craft beer lovers love to talk about beer. The things they taste or smell. The styles they like and don't like. They love to discuss and debate with other beer lovers. It is just in our nature.

This love of discussion and debate, this love of breaking down beer is going to be exploited on Friday, February 7th.

In the spirit of competition and the  Olympics we are hosting the first Ottawa #Beerlympics!

Coming Friday, February 7th

All suggestions must be beers available in the LCBO or Beer Store.

Suggestions are open to both Microbreweries and Macrobreweries. All bets are off.

Beers will be served in flights of 3 in a blind tasting. Tasters will not know what beers they are being served.

Each taster will taste the beers and rank each. Scores will be given in ranks of 1-10 with full and half scores possible.

Highest and lowest score of each will be dropped.

Highest overall score after all the flights will be awarded gold, second will be awarded silver and third will be given bronze.
So this is how it is going to work.

Brett Jeacle, Katy Watts, Sasha Dunfield, Matt Petitpas, Dave Price, Dave Evans, Brian Papineau and Ryan Bellerive and I are going to be the judges.  

The 15 different beers are the competitors.

Chuck, the Wort to my Barley is going to be doing all the purchasing of the beer. The list he makes will come from the judges and from you. (more on that in a minute) He will be preparing five blind tasting flights for each judge.

Each flight will have three beers at an approx 2 oz sample in a styrofoam cup marked one, two and three.  We, the tasters sip each and figure skating judge style give each a score between 1-10 (ex. great beer might be 9.5, bad might be a 1)  The highest and lowest score for each beer will be dropped and the rest averaged out.  We then move on to flight 2 and so on and so forth till the end (apprx 5 flights with breaks in between to clean palates and have water)

At the end the beer that scored. The highest overall will be awarded gold, second silver and third bronze.  We will then reveal the names of the winners.

The score tallies and all arbitration will be handled by Ottawa's very own Brew Donkey, Brad Campeau.

Where do you come in?  Well simple. Starting on Saturday, February 1st we are going to be asking for beer suggestions. We will give a style and you get to flood us with your ideas of what beers we should have go head to head against each other.

Keep watch on twitter for the #Beerlympics or comment here on the blog. Either way all suggestions will get added to the list and will be considered for competition.  Remember micros and macros are allowed as long as they can be purchased in the LCBO or Beer Store.

As for the judges, well the smack talk has already started with Brian decreeing "Go Pilsners!" and Brett throwing down the gauntlet with "Go Stouts!"

When the day arrives keep watch on twitter for the live updates and the final results. In the meantime don't hold back on suggestions.

Which beer will come away with gold? Which will rank lowest in score?  We will find out on Feb. 7th at the #Beerlympics!

January 28, 2014

Tap Takeover-Corner

What are the two things that you can count on from a tap takeover involving one of the oldest and one of the most creative breweries in Ottawa? Interesting beers and a big crowd.

Both were present on Saturday at The Corner Bar and Grill in Westboro.

Beau's Brewery and Beyond the Pale took over their taps to serve patrons some great beer.  An overall great selection with BTP bringing Pink Fuzz, Imperial Super Guy, The Darkness, Party Animal and the new Bigamy. Beau's presented the crowd with Lugtread, Bog Water, Bottle Imp, Hogan's Goat and Barrel Aged Burnt Rock.

The event kicked off at 6:00 pm though people showed up early to enjoy dinner. By 7:00 the place was full and by 8:30 there was a line up waiting for tables. Many chose to grab a beer at the bar while Beau's Tim Duncan and BTP's Shane Clarke moved about the room talking to people who had questions about the beer or who just wanted to compliment the brews.

What about the beers?

Well, as expected they were very good. We tried Bigamy (very nice hop flavours) and Barrel Aged Burnt Rock (like a vanilla creme chocolate) We also happened to be there when they tapped a cask of BTP's Breaking Bitter. This beer is good off draught but on cask it was perfect.

A special mention to Turtle Island whose cask of Black Forest we also got to try and it lived up to its name. If you like black forest cake, with the chocolate and cherry combo than this beer is for you.

We got to try the beers we wanted and with the steadily building crowd choose to leave early to give room for the newcomers to enjoy the offerings as much as we did.

Congrats on a successful tap takeover to Beau's and Beyond the Pale!

January 23, 2014

Winterbrewed: Questions and Answers

Last year in February National Capital Craft Beer Week launched Ottawa's inaugural winter beer festival Winterbrewed.

There were issues. Plunging temperatures meant the long line ups were frustrating. Beer lines froze and made it impossible to pour samples. Attendance was expected to be around 6000 and in the end 12 000 people made their way through the beer tents across two days.

Despite the hiccups the festival was fun.
When organizers looked to plan this years festival they hoped to correct many of the unexpected frustrations but keep the same feel. Overall feedback was positive from the first year and the other things could be corrected and managed.

This year's festival is occurring February 14-16th. Originally it was to be held at City Hall but when tickets were announced this past Monday the venue had changed as had the format.  The feedback from the announcement has been both good and bad.

So why the change in venue? Why the format change? We sat down with NCCBW head organizer JP Fournier to find out.

BoW: Why the change of venue?

JP: City Hall has been great in supporting the festival. The mayor has been fantastic but the big challenge for City Hall was the outdoor facility.There are things we felt were important heating, security and freezing beer lines (a major issue from last year) that bring cost of the festival up. The cost to ensure everything was done properly for us, the city and the breweries was prohibitive. We would have loved to come up with solutions to these things. I have a design for an outdoor bar that would keep things; the kegs, the lines heated but unfortunately there was not enough time to put that together.

In addition to the outdoor we hoped to use the indoor facilities as well but unfortunately the space is booked on the Saturday. We were very close to working out something with the cafe in City Hall but despite our special occasion permit, they have a clause in their lease which prohibits the sale of alcohol in that facility.

All things taken into account it means that it just wasn't possible to have it at City Hall this year.

BoW: Why the Arrow and Loon and the Courtyard Atrium?

JP: I had been speaking with Jacob at the Arrow and Loon beforehand. He has been extremely supportive of everything we have done. If people remember the first year of National Capital Beer Week we had a Cask Festival at this facility. It went extremely well and Jacob was great to work with. The guys at Arrow and Loon are amazing so it made it sense for me to consider taking the festival back to that facility knowing we have the support that we needed.

We could have looked at a hotel or a conference centre. They would have had the room to accommodate the numbers however the atmosphere counts for a lot. Arrow and Loon has a relationship with the craft breweries and the public. They are a huge supporter of craft beer and they know craft beer.

BoW: You switched indoors and to a session format. Why those changes?

JP: We wanted to give people an opportunity to talk to the breweries, talk to the brewers, to discover what the brewery is all about and what the beer is all about. Two issues that I think are resolved by moving to the smaller space in a session format is there are less people during each session so more one on one face time with each brewery. That to me is really important. One of the reasons for the festival is to help people discover craft beer and really discover it. If people just want to come out and sample the beer and have a good time, absolutely. More than happy to have them come out. But we also wanted to offer the opportunity to mix and mingle with other fans and the breweries. So doing it in the more intimate venue like this in session format really gives attendees the opportunity to do that. They couldn't do that as much with the outdoor venue because it was so cold. Plus you can't really, in that kind of weather and in those sorts of temperatures get a good sense of what those beers are like.

BoW: Was that part of the feedback from last year, that it was too cold to talk to the breweries or get a sense of the beers being offered? You can't change the weather obviously but was that something you wanted to take into account this year?

JP: That was a big part of it. Comfort is important, especially when you are outdoors. The line ups were another issue. As far as I am concerned no matter where it is your attendees should be comfortable, they should feel like the service is all about helping them enjoy the festival. Getting 12 000 people out there with a skeleton crew of volunteers made it really hard for us to do that last year.

BoW: So by taking it inside, to a smaller venue and going to the session format you are addressing line ups, temperatures, crowd control, tasting the beer in a comfortable setting as well as the ability to talk to each other and the breweries. Do you feel you have hit the main logistical and customer complaints from last year?

JP: Exactly.  

I also want ticket holders to know that it doesn't just allow them access to the 5th Avenue Court Atrium but it gets them both. It is unfettered from one side to the other. In the Atrium, that side is focused on the sampling and discovering the different beers. Say you are in the sampling area and you find something you like and want a full pint. Arrow and Loon will be carrying the participating breweries will be on tap all weekend. You can go try a bunch of beers, find one you like, head into the Arrow and Loon and enjoy a full pint.

BoW: I will admit I am missing a bit of the bragging component of the outdoor aspect. It isn't even that I am missing being outside. It is the 'So Canadian we have our winter festivals outside.' To be honest though if I don't have to freeze while drinking my beer I am okay with that. Do you think people are missing that part, even though they seem to forget just how cold it was last year?

JP: We will be headed outside again in future years. It was cold last year but it was a lot of fun. People should expect that this year will be fun too.

BoW: Do you feel that you are a bit rushed or disorganized this year because you have had to change the venue or because things have had to be altered?

JP: To be honest I feel like I am more organized this year than I was last year. The reason I say that is we have gone through a lot of planning and we are aware of the hurdles of continuing the festival outdoors so we have more than enough time to address those for future years. For Winterbrewed 2014 we have Kamp Operations who are involved. They do volunteers for Beau's Oktoberfest and they are doing a number of different things for us.

The site map, because of the limited space compared to last year's two blocks we have had to be a lot more aware of the details when creating it. We need to create flow for entrance, exit and throughout the whole area in general.

The nice thing is we aren't going to have any surprises in terms of a huge snowfall or freezing rain or things are melting. People who are coming to the festival also don't have to worry about that. The festival is a go, rain or shine.

BoW: I think some people are missing that point. You aren't going to be getting up the morning of the fest and wondering "hmm, well do I go, how long, how do I dress, is it worth it?"

JP: As a host we really tried to take that into consideration last year. We wanted to make sure that we did what we could to make things comfortable, hence the heaters but with the sheer volume of attendees and temperatures outside it created a whole new set of challenges for us to keep up with. Moving inside means both ourselves and those coming don't have to worry about weather.

I think the other thing to consider with us moving inside to a more intimate space is our line up. You will notice that more than half are small breweries, a chunk of them being new breweries.  Covered Bridge, White Water and Perth are going to be there. Beyond the Pale, Turtle Island will be there as well. We have some others lined up but I am staggering the news as paperwork is done. From the way it looks right now we will have about 12 to 15 breweries. Some are doing double booths, Beyond the Pale for example, which means they will have a ton of beer there.

This event will be a fun one for sure.

BoW: But in a more intimate setting, which gives it an entirely different experience than the big outdoor festival.

JP: Exactly. Also giving those small breweries a chance to talk to people, meet people and introduce themselves to people.

BoW: I think that session style seems to be a bit foreign to people. It is a big change from the all day festival. It is better for crowd control and conversation. The immediate response to the festival this year seemed to revolve around the idea of it switching to session. Do you think people feel that you are downgrading from last year?

JP: It is a change yes. I guess it might be more a combination of the smaller venue and the new format. I think both are positive. It really is more intimate and for us, allows us to address the issues we had at the last festival. Maybe the fact that is a lot of change is what is shocking. Makes people think it is nothing like last year, which is true but for the better.

I would love for people to understand that to build a festival in such a way for it to be self sustaining, especially the kind of festival we are talking about where eventually we'd like to see it as two sites, one pass that it takes a lot of planning. We now know that an outdoor festival will bring 12 000 people. This year we are working on the indoor, more intimate. The goal to bring the two together in future years.

After this year we will know if an indoor component to Winterbrewed will be successful. This will give us all the information we need moving forward with a two site system.

This year there will be no slushy beer, unless the brewery wants it that way. There will likely be hot beer and special beers. There is more a chance to talk to the brewery. These, as I see it are all positive and I hope the public sees it that way.

BoW: How did you set the ticket price this year? An advantage of session style is tickets tend to be less expensive. Was that a factor for you, being able to offer tickets at the price of $12 in advance, $15 at the door?

JP: If we had kept things the same as last year, if we had produced it the same as last year based on our actual cost of the logistics of it all it would have meant charging about three times what we are charging this year.

There are no surprise costs attributed to the weather this year.

We want the price to be reasonable so that you don't have to have lot of money to come out. The point is for everyone to be able to come out and try the beer.

BoW: The way Ontario law works you have to sell tokens/tickets for samples. What will the prices of those be like this year?

JP: Like last year they will be $2 a token. Samples will vary in price anywhere from one token upwards. The breweries are asked to price their products accordingly. More expensive beers will cost more, higher ABV will be more.

I suggest people pace themselves. Lower ABV and less hoppy and work your way up but that said there are a lot of adventurous beer drinkers in Ottawa so I won't tell people how to enjoy the festival. I feel comfortable in saying there will be something for everyone. It promises to be a fun event for craft beer enthusiasts and new craft beer fans alike.

BoW: Are you asking the breweries ahead of time what beers they are bringing? Are you releasing a list?

JP: We have tried that and it is sort of 50/50 on if there is an advantage to it or not. Some of the breweries are able to say "This is what we are bringing and that's that." Others it depends on their schedules.

BoW: Are you encouraging breweries to keep the line up the same across all the sessions?

JP: We are asking them to keep the beers as much the same across the sessions as they can. In the end it will be determined by their stock but they are asked to have beer available for every session.

The changes to this years festival seems to address the major issues that last year brought. The smaller venue will bring smaller crowds, less line ups and a more intimate atmosphere for talking and learning about the beer.

Yes, there is a three hour time limit to each session but with the line up being anywhere from 10-15 breweries it gives attendees plenty of time to try out the beers.

Access to the Arrow and Loon means being able to purchase a pint of your festival favourite.

The move indoors means no shivering or chattering teeth.

No matter if you are fond of the changes or not there is no denying that the festival will be enjoyable. If we can have fun with freezing beer and bone chilling cold than we can have fun in the warmth of a craft beer loving space.

To purchase your tickets, see the line up of breweries and more information check out Winterbrewed. Follow the #Winterbrewed on twitter and @CraftBeerWeek for all the most up to date announcements.

Thank you to JP Fournier for sitting down with us and going over the changes to this year's Winterbrewed.

January 20, 2014

A Winter Beer Tasting Party

In December a group of Ottawa bloggers and beer lovers got together for a 'Taste and Tweet' session focusing on winter beers and holiday foods.  Being in the grip of plunging temperatures and the holiday season we felt it might be good to taste some winter beers as well as ones we count on as holiday favourites.

Most 'winter' beers tend to be bigger ABV's and are richer in flavour or spice, much like traditional winter foods are heavier and richer. They are crafted for drinking by a fire, huddling under a blanket to ward off the cold or getting together with friends and discussing how much you miss the summer.

We hoped to help people with suggestions of beer and food pairings for holiday parties so what better way to figure it out but to have a party of our own.

We had the pleasure of hosting, Marissa Begin The Beer Gypsy (follow her here @thebeergypsy), Brett Jeacle Craft Beer Love (follow him here @craftbeerlove), Brian Papineau (follow him here @bryehndotnet), Dave Price (follow him here @ve3bax). Katy Watts Sheltered Girl meets World and Ottawa Beer Events (follow her here @klwatts) popped by to drop off some beer but was unable to stay for the tastings.

*Check out their blogs for write ups on the 'Taste and Tweet' as well!

Everyone brought some beer to taste and in the end we had quite the line up.  In addition to the beer, everyone brought some holiday type foods ranging from cheese, cured meats, rillettes, chutneys, crackers and desserts.

Thirsty? We were.

I will admit once everything was laid out we seemed to have a daunting, but incredibly enjoyable, task ahead of us.

Our beers ranged from rare seasonals to home brews and then to beers more readily available in the LCBO and local breweries.

Here is a rundown of the beers we tried:

Friar Buck's Sarrasin - Made by Church Key Brewing. It has buckwheat in the malt giving it a nice finish. It is lighter in colour than I expected. It was a great start and deceiving at 7%.

Lustrum Sour Anniversary Ale - From Driftwood Brewery this beer was quite the treat for us. Marissa brought this rare treat that is brewed in British Columbia. It comes in at 9.4% and carries an amazing sour taste with a some dried fruit notes. It was voted our favourite out of province beer.

Bah Humug - Made by Wychwood Brewery this is a traditional Christmas beer that is available every year in the LCBO. If you are looking for a beer with light spice notes for the holidays then this is it.

Winter Ale -This one comes from Great Lakes Brewery. It has all the rich spice notes that you want in a winter warmer. It was our pick for best readily available seasonal beer. It was available in the LCBO and reasonably priced.

Nickel Brook Cuvee - Brian brought us a year old bottle of the cuvee and we had a two year old bottle in the cellar.  We opted to do a side by side. The 2012 unfortunately did not hold up in its aging for whatever reason and left everyone slightly disappointed. The 2011 however was still beautifully spiced and mellowed to an almost spiced wine flavour.  The best news? Nickel Brook just released the 2013 to the LCBO so head out now before it is gone. Buy two, one to try now and one to age.

Reserve de Noel 2013 - Brett made a trip to Quebec to get this one for us. Brewed by Les Trois Mousquetaries this spiced beer comes in at 10.5% and the bottle is worth sharing. A perfect host/hostess gift. We voted this one a 'need to find' beer. When the cold hits and the Christmas lights go up this is one you want in your fridge.

Our next three were barley wines. We had Mill St's 2011 and 2013 Barley wine as well as Howe Sound's Woolly Bugger. We did a side by side of the Mill St's and voted the 2011 the better of the two. Sadly Woolly Bugger was not anyone's favourite. Perhaps if it had been aged it would have balanced and mellowed more. The barley wines are available in the LCBO (minus the 2011 as it was from a cellar)

Chimay Bleue (Grande Reserve) - From Bieres de Chimay this Belgian strong ale is a winter and holiday staple for Dave. It comes in a 9% and is perfect for warming you up on those cold winter nights.

Blackstone Porter - Another one from Driftwood. Porters are a winter standard and this was a good quality porter. At 5.1%  it was nice balance of roast and malts.

Nutcracker Porter - Anything with a name like nutcracker screams holidays. This porter, available in the LCBO is brewed by Black Oak Brewing Company. With our first drinks the table decided that this is a perfect holiday breakfast beer. Yes, breakfast.

Old Kentucky Bastard Imperial Stout - Voted our other 'need to find' winter beer, this imperial stout from Nickel Brook comes in a 10% and brings a ton of flavours with it. The nose was full on bourbon. The beer brings hints of orange, vanilla and chocolate on the finish. Buy some and age it or drink it now, you can't go wrong. It is available in the LCBO for limited time.

IX Cacao Triple Chocolate Stout - A treat bottled for us from Turtle Island Brewing. Lots of dark chocolate flavour. Even had a bit of cigar notes to it. Reminded us of rich dark chocolate cake and it was just begging for some vanilla to round it out.  Limited run in kegs around the city.

Big thanks to Turtle Island for bottling this for us.

Expedition Stout - A Russian imperial stout from Bell's Brewery in the USA. Boozy with a bit of raisin and chocolate. Nothing like 10.5% to warm you on those cold winter nights.

Chocolate Manifesto - The name says it all. This sweet milk stout from Flying Monkeys packs a big chocolate flavour. From the nose to the finish it is all chocolate. A great bottle for sharing with those rich holiday desserts or sipping by the fire.

It should be noted that we also had two growlers from Big Rig. With all the other bottles we were not able to crack them open that night but did so the next night.

Gingerbread Porter - Like drinking a gingerbread cookie in all the right ways. Great spice balance that reminds us of holiday baking at its best.

Gingerbread Porter-cookies in a glass

Triple Chocolate Cherry Imperial Milk Porter - Sweet, smooth, chocolatey with a hint of cherry. A perfect after dinner beer.

We also had some home brew. Dave brought a Scotch Cap Saison that had lots of black raspberry notes. Brian offered his Bitter Holiday, with cranberry and nice bitter finish. Brett favoured the group with his Rum Runner. This double brown packed amazing rum and vanilla notes.

Rum Runner and dessert. A match made in heaven..or at least in Brett's kitchen.

The holidays with its presents, decorations and parties are over but the winter is far from done. All of these beers are perfect to help ease away any chill you might have.

A big thank you to Brian, Marissa, Brett, Dave and Katy for a fantastic day of drinking, eating and tweeting. There is nothing better than a day filled with good people.