Saturday, September 26, 2015


When I turned 18, and was legally able to drink beer, my family took a trip to England to visit our relatives over the pond. It was one of the pivotal events in my life. I was, of course, thrilled to connect with family members I'd not seen in several years, or hadn't  met at all. As a person passionately interested in history, I was like a kid in a candy shop. And, as a new beer drinker, I was fascinated to learn about the beverage. My dad was an enthusiastic beer drinker and he taught me much about the "suds". But being in England with my dad, and joining my granddad, and several uncles and cousins who were beer drinkers, I had a new world open up to me. In Ontario in the early 70's, there were the standard beers to enjoy: Canadian, Blue, OV, 50, Ex and the lot. But in England, a variety of ales, porters, bitters and creams exploded on my young palate. I was hooked.

As years went by, the opportunity to travel continued to come my way. And, of course, the opportunity to sample the world's varieties of beers presented a seemingly endless chance to challenge my taste buds. But, sadly, the variety of beers in Ontario remained in neutral. True, the traditional beers started to give way to brands like Sleeman's, Creemore and Upper Canada. But it was a trickle only, and compared to the vast ocean of brews available world-wide and even as close as the United States, it created some degree of frustration for me.

Now, we are in a full-fledged beer revolution. Craft breweries are springing up all over Ontario, and I am a complete fan of the trend. Over the last few days, I have been able to sample some little known varieties in small towns and big cities. My friend from Manitoba, Don Sourisseau, has visited recently and it has been a veritable beer festival for us. We sampled a couple of local crafts in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Silversmith Brewery and Oast House brewery, and Don brought some Black Swan back from Stratford. I had laid in some offerings from places as far afield as St. Thomas, Muskoka, Brantford, Ottawa ( my personal favourite, "Old Tomorrow" Canadian Pale Ale ), and various locations in Toronto. It was a road map through our wonderful province and the taste ranged from terrific to horrid ( the brew from St. Thomas was "The Witty Traveler" ... too much clove flavour for us ).

I had enjoyed some of the craft beers in Manitoba a couple of years ago. Don and his wife Joy introduced Lou and I to the Half Pints brewery in Winnipeg. Don reports the brewery is doing well and expanding into Ontario.

This is all good news if you enjoy beer. National brands are all well and good. I like Canadian, Keith's, Moosehead and Rickard's. In the US, I think Coors and Pabst are fine. Australia's Fosters, Japan's Sapporo, India's Kingfisher, Cuba's Crystal and China's Tsingtao are all good brews. But, as I get older, I find I want something different, something challenging, something with "umph" in the flavour. Craft beers deliver that "umph".

Long live the revolution !!

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