Thursday, 18 September 2014

Buster Rhino's / Durham Craft Beer festival wins Golden Tap Award

Last night, as part of Toronto Beer Week, the annual Golden Tap Awards were handed out, honouring the year's best craft beer achievements in Ontario.

You can read the full list of winners right here, but I'm super excited to share that Buster Rhino's & the Durham Craft Beer Festival (run by Darryl Koster) was honoured with an Editor's Circle award for significant achievements in the Ontario craft beer industry. The Editor's Circle awards are separate from the main voting and categories, and are determined by a selection committee made up of Bar Towel members and associates.

Darryl Koster (Buster Rhino's & Durham Craft Beer Festival) and Matt Chellew (Durham Craft Beer Festival)
Last year around this time I wrote about how much our local craft beer scene had grown in just one year. Since organizing his first tap takeover last spring, Darryl and his team have hosted dozens of Ontario craft beer-focused events, including our first Durham Craft Beer festival in downtown Oshawa (psst: the second one is this weekend!). And in this time, our local beer scene has exploded. Not only are there new breweries-in-planning being announced all the time (see the full list here), but the community is recognizing that good beer is better than cheap beer - and other local restaurants are following suit.

Cass Enright, organizer of the Golden Tap Awards, says that the Editor's Circle recognized this growth in the area thanks to Buster Rhino's and the Durham Craft Beer Festival:

"We gave Buster Rhino's an award as it is important to us to see craft beer thrive in every part of the province," said Enright via email. "When it succeeds in areas that aren't the downtown cores of the major cities, it demonstrates how craft beer is becoming an integral part of our culture all across Ontario. Buster Rhino's and Durham Craft Beer Fest are helping to bring craft beer to a market that hasn't seen much of it in the past, and we felt that's worthy of recognition."


And to think, two years ago it was tough to find a Steamwhistle around these parts. Thanks, Darryl, and congratulations!



PS Congrats also to my friend Eddy who is part of the crazy-talented design team at Beau's All Natural Brewing Co.. They won a Golden Tap award for best packaging design & label artwork.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Durham Craft Beer Festival: Ciders & Seasonals is Sept. 20

It's baaaaack...

The first-ever Durham Craft Beer festival was such a success that organizer Darryl Koster is hosting a fall session! The theme is Ciders (Amanda is thrilled!) and Seasonals. Tickets are available right here.

See you on Sept. 20 in the glowing heart of downtown Oshawa.


Monday, 1 September 2014

Colorado: Denver Beer Company

Throughout our ten days in Colorado, through trying lots of different beers, exploring the city of Denver and meeting friendly Denverites, I was told to go to Denver Beer Co. and try the "s'mores beer" -- aka Graham Cracker Porter, more times than I could remember to count.

Hops vines run over the patio.
We actually didn't make it out until the last day - it was the last place we went before catching our flight home on Sunday evening. But I'm so glad we did! This place had such a cool Sunday afternoonv ibe, with live jazz playing the corner, long picnic tables lining the patio, big sliding garage doors letting the breeze into the tasting room, and a big selection of board games to play. :)

And the Graham Cracker Porter... yes! It was everything it was built up to be! Just sweet enough and the perfect way to wrap up a great trip.


PS Click here to read all posts about our trip to Colorado.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mirella Amato Beerology book signing at 5 Paddles Brewing this Thursday

Heads up, Durham beer fans:

Mirella Amato, Canada's first Master Cicerone, is coming to our neck of the 'burbs this Thursday, Aug. 28, from 5 to 7 p.m., to talk beer and sign copies of her book, Beerology. Buying your ticket in advance will also get you a bottle of 5 Paddles Rum-Oak-Soaked Belgian Midnight Paddler (the event takes place at 5 Paddles Brewing Co.).

Pretty damn cool event for a place that was a craft beer wasteland a year and a half ago. Look how far we've come! Let's show Mirella what we're made of.

See you Thursday.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Colorado: White-water rafting through the Rockies

While vacationing in Denver, we went on a white-water rafting adventure through the Rockies. 

James and Cory are in the front, in the middle was a sweet vacationing father and daughter from Nashville, and I'm in the back.
We booked our tour through Geo Tours in Morrison, Colorado. Although you arrive at Geo Tours in Morrison, you then load into a van with your guides, and after a scenic 25-minute drive, they drop you on Clear Creek for your adventure.

According to our guide, Clear Creek is entirely fed by melting snow from the tops of the Rockies--no other water source. What I am saying is: THIS WATER IS COLD. It may have been a 90-degree day in Denver, but the below-40-degree water sure still takes your breath away when your body is submerged in it! 

You have the option to rent a wetsuit (we didn't), and you are provided with a splash jacket, helmet and lifejacket. If your noggin is too big for the regular helmets like Jamesey's was, you get a sweet old-school JOFA!:

The guide told James he rocked it better than Gretzky, to which I corrected him that Jagr was the player who rocked a Jofa. He was impressed with my hockey knowledge, so I told him I was Canadian. He said: "well that makes sense."

We loaded into the creek at the same time as many other tour groups, but we didn't bump into (or even really see) any others once we got going.

We had driven through the mountains the day before, so winding around the bases of them was a really cool perspective. 

While some of the trip was easy floating down the river, once we hit the rapids, things got much more intense (and cold, and hilarious).

Basically you are mostly underwater as you paddle through the rapids. We hit one so hard that it launched our tour guide (on the back, steering and guiding us on how to paddle) face down into the middle of our boat (mostly on top of me, haha). Good laughs save for my broken sunglasses!

We got quite soaked and more than a few mouthfuls of water. Pure, rocky-mountain-fresh Coors Light ;)

Speaking of our tour guide, he was awesome. Through our hour-long tour, he talked geography, explained the geology, pointed out mountains and landmarks, and made cheesy (but in a fun way!) jokes. After the tour, in chatting with him and some of the other guides on the bus ride home, I discovered that not one of them was from Colorado--they all were drawn there, to work in the beautiful mountains. Actually, many people I met throughout the week were not from Denver, but "came for the mountains." I imagine it is similar to how folks move to California for the beaches/surfing, or Montreal for the smoked meat (kidding, kind of).

We chose the "beginner" tour level because we weren't really sure what to expect. If I did it again, or was recommending it to a friend, I would go up to the intermediate level. Although the rapids were fun and thrilling, with the intermediate level, the tour is a little longer and the rapids are a little more challenging. Our tour guide noted because we were all athletic and adventurous, we could have gone straight to the intermediate.

James in his "special" helmet



P.S. Click here to read all posts from my trip to Colorado.
P.P.S I obviously didn't take most of these pictures. The tour company offered a CD for purchase, as they had a photographer follow your raft and stand on bridges to take pictures. I have full rights to use these photos with my purchase, which I am so glad I made.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Colorado: Coors Brewery Tour

I felt like I was breaking some sort of craft-beer-drinker code when I decided I wanted to go on the Coors Brewery tour on our trip to Colorado. I probably was, but I wanted to see it: it’s the largest single-site brewery in the world. I thought it would be interesting to see. And it was. Here’s the good and the bad:

The good

1. A tour of Golden
Coors Brewery is located in Golden, Colorado, which is about 30 minutes from downtown Denver. The brewery’s original founder chose Golden because it was the perfect place to source fresh Rocky Mountain water (which, to my understanding, is no longer the case except for marketing efforts). It’s a small city, and obviously the biggest employer is Coors. Because up to 2,000 people come to tour the brewery every day, there is an off-site parking lot, and a bus picks you up to take you to the brewery entrance. Rather than just driving you over and dropping you off, the tour guide takes the long way through the city, pointing out historic buildings, tourist attractions and discussing the history of the city. Our guide was enthusiastic and passionate. I thought this was a nice touch, and we actually learned about a couple of lookout points that we later explored. It made me think that Coors really cares about its community.

2. The history wall
I found this area to be well-curated and informative. I learned that Coors was one of very few breweries that survived prohibition, because they made other products, such as malted milk and near beer.

3. Three free beers
The entire tour is free, and at the end your wristband gets you three full-sized free beers. You could choose from Coors Light, Coors Banquet, Blue Moon, Near Beer, Colorado Native (only available in Colorado), Killian's Red and Batch 19--a special Prohibition-style beer, only available at the brewery.

4. It’s big
I’ve toured a lot of breweries, and it was pretty fascinating to see how BIG this place was. For example, there are two stories of copper brew kettles under what you can see here:

The canning line seemed to run as fast as a cartoon; it was just a blur! Or maybe that was the three free beers.

Keystone Light on the canning line

5. D’Deli
The sandwich I had from a small deli in downtown Golden after the tour was the best sandwich I have ever eaten in my entire life and no sandwich will ever top this sandwich. I had the “Oxford”:  Buffalo meat, bleu cheese aioli, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, arugula, and olive oil. Drooling now just thinking about it.

Sorry it was gone before I took a photo.

The bad

1. The tour of Golden
The bus tour of Golden and our enthusiastic driver was one of the best parts of the whole experience, BUT: I could hardly see anything he was pointing out because the windows were wrapped with Coors Light branding. Fail.

2. I couldn’t bring my purse or any bag
You gotta leave ‘em in your car. Why can’t I bring in my purse? Backpacks, I understand, although there is really not anything to steal, but I can’t bring in my tiny purse? So I had to awkwardly carry my camera, phone and wallet. Annoying. Girls need their purses!

3. WordArt
No, seriously, the beer menu board in the tasting area was made of WORD ART. As in, Microsoft Word, Word Art. This kind of crap honestly offends me. You’re the largest brewery in the world and you can’t shell out some money for a decent graphic designer to make a sign for your tasting room??? You have, on average, 2,000 tourists tour your brewery EVERY SINGLE DAY and that is how little you care? If this is the care that goes in to how you display your product to 2,000 people a day, how am I supposed to feel about the care you put into your product? Sigh.

4. Tour guide necklaces
After our friendly bus driver gave as an entertaining and engaging personal tour of the city of Golden, we were dropped off at the brewery to tour inside. After such a good experience with the bus tour guide, I was actually pretty excited for the rest of the tour. That’s when I was handed a walkie-talkie-type device on a string and told to put it around my neck, with the following instructions: each time you enter a new room, there will be a number on the wall. Press the number and hold this device to your ear to hear your tour guide lead you through the room. Completely impersonal and quite frankly, a little gross (how many greasy ears have those things rubbed against?). And it sounded like it was recorded in, and not updated since, the 80s. No passionate tour guides to lead you through, no one to answer questions, just bored-looking summer students in each room playing on their phones and making sure you don’t go through doors you’re not supposed to go through.

5. The overpriced photo
When you enter the brewery, you’re handed a couple of Coors Light hats and asked to pose for a photo in front of a branded backdrop. Then, at the end of the tour, they want you to pay $35 to have it emailed to you (or I think $20 or something for one printed copy of the photo). THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS. YOU have to pay to have a photo with their logo all over it, for you to post on Facebook and advertise for them. Sorry, Coors.

I’m fascinated by the fact that although Colorado is home to the biggest brewery in the world, the craft beer market is huge. I have another post lined up about this, so stay tuned.



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