Friday, 1 August 2014

Cheers to the long weekend!


[ from Toronto's Festival of Beer last weekend; full post to come ]

This long weekend, we don't have anything planned, and I can't wait. It's been a super busy summer, which is just the way I like it, but it will be nice to cook, relax, catch up on emails, float in the pool, dig in the garden, and generally enjoy the peak of summer in our backyard.

Have a great long weekend! Here are your weekly Internet time-wasters:

What I want from a restaurant website/what I get instead. SO TRUE.

Have you heard about the robot hitchhiking across Canada?

DMX riding a roller coaster.

Oshawa's first brewery, Underdog's Brewhouse, profiled on Sounds Like Beer.

Iced Cobblestone Stout actually sounds delicious.

The most hilarious Twitter account.

Did you hear? The Durham Craft Beer festival announced a September date!

Cheers to the weekend,


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.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Cheers to the weekend! Vol. 12


[ Dad just got home from a trip to France and there fell for Kronenbourg 1664, so that was our fuel of choice at this week's race night ]

This weekend, I'm running my fourth Durham Quarter Marathon, which I've decided means I can start telling people I've run a marathon. After that, I planned on relaxing by the pool, but then a few days ago a friend offered an extra ticket to the Toronto Festival of Beer and I couldn't say no. So, I'll be the one complaining about her sore legs and tipsy after one 5oz beer because I didn't train properly for this run at all... I haven't run more than 5K since mid-June. Oh well. #beerme

Here is the ol' weekly list of things from around the Internet that I find interesting. Does anyone actually read these?

What the heck are hops anyway, and what do they do? Great read from the Bellwoods Brewery blog.

I was thinking about this last week and then found this article that summed up my thoughts better than I did: How Weird Al evolved with the media landscape.

A lovely piece about our lovely galleries out here in the 'burbs.

You can tour the abandoned set of Big Fish (my favourite movie)! Adding this to my life list.

Lyrical insights from 2000s emo mixtapes. "If you were a telephone, you'd still be off the hook" (Brand New forever. So excited to see them again next month in Buffalo!)

The problematic relationship between small brewers and new restaurants in Toronto.

Cheers to the weekend!


Friday, 18 July 2014

Cheers to the weekend! Vol. 11


[ one of my favourite memories from our trip to Denver, sitting on the Prost Brewing patio watching the moon rise over the city, telling stories and laughing for hours with two of my favourite people]

I'm back to the grind after 10 awesome days in Colorado, which I will be sure to share about here soon.

This weekend, we're heading to J's family cottage in beautiful Bobcaygeon, Ontario. I'm looking forward to jetskiing, laughing 'round the fire and visiting my favourite vintage shop. Happy weekend to you, and here is this week's list of things from the Internet to explore:

What happened the first time we raced the sailboat without my Dad.

A rare double-whale jump in Newfoundland -- on the same tour I took last year, and with the same guide!

SO FREAKING EXCITED that one of my favourite bands to see live (Joel Plaskett Emergency) is headlining Beau's Oktoberfest this year. Beau's Oktoberfest is my favourite weekend of the year (see here)!

A brutally honest review of the six gluten-free beers available at the LCBO.

I knew there was something weird about the Denver airport.

This cake looks and sounds incredible.

Places in Canada you won't believe actually exist. I've only been to the Hopewell Rocks.

Collective Arts Brewing has launched its Series 3 labels.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and "Young" folking up Fancy.

My friend Jacquie's job search tips.

This basil-pineapple Cesear sounds delicious.

The Vintage Ramble is back!

Lego figures fit charging cords perfectly.

I'm assuming everyone has been enjoying the week of Weird Al releases, here's my favourite (obviously):



Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Highlights from Durham's first-ever craft beer festival

So I may have been in Colorado when Durham's first-ever craft beer festival took place, but I had to post something about it here! After all, it really doesn't get more Burbs & Beers-y than a craft beer festival in the 'burbs, now does it?

So I enlisted a little help and asked my friend Kristina to snap some photos and write a guest blog for Burbs & Beers about the festival.

Kristina and I were introduced to each other through a mutual friend who kept saying to us both, "you have to meet! you have so much in common! you both love beer and cats!" When our paths finally did cross, it was a bit like an awkward first-date set up ("Hi, I'm Melissa, I've heard a lot about you... so what's your cat's name?") but we quickly got over it when we realized that we do, in fact, have too much in common not to be friends. I knew she'd be the perfect person to write about the festival for this blog, and was so happy that she agreed to do it!

Take it away, Kristina...

I was sad to hear Melissa was going to be out of town during the first craft beer festival in Durham Region. Mel and I met through our mutual love for craft beer and have gone on several beer adventures together. Doing this without her was going to be tough, but I had a job to do – drink beer and write about it!

Before I dive into some of the delicious brews that filled Ontario Street last Saturday, I should start with a hat’s off to Darryl Koster of Buster Rhino’s for organizing the very first, very successful craft beer festival in Durham!! What started as monthly Tap Takeovers (a Tap Takeover is a promotional event where breweries literally “take over” the taps at a bar or pub. Buster Rhino’s has been host to several of these including local brewery, 5 Paddles Brewing), quickly brewed into something more. Durham had a taste for craft beer and we wanted more!

Cue Beer Festival.

Much like other beer festivals, a ticket to the event got you a 5oz branded sampling glass and a handful of tokens, each giving you one free sample. If you were lucky enough to grab a VIP pass, you were let into the event an hour before general admission, lunch was provided and you got not 5 but 25 beer tokens – well worth the price!

12 craft breweries lined the street with tents and taps. You can check out the complete line up here

Great Lakes Brewery brought a few of their Tank Ten series beers. These are limited-edition beers brewed in their fermenting tank #10 where GLB brewers are “given the green light to brew whatever the heck they want.” I had sampled Audrey Hopburn (a Belgium style IPA) at last year’s Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival in Toronto and loved its citrusy piney goodness! When I heard she was in town, I got a little giddy.

After that, I went straight to our local brewers, 5 Paddles. I love grabbing beer from these guys. Not only do they always have a unique selection (hello, chocolate-covered strawberry!?), but they’re seriously the nicest people you’ll meet. I learn something new about beer every time I see them. I sampled both their Dominatrix IPA and Strawberry Wheat, of course.

Other beers that deserve a mention are:
  • Flying Monkeys Orange Mungus – I heard a lady passing by say “GET THAT ONE! That beer tastes like orange juice!” SOLD! 
  • Barnstormer Brewing Parachute Porter. I’m already planning a trip up to Barrie for more of this one!
  • And Spearhead’s Sam Roberts Band Session Ale, which left a lovely malty, caramel taste (and also won best collaboration at this year’s Session Toronto Festival). I went back for seconds (ok thirds).

The event concluded with People’s Choice Awards: 5 PaddlesBrewing won GOLD, Spearhead won SILVER and King Brewery took home BRONZE. All very well deserved!

The festival went off without a hitch! The street was filled with laughter, clinking glasses and satisfied beer lovers. I couldn’t be happier to see this kind of excitement for craft beer right in my own backyard. I didn’t have to take the train or book a hotel. That’s a really big deal!

Next year’s event is already in the works! Follow @DurhamCraftBeer on Twitter or visit to find out more!


- Kristina

Thanks again Kristina! Follow Kristina on Twitter at @KristinaSvana.

If you're local to Oshawa/Durham Region, you should know that in addition to being a beer lover, cat lady and talented graphic designer, Kristina is also the organizer of Durham Region Start-Up Drinks (#DSUD), a monthly networking event where entrepreneurs and those interested in start-ups can get together over a pint. It takes place on the last Thursday of every month, usually at the Thirsty Monk Gastropub in downtown Oshawa. For more information, 'like' Durham Start-Up Drinks on Facebook or follow Kristina on Twitter.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Cheers to the weekend, plus a week in Denver, CO!


[ image via here ]

We've got our bags packed up and are heading out for a week-long vacation in Denver, Colorado! We'll be staying with a good friend who moved there for work last year.

I've been doing lots of research on places to go and see and things to eat and drink. I also plan to do lots of hiking and check a major item off my life list: seeing a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I'm excited to sample the local beer and regional food (such as, apparently, green chili, Rainbow trout, buffalo meat and honey-crust pizza). Will I be ballsy enough (pun intended) to try Rocky Mountain Oysters (deep-fried bull testicles)? We'll see.

I won't be posting here for a little while, but will certainly be documenting my Denver adventure on Twitter and Instagram! Here's the ol' weekly list of random Internet things, in the meantime:

New Durham brewery-in-planning alert: Brock Street Brewing Company is looking to set up in the old Whitby fire hall.

And, Underdogs Brewhouse is officially open in Oshawa, as of yesterday (only contract brewing for now, though they are hoping to open a large-scale brewhouse in the next year or two).

(Yes, the directory is updated!)

What do you think of this Keurig-style craft beer dispenser?

I need to own this book.

This made me LOL.

This came up in my Facebook feed and the crazy cat lady in me teared up a little. (Please Tweet me suggestions of places to go!)

Here's a video of The Avett Brothers playing at Red Rocks a few years ago. I can't wait!!!:



Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Infuse your booze

Who says tea time and happy hour have to be two separate affairs?

I've been doing some guest blogging for a local company, Seven Sisters Tea, in which I did a little experimenting with their loose-leaf teas.

First up was green tea vodka, in which I cold-brewed green tea in vodka and mixed it up with some fresh lime juice and soda water. Here's the thing: I was expecting it to be fine, but it actually turned out SO GOOD! The green tea flavour really comes through and it is such an enjoyable cocktail without any added sugar. Next time I'll infuse rum and use it in mojitos (my mint planters are currently out of control!).

Of course I couldn't not try infusing beer... after all, this is exactly what Mill Street Brewery's Joel Manning does to make the popular Lemon Tea Beer. It was fun to pair up different beer styles with different varieties of green, black and herbal teas, and again--I was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavours came through.

Would you try infusing booze with loose-leaf tea?



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