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Beer, Spirits, Wine

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2015 Placeholder


Merry Christmas, all! I’ll be taking a few days off to spend time with my family, eat (a lot!) of great food and, yes, partake in some festive beverages.


If you celebrate this particular holiday I hope you have a joyous and festive one. If you don’t I hope you have a wonderful 25th of the month.


In the meantime, if you’re looking for something to read or do, let me recommend the following posts:


Enjoy and see you in 2016!



5 Beers to Keep You Warm on the Longest Night of the Year

I love the winter solstice. Living in the northern hemisphere, each year on December 21st my world is plunged into darkness, giving me the chance to turn inward and reflect on the year, my accomplishments, and my goals and desires for the year ahead. I think many people use New Year’s Eve for this kind of thing, but to me the longest night of the year is the perfect time.


If you’re like me and look forward to curling up for a quiet night each December 21st, consider enjoying one of these fine beers while you take stock of your recent past and immediate future.


Granville Island Brewing – Lions Winter Ale



I know, I know, I’m becoming a broken record about this beer. But it’s just that good! The brewery says it’s the “perfect complement to comfort foods and cozy fires” which of course makes it a must-have on this list. I look forward to this winter seasonal every year – there is just something about it’s spicy-yet-subtly-sweet flavour and solid body that make it so satisfying. I promise I will stop talking about it once you’ve tried it.


Deal? Deal. Now get to your local LCBO and pick some up!


Royal City Brewing – Smoked Honey



Royal City Brewing is a brewery close to my heart. Located in the town I spent my university days in (Guelph, Ontario) and started by a guy I knew while schooling myself there, Royal City is known for making great beers and naming them after iconic Guelph landmarks – one of the exceptions being their amazing Smoked Honey.


It is one part English Ale, one part German Smoked Ale, and all parts delicious. It’s smooth and balanced, with the perfect amount of smoke. I would especially recommend it if you’re wary of the smokey flavour, it’s a great way to be introduced to smoked ales. And man, does it ever go down easy.


Royal City’s Smoked Honey can be found at the brewery in Guelph and at select LCBOs in the Guelph area.


Stoney City Ales – Ships in the Night Oatmeal Stout



If you follow me on Untappd you know that I check in a lot of Stone City beers. I mean a lot. This fantastic brewery operates in my hometown and I make a point to visit every time I come home. I’ve even got my family in on it now! Seldom a visit goes by that someone doesn’t ask me when we’re going for a pint at Stone City. The people there are all so nice, and the beers are really great – I have yet to be disappointed by one of their brews.


I’ll be going home a few days for Christmas and can’t wait to pick up some beers, including their oatmeal stout, Ships in the Night. This beer is toasty and delicious, with flavours of chocolate and coffee. It’s an excellent dessert accompaniment (or dessert entirely!) and would definitely fit the bill as a drink to would warm you up on a cold winter’s night.


Like all their beers, Ships in the Night can only be found at the brewery. Guess you need to plan a trip to Kingston then. Sorry/not sorry.


Side Launch Brewing Company – Dark Lager



This was the first beer in my advent calendar, and was such a welcome way to begin that adventure! It’s a Munich style dark lager that starts out sweet and then gets delightfully malty. It’s not too sweet, not too big and not too bitter, a comfy and cozy sipper. Which, of course, makes it perfect for the purposes of quiet winter contemplation. And, lucky for you, it’s widely available in the LCBO!


Beau’s Brewery – Matt’s Sleepy Time Stout



It’s probably no secret at this point that I love Beau’s beers. I’ve devoted entire posts to their mix packs, and I’m happy to tell you that they’ve re-released one of their stouts for another year. Matt’s Sleepy Time Stout is a Belgian-style imperial stout, which already makes me love it. It is super dark in colour (almost opaque, really) with a medium body, a nice, slightly roasted flavour and, according to the folks at Beau’s, a “lingering, warming alcohol finish”. Yum! Be careful with this guy though, he’s got 8% ABV.


And there you have it – five delicious suggestions for luxuriating in the darkness of the winter solstice. How will you be spending it?


Beer, Beer Advent Calendar

Beer Advent Calendar Check-In

Now that I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labour, it’s time to check-in on how my beer advent calendar is going!



Lookin’ good, beers. Lookin’ good.


Beers I’ve Opened So Far

I was a bit worried when I made the calendar that I’d remember what beer I put on which day and ruin the surprise as a result. I’m very happy to say that for once my faulty memory has done me a solid and I promptly forgot almost all the beer assignments. I’ve opened 14 beers so far.

  • Muskoka Detour
  • Muskoka Cream Ale
  • Left Field Eephus
  • Shillow Beer Co. Bitter Waitress Black IPA
  • Amsterdam Boneshaker
  • Creemore Altbier
  • Side Launch Dark Lager
  • Brickworks Cider Batch 1904
  • Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA
  • Mill St Vanilla Porter
  • Black Creek Brewery Pumpkin Ale
  • Granville Island Winter Ale
  • Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin
  • Kensington Brewery Fish Eye


Beers I’ve Yet to Open

  • Double Trouble French Press Vanilla Porter
  • Hockley Dark Ale
  • Mill St Tankhouse
  • Side Launch Pale Ale
  • Great Lakes Brewery Pompous Ass English Pale Ale
  • Nickel Brook Cause & Effect Blonde Ale
  • Grand River Brewing Highballer Pumpkin Ale
  • Wychwood Brewery Bah Humbug Christmas Ale
  • Innis & Gunn Rum Finish
  • Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale
  • Erdinger Dunkel


Clearly many great beers still left to enjoy! On reflection I’m happy that I decided to front load the month with lighter beers and most of the IPAs, leaving the latter half to be a smorgasbord of browns, darks, porters and winter warmers. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas winter!


Thoughts On the Process and Experience So Far

Overall I am enjoying this an incredible amount! Both Cori and Adam (friends featured in the building post) agree with me that this was a great idea and should obviously be a new tradition. We all also appreciated that we didn’t remember which beer went on which day, which meant getting a great surprise each day. I think in future years I’d eventually like to create reusable bags that are a bit more permanent and festive, but I think this first attempt was still a clear triumph.



If you’re interested, you can follow me on Instagram and Untappd, where I’m sharing each beer day by day.


Beer, Wine

My Wine & Beer Wish List

You’ve been introduced to some gift ideas for the wine lover in your life. Now it’s my turn – here is my own personal wine-and-beer-related wish list.


Sparkling Wine

What holiday is complete without bubbly? A bottle of sparkling always makes a good gift, especially when all you really know about someone is that they like wine. The bubbles somehow make everything special .




This sparkling is a cremant de Bourgogne, which means it’s a sparkling from the Burgundy region of France and made in the traditional method used to make Champagne. Which means it’s delicious. Plus, look at that gorgeously sunny yellow label! Instant festivity.


Society of Beer Drinking Ladies Swag

The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies is an awesome group that was borne out of five womens’ desire to get beer-drinking women together in an atmosphere that doesn’t assume all we want are light beers and only drink it because of or boyfriends. The SOBDL, now nearing the end of its second year, holds a ‘bevvy’ every month exclusively for women to get together and drink beers you can’t find anywhere else.


Plus, they have swag! Toques, glassware, hoodies and even Christmas ornaments. I’m partial to the purple t-shirt, myself.


Wine Charms

An item that combines my love for wine and my love to Harry Potter? How can I resist!





Wine charms are great to have in a drawer somewhere for parties or random Thursday night gatherings. As someone whose mother is constantly taking her wine glass (inadvertently, I’m sure), wine charms are handy for knowing where your glass is, and who’s picked it up by mistake.


For similarly geek-minded friends, this company also has Super Mario, Frozen, and even Ninja Turtles charms. Let the nerdy wine enjoyment commence!


Port or Scotch



The holidays are a time when I like to take advantage of the specialness and indulge in something different. For me that means port and scotch, and I’m lucky that there is often a bottle of something yummy under the tree for me.


This port is 20 years old, which already makes it a treat. On top of that, it’s a tawny, which means it’s been aged in wood barrels and has a nuttiness to its flavour. One of these features would be enough to make me interested so having both goes even further toward this port earning a place on my wish list.


This scotch, on the other hand, is one of my favourites. I’ve had the pleasure and luck to travel to Scotland twice, and both times I’ve gotten to know some of the wonderful whiskies that country has to offer. Benromach is a delicious single malt Speyside scotch. In their words it’s ‘not too wee and not too big’ and while that may make it sound too middle of the road to be enjoyable, let me assure you that is not the case. Instead this scotch is delightfully Goldilocks-ish – enough scotchiness to warm you from the inside out but still gentle enough to make you want to keep sipping.


A Winter Beer SamplerBlackCreekNutceackerPorter-GLBWinterAle

Ah, winter, the time where I turn away from saisons and wheat beers and embrace the depth and heaviness of stouts and porters. This Porter comes highly recommended from my beer-drinking friends and therefore have been on my list for a month or so now. I’m looking forward to seeing picking it up from my local LCBO so I can give it a go. The Great Lakes Brewery winter ale is a mainstay of my cold-weather roster. With its baking spices and orange peel, it’s a great winter warmer.


This Granville Island brew is my current favourite winter ale, with great body and a spiciness that makes me think of chewy gingerbread – a great counterpoint to the chilly air and snowy landscape. Like the porter, this stout comes highly recommended but for some reason I haven’t given it a chance before. Well, no more – I bought one a couple of weeks ago and can’t wait for the perfect quiet winter night to enjoy it.


I could go on, of course, but I’ll leave it at that – for now.
What’s on your wish list?

Beer, Wine

Finding the Light

A lot of negative things have been floating around me lately.


  • My roommate (and one of my best friends) leaving has been tough. While I’m so happy and excited for him to begin his new adventure, I’ll miss him a lot and his leaving has brought up lots of ‘what am I doing with my life’ and ‘not good enough’ feelings for me.
  • Two friends of mine lost their beloved pets this week. My heart aches to see their pain.
  • And then, two nights ago, we all heard about the terrible attacks in Paris. (This, only days after another attack in Beirut that left Lebanon in three days of national mourning.)


Usually I’m pretty good at being optimistic and, as my mom says, looking at the doughnut instead of the hole. But these past couple of weeks it has been much more difficult than usual to do that.


It’s tough to feel like you’re trying and trying and trying, only to have the universe ignore you. It’s tough to see people you love lose pets they love. It’s tough to see places you’ve visited, that have helped you become the person you are, be scarred and terrorized.


But what does this have to do with wine and beer? With this blog?


Wine and beer are two things I love. Learning about wine, enjoying a glass of something after a long day of work, visiting wineries and breweries – these are things that bring me joy. When I’m low, when things aren’t going my way, when tragedies happen in my world, it becomes important (imperative, even) to turn to the things I love.


So yesterday, after another long (and at times, sad) day, I picked up a few things and enjoyed some wine while taking some quiet time for myself.



Something from France, in honour of Friday night’s attacks.



Something familiar and well-loved from ‘home’ (Niagara).



A cozy winter brew to curl up with on a cold night.


Enjoying these things, especially during the dark times, helps remind me that things won’t always be such a struggle. Sure, they might seem broken now, but I have to keep faith that it won’t always be thus.




When there is darkness surrounding you sometimes you have to fight to find the light.


I am fighting to find the light.

Beer, Beer Advent Calendar

Getting Into the Holiday Season with a Craft Beer Advent Calendar

A few weeks ago I came across an old blog post about what options us Ontario folk have if we’re looking to buy a beer advent calendar. In short: none. It turns out that the LCBO can’t stock beer in packages of more than six bottles because of an agreement with The Beer Store and, for some reason, The Beer Store doesn’t seem interested in creating and selling an advent calendar for its beer-loving public. Disappointing.

So this year I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a beer advent calendar of my very own. (I feel the need to own my Christmas love by acknowledging that this will be one of three advent calendars I’ll enjoy this year, having already bought a chocolate one and a tea one.)


Ready to rock!

Ready to rock!


Together with my friends Cori and Adam I paid one of the larger LCBOs in the city a visit to pick out the 24 beers that would make up the calendar. It was great having these two along for the adventure – not only did it make the assembly much more enjoyable, but I also felt way less sheepish about buying so much beer in one go since they were doing the same thing.



Do you think we have enough?



Adam and Cori, so excited to be beer shopping with me.


Since I love craft beer, and since there is so much great craft beer in this neck of the woods, I aimed to have as much Ontario craft beer in the calendar as possible. I also wanted to include as many wintery beers as possible – stouts, dark lagers, winter ales, spiced ales, that sort of thing. I was ready for the possibility of a slim pickings kind of beer-choosing situation, but as it turns out, it wasn’t difficult filling the calendar at all. I easily found 24 beers to include, plus a 25th ‘bonus beer’ to enjoy on Christmas day.





The Final Tally

The final cost was about what I expected at $72.25. There were more expensive beers that I want to try but in the name of keeping things from getting out of hand I aimed to keep the cost per beer below $5. Together with the $2.20 cost of 100 brown sandwich bags we all used to mask our purchases I’d say this was a fairly affordable way to enjoy the holiday season – and all the delicious beers it entails – especially when I consider that I would be buying beer throughout the month anyway. This is just pre-buying, really.


Here’s a list of the beers that made their way into my calendar.


The Lighter Ones

Brickwords Cider Nickel Brook Brewery Muskoka Brewery


  • Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch:1904 Dry Cider
  • Nickel Brook Cause & Effect Blonde Ale
  • Muskoka Cream Ale


The Pumpkin Ales

Black Creek Brewery Grand River Brewing


  • Black Creek Brewery Pumpkin Ale
  • Grand River Brewing Highballer Pumpkin Ale


The Christmas and Winter Ales

Samuel Smith Wychwood Innis & Gunn Granville Island


  • Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale
  • Wychwood Brewery Bah Humbug Christmas Ale
  • Innis & Gunn Rum Finish (not technically Christmas or winter, I know, but it still feels fancy)
  • Granville Island Lions Winter Ale


The IPAs

Side Launch Muskoka Brewery Kensington Brewing Sawdust City Amsterdam


  • Side Launch Pale Ale
  • Muskoka Detour
  • Kensington Brewery Fish Eye Pale Ale
  • Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA
  • Amsterdam Boneshaker


The Dark and Brown Ales

Dark Ales Brown Ales


  • Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Extra Strong Ale
  • Erdinger Dunkel
  • Creemore Altbier
  • Side Launch Dark Lager
  • Shillow Beer Co. Bitter Waitress Black IPA
  • Hockley Dark Ale
  • Left Field Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale
  • Mill Street Tankhouse Ale
  • Great Lakes Brewery Pompous Ass English Pale Ale


The Porters

I’m sad to say I missed getting a shot of the last two beers, vanilla porters from Mill Street and Double Trouble. You’ll have to wait until I get them in my calendar to see them!


Building the Calendar

There was much debate between Cori, Adam and I over whether to purposely assign each beer to a specific day, or to randomly assign beers ourselves, or to go one step further and to have someone else randomly assign the beers. In the end I went with a hybrid situation. I planned out the beers I wanted to have on Christmas Day as well as December 1st and 21st and then began randomly putting beers into bags, trying not to remember which one went with which day. There were also a few beers that Adam and/or Cori also bought, so we assigned some of those beers to the same day so that we could check in with each other with our opinions as the month progressed.


Building advent calendar is serious business.

Building advent calendar is serious business.


All in all, only six of 25 beers are from outside Ontario, and only five from outside Canada. The special guest star countries are Scotland (Innis & Gunn), England (Samuel Smith and the two Wychwoods) and Germany (Erdinger).


beer advent calendar



beer advent calendar

I’ll see YOU in December 😉


The only downside is that now I have to wait until December to enjoy these beers! My impatient self is not pleased with having to wait.


I’ll be posting what I get each day on Instagram and checking in the beers on Untappd – follow me there to join me as I taste my way through December.


Beer advent calendars - Meg approved!

Beer advent calendars – Meg approved!


How are you getting ready for the holidays?



Catching Up Over Beers

A couple days ago I met up with my friend Rory at the new location of one of the best bars for craft beer in the city. It was great to catch up and, as always, great to sample some new brews.

For the first round Rory had a sour beer that I would never have considered (sour beers and I don’t get along) so I opted for a flight of four beers. I found it slightly odd that my flight was arranged in the order I named the beers – usually a flight is structured so that you go from lightest to heaviest in flavour so that your palate has the best chance of enjoying each beer. Rory and I also agreed that lighter coloured beers (lagers, pilsners, IPAs, etc.) should be drunk before darker coloured beers (stouts and imperials, etc.). So even though my flight was arranged out of order in it’s wooden block, the list below is the order in which I drank them.

Here’s what I had, along with my thoughts on each.


Bar Hop flight



Great Lakes Brewery – Thrust IPA

American IPA, 6.5%

GLB Thrust


I tried this one mainly because a new batch has recently been released from GLB and I’ve noticed that people tend to go a bit crazy for it every time. It’s a solid beer with great body and a nice flavour. One tip though – you will probably want to stay away from this one if you’re not a hops person. It’s not the most burn-your-face-off I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly not a mellow beer by any means.


Side Launch – Mountain Lager

Munich Helles, 4.7%

Side Launch Mountain Lager


I didn’t like this one much. I found it watery and bland, with just a hint of breadiness that didn’t show up until the finish. Pretty boring, sadly. If you’re determined to drink Side Launch I’d stick with their main three beers – a wheat, a pale ale and a dark ale.


Great Lakes Brewery & Bar Hop – Someone Else’s Problem

American IPA, 7.2%

Bar Hop Full Flight

Someone Else’s Problem is the lighter on in the backgorund.


Another slightly disappointing choice. Usually I love anything GLB brews but this one left me unenthused. It isn’t a bad beer, by any stretch, I was just hoping for a bit more of a punch in the flavour department. I drank this one with the food I’d ordered (cassoulet, yummmmmm) and it went down really easily, so it has that going for it at least. Another plus – you really can’t tell how high the alcohol content is by tasting it.


Bar Hop Cassoulet

Mmmmmm beans and meat and duck fat…


Sawdust City & Bar Hop – The Blood of Cthulhu

Imperial Stout, 9.5%

Sawdust Bar Hop imperial stout


Ok, first of all, what the hell kind of name is that?? Neither Rory nor I could pronounce this beer’s name until our waitress kindly told us. In case you were wondering, it’s coo-thoo. The Blood of COO-THOO. So there you go.

Unfortunately figuring out how to pronounce the name is the only good thing I can say about this beer. For an imperial it was incredibly thin. And worse, the sour cherry and raspberry it was brewed with made the finish tasted like Robitussin – yuck. So unfortunate, as I was really hoping for a solid imperial for dessert.


Despite the high alcohol content of the last two beers Rory and I were still thirsty after our pints. We both ordered one more before calling it a night.


County Durham Brewing – Red Dragon

Red Ale, 5%

County Durham Red Dragon


This was a solid beer, though not one that would really get me going, sadly. It had some hoppiness as well as a creaminess, which didn’t do it for me. I’m not generally a fan of creaminess in beers, unless we’re talking about a simple and solid cream ale, like the one from Muskoka. This beer was a welcome reprieve from the imperial debacle, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.


You can follow me on Untappd to see my ratings and comments on these and other beers.

Have you tried any new beers lately? What did you think?


6 Ciders You Should be Drinking

Ciders are a great beer alternative, especially if you’re looking for something a little lighter and more approachable for a palate that might be less used to, say, IPAs with a 75 IBU. And, just for the record, I mean ‘hard cider’, the kind that’s been fermented as opposed to ‘soft cider’ which is essentially pressed apple juice. Also delicious, but not our focus for today.

If cider doesn’t have a regular place in your drinking line-up you are missing out. Here are six great ciders, all available through the LCBO, that you can (and should) enjoy immediately. We’re talking optimal autumnal enjoyment, here. Get on board.

[I should preface this list by saying that my palate is quite sweetness-averse, and so these ciders are all dry or semi-sweet in nature.]

Cremant Cidrerie St Nicolas


Even the bottle looks like wine.

This cider is so light and subtle that it reminds me of French bubbly, which makes sense since this cider comes to us from Québec. This particular cider was introduced to me at my last birthday party, and its delicateness was a great gift. If you’re a wine drinker looking to expand your palate into the cider world this would be a great way to make the jump.


Waupoos Premium Cider


Waupoos. Waw-poooooooooooss.

Waupoos is a cider from my corner of the world – Eastern Ontario. Located deep in Prince Edward County (or simply, ‘the county’ for locals like me), this cider is sturdy and refreshing, with a dry crispness that always leaves me wanting one more sip. No trip to the county would be complete without a visit to Waupoos.


Spirit Tree Cider


I love the name, it connects the cider to the earth in such a lovely way.

Another gem of a cider from Ontario, this time from the Caledon area. Spirit Tree Estate Cidery (sounds so fancy!) is run by people who have been farming in the area for years, and in 2005 decided to do something different, which included brewing cider. And let me tell you, I am so glad they did. This cider has a gorgeous pale yellow colour and this really cool  sweet, tart, apple-y, but slightly musky aroma and flavour. The LCBO calls this cider ‘dry and rustic’ and, while I think that’s a touch precious, I have to admit I kind of agree. Give it taste, would you?


Pommies Dry Cider


This cider’s packaging reminds me of the Sahara for some reason. Am I the only one?

This is another Ontario cider, and another one from the Caledon area. What is with those country folk and their delicious apple concoctions? In addition to having an adorable name, this cider also has a dry but slightly sweet flavour – a solid cider all around. It also has a similarly crisp finish to Waupoos, enticing you to keep sipping away, but where Waupoos has a more sturdy flavour, Pommies is like sipping apples that have been dried out but haven’t lost their flavour. Pommies is a bit sweeter than the others I’ve mentioned so far though, so keep that in mind as you make your cider choices.


Magners Original Irish Cider


Straight-up Irish cider-y goodness. Respect.

Ah, Magners. My first cider-love and, for many, the gold standard in hard ciders. Hailing from the Emerald Isle, Magners comes in apple and pear varieties, and is another one that the LCBO likes to call ‘rustic’. It’s got a beautiful golden colour and a sweetly crisp flavour. This is a cider you could easily drink all night – a sessionable cider, if you will. It’s also commonly found in lots of bars and restaurants. Do yourself a favour – if you’re out at a place and they have Magners AND Strongbow on tap, go with Magners. Your tastebuds will thank you.


Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch: 1904 Dry Cider


Old-timey – I love it!

My new favourite! This cider hails from the big city of Toronto, though it’s made at the Brickworks, a lovely little place tucked away in the heart of Don Valley – and yes, it actually used to be a brickworks! Dry and citrusy, this guy is light and delicate and super refreshing. Priding themselves on slowly fermenting their ciders, they also have a semi-sweet version adorably named after Toronto’s Queen St streetcar.

And there you have it. Six delicious ciders, just in time for the autumn chill. Enjoy! And let me know how you like them.