One World, One Brewer

There has been a lot of talk about the beer industry lately in Ontario.  The Toronto Star News paper did a 3 part story on the Beer Store, which opened a lot of people’s eyes to how we, as Ontarian’s, have simply accepted whatever the government tells us.  For those that don’t know about alcohol sales in Ontario let me give you some background.  There are two stores in Ontario where you can buy alcohol, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Beer Store.  The LCBO is owned by the government and sells domestic and international wine, beer, and liquor.  They do a very good job of rotating inventory and have a wide selection of beer and wine from around the world.  The Beer Store is owned by a handful of the largest brewers in Canada, Labat, Molson, and Sleeman.  Some people were not aware of this.   They thought that the beer store was owned by all Ontario brewers, which was the case a long time ago.  I was aware that the larger breweries owned the store, but wasn’t too concerned given that they sell the most beer in Ontario.  But then it was brought to my attention that Labat, Molson, and Sleeman aren’t even Canadian brewers anymore.  They’ve been bought by InBev, Coors (joint venture), and Sapporo. 

What this means is that huge foreign breweries own the only store which Ontarian’s can buy beer from and are the only store which small “craft” breweries can sell their beer in.  The larger brewers stock the shelves with all the brands that they have acquired over the years leaving little to no space for the craft brewers.  Not only is the shelf space limited, but the price to sell beer in the Beer Store is also set by the huge foreign breweries which again prevents the small craft brewer from advertising his or her products.  Many of the craft brewers are lucky they can afford to have one of their products on the shelf in the Beer Store and it is often tucked away in the corner. 

Now if the Ontario government would let grocery stores and convenience stores sell alcohol like the rest of the free world the craft brewers would not be limited to one set of advertising prices or limited shelf space.  Add to that the convenience most consumers are looking for and you would find a lot of happy people.  A study was even commissioned by the government to determine the affects of alcohol sales in stores other then the Beer Store.   The study found that the government would be able to make more revenue then they currently do and there would be no increase in crime or alcohol abuse.  Yet Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, simply says “if it’s not broke then don’t fix it” and wipes his hands clean.

In light of yesterdays announced takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev it looks like the global beer industry is moving towards an oligopoly where there will be 2 or 3 major brewers for the world.  Brewing beer is an art, a passion, and even a hobby for many people across the world and many of those people have a dream of starting their own brewery.  We must ensure that these craft brewers aren’t suffocated by the big brewers who lobby the government to do nothing.  Here is a link to a No More Beer Store petition that a fellow beer drinker started after reading the articles in the Toronto Star.

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It’s Alive!

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. The whole intention of the site was wiped out when I found out the cottage I planned to build was too small according to the municipality (See – Building a Cottage: Shattered Dreams). The municipality rejected my minor variance application so I was stuck with building drawings and contract I couldn’t use.

I had given up entirely. I planned on selling the land and moving to New Brunswick to see what life was like on the east coast. Then the weather started to get nice in May and I called up the building contractor to see if there was anything we could do which would meet the minimum requirements of 800sqft and fit my budget. I suggested a two level model that was 842sqft and the quote I got back was $10,000 less then the old smaller cottage! How that worked out I have no idea. Regardless between the lower price and our savings over the past year it looked like this was doable again!

I contacted contractors to clear the lot, grade the land and put in a driveway, install a septic system, pour a foundation, and frame the building. I figured that I would have a finished building on the outside and bare studs on the inside for now given our budget.

The last hurdle was to have the Building Officer at the municipality review the new drafted plan and see if there were any problems, which of course there was. A big one. The minimum size for a multilevel building is not 800sqft it’s 1000sqft! So here I am thinking I’m back at square one again. I contacted the builder, he made a few adjustments and for a very low price our building was now 1050sqft. I quickly got a pre approval from the building officer and we are on our way!

This past Tuesday I received my entrance permit which approves the location of the planned driveway. Now I have to wait until the full building drawings are complete and I can approach the municipality for building permits. I expect to have everything by the end of July and hope to break ground in August. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

BTW thanks to everyone that has continued to visit the site and add their comments. It’s been great to see there is a following out there. Posts won’t be as frequent as my time has been taken up by my son whom we had in January, but I’ll do my best to keep you updated.

Thanks again.

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Keggerator – Your Keg Beer Fridge At Home

Making a keggerator or keg fridge at home is rather simple as long as you have a spare fridge to play with. There are a number of people selling fridges in classified ads and at garage sales for $40 or $50 so look there first.

I purchased a keg fridge kit off of a seller on eBay. In total it cost me $350 and as you can see from the pictures below it included two kegs, a 5lb CO2 tank, 2 taps, and all the hoses and clamps.

Keg Beer Keg Fridge at Home

Once you’ve picked the kit that you want and you have a fridge to use you simply have to drill two holes through the front of the door using a hole saw drill bit. You should make sure before you drill the holes that your fridge does not have any cooling coils running through the door or your fridge will end up being a piece of junk. However, most fridge doors are just filled with insulation so you should be fine. Another thing to note is the placement of the tap holes. If the holes are too low you will be on your knees pouring the pint. If it is too high and you try to open the freezer door it will hit your tap handles and all your precious beer will be on the floor. You can see that I no longer use tap handles because of this problem.

Keg Beer Keg Fridge at Home

Now that the tap handles in you can screw on the hoses which connect to the kegs. The kegs are actually old Pepsi canisters that used to be used to for fountain pop. Today pop companies use plastic bags so all of these kegs are useless to the pop industry and are being snatched up by home brewers. The kegs hold about 20L and have an In and Out valve. The CO2 attaches to the In valve which carbonates the beer and helps push it out the taps. The hose to the taps is connected to the Out valve and when the tap is opened out comes the beer!

Keg Beer Keg Fridge at Home

The disadvantage of this system is if you do not make your own beer then it might not be worth your while. You could not order a keg from the Beer Store and set it up in your fridge because “real” kegs have different attachments so you wouldn’t be able to connect it to your taps. However if you are a home brewer then this system is great. I originally wanted to have two flavours of beer at any time, but found I was drinking far too much. So now I only make one keg and put lemon water in the other keg. The CO2 carbonates the water so I have a tap of sparkling lemon water and a tap of beer.

Now if you are not interested in all this do it yourself home beer stuff then check out Barfly for some absolutely stunning retro beer fridges.

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Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery Beer Festival

A local Brew Pub is having a beer festival in February and I thought I would share the details for those that might be in the area.

The Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery will be celebrating its 14th annual Beer Festival on February 24th, 2008 from 2:30 till 5:00 p.m. The cost is $30 per person, and tickets will be available in advance. Located at 1455 Lakeshore Road in Burlington Ontario, the Pepperwood is one of a handful of brew pubs in the province. This event has been a favourite of both the participants and the breweries over the years. The chef pulls out all the stops and puts on a great spread to enjoy as you sample beer from many of Ontario’s premier micro breweries. Of course the Pepperwood offers its own products for sampling as well as offering a selection not normally on tap. I intend to bring back the Chipotle beer again this year as well as a cask of something special. Last years breweries included Better Bitters, Black Oak, Brick, Creemore, Denison’s, Great Lakes, King, Labatt-Stella, Lakeport, McAuslan, Mill Street, Niagara, Pepperwood, Taps, and Trafalgar.

Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery

There is always a lot of fun, voting for the best all round beer, a 50/50 draw, and, of course, the proceeds go to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Association.

I have never been to Pepperwood’s and didn’t even know it was a brew pub, but now that I do I expect I will be making frequent visits.

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Cheap Hotels

It’s getting into the dog days of the winter here in Ontario. It’s dark and cold when I get up to go to work and it’s dark and cold when I leave work to go home. During the day I look out my window and it is grey and dreary. Pretty depressing, I know.

So to cheer myself up I started looking for vacation deals. I was looking for somewhere other then the Caribbean and I have always wanted to go to Egypt. I think I would be in total awe if I was standing at the base of one of the great pyramids. I found a site that has cheap hotel rates. I was able to quickly and easily look up Egypt. They listed all the Egyptian hotels with their star rating and average price per person in each of the next 6 months. I was quickly able to compare ratings and prices, which was nice.

Since I like to golf I thought why not do some sight seeing and golfing on the same vacation so I selected the link to Steigenberger Golf Resort Hotel. It looks fantastic! The rate for February is approximately $44 CAD, which seems pretty darn good if you ask me. Even though I really don’t have the time to go to Egypt right now I wanted to see how easy it was to book a flight and hotel. Since this is a UK site, 2006 winner of the British Travel Awards by the way, I had to choose a UK airport so I selected Manchester. I was going to stay for 7 days and depart on March 22. I easily entered my info and in no time the site returned flight options and room accommodations. It was a breeze.

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Bug Vacuum – Get Rid of Bugs

Bug Vaccum - Keep Your Distance Bug Vacuum

One of the main reasons why I want a cottage is so that my family can get together there and enjoy swimming, fishing, playing, and eating. However my mother is not much of an outdoors type of person. Even though cottages have all the amenities of an urban home it tends to have more bugs then in the city and my Mom hates bugs. She hates seeing them and hates killing them. Even I’m not all that fond of squishing a giant spider or earwig in a piece of tissue. There is no need to get squeamish about bugs anymore because the Keep Your Distance Bug Vacuum has been invented.

The cordless vacuum quickly captures bugs from up to 2 feet away. The insects are sucked down a tube into the handle where they are instantly killed. The extension tube can be removed so that the dead bugs can be dumped into the garbage. It’s quick, easy, clean and there is no need to get up on any stools or chairs to reach the ceiling.

For $49.95 US it would be well worth it to have my mom enjoy herself at the cottage with the rest of us.

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Niagara Wine Route

Niagara Wine Route – Grimsby & Beamsville

A day trip that my wife and I take a few times each year is a tour of the Niagara Wine Route. The Niagara region of Ontario produces some of the best wines from Canada and I am lucky enough to be only minutes from these vineyards.

The Niagara Wine Route is made of three different sections:
Grimsby & Beamsville
Jordan & Vineland

Grimsby is the northern most part of the region and the start of the Niagara Wine Route.

Map of Grimsby Ontario Canada

The two most popular wineries, because of marketing, in this area are Kittling Ridge and Magnotta, who also produce Festa Brew from their brewery. I’m not really a fan of either of these wineries. They seem to mass produce wine just to get it on the shelves and in front of customers faces rather then concern themselves with quality.

Peninsula Ridge Estates on the other hand is a fantastic winery producing vintages a little more expensive then the other two mentioned, but produce some excellent Cabernet Francs and Cabernet Sauvignon. The restaurant on the property is an old Victorian home over 100 years old that was recently restored and is the branding image for all their wines.

A little further along HWY 81 (King St.) you will come to Thirty Bench Wines. This is a nice little winery for someone just starting to drink wine. In general you will find the wines here are sweet and relatively cheap. It is also a good place to ask questions. Thirty bench is a casual place where nobody will feel out of place.

Moving into Beamsville you will come across De Sousa Wine Cellars. This is a Portugese family run winery that sells port and other red wines common to the region. The wine wasn’t the greatest, but the lady behind the tasting bar was a true salesman and very entertaining. She sold us on some clay bowls to drink a Marechal Foch. We were told the unfinished clay would absorb the tannins in the wine producing a different taste and prevent headaches. It did produce a different taste and we bought the bowls.

Finally at the end of this region you will come to Thomas & Vaughan. I enjoy the wines here and always make a point to stop in. They often have season ending sales where you can pick up a $12 bottle for $6. They also have a very nice patio out front with a fountain so that you can enjoy lunch with a bottle of their wine outdoors.

In the next article I will discuss some of the wineries in the Jordan & Vineland area of the Niagara Wine Route.

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Heated Pants for Tailgaiting

Heated Pants for Tailgaiting, Tale Gate Parties

I went to my first NFL football game a couple of weeks ago in Buffalo. We went to see the Bills “squish the fish” and I had a great time. As we were tailgating the temperature consistently dropped until freezing rain and then snow started falling. It was actually the perfect atmosphere for a football game in Buffalo. I wouldn’t have it any other way. What I would have enjoyed, however, would be a pair of far infrared heated pants.

The cargo pants offer 4 hours of heat through low power infrared energy powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. The heating elements are located in the front thighs and waist and envelope the entire lower body as energy is transferred through a flexible lightweight carbon mesh. The pants are made of 65% cotton and 35% polyester with a fleece lining and are machine washable. If you are in dire need of heated pants like I was in Buffalo then you won’t mind spending the $139.95 US.

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Burton Snow Boards and Snow Boarding

This is the year I’m going to take up a winter sport instead of hibernating inside! Sounds weird from a Canadian eh? I know. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t play hockey.

This year I’ve decided to take up snow boarding. I’m not in an area where there are huge mountains like in BC and Alberta, but there are some ski hills that I can hit right after work so it will be worth my while to buy a board rather then renting all the time.

I’m a huge fan of the Burton snowboards. I mean aside from looking cool and aside from them being the most popular board, the reason I love them so much is because… well.. I guess they look cool and are the most popular. 🙂

I don’t know anything about snow boards other then whats sold to me via advertisement, magazines, or professional athlete sponsorship. Do any of you know anything that could help me select a board?

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How To Save Almost $8 On A Case Of Heineken

The 5L Heineken keg that has been recently advertised caught my eye and I was thinking of picking it up. It’s $35 CAD which isn’t unreasonable, but I thought I would compare it to the .5L tallboy cans that I often pick up from the local LCBO. Each tallboy costs $2.35 therefore 5L of Heineken from the tallboy cans is $23.50 or $11.50 cheaper then the keg.

Packaging and marketability obviously plays a part in the price difference. But then I got to wondering if there is a price difference between 24 bottles of Heineken and the tallboy cans. 24 bottles of Heineken costs $45 CAD and is roughly 7.9L. To purchase the equal amount in tallboys you would have to buy 16 cans. At $2.35 the equivalent of a two-four equals $37.60 when buying tallboys. That’s a savings of $7.40!

Think about this, most beer companies advertise a $4 savings on 24 beers during the summer on a long weekend in Canada. This is almost twice the savings for a premium beer!

So during the holiday season when we have spent way too much money consider going to the LCBO and pick up some fantastic beer from around the world and keep some of that hard earned cash in your pocket.

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